Monday, August 31, 2009

Dancing

I read a blog recently by an inspirational speaker that I've had the pleasure of hearing a couple times. He was severely burned as a child and was given less than a 1% chance of surviving the first night after his accident, yet he is alive and well now (although badly disfigured), married and the father of two children, living a full and active life and still defying the odds on every level.
In his blog he talked about how we tend to become less excited about things when they become commonplace, and that we need to be more open to seeing the treasure of every day in our lives. He ended it by saying "We can choose today to dance again" - in other words to celebrate every day for the miracle that it is.

For me this has been a year of dancing every day. I've celebrated life and enjoyed things that I wouldn't have even noticed a year ago. It's a wonderful thing to be able to see what a gift life is, and I wish everyone had the opportunity to celebrate it with the same sense of wonder that some of us who have glimpsed the alternative do. So I pass along to my readers the same advice that John O'Leary passed on to his: "Choose today to dance again. And if it's been a long, long while since you danced, open your eyes and look around. You can find plenty to dance about."

Truer words were never said!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

College weekend

Today's my daughter's birthday and it always makes me think about the times we took our kids off to college. It was almost always the weekend just before her birthday that they had to be at school for the start of the fall semester. And what a production it always was! How guilty did I feel when I left her there for her freshman year, knowing she'd celebrate her 18th birthday two days later, with no friends around her and no one to sing her "Happy Birthday". It was "mother's grief". Of course she survived just fine and it was probably harder on me than it was on her, but that's another story!

Our children's birthdays always prompt memories, from the events surrounging their actual births to the most recent of celebrations. They are an extension of us in so many ways and their lives are so intertwined with ours that their birth dates will follow us just as our own do, never to be forgotten and always to be celebrated as special times in our lives.

Taking a child off to college is a huge event for a family and somehow the combination of her birthday and the beginning of her college career was a lot for me to handle at the time. Now that she's a mother herself I can sit back and relax because she no longer needs me to make her birthday special - she has a husband and children to do that. But despite her full life, this day will always be one of a quiet but heartfelt celebration for me. Because its the day I brought a new life into the world - a life that was the very physical evidence of the love my husband and I had for each other. It's a day that no mother every forgets, from beginning to end, and each minute of it is imprinted in my mind and etched on my heart forever.

And I'll also be thinking about all the parents who are dropping off their children at college this weekend. It's a heart wrenching event! She was born over thirty years ago so we dropped her off for her first year of college a long time ago now. As we seem to be saying more and more lately, where does the time go?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

End in sight



August is coming to an end. With Labor Day very late this year we have an entire week of September before we can officially declare the season over, but there are only a few days left in this month so it seems as though summer is quickly coming to a close. It's OK with me - I'm ready for fall. I love the weather out here in the autumn and I welcome a change of scenery with less traffic and fewer people. I always enjoy getting our community back!

I think the last weeks in August are the most difficult for all of us because we're so tired of the cars and the pedestrians and all the nonsense that goes with "the season". We're just done with it all and ready to shop at the grocery store any time of the week without fighting for the last box of cheerios. And I think the first weeks in September are the most wonderful for the same reason - we just love getting it all back to normal again and rejoice in the place we live and love so much.

So here in the final days of August, while some may be sad to think about school starting and summer ending, I for one say "bring it on"! I'm ready and waiting for September.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The house


My mother-in-law's house sold recently and we're in mourning here. It is one of the sadder things we've experienced as a married couple. Weird how a house can become so much a part of your soul!

I come from a long line of locals who built houses and never moved out of them, just passed them down through the generations. Two houses away from me is the home my great-great grandfather built after the Civil War. The house next door and the one just across the yard were build by his two sons. My house was built by my great uncle. All of them are still owned by ancestors of the original owners. I live within a few dozen feet of the home where I grew up and this neighborhood has always been mine.

My husband grew up in a house not far from here - we could actually see it if not for the elevated train trestle - it's a home his parents bought before he was born. His mother's family moved here with the railroad back in the 1920s and his father landed here with the Coast Guard during WWII, so his roots are not quite as deep, but the home his parents bought has always been home to him and his affection for it is just as real as mine is for my old family home.

Houses are so full of memories, and I imagine that people who spend theirs in different places don't fully know how hard it is to say goodbye to one after such a long time. I know people who've lived in dozens of places in their lives, but that's not our experience.

I love his family home because there are so many memories connected with it. We lived so close to his parents we spent a lot of time there. Holidays, birthdays, dinners - so many times we enjoyed in that house over the thirty plus years we've been together. Our children spent hours there with their grandmother who loved to watch them whenever we needed a babysitter. As they got older, the girls liked staying overnight and playing cards with her - she taught them how to play pinochle. They loved the fact that she was a champion junk food eater who gladly shared her stash with them.

The house was full of things they'd made for her, that we'd given to her,and that we knew were dear to her. Every wall held memories and smiles. I loved her tablecloths and her dishes and all the things that made it her house. Even the thought of someone else living there, someone who doesn't appreciate the history and family that made it their own for over fifty years - well, its hard.

If I feel melancholy about this I can only imagine how my husband feels. We used to dream about buying the house ourselves one day and keeping it in the family, but it was not to be. Instead we're grieving over the loss and wondering why it seems so sad. It's a beautiful house that deserves to be taken care of and loved. I hope the next owner will do it justice. But it will never be part of our family again, never have an open door to us again, and just never be the same. I think that's worth crying over.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Christmas shopping


Usually by this time of year I've completed most of my Christmas shopping. I've barely started this year. My prime months of January and February, when I find the best bargains and sales, were totally lost to me this year when I ended up dealing with my breast cancer diagnosis, so here I am almost into September and I haven't done a thing. This is not good.

