Sunday, November 30, 2008

Our anniversary


Today is our 34th wedding anniversary. Wow. How can that possibly be? Wasn't it only a year or so ago that I was walking down the aisle, all dewy-eyed and optimististic, to meet my groom at the front of the church? Can it be that we are grandparents now? Life really is an enigma.

When I was a teenager I worked in a retail clothing store on Main Street. The woman I worked with - my mentor in retail - was in her 50s and I'll never forget her. She was a lively, pretty woman that I grew very fond of, and one of the things I most admired about her was her marriage. She had been through some really difficult times - she lost a son to drowning when he was in his early twenties, and she was struggling with a rebellious daughter - and yet when she talked about her husband there was no doubt she loved him deeply. In fact I remember she was celebrating her anniversary one day and made the comment "I love him more now than I did when I walked down the aisle!" I was amazed by that statement! In my foolish youth I didn't think that was possible! I didn't see many "older" couples I thought were still in love! My own idea of love was what I experienced as a 16-year-old - that white hot passion that consumes you, that makes your legs turn to jelly and your tongue dry up in your mouth. I knew when I married years later that I had that kind of love then, but I also knew that for many people it didn't seem to last.
What I didn't know then was what my friend and mentor knew back in the 1960s - that the real secret to happiness has nothing to do with jelly legs or tied tongues. Because real love starts when that early passion fades and you actually experience life together. And it grows stronger through those long nights when you take turns sitting up with a sick child. And it deepens when you sit by a hospital bed wondering how many years you will have left with each other. And it becomes stronger and richer when you hold each other tightly while saying goodbye to the parents you loved, or watch your own child walk down the aisle at a church, or hold your first grand baby in your arms. And you realize that you are the most enduring thing in each other's lives - the continuity and rock. And you enjoy your silences as much as your conversations.
I know now that marriage is largely about the choices we make. Not only our choice of spouse, but other choices as well: like the choice to overlook their flaws in the realization that yours are just as glaring; or the choice to stay with them when others all around you are bailing out on theirs because you've suddenly realized that the person you've chosen to live with can be unlovable at times; or when you make the choice to stick it out through the toughest of times because you know that clouds usually pass by and the sun comes out eventually - it takes a little patience, that's all.

Working on the ambulance has allowed me to peek inside the lives of many, many elderly couples in times of great stress. And I see the strength that they have, born of so many years of holding each other up in the storms of life. It's a love that only comes with commitment and determination. It comes from the choice we make to be together forever - and it is usually a choice.

Some wisdom does come with age. Happy anniversary my love. And thank you for the choices you've made.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Onward


OK so one holiday is down now - on to the next! This weekend I have cookies to bake - (I bake dozens between now and Christmas and they go in the freezer for delivery Christmas week) and a few more gifts to wrap.

I love the trappings of Christmas. I learned that being organized is the best way to enjoy those trappings - and I will enjoy them all. But though I'm organized, I still cannot get to every pageant and every concert and every special event that I'd like to. It seems as though every weekend we are double and triple booked! But its great fun and it will all be over before we know it so I want to just enjoy.

How can anything that includes socializing with friends and family and be bad?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Yesterday


Yesterday was a quite Thanksgiving at my house. Since we both lost our mothers in the past two years things have changed drastically in the holiday department, with no one but ourselves to plan for. This year was especially quiet because most of our children were not in East Hampton. It didn't feel sad though. It honestly was just different. Like a new phase in our lives.

Not that I wouldn't have loved to have my entire family here because that would have been the ideal holiday, and I am very much looking forward to that at Christmas. But somehow, after so many years of going from one house to another, spreading ourselves thin on every holiday, the change is refreshing. We had no one to think of but ourselves. We did what we wanted, when we wanted, and how we wanted. After 33 years of marriage and four children that is a rarity!

Of course I very much miss both our mothers and would give anything to have them back with us, healthy and lively the way they were just a few years ago. There were so many wonderful holidays to remember - filled with crowds and with laughter and love - and I am grateful to have lived here in East Hampton with both our families to have celebrated holidays with. But they are gone now, and life goes on, and we are adjusting to new traditions.

What I've come to realize is that even if it were just the two of us, I would be OK with that. Our children have families of their own and our parents are gone. It's an odd feeling, but having each other is a wonderful thing. We are beyond lucky.
In fact, I would say blessed. And very thankful.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving day


Today is Thanksgiving and its a beautiful day. Hopefully we'll be taking a nice long walk this morning around the village to see the Christmas windows and enjoy the calm and quiet of the empty streets.

Thanksgiving has always been about family. But I've moved beyond the point where I think if I don't have my entire family around me it just won't be the same. I think now that I could be content with just the two of us if it were ever to happen. I envision us curled up in front of the fireplace just enjoying our warm house and the fact that we still have each other to fill our lives with love and contentment. I am a lucky lady.

