10/04/11 3:15pm
10/04/2011 3:15 PM

When I was a kid, returning to school in September was either welcome or fraught with a case of the jitters. There was, however, one thing I could make book on: I was invariably assigned to write an essay about what I did or learned during my summer vacation. I’m going to take a cue from the days of yore and tell you what I learned from our beautiful 14-year-old granddaughter, Ariana.

When Ariana visited us in July, she brought not only her bubbly personality, but also an array of pencils, tubs, tubes and other mysterious makeup paraphernalia. (I guess it runs in the family. I’ve been known to lug around an arsenal of anti-aging products while vacationing.)

One afternoon, I sat on the bed and watched as Ariana applied goop to her face and made up her eyes. Lord knows how, but she came off looking completely natural. When I asked Ariana how my makeup looked, she scrutinized my face (a gal of a certain age gets uncomfortable with close-up inspections) and said, “Pretty good, but …”

“But?”

Ariana picked up a brush and began dabbing here and there.

She held up a mirror and asked, “Better?”

I answered with a delighted, “Yes.”

Our trip to the nail salon enlightened me further. I selected my usual sheer pink nail polish, while Ariana was deciding between neon blue and green sparkle. When she suggested I try one of the sparkle polishes, I considered it, but only briefly. I remembered that I was the assigned chalice administrator on Sunday, and green sparkle polish might be a tad distracting to the communicants. Ariana choose the blue and I must say, it looked lovely — on her, that is.

Shopping at Tanger was a mind-boggling experience. We bypassed my favorite haunts and headed straight into the teen clothing stores. Sales associates who looked to be in their ‘tweens showed Ariana the latest fashions. Music was blaring, kids were swarming and the moms looked weary. Oy!

Ariana taught me the nuances of texting. Now I love texting almost as much as talking. But the most fascinating experience, by far, was my Facebook makeover.

I have a lukewarm relationship with Facebook. I keep an account to stay abreast of the local, national and global news, and that’s about it. I find it scary that folks can reshape themselves in the hope of being friended by other users and, similarly, with a mere click we can unfriend someone.

That being said, on the last afternoon of her stay, Ariana showed me how she could alter her Face­book profile picture using Photoshop.

Ariana asked, “Want me to airbrush your picture?”

“Sure.”

I looked over her shoulder and wow! There was a smiling me, looking five years younger. Encouraged, I said, “Ariana, do more.”

“OK, watch this.”

She set to work, and magically erased 10, then 20 years from my picture. Talk about reversing the signs of aging! Meanwhile, Frank, with keys in hand, was waiting to drive Ariana home. I forgot about the picture until …

I started receiving comments about my profile picture. I logged in to Facebook and, sure enough, there, on my profile page, was my retouched picture. One Facebook friend commented, “Ceil, Long Island agrees with you; you’re looking younger.”

I often wonder about the forever-young Hollywood crowd featured in those glossy magazines. I realize they probably look ordinary — wrinkles, bulges and all — until they are airbrushed to the max. Mystery solved.
Well, folks, I’m Facebook challenged and clueless on how to get my original picture back on my profile page. I’ll figure it out eventually, or send Ariana an SOS. For now, I’ll let my picture stand.

The fact that I’m lying to the Facebook community, and myself, is a tad disconcerting, but what the heck. If the Hollywood crowd can get away with it, why not the Riverhead crowd?

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

09/21/11 1:28pm
09/21/2011 1:28 PM

It’s not a happy ending. The last page reveals Borders bookstores nationwide are closing. That, of course, includes the Riverhead store, where, over the years, thousands of North Forkers have browsed and bought.
Seems the chain failed to keep pace with electronic technology. I can relate to that. It takes me 20 minutes to set the microwave clock each and every time the power goes off.

No matter. The story here is books. I’m pleased to say most North Forkers get their very own books from many sources in addition to Borders. On our fork there are several small independent bookstores. They’ve served us well for years. Then there are the other book suppliers, some a bit unconventional, but all geared to keep us turning pages.

For example, I volunteer once a week at a Greenport thrift shop. Clothing, pots and pans, toys — all kinds of stuff, including shelves and shelves of books. Over time I’ve gotten everything from cookbooks (100 ways to prepare meatloaf and still all mine taste the same) to Margaret Truman mysteries, to Thoreau’s “The Maine Woods,” to a biography of Teddy Roosevelt I’m in the middle of right now.

My husband, on the other hand, spreads out catalogs of books on the kitchen table and orders his reading by mail. From one of his favorite catalogs we’ve dozens of books, from aviation history (I like that Glenn Curtiss guy) to steam railroads (Durango & Silverton is tops, I think). Just say that whenever a book catalog arrives in our mailbox, my husband drops from sight for hours.

