Monday, May 31, 2010

Decoration Day

My grandparents always called it "Decoration Day" because it was the day they decorated the graves of veterans with American flags and flowers to honor them for their service. It began after the Civil War and the end of May was chosen because it was thought that there would be some fresh flowers available everywhere in the country then. At some point later on it was changed to "Memorial Day" but that didn't matter to my grandparents - it would always be "Decoration Day" to them.

My great-grandfathers fought in the Civil War. My mother's father was a veteran of WWI and my father of WWII. My brother served in the Navy during Viet Nam, fortunately never seeing combat. I've never known the horror of losing a relative in a war, but I remember my mother telling me about her cousin who as a pilot was shot down over Germany in 1944. She was still emotional talking about it some forty years later and that effected me in a way I've never forgotten. I can't imagine the pain of losing a loved one like that. Any death is traumatic and life-changing. A death to something as senseless as war would be unbelievably heartbreaking.

I was of the Viet Nam generation and no doubt that colored my views of war and the military. But I can certainly say without hesitation that our service men and women are special people and we owe them more than we could ever pay. It seems fitting to set at least one day aside every year when the entire country takes the time to show its appreciation. I can't imagine not taking the time out of my day to attend the parade and service at the Memorial Green. It seems like the very least I can do.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ahhh....spring?

It seems as though every year now brings the same problem at our house - the septic system. What a joy!

It started the week we closed on the house in 1979. Husband dear was mowing the lawn when he suddenly came upon a huge hole that had opened in the yard. An overflow pool had collapsed. And thus began our cesspool odyssey which is a long and sordid tale. Through these past thirty years we've added pools, replaced pool, and pumped pools ad nauseum. Part of the problem seems to be the angle of the pipe which flows from the house to the cesspool - the other is our incredibly high water table here.

Well sure as it's May, it happened again: the usual gurgling sound heard in the downstairs sink, signaling a soon-to-occur disaster in the downstairs bathroom. A quickly placed call to the right people brought the truck the next day to pump our pool, which is higher than usual because of the water table (as in water in basement!). Problem solved, right? Wrong! When my bath water was draining that night the dreaded sound again began to echo through the house - the sink was gurgling. The water was stopped from draining, the dishwasher turned off, the wash in the washing machine halted, and another call made. We suspected a clog in the pipe.

So....now we have the water in our basement, an unfinished bathroom (going on week eight now with no downstairs toilet), and just to top it all off, the septic system backing up.

Ahhh....spring!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

It's here!

So the holiday weekend is in full swing now and we've officially given our town over to those who want to live here but aren't willing to make the sacrifices we all do to manage it. The beginning of another season - the starting line.

The past few weekends have prepared us for the onslaught and the traffic has been steadily building. I've begun to use alternative routes when traveling east or west, and trying to avoid the busiest time of day at the grocery store and CVS. Ambulance calls have picked up noticeably. Even so, when Memorial Day arrives it seems shocking - the traffic, the crowds, and the noise at night. When you live in the village you deal with it all.

But its all part of the ebb and flow of life around here, and life around here is pretty sweet. I'll take the crowds, and the traffic, and even the noise as long as I get to call this place home.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Vibe

There's a frantic vibe around the East End as we've been preparing for this holiday weekend. We want our lawns to be done, our decks to be ready, and we want to be able to sit back and enjoy the first celebration of the season. Everyone is busy and we all feel the pressure to get things done.

Traditionally there's a lot of entertaining going on this weekend. I wish I had a larger house for it. I love to entertain - but with a fairly small house I can only do it in limited fashion. When the weather is nice I can expand my attempts, but weather is difficult to predict and plan around.

About ten years ago I decided it would be fun to have a big outdoor party at the end of the summer. I was smart enough to designate a rain date, and naturally it did rain the day of the party. So we postponed everything to the following day, which was more trouble than it was worth because the mosquitos came out in force thanks to all the dampness from the earlier rain, and people were itching and jumping around like crazy. It was a disaster. I doubt I'll ever try that again.

I'm jealous of people who have huge houses to hold dozens of people, and those that can afford tents to make rain a non-issue. But we aren't in either category so I find the best thing to do is plan last-minute outdoor dinner parties in the summer. If the forecast is good for the weekend I'll make some phone calls. For me, this is summer entertaining.

And so the summer vibe has started and we're all planning our season now. Because we need to enjoy it while we can - September comes way too soon.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Willow tree

This week I said good-bye to a small piece of my childhood when a highway crew completed the demolition of the badly damaged weeping willow tree across the green on Methodist Lane.

