God Winked and My World Was Changed - Remembering Edgar King

Wednesday, February 24, 2021


Some people believe in coincidences....not me.  I believe nothing in life is a coincidence.  I believe in what some call Godwinks.  Those times when unexpected things happen, with no rhyme or reason, out of the blue.  These things often seem unexplainable at first, but at some point later on, everything makes sense and it becomes crystal clear that God in His infinite power and wisdom placed His hand on a situation.  If we're lucky, we recognize this gift and embrace it and that's exactly what I did when God placed the gift of Edgar King in my life.

One of the things I like most about sharing my blog is the connections it has provided with so many wonderful folks who regularly email me after receiving and reading my posts.  I'm blessed to have several of them.  Last March, about a month after I did the story about King Brothers Dairy, I received my first email from Edgar King. Mr. King is the patriarch of the family and probably became aware of my blog from his sons Jan or Jeff.  His first email was in response to my blog post, Searching for Gratitude Amidst the Turmoil and Fear which was my first blog post written after the Covid pandemic hit.  Ed wrote:


Oh, how beautifully written. I can “feel” your emotions in that which you have written here.
May God Bless you and yours. Society needs more like you. While what you have written here clearly sends me, and hopefully many others, the message that your life is wrapped in Our Lord’s love, I hope your reader’s experience the same. Because, that’s what will see us through the present pandemic.
Again, May God Bless you and yours,
Ed King'

By the time I received his email, I had also received an email from a friend and former co-worker who, after reading the King Brothers Dairy story, reminded me that Edgar King was the Deputy Commissioner of NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets when she and I worked there back in the late 1970's.  He served as Deputy Commissioner for Governor Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo and I was secretary to one of the Assistant Directors of Food Inspection Services.   Edgar and I probably crossed paths back then, 40 years ago, but here we were in 2020 exchanging emails.   Some would imagine I wouldn't think too much about this,  that his email would be just like those from other subscribers, but there was something about his email that affected me differently.
I wrote back to Ed and told him of our previous connection at Ag & Markets and sent him the post I'd written about my boss there, a colleague of his.  To this email he responded,
'Golly Gee Gail, I love your writing style. You use words to convey feelings and imagination so very well. It’s a treat to feel something when you read about it. And, you have that talent.  
Now, please know that I don’t fancy myself as possessing any of your abilities and talents. However, I had to let you know what I think. 
Thanks for your lovely note. I dearly appreciate your nudge on my memory about our experience at Ag & Markets. And, yes I do remember you. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that your discovery of our farm and the King Brothers Dairy would evolve to our e-mail exchanges. I can’t wait to tell our sons of the connection. As is said, “It’s a small world”.
Keep applying your talents and bless mankind. 
Ed King'
There was something about Ed's emails that struck a nerve with me, something that drew me to him, made me want to know him better.  Surely our re-connect after 40 years was no accident.   All I knew at this point, on March 20, 2020 was that I felt I had a new friend, a new mentor, someone who seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.  
I heard from Ed again in April after my Frozen in Fear post.  Ed's note was shorter and simply said,
'A realistic, yet compassionate view of our times.  Bless you and yours.'  He wrote again a few more short emails, each of them in some way illustrating his love of his Lord and Savior, even if in a small way.  His reaction to the post about my grandmother was longer and filled with enthusiasm.
What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother. As I’m sure has been said by others many times in the past, “I wish that I had done that.”  I’m also sure that your mother and daughter will cherish the fact that you have taken time to record the wonderful memories that you and others have of your grandmother. Beatrice was indeed a wonderful woman. It’s tempting to say, One of a kind. And, I’m sure that she was indeed that.
I cannot imagine what happens to my time. Before my wife jumps in here to remind me that I allow too many interests and issues to distract my attention from subjects such as expressing my appreciation to you for your deep devotion to your grandmother.  
Thank you for continuing to share your experiences.
God Bless the memories of Beatrice.
Ed King'
Naturally I responded with my always too wordy emails.  Gracious as he was, Ed never complained and in this case he responded with his own rather long email.  Here's a portion of that:
'I only wish that someone in my family had taken the interest that you have with recording your lineage. And, not that any one (in my family) has a burning interest, at least at this time. My interests, like you, have warmed as I grow older. Since my Dad partnered with his brothers and two sisters in the family's businesses, both dairy farming and milk processing as well as distribution (back then it was called peddling). I spent numerous days peddling milk in Saratoga with my Dad listening to his life's stories. He grew up as one of ten and didn't marry until age 42. And, all of this is a whole other story. I should record all of it.
So, you can see why I, like you, might have a desire for setting my memories to paper. It would be difficult for me to imagine that anyone in the family might have an interest in my thoughts, at least at this moment in time.  You see, I'm known around here for talking too much. I think that is because I'm known for describing directions, thoughts, etc. in too much detail.  And, perhaps that's correct!  At least for their purposes or interests.
Anyway, I really like your writing style.' 
With each email I received, I grew more interested in learning more about him.  I admired his interest in my little blog and felt such humility and gratitude that a man of his accomplishments would take the time to read what I'd written and then take even more of his time to write to me.  I thought how lucky his family is to have this patriarch, so full of wisdom and generosity and so willing to take the time for others.  I also knew that Ed probably had no real idea just how much his emails meant to me, though I tried in each of my responses to express how blessed I felt having made his acquaintance.
When Ed read my Different Day - Same View post, he wrote a more personal and very humble note,
Well, another thought provoking message. I admire your ability to use your photos to perfectly backstop your thoughts. I don’t believe that many others possess that talent. Frankly, I’m a bit jealous. More importantly, you are completely and openly willing to share your faith with others. I admire that deeply. At times, during the stressful times we are experiencing, many do not have any connection to the power of the saving grace that our Lord and Savior Jesus offers. More of us should be willing to share our vision of the power of Salvation. I believe that those of us who “believe” are challenged to become his disciples by spreading the news of the power of salvation. The more of us who are part of his flock, the better our society. And, Oh what a need there is that exists. 🙏 
Well, Gail I’m proud to be a Christian. However, I’m oh so short on fulfilling my responsibilities as a disciple. 
All the best to you and your family. 
I found this email surprising, not because I didn't realize how deep Ed's love of God was, but at how humble he was in thinking he, for even a second, might fall short of sharing that love with others.  In every email I received from him, Ed's Christian faith, his conviction to his Lord, was evident.  It stood out like the north star in the evening sky, even in the emails where he may not have said anything religious.  It was just there....in his thoughts, in his support, in his grace towards me...a relative stranger.  Yet this great man, this giant man who had done so much in his life, no doubt bringing joy and friendship to so many, felt he had fallen short on fulfilling his responsibility as a disciple.  What an incredible example Ed was for his children and his grandchildren and now for me.  How did I get so lucky?  
When in October I shared my From Drained and Disheartened to Hopeful Renewal, I received an email from Ed....
God Bless you for having the courage to write this blog. Its certainly courage to put pen to paper and express your heartfelt convictions. At the same time, with Our Lord at your side, you can be assured that, as a Believer, he had his hand on your pen. That’s my belief.
Going forward, it will  become our responsibility to encourage our friends and contacts to evaluate each challenge as we believe Jesus would wish. Then, using his teachings it will  be incumbent upon us to share those with as many as possible. Once we develop the ability to couch troublesome issues such as we’re experiencing by using his teachings, perhaps we will serve as He would wish.
Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for having the courage to pen your “Hopeful Renewal” message. Continue to walk by our Lord’s side.
With hopeful wishes that He will approve of my thoughts, I remain,
Ed King'
I realized Ed was right, I did have courage - or appeared to - when I wrote that emotional post sharing what was perhaps too much personal conviction in the political arena.  I responded first by thanking him for his reassuring words and then confessed to him that I've never been good at keeping my thoughts to myself.  I often wear my heart on my sleeve.  And then I said, 
'You are surely one of my biggest cheerleaders and it's no question, God had His hand in connecting us after all these years rather than 40 years ago when we worked under the same roof.  He knew I would need you in my corner at this time of my life.  For that I'll always be honored and grateful.  Be well my friend.
In November I wrote, What to Do When the Road Ahead is Filled with Uncertainty, Ed responded as only he would,
Thank you for your last offering. I believe that you caught the essence of the moment wit your reflections. Yes, Praise God for being everything we’ve known he is.  We’re blessed to know him.'
Even when Ed received a fluffy piece featuring my decor, he responded - with humor, candor and sincerity.  My last email from Ed came in response to my Christmas piece, a piece most men would quickly delete, but not Ed.  Nope, because it wasn't about the subject of my latest post, it was about taking the time to reach out, to encourage and to put someone ahead of his own needs, his own fears, his own problems.  That's what my friend Ed taught me.  He said in that December email,
Thanks for sharing your Christmas past and your thoughts about the future, especially your reference to the birth of our Lord and Savior. That’s what Christmas is really all about. And, may we never forget that.
Sending my thanks for sharing your Christmas thoughts. They buoy my spirit.
May your Christmas dreams be everything you can imagine.
With God’s love,
Ed King'

