Reflections on Lunch with Jericho High School Friends

One of the great pleasures of moving north was reconnecting with high school friends. I know I have mentioned this before but it is no small matter. Before I retired, during the sale of my house, getting rid of a lot of possessions from 37 years in the same home, and moving north, I yearned for a “quiet life.” My job was demanding, I taught college classes as well, and I just wanted peace and quiet. Luckily I had the perfect place to do that — my home in the mountains of Pennsylvania only a 2-hour drive away from Manhattan. Once the decision was made to move, I contacted the one person from high school with whom I maintained recent contact. Barbara immediately drew me into the reunion planning group that met for lunch once a month in New York City. This happy circumstance led to a great reunion and even better continued contact with a remarkable group of women.

8d77ca69-81d5-4b91-88ee-1bc6d94326d4 Yesterday, seven of us met at The Atlantic Grill on West 64th Street for a lunch at which we could catch up, share stories of travel, children, grandchildren, mutual friends, and other things that longtime friends discuss when they get together. It sounds simple, but for me it is never simple. First, there is the dilemma of what to wear. I often feel like the country mouse when I go into the city particularly when I meet with friends that seem to have a lot more sophisticated activities than I do. (This by the way is not a complaint — just stating a fact — I wouldn’t want things any different in my life right now. OK — maybe a couple of things but that’s for another blog!) I will not share here what I go through to choose an outfit that always ends up with black jeans, a simple shirt (also usually black), and a vest. We won’t even discuss shoes! Second, I worry about whether I have enough in common with my high school friends to participate in the conversation. I did not stay long in the New York area after college. A few years of teaching on Long Island, a few years of working in Manhattan for Off-Track Betting Corporation’s President, Howard Samuels, and then off to Tallahassee where I stayed for 37 years. There is no third!

I am here to tell you that none of this matters. What mattered was how warm and caring these friends are. I do need to point out that we weren’t all good friends in high school — friends yes, but it was a small high school in a small community of like-minded people for the most part so that is not surprising. Thanks to Facebook we all keep in touch in a superficial way but these lunches are special. The face-to-face contact, the personal conversations, the sharing of experiences, and the updates on mutual acquaintances and friends by those who keep in touch. I’m pretty sure I smiled on the entire drive home. Instead of being tired from the long drives, I was energized by my friends. There is so much to talk about I think — ways to find out what we have in common beyond our high school experience. Each time we meet I look forward to the next time. It’s too bad we have to spend time eating I have thought; too bad we don’t have more people join us; too bad I have waited so long to rekindle friendships. Enough said. I feel lucky.

To Blog or Not To Blog

I know the title of this blog is trite but one reason why I have not blogged lately (and only one of many!) is not being able to come up with an appropriate title. Last week I paid my annual fee to Bluehost for hosting my blog and providing the url. Afterwards, I thought “This is not money well spent since I haven’t blogged in ages.” Blogging is so personal and even a bit dangerous. Will someone’s feelings get hurt? Will I provide too much personal information? Does anyone really care about what’s going on in my life? And, finally, so much has happened where do I start?

There are several major things that have happened to me since last March: Cancer, becoming a grandmother again, and the death of my dog. These things are way beyond what I ever expected to talk about in a blog devoted to life in the Poconos but are so much a part of who I am and what I am doing these days that they cannot be avoided. So I have decided to return to blogging now that it is almost fall up here and ignore the cancer thing and concentrate on things that we may have in common. Today’s blog will be about Sydney, my dog, who was put to sleep three weeks ago at the age of 12 1/2.img_0757As any pet owner will understand, it was a very difficult decision that was made more acceptable by a very understanding and compassionate vet who cried with me that Monday. She saw the signs even before I did and had the advantage of test results, xrays, etc. Here is Sydney’s story.