Out East Marion way there’s a very fine gent, Dr. Bill Emerson, who claims he gets “95 percent of my books at yard sales.” And I’m sure Dr. Bill has a good number of books because he’s a professor at Queens College. A math professor! That’s pretty impressive. It’s possible I’ve seen Dr. Bill at yard sales. But I doubt it. Unless he’s looking for fabric, too. Does he quilt, I wonder.

Now I figure if Dr. Bill buys lots of 30-dollar books for one or two dollars each, that’s a whopping savings each year. Like maybe $28 saved on each book purchased. See how good I am at math? Perhaps Dr. Bill could find me a position in the math department at Queens College.

This next book spot might very well be reserved for readers over the age of 21. Because the “help-yourself-to-a-free-book” rack is just inside Peconic Liquors in Cutchogue. Folks drop by to donate books or select a book and the whole North Fork community benefits.

On a recent afternoon I spent a half-hour browsing through the books and saw quite a variety of titles — from “A History of Western Political Theory” to a few romantic novels by Phyllis A. Whitney to some scary stuff by Stephen King. All these are guaranteed to keep readers in good spirits.

Let’s not forget North Fork libraries. Book sales are frequent and some of our libraries even have their own “bookstore.” You can purchase books, for example, at Southold’s Book Cottage or at Riverhead’s Yellow Barn.
And listen to where Jane Minerva, retired Cutchogue librarian, gets many of her books: The reuse area at the town solid waste facility in Cutchogue. Jane’s home contains packed floor-to-ceiling bookcases. Jane claims she never gets to dust all those books. But she does read them and that’s what counts. Matter of fact, you’ll find bookcases, lamps and comfortable chairs at the reuse area. Everything needed to enjoy a book.

Well, here we are. Electronic reading devices seem to be taking over and we’re told someday a child will ask the incredible question, “Mom, what’s a book?” But for now, let’s not worry. North Forkers will continue to fill their homes with books because they know a book in hand is worth two on a screen.

Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.

05/30/11 12:49pm
05/30/2011 12:49 PM

It’s been a year since Frank had a routine stress test that landed him in the hospital. He underwent quadruple bypass surgery (on our sixth wedding anniversary, no less) and suffered a myriad of health challenges. Nowadays, Frank is ready for an Olympic tryout, and I’ve tendered my resignation as chief of the health police. Folks, it was a stressful and exhausting job.

Once, when Frank fell asleep on the couch, I panicked, shook him awake and screeched, “Don’t you ever do that again!”

Frank groggily asked, “Sleep?”

See what I mean? Last summer was the pits. Time seemed to stand still, yet the rest of the year flew by.

Isn’t time tricky? The American author Henry Van Dyke thinks so, too. He writes, “Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.”

When we were kids, September marked the beginning of a long, tedious school year. Summer felt like it was eons away and, on a kid’s timetable, it was.

Gals, remember prom mania? An eternity, and then some, passed while waiting for our heartthrob to call. Unbeknownst to us, our heartthrob picked up the phone 200 times and put it down 200 times — just waiting for the right time to invite us.

During our early teens, turning 18 was light years away. That magical number held the promise of a driver’s license and freedom. Or so we thought. Then, the hard edges of reality came into play and we joined in life’s waiting game.

Generally, pregnancies last nine months; however, most gals will attest to these truths: It felt like a lifetime before Baby was born. Moreover, the ninth month felt like two lifetimes. And after Baby is born, Mommy, Daddy and Baby are awake at all hours of the night. Those baby-crying sleep-deprived times appeared to last forever.

Then there are the things that brought us to our knees: the death of a loved one, the betrayal of a friend or a divorce. The pain was incessant and we wondered if there would be an end to our suffering.

Conversely, some of us are at a stage in life when time is speeding up. A dear friend recently marked a “big” birthday. She couldn’t believe how much life she’d already lived, and I fully get it.

My kids are grown men, yet Mom-brain still conjures up two little boys. Frank and I just celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary (thankfully, not in the hospital). How can that be?

I’ve always been the proverbial party gal. I’m surprised when the witching hour arrives and it’s time to call it a night; furthermore, I’m more surprised that I’m not tired!

The time spent with my kids, who live on the West Coast, has a dizzying effect — and it’s not just jet lag. One day I’m on a plane heading west, then in a flash, I’m on a plane heading east.

Here are some puzzling observations: When we can’t wait for something, it takes forever; and when we dread something, it knocked on our door yesterday. Doesn’t the gate in the airport seem further away when we’re running late and closer when we’re early? One summer seems to morph into another, though it takes the same 365 days.

