Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bandstand


I saw a photo recently of some kids back in the early 1960s dancing on the tv show American Bandstand and it made me wonder: Is there anything equal to that today? I don't think there is!

Bandstand, as we always called it, was uniquely ours. It was a show for and about our generation and we were the co-stars. Because not only were there big name singers performing their latest hits live, there were regular teens dancing to the music, rating the songs, and in general, making themselves heard on national television. It was unprecedented!

Whenever I catch a clip of the show, usually a retrospective about the music of the 50s and 60s, it makes me nostalgic for the days when everything the teen-agers in the country did was significant. When we began to rock 'n roll, it changed music forever. When we decided we'd had enough of the war in Viet Nam, it began the long process of ending it. And when we decided we wanted to wear blue jeans to school, it may have taken a decade to get it done, but eventually that victory was ours as well. Good and bad, we changed the direction this country was going and now we're sitting back waiting to see where the next generation is going to take us. So far, I'm not sure.

All I can say is this: If wearing my pants hanging off my rear end ever becomes the norm, I hope I'm dead and buried by then.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

TV

I am confounded by the way we've gone backwards in terms of television sets.

When we were kids the tv consoles were huge pieces of furniture that took up an entire corner of the living room, usually having a place of honor with their fancy cabinets, sometimes including a "hi fi" along with all the tubes and wires to make the tv work. They came in every conceivable wood from blonde to dark walnut, some with nice gold hardware and doors to close them off.

Then in the 1960s everything became smaller. Portable radios were taken to the beach and television sets were small enough to put on a kitchen counter or tuck into a bedroom somewhere. Smaller was better we thought! I even remember a small television screen that was touted as being able to be used at the beach. I think the screen was about 5 inches across but it was bulky to walk around with. We were convinced that smaller was better and we werer delighted to be able to hide our tv sets behind bupboard doors.

Now, suddenly, bigger is better. Once again people are planning their entire decorating schemes around huge, flat-screened, high definition television sets that take up an entire wall of the house and - in the most bizzare cases of all - go over the fireplace. What???

Call me crazy but I'm perfectly happy without a tv set that's the main focus of any room. I like being able to close the doors and forget its there and I have no desire for a bigger, better set. The one we have serves our purposes just fine. But isn't it odd how we seem to go in circles with things? I actually would prefer my parents old RCA console to some of the huge things people have now....

Friday, February 26, 2010

Beautiful winter

The snow is coming down again today - what a winter this has been here! But you know, there are some things that are more beautiful in the winter than at any other time. A few weeks ago I was sitting in my living room looking across the open field at the cemetery behind Hook Mill. With snow still nestled between the headstones it's a contrast of color, with gray stone standing out against the white ground. Each stone stands straight and proud, so strong in the coldest part of the year. In the summer, they blend in with the green grass and at this distance they're barely discernible.

I also love the shapes the tree branches make against the winter sky. Some make rounded or mushroom-like shapes while others reach straight up, spindly and wispy without their green canopy.

There are things to be seen in the winter that are hidden during the summer. As the grass grows and the leaves emerge, hidden spaces are covered over and ponds, homes, and woods are no longer open vistas to be enjoyed by all who pass. We need to enjoy these glimpses into special, secret places while we have them, and I notice the headstones of the cemeteries while they are so visible here in February.

Each season brings its special pleasures. If we spend too much time bemoaning the difficulties we run the risk of missing the joys. We may be tired of shoveling snow but we can certainly enjoy the beauty if brings.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Clothes

It's amazing what a difference the way we dress makes, isn't it? I was thinking about that last week when I dressed for my board meeting. My normal uniform is jeans and a sweater and most my days are spent that way, even when I'm doing "business". But when I have a public board meeting, or another function that demands it, I dress the part and I find that the clothes really do make the man or woman!

Not only does a suit make me feel more business-like and tough, but color plays a huge role in how I'm thinking and feeling. Red is the powerful color it's perceived to be - when I wear red I feel more powerful and in control. Softer colors, like blue for instance, tend to relax me and make me calmer. So I find that I dress for what I'm facing that day. If we have a tough public hearing coming up I'm wearing red for sure. If there is a stressful executive session on the agenda, blue or green is my color of the day. Of course, black is the ultimate business color and I wear that most the time, but scarves, blouses and jewelry provide the needed boost of emotional bravado where necessary.

