Friday, June 7, 2013

my musical career

I am not musical. 

Don't get me wrong...I love listening to music.  I appreciate music.  I just can't make music.

But early on, my parents didn't know this. 

In fourth grade, we were required to sign up for a musical instrument.  I don't know how it was decided that I would learn to play the viola, but that's what I ended up trying to do.  I was excited.  I would get to make music.  I just didn't make beautiful music.  My parents encouraged me to the extent that they signed me up for private lessons with my school instructor at her home.  How painful those lessons must have been for her.  I just didn't get it.  I had absolutely no ear for tuning the instrument or playing it.

The next year I joined junior choir in church.  We sang from the balcony in the large sanctuary and our voices carried out over the pews below.  I tried to sing the same notes as the girl next to me, who had a lovely voice, but my voice kept sliding all over the place and amazingly painful noises came from my throat. 

Years later that same church sanctuary became the Performance Hall at the Hochstein School of Music and Dance.  It has award-winning acoustics.  I wonder how well my voice carried without my knowing it, and how many people who were in church when I "sang" still cringe with the memory.

Fifth grade was also the year that my teacher realized I couldn't see the chalkboard unless my nose was almost touching it.  She told my parents I needed glasses.  I got the glasses and vividly remember being up in the choir balcony and looking down to see my parents beaming up at me.  Before having the glasses, I never knew where they were in the crowd!  My fuzzy world was suddenly crystal clear.

Regular RPO concert subscribers, my parents also thought I should take piano lessons.  They bought a piano, a beautiful Wurlitzer piano.  It had a place of honor in the living room.  I took lessons from a woman down the street who had a flourishing business teaching the neighborhood kids and a few others.  Her business was flourishing; I wasn't.  The lessons continued for many years, but my playing never improved too much.  What frustration for both of us!

After Mom had passed away and Dad moved out of our longtime home, the piano needed a new home.  It came home to me.  Our kids took lessons, doing much better than I ever did. I "played" it occasionally during the year, but really ramped it up to play Christmas carols for the family gathering each year at our house on Christmas Eve.  We all "sang" together, with some of us producing more moaning noises than lilting notes.

With our move to the country 13 years ago, we now host Christmas dinner rather than the Christmas Eve gathering.  My annual piano gig has morphed into our singing a cappella, still somewhat painful when my brother and I are in full voice. And now, with no need for a piano in our home, and our kids not interested in taking it, we have gifted it to our cousin.  It now lives happily at her house, where she has two musical children who will enjoy playing it.

Goodbye, dear friend.  Thanks for the memories.  And goodbye to my never-thriving musical career.  It was painful for all of us.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

a life well lived

Elliott Landsman
February 14, 1920 - May 5, 2013

The world has lost a wonderful man and we have lost a beloved neighbor.

In 1952, my parents bought land on Canandaigua Lake's Seneca Point and built a seasonal cottage.  When we were children, my brothers and I enjoyed spending every summer there.  When we were a bit older, we went off to camp in Canada's Algonquin Park, but returned to Canandaigua Lake, like homing pigeons, at the end of the summer.

In the 70's, the house to our north was sold to Elliott and Dotty Landsman.  The Landsmans lived in Brighton, but came to the lake every summer, enjoying everything this idyllic location had to offer.  Their 3 girls were grown, but also enjoyed coming to the lake when they were able, sometimes from great distances.

Elliott was a self-made businessman, very successful and yet very low key. He gave generously to the commuity.  And as a neighbor, he was generous to our family, always volunteering his ski equipment, life jackets of every size and shape, numerous tools from his well-stocked tool box, and even the use of his boat.

He had a "ski boat", a boat that could pull up any skier.  We had a "boat" that could pull up most skiers, but which didn't have the power to pull up 200+ pound skiers who wanted to start off on one ski, like my brother Tom.  When Tom really wanted to have a fun ski, he would take Elliott up on his always-present offer to ski behind the Landsmans' boat.

But Elliott's special talent was helping children and even those a little older, who had no waterskiing experience, learn how to ski.  He would talk them through it, and even get in the water beside them, if needed.  He was full of good tips and encouragement and never failed  to get a skier up.  Elliott himself waterskiied until he was in his 80's.

Dotty passed away too early, but Elliott found happiness again with his second wife, Debby.  Together Elliott and Debby continued the tradition of being wonderful neighbors and friends.  Just last summer they included our then-six year old grandson at their Friday evening family sabbath dinner.  Q and Aviva, Elliott's great-granddaughter, became fast friends.

