"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

22 April 2016

SPRING STUFF FAVES

I love spring!!

It has really been gorgeous here all week....cool mornings and cool evenings but sunshine-filled days and warmer temperatures that beckons to the biker, hiker, kayaker in me.....but of course, I am still working.....today is the last day of work and then all next week I will be on Spring Break!!  It is later this year here in eastern NY and I am actually glad.....the weather is nicer than last year!

I'm taking some time out to pause and share FIVE of my FAVE things about spring this year.  I do this by linking up at Susanne's site to read what other bloggers have to share.  How about joining in with us?

front yard flowers under the cherry tree

  • FLOWERS!  They started popping open over last weekend....I first noticed them opening up on Sunday afternoon...soon my tulips will be open as well.  Love the spring flowers and colors!  So thankful these have lasted quite a few years...they are low maintenance...they come up every April.
Wednesday late afternoon sun in living room
  • LATE AFTERNOON SUNLIGHT  The front of our house gets the afternoon sun and in the late afternoon (between 4-6 pm) it is especially pretty hitting the bamboo floor of the living room and bouncing off the cornmeal yellow walls.  I love sitting in there after work to do my quiet time, read blogs, check emails and relax before power walking or dinner prep.  No matter what the season is, I love the late afternoon sunlight. 
front porch rest
  • "just because" Dave called me last Saturday while he was running errands and told  me he wanted to buy me something!  I just had to laugh.  I said it was too early for mother's day.  He said that didn't matter...he just wanted to get me a gift "just because". So...he bought me the porch rocker pictured above which had been on my "wish list" for the last several years.  Unfortunately our side hall colonial doesn't have a real porch..it's really just a stoop...but it fits and it works for me!  On hot summer mornings, that porch will be in the shade while the deck is in the sun so if I get too hot on the deck, I can walk around and rock in the shade!  I am thankful for a husband who really knows my love language!!

  • GOLD PLACEMENT!  Our youngest, Claire, went with other members of her Russian 4 class (she is a junior) to University of Albany on Wednesday for the Russian Olympiada, a state competition where students who study Russian compete orally.  Claire won a gold medal this year!!  The Olympiada is tough because many of the students are actually Russian students from NYC and they attend a school where only Russian is spoken.  Of course, now that Claire is in Russian 4 and taking it for 5 college credits, her high school class is only conducted in Russian as well.  She is quite good and we are very proud of her! (she expected just to get silver like last year so I was thrilled to hear her news!!).  I'm also so thankful that our suburban high school is still offering Russian language as many of the other schools around eastern NY have dropped it.


  • FITNESS WALKING WITH A FRIEND: Last evening a friend of mine who also happens  to work in the classroom down the hall from mine, and also happens to be in my small group and goes to my church, met me at the town bike path where we spent an hour walking, followed by frozen yogurt at the new all natural frozen yogurt place in town.  It was so much fun!  We had opened this event up to all members of my small group but only the two of us showed up.  I am thankful for the friendships I have made this year by being a small group leader.
That wraps it up for me!

I am going to be on Spring Break and traveling down to PA for most of next week to do a college visit at this place with my youngest.  We are combining it with a visit to someone very special to us so I will not be doing the FFF next Friday as I will be gone for several days. My husband and oldest daughter will be managing the home!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend enjoying what Spring offers!


19 April 2016

2016 Book Review #9: What She Left Behind

Oh my goodness.

This story!!

Oh, did I ever tear up, laugh, cringe, cheer,  scream, and almost sob.  What a range of emotions swirled around and through me as I read through this historical fiction set in the southern part of NYS...the Finger Lakes region/Seneca Lake. 

You must read this book.  It is an important piece of NYS/American history......revolving around the history of the conditions of mentally ill people in the early part of the 20th century.

The book is in the voice of two different characters: Clara (18 years old in 1929) and Isabelle (Izzy, age 17 in 1995). Each chapter is one of the girls' voices telling their story.  


