Category Archives: Fun Things In My Life

Sagamore

There are two vacation places I love to return to year after year. There is a common theme, the word Sagamore. The Sagamore Bridge takes me to Cape Cod, a fave destination from the day my friend Jeanette took me on a much needed day of R & R when we lived at Westfield State College. The other is Great Camp Sagamore in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate NY. My mom has talked about this amazing great camp for years now. Opposites, ocean and mountain, but in each case, a different Route 28 will take me there.

 

 

 

Cape Cod is a bit of a trek from Syracuse, down the Thruway, over the Hudson River, crossing at the highest elevation on the Appalachia trail where it intersects with the Mass Pike, past the exit for Westfield State College, then by the Worcester exits to Route 495, where the sign says Cape Cod, but it’s actually almost an hour before you get close. Once I hit sand on the side of the highway, I know the long drive was worth it! Once over the Sagamore Bridge, I hit Route 28 and enjoy the drive into the tourist trap that is West Yarmouth. The last leg of the journey includes docking at my fave lunch spot on the water for my fried clam sandwich and summer ale.

My Cape pal Judy gets the same cottage every year (in June before the season gears up and then in September once the summer people clear out) near Chatham and she opens it up to her friends. Since I am the one who re-introduced her to the Cape all those years ago, she always asks me back. She and I spend most of our time reading (on the beach or on the porch or in the cottage) for hours.  Depending on who else has reservations with her for that week, there is also dining out and shopping and often some kind of a ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket for more beach and food and shopping.

 

14124501_10209802875736186_2021409121352617601_oWhen I come to the Cape with my nephews we head to the state park and if we are lucky we have a yurt where we don’t have to worry about rain and have electricity to charge our devices and watch movies every night. The beach of choice is Scusset Beach where there are either big waves to body surf or quiet water where a fun sandbar appears during low tide. There is mini golf and ice cream and of course the inflatable water park every year.

 

 

The other road I travel is the one that takes me to Great Camp Sagamore. Chick and Bryan introduced me, they have volunteered to help open and close the camp for guests for almost 20 years now. It is a gorgeous drive to Adirondack Park, driving down Route 28 through towns where my dad’s family lived over 100 years ago. Things are lush and thick and green and so different from what this city girl sees every day!  We stop at the Old Forge Hardware Store, then we’re off to Raquette Lake and the Tap Room, named so because there is only one tap (duh). There’s a long drive down a private road (about 4 miles, I think) gets us to the gate that has to be opened, usually by the newbie in the group.

 

This was the vacation spot for the Alfred Vanderbilt family since the 1910s. As with other camps of that time period, it is much more of a resort than a camp. Back in the day it was like Downton Abbey, but in the mountains. Let’s just say that these days I am allowed to eat in the grand dining room and perform in the playhouse, but back then I would have been one of the Collins’ kids polishing the bowling pins for the outdoor bowling alley. Now I help with the gardening and raking, and sometimes in the dish room, in exchange for staying the weekend. There are fun people to work with and play with and joke with and there is always someone new every time. I only see these people a couple of times a year but it feels like coming home.

 

 

 

There is so much more I could share, but the fog is clearing and I need to be on the beach. My bag is packed with snacks and books and my sunglasses, which I hope I will need today. I am sure we will shop and stop for a beverage on some sunny deck. I love vacation!

 

 

Photo credits: Judy Carr, Linda Lowen, and Chick Rubenau

If I Had A Million Dollars…

cropped-100_1604.jpg#GivingTuesday. I have seen some really worthy organizations tagged on my Facebook feed today and it got me thinking, who would I support and donate to if I won the lottery? As anyone who knows me would guess, I already have a plan. Hey, you never know! In no particular order, here are some of the groups I would support. No doubt you have seen or heard me talk about them. In lieu of actually winning the lottery, I do support these organizations now I whatever way I can. If enough drops of water come together, they can form a really big wave!

