Monday, February 28, 2011

Snow melt

A week and a half ago we drove up-island and were so happy to see that the snow had almost disappeared everywhere. Only beneath the trees and bushes was it visible as we drove along the Sunrise Highway, and mostly on the south side of the road where the sun wasn't able to penetrate as well. We were happy to see the ground again.

Then it snowed again. And although not as bad as it had been (at least the sheets of ice are gone!) we once again were stepping over little piles of white stuff, watching every day as it slowly receded and disappeared. Rain today and its a welcome relief from the white stuff. Most everyone is weary of the winter this year and the leftover snow is just a constant reminder that we're not quite done with it yet. What's here is dirty and well hidden beneath trees and bushes, or in piles in parking lots, but it's nearly over.

I'm happy to say I'm not using boots - this latest snow was light enough that I only wore them one day. After spending over a month in them I'm pleased not to be putting them on and off every time I come in the back door. Hopefully once this all disappears I'll be totally done with them, but I know better than to put them away until April, and even then its tempting fate! I liken it to giving away your maternity clothes! Every woman knows better - its like a curse! So the boots will stay by the door for a while at least.

The snow is melted now and soon the grass will be perking up and looking green again. As Martha Stewart would say, "it's a good thing"!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Who am I?

The sun is peeking in my windows a lot earlier these days and its so much easier to get out of bed! I know there are actual scientific reasons for that, involving the brain's reaction to light, but whatever the reason I'm grateful. I hate dragging myself out from between the covers when its pitch black outside and although I'm doing it at the same time now, it's infinitely easier to manage. That's the up side of the early morning light!

The down side is this: I leave my house for the gym without makeup or hair done and I feel as though if I run into anyone I actually know I'll die of embarrassment. (What's the point of putting on make-up when I'll come home to shower after I work out anyway?) I almost never run into another person so I don't obsess about it, but I do think about it! I fantasize that anyone I know wouldn't even recognize me, but truthfully I know: I don't look all that different!

I remember when I was a newlywed and barely wore make-up at all. I looked the same when I got up in the morning as I did when I left the house an hour later. But as the years take their toll that's no longer the case. The skin changes, the eyes droop, the age spots start to appear. My make-up has become my mask - the "younger" me in my own mind at least. Once its gone the real me appears and every year of my age is fully visible.

So who cares, right? No one but me I guess. I never considered myself a vain person but the older I get and the more I cling to my makeup I find myself questioning my vanity. Perhaps its a normal part of ageing but I find these senior years are sometimes soul shaking. Who am I anyway? It's a question for the ages.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Beatlemania

I saw an ad for the new Broadway production about the Beatles and their music the other day and it really sent me off on a trip of nostalgia. I can hardly believe its been nearly fifty years since I caught the Beatlemania fever!

I was in the 6th grade when they first appeared on Ed Sullivan and that was only the beginning. I was a real fan, with bedroom walls covered over with posters and magazine clippings. I bought all the fan magazines (do they still have those? and if so, who are they about? Justin Beiber?) and I read everything I could get my hands on. I knew their stats and their likes and dislikes and naturally, I was a Paul fan. I thought he was adorable. He still is. When I was in junior high school I saw them at Shea Stadium. And throughout high school they helped define my life with their music - even a few measures of any of their songs will take me right back to a time, a place, or a feeling.

It's been awhile now since there was a phenomenon like The Beatles. Before my generation it was Frank Sinatra that caused the mobs and riots at airports and arenas. There have been teen idols of course, but nothing like what we saw in the sixties. When I look back on it I'm a bit amazed by the whole thing. It was a crazy time!

And just seeing that ad on the television brought it all back. Ah, the power of memory!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Olden days

A friend blogged recently about the fact that his grandson had no idea how to open an old-fashioned bottle of Coca Cola with a bottle opener. When we were kids that was the only way to get into a bottle of soda and there was no such thing as a flip-top or tab-top or whatever they call the soda cans these days, and everyone knew how to use a bottle opener. They were everywhere and it was an easy thing to insert your bottle into the slot on the Coke machine and pop the top off. Nothing tasted better than the first gulp of an ice cold Coca Cola while you were standing in front of that machine at the gas station with your friends.

But what his blog got me to thinking about was the other things our grandchildren will never know. For instance, when is the last time you saw a rotary phone? Believe it or not I have an elderly friend who still owns one, but I think for the most part they're museum pieces now and most children have no idea how to use one. And how would our children do with a car that had no a/c, power brakes, or power steering! I still remember my parents' old car that I first learned to drive on. Turning corners was a workout!

I also remember when you needed a tea pot to boil water and a double-boiler for melting chocolate. And of course we had to actually stand up and go over to the television set to turn it on or off or change the channel. Imagine that! And I seem to recall that we looked forward to the annual showing of "The Wizard of Oz" because there was no such thing as VCRs or DVDs and if we missed the yearly broadcast we were out of luck for another year as far as visiting Munchkin Land went.

