Category Archives: friends

Throwback thanksgiving

Pies from Debbie’s Kitchen, Albany NY

When I was a kid I had faux aunts and uncles. There were no true relatives (that I knew about) in the States, so my mother provided close friends who functioned on some level as family. It was a laudable attempt and there were some good people in our lives during those years, some of whom remain to this day.

One of these families, the Ls, had the most multi limbed family tree in the my world and I loved the holidays we shared with them over the years. Dinner usually included all of the following: the married couple, (about the same age as my mom), and their daughter, who was a toddler when we met, his son from his first marriage, joined by her two children from her first marriage. Also present, her first husband with his son from his second marriage. And the three of us.

It seemed like the most exciting, bizarre and totally normal holiday gathering ever. The traditions all blurred together, Jewish, Italian American, German, and the food was crazy – lasagna, bagels with lox, ham and fruit cake. Thinking about those days always makes me smile big.

Yesterday, for the first time in a few years, I had Thanksgiving dinner with friends. It was very low key and comfortable. We brought desserts and a savory vegetable casserole to join the bounty that was already present. While we didn’t play backgammon for boxes of Marlboro Reds, (as I might have decades ago with “my” extended family), we sipped far better wine than in those long ago days, with a mood which was comparably mellow.

My first attempt at curd – Cranberry Curd Tart from the NYT.

At the table was my UG* and his children. And his children’s mom and her partner, along with her partner’s parents and her brother and sister in law. Looking around the table and seeing the threads that tied us all together, I couldn’t help but smile at the familiarity of the situation.

We recreate the chaos with which we are most comfortable. (I use “chaos” here to suggest a familiar dynamic with lots of activity, not as an indication of lack of control.) There’s a vibe or pace that we try to replicate, whether it’s conscious or not, because that’s what we grew up knowing.

Sitting at the dining table with a bunch of people who, through the years, have chosen to share their lives with one another, defines the holidays for me, even more than turkey and cranberry sauce. The combination of common histories and yet-to-be-explored future activities is what I was raised on and yesterday was the first time I felt that familiar energy in a long time.

It was a good holiday.

How was yours?

*don’t ask me what it means, it’s a private joke term of endearment

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Filed under aging, Albany, Boys, Christmas, Dinner, drinking, Eating, family, Food, friends, girlhood, holidays, Local, love, marriage, musings, Observations, relationships, upstate New York, Wine

Columbus Weekend Discoveries

What a weekend, friends! I went into it with very little planned and I couldn’t feel more satisfied by what had to have been one of fall’s finest weekends. It was truly spectacular, far too nice to stay inside the house dealing with anything beyond the most essential of chores.

Except for a yoga class or two, that is. I popped into one on Saturday morning  that was a lovely slow paced practice and stretched my muscles after Friday’s late night run with Jeter. It’s been a long time since I ran with my boy because our paces don’t necessarily align and I get impatient with his need to sniff everything, as well as his remarkable ability to take frequent dumps.

I’ve been forced to back off running due to discomfort, and it felt really great to get out under the moon with my favorite four legged fellow. My feet, particularly my left one, have been giving me problems and I’m currently in a place I consider to be somewhere between my first and eventual second cortisone shot in my foot. Plantar fibromas suck.

The yoga class I took on Monday, an intermediate level practice called Hot Core Flow, was 75 minutes of focused challenge. Sally is a beast and the class absolutely kicks my ass. It’s tons of core work, something I’m consciously working on after being diagnosed with a tiny hernia in my abdomen, and the planks just kept coming. We moved through a couple of series of plank to forearm plank to plank to forearm plank repeat and the sweat was just dripping off me.  It felt amazing.

As things became difficult, I reminded myself to return to the breathing with which we had started the class. Deep inhale, deep exhale. Again. Repeat. Controlling my breath helped me feel strong in way that was similar to when I run. As I consider what my body and brain are both comfortable with, in terms of aerobic exercise, I appreciated this familiar sensation.

Running isn’t about legs nearly as much as it is about breathing and heart.

You know it’s a hard class when half pigeon, despite my hips were screaming for the duration, felt like a resting pose. It was totally intense, but somehow exactly what I needed – to be pushed first, then encouraged to relax and soften.

As we settled into shavasana, Sally offered a reading, excerpted from here,
that was as perfect as her playlist had been all class long.

