Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Long nights


The nights are the longest - but isn't that always true? It's those long hours when there's no one to talk to, nothing on TV, no real distractions to help us make the time go. Aches and pains are exaggerated in the nighttime!

The various "stages" we go through in life fascinate me. When I was a child the nights went quickly and were filled with nothing but sleep. If I woke from a bad dream or in some way needing reassurance I remember finding it easily by climbing into bed with my parents and drifting quickly back to dream land. The teens years are of course filled with all kinds of angst but I don't remember too many sleepless nights unless they were connected with unrequited love (the only kind I ever knew!) or concern over some big test the following day.

Then there were those years parenting little ones when we were lucky if a week went by without at least one child showing up at our bedside. When you have four children its just part of life that someone is going to have a nightmare or get sick or lonely or whatever and you pretty much adjust to interrupted sleep for years on end. Then as they get older the real sleep deprivation begins as you lie there at night waiting for the back door to open and close, signaling they're home safely. Or worrying about who's on the road or in some other way not "in the nest". I think in general, sleep becomes a real commodity from that point on because life only gets more stressful as we go.

The past few years have been good ones for me in terms of sleeping. Many of the stresses in my recent life are past, like parent's illnesses, and so we are ushering in another phase: our own physical discomforts. I know this particular thing will pass - stitches will heal and swelling will lessen - and in a few weeks I'll be sleeping soundly once again. But middle-age has its challenges and methinks this is only the beginning of mine. Ah life! Here's to it!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Community comes through

As always, when disaster of any kind strikes this community comes through. In this case I happen to be the recipient of it's kindness and generosity, and it is beyond gratifying.

It's been a week since I arrived home from my stay in the hospital and I can say without hesitation that I'm being well taken care of by my friends around town. I've had more visitors than I know what to do with - so many that I'll leave a note on the door when we go for a doctor's visit this morning, lest someone come for a visit and wonder why no one's home. My house is full of beautiful flowers, my refrigerator is full of wonderful food, and my soul is satisfied by the many well wishers who have called and written notes that arrive daily in my mail. It certainly cannot help but aid in one's recovery to feel surrounded by people who care.

Small towns are great for taking care of their own and East Hampton is no exception. I can't imagine going through this anywhere else in the world. I had a hospital, nurses, and doctor's who took the best possible care of me. And now I'm surrounded by people who want me to get well. It cannot possibly get better than than....

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Servants

After having my daughter here for nearly a week to take care of me after surgery, I'm having a difficult time adjusting to real life. I've never given a lot of thought to what it would be like to have other people cook and clean for me all the time...until now. But since I've gotten a little taste of it I'm thinking it would be pretty sweet.

I remember someone telling me years ago that I must be of pioneer stock because I was out at church the day after I brought my first baby home from the hospital. I imagine there may be some truth to that since, as far as I know, none of my ancestors were people of wealth. Even here on the East End the generations before mine were strictly blue collar folks - blacksmiths and farmers and lighthouse keepers. We were not "upstreeters" as they used to call them locally. I think my father was the first in his family to earn a college degree and actually work a desk job. So I certainly did not come from money. So - if not pioneer stock - certainly genes passed on from hard working people.

All that said, I imagine I could quickly adjust to the easy life. I'm thinking at the very least a maid for cleaning and a chef to cook would be nice. Of course then maybe a gardener and maintenance man, and maybe a driver too.....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Angels

The Bible says that we often "entertain angels" unaware, and I tend to think that's true. When you hear stories about the unusual kindnesses of strangers or odd coincidences involving unexplained circumstances, you have to wonder. But I think most of the "angels" in our lives come in the form of regular, everyday people that are part of our day-to-day existence, and I've surely had my share in these past weeks. So many kindnesses from strangers - doing their jobs, of course, but also offering themselves "above and beyond" in ways that touch ones' heart.

There was the nurse who took the time to chat with me for a few minutes when she could sense I needed some reassurance. And the person from the cafeteria who bothered to make sure I could reach every item on my tray without causing pain. And of course here at home its the family and friends who continue to find ways to express their love and concern, giving me that layer if support so important to a great recovery.

I've been so touched by many things that have come our way since my hospitilization - freshly made soups, home baked breads, and beautiful flowers. That people take time from their busy lives to stop for a visit is so helpful in making the time go by. And having my daughter go to the trouble of working out child care back home in Pennsylvania so she could come here to help me is really above and beyond.

What a difference it all makes. It's only been a week since I came out of surgery and I feel like a different person. I imagine I could do almost anything in life if I really put my mind to it. But I think having people out there who believe in you, who help you, and who cheer you on really does make a difference. I suppose that's why God gave us parents, and then when they're gone, as mine are, other angels to be his hands on earth.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The sisterhood


We've been having an ongoing, humorous conversation, a friend and I. It revolves around the concept of "the sisterhood". He doesn't quite understand it but I'm in the midst of a time in my life when feeling the power and strength to be had from my "sisters" in the world is making me more and more aware of its' importance. I tell him he doesn't get it and he tells me its nonsense. But the women out there know its not.

