Friday, October 22, 2010

Growing Old and Growing Young

It has been 8 weeks since my daughter Christine moved to Miami. It was a good thing. With the help of a new loving friend, she decided to pull together all the things she loves and make a new life on her terms. I give her credit for being so sure of herself and be willing to leave her comfort zone. It was the natural thing to do - to take the plunge when you are young enough to recover. The problem was how those left behind, me, go on. We have been through hard times, my daughter and I. She was a rebellious kid during her middle school and high school years and I was a busy mom. It would have been nice if she took the straight path while I tended to the things that I needed to do. Plan their activities, cook their meals, and be the mom. It seemed to be a simple request but it was not to be. She was experimental and I had lots more to do but much more to learn. She was growing up and I needed to grow down. I needed to learn to understand what it was like to be part of her world. Life is funny and many times, you make up the rules as you go along. As it turned out, I taught her to be mature, and she taught me to be young. I often said I did not want to be one of those mothers that complained about the music of the day, that technology was too challenging and the current fashion styles were not for me. Somewhere in the early 90s, shirts were not tucked into the waistband anymore and jeans were constructed with lycra (that eliminated the bags in your ass). It was not until the day my daughter said to me "don't be afraid of the new styles, mom. They are your friend". Her words made sense. I was wearing baggy ass jeans with boring tops, tucked into the waist band. This was 1995 and time to free myself of the suburban housewife standard costume of sweatpants, sweatshirts and sneakers. Enter the straight leg, lycra blend jeans with a "huckapoo" style shirt, untucked topped with a purple suede jacket. Yes, thanks to my daughter, I was released. In the course of raising children, I discover how my daughter matured to a sensible woman. She then raised me to be part of the 21st Century. I started shopping at Express and Anthropology (within reason) as an alternative to Ann Taylor. I learned you can get something from each of these stores and not become the stereotype of a person who gave up fashion to be boring. My younger co-workers love that I dress a little youthful but with a sense of style. My daughter brought that to me. She reminded me of who I was before I was a mom. As I said, she is living in Miami now. I am surrounded by my boys. They tease me, make me laugh and love me. But to them, I am their mother. To my daughter, I was her mother but also her companion. It is a different relationship. Each are great, but each are different. Today, I wore a white bra under a white T-shirt. I was not sure it looked right but I wore it to work anyway. At work, I asked a young girl in my department if she thought it looked alright. She commented, in a polite way, that she thought I could get away with it. My daughter would have told me the truth. I'm glad she went but I miss her.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Why I Am In School

I have been involved in facilities management since I started working over 30 years ago. Beginning as the secretary to the manager of the services group, taking hot and cold calls, as they are known, from employees who were either too hot or too cold or in my view, just being a pain the ass. It was not a friendly world being in facilities during the 70s and 80s especially when you were not in a state of the art building. As a matter of fact, the offices where I worked had window air conditioners, linoleum flooring and ugly desks - and people were allowed to smoke. That was at a magazine where the writers wrote, the cartoonists drew and they didn't care what I did as long as I made them comfortable quietly and at little expense. That was my first job. I had no experience, no college education but I was ambitious and willing to learn. Many of my friends were not college grads going straight to a job out of high school and working out of a secretarial position to that of your bosses. I knew I wanted to do something more than just listen to these people complain, about their lack of comfort (why didn't they just work and put on a sweater). So I just kept at it and when my boss left, I took the position. During the 7 years I was the manger, I took classes in Facilities Management, asked questions and relied on my vendors to get me through the projects. Sooner than later, I became very confident in what I was doing, thinking I would be fine in my career as long as I worked my tail off and kept learning. That was then, when one could climb the ladder by outworking everyone else. It wasn't now. I left the workforce to have children and then went back around 1991. I was lucky as I got my old job back but things changed and while I wanted to go back to work, that old fire was not as bright as it was the first time around. The offices were better maintained with facility planning more of a engineering art than before. Offices were smoke-free (thank heavens) and it was important to know how to work through a real estate contract to know what you could or couldn't do. Again, I learned by diving into it loving this new professional way of handling the property. Facilities work, however isn't understanding of motherhood. I could no longer work till whenever. I had kids and I wanted to go home and have a life. I was mommy first and the job was a means of getting what I wanted out of life. I would have been fine, except there were others who were fresh out of college and would be able to work the hours I use to and suck up to the boss, like I use to. Between a young, enthusiastic college grade and me, the sleep deprived mother of 3, well after a 5 year run, I got laid off. Even then, I thought I could get by without that college degree. I was still able to find work, but in bad economic times, if the ax was to fall, it was usually on me. At first, I welcomed the opportunity to stay home with the kids and collecting unemployment. I was able to be that girl scout leader, run car pools and participate in school events. But when I wanted to go back to work, it wasn't always that easy. I had to go back to facilities work as it was all I knew, but the competition from those with engineering or architectural degrees was fierce. The final blow came when in my last job, my position was eliminated and I was told to find another job within the company. I was working as a project manager for construction and did lease administration too. They didn't want that position any more and, as I found out, the skills did not translate to another so easily. I was older and did not have the energy to go out and find another job. I took a lesser position within the company just to stay. I was now working in the accounting group. I realized then, I never really did what I wanted to do - just what I had to do. It finally got to me. The working world did not care if you had the skills they were looking for. They wanted that degree plus the skills. Fed up and mad, I signed on to an online college. It was great. I did well and 18 months later got my associates degree and a promotion. Still in accounting but working at something I really wanted - that degree. I was in my mid-50s. Last year was the first time I actually stepped into a classroom. I was the oldest person in the class, maybe in the student body. As I took other courses at the school, I came to find out, the teachers like me. I am not shy so I raise my hand and create dialogue with them and the class. I bring historical experience to the class and they bring the insight into today's world to me. I have learned all about online video gaming through my Media and Technology course (ask me about Everquest, Madden and Farmville). Having never traveled much domestically, I became aware of the beauty of the national parks and the sinister pollution of the Hudson River in the 70s through my environmental science course. I have read about the illegal alien problem that dates back to the early 1800s leading up to today. I am not done but getting there and I refuse to be one of those people my age who does not get what this new technology is all about. Tomorrow is my first day of class for this new semester. I am a third year student at a local state college working towards a Communication Arts degree in writing. I use to work for a company. Now, I am working for me.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Shakespeare In The Park

