Tag Archives: family

Lit

I woke up Thanksgiving morning and started my usual routine – bathroom to pee, brush my teeth and clean my nightguard. I brush and then soak the night guard in some fizzy solution last year’s 8th-grade homeroom advised me on. To dissolve the tablet you toss it in very warm, but not hot water.

Since it’s first thing in the morning, I expect to run the water a few extra seconds to get the water to the tap from the hot water heater in the basement two stories down. Yesterday, though, was different. The water just didn’t get warmer. I immediately assumed I’d go to the basement to find a burst or wildly leaking hot water heater and anticipated dropping $750 or some other crazy-right-before-the-holidays price to replace and install a new one.

I decided to have coffee before venturing downstairs.

Twenty minutes later, I rounded the corner from the stairs to face the hot water heater…actually, heaters. There are two and I first needed to determine which was mine. Fortunately, neither had any water leaking. Good news. I touched the one on the right and it felt warm. No doubt, it was on. I moved towards the other one, on the left, covered in cobwebs. Great.

Of course, that one, mine, was cold. The pilot wasn’t lit. I went upstairs, did a little research (perhaps the thermocoupler needed to be replaced?) and returned with a flash light and some matches, not able to find the stick lighter in the drawer. Maybe it ran away with the hammer. I can’t find that either. Back downstairs, I crouched down and read directions for lighting the pilot and was relieved to find that I didn’t have to provide fire to light the pilot. It had its own ignitor. I thought back to when I first learned how to relight a hot water heater.

I was probably 12 or so. We had recently moved into what would be the longest term residence of my life until I bought my own house. The house felt special because it was ours, sort of. My mother’s boyfriend had bought it and done some work to make it habitable, after a period of vacancy. We could paint any color we wanted to, as long as we agreed to the same one, and we each had our own bedrooms. Without heat. Sometimes in the depths of winter, the interior of the windows would be frozen from exhaled breaths and dreams. We were teenagers and had lots of blankets. It was fine.

There were times when we didn’t have heat in the house other than that cast off by the wood burning stove my brother fed like a mother nurses a newborn. If the uninsulated, built above a dirt foundation, house got too cold we’d wake to have no water whatsoever. During really cold spells, that might be our situation for a few days. On occasion we had oil for the furnace and propane for hot water and cooking, but if we didn’t, we learned to adapt to what was available. It’s just how it was.

So, lighting that water heater, all those years ago. I remember being mad. I was a kid. This was an adult’s responsibility, not mine. I was frustrated. Other people just had hot water and heat all the time. They could boil things on the stove because they had gas. Why was our shit so inconsistent?

And I was scared. Gas scared me. Electricity scared me. Is that weird?

But, we needed hot water (not for the washing machine, we didn’t have one of those,) and there actually had been a propane delivery. We must have been caught up on our bills,* for a change. I wanted a shower and my brother wasn’t home to take care of it. I didn’t have a choice – it had to be taken care of and there was no one else.

The utility room was down the hall, on the other side of a door that led to a part of the house we didn’t use. It wasn’t fit to occupy with its glassless windows and concrete floors. The hot water heater was by far the newest piece of hardware and I kneeled, practically genuflecting, next to it. I remember there was a red button that needed to pressed, and maybe you had to count to three, before inserting a match into a blowhole of sorts and then, trusting that it was lit, the knob had to be released and turned a particular way. It felt intense. I hated it.

Just like yesterday, I lit it.

“our bills?” I was 12, they weren’t mine.

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Filed under Albany, Education, girlhood, house, musings, Uncategorized

Gratitude

Whenever I do that character strengths test, you know the VIA one , my top characteristic is consistently Gratitude. I don’t know, maybe it comes from not having much in life when I was a child,* but I do find that I have a deep appreciation for all the wonderful people, opportunities and things I have in my life. Below are a few which immediately came to mind on this cold Thanksgiving morning.

  • The sun that rises and sets each day with the ability to light up the sky in a new and magical way.
  • Layers of clothing and heat to keep my family protected from extreme temperatures.
  • Children who love to travel and are still willing, at times, to share adventures with me. On the occasions when they take off without me, I appreciate the confidence with which they approach the world, and the experiences they gain, almost just as much.
  • My brother for just being there – always.
  • Friends – those who I’ve known forever, as well as those who have joined my life in more recent years. Having such an array of people who share my interests, humor, and daily past times makes my life incredibly rich.
  • The women who have provided me with their wisdom, strength and advice when my own parents were unavailable. They have given me gifts for which I can never adequately thank them.
  • The men who have taught me what I want, need and expect from a relationship, even if it has been a lesson based upon what they could not provide. Special shout out to the one who makes me smile currently.
  • Chances to travel to new places as well as revisit favorites. There’s so much to see!
  • My crazy dog  and the fat cat currently living in my house, both of  whom always welcome and return my love enthusiastically.
  • A refrigerator and pantry filled with food, a state I never take for granted.
  • You, a person who takes time from your life to read about mine. Thank you for being here.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

*I’m not suggesting we were starving or homeless, there just wasn’t much security or stability in my life when I was a child.

