Friday, July 31, 2009

Online

I had to take an online class this week for my continuing medical education. In order to keep my Emergency Medical Technician certification current I'm required to take hours of classes over every three year period, submit them for the county and state's approval, and then start all over for the next time. I've been working the past three years to submit papers to update my current certiciation which will run out October 31st. After taking all the hours of courses (more than were required!), doing the practical exams, putting all the paperwork in order and sending it off I received a phone call from someone in the Suffolk County EMS office saying they were disallowing one of the courses and I would need to re-take it. The good news was I could do it online. The bad news was I could do it online.

Here's the thing about online courses: they're great in theory and can save lots of time in travel and aggravation (as opposed to sitting in a classroom). However, depending on how the course is delivered it can be a frustrating experience. I've taken online courses that saved me time because I could zip through them pretty quickly or even take a challenge test and get my certificate without even sitting though the course. I LOVE that! However, this particular website was not so great. It was a verbally delivered course as opposed to a visual one, so I could not fly through the pages, skipping the parts I knew well enough. I had to listen to every word spoken lest I miss something I needed. Also, there was no challenge test so I had to wait it out until the bitter end to take the test, which I did. I got a perfect score by the way - it's not like I've never heard this stuff before, right? After all, I've been an EMT since 1991.

But the worst part of this course was that they made me take a survey at the end before I could get my certificate printed out. I answered all the questions as quickly as I could and pushed "print", grabbed my certificate from the printer and FAXed off to the EMS office in Hauppauge. Now, hopefully, I'll be receiving my new EMT card in the mail in a few weeks and for another three years at least will be able to treat patients.

Sometimes I resent the hoops they make us jump through. I mean, I understand that there has to be a certain level of care and we need to make sure care-givers meet some standards. But honestly, how many times do I need to learn about "weapons of mass-destruction" in order to help the elderly lady down the street who fell and broke her hip? It's a strange, strange world we live in...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Such a pretty face!


All the talk about metracal and my obsession with being "thin" brings on another topic that always seems to pop up in my life. I recently read with interest an article in the NY Times magazine section written by their food critic, chronicling his life growing up hungry and overweight. Not poor, mind you - there was always plenty of food around - but he was always hungry. I thought I was the only person in the world who grew up feeling that way. It was enlightening to see I was not alone.

From the time he (like me) was very small, he was chubby. When he was a teen-ager he had all the self-loathing and esteem issues that go with not being as slim as everyone else your age. And like me, he never dated in high school and denied himself many wonderful experiences because of his own hang-ups about how he looked. It was like reading my autobiography. Unlike me, he resorted to bulimia by the time he was in college and went on to suffer from various eating disorders. Fortunately I never succumbed.

The question that arose when I was reading his story was this: what is the reason people like me grow up chubby and hungry? Surely babies don't eat when they're not hungry. So why are some more hungry than others? Why was it that I wanted more food at every meal than my sisters or brother did? And why was it that every diet only made matters worse?

The one thing he didn't mention when he was relating all the ways people made him loathe his body was the one that still resonates with me today: "You have such a pretty face!" I suppose because he was male that wouldn't be something someone would say to him, but for girls like me that was the most common soul-crusher. I'm sure people who utter it think it's a compliment, but all the recipient hears is the unspoken completion of that sentence: "...too bad the rest of you is so ugly!" Because we know that if it were being said to a thin girl it would simply be "You're so pretty!" It was one of those back-handed compliments that negated itself with the completion of the thought - and always left me feeling worse than I would have if they'd said nothing at all.

After reading this article in Sunday's Times I've been thinking about how those years shaped the way I've come to think about myself. You might think that being a chubby child is easier than being a slim child who becomes a chubby adult, but I think not. Those early years are when we develop our self-image. And for the rest of my life I'll look in the mirror and say to myself "Too bad the rest of you is so ugly!". Isn't it interesting how we set our lives before us and never stray far from that early path?

Fascinating stuff, all of it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Metrecal and Isagenix

Last Sunday my husband and I were watching an old movie on Turner Classics called "Boys Night Out" with James Garner and Kim Novak. The plot isn't important here - what caught my attention was the mention of something called "metrecal". We both laughed at the reference and I immediately went into nostalgic reminiscences about my mother and her metrecal supplements. She was always on metracal when I was a kid! From there my mind went to the numerous emails I've received recently informing me of the wonderful diet supplement called "isagenix", detailing its wonderful benefits and how it could change my life for the better. As they say, the more things change the more they remain the same.

It seems as though we haven't progressed very far since the 1960s when women everywhere were giving up breakfasts and lunches for their chocolate and vanilla metrecal drinks. I remember seeing a huge display of it at the local grocery store and hearing all its benefits on the television ads. (I seem to remember it also came in a "cookie" which I tried once. It tasted like a dog biscuit.) It promised a simple, easy way to slim down easily and quickly while getting all your necessary nutrition in this simple little drink. Interestingly this is the same sales pitch made today, only now they tend to appeal to our "sensible" selves by promising to get rid of the toxins in our bodies from all the terrible things we've fed it for so many years along with a simple, easy way to slim down, by exchanging meals for drinks. Wow.

There are so many things that come to mind, from the fact that we're so overly blessed here in this country that we need to give up meals to lose weight to the need to appeal to our desire to look like the models we see in the magazines wherever we look - all of them computer enhanced or quite anoretic. Too many issues to discuss here but surely fodder for another blog on another day.

For the moment I just want to revel in the memories of my mother shaking her little cans of chocolate metrecal, and the thick dark liquid that promised her perfection. Such dreams that we're all made of and so few of us ever find...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New lease


I feel as though I've been given a new lease on life. I'm done with chemo, the side effects are waning, my energy is back, and life is good. I'm so grateful for this new lease on life I feel as though I can do anything and everything! Watch out world-here I come!

