January 2 – The cute little old lady

Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued,

is always just beyond your grasp, but which,

if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.

                                                                                                   Nathaniel Hawthorne

As I was dragging after going shopping this morning Denis suggested a walk and I suggested I take a little rest and then we go for a walk. So that is good.   I did take that rest and it worked out for the best.  Lo and behold, when we went out for a walk there up the street was the cutest little figure one could want to see – With her pipe that she uses for a cane, wearing slippers, no socks and a sweater shirt hoodie there was Dottie.    Dottie is the loveliest little thing.  She is always happy to see us and even though speech is difficult for her now she tries her darnest to speak to us.  I think she has gotten shorter than the last time I saw her in the summer.  But she still has the twinkle in her eye and that sweet warm smile.

Dottie has been our neighbor since we moved here when Dan was four months old.  Her husband was a nuclear engineer with GE and worked at Knolls.  They have two sons who are both married and have no children.  Greg, the husband, died in his 60’s. He was a lovely fellow from Maine, with the accent and all. They were both collectors of lots of things.  Dottie never got over Greg’s death.  He and many of the men he worked with died of cancer around the same time and she and the other widows felt it had to do with their early nuclear work when they did not know how dangerous it really was.  But Dottie kept busy working for some friends who did estate sales. She was an expert is pricing antiques and knowing how old things were and if they had value or not. She was also very active in her church and had many friends from there.  But she always talked about how much she missed Greg. When we were cleaning out my mom’s apartment she came over and helped me figure out what was ‘good” stuff and what was just “nice” stuff.

In the past few years she has had several strokes but has always come back, she is one hell of  a fighter. She now lives with her son David and his wife but they are so good to her. Every day they bring her to her home and leave her there to putter around.  No one can ever go in her house because as she says, “I cannot have you come in until I sort out my mess”. I don’t think that will ever happen. I have never seen the inside of her house.

She adores our son Ian and always wants to know about how he is doing and about his girls. She asks about the others but Ian had been her paperboy and always stopped to chat with her when he was collecting and she appreciated that.

Today she started talking and I was not sure what she was saying and then it hit me, her son who lives in Maine had a lovely wife Cathy who has been battling cancer for many years now.  It seems she lost her battle recently. Dottie was tearful and so sad. I just looked it up and Cathy died in Sept.  But those feelings are still new and sad for Dottie.  She talked about Peter and how he is working at staying happy because he knows that is what Cathy would have wanted.

After chatting with her for a while it was obvious she was getting so cold. Poor sweet thing told us that she thinks people are going into her house and trying to take her things.  Then she told us her son David has suggested that she is imagining it on the left side of her brain and that her right side needs to keep reminding her that she is imagining it. It was cute, she knows it is not real but still talked about it as if there really were people  going into her house. She never lets anyone in even if it is freezing outside.

Anyway, I have to say that was the highlight of my day. I was so afraid something might have happened to her while we were gone and I would feel terrible. Dottie is one of my favorite people around here and I am going to miss her terribly one of these days.

Another neat thing that happened today which will only mean something if you have tried them.  I found out that the Latham Price Chopper has Mrs Crimbles chocolate covered macaroons.  I thought I had died and went to heaven. I mean really now, if you are gluten free these make up for all the things you are not suppose to eat. They are so good and even my friends who can eat anything when they tasted them they went nuts for them. Just ask them.  So, Denis and I will have some good treats if we get snowed in one of these weeks.

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January 1, 2015 – Great Expectations

Ops. I think that title has already been taken…..  Isn’t that what New Years is always about?  Last year was so so and I expect this year to be wonderful.  I think life is only as great as we make it.  Yes, nature can make one year much worse than another with deaths of loved ones, floods, tornadoes etc.  People can also make life miserable, but I think that is only if we let them.

For years I let my past pains and hurts run my life and basically fear was the main driver of all my emotions. I grew up being afraid of lots of things.  It took me until I was in my 30’s to begin to realize that I could make my life into what I wanted it to be if I worked at it.  It was hard work and still is at times but I am a very different person than I was back then.  Taking responsibility for all the negativity was one of my worse flaws. I felt that I deserved whatever came my way.  Made life easy for the bullies out there. If they said it I thought it must be the truth.  Wrong!