STORY SUMMARY


Izzy Stone is just 7 years old when her mother fatally shot her father to death while he slept.  (Yes, we learn later in the book the reason why her mother shot him...but I don't want to reveal that here as I don't want to ruin the plot for you). Everyone has led Izzy to believe her mother must have been "insane" to murder her own husband and the father of her precious little girl.  However, she is sent to Bedford Correctional Facility for Women to live out her days.  Izzy has only visited her mother once and was raised by her grandmother until age 10 when Grandma died.  At that time, Izzy was raised by several different foster families.

Now at age 17, she is finally with people who truly care about her.  She is with Harry and Peg who are curators at the state museum.  They have enrolled Izzy in the local high school and her senior year has begun. And something else has begun as well:  A museum project that they would like Izzy to help them with.  They are in charge of cataloging various items found in a former insane asylum.  It was known as Willard State Asylum for years, until finally changing to the name of Willard Psychiatric Center.  In 1995, it has now closed and hundreds of abandoned suitcases have been discovered.....depicting glimpses of some of the patients' lives.

Izzy discovers a stack of unopened letters in one suitcase, along with a very old journal from the 1930s....and a window into her own past.

Clara Elizabeth Cartwright, is just 18 years old in 1929 and is the daughter of very wealthy and very controlling parents.  She is caught between them and her love for an Italian immigrant boy named Bruno Moretti.  Clara's father has arranged a marriage for her to the son of another wealthy family in NYC, and Clara rejects this idea.  Little does her father know that she is actually pregnant with Bruno's baby and has no desire to be married to someone she does not love.  She loves Bruno and wishes to marry him.  Before she can run away, her father calls the authorities and has her committed, against her will, to a home for wealthy "nervous invalids".  Clara, however, is not a nervous invalid..nor is she mentally ill.  This does not matter to her father.  He tells her it is for her own good.  But soon...the stock market crashes and he loses everything.  He can no longer afford for her to live at the genteel facility on Long Island, so she is sent to the public insane asylum at Willard on the shores of Seneca Lake.

Meanwhile, Clara's story, as outlined in her journal, is drawing Izzy in.....and as she discovers that Clara was never really mentally ill, it makes her question her own biological mother....maybe her own mother was never mentally ill .....as she digs into her past she discovers the real reason her mother murdered her father.

What else will she discover about Clara and her own past?  Will she ever be able to forgive her mother and face her mother??

MY THOUGHTS

There is a lot more to the plot than what I have written above.  I basically gave you what the book jacket described.  I do not want to ruin the story for you by giving it all away.

This book left me wanting to research the very real Willard State Hospital for the Insane and yes it was a real place in the southern part of New York.  It is still standing today and you can tour it on certain dates.  Yes, there really were hundreds of suitcases and many of them are on display at the NYS Museum here in Albany, NY.  Yes, atrocious things happened to people there and yes, it is true that people who were not truly mentally ill ended up there...especially women.

When I read the story of Clara my heart just broke.  The powerful description of life in a 1930's insane asylum and the lack of care by doctors really impacted me.  I truly went through a wide range of emotions.

The author's character development is phenomenal.  She is a master story-teller, weaving fact in with fiction.  I loved it!

I found it hard to put down.  It is gripping...and haunting....and full of good and evil.  The main themes are love and loyalty and the yearning to belong.

The author gives an interview at the back of the book which I really enjoyed as well.  A lot of research went into this story.  It is one of the best books I have read yet this year.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older. (due to mature content).

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.





15 April 2016

Mid-April Faves



This week flew by!  Only one more work week and then I will be on Spring Break, as will my youngest daughter, Claire.  I'm really looking forward to that.  For now, join me in finding 5 of your fave blessings from the past week.  We do this by linking up at Susanne's site to share our faves.


  • MOTHER-DAUGHTER MOVIE NIGHT:  Claire wanted some 1:1 time with me last Saturday evening and chose one of our fave DVD's.  Les Miserables has always been my absolute favorite piece of classic literature, and I think the movie version as seen above is almost as good as the novel.  We watch this at least once a year since it has played in the theaters.  It's a fave with both of us and the snuggle time on the family room couch was extra special.  Only a little over a year with this youngest daughter at home....time is flying by. I'm thankful she still enjoys our mother-daughter movie nights.



