Thursday, January 31, 2013

Online

I do almost all my banking on the computer these days. In fact, its been over a year since I set foot in an actual bank - maybe longer - and I don't miss that a bit! It's so convenient to go online and pay my bills, check my bank accounts, and transfer money at the push of a few buttons. I love the ease and speed at which things can be accomplished!

I am also amazed at how easy it is to do other business on my computer in the comfort of my living room. Where I used to fill out order forms and send off checks to buy clothing or sheets, for instance, now I simply go to a website, make a few keystrokes, and in a couple days the goods will be delivered to my back door. Who could ever have imagined that only the years ago?

In fact, who would have understood the term "online" ten years ago? It's a brave new world out there, isn't it?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Old home

This past Sunday my niece hosted us for Sunday lunch at my mother's old house, where I grew up. She lives there now with some friends and has traded much of the familiar furniture with other pieces, ripped up a lot of carpeting and refinished the old wood floors, and brought in lots of new dishes and glassware. In short, there isn't much left of the old, and yet it was familiar and comforting to be there. The cabinets are the same, the layout is the same, and it just feels like home.

I suppose that's because the old house went through so many changes over the years while we were growing up, going from an old musty Victorian museum to a chic and updated home of the 1970s. By the time my mother died it had become dated once again and needed a good updating, and it looks good with the changes. But the bones were the same and there was no denying that I was "home" again. It has been a few years since I've climbed those stairs and was more than happy to do it when she suggested going into the attic to look at photo albums.

My niece prepared a wonderful main dish for us and the food was delicious. It was so nice to be there with the extended family where we spent so many Christmases, Easter Sundays and Thanksgivings together. Seeing the next generation walking those floors was comforting to say the least - knowing how pleased my mother would have been. But somehow it wasn't about the food or the company. It was about the home. And a home it has always been. So much more than a stately old house...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Part two

The lecture I spoke of yesterday was about the beginning of the Summer Colony in East Hampton. The director of the Historical Society spoke and read wonderful diary entries, and newspaper articles, and showed photos on the large screen to coincide with the written descriptions of the boarding houses and summer fun in East Hampton beginning in the 1850s and going through the end of that century.

We saw horses and buggies carting folks to and from the homes they were staying in. We saw photos and paintings of the beaches with their bath houses and tents, with horses and wagons parked along the water. We heard narratives about visits here by "city folk" as well as artists and writers, and could see in our mind's eyes what it was like a hundred and fifty years ago when it was discovered by those who would some day build hotels and motels and beautiful big vacation homes here.

One of the most interesting points for me was references to "The Hamptons" made way back when, which I had thought was a fairly recent thing. I was also interested in references made to boarders who stayed at the lighthouse and I wondered if my great, great grandparents had taken in people when they were there.

And I thought about my mother. When she and my father took the house my great-grandmother had lived in when she died, it had two mortgages on it and they struggled to pay their expenses. I remember how every summer they hung a white sign with black letter outside on the front porch that said simply "Rooms". And my brother and I lived downstairs with my parents in two back rooms behind the kitchen while she rented the upstairs bedrooms out to boarders for the grand price of $2.50 each. I remember her agonizing over raising the price to $3.00 around 1958 when the family had grown to six and it was more and more difficult for her to wash and iron all those sheets every day.

What an interesting place East Hampton has always been.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Winter lectures

People often wonder what we do out here in the winter and we always laugh at that question because the winter is when we really live here on the East End. The summers are so busy we barely get to do the things we want. But in the winter we come out of our homes to attend all sorts of good things. Among my favorites are the winter lectures at Clinton Academy.

We started this lecture series about ten years ago now - maybe more - and it has become a very popular Friday evening event every month after the holidays. There is always free cheese and crackers and something interesting to drink, like sparkling lemonade, and the locals come out to learn about our history. The Academy holds about 100 people in folding chairs and there is usually not an empty seat in the house. Most attendees are regulars and seeing their faces every January when we begin the new season is both comforting and endearing.

