Category Archives: marriage

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

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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When silver is golden

Twenty-five years ago today I got married. It was a beautiful day filled with special moments and memories I will never forget. The photographer complained  that the skies were too blue and lacking clouds, yet he still managed to capture images that illustrate what a great day it truly was.

I was 27, nearly 28, on that Labor Day weekend Sunday. I thought of myself as an “older bride.” Friends and family came from miles and miles away  to join my groom and me in Washington Park where it seemed that the flower beds had conspired to fit our color scheme, It was everything I had ever imagined my wedding day to be.

The reception was held in a historic Shaker meeting house where guests enjoyed a delicious meal catered by the only restaurant to say “We’re caterers. Tell us what you want and if it’s possible, we’ll do it” instead of “You must have three hot h’or d’oeuvres and three cold h’or d’oeuvres and 2 salads and…” People talked about the food for years. We had so much fun.

But, as you know, a wedding day does not make a marriage. A marriage is hard work under skies that are not always blindingly blue. Learning and growing together takes effort and sacrifice and communication and maybe I wasn’t really as old as I thought I was on that gorgeous summer day.

Somewhere along the way we got lost. Our marriage ended and, while I take no joy in that, I am so very proud of how we’ve together parented the children our love created. We have always been able to put our children and their well being first and avoid the ugliness I’ve seen in far too many divorces.

While I may no longer be in love with the father of my children, I’ll always love the years we shared and that part of my life. It was a really good chapter.

 

 

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Time for therapy

There have been four occasions in my life which have compelled me to talk with a professional about issues I was experiencing. Well, five if you count that time in high school when I was referred to the school psychologist because of the inconsistency between the results of my Stanford-Binet test and my actual grades. It’s a long story, but that didn’t work out at all. Which was disappointing because I recognized, even at 17, that mental health is important to attend to and expensive to pay for.

The first time I went to therapy on my own volition was when I was expecting my eldest child. I felt the need for some help resolving my own relationship as a child to better prepare myself to be a parent. It was productive and I gained some perspective and confidence. A few years later, when I couldn’t stop seeing the Towers fall every time I closed my eyes, I went back and worked through the sense of loss and sadness that 9/11 caused me to feel. That time invested, I believe,  helped me feel emotionally intact enough to deal with my cancer diagnosis and treatment the next spring. I was good.

With three children, a full time job and a part time job there wasn’t a lot of time for personal reflection during the remainder of that decade, but my divorce in 2011 took me back to the couch, so to speak. I think that particular crisis occupied a good 6 months or so before I was swept up and into a new relationship. The demise of that coupling was the most recent impetus to again seek an impartial observer to help me

a. sound out some stuff,

b. figure some things out and

c. learn how again to accept what I can’t control.

Because that’s what it’s about, at least for me – accepting things I can not change or control.

In the interim between my divorce and subsequent relationship ending, my therapist retired and it took a couple of providers before I found a new one with whom I was comfortable. I think the beginning of our work was simply my needing someone neutral and completely uninvolved to interpret a series of actions and inactions, a person to respond to a situation without really knowing either party.

I was in full out emotional shock when we began. It seems I really am remarkably gullible. But, as our work continued, I found myself understanding that it is unreasonable to allow your time to be occupied being angry with yourself because of how much time you spent with someone, because that’s just dumb. I was reminded that fire can create heat or light and I read things like this:

which resonated so deeply inside me that I kept it in my wallet for nearly a year. I forgave myself for caring too much after finally understanding that that is far less a crime than not caring enough. I realized that I’m a scab picker, not content to leave something alone as it heals, but instead, prompted by the knowledge that it will never bleed again as much as it did the first time, compelled to open it up and see what’s really going on below. Even when the remaining scar will be larger.

And I knew the only direction to move in was forward. So I did.

My last few therapy appointments, ever increasingly spaced out, have felt different. It almost seemed as if I was searching for topics to talk about and I cut the sessions short, because I was just done. I have other things I’d rather do with my time.

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From invisible to 518 famous

The years that I was married were busy ones. The boys were young and my husband and I worked opposite hours maximizing coverage of the children, but leaving little time for one another. As the kids grew, we grew apart until I remember a sense of invisibility appearing. I didn’t feel seen. In fact, I felt about as acknowledged as a throw pillow which had been part of a household for so long that its original bright color had faded into something no longer distinctive. It wasn’t good – or good for me.

