Category: Nostalgia

While the summer is still here, and memories of our vacation time on Kezar Lake, Maine are still (fairly) fresh in my mind, I want to post about it. But – this time I want to go into much more depth about the history of our “camp”, my childhood experiences there before I mention how we spent our time in camp this year.

There is something very special and “lasting” about vacation memories made as a child. They are the kind of recollections that create new “brain wrinkles”, so to speak, which are so strong that they become part of one’s soul. It’s so special, that I’m struggling now to find the right words to describe how it feels! Our time at Kezar Lake may only have been for two weeks a year, but the memories have taken over a lot more space in my heart than the actual time spent there. The views from the dock on Kezar are seared in my memory. I can “see” them always – without a photograph….

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Our camp, consisting of two rustic cabins located on the north end of Kezar Lake, used to belong to my grandfather, then to my parents. Now, camp is owned by my three siblings and I. The South Cabin, with it’s 2 bedrooms upstairs and living area downstairs, including screened in porch, is our main living space. The North Cabin is used mainly as bedrooms – including the living room area downstairs. It also has the same configuration of bedrooms upstairs and porch, but with a third bedroom located off the living area downstairs. When we were kids, we slept on army cots out on the porch “under the stars” and to the sound of the loons. The kitchen was never set up as such, and only has an old wood stove which I suspect was there when my grandfather purchased camp, and hasn’t been used in many years.

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1. South Cabin – where the living happens
2. North Cabin – a place to sleep

When we were children, the chemical toilets in both cabins were “yucky”. One must remember, however that this was CAMP, and “part of the experience”, or so I told myself ~. The waste had to be manually lifted and dumped in a pit which was dug first thing at the beginning of each summer – not a pleasant job. In the mid 1990’s my mom finally installed flush toilet facilities in both cabins, as well as hot running water, which we pump up from the lake. However, that is just for bathing and use in the toilets. For drinking and cooking, we have (and have always had) running spring water in both cabins. We have a personal stake in making sure that Kezar Lake remains a pristine, clear lake, because of how we use lake water! I’m grateful to Mom for making these changes, which weren’t simple to implement, as town codes had to be followed and approval had to be given to ensure the lake water would not be harmed.

With the exception only one summer (right after my youngest sister was born), our family went to “Maine” each summer during my father’s two week vacation. It was a 10 hour trip back then – and our car was crammed full – with the family and often a friend or two and everyone’s luggage, making it double the fun! My grandfather was usually in camp, as well, as it belonged to him at that time. It was he who called the shots as to how our daily life would be “in camp”. He told us when to get up – and when to go to bed, when to eat, when to swim, when to do chores, when to shop for groceries, when to rest. Our time in camp was amazingly structured, almost military style, but not so rigid that it was unbearable. However, I admit that I have no desire to recreate that kind of regimen anymore!

We had an old army bell which still hangs outside of the South Cabin which he’d ring when it was time to get up (about 8 a.m) – and again when it was breakfast time (about 8:30 a.m.). For a few years, my brother, who played the trumpet (and bugle), would play both Revile in the morning and Taps at sunset. My grandfather would raise the flag each morning before we sat down for breakfast, and take it down at sunset. At breakfast my grandfather had morning devotions with numerous Bible readings, and would ask each of us to read them. It was a good 15 or 20 minutes long – (or so it seemed) – too long I thought. It was was frustrating, as we “watched our orange juice get warm”. After breakfast came chores – – dishes had to be done, and Grandpa always wanted more kindling (for fires in the fireplace). This was was our job, and we’d spend about an hour or so looking for dead twigs in the woods, which would find their way into a fire in the fireplace on a cold morning. Finally at about 11 a.m. (and no earlier for sure!) we finally were allowed to get in our bathing suits, hang out on the dock and swim. I love my memories of the black inner tubes we played on. We’d bunch them in half, shove them between our legs, jump in the lake, and ride on them like horses! Kezar Lake was where I learned to swim, and the “rite of passage” was swimming across the lake, with my father along side in the boat. At about noon my mom would leave the dock to make lunch, and the rest of us had to be ready (and dressed – no one came to the table in bathing suits) by about 1 p.m. for lunch. Yes – the bell was rung again when lunch was ready! Following lunch was “rest hour”, no matter what our age. We didn’t have to sleep, and could read or play solitaire, but we could not talk. After our rest we often had free time, and sometimes we got a chance for another swim. However, on many days groceries had to be purchased at the North Lovell store. Most times we drove there, but sometimes on really nice days we’d take the motor boat to the town landing, then walk to the store, pulling a little red wagon to carry the groceries back to the boat. That was always fun. Dinner was about 6 or 6:30 and that bell was rung for that, too. Following dinner – and after the dishes were washed – we’d spend our evenings playing cards or reading before going to the “other cabin” to bed.

The Bell that told us when to do what!

There was only a few times when this schedule was changed. After breakfast on Sunday morning, we’d change into our good clothes for the worship service at the Center Lovell church at 11 a.m. That was the only day when I didn’t care if it rained. To sit inside the (usually hot) church building with the sun shining through the windows meant that we were losing precious time on the dock swimming. At least we got a brief chance for a swim after church and before a slightly later lunch.

About once (or twice) a summer we would also change our schedule if we took a day hike or climbed a mountain: Baldface, Chocorua, Speckled, Blueberry Mt. Then there were short climbs up Sabbatus Mountain where we’d take a picnic dinner, watch the sunset from the top, then climb down.

