Saturday, October 31, 2009

Memories of Childhood Church...

When I was about three years old, I began attending Sunday school. I remember very little about those early days, but I remember being a little older, attending first a sort of Junior Church in the basement of the Session House. Mr. Will Strong lead things and we all sang hymns like "Onward Christian Soldiers" and "Trust and Obey." One morning stands out in my memory. Mr. Strong took his place at the podium and began to speak, when he started to make strange sounds and his body began to quiver. I was afraid of what was happening. Shortly after, Mr. Strong was led out of the room, into the kitchen behind the main room, and then Walter Preische came to the podium and explained that Mr. Strong had taken ill, and he took over. Later we learned that Mr. Strong had suffered a stroke.

There were classrooms in the basement area, and we were separated by age. For the life of me, I do not remember the names of my teachers, except for Prof. Hall, nor do I remember a single lesson! So much for my Sunday school experiences!

In the 1960's, the First Presbyterian Church of East Hampton was being renovated. The pipe organ, sadly, was removed, and a new, modern instrument was added. The old pipes that were visible at the front and center of the sanctuary were replaced by red, satin drapes with a large gold colored cross placed in front of them. There were many changes made to the building, including the taking down of two side steeples, and the replacement with one centered spire. I've always thought the church looked lovely after it's renewal, but I prefered the look of the old one.

John Drew Theater at Guild Hall became our meeting place while the church was being refurbished. It worked perfectly well, with the reverand Mr. Renton preaching in his Scottish brogue from the stage. There was a piano to which we sang the familiar hymns. Being of the age where I was easily distracted, a spent a lot of time during the service examining the look of the theater. The ceiling was domed, and painted in stripes, somewhat like a circus tent. Were the lights that hung supposed to look like balloons, or am I remembering that incorrectly? The place had a musty smell odor, and a slanted floor. There was a stage where in earlier days I had played the lead role in 'The Little Matchgirl', while Jeanne Dordleman flitted around in a blue bird costume. It was difficult for me to keep my mind on Rev. Renton.

That reminds me of another tale. My best friend, Marty, and I always sat together in church. After we'd moved back to the church for services, Marty and I would sit in the balcony when I wasn't singing in the Jr. Choir. Marty was always a cut-up, and she would say things to make me laugh. For some reason I was 'afraid' of old people...and she'd work on promoting that by pointing out some older lady and saying she looked like a witch. One Sunday morning, Marty wondered about jumping off the wall of the balcony, and swinging from chandelier to chandelier.
The thought made me giggle, almost uncontrollably, and Mr. Renton looked toward us and said, "Steady now, steady!" That meant...'calm down, girls.' Embarrassed, we did just that.

Those were days when I fear I learned little at church, and yet, somehow I managed to learn to love the Lord. Today I'm actively involved in living a life which I pray is pleasing to Him, despite my rather dubious beginnings! Marty, too, is actively involved in a ministry life. I think the Rev. Mr. Renton would be pleased to know this.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Comfortable ...

Once upon a time I struggled with who I was, how I looked, and finding the 'right' words to say to people in a group. I never felt that I 'fit in' anywhere. I think that's a thing that's common to most young people. I remember having a big discussion through the mail with my friend who lived in Oregon at the time. I didn't find a lot of comfort in her words to 'just wear what you like, and don't worry about anyone else." After all, she was living in the 'laid back' west coast, in a Christian commune of hippie types. I was living in an upscale town where how you looked seemed to matter to people.

As a young mother, the family was quite involved in a church where I thought I wasn't really a part of the group. I wanted to be, but I didn't know how to look or act. I did the best I could, as I suppose most of us did. But I didn't think I was 'there'. That was the case in most of my life's settings.

The feeling of not fitting into the over-all puzzle seemed to hang around for a long time...until I reached middle age. I can't tell you when it was, but at some point I began to let go of the thoughts that I had to look, act and speak a certain way. I just began to live my life, and to enjoy it. To heck with dressing like models. I'd never look like them anyway, with their straight, boney figures. I finally came to the realization that my mother's words were true. "Beauty is as beauty does."

