Before the Notre Dame fire…

My photo, taken April 5, 2015.

  • I never imagined a Paris without Notre Dame.
  • I didn’t know how much I admired that centuries old building.
  • I wouldn’t have predicted how sad I would feel to see it aflame.
  • I wasn’t interested in reading Victor Hugo.
  • I didn’t truly appreciate how fortunate I was to have visited a cathedral and lit a candle for my father in an edifice more than 800 years old.
  • I approached antiquities with the false knowledge that they would always be there.
  • I couldn’t have predicted how annoyed I would get hearing “Notre Dame is their World Trade Center.” Nope, doesn’t compare. One was centuries old, the other less than 30 years-old. One was a religious icon, the other a symbol of financial dominance. One was presumably an accident, the other was intentional murder. Do I have to continue?
  • I wouldn’t have considered how effortlessly the Catholic Church could repair the physical damages because of the tremendous wealth (~$30 billion) they possess.
  • I might not have wondered if there is some sort of cruel justice for all of the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
  • I had no haste to visit Paris, but now I really want to get back there again. Vite.

 

 

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Filed under art, beauty, Europe, favorites, France, musings, Observations, travel

Grow strong

I saw something on the Facebook the other day on a page I follow. It’s a gardening/flower appreciation sort of page and there was a post about how important it is to prune plants because otherwise the parts which are struggling to stay alive will prevent the healthier parts from flourishing. It’s something that I, of course, have heard before, but for whatever reason it’s been kicking around my head ever since. Why is it such a struggle to eliminate that which no longer holds future promise? Particularly when it comes at the peril of something that demonstrates positive growth?

My relationship with plants is complicated and long. There was a time when I felt incapable of providing enough attention and support to my boys and my plants. In those days I had one plant, a vine-y sort of thing that had become mine when I was about 20 and had been my responsibility for about a dozen years at that point. It was, and continues to be, low maintenance. This plant was joined by a rubber tree, adopted when a friend moved out of town, when my oldest was in kindergarten almost two decades ago. It is a massive plant now and when I relocate it to its summer home on the back deck, I have to tip it at an angle to maneuver it out the sliding glass door. During the months it resides outside, it grows in a remarkably prolific way gaining a new shiny leaf almost every single day. It’s beautiful.

Those two plants were it for me for a long time. Gradually, though, in the last 7 or 8 years I’ve collected quite a few additional ones including a Boston fern that went full circle dead to almost lush to dead, a passion flower that has yet to bloom for me, citronella and lavender plants which I never expected to overwinter and now have done so for two years, a mature jade and an aloe, and an asparagus fern that is finally doing well. My dining room, with its soft yellow walls and dozen plants, brings me joy even on the gloomiest of days. It just feels warm and alive.

Plants aren’t necessarily as challenging to care for as children, but they do require some attention. It feels like I water, rotate and move them around pretty frequently, as I attempt to encourage them to grow. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with trimming them and cutting “off the dead and dying stuff,” as suggested on that Facebook page I referenced above, because I know intellectually that the plant will “put all its energy into keeping that dying leaf alive,” neglecting healthier parts in the process. And, who the hell wants that?

In all honesty, though, I do falter when it comes to completely giving up. That Boston fern I lovingly nurtured for years, responded to my absence at the holidays last year by dying, despite how much I wanted it to live. I don’t have the heart to throw it away, so it’s currently in a purgatory state in my kitchen. It’s either going to come back to life or be replaced in its pot by the baby Boston fern I was given a few weeks ago. Whatever it does, it’s beyond my control. I’m going to just direct my attentions to the plants which are more committed to being alive and do my best to help them grow strong.

What’s your relationship with houseplants? How are they growing?

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Filed under aging, beauty, Boys, favorites, friends, Gardens, house, musings

YouTube Yin Yoga

Sometimes it feels like getting to yoga is the most challenging aerobic activity of the day. I don’t really know how it happens, but I regularly show up at the studio nearly out of breath from the race to arrive at class on time. It isn’t exactly the most zen-like way to begin my practice and each time it happens I swear to do better next time, but…

The other day I left my house for a Yin class with 3 minutes to spare, according to Waze. Perfect – just enough time to put air in the tires of my neglected wagon. I pulled into Stewart’s to witness a woman pulling the air hose towards her vehicle where she proceeded to fill each of her tires, carefully and slowly. By the second tire, I knew there was little hope for my making it to the studio on time. Despite the odds not being in my favor, I waited, filled my tires and continued on my designated route until I rounded a corner and landed right in the middle of some weirdly early rush hour traffic. It just wasn’t happening. I called the studio and cancelled my reservation.

