Thursday, April 30, 2009

Groceries

When did grocery shopping become such a chore? I remember how I looked forward to it as a newlywed, excited about the new recipes I was going to try or the cookies I was going to make to surprise my new husband. But somewhere along the way while raising children it became a major drudgery and I really hate it now.

I've spoken to many people who have their groceries delivered to them and I can see the benefit in that. I imagine if I still had little ones at home I might go in that direction. But being that its just the two of us now my trips are usually quick ones and I'd end up wasting more time waiting for the truck to come with the delivery than I do actually on the errand myself, so I can't see doing that. I'm also a big believer in patronizing local businesses so I hate to take my money out of town. (There are few local shops I can still afford to shop in and grocery stores, so far, are OK!) So while delivery seems like a great option for many people, for me the local grocery store, which is right around the corner, is still the best.

Sometimes, when I get weary thinking I need to run into the store to pick up a few things, I remind myself how lucky I am to live in a place where I can go into a store only a block from my house and be faced with shelf after shelf of safe, fresh food at my fingertips. There are far too many places in the world where that's not an option. I remember years ago when our church sponsored a young couple from a refugee camp in Laos. We picked them up at JFK and they walked off the plane into a new and strange world where they didn't speak the language and knew no one. My parents had them in their home for a few weeks while the church looked for more permanent housing. We tried to acclimate them as best we could, introducing them to our American culture, and the looks on their faces the first time they walked into our modern, well-stocked grocery store was something I'll never forget.

Thinking about that usually makes me take a step back and actually enjoy the experience. We are spoiled people, after all.

But it still annoys me when they're out of my favorite cereal....

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Conundrums

I'm so grateful that I have three grandchildren right here in East Hampton. Because going to see the three that live in Pennsylvania presents such a conundrum for me. It's a 4 1/2 hour drive (on a good day - 6 on a bad one!), which seems like an easy trip and certainly could be much worse, but I hate being on the road. I hate to be in the car more than an hour, actually, and at the one hour mark my legs start to hurt, I want to stretch out, I'm weary of the Sunrise Highway and Southern State Parkway, and we're still not into the worst of the trip: the dreaded Belt Parkway and then...Staten Island. Oh dear. Remind me why we live on the end of this island that's so hard to get off of?

A few years ago I flew to visit relatives in South Carolina and was a bit worried about driving on unfamiliar roads. Little did I know that the 'highways ' in other areas are like driving along Rt. 27 here. I realize that I tend to think of metropolitan areas as all being like NYC, but they're not! If I could drive those easy roads, like 99% of the country does, I don't think I'd mind so much. But having to work our way through the snarled, traffic-choked NY metropolitan area is a headache like no other.

But the conundrum comes from the fact that I could fly to Baltimore to visit them and my daughter would gladly pick me up there. The problem is I hate flying as much as I hate driving through NYC. When I recently tried to decide which to do I nearly had a panic attack trying to decide between the two. Which is worse? I couldn't decide. The terror of hurtling down the road between two tractor trailer trucks on the New Jersey Turnpike or the trauma of a plane leaving the ground and heading into the clouds. The inconvenience of not having a decent public restroom between East Hampton and Jersey or dealing with security at the airport, and jostling for position in line, and then finding a storage area for my bag overhead....etc, etc. Both are anxiety ridden for me and I would frankly rather stay at home.

The fact that I make the trip at all is a testament to the depth of my love for my daughter and her family. And now that I've been thinking so much about it I'm beginning to have palpitations so I need to go lie down....

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cherry trees

Among my favorite things about the month of May are cherry trees. I love all types - white, pink, weeping - they're all beautiful.

For seven years I worked at the Presbyterian Church and it was a joy to arrive every morning when the big cheery tree there was in bloom. Even when it began to lose its blossoms it was lovely because the ground beneath it would be covered with a carpet of pink that I had to walk across to get to my office. Some people found it annoying because those blossoms would get dragged in with every foot that crossed the threshold, but I loved that puddle of pink that completely surrounded the tree - an oasis in the midst of the green grass all around.

Quite a few years ago I bought a pink weeping cherry for our yard and I hope that it will outlive me long enough to become a huge landmark that people look for when they drive down our street. Two years ago when my mother died we all chipped in and bought a small white weeping cherry to be planted in the field across from her house. It's blooming right now and makes me smile to think how she would have enjoyed seeing it from her front windows.

And then there are the magnificent specimens that dot the landscape around town. There's one in the old cottage colony on the right as you drive out of town, another in the yard of one of the mansions near the ocean, and of course the wonderful rows that line Montauk Highway at Hren's Nursery. I remember when they were planted and now they're so big and beautiful. I make a point of driving to Amagansett just to see them when I know they're out.

Life is full of such little pleasures if we care to see them. The danger is in being so tied up in our thoughts that we fail to notice the things we drive by every day. It really is about stopping to "smell the roses" as they say, or at the very least, slowing down to look at the cherry trees!

I hope I never forget that...

Monday, April 27, 2009

New vocation

I have an idea for a business. You know how people do "baby-proofing" consultations, basically going through a customer's house and giving them a list of changes that should be made to make their house more "child friendly"? People get paid for that! Well, I want to start a business where I'd go to hospitals or doctor's offices and make recommendations about how to make those places more "patient friendly".

