Saturday, February 28, 2009

Blogging

When I started this blog over six months ago I thought maybe I'd post something every week or so as various thoughts came to my mind. I thought of it as a sort of personal diary to put my thoughts in when the spirit moved me. But then from the very beginning I managed to think of something every day that I wanted to write about and here I am now with over 200 postings for the year - I haven't missed a day since I started. But back then, I didn't even know what the word "blog" meant (it comes from contracting the words "web" and "log"). But I love to write and wanted an outlet.

Had I known how this would evolve I might have done things differently. It just never occurred to me that people I don't even know would be reading the things I write - and I certainly never expected I'd have so many people checking my blog every morning. It was a whim when I sat with my very patient husband to set things up. He was at the computer doing the technical stuff and I answered his questions without even taking the time to think about them: "What do you want to call it?" and "How do you want it to look?" were a couple. I knew I would write a lot about my community so why not mention East Hampton in the name? After all, my life began and will probably end right here. Perhaps I should have thought that one through a little more - surely the topics covered are more far-reaching than this small town. Then again everything in my experience and life springs from this place since I've never lived in another, so maybe its still fitting.

I'm gratified that people enjoy reading my thoughts. I love hearing from you all - many speak to me in person and others send comments - and I thank you for your loyal following. I enjoy our interaction, and putting my thoughts to "paper" is very therapeutic for me. Let's see if I have enough left in my head to fill the days for the rest of the year! So far I haven't hit writers block!

The most interesting thing to me about the blog is that my concept from the very beginning was that as a community we're all very interconnected in so many ways and it's a soul-stirring thing to realize that each of us touches so many other lives during the course of our own - especially if we stay in one place, like East Hampton. What this blog has done is proven that to me in a big way. Because not only is my community here in East Hampton, but now its from many other states and even a few other countries.

Life is such a trip, isn't it?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mom

It's been over two years since my mother died so I admit I was a bit taken aback when I was standing in line at CVS the other day and a woman standing next to me turned and said "I never got a chance to tell you how sorry I was about your mother - she was a wonderful woman". I was equally taken aback at how the tears welled up in my eyes. I would not have expected that because its been some time since I actually shed tears thinking about Mom. I guess because the woman took me by surprise - and the idea that this complete stranger would be compelled to tell me what a special person my mother was - the emotion jumped right to the surface. That and the fact that, because of my own circumstances this winter I've been thinking about Mom a lot myself. There's nothing like a crisis in our lives to make us miss our mothers!

One of the surprising things about the encounter was that this woman didn't look even vaguely familiar to me. I'm used to speaking with people in public places whose names I should know, with familair faces known to me from somewhere - but this lady was a complete stranger. That she thought enough of my mother to speak to me about her really touched me.

Since I was called back to the hospital for my second mammogram I've been keenly feeling my mother's absence. She would have been the one to help me keep things in perspective from the very beginning and her simple and strong faith would have held me up when my own faltered. Many times I've heard her speaking in my head, telling me to trust in God, to let things go, to not be afraid. Even without her being here, I feel her presence with me. But still...its not the same!

I thanked the stranger and said "I miss her very much" and she smiled at me and said "I still miss mine too". Judging from her age I would guess her mother has been gone far longer than mine. And when I think about my daughter-in-law, who is less than half my age and lost her dear mother this past year, I know I can't complain. But it points out to me the universal truth that our parents are forces in our lives, for good or bad, that never leave us. I still miss my mother very much but I wouldn't trade the pain of missing her for never having had her at all, which is the only alternative. And in so many ways I see her presence in my siblings, and my children, and yes, even in myself. And I find comfort in that.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Home Sweet Home

While spending day-number-two at home with this "uber-cold" of mine, I decided to change my scenery a little at one point, got up off the sofa where I'd been comfortably stretched out with a box of tissues and the remote control, grabbed the laptop from its case and sat in the chair facing the windows to the street. Before I could open the computer I happened to look out across my front lawn and couldn't help but admire the view with a new appreciation for this great spot where my ancestors settled back in the ninteenth century. I was looking straight across to the Hook Mill through the bare branches of a red maple tree. I sat and watched as a steady parade of traffic moved up and down North Main Street and Methodist Lane.

There's something quite beautiful about those bare winter branches against the gray skies and yesterday morning was very gray. The architectural quality of the winter trees gives a real sense of structure to an otherwise bleak landscape, and scenery such as the mill, usually preserved in photos and paintings in the green of summer, when seen through that filter of branches is a very different statement. It's a "working class Hamptons" scene - a sort of "locals-only" treasure. This is the East Hampton that we who live here know and love. Like any relationship, when its real it lasts throughout the long hard winter months, not just during a brief summer fling.

