Category Archives: Observations

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

Mother’s Day 2016 –3 sons, 7 Sisters and two many moms with lost children

13131375_10154112636582889_447523597177719350_oBeing a mom to 3 boys is sometimes an exercise in acceptance. There will never be breakfast in bed or handmade cards decorated with lace doily hearts and glitter or prom dress shopping, but, I’m ok with that. I wouldn’t trade my guys for the world. Knowing that Mother’s Day has the potential to be basically another Sunday morning of me whipping up pancakes for the gang, I immediately embraced the idea of running the 7 Sisters Trail Race in Amherst, MA as a potentially more satisfying way to spend the holiday. The idea had been presented by Lunar B*tch, Chrissy a few months ago as a “race to works towards,” but quickly became a “What the hell? Let’s just do it,” thing. We signed up.

After registering for the run, I did a little research in an attempt to learn what to expect from this 12 mile trail run across the Holyoke Range of mountains outside of Amherst, MA. This was probably an even worse idea than impulsively signing up for a 12 mile trail run across the Holyoke Range of mountains outside of Amherst. The various blogposts and reviews I read each added a little fear and nervous excitement to my pre-race mental prep, but honestly, nothing could have prepared me for the reality of the trail.

Although I intended to get a complete night’s rest, Saturday, like the rest of the week at Lark + Lily, was busy and I ultimately racked up a total of less than 5 hours of sleep. I woke before my alarm and had an opportunity to eat a solid breakfast, a fortunate set of circumstances because my body and mind would demand every available resource I had available as the race progressed. We arrived at the start with enough time to score parking in the upper lot and mentally settle in for our 8:43 Wave 4 start time.

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Pre-race

As I started up the first of the countless climbs my intentions were clear: to finish uninjured – and to smile. For the most part, I met my goals, but there were nearly 4.5 hours of propelling my body up and down mountains to endure before I could proclaim my mission accomplished… The out and back course was extremely challenging with a tremendous amount of potential to be truly dangerous in the wet, muddy and slippery conditions we faced. It really wasn’t a run as much as a clambering hike, at least for me. Although I never went down hard, I did gracefully glide down to earth a minimum of 3 times, earning a muddy ass and saturated socks along the way.  The shale was slick, but in the few areas where the trail was actually trail, the running was sublime.  The shades of green were dazzling and on the return trek the view of the rolling hills and Connecticut River in the distance was beautiful.

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Post race

The discomfort caused by the aggressive terrain was, at times, nearly unbearable, particularly in my hips.  As the race continued,  there were moments when I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it to the finish line as the pain spread to my calves and feet.  When I briefly considered not finishing, I turned my internal attention to a true circumstance that would potentially prevent me from going on – the loss of a child.  I focused on the moms I know who have for various reasons lost a child and I recommitted to the race thinking that if they can survive that truly hellish reality, I could gather the strength to complete this course.  I was no longer running just for myself and when I finally crossed that finish line after hours of exertion, I did it with gratitude and thoughts of appreciation for my children.  Their presence is truly enough of a gift to me.

Here are some photos from the race taken by Greg Saulmon for The Republican.  The shots are awesome and really provide an accurate picture of the day. In addition to some tangible memories offered by photographs, I’ve had soreness in pretty much every muscle of my body, abs and forearms, included. As I said Monday morning, the only muscle which didn’t ache post- 7 Sisters and Mother’s Day was my heart.

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Filed under Boys, Exercise, friends, holidays, moms, Observations, road trips, running, sunday, Uncategorized

Lisbon Love

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Home, sweet home

After more than 20 hours on a bus (actually, 3 buses) we arrived in Lisbon as darkness fell. There was a failed connection with an Uber driver and an eventual cab ride with a driver who could not locate our desired address and instead dropped us off at the bottom of a formidable hill and advised us to simply walk an unknown distance until we located #4 Beco do Mirante. We wandered down a street so narrow that it felt more like an extended driveway than a road, before encountering a mound of trash and a gang of street cats taking their evening meal. We turned around and started over, eventually stumbling upon our home for the next three nights and being warmly welcomed by Renata, our AirBandB host.

It was not an auspicious start.

Despite the less than positive beginning to our stay, Lisbon absolutely captivated me. The view from our flat, both from the front and rear balconies, was memorable, with a beautifully lit dome filling the night sky when we arrived and the rising sun glowing over the river greeting me in the morning. The architecture was remarkable with many of the building facades tiled in dizzying patterns to whose charm I could never imagine becoming immune. 13131683_10154099899137889_3291232505187124338_o

The sounds of Lisbon included barking dogs and cooing pigeons and Fado music. Of the three, I preferred the pigeons. The sidewalks are made from small, rough cut stones which are surprisingly slippery even when dry and the narrow streets wind about with complete disregard for a more modern city’s commitment to a grid pattern. The hills are impressive and I felt no guilt about not running when I instead happily walked for hours up and down and around and about.

