Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The jitney


I have so many friends now who've only lived here for ten or twenty years that I wonder how many of them have any idea what the beginning of the Hampton Jitney was? It's such a great story I have to share it with them.

Back when I was in high school, forty years ago now, someone had the brilliant idea to buy a couple of VW buses (which were all the rage in the late 1960s), paint them brown, and drive them around town with bike racks in tow. The idea was that you could pick up a "jitney" as they referred to themselves, put your bike on the back if you wanted to, and get a quick ride to the beach. Then when you were ready to come home you hopped on your bike (if you'd brought it) and rode home if you were not able to catch another jitney back. Or simply wait for the next bus to take you back where you came from. It was brilliant, really. There were various stops around the village and town and it caught on quickly with the summer crowd out here. Before long there were dozens of those little brown buses driving up and down Montauk Highway, dropping people and bikes along the way.

Well that young guy with the great idea became a multi-millionaire who built that business into something really wonderful. He recognized the need for good transportation in and out of Manhattan from the east end (since the train service is abysmal) and before long he had a fleet of larger buses that made the trip many times throughout the day. What began as one trip in a day is now about twenty and I would venture a guess that the jitney is the most popular means of transportation out here.

Whenever I see one of those sleek, modern Hampton Jitney buses driving down Montauk Highway I'm reminded of what a great country this is. It's a country where a young man with a simple concept can make himself a lot of money with little to start with and lots of hard work. That bus has become a symbol of American ingenuity to me. What a great story!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Peonies envy

My mother had the most beautiful peonies in her back yard and since she died and the house has been rented I can no longer get at it to cut the beautiful blossoms. I longingly look at the beautiful peonies in the florist's displays and wish I had bushes of my own to cut from. But many years ago I tried to grow some with no success at all.

So last week when I saw an expert on the Martha Stewart Show talking about peonies and how to grow them successfully, I was all ears. I listened intently, making mental notes about how deep they should be planted and how much sun they should get, and I vowed that this year I would plant them again -and hopefully have better luck. I ordered some online and now I'm waiting for them to arrive. But after spending all that money, I had a horrid thought: Do the deer love peonies? I imagine they do since they seem to eat everything nice that I plant anymore so now I realize that my peonies are doomed. I'm going to try to find a place close to the house so they may be a little protected, but I've a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. What will I do?

I have 6 peony bushes arriving soon but I think it will be an exercise in frustration. I will probably find myself running out into the back yard yelling at the deer like a maniac, just as my mother used to do. Oh well! It is a lovely fantasy!

Monday, March 29, 2010

More knitting


Knitting, which is something I put out of my life for a number of years, has come back to me with a vengeance. It seemed as though when my kids were past a certain age (possibly the age where they would no longer wear whatever I asked them to anymore) I stopped knitting. It was a period of time when I was no longer going to baby showers regularly and was no longer stuck in the house every night - and whatever the reasons, all the handwork I used to do was put aside for awhile.

But now that I have grandchildren (who welcome my creations with enthusiasm!) and my friends children are starting to have children, it seems I've come full circle and the knitting needles are never far from my reach. I have multiple projects going at any one time, usually a sweater for a grand child, a blanket for a new baby, and a baby cap for the knitting project the church does for the local hospital. Smaller items go along to every appointment or doctor's office so I have something to do with myself during the endless waiting time. Larger ones that are less portable stay next to my couch to work on during the latest episode of "Dancing With the Stars" or "Saving Grace". I feel so much less guilty about watching tv if I'm accomplishing something worthwhile at the same time!

There's something very primal about creating clothes for loved ones to wear. I used to make so many of my children's clothes, from little dresses for the girls to overalls for the boys, and I loved the feeling that I had when I put something on them that I'd made myself. It was caring for my family in such a basic way, hearkening back to the days when women spent their long days making all the family's clothes from spinning the wool to felting the jackets. It's now a wonderful feeling to see one of the grand kids walk in my house sporting a sweater or hat I've made.

My hands are beginning to feel the results of what is probably arthritis and I dread the day I'll no longer be able to create these gifts for the little ones. I'm working as fast as I can now and hopefully there will be things to pass down some day to yet another generation. In the meantime, I hope my daughters will take up the craft so they'll know the pleasure of fitting their own grand babies with garments that they knit with love.

Now if I only had time to do some reading....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Family


This is going to be a week of entertaining at my house. My daughter and her three children arrived from Pennsylvania yesterday for almost a week's stay. Last night my two sons were here for dinner as well, along with my daughter-in-law, their baby, and my other son's girlfriend. It was a chance for the siblings to re-connect, with only my eldest and her family missing.

Today Sunday lunch for the extended family is here. I've prepared a huge pan of baked ziti and that's the only thing other than getting plates, napkins, and forks out for me to do. Everyone else brings the rest of the meal. For some of the cousins (and second cousins) this will be the first time they've seen each other in a few months so that's always fun.