It's interesting how sudden life changes make us re-evaluate our priorities and put things in order. I've always dreamed of writing a book and I think this is the year I may actually do it. I need to organize my work space, discipline myself to spend specific hours writing every day, and actually get a book written. I started a book a few years ago - a thriller set in East Hampton. It wasn't called East Hampton of course - it was a fictional town on the East End of Long Island, much like Amity was in "Jaws". But anyone would recognize it as East Hampton. I wrote quite a bit of it and I think it wasn't bad, although it needed lots of work. I still would need to flesh out the characters and add details to make it flow...but still....I could get back to work on that novel. Or maybe I'll write about this past year and the experience of going through breast cancer. I've taken plenty of notes...but I'm not sure that's the story I want to tell right now. I guess the problem is I have to figure out where to start. I need a topic and a genre and I need to start writing.

Just a few details to handle before I get going...but I have the rest of my life ahead of me, right???

Monday, July 27, 2009

LVIS Fair

Since I was quite young I've spent one day every July volunteering at the LVIS (Ladies Village Improvement Society) Fair. In my early years I did things like hooking small gifts onto the ends of fishing poles that small children put over a wall for a prize, or serving soda at the food booth. Over time I've baked dozens of cakes for the cake booth and helped take tons of money in at the children's area, but in these past fifteen glorious years I've been lucky enough to be counting money - upstairs, sitting in a chair, in an air conditioned room! The very best job of all.

I love the LVIS - it's one of the best institutions we have here in East Hampton. But many people are surprised to hear that I've never joined. So here's why: Back in 1985, after my fourth child was born and I'd been home (pretty much exclusively except for some part-time jobs) raising my children for ten years, I decided it was time to get out of the house and began to explore the idea of volunteering with a local non-profit, where I could decide my own hours and level of commitment. The LVIS was a strong contender and at the end of my thought process it was down to two: the LVIS and the East Hampton Historical Society. Both institutions were more than worthy, but I'm the type of person who throws myself into all projects with abandon and I knew I couldn't find time to do both. So it was that I decided the Historical Society needed me the most. It wasn't as glamorous or "high profile" as the LVIS and there was no waiting list to join. I didn't need a sponsor and I didn't need to "prove myself" to get voted in. All I needed to do was walk in the door and they welcomed me with open arms. Thus began my long association with them that continues to this day. I've never regretted that decision and enjoy working with both the men and women on that board and staff. I love the history of East Hampton and being immersed in it from time to time is a great way to expend my volunteer energy.

But - the LVIS still has a place in my heart. So last Saturday I was up in that room counting money with the rest of the volunteers, happily giving my time to a worthy group of ladies and contributing to their causes. My hat is off to all of them!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The View



You can tell I've been home on the couch recouperating all week because all I have in my head right now is television. Another thing I love to watch on TV is The View. There's something quite compelling about those ladies sitting around the table laughing, arguing, teasing and prodding. It's like what my mother used to call a "coffee klatch" (and I have no idea how that should be spelled - but that's what she used to call it!). I remember going with her to a friend's house where she and her girlfriends would sit around the table with coffee and coffee cake and talk while their children played together. It was no doubt a lifeline for those 1950s mothers who had little interaction with other women during the week, all of them at home with their children because that's the way it was then.

I have no desire to return to the 50s with all the restrictions that were placed on women - one episode of "Mad Men" is enough to convince me of that - in spite the fact that I chose to be a stay-at-home mom. Because for me it was a choice - for them it was a a dictate. I do miss the chance to sit and chew the fat with the ladies like they do on The View - and that doesn't happen too often anymore. No more coffee klaches for us! We're too busy working and vounteering and taking care of families. But women are so good at connecting on a very emotional level that their support is invaluable at any time, as I've discovered more then ever this year.

I've been thinking about who I'd put around my table if I were to recreate the forum in my own house. On The View they purposefully chose different ages and political views to round out their table, which makes for interesting discussions. We tend to keep people around us who think the way we do, so opposing views are not always readily available. And in my house at least I can get those from my husband. So I'm thinking I might just as soon keep the opposition to a minimum. Then again, it can be good to learn the other side of every issue, especially when seeking a world view of things.

Maybe I'll just apply for a job with Barbara Walters. I think I could hold my own with those ladies pretty well!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Regis

I have a guilty pleasure. Well, more than one really, but today I'm talking about Regis Philbin.

Years ago - many now - I was staying at home with my first baby and began watching daytime television. The first show that I tuned in to regularly was a local NY offering called "The Morning Show" with Judy Licht and some guy I can't remember. One Monday morning I was disappointed to see that they'd replaced those hosts with two new people - Regis Philbin and Cindi Garvey (whose husband played for the LA Dodgers). They'd been imported from Los Angeles to infuse some life into this local show, apparently. I was skeptical at first but it wasn't long before I was hooked, mostly because Regis Philbin became one of my favorite people. He was someone you could relate to - like the crazy uncle everyone wants at their party - irreverent, funny, sarcastic, loud, and totally lovable. He had my father's sense of humor without the nasty bite. A big teddy bear with a quick wit and funny way about him. I've been watching him ever since - over thirty years now.

Regis has had his share of co-hosts through the years and every time one left, to get married or move on or for whatever reason, I worried that it might be the end of the show. But it turned out that it was Regis who was the show and as long as he was onscreen, all was well. Every day he makes me laugh out loud as he bumbles his way through life, the real "everyman" that we all identify with. I adore him. I want him in my family. Since I see him every day he practically is...

