Category Archives: stress

Not maintaining the standard of conduct

PHOTO BY JIM LO SCALZO-POOL/GETTY

Go read that title again. One more time. Do you get it? This is where we are as a country. We are “not maintaining the standard of conduct,” as I heard a decorated military man so eloquently say on the radio today. He was referencing the Eddie Gallagher situation and other recent high profile pardons courtesy of Donald Trump.

The enlisted personnel who had in cases been convicted and serving prison sentences, had been granted clemency and had their previous ranks returned to them. They had committed heinous atrocities. They were “not maintaining the standard of conduct.”

I listened to a lot of the hearings today and it looks more likely than ever, to me, that Donald Trump just might get himself impeached.

The hostility present in our country, the home grown, domestic, “native” type, is horrendous. I’ve never known America to be so in disagreement about priorities. The divide between the haves and the have-nots is as gaping as  the Grand Canyon. A general lack of connection is evident.

South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona (Photo by Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images)

Watching, and listening, to today’s hearings has been depressing. It’s difficult to believe anything being said. The hyperbole is epic.

I decided to vacuum because I needed to quiet the voices in my head. It’s hard not to think that far too many of our representatives are “not maintaining the standard of conduct.” Their motivations, bilaterally, are suspect. Who are they serving?

The government we currently have is what you get when citizens don’t become involved or pay attention. When qualified people don’t vote, it seems that unqualified people get elected. See: Donald Trump

To those of you with the stamina to watch tonight’s debates – bravo! That’s wildly impressive. As for me, I am burnt out on politics and need a walk, a shower and bed.

We have got to do better than this. It’s time to relearn how to maintain the standard of conduct.

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Filed under aging, musings, News, Observations, politics, stress

For the love of sixth grade

Can you find me?

When I was in sixth grade, I had the coolest teacher ever. I now suspect that Mr. Warbrick, the first male teacher I ever had, was fairly new to the field. Teachers who so enthusiastically do their own thing, I’ve come to learn, are either fresh and green or comfortable veterans.

The memories that stand out to me from that year of school are consistent for the way our activities made me feel – excited, interested, capable, respected and fun. Aren’t those the emotions school is supposed to inspire? Our classroom, the former library, was a suite of three rooms. We were tasked, as a class, to agree upon a theme (we chose jungle), sketch out a design and then paint our main classroom space. The smaller room on the right became the designated reading room, which we furnished with a couch we had fundraised to purchase. The smallest of rooms was a kitchen and, again, we worked together to raise the money needed to buy a secondhand refrigerator which we used to keep our lunchtime ice cream sandwiches frozen until class movie time.

I learned a lot that year. Things like how to do the hustle, what it feels like to be recognized as more than merely the girl who’s always reading and the possibilities of what can be achieved with collective effort. It was a fantastic academic year for me despite the fact that I recall nothing of what we studied during official class time. The lessons I learned were more about how to be a human being.

As I approach my twenty-fifth year in my profession, I find myself becoming more reflective of who I have been as an educator – and who I want to be. I’ve shared a library for the past fifteen years and, while collaboration can be stimulating, this year I am feeling compelled to break out a bit and do things a little differently. My way.

I want to create an atmosphere which allows children to grow, while also reflecting my experiences and viewpoint. I want the library to be welcoming and comfortable and I want to make connections – between myself and students, kids and books, and information and the world.

I got started last week with 15 orientation classes for 6th graders. It was a hectic three days, but I was exhilarated. We talked about areas of the library and dystopian literature and the amount of pressure – social, academic and athletic, students feel and I vowed to not add to that burden. That doesn’t mean we won’t tackle academic tasks, just that we both need to remember that these students are eleven years old.

My students were awesome and I’m filled with gratitude that my job is to work with all these kids. I’m so lucky – and my goal is to make as many students as possible feel exactly the same way. I think it’s going to be a very good year.

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Filed under Education, favorites, Librarians, Libraries, musings, Observations, Schools, stress

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

Don’t ever buy me earrings

It would be impossible to count all the earrings I’ve lost over the years. Hoops, studs and danglers – none are safe in my ears. Even screwbacks have inexplicably gone missing my from my lobes. I just can’t win when it comes to earrings. Until recently, that is.

A couple of weeks ago, following dinner with friends in Dublin, I decided to enjoy one last pint in town before hopping the Dart to my AirBandB. With its proximity to the Tara Street Station, Mulligans was the obvious choice. I happily sipped my Guinness and people watched the Friday night crowd until all that remained in my glass was the telltale white ring of my perfect pint. Time to go.

As I rounded the bar a group of guys engaged me and asked if I would take a photo of them with the Nikon hanging around my neck. Of course! Unfortunately, though, my camera’s battery was dead which caused the gentlemen to reconsider their request – how about a group selfie? Sure. The five of us gathered together and as I snapped our selfie I heard something hit the floor. I checked my lens cap to see if it was still in place and it was, so I assumed something else must have fallen. I left to catch to catch my train.

Note the left ear!