BUILDING MEN PROGRAM “Be A man, not THE man”

We grew up on the Near West Side of Syracuse and my brother Joe spent his teenage years playing basketball across the street from our house, in Skiddy Park. He grew up to be a PE teacher. As an educator, he struggled for ways to help his city school students rise above circumstances and be successful. He got his inspiration from Joe Ehrmann’s book, Season of Life. Joe started an intramural basketball program with an educational component in the middle school he was teaching in, and it has now become a multidimensional program in several schools in the city school district. The guys participate in a variety of community service projects and have had some great guest speakers during their weekly chalk talks. There’s also a summer program with great academic successes. You can find them on Facebook:

Here is a link to his website: http://www.buildingmenprogram.org/

IN MY FATHER’S KITCHEN

I mentioned IMFK a couple of blogs ago. John and his wife Leigh Ann started this ministry helping the homeless in Syracuse. They bring hot food, basic necessities, and fellowship to their friends on the streets. If you are looking for a creative holiday gift for someone, consider a pasta basket featuring their homemade Taste and See Pasta Sauce (available at most Wegmans stores), or a breakfast basket with their coffee and maple syrup.  These are all available at their storefront at 501 Hawley Avenue (check their link below for hours.) Or if you have clothing (especially for children and teens) or household items to help start a new home, they always take donations. You can find them on Facebook:

Here is their website: http://inmyfatherskitchen.org/

A TINY HOME FOR GOOD

Several homeless people now have comfortable homes thanks to the organization Andrew Lunetta started a couple of years ago. He befriended some of these guys through the Brady Faith Center and the cycling program he started there, Pedal To Possibilities. He was discouraged that they didn’t have safe, affordable housing and he wanted to do something about it. Now there are five homes on the south side, near where I spent my elementary school years down the street from his mom Cathy. Our families have been linked for about 50 years now and I am so happy to be able to shout about his good heart and the drive to make his world a little better. I was at the ribbon cutting for the latest three homes earlier this month and hope to get a chance to help as six more are started on the west side of town. There are many wonderful people and organizations who have donated time, materials, and skills to make these homes. You can find A Tiny Home For Good on Facebook:

Here’s their website: http://www.atinyhomeforgood.org/

FRIENDS OF DOROTHY

MIchael DeSalvo and Nick Orth have been supporting and ministering to people with AIDS for almost 25 years, in the tradition of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement. They open their home and their hearts to those who are ill and sometimes dying and almost always don’t have any other options for safe, loving care. Their house guests don’t pay anything to stay there, and their lives are richer because of the time with Michael and Nick.  There are several fundraising opportunities throughout the year, but they could always use more help. They have a delicious homemade dinner to help raise money on the last Wednesday of every month and it is a gathering of some of the most amazing and loving people you can imagine, and the food is as wonderful as you could imagine it to be. Here is a link to their Facebook page:

 

The list doesn’t end for me there. I would love to start scholarships for the Syracuse city school students to go to college. I would donate money to 100 Black Men of Syracuse, and to the Huntington Family Center, and to St. Lucy’s and all their ministires I would send money to #standingrock and to refugee settlement programs and to Planned Parenthood. I would love to start a foundation that would be able to support all sorts of causes I believe in. But for now, I will support those causes close to my heart and encourage my friends to do the same. Happy giving.

Disclaimer: My lack of tech savvy may be in evidence here with the Facebook links. Thank you for your patience as I continue to learn my craft.

Things I Am Thankful For

Number one on my thankful list is always my family. I know how lucky I am to have both my parents still living and in good health. I have six brothers and sisters that I love to spend time with and get to see more often than most.  I am lucky in so many ways. I am employed by a company who stays closed on Thanksgiving, I own a beautiful home, and I have such amazing friends in several different circles of my life. So what am I doing to celebrate all of these blessings on Thanksgiving? Sitting home alone.

Don’t cry for me, Argentina. This situation is totally by choice. I am a proud singleton. I have loved the concept since the very first Bridget Jones book, long before anyone ever heard Renee Zellweger say it. Don’t get me wrong, I am still waiting for mister right, that chance to connect with someone in a meaningful way and to share my crazy life, but in the meantime, I am embracing that single life.

I was not always this zen. In the 90’s I was the typical 30 something, waiting for my life to start after I found ‘the guy’ and settled down. I spent more holidays than I care to admit secretly resentful of my siblings and their spouses, having Christmas presents and Valentines and someone to kiss on New Year’s Eve. Holidays are fun with the Horans (isn’t everything a little more fun with us?) but there was always a little bit of sadness. Add to that the retail life I have been embroiled in since 1995, and I was exhausting myself with all the merriment.