These last four months of seeing life in a totally different way has really made a huge difference in my mental processes.  When I woke up this morning still feeling sick I thought to myself, how is this an adventure?  Well, actually it is if I look at it that way.  I gave myself permission to sleep in as long as I wanted to – 10 am. Then I got up but not dressed – I ate, took my antibiotic, finished reading the book I was into, played on the computer, and took a rest. At 2 pm I got up, took a shower and we went for a walk. It was bright and sunny although crispy and cold out.  Yes, not perfect but lovely none-the-less.  We saw some neighbors and we each agreed, this is not Galway for sure. But that if we planned it we could walk up to Stewarts and have an ice cream sundae or get a cup of coffee and walk back and that would make a two miles walk. Never know what you might see along the way or if you might meet someone as you walk along.

And once we came back in we had talked about going to a movie but my coughing might upset people around me so I just asked Denis if he would like to go out for dinner. I really don’t feel like cooking and he probably would like some real food so we are going to take ourselves out to Otis and Olivers because one thing I did miss while in Ireland was their ribs…. Yes, I tried ribs over there but they did not compare.  So, that is one thing I can do to help myself readjust to being in NY.  Great tasting ribs.

I also went on line looking for Kelkin rice cakes with chocolate.  They are Irish and so good. Cannot figure out how to buy them over here. I also checked on what the Keoghs Crisps cost for the case of 12 packages as ours are going fast.  What a great Christmas present!!!! I am going to order more for us.  Not much more expensive than what we were paying to buy them in the market in Galway but they are so good. Also going to check at the Honest Weight Food Coop to see if they have any of those products.

Anyway, will finish this later but just thought I would start writing while I was still awake….. I do get tired… My box from Ireland arrived with the ornament I purchased over there for us. It is truly lovely from Newbridge Silverware. I will take a picture and see if it shows how lovely it is.

Lovely dinner at Otis and Olivers. I needed to find something I like to eat that I could not find in Ireland that tasted as good so off we went so I could get barbecue ribs and saratoga chips. It was so good, I ate it all, well not all the chips but the rest.   Then we took a ride to see our favorite Christmas light show on Apple Blossom in Colonie,  YIKES, there were no lights on at all. I hope they have not stopped doing it and that we were just too late in the season.  Christmas would not be the same without a trip to see the lights there.  Going to ask on Facebook if anyone knows what the deal is.

Just talked to Dan and he is good and figuring out what his next steps will be in finding work. I am sure he will find something that will make him happy.  In or out of the law. We also called the little girls earlier in the day and all they wanted to know was when Grandpa was coming back to see them.  They really love that old guy. Ops, he is younger than I am so I guess they love that young guy.

We were talking about “wow, it is 2015” Thinking back 15 years, this is the anniversary of CHP/Kaiser Permanente closing in the Northeast. I was out of work and wondering what would come next. Denis was finishing his PhD and working on his thesis.  What an interesting 15 years it has been. Denis finished and was hired by Union as a Visiting Professor and is now a part time lecturer and part time adjunct. I was hired by Rensselaer County and got my dream job in prevention and worked there for eleven years until I retired. Pretty neat actually. We bought the school house and fixed it up and put on the addition and can live there now. And there were sad losses over these years, my mom, brother John, cousins,Nancy, Mary, Paul, Jane, Chuck, Sue, Ann, and Denis’ nephew Brian.  As well as some spouses of my cousins who were dear to all of us.

So on that note I am going to stop but will add some pictures just for fun. The ornament is Santa’s workshop.

I also added pictures from June through end of august. Me with Congressman Paul Tonko at a public meeting about drug abuse, Judi Vining, and Joyce Davis on our weekend at Long Beach, O’Connor/Kaiser cousins at Kevin’s birthday party, Slide from N-CAP annual meeting, Anya and Jason’s wedding, Baseball game in Baltimore, Miss Keyona and Little Bear, Just some of the places and people we shared our summer with.