In 2001 Adrian fell for a poodle lab mix at PetSmart’s dog adoption day. We took Jake home and quickly realized that he was a difficult and abused dog that would be a challenge. About a year after that we thought that having a second dog might be a good thing for Jake so we started going to pet adoption days. Soon after that Big Dog Rescue called about one puppy left from a litter born in Bainbridge, Georgia, and wouldn’t we love to have this puppy?! One look at Sydney who was 5 weeks old at the time and we were hooked. It turns out that she was not a spaniel mix but a chocolate lab mix who would grow to just under 100 pounds. Our first girl dog, Sydney was a great sister for Jake and an easy to train dog from the very start. But it was later in her life that she became my best friend and constant companion. Sydney was the first dog that I could depend on not to run away and to stay close to our house and our family. She was so small that she could walk under Jake.

Sydney was with me through Jake’s untimely death, not to mention the loss of my best friend, Adrian. Then she retired with me to the Poconos, to a strange environment, snow and ice, and a new home. 35427485-8d08-47ef-87dc-d4a698a5323e I’ll never forget returning from one of our Florida trips and having to dig trenches for Sydney to use the yard. She took to the snow like a real trooper although she will be most remembered for lying on the couch as close to family as she could possibly get. 5d29b7af-246d-4324-98c2-8ee49b6fe38c

What I quickly realized when I came home without Sydney was that I had never been alone in my Poconos home. There were always dogs or people here since I left Tallahassee in 2012. Dogs have structured my life for a long time and I am slowly getting used to being here on my own. The UPS man delivers without fear or having to drop packages on the other side of the gate, the downstairs gate gets left open to bring groceries in, I leave the house in the morning to visit Brooklyn or New York City without worrying about leaving Sydney for long periods of time, and most of all I still expect to touch her when I reach out on the couch in the evenings. If this all sounds too melodramatic or too soppy, I apologize. My constant companion and sympathizer, friend, and loyal supporter will be very much missed. 36925b02-85bd-4598-9880-aa9d16b2465f

Listen Carefully

Recently I noticed a couple of things about reporting, one of which is the inaccuracies that I have heard when listening carefully. Subtract from this all political commentary please although I think some of my friends might have thought that’s where I was going. Watching some coverage of the latest storm that dumped a couple of inches of April snow on the northeast, a local New York City weather expert was discussing the irony of the tulips blooming in the snow. Obviously the flowers she posted a photo of were not tulips but daffodils. unnamed-1 This on its own is not an egregious error except for the fact that people on the news should check their stories before they blurt out things they think most people won’t even notice (in my opinion). Not worth stressing over I thought.

Then, on my drive into the city last weekend, I was listening to WNYC — New York public radio — do a piece on climate change. It was not actually reported by WNYC, rather it was a feature that they took from somewhere else. That I did not pay attention to, but I know my friend Kim will be disappointed that my reporting is not more accurate. The reporter was interviewing the mayor of Nome, Alaska, about the depth of the harbor and how it had changed over time. The basis for this was that enormous cruise ships could now enter the port and actually double the population of Nome. All this because of global warming of course. At the start of the interview, she said, “I must admit I have never even heard of Nome!” Stunned, I listened more carefully. The mayor very gracefully said, “Our slogan is There’s No Place Like Nome.” Regardless of the worth of the piece I was surprised that any reporter would admit not having heard of a city ANYWHERE much less in her own country. I am now on the lookout for other examples of careless reporting (still not counting political reporting and analysis for obvious reasons!). I’d love it if you would share your own examples!

Only in New York

While I have not blogged in some time (and reasons for that are fodder for another blog!) I have composed many of these in my head, thought twice about whether they would be interesting, and decided they weren’t. Then I decided to share an experience Michael and I had last Saturday in Manhattan. Soon after I retired, my friends Beth and Earl gave me a Seminole Championship novelty license plate. Since Pennsylvania doesn’t require a front plate, they put it on for me. Now…I am not a fan of novelty anythings on the car but I figured (1) it was a gift; (2) I am a Seminoles fan; (3) Earl put it on the car for me; and (4) it will help me distinguish my car from the gazillion other Subarus in the northeast. But I digress.

