Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lunches

A friend blogged recently about school lunches when we were kids and how everything was wrapped in waxed paper since there was no such thing as plastic baggies then. I think by the time I was in high school we did have bags but I do remember all those waxed paper wrapped sandwiches in elementary school. And Mom always put an apple in too which annoyed me because A. I didn't ever eat it and B. it always squashed my sandwich. So lunch was a simple affair - nothing fancy like they have today! I also remember the smell of those metal lunchboxes.

The plan was to have one for the entire year and every fall we'd get to choose a new one. But by the time spring came along those things had picked up lots of odors, sour milk being among them, and no amount of scrubbing would make them fresh again. I know this because my mother tried her best and all four of our lunchboxes would often be draining upside down next to the sink after her daily washings. It did no good - and by the end of the school year they were chipped, dented, and carried with them the smell of hundreds of lunches. No wonder they fetch a pretty price from collectors today when they're in mint condition! Few remained that way unless they weren't used at all. I had many different themed lunchboxes over the years but the one I remember was the Roy Rogers & Dale Evans one. I can still picture it in my mind. The others are lost in my brain somewhere deep in those crevasses, only to be thought of when I see one on TV or in a collectible store. I still like wrapping things in waxed paper. And I still don't like thermoses. They always smell sour to me....

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Drills

On Facebook recently I saw references to the air raid drills we had when we were in school during the 50's and 60's. Boy do I remember those! In elementary school when the air raid siren went off (drills only) we had to do one of two things: we climbed under our desks and got into the "turtle"position, curled up with our knees beneath us and our hands crossed behind our necks, heads to the floor and eyes closed. (They told us about bright light that would hurt our eyes and other scary things so we did as we were told.)

The other option was when we went into the hallway and lined up against the walls, down on the floor in the same position, we girls told that if this were a real incident and not a drill we should pull our skirts up over our heads as well. I think that was scarier than the idea of a bomb going off. I don't remember a great deal of fear associated with these drills because they were like fire drills - just part of the deal at school and not really anything to worry about.

But by the time I got to junior high school things were a bit more intimidating because by then people were building bomb shelters and the high school building we attended was a designated shelter with the triangular yellow and black sign letting the community know they could come there in case of an atomic attack. I'm not sure what the adults were thinking. My father used to pooh-pooh it all saying he'd prefer not to survive if we were to be bombed and I think he had the right idea.

Survival was not a pretty alternative, at least according to all the movies made in the 1960s about the survivors of such things. Movies like "The Omega Man" and "Planet of the Apes" were good xamples. I think Dad was right. I'm not sure why they stopped having those drills but perhaps it was because those in charge finally recognized the folly of their planning. It was a strange period in our history that fortunately our own children are totally unaware of. I'm happy to say they no longer have those drills in schools. Perhaps we're fooling ourselves. Or perhaps we're just being practical.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mothers-in-law

We had four children and three of them are married so counting my own wedding I've been intimately involved in the planning of four now. With my last child recently announcing his plan to marry in May, I'm once again enjoying the fun - and stress - of planning an event that is both life-changing and joyous. My head spins with ideas, although its not mine to make the decisions on, because I want to be as helpful as I possibly can.

I still find the whole "mother-in-law" role to be tricky. I know well the things I want to avoid - the things that were minefields for my own mother-in-law, the poor thing. I know she worked at avoiding the ones she had with her mother-in-law, and still managed to step into things occasionally so I know how it works. We think back on our own experiences and make sure we don't make the same mistakes as our own mothers-in-law did when they were navigating those tricky waters, but we are perfectly capable of making our own mistakes through ignorance or simply trial and error. We want to be the "perfect mother-in-law", knowing full well its impossible, just as being the "perfect parent" was. We all start out with such high ideals though!

So the wedding is being planned. I'm trying to do what I'm asked to do, not give too many opinions but offer them when solicited, make gentle suggestions but not be overbearing, and generally smile and be encouraging all the way around. I love my future daughter-in-law, just as I love my other son's wife (and both my sons-in-law!) and I want to maintain the good relationship we've had so far. So I'm doing lots of quiet meditation and lots of praying. Now if I can just keep my mouth shut half the times I want to open it I think I'll probably be OK. Maybe. Oy vey. Someone should write a manual on this!

Monday, March 28, 2011

My grandsons

Saturday we had a phone call from our grandson early in the day. He wanted to know if he and his brother could spend the morning with us and of course we said yes. So we jumped in the truck and ran over to their house to pick them up on our way to check out the yard sales around town. Grandson number 1 is nearly 9-years-old and he climbed into the back seat and buckled up. Number 2 is 6-years-old and he needed a little help buckling into the required booster seat. Off we went to tackle the list of stops with the two boys in the back, holding tightly to the five-dollar-bills their parents had given them to spend. The excitement level was high as they wondered what treasures they might find, chatting about toys and puzzles and other games they thought might be in the realm of possibilities. Our first stop was fruitful as the younger one immediately found something he wanted. His money was gone in about five minutes. The older one however, who is a more cautious and laid-back sort, took his time looking things over and ultimately decided to wait because he thought he could do better somewhere else. As we went from sale to sale, the older boy kept looking, always afraid to let go of his money, and it wasn't until we hit the final stop and let them know that this was it that he finally found something he wanted to spend his money on. And then we headed home. I smiled thinking about how typical they were of the people in the world. We either want to jump right in and live hard and fast and wear ourselves out quickly, or we're more careful about what we do and how we do it, taking our sweet time with decisions and important moves. We consider and plan and think things through. Or we don't bother giving it all too much time and just let life blow us in one direction or the other. These two personality types are so typical and, although when I was younger I would have been very sure of which was the "correct" way to be, at my point in life I can see that neither is better than the other. Sometimes those who wait lose out and sometimes those who jump in too early regret it later. Life is a puzzle. And history repeats itself over and over again, generation after generation. I learn so many life-lessons when I spend time with kids.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sick days