My first post-marriage relationship, in many ways, kept me in that same shadowy place. Although I felt excited and emotionally engaged, the circumstances weren’t ideal and I felt restrained from being my best live out loud self. As a woman who increasingly wanted more – more fun, more open honesty, more life, I came to realize that the only part of my relationship that was consistently growing was my frustration. It’s taken a surprisingly long time to move from that dark place to a new vantage spot that comes with more sunshine and light. It’s getting better.

Have you heard or used the term 518-Famous? A close friend has been calling me that and it cracks me up. I absolutely love the phrase and I hope that whomever originated it did so with fondness, because that’s how I interpret being tagged as such. It isn’t a declaration of one’s value, it’s more a comment on the small, intimate circle that is Albany for a lot of people.

At an event last week there were some really nice women who had either seen  the Front Parlor storytelling event, or follow me on Instagram. They approached me knowing my name and it was pretty cool having a conversation immediately because this person you just met is familiar with your stories or perspective. While my circle of friends and acquaintances is pretty large due to many years in the hospitality industry and education, I’d like to believe that any notoriety I may own comes from this blog more than anything else. This is the place where I’m most myself publicly, I think, and where you just may have witnessed my becoming increasingly more visible. Maybe even 518 famous.

 

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(The) freedom of obligation

Wow, January! You were really something. During your calendar page time, I made my way home from California, spent an evening with friends in New Paltz and had a quick getaway to Miami Beach. There were numerous runs, some yoga, lots of golf course walks with Jeter and the first ski of the season. It was a month full of living life and spending time with people whose company I enjoy. 2019, I think you’re going to be a good one…

As I spent a little time reflecting on the past month, I couldn’t help but recognize that it didn’t matter where I physically was,  wherever I was I felt happy. I guess this internal happiness I’ve been working to cultivate travels well. It really is true, you know, wherever you go, that’s where you are.

It didn’t matter if I was traveling alone or with someone else, if the sun was shining or the wind blowing, or where I physically was – my general state of emotional being was positive. I felt lucky to be wherever I happened to be, even when it wasn’t a place with a scenic view or the warmth of sun on my face. I’m alive. I have family and friends and people with whom I enjoy sharing my time. I have a home and a job. My health is good and my body (mostly) does what I ask it to do. And, there isn’t a single day that I don’t appreciate every single one of those things.

One of the best gifts about growing older is learning new lessons about life and oneself, and how those two things relate. I think the happiness I’m currently experiencing comes in part to my recent realization that beyond my children, the only one I’m obligated to is myself. I’ve known for a long time that I alone am responsible for my own happiness and security, but I’m starting to have a different understanding about what that means. To me, at least.

The commitment I have to being happy, to living my best life, comes with an emotional independence that I hadn’t previously considered. While I most certainly owe honesty to any romantic partner I am with, I’m not obligated to sacrifice my needs to a relationship which may not fill my soul in the manner in which I desire. This is, to me, a rather radical understanding of myself and the state of being linked emotionally with another. I don’t have to stifle my feelings or longings because my ultimate commitment is to me. I only get to do this life thing once and I’m unwilling to experience it as an observer. I want to live it. All of it.

How is the new year treating you? What are you doing to make your life one that is well lived? Are you living your best life?

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Black lace forever

Look at this top….

isn’t it amazing? It’s been mine for the last 24 years, but it’s time for me to pass it on to someone else. Even though that breaks my heart a little. I still love it and think it’s beautifully unique and well made, but it doesn’t fit me right and I know someone else can wear this far better than I.

I bought this blouse on my honeymoon. We were in our last destination and had been traveling more than a month. The weather had been mixed, but Amsterdam was hot. We had been forced to pry open the sliding glass door in our hotel room because there was no air conditioning and it was absolutely sweltering in our room. It gave us a more direct view into Tina’s House of Pain just across the brick sidewalk from our hotel.

Amsterdam has a great flea market and I’ve done well there with clothing. I saw this blouse hanging on a rod loaded with vintage clothing and immediately wanted it. I tried to dicker the price down without success. Our budget was tight and it was an indulgence, particularly during our fifth week in Europe. But, after initially walking away from the blouse, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Later in the afternoon, I returned to the vendor along the canal and gave him his requested price of 30 guilder. I don’t remember the conversion rate, but I do know it was the most expensive article of clothing I had purchased at that point in my life, Frye boots aside.

It’s been an honor to own this garment but it’s time to get it out of my closet and into someone else’s. So, I’ll be bringing this blouse to an upcoming clothing swap. I’ll just keep the memories.

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