Saturday, July 31, 2010

Parents

Today would have been my parent's 62nd wedding anniversary. Mom often talked about what a hot day it was in Buffalo when they wed, and although it was 7:00 in the evening, she said they were all sweating like crazy. Her gown was satin, Dad wore a suit, and there was no such thing as central air in 1948. I cannot even imagine it. It must have been quite a night!

When I look at their wedding photos I'm struck by how old all the "parents" looked. My mother was 23 when she married so my grandmother must have been in her forties. My father's mother was less than twenty when he was born so she would have been barely forty, if that. And yet with their frumpy clothes, white hair, and clunky shoes they all look like elderly folk. What a difference today! Between hair dye and healthier lifestyles, fashion forward baby boomer mothers-of-the-bride at today's weddings are sometimes hard to distinguish from the bridesmaids. And the father is as dashing as any of the groomsmen.

When I think about my grandmothers I remember them always looking exactly the same: gray hair, long skirts, no slacks and never, ever a pair of jeans. I wonder what they would have looked like had they been born fifty years later? And I also wonder how my grandchildren will remember me. Hmmmm...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Demons

Is it just me or are we all our own worst enemies? It seems as though I'm always doing things, or not doing things, that I should or shouldn't be doing and regretting it later. I hesitate to embarrass myself, I don't put myself out there the way I should, and I'm much more inclined to say at the end of the day "Why didn't I do that?" than "Gee, that was so much fun!"

This has always been true for me and I've always blamed it on my father, who thought that sarcasm and ridicule were the best forms of incentive. It's made me afraid of so much, especially looking foolish. But by this time in my life I should be able to move beyond those early traumas and push myself more. In all fairness, if I didn't push myself as much as I do I would never do anything because my instinct is always to stay in the background, disappear into the woodwork, or melt into the wallpaper. The fact that I can run a public meeting is a bit miraculous, actually. If you'd told me thirty years ago I would ever do something like that I would have laughed uproariously. So, I suppose I need to keep things in perspective.

Still....there are so many things I want to do but I just can't bring myself to take the first steps....maybe in another twenty years....one of the great regrets of my life!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cool breezes

This morning they are predicting rain throughout the day but the cool breeze is such a treat. In fact, this whole week has been wonderful - the kind of weather I love here, with a cool breeze off the ocean and evenings comfortable enough to sit outside on the deck and eat dinner without perspiring. I hope August will be more tolerable than July was - up to this week it's been a brutal month.

This morning I left early for the gym and now I'm sitting in the living room with the laptop enjoying the open window behind me. It's still early enough that there's little traffic passing by to interrupt the peace and quiet, and the wind blowing in behind me is delightful. This is my kind of weather - except that thunderstorms are expected throughout the day.

The unusually warm weather has us all a bit on edge though as we look toward hurricane season. With the water temperature higher than usual we know any storms that hit the coast will come roaring up north with no resistance so it could be a bad year. We've been lucky for quite awhile now - my youngest children barely remember the last bad one we endured. We're overdue and this weather doesn't bode well for the future.

But today is pleasantly cool and this entire week has been especially nice. Since its the last week my grand kids will be with us I'm glad they've been at the beach enjoying their final days. Today won't be a beach day but the ones preceding and following it are and they'll go home having enjoyed the best of East Hampton for sure. And that's something to be grateful for.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My deck

We recently had our deck replaced and the smell of the cedar is still in the air. I love it.

This deck sort of evolved over the years, beginning as a small area with just enough room for a table and chairs and eventually spreading across the back of the house to include a sitting area, which is perfect for entertaining. We use it a lot in the summer and it becomes another room in our otherwise modest house, allowing us to have larger groups in at times. It's a nice way to enjoy the summer evenings here, which tend to be comfortable even in the worst heat.

But alas, as all things go, this one was showing its age. It was over twenty-years-old and showing every day of it, with worn boards bending under the weight of anyone who traversed them and rot beginning to eat away in other areas. Splinters were a constant problem and bare feet were not recommended. For the past few summers we've talked about the need to replace it completely (as opposed to the small patches we'd been putting in the worst areas) and every year we vowed to do it ourselves. But it never seemed to happen. So this year we bit the bullet and hired someone to do it for us.