Since my diagnosis with breast cancer my "girlfriends" (such an odd word to describe middle-aged women) have been my backbone. They share their stories, they reach out with hugs and concern, they laugh about the humorous things, and they're basically "there" for me in ways that no man can be. That's not in any way a criticism of men and I don't think its a shortcoming, I just see it as the fact that they're wired differently than we are and their idea of "bonding" with each other just isn't the same as ours. All the men in my life are pretty important to me and I wouldn't want to do without them. They're all pretty amazing people, my wonderful husband, my two grown sons, and my dear, dear friends.

But the sisterhood is the bomb. Dear God I love those women...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mobility

I've never been in a position where I was rendered quite as immobile as I've been after this surgery and the results have their amusing aspects. As part of the reconstruction process they do something that's similar to a "tummy tuck", involving an incision that runs across my lower abdomen about 18 inches in length and three layers deep, so it effectively leaves one without much abdominal muscle power. Pretty much everything we do involves our abs, when you think about it, so this causes amusing consequences.

It's not yet comfortable to sleep stretched out flat so I've been staying on the couch on our first floor, which is a large sectional - roomy and flat - and serves well as a bed. But - I'm alone down here so the frequent trips to the bathroom leave me to my own devices in terms of figuring out how to pull myself into a sitting position and then get up off the couch to walk.

I offer those facts to enable my readers to imagine the following that happened just the night before last: I woke about 3am and began the mental preparation to move my body. When I'm on my right side I have one way of doing it, another on my left. Since I was prone to the left, I knew I had to grab my right knee with both hands and use that for needed leverage to pull me up off the couch. I stiffly pulled my leg up, grabbed with both hands, and rocked enough to cause forward motion. Unfortunately I didn't give myself sufficient forward motion because I suddenly found myself balanced in a v-shape on the edge of the couch, not quite able to sit up but also not wanting to let go and lose the support I had for my sore abdomen. As I hovered there trying to decide how to solve that predicament, I had to laugh at the obvious humor of what must have looked pretty funny - with no audience to enjoy it. What a bummer!

Eventually I managed to use my head, throwing it forward enough to actually sit myself up where I could sit for a moment to laugh at the spectacle I must have been.

Every day there're huge improvements and I don't need to work quite that hard at standing up anymore. It occurs to me that an experience like this is so fleeting in life that you need to record the things worth remembering or they'll be lost forever. Just as I used "baby books" to record the funny things my little ones did, I'm doing the same here when something too good to forget comes along. Perhaps its self-indulgent, but right now - its my life.

All in all, it's a good life. A bit challenging right now, but sweet nonetheless....

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Painkillers

What a wonderful thing - to have drugs for pain! I've seen enough movies that were set in earlier times, when surgery was done with nothing more than a swig of alcohol to take the edge off, that I know I'm quite content to be alive in this, the age of modern medicine. But what those pills can do to your head! Whew! No doubt about it, I didn't have enough practice during the '60s to deal with the trips that come along with this stuff.

One night in the hospital (still on a morphine drip) I woke with a start thinking I was in the midst of an earthquake, only to realize it was the sound of a heavy cart being rolled through the hallway outside my door. Now that I'm home I've been off the morphine for days but I'm still taking a pill every 5 or 6 hours and when it's at its peak I can definitely feel the buzz. So it was not surprising to wake up with a start thinking the ceiling was falling in when the train went by the first night home. It's a sound I'm well familiar with since I've lived within yards of the tracks my whole life, but with drugs on board it suddenly became a disaster about to strike. Funny!

I'm beginning to think that by being such a good girl during the hippie years I missed out on a pretty interesting time....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Home and happy...

I am so happy to be home from the hospital I can't even find the words. I don't think I've ever been happier to see my own back door - knowing the people I love would be inside helping me get back to my normal life, whatever that may be!

I had both my sons after we moved into this house - the girls were born when we were still in the "rental" years - and I do remember the sense of excitement I had driving into this driveway to bring each of those babies home. It's a great thing to come back to your own bed, your own bathroom, your own familiar "things" -regardless of how modest or grand. It's about the comfort of the well-known that greets us when we're looking for a touchstone - that space that is only ours.

All that said, and no matter how happy I am to be home, I'll never again listen to anyone say anything negative or unflattering about Southampton Hospital without defending it! From the minute I walked in their door Thursday morning there wasn't one person I had contact with who wasn't kind, competent, and amazing. From the highly skilled doctors who treated me like the only patient they had, to the maintenance workers who always walked into my room with a smile and a greeting. I was blown away. I had been aware of the way Southampton Hospital had progressed over the past years through my connection with the Healthcare Foundation. But I had no idea it had come so far so fast - and I think we are all very lucky to have it right here in our community. I'll be blogging more about my experiences there in the future but for now I can only say I think they are the greatest.