Rainy days were actually fun in camp. They were lazy as we’d read, play cards or board games (my favorite was “Clue”) to the sound of the rain on the roof. Sometimes we chose those days to go into Norway, Maine to do laundry and have lunch out. It was relaxing – and especially relaxing to go to sleep to the rain sounds at night. However, if it went on for more than two days, we’d all get antsy.

These childhood memories are what make the lure so strong to continue the traditions there each summer. Things are different now, as Grandpa is not around to invoke his regimen. For that I admit I’m glad. We linger over morning coffee on the dock now. No one is there to tell us we can’t eat a meal in our bathing suit! The bell doesn’t ring anymore, nor does anyone play Taps and Revile. Before dinner we have cocktails on the dock (or porch), something Grandpa wouldn’t have allowed. And – meals are when we want them – not at specific times. As I’d mentioned, The family has made improvements to the cabins in the form of flush toilets, running hot water, as well as replacement of those old army cots – to name just a few things. But – the basic mood and ambiance of camp and the surrounding area remains mostly unchanged. The North Lovell store has been closed for many years, forcing us to travel a little further for groceries, but the store building remains as a landmark. We eat out a lot more now, as a few more restaurants have opened up nearby.

Next post I’ll mention some of the specifics of this years time on Kezar.


In the house…

For the last two days, I haven’t been out to take photos. I didn’t feel well yesterday. Not quite sure what was wrong, but I felt bloated and “unsettled” and very tired like I could have taken a nap at any given time. I’m much better today, and Ray and I decided to go to Savannah to see a craft show, “Springtime Made in the South”. It’s this huge convention center full of craft booths – and wonderful vendors. I always find something to purchase – this time a BEAUTIFUL mosaic mirror (which I don’t know, as of now, where I will hang it), as well as a few barrettes for my hair and hand crafted mechanical pen and pencil.

So — yesterday’s photo is of some of my “fireplace kitties”, which had originally belonged to my mother in law. I don’t know where she got most of them, but some were gifts from their Long Island neighbor for doing some pet sitting. The larger cat in this photo is made out of paper mache, I think. When my inlaws lived in the house here in Hilton Head (yes – this house used to belong to my them!) – she had it on the kitchen bar counter as a nicknack. Many of the other cats resided on her fireplace hearth in their house on Long Island, and now live on ours.

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Bonus photos … a few more of the kitties:

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Today, after returning home from the craft show, the sun was about to set and was shining low into the west window, putting a wonderful glow on the counter top bar stools. These stools were procured by my inlaws from a restaurant – Billy’s Triple Crown – in Bridgehampton, Long Island, which was remodeling at the time they were building this house in 1986. They are really unique – with a leather seat that swivels (my father in law may have had that redone), not to mention old chewing gum that is now permanently embedded underneath them!! I don’t know if they were given to my father in law – or if he purchased them, but he transported them down here and they were installed when the house was built. I love them and the retro feel they give the room!

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I’m way behind in my postings, but I have pictures to show for those days – so here we go!

On Tuesday I was very busy with preparations to host our small group from church. I admit … I don’t entertain easily, so it takes a lot of emotional energy, and overt planning from me — more than the average person, I think. So – I didn’t spend a lot of time on photographs. So – my 365 photo is not original in the least — it’s yet another photo of a bird taken from the sliding glass door while it sat on the camellia bush waiting to go to the feeders. This time the bird is a chickadee:

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No bonus photo…

Oh — and the small group event at our house went very well. The meal was delicious, and the discussion on the book we’re doing was very thought provoking!

Yesterday I have many photos from which to choose. I didn’t know I was going to be going on a photo walk, but when my good friend, Kim came over to drop off some matting material that I can use for the camera club competition, we decided to take the time to walk around with our cameras. There’s *always* time for that!

We began in our back yard – then drove to Dolphin Head beach, with an impromptu stop off along the side of the road where there were a variety of aquatic birds perched along the lagoon there: a pelican, some cormorants, an anhinga and a great blue heron. I really love it when different kinds of birds are able to co-exist peaceably together! Might we humans learn from this?? After Dolphin Head, it was then onto Boneyard Beach, where there were egrets and a “convention” of seagulls. I spent last night going through numerous photos – and choosing the best to put up on Flickr. What should I choose for yesterday’s photo. As I type this, I still am not sure….

Ok — decision made. I think yesterday’s 365 photo will be another one of a bald eagle, found on Dolphin Head beach. Sightings of them happen, but it’s still exciting for me when I see one, and get to photograph him. Kim recognized his call, and others, who had seen him first, helped us spot him high in a tree. I was able to move closer to him before he flew off. I had hoped to photograph his take off – but I’m not that good. it was sudden and way too fast for me to catch that.

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Here’s a group of bonus photos for yesterday – mainly because it was hard to decide. Click any photo to see it larger in my flickr site:

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1. A pelican and two cormorants in the background
2. A great blue heron and a cormorant – drying his wings

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1. An anhinga – drying his wings!
2. A convention of seagulls — with one egret.

A Snowy Egret is off!

