Saturday, December 31, 2011

Doctor's offices

Last week I had to go for my annual gyn appointment. Now I happen to like my doctor very much and have nothing negative to say about her. But the office? Hmmm

I went in and as is the norm was told to take everything off and put the paper gown on, with a paper drape to go across my lap. (Do men ever have to totally undress by the way???) So I did as I was told, and gratefully noticed that there was a stack of magazines on the chair so I grabbed one and sat on the exam table waiting. Now I don't think I've ever been in a doctor's office sitting without my clothes on when I didn't have to wait at least ten minutes. So I settled in and started to read. Within about three minutes I was freezing. I wrapped the paper drape over my knees and pulled it close. That didn't really help. I waited a few more minutes and then got up, grabbed the nice flannel shirt that I had taken off and was neatly folded on the chair, and pulled it on over the paper gown. Ah! Relief!

Once the doctor arrived I explained my odd outfit and remained so enrobed through the exam. I've learned to stand up for myself after the past few years and be my own advocate. Years ago I would have simply sat there shivering. But no more. With age does come wisdom - and a good dose of chutzpah too!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Another year

Another year is passing and I'm feeling pretty grateful.  I no longer grieve the passing of time, I celebrate it. Because each passing year is another one lived. And since its just three years in January since I was diagnosed with cancer, I'm celebrating yet another year of being.

The thing about a cancer diagnosis is the questions it raises. Initially, we think about death. We assume its a death sentence. In January of 2009 I spent many hours wondering if I would live another year. Or another six months. I had no idea. At the end of 2009 I recognized that I'd been given a wonderful gift. I'd been given a new urgency to my life. I was still alive - and realized that none of us knows how long we'll live - and I wanted to make sure that whatever time I had left on this earth needed to count for something. I had no more patience for negative people or for conflict and discord. I only wanted to be with people who made me laugh, and people I love, and I only wanted to do things that made a difference in the world.

I'm not sure I've always followed through with the promises I made to myself but I've tried hard to. And when I come to the end of yet another year, marking my gift of time in such a tangible way, I am rejoicing in my fortune and thanking God that for me, there were at least three more years of life to live.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hot chocolate

One of my great pleasures is a really good mug of hot chocolate.

I've never been a coffee drinker and I have no interest in tea. So the only hot drink I ever indulge in is cocoa. I don't dislike a good mug of hot cider, but that seems very seasonal and I only ever see it anywhere around October. When it comes to January, its all about the hot chocolate. It probably goes back to the days when my mother would have hot cocoa warming on the stove when we came in from playing in the snow or skating at Town Pond. There's something both nostalgic and heart-warming about sitting in front of the fireplace with a nice mug of warmth on a cold winter day.

The best hot chocolate I ever had was at the Plaza Hotel years ago. My husband and I had won a week-end trip there on a business contest. We were young, poor, and had four little children at home so this was a big deal for us. The hotel was luxurious and a little bit of heaven for us - just getting away for two nights was an unbelievable gift. Unfortunately we couldn't afford to eat at the hotel, but decided on our last morning to splurge and eat breakfast in the Oak Room. It was the most spectacular breakfast I've ever had, served on beautiful china and sterling silver. I ordered hot chocolate. I don't remember how much it cost but I remember it was expensive. They served it in a small silver pitcher, pouring it into my tea cup and leaving another cupful in the pitcher. I served myself the rest after I slowly savored the first one, including a nice dollop of whipped cream from the small container of it that came on the small tray with the pitcher. This, I realized, was the way the lucky people lived! With someone to serve them hot chocolate and whipped cream on a silver tray in the morning.

Well, I'm not sure whether that was actually the best cocoa I've ever had because I've made some pretty good stuff myself in my own home when I wanted to take the time and effort to do so. But that was, for sure, the best overall hot chocolate experience of my life.

Maybe someday I'll get to stay at the Plaza Hotel again and enjoy breakfast in the Oak Room. Probably not, but who knows? In the meantime I'll continue to enjoy the simple pleasure of a homemade mug in the comfort of my own cozy home and there's nothing second rate about that!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chocolate

I found Christmas this year to be very short on chocolate. No chocolate santas, no chocolate cookies, no chocolate fudge - what happened?

I always look forward to having chocolate overload over the holidays. It's like a constant endorphin high and I love it. I saw a giant chocolate santa delivered somewhere in the last days leading up to Christmas and I was so envious I nearly stopped to ask where it was from so I could order one for myself.

One exception was some outstanding chocolate cookies that were on a plate of various types of varieties at a friend's Christmas Open House. There were so many types of cookies, all beautifully displayed in a circular style, including cut-outs and gingerbread boy. Among the others were these lovely big dark chocolate disks and once I tasted the first one I was hooked. I'm embarrassed to say I ate every one on the plate - probably at least six of them - and left not a single one for anyone else to enjoy. I felt like a thief when I went slinking out the door when the party was over. I wondered if anyone else noticed my pig-out and was ashamed of myself.

But other than that one occasion there was little chocolate to be found at my house. I'm thinking my mother did this to me because every year there was a Russel Stover's hollow chocolate santa in my Christmas stocking and I think the association was forever imprinted on my brain.

Thankfully the holidays are nearly over now and I think the craving will pass....until Easter most likely.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Conflict

I've recently been privy to a conflict which is happening within an organization I belong to. There's been a lot of back-and-forth emails and phone calls and people have tried to gather their forces. One person feels they were wronged by the other. The other feels they were wronged by the first. One person is in a position of authority over the other, complicating matters further.

I hate conflict. I don't understand it for the most part. In my life, when people do things I don't agree with I leave or ignore them. When someone is rude to me, or in some other way attacks me personally, I am more of a retreater than an attacker. I would go home with my tail between my legs, feeling hurt and sad but not in any way combative. And I don't take things personally most of the time. I have a tendency to write things off as someone "having a bad day" and imagine they received bad news or had a sad event in their life just prior to my seeing them. Bad timing can often result in confrontations. So I prefer to believe there was something else at work, not just a personality conflict.

I have a difficult time with people who simply can't get along nicely with others. I don't understand it and I can't stand it. Sometimes people need to just simply grow up and learn to play well with others. Didn't they learn this in nursery school?

Monday, December 26, 2011

More to come

It's especially nice having both Christmas and New Year's Day on weekends this year because it really makes the week in between like a long holiday. We have things planned for the whole week and I feel as though its a bit of a vacation for us, which is a rare event. We rarely have time off together. I'm looking forward to it.

It's not easy owning a small business. It means that leaving for any length of time is difficult, to say the least. With only one other person in the office it means guilt for leaving them alone and worry over what might come up and be a problem for them. We've never been away for more than a week and that's unusual. I can only imagine how much fun it would be to leave for two weeks and not have to worry about anything going on at home.

That's the price you pay for being in business and it's the life we know. But this week will provide ample opportunity to spend time together, culminating with the ringing in of a brand new year. We've celebrated nearly 40 new years together now, but this one is especially meaningful: it will be the third one since my cancer, and there have been many times I wondered if there would be even one more. I am blessed to be alive, to feel good, and to be celebrating life, and to be seeing yet another year. I think this is going to be a really good week.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas

And today is Christmas. In many ways its the morning we wait for all year, every year. For Christians its the most sacred of holidays and our years revolve around it.

