Category Archives: love

Life is messy

From the minute we’re born, we seem to be placing ourselves in, and extracting and ourselves from, one mess after another. It just seems unavoidable. Despite best intentions to keep things tidy and unsullied, maintaining an existence which is uncomplicated and neat feels impossible. At least to me.

Sometimes, especially when my three sons were younger, the mess is a physical one. Toys strewn from room to room, crumbs and mysterious sticky remnants of unauthorized bedroom snack consumption, and Lego blocks turning up unexpectedly underfoot like Christmas pine tree needles in July. Those days have mostly passed for me. My home is definitely neater, aside from multiple pairs of sneakers in alarmingly large sizes randomly abandoned in the precise spot where they were casually kicked off.

Literal messes happen to all of us – that box of blueberries that popped open and released uncountable orbs of blue all over the kitchen floor, tumbleweeds of dog hair, the leaky trash bag drizzling garbage juice all the way down the stairs as a final gross goodbye. For these situations we arm ourselves with sponges and brooms and cleaners. Getting things back in order is a chore to be managed, an accomplishment to forget about once it’s completed. No big deal.

Returning a physical mess to its previous state (or even one that’s improved) can be annoying, but generally it’s pretty easy. You wipe, sweep, mop and you’re done.

Life’s less tangible messes are a whole different story, though. Relationships and emotions are not nearly as easy to manage and they’re nowhere as simple to contain as even the most rogue of escaped blueberries. There’s nothing neat or tidy about our feelings and, since typically our emotional state is not independent of those we care about, limiting their impact on others is a much more difficult task.

Working through an emotional mess is a challenge, even if we attempt to deal with it in the same direct and efficient manner we use to address a spill. Unfortunately, there’s no product available to scrub our hearts or heads clean, no Shamwow to absorb all the emotions and thoughts swirling inside ourselves. Like the days of small boys behaving like mini cyclones in my previously neat home, it will pass. Until then, all one can do is their best to avoid stepping on anything that hurts.

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Filed under aging, family, house, love, musings, Observations, relationships

Recuperation under the watchful eyes of a Labrador nurse

Being a patient is not really my thing. I’m not sure if that comes from growing up without the presence of an overly indulgent parent or simply being uncomfortable with too much personal attention, but either way, I prefer to be alone when I’m not feeling 100%.

Meniscus surgery recovery has been remarkably undramatic. The procedure seemed to go well and I haven’t felt the need for any prescription pain medication since the first day. I made use of my son’s leftover crutches for one day, opting for a jaunty cane beyond that. There was a lot of time spent on the couch, with my leg elevated, watching Schitt’s Creek, with the occasional episode of House Hunters thrown in to break up the binge.

The presence of the television in my house was more prevalent than usual, but my biggest companion for much of the week was Jeter. He really astounded me with his uncharacteristic gentleness and caution when it came to dealing with me. It was obvious from the very day of my surgery that he somehow knew something was going on with me that required sensitivity. Quinn noticed it immediately as he observed how calmly Jeter was behaving.

Generally speaking, Jeter is more than a little “bull in a china shop,” in terms of how he wields his 85 lbs around the house. His excitement when it’s time to go outside often results in him being a bit pushy, particularly on the staircase and outdoor front steps. I was really nervous about how I would be able to manage him and feared being yanked down the steps in Jeter’s zealous potential pursuit of a squirrel.

Remarkably, my fears were completely unfounded because the dog I often describe as “very handsome, but not so smart” shocked me with his recognition that something was different. He literally planted himself at my side, allowing me to rest my leg next to him. When it was time to go outside, he refrained from jumping or winding himself between my legs and waited patiently. The stairs were a completely new experience as he walked down the stairs slowly without his usual rambunctiousness. It was amazing.

Jeter may not be an official service dog, but he just might be the best nurse I’ve ever had.

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Filed under aging, DelSo, love, Observations, sick, television, vacation

Thoughts I’ve been thinking

  • It sucks that my knee is injured and I can’t fully do the active things I enjoy doing. I see a surgeon in early February and my only question will be: In your experience, what is the most successful plan of treatment for women in my age and activity range who are most interested in being able to resume normal activities (even at a modestly modified level) in the speediest fashion?  That’s my bottom line. I want to run.
  • There were two articles which really spoke to, and for, me recently.  There are things in life which will forever cause me to shake my head, sometimes in a nod and other times in “no.” Both of these NYT pieces made me forget to breathe. I can only link to one because they other one, “I Quit a Seven-Year Affair,” has been removed from the Times’ site.* I’m not sure how I feel about that move, but the piece did remind me of Mrs. Maisel’s choice to share as much about Shy Baldwin as she did in her performance at the Apollo. I knew there would be repercussions.
  • For god’s sake can we leave Megan and Harry alone? They’re entitled to their one precious life, too and Harry’s already seen how an uncivilized society can kill a woman he loves. Who cares how they choose to live?