I pulled my car over and spent 10 minutes furiously googling alternative studios and other options to achieve zen. No dice. At this point, I was completely amped up and stressed, needing some yoga even more than I had 20 minutes previously. A sudden thought occurred to me – YouTube! There had to be something on YouTube that would help.

I searched “Yin Yoga” and found Kassandra whose 40 minute prop-less class was one of the first returns. From the description, it sounded like precisely what I was looking for and I excitedly rolled out my mat on my living room floor. Despite Jeter compressing a tennis ball noisily between his jaws right near my ear, I managed to ignore most everything beyond the cues given by the instructor and stayed mentally on my mat. The limited number of poses were held for a deliciously long amount of time and my body was fairly cooperative as it melted into the floor. By the time shavasana came around, I was in a much better place than where I had begun my practice.

Since the first Kassandra class on Wednesday, I’ve taken 3 others each varying between 40 and 60 minutes. The yoga style has consistently been Yin, but the focus has ranged from anxiety relief and relaxation to hip opening. Without exception, all have been terrific. YouTube yoga might not offer the same sense of shared breathing and community that comes from being in a studio, but in a pinch, it could be just where you need to be when you can’t to where you want to go.

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Filed under Exercise, favorites, ideas, Observations, Recommendations, stress, yoga

Repairing my ability to divert.

Diversion can be a really good thing. When floodwaters are heading straight towards a vulnerable location, a well placed levee can help to avert disaster by directing the water to a better protected area. Similarly, when a person finds themself continuing to ponder a situation for which there is no happy ending, a shift in one’s attention to a more positive course of action can be truly beneficial. And, for the record, an emotional flood is no less devastating than an actual tidal wave to a person who has had their heart-broken. Trust me.

 

Let’s talk, though, about actual physical diverters because sorrows and affairs of the heart are not as easily repaired as those of the household. Currently I have two rooms in my house that have faulty diverters and I’m losing my patience with their lack of willingness to self-correct. First, my kitchen sink faucet. When middle son and I selected the industrial style faucet a couple of years ago, I was a little hesitant. It was an Italian brand and, while it looked great, I would have preferred a brand that came with a solid reputation because it was kind of pricey. Nonetheless, we bought it. 

 

We probably got about two years of satisfaction from this Giagni Fresco product before the buttons on the faucet head stopped functioning, leaving the nozzle permanently in “spray” mode. For a while I could pull the necessary button out with tweezers to get the water to come out in a stream rather than a spray, but those days are over. Looking on the Lowe’s site at the reviews for this faucet tells me I’m not alone. It’s time to reach out to the manufacturer and get some parts to correct this flaw.

 

I’ve probably mentioned in the past that I love my bathtub. It’s a jetted Jacuzzi and from September through spring, I’d say I take a bubbly bath at least twice a week. Maybe my joy in bath time created an issue between my plumbing parts and I, perhaps, shouldn’t have neglected to sing the praises of my rainhead shower, because it no longer is working as it should. When I pull the lever from the faucet to divert the water to the showerhead it no longer is operating at 100%, which means my rain is more of a sprinkle. Not great. I attempted a fix myself, after first asking middle son to investigate the issue and learning that he doesn’t know what an allen wrench is, but my repair didn’t stick.

 

So, do any of you have any plumbing tips for a not so handy homeowner? And, do you think redirected attentions are capable of providing an adequate diversion to lingering emotional deluges?

 

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Filed under house, love, musings, Recommendations, stress

A due date becomes a do date – 22 years later, that is

My first pregnancy was pretty dreamy – I conceived the exact month I wanted to, which meant my maternity leave would be perfectly integrated with my academic calendar. The Lilly baby was due April 5th, which would give me about 6 weeks home, followed by 6 weeks back at work, and then summer off. It all seemed pretty ideal.

Of course, Liam was born 5 1/2 weeks early, arriving at the end of February, rather than early April. Obvious proof, of course, to support the theory that parenting is state of being that can not always be controlled. That perspective, along with the knowledge that once your child almost dies, subsequent things that occur to them make one both less concerned, and more inclined to worry, are how I’ve rationalized a lot of things in the last 22+ years. So far, so far mostly good.

So good! Pizza Suprema.

