Category Archives: aging

My mother didn’t raise racists

6ADAFC8A-273F-4B71-B1D2-C9366562F9B5I have many issues with my mother and her ability to parent, but when it came to the acceptance of people who did not look like me, her parenting skills were exceptional in a truly great way. In elementary school, I was friends with the black girl (eventually there were two) in my class, along with the Jewish and the Puerto Rican girls. I was taught by example that the only difference between me and those other girls was the color of our skin and our religions. We were the same human beings.

My mother dated a black man for years. While she mostly kept her relationship separate from our home life and family of three, I remember a sense of embarrassment should any of my friends find out about the color of my mother’s boyfriend’s skin. Somehow, I had internalized that there was something to be ashamed about. Forty years later I remain abashed by my ignorance.

When I was in 8th grade I tried out, along with my Black and Puerto Rican girlfriends, for the freshman cheerleading squad. I was selected to join the team, while my friends, who were more coordinated and better dancers than I, were not. It weighed heavily on me and I ultimately quit the squad after a couple of practices. I knew it wasn’t right and I wasn’t the one who deserved to wear that purple and white uniform.

My brother got into a fight once with a boy from the neighborhood. Because the other boy was Black, it wasn’t just a simple teenage tussle. Instead it became a racial altercation, which created (revealed?) a schism between me and the Black girls with whom I was friends. The focus shifted to how we were different, instead of the ways were so similar. It was jarring.

Shortly after I moved to Albany, I needed to go home for a night and I asked someone I worked with to walk my dog for me. I came home to find that he had robbed my apartment, stealing money, my bicycle, my stereo. I tried to contact him and was unable to, so I called the police. The officer who was dispatched couldn’t have been more clear about how dumb I had been to give my keys to a Hispanic man. It was if I should have known that he’d rob me because he wasn’t a white guy.

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I’ve resisted society’s attempt to convince me that POC are inherently inferior, that they are criminals and thugs, but I know I haven’t been completely successful. I can’t lie – I’ve never dated a Black man, attended the wedding or other celebration of a  Black friend, eaten a meal in a Black owned business or hired a Black person to do any of the work my house has demanded. Why not?

I see that this country values the labor of Blacks – from plantations to sports to the arts, we love what they produce, but we don’t love them. I understand that trying to not be racist isn’t enough, I know I need to be vehemently anti-racist. At a time when our country is so very polarized, it’s beyond time to pick a side. If they’ll have me, I want to be on the side of people who have been abused, discriminated against, marginalized and murdered.

My mother didn’t teach me to be racist, society did.

Our country is in shambles from an administration devoted to ignorance, a pandemic, an economic disaster, and necessary and just social unrest. We can’t simply move forward without addressing and correcting the deep inequities in our society. The time is now to be part of the change because if there’s no justice, none of us deserve any peace.

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Filed under aging, musings, News, Observations, politics

Sheltering in place with Jeter

B6F2E0BF-104F-421B-AF8F-B7EB17AE4991Before you get the wrong idea, Jeter is my 85# yellow lab, not to be confused with classic Yankee icon Derek Jeter. My guy can catch a ball like nobody’s business, but that’s pretty much where the similarities between the two end.

My Jeter came into our family in February of 2014 as an eight week old pup. We had lost our previous dog, Cassidy, a few months previously and I didn’t like the emptiness of the house when my boys were at their Dad’s house. Mid winter in upstate New York isn’t an ideal time of the year to house train a new puppy, especially when your adorable ball of white fluff dog blends right in with the heaps of snow we had that year. I did, however, appreciate the constant presence of this new companion. He became my dog. 3763BF8C-ED18-467A-AC73-DCA4783F4FE7

The first year or so were hard, but we made it through. Jeter grew rapidly and left a path of destruction behind him. His first day at home alone produced two broken lamps. Months later, he completely destroyed a favorite pair of Aigner sandals. There was a time when he had a thing about bed linens and would literally eat them. A total weirdo, I tell you.

He was neutered at the recommended age with the expectation that he might calm down a bit. Not so much, as has been noted by each of my sons with some degree of bitterness. I’m sure the topic of castration will work it’s way into their future therapy sessions one day.

Even with his family jewels removed, Jeter remains a very assertive dog. He’s wicked strong and there have been a handful of times when I’ve been mildly injured (a scrap, a cut, a bruise) as I struggled to gain control of him.

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Sometimes it feels like Jeter and I are in a competition of sorts – whose strength will diminish faster? As far as I can tell, at the moment we’re neck and neck. It’s just too soon to say in which direction things are going.

I may not know where I stand in terms of dominating physical strength with my dog, but I do know he is my last big/male dog. I’m pretty strong (shoutout The Hot Yoga Spot!) but am now coming to accept that I’m probably approaching the downward spiral of my own physical abilities. Managing a dog that weighs 65% of your own weight is difficult, especially when there are squirrels involved.