  • Speaking of caring, there’s so little of that in the world right now. This recent picture of an absolutely beaming Megan Markle walking with her baby and dogs, collected some heated comments about Megan’s son not being safely fastened in his front carrier. Everyone had something critical or nasty or judgmental to say and no one simply offered to help her accomplish the task. We’re moms. We need to be nicer to each other.
  • At a just-turned-green light, I hesitated prior to shifting into first gear and the man in the big truck behind honked his horn and then pulled into the left lane to pass me, giving me the finger as he jerked his vehicle in front of me. I shrugged. Whatever. As we approached Fuller Road, I moved into the right hand turn lane and, again, he aggressively yanked his truck partially in my path. I’d be afraid to witness his response to something beyond a too slow start at a green light.
  • This morning, J, shared a story about some kids pulling a Ding-Dong Ditch which resulted in the deaths of three teenagers. The home owner whose bell was rung, felt the need to pursue these kids at high rates of speed prior to ramming his vehicle into theirs and forcing them off the road and causing them to crash. What is the matter with people? Why are folks overly reactive to minor transgressions, yet numb to the way our government is broken? Is it an assertion of control in a world which feels increasingly unspun. Or maybe it’s actually overspun. 
  • In the last week I was recognized by a reader I had never met (Hi P!) in a really complimentary way and told at an event a few nights later that I looked like Emma Stone.  That’s a good week right there.
  • I read a book this week and can’t stop thinking about, Free Lunch by Rex Ogle. I’m working on a full post.
  • I can’t imagine a better Friday night than a winter one spent at Cafe Capriccio eating eggplant, drinking red wine and hearing a set of quality live jazz.
  • Happy Chinese New Year.  It’s the Year of the Rat, but, honestly, isn’t that what we’ve been living with for the last three years?
Let’s all make the best of it, shall we?
*maybe you can find it in print somewhere?

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Filed under aging, Albany, Books, Eating, Exercise, Food, Librarians, Local, love, medical, moms, musings, News, Observations, politics, relationships, running, secrets, television, winter

Skiing with my Uncle Wolfgang

Last week’s epic snowstorm provided an unexpected early December treat – the chance to cross-country ski at Albany Muni. I got out there four days and the conditions just kept getting better. It was awesome and Jeter and I loved every minute of it.

Other than the first day when I skied with a friend, it was just me, my dog and nearly two feet of snow. Sort of. Skiing solo provides lots of time for thoughts and when I cross country ski I can’t help but think of my Uncle Wolfgang. He, too, was a cross country skier, albeit much more accomplished than I. Wolfgang, my mother’s youngest brother, was a competitive biathlete in Germany and, as I ski, I do my best to glide with the grace and strength he once did.

As my eyes took in the beauty of the snow covered golf course and my lower back became damp from my exertions, my head filled with memories of my Uncle. He and I, along with his wife and a Lilly boy or two, took some great road trips together around Europe. Wolfgang and Brigitte were great travelers and I have wonderful memories of sharing time with them in Paris, Amsterdam, NYC and, our last trip, Berlin. I miss him and will always be sad that he was taken so fast and furiously by cancer just weeks after we parted in Berlin.

But, I feel him with me, deep inside, and I truly understand the sentiment about how you never really lose someone you love as long as you have memories of time shared. I get it now and it gives me so much comfort and peace to know he won’t ever be gone.

I started thinking about all the little things I do that immediately remind me of people who no longer walk the earth beside me. When I chop vegetables, I remember Len, who taught me how to hold a knife. As I put together a salad in the metal bowl I insisted upon getting in the divorce, I think of my mother-in-law and her inability to not give her son and I something to take with us each time we left her house. If I see a deer dead on the side of the road, I recall my friend, John, who once demonstrated his compassion for a dying doe by finishing the job a car had begun, an act of kindness that he unfortunately wasn’t able to extend to himself.

Losing someone we love and experiencing the void of their absence, especially near the holidays, makes for an emotionally challenging situation. Knowing that we’ll never again hear a loved one’s laughter or feel their embrace, quite plainly sucks. However, if one takes the time to focus instead on what remains – the memories and moments and love shared, it seems to me that they’re never really gone. At least not from our heads and, of course, our hearts.

 

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Filed under aging, Albany, beauty, cancer, Europe, family, favorites, friends, Germany, Local, love, musings, Normanskill, Observations, relationships, skiing, travel, upstate New York, x-country skiing

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

Last ride

Thursday afternoon Jeter and I took our last trip to Albany Muni in my Volvo. When we got there the odometer read 149,999 and it just seemed perfect. Truth be told, I was tempted to drive around the lot until the numbers rolled (figuratively) to 150,000 but it seemed too forced, and Jeter wouldn’t have tolerated it anyway with his need to be outdoors. Immediately.

