Tag Archives: marriage

Throwback thanksgiving

Pies from Debbie’s Kitchen, Albany NY

When I was a kid I had faux aunts and uncles. There were no true relatives (that I knew about) in the States, so my mother provided close friends who functioned on some level as family. It was a laudable attempt and there were some good people in our lives during those years, some of whom remain to this day.

One of these families, the Ls, had the most multi limbed family tree in the my world and I loved the holidays we shared with them over the years. Dinner usually included all of the following: the married couple, (about the same age as my mom), and their daughter, who was a toddler when we met, his son from his first marriage, joined by her two children from her first marriage. Also present, her first husband with his son from his second marriage. And the three of us.

It seemed like the most exciting, bizarre and totally normal holiday gathering ever. The traditions all blurred together, Jewish, Italian American, German, and the food was crazy – lasagna, bagels with lox, ham and fruit cake. Thinking about those days always makes me smile big.

Yesterday, for the first time in a few years, I had Thanksgiving dinner with friends. It was very low key and comfortable. We brought desserts and a savory vegetable casserole to join the bounty that was already present. While we didn’t play backgammon for boxes of Marlboro Reds, (as I might have decades ago with “my” extended family), we sipped far better wine than in those long ago days, with a mood which was comparably mellow.

My first attempt at curd – Cranberry Curd Tart from the NYT.

At the table was my UG* and his children. And his children’s mom and her partner, along with her partner’s parents and her brother and sister in law. Looking around the table and seeing the threads that tied us all together, I couldn’t help but smile at the familiarity of the situation.

We recreate the chaos with which we are most comfortable. (I use “chaos” here to suggest a familiar dynamic with lots of activity, not as an indication of lack of control.) There’s a vibe or pace that we try to replicate, whether it’s conscious or not, because that’s what we grew up knowing.

Sitting at the dining table with a bunch of people who, through the years, have chosen to share their lives with one another, defines the holidays for me, even more than turkey and cranberry sauce. The combination of common histories and yet-to-be-explored future activities is what I was raised on and yesterday was the first time I felt that familiar energy in a long time.

It was a good holiday.

How was yours?

*don’t ask me what it means, it’s a private joke term of endearment

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Time for therapy

There have been four occasions in my life which have compelled me to talk with a professional about issues I was experiencing. Well, five if you count that time in high school when I was referred to the school psychologist because of the inconsistency between the results of my Stanford-Binet test and my actual grades. It’s a long story, but that didn’t work out at all. Which was disappointing because I recognized, even at 17, that mental health is important to attend to and expensive to pay for.

The first time I went to therapy on my own volition was when I was expecting my eldest child. I felt the need for some help resolving my own relationship as a child to better prepare myself to be a parent. It was productive and I gained some perspective and confidence. A few years later, when I couldn’t stop seeing the Towers fall every time I closed my eyes, I went back and worked through the sense of loss and sadness that 9/11 caused me to feel. That time invested, I believe,  helped me feel emotionally intact enough to deal with my cancer diagnosis and treatment the next spring. I was good.

With three children, a full time job and a part time job there wasn’t a lot of time for personal reflection during the remainder of that decade, but my divorce in 2011 took me back to the couch, so to speak. I think that particular crisis occupied a good 6 months or so before I was swept up and into a new relationship. The demise of that coupling was the most recent impetus to again seek an impartial observer to help me

a. sound out some stuff,

b. figure some things out and

c. learn how again to accept what I can’t control.

Because that’s what it’s about, at least for me – accepting things I can not change or control.

In the interim between my divorce and subsequent relationship ending, my therapist retired and it took a couple of providers before I found a new one with whom I was comfortable. I think the beginning of our work was simply my needing someone neutral and completely uninvolved to interpret a series of actions and inactions, a person to respond to a situation without really knowing either party.

I was in full out emotional shock when we began. It seems I really am remarkably gullible. But, as our work continued, I found myself understanding that it is unreasonable to allow your time to be occupied being angry with yourself because of how much time you spent with someone, because that’s just dumb. I was reminded that fire can create heat or light and I read things like this:

which resonated so deeply inside me that I kept it in my wallet for nearly a year. I forgave myself for caring too much after finally understanding that that is far less a crime than not caring enough. I realized that I’m a scab picker, not content to leave something alone as it heals, but instead, prompted by the knowledge that it will never bleed again as much as it did the first time, compelled to open it up and see what’s really going on below. Even when the remaining scar will be larger.