My grandfather would be amused at the fact that every couple owns 2 cars - they never had more than one. After all, where would either of them go without the other? And when he went to work my grandmother was perfectly content to be at home washing, cleaning, sewing, etc.

It's a brave new world out there and Coca Cola bottles are only the tip of the iceberg. Spend a few few minutes thinking about the changes in the past hundred years and it's sobering for sure.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Others

Speaking of the Historical Society yesterday made me think all day about the other organizations that are so important to our community and I have to say I think its the spirit of volunteerism and cooperation in this town that makes it the wonderful place it is. Without the people who willingly give of their time and talents to improve the lives of those less fortunate, like the Food Pantry volunteers and the people who deliver Meals on Wheels, and others who work toward to beautification of our home, like the Garden Clubs and LVIS, where would we be?

Among the most iconic of the local non-profits is the LVIS and I think I can say safely that I'm asked at least once a month if I'm a member of that organization. I always answer honestly that I am not, but in fairness I add that I work closely with some other local charities and I simply cannot give any more time to others. I remember when I was in my mid-thirties and my children were all in school, I decided it was time to start getting involved somewhere and I thought long and hard about where it would be. I finally zeroed in on both the LVIS and the Historical Society and in the end went with the latter simply because I felt they needed me more. After all, the LVIS had cache and standing and was "the" group to join. Somehow I knew they'd be fine without me. But the Historical Society seemed less likely to be attracting young people like myself so I gravitated there.

As my children grew I joined more organizations, always carefully considering how much time would be required and whether or not I would be able to give enough of mine. And to those that I cannot join due to lack of time, I gladly donate or work for whenever I can. The LVIS Fair is always on my calendar for working at and the Food Pantry gets my canned food donations, for instance.

Because at the end of the day, every community is only as good as the people who populate it and unless we are willing to give of our time, our money, and our other types of assistance, East Hampton will lose its heart and soul. Our local non-profits tell so much about us and who we are.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Local lore

One of the reasons I love working with the local Historical Society is the opportunities to learn about local characters and stories from years past. For about 10 years now we've had a winter lecture series which focuses on events and people in our history and every year I learn new things about the people that populated this place long before it was discovered by the outside world.

I first got involved with the Historical Society when my youngest was a baby, and he was born in 1985. I was asked to participate in an event they were having on the Mulford Farm grounds, and it was something I could do with my four kids in tow, so I jumped at the chance. After all, I spent most of my days at home with the kids so this was going to be a nice break! I loved the event, which was a festival held on a late Spring Saturday, featuring traditional craftspeople and demonstrations and short vignettes about events in our history. It was a fun and interesting way to learn about our local history and I was hooked. At the time I had so many friends who had moved to the area to raise their families and I was well aware of how little they knew of our heritage here. It became one of my missions in life to help teach local history and work to preserve it through the Historical Society. I've been involved with that work ever since.

I'm glad to say I think my own children have a good appreciation for the story of East Hampton and a desire to pass along its history as I do. It's only through the appreciation of our history that we are able to properly pass it on to the next generation. If we've learned anything its this: our past informs and directs us and we cannot forget it.

So last weekend when we gathered at Clinton Academy to learn about the history and local connections of some of the wonderful toys in the Society's collection, I listened carefully and learned. There's so much still to learn...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mid-winter

I know we're still weeks away from the official start of Spring here in East Hampton, but for some reason this particular week in February always signals the end of the winter for me. I realize we may still get snow, and I know the temperatures will still be low, but somehow it seems as though the season is breathing its last and warmer days are soon to come.

Spring is such an optimistic season - all hope and anticipation. We look forward to the first green shoots to peek through the ground, we rejoice when we see the daffodils in bloom, we thrill at the sight of the buds on the trees, and the first mowing of the grass is like a balm for our souls. The smells, the sights, the action - we love it all. We don't even mind the work involved in getting our homes and yards ready because we're outside in the warm air, just enjoying the weather. Everything looks better in the light of early Spring. and everyone is happier then too!

We may be still in the winter here on the East End, but Spring is teasing us with its momentary visits and glimpses of glory. I'm already thinking about my hydrangeas in blossom...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Addictions

I'm addicted to chocolate and sugar. OK, now I've admitted it. I feel better.

I realized this in 2009 when I started trying to improve my diet and take off some weight. It was a huge struggle to get off both the sugar and the chocolate. I spent a couple weeks trying to kick the habit and it wasn't easy. I craved sugar, I dreamed about chocolate, and I longed for the freedom to consume both of them with abandon. But I found that after the few weeks of torture were over I was OK and could go on with my life without constantly thinking about how nice it would be to grab a little mini-hershey bar. The addiction was broken.

