Benny's World

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Welcome Rug: Got to Have Friends

Dear BW Readers,

This past week I was at a conference at Duke. While the first few days were the hottest on record and the pollen heaviest ever, springtime in the southland was splendid otherwise. I was treated to a walking tour in the Doris Duke gardens and dinner in its lodge. Many of the participants there are my personal friends I've known for years; felt comfortable.

Thursday night, a gentle rain fell in the area. It lasted several hours, but certainly did not deter me from any activities. On Friday morning, it was nippy (upper 40's--50's), but the sunshine awoke me to a beautiful day. I was looking forward to it albeit I would have to leave early in the afternoon to drive back to Champaign.

Fellow bloggers NCDem Amy and Bettync had e-mailed ahead to meet each other as both live within a hour of Duke and I was in town. I had met NCDem Amy before in person, but not Bettync. Amy and her spouse agreed to pick me up at my hotel, then we would meet Betty at the Red Window Warehouse outside of Carrboro as the store was having a sale. In addition to purusing the furnishings and furniture of the place, it was an opportunity to say hello to Red Window's proprietor, Elizabeth Anania Edwards.

The warehouse sale was housed in a former used tire store on Old Greensboro road. We drove past it, but in the midst, we recognized Elizabeth in the doorway. So we found the nearest driveway, turned around and turned into the gravel parking lot of the store. Amy went in first, giving Elizabeth a hug. Then I walked in, and Elizabeth recognized me as well. I said, "hello sweetie" as we hugged and she said "hello, how are you?" (And I asked, is it OK I call you sweetie?--"Sure")

Then Amy and I saw Betty. Betty was looking at a candle holder and said, "Benny?" I nodded. Then she said "Betty" and we hugged too.

We asked Elizabeth about the concept of her store and warehouse. Elizabeth explained that she enjoyed buying furniture and furnishings around High Point and was able to get many of the warehouse inventory at discount and was able to sale it to potential customers for wholesale or not much above. It was terrific that the profit meant enough to keep her business afloat but wanted to offer customers unique pieces at discounted rates. Much of the furniture was "distressed" to make it look antique, but many customers liked the textures. Indeed, the warehouse had many types of wardrobes, mirrors, as well as rugs.

We also met Elizabeth's sister, her niece, and her grand niece. Elizabeth's sister resembles her except she is a bit taller and has long darkish hair.

I bought a handcrafted rug (that you see at the beginning of the post) that I thought would be great for Mr. Benny's condo in Florida for when he moves. Elizabeth was unware that Mr. Benny was out of work and had looked for a job for over 6 months. She asked where he was moving and I said Florida. Then Betty was kind enough to tell Elizabeth he was moving to where she had given a speech not long ago--at Nova SE. Elizabeth quipped, "Oh that is a nice campus and everyone was so friendly!"

Elizabeth used a calculator to include tax with the price and wrote up all of the orders for us herself. She took credit cards and checks, but the credit card numbers were written down on a special form, which I thought was great in order to utilize low tech, be more approachable to the customer, and not worry about electronic transactions right away.

A funny moment. Amy was purchasing something and filling out one of those forms. She said she needed her reading glasses but didn't have them with her. Elizabeth had a pair on her head, and without missing a beat, handed Amy her glasses to use for better focus. Great timing and so down to earth!

Elizabeth treated all of her customers that way that morning --answering questions, acknowledging their needs, etc.

At one point, Amy mentioned that she (herself) wished that she had gotten into politics at an earlier age. Elizabeth's sister said Elizabeth would have been great at it too when she was younger, but Elizabeth was quick to point out that she grew up in the 60's when she was against the Establishment, so she was wary of politicians then. Touche!

For the most part, Elizabeth shied away from politics in our conversations back and forth in the group--understandable as she was wearing a business owner's hat. Instead, we talked about about Elizabeth's kids and how well they were doing. We found out Cate is working for a judge this year and thinking about private practice in the near future. Elizabeth's treatment is going along; she's adapting to some recent changes in medications.

No, we did not talk about John nor the Gold Dust Woman. Nor did we want to. Not an appropriate venue, and in our view, it's still a very private matter for them.

Elizabeth noticed I had lost some weight (at least when Amy pointed out that she almost didn't recognize me at first earlier that morning) and I was pleased to say I had lost 42 lbs since last anyone had seen me. Everyone beamed along with me.

Amy, Betty, Elizabeth, and I posed for a pic.

When we said good-bye, Elizabeth asked been curious for awhile as to how I came about being called Benny on the OAC/JRE08 blog or naming my blog Benny's World. I explained my story from 2004 from when John was running with John Kerry and I had 2 cats. One of them was from Massachusetts and was more of the personality of Kerry, but the other cat was named Benny. Benny reminded me more of Little Jack. She said, "it's great to know that you named your blog after your cat. " (As aside, Elizabeth is allergic to cats and I alluded to that point to her sister and Elizabeth in saying that I regret I could not have her visit my home, which she acknowledged, "oh yes, I am highly allergic to cats!")