Last week I stayed home one day because I didn't have any meetings on the schedule and there wasn't much that couldn't be put off so when I felt a cold coming on I decided to stick close to the house and rest up. I've never been one to take sick days for a cold but if there's no other reason to go out, why bother? Sometimes a nice blanket and good movie are just what the soul needs to heal the body. The problem was, once I finished the jobs around the house that I couldn't avoid (who can look at dust when they're being lazy?) and settled in for an afternoon of television I was pretty disappointed at the offerings. What ever happened to old movies? I seem to remember every afternoon after school watching an old movie with my sister - Big 3 Theater if I remember correctly, with the theme music from "Gone With the Wind". I can still hear it and still see the title emblazoned over theater curtains. Well, no more! There was nothing to watch despite the nearly 100 channels at my disposal. Oh there were lots of soap operas, shopping channels, and news channels, but movies were in short supply. I was wishing I had something on DVD but alas, only children's movies were here for the watching. I think now I know why I never bother taking sick days. Unless I'm down with the flu (which hasn't happened in many years) or chemotherapy (too recent to forget!) and just couldn't care less about anything other than my misery, being home for the day is really not much fun.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sunrise

Tuesday morning I had to be in Southampton at 7:30 so I pulled out of my driveway at 6:55. As I turned on to Montauk Highway I was struck by one of those rare moments in time that we only get to witness occasionally in our lives. Because the sun was just coming up and it was something to see.

The sun was rising behind me so the light was ethereal. As I turned right at Town Pond I saw the most amazing sight: the trees reached to the sky with their dark brown and gray trunks but it looked as though an artist had reached in from the sky with a huge brush and swiped across the tops of the trees with deep golden orange paint. The very highest branches and tiniest twigs that formed the web at the very tops of each tree were ablaze with bright light, as striking as imaginable, and golden, sparkling almost.

The light was yellow where it illuminated the waking world - the side of the church steeples were bright yellow as were the white stripes on the flags. It was as though Midas had paid a visit and touched everything in sight.

It only lasted a few moments and as soon as the sun was completely up the color was gone and morning had fully arrived. I remember thinking "How many people noticed this phenomenon as they were driving to work?". I surely did. And I memorized it too. Because I don't know when I'll see it again. But in my mind's eye, it's as vivid as it was then and I can settle into bed tonight and bring it back to life if I want to. And I will, many times. It's a wonderful world and gifts like that need to be appreciated.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekends

Everyone loves weekends. In the years of my early marriage they weren't as much fun as they are now because my husband worked in retail and had to work Saturdays, but since he's had Saturdays and Sundays off, I've learned to love them. There's nothing like having two days off in a row! Since we rarely get a real of vacation, for us they're the mini-vacations that keep us going.

Of course, we don't do all that much - we clean the house and putter around doing household jobs Saturday mornings. These work session are growing milder with age - we can't seem to manage as much as we used to. There were times when we could paint two coats of paint in a bedroom on a Saturday, and probably clean out the attic as well. But now we're lucky if we manage to get the basics done. Big projects are spread over weeks and months for our older bones and muscles.


Sundays are for church and family so we don't accomplish much other than reconnecting with people we love, which is no small thing. I love seeing my family every week and sharing a meal makes for a great way to spend Sunday afternoons. Sometimes that's enough of a break all on it's own to keep us energized for Monday mornings.


My husband works at an office from Monday through Friday and since he's the owner of the business he also goes in Saturday mornings for an hour or two in order to clean up his desk and do his computer back-up. But from 9am on he can forget about the office. My work is less consistent and I can have different schedules from day to day, with multiple meetings one day and then phone calls and computer work to do the next. I like the inconsistency because I am easily bored with the same schedule over and over. I like some consistency but not too much!


The only problem with weekends is that they have the potential to drift into the are of melancholy for me. I don't mind watching television occasionally or settling in for a good old movie, but my husband enjoys golf and NASCAR races, which I really don't care to see. That can cause some problems which I try to avoid by leaving the house for a long drive or some shopping. After all, he has a right to the type of R & R he prefers so I compensate in my own way. I resist getting a nice chair in our bedroom and going there to watch a Turner classic just because I remember my parents watching televisions in two difference rooms and it smacks of old age. So I leave instead. Perhaps I need to get over that but then, the upstairs is cold in the winter and hot in the summer so I'm not sure that would fly anyway.


Yes, weekends are great for the most part. When we manage to stay connected and have fun, accomplish something good or maybe get some work done, well then they're downright delightful. I don't anticipate retirement for either of us and that's a good thing because I'm not sure I'm ready for 7 day weekends....

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rounds

My five-year-old grandson has discovered the art of singing "in the round" and, being the overly expressive, outgoing kid that that he is, he's fascinated and very enthsusiastic about it.

