07/27/14 5:00am
07/27/2014 5:00 AM

Lately, I’ve been noticing a shift in my relationship with my sons — actually, they’re starting to get on my last nerve. They mean well, but …

Let me qualify my opening words: Greg and Jeff hold the undisputed title as the “world’s greatest sons.” Both have seen me through the most grindingly difficult challenges of my life. Although they live on the West Coast (only “time away”), we remain a close-knit family. But lately, they’ve become a tad overprotective.  (more…)

04/27/14 6:00am
04/27/2014 6:00 AM

doctors-without-borders

We’re bombarded daily with disturbing news. The newspapers and TV news programs are full of stuff that sends us reeling. We’re slammed with tragic stories about missing planes, mudslides, kids being shot to death for playing loud music and other senseless killings. Home invasions and robberies are commonplace, drugs are rampant and we have a Congress that acts like babies in dirty diapers. Whew!  (more…)

03/03/14 6:00am
03/03/2014 6:00 AM

I arranged to meet my son Greg at the baggage claim area when I landed in San Francisco. While intently searching the conveyer belt for my luggage, I had one eye out for Greg. I spotted my luggage, but was startled by the tall, handsome man who tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Mom!” With a shock of recognition, I threw my arms around Greg and started jumping up and down. (I tend to do that when I’m excited.)

(more…)

06/27/13 1:59pm
06/27/2013 1:59 PM

I write my columns while out walking, mentally, that is. This particular morning I was coming up with zilch. My mom was always good for a column or two. Although she was chronologically 92 years old, her attitude was that of someone half her age. And with Mom, there was always a story to tell. Nothing to tell of late; she died over a year ago.

Of course, there was my “sweet Frank.” He was my straight man and we often played off each other. But alas, he died in April.

Ah, me. I suppose I’m in a funk.

My doctor said that I am doing fine, grieving appropriately and moving forward. Well, maybe so. But forward to where? Does this grief thing have a destination? I feel better for a few days, then grief sneaks up from behind and — gotcha! — I’m in funksville again.

They say that when facing any loss we must get on with our lives. Really? This cliché makes me laugh, even now. If any well-meaning folk would venture to give me this advice, I would blurt, “What the h— do you think I’m doing?”

And the death business is really a business. I don’t know how many times I’ve sent a death certificate to the same agency. I mean, really, dead is dead is dead! I have a missing husband to prove it.

I had a spell last month when my normal weirdness morphed into a full-blown case of eccentricity. Here’s what I did in the span of a few days:

I’m meticulous about my finances (or lack thereof ). When I received an overdraft notice from my bank, Ifreaked out. I remembered transferring funds to cover my bills, except that I didn’t know where the funds went or, worse yet, to whom!

Upon discovering an empty shampoo bottle, I began the blame game (dreadful of me, I know). Turns out that I left the bottle uncapped and the shampoo spilled into the plastic container that holds my hair products. While using a few choice words, I flung the container into the bathtub and began rinsing it. Lordy, lordy! That bathtub produced more bubbles than the Lawrence Welk show.

During a torrential rainstorm, I drove to a friend’s house. Trying to alight from my car, I opened the umbrella inside the car. The umbrella got stuck in an open position and me along with it. Oy!

Lest you think I’m a complainer, many graces have come my way. At first blush, however, they presented in odd packaging. For instance:

I am continually amazed and humbled by the support of my family, extended church family and friends. They sustain me.

And to my readers: Although I don’t know most of you personally, I deeply appreciate your expressions of sympathy and concern. Your cards and notes arrived in my mailbox just when I needed them the most.

Upon receiving the aforementioned overdraft letter, I made a beeline to my bank. The manager was sympathetic, fixed the error, offered cookies and dispensed some sage advice.

My across-the-street neighbors materialize regularly with food, tend to my trash cans and have been there for me in ways that give new meaning to the word “neighbors.” Truthfully, they are more like family.

