Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Laundry

I really hate laundry. I hate it so much that as soon as my kids were old enough to reach the dials on the machine I taught them how to do their own. But its a necessary evil and I realize that we should be glad its as easy as it is.

I read an article recently about technology where someone had done a survey asking people what they thought was the most important technological advancement of the 20th century. Of course most people listed things like television, insulin, the internet - all important discoveries. But the one that fascinated me the most was the following answer: the washing machine. This wise person said that the invention of the washing machine freed women from the drudgery of hours and hours of laundry that had literally kept them in servitude for generations. What a smart answer that was. And it served a good purpose for me as well. Because when I loaded my washing machine today, filled it with detergent, spun the dials and walked away, it made me stop and think about how lucky I am not to be bent over a wash tub rubbing my sheets on a washboard like my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and her mother, etc. had done just to keep their children and husbands in clean clothes and white sheets.

Its a wonderful world. We so take it for granted!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Graphics

My husband does all the graphics for my blog. He gets no credit anywhere for it and does it for his own enjoyment I suppose. I have no idea how he finds this stuff but he reads what I write every morning, goes into the internet somewhere, and pulls out great photos, cartoons, drawings, and logos to illustrate whatever it is I've written about that particular day. I'm especially impressed when he finds something that fits perfectly - a photo or drawing that perfectly exemplifies my thoughts of the day.

Occasionally he actually makes a quick trip to a specific spot in the village to take a digital photo for a piece I've done, like of the school or the swans. But it's rather amazing how often he finds a photo of a local landmark that's already out there. And he always seems to get a great shot one way or another.

When I started this blog I had no idea it would be a collaborative effort. But when he started adding the graphics I was pleased with how much that little touch sparked the entire entry for that day. It's a great addition to my corner of the world here and I think it's time I said thanks!

Thank you Art Department!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Goodbyes

I hate good-byes. They are rarely ever fun, with a few exceptions I won't mention here. They're especially difficult when they involve children.

Today I head home after a week with my daughter's family and it will be hard to leave. I will miss them all, but my daughter and I speak on the phone nearly every day so I still feel part of her life. But with kids its so different. They can all talk to me on the phone occasionally, but the conversations are not terribly long or deep. With children you need to be right there, playing with them on the floor, spending time with them over a good book, and hearing their innermost thoughts. That's how we see and appreciate their amazing little personalities. I especially like doing craft projects with them because there's always plenty of time for good conversation over paper and glue.

Nothing can replace the looks on their little faces when they come to you for help with their shoes or a request to read them a book. That's something you just can't get over the telephone lines.

I really hate good-byes

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mushrooms

I remember when my grandparents first moved here from Buffalo when I was about five. My grandfather had taken us for a ride to the bay and when we climbed out of the car to walk down to the water he sniffed the air, made a face, and declared "low tide!". It's a distinctive smell and anyone living near the water is familiar with it. But it doesn't compare to mushrooms.

My daughter lives near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, which is billed as "the mushroom capital of the world" and I guess it is. There are mushroom "farms" everywhere, consisting of low-slung, half-buried buildings where the mushrooms happily grow in the dark, damp underground. There isn't much to see, but boy can you smell them! There is an odor very much like "low tide" in Bonac (only worse) that permeates the air around her house when the wind if right. Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night to smell it wafting in through the open window. It's an unmistakable odor.

Unfortunately I dislike mushrooms. I don't like their slimy texture and musky taste and I avoid eating them if I can see them. I don't even think they're all that cute, although they seem to strike many as fanciful little things. It's a shame really because they are so plentiful in Kennett Square and environs and for a mushroom lover it must be nirvana.

And I'm sure the locals barely notice the smell.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mail order


I love shopping on the internet. I mean, its so darn easy just to click away with that mouse and it hardly seems as though I'm even spending money. But then every once in awhile I run into a glitch. Like the slippers.

I wanted to bring something to my grand kids when I came to visit them this week. After considering a number of options I decided on some slippers. I know they love the ones I got for them to wear here when they're at my house so why not buy them some for home, right? I checked out a few internet sites and finally found three pair I liked at Target. I ordered them a few weeks before I was scheduled to come and patiently waited. Two pair arrived in the mail within a few days. The others were "in separate packaging" according to the slip. Okay, I have time to wait. And I did. Suddenly I realized it was the week I was leaving and the one pair of slippers has not yet arrived. So I started trying to figure out what my options were because I had a busy week ahead and not much time to go shopping. Naturally there's no place in East Hampton to buy a pair of children's slippers so I started to panic. Then I came home from errands one day and the box from Target was at my door! Eureka! They had come so all was well.

But not so fast. When I opened the box I was shocked to see that they looked nearly big enough for me to wear. Now, I hadn't seen my granddaughter since early July so I thought it was possible she'd grown some, but she's only 7-years-old! Did I order the right size? I called my daughter to check on her shoe size and sure enough, these were three sizes too large for her. I ordered the correct size-they sent the wrong one. No time for an exchange. Now what?

Off to Bridgehampton to search the commons where surely someone would have a pair of slippers to fit her. If not I'd have given up and found something else. Fortunately I scored a pair at TJ Maxx - they had one pair in her size. Phew!

That $8.00 pair of slippers proved to be more of a hassle than necessary and I decided there was no point in sending them back - that would only cost me shipping. So upstairs in my "gift closet" is a nice pair of slippers that will find their way under the Christmas tree in about two years (when they'll fit granddaughter number two). And in the meantime I'm going to be more careful about what I shop online for.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Local TV


Am I the only person who loves to watch the local community access television channels? I never seem to find anyone else who's as addicted to them as I so I can't imagine they have a great following, but I love them!