Especially you, R. R. - and you know who you are!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Home

If all went well this will be the day I come home from the hospital. Of course its impossible to anticipate things like infections and other complications so I can't be sure, but I'm pulling for today and hopefully that will happen.

I've never had surgery before. I was blessed to have four normal childbirths in the age of cesarean sections so I'm grateful for that. But it makes me ill-prepared for this experience. I have no idea how I'll react to anesthesia or pain-killers and I don't know how well I'll bounce back once I get home. I know I'm a pretty stubborn and determined person so that should bode well for my recovery, and I'm not one to sit at home being unproductive so I know I'll be pushing myself to get up and around quickly.

I think I'll post something ahead of time for tomorrow just in case I'm stuck here another night, or can't quite get myself to the computer to do a new post. But if things go really well, I'll simply delete whatever I set up and do something new tomorrow. It will be good to get back into a routine at home again. Home, sweet home. That's a sentiment I can get behind right now...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pie

Making pies for my son's birthday last week was an introspective experience. As I put the ingredients into the bowl for the pie crust I began to think about how this same process had been carried out for generations before me. I find a real sense of satisfaction in doing something so basic - probably the same feeling that construction workers have in doing restoration work with old tools and materials. I was thinking about how I used to watch my mother and my grandmother roll out the dough for their pies, each with a unique way of crimping the edges, resulting in a trademark of sorts. Mom was an expert pie maker and she was famous for her flaky crusts. Mine have never quite met the standard she set, but they are a far better version than the tough, ready-made ones found in the refrigerator section of the local grocery store. And there's a good deal of satisfaction in creating something from scratch.

By my back door I have a small black rolling pin hanging on a leather strap. It was hand carved from ebony over a hundred years ago by my great-great grandfather and obviously well used by by great-great grandmother as the edges are all very smooth and the handles worn down. It's a far cry from the modern version I use, with nice handles that smoothly push the weight of it across the ball of dough. I've never been able to make a pie crust without glancing over at that rolling pin and thinking about the ancestors who inhabited this same space, busily making the pies to feed their families. It's not such a bad thing to be known for one's pies, is it?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Writing

I find that writing is such great therapy for me and I'm sure it's the career I should have had. I totally lose myself when I'm into writing something and I can look at my watch and find that an hour has passed without my even realizing it. I wish I had known back in high school how much I enjoyed the process of putting things on paper because it might have changed the entire course of my life back then. Of course, I love my life so I wouldn't want it to be a different one - but an opportunity to do freelance writing would have been so sweet. I imagine myself doing short stories for magazines or interviews for newspapers and really enjoying the opportunity to do something I love.

I find that the trickiest part of writing is the editing. It's easy for me to put the words on paper - I just let things come from my head through my hands and there it is. I've been told I have a gift for writing "conversationally" and people feel as though they're "having coffee" with me when they read my blogs. But the real trick is to read what I've written and edit, edit, edit. I have to delete nearly as much as I leave behind because I think anything too long and "wordy" will lose the audience pretty quickly. In this day and age of sound bytes and thirty second commercials, we need instant gratification. I also find that too many words become unnecessary and tend to bog things down. So I've learned to delete, delete, and then delete some more. And for the most part, if I initially write down 100 words I can go back and edit and say it all just as effectively with 60.

Hopefully, if you read this far, I've edited well...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday

Friday is such a great day. During the times I was working at a 9 to 5 job I so looked forward to Fridays because they signaled the beginning of the weekend and all that time off was still ahead of me. I liked them even better than Saturdays because for me its the anticipation that's the sweetest (or most agonizing!) part of anything. So Fridays have always been one of my favorite days.

I also loved weekends when my kids were growing up. I liked the easy Saturday morning routine, with no rushing to get them out to school and then being left alone until they returned hours later. I enjoyed having them home and I enjoyed the lack of schedule that the weekend provided, especially on Saturday. (Sunday always meant church, which was not as early or stressful as getting ready for school but still something we did every week so a definite "routine".) Saturdays were the day. And Fridays were the portal to all that fun to come.

So Happy Friday everyone! TGIF and all that - and on to Saturday!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

D-Day (B-Day?)

Today is D-day and by the time anyone reads this I'll be at Southampton Hospital for my long day of surgery. I've been waiting far too long for this day to arrive but now that it's here I'm nervous and anxious and really want to get it all over with. I want to get to the next page in this chapter of my life - I'm ready to see the plot unfold and figure out where we're going from here. And I'm also anxious to get on with the healing process. I'm not one for sitting around and I think the next few weeks will be agonizingly boring. But - we do what we need to do in life and this is my destiny for the moment so I'm ready for it.