Last week I went in for a simple out-patient surgical procedure. The first thing they did after taking me to a room was give me a "gown" and tell me to go into the little bathroom and change. Once in the bathroom I immediately identified a problem: no place to lay my clothes as I disrobed (other than on the floor or in the sink) and nothing to sit on to take my shoes, socks, and pants off and put my lovely hospital slippers on. Now for me, this was not a horrible problem because I'm still young and nimble enough to balance on one leg to put on socks. But what would an elderly person do? And if they managed to get themselves changed safely, how would they bend to the floor to get that pile of discarded clothes? Now, one might wonder "What about sitting on the toilet?" but bear in mind there is no cover on the toilet! So sitting on the toilet could produce hazards of its own.

What I'm thinking is that hospitals and doctors could pay me to come in, go through the various rooms and procedures, and make recommendations for ways to make things better. As I mentioned in another blog, shelves on the walls for flowers in the patient rooms would be a start. But there are so many more things to ponder - like small mirrors in the changing rooms so when you're done with your MRI or CT Scan you can see if your hair is standing straight up or your mascara is spreading all over your face. And my latest thought is a small bench in the bathroom for changing purposes. Simple things which could be done with very little expense.

And then at the doctor's offices, a simple introduction to the doctor before being asked to get into that paper bag. I could also offer a service like those "secret shoppers" - posing as a patient to test the friendliness of the office staffs. Do they smile when you come in the door? Do they acknowledge you when you're standing at their counter, even when they're busy? Another topic I could discuss at length!

I really think I'm on to something here...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Summer!

Suddenly, as it's likely to do around here, summer has burst onto the scene. We went from a few days ago when the temperature was in the 50s to a weekend where the mercury is climbing well into the 70s. What a crazy place we live!

Saturday was a day for housework and laundry and for planting the Easter bulbs and "get well" plants that I've received. I'm crossing my fingers that I'm not pushing it too much because my mother always told me never to plant anything outside until Memorial Day. It could be a disaster, but I need to get these things done while I'm still feeling well.

When we first moved into this house thirty years ago it was easy to plant things because there was very little landscaping and therefore appropriate places all over the yard. Now I need to give it a little thought. I planted the mini-daffodils in with the ones from Easters past, and put the tulip bulbs in that area too. Hopefully the daffodils will turn off the deer enough to save the tulips next year. The azalea and the hydrangeas will eventually go along the side property line where I'm hoping in about ten years we'll have a nice hedge of them. There are some hyacinths which I'll put in the side garden because I love the scent and want to catch it when I come and go from the house.

Every year is a crap shoot with these things. I'm not much of a gardener and I know they won't all survive, but over the years I've had about 50% of the things I've planted after Easter flourish. There are some beautiful big hydrangeas out there that my mother sent us over the years and I think of her whenever I see them. So - I put them all into the ground and next year it will be fun to see what comes up when the weather turns warm.

My mother was a great gardener. It's sad for me to see her once beautiful gardens so overgrown and full of weeds now. It's been three summers now and there isn't much left of them. But on beautiful summer days I can still see her out there in my mind when I'm standing in my kitchen. I always went out to talk with her when I saw her hunched over the garden. It's a memory I cherish. She loved to use the garden as a metaphor for life and often talked about the things she thought about when she was busy working the soil. They were like little sermons and I'm grateful for those conversations. She was still teaching me well into my 50s!

I wish I were a gardener like my mother was. But I just don't get the joy out of it that she did. I love the results but I hate the work. And to that statement she would have smiled and said "What a surprise!". She knew me so well...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Laundry

A friend triggered a wonderful memory for me the other day. We were talking about the aprons our mothers used to wear and she mentioned the full-sized aprons with big pockets that her aunt used to put all the clothespins in when she hung the laundry out to dry.

My mother didn't use a "laundry" apron, she used a clothespin holder that hung on the clothesline that she slid along with her as she hung the clothes. But my great-aunt who lived next door used a laundry apron. She and Mom did their laundry on Wednesdays so they could chat across the yards with each other while hanging their wet things. The yards were adjacent but they had to speak pretty loudly for their voices to carry far enough to hold a conversation. Of course there was less ambient noise then - fewer cars on the roads for instance. Anyway, they managed to make a boring and back-breaking job a little less onerous by spending the time outside together. And despite the drudgery they found a way to enjoy themselves.

Mom continued to hang sheets out on nice days long after she had a clothes dryer. She loved the smell of the sheets when they'd been hung outside and I remember it as well. It was a wonderful treat to climb into those clean sheets every week after she'd changed all the beds. What an easy life I had back then - my own children never had it that good. By the time they came into the world the women's movement had convinced a new generation of women that hanging clothes out to dry was a poor use of our time and talents. Why would you want to do that when you could throw them into the clothes dryer, after all? In retrospect I'm sorry they never had the "clean sheets right off the line" experieince. They'll never have that wonderful memory like I do.
And...I'm sorry about that. I think it's their loss.

Friday, April 24, 2009

New doctor

I met a new doctor the other day and for the first time in months I wasn't asked to disrobe before meeting him. What a small and wonderful blessing! There's something about meeting someone for the first time while dressed in nothing more than a paper bag that's very intimidating and makes me feel quite helpless - almost childlike again. Suddenly I go from being a take-charge type person to one who sits silently listening to whatever the doctor has to say, nodding my head and wishing I could just get dressed again.

I'm truly on a campaign now for better hospital gowns that could also be practically used in doctor's offices. How difficult would it be to at least give people the dignity of meeting a new physician dressed in something that: a. covers your body and b. looks decent. Is that too much to ask?

