Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hurricane Irene relief for upstate NY

My home area in NY was devastated by Hurricane Irene. I grew up in a tiny mountain town in the Catskills, the kind of town where there’s only one road up the mountain and no stop lights (or as I like to say, don’t blink while you’re driving through or you’ll miss it). It covers 88 square miles of hilly, mountainous farm land and encompasses three small hamlets (Roxbury, Denver/Vega and Grand Gorge). My parents were lucky, they live on a hill and were spared any damage and for that I am incredibly grateful. All of my family are also safe (including my cousins in Vermont). Main street in my town however was covered in water. The town directly to the north of mine (Prattsville) was basically washed off the map and the town directly to the south (Margaretville) is in ruins. These are the towns which you might have seen on the national news. This is where I grew up. All the pictures and videos of the devastation are familiar sights which my brain has trouble processing. It's like seeing my childhood destroyed. Hay bales should not be floating down main streets. Houses should not be jammed under bridges.

People have lost everything, their homes as well as their livelihoods. They’ve been left with just the clothes on their back and a hope that their friends, neighbors and people they’ve never met will help them get back on their feet. I know that we’re all financially strained right now; the economy isn’t the greatest and the price of everything has gone up (not to mention this isn’t even in Connecticut), but I’m hoping you’ll open your hearts and help me to help the people in need back home. I’m collecting anything and everything to bring home to help in the relief efforts. And I do mean anything. Have extra toothbrushes from the dentist in the closet at home? I’ll take them. Have an extra bar of soap? Time to clean out your closet? Gather what you’re ready to part with and I’ll take it.

Items needed include, well, everything really, but specifically:
- Clothes - all ages (infant through adult), all sizes (gently used or new), all seasons
- Shoes - all ages, all sizes (gently used or new)
- Non-perishable food items (including formula and baby food and canned goods)
- Toiletries (soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, deodorant, tooth brushes, toothpaste)
- Feminine Hygiene Products
- Diapers and baby wipes
- Cat/Dog food
- Cleaning supplies (paper towels, toilet paper, bleach, laundry detergent, etc.)
- Bedding, towels, blankets
- Kitchen items (can openers particularly, but anything is appreciated)
- Gift cards to Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes or Price Chopper (there are no Targets, Stop & Shops, Whole Foods or Trader Joes) or Visa gift cards

Monetary donations can also be made to the following organizations. No amount is too small. Every single dollar helps, even if a dollar is all you can afford to give.

MARK Project
Box 516, Arkville, NY 12406.

Relief Fund c/o NBT
PO Box 380
Grand Gorge NY 12434.
Please write the name of the town in the memo line if you want funds to go to that particular town. Towns hardest hit include (but are not limited to) Prattsville, Margaretville, Fleischmanns, and Windham.

Interfaith Counsel c/o NBT
PO Box 140
Margaretville, NY 12455.

I will be collecting items for as long as people want to give and making sure they get to the areas which need them. The need is both immediate and long term. My home is in Connecticut now, but my heart is in the Catskills. Let me know if you're local you'd like to contribute and I'll be happy to come to you to pick stuff up.

Please feel free to pass this message on to anyone else you think might be willing to help out. And thank you in advance for anything you can do to help.

Below is Main Street (State Rt. 30), Roxbury, NY – my hometown. The little sliver of green lawn on the right is the lawn of my K-12 school where my father taught for 30 years. This is the middle of town.

This is Freshtown, the grocery store in Margaretville NY. It is the grocery store closest to my parent’s house. The CVS has since collapsed.

Part of State Rt. 30 in Blenheim, NY. Blenheim also lost their historic covered bridge. Built in 1855 it was the longest single span covered bridge in the US and withstood the flood of 1996, thought then to be a 100 year flood.

This is the Rt. 23 Bridge in Prattsville, NY. It was completely undermined and is also the bridge I take to get to my parents’ house. Or it was the bridge I take. Just out of the frame to the center left is the site of what used to be O’Hara’s gas station. Any trace of the gas station is completely gone. It looks like an empty lot.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day Two

Day two of the 30 day song challenge is your least favorite song. I posted the Rebecca Black Friday video on Facebook. I mean, it is pretty bad. Later on I heard the cast of Glee sing their version and I....almost liked it. It was actually catchy. I might be slightly ashamed to admit that.

