Category Archives: Observations

Goals unmet – Serena Williams and I

There was a time when I had no interest in watching a tennis match. It was just so boring to me and the scoring made no sense with some points being worth 15 and others 10 and what the hell was advantage and deuce? No, thank you.

But, then I learned how to keep score and began to understand the rules, and there was Andre Agassi, and I was hooked. I no longer minded when big matches were on television and even attended the U.S. Open a number of times and just loved it. What a great game.

During most of my time appreciating tennis, the Williams sisters have been on the scene. I’ve seen both of them play a number of times and even met their Dad, Richard, one year at a match and found him to be approachable and pleasant. While Venus was always the more appealing player to me because of her quiet demeanor, Serena awed me. Her strength is remarkable and she plays, like all my favorite players, with her heart pinned to her catsuit sleeve. She can be confrontational and combative, but damn it, she is a warrior.

There’s been a lot of talk about the number (23) of Grand Slams which Serena has won and the record (24) being within her reach. I personally don’t know if it is Serena’s goal to match or beat Margaret Court’s achievement, but if it is and she’s feeling disappointed or frustrated after losing in last night’s final to a woman half her age, I’d like to offer her some advice.

Goals can be motivating and provide focus. It can certainly be positive to have a target for which to aim. Training and practice can be grueling and keeping an eye on the prize can provide the inspiration necessary to keep one going.

Earlier this year, I decided that I wanted to run 1,000 miles this year, a feat I accomplished a couple of years ago. I also declared that I’d like to run 25 half marathons before I turn 55 in 2021, feasible with a dozen under my belt already. Both of these goals were achievable, I thought.

But, then my body started to complain. My feet hurt and the first few days of my vacation were remarkable for the limp I had related to discomfort in my hips. It was painful to walk, which made running impossible, and I essentially took the entire summer off running a total of 8 miles in two months. I watched my goals get away and was left feeling badly about my perceived failure.

I’ve gained a little perspective, though and have come to appreciate that not every goal is meant to be achieved. Life, babies and physical limitations can get in the way and demand our attention at times. Honoring our bodies and treating them with respect is essential for our long term health and wellness and that’s the most important end result to me. When it comes to goals, sometimes, you’ve just got to let that shit go.

 

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Filed under aging, Exercise, family, moms, musings, Observations, Recommendations

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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Filed under aging, Albany, beauty, Boys, Events, family, love, marriage, musings, Observations, relationships, Summer

America is not the greatest country in the world

I’m first generation American, a position that gives me, I think, an interesting perspective on this country. I was bilingual until kindergarten when I came home from my half day of school and informed my mother that “this is America and we speak English here.” After that, I no longer was willing to speak German, a genuine loss when I visit my family in the Black Forest where most of them still reside.

Speaking a second language was not considered an asset in this country which arrogantly calls itself “America,” despite the fact that that is the name of two entire continents of which we are only one single country. In contrast, my mother spoke 3 languages while living in Europe, learning her fourth, English, upon arriving here in the mid-60s.

Growing up, we were encouraged to work hard in school because my mother saw education as the only means available to create a life better than the one into which we were born. My brother is a doctor and I hold an advanced degree. We own homes, have retirement accounts, travel, and generally have comfortable lives. In spite of childhoods consisting of a single parent home, Medicaid, and the shame of food stamps and free lunch, we made it.

Through hard work and social programs, my brother and I achieved what in many regards is considered the American Dream. So, why aren’t I more of a believer in the claim that America is the greatest country in the world? Well, it seems like there are quite a few reasons.

The income gap in the United States is outrageous. I don’t know about you, but I will never be convinced that a CEO is entitled to receive a salary that is on average 361 times the salary of the average worker. I’m not suggesting that the rest of the world is perfect, but America really excels in compensating executives at a more outrageous level than any where else in the world.

Do you have any idea how much our country spends on the military? How does the number $649 BILLION sound to you? It’s an amount comparable to the spending of the next eight countries – combined. Granted, this amount is less than what is budgeted for K-12 education,  but it remains an incredibly large number.

Speaking of education, when I was in Greece last month, I spoke with a couple from Scotland and asked them how college “worked” in their country. How much does it cost? Who pays for it? Their response – tuition is free and students are only responsible for related expenses such as room, board and books. The cost of those items can be met with loans, which essentially have an interest rate close to zero with repayment of the loans not beginning until the borrower reaches a certain level of income. Doesn’t that sound a lot more fair and reasonable than our government, which is the largest lender to students, earning interest off citizens trying to improve their lives?

During my travels I’ve been struck by the price of groceries (low) and the quality of public transportation (high) in the European countries which I’ve visited. Access to health care, while not perfect, does not seem to bankrupt families in the way I’ve observed it occurring in this country.

Solar and wind energy seem much more common in Europe and vehicles are more compact and fuel efficient than those found in America. Homes are smaller, not requiring the same resources to maintain, heat and cool. Vacation time is more generous, as are family leave policies when it comes to child rearing, with tax incentives available to soften the blow of losing an income while a parent stays home to raise a child.

