Monday, January 31, 2011

Snow days

When we were kids snow days meant certain things. Usually it meant making a snow man in the front yard. There was always hot chocolate on the stove top that my mother would make from scratch in a big pan - no powdered mixes in those days! And very often it meant that in the afternoon, after we were all inside recovering from our hours in the snow, my mother would make fudge. Yum!

Just thinking about sitting in front of the television watching an old movie (there was no such thing as a DVR or video recorder so we had limited choices of things to watch. We only had two good channels, both from Connecticut, and afternoons brought us the "Big 3 Theater" which was always a classic movie and the source of much of my movie knowledge). So when the snow was falling so beautifully the other day I sat on the couch watching it and I could literally smell the aromas of the home of my childhood. There was the scent of wool mittens drying on top of the cast iron radiators that were pumping out some serious heat. There was the undeniable smell of our wet dog who had been outside running around with us as we threw snowballs and created igloos. And the luscious smell of fudge being made on top of the snow: melted butter, sugar, and chocolate being stirred together to create a rich, sinful concoction we would gobble up as soon as it was cool enough.

It's no wonder I'm always compelled to bake on snowy days. This week it was pork dinner in the crock pot and a chocolate layer cake. But truthfully, I wanted some fudge made by my mother.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Personal histories

As I've grown older I've given more thought to the way our experiences in life shape who we are. In so many ways we have no control over our destinies as our personalities and abilities are shaped by things that just happen to us: the country and town we're raised in, the family we're part of, the school we attend, the friends we make, the directions we go and the choices we make when we're still to young to truly understand the consequences. Luck seems to play a tremendous part in who we are as adults and how we view the world in general. Is it "fate"? My faith tells me its more than fate, but I still believe that our life story could have been different if circumstances had been.

For instance, how would my personality be different if had been raised by a father who praised me for the things I accomplished rather than criticize me for everything I did? How changed would I be had I attended a private school or been raised in the city where my friends would have been different and my stimulations changed? How about the people I met as I grew and matured: my husband for instance. If I had married another, where would I be now and would I have children?

Life is such a mystery that I very much look forward to getting to the pearly gates some day where I can ask all those questions and find out, hopefully, the answers to those and many more. There must be answers. The big question is do I really want to know them?

I've had a wonderful life. Best maybe to simply sit back and enjoy it all and not ask so many questions!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Slush

We've certainly had our share of slush here on the East End this winter! In a normal winter we get a little snow, it lasts a day, and then melts away and disappears. Sometimes we get more than a little and it lasts a week. But that's a normal winter in East Hampton! This winter has been a bit unusual.

Our pattern this year is snow, slush, ice, slush, ice slush, snow, slush, etc, etc. The snow has been sticking around, turning to slush but then freezing, and setting up a pattern of melting, freezing, melting for weeks at a time. It's been tricky to get around and treacherous for the elderly among us (so far I'm not putting myself in that category, although perhaps others might).

I'm anxious to see the ground again without a coating of ice on it. I want to walk out my back door without worrying about how slippery the deck is, or whether the snow has ice beneath its surface. I prefer the temperatures in the 40s where rain rules the skies and snow is not long to be here.

Of course, this is nearly February, which is exactly when we begin to long for Spring. And March will soon appear on the horizon and hope springs eternal. And this is why I love the seasons - especially here in beautiful East Hampton.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fuel

I hate fueling up my car.

I know that's a silly thing to use the term "hate" about, but it just isn't something I want to do and I put it off until I am dangerously low and the fuel indicator on my dash board says "reserve". I hate being such a procrastinator, but there you are.

When I was growing up I thought a trip to the gas station was pretty cool. Each brand had signs offering some special give-away or another. We collected sets of glassware, dinnerware, green stamps and plaid stamps. We were given all sorts of freebies with a fill-up and every one was an occasion. It meant a nice man coming out of the door, pumping the gas, cleaning the windows and checking the oil. Usually he would also chat with the driver, exchanging pleasantries and sharing a laugh or two. They became friends. Often the station also had a repair bay and the same people who pumped your gas also worked on the car when it needed an oil change or brake job. My how times have changed.

Now a trip to the gas station means pumping it yourself, regardless of the weather. It means you usually get back into your car smelling of gasoline and feeling like you need to wash up. It's especially unpleasant when you're dressed in good clothes for work. If you're lucky, there's someone inside a building nearby in case you need to ask a question or buy some anti-freeze. But I think its fair to say its been a very long time since they had bonus gifts to hand out.

Our love affair with our cars has never faltered, but truthfully the gas station visit is not what it used to be. I really hate having to fill up my car.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wonderland

Yesterday I had many things to do and the snow could not stop me. I drove the ambulance to an ambulance call early as the snow started falling and it was pretty as it covered all the dirty piles of old snow. An hour later when I was coming back from Sag Harbor the roads were beginning to be covered with white, with the wind blowing patterns of froth, all swirls and curls on the asphalt, giving the appearance of ripples on the water.