I think I'll take a break for a couple days at least but then before they leave, and after my eldest gets back, we'll all get together again for a meal. It will be a crazy, exhilarating week here, as holiday weeks should always be. I'm already enjoying it and looking forward to the rest of our time together.

Family time is among the most fulfilling and joyful of my life. I love seeing my kids all together under one roof again - which seems right since we watched them grow up together here in this house. We have memories they don't even share because they were too young and some things that happened in the past are only here, in our heads. Seeing them laugh around a dining room table brings so many back.

No doubt I'll have some things to write about before the week is over...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fog again

Earlier this week I sat at the computer in the morning and watched the fog roll in like the surf. From my vantage point I see it clearly because there's an open field across the street with no barriers to obscure its arrival, I watch it literally creeping across the lawn, sometimes rising to only a few feet on top of the ground but just as often enveloping everything in its path. This was of the latter variety and I could barely see the large tree that sits just on the other side of the road. Beyond that there was nothing but grey.

Occasionally I could see movement - a car or truck going down Methodist Lane - but it was impossible to decipher exactly what it was. Just a hulking mass moving in the background with no color or size really visible. It was strange and wonderful.

It's easy to see why Stephen King would use the fog as the "scary guy" in one of his books - it can be terrifying to be driving in it and when its this thick it has a real ominous feel to it. But from here, in the comfort of my home, I enjoy seeing it dance across the earth, making everything look foreign.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Laptops


I really love laptop computers. I wouldn't wanna have to use one exclusively - and I like my regular desk top computer with the printer and nice big monitor - but sometimes, like right now, it's just so nice to be able to sit on my couch, watching tv and blogging at the same time. When we've traveled its been nice to take this laptop along and keep up with my email, and have it handy for reference or to find directions.

Sometimes I wonder what we ever did without our computers. It's amazing how in the course of twenty years we can become so dependent on something that was not even part of our lives not that long ago. When I was in high school we had one black and white television set, two rotary telephones, and a car with no air conditioning. My own children would think they were terribly deprived if they had to contend with any of those things. And a computer in those days was something that filled an entire room in a government building. Surely not a small thing no bigger than a book that I could lay in my lap and use to chat with my grandchildren hundreds of miles away. We truly have come a long, long way in my lifetime.

Now, if they could come up with a folding model that can be stuck in my purse I'd be thrilled. I'm sure that's just a matter of time. (Cell phones are just too small for me for email and such - I need a bigger keyboard for my fat fingers!) My laptop is symbolic of how life has changed in only fifty years. Amazing.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spring cleaning

We've begun the process of deep cleaning around the house and this house surely needs it.

I've always hated housework. I'm the kind of person who doesn't mind hard work as long as its something I enjoy and in my case that would be artistic and creative things. Housework most definitely does not fall into that category. I know that there are some people who love housework, and I envy them because there's nothing quite as wonderful as a nice clean house. But the combination of my innate laziness and my distaste for the work involved makes a sparkling house a rare occasion here.

The worst thing I ever did was take a job as a chamber maid at a local hotel one summer because I hadn't found employment yet and in my house you had to work when you weren't in school. So a friend and I went to a local hotel on the ocean and were quickly hired to clean the rooms. It was one of the worst jobs ever. For someone like me, who doesn't like cleaning anyway, to now have to clean up after other people (some of whom are disgusting beyond belief) well....it didn't help my already well-established aversion to that type of work. I swore then that when I was living on my own someday I would never have to clean my own toilets - I would hire someone to clean my house for me. Ha! Talk about a pipe dream! I can't even imagine the number of toilets I've cleaned in the forty years since then.

Well, nevertheless, it has to be done and so the spring cleaning has begun. Last week I pulled out the things in the fridge and cleaned the shelves, washed some windows, and did my normal Saturday jobs. This week I'm thinking its time to clean out the home office, (but I'm not sure I can call that a "spring cleaning" job since it needs to be done pretty regularly throughout the year). I'm thinking the woodwork needs washing and the cupboard under my sink could use a scrub. Oh, I'm sure I'll come up with a few things to work on.

Now if I can just come up with some excuse not to do them....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sounds

I've been tuned in lately to the sounds of spring. I guess people are beginning to clean up around their yards and businesses because I hear wood chippers and power saws going at it near my house somewhere. Soon we'll be hearing lawnmowers - and the dreaded leaf blowers too.

I wonder sometimes how wonderfully quiet it must have been 100 years ago here in East Hampton. With no traffic on the roads and no noisy machines filling the air with sound, it must have been peaceful and wonderful. As I sit here in my "quiet" house, with no one else at home, I still hear the whir of the appliances and the clinking of the clothes as they spin around in the dryer. But with the exception of the occasional horse and carriage, the only sounds a hundred years ago would have been those found in nature, like the birds singing and the children playing. The only times I've experienced such quiet have been when we've had a heavy snowfall and we go outside early in the morning before most people have been able to clean off their cars. At those times there is only an occasion snow plow passing by and usually, off in the distance, we can hear the surf pounding against the shore. It's amazing and peaceful and I always think about my ancestors hearing that sound - the surf - on a regular basis, living right here where I am. For me it's a rare treat - they no doubt took it for granted.

