Category Archives: girlhood

Growing up in black and white

imageThere’s been a lot of talk about race in our country and its got me thinking about the my own perspective on the relationships between blacks and whites. I was fortunate to have been raised by a woman who did not discriminate between races. My earliest school friendships were with a black girl and a Jewish girl – a real feat in a small town which was almost exclusively Christian and white. Sometimes I miss the simplicity of childhood.

When I was about 12, we moved to a house a couple of miles out of town in a neighborhood I had heard referred to as The Colony. That wasn’t said in a complimentary way. You see, this particular area was populated primarily by black families, including that of my elementary school friend. The house we lived in was only two miles out of town, but it felt pretty far removed. We had the telephone exchange of Warwick, the school district of Greenwood Lake and the zip code of Monroe, perfectly summing up the lack of interest in a single community to “own” this long road. It felt very much like a no man’s land.

In the spring of eighth grade, a number of us tried out for the freshman cheerleading squad in what would be our new high school. I was the only one who was selected and, even then, I felt that it was because I was white. Vicki and Brenda were both better than me and deserved it more. I ended up quitting the squad before football season even started.

A year or so later something happened that changed my comfort level with people of color. My brother had some sort of altercation with Vicki’s brother, I don’t know what it was about, and he got punched in the face as he boarded the school bus one morning. I remember being shocked by the violence and afraid of what might happen next, especially after listening to other students who had witnessed the fight. Their language was new to me and the prejudice they demonstrated was unlike anything I had ever heard, but it gave me a cloak to wrap myself in for protection. I didn’t spend time with Vicki anymore.

In the many years since then, I’ve had very few black friends. I’ve puzzled over this lack of diversity in my life as I’ve celebrated the friendships my own children share with kids from every imaginable ethnic and religious background. The single block in the DelSo where I’ve lived for 20 years is populated by Indians, Blacks, Jews and Whites and I think of them all as neighbors.

Last week, I went back to Greenwood Lake to spend an afternoon with friends. In the early afternoon, I took a run past the haunted houses of my youth accompanied by more memories than I could ever share. My feet took me along the roads I had walked countless times, most frequently to get away from home, but now instead in an attempt to take me back to where I came from. It was a very emotional run, especially once I saw the two “new” (to me) state historic markers declaring the significance of Nelson Road.image

Reading about the history of The Colony caused me for the first time ever to feel a sense of pride about where I spent some pretty influential years of my life. I was reminded of the cultural contributions of Black Americans and wished that those markers had been installed years ago. I hope Vicki has been back to see them.

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Filed under aging, girlhood, musings, Observations, road trips, running, Summer

49 and hotter than ever!

If by “hot” you mean experiencing hot flashes, that is. Holy perimenopause!

Male readers, be warned. This may not be the blog post for you. Unless, of course, you’re trying to develop your understanding and empathy for the universe’s women. In which case, read on.

The move to what I’m considering my third stage of life, is starting to amp up a bit. The night sweats are more frequent and now even appear during waking hours. The lines on my face are a bit more assertive and the flesh under my biceps seems a bit softer. My cycle is no longer a cycle as much as it is a random moment in time. Things are changing and I’m trying to pay attention without obsessing. Wish me luck with that, ok?

When I attempt to look back on when I transitioned from biological girl to woman, very few memories remain. I remember becoming aware of my need for deodorant and being relieved to find Tickle roll on atop my dresser. I was kind of oblivious about other changes in my physical appearance, you know, the new hair and curves appearing, but I felt males looking at me with different eyes than to which I was accustomed.

I recall receiving a box of maxi pads and a pamphlet from my mother, but it came without discussion. My period started and I used the feminine products without telling my mother. When the box was empty, I requested tampons and that was the extent of our conversation about menstruation and puberty. I wonder how it might have been different if I had a daughter of my own.

Soon, my reproductive system will cease to function as it has for more than 35 years. As my inner feminine systems go out in a blaze of heat and sweat, I appreciate how well I’ve been served by this womanly body of mine. Three healthy children have been conceived and grown within its confines, a miracle by any measure.  I’ve enjoyed an easy monthly cycle, never experiencing the discomfort from cramps and extreme mood swings that many women experience, but, I’m ready to close the door on fertility.  I’m seriously hoping that this internal furnace of mine directs its attention to something external that is productive –  and I’m not just talking about intense perspiration either.

