Friday, April 30, 2010

Modern conveniences

Nothing makes us appreciate the conveniences of modern life more than doing without them for awhile. When we embarked on a bathroom renovation a couple weeks ago I wasn't thinking of being without bathroom facilities on the main floor of the house for an extended period. But as these things go, complications occurred and the toilet had to be taken out. It's been two weeks now without it. I run up and down the stairs many times throughout my day and get more exercise than I want to.

This all got me to thinking about how our ancestors managed the call of nature when there was no such thing as indoor plumbing. In and out of the house, out to the privy at all hours - what must that have been like? Rain and snow, wind and cold, all manner of weather to deal with - yikes - how hard must that have been?

I'm so grateful for our modern conveniences, most particularly my bathrooms, within easy walking distance from anywhere in the house. How simple our pleasures can be!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Foodly pleasures


A week or so ago I decided to put a smile on my husband's face by making him a nice dinner. Since our children have grown and left home I rarely cook anymore, having grown tired of that duty after so many years. It seems especially fruitless since I myself never eat a big meal at dinner, which helps me with my weight issues. I prefer a simple salad or whole grain English muffin with a little peanut butter paired with a piece of fruit. But then, I digress.

So out of love for my husband, and a feeling that he deserves s special treat every once in awhile when he comes home from work, I decided to make a nice dinner in the crock pot. I chose a recipe which involves layers of potato and apple topped by pork chops with a sprinkling of sugar over everything to sweeten it and give it a nice brown color. It's delicious. By noon the wonderful aroma was driving me insane.

Then I had another thought. As long as I was going to have a nice dinner, why not try out the new recipe I'd clipped from the newspaper a few days earlier for a chocolate chip bundt cake. So I pulled that out and whipped it up, sticking it in the oven to bake. Within about thirty minutes that aroma wafted over the pork chops and now my mouth was salivating like there was no tomorrow.

I ate a piece of fruit. Fifteen minutes later I had a handful of nuts. Shortly after that I was opening cupboard doors and rooting around the fridge, trying to find something healthy to eat. And then I remembered: this is why I stopped cooking in the first place! Because no one loves my cooking any better than I do! I'm a creature who thrives on the senses and smell is one of my favorites. I was doomed for the day in terms of my weight watchers points. They would be gone before I even took the lid off the crock pot.

I hope my husband enjoyed his little treat because it will be a long time before he has another one like it. From now on we'll go to restaurants when he's hankering for that big meal - where I can eat a salad without any problem at all!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

April

I can't believe that April is nearly over. Gosh but the months fly these days and wasn't it only yesterday when we were bemoaning yet another snowstorm? Well we won't need to worry about that for another six or seven months now, will we? Spring is totally here and summer is soon to follow.

April has been a busy month but its also been great fun. A year ago I was preparing for chemotherapy and my stress level was high. Today that seems like a long time ago and I'm enjoying my new head of hair and my (gratefully) good health. Feeling good truly is a blessing taken for granted by most of us but never again by me. I rejoice in every single day when I wake up and feel good enough to get out of bed and just move. It's a wonderful thing.

April has been a great month and I've enjoyed it. Today is my granddaughter's birthday and I'll be thinking about her and what a blessing she is to our family - a very special little girl. We'll be heading to PA this weekend to celebrate with her. I think this season is going to be more enjoyable than any in a very long time. Because what we get out of life depends on how we look at it and I'm looking at it all with grateful, appreciative eyes. I've learned to enjoy every day as though it were my last because someday it will be. We should all appreciate life more with that truth in mind.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Swinging

One of the most confounding things about the weather on the east end is knowing how to dress from one day to the next. There are these amazing swings in temperature that defy logic so one day I'm snuggled on the couch in woollies and the next I'm opening windows for some relief. What a dichotomy!

It takes me until June before I dare change out my clothes for the next season. In fact, there's not much I do other than put the long sleeved shirts toward to back of the shelf or in the bottom of the drawer because sure as I'm writing this if I packed anything in containers and shoved them up into the attic I'd find myself wanting a nice warm sweater to pull on when we suddenly were hit with a cold weather snap. I've learned to keep a four-season wardrobe pretty much, with only a few pieces that are only good at great extremes. I have become a total "layerer", with short sleeved tees under sweaters and jackets and at any time I can adjust to the temperature of the moment. Even in the heat of the summer one needs to be prepared for air conditioned offices and restaurants and even in the winter some people become overly zealous with their thermostats. So I've figured it out and now I'm always prepared.