I sometimes wish I could go back in time to visit now and then. I supposed I'm not the only one because many movies have been made with that theme so I suppose it's a universal fantasy. For me, it would be about living in East Hampton for a day in the total peace and quiet of a pre-motorized world. No doubt I'd tire quickly of doing the laundry with a washboard and hand-making all the family's clothing (women's work was not terribly exciting in those days) but for one day at least, every once in awhile, I wouldn't mind a trip to the past, where no wood chippers or lawn mowers existed and peace and quiet reigned.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

High school musicals

A couple week-ends ago we attended the local high school production of "Beauty and the Beast". I always enjoy seeing shows the school puts on because its an opportunity to see the earliest stages of sometimes big talent, just finding its way and beginning to emerge. It's almost like watching a butterfly begin to emerge from a cocoon and its inspiring. Youth on the verge of adulthood; talent on the verge of blossoming.

This production was not disappointing. As always in such things, sometimes the real gems of the group were to be found in supporting roles. Somehow those little nuggets of wonderful writing shine in those smaller parts and the talented actors who take them on can really sink their teeth into characters that are not so finely drawn. It was so much fun to see familiar names and remember the small children that they belonged to, now so tall and mature in their high school years.

When my two girls were going through school they both were in love with music (my boys took longer to discover the joys of theater and music) so they were always part of whatever production was being done, from an elementary version of "The Mikado" to a high school "Guys & Dolls". And we loved all of them. How much fun is it to watch those same ten-year-olds take on adult shows when they're seventeen? What a difference a few years makes.

I was thrilled to find out after this latest show that one or more of the actors are considering careers in theater. Now I can't wait to see what happens to them in the future!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Baking

A friend sent me an email recently with the link to a column that had appeared in the NY Times. The writer recalled her years growing up and all the cooking that was done in her kitchen, and she explained that she now likes to spend her sleepless mornings baking in her own kitchen. If she's awake at 4am she gets up and comes to her kitchen to bake a cake or make muffins which she can enjoy at her table while she watches the sun come up.

That sounds like a fantasy life to me. If I could, I would spend every day baking and then eating my products. I would weigh a ton in no time at all. But what a fantasy that would be! I love the smell of freshly baked goods in my home and those heavenly scents are produced by the most wonderful recipes. One in particular is a chocolate cake which my Aunt Joan passed along to us from her German grandmother. It's best made by hand - with no mixer - because that produces the best texture. Each ingredient is added in turn and mixed well, then the whole thing is poured into a cake pan and baked, where it produces the most wonderful aroma known to man. I can still remember coming into my mother's kitchen from school and smelling that cake in the oven. Yum!

I offer here the coveted family recipe for anyone who wants to try it out for themselves. My only request is that you title it "Aunt Joan's Chocolate Cake" if you save it to your recipe box. I think she deserves all the credit!

Aunt Joan's Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 sticks of soft butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups cake flour (regular can be used in a pinch!)
3 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled (I use pre-melted choco-bake)
1 cup boiling water with 1 tsp baking soda tossed in before it goes into the batter.

Bake at 320 degrees for about an hour in a 13x9 greased pan. Adjust for your own oven or different pan sizes. Cake is done when toothpick comes out clean but don't overcook!

This cake is amazing still warm from the oven with buttercream frosting melting over it, or cooled and then iced with seven minute frosting - or try your own personal favorite! It's a "can't lose" recipe, I promise. And the aroma will stay with you for a long time.

Bake it today. You'll be so glad you did!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Masks

It's a sad thing to look in the mirror one day and realize that no one will every consider you "young" again. With the exception of opinions from some very old people, I think I can safely say I've reached that mark in my life. The wrinkles don't go away when I'm not smiling and the age spots are multiplying and I can't imagine ever spending the money to have them removed, so here I am, fully into the "old" category both in age and appearance. No more fooling anyone!

I was horrified a few weeks ago when I was sitting in a Saturday morning meeting and suddenly had the realization that I had not put my make-up on. I sat there racing through my morning in my mind, trying, hoping, I had forgotten actually doing what is always a part of my regular routine. But when I got out to my car and looked in the mirror, yikes! I was right. For some reason I had neglected to do what every woman my age needs to do every day and I looked it. No foundation to smooth my mottled skin, no cover up to disguise the ever multiplying age spots, no eyebrow corrector to fill in what are now essentially non-existent eyebrows, no blush to give me a little glow - I looked like something out of a horror movie. How could I have forgotten to do such a routine thing? I had brushed my teeth and taken my pills, I had combed my hair....is this another sign of my advancing years?