I'm going to try to schedule enough blog entries to get me through my time in the hospital since I have no idea if I'll be able to use my laptop there or not - I imagine not! So there will be new entries every day but they're already written . I'll have plenty of good material to blog about when I do get back to my computer! Hospitals are pretty rich in amusing things to talk about!

I'm totally a peace as I head in to this surgery. I know whatever happens I'm in God's hands and there is no place I'd rather be. Hopefully, when you're reading this, I will be peacefully sleeping through the day. Now if only I could sleep through the next few weeks, that would be really nice...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My prayer shawl

I'm amazed at the way I feel surrounded by love this week. I remember when my husband had his heart attack fifteen years ago I felt embraced by this community in the same way, but I had forgotten what a wonderful feeling it is. This week, I know why I love living here.

On Sunday they prayed for me in church and as I stood near the back of the sanctuary after worship, one after another came to me with hugs and well-wishes. I knew that their prayers would be following me through the coming weeks and I found such comfort in that knowledge.

Monday my fellow knitters presented me with a prayer shawl of my own. We began the Prayer Shawl Ministry just over a year ago and a dozen of us have been knitting together and presenting prayer shawls to people throughout the community to let them know we're praying for them: new mothers, those in the hospital, some in nursing homes, others who have lost loved ones - anyone that we know is in need of a special touch and the arms of others to surround them. It's a tangible evidence of a spiritual blessing. I wasn't expecting to ever receive one myself, but there it was wrapped in tissue, a beautiful expression of their love and concern. It touched my heart.

The phone calls have been constant, with each person asking what they can do to help. Some are friends from years ago and others mere acquaintances. I'm truly moved by every gesture of concern.

I think that no one ever really appreciates their community until they're in a situation like I am. And when they are, a place like East Hampton comes through with flying colors. We're a place where people care for one another and it's a wondrous thing to see. Of course, I don't wish anyone ill, but I do hope that every person I know has the opportunity to experience that for themselves some day. What a blessed person I am.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day


Is today St. Patrick's Day? I think its the 17th - but honestly until I get out of my house and see people with goofy hats or green shamrock pins on their jackets I'm never really sure. It seems to be the strangest of days to me-not really a holiday but somehow treated like one by a portion of the population. I think people fall into one of three categories: those who think St. Patrick's Day is the most important day of the year; those who look at it as an amusing excuse to drink beer and act silly; and those who really couldn't care less about it. I fall into the latter category.

I suppose if I'd come from an Irish family I might have a greater appreciation for St. Patrick's Day, although I'm told that they barely take notice of it in Ireland, but I honestly don't get it really. My family didn't have any special allegiance to the "mother country", which in my case would be England or Scotland. We don't wear kilts or take any unusual interest in the royal family. So ties to the country of one's ancestral history is totally unknown to me.

But...Happy St. Patrick's Day to all you out there who do claim some special connection to the beautiful Emerald Isle. Enjoy your soda bread and corned beef, your green beer and silly hats. I'll be pretty much staying at home looking forward to Memorial Day...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday, Monday


One of my favorite songs from the 1960s was the Mamas and the Papas "Monday, Monday". I was a huge fan of pretty much everything they did because I was a bit of a music nerd and their harmonies thrilled me. They were up there with the 5th Dimension and the Beach Boys in that department and I loved singing along with all the various parts. But there was something special about that particular song because it had a wistful quality about it that just perfectly captured the "Monday" blues.

Monday, Monday, can't trust that day...

Of course, it's a song about lost love and someone leaving and all that but there is a lovely sadness to the music and it seems to convey the idea that Monday's not any one's favorite day of the week.

This week Monday is marking the beginning of what will be a long week for me. I'm looking forward to next Monday right now - when things will be looking up and I'll be on the road to recovery. Hopefully by then I'll be singing along with the Mamas and the Papas...

Monday, Monday, so good to me...."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Radiators


I love my old house for the big old cast iron radiators it has. There's nothing quite as warm as one of those hulking behomeths, just pumping out the heat on a cold winter day, and these March mornings are still cold!

The house I grew up in was a gracious old victorian beauty with huge, ornate cast iron heaters in every room. But as my parents renovated over the years those radiators were often replaced with cast iron baseboard heaters, or smaller models that were less intrusive in the rooms - and I don't think it was an improvement. Oh - they're easier to decorate around and far less conspicuous - and I'm sure my folks thought that modern was better - but I longed for the days when we could lay our wet mittens and scarves across the tops of those radiators and come back a short time later to put them back on, dry and warm and comforting.