I am blessed among people to have family and friends that I love and cherish. I'm grateful for a warm house and clothes on my back. I know there are others who don't have those things and it makes me humble to know I did nothing to deserve my riches. Today of all days I feel small in the grand scheme of things and just a speck in the universe.

And yet I also feel like the most important person in the world on Christmas morning. Because my faith tells me that God loves me enough to have sent a baby to earth for me all those years ago, on the very first Christmas morning. For me.  One of the greatest mysteries of all time.

I wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas, full of love and joy, and the sure knowledge that it is all for you.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

An East Hampton Christmas

East Hampton is so special at Christmas. Every year I'm amazed at how this place becomes as magical as a greeting card!

Coming home from anywhere west of here is heart-warming. Driving into the village along Montauk Highway leads into such a beautiful sight, with the tree in the middle of Town Pond covered in blue lights. Within sight of that is the Gardiner Windmill, with its arms outlined in white and stretching into the sky. Driving down Main Street is like unfolding a pop-up card. There's the big blue wreath on the side of Mulford Farmhouse, more white lights on the Schellinger Mill behind Home Sweet Home,  a small pair of trees on the porch at Clinton Academy, dressed in red and green mini-lights, and of course the ones on the steps of the Presbyterian Church. The small trees that line either side of Main Street beckon you into the commercial district, and the arms of Hook Mill welcome you to keep on driving. Behind Hook Mill you can see the big pine at the end of Methodist Lane alight with multicolored bulbs, and around the corner the similarly huge tree is lighted in the Sheep Fold. One can drive all the way to the Montauk Lighthouse and see similar delights along the route, including the beautiful homes that people take time to decorate for the enjoyment of the rest of the community.

I also love the menorahs that the two Jewish congregations display on Woods Lane - sentinels of history facing each other from across the street, reminding us that East Hampton has always been a place of cultural and religious diversity - since the very earliest days. This year there is a menorah on Herrick Park standing next to the Christmas tree. Somehow it seems symbolic of what we're all about here in Bonac.

I love the way East Hampton looks at Christmas. It's beautifully elegant with its understated extravagance. It lights up our lives through some of the darkest days of winter and I look forward to it every year.

Tonight, on this Christmas Eve, I'm grateful for a community that celebrates life. And I'm reminded of how much I love East Hampton.

Tradition

I don't remember much about Christmas Eves growing up. I don't think we had any special traditions or family time, we didn't go anywhere or do anything that I can remember. I used to listen to friends' traditions with envy, fathers reading "A Christmas Carol" out loud, or the Christmas story from the book of Luke. Sitting around the fire and having popcorn while the family gathered around to prepare for Christmas morning. We didn't have a church service that I can remember either. The only memory I have is of lying in my bed trying to go to sleep, and imagining I saw an elf peeking through the hole in my bedroom door where the old Victorian lock used to be. I can still remember that like it was yesterday and it must have been over fifty years ago now.

When I had children of my own I tried to create some traditions. Sometimes we read a book together, like "The Night Before Christmas". We had a nice family dinner, usually inviting the grandparents to come over, and always had a birthday cake and sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus. It was a small way to make sure my children knew what the holiday was about.

The church we attend now has two Christmas Eve services, and one of them is always part of our evening. In addition, my daughter has been entertaining the family with a nice meal, and I think this tradition will follow for many years. I find that Christmas Eve is as special as Christmas morning now and I like that a lot.  Traditions are wonderful things and I love creating and following them.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dark

It's so dark in the morning now! When I leave the house at 7 the headlights go on, and it's another twenty minutes at least before they can be turned off. Being an early riser I get up in the dark every day and we eat dinner in the dark every night.

How interesting is the whole seasonal light thing? In the summer the sun wakes me up early and we are still outside enjoying it at 9:00 at night. But now the tables are turned and we spend much of our waking hours in artificial light. I can't imagine how difficult this was in colonial times, when people had to spend the first few hours of their days in candlelight, cooking, and milking the cows. They must have longed for the summer when they had all that light to enjoy!

I don't mind the dark - it makes for cozy dinner parties and evenings in front of a fire. Without it we wouldn't be enjoying the Christmas lights that brighten our evenings and lift our spirits. It allows us to stay at home without guilt and settle in for simple nights of family time, or curling up with a good book. There's no "wasting daylight" to stress over, as my grandfather used to warn. Without the winter dark we'd never rest at all.

No, I don't mind the dark hours in the winter. But I do look forward to having the sun rise a little bit earlier. And I won't have to wait long since the days are beginning to get longer now.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

All around

Everyplace looks pretty right now. I've driven through Southampton, Sag Harbor, and Hampton Bays, and each one has its own personality and flavor. I saw an especially pretty window in Southampton that had a simple but beautiful menorah on one window, with a blue velvet background, and a small tree in the other with multicolored lights. It was delightfully lovely in its uncluttered state, and I noticed it right away as I drove through the village.

I have not yet made it to Sag Harbor and have to make sure I do before the holidays are past. I'll be going to my sister's for dinner on the 26th so if I haven't seen it by then I will that night. Sag Harbor is always unique.

I also haven't made it to Montauk yet and hope to get there to see the lighthouse in its best attire. I love that they light it so beautifully every December now and I know it's a tradition that will last forever now. Once started its hard to stop, as evidenced by the lighted windmills in the village. Only in the past few years have they all been lighted and now I can't imagine not doing it. Rounding the corner at Town Pond and seeing the Gardiner Mill, then only a short distance down the road the Home Sweet Home Mill, and of course the Hook Mill - well, its spectacular, that's for sure.

And the individual homes are equally lovely. I can't say I'm a big fan of the blow-up snowmen and santas, but I appreciate the spirit behind them! I do love the simple lights on houses, hedges, and trees everywhere. I past a house on Three Mile Harbor Road last week that had a long driveway going uphill (across from the harbor) and they had lights in the shape of stars hanging from trees all the way up the driveway. It was very effective!

I don't like to drive after dark - bad night vision is a side effect of wearing contact lenses - but I do love driving around and seeing what everyone does to make the holidays special. Even in the most isolated neighborhoods there are little oasis of decorations and they're so special.

Soon enough the winter dark and cold will totally envelope us for two months. Isn't it a wonderful thing that for now at least, the winter is held at bay by the cheer and joy of this special season? It allows us to deal with the winter and remember how blessed we are.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Waiting

I really hate to waste time waiting. I don't like waiting in lines, or in "waiting rooms", or in my own house. I just hate wasting time!

Last week my upper respiratory infection had moved from being a cold to more of a bronchial thing. After a week of suffering my throat was feeling worse, not better, and it occurred to me that I needed to have a strep test. The last thing I needed was something worse as we got closer to Christmas so I needed to see a doctor. Now of course my first choice would always be to see my own beloved physician, but I feared since it was a Monday that there would be no openings to squeeze into so I was going to head to the walk-in clinic in Skimhampton. But then I thought I should at least call my doctor's office to see if there was a chance I could get in there - much easier than needing to give all my medical history to a strange office. So I called. I explained that I was about to go to the walk-in clinic and just wanted to make sure there was no chance of getting in to see my own doctor. Well, she said, the computers were down at the moment but as soon as they came back up she would let me know if they could squeeze me in. Great! I can get in to my own doctor's office. Now I had to wait for a call.

And I waited. And I waited. One hour, two hours.....what's up with those computers? Now I'm running out of things to do and everything else on my list for the day involved leaving the house. I can't even make phone calls because I don't have "call waiting" and can't afford to miss her call.