But that said, at this time of the year I turn on the television when I wake up in the morning just to try and get a read on what the day is going to bring so I can figure out how to dress. Do I want the lightweight jacket or something a little heavier? With short sleeve suffice or should I go with a long sleeved cotton tee just in case? It's the season of change and I'm trying to balance between wool and cotton, socks or no socks, long sleeves or short. And I know without a doubt that come September I'll be back in swing time again...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Small towns


The best thing about living in a small town is that everybody knows your business. The worst thing about living in a small town is that everybody knows your business. This is yet another of life's dicotomies that makes me smile.

I've learned that with marriage its the very thing that attracts us to our spouse that later drives us crazy. In my case it's my husband's easy-going personality that I found so irresistable when we were young - and now that same quality makes me want to pull my hair our when I want him to get something done. (I'm sure he'd be happy to tell you what it is about me that drives him crazy - I have so many bad qualities to choose from - but thankfully he doesn't write a blog...) So, just like in a long-term relatinship, the things associated with small-town living can haunt us at times.

I became especially aware of this recently when someone complained that they could not "get away with anything" here because word traveled so fast and everyone knew what was happening in no time at all. I took that opportunity to tell them what a true blessing it was for me when I went through a difficult year in 2009, and the community support and concern I got was my greatest tool for recovery. I don't envy people who can be anonymous in their big city lives, choosing to live in quiet seclusion. I much prefer to be in touch with my community, well aware of the hands reaching out to help and the hearts ready and willing to do what they can.

Yes, small towns truly can present the best and worst of times! But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Construction dust

Doing the bathroom renovation has reminded me once again of the horrors of construction dust. Yuck.

We've done so many reconstruction projects over the years I have plenty of experience with this stuff. It's insidious really, leaking through plastic sheets and closed doors, and nothing seems to do the job of keeping it out of the rest of the house. There's a thin layer of it everywhere and who knows what's in that stuff? I know we're breathing it in and its on our dishes and in our glasses. Even though things look clean I rinse them off and try to make sure they're OK before I use them, but it really is a mess.

All of which makes me envious of the people who never have to endure such things. They either have another house somewhere to escape to, or they go on vacation for the duration, or they simply stay in a hotel for a few weeks. Ah, the lifestyles of the rich and famous...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spring Saturdays

Saturdays in the Spring are busy days. The routine at our house is to get up by 7:30 (a real sleep-in day!), go to some yard sales, home by 9 and then clean the house. Once spring arrives we need to add to that list and the yard is calling. Sometimes my husband mows the lawn, sometimes we clean up the deck. Occasionally (as little as possible) I do some weeding in the garden and often, at this time of the year, there are big outdoor projects to tackle. This year we're doing a new deck.

When we were young we spent all day Saturday working around the house. (Well - actually when we were first married my husband worked on Saturdays so evenings were spent working on painting projects and other things like that. But for the past twenty-plus years we've had Saturdays to work together on whatever needs doing.) The problem is the older we get the less stamina we have. We work until noon, eat some lunch, and then collapse on the couch to rest and catch up on some of the tv shows we've recorded throughout the week. We're lucky if we have five good hours of work before we simply run out of steam.

Who knew that would happen? It's funny how when you're young you never consider the fact that some day you'll be old. Of course we know we'll age and we hope to live nice long lives, but we never really consider the consequences of the aging process. It never occurred to me that we'd no longer have an entire day to do things at the end of every week. Now we need to plan carefully or things will be left undone. Except for the catching up on tv shows of course...

Friday, April 23, 2010

The first mow

Last week I heard my husband go out the back door and wondered what he was up to. Then the sound of the lawn mower cut through the air and I realized it was time for the first mowing of the season. And so it begins.

I can hardly believe its already time to mow the grass - wasn't it just a week ago we were shoveling snow? Amazingly, no - that was many weeks ago now and winter is truly over.

I love the smell of the freshly mown grass - but then I don't have allergies and I'm sure its not a welcome smell for others. But to me it signals the beginning of the outdoor season - when we work, live, and play outside in the nice warm air and beautiful sunshine. I love using the deck like an extra room and it thrills me to be able to leave the coats in the closet for the next six months or so. I'm not a fan of heat and humidity, but I love these months of warm temperatures and sunny skies.

Of course the noise of the lawnmower is not particularly welcome and once he starts I know it will be twenty minutes of not being able to talk on the phone or watch the television. But its a necessary evil and I'm resigned to it. I just wish that someone would develop a new species of grass that grows a little bit more slowly. Mowing once a month instead of once a week would be so much more preferable. Or a nice quiet lawn mower - another nice option! Someone could make a mint!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Renos

We've embarked on yet another renovation project at our house - and its been interesting.

