Tag Archives: family

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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Filed under DelSo, friends, musings, Observations, politics, relationships, upstate New York

Where to stay in NYC?

Over the years I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels in New York City. Most of them have been perfectly fine, especially since I’ve only required accommodations for a single night or maybe two. There have been a couple that I won’t book again – The Empire across from Lincoln Center comes immediately to mind. That room was so damn small that it was impossible to navigate, even though there were only two Lilly boys at the time we stayed there and they were significantly smaller than they are now. Pass.

My favorite hotels, the ones I return to repeatedly, are my picks because of a combination of amenities, space and location. Value for the price, basically. The Millennium Hilton on Church Street is my absolute favorite place to stay because it checks every box for me – I love that area of the city for an evening run, on weekends it’s possible to actually find on street parking, and the shopping and eating options are decent. Oh – and there’s an indoor pool, something rarely seen in my experience in NYC.

While I tend to stay at Hilton properties (including Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Doubletree) because of rewards programs related to my credit card, there are times when I go off brand and try someplace different. TravelZoo sends a weekly email with some good deals and I’ve discovered some terrific, new-to-me hotels by taking advantage of these opportunities when the price is right.

The hallway and the closet which was larger than many NYC kitchens I’ve been in.

Last weekend my son and were in the city to celebrate his birthday. I had a reservation at a Hilton, but canceled when I received an email offering a night’s stay at the St. Giles Tuscany on E. 39th. A few years back I spent a night at a different St. Giles property, now closed, and found it to be comfortable, chic and well located, especially when Amtrak was using Grand Central as their NYC station. The deal being offered through TravelZoo was unbeatable at $140 total. I booked it.

We arrived too early to get into our room prior to our matinee at Lincoln Center, but we were welcomed and invited to enjoy the complimentary hot beverages in the lovely lobby while our bags were checked. We returned hours later, after dinner and a walk around Bryant Park, to finally see our room and I was blown away.

The room was easily the largest NYC hotel room I’ve ever been in. There was a hallway with the bathroom to one side and a gigantic walk in closet on the other. The bedroom had two queen beds with enough room remaining to move around without bumping into one another. It was just enormous! The bathroom was a dream with gorgeous tile, a floating vanity and a tub that made me regret having had recent surgery which prevented me from indulging in a deep, sudsy soak.

#bathroomgoals

Generally speaking, I don’t spend a tremendous amount of time in any hotel room, much preferring to be outdoors or doing fun things. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate having somewhere comfortable and well laid out to return to after a full day of activity. Maybe you’re the same? What are your favorite places to stay in NYC?

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Filed under birthdays, family, favorites, NYC, Recommendations, travel

Recuperation under the watchful eyes of a Labrador nurse

Being a patient is not really my thing. I’m not sure if that comes from growing up without the presence of an overly indulgent parent or simply being uncomfortable with too much personal attention, but either way, I prefer to be alone when I’m not feeling 100%.

Meniscus surgery recovery has been remarkably undramatic. The procedure seemed to go well and I haven’t felt the need for any prescription pain medication since the first day. I made use of my son’s leftover crutches for one day, opting for a jaunty cane beyond that. There was a lot of time spent on the couch, with my leg elevated, watching Schitt’s Creek, with the occasional episode of House Hunters thrown in to break up the binge.

The presence of the television in my house was more prevalent than usual, but my biggest companion for much of the week was Jeter. He really astounded me with his uncharacteristic gentleness and caution when it came to dealing with me. It was obvious from the very day of my surgery that he somehow knew something was going on with me that required sensitivity. Quinn noticed it immediately as he observed how calmly Jeter was behaving.

Generally speaking, Jeter is more than a little “bull in a china shop,” in terms of how he wields his 85 lbs around the house. His excitement when it’s time to go outside often results in him being a bit pushy, particularly on the staircase and outdoor front steps. I was really nervous about how I would be able to manage him and feared being yanked down the steps in Jeter’s zealous potential pursuit of a squirrel.

Remarkably, my fears were completely unfounded because the dog I often describe as “very handsome, but not so smart” shocked me with his recognition that something was different. He literally planted himself at my side, allowing me to rest my leg next to him. When it was time to go outside, he refrained from jumping or winding himself between my legs and waited patiently. The stairs were a completely new experience as he walked down the stairs slowly without his usual rambunctiousness. It was amazing.

