Category Archives: musings

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

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

I’m your Mom, not your pimp

I’m really concerned about today’s young people* and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about what a shitty world in which the next generation is  growing up. Does saying that make me sound really old? If it does, so be it. Unlike much of today’s youth, I can live with a little criticism and negativity.

It may not be fair to make comparisons to my own young adulthood since my situation was a bit different, but when I consider the responsibilities which were foisted upon me at a young age, I have a hard time accepting how lame dependent my sons continue to be on their Dad and me. Don’t misunderstand me – I’m appreciative of the fact that we can provide them with financial and other types of support, but their collective inability to navigate through life without relying heavily upon us, strikes me as kind of bizarre. I’m only half kidding when I say that I’ve wondered at times if they would starve if we were gone and they were faced with a manual can opener and a pantry filled with canned goods. I honestly don’t know if they would even know where to begin.

It’s a similar situation when it comes to finding a job, something both of my younger sons have been needing to accomplish (shout out to the fully employed LL!). Apparently, one of my sons had no idea as to how to actually obtain employment. When I asked him how his friends with jobs may have found their way to employment, he said they “knew people.” I suggested he might want to either search online help wanted ads or visit some retail/restaurant spots and ask for applications. Radical, right? How could he not know this?

What prompted me recently to actually utter the phrase that titles this post, relates directly to finding a job. As he was walking out the door to walk to school, my 14 year-old  asked me to “get him some babysitting gigs.” Keep in mind, he’s the youngest grandchild on both sides of the family and knows nothing about actually taking care of children. When I asked him about his skills when it comes to diaper changing, he informed me that he’d like to start with older kids, like 3 or 4 year-olds and then work his way down to babies because babies are harder. He may not be experienced, but he isn’t dumb.

Maybe you need a babysitter? Or a son?

 

*am I alone in this?

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Filed under aging, Albany, Boys, DelSo, Education, family, ideas, Local, moms, musings, Observations, relationships, Summer, upstate New York

From invisible to 518 famous

The years that I was married were busy ones. The boys were young and my husband and I worked opposite hours maximizing coverage of the children, but leaving little time for one another. As the kids grew, we grew apart until I remember a sense of invisibility appearing. I didn’t feel seen. In fact, I felt about as acknowledged as a throw pillow which had been part of a household for so long that its original bright color had faded into something no longer distinctive. It wasn’t good – or good for me.

My first post-marriage relationship, in many ways, kept me in that same shadowy place. Although I felt excited and emotionally engaged, the circumstances weren’t ideal and I felt restrained from being my best live out loud self. As a woman who increasingly wanted more – more fun, more open honesty, more life, I came to realize that the only part of my relationship that was consistently growing was my frustration. It’s taken a surprisingly long time to move from that dark place to a new vantage spot that comes with more sunshine and light. It’s getting better.

Have you heard or used the term 518-Famous? A close friend has been calling me that and it cracks me up. I absolutely love the phrase and I hope that whomever originated it did so with fondness, because that’s how I interpret being tagged as such. It isn’t a declaration of one’s value, it’s more a comment on the small, intimate circle that is Albany for a lot of people.

At an event last week there were some really nice women who had either seen  the Front Parlor storytelling event, or follow me on Instagram. They approached me knowing my name and it was pretty cool having a conversation immediately because this person you just met is familiar with your stories or perspective. While my circle of friends and acquaintances is pretty large due to many years in the hospitality industry and education, I’d like to believe that any notoriety I may own comes from this blog more than anything else. This is the place where I’m most myself publicly, I think, and where you just may have witnessed my becoming increasingly more visible. Maybe even 518 famous.

 

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Filed under aging, Albany, DelSo, Events, family, friends, Local, love, marriage, musings, Observations, relationships, secrets, upstate New York

Telling the story of A Fire, a Phonebook Page and Finding My Father

Photo credit: Jamie Thompson

I’m finally sobering up after a night that was intoxicatingly special. Friday night I was one of 6 storytellers at a public event held at the Linda Auditorium. The occasion was a celebration of the 8th anniversary of our local take on the Moth Story Hour, The Front Parlor Series, which occurs monthly in two locations; Albany and Troy.

Telling a story, without notes, in front of an audience is a nerve-wracking experience. I’ve never performed on stage or addressed an audience like I did on Friday and I wasn’t certain how to prepare for it. I knew the story I wanted to tell, the one about how I found my father’s family 30 years ago. It’s a good story, made better by the fact that it’s true. Obviously, I know the chronology of the tale and the important players, but it was challenging to decide which details added to the story and which might merely distract from the overall recounting. I began working it out on “paper.”

It took me a couple of weeks before I nailed down the segments that I wanted to include and the basic order in which to share them. I practiced in my head, honing and editing, during runs and walks and drives. I revised. My biggest concern, besides completely choking, was that I would forget a certain episode or anecdote that I knew was important. I decided it made sense to count paragraphs and associate each one with a word. That way I only needed to remember 12 things. I could do that! On Wednesday, I printed the story for the first (and only) time and made 12 flash cards, for rehearsing.

Friday afternoon, I went for a run (shocking!) opting for my usual 5 mile loop. I passed the remains of a house that had been destroyed by a recent fire. I inhaled and the scent of fire damage immediately tweaked my memory. I knew that smell. I showered, grabbed the last can of hard cider from my fridge and headed to the Linda with a couple of talismans.

The first photo I ever saw of my father, the page from the Dublin phonebook and a stone from my father’s grave fashioned into a pendant.

Somehow I imagined there would be space there for me to actually run through my story out loud. There really wasn’t, though, with 5 other performers and an increasingly full auditorium. I drank my cider, flipping through my index cards, scanning the paper copy of my story and periodically checking the crowd to see familiar faces who had promised to come. I peed three times. More quickly than seemed possible, I was being introduced and made my way towards the stage. My last thought was this – “If you get nervous, just imagine you’re just telling the story to me. You got this.”*

I exhaled, deeply and slowly, and stepped up to the mic.

*As always, thanks Aloysius

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Filed under Albany, Aloysius, Events, family, friends, girlhood, Ireland, Irish, Local, musings, Observations, stress, upstate New York, writing

Sometimes my yoga mat…

is a life raft in a sea of turmoil

feels like an island with a population of one

inspires me to stretch far beyond its borders

keeps me present

invites me to new places

is my best friend

helps me breathe

tests my patience

challenges my body

makes me sweat

collects everything I want to be rid of

takes me where I want to be

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Filed under Exercise, favorites, musings, Observations, stress