You must know that being a avid New York fan, the event that I so look forward to every year is the annual Shakespeare In The Park performance. Every summer, the Public Theater puts on 2 plays, usually by Shakespeare but not always, that are performed in the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Part of the reason I go is because I enjoy watching the play but it is also because it is a New York experience that you give up a pound of flesh and a deal of wonder to get these free tickets. Yet, I always go. This year, the repertoire included The Merchant of Venice and the role of Shylock is performed by Al Pacino. If New York is my city, Al Pacino is my actor. I absolutely have to go. Last time I went to the play in the park, I saw Hair (see post of August 5, 2008). While the play is the thing, the wait on line (not internet online, physically sitting on a line) before copping the tickets can actually amount to a pleasant way to spend 6 hours (weather permitting). You meet people, like you, that have sacrificed sleep, their morning and the rest of the day to do this. Once you take your place, if you have planned your day right, your time is productive and well spent. You read all those periodicals and news articles that were piling up, you take a nap and talk to your line neighbors about other NY events. I look around at the people walking or jogging through the park who look at me and my line mates not understanding the determination. I look back wondering why they aren't at work. This year, since the show was enhanced with a star, the line was longer and started earlier. Central Park doesn't open until 6 am so, thinking I was safe to leave the house at 5 am, I arrived to find the line started outside the park entrance of 82nd Street and went for about 6 blocks. Unfettered, I took my place and entered the park along with everyone else and found myself further away than I had ever been. The line monitor (security guy) pointed out, however that we were in front of the "Rock of Hope", where those in front of this point had a chance of getting tickets. I had already taken the day off, had all my reading material and my comfy sand chair with me. I took the chance and stayed. So did everyone else. Alas, things have changed since Hair. Taking a break from my spot, I walked up to the beginning of the line to see who occupied the "sure to get tickets". Strangely, they didn't look like the usual sleepy eyed, rumply clothed theater goers I typically saw. In fact, I questioning whether they really were here for the play or if they thought this was the line for a soup kitchen. A distinct odor of unsanitary sorts permeated the air as I passed them and one of them looked like this: Even with my liberal, somewhat Pollyanna attitude, I knew, this guy couldn't be here for Shakespeare or Pacino. No. I found out he was one of 10 homeless men hired by what you could call a manager of sorts to wait in line, and get tickets that the manager then sells for a couple of hundred dollars. They slept outside the park (which is what they do most nights anyway), got their tickets and received a percentage of the sale from the manager. Well it is now 1 pm and the distribution of tickets starts. My neighbors and I know it will be close but we rubbed the Rock of Hope wishing it had the magical powers to help us. We get close. We can't believe they are still giving out tickets. We start to believe and then are stopped. It is over, the monitor announces there are no more tickets. I am deflated - and then realize, we were just 10 people away.