I feel badly for the men. The only real accessory they have in their arsenal is the tie, and how much power can a tie possibly carry with it? And, the poor things never even realize when we ladies are doing our mental maneuvers because to them, its only color!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bad hair days

I'm thrilled beyond belief that I actually have hair again. When it fell out after my first chemotherapy treatment I embarked on one of the most difficult periods of my life and I'm so grateful its over. Because having no hair made me feel like an alien and every time I looked in the mirror I was reminded of the battle I was fighting. It was not a fun time in my life.

And then, the battle hopefully over, I looked longingly in the mirror waiting, waiting, waiting for something to appear! What if I was the one person whose hair never grew back? Suppose I was destined to never have hair again, ever? How would I deal with that? It was a difficult time of uncertainty and it seemed to take forever for the early signs to appear: first a little fuzz, then the "chia pet" look and finally, by November, real hair coming back. Phew! But then....my patience was wearing thin as I approached Christmas with barely enough hair to qualify as a "head full". It took forever to look like something.

And here I am now, a full six months since it started to come back, and its like nothing I've ever dealt with before. It has a kinky, frizzy quality I can't seem to figure out what to do with and many mornings I throw my hands up in frustration. If only the afro was still in style I'd be so hip right now! They tell me this will eventually be more like my old hair was but for now at least, I'm channeling the late 1960s and getting in touch with my "groovy" self. What a journey this has been! And how grateful am I to have hair again?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are Wii serious?

My children gave us a Wii for Christmas and I'm having a great time with it. This past week, when my work-out partner was away, I skipped the gym and used my Wii Fit to do my morning work-outs. What a blast.

Well, there are some things that I don't like about it. There's something annoying about a screen character asking you why you gained half a pound since your last work-out, or whether there's some reason I didn't work-out the day before. I have enough issues with accountability so I really don't need some machine chastising me. But...its a small annoyance.

I love the boxing application and I love hearing the ring of the bell whenever I make a good connection. I like to do rhythm kung fu where a little animated version of me appears onscreen in a cute little pink Chinese jacket, punching and kicking away to the rhythm. And the free run is great because all the other Mii characters in my system - all the family members I've created - run with me. What a neat idea this system was!

I'm happy to have my work-out partner back this week and the gym is always my first choice for exercise. But in a pinch, this little video thing is a great substitute and I highly recommend it!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The 22nd

Certain dates always have meaning and this is one of them. When we were kids it was a school holiday - Washington's birthday. But it also happened to be my father's birthday so it always meant my mother would be baking a cake and we'd celebrate as a family at dinner that night.

My grandmother used to tell me the story of when my father was born and I always enjoyed hearing it. What she didn't tell me, and what I didn't discover until I was an adult, was that she had become pregnant before she was married and then that baby, her first, was stillborn. That baby is buried in the cemetery in the family plot and I see it whenever I happen to be there looking at the ancestor's graves. The baby was not given a name and the stone simply says "Baby Strong". It makes me sad to see it and it also makes me appreciate how much it must have meant to my grandmother when she finally did have a healthy baby, who happened to be my father.Life is a profound series of joys and sorrows. It reminds me of the opening of the old tv series "Ben Casey", which my mother loved to watch. Does anyone else remember that? It was a hand drawing symbols on a chalk board and giving the meaning of each word as he completed the drawing: "man, woman, life, death, infinity" I think it was. Doesn't that pretty much sum it all up nicely? Life is a series of events, including life and death, men and women, sickness, health, joys, sorry - and perhaps - eternity.

My father's been gone a long time now - over ten years. But February 22nd will always be his birthday to me. The fact that it also happens to be my sister-in-law's birthday makes it even more special. Happy birthday BMS!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Scares


Last week a good friend was taken to the hospital with symptoms that could have spelled a real physical threat to his life. It was a frightening time for those of us who care about him and despite the thankfully positive outcome I've been thinking a lot about how this age of mine brings with it the constant threat of loss and grief.

When my husband had his heart attack fifteen years ago we were suddenly forced into the world of physical vulnerability, which is where we now live all the time, but by and large younger people (and some older ones who have not yet seen its potential) never recognize it. Although as a young mother I often worried about the safety of my children, the threat of death did not occupy my thoughts too often. When we're young we think that death is something that happens to the elderly, which is why the occasional tragic death of a child or teenager is such a shock to any community.

