Saturday, April 30, 2011

Orchids

My entire life I've been terrible with plants. I don't know what you call it when you have the opposite of a green thumb, but that's been my problem. My husband used to say he could hear the plants screaming when I carried them into the house. I'd work on keeping them alive as long as I could and when they looked as though they were beyond help I'd sheepishly take them over to my mother's house and ask her if there was anything she could do for them. Not only would she nurse them back to health, she would make them flourish - and her house was full of my failures. I never wanted to take them back because I knew how much happier they were under her care.

Mom has been gone for a few years now and I've avoided bringing plants home, despite the fact that I love the way greenery looks around the house. But I've also finally discovered something that I can keep alive: orchids. I'm shocked to say it, but when I was given a beautiful white orchid in the hospital in 2009 I assumed it was doomed. However, while visiting a friend's home during my recovery I noticed her shelves were full of healthy looking orchids and asked her how she took care of them. I took the tips she offered  back home with me and put them to use on my plant and, lo and behold, it is not only alive, it's growing and looking as healthy and beautiful as any I've seen in a florist's shop. Not only that but I've acquired two more orchid plants and they are equally healthy. My mother would be so proud!

It just goes to show that you never know what will happen in life. If I can learn how to keep a living plant alive and thriving after all these years I imagine there are other things I can still learn as well. Hope springs eternal!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Chats

The internet allows so much interaction between strangers that it creates interesting dialogue sometimes. Occasionally I visit the website of one of our local newspapers and come across some comments that are thought provoking, scary, or just ignorant.  As someone in public office it's extremely difficult sometimes not to jump in and set the record straight when people are spreading untruths - which often happens. I'm tempted to create a pseudonym just for the opportunity to get the truth out there, but so far I've resisted the urge. It's rather like reading a newspaper article with a mis-quote or prejudicial slant - I'm never sure whether its worth the effort to try to make things right or if staying out of it is the smarter thing to do. So, I rarely enter into any internet conversations.

Recently on Patch, an internet local news source, the issue of school taxes was raised and the comments have come quickly and furiously! People have many things to say about teacher salaries and education programs, but they don't always come through with the correct facts. As someone with many teachers in my family I'm protective of the profession to some extent, but I also know that unions can have too much power in a bad economy. So I'm a pretty central-thinking person in this area. But others, well, let's just say they have no compunction about spreading inaccuracies.

All this is to say that the internet makes for a strange forum on any topic. People from all over the world can offer opinions about anything despite the fact that they have no authority whatsoever, and not be corrected. The anonymity it offers can be a dangerous thing.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Missing

I was thinking about the things I miss the most when I travel and how different it is now than it was when I was younger.

When I was young and single I loved to travel. SinceI worked as a travel agent I had the opportunity to see some of the world, going to Europe as well as places closer to home like Hawaii and Mexico. I remember being pretty carefree when I jumped on a plane, never worrying about people I left behind or things that I couldn't do while I was gone. I just left it all behind me and enjoyed wherever I was. I didn't care about things like accommodations or money for food. I remember once having so little money to spend that when I was in Oslo, Norway, I bought a bunch of oranges and left them on the sill outside my hotel room window because it was cold enough that I could grab one or two first thing in the morning and have a nice cold piece of fruit for breakfast. An orange never tasted better! In that hotel the bathroom was down the hall and I dashed back and forth in a flimsy little robe never actually seeing another guest. Those were the days!

Now when I travel the accommodations are everything. I want a nice bathroom that works well. I want a comfortable bed with room to stretch out. And I want my fiber and calcium at breakfast!

We become creatures of habit, and we also become tied to our responsibilities. We miss people more and we like our routines, whatever they may be. I still love to travel but I also enjoy a bit of luxury in my life. Not because I'm spoiled, but just because the old girl doesn't deal as well with change as she did forty years ago. I have a feeling in another ten years it will be even worse...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hook Mill

The Hook Mill has been undergoing renovation for quite awhile now, and I'm anxious to see it come out from under its covers sometime this summer. As sheathing was removed at the beginning of the process, more and more rot was discovered and the job became bigger and bigger. When its complete, the mill should be strong and sturdy for the next 200 years. No doubt when it was built in 1806 the Dominy men thought they were building a structure that would be used forever, and fortunately in East Hampton we value our heritage enough to take care of it and all the old mills have been well cared for despite their being outdated for their purpose a long time ago.

They are wonders of invention, these windmills. Each one was completely built in the back yard of the builder. When completed they were disassembled, moved piece by piece and reassembled on site all in one day. It must have taken a big team of huge men and some strong horses to accomplish that task and every time I think about it I am amazed again. The inner workings, much like clockworks, are an awe inspiring bit of machinery and their creators were geniuses. Some of them still work today as well as they did over 200 years ago.