And here’s a biggie: Bob Dylan turned 70 on May 24. Jeez! Where did the time go?

To answer my own question, the time didn’t go anywhere; nor does it pass quickly or slowly — it simply passes. I suppose we interpret time through our own lens, and still, everything that happens takes place in the eternal now. Bewildering, huh?

You’d think with all the technical advances, a savvy computer programmer like Mark Zuckerberg, who with some buddies created Facebook, hasn’t fashioned a program that could fast-forward through the hard times and pause the good times.
I’m just sayin’.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

05/04/11 9:23am
05/04/2011 9:23 AM

It was time for a new pair of sneakers. Being an avid walker, I go through a couple of pairs a year. Lately though, buying sneakers has become a tad more complicated.

Until I had a knee issue, my sneaker-buying scenario went something like this: Upon entering a shoe store, I immediately flagged down a sales associate and requested walking sneakers. Within a few minutes, I was usually shown a pair that fit. I paid the bill and bada bing, bada boom, done.
Oh, well. That was then. Back to now.

I did my homework online and headed to a sporting goods store. Upon entering said store, I felt a wave of dizziness. Jeez! Sneakers everywhere. I wandered up and down the aisles until I found the much-touted brand that, according to my research, was the state-of-the-art. Yikes! There was a plethora of boxes neatly stacked on the shelves. To make the choice easier (?), charts were posted next to each style giving the particulars: support, less support, cushioned, toning, flexible, etc. (Way too much information!)

As I was rummaging through my purse for reading glasses, a sales associate wearing a Rugby shirt and — what else?— sneakers asked, “Need help?”

“Definitely.”

He smiled and asked, “What brand of sneakers do you wear?”

My brain flashed to the beat-up pair on my closet floor.

“Not sure.”

His smile faded and he gave me a quizzical look. “Not sure? Well, umm … no problem.”

As he began pulling boxes from the shelves, my mind reached back to a time when I could buy sneakers at the supermarket. They could be found in a bin somewhere between the meat and vegetables. The sales associate broke my reverie by placing several boxes at my feet.

I feigned interest as he carefully pointed out the differences between each sneaker. Following his technical jargon was impossible, and I soon became weary of the whole sneaker thing. Finally, after trying on numerous pairs, I hit upon a pair that felt good.

“These are great,” I said. “I feel like I’m walking on air.”

The sales associate rewarded me with big smile and asked, “Do you need workout clothes?”

I giggled inwardly. My workout clothes consist of Frank’s sweatshirt which, owing to the difference in our heights, is more like a sweat-dress. I usually just put on a pair of worn sweats (my son Jeff’s castoffs), a Yankee baseball cap (mine) and sunglasses. I shun makeup, save for sunscreen. This is quite a departure from the self that I show to the world.

I followed the young man to the clothing section and spotted some outfits that were colorful, to say the least. I threw caution to the wind and purchased a purple outfit, complete with a matching headband.

The next morning, I donned my new gear and applied makeup.

Frank was drinking his coffee and asked, “Where are you going in that, umm, get-up?”

“Walking.”

He gave me a slow once-over and said, “Nobody will recognize you.”

One of the high points of walking is meeting the many friendly folks, cats and dogs — OK, one dog is not so friendly.

That morning, I waved to the regulars, but didn’t receive the usual “Hiya” back. The unfriendly dog, who normally barked on cue when I passed, was silent; the kitty scampered away; and one gal asked, “That you, Ceil?”

Despite not being recognized, there was a newfound bounce in my step. I was convinced that my new sneakers surpassed any others I had ever worn.

I was still on a sneaker high when I returned home and changed into jeans. I picked up my old sneakers from the closet floor and was about to trash them, until I noticed the brand name. I turned them over and examined them very carefully.

The chuckle in my throat turned into a big belly laugh. Lordy, lordy! They were identical to the sneakers I had just bought.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

04/05/11 12:59pm
04/05/2011 12:59 PM

Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” With all due respect to Mr. Franklin, I feel he left out another of life’s certainties: disappointments.

Disappointments are tricky; they don’t come in a one-size-fits-all package. They can feel like a hammer blow to the heart, a kick in the gut or a pervasive sadness. Disappointments are usually ushered into our lives by unmet expectations. This undisciplined twosome pals around together and has the power to make mincemeat out of our emotions.

Back in the day, I worked with a physician who expected his son to follow in his footsteps. The son, a gifted artist, had other dreams. Lordy, lordy! There was enough disappointment floating between father and son to fill Yankee Stadium, twice. The son stood his ground and pursued his dream. When I saw them recently, the physician proudly introduced his son as “the next Picasso.”

