Saturday, December 18, 2010

To My Mother in Law

Dear Margie...

Your son has been my husband for fifteen years. Every year with him gets better. He is such a special, unselfish, giving man. I couldn't have designed him better if I had had the opportunity to do so.

I've heard the stories of his growing up years without his birth father. I know how he fought the idea of having a stepdad, but eventually accepted Jake,loving and respecting him as family and friend. I've heard his fears of feeling as if he's not doing a good enough job of being a father. He's an amazing and accepting step-father, offering advice, but never preaching. I've dried his tears as he remembers his grandparents with such immense love that it spills out through his eyes. I've watched him take on the role of grandfather with the birth of each of my grandchildren. He couldn't be more loving with any of them, even if they were his own blood.

Yes, yes, I know that he isn't perfect. You told me in one of our earlies conversations that he had a huge temper. Yes, he does, but fortunately, he has a long fuse. His patience level is high, and it takes a lot to bring him to his loss of it. I've seen it only three times that I can think of....not a bad percentage for as many years as I've known him.

Thank you for giving birth to this guy on this day, so many years ago. Thank you for all that he learned from you, and for exposing him to the examples your brother gave him, for those of your father, and for Jake's, as he grew up. All of those examples and experiences have caused him to be who he is. It isn't easy to rear children who will grow into great adults, but you did it, and you deserve to be recognized.

I'm forever grateful.

With love, Kathleen

Last Night...

We had a Christmas party to attend last night, the third one so far this year. I really enjoy that one, but, unfortunately I needed to stay at home. I've had a few days of nausea which came and went throughout the week. My husband had the same ailment last weekend. Nothing much came of it, other than discomfort, but I wasn't feeling up to going into a crowd for dinner, both for their sakes and my own.

I truly enjoy these 'at home' gatherings. They are intimate and quiter than going to a restaurant, and so much more personal. It's fun to see the decorating in the homes of our hosts, and I pay special attention in order to get new ideas for our own celebrations in another year.

While my husband attended the party last night, with my Mom as his date, I laid on the couch at home. I thought about how lucky I am to have such a man as my husband. He might rather have stayed at home,too, but he knows how Mom enjoys going to the special events. He put his desires on the shelf, and took his place as her escort. He is so attentive to my mother, who has trouble seeing things and is a bit unsteady on her feet at times. I envisioned them at the dinnerline, as he told her what each dish was, and portioned it out on her plate for her. Then he guided her to the table, sitting at her left so she could hear him with her 'good' ear.
I know he did those things, because I've seen him do it in other situations. He's such a special son in law that people in church, when they first met us, asked if Mom was my mother or his. They make statements, still, such as 'he's so GOOD with her."

They made it an early night, and after seeing that Mom was safely inside her little house across the street, he brought a little of the party home to me....a number of messages to 'feel better' and a plate, heavy-laden with food.

I may have missed a great holiday celebration, but I celebrate the gift of this man as my husband. I am truly blessed to have him!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Historic Homes

Oh, how I love old homes, historic places that have withstood the sands of time. From farmhouse simplicity to grand plantations, my heart thrills at the sight of them.

Victorian homes with their gingerbread trims look to me like decorated cakes. Sag Harbor and Shelter Island are full of them. They stand like grand ladies, decked out in their finery, and just call out to me to tour them. Some of them are small cottages and utilitarian, rather than formal places, but still, there is something about them that causes me to say that I believe I like Victorian architecture best. They are full of such character.....slanted ceilings, some have high ceilings, nine feet or more. Some have exceptional interior oak wood floors and trim work, some have iron grill work that is not seen anymore, over fireplaces and holes in floors for heating. Some have stained glass which is the utmost in decorating, from my point of view. Many of them have panelled doors and walls, and even sliding doors that hide inside the walls, to separate parlors or dining rooms. Chandeliers of that day were glorious!

Farmhouses, too, are worthy of note, in my estimation. Most are simple, unpretentious, no matter what the size of them. Wide pine floors that creak underfoot, walls that retain the vent piping for the old coal or wood stoves used for cooking and heating,now covered by metal plates to cut the draft. Large sashed windows, wainscotted walls and sometimes ceilings, tin ceilings, large pantries speak of days gone by.

Old homes pull me in. Whenever an opportunity arises, I will take it and wander through one. We did just that the other evening when we took a tour of a Civil War time home, decorated in the manner it would have been during the War Between the States. It was chilly, even with the space heaters set into the historically furnished rooms. It was elegant with it's 12 foot ceilings and it's wide trimwork. Yet, it was simply decorated with live cedar trees bearing rafia ribbons, pine cones and paper cones of edible treats. Candlelight glowed in each room, and made it feel warm and hospitable.

I live in a newly built farmhouse, and I'm always on the lookout for a way to make it look as if it's been standing for a hundred years. So far, I haven't mastered the task of actually putting these ideas into action, but stay tuned. I have big plans! It all takes time to look old...and it takes money too, to drag a house through a time machine. One day, you'll see, this place will look the way I'd like it to....old, comfortable and homey.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I don't like the word 'countdown.' It causes my heart to pound with anxiety, as if I'm going to be very late for something. I've never cared to hear the 10-9-8- etc of the space crafts at lift off, and I feel the same way about the New Year's Eve ball drop. They just bother me...I don't know why, but they do.

When digital clocks took the place of the ones with hands and numbers on a circle, children began to announce the time precisely as each second passed. It made me want to run from the room, tear at my hair and scream. Now, Hallmark has created a countdown ornament, which documents days, hours, minutes and seconds. Excited children who have this gadget on their tree will be running to parents minute by minute exclaiming how little time is left before Santa arrives. Oh joy! (Who, in their right mind, would even consider hanging a thing like that where kids could see it?!) I'm fine with the Advent calendar to open with children, one little box for each day. Yes, it's a countdown, but somehow it's much gentler.

I'm right on schedule for Christmas... on MY schedule, even if I don't measure up to the ideas of those doing the countdown. I've got my lists, my gifts, my organization according to MY plan.
I won't be late for the holiday festivities, I promise. Please stop, Mr. TV Reporter, reminding me of how many days I have left to do thus and so. You may call me a Countdown Curmudgeon if you like, but I will just click you off, so that I don't have to hear it!

Now, since the time is growing shorter, I need to hustle my bustle.....

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shopping in December

There was a time in my life when I loved to shop. I'd hop in the car and direct it toward Riverhead where I'd spend all day wandering through the stores, whether I bought anything or not. But those were the days when I had more energy.

These days, however, my enthusiasm leaves much room for improvement, especially in December. I just don't have the ability to stand or walk for long periods of time. I try to plan my trips so that I don't need to wander around to find what I need. That way, I don't have to stay out longer than necessary. The crowded stores make this short trip much longer the closer we get to Christmas. While I love hearing the Christmas music and seeing the wonder in the little ones eyes as their parents wheel them in carts through the decorated aisles, I'd much prefer to be at home during the month of December.

Gift buying is, for me, a special event. I like to place my hands on the item, feel the fabric, hold it up to check for size, check the quality. You can't do that when you shop on-line, and so the alternative is to physically go to the stores. I enjoy choosing the special gift for the special person, and all year-long I have my eye peeled for the perfect present for each one on my list. By October, I'm usually finished and will begin the wrapping. That keeps me from the stores in the busiest season, and I have the serenity of knowing I've only to sit in front of my cd player and make beautiful packages and do the 'at home' preparations of baking, cleaning, decorating and Christmas cards.

No one will ever have reason to call me organized, but most years, I have this one in the bag.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Best Laid Plans...

You really never know how things will turn out, no matter how much planning you do. This weekend was a real example of that.

My daughter arrived on Friday, later than she'd hoped, with the two little grand-imps. Her delay was due to having to stop at a mechanic when some warning lights appeared on her cars. After some antifreeze in the radiator, she was good to go, and she made the trip without incident.

We had great plans for the two days together. Saturday we would be ready right after breakfast to shop with the little ones for a gift for their Daddy. Then we'd come home for lunch and bake and decorated some cut out cookies together .