Your journey
Your path
Your purpose

Crossing an ocean in a boat isn’t the only way to explore new things. Even if I can’t run exactly the way I’d like to, maybe I’ve discovered some else.

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Filed under aging, Albany, beauty, friends, Local, musings, Observations, running, travel, upstate New York

Lake Street Dive

My Spotify playlists lean heavily towards classic rock with a side of traditional jazz, mostly for Sunday mornings with the New York Times and an extra mug of coffee. Any new music I’ve been exposed to in the past 20 has come from either students (thanks, Dani and Skrabs!), my sons or, in more recent years, 97.7 WEXT. There’s some good stuff out there and I’m more than open to expanding my musical horizons any time.

 

I’ve seen a few shows this year that have been, what I consider to be, slightly under the mainstream radar. There were The Suffers at the Egg, The Marcus King Band in Cohoes and St. Paul and the Broken Bones in Asbury Park, each qualifying as not exactly well known, but extremely talented musical groups. Sunday night, I saw another one of these special performances, this time at the Palace.

 

What happens when you go to a concert, thinking you’re one of the cool kids hip to a great band, only to learn that the rest of the audience is your age or even older? Well, that was my experience this past weekend at the Lake Street Dive show at the Palace Theater. I went into this show assuming the crowd would be trendy and young and I couldn’t have been more wrong because most of the folks were my peers. You know, the well preserved middle aged type.

 

I can’t claim to be incredibly familiar with Lake Street Dive’s catalog, but I can tell you this – they were awesome and put on a killer show. The band, who have been playing together since meeting as students at the New England Conservatory of Music, plays music that spans multiple genres including Indie Rock, Neo Soul and Alt Jazz. The lead vocalist, Rachael Price has a truly phenomenal voice that she seems to effortlessly unleash, even from a sitting position necessitated by a booted broken foot. Bridget Kearny who slays on upright bass completely blew me away with the sounds she created – and her adorable hot pink booties. The remaining members of the band Mike Olson (on guitar/trumpet), Mike Calabrese (organ and drums) and new member, Akie Bermiss on keyboards.

 

After attending a huge two-day music fest a few weeks ago, this concert was a warm welcome back to the kind of show I enjoy – one that is local, low key and absolutely danceabley fun. If it hadn’t been a Sunday night, I would have hung out until the bitter end and maybe even waited at the stage door to thank the band for a terrific night out. As it was, I left before the final encore and joyfully hummed my way back to the car. You know me – I’ve always loved a dive.

 

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Filed under Albany, Events, friends, Local, Music, sunday

(Not) Letting go

As of mid morning on Monday my hair still smelled like woodsmoke from Saturday night’s bonfire on Herring Cove beach. I washed it later in the day, but delaying the shampooing allowed the odor to linger in a lame attempt to cling to the week I had just spent at the Cape. It ended too soon.

After my adventures in Greece earlier this summer, I came to the realization that 2 weeks in Greece was essentially the same cost as the house I rent in Wellfleet. Hmmm. That was striking. Maybe it was time to let go of of this twenty year tradition for the sake of experiencing new destinations…

But, the magic of the Cape seems to get me every time, even when getting there is a clusterf*ck of traffic. Morning walks to the ocean, swimming with my dog in a pond that feels like our own and enjoying friends and low key entertaining…I just don’t know how to let it go.

Difficulty letting go has been a theme for me, it seems. This annual vacation, my Volvo wagon, lovers, specific articles of clothing…I hang on to things that have personal meaning that is sometimes irrational and beyond physical properties. I suspect it comes from unresolved childhood issues and a general lack of stability growing up. I mean, by the time I was in 6th grade I had attended three different school districts (and 5 separate buildings) and moved at least 8 times, which certainly didn’t lend much in terms of consistency to my life.

Perhaps all of that upheaval created a need for some constants in my life, beyond my brother and oldest of friends, and the annual trip to the Cape has simply grown into an event that is beyond a mere beach vacation. It’s a touchstone of my summer.

As I drove east and then south to Wellfleet, I did so with the mindset that this was it, end of an era, and I felt okay about it. Seven days later I knew that somehow I would find a way to continue this tradition, even with an anticipated return to Greece and a trip with my youngest son to Spain. At least for the next year. It’s just too important to my emotional and mental health, and my dog, to abandon.

