Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Change

I came home from a Village Design Review Board meeting a couple weeks ago thinking about all the things they're dealing with...and realized how hard it is to see into the future. If only we could! For instance - who would have thought twenty years ago that people would rather put shiny gold "Manhattan style" signs on their businesses instead of the beautiful "New England style" carved signs that have always been popular here in East Hampton? Had people realized what would eventually happen to our downtown area they could have written the code to reflect it, disallowing things that might make us look more like fancy Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills than Main Street in quaint little East Hampton. Who'd a thought, right?

And could one have ever imagined that a store owner might want to paint their building bright pink instead of conservative white? Or that another might want to serve cocktails and hors doves from their front steps?

I think of all the difficulties in holding a government position, the worst is the need to be very pro-active. Without the abilities of a gypsy that's not an easy task. You really can't imagine what people will come up with next, or how tastes will change, or what the general public will think about things ten or twenty years down the road. So by and large we have to react to what comes up and try to deal with things as well as possible. Change is inevitable, as much as people detest it, and the most we can hope for is to channel things in the right direction and make all change as easy as possible to deal with. Its not an easy job.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jobs

There are a number of jobs that I've often thought I'd love to have. Mostly they're jobs that involve little if any physical labor with lots of money in return - the kind that everyone wants. Like doing voice-overs for television commercials or radio ads. I could do that! Or how about being a hand model? I would never have to worry about a few pounds here and there as long as my hands were kept well moisturized and manicured. And of course that would make it neessary to keep my hands away from dirty dishes and harsh cleaning fluids so I would have to hire someone to cook and clean for me. That would be a tax write-off, right? Heaven!

I used to dream of being a studio musician. I loved the idea of being able to sing for a living, enjoying my musical abilities without having to deal with the stress of live performance. I still like that idea.

I've also toyed with the thought of a career in television. I think I'd like Kelly Ripa's job, which involves getting to work about 8am, working for two hours, and then going home. And picking up a huge paycheck for my trouble. I think I could do that!

So how does one go about finding those jobs? I think if I could find one I could do it competently, but where, oh where, do I find one? I suppose there's a long line wherever it is....

Monday, June 28, 2010

Favorite sounds


Having my grandchildren here for a few weeks reminds me of some of my favorite sounds. Many of them involve children, but certainly not all. Here are some I'm thinking of:

The sound of small feet running through the hallway upstairs
Children laughing and playing together
The sound of a car door closing out in my driveway
Steak sizzling on the grill
Any of the voices of the people I love
One of my grandchildren on the other end of the phone
The squeak of my bedroom door opening in the middle of the night when the kids are visiting
A church pipe organ
Taps
Beautiful choral music - beautiful music of any type!
The car engine starting in the dead of winter
A small motor boat from across the water
Birds singing in the morning
The crunch of snow under my boots
The ocean surf
My husband coming in the back door after work
A child's giggle
Puppies yapping in excitement
Geese flying overhead, honking as they head south
The fall breeze rustling the dry leaves
Christmas carols
Sleighbells
Horses hooves on the pavement
Bagpipes
A gentle rain
A crackling fire
The crack of a baseball on a wooden bat
A baby cooing
People singing "Happy Birthday"
Laughter at the dinner table
A congregation singing hymns

That's my list for now - I'm sure I could come up with more in time. But I wonder if my list is all that different from the list someone else would make. After all, we can probably all agree that there's way too much noise in the world - but some sounds are really, really good to hear.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mowing

The open field across from my house is owned by the village (given to them by my ancestors - imagine what it would be worth today! But I do enjoy having no houses over there so I need to keep my perspective....). When the mowers arrive every week I know I'm in for a long hour of noise. First they use the big mowers - the kind that have huge front ends and can roll around at a good clip. That's loud enough. But then when the mowers are done, the trimmers and the leaf blowers come out. That's the real annoying part.

I understand electric trimmers and certainly its necessary to trim around trees and along curbs (although I admit we rarely do it here). But the leaf blowers? Two men take leaf blowers and walk the field, blowing all the grass clippings around lest they leave them in rows where the mowers went through. Is this really necessary? I mean, what's so bad about seeing the leaf clippings? And why does the lawn have to be perfectly groomed to within an inch of its life? I don't happen to think it would be such a bad thing if an open field like that were only mown every other week, and trimming done once a month. After all, its not as though children are playing there or people are using the grassy area for some purpose - who cares if its a little long?

I'm not sure how we progressed to this place of lawn obsession but its totally out of control. I think we need to regress a little and go back to the days when push lawn mowers were the only kind and we were much more content with a little long grass here and there. Life's just too short to spend it mowing, trimming or blowing....or even worse listening to the noise!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Kid time

This weekend we're traveling to Pennsylvania to pick up two of our grandchildren. Their younger sister, four-year-old Lucy, had surgery last Monday to correct a malformation in her brain. She's doing well but her recovery will be difficult and her mother needs to give her all the attention she can. Luckily for us, that means my daughter is going to give us her other children to bring home to stay with us for while. What a gift! We are thrilled.

