Category Archives: Observations

(Wo)man’s best friend

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Our new puppy, Jeter, has been part of the family for a few months now and I have to admit I am quite taken with him.  The early weeks were challenging as I sacrificed my sleep to housetrain a puppy who suffered from an ultra sensitive digestive system.  Those cold winter nights, with me sleeping in leggings and a long-sleeved shirt to hasten the going out process, are thankfully a distant memory.  Happily, we’ve now moved on to a much more pleasant stage of puppyhood.

What else can I tell you about the latest Lilly boy?  Well, he’s growing remarkably fast.  We just graduated to a larger collar and he no longer comfortably fits in the bedside chair he staked claim to months ago.  He also now leaps directly on to the bed without relying on the chair as a step.  Pretty impressive, right?  On a related note, this sleeping on the bed thing isn’t something I intended to occur, but I have to admit he is quite the cuddler.  No, really.  He seriously sleeps on his back, stretched out for all he’s worth, with his head frighteningly close to the pillows.  Sigh.  But he’s so damn cute…

Although I was concerned by his initial indifference to water, he is swimming like a champ these days!  Jeter loves taking dips in the Normanskill and has enjoyed a couple of pools in the last week or so.  He needs to be attended to in the pool because he is inclined to paddle around without a plan for either how to get back out again or what his endurance actually might be. Suddenly, he’ll go vertical with his head barely above water – a sure sign that he needs to be guided to a way out.

Jeter and I took our first road trip together earlier this month and he was pretty much perfect. He rode shotgun and was great company during the drive.  I swear my brother gave him more attention than any of my human children have ever received and I’m ok with that.  My brother has always been more of a dog person than a people person.

During that trip to Syracuse, it was duly noted that Jeter is a bit of a mommy’s boy.  True, I suppose.  Maybe it’s our morning routine at the kitchen sink when I share my strawberries with him?  Or could it be the efforts I make to get him to the dog park as frequently as possible?  I am inclined to spoiling the guys in my life, and Jeter is no exception.  I love that he eats berries, pears, apples, watermelon and carrots and have no problem indulging him when it comes to healthy snacks.  Geez, he probably eats more fruit than any of my human children!

Cassidy Bono - seeing her makes me smile and tear up simultaneously.

Cassidy Bono – seeing her makes me smile and tear up simultaneously.

I know that we’ll never stop missing our Cassidy, but, Jeter’s presence has made our house a home again.  I like to imagine that Cassidy is watching over us and knows that she will never be replaced in our hearts by the mischievous puppy we’ve brought into our family.  Hearts, though?  They have the capacity to expand faster than a puppy can grow – and that’s saying something.

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Filed under family, love, Observations

Summer solstice

It isn’t often that I have a day when nothing displeases me. When such a day as this occurs on the absolutely longest day of the year, it makes for an incredibly satisfying day. That is precisely what I had yesterday.

flowers

baby’s breath, peonies, roses

The day began with flowers as I cut a bouquet of the beautiful roses and peonies which are currently blooming in my garden, as well as in my neighbor’s backyard. Jeter and I followed breakfast with an early morning visit to the dog park where he played with a lovely dog who had recently been rescued from NYC. I resisted the urge to immediately adopt the sweet young dog, but I do hope she finds her forever home soon.

berries

a berry warm from the sun is one of nature’s ultimate delights

My middle son’s mid morning haircut appointment went well and I left the salon with plenty of time to get home, swap boys and head to Altamont Orchards to pick some strawberries. It took less than 25 minutes to pick 3 quarts of sweet and juicy berries. On our way home we stopped at the Guilderland location of Fin where Quinn got an apple juice and an already prepped meal of seasoned swordfish with corn salsa.

I made an easy caprese salad for lunch, with my own basil, and reveled in the simple delight of summer eating. I followed my meal by folding a couple of loads of laundry while watching the first half of the Germany-Ghana match with Griffin, my source for soccer commentary. Germany looked good, especially their keeper (holy hotness!), and I decided it was a fine time to make my way to a joint high school/elementary graduation party in Delmar. Since the day was supremely beautiful, I chose to ride my new bike and thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

The party was lovely and my initial impression about not knowing anyone was rapidly put aside as I enjoyed meeting and talking with some really nice people. Seems I was wrong about not knowing anyone as connections were quickly made. Yes, it is a small world. Griffin kept me abreast of the match via text and I loved knowing that my son and my family in Germany were simultaneously taking in the same event – more connections.

sword

swordfish steak, corn salsa, steamed spinach

I rode home and made a simple and delicious dinner while taking care of our bounty of strawberries. It was strip steak and corn on the cob for the guys and grilled swordfish with a side of steamed local spinach for me. So delicious! After cleaning up the kitchen, I prepped about half of our strawberries for the freezer already anticipating their eventual use in smoothies. I should have picked more!

Jeter and I returned to the dog park for round two but ended up home again after a short while since it is never really fun to be the only dog at the dog park. While playing fetch in the yard, I got to witness the reaction of two teenaged girls to my son’s haircut (“Oh my God, you cut your hair!” exclaimed in a shriek.) which is still making me laugh.

