No Candy Here

The neighborhood Halloween parade is back this year. Cars are parked all along our property as princesses, super heros and scarecrows walk by. We have not one Halloween decoration. No pumpkins, ghosts or spiderwebs adorn our front porch. We are not celebrating Halloween this year. I can’t take having the candy in the house, nor having to sit by the front door and wait for kids to ring our bell. Shay is not a big lover of people in costumes, let alone throngs of people walking by our house.

So now Shay, Russ and I are sealed in our bedroom, curtains drawn as the rest of the house sits dark. When it comes time for dinner we will slip down the stairs without the aid of lights and quickly eat in the dark so no little ghouls or goblins see a speck of light and come and ring our doorbell.

We are lucky that we have a long walkway and a huge magnolia tree that makes our darkened house look undesirable to mine for candy. If I could be sure that no little kids were be scared for life I would scream through the ring camera to go away if anyone dared to push the button.

Thankfully the big trick or treat street is St. Mark’s just at the end of my street, so most parents know to waste no time on Westover where the houses are further apart and back from the road. You can get a lot more candy in a much shorter time up on St. Mark’s. Thank goodness we did not consider buying a house there. We never could have pulled off a non-participation if wives there. It’s just not our year for Halloween. I’m a little too close to a spirit right now. That is scary enough.

Taking The Day Off

It’s been a long month. My sisters and their spouses stayed with my Mom for the weekend, but Russ, Carter and I came home to have a little quiet, small family time. It was a real treat to just hang out together today and not do a thing. Carter and I did our favorite activity to do together and looked at real estate online. She is dreaming of her next move when she has graduated and is working. We study listings and look at Google maps comparing transportation options and potential noise situations. It’s a rabbit hole, but one we like going down together.

The most frustrating thing is when we find a really good apartment and we know it won’t be available another hour, let alone a few months. At least we have narrowed down neighborhoods and types of places Carter likes. It all depends on where she ends of working and potential commutes.

Concentrating on things in the future really helps. I am tired about thinking about things in the past. I need a few days of regular activities, like quilting and tending the garden to get my rhythm back.

Sadly Carter flew back to Boston late this afternoon. So Russ, Shay and I settled in for a quiet night. Tomorrow we will not be participating in Halloween. I haven’t gotten candy and I just want to turn all the lights off and sit in the dark house.

I’m looking forward to November. A time to give thanks.

Dad’s Eulogy

Today was a glorious day to celebrate my Dad’s life. Due to Covid we had an invitation only service at the sweet Church of the epiphany in Danville. The weather was perfect and all our important loved ones were there. My mom showed me the program yesterday and said, “You have three minutes to give the Eulogy.” My response was, “No one came all this way to just hear the standard Episcopalian service.”

My eulogy as written was more like twenty-three minutes, so I took just a few details out of it, but left most of the stories. My sister Janet read exerts from letters my mother had received about the impact my father had on so many people’s lives. So between us we gave a fairly well rounded picture of who my Dad was.

I promised my friends and Family that I would post my full eulogy so they could hear the whole thing. It was a good celebration of his life and it was great to talk with so many people who loved him.

Good Morning. I’m Dana. The oldest of Ed and Janie’s three daughters. On behalf of my mother, my sisters and our family I would like to thank you all for coming today as we celebrate the life of my father. If you knew Ed I am certain that what I am about to say will just remind you of your own interactions with him. If you didn’t know him well I promise what I am about to say is true, to the best of my recollection, no matter how far fetched it might sound to you.

See, Ed was bigger than life, until recently. There was hardly anything that he could not do and this was a quality he demonstrated early in life.

Growing up in Winston-Salem he shared a room with his younger brother Will in a tiny two bedroom home with his parents. At age ten, he decided he wanted to have a room of his own. So he asked his father if he could dig out a basement under their tiny house, which was set on a slope. Why my Grandfather ever allowed a ten year old to do this I will never know, but my dad begun digging in his spare time between his morning and afternoon paper routes and school. It took him two years to dig, and build the walls with cement blocks, pour a cement floor by wheel barrow, insert a window and a door.

About half way through the project my grandfather, seeing the progress my father was making did pay a plumber to come in and put in water and drain lines so my father added a bathroom to his original plan. At twelve years old, he finished and invited his brother to come down and see for the first time what he had done, and his brother announced it was great and he was going to move in with my Dad. Of course, my father said yes.

Having the confidence to build a basement in an existing house and not have the house fall over was just the beginning of Ed’s life ahead. There was hardly ever anything he thought up, that he didn’t think he could do and he passed that to his girls.

There was a flip side to this confidence. He had a hard time taking no for the answer. At sixteen, before he was about to go away to boarding school at VES he wanted to get his braces off his teeth. The orthodontist told him that he still needed to wear them a while longer, but Dad disagreed. So one day he lay down in the grass, behind his basement room and holding a mirror in one hand and a pair of pliers in the other he removed both the top and bottom braces and all the silver bands. When he went up to dinner that night, he showed his mother and her response was, “Good, I was tired of paying for those.” Getting away with bad behavior was probably not a great thing that early on in life.

Ed was always very entrepreneurial, starting with his paper routes. In college he had more than one job going on at all times. His legitimate one was working at the Rathskeller in Chapel Hill where he was strong enough to change the beer kegs and make friends with the Budweiser distributor. Realizing that all his fraternity brothers were ill- equipped to wash and iron their own shirts, Ed set up a laundry business with four women in Carrboro. He bought them washers and dryers and would collect the shirts from all the brothers in four fraternities and bring them to his laundry women who would do the work. He made good money on every shirt. It was a great business model, but somehow even those two jobs were not enough. So with his friendship with the Budweiser guy, Ed bought soda machines and changed them to be illegal beer machines which were placed in closets in many fraternities. So when the hour came when frats could no longer be having parties, they closed down the kegs and opened the beer closets and each person paid double to get a cold beer from the soda machine. Thankfully, when Ed married Janie in college he gave up his less legitimate pursuits to concentrate on trying to graduate.

It was no surprise that Ed started his career in sales and really never left that as the center of his working life, although he moved into the executive ranks eventually owning his own Sales and Marketing consulting firm working all over the world. He was the original creator of social marketing inventing the Friends and Family plan for MCI, which meant you got money off your phone bill if you convinced one of your friends and family to join MCI for their long distance. The more people you convinced the more money you and your friends and family saved. It revolutionized marketing.

