December 29, 2009

Going Green with a Carpet Sweeper

"What you need is an old fashioned carpet sweeper," my husband told me as he cleared the dishes one evening.

We'd recently purchased a new dining room rug, a brown plaid that complements our mission furniture. We'd never considered that the crumbs that faded into the background of our old Oriental would stand out in high relief on the new dark background.

I vacuumed a few times, but it really was a pain in the back to haul that appliance up and down the stairs. I also tried sweeping, but that didn't work very well. So I'd been trying to ignore the crumbs when my husband made his suggestion.

"Do they even make carpet sweepers anymore?" I thought to myself. "And where in the world do you buy them?"

December 13, 2009

Graham crackers

My mother used to say "you learn something new every day." Now, from the pages of the AARP Bulletin, the new fact for today:

America's first serious health care reformer was Sylvester Graham (1794-1855), the inventor of the Graham Cracker, which is still a nutritious snack.

Reading more about this early health care crusader, I found some of his nutritional theories fairly sound: avoid chemical additives, use only whole-wheat flour and don't eat meat. But Graham also advocated hard mattresses, cold showers, abstinence from alcohol, coffee and tea, and sexual restraint. And the purpose of this was also odd: he hoped to cure lust.

My mother had another saying that's also applicable: "Everything in moderation." A good suggestion.

December 10, 2009

‘Tis the season….for catalog overload

We were out of town for less than a week, but in that short time a full tray of mail accumulated for us at the Larchmont Post Office. All of it, with the exception of the Larchmont Ledger, the Sound and Town and a few holiday cards, was colorful catalogs that we will never peruse.

Over the past few years I’ve made a concerted effort to go paperless. Bank statements and phone bills, credit card statements and department store promotions pop up like clockwork on my computer screen. We’ve let lapse subscriptions to the magazines that, month after month, went from the mailbox to the coffee table to the recycling bin, without ever being read. And we’ve dutifully notified retailers through that we do not want their glossy promotions. (Besides, in this economy, I'm trying to support our local retailers as much as possible.)

November 25, 2009

Over the river...

My parents never went over the river and through the woods.

I never went over the river and through the woods.

My children didn't, and certainly my grandchildren have not.

Nevertheless, the lyrics of the quintessential elementary school Thanksgiving song plays in our heads, the melody rings true in our minds.

November 20, 2009

More fall chores

Just when I think I’ve seen the last of the days when I want to work in the yard, a day like today comes along and all I can think of is being outside in the fresh air. Although I’ve pretty much put the garden to bed – I can’t lift the dahlias until the first hard frost – a walk around the yard usually finds something that needs to be done.

My Montauk daisy is in the corner flower garden. It didn’t do well this year, probably a victim of the miserable winter. I was busy with my vegetable garden in June, so the plant didn’t get the good pruning it needed in June. As a result, the plant turned leggy; instead of a full show of white flowers this fall, the flowers sprawled all over the garden bed and sidewalk, hardly a sight for sore eyes. So rather than leave it for the Spring I took advantage of today’s beautiful weather and took the time to do a hard pruning. (The green tape you see in the photo is on the dahlia stems)

November 19, 2009

The last light of summer

Walking back from town this afternoon I could no longer delude myself. Winter, and its short, dark and cold days, really is just around the corner. And then a spot of bright pink caught my eye, a last dahlia, highlighted against my dark green hedge.

I love dahlias. Of course, like every flower, they have their pluses and minuses, but for as long as this garden has existed they’ve elicited oohs and ahs from folks who walk by. Even this summer, with its overabundance of rain and lack of warmth, the dahlias were the highlight of the late summer garden.

One of the best aspects of the plant: dahlias continue blooming until the first frost. And so, while the rest of my flower garden is dormant and readied for winter, the dahlias continue to put forth their flowers. And so, one single task remains: lifting and storing the dahlia tubers for the winter.