When I was growing up, one set of grandparents lived here in East Hampton, but the other lived in Buffalo. It was a long trip and we didn't get to see them as often as I'm sure they would have liked, but I distinctly remember my mother sending my brother and me off on a trip to stay with them when I was very young - and I remember how much I adored them. I was so young that there are only a few visual memories (like the Buffalo Zoo, the bedroom I slept in, my grandfather reading me a bedtime story, and my grandmother sitting on the edge of the bed with me talking) but most importantly there is the distinct memory of the feelings I had while I was with them in their second floor apartment there. I felt loved and I loved them in return. When I was only five-years-old they moved to East Hampton so those were very early images and deeply ingrained feelings. I'm amazed by them now.

I look forward to creating those kinds of memories with these little ones that we don't get to see as often as the ones who live right here. (How blessed am I to be able to see those local kids anytime I want to!) I hope some day the Pennsylvania kids will remember a trip to the movie theater, or to a nice restaurant, or perhaps they'll remember the bedrooms I've decorated just for them. Most of all I hope they remember how loved the were. Isn't that what it's really all about?

Friday, June 25, 2010

America

Recently I recorded a series on the History Channel about the history of America. Each one hour program highlighted a specific time in this nation's life, from the early settlers to modern days. We had hours of television to watch with this series, and a week ago we were home on Sunday so we watched a good portion of it. The most striking thing I came away with after seeing so much of our history unfold before me was how tenacious our ancestors were. We've always known they were unusual people who were committed to the path they chose, but learning about what their contributions really meant to the world and to us was humbling to say the least. They were pioneers in ever sense of the word, strong men and women who were fiercely independent and totally determined to be in charge of their own futures as well as to make a better future for their children and grandchildren. I thought about my ancestors - Civil War veterans, early settlers who came for religious freedom, hard working blue collar people who worked hard to create a place for me to some day enjoy in a way that is unprecedented in the rest of the world. I am in awe of them all.

Life is good for us here in 21st century America. We are the recipients of their gifts and we need to appreciate them. We know unbelievable freedom, unprecedented wealth, and we live in an amazing place, walking a path made easy by their hard work. The only way to fully thank them is to be good stewards of their gift, and to be significantly grateful. And I am.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Small world

Every so often something happens that astonishes us with the coincidence of it all and causes us to look at each other and say "It's a small world!". And indeed it is. My most recent example of this took place two weeks ago and I'm still amazed by it. Here's what happened:

Sunday morning a couple walked in and sat across the church from me. They were visitors as far as I could tell - they didn't look familiar at all. Following worship there was an ice cream social happening in the church fellowship hall and by the time we got over there most tables were full but I spotted my daughter at a table in the corner and we wandered over to get seats with them. I offered to sit with my son's three-month-old while everyone else went up to get their ice cream and they all gladly left me there with the little one. While I was cooing and playing with her I noticed this couple working their way through the tables until they were just by me so, although I knew there weren't enough seats for all of us I invited them to sit and join us. After all, they were guests and I wanted them to feel welcome!

They smiled and sat and we began the normal conversation revolving around our children and grandchildren. I learned that they were from Greenwich CT and had come to East Hampton to celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary with a nice long weekend. Soon she asked me about my daughter who did not live in East Hampton and I mentioned she lived in Pennsylvania. "Where in Pennsylvania" she asked and I hesitated because most people are not familiar enough with the area around their home to know where it is. So I started with a nearby town which is well known for its gardens. "Yes - I know where that is!" she smiled. Then she went on to tell me that her daughter's family attend church in that town and I asked if it happened to be the Willowdale Chapel where my daughter's family attends. It was!

Now I ask you, what are the chances that these strangers happen to: 1. Choose our church to attend on a Sunday morning in East Hampton 2. Happen to decide to attend the ice cream social even though they know no one at this church 3. Get their ice cream and work their way all the way to the complete opposite end of the room to where we are sitting? And then we find out that our daughters in all probability know each other (they in fact do!). Perhaps we've even attended the church in Pennsylvania on the same day since we both agreed we've been there many times.

Honestly! What a small world!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Clean-out

I desperately need to clean out some spaces in my house. My attic is choked with years worth of outgrown clothing and unneeded furniture. There are boxes of costumes and other things that we "might need some day". I'm an unrepentant saver and hate throwing things out that may one day come in handy - and the occasional ability to pass along an item (like an oriental rug recently passed on to one of my children from the attic) simply serves to feed that mentality. So I need to do some cleaning in a big way. The attic will take a dumpster and some help from my adult children. There will be too much going up and down the stairs to manage it on our own.

Then there is the sun porch, which serves as our home office but has become more of a dumping ground than anything else. Someone coming in the driveway for an unexpected visit? Take the things on the kitchen counter and drop them on the counter in the office. Boxes of things I have no place for? Stick them in a corner out in the office. And so it goes for months on end until at some point I can barely walk from one side of the room to the other. Now that the warm weather is coming its time for some serious work out there. With its wall of windows, opening the doors to the office creates the circulation essential to our comfort once the summer is here, but with such a mess out there I can't bring myself to open the doors. I'd be forced to look at the mess and confront my own procrastination and lack of organization so I must find the time to do it...soon.

The bigger my house, the more stuff I'd accumulate. I need to stop complaining about the lack of closets and other storage here and recognize my own failing. (Are there support groups for savers?) And then I need to get to work!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Manners

My experience at the doctor's office last week made me think a lot about the whole concept of manners. Because it's amazing how differently we feel about things if we are treated kindly in the process of whatever it is.