I'm beginning to think that in order to put things on an equal footing the doctors should have to dress the same way we do when they meet us. Want me in a paper robe? Fine - you wear one too! Prefer the hospital gowns with open backs? OK - I'll get into mine if you'll get into yours! One good alternative would be to meet the patient first in an office, across a desk and fully clothed. Only after all the questions have been asked and answered do we move to the exam room where I would gladly undress so I could be checked out. What can't this be done?

Is there any other profession in the world where we ask people to become totally vulnerable and embarrassed before we even say hello? It's a strange thing, this medical world. I've been involved with it for a very long time, more closely than many people because of all my time spent in the ER with ambulance crews. But I still don't understand it and find it quite perplexing.
So - let's see how far I get with my new campaign. My guess is it won't be far, but it's something I think worth the effort. Now I have to start strategizing...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Around town

Yesterday I had a day full of errands and I headed out my door about 10am. The village was bustling with activity and signs of the coming season were everywhere. Just around the corner from my house there were Village Highway crews filling potholes on one corner and trimming branches on another. There were trucks and cones all over the intersection and large tree branches were being collected in an area near the Sheep Fold. Landscaping crews were hard at work in private yards and many of the shops in the commercial district were being spruced up with paint and taking deliveries. Windows were being decorated and shelves filled and I barely noticed the empty storefronts that are still in evidence here.

Most of all, and the most obvious sign of the approaching craziness, there was plenty of traffic. A line had formed from the Main Street light as far back as Methodist Lane and I waited at every crosswalk as traffic backed up for pedestrians to cross. Now I need to take a deep breath and remind myself that the season is short, it will be over before we know it, and peace will once again reign on the East End. Sigh...

We still have a few weeks to savor our small-town joys and I won't yet begin to plan my trips out around the time of day or day of the week. I can still shop almost anytime without too much hassle. But soon Memorial Day will be here. And along with the beautiful sunny days will come the hordes of vacationers looking to enjoy just a small piece of the beauty we get to see all year 'round. This year I'll be starting chemotherapy about the time as our streets will become clogged with automobiles and I'll be done as most of them head back to NYC in September. I'll have many reasons to rejoice when Labor Day comes around this year!

Here's to a glorious summer in East Hampton. May it be everything we want it to be - and may it go quickly for me!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mountains


Remember the song we sang when we were kids "The bear went over the mountain..."? The bear went over the mountain and what did he see? He saw another mountain. That's the way I'm feeling right now. I went over a mountain, thought I was going to see a beautiful sight on the other side and instead I'm facing another mountain I need to cross before I get to that peaceful valley. I'm hoping to scale this one as easily as I did the last but that remains to be seen.

Spending so much time at doctor's offices and the hospital does actually help with my attitude though. Because I'm constantly surrounded by people who are in far worse shape than I am. I see so many for whom life is a struggle every day, many who need assistance just to get from one place to another. It makes me grateful for the life I've had and the health I've enjoyed. I've been blessed in so many ways and nothing that happens to me now could ever take away from what I've already known. Life has been good to me.

This mountain in front of me now will seem like a small hill when all is said and done. Six months out of a long life is a blip, nothing more. I remember during my "pregnancy years" when I thought I'd never be without a child - either in utero or in my arms. Now, all these years later, it seems like that was such a small part of my life! So I know that if I'm lucky enough to live another twenty years these next few months will fade into the background and seem pretty insignificant.

But...when you stand at the bottom of that mountain, it looks so big...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wigs

Here's my attitude about having to wear wigs. I think pretty much everyone can tell you're wearing one so why try to hide it? Have a good time with it and try to have a few laughs in the process. So...with that attitude I went wig shopping yesterday. I took a posse with me - for moral support as well as opinions - and our full car drove to Lake Grove to see what we could find at a place called "Wig Allure". (Don't you just love the names of stores? I mean, is there really anything "alluring" about a wig? I suppose if the right wig were on the right [i.e. young, hot, model type] woman, there might be something alluring about it. But honestly I don't see wigs as especially enticing. But...I digress.)

We found the shop easily enough and piled out of the car in the rain to go check out the goods. And there was plenty to laugh about. We looked at all kinds of wigs, from long curly "goth" styles to short spiky platinum blonde jobs with dark roots for realism. It was actually fun and, for me at least, reassuring. After all, its only hair.

In the end I bought three styles and colors. My favorite is an auburn one with long bangs and a straight, layered cut which looks like my own hair never would. It's a real "alter-ego" for me to enjoy. Of the others, one is close to my natural color (well, maybe that's the wrong word here - how about "usual" color?) and style - and the other more blonde but not overly so, with a spiky look that's a little funky and fun.

Everyone assured me that they looked great and were very realistic, but I couldn't help noticing how when each of them tried one on themselves they hooted and hollered up a storm and thought they looked ridiculous. Hummmm - interesting! At the end of the day I appreciated their support though, regardless of how truthful they were actually being. It made me realize that to the people whose opinions I care about, my family and friends, it doesn't matter what's on my head - if anything at all. It's me who matters - and that's what I needed to know. They were simply reassuring me of that.

It was the sisterhood at its best. Thanks girls!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Life lessons

Many people have remarked to me lately how health issues like mine make us stop and prioritize a little - keep things in perspective. What many don't realize is we went through that process nearly fifteen years ago and our priorities have been pretty straight ever since.