In the ten weeks we’ve been sheltering together at home, Jeter’s behavior has changed. He seems a tad more calm these days and I have to attribute that to the amount of time he and I now spend together on the regular. In the past, if he felt neglected, he would toss my pillows into a pile, making a mess of my tidily made bed. He’s only done that once during this prolonged together time.

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As I move about my house, often flitting from room to room as I seek comfort and the ability to focus on a task, Jeter follows me, settling himself either next to me or with a direct view to my activities. His presence comforts me, and it seems the feeling is reciprocated.

Together we go on epic walks, wandering around the streets of Albany and the paths of Capital Hills Park Golf Course and the Normanskill farm. Sometimes, we walk for hours before making our way home, where Jeter drinks deeply before falling to sleep on the nearest soft surface. There’s a satisfaction I feel about his exhaustion that is reminiscent of the days when I worked to wear out my toddlers in the hopes of gaining a moment’s quiet.

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It isn’t always easy to focus on the bright spots during a dark and scary time. Having a companion, canine or otherwise, who finds joy in simply being by next to you, helps to make this unnatural isolation far less lonely. My Jeter may not be a bonafide celebrity but, right now, he’s playing a starring role in my life beautifully.

 

Note: a version of this post was accepted for inclusion in Trolley, the online journal of the NYS Writers Institute. 

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Filed under aging, Albany, beauty, Exercise, family, Local, musings, Normanskill, Observations, upstate New York, writing

Mother’s Day – more or less

As a kid raised by a single mom, I always dreaded Father’s Day and the absence of a male parent to honor. Mother’s Day was easy and we usually celebrated with school art projects, cards and flowers liberated from a garden that wouldn’t notice the theft of a few tulips or daffodils. It was pretty simple.

Now, nearly a quarter century into being a mother, I’ve come to learn that very little about mothering is simple. In fact, it’s maddeningly complex.

Becoming a mother altered my perspective of every mother I’d ever known, including my own. For me, conceiving and birthing a child didn’t just create a new parent/child relationship, it actually altered an existing one – the one between me and my mom. I began to question the choices my own mother had made and started to look at her, not as you might expect with increased empathy, but instead, more critically.

As a new mom, I listened to my mother when she insisted that babies needed hats and schedules. I respected her experience and accepted her advice. I knew that she had decades of child rearing under her belt and that, comparatively, I was sorely lacking in mothering skills. Or was I?

When my firstborn son became seriously ill, I was the one who insisted that something was wrong and that he needed immediate medical attention. I was right. After his eventual recovery, I was inclined to blame myself for his condition – why didn’t I act sooner? Decades later, I’ve almost turned the corner from abject guilt to self respect, at least in that particular situation.

There are decisions we make as mothers that stay with us forever.

Never in my life did I believe my ultimate contribution to society would be my offspring. I may have brought them into this world, but how they’ll be remembered when they’re one day gone, is up to them individually. I’m a hard ass with strong beliefs about personal responsibility and independence and communication and my sons, like most of us, are works in progress. Witnessing their growth is my favorite part of motherhood.

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My oldest is stunningly generous, but has limited financial experience. My middle is self supporting, but comfortable asking for help when he needs it and developing a pattern for making fairly sound money decisions. The youngest and I are at loggerheads, a phrase I never imagined needing to describe our relationship, over the eternal conflict of simply being fifteen. He’s a yeller, which makes me crazy, but he never says goodbye without including an “I love you” on the way out the door. They may each be in different places, but they’re all moving forward.

Motherhood is an acknowledgment of both strengths and areas in need of growth.

Take your victories where you find them, moms, and remember that it isn’t always about what we teach them. Often, it’s about what they teach us.

Happy Mother’s Day. xo

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Filed under aging, Boys, family, holidays, moms, musings, Observations, Spring, sunday

The day my middle son turned 21

856E786C-CB4F-453C-BEDC-C394254736D6It doesn’t even seem possible that the boys’ dad and I have successfully reared two 21+ year-old offspring. I think I’ll pause here for a moment of quiet celebration. Feel free to join me.

Okay – so, twenty-one can be a real defining moment of adulthood. A milestone of sorts. With this particular kid of mine, I believe twenty-one is a solid piece of punctuation in a young life lived well.

My pregnancy with this middle son was so much less idyllic than my first had been. Of course it was – I now knew (some of) all of the things that could go wrong. Early delivery and bad presentations and terrible medical outcomes…we’d experienced those with our first child and were certainly nervous about a repeat experience.

