Fireworks are where you find them

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How was your Independence Day? Do you agree with me that it should always fall on the first Friday of July? It was such a great way to begin a beautiful weekend!

I’ve been spending a little time remembering previous 4th of Julys and am a little surprised by how many distinctive memories I have of this particular holiday. I guess those fireworks aren’t always mere colorful explosions in the atmosphere. Sometimes they’re more earthshaking.

July 4th, 1976 was the first time I ever met my friend Virginia. We were at a marina on the west shore of Greenwood Lake, probably waiting for fireworks to go off from Chapel Island. Although I moved that summer and wouldn’t attend the same school as Virginia until two years later, I’ve never forgotten that exact moment, under a sky filled with anticipation, when we met.

I once flew into NYC on Independence Day. I had been out of the country for 5 weeks and I recall being greeted at JFK by friendly faced strangers giving away American flags. It felt like a hug. Another year, I had the unforgettable experience of being on a hop on/hop off tour bus in London on July 4th. As I glanced to my right the historic marker on a row house caught my eye – Home of Benedict Arnold. How perfect.

There was the year spent at a campground somewhere in Washington State’s Yakima River Valley. We had been camping for about a week and the somewhat seedy location of the campground seemed a major step down after the beautiful campsite we had enjoyed at Doe Bay on Orcas Island.  My perspective shifted after spending the afternoon getting to know some of the residents – and I do mean residents. It turns out a tremendous percentage of our fellow campers actually lived at the sad campground at which we had found ourselves. I was struck by the threat of combustibility which was present, the result of close quarters and even closer budgets. I was happy to get back on the road the next morning.

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This year, I enjoyed a perfectly colorful and delightfully explosive holiday. A morning spent with someone who inspires me to be my best, an afternoon watching World Cup soccer and an evening with the ideal view of Albany’s annual pyrotechnic display. Freedom was appreciated. More memories were made.  There were fireworks.

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A rich summer vs. summer enrichment

For those of you with school age children – what are your summers like?  Are they a time to explore new interests, further develop skills and pad college applications?  Are your children busy with summer jobs or camps?  Maybe they’re already tackling their summer reading lists to get a jump on things for fall.  All good things I suppose.

Around my house, though, things don’t look quite like that.  My oldest son has been busy re-watching episodes of Murder She Wrote and mastering the art of making omelets.  He also has a part-time unpaid internship set to begin in another week or so and I know he is looking forward to that experience.  Liam also learned recently how to pay by phone for Chinese food when I forgot to bring my wallet when I picked up the Chinese food, which meant he needed to call in my credit card information.  I think that’s an important life lesson, don’t you?

The middle guy has been occupied with playing lacrosse and watching the World Cup.  He’s been working on his game, both on and off the field, and I had a weird sense of pride when I saw his photo in a recent Seen gallery shot at Wolff’s Biergarten.  He was rocking his red, white and blue and appeared completely comfortable taking in the match while surrounded by beer-fueled adults.  I believe he finally may now understand that spending a little time each day doing homework eliminates the need to spend 10 more months taking Spanish 2 because you failed the class with a 62.5.  My walk last night with Jeter also taught him that I may just unexpectedly come around the corner when he is out hanging with his friends in the neighborhood – a good lesson for him to absorb, don’t you think?

As for my youngest, well, this week he mastered making his own pbj and has been taking even bigger steps towards independence.  Last weekend, for instance,  he attended an afternoon birthday party a couple of blocks away and walked home solo.  Sort of.  The birthday girl’s mom texted when he was leaving and there may have been an older cousin who walked him partially home.  The bottom line is he felt a sense of accomplishment and independence.  That is the kind of summer enrichment I’m looking for.

Summer, for me, is a time to catch up on things – some tasks around the house, a few books I’ve been meaning to get to and visiting friends I don’t often get to spend time with during the school year.  How about you?

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Filed under Boys, Education, SEEN, soccer, Summer, vacation

Don’t worry. Worry is useless. John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Where are you at when it comes to worry?  Are you inclined to focus your energy imagining all of the perils lying in wait around the corner?  Do you spend hours (years?) second guessing every decision you’ve ever made in life wondering “If only I had…?”

If your tendency to worry paralyzes you in a way that prevents you from putting your car in gear and driving forward, are you content to live your life stuck in neutral?

I have worries, believe me.  I am uncomfortable when my children are passengers in anyone’s car during long and (too) fast rides.  After two rounds of relatively “good” cancer, I am inclined to being a bit paranoid about not being so lucky if that crabby* bastard decides to lap back around for a third visit.  Being a homeowner makes me incredibly nervous at times because there are far too many things of which to keep track. I wonder, occasionally, if I will ever be in a healthy and satisfying romantic relationship again.  See?  I, too, worry.

But, what can I do about any of it?  Do I give away today with worry about tomorrow? How can I if I don’t have control of any of those things? All I can do is reiterate the importance of driving with caution and stress to the boys how imperative it is to take driving seriously.  I try to keep myself strong with exercise and nutrition in case of further challenges to my health.  I’m learning to ask for help when it comes to maintaining my house and my car.  I’m actively working on things to enable me to keep moving forward in a positive fashion.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that life can change in an instant.  When that time comes again, I’d like to believe that I’ll be ready to face any and all challenges thrown my way. What I’m not going to do is this: lose myself speculating and projecting about both all the mistakes I’ve made in life and all the possible ramifications of my future decisions.  Today, this very day, is far too precious to cast it aside for the events of yesterday or the imagined perils of tomorrow.  Go get it.