First, I love the government meetings. I especially enjoy all the town meetings: zoning board, planning board, and town board. I love seeing local people doing ordinary things and I find that seeing a meeting on TV and then reading about it in the local papers is truly illuminating. Years ago I didn't realize how much newspaper reporting involved personal interpretation, but it surely does. I often interpret something much differently when I see it than the reporter does and when I read about it in the paper I wonder how that's possible. But then there's no vocal inflection, no twinkle of the eye when the quotations are put down so there are some things that just don't translate to the page. And yet they go a long way toward understanding a person's intent.

I also love watching the local talk shows featuring interviews with community members. Some are so obviously slanted in one direction they provide their own humor. Others are simply informative or fun. I even like the cooking shows. Not every producer is great and not every personality is sparkling. Some people are downright weird. But there's charm in their weirdness, just like there is in the local characters that populate every small village around the world.

Like I said, I love local television. Except of course when I'm on it. Then its just annoying.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Baking cookies

I've been baking cookies since I was in junior high school. Maybe even sooner - I don't even remember a time when I wasn't using my mother's mixer and trying out recipes. It's one of the things I've always loved to do.

When I was a newlywed we had very little money and baking cookies was a big treat that I'd bestow upon my husband whenever the spirit moved me. I knew how much he loved freshly baked cookies and it was something I could do for him so I'd divide the bag of chocolate chips in half and get two batches out of one bag that way. They weren't as chocolately for sure but he was still happy and I felt as though I was doing something special for him.

When my kids were little I liked to bake with them and use it as a teaching moment. I showed them the different tastes and textures created and demonstrated how different ingredients changed the dough. And they learned how to crack eggs and measure flour, so I felt as though it had "purpose" and not just calories. When they were old enough to go to school I tried to have warm cookies ready for them at least once a week when they got home in the afternoon. I think it was something they were excited about judging from their reactions when they'd walk in the door.

Now that it's just the two of us again (and I'm constantly trying to lose weight) I don't bake too often anymore. Unless the grand kids are here, or I need to make something for a church coffee hour, the mixer rarely gets pulled out from underneath the kitchen cabinets. The other day when my husband was playing golf I decided to make a batch of chocolate chips to surprise him when when he came home. He's so unaccustomed to me baking anymore that his first question was "Am I allowed to have any?" He was thinking, I'm sure, that there must be a special occasion I was preparing for.

Hopefully it served to remind him that he's still a "special occasion" for me.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Church suppers

There is something quite comforting about a church supper. Last week we had a covered-dish supper at our church and I found myself thinking about all the suppers I've attended at churches throughout my life and it boggled my mind I must say. There have literally been thousands.

Usually these things bring out the best in folks. They prepare their favorite dishes to share and the tables are groaning under the weight of casseroles, jello molds, and Italian pasta dishes to graze. I find I have to hold back in the beginning because inevitably if I start filling my plate right away I get halfway through the line and there's no room left - and there's always something better looking near the end than what I've already taken. I don't like to pile my food - I like neat piles of recognizable edibles. I'm not a fanatic and I don't mind various items touching each other and in fact I often combine them on my fork, but I don't find plates piled high with a mish mash of steaming stuff terribly appetizing. So if I don't just skip right through the early part of the smorgasbord I regret it later. I've learned to choose carefully. At the end of the line I usually have about 5 things on my plate - a nice sampling of what appealed to me but not so much as to make me feel stuffed. After all, dessert is still to come, right?

All that said, there have been church suppers in my past that were hugely disappointing. Those were the ones where everyone brought a jello mold and no one bothered to make lasagna. Or there was a great selection of tuna casseroles but not a bit of green to be seen. Despite those disappointments I always attend them because hope springs eternal and I assume each one will be better. There will be more pasta, more salad, and fewer jello molds for sure.

Last Sunday's supper included a hymn sing. In my book this is the perfect combination for feeding the senses and the soul. Good food, the company of nice people, and a chance to sing the old hymns we grew up on but rarely hear anymore. (Since when did "Onward Christian Soldiers" have anything to do with real war? And yet some pacifists have managed to ban it from hymnals. Sometimes we are just too "pc" for me!)

I came home last week with a full stomach and a fully satisfied soul. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Miss Woo


Writing recently about elementary school has prompted so many memories - and some of my favorites are about my first music teacher, whose name was Miss Woo.

Miss Woo was Korean and had a heavy accent. I'm not sure if her presence in America had anything to do with the Korean War (which has just ended) but what I do know about her is that she was a single lady - probably in her twenties - and I thought she was very exotic and beautiful with her Asian features and jet black hair. She was only in East Hampton for a few years but she left a long-lasting impression on me and here's why: Because of her thick accent, I learned some of my first songs with a bit of a twist. I sang them in a sort of "pigeon English" I suppose. For example, every time I hear the song "Do-Re-Me", from "The Sound of Music" I think about Miss Woo. Because here's the way I learned it from her and I continued to sing it this year for years:

"Doe - a dee-ah, a femay dee-ah
Way - a dwop of gold-en sun
Me - a name I caw myself
Fa - a lon lon way to run
So - Ah need a pu-ying thread
La - a note to fa-yow so
Tea - a drink with Jim and Brad
That will bring us back to do-oh-oh-oh...." etc

I loved Miss Woo and I'm sure she was trying very hard to pronounce her words with the most perfect diction, but many years later when I mentioned to my mother how I still heard those odd pronunciations in my head when I sang that song with my own children, she recalled with a laugh how the entire second grade sang everything with a Korean accent at their annual concert.

Music was always my favorite subject in school and I've many wonderful memories of music teachers and concerts and special music programs. But always, when I think about my earliest music memories, I think about Miss Woo. And I always smile...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Night on the water

Last week we were invited by friends to have dinner on their sailboat. It's a large boat-almost 40 ft long - and very comfortable for a night on the water. We were thrilled to accept.