Since I was born with an empathetic and compassionate spirit within me, I began to let it out. I discovered that my words of encouragement seemed to come easy for me. It wasn't an overnight thing, and it wasn't always easy, but I've come to realize that when I took my eyes off of myself, I began to grow in ways that I'd always wanted to. I realized how freeing it was to just be who I was created to be, with all my idiocincrasies, feelings and flaws. Some things needed to be tempered and shaped, and I work on those. I wasn't born perfect, and don't suppose I'll ever be, but I am far more comfortable with myself these days than I've ever been.

The shell that I live in, my body, is short and round and soft. It shows the wear and tear of living. There are silvery stretch marks that came with bringing five wonderful children to life, freckles from too much fun in the sun. A few wrinkles, gray hairs and 'laughter tracks' show on my face. I can line up the cosmetics, the body filler for the ruts, the cover ups for the stretch marks, varicose veins, and age spots, the dye for the gray hair. I can, but I don't, but for a small amount of mascara and lip gloss. It's too much work for me to bother, and besides, I'm supposed to look like this! God put me together in such a way that these things would be here at this stage of my life, and I'm not going to change those outward things. I have vowed to look the best I can, naturally, without the aid and expense of a lot of paint and putty. Don't even mention tucks and nips and suctions!

It is my hope that I can live the rest of my life working toward good attitudes and actions. Whatever there is inside of me that is to come out in beautiful ways, let those be where my focus is....for the good of others. I may not be 'eye candy', but I can live with that. I've grown to be "comfortable in my own skin", as the saying goes and I'm free to be me. Take it or leave it, it's what I have to offer.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Autumn Rest

After an enormously busy month of meetings, house 're-do's' and social activities, and before the holidays, we need a break! We're taking a play day. I suggested a ride up to the Lake where we can view the mountains and forests surrounding the water, and take some photos of the beautiful Fall color.

As I drove to the church at 5:30 pm yesterday, it was raining and quite dim in the pre-dusk hour. I was immediately struck by the brilliance of the area. It seemed that over-night the frost had kissed the trees, and they burst forth in every bright color of Autumn. What a glorious sight! The golden nut trees, the red maples, the brown and orange oaks seemed to put on their very best show!

I've always like Autumn, and when it's here, it's my favorite season. I like to listen to 'the September Song' and relate it to the seasons. I'm in the stage of life that I hope is late Summer and early Autumn. I pray it will be a long season for me, in life, I mean. I so enjoy living and seeing all that life brings my way. It is ever colorful, and though I sometimes 'over-book' myself, it's good to have meaning and purpose for the days.

There are items on my calendar that await accomplishment, but today I will take off with my favorite traveling partner, and I will breathe in the cool air and the radiance of these days. I will rest in the knowledge that this day is one for relaxation and renewal and reflection.

Tomorrow I will get back to work, but I won't think about that today. I'll think about that tomorrow.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Before Dawn Activities

Before dawn , while most of the world is snoozing, I sit at my computer and explore things. Sometimes I look up places to visit, or the old hometown, sometimes I do research: genealogy, locations where ancestors lived, what happened then in history. Often I go 'blogging'. I read blogs on-line written by other crafters, gardeners, friends. But I went cyber decorating.

I suppose it all has to do with trying to put this house back together in some fashionable way following the flood. I have a lot of furniture that I like, as well as just 'stuff'. Putting it together in a cohesive way always seems to stymie me. So, I snuck into other's rooms to see how they make things work.

I found a lot of 'redone' pieces put into some homes. What I mean by that is, pieces of furniture made in certain eras that have been 'transformed' by collaging French magazine ads to it or hand-painting pink roses or vines on
the doors or elsewhere. While those looks are fine for some, they don't work for me. I'm more a 'keep it in it's original state' even if that means it's finish is marred or the paint is chipping. I don't know why, but I'd rather see an armoire that carries its scarred, walnut stain than to see it painted aqua and artificially crackled.