*In German cancer is called “krebs,” you know, like crab.  Seems an appropriate word to me.

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Filed under aging, musings, Random

The berry best

berriesYou know how, as a parent, you want your child(ren) to eat well and appreciate simple pleasures?  We work to expose them to flavors and provide them with options when it comes to satisfying their appetites as well as their curiosity about what things taste like, and where they come from.  Well, there is no better time to do that than now – it’s strawberry season and nothing will teach your kid faster about the superiority of fresh local produce than some time spent in a field picking (and eating) berries.

All over Albany did a great post last week summarizing many of the options available in the Capital District for picking your own berries.  On Saturday, Quinn and I headed out to Altamont Orchards and quickly picked three quarts of juicy fruit.  We were prepared with our own containers (not too deep because the berries will crush under their own weight), sunscreen and clothing we wouldn’t mind becoming stained from the berry juice.  The drive took a little longer than I had expected, but Quinn’s company pretty much entertained me the entire way.  Note: the pick-your-own fields are not located in the same location as the farm stand/market.  Call for clarification if you plan to head out there.

 I wish I had the words to describe how amazingly delicious that first berry I popped into my mouth was…warm from the sun, succulent, juicy, sweet…it tasted so different from a supermarket berry that it isn’t accurate to call them both the same name.  When my middle son sampled a couple of berries after we got home, he asked “How come they make the ones in the store taste so different?”  I’ve got no answer for that, just a suggestion for him – eat as many of these as you can because the season is way too short.  I guess we could take that advice about living in general, right?

For three fine mornings I enjoyed berries in my cereal and with my waffles.  Jeter, who is inclined to sit at my feet when he sees me slicing strawberries, also appreciated the berries which I shared with him.  We’ve got a quart of cleaned berries in the freezer at the ready for smoothie-making and I’m trying to figure out a way to get back to the fields this coming weekend.  Maybe I’ll see you there!

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Filed under Boys, family, Local, Recommendations, Summer

World Cup mayhem!

photo(171)How was your Sunday?  Mine was wonderfully insane, thank you very much.  Why, you ask? Well, I spent my day selling mugs and beer tokens down at Wolff’s Biergarten, which may not sound very fun to those of you who aren’t into crowds or soccer, but it was right up my alley.  There were hundreds (thousand+?) of folks sporting red, white and blue looking to have a great time on a gorgeous day.  What could be bad about that?

While the match may not have ended soon enough for team USA to walk away with a win rather than a tie, it was still a fantastic day.  I’ll be working a number of additional shifts in the next few weeks and hope you all make it down to take in a match and indulge in some tasty beer and a scene unlike you’ll find anywhere for this event.

photo(172)For the uninitiated, here’s how it works:  for $20 bucks you get a 1 liter plastic stein and 2 beer tokens.  The tokens are good for .5 liters of beer so you can fill your mug fully once or halfway twice, your call.  Personally, I’d go with the halfway twice because I like my beer cold and I like to wander between the Biergarten and the Bier Tent.  Since taking beer from one location to the other isn’t permitted, you’d probably want to enjoy a beer in both places to catch the full scope of fandom.  Need more beer?  Additional tokens are $7 each or 3 for $20 and the tokens don’t expire.  Speaking of not expiring – your stein will get you entry into any and all subsequent games so make sure you hold on to it.  Bring it with you for any matches during the World Cup and you get in without any additional charge.

So, there you have it.  Soccer, bier, peanuts.  Come get some.

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Filed under Albany, beer, Events, Local, Recommendations, soccer, Summer, sunday

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

Randoms…

  • Lincoln pick up trucks don’t make sense to me.
  • My 9 y/o son has underarm body order. I’m concerned.
  • I wish TU readers understood what a print journalist is – and is not. It’s not about popularity, it’s about writing.
  • Pulling through the front “driveway” at ASH on Whitehall to avoid the red light, is one of the most outrageous examples of douchebaggery that I have ever witnessed. A close second is cutting through to Whitehall from Mapleridge by driving around the barricade and over a lawn. Really.
  • Sometimes the school year feels long, but the last two weeks of the academic year are always the fastest.
  • I buy a lot of cereal in my house yet Cheerios and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes remain my favorites.
  • Even though I have been lucky enough to visit the Cape every summer for the last 16 years, I always get excited by the thought of being there. Beachcomber here we come!
  • Speaking of summer, as I receive my last real paycheck until September, I’ll say a prayer for no major emergencies in the next couple of months.  Feel free to join in.
  • Evening runs in June are bliss.  The lengthy twilight makes everything better.
  • I am tired of cooking the same rotation of meals for my children and wish they would eat more vegetables and grains instead of expecting meat at every evening meal.
  • There isn’t a single SPAC concert on my radar this summer.
  • It would be a better world if the ratio of positive to negative blog (and elsewhere) comments was more in the 5 to 1 range. I’m so tired of reading people’s anonymous complaints.

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Filed under Random, Schools, SPAC, Summer