When we were growing up there were two weeping willows and two pine trees that grew along the street over there, and this was the only remaining one. The two pines trees went down in Hurricane Gloria and the other willow in Hurricane Bob. I was saddened to see each of them go because they were huge, beautiful specimens. As children we loved running in and out of the low-hanging branches of the willows, and the pine trees were so tall and strong that they caught your eye when you drove by. Then a month ago, half of this remaining willow tree went down in a bad wind storm, leaving the other half with a gaping, open wound that was open to the elements, a breeding ground for rot. I'm sure it needed to be taken down before it fell on someone and caused serious injury, but seeing it being chopped up branch by branch and fed into a wood chipper made me sad in a mournful and melancholy way. It was as though I was seeing the last of my childhood being deconstructed in front of me. I finally left the house to get away from the spectacle but I felt old and used up for the rest of the day.

There will be new, young trees planted along the street where once these wonderful giants stood, and in another generation or two they'll be equally magnificent. But I won't see it in my lifetime and somehow it seems symbolic of my own life cycle. I may be the last of my family to actually live on this corner of East Hampton, where my ancestors first settled in the 1800s. Like the willow tree, we each have our own lifespan. But I hope that someone, family or not, will take my place here and appreciate it as much as I do. Because it is a place to be loved, and I do.


video

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My garden

My garden is stunning right now.

In a sense I hesitate to even call it a "garden" because it is more like an accidental oasis. About twenty years ago I was watching my husband mow the lawn one day and thinking about how much I hated that he had to spend so much time doing that every week, all summer long. Then I started thinking about the occasional hydrangea that my mother gave us, one every Easter for instance, and the mini-daffodils that I had just received in a basket from a friend. I never knew what to do with things like that because we had no landscaping plan and no money to do one. And I got this idea: what if we pulled up all the grass between the front and the back of the house (along the side yard) and started to make a place to plant things as we got them? It would make less lawn to mow and, although it would take a long time to fill, we planned to be here forever so why not start? I presented the idea to my husband and he agreed. So within a couple weeks he rented a machine to take up the grass and spent a Saturday stripping a large area.

That was a long time ago and there has never been any "plan" for the space. For many years it was sparsely covered! At one point we transferred some irises from another area of the yard. On another my mother suggested we take some shoots from her lilac bushes and bring them over, which we did - tiny ones that are now about twelve feet high and badly in need of pruning. Every Easter we added another hydrangea or more daffodils to the mix, along with an occasional azalea on Mother's Day.

And now, finally, it's beautiful. In twenty years it's filled out, grown up, and totally matured into a lovely space. The spirea, an original bush that was here when we moved in and is quite old, is in full bloom and provides a nice backdrop for the irises. The azaleas are just fading and the lilacs long gone, but the weeds have not yet taken hold so its fairly neat and orderly.

I'm not much of a gardener and I don't enjoy getting into the dirt the way my mother did so this accidental garden is perfect for me. And for a few weeks at least, it makes me feel as though I've worked a miracle - with a little help (well, maybe a lot of help!) from nature.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

DWTS

After tonight I'm going to go through withdrawal. It's the season finale of Dancing With the Stars and I'm inconsolable.

We started watching the show in its first season - I'm sure my husband was humoring me but he soon began to actually enjoy it and in no time at all we were both hooked. There's a real fantasy quality to this show - a sort of "maybe I could do that" thing that intrigues those of us who watch it. Here are people like myself who've never been on a professional dance floor before, and within a few weeks they're spinning and floating around like pros and I'm totally jealous. Who among us doesn't wish we could dance like that? If I could get a private teacher and learn how to swing and jive when the music plays, I'd be in heaven. Its like a fantasy come true and we're all living it along with the contestants.

In addition to that we have all the usual intrigue that goes with any reality show: temper tantrums, tears, romance - it's all there. But the performances are the best part because they're live and there's no scripting what happens when the music starts.

This season was the best yet, with some of the spectacular dancing ever. I've always been enchanted by ballroom and now that I've learned so many of the specifics I'll enjoy it even more when I catch the next competition on PBS. But its going to be a really dry spell between now and the next season of DWTS and I'm missing it already. Who will they get next? I'll be wondering about it for months....

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gorgeous

Typical East End weather - freezing one week and gorgeous the next! This past weekend was so beautiful and such a nice glimpse of the summer to come.

Yesterday we were able to sit out on the deck at my sister's house for Sunday lunch. It felt like heaven to have the sun on our faces and hear the birds in the trees. After a long winter there's nothing better, and I think that's one of the things I most enjoy about the seasons: they help us appreciate each one in turn. We love the change as each new season arrives and we celebrate all over again, whether its the first snowfall or the first beautiful day in the sun. Humans are interesting creatures and easily fall into a place of taking things for granted. The change of seasons helps us avoid that rut and enjoy each one in its turn.

And now its time to revel in the spring and look forward to the summer.

I'm not sure what this week will bring weather-wise, but I do know this: I love living out here on the end of this oddly shaped piece of land we call Long Island. Because while it may be true that life is what you put into it, being in an ever-changing, always fascinating place like this certainly makes it easier to throw yourself into it with abandon. If you don't, you're sleep-walking through it all and missing so much.

