Category Archives: family

Fierce and 14

Last night, I woke up to the sound of the wind howling. It was fierce and powerful reminding me of where I had been exactly 14 years previously – in labor, climbing the stairs at St. Peter’s Hospital. My progress that night was slow, despite it being my third time at that particular rodeo, and I walked up and down those stairs countless times in an attempt to cajole my third baby boy to come out and join the family.

The stubbornness he demonstrated during (his time in utero and) delivery was a precursor of the level of stubbornness he has exhibited ever since. Q was characterized by his grandmother, who sadly died shortly before his third birthday, as “formidable.” She knew of what she spoke, having raised 5 sons of her own, and I so wish she had lived longer to provide further observations and maybe even advice. This kid is a force.

I’ve often described Q as relentless. He just digs his heels in and refuses to yield and it never fails to exhaust me. In the midst of a disagreement, negotiating isn’t an option with this one. I’m learning to quietly tell him the conversation is closed for now, with the promise of revisiting it at a designated later time. It’s the only way out. But, speaking about the way out, this is the same kid who never hangs up or allows us to part without a kiss and an “I love you.” He’s wonderfully demonstrative and affectionate, sometimes to a fault when it comes to his girlfriend.

We learn so much about ourselves as parents from our children. This one has taught me to pick my battles thoughtfully, to be willing to table disagreements and to do your best to always let loved ones know that you care. Happy 14, QP.

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23 and me – yes, me!

As a Christmas gift to myself, I bought a 23 and Me kit. I grew up not knowing any biological family members and I was curious to see how much of the limited family lore might be confirmed – or disproven. For years I had considered my heritage to be pretty cut and dry (50% German, 50% Irish), but I had come to learn that DNA is not really that clean and simple. Yes, both of my parents had been born in the counties from which I associated them, however, that didn’t necessarily mean there hadn’t been other ethnicities mixed in with their German and Irish blood. It was time to learn for real where my people had originated.

Within days my kit, which I had ordered on Cyber Monday, arrived in the mail. I registered it online and started trying to produce enough saliva to fill the test tube to the marked line. Not an easy task for a person whose salivary glands have been damaged by radioactive iodine, folks. Approximately 40 minutes later I had what I thought was an acceptable ratio of spit to foam and capped the tube, placed it in the box and dropped it in the mail.

I received an email when the specimen was received and a couple of weeks after that, I received my results and…

Drumroll…

Apparently I’m of 100% European descent. Shocking, right?

Here’s my makeup:

  • British & Irish – 65.3%
    (Ireland, United Kingdom)
  • French & German – 20.4%
    (Germany, Switzerland)
  • Spanish & Portuguese – 0.5%
  • Broadly Northwestern European – 11.6%
  • Broadly Southern European – 1.3%
  • Broadly European – 0.9%

Despite a friend’s long held assertion that I must be Jewish, that does not seem to be the case. My love for matzoh ball soup, bagels and pickled herring remains undiminished, I assure you.

In terms of genetic makeup, there may not have been much revealed, but there were a couple of things that prompted unexpected emotions. The first was the almost immediate contact made with a woman who shares the surname of my father, the parent I never met. It’s an unusual name, outside of the county where my father was born and raised, and seeing that name, and the scientific evidence that linked she and I together, was so powerful that I couldn’t immediately even process it. Days later, I was brought to tears by this connection with someone I will likely just like my father, never know. The map that accompanied my results also confirmed my sense of community, my feeling of belonging to a family, with its concentration of relatives in Donegal, the county from which I know my father and his family originated.

I know there are controversies about services like this and about having one’s genetic information available for public consumption, but, you know me and my ridiculous drive to be transparent. I’m not all that concerned about that really. Finding out at 52 that the person you had hoped was your parent more than likely was, made 23 and me add up perfectly for this a bit long in the tooth colleen.

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Filed under aging, Europe, family, Germany, ideas, Ireland, Irish, Observations, Recommendations, relationships, Uncategorized

It’a all Greek to me

I’ve been planning vacations for long time. Usually it’s pretty simple – pick a destination, figure out which airport/airline makes the most sense and then find a place to stay. Easy. Last year I upped the ante by putting a trip involving 4 cities in 3 countries together, but that seems effortless now when compared to this year’s challenge…

I’m struggling a bit with this year’s Fabulous Lilly Boy Annual Trip. It’s feeling complicated and a little overwhelming, and so I’m coming here to ask for some help, friends.

Tell me about Greece.