I'm not someone who deals well with chaos, although I know some people thrive on it. At least I guess they do since they seem to choose it for their lives. No - I'm strictly a plan-ahead kind of girl and I've been doing things like Christmas shopping in February for over thirty years now. Its the only way I know to really enjoy the holidays. If I'm done with the shopping by Thanksgiving, I'll have all the weeks following to enjoy baking cookies, decorating my house, attending Christmas programs, and entertaining during the holidays. It makes the holidays so enjoyable and I hate to think I may not have that time this year.

So - I'm making myself a promise to get out as soon as school starts (and the outlets are quiet!) and get my shopping done. Every year my family seems to grow so the list gets longer and longer. I love giving gifts and don't want it to become a chore. So this is it now: by the end of September, all the Christmas shopping will be done! And then I can wrap up those gifts, pile them in the corner of my bedroom, and sit back and plan how I'm going to enjoy December. Now if I can stay focused, it might actually happen...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A/C

We've never had air conditioning in our house. Of course many people don't here in East Hampton because the weather is generally mild and tolerable. We have a wonderful open field across the street so the ocean breeze sweeps across it and right through our front windows, cooling off the house beautifully. BUT - at least once during the summer we have a wave of heat and humidity that makes sleeping difficult and I wish we had an air conditioner in our bedroom. It seems not ever to be.

Many times when we've sweltered in the midst of one of these heat waves we've desperately looked for a solution. PC Richards was often our destination as we thought perhaps they would come up with something new that would work for us. But it just doesn't seem possible. The problem is we have crank-out windows and they don't make a/c units that fit them. We've toyed with the idea of installing one in the wall, which would involve cutting a hole through to the outside and having one there year-round. The cost always puts us off because there are always more pressing things to spend money on and for the few days we really need it every year it seems rather frivolous.

Then this year someone suggested something called a "Mr. Slim" which is made by Mitsubishi. It's a ductless system which involves a very slim unit installed high on a wall with very little disruption and small holes drilled through to the outside. Maybe this was our answer! We called the local installer as instructed on the web site and he came out to give us a price. My hopes were high! The estimated price? $3500! Let's see - if there are four nights a year that its too hot to sleep, and we spread that over, let's say a three year period, that would be a cost of over $200 a night for cooler air. I think not. Besides, if we have $3000 to spend there is the master bath that could use new tile and carpet, painting to be done in the kitchen, and floors to be refinished.....oh well! The heat wave is over for this year and we'll forget all about those sleepless nights for another year. Maybe by next summer they'll come up with something new that will work for us...darn those crank-out windows!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More fog


The other morning when I came downstairs at 6:30 the fog was so heavy I couldn't see the trees across the street from my house. It was eerily quiet as the fog muffled the usual sounds. I could hear cars passing on nearby roads but I couldn't see them unless they suddenly emerged from the cloud bank right in front of the house and just as quickly disappeared back into it. Driving must have been hazardous, although you would never know it by the speed things were moving.

As I looked out across the lawn I thought about the bogs of England that so many writers talk about. It seems as though many a heroine was lost in the fog on those bogs and seeing what it looked like outside that morning made me appreciate how dangerous they must be, whatever is left of them now in the British Isles. It would be easy to get lost, especially if there were long stretches of land with no way to get your bearings. The buildings across from my house were merely hulks of black in the distance and if I hadn't been so familiar with my surroundings I'd have no idea what they were. Imagine if there were no buildings at all, only miles of fog settled in on wide, flat bogs with nothing to mark north or south, east or west. Yes, I can imagine they were dangerous places to find yourself if you were disoriented at all. So Healthcliff, Jane Eyre, and the other characters in those books truly did have a challenge on their hands!

The fog rarely lasts long here - within the hour it was clear and there wasn't a bit of it left. People who got out of bed later would never have seen what a beautiful veil it formed over the village just a short time ago. But I did. And I loved it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Comfort zone

One of the things I love most about the weather here is how beautifully cool it is in the mornings. No matter how hot it was the day before, or what the forecast is for the present day, it's wonderfully comfortable when I come down to read my paper and have my breakfast. There's a nice cool breeze blowing and the air feels clean and fresh and I'm instantly energized to start everything all over again.

I like the early morning sounds too. There's a general calm in the village - almost like I imagine it might be in the woods where it's peaceful all the time. There's traffic, but its not a steady hum, and it's quiet enough that I can hear the sprinklers sputtering to life on the village green across the street. The early risers are biking or jogging past the house before the roads get too busy, and I can hear their footfalls as they pound the sidewalk on their way by. Sometimes I hear a truck stop in front and look out to see a village highway truck stopping to pick up debris in the road. There's always activity in the village, and in the early part of the day its fun to watch.

I enjoy the mornings and I often think about how much I missed when I was younger and slept though the first part of the day. I know now I was missing the calm before the storm, the peace before the maelstrom, the beginning and best part of a new day. I find my energy and focus there and the necessary recharge for living. It's my comfort zone and I love it.

The perfect way to begin anything.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Beach fires


What has happened to our beaches? When I was growing up, at least once or twice every summer, my family would go down to the beach for a cook-out with other families. We'd cart all kinds of firewood down there along with food and blankets and meet friends for a fun night sitting under the stars and watching the moon rise over the ocean. We were usually the only people there and inevitably a police officer would walk down at some point to find out who was "in charge", which he would write in his notebook for future reference, just in case we left a mess behind.