It started a few weeks ago when we were gathered for a family birthday. The boys (ages 8, 5, and 3) wanted to sing grace before the meal and they proceeded to do the one they've learned that's sung to the tune of "Frere Jaques" with the lyrics "God Our Father, God Our Father, We thank you! We thank you! For our many blessings, for our many blessings, Amen, Amen." When they finished I said "Did you know you could sing that in a round?" Well they didn't know what a "round" was so we explained it to them and split ourselves up into three groups to try it. The kids were in the first group with two adults, and the other 6 adults broke up into two other groups and we sang it for them. Of course, they loved discovering this new musical phenomenon and wanted to sing it again. Which we did. And then we sang it again. Each time my middle grandson did it with more gusto and enthusiasm.

Now, whenever we're together for a meal, he immediately jumps in with "Can we sing grace in a round?" to which of course we acquiesce.

After all, there is something about the combination of a spiritual expression combined with a musical experience that is too good to be passed up. And I think they agree. I'm sure it makes God smile too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Signs

The signs of the season are everywhere. Especially on nice weekends. People are in their yards, working on their houses, painting, cleaning, scraping, planting. My husband has been wanting to put the snow blower away but I don't want him to jinx us. We could still get a cold spell and snow could be in the mix, but hopefully we're on the right side of winter now.

I have lots of outdoor projects to do but so far I've only given them lip service. I want to paint the front door, for instance. I'm still thinking about a color, but I know I need to make a decision soon. There's a small window of opportunity for such projects, when the weather is warm enough but not too hot and its actually fun to work outside. The door has been, at various times, red, yellow, blue and green. Right now it a very faded shade of blue and I can't decide whether to go back to red, which will match the red geraniums we plant in the window boxes every year, or a nice Williamsburg green to contrast the red. Then again, it's never been a pretty brown or beige, and a deeper gold might be nice. Too many choices - too many options. I can't decide.

Such are the dilemmas of the season! I love them!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Deer

I was so excited to see the crocuses popping up through the ground a few weeks ago and have been looking forward to seeing their purple and yellow heads break though soon....and then the deer hit. We came out of the house to other day to see dirt all over the paved walkway where they had dug into the dirt looking for more goodies. His is the first time they've ever eaten the crocuses. What a disappointment.

Last year I bought a nice barrel of pansies which they marched right up onto the back deck to devour. This year they've taken my crocuses. I try not to plant things they like but I'm finding that if they're hungry enough, they'll eat anything. They've taken the tops off my irises - another first - and I'm crossing my fingers on the daffodils. I've always read that they don't like daffodils but I'm still not feeling confident. I've planted quite a few in the past few years because I felt they were safe from the four-legged predators. Now I'm not so sure.

I hope that the deer living near me soon find enough to eat in the fields and wooded area so they don't need to raid my garden for things they don't really even like. I look forward to my irises and hope they'll come back and bloom next month. I really need some color in my world to usher us into spring and I resent them taking it all from me. It's a minor set-back, and I can deal with it, but I hope it's the only one.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Suits

When did we stop buying suits for Easter? I remember shopping every year for a new Easter suit, but its been a long time since I've even thought about doing that and I wonder when that change happened?

If my memory serves me our Easter suits always came in pretty colors: pastels and Spring hues like yellow and pink. we always had matching hats and white gloves. I can't remember when I last saw a pair of white gloves on a little girl. My mother wore them too, and her suits were equally colorful, and Easter Sunday was a rainbow of beautiful shades of lavender, blue and green. Every wonderful bright color was represented and even the men had sear sucker, or nice light blue suits for church. We matched the eggs in our Easter baskets and when the sun shone on Easter Sunday it was a wonderful sight as the doors of every church opened and the colorful congregants flowed out onto the front lawns. I can still see it in my mind's eye.

I miss the colors on Easter Sunday. I miss the white gloves, the straw hats, and the matching purses. I miss the way families all filed into their pews and then took photos on the church lawn after the worship service was over. Somehow the ham isn't as tasty without the fancy clothes.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Reading

Well I've finally done it. I've signed up to follow so many blogs that I've fallen hopelessly behind in reading them and now I have so much catching up to do I don't think it's possible to do it. Once again I'm behind the eight ball on something!

I've started so many books, so many knitting projects, and so many organizing projects in the past few years that I'm ashamed to even admit it. Because many of them remain undone. For instance, I still have a sweater I started for my granddaughter that will no longer fit her. And I started one for my grandson this year that if I don't get busy and complete it will surely not fit him either. I also have three books by my bed that I've left for so long that I'd have to start them all over again if I were to pick one up. I've totally lost the characters at this point.

I have good intentions, I really do. And on some level I'm glad that I don't have so much free time that I can sit and read for long periods. But the other side of that is that I just don't follow through with things I start.

The blogs, I think, I need to weed through and make some decisions about what I'm going to follow. I like them all. I just can't read them all. And if I pick and choose every day I may lose the threads of people's thoughts and lives and I'm not sure I want to do that.

And then there are those places in my house that I've started organizing and not finished. Now they're a bigger mess than they were when I started. And that's not even funny.

Sigh...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring days

We had a real spring day Wednesday and it was so nice. A beautiful blue sky, warm temperature allowing me to leave the winter coat home, and the smell of spring in the air. There were highway department trucks all over the place with men cleaning out drains and rolling up snow fencing, and lots of people jogging, running, and walking for exercise. After the winter we've had, everybody has a touch of Spring fever, and its contagious on a day like that.