Work was really Ed’s religion. He believed in hard work and spent most of his time doing it. He would leave our house in Connecticut around five in the morning to catch the earliest train into NYC and would usually not get home until 8 or nine at night. This left Mom to deal with us three girls during the week. He did give her a break on weekends when he would take over girl- supervision. Life was different for kids in the sixties. We didn’t play soccer or basketball, instead we were my father’s weekend-workforce.

Saturdays usually started the same, with errands without my Mom, which always included a trip to the liquor store, so my Dad could cash a check and perhaps do some shopping. Then a visit to the chain saw & lawn mower store and/or the hardware store, a stop at the car wash and finishing up with a trip to the grocery store so he could buy food to cook. Then it was home to start the outdoor chores, for which children were born to do.

My father loved a beautiful lawn. Growing, mowing, fertilizing, raking and mulching were the preeminent chores. The best day we ever had was the day we got our first riding lawn mower as my father had been having us clean our Connecticut forest and make more and more lawn. For anyone who has even been to Hom-a-gen farm you could see his love of grass. It was the one thing I found so sad at his passing, because his lawn had not grown at his new house and he died right before the grass came in.

As daughters working in the yard, when we were doing chain-gang labor, like picking up apples or raking leaves in the orchard, we would beg my father to tells us stories from his childhood. He would often take that opportunity to train us to do things he thought were important for us to know or things he felt were lacking in our educations. One of his favorites was doing math word problems, but with that Ed twist. He would say something like this. “A train box-car can hold 56 pallets, there are 112 cases of beer on a pallet, and 24 beers in a case. I started drinking beer when I was 14 and if I drank six beers a day on average and I am 32 now, how many box cars of beer have I drunk?” We never questioned him about drinking six beers a day since he was 14.

For those of you who have worked for Ed, you know this as calculation-dictation. He started working at a time when men had secretaries, so he never knew how to type and spread sheets were math done by hand. When computers came about he just had minions to do the work for him. As one of the minions myself for a few years I quickly recognized work calculation-dictation as the same as raking-leaves-math. He was so much smarter than computers that we often got mad at him when he asked us to do calculation-dictation.

He would give me all the data and the question he wanted the answer to. I would input all this in an excel spread sheet and press the button on the computer to get the answer and I would tell him “$55.6 million dollars,” was the answer to his question. He would look at me like I had two heads and say, “No, you are wrong. It is $54.3 Million.” He had done all the complicated calculations in his head. I would scour the formula on the computer and find a parentheses in the wrong place and push the button again and sure enough the answer was $54.3 Million. Why did he make us always do the work if he could figure out the answer in his head? He was always training people. He believed in education and he wanted everyone to get smarter. We just never would get to be as smart as he was.

As the oldest child I was often used as a sales guinea pig. When he worked at Avon one of his jobs had every Avon lady in America ultimately reporting to him. Sometimes he would want to test out a new sales technique or product but didn’t want to spend months and months doing test marketing, so he just used me.

The worst idea ever was sending a 12 year old out to test sell a new prototype Avon Hair color line. Who wants to take at-home hair color advice from a twelve-year old? I think it was my father’s way of dooming the product because he knew in his heart that if Avon ruined women’s hair they would lose all their customers forever. He knew, you leave hair coloring up to professionals, despite his own lack of hair.

My middle sister Margaret was allowed to design and produce her own products to sell. As a teenager she had a big business in the painted barrette field, but the sales training was the same. My youngest sister Janet got to sell fire wood at age nine. We all played to our strengths, but it was selling none the less.

I remember a cartoon from the New Yorker that someone gave my dad. It was a drawing of a big bald man, who looked exactly like him with a bull horn, walking inside a hen house with hens on nests, all around him. The caption on the cartoon of the man speaking through the bull horn was, “I believe in eggs and I believe you believe in eggs too.” That was my Dad through and through, telling you what to believe.

The one thing that everyone who worked for him got was, “If he believed in you, you could do anything. And if he didn’t believe in you, you were doomed.”

A big thing he really believed in is my mother’s talent as an artist. He was always telling me about her latest and greatest works. As award-winning as she is in the painting world, it is her free-hand needlepoint that he loved the most. He used to say to me that they should be in a museum because there is nothing painted on the canvas and she is just creating it as she stitched. He was always in awe of her art.

In retirement, when he no longer had a secretary, he had to learn to use a computer himself. I am very proud that both my parents learned to type after age fifty-five, but actually learning how to use the computer was a different thing. I am certain, that this past month the call volume to the Apple Customer Service Genius Bar is down so far due to my father not calling, they are wondering if they have somehow lost thousands of customers.

My Dad did not have any patience with phone customer service reps, but if you were the L.L. Bean sales rep on the three AM shift, you adored my Dad. He loved to call LL Bean and discuss the difference between blutchers and loafers. Proof that he was not planning on going anywhere when he died was the large box of LL Bean clothes and shoes that arrived for him the day he died.

His love was not only for LL Bean, but for also Cars. He leased a new Volkswagen two weeks before he died. When he called me and told me I said, “What in the world do you need another new car for?” There was hardly a day he did not think he needed a new car.

Every August, when we were kids, my Parents would drive us the two-day trip from cool-in-the- summer Connecticut to hotter-than-Hades Pawley’s Island for our vacation with our cousins. My father had been going to Pawley’s island with his cousins all his life and thought it was the only way to vacation with young children. To entertain us for the 20 hour car ride, he would have us learn the make, model and year of every car on the road. To this day I can still identify most makes from 1967-1975 from the rear, as that is the only way I saw them on the trip.

Once we got older, my father started taking the family on trips around the world. He figured that was the best way to get to spend time with us and we did not argue. No matter what country you were in, when you got in a taxi cab with my father he always asked the driver the same two questions, “Where are you from and how long have you been doing this?” Despite his high rank in business he always was interested in all kinds of people, at every level.

He was beloved by waiters because he asked them how they were doing and was genuinely interested in them as people. He was the worlds biggest tipper and got great joy in that. This always came in handy when I was working with him in London because we often had big work fights at restaurants. Despite the screaming and bad language, we were welcomed back at our favorite spots thanks to my dad’s kindness to the staff. I am certain the owners of the restaurants secretly hoped we would be too embarrassed to come back, but that never was the case.