How times have changed! Last Saturday night we were invited to a get-together at the beach and when we arrived at 6:00 I was shocked at what I found. There had to be a couple hundred people on the beach - as many as during any day I think. I counted about a dozen fires within my view and each one was surrounded by a crowd. Not only were there people everywhere, I counted over a dozen dogs on the beach. Some were well controlled and on leashes but most were running freely from party to party, kicking up sand and, at our gathering at least, scaring small children. I'm afraid things have gotten out of hand.

We've struggled with this issue on the village government in the past few years, trying to find a balance between overuse and abuse of the beaches on the one hand and over-regulating them on the other. I sometimes wish for the wisdom of Solomon as I contemplate this kind of issue. I hate to lose the privilege of sitting at the beach on a beautiful night around a nice warm fire. But at the same time things are really getting out of control. What's the answer?

In many ways we're victims of our success here on the East End. Everybody wants to come and enjoy the beauty that we're surrounded with. But in the process we seem to be ruining that which we love. It's a dilemma and I'm truly trying to figure out how to deal with it. I'm going to do some research about what other resort communities do to handle issues like fires and dogs on the beaches, but I'm not sure there's another place in the world like this one so I don't know how other community's solutions will work here.

But there is no doubt in my mind about one thing: something's got to give!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

More sisters

Today is my youngest sister's birthday.

I remember when she was born because I was over 3-years-old by then. I remember my grandmother being at the house to help out, I remember picking my mother up at Southampton Hospital with the new baby wrapped up in a green blanket on her lap, and I remember the moment Mom discovered the newly installed dishwasher in the kitchen when she got home. Those memories are very clear and very dear to me.

This was the baby of the family. She was always the baby - the young one, the little one, the one still playing with dolls when I was heading off to high school. Even as a young mother with four children of her own, my sister seemed very young to me. But this year she proved that in many ways she's the strongest and wisest of all her siblings. Funny how that works, isn't it?

This is the woman who sat and waited until 9:00 at night for me to come out of my eleven hours of surgery, after she'd already put in a full day of work herself and no doubt really needed to go home and put her feet up. She's the one who took hold of my hand when I was still barely conscious, but fully aware that she was there because I could hear her voice - and I'll never forget that. She was the one that called to check on me regularly during my recouperation and who generally helped me forget how much I missed my mother throughout the whole ordeal. She stepped into the fray and fought alongside me on the front lines. She was strong and insightful and amazing.

Today is her birthday, and although we don't exchange gifts anymore she should know how much I admire and love her. Today is your day baby sister. Have a wonderful birthday. And thank you for everything

Friday, August 21, 2009

Woodstock

My husband has regressed a bit in the past few weeks. All the publicity about the 40th anniversary of Woodstock has brought out the old hippie in him and I find it amusing to say the least. Last Saturday I went outside to find him making candles. Unbeknownst to me he'd gone online and purchased supplies from some mail order company, and there he was melting wax and filling containers for use outside on the deck.

Back in the late 1960s candle making was huge. I've no idea why, but it was right up there with macrame belts and fringed jackets in popularity. There were candle shops in every town - both East Hampton and Southampton had one - and it was easy to get supplies. In 1970 I shared a house with three friends here and my future husband was one of the many people that hung out with us most the time. We weren't dating (or even remotely interested in each other romantically) at the time, but the house was almost "commune-like" on a very small scale and meals were often thrown together in a pot to feed however many happened to be there at the house at that moment. Anyway, for Christmas he gave my friends and me a large candle he'd created from a big log he'd cleaned out and filled with wax and multiple wicks. It was quite nice and I was rather impressed with his crafting skills at the time. It was something so indicative of the era it makes me smile to think about it. Candles, rock music, and smoking pot. That says it all, doesn't it? What a crazy time that was.

So this past week when Woodstock was being remembered on every television station across the country and all those photos of the masses of humanity with those clothes and hairstyles were everywhere, it invoked that time as though it were yesterday. So he got his candle-making supplies together and poured candles on the back deck to his heart's content. How cute is that?

And he also wondered aloud whatever happened to his fringed suede jacket. Sigh....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

August people


What is it about "August people"? They are without a doubt the rudest, stupidest, most obnoxious of all the tourists we get here and I frankly don't get it. It's not any cheaper here in August, so what brings them all at the same time?

Traveling on the roads makes the August people really stand out - they do the most annoying things. The other day I sat in line at the traffic light by K Mart (coming east) and one after another, cars came driving down the right shoulder of the road to pass everyone else. Every one of them had an out-of-state licence plate. Do they allow shoulder driving in other states?

On the same trip east I observed someone traveling in the opposite lane to turn left (nearly hitting another car head-on), and someone else who stopped in the middle of the road with no signal as to what their intentions were, and we sat for a moment to give them time to figure out what they were doing but when no signals or indication of anything were forthcoming we pulled out and around them. And the pedestrians are no better. All on that Saturday I saw them stepping out between parked cars, walking into crosswalks without even looking to see if anyone was going to stop, talking on cell phones, walking four abreast across the sidewalk, and scratching in places I don't even want to mention. Sheesh! Is there no decorum at all in August?

I truly think that its the August people who make us long for September. The weather is so beautiful here that we hate to wish the summer away, but these people are just too hard to stomach sometimes. And for whatever reason, they seem to come out of the woodwork in August.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Romance

The other day my husband sent me flowers. For no reason. I was immediately suspicious.

Back when we were dating my husband was a real romantic. He sent me flowers, wrote me notes, surprised me with other things and made me swoon over the fact that I'd always been determined to marry a romantic person because I am one myself. I love surprises and small gestures of love. I thrive on knowing that someone thinks about me even when they don't need to be fed or have their house cleaned. I thought this man was the perfect man and I wanted him.