We left the harbor just after 2:00 on a sunny afternoon. It was an impeccable day - could have been July in terms of weather because it was sunny and warm and the skies were as blue as a robin's egg. Very few clouds dotted the horizon and those that did were wispy and light, almost like cotton candy. Sailing is a special experience because without the noise of a motor you can appreciate the quiet on the water in a totally different way. It was perfect.

We motored past the breakwater, raised the sails and headed for Shelter Island where we anchored in Coecles Harbor to eat and enjoy conversation with friends. This was the end of a very long summer for me - one that I had little opportunity to really enjoy. So just feeling so good and being in such a beautiful place with people I like was a celebration. My chemotherapy was not completed until the end of July and it was well into August before I felt like myself again. A lost summer, really. But here it was in the middle of September and I was enjoying a "summer moment" and savoring every bit of it. It was a gift from God.

There are times in life when I can hear God speaking to me. This was one of those times. I could hear him tell me that all this, the beautiful scenery, the friends, my husband, all that's good and wonderful in the world, is a gift from him. And that I needed to remember that he is in control of it all.

I found great peace and comfort in that day and as we motored back into the harbor with the sun setting on the horizon behind us and the sky on fire, I felt gratitude and appreciation for every one of the years I've had in my life. And I was content in the knowledge that I'm in God's hands. Today and every day. There is no where I'd rather be.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Battle scars

Back when my husband had his heart attack (over fifteen years ago now) I read everything I could find about heart attacks and by-pass surgery and the mental effects it would have on him. I wanted to be there for him and give him the moral support I knew he would need - and I made sure I said all the right things and avoided all the wrong things as much as humanly possible. I talked to family members about what his fears and anxiety would most likely be and warned them to please make sure they avoided saying the wrong things. I encouraged him to get back in the game and not let this little set-back take a toll on him mentally, which it often does.

I don't know if we said the right things or did the right things because he's a man who doesn't share his thoughts and feelings often. From what I hear that's pretty common with men so despite my feelings early on in marriage that it was just our relationship, I think that's a pretty universal complaint. Although he was pretty good at sharing his innermost thoughts when we were dating and courting, he doesn't do that anymore and I've adjusted to it...somewhat. But the result is I rarely know if I've done things well and handling his recovery period was a perfect example. I don't know if I was supportive enough, or candid enough, or if I said and did any of the right things.

But I do know how hard I worked at it. I know how many books I read and articles I cut out of the newspapers and magazines. And I know how many people I went to for advice and counsel. So I did my best.

Now that I've been through my own medical battles I wish I'd been able to do some advance scouting. I wish I could have read all the books and talked to all the people I could find who might have been able to prepare me for this war. I'm still struggling to get a handle on my feelings of inadequacy and the discouragement and repulsion I feel when I look in the mirror every day. I assume these are not unusual feelings but they are still hard to deal with. I know that no one comes through a war of any kind without battle scars so its to be expected, but they don't treat cancer patients for post-traumatic stress syndrome.

I also know that this will pass so I'm not looking very hard. I'm a positive person by nature. Right now I'm fighting to keep that positive outlook foremost in my mind. And a good book might help a lot. Maybe its time for a trip to the library.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

After effects

Everywhere I go people tell me how good I look. It's nice to hear that but I suspect they're being kind more than anything else and besides, the scars from my cancer diagnosis and treatment are more psychological than physical and no one can see them.

I really feel good. I do. The effects of chemotherapy and the constant trips back and forth to Southampton are gone. I have all the energy I ever had and I don't in any way feel as though I'm a "patient" anymore. Until, that is, I look in the mirror every morning and every night. And then it all comes back with a vengeance. Because the person looking back at me in the mirror is nothing like the person who started all this back in January. That "mirror person" is bald, with no eyebrows and a badly scarred body - and she's a complete stranger to me. So I spend extra time trying to put myself together, carefully drawing on eyebrows (it's amazing what a difference they make on a face!) and taking a little extra time to do the rest of my make-up. Then the wig completes the deception and suddenly I feel as though I can face the world and perhaps the first thing people will think when they see me won't be "chemo patient". I assume for the most part it works.

But there's a downside to all that preparation. Someone told me when I began this journey that I should expect a period of depression when it was over. I understand that now. For so many months people were very careful about what they said to me. They were encouraging, supportive, and measured in their conversations. Now, they no longer think of me as "the patient" and it shows. But I'm still pretty fragile mentally because everyday I face that patient in the mirror and can't forget yet that the war isn't over. And people say silly things to me, like wouldn't it be fun if my hair came in totally different (no!), or why not let it stay gray as long as it seems to be growing in that way (oh please no! I already feel ten years older than I did a year ago!). They don't seem to understand that I can't handle any more change right now - I just need to get back to some sort of "normal" again. The last thing I want to think about is more change. Please, please let me be my old self again!

So - I understand where depression could come from.

I won't allow myself to go there. Life is too precious to waste on negative energy so I work hard to move on from the comments of others and remind myself that they mean well. No one can understand what I'm feeling except someone else who's been there and I understand that. So I move on. But when that wig comes off at night, it all comes back - all the comments, all the negative thoughts - and I have to fight them off again.

So far I'm winning the war. But the battles continue...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Traffic

Today is getaway day and I have such a love/hate relationship with travel it makes me a bit schizophrenic. I love going away, getting away from the busyness of our lives and spending time alone with my husband. I enjoy visiting the family and seeing other parts of the country. I like adventure as much as the next person. What I hate is getting off Long Island.

Our travel plans always hinge on the clock. We can't leave at certain hours because it means traffic around the city, and there's no way to avoid that if we're heading south. A trip north is always preferable because it offers the option of the ferry from Orient Point. But otherwise, everything has to be planned around NYC.