We bought this house 31 years ago -it was a family home built back in the 1920s. The kitchen was original, there was no bathroom downstairs, and it had all the normal problems that go with a very old house. We began by knocking down the wall between the kitchen and dining room to create an open kitchen/eating area. From there we spent the following thirty years working our way through the house room by room, replacing windows, adding insulation, knocking down more walls, and just making it into the house we have today. The kitchen has been renovated again and the bedrooms were done just this past winter, and now, we're working on the downstairs bathroom. This space was originally a shed which had been added to the house for the washer and dryer. When we bought the house we took up the floor, poured a slab so it would have a foundation, added insulation, and voila! - we had a bathroom. It's served us well, but the paneling and vanity which we built back then were in need of serious updating, and so we're doing that.

This renovation has a major difference though: we're not doing it ourselves. We've actually hired someone to rip it back to the studs and do it the right way, leaving us with a better space than we had before. And its been a real trip down memory lane for me. As I looked over the demolished pieces of wall and shower that were stacked outside (waiting for a trip to the landfill), I recognized remnants of three wallpapers and four paint colors and was reminded of the many times we freshened things up throughout the years. I remembered my brother and husband on step stools in that tiny space, hanging wallpaper. I could picture myself rolling glaze on the walls and then dry brushing it off for an interesting paint treatment. And I imagined my kids as they learned the basics of bathroom etiquette in that little room. It was like seeing the last 30+ years of my life thre in that pile. I stood and looked at those scraps and smiled at how quickly life passes and how wonderful memories are.

We may tear out showers and vanities and put in new walls and fixtures, but those memories are forever.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Mickelsons

I've been following Phil and Amy Mickelson's year with interest since she was diagnosed with breast cancer only shortly after I was in 2009. It was with special focus that I watched Phil win the Master's this year and I have to say I am thrilled to see that they seem to be getting through this crisis with grace and love. How refreshing!

There's so much negative press when it comes to marriage. Our society seems to thrive on bad news when it has to do with Tiger's indiscretions or poor Sandra Bullock's pathetic excuse for a husband. We seem to be obsessed with the sad examples of marriage that are none too difficult to find and any given day will reveal a news piece on some famous couple who has announced their impending divorce.

But every so often, when we least expect it, we're allowed a glimpse of a real couple, who face life's challenges together with fortitude and determination and, perhaps most important of all, a commitment to their relationship against all the odds. It's like a breath of fresh air, allowing us to see that not all marriages are doomed to failure and not all relationships are going to end with each person going their separate way.

So here's to the Mickelsons! Thank you Phil and Amy for being strong for each other, for sacrificing for each other, for understanding what commitment means, and for showing us that marriage can be a wonderful thing. We really do need the reminder!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Partings


A good friend is leaving town. Is there anything as sad as that? Not many things and I'm truly in mourning.

Life bring many friends to us over the years and they run the gamut from casual acquaintances to close relationships - the kind that withstand the test of time and survive our various trials. This friend is in the latter category. She's the kind of person who was there when my daughter's wedding cake suffered an accident just hours before the ceremony and she rushed to the scene to salvage what could have been a total disaster. She's the kind of friend who checked in on me regularly when I was going through chemo, helped me pick out a wig when I knew I'd need one (and kept me laughing when I wanted to cry) and even had us for dinner during the worst of that time, regardless of the fact that I felt lousy and wasn't very good company (but desperately needed to have some normalcy in my life). And she's the kind of friend that I would go to in a crisis because she'd be non-judgemental and loving in her reaction to whatever the situation was. In short, she was a very dear friend.

Friendships - even very close ones - ebb and flow with the currents of our lives. Sometimes we spend lots of time together, like when our kids are in school and we see each other at sporting or other school events. At others we have to work hard to grab a few moments here and there when our schedules are pulling us in different directions. Good friends manage to find that time.

I think in my entire life I've had maybe half a dozen close friendships like that - (not counting family of course). So losing one to another state isn't easy. It's not the first time its happened - I have other friends living in far away places that I try hard to keep in contact with. But its never the same. Because friendships, like all growing things, need constant care to flourish and that's not easy to do from a distance. We'll keep in touch and we'll always love each other. But there will also always be a hole in my life where that friendship lived.

Good bye my friend! I'll so miss you...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sun and sea

One Saturday morning recently we drove to Main Beach in the pick-up truck, just to check on the ocean and make sure it was still there. It's a local tradition we like to participate in and it was a beautiful morning so we went down before we had to complete our errands. What made this day unusual was what we found when we got there because it was a bit overcast and most of the water had a dull, gray hue, as far as the eye could see. With one exception: a beautiful sliver of gold, midway between the waters edge and the horizon. It was quite startling and really beautiful, a little piece of ocean that the sun found by peeking out between two clouds, making it look as though an artist had drawn a line across the water with a gold leaf paint pen. It sparkled and flashed and seemed totally unrelated to the gray/blue tones surrounding it. It must have been the time of day that made it look like 24 carats, because I've never seen it quite like that before.