It was a beautiful summer day in 1994 when my husband started complaining of an ache in his arms. We didn't think much of it at first - after all, he was only 43 years old! But when he woke me at two in the morning announcing back pain that was keeping him awake, my EMT training kicked in and I called the ambulance. A quick trip to Southampton Hospital confirmed my worst fears - he was having a heart attack. What followed was a wildly emotional, terrifying week as we went from the ICU in Southampton to quadruple by-pass surgery at St. Francis. I went to bed every night that week wondering if he would still be alive when I woke the next morning. At the time our four children ranged in age from 10 to 20 years. How would I ever manage on my own? He was the love of my life and I was devastated.

By the time he fully healed, we'd been changed forever. Never again would his work take precedence over his family. And neither of us would ever again take the other for granted as we are so apt to do when in a long-term relationship like ours. We learned our lesson then and we've done a pretty good job of keeping it close to our hearts. We take every opportunity to enjoy our family and friends and we always put people first. We've learned to place our lives completely in God's hands because none of us is promised tomorrow - we are only given today. And we want to make sure that what we do with today is fully and completely in God's will. There's no place that either of us would rather be.

So, for us at least, heart attacks and cancer are nothing more than inconveniences in life, and they are merely "blips" in the grand scheme of things. As long as we can keep our perspective clear, our priorities in order, and our sense of humor intact, we can deal with anything. A life lesson we learned a long time ago...but a little reinforcing never hurts. This latest adventure has been a good reminder.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

East Hampton

What a gorgeous weekend we're having! Yesterday was perfect for getting out into the yard to start the clean-up and primping. It's still too early to buy flowers for my large pots but we have new window boxes that needed painting and my husband was busy with that while I worked on a chicken dish in the kitchen for Sunday lunch. I enjoyed not being cold in the house and being able to walk in and out of the back door without worrying about how much warm air was escaping. By this time of the year I am tired of winter!

I'm also getting anxious for my lilacs to bloom. They aren't even close yet - just tiny green buds on the end of every branch - but for me the lilacs are the highlight of spring. I love everything about them - their shape, their scent, and their colors. I can't wait for their appearance and it shouldn't be long now.

The grass has brightened up beautifully and soon we'll get to savor the scent of the first mow of the season. I have memories of school years when that unmistakable smell came wafting into the classroom for the first time. It made us all restless and excited because it was such a sure sign that summer was coming. For me it still triggers all kinds of those memories of school. One teacher in particular I remember making us stop everything just to make sure we all noticed it. She was a woman after my own heart and we would be friends now if we had been contemporaries!

Spring is all around us and even the frequent April showers can't dampen the spirit. (Well, maybe a little...I am tired of rain.) In a few short weeks it'll be May and those long promised flowers will be bursting everywhere. I for one am definitely ready.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hair


Why am I so upset about the prospect of losing my hair? I think there's a complicated answer for that question. I'm sure its a difficult thing for all women, because our identity is so tied up in our hair which is unique for each of us. But its even more complicated for me.

When I first met with the plastic surgeon to discuss my reconstructive surgery, I told him this: "I've never been terribly hung up on my body. I was always the chubby girl so I don't have any self-esteem issues that will be affected by my body changing" or something to that effect. And that's very true. I remember vividly when I was in the fifth grade and all the girls were lined up in the nurse's office for our annual physicals. We were all standing there in our underwear, waiting to get on the scale and we could all hear as each weight was called out to the person doing the writing - they were all weights in the 80s and 90s. Until my turn. I weighed in at 101. I heard an audible gasp from the girl behind me, who, as fate would have it, was the "princess" of the entire grade - every boy in the fifth grade had a crush on her. I was horrified. And it was my first realization that I was "different" (i.e. "fat"). It was also the moment I realized that I would need to find my self-esteem in other places because the "princess" I would never be!

All that said, there was one thing about me that I was always complimented on, from the time I was very small: my hair. I had long ringlets when I was little and people often compared them to Shirley Temple's. As I grew I came to appreciate the fact that I had hair with great body that was easy to deal with and usually looked pretty good. (With the exception of the high school years when long, straight hippie hair was in fashion - which was certainly not compatible with my full-bodied mop so I was hopelessly out of fashion.) I've even had complete strangers stop me and say "You have the nicest hair!"So for the most part, I've always liked my hair. But its practically the only thing about this chubby body that I've ever liked!

And now I'm going to lose it.

So I'm working it out. After all, it's only hair! It will grow back, right? And there's always the positive side of hair loss - like no need to remove the unwanted facial hair that haunts every women of my age. I won't even have to check for stray nose hairs, right? There's a silver lining in every cloud if one cares to look for it.

We all make decisions every day about how we cope with the trials and tribulations of life. If my mother taught me anything, its that a smile and a positive attitude go a long way in making us feel happy. I do think that happiness is a choice - and I don't ever want to chose anything else.

My hair will be gone in another month. But so will any errant cancer cells that might be hiding somewhere in my body. If I have to lose my hair for six months as a trade-off to live another twenty, so be it! I want to see my grandchildren grow up and I want to enjoy some of those "golden years" I keep hearing about. I have a husband that I'm looking forward to growing old with. Hopefully, for while at least, he'll think that bald is beautiful....

Friday, April 17, 2009

Reality TV

I think reality TV is one of the worst things ever invented. It seems as though some television executive must have come up with that crazy idea to save money, as in "Just think - no need to hire a writing staff!". Not that some of it isn't done really well - I'll admit to watching "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars" (although usually we record them and then buzz through all the nonsense "filler" that's part of every show) and I do love Project Runway - but there are just too many and some of them are totally beyond my understanding. I mean what - other than the obvious - is interesting about "The Girls Next Door"? I find it sad, really, that old man Hefner thinks these young girls are "in love" with him. Could it be that they just like the lavish lifestyle at the mansion? And they're so dumb those girls. I'm embarrassed for them and for women in general.