IMG_3585Michael and I picked up my car from a parking garage on Columbus and 83rd Street near Spring Natural where we had a lovely family brunch celebrating Amanda Dixon’s visit to New York and meeting her friend Chris. Seven of us squeezed into tables in a very crowded, very loud restaurant as they all are at weekend brunchtime in New York. Afterwards, we went our separate ways after toy shopping for Riley and Liam, and Michael and I decided to go to his new apartment to check out storage issues (not to mention to eat delicious pizza from Two Boots Pizza on Broadway and 95th Street).

unnamedWe were on West End Avenue at 95th Street stopped at a red light. A man was crossing in front of us and kept staring at the car. Was he looking at the crack in my windshield? What was he staring at? In typical New Yorker fashion, I thought to myself (in an angry voice in my head), “He’s crazy. What is he staring at?” We live in such a strange world lately that I have become a bit paranoid! He stopped in front of the car, smiled, and started the Seminole chop. We answered his chop and Michael pointed out his FSU t-shirt. All this happened before the light turned green and we turned off and the man went on his way. What a fun thing to have happen just sitting at a red light in the middle of New York City. For those of you who think that New Yorkers are not friendly this is another example of the fact that people are people wherever you go. I hope I will be more open to these kinds of experiences and not think the worst rather than the best of people.

A New Year

Even though January first is just another day, just another date, it seems many of us like to think of fresh starts, resolutions, with the expectation that something wonderful might happen. We could think the same things on any other date, but somehow January first and the change in year makes a difference. I, for one, have decided not to make any resolutions this year — I never seem to keep them anyway. I hope it’s a good year, a healthy one, and is filled with pleasant days. Beyond that, I will take what comes! Here’s how I started mine.

Having the whole family here for Christmas was so much fun, very relaxed. Riley made Christmas beyond fun as she delighted in the tree, ornaments and old Frosty whose light stayed on all day and night! Frosty is a story on his own. My father, Michael and Rachel’s grandpa, bought him half price from Albertson’s the day after Christmas many years ago. I would guess 35 years ago. He stood on our porch every Christmas for all those years. At one point Robin and John would sneak over late at night and put him in the rocking chair or give him sunglasses. I think once he was smoking a cigarette. When it came time to leave Tallahassee, I thought moving him was silly and, besides, he has a crack down his back. So I put him out on the street thinking someone would love to give him a home. Robin came by and was shocked and dismayed that I would be so disloyal after all these years so she took him and put him in her garage. A year after I left Tallahassee I visited Tallahassee and put him in the back of my car along with two sets of luggage (my friend, Beth, came back north with me) and he spent the next year in my shed. This year he came out much to Riley’s delight and is back in the shed happily back where he belongs. IMG_3363

But I digress. Michael came back after Christmas while the floors in his apartment are being redone. Having him is not only a great pleasure and fun, but I put him to work. We both started out new year by doing projects at my house and for that I am very grateful. He put up a beautiful backsplash in the downstairs bathroom which took way more patience than I have not to mention math skills which I also do not have! IMG_3394 He put up the plastic on the porch, helped organize the very disorganized tools, and has kept me eating relatively healthy (for me!). I cannot think of a better way to begin a new year.

My friend, Diane, who is here this morning reiterated what Michael and I discussed at dinner last night — this is not an easy place to live. Not just the weather but people don’t seem to get together or be very open to new friendships. (My next door neighbors Barb and Mike are the exception and make up for it many times over!) But, the upside for me is being close to family and looking forward to a year of being a part of my granddaughter’s life as much as possible. Happy New Year everyone.