Fortunately, the second L&D was much different. As was pretty much everything else with this kid. He was bald, with a complexion that was blotchy and reddish. He was big, nearly off the charts for length, then height. And while Liam had been placid, this baby was calm only as long as he got what he wanted.

Within a few years, we knew what he wanted most was to be able to go. Actually, his very first word was “Go!” yelled when the car in front of us didn’t accelerate quickly enough when the light turned to green. He climbed out of his crib at 8 months, ran at 9.5 and had earned the nickname “The Runner” by 18 months. It’s just who he is.

His first bite of solid food was pizza crust stolen from his brother’s plate. He almost choked on a bite of bagel a few weeks later, but continued to have a fondness for carbs that he may have inherited from me. If that was indeed confirmed to be the case, it would not be the only way in which we are similar.

I’m not inclined to take credit for how anyone, but myself, might turn out.  People seem to become who they are supposed to be despite all of our efforts, don’t they? Yet, this young man reminds me of myself. Often. I believe his humor and self sufficiency and ability to clean a bathroom, all come from me. I think he knows it, too.

The night before his birthday, my son, his brothers and his dad, and I, had dinner together. There was lots of laughter and too much fried chicken, chicken which my son promised to tell his roommates I myself cooked, if I let him take the leftovers home.  I knew how lucky we all were to be able to celebrate.

Two down, one to go.

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Filed under aging, birthdays, Boys, family, moms, Observations, Restaurants

Painterly thoughts

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Standard home project outfit, n’est pas?

It’s been just about exactly twenty-one years since I last painted the upstairs bathroom. I’m not always so clear with years and dates, but this one is easy to remember because I was pregnant with my second son. My water broke as I raced to get the newly renovated third floor of our house prepared for our expanding family. I was on the bathroom floor scrubbing grout when my labor began – and my interest in hands on household projects ended.

Other than swapping out the vanity about a dozen years ago, I’ve basically done nothing to that bathroom in this century. It’s been the boys’ bathroom for a long time and, by the way, boys can be gross. There wasn’t a lot of incentive for me to invest in prettying it up when the guys (and the Enzo cat) weren’t the most tidy of shower mates. But, when the shower leaked, again, I finally committed to investing some money and improving this room.

The faulty shower was the natural starting point, because that was where the major problem was. The shitty shower we had initially installed, because it was cheap, needed to go.

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I found a great contractor who showed up when he said he would and was incredibly easy to work with, and got started with a firm budget in mind. Along the way the job has evolved to include a few more things, like extended tiling, more expensive tile than originally budgeted, a new toilet…, but we’ve mostly maintained the budget and I’m happy with the value of my investment.

As you know, if you’ve taken on a project like this before, once you do one thing, everything else looks crappy. I think I want to pick out new light fixtures to freshen things up even more. Seems like new towels might be a nice touch, too. Maybe even a plant.

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I took on the task of painting the bathroom myself and finally was motivated Saturday. I gathered together everything I needed, and picked up a few necessary items at my local hardware store, Bridgeford on Delaware Avenue.  Turning on a 60s Apple Music playlist, I began prepping.

First, the walls needed to be wiped. Next, the floor was vacuumed with a shop vac. Then the taping began. Using newspapers and blue painter’s* tape, I started taping off the tile and trim work. Then I mopped. There was a time when (like prior to my experience yesterday) I despised this prep work involved with painting. It just always felt so damn tedious and took too much time.

Something was different, though, yesterday. Instead of dashing through the prep process, I decided to slow down. I’m older. I now know that cleaning up one’s mess is a far more tiresome task than honoring the process of getting ready for creating change.

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Not helpful

After sending out a social media post asking for help in opening my can of paint,** I got busy rolling and brushing the walls. As I covered the soft lilac on the walls with bright white, my thoughts were free to roam. I considered the countless ways my life is different than the one I was living last time I painted those walls.

The baby filling my belly then is turning 21 at the end of this month. Time certainly does move on.

I coated the walls and let my thoughts travel from the past to the future and, finally, to today. There have been so many experiences and adventures and moments in my life and many of them have occurred within the “confines” of my years spent in this house. Painting it shouldn’t be isn’t a chore, it’s really more of a gift to this place which has sheltered me and those I love.

This morning, before breakfast and coffee, I put on my painting clothes and did a second coat. I think I may even need to do a third, a realization which no longer discourages me because I’m kind of enjoying the combination of physical work, but mental indulgence, that painting involves. Covering a no longer favored color, while recalling special memories, makes for a solid win-win.

This bathroom redo has been a very good investment.

I can’t wait to get to the bedrooms.

 

*I’m really unsure about this usage…painters’?

**A flathead screwdriver was the most recommended tool.

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Thoughts from the end of the world

These are bonafide whacky times. This free fall of the once great America is beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I hear comparisons to the AIDS epidemic and the immediate post-9/11 days and understand and appreciate the obvious similarities. This, though? This is different.

