Category Archives: girlhood

O Captain! My Captain

I’m no army brat, so the term captain isn’t one I use with any frequency. Which is probably why I took note of the fact that I did indeed use the word twice in a single evening recently. Both were in the “proper noun” category, meaning a place and a person, (of sorts) and both have left me feeling reflective. I’m not complaining, it’s not a bad way to be, particularly as my academic years winds down.

So, the first occurrence was related to a mega reunion, involving many graduating classes, which occurred last weekend. While the event initially sounded fun and worthy of a drive “home,” as the date approached it began to feel less and less appealing. I don’t like really big crowds and I didn’t think I would know many people there. My immediate classmate cohort had been a freshman class of 65 which the much larger class(es) we were merged into, in a neighboring district (we didn’t have a high school in my town), had either absorbed or spit out. What was the point of driving 100+ miles to talk to people with whom I wouldn’t necessarily have engaged 35 years ago?

But, then I started seeing the names of the people who were making significant effort to get to Orange County and I reconsidered. I still didn’t feel comfortable going to the large, and probably loud, outdoor party on Saturday, but there was an interest in a Friday evening social at a local place that everyone there had memories of hanging out at during our late teens and twenties.

The get together was held at the Captain’s Table, a joint where softball teams celebrated after every game, win or lose, when we were kids. It was very much a roadside burger and beer stand, with barstool seating and, as I remember, hinged wooden windows that could be dropped at the end of the night. I learned to like beer there, something I had to do because it was the cheapest alcoholic beverage at the time and I was saving my money to travel.

Friday night’s mixer made me shake my head many times, none of which were particularly bad reasons. I shook my head to clear cobwebs and hopefully recall a long forgotten name. Or history. What was our connection? Shared academic classes? Parties? Did we hang out? Where do you start when you’re talking with someone you haven’t seen in 35 years?

There were, of course, some Laker friends whose names are pretty much etched on my heart. Those people? We really know each other and our histories have been entwined for decades. It takes no effort to remember our shared memories, families, or joint experiences and I’m always happy to see them anywhere. That part is easy.

I stayed at the Table long enough to catch up with a couple of people, eat a burger and drink a beer. That was really all I could manage since I needed to drive north again to spend the night with friends in New Paltz. I left feeling a twinge of regret for

1. Not arranging my schedule better to accommodate staying later and
2. Just not being more comfortable with a crowd.

My takeaway from the happy hour is that I really need to either work on my social skills or avoid placing myself in situations like this in the future. I’m pretty certain that I felt similarly after the last big get together. Maybe I just need to accept that I’m not the reunion type? How do you manage similar events? Any techniques you’d like to share for making reunions more meaningful?

Now, if you’re thinking my second captain of the night was a Captain Morgan and Coke, you’re wrong. It actually involves an adorable addition to the household of friends – a new puppy! Captain is a cocker spaniel who has stolen the hearts, and the shoes, of his new parents since he arrived a couple of weeks ago. It’s been a while since I’ve been around a puppy and I almost forgot how cute they are and how much work they can be! Although Captain is ridiculously adorable and easy to be with (even when he bites my toes), I sincerely salute both of this weekend’s Captains and wish them health and longevity.

 

 

 

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Filed under aging, drinking, Eating, Events, friends, girlhood, musings, relationships, road trips, Schools

Alabama getaway

I am so tired of the abortion debate. Not like too exhausted to continue to fight for women to have control of their own reproductive choices. No, that isn’t it at all. I mean, like so weary of having to argue with people who believe that they have the authority to dictate what any woman can do with her body. The kind of tired that makes a person angry and liable to snap. Like hangry on a massive dose of steroids. Yeah, like that.

Circa 1982

 

 

To me, taking responsibility for an unintended pregnancy as a teenager meant terminating because I knew I wasn’t responsible enough to care for a child. I had no education, no career and no partner with whom I wanted to raise a child. My life style then was far less moderate than my current one and the pregnancy, as I said, was unplanned. That eventual child would not have been provided with its best start and caring for a infant, with potential birth defects, certainly would have been far beyond my capabilities as a high school student. My choice was the best one in my situation.

It was no body’s* business but my own, and only my soul, if there’s such a thing, will bear the scars of my choice. Just like it’s my body, it’s my karma or damnation. It has nothing to do with you, so don’t try to make it your business.

It’s not about YOU or God. Not everything is.