I love East Hampton in all its phases, from the color of the summer and throughout the seasons that follow. There's something to love here at every time of year and those of us who are fortunate enough to live here know its pleasures no matter what month it is. Yesterday I enjoyed viewing a piece of the landscape that's hidden from me for most of the year. And yet right now, its all mine and I'm taking great pleasure in its beauty.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Common cold?


I spent the entire day yesterday on my couch feeling really lousy. Like everyone else, I do get colds - but they don't normally lay me out on the couch. Usually they're more an annoyance than anything else. And I usually look at people who stay home with colds as wimps of the worst sort.....but this one - well this one is a doozy. My sinuses are so full I can't breathe at all and my nose is tender and red from the constant tissue use after only one day. This is going to be a very long week...

I've never been much for staying at home with a cold so sitting around all day dozing on and off was not my idea of fun. I didn't feel well enough to read (besides my eyes were watering up a storm) and I kept missing parts of whatever was on TV when I'd drift into a stupor, so I really didn't do anything all day. But like I said - this one seems to be worse than most and I'm trying to be patient. If I don't feel well enough today to venture out into the world I may go a bit insane. Because even though its cold outside these doors, it was a beautiful day yesterday - sunny and bright, at least from the inside looking out. It does seem as though winter is slowly losing its grip on East Hampton and we'll soon have more blue skies than gray.

Now - if I can just get off the couch to enjoy them....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wind

Yesterday's wind was pretty impressive. I'm not sure there's much in this world, with the possible exception of the sea, that humbles me quite the same way the wind does. And of course the combination of those two things is especially awe inspiring. I made sure to take a trip to the ocean just to see what it looked like in the face of all that wind and sure enough, it was roiling and smashing around out there like a maelstrom. It almost looked confused as it arched itself to meet the shore and then found itself thrown back and whipped up into a foamy spray as the wind had its way with each incoming wave. Fascinating.

We on the East End are pretty familiar with the wind and we've learned to live with it for the most part. In the earliest part of our history we harnessed its energy for good and will probably do so again before this century is over. The windmills of another era that remain today are a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of our ancestors. They stand as strong and tall today as they did when they were new. Modern windmills may be more efficient but they surely are not more beautiful!

Of all the phenomena in nature the wind is one of the most interesting because we cannot see the wind itself - only the results of its passing. It reminds me of God. We cannot see or hear God but we know that He's here.

The wind was a constant companion throughout the day yesterday. And today is beautiful and calm. It comes and it goes - and it remains a great mystery to me.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rain

Yesterday's rain was a nice relief after the predicted snow storm didn't materialize. It was a gray day - and quite wet - but even the dullest of days have their charm. Outside my living room windows there is the skeleton of a small tree - a beautiful Peegee hydrangea in the summer but in the winter not much more than a mass of twisted and bare branches serving as a living sculpture throughout these cold months. The rain had slowed down to a mist but the branches of that little tree were covered in big clear drops of water, looking almost as though it had been decorated with glass beads. It was fascinating to watch as every few seconds a drop would gain enough weight to fall. It was a little oasis of beauty amidst a dark and otherwise gloomy day.

I find that the smallest things - like tree branches dripping with raindrops - are often the most beautiful and yet we're apt to overlook the ordinary. Perhaps when the Bible tells us to "consider the lilies of the field" that's part of the message: "Don't overlook the ordinary because there is wonder all around you".

And sometimes it takes the background of a gray and ordinary day to set off the spectacular. But still - you have to open our eyes to see it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blue skies


We actually had a beautiful blue sky the other day - I noticed it when I was looking out my living room window and realized it could have been a summer day. The gray skies that are so prevalent in the winter can become depressing if we aren't teased into thinking about spring every once in awhile and this was a great reminder that it is indeed around the corner. By the end of February we're ready for a change.

Interestingly enough I don't even mind the occasional snowstorm in March because we know the end is near. This is coming from someone who actually likes winter so I can imagine how the snowbirds among us must be looking forward to the warmer weather. I'm a "season loving" person myself - part of my personality type that loves change I suppose. I get restless when anything stays the same too long and I guess it's a testimony to the kind of man my husband is that I'm still married to him after 34 years. I just can't imagine any change being better than what I already have so I never consider that possibility!

All that said, change is something I crave and spring will be welcome at my house. I'm looking forward to greener grass and fresh flowers and the heat of the sun on my face. Of course, a nice vacation somewhere in Europe would be nice too...but that's another topic for another day...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Kids

My "kids" are all adults now but I still think of them as young and needing guidance, which I suppose is a pretty common problem of parenthood. (I know my father was pretty darn good at expressing his opinions about everything from my parenting skills to my choice of automobiles, so I'm assuming its a universal reality. My mother was much better at keeping her opinions to herself and therefore I often sought out her advice on things that perplexed me in life. I try to follow her example but she was unique and I imagine I fall somewhere in between those two.)