But now that I'm in middle-age I'm constantly aware of the fragile nature of life and the possibility that I'll lose friends - or they me -in the coming years. When I see obituaries of people in their 50s and 60s it shakes me up and I worry about the people who are important to me.

We all spend our lives on earth with the knowledge that we're here for a finite period. We know we'll lose our parents some day, as difficult as that is. But we're not quite prepared for the fact that we'll lose dear friends along the way, people whose friendships mean all the more when we're older and our lives no longer center on children. It's those fragile threads of friendship that keep us connected and bring us joy. Thinking about the possibility of having even one severed is more than I want to consider.

I may have dodged my own bullet this past year and I have the strong sense that I'm living on borrowed time. Somehow that's not as hard as thinking the other people I love are doing the same.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Olympics

The one time I truly enjoy watching sports on tv is when the Olympic games are being played somewhere in the world. From the time I was quite young I was fascinated by this special time of peace among people all over the world and I still find it incredible that these games are held despite what's happening between countries and across boarders around the globe. Plus, there's something quite compelling about seeing so many athletes that are the top in their various fields, all together in one place for this intensive period of competition.

Interestingly, I find that I watch things I normally would never look twice at, like curling and speed skating, and the spirit of the games grabs me every time. Suddenly I'm riveted to sports like the biathlon and snowboarding, and things I enjoy like ice dancing become bigger than life. I love seeing so many young, healthy, talented people all in one place and the intensive nature of the games makes them all that more compelling. Now that we have the ability to record things I no longer have to plan my schedule around events, but there was a time when we wouldn't plan anything for nights the Olympic games were being televised. Fortunately that is no longer the case and we can catch up on whatever we've missed the following day.

So this week, and next, we'll be watching lots of television, and as far as I'm concerned it's television at its best: bringing us all the pageantry, color, spirit, and action as it happens from all the way across the continent. How cool is that?

Friday, February 19, 2010

My house


I think the winter months make us more appreciative of our homes than any other time of the year. When we spend so much time indoors it just becomes so obvious what we love about them and also focuses us on what we want to improve! We recently made a long list of projects we want to do in and around our house, from small things like changing out faucets to large projects like replacing showers. It's a wish list, but at least it gives us goals.

My house was built by my great uncle when he married in the 1920s. It sits next to the house where I grew up - and where he grew up before me. There are four homes on this corner in the village, all built by my family and still owned by ancestors of those first owners. It's both a pleasure and a burden to own one of them. A pleasure because there's something quite profound about living in a home that sits on property your family has been living on since the 1800s. The ghosts of those ancestors seem to surround me at times and I think often about them and what their lives were like here. I'm grateful they chose East Hampton to settle in.

But a burden because where some people might sell and buy something more convenient, I feel obligated to stay. I can't imagine being the one to let this piece of our family history go. But I know that there are other homes without the problems we have in this one, like water in the basement and so little storage. Sometimes I dream of buying a smaller house with a nice finished basement and lots of big closets. But the sentimental value would not be there.

In this, the heart of winter, I happen to love my home. It's warm and cozy, with small rooms so typical of a house built in the 1920s. It's close to everything and we can walk to most places if need be. We're never snowed in and can always get out and around. Those attributes nicely balance the inconvenience of the summer traffic we endure.

And there are all those ancestors that keep me company when I get lonely!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pollyanna

Someone recently said I was a "Pollyanna". Now, I remember that movie from my youth (starring Haley Mills) and I don't think that's such a bad thing to be, but in this case I don't think they meant it in a complimentary way. It seems as though it's come to mean more of a false cheeriness than an honest joy of life. If that's true I'm not one. I simply enjoy life and think we make many choices that effect us when it comes to our own happiness.

I'm not sure how the term "Pollyanna" came to be a negative one. After all, she was a girl who looked at the bright side of things and made everyone else's life better because of it. What's so bad about that? I guess its my mother's influence, but I feel as though happiness is a choice that we make in life and all along the way we make choices about how we are going to approach things. Will it be a positive experience or a negative one? Will I come out of this better or worse than I was before? Can I learn something from what I'm going through and make it a good experience? Those are choices. I've known too many people in my life that go through their days expecting the worst and usually the result is a self-fulfilling prophecy. That's not for me.