Today was a little light on photos – but after dark I took a picture of a print of a Siamese Cat by Fritz Hug that hangs in our bedroom. It’s one I’ve had since I was a teenager, purchased on the boardwalk at Ocean City, NJ for probably not much more than $10. I didn’t have all that much money back then, so it couldn’t have been more. I grew up with Siamese cats – and had two sweet Siamese kitties early in my marriage, so I’ve loved this print. It’s followed me throughout my life … hung on my wall all through college, and then in our living room once Ray and I were married. Then when we came down here to Hilton Head for winters, I knew it belonged here because the colors are perfect. It wasn’t framed for years, but for one Christmas, my mom and dad did that for me. I don’t know who “Fritz Hug” and just now tried to do a search on him, but I can’t find much, but I’m glad he created this!

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The downturn in our economy has affected people in dramatic ways – loss of income, houses, jobs, and entire lifestyles.  In this blog, I want to talk about a more subtle way that the economy is changing us – as a society.  This is not “life or death”, and is something which many of us hear about in passing, but move onto more important items. 

The Philadelphia Orchestra has gone bankrupt and is now in Chapter 11

The reasons for this are varied, complex and controversial.  In short, it’s got to do with the poor economy, high musician salaries and pensions, plummeting ticket sales, high rent at the Kimmel Center, where they play, among other things.  But – I fear that there is another insidious reason for it’s slow demise:  the lack of music appreciation and education in our homes, schools and religious institutions.

I grew up in Philadelphia and going to the monthly Saturday morning “Children’s Concerts” was a part of my childhood.  As I remember – these were made possible by my grandparents, but my mom would take us into the city and make it into an “event” for us.  We’d see the concert, usually directed by William Smith, the assistant conductor.  He would teach us about classical music and the orchestra would play selections to demonstrate.  It was fun, although the conduct of many of the children present was horrible.  I have memories of paper airplanes shooting down from the balconies of the Academy of Music and William Smith admonishing that behavior!   Following the concert Mom and I would go out for lunch in downtown Philly to a place of my choosing.  Oddly – my choice was always to go to the Horn and Hardart’s “Automat”, the precursor of today’s “fast food”.  You served yourself by putting coins into slots to get the food out of the enclosed, see-through bins!  I’m sure Mom would have preferred ANY place else!

Then, as an adult, my parents would often invite Ray and I to come for a concert if we were going to be in Philly on a concert weekend.  My parents always had season tickets and purchased two more so that they could invite friends along to make it a social evening.  Again, we always had dinner “in town” prior to the concert, again making it “an event.  My mom and Frank still have season tickets to the orchestra.

I also remember my Uncle Ned inviting me to come to Philly for a specific concert which included a flute solo.  What a treat to be specifically invited, knowing that I had the interest in flute.  As always, we had dinner out prior to the concert. 

Then, when our son was attending Moravian College, many of his friends were music majors, and he grew to appreciate classical music through them.  So – my mom purchased “student orchestra tickets” for him – about 12 of them – which could be used for any concert not sold out.  Our son would then invite his music major friends for an evening at the Philadelphia Orchestra.  Mom and Frank have a memory of seeing their grandson – flanked by 7 girls – headed to their seats at the Academy of Music!

In the home, my mom and dad listened to classical music records, as well as WFLN (Philadelphia’s classical music station, which I do not believe exists anymore).  My father sang in the adult choir in church, as well as, for a while, in the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, traveling 1 hour to get to their Monday night rehearsals.  It was tacitly expected that we children would sing in all the church youth choirs – and there were many of them:  Cherub Choir (age 3-5), Children’s choir (1st – 3rd grades), Carol Choir (4th – 6th grades), and the Chancel choir (7th – 12th grades).  There wasn’t one time in my childhood when I was not in a choir!  In addition there was also an unspoken expectation that we learn an instrument when the school made that option available to elementary students.  That’s where my flute playing began, and my sisters picked up the clarinet, my mom’s instrument, and my brother, the trumpet.  We also all took piano lessons for varying time periods and with varying degrees of success.   (My lack of success at piano was legendary!) 

In short – – Music was considered important. 

However, even for the non musical family, the schools jumped in and provided for the non choral or instrumental student music classes which included basic note reading and music appreciation.  In 5th grade we had a teacher who put personal emphasis on music, and had the entire class learn to play these small, inexpensive and easy to play metal flutes.  Slowly – over the course of the year, we learned the fingering, and in the process how to read notes and rhythms.  Then, our class played a few concerts over the course of the year.

What I ask now is whether even a small amount of this focus exists today?   I admit – now – that maybe my family was a bit “over the top” – but even without the family influence, the schools and religious institutions filled in the blanks.   I note with the budget cuts that the first thing removed are art and music classes.  People are not learning to read notes!

Yet – we continue to be a music listening society.  Case in point:  look at the popularity of American Idol.  Yet – there is something missing.  We like it – we dance to it – we sing along to it – but we don’t understand it. 

I do not want to sound elitist and give the impression that Classical music is the only kind that is “legitimate”.  Personally, I think that this has been part of the problem, and young (and older) people have rushed AWAY from it to more “modern” sounds. 

I remember one Philadelphia Orchestra concert where they had Bobby McFerrin – of the “Don’t Worry Be Happy” fame – conducting the orchestra.  I didn’t realize it until that night that he straddles the classical and rock genre, which made this concert rather unique.  One half of the concert was traditional – with Bobby in his tux and tails conducting the orchestra.  But – the other half was more casual – and included a bit of audience participation!  As I looked around, I noticed a few of the “old timers” were sitting in their seats with their arms folded in front of them – disgusted.  Yet – – the interesting part was how MANY young adults were in attendance.  The Academy of Music was packed!