Summer is right around the corner. And Spring is here for sure. Let's celebrate!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Brrrr


What is with the cold weather we had last week? Wow! I thought it would be no problem at all to have no heat when the water i our basement put out the pilot light, but I surely would have enjoyed having a little something to take the chill off most days and I was freezing when I was forced to sit in my loving room for an extended period of time. I cannot remember as late May being this cold before.

That said, the weather has been agreeing with the flowers and trees and it really looks beautiful around town. As we approach Memorial Day weekend I think perhaps the sun will come out and gift us with a really nice one this year. I envision a cook-out on the deck at least once during the holiday - maybe even twice, although evenings are still pretty nippy!

In so many ways this has been a year like no others and the weather is no exception. One day I'm in a tee shirt and the next in a wool sweater. I'm used to temperature swings on the East End after living here my whole life, but this last month has been weirdly unpredictable. I can only hope its over now and we're in for a really wonderful summer.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

No dogs?

Writing about the old westerns the other day reminded me of something else I hadn't thought about in along time: Where are the animals? When I was young, animals were really big on television. There as Lassie, of course, the biggest star, and Rin Tin Tin who was a very close second, and then there was a Bassett Hound that you could hear think, but I can't remember what it's name was, and Mr. Ed, and probably more but they're not coming to mind at the moment.

Rin Tin Tin was a real favorite of mine because of the western tie-in. He was a beautiful German shepherd who lived in an outpost fort of the Cavalry in the old west. I remember a young boy, about 12-years-old, who wore a Cavalry uniform and was always with "Rinny" as he called him, but the specifics are fuzzy. What was this young kid doing in the fort? And why the dog? I don't remember. But I do remember the great adventures they had, and I remember the opening where Rin Tin Tin ran up onto a huge rock formation and stood there like royalty with the credits rolling. It was exciting - and a real fantasy for kids my age.

It's been a long time since we've had a TV show where an animal was the star. Maybe the time has come! I love seeing beautiful animals so well trained. I wanted a Lassie so badly! Not that I didn't love my boxer, but she couldn't do the wonderful things Lassie did and I never felt quite confident that she'd save my life if need be. And I haven't even addressed the horses like "Fury" and "My Friend Flicka". Boy did I ever want a horse like one of those!

Perhaps like all things, what goes around comes around and animals will again become stars on our television sets, but I'm afraid our kids today are way too sophisticated to believe in them quite the way that we did. For me, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Flicka will always be my own fantasy pets.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Overhead

The other night we were watching some television show and caught glimpse of an overhead projector. I haven't seen one of those in years now and it made me think about how far we've come in the audio visual arts since I was in school. From film strips to power point. It sounds like a documentary title.

I don't know if film strips even exist anymore but I imagine they've totally gone the route of the old fashioned slide show. My father had boxes of slides from all his many trips and the slide show was pretty much a requirement for the many missionaries that visited out church when I was growing up. Now I imagine they all do power point presentations and my father would probably have been a real talented videographer had he lived long enough.

I can't remember when I last saw a lecture done with an overhead projector. They were confusing for even the most regular users and the projections were always coming out upside down. With a quick twist the speaker would aptly flip it around and it could even be written on right there for illustration purposes. They were handy but expensive, though no doubt much cheaper than the computers needed today.

It seems a long way from film strip to power point. Over fifty years I guess...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Early westerns

Being able to find old westerns on cable TV is great fun and some of the best of the early 60s are there every night for my husband to tune in to - and I sometimes catch a few moments of Gunsmoke, Cheyenne or Maverick. Of course I notice things now that I never would have back in the day.

For instance, the old west was pretty clean in those early depictions. The streets were never muddy, the dust never flew, and people's clothes always looked nicely cleaned and pressed. Even when they came in off the range there was nary a touch of dirt or a torn sleeve on their nice fresh clothes.

Then there are the ladies. Who knew that women in the old west always had make-up on? And not just simple daytime make-up at that, but they were made up quite heavily. It would've been difficult to tell the saloon gals from the ranchers wives if not for the difference in the dresses they wore. And then there were the wigs! They had the most elaborate wigs and hairstyles and I can hardly imagine how they managed all those fancy coifs out there on the primitive prairie. Amazing!

Westerns are a bit more realistic now than they used to be. They're more gritty and dirty, that's for sure. And the women never wear noticeable make-up. But I have to say I enjoy seeing them all dolled up on the Encore Western channel! Early TV at its best!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sex ed

When I mentioned film strips in a recent blog it made me chuckle to myself because I remembered the old "sex education" class we had when I was in school. I think the title doesn't really jive with what sex ed classes are today. For us, it happened in the fifth grade. I remember my mother telling me that she and I were going to a meeting at the school on an evening, but there was no other explanation and I was worried, hoping I wasn't in some kind of trouble. She assured me that it had nothing to do with my behavior and all my friends would be there. She didn't tell me that only my girl friends would be there and that the boys would be meeting on another night!