Then along came the holidays and I gave in to the temptations all around me. I thought it couldn't hurt to indulge a little - after all, it was the holidays! I enjoyed candy and desserts, cookies and cakes, pies and tortes. The sugar was heavenly and I was fully hooked once again. A true addict back in the haze of the addiction, always looking for my next fix. It could be a handful of chocolate chips or a couple gum balls, as long as there was chocolate or sugar involved.

So, without the benefit of an intervention I've managed to face my challenge and accept my downfall. And once again I' working on kicking it. I'm not making light of things here, I'm completely serious! I'm still craving it every day, every hour, and thinking about it non-stop. But I know if I can take one day at a time I can get to freedom again. And once again feel like I'm eating well again.

But I really, really want a nice, fresh chocolate donut.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Habits

I seem to be more and more a creature of habit and sometimes I resist it mightily. I'm not sure if this is simply a product of age or whether I'm unique, but it seems as though the older I get the more I enjoy a regular routine and predictable days. I get up at the same time every day, go to the gym, come home to bathe and dress for the day, check my email, blog, eat the same exact breakfast every single day, read the paper, etc, etc. And that's all before nine in the morning.

Sometimes I long for a break in the routine, but at others I feel comfort in it. On the days I want change, I dream of trips to places I've never been and visits to foreign places. I want to get in a car and drive across the country and meet interesting people while exploring unknown places. I get downright itchy to go somewhere...anywhere...and do something I've never done before.

Then there are those days when I'm perfectly content to stay at home, read a book, watch the same old television show, eat the same old food, and know exactly what time the mail will arrive in my box. Because as much fun as a change of scenery is, there's also comfort in the familiar.

So when those moments come - when I'm feeling so restless I want to scream - I try to wait them out and stop dreaming quite so much about the exotic and exciting world out there. Because I know that as much as I long to get out and see new places and things, eventually it will all pass and I'll once again be happy to stay home and find peace among my very own, very simple surroundings. It's s good thing because I don't seem to be going anywhere soon...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Left behind

OK I'll admit it: I always feel a little left out when I'm home over the winter holiday break. In all the years I've been alive I can't remember more than one or two times I ever went somewhere over this break - and that was to visit my daughter in Pennsylvania. I've never actually been "away" on a vacation over this week, but it always seems that just about everyone else in town is somewhere else!

When I go to the grocery store there is never a line at the check-out. If I were to go into any store I'd get great service because there wouldn't be another shopper in sight. So its a nice time to be around, but the fact of the matter is there's no one else around to do anything with! Everyone is somewhere other than East Hampton unless they're stuck here working. except of course for me.

So I'll spend the week wishing I was somewhere else. I'm thinking Key West would be nice, or Disney World with the kids. I can almost smell the tropical flowers in Hawaii and I know that the Caribbean would be nice and warm. I'm thinking it would be a fun time to fly to New Orleans too. There are so many places to contemplate.

Well, the long vacation week is ahead of us now and I can promise you this: if I should run into you on the street or in the IGA, I'll gladly spend a few minutes chatting. You and I will be among the few people around so we may as well spend some time catching up!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Laptop

Who could have imagined that one day we'd be able to put a small computer - no larger than a legal pad - on our laps and work just about anywhere we wanted?

I remember movies going back to the pre-technicolor days (Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn did one, for instance) that featured huge computers which filled entire rooms. They were fascinating pieces of machinery that whirred and hummed when buttons were pushed by an "operator" or "programmer". Sometimes the movies were cautionary tales about the dangers these computers posed for our future - taking over the world and having names like "HAL". But now here I am , sitting in my living room with this thin little laptop computer no heavier than my pocketbook, writing a blog on a website that will broadcast it to anyone who cares to read it by connecting to this vague, strange thing called "the internet". I can't say I really understand it, anymore than I really understand how a television set can show me something being played thousands of miles away, or a FAX machine can pop out a copy of a piece of paper being run through another FAX machine in another state or country thousands of miles away.

I don't think I could deal with smaller computers than my laptop - the keypads on phones are way to small for me to use regularly. But if they can take my spoken words and do all the typing for me, well, that would be a wonderful thing! And it's certainly something to look forward to!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Travel

When I realized that my husband and I would be celebrating significant birthdays next year it occurred to me that we should celebrate with a trip. Now I'm obsessed with the idea.

