Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Eve

Another New Year's Eve. Every year I'm reminded of the ones from my youth. They are still fresh in my mind.

I looked forward to babysitting when I was old enough and I did that every year throughout high school. New Year's Eve was a special gift in terms of babysitting and I always had a job that night. It was a night to make really good money because people stayed out much longer than normal and I had lots of time to myself because the kids were in bed by 8 and I often was there until 1am. At .50 and hour that meant about $3 plus a tip, and usually it was thee best money I made all winter. When fees went to .75 an hour in my later high school years, most people would pay at least $1 an hour for New Year's Eve and that was really good money!

The only problem was it was often a boring night, stuck in someone else's house, watching their television, which in those days meant some channels came in better than others depending on where they were located, and no one to talk to unless a friend was also babysitting an we could chat on the phone to help keep each other awake.

I remember every home I sat in for New Year's Eve and all the kids I watched. I even remember the red lounge chair I fell asleep in once the ball dropped and boredom set in. And I don't miss those days -

Monday, December 30, 2013

Empty house

This morning I woke to an empty house. It's an amazing difference that children make!

Having the family from away was an unexpected gift this Christmas. It wasn't their year to be here, but circumstances changed their plans and at the last minute we were thrilled to have them come. They arrived Christmas Eve and left yesterday morning. And today the house is so quiet.

When my kids were young I enjoyed almost every minute of those years. I loved the energy and the entertainment that they provided. Every age was a wonder and every year more special than the one before. As each of the four entered the family it changed the personality of the home and added to the joy of the whole. Each one brought their own special gifts and each one was valued beyond measure - and they still are.

But now its the grandchildren that bring that special gift to our lives, each contributing something unique that's theirs alone to give. And when they are actually sleeping here in this house, it reminds me of the days their parents were in residence. And it always makes me glad they're here, bringing us that energy and joy that only children can.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Holiday lights

The Christmas tree by the post office here in East Hampton - the one I have always called "my" tree because I've been looking at it since they began lighting it in the 1960s and I could see it from my bedroom window - is starting to look a bit ragged. It's lower branches are dying and I think it may be on its last legs. It's so tall now it will no doubt bite the dust one of these days soon, either coming down in a storm or being taken down because its no longer safe and sturdy. It will be a sad day for me when that happens - the end of an era and one of those things that make one feel old.

The good news is there is another one growing alongside it that will take its place there in the sheep fold. So we won't be without a lighted tree on holidays to come.

I love the mayor in the town in New Jersey who announced this year they would revert to calling the tree on the municipal green a "Christmas" tree instead of the "holiday" tree they had been referring to. He pointed to the menorah next to the tree and said "We don't call this a "candelabra" do we? It made me laugh and also made me shake my head in agreement. Rather than trying to be "inclusive" all the time how about we just be honest and truthful and allow each other our beliefs. If you don't celebrate I don't mind. Hopefully you don't mind if I do!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Disagreements

I hate the fact that Facebook has become a sort of forum for differing viewpoints. I don't mind a good discussion and I don't mind disagreements, but some things are just too complicated to debate in small sound bites. And its difficult to have a discussion with anyone when you're not face-to-face.

It seems as though every issue that come onto the local or national stage becomes fodder for Facebook. Regardless of how informed anyone is, they have opinions about everything. Sometimes they are interesting - sometimes infuriating - but always annoying because its just an impossible place to actually have dialogue. How can logical people have real conversations over their "status updates"? It doesn't work well.

I sometimes try to correct misinformation. Often I ignore it. I just think Facebook is not the answer to the world's issues when it comes to intelligent debate. But then again, what do I know?


Friday, December 27, 2013

Almost

One morning last week I drove to Sag Harbor early in the day - shortly after 7am.  It was barely light out - very gray and all the cars had headlights on. There was a big beautiful moon - it wasn't quite full, missing a sliver on one side. But it was bright and a line from "Twas the Night Before Christmas" came to mind - you know, the one about the "moon on the crest of the new fallen snow gave the luster off midday to objects below". The moon was bright enough that everything glowed from its light and the rising sun was hardly necessary.

It was a beautiful drive to Sag Harbor that morning. every tree, every field glistened with the reflection. It was very special. It was the kind of thing I love about early winter mornings.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Aftermath

So the gifts are opened, the wrappings are tossed, the stockings are empty and there are lots of leftovers in the fridge. Another Christmas is over. For me, it was the 5th Christmas since I was told I had cancer. It was yet another gift that I am so grateful for.

Every special occasion, every beautiful day, every full moon,
every snowfall - every blessed day is a gift for me and I savor each and every one of them.

Dear God may I never forget what a gift life is.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas


Wishing everyone a blessed day today, surrounded by people you love and the joy of the Christmas message. May the infant sent to earth to make us whole be our focus and may we never forget the magic of the gift.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Anticipation


Tonight is all about anticipation. The kids are excited about all the gifts tomorrow. We're excited about watching the kids be exited about all their gifts. And we're very much looking forward to family being together again for a holiday. A holiday that's all about love and family and gifts - when we focus on the great gift of God's son to the world and his little family gathered in a humble stable in Bethlehem -  and celebrate that amazing miracle. A holiday that brightens our dark winters and brings light and joy to a dark cold world.

Yes- tonight is about anticipation. And anticipation is a glorious thing.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Binge tv

There's a new phenomenon out there and apparently it even has a name. Because we always have names for new behaviors, right? This one is called "binge tv". It's what we do now that we are able to stream television shows into our homes through Roku and Amazon prime and I have to admit we are guilty of it.