Whether we like it or not, music is in transition.  We have many legitimate genres of music out there besides classical:  rock, jazz, blues, folk, sacred, rap, etc.   Some of the old time Classical lovers do not want to believe that other styles have merit.  And, in all fairness, we all have our personal likes and dislikes, which need to be respected.  However, when it comes to learning about music, I believe we need to give the other styles of music the attention they deserve.  We need to learn about all styles – and not just from the classical music standpoint. 

Sacred music is changing, too.  Instead of using hymn books (which include notes and words together), The Christian contemporary services flashes the words to their praise songs onto a screen.   The notes to these songs are not included on the screen, and to learn these songs one simply copies the song as you hear it sung by the Praise chorus and congregation.  One of the reasons for this is the violation of copyright laws if notes were to be included.  Yet – in eliminating the notes to the tune, we have also eliminated another music learning opportunity. 

Church choirs – in my opinion – are slowly dying.  I’m 61 years old, and in BOTH my choirs (Hilton Head and Long Island) I am one of the youngest members.  What will happen to choirs in the next 20 years?  Will people join praise choruses?  I’m not so sure, because, from what I’ve observed, they are usually small in number.

In addition, I also think that symphony orchestras need to change with the times.  I’m not suggesting they abandon their classical music roots, but they maybe need to see the value of including other genres in their repertoire.  If they don’t – we may lose it all.

For now the Philadelphia Orchestra is continuing their concert series this year while they try to reorganize in Chapter 11.   Mom and Frank have also purchased for next year.  But, the events make me wonder how I’ll feel should it disappear.   No – it’s not a magnanimous issue – like food, clothing and shelter.  Yet – combine this with other struggling orchestras that might also disappear, and we might not realize what we’ve lost until it’s too late – when it’s all gone. 

It all started in 1967, the year I was a senior in high school.  I vaguely remember the discussions about whether it would work to have a playoff between the NFL and the now defunct AFL.  (They merged).  I couldn’t figure out why they were so worried about it’s success.  In baseball the World Series between the American and National Leagues has been a long time success.  Why wouldn’t a “super bowl” also succeed – at least among football fans, and there were clearly enough of those!

They had no idea just HOW successful it would become!

I vaguely remember the first game, but many of the subsequent games were lost on me.  I was not – and still am not – a football fan.  I didn’t give it a second thought during my college years, and don’t remember much about it in the early years of marriage.  However, at some point in the 1980’s, I could see this had become quite a thing.   As non football fans, though, neither Ray nor I ever watched.  In the mid 1980’s, Ray and I were invited to our first Super Bowl party, complete with junk food party snacks, great company, and “the game” on TV.  I remember little about it except that “The Refrigerator”, William Perry was playing.  I think it was 1986, Super Bowl XX.

Another year – I think 1992 – when out in Sun Valley, Idaho with the Long Island East Ski Club, we “took over” a sports bar on Super Bowl Sunday when the New York Giants were victorious over Buffalo.  What a raucous night that one was!  It was fun to be with a crowd away from home watching the hometown football team!

Then there was the year the Philadelphia Eagles were there – 2005.  That’s  my childhood home, and I had an interest in it’s outcome.  However – what a bust that was.  They were creamed by the New England Patriots.

As each year passed, “mania” took hold of football and non football fans alike.  The hype during the two weeks prior to the game has become just as important as the game itself.  It costs millions to place an ad on the Super Bowl, but they are unique, made especially for the game, and have become entertainment in their own right, worthy to be watched again on YouTube!  There are polls throughout the internet to vote for the best ad!  The day itself has become sacred with nothing else planned but Super Bowl parties.  Traditions on watching the game have evolved to a “higher level”.  During one game, I went out to pick up a pizza, and did not meet another car either coming our going.  As I drove, I sneaked a peek inside the windows of a few houses as I passed by, and could see groups of people glued to TV’s.

Super Bowl Sunday has become a holiday in it’s own right now.  It was never decreed to be such – but it has become that over the 45 years of it’s existence.  In my opinion, it’s far surpassed the interest that the World Series generates!  Ray and I watch now, probably only because of the hype, and an excuse to get out the junk food snacks and call that “dinner”!  It seems odd, however, because it’s the only game I watch all season.  Prior to the game I sort of “decide” who I will root for based upon rather odd and unimportant criteria, because during the actual season, I generally could care less!  This year, for example, I rooted for Pittsburgh because I am from Pennsylvania, although my affinity to them was very weak.  Last year I rooted for the Saints because I loved their traditions (“who dat!”) and it was about time they won!  I often prefer the underdog to win, which is why I don’t have much love for Yankees baseball.

This year the game itself was ok – not a landslide which, to me, becomes boring.  However, the rest was kind of a disappointment.  The ads were only “meh” (except for the Volkswagon ad!).  The half time show, though entertaining, wasn’t “all that”, which may say more about my advanced age than the quality of the show.  The screw up of the National Anthem was just plain embarrassing, and I was embarrassed for her.  In all fairness, I appreciate what nervousness can do to make one forget the words of even the most familiar song.  However, if she hadn’t used all those flourishes with the tune, she might have been more able to focus more on the correct words.

If nothing else, the game provides a means of unification, brief though it probably is.  Instead of focusing on all the political and social angst that seems to plague our nation, the game steals our attention, if only for a moment.  We may root for different teams, but the fun of the game is what brings us together.

It’s over now, and we can put football to bed for another 7 months or so.  (Is it only that long?)  We can now focus on hockey and basketball, and baseball isn’t all that far behind….!