Jeter may not be an official service dog, but he just might be the best nurse I’ve ever had.

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Filed under aging, DelSo, love, Observations, sick, television, vacation

The cost of Free Lunch

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Monday, YALSA, the young adult librarian services arm of the American Library Association, awarded the 2020 nonfiction award to Rex Ogle’s Free Lunch a small book that left a huge impact on this reader. The memoir tells the story of Rex’s first semester of sixth grade in Texas. He’s just entered middle school, a milestone for which he was very excited. He’s a hardworking and bright student who loves to read and values the routine of school. In addition to his schoolwork, Rex shoulders a tremendous amount of responsibility at home caring for his 2 1/2 year old brother and preparing meals since his mother “doesn’t cook.”

 

And, he’s poor. Really, really poor.

 

Rex lives with his mother, her boyfriend, and their child, in a two bedroom apartment in which all of the furniture items can be counted on one hand. Rex sleeps on the floor in a sleeping bag, storing his meager wardrobe of ill fitting, but clean, clothing in cardboard boxes left over from the family’s most recent move. They move a lot.

 

There is never enough food in their home, but the threat of physical, emotional and verbal abuse fills the otherwise empty rooms. Grocery and school supply shopping expeditions are balancing acts between getting what is needed and not angering a mother who rages against every perceived societal injustice with a loud and confrontational voice.

 

Reading Rex’s words on the page prompted memories and strong feelings for me. We were poor, too. While my mother never was abusive, she also was not particularly interested in the emotional needs of her own children or sensitive to the pressures of fitting in socially. I just don’t think she had the resources to explore either of those avenues.

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I shared Free Lunch, along with Hey, Kiddo, Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s National Book Award Finalist graphic novel memoir, last week with my 7th grade students. The theme of the presentation, and the books I pulled, was families. I talked a little about the infinite number of household compositions that can be encompassed by the word Family. I told the kids about the embarrassment Ogle felt about his home situation and poverty and explained that I knew what he was talking about because of my own experiences growing up in a single parent household, being dependent upon welfare, and receiving free lunch.

 

When I was a kid, there were times when we had to devise ways to heat up food (pre-microwaves) when there was no gas for the stove. Hot water wasn’t always available and sometimes in the winter there was no water whatsoever because we had neglected to leave the water dripping on cold nights and the pipes had frozen. Most of the time, in home laundry was a luxury we didn’t have and I have memories of clothing drying near the wood burning stove upon which we were dependent for heat. 


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Hours of my childhood were spent in the overheated offices of the county social services building waiting as my mother reapplied for assistance. I learned at an early age that toilet paper, soap and aspirin were all considered nonessential and thus not able to be purchased with food stamps. And the embarrassment of free lunch? I’m very familiar with the shame of having to publicly admit that my family did not have the means to provide me with a midday meal.

 

My lesson finished with a “blind” book selection activity in which I asked students to close their eyes, reach into a bin filled with assorted books and withdraw one. As they lined up to perform the task, I explained that none of us get to pick the family that we’re born into and I requested that they sit down for 5-7 minutes with their randomly selected book and just read. Following their quiet reading, they had the option to borrow the book or opt for an alternative title. The choice, just like what might come next in their own lives, was theirs to make.

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Filed under aging, Books, Education, girlhood, News, Observations, Recommendations

Weepy in the light of the full moon

Generally, I’m not much of a cryer. I’m not boasting when I say that. Trust me when I say there are moments when I wish for little more than a sob session to release the emotions that at times well up inside me and practically beg to get out. Honestly, tears would be welcome.