 
  • FRESH COLOR AND CUT:  This past week I was long overdue for a color...it had been 3 weeks overdue.  First, I was ill, then my colorist was in the hospital so I finally got in to the new salon in town where I had my hair cut earlier in the school year.  I told her to give me a bit darker brunette with a touch of purple and refresh my asymmetrical bob.  She did and I love the results. I'm thankful for a good style and color!
by the rapids of the Mohawk River on Peebles Island State Park
Dave on the Peebles Island Trail


The Mohawk River and Goat's Island

the forest on Peebles Island
10 April 2016 

  • SUNDAY AFTERNOON HIKE!  Dave and I decided to do one of the local hikes after church on Sunday.  What a pretty afternoon hike that was!  We went to Peebles Island State Park for some much needed sunshine and a brisk walk on the outer loop all around the perimeter of the island.  It's only about 5 miles from our house so it makes for a nice afternoon.....and we had plenty of time before dinner to get stuff done around the house after the hike.  I loved the fresh air, spring sunshine, and watching all the people enjoying the park that day.



  • THIRTY ONE PARTY:  I hosted a Thirty One bag party for my sister Jill who is a consultant for the company.  I had invited 38 people and only 4  coworkers showed up! But it was a lot of fun.  I served some lemon bread from a local bakery with mint chocolate chip shortbread cookies, several different flavored sparkling waters, hot blueberry coffee, wine, crackers/cheese platter, and a veggie and hummus platter.  Everything  went smoothly and I got about $300 worth of orders so qualified for some discounted items.  I don't usually do these kinds of things but to help out my little sister was fun.

  • SUNSHINE!  Oh my goodness, after the grey, gloomy, rainy and very chilly days last week, this week has been so refreshing!  We have had temps begin to climb in the high 50s and 60s again (like in Feb!) and the flowers are beginning to pop open here in eastern NY and the days have been sunny!!  And the grass is getting so thick and green!! After work, when the sun is shining, it sure makes all the errands and housework, dinner prep and working out time seem easier.  I even went for a nice power walk a couple of times in that early evening sun!  Spring is definitely here in New York!

What were your faves this week??  Was it just something small or was there a big event you want to share?  Please feel free to share in the comment section.....

and..Happy Weekend!!



13 April 2016

2016 Book Review #8: Radiant Angel

I have read every single one of this author's John Corey series.  I've also read several of his other bestsellers.  Every book rates a 10, I think.  This one is no exception.

STORY SUMMARY

John Corey is back at home in New York City, after chasing the terrorist from Yemon known as The Panther.  His wife, Kate, is down in Washington, D.C where she works with the FBI.  John is now with the DSG (Diplomatic Surveillance Group) working at the U.N. Mission where he keeps tabs on the Russian diplomats.  He is quite content being out from under the scrutiny of the FBI (he has left the Anti-Terrorist Task Force, and before that, he retired from the NYPD)...he loves being out of the bureaucracy of office life.

But...Corey soon realizes something that the United States government does not know:  there is an "all too real" threat of the newly resurgent Russia....and it involves Vasily Petrov, a colonel in the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service who is posing as a diplomat with the Russian U.N. Mission.......and now??

It is Sunday.  Vasily Petrov leaves the Mission, followed by Corey and his new trainee Tess Faraday who aspires to work for the FBI.  They follow Petrov to the very wealthy Georgi Tamarov's mansion in Southhampton on Long Island.

From there, they lose him!!  What are the Russians up to??

Is there really a nuclear bomb inside the suitcase that Petrov delivers to Tamarov's mansion?  and if so.....to where is it headed??

MY THOUGHTS

This book is fast-paced, exciting, and full of Russian espionage!  Even the Arabs make an appearance although I don't want to give too much away.  I loved that it took place in less than 24 hours!!  That made it very exciting.