November 7, 2009

Cool weather, continued

Long before I pick the green tomatoes, I bring in all the houseplants that have spent the summer on my front porch, enjoying the rain and humidity of a Larchmont summer. It’s a several-step process: check for bugs, prune and repot if necessary, and then try to find a place in the house for those that have outgrown their original places.
As sad as the process makes me – after all, it means the days are getting short and cold, and it will be months before I can dig in my garden again – I’m always cheered up by my Christmas cactus plants. Sure enough, a few days after being brought inside, the buds appear. Then, within a week, my house is filled with color.

The “Momma” of them all, at least 20 by now, has been repotted twice and pruned back numerous times—but that has never stopped her from putting forth an incredible show. She’s not my favorite – the apricot and white flowers of other varieties are much more to my taste – but who can resist the sight of this plant?

Some years, when it has stayed warm later in the fall, she holds her blooms for Thanksgiving, so more people can see her. But she’s never made it into December, and a quick check of the web explains why.

These plants need cool temperatures and totally dark nights for a few weeks before they bloom – pretty much the conditions of my front porch before I bring them inside. But once inside, where the heat has already kicked on, they believe it’s time to show their colors.

I’ve had some luck getting second and third blooms during the winter on my smaller plants that that have a Southern exposure. Will keep you posted.

November 6, 2009

Green Tomatoes

With the temperature dipping close to the freezing mark this week, I decided it really was time to finish cleaning up the garden. After all, what chance was there that those tomato plants, practically bare of leaves, were producing the energy needed to turn all those green tomatoes red?

In all my years of growing tomatoes, never before did I have such a large stock of green ones left on the vine. A quick Google search confirmed what I suspected: tomatoes need temperatures far warmer than what was forecast for Larchmont.

In past years I’d had only limited success with my end-of-season tomatoes. And since our house is now on a low-fat/nothing fried diet, the fried green tomatoes we’d enjoyed in previous years were out of the question.

The first day I picked only the healthiest looking tomatoes, ones that had few blemishes and were large enough to probably taste pretty good if they ever turned red. Into a paper bag they went. Sure enough, two days later, half were either already red or well on their way. We ate one that night and it did, indeed, plant a sweet kiss of summer as we ate it.

So I took the plunge and brought the rest of them inside. I discarded those that were simply too small or bruised to be of much help, but the rest, ugly as they are, are now in a paper bag on the counter. I suspect a day devoted to making and freezing tomato sauce is in the not very distant future.

October 29, 2009

Recycle batteries?

A few weeks ago we needed the big flashlight we keep handy for when the power goes out and, sure enough, the batteries were dead.
After a quick trip to Foley’s  we were now ready if another Nor’easter comes rolling through town, but what to do with the four D batteries cluttering our countertop?

As a graduate of the Master Composter & Recycler Program, I remembered that Westchester County accepts batteries at its Household Recycling Day events. (The next is Nov. 6 and 7 at Rye Playland). Do I need to hold on to them until then?

Then today’s email from thedailygreen gave me the answer. The alkaline batteries from the flashlight – as well as my digital camera and other household electronics – can actually be tossed with the garbage.

That’s great, but my research has raised yet more questions. Why buy disposable batteries when rechargeable batteries are available?

If you’re looking for guidance, here’s an interesting site.

October 28, 2009

Getting ready for the big game

There may well be a spike in energy consumption at 8 p.m. tonight as televisions all over Larchmont and the greater New York area are turned on to the Yankee-Philly game. How many extra kilowatt hours?

That’s hard to say, but it is definitely more than it was six years ago, the last time the Yankees were in the series. That’s because our new televisions –especially the extra large plasma TVs – are energy hogs, according to a report today in thedailygreen. Some of the bigger, less efficient models consume more electricity than a new refrigerator.

So when you’re tuning in tonight, do the world a favor. Gather around a single set in the house, or take a stool at the Larchmont Tavern, rather than watching the game in privacy. It’s good for the earth, and it’s a lot more fun to cheer with others.