Last year we gave in to the recommendation of our kids and started watching he show "Parenthood". But before we watched the new episode we went on a binge and, with our Roku and Amazon prime we were able to go back to season one and bring ourselves up to date so we knew the entire storyline from the beginning. We watched hours of it on weekends and within a couple weeks we had seen all the seasons from the past.

This year we're working our way through "The Good
Wife". We started in November and are up to season four now, with only one more to go before we'll be caught up on that one too.

Every year there are shows that receive good reviews that we simply don't have the time to watch. But now, with binge tv watching, we are able to go back in time and watch those great shows. It's a wonderful thing.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Countdown

We're down to hours now and mostly I'm thinking about food. Do I have enough? Is there a nice variety? Will everyone have something they like? Oh the dilemmas! LOL

With only a few days left I need to make some food for the fridge. I need salads and desserts and I need to make sure everyone will be overfed, because that's what Christmas is all about, right? Overindulgence?

I still have plenty of lists to keep me busy. I think the kitchen will not get cold in the next few days. The oven will barely cool off and the dishwasher will be running nonstop.

And my bed. Oh how heavenly that bed is going to feel every night when I sink into it. Ahhhh.....perfection! I so love the holidays!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Last one

Today is the last Saturday before Christmas and its a busy one. I have a hospital board meeting this morning, and a wedding this afternoon. And that's why I get my shopping done early! Because inevitably if I were to wait until the end I would never have time to get it done.

I used to work for someone who always waited until Christmas Eve to do his Christmas shopping. That would stress me out no end. Of course, only a man could do that because they seem to only do the shopping for their significant other. From what I can tell its the women of the world who do most of the shopping, so having to take are of the children and grandchildren might be more than anyone could do on one night. I know many stores cater to men on Christmas Eve. They offer special services and bargains. Thankfully my husband is more organized than that. Perhaps because we are busy with church and family on Christmas Eve. Who has time for shopping?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bows

All the gifts are wrapped and stored in the attic but now the worst part of the job comes along - sorting, adding bows, and putting tags on them. I don't like to do those things when I wrap because when they are stored they tend to get pulled or ripped off, leaving rips in the paper and no idea who the gift goes to. So instead as each is wrapped I write the name on the back and later we add the bows and tags. And its a pain in the neck job. Not only because its time consuming, but also because then we need to worry about the bows getting pulled off.

I used to love the wrapping part of Christmas.. During the year I enjoy wrapping gifts or birthdays or other special occasions. I enjoy adding silk flowers or little toys in the ribbons and making lots of curls and fancy designs. But when you are looking at over 60 gifts to decorate the bloom is definitely off the rose.

The attic is full of gifts right now. And all of them need tags and ribbon. Yuck!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Most fascinating

I always enjoy watching Barbara Walter's specials about the "Ten Most Fascinating People" of the year. Often I disagree with her but I always enjoy the things I learn about these famous folks. And I was wondering about doing a show of my own for the local television station here in East Hampton. It would be the 10 most fascinating people of the East End. Who would I choose?

The first and easiest is Teresa Quigley, our local town councilwoman who is leaving office this month. She never ceases to fascinate me. Watching her on TV is like watching a train wreck - we know what's going to happen, but we can't turn our eyes away. She always starts out as a reasonable, likable person but eventually morphs into this crazy screaming lady I can hardly believe is real. I've met her in person and she seems to personable and warm. Who is this alter ego I see on the screen? It's a mystery to me.

Second would be the supervisor of Southampton Town, Anna Throne-Holst. I am intrigued by her intelligence and beauty. She is strikingly beautiful and yet smart and accomplished. There is no jealousy here - only admiration - and I would love to know her better.

Then there is the woman who claims part of Georgica Beach as her property because erosion has taken away some of the beach. She erected poles after the last bad storm to claim her property - right to the water line. I want to talk to her.

Of course that's only the first three. They all happen to be women, but there are of course men that would be on my list as well. I wonder of I could find a sponsor for my show?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Children

I've been watching grandchildren on Mondays since September now and I'm amused at how memories come back. I'm reminded often of those years when even the simplest of things had to be strategically done, from trips to the bathroom to getting them upstairs for naps. With 14-month-old twins one cannot be left alone while dealing with the other and they're too big for me to carry both at once (I'm not as young as I used to be!). So everything I do is carefully calculated. I had forgotten how hard it was to take bathroom breaks when I had toddlers and when they leave I enjoy the solitude and freedom. Yet I treasure my time with each of them.

Life is a series of contradictions: we love having kids, we love when they leave; we love our houses, we hate keeping them up; we love having food, we hate gaining weight. I could go on and on. But we all know the truth it.



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Snow

We've already had snow a few times here on the East End but nothing significant. Hopefully it will be well after Christmas before we see any accumulation - I can deal with it then. I don't mind a white Christmas, but I worry about people traveling. I'm always reminded of the movie "White Christmas" (or "Holiday Inn", whichever you prefer!), when they are traveling to New England and there's snow everywhere but the're not driving - they're on a train. If everyone still traveled by train it wouldn't be such an issue, but now that everyone drives to see loved ones, it's not a fun idea to see snow falling. It can ruin the holiday for some people.

They're predicting snow for today but not much. Perhaps like so many things its more a matter of scale than anything else. A little dusting would be nice. Enough to cover the ground but not enough to make the roads treacherous. No drifts, no piles, and no slushy, slippery roads - now that's a white Christmas I can get behind. I'm putting my order in now...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Almost ready

I feel as though I' almost ready for Christmas. Almost.