Over the last few days, due to the suicide death of the Rutgers Student over the video made of him which was spread over the internet, there has been renewed discussion about bullying.  It seems that every time there is a death and bullying has been found to be in that person’s life, the discussion resumes.  But, like so many other crises, the discussion ultimately wanes, as we move onto new events, and a good solution is not really found.

Bullying has been around since the beginning of time.  I believe teasing, “human pecking order” and competition are part of human nature, so I suspect we can never truly eradicate it from our schools and society.  However, kindness, love, empathy and compassion are ALSO part of human nature, too.  It’s a matter of encouraging the latter, and discouraging the former, making it less inviting to act upon these unkind, mean traits.

Please read this blog entry, which is what has moved me to write this.  Clearly the affects of bullying run deep – and are lasting.  If this doesn’t motivate action on bullying then nothing will…

"Memoirs of a Bullied Kid" from the blog, "Single Dad Laughing"

After reading this blog entry, I realized I had it good, but it does remind me that those school years were not the best for me.  I also think that everyone has a story of some kind, and know that none of us are truly alone.

I was not overtly bullied when I was young.  However, I was ignored, almost like I was being “shunned”.  It was as if I didn’t exist to my classmates.  I felt invisible – isolated and very alone.  I believed that if I disappeared, no one would notice – or care.  I was a “non issue”.  Whether this is the “truth” of how it *actually* was is not the issue.  It’s how I felt – and when I look back, I still feel.

I had (and still have!) a few friends who stuck by me, but particularly in high school it felt (to me) like they had to live two lives in order to continue our friendship:  one with the “crowd” they hung out with – and then one with me, because I was not a part of that crowd – or any crowd.  I’m grateful that they made that effort.

“The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.”  When I first heard this quotation (and I do not know the origin of it), it resonated with me – and described how I felt during my school days.

In elementary school I felt as if there was this “pecking order” of students from the “top” (most popular) to the bottom, and I was in the “bottom two”.  Here’s an example of this:

I remember in 6th grade – which was the oldest grade in our elementary school — when the class voted on who would become a “Safety”.  To explain:  “Safeties” wore these white “belts”, which went around the waist and one shoulder, and who were stationed in key areas around the school during recess and before and after school to help the younger elementary school children line up, cross the street, etc.  (In a way – this is a lot of responsibility for that age child, but this was back in 1960 when, I think, we gave more responsibility to children – but – I digress…)

There was only need for a certain number of “Safeties” so all the students in the class could not have this coveted job.  In order to pick who those students would be, the teacher had the class vote on who would be the best “Safeties”.  Of course, considering our age, this made it basically a popularity contest.  Sadly – most of the class did become a “Safety”, and I was among the few remaining who were not voted “in”.  This sealed my belief that I was on the lower end of this “pecking order”.

In junior high during gym the gym teacher would select two students – generally the most popular – to be the captain of a team, like for softball or basketball.  They then would pick a team from the rest of the students.  It’s hard being the last one standing because you’re the last one picked.  Then they have to take you – not because they want you, but because they have to.  You’re all that’s left!  So many of my generation felt the sting of this, as this was commonplace – maybe still is, though I don’t know.

Things got worse in high school because social life revolved around boyfriends and dating.  Some of my friends were dating, and boys trumped “girlfriend time” – so I became even more isolated, although I enjoyed playing in the band, and being a part of some of the drama club productions.  I never dated, and was not invited to any dances – and one did NOT go alone to them.  I attended my junior prom only because I invited a family friend who went to another school.  I found out later he was “made” to go with me by his parents, but didn’t want to because he had a girlfriend.  I did not go to the senior prom.  I still remember that “left out” sadness of that night.

What a relief it was to finally leave high school and move onto college!  It was there where I found myself and my voice.

I still – to this day – wonder what I did – or didn’t do – to make my social experience so difficult while growing up.  Was I socially inept?  At times I didn’t speak up enough (was terribly scared I’d say the wrong thing), or at other times I tried too hard, and probably said all the wrong things, making it worse.  Or – was it about everyone else and there was nothing wrong with me?  Maybe it was a combination of the two.  Whatever the case, I still do not know the answer to this.

What is interesting, however, is that, despite the fact that life is a lot more positive these days, these feelings continue to travel inside of me.  I feel like life is about being in a pecking order, and it’s my job to make sure I’m not at the bottom.  I feel like I’m perpetually chasing the “in crowd”, but the faster I run to them, the faster they run from me.   Or – I may reach them and it’s like I’m not there.   I work to not make this the theme of my inner life, but it overcomes me at times, despite knowing that it’s truly not that way.

I have more thoughts that have come out of the publicity of that suicide – but they will be left for another entry at another time.

When I was a child, I thought very little about my body and how well it functioned.  It just “did”.  As long as it gave me no discomfort, I didn’t pay attention to it.  I took for granted that it worked well, I was healthy, nothing hurt, and my weight and height were in good proportion.  Honestly – I didn’t think twice about what I ate, and whether I was eating too many carbs, sweets, or not enough fruits and vegetables.  I “maintained”, so it was rarely in my consciousness. 

