Tag Archives: observations

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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Filed under aging, Albany, Boys, Christmas, Dinner, drinking, Eating, family, Food, friends, girlhood, holidays, Local, love, marriage, musings, Observations, relationships, upstate New York, Wine

Scenes – NYC, 11/10 & 11/11

No matter how many cities I visit, I will always love NYC the most. I can’t imagine ever feeling the same combined sense of awe and comfort any other place in the world.

From my earliest days exploring the city independently as a teenager, to last weekend, no other location inspires, contents and entertains me the way New York City does.

A few sights that caught my eye recently are below. Hope you like them.

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Filed under aging, beauty, favorites, NYC, Observations, Random

Protesting the President on Veteran’s Day

I don’t know about you, but I live in fear of my nonexistent grandchildren. There have been too many times in recent years when I’ve wondered, how I might respond to these future beings when they ask me what I did during the Trump years to register my dissent with this most corrupt presidency. Participating in Monday’s protest in NYC as the President made a speech prior to the Veteran’s Day Parade kickoff, gave me an opportunity to demonstrate my complete and utter lack of respect or honor for the man who I believe is the worst president of my lifetime.

It took a little time for me to locate “my” people. Initially I was on the east side of Fifth Avenue, but I soon realized that the folks in the red MAGA hats were in fact wearing them in earnest rather than ironically.When the woman standing next to me said, “Well, at least we’ll be able to hear him even if we can’t see him,” to which I responded “Everything he says is a lie anyway,” I realized I needed to relocate.

After finally making my way to the “correct” side of Fifth Avenue, the west or left side naturally, I enthusiastically joined in with the chorus of boos. Protesting a president while honoring veterans makes for a challenging situation. Without exception, the protesters did their best to respect veterans, even the uniform-clad one who directly confronted the crowd and expressed his stance that, as Americans, we are obligated to obey and serve the president. Um, no, sir. I politely refuse to blindly follow a megalomaniac (or should I say MAGAlomaniac?).

The turnout in general was smaller than I would have expected, but perhaps the intense security which made crossing the street a six block ordeal played a role. Trump was tucked safely behind a caravan of garbage trucks, which meant we really couldn’t get near him anyway, but I’m confident he heard us.

I don’t really enjoy crowds, but managed to hold my position for the better part of an hour before making my way back downtown to enjoy what turned out to be a spectacular autumn day for a parade in my favorite city.

 

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Filed under Events, holidays, NYC, Observations, politics

The Deep State, Habitualization and the Trump supporter

Every once in a while I hear something, generally on the radio, and it is so damn timely that I’m stopped dead. It can happen in two ways – I hear a phrase or word and suddenly I seem to encounter it everywhere. The most recent example of this is the word “deep state” used when referring to long term, career public employees.

The right has begun wielding this phrase in a negative fashion, despite the popularizer of the term Mike Lofgrennever having presented it in that type of context. His book, titled The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of the Shadow Government, used the phrase to describe the entanglement of large institutions and government and the subsequent lack of ability for politicians to affect meaningful change. “Deep State” was a bipartisan condition, observed Lofgren, a long term Republican who has vowed to not vote republican again until “they demonstrate to me that they’ve purged Trumpism.

Trump and his supporters have elected to use the phrase deep state as “shorthand for Democratic-leaning bureaucrats who want to undermine Trump.” This “out to get us” stance is consistent with other methods of dividing our population which are you used with great success by our present federal administration, as well as those from fascist groups throughout history. When experienced people, be they bureaucrats, journalists or educators, are perceived as the enemy, we’ve got problems, people.

The instance of a term overheard can also serve to succinctly define a phenomena or situation which had been puzzling me, as in what occurred today. Listening to WAMC, I caught a Ted Talk, featuring Khasfia Rahman. The theme of the broadcast was Risk and Rahman described research she had initially begun as a high school student. Fascinated by the tendency of young people, particularly those between the ages of 13-18, to exercise poor judgment when making decisions, Rahman devised a study to explore the phenomena after observing her peers binge drinking, experimenting with drugs and generally proceeding through life in a reckless fashion.