Middle son and I plan to spend 10-12 days there in early summer and I tense up each time I think about the number of details involved in independently booking a trip to multiple islands. With acceptable and reliable transportation between islands, of course.

Friends have mentioned their favorite spots and some recommendations, and I appreciated that very much. What I’m hoping for now is a bit more specific. Can anyone share a suggested itinerary of islands (ideally 2, in addition to a night in Athens on either end of the trip) which includes islands which have beautiful beaches, chill atmosphere, trails to hike or run, and good food? I’m totally open to doing day trips to smaller islands, but want to minimize the amount of time I’ll need to be on a boat. I am not a good sailor.

So? What do you have? Please – be specific and share suggestions and experience. I’d appreciate it!

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Filed under Boys, Europe, family, Food, Greece, Hiking, ideas, Recommendations, running, Summer, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Japanese Breakfast

Lest you conclude that I’m super hip and actually know much about the band Japanese Breakfast, let me assure you that my only familiarity with this group is through my 19 year-old son who is way cooler than l. I’ve heard a piece of one of their songs titled “Road Head,” a phrase I did not immediately interpret accurately. If you’re in the same boat of innocence, I suggest urbandictionary.com

My son went to see them the other night in Brooklyn (natch) and traveled down to the city with two friends, spending the night in an airbandb I booked for them in LIC because, three nearly 20 year-olds couldn’t get it together enough to reserve a spot, especially when they experienced technological errors. No big deal.

I’ve made reservations for G before. He spent the last week of his three months in Thailand in a lovely apartment in Bangkok. On that occasion, just like the more recent booking, I made it a point to communicate to the property owner that I was reserving for my son and assuring them in advance that he would treat their place with respect. And he has. The Thai woman I emailed with was very impressed with how well he took care of her place, and rewarded him with the favor of storing his luggage during the day prior to his nighttime flight. Things must have gone well in NYC because they were offered a generous late checkout, giving them the opportunity to recover from their night out.

My son isn’t in college, or even working at the moment,* but I’m not overly concerned. He is interested in seeing the world and experiencing life and I feel really fortunate to be able to give him the kind of safety net I personally didn’t have when I was his age, living independently and working 3 jobs. While we had different experiences of being 19, I can’t help but admire that he went to the other side of the world, alone, for three months and came back to tell the story.

It’s taken a couple of months for him to settle back in at home, but recently I’ve begun to see some real signs of maturity. He’s definitely growing up. I’m proud of him, and his confidence in traveling, and I can’t wait to see where he goes next. Greece (with me) and Japan (with friends) are the oft mentioned destinations topping his current list. My son’s ability to navigate his way through life is a display of Road Head that I don’t mind seeing at all.

*there’s a Session job he should be starting soon.

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Gratitude

Whenever I do that character strengths test, you know the VIA one , my top characteristic is consistently Gratitude. I don’t know, maybe it comes from not having much in life when I was a child,* but I do find that I have a deep appreciation for all the wonderful people, opportunities and things I have in my life. Below are a few which immediately came to mind on this cold Thanksgiving morning.

  • The sun that rises and sets each day with the ability to light up the sky in a new and magical way.
  • Layers of clothing and heat to keep my family protected from extreme temperatures.
  • Children who love to travel and are still willing, at times, to share adventures with me. On the occasions when they take off without me, I appreciate the confidence with which they approach the world, and the experiences they gain, almost just as much.
  • My brother for just being there – always.
  • Friends – those who I’ve known forever, as well as those who have joined my life in more recent years. Having such an array of people who share my interests, humor, and daily past times makes my life incredibly rich.
  • The women who have provided me with their wisdom, strength and advice when my own parents were unavailable. They have given me gifts for which I can never adequately thank them.
  • The men who have taught me what I want, need and expect from a relationship, even if it has been a lesson based upon what they could not provide. Special shout out to the one who makes me smile currently.
  • Chances to travel to new places as well as revisit favorites. There’s so much to see!
  • My crazy dog  and the fat cat currently living in my house, both of  whom always welcome and return my love enthusiastically.
  • A refrigerator and pantry filled with food, a state I never take for granted.
  • You, a person who takes time from your life to read about mine. Thank you for being here.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

*I’m not suggesting we were starving or homeless, there just wasn’t much security or stability in my life when I was a child.

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Syracuse Half Marathon – 11/11/18

While I don’t expect I’ll ever be blasé about running 13.1 miles, I do feel increasingly comfortable with the distance. I won’t say it’s easy, but it a manageable distance that challenges without much post-race discomfort.