Letting this car go has been unexpectedly difficult. I initially attempted to rid myself of it more than 18 months ago when I bought another car, but failed to finalize the trade-in deal. I wasn’t ready.

The car that I purchased at that time had everything I said I wanted in a car – Bluetooth, a huge glass roof, four-forms and a six speed manual transmission. The color was fine and the price was right and I bought it. I was ready, I thought, for something different, something new.

Since March of 2018 I’ve shuffled two cars, each with its own purpose. The Volvo became the dog car and was my go-to vehicle for Cape Cod. The Mini was my road-trip-south and general about town vehicle.

Maintaining, insuring and juggling two vehicles has begun to feel hyper indulgent. I needed to simplify my life and give someone else the chance to appreciate the car that I had always considered to be my princess vehicle.

The Volvo had come my way after I was rear ended in my previous Volvo wagon. There had been no injuries when the man totaled my car as I sat at a red light, fortunately for both of us. My incredible luck continued after the accident when, after complaining about my distaste for car shopping on Facebook, I was offered the chance to buy the wagon that I’ve owned ever since.

A 100,000+ miles later, I’m in a position to pass this great car on to someone new, coincidentally, a woman who responded to my post on Facebook. I think the car is as perfect for her as she is for the car.

Being emotional about a car is a new, and weird, thing for me. I think it may have something to do with my general unfamiliarity with possessing something for as many years as I’ve owned this car. I’m unaccustomed to it.

It’s easy to love something when there’s no expectation for it to love you back. It’s a car and, obviously, it can’t feel or express emotions, but this vehicle has responded to my affection and care with a steadiness and reliability that I can’t help but to romantically interpret as fondness.

I know I’ll miss this car, but I’ve come to accept that it’s time to pass it on to another family who needs it more than I do. I wish them many happy years together.

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Filed under aging, favorites, love, musings, road trips

All you can(t) leave behind

E848DC09-C1C0-4467-B16D-194572CBD1EA.jpegHave you ever been reluctant to end or leave something* because you were convinced the minute you did would be the same moment that things finally turned that corner of which you never could catch more than a glimpse? You believed you should stick with it, especially when you reminded yourself of your tendency, in pre-Waze days, to not reach a destination because you were convinced you had somehow missed it, when in fact you hadn’t yet gone far enough.  You’re no quitter, are you?

Back in those days, you were that rare combination of optimistic, trusting and honest. Now, you know you’ll never surrender as completely to those same instincts ever again. Not in this lifetime at least.

That knowledge leaves you feeling equal parts sad and relieved.

Walking away from a situation that isn’t working should be easier. We all have free will, right? Not being happy or respected or rewarded for giving our best, should make the decision to move on a simple one, yet, that has not been my experience. In fact, it’s been the one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.

I remember when I quit smoking cigarettes. I was tired of being a smoker. It was gross and unhealthy and I didn’t like the taste in my mouth. I wanted to take up running after struggling to run a mile in a P.E. conditioning class I was taking as an undergrad. I wanted to feel better and not get bronchitis. Yes, there were distinct moments when I did enjoy a cigarette – with a drink, after a meal, late at night, but those occasions were fleeting.

Trading my health for those moments wasn’t a good exchange. I needed to quit.

It wasn’t easy, but I relished my improved senses of smell and taste. I could run longer distances without gasping. I felt lighter in a way not at all related to weight.

Life was better without cigarettes.

My dreams, though, were filled with cigarettes. I wasn’t smoking in my dreams but, I was exposed to cigarettes and the dreams always ended as I was considering lighting one for myself. I would wake up wishing that I could have had just one drag, how I knew that would have satisfied my craving and I could have moved on. Let go.

This cycle of dreams and waking yearning continued for quite some time, maybe years. The last time this dream paid a visit, it was different. I made it to the end and watched myself smoke an entire cigarette – and I looked so happy. I saw myself inhaling and thought about how nauseous I would be if I ingested all of those chemicals and nicotine into my lungs. I knew dream Silvia had made the wrong choice and I was so disappointed with her.

I woke up crying.

My takeaway – It’s better to eliminate what only brings limited pleasure in favor of choosing what brings a more consistent and positive happiness. Even if the craving remains strong, giving in ultimately brings more sadness than joy. It isn’t worth it.

But, I am.

So are you.

PS. I haven’t had the dream since.

*a job, situation, relationship, etc

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Filed under aging, love, marriage, musings, Observations, relationships, running, secrets