Our first lecture of the winter was last Friday night and it didn't disappoint. The house was full, the room was warm, and the lecture was wonderful. When we left Clinton Academy at 8:15 we walked out into a cold January night with a light snow falling. There, in the historic district, surrounded by history in every direction, it was the perfect night in East Hampton. I can hardly wait 'til next month's.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Travel

I was at a dinner party the other night and when I spoke about wishing I could travel and see places I've always wanted to see, they asked the question "If you could go anywhere where would you want to go?" Now that's a difficult question to answer!

When I was young I was a travel agent and I loved to travel. I was able to see some places in Europe as well as Mexico and I enjoyed every trip. We were also able to do some cruising when we were in our early years of marriage, courtesy of my father who enabled us to see many of the Caribbean Islands. So I have seen some wonderful places. But we've never been able to see the world - the cost of raising four children and living in an expensive place like East Hampton and restricted our movements away from home to things within driving distance for the most part. Other than a few trips to Disney World, we haven't been anywhere in years. Don't get me wrong -  I'm not complaining because I love my life - just stating facts. I don't think travel will be in the cards for us, but that's OK. We all dream of things we can't do!

However, the question really got me to thinking. There are so many places (I named England, France, Spain, Italy, and the Grand Canyon right off the top of my head) how would I choose? I've always dreamed of walking the Great Wall of China and riding a camel to the great pyramids, but as I get older I'm not sure I would want to go to places quite that exotic or dangerous now. I'd love to see more of the USA and an extensive driving trip or train travel is enticing.

And who wouldn't love to hire a driver and take off exploring the British Isles? I can imagine staying in Pubs and Castles all across England, Scotland and Wales, with a little time in Ireland for good measure.

The world is a huge and exciting place. Venice in the spring, Tuscany in the summer...oh the places I would go....

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The inauguration

I'm always fascinated by the way our minds work and how we associate things. The inaguration is a perfect case in point.

As I watched the pomp and circumstance last Monday when the President was inaugurated once again, I had flashbacks to the day he was inaugurated four years ago. Because I spent most of that day in the radiology waiting room at Southampton Hospital.

It was only a couple weeks after my cancer diagnosis and anyone who has been down that road can identify with the multiple tests you must endure in the earliest stages of treatment. They look in every corner of your body for any signs of additional cancer and that involves CAT scans, bone scans, MRIs and something called a muga scan. It's difficult to even remember them all, really. On that particular day I had multiple tests scheduled and some involved drinking some disgusting fluid, waiting a period of time for it to go through your system, and then taking scans. So I spent the better part of the day on a chair in the waiting room. between tests, digesting liquid, whatever. And the whole time I had only myself to talk to so my mind raced through all the possible scenarios of this diagnosis. What would they find with all these tests? Was I going to die this year? Would they discover there was nothing they could do for me? The mind is a difficult thing to control even when you want to, and with no distractions other than watching the inauguration on the television set, mine really went wild.

I think I remember details of that inauguration more sharply than others, although I've watched many over the years. And watching it all again this past week brought all those feelings of helplessness back again. The crazy mind at work......

Friday, January 25, 2013

Buffalo

It looks as though we'll be making a trip to Buffalo in the next few weeks. I have an elderly aunt there that has no other family and she's now in nursing care so her house needs to be cleaned out and readied for the market.

There are few places I'd rather avoid in February. I think anyplace north of here would fit into that category. Interestingly enough its not the first time I've been to Buffalo in February because when my uncle died a number of years ago it was in February. I flew into Buffalo airport with my parents in a snow storm and thought I would die of fear before that plane came to a stop. Once there the trip was not bad as the weather cooperated, and my siblings and I did manage to squeeze a trip to Niagara Falls into our short time there, but other than that it was cold, as I remember. Not a great time to be there.