Twenty minutes later, home for the night and partially undressed, I realized I was missing an earring. Immediately I knew what had made that noise in the pub – a very nice earring. Shit. As I considered what to do, I recalled the bum’s rush we had received at Mulligan’s the week earlier as we lingered over our after dinner drinks…they could be closed by the time I got back there. I needed to phone them.

I googled the number and turned on my cell phone service to make the call. After just two rings the phone was answered and I quickly explained the situation, describing where to look for my errant earring. In minutes I had good news – my earring had been found!

Late Saturday morning, I returned one last time* to Mulligan’s and gratefully retrieved my diamond earring from the rocks glass behind the bar where it had spent the night. My celebratory pint tasted particularly delicious.

 

*last time for this trip

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Filed under drinking, Europe, Fashion, favorites, Ireland, Observations, stress, vacation

YouTube Yin Yoga

Sometimes it feels like getting to yoga is the most challenging aerobic activity of the day. I don’t really know how it happens, but I regularly show up at the studio nearly out of breath from the race to arrive at class on time. It isn’t exactly the most zen-like way to begin my practice and each time it happens I swear to do better next time, but…

The other day I left my house for a Yin class with 3 minutes to spare, according to Waze. Perfect – just enough time to put air in the tires of my neglected wagon. I pulled into Stewart’s to witness a woman pulling the air hose towards her vehicle where she proceeded to fill each of her tires, carefully and slowly. By the second tire, I knew there was little hope for my making it to the studio on time. Despite the odds not being in my favor, I waited, filled my tires and continued on my designated route until I rounded a corner and landed right in the middle of some weirdly early rush hour traffic. It just wasn’t happening. I called the studio and cancelled my reservation.

I pulled my car over and spent 10 minutes furiously googling alternative studios and other options to achieve zen. No dice. At this point, I was completely amped up and stressed, needing some yoga even more than I had 20 minutes previously. A sudden thought occurred to me – YouTube! There had to be something on YouTube that would help.

I searched “Yin Yoga” and found Kassandra whose 40 minute prop-less class was one of the first returns. From the description, it sounded like precisely what I was looking for and I excitedly rolled out my mat on my living room floor. Despite Jeter compressing a tennis ball noisily between his jaws right near my ear, I managed to ignore most everything beyond the cues given by the instructor and stayed mentally on my mat. The limited number of poses were held for a deliciously long amount of time and my body was fairly cooperative as it melted into the floor. By the time shavasana came around, I was in a much better place than where I had begun my practice.

Since the first Kassandra class on Wednesday, I’ve taken 3 others each varying between 40 and 60 minutes. The yoga style has consistently been Yin, but the focus has ranged from anxiety relief and relaxation to hip opening. Without exception, all have been terrific. YouTube yoga might not offer the same sense of shared breathing and community that comes from being in a studio, but in a pinch, it could be just where you need to be when you can’t to where you want to go.

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Filed under Exercise, favorites, ideas, Observations, Recommendations, stress, yoga

Repairing my ability to divert.

Diversion can be a really good thing. When floodwaters are heading straight towards a vulnerable location, a well placed levee can help to avert disaster by directing the water to a better protected area. Similarly, when a person finds themself continuing to ponder a situation for which there is no happy ending, a shift in one’s attention to a more positive course of action can be truly beneficial. And, for the record, an emotional flood is no less devastating than an actual tidal wave to a person who has had their heart-broken. Trust me.

 

Let’s talk, though, about actual physical diverters because sorrows and affairs of the heart are not as easily repaired as those of the household. Currently I have two rooms in my house that have faulty diverters and I’m losing my patience with their lack of willingness to self-correct. First, my kitchen sink faucet. When middle son and I selected the industrial style faucet a couple of years ago, I was a little hesitant. It was an Italian brand and, while it looked great, I would have preferred a brand that came with a solid reputation because it was kind of pricey. Nonetheless, we bought it. 

 

We probably got about two years of satisfaction from this Giagni Fresco product before the buttons on the faucet head stopped functioning, leaving the nozzle permanently in “spray” mode. For a while I could pull the necessary button out with tweezers to get the water to come out in a stream rather than a spray, but those days are over. Looking on the Lowe’s site at the reviews for this faucet tells me I’m not alone. It’s time to reach out to the manufacturer and get some parts to correct this flaw.

 

I’ve probably mentioned in the past that I love my bathtub. It’s a jetted Jacuzzi and from September through spring, I’d say I take a bubbly bath at least twice a week. Maybe my joy in bath time created an issue between my plumbing parts and I, perhaps, shouldn’t have neglected to sing the praises of my rainhead shower, because it no longer is working as it should. When I pull the lever from the faucet to divert the water to the showerhead it no longer is operating at 100%, which means my rain is more of a sprinkle. Not great. I attempted a fix myself, after first asking middle son to investigate the issue and learning that he doesn’t know what an allen wrench is, but my repair didn’t stick.

 

So, do any of you have any plumbing tips for a not so handy homeowner? And, do you think redirected attentions are capable of providing an adequate diversion to lingering emotional deluges?

 

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Filed under house, love, musings, Recommendations, stress

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