I've been shopping and wrapping, baking and entertaining, decorating and practicing - and most of the gifts are ready, food is cooked, and choir songs learned. The house is ready and soon enough, so will I be.

Christmas will be here in just over a week, whether we're ready of not. So best be ready I suppose. this year, for the first time in my married life, I actually said "no" to something. I'm not mailing out Christmas cards this year. I kept stressing about getting it done and finally I just decided it wasn't worth the aggravation. I made the decision to let it go. Unheard of in my world. And I can't remember when I've said "no" to any of my obligations before.

ow - I'm dealing with the guilt. Every card that arrives in my mailbox brings a twinge of it. I'm a person who doesn't normally shirk her responsibilities. And mailing out Christmas cards has always been one of mine.

Somehow I doubt too many people will even notice.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cemeteries

One of the great pleasures of my job at the church in Sag Harbor is that my window overlooks the old cemetery. It's no longer an active cemetery, but a very old one where members of the church were buried for a couple hundred years. It is literally steps from my window, with a pretty white fence around it, and I can see the headstones as they rise on the hillside.

I love old cemeteries. I know many people are not crazy about them, but I enjoy walking around and reading the headstones. To me they tell a story - many stories really. Sometimes there are multiple wive beside a man's grave for instance, some very young and probably victims of childbirth as was common in days gone by. Sometimes there are small stones for children, often not even named. Older ones are sad - ten-year-olds, twelve-year-olds - and I wonder what tragedy befell the. Was if sickness or trauma? So many died so young before things like penicillin and inoculations.

Last week when the show was falling I looked out at the cemetery and smiled as the stones turned white and where the wind swept the flakes, leaving the back sides gray and beige. How any snowfalls have those stones seen? Many, for sure. Snow covers them all every winter, rendering their messages unreadable and blanketing the ground in white.

I love cemeteries.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Snow fence

Driving home from Southampton the other day I noticed a small section of snow fencing along side the road and it really sparked a memory. When we were kids it seemed as though it was one long section of snow fencing from East Hampton to Southampton, lining the sides of the road to catch the blowing snow which was sweeping across the open farm fields and keep it from drifting across the road.

Drifting was a real problem with so many open fields along the way and driving after a storm was treacherous. I remember it taking them weeks to put those fences all up - first we'd see big rolls of it every so many hundred feet, then the posts went in, and then the fencing was hung. It would begin in October and be up by Thanksgiving.

Now, there is so little open space left along Montauk Highway that I saw only one small section of fencing - it was in Water Mill on the large triangle where Scuttlehole Road swings off toward Sag Harbor. It looked lonely. And a little sad.

Friday, December 13, 2013

TV

I haven't seen a lot of children's television in recent years because my own children are grown. But lately I've seen more than I care to since I've been doing some babysitting and need to at times entertain the little darlings so I can visit the ladies room or some such thing. Anyway, the programs on today are certainly different!

For the most part they are animated. They seem to teach good lessons and be mentally stimulating and all that, but somehow I think they are missing the mark in some way. I long for some interaction with Captain Kangaroo or Mr. Rogers. I mean, it was a nice thing to think there were real, live people inside that little box. People who liked us and cared about us! For some children those were the only people they ever got to spend time with.

There was something so endearing about the Capt. and Mr. Green Jeans. I loved their interaction with puppets and the way they easily transitioned from fantasy to reality. And Captain Kangaroo was a whole hour long, can you imagine?

Of course Mr. Rogers will always be my all time favorite children's television character, even though he was more real than character. He pretty much played himself! And my children loved him. He made them feel secure and he entertained and taught them. They learned about disabilities and differences. They learned about patience and love. And they learned that there were adults out there who cared about them.

I enjoy some of today's shows - some are incredibly clever and I appreciate the talent that goes into their making. Of course Sesame Street will always be a classic, but its not new by any means - just still going strong. The new shows are more of the "here today, gone tomorrow" variety. And for good reason too.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Groceries

Every once in awhile I look at the price of something I'm buying at the grocery store and I'm shocked. I shouldn't be, because I know how much I spend every week on groceries, which considering how few bags I'm carrying is a lot. But occasionally I grab something that I haven't gotten in awhile and when I glance at the sticker I'm taken aback.

Last week it was pecans. I only buy them when I need them for certain cookies, and I always make them at Christmas, so I had to buy some last week. The smallest bag I could get was about $8. WHAT? For some nuts? Where in the world are these pecans coming from, Siberia? Is there a pecan shortage I'm not aware of? Are they now endangered or something? I mean, what is going on?

Well it certainly made me think differently about the cookies I made that afternoon. I'll never again eat one of that particular kind without appreciating how much it would be worth should I sell it at a bakery.  In fact, I may have to invest in a small safe to store them in from now on.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Little hands

Having little hands around my house this holiday changes the way I decorate for the holidays. We go in cycles here - some years there are toddlers who make me change my decor, but others all the grands are either too young or too old to be a problem. This year the twins are fifteen-months-old so they are a bit of a challenge in the "little hands" department. They grab on to everything so all Christmas decorations have to be placed out of their reach and the tree is on the sun porch behind closed doors. I have never had breakable ornaments for the tree but its still easier to have things out of reach to keep things simpler. As it is whenever the girls leave I spend a good ten minutes roaming through the house looking for things to be picked up and put away. We have a toy corner and all things that begin there end in other places.