As I waited I thought about my options. Should I just leave and go to the walk-in? Would they call as soon as I walked out the door? At what point will it be too late? Too late to get my other errands done, too late to get a prescription filled, too late to get to the grocery store for something to eat for dinner??? Now this is the kind of stress I really try to avoid in my life. On this day it wasn't working.

I really hate waiting!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

All fun...

Today we're really down to the end of the road to Christmas day and from here on its all fun. All my major obligations have been met, all the gifts are wrapped and ready, I'm done with the entertaining and the cookie making and nothing I do from here on out is work. It's all fun.

I love the holidays and the period from Thanksgiving week to New Year's Day is my favorite. It's very busy and sometimes stressful but I still look forward to it every year because its all about love and friendship and family, and the warmth and kindnesses that emerge around town, and the beautiful decorations everywhere, make it really wonderful. Whatever the stress, it's well worth it.

Christmas day will be especially nice this year because a dear old friend will be staying at my house and joining us in all the celebrations. It's been many years since anyone other than family was here for Christmas - the last time was a visitor from Norway - and it adds a new dimension to the day. Plus, Christmas is on a Sunday this year, which means church gets added into the mix - another interesting change from the norm. I enjoy going to church on Christmas morning. After all, that's what its all about, right?

I'm looking forward to the next five days very much. Because its all fun from here!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pedicures

Sometimes a comment made by a reader will prompt a blog and that's the case today. I wrote a couple weeks ago about manicures and someone mentioned having a manicure and a pedicure for only $20. And that set a whole new thought process into motion.

I've never had a pedicure. Not that I haven't had the opportunity, because I have. I've been given many gift certificates over the years for places that do them, and I have daughters that try to get me to go with them for a "mani-pedi" date, but I have absolutely no desire to have one. Which makes me do some introspective probing about why I feel so strongly about it.

I've never liked the look of feet. I find them somewhat ugly, although certainly a wonderful and necessary part of the anatomy. I especially don't like my own. All the years I was growing up, I noticed how much nicer my friends feet were than mine. I have very wide (i.e.fat) feet - EEE width to be exact - with short, stubby, fat toes that are all about the same length, which give them the appearance of a rectangle. They are my father's feet and some of my children also inherited them. They call them "Flintstone feet" after Fred and Barney I suppose. I hide them as much as possible. I think that's one reason I don't want to expose them to anyone for close scrutiny.

I guess the other reason is the very nature of a pedicure. There is something that rings of servitude in the process to me, probably because of the Biblical accounts of foot washing and the explanation years ago by some forgotten Sunday School teacher that washing another person's feet was considered at the time to be the ultimate act of submission and respect. Seeing women at the feet of someone who sits in a big chair while their feet are washed, trimmed and decorated seems a bit awkward to me. I find it uncomfortable to see and I think it would be even more uncomfortable to experience. Weird, I know. But nonetheless, sometimes early impressions effect us forever and I guess this might be one of those cases.

Either way, I'm not ever going to have a pedicure. I see no reason to decorate my toes and bring undue attention to them, and I keep them well moisturized and neatly trimmed on my own. Not that anyone cares.  But sometimes thoughts just need to be put on paper. Perhaps it legitimizes them. Perhaps it just exposes our frailties. Either way, I feel better putting it all out there...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Checking twice

I learned long ago that Santa had the right idea: check things on your list twice. And my list is long right now. In fact, I've had so much to do lately that last week I sat down with a legal pad, pen, and calendar, and made daily lists for checking.

Normally everything on my day is listed on my weekly calendar. I buy the kind with pages that turn over so an open book shows one week. Each day I write the things I have to do: doctor's appointments, business meetings, business luncheons, board meetings, committee meetings, volunteer time....you get the idea. Because my schedule is so varied I need to write everything down because no day is ever the same. Even when I was younger and much sharper I couldn't hold it all in my memory so my calendar as always been essential in my life.

So for these past weeks in December I've made long, detailed daily lists. I've put approximate times next to each item and put everything in some sort of order than makes sense. If, for instance, I work a 7:30 to 9:30 shift at the hospital on Tuesday and have a noon meeting at Village Hall, I can most likely pick up the cleaning, do my grocery shopping, and get my prescriptions at the pharmacy between 10am when I get back into town and noon when I need to be someplace else. Then in parenthesis I'll add one or two more things that I might possibly be able to fit in if all goes well. If not, they'll move to the next day. Obviously those are things at the bottom of the priority list, like dropping gifts off for my daughter to take to Pennsylvania with her.

Well - you get the idea. Only in December do I have to get so detailed with my daily lists and right now I'm ready to turn the calendar to January and see all those nice blank pages looking back at me.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

More stockings

Every year on Christmas morning here in my house we opened gifts with our kids and then went next door to have breakfast with my mother and Aunt and Uncle. My father slept in and they were up and around so they made a nice breakfast and we'd eat there before going into the living room to open gifts. By then my father would be up and around and the kids would give their gifts out before they received theirs. The my uncle died and my aunt would come alone, all the way from Buffalo every Christmas, to be with the only family she had. Years went by and my father died. I would always invite Mom to come over to our home early (because I knew she was up!) and enjoy watching the kids open gifts here, but she said no, she and her sister would stay there and wait for us.

Eventually, the years took their toll and my aunt no longer made the trip downstate for the holiday. So Mom agreed to come spend Christmas morning with us. I went on to the Land's End website and bought her a needlepoint stocking to match the ones I'd been buying for my family as marriages and births continued to expand it, and I was ready for her Christmas morning. She seemed pleased to have her own Christmas stocking, which I understand since I've been filling everyone else's for so many years just the way she had.

Unfortunately, the following Christmas Mom was too sick to come over in the morning. She could barely get out of bed when I first went over, but with a heavy dose of pain killers and a bit more time in bed, she rallied enough to get dressed and go downstairs where she put on quite an act for the extended family as they trickled in to share what we all knew would be her last Christmas.

The following Christmas when I unpacked the stockings to be hung in the house, Mom's was on the top of the pile. I cried remembering her last holiday with us, and still feeling the sting of loss so sharply, and then hung it up with the rest of the family's. It's been up every year since. Appropriately enough, it has an angel on the front. I like to think she sees it too, and knows how much I wish she was still here to share the day with us. It's a sweet tribute to a very special person.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Stockings

When I was a little girl, my mother spent what was a good deal of money (for her) and bought we four children really pretty Christmas stockings. They were felt, and I remember one - I think it was my brother's - was red with white felt reindeer and silver glitter. But mine was my favorite. It was a pretty green felt with white fur at the top and a white felt angel with the same kind of silver glitter trim. I adored that stocking. And I got excited every year when she took it down from the attic to hang somewhere in the house.

I always worried about the fact that there was no fireplace at our house and used to ask how Santa was going to find us without one. Mom would always assure me that Santa used doors when necessary and there wouldn't be any problem when it came time to deliver gifts. In our house Santa filled those stockings and brought one gift for each of us. The other gifts were properly designated as being from Mom and Dad or our grandparents, whichever the case might be. So again, the stockings were really a big deal.