Things didn't go quite the way we'd hoped. First of all, we lazed around too long in the morning, getting out around ten-thirty. We'd gone approximately two miles, when the warning lights showed up on the dash again. I suggested we swing over to our friend and mechanic's shop to see if he could hook the computer up and locate the problem. We were lucky to find Terry there, and the computer reading was 'coolant system.' He suggested we leave the car and he'd get it fixed by the end of the day. That required driving back to our house, unloading kids and car seats into my van, and driving back to Terry's place, which is what we did.

We then drove over to Anderson for the stop at the bank and shopping. By that time, the girls were telling us that they were starving, so we had a bite of lunch before moving on to the store for the gifts. We'd added a few other stops along the way, in order that we both might finish up our nagging little chores. By the time we got home, it was close to dinner time. cookies.

We'd hoped to go to church on Sunday together. But one of the children had gone to bed the night before with a 'really bad headache' and coughing. I'd gotten up that morning with a deep, dry cough that sounded like a vicious dog's bark. We stayed home. We probably could have baked our cookies, but the little ones were happily perched in front of some Christmas cartoons, and my daughter and Mike and I sat around the table making menus for our holiday week. We made a slight change in one pre-planned item, which caused a bit of 'difficulty' for another member of the family who would be the contributor. That, of course, upset me, as the hostess.
I always thought that when you were invited for a dinner at someone else's house, you ate what was offered without complaint. Maybe things are different these days. I guess the bottom line is, no matter how you try, you can't please everyone.

Anyway, plans are made. Plans get messed up. As the mother of five, I learned early to be flexible enough to go with the flow. It seems that nothing ever goes as planned....

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I've started....the decorating, I mean. I couldn't hold out another minute, so I talked Mike into pulling the boxes of ornaments, garlands and stuff from the shed into the sun room. Yesterday I rifled through some of them and decided how to do things.

The artificial evergreen garland is hung on the stair rail, decked with a red poinsetta, after careful measurement for placement of the flowers. The large wreath is hung on the wall between the windows, over the fireplace. A new choir of angels lines the mantle and I can nearly hear them singing the Hallelujah Chorus. Deep red poinsettas and verigated holly with crimson berries stand in a large crock nearby.....and a basket of the same graces the dining room table on the gold tablecloth.

It's not much....but it's still early.. Today the youngest of my grandchildren and their Mom will travel with me to pick up the last gift I need. We grown up little girls will divide the wee ones, and each sister will buy the other one a gift, after choosing something for their Daddy. Then we'll come home, and begin the fun and gooey mess of making cut out cookies.

I love preparing for Christmas! I think I am as much like a child about the anticipation as any little person there is. I love the 'magic' of it all, but above all that, I love the special wonder of the first and real Christmas. Imagine the preparation then! Every angel knew there was a special night about to arrive. The mother of Jesus knew that He could arrive at any time, and like any young mother-to-be, might have had thoughts for her preparing for her baby. Joseph, must have been a little apprehensive, knowing he had to take his wife on a long journey so close to her due date. Were any of them really prepared to welcome the King of Heaven?

As I rummage through the boxes of decorations that add to my festivities, as I spend these days before the celebration of Christmas, the most important preparation I can make, is the readying of my heart to honor my Savior in each moment of my life. All the glitter and the gold are fun, like at any birthday party, but let us remember whose birthday it is and celebrate Him!

"Prepare ye the way of the Lord."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

More Children's Funnies...

Yesterday I wrote about some of the funny things kids say, in complete innocence. Someone left a comment on my earlier blog about my daughter, which I'd never heard. Apparently, my Amy noticed that a friend was nursing her baby. This woman shared that my little one stopped running around and asked, "Are you feeding that baby with your arm?"

Amy was one of my funniest children. From the time she could talk until well into grade school, she would innocently say the most comical things. One day, while we were, together, preparing a small vegetable patch, she asked me what kind of seeds we had. I told her we'd plant squash and string beans and carrots. She looked over the top of her glasses and with great excitement asked, "Do we have any chicken seeds?"

Another time we stood in line behind a lovely,young black woman with a crying infant. Amy told the woman, "I think he's hungry." The lady agreed. Then Amy asked her " Does your baby drink chocolate milk?" Fortunately, the woman took no offense to my preschooler's question, but smiled at her and responded that he drank just 'regular' milk.

I think children are the most funny during those early years. They are curious beyond all measure and innocent in their constant thinking. They ask a million questions all day long and they are processing everything they see and hear. They make sense of things as best they can with their limited years of learning. I just love that age!

When my friend's daughter went to kindergarten, her mother heard her story of a little boy who held little girls hostage in the coat room. When Mom asked Tammy why he was locking the girls in the closet, the little girl answered, "So he could kiss them!" My friend said, "Oh my! He's a playboy, isn't he?" Tammy answered, "No, Mommy...he's real !! "

Sometimes there's much wisdom in the words of children. One Sunday morning while Dad was driving my cousins, and I to Sunday School, my father wondered if Town Pond was frozen over for skating. We took a ride past the pond, and Dad thought it looked safe. My cousin piped up without a thought, "Well, you can't judge a brook by it's cover!"

It's important to listen to these little people. You never know what you'll learn!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I knew it! It's not going to happen, not before Christmas, anyway. What was I thinking?! The idea of getting the living room painted and rearranged between Thanksgiving and Christmas decorating was an absurd thought.

It's fine...really. There's so much to do in these few weeks before the celebration of Christmas with family and friends. We've got all of the usual pre-nativity activities to accomplish and old and new events to attend. Who needs to add more to the list?

You know how it goes with painting. It's not just the few days that it takes to cut in, roll and clean up the mess. When you have nice, freshly-painted walls, everything else begins to look a little shabby. I have plans, already, to change the window treatments, and have bought the fabric to do them. They're not yet made, and I'd like to do that before the room color is changed, so that they're ready to put up when the paint dries. We'd like to get some mouldings for the ceiling and windows too, and wouldn't it make sense to put that up after the room is painted? No, maybe, it should go up first. Either way, it should be in our possession, not sitting in the lumberyard racks. With all of that done, the furniture will want refreshing. My mother tells me that it's not 'that hard' to upholster a chair, or even to make a slip cover. I love our furniture, and would rather recover it than buy new things. So... where does all that fit into the time schedule? It certainly doesn't fit into the packed-full time this month!

I trust that the living room walls will still be standing when the tree needles are being vacuumed up and the Rubbermaid containers are back in the shed. (After last night's storm, it does give pause to wonder if my last statement is true.) When the new year descends, I'll make a list of what needs to be done, trying to prioritize the projects, so that when the living room is recolored, the other 'little things' can be brought in and the whole room will be renewed.

Maybe this is why so few projects are ever finished.... they take on their own personality, growing as they do. Siiiiigh....

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kids...What They Say...

You never know what a child is going to come out with next. They seem to have way of thinking and a way of using words that make us smile, with no intention of doing so.

When she was two, she walked in while we were having dinner. It was a simple meal, loose chopped meat, potatoes, some vegetables. After checking out the fare, she looked quizically at me and asked, "Grammie, why you eatin' cat food?" On a cold day in the same winter she laid down on the floor and began waving her arms up and down and moving her legs in and out. I asked if she was making snow angels. She answered, 'No...RUG angels."

When she was a six years old, I was waiting in the bathroom while she took a shower. When she was finished, she wrapped the clear shower curtain around her little body, and said, "Look! I'm laminated!"

One of my daughters, upon hearing the band play a familiar song in the Christmas parade piped up, "Mommy! they're playing "'Oh Don't Let Us Ignore Him." Another of those I've had the pleasure of rearing was curious, at the age of 7, to know whether God had a wife. Her sister, who had nearly three years on her, thus a bit of wisdom, answered her. " God doesn't have time for a wife."

Looking back to the days before I had my own little ones, I was a Sunday School teacher of three year olds. To this day I remember the answer I was given from one young man. I'd finished the lesson of the first family God created, Adam and Eve and their children. As was my habit, I asked a few questions following the teaching, just to see how much was retained. I said, "who can tell me who the first family was?" Robert answered, "The Addams Family!"

Recently my youngest granddaughter lost her first tooth. She thought she was pretty special, as she'd pulled it out herself, and was an equal to her older sister, still wearing smiles with missing teeth. Soon after, her second tooth was loose. Big sister had just lost one too. Not to be outdone, Abigail remarked, "I believe my tooth will come out on Tooth's Day!"