Back in East Hampton I stopped at home and then had to run to church so I drove slowly down Egypt Lane and turned onto David's, which had a layer of fresh white giving it the appearance of a tunnel, with tree branches reaching over the top to touch above my car. Up ahead a single deer slowly crossed the street, no doubt thinking she was safely in the woods without a human or automobile in sight. It was the very picture of peace and tranquility.

It was a beautiful snow, with big fat flakes taking no time at all to cover the world in marshmallow fluff. Coming in the house later in the day to the smell of a pork dinner in the crock pot was the icing on the cake. I had to bake a chocolate layer cake just to complete the perfect winter day.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Regal

I saw a great movie last week called "The King's Speech" with Colin Firth. Now Colin Firth has been a favorite of mine for a long time and I always enjoy seeing him in a movie, especially period pieces like Jane Austin. But this movie really cemented his place in my heart and I'm now having a true "movie star crush" on the man. He was magnificent on screen.

But the real thing that I came home from the theater with was an appreciation for the clothes. I never truly appreciated what a difference expensive clothes make in the way a person looks, but in this movie it was clear who was royalty and who wasn't, not only by the way they carried themselves, but by the cut of their clothes. Colin Firth, who played King George VI looked magnificent all the time. His clothes were beautifully cut, hung perfectly on him, and he always looked impeccably, well, regal. From his beautiful black top coat to his tuxedo and his medal encrusted uniform, he was the very picture of a king and I could only imagine that putting on those clothes made him stand a little taller and hold his head a little higher. Geoffrey Rush, on the other hand, played his elocution coach and was always rumpled and appropriately lower class in appearance, as the rest of us would have been. Oh he was always in a nice suit and dressed as any professional would have been in that era, but the clothes were just different. They were surely cut, as they say, from a different cloth. Perhaps the old saying is true: clothes make the man. The queen's clothes were equally beautiful, with matching hats and beautiful suits to fully encase the royal head, arms and legs. But it was Colin Firth who had the most screen time and it was his clothes that were the most striking to me.

I wonder how I would feel in a designer gown. Or even a cashmere dress coat or mink stole. Especially something made for me, tailored to me, and beautifully appointed. I think perhaps I might walk a little taller and hold my head a little higher as well. And I'd love to find out!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

End zone

Speaking of pro football and the things that drive me crazy about it, there is this issue of the ridiculously childish displays that take place in the end zone after touchdowns. Do grown men know how silly they look when they dance around in the end zone?

We all know that they're really nothing more than boys in big bodies, but for the most part they at least manage to contain themselves enough to appear mature and responsible. But somehow when they put on any kind of sports uniform they seem to totally regress and become little boys playing sandlot ball in some one's backyard. They dance and they prance, they whirl and they twirl, they jump and they jive, waving the football around in the air like its the torch of the Statue of Liberty. I'm sure they think they're cute. I think they're ridiculous.

There are sports that are more enjoyable to me. Not golf or hockey, but baseball and tennis perhaps. I have a small problem with those little dresses the women wear in tennis, but at least they don't try to disco their way across the net when they win. I consider the uniforms in some sports to be costumes more than anything else. Id like the chance to re-design the uniforms of all the sports and really think in terms of form and function. It could be a nice contest to run. And it would be interesting, for sure.

I wonder what football players would be wearing if it were up to me....

Monday, January 24, 2011

Football

It's impossible to get away from football these days. Am I the only person in the world who doesn't get excited about playoffs and super bowls?

I loved football when I was in high school. I attended every game, even the ones in places like Longwood and William Floyd. I knew all the players, all the cheerleaders, and who was injured or being disciplined. I knew them by their numbers and I new them by their names. So its not as though I don't understand the game, because I do. I know how its played, I understand the terminology, and I appreciate a great pass or run as much as the next person. But I just can't get into the whole professional football craze.

To me, there's something silly about thirty-year-old men in shoulder pads and helmets crashing into each other and causing injuries to the most vital of all things in our bodies - our necks and our legs. I love watching a wonderful touchdown run of 30 yards, skilled athletes dodging and darting around a field of opponents. I even love to see a great kicker accomplish a 40 yard field goal to win a close game. But the tackling? Nope. Hate it. Brutal, senseless, and damaging. I just can't handle it.

And then there is the sight of all those grown men in those silly tight pants and high socks. Weird...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday lunch

I've blogged about Sunday lunch before because its one of the highlights of my week. It's the time my extended family gets together to share a meal and reconnect, keeping our ties strong and our hearts in touch with each others'. But I'm not sure I've ever talked about how it came to be that we have this Sunday tradition.

I don't think it was something my mother ever planned, although we give her credit for it now. In the early days of my marriage, my father would often invite us to stop somewhere for lunch after church on Sunday mornings. But as my children came along and the family grew, eating at a restaurant became more complicated, more expensive, and less fun, so Mom just started saying "Come on over to the house - I made ziti for lunch" and thus began the "Sunday lunch at Mom's" tradition.