I love having little ones around the house - I always have! That's why I had four children. And more than once I've stopped myself from buying something with the thought that "We do children, not fancy decor". I occasionally miss being able to put a fancy knick knack on my coffee table, but it doesn't last long. Because at the end of the day I'd much rather see those little hands here. And they do cause a bit of chaos. I love that chaos.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Grandparents

While enjoying a short visit with my out-of-state grandchildren last weekend a thought occurred to me. I decided that grand parenting has got to me the best job on earth.

Just imagine you have a very important job to do. It's a combination of teaching, administrating, party planning, baking, and a few other minor things all rolled into one. You are always on stand-by duty, 24/7, and you must put it on the top of your priority list. And although its an important position, you get no compensation monetarily - only the satisfaction of doing something important and unmeasurable.

Sounds as though something no one would ever want to do, doesn't it? But then you need to factor in the other things. For instance, although you are a teacher, your teaching ability and success rate are never graded or even tested for that matter. And despite the fact that you are always on duty, technically you never have to do anything when called upon. You do things when you want to, and of course you always want to. And although you have many other things on your list of responsibilities, you're never sent for an evaluation or review. Any reviews will come much later, probably when you're no longer around, so you won't even be aware of your results.

Yes, I'm quite sure that being a grandparent is the best job I've ever had. It means all the satisfaction of parenting with none of the responsibility or worry. Well, not as much anyway. We always worry about the people we love.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Trends

Clothing trends are among the most amusing. Sometimes annoying. But always interesting. This thing with young men wearing their pants down below their boxers - sometimes practically falling off - is among the annoying ones. But there is a trend among women now that is also concerning.

I call it the "yoga pants" thing but its really more than about yoga pants. Because not all yoga pants are offensive. The things that I really hate seeing on women are leggings. They're more like what we used to call "tights" and the idea of wearing them outside uncovered would have been like walking around nude. And in my mind it still is because basically you can see everything on a person's body when they walk outside in anything skin tight.

Now there are some women who look good in these tight pants and leggings. They're the same women that look good nude. And they're certainly in the minority. In fact, they look good enough that one would barely notice them on the street (well, maybe the men notice). Most women really don't look good in skin tight clothing of any kind.

I sympathize with women who are busy and want to wear their work-out clothes at places other than the gym. But how much time does it really take to throw a pair of jeans on? Even pulling sweat pants over leggings would be more flattering. Mostly when I see women walking around in leggings I feel as though it looks like they've given up. And that's rather sad. A trend I hope will turn soon.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Children's clothing

Along with women's clothing stores every town had a children's clothing store back in my youth. In East Hampton we had the Carousel Shop. In Southampton we went to Buttons & Bows. In Sag Harbor there was a shop called The Cracker Barrel. I remember them all well. They had white gloves and dress hats, dresses and underwear, and beautiful dress coats for children. We all dressed for church back then and everyone needed dress clothes.

In fact, I can remember things like specific dresses I bought in each of those places, or the hat and matching mittens at The Cracker Barrel. I loved Buttons & Bows for Easter finery and their white hats were to die for. The Carousel Shop was a bit traumatic for me because that's where I clearly remember the owner suggesting that my mother should probably find a place that carried "Chubbies" for me. Can you believe they actually called clothes "Chubbie sized"? It was one of the first times I realized I was fat and I think I was only in the forth or fifth grade at the time. It was not a good memory. And it makes me sad to think about today.

I suppose that was when I began to hate shopping for clothes. No wonder, right?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Frederick's

Another of the stores I remember enjoying in Southampton as a child was a women's clothing store called "Frederick's".

In those days women shopped in town. There were no malls close enough to drive to (unless you had a day to give up) and no internet for browsing, so every village had a few nice clothing stores. We had to drive to Huntington to find an A&S or Macy's. And that was before Sunrise Highway came all the way to Southampton so it wasn't an easy trip. In East Hampton we had the Trude Shop and 5th Avenue Fashions. In Southampton my mother liked shopping in Frederick's.

As I remember it was a huge store - in fact I think it is now two separate shops in that space. It had at least 6 dressing rooms and racks of lovely dresses, which is what women wore most of the time back in the '50s and  early '60s. This was pre-jeans and pre-dress pants, remember! Anyway, the owner (whose name was probably "Frederick" although I don't know that for a fact) was a tall thin man with dark wavy hair and I remember thinking he was "different" in a sophisticated, interesting way. He had two large dogs that were always lying around in the store-also rather exotic animals like hounds of some type. Whippets?

Anyway, my mother loved the clothes there but hated the fact that this gentleman would come to the dressing room to ask how she was doing and would ever pass things over the top of the door to her. She was uncomfortable. Looking back I don't think she had need to be because I don't think he was particularly interested in women, although no one talked about those things back then!

Shopping with my mother was always an adventure. No one had to fend for themselves as we do now in big department stores. The owner or someone else working in the store was quick to offer help and always knew their stock and sizes. And they were never too busy talking on their cell phones to sell you something. Now those were the days....

Friday, December 6, 2013

Crutchley's

One of my favorite memories from my childhood is stopping at Crutchley Crullers on those rare occasions when we were in Southampton. I can still smell the wonderful scent of those fresh donuts when we walked into the door. There were large wooden shelving units that lined the walls and I'm sure they were full of many wonderful things, but all I ever noticed was the donut holes.