Anyway, I'm not going to post either video here. If you haven't heard the song you can YouTube it yourself. But trust me, save your ears.

I could easily have posted the following song instead. I quite dislike it. It actually makes me uncomfortable for some unknown reason. And as such I tend to forget about it which is why I didn't use it when I posted Day two on Facebook.

Landslide - Fleetwood Mac

I sometimes feel like the only person in the world that dislikes this song, but I have recently been reassured by a good friend that she too loathes it with a fiery passion. In fact, I didn't even watch this video before posting it. I just made sure it didn't start with an advertisement (with the sound on my laptop off). I have no idea if the sound quality is good or if the picture is decent. There could be a weird dismemberment or sex scene in the middle of the video and I wouldn't know.

I can tolerate the Dixie Chicks cover of Landslide. Their voices don't grate on me and make me uncomfortable like Stevie Nicks's (Nicks'??) voice does. If I never heard this song again I wouldn't mind at all.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I suck at the blogging this year. Also, Day One

So, it's been two months since my last post. I suck at blogging this year. Oh well. Not going to beat myself up over it, just going to try to make a more concerted effort to actually blog.

I've been doing a 30 song challenge on Facebook. One of my closest friends suggested I also put it on my blog so I could more fully explain my song choices. And I think I will. I doubt I'll do this on a daily basis, but eventually I'll get through all 30 days. And perhaps doing this will help kick me back in gear with the blogging.

So, Day One of the song challenge is your favorite song. I don't have an all time favorite. I have lots of songs that I will always love and which will probably be meaningful to me for a very long time. Instead of an all time favorite I chose to go with my current favorite.

When this pops up on shuffle on my iPod I never listen to it just once. There have been days when I listened to this song on my entire drive to work and then again on my drive home from work. We won't talk about how many times in a row that might be.

Soldier - Ingrid Michaelson

Had you asked me what my favorite song was 5 years ago or even 10 years ago, hell even 15 years ago my selection would have been different. The album Fumbling Toward Ecstasy basically got me through college. I would stick that CD in my discman, put on my head phones and stay up all night writing papers. I probably listened to it a million times. The first memory I have of my friend Nick was as he turned the corner in our dorm with a boombox on his shoulder singing along with the song Ice Cream. I remember hearing Hold On on a compilation CD I bought through BMG Music. When I think back like that I remember humming it as I was getting vegetables out of the walk-in cooler to stock the salad bar over the summer when I was working in our dining hall doing catering. Needless to say, the album holds many memories for me.

My favorite song off the album is Elsewhere.

I think it was these lyrics which really struck me:

Oh, the quiet child awaits the day when she can break free
The mold that clings like desperation
Mother can't you see I've got
To live my life the way I feel is right for me
Might not be right for you, but it's right for me
I believe...

When I was in college I was that quiet child who felt as though she'd been clinging to the mold which she'd grown into. I felt like I had to be a certain way because it was expected of me. As I grew into an adult and grew into who myself and gradually started coming out to myself it was hard to let go of that mold even though I desperately wanted to.

That mold is gone now and has been for many years. I live my life for me and if you don't like it, well, that's your problem. Not mine.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Long time no blog

I didn't intend to take so many lengthy breaks in my blogging this year. But 2011 hasn't been off to the most fantastic start. For me at least. But, I'm not going to dwell on all that. I'm going to focus on the fact that it's spring now. Plants are starting to poke their first fragile stalks through the still cool ground. Crocus are blooming. Daffodils should soon follow with tulips right around the corner. Days are lengthening and the quality of sunlight has changed. All these are awesome things.

I've spent a lot of time thinking already this year and we all know I already do more than my fair share of that to begin with. But it's been good thinking. Solid, self understanding type thinking. And I'm pleased with where I all this thinking has left me. I feel stronger. Perhaps more confident. I'd say wiser, but I think it's that I've gotten more in touch with myself rather than gained any wisdom.

So, it's on 2011. Take notice. I'm going to make you my bitch. The crap you've thrown at me thus far is not going to drag the rest of my year down. I will return to the happy and the awesome that I felt and was when this picture was taken last September.

