January 7, 2015 – Dreams can come true

“I am a great believer in luck

and I find that the harder I work,

the more I have of it.”

                                            Thomas Jefferson

Why did I start with that line? I cannot imagine why. In life we all have dreams of things we wish we could do or things that would come to us.  I would have loved to be a ballerina or a figure skater or a good teacher. None of those things were in the cards for me.  I never thought I would be an addictions counselor or a passionate prevention person but those things did come my way.  Addictions were not part of my life until I married and learned about the genetics of addiction and decided I would pursue that field because of concern for my children’s futures.  I knew nothing about addiction but when I found out how many alcoholics were in my kids family line I knew I better find out about it. As it turned out it was a pretty interesting field and luck has been with me and I guess my dream of eventually finding a good job in prevention did come true and one would have to believe it was a meant to be situation.

I was working for CHP/Kaiser Permanente and in August of 1999 they announce to the provider community that the place would be closing down on January 1, 2000. It was a terrible shock to so many of us because we loved working there and still look back on those years as very positive ones for us.  The pay was good, working conditions good, bosses fair and would listen to us, and I had made some really good friends there. Not being a social worker or a nurse and with changing times there were few places for me to go where I could make the salary I was making at CHP.  So, I figured I would stay until the end and see what came my way.

My friend Pat went to interview for a job in Rensselaer County.  After the interview she told them she really was not interested in the job.  They asked her if she would be interested in another opening they had for a prevention specialist. After describing the job to her she said no thanks but she knew who would be great in that job and would love it. She gave them my name.  So I get a call offering me an interview. Fabulous job and one hitch, you had to live in the county to get the job. I said no thanks, I would love the job but I am not moving.  I thought that would be the end of it. Then a month later I get another call, this time from the Deputy Commissioner of Mental Health, would I please come back for a second interview. Sure, why not, right?  So back I go and had a wonderful chat and again, we want to hire you but you have to live in the county.  Sorry again, but I am not leaving my house for a two year grant position.

So, December came and CHP closed. I was hired on to help them close out claims which might go on for a couple of months with no reduction in pay and my benefits would continue so this was good. In the mean time I had visited the people the company were paying to help people find new jobs.  They told me I would be hard to place, but if Denis wanted a job they had plenty they could offer him.  He was not looking.

So, I learned how to close out claims and was not messing up too much and one day the phone rings. This is now about the second week in January.  It was the Commissioner of Mental Health. She said they wanted to offer me the job if I was still interested and if I wanted it they would go to the County Executive and request that the job be changed so I would not have to live in the county.  I said yes and two hours later I got the phone call that the job was mine and that they needed me to start right away. I told them I had this commitment at CHP and I would get back to her.  My supervisor in the claims gig looked at me and said “Are you’re nuts, you don’t owe us anything, go take the job.”

The next day I called and arranged to go with the Commissioner to a meeting with the State in a week and although it would not be my start date I would get comp time for attending this training with her.  The training was for those being funded under the grant that I would be working under. Every other group did a presentation about what they had done so far with the grant and the progress they were making. I learned a lot and it was things learned in grad school studying Community Psychology.

The end of this story of getting the job is that they gave me an office in the Commissioners suite. The desk had been used by the two woman who had the job before me.  When setting up the office I found a letter from the State that had arrived around New Years. In it it stated that if the position was not filled by the end of January the grant money would be taken away since the position had been open for over six months.   No wonder they were in such a rush to get me to the State and let them see someone had been hired.  I had a good laugh over it.  Sometimes things are just meant to be and our dreams do come through. That was my dream job and I stayed until I retired in 2011.

Since 2011 I have continued to volunteer on various groups doing prevention at the community level. I still love it although after the four months away I could easily step back away from it.  Something has changed in me and I have other things I would rather be doing.  Sad to say but true. I love presenting on underage substance issues and have attached a picture of a panel from last spring that Congressman Paul Tonko organized in the Capital District. He is a great advocate for the work we do in our communities and his staff have been wonderful to work with.

January 6, 2015 – starting all over again and a little story

Well, today it was really cold out and I had work to do on the computer so was good my car is in the shop.. They need to keep it until tomorrow so I will drive the Prof to work and then go to my meeting at 10 am.   But this evening dear Rose came and picked me up and I went back to Tai Chi Lessons.  Love it.  Almost every one was there, even Meg who teaches us alot of the time. She is going through Chemo and yet was out there doing this. She is thin but looks pretty darn good considering.and she has her lovely laugh which is a day brightener.  I have to wonder if being so physically active has helped her to go through it better.