There were other emails exchanged between Ed and I, each one filled with optimism and positive words and encouragement.  This past year, a year otherwise dark and troubling, felt a little less so because of my friendship with Ed.  During a time that was, at times, depressing and hopeless, Ed's words arrived in my inbox and his reassurance and reminders of God's love and guiding hand, carried me on days I might have otherwise been caught in despair and desperation.  Our connection was no coincidence.  It was a Godwink.  It was a gift, a precious gift timed perfectly to help carry me through an otherwise nearly impossible period of time.  I haven't heard from Ed since Christmas.  Yesterday, I received the sad news that Ed had passed.  My heart is broken to have lost him, the dearest friend, the wisest and most caring man who stepped out of nowhere and became my mentor, my saving grace during the hell of 2020.  I know with all of my heart that Ed is sitting today in the presence of our God, right where he belongs, His faithful disciple.
Ed is a reminder that in life, God winks.  He blesses us with unexpected, sometimes quiet little gifts, gifts we're often too busy, too distracted to notice.  Ed was one of those gifts and some would say our re-connection was just a simple coincidence, but I know better.  I know that the God Ed so believed in, so trusted, was behind our connection.  I also know the inspiration and care Ed shared with me will not be forgotten and that there are probably many others like me whose lives Ed touched and changed for the better, just like he did mine.
Ed....I'll be missing you and I know you'd probably downplay any accolades I share, but those of us left to mourn your passing know you were all this and more.  Godspeed my friend!
To read Ed's obituary and see what an incredible man he was:

A Love Story for the Ages - Harriet and George Durocher

Monday, February 15, 2021

Valentine's Day.....not one of my favorite holidays, but I love what it stands for and when I think of what it stands for - LOVE, I'm often reminded of one particular love affair that stands out.  That is the love affair, the marriage, the partnership of my Uncle George and Aunt Harriet.  Theirs was romantic and enduring....lasting 64 years, until death did them part. 
I've told Uncle George's story here on the blog and it would be impossible to tell Harriet's story without sharing their incredible love story, so what better day to do that but Valentine's Day.

Aunt Harriet was born in Cohoes, New York on June 9, 1911 to Robert Valentine and Harriet Ann Campbell.  Robert was an immigrant from Scotland who made a living as a loom fixer in the Harmony Mills in Cohoes.  He and Harriet were the parents of 8 children.  Harriet was the fifth born of those 8 children whose ages covered a 22 year span. When Harriet was 13 she became a victim of polio which had reached epidemic proportions in the US in the early 1900's.  Perhaps to lessen the risk of contagion and to provide better, one-on-one care, Harriet went to live with her oldest sister, Ruth, and her husband.  Ruth, then 26, was married to John King, an attorney in the city of Cohoes.  Harriet lived with her sister and brother-in-law for about a year of her convalescence during which time she recalled laying on an ironing board with weights on her one leg to encourage its growth.  During that year, she remembered her mother only visiting on a few occasions; her father visiting more often.  She assumed her mother was busy caring for her three youngest siblings who were 11, 9 and 4. 

Harriet recovered from her polio with a slight leg differential and an inability to conceive children but neither of those stopped her from living life to its fullest. Her sister Ruth paid for Harriet to attend business school, a privilege not available to many during that time. She made the most of her education landing a job as a Dictation Machine Transcriber for the NYS Department of Tax and Finance, in the late 1930's. She'd go on to be promoted to secretary to the Commissioner of Tax and Finance, retiring together in 1971. In her 90's, Harriet still made personal notes in shorthand.