Through the years we found our children enjoyed those Sundays as much as we did because there were thirteen cousins and they loved spreading out in my parents big house, breaking into age groups and playing together. We all assumed that when they reached the teen years they'd no longer care about getting together on Sundays but it wasn't so. In fact, as they grew and left for college we were often surprised by a phone call to Mom's house during Sunday lunch. I guess when Sundays rolled around the kids all got a little homesick thinking about the entire family being together at their grandmother's house.

I think Mom saw the value in the Sunday lunch tradition before any of us did because she was pretty adamant about keeping it up through the years. She did all the cooking - usually Italian - but sometimes pot roast or chicken a la king (which was a favorite with the kids). She provided everything from the lasagna and garlic bread to the ice cream for dessert, always remembering personal favorites and often having six or eight cartons of various flavors in the freezer. In the years after my father died it became her Saturday focus to prepare for Sunday lunch. She made her ziti or lasagna and prepared the garlic bread and made sure the dishwasher was run so there would be enough cutlery and plates for everyone. It was only in the last few weeks of her life that we had to step in and help, knowing she wanted to do it herself but sadly could not. When she died we knew we had to keep the tradition going and every Sunday I feel her smiling down on us when we're together.

Unfortunately, none of us has a house as big as hers was and Sunday lunches are a bit more crowded than they used to be. But I don't think any of us minds being shoulder-to-shoulder. I can see now how easy it would be to lose contact with each other without our weekly get-togethers. Our lives are all busy and we travel in different circles, work and social lives taking us in various directions throughout the week. But on Sundays, just as we have for thirty years now, we gravitate toward each other in an almost primal way and find the time to break bread and catch up on our lives.

It's among the basic of all life's pleasures: food and family. And it doesn't get any better than that.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Light

I've already begun to notice the days getting longer and its only been a few weeks since the winter solstice. Is that just my imagination - or wishful thinking? It seems to me that the light is lasting a little longer than it did earlier in December and I'm looking forward to the spring light that's only a couple months away now.

I tend to anticipate each season for weeks and look forward to the changes as they come along. I love the changes and I enjoy the first snow as much as I do the first dinner outside on the deck. I love seeing the bulbs come up as much as I do pulling the wool sweaters out of the closet. I want change in my life because I'm one of those people who gets restless when things are too much the same day after day. I want new challenges and exciting things to look forward to.

When I think about it I'm rather amazed that I've been married to the same man all these years. I rarely stay with anything that long and tend to bounce from project to project, always looking for something new. I'm easily bored with a schedule that repeats itself over and over again and would much rather see a calendar that's full of stuff but never the same. I guess we all need some stability in our lives and my marriage has certainly given me that. I'm married to one of the most stable, sane, calm people I know and the fact that he likes the same routine day after day is probably a good balance for my need of change. I find comfort in seeing him walk out the door ever morning with a banana and briefcase, knowing he'll walk back in it again at the same time every afternoon.

I must drive him crazy.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Time machine

I recently watched a movie about time travel that got me thinking about where I'd go if I could travel anywhere in time. It's an interesting thing to think about, with the past known and the future unknown - which direction to go?

There are many times in the past I'd love to visit. Being present for amazing moments in time would be interesting, like the Sermon on the Mount or the parting of the Red Sea. And who wouldn't want to hear Abraham Lincoln give the Gettysburg address or be in Paris for the World's Fair when the Eiffel Tower was built?

And how great would it be to meet your ancestors? I'd like to spend a day with my great-great grandfather as he took care of the Montauk Lighthouse, or even see my parents as children. I'd like to know what went in to life in East Hampton in the 1700s, the 1800s, and maybe the WWII years. There are so many times in the past that would be wonderful to engage in. I even think it would be fun to visit myself as a child and figure out why I turned out the way I did.

The future is not so simple though. Would I want to see the world in 100 years? Will the world still be here in a thousand? I think it might be fun to attend my own funeral - and I'd love to see my grandchildren as adults. But I'm not sure I want to know a whole lot about the long term. Some things are better not known. I'm not sure my great-uncle would love the things I've done with his house, for instance!

A time machine might be fun to have but then again, life in this day and age is pretty interesting just as it is.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

6

Two of my grandsons turn 6-years-old in the next days and weeks and I've been thinking about how much I love this age.

Interestingly enough as our children grow we often think we'd like to keep them exactly where they are, making time stand still and freezing them at just the very age they are. As infants they're so precious, real little miracles in our arms - smelling of baby powder and sweet breath. As toddlers they thrill us with their accomplishments, crawling, walking, talking, becoming little people. Then they head off to school and at the ages of 5 and 6 they are funny, smart, cute, and affectionate. It doesn't get any better than that! These little guys are so great and I love them to death.