I'm so glad I live in a community that treasures its past as much as East Hampton does. With our Historic Districts and our Historical Societies we've managed to preserve so much of the way of life our ancestors lived, and being able to walk in their shoes and literally sit in the rooms they sat in and the churches they worshipped in is a rare gift. I believe that we find greater comfort in our present when we appreciate our past. In my case I walk by the Hook Mill every day, and never fail to recognize the fact that my great, great grandparents did the very same thing. It's very cool.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Community

There's a Facebook page for people who grew up in East Hampton and its full of memory ticklers and old photos of places long gone. People post questions like "What happened to _____?" (possibly a former teacher or local character of some type) and they make comments about the "old days", sometimes sad, sometimes funny, and always thought-provoking. I check it regularly to catch up on the latest discussions about the things of our youth.

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday and as I sat in the choir loft looking out over the full congregation I was struck at how similar church is to that FB page. And my conclusion is that there is great comfort in the familiar things in our lives - in the things we hold onto in our memories that make us smile when they come to mind. Church does that for me. Of course there are spiritual reasons I attend faithfully, but I also find my "center" there. It has to do with the old familiar hymns I learned as a child, the scripture verses that have always comforted me, and the people who surround me there, reminding me that I belong to a community. I'm not an island unto myself, despite what any poem my say, but I am part of the whole which makes up this place I call home. And rubbing elbows every week with members of that extended family in church makes me remember that I have responsibilities and obligations to them as well as to the larger community as a whole. It's that community that came together to worship on 9-11 and that community that rallied around me when I was being treated for cancer and that community that I know will be here for my children and my grandchildren in the future.

Now I know why its not only the spiritual comfort that I feel when I leave the sanctuary every Sunday morning. It's all about community in all its forms, whether on Facebook or at church. We are there for each other.

Monday, April 25, 2011

On Accabonac


Thanks to one of my blog readers I recently watched the attached YouTube video, which struck me in its simplicity: no narration or explanation needed, the images speak for themseleves.

The things that were going through my mind while I watched amounted to all the reasons I stay in East Hampton. I could hear everything others say about why they leave ("It's too crowded now", "too much traffic", "lines to long at the grocery store", etc) but watching this enabled me to answer them all with the same thing: "I can't leave this!"

I think that those of us who have survived the changes that have occurred out here on the East End have done so with tenacity and determination. We learn to work around the annoyances (I actually left for my morning walk this week at 6am instead of 7 and it made all the difference! Little traffic and no fumes. It was worth getting up earlier for!) and we learn to be more patient and generous. After all, if we love it here why shouldn't everyone else in the world? We shop at off hours, we plan our weekends to stay at home as much a possible, and we know that the summer months will be annoying if we let it all get to us, so we don't. Because at the end of the day, for 9 months of the year we get to live in a little bit of paradise, watching the birds working along the shore in the fall, and enjoying a gentle rain on Accabonac Harbor in the Spring.

Life just doesn't get much better....

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Holy Week

This past week was Holy Week and today is Easter Sunday. It's one of the holiest holidays of the Christian calendar and I miss being in my home church for it.

Last week we celebrated Palm Sunday with the usual parade of palms and "Hosanna"s ringing in the sanctuary. The children led the procession followed by the pastor and the choir, and palms were waved and songs were sung to commemorate the day of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. I loved being with my church family and being surrounded by them made the holiday all the more meaningful.

I was sorry to miss the other Holy Week services because of our trip: Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. I enjoy the remembrances of Christ's sacrifices, serving as a reminder to me of where my heart is. And today is Easter. his morning we'll attend church with my daughter's family and we'll enjoy the celebration in a different place, not surrounded by our own church family, but by others in the extended one. Because it really is about commemorating the day with other believers and that we can do wherever we are.

To all my readers I wish a blessed holiday.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Groceries

One of the things I love about where my daughter lives is the proximity to a beautiful, big grocery store. In Pennsylvania, the brand is "Giant" and the name is apropos because the place is enormous. They have the bakery section where we can buy everything from fresh bread to donuts and muffins, a deli to die for, and a huge produce section where everything in the world is available. And of course there are beauty products, greeting cards, and a florist as well, so its pretty much one-stop shopping if necessary. With wide aisles and clean floors its like every woman's dream.

All that said, I'm always grateful to get home to my little IGA. Because whenever I walk into that Giant I am tempted in ways I never face at home. The smells of the bakery seduce me and I buy cupcakes or muffins, each one large enough to feed a small army. In the cereal section I see things I've never tasted before and the cracker section beguiles me with choices. I find myself pulling things off the shelf that I would never indulge in at home. My caloric intake probably triples when I'm in residence at my daughter's.