I don't know what happened to my childhood stocking. I was hoping to find it in the attic when we cleaned it out after Mom died, but it didn't turn up. It was a disappointment because if I had it I know I would find a place of honor for it every year. It's one of my favorite childhood memories.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Parties

This is party season for sure. I see people post about "cookie parties" and "Santa's helpers" parties and all sorts of other holiday get-togethers either to sell things or exchange things or just simply, and most importantly, to spend time together. Because this season is all about family and friends and the riches of our lives - not the monetary riches but the other ones.
I know that sometimes people get so hung up on the things that they don't have they can forget about the things they do. And just like the song says, "the best things in life are free". Well, that's not exactly true. They cost us money and they cost us in emotional investment, but they are well worth whatever we put into them. Because its our friends and our family that really matter at the end of every day.

There are so many stories of people who regretted the way they lived their lives, neglecting their families in favor of making money or pursuing other material things. I'm happy to say I will never feel that way and I know I did plenty of investing in the important things. I will die knowing I put most of my energy and love into non-material things, in spending time with my kids when they were growing up and with my grandchildren now as they are. And investing in friendships with amazing people who have enriched me in ways I could never have imagined years ago. Thankfully, I don't need to watch "A Christmas Carol" one more time to know my life mirrors Bob Cratchett's much more than it does Ebenezer Scrooge's.

My greatest Christmas wish for everyone this year is that they will be able to have the same peace of mind about their own life's investments when their years are done. Because that's what Christmas is all about: love for others greater than for ourselves and love that gives unconditionally. A babe in a manger, representing so much! Make this holiday special. And spread the love around.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ten days

Only ten days until Christmas Eve and now I'm getting nervous. I have lots to do between now and then, including a dinner party for 24, a luncheon for 7, a few more stocking stuffers to grab and some things to organize, food to shop for, a house to keep clean, and all the other things that go with the week before Christmas. When I get to this point in the holidays I always think about my old boss.

Every year, the last week before Christmas, my boss would start to think about shopping. He would talk about what he wanted to get for the people on his list and where he was going to go on Christmas Eve. Mind you, I worked in a church office, so Christmas Eve was a pretty busy time for this guy! Yet he left his shopping to do until the very last minute. I break out in hives just thinking about it.

Being a planner is a gift and a curse. I like being organized and planning things out. But it also puts too much pressure on myself because I'm always afraid I don't have enough time or I've forgotten something. I wish I could be a bit more laid back and easy-going about things, but its impossible. So I get stressed.

I think I'm well ready for everything to come. And yet....maybe I'm forgetting something.....oh boy.....

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sick days

Last week I woke one day with a bad upper respiratory thing going on and it laid me low for a few days. Some of those things are worse than others and this one was no fun. It wasn't in my sinuses, but in my throat with a cough and scratchiness and made my voice sound more animal than human. And during those days I did just about everything on my "to do" list, opting out of only a few things to stay home and rest. And that made me think about something that's always bugged me.

I truly envy people who get to have "sick days". Those are the people who work in places where someone else takes over for them when they're not there, like teachers, police officers, executives, etc. When they call in sick a sub is put in their place and they can stay home in bed for even the slightest cold if they so choose. I've never had that privilege. I've never had a job with "sick days" - I usually got paid by the hour - and when I was out the work simply piled up for me to do when I got back. Even as a stay-at-home-mother I still had to get up, dress the kids, take care of them, feed them, etc. So never has it been an option to stay home with a cold! Simply not worth the trouble.

So I went about my business and got my work done, as I always have, and slept really well at night with the help of drugs and exhaustion. Yesterday I finally saw a doctor and now I'm on antibiotics so by this afternoon I should start to feel good again. But at the end of the day its all OK anyway. Because I'm glad to feel good most every other day of the year and that's a special blessing. A few days down aren't such a big deal!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas decor

Over the years I've managed to collect an interesting and eclectic array of Christmas decorations for my house. In the beginning I made almost everything I used, not only because money was tight but also because I liked the simple country look. Even after I could afford to buy some things I tended to be drawn to the primitive, folk art type things and many of my decorations are from those days.

I think if I were to go out and buy all new things I would tend to move more toward the Pier 1 style with lots of bling and sparkle, but still simple and elegant. In fact I was at the local Pier 1 last week to pick up some things because the gold ornaments that I bought thirty years ago (simple gold balls) have become tarnished looking and need to be tossed. So I wanted to pick up some things to fill in the tree where they would have been. I was looking for anything that would reflect light and sparkle in the sun as well as when the lights come on at night. I found some pretty mirrored stars and some glittery starfish and orbs that fit the bill nicely, and they're on the tree now. Since we started with all gold lights thirty+ years ago I had lots of gold then, but now that we've switched over to white lights I looked for bright, white and silvery things. I still have many homemade ornaments that came from various family members over the years, and I'll always use them. I've passed most of the children's creations on to them for their own children to appreciate as they get older, which I know they will!

There's nothing quite as beguiling as a beautifully lit Christmas tree. Mine will never match the glory of some simply because I appreciate the simple, meaningful pieces, including photos of my children in various forms. It may not be the most glamorous tree, but it evokes plenty of memories, and that's what a tree should do I think. Nothing is quite as sparkly and special as a tree full of love.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Around the village

East Hampton is looking really festive these days. I love seeing the decorations, both municipal and private, as I drive around town. Everything looks great for the holidays.

I have one of the best possible views from my front windows. It may be a busy street and sometimes its very annoying to live here in the heart of all the traffic, but at this time of year I love it. I can see the tree over at the end of Methodist Lane and the tree in the Sheep Fold between Gay and Pantigo. I can also see the top of the lights at Hook Mill, on again this year. It's a beautiful spot to be!

One interesting thing about the lights now is the slow changeover to LEDs. As strands have to be replaced, the village has been investing in newer, LED ones. they are a bigger investment to start with but will last longer and use less energy every year. However, there is a distinct different in the colors of the LED lights. The tree at the end of Methodist Lane is LED and the one on Pantigo is of older lights. It's easy to see that the Pantigo tree is much warmer in colors, predominantly yellows and reds, while the LEDs are cooler tones, more blues and greens. In a trees the size of those two it is very evident. I assume we'll get used to the newer hues, but I'll admit to liking the old ones better.

The one tone in LEDs that I love is a beautiful lavender. We've seen it on trees at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania where they have huge Christmas displays. The color is lovely but I have yet to see it anywhere locally. I'd love to do an outdoor tree in my yard with them if I can ever find it.

When I grew up the trees along Main and Newtown were always multi-colored. There were lots of problems with kids unscrewing the bulbs and smashing them on the sidewalks because they were the old, big, screw-in bulbs. I remember the village had trouble keeping them replaced. So they made the decision to switch to all one color, making replacement easier, and suddenly the trees went blue. A huge controversy erupted and it lasted for years, until they finally changed them back to the multi-colored kind. Old-timers hated the blue because it wasn't what they were accustomed to. Newer community members loved it because it was different and unique. I can usually tell when folks arrived in East Hampton because they talk about missing the blue trees. I, of course, never liked the blue trees because they weren't East Hampton to me.  I didn't hate them, but I was happy to have the colored ones back. At this point in my life though I think I could probably handle a change, but cost will keep that from happening I think.

Whatever your preference, its hard to deny that East Hampton is one beautiful place during the holidays. No doubt Currier and Ives would have been happy to spend time here creating prints of the winter wonderland all round us. All I need to do is glance out of my front windows to enjoy it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Manicures

I love getting a manicure. But I rarely do.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with my fingernails. I don't particularly like the shape and type of nails I have, plus because I'm not a lady of leisure I tend to break them off a lot. Just when one gets to a nice shape and size, it gets bent or caught and I end up having to cut it way back or file it into a weird angle to avoid it catching on things or breaking off completely. If I could just have someone to do all my housework it would help, but I don;t see that in my future. So they are never all the right size and shape. Which makes me not want to particularly bring attention to them.