I changed into running clothes and hit the streets for a fast (for me) 5 miles, luxuriating in the extended twilight on this, the longest day of the year. There were only pleasant aromas tickling my nose and I realized that there hadn’t been a single affront to my senses all day long. The temperature, the smells in the air, everything I had eaten, the conversations shared, the view along the drive to the berry patch, the birds at the feeder…every single thing had given me pleasure. It was the beginning of a new season. Life is good.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, biking, Boys, Delaware Avenue, Dinner, Exercise, family, favorites, Flowers, friends, Germany, Local, Observations, running, Summer

Two Step while trying not to step in anything disgusting

628x471For the second year in a row my middle son and I went to both nights of the Dave Matthews Band’s pretty much annual stop at SPAC.  As always, Carter smiled continuously as he banged the drums and Dave praised the crowd and venue.  We had a good time and I got some great crowd photos in the parking lots prior to the shows.  We ran into some people we knew and even made some new friends.  It was fun and I imagine we’ll do it again next time the band is in town.  By then, I hope to have erased some of the less pleasant parts of this year’s shows.

I haven’t kept track of how many times I’ve seen DMB, but seeing that it was Griffin’s 6th show, I imagine I’ve got somewhere between 12-15 shows under my belt.  I grew up taking the bus into the city for shows at the Garden and consider myself a concert veteran, but there’s always something new to see, right?  Take that man’s penis, for instance.  What a shocker that was!  I can say with complete honesty that I’ve never before stood in line next to someone who was pissing into a red solo cup – and I hope to never repeat that experience.  The close up of a stranger’s not so privates may have been a blessing in disguise because when that woman on the lawn threw her skirt up and prepared to pull her underwear down to pee on the lawn in front of everyone, it wasn’t that traumatic for me.

Now, urine aside, the only other bodily fluid which made an appearance was vomit.  Fortunately, I missed seeing that (re)enter the world, but I became aware of it after someone near me on the lawn stepped in it.  Situations like this completely validate my decision to always wear closed shoes, often rain boots, at outdoor concerts.

Now – the good stuff!  We met some awesomely friendly people while taking photos, including two adorable hula hooping pixies who were so pleased with the photo I took Friday that they sought me out on Saturday to reward me with a hug.  Sweet!  I also ran into one of my favorite parents from school and finally met her collaborator in creating 4 fabulous kids.  That kind of made my night.

As far as the music goes, the set lists were epic and I’m so glad we went both nights because we heard nearly every song we had hoped to hear.  The transitions between songs was flawless and the flute solos provided a fresher sound than the sometimes (to me) tedious violin solos.  Highlights were #41, the acoustic What Would You Say, and pretty much the entire second set on Saturday night.

Towards the end of Saturday night I looked around at the crowd and concluded that pretty much everyone would end the night by either fighting, having sex or falling asleep.  Me?  I slept well.

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Filed under concerts, Music, Observations, Saratoga, SEEN, SPAC, upstate New York

Up a tree

image: John Carl D’Annibale/Albany Times Union

I’m sure you’ve heard the saga of the Albany Bear.  A young black bear, with a history of repeatedly wandering into populated areas, was a deemed a “nuisance” and euthanized yesterday.  The last 24 hours of the bear’s life included being struck by a car, shot with both a shotgun and a tranquilizer gun and falling approximately 60 feet from the tree in which he had sought refuge.   It makes me so sad.

Have you ever seen a bear outside of a zoo?  I’ve been lucky enough to see one twice, both times from the safety of the car in which I was driving.  The first time, in a rural area of Massachusetts, the dog in our vehicle sensed the bear’s presence before we did.  When I saw the bear loping along, my heart lifted.  I had always hoped to see a bear and the glimpse I had of this one affirmed my belief in nature and all the wonders which she often holds secret.  I was elated.

A couple of years later, in a more densely populated area in Orange County, N.Y., I noticed a dog on the right side of the road barking furiously at something on the opposite side of the road.  The dog was maintaining a respectful distance, rather than approaching whatever it was that had attracted its attention.  I looked to my left and immediately saw it – a black bear lumbering through the underbrush, more than likely heading towards the nearby orchard.  Hours before this occurred, I had returned to the States after some time spent in Europe, a place I always feel is devoid of wildlife.  Seeing this bear was one of the best “welcome home” experiences I’ve ever had.  I was thrilled.

I understand the perceived threat of a wild animal in a residential neighborhood and the need for authorities to address the situation, I really do.  My struggle with what happened yesterday (just blocks from my home) stems from my sense that that bear wasn’t dealt with respectfully.  His tagged ears indicated he had prior experiences in local communities, but I can’t help but wonder how much effort was put into relocating him to a new home at a substantial distance.  We like to brag in New York State about our 6+ million acres of “Forever Wild” land in the Adirondack Park.  Couldn’t that bear been taken farther away from settled areas during one of his previous visits?

Was this really necessary?     image: http://alloveralbany.com

Why wasn’t there a more humane plan in place after 24 hours of officials monitoring the situation?  Was it really necessary for the bear to fall 60 feet to the ground?  How do we prevent another tragedy like this in the future? The bear may be the one to have fallen from the tree, but the authorities are really the ones who dropped the ball here.

