Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Stroll on a Cloudy Day

The husband and I went for a nice long walk today. As we live near a huge preserve (on land once owned by John D. Rockefeller that was part of his stately home, Kykuit) we wandered down trails and observed the deer (or did they observe us?), the lichen growing on fallen trees, the paths cut through centuries old stands of woods, and nature's quiet way of putting it all to rest.

The monotone of browns and the sound of rustling leaves gave me a sense of tranquility which is often hard to find on the average day around here. The Village of Sleepy Hollow due to the vast amount of Rockefeller land that has become New York State park contains the most amount of undeveloped property this close to New York City in the entire region. Hard to believe the city lay so close nearby as we wandered the park alone with our thoughts.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A mantra for our times

Also:  If someone else has it, it must be worth having.

Nutty in the Hollow

Whoever said parenting is a fulfilling experience does not live with my two teenaged daughters. I am sure it is all my fault. Too nice, too considerate, too tolerant. Whatever. I am officially going batty now.
The day can only improve from my current state of mind.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The 4th Thursday in November is here

This is a tradition that inspires uneasy feelings in me as I ponder how the Dutch and the British colonized America and robbed the Native Americans of their land, but this is a discussion for another day. Here in Sleepy Hollow, the kitchen hums with activity- the bird is in the oven, chores are dispatched and we pause to enjoy each other, our freedoms, our  bounty, and our good health. Wishing you and your family peaceful surroundings and happiness wherever this holiday may find you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Circular thinking

My eldest got a ride home from college last night for the Thanksgiving break and when she suddenly appeared in our living room, I had a glimpse of what sort of emotions stirred within my mother- all those years of family life and all her children returning fresh from a road trip, plane flight, train station or bus depot. My father, when I was growing up, was always the designated parent for pick ups. He was the one I would see at the curb at the airport, patiently waiting for me to emerge from the baggage area. He was not the sort of dad who actually parked the car, and came in to the terminal to scan the reception area in quest of one of his offspring to appear. This, in the days before cell phones, when arrangements were made before you boarded the flight. And if your arrival was somehow delayed, dad would still be waiting at the curb, maybe eating a Hershey's semisweet chocolate bar, crumpling the wrapper in his coat pocket while listening to classical music on the radio. Oh, he was happy to see me, but it was my mother, who would spring from her chair when I strolled in the door. My father would say "Go along, I'll bring in your bags. Your mother is waiting to see you." And so I would bring all my youth, my highs and lows and my stories to share crossing the threshold of the same door that I walked through all the years of my life. So yesterday, when Nora arrived with a huge grin as she dropped her bags (well, some things have changed) and I enveloped her in a hug and felt the relief of her safe arrival, I thought a lot about my mother. And all the comings and goings she witnessed in the course of raising her five children. This one is for you mom. Somethings bring us closer than you'll ever know.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dramatis Personae

As a parent, you can't help but want to share your kid's accomplishments (and with a good friend, your kid's foibles and missteps). My daughter Sarah seems to share her sister Nora's love of all things theatrical, and this weekend she is in the production at her high school of the play The Angry Twelve. Based on the play, Twelve Angry Men, and adapted so that both males and females can participate, the play is about the deliberations of a jury where a boy is on trial for murdering his father. Sarah plays the part of the protagonist, who over the course of the two acts. convinces the jury to change their minds and find the boy not guilty. I observed rehearsal the other day in order to take some photos and create a story for our local Patch. In the course of documenting the action on stage, my daughter gave me one of her classic looks as in "Why must you?" and "When are you going to stop?" Yes, as a mother, you feel so appreciated at times. (Not)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Little House on the Prairie kind of day

It's been utterly grey and damp and when life allows me to pass a whole day in the kitchen, it is a dream come true. I recently spent time with a fellow resident of Sleepy Hollow, Clare Pierson, who is a modern day kitchen witch. She makes ointments, vinegars and oils from plants, trees, seeds and berries and is a venerable fount of information.