On Thursday it wasn't quite as warm as it was yesterday but it was tempting enough to compel me to go out without a coat and I regretted it more than once as the cold wind picked up and the temperature never got above 50. But it was fun to realize that soon enough I'd be hanging up the coat for good until late Autumn comes again and we start the cycle all over again.

Spring is a tease, with warm days - and then cooler ones - and unpredictability the rule. But it's fun to be teased and I welcome it. It's not quite official on the calendar yet, but from the smiles all around and the general air of optimism that's palpable, I think its safe to say its here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Endings

Recently I took a woman to the hospital in the ambulance who died two days later. It wasn't the first time I've taken a patient who was destined not to leave the hospital, but this time was memorable because she was 97 years old and had led a very healthy life. She had no prescription medications and had been fine up until a day or two before we were called, at which time she began to struggle with breathing and her legs swelled. It was fairly clear to me at the time that she was simply dying of old age - her organs were beginning to shut down and she was showing the signs of heart failure.

When I heard she'd died I smiled to myself and said "That's the way I want to go, Lord!"

Yesterday I talked about my birth, which was a bit traumatic, although I don't remember it of course. I think because I had such a traumatic birth I deserve to have a gentle death. I want to live a long life and die of old age in a gentle way. I would love to be at home in my own bed too.

Is there some place we can put in an order for such thing? Wouldn't we all love to go that way? Ah, but few of us are quite that lucky. So I think I'll just enjoy life while I can and not dwell on the end too much! Life is to be savored. So that's what I'll do.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beginnings

When I celebrated my birthday earlier this month I found myself thinking about my mother all day long. I remembered the story of my birth, which was rather traumatic, and thought a lot about how Mom, all of 25-years-old at the time, must have felt that day over half a century ago now.

Apparently when Mom was about five months pregnant she started to hemorrhage so she as put on bed rest for 6 weeks. My grandmother came from Buffalo by train to take care of her and my brother who was two. Once off bed rest she had what she thought was a normal pregnancy, but I believe she suffered from placenta previa, which happens when the placenta begins to detach from the walls of the uterus. It's amazing that she carried nearly to term.

The morning of my birth she awoke about 2am to find the bed covered in blood. My father phoned Doc Edwards, the longtime, old-fashioned country doctor here in East Hampton, who was already in his late 60s by the early 1950s. Doc Edwards lived near the Hook Mill on North Main Street and Dad said he literally ran down the hill in his pajamas, took one look at my mother and all the blood she had lost, and called the local ambulance to take her to Southampton Hospital. Then he went home to get dressed where he called his friend Dr. Kirk who he knew was at his summer/weekend home in Montauk (that's "Kirk" as in "Kirk Park") and who also happened to be the Surgeon General of the United States at the time. He told him he needed him at the hospital right away to assist with surgery.

Dad never said much else about that day but his mother, my grandmother, told me more of the story when I was a teenager. She said that when Doc Edwards came out of the OR there was a good-sized contingent of family waiting, including my father, grandmother, grandfather, and uncles. The doctor looked weary but elated as he told them that "It was touch and go and I thought we might lose both of them but I'm happy to say you have a healthy daughter and Betty is doing fine!" Mom spent five days in the hospital and we came home together. She would go on to have two more children, both by cesarean section of course, and never really talked much about what that day.

I find that as I get older, and especially after my own medical experience as a patient, I think more and more about what that must have been like for her. She would have been terrified. I'm not sure why she was spared and I wonder at how different life would have been for my brother had things not turned out the way they did. I do remember walking into town with Mom when I was about ten and running into old Doc Edwards on the sidewalk near his house one day. She stopped and chatted with him about his retirement and I remember him telling her that she had always been one of his favorites. As we went on to our errand I referred to his comment and she brushed it aside saying "That's just because I was a challenge for him!" but I knew better. I think Mom was one of those rare people that everybody loved.

And I get to tell everyone that the Surgeon General of the United States assisted in my delivery.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Slipcovers

When I was young my mother had slipcovers on most of her upholstered furniture. I think she even made them herself, but I'm not sure about that. In any case I remember them - big floral 1950s prints with dark backgrounds, and I think there was some kind of fringe involved. For many years slipcovers meant "outdated" in my mind. I think they were out of favor for most of the 70s and 80s, signifying old furniture that one could not afford to replace with new.

But then an odd thing happened in the 90s - suddenly slipcovers were fashionable. Everywhere you looked, in every beautiful home filled with decorator furniture, there were upholstered pieces with bright white or pretty printed slipcovers. Suddenly it wasn't shameful to re-cover your couch or re- purpose a chair. And I was thrilled! Because I'd been getting slips made for my furniture for a long time and now I was perfectly up-to-date with my old furniture.

I think I'm on our fourth set of slipcovers on this particular set of furniture. It is still in good shape and fits well in the room, so why not keep using it? I love the white covers because I can throw them in the wash and remove all traces of the chocolate milk that dripped out of sippy cups and the grubby hand prints of my little visitors. They look crisp and clean and my old furniture is up-to-date and perfectly trendy. It may not be Pottery Barn but you'd never know it.