Being in Disney World confirmed for me how important it is to be positive. Everywhere we went the employees were unendingly friendly and cheerful. Everyone we passed, from chamber maids to lifeguards, greeted us with a smile and something nice to say. It's contagious, that kind of attitude, and I came home wondering how it would change our summers in East Hampton if every police officer, TCO, deli clerk, and shop owner took on that same persona. A smile and a greeting might very well mean the difference in how our visitors act, not to mention the locals who get so out of sorts every August.

So OK - maybe I'm a Pollyanna. I think I can live with that. I'd much rather be remembered that way than as the grumpy woman who lived in the brown house...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lincoln and Washington

When we were in school there were two holidays in February: President Lincoln's birthday on the 12th and President Washington's on the 22nd. We learned about each man and what made them great presidents. We talked about their honesty and integrity and the reasons they were great leaders. I think I know more about Abe and George than I know about any other of our many presidents.

Then in the late 1960s they decided to combine those two holidays into "President's Day" and then take an entire week off for a mid-winter break. Now I wonder what they talk about leading up to President's Day? Do they teach the kids about other past president's? Or do they still talk about Lincoln and Washington? Or do they not talk about them at all? Since my kids are all grown I have no idea what they're teaching them these days, but I do know this: I'd rather have February 12th and 22nd as holidays for everyone in the country the way it used to be. In fact, I'd be happy to move to a 4 day work week. Or, as they do in Europe, everyone would have either July or August off every year. Now that is a civilized way to run a country.

In any case, there are many presidents I have no desire to celebrate, nor do I think they deserve a day of their own. But who am I to say? For me, its still all about Abe and George - two amazing men who we were lucky to have in the presidency. They surely don't make them like that anymore...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vacation week

This is one of the slowest, quietest weeks in East Hampton. I love it. And I hate it.

I love it because its so quiet you can walk into any store and be in and out in a jiffy. We can go to the movie theater and be the only ones there. We can go to a restaurant and get great service. We can walk down the street and there's no one around.

I hate it because I feel as though I'm the only who's not on vacation somewhere. And there's no one around.

Strange, isn't it, the way we hate the things we love sometimes? But I think this is going to be a very long week...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Friendship

I've had plenty of opportunity in the past year to experience the value of friendship. I have a pile of greeting cards about 10 inches high that testify to the way friends can touch us when we need to be touched. Each one is special to me and I can't throw them away. I'm not sure the people who sent them realize how much a card means to someone who's sick, or scared, or grieving, but they sometimes mean the difference between making it through a rough patch with a little less pain. Just knowing that people care makes such a difference.

It's interesting how something like illness can separate the people who truly care from the ones who are simply vaguely interested in us. Friends - true friends - were there for me in more ways than I can count. They took me to doctor's visits, they invited me to their homes, they told me they cared and showed it by bringing meals and sending flowers. Even some from distant places were attentive and concerned and that remains indelibly imprinted in my mind - I'll never forget any of their kindnesses.

Friends are what make life wonderful. Family and friends are what allow us to live it with joy.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

I don't remember Valentine's Day being on a Sunday before, although it surely has been. It seems a bit odd to me - like a day without a home. Because Valentine's Day should be any other day of the week, when flowers can be delivered and cards can arrive in the mail. Sunday just seems wrong somehow.

I have many memories of Valentine's Day growing up because there were always school celebrations. A dear old friend has many times mentioned Valentine's Day in the 6th grade which I honestly have no recollection of but he seems quite sure of his memory. According to him, the class had a large, decorated box which everyone stuffed their class valentines in when they arrived at school that morning. Later in the day, when the official Valentine Party was to commence, the teacher put me in charge of opening the box in front of the class and distributing the cards one at a time, reading each name so the recipient could walk to the front of the class, retrieve their card, and return to their seat where they could open and read it. (I think I was chosen because I had decorated the box, not because I was particularly fairminded) Apparently each time one of his cards came up I read his name - and then before he could make his way to the front of the class I'd say "Oops - guess he's not here" (alluding the the fact that he had taken too long to respond) and then I'd stuff his valentine back into the box. Now I honestly can't imagine that I was such an evil person, although he and I were friends so perhaps I meant it more as a tease than anything else, but to hear him tell it I was being unkind. Since I have completely deleted the incident from my mind, I can't explain it. And where in the world was the teacher when all this was going on? It's possible he made the whole thing up.