I think retirement was the worst thing to happen to my father. He went from traveling the world and being important to trying to shape the land at Hom-a-gen farm to his liking and spending too much time alone. He had loved living and working in England, which was the last big job he did. While there when I was pregnant with my daughter Carter, I asked him what he wanted his grandfather name to be and he said, “Your Grace,” as a nod to the royalty he loved. My mother thought that was a ridiculous grandfather name, but as soon as Carter began to talk she shortened it to “Gracie.”

There was nothing funnier that hearing a little granddaughter call ”Gracie” to this big man while they were at the Kubota dealership.

He was a good Gracie, teaching Carter to drive at eight-years old and not losing it when she almost ran his truck into a tree with him in the passenger seat. When Carter worried that she might get arrested for driving on the farm, Gracie told her to make herself a Hom-a-gen drivers license and he signed it as the “constable.” Then he encouraged Carter to bring her friends to the farm so they could learn to drive too. He was excellent at turning the farm into “Camp Gracie” and teaching kids to fish and shoot skeet and swim in the pool.

My Dad was generous to a fault. He paid for people’s tuitions and gave away big things, like four wheelers and boats he thought someone might like. He always lived big and took care of the people he loved.

He did not like being taken care of himself. Getting old and frail was not for him. He spent a lot of time in retirement cooking, making meals much too big for he and my mother and leaving my mother with thousands of pots and pans to wash. In the last few months he was no longer able to cook, which meant my mother had to do the cooking, as well as wash the pans. Life wasn’t worth living if he couldn’t cook.

He outlived all his closest male relatives and friends, which he never imagined doing. He never wanted to linger in a hospital or have any extraordinary measures to keep him around. So he left us on his terms, in his own bed. Like the teenager who was done with braces, he went when he no longer could make himself a cocktail. The stories about Ed will live on with his friends and family. Next time you go to a restaurant tip double what you normally would do, in memory of him. For a moment, you will know what it felt like to be him.

Nothing Better Than Family

I love having a big southern family. When it comes time for a funeral they really come through for you. Tonight my Aunt Janie Leigh had our closest relatives for a big dinner at her house to celebrate my Dad. We gathered on the porch of Hom-agen farm where my grand father grew up as we have for every year of my life and many years before.

We had plenty of drinks, as my father would have liked us to do. Stories were told and laughter could be heard across the farm. Eventually we went inside to have a lovely dinner, people sitting in every room of the first floor, plates in their laps. It was just wonderful to be together and hear my cousins tell stories about my Dad.

One of my favorites was my cousin Brooks telling us my father gave him his first record album, Elvis’ Greatest hits. Brooks went on to have a band in College so that first record album had a special place in his heart.

Each person told a story with the same theme, that when my father was talking to them there was no one else more important in the room to him than they were. That’s exactly how he was and it was so sweet to hear it from so many people he loved.

Tomorrow will be a celebration of his life. Just as it should be.

Helping Others Helps Yourself

In the last couple of days I have received some lovely flowers from friends and family in memory of my father. I have gotten so many cards from dear friends, near and far and all of them have been comforting and appreciated. The funeral is Friday and I am ready to be with my family and send my Dad off with stories and laughs and lots of good drinks, as he would want.

Having a service a month after a passing is too long. The limbo I have been in is not helpful. I know a service does not change the day to day reality, but I need to not have everything revolve around this loss.

Today, when a friend told me she was making some food for a common friend, who has a very sick family member, I asked if I could bake something for them. They are in the throws of something much harder and sadder. It made me feel so much better to do something for them and not have it be about me.

There are always people around who have it worse than you do. Doing something for someone else is really the best way to heal yourself. I am looking forward to getting back in that rhythm. It’s time to care for others.

Mah Jongg Connections

It is so strange when I meet a new person who not only looks, but sounds and acts exactly like a dear friend. It makes me feel like I know that new person so much better than I do. Tonight was my last class of the four beginner Mah Jongg class I taught in Raleigh. One of my students, Katherine,is the doppelgänger of my friend and Mah Jongg compatriot Mary Lloyd. They not only have similar faces, but are the exact same size and sound the same.

Katherine was an exceptional student so I kept thinking, “Mary Lloyd, why are you taking beginner Mah Jongg?” It was so surreal.

I am hoping that at some point I can introduce them because ai think they would like each other.

On a different note I have to give a shout out to Marty, my Mah Jongg agent in Raliegh. She did an extraordinary job pulling together five different classes for me to teach. Now I hear that there are friends of the beginners who did not get into the first group of classes and want me to teach them. So I think there will be another round of beginners and then a big strategy class in January.

To Kate Taylor, I need say, that Trina Blanton was in this last class and she asked me if I was going to teach at CCCC next summer and I told her you had talked about it. So the two of you need to put your heads together for a class there before Coral Bay signs me up for the whole summer.

There are so many overlapping Mah Jongg Connections. I look forward to creating more devotees.

Pay Attention to Your Friends

Right after my dad died I got an email from my friend Sally who lost her father just four days after mine. Sally’s Dad was in his nineties and had Alzheimer’s, which didn’t make it any easier to lose him. But Sally had just gone through a shoulder operation and a major move and downsizing all at the same time. I was so sorry about all she had to deal with all at once and especially sorry that I had been so busy that I did not know how much she was dealing with.

Today my friend Jan and I went to see Sally’s new house and go to lunch with her. Actually I was trying to take Sally to lunch and Jan grabbed that check saying that both of us had lost our fathers and she would pay. Hardly fair since Jan lost her father long before I knew her.

Keeping up with people during the pandemic has been horrible and I feel guilty about not being a better friend. So many times I wonder how someone is and I think, “No news must be good news,” but that just isn’t always the case.

To my friends out there who I might have neglected, I am sorry. If you have had any difficulties and kept them to yourself, I’m sorry I did notice or inquire.

Lunch with Sally was so great, despite not having the use of her dominant hand she is still as fun as always. I promised to get her over to play Mah Jongg, just once I get through the services for my Dad. We all aren’t getting any younger and we need to keep up better. And we always can play more Mah Jongg.

