Category Archives: Observations

When Pollyanna met Polly

The summer after I moved into the house I currently live in, my neighbor, knowing that I would be seeking a position as a school librarian, offered to introduce me to someone who might be able to help. He offered to take me for a ride to go meet a woman who purportedly had some influence with the school district. Her name was Polly Noonan. I had no idea who she was, but my ignorance made her no less interesting on the afternoon she and I met.

I had lived in Albany for about 7 years or so, but my local history knowledge was pretty weak. I had learned a little bit about politics, mostly while serving politicians and lobbyists at either PD. Ladd’s or the original Yono’s, and what I learned took away more than a little of my idealism. I became acquainted with  who the major players were locally at the time – Jim Coyne, Tom Whalen, Jerry Jennings as an upstart and the Breslin and McEneny clans, but I had real no depth. Corning was just a tower to me. And cheap plates, of course.

On a sunny day, George and I climbed into his Ford sedan and drove over to Polly’s house. I’m sure it was arranged in advance with a phone call, but I wasn’t privy to that. We just drove up and Polly met us and welcomed us into her home. Twenty plus years later, what I most remember is an exchange we eventually had prompted by a painting on her wall.

The painting, an oil as I recall, was of a beautiful Siberian husky dog. Being a dog person and not really understanding how this dynamo of an old woman with a gravely voice was going to land me a job, I asked if it were her dog. She squawked back at me with “yes,” and then continued to say that Jack had given her the dog as a puppy. Jack Kennedy, that is. The puppy had come from a litter that had originated with a dog that had been given to President Kennedy directly from Khrushchev. Yes, that Khrushchev.

I’m certain my eyes were wide, as she matter of factly related her deceased dog’s lineage. This woman who lived in a simple house remarkably close to the thruway, (and as I’ve come to learn, near Corning Hill in Glenmont), deserved a deeper look.

Since that day I’ve told this story a dozen times, maybe even to you. It’s one of my favorite memories connected to my former neighbor, who I continue to miss years after his passing. Reflecting on it, I think it may have been the exact moment that I first began looking at Albany as being an interesting place with lively history, rather than merely a location for a good quality life at an affordable price.

I didn’t receive a job in the Albany school district, but since that day, I have gotten quite an education about my adopted beloved city. I now know stories about Albany and I find it to be a fascinating little city. Thanks, Polly.

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Filed under Albany, Education, Local, Observations, politics, Schools, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Things I’m still learning

  • How to achieve a comfortable balance between what I share and what remains private.
  • The importance of stretching and using that dusty foam roller.
  • How to get to yoga once a week.
  • When to allow my kids the opportunity to fail.
  • How to trust – both myself and the people I allow into my life.
  • Being comfortable enough with my body to dance.
  • Why I have so much (clothing, shoes, jewelry) and how to eliminate what I don’t really need.
  • How to yield control.
  • To not immediately conclude that anyone’s actions are directed at me.
  • Why people aren’t honest.
  • How to be better at remembering names.
  • Acceptance of things I can not control.

 

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Things I’ve learned during my 52nd trip around the sun

  • Honesty is free, yet more valuable than pretty much anything else.
  • With each birthday, I feel more compelled to celebrate.
  • My dog is smarter than I gave him credit for being. Last week during an “intestinal bout,” shall we say, he opened the screen door to the back deck rather than literally lose his sh*t in the house. Good boy, Jeter.
  • It’s really hard to keep moving forward without ever looking back.
  • A relationship that is healthy, positive and satisfying sometimes seems like a lot for which to ask. Settling for less, though, isn’t an option.
  • Maybe I read too many Danielle Steele novels as a teenager, but just once it would be nice to feel like someone fought for me. Not literally, but by playing their A game consistently.
  • The more places I visit, the more places I want to visit. I can’t imagine a life without travel, or at least the desire to travel.
  • I have no idea what the future holds and I’m getting better at dealing with that uncertainty.
  • My sense of loyalty is strong. Example? I’ve had the same dental practice, ob-gyn and optician for nearly 25 years.
  • Finding a good therapist is almost as hard as scoring a new patient appointment within the next 18 months with a new primary care giver.
  • A Catholic funeral mass is incredibly comforting. The tradition, complete with words, music and incense, is proof that death has been a part of life for a very long time.
  • Working to have my outside accurately reflect my inside has been my biggest accomplishment this year. There’s still progress to be made. Isn’t there always?