Hole in the Wall

It’s always something in my world these days. Here is a picture of my ceiling. There is no ceiling and crawl space or attic space, just the wood and a bit of insulation between me and the roof. IMG_3374On Sunday morning at about 5:00 I heard a scritching noise. There is no other way to describe it. Loud enough to wake me, but not Sydney apparently, I put some lights on and investigated. It sounds much braver than it really was because I didn’t look too closely until I determined that there wasn’t anything in the house! Through process of elimination I figured it was a bird, bat, or mouse.

Grabbing a flashlight, I tentatively walked towards the fireplace. Shining the light up to the ceiling, I saw that there is a hole where the main beam meets the fireplace wall. IMG_3375Now this beam runs the width of the house and has cables within it that hold everything up. It’s a form of construction with which I was unfamiliar. I still, in spite of many reassurances, do not have a great deal of confidence in its structural integrity. Eventually I will get used to it I suppose. IMG_3376Having a hole where it meets the brick wall does not help. Of course this happened on a Sunday so I called/texted Homer’s this morning early and expect that Jay will arrive to allay my fears and plug it up. Rachel and family arrive at lunchtime today so it would be nice to have it done by then so I don’t have to worry.

Often I wonder if there will come a time when there are not issues that require hiring someone to deal with them. Will I miss the social interaction with the guys from Homer’s? Will I miss being able to complain each week about lights not working, wiring shorting out, not being able to brew coffee and use the microwave, and other quirks of this house? Because there have been so many things to deal with lately I find myself expecting something to go wrong at any moment. I guess that’s what wine is for! Christmas tree lights are lit, outside lights are lit in anticipation of Riley’s arrival, and I am hopeful that today’s critter/hole drama will be the last for the winter. What are the chances? Good I’d like to think! Happy holidays to all my friends. I can hardly believe it’s almost 2016. I expect to keep last year’s resolution of blogging more about life in the mountains. I hope, regardless of what holiday you celebrate, that you have time with friends, family, and pets.

The Tree Guys

I have not blogged lately for a variety of reasons much too boring to mention here but, one way and another, life has been busy or I’ve been lazy or uninspired. Blogging is a tricky business. Sometimes an event occurs or something really funny happens and I think, “That would be a great blog!” But then you have to take into consideration who might see the blog and misread something or think you are making fun of them. It is never my intention to hurt anyone’s feelings but to share experiences living in the woods. So…to the tree guys.

Last spring I decided to have some very high big branches trimmed to let more light onto the driveway, parking pad, stairs, and yard. Letting more sunshine in might encourage quicker melting of ice and snow and hopefully will prevent branches from falling on power lines or cables. But, the tree guys — Carl in particular — were busy and said they couldn’t get to the job until August. That was okay with me. When they didn’t show up in the fall, I figured I saved some money and would deal with it next spring. But, unseasonably warm weather has encouraged tree guys, yard guys, and contractors to continue working outside. The “Can we get it done before the snow?” isn’t working anymore.

Yesterday, much to my surprise, the tree guys showed up. No phone call, just showed up at my neighbor’s house. Barbara called me to say they would start on my trees yesterday too and finish today. Sure enough, they did. It sounds much more simple than it is. IMG_3368

First, I cannot take down any trees because one needs a permit from Hemlock Farms Community Association to remove trees. Goodness knows, we have enough trees that taking down bunches of them wouldn’t make a bit of difference. But, they are very protective of the trees which is a good thing. It takes months to get a permit and then, of course, there’s getting the tree guys to actually show up. Second, Carl and his helper want to talk about everything from NASCAR to the lack of deer in the community, to how great not having these branches will be. Frankly, I cannot see a different even though every once in awhile I look out to see Carl up a VERY tall tree. Carl is Jay’s and Tim’s (from Homer’s) cousin. So Jay shows up as well which is a good thing. If I had just asked for Jay to come by to look at a project, it could be weeks or months, but since Carl is here and Jay wants any wood he cuts down, here comes Jay with no notice too.

All good I guess. I am thankful for the warmer weather for lots of reasons not the least of which is being able to use the driveway. I suppose all the contractors, yard workers, and tree guys are happy too. Life up here is interesting for sure. Does anyone know if bears hibernate relative to weather or time of year? I must look that up!