This morning's tour of homes gave me a greater appreciation for my own things.
I don't want to clutter my home with 'useless' stuff anymore, although I did that for much of my life. I'm ready to simplify. If it doesn't have a place or a use, I don't really want it around. I'm not saying that I'm going to live with bare walls and shelves...don't get me wrong. I need to be surrounded by things that make it feel 'homey' to me, so pillows and photos and family crafted items will have their place. But statues and jars and stuff that just collects dust isn't going to take up residence here.

I guess there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, even if you like something. That's the part that I can't really come to grips with. If I like it, and it works with my other stuff, I can't seem to part with it. Right now, that's an assortment of many embroidered samplers. I don't know where to put them, so they're sitting in a box. I had them hanging over the couch, and though I was complimented often on them, the arrangement didn't work for me, or at least, it doesn't anymore.

I've been working on turning the small loft space into an 'office' for myself. The furniture is in, but there's still much to be done to make such a small space a workable one, and comfortable. I will just keep strolling through people's homes on line until something strikes me. It will suddenly 'hit' me in one of those pre-dawn hours, and it will be just perfect for me when it does.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Autumn Days

Autumn arrives in shimmering dresses,

With crowns of acorns in her tresses,

And with glittering gems of morning dew

Set on her toes like silver shoes.

Shadows play in her gown's pleats.

They carpet the ground at Autumn's feet.

She doesn't move, standing straight and tall

Until Old Man Winter makes a call.

Then Autumn leaves and covers the ground

Silently, but for Wind's sound.

Cold Winter moves in to take her place

Placing his chilly kiss upon her face.

Away is Autumn for another year

Gone are her hues that offered such cheer.

She's taken the birds, the blue skies as well

She's left us with Winter's snowy shell.



Oct 20, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Yankee Thrift

My Mom's favorite 'old adage' was attributed to good old 'Yankee thrift'. She'd always say, "Use up, wear out, make do, do without." Oh, I hated to hear that after awhile. My folks lived by that rule of thumb, so there wasn't a huge turn over of furnishings in our house, and clothing was passed around between cousins. I was lucky there, because the only girl cousins I had were a younger one who lived near us, and an older one who lived on Shelter Island. Audrey's things were passed to me, and no one but me, was the wiser.

One of Mom's sisters was a professional seamstress, and she could remake anything to fit to a 't'. I believe that in all my years of school dances, there was only one new semi-formal bought. The rest of them were 'renewed' by Aunt Sis. Sleeves were removed or necklines changed, and with a tuck here or a hem there, I was Cinderella.

As I became an adult, married and started a family, I learned the art of 'thriftiness' too. I was more or less 'forced' to, by tight finances in our early years.
After awhile, the budget loosened up a little, but by that time, it was a way of life for me. The son was the one with the new clothes, being the only boy, and we passed those on to two nephews. Our four girls were the recipients of many lovely things which we could not have afforded to purchase for them. My favorites were the smocked Polly Flinders dresses. This is not to say that we never bought new clothing for them. We did, of course, but the best things in their wardrobes came from someone else, and I was grateful.

It was wiser to buy new appliances than having used ones, as they'd give us less trouble, and they came with a warranty. Our furniture, though, except for our mattress sets, was handed down from relatives: Mom and Dad's Castro convertible couch, Aunt Sis' maple table and buffet cabinet, even my narrow antique bed was slept in by each of my children, and remains in my possession today.

I'm not sure whether recycling was in-grained in me or if it is in-born, but we are still doing the same thing today. We buy much more than we ever did, because we are able to, but we also tend to like 'old' things, rather than new and modern furnishings. The matching end tables were new, but they came from a thrift shop and cost me a total of $70 for the pair. (I spotted one in one part of the store, and the other way over on the other end!) The matching green ceramic lamps that sit on those tables were bought at a different time in the same store, and were $8 each. I found the almost new shades for them at a yard sale for $3 each. You can't beat that. All of our living room chairs were passed on from my daughter when she moved, our dining table, which is an antique square, drop leaf pine one, is a find from a thrift shop. I watched that table as it sat in the store for months. I longed for it, but I wouldn't pay the price. Visit after visit, the price would drop, but not enough for me. I kept hearing the words of my aunt from days of old. "If it's meant to be yours, it'll still be here the next time you come." Finally it was at a point that I would pay full price, but I took a chance and questioned if there was any negotiation on it. Surprisingly there was, and I bought it for about half of what the original price was months before!