That said, this time we'll be watching the weather carefully and we're planning on driving. It will mean two full travel days, but then with having to get to a major airport from here it isn't that much different. We'll leave early on a Saturday morning and make good time getting there. And hopefully we'll get a lot accomplished while we're there.

My mother grew up in the northern part of New York State and lived in Buffalo when she was in high school. I don't think she ever regretted moving downstate.....

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dinner parties

When I was young I remember watching my parents get ready to go out to "dinner parties" very often on weekends. It was a big deal, with my mother putting on a dress (her kelly green knit dress with the big shawl collar was my favorite) and my father in a suit. They often entertained at our home as well on weekends. I remember the preparations (usually a pie was involved) but as soon as people began to arrive we were sent upstairs for the evening so I was never part of the fun. Going to dinner at a friend's was a regular part of the entertainment in those days. People didn't have a lot of money for going to the movies and things like theater and nightclubs were not readily available here on the East End.

We also love going or having dinner parties on weekends but no one refers to them that way anymore. Somehow our modern lifestyle is much different than my parents and I would no more put on a dress to go out than my husband would a suit. We wear khakis or "dress" jeans with a nice shirt or sweater, more comfortable than those in the previous generation. And although when I have company I try to make a special meal, I don't spend two days working on it the way my mother did. With crock pots and more relaxed expectations, we don't normally serve steak or put out the best china.

Life has changed since the 1950s but the desire to sit with friends and enjoy an evening of laughter and fellowship has not. We may not call them "parties" anymore but dinner is always a nice way to get together. Especially in the winter when life is calmer and living rooms cozier.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Snowfall

Monday night it snowed and by Tuesday morning there was about 3 inches of it on everything. It's the coldest weather we've had this year and the air was biting, but by the time I got out to my car at 7am to head to Southampton I was well insulated with heavy coat and gloves. Thanks to a thoughtful husband and my remote-start, the car was already well-cleaned off and toasty inside.

I love a new snow. Before the sun warms everything it touches the trees are all outlined in white and the very term :winter wonderland" is illustrated in every direction. Surrounding Town Pond they stood beautifully covered in white, their bare limbs as well dressed as on any August day.

The snow is untouched along the roads, white and smooth everywhere. The roads were well cleared except for the stretches where there are open fields on both sides, in Wainscott and Sagaponac, and in those areas the white snow stretched across the road, windswept along after the plows had done their work. It wasn't treacherous because there wasn't enough to make it so, but it was pretty. I enjoyed the drive.

By the time I came home a few hours later the beauty was blemished. The traffic threw dirty slush up on the other cars, causing the windshields to need constant cleaning and the colors to be blurred by the brown bath. And much of the snow that had been covering the trees had melted or fallen away.

There is nothing like a brand new snow. But the glory fades too fast.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Vegas

I'm enjoying the show on TV this season called "Vegas". Not for the story lines necessarily, or the acting (although I am a Dennis Quaid fan) but for the history. It takes place back in the 1950s when  Las Vegas was a rising star in the dessert and the mob was in control.

I love the scenery and the props - the great cars from that era and of course the costumes. And the early look of the strip is fabulous. It was a wild and crazy town in those days, if this show is to be believed, and there was a lot of tension between the new powers in the city and the locals who had been running their ranches in that area for generations. It's a tension we East Enders know well and seeing it played out on screen is interesting.

Of course the sound track is also fun and all those little details of the era. I love period pieces of any time and this one is no different. My husband may be watching for the shoot outs and fist fights, but I'm in it for the clothes....

Monday, January 21, 2013

UPS

We get a lot of packages here at our house. Since I signed up for Amazon Prime I order a lot from that web site because I don't pay shipping costs. And I've always done a lot of internet shopping, because its difficult to shop for some things locally. That goes back to the days of catalog shopping where I actually had to fill out an order form and send a check to place an order. Now that feels like the middle ages!