Today is especially problematic because I have a meeting at 11:00 I have to attend. If the meeting is short and we can shove off by noon we'll be fine. If it runs long and I don't get home until 1 or 2, then we need to think about what we'll be facing. We know if we can get across the Verazanno Bridge by 3 we should be OK. But after 3, forget it! We'll be dealing with rush hour traffic on Staten Island and in Jersey and then we have to worry about Philadelphia too. At some point it make more sense to wait and leave here at 5 and just get there later, but that means tired drivers which is never a good thing either.

Oh, the dilemmas of living on an island. And the traffic woes of New York city. What a combination...and the price we pay for loving East Hampton!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Packing

Tonight I'll begin the process of getting my clothes together to pack for Pennsylvania. It's been two months since I've seen my daughter's family and as much as I dislike the trip, I'm itching to get on the road tomorrow. I miss them very much.

Packing is always a dilemma for me. I like to take as little as possible but at the same time I never know what the weather will be, especially at this time of the year. It's always close to ours but not exactly the same. A sweater is important, or maybe a sweatshirt, but those take up so much room in the suitcase. Since I'm going for a whole week I can do laundry, which helps - I don't have to take too many clothes because I'll throw everything in the wash by mid-week.

I finally got smart and left a winter bathrobe in the guest room closet at her house and that saves on space - they're so bulky to pack, but necessary for trips down the hallway to the bathroom in the morning or during the night!

For some reason I always come home with more than I left with when I visit. They're surrounded by so many great stores (that we don't have easy access to) I tend to shop too much. This trip I want to visit Lowes and get new bathroom faucets for our master bath. The ones we put in over twenty years ago are starting to show their age and I think new ones might be just the sprucing-up needed to avoid a whole renovation. That will mean boxes to hold the two bathroom vanity sets, the tub set, and the shower set. I can already hear my husband groan at the pile to carry out to the car when he leaves to come home Sunday. (He'll be leaving me behind and picking me up the following weekend.)

Well - packing is a necessary evil when it comes to traveling. I'll carefully sort through my clothes and choose the things I think will work. The big change-of-season questions (like will I need socks and should I take long sleeved shirts) will hang there but I'll do my best to be ready for any contingency. We must pack suitcases or never leave the house. Definitely worth the effort.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Late night TV

A recent night of insomnia saw me up at 4am trying to find something to do with myself other than television. Without my contact lenses it's too difficult to read so I spent a little time on the computer, wandered around the house a bit, and finally settled in on the couch to while away some time and try to fall asleep. What a wasteland late night TV is!

Most channels were full of infomercials - for everything from self-help books and CDs to "Girls Gone Wild" videos. They are among the most inane things ever to be produced and I cannot figure out how they actually produce revenue. (Well, maybe the "Girls Gone Wild" I get since there are way too many perverted men out there who probably love seeing drunken college girls who have no idea what they're doing.)

What I found myself thinking about was the old infomercials of the 1960s that sold things like the "vegematic" or the wonderful "ginsu knives". Those things were classics! The Billy Mays of those days managed to fit so much dialogue into a few minutes it made my head spin. Am I wrong or did they only last a few minutes? Now infomercials last for half an hour! How many ways can they say the same thing? It makes one long for Suzanne Sommers and the thigh master.

I think there ought to be at least one channel where we can watch reruns of "I Love Lucy" and her classics like the "Vitametavegimen" commercial every night. It's the very least they can do for us insomniacs - the perfect antidote to "Girls Gone Wild". Because we all still love Lucy!



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abLB7aTmnE4

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

9-11 rain


When I woke to rain September 11th I thought how appropriate it was. There's something so profoundly sad about that anniversary - still a very raw emotional day for everyone - and the rain seems like God sharing the sadness with us. I thought it was a fitting start for the memorial services that would be held around the country all that day.

One postivie thing that happened that week back in 2001 was the feeling of community that I absolutely reveled in. People looking at each other in appreciation for their just being there. Families streaming into church services to sit alongside others of all faiths, just to be together. Tears shed on strangers shoulders. It was a healing time for a nation deeply wounded as it had not been in a long time.

The flags that flew along every street and on every building across the country made a statement that we of the "Viet Nam generation" had never experienced before. It said to the world that we are "one nation, indivisible" and that to strike at any part of it is to strike at all of it. The strength of this nation is in its ability to overcome its divisions when necessary and rise up as one.

It also occurs to me every year when we celebrate the anniversary of the World Trade Center disaster that all around the world, every day of the year, people die unnecessarily. They die of famine, of war, of disease, and of acts of terror - and mostly they die for no good reason other than the fact that they were born in a poor country or in a country controlled by bad people or in a place where good medical care is unheard of - under some circumstances they have absolutely no control over.

On 9-11-09 it rained most of the day. It was a lovely autumn rain, not too windy and not too cold. And on this particular day it served to remind us all that human life is precious and we should never forget that. And tears are appropriate when it is lost for no good reason.

Monday, September 14, 2009

East Hampton in September

Although it's one of my favorite months because of the weather and the blissfully peaceful streets, I have to say that part of the thrill of September is in knowing we're in the depths of hurricane season. It's that combination of beauty and danger that is irresistible.

I've lived through plenty of hurricanes in my life - in fact during the 1950s they seemed to be an annual event. I remember one year we had two in the same week which was a thrill for us kids because we were out of school both times. I remember the names of some, like Donna, Carol, and Belle - they were all female names in those days. (I don't remember ever hearing of a hurricane with my name but I'm sure there was one at some point.) For us children they were adventures. We loved listening to the wind and rain as they pounded the house. I don't remember ever feeling fear - it was just part of the autumn season and we expected it.

I loved the old hurricane lamps we used - relics left by my ancestors in the old family home that came in handy when the electricity went out, which it always did. If we had a direct hit my father would pile us in the car during the eye and we'd make a quick trip to the ocean to see how far into the parking lot it had come. When the storm was over we'd do a quick trip down to the harbor to see how many boats ended up onshore somewhere. The population was so much less then that we could drive around easily, and usually saw friends doing the same thing. We oohed and aahed over the big trees that had been felled and gasped at any structural damage. I'm sure my father had more than a passing interest in all of it since he was in the insurance business.