Of course, things changed when I got him. Not right away mind you, but gradually - babies came along and life intervened and romance had a way of escaping through the cracks in the walls. I do make sure I recognize his love and commitment where it shows - in the other things he does for me like taking care of my car, running out to fill it with gas when its low, repairing the hinge on the kitchen door that's driving me crazy...small gestures that demonstrate his heart. And of course the fact that he's been supporting me and putting up with me for over thirty years counts as well. In the grand scheme of things, those are far more important than random flowers or love notes. He's a loyal, caring, wonderful husband and I certainly was right when I chose him so many years ago. He was the perfect man for me - but I still miss the romance.

Every time I see those flowers on the kitchen counter my heart melts a little. I've received more than my share of flowers in the past 8 months and I've loved every single bouquet. But none of them has meant as much as this random vase full and I hope it lasts a long, long time.

Because it may be a long, long time before they're replaced. Good thing I love him anyway...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ellen's Run

Last Sunday the family participated in Ellen's Run. It's a local 5K race that's held every year and the money goes to support the Breast Center at Southampton Hospital. "Ellen" was a victim of breast cancer who died some time ago - but she was born the same year as I so her story is especially poignant too me. I admire her sister Julie who founded the foundation that's named for her sister, which sponsors Ellen's Run.

Anyway, it was a nice day on Sunday and I picked up my friend Donna and we headed over to the hospital at 6:00 in the morning to help with registration. We had a big team in the race - 40 of us in matching tee shirts - friends and family who joined in supporting the cause. It was a great day, raising much needed money for the hospital as well as increasing awareness for this disease that effects far too many women here on Long Island. It felt good to pose with the team for a photo and later watch as each member crossed that finish line.

I've set some goals for future Ellen's Runs and hope in a few years to have a team of 100 walkers and runners. That would represent over $10,000 raised toward the cause. I'm a very goal-oriented person and this is an easily attainable one. Breast cancer touches all our lives and I would love to be able to know that in some small way we've helped change that for our daughters and granddaughters. I hope they never have to worry about it affecting them!

Crossing the finish line will mean finding a cure. But every step of every walk gets us closer and closer to that goal. Thank you to all the wonderful people in my life who joined me last Sunday for an amazing day - I can't wait for next year! Go team!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sisters

Today is my sister's birthday. I've three siblings - an older brother and two younger sisters. This one whose birth we celebrate today is only 18 months younger than I and from what I've been told it was a love/hate relationship at the start. As my mother told it she felt tremendous guilt when she got pregnant with my sister - I was only 9 months old at the time and she felt she hadn't given me enough time to be "the baby", with all the attention that goes with that designation. There are 2 1/2 years between my brother and me so I suppose she was hoping for similar results, although we all know that birth control was a hit or miss proposition in those days. (Fortunately for many of us!)

Anyway, according to my mother I'd just started talking when the new baby arrived and then promptly stopped, not to utter another intelligible word until I was three-years-old. She felt it was my need for attention and allowed it to feed right into her mother-guilt. She should have realized it was more likely the earliest signs of a stubborn, willful child that would challenge her ever day of the next seventeen years.

Fortunately, whatever the early years foretold my sister and I became good friends by high school. Since we were only a grade apart we had many common friends and interests and did plenty of socializing with the same crowd. I was the older one but she was the blonde bombshell that had all the boys. We were very different, yet somehow alike and we found strength in each other's presence as we traversed the tricky waters of teen angst side by side. So many memories we have together!

It's hard to believe its been forty years since then, but it has. Our lives have taken very different paths and yet we remain in the same town and in pretty regular contact so we're still tied strongly together as only family members can be - with heartstrings and history.

Families are all about celebrations: births, graduations, weddings, even deaths. Families are about love. And many, many birthdays. Happy birthday Sis! So glad we get to celebrate another one together...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Medical tests


When I returned to the local hospital for a follow-up MRI this past week it brought back all the anxiety of taking tests and being a patient that I experienced 8 months ago. There's no feeling quite so helpless as the one that takes over when they put you in a small room and tell you "take everything off and put on a gown". Suddenly all your personality - your armor and psychological coverings - disappear behind an ugly, generic "frock" that I cannot even find appropriate words to describe. There's nothing the least bit comforting about wearing one of those things that leave you with bare legs, cold feet, and little dignity. You become almost child-like as you follow directions, climbing onto machines or tables, being poked with needles and injected with strange fluids, and generally leaving your brain in the dressing room and going into "survival" mode (as in "What can I do to occupy my mind for the next 30 minutes so the agony goes more quickly?")

I lay on the machine wondering whether they make every technician that performs these tests actually experience them while they're training. Do they understand how uncomfortable it is to lay in the same position for so long, trying not to move? Do they know how cold the table feels when you lie on it? And do they appreciate how much it means to have someone help you on and off with a hand or a step stool? I also wonder why the simplest things, like hanging a small mirror on the wall in the dressing room, are not done. How much does a mirror cost - $5? And yet it would allow a patient to take a look before re-entering the real world to make sure their hair isn't standing on end. Such a small thing and yet it looms so large in terms of the well-being of the patient.

There's so much time to think when you're having medical tests. I wonder how often hospital administrators, doctors, nurses and technicians bother looking at things from a patient's perspective. Its truly the smallest things that can have the biggest impact on how someone feels when they walk out the door...and isn't it all about making people feel better?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

College


Recently I received a copy of a college magazine in the mail - one of those things that alumni and their parents get on a regular basis. As I was flipping through the pages admiring the campus and all the activities at the school where three of my children went, I couldn't help but think that they'd all lived the life I should have. I would have thrived at college.