There’s a children’s book that I despise, The Giving Tree. I’ve been thinking about it in recent weeks because I feel a common thread between Donald Trump’s followers and the tree which couldn’t say no. Trump’s believers have willingly placed themselves in the very same position as that tree, cutting off a limb with each previously unacceptable comment ignored (mocking a differently abled journalist, pussygrabber, Pocahontas, nasty) and every act of utter incompetence perpetrated (refusing WHO mask donation, keeping people on boats to continue to skew numbers, eliminating an entire federal medical department trained to anticipate and deal with pandemics.) by this president. I seriously don’t know how a single person would allow themselves to cut down to a stump by this fool, this jester,  dressed like a king.

So, on a lighter note – What’s on your pandemic playlist?

R.E.M.’s It the End of the World as We Know It is the obvious song for me, but I’ve got some others in mind which also strike me as appropriate such as this…

Roadhouse Blues – The Doors

Woke up this morning and I got myself a beer

The future’s uncertain and the end is always near

I welcome your contributions for the ultimate zombie apocalypse playlist. Leave yours in a comment, please!

On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your own compliance with recommendations for changing behaviors in light of the current Coronavirus outbreak? 1 being completely blasé and 10 abiding to suggestions like you’re a kid and Santa’s watching because it’s the week before Christmas.

I’m feeling proud and impressed by the real leaders who make decisions based upon what they believe is the best thing for the public at large, and not necessarily for themselves. Governor Cuomo and the superintendent of my district have both, with calm gravity, conveyed the important and necessary messages and are working hard to get the job done, whatever it may be. Bravo.

Shoutout to store clerks and customer service reps. All working their asses off.

Some questions to ponder:

  • What do you want to be doing when the world ends?
  • Are you really going to hate on yourself for gaining 10 lbs and not have that ice cream? With sprinkles?
  • What matters most?
  • Can you help someone else during this tumultuous and anxiety inducing time?
  • What will we learn about each other during, and after, this crisis?

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Filed under aging, Albany, Events, medical, musings, News, Observations, politics, sick, stress, travel

Sleepless in Albany

I don’t know what to blame it on – the full moon, the clock change manipulation of time, politics, Coronavirus, upcoming travel plans, parenting angst, the uncertainty of the future, not being able to run…but getting quality sleep has become an issue for me and I’m not happy about it.

It isn’t as if I haven’t gone through spells like this before, but right now I’m really feeling distressed. After a long day of being bombarded by the idiocy of our President, the relentless media coverage of what may turn out to be a pandemic and my own internal struggle to remain in the moment without projection of any kind, all I want is six solid hours of shut eye. Is that too much to ask, universe?

Last night’s “rest” was exceptional, as in exceptionally bad. I thought I did everything right, an afternoon pedicure for relaxation, a light dinner followed by an evening walk with Jeter, and a hot (but, not too hot) bath before climbing into bed by 9:30. All systems go, right?

At 10:41, I woke up for the first time. I resisted unlocking my phone and instead started mentally packing for an upcoming trip, planning outfits and shoe selections. When that failed to lull me back to sleep, I started thinking instead about the weather here and what items I might want to order in my next Rent the Runway shipment. I dozed off.

I next awoke at about 1:30. This time, though, I was unsuccessful in coaxing myself back to sleep without reaching for my iPad and completing today’s NYT crossword puzzle. Seventeen short minutes later, my eyes were still wide open. I rolled over and grabbed one of Jeter’s paws to hold as a sort of adult stuffed animal comfort object. Yes, I really do that sometimes. My eyes shut and I returned to sleep for about 40 minutes.

At 3:02 my eyes sprang open again and I attempted to soothe myself with a yoga inspired alternate nostril breathing exercise. Unfortunately, there was no zen to be had. Instead, there was an odd and distant noise that prevented me from resuming sleep. I turned the light on and read my book for about 20 minutes, which is always a last resort for me.

This last time, I went down hard and the remaining hours prior to my alarm waking me up, were filled with crazy dreams. I don’t recall all the details, but I remember living somewhere new in an apartment that initially seemed very small. As the dream continued, the space revealed more rooms than I had initially seen. There were doorways which I walked through only to find additional bedrooms with beds larger than the one I had originally believed to be mine. The family who owned the property invited me to explore and make myself at home wherever I felt comfortable. 

When the alarm woke me at 6:00, I was groggy and disoriented. I hit snooze and ended the Beatles’ wake up song, Good Day, Sunshine, I rely upon to start my day off right, closed my eyes and hoped the dream would restart.

It didn’t.

It’s going to be a long day.

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Filed under aging, musings, politics, stress