Category Archives: musings

What home feels like

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The stone staircase alongside the waterfall

Memorial Day weekend probably seems like the ultimate cliché when it comes to traveling a couple of hours (or more) to revisit one’s childhood. Not to take anything away from our nation’s true heroes, but surviving our teenaged years in the small village of Greenwood Lake made us veterans of an entirely different sort.

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Fitzgerald’s Falls

Since we had been brought back to the lake to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Class of 1980, meeting at the Middle School for what we exaggeratedly called a “hike,” was the perfect re-entry to the past. Heading for the trail, we walked alongside the brick building where we had once ruled, recalling intramural soccer games, events from the bicentennial celebration of 1976 and the family of ducks who once resided next to the now fenced in pond. It all felt like it could have been yesterday.

The trail into the woods was filled with memories of hikes, both with teachers and without adult supervision. How lucky were we to have had the Appalachian Trail behind our school and to have grown up at a time when exploring our surroundings was considered a valid use of class time? How many nights did we spend in the woods drinking cheap beer, listening to the waterfall splash against the mossy rocks, gaining an entirely different education?

Pink lady's slipper orchid

Pink lady’s slipper orchid

When we got to town a little later in the afternoon, it was remarkably familiar, yet ever so different. Businesses have come and gone, as is to be expected, but the renaming of childhood landmarks was jarring. What was known as “the field” or Pembleton’s to the more precise, was now named after someone who made their mark long after most of us had left the lake for lives elsewhere.  It felt like a weird responsibility to be the bearer of memories of what came before.

If I squinted my eyes I could still see the flea markets and fairs of long ago, along with the remnants of what was rumored to have once been a play area complete with mini golf and a concrete pool in which to sail toy boats. Situating myself along Windemere Avenue, relying upon buildings which may serve different purposes yet eternally remain the post office and Christman’s Realty to me, I located the slab of concrete which will always time stamp both my first “serious” boyfriend and the year the sidewalks were installed in town.

Look closely - can you read it?

Look closely – can you read it?

I took a run around the arm of the lake, a distance which is far shorter in miles than I ever would have guessed. So many of the places are different yet easily envisioned in my mind’s eye. Frank’s Pizzeria, now a residential building, but once home to great slices and a nice man who often gave me a ride up the mountain on his way home. The Bristol Bridge, long ago replaced by a span with far less interest and minus my name written in surprisingly weather resistant red lipstick.  McMansion-esque home replacing the cottages and bungalows where my friends lived so many years ago.

In Greenwood Lake everything feels familiar, yet nothing is exactly the same. Going home is like being dunked in a well of memories, moments from the past which, upon reflection, either gain or lose significance. There are ghosts everywhere – of friends lost to time or death and older versions of ourselves. But there’s a comfort in all of it. We were there and who we are today is directly related to the experiences we shared so many years ago. Going home feels like just the place I wanted to be this weekend.

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Filed under aging, friends, musings, relationships, road trips, Schools, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Fifteen ideas for Summer 2015

1. Eat and drink at Nine-Pin Cider’s Dine’n
2. Dinner at 15 Church Street.
3. Paddleboarding on Saratoga Lake
4. A day hike in the Catskills with my camera.
5. Host a party on my new and improved deck
6. Get to a Soul Cafe dinnerimage
7. Volunteer to prepare a meal at the Ronald McDonald House
8. Check out local Farmer’s Markets more often.
9. Get away for at least one night with the girls
10. Take the train to Hudson for an afternoon
11. Figure out what to do with my weedy, unappealing backyard
12. Watch one of those series that everyone talks about but, I’ve never seen.
13. Make it to at least ½ of ARE’s Summer Trail Runs.
14. Repurpose my spare bedroom into something more useful.
15. Enjoy these last couple of months of having all 3 of my boys home.

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Filed under Eating, ideas, musings, road trips, running, Summer, upstate New York

Black boys on mopeds

England’s not the mythical land of Madame George and roses
It’s the home of police who kill blacks boys on mopeds
And I love my boy and that’s why I’m leaving
I don’t want him to be aware that there’s
Any such thing as grieving.