Sometimes nature is surprising in its contrasts and this was an example. It looked as though someone had spilled glitter on an oil painting of the sea. It was an enigma, though easily explained by what was easily observed. Beauty is sometimes fleeting and if we're lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time, it's ours to enjoy. But the wonder is only available to those who appreciate it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fresh sheets

I greatly regret that I'm too lazy to hang my sheets out on a clothesline. I don't even own a clothesline and I'm jealous of people who do, not because I want one but because I know how delicious their sheets smell when they crawl into them at night after the bed has been changed. There's nothing quite as heavenly as that scent of sheets just off the line.

I think its interesting that one of the great nostalgic scents of all time is sheets from the clothesline and yet no one has managed to recreate it for dryer sheets or fabric softener. I can only imagine what a great seller that would be. I know I'd be the first in line to use it and I'd probably fall asleep like a baby as a result.

Somehow, that wonderful smell is something all of us over a certain age remember with a smile and yet most of us can't be bothered to hang our sheets on the line to have it. I think its because as much as it may remind us of our carefree days of childhood, we can never recreate the way it made us feel loved and cared for my our mothers. And it would remind us that we didn't do the same for our own children. I can only hope there were other things that made them feel equally loved!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Anonymity

One of the problems with the internet is that it offers people an anonymous forum. Of course, this can be a good thing, but it also fosters lots of false information floating around cyberspace, not to mention the horrid examples of cyber-bullying that we've seen in the news lately.

It all became quite clear to me when the whole "whale on the beach" issue occurred earlier this month. I frequently checked out the "comments" sections of the various online newspaper postings with the story and it was shocking how many people posted erroneous information and made it sound as though they knew what they were talking about. Not to mention the venomous things that were said about the very people who were trying to help. Here's what I think the problem is: In a normal forum about any issue, there are usually experts available to refute untruths, or at the very least to present the truth. On the internet that doesn't exist. In that case, there was no one to explain why the whale was unable to be returned to the deep water, or why it was so difficult to euthenize it, or why it was all taking so long. Had most people been able to speak to those in charge and learn the truth, they would have understood and been satisfied. But with no one to set them straight, each post built on the last and suddenly it was like a game of telephone, with people able to declare that they had "read somewhere" that this and that was happening.

I'm a big believer in freedom of speech but to some extent those things depend on intelligent people making informed decisions, not mob mentality. I'm not sure what the solution to cyber-falsehoods is, but I do know it can be scary. As someone who was at the beach every day talking to the experts and learning about the complications involved in dealing with a huge and complex issue like a whale beaching itself, I know that everything was done that could have been. Perhaps there were mistakes made, but they were honest mistakes and no one was incompetent. But how do you get that message across to people?

This is a new world, cyberspace, and like any new territory it needs to be somewhat "conquered", just like the wild and dangerous west was in the 1800s. It will be interesting to see what is done in the next twenty years to accomplish that~

Friday, April 16, 2010

Books

I don't have enough opportunities to read anymore. Not because I don't want to, because I do. But I usually chose to use my time in other ways, like knitting. And truthfully, a major problem has always been that I don't have a good "reading room" in my house - so when the TV is on its hard to concentrate on my book and there's really no place I can go to get away from it and have peace and quiet. My bedroom isn't large enough to include a reading chair, and I don't find the bed at all comfortable for reading.

All that said, I'm enjoying a book that everyone's been talking about and I couldn't resist going online to Amazon and getting a copy. It's called "The Help" and it's set in the early 1960s in Mississippi, during the early days of the civil rights movement. The title refers to the domestic help and what their lives were like, working for people who, for the most part, treated them pretty poorly. It is a good book and it's been transporting me back to a time that is ingrained in my mind, when I saw it all unfolding on the front pages of the newspapers. Mississippi seemed like another planet to me then. Reading this book makes me feel that way all over again.

Anyway, one of my problems is that once I start a good book I can't put it down and everything else falls away. I become obsessed with it and I want to read all day every day until its done.