I don't actually remember learning anything I didn't already know, but then my friends were much more informed than I was and didn't hesitate to share their information with me. So I already knew the basic facts of life when they were presented at that meeting. It was conducted by the school nurse and I remember coming home with a little booklet that was published by the "Modess" company, which I read when I got home and promptly tossed out because it seemed so absurd to me. It was a far cry from modern sex educations classes. The only thing I remember my mother saying was "Read the book and if you have any questions ask me." I don't think I ever did. And I'm sure she was doing a better job than her mother had done! My grandmother told me once that she always changed her clothes in the closet! I sometimes wonder if she knew how she even got pregnant when she did...

I'm not sure if we were better off then or not. I think growing up in the 60s was a unique sex education just on its own.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spring fling

We're finally into the best part of spring and I'm enjoying the beautiful, warm, and (mostly)sunny days. We were able to sit out on the deck last Sunday for lunch and as long as we were in the direct sun it was warm and comfortable.The flowering trees, like the cherry and dogwood, are fading now but the irises are glorious. I brought in the last of the lilacs last week and what's left on the bushes is browning up fast, so I know that's it for this year.

Some of the azaleas have just hit their peak though, and the deep pink ones are especially beautiful. We have a bush whose common name is "scotch broomstick", with small yellow blossoms that cover the long hanging branches and form a waterfall effect. I bought it as a small plant just a few years ago and its only now really looking great. There's so much satisfaction in planting something when its young and watching it grow, finally becoming a pretty addition to the yard. I've never understood the desire to plant fully grown trees when its so much fun to buy small ones and nurture them along, finally taking pride and pleasure in their maturity.

I have a peony that's about to blossom for the first time since I planted it a few years ago - and I'm beyond excited about that. I planted a few more small peony bushes this year and look forward to seeing them in about 2013 when they start bringing me beautiful flowers. My hydrangeas are all pretty sturdy -I must have about 10 of those scattered around the side yard - and I think when the pachysandra finally covers the entire garden we'll be done with that part of the yard. My final goal is to line the back property with evergreens, both for the privacy and to keep the deer from coming in there.

We've lived in this house for 31 years now and its finally starting to look really nice. Now if only I could afford a regular service to keep the weeds down, mow the lawn, and trim all the hedges and trees when needed, that would be nice!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Amish

When we were in Pennsylvania recently we were in the heart of Amish country. It was a great time of year to be there because the farmers were all out in their fields working, preparing for the growing season. And the huge dichotomy between modern farmers and the Amish farmers was so evident! In one field there was a modern farmer working his field with a huge John Deere tractor. Right next door was an Amish farm and in that field was a woman standing on the back of a crude, simple plow which was pulled by a team of 6 horses across the front. Amazingly enough the tractor didn't seem to be making any better progress than the horses were, and what a beautiful thing it was to see those animals at work.

We also stopped at an Amish farm to shop for a quilt and were able to go into the house where the goods for sale were stored. It was a peek at a way of life we can only imagine, and yet not all that different from the way our ancestors lived not that long ago: bare wood floors, pencil and paper for writing up a sales receipt, simple furniture and no lamps in sight. Outside the chickens wandered the yard and the sound of horses hooves hitting the gravel floated into the window as the farmer drove his wagon into the yard. It was like being transported through time and I imagined life in my great-grandparents' day, when wagons passed by the front of my house in East Hampton and life was more peaceful and simple.

There are so many modern conveniences for which I am grateful beyond words. I wouldn't want to do without my washer and dryer, my running water, or my bathrooms - and of course modern medicine! But I think I could live happily without the TV, car, and cell phone, not to mention computers and leaf blowers. Life would certainly be different, but peace would descend and we would learn to enjoy each others company in a whole new way. Those Amish are really on to something...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Appointments


The other day I had an appointment with a new doctor. When I called to make the appointment, the receptionist asked if 2:00 would work and said "sure". Then she said "Please come at 1:45 to fill out the paperwork". So I said "Does that mean the doctor will be ready to see me right at 2:00?" The receptionist didn't quite get my sarcasm.

I'm always amazed at how long we must sit and wait for doctor's appointments. Of course I understand emergencies, but there are some doctors that rarely deal with those (like podiatrists) and it seems odd to me that they can be so far off their schedules even in the morning. Is it a matter of poor planning on their part or is it more about packing as many appointments as they can into the day? The whole thing is annoying because it infers that their time is more valuable than mine. Maybe it is to them, but not to me. Why can't they just be upfront about things when you walk in the door as in: "I'm sorry but the doctor is running about 30 minutes late today - would you like to run an errand or can I get you some coffee?" Knowledge is the most powerful thing in the world and not knowing is demeaning and demoralizing.