Monday, July 5, 2010

It's always NY

With all the travels I have been doing or have done, I still can't avoid feeling there is no place for me other than New York City. It gnaws at me. Every time I think I want to live somewhere else, I find there is no where else. I blend here. I find myself being who I want to be because I can be in NYC. Don't kid yourself, the city is not necessarily for just the young and beautiful. It is for all. It is for those who are young and beautiful who go to the best clubs and lounges (like Anthony & Christine), or for the NBA Store (like Thomas) or for those that want the culture, free Shakespeare in the Park, the latest costume exhibit at the Met or brunch and a French foreign film at the Film Forum (like me). For Tony, well it just has traffic but when he gets to a place that has a great brunch and a lot of interest, he is happy. Yesterday, July 4th, it had fireworks. Theeee fireworks - the Macy's fireworks on the Hudson. We were up on the roof top deck of my cousin's apartment overlooking the Hudson. My cousin, over 60, living in the city and blending. We have the city in common if nothing else. We have been to the free concerts in Central Park with the Philharmonic, plays that have included Patti Lupone in Evita and Richard Burton in Equus. It has always been our common denominator. I have her and she has me. We blend in the city. And on July 13th, we have the concert in the park with Tchaikovsky and fireworks to look forward to. And every year, we have the Macy's fireworks on July 4th.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Tequila Sunrise

Vacations are a very personal thing. There are those who are looking for total relaxation, some want entertainment ala Vegas style, some seek lifestyle differences from what they have like a northeastern going to the southwest. For me, I like to do all of the above. With so little time and so much I want to do, taking a vacation involves planning to get the most of the trip within a limited amount of time. Starting in February, I started planning the trip of the year. This year, we considered the south of France, the beaches of Greece and the southwest states of America. While I am never one who considers the logical aspects of travel; economics of the time, the threat of attack, the latest in geological disasters, or the value of the dollar, I go where my heart tells me to go. My husband, however lives by facts and figures and decided it was the wrong time to go to Europe. We decided on the southwest end of America. I have to say, I am pretty good at planning a vacation. That is because I know what we like and how to pack in the most of a vacation without jumping from one hotel to another every night and finding what suits us. I also do not travel with kids (mine or anyone elses) or with other couples unless it is to a single place like the Jersey shore where all we do is sun bath, eat and drink which is not a bad time but different from traveling where you are always on the go. The "on the go" vacation should be made with limited personnel (a tip for those approaching the life without kids era of travel) who enjoy time with each other. I started with one itinerary but in the final 3 weeks, completely changed it. My philosophy, as it has developed, is that money isn't as important as being in the first class Presidential car of the Durango train where Roosevelt, Truman, and Ford sat. I thank my friends Gary and Kristen for not only helping me find the right course but costing me an additional $700 for the flight change and train ride - but it was worth it . Kristen said I should consider going to Santa Fe, a place she hadn't been but said was worth going. Why I trusted this logic doesn't make sense on paper but it worked in reality. Gary, my photography buddy, said I had to go to Durango where riding the train to Silverton through the Colorado Rockies was an amazing adventure. The bullet holes in the taverns of Silverton left standing from the good old days where the town's only activities consisted of mining and brothels was the coolest thing on earth. It has been proven that the best planned trips were when I trusted those with knowledge or some experience. I admit, both my friends were right. We flew into Albuquerque, drove to Santa Fe where we stayed for 3 days then on to Durango for another 3 days then to Sedona for 3 days. It ended in Scottsdale where we visited my cousin and her husband who live in the "house of toys" (will explain later). What I loved about the trip: everything. Most think of the southwest as a flat, dry desert which most of the area is - and then you hit Monument Valley. Shown in all those John Ford/John Wayne movies, this amazingly, sculptured landscape was a freak of nature that is the southwest's answer to the NY skyline. I loved it. Then there was Los Alamos where they built the first atomic bomb. In an area so serene, calm and desolate, a group of scientists developed the most deadly weapon of all time making the area more glamorous than it was. But the Aha Moment, by all means, was on the road from Santa Fe to Durango where a section of land was the inspiration of Georgia O'Keefe's paintings. It was the most underrated place I have ever seen with its beautiful landscape and garden of fossil remains. Why isn't this place listed as one of the top 10 places to see in New Mexico (duhhhh). So the Durango train. What is it about trains that attract everyone. Starting with kids under the age of 10, it becomes an obsession. They love it, they sometimes leave it for a few years but if you start out with trains, you end up with trains. Husband Tony started with trains when his father collected Lionels in the 50s. Father said it was for his son but Tony never was allowed near them until his father died and he fought to get them back. When he did, like those who built rooms in their home to accommodate their needs with wine cellars or bomb shelters, we built a 20x15' room in the basement of our first house which became the "train room". It was an attraction in our neighborhood that boy scout and girl scout troops planned outings to. I have to say, it was very cool. And so was the Durango train. It was on that train we met people, like us, traveling the country. Some retired, some who bought RVs and decided to travel around the country to where ever they wanted, whenever they wanted. It made us feel like we have so much to do, in so little time. It was great talking to those our age about our life, past and present and the Stetson hats and cowboy boots we would be buying after the ride. Oh, and I can't forget the "House of Toys". Always the collector, my cousin Lucy and her husband relocated from NJ to Scottsdale adding on to their collection of toys and other great stuff. I think the next sequel to Toy Story has to made with them in mind. It is great being with them. I was curious about how she made the transition from NJ to Scottsdale. My big fear leaving my comfort zone is where I will be lonely. Always a excellent quilter and crafter, Lucy told me she made friends by joining clubs and her husband, being a sports car fanatic, found friends through his interests too. The formula to enjoying life in the later years - have interests and be interesting. They make retirement and aging look good. People ask what was my favorite place. I can't be that specific. The reason I plan these vacations is to get a little city (Santa Fe), a little country (Sedona), and a little adventure (Durango). I got what I wanted, except for the cowboy boots which I am still hoping to get. They did look great on those women dancing to that country western band in Durango. But then, the dancers to the Cuban band in Santa Fe looked cool too even without the boots. Maybe I really could live away from NYC. For now, I just want to keep traveling.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Psst - I'm from NJ