Portuguese people are handsome – both males and females. Dark hair and eyes and golden brown skin dominate. The men are more direct with their attentions than I had expected, dispelling any stereotypes I previously held about aggressive Italian or Spanish men. These guys were open about their admiration without being threatening.  If I were younger I might have found it intimidating, but, at my age, I’ll take it as a compliment.

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Look at that tile!

The wines, (with decent rosés  selling for 2 euro a bottle in the corner grocery store), and sangria we sampled were tasty, as were both the red and white ports we tried.  The traditional custard tart, pastéis de nata, was a delicious treat any and all times of day and there were other baked goods, including a bread studded with chorizo and ham, that were also excellent.  The meals we had were not quite on par with the food in Barcelona, but there weren’t really any bad dining experiences.  I could not find the fish stew I had imagined, but it gives me yet another reason to go back.

Breakfast with meat bread front and center.

Breakfast with meat bread front and center.

This is a place I definitely want to revisit.

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Filed under Europe, Observations, Portugal, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine

Sketches of Spain

imageHave you ever listened to this album by Miles Davis? It’s one of my favorites and sets the mood for so many things – a romantic dinner, a quiet conversation, time alone with your special someone. Add it to your playlist and thank me later, ok?

Now that you’ve got that going, let me share some of my impressions of Spain, or more accurately, Barcelona.

  • The dogs here are rarely on leashes, although their owners always seem to have one slung over their shoulders. The dogs are very well behaved and never run into the street or approach strangers even when a stranger is missing their own dog and more than willing to give a pat.
  • Fashion observations: women wear tights and stockings far more than at home.  They also rock tight, little leather jackets, while people of all ages have those super light down jackets in a rainbow of colors. Happily, I haven’t seen a single pair of Uggs.
  • Far too many people smoke cigarettes, just like in Paris.  The only other unpleasant aroma has been a vague sewer smell that wafts around in a mild, yet noticeable way.
  • Speaking of smells, it’s weird – the Mediterranean doesn’t have that briny smell that announces its presence like the Atlantic.  There’s no “sea air” that I could discern.
  • Children seem to be very well loved here.  Parents are affectionate and attentive without resorting to that helicopter approach which is so prevalent in the U.S.
  • Everyone has either a scooter, a bike or a soccer ball.
  • Scarves are oversize and wound repeatedly around the necks of both men and women.
  • Running seems to be a pretty big activity here and I got lucky with a boardwalk of sorts and parks super close to our apartment. I ran every day.
  • Chefs use a generous amount of salt and pastry is far more delicate than I imagined.
  • I’d like to come back here again.

 

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Filed under Europe, Food, musings, Observations, running, Spain, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

The wisdom of Antonio Banderas

imageAfter spending my first day in Barcelona, I can say I understand exactly what Antonio’s talking about. This place just stimulates the desire for languid pleasure and beautiful people and food are everywhere.

With blue skies above our heads and cobblestones below our feet we wandered around quite a bit yesterday. When it came time to eat, we approached the task of finding a restaurant with an attitude of nonchalance. It all looked pretty good and we were willing to try something new. For Griffin, it was a plate of meat for a late breakfast. He shared a bite of the brightly colored and flavored sausage, but gobbled the rest, saying that the tiny ribs were his favorite but everything on the plate was delicious and cooked perfectly.image

For dinner, which we began eating at 11 p.m., we wandered into a neighborhood spot that contained only 6 tables, although it appeared that the large table filled with either regulars or family, may have been a couple of small tables pushed together. Not being able to read Spanish wasn’t really a problem because we wanted traditional fare – jamon and paella.image

The ham was phenomenal and buried any other ham I’ve ever had. It was sliced beautifully thin with the perfect meat to fat ratio. It was tender, yet firm and had an overwhelming rich flavor of butter. Fantastic. The paella was exactly what I’ve always imagined paella to be – presented in a beautiful low pan and served to us at the table, it was an eye pleasing medley of shrimp, langoustine, mussels, slivers of squid with rice and small bites of red pepper. The fish was mind blowingly fresh and the shells on the shrimp were incredibly tender as we picked them up with our hands to suck every single morsel of deliciousness out.image

Good food was had and the wine I sampled – an intense rose in the afternoon and a simple white of unknown origin with dinner, was pretty damn good, too. From what I observed as we walked around, it seems that romance and sensuality is very much present with young and old couples showing affection and passion freely. Good sex seemed a distinct possibility. As for me, there was good sleep in the form of an hour long nap and a longer overnight rest. Antonio Banderas, and Spanish people in general, are on to something. Viva Espana!