For years when the kids were in school I was off at work when the show was on so I'd videotape it every day to watch when I got home. Now, with my handy DVR, I have the machine set to record it whenever it's on and catch up on missed episodes anytime I want.

My biggest fear is that Regis will retire. After all, he's in his seventies now and surely deserves to rest on his laurels! Thankfully he seems to love what he does and shows no signs of slowing down. Perhaps that's thanks to his "sainted mother" (as he calls her), who told him that "the poor house is right around the corner". Whatever the reason I'm so glad he's still coming into my home every day to share his life, make me laugh, and spread the joy of his everyday adventures. He makes me remember that life is about living - and seeing the humor in everything. Thanks Regis! I love having you visit every day!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mr. Cronkite

I think part of my reminiscing this week about the summer of 1969 has been prompted by the death of Walter Cronkite last weekend. Surely there was no stronger figure in our lives in those years that the person who brought every important bit of news into our homes every night. He was the one who talked us through the Kennedy assassination and funeral, the lunar landing, the Kent State shooting, and every other big news story of the day. He was part of my childhood and seemed to stand for integrity in the media in a way that has pretty much disappeared in the past twenty years.

How interesting was it to grow up in an era where the news came into our homes only twice a day - at 7 and 11pm. With it we heard body counts from Viet Nam and saw footage of the war, as well as bits about what other important things were happening in the world. There was no time for silly fluff pieces about celebrities and silly people doing ridiculous things like we see now. With 24/7 coverage the news channels are grabbing the most inane items and presenting them as something we should know about. Most of it I could surely live without.

Much of my world view was shaped by what I saw on the television - mine was the original TV generation. And Walter Cronkite was very much part of how those of us in our 50s and 60s will forever look at life. I'm glad he lived a long and happy life with his wife of over 60 years. He deserved that.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Forty years?



The newspapers have been full of articles on all the anniversaries being celebrated in this, the summer of 2009. It seems that 1969 was quite a year! Most notable among them are the landing on the moon which was this week, and Woodstock, which is in August. But come on - forty years? Impossible!

In the summer of 1969 I was preparing to enter my senior year of high school. I was working at a women's clothing store on Main Street in Southampton and hitching a ride back and forth with an older friend (she was all of twenty) who worked at the New York Telephone Company (remember that?) on Windmill Lane. On one of our trips she mentioned that she'd seen mention in Time magazine of a rock festival in Woodstock and would I like to go with her. We talked about it a couple times as we rode back and forth to work and at the end of the day, for reasons I can't remember, we decided against the weekend trip. Probably because we loved our weekends here in East Hampton in August and who wanted to leave? The rest is history and that's the closest I came to it.

I remember the summer of '69 as one of my most carefree and wonderful ones. I was seventeen and the world was my oyster. And when I see the little mentions every day in the paper about what was happening in the world that summer, all I can think of is how great it was to be young then. It was a different world for us - one our children will never understand - between Viet Nam and the space age and the women's movement - well it was an amazing time.

But forty years ago? Oy vey!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Baking

People who know me are more than aware of the fact that I love to bake. I bake whenever the spirit moves me, sometimes because I'm entertaining but just as often because I simply feel like it. I don't know for sure whether its the process or the product that I'm most fond of because I surely enjoy both. And whenever the opportunity arises I'm the first to raise my hand and offer a cake, or cookies, or even a pie for whatever event is on the horizon.

I think it has to do with growing up in a baking household. From the time I was very young I was fortunate enough to be exposed to all types of baking and cooking. Both my grandmothers were wonderful bakers - one made the most glorious bread and the other the most delicious cake-like molasses cookies that ever met a glass of milk. (I have the recipe for them but have never managed to produce even a sad substitute for what she made.) Even the thought of it now brings back the smell and taste of those amazing brown beauties. What I wouldn't give for a couple of those right this minute! And nothing compares to the aroma of freshly baked bread - yum! Of course, there is the whole food/love connection no doubt. (Another clue to my own issues!)

My mother was famous around town for her baking - she could bake circles around most women and her pies are still talked about for the flakiest crusts imaginable. She surely had a touch in the kitchen and from the time I was old enough to use the mixer I followed her every move there. I learned from masters!

So its not surprising that I love to bake and many of their recipes fill my cookbooks. I have racks of cookbooks. Some I've never even used other than to sit and read through them from start to finish. I'm a "simple" cook and like things that have few ingredients and easy instructions so some cookbooks are just too complicated for me. But I love reading the recipes and looking at the beautiful photos. The fact that I love to eat and have an insatiable sweet tooth only adds to the mix and helps explain my life-long struggle with weight. How I must deprive myself to keep from becoming a total blimp! It's one of the sadnesses of my life that I wasn't born with a metabolism like my husband's, who can eat his way through an entire batch of chocolate chip cookies with nary an ounce of gain on his trim frame. Whereas I might as well apply things directly to my hips. But then that would be no fun at all.

Regardless of how it all came about, I'm very much a baker at heart and love the fact that people seem to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Nothing thrills my soul quite like a friend saying "Could you make dessert? You're so good at that!"

Just music to my ears.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Night

For some reason, the night after a chemo treatment I can't sleep. It's now 2:30am and I'm down at the computer, getting ready to pay bills and listening to the rain fall. It's peaceful and quiet at this hour and I don't mind being up. Except there is nothing worth watching on TV other than ads for things like "Girls Gone Wild" video tapes and ads for kitchen equipment I really don't need.

I don't know why I can never sleep the night after I've had a treatment, but I suppose it should not be a surprise - they put so much stuff in that 3-hour IV - 2 types of chemo drugs, a steroid, and anti-nausea medication - and something has me hyped up like a caffeine overload. I'll crash tomorrow night for sure.