My mom was in charge of meals, so, in general, my diet was healthy.  I was forced to finish at least 1/2 of the particular – dreaded – vegetables or there would be no dessert!  I was rarely permitted more than 2 cookies at a time, and portions of other desserts always left with me “wanting more”.  Though there was usually “seconds” on the main course, “balance” in eating was enforced and modeled throughout my childhood.  However, my parents could not control what I did when I wasn’t home and when I had my own money to burn, and I remember a few “pig-outs” on candy.  The idea of “filling up with abandon” was a huge treat, and I didn’t think back then about the ramifications to my health, because my body didn’t rebel – probably because I didn’t get the opportunity to do it all that much. 

During my childhood, I also didn’t have to think about scheduling into my day a formal “exercise” plan.  In fact, “exercise”, per se, wasn’t part of my consciousness.  What I normally did during my day was sufficient.  Yes – we probably spent too much time watching TV, but many hours were also spent outside “running around”

Fast forward about 50 years, and things have surely changed.  My body frame is not as I’d like it.  Yep – I’m too heavy, and I know I don’t always eat correctly, nor exercise enough.  When I see the doctor, she seems to find small things going wrong – – beginnings of blood sugar issues, beginnings of higher blood pressure, bad knees…  Clearly my body isn’t “adjusting” in the same way it used to when I’d occasionally “abuse” it during my childhood.  It’s requiring more “TLC” from it’s “owner” – – me – – requiring me to actually *think* about how I care for it.  In other words, what has been unconscious – what I feed my body and how I exercise it – must be made conscious.  

All that I learned from my mother about “balance in eating”, I’ve kind of put on the back burner in favor of “eating with abandon” until I’m not just “full”, but over full.  I’ve lost all sense of portion control.  For the most part, with some exceptions, my food choices are *fairly* healthy, in that I make sure  vegetables, salads and fruits are in my diet.  But – it’s more about how MUCH I eat of these things – i.e. – portion control.  Besides that, my weakness is **pasta pasta pasta**, and too much cheese, either on the pasta or on Mexican dishes – or wherever!.  Oh how I love it!  This, in itself, and in healthy portions, is not unhealthy – but it’s where I lose the balance I was taught growing up.

I’m not the only one concerned about this, as I’ve watched friends take stock and begin diet and exercise programs.  In my private blogging group on Live Journal, I read about their daily concerns, and decisions and activities concerning this issue.  Two of my friends have begun public “diet / exercise” blogs to monitor their progress and to have a place to vent their feelings and frustrations – and successes – as they go about living a more healthy lifestyle.  Read!  They are great blogs!  🙂

But – – here I sit.  Doing nothing.  Feeling guilty.  But still doing nothing.  Tomorrow I’ll think about it.  The next day I’ll do it.  Next week.  Just – – Later.  *finding some sand to bury my head…*  But – the topic is gnawing at me – nudging me – reminding me of it’s vital importance – pulling my head out of the comfortable sand. 

WHAT is holding me back?  I suspect I could write an entire blog entry on this – but I think the bottom line is one word:  Addiction – – to food.  It’s also what “food” and “eating” means to me emotionally and psychologically – AND – what it’s replacing or “blotting out” in my life which I don’t want to see or confront.  It’s a way of hiding and “avoiding”.

Back in the mid 1970’s I’d also gained some weight.  However, at that time I dieted, and lost it, then maintained that weight loss for a few years until I got pregnant with my son.  I remember that dieting process, and the feelings of “hunger” that you just had to “live with” and “accept”.  I would figure out ways distract myself from those hunger pains.  I ask myself now:  was it true hunger, or “emotional hunger”?  I honestly can’t remember, but it probably was a combination of both.

After my son was born, I gained it all back.  All bets were off and I never dieted again.  I loved raising my son, but at the same time, I was lonely and starved for adult activities and companionship.  I know that food was a replacement for those empty feelings, and there was no distracting myself during those years.

I think about starting the program – and what it will mean to my life.  Only good things can happen if I choose this route – at least to my health.  But – emotionally, do I *want* to do this?  Can I handle life without this crutch?  Of course I *can* – but do I want to?   I can envision a sense of “loss” – of sadness – from not being able to ever “eat with abandon” again.  I will SO miss that.  Do I want to deal with those feelings?  “Balance” is so “boring”!  “Balance” doesn’t give you that “rush” or distraction from “emptiness”.

It’s also about living my life consciously – making daily, healthy choices for it when I might otherwise not want to do those things, but doing them anyway.  I just want to EAT and enjoy, without all that discernment, which feels like it’ll ruin the experience for me.

In reading some of the blogs on this, I realize that when one begins new healthy habits, the thrill of success erodes the desire for that old behavior, and you are energized by the motivation from this.  I sort of remember this from that one successful weight loss program prior to my pregnancy.

Then there’s exercise.  Why – when it was just a part of my daily life as a child has it become boring and arduous now?  When I was a child, I used to get all “sweaty” and run around until I was out of breath, and it was ok and even fun!  But now it’s the last thing I want.  At various times over my adult life I’ve started walking programs, only to end them when I’d “had it” (or it got too hot, too cold, I was bored, it was just plain “inconvenient”, and / or it was “no fun” anymore)  I fear commitment to these kinds of things, for fear of failing in that resolve.   (But – I know the response to this:  the bottom line is that I’ve already failed by not starting to at all!)

So – – here I am – – yet again, talking about it but not doing.  We’ll see what transpires.  A commitment has not yet been made, but the healthy part of me hopes it will.  I just have to bring around the “other” side of me….!