America has been good to my family, but it is not the greatest country in the world and we need to recognize that. While it once may have been a true beacon of freedom and opportunity for all, that time has passed. A country which separates families seeking asylum, fails to provide preventative healthcare to the poor and the underemployed and has different justice and education systems for people depending upon the color of their skin really doesn’t sound all that great to me.

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Filed under Education, Europe, ideas, musings, Observations, politics, Rant, travel

The perfect Cape house

When I awoke from my afternoon nap to the sound of the wind in the trees, for a moment, I did not know where I was. I smiled that my response to that temporary state of being was excitement and not fear. Good. I prefer the unknown to be interesting instead of scary. I took a breath and, before opening my eyes, recalled where I was…the Cape, in the most perfect house I’ve ever stayed in the two decades since I began visiting this lovely area.

I’ve lost count of the number of other houses there have been over the years. The first few trips to Cape Cod were short getaways of just a couple of nights. My older boys were little guys and we were in the depths of daycare expenses hell which didn’t leave much of a vacation budget. We stayed in an adorable bed and breakfast/inn in Harwich Port and I fell in love with the adorable town and watching my babies enjoy the waves and sand. I was hooked.

We moved on to renting a tiny cottage for an entire week – a big leap forward. The lack of a dishwasher was a drag, but what really propelled us into getting a different house the following year was the need for a washing machine. Beaches + boys = laundry, and lots of it.

Our criteria for a rental now included the following: dishwasher, laundry facilities, dog friendly and an outdoor shower. We found a house a bit further out on the Cape that met each of these demands and rented the same place for the next few years, happily. I learned to immediately remove all the little throw rugs for the duration of our stay, thus avoiding the game of slide-around-the-oversized-kitchen, and somehow managed to sidestep any medical emergencies other than swimmer’s ear and the chicken pox.

During some exploratory drives beyond Chatham, I fell hard for Wellfleet and directed my attention to finding a rental there for the following summer. Fifteen or so years later, this remains my favorite spot on the Cape. The houses we’ve had have mostly been winners, but there were a couple of exceptions.

At this point a week on the Cape had become two weeks, sometimes divided between the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard. For a number of years there was an awesome “upside-down” house that featured a second story kitchen, dining and living room which gave the place a tree house feel. The deck wrapped around two sides of the place and there were turkeys in the back yard and a hammock the boys would swing in until someone reliably got unceremoniously dumped.

We switched things up the next year for a house with newer furniture and a better yard for the kids to play in, but these perks came with unexpected consequences – ants and mice. After a week of storing all of our food in Rubbermaid containers, we knew it was a one and done kind of situation. There was no looking back.

Honing in on our happiness took us closer to the water, near Lieutenant’s Island. The first year was a fail in a house that failed to indicate that going from the upstairs to the downstairs required walking outdoors and down an external staircase, not great with still smallish children. The stone fireplace on the deck wasn’t enough to get us back the next year.

We made the leap over the bridge, (which is inaccessible during high tides), to a decent house within a 10 minute walk to a calm bay beach. During our stay that first year, the kids made friends with a boy in a nearby house and I took the chance to take a peek inside. It looked perfect for us and was in fact an ideal set up with bedrooms and baths scattered over three stories with awesome decks, including one outside of my bedroom that attracted hummingbirds from early morning through dusk. Despite the tight galley kitchen, I really loved that place and we returned to it for the next 3 or 4 years.

As the kids got older, though, the bay didn’t appeal to wave seekers and we shifted our eyes to the other side of Route 6 where we found what is now my ideal house. Hidden in the woods with a semi-private pond directly across the rutted dirt road, the place I’ve visited the past three years is as close to perfect as I can imagine. A 15 minute walk gets us to the ocean and Wellfleet Center is a drive just slightly longer.

The house itself is ideal with a small footprint, but three stories tall. The kitchen and dining area are spacious and open directly onto a large screened porch with a view of the gardens and “our” pond. The separate cabin was perfect as a “crib” for the boys and avoided a whole lot of arguing about wet towels and swim suits on the floor, because I just didn’t have to see it.

The “boys” are older now, though, and no longer interested, or able, to spend a week away from friends or jobs. Last year, for the first time ever I spent a week away from my children at the Cape and filled the house instead with friends. The small cabin became an oasis for a couple and the bedrooms on the second and third floors were occupied with a fluid array of grown ups.

We never ran out of milk. I didn’t drive for five days. We ate when we were hungry and drank when we were thirsty. There was a rager of a party, which we celebrated by taking a swim in the dark in the pond. It was dreamy.

This second year without my sons feels even more indulgent. I’m as infatuated with this house as ever, but I’m looking forward and thinking I’d like to explore some new beaches, maybe in Greece again. The price of the beautiful home I rent is about equal to the cost, I believe, of what I can instead spend putting together two weeks in Greece. It’s time to make a new tradition.

