Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Favorite Time of Year

On every calendar I’ve owned the past ten years, May 1st has a big, red circle around it. It’s the day the campground opens, the day the water and electricity gets turned on, the first day we can spend the night in the woods again. I count the days until May 1st as a five-year old awaits Santa Clause, craving those long May and June days there when the kids are still in school and other campers haven’t really settled in yet. We are usually one of maybe four or five other couples living there this early in the season. It’s quiet. Everything is newly green and coming to life. It’s quiet. The lake glistens. It’s quiet. The smell of spring is intoxicating. And have I said how quiet it is?

I don’t think I could live right smack in the middle of the city as we do if we didn’t have this oasis to escape to in the summer.

But this year, our escape will be very different from previous years. I won’t have those ten-hour days when I could lose myself in whatever I was writing after hubby drove off to work; he’s going to be home for the summer recovering from knee replacement surgery. And we won’t be staying at the camper after this weekend, because of the surgery. It’s unknown when we’ll actually be able to move in for the summer.

Last weekend we raked leaves and took tarps off the camper we live in and our guest camper. My flower beds got cleaned up, the cupboards got stocked. We gathered kindling, made the bed with fresh linens, scrubbed winter dirt away. The owners of the campground actually turned on our electric early for us, so we could get it all ready for hubby when he’s able to go there to recover. We had a lovely day there, complete with the first camp fire of the season. Driving home to Syracuse, we felt as if we’d been away for a week.

I’m hoping this coming weekend brings us that kind of respite. Our heads are swimming with all the details of the knee replacement surgery hubby will have a week from Friday. My “to-do” list seems endless. We need to run away from it all for a few days, listen to the birds sing, drown in the peace and quiet of the awakening woods. I’m packed, I’m ready for quiet.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Want" vs. "Need"

For quite some time now, I’ve been mulling over the difference between what I need and what I want. Perhaps this is the result of not having had a “real” job for the past four years. I gave up my two vices as a result – buying books and CDs – and have had no problem visiting the library every week instead of adding more books to bookcases already stuffed or buying more CDs.

Or maybe I could blame the DVD my son raved about and said I should watch: “Capitalism, A Love Story”…a Michael Moore movie. I watched it and it made me think, reinforced my mission never to step foot inside a WalMart store. I applaud Michael Moore for making movies that make people think; there is so little of that any more. Perhaps my recent reading of “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn and reflecting on his theory of Leavers and Takers plays into this, too.

I look around at the items we have accumulated in the ten years hubby and I have been together added to those things we had each salvaged from our first marriages. We have too much……stuff. I’d like to call somebody who’ll just come and take it all away. Hubby is much more attached to his stuff, and he’s taking a slower, “let’s go through it room by room and see what we need” approach.

Here’s where the “want” vs. “need” comes into play. We have an extensive music collection. I’m ready to give it up. I’ve enjoyed listening to all those LPS….have indeed moved those two hundred plus LPs about twenty freaking times as well as the boxes of cassettes and CDs. I’m ready to let someone else enjoy them and NOT move them another time. It’s the same thing with my books. I already cleaned out my bookcase. It’s empty, ready to go on Craigslist and I have seven boxes of books to be taken to the used book store. If I “want” to listen to music, I can go find live music somewhere to listen to. If I “want” to read a book, the library is just down the road. I don’t “need” all those books and CDs cluttering up space…..and I don’t want to pack them when we figure out where it is we want to go.

Needs are simple for me. A bed, a chair, a table, a lamp, my laptop will do it for me. I don’t care if I have a television. I’m tired of dusting candleholders, ceramic pots, wooden bowls. We have beautiful original art on the wall. I’ve enjoyed looking at it. But now I’d like to look at the ocean or woods someplace where it doesn’t snow. I’m ready to take the artwork down, sell it and move on. Let someone else enjoy it. I don’t “need” it. And quite frankly, I don’t even “want” it anymore.

I’m not one to shop, never have been. I literally have to be dragged to a store to buy new clothes, and even then I prefer to go to The Salvation Army Thrift Shop instead of Kohl’s. You will not find the floor of my closet littered with shoes. It’s not important to me to be fashionable. I “need” and “want” clothes and shoes that are comfortable. Period.