And then there's "Meet the Kardashians" - what is that about? Are people really interested in the lives of that family? And other shows, like "The Flavor of Love" and "The Bachelor" just seem too silly for words.

I am tempted to get into "The Amazing Race" but I can't bring myself to get attached to another one because I don't want to encourage the networks to create any more. I miss the well-written sitcoms of the past and I wish they'd bring us more of that kind of TV. Where is Raymond when you need him? And Mary Richards and Thomas Magnum... But as far as reality goes, I get plenty of that at home. I want my television to be about fantasy...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hospitals - again


So now I've been thrown back into the whole hospital routine: blood work, CT scans, bone scans, a muga test (what the heck is that anyway?). I was hoping against hope that I was done for awhile but no such luck. It really has been a surreal year so far and there's little hope of that changing so I need to find ways to turn all these negatives into something positive.

So...I'm taking notes about things that happen at the hospital and doctor's offices. I want to remember what its like to go through these tests and screenings so that (hopefully) I can help other people through the process when friends are facing the same thing. With the rate of breast cancer so high on Long Island I know I'm only the first of my circle of friends who will face it. I can be there for the next one. I can warn them about the little things they need to be prepared for. And I can hold their hands through the scary parts.

There are some things that are so simple and would help make these trials easier to bear - like having a mirror in the dressing area for MRI and CT scans - that would make a huge difference in the way we feel when we emerge from one of those tests. At least we would know our hair wasn't standing on end from laying on it for twenty minutes in an MRI machine. So - I can make some recommendations when all is said and done. And maybe make it easier for the next person.
I believe that all the things we experience in life are meant to make us stronger, better people - but only if we allow them to. It's so easy to sit back and feel sorry for ourselves and become passive players as life swirls around us and we bounce from one crisis to another. But if we chose to, we can use our experiences to make the world a better place, by improving the things that need improving, and helping those that need help.

I prefer the latter approach so watch out everyone! I'm a woman on a mission now! I hope to make this journey count for something. And hopefully, for my granddaughters, breast cancer will be a thing of the past. Isn't that a goal worth fighting for?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Missed opportunities

Yesterday was the day we were scheduled to leave on our dream trip - to visit the Grand Canyon. We began planning over a year ago because it takes a year to get reservations at the hotel on the rim of the canyon. I spent hours reading everything I could find about the area and I'd planned this trip to be everything we wanted it to be, including a train ride to the canyon and a stay in Sedona's red rock country. We were beyond excited about this trip. The last real vacation we had was over 3 years ago, and we've never been able to take regular vacations, so this was going to be a real treat. Instead, I was visiting the oncologist and finding out that chemotherapy was in my future. How life turns on a dime!

When I went for my mammogram in January - the last of my annual check-ups for the year -everything changed. Things change quickly in life - in an instant it all hangs in the balance. When I realized we'd have to cancel our long-awaited trip I was so disappointed. Not only for myself but especially for my husband, who works so hard and rarely gets a break. Instead of hiking the canyon he'd be helping me recover from surgery and taking care of the house. I hated to be the reason he wouldn't get away. And now, on top of that, he'll be helping me get through the rigors of chemotherapy. He doesn't deserve that. Such a bummer!

So anyway....yesterday was a bit melancholy for me as I considered what we might have been doing, flying out for an adventure we'd never forget. But I've been careful to keep things in perspective throughout these past months and I don't want to lose that perspective now. After all, I'm well now, recovering more quickly than hoped for, and feeling really good. The Grand Canyon is not going anywhere. And with any luck, we'll get to make our dream trip some time in the future. Once I am through with chemo and get my strength (and my hair) back, we can plan for the future again. Life is a real roller coaster ride and we never know for sure when the next drop or twist is going to come, so we need to be ready to roll with it all.

And at the end of the ride we want to be able to say we enjoyed every minute of it - even the stomach churning ones.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hospital gowns

One of the funniest things that happens in hospitals is the need to wear one of those silly smocks they insist on calling "gowns". Now, I don't know about anyone else, but to me the word "gown" implies either a lovely, long dress worn for a special event, or a pretty, frilly thing worn to bed at night. But those hospital garments surely do not fit into either of those categories.

First of all, the fabric is just plain ugly. It's almost as though the manufacturer shops around for the most hideous printed fabric they can find and then orders all of it. There's nothing the least bit attractive about it and it just screams "institutional". I can't quite figure this out because how difficult would it be to make them from an attractive fabric with a nice pattern on it? It shouldn't cost any more to make it an attractive print, right? It can still be unisex, I have no problem with that, so I'm not suggesting a floral. But how about a stripe or a plaid with soft, soothing colors like yellows, greens, and pastel blues? Almost anything would be better than what they use now.

Then there's the style. I totally get that they need to be easy to get on and off, accessible for doctors and nurses and all that. But sitting in my hospital room watching an elderly man walk the hallways in his hospital gown, with his white undies and long white socks on full view underneath, convinced me that there may be a better alternative. Maybe something with velcro or snaps up the back for those well enough to be mobile? Some how the two ties they come with leave a little to be desired when it comes to modesty.

Not that I'm overly modest, because I'm not. After going through childbirth four times and then spending the last twenty years as an active EMS volunteer I think I'm nearly immune to being startled by visible body parts and nudes of all ages (oh, the stories I could tell!) but not everyone is as immune to embarrassment as I am. It seems to me that patients are entitled to some level of dignity where they can get it and those hospital gowns seem like a logical place to start.