But holding them at this age would be such a waste. Because then we'd never have the joy of seeing them read their first chapter book, or learning to do their multiplication tables. We wouldn't know the thrill of reading a note that they wrote just for us, an "I love you " message or "I hope you come visit me soon".

And then there are the dreaded teen years when we can find so much joy in their accomplishments again when they garner honors in school, receive accolades through music or sports, and turn into amazing adults right before our eyes.

Each age brings with it amazing and wonderful things and I have treasured every single year of each of my children's lives. And now, they're bringing me grandchildren so I get watch and participate in the miracle all over again. I'm so glad they grew up!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Aging...gracefully....?

Sometimes I'm shocked when I look in the mirror. I expect to see a young, somewhat attractive woman and instead there's this old gal staring back at me that I barely recognize. The face is familiar, I recognize the eyes a little, and the mouth, but the skin is totally not mine and those lines and blotches - how did that happen?

I've come to the conclusion that at the age of 50 things begin to go downhill in the physical attribute department. The skin slowly goes south, the complexion color changes, the lines form - they're subtle and slow changes but they accumulate after a few years and by now I'm really beginning to see the difference.

Of course photos are especially telling. For so many years I never noticed the difference in my photos and had to guess when they were taken by my hair style or clothes. (Certain clues usually jump out at me, like shoulder pads in the '80s.) But now, when I see a photo that was taken only ten years ago I'm aghast! Wow! Look how young I look! It's shocking.

And then there's the other telling experience - running into an old friend that I haven't seen in a long time. I walk away thinking "Boy - they've really aged......hmmm.......wonder if they're saying the same thing about me......".

Ah yes - the face in the mirror. At the end of the day I smile at her because she's still there. I'll take the wrinkles and the age spots because honestly, they mean I've survived. The alternative is to be like Marilyn Monroe, forever young in our minds, but a sad, short life. I choose the face in the mirror.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ice

Our beautiful snow has turned to ice for the most part. There is a heavy crust of it atop all the white, and the places which have been shoveled are pretty much a sheet of the nasty, slippery stuff. The days of melting and freezing have taken their toll and to say its treacherous getting around is an understatement. Not the roads - they're fine - but the walkways and driveways are a mess. We need a few days in the 40s to get rid of it now.

Some of the back woods areas are still beautiful though. The snow that fell was very heavy and wet and it looks as though someone came along and just dripped globs of white icing over everything. Some trees are bowed with the weight of it and blobs of ice covered snow cover all the hedges and bushes along the way. The final hours of the storm left a nice fine layer but under that is inches of icy stuff that accumulated when we fell into that rain/ice/snow pattern so common out here on the East End.

I think I saw the number "40" on the weather chart for today and I'm hoping that pans out. A little more melting would be really nice about now...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Snow mentality

When we had the snow last week I sat in my living room with the fireplace going, listening to the wind howling outside, and thinking about the snow mentality. I had to laugh at myself because there I was with nothing to do - everything was cancelled for the day, Village Hall was closed, the driving conditions were hazardous, and I was not going anywhere, and what was I doing? Wasting time on the computer, just playing.

Now finding a day to do whatever I wanted to would ordinarily send me to work on a closet or the laundry. If I saw an empty day on my calendar I'd write something like "housework" on it and spend my day catching up with all the things that need doing around home. But there I was with a whole day ahead of me and nowhere to go and I was doing....nothing. I was thinking about baking cookies and starting a knitting project. I wasn't even considering a good home project like a closet or floor. What was that about?

I've decided to call it "snow mentality". For whatever reason I look at snow days as "free days" but not for working, for playing. I want to read a book or knit a sweater, bake a cake or make a pot roast. I don't want to clean or organize and I don't want to shovel. Where does this come from?

I'm thinking it comes from childhood when snow days meant no school and no worries. We spent the day watching TV and might make a snowman...if we felt like it. It was all about...nothing. I suppose that mentality has held over to my adulthood because I didn't accomplish anything last week when the snow flew. But I did get a good start on a really cute sweater for one of my grandsons!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Winter Sundays

I love going to the church on a snowy winter day because its never prettier than it is in the snow and, for a few moments at least, its easy to imagine that I've stepped back in time, entering the building in 1866, joining my neighbors in the beautiful pews, and fellowshipping with the community on a cold winter day.

I'm grateful for the heat that the church has now and I don't wish to return to the days when families would bring foot warmers, rugs, and blankets to worship so they could stay warm enough. I'm sure the cold helped them to stay awake during the long sermons that were common then, but having to fill foot warmers with coals to keep their feet from freezing doesn't seem real appealing.

But pulling up to the church must have looked pretty much the same in a carriage as it does now in our car. The snow covers the bushes and grass surrounding the building and makes the roof blend in with the white exterior walls. It's a lot of white, but on a sunny winter day its quite stunning. With the Christmas wreaths on the doors and the green roping around the arched doorway it really is perfectly in keeping with the early Puritan concepts of simplicity and conservatism.