I’ve subscribed to the notion that parents should become progressively obsolete; consequently, my sons were encouraged to become self-sufficient. Carving out new lives for themselves, they settled on the West Coast. Ouch! Although I’m incredibly proud of them, having 3,000 miles between us, is not exactly what this mom had in mind.

Dr. Dorothy Tennov coined the term “limerence” to describe the first stage of a romantic love. Research suggests that when we’re in limerence, chemicals are released, giving lovers that crazy head-over-heels feeling of bliss. (Essentially, we’re on a natural high and living in a fantasy world!) We view our love interest through rose-colored glasses and what we see is perfection personified.

Then it’s goodbye to fantasy and hello to reality. Our lover is somewhat imperfect, the rose-colored glasses have become a tad cloudy and the troublesome twosome, expectation and disappointment, enjoys a field day. Nevertheless, at this juncture, limerence can morph into lasting love.

Here’s a commonplace occurrence: We work our tail off for a company, we meet all the required deadlines and, on our own dime, we bring the boss a Starbucks latte every morning. Ready for the punch in the gut? Your buddy in the next cubicle got the coveted promotion and is now occupying an office with a view.

When I was working as a medical practice manger, I had an assistant whose work was top-notch. I was disappointed when she was denied a salary increase due to budget constraints. Shortly afterward, the top brass asked me to invent a job and hire the director’s relative. Oui!

Friendships wane, and most times it’s because we expected something that our friend failed to provide. Even if the issue was trivial, their nonperformance can cause us to feel let down. Alas, it’s the silly, and the not so silly, day-to–day disappointments that can sap the joy from friendships.

Right about now, you may be thinking that expectations are killers — and you’re probably right. Let me pose an interesting conundrum: Should we give up all our expectations in order to forgo disappointment? Or should we set our expectations high and hope for the best? And shouldn’t there be a middle ground between unrealistic expectations and no expectations?

Boiled down, disappointments can be as simple as things we expected to go one way, but go another. And here’s the rub: Even if our expectations are realistic, the folks we expected to deliver are human and, therefore, fallible.

Some folks cope with disappointments by whining (my favorite), crying foul, crying tears, stomping feet, slamming doors, going into lockdown mode. And these strategies may work, but only for a while.  
Eventually, we’re going to have to make peace with the thing that doesn’t bring us peace. Or to put it bluntly, we gotta just get over it.

Ah, me. Then again, the expectation that we can “just get over it,” may be easier said than done!

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

01/03/11 1:13pm
01/03/2011 1:13 PM

Social networking sites offer us the ability to chat with “friends,” meet new people, renew old friendships and effectively control who enters our lives. That being said, I’ve stumbled upon a novel way to meet people.

In November, Frank and I embarked on a 22-hour journey to Portland. Ore. (No kidding!) We landed and took off six times and were grounded at a Chicago airport for seven hours. It was the proverbial trip from hell.
We were on a flight heading into Chicago when the weather conspired against us. This development caused the pilot to circle for an hour. With a sinking heart, I knew we’d missed our connecting flight.

While we were circling above the clouds, Frank continued reading his newspaper and I started to feel uptight. The seatmate on my left began to sigh and look at his watch every 30 seconds. He was clearly annoyed and commented, “I’m going to miss my connecting flight.”

“Tell me about it,” I said.

He continued, “I haven’t seen my daughter in several years. We’re supposed to meet in San Francisco.”
Next thing we knew, a crewmember announced that we were headed into St. Louis to refuel. Frank looked momentarily annoyed. But, in true Frank fashion, his annoyance passed quickly.

Not so for my seatmate or me. He lapsed into a tale about his daughter and former wife. I welcomed the diversion; it kept my own tendencies in check.

We circled the St. Louis airport for an hour, landed, refueled, flew back and landed in Chicago. Much to our dismay, the next flight to Portland wasn’t for another seven hours.

At the airport, we met a lovely couple from Minnesota who were en route to Las Vegas, where they hoped to rendezvous with “Lady Luck.” We chatted until their flight was called.

Our kids were calling frequently; consequently, our cell phone batteries were low. After informing Frank that our phone chargers were in our checked bags, he looked a tad concerned while I was launching into full Ceil mode.

Thank goodness, my launch was aborted. A gal traveling to Disney with her family offered the use of her cell phone charger.

A little lady carrying a huge bag plopped down next to me and sighed. She was 86 years old and visiting with her son who lived in Phoenix. She wondered how long she could continue making this journey. I commiserated with her and, although I’m not an octogenarian, I wondered the very same thing.