Our dining chairs are various styles from various places: bow back antique ones which don't match each other except in color and shape, 4 white, sturdy ones that we use for extras which came FREE at the end of someone's yard sale. We've got two lovely, strong, Italian made arm chairs from yet another thrift shop, and 4 Windsor chairs that were given to us by a friend. Our porch table and chairs came from my brother's house when he passed away, and though I'm not crazy about the chairs and benches that came with it, they do serve the purpose. I'm a little too sentimental to get rid of the set, and it would be a shame to break up the pieces.

Suffice it to say that we have a mixed assortment here, but we don't mind, and are always being complimented about the way things work together and the coziness of our place. One of my friends once told me that if you choose what you like, it will always work. I'm not sure how much water that actually holds, but we do just that. Whatever... our purpose is to use what's available that we like and is comfortable. There's no way that I'd ever put '60's modern in our house, whether it was useable, free or otherwise. It's just not 'us'. But...if it was all we had, we'd 'make do' until we could do something different.

I like the challenge of refinishing, renewing, repurposing and recycling. It's fun and it's usually less expensive. Of course, if one buys antique furniture it wouldn't be terribly economical, but otherwise, for the most part, I'd say that used furniture, so long as it's comfortable and clean and sturdy, is a great use of your money, especially if you have children (or grandchildren) with sticky hands and sippy cups!

As much as I hated Mom's old motto, I find myself living by it these days, or at least, pieces of it. I don't necessarily 'wear out', but items are passed along so that someone else might wear out, rather than tossing them out. Sometimes it pays to listen to your Mom.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Halloween Costumes

Sometime in the next few days, I'm expecting a body in the mail. Before you call 911 or the FBI or someone to investigate me, let me explain. I'm scheduled to make my granddaughter's Halloween costume...a mermaid. Since she lives 100 miles or so from us, I asked my daughter to make a life sized paper body of her with measurements, so that I can attempt to make something that fits her tiny self.

Halloween costumes used to be fun for me to make. When my kids were at the age where I could make something, we would talk things over and come up with costumes that both pleased them and fairly easy for me to create. We had a Renaissance princess with a red velvet cape trimmed in gold and a tall pointed hat with a veil. There was an angel with tinsel halo and crepe paper feathers on poster board wings. There was a clown with a handmade red yarn wig and yellow calico suit trimmed with red yarn pom poms. There was a flower, a Hershey's Kiss and a cheerleader, as well as the usual cowboy and indian costumes. After five children and all those years of costumes, I'm finding it hard to come up with something new. This is a feat I must accomplish soon...and in adult sizes, as we're invited to a costume party which is two weeks away.

My husband is balking about the whole thing...costumes aren't something that thrills him, and yet, he is willing to attend the party in some sort of unusual get-up, providing it isn't too uncomfortable, constricting or 'out there'. I'm thinking, since people always tell me that he looks like the Gorton fisherman, that if we can find his old rain gear...yellow slicker and hat, he could wear that, and take it off easily. He'll be hot and uncomfortable wearing pretty much anything. He also has a fire hat...but I don't think he's still got his turn out gear, so a fireman might be out of the question.

As for me, I'd love to create something that would go along with his costume, but since that's thus far undertermined, I might have to find an idea for me and run with it. Time's awastin'...and with three costumes to make, as well as an assortment of other creative projects in the works for October events, there's not a minute or a thought to spare!