And I knew the only direction to move in was forward. So I did.

My last few therapy appointments, ever increasingly spaced out, have felt different. It almost seemed as if I was searching for topics to talk about and I cut the sessions short, because I was just done. I have other things I’d rather do with my time.

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Becoming Purnomo

Circa 1988

When I first moved to Albany in 1988, I got a job working split doubles at PD. Ladd’s, currently Dove and Deer. My apartment was just around the corner on Washington Avenue and, since I was carless, I needed to work within walking distance. The Ladopolous brother were very kind to me and, while I really enjoyed working there, I wanted to work someplace that was more renowned for their food than their proximity to the Capitol for the political types who regularly filled the bar.

At my 50th birthday party.

I read a story about Yono Purnomo, and his recognition as  Chef of the Year, and set my sights on working at Yono’s in Robinson Square never imagining the impact that decision would have on my life. Thirty years later, my relationship with the Purnomo family continues to affect my life frequently. For instance, yesterday I enjoyed lunch with a friend who I originally met at Yono’s where she was a guest and I a server. Today, I will bring my tax documents to a preparer whose office is next door to the original Yono’s location. Back in the day I would deliver happy hour cocktails to his office, cutting across our rear shared parking lot. My dermatologist, veterinarian practice and optician all were selected upon Donna’s recommendation and I’m still loyal to each of them decades later.

Dinner with the ladies!

Because of this family, on some level, I have a family. My boys’ dad and I met working at Yono’s and we held our pre-wedding fete at the restaurant. When my boys were born, there was bakmi delivered to satisfy the intense hunger caused by birthing babies. Through the Purnomos I’ve met countless hospitality professionals and have enjoyed some terrific industry perks and courtesies. I realized recently that the very first time I ever shared a piece of my writing (some thoughts I had when we lost our resident curmudgeon, John Radley) publicly, was at Yono’s. The response and support I received was encouraging and more than likely influenced me to write and share more.

Is there a word for sister-daughter-niece? Maybe in Italian?

My life has been enriched by this hard-working and gracious family, and the experiences we’ve shared, and I am so glad they allowed me to become part of their extended clan 30 years ago. Happy anniversary, Donna, Yono, Nick & Sis.

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(The) freedom of obligation

Wow, January! You were really something. During your calendar page time, I made my way home from California, spent an evening with friends in New Paltz and had a quick getaway to Miami Beach. There were numerous runs, some yoga, lots of golf course walks with Jeter and the first ski of the season. It was a month full of living life and spending time with people whose company I enjoy. 2019, I think you’re going to be a good one…

As I spent a little time reflecting on the past month, I couldn’t help but recognize that it didn’t matter where I physically was,  wherever I was I felt happy. I guess this internal happiness I’ve been working to cultivate travels well. It really is true, you know, wherever you go, that’s where you are.

It didn’t matter if I was traveling alone or with someone else, if the sun was shining or the wind blowing, or where I physically was – my general state of emotional being was positive. I felt lucky to be wherever I happened to be, even when it wasn’t a place with a scenic view or the warmth of sun on my face. I’m alive. I have family and friends and people with whom I enjoy sharing my time. I have a home and a job. My health is good and my body (mostly) does what I ask it to do. And, there isn’t a single day that I don’t appreciate every single one of those things.

One of the best gifts about growing older is learning new lessons about life and oneself, and how those two things relate. I think the happiness I’m currently experiencing comes in part to my recent realization that beyond my children, the only one I’m obligated to is myself. I’ve known for a long time that I alone am responsible for my own happiness and security, but I’m starting to have a different understanding about what that means. To me, at least.

The commitment I have to being happy, to living my best life, comes with an emotional independence that I hadn’t previously considered. While I most certainly owe honesty to any romantic partner I am with, I’m not obligated to sacrifice my needs to a relationship which may not fill my soul in the manner in which I desire. This is, to me, a rather radical understanding of myself and the state of being linked emotionally with another. I don’t have to stifle my feelings or longings because my ultimate commitment is to me. I only get to do this life thing once and I’m unwilling to experience it as an observer. I want to live it. All of it.

How is the new year treating you? What are you doing to make your life one that is well lived? Are you living your best life?

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Black lace forever

Look at this top….

isn’t it amazing? It’s been mine for the last 24 years, but it’s time for me to pass it on to someone else. Even though that breaks my heart a little. I still love it and think it’s beautifully unique and well made, but it doesn’t fit me right and I know someone else can wear this far better than I.