I began this story promising a love story and that love story began when Harriet met my Great Uncle George (my grandfather's brother) in the early 1930's.  Uncle George was a quiet guy but excelled in speedskating and baseball.  He may have inherited that gene since Leo 'the Lip' Durocher was his second cousin. George and Harriet had a beautiful courtship and on November 16, 1935, they eloped.  It was during the Depression so after exchanging their vows, George and Harriet returned to their respective homes, keeping their marriage secret, so they could continue to help with finances.   Months later, they announced their news and moved out to begin their life as a married couple.

1935 Their Wedding Day

In 1939, George registered for the draft and in 1943, at the age of 36, George was drafted into the Army where he served in WWII in the Pacific Theater for three years.  Harriet did as so many women probably did during that time, she held down her job and maintained the homestead while George was off to war.  That may sound like an easy task, but it had its challenges.  Harriet didn't drive, or own a car.  She had to walk several blocks to take a city bus to Albany to work.  Often her walk home at night was in the dark, sometimes in challenging weather conditions.  She had to shovel coal through a window into the basement, where the coal stove for heating the house was.  Once her daily chores were done (hand washing, cleaning, preparing her clothes for the next day), Harriet ended her day - everyday - writing to her far away true love.  She recalled waking up in the morning, pen in hand, ink stains on her sheets. Three long years of this routine, I can't begin to imagine, but the time and distance did not diminish their love for each other. Theirs was a love I've not often seen or experienced.

George took hundreds of photos during his time away.  He'd write love notes on the back of them - all tiny prints about 2" x 3".  Harriet would do the same.  

 She'd share her everyday experiences, attest her love and assure George that their family members were taking care of her in his absence.  Finally George came home and their love story continued.  

In 1954, they built a small cape in Latham, NY.  George went to work for the Watervliet Arsenal.  Both George and Harriet loved to golf.  They shared household duties, inside and out and Harriet loved to share stories about things that most couples would consider mundane.  Her journals are filled with detailed descriptions of their weekends, who did which chores, Georgie making a delicious stew, how many geraniums they planted and other such activities which Harriet clearly relished as long as George was by her side.  After they retired, they'd lunch out most every weekday, either after golf or after chores.  Often they'd bump into George's brother, Harry and Antoinettte (Twin), who also dined out daily.  The four of them were very close; all of them wintering in Florida for many years.  George was quiet, much like my John.  I have such vivid memories of being at my parents home and George and Harriet would be there too.  George would begin telling a story and before long, Harriet would interrupt to add a detail and would routinely hijack the tale, as if it were her story to begin with.  George would just stay silent, sometimes playfully rolling his eyes until eventually Harriet would realize what she'd done - again. That realization would always result in her uproarious laughter at her own faux pas.  George never once displaying annoyance.  I think he enjoyed her version anyway.  

I don't remember them ever fighting but one day, probably when they were in their 70's or later, George needed to take the car for an oil change.  Harriet wasn't ready.  She had developed a habit of needing some coaxing.  Well George coaxed and prodded and that day, he had enough and he left Harriet home while he went for the oil change.  I'm not sure what the outcome of that consequence was, but I would guess it was more painful for George than Harriet and I'm doubtful it ever happened again.

Harriet lost her Georgie to lung cancer in February 2000.  All of us who knew and loved them, and knew of their deep and enduring love, worried that Harriet wouldn't be able to go on without him.  Their 64 year marriage was all she knew.  George was her rock, her best friend, her soul mate.  At 89, Harriet was tired and worn from the past months of watching her true love slip away.   The aides who had been helping them were not as reputable as we thought and my folks were not able to care for Harriet, so being ready for a change, I quit my job and picked up where the aides left off.

At first it was just a few hours Monday-Friday, doing chores, cooking meals, grocery shopping.  It was not my first experience with helping the elderly, but Harriet was definitely a dream to work for.  Sometimes people of that age can be cranky or fussy or nervous.  Not Harriet.  She was as calm as can be and so appreciative of every little thing done for her.  There was not a meal prepared for her that she didn't compliment.  "What a colorful meal" she'd say if her lunch happened to be a combination of colorful foods.  She savored and complimented every meal even if was something as simple as soup and a sandwich.  When she had regained her strength, once a week we'd go out to lunch.  Lunch didn't just involve eating.  For Harriet lunch meant a little shopping, a good meal and always, always dessert.  Harriet loved dessert.  I'll never forget this one day we were out to lunch.  As always, we ordered dessert, and on this day we ordered a slice of carrot cake to split.  Well, our carrot cake arrived and as the waitress made her way to us, every diner's eyes were peeled to our dessert as it was delivered.  Our cake, all 6 layers of it, was the size of a dinner plate!  We laughed till we cried over the massive, and undoubtedly calorie-laden dessert that cost more than either of our lunches.  

Another day we were sitting on Harriet's deck enjoying the early summer warmth.  I turned to go back inside to fix lunch when I realized the lock on her storm door must have been nudged on our way out and the door was now locked.  I immediately panicked.  I feared not only how she'd handle our predicament, but wondered how we'd get back in.  Harriet giggled and sat back, face to the sun, and just settled into her situation, unfrazzled in the least about her fate.  This would not be the last I'd witness Harriet's 'take life in stride' attitude.  Another day we were out for our weekly shopping/lunch outing.  We were driving through the Colonie Center parking lot when my cell phone rang.  This was before cell phones were common place.  My cell phone was an emergency phone; no one called unless it was an emergency and only a handful of people even had my number.  I pulled over and retrieved my phone from my purse in the backseat and answered.  It was my mom. It seems that Harriet had forgotten to do her weekly Lifeline check on her equipment so Lifeline had called to be sure Harriet was 'ok'.  When Harriet didn't answer, they assumed she must be on the floor unable to get up, or worse, and they proceeded to contact her 'first' emergency contact, her widower neighbor.  Bill dutifully unlocked Harriet's door and let the emergency personnel in to rescue their unresponsive victim.  Harriet was not unresponsive at all, in fact when she heard what was unfolding at her house, she laughed uncontrollably for a long time, stopping only to exclaim, "I'm glad we made the bed before we came out".  That was Harriet....never fretting or worrying.  Always seeing the bright spot in a situation.  Her mission was to savor life, every ounce of it.  And savor it she did.