But, like I said, I’m not much of a cryer.
Last week, though, my eyes filled with tears repeatedly. What can I say? Children and full moons apparently are my weakness.
It started with a book. Author Nikki Grimes’ recent memoir, Ordinary Hazards, relates the story of her childhood. Grimes, the second daughter born to a mentally ill, alcoholic mother and a musician father with a gambling habit, survived a childhood that was rife with abuse, neglect and instability.
What saved Grimes and propelled her forward were words and their power to provide comfort, hope and confirmation of her own value. The intuitive and undeniable impulse she had to write, saved her.
This quote really resonated with me –
She’d prepare a hearty soup for them from scratch or bake a batch of cookies to lift their spirits. For such kindnesses, that mother was beloved by untold unfamiliar people beyond our door. On them, she lavished the attention I had once been hungry for. Oddly, her redirected affections made a certain sense to me. Apparently, my sister and I had made the colossal mistake of not being strangers.
My childhood was nothing like the one of neglect and emotional abuse experienced by Nikki Grimes and her sister, but I’ve known students who have suffered a similar existence…girls who have been sexually abused in the same beds in which they had once been tucked into and boys who have been told by their grandparents that they are no longer welcome to live in the only family home they’ve known.
I work in a middle school. My students are children. While mere words may not save children who are living in dire situations, I believe my most important job as a librarian is to provide kids with books that can do just that, save them, by letting them know that they’re not alone, they’re valued and life can get better.
The fullest moon in the sky has more of a chance of holding all of the sadness I feel, than my eyes have of containing my tears.

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Filed under Books, musings, Observations, Recommendations, Uncategorized

Holiday gifts, 2019

Christmas Eve dinner with all my favorite guys at our favorite Chinese place.

Learning the blue jay song on a walk with Jeter at Albany Muni. Now I can identify two bird calls!
A new kitchen faucet and dish draining rack, because I’m a 50 something homeowner.
The gift of safe travel via train and plane.
Three days in the desert with someone who’s always willing to go places with me.
A couple of hours soaking in mineral waters heated by the earth staring at mountains capped with snow.
Time spent with the person most responsible for my ability to create a life filled with happiness.
Challenging myself with a hike that scared me a little.
A delicious cinnamon roll that I allowed myself to eat in its entirety. In tiny bites.
Joy found in the most basic moments in an extraordinary world.

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Filed under beauty, California, Christmas, Dinner, Eating, favorites, friends, Hiking, holidays, musings, Observations, relationships, travel, vacation

Skiing with my Uncle Wolfgang

Last week’s epic snowstorm provided an unexpected early December treat – the chance to cross-country ski at Albany Muni. I got out there four days and the conditions just kept getting better. It was awesome and Jeter and I loved every minute of it.

Other than the first day when I skied with a friend, it was just me, my dog and nearly two feet of snow. Sort of. Skiing solo provides lots of time for thoughts and when I cross country ski I can’t help but think of my Uncle Wolfgang. He, too, was a cross country skier, albeit much more accomplished than I. Wolfgang, my mother’s youngest brother, was a competitive biathlete in Germany and, as I ski, I do my best to glide with the grace and strength he once did.

As my eyes took in the beauty of the snow covered golf course and my lower back became damp from my exertions, my head filled with memories of my Uncle. He and I, along with his wife and a Lilly boy or two, took some great road trips together around Europe. Wolfgang and Brigitte were great travelers and I have wonderful memories of sharing time with them in Paris, Amsterdam, NYC and, our last trip, Berlin. I miss him and will always be sad that he was taken so fast and furiously by cancer just weeks after we parted in Berlin.

But, I feel him with me, deep inside, and I truly understand the sentiment about how you never really lose someone you love as long as you have memories of time shared. I get it now and it gives me so much comfort and peace to know he won’t ever be gone.

I started thinking about all the little things I do that immediately remind me of people who no longer walk the earth beside me. When I chop vegetables, I remember Len, who taught me how to hold a knife. As I put together a salad in the metal bowl I insisted upon getting in the divorce, I think of my mother-in-law and her inability to not give her son and I something to take with us each time we left her house. If I see a deer dead on the side of the road, I recall my friend, John, who once demonstrated his compassion for a dying doe by finishing the job a car had begun, an act of kindness that he unfortunately wasn’t able to extend to himself.

Losing someone we love and experiencing the void of their absence, especially near the holidays, makes for an emotionally challenging situation. Knowing that we’ll never again hear a loved one’s laughter or feel their embrace, quite plainly sucks. However, if one takes the time to focus instead on what remains – the memories and moments and love shared, it seems to me that they’re never really gone. At least not from our heads and, of course, our hearts.

 

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