THe book is full of DeMille's usual humor and lightheartedness interspersed with very serious subject matter that made me sit up and take note:  could some of these scenarios play out in today's culture here in America??  My guess is Yes.  Will our government be ready?  My guess is No.

I have read every John Carey book, in order, that DeMille has written and I just love the character.  I'm a bit concerned about the ending as he made it seem that he might be ending the series.  I hope that is not true!!

This book was difficult to put down!!  I read it in less than a week and loved every part of it.  The language is not offensive nor are the scenes depicted, especially when you realize that the author is just setting up the characters and setting.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older (due to some mature subject matter).

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.




08 April 2016

April Faves




Another Friday and time to look back and share FIVE of our FAVE blessings from the past week.  It was a tough beginning but a pretty good ending to this one.  I praise God that His mercies are new every morning.


  • HOUSEHOLD HELP:  Last Friday while still at work, I came down with some kind of nasty flu bug that hit so many students and teachers at work.  I was pretty much down for the entire weekend.  I thank God that my husband was able to go out and run the errands like grocery shopping and my girls could help with housework, cooking meals, etc.  It really made things a bit calmer for me.  Thankfully it was just a 24 hour thing but for the next 2 days I felt very wiped out!  It is a blessing to have some help around the house.



  • SUNSHINE!  Well, here in eastern NY we finally got some snow.  It was actually rather humorous that it arrived on Monday and piled up about 5 inches.  Since I had taken a sick day to recuperate, I ended up going out to shovel off the driveway and just loved that the sunshine was starting to come out.  We made it through the entire winter with barely any snow here and now that it is April, it is cold again.  BUT....the sunshine that we did see this week has been a blessing. 



  • COMPANY: Our oldest daughter has a very good friend (Nathaniel) from college and they hadn't spent any significant time together since last May when they graduated. He lives with his parents outside of Boston and we have met his family.  However, he had never been to our home here in NY before. So, he has been visiting most of the week and had to fly out today  to attend an internship program. What fun we had with him all week.  I just loved having him for a few days!



  • WINE AND RELAXATION:  Wednesday was a LONG day in the kindergarten. The students had so many various academic lessons and the special needs students were a bit unfocused. Let's just say it was a difficult afternoon and leave it at that.  So, after cooking a dinner of parmesan chicken, garlic bread, steamed broccoli and tossed salad, Courtney and Nate decided to make wine spritzers.  Dave and I decided to have one too. The wine was the perfect way to relax after a long, full day.

  • FOYLE'S WAR:  Dave and I have just discovered, compliments of Netflix, this BBC series.  And wow....we are hooked!!  So far we've only seen a couple of episodes as we rarely have time to watch television during the work week.  This is going to be our Friday evening thing I believe for some weeks to come.  We are loving everything about this series.  And having it set during WW2 is a definite fave.  What a blessing to have so many good choices available on instant streaming.
So it wasn't a super exciting week but these little things helped me realize there really ARE blessings in the mundane and ordinary.

Have a wonderful weekend!




03 April 2016

Yes You Can!

I posted a poll on my hiking group FB page last week and one of the statements was "I'm not in shape" as a response to the question:  Why don't you join in on these hikes? or something like that.  

The sad thing is, most people who think they are not in shape to hike, really are in shape to hike.

In fact, hiking...depending on what kind of hiking you are doing, can be done by just about anyone who has received the "all clear" from their doctor (meaning you have had no serious illnesses in the weeks leading up to the hike and/or you have had a normal physical and are ambulatory).  Yes, if you are obese or have a serious illness, you will have a tougher time.  If you are a smoker or heavy drinker, you will have a much harder time, the higher in elevation you go.  Those are just facts.

 
my husband just 11 months after his heart attack!
Hiking in Northern Adirondacks
August 2015