I’ve never claimed to not wonder, or think, about what that embryo may have grown to become. I’ve always been convinced that the aborted baby was a girl and, after being fortunate enough to birth three sons, I’m ok with the universe fucking with me like that. That being said, I have zero regret about my decision and I truly believe that the energy that was gathering cells together within my body, went somewhere else in the universe. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I have a close female friend who is essentially the same age my child would be and I appreciate that her own mother was in a position to welcome her into the world in a way that I could not. She is a gift.

So, while I’m more than tired of hypocritical politicians, men who seek to exert control over a woman’s reproductive decisions and people who care more about the life of an unborn child than they do of one that is living in horrendous conditions, I will not ever rest on this issue. Promise.

*get it? MY body

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Filed under girlhood, News, Observations, politics, Rant, secrets

Being comfortable in the skin you’re in

(I considered placing a warning here for male readers, but that would be a disservice to any guys who may appreciate skincare. Like my son.)

How do you care for your body’s biggest organ?* Do you moisturize? Exfoliate? Tone? Protect it from the sun? Or maybe you’re low maintenance and just allow it to breathe? Let’s talk about a skincare routine and preferred products.

But first a little history… I was raised by a seamstress who sold Avon on the side and have been devouring fashion and beauty magazines since middle school. I have a distinct memory of sitting in front of a mirror on the floor in my bedroom slathering my face (And neck! Do not neglect the neck!!) with some product, probably from Avon, and hoping that my freckles might fade. They didn’t disappear, but eventually my shame in having them did.

Since those days, my skincare routine has gone through countless revisions. There were the Clinique 3-step years  which ultimately were ended by the 3-sons years. Who has time for 3 steps when they’re raising children?! I moved on to Philosophy’s Hope in a Jar,  a facial cream that has the one-two appeal of great fragrance and a lovely light consistency. It came, however, with a price. That stuff was a bit of a splurge!

In recent years I’ve been a fan of the Origins  skincare line. Again, the products smell amazing, but additionally the ingredients seem to be thoughtfully sourced and the price was more palatable. The array of options – light to heavier formulations for different seasons, cleansers, gentle exfoliants and eye creams all seemed to work for me and I’ve been pretty happy with the condition of my skin. But…

This year I decided to go in a different direction. I wanted to explore some low budget drugstore items to see if my skin responded differently than it does to the more high end lines. I’d like to simplify the number of potions and products on my shelf, but I am even more interested in economizing on my skincare purchases. Right now, I’m experimenting with Cerave (originally nicked from the bf’s medicine cabinet) with SPF for daytime use and First Aid Beauty (FAB)  for night time. I think I’ll continue to use my Bliss** face wash and Origins toner  but would certainly consider a new eye cream if you have a recommendation.

As far as the rest of my skin, although there are times I wish it could be a little thicker, I’ve been told it’s remarkably soft. Nivea for life.

How about you? Do you have a skincare routine to share?

*that’s your skin btw, fellas

** we take our bliss where we find it, people!

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Filed under aging, beauty, favorites, girlhood, ideas, Observations, Recommendations

Finding your voice to Speak and Shout

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, originally published in 1999, is one of those books that has stayed with me since I first read it many years ago. This YA novel relates the story of a high school freshman, Melinda, who is ostracized by her peers because she calls the police while at a party during the summer after eighth grade. What no one other than Melinda knows is that she called for help because she had been sexually attacked by an upperclassman. She told no one. She did not speak.

Recently, I read the graphic novel edition of the title and was completely taken in by the story again. Updated to include social media, cell phones and other contemporary details, the story translated beautifully to the visual medium of a graphic novel. Our copy has already disappeared from the collection, a sure sign to librarians of a book being a winner. We have two more copies on order.

The latest title written by Anderson is Shout, an autobiography written in verse and, again, it is exceptional. Subtitled “The true story of a survivor who refused to be silenced,” this book tells the story, at last, directly from the author’s perspective without the protection a fictional character can provide. It is raw and harrowing and at times deeply sad, but there is a thread of defiance that is awe inspiring. The story manages to span a time period from World War II to #metoo and has left a mark upon me that I suspect will remain forever.

Below are a few of the lines that stole my breath.