Four generations of both families have spent summers side by side for over 30 years.  Sadly, this summer will be different, and Elliott will not be there to cheer on the skiers or the kids jumping on the water trampoline.  But he will not be forgotten and his spirit will always be a part of our family's summer traditions and memories.  Thank you, Elliott, for being part of our family and kudos to you for a life very well lived.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

on the wrong side of the gurney

As many of you know, I am a retired registered nurse. 

After working as a volunteer ambulance EMT and critical care tech for around 15 years, I decided to go back to school to become a nurse.  I couldn't see myself scooping up an MVA victim from the side of the road when I was 50, but I wanted to stay involved in medicine.  My first degree, in Art History, wouldn't be much help in the medical world, but I had worked summers in college as a surgical tech in the OR and my years in emergency medicine would be invaluable.

I graduated from nursing school when I was 40 and was immediately hired to work in the Emergency Department of that same Rochester hospital where I had spent my summers.  Every day in the ED was challenging and rewarding, but my schedule was not family-friendly.  As a part-timer, I was required to work both days of every other weekend, and every other holiday.  Too much of my scheduled time was when I wanted to be with my family.

After six years I decided to look for something new, and almost immediately learned of an opening in the recovery room at a free-standing outpatient surgicenter.  There would be no question of working on weekends or holidays, as the surgicenter was only open Mondays through Fridays.

I applied, was hired, and began working there within weeks.  I couldn't bring myself to give up my emergency nursing just yet, so switched to per diem work at the hospital.  Eventually, the scheduling conflicts became too much, and I resigned from the hospital.

I enjoyed working at the surgicenter on a part-time basis for over 6 years, but then we moved to our current home, about an hour away.  I decided the early morning wake up call and long commute was not going to work for our new lifestyle.  I picked up another per diem job in radiation oncology at the local Canandaigua hospital, which kept me as busy as I wanted to be.  Other volunteer activities were consuming most of my "free" time.  Eventually, it all became too much, and I let my license expire the next time it came up for renewal.  By then I had a full-time non-paying job as president of a women's club in Rochester and was getting ready to open my jewelry gallery, JOOLZ, in downtown Canandaigua. 

It had been a great run and I thoroughly enjoyed working as a nurse.  And while I am no longer licensed, all that nursing knowledge is still in my head.  I am often called upon by friends, neighbors and family to help them sort out medical terminology and conditions. 

And then I was beset by one of my own.

My right knee started acting up while we were in Florida this winter.  A few days before our scheduled departure, I could barely walk due to pain.  I stopped by the local CVS and purchased a folding travel cane.  I called our ortho doc in Rochester and got an appointment to see him 3 weeks after we returned. I also called a family friend, who is an acupuncturist and naturopathic doctor in Canandaigua, to set up an appointment for acupuncture upon my return.  I started taking ibuprofen at night.  I was in pain and not happy.  This wasn't supposed to happen to me; my husband was the one with the bad arthritis.

At my appointment with the ortho doc, I had x-rays and a thorough exam.  He said he thought it was a meniscus tear, as the pain was localized and there was no evidence on the x-rays that there was severe arthritis.  Next up, a right knee arthroscopy.  When and where, I asked.  In 8 days at the same surgicenter where I used to work, he said.  (He has known me since my days in the ED). 

How would I like being on the other side of the gurney at my old stomping ground?  It had been 13 years since I worked there.  Would I know anyone there?  I still see one friend who used to work with me, but I wasn't sure who else was still there. 

It turns out that the current pre-op nurse used to work in the OR when I was there, and the receptionist was also a familiar face.  One of the recovery room nurses started at the surgicenter just as I was leaving, and the holding area nurse who started my IV was the daughter of my sister-in-law's former OB.  In the world of nursing the circles are often overlapping.

The surgery went smoothly and there were no anesthesia surprises. However, the results of the investigation were not what either I or the doctor expected.  There was no meniscus tear, but there was evidence of severe arthritis.  A knee replacement surgery is in my future.  My recovery has been uneventful and after a few days of ice and elevation,

I am now walking around again with a cane.  The pre-op pain, unfortunately, returned once the long-acting local anesthetic wore off.  I am now the proud owner of this:

We're going to try a couple of injections and see if they help.  But I think surgery will be scheduled sometime this year.  What a bummer! 