I Messed Up

It’s been so long since I have been invited to a party. The pandemic ended parties and I have gotten out of practice. Today after church Russ and I went to vote and when we came home I said, “I’ve got to write my Dad’s eulogy.” I have been putting this off for a while, but as his service is this Friday it was time for me to put words on paper so that my sister can see what I am saying so we compliment each other.

I sat down in the sun room and started writing. Since we had gone to vote I got a later start than I imagined. After a long while my iPad started beeping that it was down to 1% power so I went up to my room to plug it in. I looked at the time and my mind skipped a beat. Wait, what day is it? I have a Wedding shower to go to. I looked at my calendar and sure enough I was an hour and a half late for Tatum Pottenger’s shower which thankfully was being held at my neighbor Mary Eileen’s house.

I put on some real shoes and ran over apologizing for being so late since I was writing my father’s eulogy. Really, what better excuse can I possibly have?

The bride to be, her dear mother and all the hostesses could not have been nicer. I haven’t seen most of them since my father’s passing. It was a great break from thinking about my father and I am so happy I got to spend a little time at the lovely party on the patio.

Life goes on and people have parties and get married and all that makes me so happy. After spending time there I came home and continued writing and sent off my first draft to my sister. I have been in this limbo place waiting for the service to actually happen. Life has to go on and there are things to celebrate.

I Don’t Know Nuthin’ ‘Bout Beans

I grew pole beans this year, mostly because my Dad loved them. Sadly he never got to see or eat them. After I came home from Maine they we’re getting a little tough so I just left the pods on the vine. That meant the pod got inedible, but the beans inside grew. When I went to pull them out of the garden I pulled all the beans off the vines and laid them out in the garage to dry.

Some dried well and some molded. That’s the part I don’t know anything about. I have never dried beans before and I didn’t even lookup what to do with them. So today I gathered all the dried pods and went to shuck them. I threw away anything moldy and In the end I was left with about two thirds of a cup of dried beans.

I am leaving these out to see if they change at all and if they do I will just throw them away. If not I might make a little soup and throw them in. I wish I had an enemy I could serve them too first to see if they are dangerous, but alas I don’t. (I actually do, but that person doesn’t know me. And I don’t want the secret service after me.)

No matter what, I am not going to grow beans for drying again because the yield is so poor and dried beans you buy at the store are cheep. I am sticking to Tomatoes, which are so much better right off the vine than anything you can buy anywhere, including the farmer’s market.

I am still getting a few tomatoes, but my baskets are getting smaller. I put in a few kale and Swiss chard plants and lots of arugula. Farewell summer garden. Winter is on its way.

A Month in Maine???

The other day I found Russ looking at rentals in Maine on his iPad. He floated the idea that we might go for a month next year since Carter will have graduated from college and no longer be on our payroll. It sounded like the perfect idea to me. So I started searching for the right house that Shay could come to and Russ could work from. It’s a big job to scour the Internet looking for that right place.

We love Bayside, but it appears that dogs are not welcome in most rentals there. I wish there was some kind of dog interview process so owners could see she is more of an animated stuffed animal than a dog. She does not like to swim or go in the water and really doesn’t even like to get her feet wet. No shedding or dander, she is cleaner than a baby.

I want to stay in the mid-coast so we are near our friends and the places we know we like to go. Somewhere between Owl’s head and Belfast. I think we want to be on the ocean, but have not ruled out a big lake, like Megunticook. The most important thing is good wifi and cell service since Russ will work a lot of the time. I wish he had thought of this idea when we were there in August and I could have looked at a few places, but I’m not complaining.

I’m open to suggestions if anyone has recommendations. I want to get something in the books sooner rather than later.

Send The Coyotes After The FedEx Guy

It seems our neighborhood list serve has blown up over two completely different issues. The first being the coyote/deer explosion. The second is about the total break down of FedEx to deliver packages to the right houses or even the right neighborhood.

The deer have been an issue for years now, with no real action on trying to control the heard. Now that the coyotes are here to do the job and we have to worry about our pets and small children. My back door neighbor, who has three little people, alerted me that she saw a coyote in her back yard today, as she was concerned about Shay. I appreciated the heads up, but I was concerned about her children. It certainly seems like it is time for our neighborhood association to take this issue on and figure out what our options are with the city.

The FedEx problem is most likely a few poor employees. Everyone needs to bombard Fed Ex with complaints. If you don’t get your packages you need to complain to the company you bought stuff from and tell them that you won’t continue to shop with them if they continue to use FedEx. I have gone so far as calling places and asking if they use FedEx before ordering. Apparently Amazon gave up on FedEx and that likely hurt them more than anything else. Imagine that now the USPS is a more reliable shipper than FedEx.

I am trying to find a way that we can use the deer/coyote problem to solve the Fed Ex problem, but for the life of me I can’t come up with anything even hair brained. The one thing we don’t want to do is let the Fed Ex people know about the coyote’s because then they will use them as an excuse why they do not bring the packages to your door.

That Childhood Training Pays Off

Carter called me today to tell me about her Religion Seminar class she had today. They were talking about the three types of capital in the world: economic capital, social/networking capital and cultural capital. The professor explained that cultural capital has to do with things like manners. Since it is the tiniest group in this seminar Carter revealed that she had been forced by her mother to take etiquette class when she was four years old. I’m not sure she said forced, but Carter references this experience often to me.

The professor asked Carter what she learned from the class that she still uses. She said that she always put her fork and knife together on her plate to indicate she is done with her meal. Carter also said she noticed when other people don’t do it. The professor asked her if she ever brought it to anyone one’s attention. “Oh no!” Carter told her. The professor told her something that make a mother proud.

“You not only learned the etiquette of what to do, but also the manners not to make someone else feel bad that they didn’t have etiquette.” Apparently that is Culture Capital.

I am very thankful to Connie Kearny for her etiquette class that made such a huge impression on Carter at the right age. Carter might not have loved them at the time, but most certainly they are paying off now.

Carter has mentioned that when she went out to a meal with a work superior she notices when they do the wrong things in social situations. At first she just thought that they must not have been brought up in the south, but soon realized that no matter where they were from they should know some basic etiquette.

It is never too early to teach your children good manners, but it most certainly can be too late to teach them. One thing that was drilled into me by my father is that you always look someone in the eye when you speak to them. From my mother I got that there was no eating until your napkin was in your lap. Who knew it was something as important as Cultural Capital?