Where would we be without these sweet, smile-bringing beings in our lives? What a serious place the world would be without the wit and wisdom of little people! Thank the Lord that He gave them to us,...precious and special day-brighteners as they are!

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like....

Christmas. Thanksgiving sort of 'breezed in and out' with many people giving it little thought. Others thought of it kindly and celebrated it's meaning. For some, it simply signaled the day before their Christmas decorations went up.

In our house, we like to give each holiday it's due...when it's due. We aren't pleased to see Christmas trees going up in the stores before Halloween arrives and we're still walking around in short sleeved shirts. We know about the commercialism and the need to advertise for business reasons, but we also understand that everyone knows that Christmas is on the way, and will do their fair share of shopping for gifts. We'd rather see the anticipation rising as the costumes and masks are taken from the shelves and the Autumn garlands and flowers are put out. When those are past, and taken down, perhaps on the first of December, then we'd welcome the lit trees and huge red bows all over creation.

As it is, our neighborhood is already decorated, but for a few homes, Mom's and ours included in the 'but for' category. We are beginning to think about it, and how things will be decorated this year, but we are sticklers for live trees in the living room, and we like to leave them up into January, so we're not in a great rush to put them up too early. I will say that I like to shop for Chrismas all year long, as I don't like crowds, and as the years go on, I'm getting slower and less apt to love the 'meandering' all day long. I tend to be on the lookout whenever I'm shopping, and if something 'jumps out' at me for someone on my list, it's purchased then and there. However, I do save the wrapping for a cold, December day, when I can put on the Christmas music and take care of the tasks.

So, we'll be the last in our subdivision to put our lights on the house and bushes, and probably the last to take them down. It's such a busy time, we like to enjoy things, after Christmas, without the confusion, rather than packing things up the day after the holiday, as we see so many folks doing here. Sometimes, I think it's nice not to be 'first'. We savor our holidays, the way we enjoy our bite at a order to allow the fragrances, the look and the taste to make it's own impression.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's Thanksgiving Day

It's Thanksgiving Day....a day we have set apart to remember all of our blessings and give thanks to our God for all He has provided. I feel that we ought to do that, daily, but still, this is a special day. It is one that promotes family and friends getting together around a heavy-laden table, and that, in itself, is a blessing.

This year there will be but four of us. My children and grandchildren will be in various places. The two Georgia families will be staying in their area, as their father, stepmother and half-brother will be visiting from Florida. My other two daughters in New York will be sharing the day with friends. My son's family will enjoy their day in their own special way, as will my stepsons. It's a day when we will miss the faces who aren't joining us at the table.

One of those faces is that of my father. He passed away twenty five years ago, on November 25, 1985. We will all remember him on this day, each one of us reliving our memories of him. Thinking about that, I have remembrances of times with him that are solely mine. There were few times when my Dad and I were alone together, and so that makes them special to me. Silly little things come to the surface...his waking me early to catch the bus when I was going to Cosmetology school. He once took a feather that had escaped from my down pillow, and tickled me under my nose with it until I woke up. There were rides home from school with him, after I would walk to his job site and sit in the car, waiting for his workday to end. There were longer drives to my orthodontist appointments. He encouraged me to write and asked to hear my scribblings. He praised my singing when he heard me in the shower or singing in my room. He tormented me about my rock and roll, but he thought that the Beatles weren't half-bad and liked their harmony. There were quiet conversations in the yard as he puttered with something, and early mornings in the kitchen while he had his coffee and I had my breakfast before school. There were the times of frustration for both of us as he taught me to drive a standard shift vehicle. "Don't ride the clutch" or "Take your foot off the brake". I'll bet he was extremely pleased when I finally got the hang of it!

Others who knew my father always tell me things that they remember about him, all of them telling me that he was a truly 'nice' man. Yes, he was. Everyone has memories of their father whether good or bad. I cannot say I have anything bad to report, honestly. I didn't know Daddy well enough, due to his working so hard to take care of his family, and none of us had enough time with him. He was taken from us when he was just sixty one years old, but the nearly 40 years I had with him was far too short.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I will give thanks for all my blessings, but mostly that I was given the man I knew as my father. I was given the most wonderful parents, and am truly grateful for them.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November Morning

The other morning I woke to find a glorious morning. The sky was waking from it's night's sleep and was a soft blue with pink and gold marbling. The oaks , the cherries and the maples were vividly displaying their Autumn colors as they swayed in the wind. The grass was still green but covered with a frosty coat.

Deer ambled through the empty field next door, nibbling as they wandered. Before I knew it, a parade of wild turkeys made their way through the yard, bobbing like children's toys as they pecked at the ground.

The traffic was increasing as drivers made their way to work or to deliver children to school. The sound of their tires on the damp pavement added a 'swish' rhythm to the song of the wind. I was glad to be on the inside, in the warmth, looking out through the cold window glass.

The day was beginning and it promised to be a busy one for us, as we prepared Mom's rental house for the next tenant. I put on the coffee and listened for the dripping brew to signal it's completion. Sitting down at the table with the fragrant mugful of caffeine, I breathed a deep sigh, and wished our chore was finished so that we could get back to our own home. It hadn't been a pleasant time, so far, in our hometown. But, things were underway, and soon we would end the camping out in the vacant house and we'd make our way south to our lovely, quiet home.
Until then, I determined, I would grab the beautiful moments, however few there might appear to be, and I'd hang on for dear life and sanity.

The morning was giving me something to hold on to all day.... the blessing of ever changing nature in a lovely place. I gave thanks as the steamy coffee was lifted to my lips. I could have been placed in the middle of a dingy, noisy, city neighborhood, with nothing of a view but the brick wall outside the window. "We must remember small pleasures, and give thanks", I reminded myself, and I took another look outside the sliding glass door to notice that the leaves were falling like snowflakes upon the deck.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nov 23, 1963

The day was one of mixed emotions. There was a pallor over the country, a feeling of disbelief and of grief. We'd lost our beloved President just 24 hours before, at the hand of an assassin. We had a new President, our former Vice President, and none of us knew where we were headed in the future.

On the other hand, my tiny, fashionable aunt and I were about to journey off to New York City, to embark on the British cruise ship, the Ocean Monarch, for a week's trip to Bermuda. There was excitement within me, for this 16th birthday gift was a big adventure for me. I was dressed in my best church attire, a lilac plaid coat and a deeper shade of purple wool dress. (Looking back on those pictures, I realize that I'd always hated that coat!) I felt very special as I was greeted at the gangplank by a handsome, uniformed crew member with the cheerful "Welcome Aboard" tinted with a charming British accent.

We stood against the rail of the ship, looking down upon the crowd below, waiting to send off the travelers. I picked my parents out in the crowd, and felt somewhat anxious, suddenly thinking of the 'what if's'. "What if the boat sinks?" "What if I get sea sick?" For a brief moment, I wanted to bolt from the ship, but I held it together, and waved as the vessel slowly slipped from the pier, without the usual fanfare of confetti and noise. We were all respectfully somber in our behavior, in respect of John F. Kennedy.

As the televisions across the world broadcast the events of the day, the updates of the assassination, the way the world was responding to our loss, we slushed through New York Harbor to the open sea. The gray skies were appropriate, the gray sea reflecting the sky. The mood aboard ship, as well, was somewhat gloomy. We looked over the scheduled events, some of which had been curtailed until after Sunday services, out of respect.

I had many moments worthy of remembering in my life up until then, many of which have long been forgotten. However, November 23, 1963... was memorable day for a teenaged girl for many reasons, and one that would be remembered for my lifetime.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A New Day....

We're home again, back to the serenity of my own peaceful home, after three weeks of stress while trying to undo the damage of difficult tenants in my mother's little house in East Hampton. The first week, we stayed with my daughter and her family. Beggars can't be choosers, they say, and we were grateful for the warm space to be as we waited for the tenant to vacate and return the keys so we could begin the work ahead of us. But, accommodations left something to be desired, as my daughter and her housemate were having some real difficulties, so even when the drama was not being played out, the air was thick with tension and uncomfortable to be in the middle of.

The second week found us purchasing a blow up bed so we could 'camp out' at the rental house. We borrowed a few pots and pans, brought in some food, and used the kitchen table and chairs the tenant had abandoned. It was peaceful there, and we gathered our strength and energy in order to tackle the repairs and cleanup and get a new tenant.