The quiet of the house in the middle of the night is good for thinking. No phone ringing and no one stopping by to interrupt my train of thought. So I'm here contentedly thinking about what a year this has been and how fortunate I am to be alive. Just today I saw an obituary for a woman younger than I who'd been diagnosed with cancer less than a month ago. I'm one of the lucky ones, no doubt about it. I did nothing to deserve that but then life is funny that way. The Bible says it "rains on the just and the unjust" which pretty much means life can be - and is - hard for all of us at times. And none of us really get what we deserve, do we? We're blessed with so many things we didn't earn - we're all just very lucky. Or, as I believe, there are bigger forces at work out there than we can understand.

Like I said, the middle of the night is a time for deep thoughts. I think I better go finish paying my bills....

Monday, July 20, 2009

Graduation


Today is graduation day. I'm having what I hope will be my final chemotherapy treatment - forever. It's a very good day.

I fully realize that many people suffer more months of chemo than I have - I've seen many of them on my visits to the oncologist's office. And I also know that people can suffer worse side-effects than I have, because I've talked to some of them. But at the moment I'm totally and selfishly focusing on myself and could not be any happier to be moving on to the next phase of my treatment plan: follow-up visits and maintenance medication along with yearly, alternating mammograms and MRIs. I can never again have the kind of stand-off relationship with the hospital that I had for so many years. Instead, I'll be a regular customer. I won't be putting off check-ups like I could in the past. I'll be faithfully keeping up with every check-up and test because I realize how important early intervention is. I'm not an innocent anymore - I'm a veteran of the medical wars. And there's no going back.

Today marks the end of one of the most difficult aspects of the fight against cancer - the rather barbaric practice of injecting various poisons into our bodies to kill off our cells, those things that are the very essence of life. Its a strange world we live it! But the key word is "live" and I think I have more of that left to do. Happy graduation to me! For today at least, its all really, really good...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pets


We always had a pet when I was growing up. In fact, I don't remember my house ever being without a dog (always boxers!), with the exception of the few months between the time one would leave this earth and another would replace it. I loved my dogs and thought I would always have one. Until I grew up and discovered how much work they were.

In the early years of my marriage I was so busy with diapers and other messes that the idea of introducing another live and incontinent creature into my life was a no-brainer. I just didn't have the patience for it - especially a puppy. And by that time I realized how much work it had been for my mother all those years, a fact which had totally eluded me back then. So we went for quite a while without a pet. When I naively thought I was ready to take on the "pet challenge" we headed to ARF to find a housebroken dog. After touring their various sites to see what was available, the children insisted we take home the small collie/shepherd mix and they named him Ace after a dog they'd seen on Sesame Street. Thus began my week of hell. This cute dog, who had a nice personality and was great with the kids, was NOT housebroken as promised. Every morning I'd come downstairs to huge piles of excrement all over my living room and kitchen. These were not puppy messes! The smell would last for hours and every day started with the task of cleaning up and disposing of much worse than I'd ever cleaned up from one of my kids. I took it as long as I could, doing all the things I'd seen my mother do years ago to acclimate this new family member to the house and asking advice from those that knew about such things, and then we made the difficult decision to make Ace an "outdoor" pet. We bought him an insulated dog house, filled it with blankets and other goodies, and he moved to the back yard.

We had Ace for about seven or eight years. He was a crazy dog, tunneling through our backyard until it was like a minefield. But we all liked him and he seemed content enough to be outdoors, which is where he was living when we first saw him, in an outdoor pen at the shelter. I knew he was better off with us than in that 10x8 cage at the very least! For a long time we had him on a long run which was attached to the house at one end and a pole at the other, the farthest reaches of the yard. He had plenty of room to run and the kids could play with him there. He eventually began to show his age though and we began to let him roam free because he was slowing down considerably and never left the yard. Then one day he wandered off and never returned. I suspect he was ill and went into the wooded acres behind our house to die. We did some extensive searches but eventually realized he wasn't coming home. In any case, I had no desire at that point to start over.

From then on we had a number of birds come into the house because my son was a real animal lover and I had a hard time saying "no" to him when he begged, but its been years now since we've had a pet here. (With the exception of the hamster who came as a visitor with my granddaughter just last month!) I've decided I'm just too lazy for pets. I became accustomed to not having to watch where I stepped in the yard and not worrying about rats being attreacted to the dog's dish. After so many years of picking up after my family and longing for order and simplicity in my life, my animal years are past. I'm sticking with human housemates from now on - the kind that can pick up their own clothes and throw them in the washing machine every once in awhile. And hopefully still give me a little love in return....

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dinner

The other night we had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant in Hampton Bays. We picked up some good friends and made the nice long drive all the way over the Ponquoque Bridge and onto Dune Road where we met up with more friends to enjoy dinner on the open deck of a restaurant there. It was like a little vacation - so close to home and yet a world away.

The evening was perfect - sunny but not sweltering, with clear blue skies - and we sat looking through the tall masts of ships docked at the marina, gazing across the water toward the canal. The mood was jovial and it was clear that most those around us were on vacation, dressed in their shorts and souvenir sweatshirts. I felt as though I'd been plucked out of East Hampton and set down in any other resort community in the world. I was in heaven.

All that combined with good conversation and people I like, well, it just doesn't get any better. It was a perfect night.