When it came time to celebrate my oldest’s most recent birthday, we headed to NYC, a full six weeks after his actual birthday, but the day before his original due date. He was interested in seeing a performance at the Metropolitan Opera House and it was challenging to synchronize our calendars and that of the Met to get to the opera that he wanted to see. We were able to find a mutually good date on Thursday and grabbed Amtrak to the city, leaving ourselves barely enough time to eat a couple of slices, get checked in to our hotel and catch the subway to Lincoln Center.

We were cozy in our upgraded seats (When we picked up our tickets at Will Call the man helping us said he had “something better for us.” Turns out that was 11th row center in the orchestra. Bonus!) when the chandeliers lifted to the ceiling and the lights went down. The music was fantastic and the conductor led the orchestra with as much well placed energy as I’ve ever seen. Take this all with a grain of salt – I know nothing about music or conducting.

Don Giovanni is a wonderful opera and the costumes, sets and singing created an experience which was satisfying. I mean, come on, the cad gets his comeuppance! Everyone loves when that happens. While the demise of Don Giovanni was dramatic and well depicted with fire, there were also some more lighthearted scenes with clever dialogue and wit. Admittedly, I dozed a bit here and there, but I don’t believe I missed much. I had feasted on the production and felt sated. It was way better than a C-section.

#renttherunway #openingceremony

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Filed under aging, beauty, birthdays, Boys, concerts, Events, moms, Music, NYC, pizza, road trips, Spring, theater

Headed to Ireland’s half light with a full heart

After a nearly six year absence, I’m visiting Ireland this month. It would take some effort, and both hands, to count the number of times I’ve traveled to the country where my father was born, yet I’m about as excited as I was on that first trip to the Emerald Isle. Back then, all flights from the U.S. stopped at Shannon and I’ll always remember the emotional response I experienced as the plane landed and I saw the gorgeous greens of the landscape. I’m not ashamed to tell you I cried.

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A couple of McMenamin lasses

Believe it or not, this visit was inspired by last year’s Roman holiday. Catching up with my “cousin”* in the lobby of her hotel, as she arrived from Dublin and I prepared to depart for home, convinced me that it has been too long since I saw my Irish family. I bought my tickets last fall and have looked forward to this trip ever since. Despite my original travel plans being canceled (thanks, Boeing!) and having to scramble for a new carrier (Aer Lingus) from an alternate airport (in a different state), I’m pretty much ready to go.

This will be the first time that I’ll be taking a little time to explore, solo, a part of Ireland that interests me – Galway town. Over the years, I’ve stayed in Connemara a couple of times and have seen the Burren, heard the traditional music and language, and indulged in the local cuisine, but this time I’m psyched to run by the water and wander the narrow city streets with my camera. While most of my time will be on the east coast with family, the few days I’ll be on the west coast are the ones that will feel the most like an escape rather than a homecoming.

 

Beyond my accommodations, the only thing I’ve booked is Airbnb baking class experience. I hope to learn how to bake Irish brown bread, which I plan to consume with copious amounts of butter, marmalade and tea. Other than that, I’m open to whatever adventures may beckon. Unless, of course, you have some recommendations?

*her dad is actually my cousin, but she’s much closer to my age than he is.

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Filed under Europe, family, holidays, Ireland, Irish, Spring, travel, vacation

March on

F6431F52-59E4-4115-8790-FCB55B7A6F15Time is such a funny thing. I don’t know about you, but my own sense of time has changed so many times as I’ve grown older. I remember, as a kid, thinking that seasons were seemingly endless, especially summer. Summer was so long that I would have sworn the flowering bush in our front yard bloomed two distinct times. Some months, too, seemed crazy long, particularly March. It obviously isn’t the only 31 day month, but it is one that has always had a tendency to drag. Until recent years that is.

This year, I saw March coming and I was equal parts excited and already exhausted. There were four concerts, a weekend getaway with a special friend, overnights with the girls, two public performances (a friend’s turn taking on the Vagina Monologues and my own storytelling event), some medical appointments, and a half marathon. Plus that full-time job and tending all the males in my life…it was pretty insane, honestly.

 

I closed out the month with a reasonably mellow weekend with only two commitments – Friday night dinner out with friends and a Sunday late afternoon long run with the Luna B*tches, two related items if you consider the enormous serving of pasta that I’m still working my way through days later. I’m feeling almost caught up in terms of rest and household tasks and just about ready for April and the adventures already on the calendar for this month. No fooling.

Getting ready for Helderberg to Hudson!

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Filed under aging, Albany, Boys, concerts, Dinner, Exercise, friends, Observations, running, Spring, sunday