So that was the fun of the day.  I did input in-kind donations for the grant and printed out updates for our family list of birthdays and deaths etc.  With there being well over 100 of us just on my mom’s family, There were 8 children on her generation, only five had children and there were 25 of us first cousins. And of course the numbers grow from there when you get into second and third cousins. What many of us love it to see those third cousins playing on the beach in the summer just like our parents knew their third cousins and were close to so many of them. They would be happy to see this going on.  We are lucky crew because our parents stayed close and made sure we knew each other.  I loved my summers in Canada visiting for a week or two every year or so when we were young and then as a teen my aunt Jean would bring me up with her for a month which was so special for me. I think she knew I needed to get out of the house.

So anyway, when I took the writing course in Galway we had an assignment one evening to write a short piece with descriptions etc. This is what I wrote about my Grandfather as a boy of 8. Nothing is based in fact, just my imagination.

Fergus had always loved a summer storm. It was exciting to see the lightening and hear the clash of the thunder. He was sitting at the kitchen table looking across at the school house watching the wind whipping through the trees and the rain crashing against the window. . Emily had been baking bread in the wood stove and the fragrance filled his being. He was waiting for he knew it would be coming.  He heard Emily getting out some dishes and reaching down into the cold storage for butter. His stomach was sending him messages, growling and yearning for the fresh hot bread. He sat very still and waited.  He and Emily spent most summer days together unless he was helping his Dad in the barn. He loved their time together.  His mother would tell him stories and teach him how to make things and he had his own patch of garden to care for.   He heard another crack of thunder and saw a tree across the road split in half. Even that could not diminish his joy as Emily put the warm, soft bread in front of him coated in butter and fresh strawberry jam. He took a bite and held it in his mouth and began to slowly chew.If he had died and gone to heaven Fergus thought he could not be happier..

Pictures of Emily McArdle and second of her and husband Charles O’Connor and children Fergus and Madeline

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January 5, 2015 – Back in the thick of it again

“Start Each Day With a Pep Talk to Yourself”

                                                       Unknown

Well, today I can assure you was not a great day. Spending six hours in meetings was not fun. And it appears that is what my life is going to be like for a while thanks to the Federal Government.  The Grant we are working under in my community group announced our yearly application is due on the 26th of January, so we need to work quickly to get the darn thing done and then they added our six month report being due on Feb 4th when we will be in DC so we have to get it done by Jan 30th.  Yippee… Guess a couple hours each day will be dedicated to that endeavor.

It is pretty funny actually that I heard the same conversation at both meetings at least that is what it feels like. But we did get alot accomplished. I am still steps away from being engaged at this point and since they did great without me for four months i hope they will see the benefit of doing things with out me more and more since I am seriously thinking about moving to Saratoga and selling this house. I just want to be somewhere with sidewalks and places to walk to. Guess the last four months really spoiled me.

This whole idea of living each day as an adventure has made me pause to think..  Reality is that I am not sure how back in this little life here I can find adventure.  Maybe I do need to start walking up to the Stewarts Shop each morning and getting to know the people who hang out there. They are also building a Starbucks up that way as well so I could get a two mile walk every day and some coffee and maybe a sweet although doubt any of them have wheat free  goodies. Probably would have to bring my own.

Started to relook at my letters from Aunt Pat and am trying to figure out where to begin again writing the story of her adventures. So maybe I will start living vicariously through her letters.  Stop that thinking, I can make my own adventures I am sure I can. I did for the last four months I can do it again.  Now that is something I could do, walk up to Starbucks and just sit and write for an hour every morning and drink coffee. Will have to see if that is doable. Of course the temperature is going to be very cold this week so doubt if I will be able to drag my feet up the street that far.  My computer would be frozen by the time I got there.

Today a funny thing did happen that I want to remember.  I called the Irish Museum in Albany to see if they had any ideas for someone who teaches Bodhran lessons.  As soon as the woman answered the phone she said to me “I know I owe you a check for $100.”  I thought, whoa, wrong Margaret. She kept on talking and I tried to tell her she had the wrong person. Finally she stopped and said, ‘Maybe we should start over and you can tell me what you were calling about”. Turns out after much laughter she thought I was a Margaret that both Denis and I know and who is in Denis’ book club. They went to grad school together.  Guess they owe her some money. I wonder if I could have said I have moved and here is my new address and gotten some money from them.  It was a great conversation and we both had a good laugh over it.

Being short on adventure today I will cut this short. Tomorrow I will write a bit more about family stuff, unless I have a true adventure.

January 4, 2015 – An action and a long lived reaction

“Life is too sweet for bitterness”

                                                                                                                 Unknown

This is a family story I never heard until the last year or so.

In the 1930’s when my parents were planning on getting married there must have been an announcement of their plans in the newspaper or someplace.  My Grandfather Fergus Sr. received a message from the Bishop to come and see him. The Bishop told my Grandfather that he had to stop my mothers marriage.  That no way should she be marrying the son of a protestant minister.  And the Bishop made it clear there would be no wedding in his church between the young couple.