But then again, not keeping them as manicured as possible could bring more attention to them, so I normally use a nice neutral pale pink or nude color just to give them a nice shine and polished look. I don't like to spend money on having them done professionally because it's such a waste of money, never lasting a week.

Occasionally I like to have them done for a special occasion. I love the way they are neatly finished off, cuticles cut back and looking really nice. But every time I do I find that at least one of them breaks within a couple days and then I'm kicking myself because I spent the money for nothing.

Last week there was a piece on "Good  Morning America" about the latest trend in manicures: crazy colors like "army green" and snake skin. That's right, I said snake skin. They take the clear, shed skins from reptiles, cut them to fit the clients nails, and then glue them on over the color. It looks like your fingernails are actual snakeskin. Yuck! I'm not sure why this is a big trend right now but I personally find it rather abhorrent. I don't like snakeskin on or off snakes.

Well, since its the holidays I've been trying to keep my nails looking well cared for lately. Only two are filed down at an extreme angle at the moment and the rest are looking pretty good. I'm guessing that in about 3 weeks, when they grow out a little, I'll have a week of nice looking nails before another one goes....

Friday, December 9, 2011

Southampton Village

Southampton Village really outdoes itself at Christmas now. Last year they began winding lights around many of the large elms and oaks along Main Street and Jobs Lane. I had occasion to drive through after dark last week one night, returning from Hampton Bays where I was attending an official function, and I couldn't help but smile as I approached on Hill Street and saw them from a distance. I drove up Jobs Lane enjoying every foot of it and then turned left on to Main Street just to drive through what is a real winter wonderland. It really is magical.

The streets are really illuminated by all those tiny lights and the trees are so big and majestic to begin with that they just look more magnificent all outlined and twinkling. In addition there is a sleigh and reindeer strung across the center of Main Street that's outlined in lights at night, but its really gilding the lily. Those trees do the job nicely all on their own.

I think Southampton really has the Christmas spirit and has found the perfect way to brighten all our lives during the holidays, both literally and figuratively. For anyone who hasn't seen it, I recommend a visit there in the next few weeks. I promise, it will make you smile!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mothers-in-law

Today was my mother-in-law's birthday. She never mentioned her birthday without adding "...the day after Pearl Harbor". She was a teenager when the Japanese attacked and it would have been a huge event in her life. Not only did her brother leave to serve, but she married a Coast Guardsman who was stationed in Amagansett, so it was certainly life-changing in many ways. Her late teens and early twenties were spent with a nation at war. She would forever after be a woman of peace. She hated war and never missed an opportunity to say so. When my husband's number came up in the lottery and it looked as though he might be called to serve in Viet Nam, unbeknownst to him, she made arrangements for him to go live with a friend of hers in Canada if his number came up. He had no idea until years later and fortunately it wasn't an issue. He was never called. In those days it wasn't looked on as an honor to serve - Viet Nam was a real divisive incident in the country's history and only those of us who lived through it understand it.

Anyway, my mother-in-law was a woman before her time. She was independent and smart and she could have been an executive had she been born at another era. As it was she didn't have a college education and never realized her full potential.

Of course she would not have said that. She loved being a mother and adored her family. I don't know what her innermost feelings were, but I think she was content with her life. I'm sure there were times when she was frustrated with the fact that her life was defined by her sex and the times, but she never verbalized that.

I was very lucky to have her in my life. Not only did she raise a wonderful man for me, she showed me that being a mother-in-law was a job in itself and takes hard work and love. I hope I learned my lessons well because I'd be pleased if my own daughters-in-law feel the same way about me some day that I feel about her...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Soup

Last week we finished off the soup I made from the Thanksgiving turkey. It was delicious!

I love making soup out of leftovers. It's much more satisfying to me than making it from scratch because it's akin to making a quilt from scraps of fabric. I take the carcass and boil it down into a nice broth. Then take all the meat off the bones and add any leftover meat from the meal. Once all that is nicely roiling I chop up onions, celery, carrots, spinach - almost anything I happen to have in the refrigerator, the more different items the better. Corn in the freezer? Throw it in! Leftover zucchini in the veggie drawer? Chop it up and toss it in. I like a nice chunky soup that can be eaten with a fork as well as a spoon so everything in the house is fair game.

Of course the salt and pepper are a necessary evil and without it the taste would not be half as good, but I do try to leave it a bit under-seasoned, allowing everyone to add their own and avoid too much. (I always add more myself!)

Once the soup has simmered for hours and the house smells like heaven, the huge pot has to be cooled and put into smaller containers for the fridge. I used to add noodles or rice, but when I was recuperating from chemo a few years ago a friend brought home made soup for me and in a separate container she had tiny, cooked pasta. Acini de Pepe I think its called and it looks like little balls when it's cooked. Anyway, her instructions were to put some of that in a bowl and then spoon the hot soup over top. It was great and I've done that ever since. I fill the fridge with containers of pasta and soup and combine them for lunch and dinner all week long.

The weather hasn't really gotten as cold as normal for this time of the year and had it not been for Thanksgiving I probably wouldn't have made any soup yet. But it was delicious and I'm so glad I did! It's going to be a fun winter in the kitchen!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

House hunters

I enjoy watching all the shows on HGTV it seems, and I'm especially enjoying a show called "House Hunters International". It's actually an off shoot of the original show, which is "House Hunters" and followed people on their search for a home they could afford in a particular neighborhood. But the international version is a bit different.

On this version, people are looking for housing in places all over the world. Sometimes the budget is tight, for people relocating for business reasons and needing to find a place in a city like Jerusalem, for instance. But many of the shows are about people looking for vacation homes in amazing tropical places like Hawaii or Costa Rica. It's like a fantasy show for me. I can't even afford to visit those places, no less buy a second home there! these couples, or families, go from house to house comparing the beautiful views and amazing amenities, and deciding which place they want to buy. Of course they all look perfect to me, but when you're spending two or three million dollars, I guess you can afford to be picky! They often like the house in one spot but the view in another, so at the end of the day its all about how they want to compromise.

I watch this show for the fantasy value but I need to sometimes remind myself that I happen to live in a place that people spend a lot of money to own a second home in, so I shouldn't allow myself to become too envious. Otherwise it could get depressing. But how amazing would it be to own a vacation home in Aruba or Bermuda and just jump on a plane whenever the spirit strikes. Ah, now that's really living!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The tree

The tree has been up all week and I'm loving it. I really adore Christmas trees. There's something so cheerful about having one in your house, tiny lights all over it and ornaments that remind you of people and places and special events. No doubt if there was always one up we'd be used to them and they wouldn't be such a novelty, but since its only one month out of every year, it's very special.

This year the sun porch has been cleaned and organized and that means there's space there for the tree so that's where it is. I love having it out there because  I can see it at night when I'm watching TV, but it's not taking up space in our small living room. It's also visible from the street which is an added bonus. When my mother lived next door I liked having it in the family room because I knew she could enjoy it from her kitchen window at night, but no one else could see it there unless they drove into our driveway. In the sunporch, everyone can enjoy it when they pass the house at night.