For instance, in the case of last week's cancelled appointment, if I had even once heard a genuine apology it would have completely altered the way I walked away from the experience. After all, we can all understand that emergencies happen and appointments are sometimes cancelled, but we need to at least be acknowledged. Having someone say "I'm SO sorry!" would make all the difference in the world because then we would immediately go into "No problem - these things happen" mode. But when there is no attempt at all to apologize and acknowledge the inconvenience we feel slighted. A few simple words are all that's needed.

Similarly, when someone bumps into you, which happens quite frequently around here at this time of the year, we like to hear "Excuse me". Without that simple phrase it feels more like an assault than an accident, right?

Then there are the perennial favorites "please" and "thank you" that go such a long way, always. Even things like smiling and saying "good morning" are gestures which make a huge difference in the day!

I think we have really moved away from good manners in our society and its a shame, because the result is that we all suffer for it. Those who don't extend an appropriate word are poorer because they fail to take any responsibility for actions and those who are offended miss out on the inevitable feeling of forgiveness and the release of tension.

Is there any going back?

Monday, June 21, 2010

More gardens

Driving from east to west the other day along the back roads gave me an opportunity to see what's new in the gardens and landscaping around the East End and I smiled more than once at the sights I saw. The hydrangeas are coming in to their own now and some are glorious. My own have not yet hit their peak as they're in a shady spot in my garden, but those that are in the sun have literally exploded with blue, pink and lavender. It looks as though its going to be a good year for hydrangeas, one of my favorite bushes.

I love the way some people have paired their blue hydrangeas with pink roses, creating a splash of color that nearly stops you in your tracks. I sometimes think hydrangeas are the real beauty queens of the flower world, strutting themselves out front in the knowledge that they're truly the biggest and best that nature has to offer. And when they're paired with something as equally stunning as deep pink roses, well its a real treat to see.

Day lillies are beautiful now too, although the deer population has laid waste to many, including my own. I used to have a beautiful section of yellow ones which cascaded over the blue Russian sage, but they never get the opportunity to flower anymore, cut off by some hungry creatures.

The last thing I spotted on my trip back home that really made me take notice was the beautiful rose bushes that climb over the split rail fence at the railroad station here. A local garden club takes care of the grounds there and it really is beautiful right now with the roses in bloom. They're a hot, fuscia color with white edging, and the bushes are huge and healthy so there's plenty of greenery to back the abundance of blooms. What a wonderful way to beautify an area that's normally industrial in most towns. Here it sits in the heart of the village for all to see and, fortunately for us, its worth seeing.

This is a wonderful time of year in East Hampton. Color is everywhere and beauty cannot be ignored. It's a great thing.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

Today is Father's Day and I can't help but think about what a great father I gave to my children. I think they're among the luckiest people in the world to have had him for their Dad, but I wonder if anyone really appreciates their own parents?

For me, "father material" was one of the most important things I looked for when I was searching for someone to spend my life with: this was non-negotiable. I loved my own father, but he was not an easy father to love. He wasn't someone who would get on the floor and play with his kids, or throw a ball around outside in a game of catch. He came home from work and wanted peace and quiet. He never attended any sporting events I participated in and rarely saw concerts or shows I was in. He had his own interests and they generally did not involved his children. I've come to believe that he did the best he could - his own father was an absent one so that's what he learned - but I missed having a father I could snuggle on the couch with or go to for a hug when I was hurting. I only remember my father kissing me once. I longed for a warm, fuzzy "dad" like the ones my friends had.

Now that we're grandparents it's with special appreciation that I lovingly watch my husband interacting with his grand kids. Just as he did as a father, he gives them 100% of his attention and love and they all adore him. They're beyond lucky. And my kids - well they learned by example just as I did. While I knew what not to look for in father material, they knew what to seek out and they did. Both my girls married men who love being with their kids and are great fathers. And I have no doubt that my sons will follow in his footsteps and be wonderful dads too. I'm very blessed.

Happy Father's Day to the father of my very lucky children!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Frustration

I've spent time venting about doctor's offices over the past year but I honestly love all my doctors (they've taken really good care of me), so its hard to admit that in this area I think I've encountered a new low and I must share it. Some things need to be talked about so hopefully we can institute change. After all, if we never talk about problems they will surely never be solved! Here's what happened to me this week:

About a month ago I mentioned to my oncologist that I'd had some palpitations - nothing serious but I thought I should mention them. Naturally, in this "CYA" world of ours he wanted me to see a cardiologist. So I went to the local cardiologist's office in Southampton and he did an EKG and said everything "looked fine" but in light of my family history (a father who had bypass surgery)he felt he should do a complete workup and instructed the nurse to set up some appointments. They amounted to a total of 4 tests and then a follow-up visit with the doctor. While we were setting dates she said the only time they could get me in for the one test was in July, unless I wanted to have it in the Riverhead office. I decided in the interest of getting it all out of the way I'd go to Riverhead - and this week was the date.

Now, getting to Riverhead this time of year is never easy and by 1:00 in the afternoon its downright hazardous. Traffic heading west is heavy and slow. My appointment was for 2:15 and I wanted to make sure I arrived on time so I walked out of my house at 1:05, got in my car and headed away from East Hampton. I arrived at exactly 2:15.