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December 31, 2014 – The end of a lovely year

New Years Eve, hard to believe already this year is over.  It has been quite a year.  In the winter I was so busy with the Drug Free Grant and all the activities that we had put in our plan that my head was spinning. And yet all the time in the back of my mind was getting ready to go to Ireland.  If I looked at my calendar from the last year there would be so much more on there, Chair yoga classes, Tai Chi, Zumba Gold, Red Hat activities that kept me socially out there doing things.

Then there was the school house. I love our school house and all the wonderful things we do there. Doors Open Ontario weekend we were open to the public and aside from tours of the school house Mike O’Connor was there with his paintings and we had some of Ted Kaisers beautiful photography.  Mike and I had a great time over the two days.   Spending from mid June to the beginning of August was great and I really was not ready to go home in August but we had to get ready for Ireland.

Union College winning the NCAA Division I hockey championship was also a highlight of our year. We usually attend the woman’s games but we totally got into cheering for the men’s team and they took on the big schools and beat them one by one. It was such a case of the little engine that could.  It was spectacular to watch them win.

My family had a reunion down in Maryland in August and it was great spending the weekend with my brothers and many of the children and grandkids. Andrew has a wonderful house for a big party like that and everyone enjoyed themselves.

Ireland was like a dream. I pinched myself often because I could not believe this opportunity had come our way. We are retired folks, yes, Denis is teaching but it is like his retirement gig doing something he really loves and enjoys every day. Being picked to go with the students to Galway was just unreal.  It was the best experience of my life I think. Being so out of my element and finding things to do and people to meet. And I got to visit with some cousins, not all that I wanted to see but the ones I did get to see I really enjoyed. I learned that living in a walkable city is so much fun and my dream now is to find a place to live where we can walk everywhere.  Kingston Ontario, Saratoga, NY, Those would be two of my choices..Kingston would be far from Denis’ job but Saratoga would work.

To answer a question I was asked today – how did we end up in the states and how did I meet Denis – My parents were immigrants from Canada. My mom grew up in Kingston (first Gananoque) and my Dad was the son of a wandering minister so he had lived in many places including ten years in England. He went to the U of T in Pharmacy and had a placement in Kingston where he met my mom. they dated for about five years before they could get married.  They moved to the States during the depression since he could not get a job in Canada. Dad wanted to be a pharmaceutical sales rep.  So, they got married in 1935 and moved to Tuckahoe NY where he had been hired by Burroughs Welcome & Co. an English firm.  Once he got into the sales dept we lived in various places, Buffalo, Eggertsville, Seattle and eventually Scarsdale.   I met Denis at my church actually.  He belonged to a young persons theatre group that had been running out of his church in Crestwood but they left there after being told they could not sing Where have all the Flowers Gone at a folk mass during the Vietnam War.  So they moved up the road to the Church Mom and I went to. I joined the group and we met and at some point we started going out. The rest is history.

This is New Years and I suppose I should be making promises to myself to do things in the next year.  I don’t need to go on a diet, I would like to be healthier but not sure how that happens as I sit here taking antibiotics for a sinus infection which I tried to treat myself and let go too long, NO I think I will skip making promises to myself.  I am going to try and write more and more. I have to work on my stories about Aunt Pat and finish transcribing all her letters and Aunt Sheila’s and get back to working on Charles O’Connor’s diaries. I am up to 1919 and they go through 1939 I think. so much more to do.

Happy New Year to all and hope that all your dreams come true in 2015.

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December 30, 2014 – Ups and downs

I woke up feeling really nasty this morning, not mood but my head felt like it was going to blow up.  Nothing like fighting a cold head on so I steamed, used salt water, slept etc and then I took my car to the mechanic to see if he could figure out why the check engine light is on. :I have decided if it costs a bundle to fix it then I will drive the car for another year, if not I will see how much I have saved up and see what I can get for it and buy myself some new little used something or other.

I did some sorting this afternoon, read all my Christmas cards and letters but then decided to read my book and then slept a bit. During all this time it was going through my mind, what does one write about in a blog like this. I could ramble about my days but then I thought about the story telling classes I have been taking for the last couple of years. Finally it came to me that I will start today by telling you a story. It is a true story although hard to believe sometimes, but it has been told several times and people always like it so I will tell it to you.