It’s Scary Out There

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse I learned that we have a family of wild Coyotes living in the neighborhood with a litter of pups. Apparently the coyotes have moved in due to the abundance of deer that makes for good hunting. But it’s not just deer they go after, pets are fair game. My neighbor Mary lost one of her small dogs yesterday.

Now we are not letting Shay out by herself to run around to the back of our house as she likes to do. We have a deer highway that runs behind out house and I am worried that the coyotes will discover the highway. One neighbor reported a ravaged doe in his front yard.

As if things were not bad enough with Covid, now we have to be on watch for Coyotes. Apparently our whole neighborhood has to do something called hazing to scare Coyotes off. That involves screaming at them while waving your arms in the air. I am sure my loud voice, often described by Carter as the “kind of voice that voice threatens robbers away” is my best tool. The internet experts say that it is important for everyone to do this or the hazing is ineffective. The one caveat is not to haze a hurt animal or one that is with it’s pups.

Since Shay is only a 23 pound dog she is a perfect target for a coyote. There is no way I am letting some predator get her, so if you hear me screaming outside my house I am probably just warding off animals I don’t see. I may look and sound batshit crazy, but it will be for a reason.

Old Memories

Today I was going through old photos. Once in a while when I look at a photo I can’t remember exactly where or when it was taken, but sometimes just seeing an imagine brings me right back to when I took it. That was the case today. The picture is one of my sister Janet from when she was five years old. We lived in Wilton, Connecticut where spring never came. Since we did not really live in a neighborhood we often had to make our own fun since our friends were a car ride away.


I came home from school and Janet was playing by herself out in the snow covered driveway. She had on her Osh Kosh striped jean jacket, and a red bandana and was holding a plastic water pistol. I caught the photo of her acting out the death scene in a cops and robbers game she was playing alone. I will never forget how much fun she was having playing both the good guy and bad guy role at the same time. I am not sure who got shot, but the death scene was very dramatic.

I laughed so big as she went down. I thought she could not possibly have more fun if she had an actual friend playing this game with her. Certainly without the photo I would have forgotten this small moment forty seven years ago.

As I went through more photos I forwarded many of Carter and my father together through the years. I am so happy that I have always been an avid photographer because capturing so many memories in a picture helps keep those memories alive. Thank goodness everyone has a camera in our pockets now. Do yourself a favor and take some photos everyday.

Surprise Harvest

I haven’t been spending much time in my garden due to being busy with other things. I went out today to work, thinking I would pull a lot of spent plants out. To my surprise I found I still had more things to harvest than I anticipated. I had only brought a small basket with me and soon it was overflowing with Japanese eggplant, tomatoes and six different kinds of peppers. I returned to the garage and got my biggest basket and filled it, adding globe eggplants.

I had cut down my giant okra stalks three weeks ago, but not pulled them out of the garden. Today I discovered new shoots with tiny pods growing out the side of them. My marigolds are overflowing with blossoms, at least four times as many as I have had at any one time this summer. Even my catnip is exploding and I don’t even have a cat. I grow it as a companion to the vegetables because it is a natural aphid repellent. If you have a cat and would like some please come by and I will be happy to cut you a few handfuls.

After harvesting I decided I was not going to pull out the plants I thought I might as they are still producing. I might as well continue to enjoy their bounty until frost is predicted. I hope the green tomatoes on the vines have a chance to ripen before the frost. I am thankful I was too distracted to pull plants out two weeks ago because I would have missed this surprise harvest.

All My Cooking is Not Successful

A month or so ago we invited some young friends for dinner for tonight. As the time got closer I learned that the husband does not eat fish. Russ does not eat meat so that left me with Chicken or Veggies. Since Russ got a new pasta maker for his birthday I decided I would try and make butternut squash ravioli. I had successfully made spaghetti with the new machine and thought how much trouble could lasagna noodles be?

I baked the butternut squash and mixed the flesh with eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper for the filling. Then I attempted to make the pasta. It was not easy. As the wide flat noodles extruded they curled in on themselves. I cut them short and tried to make pockets of ravioli. They looked terrible and I was totally unsure that they would not burst open when cooked.

Russ usually has great confidence in my cooking, but even he thought we needed a plan B. So he went to the local Italian Pasta makers and bought some pumpkin ravioli. I was left with a big bowl of the butternut squash filling. Russ thought I could make butternut squash bread, but with all the black pepper in it I thought I should do something savory.

I couldn’t turn it into soup since it had raw eggs in it. So I decided to make a savory butternut cheese cake. It was a good way to turn a fail into something edible.

From the photos they both look like fails.


1 cup panko bread crumb

1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese

4 T. Butter melted

Cheese cake

1 large butternut squash

5 eggs

1 c. Ricotta cheese

16 Oz. Cream cheese

2 t. Nutmeg

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. Halve the butternut squash and remove seeds and strings. Place face down on a butter foil covered cookie sheet. Bake for 1 hour until a fork goes in easily.

Set aside to cool.

Butter a large spring form pan.

Mix panko, Parmesan and melted putter together and press into the bottom of the pan. Bake for ten minutes in 350° oven.

In a mixer beat cream cheese with eggs. Scrape out the flesh from cooled squash and add to cream cheese and beat. Add ricotta, and spices, lots of pepper and 1 T salt. Pour mixture into spring form pan on top of crust.

Wrap the bottom. Of the spring form pan in foil so water can’t get in to it.

Place pan in a oblong backing pan and fill the pan with boiling water until it is half way up the sides of the spring form pan. Bake in 350° oven for one hour. Can be served hot or room temp.

Bridge is a Life’s Work

One of the things I gave up all through the pandemic was bridge. Not being able to play in person meant I had to play online. I did not like playing online with strangers who “chatted” not such nice comments. So I just stopped playing all together. My best bridge mentor/friend Deanna asked me if I would come back and play and she would play with me twice a month. So tonight was our first game, which was still online, but with people from our bridge club.

I was very nervous, having forgotten so many of the “new” conventions Deanna had been working with me on learning two years ago. We had a refresher call before the game and then got online. The first few games were a little rocky and then I got back in the swing. We made top board twice and finished above average, gaining me some master points.