It's been a long time since a hurricane has hit eastern Long Island. Every year we tell each other "this will be the year". Since we're still in the insurance business it isn't a pleasant idea really. But I do still find them fascinating and every September I wonder if we're in for a blow. This year the jury is still out so we'll see!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cleaning projects


What is it about the fall that makes us want to clean things and put things in order? I jumped in with both feet the other day to get my sun porch cleaned and organized. It's a room that also serves as my "office" and holds files and the computer, but it's a makeshift space with poorly working cabinets that I never use because I can't easily get into them, and not enough storage. I dream of having a real built-in office done there but the cost is prohibitive so I make do. But it easily becomes a mess, with piles of papers and files that there's no place to store.

In addition, I have all my knitting supplies out here and again, without the proper cabinets and shelves, I end up with bags and totes of yarn and needles and patterns spread all over so I have to scrounge around looking for things when I need them. It's frustrating and inconvenient and a poor use of the space.

Anyway, I dove in with abandon and started sorting and tossing. The problem is that every paper had to be inspected and absorbed before it was shredded and added to the garbage pile. I'm someone who sees something interesting in the newspaper, rips out the page, and leaves it on my office desk. If I had more filing space I would file it away in a proper place, under "possible travel destinations", "cheap hotels", "recipes" etc. But lacking such space it sits there until I take the time to go through the pile when it gets too large, at which point I need to edit it down to what I can find space for and throw the rest out. It takes forever.

After two hours I was done in. Not that I was physically tired but I just couldn't stand the tedium anymore. I had a small pile or recipes, piles to be filed in various places, and three large garbage bags full of papers and other detritus that had to be disposed of.

You would think at this point I would have felt pretty good, but no. I glanced around the room and it didn't look much better than when I'd started. The space in front of my computer screen (which was getting hard to see) was cleared and neat, but the rest of the room was still a wreck. But I needed a break...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Summer's end

Sitting outside on our deck the other day with friends and family was the perfect way to end the "official" summer season. It was a gorgeous day - sunny and mild, not too hot, not too cold - with nary a breeze to be had. The yellow jackets were beginning to make their presence known so we put out some traps for them, fired up the grill, and filled it with hamburgers and hot dogs. Everyone brought along a dish to share and we feasted on summer's bounty while the youngest ones played on the swings and slid down the slides.

When all the company had left and we'd completely cleaned up the dishes and put all the leftovers away, I sat down and reflected on what a perfect day it had been. The only thing that could have made it any better would've been to have had my entire extended family and all my close friends there to share it with. But that would have taken a tent and rental dishware so it wouldn't have been very practical.

This year has been one of some pretty high highs and pretty low lows. I've looked into the face of death and made peace with it. I've dealt with pretty heavy-duty surgery, weeks of recovery, months of chemotherapy, tremendous fatigue, hair loss, diarrhea, sleepless nights, and an emotional roller coaster that made my head spin. But at the end of the day I've learned some important lessons that I know many people don't learn until it's just too late. I've learned that life is about the intangibles - like the people we surround ourselves with and the things we choose to expend our energy on. It's what we invest ourselves in and not what we take out of it that matters. And its about seeing the miracle and the joy in the ordinary events of our everyday lives.

It's about beautiful end-of-summer cook-outs with people we love - and about connecting with God in gratitude and thanksgiving. And not forgetting what a gift it all is.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fire drills

Yesterday morning there was a general fire alarm call at the Middle School. I hustled out of the house and was nearly at the ambulance barn when the dispatcher called me to advise that all units were called off - the school was having a fire drill. Seems as though it would have been a good idea to let the fire department know before you set off the alarm for a drill, but what do I know?

Anyway, that set me to thinking about fire drills. When we were in grade school fire drills were not terribly exciting events. We filed out of our rooms, stood outside for a few minutes, and then filed back in again. Much more traumatic were the "bomb" drills, where we were taught to do one of two things: we filed out to the hallway where we lined up facing the walls, got down on our hands and knees and covered our heads. (We girls were told that if it were a real emergency we should pull our skirts up over our heads to cover them, but we should not do that during the drills.) We had to stay in that position for a few long minutes and I remember it being very uncomfortable down there all curled up like that. The other scenario was in our classrooms where we would get down on the floor, climb under our desks and cover our faces. Good grief! Is it any wonder my generation grew up to rebel? How traumatizing is all that!

When we got to the high school building, where I attended 7th through 12th grades, fire drills became somewhat more interesting. The school had three stories, a basement, main floor, and second floor - and there were two wings built off the back and side. So a fire drill meant people streaming out of a dozen doors and standing all around the perimeter of the building waiting to be let back in. In a true emergency this would not have been sufficient because there was no place around the school to find shelter-it was in the middle of the commercial district surrounded by traffic, rail road tracks, and businesses. It was obvious to us one day that something more than a normal drill was happening when we were ushered all the way across the street to the park, which was not the normal routine. There had been a bomb threat called in and we had to wait 30 minutes or more that time before finally being sent home for the day. We were thrilled since we had left with no books which meant no homework.

But the thing that made the fire drills most interesting in high school was the fact that sometimes, if you were extremely unlucky, you got caught getting changed for gym class when the alarm sounded. How emotionally disturbing for young girls with so many body-image issues, to be hustled out in towels (or various states of undress) by the gym teacher. I think she was a bit of a sadist myself - surely none of us would have died had we been allowed to throw on a shirt and skirt or shorts.