The new deck, built over the same structure as the old one, is beautiful - bright, clean, and splinter free. And it smells wonderful. It's the first thing I notice when I open the doors in the morning and I can't help but smile when I realize it should outlast both of us so we'll never again have to replace it. I think.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back roads

Yesterday I had to drive to Southampton for a doctor's appointment and, as these thing go in the summer, I hit the back roads. My appointment was for 12:15 so I left the house at 11:30, giving myself plenty of time to work my way over there with the traffic of mid-day in mind. Sure enough, it was busy all along Rt. 114, the outskirts of Sag Harbor, around Mashashimuet Park and over to Scuttlehole. It's one of my favorite routes because the scenery is lovely.

Traffic was awful,with lines at every stop sign and a wait at the new roundabout by Mitchell Lane. But it didn't ruin the trip. Those roads are always a treat for me, with the little tiny farm stands here and there, some only selling flowers or corn and nothing else. Winding around the farm fields and open spaces reminds me of how lucky we were to grow up here when we did, when the farms were plentiful and the mansions few.

Returning home, I went along the southern route so I could stop at my friends farm stand in Wainscott. Sadly, the trip from Bridgehampton to Wainscott seemed to highlight what's wrong with the new breed of folks who move out here to the East End because there were at least three beautiful old farmhouses along the way that have been either razed completely or moved off the property to make room for a mansion, or altered beyond recognition. The once bucolic drive through the farms (which were dotted by those stately old homes) has become a trail of preserved open spaces in many instances, but the beautiful old houses have become overly large, overly ornate "statements" meant to let everyone know how much money the owners have rather than how much taste or appreciation for this place they've come to. I find it sad because those old homes had class and dignity and they told the story of this litle piece of heaven - a history that shouldn't be forgotten. I hope and pray that not all of them will go the way of these recent tragedies and that someone with a sense of place will buy, renovate, and preserve them with love, the way they should be.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer temptations

Summer offers so many culinary delights that it's extremely difficult to keep the weight loss going. I'm trying hard to maintain and will be content if I reach Labor Day without losing ground.

It starts with the strawberries, which I love. Of course, berries in and of themselves are not a terrible thing for the waistline, but naturally I like them with sugar, or on a shortcake with nice sweet whipped cream.

From then on it's just one thing after another as I work my way through the abundance of fruits ad vegetables at the local farm stands. Melons, peaches, plums, cherries - I love the all. And of course along the way we have the sweet corn to slather in butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. How can anyone resist it?

I'm trying to learn to just have a little of each of these wonderful things and be content with that, rather than eat as much as I can because I know the season is short and I want to enjoy it while I can. Old habits die hard and this is a fight that takes a good deal of willpower. But at the end of the day if I don't gain a pound I'll be very happy about it all. Because come September I can easily resist the squashes - pumpkin pie has never been a favorite of mine. So I'll have a few months to get back on track before the holidays descend and we're once again bombarded with food. Ah yes, it is a great world for the naturally skinny, high metabolism people!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The heat


This July has been really brutal with the heat. I don't remember one quite this bad in the past and it makes me wonder what August will bring. Will it be nice and mild or more of the same? I'm always interested in people and how they respond to things so the heat makes for an interesting study. tempers seem to fray easily and I would certainly imagine that productivity slows exponentially, at least with outdoor work. I know I have no interest in weeding or housework when the heat and humidity climb. I feel badly for people with central air since they have no excuse for being unproductive like I do. I can blame the heat for just about any failing when its this bad!

I've never been a big fan of summer. I'm a real spring/fall person and my favorite days are the ones when I need long sleeves but no jacket. I gratefully pull out my sweaters every September and replace my short sleeved tees with long sleeved. It's a transition I gladly make. So when the heat and humidity climb I wilt completely. With July winding down and August soon to arrive, I know relief is right around the corner. But I don't wish the time away either. Because August has many pleasures of its own and I'm looking forward to enjoying them, regardless of the weather.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Group dynamics

I've always been fascinated by group dynamics - things like mob mentality and the way we can so easily be swayed in one direction or another depending on our surroundings. I'm also interested in how much we can accomplish when we put our heads together and stop worrying about being independent, or getting credit for ourselves. I've thought a lot about this recently as I've watched my grandchildren play together.

When both my girls' kids are in the same place there are 6 of them. As they play I believe I observe future great minds at work. They're working together, learning how to think through and solve problems, coming up with ideas, building things, puzzling over little issues - all the things that every "think tank" in America does. They come up with ideas as a group that they never would have on their own. And as problems surface, they put their heads together and figure out how to deal with them.