My reasons for not going to college were complicated and too much to go into here, but I have had many regrets about it over the years. I know I would've enjoyed campus life and I wish I had the degree that would have come with it had I gone to the place I was headed so many years ago when I suddenly decided against it. Fear and anxiety have always been my downfall and I wish I'd had more of a push from my parents when I announced I wasn't going at the very last minute. But my father was of the "girls don't need to go to college" mindset (and he was pretty tight-fisted with his money I can only imagine how relieved he was!) and my mother, I think, felt that her strong-minded daughter would change her mind and go the following year. But life intervened and I never did.

I've often thought about going back to earn a degree but I'm not sure for what at this point. The whole college campus experience is for the young and I missed that opportunity - there's no going back. I continue to learn and grow academically, attending many classes and earning various "certificates" (like my EMT, Notary Public, and Real Estate license) as well as adult ed classes that I always enjoy. So I think going back for a degree at this point is unnecessary.

My overwhelming feeling is that I've had a wonderful life and it would no doubt have been vastly different had I gone off to Ohio back in 1970. So I can't resent the loss now! A wonderful husband to spend a lifetime with, and four amazing children that I adore - I wouldn't trade any of them for the world.

But when that magazine comes and I see the photos of all those college kids on campus, in classes, at sporting events....well...I just can't help but feel a little twinge in my heart...

Friday, August 14, 2009

The village

We had company over recently and one of our guests kept being startled by noises that we're so used to we barely hear them - he thought a passing motorcycle was thunder, for instance, and mentioned the train passing at one point. It made me chuckle to think how different it is for us who live in the village and how little those outside it understand.

I happen to love living in the village. I love the rhythm and pulse of village life, the constant activity and bustle. Where friends who are "woods dwellers" see an invasion of privacy, I see concerned neighbors. We rarely worry about home invasions or theft-who could come and take anything without being seen by someone? When a neighbor sees a police car in our driveway and asks if everything is OK I see community, not nosiness. It's a difference in perspective and experience I guess. Besides, I'd get bored in the woods. Way too quiet there for me.

The challenges for us in the village are the noise and the traffic, which are annoying. What my friends in the woods don't understand is that they're the ones creating those issues, not those of us who live here! It's the many residents from outside the village who seem compelled to drive in or through it that create the traffic and noise! But I'm polite enough not to mention that fact most of the time. I remember growing up (within 100 feet of where I live now) on what was a quiet, peaceful street. The village was already pretty much built out then - its those who've since filled the outlying woods who bring those cars past my house. Do I resent it? I try not to. After all, every place changes and every small town in America was difference forty years ago. But sometimes, when someone mentions how they could never stand to live in the village where its so busy and noisy, I do have to sigh at the irony of it all - and bite my tongue.

I chose village life and I still love it. I enjoy walking to the movie theater or the grocery store or being within a minute of assistance from the police or EMS. (I've experienced that blessing and am grateful for it.) But there is a trade-off. For the most part I don't mind the price we pay to be here in the midst of it all. But when someone else mentions how busy it is, I do have to smile to myself and think "Well, you are part of the problem you know!"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Working teens

When I blogged about my summer jobs a few weeks ago I received an interesting comment from a reader who wondered why teen-agers never seemed to do paper routes or work for landscaping companies anymore as he did when he was young. That got me thinking about how life has changed for our kids here in East Hampton in terms of summer employment.

I seem to remember we didn't have quite as many options as today's kids do. There were the beach attendant and life guarding jobs, the golf caddie jobs, the paper routes, and some opportunities in local retail shops (which is where I gravitated). But things are much different now. Today we have so many restaurants they're impossible to count. (The only one I could come up with that was opened at night when I was young was Rem & Mil's on Newtown Lane. I know there were a few fancy places like Judges out on the highway, but really, people didn't go out for dinner in the 1950s & 60s quite as often as they do now!) Today there're more restaurants - and therefore more jobs at restaurants - than you can imagine and some of my children did busing and hostessing duties during their summer school breaks.

Another huge change is the abundance of swimming pools to be maintained. I remember few people having that luxury forty years ago and those that did generally took care of them on their own, unless they lived on estates where they had staff to do it. Now, there are as many swimming pool companies as landscapers.

I think most of our teens still have summer jobs out here, but they're far removed from the ones we labored at. They have many more choices and make plenty of money in one season, often funding their entire college education. My own four had to save their summer earnings for college money. It was a wonderful thing!

So they do still work in the summer here in East Hampton. I'd venture to guess that the large percentage of them do at least. Because there's just too much opportunity out here to pass up. Just like in the old days...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Boats

When I was in high school I loved spending weekends with my friend's family on their boat. They had a wonderful 42ft. cabin cruiser with two cabins for sleeping and a nice sitting area inside, as well as one outside. It slept about 6 I think - maybe 8 if it wasn't raining. It had a galley and head with a shower and I thought it was heaven. How peaceful those weekends were, anchored in the harbor or over in Connecticut up a river somewhere. It was great. I said then I wanted to always have a boat to spend summer weekends on, listening to the water lap the sides all night as we rocked gently to sleep.

Life doesn't always turn out the way we want it to and boats just have not been part of ours I'm afraid. Raising four children was more than enough for us to manage financially and the cost of maintaining a boat just hasn't been in the cards. As much as I wish we had one, I wouldn't trade my family for a boat of any size so I don't regret the trade-off. But when we walked along the dock at the harbor the other night looking at various cabin cruisers and beautiful sleek sailboats I must admit to feeling a bit of a tug at my heart. Memories of those peaceful nights under the stars and beautiful days cruising around Shelter Island or across the Sound flooded my mind. I'm a true romantic at heart and tend to remember only the best of things - the rough crossings and rainy days fade into the background and I forget how much work it was for my friend's mother who packed the coolers and planned meals. It was a wonderful time in my life and I choose to remember only the best of it.