By high school the silly "bomb" drills had ended. But there were yellow and black signs all over the building announcing its status as a "bomb shelter" and advising of the location of emergency food supplies. Every once in awhile I'd see one of those signs and realize, by that age, that no shelter in the world would be good enough if the bomb really came. What a crazy world it was in the 1960s! Of course, here we are today remembering an anniversary that reveals not all that much has changed.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

High School


In the fall of 1963 I entered the 7th grade in the building that still stands on Newtown Lane. At that time it held the 7th through 12th grades - about 500 students if I remember correctly. Although many of my classes that year were confined to the basement (where most the 7th and 8th grade teachers were) there were others on the first and second floors, so we did plenty of mingling with the older students. Not only that but (gasp!) we had lunch hours and gym classes with students from all other grades. When I hear parents talk about how middle school students shouldn't be "exposed" to high school students it makes me laugh!

Of course, we didn't have much in common with high school seniors and there wasn't much socializing going on, but by the time I was in the 8th grade I did know many of the juniors and seniors and made some good friends in the upper classes. I don't think I was terribly scarred by the experience.

That school building was wonderful. I'm sure by modern standards it's a relic, but I still find it a charming and quirky place. It had two "new" wings - the cafeteria wing and the Social Studies wing. Those had both been added in the early 60s so for us they were brand new. All area teachers taught in the same general areas of the building and the Social Studies teachers were along the rear. The auditorium was newly renovated from the original sunken gym that had served as both that and an auditorium. By the time my children attended that school the seats and other furnishings were pretty well worn and sad. Hopefully the work they're doing there now is addressing an upgrade. But then it was quite nice and for the most part I loved that school.

We had an "up" and a "down" staircase at the ends of the building and you never dared break that rule. The third set of stairs, at the rear of the building, could be used in either direction. There was plenty of stair climbing in the course of a day which was great exercise, but I'm sure not much fun for anyone with disabilities. Those were pre-ADA days and no one thought much about that.

I remember being called to the Principal's office more than once but Mr. Meddaugh was a kind and gentle soul so it was never a terrible thing. The teachers room, however, terrified me! It was so strictly off limits that it had an aura about it. Once I was instructed by another teacher to go there and get someone and I was shaking in my go go boots when I knocked on that door! It was like trying to get in to The Emerald City and the head that appeared in answer to my knock had the same response: "What do YOU want!". That was a scary place!

One of my favorite things about that school was the front steps. It was a great place to meet up after class, or "happen upon" someone you were hoping to run into, or just stand and survey the world from. I still love coming out through those front doors into the sunshine.

My class was the last one to graduate from that high school - the Class of 1970. The following fall the building on Long Lane opened and never again would high school students meet for a quick kiss at the bottom of the old gym stairs or hang around lockers by the Industrial Arts wing. I'm very glad my memories are there. Some things never change and memories are one of them.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The new school

When I returned to school after Christmas vacation in the forth grade it was a brand new school I returned to. The building on Church Lane was open for business and we were all excited to be in what seemed like a palatial place to us after Skimhampton. It was a much smaller building than what now stands there - the original has been expanded and enhanced many times over. Back in the 1960s it was a long building with one hall which went from one end to the other, ending in exit doors. The lower grades were at one end, the office in the middle where the main entrance was, and the upper grades at the other end. Kindergarten through 6th grade were in that building - two classrooms of each. We had a music room, an art room, a cafeteria/gym, locker rooms, showers - we thought we had died and gone to heaven!

I spent two-and-a-half years in that building. I watched on a black & white television that had been rolled into my classroom as the first man was launched into space. It was in that building that I heard President Kennedy had been shot. I was in the music room and the principal came in and announced what had happened and I was shocked to see our music teacher break down in tears. It was that building where we practiced air raid drills, ducking under our desks and protecting our heads in some false sense of safety in case we should come under atomic attack. Wow.

When my own children attended the same school it was nostalgic for sure. Memories faced me around every corner. Now that my grandchildren are there it's changed so significantly that it isn't quite as much fun anymore. Most vestiges of my old haunt are gone. I suppose all these years later that's as it should be.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Skimhampton

The temporary school which the district created out of a newly built retail building was less than adequate. The classrooms were a good size but the ones across the front of the building had huge picture windows (which are still there) and when the sun came streaming in it was HOT sitting at our desks.

There was no gym, music room, art room, or cafeteria. Every "special" teacher worked off a rolling cart. The art teacher was Ralph Carpentier, who is a respected artist on the East End now, and he rolled that cart in every week with orange juice cans full of paint and brushes sticking out in every direction - I can still see it!

We did have a hot lunch program but it was set up in the center hallway and we went through the line, picked up our lunch, and went back to our classrooms to eat. There were two large bathrooms in the center hall but none in any of the classrooms. I'm sure the teachers thought they were really roughing it but we kids didn't know any better. With no gym all our phys ed was outside. There was a large lot behind the building but it was mostly dirt and in the winter there was always a large puddle that froze and covered most of it with a sheet of ice. More than one child ended up in the nurses office after taking a header on that ice.

We walked to that school. It was just under the two mile limit - by a few dozen feet if I remember correctly - so we couldn't get bused. My brother and I rode our bikes most days. We didn't have to cross Montauk Highway until we got to the school and the crossing guard was there to get us safely across. His name was Joe LaPorte and the kids all loved him. There's an award still given every year at the elementary school in his honor.

Despite the small building and austere conditions I have good memories of that school. I was there from first grade through the middle of fourth grade so many friendships were made in that building! They were good years.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Back to School


Is there anything as stress-inducing as remembering what it was like to go back to school every year? Just the thought of it makes me start to sweat. All the anxiety comes back - thinking about who'll be in the class, if the teacher will be nice, where my desk will be, what the work load will be. And that was only grade school! Forget high school! I still have nightmares about forgetting my locker combination or walking in to class late. But I also have many wonderful memories of my school years. I made life-long friends and enjoyed some great teachers.