As a child, I couldn’t wait to get older.  As I reached each age milestone, more privileges were granted and I’d be more independent.  My older brother would be allowed to “do more things”, but when I asked to do that same thing (like stay up later), I was told I was “too little”.  It made me think – at times – that being a child was a “lower life form” that I’d hopefully “outgrow” when I grew up.  So – when I was asked what my age was, I’d say “8 1/2” rather than “8” just to increase my age closer to the next higher digit – and maybe I’d be granted that privilege sooner.  It’s no different in college when kids count the days until they turn 21 where even more “adult privileges” are extended.

Yet – there was a dichotomy going on at the same time.  When I was about 13 years old – I can’t remember for sure – I remember my mother talking to an elderly lady after church one Sunday.  All four of us kids were hanging there, too – waiting to be taken home.  The woman was grouchy, negative, and spent the entire conversation – – if you could call it that (she monopolized it) – – complaining about “young people today”, their bad morals, their rudeness and bad manners, and on and on.  It was clear that this woman wanted my mom’s ear, hoping that Mom would instill these values she thought were so lacking into the four of us.  But – we were standing around, listening, too – a captive audience – and I think this elderly woman wanted that, as well.   However, we were probably too impatient to listen all that intently.  Through some well placed, though subtle, eye rolls (yep – probably bad manners!), we begged my mom to “wrap it up”, so we didn’t “lock up the church” (be the last ones to leave) for yet another Sunday.  Finally we got to leave, and I realized later that even my mom felt worn down by the negativity of the conversation.

This woman was dowdy.  It was probably the early 1960’s, but her dark, drab colored dress was more than likely something that was in fashion in the 1940’s.  She wore a black Sunday hat – one that had this black lace thingie that shielded her eyes from direct view.  Her black laced up heels were even more dowdy and very clunky long before that became fashionable (or fashionable again?).

On that day, I vowed that when I got “old”, I’d never be like that.  I told myself I’d not remain stuck in the clothing styles of the “older generation”.  I’d work hard to refrain from negativity about the younger generation, and, even if I didn’t like it, I’d try to understand how they viewed the world.  I never wanted be “stuck” in a previous generation.  This experience has remained with me since the day it happened.

I wanted to “grow up”, but I never wanted to be “old”.

Fast forward to early adulthood.  Even in my 20’s, I felt like a teenager, but loved being an adult.  Age 30 rolled around and I think it was then when I realized that I was an adult, WITH adult responsibilities.  Our son was born when I was 29, and I had to put aside the belief that I could be a perpetual teenager.  It was kind of sad, though joyous, too.

Each decade milestone brought more realizations that the world was getting younger, and I was only aging.  I had fewer problems with the actual decade birthdays (30, 40, 50), and more trouble with the midway points.  Somehow they reminded me that the next decade was not too far away, and I’d have to “prepare”.  How I prepared – I do not know.  I guess it’s just an acceptance that would happen.  Yet – I wonder if I have spent many years burying my head in the sand because I am now age 60, and it has hit me like a ton of bricks that somehow my young adult and middle age years have quickly slipped by, and I am now in the last third of my life – that is – if all goes as planned as far as age projections.

The catalyst for these feelings has not only been reaching a certain age, but the events of our life that have transpired during this last decade.

First of all, Ray retired in 2001, so we have left the work world.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s nice – but it’s also a reminder that we’ve entered the next stage of our lives  Our son is also on his own, is married and we are often the last on his list of persons to talk with or visit.  It’s what 20 and 30-somethings often do, as they forage their own lives.  I admit – I did that, too….  I did not see, nor understand the feelings our parents may have had about us “leaving the nest”.  Yet – I am also truly enjoying the freedoms and new opportunities that come from the empty nest.  Our snowbird lifestyle is possible because we have the freedom one doesn’t have when there are children to raise.

Also – little medical things have crept into our lives:  Ray’s kidney stones, my “bad knee”, and diverticulitis. When I was young, I used to go to the doctor, and was quickly in and out.  I expected them to find nothing wrong – and they didn’t.  I can’t now, though…  Each time I have a doctor’s appointment, I am beginning to expect they’ll find something:  high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol.  I’ve had debilitating rashes, and my heart has been checked because they thought they noticed “something” (thankfully it was nothing).  I used to take my health for granted and assumed my body would not fail me.  Now it’s not a sure thing.

On top if this, Ray and I have watched our parents’ decline.  In particular, watching my inlaws “slow deaths” was one of the most difficult experiences we have had.  Dementia, hearing loss, blindness, physical impairments, and inability to get around, nor take care of simple life’s functions slowly engulfed their lives from about 2002 until their deaths in 2008 and 2009.  Each spent a total of 3 years in a nursing home with 3 more years with home-health aides.  I remember visiting them in the nursing home, and, even though this was a good facility, I was always relived to be able to walk out, get in my car and go home.  Yet, I’d then be overwhelmed with sadness that they couldn’t leave.  They were trapped there, and this would be their home for the rest of their lives. 

Is this how the end will be for me?  Who can say for sure, but it does end that way for many.  Lately we are hearing of some of our contemporaries who have passed away – or have become quite ill.  My inlaws were a little less than 30 years older than I am, and that really isn’t so far away.   Time “shortens up” as you get older!  I admit it – – I dread – and fear – those upcoming years.

Maybe it was these worries that consumed that elderly lady in the dowdy clothes that burned my mom’s ear about the “younger generation”.  Maybe she was simply jealous of our family – of Mom — and of our youth.