The first thing that struck me when I walked in the door was how similar it was to the Senior Citizen's Center where I'd picked up an elderly lady last week on an ambulance call. There had to be 30 gray-haired people in the waiting room, hanging around the desk, standing in small groups and all talking LOUDLY. Now I'm no spring chicken but I had at least 20 years on all of them! Obviously this was the social event of the day for them and they were having a great time.

I signed in at the desk and the receptionist looked at my name and immediately said "Oh. Could you go around the corner and see Ann?" I walked around the corner and here is the conversation that occurred. (My unspoken thoughts are in parenthesis!)

Ann: I tried to call you - I left a message on your machine.
Me: When? I had to leave my house over an hour ago to get here.
Ann: We had to cancel your appointment - the technician had to leave on an emergency
Me: (Stay calm - emergencies happen - not her fault, etc...) Well no one called before I left home
Ann: I looked for a cell phone number to call but you don't have one on record
Me: (Now this is MY fault?) Well I don't understand what difference would have made when you can't talk on your cell phone while you were driving...
Ann: Well can you come back tomorrow at 10:30?
Me: No I can't - I'm not driving here again! (I have meetings tomorrow but I'm not telling her that)
Ann: You can't come tomorrow? (Obviously they're not used to dealing with people who have lives...)
Me: No I can't - and I'm not driving to Riverhead again - ever. I'll wait for Southampton.
This really threw her and she seemed amazed that I didn't want to waste another day on the road, fighting traffic, only to be told that it was for naught. My new appointment - in the Southampton office - is July 29th. Over a month away. If I drop dead in the meantime you'll all know why! (Only kidding - I think)

Now mind you, I've worked in offices and retail establishments for many years and always went out of my way to accommodate people, especially when it was my fault they were inconvenienced. But that does not happen at some doctor's offices! Perhaps it has something to do with being a monopoly and having a captive audience out here on the East End. Or maybe the office managers are to blame, I don't know. But there seems to be a total lack of regard for the idea of "service". If I'd been in charge in this situation I would have said "I am so sorry you made the trip for nothing. Please forgive us! Tell you what - I'm going to call the Southampton office now and see if you can go there right now and we'll figure out how to fit you in! If not today then as soon as possible. I'm really sorry about this!"

Well no such thing happened. There was no apology for ruining a perfectly beautiful day, no attempt at accommodation, and no smile at all. I was pleasant and cordial the entire time, internalizing my anger because I was taught to have manners and be a nice person, but I walked out of there fuming. And now I won't complete my battery of tests until the end of July - through no fault of my own. All I wanted in exchange was a little courtesy and a bit of sympathy. We all understand emergnecies and, although no one wants to be inconvenienced, a little kindness goes a long way in helping!

When I got home it was 4:00. There was a message on my answering machine left sometime around 1:30 that said "We have to cancel your appointment this afternoon (again - no apology) and would like you to come in tomorrow morning at 10:30."

Fat chance!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Buddy the dog

One of the carpenters who's been working on our bathroom has a dog that makes me miss having one, and that's saying something. Its a fleeting feeling and I usually pull myself together enough not to let it hang on, but this dog is adorable. He sits by the back door waiting for his master, never barks, is well behaved and not too big, and loves to play. When I go outside I throw a ball and he races out into the yard to catch it, sometimes on the fly, and hustles back to drop it at my feet again, anxiously waiting for the game to continue.

When we were growing up my parents always had boxers. I loved our dogs, but that's because my mother did all the work. She fed them, trained them, took them out, made sure they had their shots, and paid for all their expensive veterinary care. After having four children and one dog of my own I determined it was not for me to do the same. I tired of being in charge of other living things, of always being the responsible one and always needing to make sure everyone was fed and bathed, etc. So we haven't had a dog since our kids were all living home. But I admit that Buddy, this little dog, has me beguiled. If I could steal him away I probably would.

But...as soon as he needed a trip to the vet, or had an accident on my carpet, or came in covered with mud and ticks - I think I'd give him right back. I totally have my perspective on this one!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More renovations

We're nearing the end of month three of our small bathroom renovation now (don't ask!) and I've become so used to people walking in and out of my back door I feel as though I'm working at a train station or something. The screen is constantly left open and all manner of creeping things appear inside the house lately. On the cool days I've learned to wear a sweater lest I freeze while working on paperwork or paying bills or other duties that require sitting for any length of time. Fortunately its late spring now so most days are fairly comfortable.

I think perhaps by the end of this week they may be done, but I hesitate to even say that because I don't want to jinx things. Once their work is complete it will be up to us to paint and hang a curtain, and then restock what is traditionally the busiest bathroom in the house. This is the bathroom visitors use and friends have been known to stop and use when they're in the village on errands, always feeling free to come in whether anyone is home or not. I try to always keep it clean for that reason and the new neutral decor will assist with that job. I love the way its looking but I long for them to be done traipsing in and out all day. I feel as though I'm being observed all the time, even though I know they have absolutely no interest in my comings and goings. It will be nice to have my space back.

Renovating is always an interesting time. I enjoy getting to know the people who work on these projects and its odd once they're done to never see them again. But...I'm ready to be done with this little bathroom and once its done I'll be so glad!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Late light

The evening light has been competing with the morning light this week for the beauty it sheds on everything around town. Mornings are so quiet and its seems almost conspiratorial to enjoy them all alone. Evenings, on the other hand, are still busy with traffic and noise and I wonder when I see people driving by if they've taken the time to enjoy the way the setting sun highlights certain portions of the trees and houses. My red Japanese maple tree looks as though it has patches of bright red alongside the large sections that look almost black. As the sun hits certain areas of leaves it sets them afire with the light.