As we were leaving, Elizabeth told me how proud she was of me. I replied, "you too." And a last comment to her, "And you hang in there, sister." One last tug on her left arm. She smiled.

What a classy lady.

The remaining 4 (Amy, Mr. Amy, Betty and I) went to lunch and caught up on the latest happenings of former Edwards supporters. We ate at Elmo's diner, but as many situations when we were volunteer bloggers, we had to go do other things. We also all agreed that the campaign's ideas moved Obama and Clinton from no campaign (it was all about them at first) at least to the middle, if a little more. And like my conference friends, I felt so comfortable with them too. Elizabeth made us feel comfortable too.

Too short of a visit. It was quality visiting though.

Elizabeth seems to be transitioning well; not at all being the politician's wife anymore. She's a mother, a sister, an aunt, a great aunt, an engagement speaker, and a business owner. And we have an opportunity to be a part of her transition as we continue to transition ourselves away from the campaigns.

A song for us all from Bette Midler, "Friends"--which reminded me of that experience altogether--from former politician to volunteers--some stayed or are now friends. That rug I bought symbolizes a welcoming one towards kindred spirits.

Next day--for Elizabeth, a woman who knows literature better than I ever would, but this quote resonated with me when I was in college, and it seems to describe you, as well:

One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield---Tennyson, "Ulysses"

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  • Thank you for sharing! It's so good to hear how well Mrs. Edwards is doing with her business and her life.

    I recently read an article that included the following:

    "What a mess. John Edwards lied. Rielle Hunter lied. Andrew and Cheri Young lied. Elizabeth Edwards didn't lie, but was unwittingly living a lie."


    "Elizabeth Edwards, 60, said in a phone interview that she was at peace. Her cancer is "minusculely" worse than it has been, and she is busy with her two youngest children, Jack, 9, and Emma Claire, 11; her Chapel Hill furniture store, the Red Window; and writing a new chapter for the paperback of her book "Resilience."

    In it, she said, she will discuss the disintegration of her marriage. She has met Quinn, and her relationship with her husband is cordial.

    She has reconnected with old friends on Facebook, and is taking a painting class. "I'm so happy for her," said Heather North McGraw, who was the Edwardses' nanny for five years. "She is finally doing things for herself."

    Elizabeth has told people that she believed Young was the father of Hunter's baby until last summer, when John revealed the truth to her in therapy. She feels vindicated by Hunter's show of poor taste in GQ."

    I can't imagine going through half of what she has much less having to do so in public; yet, she seems to have come through it whole and is building something positive for herself and her children. May God bless her and keep her well.

    Oh, I suspect she would agree with the importance of her family and friends in her life and they would say how important she is in their lives.

    By Blogger indyvoter, at 3:04 AM  

  • Elizabeth Edwards is a living example of the Grace and Resilience in the titles of her wonderful books.

    Every piece in her shop is lovely and unique, yet priced at wholesale to be affordable for all. Amy, Becky and I all left with a treasured find. There is, literally, something special for every customer. Elizabeth has moved on, and created a business that is both challenging for her, and beneficial to others. Wow!

    In Elizabeth's presence I had a case of "Cat-got-my-tongue", and I did not manage to tell her how proud I am of her. I kept thinking about the hundreds of tales of Elizabeth's kindness I have heard over the years. She has such a kind heart, and does not deserve to have to live in the media spotlight. She has given so much to the American people, with her fights for good policies. She has given so much to women with her inspiring books.
    She has earned privacy.

    It is a tricky thing to know how to honor someone's intention to move on, and still touch on the past that endears them to you. Fortunately Becky and Amy, and Amy's bright husband Richard, found the right words. They let Elizabeth know that many enjoyed working on the campaign, and continue to care about Elizabeth and her family.

    I am pleased that N.C. weather cooperated for Becky's visit! The pine trees and dogwoods were pretty for her visit, and even the damn-old-pollen did not spoil it.

    I knew Becky was smart and nice, but I now know that she has a lovely smile and a happy laugh. She will be a bit closer to N.C. when she moves to Florida, so perhaps I will get to see her again sometime.

    Amy and Richard are heroes in my eyes for the great interview on our state's cable news channel about the book "Game Change". Richard arranged it, and Amy gave an impressive interview to set the record straight about the wrong information in the book. There is nothing finer than people who stand up and tell the truth in support of a friend. I was pleased to be able to tell them how much that meant to me.