It's like looking at the future and I envision them all in suits, ties, dresses - total corporate wear. If they ever wanted to form their own business I think they'd be unstoppable.

The best part of it all is that one of the youngest in the group - a girl - has the most dominant personality and would no doubt be the CEO.

Life is so interesting!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Duty

It's been twenty years since I started volunteering with the local ambulance association and I still don't quite know what to do on squad nights. I'm not sure whether to go to bed earlier or later than normal- and whichever I do it never seems to be right. One philosophy is that I should go to bed earlier so I'll have some sleep behind me if I get called out, but sometimes that backfires if I get a call at 10:00 because I'll have trouble going to sleep then when I get home. The option is to stay up later than usual in the off chance that I get called out at 10:00 so I won't have to be wakened from a heavy sleep. Ideally I stay up later, get a call before I go to bed, and then none for the rest of the night. But then its never ideal and if I go to bed early I end up called out right after I go to bed and if I stay up later the same thing happens and I wish I'd gone to bed earlier so at least I'll have a few hours of sleep.

Either way its never the right decision which is why I've never fallen in to any specific pattern. The older I get the harder it is to lose a good night's sleep and I find myself resenting people who call us for silly reasons, like a sunburn (which was the last 3am call I went on, believe it or not!). I never mind getting out of bed for a real emergency - that's what I volunteer for. But I'd really rather stay in bed than have to drag myself out for one more drunken tourist or something as silly as a tick bite.

Legitimate or not, I still haven't figured out the sleep thing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Whirl

This time of the year I start feeling a little overwhelmed with the social whirl. I actually enjoy having the kids visiting here because its a built-in excuse for not attending everything that comes along, from fundraisers to picnics and everything in between, but sometimes I have no choice and have to go to whatever it is that's on the calendar. It seems as though every weekend there's some worthwhile thing to support, but we have to pick and choose carefully. It can be crazy here in the summer time.

There are some things that I see advertised every year and think "That would be fun to do!" but then never can manage it because of the already packed schedule. I want to see Shakespeare done in the barn at the Mulford Barn, for instance, but so far its eluded me. There are just too many wonderful things available and too few days to do them. It reminds me of December when I could attend 3 or 4 things every weekend if only I could clone myself.

We have three weddings this year, one of which is in Massachusetts so that means an entire August weekend away. I'm looking forward to it, but its another complication in an already busy month. Not a bad complication though - and most of my family will be along so I know it will be memorable. And we'll see family we haven't seen in some time, which is always a treat.

I think every weekend in August is spoken for already and by the time Labor Day arrives I think I'll be ready to see things calm down. I'm not complaining because I enjoy being busy and I like seeing people, but there are times I would just rather sit on my deck and chill with friends. Of course, it's nice not to have to do my own cooking and I do enjoy the warm nights when we can socialize until the late hours under the stars. But I also enjoy entertaining myself and so far this summer I haven't had a chance to do that at all. The best I can hope for is a nice warm September when I can play catch-up. On wait...now that I think about it, my September calendar is pretty full as well...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Late starts

Some days are just difficult to get off the ground. For whatever reason, most the time I wake before the alarm goes off and am out of my bed in plenty of time. But then there are days, like today, when the alarm startles me awake, letting me know I have to get up and get to the gym and get going started with the day. I hate mornings like this one - they tend to throw my entire day into a tailspin. I just feel a little "off" the rest of the day. Which does not bode well for this one!

I used to be a late riser. All my life before I had children I'd easily sleep in ,and days off work usually didn't begin until after 9am. But having four children, which meant over 20 years of getting them up and out of the house early for school, and being married to an early riser who rarely stays in bed until 7:00, has turned me into someone who tends to wake with the sun and it's a rare day I'm in bed after 6:30.

But then there are days like this when I would just rather stay in bed than get up. Perhaps its the destination (the gym) that makes me want to turn over and close my eyes. Or maybe I just went to bed too late the night before. I'm not sure whether this is a mental or physical issue. But either way, this is going to be a day when I feel as though I'm a little behind the game all along the way. Hopefully tomorrow will be better...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Quiet

The other morning I came home from the gym and decided to pass right by my house, drove straight across Montauk Highway and onto Egypt Lane. It was early-just after 6-so the light was diffused and soft as I headed south. On the right was a deer just standing along the roadside eating. He barely stopped to look in my direction although I was barely 5 ft away from him when I passed. There was still a heavy dew on the Egypt green and water puddled along the road edges as a result of the many sprinkler systems that had been at work, keeping all the yards green and beautiful (unlike mine which is pretty burned out at this point).