By the third week, confusion was at its height. We had little response from three classified ads for the rental. Out of nine responses, only one was a good match for us, but as it turned out, it was not for the potential tenant. So, the house was about to be shut down until the warmer weather, and placed into the hands of a housewatcher. It hadn't been painted inside, as planned, because it would be best to delay that job if the heat was to be shut off. The walls had been prepared and patched. The holes in the doors were repaired. The debris in the yard had been removed, the gutters cleaned, the tenant trash in the garage and basement carted off. The house was as clean as it could be and smelled of Mr. Clean. We couldn't stay much longer but Mom was hesitant to shut the place down and leave it empty for an unknown period of time.

Enter an unhappy daughter. She'd decided to part company with the roommate, but didn't know where she could afford to live on her own. The idea was presented to Mom that she might want to consider her granddaughter as a tenant. Never being a fan of 'doing business with family', she hesitated in her decision. I told her that it seemed she had two options, take my daughter or shut it down. Neither appealed to Mom, but in the end, she took the granddaughter as tenant at a reduced rent. It made sense to me, and my daughter was a very grateful woman.

We stayed in our new confusion for about three days, and then packed up and left for home. I've never been so glad to see my front door! I'm so blessed to be here, in my own environment, with my own work to do, with my holiday preparations to plan and carry out. I'm home and it's a new day....thank you, Lord!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Autumn on Eastern Long Island

Things seem so much nicer this morning. The crisp, cool air and the colors of trees which umbrella above and crunch underfoot seem to have brightened my spirits.

We went back to the rental house yesterday, to find that the tenant had moved most everything out of the house and garage, leaving, what looks to me as if it would be one more truckload of stuff. Hopefully, she will be completely vacated by tomorrow, and we can begin the task of painting, repairing and cleaning the interior and getting the gutters cleaned, the bushes trimmed and yard raked. At the moment, it seems fruitless to clear the leaves, as they aren't finished falling. Maybe that should be the last job on the list, and yet, we are trying to schedule the outside work while the weather is cooperative. Hopefully we can get another pair or two of hands to help and we can get this work done 'pronto' and get back to our own home's work.

Before we can leave, however, we must get a tenant in. I really don't like having to choose a tenant, and since we've had little interest thus far, I'm not sure how quickly we can find an acceptable new resident for the little house. Always, in the past, we've had multiple people respond to ads for the house(s). That required interviews, reference calls, etc. and a final choice was made. These days, with the economy what it is, there are more homes available and less tenant choices. I've just got to trust that someone will appear 'out of the blue' as an answer to my prayers. We have had two parties that were interested, but one had a budget which might rent them a room, the other was able to locate another house while our tenant delayed her moving date. Back to square one, I guess.

Houses are always a chore, but it's especially difficult to accomplish a feat when the decisions are not yours to make about anything. Complaining about the frustrations does little, and so we'll move along, one step at a time, until we're happily back at home and diving into the 'catching up' of holiday preparations.

Monday, November 1, 2010

November 1

We arrived Saturday night...back to the old hometown area. We're freezing, having left our southern home in short shirt sleeves. I don't think I've taken off my heavy sweatshirt since I got here. It'll see a lot of the washer on this trip, I'm thinking.

I wish I was here for a vacation, but alas, we're in the area to prepare Mom's house for a new tenant. The existing one was to be out by today, and when I went yesterday to see what the progress with her move and work future was for us, she greeted me with a phone in her ear, a towel wrapped around her body, and a blotchy tearful face. I don't know what was happening, but she did inform me that she had not begun to move.

The news was not good for me to hear. I am on a somewhat limited time schedule, and we need to get in there and do what needs to be done to have the house ready for a new tenant which has not yet been found. This is all causing us a good deal of stress which we don't need. Had we been told that she would be delayed, we could have stayed at home until she was out of the house. Now, we have to sit and wait, with no idea as to when things will be accomplished so we can get back home.

If I had my will in this matter, the two houses in East Hampton would be sold and the problems with them would be done. But, they aren't my houses, they aren't my problems, they are only mine to deal with for my aging mother. I wonder if there is a property management company around here who could take this weight off me? I'll look into that... although my mother will probably not agree to the paying of someone to 'do nothing' most of the time. I wish I could say that I'm doing 'nothing' in all this...but I'm the 'go between' for everything that must be done, especially phone calls, since Mom cannot hear well anymore on the phone. Mom makes the decisions, collects the rent, and pays for the contractors. I set up all work, listen to tenants, and stand before the judge with tenants who have left her in the lurch for rent or damages. It's no picnic, but I don't know how else to do what needs to be done.

I need to go walk off this stress.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Hallowed Eve...

I don't like Halloween. It's my least favorite 'holiday' on the calendar. Why? I'll tell you why. Because I don't like things that 'go bump in the night'.

I enjoy the costuming, so long as it is a Disney character or an inventive costume. I do not like to see the kids or adults dressed like ghouls and vampires or other beings that cause little ones to shudder and me to have nightmares! I really do like to watch the Halloween parades of children and parents and teachers strolling past dressed as angels and fairies, butterflies and robots, artists and old people. It's an amazing fashion show, but those devils and evil monster masks give me the shakes.

When I was young, I was scared of spooky shadow shapes, and I'm afraid that I must thank some Walt Disney cartoon for that. Remember those scenes where the trees, or the shadows of them, would run after a victim? It left a lasting impression.

I don't like Halloween much because of the over dose of sugar that we all ingest at that time. There must be some safely packed, healthy snack that is available to pass out or collect, but when I've shopped, all I see is candy and sweets. When we were kids, we'd get plenty of sugared things, but we also knew it was safe to eat the fruit or popcorn or homemade cookies that our neighbors placed in our bags.

Call me old-fashioned, but I'd really like to see Halloween less glorified. I wish it would be a time when home parties would be held, with dunking for apples and popping corn, and having costume contests. The unsafe practice of running across streets in the dark in dark costumes, bolting from house to house begging for someone to throw treats into a pillowcase is much less appealing to me. My memories of childhood Halloween festivities include house parties, and they sit higher on my list than any of the ones where I was racing through the neighborhood with my friends.

Well, it's here...the dreaded night for goblins and ghosts, and I'll just have to go with the flow. It's only one night a year. To get myself in the spirit of things, I think I'll dive into the Reese's Peanut Butter cups and watch an old video ...Hocus Pocus, with Bette Midler would probably be appropriate.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Autumn Activities...

My husband and I were watching a young neighbor raking the leaves the other day. She seems to be desperate to have a pile of leaves to jump into. She'll be raking in her yard forever, since there are so few leaves in our neighborhood, due to the logging that was done before the builder started the development.

It brought back memories of my childhood. As kids, we didn't recognize the raking as a chore. We just knew that at the end, there'd be a great pile of oak leaves to lie in, jump in, roll in, bury ourselves in, hide in. That, of course, was the days before deer ticks and Lyme's disease....and no one thought twice about it. After we tired of those endeavors, the leaves went to the side of the street, where they were burned. Sometimes chestnuts would be thrown into the fire, where they would sizzle and pop like firecrackers.

As a child, we always had jack-0-lanterns carved from pumpkins. For the life of me, I don't remember ever going to pick a pumpkin, but there was always at least one on Halloween. Sometimes it was a big one, carved by my Dad. When we got a little older, we each carved one of our own.

One of my favorite activities in Fall was taking our little granddaughter to the North Fork for the festivities there. There was a place called Pumpkinville, where you could purchase the perfect future jack-o-lantern, or gourds of all sorts, local honey, and candy. Aside from that, the young ones found the petting zoo to be 'THE' event of the season. With a great variety of animals to feed or visit, it always caused the 'are we there yet, Papa' question from the time we started the car to go. Kimberly loved animals of all sorts, so being able to feed ostriches, goat kids, camels, ducks, a huge sow, and others just sent her over the edge. One year when she was two and a half, the camel nibbled gently at her hair. Later in the car she told us, 'the camel slurped me. Maybe he was trying to see if he remembered me from last time.' We were surprised that she'd remembered the trip from a year before!

These days our Autumn activities include a trip to Georgia to visit the pumpkin patch with our two youngest grandchildren. It's a traditiont, and we feel it's important to go. After all, the kids are growing far too fast, and we've discovered that the fun of holidays is watching the joy the little ones have in them.