We've updated some of our own large cast-iron radiators so we could place furniture more efficiently in our smallest rooms, but most still have the old-fashioned free-standing models and I love them. They're a pain in the neck to paint and clean, but oh, are they efficient! Out here in my home office there's a skinny one that's about 5 ft. long and 3 ft. high. It's right under my desk along the inside wall and when I come out to sit at the computer in the mornings it does a mighty fine job of throwing that heat right up to my hands where I most need it. In our downstairs bathroom we have one that's way too big because we created the bathroom out of an old unheated laundry area that was attached to the house when we moved in. We found an old cast iron beauty in salvage somewhere and threw it in our new bathroom and it takes up most of one wall.

Sometimes in our desire to modernize and be current we throw the babies out with the bathwater. I'm glad we haven't rid this old house of all those ancient radiators. They not only work wonderfully, they have a charm that baseboard heaters just can't match. Sometimes "old" is not such a bad thing.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My kitchen

I was (literally) face down on the kitchen floor recently trying to scrub the baseboard area under my kitchen cabinets when I began thinking about my history in this house and the memories that it holds. I suppose its a hazard that comes with age but I tend to think about things like that a lot lately. In this case, I was annoyed at the way every little scuff shows on these cream-colored cabinets, as opposed to the dark-stained ones we had for nearly thirty years - they hid a multitude of sins. And then I started reminiscing about the year we moved in here.

It was back in 1979 and I remember it well because it was an opportunity too good to pass up. A family member wanted to sell this house which sits on land owned by my family since the nineteenth century. We couldn't really afford it, but with two little ones we needed more space than we had in our apartment and we knew a house in this location would not be available again, so we took it. It was surrounded by other family owned homes, including my parents in the house next door, where I grew up. It had been built in 1920 and I don't think my great-uncle had ever updated anything, including the kitchen which had no counters and a huge old stove that dominated the space. So we moved in and immediately pulled out the old kitchen, knocked down the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and began the first of many renovations.

Eventually the entire house would be redone - but it all started with the kitchen. Along with the help of a brother-in-law far more skilled than we in such things, we banged nails, hung sheet rock, spackled and painted for months. It would become our training ground for all the work to follow. We had no money so everything was done on a shoestring, including the creation of a counter top from a length of bowling alley which we bought for $15 from the people who were turning the Southampton Bowling Center (now Pier 1) into a fancy new disco. (This was 1979 remember! Disco reigned - even on the East End!)

When the opportunity arose two years ago to do a kitchen reno (with the help of friends who are in the construction business and had just removed a perfectly good kitchen from an estate they were working on) we again grabbed at opportunity lest it pass us by. And I love my sparkly new, bright and sunny kitchen with a beautiful granite counter top replacing that old bowling alley. But all my memories - of children's birthday parties and teenagers walking in the back door from college, of my husband coming home after a long day at work and my mother popping in to just say hello - they all have that old kitchen in the background. So I do miss it.

There're many people out there who would label me hopelessly nostalgic and advise me to get myself out of the past and live in the moment. My answer to that is that the present is to be embraced with joy and totally lived, but the past is a constant and comfortable companion. There's no need to let one go in favor of the other. I can still love my kitchen the way it is now while missing my old one. After all, it was part of my life for nearly thirty years....and thus it's now part of me.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Yesterday

I woke at about 4:30 yesterday morning and tossed and turned for over an hour. One week to surgery and way too much to think about so I finally rolled out of bed, got dressed in the dark so as not to disturb my darling husband, and went over to the gym to work out, hopefully keeping my mind occupied. After thirty minutes of news, weather, and the treadmill, I was sweating up a storm and my mind was at rest. A new day was coming - all would be well!

When I left the gym it was still dark and there was a full moon hanging over the trees. The eastern sky was beginning to lighten and a beautiful band of dark aqua was gradually morphing into the black night sky. All along that band of emerging light the trees stood out with their stark tentacles reaching high into the air. I turned the key in the ignition and harmonious gospel music blared from my speakers - a song about friendship and faith: "Loving God, loving each other, making music with my friends" they sang.

I drove out of the parking lot thinking that in those few minutes I had known all the best that life offers: our stunningly beautiful world, relationships with the people we love, good music to sing and enjoy, and a God who lovingly gives it all to us. The best things in life truly are free.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Nesting

I went on an early morning ambulance call yesterday and on the way back, as we rounded the corner at Town Pond, we saw that the swans were beginning to build their nest, in exactly the same place it was last year. I'd been hoping they'd go back to the other end of the pond this year, where they'd been the year before last, because they were more isolated and less vulnerable there. But no, they've obviously become accustomed to the people who stop their cars all day and take photos - or simply stare at them as they incubate their eggs and care for their young.