And I might listen to this song on repeat a few times because it seems fitting and I love it and it reminds me of the amazingness of spring:

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I had to put one of my cats to sleep on Friday. Moonshine was just a couple months shy of his 14th birthday. And I feel like I failed him. Even with multiple reassurances from my vet that he beat the odds and that we did everything we could for him, I still feel like I failed him. He was just a kitten like a couple years ago, how could he possibly be old enough to have heart disease???

And how could I not know that he had it? How could I have focused solely on his thyroid problem and completely missed the heart disease diagnosis in January of 2010? On the one hand this gave us a full year of normality. Well, normality and twice daily medications. On the other hand it made his decline seem so sudden and shocking.

Moonshine was given to me as a one year anniversary present by an ex-girlfriend. Another friend had given me a kitten for a college graduation present a couple months earlier (a little fluffy male bundle of orange fur which I named Sunshine) and that kitten desperately needed a playmate. Or rather, I needed someone other than me for him to play with in the middle of the night and while I was at work. Enter Moonshine. Who hide beneath the pedals of my ex-girlfriends car. He was a master at hiding. Even I couldn't find him in my own house at times he was that good.

Sunshine and Moonshine were literally night and day from each other. Sunshine is orange, Moonshine was black. Sunshine is outgoing, Moonshine was timid. Sunshine trusted everyone, Moonshine trusted few. Sunshine is a lot like Ms. Ex and Moonshine was a lot like me.

When Moonshine was a kitten he had an awful time controlling his tail. I just don't think he understood how it worked. He'd often walk around with the tip of it bonking him on the back of his head. His lack of tail control caused an unfortunate incident with a candle when he was a year or so old. Singed cat fur smells awful by the way. Thankfully he was no worse for the wear once the fur grew back.

He also loved to play fetch when he was little. He'd bring me a toy and I'd throw it in my tiny apartment and he'd chase after it and bring it back for me to throw over and over again. He outgrew this after a while, but it was adorable and the closest I've ever come to owning a pet who actually fetched. What about Maggie you say? I mean, she is a dog after all. Go ahead, I dare you to get her to play fetch with you. Go for it. I'll give you $100 if you get her to play.

Moonshine saw me through five moves (one interstate) and three girlfriends. We lived in six different homes together (three apartments, one townhouse and two houses). He and his brother Sunshine have been there for me for my entire post-college life. They were a constant no matter what else was going on in my life. When the bottom was falling out and my world was collapsing around me, they were there. They were steady and the same and normal. And even though you know when you adopt an animal that someday the day will come when you will lose them, I honestly thought that day was still years away. 13 isn't old for a cat to me. I really thought I had another 4 or 5 years.

Instead of an outright purr Moonshine would start off by making this grunting noise which would then lead into a deep purr if he was really happy, a deep purr which still had a grunting quality to it. I'd often call him my little grunty boy because of it. He was a sneezer (allergies maybe? Who knows. None of his vets over the years was concerned about it). And he was a puker (again no vet concern there) which the dogs who appeared later in his life LOVED! Maggie woke me many a night by vaulting off the bed to go clean up some puke. I think she was afraid someone else would get to it before she did if she didn't go get it RIGHT NOW! What she doesn't understand was that no one else in the house wants to eat the kitty vomit. Yuck!!!!

Speaking of dogs, Moonshine hated the dogs. HATED them. He ran away from home for a few days after Ms. Ex and I got our first dog, Joanie (who lives with Ms. Ex now).

My dad called Moonshine squat walker because whenever I moved into a new place Moonshine would squat walk through it until he got settled in. He was a very cautious kitty and would hide every time the door bell rang. Just in case. And he was an excellent judge of character. If Moonshine liked you then I knew for sure that you were a good person. I'm going to miss bringing people over and seeing whether or not he'd let these new people pet him.

Like me, Moonshine loved a good thunderstorm. When I first moved to CT we lived in a third floor apartment with a tiny little porch. At the first rumble of thunder Sunshine would dart under the bed to hide and Moonshine would beg to be let out on the porch to watch it. It didn't matter to him that it was raining and he might get a little wet, he was bound and determined to watch the storm.

Also like me, Moonshine adored olives. I could never open the olive jar without him knowing it, no matter where in the house he was when I opened it. I always saved one or two of the olives I was eating just for him as a treat. They weren't a daily thing, but he LOVED them. I knew he was really really sick when he would no longer eat the pieces of olive I offered him.