One of our regular lunch destinations was the Scrimshaw Room at the Desmond Hotel and as much as Harriet loved fancy places like that and the Century House, she also loved more casual places like Friendly's.  There her favorite dessert was always a Happy Ending Sundae which she'd relish, as she carefully maneuvered long strands of drippy caramel into her mouth, rarely missing her target. She savored that like a gleeful child having a forbidden sweet.  Harriet loved her family, her friends and regularly kept in touch with so many.  For many years, George and Harriet attended George's annual reunion with his fellow war comrades.  Even when they were no longer able to attend, they exchanged cards and letters.  Harriet was a avid reader, loved Maeve Binchy novels especially, and loved PBS on tv.  She was a colorful storyteller.

Harriet was an expert seamstress and in her early adult years, she would order fabrics from New York City and make beautiful suits and dresses.  Her favorite magazine was Architectural Digest and though she lived in a tiny one-bedroom cape, she had fine taste in furniture and accessories.  She often made her own draperies.  George darned his own socks, a skill he learned while in the South Pacific when his soggy sock would wear thin.  She was also an avid gardener and tireless shopper.  Even in her 90's she loved buying new clothes.  Her favorite color was pink and when I once questioned why she buys so many pink tops, she answered, 'because as you get older, pink looks good and adds color to your complexion.'  She would sit in George's leather chair and roll her hair in pin curls - without using any mirror.  Her appearance never became unimportant to her.  When it became too difficult to do her own hair, she bought a wig.  Every morning before Harriet got out of bed, she did her morning stretches.  There were only two things in life Harriet couldn't do - complain and cry.  Even when George died, not a tear left her eye.  Her eyes would get red but not one drop would escape. Perhaps she used up her supply of tears those years when George was away in the war.  

I cared for Harriet for 5 years until it became necessary for her to have a higher level of care.  Again, Harriet accepted her situation and without whine or whimper, she moved into the same assisted living as her sister-in-law, Antoinette.  Later both of them moved to the same nursing home where Harriet lived to be 100.  Antoinette died a year later at 101.  I learned many things about and from these two ladies, too many to list.  Harriet, without being a perfectionist, was a role model when it came to doing what you love and doing it to the best of your ability.  I don't think I can point to anyone I know who embraces the joy of life more than Harriet. She harnessed joy, and happiness came naturally to her, or maybe she just wouldn't settle for anything less.  She focused on people's attributes and didn't acknowledge her awareness of anything beyond those.  She didn't sweat the small stuff but she embraced with open arms every big and little beautiful thing or experience life offered.  Perhaps it was her positive attitude that got her to 100.  

Twin, Leo Durocher, Harriet

Harriet and Jack Feeley (her boss) celebrating retirement

Self Portrait
My mom and Harriet, 2004

Harriet (l) Twin (r)
From their days as young women married to brothers, to the end of their days.....
Twin (97) and Harriet (96) - (2007) at Laura's wedding.

A love for all eternity.......George and Harriet......64 years of earthly love. 
Looking at her photos, Harriet's love of life is evident in every photo.  She was a shining example of confidence, style, enthusiasm, laughter (especially at herself) and a genuine embrace of all life had to offer.  Her love affair wasn't just with her Georgie, it was with everyone and everything life offered her and what more could any of us hope to achieve?

To read George's story:

and Twin's:

Swapping out Christmas for Winter Decor, Thanks to Some Expert Inspiration

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

 So, is Christmas all packed up and out of sight till next year in your house?  Did you pack up and clean up right after Christmas or wait till New Year's Day, or later?   I'm more of a 'later' kinda gal, and later usually translates to January 6th for us.  It always makes me wonder why some folks take down their tree the day after Christmas.  I would find that too depressing, especially this year when the world has been so void of joy and things to cheer us up.

For some reason I didn't make it till January 6th this year.  Around January 3rd I began feeling in the mood to dismantle and clean up and if you saw my annual house tour blog, you understand that this is no small job.  That being said, in the past several years I've found a way to pack up 'Christmas' but still enjoy 'winter' decor for another month or so.  This year, I was inspired by Colleen of Life on Kaydeross Creek.  Colleen is a local blogger who inspires me every season with her decorating style and her recent blog post, "How to Easily Transition to Winter Decor After the Holidays" (click here to read) got me so excited that I couldn't wait to pack Santa away and do my own winter transition.  My little house is no comparison to her gorgeous home, and my decor and vignettes are not nearly as spectacular, but I love what I was able to do thanks to her inspiration.

BEFORE: I may be ready to say goodbye to Santa, but Mr. Fox is another story.  He needs to hang out for a while longer and makes the perfect accent in my winter re-do.

I keep my moonlit winter scene up all winter long, but on my dry sink I replaced my Christmas decor with a small winter canvas that lights up, some winter greens and timer candle.  


Don't you love this candlestick and ring?  Thanks to the Speckled Hen.....where all the greens in this  photo were purchased.

On the mantle I removed my beautiful Shelly Broughton gnome paintings, the twig tree with red accents and then rearranged what was left, adding a couple candles but leaving my twinkly lights.  On the hearth I removed Santa, his reindeer and the white fur tree and left the woodsy accents.  The live cat in the display comes and goes ;)   
Here's the BEFORE:

You may have noticed that although the mantle is balanced, it's different on both sides.  Maureen at the Speckled Hen has tried to instill that in my mantle decorating.  Both of the candles and candle rings are from previous purchases at the Hen.  If you look closely at the photos, you'll notice that I used a crystal candlestick of my grandmother's for one and a metal candle  holder for the other, with different color candles and different candle rings.  My OCD struggles a bit with that and I may replace the metal holder for the other crystal candlestick when I'm finished here, but I've actually gotten to like the variety which also carries through in the vases at either end of the mantle.  Don't you just love that huge pinecone?   Also from the Hen.  

A gateleg table replaces the tree in the corner.  As I've aged I've acquired an appreciation for antiques, especially old relics that have been handed down in the family.  On the table is an old photo of my mom (subject of a blog post:   https://www.lifeasiseeitphotography.net/2014/11/the-photo-shall-remain-nameless.html, an old family bible, a photo of my dad when he was about 4, some old wire-rimmed glasses, my dad's baby shoe and a new candlestick and candle ring from the Speckled Hen.