Lucky enough to have family coming for dinner later this afternoon. A cancelled trip for my daughter means her crew will be here, and my brother and nephew will join us as well. A fuller table will mean a gathering of love and laughter and I welcome that. But I am also grateful that I no longer need a full table to be truly grateful for my blessings. Because blessings come in all sizes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Overwhelming response


When I embarked on a mission to send care packages to a family member who is serving in Iraq I had no idea it would take on a life of its own and become one more opportunity for the East End to prove to me that it is the best place on earth. The outpouring from this community has been overwhelming. Not only have I heard from people who want to knit mittens, but others have called to say they'd like to help in other ways. One group wants to pay the postage costs. Another wants to provide socks. One person promised to go to Canal Street in NYC to look for sunglasses. I even heard from someone who works at MTV who wants to collect things at work to be sent with our packages. He read about it in the local paper.


When my husband had a heart attack fifteen years ago we were similarly overwhelmed at the response of the community. We looked at each other more than once and remarked that we felt as though we were in the old Jimmy Stewart classic "It's a Wonderful Life". We were made well aware of the way we touch each other's lives in a small town and how the community spirit here makes it such a great place to live. It's something we have never forgotten.

And now here we are again, reminded that this a community that cares for its own. Because a local boy is serving in Iraq, and it doesn't matter whether we know him or not - he's one of ours. And, as one woman said to me on the phone the other day "It doesn't matter what you think of this war - we have to take care of the kids".

I couldn't have said it any better myself...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Play time


My husband and my grandson are in the other room playing a game together and I'm contentedly listening to the sweet sounds of love. They laugh and argue, screech and moan, and in every sense I can hear the affection they have for each other loud and clear.

Life is full of moments like that. When I used to work in a church office one of my favorite parts of the day was when the nursery school let out for recess and I could hear the screeching and laughing of the children running to the playground. It was life affirming, it was joyful, and it never failed to bring a smile to my face.

Today I'm thinking how wonderful it is to hear my husband playing once again with a small child - as he did years ago when he came home from work late in the day - just enjoying the moment and loving life. And how sweet the sound of a small boy who adores his grandfather, simply content to be in his presence.

Sometimes the sweetest moments in life are the simplest and sometimes we don't even pay attention to them. If we aren't careful, we miss them completely.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Riverhead

We were in Riverhead last week doing some errands and as usual Route 58 was miserably crowded by mid-day. It doesn't seem that long ago that all our business in Riverhead was done along Main Street and I don't remember it ever feeling terribly crowded in "the good old days". Mostly I remember being fascinated with the parking meters and "tall" buildings, and loving the stained glass windows at the Star Luncheonette. But there were no crowds. Times have changed.

This week will be a busy one all around. With Thanksgiving to plan for and Christmas right on its heels there are things to do in every area of life: church, business, family, community. But busy times can also be good times.

In this week of thanks I want to take the time to be grateful for what's important: my faith, my family, my home, my community. These are the things that hold us together, body and soul. These are the things that, in such uncertain and difficult times, keep us sane.

As much as we may be able to look around and see change everywhere - from the busy streets of Riverhead to our own homes and the special people we will be missing during the holidays this year - we have so much to be thankful for. May we never take our blessings for granted.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Family weekend


This has been a real family weekend at my house. My daughter and her family arrived from Pennsylvania on Friday night, kicking off two days of family togetherness that would make any mother's heart warm.

Yesterday we gathered for dinner here: my two daughters and their families, my two sons, and my new daughter-in-law - and we ate dinner together and celebrated my grandson's first birthday. He's not quite the newest member of the family because my son was married in June so my daughter-in-law takes that title. But he is the youngest and first birthdays are pretty big deals.

I don't think there's much that can improve on a night spent with adult children and their children. And since Sunday is a traditional day of thanks I think it only appropriate to go to church this morning to do that. Because despite the rough patches and the sad times and the really, really difficult times, sometimes life is just really good. And this weekend has been one of those times.

I wish it never had to end...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The best things in life


Remember the song from an old musical - "The Best Things in Life are Free"? The lyrics are "The moon belongs to everyone, the best things in life are free..." Well sometimes I agree with that sentiment. I mean, the best things in life are surely the simple things and not usually the most expensive - but I'm not sure about the "free" part!

My daughter and her family arrived last night for the weekend and it's always a joy to have your family around. All four of my children, their spouses, and the six grandchildren were here. It's so much fun for us to watch them interact, enjoying each other's company, and just being a family. It's one of the best things in life. Whatever your circumstances are, there is joy to be had in life, whether time spent with your family, a walk along an isolated beach, or an hour curled up with a book in a warm corner of your house.

But about that "free" part....if I were to sit down and calculate from the time those children were born until we got them through college...and now those grandchildren that we can't say "no" to.....well....

Some things I really don't want to know.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Routines



Well I guess it's official now - the thermostat is not going to be climbing back into the 70s anytime soon. In fact, I think this weekend is the one to get those flannel sheets out for my bed.