I still don’t love playing on the computer, but it was not as scary since I was playing with Deanna. I look forward to doing it again in person, but this means I have to study. Bridge is a life’s work.

A Shower and a Shave?

It’s been a while since I commented on the news, but today I just can’t help myself. Across my scroll came news January 6th Congressional committee plans to vote next week to hold Steve Bannon in Contempt of Congress for not cooperating with their subpoena.

Allegedly, Bannon, who was not an employee of the executive branch since 2017, is claiming executive privilege, a laughable claim.

My thought is perhaps the committee is pleased with Bannon’s refusal. If they do throw him in jail until he agrees to testify in front of the committee perhaps Bannon will be forced to shower, wash his hair and maybe shave while he is in lock up. The January 6th committee might prefer a clean Bannon to the one we normally see on the news.

If Bannon does change his mind and testifies without being sent to jail it is a good thing for the members of Congress that they wear masks. Just sayin’.

Get Your Christmas Shopping Done

In case you haven’t noticed, the supply chain is very broken. It is hard to find products on the shelves. I wanted to buy some white pillow cases this morning and there were absolutely none to be found at my local Target today. If I wanted brown or beige all would be good, but I am not a brown bedroom girl.

So it’s time to get your Christmas shopping done. You are in luck if you have anyone on your list who cooks, has a kitchen or a workshop because my sister’s Any sharp Product will be featured on Good Morning America’s Deals and Steals tomorrow. The segment will air in the eight o’clock hour along with a bunch of other good kitchen wares.

Order early and ensure you have some stocking stuffers. My sister is really appreciative of all your orders.

A Little Bit Back To Normal

Life is getting a little bit back to normal, yet I am still sad. This morning Carter flew back to Boston with Russ taking her to the airport at 4:40 in the morning. It was sad not to have her around today, but she has lots to do to graduate this semester so throwing in all these funerals and celebrations of life and it means she is flying back and forth a lot.

Russ flew off to Annapolis this afternoon for a work meeting for the next few days. I went to work in the memorial garden for garden club this morning. It was real normalcy for me. Only six people showed up so I got a lot of digging in and doing that kind of work is good for the soul.

I went back to teach a night Mah Jongg class in Raliegh today. Had a group of 12 new students who caught on fairly quickly. Teaching at night is not my best teaching, but getting back into a routine is good for me. In between those people activities I did a lot of planning work on my Dad’s services and parties. He loved to throw a party and I wish he had planned all these things, but that would have meant he knew he was not invincible.

One thing hit me today as I was driving by a house in my neighborhood that my father had commented on a few months ago. He asked me if this particular house was abandoned. I laughed and said, no that it actually had been recently renovated. His comment back was, “Those people were robbed.” I really wish my Dad was with me today because as I drove by the same house I noticed some tiny trees, really barley sticks, that had been haphazardly planted a while ago in the front yard and they still had the big white paper tags attached with elastic to one of the two tiny branches of each trees. My father would have gotten a big laugh at these people for not bothering to remove the tags as well as not planning their landscaping any better. I know my response would have been to him, “What do you expect from an abandoned house?” He would have just said, “dopes.”

I do miss sharing the absurd with my Dad. We had the same sense of humor. He particularly did not have any patience for dopes. When Carter and I were up at my mom’s on Friday we came across brand new t-shirt in my Dad’s closet. It said on it. “I will try and be nicer if you try and be smarter.” I really wish I could ask him if he bought it or it was given to him because there is no truer statement about him.

Even my normal days still remind me of my Dad.

The Best Daughter

Carter came home for a long weekend to spend time with my Mom and us. It has been so great to have her home. She had today off from school because it is indigenous people’s day in Boston. Unfortunately I did not have the day off. It was my last day of morning and afternoon Mah Jongg classes in Raleigh so I left Carter home all day.

After my long day of work I got home and found that Carter had polished the silver service for me, cleaned out the dishwasher, fed Shay, and planned dinner. I would have been thrilled with cleaning out the dishwasher. Polishing the silver was way over the top and so appreciated. Sadly she leaves so early in the morning and I am going to miss her.

The before and after photo Carter sent me as a surprise

I can’t spend another moment on my blog today because I have to enjoy the last fleeting moments with Carter.

Pomodoro Sauce for Ed

Two big things I got from my father are my love of gardening and cooking. My mother has never cared about cooking or eating so as soon as I could reach the stove my father had me cooking. I actually was cooking eggs for myself before my parents even knew, because they would be asleep late on weekends and I had things to do and places to go. Thankfully I never burned the house down.

My Dad loved to cook, but was a recipe follower, until he mastered something. Quite the opposite from me as a cook. Still I am sure I never would have become the cook I am without his influence, especially in taking me all over the world to taste different foods in their home cultures.

As my garden is still producing tomatoes today I picked a basket full and made a Pomodoro sauce my Dad would appreciate as one we used to eat in Italy on family trips to his favorite Amalfi coast.

3 medium Onions- peeled and quartered

12-14 ripe Roma and Campari tomatoes quartered

6 cloves of garlic peeled

3 T. Olive oil

1 T. Balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 t. Basil, dry

1 t. Marjoram

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 375°

Place everything on a big sheet pan mixed together.

Cook at least 45 minutes until the onions are starting to brown.

Let cool slightly and pour everything on pan into a blender and blend just until not chunky.

Freezes well.

Healing Thoughtfulness

Thanks to the dear friends who have done things for us over the last week. Jan brought us food and flowers the night we came home and it was so nice of her to go to all that trouble. We have been fine and there is almost never a need for anyone to bring us food. In fact I know most people are intimidated to do so, which is just crazy. Except for the superior chef Carol who brought a cake, even if the bundt pan is unforgiving, it is beautiful. Anna also brought chocolate saying it is a Chinese traditions to have something sweet so you have sweet memories.

The flowers that have been brought have been spectacular. Stacey’s are an artistic wonder. Kim’s Hydrangeas will keep me smiling for weeks as will Lynn’s orchid. Carol’s roses are beautiful, but nothing compared to her cake.

The cards and notes of condolence have been so thoughtful and sweet as well as all the other messages of love. So many dear people have reached out with offers and really we don’t need a thing, other than to know you care, which I do. Thank you dear friends, I appreciate you all so much.