In the family room, I left some of my snowmen and ceramic trees in the wall shelf, but brought back my crackle glass collection from my mom.  I also left out my beautiful new Shelly Broughton painting courtesy of my wonderful hubby this Christmas.  I replaced the Christmas decor on the bookcase with the grandkids new school pictures and some old books and ambient lighting.

I love my winter glass and greens display so I replaced the red balls with some blue, green and white ones and left the lighted garland.  Back in the living room, unrelated to Christmas, I printed some new photos and updated the photos of me and John, Katie and Mike and the grandkids.  This task was assigned to me by the grandkids who repeatedly pointed out that the photos were 'dated'.  I think they've been hanging out with their Grandma too much!

As I compiled this blog post, I noticed my end result looks and feels much more Christmassy than Colleen's.  I think the twinkly lights probably contribute to that and when all is said and done, I like the lights.  The point of this post is certainly not to showcase my humble little abode, or to have you think I have any illusion that I'm one of those legit, talented design bloggers like Colleen and the many others who inspire me.  The point is to share with you all that it doesn't matter whether your home looks like the magazine and blog photos that inspire you.  The point is that they inspire you to use what you have to recreate a home that makes YOU happy, regardless of how much or how little it ends up looking like the inspiration you draw from.  We don't have to be as perfect as the things that inspire us, we just have to be happy with the end result.  Do you remember the HGTV show, "Design on a Dime"?   I loved that show because they shopped in their own homes to repurpose pieces to create a new look.  That's what I try to do.....and then I go to my favorite shops, like the Speckled Hen and Bluebird Home Decor, and occasionally a discount big box store, to fill in the blanks.  All of us have sentimental pieces tucked away that we've inherited from loved ones, why not bring them out and incorporate them into you decor?  At the end of the day when I sit down and take a moment to admire the view, a view that is filled with pieces of me and the people who came before me, I'm pleased with the cozy, welcoming atmosphere I've created and happy that the end result reflects me and my heart, not someone else's space.  Does that make sense to you?  People who walk in have no doubt who lives here or what matters to us.  They know that family is first and that family extends to the generations before us.  
By the way.....I changed out that candlestick.  ;)   Christmas may be over for another year, but winter is here for a while more and you may as well enjoy it in the warmth of your home!  I hope this and Colleen's blog post inspires you to decorate your home for more than holidays!  Thanks for stopping by!  Come back soon to Life As I See It!

Our Fourth Annual Best Business List 2020

Sunday, January 10, 2021

It's become a tradition here on the blog to devote one post a year to shining the light on businesses we've used during the calendar year, businesses who have exceeded our expectations, businesses we're proud to recommend. Good help isn't always easy to find, but with the help of Angie's List and some word of mouth recommendations, we continue to be blessed with a large group of great folks to help keep life in the Welter household running smoothly. 2020 may have been a difficult year, but despite the challenges Covid presented, our favorite businesses came through when we needed them. It gives me great pleasure to share these wonderful businesses with you today.