When I was young all Christmas lights were big fat things in multicolors. I remember when the first small ones came out they were greeted with mixed feelings. But they soon caught on and now everyone uses them, with the possible exception of a few nostolgic folks still clinging to the old ones. There's something wonderful about the way the tiny bulbs twinkle from between the brances, blinking and winking as you pass them.

We also have an outdoor tree that we've lit the past few years but this year it needed to be re-done. We've left the lights on it year round so some of the strands now need to be replaced and its easier to re-do the entire tree. So that's the project this year and my husband and son have already spent a few hours on it. They put strands on, then wait until dark to see how it looks, then work to fill in the spots that need more. It's a work-in-progress and will be done by this weekend I think. It's the most beautiful when there's snow on the ground, but I'm not wishing for that yet. Maybe in a couple weeks.

I love all the lights at Christmas!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Schedules

This is really a busy time oif the year and I always find myself pretty frustrated about the fact that there are so many events on the calendar for the town and not nearly enough time to participate in them all. I want to do everything.

Here's a typical conversation I have with myself every week in December when The Star comes out. "Hmmmm" (I think as I'm reading through the articles) "...let's see now....there is a wreath-making workshop in Bridgehampton Saturday. That would be fun to go to...I could make a wreath for the back door...." (and then to the next page) "....oh look at that - a Chrismas Stroll around the village...that would be fun to do......" and then "I would love to go to that concert Saturday night" and "I wonder if I can get to that church to see their pageant Sunday...."

I want to do it all and be part of it all and alas, there are already things on the calendar. So my conversation also includes "Oh no, that's the same time as our choir rehearsal" and "oh darn it - we have to go to that Open House that night" - why can't we spread it all out just a little bit longer?

My calendar is full this month and its all wonderful stuff. But there just aren't enough days on the page to get it all in. I don't mind being busy because there will be plenty of time in January to sit back and relax. For now I'm just going to keep running...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Streetlights

For the past two weeks or so I've watched as the village crews worked to get the lighting done along Main Street. They have to string all the electrical wire, along Main and Newtown, which they did two weeks ago. Then this week they began setting the trees out, stringing the lights to connect to those wires, and getting everything in place for the Santa Parade today. Traditionally the lights are turned on today. I know many of the shops have been done for weeks now, but the official village lights only started appearing this week.

It takes weeks for the crews to get all the lights up. It used to be only the street trees, the one in Town Pond, and the one down in front of the post office, but over the years they've added more. Now they also hang lights on the large pine tree near the railroad tracks on Methodist Lane, and the arms of all three village windmills. It takes them a long time to get them up and then a long time to take them all down again. But I think it's one of the greatest pleasures of living here. I look forward to it every year and watching them start the preparations before Thanksgiving just adds to the anticipation.

From now through January 1st the windmills will be standing with pride along Main Street, lights reaching to the sky and reminding us of our heritage here in East Hampton. And those street trees, a long-held tradition here, may cause controversy when any little change occurs (like the color of those lights!) are a wonderful piece of tradition that make all those of us who have spent our entire lives in East Hampton feel very much at home. Some traditions are well worth keeping forever.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Choppers

I used to have a fantasy that involved one day owning a motorcycle and driving cross country with my husband - each of us on our own bike, seeing the country up close and personal. I think the metro area is not the best place to be biking, but once into the mid-west with the open plains and corn fields, I think it would be heaven. But twenty years as an EMT on the local volunteer ambulance has cooled this particular fantasy. We call motorcycle drivers "organ donors". Enough said.

But the fantasy still rolls around in my brain every once in awhile and I suppose that's why I've enjoyed watching "Orange County Choppers" over the years. I found the family dynamic fun and interesting and loved seeing all the bikes and how they were fabricated.
As anyone who's watched this show on TLC can tell you, its lost some of its appeal these past few years because of the family feud and break-up. The dynamic is changed and its not as much fun as it used to be. I still watch it but tend to fast-forward through a lot of the soap opera that dominates the show now. Father and son don't even speak and I just don't want to know how they feel about each other. As far as I:m concerned there are big egos at work and someone needs to be the bigger man and let it all go. But in any case - its not what it used to be.

I think since I can no longer allow myself the fantasy of crossing the country on a bike, I'll have to settle for watching old reruns of "Easy Rider" on television. Maybe I should buy myself a copy - it must be out on DVD, right?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Houses

Last weekend was the Historical Society's annual Holiday House Tour here in East Hampton. I was on the committee that planned the very first of these house tours. It wasn't much of a committee really, there were only three of us: two members of the board and the society's director. We sat in the beautiful Main Street home of the other board member, who lived in one of the most beautiful and historic homes in the historic district, and talked about how we could possible raise some funds by talking a few folks into letting a couple hundred people traipse through their homes on Thanksgiving weekend. He was willing to open his home and he know some of his neighbors......and so it began.

That first year (probably at least eighteen or twenty years ago now) the Saturday after Thanksgiving was cold. I think it was less than 10 degrees outside. I was stationed inside the door at the grand house that started it all, and could only allow fifteen people inside at a time. Let me tell you, there were some unhappy people standing on that porch at times! It was a good experience for me in being stern yet friendly, not an easy task! But the tour was a great success and we've been doing it ever since.

I worked at those house tours every year for many years. However, when my kids began leaving home to live on their own and Thanksgiving became a time when they all came home, I became less willing to give up an entire Saturday afternoon to work. So now I've started a new tradition and my daughter and I attend the house tour when she's here over the holiday. This year's was exceptional, with weather more like Spring than late fall and the temperature climbing into the low 60s. No coats necessary and no hard feelings if anyone had to wait outside for a few minutes! The houses were amazing, and as we do every year we "oohed" and "aahed" over the spacious rooms and gorgeous decor. There are always ideas to bring home and we love seeing the beautifully appointed spaces. It's like a little fantasy for an afternoon, going from house to house, each more lovely than the other, and thinking about how wonderful it would be to live in them.

No doubt I will work at future house tours. But for now I'm happy to attend them, grabbing little glimpses of how some lucky people live here in East Hampton. And  raising lots of money for the historical society in the process! As Martha would say, "It's a good thing!".

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Years

Thirty-seven years. As of today, that's how long I've been living with the same person. Wow.

When I married my husband I was twenty-two years old. For a long time now I've been married longer than I lived as a single person. When I think about just how long its been it boggles my mind a little because in so many ways it seems like yesterday. Our lives become more of a puzzle as we age, our early experiences still so fresh in our minds as though they only just happened. It seems odd that so many years have passed. Weren't we just planning our wedding? And then our family? And now here we are with grandchildren. Somehow it doesn't all compute. When old memories are as fresh as new ones it really is difficult to get our minds around sometimes. One of the problems with aging! 

Well I feel very fortunate to still be married after thirty-seven years, and even more fortunate to still be enjoying my life. I have few regrets and none of them have to do with who I married! He's not perfect, by any means, and I would never tell anyone marriage is a bed of roses! It's a real challenge and takes work - and the right combination of people to make it last. Some of it is pure luck. I fully accept the fact tha anyone who could live with me all these years has to be pretty rare. Most people would have walked a long time ago.

So today is a milestone. Not in anyone else's mind of course, but in my life it is. And I imagine my children are pleased that we're still together, as much in love as we ever have been. I am fascinated at the way love evolves over the years in a marriage. Different - but not better or worse - just different as the years pass. Marriage may not be easy but it's definately worth the effort, and after nearly forty years it's richer and more satisfying in many ways. It's becoming a rare thing to be married this long. There's something very comforting about knowing it can be done.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Decorating

Having the grandchildren here over Thanksgiving was a real boost in the decorating department. They helped put up the Christmas tree, hang the stockings, and get the wreaths on the windows on the front of the house. We're way ahead of last year already!