Mom didn't have much spare money and stopping there was a rare treat. And it was ever only for a dozen donut holes. Mr. Crutchley would take the freshly fried little nuggets and dredge them in a big vat of powdered sugar, drop them into a plastic baggie which he tied together and placed into a cardboard box, then wrap that box with twine and hand it over to my mother. My mouth would already be watering. If we were very, very good, Mom might let us each eat one on the ride home.

I've tried the ones at Tate's Bake Shop which are made from the same recipe, but they are never as fresh and crispy as the ones I remember. Some things you just can't recreate....


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nice

The weather has turned mild again and its been so nice to be able to go in and out of the house with a sweater on. I'm not a coat person - I find them bulky and uncomfortable and I hate  getting in and out of the car, clod and then too hot, etc - same thing with shopping in and out of stores. You walk outside and its freezing and then you try to shop and you're working up a sweat. So coats are not my favorite thing.

I like to layer. I like tee shirts, sweaters, jackets - I love to be able to peel off the layers as I go in and out of buildings, and not have too much to carry around in the process. Unlike a heavy coat, a sweater can be tied around my waist and out of my hands. So this weather, I'm really enjoying.

I can only hope this lasts a few more weeks because January is coming.....

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Goals

My goals for the week are simple: sewing, wrapping, baking. Of course the tricky part is fitting that all in between my regularly scheduled activities! Wouldn't it be nice if we could all take a week off during December to get everything done that needs doing? What a nice idea that it.

Well the sewing is nearly done. I'm making a couple Raggedy Ann dolls and am down to the worst, most unpleasant part of that task - the hair. It means red yard and tricky sewing and I'm not looking forward to it. But it needs doing.

Wrapping is nearly done, although I haven't wrapped any of my husband's things yet. Haven't finished shopping for him either for that matter.

And baking - well - I'm about half done in that area. My cookies are beginning to fill up the freezer. It's an important part of my month.

We're heading to Pennsylvania this weekend to see the grand kids there and that means losing a few days of work time for these tasks. But this is the grandchildren we're talking about. Nothing takes precedence over that. Nothing.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bays

No matter what time of the year it is or how cold the weather is, nothing is prettier than the water on a sunny day.

A few days ago I drove to Hampton Bays - it was the day after Thanksgiving - and it was a beautiful bright and sunny, although very cold, day. As I came around the corner to where my favorite view of the bay is, it was spread out before me in the most glorious way. The sun shimmered off the surface of the water like a Christmas card sprinkled with glitter. It was stunning.

I couldn't help thinking how wonderful it was that the water looked so inviting on this, such a cold day. It sparkled like a box of diamonds and looked like a summer day.

I love living near the water. Bay, ocean, lake, stream - any of them have the same beauty. Even in the winter.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mediums

Halve I spoken about my fascination with the Long Island Medium yet? I can't recall whether I've made that a topic of my blogging or not, but I can tell you, now that a new season has started, I am a bit obsessed with this woman.

I never really believed in "mediums" or psychics, fortune tellers, whatever. My mother was of the opinion that they are satanic and my mother had a huge influence on my thinking so that was also my take on the whole gypsy thing. But then, this woman on television fascinated me.

I watch her interact with people she has never met before and I think "How could she possibly know that?" I know that people have "debunked" the people who do readings and speak to spirits. They talk about how these people do research on their subjects, and how they can make guesses about things that make it seems as though they know things they really don't. But this woman, this Long Island Medium - how could she know anything about the woman she bumps into at the local grocery store? Suddenly she's telling these people she doesn't know all about their family members who have died. She knows intimate details and things no one else could possibly know. She's made a believer out of me.

And I wonder if I ran into her, if she would hear my mother telling me something to the effect of "I was WRONG!" LOL

Schedules

Now that I've waxed poetic about the joys of December I need a reality check. There are only a few weeks left to Christmas. Yikes!

I'm not one to panic at times like these but I do get a bit anxious. I still have things to accomplish and since I took on a new job this year my hours are not as free as they had been in my most recent holidays. I need to make the most of every minute and plan my time carefully. And I will.

This month is exceptional in that there are only three Saturdays before Christmas - normally there are four, but for a couple years this will be the case now. It makes things seem to be coming at us with great speed and we need to carefully work out our schedules.

My calendar is my best friend right now.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

December

I have made it to another December. In January it will be five years since my mammogram that began the "horrible year" in my life. And each December since then I've looked forward to with great enthusiasm. Because December is the best month of the year as far as I'm concerned.

It's about Christmas, of course, but its much more than that. It's about the spirit of the holiday that I so look forward to. It's about stores and houses being decorated with beautiful things. It's about the people you meet on the street smiling and exchanging greetings. It's about a general sense of joy and excitement that seems to permeate our lives during this wonderful time of the year. It's as though every one's magical memories from the Christmases of their youths come to mind and they walk around in the warmth of that glow.

Of course, I totally avoid the messiness of the season - I am done shopping, I'm nearly done wrapping, and I don't go near the crowded stores. I make sure I'm organized enough to enjoy the simple pleasures of concerts and craft fairs and I do mostly only things I want to do. Watching news accounts of the "black Friday" craziness out there made me a bit crazy - why do people subject themselves to that?

Well, I'm happy to see December pop up on my calender. I don't find it stressful and I don't dread the work. I welcome the things that make it so special. And I'm always sorry to see it end.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Today

This is the first time in many years that my wedding anniversary has fallen on the same day as it did when we married thirty-nine years ago. It was a Thanksgiving week and it was the Saturday of that week. Normally, Thanksgiving falls on the 22nd or 23rd - an entire week earlier than it did this year. So today really feels like the anniversary of the day we were married.