Anyway I love hearing the UPS man dropping boxes at the back door. It's exciting to go out and see what has arrived. And recently when I heard him on the back deck it made me think about the old Wells Fargo days. I remembered the song from the musical "Music Man" where they sing about the Wells Fargo Wagon and how exciting it was to see if coming down the road, loaded down with all manner of goods, from a "gray mackinaw" to a "cross cut saw" and everything like curtains and bathtubs in between. They depended on those deliveries and they weren't "second day" for sure!

I can only imagine what it was like to see that wagon coming down the road back in the 1800s in Iowa. Because I know how much I love seeing the UPS truck pull to a stop in front of my house. I don't usually get bathtubs delivered that way, but I have gotten curtains.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Winter weekends

The winter weekends are way too busy here this year. We are so used to having our streets and sidewalks all to ourselves that it's becoming more and more difficult to handle the influx that seems to come much more than ever before.

This weekend is a holiday and they are particularly bad. It seems as though everyone who owns a summer home out here suddenly has the need to come for the weekend when they have a day off. What happened to ski trips and quick escapes to warmer climates? Why do they want to come here anyway?

Well - whatever the reason its a disturbing change in the "norm" on the East End and I hope its a temporary thing. Maybe when the economy comes back as strong as it should we'll see more people going to farther places and leaving their summer homes closed up for the cold months. We can only hope!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Flannel

I'm totally in to flannel shirts this winter. It's a funny thing but I seem to go through clothing phases. Some winters I'm all into sweaters and every day I wear one - turtlenecks, roll necks, all sorts and styles. Others years its all about the flannel and that's true this year. Maybe its because I spotted a couple really nice plaid ones at Eddie Bauer in October, I'm not sure, but I have a few I am getting lots of use out of this year.

It may also have to do with the weather because its been unusually mild this year and I don't really need the sweaters as much. In a cold winter there's nothing better than a nice warm sweater.

I'm also into layering more now than I ever was. I find its nice to be able to take layers on and off depending on what I'm doing and how warm I'm getting. A tee shirt under a flannel shirt is perfect for that.

Now that we're more than halfway through January I'm thinking about Spring already. It will be March before we know it and this winter will soon be history. I'm not sure how it happens but the older I get the faster time seems to go by and that's frightening sometimes. This winter is one of those times. I feel as though it was just Labor Day and already I'm seeing Memorial Day in the future. So my flannel won't be in the top drawers much longer. But for now at least, I'm using flannel like there's no tomorrow.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Red

I'm thinking about changing my hair color to red.

I have to brace myself for the fallout which will be inevitable and I need to be prepared for the negative feedback people always feel free to hand out when one does such things, but once I do I'm taking the plunge.

I decided that its time I did something crazy in my life. In all these years I've never done anything that could be described as "crazy". I've never gotten a tattoo, for instance, or had a one-night-stand. I've never taken an impromptu trip or bought a wild outfit. I've always fit into the mold I thought was expected of me.

I've been coloring my hair since I was in my forties, when my children became horrified at my quickly multiplying gray. But I've never done anything wild in the color department. And when I went through chemotherapy I learned an important truth: everyone has opinions about hair color and there is no real consensus. I bought three distinctly different wigs - a blonde, an auburn, and a brunette. No matter which one I wore someone would tell me it was "the best look for me" and I should do it all the time when my hair grew back. I knew that when I left my house someone was going to say "I love that color - that looks the best!". So I realized that no matter what I did some people would love it and others would not.

And that brings me to red. I want to, at least once in my life, do something crazy. And I think it may just be red hair. Not subtle red, but bright, fire engine red like Sharon Osborne sports so beautifully.

Maybe I can get my husband to grow his long like Ozzie's.....

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Winter life

East Hampton has settled into winter now. Most of the Christmas decor is gone so the festive feelings are over. The grass is dull green/beige, the brilliant color of summer long gone. Only the evergreens and hedges are still green, although they have the darker green of the season on.