I’ve had these lyrics from an old Sinead O’Connor song kicking around in my head recently. It would be easy enough, and equally accurate, to substitute America for England, wouldn’t it? When my middle son asked me last night why police officers keep killing young black men, I was at a loss. The only response I could articulate was this – Because they’ve done it one way or another for years and continue to get away with it.

I don’t know what it’s like to be the mother of black boys, but I do understand that parenting black children, particularly males, involves issues, that will probably never impact my children. Is this just or fair? Absolutely not. Has it been the reality of our society for generations? Without a doubt, yes.

I suspect that involved and proactive black parents have discussions with their children about how to respond to law enforcement officers to avoid becoming the next Michael Brown or Tamir Rice, a topic I’ve never felt the need to broach with my sons. I very much doubt that a video produced by a young white man would resonate as deeply as this recent viral video created by Will Stack did. The reason? My sons, by virtue of their skin color and not necessarily their behavior, are at far less risk of being approached by police officers than male black teens, a truth that is well documented here.

It’s clear that we have a serious and pervasive problem in our country when it comes to law officers and their interactions with black citizens. There’s another issue, though, that we as a nation need to address – gun violence. According to this report “Firearm homicide alone, and by extension firearm violence, was the leading cause of death for Black men ages 15–34 in 2012…” Just this week in Albany, two teenagers (the same ages as my own two teenagers) and a third male were arrested for shooting three people, one a 27-year-old man, who died of his injuries.

Where are these guns coming from?  Where are the parents of those two teenaged boys who have effectively ruined their lives, as well as the lives of the 6 children now left fatherless?  Those two teenagers presumably went to the same high school as my sons.  Where did they learn that guns were a solution to conflict?

Like Sinead said “These are dangerous times.”

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Local, musings, News

My mythical beast turns 16

On a sunny day, not unlike some of the ones we’ve enjoyed this week, my water broke and labor began for my second child. Neither of these occurred with any haste – it was more a leak than a gush and the progress of my contractions was painfully (literally) slow. When my red-faced, bald-headed baby boy finally made his debut it was a new day and I was in awe – of both his perfection and the strength of my body. Birthing him was, most definitely, my proudest physical accomplishment.

Sixteen years later this child continues to amaze and exhaust me. I do, however, find myself worrying about him more than I do either of his brothers. His humor, intelligence and charm have provided him with wonderful life experiences. Unfortunately, though, his gifts have also given him the opportunity to avoid truly exerting himself. Ever. Everything has come so easily to this guy…it kind of scares me.

During my run yesterday I was thinking about him and life and challenges to be met and conquered. I thought about all the things I want him to know – about himself and life. Of course, being a teenager, he only ingests my motherly wisdom in small doses and on an as needed basis. Hopefully one day he will come to know all of the following…

  1. Nothing in life is more important than health and happiness.
  2. There is satisfaction in doing your best and working hard.
  3. You have been blessed with many talents.
  4. Be where you are.
  5. Don’t ever lose your sense of right and wrong.
  6. Responsibilities will make you a grownup far more than a driver’s permit.
  7. You can do anything.
  8. Take your time figuring out what you want to do career wise. There’s no rush.
  9. That being said, finding yourself is a self-sponsored trip.
  10. You may look like your father, but so much of your behavior mirrors my own. I get you.
  11. Travel and see as much of the world as you can.
  12. Be honest. In the long run, it’s easier.  I promise.
  13. Keep carrying groceries for old women.
  14. Never stop giving good hugs.
  15. Going to concerts with you has been one of the best rewards of parenthood.
  16. You are loved.

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Filed under aging, birthdays, Boys, musings

Living (too) large

You know how they say “travel is broadening?” Well, when it comes to the size of my ass, I’d definitely have to agree. Seriously, I’ve taken to referring to my hips as “croissant” and “pain au chocolat.” Whatever. I don’t regret eating a single slab of pâté or hunk of Camembert. It was vacation.