Shopping in Brooklyn

Driving into Brooklyn to go shopping with Rachel and Riley sounded like a wonderful idea — so many shops in one neighborhood.  Court Street is a teeming street that transverses Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood.  Rachel and I had a plan to pick up some things for Thanksgiving weekend and then have lunch somewhere interesting.  I always forget how hectic it is shopping in Brooklyn.  Even during the week at 10:00 am, there are people pushing and of course in a hurry.  

We drove off feeling ever-so-clever to have made a reservation at a parking garage close to our destinations — Sahadi’s, Trader Joe’s, and d’Amico’s.  First problem, a police crime scene that blocked off an entire street and caused even more traffic than usual on Smith Street.  Second problem, construction blocked the parking garage so there was no way to access it.  Still we were optimistic and excited about the outing.  Miraculously found a 2-hour metered spot right on Court Street only 2 blocks from Trader Joe’s. We began at Sahadi’s which is an amazing food store specializing in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods of every description.

As we entered, with barely enough room for the stroller and the two of us, Rachel educated me about how to get service. Every station — flours, grains, olives, dried fruits, candies — has a server who expects you to take a number. sahadisAs we waited for our number to be called, I listened to Mr. Sahadi give a talk to a walking food tour group. He described how his father purchased the building in 1946 much to the dismay of his family. The store has changed little over the years and has been run by family members since then. It was difficult not to buy one of everything and we happily left with our bags of dried figs, Lebanese olives, crackers, and candy for Dave! Onward to Trader Joe’s!

trader_joes_v1_460x285 Trader Joe’s on Court Street looks like a bank from the outside and is anything but once your get inside. While it is similar to other Trader Joe’s stores, the frantic nature of this one and the narrow aisles adds to the charm (if you can call it that) of shopping in busy Brooklyn. When we had accumulated all of our items, including a few that Riley put in the cart and I didn’t notice until I got home, we got on line to check out. Here’s where this store is different from anyone I’d ever seen. There were at least 40 check out stations all numbered. A person had us shuffling along until a red flag with a white number started waving indicating an available checkout! We were told to move to station 23, got all checked out, entered the drawing for a $20 gift card because we brought out own bags, and happily exited. At that point we decided not to eat in the neighborhood but to go back to Rachel’s Park Slope area which I thought was crowded!

We headed to d’Amico’s for coffee. I typically order it online (as does my friend, Robin) but thought I’d save postage since I was already on Court Street. Unknown D’Amico’s has been run by the same family since 1948 when Emanuel d’Amico, a seaman from Sicily, rented the building on Court Street where Frank d’Amico still runs the coffee shop. Known for their roasted coffee, they supply a number of restaurants and lots of people like me who appreciate their hand roasted blends. Six pounds of coffee later, we headed back to Rachel’s for lunch we picked up at the Bagel Pub in Park Slope. The crowds were exhausting, loud, pushy and, for the most part, friendly. But, it is not a relaxing way to shop. I wouldn’t trade it for anything because it was fun to get things I do not have access to up here in Lord’s Valley, but for once I was happy to get back to the quiet of the woods. What a marvelous day that ended with rock tea, a Riley specialty. rocktea I’ll end this as I often do — I am a lucky woman!

Getting Ready for Winter

Getting ready for winter has dominated my thinking lately and, as obsessed as I am about weather, I am equally obsessed with getting as ready as I possibly can for the cold. Now that the leaves have all fallen and for the most part the acorns are finished too, my yard is as clean as it is going to get. The guys came to blow all the leaves and carry them out to the woods behind the house so the driveway and stairs are a lot more accessible and much more safe. I also went to Home Depot for ice melt since I ran out last year so I wanted to start early. 170 pounds of ice melt later, I distributed it in places that I can easily access.