But just in case, this is my official apology to my friend, who happens to read my blog entries, and also a public attempt at redemption. Here goes:

"Joel, I'm so sorry I ruined your Valentine's Day in Mrs. Webb's class all those years ago. I hope I didn't scar you for life and I truly hope your Valentine's Days since then have been better. I hope you know how much I love you and cherish our friendship. Old friends truly are the best!"

Now hopefully that puts an end to my Valentine's Day guilt. Because it should be all about love. And love is all we need!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Baby showers

Last night we had a baby shower for my adorable daughter-in-law. She's awaiting the arrival of her first baby (a little girl to be named Piper!) who should be arriving within the next few weeks. And it made me think about the tradition of "showering" people with gifts for special occasions.

I believe the "shower" goes back to colonial days when the ladies would get together to help each other prepare for weddings and babies. They'd bring things they knew the new bride or mother would need, sort of a "woman-to-woman" seminar where they imparted their wisdom along with small gifts. For babies they would bring things like handmade sweaters and blankets, knowing how many a new baby needs and how little time a woman in those days had to sit and knit or crochet. So they helped her out. The book "The Red Tent" comes to mind here - women helping women and celebrating their womanhood at the same time.

It's still a wonderful tradition, although not as necessary in this age of plenty as it was during more difficult times. I honestly think the greatest value today is in the chance for women to gather to share their wisdom and participate in the joy of the event. They laugh as they pass around the cute little clothes, ooo-ing and ahh-ing over each tiny sweater or bootie, remembering when their own children were newborns and basking in the glow of those special memories.

Last night did not disappoint.

Friday, February 12, 2010

More snow

Yesterday I enjoyed driving around and looking at the results of our snowfall, checking out trees and open spaces as well as businesses and homes. It was early in the day and we could still see lights on in some houses, even though the sun was up and it was pretty bright outside. The places where the sun shone through the highest trees were the most beautiful as large brush strokes of bright light hit patches of open field and illuminated areas of woodland.

The snow obviously came from one direction throughout the storm because every tree is covered on one side only, top to bottom. When looking across the green at the Maidstone Club, a stand of mature trees looked like birches in their white skins. From the other side they were still brown. It was an interesting aspect of this storm and points out the way each one has a life of its own and very distinctive characteristics.

By the afternoon the sun had done its thing and the roads were clean and easy to handle. The only danger was the huge chunks of snow and ice falling off the trees all around! You could hear it as soon as you walked outside - pieces crashing and smattering on the ground.

We were lucky this time - no where near the record breaking amounts of snow that other places had. East Hampton was moving well by 9:00 and business as usual was being conducted. And for a few days at least, we'll enjoy the beauty of a February snowfall...before we begin longing for Spring.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Overnight

Yesterday morning we awoke to snow that had fallen during the night. Not a blizzard at that point, but a beautiful snow that covered everything and looked stunning when the morning light broke through the trees. It was a glorious sight and the quiet streets made for an ideal morning to sleep in a little, pulling the covers up tight and staying warm and cozy under a layer of down.

Later in the morning I had the opportunity to take a drive around the village in a highway deparment plow and I was so grateful because snow is the most beautiful when it's brand new. The world looked as though its been touched by the hand of a master artist as every tiny branch and twig was perfectly outlined with white. The wind and the sun, within a few hours after the end of a snowfall, erase those beautiful outlines and the snow settles to the ground for the most part. Unless you get out quickly and look around, the glorious first hours of a winter snow are lost. It's the time I like best because the world looks still and peaceful, not quite awake or something. The snow fell most of the day, with some periods of sleet and rain and then snow again when we turned off the lights and went to bed, thankful for a warm place to be for the night.

Of course it's a matter of perspective, and there are surely times I dread the snow (ambulance duty and travel plans come quickly to mind). But yesterday, when the world was quiet and well prepared, it was a wonderful thing. And the snow took a stark winter landscape and transformed it into something magical for a day, at least. Now let's see what today will bring...