We have a regular routine at my house. We have the flannel sheets and the winter down comforter for the really cold months. In the early spring the flannel sheets come off but the winter comforter stays. When it gets really warm at night then the comforter is changed out for the summer weight one. And then the whole routine is reversed in the fall.

Routines are part of the comfort of life.We know what to expect, we prepare for what we know is coming, we know what our day brings - we just like knowing that tomorrow we'll wake up and the sun will come up - we'll brush our teeth and comb our hair. It's the interruption of those routines that bedevils us. Even a pleasant interruption like a vacation can throw us off and it takes time to feel comfortable once again in our nice, established, ordered lives.

I've added a step to my normal routine now - I come down the stairs in the morning, open the window shades, turn on Good Morning America, grab the newspaper, sit on my living room couch...and turn on my new gas fireplace insert to warm up the room. Ahhhh.....

I love routine...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Winter


Well - winter is here now. It was undeniable yesterday morning when my ambulance pager went off at 5:45 and I had to drag myself out of bed to respond. When I hit the air outside the back door in was in the 20s and it was cold.

As I have said before, I like the seasons, so I don't mind winter....most of the time. But there is something really unpleasant about having to climb out of a warm bed and rush out of the house when it's that cold. I think the body needs a little more time to adjust to the idea of moving around and being awake before being thrust into the cold night air.

I guess I should be celebrating. At least I didn't have to scrape my windows off....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hospitals


Yesterday I had to be at the hospital early in the morning for a routine test. I don't know if it's just me or not, but I find these occasions annoying at best.

Of course, no one enjoys having to have medical tests of any kind, but it seems as though there may be ways to make it a more pleasant experience. First of all, I had to arrive at the hospital at 7am. I checked in at the desk and was told to sit in the waiting room and someone would come get me. Thus began my first "sit and wait" period. I think we were there about 15 minutes before we were called and sent down the hall to the pre-op area where I was given a sad little hospital gown which I changed into. That took me all of about two minutes. Then we sat and waited - again. It is now about 7:30 in the morning. I'd had nothing to eat or drink since the night before and I'd gotten out of bed before 6am so I'm tired and hungry and getting annoyed. There's no television in the room and my husband and I are sitting there wondering why we had to arrive at that ridiculous hour only to sit around and wait. An hour went by. In that hour we were visited twice by some very nice, very kind, very pleasant nurses who asked questions, filled out paperwork, and disappeared. Again, a total of about five minutes of time to accomplish the tasks. Finally, at 8:35, a nurse appears and says they're ready for me and directs my husband to the front entrance to wait because the "surgical waiting room is being renovated".

Now - if I am not mistaken, this waiting room was only put together a few years ago when it was converted from the little cafeteria that had been there. I'd used it a couple times this past year waiting for my husband to undergo procedures and it looked fine to me. So why is the hospital spending money on this waiting room when the room where I, the patient, am sitting looks as though it dates to about 1950 - and has no television? And the room I was in last year had a television that must have been just as old because although there was a remote, you had to dial through 30+ channels to turn it off and then turn it back on to get back to the lower channels because there was no reverse. Like I said, ancient technology. But heaven forbid my husband should not have the plushest of accommodations while he sits and waits for me......sigh....

In the meantime, they roll me in to the procedure room and I'm hooked up to all kinds of beepers and cables and then.....I wait...another 10 minutes becore the doctor arrives. They mercifully put me to sleep and I wake to find myself back in the pre-op room, procedure complete, finally done - about 20 minutes later.

By the time we left the hospital it was about 9:40. I arrived at 7am for a 20 minute procedure. Of the rest of that time there was probably another 20 minutes spent with paperwork and interviews and prepping. A total of 40 minutes of time well spent. That leaves about 100 minutes of waiting time. That's an hour and 40 minutes if my math is correct. Time I will never get back!

If the medical profession were any other type of business it would never survive because customers like me would leave to find a more efficiently operated competitor somewhere down the road. As my husband said, "If I made customers wait like that they'd never come back". I guess maybe that's why they call us patients...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kids


My daughter and her family are coming to visit this weekend and I'm really excited. When there are little ones in your life weeks are like years, because children change so much in such a short time. Although it's only been a few weeks since we visited Pennsylvania, it feels as though it's been a really long time.

One of the most fascinating things about raising my children was watching their personalities emerge from such an early age. There are many theories about nature vs. nurture and environment vs. genetics, but I don't think there is a mother in the world who would not tell you that from the minute that child comes into the world, they are their own beings. They are unique and special from the very first day and their funny little quirks and charming personality traits continue to define them as they navigate through childhood. We may influence what the final product is, but that basic personality is there from the beginning - it's what makes parenthood so much fun.

It's the same when you have grandchildren. You watch them, totally enthralled, as they start out as tiny babies with opinions and desires from the get go. And they continue to fascinate us all along the way as they become the special people they were meant to be.