In any case, I think that having children is the most amazing, humbling, wonderful, frightening,and crazy thing we do in life. Nothing prepares us for the reality of it and on-the-job training is often a hit or miss proposal. It's that reality that makes me sit back now and look at my kids in amazement. How did these wonderful people ever manage to turn out so great when they were raised by two inexperienced, dumb kids who had no idea what they were doing? Sometimes I watch my girls interacting with their children and I think "Where did they learn that? I never thought to do that...". My sons, who are as different as night and day, amaze me with the way they love each other. How did that happen? When they're all together and I watch them laughing and interacting with each other I'm totally content in the knowledge that they'll go through this world with each other watching their backs, which is a gift I've always had with my own siblings.

I'm not sure how we manage - any of us - to raise healthy and happy children who become well adjusted adults. I still want to save them from all the hurts and pitfalls of life but I know I can't. They'll have their share of pain and confusion. But its gratifying to think that perhaps they'll be able to face the storms with strength and grace. I'm grateful that my children turned out OK despite our failures. And it gives me hope for the future to see that even our most bumbling efforts can be turned around. It's a great world.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hidden spaces

I really need to get a handle on some of the storage issues in my house. It seems as though no matter where I've ever lived, there have always been places that I didn't want to public to see because they were such a mess. My mother always had a "junk drawer" and that was the place everything went when we had no idea where else it should go, and I imagine all houses have some places like that. But in my house I seem to have "junk rooms", which is a bit disconcerting.

Last weekend I worked on cleaning out my sun porch, which is one of those rooms. It's off of the living room and can be closed off from the rest of the house with french doors, so it tends to be the resting place for all things paper and generally "junky". I have my home office out there with the computer, so its one of the most used rooms in the house - and thus a constant annoyance to me. But when unexpected guests pull into the driveway and the kitchen is a mess, or an item is sitting out on a chair or a table somewhere and I have no idea what to do with, it ends up on the sun porch. Every few months I do a clean-up and it looks really nice for a couple weeks. And then the piles start appearing again.

There's also a front entrance that's never used and tools seem to have a way of finding their way to that space. No one ever uses the front door anymore so it's not a huge problem, but I've had nightmares about trying to get out of the house in a fire and not being able to get to the door. Again, it gets cleaned periodically...but then in a few months....

Of course there's my bedroom, which I've addressed in the past here and is another embarrassing source of frustration for me - boxes piled on boxes that store needed linens and seasonal items.

The biggest problem we have in this house is that it was built in 1920 so they're tiny little closets and the basement gets wet so we can't store things down there. The attic, which is a nice big space, is difficult to access with its pull-down ladder in the middle of the upstairs hallway. I envy the big dry basements my daughters have, where they enjoy finished family rooms or nice laundry areas. We are not so lucky.

I keep telling myself that someday we'll add on to this house and have a nice walk-in closet for our clothes with some additional storage for the clutter that seems to haunt me. But I secretly wonder if that will solve the problem. Because I think if I were just more capable of throwing things in the trash to begin with - rather than holding on to them for some unknown future use - our storage issues would be resolved.

Well - in any case, it's a home that's well lived in and filled with love, so if there are messy places around various corners so be it. Sometimes, you just can't have it all!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Early morning


There's something about the early morning that makes me optimistic about the day ahead. It seems as though after a good night's sleep I'm ready to tackle the world!

Yesterday morning it was light out at 6:15 when I left for the gym - a sure sign that spring is coming; but a good layer of frost covered the ground - a sure sign that winter isn't over yet! Its almost as though February is reminding us that its still firmly in residence, thank you very much, and we best not get ourselves too excited about the warm weather that's coming.

I've actually come to enjoy going to the gym early in the day. I hate getting myself out of bed so early but I love to go outside in the morning. The lovely diffused light making its way across the lawns and rooftops, and the sharp cold air is invigorating and life-affirming.

Speaking of the gym, I had an amusing conversation with one of my doctors recently when I was there for a consultation. I said something about going to the gym and he said "Now, I don't want you going out and losing a lot of weight before this surgery you know." I laughed right out loud! More of a guffaw really. I assured him by saying "Doctor, no need to worry - I'm one of those people who has to work to look this way, believe it or not." (I think by the time we get to middle age we've pretty much come to a place of acceptance about our bodies, whatever their shortcomings may be, and I gave up the dream of being slender and lovely a long time ago. I'm not sure he quite got it but there are many other people out there who will!) So, I assured him, it was quite safe for me to go to the gym...

And so it goes that early in the morning I drag my tired, saggy old body out of bed, dress in the dark so as not to disturb my beloved, and walk out into the world of first light. And much to my own surprise I am enjoying it very much.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Empty streets


This is the week of empty streets here in East Hampton. It seems that everyone with school-aged children, and all of their teachers, head south the minute school lets out for mid-winter break. It's one of the quietest, most enjoyable weeks of the winter for those of us who stick around.