In the past year I've spent so many hours waiting in doctor's and hospital waiting rooms that I'm afraid to sit and figure out exactly how many. When I figured out how many trips I'd made to Southampton (for medical reasons) for taxes, it was well over fifty so if that translates into at least a thirty minute wait each time (which is probably generous) it's a bit mind boggling.

Well, this time I went to the doctor's office at the appointed time, arriving at 1:45 as asked. I was finally called in to see the doctor at 2:10, but then sat in a room waiting for him until almost 2:30. And there wasn't a single magazine in there to read...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Activity

There's a lot of activity on Main Street these days. It's easy to tell when Memorial Day is approaching and this year is no exception because stores are being painted, walkways repaired, window displays re-done or refreshed, and everything is looking nice for the coming season.

Since I've lived here my entire life I think my bio-rhythms are in sync with the tourist season. I find myself thinking of Memorial Day in terms of a beginning and Labor Day an end. For all these years I've watched as the town bustled around preparing for the onslaught and its almost as though my internal clock is gearing me up as well. We don't have a "seasonal" business and we don't depend on tourists or second home owners to keep us going, and yet they effect our lives in so many ways when they begin their annual trek eastward on the island. We change the way we do our grocery shopping and the routes we take to drive anywhere. We think in terms of timing and add fifteen minutes to any trip on Montauk Highway. It's just an ingrained part of life on the East End and we swing into a different mentality as though it were just part of living or breathing.

I dare say all lifers in the East End are pretty much the same. This is the life we've always known and its the life we understand. But you know what? I think deadlines are a good thing. They make us take notice of the calendar and spur us on to get things done in a timely fashion. And the village is looking really nice...

Friday, May 14, 2010

The club

I've lived within walking distance of the Maidstone Club all my life. I think it's one of the most beautiful spots in the entire village, and that's saying something out here!

Just a couple weeks ago I attended the annual fire department dinner at the Maidstone and I was again reminded what a gift that place is to all of us who live here. With its wide open spaces and great expanses of rolling lawns, we are blessed to be able to enjoy some of the only unobstructed views around. How many places in the world can you see a golf course unless you happen to live on the edge of one? And here it is like a wonderful public park, all green and beautiful for all to see. From certain vantage points you can see all the way to the ocean, and there are precious few opportunities for that any more.

And then there is the clubhouse itself, which oozes elegance in its understated opulence. I love the high ceilings and the huge rooms, where dozens of people can easily get lost. Spending an evening in the ballroom is a special treat and the members are generous enough to open it to the local fire and ambulance services every year for their annual dinners. It's one of the most beautiful historic buildings in the village and its such a wonderful opportunity for people to see and enjoy it.

There are some special places in the world that are only open to a privileged few people. Here in East Hampton we may not all be members of "the club", but we can all take pride in a place that's a real asset for all of us. Hopefully people don't take it for granted.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rain

Yesterday's rain was not depressing to me at all. I know some people find the rain makes them sad or on a "low energy" setting. But to me its almost cleansing. It's as though it washes everything bad away and the air that follows is fresh and clean and it feels like a new world.

Allergies have been especially bad this year and even I, who doesn't normally notice them, have suffered. My throat has been scratchy and my voice has been compromised for weeks now. The rain is a welcome escape for at least a day, and usually a few. I was happy to see it.

Today is my youngest child's birthday and its hard to believe that he's now 25-years-old. He'll always be "my baby", but today he's truly a mature man - a new father and good husband and an adult I'm proud of. I could never deny him because he looks so much like my father and has many of our family personality traits. Of course I have no interest in doing that!

So today is a celebration for me: a clean and fresh day following the rain, and a time to relive the day my son was born. It's going to be a good day!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jewelry

I've lost enough weight lately to have a really hard time dressing to go anywhere. My clothes are a bit baggy and not terribly flattering at this point, and yet the ones in a smaller size that I have in my closet don't look quite right yet either. I think I'm really somewhere in between (didn't they used to sell "half sizes"? I seem to remember some stores having racks of them but I haven't heard of them in a long time. Does anyone else remember that?)

This train of thought brings me to one of me weaknesses, which is jewelry. And I confess that I have way too much of it.

Jewelry is a great accessory and it can make or break an outfit, no doubt about it. But the best thing about it is it doesn't have a size. No matter what weight I am or what size I wear, my jewelry always fits. I don't have to worry about it being too tight or too loose and when all else fails - when I can't find anything in my closet that I think looks good on me at the moment - I can always go to my jewelry cabinet and find the perfect piece to finish things off.

The problem is I've indulged in way too much of it over the years and finding the pieces I want at any given time is sometimes hard to do. A few years ago my husband bought me a standing jewelry cabinet for the bedroom and it's so full I don't dare buy another pair of earrings or a single necklace no matter how much I love it. Of course this is all costume jewelry and sometimes I toss pieces out when they tarnish or the coating peels off, but for the most part it lasts a long time and I have some things that are at least twenty years old.

