December 2021

Kerri took this photo of my outfit matching my Summer Blue shutters. It’s summer all year round now!

Dear Friends,

I love you!

Happy month of December!

Thanksgiving Day landed on the 25th of November, exactly one month from Christmas Day. Because I chose to celebrate my birthday every day this past month, I was able to extend joyful moments. One of the truths I’ve learned is the importance of living fully each moment. All are equally important.

Before you and I envision the magic of the holiday season, let’s take a deep breath, pause, and be together. I long to be present. I want us to absorb all the quiet beauty and wonder right this moment. As Claude Monet understood so well, together we will see better. Just as living takes time, seeing takes time.

I’ve experienced elevated states of consciousness in November that have reinforced my philosophy. The main reason I’m enjoying this awakening is my awareness of the loving-kindness of family and friends. I knew I had wonderfully happy invitations to look forward to, but I never could have imagined the depth of the “I-Thou” feeling of pure love. As much as I love presents, the pure pleasure of being face-to-face, hug-to-hug, kiss-to-kiss with people I most care about was deeply moving, all due to their giving me the gift of their time and their being present.

My cane is my constant companion—what a relief! (And it’s color coordinated!)

I was an empty vessel, waiting to be full. I never could have anticipated the powerful force of genuine love between so many people I’ve been reunited with since the isolation that separated us during the lockdown.

My birthday provided opportunities to be festive and create lasting memories. I’d planned a few celebrations I most wanted to share with my daughters and granddaughters. But we all know how many circumstances are out of our control. The higher our “E”—our expectations—the greater chance for disappointment. My habit is to do my best and leave the rest. What’s in my hands is my ability to make the best of it, whatever happens beyond my control.

Young people have a tendency to always be in a rush. Older people have learned from experience that rushing takes the tender poignance from the quality of the moment. Every moment has a sacred quality. Because we know there is less time left being alive, able to sing, dance, laugh and listen, when we gain some wisdom, we savor each and every pleasure as it unfolds. Older people, when they become good at being human, have accumulated enough experiences that have taught them crucial life lessons about their true, essential nature.

Amy gave me this Chanel No. 5 perfume and soap for my birthday. Peter always gave me Chanel.

I’m always ready to relate on a deeply personal basis. When you and I value something of great meaning, we listen, we hear, and we respond appropriately. All of November was a blossoming of relationships, a flowering of beauty, the truth about love, the reality of my sustaining happiness that is intertwined with yours.

Because I am not plugged into social media, friends connect with me by telephone, letters or packages. I love to see people for coffee, tea, brunch or dinner. I’m going back to the theater—vaccinated, boosted and masked. While I’m acutely aware that the pandemic is still here, rearing her ugly head, I’m living my life to the fullest while taking all necessary precautions to stay safe and healthy.

Peter is about to be kissed! Memories of joy.

Rather than giving pleasure to others, I was constantly on the receiving end of thoughtfulness. “It’s better to give than to receive” is wise advice, but we also have to learn to let people reach out to us in their own loving ways. Give and take keeps us balanced and grounded. There are times when we are receptive to soak in all the love that’s out there. Bring it on! Come on in. Let’s party.

Some of the most fun moments happened spontaneously, reminding us of all the beautiful opportunities that are around every corner, every open door, each fresh awareness. Whenever we simply show up, we will be “surprised by joy.”

My indoor garden brings me joy.

I announced my birthday in my daily meditation book, Grace Notes. That was over 30 years ago! On my birthday, Brooke arrived with two large silver balloons that said “80”! That did it. I turned 80. Being the actual day I was born 80 years ago somehow felt different than the buildup. In so many ways I went from being a teenager to a woman experiencing the gifts of longevity. There seems to be an invisible thread linking together all the enthusiasm of my youth with my exuberance today. I feel more playful, I laugh out loud and love being silly.

I am the same “Sandie” (a nickname Peter discouraged friends from using) that I was, still loving the same pleasures of beauty in all things.

Tuesday, November 30, I am having surgery for a severely blocked carotid artery in my neck. Both my daughters will be here to aid my speedy recovery. By the time you read this message, my operation will be completed. This last day of November 2021 will be my greatest gift because I will gain a natural flow of blood going to my brain. I have complete trust in my heart doctor and the surgeon, feeling overwhelmingly blessed and humble.

Kathy, thank you for your rainbow. I’m somewhere over the rainbow!

We never know. Hearts have family histories. I’m an avid believer in science, thrilled to have great care. I’m embracing undergoing this procedure, knowing I will bounce back soon and feel confident that my heart and mind have fresh, renewed connections!

[Note from Elissa: Alexandra’s operation went well! Brooke called me while Alexandra was in the recovery room, and she said her mother will stay at the hospital overnight for monitoring. We are all optimistic—Alexandra most of all—that she will make a quick recovery!]

The day I received a call from the surgeon’s office manager who coordinates the operation, I read a timely article on the Opinion page of The New York Times by Sarah Wildman titled “Self-Sufficiency Is Overrated.” Having spent most of the month being “loved up” by family, friends and neighbors, I was already feeling leaf-like, sentimental and emotionally vulnerable as I realized how much love I’ve been privileged to share.

Marla sent me this stack of boxes of chocolate for my birthday.

