A Monster Calls

Written by Patrick Ness and beautifully illustrated by Jim Kay, A Monster Calls, relates the story of young Conor, a boy in England living in denial about his divorced mother’s health prognosis.  At night Conor is subjected to a recurring nightmare of such horror that he cannot even verbalize the events he witnesses, while during the day he is repeatedly the target of the school bully’s attentions, a situation which he initially does nothing to address.

He begins to be, amazingly enough, visited by a monstrous yew tree.  While he is initially fearful of this beast that leaves berries and spiky tree leaves in his wake as evidence of his presence, Conor’s waking reality is far more frightening.  The nocturnal visits by the beast are ultimately the only time that Conor feels “seen” and he anticipates the monster’s call along with the stories he shares.  As the novel progresses, Conor must learn to accept the questionable manner in which life doles out rewards and punishments, as well as find a way to once again feel present.

This book broke my heart.  Of course, the parallels between the divorced mom and her (far more devastating) cancer battle struck a chord with me, but it was the thought of that child’s anguish and grief which absolutely wrenched me.  I’m sure every parent in the universe shies away from exploring the thought of prematurely leaving their child(ren), but this book makes that sort of avoidance impossible.

Answering the monster’s call will most certainly ring a bell.  Read it.

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Filed under Books, Boys, Recommendations

Squirrelly girlies

imageLast Sunday, while most of you were probably still snug in your jammies sipping coffee, the Lunar B*tches reunited in a parking lot up at Thacher. It was grey and wet and chilly, but the festive and costume-clad crowd pumped us up for our 6 mile trail run, the Squirrelly Six. I was glad that I had gone with 3 layers of varying thickness, along with gloves and a hat. The dampness was bone chilling and while the rain wasn’t constant, it was cold.

We hit the path at 9:35, due to a slight delay to accommodate those waiting in line for restroom facilities, and spent the next approximately 70 minutes dodging puddles and chainsaw wielding werewolves. The course isn’t made for breaking personal records, with bottlenecks and a couple of daunting hills, but it is made for fun. Because of the soggy conditions, caution was required when navigating the rocky, tree root-ridden paths covered in wet leaves. It was slippery and the downhill portions were the ones which I found to be most dangerous – and where I witnessed a runner go down, fortunately without injury.

This was the 10th year for this event and I definitely see myself continuing to participate in this uber fun race. Despite the weather and trail hazards, it was a beautiful run with lots of leaves still clinging to their branches. This year’s shirt may be the best one I’ve ever received – a bonus second only to hitting the trail with my favorite running girls.

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Filed under Events, Exercise, favorites, friends, Local, running, sunday, upstate New York

The multiculturalism of crepes

DSC_0002My youngest son goes to a magnet elementary school in our neighborhood. The latter fact is more the reason he attends that particular school than the arts and humanities centered curriculum, but we do enjoy many of the activities based upon the school’s theme.

This week the school community’s marked their Third Annual Multicultural Celebration. My son came home very excitedly to share that his class would be representing France. After a visit from a French college student, he was obsessed by the thought of making crepes as our contribution to the event. The sound of his voice repeatedly saying “crepe” in an attempted French accent, convinced me that this was an idee fixe that deserved to be indulged.

After a tedious remarkable number of suggestions from my 9 y/o with regards to how to make crepes (the batter must be made the night before cooking, beer is a necessary ingredient…), I located a reasonably simple recipe on Epicurious. Late Wednesday night, after closing the Wine Bar, I stirred up a triple batch of the recipe and went to sleep with a clear plan – and conscience.

After school, I hit up the store for a medium sized jar of Nutella and, upon arriving home, immediately got busy heating up two nonstick sauté pans. I brushed the hot pans with melted butter and got into the rhythm of working two pans, while also peeling and chopping a few apples to cook with brown sugar and cinnamon for an alternate filling.image

The process was satisfyingly quick. In barely an hour, I had approximately 40 filled crepes, divided into two dishes with about twice as many Nutella ones than apple. I dusted the crepes with powdered sugar and we were on our way.

The event (and the crepes) was fantastic. The number of nations represented on the incredibly laden tables was mirrored by the audience in the multifunction room. The smells and flavors were rich in a way completely unrelated to any world currency. It was positively heady. I am so lucky to live in a city where my children have the opportunity to attend school with such a culturally diverse population. C’est magnifique!DSC_0004

 

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Cooking, Education, Events, family, Food, Local, Recipes, Schools

I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are

It was summer and I was about 13 years old. I don’t know what initially started the disagreement, but words flew between me and the other girl. She was from a family of girls and she was far meaner than I. She wrapped up her verbal assault with a shocking assertion regarding my mother, my brother and myself. The sound of her words stung me with an undeniable ring of truth and I immediately recognized that secrets hurt.