I love the way everything comes back into style eventually. I'm holding on to my foam shoulder pads, floral peasant shirt, and the white wool sweater with the strawberry boarder around the neck because I just know some day they're all going to come in really handy. I don't care what my husband says.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Community

I've been having an ongoing discussion with a friend about our community here in East Hampton and what exactly it means to be "local". I think we're unique in that we're such a diverse town, but not in that (like ever other community in the world) things have changed here in the past fifty years. But what really sets us apart is that we're one of those unique places in the world that have become havens for second-home-owners who need a retreat to escape their busy lives in the big city.

When I was young there were many vacation homes here and every summer the part-timers descended, along with the vacationers who came for a week or two and stayed in a local motel on the ocean. Our various segments of the community were pretty clear-cut: there were the "locals" who lived here all the time, the "summer colony" who spent their summers in beautiful big homes along the southern end of town, and the "summer people" who were the day-trippers and hotel/motel patrons.

Now things are much more complicated than that. We have many people who have retired out here - some become valued members of the community and others simply spend their days reading and staying to themselves, not wanting to invest in yet another place after the lives they lived elsewhere. Then there are the summer residents who own homes here and come, not only for the summer, but week-ends and holidays year 'round. With improved transportation this is pretty common. We also have people who have decided to live here but they work in NYC, which is something that was rare when I was young. However, with FAX machines and email, they're able to spend many days each week here, making use of the Hampton Jitney to go and come from Manhattan when they need to meet with editors or CEOs or office staff. And the "locals' no longer necessarily grew up here, but they've claimed it as their home and invested in the community in important ways. Its a complicated and interesting society here and I find it exciting to rub elbows with people I would never have had the opportunity to meet back in an earlier time. We are more pluralistic and less segmented than we had been, which is complicated but wonderful.

The term "local" means different things to different people. To me it means anyone who lives here year 'round and contributes to the community. I think I have more friends now that did not grow up here than those who did. They bring a wonderful richness to our lives and I'm grateful for that. Others would use the term "local" only to describe someone who grew up on the East End. I understand it but don't agree with it.

For all we've gained we've also lost and some of the sense of an ancestral home has been lost, not by me personally but by the community at large. Not many can look to the past and imagine their great-grandparents working the land or fishing the waters. Those of us that can are doubly blessed. Those that can't don't always have the same appreciation for where they are and the price that was paid for what we now enjoy.

As in all areas of life, it's variety that makes the world go 'round. And we have it in abundance here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Closer

My favorite television show at the moment is "The Closer". And I get frustrated when I want to talk to anyone about it and they don't watch it. I need to share this little treasure, comparing notes and laughing about the idiosyncrasies of the various characters. It took me two years before I started watching it myself, not because I hadn't read the good reviews but because it wasn't right there in front of me when I turned on the set. It's a cable-issue. Anything not on a major network is sometimes more difficult to remember. But once found, I was hooked, and now I'm busy catching up on old episodes that I missed in the first couple years. Reruns can be a wonderful thing!

Sadly, this summer will be the final season and that makes me sad because I feel as though I've only just started getting to really know these great, complex characters.

As with all the best television shows, this one has deep, rich characters that you can really get involved with. I like their little personality quirks and I love to see how the actors reach into themselves to find the humanity in them - the things we can all identify with. In the case of this show it's full of rich, wonderful people and I've grown to really love each one of them. I want Brenda and Fritz to have a long and happy marriage because I love the way he admires her and accepts her with all her craziness. Brenda is easy to love with all the flaws that make her intelligence and skill less intimidating. I want Chief Pope to continue lusting after her because I love the way he looks at her knowing that he can't have her anymore. It's every woman's dream! I admire the people who populate the squad room, from Sanchez, who gives a real warmth and sympathy to his character, to Tao and the rest who are so funny and human. I love all of them. And I'll miss them when they're gone.

I always have a hard time saying goodbye to people I grow close to on television. The fact that they're fictional characters doesn't seem to matter. I still miss the casts of Magnum, P.I., Family, M*A*S*H, and other top shows that I watched on a regular basis. I'd be the first to tune in to a reunion of any kind. Because in my mind they're all in limbo somewhere, with unresolved issues and relationships and I wonder what happened to them.

Brenda Lee Johnson and Fritz Howard will join an elite group when the show ends at the end of the summer. And I'll be sadder for it.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Choir robes

Today at church we're unveiling our new choir robes. It's an exciting day!

When I began attending this particular church about ten years ago I joined the choir - with some hesitancy. I love to sing but I hated the choir robes. You may say that's a pretty shallow reason not to join a choir, but these robes were beyond ugly. They were an indescribable color that I would venture to guess were the only ones the company had ever sold. I've attended many churches in my life as a guest and I've seen many choirs perform, but I've never seen anyone wearing a color like this. I've seen black, maroon, gray, red, and gold - but never kelly green. It startled me when I first saw these and sacred me a little when I thought about wearing one. No one looks particularly good in green and the sight of twenty people all in green brings to mind leprechauns and St. Patrick's Day, or a stand of evergreen trees cut out of construction paper, lining the hallway of an elementary school. So it was a bit off-putting.

Eventually I gave in and started singing, trying not to look in the mirror when I robed so I could forget what I looked like, which wasn't easy since I was looking at other people similarly dressed. I became accustomed enough to them over the years but hoped against hope that some day in my lifetime we'd see a change. And finally, that change has come.