Yes, it has been a while since I posted but I have been busy. Let me first start with March and my ski trip to Whistler. Now I know skiing down the slopes that the Olympic ski teams rode just weeks before, drinking Coronas in the afternoon on the deck facing the gondola and have fabulous dinners every night in Whistler village and then Vancouver sounds tiring and tough work but the hard part was telling everyone I met there that I was from New Jersey. "Oh", they would say, "have you ever seen the Jersey Shore?" (no). Or "does Danielle from The Housewives from NJ really live in your town?" (she does). And the ultimate, "do you know Tony Soprano". Everywhere I went in Canada, it was like this. Who could blame them. The state of NJ use to be known for the swamp lands and smelly oil refineries along the Turnike. Now it is known as the state where,
  1. The mobsters live like a hedge fund trader making their living terrorizing mom and pop stores, running the waste hauling and construction industry killing whoever pisses them off while hanging out in strip joints every day.
  2. The Jersey Shore is a destination spot for guidos and guidettes whose family values mean they belong to a tribe of sex driven, well-tanned kids who grow to be in the Soprano family.
  3. The Housewives of New Jersey who wear bad hairdos, too much make up and throw tables when things are not going their way in the gossipy conversations.
People I met in Canada would ask if I knew these people. Sure, I always hang with the likes of Snooki, Paulie D, Big Pussy, or Paulie Walnuts. They even have "the Jersey accent". It is a deviation of the New York accent but instead of dropping the T (as in da not "the") you drop the R; i.e. it is squae not square.I can only imagine the stimulating conversation I would have about brands of hair gel, polyester pants and the latest reality star on the cover of People magazine. What is it about New Jersey that makes TV producers showing inhabitants of the state as Neanderthals with bad taste in hair and clothes and no brains. There's got to be some one that dreams up these episodes and then humiliates Italian Americans by featuring them on prime time. How would those from South Carolina feel if they had a show where residents of their state were depicted as hillbillies without shoes, killing snakes to eat for dinner. So finally, I gave up on telling people that I came from NJ. Last person who asked I said I was from New York. He asked, "really, are you from Da Bronx". Ugh, forgitaboutit!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Under Construction