Driving the roads has certain joy in winter. The scenery is starkly unique in the winter, with the bare trees and bushes forming tangles of brown along the byways, the underbrush still hiding the deer in their camouflage colors. Skeletons of creeping vines are still clinging to arbors and mailboxes, and the lack of foliage exposes buildings and yards well hidden in season.

I see more sunrises and sunsets in the winter and I enjoy that. I also like to see homes illuminated from within, little windows into the lives of families in neighborhoods all over town. The temperatures outside may be cold, but there is warmth all around when you travel after dark. I love quick glimpses of people around a dinner table or gathered at the television on a winter night.

Winter is more than a season, its a state of mind, and winter is here in East Hampton. I think its time to go see a movie....

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sunrise

The sunrises are beautiful lately if you happen to get up early enough to see them! Most days when we're on our early morning walk we get to see the sun coming up as we head down Dunemere or David's Lane. It's dark when we leave the house at 6:30 but about 7, when we've made it to Town Pond or the library and start our return trip, we turn down one of the side streets and there in front of us is the color riot that precedes daylight. Sometimes its blues and yellows, so bright that they look more like a painting than reality. At others, the horizon turns a pink/orange color. Both are beautiful. The view doesn't last long because once the sun actually climbs over the trees its all blue in every direction.

I love the sunrise because it heralds a new day and all the time in the world ahead to accomplish whatever it is that needs doing. It's the promise of the future and it's a "good morning" from God.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Old friends

When I was in high school I had a very close friend whose birthday was January 15th. And although we are no longer part of each other's lives I always think of her on this date.

It's funny how dates come to mean things over the years. No one can say "December 25th" without it conjuring up all kinds of warm and fuzzy memories. And the days we married, or gave birth ourselves, all become touchstones in our lives and the dates are etched in our memories for the rest of our days.

My mind is beginning to get crowded with dates now, and with such a big family I find the birthdays of the most recent members difficult to remember. It's a failing of age. But those early dates, the birthdays of our old friends for instance, will always be part of our memories. I even remember the date I graduated from high school...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Warmth

The past week was incredibly warm for January. Many days were in the 50s and I rarely even put a pair of gloves on - just threw on a wool sweater and was out the door. It was wonderful for this time of the year.

I hope to have snow one of these days and I hope its a quick, little snow. I have no desire for a blizzard - we've had our share of extreme weather in the past couple years. But I love a little snow on the ground when the Christmas lights are still up outside. I don't think that's going to happen this year - most lights are already down and there hasn't been a flake in sight.

A few mornings I've had to scrape some ice off the car windows but it hasn't been thick and it was an easy task. If I'd had time I could have just warmed the car for a few minutes and it would have melted right away, but as always I was in too big a hurry and it was easier to grab the scraper. I know the ice if coming too.

I've no doubt the weather will turn soon now and the cold days are coming quickly. But its been a nice reprieve so far and if we don't see a snow until February that's OK with me. I'll enjoy it when it comes. And be happy when its over.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hobbies

My biggest "hobby" (if a "hobby" is something you do because you enjoy it and not because you get paid for it, because you don't) has, for over twenty years now, been my work on the local ambulance association.  I joined in 1990 and have loved giving back to the community in that way because it's been a stimulating and exciting thing for me personally as well. I've had to attend classes regularly all these years and its nice to keep the brain working. I've also enjoyed being able to help people in a very concrete way when they are most in need and very vulnerable.

For the first time I'm questioning whether I've done it long enough now. And it's making me feel old.

I still like parts of it and I even love other parts of the work. But its becoming more and more difficult to get out of bed at 3am and lose a night's sleep. And it's also becoming more and more difficult for me to suffer fools gladly. I don't have a lot of patience with the people who abuse the system and take advantage of the volunteers, and there are many of them. I used to be able to laugh off the nonsense but no more.

I also find less and less enjoyment out of the camaraderie of the organization, partly because of the changing make-up of the people and partly because of my age, I think. I'm not completely sure that's it, but I know there's something missing for me.