  • All Star Plumbing - Topping our list, and making his third appearance on our Best Business List, is All Star Plumbing.   Since we found All Star Plumbing, we have enlisted Nate's expertise (as well as Ryan, his partner) to update or replace numerous plumbing fixtures around the house.  From new and better valves, shut-offs, outside fixtures, Nate has brought the plumbing in our home up to snuff and working like it should.  This year we decided to bite the bullet and pre-emptively replace our hot water heater before it leaks or dies and once again, Nate did a thorough, and covid-safe job.  From the booties he dons when he enters our home, to his home inspection and membership program, to his warrantied work, Nate takes the headache out of plumbing worries.  Friendly, punctual, and always a perfectionist, I don't know how we'd ever face a plumbing issue with anyone but All Star Plumbing.  You can trust Nate for all your plumbing needs!  https://www.facebook.com/Allstarplumbing518
  • KT Electric - (formerly owned and operated by Ken Tibbits since 1987) Brad Smith has continued the legacy of KT Electric. We've been using KT Electric since 2018.  This year we called on Brad to replace our kitchen light fixture and to once and for all replace a faulty 3-way dimmer switch in the family room.  It's no surprise KT Electric ranks high on Angie's List with over 200 A reviews.  To reach KT Electric, call Brad at 518-412-4114.
  • Absolute Pest Control -After many years of trapping a half dozen or so mice in our attic each year, we decided it was time to call in the professionals.  Josh from Absolute Pest Control came, inspected every nook and cranny in the house, basement, garage, crawl space, attic and roof and quickly determined the mice were crawling up the chimney and entering the attic through a space under our ridge vent.  Josh fixed the compromised ridge vent and left bait in all the appropriate locations of our home.  I'm happy to report we have not had one visitor since (as proven by the untouched bait and empty traps).  Their competitor, Meerkat, quoted their 'fix' in the thousands when Absolute charged hundreds.  It was a no-brainer decision.  For 25 years we've battled mosquitos in our yard because we live near a wetland.  Normally we use a Mosquito Magnet which runs on propane and attracts and catches mosquitos.  While this has done a pretty decent job, it requires a new propane tank every 3 weeks, plus other expenses, and some time investment, so this year we contracted Absolute to spray the yard (boundaries and thickly vegetated areas) for both mosquitos and ticks and I can tell you I didn't see one mosquito all season.  We are thrilled with both the success of their program and with the professionalism and courtesy of their staff.  Call Absolute Pest Control to get rid of all your unwanted pests.  Absolute Pest Control Facebook Page and https://absolutepest.com/ 518-382-5577
  • Advanced Power LLC - During every storm, winter or summer, I rest easy knowing my power will stay on and so will my heat or AC. Thanks to Advanced Power, my home has energy backup from my Generac whole house generator.  This year my daughter had a Generac generator installed by Advanced Power too.  Every year I get a call to schedule our annual maintenance and like clockwork our serviceman shows up and makes sure we're in tip top shape for the year ahead.  If you've been considering adding a whole-house generator to your home, I strongly suggest you give Advanced Power a call..http://www.advancedpowerllc.com/  It's an investment you'll never regret.
  • Mangino Buick GMC - There are few things I hate more than car shopping so when we decided it was time to replace John's 2009 Toyota Matrix, I was not looking forward to the process.  Growing up on Saratoga Lake, the Mangino family has been a familiar name in the business world.  Several of our friends are long-time customers of the Mangino's and it became clear to us quickly why.  From Anthony our salesman, to Ralph Mangino Jr. the owner and every staff member in between, we could not have asked for an easier, more friendly or professional purchase.  The entire process was simple, covid-safe, and frustration free.  Next time you're in the market for a new car, consider Mangino Buick on Route 50 in Ballston Spa.   https://www.manginobuickgmc.com/
  • Daigle's Automotive - Once again, I couldn't do our annual list without including Daigle's for our automotive repairs.  Howard and his mechanics always handle our repairs with prompt scheduling, honest diagnostics and fair pricing.  It's such a pleasure knowing I can trust a mechanic who isn't out to empty my bank account.  In fact, Howard is the opposite, always doing what's right and fair for the customer to save money whenever possible.  If you're tired of being taken and are ready for a reputable, quality service, call Howard!  He's located at 229 Vischer Ferry Road in Rexford, NY 518-383-2689.
  • Kulak's Nursery - Once again, I have to include Kulak's Nursery and Landscaping in our list because once again, they proved they're top notch in the business.  This year I decided to revamp one of my gardens, a long narrow strip that was crowded with several day lilies and other perennials.  I was envisioning a garden that would look more presentable for the majority of the season and require less maintenance and deadheading.  We contacted Pam at Kulak's because she'd done such a fabulous job picking out plants for our front landscape.  As it turned out, that day was to be her last day before maternity leave (her due date was the next day), but she happily walked us through the nursery, in the hot sun, laying out perennials in a mock garden bed.  She looked at photos I'd brought of the space and listened to the details of what I was hoping to accomplish and once again came up with the perfect choices including about a dozen perennials, a hydrangea, a spirea and some ornamental grasses.  This project took place at the beginning of September so I can't wait to see how beautiful everything looks this spring.  For healthy plants and the best customer service, I highly recommend Kulak's Nursery & Landscaping for all your gardening needs!  Located on Balltown Road at 1615 Balltown Road in Rexford NY  https://www.facebook.com/KulaksNursery
  • Green Gardener - Another repeat on our favorite list, another I couldn't live without.  In order to accomplish the big job listed above...a lot of muscle and dirt moving was necessary.  While Kulak's could have provided the manpower, I already have a gardener who I was thrilled to work with again.  Maia van Holsteijn holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture and has been building her Green Gardener business since 2018.  From lawn maintenance to pruning, weeding, plant installation and everything in between, Maia is a wonder in the garden.  I had my son-in-law dig out the majority of the long-established day lilies, but Maia dug up the rest, prepared the soil for the new plants and then planted every one of them - after she and I mapped out a pleasing design.  I am so lucky to have found her.  I'm able to keep up my overly ambitious appetite for flowers while Maia helps handle the maintenance.  If you need some help with your gardening, Maia is your girl.  She's as sweet as she is strong, a little powerhouse in a sunhat and gardening gloves.  Contact Maia at https://gogreengardener.com/
  • Vinmar Solutions - It is with mixed feelings that I share my love for this small business.  This was our first year using Vinmar for our lawn care (fertilizing, weed prevention, etc..) and I couldn't be more pleased with their service. We've tried the big names in the past and our lawn never looked good.  With Vinmar, our applications are done with patience and care, always in a timely fashion with email notifications a few days prior to their visits.  Their price is lower and their results are superior.  The bad news is that they are a small company who wants to stay small so they can continue to do a great job for their existing customers, meaning they may not be able to accept new customers.  Still, I can't share my favorite businesses without including them.  If you're in need of a lawn service, check them out....http://www.vinmarsolutionsllc.com/
  • Burnt Hills Optical - For several years now we've been using Burnt Hills Optical for our eyeglass needs.  For annual eye exams and the most expert help in choosing the right pair of glasses, the folks at Burnt Hills Optical are the best in the business.  Located on Route 50 in Burnt Hills, this business is convenient, professional and so nice to do business with. Check them out: https://www.facebook.com/burnthillsoptical and https://www.burnthillsoptical.com/
  • Saratoga Turf Care - Another awesome business that is at full capacity and not accepting new customers, but too exceptional to leave out.  Doug and his guys mow and trim our property every week in an eighth of the time it would take John to do it at a price that's less than nice dinner out.  He does our spring and fall clean ups and trims our burning bushes as needed.  While John is certainly still strong and capable of handling most of the chores these professionals handle for us, there are many things in life we'd rather be spending our time on.  I'm not ashamed to admit we'd rather take a ride in the country or play with the grandkids than maintain our lawn. It's all about priorities!
  • Mother Theresa Academy - This may not be a service business, but I need to take time this year to acknowledge the amazing job the folks at MTA do educating and nurturing kids from 3-Kindergarten.  MTA knows kids are not all the same and they work hard to help each child grow at his/her own pace, teaching values the children can use their whole life.  Beginning with chapel time each day followed by enriching programs in math, science, language, physical education, art and more, at the end of the day what I'm most impressed with is the amount of love, patience and encouragement kids get in the atmosphere throughout MTA.  Our granddaughter and now our grandson have both loved and benefited from this wonderful preschool.  In fact our first grader regularly says how much she misses MTA , her teachers, and all the fun she had there.  If you're looking for a great place that offers fulltime education and quality life lessons, look no further than Mother Theresa Academy. http://www.motherteresa.academy/
  • The Speckled Hen and Bluebird Home Decor - these are not service businesses, but they are businesses I love and frequent.  At my age, shopping isn't something that interests me, but I love decorating my home and these two shops are my go-to when I'm in need of home decor.  Maureen at the Hen and Nicolle at Bluebird provide the friendliest, most caring atmospheres for escaping our sometimes ugly world.  If you've seen my Holiday Home Tour blogs, you know I depend on these two shops for most of my holiday (and year-round) decor.  If you're not already a customer at these fun shops, what are ya waiting for?  https://www.facebook.com/thespeckledhenscotia/ and  https://www.facebook.com/Bluebirdhomedecor
  • This has been an unusual year, for sure.  Many of our regular business were closed and some places we stayed away from due to Covid, but there are a few that went above and beyond to keep their patrons safe while serving their usual fare.  We appreciate them and have tried to support them for take-out throughout this pandemic.  They are Power's Pub, Vischer Ferry General Store, King Brothers Dairy and Ravenswood Pub. 
Well that's it folks, our favorite businesses of 2020.  One thing I need to point out....all of them are small and/or family businesses.  That's not the way we planned it, but in the end, I believe it makes a difference.  I'm not out to get the cheapest price, I'm looking for companies who take the time to listen to our needs and do their best to provide the best service to meet those needs, people who look at me as a person, not a source of income, people who care about my home with the same respect they have for their own.  I've found that relationship in all the businesses I share in this annual post.  I hope you'll consider them the next time you need superior service.