What do you struggle to let go of?

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Filed under aging, beauty, Cape Cod, favorites, friends, Greece, love, musings, relationships, road trips, Spain, Summer, travel, vacation

Love them while you have them

Traveling with my 20 year-old son made for an interesting trip. Because of the time he spent in Thailand last year, he has some experience with having to navigate his way from destination to destination. He may not have the same intuition as my oldest son when it comes to transportation, but he has grown to be helpful and developed some useful skills.

I’ve jokingly remarked a couple of times (maybe even to you, specifically) that the best part of our recent vacation to Greece was having someone with whom to day drink. With some sobering up reflection, I now recognize that what’s going to remain with me, even longer than the 5lbs of feta and dolmas I brought home, are the moments we spent talking, sharing thoughts, making decisions together (rosé or white?) and spending hours and hours outside together, under cloudless blue skies.

Over the years I’ve witnessed too many friends lose a child, most frequently, a son. I grew up in a town where a number of my peers died being physically reckless in a way different than today’s young people. Usually it was a car + alcohol + speed situation, not exactly the same kinds of substances to which our country is experiencing an epidemic of abuse and addiction to currently.  Narcotics have always been way too scary to mess around with to me, which initially made overdoses so incredibly shocking. Now, though, it is my presumed cause of death when anyone between the ages of 17 and 30 dies suddenly.

A few former colleagues of mine have lost children suddenly and at least one was directly related to substance abuse. That mom told me something that will always stay with me. In my whole life, I might have experienced two other instances in which words have had the same profound impact on my heart and thoughts. What she said was revelatory:

All you can do is enjoy them while you’ve got them.

During times of frustration with my sons, I’ve reached for that truism frequently. It helped me to accept that I couldn’t make my sons do, or not do, really much of anything. Whether it was attending classes at the High, writing a thank you note or washing their hair, it was on them. No amount of time spent arguing or in disagreement could force any of my children to do what I wanted them to do, if it wasn’t what they wanted to do. They are their own people.

After my friend’s loss and the lesson she gave to me, I  remember thinking “if something really horrible happened to my kid, I wouldn’t want his last interaction with me to have been a heated exchange about why he hadn’t handed in a required assignment for school.” I’d much rather it be a quick “love you” at the end of a call or text. I learned I needed to let some things go.

On Naxos Island, my son and I rented bikes for the day and rode about 20 miles to the beach and an abandoned hotel project that had become a destination for graffiti artists.  After we were fitted for bikes and provided with helmets, my son clipped the strap on his together and hung it on his handlebars. I said, “you’re not wearing that?” And he said “No.” I bit my tongue, clipped my helmet on and told him to leave his helmet behind if he wasn’t going to wear it. My helmet remained firmly in place on my head for the duration of the ride.

Over the course of the day, I suggested once or twice that my son might want to hit the sunscreen. He declined. I rubbed on my second or third application of the #30 spf I had purchased in Athens without comment. His decision. His eventual sunburn.

There comes a point in a parent’s life when they have to let go in ways that may be frightening, especially when their child’s approach is completely contrary to what they themselves had spent years teaching their offspring was the right or best or appropriate or safe way to conduct the life they had been given. It’s part of the process of separating from one another, isn’t it?

I returned to Albany last week to hear of the death of the child of a neighbor I had when I was in high school. Again, a son.  My assumption about the cause of the young man’s death was, unfortunately, correct. My heart hurt for those left behind.

Finding one’s way through life isn’t easy, despite the maps with which we are provided.  We hope that our children make good choices, but when they don’t, we can only wish for the consequences to be negligible – a sunburn at worst, certainly not the loss of their young life.

Love and enjoy them when you have them.

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Filed under aging, Boys, drinking, family, friends, Greece, musings, Observations, relationships

Rainbows and Unicorns – thoughts during Pride Month

I don’t remember not knowing gay people. My mother had matter-of-factly told me as a young child, that sometimes women loved women and men loved men and it meant the same thing as a man and a woman loving each other. It just was. That made sense. It was simple.