Quite by chance, I landed a part-time job at a charming assisted-living facility in Cutchogue. I was hired to interact with the residents and engage them in stimulating activities. And bonus! I enjoy it. One can say I was at the right place at the right time. But I know better.

Last week, I heard someone laugh; that someone was me.

While contemplating this column I came across the following passage: “Sometimes you have to just stop worrying, wondering and doubting. Have faith that things will work out, maybe not how you planned, but just how it’s meant to be.”

And what do you know? This column just got written.

Hmm. Grace, definitely!

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

04/21/12 11:00am
04/21/2012 11:00 AM

Believe me, I’m not thinking about leaving the North Fork. For a couple of very good reasons. One is simply that I love the place.

The second reason has to do with something I read in The Suffolk Times a short while back. Now I consider this newspaper pretty objective, certainly not out to create panic. But panicky is how I felt when I read one lady’s suggestions about what I’d have to do if I wanted to sell my house. The lady’s a respected North Fork realtor so her six recommendations could not be taken lightly.

First, the realtor wrote, I’d have to clean my home, clean it thoroughly. Well, my bathrooms and kitchen are really clean but she said I’d have to replace old shades and blinds. You know what? I don’t even have shades or blinds. I do have curtains on the bottoms of my windows. And I do wash those curtains. But sometime it takes a few weeks to get them back up on the windows.

Then I’d have to “spruce up the landscaping.” I guess I could blame most outdoor problems on my husband, but that wouldn’t be fair. It’s my fault there are old, discolored wooden clothespins clipped forlornly to the clothesline. And I’m responsible for the cracked clay flowerpots I left on the deck all winter.

Next, the realtor advised that I “de-clutter” the inside of my home. I’m gonna blame this problem on one of my children. He lives upstate near a pottery shop and he’s always giving me a cup or some unusual-looking piece he thinks I’ll like. Like them? Yes, but where to put them? Oh, and I have a cousin who causes a clutter problem, too. She lives in New Jersey and sends me big floral arrangements. They’re dried flowers and really quite lovely, but they do take up space. When the UPS guy comes to the door with Diana’s flowers, my first thought is, Where am I going to put them? I wonder if the realtor lady would like some for her office.

And listen to this: The realtor said I must try to “de-personalize” my home. Get rid of most of the family pictures because they are a distraction for buyers. I suppose that’s true. But wouldn’t that depend on who those family members were? Imagine if Vince Lombardi were indeed a relative (you can’t know how often I’m asked that) and I had his photo on a wall in my home. And right below the photo, a table supporting a great big trophy. Wow! Folks would be clamoring to buy my North Fork house.

Here’s more advice from the realtor. Use neutral colors when painting inside or out. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more neutral. But I remember earlier times in another home when I painted the kitchen something the color chart called “apricot.” Somehow that house was sold. Also, the realtor’s advice is if you’ve got wallpaper on your walls, remove it. I did that years ago. I struggled to remove a wallpaper border. Even that small effort was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I’ll never remove wallpaper again. Never.

Finally, a suggestion I can comply with. Take pets out of the house when buyers tour the place. That’s easy. I don’t have a pet. Poor cat Toby died a few years ago. His little grave marker is in our garden. And I just won’t remove that.
I have to admit the realtor seems extremely helpful, but one thing she didn’t cover. What should you do with a husband when potential buyers are at the front door? Send him to King Kullen for a box of cookies? Have him putter in the garage and promise to say no more than hello and goodbye? Hoist him up on the roof, where he can pretend to be installing great new neutral-color shingles? Husbands can say things, do things, that may scare off a prospect. Like explaining the dog next door never barks at night. Just all day. Or that your hilly driveway ices up in winter and getting to the mailbox is hazardous. A really helpful realtor has gotta address the husband problem. Until then, I think most North Forkers will never consider selling their homes.