"Your customer doesn't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
                                                                               - Damon Richards

She Lived A Legacy of Love, Strength and a Joie de Vivre

Friday, January 1, 2021

Born in Canada in 1910, Antoinette Durocher, lived a life that was surrounded by family and built on hard work, quiet strength, and determination.   Antoinette was my great aunt and her story is as colorful as her eyes shone blue, a story that begs to be documented.

Antoinette (my Aunt Twin) was born in Clarenceville, Quebec in 1910 to Ovila and Essie Comtois. Mr. & Mrs. Comtois lived on a farm in Clarenceville in a brick house with no electricity. Heated with wood, the family of 5 daughters and 5 sons made their livelihood farming. Antoinette and her siblings walked two miles each day to a one-room schoolhouse, unless the weather was so inclement that they got a ride with a horse and buggy. Antoinette shared in the chores by milking cows, feeding the chickens, gathering firewood or working in the fields. For fun in the summer, Antoinette and her siblings swam in the river and in the winter they ice skated. Now ice skating on the farm was a little different than the ice skating most of us experienced. Ice skates for nine kids would have been pretty costly, so Antoinette's father came up with a thriftier solution. Ovila would dry out the bones from slaughtered chickens. Once the bones were dry, he would strap the breast bone of the chicken to her boots and voila...she had ice skates. The resourcefulness didn't end with the skates - the ice on the farm consisted of frozen cow manure and if your 'skate' broke it wasn't a problem, you'd just get a new one the next time a chicken was slaughtered. With nine children in the family, money was not plentiful. Antoinette's wardrobe consisted mostly of hand-me-downs. She got her first 'new' dress when she was 16.

Antoinette's family immigrated to the United States in 1923 when she was 13.  According to Ancestry.com, Ovila worked as a farmer, a blacksmith and later a mechanic.  Antoinette, like most women in Cohoes at the time, worked in sewing mills.  In fact, she retired from Cluett Peobody in Troy in 1972 when she was 62 years old.  She was a talented seamstress and made many of her own clothes long beyond the time when that was common.  She was also not a stranger to heartbreak.  Her sister Ann Marie died in her very early 20's of some sort of respiratory condition and her brother, Halsey, was killed in WWII while he was stationed in Italy when he was just 32 years old.

Along her path in life she met my grandfather's brother, Henry.  Henry was also from a large family, the baby of 7 children, 4 boys and 3 girls.  The Durochers had also immigrated from Canada, in the 1880's.  On November 28, 1936, Antoinette and Henry (Harry) were married.  

Unlike the large families they came from, Twin and Harry did not have any children, but their life would be full and surrounded by extended family.   They were both friendly, social folk and the many photos I've been lucky to inherit illustrate a life that frequently involved Harry's brothers and sisters and their spouses.  As an only child, I'm a little envious of that, but the company they enjoyed the most was each other.  Actually, if Harry had his way, their life would have been perfect had it only been the two of them.  

Sisters perhaps?

8th Grade, Antoinette front seat, left row

Niagara Falls

Even as a young girl, I recognized the closeness Twin and Harry shared with Harry's siblings.  Elmira and her husband, Marcel, owned a house right next door to Twin and Harry's.  My grandparents lived in Cohoes too and sister, Edna and her husband Charlie, lived in Latham.  My Uncle George was drafted just a few months after his wedding to Aunt Harriet, so Uncle Harry and his siblings took Harriet under their wing for the three long years he was off to war.  She lived alone in their apartment, but George's siblings helped with rides and made sure she wasn't alone for holidays.  Perhaps that's where the family togetherness began, but it's clear from photos that a lot of fun and memories were made along the way. 

Twin, Harriet, Elmira, Irene

Marcel, Elmira, Harry, Twin, Charlie, Harriet, George, Irene, Stanley and My Dad in Front

Elmira, Harriet, Twin, Irene (my grandmother)

Irene, Elmira, Twin, Harriet

Irene, Stanley (my grandfather), Twin, George, Harriet

Irene, Twin, Harriet, Elmira

(left to right) Twin, Irene, Elmira, Harriet
Throughout life, Twin stood in Harriet's shadow.  Like Harry and Twin, Harriet and George did not have children, a result of Harriet's polio.  Harriet had gone to business school and worked for a Commissioner in the state.  When George came back from war, he eventually got a job at the Watervliet Arsenal.  I don't think one couple was wealthier than the other, but I know one brother had a tighter fist with his cash than the other.  Harriet, an equally talented seamstress, ordered beautiful fabrics from New York City and made herself fancy dresses and business suits for work.  She studied Architectural Digest and decorated her little Cape Cod home in Latham with the latest trends and carried herself with poise and confidence, even though her bout of polio as a child left one of her legs atrophied and slightly shorter than the other.   Twin's wardrobe was modest but fashionable.  Her home, also a small cape but lovely and meticulously kept, was every bit as cozy and pride worthy.  Twin had no reason to feel less than, and Harriet was never the sort to think of herself as better than anyone, but we all have our insecurities.
Growing up, I don't remember ever going to George and Harriet's home, but we visited Twin and Harry often.  Aunt Twin had a special box for me in her hallway closet, a box filled with treasures that I couldn't wait to open.   Inside this large, flat box was a coloring book, a small box of crayons, chalk, a small chalk board and cardboard stencils.  Nothing in that box was special or fancy, but for me, it was a treasure just waiting for me each time I visited.  Aunt Twin may not have had her own kids, but she would have been a great mom.  She taught me games like, Button, Button, Who's Got the Button and Cat's Cradle.  When I was little, she'd tape a magazine picture to the bottom of my glass - a cat or dog or other cute picture - so that I'd want to finish my milk to see what was on the bottom of the glass.   I wasn't too wise because she tricked me into finishing my milk every time!  
Twin's kitchen, me on the left corner, my grandmother, Irene, and my Dad and Harry

Twin cutting my mom's hair in our kitchen.