Guess I'll have yet another opportunity to be the nurse on the wrong side of the gurney.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

april 21 - my annual day of rest

Today, April 21, is my own personal day of rest.  I "celebrate" it every year.

On April 20, 1971, I labored for about 6 hours at the Reese AFB hospital, located just outside Lubbock, Texas.  There were two of us in labor that night, and only one OB available.  The two on-duty nurses, who covered labor and delivery, post partum and the nursery, were busy with the OB caring for the other laboring mom.  Her baby was in a transverse position and the OB was trying to rotate it so she could avoid having a c-section.

I labored on, with Larry at my side, but without any medical oversight for some time.  Eventually, I decided the baby was about to be born and asked Larry to get some help.  He had to poke his head into the delivery room and yell for help.  One of the nurses broke away and came to examine me.  The next words out of her mouth were "pant, don't push...pant, don't push."  Had this woman ever had a baby herself?  When you need to push, you need to push. 

She scurried around, trying to find the stirrups that would convert the labor bed into a make-do delivery table.  No luck.  She phoned the on-call flight surgeon to come in.  This was a doc who took care of the pilots, who probably had not delivered a baby since medical school.  There I was, with my legs pulled up on the bed, no stirrups, and an inexperienced delivery man at the foot of the bed waiting to catch my first baby.  I just pushed and then pushed again.

Out came a beautiful baby girl, weighing 7 pounds, 14 ounces.  Larry had been banished from the "delivery room" by this time (remember, this was 42 years ago) and had taken my glasses with him.  So my first glimpse of my baby was blurry, to say the least.  But I knew she was beautiful, and when I had my glasses on and could see her in focus, I saw I was right.  Margaret Hubbard Schenck was a little blond cherub, and still looked like one four years later:

On April 22, 1977, I was at home having what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions.  I'd had them throughout the pregnancy and while they were slightly uncomfortable, they never amounted to anything.  And this baby was not due for another two weeks.  Marnie had been born on her due date and Peter, who arrived on August 6, 1974, was one day early.  No way was this real labor.

But the contractions continued, so I said to Larry that I thought we should go up to the hospital to get checked out.  When I spoke with the OB on the phone, he said they would examine me and call him to come in, if necessary.  OK with me.  I packed up a small bag and made sure I included my needlepoint.  If this wasn't real labor, I didn't want to be bored.  We called my aunt and uncle to come over and stay with the kids, and off we went to Rochester General Hospital, about a 20 minute car ride away.

The contractions started getting stronger while we were driving, but nothing I couldn't handle.  All the more reason to get checked out.  Larry pulled up to the emergency entrance, they put me in a wheel chair and took me upstairs to the labor floor.  I asked if they would just check me before they went through all the admitting stuff so that we could know whether this was the real deal or not.  The nurse evaluated my contractions and said they were "mildly moderate." Larry was still downstairs parking the car and giving them the admitting info.

In walked Dr. Park, a resident who was not fully versed in the English language.  He examined me as I went through transition and screamed out with a thick accent, "We gonna have a baby, we gonna have a baby!!!"  They then rolled the gurney down to the delivery room at about 65 mph.  I never made it over to the delivery table, my water broke explosively and out came Katherine Taylor Schenck, all 7 pounds, 14 ounces of her.  I had been in the hospital for 10 minutes. Katie was deemed perfect, Larry was still downstairs checking me in and my OB was sitting at home in his Irondequoit living room waiting to see if he was needed at the hospital. Dr. Park was practically attached to the ceiling of the delivery room, he was flying so high. Larry said he would have run a few red lights if he had known Katie was in such a hurry to join the party. Here is cutie pie Katie several months later:

Three babies in 6 years, with the girls being born almost on the same day in April.  That one day in between has become my "day of rest", and each year I think back to their arrivals.  Both of them popped out at exactly the same weight and under less than ideal delivery conditions.  But both of them were happy, healthy babies, and now they have babies of their own.  I hope when their babies are older, they will tell them the story of Nana's Day of Rest.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

springtime sightings

As soon as I exited the Rochester airport yesterday, I knew spring was in the air.

I was waiting at the arrivals' curb for my ride when I saw Big Bird crossing to the ramp garage.  A blur of bright yellow, the color of springtime daffodils, was striding across the access road.  It must be Big Bird!