In the same way there are patches of bright yellow-green on the open lawn across the street from my house where the sun peeks through the trees that line it. Where the sun is blocked the grass is a dark forest green. Patterns shift and change as the sun sets slowly behind them. The world awakens as it goes to sleep, with light bouncing and dancing along everything in its path.

It's nearly 8:30pm as I write this, and soon it will finally set and the world will be shrouded in darkness. But for a couple hours we can enjoy a light show like none other, and those that miss it are poorer for it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hemming pants

I don't think I've ever bought a pair of dress pants that didn't have to be hemmed. Jeans yes, but dress pants, no. I don't know if that's because I'm short, or because they make them long for the taller girls and we just have to adjust, which would make sense, but for whatever reason, they're always 1 to 3 inches too long even in heels.

I remember when I was younger my mother would put on her new slacks and stand on a small stool so I could pin them to the right length for her to hem. I watched her hem many a pant leg in her day! Interestingly enough my grandmother was an excellent, professional seamstress and did hems for people on her sewing machine like a pro. But I don't' remember her ever doing my mother's - I imagine she figured Mom could do her own. Or Mom didn't want to ask her, I don't know which! Fortunately, Mom taught me early on how to do a decent hem so it's not a huge job, although I do them by hand and not on the machine.

On a rare occasion I've taken new dress pants in to the seamstress to be hemmed for me. If they're for a special occasion, like a wedding, and I want them to be sturdy hems that won't snag or pull, I take them in. I always feel like its a luxury to have someone else actually put a professional hem in my pants. Sometimes the smallest things can seem like a wonderful extravagance, and having my pants hemmed is one of them.

I just sat now and hemmed two new pair of cotton pants for the summer and wondered how long they'd last. My patience with this job is slight and I tend to make big stitches where smaller ones would be more advisable.

My grandmother would not have been pleased.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday morning

Some weeks Mondays are such a relief. We get to start over, to begin a new page, to put the past behind us and just break out in the newness of the day. But at other times Mondays can seem like the beginning of a long week and make the weekend look like a long way off. It's amazing how our perspective can change depending on our circumstances.

Years ago, when my husband owned a retail store, Mondays were like Saturdays for us. This was his day off and combined with Sunday they gave us a weekend to enjoy. Chores were done around the house and the kids knew it was their day to play with Dad. We loved Mondays around here.

Then when he changed jobs Mondays became the beginning of the week and Saturdays became the beginning of the weekend. But I can say honestly that I've never looked at Mondays as bad days just because they started off the work week. Instead to me, they're new beginnings and I like new beginnings. I'm energized and ready to start new projects and embark on new adventures. Mondays are good days. So happy Monday morning everyone! May this Monday be a good beginning for us all and may it mark a wonderful week ahead. Because every day is a good day to feel good and be productive. Now...what's on my calendar for today....?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Eyes

I noticed an actress on TV recently that had the most gorgeous eyes I've ever seen. And that made me wonder what it is about eyes that's so compelling. And what about certain eyes makes them more beautiful than others when they all are basically the same? (Elizabeth Taylor's famous eyes come quickly to mind)

I love eyes of all colors. Warm brown ones are so deep I can get lost in them completely. Bright blue eyes are compelling in their color and vibrancy. Green, gray and hazel are striking for their unusual color, none exactly the same. I love the way eyes can convey so much, especially from children. They sparkle with excitement and mischeveousness, dance with joy, and fire with anger or fear. They truly are windows to the soul and whomever first wrote that was a genious with words.

Some eyes have a unique softness and kindness that is easily conveyed and others are cold and calculating, making even the freindliest of us step back in alarm. (Charles Manson - yikes!) I think eyes are about the most interesting thing about a face.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Electricity

The other night about 11:00 we were awakened by an explosion. Not an exploding house or anything that dramatic, but we were both startled and almost simultaneously said "What was THAT?" A quick look out the window confirmed out suspicions that it was probably a transformer somewhere close by because all the street lights were out, and a glance at my bedside bookshelf bore that out as my electric alarm clock was dark. We were out of electricity.

Now, normally that's not a huge problem - the fridge stays cold for hours and, after all, it was the middle of the night so we didn't need lights. But from my husband I heard the sentence that made us both groan: "The pumps will be out". We are still pumping water out of our basement and if the electricity didn't come on pretty quickly there'd be no hot water in the morning. Sigh!

Sure enough, there was no hot water and the water in the basement had risen to about 8 inches again. The furnace pilot light has been unlit since March, but the hot water heater we've managed to keep going most of the time. As soon as I was dressed and downstairs I called to report the outage and within an hour I had a call back from the lighting company. They assured me we'd have our electricity back by about 10am. Sure enough, about 9:30 a truck pulled up across the street and, after about 15 minutes sitting in the truck (for whatever reason), someone emerged, grabbed a long pole, reached up to the top of the electric wires and within 3 minutes the television clicked - our power was back. When he put his pole away he started walking toward the house so I opened the window and let him know it was indeed on. He told me that at least 3 poles had problems within this small area of the village. I suspect the explosion was close by but not the one right by our house.