I think most people have these kinds of dilemmas when they get older. Do you retire, or will you miss your job? Do you give up the things you've always enjoyed because they are more difficult now or do you power through and keep on because you know part of your heart is still there? These are questions we all face at times in our lives. But more now as I get older than ever. Our physical limitations are beginning to take a toll and we look at our future differently than we did when it was more of an open book.

I'm not sure what I'll do yet - I haven't quite figured it out.. I wish there was a category for older members like they have in some organizations, where you can opt out of certain duties. But alas, it's a real job for those who are able, and its not easy stuff. I'm just not sure that's me anymore....

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Classic TV

Pioneers of Television tv show photoWe watched a show on PBS recently about the "pioneers of television". It was an hour of delight as we saw clips of some of the great shows from our childhood and explored the people who made this new media such an amazing game-changer.

We watched pieces of "The Honeymooners", "I Love Lucy", "The Andy Griffith Show", "Make Room for Daddy", The Dick van Dyke Show"....and laughed at things we've seen many times before but totally stand the test of time. They are as funny today as they were when they were made, and despite the dated scenery and costumes, are as timely today as they ever were too.

It occurs to me that there are very few shows on the television today that have the same sense of warmth and purpose that those old shows did, celebrating the family and the basic joys of American life whether city or country. I'm not sure how today's shows will hold up over the next fifty years, but these classics certainly have.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Tests

I've been going through a series of medical tests recently and I've been thinking about something. I was sitting on an exam table, dressed in only a thin cotton gown that barely fit, and then they took my glasses away so I couldn't see anything besides forms and shadows. And it occurred to me that I was really being de-humanized, in much the same way that they do it in prisons and the military.

When you join the military, the first thing they do is shave off your hair and put you in a uniform like everybody else. They essentially take away your individuality and identity. Same thing in prison - shave their heads, put them in uniforms, make them all look the same and take away the things that make them who they are. And take their control away.

This brings me to the whole medical test thing. Basically the reason we hate them so much is that the system means we lose our control, and lose our identity. Hmmm.

So here's my question: Is this by design or just a product of the circumstances? I wonder....

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Apps

I've become obsessed with apps. A few years ago I wouldn't have even know what an "app" was and it does make me a little crazy the way our new techno world invents, or re-purposes words, but   that's for another blog on another day. Today I'm thinking about apps.

My smart phone has opened up a whole new world to me and I find myself looking for free apps all the time - just surfing the web to see what's available. Recently I downloaded an app to magnify print, one to turn my phone into a flashlight, and another to give me any musical pitch I may need when I'm trying to learn a piece of music. There are an amazing number of things that my phone can now do for me, including finding a hotel room available in any city in the country. Who knows when I might need that one!

I think eventually we'll be able to do anything with our phones. Which blows my mind a little. There's only one major problem for me - trying to read everything on that little screen. Now if only there were an app for that!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

No, non, nyet

I'm still trying to learn to say "no". What is it that makes it such a difficult word to get out of my mouth? Is it an undying need to please? Or the false idea that I can make myself indispensable? I've given it plenty of thought and still can't quite figure it out!

I do think that being a woman is part of the problem. We are taught from a fairly early age to be pleasant and agreeable. We are given the message through the media and our upbringing that we need to smile and accept things - at least when I was growing up that was the way it was. Now, I'm happy to say, women are more encouraged to speak their minds. In fact, its even acceptable for us to have them! Now that is a change from the early days when my grandmother had to give up the idea of a secondary education because it just wasn't necessary! Oh the minds we have wasted in the history of "mankind"!

But I digress. I do think there is a connection there, but more to the point I need to determine on my own that it's OK to occasionally say "no" to requests. It would keep me from getting overly busy and allow me to do the things I am already committed to much better.

No matter how you say it, it's not a popular word. But it should be used when necessary!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Cocooning

One of the people who spot "trends" made a declaration quite a few years ago now that as a society we would do more "cocooning" (a term they coined) in the future as women were working outside of the home and we were going to want to spend more time home around the fire with the family. I think its safe to say that prediction has come true!