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Filed under Boys, family, friends, holidays, love, musings, Observations, relationships, travel, Uncategorized, writing

Syracuse Half Marathon – 11/11/18

While I don’t expect I’ll ever be blasé about running 13.1 miles, I do feel increasingly comfortable with the distance. I won’t say it’s easy, but it a manageable distance that challenges without much post-race discomfort.

Yesterday, I ran my 10th half, an accomplishment I never could have predicted when I did my first in 2016. This particular race was scheduled perfectly for my life, in that it was in Syracuse, where my brother lives, and on his birthday, which made it the ideal weekend destination.

I went into the race feeling ok about my conditioning, but not necessarily as well trained as I was for last month’s Newport Half. I anticipated some hills, which would slow down my pace, but hadn’t imagined the picturesque snow falling from the sky and completing the pretty, nearly winter conditions. It was cool and appropriate for snowy Syracuse.

The route began and finished at the OnCenter. The miles in between were primarily residential neighborhoods with some business/commercial areas thrown into the mix. The crowds were fun and supportive, especially in the early miles. For me, the last couple of miles were less than spectacular in terms of scenery and performance, but I pushed through and crossed the finish line in 2:14:17 – a new PR to best my Newport PR of 2:17:01.

I had kind of given up on ever completing a half in less than 2:15, so I’m thrilled with my time and super proud that I seem to be getting faster, not older.* The yoga class I took on Saturday, before we headed to Syracuse, definitely helped me physically and mentally. During the times when I felt most tired, I worked to release tension or tightening in all of my muscles which were not being put to use to propel me forward. Gripped fists? Let them go. Facial grimace? Smile. Weight of the world on my shoulders? Shrug it off. Thanks, Samara!

My race calendar is, sadly, pretty blank other than next month’s Last Run, but I’m looking at a few new events for 2019. Any favorite 1/2 marathon courses you might recommend?

*Credit for this wise statement goes to a special friend who joined me for the weekend. He’s smart, right?

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Filed under aging, birthdays, Events, family, road trips, running, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York

The miseducation of Megyn Kelly

EA35741F-D438-4A06-BCD2-191A164884E8Last spring I ran a half marathon in NYC, kind of a bucket list item if I were to have such a thing. I originally registered for the race because a childhood friend brought it to my attention and it sounded fun. Anything to go to NYC, you know?

It wasn’t the cheapest half I’ve ever run, but I was ok with the entry fee because it was an all women race and I think there may have been some charity component to it. Until I saw that Megyn Kelly was the media sponsor for the event, that is. Then, in all honesty, I considered bailing because, yes, she bothers me that much.

195CD914-570A-4548-A772-0D5CFDE6FBE8Why? Because anyone willing to sit down with, provide a forum to, and pose for photos with, a man who denies that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School ever occurred, is despicable, in my opinion. I’m not going to even mention his name because I find him so reprehensible, but I’m sure you know about whom I’m speaking. I have some understanding about journalism and the fact that media professionals don’t necessarily endorse the beliefs of those they interview, but, this guy has deeply offended and caused pain to families who lost their children in a horrific way. He doesn’t get a pass, nor does she, in my book.

Yesterday, I hosted a Halloween related event in my library and I was a bit dismayed by the some of the behavior I observed. We had set out some snacks for the kids, like you do, but failed to stand guard at the table where the huge box of goldfish crackers, Oreo cookies, clementines and candy corn were being offered. Without direct adult supervision, the middle school kids were shockingly selfish about helping themselves to as much as they wanted to have without consideration of the fact that the kids behind them might end up with nothing. I was kind of appalled. I wanted and expected better.

Reflecting on it last night, I couldn’t help but see a parallel between the pattern of actions of Ms. Kelly, beginning with that controversial interview referenced above, and those of the children yesterday afternoon. There’s a sense of entitlement and lack of consideration for anyone but themselves that, quite honestly, repulses me on some level.  This failure to demonstrate empathy for parents who have lost their children, and, on a much smaller scale, those who may not enjoy the same treats we have due to our own greediness, distresses me.

What do we expect from our children? What should we expect from personalities who want to be in our homes via social and more traditional media? I want and expect better. How about you?

 

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Filed under Education, Libraries, Local, moms, musings, Observations, politics, Schools, television, upstate New York

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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Filed under aging, Albany, Boys, DelSo, Education, Europe, family, favorites, friends, house, Local, London, love, musings, News, Observations, relationships, running, Schools, Summer, travel, upstate New York

Stop this train

Sitting in a screened porch, dog at my feet, listening to John Mayer and staring out at the moody, foggy pond across the dirt road and I completely concur with his plea – stop this train.