Yesterday, I ran my 10th half, an accomplishment I never could have predicted when I did my first in 2016. This particular race was scheduled perfectly for my life, in that it was in Syracuse, where my brother lives, and on his birthday, which made it the ideal weekend destination.

I went into the race feeling ok about my conditioning, but not necessarily as well trained as I was for last month’s Newport Half. I anticipated some hills, which would slow down my pace, but hadn’t imagined the picturesque snow falling from the sky and completing the pretty, nearly winter conditions. It was cool and appropriate for snowy Syracuse.

The route began and finished at the OnCenter. The miles in between were primarily residential neighborhoods with some business/commercial areas thrown into the mix. The crowds were fun and supportive, especially in the early miles. For me, the last couple of miles were less than spectacular in terms of scenery and performance, but I pushed through and crossed the finish line in 2:14:17 – a new PR to best my Newport PR of 2:17:01.

I had kind of given up on ever completing a half in less than 2:15, so I’m thrilled with my time and super proud that I seem to be getting faster, not older.* The yoga class I took on Saturday, before we headed to Syracuse, definitely helped me physically and mentally. During the times when I felt most tired, I worked to release tension or tightening in all of my muscles which were not being put to use to propel me forward. Gripped fists? Let them go. Facial grimace? Smile. Weight of the world on my shoulders? Shrug it off. Thanks, Samara!

My race calendar is, sadly, pretty blank other than next month’s Last Run, but I’m looking at a few new events for 2019. Any favorite 1/2 marathon courses you might recommend?

*Credit for this wise statement goes to a special friend who joined me for the weekend. He’s smart, right?

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Filed under aging, birthdays, Events, family, road trips, running, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Albany XXX

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Amsterdam

What’s up with that title, right? Is it porn? Extra large? Nope…Roman numerals – thirty, as in thirty years since I first moved to Albany.

In August of 1988 I was 21. I moved here knowing not a single person, other than Mary Panza who I was lucky enough to meet when her roommate tried to seduce me find me an apartment in his role as a real estate agent. The summer of ‘88 was hot, so damn hot. There was a heat wave that was unrelenting. I traveled to England and the Netherlands in July that year and I loved every day of dreary, damp weather we experienced abroad.

That first trip to Europe changed my life. It opened so many doors and windows and made me a traveler in a way I had never imagined. I had met a guy on the ferry on my way back to London and was acutely aware that he was great, but that the timing was not. We did, however, make some lovely memories and everyone should know the excitement of a long distance romance. When a man flys into jfk, hops into a rental car and drives to Albany to spend 2 days with you…well, you feel kind of special. I hope you know that feeling.

Albany charmed me from my very first visit when I found my way to Lark St.and enjoyed a fancy brunch at The Beverwyck. Once I got a handle on the size of the city (it’s always felt small to me, initially a disappointment but ultimately an asset), and began connecting faces and names, history and legend, I settled in with interest and made a life here.

Albany has witnessed my greatest joys. I got married here, right in Washington Park on a picture perfect Sunday afternoon. I own a house and pay taxes in the city and appreciate the privilege of both of those being possible because of the education (and degrees) I received from SUNYA. My children were born here and are students in the city school district and, while the education they receive may not be as immediately impressive as the high test scores and college acceptance rates of the suburbs, I do know my sons have learned a lot about getting along with people who don’t necessarily look or think like they do. Lessons in life count too.

I started running, an activity I never could have imagined I’d love, while a student at UAlbany and have run thousands of miles around this city.  I’ve learned to write and take photos and have been lucky to share some of my passions with an interested audience.  The opportunities here have been limited only by my own level of competence.  It’s been so cool, really.

Albany, though, has also been the setting for some of my saddest days. There are places around this town that are absolutely haunted for me – spots that I do my best to avoid because of the personal ghosts. The news, both domestic and international, that I’ve witnessed while living in Albany, has left an imprint as well. Princess Diana dying, the towers falling, the children murdered in whatever most recent school shooting…I can tell you exactly where I was for each of those breaking stories. I’ve shed a lot of tears in this town. Believe it.

After 30 years, I love Albany more than ever. The happiness I’ve known in this city that receives credit for how easy it is to get to places “to which you really want to go,” has far outweighed the heartaches I’ve experienced. I’m not sure what the future holds, (once I hit my 30 years teaching, who knows?), but these three decades have been the most productive, challenging and exciting times of my life and I wouldn’t have wanted to live them anywhere else.

Thanks, Albany xx

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