It's the process of watching them - and being part of their journey - that I miss. So being able to spend time with them is what I live for. I'm incredibly grateful to have three adorable grandbabies right here in East Hampton and I adore them so much. But I still miss the others whenever we're apart.

My daughter and her family are coming to visit this weekend and I'm really excited.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Birthdays...again



Today is a day of reflection for me because its the day my mother was born. This will only be the second since she died and I know I'll be thinking a lot about her all day.

When I was very young I realized that if my mother were to have any special attention paid to her on days like her birthday and Mother's Day it would have to come from her children, because my father was not the sentimental type. It was probably the Christmas he bought her a blender - or maybe the automatic ice crusher - that was the eye opener for me, but in any case, I always tried to make a big deal about her birthday to make up for what she wasn't getting from him! I'm sure my sisters are too young to remember this but I think the first year after I came to that conclusion I organized them into making a "birthday party" for her complete with hats and noise makers. We set the table, baked a cake, and just generally tried to make her feel special. In later years I began the day with a phone call, often took her out to lunch, and made sure she was doing something special for dinner. If she had plans with a friend or other family, great - if not she came to my house.

I'll miss Mom today. Of course - I miss her every day, but today especially so. She was only here for 81 years - which I realize is more than many people are - but to me it was far too short a visit. Because she made me feel as though every day was my birthday.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sleeping in


It's one of the most soothing sounds in the world - the morning rain. Waking to a nice, dark room, with the sounds of raindrops bouncing off the windows or water running through the gutters - it's one of my favorite ways to greet a new day. Since I'm one of those "up with the sun" kind of people, it usually means I was able to grab an extra twenty minutes or so of shut eye, too. And without the sun hitting me in the face I am can emerge from my state of total slumber calmly and slowly. It's so nice!

It was a rainy weekend in East Hampton. Yesterday it poured at times; at others it was a drizzle at best. It was a good day for cleaning the house, which I did, and also for doing other "indoor" chores. In my case I wrapped some Christmas gifts. I know most people think I do that ridiculously early, but I have a big family and that means a lot of presents. If I want to stay sane for the holidays I have no choice but to start early. So I got a nice pile of gifts wrapped and labeled, to be stored in my bedroom waiting for tags and ribbons. With less than 2 weeks to go before my shopping deadline (Thanksgiving) I'm in good shape this year and that already makes me feel calmer and more excited about the quickly approaching holidays.

So - the rain was good yesterday. It no doubt put a damper on some things, but for me it meant getting done what needed doing. Now...as long as the sun comes back out for the coming week.....

Because I love the rain - but only on my schedule....

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The '60s


I was watching a piece on television yesterday about the president-elect's association with a former member of the Weather Underground - something that was a bit of a controversy during the election. It really made me start thinking about the turbulence of the late 1960s and early 1970s. What a surreal time in this country's history. When I listened to the interviewer asking very pointed and accusatory questions of this former radical (now college professor) I thought to myself "What could this kid possibly know about what was happening in the country then?"


In my mind it was almost like a civil war. But unlike the The Civil War, which famously pitted brother against brother, this was a war of the generations. Young against old. Parent against child. Veteran against conscientious objector. Of course, that's totally a generalization and there were certainly good people of all ages on both sides of the issues surrounding Viet Nam, but in general, it was my generation fighting an older generation who had lived through a time when our wartime activities were honorable and just. This was another kettle of fish altogether. It was significant enough to win 18-year-olds the right to vote.


I'm not sure anyone who didn't live through those years can truly get a grasp on what it was like. There was a feeling in the air - and a sense that the world was going to explode if something didn't give. It's impossible to describe, and certainly every one's perspective is different depending on where they were at that point in their lives. For me it was a defining period because I graduated from high school in 1970 - right smack in the middle of it all. And anyone who attended college during those controversial years experienced some weird and wild days. And haven't we all done things in our youth that we have later regretted?


One of the newspapers pointed out recently that this president will be our first "post-Viet Nam" president. He was too young to be involved, too young to be a draft dodger, too young to be held accountable for anything he did during that period of our history. He can't be accused of avoiding the draft, or being an anti-war protester, or being a militant anything. And I for one say "Thank God".

Hopefully questions about whether or not anyone "inhaled" will soon go by the wayside as well....

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cold hands


It may be time to start my writing a little later in the day. My home office is out on our sun porch which is surrounded by windows, and the last place in the house to warm up in the mornings. My fingertips are freezing as I type on the computer keys right now!