At this moment in time, despite a lack of sunshine or resolution to a heartache, my world is so filled with positive and wonderful things that I want to just press pause and savor it. Each of my sons are healthy and exploring their worlds, my personal life is fulfilling and fun, I’m on my second major vacation of the summer and am truly feeling a complete lack of schedule or structure. I am so on holiday. I am so very fortunate.

I’m pretty sure this is my 20th consecutive summer spending time on the Cape. Not really sure how that happened so fast, but this year for the first time ever, I’m here without a single child and it really feels different. It’s kind of the exact opposite experience of how when you go to NYC as a parent with your children, you suddenly realize how many parks and playgrounds there are that you never noticed before.

Being on the Cape without children means scrolling right past all those listings in the local events calendar that fall under the heading: KIDS and looking instead at things like Reggae Night at the Beachcomber and The Mosquito Hour. It’s almost like being a child again – you get to make decisions on impulse, without much consideration of anyone else. It’s amazing.

I hope everyone reading this knows, without a doubt, that I don’t ever share any of this stuff to boast – it’s more of an encouragement. I assure you I never imagined a day when I would have a summer that included 10 days in Europe followed by a week with friends in a house perched above a pond and filled with the most sunshine-y vibes ever gathered under a single roof. You know, right, that I grew up without ever vacationing beyond spending a few nights with family friends in their homes? I certainly wasn’t ever expecting my life to include times like this.

I guess it’s no wonder that I just want to wrap my arms around every minute of it.

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Filed under aging, beauty, Boys, Cape Cod, favorites, friends, musings, Observations, relationships, road trips, Summer, vacation

Poems, prayers and promises

When the weather is tropical and everywhere you look you see green, life starts to feel like an epic poem written by Mother Nature. There’s so much happening around us with things growing and water puddling and smells that define a season – flowers, bar-b-q and chlorine. I know how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to sit and walk and run and just appreciate these things. I take the responsibility of being an observer pretty seriously and know it’s an incredible luxury.

I’m generally not much of a pray-er, other than to give thanks, but I’ve been working the prayer thing a little harder as my kids continue to extend their reach. Health and safety. No cobras. Safe driving. That sort of thing.

Promises? What do I know about those? Hmmm…I’d have to go with that they’re important and meaningful and should not be made lightly. Like that promise I made a few days ago to share some impressions from recent live music shows I’ve seen.

First up are some pics from the concert Liam and I attended in Vienna. We bought the tickets from a guy selling them near a park and I was pretty convinced he was going to steal my credit card information and cost me a bundle, but happily it was legit and he was a total professional.

 

The show, at Schoenbrunn Palace, was a “fine selection of masterful music by Mozart and Strauss…” it lasted about 90 minutes with an intermission and it was lovely. I didn’t grab a video because they asked guests not to and that’s a rule I can respect, even with my regret at not sneaking a single photo at the Sistine Chapel.

My son and I also attended a classical concert in a gorgeous chapel in Prague. I did take a video there and I’m sharing it

 

I love Vivaldi (not that I know sh*t about classical music) and I felt quite moved by the experience. Wonderful.

Also wonderful in a different and much closer to home way are the Monday night jazz offerings at Lucas Confectionary. I’ve been twice so far, once on the back terrace and once indoors and air-conditioned, and have loved it. Great wine choices (A Pigato?! A gruner from Oregon?! Wow!), a cool vibe indoors or out, and a capable and into it band really makes for an excellent way to start the week.

As for what I’m sharing below – my youngest listens to music that I can usually really respect. Recently he’s been on a John Denver kick, which I find pretty amusing. While doing a little searching online, this song came up and it spoke to me. Do you think it reads as more a poem, a prayer or promise?

I’ve been lately thinking
About my life’s time
All the things I’ve done
And how it’s been
And I can’t help believing
In my own mind
I know I’m gonna hate to see it end
I’ve seen a lot of sunshine
Slept out in the rain
Spent a night or two all on my own
I’ve known my lady’s pleasures
Had myself some friends
And spent a time or two in my own home
And I have to say it now
It’s been a good life all in all
It’s really fine
To have a chance to hang around
And lie there by the fire
And watch the evening tire
While all my friends and my old lady
Sit and pass the pipe around
And talk of poems and prayers and promises
And things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone
How right it is to care
How long it’s been since yesterday
And what about tomorrow
And what about our dreams
And all the memories we share
The days they pass so quickly now
Nights are seldom long
And time around me whispers when it’s cold
The changes somehow frighten me
Still I have to smile
It turns me on to think of growing old
For though my life’s been good to me
There’s still so much to do…

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Filed under aging, Albany, art, Austria, beauty, concerts, Czech Republic, DelSo, Europe, Events, favorites, love, Music, musings, Observations, poetry, Summer, Troy, Uncategorized, upstate New York, vacation