Here on Evergreen Way we have a vegetable bed that is not especially well tended. (Sometimes I completely forget to pick whatever is ripe and end up leaving it for the critters.) One of my favorite herbs to grow is lemon verbena which needs virtually no maintenance (my kind of plant) as it becomes the most astounding bush of fragrant leaves if left to its own devices. Before the snow last week, I made a mad dash outside to harvest some branches and today, in a nod to Clare's inspired creations, I made a bottle of lemon verbena infused vinegar. It now sits patiently inside the cupboard as I imagine the tangy flavor it will yield in a few weeks' time. When I was growing up and reading all about the trials and tribulations of the Ingalls family, the necessity to put food by to use in the lean winter months made a huge impression on me.  We don't live on the prairie, and we don't live in a sod house, but in our way I too seek to tuck away treats to brighten the palate in the cold months that await us along the river.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Our neighborhood is home to all sorts of people as well as a lot of four legged, two legged and multi legged critters. The squirrels and birds put on a day long performance of song, combat and play. At night however is when the fun really begins. The deer wander in and out of gardens, the raccoons go searching for any available garbage can that isn't nailed shut, and our compost pile, conveniently located near our kitchen door is a banquet awaiting takers. So, when the unmistakable whiff of a certain striped mammal's scent came wafting off the patio, we knew immediately that our dog Comet had intersected at the wrong time in the wrong place with another of God's creatures. Did you know that baking soda and hydrogen peroxide mixed do a great job of getting rid of the smell from being sprayed? (At least according to my husband who executed the emergency procedure.) And me, I slept elsewhere because no matter how much he insisted how amazing the solution worked- well- something unmistakably musky hovered in the air. So, if you find yourselves in the same predicament- click here to learn  how he "resolved" the problem.

Monday, November 12, 2012

My longest blog post ever

I am in the middle of a hysterically funny book called The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days by
Ian Frazier. So, in a nod to his witheringly crafted prose, I was inspired to write something of length which I am, with some trepidation, sharing with all of you.

I know some about friendship- and unfortunately quite a bit about ending friendships. For lack of a better idea I’ll start with a friendship that ended way back when (or another lifetime ago).
I grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio and C. was in my older brother’s class. Her sister G. was in my class, but for a whole host of reasons, I got along with C. better. I had the sort of family a lot of friends admired. An interesting house filled with books, art and music and a mother who never really cared who ate what out of the refrigerator. Oh, and four older brothers with a lot of assorted buddies. This made my home a kind of go-to destination for many of my friends. I was C.’s drawing model when no one else would comply- we were after all her 17 to my 14. I was a stalwart supporter of her artistic ability and when she chose after college to go to London and be an au pair to a very famous artist I of course was positive this was a great career move. The only problem was that she was miserable. She wrote one miserable letter after another and my mother, reasonably gracious and willing to help, suggested I fly to London over my Christmas break from college and convince C. to come home. Which I did. While there, whenever she wasn’t obliged by her au pair tasks, we roamed the city.
Loads of fun. One day, while in the Tate gallery (if memory serves me correct on the exact location) I noticed a bearded guy in a fatigue jacket wandering the galleries alone. He had to be an American. That was perfectly clear to me. I wandered over- introduced myself and the befriending began. We three palled around London and had a great time. I flew home, C. returned somewhat later, and reconnecting with M., our friendly solo traveler, struck up a romance. Years later, they married. (Author’s note- while they had a mid sized wedding, I was not invited- an oversight that was never adequately explained to me- but whatever. I think C. told me I wasn’t invited because she didn’t know how to find me- which of course was extremely weird because my parents lived in the same house and never changed their phone number- but silly me. Finding me would have required a phone call.)
Flash-forward a number of years and the happy couple is now living on the Main Line in a lovely home on a lovely street with their two lovely children. My good friend turned 40- her hubby organized a gala event, and my then-husband and I went down a day early to help with the preparations, stayed at a nearby hotel, and took part in the festivities. Subsequently I tried to help my friend find a gallery (unsuccessfully), helped her photograph her work (successfully), and held a reception for her after her first one-woman show at a NYC gallery of modest repute. My own 40th birthday rolled around. My friend C. and spouse M. were invited- but as it was held on my actual birth date- and not an evening convenient for them, they chose not to attend, nor did they do anything. No flowers, no card. Nothing.
A little past this event C. called needing a favor. She wanted me to help her take more photos of her art. I mentioned that I was short on favors in her regard and that my feelings had been hurt by her apparent inability to do anything to commemorate my birthday. She did agree that I was very considerate, and that she had dropped the ball. Okay, I thought. It took a lot for me to stand up for myself- usually I have a kind of doormat affect (well that waned as my tales will foretell). But I was happy to get my unhappiness off my chest. Unfortunately, the phone rang again ad C. was furious. “You are keeping tabs,” she said. “And friends don’t keep tabs.” “Everyone keeps tabs, C. grow up.” I replied and that was the last conversation we ever had. I did write and ask her to meet me halfway to have lunch and discuss what had happened. She wrote back that she had a husband, two children and a job and that she never had time for lunch. She wrote me a condolence note when my mother (who had been so nice to her) dropped dead a year later, but there was no going back. 
I, on the other hand now have three children, a husband, a dog, a snake, a rabbit, an aging house that seems to always need something important done, and a calling, if not a career. If you need to talk to me-I always have time for lunch. Just in case you were wondering.
I let it go with C. Very glad I found her husband for her. It’s important in life to feel useful, don’t you think?