We haven't had a lot of opportunity to travel in our marriage. The costs, pressures, and care issues of having four children made it really impossible to go anywhere when we were younger, other than the occasional road trip to visit family or friends. As they grew up costs didn't decrease, between tuition payments and wedding costs we were never able to just spend on ourselves so vacations again became nothing more than times to work on our house or yard and travel became a secondary concern. Now that we have grandchildren we enjoy spending our free time with them, but I do sometimes think about the places I've always wanted to see and wish we could take at least one nice vacation a year. My dream trip is one which includes my family - all my children and grandchildren together at resort or on a cruise ship where we can be together as mush as we want but also have the freedom to go our own ways when needed. But I don't see that in our future! Too many children and such diverse lifestyles! Maybe some day.

So naturally, when these birthdays reared their heads travel was the first thing I thought about. For us, these birthdays will signify our survival - the fact that we're both lucky to be here and not taking any of it for granted. I want to celebrate our life together and the fact that we're happy and content to just be.

So now the question is where to go. There's no great budget to work with so we need to think conservatively, but I don't have the knowledge I used to about travel destinations and deals. (In my pre-marriage years I was a travel agent and could tell you exactly where to go to get the most for the least amount of money!) Would it be cheaper to take a cruise, do a drive up the coast in California, take a quick budget-saving trip to Europe in the off-season, or get on a train and see another side of the USA? I'm stumped. With a small budget I have my work cut out for me but I'm also looking for help. Any well-traveled folks out there with a suggestion? I welcome any and all!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dinner

As I worked last weekend on preparations for company I thought about how my entertaining skills and priorities have changed over the years. I've always liked having guests and I love to cook so inviting people in for dinner is something I've always done. I know its not every one's thing, but I like it.

In the early years I stressed and fussed about my house, worrying about how clean it was and wanting perfection all around. It was an unrealistic goal and I should have known better. It caused more stress than anything and I think my family hated those days when I was preparing for company. It wasn't until I realized I was overly concerned with perfection that it became much more fun to entertain. I guess I finally came to the place where I knew that if anyone was uncomfortable with the cleanliness of my house they simply wouldn't come back again so what difference did it make? I also came to a better understanding of what priorities should be when it comes to friendship and having an open table. I learned to create simple meals that can be made ahead with little last-minute preparation. I also learned that candlelight hides a lot of dust and other imperfections. In short, I learned how to relax and enjoy. And stop worrying so much about what other people thought of me. (As Dr. Phil says, "You wouldn't worry half as much about what other people thought of you if you realized how little they do" - in other words everyone is thinking about themselves and their own issues, not about you!)

Anyway- I'm enjoying entertaining in my later years. I'm more relaxed, much wiser, and old enough to not care so much about anything. It's a wonderful place to be!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Yuck!

I'm still annoyed at all those people out there who told me how I would learn to love exercise. They were so wrong!

I lost weight in 2010 and hope to lose more in 2011, but I've learned that the key is exercise. No big shock there - the experts have been saying it for years. But I'm one of those people that was so hung up on the unfair nature of it all that I resisted it. After all, if my friend can stay slim and trim without exercise, why should I have to do it, right? But at some point in life you accept the fact that life in general isn't particularly "fair" and we are all left to deal with whatever the hand is we've been dealt, so just get on with it! And that's the conclusion I finally arrived at. You can fight it all you want but it is what it is and in my case, I need to exercise to be healthy and not weigh more than two normal sized adults. So I do it. And I hate it.

So many people over the years - always the running, working-out, uber-healthy types who fit in one hour work-outs every day or feel lousy - have told me that once I "got into it" I'd love exercising so I will admit to some resentment over the fact that I still hate every minute of it. I wish I could wiggle my nose like Samantha Stevens and get it over with in a flash, but I can't. I grudgingly roll out of bed, pull on my sweats, and drive over to the gym to use the stationary bike, all the while wishing I was home in bed or at the very least, home blogging! I find it such a boring time and I count down the time as though I were waiting for a gift to arrive. I watch the clock as it slowly moves toward my freedom and rejoice in the sound of the "beep" the machine makes as it declares "completed". Finally, I can leave and get on with the real living part of my day.

Ironically, the real "living"starts right there in that gym and my visit with the cardiologist confirmed that last summer when he said my heart was in "great shape" and I was clearly exercising (ah - the satisfaction!). But to me at least, and to many others who are no doubt just like me, it will always be a struggle and never be fun.

Yuck!

Monday, February 14, 2011

V Day

I've always loved Valentine's Day. Not because I like getting presents, although I surely do, but because its nice to have an excuse to tell everyone you love them.

I grew up in a very non-demonstrative family. I don't remember my father ever telling me he loved me, and he certainly never spontaneously showed affection in any way. I've tried to rise above that early training and be better at expressing my affections to the people I care about, but I still fall short and feel awkward at times so I hold a lot in. Valentine's Day is the time to make up for that and make sure everyone knows how much I care.