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Filed under aging, girlhood, moms, musings, Observations, Uncategorized

When fights are good memories

image.jpegI grew up during a time when house parties were the rage. Going out was something rare, but adults gathering  for cocktails, pinochle and televised boxing matches was a big part of my childhood. I loved those nights filled with Lipton onion soup mix dip and chips with a side of ginger ale and grown up laughter. Knowing my place as a child among adults was incredibly comforting and I was careful to never misbehave and threaten my admission to an evening that I could only interpret as being sophisticated.

I have one particular memory of watching a heavyweight boxing match, the Thrila in Manila. Manila, naturally, being a place I had never ever heard of prior to the bout. We were at a home that I also don’t think I ever had been in before. The house and the enclosed front porch were made from big cold looking stones but it was cozy in a way that a new place doesn’t often feel.

The television everyone gathered around was big for the time, probably 27″, and color, something that was not necessarily a given during my youngest years. In my mind’s eye, I see rabbit ears, but I may be embellishing after 40 years and a collection of memories too large to properly sort. What I know for certain is that I fell in love with boxing that night.

The hype for the match was nothing compared to the media blitzes to which we’ve all grown accustomed, but I know I was aware of the fight, even as an elementary school student, because it was going to be an event. And it was. Ali was swagger before the word existed. He fascinated me with his larger than life persona and I was spellbound.  He won – the match and my eternal interest.

imageWhen I learned more about him, about his radical anti-war activities and steadfast conviction to his beliefs, I could only admire Ali more. He and Jimmy Carter will always somehow go together in my mind – the era, I suppose. Like Carter, Ali was an ambassador to worlds not yet in existence, peaceful places where priorities were more about taking care of people than taking people down and out. It sounds like a nice place. I hope the Louisville Lip is enjoying it as we speak.

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Filed under aging, Events, favorites, girlhood, musings, News, Observations, television, Uncategorized

Greenwood Lake abbreviated

Before I say another word – a note, know this: I love where I grew up. Greenwood Lake provided me with a foundation – friends, experiences and memories that will reside within me until the day I die. Even after nearly 30 years in Albany, Greenwood Lake is my heart’s home. What follows isn’t a criticism of a place or a population, it’s a lament.

imageWhenever I tell someone where I grew up, I nearly always have to repeat it. Sometimes more than once. Greenwood Lake, N.Y., often abbreviated as GWL, is a small village in Orange County. Despite its proximity to NYC and Bergen County, N.J. and Westchester, GWL is a modest village with a mixture of blue-collar and professional residents. There are folks who have lived there for generations, marrying and merging families into a stew of blended characteristics and histories that would be impossible to separate without an elder spokesperson, a piece of paper and pencil. There’s a comfort in that.

Recently, I became aware of a couple of losses that had been suffered. A young man and a middle-aged man, who had been cut down as a young man, were both laid to rest this month. Even from my safe distance of nearly 100 miles and 3 decades, I was rocked by these deaths. A tidal wave of sorrow hit me and I was swamped by the memories of all the other premature deaths of GWL residents I have witnessed over the years. There have just been too damn many.

I don’t know what it is that makes these deaths seem so perversely frequent. Is it simply that the names are so familiar? Do tragedies occur in my hometown more than in other places? Does everyone need more than a single hand to count the number of wakes and funerals for peers which they attended prior to finishing high school? Jesus, I hope not.

Through the years, there have been far too many car accidents interspersed with horrible illnesses, unshakable addictions and previously unimaginable suicides. There are parents I know who have buried 2 of their 3 children, families who have suffered in ways I don’t ever want to suffer and it makes sad and scared and a bit angry, too. Why do these deaths continue to happen? When will the lessons of risk and danger and speed and mortality finally be learned?

An elected representative of my hometown district told me last week that Greenwood Lake, along with Port Jervis, has the highest incidence of heroin abuse in the county. It doesn’t seem like the abbreviation of the lives of Greenwood Lakers is going to end anytime soon.  I only wish my sorrow about this situation could be equally short lived.

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Filed under aging, friends, girlhood, musings, Observations, Uncategorized



Can you believe it has been 35 years since John Lennon was murdered?  It just doesn’t seem possible that so many years have passed since the music world lost one of its most influential artists and many of us lost our innocence.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget lying in bed that night and hearing the news on my clock radio – the disbelief and shock that I felt were unfamiliar emotions to me.  In an instant the world became a different place.

I have to wonder if John Lennon would have written different lyrics to Imagine if he were writing that song today.  I suppose he might have imagined a world without handguns, right?  Yeah, me, too.