I suppose one of the great freedoms of age is that eventually one doesn't remember - and then doesn't remember that they forgot. I'm not quite there yet. But should that be comforting?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Home


Last week I spent a rare day at home. By that I mean, other than a very early morning workout and then a trip to the grocery store at 7:30, I was home for the entire day - no meetings, no errands, no nothing. I tried a new recipe in the crock pot, I did four loads of laundry, I cleaned my house, and I even took some time to begin a new knitting project. It was a wonderful and unusual day at home and I loved it.

Here's what I did during the other days of last week: first thing - work out, shower, dress, grocery store or laundry all before 9am. Then once businesses and stores were opened I left the house to do things like: stop at Village Hall to get mail, sign checks, and meet with various people about different things (one day may be a local census coordinator, the next a drive-around the village with the Superintendent of the Highway Department to talk about planting flowers and unnecessary signs); a stop at the Healthcare Foundation to sign checks and discuss business there; the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions; to CVS for other items; a drop off at the dry cleaners; the UPS store to mail a package; to church to pick up an item for delivery to someone just home from the hospital; a trip to Sag Harbor for things I can only get at the 5&10 there; a stop at a store in the village to get an item for one of the grand kids; lunch with a consultant working at the Historical Society for the week; a stop at my daughters to return items left at my house; a trip to Southampton for a doctor's appointment; etc. etc. and so goes my normal week. I love my job because its flexible and affords me the freedom to do a lot of running around but sometimes I wish I were stuck at a desk somewhere so I could sit for awhile! So my day at home was a treat and I enjoyed it very much.

Our homes can be such a refuge from the craziness of life and even when they themselves make work for us to do we love them. They envelope us with their warmth and protection and they become our buffer to the rest of life. There were times last year, when I going through chemo and felt as though I would never be able to get off the couch, when I longed to get out and be busy again. But even then, I was grateful for my house and the joy of being in it where I could recuperate in peace.

Home truly is where the heart is, and mine is right here, in this house, in East Hampton.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Anniversaries

It amazes me when I think that it was exactly one year ago today that I had my surgery for breast cancer. It was a day that I didn't actually experience very much of since I was in surgery for 11 hours, but I do remember so well that walk in to the hospital, hand in hand with my husband, both of us quietly wondering what the long day ahead would hold. There were questions that would be answered and we wanted those asnwers. We were facing our future in a very real way and it was pretty sobering.

In some ways the events of this last year will always be right under the surface in my memory. They are easily pulled to the present and the lessons learned will always be with me.

In other ways it seems as though it was a lifetime ago. Feeling as good as I do now, and to be so confident about the future, is just amazing. I'm so grateful for the friends and family who were such a wonderful support system for me because I know that it was their love, along with God's grace, that got me through. And isn't that always what gets us through the difficult days of life? We all have tough times - and we pretty much all survive them. It's a great thing when we can take lessons away from the hard times - and I've done that. This anniversary will always remind me of the things I learned in the year 2009 - the most important of which is that I have the most amazing people in the world in my life. Now that's something to celebrate!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Summer colony

A couple weeks ago we had a lecture at Clinton Academy about the Thomas Moran family and their life in East Hampton. Moran was a famous and respected America artist even in his time and painted the beautiful renditions of the Grand Canyon that hang in the Capitol Building in Washington DC. His paintings of the canyon, along with others of Yellowstone, are credited with convincing Congress to create the National Park system. So he was an important figure in American history and he spent his summers in East Hampton. A few years ago his house, which has only been in the ownership of one other couple since it was sold by the Moran's heirs, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now in the process of a badly needed renovation.

Anyway, the Morans were early members of what we refer to in East Hampton as "The Summer Colony" - the beautiful, grand homes at the southern most end of the village that were only occupied during the summer months years ago. And a peek at their lives is a glimpse into a world of life out here that most of us will never know.

The Morans loved to entertain, and they did it with flair! The put on costume balls where everyone came dressed as a famous character from the past, like Marie Antoinette or William Shakespeare. They covered their lawn with rugs and tents and sometimes the party lasted well into the next day.

They also liked to present "tableaus" for the public. These were recreations of famous works of art, with each character dressed to match a character in the painting and every detail painstakingly met from furniture to background. Then the characters would get into place on a stage and be framed with a huge frame to look like a large masterpiece. They would remain perfectly still in place for about ten minutes, then the stage would be reset, costumes would be changed, and yet another painting would be done. The work that went into these recreations was considerable as fancy dresses had to be made and hairstyles had to be created along with the search for the perfect props. Obviously the enjoyment was in the preparation!

Theirs was a life if frivolity and privilege in East Hampton in the late 1800s. At the time, my ancestors in East Hampton were busy shoeing other people's horses and making hinges and door latches at their blacksmith shop. And cooking and cleaning too. I wonder if those two divergent worlds every met?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Slow cooker

I finally broke down after many, many years and bought a slow cooker. For so long I resisted because my storage issues were so severe I literally could not figure out where to put one if I bought one, and I knew if I had one it had to be a large one, which would take up lots of room in a cupboard. But when we renovated our kitchen two years ago I was able to increase our storage by a little and I just decided it was time to take the plunge. After some re-arranging and throwing out I managed to find room for a nice size one.