I would like to think that if I were shopping there on a regular basis I would learn to show some restraint. But I'm not sure. Because I avoid shopping at the local King Kullen for the same reason. I always come home with things that were not on my list. So I stick to my little IGA supermarket, with few choices and no new, exciting items to grab my attention and divert me from my mission. For people like me, with little will power and weak resolve, small is definitely better. Or, less is more. I'll enjoy it this week and most probably buy more donuts than should be allowed by law. But then I'll go home to my little neighborhood grocery and back to reality.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Away

I'm in Pennsylvania now, visiting with the grandkids who make this state home. My husband and I figure we need to make the trip as often as we can while were able because we know the day will most probably come when we no longer want to deal with the traffic in the metro area in order to get off Long Island. It's the single worst thing about living where we live - its too hard to get off Long Island unless we're heading north and can take the ferry.

We feel very much at home in our daughter's house, where we have a nice guest room and comfortable bed. I don't know whether it makes a difference if you're visiting a daughter and son-in-law or a son and daughter-in-law because I've never experienced the latter. I suspect it might since relationships with the woman of the house are key and our own children probably put up with our idiosyncrasies better than others would. But I'm lucky enough to have three of my children living in East Hampton, so this is the only one we have to travel to see. Fortunately they make the trip north as often as we make the one south, so we see them frequently.

On this trip my husband will leave me behind when he heads back to Long Island and he'll come back for me next weekend. It will give me lots of time with my daughter and the grandchildren, but it makes me sad at the same time to be away from him for the week. In the past when I've done this I didn't notice it so much during the day, but climbing into bed at night made the absence more apparent. I don't actually mind having the smaller bed all to myself, but I miss his presence in conversation and just in the fact of being there. After thirty-seven years of marriage, one becomes used to certain things and falling asleep with someone else is one of them. We are creatures of habit, after all, and some changes take time to adjust to.

Just when I begin to get used to being alone in the bed, he'll be back again. And the adjustment will begin again.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Buds

Last week the flowering cherry trees that line the road by Hren's Nursery began to look pink. The buds are showing now and in no time at all we'll be treated to the most glorious display of Spring trees out here in the East End. I look forward to it every year.

There's a wonderful rhythm to the blossoming of trees out here and I can nearly tell the weeks by it without a calendar. First come the cherry trees, then the crab apples, apples, dogwoods, lilacs, and rhododendrons. Each has its moment of glory and then fades away for another year. Each is unique and beautiful and each brings me joy.

Those cherry trees are going to be stunning soon. There are amazing specimens all over town that I make a point of visiting every year. There's the one behind the Presbyterian Church, the one on the corner of Main and Woods, and the one near Green Hollow Road in the cabin complex. Then there are the ones at Hrens, creating a wonderful trail of pink that always makes me smile.

Seeing those buds appear after a long winter is such a pleasure. And the simple pleasures of life truly are the most valuable.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Noise

My blog the other day about the sounds and smells that I encounter on my morning walks reminded me of a television show we watched some years ago. It was part of a series of reality-type specials done on PBS that were fascinating, beginning with one called "The 1918 House". The concept involved taking people from today and putting them into a house in London which dated back to the early part of the twentieth century, removing all modern conveniences and having them live in the lifestyle of the earlier time period. It was authentic down to the staffing and food, clothing and careers. There were no modern interventions allowed unless it was a matter of life and death, literally, and all the people who participated did so knowing they were signing on for this experiment. It was so interesting. We tend to romanticize the earlier periods in history and these programs definitely cured me of that!

Apparently we were not the only ones who enjoyed this concept because it was so popular they went on to make one set in London during the WWII years, another set in the earliest colonial days in America (Colonial House), and my favorite of all, settlers in the early 1800s out west (Frontier House). Those who participated in these experimental time periods (and each experiment lasted about 6 months, I believe) learned so much about the people and places in history that they inhabited. And so did their viewers. It was really a great series and we looked forward to each installment as it came along. (And it's probably available on DVD if anyone is interested!)

The point of all this is that one thing I remember in particular was the one set in colonial New England during the 1700s. When the experiment was over, these two families who had lived within sight of each other for the past months, were thrown back into regular society and taken to a WalMart for supplies. The thing they were the most startled with was the noise. After months of living out in the wilderness with only an occasional plane passing overhead, they'd become so accustomed to the quiet and used to hearing only birds singing and animals braying, with their horses and cows making the only sounds, along with the humans who were with them. Their ears were assaulted with the sounds of modern society and I was struck by their horror during the re-entry period.