When we were newlyweds the country went through the fuel crisis of the mid-1970s. We had to line up early in the morning, on odd or even dates depending on our licence plates if I remember correctly, to buy gas for our cars. And heating the tiny little house we were living in became a real challenge. We bundled up (anyone remember those "snug sacks" that were so popular then? They were heavy quilted blankets that we snapped up around us at night to watch TV - they were a hot item for Christmas that year! And our poor daughter was put to bed with layers of pajamas and sleepers so thick she could barely move her arms and legs.) We began at that point to keep our thermostat very low and never really changed the habit - low temperature all night, a bit higher during the day, and always chilly enough to need a wool sweater on in the house after mid-November. In fact we still don't turn our heat on until November 1st and then turn it off April 1st. As our internal thermostats become less and less efficient I'm sure those rules will fall by the wayside - soon!

In any case, here we are in another fuel crisis - shame on us! - and again we are keeping the thermostat as low as possible unless we have guests over. We do try not to make others suffer with us.

So....I am thinking noon might be a better time to do my writing for awhile.....

Voices

It's amazing how much we depend on our voices. Well, not really amazing. After all they are a vital part of our functioning bodies for good purpose. But I mean we really find out how much we depend on them when we are without them. Like I am right now. Some nasty germ has found its way into my lower respiratory system and I can barely squeak out a few words most the time - at others nothing at all comes out. I answered the phone this morning and couldn't manage to produce enough sound to convince the person at the other end that I was there. They hung up after saying "hello" repeatedly. Apparently my attempts to say "hello" back were not audible.

It makes me grateful for the voice I have as a writer. I'm able to sit and put into words my feelings, my frustrations, my joys and my triumphs, and I know that many people do not share that ability. It's easy for me to write things down but I know others who agonize over a simple "thank you" card. So I appreciate the gift.

When my real voice returns I'll be glad to have it back. But in the meantime at least I have this one.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Water Mill


When I drove to Southampton yesterday I was reminded again of what a lost opportunity it was when the Town of Southampton failed to purchase the Villa Maria property that was on the market a few years ago. Although the price tag was high, in another twenty years it would have seemed a small amount to have paid for what would've been an incredible addition to the public spaces around the East End. Just imagine if the hedges surrounding that property had been removed - as you drove west and came through the business center of Water Mill, or east around that corner where the property sits, the most incredible vista would have opened up before you. It is no doubt one of the most beautiful scenes there is on this end of the island.

That property is amazing and would have made a great park. I imagine pedestrian walkways along the waters edge, a spot for fishing somewhere on the way, and maybe a community center in the building where large events could be held - or a place for classes, or performance space for community groups. What a shame it didn't happen.

There are treasures here that we need to be grateful for because it was through the vision of our ancestors and the generosity of wealthy benefactors or willing communities that they became integral parts of our community. Some that come to mind are Guild Hall, Home Sweet Home, Mulford Farm, Clinton Academy, Miss Amelia's Cottage, Herrick Park, Agawam Park - and those are just the ones that I can think of quickly. If I sat and thought about it very long I know there would be many others. Imagine this community without those places - what a different place it would be. When Home Sweet Home was purchased in the 1940s by East Hampton Village the price for that alone was more than the entire village budget for that year. Now that is foresight!

If only Southampton had been visionary enough to move on the Villa Maria piece our children's children would one day be able to say "Can you imagine Water Mill without the park?"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Veteran's Day


Yesterday was such a great day in East Hampton. To begin with, the sun was out and it was a beautiful day to be outdoors. There was a nip in the air because the wind was blowing, but it was classic November weather and it felt good to be alive.

Since it was Veteran's Day I took time to walk over to the Memorial Green where I joined other locals watching the veterans march from Main Street to the windmill for prayer and a moment of remembrance for lost comrades. It was a somber but important part of the day. Then I walked back, got in my car, and headed out for errands. I had to drop things at two friend's houses, which gave me an opportunity to spend some time chatting with people I enjoy seeing. Then - in and out of a couple stores for things I needed, and home to decide how to spend the rest of my day - a project no doubt! As I drove around the village I couldn't help but notice some of the "everyday life" kind of things happening. There was a nice sense of place arond the streets - people were walking their dogs on Dayton Lane and raking leaves on Mill Hill. The Mulford Farm looked especially nice with its line of pumpkins sitting along the front fence and Clinton Academy was a flurry of activity with scaffolding along the front roof and men working to complete the shingling job there. Main Street was fairly quiet - many businesses were closed - and the traffic was lighter than usual which made it all the more lovely to see, lined with neat rows of American flags - smalltown USA at its very best.

Since it was a holiday there was a calm, unhurried beat to the rhythm of the village. Like the calm before the storm, we are enjoying our last week or so before the Thanksgiving/Christmas frenzy. What a nice day to be here, in this place, where my ancestors spent the past two centuries making a home that I would be able to enjoy one day.

I love East Hampton.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Outdoor carpeting


Because of all the rain we had last week, many of the trees have lost their leaves. Their upper branches lay bare against the sky with only a few areas below where the last remnants of yellow and red cling desperately to their hosts. Now there is a new phenomenon to enjoy - the carpet of color that lies beneath our feet whenever we go outside.