Her question grew into one about brain development. If the brains of teens between the ages of 13-18 were immature and the cause of their risky behaviors, she posited, why weren’t the choices made by even younger people even more potentially hazardous?

Rahman determined that habitualization was the most likely cause of this phenomena. As she explained, young people who are repeatedly exposed to an unsafe or unappealing situation can frequently be observed moving from initial feelings of disinterest and rejection to an openness to explore, and eventually embrace, dangerous and risky activities. 

She provided an example of this behavior relating to tequila shots. As Rahman witnessed, young people with repeated exposure and access to shots of tequila become less fearful of the negative consequences of indulging in illicit drinking and grow increasingly accepting of the experience. The brains of these young actually people change.

I see a similar thing occurring to the brains of people who support the current president. As we are assaulted, seemingly from every angle, by information which clearly demonstrates the complete lack of integrity or qualification of Donald Trump, his followers continue to adapt their beliefs to allow for his outrageous and irrational behavior.

It begins as a denial and then evolves into an acceptance. Faced with evidence of Trump’s corruption, his believers deny the truth with which they have been presented.  After an onslaught of continued evidence, they transition from rejecting the facts, to minimizing the risks involved with ingesting them.

They swallow.

Anyone else need a shot of tequila?

 

 

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

Scarier than Halloween

With my official June Farms Halloween Party date.

I’m not very good at Halloween costumes. Generally speaking, I gravitate to those that portray a strong fictional character with a pretty dress. In recent years I’ve been Joan from Mad Men, Celia from Weeds and Olive from Easy A. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that all three of those characters happen to be redheads either.

This year I opted for a real life person to portray – Greta Thunberg. Like Emma Gonzalez and Malala, this young Swedish woman is an inspiration and gives me hope for the future during a time that often makes me feel as if I’m living in a dystopian novel.

The costume was easy – a long-haired wig that I braided, casual clothes and a handmade sign that read Skolstrejk för Klimatet which translates to School Strike for Climate. I wore my costume twice – to a dance party at June Farms last weekend and to school on Halloween. Other than the foursome at the farm who asked me (after I explained who I was depicting), if I really believed in climate change, to which I responded “it’s not the f’n Easter Bunny. It’s real,” my costume was well received. I got quite a few high-fives, none more meaningful to me than those I received from students.

Climate change is happening, people. Human beings are destroying the planet. In my lifetime I’ve witnessed weather that is significantly different than what was once considered normal. It is a crisis and ignoring it, or even worse, denying it, isn’t going to make it better.

When I was a kid, growing up two hours south of where I currently live, it was cold at Halloween. Puddles in the streets were frozen and I remember seeing my breath in the night air as we walked from house to house filling our pillowcases with candy. There were arguments with mothers about the need to wear coats over our costumes, a horror worse than a headless horseman. Leaves were mostly off the trees, after having reached their peak colors earlier in the month.

Yesterday the temperature peaked at 75 degrees, setting a new record for the date. I attended a soccer game that was played under a menacing sky with gusty winds and rain that couldn’t decide whether to spit or pour on us. It was eerie and, unlike Halloween, the changes to our environment and climate aren’t going anywhere. That is some scary stuff.

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Filed under Albany, holidays, News, Observations, politics, soccer, upstate New York

Navigating through life

Before Waze and Google Maps, I often found myself lost, unsure of the direction in which I was driving. I was way too cool for a dashboard mounted compass or anything like that, so I recalled my Girl Scout training and tried to orient myself with the sun, with varying success. Most of the time, though, I was content with simply knowing that I was traveling in the right direction. It was enough.

 

Parenting can create a similar emotional state. Yes, there are plenty of tools to offer guidance, and there are some large beacons to indicate if one is on a reliable course, but the bottom line is you just never really know exactly where you’re at when you’re a parent. 

 

So, you look for signs along the way and try to keep your eyes on the road. In the past couple of weeks I’ve observed a few things which have me feeling pretty positive about where my kids are going, literally and figuratively. Please allow me to share.