Sometimes we (at least I) get so caught up in whatever is happening in our lives we forget that we live in such a beautiful place here on the eastern end of Long Island. We go about our daily business, passing stunning vistas of water and open space but barely noticing them because they're so much a part of our everyday lives. But every so often we have moments of great clarity when we're faced with the stunning beauty around us, forced to take a deep breath and just appreciate it. Tuesday was just such a night. As the sun set below the horizon turning the western sky a beautiful coral red, I looked across the water and thought "I'm so glad I live here."
And so I am.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Micah



Yesterday was my grandson's 7th birthday. They celebrated by taking him to see the latest Harry Potter movie and we'll get together as a family this weekend to give him gifts and sing "Happy Birthday". I really can't believe I have two grandchildren now who are going into the second grade!

Micah's such a treasure to me because he's so totally different from any of my own children. Where mine were loud and impulsive, Micah is soft-spoken and contemplative. He is his father's son in most every way - at least personality wise - and it's fun to sit back and observe this boy as he grows into such a sweet young man. And it makes me realize that no matter how old we get, we still have so much to learn.

I remember when my youngest son was born - he was my forth and by that time I thought I had this whole motherhood thing down pat. My children pretty well fell into line, all the child-rearing books I'd read seemed to be working, and I figured we could handle just about anything when it came to child-rearing. I think God wanted to teach me a lesson in humility with number four because that one totally took me down a peg or two! Anything that worked with my others failed with him. He had as strong a will as any child I've ever met and challenged me on every level - at least in his early years. (He did mellow as he got older!) It was good for me to learn I wasn't as smart as I thought I was! Fortunately, my children all turned out pretty well despite my bumbling efforts all those years ago. And number four is as sensitive and kind a man as I could possibly want. What was I so worried about?

The great thing about raising kids is that they end up raising us as much as we do them. From a naive twenty-three-year-old girl came a more savvy grandmother who looks at these amazing grandchildren and prays every day for their parents. Because I know what challenges lay ahead and realize that none of us knows what we're getting into!

And my Micah - well I just can't wait to see how he turns out because the beginning is so promising!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Golf

There are any number of sporting events that make for great television, and I've been fortunate enough to watch some of them. The Miracle on Ice comes to mind, along with Joe Namath and the Jets winning the Super Bowl, and the Mets winning the World Series in 1969. Some sports lend themselves well to TV - most notably the Olympics. You don't need to be a practitioner to appreciate them on the screen. And then there's golf.

My husband is an excellent golfer. So they tell me anyway - I've never actually watched him play. Golf is not generally a spectator sport so it's difficult to judge such things if you don't play yourself. But I've heard it from enough people to know it must be true. I've heard tell of his "natural" swing and his cool temperament. And I've watched my sons grow into manhood while working hard to beat their father's scores (and I cheer for them to do so every time the opportunity arises). I love for him to play golf and wish he spent more time on the golf course.

But here's the things about golf: it makes lousy television. I'm sure if you love the game, and play it regularly, it's fun to watch someone else play. But for the average, non-golf playing person it's boring beyond belief. There's no action, little excitement, and it's complicated by terms that are indecipherable to the average layman. Terms like "bogey" (I thought that was a plane in a WWII film), and "birdie" (are there feathers involved here?), "par" and "lie". I thought feeling "under par" was a bad thing but somehow being "under par" in golf is good? I don't know - it often sounds like English but when put into sentences makes no sense at all. For instance, what does "If he bogeys he'll be three over par" mean? I have no idea.

Then there are the announcers. For some unknown reason they whisper into their microphones, as though trying to evoke some sort of quiet on the course, which is ridiculous since they're watching TV monitors and aren't ll that close to the action. Their dialog is a low, sleep-inducting drone I find annoying.

Sunday afternoons are among the most boring days of the week at my house. Because there's golf on the television and not much excitement can be whipped up for anything else. I long for the days that I could easily lure my husband away with the promise of some afternoon delight, but alas, either he's no longer interested or I've just lost my allure. Probably both. I've been reduced to Sunday afternoon naps...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Perspective

We wondered how the economy would effect the crowds out here in East Hampton this summer and now that we're well into July I think I can safely say that we know the answer: it hasn't. Oh I suppose there are houses that haven't been rented and I'm sure there are others with "For Sale" signs on the front yards as a direct result of financial fortunes but from the looks of things around town you would certainly not call this a slow year here! The roads are as crowded as they've ever been and the sidewalks are plenty busy on weekends. There are more than enough people here right now.

The thing I find most amusing about the summer crowds is that the people who seem most annoyed by them are not the born and bred locals who've been dealing with this their entire lives and who rightfully claim more ownership to the streets and sidewalks than anyone, but rather its the "johnny-come-lately"s who raise the loudest cry. They seem to have far less patience and are much more aggressive in their annoyance than anyone. It reminds me of a friend who relayed the following conversation had at a cocktail party one summer a few years ago:

Lady: "Oh the crowds are horrible. We must do something about all these people out here! Can't we stop them from coming? Before you know it there will be no farms left at all and the traffic will be unbearable!"

My friend: "Well tell me, how long have you been living out here?"

Lady (proudly!): "Over ten years now!"

Friend: "Ah - well you're part of the problem!"

I find it interesting that the most vocal among us when it comes to the cry for stricter zoning codes and more restrictive building rights are those who are newcomers to town. They don't seem to realize that the feelings they have about that big house going up near them (which is blocking their view of the nice open field) are the exact same feelings we had about their house when they built it back in 1985.