In the large field across from my house the faded green grass is still visible, with circles of yellow and orange surrounding every tree trunk. But in areas where the trees are crowded together, there is no green to be seen at all. Its as if there is a brush fire burning across the lawn, with no smoke in sight but plenty of flame.

I love walking through the leaves - tossing them around with my feet. It's like splashing in puddles without the after-effects. And it makes me feel like a kid again.

We've never raked the leaves on our lawn (probably to the chagrin of our neighbors!), but prefer to give them free reign for their season. They blow and move with the wind, eventually settling in for the winter in a nook somewhere. We can rake them out of the hedges in the spring - right now its fun to have them here, reminding us that the seasons come and go.

And then come and go again.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mondays


Mondays are good days for me. I enjoy my weekends - all day Saturday with my husband, maybe an evening out with friends, church on Sunday morning and then "Sunday lunch" with my family - it all adds up to a really good few days of being with people I love and taking care of the important things in life. So I come to Monday feeling like I've been refreshed - because I have. I've been reminded that life is good and at the same time cautioned not to take things for granted.

Besides that, Mondays are the beginning of a new week. I always find that "beginnings" bring me a natural high. It's as though we're starting with a clean slate, a new page to write on, a fresh start. Maybe we didn't accomplish everything we wanted to last week - no matter! This is a new week and all those days are ahead of us.

My absolutely favorite Mondays are the ones where I turn over a new page in my weekly calendar and see that there is plenty of space in that neat little row of squares. Because that means the coming week is not overly busy, not too tightly scheduled, and not terribly overwhelming. Like this one.

I like Mondays.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Rain


When it rains for more than a day I get cabin fever. I don't mind the rain terribly - as long as the weather is warm outside it doesn't slow me down. But when its cold and rainy - I tend to stay home as much as possible.

We've had three days of overcast, rainy weather here in East Hampton. Not total washouts, but not very pleasant either. I have sweaters to knit right now so I'd have been perfectly content to just stay in - but - I've also had obligations out in the world, so the raincoat has been draped over the chair by the back door ready to go.


Some things are miserable in the rain. Grocery shopping comes to mind. It's not as bad as it used to be, when we had brown paper bags that would get wet and rip apart halfway to the house - but it's still no fun to load the car and then make multiple trips in and out at home.

Another unpleasant duty in the rain is ambulance calls. There is just no easy way to move a patient out of a house on a stretcher and then into the back of an ambulance quickly so one way or another, everyone gets wet.

Today they are promising no rain. In fact, the next few days look nice and clear. Finally! And none too soon.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Porn for women


My daughter gave me a book recently called "Porn for Women". It's extremely funny and made me laugh out loud because every page features a good looking man - fully clothed - looking directly into the camera and saying things like "You look stressed. Let me get you some tea and we can talk about it." or "I don't have to have a reason to bring you flowers" or my absolute favorite "Have another piece of cake honey. I don't like you looking so thin."

I'm very fond of men - I've been living with one for over 30 years now so there is no doubt I think they are pretty special. But the whole porn thing has always been a puzzle to me. Until now. This little book has finally made it crystal clear in my mind that the real difference between men and women is that we just aren't very good at standing in one another's shoes. Obviously I'm not the only woman who feels that the really sexy men in the world are the ones smart enough to get into our heads and know that we are far more turned on by a helping hand and a kind word than we are by photos of nudes.

However, I think that women in general have the upper hand here - we've understood what makes men tick for a very long time. Otherwise there would be very little profit in manufacturing lacy lingerie or stiletto heels, because every woman knows that flannel and clogs are much more comfortable! I think that men have been slower to "get it".

I propose that this book be put in every married man's Christmas stocking this year.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The tree


I hate to beat the same drum too often, but I am fascinated by this amazing tree which sits directly across the street from where my driveway exits. It's a beautiful specimen with a nice, round shape that is just perfection in a tree. And now- finally - the leaves are beginning to drop, which is such a disappointment. Because this tree has stopped me in my tracks every day this week it is so stunning. I get to the end of my driveway and there it is, so I stop for a minute and just enjoy it. The color begins as a beautiful golden yellow on one side and then gradually, as the eye moves from right to left, it becomes a bright burnt orange on the other. Too subtle to see in a photo but quite something with the naken eye. It is simply gorgeous.

Yesterday, I turned up Mill Hill Lane off Main Street and was met with a similarly striking sight. In this case it was three medium-sized trees standing one beside the other, all the same variety but each in a slightly different stage of its transformation. The one closest to me was still green, but a pale yellow-green which signaled that it was ready to turn. The second was right behind it but slightly to the right so that the color was up flush against the first, and it was bright yellow - at it's peak. The the third, again slightly to the right and visible beside the second, was more golden and nearer the end of the cycle. It was like an ombre-type fabric which morphed from one color to another seamlessly, all of a piece and yet different enough to be quite striking. I think this year the trees have more variation within the branches of their crowns - each seems to have multiple colors - oranges tipped with yellow for instance, or green on one side and yellow on the other. I'm sure there's a scientific expanation for that - but to me it's just fascinating!