I think, since we recently renovated the guest rooms and one has a nice big chair in it, I may head up there soon to see how it works as a reading room. It's far enough away from the television that I won't hear whatever is on, and the chair is nice and roomy - with an ottoman! Sounds like a perfect place for me to snuggle in to. If its too comfy I fear my husband will soon forget what I look like.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

More friends

Recently I've reconnected with a couple friends whom I'd totally lost touch with. You know how it is in life, the way we become friendly with people we work with, or attend church with, or see at PTA meetings - but then when life takes a different turn and you change jobs or churches or your kids graduate from school, suddenly those people are no longer part of your routine and you lose touch. It's not that you're no longer interested in them, but rather that you only have so much time in the day and can only nourish so many relationships. And its much easier to make plans with the folks you see every day or every week so your contacts change. It's just part of the natural ebb and flow of life.

But I find as I am settled into middle-age I look back on many of my old relationships with a bit of sadness, missing people that I had so much fun with way back when. Whatever the reasons we no longer socialize its not because we stopped liking each other. And at the age I am now I value my friends more than I ever did before, even those I no longer see. I can appreciate the richness they gave to my life and remember the lessons learned from each of them. I long for the opportunity to tell them how much I enjoyed their friendship and how glad I am to have known them.

And that's why I'm really pleased to have suddenly found some old friends by chance and been able to once again enjoy their presence in my life. No one can ever have enough friends.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Trees

I noticed the first of the flowering trees bursting into bloom last week. This one sits across the field and on the other side of Methodist Lane which is far enough away that I can't tell what type it is, but it has big white blossoms and its lovely - a mimosa perhaps? As soon as I spotted it I did a quick walk through my own yard to see how my trees and bushes are progressing. I was pleased to see the pink weeping cherry has buds on it and the lilacs are also full of tiny dark bundles. It made me anxious for the coming month when they'll both come into their own and East Hampton will again be awash in pastel pinks and lavenders.

My pink dogwood is not far along yet and it really hasn't looked good these past few years. I keep hoping it will look better but I've been worried about its health. Dogwoods haven't done well in general for awhile now and I miss seeing them around. They're one of my favorites but I think people are avoiding them because of the fungus issue. This year may tell the tale on my own and I may have to replace it with something else but I hope not. We planted this one in honor of my husband's grandmother when she died so I would hate to lose it.

The weeping cherries are usually in bloom just before Mother's Day, which is why we planted a white one in honor of my mother the year after she died. It's in the field across the street, within sight of the house she lived in for over fifty years. When it blooms it makes me smile because I know how pleased she would be to have it there. She loved spring and she loved flowering trees and bushes.

East Hampton is so beautiful in the Spring. I wish I could share it with the world, but then I guess we have enough people coming out here so I'd better I keep it to myself. And all of you!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Daybreak

I love being at my computer in the morning - from my perch here on my sun porch I can see the wide open field on the other side of the street where the sun makes its daily march across the open space, pushing shadows along in its path. It's one of my favorite parts of the day.

The best thing about having a field across the street is the ability to see nature in all its ebbs and flows. I watch the fog swirl and tumble, the sun creep and stretch, and the morning dew give the grass a muted, shiny appearance. I can nearly tell the time from the length of the shadows and watch with a smile as things are suddenly illuminated where the sun has suddenly emerged from behind a tree, or the church steeple. It's like watching the earth awake and stretch its stiffened arms and legs.

In another couple hour there will be a steady stream of trucks and cars passing my house and the view will be no longer be as beautiful. But for now, I'm happy to sit and watch the morning come slowly upon my little town, urging us all to get going.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Walk

A recent early morning walk around the village revealed some interesting things to me. First I was surprised at the number of stores that have moved from one side of the street to the other, or from one storefront to another, making me wonder if this is a matter of rental prices or an indication of preference. The empty storefronts have been obvious all winter, but this shifting around is harder to spot from the car. There are small signs in the windows announcing the new tenants, and I recognize them from their former spots. I wonder about what's behind it all.

The other thing I noticed is the way some store windows are no longer covered with paper, but rather show empty shelves and open storage rooms. That in and of itself isn't bad, but the fact that they leave on the lights is disturbing. Why would we want to see what's there when there's nothing? And why would they want to waste all that electricity when they're not there? It's a curious thing and I wonder what the point it.

Speaking of the commercial district, one of the most disturbing things to see in the heart of the summer is the shops with their air conditioners blasting full force and their front doors wide open. I can't imagine a worse waste of energy and it would be unheard of to leave doors opened when the heat is on, so what gives? Yet another mystery to me.