It was a mild November that year and although my mother had made me a white (fake) fur cape to wear outside, I didn't need it and it wasn't used. I wish I knew what happened to that cape - I never saw it again. It would be nice to have.

We were married at 7:00 at night and it was by candlelight. I loved that part of my wedding. The colors were very trendy at the time - everything was "earth tones" like "harvest gold" appliances and bright orange straw flowers. It was a "back to nature" time, following the hippie years of the late 1960s. Those who lived through it will remember it! My attendants wore velvet gowns of orange and brown and I would never use those colors now, but at the time they seemed right. Funny how our tastes change over the years and also how trends come and go!

All gowns, both bridal and attendants, were long with empire waists. Today bridesmaids wear short, strapless gowns but in earlier days strapless wasn't even allowed in most churches.

I would love to go back and do it all again. Almost everything would be different. Except probably the groom.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Work clothes

How times have changed when it comes to wardrobe.

As someone who was never allowed to wear pants to school - it was against the rules at school as well as at home - it is still shocking to see how people dress for all occasions these days. For instance, I see denim - jeans - at the fanciest places! It seems that man can wear them with jackets and ties and women with just about anything and suddenly they are dress clothes! Who knew?

My husband and I talk a lot about what to wear to events. One or the other of us will often say "What do you think the mode of dress will be?" But what I've learned is that just about anything goes anymore so it really doesn't matter what we wear. At church we see everything from ripped jeans and tee shirts to suits and ties. At cocktail parties we see everything from flip flops to high heels. At weddings I've even seen flip flops - really?

Which all brings me to the issue of work clothes. When I worked in the past in office jobs I always wore dress shoes and nice clothes. However, my foot problems have lowered my standards in terms of shoes and due to doctor's orders I now have to wear sneakers 90% of the time. For work, in fact for most daytime wear, I use black ones in the winter, which hopefully are not as eye-catching as white ones and in my mind at least, most people don't notice what I have on my extremities. I wear them with nice clothes and I wear them to work. I hope its not offensive to anyone.

Then again, I don't wear jeans. Perhaps denims is not considered casual anymore but to me, its not for the office.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgving!

I have so much to be thankful for I am embarrassed. I have a wonderful family, a house I'm grateful for, I live in a wonderful place, my husband survived yet another heart attack recently, and I'm a cancer survivor. Is my life perfect? Of course not. There are the worries about money, the desires for things not within the realm of possibility, the regrets over things done or not done, etc - everybody has them! But they are so far outweighed by all the wonderful things in my life and I would be embarrassed to talk about them. Because life is a series of ups and downs, negatives and positives, good and bad. For me, the good far outweighs the bad, and I wouldn't want things to be any different than they are. And that is what Thanksgiving is all about.

Wishing you and yours the same sense of gratitude for all that you have - may we always focus on that.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sarcasm

I grew up listening to sarcasm. My father was a master at it. Unfortunately children don't always understand it and its not the most healthy way to raise children. So it was a bit of a struggle when I was raising my own to move away from that type of humor. Sometimes I was able to rise above but others I failed. It's difficult to overcome years of indoctrination!

Anyway, I mention this because  was watching a game show on TV the other night and the host made a very sarcastic remark to one of the players of the game. It was cute, but I wasn't sure it was the right place for it.

I've also noticed a real danger on the Internet with sarcasm. It definitely does not translate to emails or other printed matter and can be downright dangerous in terms of interpersonal relationships. I try very hard not to let myself fall into that trap. And its so hard!

I often think about that wall hanging that hangs in my doctor's office - you know the one. It starts "Children learn what they live! If they live with love they learn to love" etc etc. And how true it is. If a child grows up with sarcasm they learn to be sarcastic.

As much as I tried to not make sarcasm part of my children's lives, every once in awhile I hear a remark come from one of them that makes me realize I didn't completely achieve my goals. Well, none of us are the parents we want to be. None of us are the people we want to be. But we try. Sometimes it's a lifelong effort.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cookies

My Christmas cookie baking has begun and its a new challenge this year. Because I have a new oven. Well two actually - its a double even.

Why, you may ask, would a brand new oven be a challenge? Simply because I've been dealing with a flawed one for so long I need to sharpen my skills on this new one. I no longer need to adjust baking times and rack positions to account for the issues of my old oven, like uneven temperatures. And suddenly my cookies are not looking the same.

I lost two complete cookie sheets over the weekend to being under baked. I totally misjudged the timing. I will be paying more attention now because I can't afford to lose more to my inattention! Time is of the essence and with a dozen types to get into my freezer I need to be well organized.

This year is a challenge in so many ways. Cookies may seem like a minor part of it, but here at my house, where I distribute about 25 tins of them to co-workers, friends, and family members, its not minor at all. My cookies are an integral part of Christmas.

I do love my new oven. But I also need to learn how to use it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Late!

I'm late with my blog today! It's been one of those weekends!

I got so much done this past week. It's been busy and I've been running around a lot, but so go the holidays, right? Everyone is in the same boat. I shopped, I wrapped gifts, I baked Christmas cookies, I planned my menu for Thursday and made lists - it's so typically the holidays and this year is especially challenging because of the say the dates have fallen. We'll get there with good planning and organization!

For me its all about lists. Lists for each day, for each week, for each month - I live with lists! They are life savers really. Sometimes they're a pain in my neck because they rule the day, but they also get me through some crazy times. So it will be over the next few weeks. Within that time I have volunteer jobs to do, two regular jobs to tend to, chopping to complete, wrapping to finish, and more of the baking to do. These are the busy days, but they are also the ones I love. Because they make me know I'm alive and I appreciate every crazy moment of each and every one of them.