Maybe its a sign of age, but this year fall seems more beautiful and much longer than those in recent memory. Am I just slowing down so much that I'm suddenly seeing things I didn't notice before? Or is this really an exceptional year? I'm not sure. But there is some outstanding stuff out there that I've seen.

And now - I promise - that's the last word on autumn in East Hampton!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Historic moments in time...


I have to say I was taken by surprise at the feelings I had yesterday morning when I woke up and realized that we had elected our first black president. I knew it was going to be historic, and I expected the result, based on what the polls were showing but still, I was not prepared for the way I would be moved by it all when it became a reality. I was moved to tears.

Regardless of your political leanings, you have to admit that this is an exciting moment for all of us. As I sat and watched the morning news my mind went right to all the years when I was growing up, the 1950s and 1960s, when I saw things on the television that sent shivers up my spine: civil rights protesters on the 7:00 news being attacked with fire hoses so strong that they knocked them off their feet and threw them across public streets and against buildings; photos in the newspapers of black figures hanging from trees; men dressed in white robes patrolling the streets of little towns in the deep south. And...I remember the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King like it was yesterday. These are images that are burned into my memory - and they still make my stomach turn.

As a child I couldn't imagine such inhumanity. As I grew older and learned the complicated truth of our history and the evolution of this country, and I was able to see the effects of hatred and prejudice first hand, I wondered if we would ever become the country that we had the potential to be.

Today I actually see that potential realized. I hope we truly will be a place where our children are judged "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" as Dr. King dreamed. Regardless of whether we are Republican or Democratic in our philosophy, we should all be able to agree on this: Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 was a very special day in the life of this country.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The lanes


Here I am talking about how the cold weather has finally set in and then yesterday - and now again today - it is incredibly mild and comfortable - what a treat! As I ran around the village doing numerous errands with only a lightweight sweatshirt on, I was especially struck by how beautiful the lanes look: Huntting, Davids, Cooper, Dayton...they are absolutely stunning with their canopies of autumn foliage, which form colorful arches from one side of the road to the other, completely encasing both cars and pedestrians in their colorful glory. It was so beautiful on David's Lane that I actually was moved to pull my car over to the side of the road and just sit there for a couple minutes, thinking "I hope I'm never too busy to appreciate things like this around here."

The leaves are at their peak here right now and it's a wonderful thing to see. Every year I think how sad it is that there are people who will spend their entire lives never experiencing the vibrant colors of autumn. (I know that the desert - and the tropics - have their own pleasures, but this is a show worth seeing.) Photographs just do not do it justice because so much of the beauty comes from the movement of the sun as it dances through the branches, bouncing light around and making the trees sparkle. It's the annual autumnal dance!

In a few short days those leaves will be falling and the ground beneath the trees will be mounded with their faded glory. This is the week to enjoy it and it's so worth taking the time to savor.
Make sure you don't miss it!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Politics


Today we go to the polls and put an end to the craziness that has taken over our lives. The newspapers and televisions have been so full of politics that I am bored with it all. In spite of the fact that I believe in our system of democracy and have been a faithful voter since the day I turned 18, it's easy to grow weary of the rhetoric and negativity that swirl around elections. It's just not in my nature to be critical of someone - especially in public. It's such a nasty business and I'm really uncomfortable with it. My mother was of the "If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" school of upbringing. Early lessons are well learned and I don't think I ever heard my mother say an unkind word about another person. She didn't dislike people, she felt sorry for them! So I am very much like that as well.

I find that in a small town politics is not really meaningful in many ways. I have no idea how my friends vote, and I really don't care. It does not make a difference to me in terms of my feelings about them. Around here life goes on, pretty much the same way, no matter who is in charge in Washington.

If I were running for office I would have a very hard time saying anything unkind about an opponent. (Which is why I would never make much of a politician I guess) My attitude would be along the lines of "This is me-if you want to vote for me, that's great - I'll work very hard for you. But if you'd rather vote for the other person, well, he's a nice guy too!" Thus I will never be running for anything very important I guess. I think the Governor's position is safe from me!

I also have a hard time having conversations with people who are so strongly aligned with one party or another that they cannot see the candidate for their own prejudices. I've never been registered with a party and prefer to take each person for who they are as opposed to what their party stands for. I'm far more concerned with having a moral, honest, ethical person in office representing me (on any level) than one who spouts a particular platform. Of course, sometimes those attributes are in pretty short supply. And sometimes they are impossible to detect. And so the party platforms become more important to me then. But this year, this election, is boring me. It is historic - and for that reason I am watching intently - but other than that, I have not enjoyed it. Too much name calling and finger pointing. I look forwad to finding out how our next president, whomeber that may be, will deal with the many challenges facing us as a nation right now. This seems to be the most critical time in our nation's history since the late 1960s in my mind.