Among the joys of this suddenly deserted town are empty movie theaters and restaurants so I think I may have to check out the schedule at the East Hampton Cinema. This is the first year I can remember when I haven't seen even one of the Oscar nominated pictures so maybe we can take one in before the ceremony at the end of the month. I'm sure there are some good sales at Tanger, too, so perhaps a trip west could be in order.

Even if I didn't do anything special I would enjoy being here this week. There won't be a line to stand in anywhere and should I decide I need a manicure I could probably walk into any salon without making an appointment. Sometimes it's the simplest things that just give us such a thrill!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sunshine!

I overslept the other day and woke to bright sunshine streaming in my bedroom window. "Yikes" I thought, "it must be at least 7:30!" But no - it was 6:45! Only a few weeks ago it will still pretty dark when I was coming home from the gym at 6:45 and now it's bright and sunny outside. Spring is coming to East Hampton!

So - I didn't do my work-out that morning and felt guilty about it all day. I have to keep reminding myself that for fifty years I never did a thing about my physical well-being (working out was something I considered for athletes only) so I shouldn't be too hard on myself if I don't get to the gym every morning of the week. Anything I do is better than what used to be so I remind myself that I'm far better off now than I was just a few years ago. With that perspective, skipping a day is OK. I hate excercise and I always will so actually doing it at all is huge for me. I feel good about where I am now and I think I'm healthier than I've ever been.

All that said, I really so love getting out early in the morning to go to the gym because East Hampton is absolutely beautiful in first light. There's a softness to everything in sight and when I pass the delivery truck dropping newspapers at the grocery store I feel as though I'm peeking into a world I'm usually not part of.

It reminds me of an ambulance call I was on years ago - it was winter and about 3am. There was this gorgeous full moon and when we were getting ready to load up at Southampton Hospital for the trip home we noticed it hanging low over the horizon in all its glory. We took a minute to just stand there and appreciate it because it was absolutely stunning. Thirty minutes later when I was finally walking into my own house I took one last look at that moon and thought "I'm so glad I didn't sleep through that sight".

Sometimes the things most worth experiencing are the most fleeting and elusive ones.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Material


I have so much blogging material now I'm not sure what to do with it all. I've been pretty busy driving back and forth to Southampton hospital for weeks preparing for surgery, having tests done, going to doctor's appointments. There are so many funny, ironic, weird, and gratifying things that happen when you're dealing with the medical profession that as a writer, my cup truly runneth over!

It reminds me of when I had four children growing up in my house. Every day there was a new adventure to tell, some funny anecdote to relay, or a poignant moment to remember. Only then I had no time to set it down for posterity! All the frustrations, challenges, emotional highs and lows are here again, only this time for less exciting reasons. No matter! Once I get things sorted out I will be using all this good material to entertain my readers and I've been journaling like mad. It's been quite a month. How life can change in an instant.

I've found in the past that dealing with the medical profession and their institutions "up front and personal"ly is good because it serves to remind me as an EMT to never lose sight of the fact that, although taking a trip to the hospital in an ambulance may be a routine part of life for me, it's a traumatic event for the person on the stretcher. I've been reminded of that many times this month. Doctor's, nurses, technicians, orderlies, and even the people in the admitting department at the hospital would do well to remember the same.

It's so easy to touch a life in a positive and memorable way. Isn't that what we should all be striving for? After all, if we're not careful we could end up being material for someone's future book...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Drives


When I was growing up in the 1950s it was pretty common for my parents to pile us into the car on Saturday or Sunday afternoons and just take a long drive. Often it involved stopping by friends houses to see if they were there, or checking on work being done at another friend's place. I seem to remember many construction sites with couples banging nails and putting up walls while their kids - my contemporaries - ran around in the sandy yard. Those were real boom years in East Hampton for young families, a time when regular people could still afford to buy and build here.

I also remember afternoon drives to do things like check out the newly completed road to Montauk which paralleled the old Montauk Highway - and if my memory serves me well we did not pass a single car on our way east. At other times we drove to the harbor to monitor boats being put into the water for the season. There was always something that my father wanted to see or someone he wanted to talk to and those drives were something I usually looked forward to.

It's a shame the "Sunday drive" is no longer a tradition. I imagine it was the love affair that America was having with the automobile that prompted them as much as anything else, but it was fun to be out with the family, driving around town and watching the landscape change on an almost weekly basis. Still today when I drive down certain streets I have flashbacks to those times - like when the Griffins were building their house on Spring Close Highway, and the Masons worked on their's down in "Sunny Dell Acres" (one of the first houses on what is now Woodbine Drive). The late 1950s and early 1960s were such a great time in East Hampton. So many young families and so much optimism in the air.