It's only been a few years since this pair has taken up residence at the pond, and in that time they've become real community celebrities. We humans give each other daily updates, such as "They've laid the eggs-they are six this year!" or "There's one less cygnet today - a predator must have gotten one of them overnight" and we watch them throughout the summer as those babies grow and change, with gray becoming white by the time the autumn leaves appear. Then we wish them luck as they disappear, one by one, heading off to make their way in the world. One young one stayed in residence longer than the rest last fall, and I identified with his parents...

The swans are making their nest at Town Pond. A sure sign of spring and a definite reaffirmation that life goes on. It's so great to see.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Staying in


I stayed in bed until nearly 7:00 yesterday morning and I must admit, it felt so good! My car was in the shop so I couldn't go to the gym or answer any early morning ambulance calls, so what was the point of getting up? And with the time change still so fresh it felt good to catch up a little bit on lost sleep. I finally crawled out of bed when the sun was bringing light into my room and I knew it was time to get moving, so I did. I had pies to make and household duties to see to.

When I got downstairs into my office on the sun porch and sat at the computer I heard the birds singing just outside the windows and that was a true sign of spring. Last week we noticed one flying in and out of the birdhouse my son had attached to the side of the big oak tree outside our back door and this morning's music confirmed that the wildlife knows its time to get busy because warm weather is right around the corner.

They say the temperature is going to drop a little in the next couple days but no matter - we're entrenched in the "spring state of mind" already so a little cold will do nothing to dampen the excitement. I'm watching for crocuses now, and daffodils to follow. It surely won't be long...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My son

Today is my son's birthday and I can't help but think about what it was like the day he was born. There was snow on the ground and a huge full moon illuminating the night when we left the house at 4am for the hospital. I remember that the door on my side of the car was frozen and I couldn't get it to shut until we got to about Town Pond - I was holding it closed because I didn't want to wait around while it thawed. I watched the moon in front of the car all the way to the hospital - my Lamaze focus point for the first half of the process.

He was a big baby - 9lbs 11oz - and the nurses made jokes about him being ready for meat and potatoes. He's over 6ft tall now so it truly was a glimpse of things to come. He had a voracious appetite and grew like crazy, but was tall and skinny growing up - not at all like his mother's side of the family. There was one year - I think it was the 7th grade - when he grew an entire foot. I couldn't keep up with him - his pants were always too short.

He was the family clown from the very beginning, making his older sisters laugh at the dinner table from the time he was old enough to join us there. He still makes me smile all the time although I try not to encourage his often bawdy and tasteless humor as much as possible.

I'm fascinated at the way we can see personalities in our children from the moment they're born and it makes me realize how little we actually influence them in their journey to adulthood. I hope we have something to do with the way they turn out, but I know that twinkle in his eye was there from the very beginning and there was nothing I did to put it there, other than provide the mix of genes he ended up with. We women like to think that because we act as incubators for nine months we somehow mold who they are, but the reality is we don't. They are the people they are right from conception and all we can do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

I can't believe this particular ride has lasted 27 years already. Where does the time go?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Hair color

I think I made an error in judgement. I decided I should put off coloring my hair until right before my surgery in case I had a hard time getting back to the hairdresser for the couple months I'll be in recovery. Since I drive all the way to Hampton Bays and I won't be able to drive for while, I was worried that it would go so long I'd begin to take on a skunk-like appearance with a gray stripe down the center of my head before I could get out to remedy the situation. I figured I'd need as much going for me as possible while I'm feeling as though I've been run over by a truck after surgery. But the result is that I've gone so far over my time now that I'm suffering the same result now instead of later - so what did I gain? I find myself trying hard to cover the telltale roots on my hair by sweeping it in one direction or another, with mixed results.

I'm sure I'm not fooling anyone into thinking my natural hair color is free of gray because I've been coloring it for twenty years now. I was one of those unfortunate women who began going gray in my late thirties. And for some reason my husband does not have the good grace to do the same so I'm in a position where I either color it to look as though we are somewhat the same age, or let it go natural and risk being mistaken for his mother. I'm not sure I could bear that. The ravages of age are hard enough to come to terms with and I really don't need someone thinking I'm even older than I already feel.

Anyway, here I am still a few days away from getting those roots touched up and I'm feeling very vulnerable. I'm not sure how much longer I can keep up the charade. But then again what's the alternative? No one my age is gray anymore...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunny days

This weekend is beautiful here in East Hampton. The snow was everywhere on Friday but the sun shone brightly, the temperature climbed into the 60s, and the skies were bright enough to make me look for my sunglasses. By Saturday the snow was receding and grass was once again visible in the yard. A stunning spring-like day, even though winter is still officially in residence. Today I see only small patches of snow here and there - no boots needed for church today!