    Elizabeth is an inspiration. I hope she finds the privacy she deserves as she continues to move ahead with her remarkable life.

    By Blogger bettync, at 5:50 AM  

  • Thank you for sharing too, Betty!

    I'm sorry to not have seen Amy's interview but it sounds like a wonderful example of a true friend, which is so hard to find.

    In your short time there, you may not have had the opportunity to discuss health care reform. (Her thoughts would surely be insightful and hopefully her voice won't be silenced on important issues as she has so much to offer.) She should be proud of her contributions to the cause.

    I hope Mrs. Edwards knows how many people agree with all of you in respect and admiration for her.

    By Blogger indyvoter, at 7:05 AM  

  • Hi Indyvoter,
    If you noticed in my post, Elizabeth shied away from politics, especially as she was wearing her business hat. Thus discussing health care reform at her store was not the appropriate venue. I did mention Alan Grayson but that was as far as it got.

    By Blogger benny06, at 7:50 AM  

  • Hey Benny,
    As strange as it sounds after the events of the past year, I don't think of health care as political - at least it shouldn't be. Certain basic needs like food, shelter, medical care, etc. should be available to everyone.

    Since Mrs. Edwards was one of the first and strongest voices to reform the current system in a meaningful way, she deserves an enormous amount of credit she probably won't receive. I doubt she did or does care about credit but rather the end result.

    Of course, my belief in basic rights as opposed to privileges for the wealthy is what makes the events of the past year so odious. That we moved from incivility to death threats is one of the saddest commentaries on the state of our society.

    Oops - sorry for getting so far off topic. I'm glad you had a good trip and it's a lovely photo. Betty mentioned an upcoming move to Florida. Good luck with that and enjoy it!

    By Blogger indyvoter, at 10:32 AM  

  • So happy Elizabeth is doing well. If she still checks in here from time to time, here's my message to her: keep on keepin' on! She is amazing and here's to her making a mint with her store - while having fun with it!

    By Blogger Anonymous, at 11:07 AM  

  • Hi Readers--at some point I will move--but maybe Florida or it could be somewhere else. Won't be moving for 2-3 years unless there is a great opportunity. I will be visiting Mr. Benny quite a bit this year after he moves to his new position in FL.

    In the case of Elizabeth making a mint, that is not her intent. If you read Bettync's comment carefully, Elizabeth is making a small profit margin at selling at wholesale to customers. She wants her furnishings to be as affordable as possible. The rug I bought was priced at wholesale and it was relatively inexpensive. There were many more things I wanted to buy, but I only had so much room to carry things back to Illinois.

    By Blogger benny06, at 11:22 AM  

  • It's great that Elizabeth's goal isn't huge profits - perhaps just enough to keep the business going. But even a very, very small profit per item can add up based on a big volume sold. Certainly Elizabeth would find many ways to generously share any windfall with those less fortunate. She's always done so much for others in need and there is no reason she would change that now.

    By Blogger Anonymous, at 12:39 PM  

  • We are all proud of Elizabeth too.
    Hang in there sister!

    By Blogger JeanLouise, at 4:21 PM  

  • What a lovely post Becky about a memorable day. Thank you so much for making all of the arrangements.

    What a treat it was to see you and Betty and visit with Elizabeth.

    I absolutely loved the inventory she has for The Red Window, and have already hung my treasure on the wall. It looks fabulous!

    I hope to see you all again soon.

    By Blogger Amy Goodale, at 5:12 PM  

  • Wow! How disturbing and classless. You people are stalkers at best. You claim to be educated, but your wunderlust speaks volumes. Poor Mrs. Edwards. Thankfully, she always shows her grace.

    I remember "Big Dick With The Nice" Johnson from college. Can't believe he married that pimply-faced beeotch. She was certinaly "ambitious." Whatever. His family had money.

    This is amazing. I can't believe you went for an "educational business" meeting, then resorted to being nothing more than a stalker/tourist.

    No wonder your husband is moving out of state. God bless him.

    By Blogger AllyOop, at 5:30 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger benny06, at 5:37 PM  

  • Allyoop--personal attacks don't get you anywhere and especially as you don't know me or anyone else I've mentioned in this post. I'm allowing your comment to stay to demo how clueless and nasty it is. It's not nice to read it for Elizabeth's account, but she would do the same thing I'm doing.

    By Blogger benny06, at 2:41 AM  

  • Benny, Those of us who worked for the Edwardses especially here in Iowa, got to know Elizabeth pretty well. I'd say Elizabeth would remember most of the lead people in the campaigns because she made friends with us all. This is they type of genuine person this classy lady is.

    I'm glad she got to visit with you all as I know she was happy to see old friends. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story with us.

    Jo Ann

    By Blogger JoAnnCr, at 1:12 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger David, at 2:13 PM  

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