October 20, 2009

The Three R's

In case you’ve not been paying attention, the Three R’s no longer refers to reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. Rather, they’re shorthand for the Three R’s of the environment: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Recycling is now mainstream. Drive the streets of Larchmont before 7 a.m. on Wednesday and virtually every home has the familiar green container for glass, metal and plastic recyclables, and, in homes where newspapers are still a habit, stacks of them along with bags of waste paper.

Now it’s time to make other two – Reduce and Reuse part of everyone’s lexicon.

Tuesday’s New York Times has a front page article on the efforts to reduce the amount of material recycled not – heavens forbid – by adding it to the garbage, but by actually reducing the amount of garbage created. Sound complicated? It really isn’t.

Here’s some quick ways you can reduce the amount of total waste--recycled or put into the garbage—from your home.

October 19, 2009

Halloween in a small town

Walking through the Village this afternoon, my husband and I noticed several storefront windows bore large rectangles formed from green masking tape. Yes, it’s that time again – the time the Village’s young children have an opportunity to display their artistic talents by painting a Halloween-theme picture in their assigned spot.

We moved to Larchmont after my children were way past the age when they’d be included in this activity, but I’ve always loved seeing the pictures.

“I wonder how long they’ve been doing this,” I said to my husband. “Fifty years? Seventy-five?”

We don’t know the answer, but maybe we can find out.

I suspect the painters will be at work this weekend. Stay tuned for photos of some of the best art.

October 12, 2009

Cooking on vacation

For the past several years we've rented a house with friends on Cape Cod, where we have friends among the year-round residents, including some ex-Larchmonters. The week usually flies by in a whirlwind of dinners filled with wonderful food, good wine, and much laughter.

Most everyone in our group is a great cook - the rest love great cooking. So that means when it's "the renters" time to host the crowd, we spend a good deal of time figuring out what to make -- and what we'll need. Over the years we've come to realize that no matter how perfect the house -- and for two years in a row we've rented a great place within a short walk of the Falmouth beach - something's always missing.

The day we pack up I usually empty whatever is in the refrigerator into a small cooler, and also pack a small carton of things from my pantry. But sometimes I overlook some essentials. Then today I happened across Mark Bitten's blog post about what you need to take on vacation. What a great idea! So here's the start of my list: please add as you see fit.

October 9, 2009

Yiskor 5770

Ever since my father died I’ve felt that I can finally put away the old year and embrace the new not at the end of Yom Kippur, but at yiskor, the memorial service held on the last day of Sukkot. This year, more than ever, I need to turn the page to a new year, one filled with life and health, not death and disease. Over the past year, the deaths came relentlessly, month after month, almost too many for us to bear.

Carol, my husband’s first wife.

Jane, the brilliant newspaperwoman with whom we worked and laughed in Houston.

Tommy, who gave so much to the Village of Larchmont and was our regular companion at the LT.

Arnie, our dear friend, who was responsible for so much of my professional success.

Aunt Helen. Brother-in-law Donald. Seth. Chip. Too many funerals. Too many memorial services.

And so, as I turn to embrace the future, I pause, one more time, to think, not about the people we’ve lost, but what they left us.

October 8, 2009

It's been a long time

I know. Bloggers are supposed to blog regularly so that readers have a reason to return. But this summer turned out to be a bit of a bummer....hence, the long absence.

No gory details here, but my husband had triple bypass surgery in August. He is a private person, and would not have wanted daily updates on his condition - nor on my emotions and reactions.

He's still recovering -- it's slow -- but now that it's almost eight weeks since he was first hospitalized, I am beginning to regain my life, step by step. First step, returning to this site.

Hope to see you again, soon.

August 2, 2009

Death's onward march

The news came with alarming rapidity. Three deaths in one week. Three people whose lives have intersected with mine, all taken in just the five days. Add these to the deaths in the past few months of others close to us, and I’m left numb, in shock, in awe of death’s finality.