My family members will get small gifts and cards. My best friend will find a card in her mailbox. A special aunt will find one as well. But it occurs to me that this blog is a wonderful forum for adding to that list of people and letting the larger community know how much they mean to me. Because after going through my surgery, chemo, and recovery in 2009 I love and appreciate the people in my life like never before. I saved every "Get Well" and "Thinking of You" card I received. I wrote in my diary about every kindness, every gift, every phone call. In my memory each gesture is still firmly planted. I will never forget them. even the smallest word spoken in kindness is remembered and I'm quite sure people would be surprised at how I remember the word of encouragement they expressed to me when I needed it so dearly. Very often the most seemingly insignificant thing meant so much.

So to all of you who read my blog, a huge heartfelt thank-you from me for all you did, knowingly or not, to help me through my difficult days. I truly love each and every one of you and I will never, never forget!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bedtimes

I have always enjoyed my sleep. But the hour for hitting the sack has evolved over the years.

When I was young I loved to stay up late and sleep late in the morning. As a teen I thought nothing of staying in bed until 10am on Saturdays. Once I started working it was a necessity to get up every morning at a decent hour but Saturdays were still days for lolling around in bed. Until I got married. Then everything changed.

My husband is an early riser. Even on Saturdays and holidays his idea of "sleeping in" is about 7am. From the beginning I found it pretty much impossibly to sleep in any later than that because once he's gotten up and showered and dressed, I'm significantly awake myself so there's not much point in trying to stay in the comfort of my bed. Early on I tried, but it was a losing battle so I stopped fighting it.

So the big changes have been in the evening hours - when to go to bed? For many years I tried to stay up until my husband wanted to turn in for the night, usually between 10 and 11pm. Since I am one of those people who takes some time to wind down I didn't usually get to sleep until at least a half-hour after I climbed between the sheets, so I was averaging about seven hours of sleep at night. For years I was tired all the time.

Finally some years ago I decided to head upstairs earlier and stop trying to turn in the same time as he did. I generally head up about 9:30 every night. But I find this has challenges of its own. Since I don't nod off quickly, I'm often just starting to sleep when the spouse climbs the stairs and BAM! Now I'm wide awake again. SO I go up earlier but I don't often get to sleep any earlier because now I'm up and have to start the whole process over again.

I've thought about the possibility of separate bedrooms but it seems so drastic. I need at least eight hours of sleep to function well and I don't often get it. But I wonder if sleeping in another room is workable for the long haul. To really make it work I'd need to fully move into the other room so it was comfortable and "homey" for me. I'd need to adjust to new noises and a different bathroom, for instance. And I'd miss the intimacy of sharing a bed with my husband. But the older I get the more I long for that full eight hours of sleep and I don't think I'll ever get it as long as he only needs six or seven.

It's a dilemma.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lincoln

Today is Abraham Lincoln's birthday. When we were kids it was a holiday at school. There were two in February: February 12th - Lincoln and February 22nd - Washington. In the days leading up to those holidays we would talk about each of those famous American heroes and learned what made them great men. We made silhouettes of each and hung them around the classroom.

Now its "President's Day" and I wonder how they mark it in the classroom. Do they make silhouettes of all the presidents? Do they learn about each one of them the was we used to learn about Lincoln and Washington? How do they have the time for that? Do they learn about different Presidents every year? Or do they focus only on the most significant ones? I have to ask my kids!

I'm going to ask my grandchildren what they talk about for President's Day. And I'm going to find out if they still hear the story about George Washington and the cherry tree.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Birthdays

I'm getting really bad at remembering birthdays. It's making me feel old.

I used to have no problem remembering all the birthdays in my family as well as those of my friends. As soon as the calendar page turned I would mentally list the cards I needed to buy and then begin thinking about appropriate gifts to buy. I didn't even have to look at the dates on the calendar - I knew them all. Now I'm lucky if I can remember them when I have them written in front of me.

In all fairness, there are many more to remember. Not only do I have seven grandchildren, but my sister and brother have grandchildren and those dates are also significant. And there are more anniversaries and significant events to remember too. So the calendar is overwhelmed with dates to be mindful of. So although I know some of it is my own age-related memory problem, there is also an overabundance of dates to know. And its not getting any better.

I'm thinking it might be time to keep two calendars - one of my appointments and meetings and the other just birthdays and anniversaries. It might be easier to keep track of everything that way. Or - it could just end up being more overwhelming....

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hair today, gone tomorrow...

My hair has been an ongoing theme on my blogs every since I had to go through the process of losing it all to chemotherapy in 2009. I hated being without hair and spent a good deal of time thinking about the connection between the way I felt about myself and my hair. But now I'm in a new phase, the "I can't cut my hair"phase.

Since my hair started growing back - about 17 months ago now - I've been unable to bring myself to cut it. I had to have the back evened out at one point because when it all grows back from scratch you end up with weird layers, but I haven't "shortened" it at all and I'm having a hard time doing it. But I think its time.