By the time I got to where I could see the Maidstone Club it was clear that a heavy fog has settled in along the shoreline. I could barely make out the shape of the clubhouse as I wound around Dunemere and onto Highway Behind the Pond. And of course the water was totally obliterated by the blanket of gray that hid it all.

I drove home thinking how nice it was to live here and how beautiful it was in all its many forms. Even the fog cannot obliterate the beauty all around me, but rather enhances the shapes and forms, softening the hard edges and stark contrasts. It was going to be a good day.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summer schedule

There's something magical about the summer months - it always feels like we're in "vacation mode" even when we're working or otherwise busy. I think it has something to do with the schedules we keep - long days and short nights, which is only natural with so much sunshine for so many hours.

When my kids were young I longed for the non-scheduled days of summer, when they could stay up later at night and sleep in longer in the morning. No school, no piano lessons, no anything other than what the day predicted as it arrived. Even when they were old enough to work summer jobs it seemed as though summer were a real vacation simply because we weren't worried about grades or classes or other "serious" things. It was a "lighter", less stressful time and I loved it.

I'm not sure if it's just that the same mentality has followed me after all those years or what, but I still feel that way In the summer. I love being lazy in the morning and I love having the grandchildren stay with us. Sitting around in pjs in the morning, watching mindless children's television is somehow comforting and right. After all, there's plenty of daylight left to get things done and if the house isn't cleaned, who really cares? Sand and grass will be easily vacuumed later and for now there are adventures to be had.

And somehow, its much easier to get out of any obligation simply because....whatever. It's the summer. We're all so "busy"...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ambulance calls

Without a doubt I believe that when the numbers are in we'll discover that July has been the busiest month ever for the local ambulances. I've been doing this for twenty years now and I've never heard it as busy as it has been these past few weeks - its crazy! Every weekend there are multiple ambulances on te road at any given time, dealing with the usual summer things like dislocated shoulders, propane tank accidents, and bee stings along with the spikes in pedestrian/car accidents and bike mishaps. But the sheer volume is not to be believed.

Add to that the guilt I feel for not answering any of them and its been a brutal month. I have a policy that I don't answer calls when my family is here visiting (with the exception of squad duty overnight, of course) and they're here for the month of July. But I've been listening and my comrades are busy beyond belief.

If July is any indicator, August will be just as bad though and I'll have no problem making up for the calls I didn't go on this month. And I promise my friends and co-workers who've been working so hard that I'll make it up to them! By then, Labor Day will be in sight...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Morning

With the grandchildren here for an extended period of time my morning television viewing has certainly changed! I was a "Good Morning America" person and would have that one all morning while I went about tidying up the house, eating breakfast, getting dressed, and preparing for the day. I was able to catch up on all the news from around the world and would face the day with the confidence that I knew what was happening both here and afar. But these days things are a bit different.

No matter how early I get up, there is always a child on my heels it seems. I love this early time with them because they're still mellow and sleepy and content to sit with me on the couch and cuddle for awhile. But they will not tolerate my taste in television. Fortunately they are all beyond the "Barney and Friends" stage, and I no longer need to sit through another episode of "The Wiggles", but I am getting an education in the latest offerings on The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. I especially enjoy "Playhouse Disney", the modern version of "The Mickey Mouse Club". It's not as much fun as watching the original version but it does prod my memory bank and I find myself thinking a lot about "Spin and Marty" and "The Hardy Boys Mysteries". I am nostalgic for hours afterward and smile at the memories of that favorite show from my childhood.

I do feel a bit 'news deprived" these days but I usually find the time to read Newsday and that at least keeps me from being in a complete vacuum. And the trade off of having these kids here is well worth the sacrifice!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Curls

One of the most interesting developments in my post-chemo life has been the kinky-curly hair that grew in. Now I happen to like curly hair - my second daughter has curly hair and I love the way it cascades around her shoulders. But I must admit that having a drastic change like this at my age has been a huge adjustment. I have no idea how to deal with it and I've solicited advice from every curly-headed person I've run into.