If anyone can help me out with the thinking, I'd be grateful. If you can sew and want to do that for me, better yet! The door's always open, and the candy dish is full! C'mon in!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Birthday Parties

When did things get so crazy and expensive when giving a child's birthday party?
I've noticed in the last few years that a group of friends are invited to celebrate a grade schooler's big day, and it's a huge event, costing a parent hundreds of dollars. There's paid entertainment...a magician, a clown, or the like or there are rented ponies to ride, or air filled jumping things. Sometimes it's a location party, where the parents pay a (dear) price and a party is planned and prepared for them. These places range from Chuckie Cheese to ceramics places, to party spots where a theme party is done, ie: Princess party, complete with costumes to wear.

What ever happened to a bunch of kids getting together for a couple of hours in the afternoon where they would play games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey or musical chairs or peanut hunts and outside games? There would be cake and ice cream and a time of opening gifts, and everyone would go home with a balloon and a small bag of candy or a box of cracker jacks and everyone was happy.

I remember giving a party for two of my girls whose birthdays are very close on the calendar. Their friends were the same children, so a joint party made sense. (They each had their own family celebration, though, in honor of the special child of the day.) It was a 'normal' party of the times, but I'd created little corsages of crepe paper flowers and curling ribbon for each little lady to wear. Each of the guests felt special with the bouquet to take home with her. For me it was a few dollars and a few hours of preparation.

Another time, for another child who was three years old, we had an outside party. The day became so hot that we filled the wading pool, and the Mommies stripped their children to their panties, and they all had a grand time splashing and spilling water all over themselves and each other.

I remember parties with everyone digging through their slice of cake to see if they'd find a treasure which had been baked into it. If they found it, they'd get an inexpensive door prize. Similarly, if there was a special number or picture found under your paper plate or under your chair, you'd 'win' and receive a prize.

I'm afraid that I'm dreadfully old-fashioned. I've said that before, but I just don't see the need for such spending as people tend to do today for a child's celebration, when simple things please children just as well.

Friday, October 2, 2009


When I was in school, history bored me, unless we were talking about the people of other countries. Social studies did catch at least some of my attention. Hearing how other people dressed and ate and lived differently from myself peaked my interest. I guess that's why, even today, I like folk festivals.

We used to go to the Polish Festival in Riverhead each year, whenever possible. The big draw for Mike was the food, but I liked it all. We're both 'people watchers', so the crowd itself offered a huge amount of entertainment, aside from the colorful costumes, the pagentry, the music, performances, native foods and craft booths. We attended the Southampton Greek Festival too.
Never did we leave without spinach pie!

We attended the Renaissance Fair in Sterling Forest, NY on a number of occasions. It was like going back to Olde Medieval England, to the days of knights on horseback, jousting, to gypsy women belly dancing, to the days when street vendors sold their huge pickles from barrels, while madrigals sang and pipers played. Bagpipers stroll, folk dancers enjoy the circles of gyrations. . The ladies in tall hats with veils trailing and velvets and cinched waisted dresses must be terribly uncomfortable! The serfs and the wenches style is much less fancy, but probably equally as warm. The men in suits of armor, chain mail, even tights and tunics must be no less uncomfortable.

The food is delectible: bread bowls filled with cheese and broccoli soup or stews, roasted turkey legs, and other such fare. Fragrances of oils and lotions permeate the breeze. Crafts people offering silver jewelry, tankards, blacksmithed wares, textiles, musical instruments, childrens costume items of the time, floral head wreaths. There are games to watch, and some to participate in and stage performances to see. We watched a wedding in front of the Queen's castle, and rode on a horse drawn wagon with the friendly monarch. I think of all the fairs and festivals I've attended, this may be my favorite, and I look forward to attending one in NC in November.

It is such fun to move into another realm, to become yourself in another place and time, just for the day. But then, when we are full of unusual food and our minds are full of exhaustion, it's time to go home. We do so, with appreciation, knowing the comfort of the familiar awaits.

Projects, Projects, Projects...

I can't help myself. I just have to keep my hands busy with projects, and let me tell you, I currently have a few dozen in the works.