We may not own a boat but I have memories that are still fresh and wonderful. Those were great times, living here in East Hampton, working my summer job during the week and then jumping on that boat every Friday afternoon not to return until Sunday night. What a great life it was. I was a lucky girl...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dog days


After probably the most beautiful weekend of the entire season, we're now in the dog days of summer. I went from busily cleaning my house and enjoying the cool breezes that blew through every room to lying on my couch praying for a little waft of air. It's hot this week and I'm miserable.

I don't enjoy the heat and humidity. It's one of the reasons I'd never live in the southern parts of the country - too much of both those things south of the Mason-Dixon Line. I thrive on cool night air and moderate daytime temperatures and I love the spring and fall when I don't have to worry about sweating unless I'm on the treadmill or cleaning the house. (I call it "scheduled sweating" and that I can handle.) But this is August and I think I have a few weeks to endure before those beautiful temperatures in September and October.

Surely this is an unusually difficult year for me because of the hair loss and I'm not enjoying the "wig thing" at all. Some days the sweat pours down the sides of my face and I long to go with my bare head exposed, but I know how scary looking it is. I couldn't bear to have small children running from me in fear! I don't even like my own family seeing me that way - it's just plain ugly. Scarves are really no better - anything is hot in this weather. And besides, scarves look best on the lovely, lithe model types. I tend to look as though I'm channeling Aunt Jemima...

The good news is we're well into the second week of August now and the end is in sight! Surely after what I've been through this year, I can endure a little heat for a few more weeks! Because life is good. And my favorite time of the year is right around the corner. Ah....Labor Day is coming! And I can't wait....

Monday, August 10, 2009

One year

Today marks one year of blogging. I'm amazed that I've somehow managed to find things to talk about every day for one solid year. When I look back at the early entries they're about traffic, and the weather, and other summer issues that we deal with out here every year. And talk about every year. I read them over and think they could have been written today as well as a year ago. I hope at some point to go through the year day by day just to relive what has been a tumultuous year for me. Who would have thought a year ago that I would now be a cancer survivor? Someone once said we're better off not knowing the future and I think they're probably right. How would we live differently if we did?

I think when I finish reading through my 365 days worth of entries I may have some insight into how our ignorance colors our actions. People sometimes pity those of us who have had our first brush with death - I know my father was one of those people who heard the word "cancer" and immediately had someone dead and buried regardless of the prognosis. But I think it's a wonderful thing to be suddenly stopped in our tracks and forced to evaluate our lives. Because when we get back into the drivers seat (which is really only a mirage - none of us is ever really in the driver's seat!) we tend to pay more attention to the scenery as we move ahead and worry much less about how quickly or slowly we're making the trip. None of us knows when our last day on earth will be. But some of us know how we want to live whatever ones we have. And that is a gift.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Normal

Every once in awhile I find myself wishing something strange or funny would happen so I could find inspiration for a blog and today is such a day. I haven't anything to report on that's amusing, or interesting, or even odd. Because these past few days have been normal, i.e. "unremarkable" days.

What I find wonderful about that is that this year, beginning with my mammogram in early January, has had very few "normal" days in it - from medical tests to doctor's visits to surgery and chemotherapy, hair loss and other side effects, and all else that goes along with such things. It's been quite a year and the idea of "normal" has evoked the same reaction in my mind as the word "vacation". How sweet it would be! Well, I think its finally here.

So today, I am going to sit back and just enjoy another normal day. I'm feeling great and I'm done with doctors and hospitals for awhile so I can say with some confidence that life is once again "normal". Who would have thought that "normal" would be so awesome.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Engagements

We were thrilled to hear that a niece on my husband's side of the family had become engaged and would be getting married next summer. This will be the first on that side of our family and we're all very much looking forward to it.

My side of our large extended family has had weddings nearly once a year for about fifteen years now. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration of course, but we've celebrated the weddings of eight in this generation of cousins in East Hampton and every one was very special. They've come in all sizes and styles, from fancy banquet halls to backyard receptions, and each one is as exciting and celebratory as the next. We revel in the glory of our loved ones, watching and smiling as uncles dance with nieces and cousins dance with cousins and families all dance as one. It's the ultimate celebration of love and family ties and we look forward to every wedding with joy. My kids have nine cousins on my side so there are still some weddings to look forward to. But there are only three on my husband's side and this will be the first. For my family it will be a special event where we - hopefully all of us - can travel together to attend out-of-state. It will be a time for making special memories and celebrating family.

How special. I love a good celebration of life.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Cell phones

Our house is quite close to the street and we live in a busy area of the village, so I'm used to overhearing conversations as people walk past during the summer when our windows are opened. They're usually short snippets of conversations, sometimes very quick as bikers move by, shouting to one another as they peddle along. Lately I've noticed a new phenomenon that's beginning to annoy me though: people walking alone but talking loudly on their cell phones. They often stop in front of the house to carry on long, involved conversations with someone on the other end. And they speak more loudly into their phone than they would to a flesh and blood person standing right next to them so I can hear every word, whether I want to or not.

I think cell phones are a wonderful tool and I carry one in my purse for calls when necessary. But I'm hardly married to it. I usually turn it on only if I need to use it and don't really care to be in touch with anyone 24/7. So its hard for me to understand the need that people have to walk alone down the street while carrying on a conversation with someone on their phone. It's impossible to walk down any street today without passing someone talking on their phone.