Today we're robing in brand new, beautiful maroon robes with nice, crisp, white stoles. And I can promise you that we'll sound better than ever when we sing. At least in our minds. And no matter anyway because as Billy Crystal used to remind us on Saturday Night Live, it's "better to look good than to feel good". And we'll be looking really fine.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Projects

I'm overly involved in projects. Not work-type projects, but craft-type projects. I have a tendency to have at least three or four going at the same time because I'm a person who likes variety, but right now I've got too many and its becoming a clutter issue. I have way too much clutter in my house.

Actually we started deconstructing our home office/storage room with the intent of renovating it, but instead it's now a pile of boxes and other stuff and totally disorganized. And that's part of the problem. I have no place to put projects as they're being worked on so they're laying around my living room in knitting bags. I have a blanket, a shawl, a sweater - all things I like working on but need within close proximity to be able to grab when needed. But putting them out in the office would be a disaster because they'd get lost in the mess out there.

I dream of the day my house is totally organized and neat. I have good intentions and would like to have things perfectly orderly and contained, but the reality is I never seem to be able to achieve that nivanic state. (I don't know if "nirvanic is am adjective or not but it perfectly describes what I'm talking about so if its not real I'm making it up!) I think it's a combination of my natural lazy nature and the fact that I'm loathe to throw things out that bring some memory to mind that makes me smile that are the real problem, but the fact of the matter is I need to do something. Because the time is coming when I won't be able to physically manage the cleaning out and re-organizing and I really don't want to leave it to my children to deal with some day. I've been in way too many of those houses in my ambulance work so I know what the possibles are. I don't want to be the local "Mrs. Haversham" living amongst the cobwebs and dust. But there's such a thin line between where I am and where I could be.

Perhaps the presence of all these little projects may lead me to deal with the larger one.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sweets

I've gone and done something really drastic. I've decided to give up sweets for Lent.

The practice of giving something up for Lent is not as common in the Protestant church as it is in the Catholic church so its not something I've always done in the past. But this year I've been influenced by a combination of things. First, I've been struggling to lose the next thirty pounds and not doing well. I have good days and bad days but the bad days are winning at the moment. So I've been trying to find some way to get myself going on the weight loss front.

Then a few weeks ago our minister preached a sermon on the practice of fasting and why it's a spiritual exercise that we should enter into occasionally. I went home that Sunday and thought about the idea of fasting and that morphed into the idea of giving something up for Lent that really would be difficult for me to do. So the rest of the pieces fell into place and I decided that if I gave up sweets for Lent it would serve two purposes: it would allow me the spiritual benefits of a fast as I struggle to get off my addiction to sugar, and it would give me a good chunk of time to beat the addiction, probably losing weight in the process and giving me the kick in the pants I need to get myself back on track diet-wise. So it was decided. As of Ash Wednesday, no more candy, desserts, cake, pie, sugar on my cereal, or sweetened drinks. No more chocolate, no more ice cream, no more anything that tickles my fancy in the food department. But I will be eating lots and lots of fruit. Because natural sweetness is acceptable, otherwise I might consider suicide before I'm done. For those who don't share an addiction to sugar, this is a huge sacrifice for me! I will be craving something sweet every day, all day, and spending a lot of time meditating!

Ash Wednesday was two days ago. I'm already having second thoughts. I need to go pray.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Josh

Twenty-nine years ago this morning, at just about this time, I was sitting in the passenger seat of our yellow station wagon while my husband drove me to Plainview Central General Hospital to give birth to my son. It was not a difficult ride although I delivered him within about an hour of our arrival, because I was more concerned about the two little girls I had left behind than I was about myself. We had called my mother and she had come over to stay with them and take the oldest to school in the morning. But being their mother, I was thinking more about what clothes the oldest would wear to school and how the youngest would react to finding her parents gone, than I was about the labor I was experiencing on the long drive up-island to meet my doctor.

Josh has always had a mind of his own and has always walked to his own drummer. From the beginning he did things his way and gave his parents plenty of stress along with the joy. He was a cheerful, good-natured boy who grew to be a good-natured, funny man. He was always the first of my four to tell me I looked beautiful when I was dressed to go out and the first to make us all laugh at the dinner table. He was also the last to be worried about responsibilities or concerned with rules. Oh how those attributes would challenge us as he grew!

It's nearly impossible for me to realize that this adorable little tow-headed boy is now nearly thirty-years-old. But an occasional grin or sideways glance brings to mind that cute little guy who had such a hold on my heart from the very beginning. I don't think there is a greater joy for any parent than watching each of their children grow into unique, special individuals that we have much less influence over than we think. Each of my own children have provided me with more joy than I could have imagined when I married their father all those years ago. And on their birthdays I spend most of the day thanking God for them and the influence they still have on me every single day. They make me a better person and I'm so grateful.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Faux fur

I have two faux fur throws in my living room. They look like brown mink but they're not quite that plush and wonderful to the touch - and I payed all of $14 each for them at TJ Maxx a couple years ago. But they've been giving me the pleasure of fantasy ever since.