I wonder if my ancestors enjoyed it as much as I do. If I think its a majestic building, surely they did too! I'll be thinking about them as I arrive this morning and I'll say a little prayer of thanks that they decided to settle here all those years ago. How lucky am I for that?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Winter squad

I never mind answering ambulance calls in the middle of the night as long as they are warranted. I do admit to some begrudging feelings toward the people who call us because they're drunk, or hurt their finger, or have some other minor (sometimes perceived) injury or illness that they need to deal with at 3am, but the people that really need us, I'm happy to help. However, in the winter it becomes a real challenge in terms of getting enough sleep.

Some people are very good at going right back to sleep a soon as they get home from a call. I'm not one of them. I find I'm usually pretty wound up and have to calm my mind for awhile before I can relax enough to go back to sleep. With a normal call lasting about 2 hours, and another 30 minutes or more for the "re-entry phase" (trying to relax one's mind enough to sleep again), that's a big chunk out of one's night and sleep deprivation is often the result. But in the coldest months of the winter - like January and February - there is another issue that gets in my way. I find that after spending a couple hours in the cold I cannot manage to warm up enough to sleep. I come home chilled to the bone and climb into bed where our thick down comforter has been keeping my husband nice and comfy. I slide across to where my beloved is sound asleep (he rarely notices I've been gone) and try to take advantage of the warm side of the bed. But it really doesn't matter because, although the rest of my body warms up within about fifteen minutes, my feet are another matter altogether.

First I curl them up to warm up near my body. Then I try turning the comforter underneath them, folding them into a cozy envelope of flannel, but still they stay cold. Short of getting out of bed and running a warm tub of water I fear there is no solution to this dilemma other than time. Eventually, sometimes an hour after I've climbed back into bed, I drift off to dreamland. But I don't dream of swimming in hot springs or lying in the sun - I dream about walking around in the snow barefooted. I'm not sure the feet every trul warm up after the trauma of a winter ambulance call...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Colors

I was thinking recently about how different some things are now than they were when I was younger in terms of color. Specifically, color in fashion.

I don't think I ever saw a man wear pink up until about ten years ago. Nor would they wear purple or lavender or any other color that had previously been considered a "feminine" color. I have no idea how the change happened - there must have been a turning point somewhere, like a designer introducing pink to their men's collection at some point, or some famous person - perhaps a male movie star - photographed wearing a pink shirt - but there was a specific time that suddenly it became OK for men to wear certain colors.

It always seemed odd to me that any colors were "off limits" for men to wear. After all, baby girls could wear blue and no one thought that strange so why couldn't baby boys wear pink? But that was the tradition and so it had been for many, many years.

I love color. I'm so glad men wear lavender, pink, lilac and florals now. I've never seen a man who didn't look good in a pink shirt because its a flattering color for everyone, and my husband now owns pink shirts, blazers, and ties. He also looks really good in lilac, as do the other men I know. My feeling is that a secure person can wear just about any color.

So far I've yet to run into a baby boy in pink though....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Boots

I have a difficult relationship with boots. You know, the kind of winter garb we all have sitting by the back door of our houses to use when it snows. I hate them!

When I was younger - like high school - I could never wear the fashionable boots that were in style. They were high and zipped up the sides and although I was much trimmer than I am now, I could not get them to fit me. I have what's unkindly called "piano legs", which are not very shapely and have thick calves and ankles. I strongly identify with Hillary Clinton - she has them too! The other issue was my very wide feet which were hard to get into high boots. Like many of the fashions of the 1960s, boots just made me hate myself.

Now I've gotten beyond the mental issues but I still can't find boots that are comfortable. Fortunately they come in many styles and shapes now and there are plenty of short boots that I can choose from, but there are few that come extra wide. So I'm left to wear uncomfortable boots that hurt my feet - or go without and slip and slide all over the place, risking a fall. When the snow falls and the ice forms, boots are a necessity.

I have two pair of boots at the back door right now. One I will never wear because they're so uncomfortable and I leave them there thinking when the winter is over they'll go to the dump. The other I'm wearing this winter but the minute I walk in the door they come off, first to protect my floors and carpets and second, to give my feet a rest. But when I'm out and about, if you see me in my boots, you can be assured I'm pretty miserable.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Brrrr

Can I just say it's cold outside? I'm not a big fan of the heat and humidity and I don't mind cool days and nights. But this is rather extreme for us with so many days being so cold and I'm hoping that the pay-off will be skating on the pond soon. Not for me, of course, but for all the kids in town who love to do it. Nothing is prettier than skaters in a natural setting, like Town Pond or Hook. It's the perfect antidote for winter's chill and I look forward to the sight.