Between the two cats Moonshine (who was found on the street with his mother when he was just a little kitten) was the better hunter. While I love my Sunshine dearly, he is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. Moonshine is such a good hunter that one time he even brought me a mouse from the basement with the trap that actually killed it still attached. He was really proud of himself that evening.

Maggie was terrified of Moonshine. Probably with good reason. He would sit on the dining room chairs and swat at her when she walked by. He was black and blended into the shadows so she never saw it coming. Quite a few times he trapped her in a hallway in the house. All he had to do was sit in the middle of the hall and look at her and she'd flat out refuse to walk around him. I had to rescue her from him quite a few times. Even after all that Maggie would still try to get him to play with her on occasion. Maggie might be an eternal optimist.

Over the last six weeks I watched Moonshine get sicker and sicker and weaker and weaker. He had fluid drained from his chest cavity twice. The last week of his life he was barely going through the motions and weighed about a third of what he weighed in his prime. I watched him like a hawk to see if he was still breathing. That's exhausting. One morning last week I couldn't find him in the morning when I got up. When I did find him in the basement he didn't respond to me calling his name and I actually asked him, out loud, "Moonshine, did you die?" But he hadn't. He was just in the in between. Not quite here but not quite there either. He spent quite a bit of time there during his last week or two.

Moonshine never got as much attention as his brother did. Or the dogs when they came. Part of the reason for this was because I was really really allergic to him, the rest of it was because affection was always on his terms. He hated to be held (and I have the scar on my left wrist to prove it). His idea of snuggling was sleeping on the same couch as you. Later in life he finally started sleeping next to me on the couch, actually touching me. I still have guilt that he didn't get as much attention as the others. I probably always will.

I am now thankful for the ridiculous winter we had. I am so grateful for all the days when it was too snowy to do anything but sit on the couch because I got to spend quality time with Moonshine in what I didn't realize were the final weeks of his life. He would sit with me, next to me, as I knit or watched movies. And he'd purr that grunty purr of his and we were both happy.

It's the silly things about him that I miss most. The house is so quiet without him (and he was a pretty darned quiet cat). He used to meow every night after I got in bed. A lot of the time it was just as I was drifting off to sleep and I would get so annoyed. He was playing with his favorite green catnip sock and would find the perfect spot to meow so as to maximize the acoustics of the house and make it as loud as he possibly could. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I miss that meowing now that it's gone even though I'd have to yell at him every night to get him to stop. He stopped doing it a few weeks ago when he got sicker. I even miss him scratching his claws on the sisal rug in the entry way even though I'd yell at him for that too.

I also miss him meowing when it was dinner time. He wore a tiny little watch under all that fur and no matter the weather he always new when I was supposed to be giving him his dinner. He'd be meowing right now actually if he were still with us. And even though he was the smaller of the two cats and the definite beta he would push Sunshine out of the way and eat both dinners some days. I loved to watch him do this and assert himself for a change.

I know have far too many litter boxes and food bowls and food for one cat. And the house feels unbalanced, lopsided if you will. The energy is all wrong. I miss that little guy terribly. He and I were a lot alike, well, as alike as a cat and a human can be. I didn't think losing him would affect me as much as it has but I have been a wreck for weeks now. And while I am relieved that the waiting is over and that he's no longer suffering his loss is palpable to me. It physically hurts.

I'm sure there's a ton more I could write about him. Like how he would follow me around the house if I were on the phone and beg for attention, meowing quietly at me if I didn't give it to him. Or how he would hold a grudge and was cold and calculating and would take revenge on Sunshine hours or days later by a vicious sneak attack for one offense or another. He was a unique little guy.

I know putting him to sleep was the right thing to do. I know there was no other option. I know it was the kindest, most humane thing for him. I know he beat the odds for his diagnosis according to my vet. I do know those things. But it doesn't make me feel any less of a failure to him. It doesn't make me miss him any less. It doesn't make the void any smaller or put the house back in balance. I hate how all this feels. They just aren't with us long enough.

Rest in peace Mr. Man.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Enough with winter already!

Apparently Connecticut has done something to anger Mother Nature. Or maybe Old Man Winter. Or perhaps both. Because we've had storm after storm after freaking storm since the day after Christmas. Each dumping more and more snow. January was the snowiest month in history in CT. Well, since 1905 at least when they started keeping records.