I think its time to clean out my jewelry case and de-tangle the mess that resides there. There's no doubt that if I had lots of money I'd be dripping in diamonds and other sparkly things. But what I do have is not worth hanging on to forever and its so much more fun to shop for new.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Home again

I was thrilled to arrive home after a ten-day absence to find flowers in bloom everywhere. I was afraid I'd miss the lilacs but I worried needlessly: there are still plenty to cut and bring in to the house, which I've already done. There's a small bunch of them sitting on my kitchen table right now. Tomorrow I'll put another bouquet together for a spot on my counter so I can smell that delicious aroma wherever I go.

An additional bonus is my irises just starting to bloom. There's just one out now but there will be many more to follow. And...the azaleas are also looking spectacular. The garden is beautiful and I'm so glad I didn't miss it all.

I love the spring flowers and its my favorite time of year around town. The grass is never greener and the colors are never more vibrant. Life is bursting out all over the place and this year I'm drinking it in like a tonic. Because that's exactly what it is. God's gift for our souls.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lucy

My granddaughter Lucy just celebrated her fourth birthday and I think four must be one of the best ages of all. She's old enough to be potty trained and to reason with, but young enough to enjoy sitting in her grandmother's lap to read a wonderful book, or play silly games and sing silly songs. Her laugh is infectious and she giggles easily. She's a real joy, my little Lucy, and I adore her.

When each one of my children was born I worried that I wouldn't love them as much as I did the others. I almost felt as though there was only so much of that kind of intense emotion a person could handle, and I might reach my limit. But I found that every single time, I was overwhelmed with how much room there was in my heart for the newest member of the family. And now I'm finding the same thing true with my grandchildren.

I have seven grandchildren and I expect I'll have more. Hopefully I'll never have a hard time remembering things like how old each one is or what month they were born. But regardless, I'm totally convinced of this: I'll never be short of love no matter how many I have. What an amazing capacity the human heart has.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day


I used to love all the hype that swirled around Mother's Day but I must admit to some sadness now when I walk through a store and see all the displays of "gifts for Mom". This is only my third Mother's Day since Mom died and it still hurts that I won't be able to tell her how much I love and appreciate her anymore. We so take people for granted when they're with us!

Weeks ago I went in to find a birthday card for someone and everywhere I looked it was "Mother's Day". There were aisles of cards and big photo albums with "Mom" on the covers, there were mugs and signs declaring "Best Mom in the World!" and even aprons for those mothers that still use them (do people really still use aprons?). It didn't prompt the tears that it did last year, but it was melancholy nonetheless. I chose to take a minute to thank God for giving me the wonderful mother I had.

A few days ago I was talking with my aunt who was preparing for cancer surgery. She asked me how I felt when I was facing my own surgery last year and I told her truthfully that one of my thoughts was about the possibility of being the first of my siblings to get to see my mother again - and then the tears did come.

Later I reflected on how sad Mother's Day has been for me since Mom died and right then and there I decided I can still celebrate my mother on Mother's Day, only differently than I did before. I can use that day to remember her, to share stories about her, and to show gratitude for her life. And in addition to that I can use Mother's Day to celebrate my own motherhood, and for the wonderful children I brought into the world. So - Happy Mother's Day to my children for making me one very happy mom! This one is for you Amanda, Elizabeth, Joshua and Tyler. I love you very much and I'm very proud of each one of you...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Crab apple

About two weeks ago I looked out my front window and saw our small flowering crab apple tree in full bloom. It's one of my favorites in the flowering tree category because it has deep pink blossoms and deep maroon foliage which together is really quite stunning. This one is small enough that its not spectacular yet, but I anticipate that someday my grandchildren will be able to see it fully grown and beautiful.

This tree always reminds me of some favorite relatives because about twenty years ago now we were visiting them at their beautiful home about an hour from here, and they pulled a small shoot from the base of their huge crab apple tree, maybe 10 inches high, and said "Here-take this home and plant it - it should grow!" They knew we had a pretty empty yard and no money for landscaping, and I had admired this particular tree. So we took that little stick, put it in the ground, and now we have a lovely tree in the front yard that reaches about 10 or 12 feet at its peak.

In addition to this tree we have two large Japanese maples in our yard - also from Aunt Helen and Uncle Bud's house. Again, just pulled from the ground, but probably more like 4 ft high when we brought them home, layed out in the back of our van when we loaded the kids in for the trip back east. Now they're spectacular shade trees that we love - one in the front of the house and the other in the back, so I can see one of them from anywhere inside.

Although I enjoy all these trees because they're so pretty, the real value of them is in the memories they hold. Everytime I look at one of them it brings a smile to my face because I'm reminded of the special people who gave them to us - and I usually relive some of the great memories of the good times spent at their home. Some people are too special to ever be forgotten and Aunt Helen and Uncle Bud certainly fit into that category. Uncle Bud died quite a few years ago now and Aunt Helen moved a long distance away shortly after that to be closer to her daughter's family. I miss them both very much. But the trees are a constant reminder of them and I'm so glad we have them.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Glasses


I've been wearing glasses since I was in the fourth grade. I was one of the first of my peers to get them and I've had a love/hate relationship with them from the start.