I would love to work on a new design. I just can't quite figure out how to go about it or how I could get anyone to listen....

Monday, April 13, 2009

Deer here


Well the sun has come out, the temperature is finally rising, and surely spring is here for good now, right?

I have lots of things to plant in the garden as soon as its warm enough. Among the beautiful flowers I received over the past few weeks I have two hydrangeas and two azaleas to put in the yard and I'm already plotting the best spots for them. The deer seem to be extremely hungry these days and are chomping down on things they've not touched in previous years, so that worries me a little. Hydrangeas are among my favorites and I have some nice mature bushes near the house which they've never touched before. This year I'm not so sure. So I worry about putting these little ones out where they might be vulnerable. If they don't get a good start they'll never survive and I'd hate to see that happen.

I've never seen them touch azaleas either, but who knows? It seems as though they'll eat anything if they're hungry enough. We have a small herd that lives behind our house along the railroad tracks where there is about 7 acres of woods. When I was growing up I never saw deer in the village - we had to drive into northwest or down to Springs or Montauk to see deer. But it seems that as their habitat has been built out they're moving into the few areas we have in the village that they can survive, so here they are. Sometimes we have as many as 5 in our back yard - unheard of twenty years ago. There's a nice herd living in the Nature Trail too, and we often see them crossing Egypt or David's Lane in the early morning after a night of foraging among the beautifully landscaped lawns south of the highway.

The deer are beautiful, graceful creatures and I'm sad for them as they're being pushed out of their own territory. But I love my bushes and flowers too. A little pruning now and again isn't a bad thing, but when they destroy things I'm not a happy camper. Not sure what the solution is, but hopefully they'll find other places to eat...soon.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday


Easter Sunday brings so many memories! Brightly colored suits for church, hats and gloves, spring coats, family photos, and big old-fashioned Easter baskets that were made of real honest-to-goodness reeds (or whatever it is thy make real baskets out of as opposed to the plastic ones they sell now days). I haven't seen a "spring" coat in years! Remember how pretty they were in their bright colors - yellows, baby blues and light greens? Why don't they make spring coats anymore?

My parents didn't have a lot of money so they didn't go overboard with the Easter goodies, but there was always plenty of candy in each of our baskets and I think I can say with certainty that mine was always the first to be empty. No great surprise there!

I miss those halcyon days of a simpler life. Simpler for me at least - probably not for my parents. I know there were always worries about money and mortgage payments and the things that grown-ups have to worry about. But for us, it was great fun. We loved dressing up for church, seeing all the beautiful outfits that people wore - many families in matching clothes. It's not the same anymore. People don't dress up for church the way they used to and Easter is not the big church holiday that it used to be. I find that sad because the Easter story is an uplifting and exciting one. Its too bad that many kids nowadays think its all about a bunny and colored eggs.

For us, in my family, it was a great celebration in the Christian year. And it was something so special that we got new clothes and looked our best to commemorate it - much like a wedding. But from what I see now, I think we've lost something along the way.

Happy Easter everyone! He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pansies


A friend brought me a beautiful outdoor pot overflowing with pansies. They were such a lovely lavender-blue color and I smiled whenever I saw them out on my deck by the back door. The other morning when we got up we realized the deer had eaten every last blossom. I was crestfallen.

There's something very special about pansies because they're among the first hardy blooms that can sit outside when the weather is still chilly. I love the deep purple ones and when they're combined with the yellow/purple ones they're quite stunning -but these lavender blue ones are really beguiling. The color is so soft and pretty and it just screams "spring" on every level. They were a wonderful gift.

My mother loved pansies because she said they had "little faces" - so naturally, every time I look at them I see those little faces staring up at me. That aspect is a bit creepy to tell you the truth, but it's usually a passing thought and I get beyond it rather quickly. And my next thought is about how wonderful it is to see their vibrant color against a world still waking up from its long winter sleep. A true change-of-season flower. Right now they're the perfect antidote for someone like me who's stuck in the house for while. Or at least they were. I saw them every time I walked into my kitchen and glanced out the french doors to the deck - and they made me look forward to the warm weather to come. I hope the deer appreciated them as a special treat, at least.

I loved those pansies!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Boredom = eating


The enemy right now is boredom. I'm feeling so good, and I'm so ready to get back to regular life, yet I still tire easily (only 3 weeks since my surgery) that I still have to stick close to home most of the day. It's a dangerous combination. I'm apt to overdo. So that keeps me in my place here at home. And yet I feel good enough that I'm absolutely bored to tears, and that translates to wanting to eat all the time.

So there is this constant battle going on. I've lost some weight in the last few months and want to keep going in that positive direction. But being around the house means I'm constantly thinking about what I can eat and spending way too much time looking through cupboards and cabinets. I've kept them purposely bare, but people are still bringing in food. What's a girl to do? Of course will power would work. Something I seem to be pretty short on. Fortunately I don't feel like baking myself or the house would be brimming with cookies and cakes as a result of this ennui.

Life poses so many such dilemmas. And sometimes you just can't win.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hospitals


After writing my blog the other day about "things I've learned" I began to think about some of the things I'll remember from my stay at Southampton Hospital. The last time I'd been overnight in a hospital was when I had my youngest son, who's 24-years-old now, so this was a reminder of those days, with some surprising differences. Here are some of the things I learned about hospitals:

1. Every cart that rolls up and down the hallways has squeaky wheels. I don't know if that's some sort of requirement, but it definitely is true - and it's especially noticeable at night!