I've been involved in business in this village my entire life. My father owned a business here, as did my grandfather and great grandfather before him. I worked in local stores when I was in high school and spent my summers stocking shelves and selling ladies clothing. My husband's family was also in business here and we still own our business - right here in the village. So I may be ignorant of what some people think are the correct strategies for running their businesses, but I certainly disagree with them. There's more to owning a business here than the bottom line. It has to do with loving the place you live and wanting it to be beautiful and friendly. Somehow I think that has been lost along the way...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The hum of spring

I've decided that the true sound of spring is not the bird songs that greet me every morning or the chilren playing outside during recess, but rather a steady, low-pitched hum. It's a constant thing, always in the background, and always the same. It's a combination of the hum of leaf blowers, lawn mowers, chain saws, wood chippers, and street sweepers. It's the sound of machines - cleaning up, sorting out, and trimming all the edges. Spring is here!

I often wonder why we need all these time saving machines. I think it was simpler to rake the leaves in the yard or, imagine this, leave them to become mulch when the lawn mower chops them up. What's so bad about that? There seems to be an obsession with yards around here and its a status symbol to have one that's as neat and clean as a movie set. Every blade of grass must be trimmed to within an inch of its life and there shouldn't be a speck of brown grass anywhere! Sprinkler systems have become a staple everywhere and leaf blowers the nemisis of every peace-loving citizen trying to read a book in their backyard hammock.

So every day now seems to be accompanied by humming. It's become the theme song of spring around here. And I'm not terribly fond of the melody...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Hamptons

I've written before about how much I dislike the term "the Hamptons" but it was brought to my mind again the other day when a newscaster referred to East Hampton as a "tony east end community". I have to admit it made me bristle.

East Hampton, along with Southampton, Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor, Westhampton, and Hampton Bays (not to mention Amagansett, Springs, Montauk, etc...) have always had distinctive personalities and we love our small communities. Lumping them together seems like such a disservice to all of them and no true local would ever use the generic term that's become so synonymous with our area. If I'm traveling and asked where I live I say "East Hampton NY" or "the eastern end of Long Island" - I've never used the term "Hamptons" and never will. To those of us who know better, that term refers more to a state of mind than a geographical spot on the map.

The word "tony" when used to describe this place just makes me laugh. Tell me what's so "tony" about the standing water that's been in our basement for weeks now, or the badly deteriorating deck on our house, or the sadly peeling trim on our windows? And I won't even mention the dreary little cabins that some of our locals live in less than a mile from the water. Does the rest of the world not see that this is a real, honest, hard-working community, full of the descendants of fishermen and farmers and the most simple of blue-collar workers in the country? Apparently not. Because the fact that we're inundated with the rich and famous during two months of the year seems to have re-defined us in ways we cannot even grasp.

Oh well. Despite the misnomers that are tossed our way on a regular basis, those of us who live and love the East End know that it's a real place, with real people, who just happen to be lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. And I know I can thank my ancestors for that, not my fortune.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Whale watch

How sad its been this week to watch as a juvenile humpback whale struggled for life on our local beach. It was Tuesday morning when I received the first phone call telling me that a small whale had come ashore to the left of Main Beach, and every day I've gone down to spend an hour just watching from the bluff as it's pushed to and fro by the powerful surf, not quite in the water but not really out either. Heartbreaking!

This creature was surrounded by people who cared about it and that was reassuring, but there was little they could do to help it. Sometimes nature seems cruel, but this was a perfect example of how it does indeed "take its course". It was rather like watching a gazelle running down a lion on an African plain. Would it be better to push this whale out to sea so it could be ravaged by great whites? Sometimes the choices are hard.

The fascinating thing for me was standing there watching that whale and imagining life in East Hampton two hundred years ago when my ancestors lived here. They weren't whalers by trade, they were blacksmiths and horsemen, but surely they were part of the culture here and that culture centered around the sea. I wondered if they could have been part of the crews that cut up those leviathans when they were dragged up onto the shore. Did my great-great grandmother use local whale bones when she made her corsets? Did they use the oil from locally caught whales to light their lamps? No doubt they did. And without question they made some of the tools that were used to bring the whales in and then process them right there on the beach.

I'm sorry we no longer see great pods of whales off our shores - what a sight that must have been. But I'm not sorry we no longer need to destroy those beautiful creatures for our own use. Wouldn't it be wonderful if someday they return in the kind of quantity my ancestors knew? How great would that be. Perhaps my grandchildren will once stand on that same bluff and see them swimming by, magnificent and thriving. We can only hope!




Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spellcheck

I'm a terrible typist. When I was in 7th grade a friend convinced me to take a summer typing class at the high school (which we could do before we went to work at our summer jobs). She told me that since we were both in the "regents track", which is a thing of the past now, we would never be able to fit it into our schedules during the high school years and it was a necessity for all those papers we would need to be typing up through high school and college. So I went. It was a boring class and I found the hand position quite awkward and so different from the way my fingers were trained to move from years of piano lessons. And...I never practiced at home. So I really have no one to blame but myself for my lack of skills, and suffice to say were it not for computers and word processors and the ease of fixing mistakes I would never attempt to do anything on a keyboard. (Remember the old carbon papers and "white out"? Yikes.)