It's all about perspective.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Celebrations

July is a busy month of celebrations in my extended family. There are anniversaries and birthdays every week and it makes me think about my parents who were married on a sweltering July evening over sixty years ago. They were able to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary together in 1998 but that would be their last, and now with my mother gone there's no one to even mention it to when it comes around. I always made sure she knew that I remembered the day she was wed. And we talked about what a hot and humid day it was in Buffalo, NY as she loved to reminisce. I've seen the photos - Mom in her satin gown and Dad in his white dinner jacket. But its hard to imagine them as young and in the early stages of love and marriage. Somehow our parents are never younger than their forties in our minds and thinking they were once dewy-eyed and care-free is impossible for children everywhere.

But somehow their anniversary is the most important one to mark in the month of July. Because were it not for them, none of the others - the birthdays or the anniversaries or the people - would exist.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Unbalanced


It's occurred to me this year that I'm no longer in that "middle" space in life - the place we spend so much of our adulthood. The balance is off.

Up until my mother died two years ago, I spent over thirty years in that place, hanging precariously between childhood and adulthood, between needing to be taken care of and needing to take care of. On the one hand, I'd tell my children how things should be done and on the other I'd ask my mother how she thought I should do them. And at times when my heart was so full of love for those children that sometimes I thought it would burst, I found comfort in the knowledge that there was someone out there who felt the same way about me - someone who wanted to protect me and take care of me. There was someone I was important to. It was a wonderful, soulful place of balance, right in the middle of everything.

This first hit me back in January when I didn't have my mother to go to for a hug and a good cry. Because I agonized over how to tell my grown children that their mother had cancer, to keep them updated on what was happening, and to be the "strong" one. And I worried about siblings being told (so no one felt "left out") and about how much should be shared with friends. Yet when all that was said and done, what I wanted was to go sit in my mother's living room and ask her how I was going to survive. I hungered for her words of understanding and encouragement, and I longed to see her tears and know that she hurt for me. I needed her unconditional love to pull me through....and it wasn't there. That's when I realized I'm no longer balanced between generations, responsibilities and concerns. I'm the one who is supposed to be there for everyone else now, to show understanding, and to always have the right answers.

Not only is it lonely to be so "unbalanced", it's terrifying too. Because I know I can never be the rock that my mother was. I'll never live up to the standard that I have in my own head of that perfect, strong, wise elder of the family. I want to, but I know I can't.

It makes me sad as well, because I was never thoughtful enough to realize that maybe, just maybe, my mother had her own fears and concerns. I thought she had all the answers. She most surely did not. But she put up a really good front. She always seemed so.....balanced. And I know I've lost mine.

I miss that sense of balance. And I miss my mother...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

DVRs

Now that the family has vacated and we've returned to a more normal existence here at my house, we're catching up on some of our favorite TV shows that we've recorded. Have I mentioned that I've fallen in love with the DVR?

I remember when the first video tape capability came out - what an amazing thing that was. And now here we are in a new generation of video taping, all with the ease of a remote control - no tape, no time limit. Amazing! The ease of recording programs combined with the unending variety of channels and choices, well - it has to be a middle-aged person's nirvana. I barely have to leave the couch, I don't even have to be in the house to save all my favorite shows! Anytime "The Closer" or "Saving Grace" debuts a new episode, I can set this thing up to tape it automatically. I don't even have to check the schedule and its done. Wow.

Remembering how we progressed from 8 tracks to little cassettes in our cars, I'm expecting great things in the future for this one...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hydrangeas

Finally, my hydrangeas are blossoming. For some reason they seem very late this year, and it's not the best year for them in my garden. They don't have the normally heavy look that they do when there are so many blossoms they can barely hold themselves together. I think we'd just a little too much rain this May and June and perhaps they're still a bit waterlogged, I don't know. But regardless, I'm happy to see them coming in because I love them.

Of all the summer bushes they are by far my favorite. I know I'm not alone because the florists carry every imaginable hue in cut varieties and they can be found in most summer bouquets. To me they're almost indigenous to East Hampton, though I have no idea if they actually are. They just seem to flourish here by the seaside and every home has at least one bush somewhere within its borders. I understand they do well all over the south as well. Some of the most spectacular hedges are made up of them - in fact Martha Stewart has a beautiful hedge of white ones at her house on Lily Pond Lane. They're all beautiful, in any color, but the blues are the most striking and surely my favorite.

I've noticed that in different areas around the East End, colors change. In Noyac they tend to be deep purple, for instance. But here in East Hampton they're predominantly blue.

In my opinion, nothing says East Hampton more simply than a few big hydrangea heads arranged in a white pitcher on the kitchen table. At least that's true at my house...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ahhhh

Well the weather has turned around in East Hampton and these past two weeks have been glorious to the "n"th degree. There's little humidity, the temperature is perfect, and nights are wonderfully cool and comfortable. I'm in heaven. Except, of course, for yesterday. Today will be better, right?

It's funny how the weather can lift your spirits, send you into a depression, or help you stay centered. There's even a physical aspect to the way a low pressure system makes us feel lazy or tired. We can't control it - and in many ways it totally controls us. We make plans dependent on it and we maneuver around it, but at the end of the day it is what it is and we're totally prisoners to its whims.

I'd be very content if the summer stayed exactly the way it is right now right and on into September. I don't like to break a sweat if at all possible, and I hate wearing winter coats - so this suits me just fine. Then again, I'll be hankering for a nice, cool, crisp autumn day by the first of October, I'm sure. I do enjoy getting the heavy sweaters out. I guess I'm a person who loves dependable change. And the weather is usually pretty cooperative.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dates


It wasn't until I posted my blog entry yesterday that I realized what the date was: 7-8-9. It made me smile and wonder how rare a date that might be. I'm sure there are people out there who could answer that question and I have no doubt its been written about, although I missed any mention of it. But I imagine it's something that's a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

I always find it amusing that people plan life events around certain dates. There were those that planned weddings for 8-8-8 and some that tried to have babies born on 1-1-1, but to me they're just odd and interesting things to note - I don't think there's any magic in numbers. I don't believe in "luck" and I don't think I'd hesitate to take a room on the 13th floor of a hotel, although apparently enough people are that they fail to give any floors that number just for that reason. Weird.