Aunt Twin may not have felt fancy compared to Harriet, but she was skilled in many areas.  A sportswoman in her own right, Twin swam, ice skated and golfed.  She was also our unofficial family beautician. For many years she cut my mother's hair and mine.  I still have her 'barber kit' complete with comb, scissors, thinning sheers, cape and powder-filled brush for removing hair from necklines.  She had a green thumb, was a great cook and an accomplished seamstress who could whip up window curtains or drapes just as easily as a skirt or jacket.  Perhaps the thing I most remember about Twin was her ardor for neatness and organization.  She was a 'recycler' before it was fashionable.  Never wanting to waste, Twin cut up her old compression hose and used them for tying things....many things.  Old bread bags were cleaned and folded neatly in her kitchen drawers ready to be reused ....for disposing of wet garbage, leftovers, whatever needed containment.  Her clothes were meticulously kept, never wrinkled, always looking perfectly fitted and spotless.  Even her diary (used from 1969-2004 to record life events, illnesses, deaths, and doctor appointments) was orderly and concise.  All of her old photos have descriptions on the back of them!  Twin was the original perfectionist.   She had a sense of humor, a twinkle in her eye when she laughed, she loved to dance and sing along to familiar tunes.  She was loved and adored by everyone she met.  She was sentimental and thoughtful and always interested in hearing what was new in the lives of others.  Self centered would never describe Antoinette.  
Many a good times were had over the years - at our camp on Saratoga Lake, then our home there.  Once Twin and Harry retired (Uncle Harry worked at the water power plant in Cohoes), they and Harriet and George went to Florida for four months each winter.  They rented places close to each other and socialized and golfed with their mutual friends.    Here she is with Aunt Harriet and Leo Durocher..... Uncle Harry's 1st cousin when he was managing the Houston Astros.
When they weren't in Florida, they went out to lunch nearly every week day and many of those days they would run into, and join, Harriet and George.  Both couples frequented the same few local restaurants - The Lobster Pound, The Century House, The Oaks, and Krause's.  Harry may have been thrifty and may have kept Twin on a tight budget, but there were a few things he enjoyed .....lunch out, winters in Florida, golf and new cars.  He and George had a thing for new cars and one might say a competitive spirit when it came to buying them.  Every couple of years Harry or George would pull into our driveway driving a shiny new car (often Gran Marquis, Gran Torino or something similar).  The new car was always a well kept secret, especially from the other brother, and it would vary as to which brother would be the next to up the ante.  It was a friendly but quietly serious competition that was entertaining to witness.  Despite this rivalry and a few short disagreements over the years, it's obvious from both memory and endless photos - the four of them were thick as thieves and that bond continued long after the brothers were both gone.

Harry, Harriet, George, Twin and Stanley
Twin battled her share of health issues over the years...acute diverticulitis, gall bladder, glaucoma macular degeneration and a pacemaker.  Harry was always worried about losing her, convinced her death was imminent for years.  He treasured her so, she was definitely the sugar in their twosome.  He was well aware of that and that her sweetness compensated for his sometimes prickly nature.  He also knew he probably couldn't live without her.  In February of 2000, Uncle George passed away from lung cancer.   Once again, it was Twin and Harry and Harriet....just like when George was off to war.  Only this time, all of the other siblings were gone, and had been for some time.  
Aunt Twin and Uncle Harry by now had sold their home and moved to an apartment.  Always in charge and bent on doing the 'right' thing, Uncle Harry wanted to be proactive and responsible by emptying his own house, and not leave the burden to others.  They sold their beloved home on Columbia Street and moved to an apartment in Ballston Lake.   When Coburg Village, an upscale independent living complex, opened, Twin and Harry moved in, but that lifestyle didn't last long.  Harry and Twin, now in their late 80's, didn't like being around the 'invalids' with their walkers and scooters, so in August of 2003 they moved back to an apartment.  Uncle Harry passed away in April of 2004 at 91.  Twin was legally blind by then from the glaucoma and macular degeneration and had never driven or had a license.  Within a month of Harry's passing, Twin moved into the Home of the Good Shepherd, an assisted living facility.  She was happy to move so that her needs would be met without being a burden on anyone. Even then, when she had people to cook and clean for her, Twin washed her own clothes in her bathroom sink and made her own bed every morning....because nobody made it quite right, quite as pristinely as she did.  
For five years after George's passing, I was Harriet's companion.  Though my mom and dad managed her financial affairs and assisted in areas that George would have, I did her cleaning, cooking, shopping and chauffeuring.  When it became clear that she needed more care than we could provide, Harriet moved to the Home of the Good Shepherd where she would be reunited with Twin for the last chapter of their lives.  

Harriet and Twin in 2007

Twin & Harriet at Laura's Wedding in 2007 (Twin was 97, Harriet 96)

Eventually both of them ended up in Schuyler Ridge Nursing Home.  Harriet left us first in August of 2011 at 100 years of age.  Aunt Twin carried on the legacy and lasted the longest of all of them passing in October 2012 one month shy of her 102nd birthday.
Twin on her 100th Birthday!

Twin on her 101st Birthday

Twin and Elena just two months before Twin died.

 My dad, her nephew, was more like a son or grandson to Twin and Harry and was the person who would look after them in their old age.  If it weren't for my mom, I don't know who would have navigated the world of assisted living and later a nursing home for Twin (and Harriet).   My dad was an only child and since neither Harry, George, Edna or Elmira had children, I imagine my dad was more like their grandchild than their nephew.  I inherited that special place in the family.  Growing up their devotion landed on me, not such a sad thing for an only child.  The four of them were such an integral and unified part of our immediate family, visiting often and present for most holidays and birthdays, all of my life feeling more like grandparents than great aunts and uncles.

I realized as I got a short way into this story about Twin that it was impossible to write about her without also writing about Harriet, George and Harry.  While they were brothers and sisters-in-law, their lives and their stories are so infinitely intertwined.  Sorting photos, reading journals, and reminiscing the past, I am reminded what a blessing they were to each other. While the brothers did have their spats and disagreements over the years, they shared almost a century of friendship, family and memories.  Harriet and George were married for 64 years upon George's death, Twin and Harry were married 68 years.  Together the four of them were role models of a life well lived, dedicated to their spouse, making the most of what life had to offer.    She was definitely an inspiration and I am blessed to have had her in my life for 58 years!

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