First, the death of an aunt. At 92, Helen had lived a full life, and so while her death was not a tragedy it still leaves a big hole. Helen was the last of a generation on my father’s side of the family, and her death reminds me yet again, as if I needed a reminder, that I’m no longer part of the next generation.

Friday my brother-in-law, who had been ailing for several years, died. Donald had smoked, drunk and eaten too much when he was younger, and so his sixties were filled with illness and failing health. But 68 is still too young to die, not when your youngest grandchild is still unborn.

July 23, 2009

The Sixties Revisited

From 1972-74 we lived in Philadelphia, Mississippi, which may be why The Help, a first novel by Kathryn Stockett, held me in its grasp for the past 24 hours.

The novel, for those who have not yet heard of it, explores the relationship between black maids and the white women they worked for in the segregated Deep South in the early 1960s. It was an ugly time in our nation’s history and, while the book is set in Mississippi, anyone whose family had a maid will recognize the truth of the narrator’s stories.

Philadelphia was the only place where officers in the Indian Health Service Corps did not wear uniforms. It was ten years after the death of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, and the distrust of anyone wearing a federal uniform was still palpable.

I’m not sure which was worse: being a Yankee or being Jewish, but the combination was deadly. Oh, the folks in Neshoba County were pleasant enough, always adding a “Y’all come and see us sometime” after a pleasant introduction, but you knew darn well that it wasn’t an open invitation to show up on their doorsteps.

So I was particularly grateful when Stanley Dearman, editor of The Neshoba Democrat, hired me to write a “Cook of the Week” column, obituaries, photo captions and other odd assignments that came my way.

July 15, 2009

The dilemma, continued

Last night we were talking with friends who live on the Cape about the landscaping, and told them the landscapers had let a lot of the cuttings fall into the river that is behind the house. She’s a lawyer who is involved in protecting the ocean and waterways of the Cape, and she told us it’s against the law to do this, as the cuttings pollute the river.

So I quit wondering what to do and decided to call the real estate agent. She’s on her way over to take a look and will call the owners of the house, who live in New Jersey, after she’s seen it for herself.

Stay tuned.

July 13, 2009

An ethical dilemma

We’re renting a house in Falmouth at Cape Cod this week, a lovely home that we also rented last year. We love its location a block from the beach and the yard, with beautiful roses, daylilies, hydrangeas and other flowering bushes.

This morning, as I often do when I’m on vacation, I found myself weeding the daylilies. Give me sun and a garden and before I know it I’m unconsciously at work in it. I must have inspired my fellow houseguest, for while I was at the beach, he decided to weed the front. He was doing this when the landscapers arrived to mow the grass, and they got into a conversation about how the bushes were really being overtaken by weeds.

The landscaper got on his phone, and it wasn’t long before another truck, with another crew, arrived. Apparently they realized they better do more than cut the grass. It was time for the annual clean-up.

When I arrived home from the beach they were already hard at work. One of the beautiful rose bushes, which had been covered with flowers, had been shaved. I followed the sound of the electric pruner and found a young man shaving a yew. It was clear he didn’t know the first thing about bushes, pruning or how to garden, but he sure did love the power of that pruner.
So, here's the dilemma. I’m not the owner of the house and don't really have the right to tell these gardeners what to do. But then again, I was pretty sure the owners would be upset to see what was happening.
Should i have done something to stop the massacre of the bushes? And if so, what? The photos here tell but a part of the story.

Your thoughts?

July 10, 2009

First fruits

June’s rain is finally over, but it has left its toll on the garden.

Last year by this time the lettuce was long gone and we were eating tomatoes cucumbers for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This July 10 we’re still harvesting lettuce hand over fist, and the rest of the garden is a month behind.

But hope springs eternal, and we have a cucumber, ready to pick for tomorrow’s breakfast.

July 8, 2009

Dying with dignity

When I tell people I’m seriously considering becoming a hospice volunteer the reaction ranges from bewilderment to outright disbelief. Most people try to change the topic but a few good friends have asked me why trying to fathom what is behind what they think is a strange if not morbid idea.