My first surprise was that I was looking for a "slow cooker" as opposed to a "crock pot". Apparently "crock pot" is a brand name, much like "kleenex" is, and although it's become part of the vernacular in its common use, in order to do a thorough web search for the best type, I needed to use the generic term.

My second surprise was how sophisticated they've become. Although I'd never bought one of the first generation models I seem to remember they were all one piece and difficult to clean. Not so anymore - they come with inserts which can be removed for cleaning and they're sleek and beautiful - no more harvest green! The also used to be rather small and with my family of six I don't think they even would have been terribly helpful back then. Now there are huge models available.

I found a beautiful big 6 1/2 qt. model with a pretty black removable crockery insert which can go right on the table. It has multiple settings, is programmable, and extremely versatile. What a nice piece of kitchen equipment!

So now the fun begins. So far I've made two meals in the crock pot and I have two cookbooks to work from. My only problem is it's so large it makes enough for an army. Of course, that was my intention as I thought it would be handy to use when the family is visiting and we don't want to waste time in the kitchen preparing meals. But with only two of us at home I find there's way more food than we need. So I think I'll be having lots of company in the next few months as I try new combinations of meat and vegetables.

And who knew you could make dessert in a crock pot? How times have changed!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hook Mill

Last week I had the opportunity to watch as a crew from the East Hampton Village Highway Department began the process of renovating the 1806 Hook Mill. Major repairs are under way and they were taking down the arms one at a time and laying them on the ground to check for stress and wear on each one. In addition to the dozen men that were surrounding the mill and working lines to keep the arms in balance as each additional one was removed, there was someone working from the bucket of a cherry picker which was hovering around the main shaft that held the arms in place.

In addition to being amazing examples of engineering, these early examples of how our ancestors lived in East Hampton impress us with another fact: they were built in the back yards of their creators, disassembled, moved piece by piece to the place they would stand, and then reassembled. And it was done without a cherry picker. How did they do it?

I love the history of East Hampton. I love the fact that we can look at wonderful artifacts like the Hook Mill and wonder at the ingenuity of the people who created a community we love today. I can imagine my great-great grandfather taking his grain to be ground at the Hook Mill, or assisting in the building of it. He may not have done either of those things, but as a blacksmith he very well could have made repairs to some of the metal straps that held those arms in place. And it's somehow comforting to make the connection to how life in East Hampton was 100 years ago.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Storm

This past weekend we had a huge storm that passed through, lasting two days and bringing lots of rain and wind with it. At the risk of using a terribly overused word, it was awesome. (Don't you hate the way words become overused to the point where they lose their true meaning?)

We went out Sunday morning to survey the damage and there were tree limbs down everywhere with lots of debris in the roads. Across from our house there's one remaining weeping willow from what used to be a beautiful mature pair. One came down in 1985 during Hurricane Gloria. This storm took a huge chunk out of the remaining one and I'm not sure it will survive - could be there's rot inside which contributed to its coming down. It's about half gone now and I'm sure if and when it greens up it will look a bit odd. I hope it continues to thrive but I have serious doubts. I remember playing in the low hanging branches of those trees when we were kids - we called them the "upside-down trees" because it seemed to us as though the roots were on the top. I would hate to see the last one go but, like all living things, trees have a lifespan.

The ocean was churned up and the beaches, although a bit torn up and littered with debris, were not in bad shape. Town Pond was up over its banks and some of the Maidstone Club was under water. (And naturally there was water in our basement....) It was no where near the damage that a hurricane would leave behind but still, there was a trail of destruction.

The sound of the wind and the rain pounding against the windows when we went to bed Saturday night was amazing. I love the fury of a good storm. It reminds me that as much as we think we have things in order in our lives, its really God who's is in control. And it was, in a word - awesome!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday morning


I love the Sundays leading up to Easter. There's a wonderful pageantry and drama that comes with the Easter story and each Sunday as we approach April you can feel the excitement build.

I loved Easter when I was growing up. I loved the spring weather, I loved decorating Easter eggs, I loved shopping for a new suit to wear to church, complete with a matching hat and white gloves, and I loved finding all that candy in a basket with MY NAME on it Easter Sunday morning. It was rare for us to be given much candy when we were kids. Not because my parents had anything against it (our diets were not wonderful!) but because there wasn't a lot of extra money for things like candy in those days. So that Easter basket was like heaven to me, a chubby little girl with a sweet tooth that was never satisfied.

When I had children of my own I enjoyed it as well, because I liked shopping for gifts and candy, as well as decorating the house and he;ping the kids with the Easter egg duties. And always there was something to prepare for church - most assuredly music of some type. I was either scheduled to do a solo, duet, trio or quartet and there were rehearsals to plan. Easter was a big deal and still is to me.