My biggest problem is that mine own hair isn't long enough yet for any "cascading" to happen. It's simply growing out and if I don't take the time to lacquer it with hair gel so it stays behind my ears I look all the world like a refugee from the late 1960s in full afro. I can't brush it because then it looks like a poof on top of my head, so a simple combing through when its wet is all I do. It's easy and quick to style, but there's not much variety to be had!

When I stop at the salon for a touch-up of color and a trim I enjoy having it blown out straight to enjoy it the way it used to be - it doesn't last long. I'm not complaining about the new "do" - I'm thrilled beyond belief to have hair again and not be using wigs in the summer heat this year. But it is a change and it does bring a certain amount of amusement with it. Life is just one big smile after another, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Scuttlehole

On a recent trip west I took the back roads to avoid what is always terrible traffic in the afternoons this time of the year. I scooted south of the highway first, through Wainscott and up to the light in Bridgehampton where I went straight across the intersection to Butter Lane, turned onto Mitchell, and worked my way over to Scuttlehole Road.

Mitchell to Scuttlehole has got to be one of the last beautiful open space areas around anymore and it was a beautiful drive. The sky was a gorgeous blue, there were wispy clouds all around, and the views across the horse and farm fields was stunning. I especially love the white fences along the road which stand in stark contrast to the bright green grass.

I'm not sure who lives in that area - they must have plenty of money, that I know. But I hope that they appreciate the views they have of such lovely, unspoiled fields. There's a slight roll to the landscape and you can see for nice distances and it really is something special.

Despite my necessary drive I enjoyed the trip. It was a feast for the eyes and food for the soul.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Table flowers

One of the things I love about summer is the access to free flowers for my kitchen table. There's something so uplifting about seeing a floral bouquet there and I like to have something in that spot year 'round. In the winter it's often a plant because those blossoms will last a long time and I just can't afford to buy fresh cut stems too often. But when I need a lift I'll stop by the local market and pick up some inexpensive blossoms to trim and arrange. I'm always thrilled when the first of the tulips appear in early spring because they last a long, long time and are pretty low cost as flowers go. Their beautiful colors are a great beautiful of spring and they always make me smile.

But now, in the heart of the summer, the flowers are free and the choices are always changing - all I have to do is walk through the yard with my clippers and grab an assortment. Early on I have the daffodils and the lilies of the valley. Then the rhododendrons appear with their big showy blossoms, and only a few stems will nicely fill a vase. From there we have hydrangeas, another beautiful full-headed specimen, and they can be combined nicely with geraniums, impatiens, and all the many perennials that are scattered around the yard now that summer is here. I rarely buy cut flowers in the summer, unless its to get a few white roses to fill in among the blue and lavender hydrangeas when company's coming.

I miss my mother's garden, which has pretty much disappeared over the past few years since her death. It used to be a wonderful source of color for me when it was at its peak about this time of year. My choices have become more limited, but I still can't complain. I'll admit though, when I see foxgloves or gladiolas in the market, I have to pick some up and bring them home for the sake of nostalgia. She had them in abundance and I miss them now.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My car

It's amazing how dependent we are on our cars. When you realize that less than 100 years ago - which is not all the long really - very few people had automobiles - it becomes even more evident that we are totally addicted to our traveling homes.

And they really are special spaces. Each of us likes our own car to be "ours". We want our settings kept so we don't have to adjust the seat and mirrors whenever we get into it, we want our necessities to be stocked (our favorite CDs, our tissues, our mints, etc) and we want to feel comfortable for the time spent in these mobile capsules. I know how to grab my sunglasses, and I know exactly how much I can fit into the storage spaces. I can pack it to fit everything I need for a trip and am familiar with all the nooks and crannies.

Recently my car was in the shop for two days and I was despondent. I was able to borrow my generous husband's truck for most of that time to get me to doctor's appointments and grocery shopping, but I felt totally our of my element the entire time. I couldn't park it easily, couldn't gauge my speed well, and just felt as though I was in someone else's space, which I was. I couldn't wait to get my car back.

Our great-grandparents would surely not understand this obsession we have with our automobiles, but I'm sure they loved their horses the same way.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Veggies

I love it when the fresh fruit and vegetables are available locally. I didn't get to enjoy strawberries as often as I would have liked to this year, but as each new item comes into season I love using fresh, local foods. I've one issue that I can't shake though: pesticides.