Anyway, that brings me to the issue of spelling. I'm not a terrible speller but I am a terrible typist and when it comes to keyboarding it equals the same thing. My fingers jump around the keyboard in their own manner, quickly but not accurately, and I make many errors. Letters are often transposed, and words like "field" become "filed". Were it not for spellcheck, my writings would probably be indecipherable.

However, as in the afore mentioned example, sometimes spellcheck doesn't work. Since "filed" is also a legitimate word, it won't pick it up as an error, so sometimes I'm in trouble. I can use my toolbox to make sure I didn't type in "teh" instead of "the", but if I type in "heat" as "hate" it will stand and sometimes make no sense at all to the reader.

I'm trying to teach myself to be a better proof reader. But my eyes aren't always much better than spellcheck...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rainbows

A couple weeks ago I attended a program at my grandson's preschool. It was the culmination of their multicultural module and each class presented a song or poem from a different country. One class dressed in kilts and counted in Gaelic, another in chef's hats, singing about Italy. Naturally, they were all adorable as three and four-year-olds always are.

At the end of the program the classes all stood en mass and sang a song about how the world was like a rainbow. They held hands and swayed back and forth, singing how beautiful rainbows were and honestly it brought tears to my eyes. There was something so innocent about those little faces, so untouched by the prejudice, the bigotry, and the unfair judgements that the world is so full of. It made me both sad and hopeful at the same time. These were sweet little children with adorable faces in the colors of the rainbow, unaware of the struggles some of their parents are experiencing just to make a better life for them here in America. It gave me hope for the future. If only we could hang on to the affection they already have for each other - and carry that into the future - what a wonderful world it would be.

Because rainbows really are beautiful.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Permanent press

The other day I was silently admiring my husband when he came in from work because he looked as though he'd just put on a freshly ironed shirt - it was crisp and wrinkle-free - rather amazing after a day at the office. And that got me to thinking about "permanent press".

My mother used to be tied at the hip to her ironing board. Many days when I came home from school she would be there in the tv room with a pile of laundry in the basket and neatly folded piles of freshly pressed things on every piece of furniture in the room. Some of my earliest memories are of watching Saturday morning TV with my brother while Mom stood at the ironing board behind us watching "Sky King" and the rest of the morning line-up. It seemed as though the baskets of clean clothes in the laundry room were never empty as she fought the never-ending battle of the 50s homemaker.

Then in the sixties a wonderful thing happened: permanent press was invented! Suddenly shirts and dresses were "permanent press" and although they weren't totally wrinkle free, they no longer needed to be dampened and ironed with precision - a quick once-over made them look like they were just off the racks at the department store. No more did Mom need her "sprinkler" at the end of the ironing board because between the permanent press fabric and the new "steam iron", her task was suddenly slashed in half.

Today's "no-wrinkle" fabrics have allowed us to rarely use an iron at all anymore. Pants and shirts have permanent creases and our more casual lifestyle has made it possible to pull things right out of the dryer and put them on. An occasional visit to the ironing board is all that's needed to keep us looking pretty good.

I have a collection of linen tablecloths that I use when I have company and I actually find the process of sprinkling them with water and ironing them flat to be almost therapeutic. Since I don't do it often I don't mind it at all and its not the drudgery it was for my ancestors. I'm not sure my mother or grandmother would understand that. My but how times have changed!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Settling in

Now that Easter is over and we're into April its time to settle in to Spring. At this point should we get a snowstorm it will be a freakish thing and over in a flash - no piles of snow to wade through for weeks on end! The sun will come out and melt it all away in no time and the daffodils will again be peeking through. I love April.

That said, there is so much to do in April! The outdoor furniture needs to be taken out, the yard needs to be tended, the house needs to be aired out and cleaned, and we have to pack away the woolens and bring out the short sleeved tees. Its a month of change and change is everywhere.

On the streets we see the cleaning crews out in earnest, getting planting beds ready and carting away the winter debris. Soon they'll be readying the beaches, the piping plover fencing will come out, and the bathhouses will be scoured. The East End is waking up from its long winter nap and getting ready to put its best face forward - to greet those who are returning and welcome those who may be visiting for the very first time. And most of all, we're getting ready to enjoy our beautiful towns fomr the outside as well as the inside. Once the weather breaks we'll be grilling out on our decks like crazy and the potato salad will be always at the ready.