It's amazing how dependent we are on our electricity. I sat around for hours that morning wondering what to do with myself. There was no TV, no computer, no oven or stove, and it was too early to leave the house because there isn't a store opened at 8am. I should have found a book to read but instead I curled up on the couch and re-read a magazine. I was so glad when the lights came back on....

Friday, June 11, 2010

More June

The weather this past week has certainly settled into a more "June-like" state and I'm loving it. I'm not a big fan of heat and humidity and normally we don't face the "h" twins until much later in the season. When I found it hard to sleep last weekend because of the temperature I was surprised and more than a little disappointed. I usually love June weather.

So it was a great relief when Monday morning dawned cool and breezy and I had to actually close windows to be comfortable. I'm not quite ready for the heart of the summer yet and would much prefer a more gentle transition. Hopefully now we'll have that.

The end of June is going to be busy for us but I'm looking forward to it. Two of our grandchildren from Pennsylvania will be staying with us and I know we're going to have a great time. I miss my Pennsylvania family so much in the weeks and months that separate our visits, so this will be a welcome opportunity for real quality time together with these little guys. I see trips to the movie theater and walks on the beach to find beach glass in our future.

Last year I was so tired in June - and the effects of chemotherapy were taking their toll. This year I'm full of energy and looking forward to not missing a thing. And now, the weather is totally cooperating. June is back!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Its me!

I've finally figured out what my problem is - its me! I've realized that I'm the common denominator.

Here's my problem: Since the end of March I've been waiting to get my bathroom renovated. I asked someone if they had time to do it, they said they did, and then promised it would be done in two weeks. Well two weeks became four and we had a demolished bathroom with nothing but studs in it. Then four weeks became six, and you know what I'm getting at - here we are over two months later and its still not done.

Now I understand things happen and delays are inevitable, but every week I would be told "We'll be there next week" only to have no one show up on the appointed day. Why, I wondered, wouldn't this person call and at least acknowledge that they were supposed to be at my house and then explain why no one had come? Wouldn't a simple phone call be polite if nothing else? But no - no phone calls. Not an apology. Here it is over two months later and still no bathroom on my main floor.

And then I decided to really take a step beyond my normal routine and see if I could get someone here to clean a section of my house before company comes - just the bedrooms and bathroom. No big deal right? But a nice deep cleaning. I took out my local newspaper, called a service that advertised in the classifieds, and set it up for Tuesday morning at 11am. I planned my schedule so I could be here and I waited. Eleven came and went. Then noon. Then it's nearly 2:00 and not a sign of anyone. I called the phone number and their machine let me know that it was full. So here I was...again...with someone totally disrespecting me, not showing up and not bothering to call with an explanation.

The worst part is it meant I would have to spend the next day on my hands and knees scrubbing the bathroom floor. But it really pointed out to me one thing: the common denominator in this issue is me. What's a girl to do? I reminded me of the two dates that stood me up back in high school. The same feeling of rejection and disappointment. And to top it all off, a dirty bathroom upstairs and an empty one downstairs. One can only smile at it all....but one also has to ponder the mystery of it. What am I doing to bring this on myself? Anyone have any ideas out there?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The season

Last weekend was, for us, the first "party" of the season. Around here the benefits and fund raising events are around us all the time-every weekend, all summer long we have our choice of what to attend. We (truthfully) rarely attend many of them, but there are some we don't miss. We support many of the local non-profits with our donations and a very few we really become involved with. This past weekend it was the Historical Society's annual membership cocktail party that kicked things off.

For the first 10 years of my association with the Historical Society my support was purely work-related. I sat at the gate at every function, taking money and greeting guests. We were lucky to have food on our table for most of those years, so monetary support was never an option. But work I could do and since I believed in the mission of preserving local history, I gladly did. But as life has progressed and we're no longer sending children through college, we're able to actually attend some functions as guests. Last weekend was a "split ticket" for us: I worked the gate but my husband had a ticket. So until everyone on the list had arrived I wasn't doing jmuch socializing - I was greeting people and crossing names off the attendance list. But by the time the party was 3/4 over I was able to leave my post and join the revelers on the beautiful lawn of a local celebrity's home. And it was the perfect night for such fun. The air was comfortable - not too hot and not too cold. The sky had a few pretty clouds moving through and the grass was as green as it ever will be. The home owner's gardens were stunning and as we walked among the rose bushes and hedges we admired every beautifully landscaped foot of them. Attendees were in a great mood and it was indicative of an early season party - everyone excited for the start of the warm weather and happy to be outside enjoying it.

There may be another gala to attend this summer, I don't know. But if this is to be the only one we attended, it will have been a great choice. I left thinking that all the traffic and crowds in the world couldn't dampen my spirits because living in East Hampton is like hovering around another world that you occasionally get to drop into and enjoy. Here's to a great season!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Window boxes

I love window boxes. Someone suggested years ago that our house would look nice with window boxes, but I wasn't sure. I hadn't really thought about it before because I've known this house since I was a child and sometimes that kind of familiarity makes us blind to new possibilities. But after we thought about it we decided to give it a try and now I absolutely love the way they look.

We've pretty much settled on red geraniums because they seem to do the best in the direct sun. Even in August they're still thriving, and in past years impatiens have withered and died in the heat of the late summer sun. But I'm OK with that - in fact I've been thinking about painting the front door red again. It used to be red, but every few years I decide I want a change and its been yellow, blue, and green since then so I think it's time for red again. The red door would look great with the red geraniums.