Dates are just numbers on a page, a strange way we choose to mark time. But what does it all really mean? The earth moves around the sun and life continues along, regardless of what a calendar says.

But what an interesting day 7-8-9 was!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Zoftig

Seeing the photo of Marilyn Monroe on the blog the other day made me realize how our standards have changed in terms of women's bodies. If Marilyn were alive today she'd no doubt be subjected to incredible criticism for her generous proportions. It makes me wonder how we got to this point in our society. Any woman in the public eye is criticized for having less than a stick-thin body and some of our Hollywood beauties look so skeletal it's scary. What's that about, anyway?

I think it started with Twiggy. I remember as a fifteen-year-old looking at her on the cover of "Seventeen" magazine with those huge mascaraed eyes and that cute pixie haircut. She was nearly androgynous in her look, with the exception of her short little dress and heavy make-up. It was a depressing day for a young girl like me whose bones would be a size twelve if I never ate another thing in life. She was a waif of a girl and suddenly that was the ideal. How discouraging!

I should have been born in the early 1900s when it was considered a good thing to have a round and ample figure. Women were celebrated for their curves and "skinny" was not something to shoot for. Now that was an interesting time to be a woman! Of course, we couldn't vote, didn't work outside the house, and generally had a pretty mundane existence.

Some things haven't changed much. It really is a man's world, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Saying goodbye


Tomorrow I have to say goodbye to the grand kids who've been here for three weeks now. Goodbyes are always hard and so I feel blessed to only have one child that lives far enough away that we need to make weekend visits. My other three all live here in East Hampton and that's a wonderful thing. So far I have three grandchildren right here - no doubt there'll be more in time. But three are almost five hours away by car.

It's such a different experience - being with the grand kids that live here and the ones that don't. Those here are part of our everyday lives - we see them at school and sporting events, stop by for a quick five minute visit anytime we're driving by their house, and babysit when needed. The ones in Pennsylvania we don't see as often, but when we do it's intense and it's 24/7. We sit on the couch with them when they come downstairs, all dewy-eyed and warm from their beds in the morning, or we read them books at night before they go to sleep. They tag along with us when we do our errands and we follow them wherever they ask us to. Different experiences, each special and treasured.

It will be hard to say goodbye after this nice long visit. But I'm sure we'll be racing down the Jersey Turnpike in no time at all to see them again. And in the meantime, there are three precious little boys right here in East Hampton that love to see us drive in their driveway.

Monday, July 6, 2009

New York Politics

Every year I look forward to catching a showing of the wonderful movie version of the musical "1776" over the July 4th holiday, so yesterday morning we were watching it on some movie channel (TCM?) and had occasion to laugh ironically over one particular piece of dialogue. The Continental Congress was meeting in Philadelphia and debating the question of independence. John Hancock, the President of the Congress, was becoming more and more frustrated with the delegate from the state of New York whose response to every motion was always the same: "New York abstains, courteously". Finally he challenged him as to the reason every motion was met in the same manner (which inevitably resulted in a tie vote) and his answer was not only a good piece of writing, but as true today as it obviously was over three hundred years ago. He said "Have you ever been present at a meeting of the New York legislature? They speak very fast and very loud and nobody listens to anybody else, with the result that nothing ever gets done."

In light of the shenanigans that have gone on in our state legislature over the past couple weeks, this was an especially amusing exchange!

I'm not sure what exactly is going on in Albany these days - I know what I read in the papers and I know what I've been told - but it's difficult for me to believe that there isn't so much more going on behind the scenes than we realize. But really! I mean, is that what we elected these clowns for? Do they not realize how silly they look? In the spirit of 1776 I think they should all be tarred and feathered.

Then again, watching this movie where members of the Continental Congress were reduced to fisticuffs on more than one occasion makes me realize that perhaps things have not changed all that much...perhaps if only there were more women in congress...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Famous faces

Listening to newcomers talk about the celebrities they've spotted on the street here in East Hampton always makes me smile. Especially when they talk about trying to get a photo with them or ask for autographs. Because real locals would rarely if ever get excited about seeing anyone famous - it's something we've grown accustomed to over the years.

The first time I was aware of a "famous" person was back in the '50s when we were out on a Sunday drive and my father said to my mother "Look - there's Marilyn!". We all sensed a tone in his voice that was unusual so we turned and looked at the red Cadillac convertible driving across the intersection - I clearly remember the striking woman driving. She had a head scarf covering her famous blond head but couldn't hide her beautiful face and it wasn't hard to imagine that she was someone important, even for an 8-year-old observer. I'd no idea who "Marilyn" was but my parents went on to talk about how she was here renting a summer house with her husband and how stunning she was. It was only years later that I would realize how rare a glimpse of Marilyn Monroe was.

Over the years I've often crossed paths with the rich and famous on the streets - years ago they were less likely to sequester themselves in their compounds the way they do today. But my parents would never have spoken to them other than to exchange a friendly "hello" in passing - as they would to anyone. They told us that "people come here to be left alone and feel normal" and we were to pretend we didn't recognize them. I think most locals have that philosophy. Many of us have assisted them at our jobs, helping them choose a couch or making them a sandwich. More than once I've found myself in line at the IGA or other local store behind the like of Billy Joel or Chevy Chase, but other than to smile and say "hi" I've always kept my distance and acted like they were "regular" people, as I was taught.