This week I'll need to get the rest of the decorations down and do up the house with all the little touches I love, like the holiday throw pillows and table runner. I like to do the mantel with greens and pine cones and I love having lots of candles everywhere. So there's still plenty to do. But getting the tree up is huge and this week we'll start lighting the outdoor tree, which is wound with lights on all the branches. From the outside the house will be done. I think I'm getting into the holiday spirit!

So....I need to address cards and get my calendar organized...we're staring December 1st in the face now. Time to get serious.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lights

In the past, no Christmas lights were seen on the streets until after Thanksgiving. I noticed two weeks ago some of the windows in the village were being decked out for Christmas, with trees and snow and lights galore. It seemed a bit early and I wished the would wait a bit. I remember well from my years working in the village, that one week after Thanksgiving weekend was the Santa parade so all the stores would be hustling to get their windows done up in time for that. The fist Saturday in December was the day that all the lights were turned on, from the trees that lined the streets to the storefronts and business windows. Wreaths appeared on doorways and the windmills and within a week East Hampton was transformed into a beautiful little Christmas village. No longer!

By the time Thanksgiving rolled around most the stores were already decorated. So many are corporate stores now and they are done by professionals. Again, not like the old days! I remember decorating many shop windows in my lifetime - places I worked summers or part time - or knew the owners who were familiar with my flair for the dramatic. I loved decorating for the holidays! No one would think of hiring someone to do that task! But now its more the norm than not in East Hampton. The windows are gorgeous of course, but I will admit to missing the simple ones from my childhood: a decorated tree, perhaps a Santa - nothing spectacular, but simple and nice.

I think the difference between the East Hampton of my childhood and the East Hampton of today is never any more evident than in the window decorations at Christmas. It seems like a small detail but it jumps out at me ever year.  Things have changed. The windows are beautiful but I can't shop in the stores. It's like when I was a kid and my mother would say "Look but don't touch! We can't afford to buy it!".

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quiet

The house is going to be quiet today because the family is all leaving. The energy and excitement that the little ones bring will leave with them and we'll be left to smile over the memories of yet another great Thanksgiving. What a full and wonderful week its been.

Now I'll take advantage of the quiet and make sure I'm organized for the next weeks. I am a "list" person and once I get everything on a list I immediately feel more relaxed and in control. I will make my lists today in the quiet of this house. I'll make lists of things I still need to buy, places I need to go, appointments coming up, meetings, etc - and I'll put everything in prioritized order. And by tonight I'll feel as though I am going to breeze through December and most probably, I will.

Being organized is what I'm all about.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The starting bell

I sort of think of Thanksgiving as a sort of "starting bell" - like the bell that used to ring in school to let us know it was time to change classes. The bell rings and we immediately jump into action, in this case, thinking and planning for Christmas. The bell rings and we head off in all directions, busy doing all the things that go with making this a wonderful time of the year.

I have most of my shopping done and have even wrapped many of the gifts. I need to do that because I buy over 50 and if I waited until the very last minute I just couldn't do it. Or, I'd be busy doing that alone and nothing else would get done. I prefer to participate in as many holiday events as I possibly can and count entertaining as one of my greatest pleasures. I love to have a houseful of company. I have a sign in my kitchen that says "Love, laughter and friends always welcome" and that's the way I feel. My back door is always open and I love seeing friends and family walk through it. So for me, the holidays are all about being with people we love.

So the starting bell has sounded. Time to start baking cookies, sending out invitations, finish wrapping and planning, and keep running forward toward the goal. And the goal? The goal is always the celebration of life and love. Let's go!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gatherings

This is a day when families begin dispersing, heading home after yesterday's holiday. It saddens me that my extended family has become so large we no longer get together for the major holidays, but thankfully we all live close by and see each other regularly anyway. Yesterday, while I was wishing I could see those that weren't at my house, I remembered something I hadn't thought about in while.

When I was young I worked as a travel agent. The only other people in the office were the older couple who had founded the business, probably in their late 50s or early 60s at the time. Because we worked so closely every day I became quite close to them and we knew a lot about each others' lives. He had been in the diplomatic service under King Farouk of Egypt and when the king was overthrown he was unable to return. He had married an American girl from San Francisco and they had been living the high life in New York City, in an apartment at the Waldorf Astoria, but suddenly everything was gone: his money, his career, his family. So they came out to East Hampton to the only home they owned, a small house near Montauk Highway on Egypt Lane. And since they were well-traveled and knew the world, they opened a travel agency.

They were interesting people and I grew very fond of them over the years. But the one thing that seemed so foreign to me was their holiday celebrations. They spent all their holidays alone, just the two of them, cooking a capon with stuffing and gravy instead of a turkey. I was used to huge family gatherings, with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents in abundance. To me, their experience didn't even seem real to me. What kind of holiday was that?

Over the years I've learned the holidays are all about being with people you love. Mine are still full of family, spanning the generations like a Normal Rockwell cover on the Saturday Evening Post. But honestly. as long as I was with someone I loved, I'd be content. Just like my former co-workers, I would enjoy being with anyone I cared about, whether one or one hundred. I love having lots of people around on these special days, but if I were ever to find myself with a small crew, I think I could handle it. I'd think about my old friends, long gone now both of them, and the way they celebrated their holidays with each other, together. How lucky were they!?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving thanks

Many years ago our ancestors were smart enough to realize that they needed to take time out of our lives to give thanks to God for their good fortune. And we have gratefully continued that tradition in this county in the form of a national day of thanks. It's a non-denominational. ecumenical occasion to stop for one day and think about our lives and all that make them full and blessed. There are few in this country that don't have something to be grateful for. There may be poverty here and there will always be loss and grief among us, but most of us have an abundance of the things we need to sustain and enrich our lives: food, family, friends, and shelter. We pride ourselves as Americans on taking care of each other and generously helping those less fortunate. For the most part we succeed.

Whenever I find myself wishing for some material thing or another, a new car for instance, or an updated bathroom, all I need to to is stop for a moment and think about the fact that the majority of the world's population doesn't even own a car or have indoor plumbing. I am always humbled.

Besides, I have people around me that I love, I have a more-than-adequate roof over my head, and I have more food than is even healthy for me, otherwise I wouldn't need to attend Weight Watchers meetings on a regular basis. In short, I have nothing I need. I have an embarrassment of riches. I think, actually, we all do.

So this day, this national day of thanksgiving, may we not only be grateful for what we have, but may we not take it all for granted either.

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Our town

East Hampton is still, in so many ways, a small town. I was reminded of this again last Saturday night when we went to the Amagansett Firehouse for dinner.

Last month a fire at Scoville Hall left the Amagansett Presbyterian Church, along with many community groups, without its wonderful meeting hall. Sunday School classes and church offices were taken away as well as the place the church met for meals, and space for so many other organizations also disappeared overnight. Among those that were displaced, and also lost many valuable records and artifacts, was the Masons. They had been meeting there for years and some of their relics were gone in the blaze. Last Saturday night they put on a spaghetti dinner to raise money to help the church rebuild. I was impressed by the fact that they weren't looking to pay for the replacement of their own lost items, but to assist in the church's effort to make a new and improved place for community members to gather. So we bought some tickets and took some friends down at 6:00.