Well, my Grandfather being the wonderful person that he was told the Bishop that no way would he do such a thing but that he would have them married elsewhere if the Bishop continued and I am sure he also told him that the families support of the church would disappear.  In a community where my Grandfather was involved in many organizations, had a strong medical practice and was involved in politics it was probably not a good idea to get him really angry since he had seven more children who might be getting married in the Cathedral.

So, the Bishop said they could get married but not in the Cathedral but in the Chapel and that they could have no flowers and no music.  At some point they must have all agreed, we are getting married so let’s just do it. I am sure the Bishop did not marry them. And from the pictures both families were all there and they looked very happy and I am sure they had a lovely reception at home etc.

But what did happen as a result of all of this meanness on the part of the Bishop was my Dad’s bitterness and anger towards the Church.  He had been studying to become a Catholic some have said, although, now that I know this other story, from a letter my uncle wrote to his future bride, I think the story we have been told was not entirely accurate. We had always been told that my dad was studying in NY to join the Church and that when they went to Canada some Fr. Brown refused to accept the classes he had been taking and told him he would not be accepted into the Church in Canada unless he took instructions there which would have been impossible.  I think that was a story to protect the Bishop.

Anyway, no matter what the story over the years my dad’s bitterness never healed. But since he had nothing to do with the Catholic Church and the only Catholics he was in close contact with were his wife and children we were the ones to pay the price.  By the time I was seven I was already so angry with him that I wanted nothing to do with him.  We would get punished in the darnest ways.  In the summer on vacation one year my mom told him she wanted to take us to church on a Sunday morning somewhere out in the boonies. We found a church and he sat in the car while we went.  Afterwards he drove to a bridge and told us to stay in the car while he went fishing, he wanted to get his hour.  None of us ever thought to say anything to him, in fact he went to his death never understanding the anger some of us had towards him.

As a seven year old going to her first communion you can understand the confusion when my mom dressed me out in the back porch in a borrowed dress and veil and then as soon as the service was over it was back home, out of the dress and into play clothes while all my friends were at home having celebration parties. I had to pretend nothing had happened at all that day.

As I got older my anger grew and grew. But in those days in our house you could never say anything to anyone if you were angry or upset.  It was always “go to your room until you can be nice”. So, life went on in this fashion and we never did resolve it.  I wonder if he would have died so soon if he had been able to get rid of his anger and stop punishing us instead of that Bishop.  Even when he had been drinking and having lively discussions with our uncles it amazes me that it never came out. I wonder why my mom put up with it and did not try and get him to stop his taking it out on us. People always say, “Well, you know back then woman could not speak up” I don’t buy that at all.  My mom and dad had long discussions about lots of things.

So in thinking about the phrase above remember if you are bitter you are probably not only hurting yourself but those who love you the most because they feel it and may not know it has nothing to do with them.

And LIfe is too Sweet to waste on such things.

January 3, 2015 – puppies, hockey and snow..

When the world says, “Give up,”

Hope whispers, “Try it one more time”.

                                                                                                              Unknown

Well, after taking it easy for the last few days today I decided to just go out and face the world. So off we went to Saratoga to meet the puppies – Smedley and Stella.  They are so cute and full of puppy energy. One of them can now hop up on the couch and they love to fight over their toys.  We played with them for about an hour or so and then went to lunch at “The Local” which has very good food if you are ever in Saratoga on the west side.

Hockey was next on the agenda so we headed back to Schenectady in the snow which was now falling.  The Union Woman’s hockey game started at 3 pm so figured we would get there to see most of it.  As usual there was hardly anyone there. The woman get so little support and of course the students don’t come back for the winter term until tomorrow. So, of course, we sat behind them and cheered.  They were playing Princeton and both had gotten defeated last night in games so both wanted this win.  Poor old Union, it was not to be this afternoon. But never fear we will continue to go to the games and cheer for them. They are a great group and deserve to win.

At the game we sat with Steve and Jeanette Sargent and told them about our experience in Galway. They both said the term abroad at York is very similar in terms of the beautiful walkable city. I hope Denis will apply for that one as well. Why not.

By the time we left the arena it was still snowing and had accumulated a bit so I took a picture of one of the buildings in the snow.  Got home safely and after watching the news and having something to eat we are watching the Union Men playing Boston U on NBCSN.. How neat that we can see them play on TV. It is tied at the moment.

I am very tired this evening so will probably hit the hay earlier tonight than usual although you never know.

Smedley is the blond puppy, Stella is the mixed and larger.  picture of the Men’s flag for winning the NCAA Hockey Championship last winter. Number 21 is my favorite player since she is my size and I cannot believe how good she is, Final score.. 0-3.. boo hoo. and the snow falling with the big building behind.

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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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