Tag Archives: family

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

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

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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The day my middle son turned 21

856E786C-CB4F-453C-BEDC-C394254736D6It doesn’t even seem possible that the boys’ dad and I have successfully reared two 21+ year-old offspring. I think I’ll pause here for a moment of quiet celebration. Feel free to join me.

Okay – so, twenty-one can be a real defining moment of adulthood. A milestone of sorts. With this particular kid of mine, I believe twenty-one is a solid piece of punctuation in a young life lived well.

My pregnancy with this middle son was so much less idyllic than my first had been. Of course it was – I now knew (some of) all of the things that could go wrong. Early delivery and bad presentations and terrible medical outcomes…we’d experienced those with our first child and were certainly nervous about a repeat experience.

Fortunately, the second L&D was much different. As was pretty much everything else with this kid. He was bald, with a complexion that was blotchy and reddish. He was big, nearly off the charts for length, then height. And while Liam had been placid, this baby was calm only as long as he got what he wanted.

Within a few years, we knew what he wanted most was to be able to go. Actually, his very first word was “Go!” yelled when the car in front of us didn’t accelerate quickly enough when the light turned to green. He climbed out of his crib at 8 months, ran at 9.5 and had earned the nickname “The Runner” by 18 months. It’s just who he is.

His first bite of solid food was pizza crust stolen from his brother’s plate. He almost choked on a bite of bagel a few weeks later, but continued to have a fondness for carbs that he may have inherited from me. If that was indeed confirmed to be the case, it would not be the only way in which we are similar.

I’m not inclined to take credit for how anyone, but myself, might turn out.  People seem to become who they are supposed to be despite all of our efforts, don’t they? Yet, this young man reminds me of myself. Often. I believe his humor and self sufficiency and ability to clean a bathroom, all come from me. I think he knows it, too.

The night before his birthday, my son, his brothers and his dad, and I, had dinner together. There was lots of laughter and too much fried chicken, chicken which my son promised to tell his roommates I myself cooked, if I let him take the leftovers home.  I knew how lucky we all were to be able to celebrate.

Two down, one to go.

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Stream of Covid consciousness

19C45110-9E6B-44D0-A3BD-72BBCBAA6912This crisis is starting to feel like it’s been going on for a long time. The colors of the construction paper window rainbows are fading.

The city without people looks beautiful in a stark sort of way. We live in a pretty place.

Wearing a mask suffocates me, yet another reason medical personnel deserve all of our respect during these horrific times. I can’t imagine wearing one, with a face shield on top, for 14 hours a day.

Can this incredibly challenging situation prompt us to “reset” society?  It would be beyond tragic if things just went back the way they were P.C.

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Isolating without a partner makes one think about what they might want in a potential partner. I imagine isolating with a partner does the same.

It’s really hard to stay on task, something I’m just realizing may not be a situation exclusive to myself.

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I worry about social distancing as the weather gets warmer.

Has a cough ever sounded as scary to you? How many times a day do you wonder if you might have been exposed to the virus?

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My #sixwordstory would have to be: My dog has never been happier.

I’ve taken to putting cash in my pocket when I got out for my daily walk. I call it my “walking around money” and try to find a way to spend it at a local, independent business during my walk.

C5E8033F-0655-4716-997B-F85C442434B0Days seem really long, but the weeks are going by quickly. Losing all of this time with friends and loved ones is something we’ll never be able to recover. I hope we learn to value those shared experiences more than ever once we have them in our lives again.

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Painterly thoughts

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Standard home project outfit, n’est pas?

It’s been just about exactly twenty-one years since I last painted the upstairs bathroom. I’m not always so clear with years and dates, but this one is easy to remember because I was pregnant with my second son. My water broke as I raced to get the newly renovated third floor of our house prepared for our expanding family. I was on the bathroom floor scrubbing grout when my labor began – and my interest in hands on household projects ended.

Other than swapping out the vanity about a dozen years ago, I’ve basically done nothing to that bathroom in this century. It’s been the boys’ bathroom for a long time and, by the way, boys can be gross. There wasn’t a lot of incentive for me to invest in prettying it up when the guys (and the Enzo cat) weren’t the most tidy of shower mates. But, when the shower leaked, again, I finally committed to investing some money and improving this room.

The faulty shower was the natural starting point, because that was where the major problem was. The shitty shower we had initially installed, because it was cheap, needed to go.

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I found a great contractor who showed up when he said he would and was incredibly easy to work with, and got started with a firm budget in mind. Along the way the job has evolved to include a few more things, like extended tiling, more expensive tile than originally budgeted, a new toilet…, but we’ve mostly maintained the budget and I’m happy with the value of my investment.

As you know, if you’ve taken on a project like this before, once you do one thing, everything else looks crappy. I think I want to pick out new light fixtures to freshen things up even more. Seems like new towels might be a nice touch, too. Maybe even a plant.

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I took on the task of painting the bathroom myself and finally was motivated Saturday. I gathered together everything I needed, and picked up a few necessary items at my local hardware store, Bridgeford on Delaware Avenue.  Turning on a 60s Apple Music playlist, I began prepping.

First, the walls needed to be wiped. Next, the floor was vacuumed with a shop vac. Then the taping began. Using newspapers and blue painter’s* tape, I started taping off the tile and trim work. Then I mopped. There was a time when (like prior to my experience yesterday) I despised this prep work involved with painting. It just always felt so damn tedious and took too much time.

Something was different, though, yesterday. Instead of dashing through the prep process, I decided to slow down. I’m older. I now know that cleaning up one’s mess is a far more tiresome task than honoring the process of getting ready for creating change.

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Not helpful

After sending out a social media post asking for help in opening my can of paint,** I got busy rolling and brushing the walls. As I covered the soft lilac on the walls with bright white, my thoughts were free to roam. I considered the countless ways my life is different than the one I was living last time I painted those walls.

The baby filling my belly then is turning 21 at the end of this month. Time certainly does move on.

I coated the walls and let my thoughts travel from the past to the future and, finally, to today. There have been so many experiences and adventures and moments in my life and many of them have occurred within the “confines” of my years spent in this house. Painting it shouldn’t be isn’t a chore, it’s really more of a gift to this place which has sheltered me and those I love.

This morning, before breakfast and coffee, I put on my painting clothes and did a second coat. I think I may even need to do a third, a realization which no longer discourages me because I’m kind of enjoying the combination of physical work, but mental indulgence, that painting involves. Covering a no longer favored color, while recalling special memories, makes for a solid win-win.

This bathroom redo has been a very good investment.

I can’t wait to get to the bedrooms.

 

*I’m really unsure about this usage…painters’?

**A flathead screwdriver was the most recommended tool.

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Memories of the 2020 Pandemic

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Even when the skies are grey and intermittently spitting some combination of rain and snow, one must believe that the sun will come out again and shine. It just has to.

One day we’ll reflect back on these times and what we learned from the
unimagined challenges of today. I wonder how we’ll be different.

I look forward to one day remembering when…

…Andrew Cuomo became my generation’s Kennedy and the country’s hottest bachelor.

…We learned that our country was home to people who binge purchase paper products without a care about denying others the opportunity to purchase the same traditional essentials?

…Grocery store excursions became explorations as you were forced to substitute random items for those on your shopping list due to lack of availability.

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…You realized that hanging out around a bonfire while in your 50s (or even 60s!) was even more fun than when you were in your teens

…The term Katie Girl was added to my vocabulary.

…Questioning “need over want” became a good way to fill the hours.

…Trying to find the balance between being industrious and curling into a ball was more mentally exhausting than any actual job.

…Honesty again became the ultimate commodity.

 

 

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