My hair is about shoulder length now. The last time it was this long was when I had my first baby - that was in 1975. Once she came along my long hair was more trouble than it was worth and I cut it short. It's been layered and various stages of short every since then, sometimes longer than others but never all one length like this. Sometimes it remind me of when I was in high school.

Which is, I guess the problem. I realize that at some point I look like I'm working hard to look younger and having the opposite result. I think its time to cut my hair and get back to something easier to take care of and more age-appropriate. But I'm still having trouble pulling the trigger.

Mentally, I need to prepare myself for the inevitable. But I keep thinking about those clumps of hair falling out and its so reassuring to be able to put my fingers through it now and give it a good hard tug - knowing its not going anywhere....

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Health=wealth

When we were young we used to hear our parents and grandparents say things like "When you have your health you have everything" and "Health equals wealth" but it didn't mean much to us. After all, we were young and healthy and took it all for granted so what did it mean to us anyway? Nothing. Now we know better. Oh, the wisdom of age!

For so many years we took our good health for granted. We didn't worry about blood pressure or cholesterol, and we rarely saw a doctor other than when we were having babies, or taking our children to one. So I guess its no wonder we didn't get the whole health-wealth connection. But now, well now we really get it. At least in my house we do. Had things not turned out the way they have we might still be taking it all for granted. But we don't.

When my husband was forty-three he had a heart attack followed by quadruple bypass surgery. We were shaken to our cores as we faced the possibility he would not live through the weekend, no less the next year. Come to find out his cholesterol had been over 300, and probably was that way for years.

Then when I was fifty-six my routine mammogram revealed cancer and suddenly were back again, hanging over the edge of the abyss, looking at our mortality, hoping to hang on for a bit longer. We consider ourselves the lucky ones. We have friends who still take things for granted, never seeing doctors and not worrying about things like mammograms and cholesterol checks. But not us! We go to our doctors regularly and keep up with our tests, knowing that prevention is the best way to keep ourselves healthy. But the ones I really worry about are my children.

Because all four of them - and their spouses - are still in those "invincible years" before forty, before they've seen friends have heart attacks or cancer, before they've had scares of their own. And now is the time they can make the real difference by taking care of themselves. The biggest challenge? Getting the message across. We are all vulnerable. We all need to take care of ourselves. We are all on the earth for a short time. But...it takes us years to get that.

I'm closing in on sixty now and I surely know the health/wealth connection. Because at the end of the day without good health all the money in the world means nothing. Right now I'm feeling truly rich.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Regis

I've been in mourning ever since I heard Regis Philbin announce that he was leaving "Live". I'm not sure how I'm going to manage without my daily Regis fix!

I started watching morning television when I had my first baby and found that being home - instead of at a job where I had some adult conversation and stimulation - was boring at times. I loved taking care of my baby and wanted to stay home with her, but, well, sometimes I yearned for companionship. I began watching a show at 9am (when she was napping) called "The Morning Show" with Judy Licht and someone I don't remember anymore. Then one Monday, it was different. There were these unfamiliar faces in the host chairs and they introduced themselves as Regis Philbin and Cindy Garvey. They said they had been brought to New York from Los Angeles where they had been doing a show together for a few years and were hoping to bring their same energy to the New York market.

I loved them immediately. Regis, who was like the father you never had, made me laugh and cry with his antics and I came to know them well. Cindy Garvey was a good co-host for him, but clearly he had the magic touch. I remember when she was missing one day a few years later and Regis said she was "in contract negotiations" and she was gone the whole week. Then they were looking for a new co-host. And then there were a few good co-hosts that came and went until they found Kathie Lee Johnson, who eventually became Gifford, and she helped Regis take the show to syndication. It's been ten years now since Kelly Ripa joined Regis in the morning and she brings her own sense of fun to the show.

But the real star of the show has always been Regis.

My daughter is in her thirties now and I've been watching Regis a long time. I know all about his children and his wife and his apartment. I know they drive a mini-van and go to Greenwich for weekends. I feel as though he's a friend, even though he has no idea who I am. This is the interesting phenomenon of television! It makes us intimates, but the relationships are always one sided! If I'm not home my television records the show and I watch the host chat in the later afternoon. I need my Regis fix. It's like the phone call you need to make home every once in awhile just to hear your mother's voice.

What am I going to do???

Monday, February 7, 2011

Decorating

I'm totally addicted to the decorating shows on HGTV. I could watch them all day long.

I'm not sure why this is such a, addiction for me but it is. Candace Olson is my absolute favorite, but honestly I could watch any of them with equal fervor. I love to see spaces completely transformed and I think part of that satisfaction comes from my own experience with old houses.