New blog and new posts coming. Check back on May 9, 2010. Love ya, ginny

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Snow days

There is never a good reason to worry about getting stuck indoors when a nor'easter is heading your way for the second time in 1 month. After the first storm, you should know that running to the store to buy bread you will never use is fruitless. What you should be buying is the ingredients of a wonderful dinner to make easily, giving you time to do something during the day like putting your photo album in order. The best part, all the family is with you at dinner (a rare thing with adult children living at home). I don't know about you, but I can always grab the attention of anyone with a good meal. snow day meals are a bit special in that everyone seems relaxed in knowing they cannot go anywhere, do not need to go anywhere and find something simple to do, like eating. The snow dinner consists of:
  • Spinach salad with sauted mushrooms, cucumbers, red onion and roasted beets
  • Roast leg of lamb with special Armenian marinade
  • Roasted sweet potatoes
  • Lemon risotto
Spinach salad (a recipe I got from my cousin's restaurant in Armenia):
  • Bag of baby spinach (buy the pre-washed stuff)
  • Bunch of beets (do not discard the leaves as they are going into the salad)
  • Portabella mushrooms (again, buy pre-sliced but rinse them)
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 1 red onion, sliced thin
Cut & wash the beet tops Mix with the spinach Boil the beets, until the skins come off easily. Add to the salad Saute the mushrooms in butter for about 4 minutes (add water to avoid burning if necessary). Drain most of the mushroom's liquid, then add to the salad. Dressing (the most important part) 1/3 cup olive oil 1/4 cup lemon juice 1 large clove garlic, crushed (I eyeball salt and the pepper) about 1/2 tsp salt about 1/4 tsp pepper Mix well and add to the salad just before serving. Using lemon instead of vinegar makes all the difference. Lamb Roast: About 4 lbs leg of lamb, de-boned. Have the butcher roll and tie it. Marinade for about 5 hours: 1/2 cup olive oil 1 TBS ground coriander 1/2 TBS paprika 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp pepper (Note: do not add any citrus like wine or lemon) Set oven to 425 degrees. Put lamb in for 25 minutes uncovered Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees and cook until meat thermometer registers 155 degrees (about 2 hours in total). Let meat rest for about 15 minutes and carve. Risotto: 1 onion, chopped 1 cup risotto 1/2 cup white wine about 2 - 3 cups chicken broth 1 1/2 lemon juice 1/3 cup grated romano cheese Saute 1 chopped onion in some olive oil add 1 cup risotto, mix Add chicken broth 1 ladle at a time until risotto is not hard add lemon juice finish with grated cheese. Let rest about 10 minutes serve The end result is a happy me with a happy family, full of good food: Lovely

Sunday, January 10, 2010

When Time Has Come Today

For the last year, my son has been recovering from necessary surgery. He was a key member of his high school football team, leaving the year with a memorable game where he scored the only touchdowns that led the team to their state championship. His strength was his speed. After the season was over, we discovered a tumor on his knee that forced him to be operated on in April of 2009. Fortunately, the tumor was benign and he is fine. But it left him unable to continue his athletic career in college. He’s a young kid and had to give up his sport before he was ready. I relate to his pain but in a different way.

I admit to approaching my 60s in body yet my mind is around 35 to 40 years old. I still love to ski, to dance and to wear clothes that are probably not age appropriate. I went skiing this Saturday for the first time this season and while I loved it, my body aches from the inactive muscles of the summer. I dance but I wonder if I look old and foolish because I don't know the latest and greatest steps. I love wearing footless tights with skirts slightly above my knee but while I can make the look work, everything above the hips are of a different generation. If I lived in NYC, I would probably blend. But I don’t. I live in a suburban town on the outskirts of the city where trendy doesn’t exist for a mother of 3 adult children.

Is it time to give it up? Do I care what other people think or am I comfortable with who I am to not give a hoot. I care. I don't want to look ridiculous but I do want to do and wear what I like. I don’t think my deciding to wear a short skirt with footless tights will be a life altering decision, but skiing, well it is a little more threatening. I am not athletic in any other way and I’m not a bad skier. I love the whole atmosphere of the sport. There is nothing like being on the scenic mountains, the feeling of control on the slopes and the thrill of accomplishment at the end of the day. If I don’t ski, there is no instead, no alternative. I’m not good at doing nothing and everyone knows there is no thrill to being on the treadmill.

During this year's football playoffs, I was routing for the Minnesota Vikings because I like Brett Favre. My son dislikes him because Favre retired and then changed his mind. Favre thought he could walk away but he wasn’t ready. Maybe he was trying for the big win before he left - the Super Bowl. It didn’t happen. The Vikings are out. I felt bad for him and, in some way, could relate. I don’t want to be out, I want to walk out content with my decision. I think that will happen when I find the thing that takes the place of skiing or the footless tights whatever that may be.