Today its snowing. Not as badly as I thought it would be, but snowing. I'm not sure how long it will last but at the moment the world is pretty still out there and not much is moving other than plows and emergency vehicles. Thankfully I was on duty Monday night so didn't have to venture out in this mess to answer the call. I'm hoping there are enough people with 4-wheel-drives to take care of anything that happens today because the longer the snow falls the less likely I'll be able to get out to help. My little PT Cruiser is pretty good in the snow but once the plows bury the end of my driveway I'm in trouble.

The cold weather is a great reminder that spring is coming. And it makes me that much more appreciative of the warmth of the sun when it finally arrives. I think without the winter, spring would not be nearly as sweet. So bring on the snow. Spring is right around the corner!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In the moment

I've noticed that Alzheimer's patients and children have something in common that I admire: they totally live in the moment.

When my mother-in-law was far enough into the Alzheimer's disease to still know us but not be able to function on her own, I had difficult conversations with her because she was so "in the moment". There was no yesterday and no tomorrow for her and she could only talk about what was right in front of her. She would compliment me twenty times for the shirt I was wearing but never ask about her grandchildren. She would talk about the magazine on the table in front of her but not ask about my husband, her son. She had no frame of reference outside the moment she was living. I suppose that's why they have no stress and in her case she was always happy. It's such a horrible disease for the people around someone to watch, but for the afflicted, it's not so bad. They live in a wonderful world of "the moment".

With kids its very much the same. I've noticed that when the ones from another state are here visiting, they rarely mention home. They don't worry about their friends there or what's happening to their pets. They just live here in the now, enjoying every moment they're experiencing. In the same way, as much as they protest about not wanting to leave when the time comes, once they get home we don't hear from them much unless its initiated by us. They are so involved with their lives there, with the friends and activities, they have no time to miss us and again, are "in the moment".

I wish I could be more like that sometimes. I worry too much about tomorrow and think too much about yesterday. I wasted time thinking about things that are not important and it distracts from the present at times. I think its a human thing to see our lives as an arch and not in a moment-by-moment slide show, but it can be debilitating to do so. I'm taking the lesson learned from my mother-in-law and my children and trying to apply it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Energy savers

We have replaced most of our light bulbs with the new energy saver type. You know, the ones that are spirals and have a different color glow. I find them OK but a bit confusing. When I go to Home Depot to buy them there all different styles and I'm never sure which ones are the right ones. Do I want "brights" or "daylights" and what is the difference? There are "soft" ones and "hard" ones and I am lost in the choices.

I also am not happy with the dimmable ones. First of all having to buy specific ones for dimming is annoying, and then they don't work very well. I'm watching one right now that's flickering in the back room because I dimmed the switch a little. When I tried a "3-way" in my living room stand lamp it worked (poorly) for only a couple weeks and suddenly it was no longer a 3-way. I paid a lot of money for that bulb!

I am pretty ignorant of how they work and what makes them different from the regular bulbs. I'm more than willing to do my part for the planet and go as green as possible in my home, but some things are just annoying and this is one of them. And those promises of monetary savings? For the price I paid for all these new bulbs it will be a long time before I see any savings, if ever. We'll wait ad see on that one!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Black & whites

When my children were growing up I occasionally got them to sit and watch an old black & white movie with me. I'm a bit of a movie buff and wanted them to experience some of the classics, like "Some Like It Hot" and "It's a Wonderful Life". It was always a struggle getting them to watch - they were used to seeing things in color and were of the "Sesame Street" generation where things moved fast and there was constant motion. The idea of sitting to watch a movie with no color did not appeal to then at all. So it was especially satisfying when they did indeed sit through one and admitted to enjoying it. I can still hear them laughing at "Some Like It Hot" - I've seen it dozens of times and still find it hysterical myself.

I think this new generation may be a lost cause though. I know my daughters have managed to get them to sit and enjoy some of the classic musicals like "Singing in the Rain" and "Mary Poppins" but I'm not sure about getting them to sit through any black & whites. With their world now, as technologically advanced and fast paced as it is, sitting through a black & white movie would probably be out of the question. But you know what? When I get the opportunity I'm going to give it a good try...some things are just too good to miss out on.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Snow

I have a love/hate relationship with snow. I love watching it fall and I love seeing the results of all the fresh snow. I hate the after-effects.

Our snowstorm Christmas weekend, like the one yesterday, was beautiful. It was a pain for people who had to travel and meant some of the family left earlier than planned but it was so nice to watch from the comfort of my living room. Yesterday it was equally beautiful outside - it's almost magic the way it covers every flaw and fault in the surrounding spaces, disguising objects that might otherwise look out of place or in need of cleaning and making them look perfect just as they are. I see the garden that needs weeding and the forms and shapes are suddenly intriguing. I notice what used to be muddy areas along the roadside now clean and white. And the odd things in the yard, like a discarded volleyball or forgotten boogie board take on the lovely appearance of objects d'art.