I bought this blouse on my honeymoon. We were in our last destination and had been traveling more than a month. The weather had been mixed, but Amsterdam was hot. We had been forced to pry open the sliding glass door in our hotel room because there was no air conditioning and it was absolutely sweltering in our room. It gave us a more direct view into Tina’s House of Pain just across the brick sidewalk from our hotel.

Amsterdam has a great flea market and I’ve done well there with clothing. I saw this blouse hanging on a rod loaded with vintage clothing and immediately wanted it. I tried to dicker the price down without success. Our budget was tight and it was an indulgence, particularly during our fifth week in Europe. But, after initially walking away from the blouse, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Later in the afternoon, I returned to the vendor along the canal and gave him his requested price of 30 guilder. I don’t remember the conversion rate, but I do know it was the most expensive article of clothing I had purchased at that point in my life, Frye boots aside.

It’s been an honor to own this garment but it’s time to get it out of my closet and into someone else’s. So, I’ll be bringing this blouse to an upcoming clothing swap. I’ll just keep the memories.

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Being a better love-r

Despite having returned in recent months to therapy, I still find running solo to be the best way to stretch my brain (and legs) while exploring my world, both inner and outer. It’s when I feel most able to release the leash I at times hold on my thoughts.

I’ve been reflecting, as one does this time of year, and I’ve been thinking specifically about the men I’ve loved over the years and how those relationships changed me and impacted my life. Without a doubt, each one has been unique. It seems that love, like snowflakes to go with a nearly-winter theme, is never quite the same twice. That’s probably what keeps us coming back for more – we often don’t immediately recognize it because it sneaks up on us just as often as it sweeps us off of our feet.

Some of the lasting reminders of a love affair are obvious (hello, children!) while others are only revealed cryptically to those beyond IRL friends. While there have been gifts and lessons and disappointments along the way, I’m starting to realize that the greatest impact on me from my romantic history hasn’t really been on me at all.

No, instead, it’s about how I’ve learned from each relationship, each love, how to be a better love-r the next time. I have an improved understanding of humans and how we each have our own unique needs, needs which aren’t always easily or clearly expressed. I’ve become more patient with another’s flaws because I can more clearly see my own. Instead of immediately thinking that someone’s behavior is directed at me, I’ve finally grasped that it just might be who they are without really having anything to do with me at all. I’ve certainly learned what I want from a relationship but, just as importantly, I’ve realized that being willing to learn what another wants, and finding happiness in being able to provide that to them, comes with its own measure of satisfaction.

Being someone’s girlfriend, partner, wife or lover has maximized my capacity to fill those roles. Understanding that love doesn’t necessarily come with a guarantee of happily ever after can be daunting, but knowing that there’s always another chance to be the best love-r you’ve ever been is its own reward. I’ll just keep trying. How about you?

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Someday, somewhere

It happens so slowly that I don’t know if it’s truly even possible for us to see it. Or maybe I should “me?” I probably shouldn’t assume this is a universal thing…

Anyway, it seems to me, when we’re in a relationship we often lose sight of ourselves as individuals – what makes us happy or laugh, how we want to spend our time, and what we want from, and bring to, being part of a couple. The wonder of getting to know another’s heart and soul, and what you are together as a unit, often nudges aside your own sense of who you are on your own.

When it’s a long-term relationship things you begin to accept as normal may work to dull your other senses. Your judgement falls victim to another’s manipulation of the truth and there’s no one you can really talk to about it because your last gasp of logical thinking reminds you that you can’t share all with your friends. They may not won’t be quite as generous as you are about swallowing some of the explanations, or accepting how far you’ve lowered your expectations.

Every once in a while you have a moment when you think to yourself – who am I and why am I tolerating this? Not only is the situation not what you want, but you yourself are becoming a person you don’t really know, much less want to be. Instead of feeling joyful and confident you start to feel brittle, sucked dry until at last you remember that being independent doesn’t mean being alone and that the most valuable thing you possess is your time and you’ve already burned through enough of that in this situation.

Finally, you get it together enough – the disappointment, the hurt, the anger and the refusal to settle for another day, much less another year, all come together and combine to create a parachute from the anchor they had previously been. You close your heart to that person and, with lots of head shaking, open your eyes and firmly direct them forward.

You won’t forget (at least not the same way), who you are, what you want and what you won’t accept again.

I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

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