There's a restaurant around the corner from us that has spectacular window boxes and every year I look forward to seeing how they're done. They change them out for the fall and even do something for the holidays and it's always beautiful. I wish I could do mine like theirs but its impossible They have deep, full boxes that will practically hold bushes. But I'm content with what I have.

I also love seeing what the store owners do around the village with plantings. Some are over-the-top, like everything else around here. But for the most part they're a lovely addition to the village landscape.

I'm so glad we decided to put window boxes on our house. The white shutters and white boxes really stand out against the cedar shingles. It make me smile whenever I turn the corner off North Main Street.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Hotels

Staying in a Hampton Inn recently got me to thinking about how hotels have changed since I was a kid. Not that I had much experience staying in them years ago because my family never traveled anywhere, but there was one time where we drove to Buffalo to spend Thanksgiving with my aunt and uncle, staying overnight in Syracuse at a motel. There were tiny, wrapped bars of ivory soap in the bathroom, but other than that there were no amenities like shampoo and conditioner, and if I remember correctly the television got - maybe - four channels. There were twin beds and a folding cot between them in the room for my two sisters and me. My brother stayed in my parents' room. I seem to think hotels were about convenience and cleanliness and that's about it. I even remember that it might have been a Howard Johnson's and we ate dinner and breakfast there before heading out the next day to complete the trip. Back then even the NY State Thruway was a bit more spartan, with very few truck stops but not much else along the way.

Things have improved in both categories, but no doubt we pay for the luxuries. On this trip I enjoyed not having to pack shampoo and conditioner, and the fact that there were two types of soap - one for body and one for face - was an added bonus. I don't even have that at home! The television must have gotten a couple dozen channels and we even had the option of HBO if we had wanted it. In addition, the hotel boasted "luxury linens and your choice of pillows" on our king sized bed, allowing us to go with firm or soft pillows, and a comforter that enveloped us in warmth. My only complaint was the noisy air conditioner which sounded like a lawn mower every time it started up. There was an indoor pool and a nice work-out room which I gladly took advantage of.

Not only have hotels become wonderful places to rest your weary head, but the rest stops along the major roadways are also things of beauty. They offer numerous places to catch a bite, and the bathrooms are clean. And we no longer need to put a dime in the door to get into a toilet stall. I can't believe we used to have to do THAT! How many of us even remember it?

Traveling has changed for sure. But one thing hasn't: there's no place like home. It may not be luxurious, but it is familiar, and getting back there is always the best part of any trip.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Deck dinner

Night before last was our first time eating dinner on our deck. This is early in the season for that - we don't normally start eating outside until later in June. But it's been unusually warm these past few weeks and I'm enjoying it. Hopefully it's not a sign of a hot humid summer to come - that would not make me happy. But right now, this weather is ideal.

We put our deck on ourselves quite a few years ago now. Actually it was done in stages - one small portion first, then a few years later expanded so we have a good sized one now. We've enough room for some comfortable wicker furniture as well as a table and chairs for eating. Most nights during the summer we carry our plates out there at night and enjoy the cool of the evening. When we have company I light candles and create a little ambiance - there's nothing like the back deck on an sultry August night.

I love the fact that its so early in the year and already we were able to eat outside. My mother always said "afternoon cook-out for Memorial Day - evening cook-out for Forth of July" because she knew the night air was too cold until later for sitting out. But this year Mom would have been surprised.

Now...let's see if this will hold!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Swamp creatures

My house has been plagued with swamp creatures. Ever since our basement has been under water - since the record-breaking rain at the end of March - we've had ants and crickets and spiders like never before and I think it's because they're comimg up from the inhospitable environs of the lower level, to our dryer, more comfortable main floor. Yuck!

Just this week I was in an upstairs bathroom cleaning when suddenly I came upon a humongous cricket, all speckled and brown and ugly as only crickets can be. I mean, what is up with those long spindly legs anyway? I really dislike those things. Anyway, as is usually the case, as soon as I tried to squash it the creature lept four feet to the left and totally evaded my efforts, never to be seen again. I know he's out there somewhere and every time I round a corner I expect to see him awaiting my next move. They are by for the most frustrating things to rid the house of and one needs extreme stealth and cunning to get one.

Ants have also been a problem but at least I can toss ant traps around and eventually they'll disappear. Of course in the time it takes for those to work I spend a good deal of my time stepping on, throwing at, or thumb squashing those invaders at an alarming rate. I refuse to touch them with my bare hands so spotting one means a race to grab a paper towel before it disappears into a crack in the woodwork. It's a constant battle between woman and beast these days and I'll be glad when the basement dries out and they can continue to live in peace down in the darkness.

Occasionally I think how nice it might be to live in a city where crawly creatures are not as apt to invade, but then I remember roaches. Eeewww~!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Froggy day

Yesterday morning the fog was so thick I could barely see my car when I walked out the back door to head to the gym. From inside the gym it looked as though the windows were frosted and I had to squint to discern the faint outline of the house across the street. By the time I left the gym it had already started to dissipate and it slowly disappeared over the next 30 minutes or so.
Fog is fascinating because of the different forms it takes - from the curling, swirling fingers that creep across the empty farm fields and then float above the ground to the all-encompassing masses that cover everything in its path. It's one of the great phenomenons of nature that intrigues and delights, as long as one doesn't have to make a trip in it! It's by far one of the most frightening things to drive through.

