December 10, 2008

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Tell me again why I love living in Western New York? Posted by Lorraine (L.L.) Bartlett with her best chum Lorna Barrett Winter has arrived in Western New York. Snow. Howling Winds. And yet, I've vowed not to leave this area. Not to travel to southern climates for winters. To stay put. Forever. I must be out of my friggin' mind! Saturday it was dry and cold. A day later it was snowy and COLD and miserable. And I had to go out in it to run an errand. I HATE WINTER. So why am I going to stay here for the rest of my life? Well, it's home. I guess that really says it all. Mind you, it didn't have to be home. My parents emmigrated to the U.S. before I was born. Of course, their sponsor lived here, so that had a lot of do with why they originally landed here. And the climate here was a lot different from where they came from. (Portsmouth, England.) Still, there was nothing really holding them to this area. Okay, gainful employment may have had a lot to do with that. But really ... WINTER. (Snow, snow--and did I mention SNOW!) Still, there are perks. It's one of the prettiest states in the country. (Okay, it can't hold a candle to Maine, Vermont, and parts of New Hampshire.) It's also got the highest taxes in the country. (Ouch!) It's got cold winters and humid summers. What we don't have: Earthquakes. Wild fires. Tornadoes (at least not often). Hurricanes. Mudslides. (Yea!) Of course, besides my family members (and there aren't that many of us), the other reason I stay here is our family's cottage. I love that place. It's got the most gorgous view in the world (aside from just about all of Scotland), and it's quiet (well, at least when there aren't a lot of jet skis zooming by). It's got swans. It's got geese. It's got ducks. How come we never get sick of watching them? And what about that silly kingfisher who likes to beat a fish to death before he eats it? And the hummingbirds who visit each summer. (And have dogfights.) Of course this time of year, there's no cottage. Well, it's there--but it's a seasonal place. No water. No heat. And remember I mentioned snow up above? Being on the water, it gets about TEN TIMES the amount of snow we get here (and I live about 2 miles from Lake Ontario). According to those who live there year-round, come winter it's like living on the moon. White sky, white world, bitterly cold. But I think about that place, and hot summer nights, when the biting wind howls. I look at the painting my hubby did that hangs over my computer. It keeps me connected to that wonderful place on the coldest, darkest nights (and days) of winter. Thinking about that little house on the water makes me yearn for warmer weather. I start to plan the bean crop I'll plant over Memorial Day Weekend. I think about planting the annuals in the window box (which are actually mounted to the deck, not windows). I think about seeing the two electric palm trees across the bay that delight us every night. I think about our neighbor's dock lights that come on at dusk. (Aah! Two minutes later than last night (in June) and two minutes earlier every night come fall.) Thinking about that little house gives me hope through the long, long winter. I can't wait for spring.
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It's an old Christmas tradition posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken The market is up. The market is down. The automakers are going under. There is no credit to be had. The market is up. Ad infinitum. Every day the news is worse. No, it's getting better. Who knows? But in these unsettling times, there are things we can count on. In our family, it's a variety of Christmas traditions. We can always count on: Stuffed stockings hanging from the mantel. When the girls were little, there were two and maybe one for the dog. Now, we have four adult stockings (they get bigger every year) and one for the cats to share. The formerly pre-dawn open-your-stocking ritual now takes place at a much more civilized hour--embarrassingly close to noon these days. Christmas cards to keep old friends in touch. Sometimes they come electronically, sometimes they come in February, but I savor every one. Kind friends and relatives say they enjoy my annual missive for its humor. That's a good enough review to keep me at it for another year or more. The advent calendar. My daughters are 26 and 32 and still negotiate who will open which window. The church has four services on Christmas Eve, and as the day wears on and I am still wrapping gifts, cooking, whatever, my intent to go to the 5 pm service slides to the 7 pm, the 9 pm, and finally to the 11 pm candlelight service. Some years I even make it. The annual town bazaar. For the past 20 years or so, instead of each organization or church having its own weekend event, everyone sets up their booths at one of the schools for the first Saturday in December. Santa comes, and the Boy Scouts take pictures of the tykes crying on his lap. The Catholic church sells homemade baked beans, the Unitarians are known for their mittens, the Garden Club creates gorgeous decorations. That's the place to be, meeting townies we haven't seen since last year. We used to exclaim about how big their kids had grown, but now it's grandchildren. And every year I have to admit to more people that I know who they are, I really do, but I've forgotten their names. The annual tree lighting on the town common. The light department strings the trees, the high school band plays, Santa comes again, and the adjacent Baptist church serves cocoa. It's often very cold and I have never attended. But it's there--a tradition. The library's staff holiday party, with our famous no-holds-barred, cut-throat Yankee Swap, where the most sought-after gifts range from lottery tickets to weird dancing and singing flamingos. Some of us plan all year for that Swap. Turkey and the trimmings for dinner, even if it's just the four of us. Homemade stuffing and gravy like Mom used to make. Celery and olives. The New England Sisters in Crime holiday party is a new tradition for me this year, a chance to schmooze, have some laughs, try out Jan Brogan's English toffee, Toni Kelner's deviled eggs, and our own Sheila Connolly's red velvet cake. It's also a time to buy books and have them signed, because, as we all know, BOOKS MAKE GREAT GIFTS! How about you? What traditions can you count on?

Lorraine Bartlett

Five women, five weekdays, many surprises.

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