Too stunned to reach for my camera, I'm unable to post an image for you here, but believe me when I say it was a vision to behold.  On further eye-popping examination, I realized it was not Big Bird but rather an enormous woman wearing skin-tight Big Bird-yellow leggings., topped with a cobalt blue waist-length jacket (no hiding those hips).  She waddled just like Big Bird.  Maybe I'm wrong...maybe it really was Big Bird.

When I got home, I had my second springtime sighting.  The crocus plants by the front door were up and blooming:

Spring is definitely on its way.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

the best was last

For me, reading a slew of books while listening to the waves lap the shore is the very essence of a good vacation on Sanibel.  And while it's been fun to visit with friends, eat out at good restaurants, do a little shopping and attempt to work some real estate magic for next winter, I have absolutely loved my visits to the Sanibel Library and its extensive New Books section.

I visited the library yesterday morning, my last time to pick up some new books before heading home on Saturday.  My friend Wendy, the circulation manager who grew up in Brighton and is the daughter of good friends of my aunt and uncle, always makes excellent book suggestions and yesterday was no different.

She asked...had I read The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman?  No...and I hadn't even heard of it.

I started reading it yesterday afternoon and just finished it.  I loved every minute of it.  Written by a London attorney who grew up in Western Australia, it's the story of a couple who live alone on an island 100 miles off the coast of Australia, where he is the lightkeeper.  One day a boat washes up on shore....

The resulting story draws you in, is beautifully written, and is filled with moral dilemmas.  Kudos to Ms. Stedman for a magnificent first novel.

(a somewhat fuzzy image of the author)

The Light Between Oceans was the 20th book I've read since arriving on Sanibel almost 6 weeks ago.  And certainly the best was last.

Friday, March 29, 2013


Way back in 1976, we moved into our "forever" house on Creekside Lane.  That same summer, our next-door neighbors, Penny and Jim, also moved into their "forever" house.  Little did we know that "forever" meant different things to both of us.

"Forever" to P&J meant until a year later when Kodak shipped them off to Sao Paulo, Brazil.  We were devastated.  Our two kids were the same ages and the girls had gone off to kindergarten together.  Our two-year old boys would play side by side and often together as they lurched through their toddlerhood.  We had found the perfect neighbors and they were leaving us.

Thankfully, they decided to hold on to their house and rented it to a lovely English family who had been sent to Rochester from Rank Xerox. (We even visited them at their home in Ross-on-Wye when we went to England and Scotland in 1981).  But we were holding our breath for P&J to come home.

They did come for a visit about a year later and we were all so glad to see each other.  Penny and I were chatting away on our back porch while the boys were playing quietly in the house.  Soon it seemed that they were too quiet.  We went looking for them and couldn't find them in the house.  Once outside, we saw that Penny's rental car was missing from our driveway...and was on the lawn of the house across the street, with two little grinning boys on the front seat.  The boys had somehow gotten themselves into the car and put the gear shift into neutral.  The slight slope of our driveway gave them enough momentum to roll down the driveway, cross the road and end up on the grassy lawn, missing a huge maple tree by inches.  That was a day Penny and I will remember "forever."

P&J returned to Rochester after what seemed to me was about 10 years, but in reality was only about two and a half.  The kids all grew up together, we added another one, and P&J were Aunt Penny and Uncle Jim to our kids.  Then Jim decided to take an early out from Kodak and they moved to Maryland, after their son graduated from high school.  Once again, we were sad, but we understood the rationale and it was an easier separation; we were older and wiser, I think.  Well, I know we were older... and perhaps wiser.

We visited each other on occasion and then one day we heard that while visiting Florida, P&J had made a somewhat precipitous decision to buy a lot in Lakewood Ranch, near Bradenton, and build their next "forever" house.  They're still there.  Each year during our Sanibel sojourn, Penny and I have met at the Miromar Outlets in Estero for a day of shopping, and more importantly, chatting non-stop to catch up with each other.

This year, we decided to prolong the visit and I went up to Lakewood Ranch for an overnight visit.  What a wonderful time we had: shopping in St. Armand's Circle, where we bumped into a former neighbor who later owned the house across the street where the boys coasted to their stop by the tree; talking non-stop from beginning to end; and finishing up with BROWNIES FOR BREAKFAST!!

What a treat! and what a treat to visit with Penny and Jim.  We had a wonderful time together, telling old stories and showing off pictures of our grandchildren to each other.  We're already planning next year's visit, and will keep our reunions going "forever."  Love you guys!