When I attended kindergarten it was held in the Odd Fellow's Hall - now a retail store - on Newtown Lane. There was a fenced-in area in the back with a little log cabin fort along with some swings and other standard playground equipment. We had two teachers, Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Wilson, who team-taught in the beginning of class but then split us into two groups to do things that needed more one-on-one attention, like learning to write letters and doing craft projects. It was a wonderful space for kindergartners and I enjoyed that school.

I actually walked from home everyday. My brother was a few years older than I and he attended the only other school (which housed grades 1-12) in what's now the Middle School on Newtown lane. He and I left Accabonac Road together, crossed the street when we got to North Main, and then he left me at my building while he walked the rest of the way up the street to his. I was on my own coming home, although initially I think my father walked up to meet me until I was well accustomed to the route. My mother had two younger children at home so I guess it was difficult for her to come get me. Can you imagine letting a five-year-old walk home from Newtown Lane in today's traffic? It was a different world back in the 1950s.

By the time I went to first grade the school district had rented a brand new brick building that we called "Skimhampton" - it's still there, housing something called a "cantina" but has been at various times a Sears outlet, a paint store, and a thrift store. Back then it was a new retail space which they turned into a makeshift elementary school to house first through fifth grade classes while a new school was being built on School Street. These were the baby boom years! New schools were popping up everywhere. I was in that building until halfway through my fourth grade year when the new one opened. John Marshall was our principal and my teacher was Mrs. Crozier. I liked them both.

Tomorrow I think I'll share some memories of that new school building - I was there through the 6th grade. But today I'm thinking about the first days of school and how exciting and frightening they were all at the same time. It comes back to me vividly when I talk with my grand kids on the phone and hear about their own "first day" stories. Because life does repeats itself - generation after generation, our experiences are the same. As Disney said so well: "the circle of life"!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Early beach/late beach


Yesterday morning we got up before 7, grabbed bagels and headed to Main Beach for a little morning beach time. It's beautiful there early in the morning and I love the way the rising sun shimmers across the surface of the water, so bright its nearly blinding. The swallows that my granddaughter and I enjoy watching earlier in the summer have long ago abandoned their nests and I missed their busy feeding time - they were nowhere to be seen. But there were plenty of gulls on the sand, picking through whatever had been turned up by the sand rake which had gone through earlier.

The beach itself was clean and smooth and ready for a busy Saturday. Highway Department crews were replacing the bags in the garbage bins and picking up debris from last night's parties. There was more activity than usual at that hour because the fireworks were held last night and there were dumpsters being put into place before things got too busy.

Mornings are already cooler and a light sweater or long sleeved shirt as in order, but it was a beautiful day to sit and watch as a fishing trawler worked its way west and people stepped onto the sand for an early morning walk. In a very short time, maybe fifteen minutes, I could feel myself relaxing into the day and looking forward to going home to get some work done.

I'm not the kind of person who loves the craziness of the beach in the middle of the day - especially one as busy as this one. The quiet and deserted pavilion would be a hub of activity by 10am. But in the early morning, or during the evening hours, I love the beach. It reminds me of a song from the musical "Guys & Dolls" when Sky Masterson sings about his time of day being "the night time - a couple of hours before dawn..." when the streets are quiet. This is my time of day at the beach.

Last night was another story. There were thousands on the sand to see the fireworks and that was fun too. (People watching is a sport all its own.) And just as the sun had sent its rays out onto the water in the morning, the moon came up with a soft orange glow that sprinkled the water with its essence the same way. It was a lovely, comfortable night and by the time the fireworks started that moon was as bright and as white as it ever is. What a great place we live!

I love the beach. Each time of day there holds its special charm. But in the morning, when peace reigns and quiet lays over the landscape like a fog, it's a very special place.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Empty nest


I'm almost afraid to verbalize this, but I think we have an empty nest again. Our twenty-seven-year-old son (who moved back home two years ago) has been moving out all week. Wow.

I'll admit I miss the years when the kids were little and the house was always lively, but as they grew and took up more space having them move on was not such a bad thing. We're very fortunate to have three of our four living right here in town so not having them in the same house is OK. (One lives five hours away and that's hard, but it's also one of the realities of life that our children will move on and we may not be part of their every day lives when that happens. It took me some time to come to grips with that. But I'm so lucky to have the other three living in East Hampton and for that I'm very grateful.)

Housing being as difficult as it is here it was inevitable that we'd have at least one re-bounder come to live with us for awhile and we were happy to have him here. But before he moved back home we'd been alone for a few years and I'd gotten pretty used to the freedom that an empty nest brings. I was able to walk around in various states of undress and not worry so much about locking bathroom doors for awhile. I had to adjust my habits when we were no longer alone. But suddenly that freedom is back again and I'm looking forward to it.

We'll always be here for our children and anytime they need a place to live our door will be open - whether for a few weeks or a few years we'll gladly take them in. But for the foreseeable future at least, we're here alone in an empty house - like a couple of newlyweds - enjoying our privacy. Because we have each other and the house is still full of love and as long as they all come back regularly to check in, this is great!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fences

Is anyone else out there as excited as I am to finally be able to see and appreciate the beautiful and historic Thomas Moran house on Main Street across from Town Pond? For too many years this gem has been hidden from sight by overgrown hedges so high you could barely see the top of the roof line on this, one of the most charming houses ever to be built in East Hampton. Renovations have begun there and when I drove by recently and saw that the greenery had been cut down nearly to the ground I was ecstatic. Finally!

My friends know I'm not a big fan of fences and hedges. (I'm way too outspoken about my likes and dislikes and believe it or not I work hard to keep my thoughts to myself.) When I was growing up here houses and yards were all open to the street and visible when you drove along, with the exception of a few large estates on Lily Pond Lane. Even on most of the largest parcels we could see the huge lawns and beautiful houses that lined the dunes and golf course. Now it seems as though a drive down many of our streets is like going through the Lincoln Tunnel. Such a shame! Our homes are so lovely and their lawns and gardens should be enjoyed by everyone.