I rarely have quiet in my house. I often have the television on just for the company! In addition I hear street traffic, my police scanner, the clock, humming appliances, clothes clinking in the dryer, the telephone ringing, and all other manner of sounds that we live with every day. Even in remote areas there are modern noises, which was in fact one of the challenges of the television producers who had to  find a place to film their show without the intrusion of the 21st century. Sit in your living room and listen - its amazing what you hear (even now, before the leaf blowers crank up)!

How interesting would it be to live in peaceful silence, with only the sounds of nature to keep us company. I might not like it for extended periods but it might be very nice for a few days....

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sidewalks

On my walk yesterday morning I noticed something interesting: as busy as the streets were, with trucks and buses passing in every direction, the sidewalks were abandoned. I thought it was strange that there was no activity at 7am when everyone was rushing to work.

I remember years ago when Newtown Lane was abuzz with activity in the mornings. They were buying coffee at Dreesen's, or visiting Eddie's Luncheonette, or crossing the street looking for newspapers. It seemed as though half the workforce was out and about crossing the street for whatever reason.

No more. The Golden Pear is where Eddie's used to be and occasionally there's someone coming or going, but I don't think they open as early as Eddie's used to. Dreesen's is long gone. There is usually activity on Main Street where Starbucks has made a home for itself, but on this day it was even quiet there. I think there's little chatting going on at Starbucks - its not as conducive to neighborly conversation when you're in an out instead of stopping to sit with a hard roll or muffin.

I'm not sure why people have abandoned the small luncheonettes in favor of Starbucks. I think we've lost something along the way. When they first moved in I thought they'd never last. I believed that it was a "city person's" store and they wouldn't survive winter. Surely our locals would still be getting their coffee at the local spots! I guess I underestimated the power of lattes. As a non-coffee drinker I admit to ignorance in that area. But its sad.

The local delis used to be humming with activity in the morning and maybe some still are. But Main Street and Newtown Lane are most assuredly not. I hope Brent's and Damark's are still hopping at 7am and I hope people are still taking the time to greet each other and catch up a little with their neighbors there.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fumes

Getting out of the gym and back on the sidewalk for my morning exercise has reminded me once again of the pollution we put into the air. Since I stick to Main Street and the business district, even at 7 in the morning the traffic is non-stop and all I can smell is fumes from the trucks and cars that are passing by at a steady rate. And then there is the noise.

Which brings me to my thought of the day: what would the world smell like and sound like without traffic? If I smell those fumes it means that even when they're not obvious, they're there affecting the scents and sounds all around us. I imagine walking down Main Street smelling the flowers that are beginning to blossom all around, catching whiffs of freshly baked goods and coffee from the various shops along the way, and perhaps even hearing the waves crashing off in the distance. I'd be more aware of the activities all around as I might hear someone raking their yard or scraping a front door for painting. I'd probably be able to overhear conversations as people left for work or greeted one another in passing. How different life would be without all those noisy, smelly vehicles clogging our roads.

Of course the other side of that is that I'm planning to drive to Pennsylvania next week to visit my daughter and her family so without our car that would never be possible. I might be able to go by train but trips would be more involved and less frequent for sure.

We live in a complicated world of our own making to some extent. I think there must be a happy medium between the noise and air pollution we deal with - and a world with no cars. But it might be nice to have a few days a year without them so we could enjoy some clean air and silent moments. What a treat that would be!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Waiting for May

I generally do not like to wish time away - it simply goes too quickly on its own without any help from me so I prefer to savor each moment and not think too much about wanting a particular period to move more quickly. This is something I learned during my pregnancies when I wanted those months to quickly go by so I could be more comfortable and get things over with. In retrospect I wish I had spent more time savoring those days of participating in a real, honest-to-goodness miracle. So - lesson learned!

But April is truly trying my patience. I expect rain because we're taught from an early age that "April showers bring May flowers" but this first part of April has not only brought showers, its been dark, dismal, depressing and downright sad out there. It's affected my mood more than once and that really annoys me because I like being "up" and "happy" and keeping an optimistic view in general. Yesterday I had to turn the heat on in the house. I never turn the heat on this late in April!

Showers are one thing. Pouring rain is another. And honestly, enough is enough. It's time now for some sunshine and some good reason for uplifted spirits. Enough already and please, let's bring on May!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Plans

I've recently thought many times about the quote from somewhere that when we make plans, God laughs. Another that I've often referred to is the one that John Lennon included in his song "Beautiful Boy" which is "Life is what happens when we're making other plans". So many plans gone awry!

I had a friend - a mentor really who was a generation older and the giver of great advice - who used to tell us to always plan for the future but expect the unexpected. So true! He himself was a man who had planned out his future in great detail but died shortly after his retirement, way too early. He was an illustrated sermon if ever there was one. We continue to quote his many wise statements in our home and I often send up a little message of thanks in the hope that he hears it, or at least senses it.