I love the winter for just that reason. I love being home with the fireplace aglow and dinner in the crock pot. Nothing is better than hot chocolate in front of the television on a cold day, or curled up on the couch with a good book. We retreat into our cozy homes for a time of reflection and renewing, good for our bodies and our minds. That period of a few short months between Christmas and Easter when the temperature drops and the winter descends is a time I look forward to, with less stress and more home time and plenty more reasons not to leave the house.

I love entertaining and having family and friends around, and I love cocooning in my home. Winter is the perfect time for combining those things and that's what I'm going to do.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Winterscapes

There's something quite beautiful in the winter landscapes up here in the north and I'm enjoying them now. I made a small tablescape for my kitchen which consists of a bear made from birch bark, two bright red cardinals, some winter greenery with red berries and a snow white candle. It's starkly beautiful and surprisingly warm, an homage to the scenery we're enjoying right now.The grass is still green here but the air is cold and there's no doubt that its winter in East Hampton.

Now that the holidays are over I'm thinking about entertaining. Nothing warms my heart more than sharing a meal with old and new friends around a table in the winter. It's cozy and comfortable even when snow falls or wind howls outside our home. I need to fill my house with laughter and make sure the wine flows so our spirits are not dampened by the starkness of the bare trees and empty yards. Life moves inside in the winter and that's OK with me. I like a house that's full of life.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

January Anniversaries

This past week marked the anniversary of the day my mother left us in 2007. This coming week marks the anniversary of the day I had my mammogram in 2009. Both were life-changing times for me so this period of early January always makes me take pause and reflect.

My mother would have been 87 on her birthday this past November. That's not terribly old by today's standards, is it? She had a full life, was surrounded by people who loved her to the moon and back, and made everyplace a much better one when she was present.

Her sister on the other hand turns 90 this month. She has no family other than her three nieces and nephew, is in a nursing home in Buffalo, has few friends, and no visitors. Her life is sad to me and causes me to puzzle over the strangeness of such dichotomies. Why was my mother taken at the age of 81 and my aunt lives on in misery?

And then there's the mystery of my cancer. I certainly never have asked the question "Why me?" because I certainly know we are all vulnerable. But I do wonder at the fact that I've been able to live on for at least another four years now while the friend I met a few months after my own diagnosis, who also had yearly mammograms and did all the things she was supposed to do to take care of herself, did not survive another two years.

Both these things make me think a lot about destiny, and my faith causes me to turn it over to God as unanswerable and not to be known in this world. As a dear friend once told me, when all else fails and logic doesn't exist, "offer it up" to God and let God figure it out. It's not for us to know.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Resolutions

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, which may be obvious, although I do like to think about things I can do to improve myself in the new year. It's good to have goals.

However this year, when my husband and I were taking down the tree and putting the Christmas decorations away we talked about one that we are going to stick to. Next year, and for every year after that, we are not going to decorate the house for Christmas unless we get help from our kids. Not that we don't want to mind you, but at some point in life you need to accept the fact that you just aren't as young as you used to be and can't do the things you used to do. And we are at that point now in terms of Christmas.

We have a real storage problem in this house. We have a wet basement and an inaccessible attic. There is a creaky old pull-down staircase in the middle of the upstairs hallway which gets us into the attic and there is 35 years worth of stuff up there taking up all the space. Among those items are containers of Christmas decorations: wreaths, greens, stockings, ornaments, figurines, garlands - you name it, we have it. We've been collecting for nearly 40 years now so what else would you expect? Well the problem is that getting those containers from the attic to the first floor has become a monumental task and we're just not up to it anymore. We did it for years without a thought, but not anymore. The husband goes into the attic and hands down these big rubbermaid containers to me, some of them very heavy, with both of us reaching beyond the safety point. Last Tuesday we put it all away and it took us over 2 hours to pack it up and then schlep it all up the two flights of stairs, piling it up in the attic for yet another year.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE decorating my house for Christmas. I love the way it looks and I love seeing things that hold within their essence many very special memories. I take each thing out and think about my mother who made it, or one of my children who gave it to me, or about sitting at the sewing machine creating it. Each is special and each holds a place in my heart. But I also enjoy my health - and my husband's - and after we were done we sat on the couch sweating profusely and questioning our sanity at the physical exertion and dangerous maneuvers needed to accomplish a little special holiday decor.