Last night it was still snowing. Sometimes the snow is wonderful.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blizzard

I'm writing this Tuesday night in anticipation of being able to sleep in this morning. They're predicting a blizzard which was going to start overnight and last all day today. If they were right, I'm happily staying in bed this morning because...what's the rush? I'll get up later than usual and spend the day getting some work done around the house. There's nothing like a blizzard to create an unexpected day off. And from the sound of things, no one is going anywhere today.

I don't mind snow - blizzards are another matter. If this lasts all day today, and tomorrow the roads are still not easy to pass, cabin fever will quickly set in. I'm fortunate to live in the village because our roads are plowed quickly and well. And because they're heavily used they're completely clear within a day after the snow stops. My driveway, on the other hand, is another matter. Because of the shadow cast by the house next door the sun doesn't do its magic here the way it does on the other parts of my lawn and walkways.

If we get a significant amount of snow this could be an interesting weekend. Boots, floor mats, and shoveling will all be in the future. And by next week, hopefully, the sun will come out and begin the melting process. We can only hope.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Doldrums

It's easy to see why some people suffer with seasonal disorders, those mental issues that lead them into depressions during the winter months. I think its the lack of bright sunlight and outdoor activity that's to blame. We tend to become housebound in the winter and I can only imagine how difficult it is for people who can't easily get around to deal with snow and ice. Putting on the boots and cleaning off the car can be a real challenge to the most able of us and sometimes its just easier to stay at home. We force ourselves to venture into the cold because we have things we need to do. If the need were not there, well....I'd be tempted to stay inside most the time too.

At times like this I remind myself of my mother. She was a woman of unending energy and she never allowed to weather to slow her down. Even during her last winter she would not give my husband the time to get to her house to shovel her walk for her when it snowed. By the time he worked his way over there she would already have been out cleaning off her car so she could get to wherever it was she was going. He was left to shovel her front walk for the mailman and clean up what she had already done by widening the path and making sure she could get the car out when she was ready to go.

I guess the big difference in the winter is that it takes an act of will to get up and out many times. I'll use my mother's example to remind me as I get older that my own desire to be active and useful sometimes needs to be accompanied by the chutzpah to shovel and sweep my way out the door. Sitting around and waiting for the world to come to me is not an option. And besides, it could be a long wait!

The winter doldrums will soon be over and the sun will be shining brightly again to welcome us to each new day. But for now I'm grateful that my mother taught me the value in being a contributing member of society and not sitting back taking the easy road. The snow is a minor inconvenience.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Bowl

I feel almost un-American in my lack of excitement over the Super Bowl. Somehow the entire country is supposed to sit back and enjoy a football game even though we know nothing about the teams and the players and really don't care all that much about who wins or loses. I think it's all quite odd, truth be told.

I've been to some Super Bowl parties through the years but its been awhile now since we've been invited anywhere and I have no interest in having people in because the game is over too late for me. I doubt I'm very good company since I'm not all that interested in pro-football. I loved high school football when I was young but pro ball really leaves me cold. (I find it interesting that you never hear anything about pro players using steroids in football, probably because they all do it and without them there'd be no game. Is it even against the rules in football? I have no idea because it's the sport I'm least likely to read about or pay attention to when reported on in any way.) I just fail to see what's so great about it. I think its more of a man's sport than others and I put it up there with Boxing as my least favorite. But...yesterday it seemed as though the whole world was getting ready to party....except us. It was strange.

We had a pizza in front of the tv last night and watched some of the game before I went to bed early, glad to leave the sounds of the game behind for a nice long bath and bed. And for another year at least I won't have to listen to any hype for the Super Bowl. But tell me, if they're going to make Super Bowl Sunday akin to a major holiday, why in the world don't they have it on Saturday? And all that said, I'm glad the Saints won. I always root for the underdog (except of course they're going up against the Yankees!)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Noise

It occurs to me sometimes that we have become very used to constant noise in our modern society. I cannot think of a time in my day where there is not some sort of noise i the background, from traffic to electronic equipment of all sorts, and we are assaulted from every direction when we walk outside. I've become so accustomed to noise that I tend to leave the tv on even when I'm doing other things around the house, just for the company. And I find that sad, really.


