Category Archives: musings

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

What would they say about you in 10 words or less?

DE6A862B-D592-4882-B85E-C0A76883868FSunday’s New York Times featured approximately 4 entire, above and below the fold, pages of mini biographies of those lost to Covid-19. It is impossible to read without feeling your heart race and your eyes well. So many people.

We’re at a number of deaths in the pandemic which is pretty much identical to the number of people who live near me in New York’s Capital District. As I walk my dog, meandering our way around Albany, I sometimes imagine every single person I see no longer living. I know that’s a morbid headset to get into, but it serves to remind me of how terrible this situation truly is.

My circumstances have remained fairly consistent, albeit more solitary. I am very fortunate to have a stable income and some savings, but I’ve frequently considered how I would have fared in this epidemic had I been an independent college student, or a mother overwhelmed with caring for my own babies while teaching remotely. Factor in the need to stay home and a lack of travel experiences, and I’m sure I would have lost my mind.

There’s a lot of talk, (in and out of print), about mask wearing and the politics of the pandemic. What are our obligations to one another? What is reasonable? Is this an attempt to eliminate individual rights? Did you hear/read/see what Trump said?

Enough.

If you choose not to wear a mask, stay away from me. It is my decision to make when it comes to whom I am comfortable having within a six foot radius of myself. You know that whole “it’s my body and my choice thing” which I’m rather consistent about expecting as an adult. I’m more than willing to do the same for you.

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There have been some pictures of people crowded together in public spaces, many without masks, and surprisingly, those images don’t distress me. Why? Because I would never put myself in those situations. To me, it seems more reckless than almost anything I’ve ever seen and I am not reckless.

I can’t help but wonder how those attending large scale events would feel about trackers designed to document the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Something makes me think they’d have an issue with it and the violation of their privacy.

Back to the Sunday Times, and the thousands and thousands of names… Remember when the number of people dead due to 9/11 related situations seemed like an unbearable loss? How do we process the deaths we’re experiencing now? How can we honor the lost beyond reading their names?

And, what would you like to be said about you in ten words or less?

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Filed under Albany, medical, musings, News, Observations, politics, upstate New York

The persistence of memory

301D0BC0-7CCB-466D-8233-1A2364CF0603It took 8 weeks before I finally felt a sense structure in my deconstructed life. 

Did it take everyone else two months to find an element of calm in this new isolated existence? I can’t be the only one who has flailed like a fish out of water, flopping from place to place, can I? 

There was some time last week when I truly felt like I had a grasp on the situation. I was as near as I’ve ever before been to embracing this new isolated existence. It almost felt comfortable. My days had a structure and flow that felt comforting, like I was wrapped in a cocoon of consistency. I was productive.

I recognized my newfound rhythm wasn’t so much the development of my own personal pacing as it was a relinquishing of the schedule I’ve functioned under for my many, many years of living by the academic calendar. I had finally let go and relaxed into the situation. It was kind of like leaning in to a turn when riding my bicycle. Instinctual.

That sense of being in control was short lived. While my natural impulse is to be positive and spin situations into learning opportunities, what we’re experiencing now, individually and collectively, is not something that should be normalized. This pandemic is disruptive to every single segment of the world’s population and will change the way we all live long after the virus is controlled.

I’m at a stage in this crisis where I am, in fact, tired of it. Or maybe overwhelmed is a better word. I’ve read countless stories about Covid-19 and the havoc it wreaks and have reached a point where I can not absorb anymore information about the virus. Not another word.  I’m saturated.

I’m serious. The more I read about the pandemic, the more unreal it feels. I don’t mean in a conspiracy theory way. No, I mean in YA Dystopian Fiction book sort of way. Like, how did this happen? Is this real?

It’s the definition of surreal, Dali come to life.  I can’t help but wonder, years from now, what will persist in our own memories from this time? What would you prefer to forget?

 

 

 

 

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Filed under musings, News, Observations, Schools, Spring, stress, upstate New York

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

Teach your children. Well…

CC3FC5BE-DC37-4DC1-A4CE-4789DB89607DDuring this prolonged health and economic crisis, there’s been a lot of discussion in our country about education and how these circumstances are impacting students. I’ve read numerous articles and posts and tweets itemizing all the things kids are missing in this new “school” setting, the curriculum, the material, the lessons.

I’m not going to lie, much of our current lives is whacky, including trying to deliver a standards based curriculum to students via chrome books. Education is so much more, though, than Google Classroom and Zoom meetings. The social interactions, the discipline involved with adhering to a schedule, and the knowledge absorbed from the educational setting each contribute to what students learn in any given day.

Instead of bemoaning, though, what today’s students aren’t learning, maybe we should ponder what they are learning during this extended Pause on life. Maybe we shouldn’t worry so much.  I don’t know about you, but there really isn’t much that I learned in middle school, in terms of academics, that continues to be an integral part of my life, check writing skills and how to identify the Big Dipper, aside.

Maybe these kids will learn something different. Like…

The meaning of the word resilience.

That the purpose of government is to to help create a country with infrastructure and to provide support when necessary to that country’s citizens. Not to make a bunch of mostly white, mostly males rich through their relationships with corporations.

The importance of community.

The meaningfulness of helping others – our family, neighbors, and coworkers.

An ability to differentiate between being prepared and hoarding necessary household items.

How to work independently and manage their time.

An understanding that sometimes we need to modify our own behavior to preserve the well being of others.

The interconnectedness of our world.

How to be less wasteful

And more appreciative.

There may not be a grade assigned, but what we teach children now, through our actions and examples, are lessons that have the potential to remain with them for far longer than a marking period.

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Filed under Education, ideas, musings, Observations, Schools

10 Reasons it’s a good day

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1. The sun is shining and the skies are blue.

2. It’s sundress warm.

3. My son liked the banana pancakes I made for breakfast. 83EC8C0A-3068-49ED-99AF-50CFE3E255DB

 

 

 

4. I’m not isolating in a bad relationship. Have you seen the domestic violence rates?

5. I found a lost sock when I unfolded a crisp cotton sheet to replace the cozy flannel ones on my bed.

6. So far, my loved ones are all healthy.

7. My house smell lovely from two little glasses filled with flowers.

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8. All my chores are done and the day is mine.

9. The last coat of paint in the bathroom is on and the project, including beautiful new vanity, is expected to be complete this week. Then – on to the back bedroom.

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10. While I’m distressed about not being able to travel, I have a home that is safe and comfortable and that I am able to afford. None of that is taken for granted.


Hope you’re staying healthy and your Sunday is equally good. Don’t forget to be kind, including to yourself.

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Filed under Albany, beauty, Boys, breakfast, Eating, Europe, family, favorites, Flowers, Local, musings, Observations, relationships, Spring, sunday, travel, upstate New York, vacation