There you have it. The second reason I’ll never sell my house. It will never be thoroughly clean, de-cluttered, picture-free, painted gray inside and out and, I pray fervently, without my husband to mess things up. That’s a North Fork way of life.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

02/04/12 12:00pm
02/04/2012 12:00 PM

Let’s see. Flowers would be good. Perhaps a few red roses. Or perfume. Lots of women enjoy sweet fragrance. Maybe even a piece of jewelry. Although that could be expensive.

The upcoming Valentine’s Day can certainly prove difficult for guys looking to delight a lady. Even clever, sensitive North Fork men may need a little help when it comes to selecting a small gift of love for the women in their lives. You know — moms, wives, daughters, sisters and so on.

If a guy is thinking candy, I have a few suggestions. First off, if choosing candy from a supermarket shelf, our man must be aware of the candy’s name. No matter how good the candy tastes, for a Valentine gift its name has gotta be romantic.

For example, a gift of Snickers or Jelly Belly hardly seems appropriate for a loving wife. And just think, guys, of the distress if your beloved were to open up a gift of Gummi Worms, Sour Patch or Jawbreakers. Milk Duds, Rocky Road or Mounds. Where’s the romance in a box of Airheads or a bag of Nerds? Men, you can’t be too careful.

So if it’s off the shelf, stick with candy bearing a Valentine name. Like Hershey’s Hugs or Kisses. But for something unique, travel the North Fork for candy shops. There are quite a few. Visit them as I did. My goal, of course, was to help you make a winning Valentine gift choice. Obviously I sampled several selections — in this case an occupational hazard.

My first sweet stop was at The Confectionery Corner in Southold. Just open the door and you’ve got romance on the menu. I saw chocolate-covered Heart Peeps, Cupid Candy (pink and red candy corn), chocolate heart lollipops, chocolate-covered cherry hearts. Somehow the chocolate nonpareils, sprinkled red and white for Valentine’s Day, appealed to me. After all, is there any woman who wouldn’t respond when told she is without equal?

Tending store for owner Dawn Powers was Dawn’s mother. From Orient, Mom (and that’s how she wants to be identified) told me Dawn is awaiting the end-of-February birth of her second child. Lucky kids. They’ve a loving, helpful grandma and a mama who owns a candy store. Ah, it’s a tough life on the North Fork!

Now say hello to Fran Liburt, who lives in Orient and travels to Greenport each day to her job at Sweet Indulgences. Fran was happy to show me so many special Valentine candy treats. And so important — these treats had romantic names, names bound to please.

We started off with Conversation Hearts, little candies imprinted with romantic sayings like “I Love You” or “Kiss Me.” If you prefer to do your own talking, the Love and Kisses Lollipops might be just the thing. Or try the Milk Chocolate Presents, little candies each individually gift-wrapped. Now that’s a labor of love. And it’s a labor that won’t be lost on your sweetheart.

There must be something romantic in the air at Love Lane Sweet Shoppe in Mattituck. But more about that in a minute.

Meantime I discovered a number of appropriate candy names at this candy heaven. There were Heartfelts, Strawberry Delights and Wings of Love. And some sweet edibles called Razzles. It’s possible that years ago I had some razzle, maybe even a little dazzle. No more. So a gift of that to a grandmotherly woman might be well received.

Now about what’s in the air. At the Sweet Shoppe I met Ashley Wilsberg, whose mom, Jackie Wilsberg, owns the store. Ashley, a Mattituck High School graduate, has been working at the store for three years.
When I heard that, I asked how she remained so slim with such delightful temptations in front of her each day. “Oh, that’s easy,” Ashley replied. “I’m on a wedding diet.”

That’s right. Ashley will marry a North Fork guy this April and they’ll be living in Laurel. As printed on the Sweet Shoppe business card — How Sweet It Is.