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Filed under Eating, Europe, Food, Observations, Spain, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine

When you work more hours than you sleep

As my vacation approaches, I find myself getting most excited by the thought of having hours and hours to fill (or not) any way I please. These last few weeks have been joyfully hectic with fun events, long runs and mini escapes, all very carefully penciled into my already impressively full calendar. I’m ready to get away.

Prior to jetting out, there’s a neighborhood association social, wine academy, a party over at the new Biergarten, a date with my someone special and, of course, some packing, that need to happen. I’m confident it’s all going to come to pass, but I do wish it was a bit more spread out. I’d like to savor each of those things instead of survive them, you know? Reality, though, is a bitch and I’m doing my best to keep up, ok?

I don’t think a single day goes by without someone saying to me “I don’t know how you do it. School Monday – Friday, the restaurant 5 nights a week, the three children, miles of running, the house to maintain, the blog, the…” Well, you know what? Sometimes I don’t know how I do it either.

Here’s what I do know, though – if I spent any real time counting the hours in a week that I work versus the hours in a week that I sleep, I’d probably be really tired. If I didn’t love what I’m doing, none of it would be possible. The support I receive from my loved ones and employees is the thread that helps me to keep things together. And all that running? That’s what keeps me strong and sane. Honestly, other than my previous request for two additional hours a day, there’s nothing I’d want to change.  Living life, to me,  is better than sleeping through it.

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? – Mary Oliver

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Filed under aging, Albany, Events, family, Lark Street, musings, Observations, running, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

Inspiring vs. Inciting – Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump

Photo credit: Griffin Lilly

Photo credit: Griffin Lilly

Yesterday was a huge day for politics in Albany, our Capital City on the Hudson. My schedule only allowed for me to attend one of the three pre-primary political rallies, but I am ever so proud to say that my older sons represented at the two events held during the early afternoon. How cool is it that they are interested and participating at their ages – 16 and 19?

Photo credit: Liam Lilly

Photo credit: Liam Lilly

Liam, my oldest son attended the Kasich rally in Troy, essentially because he is taking classes at HVCC and the event was very conveniently nearby. Liam leans further to the right than I and often threatens to vote for candidates who hold much more socially conservative positions than I do. He didn’t really have an opportunity to share many impressions of the speech but he did say Kasich is a moderate Republican with a repeated refrain of jobs, jobs, jobs.

Griffin, my middle son, is always game to skip school and the Bernie rally gave him a fine and legitimate reason to cut out of class with my permission. He liked Bernie’s message but found him, when compared to President Obama, to be a less powerful speaker. He was in agreement with the message, but said Sanders had a “Grandpa cute” vibe. Griffin did really enjoy the folks present, though, and felt comfortable in the tightly packed crowd in the Armory. There might have even been some hugging, from what I understand. I was sad to have missed it.

Made in China - worn with total irony

Made in China – worn with total irony

Later in the day, after a fortifying beer meal at McGeary’s, all 3 of my boys and I headed to the Times Union Center for what we referred to as the circus. We arrived at approximately 6:40 and waited in line for entry and security for about 20 minutes. It was an informative time as we looked around at the other folks in line wondering what their stories might be. Were they genuine supporters? Local? Perhaps merely curious, like us, there to see the spectacle? It was impossible to know.

imageWe made it to seats in the upper deck just minutes before Trump graced the enthusiastic crowd with his presence. He immediately launched into his stump speech, littering his diatribe with meaningful phrases such as “New York values,” “building that wall” and “making America great again.” His words were resonating with the crowd who greeted his sound bites with cheers and the frenzied waving of their Trump signs. Other people present began to respond as well to Trump’s claims, but these people were protestors, not supporters. The energy in the arena shifted from simple enthusiasm to a more complicated mélange of fear and anger. My children began to feel uncomfortable.

imageI looked around at the people surrounding us and tried to think about what might have made them so angry. How could they possibly be more furious with Mexican immigrants than they are with corporations which relocate to Mexico to lower production costs and maximize profits? Why are they resentful of citizens desiring comprehensive and affordable healthcare, but not with pharmaceutical companies using government money for research yet not making their products financially within reach of those who may need them? How does a New York City billionaire represent the interests of what looked to be a mostly blue-collar crowd?

We witnessed a couple of fights break out and saw a number of attendees being removed from the facility. The threat of more ugliness was pervasive. The boys asked to leave, which we did just before 8:00.

To me, Bernie Sanders brings light to our country’s political landscape while Donald Trump delivers a fire that threatens to incinerate all it touches. More than once last night I considered the similarities between the scene in front of us and what was Germany in the 1930s. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I’ll confess that I repeatedly thought: “Is this how Hitler gained power? Is this how it begins?”

Primary Day can’t come soon enough.

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Education, Events, family, Local, Observations, politics, Uncategorized, upstate New York