From there it is just a leap to S. I met S. in college. She found my family and me fascinatingly real. As she grew up in a kind of urbane international moneyed family where going out to 4 star restaurants was part of their weekly routine- my world seemed so prosaic and normal. I was the true friend she had always craved and my typical suburban upbringing gave her a kind of calm. As the years rolled by and she aspired to build the kind of success her father and grandfather had created- she sought her own fortune in an interesting apparel business that she launched with an artistic neighbor from her building in Soho. I became the photographer for the brand, the poet of their packaging. Everyone prospered. However, as the years went by, her success revealed her true nastiness. I looked the other way. A lot. I didn’t know what to do. It was good work for me and if I didn’t pay too much close attention, I didn’t really have to accept the bully my friend was becoming. Countless thoughtless remarks were flung my way. But no worries. I took it all in stride. (Not really. Her boorishness always wounded me- but she held the reins and I was not prepared to walk away) A decade later, she was on to her next pursuit, sans a partner, sans me, but that was okay. I was happy to end this part of our association. But her meanness, unfortunately, did not stop. One day, on the phone, I told her that I didn’t want to hear her cutting remarks anymore. And with that she announced that she didn’t want a relationship that was superficial. After my third child was born, I called to tell her of his arrival. She commented that if I was ever in NY and wanted to have lunch, I should call her. Remarkably enough, it has never occurred to me to call her ever again and she seems to have forgotten my number. So, a friendship that spanned over 25 years ended in a flash or rather a phone call in an attempt to share some happy news.

I probably have to talk about M. next. A delightful gal I met in graduate school. Talented, attractive, funny, neurotic- just like me! We both moved to NYC after grad school and she subsequently made her way with her family to Westchester. She would invite me up and I fell in love with suburbia- it felt like the kind of place I could breathe freely again. My husband and I found and bought a very nice house (at least from the curb- as in, “that’s a very nice house.”) It was all good, mostly, until one summer night she had a few too many margaritas and then holding the doorknob as she made her departure turned and said, “Why did you have to move here?” Oh, yes, she was delighted to have another talented photographer so near by! That friendship hurt a lot less, when it came to an end. We also differed dramatically on a surgical procedure that typically affects newborn baby boys. In the tradition of Moses I sought the ways of my ancestors, but it didn’t keep her from calling my husband to share with him the utter horror of my thinking. It’s good to know that some people know (or rather don’t know) where the real boundaries lay.