Filling out the application for

I also spent a great deal of my career working in and with hospitals and have been dismayed frequently by the aggressive treatment the critically ill elderly patients receive.

July 2, 2009

Shredding as a community service

My mother used to say “You learn something new every day,” and today’s Wall Street Journal proves her wisdom, yet again.

A Town That Shreds Together” chronicles the latest community building activity: bringing a shredder to town so residents can safely dispose of their financial records, tax statements and other paper that should stay out of the hands of identity thieves.

And, as there’s usually a line at these events, shredding can take on the atmosphere of a community fair. Often the shredding us an opportunity to raise funds for a local charity, but the more lasting byproduct may well be the friendships and community ties that result as folks talk to their neighbors, get to know their dogs and children, and chat about local affairs.

Westchester County owns two shredding trucks which they will bring to any municipality that wants to sponsor a shredding day for household paper. While Larchmont and Mamaroneck haven’t scheduled such a day, the trucks will be at several locations throughout the county over the next few months, including Harrison on Sunday, July 19, and New Rochelle on Saturday, September 5. (See the full schedule online)

So do yourself and the environment a favor. Pull out those old tax records, bank statements, credit card bills and other papers that are overflowing your files and filling boxes in the attic, and dispose of them safely. You might even make a new friend while your online.

June 29, 2009

An egret, close and personal

Taking advantage of the sun’s rare appearance this June, I stole away for a two-hour break at Manor Beach today. Looking up from my book, The White Tiger, I realized a white egret (are there any other colors?) was also enjoying Mother Nature’s gift of a summer afternoon.

Living so close to the city, too many of us lose touch with the wildlife around us. We squat at mosquitoes, curse the rabbits that eat our lettuce, close the windows when the skunks appear in the neighborhood, and bemoan the geese that decide to rest at our parks.

But there it was. An egret, taking a leisurely stroll in the Long Island Sound’s shallow waters. The king of the water….all alone.

June 28, 2009

Kudos to the New York Times

Ever since I learned that the plastic bags that protect our morning papers are recyclable and I started stuffing them into one of my recyclable grocery bags, I’ve been amazed at how quickly they accumulate. The amount of plastic diverted from the waste stream from just our small household probably measures a cubic foot a week – if not more.

Checking online I quickly learned that newspaper bags are just the tip of the iceberg. Zip lock bags and bread bags; dry cleaning bags and the wrap on toilet paper; grocery bags and cereal box liners – all are recyclable and should be brought back to Stop and Shop, CVS or other large retailers.

While it’s been the law to recycle these bags for more than a year, far too many folks are now aware of the regulation.

So thank you, New York Times, for publicizing it on the bags themselves. And let's hope The Wall Street Journal, the Journal News, and all the other papers that hit our doorsteps, take the hint.

For those who need more information on where to take your bags, please check the online directory.

June 26, 2009

What's wrong with this picture?

Football and Godliness can play on the same team, according to a story in this morning’s New York Times about home schooling, but academics seems to have been lost in the scrimmage.

“It’s fun to be in a Christian environment,” said one player of the league, in which coaches sign a code of conduct forbidding tobacco products and cursing. As Coach Scott Dorsey told The Times, “This is a ministry opportunity around football” in which he can teach the boys to lead a Christ-centered life.

Coach Roger McDaniel gives the players minisermons at each game. His priorities, according to a sign posted on the football field fence, God and Family are No. 1 & 2 priorities for his players, followed by “Acedemics” and “Atheletics.”

I hope someone other than the coach is worrying about the 3 R’s.

June 20, 2009

Hey Yankees, why not take a tip from the airlines?

The Wall Street Journal reports that as seats get smaller, airlines are increasingly trying to force “passengers of size” to buy an extra seat when they fly. They’re reacting to the complaints of frequent travelers, who find the seats they paid for are too often encroached on by overweight passengers.

The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance agrees that the airlines have the right to charge extra. As a spokesperson said, “We’re willing to pay for what we are rightfully using.”