For me, there's nothing better than going to bed exhausted every night and sleeping hard throughout. I look forward to that.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gifts

I love shopping for Christmas gifts, I really do. And its a good thing because I sat down and figured out the other day that I buys between fifty and seventy gifts every year. It has to do with a large family and liking to have many things to open on Christmas morning. After all, how much fun would it be for the little ones if there was only one gift under the tree for them here?

I still have the excitement of Christmas day in my heart. I go to bed Christmas Eve with such anticipation and I wake up Christmas morning so looking forward to the day that I can barely stand it. Christmas has always been one of my favorite days of the year because I enjoy giving gifts as much as I do getting them. And I do love getting them! Nothing much has changed in the years since I was little and I can't wait to see people open the gifts I've picked out. When I know I've found something they'll be excited about I am beside myself. When its a year that I feel disappointed in my inability to find something special I am sad. So its a big deal to me to shop carefully.

But gifts can be difficult. I want to get something unique to each person, but when you shop for as many as I do now that's nearly impossible. I see something good and I get one for each of the men, or each of the women. I try hard to find things they'll like, but its not as much fun as shopping for each one individually. I just can't do that anymore.

Well most of the gifts are bought but I do have a few more to get. I have some wrapped but not all. I have more work to do before I can sit back and relax and just enjoy the holiday.

Gifts. One of the great things in life.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

And more

And today is yet another anniversary for me. Because forty years ago my husband and I became engaged.

I remember that day as well as I remember yesterday's anniversary. It was Thanksgiving Day and he came to my house first, as we had planned, with the ring. I placed it on mu finger and waited for someone to notice. It was a long wait.

So we learned that lesson and when we went to his parent's home in the afternoon we didn't wait. We walked in and his mother was in the kitchen busy with the dinner preparations and I stuck my hand in front of her face. She was - or at least she seemed to be - very excited. So Thanksgiving that year became a real celebration for us. And every Thanksgiving since then I remember that day and the people who were part of it. My grandmothers were both still alive in 1973.

Now, all these years later, many of the players on the stage that day are gone. All our parents have died of course, and his family no longer gets together for holidays. My family is spread thin this year and although usually at least one of my siblings shares a meal with us, this year none will. So it will be only the two of us who will have any memories of that Thanksgiving forty years ago.

And so it goes....

Friday, November 22, 2013

Kennedy

So much has been written this week about the fact that its the 50th anniversary of the day that JFK was assassinated.  Of course, it was a moment no one my age or older will ever forget. I'm not sure anyone too much younger than I will remember much. But I do.

I was eleven and in the 6th grade. I was in the music room with 6 or 7 others from the 5th and 6th grades - all kids that I would spend my entire school career with more than I could have imagined back then, because we were the "musical" kids. We had been chosen to form a special small group of singers - I remember Dicki, Lulu, Phil...fellow singers I would sing many times with in the next six years. I don't remember all of them - but some are as clear as day to me.

Anyway, we were meeting with our music teacher, Mrs. Havens to talk about rehearsal times so it was a small group gathered around her desk that day. Suddenly the door opened and we all turned to see our principal, John Marshall, in the doorway with a somber look on his face. He said that the president had been shot. Just as quickly he disappeared and we turned our attention back to Mrs. Havens, who took off her ever-present silver glasses, put her face in her hands, and wept. It was not normal to see adults cry. To see a teacher openly weeping was traumatic to say the least.

Once she composed herself she sent us back to our classes where things were similarly somber. Mrs. Webb was composed but quiet and distracted, going through the rest of her day with dignity but not much enthusiasm. The rest of our week was well documented and when I see the films I remember it all - the funeral procession, the cemetery, the children. They were images that are burned into my mind as well as into film.

It's hard to imagine that it was so long ago now. In so many ways it seems like only yesterday.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thoughts

I've been very nostalgic this week, which I supposed has something to do with my mother's birthday last Sunday, but whatever the reason its been a week of memories. In fact last Saturday we went to a wedding and I found myself thinking about my own wedding. Not only of that day, but of the feelings of excitement, the anticipation of a life ahead of us, being surrounded buy family and friends, and yet also thinking about the things I would have or should have done differently. Should I do it again, I think it would all be completely different. Because life has a way of making us see that things are not as simple as we thought they would be when we were young and foolish!

Anyway, all this week I find myself drifting off into thoughts of past days in my life. I've been thinking about holidays past and years when I was young as well as those when my children were. I've been thinking about the people who have come through my life, both family and friends, and the impact they've had on me. 

I find that its a bit melancholy to think too much about the past, Because as much as we enjoyed parts of it, there are other places we wish we could do over. So feelings are mixed and I find a combination of disappointment and elation follow my forays into the past. It's an interesting thing to revisit our past, But its also dangerous. Because we are meant to live in the present and not dwell on things that used to be. And the future is all bright and promising. It's hard to think that one's past is done when you realize your life is nearing its end. Because there isn't anything we can do about that now. But the future, however much of it we have, is still an open book. Hopefully.