2. Hospital food is not gourmet, but when you're hungry it's not bad! And it is surely better than it was twenty years ago, at least at Southampton! A pleasant surprise: the ice cream comes still frozen!

3. There's not enough space in a hospital room for flowers. Once the window sill is full, where can you put them? And if your bed is the one by the door then you can't see the flowers on the window sill. Flowers are so cheery and so nice to have that I think they ought to add shelves to the walls across from the beds to accommodate them.

4. If you can't reach your bedside table you're stuck. Ditto if you drop the TV remote or call button.

5. Nurses and nurses aides are angels on earth.

6. The funniest things happen when it's painful to laugh.

7. Having veins that are hard to find is a terrible thing.

8. The bathroom in the hospital is not made for more than one person to stand in so if you need help you'd better not be claustrophobic.

All in all my hospital experience was really wonderful. Not that I would wish a hospital stay on anyone else, but Southampton was a great place to be! I'd never go anywhere but Southampton if I could avoid it! So as amusing as some things are when you're in an environment like a hospital, in the grand scheme of things I had a very positive experience. Now if only it were in East Hampton instead of Southampton, that would be nice...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Nurseries


The nurseries are beautiful right now. I love it when they come to life in the spring - the empty shelves and benches that fill the outdoor spaces suddenly bursting with color as the staff puts out petunias and daffodils. Blue, yellow, and purple are everywhere and when you drive by in the car it immediately catches your eye. So beautiful.

Soon enough there'll be flats of perennials filling those shelves, and geraniums will be hanging from every available hook and crossbar. There'll be reds and purples, yellows and greens, oranges and pinks of every hue. And as happens every year, I'll be drawn in from the road where I'll giddily fill my car with all kinds of plant material to bring home and fill my empty pots with. It will go a long way in brightening up our sleepy winter deck. I think its safe to put the snow blower away now...

I've always thought it would be nice to work in a nursery, where there is constant re-birth and the colors of life are everywhere. Never more so than right now, in the heart of April.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rain


We've had more than our share of April showers so far and I for one am tired of the rain. I don't usually mind a little rain - I love the sound of it on the windows and roof, and I like watching it from the comfort of my living room as it bathes everything in it's shimmer - but enough is enough. At this time of year we're ready to get outside and enjoy some sunshine, so day after day of this is not fun.

That said, my outdoor flower pots look wonderful and I haven't had to touch them at all to keep them happy. Once August comes along they wilt and turn brown and pretty much give up completely as the heat and dryness takes over. All my efforts to water then and keep them are useless at some point. But right now they are happy campers sitting there on my deck with their daily dose of water. All my bulbs have pretty much come out, except for the irises which will still be another few weeks, and the garden is surely coming to life after its long winter rest.

So fine - we need the rain. April showers and all that, I get it! But enough already. It's been two weeks of more rain than sun and I'm done. I'm channeling the Beatles now and singing with longing "Here comes the sun..."

Monday, April 6, 2009

Slower days

It's difficult for someone like me to adjust to a slower lifestyle, however temporary. I'm used to having so much freedom that I generally leave my house at 9am and spend the morning hours running from one place to another, attending meetings, signing checks, checking mailboxes, and running ambulance calls. I'm a busy person by nature - I enjoy having things to do and I thrive on "projects". So this recuperation phase is not fun for me.

But - here are some of the things I've learned in the past two weeks:

1. There's only so much television that one can watch before it begins to feel like Chinese torture.
2. Reading is a nice idea but when your body is healing you tend to fall asleep easily and progress is very slow.

3. Knitting - ditto

4. Company is a wonderful thing - it makes the hours move more quickly and makes one feel "human" to have conversations with real people. However, in excess it can be a drag.

5. Food tastes better when someone else prepares it.

6. Sleep is a gift and when its hard to come by the nights are very long.

7. Life is worth the effort.

When I was preparing for my surgery they told me to expect 6 to 8 weeks for recovery. However, one week after my surgery the doctor said I was doing so well that I should be back to normal much sooner than that - what a relief! I figure with two-and-a-half weeks down I'm more than halfway there.

I'm anxious to become a contributing member of society again. The sooner the better...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday


I love Easter week. I love the celebrations of Palm Sunday and the various remembrances we go through over Holy Week, commemorating the journey that Christ took to the cross. And today, of course, is Palm Sunday.

When I was growing up, Palm Sunday meant church first, with traditional palms to bring home and form into little crosses, and then usually something special for family "dinner" when church was over. Mom would make a ham or a lamb roast (turkey was for Easter Sunday) and there was always a nice dessert. She made sure that it was a "special" day but not one that would overshadowed the big celebration that was to come - Easter Sunday. Mom loved Easter week too and we always fully participated. She often took us to the community Good Friday service that was held at St. Luke's every year and she made sure we knew what it was all about.

Mostly I love the music of this season. Next to Christmas it's surely the most beautiful time of year in terms of church music and I very much miss pieces like "The Palms" and "The Holy City" if they're not part of the yearly celebration - which they often aren't anymore. They seem to have lost favor in recent years but I always hope to hear them nevertheless. What I especially love about the music is the way it mimics the story - joyful for the entrance to Jerusalem when crowds lay palms on the road, then mournful as the week progresses, with the most introspective and sorrowful on Good Friday, and then celebratory on Easter Sunday as we mark the resurrection. It beautifully carries us along on the emotional journey to the cross and beyond.