So here we are, only a few Sundays from Easter and I'm looking forward to it. The music will be inspiring, the hymns beautiful and the sermon, no doubt, appropriate. Easter is coming!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The show

Has anyone else noticed how much nicer it is to run around from appointment to meeting to grocery store now that the weather is nice? I love it. I can throw on a sweater or light jacket, leave the hat and gloves at home, and NO BOOTS ARE NEEDED before I head out the back door. It's an extra five minutes I can add to my life, not having to take them on and off every time I come or go!

My husband said the other day he was going to put the snow blower away for the season. I begged him to reconsider - to me that will be the kiss of death and for sure we'll get a late March or early April snow storm. It's the same reason I won't take my snow boots from the mat at the back door and store them for next year. I just know how these things work - its like one of the laws of nature or something. So the hat and gloves are still within easy reach and the boots are at the ready. Just in case. And maybe it will never come! But if it does, you can blame my husband. I'll post his office phone number if necessary!

I've enjoyed the snow this winter but now that we've had a taste of Spring I'm ready. I love sweater weather and there are lots of fun events to look forward to this summer. So bring it on, world - we're waiting for the show!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Evening

It's so delightful to sit in the house in the late afternoon and realize the sunlight is still streaming in the windows. After so many months of darkness (by the time I start thinking about dinner) this is a real treat. In our house the early sun comes in the kitchen and the late sun comes through the living room windows. It's the perfect place to read a magazine or book, or curl up like a cat on the sofa in light. The late hours of the afternoon, when I'm home from the busy hours of the day, its a warm and inviting spot to sit a spell.

March has, so far, been a wonderful month here at our house. We've celebrated 3 birthdays and welcomed the arrival of a new grandchild. In one week I'll be marking the anniversary of my surgery and I feel like a normal person again. I've learned to appreciate all the little moments of life and let the small stresses go because they're just not that important in the grand scheme of things. I enjoyed every snowstorm this winter and appreciated every beautiful moment of every single day. And now, I'm appreciating the coming of Spring in a way I never have before.

Every day, snow, rain or sunshine, I'm reminded of how precious life is and how important it is not to let any of it pass by without notice. And the sun is shining in my windows reminding me of that every evening now.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring?

The weather is such a tease this week with temperatures climbing near 60 degrees and the sun shining so beautifully. Spring fever is already in the air and last weekend it was obvious by the traffic on the roads that our annual migration has already started. Many people must have come out to check on their houses and begin to get ready for the season because it was crazy out there everywhere I went.

As much as we love cocooning in the fall, we also love getting out into the warmer weather in the spring. There's something quite liberating about being able to don a simple sweater and leave the hat and gloves in the closet. We almost feel as though we've been let out of school and we have the urge to run at full tilt out into the world. It's such a nice change and there's something miraculous about the way the earth awakes after its long hibernation.

Soon we'll be turning the clock back and it will be darker in the mornings again, but oh those evenings will be so much fun! No longer will it be hard to drag ourselves out of the house to a meeting because it will feel as though the day's not over and its not time yet to settle in for the night.

I love the seasons. Each one brings its own miracles and I enjoy watching them all unfold.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Weight of the world


Somehow it seems like it's not a good thing when you're greeted at a Weight Watchers meeting like the prodigal son. At least it seemed sad last night when I "re-joined" after a long absence and the leader hugged me while various other "lifers" greeted me with smiles and personal acknowledgements. They all know my name there. I feel like such a failure!

I think I know every plan that Weight Watchers has ever produced, and there have been many. I've counted points and I've measured portions. I've used "exchanges" and little handbooks, and used the "core" plan. I know exactly how to lose weight. So somehow I thought I could do it on my own. And when I went back to the gym last October I was sure the weight was going to start melting away. But alas, only 5 lbs later I've decided I just can't do it on my own. At least not quickly enough!

So, last night I dragged myself back to the local Weight Watchers meeting where I've always found the motivation I need to get this all under control. Because apparently all the good intentions in the world don't really work unless you have some accountability in your life and my own scale just isn't providing it.

Some of us are challenged in the weight wars more than others, and although it may be anthropologically interesting that I would have been one of the survivors in a famine, it can be a real physical challenge to have a metabolism that works the way mine does. I know its not just a matter of willpower because I live with someone who eats like a horse and still stays slim and trim. But no matter - we all have our challenges in life and this happens to be mine. I come from a long line of heavy people and wishing it weren't so isn't going to change the reality.

So - back to Weight Watchers I go. I just can't seem to do it by myself and for me its like going to an AA meeting. And last night it was a little bit like going to my high school reunion - I sort of felt as though I was "home" again. Sigh...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sleeplessness


Sleepless nights are so annoying. Sometimes I totally understand why I'm tossing and turning all night, but others just make me crazy: was it the caffeine in the diet soda I had at lunch (I'm terribly sensitive to caffeine), or possibly the events of the day? Could I be stressing too much about something or perhaps its the snoring coming from the person nearby.....