100_0637I started a couple of holiday traditions that feed my soul and make me feel festive. I started taking the boys on Christmas Eve eve so their parents could prepare for the holiday and I could get some cuddle time around the Christmas tree.100_0636

 

 

 

 

 

For my family stocking stuffers I would thoughtfully pick magazines for each individual family member (no easy feat with 15 to 18 to choose for.) I would purchase a new Christmas CD and DVD to add to my collection every season. I would buy a new pair of pajamas to wake up in Christmas morning.

The paradigm shift came in 2004, after my grandmother died. I had some money set aside and decided that I would spend Christmas pampering myself in a fancy hotel room. I booked a luxurious suite at the Doubletree Hotel for Christmas. I loaded a cooler with brushetta and goodies from the olive bar at Wegmans, wine, candles, and a bag with books and magazines and went straight from work after we closed the doors at 6 at Barnes & Noble.

I spent the evening watching movies, reading magazines that had piled up, ordering room service (including creme brulee) and just chilling. Then Christmas morning I woke up in my new pajamas and then started the relaxing all over again! I did call my family at their gathering and got my fill of family loving…all from the comfort of my suite. Another night of sleeping in luxurious hotel sheets and I woke up the next morning feeling so refreshed. Then my boys came to visit me and we went swimming in the hotel pool.

Ever since that holiday, my family doesn’t worry about me being alone or beg me to come and spend the holidays with their families and in laws. They understand that the best way I can be grateful for all I have is to let me spend the time alone refueling.

There have been so many fun thanksgivings that I am grateful for in my life. My friends Jen and Kevin have taken me in for several Thanksgivings in Ossining, New York (and they even indulged me that first time in their hometown when I wanted to see the prison I had read about all my life, you know,  the ‘big house’ which is ‘up the river’.) I have spent more than one holiday with Patty and her family in Queens (where I learned how to parallel park only because I absolutely had to) and then there was the Thanksgiving I made Cornish game hens with all the fixings with my friend Sahar. Add to this the many times I have had turkey with my family, and I am one lucky girl. These days my perfect Thanksgiving is staying home and watching holiday movies all day long. Today was another one of those perfect days. Here’s hoping that you have just as many things to be grateful for in your lives. Peace.

 

By The Time We Got To Woodstock

“Road Trip!” she shouted. “Let’s go to Woodstock! You can’t write a rock and roll blog without ever going to Woodstock! Not when we’re so close!” How could I ignore that level of energy and enthusiasm? She was right, I needed to go.  I had actually been thinking about Woodstock earlier in the weekend when John tagged me in a Facebook post with this gorgeously haunting video by Good Harvest:

 

So we were off, leaving from Hobart, the Book Village of the Catskills (where I was attending the Hobart Festival of Women Writers) and heading towards Woodstock…

I should mention my very enthusiastic traveling companion is my friend Linda, who appeared in my life first as a local writing icon, then became a writing instructor, and now she is my friend, mentor, and cheerleader.  Linda was the one who encouraged me to blog about my band wife experience and even came up with the name of the website!! She keeps me focused and accountable, all the while singing my praises to anyone who will listen!

As we got closer to Woodstock, she took a slight detour down Mink Hollow Road, where Todd Rundgren used to live and record.  When she was younger, she drove down this road, hoping to maybe catch a glimpse of Todd, this talented guy she was crushing on. We started feeling a bit stalkerish, driving down this narrow country road, wondering if at some point we would be found out, but then we came to the end of the road and it was actually a trail head, so we didn’t have to worry about some sheriff stopping us and asking who we were there to bother.

From down the road, Woodstock could be just any small town in upstate New York. As we drove  into town, something seemed different. Maybe it was that first parking lot that had a popup tie dye sale going on. Linda was especially excited because she had been in Woodstock a couple of other times, but the shops were dark and the streets empty. She was thrilled that she would be able to get inside some of the shops this time around.

There were a disproportionate number of antique and head shops in town. The very first one we came to had tie dye and banners on the outside, with statues of Jake and Elwood Blues (of Blues Brothers fame) sitting on chairs in the garden.

14311206_10210004749142895_7629217369505524527_o There was a bench out front with a sign that said’ “Try this on! Take a picture!” ‘This’ was a patchwork coat of many colors, pieced together with gorgeous fabrics that hippie sundresses were made of, and a top hat. Linda pleaded and cajoled until I got enough courage to put the hat on my head, trying not to think about all the heads, clean and otherwise, that it had been on before me. She then took a couple of glamor shots  (this is the shot I like the best!) I felt like a real flower child.