I still enjoy driving around aimlessly and I wish it was an activity that my husband liked too. But he always seems to need a destination....

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Heart to heart


Today is Valentine's Day. Although it's supposed to be a day for lovers, I've made it a day to just celebrate love. From the time my kids were very small I made Valentine's a day for telling my family how much I love them. Back then I would plan for weeks so that when the kids woke in the morning it was all about them. There were special activities if it was a weekend (like a Valentine treasure hunt) and special bag lunches if they were going to school (with heart shaped sandwiches and cookies packed in specially decorated bags). I did everything I could to show them how special they were and they looked forward to it every year.

The kids are grown now but hopefully they still think about Valentine' Day as a special day for expressing love to the people who mean the most to them. I still plan ahead for unique gifts and fun cards, and I look forward to a day filled with little expressions of love. I hope that the people I care about in this life never doubt my love for them. Because they are what its all about for me.

Friday, February 13, 2009

"Spring" cleaning


I'm not sure whether its the beautiful weather we've had for a few days or the fact that I know I'm going to be laid up for awhile, but I have this itch to get some serious cleaning done in my house. I want everything to be spic and span and smelling clean and looking really nice. It's similar to what I remember feeling when I was in the latter months of pregnancy - a sort of desperate need to get things ready for when I'm not able to do them. That said, I'm much older and a bit lazier than I was back then so I seriously doubt the desire and the execution will match...but isn't it interesting how our instincts kick in?

I also think the weather is a factor because I'm feeling as though I want to see some daffodil shoots poke up through the ground. It's been such an unseasonably cold winter that a couple days in the 40s and 50s seem like early spring and I'm ready.

East Hampton is beautiful in the Spring. But I think we have another month before we can get too excited about that. I'm guessing this is really about not wanting to be stuck on the couch convalescing, noticing the dust in the corners or the dirty windows. My normal way of dealing with those things is to get out of the house and not look at them! Being a captive audience may just do me in...sigh.....

Thursday, February 12, 2009

School days


Around February I always think about how I loved this time of the school year when I was growing up. Because the dead of winter, when teachers were busy trying to keep us occupied with various indoor activities, is what I lived for. I loved the Valentine crafts, the classroom murals, and the special projects that were all part of the days when the weather was cold. I hated wasting time outside during warm-weather recess when I could be painting or designing or creating something inside.

My favorite teachers remain the ones that recognized my creative side and nurtured it. Mrs. Crozier, my 5th grade teacher, put me in charge of decorating the outide of the door to our classroom - the side facing the hallway - every month. It was totally up to me to choose a theme and execute whatever it was I planned, from pumpkins in October to daffodils in April. As soon as I had one done I'd spent hours thinking about how I would transform our portal for the next month, and the joy I had in making over those doors was something I still remember. I worried and fussed and planned, and then basked in the glow of the praise when it was complete.

Mrs. Webb, my 6th grade teacher, encouraged me to take charge of special event projects for the class. How would I design wall hangings for the history project, she might ask, or what did I think would be a good way to decorate the bulletin boards? I'm so grateful to those teachers who were kind enough to encourage my creativity. I was in heaven when they'd let me stay in from recess so I could complete one ofmy indoor projects, alone in the classroom.

I only wish my high school guidance counselors had been as insightful at leading me in the right direction! Had I been encouraged to go off to school to become an interior designer instead of a music teacher I may have actually succeeded at getting some sort of degree! Instead I was a drop out before I even got started and now I look back and wonder "what if?".

I don't believe in living life with regrets so those moments are fleeting and I've had a wonderful life. My creative energies have had many outlets over the years. But I can't help thinking back now to those early years when the weather was cold and teachers everywhere are looking for ways to entetain their students within the confines of the classroom. I'm so glad some were wise enough to give one little girl some much-needed self esteem by letting her know she had something to offer.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Early visit

I remember when I was a young mother with a gaggle of little ones trailing me wherever I went, and occasionally we'd make a trip over to my grandmother's house for a little visit. How her face lit up when we walked through her back door! She fussed and clucked over those little guys, laughing at everything they said or did and remarking at how perfectly adorable they were. She was so grateful for the visit and always sad when we left.


Early yesterday morning I was putting laundry together up in my bedroom when I thought I heard the back door open below. I contiued doing what I was doing, assuming it was my husband home to grab something and I knew he'd call up the stairs eventually to see where I was. When I got the laundry into a nice pile I headed for thes stairs to toss it down - and there was my 4-year-old grandson making his way up to find me. I was thrilled to realize that my daughter had arrived with her kids for a quick visit before she dropped the eldest off at school.

And I thought about my grandmother.