 

My oldest son recently returned from his first solo vacation. When he initially told me he had purchased a plane ticket and made hotel reservations, in all honesty, I was kind of concerned. He has a tendency to be impulsive and, while I was excited that he had shown initiative, I feared he might have paid more than he should have for his trip. I don’t know if it’s a firstborn thing but he is resistant to asking for help with anything, which frustrates me.  While I’m not interested in micromanaging his life (I swear!), I do wish he would seek advice sometimes.

 

Turns out he did a wonderful job of making arrangements and planning his time in Florida. He managed to spend time with family, utilized public transportation effectively, planned his theme park visits really well and returned from his week away happy and confident in his abilities. 

 

This week my middle son is heading to London for a long weekend with friends. I’m sure there are parents who would find it crazy that I would be enthusiastic for my child to take time off from work to jet to London for 4 or 5 days, but, I couldn’t be happier for he and his friends. Their plans sound perfect – walking, eating and skateboarding. Bon voyage, my son!

 

Last month my youngest son started high school.  His explorations are of a different type than those of his brothers. Instead of finding his way geographically, he’s doing his best to navigate socially through what we all may recall as a confusing, and sometimes frustrating, time.  He is an emotionally sensitive kid, but I have been so proud of his realizations relating to how he should expect to be treated and what a young adult friendship should look like – a fun addition to an already enjoyable life. 

 

I continue to wonder where we’re each going to eventually wind up, but I’m confident we’re all moving in the right direction.

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Filed under Boys, family, moms, musings, Observations, relationships, travel, vacation

All you can(t) leave behind

E848DC09-C1C0-4467-B16D-194572CBD1EA.jpegHave you ever been reluctant to end or leave something* because you were convinced the minute you did would be the same moment that things finally turned that corner of which you never could catch more than a glimpse? You believed you should stick with it, especially when you reminded yourself of your tendency, in pre-Waze days, to not reach a destination because you were convinced you had somehow missed it, when in fact you hadn’t yet gone far enough.  You’re no quitter, are you?

Back in those days, you were that rare combination of optimistic, trusting and honest. Now, you know you’ll never surrender as completely to those same instincts ever again. Not in this lifetime at least.

That knowledge leaves you feeling equal parts sad and relieved.

Walking away from a situation that isn’t working should be easier. We all have free will, right? Not being happy or respected or rewarded for giving our best, should make the decision to move on a simple one, yet, that has not been my experience. In fact, it’s been the one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.

I remember when I quit smoking cigarettes. I was tired of being a smoker. It was gross and unhealthy and I didn’t like the taste in my mouth. I wanted to take up running after struggling to run a mile in a P.E. conditioning class I was taking as an undergrad. I wanted to feel better and not get bronchitis. Yes, there were distinct moments when I did enjoy a cigarette – with a drink, after a meal, late at night, but those occasions were fleeting.

Trading my health for those moments wasn’t a good exchange. I needed to quit.

It wasn’t easy, but I relished my improved senses of smell and taste. I could run longer distances without gasping. I felt lighter in a way not at all related to weight.

Life was better without cigarettes.

My dreams, though, were filled with cigarettes. I wasn’t smoking in my dreams but, I was exposed to cigarettes and the dreams always ended as I was considering lighting one for myself. I would wake up wishing that I could have had just one drag, how I knew that would have satisfied my craving and I could have moved on. Let go.

This cycle of dreams and waking yearning continued for quite some time, maybe years. The last time this dream paid a visit, it was different. I made it to the end and watched myself smoke an entire cigarette – and I looked so happy. I saw myself inhaling and thought about how nauseous I would be if I ingested all of those chemicals and nicotine into my lungs. I knew dream Silvia had made the wrong choice and I was so disappointed with her.

I woke up crying.

My takeaway – It’s better to eliminate what only brings limited pleasure in favor of choosing what brings a more consistent and positive happiness. Even if the craving remains strong, giving in ultimately brings more sadness than joy. It isn’t worth it.

But, I am.

So are you.

PS. I haven’t had the dream since.

*a job, situation, relationship, etc

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Filed under aging, love, marriage, musings, Observations, relationships, running, secrets