Well, gentlemen, I do indeed hope my sugary meanderings help you win fair lady on this Valentine’s Day. Though I realize most North Fork men, while romantic at times, are more often realistic and practical. If that’s the case, by all means get the candy. But add a little something extra. Like maybe a promissory note offering to wash the windows in the spring. It’s right around the corner.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

01/29/12 12:00pm
01/29/2012 12:00 PM

The soothing harmony of Simon and Garfunkel singing “The Sound of Silence” kept me company during the last leg of my drive home. My monkey brain, usually super-charged, uncharacteristically settled on the word “silence” — temporarily, that is.

I began to reflect on how noisy our world has become. The realization that most folks are inundated with all manner of things that beep or ring was disquieting. Another eye-opener: The only silence I experience is when I’m out walking; even then, I carry my cellphone and Sparky, my trusty recorder. (A thunderbolt of divine inspiration can strike at any moment, you know.)

On impulse, I turned off the radio and drove in silence. It was different, but not unpleasant. Then the thunderbolt: Could I fast from noise for one day? No phone, computer or TV — and me not talking. Seemed doable, or so I thought.

Once home, I scanned my schedule and carved out a day that wouldn’t interfere with my obligations.

When I mentioned my silent day to Frank, he looked concerned and asked, “Feeling OK, Ceil?”

“Yeah, why?”

“The silent thing — before you open your eyes in the morning, you’re talking.”

And he wasn’t the only skeptic.

My son Greg chuckled and said, “Mom, you can’t keep your opinions to yourself!”

Jeff, my younger son, condescendingly asked, “Seen a doctor lately?”

My gal pals clearly thought I’d gone over the edge. However, one friend optimistically said, “Ceil, go for it. At our age, we can be as weird as we want.”

My sister Nancy freaked out, shrieking, “We need to talk daily!”

Fast-forward to S-Day.

7 a.m. I awoke feeling apprehensive.

8 a.m. Coffee sans the online New York Times and this newspaper. Ouch!

10 a.m. Walking on the beach. The antics of the waterfowl were entertaining, the sound of the waves was mesmerizing and the sun reflecting off the water was simply dazzling. Ah, sweet serenity.

Lunchtime. It felt strange not to power up my computer; being devoid of the news was stranger still. I got the jitters. My monkey-brain taunted, “Heading for news-junkie withdrawal, are you? What if something newsworthy is happening?” I broke out in a cold sweat. Goodbye, serenity. I wasn’t making any noise, but the house sure was. The thump-thump of the washing machine, the constant hum of the refrigerator and the clank of the furnace kicking in were ear-splitting. I wondered: Are these the sound of silence?

4 p.m. Doubting Frank arrived home and said, “Jeez! Still at it?”

5 p.m. The phone rang. Frank answered, “Hello … yes, Greg, really!”

6 p.m. Dinner time. Frank seemed uncomfortable, whereas I was trying to suppress a major case of the giggles. After dinner, I retired upstairs; Frank watched the news.

7 p.m. In my study, watching the green light on my computer blinking seductively. I sorely missed my news fix. The phone rang again. Listening hard, I heard snatches of Frank’s conversation. “Nothing, Jeff. I’m surprised, too.”

8 p.m. I drew a hot, aromatic bath and lit some scented candles. The slogan “Calgon, take me away!” popped into my brain. It wasn’t a Calgon product, but it took me away.

9 p.m. Cozy in bed and reading. I rarely go to bed before 11 o’clock, but what else was there to do? The silence was so loud that I heard my heartbeat. “Yikes!” I thought. “What if it stops?” I tried not to fixate on my heart and instead reflected on my day. I concluded it was a mixed bag: I pulled it off, but the day seemed long and a tad boring. I missed too much of what made up my life.

The morning after.

7 a.m. I woke with a sense of relief and started chattering away — yup, even before my eyes opened.

Sweet Frank said, “Welcome back, I’ve missed you.”

“But you always say I talk too much.”

“It’s OK, Ceil, talk away.”

And so I did.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.