I've lived on the East End my entire life and I well remember the years growing up when the farmers were out working in their fields, which stretched from here to Southampton with very few houses dotted between them along the roadsides. There were times when the tractors were out plowing and the dust would come into the car windows (who had air conditioning in 1960?) and we'd complain about the smell. It was ever-present because the fields were everywhere. We inhaled everything that was in that dirt. And we drank it in our water.

We all remember when DDT was banned. And not that long ago Temik was taken off the market and local wells were all tested for it. But that was after years and years of it being in our food and water sources. And there are other things still in use today that are probably just as bad for us as those were. Which brings me to the question: What are we doing to ourselves? Why is it that we feel the need to have "bigger" everything, from meat (all the hormones we feed the beef and chickens!) to vegetables. In the interest of improving the "yield" we are poisoning ourselves and our children.

Having such a high incidence of breast cancer on Long Island is really not surprising. We are reaping what we've sown in a very real way and its a shame we still don't seem to "get" it. I'm trying to buy organic food as much as possible these days, but its not easy and its expensive. This just shouldn't be. Perhaps if we all started demanding organic products the price would quickly come down. What do you think people? Am I wrong here?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Chores

I've never enjoyed what we call "chores". When we were kids we always had Saturday chores to do, as well as our every day chores like making beds and keeping our rooms clean. But as an adult my everyday chores are just part of life and I've learned not to resent them too much. As long as one keeps on top of things like wiping down the stove top when its used and throwing in the laundry when the hamper gets full, they're never terribly difficult jobs. But the Saturday chores are always a drag. Here it is the one day of the week when there are no meetings or business obligations and instead of laying around enjoying the time off we're busy doing things like cleaning out closets and organizing cupboards. Or, the alternative which is letting them go and dealing with the constant mess, which often happens around here. I'm lazy by nature and would much rather watch a movie on TV than clean out the sun porch/office, which is why I can barely walk out there anymore. It must be done....maybe this weekend. Or maybe not...

I loved having my kids at home on Saturdays when they were all old enough to contribute to the Saturday chores. I always had a chart drawn up and they each had specific duties corresponding to their various abilities. But the oldest ones were able to vacuum and dust so my own list was cut considerably. The advantage for them was time to do something as a family in the afternoon.

Chores are just as unpleasant now as they were many years ago and I often fantasize about having domestic help around the house so the chores are left to somebody else. But of course there would always be doorknobs to repair and windows to unstick, so unless I win the lottery I think chores will always be part of my life.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Heat wave

The heat wave of 2010 is still with us and its taxing my patience. I'm not a hot weather person so it takes a lot for me to go through a hot, humid streak in the summer without complaining too much. I was loving the weather two weeks ago, and was hoping for a nice stretch of that, but it wasn't to be. And now we're in the middle of a very long week. Sigh!

My favorite weather is the middle-of-the-road stuff. I adore October with its crisp sunny days and I love May when the skies are blue and the air is clean. I love to wear a light sweater and not be overheated. I enjoy the sun - as long as its not too intense.

This heat wave will most likely last through the weekend so we're trying to cope. For the first time in my life, I have an air conditioner in my bedroom and its making a huge difference. Getting a good night's sleep instead of tossing and turning in the humid air, trying to sleep but not having any luck at all, makes a huge difference on how I face the next day, no matter how hot it is. So I'm thrilled about this new addition. Life is suddenly much easier. What a difference a good night's sleep makes!

Perhaps, if we're very lucky, this will be the last of the triple H days this summer. That's probably a pipe dream, but I can hope. And while were enduring this week's weather we can be happy that at the very least we can escape to the beach for dinner and a nice cool breeze...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

More Yard Sales

I've written before about how we enjoy going to yard sales on Saturday mornings but I don't think I elaborated much about the people we see when we're out and around. Its an interesting lot that attend these things and I've made a few observations.

There are some people that we see every Saturday, anytime we tour the yard sales. These are the die hards who attend every one, no doubt. I know about some of these folks because I've actually been into some of their houses on ambulance calls. Their homes are filled with their treasures and every surface is covered with little boxes, figurines, sea shells, and bric a brac. Corners hold multiple small tables and kitchy things like vases and baskets. Walls are covered with paintings, prints, plates and all sorts of things that can be hung, and there is barely enough room to move around. I sometimes worry about becoming one of these folks and its a constant struggle not to overbuy when the bargains are in front of you.