 

 

14884568_10210507111741646_4217887989893372864_o

It was cool to check out all the memorabilia from the era when the original gathering happened all those years ago at Yasgar’s farm. Among the souvenier shops were antique shops with stuff from the 60’s and 70’s, items that people would pick up and take home so they can have a touchstone to their past. There was an abundance of lighters, bongs, incense, and other paraphernalia. We skimmed a few of those shops and lingered over the jewelry and trinkets. We got ourselves matching bangles (the Bangle Sisters, we decided to call ourselves, a nod to the Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn characters in the movie The Banger Sisters, another groupie movie.)

 

We then happened upon a cupcake shop. Peace, Love, and Cupcakes.  I made a comment about hipsters and cupcakes and how I could make a whole cake for the price of one of those treats, but then we saw that they were named the best cake in the country by the Food Network, so of course, we had to step in. In a very small storefront was a bake case with gorgeously frosted cupcakes. Most of them were named after famous musicians.

14902828_10210507110661619_8650365471128416339_oKristina was really helpful and talked us through some of the most popular ones. Linda picked the Bob Dylan (carrot cake with cream cheese frosting), I tried the Joe Cocker (caramel) , and we picked the Jimi Hendrix for later (intense chocolate cake with triple shot mocha frosting). And let me tell you, despite all my complaining about spending too much money, this cupcake was incredible. Kristina is also a band manager and she had some tricks of the trade to share with this newbie.

14883520_10210507112861674_3080465322138707849_oOne of the shops we walked by had some singing bowls in the window and Linda just had to stop by. I had never heard of them before, and Linda owns and plays them, so it gave me some insight into the musical talent of the woman who taught me to write about mine! The man there let us try some of them out and showed us how he teased music out of them (he told us that Buddhists strike the bowls, not circle around the rim.)

It was a little after 4, and the community drum circle had started. Every Sunday, people gather with drums and tambourines and all matter of percussion to drum away the afternoon. Didn’t bring any instruments? Don’t worry, they roll out a huge box full of maracas and tambourines and cymbals so everyone can join in.14884525_10210507112301660_3148908253704442112_o

My new favorite percussion instrument, the cajon, was among the drums being played. These people drummed and drummed and then drummed some more. When one song ended, another beat would start right up and everyone continued. People drifted in and out of the square and danced and swayed and became one with the music. We decided to have an early dinner in the outdoor café which gave us a seat right next to all the action. I love how they do this every single week (weather permitting.)

As the sun started to set and we headed towards home, I was so grateful for Linda’s spontaneity.  I would never have stopped to smell the patchouli if it weren’t for her telling me to experience everything rock and roll. Now the band wives will be planning a visit next summer.  I can see Bridgette dancing to the beat already!

 

 

 

My Mom Is Better Than Your Mom

OK, so this may not be categorically true. Only one person was polled: me. I am sure your moms have done great things too and are superheroes in their own way. My mom turns 75 today and instead of a gift, she asked that the people who love her write a note to her or create a work of art. This is a little of both. Happy Birthday Mom. I don’t think she will mind this existing in such a public forum.

My mom has had many roles over the years, but I want to focus on one, motherhood. She has been a mom for 55 years now and if you added up all the years for every child, it is over 350!

11203570_10206205266758210_7823587336853467529_oAnd just in case you were wondering if that’s where she got all her gray hair from, then what about the purple or the blue?? Where did she get that colorful streak? I think it is from her sense of adventure and whimsy. There are so many stories, and I want to share just a couple with you that helped shape me into the woman I am today.

My mom had 6 kids under the age of 6. After they pick their jaws up, people always ask me how she did it. I am not sure anyone knows.  When she had the twins in 1967, before ultrasounds were the norm, she fought with the doctor for much of her pregnancy because he was insistent that she was carrying one baby when she knew there were two babies were in there. Imagine the chaos when she brought those two home to add to the four of us (ages 5, 4, 2, and 1.) And what a gift when she brought home one more 5 years later to make our family complete. Even with her hands so full, there were many things she did to make each of us feel special.  One of those days for me was when I was almost 10. She stayed home while my dad took a bunch of us somewhere, maybe to the Great New York State Fair. When we arrived back at home base, she had made me my very own bedroom (I think she gave up her sewing room.)  It was very special to have a space of my own with so many in our family. Thanks Mom, for teaching me that no matter how busy or chaotic life is, there is a way to treat people like they are important.