If I, who am an active, busy middle-aged woman was so happy to see these little ones, how excited must she have been when I came in her door? She was in her early eighties by then and although she was still pretty active for her age, she spent a great deal of her time in the house, alone. Seeing those kids must have been tonic for her soul.

Time and age give us great perspective in life and sometimes we regret the things we did or didn't do. I've been thinking a lot about Grandma lately and wishing I'd taken the time and trouble to pack those kids in the car a little more often. As difficult as it was to get that crew from one place to another, I know now how much it meant to her and how much brighter and more cheerful I could have made her life by making the effort more often. I did a better job with my own mother but it was easier because I lived right next door.

Oh how life has a way of reaching into our souls and touching us with the simplest things. I loved my grandmother and I wish now I'd done a better job of showing her that. But I've learned that by putting myself out a little I can still touch the people I love and its more than worth the effort.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Strength?

A "theme" has been developing here on my blog and I don't want that to happen so I don't plan on saying much more about this, but a curious thing has been happening to me and I want to talk about. I don't quite understand it really, and I find myself identifying with Capt. Sullenberger from the "Miracle on the Hudson". When asked if he was a hero he said simply "I just did what I was trained to do." Isn't that what everyone would do?

In my case people keep saying to me "You're a strong woman" and it always strikes me as so odd. I don't consider myself a strong woman and I have the same fears and weaknesses as everyone else. Believe me, I'm no different! The only choice I've made about this medical challenge is to be positive and to face it with some resolve. But seriously, what is the alternative? Can I crawl into the fetal position and never leave my room? If I pretend it isn't happening will it go away? No such luck! There is no alternative here. And what would someone look like who was not strong anyway? I'm not sure such a person exists. I think we are all strong women, those of us who face challenges in life. I think the men in our lives are equally strong when they face the things they face. I just don't think "strength" has anything to do with it. We all face the things we need to face with as much grace and humor as we can because those are coping mechanisms and through them we can meet another day.

If its about anything its about loving life and being determined to live a lot more of it. And I believe with all my heart that God will use me through all this. I don't know how yet, but I know the truth of that. And I can't wait to turn the next page of this particular book!

Monday, February 9, 2009

United we stand


It amazes me how much strength we can gain from each other in life. There's an old fable which ends with the wisdom "United we stand, divided we fall" and it's so true. If I were alone right now I'd feel so lost. But spending yesterday with my extended family gave me a boost of energy and strength that's hard to describe. Between spending the morning at church feeding my spirit and the afternoon with my family surrounded with love I feel as though I can conquer anything today...and I can! I'm ready to take on the world. Cancer is not a stumbling block, its just another step along the way in a really wonderful life and someday I'll look back on this year in gratitude for the lessons learned and the wisdom gained.

I talked once before about how our lives are made up of so many groups of people who surround us, like concentric circles that ripple out from our immediate families in the center to those aquaintances that we rarely see but still manage to connect with making up the outer circles. I see that so clearly now as I'm finding a reservoir of strength from even the most remote of my connections. As humans we seem able to reach across miles or claw through busy schedules to touch each other in significant ways. Our spirits are strong, and when one of us weakens the others gather round like a wall to hold them up.

I don't feel like a particularly strong person. But I do feel like a very lucky one. Because I have a deep faith in God and I believe there is a "bigger" plan than we can see. And because I'm surrounded by such strong people and I find my strength in them.

I am such a lucky person.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Spring weather


We had spring weather yesterday and they're calling for the same today. It was a little cloudy, but wonderfully mild. The snow was melting so fast that I'm totally optimistic that our driveway will be clear of the ice pack by the end of today.

I love February because by this time of year spring is so close we can smell it. Days like today are a tease of what's to come and wherever I go around town I start thinking about the cherry trees that will pop in May and the lilacs that I long for in early June. I love the fact that each bush and tree has its own debut here - we can count on the daffodils and crocuses first, the azaleas soon after, and on and on all throughout the season. As each one greets the new year they give us a little thrill in the knowledge that life goes on, despite what's happening in the world at large. The economy may be bad, our car may be broken down, and the refrigerator is about to go - but darned if those bulbs don't push their way out of the ground right on cue to let us know that everything is really OK.

We may well have more cold weather ahead and we may even have more snow. No problem! I don't mind the cold and the snow as long as I know it will end eventually. That's why I love East Hampton. There are four wonderful seasons, each lasting as long as I need them and then moving on to the next. Constant change, constant variety, and yet as predictable as the sun. What an amazing world!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Who, me?


When you first hear the words that no one ever wants to hear, it's not real easy to take it in: "I'm sorry to say it's malignant". What? Me? But once you adjust to what you've heard you realize that there is tremendous power in knowledge and now that I've absorbed it all I'm feeling pretty darn good about things. I'm the type of person who just needs to know what's ahead and how best to deal with it. I'm pretty organized and I like to be in charge - just ask my husband - so now that I know what's happening I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and do what needs to be done. And I always try to do everything well - a real hang-up from my early days with a demanding father, for whom my best efforts were never quite good enough!