I don't think anyone who doesn't have bad eyesight fully appreciates what a handicap it is to not see well. Without my glasses I'm legally blind and couldn't drive a car or, for that matter, function much at all. I can read if the words are five inches from my face, but I can't see faces and wouldn't know who was talking to me if they were standing right in front of me. It's a difficult thing to be so debilitated and I hate getting up at night and being reminded of it when I try to see what time it is on the digital clock. And being in the hospital is a nightmare because you have no idea who's talking to you or what's happening around you during a procedure - they always make you take your glasses off!

When I was in the tenth grade I went to the optometrist and bought myself contact lenses. My father thought they were a passing fad and wouldn't buy them for me so I used my summer work money and did it on my own. It took me weeks to adjust to them because it was like having sandpaper in my eyes and I could only keep them in for an hour at time for the first few weeks. In those days there were only hard lenses and many people couldn't tolerate them at all, but I was determined. I've been wearing those hard lenses for over forty years now, for which I'm grateful, but I'd do anything not to have to. I'm not a candidate for lasix surgery, so I have no choice but to use them.

All that was merely an introduction to my real gripe here, which is that I had to resort to wearing regular glasses recently and it was horrible. For days I left the contacts in their little case and put my glasses on, and I was constantly reminded of what I hated about wearing regular glasses: fogging over when I drained the pasta in the sink, slipping off my nose when I worked out at the gym, and getting covered with dust when I cleaned the house. And I realized I need bifocals now because I can no longer read well with them.This is one place where I surely lost out during the gene distribution phase of the birthing process, but I'm grateful that at least there's something that can be done to help - I can't even imagine living five hundred years ago when a good pair of glasses was not such simple thing. I would hae ended up begging on the street!

But what am I going to do when I'm old and my hands are shaky? I'll never be able to get those tiny contact lenses into my eyes and I won't know what anyone else in the nursing home looks like....

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Niagara

We've been upstate New York this week assisting an elderly aunt who's having some medical procedures done. It's been a stressful and hectic week and not a terribly fun way to spend our vacation time together, but yesterday there was a payoff: we drove the twenty minutes it takes to get from her house to Niagara Falls and then spent a couple hours wandering around in America's very first national park. And it was relaxing and beautiful.

I've been to Niagara at least a half-dozen times in my life because every trip to visit my mother's family in Buffalo included a mandatory side-trip to the falls. And every visit has been a new experience because different seasons and various types of weather bring new twists to the vistas there. Much like the ocean, it's always changing and it never looks exactly the same twice.

On this particular day we were surprised not to see the usual mountain of mist climbing into the sky as we approached the park. Once we walked to the viewing area we saw why: there was a strong wind blowing and the mist was swirling around in ever direction, sending a light, cool rain on all the spectators and creating the most spectacular rainbows in everywhere. There was one complete arch that spanned the river between the American and Canadian sides, and that was a constant the entire time we were on site. But in addition to that, which would have been enough of a gift on it's own, there were smaller slivers and chunks of color that would appear for a few minutes and then, when the wind sent the spray off onto another direction, disappear as quickly as they'd come. It was mesmerizing.

Standing beside the water as it rushes over the edge only a few feet away is incredibly. The roar it makes is so loud one has to shout to be heard over it. And the sight of all that water rushing over the precipice is the very definition of the word 'awesome". We climbed the many walkways and wandered along the paths which all led to new and exciting vistas, each more beautiful than the last.

We were there for quite awhile before we decided it was time to get back to reality, and so headed back to the car. But it was a wonderful morning of being alive, a spiritual experience enjoying creation with the Creator. What a wonderful world it is.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Spring snow

It was such a treat to drive down Huntting Lane recently and feel as though a gentle snow was falling - a beautiful flowering tree in someone's yard was releasing its blossoms with a little nudge from a spring breeze, and it looked so much like snowfall it was breathtaking. I smiled as I drove through the petals as they floated to the ground, and sadly realized that soon those beautiful trees would all be green, with no more colorful offerings to send into the wind for us.

When we were young there was an apple tree at the house next door - its since been taken down, but I remember looking at that tree every spring and wishing it would stay in bloom all summer because it was so beautiful. When I expressed that thought to my mother she reminded me that if the blossoms remained all season there would never be fruit to enjoy, and that usually in life when you sadly say goodbye to something wonderful you need to realize that there may be something even better to follow.