I do know that it is time to seize the day — “Carpe Diem”!  When “time” suddenly is seen as “finite”, it is a message for me to embrace “living” like I’ve never done before, because there will come a time when there won’t be that opportunity.  I admit – I am not quite sure how I want to do that.  There is my music – my photography – but how I may choose to use those interests of mine is not yet formulated.   But, I know I cannot stall for too much longer.  Time is of the essence.  One never knows!

I continue to vow that I will work to understand the younger generation and not stay stuck in old ideas.  I realize that the complaints about “kids” are the same from every older generation – concerns about morals, rudeness, bad manners, etc.  Nothing is new under the sun.  I have confidence that each generation ultimately grows up and works through these issues in their own way.  They thrive, too, just as we have.  Yet, as I age, I see how easy it is remain in a “comfy cocoon” with “the familiar”.  I admit I now “get” the mentality of that dowdy woman from church – that sometimes the past has wisdom.  Change is clearly more difficult the older I get.  However, – I am aware of this, and try to resist the temptation.  And, as far as how I dress, I work to remain relatively current, despite being a bit overweight.  No – I will not dress like the teenagers, but I will not dress like I am back in the 1960’s, either.

And – I am letting my hair grow long.  I want it long enough to put in a pony tail and it’s almost there.  It’s a “young” style, and an odd way of burying my head in the sand about my age.  Some say it looks “wrong” on my slowly aging face.  But – it’s my last shot, and Ray likes it!  I’m loving it, too – and suspect I’ll keep it that way.

This is the best way I know to let you know what I’ve been up to – – and why I haven’t been posting!  Kezar Lake was the “vacationland” of my childhood, and it’s ranking pretty high as an adult.  Let the pictures do the talking for this blog entry….  🙂

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Ever since the beginning of July, my brain has been like sludge.  There are pretty much no ideas springing forth for blogging, as my focus has been on my personal comfort level, which means – in short – basically finding innovative ways of keeping cool.

It’s been unseasonably hot.  Although this has not happened daily, we have had some actual (not heat index) triple digit temperatures in our coastal climate.  Ocean breezes usually temper the hot weather.  However, there were times when all was quiet on the sea breeze front giving us the heat that is normally reserved for inland areas.  With the humidity that is normally present, that made for horrible heat indices.

Part of the explanation for my whining is that our house has no central air conditioning.  We do have window units for our two upstairs bedrooms, and it’s a good thing because they are rooms converted from attic space.  There is not much insulation between the roof and the room, so when the sun beats down on that roof – the heat can soar inside to unlivable temperatures.  Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the a/c that we have.  However, it’s been getting a little annoying feeling imprisoned in a small room.  Frankly I miss the REST of my house!

With sun blazing into our kitchen’s west windows, cooking in this heat has become an unpleasant activity!  Adding more heat from the oven or top-of-the-stove burners raises the temperature to an already steamy room.  I’ve used shades to block the sun off to some extent – but there’s only so much you can do.  Therefore, Ray and I have been grilling outside, and going out to eat a lot more than usual.  Salads of all kinds have turned into main dishes, and I try to make them up in the morning when the sun is scorching the other side of the house.

Our pool is a godsend and we’re blessed to have it!  However, It’s only a quick fix.  Because I do not like to hang out in the hot summer sun endlessly, I don’t stay out there for too long.  I remember in my younger years when I’d burn to a crisp – on purpose.  No more!  We didn’t know the dangers of skin cancer back then…  Plus – I really do not enjoy sun bathing anymore.

I go back to old posts where I talked about longing for snow.  I guess that’s odd request this time of year.  Interesting how I’ve heard others long for those snowy days of only a few months ago.  I need to bottle their words of disdain for the white stuff to remind them how much they hated it at the time.  But – really, I get it.  It’s a matter of perspective how we feel in any given situation.  I think the relevant saying here is, “Be careful for what you ask for – you might get it!”.

I think back on my childhood and air conditioning was a luxury that most households didn’t have.  It was mostly reserved for stores, movie theaters, office buildings, and other public places.  Most people didn’t have window units, either.  We sure didn’t – and only had a few fans which we moved around the house to where we were living at the time.  My parents were always reticent to allow us to leave the fans on all night for fear of a fire, so we just sweltered.  I remember going to bed and squirting water on my face from a spray gun to get cool, and dreaming of having a pool in my back yard, knowing full well that I’d never see that!  Kezar Lake, Maine, where our family vacationed each year, was also on my mind – and in my mind’s eye, I was swimming in that clear water….  In the end, squirting water all over me was not the most comfortable of experiences, as the sheets ended up soaked.  Yet – most mornings, I’d wake up and the house *had* cooled down.

We survived.  Everyone else was in the same boat, so we didn’t expect any differently.  I think it all has to do with expectations, and expectations were different back then.

It has also occurred to me that having air conditioning at one’s disposal can make you “feel” hotter once you’re removed from it. Your body has more difficulty re-acclimating to the hotter temperatures after you had gotten used to the a/c.   Also – I wonder if people have less tolerance for the heat as you age.  And – aging is what I seem to be doing best…

I have some photos from a few other ways we have managed to keep cool – but that will come in a post to come.

However, as Ray and I experience this July heat wave, we are now seriously considering installing central air conditioning for this house.  Not sure when – or even if – but it’s at least a serious conversation.  We’ve considered it other years, but, despite the expense, this may be the year that we actually go through with it.   Call me a wimp – but I’m so ready!

Meantime – we’re headed to Kezar Lake, Maine in a less than a week….!

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