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Filed under beauty, Cape Cod, family, favorites, moms, musings, Observations, road trips, Summer, vacation

Hearing voices

Driving in my car the other day, I caught WAMC’s Joe Donahue conducting an interview with a woman whose name I didn’t catch, having tuned in mid broadcast. As I listened to the conversation I realized the woman’s voice was familiar…it was my friend, Sally, who works for the University. How cool! I turned up the volume and enjoyed listening to the smart and compassionate conversation about important things impacting college students today, like food insecurity, stress and mental health.

From what Sally said, there are many resources available to assist the population with which she works. The Campus Center seems to be the hub for where students can physically access this support and I hope the various programs in place are able to work to their capacity. They’re doing good work.

I imagine the two perpetrators of last weekend’s mass shootings were each of the age the resources of Purple Pantry and related services are designed to aid. If they weren’t currently students, there were probably community programs to assist with mental health issues available to both young men. I know, from a meeting I sort of* attended at the Savoy last month, that the city of Albany offers referrals to numerous low cost or free counseling and other support systems for those in need and I would think most communities offer something along these lines, right?

Let’s just argue, though, for the sake of arguing, because that’s what we do when we’re afraid and hesitant to make hard decisions, and say that there was no possibility for either of these cold blooded killers to access any resources which might have improved their lives, and potentially avoided the taking of dozens of innocent lives.

Ok, if that is indeed the case, why in the world were either of these two young men permitted to purchase weapons and ammunition that would allow them murder people at a rate of approximately one every 8 seconds? Why are the laws in place so inadequate that a man who caused his high school to be placed on lock down, because of his threats to classmates via lists of whom he wanted to kill or rape, is permitted a few short years later, to purchase guns capable of wreaking that kind of carnage?

I’m starting hear more and more people coming to the same devastating conclusion – this is who we are. This is America, land of the free, home of the gun. If an arguably not for profit organization, like the NRA, and its demands trump the expectation that our children, siblings, parents, lovers and friends should be able to conduct lives in schools and stores and offices and concert venues and festivals and places of worship and not be gunned down…well, I guess it’s time to either own it or fix it. Because next time it just might be you or yours.

A last anecdote – a friend, who owns a local food business and vends at many markets, shared the following:

You can bet that’s my new Starbucks’ name.

 

*The room was packed and I couldn’t get in to the meeting. Closed circuit tv allowed for viewing from the bar.

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Filed under Albany, Local, musings, News, Observations, politics, Rant, Schools

Don’t worry about a thing

Wednesday evening when Stephen Marley sang that lyric I wanted to go there with him to a place where there are no worries. Releasing the weight of worry sounds amazing. All that energy previously occupied with fretting about things beyond one’s own control can be put to use so much more productively. Instead of creating scenarios of doom, our brains could be creating something beautiful. God, that would be such a nice change from beginning the morning with the latest shit Twitter storm and then being consumed with the responses and breaking news for the remainder of the day.

The Right and the Left, along with the Socialists when they’re able to participate in the war of  opinion overload, are producing so much information that it feels like an assault, a mental and emotional injury almost. It hurts.

Turn it off, you say? How does one do that? It feels to me like we’re living a reality that we’ve read about in history books, very pre-WWII. I stay connected to media because I don’t want my grandchildren to ever ask me what I did during these dark and divided days only for me to respond with “I ignored it.” Digesting, processing and trying to understand news and information these days is an excruciating job, but as invested humans we have to make an effort.

I looked around the Plaza and saw so many different and unique looking people, all together enjoying great music on a beautiful summer night. As you might imagine, “Every little thing is gonna be alright,”* is certainly a statement in which I’d like to believe. Maybe I’m focusing on the “wrong” things, universal health care, access to quality education, the acknowledgement of everyone’s equal civil rights, instead of the unemployment rate and the performance of my 403B.

Is it me or are you worried too?

*Confession: I inserted “once Trump and his ilk are gone” after every verse.

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Filed under aging, Albany, concerts, Events, musings, News, Observations, politics, stress, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Eternal life and other things I brought back from Greece

My relationship with souvenirs is complicated. I find it easy to buy things for friends when I’m traveling, but have grown into a person who doesn’t want to bring another thing into my home unless it serves a practical purpose. With a couple of exceptions, that is.

Here’s what I brought home from my most recent trip:

A miniature Parthenon for our family collection.

A bag of oregano to add to Greek salads and anything else as the mood strikes.

A couple of key chains and a bracelet for my son because I love the power of the evil eye symbol.

A jar of orange marmalade for my morning toast.

Some pretty stones and small pieces of marble I picked up while walking. They were warm from the sun and I thought I might give them to friends who might appreciate their beauty and need evidence that one never knows where they might end up. I mean, those rocks probably never imagined they’d make it to upstate New York one day!

Refrigerator magnets as gifts.

Vivid memories and hundreds of pictures.

And, about that whole eternal life thing…On our final night in Athens, G and I walked the Plaka and I noticed a copper necklace with a medallion bearing an intricate design. As I admired it, the vendor shared that it was a symbol for eternal life. My son told her I was buying it, even without the added origin story. He was right.

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Filed under Europe, favorites, Greece, ideas, Observations, Summer, travel