Before I was even old enough to understand about social justice, we had other people living with my family.  This opening of her home and her heart continued for years, inviting all kinds of people who needed a place to live into our lives. At first, there were unwed mothers and people leaving prison with nowhere else to go. Then we made the move to the Near West Side so my parents could be a part of ministry at St. Lucy’s Church and that opportunity gave us more chances to help and support those who were not as lucky as we were to have a big loving family and a roof over our heads. The two family house was big enough for our family of 9 plus.  There was always a plus one there (here are the 7 of us with a plus one, I think his name was Tony.)  The cast of characters would change, but the thing that would not change was that is was always a cast of characters. We sometimes didn’t know where our next meal was coming from and we all wore hand me down and donated clothing, but we were richer beyond measure. Thanks Mom, for showing me there is always more than I need.

 

Mom still lives in the same house where most of us grew up.  While many have left the city and the near Westside over the years as the area deteriorated, Mom stayed in the home she has lived in for the past 40+ years and has helped to revitalize the neighborhood.  I do not have the space to tell you all the ways in which she has been involved in the rebirth of her community, but I can mention that she has stayed active and involved since her retirement.   This includes 17 years of service on the board of  Huntington Family Center (a local social service agency) and she was a founding member of the Westside Arts Council.   Most of her most recent work has been with the Near Westside Initiative in several different capacities, including peace circles and work with the Citizen’s Review Board, advocating for those who live in the neighborhood and giving voice to those who are otherwise marginalized. Thanks Mom for showing me that every person is valuable and has worth.

When I was a preteen Mom was very involved in our church, St. Lucy’s, by teaching  confirmation classes, sitting on parish council, and as we got older she led a spiritual teen group, filling her house with teens from the neighborhood giving them love and guidance and a safe haven. As I grew older, I sought out chances to work with people younger than myself, acting as role model and mentor. I have had countless students and employees that have told me how I had infludenced their lives. Thanks Mom for giving me the love of teaching and mentoring and opening my heart to those who need a helping hand.

13592764_10209312150908427_4366849553378021954_n

 

 

 

 

Happy birthday to my friend, role model, advocate, and Mom, Carole Horan. Every day is a celebration with you!!

 

 

#overpassfest

Many say that Syracuse is just an average college town, but with much more snow. There is at least one person out to change that perception (besides my mom, champion of the Near West Side) and his name is Michael John Heagerty, voted Best Community Advocate in 2016’s Best of Syracuse, run by our local community publication the Syracuse New Times.

 

14434835_10210865166891627_1515285856197508783_o

Last week I was once again at #overpassfest. It’s an informal gathering of artists and musicians that has been happening every week since June. So far there have been #overpassfests at the Onondaga Creekwalk, the Inner Harbor, the Erie Canal Museum, and at the Great New York State Fair, and each one has been unique and amazing. Musicians with guitars, basses, tambourines, trombones, and even a couple of cajons (a percussion box that you can sit on and play at the same time) show up at the designated place at the appointed time and just start to perform. The groups constantly change as the evening goes on. Add in photographers (like my friend Lisa Kane), artists of all sorts of media, and for at least one week, a guy with a typewriter that wrote poems on demand. Every week people gather and create together in a community space that otherwise doesn’t see a lot of action.

Continue reading

Tramps Like Us

I spent much of the day today rockin’ it out to Bruce and his new album, Chapter and Verse, released Friday. It’s a companion CD for his book due out today, Born To Run. The songs on it were fun and span his life in music, but some of my favorites weren’t included, so I thought I would put a few of my own out there for you all to enjoy. Today is my birthday (those of you on facebook have already been informed several times!) and it is so cool that at 9:27 a.m. on 9/27 I am blogging, doing something I really love.  #lovemylife

Tenth Avenue Freeze Out (1975) 

This song is my very first Springsteen song, introduced to me by my college roommate Joanie.  We even had a dance, which we are sure to resurrect when I visit her next winter in Key West.

Continue reading