In the throes of getting our house back together after our August flood, there's plenty to do. Let's face it, painting walls and trimwork, replacing furniture and hanging pictures can add only so much entertainment to your life. I am enjoying our 'new look', though, and the work is well worth it. There is a certain degree of 'creativity' involved in refurbishing after a calamity, but it gets old fast.

I'm one that has to create something that feels like fun, not work. So, my brain is as busy as my hands are. Since October is presenting me with many opportunities to create cards, I've been stealing my sleepless, pre-dawn hours while my husband snores, and I've been devoting that time to the birthday and 'thinking of you' cards I'll need to send. At the end of the month, I'll be hosting a church women's group, so I've been stamping colored leaves on fall colored paper for placemats and on small brown bags which will hold 'goodies' for the ladies to take home. Since the theme of the evening is the scripture verse, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you. Heb. 13:5', I've written the verse on each of the bags.

Christmas is rapidly approaching, and generally I'm nearly finished with shopping for gifts. Not this year. I do have a few, but my plans for making gifts were diverted by the rush of water through the house in Aug. By now I should have a good start on my handmade Christmas cards, and I haven't even begun. Well, there's always November.

The gardens look like patches of dying weeds. They look like that because that's what they are!
They need to be cleaned out and mulched for the winter. I fear that they may remain that way 'til Spring, when the new weeds show up and will be pulled. Well, weeds are pretty in their own right, I guess. Dead ones leave something to be desired, however.

I fully intend to honor my daughter's request to create a mermaid costume for her six year old. Ok. "I can do that" I answered, when she asked. It is my usual response. the trouble is, I have not yet received my request of an outline of Selah's body, and I've not yet worked out what the design will be and how to accomplish a tale. The fabric waits in the craft room, but that's as far as it's gotten.

The shed should be painted too, before it soaks up too much rain. That isn't so much my project as it is my husband's, but I will help him with it in order to get it done. (Sometimes my hardest part of a job is getting an electric cattle prod to get him moving. He does a great job once he gets past the procrastination!)

I have a billion other things I'd like to do and things that need to be put on the 'honey do' list, but I think I need to put the brakes to the churning wheels in my head, and get these things accomplished before starting any more.

On, now, to do some stamping on placemats.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Here It Comes...

Look she comes! October, in all it's blazing glory! The colors of Autumn are brilliant in October. I think that no other month provides so much in the way of a sensual experience. We are treated to glistening dew on the morning grass, vivid landscapes of gold and red, brown and yellow.

Much is still green here in the south, but with the unfolding of October, there will soon be leaves turning and lawns browning. I look forward to a walk in the woods, with the crunching of crisp leaves underfoot and the bite of a brisk wind on my cheeks.

How I love this month, when the woodsmoke rises on the evening air! The smell of burning leaves or fireplaces that take the chill from the room causes a sort of 'coziness' to settle over me.
Why it comforts me to smell that smoke, I cannot tell you, but it does.

The Canadian geese pass overhead, with a whir of sound in their wings. Their unmistakable 'honk' as they fly past, is almost as if to say, 'Get out of my way, please. I'm on a mission. Fall is here, and I must be off to other places.' Likewise, other birds begin to vacate. Today the birdbath is filled with a little family of Carolina Bluebirds, but soon, they will be gone. The Finches have already disappeared, but the Cardinals are faithful to remain, along with the Mockingbirds.

Fall's arrival brings a yen for the foods of the Autumn. When planning meals, we naturally seem to gravitate toward the 'heavier ' items, such as squashes and meatloaf, roasts and root vegetables. We no longer think 'cool and light', and salads are replaced by thick, hot soups and stews with warm breads and biscuits. Sweet potatoes and whatever fresh produce we can get at the farm stands are in abundance in October, and we scour the cookbooks for new recipes. This is the time of year when the desire to cook and to bake fills me like no other season does.

The calendar shows full days for the next three, holidays, visits, family. I must think of Christmas and the variety of gifts to prepare. But not today. Today I revel in what October brings to me. I will honor the month as she comes with all her pleasantries and generosity, and I will be still and enjoy her company while she visits.