I am going to hang onto Grandma Priscilla’s green serving plate though. I’ve moved it several times already. I’ve been told it’s some kind of rare depression glass. I don’t know about that. I pull it out sometimes when we have company and put pickles and olives and other goodies in its little sections. I keep it because Grandma used to mix up finger paints for me in it. I “need” this plate.

Oh, maybe downsizing won’t as easy as I think it will be.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Kindness of Friends

My husband will have knee replacement surgery in a couple of weeks. He injured both of his knees in January of 2008. Surgery to repair a meniscus tear to his right knee was successful in February of 2009 so he had the same surgery done to repair the left knee right before Labor Day weekend last year. He has been in even more pain since then, as the ‘clean up’ of his knee joint resulted in bone rubbing on bone every time he walks. I can hear the bones in his knee scraping against each other now when we walk the dog. His knee often pops out on those walks. Some type of prescription pain medication is always tucked into the pocket of his jacket or sitting on the kitchen counter, next to his bed….never far away. Our routine has been determined by whether or not he’s had physical therapy that day, how intense his pain is. We haven’t been to Manhattan in two years now because he simply can’t walk the sidewalks there the way we used to. There’s a lot we don’t do any more, some because of the pain, some because of the way the painkillers dull his senses. Quality of life has changed drastically.

Yes, we know he’s in for more pain and a recovery that is going to require weeks of physical therapy. A foreign object will be implanted in his body and part of his bone cut away. We’ve seen the videos, been to the workshops, gone through all the educational seminars necessary for this life altering surgery.

We appreciate the concern expressed by friends. We’re scared, too. But we’re choosing to keep a positive attitude and see this as the light at the end of the tunnel. There will be pain; there will be recovery. But in a few weeks, a few months, there’s the possibility that he can walk across the room again without pain. Or down to the lake at the camper. Or through Central Park. Or even through Price Chopper.

Still, the phone calls we’ve received with offers to help are greatly appreciated. I’m sure I’ll be calling. We can never go through such periods of our lives alone. We feel blessed to have the kindness of friends supporting us.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lethal Dose Rocks the Cortland Youth Center

Hubby and I wanted to surprise our son whose band, Ruination, was scheduled to play a gig at the Cortland Youth Center last Saturday night, so we drove down for a night of heavy metal music. This isn’t the type of music we typically seek out, but we’d hoped to grab some time with our 16 year old granddaughter, too, which was a pleasure, as it always is. However, Ruination was unable to play due to an injury to their bass player and the absence of their singer. We were disappointed, although it was good to have some time with our son and the other members of the band who came up to support the other two bands performing that night.

We stayed to hear Lethal Dose, expecting them to be loud and the typical metal that we really don’t choose to listen to. They are from Watkins Glen and I don’t know the individual members, although know my son rarely books acts to play with his band if he doesn’t feel they are good.

They were pretty awesome. Of course we couldn’t understand any of the lyrics (these bands all seem to scream), so we concentrated on the melodies. The drummer was kind of hard to hear, which may have been the fault of the sound system. It didn’t matter though. The two young men playing guitar were fantastic.

The star of the evening, for us at least, was the young woman playing bass. She certainly held her own and her playing was loud and clear, extremely complementary to the rhythm and lead guitars.

We did wonder how much physical therapy these young folks would have to endure in their later years as the end result of all that head banging.

And another observation: boys dance now and the girls stand around. It was definitely the opposite in my day. At least I think that was “dancing” that the boys were doing. It was certainly energetic and fun to watch.

It took us a few hours to regain our hearing but we truly enjoyed this gig….especially “The Viking Song”.

We hope to catch them again sometime on the stage with Ruination the next time we drop in for a dose of heavy metal.

I’m told Lethal Dose plays often at the Savoy in Watkins Glen, so if you’re into metal, check them out. If two old fogies like us liked them, you might just love them!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

S l o w i n g D o w n

Ahhh…..hear that? It’s the cardinal singing at the top of the tree in the back yard. Why does he sing? Because he can. And why are we slowing down? Because we can.

Sniff, sniff, sniff…..smell that? It’s the daffodils and all the trees that are budding.

Every time we walk the dog now, we can see something new and green unfolding. We can see it. Because we aren’t rushing down the street so hubby can get back to work. We’re taking alternate routes, even though Rupert is a dog of habit and doesn’t necessarily LIKE going in other directions. We’re “strolling” now, at least on these nice, sunny days we’ve been having.