Normally I'm not a jealous or envious person, but right now? Right now I envy those people in my state who have only to clear off their cars and shovel out a parking spot. It seems all I did for the month of January was snow blow and shovel and then do it again. And again. And again. And again.

And don't get me started on the people who are posting things online about how they're inside having hot chocolate watching hubby, or significant other or whomever shovel or snow blow or plow. To that I say, unless you have a medical reason NOT to be out there helping get off your ass and go freaking help. Snow removal is exhausting and if there are two of you in a household you should be splitting that job.

I have burned so many calories shoveling and snow blowing (which takes a lot of effort even though the machine does a lot of the work) that I can't eat enough to be full most days. I'm constantly hungry which is a pain in the ass.

And yes, shoveling is wonderful exercise and I'm grateful for the chance to get out and move this winter. But what I'd really love is a break. My neck/shoulders ache. My forearms burn. My hands are sore so knitting is hard or just impossible some days. The other day even my ankles hurt from all the shoveling.

The snow is up to my hips. The fence in my front yard is nearly completely snow covered. All you can see is the center light post which is 7ish feet tall. I can't see to back my car out of my driveway anymore which makes me even more thankful that I live on a quiet street. I had to shovel a path (and then snow blow it) for the oil delivery folks so they can bring me oil so I can heat my house. Maggie is bored out of her mind since we haven't been on walk in weeks. I've lost track of the number of days of work I've missed from all the snow. Today is the second day just this week.

Now, I do love winter. I love all the seasons. But I'm ready for this one to end. I have a feeling the snow is going to be around until at least May though. The piles are deep and compact. And somewhere in one of them lies my Christmas tree.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wherein I whine for a moment

Sometime last week a contemporary of my grandmother's fell at school (the same school where my father and grandmother taught and where my mom, dad, aunt, uncle, cousins and I all went to school) after tripping on a book bag which a ten or eleven year old threw down in the hallway without looking. This 90+ year old woman fell, gashed her head open and broke her hip. We won't talk about how she probably shouldn't be teaching any more at her age. Instead you get to listen to me whine for a minute or two.

Four and a half years ago a similar incident is what lead to the death of my grandmother. The only grandparent I ever knew. Grandma tripped on her walker on July 4th, 2006 and broke her hip. She passed away four days later, five weeks short of her 87th birthday. The difference in these situations is, of course, that my grandmother died and her contemporary coasted through her hip replacement surgery without a single issue. She's likely to leave the hospital tomorrow or the next day.

And this, I am ashamed to admit, makes me angry. Which in turn makes me feel horrible and ashamed of myself that I should be wishing ill on a woman who spent her entire life teaching. A woman who has made a difference to so many young people. It's not even that I'm wishing her ill exactly, it's more of a "why did SHE get to live and grandma have to die?" kind of whining. I don't want her to die, that would be awful.

My mind is perpetuating the selfish whining of a little child instead of the rational thoughts of the woman who knows that her grandmother had been ready to go for years. I have some how managed to block out the knowledge that grandma asked the doctors to stop trying when they weren't able to get her blood pressure back up after surgery. She knew she'd had a good, long life and that her time had come. She was ready to go. She wanted to see my grandfather again, her husband who'd died 29 years before shortly after they'd retired. I was only 2 years old and know him only from pictures and stories. I don't remember him at all.

Rational, adult me knows that these two falls and surgeries have no relation to each other at all. Different circumstances, different women, different everything. Selfish child me cannot separate the two in my head. Rational, adult me is happy for this woman and her family. Selfish child me is mad that she got to live and my grandmother died. Rational, adult me feels awful and is ashamed of the selfish child me. Rational, adult me and selfish child me both wish we'd spent more time with grandma than we did.

Not to mention thinking about all this brings up thoughts of Ms. Ex and how she didn't want to go to my grandmother's funeral with me. That was awesome. Apparently having to take a day off work to be supportive of me was an inconvenience to her schedule.

I'm going to go let rational, adult me wrestle with selfish child me some more. And perhaps have a good cry.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

So, it snowed

We got some snow today.

The news said 24 inches of it fell in my town.

Took me a very long time to clear my driveway and walk way and find my mailbox again.

Needless to say, Maggie was not amused.