Then, two days later the dirty piles along the roads and the icy patches that make travel treacherous appear and I'm ready for it to be over. We were lucky at Christmas, and as is often the case here on the East End, the snow was gone quickly. It came, it stayed a couple days, and it left. It was the perfect white Christmas. Let's see how we fare this time!

If every snow this winter is as cooperative I'll be very happy!

Friday, January 7, 2011

January days

These are the cold and dark days of January but I'm planning to get things done. I have some major projects it's time to start. There are shelves to empty and cupboards to clean out and many other things that need to be done so this is the time to do them. Taking down the Christmas decorations was great because it gave us the opportunity to sweep clean some of the corners and get behind places that don't usually get reached with the vacuum or dust mop. When the furniture gets moved back into place everything feels cleaner for awhile, cleared of the spider webs and dust bunnies that build up in the weeks between moving the furniture.

I always want to make soup in January. With snow predicted for today this is the perfect time for it. I love the comfort foods of winter and soup is the least fattening one so I'm going to take the Christmas ham bone out of the freezer and get it simmering on the stove. Some beans, carrots, onions and seasonings and I'll have the makings of a nice January meal. I rarely eat meat anymore so soup chocked full of ham and beans will taste just right on a cold winter day.

January days are perfect for contemplation, meditation, planning, cleaning, organizing, and most of all for enjoying my home. I love the fact that the cold weather forces us to stay inside more because it's comforting and soul-satisfying to cuddle up for a season, appreciating all the more the sunny, warmer days to come.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A week

We are officially one week into the new year tomorrow and already it seems as though the holidays barely happened. All those weeks of preparation, anticipation, and participation end and we begin a new year knowing that we have eleven months before we get to do it all over again.

East Hampton is wonderful right now. The streets are quiet, the stores are easy to maneuver, and the movie theater is empty - it's a local's paradise. We love being able to drive down Main Street at 8pm and not see another car passing in either direction. It's a time for snuggling in at home, doing projects, reading books, and planning, planning, planning. We have things to do at our house: we need to strip out the home office/sun porch, patch and paint, and install new cabinets and counters to make it more functional. It's one of those spaces that just never has been done right, always put together with leftovers and cheaply constructed and now it's time to make it right. But its a huge job with shelves to empty and plaster to repair and lots of planning to make it work. Then we have our bathroom - badly in need of new flooring and a new shower stall. If we manage to get both those things done this year I'll be a happy camper.

I have plans to work on for various projects. I need to think about the summer and make sure I'm organized so things will run smoothly when the time comes. I'm a woman who always has five or six projects going at the same time, with files and legal pads lying around the house trying to keep everything in place. I have an application to complete for the Village Zoning Board of Appeals, for instance, and plans in the works for a summer Bible School for the kids at church. Both of those will need my attention in the next couple months And I'm continuing my recruitment efforts for the new Ambassador program at Southampton Hospital. In between doctor's appointments, projects, work, and home, I want to put in my volunteer time at various places so I'm contributing to the community. It's a busy life but I like being busy. I think I would have made a good CEO though because I love to head up projects but get bogged down in the minutia of the application and execution. I need a staff to be really effective! I'd be so good at making plans for other people to carry out! My children will all agree to that, I'm sure.

January is a wonderful month, full of blank calendar pages and time to accomplish many things. Time has a way of slipping through our fingers though so I move forward carefully, making sure my priorities are in order and I'm heading in the right direction. I love East Hampton in January.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Goals

With 2010 behind me, being the first really good year in the past four, I'm thinking about what kind of goals I should set for 2011. It's difficult to know what a new year may bring but I'm hoping for a repeat of 2010 and another really good one. By good I mean one with no family tragedies, no illnesses, no surgeries, and no need for major stress. (My granddaughter had surgery in June but all went well and it was a not due to a life-threatening illness or bad prognosis so it was a temporary downturn.)

In 2010 my hair grew back. I had many doctor's appointments but they were all follow-up issues and no decisions or treatments were involved. In 2010 we welcomed a new grandchild to the family when little Piper Francine was born on my birthday. (Now that's a gift that will be hard for my son and daughter-in-law to top in 2011!) In 2010 I enjoyed feeling so well and was able to do things with my family without exhaustion and the need to paste a fake smile on my face.

In 2010 we attended a wedding in Massachusetts of a niece and re-connected with extended family. In the summer the grandchildren from out-of-state visited and we made lots of great memories together. The weather was perfect and the beach was the setting for many wonderful cook-outs and adventures. We laughed and we lived and all in all it was a really good year.

So my goals for 2011 are simple: to live life to the fullest, to make a difference in my community, and to make memories with my family. And that's really what its all about, right?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hospital time

Today will be my first day volunteering at the hospital since the holiday and I'm anxious to see how busy it is. The weeks before Christmas were so slow over there and I surmised that no one wants to schedule tests or appointments during the holidays. Not only is everybody busy in those December weeks but who would want to chance any bad news right before one of the most festive times of the year? I seem to remember that's why my mammogram in 2009 was the first week in January. When I called to schedule early in December they couldn't accommodate me until later in the month and I said "Let's wait until after the holidays!". In retrospect I'm glad I did! What a bummer it would have been to have that diagnosis hanging over my head for Christmas 2008!