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Filed under aging, Austria, birthdays, Czech Republic, Europe, favorites, Germany, Italy, love, musings, Observations, relationships, road trips, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Vermont

Overestimating competence

FFCCC1AE-BDF2-49B7-8366-4B377C314C1EIt seems that many of us believe we’re more capable than we are actually. Sometimes when I listen to a friend (or son) list their intended plan of action, I nod my head while mentally I’m shaking it. I know there’s no way it’s going to happen – the circumstances or conditions are never going to allow the plan to occur as projected because, in part, people neglect to factor in a random variable that can impact the process. 

An example:

Perhaps you know someone who has a child traveling, maybe in Asia. That’s a big continent, right? Could be anyone we’re talking about here. Anyway, this young person was asked by their parent to under no circumstances ride on, much less drive, a motorbike. They were just too dangerous, especially for a teenager who had barely an iota, if any of motor bike driving experience. Also, while it may have been many years earlier, the mother did still vividly recall this same child as a preschooler asking for a motorcycle. And a ramp.

No motorbikes, please.

So, predictably, the young man rented a motor bike because it was the most financially prudent mode of transportation and this kid was all about saving money. Because, of course, he hadn’t really saved enough money prior to departure and he was way over budget. Naturally, within two blocks of his destination, there was a bit of a chain reaction of quick stops and our motor biker failed to stop safely. There were damages – to a tail light, to a dominant hand, and to an adventurous guy’s sense of security.

It could have been so much worse.

Growing up and parenting are life long learning activities. We can always improve on how we’re doing and every single misstep or bad decision comes with a chance to do it better next time. To learn, both to listen and to figure out how to manage the unexpected situations we find ourselves in at times, isn’t easy.

As we get older, I think we start to develop a better understanding/acceptance of our capabilities, we meet our objectives more often because we’ve learned what we can realistically do and set goals accordingly. I don’t believe it’s a lowering of our aim, but rather a more accurate assessment of what we can really accomplish. As we experience and overcome life’s challenges our competence grows in knowing both what we can do and what we are realistically incapable of accomplishing. We get better at figuring stuff out and, hopefully, there’s less falling down and more cruising forward.

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Filed under aging, musings, Observations, travel

Wishing you a sunny new year

Take some inspiration from sunflowers…

  • Dig down to find what you need to thrive.
  • Stand tall.
  • Always seek the light.
  • Continue to shine even when you’ve been cut down.
  • Provide sustenance to those around you.
  • Know that what you leave behind is the promise of something beautiful yet to be.

 

 

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Filed under aging, beauty, favorites, Flowers, Gardens, musings, Observations

Be authentic

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It’s human nature to become reflective during your birth month, don’t you think? I think I do it every year.  It’s kind of when I check in on 1. where I’m at, 2. where I’ve been and 3. where I want to be going. I make an extra effort to try to take a little time every day during my birth month to just be in the moment and reflect. It’s a little gift to myself along with this year’s new Frye boots.

When you have a September birthday, there’s a lot going on. There’s that whole end-of-the-summer thing with Labor Day weekend, which I am happy to celebrate even though I know that summer really ends on the 21st of the month. Whatever. It’s the month school begins again and the Jewish holidays wreak havoc with everyone who’s trying to get back into a routine for a new academic year. It’s a month of weird 4 day work weeks and weather that includes days that can be 85 degrees, and nights when frost is a real threat. It can be unpredictable, to say the least.

Here, on day 2 of my this special month, I can’t begin to answer those three question I posed above with any sense of confidence. I am just not there. But, what I do know is this: what’s currently motivating me is a deep desire for a life that is authentic. I’m working really hard to make certain that who I am on the inside is the same person I am on the outside. Genuine. Real. True. Me.

I don’t want to hide from the truth, especially not who I am. Why would anyone? If who you are on the inside doesn’t reflect on the outside, it makes me wonder who are you trying to fool the most – yourself or everyone else?  It seems like the only time one would not want their true self to be seen, would be if one didn’t like themself.  And that thought makes me sad.

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What I feel on the inside is what I radiate out.  I can’t pretend and I’ve got no poker face. This is me. 

And I’m ok with that.

How about you?.

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Filed under aging, love, musings, Observations, relationships, Summer, Uncategorized

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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