But the confined space of an airplane cabin is not the only place where excess inches can cause problems for people who paid hard-earned dollars for a seat – a seat that is designated and cannot be changed.

Take Yankee Stadium.

We’ve had the Sunday mini-series for close to 15 years and made the move to the new stadium across the street with some trepidation. After all, our seats at the old stadium were perfect, Sec. 612, just off home plate, surrounded by fellow season ticket holders who had become good friends over the years.

Leaving aside the problems of where we were offered seats, we’re now getting used to the new stadium. It is beautiful. We love the wide passageways, the many bathrooms and the elevators. So, even though we’re in the nosebleed section, we wouldn’t mind our seats, were it not for our neighbor.

We occupy the second and third seats from aisle. And the person who has the seat on the aisle is big. Large. Overweight. Or, as The Journal puts it, oversized. He also brings to each game a big plastic bag filled with supplies. Sandwiches. Chips. T-shirts. A sweatshirt. A jacket. Even a blanket.

All of which takes up all the space under and in front of his seat.

My husband keeps thinking they guy won’t be at every game. But he’s a diehard

Yankee fan, sure to outlast us. I think we should ask George for different seats. And the Yankees need to take a tip from the airlines: make the guy buy a double.

June 12, 2009

Taming the Vine

Years ago a landscape artist suggested we plant a wisteria along the fence of the patio. “It will grow along the top of the fence and make a beautiful border,” she told me convincingly.

My parent’s house in South Orange, NJ, had a beautiful wisteria that climbed a back corner, past the dining room windows to my sister’s bedroom on the second floor. I envied her the sight of the purple blossoms that crowded the windows on both sides in early spring, envied her, that is, until the bees arrived. So I was skeptical of the vision.

The landscape artist soothed my worries, saying, “we’ll plant a white wisteria,” as though that made all the difference in the world.

For the first three years or so, the wisteria did nothing. It stood, about three feet tall, putting forth a few leaves—just enough to let me know it was still alive. I now realize it was putting all its energy into the ground, building a root system and fooling me into complacency. Then one spring I was ecstatic to see the first blossoms appear. I should have realized I was in for trouble as the tentative buds opened, a beautiful pale lilac in color.

That first summer the wisteria behaved. I could easily control the few vines that appeared, weaving them into the openings in the fence. How would I know that the wisteria was preparing for battle, waking its sleeping DNA and ordering it into formation.

Sure enough, next summer those compliant vines started to resist my plans. Saturday morning I’d pull down a slender light green tendril that was trying to point skyward. Sunday afternoon I’d check and find it was now as thick as a No. 2 pencil. By the following weekend, the soft green vine had turned brown, and I needed my Felco clippers to tame it.

So I devised a new plan. I’d let the wisteria grow up upon itself and I would prune an outdoor room under its branches. Anything less than five feet from the ground was destined for the compost pile while I wove new tendrils reaching for the sky around the wood vines of the year before. The next summer a lounge chair fit under the wisteria and a cool respite for a hot summer afternoon had been created.

And then she broke out in all her glory.

The roots that had been spreading unseen and unchecked for years started creating shoots. Shoots in the euonymus, between the patio bricks, in the grass and under the driveway. And above my patio’s green roof the tendrils shot forth without challenge. They grabbed the gutter and the rain pipe and threatened to tear slates off the roof; they reached out to my neighbor’s house, twining around the car antenna and licking the windows of their second floor bedroom. She was out of control and uncontrollable.

So there I was, my first week of retirement, on top of a ladder wrestling my nemesis. Saw in hand I hacked through vines two inches in diameter; using clippers I sheared mercilessly. I was ruthless and determined, once and for all, to bring this vine under control.

Pulling on the vines, trying to get them off the juniper, I gave a big tug. Nothing happened. So I took a step down, thinking the additional distance would give me greater power. Another tug. And again, no success. So I thought, okay, down one more step and I‘ll surely prevail.