My parents house was a Victorian that was built for my great-grandparents when they were married in 1893. When we were kids there were bare wood floors, threadbare carpets, and a coffee table I seem to remember my father made from an old hollow wood door that he attached legs to. It was a big house, but not luxurious by any means! Over the years I watched as they transformed it from top to bottom and if I were to move into it now I'd take up the beautiful carpeting they installed and refinish all those old wood floors, but that's more a matter of "everything old is new again" than anything else. In my mother's day those wood floors were a sign of age and old-fashioned decor whereas now they're a much-coveted asset.

The house I live in was built in 1920 and again, was a bit worn and weathered when we moved in. Over the years we pulled down walls, insulated, painted, stripped, stained, wallpapered, and renovated every square inch of it with a couple exceptions. There is a front entrance and a cellar entrance I still want to do and my sun porch/office needs some serious TLC. But other than that it's a far cry from the place we started with. I would love to build a brand new house that I could decorate from top to bottom and not have to tear out and strip down to do so. But this is what I have and this is what we do! That, I think, is the reason I so enjoy the decorating shows. Because they all start with a (usually) ugly room and transform it into a thing of beauty. And I certainly wish I'd had the assistance of one of those decorators over the years when I was doing mine! Of course, there is still this sun porch/office space to do.

I wonder if Candace Olson is looking for a new project...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

School closings

I always hated school closings when my kids were young and this year would have been really annoying to me. Because it meant days we'd lose later in the year when the weather was nice and we could plan ahead for something fun. With these snow and ice days it simply means being stuck in the house, looking for something to do. Not fun!

We rarely use all our snow days in East Hampton. This winter has been one for the record books and we'll be talking about it for years, no doubt. My daughter who lives in Pennsylvania has had it even worse than we have and her kids have already lost their Easter break to make-up days. Not much fun if you have a family trip planned! My guess is there will be lost days here as well but I haven't heard yet what the fall-out will be. There will definitely be no extra days over Memorial Weekend since those are always unused days, but I'm assuming there will be other days lost as well. I seem to remember there was one unusual year when we had do go extra days in June, which really threw a wrench in things at my house.

Well the weather is the weather and there isn't a blessed thing we can do about it. I always told my children that the weather was God's way of reminding us who's in charge. And that's pretty much as true now as it ever has been!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cakes

Today I'm making a birthday cake for my grandson. I wonder how many birthday cakes I've made over the years?

I started baking and decorating cakes when I was in high school. My aunt taught me to make roses with icing and it was the beginning of my lifelong fascination with turning food into pretty celebrations. I taught myself how to pipe edges and make flowers, create clowns and write words - it took a few years to perfect but I'm a decent decorator now and back in the day I was put to the test many times by nieces and nephews, as well as my own four children. They would make a request and I would do my best to create whatever it was they wanted. I remember doing things like R2D2 from Star Wars, Raggedy Ann and Andy (for twins!), the Pink Panther, and Mr. Paint Pig (from a favorite Richard Scarry book). Some were more challenging than others - and not every one was a success. (One particular failure is memorable - it arrived at the party in a bowl...) But I've always enjoyed working on them and found the requests flattering since they obviously thought I could do anything. It made me work hard not to disappoint them.

Of course, there were no local bakeries back then and King Kullen had not yet arrived on the East End, so my abilities were needed for many special occasions, including baby and wedding showers. Now there are inexpensive, well decorated cakes available close by and I'm not as needed as I used to be. When the occasional request comes I'm happy to oblige and put my skills to the test once again. I'm not sure what I'll be doing for Silas tonight - he had a King Kullen cake yesterday for his kids' party and it was decorated with the theme he requested. Today he'll be happy with whatever I come up with.

I need to go give it some thought right now...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Knitting

I love knitting in the winter. Without a/c in my house the summers are just out of the question, but in the winter time the feel of the yarn on my fingers and the project draping across my lap is a real pleasure.

Right now I'm working on a sweater for my youngest grandson. I was going to start one for the oldest, knowing that the ones I've made him in years past are being handed down to the young one, but then I decided that every child deserves something special made just for him or her so this one is for my Elijah, who at the age of three is a big fan of trucks. He's going to love this pattern with a red tractor on the front. I can hardly wait to see his face when I pull it out of a bag to show him. I know it's bound to become his favorite.

There's something very basic about the pleasure we feel when creating something for one of our children or grandchildren - especially something that clothes or feeds them. It's like our natural instincts being fulfilled and there's a wonderful sense of satisfaction that accompanies the completion of the task. Whether I'm baking them cookies or making them clothes, I feel the same sense of delight in it and I find that even a generation removed doesn't alter the emotional payoff.