Some things to keep in mind the week before you do a hike:
  • Eat healthy!  Skip the processed, junk foods and opt for real foods....foods from plants and whole grains are best.
  • Drink plenty of fluids like water, sparkling waters, fruit juices without a lot of sugar.  My favorite beverage is water with lemon or orange slices. Limit the amount of coffee you drink on the morning of a hike.
  • Stretch your back and leg muscles.  Do simple exercises like leg lifts, fitness ball stretches for the back, walking.  I do step aerobics throughout the week before a hike as well as power walk around my neighborhood.  Do something that works your back and leg muscles.
  • Buy a box of moleskin to keep in your backpack to prevent blisters on your feet.  I rarely use mine but when I do it feels so good!!  You can tuck a piece right into your sock for your heels or toes.
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before a hike. I tend to sleep between 6 1/2 and 7 hours a night.  Do what is best for you. Keep in mind that most hikers are out the door by 7:30 am. to get to the destination.
  • If you belong to a gym, try doing some workouts on the treadmill and set it to incline or on the elliptical.  This is a great way to work the muscles you will be using for a hike.  OR go for a good bike ride.
  • Be positive!  A hike is fun for people who love the outdoors and all that God has created.  
I began officially hiking at the age of 17.  I climbed Giant Mountain which is a High Peak.  Before that amazing day in August of 1977, I was just a woods walker....walking the trails my dad had built on our property at our summer camp in the southern Adirondacks.  During my college years, I rarely had the chance to hike due to college, living out in western NY where there are NO mountains, and working summer jobs.  Once I got out to grad school and the Capital District area, I began to hike again.  I started out with relatively flat trails and worked my way up to small mountains. After I 
aquired lyme disease (at the beginning of starting the ADK Firetower challenge) I was a bit "down".  I had to really face the fact that for 2 summers I could not hike. That was tough.  But I worked up to it again and 11 years later, finished the Challenge on Labor Day, 2015!! I have hiked while dealing with a slipped disc, osteopenia and plantar fasciitis (I don't recommend that one...I was being stupid).  But.... 

If I can do it, you can do it. My husband had a heart attack in Sept of 2014 and by May of 2015 he was hiking again!  We give glory to God for that one!!

Dave on Hunter Mountain (Catskills), a High Peak
just 8 months after his heart attack

When you DO sign up for a hike keep this in mind:

  • don't be afraid to tell the leader you need to slow down.  Everyone needs to go their own pace, yet keep within vision of each other (for safety purposes).   It is ok to be going slower.  You don't want to get winded because then you will run out of energy.
  • Take water breaks. OFTEN!  One thing I have learned is to walk with my water bottle in my hand if the trail is relatively flat.  That way I am not stopping as much to drink.  Keep the rest stops for when absolutely necessary, yet keep your own pace to be comfortable!
  • Make sure you have a nutritious protein snack on the trail. Something like granola with walnuts, almonds, peanuts, raisins, banana or pineapple chips. Also, a piece of fresh fruit really helps.  In a later post, I will be sharing about what kinds of lunches to bring on a hike.
  • don't be afraid of "making a mistake" but do use common sense. If you are getting winded or out of breath, simply tell someone and SIT DOWN.  drink some water, eat a snack, breathe slowly and deeply.  Stretch your back/leg muscles.
  • If you can't make it up the summit, there is NO shame in that!!  Simply tell the leader you don't think you are going to make it.  do NOT attempt to go back down the trail by yourself. Sit and wait!!
Most of all, have fun!  Get ready for  mountain trails by exploring some of the local trails around the Capital Region:  Peebles Island State Park has the outer trail that includes a small incline.  Lisha Kill Nature Preserve and Indian Kill Preserve also have hilly trails to practice on.  Check out Vrooman's Nose for an idea of what "steep" is like without it being more than a mile. Power walk the Colonie-Mohawk River bike trail to get those leg muscles moving.  Take a run or power walk along the Hudson River bike path for the same reasons.  There are plenty of nature preserves in our area.  

Hope to see some of you are on our Spring and Summer Sojourns!!



on the fire tower of Mt Adams,
High Peaks area of the Adirondacks
Labor Day 2015