And then it happened. Stepping down, I missed my mark and fell flat on my back on the hard gravel driveway. Stunned, I thought for a flash that I must be paralyzed, but then the pain set in, deep throbbing pain.

And so now, two painful weeks later, I’m facing reality on two fronts. First, I’m beginning to see that I may need to kill the wisteria if I’m going to live to enjoy my garden. And second, my body is telling me it may be already too late.

June 5, 2009

Finding Community

At a Catholic funeral Mass today for a man who gave so much to the Village of Larchmont community as a member and chief of its volunteer fire department, the priest based his homily on a passage from Luke: "Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it."

His message, as it related to Tommy Connell,was that Tommy often risked his life to save others. "Tommy was a giver," the priest said. Tommy gave to the community, he gave to his family, he gave love and he gave hope.

As hard as it may have been to swallow the message of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven, the priest's message that "we don't have enough givers" rang true. What, after all, is a life devoted to tikun olam about, if it isn't about the message that we need to live our lives involved in the world and not separate from it?

I came to know Tommy about ten years ago, after he'd retired from work and was no longer actively fighting fires. He was a regular at the
Larchmont Tavern, where my husband and I often meet to discuss issues over a glass of wine or a cool brew. On Tuesday, the day he died, a glass of white wine sat in front of the stool he always occupied, first in from the door. And the stool was vacant, a silent tribute to a man who enchanted everyone he happened to meet.

The fire department gave Tommy a moving tribute: in place of a hearse, his casket was carried on a fire engine; it was carried into the church to the mournful sound of bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace." The firefighters, volunteer and paid alike, lined the entrance in silent attention to a man who had fought beside them for many decades.

It was a stark contrast to the funerals - far too many of them, to be sure - I've been attending lately at my Reform synagogue. It was, after all, a Mass, at which everyone save my husband, me and a handful of others scattered around the church, took communion and celebrated that Jesus had died, not just for Tommy's soul, but for theirs as well.

And yet.... The sense of community in the church was powerful; the number of people who came because Tommy had, in one way or another, had an impact on them, inspiring. And I realized that this, after all, is the primary function of religion: to help us find a community in which we belong, a place that loves us and accepts us, cares for us and, ultimately mourns us. Catholic or Protestant, Jewish or Muslim, we all need community.

June 1, 2009

The green thumb lives on...

Through LinkedIn I reconnected with a woman I worked with when we were at Howard Rubenstein Associates. It made me wonder whether my green thumb can be catching. She writes:

"I have to tell gave me a little houseplant when I worked for you, and it is still alive 18 years later. My mom takes care of it now (or else it would definitely died by my hands), but I think of you every time I see it."

Not bad!

May 22, 2009

A Fresh Start

This morning I see the tender plants that I worried would not survive a recent cold snap are thriving. The beets and lettuce are now more than an inch high; the cucumbers are pushing out new leaves; the hybrid tomato plants that I put in seem to be setting roots; and the peas and beans are close to 10 inches tall.

It is mornings like this that make me feel "all's right with the world." God's world, dormant all winter, is alive and once again giving us hope and a belief in renewal.

This Spring I appreciate it more than ever, however, as I, too, am about to begin a fresh start. Next week I leave the Union for Reform Judaism where, for almost 15 years, my vocation and my avocation were seamlessly entwined.

As best as I can tell, it was Alexander Graham Bell who said, "When one door closes, another opens." The quote continues, "but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us."

I'm thankful that is not the case for me. The open door before me is filled with possibilities, and I'm rushing toward it with optimism and hope.

For the past year I've been an occasional poster on the Reform website as "Gardening Grandma." Now I have the chance to spend more time in the garden and less in front of a computer screen.

On Thursday, May 28, I'll close the door at the Union behind me, but on Monday, June 1, I'll walk through the open door at the Sheldrake Environmental Center when I start a class in Master Composting. As part of the course, I'll not only improve my own garden, but I'll be trained to teach others about composting and recycling.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes.