Category Archives: holidays

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

imageI’m afraid of the impression we’re making, we Americans, as I browse my favorite dirty little secret website, the Daily Mail UK, and read the post titles about America’s Thanksgiving holiday. Titles with words like shopping and bargains and outrage. Sigh.

This is what we’re telling the world that we’re about? This is how we celebrate a holiday based upon giving, upon sharing?

We don’t vote. Our nation essentially provides a potential voice to every person in the land. Why don’t more Americans use it? We’re apathetic about important things but we talk obsessively about women’s asses – Beyoncé, Kardashian, Lopez, Minaj…

The violence in this country is often unbearable. Young black men seem to die with far too great frequency. Violence begets violence. The more methods of communication we create the less likely we are to communicate effectively. Connecting feels harder than in the past.

And, it’s Thanksgiving. The tree branches are piled high with heavy, wet snow, some still with leaves. The lighting is striking, a sky made of cotton. It’s beautiful.

And my son was accepted into one of his chosen schools.

He can’t wait to register to vote.

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Filed under family, holidays, musings, News, Observations, politics, snow

Family, lost and found

DSC_0195One of the highlights of my Florida trip was a brief get together with one of the three women I consider to be my true mothers.  Our reunion was surprisingly emotional for me – you know I’m no crier, yet that’s exactly who I became in her embrace.  I can’t help but wonder if the sense of comfort and safety I feel with her is what most people receive from their own mothers. I’ll never really know for sure unfortunately, but how blessed am I to find it with someone else?  Very.

Growing up, Sandy was my mother’s friend.  Our families spent holidays together, eating Italian and Jewish and German specialties and playing backgammon for Marlboros.  I’d never known a family like Sandy’s – around the table at Christmas you’d find she and her husband and their daughter.  Also present would her two children from her previous marriage, as well as her husband’s son from his first marriage.  Often, the father of Sandy’s older children would be there, too, with his son from his second marriage.  There were Italians and Jews and my own little German threesome and it was the most wonderful thing imaginable.

Maybe that’s where I learned that the word “family” defies definition.  I grew to understand that people came together because of love and that love evolves,  sometimes changing form, but unfailingly remaining a force.  Love was powerful and unifying, not destructive nor isolating.  Love trumped anger and envy and was to be respected.  That being said, I always thought that Sandy’s older daughter wished her mom was more like mine – structured, reliable and consistent.  Naturally, I wished for a mom who was like Sandy, emotional, inspired by passion and inclined to relaxing in a bathtub with bubbles and maybe a joint.

As I got older, Sandy provided me with what my own mother could not – a roof over my head when our house burned down, encouragement to end a stagnating relationship, the confidence to believe that I could do anything.  She convinced me that I was beautiful and smart and good and the trill of her laughter remains one of my favorite sounds.

We’ve been separated by hundreds of miles for many years now.  There have been occasions, including a Thanksgiving decades ago when Sandy prepared an entire traditional dinner, threw it into the car and served it on a picnic table at the beach, when we’ve gotten together, but this recent visit was the first in far too long.  For the first time ever I was able to take care of her. I selected the hotel knowing that she would get a kick out of staying at the Hilton on the beach.  There was lunch poolside and talk and more talk. We caught up and found we were, despite all the changes and challenges we’ve each faced, as always, family.  She’s truly the mother of my heart.

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Filed under aging, family, friends, girlhood, holidays, relationships, travel, vacation

Making Memorial Day memories

Almost 6 months to the date exactly, the boys and I are getting ready to head back to NYC for another round of adventures.  Our plans for the weekend include taking in some of the Fleet Week events and a visit to Lady Liberty.   We’re staying in TriBeCa and once I park my car, hopefully on the street, I don’t intend to be north of Bleecker Street again until we head back to Albany.

Have you ever checked out Fleet Week?  Apparently there are ship tours both in Manhattan and Staten Island.  I’m kind of wondering if the Staten Island events might be more accessible, once we actually get to Staten Island, that is.  We’ve already toured the Intrepid and it would be cool to ride the ferry on a warm, sunny day.  Because it will be warm and sunny, damn it, since it is Memorial Day weekend and I said so.

From the little I’ve read, it seems that after we get off the ferry we’ll have to take a train to Sullivan’s Pier. I don’t really know Staten Island at all, but think it might be fun to expand our explorations beyond Manhattan’s shores.  There’s also an appeal to just driving south and parking the car without mucking around midtown.   Are there any Staten Island experts out there?  Fleet Week veterans, perhaps?

Lunch and dinner plans are pretty loose this time around.  I’m thinking about a meal in Chinatown and another in Little Italy.  We’ve been very happy at Joe’s Shanghai and their soup dumplings are a favorite item of the boys.  Maybe a stroll past Umberto’s Clam House so I can share some bonafide NYC mafia history with them,   but since the food reviews are less than stellar, we’re looking for other options.  Do you have any recommendations for us?

Of course, I’m hoping for an evening run down the west side, around the southern tip and then up the east side of Manhattan to the Brooklyn Bridge.  Maybe I can even make it to 3 boroughs in a single day!   Whatever we end up doing, wherever we end up eating, I’m certain it will be memorable.  Can’t wait!

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Filed under Boys, holidays, NYC, road trips

Expectations

What are “reasonable” expectations?  Are you comfortable with those you have and, presumably, honor?  I was thinking about some of the expectations I have and considering their degree of realism.  I think I do ok with most of them.  My problem comes when I allow something external to start putting the squeeze on me – like Hallmark or Madison Avenue.  That’s when I’m sure to be dissatisfied.

When I recently wrote my list of Mother’s Day wishes, I didn’t think I was asking for all that much.  Most of the items had more to do with thoughtfulness than money.  I thought it was a reasonable list of expectations. Shall I share how many I received and how it made me feel?

There were 10 “things” on the list.  Three were delivered, a number  I can accept.  Well, was actually more like 2 were completely met and two were partially met, which I decided to count as three.  I’m almost always able to see the positive, and the overall spirit of my wish or expectation was met.  For instance, I didn’t have to get up prematurely to take Jeter out, because he wasn’t home yet from Center Square.  That sort of thing.  So, three done with one more  that I’m going to nail before the day is done.

Today, in the morning, I was disappointed.  There was very little showering of attention and there wasn’t a single sweet bakery treat.  I washed and folded four loads of laundry and thawed some chicken for dinner.  I decided I no longer wanted to go out.  I did some puttering around the house, a little garden weeding and then spontaneously joined friends for a glass of prosecco.  The day started to shift.

kale, pears, roth bleu, craisins, sunflower oil, salt

kale, pears, roth bleu, craisins, sunflower oil, salt

I came home and prepared a beautiful dinner of slightly charred chicken with two marinades, grilled local asparagus and a fantastic kale and pear side dish. The boys set the table with minimal protest.  They helped to clean up following dinner, as well.  When the kitchen was tidied up, I headed down to the Normanskill for a walk, minus any FLB, but Jeter with riding shotgun.

Normanskill

Normanskill

I saw the end of my day in sight.  A walk, some writing, a run, a shower and in between the fresh sheets.  My annoyance with the FLB and their fail for Mother’s Day began to roll off my shoulders.  What did it matter?  Why are flowers or candy any more special because they arrive on a specified holiday?  Isn’t it more enjoyable to receive some acknowledgement of our value on a day when our children are inspired, rather than pressured?  Who cares?  Or, more specifically, why should I care?

So, Jeter had his first swim (not as much of a natural as Cassidy), I had a walk in the sunshine and now, my run beckons.  The day didn’t go as expected, but it still was a day of sunshine, good food, new experiences, friends, bubbles, exercise, and being a mom to three “boys.”

Hope your Mother’s Day expectations were met equally well.

not really sure about how he got here...

not really sure about how he got here…

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Filed under aging, Boys, Eating, family, holidays, moms, musings, Normanskill, sunday

What (this) Mom really wants for Mother’s Day…

to…

• wake up and not need to immediately take the dog out because one of the Fabulous Lilly Boys (FLB) already has done the job

• make extra coffee and enjoy it on the back deck in the morning sunshine

• find the newspaper on the dining room table without having to actually leave the house

• sample an array of baked goods, thoughtfully selected by one of the FLB, from the Delso’s Bake for You

• take a walk along the Normanskill with the FLB and Jeter, too.

• not have to referee a single spat or argument between the FLB

• a brief nap and a long run, order of said events unimportant

• walk to the Capital City Gastropub without a single complaint from the FLB about how far it is (<1 mile)

• two (3?) glasses of wine at aforementioned dinner destination

• climb into a freshly made bed with a good book

It’s really that easy. I don’t want or need flowers, chocolate or jewelry.  A card, preferably handmade,  is always appreciated and saved forever.  Could someone please get this list to the FLB?

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Filed under Boys, DelSo, holidays, ideas, moms, sunday

Rise up

DSC_0015Last year, I was blessed to spend Easter in the Black Forest.  There was a dusting of new snow that morning and I attended mass alone in a beautiful church where the only word I truly understood was “Amen.”  It was perfect.    In the little town of Neustadt, thousands of miles from “home,” I had a deep sense of belonging to something larger than the daily world I have made for myself and my children.  I loved that holiday.

7lbs of bone-in prime rib

7lbs of bone-in prime rib

This year, the boys and I enjoyed a special dinner on Holy Saturday.  I jumped off the meatless Lent train a day early and we feasted on prime rib and grilled asparagus.  I opened a fine bottle of Bordeaux which, after our meal was consumed and cleaned up, I brought to the neighbors’ to share.  There were more bottles of wine uncorked and I enjoyed a relaxed spring evening.  It was lovely.

DSC_0025 This morning, I mastered the lamb cake mold my family had mailed from Germany a few weeks back.  It took three attempts to nail it.  The first try was a disaster – the pan fell over in the (newly cleaned) oven making an impressive mess as the batter flowed into the most impossible to clean crevices.  Take two involved an unfortunate premature slide of the cake from the perfectly buttered and floured mold as the poor lamb lost its head.  Literally.  Toothpicks put things back in place, but I decided to give it one final shot this morning and I found success.

These different experiences from last year to now, offer a wonderful perspective, for me, about life and living.  Home is where we feel loved.  Friends are family.  Sometimes we need to keep trying to get something right.  And, finally, we all need to rise up and live the life we have been given.  Happy Easter.

DSC_0040

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Filed under baking, family, friends, Germany, holidays, Observations, Spring

Giving up

You may not know this, but both of my parents came from large Catholic families.  Is that redundant?  I actually have an aunt and two deceased great aunts, who became nuns, for real.  I grew up hearing about how my mother’s family went to morning mass every day, staying for a marathon mass on Sundays.  It was kind of our family’s version of “I walked to school, uphill and in the snow…”  You get it.

Believe it or not, my mother somehow managed to have her two illegitimate children baptized in the mid-60s.  I can’t imagine that was an easy task.  Growing up, my brother and I made Holy Communion, but did not, other than on Christmas Eve, attend mass with our mother.  She was done.  I remember the challenge of being still and quiet for an hour, while outside the stained glass window summer’s blue sky beckoned.  It was harder than those wooden pews.  As I grew older, I developed more of an appreciation for the ritual – the readings, the up, down, kneel, the music and faces which grew familiar over the years.  And the sooty smoke wafting from those brass orbs dangling from the altar boys’ hands?  I loved it

Eventually, though, I really started listening to gospel, to the word, and some of what I heard I didn’t like.  I was in disagreement about gays and euthanasia and punishment for mistakes made.  I pictured a more benevolent god, sort of a cross between George Burns and John Denver.  I met with a priest at the Cathedral downtown and we talked and I explained my inability to own only part of my religion.  If I couldn’t believe in the whole thing, how could I practice?  Wasn’t it wrong to turn a blind eye to the tenets I found it impossible to embrace?  He echoed what I had been previously told by my Uncle Eamon, “Take what you believe in and leave off the rest.”  I walked away, sad, but committed to no longer feeling partially invested.  I left all of it.

On days, though, like today, I miss it.  The crossed ashes on my forehead, the quiet of the altar and the echo of feet on the stone floors, the honor of sacrifice… I think I’m going to mark Lent this year by exploring churches, be they literal or figurative.  A cathedral, a ski slope, a path through the woods, can’t they all be considered churches?  I’m hoping to hit each of those places within the next 40 days.  If you see me at any of those places, be sure to say hello.  Just don’t ask me join you for Burger Night at the Capital City Gastropub.  I gave up meat.

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Filed under aging, family, Germany, girlhood, holidays, Irish, musings