Of course I understand the desire for privacy and I do see the need in cases where houses are very close to the street. Noise and nosey people can surely be a nuisance. But in most cases that's really not the issue. In fact it puzzles me why we have regulations about how tall fences can be but not hedges. Very often fences are easier to see through than the hedges are. Some hedges are so thick and tall it would take a tank to penetrate them.

I suppose the worst thing about it for me is that it stands as one more example of how our community has changed. Where we were once open and neighborly and welcomed people to wave at us as we worked in our yards, now we beg them to ignore us and leave us alone.

In this one case at least we're reversing the trend and the Thomas Moran house - that wonderful, quirky old lady that sits up there so graciously on the hill, is once again reigning over Main Street for all to see. I love it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

September

This is a strange year with Labor Day falling so late in the month - because summer never really ends until Labor Day - but the weather has surely changed and is totally matching the calendar so I think we can safely say the hot days of summer are over. No problem for me! I LOVE September! It's among my favorite months. The weather is perfect - low humidity - cool nights and warm days - and the tourists are gone (during the week at least) so we can drive around a bit more easily and have our streets and grocery stores all to ourselves. What's not to love about September?

Some people have a tendency to see the down side of things and are sad that summer is over. I see the start of the holiday season with all the wonderful things that go along with that. I don't have much sympathy for people who always see the negative in everything. I think that's a silly way to live. In fact, its not really living at all.

I have an elderly aunt that lives upstate and I call her regularly to check up on her since she has no other family But I have to brace myself for the call because every time I make it I have to listen to a barage of things like"it's so hot I can't sleep" and "groceries are so expensive I don't know how I'm going to manage" and "I really need to get to the doctor but I don't know how to get there" and "My neighbors are so noisy". Those are just a few of the things I hear. More difficult is that there is never any delight in her voice about anything. I feel sorry for her but I also think this is a choice - like the old song says "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative" etc. There are many things she could be doing with her time that would make her feel productive and happy but she chooses instead to sit back and see the negative all around her and then complain about everything. How sad is that?

So I won't go there. Here's to September and all the wonderful things that come with it! Beautiful weather, quiet streets, time to plan for the holidays, time to spend with friends and family - there's so much living to pack into our days if we choose to do it! May I never see the glass half empty in life. May none of us ever fall into that trap. Life is for living. and we need to do it with gusto!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ambulance abuse


I am so tired and frustrated at the abuse of the local 911 system I could scream. The volunteers are so overly stressed at this time of the year I worry about serious burn-out, and I also worry about their safety on the roads. Because in my estimation between 70 and 80% of the calls we get are non-emergencies and people need to stop!

Just in the past week I've taken people to the hospital for cut fingers, bumps and bruises, and because they "haven't felt well in a few days now". This is not what I joined the service for. Since when do we call ambulances to take us to the hospital when we are perfectly capable of driving ourselves, or going to see a our own doctor, or going to the Urgent Care Center? I was brought up to believe that ambulances were for emergencies - like heart attacks and trauma - not for people who have a mild case of hives or a sore throat. It didn't take me long when I joined the local service twenty years ago to learn that many of our calls were for elderly people who live alone and need transportation, or for terminal cancer patients who need hospitalization. I have no problem with that. What I wasn't prepared for was the overwhelming number of calls for people who simply needed a band aid or a tetanus shot. Or who don't want to be bothered to drive to Southampton themselves. All these years later, as the local services get busier and busier, I'm still appalled at what I see.

Something has to be done to change this abuse. Because the implications for taxes if our volunteers become so burned out they no longer want to do this work are really incredible. The question is, in this age of self-importance and entitlement, how do we get people to stop taking the system for granted and use it as it was meant to be used - for true emergencies?

Well - I feel better for just verbalizing the frustration I feel more and more as the years go by. After all, half the stress of anything is keeping your feelings to yourself! So as usual, this blog serves as my cheap and easy therapy. Who needs doctors when they can just write it all down and then....let it go. Ahhhh - I feel so much better now.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Visit from an old friend


A week ago I was able to spend some time with an old friend. We've known each other since childhood but he moved to the west coast after high school and we rarely see each other now. It was a treat to sit and talk with him - seeing him never fails to bring a wave of nostalgia.

What I find interesting is how different our lives are. Not because of what we do but because while I've remained in East Hampton (and married a local boy), he's out in California, married to someone who has no real interest in East Hampton, so his life is split into two sections of history where mine has remained as one. I'm still here in the same spot I started, anchored like a trawler to the place I've always been. But he has two lives - the one he lives now (and has been living for over thirty years) with his children, his friends, and a lifestyle far removed from East Hampton and his roots - and the one he left behind when he moved away. And then there is his life here - his history and his roots. And none of the people who populate those diverse lives really knows anything about the others. He has his California life in the present and his past East Hampton life with all the memories and friendships he left behind that are still relevant and alive and very much a part of his soul.

Then there's me, someone who's never left, with all that history still part of my current life and very much a part of who I am as well. In my case that history still informs my present because its all right here. People who watched me grow up are still around to remind me of where I came from and how far I've come. There are memories around every corner and each piece of this town is a piece of my life as well. I regularly see people who I went to kindergarten with and got into trouble with in high school.

Isn't it interesting how far away people can move from one another and yet still be tied so tightly by the lives they've lived? And how sad it is when we never have the opportunity to reconnect with those people who made up the fabric of our past? I enjoyed seeing my friend again. I wish he still lived here, but at least we get to reminisce every few years about what used to be. Next year my high school class will celebrate our 40th reunion. He promised to come...