I need to get out of the past. Clearly its not a good place to dwell!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Vapors

A couple things recently have reminded me of the frailty and uncertainty of life. Not that I need much reminding since I'm still reeling from my own cancer diagnosis and treatment and constant visits to the doctor keep me pretty well reminded all the time. But here's my most recent reminders:

My daughter's father-in-law had a melanoma taken off a year ago. They thought they had gotten all of it. This summer they discovered it had metastasized. He turned seventy in August. He was still working full time in his dental office in September. Now, with tumors growing so quickly in his spine they are causing fractures, he is under the care of hospice and will probably not make it to Thanksgiving. A true tragedy.

Last weekend my sister left her house at noon and was still gone at 7pm when her daughter came in to tell her the house was on fire. Apparently the fire they had in their fireplace the night before had reignited. Thanks for their neighbors who saw it and not only called it in but began to hose the side of the house down with their garden hose, the house was saved. Which begs the question: What if it had re-ignited in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep and no one saw it? The outcome could have been quite different.

Sometimes we just shake our heads at how fragile life is and how quickly it can be gone. And yet the Bible tells us we are like a "vapor", here today and gone tomorrow. We need to be reminded more often to treasure every moment of it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gloves

I've been wearing gloves to drive lately. As soon as the temperature drops to a certain point I need to cover my hands to hold the steering wheel, even when I don't need a heavy winter coat on. Which brings me to my collection of gloves.

I like gloves and I use different weights because of the varying degrees of cold here from fall into winter and then the reverse. I have unlined leather gloves for driving now, and lined ones for when it gets a little colder out. Which brings me to the subject of today's blog. My mother's gloves.

When my mother died I remember seeing her gloves on the counter where she kept her purse and crying over the memory of seeing her pick those gloves up time after time, putting them on, grabbing her purse and heading out the door. Since I lived right next door I often walked in to say hello just before she was leaving for whatever reason (she was a busy lady!) and so often I watched her put those gloves on. They are short, black leather with a knit lining - very warm and perfect for driving. Anyway, those gloves struck such a nerve with me and so brought her memory to mind, that, after checking with my siblings to make sure no one else wanted them, I took them home. And I've been wearing them every winter since. That was in 2007. I've mended the tips of one finger on one glove a few times now - it seems to open up with regularity and is hard to repair since its leather and in such an awkward spot. So now I rotate their use with another pair I bought for myself because I don't want them to be unusable anymore. I treasure those gloves!

So the other day when it was cold, I grabbed the pair at the top of the pile, put them on for my drive to work, and thought about Mom all the way there. I was looking at her gloves on my steering wheel and wondering what her advice would be on all the things that were clogging my brain with worry. It was a good trip.

Monday, November 18, 2013

EMS

I think it was in 1975 that the East Hampton Village Ambulance was established. Before that there was a group of men who drove an old cadillac ambulance to the hospital, a "load and go" opersation, and they were paid $5 for each trip they made.

From what I've been told, a group was formed independent of the fire department because that well established organization did not want to admit women, and without the women there wouldn't be enough volunteers to handle the daylight hours. So with the backing of the incorporated village they became their own group of volunteers.

About the same time, Emergency Medical Technicians were being trained to take care of emergency calls and that was the beginning of the system that we've had in place since that time. I joined in 1990, taking an EMT class, and answering over 3000 calls over the next twenty plus years. But things are changing in EMS and as with all change, it's hard to swallow. Necessary, and important, but still not easy.

In 1990 when I joined we answered about 600 calls a year with the 30-something volunteers we had. Now, all these years later, we are answering more than twice as many calls with basically the same number of volunteers. A combination of the modern sense if entitlement that everyone seems to have today, and the burgeoning population out here in the summer has made it impossible to operate with only volunteers anymore. For the first time in our history, we are going to be hiring people to answer ambulance calls. And it makes me sad.

Oh the volunteers will still be needed - only one paid person will be on duty at a time and we still need EMTs and drivers to get ambulances from here to Southampton Hospital. But we all know that this signals a real change in the culture that will never be the same. And that is always hard to take. Because change is never easy.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Legacy

I am amazed that my mother, who was born this date in 1925, continues to influence me every day of my life. And I wonder if this is the influence of a mother's love, or more a result of an amazing woman's life.

Mom died almost seven years ago now and I still miss her every day. And yet I also feel her influence in every area of my life. I hear her voice when I'm shopping ("Do you really need that blouse?") and I see her look of contentment when I do something I know would please her ("Your song was beautiful this morning!") I imagine her looking over my shoulder when I talk to my grandchildren and I experience her presence when I sit in church and sing the old familiar hymns. She has never left me.

Would it be the same if I hadn't lived next door to her for most of my adult life, or if she hadn't lived until I was well into my 50s? Maybe not. But then again, I'll never know for sure. And I wonder if everyone feels the same way about their own mothers, whatever the circumstances. Are they just meant to be our lifelong teachers - the very first influences on us and probably the very last as well?

I'll never know the answer, of course. But today, on what would have been her 88th birthday, I think about these things.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Standing down

We are standing down now. The summer furniture has been put away, covered with tarps, tied down and readied for the snow. The summer ornamental grasses have been cut down and the storms put back on the french doors. We are settling in for the winter.

There are still a few things to accomplish around the house but for the most part the season has changed and it will be some time before we think "summer" again. I'm ready. I'm finishing up my Christmas shopping, I've been wrapping gifts, and will begin the cookie baking within the next week. I love the holidays and I'm ready for their arrival. It's coming quickly now.

Soon the lights will adorn everything from houses to trees to fences and lightpoles, and winter will be brightened by the glow. It's a little bit of magic to bless the darkest days of the year. And they help us get through those long December nights.

My house is warm and welcoming and I'm happy to be inside enjoying it.