I’ve definitely been on the receiving end of the tangible acts of kindness during my month of celebrating. I’ve sat like a princess, smiling and purring as I soaked in all the warm, genuine affection. I know intimately that we’re happiest when we live to the hilt and find ways to serve others. My anticipation of healing reinforces my respect and admiration for all those professionals who will make my healing possible. These trained, skilled, compassionate individuals who are dedicated to healing give me hope, faith and heart as I put my trust in their hands.

Sarah Wildman’s article reiterated what I have been experiencing from loved ones: unconditional tenderness, sensitive thoughtfulness, concern for my happiness, my well-being. She learned “how much more human” she felt when she accepted the kindness of others. “Becoming open again to the generosity of others offers a fresh way to see the world,” she wrote. “Small kindnesses from friends and strangers suddenly feel outsize in their humanity.”

Marshelle took this photo at Enders Island. I’m so happy you went to Enders Island on your anniversary!

As all this love flows, joining us in all that is true, good and beautiful, we are two made one in loving energy. Your thoughts are linked to mine. We’re able to communicate beyond words, as beloved dogs and pets teach us. “It’s all good” when we’re open to the miracle of being alive. Think how a smile, a wink, a hug comforts and confirms our oneness.

I feel lifted up on angels’ wings. All is well. I will be well. I ask you to smile, light a candle. Ring a bell, and use all your energy in the most positive ways. I’m strengthened by pure love as I go into surgery. Beauty will play a big part of my healing; you are beautiful and shine brightly in my heart.

This is my last post for 2021. What we think, feel and do now will set the stage for our fresh new beginning on January first. What I’ve experienced every sacred day of November is the gift of being present. Sometimes all we want is a shoulder to lean on, a friend to be with us, to remind us what brings our lives their greatest meaning.

Grace, dear friend, my glass is more than half full because of you!

Living is a vital process that has no beginning, no ending. Now that we’re all here, together, on this wondrous journey, let’s sing, kick up our heels and be joyful. Let the music of the season increase our gratitude for all our countless blessings. Just as we have to “love up” our home so it reflects the beauty we feel in our hearts, we have to keep replenishing our own interior, invisible world with all the things that increase our love of life. My artist friend Grace gave me a small painting of a bonbon and a tall glass of water. Let’s remember to always keep the glass half full. We replenish it with positive, loving thoughts, affirmations, inspirational prose written by thinkers we admire and want to emulate. Choose the beauty that uplifts the spirit. Take time to reach for the experiences that transport you.

Before I leap into December, I want to summarize some of the most transporting memories of my 80th birthday month.

Mary gave me this lovely Lalique birdbath to display my blossoms and sometimes bonbons.

  • Having my daughter and granddaughter here.
  • Having a private screening of Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant at Lynn and George’s secret movie theater with my family.
  • Celebrating my birthday with Brooke for lunch, and with Brooke, Cooper and Tony for dinner.
  • Sandy and Mary’s birthday party on the terrace overlooking the Mystic River at S&P Oyster.
  • Maggie’s magnificent birthday brunch with all the most comforting, yummy treats she baked and cooked in my honor. Doug and Regan, at table, an intimate afternoon of thoughtful conversation, a reunion that touched our hearts.

Photo of me at the Sam Waterston gala taken by my friend Olivia.

  • Going to “A Grand Night for Singing” at the Goodspeed, a celebration of Rodgers & Hammerstein. There were 32 musical numbers from musicals I’ve seen and loved—The King and I (“Hello Young Lovers,” “We Kiss in a Shadow,” “Something Wonderful,” “Shall We Dance?”), Oklahoma, South Pacific, Flower Drum Song, Carousel. Pure joy.
  • Watching Cary Grant on Turner Classic Movies whenever Norma told me to tune in.
  • Going to the Kate—the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center—with my friend Doug, honoring Sam Waterston at a gala where he received the Spirit of Katharine Hepburn Award. Going backstage, thanks to Ann, to see Sam before the performance. I was matron of honor at Sam’s wedding to my sister Barbara. They have a son, an actor, James.
  • Going to It’s a Wonderful Life at the Gamm Theatre in Warwick, Rhode Island, singing Christmas carols with the cast, soaking in the sentimental truths this season brings out in us. Carolyn sent me a Thanksgiving card with a quote: “Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” I know it’s a wonderful life!

Thanksgiving dinner with Cheryl and David at Ella’s restaurant.

  • Having Thanksgiving breakfast with Brooke, Cooper and Tony at the Shipwright’s Daughter; having dinner with my dear friends Cheryl and David.
  • Then on to the Mystic boat festival of Christmas lights and a marvelous dinner at S&P Oyster restaurant, with a spectacular view of the colorful moving display on the Mystic River and a festive feast prepared by Edgar, the chef.
  • Having Alexandra arrive the day before surgery.

In closing, I wish each of you a most meaningful and merry Christmas and a season of holiday celebrations with your favorite traditions and rituals among people you love.

Love & Live Happy,

Brooke gave me these giant "80" balloons for my birthday!

“The secret of happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles.” —William Penn (A hand-delivered gift brought over when Charlie came for tea.)

The inside of this card reads: “Hoping your birthday is a To-Do list of JOY!” My favorite birthday card, from Stephanie. Love you!