I love April. Time to get settled in.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter eggs

When I was young I really looked forward to making Easter eggs every year. I don't know what it was about that task that I so enjoyed but I really loved it. I suppose my artistic bent had something to do with it and I know I also enjoyed the fact that my brother and two sisters and I gathered around the table for a rare joint activity, with my mother in charge of all the action. She was pretty frugal with her eggs - we never had more than 4 each to work on - but I think that made it even more special. They were like precious commodities that I got to have all to myself and I remember being scared to death of dropping and cracking one of my treasures.

Our eggs were pretty simple in those days - we had four dyes in the basic colors - red, green, blue and yellow - and some medical tape to use for special effects when we really wanted to be fancy, plus a wax crayon for writing our names. I loved dipping them into multiple dye baths to create beautiful shades of purple and orange, and when they were done we'd place them back in the cartons and store them in the fridge for the Easter bunny to find and hide for us. Then Easter Sunday morning we'd find a note from the Easter bunny explaining which room each of us should look in to find our own eggs hidden among the plants and furniture.

It was a nice tradition at our house and almost as exciting as Christmas morning. Each of us had a basket filled with chocolate eggs, one large bunny, jelly beans, and some yellow peeps - and we added those beautiful Easter eggs as we found them to complete the package. Nice memories!

I still like dying Easter eggs. Have a wonderful Easter one and all!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tax time

I hate getting ready for income tax time. Does anyone like it? My guess is there probably are some people out there who do, since I know there are people who love cleaning their houses, and other tasks I find really distasteful. But I don't enjoy all the gathering of papers and receipts and the calculating of check stubs, etc, etc. It would help if I were better are keeping track of receipts throughout the year and it would really help if my husband would cooperate. But alas, he fails to get receipts from his doctor's offices and never bothers to save any he does get.

I have no idea how much we've lost out on in terms of deductions over the years - hopefully not much. I keep a file in my home office where I stick everything I think might be needed and then when it comes down to it I have to sort it all out, add up our deductions, and try to make sure I haven't missed anything. I'm not sure I do it well. In fact, I'm pretty sure I don't. I envy those people who are so organized all year that they have everything in order and ready to go when the time comes. I'm not one of them.

This year I even had to go through my calendar and try to add up the number of trips I'd made to Southampton for medical appointments or tests. There were over thirty I could find - I'm sure I missed some. The last time I made that drive it felt really familiar - now I know why. I should have rented a room over there for the duration.

Anyway, I'm thinking the straight percentage tax for all of us is looking better and better...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Beautiful April


I love April. Just the name makes me think about beautiful pastel colors and blooming flowers. I love the feel of April, the temperature of April, the blue of the April sky and the sound of April showers. I don't think there is anything I dislike about this month so right now I'm a very happy camper.

I've always loved the spring and the fall more than the other seasons. I love change so I have no desire to move somewhere just to have this climate all year long, but I do enjoy the mild temperatures of the transitional months. I love the hyacinths that grow in my yard and make the air sweet and fragrant. I love the smell of the first mow of the season when the grass starts to grow. And I even enjoy the sounds of construction and clean-up because they are the sounds of life. What's not to like about April?

My windows will be open more and more often as the month progresses and the heat will not be turned on again at my house. April is here and I'm very happy to see it!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 1


I'm tempted to write a spoof piece for April Fool's Day, perhaps telling my readers about winning the lottery or some such fantasy that would be fun to recount as truth. But instead I'm going to reminisce about the April Fool's Day tricks we used to play on my husband when the kids were young.

Every year on April Fool's Day I would get the kids dressed and fed and ready for school after their father left for work. As was our tradition, he would run home from work at 7:30 to pick them up and drop them off at school, since I usually had a baby or toddler at home which made it more difficult for me to do the deed. Since he had that flexibility it made my life easier.

Anyway, as soon as they were ready to go I'd get them on the couch, under the blankets and ready to play their parts like the pros that they already were. We are a theater family, after all, and no part is too small for a true theater lover! When he arrived to pick them up he'd come in the back door and there they would be, under their blankets and looking as sad and sick as their little thespian selves could. "They're all sick" I would announce, to which he would stop dead in his tracks every year, look at them incredulously, and say "ALL of them???" For a few delicious minutes the kids and I would carry on this charade as he asked all the pertinent questions such as "Do they have fevers?" and "Has anyone thrown up?" But before long one of more of them would start giggling and then the joke was over.

Now this really got better every year. Because every year they became better actors and every year it became more and more amazing to me that he never once caught on.

It's been many years since we pulled our April Fool's joke on my dear husband but the memories are still there and every year they make me smile. And I wish I still had those kids laying on the couch under the blankets to laugh with.