Now that I’m home, though, I’m actually feeling the need to downsize a bit. And I’m not just talking about the size of my hips. You see, one of the things that struck me during my travels was the simplicity of how Europeans live. Both apartments where we stayed, one modern and one in a more aged building, were built on a much small-scale than their American counterparts. Honestly, it made our American tendency to accumulate seem downright vulgar.

Let me give you a couple of examples…

The bedroom closets are really compact to accommodate much smaller wardrobes than those of the typical American. I’m talking maybe 2 ½ feet of hanging rod space and a handful of drawers. Coming home to my walk-in step-in closet and double-sided rolling clothing rack embarrassed me. Why do I have so much frigging clothing?

Both flats had lovely, updated kitchens. If these kitchens are any indication, Ikea seems to dominate the market and I am definitely going to consider going that route myself when I address my tired kitchen cabinets. Both kitchens were well laid out and contained more than adequate storage for the limited number of necessary items. That being said, neither kitchen had extraneous space, merely enough cupboards for cookware, dishes, glassware and some pantry items. Why do American kitchens require so much space?

One of the apartments we rented had 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and a combined kitchen, dining and living room. The other had 2 bedrooms, a large loft sleeping area, kitchen and combined living/dining room. There was one bathroom. I don’t think either of these apartments exceeded 800 or 900 square feet. Why do new American homes need to be nearly three times that size? Who convinced us that we should aspire to maintain, heat and clean such large residences?

Time for me to minimize.

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Filed under Europe, house, musings, Observations, travel, vacation

I never imagined

imageOn our 15th wedding anniversary, my husband and I had a special dinner at a restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard. The meal was a bit of a disappointment, but the company was good.

After we had finished our meals and were somewhere between entrée and dessert, our wedding song came on over the restaurant’s speakers. I was touched and felt my eyes well with emotion. I thought to myself “we should dance.” There wasn’t a dance floor (it was a restaurant), but we could have managed a twirl or two. It was our 15th wedding anniversary.

I’ve thought back to that night a few times and wonder what might have been different if I had forced the words “we should dance” out of my mouth or if he had said “I arranged for this song to play.” If either of us had done something to demonstrate our love for the other. Would it have been enough to have prompted us to steer our ships once again to be side by side and in the same direction? I’ll never know.

By our next anniversary dinner, we were, in retrospect, clearly sailing in different directions. It was a fancy meal, perfectly executed and filled with laughter. We met the chef-owner and there were many bottles of wine uncorked. My feet hurt in their new shoes. It was good to feel something.

It’s almost 5 years later now and I never dreamed this life that I’m living. I write and run and work and eat and take pictures and I love, love, love. I feel more alive than I’ve ever felt and am equally inspired by today and the thought of tomorrow. Things may not have gone the way I imagined they would, but as an inherently grounded person, my imagination is sometimes too timid.

I never imagined I’d quote Hugh Hefner but he said it perfectly:

“In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined a sweeter life.”

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Filed under aging, love, marriage, musings, relationships, writing

Advantage – taken or given?

imageEleanor Roosevelt once said that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Do you think we can apply this logic in a broader sense to situations in which we feel advantage has been taken of us? Do we somehow give permission to people to take advantage of us?

There are particular incidents in my life that continue to bother me despite the passage of time, usually because I failed to assert myself. I essentially gave someone an opportunity to make me feel inferior because I failed to stop them. When I think about those occasions I find myself replaying the scenarios, inserting a response that I only wish I had conjured up during the original altercation. You know, the perfect retort just too late. I want a do over.

The older I get, though, the less frequently I feel the need for a do over. I’ve learned that the discomfort of directly dealing with a person who is threatening my sense of what is fair or reasonable, is less damaging than perpetually looping the incident mentally afterwards. Ultimately, it’s better to give someone a piece of my mind than to allow them to just take it.

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Filed under aging, musings, relationships