When my children were young I made many of their clothes. I made dresses and suits on my sewing machine, knitted and crocheted sweaters and hats, and even created all their Halloween costumes. To a large extent it was done of necessity as money was extremely tight and if I wanted them to have cute clothes I had to make them myself. But there was also this great maternal feeling that was a payoff too. I'm sure making them furniture or toys would have the same effect and I think it takes us back to the time in our history when everything children had was created by a parent. Either that desire to make them things has been handed down to us through the generations or its an instinct not to be denied. But I remember my grandmothers both taking joy in making things for us and then my mother as well. So maybe its a combination of both.

Whatever the reason, I still feel those urges and right now, in the dead of winter when the wind is howling and the snow is falling, there's nothing quite as comforting as making my grandson a new sweater. And when this one is done I'll start working on one for his brother.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Moving

Last weekend my son and his wife and child moved to a different residence and going through it with them brought back so many memories! Seeing rugs and dressers, cribs and boxes being carried in and out of houses filled me with nostalgia, not because I want to go through that again but because of the times I've already done it.

I've only lived in six different residences in my life - my parents house, a share house, two apartments and a cottage all before we moved into this house where we've been for for 33 years now. It was easy in the early years, before marriage and children! I remember moving from the house I shared with three other twenty-somethings to a small apartment with one friend and I packed all my belongings into my little VW bug. But by the time we moved here, with a four-year-old and a baby in tow, it wasn't quite that simple. We never were able to hire a moving company so it meant begging every friend who owned a pick-up or van to lend us a hand for a day, and then many, many trips in and out of the new place. One apartment was on the second floor and all those trips up and down the stairs left us so exhausted we slept on our mattress on the floor, in our clothes, too weary to do more than pull a blanket over our aching bodies. And we were young!

I truly hope I never have to move again in my life because even the thought of it is enough to bring about a panic attack. We've accumulated so much stuff in these years and it's just too hard to pack and carry at my age. Moving is for the young to do!

I remember the excitement of moving to a new place and I envy the kids that - they are just beginning their lives together and this is a wonderful time. But for me, moving from the living room to the bedroom is enough excitement. I think I'll stay right here from now on...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Deliveries

As I was stuck in my house waiting for a delivery last week it occurred to me that this kind of waiting is just as annoying as the waiting we do in doctor's offices, which I've sounded off about in the past so I feel I must be fair!

We were having a box spring delivered. It was all paid for and they told me it would come "Friday between 8am and noon". Right off the bat I'm annoyed because I see no reason why I can't get a smaller window that that to cool my heels in. I mean, shouldn't they be able to look at their schedule the day before and narrow it down a bit more than four hours? And then, once they get started on their day if their schedule looks as though it's not staying on track, a simple phone call could be made to let me know they're running late so I have time to run to the grocery store if need be, rather than sit and wait for a truck that isn't going to arrive for hours. It all seems like poor planning to me and annoys the heck out of me.

Now just to be clear, my husband was in the furniture business for fifteen years - ten of them during our marriage - so I'm well aware of the challenges the merchants face in setting up their delivery schedules. Things like impossible stair cases to navigate and long driveways they can't get their trucks into are only minor inconveniences. People who are not home as promised present a whole different problem. So I'm about as sympathetic as a person can be when it comes to this kind of thing, but I have my limits. I'm more than willing to wait for two hours and would happily take a phone call saying they're running late so I could get an errand done. But things never go that way in my world.

Years ago we were awaiting a delivery that was supposed to happen "between 7am and noon) on a Saturday morning. Lo and behold we were lying in bed thinking about getting up at 6:45 when we heard the unmistakable sound of a truck on the red stone driveway. I never got dressed so fast in my life. But I prefer that early arrival to the wait I had for this latest delivery. This time I finally received my phone call about 10 minutes to 1, promising they were only 30 minutes away. Forty-five minutes later.....well, you get the picture...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

More?

Is it possible that February can be anything like January was in terms of snow and ice? It's been quite a few years since we've had a winter like this one and I'm hoping that February will be an improvement over January. But one way or another winter is having its last breaths this month and soon enough we'll be welcoming the warm breezes and bluer skies of Spring.

Last Thursday after the snow ended and the sun shone in the late morning it was so beautiful. When the sun shines brightly, melting the frozen precipitation off the roads and walkways, its wonderful. The bright light coming in my french doors brings life to my house and I'm reminded of the warm months that are right around the corner. Life is full of things to anticipate and I'm looking forward to the early summer, before the heat and humidity move in. Without air conditioning I have to say I think I prefer the colder months, where I can come in to a warm house when I want to or go out in the cold when the spirit moves. In the summer sometimes there is no escape. These are the things I remind myself of when winter's blasts do their worst.

We don't know what February will bring -or March for that matter. But so far its been a real winter here on the East End and I'm not going to be sad to see it go. I don't curse the weather but I don't necessarily welcome it either!