Many plans have recently been shown to be unnecessary or frivolous. And yet we continue to make them because we need to. We need structure and we need the security of knowing that things will move ahead in a planned way. And we know in the end chaos will ensue, but hey, its all a part of the human state.

Now, I need to go make plans for my day....

Friday, April 15, 2011

Repeats

Twice in the last week I've been amused at how history repeats itself in life. Especially when you've always lived in the same place.

First I attended my grandson's little league game. Now we were involved in the little league program here for over twenty years. We started when my oldest daughter was in T-ball and continued through all four children, the two boys going all the way through the senior league program and then both of them helping my husband who continued to umpire games up until a couple years ago. Along the way he was a coach on various levels and also served as president of the league. During those years we saw new fields built, helped get them seeded and ready for play, and contributed to the sport by initiating new safely rules and equipment use on the local level. So going back to those fields and standing with the other parents and grandparents brought back many memories. I thought about all those hours sitting on freezing cold bleachers, trying to keep younger children warm, worrying about snacks and drinks and jackets and - well - every parent in the world knows what I'm talking about. It was as though the last thirty years of my life were wiped away and I was back with my own kids, cheering and worrying and fussing.

Then a few days later another grandson was in a theater production. Oh the memories that came flooding back as I watched him light up the stage! I remembered so many elementary school productions with his mother, an almost identical face looking out to find the faces of family in the crowd, working hard to please and entertain. Again, I was transported back in time, as though he was my own child prancing around.

Seeing the next generation, sometimes in the same places where not only their parents worked and played but where I did as well, is at once both startling and heartwarming. They attend the same school I did and they are having some of the same experiences too. I'm so glad I never moved away from home.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dates

When my son announced recently that he was getting married in May, with only the immediate family present, we decided it would be fun to give them a big party to celebrate with the large extended family and close friends. Easier said than done.

I sat with the calendar and looked at May, June, July......how can it be that we are so busy? Not only that, but when I managed to find a couple Saturdays that were available, as soon as I checked with family members they were not. I believe this is why people plan weddings far in advance and allow people to get the time put onto their schedules while they're still open.

I'm not sure what that says about us as a society, that we're too busy to get together in the next three months of our lives, but honestly I don't know what to do about it. None of our obligations are silly or unimportant - we have an out-of-town wedding to attend, for instance, and there are functions which we've been involved in planning that are coming up soon, so what's a person to do?

Nothing is as important as our son's wedding and we are looking forward to celebrating with him and his new bride. We managed to find a date eventually, but I know it's not the best for everyone involved. I guess at the end of the day I'm glad that my life is full enough to be so busy. I can't imagine anything worse than sitting around my house on weekends with nothing to do.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring-in-a-box

I am always amazed at the effect flowers have on my psyche.

Last week, when I was tired of the cold and rain and wishing for Spring, and the deer had done their damage to my garden so the crocuses had been devoured and the hyacynths disappeared, I had to stop at the florist for some help. I walked around the green house looking at all the pretty spring plants, admiring the colors and smells as I wandered, and I stopped and checked out every one of the little Spring plant baskets that they'd put together in the gift shop. I needed something, and it had to be just right. I needed some color, some variety, and it needed to be small enough for my kitchen table but big enough to "pop". I finally zeroed on on a couple pretty containers that were covered with spanish moss, looking every bit like something grabbed right from the garden. In each container the florist had put together a combination of plants, like mini-daffodils and ranunculas, nicely colorful and very much the look of Spring. I debated over a few of them, studying each combination until I decided on the one I wanted, and carried it to the front counter. It had the pre-requisite mini-daffodils, plus some pretty purple and avendar pansies, a red renunculas, and a couple pretty little chicadee figures placed in among the leaves. It looked like a mini-garden scene, had a nice color combination, and was the perfect size for my table. I paid for it and brought it home where I look at it everytime I walk through the kitchen or sit in the living room, and it always makes me smile.

Sometimes its the simplest things in life that bring us joy: a child's smile, a tiny kitten, a basket of flowers. So simple and yet so meaningful. It was well worth the money...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Local color

The colors of spring are popping up all over the place these days and even the grass is starting to look as though its up and awake now. It could not have happened soon enough!

A ride around town shows the signs of the season with buds on trees, daffodils in bloom, and yard work going on everywhere. This week I've seen people scraping and painting windows, raking leaves from last fall, making driveway repairs, and cleaning out flower beds. My own list includes painting the front door and I really need to get that done before it gets too hot around here. I need to let the door stay open to dry but don't want to stand in the heat to paint. So this is the time - just now when its not too hot, not too cold out there. I've decided on a nice green but I haven't picked up the paint yet or bought the brushes. I need to get off my rear and do it - its a two-day-job and it won't take long at all. But for whatever reason I've put it off up to now. I'm putting it on my calendar now.