When I moved to Albany and began working in local restaurants, I formed relationships with lots of gay guys. I mean, it’s the FOH industry demographic much of the time. Say what you will about stereotyping, but gay men generally have style to spare. Some of my happiest memories are of hanging out with the Yono’s crew in the late 80s and early 90s, doing a circuit from The Griffin to the (State Street)Pub to the QE2 before ending the night at the Palais. Good times with great friends with whom I remain in contact to this day.

For whatever reason, many of the former students with whom I still correspond are gay adults. I see them and their creative, successful lives and I am just so thrilled to be a witness to it. Their lives are rich and opportunities seem to be much more fairly distributed than they may have been in the not-too-distant past. The expansion of same sex marriage, and the societal benefits which come with marriage, have finally legitimized a relationship that for far too long had been considered inferior or abnormal.

Things surely are better now. We’re past all that, right?

Except, in recent days there have been a couple of incidents that have me questioning how much progress has truly been made. The first situation involved a public display of LGBTQ reading materials. From what I understand, a community member had a strong and negative response to the materials being showcased and responded with an act of vandalism. Immediately remorseful, the perpetrator offered a sincere confession and evidence of suffering from anxiety. Something about those books triggered* a person to commit violence. The story made me feel really sad.

On a sunny afternoon in Troy a few days after hearing about the act described above, I met Peggy LeGee, a transitioning woman who possesses a level of openness and enthusiasm not often seen. After I took her photo, we spent the next 10 minutes talking about her career in education, performing and art and her upcoming retirement. She was excited for her next chapter, tired from the conflict of realizing herself in an educational setting and suffering professional disciplinary actions as a consequence. It must be exhausting to have your need to express yourself met with resistance and even punishment.

These two examples may not initially seem to be related, but there’s a common theme of acceptance in each, don’t you think? Or maybe I should say, lack thereof. Why isn’t acceptance the default instead of the exception? What do you care about who someone loves? How does it impact you if a person chooses or feels compelled to present themselves as a particular gender or sexuality?

Respecting one another and our own individual need for personal expression and realization shouldn’t be as rare as a mythical beast, or merely for the month of June.

*triggered is only bested by “pushing the envelope” from being my least favorite term, but it’s the right word here.

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Filed under friends, love, musings, Observations, Troy, Uncategorized

Another four day weekend. Sort of.

While it may not have officially been a holiday weekend, it sure felt like one! It started on Thursday with the first Alive at Five for the season. I shot photos on a beautiful evening down by the Hudson for a Seen gallery and it didn’t matter at all that I knew no one present including any of the bands. The sun was shining and, after the rainy spring we’ve experienced, that was enough.

Friday night was the Albany Institute of History and Art’s annual gala and it was a wonderful night. Other than the meal, all of the events were held outside on what was a spectacular evening. Unlike the situation on Thursday, though, there were dozens upon dozens of familiar faces and, along with copious amounts of wine, conversations flowed. Standing on the front lawn of the Institute and looking across Washington Avenue at the building which had been my very first Albany home, was a remarkable reminder of how I’ve grown to be a part of this special city.

Saturday began with a yoga class and flowed into a mellow day of exploring Lark Street’s annual Art on Lark. This is such a great event and, again, the weather gods provided abundant sunshine for the crowds who were browsing artwork, enjoying a bite to eat or soaking up the sounds of one of the performers providing entertainment. Like the previous night, there were so many familiar faces that I was happy to see – and photograph. The evening came with a walk for ice cream and even more music, as the open mic at Emack & Bolio’s provided free entertainment to go with my two scoops.

After yet another refreshingly cool night’s sleep, Sunday started with beer yoga at Fort Orange Brewing. Like my Saturday morning practice, this class was lightly attended but I’m so glad I went. It is always one of my favorites, especially when the “garage” gets opened up and the sun shines in. Definitely the perfect prelude to Albany’s Pride Parade.

What can I say about the Parade? Well, it was amazing and I couldn’t stop smiling. The joy radiating was overwhelming and, while the event was for many the highlight of a month’s worth of LGTBQ activities, the Pride I felt in my city was tremendous. Love is love, friends, and that emotion beamed down upon every person present as warm as the day’s sunshine. It was a fantastic weekend. How was yours?

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Filed under Albany, art, beauty, concerts, DelSo, Events, Exercise, favorites, friends, Lark Street, Local, love, Observations, SEEN, sunday, upstate New York