We were at the cemetery yesterday for my aunt's funeral and we did have to trudge through a bit of snow in the shaded areas beneath the trees. But it was warm enough not to need a coat and the skies were clear and blue. It felt like late spring - at least April! Somehow the cemetery isn't quite as sad and somber when the day is beautiful and there was a real feeling of the celebration of life as we gathered around to say our goodbyes. This is such a beautiful time of year in East Hampton. Every day holds the promise of spring and there's optimism in the air.

Life is good, in March, on a beautiful sunny weekend. It's a great time to be alive and to celebrate life.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Elders

Today we bury yet another member of my family - one of the last of the "older" generation. It won't be long before there are none left among us and suddenly mine will be the oldest generation in this family - a sobering thought.

They've been dubbed "the greatest generation" which makes me wonder what ours will be called. We're quite used to the "baby boomer" label but I think there's probably something even more appropriate out there. The fact that we boomers became a culture that produced things like political activism, the sexual revolution, the age of technology, and the incredible music of the 60s should be enough to earn us some special handle. But we'll never be able to stand beside our parents in terms of the way they transformed the world.

It's great seeing my cousins again - some of whom I have not seen in ten years - but its sad that it takes a funeral to bring us together. The days when we were young together were so long ago and our lives have moved in many different directions, yet...there's an unmistakable bond when we're together. There's something that can't be denied in our shared history and ancestral bonds. Family is an interesting thing. It will be sad to say our final goodbyes today to one of the last of our elders because it's more than a generation moving on - its a way of life. East Hampton in the 1950s and 1960s was a great place. And they were the ones who had the privilege of being part of it in the prime of their lives. Oh, the stories they had to tell....

Godspeed Aunt Joan. Please give Mom my love.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Family weekend

My daugher's arriving for the weekend with her family today and I've been looking forward to it all week, knowing I'd get to see those gorgeous grandkids for the first time since January, able to give them lots of hugs and love for a couple days. The bonus to having the ones from away come visit is that the entire family will be hanging around our house all weekend so all those kids and grandkids will be in the same place at the same time for us to enjoy. Life doesn't get any better than that!

Since there're three family birthdays in the course of a few days we'll be celebrating with a big dinner tomorrow night. The house seems small when the whole gang is around and it makes me smile to think about how we used to talk about "downsizing" when the kids grew up and moved out. I'm not sure how that would be possible unless we traded for a house with fewer bedrooms and bigger family rooms, so it would be a wash anyway.

I think we'll stay right where we are. Because when I see a grandchild run around any corner in this house I'm immediately transported back over twenty years, watching another little child, who looked incredibly similar to this one, come around the same corner. And when I bake cookies with these grandchildren I can tell them that their Mom or Dad sat in that very same spot and helped me bake cookies when they were little. They love hearing stories about their parents and seeing the places they did funny things or got into some sort of trouble way back when.

I'm really looking forward to having them all here this weekend. Being a grandparent is God's special gift - a chance to do it all again, avoiding the mistakes we made the last time and not worrying about the things we stressed about before. I can't wait to get them all under the same roof again.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Birthdays

This weekend is my daughter-in-law's birthday. Since she's the newest member of our family this will be our first year to celebrate with her. So much has happened this year in her life - so many changes and so many traumas - that I sometimes think she's amazing in her ability to cope with it all. She's had traumatic personal losses to deal with, moved hundreds of miles from her home to live here, adjusted to a new place, a new job, and a new life. And she's done it all with grace and humor. She's less than half my age and I already admire her.

My son will also be celebrating a birthday this coming week - not the one that got married last year but the footloose and fancy-free one. He has also had a major year - he moved back to East Hampton, got a part-time job, opened a shop to launch his own business, and has, generally speaking, grown up. It was a good year for him.

I can't help but look at the twenty-somethings in my family and think about myself at their ages. By the time I was my daughter-in-law's age I was pregnant with my second baby. When I was my son's age I was pregnant with my third. My life was decidedly different from theirs. While I was simply drifting along, letting life take me from one thing to another, they're both focused on their careers and moving in very definite directions. As a generation they seem more "together" then we were - I think we (at least some of us) were so busy "dropping out and finding ourselves" that we never got around the the planning part.

I was very lucky to end up - and there was very little planning or foresight on my part -with a really full and wonderful life. I didn't deserve those four wonderful children or the special man I married. But here I am with all of them, and as my family continues to grow through marriages, and births, friendships and adventures, I'm amazed by it all. This week, when we celebrate those two birthdays, I'll be remembering how very blessed I am.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Here comes the sun


It's official now-the sun is up at 6am. It was only a few weeks ago when I talking about how nice it was to see daylight creeping over the landscape when I came out of the gym at 6:45. Now it's my constant companion the minute I wake up. It's much easier to get out of bed when it's light out, but there's a downside to all this early illumination. I roll out of bed, throw on my sweats, and head right to the gym: no make-up, no shower, no curling iron until I get home. It's easy to do that under cover of darkness, but when the sun is shining I feel very exposed!