Finally, our flight was called and we were on our way to Portland, via Albuquerque, N.M. My seatmate was a “Chatty Cathy” — and opening my book did not deter her; she continued her monologue. Ultimately, Ms. Chatty talked herself to sleep, albeit nodding on my shoulder.

After stopping in Albuquerque, we took off for Portland. When I looked out the window into the dark night, I noticed that my seatmate was quietly weeping. She blew her nose and revealed that she was in route to her mother’s funeral.

We landed in Portland during the wee morning hours. The trip from hell was over.

Funny, I wonder how it all turned out.  Did my first seatmate have a good reunion with his daughter? Did the couple from Minnesota meet “Lady Luck”? Will the 86-year-old mother continue to Phoenix? Was “Chatty Cathy” merely a “Nervous Nellie”? Will the gal whose mother died find peace? Did the gal who loaned us the phone charger have fun at Disney?

I’ll never know. But here’s what I do know: For a brief period, we all shared a small slice of our lives. These friendships, although transitory, were my salvation. I would hate to put Frank, or anyone else, though a full-blown Ceil-like episode.

This year, I’m definitely going to work on becoming more like Frank. Wish me luck! I know firsthand how iffy New Year’s resolutions can be.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.

11/15/10 7:38pm
11/15/2010 7:38 PM

Isn’t it grand to be living in the 21st century? Sure, the world in which we live is chaotic, but consider the numerous positive and revolutionary changes that have influenced humankind.
Anyone who breathes is aware of the proliferation of technological advances that make our lives easier. Likewise, through the judicious application of science, technology, medicine and education, there have been many awe-inspiring improvements in the quality-of-life department.
In October, British scientist Robert Edward was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Medicine for the development of human in vitro fertilization. This breakthrough has helped millions of infertile couples worldwide to become parents. Prior to in vitro fertilization, the only alternative for infertile couples was adoption.
Nowadays the anguish and disappointment that infertile couples endure has been liberally sprinkled with hope. Just think: Millions of wanted babies have been born, who, if not for this advance, would not be here today.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis was once perceived as a death sentence. Folks seldom talked openly about their disease. Adding to their isolation, the word cancer was rarely uttered; instead, cancer was referred to as “the big C.”
Today folks are candid about their illness. Better screening, minimally invasive surgery and advances in medicine have transformed cancer patients into cancer survivors. Many survivors live normal lives, while others view their cancer as a chronic disease. Isolation is optional. Numerous support groups are available to help folks navigate through the scary, uncharted territory of their illness.
The stunning medical advances in the fields of heart disease, vaccine production, geriatric medicine and genetic studies have improved the outlook for millions of people. Every day scientists and doctors are coming up with new methodologies to prevent or reverse the disease process.
Great leaps have been made in other arenas as well. Discrimination and harassment over one’s sexual orientation is plain wrong. Some studies on homosexuality have concluded that our sexual orientation is largely determined at birth. Back then, our gay brothers and sisters didn’t “come out” for fear of losing their jobs and/or families. Homosexuality has become more widely accepted, and why not? Being gay or lesbian is just another way of being.
Remember the kid who always got it wrong, couldn’t sit still or had problems socializing? Kids with learning disabilities were labeled as lazy or stupid. Kids with autism were sometimes institutionalized and — get this — some experts believed that mothers caused their kid’s autism by subconsciously rejecting them. Nowadays, kids with learning disabilities or autism are given a leg up through programs that offer social, physiological and medical support, increasing their ability to develop into productive adults.
We all knew bullies in school. Perhaps you were a victim, the bully or the one who looked the other way. The bully got a slap on the wrist and the victim was told to “man up.”
Tragedy has turned a spotlight on the abusive practices of bullies. Folks, bullying is not only a kid’s problem; adults are responsible for setting the example by showing respect for one another. (Yup, even when someone steals your parking space.) Clearly, most kids will heal outwardly, but the scars left on their souls are another matter.
Women were granted the right to vote a mere 90 years ago. Hard to believe, right? Although this was an important juncture for women, in my humble estimation winning the right to vote was just the tip of the iceberg. After decades of chopping away at discriminatory practices, women have finally broken through the glass ceiling in most male-dominated professions — and we’re still raising families. Who said we couldn’t have it all?
There are scores of advancements that have raised the quality–of-life bar but, alas, my column gets only so much space. But wait — I have room for one more.
Today, couples have the opportunity to become romantic whenever the moment is right. (Ha-ha, I thought you’d like that one!)

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.