I long for a garage with nice industrial shelves where these things can be easily stored from one year to the next. But short of that miracle, I think I'll offer to make the family lunch in exchange for assistance and see if anyone takes us up on the offer. If not, maybe just the stockings will find their way down two flights of stairs next December....

Friday, January 4, 2013

Post new year

East Hampton is subdued now that the holidays are over, but still looks ravishing in its bright lights and seasonal glory. The stores will stay decorated for a few more days or weeks and most people don't remove their outdoor decor until about halfway into January. The village takes their lights down fairly quickly, which always makes me a bit sad, but I do recognize their need to be ready for snow and ice and not tied up with un-stringing lights and taking down tree. It takes them weeks to put it all up and weeks to take it all down again.

I find that January and February are the months I spend evaluating and planning. They are slower months as far as commitments go and I have the time to think about the year ahead and what need to be done. I also like to plan special evenings at home to warm the winter months with the joy of friendship. And I also spend some time catching up on all the work that needs to be done around the house - the things that have been put off during the busy times. There are always rooms to be re-organized and places that need paint. And there are books to be read. Winter is great for that.

I don't mind the winters the way some do. I know people who can't wait to get to southern climes during these colder months, but I find them a time of centering and a chance to breathe. At my age the real hope is to enjoy some healthy, stress-free months without trauma or sadness. I hope 2013 will be one of those years....

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Party over

So now its official - the party is over.

I really enjoyed this holiday period. We attended lots of parties, saw so may friends, had family around, listened to laughter and shed a few tears of joy - all in all a perfect month just passed.  I'm not sure if it's my age or the fact that I'm a cancer survivor, but times like those just passed are more precious to me than they ever have been and I drink in all the special moments as they unfold.

I think it's amazing that I'm in my 7th decade of life and able to enjoy the blessings of that. I had a dear friend who died at the age of 49, just before the birth of her first grandchild. I think about her all the time when I look in wonder at my own precious little ones and watch them open Christmas gifts, play together, and offer hugs and kisses. I know how lucky I am to be here.

I don't take anything for granted in my life. I appreciate every day and each holiday, each time the family is together, I say a little prayer of thanks that I was part of it all. My dear daughter-in-law has lost both her parents already and I appreciate the fragility - and the uncertainty - of each person's time on this earth. Even in the moments of discomfort or terror, I am glad to be here to experience them.

The party is over for 2012. But 2013 promises many more special moments and I hope to be here for many of them.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Late night

Insomnia keeps me up some nights and when it does I watch late night television. It always makes me wish I was more of a night owl because I love it.

I'm not sure which of the late night hosts I like the most - they all have their charms. David Letterman is quirky and Jimmy Kimmel is very funny - I like Colin Furgeson as well. Each one is so uniquely different its difficult to chose one. Back in the day it was all about Johnny Carson - he truly was the king - and there were not real choices. But now there are a number of great shows to tune in to.....as long as its not too late. After, say, 2am, there is nothing of worth on television. It makes me realize why we get so many ambulance calls at 3am with people who way they've been sick all day. You wonder why they didn't call before you went to bed - why did they wait until I was so soundly sleeping? But I know the answer - there's nothing on TV to distract them and they only have their miserableness to think about. They feel worse and worse. So they call us.

Well I wish someone would start a nice late, late night show that starts about 1am and goes until 3am. Because by then I can usually manage to sleep. Surely there are enough other insomniacs out there to join me!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013