So... I've done all the research, studied everything on the internet, talked to everyone I know who is informed or experienced with this, and you know what? This is certainly not something I'd choose to do but also not the worst thing in the world either. All I have to do is think about poor Patrick Swayze and I realize that. We've come a long, long way in the last 20 years and having cancer is not always such a horrible thing. And this will not be a sad song for me! Life is good and there is more to come.

However, I may be apt to give a little advice along the way. As in "Ladies - please don't neglect your mammograms!"

Friday, February 6, 2009

Winter views


One of the things I love about the winter months in East Hampton is the wonderful views we have that aren't available during the summer. With all the foliage off the trees we are privy to some of the most wonderful vistas of both public and private places. For me personally that means a perfect view of the Hook Mill and cemetery across the way from my house. I can also see the homes lined up along North Main and the activity along that street from walkers to bikers to emergency vehicles - all within my eyesight. Years ago when my mother-in-law was well enough to be taking her daily walk I could sometimes catch a glimpse of her heading into town.

A drive around the village offers really nice glimpses of normally hidden spaces: Ocean Avenue, Further Lane, and Lee Avenue all reveal some lovely homes no longer hidden behind their forests of landscaping, and ponds like Hook and Lily are easy to see.

One of the most interesting things about looking at old postcards of East Hampton is the lack of trees everywhere and the wide open spaces. I'm not sure why we are so infatuated with heavy landscaping because the wonderful ocean breezes would be so much more enjoyable for everyone if they weren't trapped by the trees and bushes we've filled every available space with. I love the lush greenery as much as the next person, but when I look around in the winter and see what we're missing it makes me a little sad. Perhaps our need for privacy is partly to blame for our more isolated society. Even in East Hampton, which is a small town and pretty friendly in general, we tend to put up walls of green, and gates and fences, which replace what once were houses and front yards that welcomed strangers in. I long for the days - not that long ago - when a walk down any street resulted in a number of stops along the way to chat with neighbors working in their yards or sitting on front porches. Life was simpler then, but we were certainly more neighborly as well.

Time doesn't go backwards and I'm not thinking we'll ever recapture those wonderful days. But the winter, with its beautiful, unobstructed views of those hidden places, can at least give us a peek at what used to be.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Home alone


I was home alone one day recently and had none of the usual meetings and errands scheduled so I decided to take a "day off", which is something I don't normally get to do. I think because I don't have a normal 9 to 5 job I feel as though I can't just sit around and do nothing. I have to justify my freedom by accompishing things, right? So unlike most people, when there's a holiday, or unexpected snow storm, I still find it necessary to do housework rather than sit and read a good book. For whatever reason, this day was different. I had a medical appointment in the afternoon, I did my work out early in the morning, and I decided to do nothing in between. I took a long luxurious bath and I washed my hair. I felt absolutely decadent staying in my robe for a good hour while I dried my hair and watched the little TV in my bedroom. I took my time doing make-up and getting dressed, and I was still downstairs by 7:30. So I took out the laptop and spent an hour blogging, playing with facebook, and surfing the internet.

I was beginning to feel guilty at that point so I switched gears, turned on the TV, and knitted for an hour while I watched a morning talk show. Pure pleasure.

It was after 10 when I finally got some breakfast. I ate while I read the paper and sorted through the mail that had arrived at my back door. I devoured The Star from cover to cover. Then back to the computer to write in my diary and record some of my thoughts.

By noon I was beginning to think about the medical test I had to drive to Southampton for and my calm demeanor quickly began to vanish. I don't enjoy medical tests. My little vacation was over and it was time to start re-entry phase.

It's unusual for me to have the opportunity to take a morning off like that. Most of my work takes the form of meetings and usually they fill my mornings. My calendar is filled with times and places and an empty date is a rarity. What a gift it was that day.

Sometimes, just having a chance to sit around and enjoy the quiet and comfort of our own homes is a blessing. I'm thinking I ought to take those opportunities more often when they come and stop feeling as though "idle hands are the devil's workshop" as my grandfather loved to say. Sometimes idle hands are just what the doctor ordered...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Early morning


I was up at 5:50 this morning and had been awake for a long time so I decided to just get up and head to the gym. We had a few inches of snow overnight - certainly not the horror they predicted because the roads are beautiful and clear - but enough to make the early morning quite beautiful. I love the way my shoes crunch as they part the piles beneath them while I work my way from the house to the car. I started cleaning off my own car, which was covered with a thin layer of ice underneath the 2 or 3 inches of snow so it was a bit of a challenge. I worked my way around from driver's side to windshield, to passenger side and then rear window - until I could see all the way around and knew I would get there safely enough. I remembered to clean off the headlights as well. I only have a block to travel but I want to make sure I can see where I'm going!