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Filed under Albany, Local, News, Observations, Random, upstate New York

The mean streets of Albany

Occasionally when I write, I pause to consider how a particular post is going to play. Will it garner comments? What sort of response will it get? How many retweets or shares will it prompt? I really don’t know how the incident I’m about to share will be received, but I’m just going to put it out there.  Here’s what I experienced yesterday during an evening run.

It was fairly early in my run and still quite light out.  As I headed west on Whitehall Road, I approached a group of teens walking in my direction. There were three or four of them, I don’t exactly remember – or, more accurately, I hardly really noticed.  What I did notice was the tremendously bright smile on the face of the girl closest to me. Spectacular!

As we passed each other, the small group politely fell into single file formation as we met on the not-really-so-wide sidewalk.  The teens were talking animatedly and the big smile girl made eye contact with me and said “She’s got anger issues,” with a nod of her head to one of her companions.  I interpreted her tone as joking, and responded, without breaking my stride, with “She’s working on it!”  What happened next was disturbing enough that it is still bothering me.

The girl with the “anger issues” started yelling at me – to mind my own business, that she’d show me and a few other choice words she felt I deserved for “getting in her business.”  I had the distinct impression that if I had elected to stop and turn around, she would have been right in my face.  Her voice and words were threatening and I chose to keep running, maybe even a little faster than I had been previously.

The incident brought to mind the coverage I’ve seen recently about “girl brawls” which have occurred around the Capital Region.  I reflected on my own teen years and considered whether I would have ever been that aggressively confrontational with an adult in similar circumstances.  My conclusion was no.  I couldn’t imagine speaking to a stranger with such anger and disrespect.

This young woman and I were different from one another, and our differences did not stem from the fact that she is black and I am white.  Her behavior and demeanor were hostile.  She was assaultive and seemed to be actively seeking a fight.  She was indeed angry and somehow viewed me as a potential target for her fury.  She and I were not alike at all.  But…

I won’t make assumptions about her home life, but I can tell you that by the time I was in middle school I had lived at 9 different addresses.  I don’t know what the composition of her family is, but I do know that I never had the good fortune to meet my own father, or a single blood relative other than my mother and brother, until I was an adult. Maybe she comes from a family with limited positive educational experiences.  My mother was limited to an 8th grade education until she was able to obtain a GED in her early 40s.  I know about Medicaid and free lunch and long afternoons spent at social services as a child.  I get it.

What I don’t get is her rage, nor her desire to inflict it upon me.  I have no intention of give up my running route, but I do hope she finds a way to exorcise her anger.

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Filed under Albany, Local, Observations

My just deserts

DSC_0121We celebrated a birthday this week, in a fairly low-key fashion. While I generally write a birthday piece and devote it to the celebrant, I struggled with a cohesive message when it came to my middle son’s birthday and a litany of pithy observations and attributes just felt forced. You see, he is, as my estranged mother likes to assert, the one who is “just like me.” While she would like to believe that he is my punishment for all the terrible things I put her through during my own teen years, I disagree. He is my triumph.

When my first child was born, organized me was totally ill prepared. He was early, he was small and he arrived surgically rather than in anything remotely resembling the Bradley birth for which we had been preparing. He became critically ill, a consequence in my mother’s eyes of my own stubbornness and incompetence, rather than the fault of a medical team who failed to make a routine and simple diagnosis. Feeding him was a challenge and he missed milestone after milestone. With all of the necessary interventions, it was a long time before I felt like he was “mine”* and could confidently manage his care and develop routines that worked for us.

Griffin, though? He is my child, not my mother’s, not a medical patient, not an early intervention case to be managed. He arrived on the precise day for which I was hoping – the last day of April and not the first of May, my own mother’s birthday. He is a gift to me, my very own diamond, albeit one which remains in need of a little polishing.

I birthed this child and fed him from my own body for more than a year. Together with his dad, I dressed and nurtured him, feeling capable in my veteran mother status. He started running as soon as he was vertical at a mere 11 months. His first word was “Go!” which he yelled at the vehicle in front of us, after the light had turned green and the driver failed to step on the gas fast enough. He continues to be the child who most resembles his parents in terms of physical strength, coordination and interest in athletics. He can thank his Dad for his gorgeous curls and rue his maternal genes which came complete with freckles and a mild form of a condition known as pectus excavatum.

Mirroring my own personality, he is inclined to intolerance when it comes to bureaucratic educational nonsense and tends to be a bit of a fashionista. Like his dad, he has a mind for math along with a tendency to procrastinate and then respond with frustration when he finds himself overwhelmed by an avalanche of responsibilities. He’ll make it through, though. He’s smart and sensitive, social and funny as a hell, and I understand him in a way that feels completely intuitive and natural.

If being “just like me” means my son will find his own path through life, with the added benefit of two parents who love and support him, I couldn’t be more appreciative for the sweet “punishment” the universe has imposed. He is just what I deserve.

*When I say “mine,” in no way am I suggesting that he is more mine than he is his father’s. Of course, he is ours.

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Filed under birthdays, Boys, family, Observations

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