When we were young the fog was much more common here because we were surrounded by farm fields and our mornings saw regular visits from the ocean mists. As in all seaside communities it was a regular visitor and we knew it well. It appears less often now in its overwhelming form and most sightings are in the early morning when it creeps and crawls over the open lawns.

My children used to love to stand on the couch in our living room and watch it when it filled the empty field across from our house. One day my daughter, then about three-years-old, declared "Look Mommy! It's froggy out there!" As so often happens, our children make memories for us that never fade and since that day it never fails to ring in my head when I wake up to see fog. "Look Mommy! It's froggy out there!" I love the fog.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Re-aquaintances

I had a visit from an old friend a couple weeks ago. This was someone whose baby showers I'd attended, had sung together with in church many times, and was sad to see leave when she moved away fifteen years ago or so. She was one of those people who are in your life for a long time and then are suddenly gone. And it was so nice to sit and chat with her, to catch up on each other's lives and the lives of the now grown children that we once knew, all grown up now and with families if their own.

We spent an afternoon together getting re-acquainted, but before she left she felt the need to apologize for what she felt may have been slights or offenses in the past. She said she thought she had sometimes been self-absorbed or something like that. It was a confession that took me by surprise and I told her I thought she had nothing to apologize for. I told her that I was sure I could say the same thing to her because we are both now old enough to recognize the more self-absorbed nature that is normal for twenty and thirty-year-old people. Neither of us were terribly selfish people, but naturally we were tied up in our young families and that's to be expected - I felt her worries were unfounded. But it did make me think about my own life twenty years ago.

Somehow as we grow older we're better able to put things into perspective. We see the things that we lost sleep over which, in the grand scheme of things, were really not all that important. And we see the people who perhaps we missed along the way because we were overly absorbed in our own lives and the things that we happening around our immediate family. It's all very human and natural and I find no fault with it. Somehow it bothered her though.

I was touched by her concern. And also touched by her comment that she wished she had known me better back then. Funny, because I thought we knew each other pretty well! But I understood her thinking. I'm sure in her mind it was a different relationship. She is just enough older than I to see me as someone almost in another generation - someone whom she didn't have all that much in common with. Now that we're both grandmothers we have plenty in common and those years of difference seem like nothing. And although I, a younger woman, thought we were equal at the time, she probably did not. Now she sees something she missed.

All this is to say that I love the way life brings people into and out of our lives in a rhythm and flow that keeps us constantly fascinated at the parts we play. After all, as Shakespeare said, "all the world's a stage" and now that I'm inching slowly toward the curtain call, the story becomes all the more clear. It's what makes us all family here - lives intertwined in ways we cannot even conceive, and none ever really apart from another. A constant wave of relationships and heartstrings and love. And sometimes age - and the wisdom it brings - really does have its benefits.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

More mornings

The light comes early now that we're well into Spring. I go to the gym at 5:30 and I no longer need to turn on the lights when I get up - I can see well enough to sneak out without bothering my husband. By the time I get home it's completely daylight and the world looks bright and beautiful.

Now that we're enjoying some really nice weather I notice a difference in people around town. This is a magic time of the year, when the weather is warm and everything around town looks so nice - but the "visitors" have not yet fully arrived. Last weekend marked the beginning of the tourist season and then we get a bit of a reprieve between now and July, when the real craziness begins! So we walk around as though we're participating in a great secret - we live in this glorious place and up until this moment, we had it all to ourselves. It's almost conspiratorial and we smile at each other in a "See you in September" sort of way.

Last year at this time I'd just lost all my hair to the toxic chemicals they were pumping into my body. This year I have a fresh crop of tight curls and I'm looking around and thinking how blessed I am to live here where life is so special. I hope I never forget that.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Alternate universe

What an amazing phenomenon it is to live out here and experience the start of the summer season. Anyone who doesn't live in a resort area can't imagine it, really. Friday morning it was as though I had stepped into an alternate universe from the minute I got out of bed. There was a palpable feeling in the air, as though suddenly the house had landed in Oz and I was about to find it populated with odd little people.

About 7:30 I was reading the paper and eating my morning granola when the ambulance pager went off. It seemed a perfect time to go on a call, early enough to beat the worst of the traffic and still nice and cool out there. Ha! All the way to Southampton Hospital as I drove the ambulance I was astounded by the traffic coming east. The cars and trucks were backed up all along the highway from Wainscott to Southampton Village, a creeping line of vehicles snaking their way out to the end of the island. Wow.

We left the hospital shortly after 8am and had to use the back roads to get home in decent time. And this was before most people had even gotten out of bed. We were in for a weekend, no doubt about it!

I tried to keep close to home the rest of the weekend, although I did venture into the village a few times to check on how things were running. The TCOs were busy directing traffic at the lights to keep things moving - no pushing through yellow and red lights and jamming up the intersections this weekend! But mostly we stayed home. There was plenty of cooking, cleaning and organizing to do so it was easy to find things to keep busy with.

But the most striking thing to me was the "feeling" of the weekend. It was an unmistakable atmosphere of "summer" - and people for the most part were happy and pleasant, with the exception of a few horn honkers that were annoying to say the least. But the season is upon us now and there's no turning back. And who would want to?