I wish there was something productive a person could do in the middle of the night when they can't sleep. I'd love to get lost in a good television show (they are non-existent at 2am) or baking a cake, but I don't want to disturb my husband with my restlessness so I lay there thinking if I'm patient long enough I'll surely nod off. And indeed I do, but sometimes not soon enough to produce a good night's sleep for everything I need to get done the next day.

I read once that you should imagine a huge chalkboard in your mind and everytime a thought begins to appear on it you erase it. Supposedly that's going to calm you enough to put you to sleep. In my case, I've tried it many times, but for some reason the hand that is supposed to be erasing the chalk board always begins writing on it as soon as its empty. Somehow I don't think my brain works like its supposed to...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Green, green, green

There are shoots coming up in the garden by my back door. I think they're crocuses and mini-daffodils because they're always the first to show their pretty little heads every year and they seem to be in all the right spots. But the combination of a few sunny days and those nice little green points popping out of the cold ground is a sure sign that winter will soon be over. Spring begins before March is done - only weeks away now! And daylight is slowly inching its way back into our early mornings.

Spring essentially "bursts" onto the scene in most places in the world but here on the East End, it creeps slowly into our lives at a snail's pace. Some would say we have no spring at all, and perhaps they're right, but since this is the only place I've ever lived I don't know any better. To me, Spring is a slow process, beginning in March but often not really arriving full time until May. But that's OK with me. Because much of the joy in life is in the anticipation of things to come. And we anticipate, and appreciate, Spring for a very long time.

It's a wonderful thing to watch the new season slowly envelope the world, beginning with those shoots of crocuses and ending with great bursts of brilliant cherry blossoms. Some pleasures are enjoyed more thoroughly when experienced in measured time. For me, Spring is one of them.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wow

These past few days have been a whirlwind of activity around my house. Between my granddaughter's entrance into the world on my birthday, and all the usual things we have on our calendar - well, let's just way I do know where the week went!

There are times in our lives when we're so busy we can hardly take the time to breathe and those days always frustrate me a little. I enjoy being busy up to a point and I don't want to sit around wishing I had something to do, but when it gets so crazy that its hard to focus on anything I'm not happy. I want to be able to enjoy the things I'm experiencing, rather than already be thinking about when the next appointment is. I want to stop and smell the flowers, as they say, not run through the meadow not even noticing they're there! I'm not looking to lay down and sleep in roses, but I would like to get a whiff of the heady scent they produce.

Sometimes we just have to put the brakes on and stop in our tracks. I don't care if I have a choir rehearsal or a meeting to attend - I need to be with a good friend in crisis, or enjoy a visit with a grandchild. Prioritizing is the hardest thing we do in life and it takes years to learn how to do it well. I think its one of the great privileges of age to be able to say "Sorry - I can't be there tomorrow. I have something else I have to do" with no more of an explanation necessary. We spend way too much of our youth apologizing for not being able to be ten places at the same time!

Well, this was an unusually busy week here but you know what? I did stop and smell the flowers - just not as long as I would have liked to. It was better than it could have been. And sometimes that's enough.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Encore westerns

I've been thinking lately it may be time to cancel our premium channels on the cable account because we really don't use them all that often. We began to get Encore and Starz back about ten years ago when a salesman called and offered them to us for a mere $4 extra a month. It was a good deal at the time, but that $4 has morphed into about $10 now and we just don't use those channels enough to justify the the cost. We don't get any other premium channels, but with the family package we get more than we could possibly need. Certainly more than the three we used pull in before the days when cable changed television viewing forever around East Hampton!

My big hesitation comes from the fact that I love the nostalgic factor that comes with Encore Westerns. When nothing else is comforting, I can settle in to an episode of Maverick, or Cheyenne, or my personal favorite, The Big Valley. Even the black and white shows have their charm and they remind me of a simpler time when life was good and television was magic.

So, I haven't made the call yet. I know I will eventually because I always manage to talk myself into things with time. But for now at least, yet another episode of Gunsmoke will be streaming in to my house if I need it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Welcome!

We have welcomed a new member into our family and its an occasion of great celebration and joy. Our son and daughter-in-law have become parents for the first time.

The birth of a child is always an amazing event. Each of my own children's births are days I count as the most special of my life. Now that those babies are grown they are blessing us with grandchildren, which as of now number seven. It's an awesome thing to be a grandparent. I feel a great deal of responsibility when I'm with those little people because I remember how I listened to every thing my grandparents told me. Times spent with them are my best memories and many conversations are indelibly etched in my mind. Will the things I say to these precious little people live on in their minds? Will I say the right things - things that will encourage them and strengthen them and things that will make them smile someday? I can only hope so.