My mother always told me not to plant anything until Memorial Day so I don't have any big plans in that area but soon enough I can see wanting to get the big patio pots filled with geraniums and other pretty plants.

My problem is totally one of motivation and energy. I find as the years go on I have less and less of both those things. I wish I were more like my mother, who was the real life version of the energizer bunny if  ever there was one. She was out gardening for hours the summer before she died. But I seem to have more of my father's disposition for manual labor and I don't enjoy it at all. It's right up there with exercise in my book - I'd much rather have someone else do it for me! And could I afford it, they would!

Enough excuses though! Time to get with it and accomplish something. First thing in the morning - that front door...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Life lessons

A few weeks ago I talked about the lessons my grandchildren teach me, but honestly its my entire family that I learn from. In fact, I think one of the greatest advantages I have in life is having a large family. Because even growing up, its that constant interaction with other people that tends to chip off our sharp edges and teach us how to get along well with others, does it not? And the more people one has to co-exist with, the more the lessons learned. Here are some of the things I can point to as things I can thank my family for teaching me:

From my brother I learned that its not always the squeaky wheel that deserves attention. His quiet, unassuming nature often makes me ashamed of my own overly-outspoken one. I hope I have learned to stop and think before I speak a little more often from watching him.

From one sister I've learned that sometimes being bold and outspoken isn't so bad either. Sometimes its important to hear what people are thinking and sometimes we need to hear the voice of criticism. From my other sister I've learned that love truly does attract people and a loving spirit is a joy to be around.

From my in-laws I've learned the importance of acceptance and inviting people into your family. They've enriched my life with their own special gifts and strengths and I'm so glad to have them in the fold, making me a better person in so many ways.From my children I've learned patience, humility, and love. I've learned that I'm never too old to learn to be a better person and that by paying attention to the messages they bring I can continue to grow and change throughout my life.

From my nieces and nephews I've learned that even though we're such a diverse group of people, a family is more about appreciating and celebrating our differences than worrying about them. With ten neices and nephews there are many personalities and differences and I love them all! Each one teaches me something, not the least of which is that they can all be irreplaceable parts of our lives if we embrace each one with love.

As new members join my big extended family, I learn new lessons about people - and about myself. I've learned that things don't always go as we plan them, or imagine them, but that reality is usually much better than the imagined. And I've learned that I wouldn't change a single member of this family because there's plenty of love to go around for each and every one of them.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gifts

I was watching a piece of television the other day about toddlers playing tennis and other children being put into sports at very young ages (to encourage any phenoms out there). It made me wonder something: Is it possible that we would all be very gifted at something in life if we were only to discover it?

For instance, how do we know if our children might not have had the ability to become a "Tiger Woods" if only we'd put golf clubs into their hands when they were mere three-year-olds like his father did? Perhaps we ourselves would have been as successful as some of the great artists in history if our parents had put us to work with canvases and easels when we were still in the toddler years. Maybe each child has special talents if only we could afford to put them in the classes or with the coaches who could mold them and bring those talents to the fore. But how would you know which direction to encourage them? Will they be artists, athletes, musicians, writers? Of course we all do encourage their special abilities and most of us find our places in the world where our special talents can flourish. But I'm talking about starting very young with a great deal of teaching and additional attention, like hours on a tennis court, to bring those abilities to the point of being phenomenal.

It's an interesting idea. Perhaps there really is a star in each of us. I'd like to think so anyway.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Adults

A recent Facebook entry by my daughter got me to thinking. She was talking about how odd it was for her to be making dinner alone when not long ago she was doing it with one baby in her arms and a toddler pulling at her leg. Time flies indeed.

It made me think about how our lives continue to change through all our years and even though my children have been out of my house for some time now I still feel the pain of their independence and adulthood. Because they need me less and less, and I can already see them becoming the decision makers and the more dominant members of the relationship as our lives change in the ways of age and theirs with the responsibilities and experiences they have. It's the normal cycle of life but it is never easy to adjust to.

I know that everyone who lives long enough comes to a point when they no longer make all the decisions or guide their own destinies. I'm seeing this first hand right now with an elderly aunt who has been moved, very reluctantly, to am assisted-living facility. My heart goes out to her because I cannot imagine being told I can no longer live in my own home, where I'm so content and comfortable. It's one of the cruelties of life.