My mom, Norah, had dementia for a few years, and at some point we had to move her into a supportive living arrangement and later into secure facilities so she would not wander off.  A few years before she died the decision was made to pre-plan for her funeral.  So, I took myself down to Jones Funeral Home and met with Rocky Jones who is a lovely woman. We went through all the planning and picking a casket and then she asked me about my dad.  Well, as far as I knew his cremated remains were in a cemetery in Schenectady waiting to be buried with my mom.  Seemed like an easy thing to Rocky and she said she would go over and arrange to obtain them and then when my mom died she and dad could be together.

A few days later my phone rang at the office and it was Rocky.  She was very hesitant and then asked me if my dad had a first wife.  I told her no and that mom was the love of his life and they had been together 40 years when he died down in New York. It turns out he was buried with another woman in the cemetery.  I laughed and said no way, who is he buried with? It was some woman by the name of Dorothy.  Rocky wanted to know if he could have had a secret wife or lover. I laughed again and said he never even lived here so no.

Turns out the person who had been running the cemetery in 1978 was a crook, he took money from people and then never did anything with the remains, although dad was suppose to be held there until mom died. But he did not seem to have kept very good records.  When he was arrested and replaced the new person found the remains in a closet so they were buried in potters field.  It was unreal. My dad buried with this Dorothy!

Do you have any idea what it takes to get something like this fixed?? I had to get signed affidavits from my four brothers giving permission for them to dig up the remains. Plus I also had to get one as well with seals on it in case I had forged my own signature. It took about a month and the state had to give permission and maybe even have someone come out to make sure this was the right grave.

So, on a particular day I was told to drive to the cemetery and they would give me the remains.  It was actually pretty funny, They dug up this partially rusted can, about the size of an oil can, and put it in a little plastic box that looked like a miniature casket.  I first put it in the back seat on the floor not quite sure what one does when transporting the deceased, at this point I believe he had been dead about 20 years.  When I got home again not being sure what to do I moved him to the trunk of the car. And after telling folks in the house where he was I just kind of put it out of my mind. One thing I did not want to deal with.

About a month later our son Dan came into the house and looked right at me and said “Mom, you have to do something about Grandpa, He keeps rolling around in the trunk and making noise and I hate it”.  I guess that was not going to work so I brought him into the house and decided the place to put him was on the hearth. We never used the fireplace any more so what was the harm in putting him in there.

People would come into the house and ask what was in the box and the kids loved to tell them it was grandpa.  Some people actually physically jumped when told.  It was good for a laugh and of course the story of Dorothy being told.  That was when it came to me, we were going to have a family reunion down in Maryland and what if I made up a story about who this Dorothy was.  So I spent some time working on a story and wrote it all out about how Dorothy was my Dad’s long lost sister. That was why whenever he went any place he always looked in the phone book hoping to find his long lost sister who had disappeared one day in Victoria Station in London.  It was so far out and beyond ridiculous that I knew folks would love it.

At the family reunion I asked my daughter to read the story since I could not do it without laughing.  She read it and everyone was very quiet listening to the tale, one person actually turned to the  person next to her and said “I believe I remember hearing something about this in the past”.  That put me over the edge.  All of a sudden people realized that it was all a hoax and the laughter carried on for a good long time.  We did confirm that Dad was no longer buried with this Dorothy but we are pretty sure to this day that he never knew her.

And the end of the story is that when Mom died Rocky was very kind and let me know that Dad was with Mom and they are buried together.

Dec 29, 2014 – The Beginning

During my four months in Ireland I realized that if you approach every day in life as a new adventure it is hard to be unhappy.  Even the most frustrating situations take on a new look when you think in terms of a new learning opportunity.  So, I am going to see what a year living it as an adventure will be like.   Since tonight was the closing night of my Ireland blog I will not write more here.

Tomorrow I will share more about myself and my interests and what I hope to accomplish this year.

See you soon, m