Obviously some people need to be in touch for emergencies and I have no problem with that. But does everyone need to be that connected? Should I have to listen to them standing outside my house, walking in circles or shifting their weight from one foot to the other while carrying on these detailed conversations? Forgive me, but do I really care if Penny is going to meet you at Nick and Toni's at 9:00 or if Paul is going to pick up some bread at Cittarella before he comes over tonight? I mean, I'm glad you have plans for a fun summer picnic at the beach, but the details I'm really not too concerned about.

I know the world has changed and there's no going back now, but I miss the days when we sat on my parent's front porch and watched people walking by the house, enjoying quiet conversations among themselves or sharing a nod and a wave when they glanced in our direction. It's a rare occasion now when anyone walks by without their cell attached to their ear, totally absorbed in their own little world and missing all the scenery along the way. I think it's a sad loss.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Summer rain

We've had more than our share of rain this spring and summer, but last Sunday as I stretched out on my living room couch reading, with the windows wide open listening to the soft summer rain outside and feeling the cool breeze blowing through, I thought it was one of the most wonderful things in the world. I love the sound of the rain. I love the sound of the cars as they pass the house, splashing water as they go - and the way the rain muffles every other sound that comes in. There are no conversations to interrupt my thoughts as the rain keeps the usual bikers and pedestrians at home - just the soft sounds of raindrops on the leaves and the swishing of the cars passing. It's peaceful and soothing and makes me feel contentedly calm.

The summer rain is the ultimate equalizer. It cools the air, provides the perfect white noise to quiet the world, and I don't even mind getting wet if I have to go out in it. As much as I enjoy the sun in the summer - and the things we can do outdoors on any given day - I can't say I mind the rain every once in awhile. And the results - the beautiful green grass, the gorgeous summer flowers, and my healthy window boxes on the front of my house - are all worth an occasional shower. On Sunday I peacefully lay on the couch reading a good book and enjoying a soft summer rain. What a wonderful world.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Birthdays

My brother-in-law recently celebrated his 60th birthday. He's the first of our group to hit that milestone and although I have a few years left before I reach it, I've done a lot of thinking lately about getting older.

We were the "young" generation - the ones that didn't trust anyone over 30, preached the gospel of dropping out, tuning in and turning on, and all that nonsense. We were the rebels, the hippies, the war protesters. We were part of a new era in the country and the world - and now we're all grandparents. What happened to us? We thought we would be young forever!

When I see Keith Richards or Paul McCartney I wonder how they managed to become so old. When I hear about people like Michael Jackson dying I wonder how this could happen to someone so "young". And all around me my fellow classmates and school chums are talking about retirement and their grandchildren.

When I was in high school I wrote a haiku for an English class assignment and I've never forgotten it. It went like this:

Life's a puzzle
It takes a lifetime to solve
The answer comes too late.

The closer I get to the end of my life I realize there was some wisdom in those three little lines - but now that I'm on the other side of thirty I think the answers are here for us if we know where to look for them. I found many answers in my faith, in the Bible, in my relationship with God. I don't think we can ever know the answers to all of life's questions because the Bible tells us that in this world we "see through a glass, darkly". But that someday we'll see more clearly - when we are face to face with God. I look forward to that.

As I approach my own 60th birthday a few years down the road I prefer to focus on how much life has left to offer than to think on how much has already passed. There's much to savor ahead. And I plan to enjoy every day of it. Happy Birthday to the hippie generation! We have finally come of age...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

ER

No-not the television show. The real thing!

I've spend quite a bit of time in the Emergency Room of Southampton Hospital as an EMT so I have a pretty good idea of the way things work there, from the triage nurses to who stocks the supply shelves down to who the staff's favorite doctors are. There's an interesting hierarchy in the medical profession - I've seen plenty of nurses who had as much knowledge and skill as that of the doctors they're working with, yet I don't see many of them driving around in BMWs. Just an interesting little observation. In my mind they are the real angels in the medical field.

Fortunately I haven't spent much time as a patient in the ER, but I've been there many times with family members: husband, parents, and children. I remember watching a compassionate nurse wince every time a doctor attempted an IV on my five-year-old son's tiny little arm. When she could take it no longer she diplomatically offered to "try" it herself and when the doctor turned things over to her she slipped the needle right in and the torture (for all of us) was over. I mouthed a "thank-you" to her behind the doctor's back. That was nearly twenty years ago now but I've never forgotten it. It was a lesson in diplomacy and the medical maze that needs to be negotiated on every level.

I was a patient in the ER this past week when an allergic reaction to my chemo had me covered from head to toe with hives. My husband drove me over so I could get a much needed intravenous dose of benedryl and steroids. Being the nosey type I actually enjoyed being a patient who felt well enough to watch the drama that unfolds in that place, all from my front-row seat. (The nurse had pulled my curtain around the bed and I surreptitiously pulled it back just enough to see the bustling all around me.) During my three hours there I watched a gaggle of police detectives hovering around a patient who had just murdered his wife; heard a loud argument between a police officer and a doctor regarding whether or not handcuffs could be removed (talk about two major egos there!); saw shelves being restocked and neatened up during a slow spell; listened in on numerous telephone conversations between nurses and doctors; and experienced the caring touch of really wonderful nurses and doctors who were both compassionate and skilled. It was better than any TV show about hospitals because it was reality. No budding romances or sexual tension in sight, but plenty of camaraderie and teamwork very evident.

Mine was a simple and easy problem but I've also seen them spring into action when we brought in a patient on a stretcher while doing CPR, or shared our concerns over a patient whose symptoms just didn't seem to make sense and we suspected something other than the simple "trip and fall" or "feeling sick" that the ambulance was called for.