So off I go early this morning to see what the new year is bringing to the hospital waiting rooms. I anticipate more people looking for magazines and getting lost in the corridors. I should find plenty to do with myself and hopefully I can assist some of the folks who find themselves in strange territory, stressed and lost and generally in need of a friendly face.

After all. that's why I go over there every Tuesday. To make a difference in someone's life for a moment at least.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Turning off the lights

About this time in January I start wondering about the appropriate time to turn off all the Christmas decorations. Our interior trappings are all back in the attic now but we still have the wreaths on the windows, by the back door, and the Japanese maple adorned with white lights. Is it time now to take them all down or can we wait about few weeks? Hmmmm

I tend to think that January 15th is the date to aim for. although many people still have their wreaths up well into February. I tend to think that's a bit much, over a month past Christmas and in the dead of winter. But perhaps the end of January would be OK. I know my husband was ready to pull the wreaths out of the windows New Year's Eve, but I prevailed on that one. After all, a little cheer for a few more weeks isn't a bad thing, right?

Every year I watch as the trees come down along Main Street and wonder if I should coordinate with the highway crews so our lights are also darkened then. But it takes them a couple weeks to get everything taken down, so I guess I'm safe to hold out for a while. It's actually in the village code that Christmas lights must be down by mid-February, although I'm not sure anyone has ever been cited for an infraction. I confess if I see any of those blow-up Santa's after mid-February I may turn them in myself. But tastefully lighted yards I can deal with until March 1st, I suppose.

I'm not sure there's an answer to the dilemma of what date to turn all our carriages back into pumpkins. The trees will again be bare and the windows empty of candles and wreaths all over town soon enough. I wonder if any of the many etiquette books for sale address this particular issue...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

East End holidays

East Hampton and the rest of the East End is never more beautiful than during the winter holidays and this one has been no exception. The tiny replica of the Hook Mill all done up with lights and a little wreath has been the icing on the cake - I can still see the arms from my living room window, just as I can the big ones when they are done. By next Christmas the renovation will be completed and once again the big ones will reach to the sky with lights, but for this year the miniature has filled in nicely!

By Town Pond the other two mills and the blue tree in the water make the entrance to the village welcoming and beautiful. All along Main Street there are wonderful sights as people put on their best faces for the rest of the community. In my own yard we have a tree wound with white lights, up the trunk and along the branches, and it gives off a lovely glow at night. During the day I enjoy the wreaths that hang in every window and turning off North Main toward home always makes me smile.

Southampton was especially beautiful this year with its Main Street and Jobs Lane decked out in lighted winter trees. The merchants there went above and beyond and we made two special trips there just to enjoy the scene. We haven't yet found our way to Montauk to see the lighthouse but I hope to do that before the lights go out for another year. When I occasionally get off the Main Road and drive down residential streets at night there are always surprises along the way as people find unique ways to celebrate.

Soon the lights will go out for another year and we'll be in the depths of winter. The holidays provide a wonderful break from those long nights and I look forward to them every year. This past one was exceptional I think and I'm sad to see it go. Here's to Christmas 2011!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011

When I was in high school in the 1960s we read the book "1984" and that year seemed so far away. Now here we are in 2011 and I wonder how its possible that all those years have passed me by.

Do I have regrets? Not really. Oh, I may do things differently if I could do them over again. I might have worked harder to complete a college education and have a career, for instance, or found a way to make more money so my husband could retire. But when I look back at my life I see that the things I did - the choices I made - are what gave me the life I've had and its been a wonderful one. So I'm not sure regrets are appropriate.

For instance, had I left home as planned to attend college instead of deciding to stay in East Hampton and spend a year or two thinking about what I wanted to do at school before I went, I most probably would not have married my husband. I can't imagine my life without him. It's been a great relationship and I wouldn't want to be with anyone else. And had we not married, I wouldn't have had the children I did. Each one is a precious gift and I treasure the memories of each as they grew and matured before our eyes. Now, the grandchildren we adore are yet another thing that would not have been the same had I done anything differently. I can't imagine life without any of them!

Life, as John Lennon so wisely reminded us years ago, is what happens while we're busy making other plans. How very true that has been for me in my life. I wouldn't trade a college degree for this amazing family of mine. Nor would I trade any other part of my life for things I may have planned to do or accomplish along the way. Life happened to me and I'm glad it did. Because as I enter into 2011, whatever it may bring to me, it can never erase what's already been. I'm grateful for every year and now I'm looking forward to a new one, with all the good, bad, happy, sad, depressing, exhilerating moments that come with it. And no regrets.