I always say one of the reasons we members of the ambulance association are so bonded is that we're the only people who've seen each other in the middle of the night (other than our significant others) which puts us in very exclusive company. We must stay on good terms with each other because there's way too much blackmail material out there to risk otherwise. When you have only minutes to get from your bed to the side of a patient, there's no time for worrying about how we look, and believe me we see some sights in the back of that ambulance at 3am!

So I'm accustomed to getting up in the dark and taking care of business without much thought to the face I'm taking out into the world. But now, with daylight coming so early, I'm re-thinking this early gym business. I either need to come to terms with the possibility that someone will see me looking so awful in the light of day, or start getting up and out at 5:30. I don't think that's going to happen. Oh well.....what the heck! I'm slowly creeping up into the "elderly" category and who expects an old lady to look good at any time of the night or day??? I suppose there's some freedom in age...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Newscasts


I'm watching Good Morning America and wondering how we ever survived without the constant stream of news that we're addicted to in this day and age. I love being able to turn on the TV at any time of day and find out exactly what's going on in the world. It's compelling to see things happening "in the moment" and special news flashes always grab my attention.

The one thing I absolutely hate, however, is the scrolling banner that runs across the bottom of the screen on all the news programs. This is a holdover from 9/11 that I really could do without. It's incredibly distracting because I'm constantly trying to read the banner and listen to the newscaster at the same time, and I can only handle so much! I'd be thrilled it they dropped that little feature any time. Even a news-addict like me finds it annoying.

When I was growing up we had two chances to get the news on TV - 7:00 and 11:00 at night - unless there was a major news story that pre-empted all other programming. And those newscasts were only thirty minutes long. Which brings me to this: I have to wonder how important all that news is that they're broadcasting 24 hours a day. Maybe what I'm really addicted to is gossip. Oh dear - I truly need to think about that one...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Winter's last


OK I guess I deserved it - with all that talk about crocuses and warmer weather coming it was inevitable that we would get a double wallop of snow over the weekend. So go ahead, blame me! But this really is still March and it's being absolutely true to form. The good news is that it's definitely coming in like a lion, so the lamb can't be far behind, right?

Of all the beautiful things that nature brings our way, none is more striking to me than the snow. It completely transforms the world around us within a very short time and everything looks different: dark is light, dirty is clean, the entire world becomes a beautiful study of black and white. Even the sky is white as the snow falls from it. I'm fascinated by the way it emphasizes parts of the landscape that we normally don't even notice, like the smallest of bushes and the tiniest details of a fence or roof line.

I hope this is the last hurrah for March but who knows what the next few weeks will bring? It's nice to know that we've gone through the heart of the winter and we're on the other side of it now. Any statement Mother Nature decides to make at this point will feel more like a death throe than a power statement. And we're ready - heart, mind and spirit - for the spring.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

At last...

March has arrived at last and I was beginning to think it would never come. Perhaps it was the weather - or maybe my personal circumstances - but February seemed to drag on forever this year! So March is here and with it comes the promise of spring. This is the month the first crocuses will begin to push their way up through the hard, cold soil and remind us that life is renewing itself. Its a month of promise and excitement.

For me March will be a long month. I'm scheduled for surgery in the third week and my recovery will take me through April. I should have plenty of time for blogging and many thoughts to share so I think material will come easily. I'll try to schedule some posts ahead of time so that while I'm in the hospital my blog will still be active. I'm wondering if there's internet access in the hospital and whether I can use my laptop there. I suppose that's very optimistic of me, isn't it? I have no idea whether I'll feel up to that or not but it would be nice if I did because I'd love to be able to blog about the whole hospital experience. It's been over twenty years since I spent a night in the hospital - back when my youngest child was born.

March is going to be a big month. It will usher in a new season and it will mean life-changing surgery for me. It seems appropriate that spring will arrive, a time of renewal and rebirth, while I'm recuperating.

Isn't it fascinating the way life moves us along like drifters on a stream, around one bend and then another, with little ability by us to change course? I see us as a bunch of people just floating down the river on inner tubes, occasionally affecting our direction somewhat by sticking an arm into the water or paddling a little it, but for the most part taking the rapids and whirlpools as they come. Some are lucky enough to be along the water's edge where the water's not so deep and scary - but others take on the fury in the middle of it all, hoping for calmer waters ahead. I know each section of this river has lessons to teach but we need to be observant and not fall into the trap of dozing off as we meander along during the calmer sections. We don't want to miss the rock formations or the beautiful clouds, the sunrises or the rainbows. I don't want to miss any of it.

There are lessons along the way and I want to learn them. And when I get to the mouth of the river I want to remember the entire, exhausting, and exhilarating trip. So bring on March - I'm ready for it!