Autograph seeking is a sure way to identify yourself as a tourist or a "come 'ere" around East Hampton. You've been warned!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Traditions

I already mentioned that July 4th was one of my favorite holidays. At my house it was a real celebration that began with the Southampton parade and ended with the fireworks at Main Beach. I guess it was about 4:00 in the afternoon that the families gathered - the Sucsys, the Cangiolosis, the Brills, and the Strongs - rotating houses every year. We had a traditional cook-out with burgers and dogs, sometimes there was music if the men brought their instruments along, and there was always a lot of fun. At about 8:45, as dusk was just settling in, we 14 kids would pile into the back of Tony's green (it was always green) pick-up truck and drive to Main Beach. We could drive right up to the head of the beach and park, usually in the large parking lot, with no problem in those days. From there we'd climb out and walk to the beach where there was plenty of room to spread out blankets. Our parents must have carpooled up - I honestly don't remember that detail - because they'd be there on our respective wool blankets as we watched. We knew everyone around us and my parents would exchange greetings with all the other parents on the sand. It was a simple display in those days - one at a time, each one savored for it's special color or shape. There was always a ground display near the end - the American flag - which brought the biggest cheer of the night. Once they were over we'd get back into the truck and head to whichever house we'd been at, sort ourselves back into families again and leave for home exhausted.

Those Forth of July picnics are among my favorite memories of growing up. Every time I attend a fireworks display now I'm reminded of those wonderful years when life was so simple and East Hampton was such a small town.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Hook Pond

One of my favorite scenes in East Hampton is the one that looks across Hook Pond from Highway Behind the Pond. As you round the corner and the pond opens up in front of you it's quite breathtaking, sometimes with incredible colors in the sky, sometimes with a swan family gliding across the water - a stunning example of the natural beauty here. We're beyond fortunate that the Maidstone Club has been such a good steward of those acres and that they keep the beautiful vistas opened for all of us to enjoy.

I've often wondered what Dunemere and Further Lanes would look like had the Club not taken ownership of all those green spaces. No doubt they'd be lined with big houses and the public view of both Hook Pond and the Atlantic would not exist at all. It's like having a public park in the middle of the village that affords us all the most gorgeous glimpses of the natural beauty that abounds there. How lucky we are that the early golf set took up residence there and they've continued to maintain it lovingly through all these one hundred plus years.

Some of our greatest treasures on the East End came to us by chance - the Town Pond, which began as a simple watering hole for livestock; the wide Main Streets which are thanks to the early settlers tradition of herding that livestock down to Montauk in the summer for grazing; and the Maidstone Club which just happened to be a nice area to place a few golf holes. There are others of course, but for the moment I'm reflecting on the gift that is the Maidstone - a golf course that people from all over the world want to play. And we can walk along its edges and stop to watch the putting greens challenge it's members any day, all year round. What a treat.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Grandma

My grandmother's birthday was in early July and I remember her saying many times that she was "two years older than the year". I didn't quite understand that when I was young but in later years I figured it out and then it helped me keep track of her age. She was born in 1898 so if it were 1970 I knew she must be 72. She was an interesting person, my grandmother. Hers was a life full of promise but she was a product of her times.

Apparently she showed tremendous talent at a very early age. I have beautiful water color paintings she did when she was only eleven. And by the time she was twelve she was an organist at a large church. She told me her piano teacher wanted her to attend a conservatory and become a concert pianist, but her parents couldn't afford it so she was never able to fully develop her abilities. I loved to hear her play.

She married when she was only seventeen or eighteen. Her father was an alcoholic and prone to violence so I'm not sure how much of that decision was based on a desire to get out of the house, but she certainly chose well: my grandfather was a sweetheart. She told me when she was pregnant she rarely left her house because in meant wearing a heavy wool cape even in the heat of the summer. Apparently women did not "show" their pregnant bellies to the world in those post-Victorian times. (I wonder what she would think of the bare pregnant bellies that are now displayed at the local beaches and gyms.)

It makes me sad to realize how many talented women lived lives that were largely unfulfilled in the years before the women's movement. So much potential was wasted. I wonder how many diseases might have been cured had there been more Madame Curies? And how many compositions might my grandmother have written had she been trained in the career her talent could have given her?

These are things I sometimes think about...especially when I remember her birthday in early July...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July

This June has been one of the wettest on record and we barely saw the sun for thirty days, so July will be a welcome relief - I hope. Surely this cannot last all summer, can it? Yikes.

I especially enjoy the first week of July, with a major holiday right off the bat. Most big holidays we have to wait all month for - like in November and December. But this one is right there, bang! And because its a national holiday that everyone celebrates there's a special quality to it as well. It's a celebration more than a remembrance, which makes it unique. My daughter brought sparklers with her from PA where you can buy them in any convenience store, so I know Saturday night will be fun for the kids. I remember looking forward to sparklers every year when we were young and they could be bought here just as easily.

We also had a July 4th tradition growing up that I'll talk about later this week, but suffice it to say it doesn't seem like the 4th unless we go to the parade in Southampton and then have a cook-out in the back yard. It's been a few years since we've braved the traffic to see the parade and I do miss it. I remember my father waiting anxiously every year for "Bill's Boys" to march down Main Street - he loved that band! Some of my earliest memories are of that parade, and the North Sea Fire Department sending everyone scurrying when their float came into view. What fun it was.

Anyway-July is finally here and I'm glad. It marks the real summer season, as well as what will be my final chemotherapy treatment. I'm so happy to see that come! By July of 2010 I'll be back to my old self again and will gladly deal with a full head of hair despite whatever humidity comes my way. Ah...the things we complain about when we are naive!