Carter Makes Everything Better

Carter really wanted to come home to be with us and see her grandmother. I am so glad she did. We came up to Mom’s this morning to continue helping do all the random things that need to be done. The first thing we did was drive my Mom to Martinsville, 35 minutes away, to return my father’s band new, very expensive hearing aids. Nothing makes my mother happier than returning things, but it is all made better by having Carter here to help.

After we drove back to Danville and went out to lunch. What a novel and normal thing do. It was so nice just to be together and not be in the house. My Mom even paid so you know she had to be in a very good mood. After I went home to have a call and Mom and Carter went to the funeral home to pick my Dad’s ashes up and pick out a box for them.

My Mom put the box in his room right under one of his favorite paintings she did of the Tour de France. Her neighbor Barbara texted Mom to see if she was OK and my Mom texted back, “I’m fine, sitting on the porch, Dana and Carter and are outside and Ed is up in his room.” Barbara texted back, “What?” Mom replied, “His ashes are up there.”

The grass is finally growing at the house, which I am certain makes my father most happy so things are looking up.

After dinner my Mom went to bed and Carter and I turned on the TV. The choice of stations here is hysterical. I saw “The Flip Wilson Show” on the guide and told Carter is was one of my favorite shows in the 70’s. She and I started watching it and about five minutes in we realized it was an informercial for an 18 DVD set of Flip Wilson’s greatest hits from Time Life. Carter loved the show, but wondered who had DVD equipment still. For me it was like going back to my childhood. Seemed appropriate. It was a great day.

Nothing Is Normal

Trying to get a day or two of normalcy I came home to rest before going back to my Mom’s. I did exciting things today like vacuum so I could ignore things I didn’t want to think about. Unfortunately vacuuming is not enthralling enough to take your mind off anything.

I had my first regular world Zoom meeting in over a week and then it was easy enough to keep my attention on a task at hand. So to continue that theme Russ and I went to Russell’s Pharmacy in East Durham, the place we got our vaccines from and got our flu and shingles shots. We really like this tiny family owned Pharmacy and Darius Russell the pharmacist so it felt good to go back there and support him. We were in good company as Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state health director, went to him yesterday to get her flu shot.

We got home and I prepped for dinner so I would be ready for the highlight of the day, when Carter came home. She was so sad at the loss of her grandfather and did not want to be alone all the way until the end of the month when we are having the memorial service. Russ and I went to the airport to pick her up and it was just the best feeling to get to hug her.

Tomorrow she and I will go back to my Mom’s for a couple of days. I think this is going to be a pattern for a while. Nothing will be normal.

Thanks Be To Friends

One of the best things to come out of losing my father has been the wonderful conversations I have been able to have with old friends. I am so lucky that I had the opportunity to work with my Dad’s company for about seven years in my thirties. While I did I worked with many wonderful people who my father had gathered up in the journey of his work life.

If you worked with my Dad you had to be a very special and strong person because he demanded brilliance and hard work. Not everyone could be brilliant all the time and so you worked even harder. That hard work created a sense of camaraderie among those of us in the trenches.

I stopped working when Carter was born because I couldn’t figure out how to do international travel with a baby and have a husband who was doing the same thing. I knew I could not just throw Cheerios on the floor and fly away. So I stayed home. Many of those work friends kept at it so we didn’t see each other much, but they were all part of my father’s big tribe and that is how we kept in touch.

I am so thankful for the chance I had to get to know and love these friends. They have gathered around at the passing of my Dad. I especially appreciate Ann and Mary Jo who are helping me with planning the celebration of my Dad’s life. All this event planning is not hard for me, with my years of catering experience, but the logistics of planning events where I am not physically present is made easier because of friends helping.

The conversations I have had with people who knew my father so well means we can talk frankly. Thanks to Julia for her realistic point of view. It makes me miss our times working together. I cherish the people my father gathered. Their loyalty and devotion to his imperfections is so appreciated by me.

My Father’s Obituary

Edward Willis Carter lived 83 full years and left this world on September 30, 2021.  He was born in Winston-Salem, NC to his parents Edward Wilson Carter of Caswell County and Margaret Michie Carter of Charlottesville, Va, where he lived his childhood until he left to attend Virginia Episcopal School for High School. From there he went on to the University of North Carolina where he saw Jane Henderson Wright across the quad and declared he was going to marry her.

He and Janie had three daughters, Dana Carter Lange, (Russ), Margaret Carter (Peter Tokar) and Janet Carter (Sophie Mitrisin) and one granddaughter, Carter Lange. All of whom to which he was eternally devoted.  He took great interest in ensuring his children learned all of life’s important lessons right up until the end, like never run one of your cars into another one of your cars.

Hard working, generous and funny were the three adjectives that described him through most of his life.  He was a successful executive at Avon, ending his career there running the European division.  From there he went on to Warner-Amex and then to MCI at the time when telephone was first becoming a competitive business in the US. Leaving MCI as the head of Sales and Marketing he went on to US Sprint. Realizing that he had a superior knowledge of the ever-changing telephone business he started his own telephone sales and marketing consulting firm, Carter Marketing Group (CMG).

In the 1980’s and 1990’s monopoly telephone companies around the world were facing competition for the first time and Ed was there to help either the existing telephone company or the new startup.  Taking his CMG team successfully into Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, UK, and many other countries to accelerate competition where little had existed before. He retired from CMG in 1998 and many of his employees went on to create spin off companies. Throughout his entire career, he was devoted to helping others succeed in business, just as he had.

After living in Wilton, CT, London England, Washington, DC and South Litchfield Beach, SC he and Janie retired to his long standing family farm, Hom-a-Gen, in Caswell County, NC. There they lived next to his only brother Wilson R. Carter who predeceased him.  Ed spent his time developing the land and reshaping the landscape to be the most beautiful property he could imagine. He loved nothing more than to drive his tractor over his rolling hills and meandering streams.

There will be private service for the family and a celebration of his life later in Washington, DC. Townes Funeral Home in Danville is serving the family. Online condolences may be made at

The Grass is Important

I don’t know how people plan and hold funerals in days of losing their loved one. My Dad has been gone four days and we are just getting around to writing his obituary. Today my Mom and I went to plan the service with my mother’s sweet minister, John. Covid rules really make things tough. We are going to have a small private family service here and then a celebration of my Dad’s life in Washington at a later date. We haven’t even gotten around to thinking about the Washington event as we are so tied up with this one.