My grandchildren are the light of my life. And now that light has grown a little brighter. It's fascinating to me how when one candle is used to light another, the light of the first is not diminished but remains as strong and bright as ever - and its the same way with the love we give to the people in our lives. Now Daisy Jaine, Micah Aaron, Tucker Joseph, Silas Warren, Lucy Elizabeth and Elijah Matthew can share our love with beautiful little Piper Francine. And that love grows just as the light in a room increases as each additional candle is lit. What a wonderful thing!

Welcome to the family little girl!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Birthdays

Birthdays have a way of making us feel certain ways. Sometimes we feel special, sometimes old, often we feel blessed, and even maybe confused. Because birthdays really are nothing more than a celebration of our lives, and that's enough to carry a great deal of weight I suppose.

When my children were growing up it was my sincerest wish that their birthdays would be so special they would know without a shadow of a doubt how loved they were. I worked hard to make their days as unique as they were, making their favorite meals for dinner and decorating cakes just for them, with themes ranging from favorite books to cartoon characters. As they got older it was more and more difficult to let them know how much they meant to me, but I tried - and I still do.

My own mother was always the first phone call of the day on my birthday. When I answered the phone all I heard on the other end was her voice singing "Happy Birthday" and often we'd make a date for breakfast or lunch where she shared thoughts about the day I was born. She had a tough time of it, suffering from complications that resulted in a life and death struggle and emergency surgery. It must have been traumatic for her because she already had a 2 1/2 year-old at home who needed her. She was no doubt terrified. I think for all of us mothers the day our children are born is an unforgettable one. There are memories etched into our minds forever and we can recall them with great clarity whenever we want to. And always on their birthdays.

No matter how old we get, our birthdays are days we share with others: with the parents who were there when it happened, and the siblings that celebrated so many with us growing up; with our children who would not be here without them, and the friends who are glad they occurred however long ago it was. Birthdays are celebrations of life - life in general and life specifically.

Where would any of us be without them?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Morning

I just came in from the gym and its beautiful outside. When we left the house at 5:40 it was still pitch black out there and a gentle rain was falling. But when we emerged 45 minutes later, the rain had morphed into big, wet flakes of snow, almost a slush-like consistency falling from the sky. It's beautiful in its heavy quality, not floating down as most snow does but coming straight down in vertical lines, propelled by the weight of itself. It's a nuisance in that its so wet and my jacket needed to be hung on the chair to dry when I got into the house, but it looks so pretty.

video


March is always an enigma. Today it's snowing, Saturday it's supposed to go up into the 50s and be a real spring-like day. This is a month of extremes and I enjoy the constant surprise of each new dawn. One day the coat goes on - the next, a sweater is all that's needed.

The world is full of mystery and today is as much a puzzle as any. Will the snow last and become a new coating of white where the last has vacated? Or will this turn to rain and leave the streets wet and sparkling? Who knows? Sometimes its nice to just be able to sit back and watch as it all unfolds.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Last snow?

This last snow was so pretty here on the East End. It fell in big fat flakes, leisurely drifting to the ground and melting when it hit the cars, roads, and walkways. There was no shoveling needed and no snow blower to uncover, but it did gently lay a beautiful fresh blanket on the ground that covered the mud and brown grass nicely. It's already melted - and the roads and walkways are perfectly clear...but they're also talking about another possible snowfall this week.

I used to hate the snow. Since my birthday is in March I have vivid memories of a heavy snow the morning of my party one year. Only 2 of my friends - whose parents happened to have 4-wheel-drive vehicles (which were a rarity in those days) - were able to get to my house. I was inconsolable. It made me resent the snow and the month I was born and all that went with those two things.

But I've finally moved beyond that early trauma to the place where I can sit back and enjoy the snow for the beauty and wonder of it. And its not because it isn't often an inconvenience! Being in EMS these past twenty years has certainly brought with it times of dread when a storm is forecast and I know I may have to venture out at 2am in the midst of it. I learned a long time ago that heart attacks don't wait for the snow to finish falling and those of us who need to be ready to help have to also be willing to trudge through some nasty weather to do it. (Truth be told, pouring rain and wind is even worse!) But those minor inconveniences are not important in the grand scheme of things.

Because the snow always reminds me that there is a creator who gave us an incredibly beautiful, mystical, amazing world to live in and there is much to be appreciated about it. And for that I'm very grateful.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Marching on

Today is the first day of March and thus begins our hunt for spring every year. We are over the worst of the winter, we have occasional days of beautiful blue sunny skies, and we can almost smell the grass beginning to grow again. It's a tease of a month and most people hate it.

I actually love the transitional months because they're full of surprises. We have the late March snowstorms and the early March temperature soars. We see hints of what's to come and we ready our minds for the work that comes with the greening of the earth and we start to plan ahead. It's a month of looking forward, not back, and we are easily lifted from the winter doldrums to the anticipation of a beautiful spring.

March can come in any way it likes as far as I'm concerned - as long as it comes! So here's to March and all that it brings us in the way of optimism, joy, and change. Because change is good and right now, we're ready for it!