As for us, as grandparents, there is no raking of leaves to be burned. Any leaves in existance are left to return to the earth to enrich the soil, which our red clay could certainly benefit from! We take pleasure in the wood smoke from the chimneys near-by and in the color of the trees as we travel about. We visit our vegetable stands and farmers markets for harvested foods, enjoy our time with the kids, and relish the cooler weather. With these attitudes, can it be that we are in the Autumn of our lives?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The North Fork...

This morning I've been thinking about the North Fork of Long Island. It's such a simple, slower way of life there, even as it begins to unfold to the tourists and money people who have long been on the south side.

I've always loved the towns over there....Southold, Greenport, even little Orient. It may have something to do with ancestry that I have in those places, but more likely, it is just the fact that it's a smaller, unhurried area.

In the early 90's I worked in a realty office with a woman who'd bought a small old house in Greenport. She made repairs and decorated the two story place very simply and with good taste. The tiny lot was not much bigger than the footprint of the home, but there was room enough for small gardens of roses and lilies and impatiens. It was lovely. She had a few cats, and a sweet, tiny, Yorkie, so when she would travel a few times a year, she would ask me to stay at her house so they would be cared for. Truthfully, I'm not wild about cats, but they were well behaved and as finicky as any cat can be. 'Archie', the Yorkie, was terrific company, however.

I enjoyed my time at that little house. It was a mini-vacation. I could go to Sterling's fish market and buy fresh fish and shrimp for dinner. I'd visit the vegetable stands that dot the Main Road that snakes the north fork, buying wonderful fruit and salad fixings. Sometimes I'd spend the day wandering through the nearby cemetaries, in search of family tombstones. Most often I would wander through the stores in Greenport, finding fun gifts and haunting Irish music at the Celtic store. My favorite spots where those that sold antiques! I usually didn't purchase anything, but it was always fun to look.

There was a time when I'd seriously considered purchasing a house in East Marion. I was so serious that I spent a few hundred dollars to have an inspection done and even got a job in a Greenport realty office. Of course, it would have been a little while before I would actually own the house, but I thought it would not be a chore to travel back and forth each day on the ferries from the south fork to the north. As it turned out, the old house needed a lot more work than it originally showed (which was plenty, at first sight, I might add.) I loved the house, it still had it's original, fully, wainscotted walls, wood plank floors, a great, big pantry, and some built in cupboards. There was a window in the front upstairs bedroom which had initials scratched into the glass. I was told by the owner that supposedly a young woman had etched her fiance's initials into the glass, using the diamond he'd given her. It was my type of home, simple, roomy, and untouched for years...a rustic farmhouse. Though the selling price was fine, the work needed would have been far more expensive for me than I could have found money for. It was with much regret that I walked away from the house, and another dream died. As a side note, I'd always known my grandmother was born in East Marion, on the Main Rd, which is where my hoped for house sat. I didn't know where her birthplace was exactly, and I found out many years later, that my Grandmother's home was actually across the street and down the road a few doors, from the one I was looking at.

I'm a believer that things happen the way they are meant to, even though we don't always recognize that at the time. I suffer pangs at times when I think about the old farm house, but I know that I'm right where I'm supposed to be in this day. I
don't live in an old, money pit of a house. I don't even live on the North Fork. The comforting thing is, I can still visit both whenever I thumb through the memories. It's not such a bad thing, and I can honestly say, I have no regrets.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

THAT time of year....

Yes,'s that time of year again. It's still October, there are still green leaves on the trees near our house, and it's not even Halloween yet. mind is on Christmas....well, some of it is, at least.

This morning I woke at 3:30, got up at 4, and fixed my usual cup of coffee. Then I wandered out to the sun porch where the folding tables are set up for our big family dinners. They currently are loaded from one end to the other with papers, stickers, markers, cutting tool, and other supplies for making my Christmas cards. If I haven't started them by this time each year, there won't be enough for my ever-growing list. When I lived in East Hampton, I made only twenty-five or so, but now that I'm many miles from there, and because we hand-exchange them at our church, my list is much longer.

I try not to duplicate my cards. They may be similar, but like snowflakes, there are no two exactly alike. The design may be the same or similar, but background paper or the message will be different. I'd like each one who receives one of my cards to know that it is made uniquely, otherwise, I could just send one from a store-bought box.

When I was working every day, it was hard to accomplish my ideas as easily as I can now. There would be such pangs within me to make the things I wanted to, that I would often cry with the disappointment that I wasn't allowed to be who I was born to be. With retirement, all that has changed! Hallelujah! I am free to be ME, and at no other time of the year do I appreciate that more than at Christmas time. I create cards and gifts, and feel so fulfilled in doing so!

I've taken long enough with my break for Facebook and Blogging. I'm going back to the sun room now. Watch your mailbox in early December. You just may find one of the fruits of my labor.
Enjoy your day today, being just who you were meant to be!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Telemarketing Calls

A major annoyance in our family, and probably most others, is telemarketing calls. The other day someone from a travel agency called. I have no need of a travel agent, as we do road trips and with my internet, I do the planning myself. If I was going to travel by plane, or out of the country, I'd definitely use an agent who lives in the neighborhood. So, when the woman on the phone told me what she wanted, I told her that I wasn't planning to go anywhere and thank you, but I didn't need an agent at this time. I wished her a good day...and just before I hung up I heard her say, "You're going someplace someti.....

I generally do not answer phone numbers that pop up on my caller ID unless I know them. It's always a telemarketer or someone campaigning for something or looking for a donation for some reason. I understand that these people are trying to make a living, but I am annoyed that they barge into my house with their scripts in hand and rattle on without allowing me a word in edgewise. Not only that, but they will not take 'no' for an answer.

One of our favorite family stories involves telemarketers....Newsday. We did not have caller ID then, and the newspaper made calls every week in hopes of getting a new subscriber. It began to irk me a great deal. My teenaged drama lover, Erinne, said, "Next time, let me talk to them." So, I did. The conversation went like this:

Newsday: "Good afternoon. Is this the lady of the house?"

Erinne, with affected British accent: " The lydie? The lydie? Wye no, she's gown out in the carriage with the lawd."

ND: " I'm sorry?"
E: repeated previous line...and asked, "Mye oy 'elp you?"

ND: "I'm calling from Newsday" and went on to ask if she'd like to receive a subscription..blah, blah, blah.
E: "Newsdye? Newsdye? Wot is Newsdye?"

ND: "It's the Long Island newspaper...blah blah blah
E: "Well wye wuld oy need a newspyper? We've got th' town croyer"

ND: " Are you Irish?
E: "Oyrish???? Wye NO! of cawse oy'm nawt Oyrish!"

ND: "Oh...English? How long have you been in this country?
E: "' eva.

ND: "Well, I'd really like to introduce you to Newsday."
E: "Oh...oy'm saw-ree, I really must go. Someone's at the moat...oy 'ear the dragon rawring."

And the call was ended. I really must try that one of these days! If nothing else, it ought to give the telemarketer a good laugh.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Old-time Kitchen

This morning when I was waiting for the coffee to brew, I took note of the antique items which sit on the space above my cabinets. Doing so brought other old items to mind which my grandkids wouldn't recognize in their homes today.

While most families these days enjoy the convenience of food processors to chop, grind and otherwise mutilate food, I remember other tools. In my Mother's kitchen, and Grandmother's before her's, there was a tool called a meat grinder. It had a screw-type grip that attached to a stool, or table top, and a crank on the side. It was made of heavy metal and had an opening on the top where the solid meat would enter, and an opening on the side with a cover with holes over it. Once the meat was pushed into the top, you'd turn the crank, which turned the grinder inside, turning the meat into small bits which would then be forced out of the grate on the side. With a little elbow grease, you had the equivalent of hamburger.

For chopping things like cabbage, there was a chopping bowl made of wood, and a crescent blade with a wooden handle. It did a good job, and you could judge for yourself how coursely or finely the chop was.

Another, can't-live -without tool was the egg beater. This handy gadget had to mixing blades, similar to it's descendant, the electric beater. The old egg beater usually had a wooden handle which you held with one hand and a small crank on the side that you turned with the other hand. It would turn the mixing blades, and voila...beaten eggs or heavy cream, etc.