There was a long line at the door to get seating. The dinner started at 5 and we arrived at 6 and as some folks finished and left, others took their places. Hundreds of tickets had been sold and many more people came in off the street so the place was packed. As Masons ran back and forth carrying large trays of spaghetti and meatballs to the diners, old friends and acquaintances chatted amiably at tables and while waiting in line. No one seemed annoyed or put out by the long wait for a place to sit and there was laughter and banter coming from every direction. I recognized nearly every face, if not by name at least by sight. This was a small community at its very best, coming together to support each other in an effort to do something good for the whole. There was no mention of church affiliation or special membership and no one cared that it was noisy and crowded. It was all of us together, making our town a better place simply by caring enough to make the effort to be there. It wasn't only about the financial contribution, it was about the fact that we were all making a simple statement: A part of our community has been hurt and when part hurts we all hurt and we're all going to work together to get the healing process moving.

This was only the first of what I'm sure will be many events aimed at rebuilding Scoville Hall. I hope to be at many of them. Because there's no better feeling in the world than being part of a community like this one.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Baking

I love to  bake and the holidays are among my favorite times because I get to bake almost non-stop. As a lover of every type baked good ever invented, it's a downfall of mine for sure, but the holidays are perfect because most everything is either given away or used up for parties. I freeze cookies by the dozen and use them for hostess gifts and Christmas give-aways. So its the best of both worlds - I get to bake to my hearts content and rarely over-indulge.

In the coming weeks I'll be making spritz, chocolate chips, pinwheels, brownies, checkerboards, pecan balls, etc, and filling the freezer to the top with plastic bags full of colorful goodies. But before that can happen I need to clean out that freezer and that's my job for today. Some things will get tossed - others eaten - and I'll have lots of room for my yummy creations that I'll fill in no time at all. It's one of my holiday traditions that I especially enjoy.

This week marks the real beginning of the best time of the year. We all have our traditions and family favorites and we love the things that make us feel grounded and content. It's a wonderful time of life, and I'm going to savor every moment of the next month, celebrating family and friends, and of course, the reason for the season.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gabby Giffords

Last week I watched a special about Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. She's the one who was shot in Arizona last spring, suffering a severe head trauma and yet miraculously survived. What an inspiration she is.

She is now, after months of long and difficult physical therapy, walking and talking quite well. She is able to communicate and they are predicting that she'll make a great recovery in time. The most striking thing to me was her indomitable spirit. She is an amazing woman.

I truly strive to be the kind of person Gabby Giffords is. I want to be a fighter who never gives up and always faces life's adversities with a smile. She isn't angry or bitter, she's just working hard to deal with the cards she's been dealt. I want to be like that. I know I need to work hard to get there. But I am trying.

I wish we could bottle up the spirit of Gabby Giffords. If anyone ever personifies the American spirit its her. How fitting that she serves as s congresswoman in her home state. They're so lucky to have her.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Late night

I am often a restless sleeper. If I'm stressed, or worried, or simply juggling too many things at the same time, I have trouble getting to sleep. So I often put a robe on and go downstairs to wile away some hours in front of the television and using the laptop.

What always strikes me is the peacefulness of the nighttime. When I look out my front windows the lights are bright on the street - one of the realities of life in the village where I can see commercial properties from my house. So the night is always illuminated here, but still peaceful. Few cars pass by and the field across from us is empty and still. Sometimes the wind howls but usually its very quiet.

If I'm up at midnight there is still some decent television on but once we move into the early morning hours of 3 and 4 the offerings are pretty sad. I can buy anything at anytime between the shopping channels and the paid advertisements at that hour, but there aren't any funny men to keep me entertained.

Sometimes I wish my husband would join me but he is a sound sleeper and it just as well. I'd like his company and someone to talk to but would feel guilt later when he struggled to stay awake at work. I wish I had a telephone buddy who I could call to share my late night worries but I don;t think I'll resort to any of the phone services out there. That;s a road I don;t think I'd like to go down!

So I simply enjoy the night for its peacefulness. And maybe that sense if peace will spread my way and help me finally drift off into a blessed and needed sleep. One can only hope!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Humankind

I was so touched recently by the contrast between the good and bad in humankind. One minute I was so depressed and angry over the stupidity and arrogance of one person and the next I was marveling at the goodness of another. It was enough to bolster my faith in this race of ours.

We have a small rental apartment that belongs to my extended family. It's a modest place that we've tried to use to help provide affordable housing to some local single or couple. In September a young man rented it and was immediately a problem. Clearly it was being used as more of a flop house than a living space and we let him know in November that he had to leave. The day we re-entered the space to evaluate it for the next tenant, I was disgusted beyond belief. He had left it with hundreds of dollars worth of damage. Most of it was simply of the retribution type, like taking the elements from the stove and all the light bulbs. It saddened me that anyone would be so horrible. It depressed me that anyone could be so vile.

The same day I got word that someone who barely knew my daughter had extended himself in an unusual and very generous way. It was as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Suddenly I realized that good is made more profound by the bad. And life sweeter by the bitter. Life is too short to be angry or bitter. And there is too much good in the world to be overshadowed by the bad.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Perfectly fine

I'm so enjoying the weather this fall. Despite the lack of foliage, its been a really wonderful season, with warm days and cool nights and lots of beautiful scenery. The grass is still nice and green and the sky still a lovely blue, but the days are shorter and shorter and the temperature slowly finding its way to the lower end of the thermometer.

I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving this year. Most of the family will be here and the house will be full for most of the week. The kids will keep us busy and they'll help with the holiday preparations. I look forward to having the kids around the kitchen and always love the company during the early morning hours.We'll be industriously making pies and cakes and they'll most likely love helping get the tables set and ready. Daisy is nearly ten now and she's a great help in the kitchen, jumping in wherever she can to lend a hand. Tucker and Lucy, ages six and five, will be all too happy to decorate I'm sure. It's always fun to have the kids in the house. And having my daughter is a special treat, with lots of mother/daughter time.

Holidays are the best and next week is the kick-off to six weeks of non-stop busy, crazy, wonderful fun. I can't wait.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mom

This would have been my mother's 86th birthday. I run into people that age all the time - why couldn't she have lived 86 years?

I see my mother in faces everywhere - at the hospital, on the street, in the grocery store. I find myself going out of my way to be kind to elderly ladies about the age she would be now, holding doors open and offering to help them with bags or other things. It seems as though by reaching out to them, I'm somehow touching my own mother's. Silly, I know, but nonetheless true. It's been nearly five years since her death and yet she still appears around corners every so often. And when I see people who remind me of her, who are the age she should be, I think about life and what a puzzle it all is.

My faith tells me that there are mysteries which we will never - can never - understand. Death is one of them. Who decides the number of our days, and what are we to make of the grief when loved ones are taken from us? I look forward to the day when I can ask God the many questions I have, especially about death. But in the meantime I simply give it all over to the one who knows the answers and hope one day to get them for myself.

Certain dates are always meaningful to us and this will always be one for me. This is the day my mother was born in 1925, a very auspicious occasion indeed. And how grateful we are, her four children, thirteen grandchildren, sixteen great-grandchildren, and various spouses, for what that day meant to us. Just as Clarence the angel says in "It's a Wonderful Life", "Each life touches so many others that when they're gone they leave a terrible hole." I just wish she could have been with us a little bit longer. But then, with people we love, is it ever long enough?