How peaceful must life have been 200 years ago in East Hampton. Without the street noise we would be able to hear the ocean from our house and I imagine my ancestors enjoyed that sound every day. An occasional horse and buggy would certainly not be enough to drown it out, especially on those days that it's whipped up and frothy. But the only time we hear it from here is when an overnight snow has rendered the roads impassible and we can catch the sound between the scratching of the plows passing by.


As I sit and write I can hear the television in the other room. If it weren't on I'd be hearing the heat fill the radiators and the hum of the fridge and other appliances. It's difficult to find real quiet in this day and age. I think I might like to try though.

Newspapers and magazines

I'm really struggling with the whole idea of reading newspapers and magazines on the internet. Does that make me hopelessly outdated? And reading books on a computer screen? I don't think so. What's wrong with me?

I love holding a newspaper in my hands. I love the feel of the paper, the smell of the ink, and the sound of the pages when I turn them. I like to go back and re-read every section before I throw it out. And I like using the old newspapers for other things too. The same with magazines. I like cutting out recipes and dog-earring pages to come back to again and again.

I honestly don't even get the whole "kindle" thing. What pleasure is there in curling up with a good book if its displayed on a small screen? What's wrong with a book marker or a turned down corner turned to get you back to where you stopped? And how great is it to open a brand new book and hold it in your hand, turning page after page, hearing the crack of the binding and sometimes unsticking the pages, underlining things you want to remember, going back a chapter to remember who the characters are - and laying it down for a moment to answer the phone and then picking it up to hold in your hand again? I just don't see the same pleasure in a hard tablet you hold in your hand. I can see the value for someone who travels a lot or has no room to store books and magazines that still haven't been finished. But recycling a good book, passing it on to the next person, is a pleasure all its own.

I'm not anti-technology, I'm really not. I love my computer, and blogging, and searching the internet - and I couldn't live without my email! But I just can't seem to warm up to the idea of the print media suddenly being something else to read while sitting at a video screen. There's just too much pleasure to be missed in doing it the old-fashioned way. So I'll keep buying the newspapers and magazines and books until they're no longer available that way. I hope that never happens.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

No snow

All week they've been predicting snow for us last night and even when we went to bed we thought when we woke this morning we'd have lots of white stuff on the ground. But this morning when we looked out the window.....nothing.

One of the interesting things about living here, on this island stuck out in the Atlantic Ocean where the water and the air combine to make us unlike anywhere else, is the weather. They tell us its going to snow and it doesn't. They tell us the storm is going to miss us but it hits us squarely on the money. It just seems as though no matter what the predections are, they're never quite right for us.

From what I can see on the television we're lucky this time out. Only 100 miles to our southwest they're in blizzard conditions - and we may still get some smattering of snow before the day is over. But the dire predictions of being snowed in for the day are not panning out here in East Hampton and so far, not a single flake has fallen. Although it feels like snow in the air, we are being spared this time.

I guess that means I have to get all the things done I usually do on Saturday. No snow as an excuse today...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Winterscape

The field across from my house looks sparse right now in this, the heart of winter. Without leaves the trees are like spider webs stretching toward the sky and the landscape is spare and open. The cemetery stands out in high definition - nothing seems quite as cold as a cemetery in February. The roads are streaked with white from the salt that's been spread more than once already and tiny piles so dirty snow still dot the ground in spots here and there. Winter covers a sleeping world and keeps it dormant while we wait for spring.

East Hampton is a community of contrasts, from the bounty of the summer to the sparseness of the winter; the rebirth of the spring to the dying of the fall. The seasons allow is to transition from year to year in an orderly fashion and are comforting in their dependability. I love the seasons for the way they mark the events of our lives. Each one has memories that carry us from year to year and they play like movies in our heads as they move along.

Last winter was a long one for me, full of uncertainty and stress. This winter the memories flood my mind and I gratefully relish in the comfort of my prognosis. East Hampton knows the contrast of seasons, just as our lives do.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Deep freeze


We've certainly had our share of frigid weather in East Hampton this winter! I made the decision when I was going trough chemotherapy last summer that I'd never again complain about the little, unimportant things in life as long as I felt well enough to get out of bed in the morning, but this winter has surely put that resolve to the test. I'm not a fan of cold weather. However, I can honestly say I've faced every day with gratitude and an appreciation for good health and the simple things of life.