There were other interesting items in an old-time kitchen. An early toaster was square on the bottom, with four sides that slanted up from the bottom to a smaller square on the top. The inside was open. On each side was a wire that was attached with spring type hinges, which held the bread against the side. The toaster would be placed on a stove burner, and the heat would toast the bread on one side. You'd have to watch carefully, so it wouldn't burn, and physically turn the bread over to toast on the other side. Coffee was made in the drip manner...or sometimes a perculator, but not electrically. The coffee pot would be made of enamel or later, aluminum, and placed on the stove burner. There were no microwaves to heat water for tea... a big whistling tea kettle would do the job, again, on the flame of the stove.

I wonder if my grandkids...or even my own kids, would know how to use some of these things today. I still have my old kitchen tools, and often used them. There's a rarely used blender and a never-used food processor in my cabinets, but does that mean I have to use them? I enjoy doing some things in the old ways....but I will say, I'm grateful for modern appliances, like dishwashers and laundry machines!

Monday, October 18, 2010


Here we go...all sorts of cookie memories. "Thanks, Barbara" I say, with a smile and a rumbling in my stomach as thoughts of cookies take control of my body.

My earliest run-in with store-bought cookies was in utero. No...really! My Mom and Dad had moved to Glens Falls, NY early in their marriage, and Dad worked at the Nabisco company while he was going to flight school to learn to be a pilot. Because there wasn't a lot of money and because there were items that were rejected for sale by the inspectors at the company, he would bring a lot of 'goodies' home. Boxes of Mallomars were the ones that most often came home with him. Mom told me that they 'practically lived on them.' My being was very new, and while I was safely growing in the warmth of my mother's body, I was being fed my first chocolate. Poor Mom found herself also rejecting the Mallomars, as well as everything else she put into her stomach all day, for nearly nine months.

They didn't stay upstate for long. They moved back home and I was born and reared in a home where my mother baked the BEST cookies in the world. I grew up smelling freshly baked chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, spicy ice box cookies, chocolate brownies, brown sugar brownies, among others. We rarely had grocery store cookies in our home. When we did, I thought they tasted like cardboard. The only cookies I actually liked that weren't homemade were fig newtons that I had at my Grandmother Beebe's house and Oreos that were devoured at my friend, Chris' house.

When I got married I baked dozens of cookies per month. I rarely bake them now because I eat too many of them when I do! It is a treat when I make them. Mike loves them, but he doesn't eat many sweets, and I'm the one who ends up with them on my lips and hips for years. We do bake with the grandkids sometimes, and they enjoy doing that, as well as eating the results of our labors. I like to make cutout cookies sometimes...sugar cookies, lemon cookies, cinnamon spiced ones. Then, I like to decorate them with icings. At Christmas I make all the old favorites that Mom made, and I send them to the kids. That works quite well for all of us.

At this moment, I'm feeling a great need to head for the pantry, get out that bag of chocolate chips and the rest of the ingredients and fire up that oven. Mmmmm...I can taste them heck with the hips!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall, At Last

Yesterday's weather signaled for me the beginning of Fall here in the upstate of SC. Other places north of here have color on the trees, having had cooler weather for a few weeks. Ours, on the other hand, has been in the 80's during the day. Yesterday, though, there was a stiff breeze and cooler temperatures, and I spent the day wearing my cozy, pink sweatshirt.

It's good yard work weather. I wish my body would cooperate enough to do it. I've completely given up my gardening ideas, as the constant aches I feel are aggravated by the tug of war with the weeds. Let me say this, too, that even if my aging frame would stand strong against the battle, my mental attitude toward the fight is that of defeat. I've learned in my four years here that the weeds are strong, the clay is stronger yet, and I'm no match for it. So, good weather or not, this body had given in to the agony of defeat.

There are things I can ....and should do. I can lift all but the heaviest of potted plants and bring them inside before the cold nights we've been having cause the green and living things to turn brown and dead. I can bail out the barrel fountain, clean it, and get it into the shed. I can turn over the basins on the bird bath. (That, however, will cause an uproar with the wing-ed beings.)

I'm thinking of Christmas, with the coming of this cool weather. I really should update my shopping list, gather the gifts that I have stored away, and get the rest of the shopping done. I also have to take Mom to buy her gifts, after I collect ideas and sort through who has already purchased what, and then give her the list to choose from. Shopping for great lengths of time used to be a joy for me. Not anymore. My foot starts screaming after an hour or so, and then I begin to favor that foot, causing pain to jump over to my other leg! This year, I forsee a good number of short stints, picking up a few gifts at a time.

The pressure begins to mount, as I know that there is a trip to NY coming soon. It may be as long as two weeks away, it may be less...and I suppose it's possible that it will even be longer. I have too much to do, and I'd like to get home I hope the whole thing goes quickly.

Ahhhh... Fall. I've waited for it. I'm glad that it's here. The air, the smells, the foods, the clothing, the activities....all are different in the Fall, and I must say that today it is my favorite of all seasons.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thoughts of Tom...

Today he's been gone for four years.

How do I describe my brother? Long and lanky. Deep brown eyes and curly dark hair which turned gray fairly early. Sensitive and thoughtful. Caring. Witty. Determined. Philosopher. Writer.

Although he was plagued by rheumatoid arthrits for nearly 40 years, he didn't complain. His body was stiff, his joints were 'frozen' and some were swollen. He hobbled when he walked with careful steps. He didn't care to fall. As lame as his body was, as painful as it must have been for him at times, he wouldn't give up. He still stood, as tall as his body would allow. He rested when he needed to, but he worked in his yard and on his hobby car and on his truck when his ailment would allow. He used his key at a time. The doctors were in awe of him, believing that he 'should' have been in a wheel chair long years before. He never was.

Those dark brown eyes were soft and warm, and when you looked into them, you often saw the playfulness in them. Sometimes it was sadness you might see, for the compassion within him was great. Always, behind those eyes, were deep thoughts....sometimes shared, and sometimes kept hidden.

As children, we shared jokes and laughter and silliness. As adults we shared a close relationship, revealing things to each other that others were never privy to. We encouraged one another. We were more than siblings, we were friends.

Today as I remember Tom, so many thoughts swirl. I think of his fatherhood, of his raising two sons, alone, after he gained full custody of them. He kept his home 'all male' as he raised them, not wanting to involve himself in relationships that would cause his attentions to drift from his boys. He also was protecting himself from the hurt that relationships had brought him in his earlier years. Later, after his sons had grown, he wondered if he'd done the right thing by keeping himself free of females, as he felt that his boys hadn't had the opportunity to learn from his example, how to treat women.

Whatever his regrets or feelings might have been, he made one right decision for certain. His deep faith in God caused him to live the best way he could, and with a strength that was misunderstood by some. Now I know that although I miss him dreadfully, that he stands in that strength in a renewed body, in a new land, with his God. How could I ever wish him back, just to soothe my selfish heart which is lonely for his company?

I couldn't...I wouldn't....for he lives in health and in peace and I know I'll see him again when the Lord takes me Home. 'Til then, Tom. Love you...


Just the other day, I was telling my husband how I hate waiting. I used to have more patience than most people, but these days, I seem to be lacking some. Waiting for anything is more difficult for me than it used to be.

I've spent time waiting in cars for children to be released from school or activities, waiting in lines at the stores, waiting for my turn in the doctor's office. In days past, I'd take it in my stride, and fill the time with something other than thinking about waiting. These days, for some reason, waiting irritates me.

At the moment, I'm waiting to hear a date when my mother's rental house will be empty. Since we are the ones who take care of the repairing and the business end of the house, we will need to make an 1800 mile round trip to do so. It would be nice if we could make a definite plan as to when we'll go, but here we sit....waiting for word. My patience is dwindling. As we listen for that phone call, we search for warmer clothing to pack, we locate the painting tools, we make lists of potential tenants to interview and gather phone numbers we might need while there. There is a lot to do before we go....things to buckle down the gardens for the winter, the last mowings, etc. We also need to get the house ready for guests for Thanksgiving dinner, in the hope that we will accomplish our jobs up north and be home again for that holiday. There's also Christmas to buy for, things that I normally do in October and November. With the addition of a trip of probably two weeks or so, I need to hustle my bustle.