But this slow exchange of dominance and power in a parent/child relationship is a mystery that I'm fascinated with. I already see the subtle changes as they no longer ask our advice and counsel, but offer us theirs. As parents we long to always be needed by our children - not necessarily to have them hanging off our legs, but to at least know they need our help. I take comfort in the fact that the one thing I cried for more than any other when I went through my cancer treatments was my mother. I needed to hear her tell me that everything was going to be OK. I needed her to grieve with me. And I needed to know she was there. But she wasn't. I don't want my kids to ever have the need for me in that way, but I hope they'll truly miss me when I'm gone.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Music

I was driving home from Southampton the other day, listening to the local public radio station, when a song by The Doors started: "I see a red door and I want to paint it black..." etc.  I was suddenly surrounded by black lights, bell bottom jeans, long-haired guys with headbands and  girls in hip-huggers and embroidered denim shirts. Wow-I could almost smell the smoke and taste the pizza!

I'm always amazed at the way music can instantly transport us to another time and place in our memories and every detail comes back with such clarity - the sights, smells, and sounds from our memories.

It wasn't too long ago that I heard the first 12 bass notes of The Temptations "My Girl" and the same thing happened:  I saw myself lying on my bed in my parent's house, in my school clothes ( a mini skirt and tights with a favorite turtle neck sweater).  As I  listened to that song and I suddenly had all the melancholy thoughts af a 14-year-old girl, greiving over unrequited love for some 16-year-old boy - oh the angst of those years! For chubby teens like me, love is always unrequited and life seems so hopeless!

Music is an amazing door to our memory banks. Every sense can be tweaked by the simplist melody and only a few notes of a song from our past can send us off into a world of nostalgia. Music has the ability to move us emotionally like nothing else, from laughter to tears, anger to joy, everyplace along the scale of human feelings.

I'm so thrilled that I have a family that loves music - and can make it too. There's nothing in life quite as wonderful as making music and I consider it one of my most precious gifts. And I know when the day comes that I can no longer create it myself, there will be plenty of people in my circle who can do it for me. I find comfort in that!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April showers

Well so far April has lived up to its reputation as a month of rain. We had a lovely weekend but then the rain came and its been wet and dark up until yesterday and today they are calling for more of the same, making me hope the flowers are enjoying it because I'm not particularly. If it means a wonderful year for hydrangeas and lilacs then I guess I can deal with it - hopefully that will be true!

The deer have devastated my garden so the hyacinths and tulips I've enjoyed the past few years in April won't be making an appearance this year. So far they've avoided touching the irises so I hope that means they don't like them. I'd really be upset to see those gone because they were here at the house when we moved in and although we've moved them from place to place they've been part of our spring every year for over thirty now. It would be a sad change. I avoided pruning the lilacs this year just because I know they'll be out of reach for those four-legged raiders the way they are and while it may be harder for me to pull them within reach to cut armloads of them, at least they'll still be blooming and not used as appetizers for those creatures. I'm willing to make the sacrifice.

Looks like we'll have a few days of sun now but no doubt the rains will come again before too long because it is, after all, April.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hymns

Sunday in church we sang an old hymn that I hadn't heard in many years and I was moved by all the memories that it stirred. I saw myself standing with my parents, singing three part harmony together, enjoying the rousing chorus with tenors and basses answering sopranos and altos on each phrase in the typical style of the old favorite hymns of the church. "Precious name (precious name) Oh how sweet (oh how sweet)" It was wonderful thinking back to those early years when I learned to sing by listening to my parents and came to appreciate harmonizing and praising with a congregation, all singing with fervor and joy.

There is nothing quite like it. I miss my parents on Sundays. Sundays were always family days and church was always part of it so their presence is especially missed on Sundays. Especially when I'm standing in church, singing an old hymn that I know they would have loved singing too. I found myself on Sunday morning hoping the were doing just that.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

School days

These were the days when school children start getting really antsy for summer vacation. They can see it coming and they can taste the freedom of the months ahead and they get excited about the future. I know how they feel. I remember sitting in classrooms, watching the lawn mower floating back and forth across the huge expanse of playground, and when the teacher would crank open the windows to get some fresh air into the classroom that wonderful smell of freshly mown grass would float in, an almost torturous thing.

We couldn't wait to get outside and head home for the day, knowing we could stay outside until dinner and homework intervened. There's nothing quite like the fresh air of spring coming into a house that's stale from the months of being closed up and shut tight. It's invigorating and titillating. It's coming and we can almost taste it in that wonderful warm spring air. I feel badly for the kids sitting in those same classrooms today. The schools have changed so much since I attended them that its hard for me to even recognize which ones might have been mine so many years ago, but I know my grandsons are sitting in about the same places I once did, and soon they'll be smelling the same heady aroma of that freshly mown grass. And I feel for them because I remember so well.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Heat

April first is the day we traditionally turn off our heat. This year it's not happening. We've been very frugal with our heat since the energy crisis of the 1970s when we were newlyweds. We had no money and couldn't afford to heat our house to the point where it was actually comfortable, and we learned to make do with wool sweaters and comfortable throws.