But - I'll be so glad when this election is over.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Winterizing


Packing up the summer furniture Saturday brought a mix of emotions. The snow blower came out, the furniture went in, the big planters were moved into storage, and the storm doors and windows got washed and put up. As I stood at my kitchen counter (putting together a large tray of baked ziti for Sunday lunch), I paused long enough to watch my husband out on the deck stacking the chairs. I must admit it made me a little sad to see another summer gone. Summer is such a wonderful time for easy entertaining and simple pleasures. I am a spring/fall lover at heart, but the summer has wonderful things to offer as well.

As I stood and watched him I thought about how quickly time goes by and how life moves just as quickly from one season to another. It seems as though one day we are trying to get our domestic chores done while toddlers run in and around our legs - and next the children are gone and we are preparing for the "cold weather" years to come.

But just as with the seasons, I welcome the change. I've found that each stage of my life is like peeling the layers off a beautiful gift package. As each layer is removed we wonder what's beneath it all, and when we discover what's next we take pleasure in that as well. It's as if someone lovingly took the time to choose the most beautiful box, the best possible paper, a spectacular bow - and made the experience special from start to finish. From the gold sparkling bow to the beautiful wrapping paper, to a lovely box and then layers of colored tissue - each is part of the gift.

I may be at the point in my life where I'm working through the layers of tissue, but those layers are giving me great pleasure. Sometimes the best part of a gift is the process of opening it. I think this is true for life as well. If we concentrate too intensely on what the final reveal will be we may miss the joy to be found along the way.

Winter is coming and we need to prepare for it. But we can't stop enjoying the fall while its here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Leaves


We had a tease of autumn a few weeks ago and then things warmed right back up again so we've been enjoying an unusually nice fall so far this year. But that's really over now and I know the cooler weather is here to stay. Not that I mind, because I love "sweater weather" - cold nights and crisp days. And it's beautiful in East Hampton right now.

A drive to Sag Harbor this week revealed the most spectacular foliage - mostly yellows and oranges, but an occasional bright red tree standing out in the crowd. In the early morning it is especially striking because the light hits only the tallest trees, causing them to stand out from the rest in their vibrant clothing.

When I was younger my mother would always make a point of taking us for a drive into Northwest in the autumn to enjoy what was then totally undeveloped woods. We'd drive around for what seemed like a very long time with nary a house in sight. Sometimes we'd get out of the car and trudge off through the trees to look for acorns or to pick up an especially beautiful leaf specimen.

I remember one time driving over a small ridge and there, standing in the middle of the road, was a magnificent buck with a huge rack of antlers, looking quite regal and imposing. He gazed lanquidly at us as my mother slowed the car to a crawl, and then he slowly turned and walked back into the forest. What did he have to fear? He was no doubt the most dominant buck around! (I guess he'd never watched Bambi...)

It's stunningly beautiful here at this time of year. It's so easy to be caught up in our busy lives that we forget to notice what a wonderful place we call home. It takes a little discipline to stop and look around sometimes, but its well worth doing.

What ever happened to the tradition of the Sunday drive? I wonder if we can being it back.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Yard sales


Saturday mornings have become yard sale days at our house. A couple years ago we were looking for a small table to fit a peculiar spot in our home and we decided to look at the many yard sale ads that are listed every week in the local paper. That became the beginning of our addiction. Because within a few weeks we had found the perfect piece, at a bargain price, and we were hooked. In fact, I rarely buy at retail anymore because with a little patience, I know I can find nearly anything at a local yard sale.

It seems that sales around here at more upscale than ones you might find in other communities, because people sell and move with such frequency - and apparently have enough money that they don't want to be bothered to move their things. So they open up their homes, sell off all their furniture, and lock the door behind them never to return. Over the years we've come across a number of brand new homes full of brand new furnishings, all for sale. I've picked up things like custom made upholstered armchairs for less than a quarter of their original price, and outdoor wicker furniture (only slightly used) for a fraction of its value. And along the way I've found tiny treasures as well - like the Spiderman costume my 3-year-old grandson puts on whenever he comes for a visit - it put me back a whole $2.00. Boy have we gotten out money's worth out of that one!

It begins when the paper comes out and I scan the ads for any sales we want to check out. Certain words catch my eye, like "moving sale" or "contents of house", and I mark the ones that look promising. Then I plot the best route to travel, considering starting times and areas of town. Along the way we run into the other "regulars" because those of us who have discovered the magic of yard sales are all alike - we're addicted to the thought that the next place just might hold the treasure that week. And sometimes it does. Of course we can go weeks without seeing anything interesting, but then when we come across that perfect lamp, or some outdoor planters for next summer, we feel as though we've won a jackpot. Every time I look at one of our bargains I smile knowing that we made such a great deal. I suppose its akin to a gambling addiction - except I've never actually won anything playing the lottery...

Saturdays are yard sale days at our house. I wonder what will be out there waiting for us today....