Then there are the more casual buyers (like ourselves) who don't hit them all, but choose a few from the paper every week to check out. Some sales are what we call "drive-bys" which means we can see from the road that there's nothing worth looking at. We want sales where some serious housecleaning has been done, not just a regular spring cleaning. Those lesser sales are full of books and CDs but no real treasures from attics or basements. Before we leave home we mark the ones we want to see (always the ones claiming to be "moving sale"s or
"whole house" sales), set a course for the least amount of mileage and according to opening hour, and then leave the house about 7:30.

The last type we see is the person who happens to live nearby, sees all the cars and commotion, and senses something worthwhile happening so they take a walk to see what's up. I resent it if anyone in this category finds a treasure, but then its all about first come, first serve so what can you do?

We can go weeks without finding anything to buy, sometimes using great restraint to avoid slipping into the first category of buyer. But then we'll hit a week where we find two or three treasures. Sometimes we pass them on to our kids but usually they end up with a place of honor in our home.

It all makes for a fun way to spend a couple hours on a Saturday morning. We're always home before 10:00 and we often feel quite accomplished before some people are even out of bed.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Philadelphia



It's been many years since I've been in Philadelphia. We went as a family when I was a kid and I remember visiting Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell but I wasn't as appreciative then as I should've been of the nation's history or the richness of that city's offerings. But last weekend I had the opportunity to experience it in a unique way - with one goose-bump producing moment.

When my sisters and I decided months ago to attend a convention in Philly we really didn't give a lot of thought to the fact that it was going to be the July 4th weekend. What I found was that I was surrounded by our history, thinking about the fact that I were standing on the streets where it literally all began. As I walked around I thought about the Revolutionary War and those founding fathers who endured the heat of that very place (it was very hot!) in order to forge a document so astounding that it had the potential to cause them all to be hanged for treason. They were amazing men.

But the real "moment" happened, believe it or not, when we were in Macy's shopping. The building that Macy's inhabits was originally built for another department store and is quite old and historic. Within this beautiful, huge space is a center atrium and one end of it, filling all four stories was the pipes and other working parts of a huge nineteenth century organ with 6 manuals and hundreds of stops. I was admiring this beautiful instrument when suddenly, at noon, it began to play. Apparently there is a concert there every day at noon - how wonderful! As people gathered at all the balconies around the various floors the musician began to play "The Star Spangled Banner". I was standing with about twenty other people watching the organist, directly across the atrium from the pipes, on the second floor balcony. Within two lines of the song, a man to my right began to sing. Soon others joined him and in no time at all we were all singing along "...gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh say can that star spangled banner yet wave o're the land of the free and the home of the brave!" I looked around as the sound of the organ reverberated around the huge space, noticing that one woman had tears rolling down her cheeks and others smiled at the realization that here we were, in the city of brotherly love where our history was born, standing with complete strangers singing this song on July 3rd. It was a moment I will never forget.

Sometimes it takes the simplest things to have the most profound effect, doesn't it?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Moving


My husband recently moved his office from one building to another in the same complex - a move of about 60 feet. Although it was a small move, it seemed huge.

Moving the business was an emotional move as much as a physical one. Our family business has operated in the same location for a very long time now - my grandfather sold real estate from that spot and then my father opened his insurance business there. The attic, closets, and cubbies vibrate with memories for us and, as my brother said, even the smells bring us right back to our childhoods. It was like cleaning out an old family home - nostalgic and a little sad. But life moves on and sometimes change is inevitable, so the move was made. Now my husband is in a newer, nicer space and yet, it doesn't feel quite like home yet.

We humans find such comfort in the familiar, don't we? If there's one thing I've learned during my ten years in public office its that people do not like change! It's difficult to contemplate, even when it may be a change for the better. Because we're comfortable with things the way they are and we'd rather deal with "the devil we know" than one we don't.

The change has been made and it's no doubt one for the better. But it highlights for me how fragile out hearts are. We love our past and we fear our future. And change is rarely something we embrace.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence


Sometimes I like to project and a holiday like this is the perfect time to do that. I think about what "could have been" or what "might have been" and what a difference place this would be today if things had gone differently at all. Just imagine if the colonists had lost to the British back in the 18th century and we were still part of the British Empire. What would our lives be like in that case?