We don't keep it quite as chilly as we used to, and no doubt age will make it more and more difficult to keep things quite as we have all these years, but I still try to stick with the November 1st to April 1st timeline. With our gas fireplace insert it's been easier to do that, but honestly, if it doesn't start warming up here soon our resolve will be sorely tested.

Saturday and Sunday were finally more temperate days and it renewed my hope that soon I won't even have to use the fireplace to take off the chill. Soon enough the cool house will feel good on hot days and I need to remember that! But at the moment, I'm still looking for a bit more comfort in my evenings at home, and I'm ready to hang up the winter coats for yet another year. It's April, after all, and I'm tired of cold hands. Come on already!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My nephew

I have the most amazing nephew. And today is his birthday. I'm sure everyone thinks their relatives are the most amazing people out there, but in this case I can say without a doubt that this guy is above and beyond the norm. Because he's been using crutches and wheelchairs since he was born over thirty years ago with a debilitating defect that cannot be corrected. Every day, everything he does, is a struggle. He has to struggle to get out of bed, to bathe, to dress, to prepare meals, to get into his car, to drive, to get from his parking space to his office, to teach, to navigate his work spaces, to do all the things that everyone else takes for granted every single day. He could live off the government if he wanted to but instead he has become well educated and contributes to the world to make it a better place. Of course, a good deal of credit goes to his parents because as everyone knows, no child grows into a responsible adult on his or her own. He was encouraged, pushed, supported, cajoled, disciplined, prodded and forced to be independent and tough. And he is. But he also has had to make choices that have made him who he is. And I admire him more than I can tell you. Today is my nephew's birthday. I remember the day he was born like it was yesterday. I can tell you where I was and what happened throughout that day as we kept in touch with the hospital, trying to keep track of what was happening with this tiny baby who needed immediate and majoy surgeries and may not even live long enough for us to even get to know. I'm not sure if he has any idea how his life has impacted each of the others in our family. But I can tell you that he's made us all better people just by being here. I hope he has a wonderful birthday today. And I hope he has many, many more.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring?

It would be difficult to judge by the weather this past week whether or not Spring has actually arrived on the East End. The thermometer is still hovering below 50 and there aren't many signs of the season to be seen in recent days. But I know its coming and the anticipation is keeping me going at this point. I no longer have crocuses to greet me outside the door because the deer have taken care of that, and I don't dare buy a nice pot of pansies because last year when I did that the deer ate every blossom, despite the fact that I'd put it on the deck just outside my door where I thought it would be safe. Surely they wouldn't come up on the deck, right? Wrong! So how to bring some Spring into the yard to lift every one's spirits? I think its just a matter of waiting it out. It can't be much longer before we feel the warmer air and see the grass greening up and the trees starting to bud. I hope April will be more cooperative than March was! I'll be watching the weather reports carefully, looking for temperatures to creep on up to 60 and 70 soon. Usually April and May are my favorite months for temperature, right up there with September and October. Not too hot, not too cold, but just right. I'm patiently waiting...

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools

I thought I would do some sort of April Fool's joke for a column today but I haven't been able to come up with something credible enough to be believed without scaring people - especially family members (although I don't think many of them read this) - and I didn't want to do that. April Fool's jokes are only funny when they don't cause harm like fear or sadness. So I decided not to try and instead to mention one of the things done in the past that were funny and harmless.

We waited patiently for April Fool's Day to fall on a Sunday because the minister was a good friend of ours and we had a plan. When the calendar finally cooperated, we were ready for it. We met parishioners at the door and handed them our secret weapons with verbal directions and almost no one refused to join in. The church filled and we took our places as we waited for the minister to come to the pulpit. As he was saying his opening prayer, we could hear the slight rustling as everyone prepared for the moment and when he opened his eyes and gazed out on his congregation he was dumbfounded. Nearly every congregant, from the youngest to the oldest, was wearing those black glasses with the bulging googly eyes on springs, and he was facing a sea of bouncing, bloodshot, bulging eye, bobbing up and down with a "boing, boing, boing". As someone who was trained to never be at a loss for words, he was a bit out of his element as he stuttered and sputtered, grasping for something to say. Finally he just smiled and surrendered to the moment, muttering "You got me!" as he shook his head and laughed.

It remains one of my favorite memories. And I'm in a different church now so I'm looking forward to April Fool's Day falling on a Sunday in about, um, two years? My mind is already racing with ideas.....