Secrets are kind of like snakes – what makes them scary is that they appear unannounced. If only they would wear collars with bells which tinkled as they approached! Since that isn’t realistic, living life in the open without rocks to hide under seems to me to be the best way of preventing things from sneaking up you. So, that’s what I do.

The secrets that Mary Lambert sings about are not my own, yet this song still perfectly expresses my own sensibility of secrets. I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are. So what.

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Filed under Music, Observations, secrets

Save ladder 1! Save ladder 1?

Image: capitalnews9.com

What do you think? Are you aware of the current controversy regarding Mayor Sheehan’s budget proposal which will eliminate a ladder truck from the South End? When I first heard about it, in my typical fashion, I hastily concluded that taking this truck out of service would have a minimal impact. It seemed to me that the truck was of limited use since it only extended 6 floors and that a more versatile truck was just up the hill on Delaware Avenue. I also didn’t appreciate the heavy handed, dramatic response from the firefighter’s union. It just seemed too self-serving.

While at the Normanskill Dog Park the other morning, I struck up a conversation with a couple of women down there and they added some information to the argument. I gained a different perspective when one of the residents pointed out the general lack of services in that area and the fact that there are a number of high rise residential buildings which may be compromised in emergency situations. My opinion shifted.

As we continued our conversation, though, we started discussing the untapped revenue streams we personally witness. I know a number of people who own rental properties which are not inspected on a regular basis, as described here. Isn’t there some sort of registration fee on rental properties? How about the number of unlicensed dogs in the city? One of the dog park women no longer brings her dog to Washington Park because of the number of aggressive, unleashed dogs present. Does the dog warden stake out public spaces to confirm that animals are properly registered and licensed? I’ve also heard that there is a fee for satellite dishes and this (outdated) document seems to confirm that.  And don’t even get me started on  the number of red lights I see blown every single time I run or walk around the neighborhood.

My ultimate conclusion? Revenue sources in Albany would benefit from better record keeping and greater compliance enforcement. Maybe tough fiscal decisions, like the one Mayor Sheehan is now proposing, could be avoided if the various departments in the city were able to be more diligent in the enforcement of policies already in place. It would be great if no city resident were at risk of getting burned, wouldn’t it?

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Filed under Albany, Local, News

The ultimate CT

Does anyone else remember that abbreviation meaning something else back in the day? I’m not talking about the state of Connecticut either. These days, however, CT is the short form of Computerized tomography aka a Cat Scan or the test I had yesterday afternoon.

If you’re (fortunately) not familiar with CT scans, allow me to share the experience. Following blood work to ascertain the functioning of one’s kidneys, the patient is positioned, injected with saline followed by dye, and then moved into the machine for a few minutes. When the technician has everything they need, one is released to await results from their physician.

The images are essentially immediately viewable and, if you’re lucky, you hear from your doctor quickly. For me, this is the hardest part of the test and the longer I wait, the more convinced I become that there is something seriously wrong. Something so terrible the doctor doesn’t even have words for the sheer awfulness of the results. Yep, that’s what happens, at least in my mind.

After 10 days of worry, 4 visits to medical facilities, and an inconclusive biopsy, I was a bit on the edge. When my surgeon finally called this afternoon to give me the (good!) news, I was so stunned that I didn’t know what to say…

She doesn’t feel the need to operate to remove this latest lump. She’s of the opinion that the lump is a “fried” salivary gland which shows no sign of malignancy. I’m to be closely monitored and the prognosis could change, but, for now, no surgery. I know there will be some disappointed folks out there – namely the friends who have sincerely offered to cook, drive and sponge bathe me, but I’m sure we can work something out.

Never has a good CT been so appreciated.

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Filed under cancer, medical

Not doing it myself

Inspired by this sunflower.

Inspired by this sunflower.

Since I’ve shared the part of my weekend when I did do things myself, I believe it is only fair to also share the days since then when I’ve been very much accompanied. Monday I went to see my ENT. I wasn’t alone. My doctor pretty much did what I expected – an in office fine needle biopsy, orders for some blood work and a CAT scan and the promise of a call to schedule surgery. Whatever it is, it’s coming out.

Because I had been so open prior to the appointment, I felt compelled to report back to my friends, both “real” and virtual, to share the news from my office visit. The warm wishes, promises of prayers, and offers for assistance have left a greater mark on me than that bruise, or any of the already existing scars, on my neck. Thank you, friends.

Two days post-appointment, blood work done, anticipated CAT scan tomorrow and surgery three weeks away, I am bolstered and protected by the people I love, people who have demonstrated that they return the feeling. Although I’ve been down this path before, in terms of medical intervention, this sense that my being taken care of is a concern to many, is new. And cherished.

So, pathology should be back in a matter of days and in just a few weeks this latest (and literal) bump in the road will be gone. Thanks for traveling this path with me, and to someone who has allowed me to ride shotgun for a change, thank you for taking the wheel. I so appreciate it.

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Filed under cancer, Flowers, friends, love, medical