Waiting is inevitable, and I really don't mind it when I know that there is a deadline. With pregnancies, you know that it'll come to an end on or about a specific calendar date. With holidays, you have a date to shoot for. But, this business is just keeping me on tinderhooks...and I'm getting antsy.

I guess I'd better just forget about the waiting and get busy. Maybe I won't notice the wait if I fill my days. The bonus is, I'll also get the work done!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tight Spaces

Gosh...I just saw a news report about rescuers of the trapped men in Chile. They are 2,300 feet below ground. One of the rescuers was demonstrating the way they will get down the tunnel by standing in a metal mesh, 24" cylindrical cage which is lowered mechanically.

I don't know about you, but I'm not one to enjoy tight spaces. Even in such a cage, which is open enough to see through, it's too confining for me. And, going underground for any reason, let alone into a small tunnel, is not for this light lover. I want my feet solidly on the ground and plenty of space in which to move around.

I've never had an MRI or CT scan, but I've watched them when some family members have had to be tested. I'm sure I'd feel claustrophobic having something as close to my face as that machine is. I know they've got 'open' ones, but I don't know if they're good for testing every condition known to the medical world. If I ever find myself in the position of needing such a test, I will find out at that time, by asking.

I remember a vacation in Texas. We visited a place called 'the Natural Bridge' between San Antonio and New Braunfels. It is a rock formation of 65' bridge above ground with caverns below. Three of the four of us decided to tour the caverns. Well, the four of us started down the paved path into the cave, but one of us, upon hearing we would descend to a depth of 211' feet, decided to turn and run for the daylight. Guess who?

Another time, Mike and I went to New Hampshire, and visited a place called the Ice Caves. I was fine while I was in the open air, and I truthfully did attempt to enter the Caves. But, the anxiety hit, my heart pounded and my chest felt tight. I couldn't do it. I felt like a 'party pooper', but Mike went in and did the exploring, and when he returned, he told me that it was very snug in there....almost too tight for him. His words gave me relief, and I abandoned the 'party pooper' feeling.

I'm thinking that 'coal miner' can easily be erased from my list of possible future occupations.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Erratic Weather

October is so moody this year. Two weeks ago we were loving the 80 deg days. Last weekend we woke to 45 deg weather, and felt as if we were freezing until the sun rose to its height and warmed the day into the high 60's and 70's. Today is started at 45, but is predicted to be 82 deg, where it is said to be all the way into next week.

I have no doubt that these fluctuations in temperatures contribute to the victims of the flu. How does one decide what is the proper outfit to wear in such weather? I guess the best way to deal with this is to layer clothing, shedding as the day warms. I keep a jacket in the van, as well as my sneakers with socks, just in case my body feels the need for more than my flip flops and short sleeves.

As much as I love the Fall, I really do appreciate more even temperatures. I like to know what to expect, as my own physical thermostat is thrown off rather easily. I feel heat and cold more extremely than most people appear to. A comfort zone, for me, is a special thing to find on a 'good' day, not to mention one that fluctuates 30 to 40 deg. in hours.

There's not much I can do about it, so I guess I'll just hush up and go search for something that I can layer together, peeling them off, one layer at a time until 4pm, when I start putting them back on. Whatever your weather today, enjoy your day, and rejoice in the fact that you are alive and have the freedom to enjoy it or complain about anything...including the weather!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's October

Well, here we are, five days into this glorious month...and we are experiencing serious Autumn temperatures. We went from the 90's to high 80's and then to two or three days that started in the 60's and rose to the 80's. Then, CRASH!!! The morning thermometer reads 46 degrees! I will not turn on the heat until the last horn toots...when the sweaters, socks and sweatpants don't bring comfort any longer. I'm hoping to manage with that plan until sometime in November. I may actually be able to pull that off since the weather predictions are that we'll be seeing days that hover around 80 deg again by the end of this week.

I know, I know. It's inevitable. It will get cold enough, all too soon, to warrant turning the heat up. As the days shorten, the temperatures will drop and the thermostat (and electric bill!) will rise. That is, of course, one of the joys of living in a four-season environment.

Chilly fingertips and toes not withstanding, let me say that I truly do enjoy these days just before the nudging up of the thermostat. The cooler nights will bite the trees and they will soon present us with spectacular displays of brilliant color. Standing against the clear blue skies, they will bring a thrill that no other season offers. Wood smoke is already perfuming the air, as those who are less apt to appreciate the cool mornings light up their woodstoves.

For the moment, I'll go find a warmer pair of socks, or locate my fuzzy slippers, and I'll snuggle beneath my fleece throw until the day warms up a bit.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Today is the first day of October. There is not another month that thrills me the way October does. The light just before dusk is golden, the sunrises are spectacular, and the trees with a brilliant Autumn-colored wardrobe are breath-taking.

Every month has its own goodness, every season gives it's offerings....but somehow, the joy that October gives me seems incomparable. I wonder at those who travel to the mountains or to another state to view the leaves, when right here, all around us, is such beauty as the maples turn red and gold and russet. Standing beside the green pines, hollies and rhododendruns, the forests are alive with bursts of red sumac and Virginia creeper!

I'm grateful that there are ordinances about burning when the weather is too dry, but you'd think that most would have enough common sense without being told when not to light fires. But, in this area, we are still allowed to have a burn pile in our yards, and burn barrels for paper garbage. I could forego the smell of garbage, but burning leaves is something that takes me back to my childhood, when we'd rake the dry, brown leaves to the road, set fire to them, and toss in a few chestnuts. Oh my!

We could have stayed in my old hometown. We could have moved anywhere, but I'm glad that we chose another place that has four seasons to enjoy. The golden days of Autumn, the wintery days of white, the glorious green of Spring, and the warm, blue skies of Summer.....blessings in all, but especially in October.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Meandering Drive

Yesterday's weather was as close to perfect as it could have been. It was sunny with blue skies and huge puffy clouds. Temperatures hovered around 74, and the air was clear, without a sign of humidity. Following the 90 degree days we've suffered since June, and the two days of downpouring, much-needed, rain, yesterday was greeted with huge welcomes!

We've talked since moving here of visiting Table Rock state park, which is about three-quarters of an hour north of us, in the mountains. Yesterday was the day. We invited Mom to go along, and off we went. As we drove, we wound our way through the business districts of a few towns, keeping eyes open for place we might want to return to in the future. Then it was the open road through the forests, with little to see in the way of businesses or buildings. Rt 11, a well-paved road, with very few cars and trucks, climbed gently. As it did, we saw the bare rock walls of Table Rock.

We found the park with no trouble. It is acres of tent and RV sites, cabins for rental, picnic pavillions, and the necessaries such as a camp store and lavatories. There is even a small lake and sandy beach area, complete with boat house with canoe and kayac rentals. We put it on our list of camping spots to visit in the future.

My husband, the tree-mender, prides himself in his knowledge of trees, but he's used to northern ones. These that grow in the south are often quite different and new to him. At one point we parked beneath a fruit tree. We think it was a plum tree, but it isn't one we're familiar with. We collected a piece of the fallen fruit, as well as a handful of seeds. Perhaps we'll try to grow a few trees, out near the apple ones we planted. But, we'll show the fruit to one of our southern friends, who no doubt will tease us Yankees for not being knowledgeable about something they've known since childhood.

The foliage was still green in most places, but here and there we could see where the evening cooling had kissed the leaves of some trees. It's going to be a brilliant sight in a few weeks, and we mentally planned to return then to see the color. Meanwhile, we look forward to going back to the park in two weeks for our church picnic there.

It's something exciting about being in a place you don't know. There's a whole new place to explore and learn about, and I, for one, love the investigation!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Moving Away from Home

It's always hard, the moving away from home. Generally it's a young person who is off to college or moving out on their own. In our case, our children had all moved out and made homes of their own, either near-by or in distant states.

Whenever frustrations of traffic and prices hit us, we'd talk of leaving East Hampton. We dreamed of a log cabin in Maine or New Hampshire, or perhaps a rambling old place in Vermont. As life would have it, things went very differently.