I've a sectional couch in my tiny living room and one section of it has a nice chaise. It's the most comfortable spot to stretch out and rest and I always grab one of the fur throws to pull up over me when I do so. Of course they don't have the smooth, luxurious feel of a real fur, and probably not the same level of warmth either, but having one up around my neck makes me feel downright upper-class and I imagine what it would be like to have a nice mink throw to use whenever I felt a chill or needed a little nap. It has to be one of the great luxuries of life to own a real fur throw because it's certainly not something you could justify, as you could owning a real fur coat in a winter climate like Canada or Maine. (Sorry PETA, but there really is nothing as warm as real fur!) But to have a blanket of fur just lying around your living room, waiting to be used to cover your chilly feet, well that would be a real mark of an upper crust existence.

I certainly see no need for senseless animal sacrifices just to provide things like fur accessories. On the other hand, if I did live in the arctic I'd have no problem wearing a fur coat and hat because I know from experience there's nothing as warm as that when the thermometer drops below zero. So if I were an Eskimo I'd be sleeping under fur blankets all winter long. But in my case, for an occasion chill when I lie on my couch, I think the faux fur is the perfect thing. And the price was so right!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Time change

No doubt about it, we'll soon be turning our clocks ahead an hour. I can always tell when its imminent because the sun is coming up earlier and earlier and I find it easier than ever to climb out of bed and head to the gym.

I am certainly a "daylight" person. I wake with the sun and start dropping off to sleep as soon as it disappears. I have trouble getting out of bed when its still dark outside and I can't nap during the day when the sun is shining. So this week I find at 6am when the horizon is beginning to brighten, I'm waking and able to function. This is always what happens right before we change our clocks and the the struggle begins again! Sigh....

I'm not sure which weekend we actually change the clocks - I remember when it wasn't until April! But I think now its the second or third week in March so it's coming for sure. I'll not be enjoying the pitch black when I need to get out of bed, but those early evenings in the daylight will certainly be a pleasure. Perhaps I'll stop falling asleep at 6pm now...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Kids

Having grand kids is enjoyable especially in the way it gives us the opportunity for a little bit of a "do-over". Because as hard as we try to raise our own children in the best possible way, we all make mistakes and in retrospect see things we should have done differently. But we are able to be more laid back and "fun" when it comes to the grands!

I had three grandchildren in the house over the weekend - sometimes more - and found myself more than once thinking about one of my own kids when they were the same ages. It was a remembered event, or something they had said, or something that had just transpired between parent and child that would come to mind while I was busy with these little ones. It triggered memories that made me think of how I wish I'd done things differently.

I'm not sure if its the fact that we're older and wiser now or simply because we're not as tired from the daily tasks involved with raising them 24/7, but I find myself much more patient with their little childish mistakes and idiosyncrasies and much less apt to correct them than I would have been when my own were little. (This may also reflect that fact that these kids are not a direct reflection of me the way my own were, therefore it seems less stressful! Besides, their parents can handle the tough stuff!)

I suppose that is the true gift of grand parenting - the fact that the responsibility for molding them and shaping them is not as heavy on us and therefore the enjoyment factor can be greater. I can laugh at the inappropriate jokes instead of lecturing about what is and isn't acceptable in public. Of course, if they were to go over the line I'd have to step in, but that rarely happens because their parents are all doing a splendid job! Which is why I don't have to.

I love it!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

VCR

We still have a VCR in our house but with the DVD we rarely use it. However, we've become so accustomed to watching our television programs without commercials that there are times when we need it for a back-up. Because at this point we can only record two programs at a time on the DVR and occasionally we want to record three. So the VCR gets pressed into service. Then when we watch the show on the VCR we realize how slow the "fast-forward" is and how the technology has already changed.

I remember when we had our first VCR and how exciting it was! Amazingly, we could record a show and watch it later, not worrying about planning a schedule around something important like the Oscars or a movie we wanted to see. We could set the VCR and forget about it - watching it at our convenience later on. What a wonderful thing that was!

In only a few short years it was antiquated and now we use digital recorders to do the same thing. It reminds me of when we changed over from dial tone to touch tone. For years some people still had dial phones, not wanting to pay extra for the newer technology. Now its pretty hard to find a dial phone anywhere and in fact our children think we're hopelessly old-fashioned at our house because our phones still have cords plugged into the wall. Imagine!

Sometimes I'm amazed at how things have changed in fifty years. When I was young many homes had only one phone, always black, and no one had more than two. Who could have imagined a world where people walked around with phones no bigger than a business card, carrying them in their pockets wherever they went.

And then there is the television. So many channels, so many options, so many companies that want to bring it into our home. No more Ma Bell for the phone, no more antenna to get our shows, no more need to be up at midnight to see a man land on the moon making history.

In the first fifty years of the twentieth century we saw airplane travel, television, and cars. In the second fifty years we saw cell phones, cable TV, and computers in every house. What in the world is going to happen in the twenty-first? We can't even imagine.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Blue skies

In addition to the sunset and the morning birds singing that I talked about yesterday, I've noticed a difference in the color of the sky. Another sure sign of the coming season!

All winter the sky remains a pretty dull, blue/gray color. It's not depressing - just different- and it goes with the general black and white palette of the winter landscape. It begins from about late November and continues until March, but this week, when the sun came out, it illuminated the most glorious, brilliant blue sky and it made me smile at the realization that it was, indeed, changing outside as the world continues to move around the sun and approach the arch that will make us warmer and brighter for the months ahead of us.