The result of this cold is that going in to any building is a treat. When you enter an office or a grocery store it seems warmer than ever and walking in your own back door - into a cozy house - feels so right. There's good reason to call foods "comfort food" and sitting down with a nice mug of hot chocolate can be the perfect antidote for a frigid day.

We're in the deep freeze of February but the days and months move along quickly and before we know it April will be warming us up and nudging the bulbs up out of the cold ground. It may be cold outside but my heart is warm and grateful for life and everything that it is. It's a good time to be alive and I'm enjoying for every day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New clothes


After working out since October I'm finally beginning to see some results in the way my clothes fit and many of my dress pants are baggy and sloppy looking. It's time to go shopping.

One of the great frustrations of my life is the way I've gone through so many clothes simply by climbing up and down the scale since I was 15-years-old. I would venture to guess that I've gained and lost at least an entire person over my lifetime - probably more than one. And how frustrating its been to work so hard to take 30 or 40 lbs off only to find that over the following few years they'd slowly crept back on again. You'd think I could keep going to my closet and finding clothes in the size I need, but because of space limitations I tend to get rid of ones that don't fit well. Besides, by the time I get back to them they are often outdated and look it. Sigh...

I saw on TV recently that a new study has shown that overweight people have the same area of their brain affected as addicts. I wasn't surprised. They feel that the need to stimulate that area which produces endorphins and makes us feel good is what makes us eat too much. New medications are being studied which suppress that area of the brain activity to amazing results. One man said that for the first time in his life he'd taken only one plate of food at the local buffet and was totally content to do so. His usual was at least three servings. This all supports my long-held belief that there is a difference in the way people crave food. I know I'm always hungry and taking off weight is a huge battle. I spend most my time thinking about food. And it doesn't matter what type of food Ieat or how much fiber I get or any of the other things that the dietitians tell you are the key. But no one believes that except someone else who has that same gnawing in their gut.

My goal in life now is not to look better (although that would be nice) or to fit in to a specific size. My goal is to be healthier. And at least now I can feel confident that I am. And that's a good feeling!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Reflections


We returned over the weekend from our trip to Disney World with a shudder. We left Orlando on a sunny, 71 degree day to emerge from MacArthur Airport into a 19 degree wind chill. It took a long, hot bath that night to finally warm me up and we longingly thought about what a few hours difference had made!

But what a great trip we had. We were so content to be with the grand kids and go where they wanted to go and see what they wanted to see and just roll with the punches as the week went along. Traveling with family is a great way to reconnect because there's no stress for anyone: no one needs to cook or plan means, no one needs to worry about the laundry or cleaning the house - its just time together to enjoy people we love. If I could afford it I would plan a reunion trip for my family every year so we could all be together and just laugh and have fun and leave the stress and worries at home. For an entire week I didn't think about cancer, or doctor's appointments, or tests, or anything other than what time we were going to head out in the morning for our next adventure.

What a gift that was. And how grateful I am!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Penny Candy


When I was in kindergarten and grade school there was a penny candy store on Newtown Lane. It sat between the high school and the Lamb House, near the corner of Osborne, a tiny brown shingled building where we'd go before football or basketball games to grab snacks. In the 1960s when the high school needed to expand, the adjoining property was bought and the store was taken down so the new wing could be erected. We never had another true penny candy store in East Hampton after that.

But for many years - up until not long ago actually - there was a penny candy store in Water Mill. My mother used to stop there with us when we were going to Southampton and it was her idea of a special treat. She'd give us each a dollar to spend and we'd stand in front of the glass-fronted counters that were chock full of individual bins of candy and choose the ones we wanted: a Mary Jane, a Tootsie Roll, 10 cents worth of candy buttons ripped off the roll, some shoe string licorice, and maybe Bazooka bubble gum. We could buy a lot for our dollar and that store made us feel like we were rich.

It's sad to me that the Penny Candy Store has been empty for a few years now and I look at it every time I drive by, with its "For Sale" sign hanging forlornly on the door. If only some young couple would buy it, live in the apartment attached to the back, and open another penny candy store I would be more than happy to bring my grandchildren there as often as possible. Somehow I don't imagine that will ever happen. But I can dream, can't I?