That said, I'd much rather drive beneath the falling blossoms than dropping apples. But... fresh fruit is really nice too!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The cake

Since I've twice referred to this new cake recipe I tried I think it only fair to share it with you. It appeared in a recent issue of Newsday in a column where they feature regular people who like to cook, highlighting their favorite recipes. This one was about Connie Goldmano of Hicksville who said she'd been making this cake for at least forty years and it was a favorite of her family. In looking over the ingredients and realizing what an easy one it was, I ripped it out and had to give it a shot.

It was all it was promised to be: moist, flavorful, and easy. In short, my kind of recipe. So with a tip of the hat to Connie I offer her recipe and gladly include my own recommendation. It's a real winner:

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Preheat oven to 350degrees
Prepare bundt pan with cooking spray

Ingredients:
2 sticks of softened butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs and beat well with electric mixer
Combine baking powder and flour and beat dry ingredients into mixture
Add sour cream and vanilla, then chocolate chips
Pour into pan and bake for 1 hour

Now I might mention that in all my years of baking I've learned never to combine the dry ingredients - its an unnecessary step and an extra bowl to dirty. I simply add any baking powder or soda and salt to the butter/sugar mixture and beat it - it distributes nicely in the batter with no problem. Then just add the flour slowly. I also use regular chocolate chips-those mini ones are way too small for this chocoholic! Those are my baking tips for the day~

Enjoy this one - it went pretty quickly at my house and I've neatly trimmed the newspaper clipping and added it to my loose leaf recipe book. I think you will too!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Missing piece

My mother was a wonderful woman and I loved her very much. However, in retrospect I think my love for her inhibited me from bonding with my mother-in-law as early as I wish I had all those years ago, because although she and my mother shared many great attributes, she was quite a different person in other ways and that put me off a bit at times. It shouldn't have - and it was totally my fault because I was young and stupid - but it did.

For instance: when my mother baked a cake, no one was allowed to touch it until dinner. There was no tasting allowed because it was "for dinner", or "for company" or whatever the reason was. When she presented a dessert it had to be perfect: whole and untouched. That was what I grew up with.

When we went to my in-law's for dinner early on in our marriage, I was startled when she brought a cake to the table for dessert that had a slice taken from it. Who would have eaten it, I wondered out loud, rather horrified that someone would defile her creation. "I did" she laughed, "I had to make sure it was good!" It seemed almost insulting to me and I wasn't quite sure what to make of this woman. It took me years to get over such ridiculous things. In retrospect I could have learned so much from her about letting my hair down and not taking life so seriously, and as I grew to love her I appreciated her attitude of celebration in every day.

So it was with a nod to my mother-in-law that I tried out a new recipe recently for chocolate chip bundt cake and promptly took a slice as soon as it came from the oven for "testing" purposes. She would have been pleased to have joined me! At the very least I hope she was smiling at me somewhere, realizing I had finally learned to embrace her zany sense of humor and appreciate her for the amazing person she was. And that cake, warm from the oven, was delicious!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Morning visits

One of my favorite surprises is when the grandchildren appear at my door unexpectedly. I know my husband feels the same way because if he gets a visit at his place of business its the first thing I hear about when he walks in the door: "Guess who stopped to see me today?"

Occasionally my daughter will stop on her way someplace and the kids will come barreling in the back door, "full of spit and vinegar" as my grandmother used to say. They descend for fifteen minutes or so, spreading the toys and books around the house, having a snack most likely, and then in a flash they're gone as they came. It's always a whirlwind.

I look forward to watching these children grow up but I dread it as well. I know the day will come when the idea of a visit to Grandma is not quite as exciting as it is to them now. More than likely it'll be met with rolled eyes and shuffling feet, so I'm enjoying it while I can. I know how these things go and soon enough their priorities will be elsewhere. Visiting me will be more of a chore, like when I need light bulbs changed or furniture moved. I know they'll always love their grandparents, but they won't be running into the house with squeals of delight the way they do now. So for the moment I'm savoring each visit for the special gift that it is.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day

When I was young I asked my mother why people would refer to "May Day" on the first of May every year. She explained that this was a day when people would surprise each other with small bouquets of flowers as a celebration of spring. She also told me about something she and her sister did for their neighbors every May Day and I loved the idea so she agreed to help me with my own similar May Day plan.

First she found some doilies (probably left over from the Valentine's Day cards we'd made a few months earlier) and she helped me fashion a conical holder for a small bouquet. We created a handle out of construction paper and then I went to the neighboring yard where I knew I could find some grape hyacinths growing under a tree. I picked enough to make a nice little bunch and we filled the little holder with the pretty flowers. Then I snuck across the street to the home of my first grade teacher who lived close by, hung it on her front door handle, and ran back home before she came to see who was there.

I have no idea why I remember this incident in such vivid detail other than the fact that I loved doing craft projects and must have really enjoyed working with my mother on that one, but it was also so much fun to do something for someone in such an anonymous way.
I'm not sure why May Day lost its place as a nice time to surprise neighbors with flowers but its a shame. I think it was a really nice tradition.