Three of my daughters and six of our eight grandchildren lived in Georgia. My brothers lived in SC. My son was in the Air Force and might be anywhere in the world during his enlistment. One daughter was in Sag Harbor, and Mike's sons were in East Hampton, but talking, too, of leaving the state. What to do? With my brothers rooting us on to come to SC, and the girls hoping we would too, we chose to move South, to be closer to the most family members. My mother was anxious to move to be near her own sons, and we took that into consideration while making our decision. But, the decision was not an easy one. While attempting to figure out when and where we'd go, we also had one other person to think of. Mike's 94 year old aunt was still alive, and he was her 'rock'. We didn't want to leave her alone, although she already had two caregivers in the house, and a son who lived in Brooklyn. It felt to us that if we left, we'd be abandoning her.

So, we bought a house in SC in 2005, and attempted to rent it in our absence. We had a couple of interested parties, but for one or another reasons, we didn't accept them. So the house say empty for that year. During that year, my mother built her house, and was anxious to move into it. We, on the other hand, were thinking we'd take it slowly, moving a bit at a time, but not permanently move ourselves for a few more years. All that changed when we moved Mom in Oct. 2006, and the brother I thought would be her 'watchman' when I was in NY, passed away the night we arrived. Now there was a dilemna. We had one elderly parent in one state and another 'assumed parent' in a state 900 miles away.

It seemed that life took the controls from us. Mike was in the process of getting through a workman's comp. case, which kept him in New York. I couldn't leave my grieving mother in SC.
So, Mike was to and fro, taking care of business and packing, while I stayed in SC in a sparcely filled new house, unpacking whatever Mike brought with him on his visits. By summer of 2007, we'd had enough of it all, and we determined that it was time to get the NY house ready for a rental, and get us moved fully to SC. While we were there together, working toward that end, we got a phone call one Sunday morning, letting us know that Auntie Lib had passed away. Though we grieved her loss, it took a very heavy weight off of us. She hadn't yet been told that we'd planned to leave the area for good, and now we were relieved that we wouldn't have to tell her. I'm glad that all things worked out the way they did.

As we worked toward the rental idea, a workman we'd hired made an offer to purchase 'as is', the house in NY. We accepted the offer, and moved along with our packing. Another matter solved. We'd not really wanted to be landlords!

Somehow, without our real control of the situation, we'd found all the pieces lining up to take us away from my hometown and Mike's adopted one. Things always have a way of working out, I guess. But, I still find myself missing the family which is scattered around the country. Maybe it's time to buy that RV, and travel from family to family, parking in each driveway until we get bored with them...and then moving on. What do you think?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lost Stories...

She wrote of visiting the Lighthouse, where her ancestors walked, and feeling as if she was visiting the old homestead. I know just what she means.

Each time I board the ferry from North Haven to Shelter Island, something takes a hold on my heart. I remember the story and relive it in my mind, of my young grandfather loading his bicycle into a row boat, rowing across from one shore to the other, unloading his vehicle and traveling away on it, either to East Hampton for work, or home again. It gives me pause each time to think how responsible my grandfather was to go to all that 'work' in order to get to and from his job at Gregory's grocery store.

When I land at Shelter Island, the feeling grabs me again, as I realize that my 'people' traveled those same roads. As I meander around the Island, I drive past the properties where the Beebe family lived. I find myself singing, "On the Street Where You Live." Driving past the Case farmhouse on Ferry Road where my grandmother was born in 1886, where my grandfather courted her and sat singing on that front porch, I flash back to childhood times and remember feeling, even then, that this was a special place for me. It was the place that my great-great grandmother visited her daughter, from her home in Newport, Rhode Island. It was where my GrGrandfather fell from the roof, breaking his neck, causing his death. It was a home where a widow raised her brood of 7 children by running a boarding house. It was the location of the first telephone switchboard on Shelter Island, which was operated by my tiny little Aunt Dot.

What more happened in that house, on that Island that I love so well? Many things, I'm sure, that I will never know. I was lucky to have had a grandfather who enjoyed my company, and who shared his memories as we'd drive to Shelter Island to visit family. I was fortunate to listen to the same stories again and again with each trip, until they sunk in as permanent memories. I wish that Grampa was here today, when I'm truly interested to know his tales of his life in younger days.

I feel that way about each one of my ancestors. Yes, I research their lives as well as I can, but if they were just 'every day' people with no claim to fame, there's not a lot to glean. It seems that in doing just the research as to who married who, and who parents were, that one clue leads to many mysteries. Those mysteries are what keeps me going. I want to know my family, those who live and those who once lived.

And so, I will keep visiting those ancient sites, feeling the pull within me. As I do, it's almost as if I hear the voices of those who bore my DNA cheering me on. "Keep looking...keep seeking." I will do just that, for they are who made me who I am.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


You never know what will become popular in the 'antique decor' categories. When I page through home decorating magazines, devouring the photos and 'picking through the clutter' that often appears in them, I often spot things much like items that I own.

My kids sometimes poke fun at me for collecting the old things that I do. Why would I want those old-fashioned milk cans that stand in my kitchen? Why do I stack those small old-fashioned overnight cases near the window in the guest room? Why do I want that old toolbox with the peeling paint in my house, that holds magazines? The answer is easy for me to give.
These, and other items that are old and appear useless to my kids, are meaningul to me because they belonged to someone that I loved. The milk cans were not owned by my Dad or my Grandfather, but they are a part of a small vignette of dairy bottles, a photo of my grandfather in his work uniform near a G & T Dairies truck. This little 'monument' is to honor their days as the milkmen who delivered dairy products to our doors in the wee hours of morning so many years ago. The toolbox belonged to my late brother, the small, shabby suitcases to beloved family members.

So many treasures have been added to my decorating, which were used by someone who went before me. Not all were owned family members, but many were. Some things I've made part of our living space are things that I've purchased, just because I like them. The pine trunk which I use for a coffee table, the treadle sewing machine in the sunroom, the old fireplace surround are examples of pieces that I've added, which, I think add more personality to our home.

Why should we treasure only bits of jewelry passed down from ancestors? Should our past not be dragged into our present by the use of well-made furniture, no matter how worn it is with age and use? Should not the quilts made by grandmothers and great-grandmothers be displayed, or even used on our beds? I believe so. These things bring our history into today and remind us of those whose blood flows through our veins. It makes us feel connected to something, someone, and gives us a very real feeling of 'belonging'.

My hope is that one of my children who live in this age of 'replacement and renewal' will do a turn-around and begin to see the importance of preserving their own history, their own treasures... and mine!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Camping Vacations

Recently we went 'home' to East Hampton on vacation. What a vacation it was, too! Our time at our rental, overlooking the Harbor, was so relaxing. I think it was one of the most enjoyable of all the vacations I've ever had.

Many memories flood my mind as I write this. When we were a young family with children, our wallet didn't allow for much traveling. Our answer to that was to purchase a tent. That was the beginning of many years of camping vacations. Our first tent was a small, canvas cabin type, which housed us well until we outgrew it. After that, we bought a large, green canvas, two room one, which we still own, but have long-abandoned the use of. As two retired oldsters, we've gone from the work of construction that vacation home, to a smaller, nylon, easy-up dome tent. That, too, has been unused for some years.

Our more recent accommodations on camping trips has been the rental of a KOA cabin. The beds are hard, but far more comfortable than the ground is. We found that our normally aching bodies in morning were fiercely aggravated by the sleeping on a rocky, hard ground, no matter how much padding was placed beneath the sleeping bags. We even tried a blow up mattress. That doesn't work, as one of us is quite a bit heavier than the other, and when he rolls over, I bounce off the mattress! Besides, getting up in the morning after lying low on the ground is NOT pretty at our age. And's the cabin.

We've always been among those who chuckle when we see a huge RV roll into the campsites. They have brought their whole house with them....AC, TV, computers. If they're going cross-country or on an extended trip, I can see the value of the comfort those 'mobile homes' offer.
However, if it's a week's 'camping', it's not much different than it is staying home. We always think, "that's NOT camping!"

I guess everyone has their own opinions and their own ways of enjoying a camping trip. None of the ideas are wrong...just different. Just because we have opted for a new, more comfortable approach, doesn't mean we don't miss the days of camping in a tent and sleeping on the ground.
Aging brings about changes...and this is our 'new' way of spending our camping vacation. We may, eventually, 'graduate' to a pop-up tent trailer, but I can almost guarantee you that we'll never be RV campers, no matter how old we get. It's just not in us.