It's eerily quiet at that time of day, particularly in the winter after a snow. The only sounds are the plows moving off in the distance and whatever is happening right where I am - scraping ice off windows and making footprints in the little drifts. So peaceful.

I was excited to see that by the time I came out of the gym the early morning light was appearing. It's coming earlier and I'm happy to see us moving toward spring. It's only 6:50 now and already there's no need for headlights. The sun's not fully up but there's plenty of light to see with. At this hour the skies are so gray, and the light is muted and soft. There are no beautiful, long shadows yet because the sun hasn't quite crept up over the horizon - it's just one big shadow covering everything in sight! And it looks almost as though it's being viewed through a thin silk scarf. It doesn't get any more beautiful in East Hampton.

I love the bright colors of the summer and I look forward to the hues of fall, but this - today - is really something to see. And it was worth getting out of bed for.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Typing


I so wish I'd paid more attention in typing class. I actually took one in the summer of my junior year in high school - they offered it as a summer class in those day and it was at 8 in the morning so I could go to class before I had to be at my regular summer job in the village. Everything was in walking distance because the high school was on Newtown, my job was on Main, and I could get there easily from home. I've no idea if they still offer that for students but it was a nice thing for those of us who had no time in our regular school schedules to take it. And every paper written had to be hand typed for most classes. Of course, in those days we're talking real honest-to-goodness typewriters - not computer keyboards! I remember the chart that was hanging in the front of the classroom and I know we were supposed to hold our hands a particular way. But that's about all I remember now. I never really practiced and I never learned to be a good typist. Computers were my salvation!

Once computers became common place and word processing became the replacement for typing, I could manage very well. No more carbon paper, no more going back to erase mistakes with special erasers - it was a whole wonderful new world! I type pretty well in my own way, but it's not as efficient as it could be. My hands race across the keys crossing over each other and making mistakes on a regular basis, but with spellcheck and the ease of making corrections, I can do secretarial work well enough to have worked as one for seven years. I could never have done that before computers...but I know I could do it better if I were more proficient just because I wouldn't have to go back and correct so many mistakes.

My biggest problem is that my mind works faster than I can type so I do it too quickly and have so little skill that I just can't do it well. Of course, if only I had practiced forty years ago it would be a different story.

Just like my piano skills....

Monday, February 2, 2009

"Life around here"


I can't remember which one it was - I'm thinking "Better Homes and Gardens" - but when I was growing up one of my mother's magazines had a back page that was titled "Life Around Here". It was filled with musings about the writer's life and family and was written by someone with the first name "Burt" (was it Burt Willis? Or Bert Wills? I'm not sure...too long ago now!). I also remember him referring to his son as "young Burt" or "Burt junior". Anyway, when I began reading his column the children that he referred to were around the same ages that I was so I identified with most the things he talked about that were happening around his house. As they grew up and started to leave home, so did I.

It's so easy to become engaged in other people's lives when they're played out on a stage like the pages of a magazine, or a television show, or in some other type of public life. We find ourselves considering them friends and somehow compelled to know more about them. It's the phenomenon that makes us think of Caroline Kennedy as "our" little girl.

One time recently I was standing inside the entrance of a local restaurant waiting for my take-out order when a couple walked in the door. I turned and looked at them and started to say hello because I knew them. But I caught myself just in time, suddenly recognizing them as a celebrity couple that I saw every day on TV. My instinct was right - I did know them - but they surely would not have appreciated my familiarity!

I was recently wondering about "Burt's" family. I felt as though I knew them way back when and now I wonder how they are. I wonder if those kids grew up to be successful and well-adjusted adults. I wonder what they did with their lives - are any of them writers like their father was? Are they all grandparents now like I am? I'd love to know!

It's funny how we can connect with people in life that we never even meet. And that have no idea we even exist...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

February


I find it hard to believe this is February. I mean, one day we're cleaning up the Christmas wrapping paper and the next we're buying Valentines. What's that about anyway? Of course, the best thing about February is that it puts us that much closer to Spring. And in all fairness February has charms of its own here in East Hampton.

I love the empty streets of February. I can turn left out of any driveway or side street with no problem at all, shop at any time of the day, and have an entire movie theater all to myself. What's not to like about that? And the nice, long school break means about half the local residents evacuate for warmer climates and the rest of us are happy to have the place all to ourselves.

It seems to me that we've already had more than our annual quota of snow for an East Hampton winter - so, perhaps, if we're lucky, February will be mild and tolerable for those of us left behind. Or...maybe we'll be snowed in for a couple of days. Either way, I'm OK with that!