So here we are at the beginning of a week of commemoration and celebration. I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Progress


I just took the time to look back over the past few weeks of blog entries and read through some of the things I was experiencing and thinking only a few short days ago. When I realize that one week ago I was still unable to pull myself up to a sitting position without assistance or lie comfortably in any position, I'm amazed at my progress is such a short time. Today I'm sleeping comfortably in my own bed, walking up and down the stairs easily, have not taken any pain killers in a long time, and am generally feeling like my old self again. If I weren't tiring so easily I would tend to forget that two weeks ago I was undergoing hours and hours of surgery. Is the human body not an amazing thing?

Right now I'm in awe of how amazing our bodies are and how intricately they work to keep us whole and healthy. I've always had a love/hate relationship with mine, wishing it could be slimmer and shapelier, hating the constant battle to keep weight off. But honestly, seeing how it's healing, and appreciating all that I can do with it now that I'm getting well - I think I'm humbled by one of God's most amazing creations. And if I have an ache or a pain here or there, I'm certainly not complaining...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring

Tuesday last dawned bright and warm and I couldn't wait to get outside and enjoy an early taste of Spring. Since most my energy is focused in the morning I knew I needed to grab the opportunity while I could - afternoons often find me napping on the couch during these days of recuperation. So I decided to stretch myself a little and push my limits by walking up into the village. I needed to pick up some goodies for the kids for Easter so I figured I'd stop in my favorite shop on Newtown, Steph's Stuff, and then wander down to Village Hall to check my mailbox and see if there's anything I need to poke my nose into there. So off I went.

I didn't dare push too hard so I slowly meandered up the Hook Mill hill and casually worked my way along Newtown to Steph's. Of course I was able to get a good look at the way things are shaping up around the village along the way and it was nice to see signs of sprucing up everywhere from public properties to private yards. Even the air smelled fresh and clean and there was no doubt that winter is behind us now. (Even the swans in Town Pond know that - their new nest is complete and will soon have a nice little snatch of eggs in it, if it doesn't already.)

The saddest sight around the village now is the empty storefronts, which is something I don't ever remember seeing in my lifetime - at least not in these numbers. There're so many with paper-covered windows and signs announcing that they won't be back, it's more than a little distressing.

As someone who grew up here I wouldn't mind a return to the days of little "mom & pop" stores along Main and Newtown and if this were to mark the beginning of a trend in that direction I wouldn't be sorry. But I'm afraid we can never go back to that simpler time and therefore this is a sad commentary on the state of our present economy. I've no idea where we'll be in another year - hopefully in a better place than we are right now - but I know things have changed in East Hampton and may never be the same again. The community is different in so many ways that the idyllic life of the late 1950s may never be again. But the need to lean on each other and take advantage of the strengths we have as a community is not a bad thing.

Spring is here and there is renewal and hope in the air. What a good thing.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Flowers

I love getting fresh flowers and this past two weeks have been a real joy for me as bouquet after bouquet have been sent to me first at the hospital and now here at home. Hydrangeas and tulips, roses and sweet peas, zinnias and African violets - I'm loving them all!

But funerals seem to have ruined some flowers for me. This week I received a beautiful bouquet of all white flowers that included a couple stalks of lilies and the scent is so overwhelming. They're beautiful to look at and they fill out a vase so nicely, but the minute I walk in the door of the house I'm transported to the local funeral home in my head. It's a smell that's just so associated with a specific place that I can't get beyond it.

Gladiolas have a similar effect but in their case its a visual thing. Just looking at those tall, heavy stalks puts me right at the cemetery, or sitting at a funeral in a local church. They're so distinctive and always, always used in funeral arrangements - so the association has ruined them for me and I'd never buy them to be used at home.

My mother, on the other hand, never had such negative vibes about flowers. She loved them all, and lilies and gladiolas were actually at the top of her list. She especially liked the large, showy flowers and they both filled the bill.

It's interesting how we make certain associations in life, whether it's sight or sound or scent - a song or a color can send us to nostalgic places like nothing else can. And those white lilies - as pretty as they are - just seem to be driving me crazy. I love having fresh flowers in the house - but I'm tempted to go throw those in the garbage. I just can't do it because I know my mother would hate that. And they are very pretty to look at...I'm going to work on channeling my mother!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fools


I'm not sure what the origin of April Fool's Day is but I think it's a fun day as long as things don't get out of hand. My husband has always been a pretty easy mark for a little April Foolery and when the kids were little we'd get him every year by pulling off some simple little deception. Year after year... and he never caught on. I suppose that says more about his trusting nature than anything else -but it sure was fun for us!

I had to submit a report for a church meeting tonight and I was incredibly tempted to so something outrageous - a totally false report about activities my particular committee was supposedly doing - but I thought better of it in the end. Not everyone thinks such things are funny and I didn't want to get anyone (who might not be able to easily see through the ruse) upset. But what a fun trick that would have been to pull off. Once they were buzzing about all the silly things we were reportedly doing the real report could be distributed.

I also considered writing a blog today that would announce something absurd like a pending divorce or a move away from East Hampton, or some other ridiculous thing that anyone who knows me well enough would know an impossibility...but then...I remembered Orson Wells' radio show "War of the Worlds" and again decided to enjoy the joke for myself rather then inflict it on anyone else.

So there you go - a simple blog entry with no April Fool's joke, and no one for me to inflict my fun-loving nature on. Being stuck at home in recovery is such a drag...