His hope for a world without religion probably wouldn’t have changed, but maybe he would have expanded upon that thought by wishing that we could live in a world where political candidates didn’t manipulate citizens with fear mongering and religious discrimination.

The rampant consumerism in our society probably would have bummed him out.  The ever widening gap between the haves and the have-nots in our world shows that we have only grown more distant from Lennon’s ideal for “sharing all the world.”  It seems that oversharing a la tabloids and reality television is what we really do best.

Who ever could have imagined the world in which we now are living?  A world where dozens of children have been massacred in their schools because we’re too stupid as a society to prevent bad people from getting weapons?  A country in which prospective presidential candidates are encouraging behaviors frighteningly reminiscent of the actions we took decades ago when we perpetrated gross civil liberty injustices against the Japanese, and, in more recent years, blacks and  gays.

Unfortunately, I imagine we’re still a very long way from when the world will live as one.

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Filed under aging, Events, girlhood, Music, NYC, Observations, politics, Uncategorized

I didn’t know

IMG_4854 The first time I remember wanting to be a runner I was about 12 or 13. It seemed like such a cool thing to do – put your sneakers on and a pair of nylon, fluorescent colored shorts (it was the 80s) and just GO. I was infatuated with the idea, but, as I’ve come to learn about romantic infatuations, the reality didn’t measure up to the fantasy.

It was early fall and dark in the morning when I left my house to run down the dirt road we lived on. The air was fresh, but my gasping made my lungs feel tight not wonderfully expanded as I had imagined. The distance I attempted, perhaps a third of a mile, felt endless and I found myself walking, not running. I gave up. Obviously, running was not going to be my sport.

35 years later, I’m registered to run a trail half marathon this weekend. How did that happen?

  • I learned that sometimes small steps, be it at a walking stride or a running pace, are the way to make progress.
  • I realized that running is a challenge that I find satisfying. It feels good to push myself.
  • I’ve accepted that there are some runs that turn into walks and that that’s ok. Life isn’t a race and I am committed to enjoying the journey.
  • I have a posse of running friends who inspire and encourage me.
  • I now know that for every step which feels difficult, there are 10 steps that feel amazing. I’m no mathematical genius, but that adds up for me in a positive way.
  • Most importantly, while I didn’t initially know how hard running was going to be, I also had no idea how incredibly happy a good run would make me feel.
  • I know now. I’m a runner.

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Filed under aging, beauty, Exercise, friends, girlhood, musings, Observations, road trips, running, Uncategorized, upstate New York

The beautiful awkwardness of middle school


One of my responsibilities at school is morning hall duty. I generally bring a book to my post at the end of corridor, but often I don’t read more than a sentence or two because I am so captivated by the students making their way to their home rooms. They are so incredibly compelling in their not-still-children, not-quite-teenagers way that I find myself content to merely witness their passage – through both the hallway and through the critical years of their middle school experience.

Do you remember your own middle school years? If so, is it with fondness or discomfort? In my hometown, Greenwood Lake, N.Y., the configuration of the middle school was kind of unique – grades 4th-8th attended a single building with a two-storied wing for academics and a wing shared by the grades for specials and the cafeteria. I loved that school and my class of 60 students or so. It felt like a safe, comfortable space and I thrived in that environment.

Despite the level of familiar comfort I felt among my friends and with my teachers, I can still recall the sometimes painful moments of being a pre-teen. Am I the only person in the world who was too embarrassed to blow my nose in class? Or who had some unfortunate results while experimenting with hairstyles or trying on different personas?

When I see the parade of kids heading towards me in the hallway, I am utterly charmed by the wide range of physical variations – there are boys and girls far smaller than my 10 year-old as well as students who I have to crane my neck upwards in order to make eye contact. The array of fashions, from sweatpants and leggings (always black) to skinny jeans to pants of a length that my middle school peers would have dubbed “flood waters,” never fails to make me smile.

The fresh-faced girls with a tasteful dab of lip gloss and the lightest coating of mascara are perfectly matched by the boys who have discovered hair gel and their father’s cologne. These kids usually travel the halls in a pack, which maximizes their impact on the less sophisticated students who sport t-shirts featuring non-ironic cartoon characters and hair ribbons and bows. I am equally in awe of those who attempt to appear older and the ones who are adorably oblivious to the accouterments of adulthood.  They’re all beautiful.

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