 

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Filed under Books, girlhood, Librarians, Libraries, Recommendations, Schools, secrets

When foreign is familiar

I travel as much as I can. It’s more important to me than  new furniture, a 2000 square foot house, a fancy car or piece of jewelry. It’s what I need to do on many levels and I’ve arranged my financial life so I can get on a plane or train, or even a bus, numerous times a year to see something new or visit a place I’ve only read about in books. It is the biggest priority for me beyond my children and the career that make it all possible. It helps me breathe.

It’s a funny thing when you’re born to people who have a combined total of nearly 30 siblings. Yes, thirty. My mom is one of 15 and my father one of 14, which means I have a lot of family. Since neither of my parents were born in America, their our families are all essentially still in Europe. As a child, that was isolating but, as an adult, it has provided me with some wonderful places to see while getting to know my aunts, uncles and cousins of various degrees of separation. It also gives me a sense of home as clearly being in more than one place.

During my most recent time in Ireland, I’ve rounded countless corners only to realize that I know exactly where I am. I’ve been here before. This place is familiar to me in a way that makes my heart full. The neighborhood where I’ve spent the last four nights is a bit beyond where I’ve stayed my previous two visits, but on my first morning I searched out a grocery store to pick up a few items for my lovely Airbnb. Google maps directed me to a nearby market in close walking distance and as soon as the store was in view, I immediately recognized it as being the same store I went to in 2013. I knew it.

When I’m in Ireland, I hear my vocabulary shift to a different gear. I use words like “delighted” and phrases such as “thanks a million” and “that’s grand.” The vernacular finds its way to my lips and I feel myself softening into a different version of myself. Granted, I’m on holiday,* and don’t bear any responsibilities here for children or work or household tasks, but it’s beyond that, I think. It’s a sense of belonging to a family, to a culture and to a place that, while it may not be my place of birth, feels like home.

I haven’t yet left for the airport for my return to the States and I already miss Ireland and everything it means to me. Until next time. xo

 

*holiday rather than “vacation” is how we say it in Ireland.

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Filed under aging, Europe, family, favorites, girlhood, Ireland, Irish, musings, Observations, road trips, travel, vacation

Telling the story of A Fire, a Phonebook Page and Finding My Father

Photo credit: Jamie Thompson

I’m finally sobering up after a night that was intoxicatingly special. Friday night I was one of 6 storytellers at a public event held at the Linda Auditorium. The occasion was a celebration of the 8th anniversary of our local take on the Moth Story Hour, The Front Parlor Series, which occurs monthly in two locations; Albany and Troy.

Telling a story, without notes, in front of an audience is a nerve-wracking experience. I’ve never performed on stage or addressed an audience like I did on Friday and I wasn’t certain how to prepare for it. I knew the story I wanted to tell, the one about how I found my father’s family 30 years ago. It’s a good story, made better by the fact that it’s true. Obviously, I know the chronology of the tale and the important players, but it was challenging to decide which details added to the story and which might merely distract from the overall recounting. I began working it out on “paper.”

It took me a couple of weeks before I nailed down the segments that I wanted to include and the basic order in which to share them. I practiced in my head, honing and editing, during runs and walks and drives. I revised. My biggest concern, besides completely choking, was that I would forget a certain episode or anecdote that I knew was important. I decided it made sense to count paragraphs and associate each one with a word. That way I only needed to remember 12 things. I could do that! On Wednesday, I printed the story for the first (and only) time and made 12 flash cards, for rehearsing.

Friday afternoon, I went for a run (shocking!) opting for my usual 5 mile loop. I passed the remains of a house that had been destroyed by a recent fire. I inhaled and the scent of fire damage immediately tweaked my memory. I knew that smell. I showered, grabbed the last can of hard cider from my fridge and headed to the Linda with a couple of talismans.

The first photo I ever saw of my father, the page from the Dublin phonebook and a stone from my father’s grave fashioned into a pendant.

Somehow I imagined there would be space there for me to actually run through my story out loud. There really wasn’t, though, with 5 other performers and an increasingly full auditorium. I drank my cider, flipping through my index cards, scanning the paper copy of my story and periodically checking the crowd to see familiar faces who had promised to come. I peed three times. More quickly than seemed possible, I was being introduced and made my way towards the stage. My last thought was this – “If you get nervous, just imagine you’re just telling the story to me. You got this.”*

I exhaled, deeply and slowly, and stepped up to the mic.

*As always, thanks Aloysius

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Filed under Albany, Aloysius, Events, family, friends, girlhood, Ireland, Irish, Local, musings, Observations, stress, upstate New York, writing

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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