One place that I keep ice melt is a black garbage can about a quarter of the way down the stairs. If I have to I can spread ice melt from the back of my car to get to the can, then I can distribute the ice melt from there down the rest of the stairs. Over the summer I stored the can in a small shed downstairs because animals got to it and bashed it up a bit but put it back recently. Even with two 40-pound bags inside, something — bear or deer — turned it over and pulled the bags out. This led me to think about what the animals were doing.

The first time this happened, I assumed deer because of the salt even though this isn’t pure rock salt. But this time I thought the animals in this community are not threatened and are smart enough to think “black garbage can – food!” They must have been quite disappointed to only find the bags. It was an inconvenience that sent me looking for a bungee cord to put across the lid which now seems to have done the trick. I am waiting anxiously for the bears to hibernate so I can start putting my garbage at street level to be picked up on Monday mornings!

Michael was here this weekend and helped me wrangle the long and heavy hoses, shut off the water at the front outside tap, and do those things that require two people. This prompted me to reflect on how lucky we were in Tallahassee to leave things out all year and how often I come across tasks that need a second pair of hands! I feel well prepared — have put a small bucket of ice melt in the back of the car along with the windshield scrapers and the Prestone spray can of ice melt, RainX and paper towels. I will stock up on heavy things between Thanksgiving and Christmas — flour, sugar, soups, dog food — the items that are heavy to carry down the 40 stairs. If you can think of anything I’ve forgotten, please let me know. These are all things I never thought I’d have to deal with much less that would be right at the top of my list of things that need tending to. I guess it’s easy to take things for granted. I looked at Sydney going out tonight and thought about having to dig a trail or two for her when it snows. It was almost 60 degrees today. I need to stop thinking about snow and ice!

Autumn Leaves

Only one person who reads this blog will smile at the title.  My cousin, Jill, and I have had a longstanding joke about the song, Autumn Leaves (which is now going through my head).  In 1955, Roger Williams, a popular pianist, recorded the song Autumn Leaves and I got a copy of the music for me to play supposedly for my own enjoyment.  It was one of the few pieces that was a “popular” song rather than classical music. Every time we had company at the house, my parents made me play Autumn Leaves which ended with polite applause and took all the joy out of playing the piano for me except when I was alone. I’m sure a therapist could have a field day with this.

autumnleaves Anyway…Jill and I laughed about it even as I was selling my baby grand a few years back. Too large to take with me when I left Tallahassee, I had a wonderful relationship with the FSU School of Music which had graduate students work on it for over a year in 2010-2011. They sold the piano to a young man who was thrilled to have it and the money was used to send two graduate students to Europe to study refurbishing old pianos. When it came time for Jim’s Pianos to move it, there was no point keeping the piano bench and all the sheet music within so I sent it along with the piano except for Autumn Leaves. I thought it was appropriate to keep the music and the memories.

This time of year I think about the song as I watch and listen to the dramatic leaf blizzards that have just about denuded the trees here in northeastern Pennsylvania. leavesinyard2 My yard pictured here is absolutely knee deep in dried leaves that, as you know from my previous post, get very very slippery when wet! It’s hard to believe that I already had the yard guys here once to blow the entire yard, driveway, stairs, and deck. In fact, I swept the deck on Tuesday morning because I was having friends for dinner and by early afternoon it was as if I had done nothing! My friend, Robin, sent me a link to an article about not raking leaves for all sorts of environmental/habitat reasons but it was clear that whoever wrote this does not deal with this volume of falling leaves. There was a comment not to blow the leaves because of noise pollution and use of fossil fuels to power the leaf blower. Again, I say this person has never had to deal with the incredible quantity of leaves or the consequences of driving on them after a rain or walking on them at any time.

While the weather has been mild I know winter is coming. I am enjoying the autumn, the memories of sitting and playing the piano even though I was embarrassed to play the same song over and over again, and the smile on my face with the song running through my head. Wherever you are, I hope your experience with autumn leaves provides a chuckle.