Or - what about the Civil War? Suppose the south had actually won and succeeded from the nation. Would we still be the powerhouse we are today or would we be at war with our neighbors like so many nations that share a boarder? I wonder how things would be different today if World War II had gone to the Germans. Would we all be speaking German now? Or Japanese? Would we have fought for our independence years ago anyway or would we be willingly part of someone else's culture? So many questions come to mind when one studies the history of the USA.

But at the end of the day we are what we are and history is what it is. And on a day like today, when we celebrate our freedom and the birth of this amazing country, the best thing to do is just sit back and say a prayer of thanks. And that's exactly what I plan to do. Happy Birthday America!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

July

This is such a busy weekend in East Hampton that I must admit I'm rather pleased to be out of town and not dealing with the traffic and noise there. It's always a weekend I normally plan to spend mostly at home just so I don't have to get annoyed at the inconvenience of it all. Since I'm at a convention in Phildelphia, my time is mostly spent in a hotel attending events and eating, never going too far away. One would hardly know what was happening outside these doors so it really doesn't matter where I am at the moment.

All that said, I'm looking forward to going home. Tomorrow we make the short trip from Philadelphia to East Hampton and there will still be two days of holiday week-end left to enjoy. I'm hoping for a night at the beach tomorrow with a fire - and maybe some s'mores - with the grandkids. I'm ready for a beach fire and some toasted marshmallows. And chocolate.

July is the beginning of the worst of the season on the East End. The worst of the traffic, the worst of the crowds, the worst of the attitudes. But its also the best of what is such a beautiful place and the beaches and waterways are warm and inviting. There's still most of the summer left for enjoying and I intend to do just that. Tomorrow I'll be heading home and I'm looking forward to that.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Siblings

Traveling this weekend with my sisters makes me think about siblings and the relationships we have with them. I'm always sad for people whose siblings move away because their relationship tends to become stunted at the point they parted and they are forever locked in what they had when they were children, rather than growing together and learning to appreciate each other as adults. I've seen that with my husband's siblings who moved from here - it seems they'll never see him as anything other than the crazy teenager they remember from their years growing up. I think siblings that live apart from each other can certainly remain close, but it takes work and not all do.

I've had the opposite experience and all three of my siblings stayed in this area. We've watched each other marry, raise children, establish careers and become grandparents. We love each other's children and delight in their grandchildren. It's one of the great joys in my life to be surrounded by a large extended family that I know will always be there for me when I need them. We don't always agree with each other, sometimes we annoy each other, and we are all very different people. But we've also taught each other how to get along well, let small offenses go, not sweat the small stuff, and appreciate the gifts that everyone has. It is a great blessing.

I honesty believe that the collapse of the extended family, which has happened pretty extensively in the 20th century as we've become a more mobile society, is partially to blame for the ills of the world. Because the accountability, support and love families provide are all a necessary part of making humans better people.

Not only that, but I know I'll probably laugh more with my sisters this weekend than I have with anyone else in a very long time...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Barbershop


Today my sisters and I are driving to Philadelphia to attend the annual international male barbershop singers convention. It will be a few busy days listening to the very best harmony in the world as quartets and choruses converge to compete in this unique American art form, barbershop music. I can't wait.

In my family we were raised on this music. My father heard it when he was a young man and immediately knew he had to participate so, as was typical of him, he found his own group to sing with. He started the local chapter of what was then known as The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, or SPEBSQSA for short (!). That was in the early 1950s and in my years growing up I was exposed to the absolute best of that genre. The Buffalo Bills (of "The Music Man" fame) sang to us in our living room. We heard every top ranked quartet up close and personal throughout the 1960s and 1970s. We sang barbershop harmony in our home, around the dinner table, on shows, and probably in our sleep. When my father became ill and died the local chapter, at one time over 60 strong, eventually disbanded. He was the heart and soul of it.

So, it stands to reason that I love this music. I love the fact that its a pure American invention, that it's not easy to sing well, and that when it is done well, it can produce chills. There's no musical accompaniment to fall back on and no music to read in front of you - and it is done exclusively by people who have other professions, singing for the pure joy of it.

At the top level, it's amazing to hear. I'm beyond excited to be attending this weekend's contests and concerts, listening to a calibre I haven't heard in many years. I assume it will be the last time in my life I'm able to attend one of these things - they are often on the west coast or in the mid-west somewhere - so I'm going to just enjoy ever minute of it. At this point in my life I know enough to treasure the moments. And I truly will.