Well, I didn’t really think I was heading down some fork in the road, but I was. I haven’t found myself in conflict with everyone I know- rather the opposite. I only find myself in conflict with some of the people I know. Invariably these conflicts are with difficult women who like to get their way. Like to dispense pearls of advice, like my old pal E.,  when none has been sought.  Friends who like to call my husband after a pleasant stay at our house and tell him “Your wife doesn’t feed the children enough.” (this after my eldest refused to eat anything for dinner and then announced she was hungry before bedtime. I responded that breakfast would appear right after she woke up and that in the future I recommended she eat dinner with the rest of the family when dinner was served, at dinnertime.) I didn’t even mention that one to my friend- but as the mother of three children born within 5 years and my friend, E., the mother of none, was certainly not my favorite go to source on all matters related to parenthood. Another visit was planned, and picking her up at the train station on the other side of the county she proceeded to tell me that I needed a haircut. Yes, she was an expert on so many things. Next, while shopping she reminded me that she hoped I was saving for the kids' college funds because as a university professor she saw so many kids saddled with debt. As my husband and I were barely making it financially, what with the sky high property taxes, utilities and those extremely necessary additional extras all kids in Westchester seem to require- our savings were indeed more modest that I really liked. Finally, worn out by all the expert insight she bestowed, I asked her to stop giving me advice for which I hadn’t sought her help. She was not happy with me. No, not one bit and she wanted to part ways that instant. No amount of explanation on my part would do.
I then drove her back to the train station from which I had so recently picked her up so she could continue on her merry way. I didn’t speak to her for years until after a recent art opening where we were both in attendance at the post affair dinner. She sat next to my husband as I was blissfully ensconced in the middle of the table surrounded by nice people I didn’t really know. According to my husband, immediately upon settling in her chair she asked him how much we stilled owed on our mortgage. No, you cannot make this stuff up. Yes, the end of her friendship was a terrific loss. (sarcasm intended.)

So, what is the point of this post of mine? It’s not that people are who they are; it’s more that I am not who I once was. Once, I was the pliant, agreeable, take anyone’s s**t sort of gal who strived to stay cordial and kind. Until I couldn’t do it anymore because I wasn’t that person anymore. I didn’t want to be bullied and I didn’t want to tolerate another’s inconsiderate crap. I had changed. Maybe not for the better but that’s my concern. I know it’s a relief to not be prevailed upon anymore by people who clearly care more about their own agenda than they ever respected mine. So, call me what you will. A little lonelier perhaps, but at the end of the day, when I look in the mirror and see the years advance across my mostly intact and aging face, I think I like myself a little bit more. And I wish you all the same.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Unexpected Again

We had torrential rain and winds last week that left a swath of devastation in our region. One could hope for milder temperatures and the chance to recover and repair but instead we were treated to a snowstorm and the "delightful" necessity of cleaning off cars, sticking feet in to boots and digging out coats and gloves. Still, a glance out a window at twilight reveals a snowy landscape and a chance to savor winter weather.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A sigh of relief

I know that there are those who think Obama is doing a terrible job- hate the idea of being told they have to have health insurance, believe gay people should never be allowed to get married and think that a woman shouldn't have the right to choose. I am not one of those people. The idea of Romney and Ryan in charge made me very anxious and so today I breathe more easily. Wishing our President, his staff, our elected officials and all my fellow Americans a better four years to come.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Exquisite Gems in Sleepy Hollow

My neighbor, Robin Koffler makes the most beautiful jewelry and I spent some time yesterday photographing some of her creations in her studio. She is a very talented designer with a wonderful way with gems of all kind. It's always a pleasure to spend time with creative people. Food for the soul.

Parting shots

My husband, our resident pumpkin carver extraordinaire, asked me the other day if I was going to post any images of this year's efforts. In the spirit of happy matrimony and artistic appreciation we spent some quality time together taking these photos the other night. We have moved in to the next whirl of cultural concerns (Election...Veteran's Day.....Thanksgiving.....) but before all the leftover Halloween candy has been consumed, the pumpkins' last remnants torn apart by our many manic squirrels, I wanted to share some spooky moment from our life in the hollow.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Say it isn't so (after the fact)

From the NYTimes:
About $2 billion, or 600 million pounds, of candy are sold in the Halloween season, according to industry figures. That’s just under two pounds for every man, woman and child in the United States.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hot News Item

I guess it was a slow day at Huff Po Celebrity.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Things begin to feel normal. There is milk in the grocery store. The train is running. People are returning to their old routines. It's been an unsettling experience to reflect on our fragile stability- which seems unwavering under ordinary circumstances. Today, I am possessed by the singular desire to call my mother- say hello, see how she and my dad are faring. What they had for dinner. How they are feeling. Unfortunately, my mother has been gone for over 19 years, my father for 7. I can reach out to them in my heart of hearts- and tell them all the things I would like to share. Another reminder to enjoy the good that exists while it is yours to enjoy. Life delivers its own difficulties in a flash, a whim, or a storm.