Today, when Mom and I got back to her house my Dad’s pool guy was here closing the pool. We told him of Dad’s passing and he was shocked since my Dad had just called him Tuesday to ask him to do the work. My cousin, who is my parent’s stock broker said my Dad had called him two days before he died and he was fine. You just don’t know when your time is up.

My father loved a beautiful green lawn. As a child he used to make all his girls cut the grass. We had a big piece of property and every year he reclaimed more and more forest and grew more and more grass. His farm could have been a Scott’s advertisement. When my parents moved into their new house it had no grass. My father kept waiting for someone to come and do his landscaping and they never came.

Finally last week my mother was fed up with looking at the red clay and she told my father to get someone else, so he did. The day my father died the landscapers must have had five or six guys out putting down seed and straw to hold the seed down. I am so sad that my father never got to see his new house with a green lawn. I am hoping that is will grow quickly so there will be a lawn of some kind before his memorial service. I can’t imagine his embarrassment of not having grass on the day of his service. Thank goodness we did not have to have it in three days.

Please, Leave Instructions

I’m back with my Mom in the land of no Internet and an over abundance of condolence food. There are just three of us here and people bring food for forty. Since my parents just built this house I don’t know where anything is and neither does my mother. Unfortunately my father did not communicate the things like where all the keys and remote controls are.

I know that in every couple there is one person who does some things and another who does the rest. The problem when you lose one unexpectedly no one knows how to do all the things they used to do. Please, someone write down all the information for all the things you do, like change the filters in the furnace or who you call to jump the dead battery for the Kabota.

When I get finished with my mother I am going home and start a log so Russ and I can keep track of these things. I know the name and phone number of our plumbers, but I don’t know if Russ does. He knows the tire pressure for the Morris minor, but I don’t. Neither of us know exactly what medication the other takes. I certainly don’t want Carter to have to try an figure things out by herself.

My father made sure I had his DNR and medical power of attorney, sending me a new one every year. My mother even found a note in his wallet about his not being resuscitated if he was found lying on the ground. With that kind of fore thought I wish he had left more instructions. I am unable to down load any user manuals since the internet here is like 4 mbps. The only thing we can do is eat some food someone brought us and pray we figure everything out.

Russ’ Poorly Celebrated Birthday

In the life goes on department, today is my husband Russ’ birthday. We came home from my Mom’s to get a small break and rejuvenate and celebrate his day. Not that it is much of a celebration for him. The time I had planned to prepare for his birthday was lost, but Russ never complains. He has stepped up to help me and my Mom with things related to my Dad’s passing. This has been a role Russ knows well. Russ has been a stalwart when it comes to dealing with my Dad. So death is little different than life.

So there was little fan fare today. We went to the new downtown library and voted as it was the last day of early voting. Then we toured the new library, which was really beautiful. We had a salad outside for lunch then Russ did some work for a Committee he is on. Someone else was supposed to do the work, but they failed, as they consistently do, so Russ did it. So like him, even on his birthday cleaning up other people’s messes.

Tonight he gets his favorite pizza dinner. Little celebration for the husband of the century. Tomorrow it is back to my Mom’s and dealing with all that. At least my Dad did not die on his birthday. My Dad owed him that.

Three Baby Aspirin, Four Kinds of Chicken Salad and a Random Child

There is so much that is surreal in those few hours right after you lose a loved one and you can’t share with them the things that you normally would have, because they are gone. Yesterday soon after discovering that my father had passed away my mother’s house was filled with paramedics, and paramedic supervisors and a Sheriff and other official people who we don’t know and don’t really want to have to talk with. I found myself having to hear about how the young paramedic might give my very newly deceased father a run for his money as far as being hard headed. Really, when did this become about you?

Then, when the Sheriff introduced himself to my mother and she asked him if he was from “around here,” he said, “No.” He waited a good two beats and responded “I’m from Alamance.” For those of you not from Caswell, you would say that Alamance is “around here” since it is just the next county over. I was thinking how inane my father would have found these conversations and he wasn’t there for me to laugh with about them.

As the morning dragged on and all the officials hung around in the driveway waiting for some sign off that the funeral home could come and take my Dad away I realized that I had not had any water, caffeine or food all day and a massive headache was coming on. I asked my mother for some pain killer and made myself a cereal at noon. She brought me three tiny yellow pills the size of the head of a pin and placed them on my napkin. “What the hell are these,” I asked in the nicest possible way. “Baby aspirin,” my mother replied. Now I am my mother’s baby, but I told her I think I need something stronger. She brought me two more. Another thing my Dad would have gotten a big roar out of.

As the day went on some really kind friends of my mother’s were already bringing food. Word travels fast when there are three paramedic vehicles, a sheriffs car and a silver funeral home hearse in your driveway for two hours. There were two kinds of chicken salad and two kinds of pimento cheese

before four o’clock not eleven hours after he had passed. My dad liked both pimento cheese and chicken salad and I kept thinking he could use a little King’s Hawaiian roll with some chicken salad.

This morning, when I came downstairs early in the morning, after reading all the wonderful and kind comments on my blog and on Facebook from so many friends from near and far, I met my mother’s new cleaning lady. My mother thought was a good idea to have her show up and clean while people are coming and dropping off more chicken salad, deviled eggs wanting to visit with my mother. The nice woman introduced me to her ten year old daughter and apologized for bringing her. She had stayed home from school today and had no one else to watch her. My mother wasn’t bothered by this as she really wanted someone else to clean my Dad’s room. So the cleaning lady told the child to sit down in the family room, which is open to kitchen while she went upstairs to work.

So as I was cleaning the kitchen and logging the food into the register for future thank you notes and answering the door and the phone, the child, who happens to have autism, was peppering me with random questions. “What’s your dog’s name? Who are you? Why are people bringing you food?” She was a sweet child, but on the bingo card of things you will deal with while grieving the loss of your father, having to entertain a random child was not on it. This was definitely something my father would have had a big scream about.

My Dad and I shared the same sense of the absurd. I already miss hearing him laugh that huge laugh. I am not sure who I will be able to call and tell him when crazy things happen and I feel like I am the only one who thinks they are crazy. So Dad, if you are watching, give me a sign when you think things are as weird as I do.