Once again I came home feeling very lucky to have such a great facility right here in my community - filled with caring and skilled people to help us when we need them. During this summer season they are stretched beyond their abilities, overworked and under appreciated. Except by me - I think they're the best!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cooking

I had four children and for at least twenty-five years I cooked a big dinner nearly every night of the week. I made sure they were well-balanced meals and used every trick in the book to stretch my food budget to the max, catering to various tastes and whims and making sure everything was on the table at the appropriate time so that despite school events and sporting events and evening meetings we could sit and eat our meal as a family, albeit a little rushed sometimes. I was an expert at incorporating leftovers into the dinner hour and could make a large roasted turkey last an entire week (turkey a la king, turkey tettrazini, turkey sandwiches, turkey soup...).

So in light of all those years of creating big meals for so many people, and despite having to hear typical childhood comments such as "That looks disgusting" or "I hate green beans", I think I'm entitled to take some time off now. At this point I enjoy sitting back and enjoying a simpler life at the dinner hour - and I'm happy with a salad or an English muffin. I no longer spend an hour making dinner - I eat what I want, when I want, and I make no excuses. I still love to entertain and enjoy cooking for friends occasionally, but every day? No way.

I'm sorry for my husband, who's managed to fend pretty well for himself despite never having learned to cook before. At the end of the day I think he's better off for learning a bit of it now. After all, if something happens to me I'd hate to seem him rush into another marriage simply for the convenience of having someone to cook for him. He can survive on his own now. I think I'm doing him a favor...
:-)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

More summer jobs

My first summer job may have had the most impact on me but all of them were learning experiences. I spent two summers working at a shop in Southampton - I think it was called "The Sample Shop" - which was an old-fashioned women's clothing store. There were racks of dresses on one side facing racks of pants and jackets on the other. Racks in the middle of the shop held blouses and there were "seasonal" racks for bathing suits or winter jackets and shelves and glass cases for accessories. In those days it was one-stop shopping for women and you could get everything but your shoes on one place - dress, scarf, hat, purse, underwear and stockings all in your small local women's shop. Now you have to go to a large department store for such luxury! It was great experience working in stores like that because you learned about everything from marketing, window dressing, stock rooms and customer service. We even did "layaway" which is something I haven't seen signs for in a long, long time!

The older women I worked with were a wealth of information. While my friends were hanging out with other teens, working as beach attendants or life guards, I was learning about life with experts and discovering that not every adult thought like my parents. In retrospect I'm so glad I had those summers - I think they prepared me for real life in ways nothing else could have.

The only summer job I hated was the one I spent as a chamber maid at a local motel. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I agreed to go there with my best friend and apply for that job. I hated housework! And the messes people leave behind at hotels are not to be believed. (As my husband will tell you, I've been a "neat freak" at hotels every since - and I always leave a nice tip behind!) The only advantage to that job was that my friend and I were done early - by 2:00 every afternoon - and headed right down the street to spend the rest of the day lounging around her back yard pool, usually followed by a cook-out courtesy of her parents who surely must have wondered what they did to inherit this additional daughter for the summer. I barely went home to sleep that year. (My parents actually invited them over at one point that summer so they would know I actually did have a home of my own.)

Summer jobs are one of the best things that ever happened to me. They pulled a shy small-town girl out of her comfort zone and taught her that there was a big world out there with lots of promise and that we have more control over how we face life than we realize. I reminisce about those summers, sitting with my mentors who were more than happy to pass their life-wisdom along to me, and I always smile.

I learned that I could do things I never imagined. And I learned that I never wanted to clean another toilet the rest of my life and planned to have someone else clean my own house in the future. Well....not every dream comes true in life!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Summer jobs

Every summer I think about the seasonal jobs I held as a teen-ager. I began working as soon as I was old enough to obtain working papers - fourteen in New York Sate. Up to that point my summers had been spent with friends at Main Beach, but from that year on I worked hard, making money and learning life lessons.

My first job was at a small women's clothing store on Main Street. I think it was called the "Simplicity Shop" but everyone around town knew it as "Jenny Goldstein's". Mrs Goldstein was an elderly lady who'd been in retail her entire life and knew it well. She was an excellent buyer and had a good business mind. However, she was not particularly friendly and many people avoided her shop when she was behind the counter. But the year I walked in the door in answer to a newspaper ad looking for a "summer girl" was a good year for me. Because Jenny Goldstein had recently hired a woman by the name of Vera Riley to run her shop for her.

Vera Riley was a middle-aged woman who was an expert salesperson and she'd worked for many years at Mark, Fore & Strike, the only "high-end" shop in the Village at the time. For whatever reason she'd had a falling out with the management there and left her long-time position to take up this one in a small, local store. It was surely a loss for Mark Fore because all summer long people would wander in, discover her there and with great joy and lots of hugs proceed to spend lots of money while Mrs. Riley ran dresses back and forth to the dressing room, regaling her customers with her great humor and witty patter. She was a master salesperson and I learned lessons that summer I've never forgotten. She taught me how to be a valuable employee and how to interact with people, which were important things for a shy young girl to learn.

That was my first job and the one I think was my most valuable. The very thought of Vera Riley makes me smile. She gave me an all important dose of self-esteem and made me realize I could do more than I thought I could. She helped me see that we get as much as we want to out of life and that even working hard can be fun. She and her husband moved to Florida a few years later and I cried when she left. Eventually we lost touch and I'm sorry about that because I wish I'd had the opportunity to tell her how important she was and what an impact she had on this life.

It's amazing what a profound effect we can have on another person and never even know it...