Every day we do at least two things that move us forward to ‘what we want to be when we grow up’ so we aren’t stagnating while we wait for hubby’s knee replacement surgery to be scheduled. And we’re getting ready to move to the woods for the summer.

When we go out to hear music now, we enjoy it even more because we don’t have to hurry home or know we’ll be tired the next day because we can sleep a little later. It’s a guilty pleasure when we’re still in bed at 8:30 and not at a desk somewhere solving someone else’s problems. But – hey – we’ve paid our dues. The guilt goes away quickly, trust me.

Life is good out of the fast lane. We’re going to a Songwriter’s Showcase tonight at OCC; I’m sure I’ll be blogging about it later. If you’re interested in hearing what I thought about the poet Seamus Heaney’s lecture at Syracuse University this week, check out my writing blog.

And try it yourself, if you can, even for a day…..slowing down. It’s well worth it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wanted: Adult Guidance

I had a meltdown recently. That’s not usual for me. I’ve been able to sail through most any troubled waters and always have been able to keep my eye on the safety of a shoreline, know the direction I wanted to travel. Perhaps age is slowing down my capacity to juggle change as easily as I once did. Maybe these past few years of not having had a “real” job has altered the ability I once had to look at a situation and simply know what to do. Or it could be as simple as it’s easier for me to solve other people’s problems than it is to solve my own.

We have some decisions to make. One thing that makes these decisions more difficult is that we feel the lack of the luxury of years ahead of us to change our course if we end up making the wrong decision and need to correct it. We’re getting older. Our bones ache, our health isn’t what it used to be and, darn it, we’re just plain tired. Major life changes are happening – welcomed, for sure, but scary none-the-less.

I’ve wished there was someone I could go to and say, “What do you think of this idea?” What I really want is ten minutes with my father or my aunt, the two most influential people in my life who have passed on and are no longer a phone call away. How I’ve missed their common sense these past few days! This feeling of being an orphan saturates my every thought. I’ve a younger brother, but he’s embroiled in his own worries and has never been one to offer an opinion on anything other than a second baseman being traded. Most of our friends are younger than we are, can’t really appreciate the unique issues sudden retirement thrusts upon you. Of course, there’s my mother-in-law, who has been absolutely wonderful, but not someone I can honestly talk to about moving away and get any kind of good advice from as she’d just say “don’t”.

Finally, after 57 years, I guess I feel as if I’m an adult, because there's no one left who's older than me I can go to for guidance. And the truth is, I don’t like that very much.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Yeah, I’ve been hearing David Bowie singing in my head a lot the last couple of weeks. But it’s all good. Or it will be. I have faith that every change in our life paves the way for us to actually see what was there for us to do that we couldn’t see because we were so wrapped up in the way things were.

My hubby jumped off the hamster wheel his employers had put him on, cleaned out his office, turned in his keys and said good-bye. It was bitter sweet and a little ahead of the retirement schedule we had planned. However, my husband said it perfectly in his good-bye speech to his boss: “There’s comes a day when it’s time to move on, and today is that day.” I had never been more proud of him. Sometimes it’s the more difficult decisions that bring out the best in a person.

What amazed me was the concern expressed by others in our life! How wonderful it is to have such amazing friends! But we’ll be fine. Our needs are quite simple and we’ve lived in such a way to bring us to this point safely. We’ll be taking some time now to get hubby’s knees in better shape and through replacement surgery, spending the summer together at the camper (I cannot wait for this!) and then we’ll decide what happens next. Do we stay in the snow next winter? (I definitely vote “no” on that one!) What kind of fun jobs might we do to supplement social security? (I’m thinking we could run a miniature golf course someplace sunny.) What do we want to be when we grow up? (The possibilities seem endless.)

We’ve always led our lives with the motto “Happiness is the journey, not the destination.” So, I know we’ll be fine. It’s getting easier to convince those around us still trapped in various hamster wheels of their own that this is the case. Maybe they can see it in our smiles, in the way we shrug our shoulders and kind of giggle when they point out that we no longer wear watches because it really doesn’t matter to us what time it is. There is something to be said for living the simple life, and – hey – believe me, we have paid our dues. It’s time. We’re embracing this change.

Now….if I can only get used to him being around all the time and figure out when I’m going to write…..