In my world, all it takes is a beautiful blue sky to make my day. I find something that basic can lift my spirits and keep me smiling throughout the remainder of the day and I find myself grateful for the world around me. Thankfully, I don't live in Seattle or London where the rain is a pretty regular visitor. I supposed I'd adjust, but personally, I love to see the blue sky and sunshine. I'm still smiling.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Another year

Today marks another birthday for me but I'm not sure whether to celebrate from the year I was born or from the year I was diagnosed with cancer. Because I feel as though my life began again when I realized I wasn't going to die in 2009.

The interesting thing about birthdays is that they are nothing more than markings in our lives - a way to pace off time, to acknowledge the passage of it and recognize the fragility of it. And the interesting thing about a brush with imminent death is that it makes you more appreciative of life and for that I'm grateful for the gift I've been given - so far two years. I can say without hesitation that, although I've always been a pretty optimistic person, I've grabbed each one of my days these past two years and appreciated them more than I had the many that preceded them. I've enjoyed every sunrise, every snowfall, every rainy day, and every sore muscle simply because they all made me know I was alive to experience them. I've seen the silver lining behind ever cloud, loved my family more deeply, my God more reverently, and my community more appreciatively. I've simply loved my life and seen it for the gift that it is. And that is a gift.

So today I'm either fifty-nine years old or two years old, depending on how you count, but either way I'm celebrating another year here, and for that I'm so grateful.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bird song

Yesterday morning when I left the gym around 7:20 I immediately noticed something I hadn't heard in a long time: a bird was singing in a tree nearby. It made me smile, especially when it stopped as I got too close for comfort, and I mulled over that sound in my head all the way home. Then I remembered our drive to Southampton for dinner the evening before. We all commented at the time on the beautiful sky to the west where the sun was finally disappearing at nearly 6pm. It was mostly dark except for a chunk of color along the western horizon, all shades of red and gold, causing the trees to stand out in stark contrast, looking like they were cut out of black construction paper and pasted in place. It was beautiful, and it was another sign of the season. Because what both these things drove home to me was what nature already knows - that despite an occasional temperature drop into the thirties, Spring is on its way.

I'm always struck by how nature (i.e. God) reminds us all the time that we are purely human and not divine. Only the divine could orchestrate the seasons, the days, the animals, and the universe in such orderly fashion. There is nothing like a stunning sunset or a beautiful bird song to make us stop and look or listen. Because they are far beyond anything we can create or imagine. It's a wonderful world out there and I'm grateful to the creator for every amazing bit of it.

Especially now, when Spring is on the way....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Soup

Last weekend I made soup and thought about how the winter was winding down and it was nice to be simmering something on the stove all day, filling the house with the wonderful smells and warming my soul with the idea of comfort food. Its a winter wonder!

Once the temperature climbs a little I no longer have any desire to make certain things. Soup is definitely out, chili is rarely considered, and macaroni and cheese is never on the menu. But when I saw whole chickens on sale at the IGA a week ago I grabbed one knowing that it was still cold enough to make soup, and I roasted the chicken for dinner that night. When the weekend came I took out the carcass and leftover meat, covered it with water in the soup pot, and got to it. An hour on the stove did the trick and I drained it into another pot, putting the broth back on the stove while the carcass cooled enough for me to handle. While it cooled, I chopped parsley, sliced onions, grabbed a bag of Julianne carrots I had in the fridge, chopped up some celery, and added ingredients one by one. By then the meat had cooled off and I took it off the bones, chopped it into edible pieces, and threw it into the pot. Then, with salt and pepper on board, I let it simmer for a few more hours, filling the house with the amazing aroma of home made chicken soup.

All afternoon I savored the smell and by the time I cooled it off and put the whole pot into the refrigerator for Sunday lunch the next day I'd squeezed about as much enjoyment as I possibly could from that pot of bubbling brew without actually eating it. And eating it the next day was another treat.

Home made soup - its about as basic a pleasure as one can get for a relatively small amount of work and very little money on a cold winter weekend.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dinner

Who would have guessed when I was growing up that going to dinner at a restaurant would one day be such a delightful event in my life?

I think the only time my parents ever went to a restaurant was when they traveled - and that didn't happen often (at least until they were well into middle-age). They spent Saturday nights often at friends' for dinner, and they entertained a lot themselves, but actually going to a restaurant was rare. In fact, there were not many restaurants around in the 50s and 60s. I remember Rem & Mils on Newtown Lane, and Judges out on the highway where the VFW is now. And there was the Spring Close House, and a place called "The Out of This World Inn" in Wainscott. But that was about it, other than soda fountain type places. So I suppose it wasn't a normal thing for people to eat out much. But times have surely changed! Now there's a restaurant on every corner and more choices than anyone could possibly need!

Cooking complete meals for a family of six for nearly thirty years has worn me out in the cooking department. I don't mind doing it occasionally but not on a nightly basis. These days we tend to eat lighter and simpler too. So I don't cook all that often. But I love going to a restaurant for dinner.

I think part of the fun is going with friends, which is our normal routine. It becomes more of a social event then and the meal is part of the whole. We can talk about our food choices, compare flavors, make comments on the bread or wine (not that I drink it, but the others do. I wouldn't know the difference between a Merlot and a Chianti if my life depended on it!) and beyond the meal do lots of catching up and talking about life in general. A good meal, well prepared and full of flavor, in combination with an evening spent with good friends just talking, is one of my favorite past times.

We don't do it that often but when we do I love it. There isn't much more basic in life than good friends, good conversation, and good food. It's what makes life the pleasure that it is.