Atlanta Auntie

babysit “So when are you getting married Sony” asks little Miss Casey, the 5 year old middle child.. “Umm…., would you like to know why the sky is blue instead?” I return quickly, that’s a question I can answer. Since when did kids get so perceptive and so damn inquisitive and how is it that they know exactly what to say to turn my blissfully happy single status into an inadequate nightmare? I traveled from Albany to Atlanta this weekend to help a friend with her three adorable handfuls. Her hubby is away at the Bonnaroo Music Fest, a Woodstock ripoff in Tennessee, and she, the Meteorologist Mommy, works odd hours for the Weather Channel. Her kids, all under 10, are a scream – there’s Bridget in the Buff (she loves to streak), Krabby Patty Casey (I’ve watched and read enough Spongebob to last a lifetime) and the Benevolent Mr. Backstroke Brian (The swimming junkie who graciously gives up his full-size mattress every time ) Like all siblings, they pick, poke, pester, and pretend and when I’m not looking my sandals go missing, smoke pours out of the toaster oven and a stuffed horsey becomes my alarm clock at 7am. By Sunday, I’ve sized up their little personalities, moods, and habits and I’m feeling confident I can tackle anything…until Casey has to ask…”Sony, how old are you?” Oh no, not again….”

Saving Green for Green

green for green Thought I would save some serious green this winter by jump starting beds of perennials and vegetables from seed inside my house. The empty dining room became the block’s best dressed greenhouse ever – hardwood floors, a chair rail and vaulted ceiling surrounded by dozens of trays of dirt. Every evening I watered and fertilized the seedlings and when they got big enough I transplanted them into larger plots. Indeed, limited gardening skills and a little TLC was adequate enough to tackle a mini-garden inside and the seedlings grew to a nice height. When it started getting warmer, I moved the starter plants outside to hearty beds of moist mulch and nutrient bone meal. So now, here I am, waiting for more and nothing more is happening. None of the little budding soft-stemmed lightweights are maturing beyond their days inside. I set them free to thrive, grow and multiply and I expect them to return the favor with bushels of juicy tomatoes, moon flowers and bachelor buttons but no, not the shastas, day lilies, poppies, zinnias, or boxes of wild flowers are propagating on their own. What to do? Did my little orphaned plants really prefer my stubby green thumb over Mother Nature? Or am I taking this hobby just a little too serious….

Jack and Jill

giftboxes “Miss, you really don’t care to see what your buying?” questions the BabyLand employee over the phone. “Mamam, I have absolutely no interest what so ever and your the expert. Just wrap it up in a big bag and I’ll be there to pick it up in 10”. I’m buying something called a Contour Pad with Blue Baby Cover, sounds practical enough. Nothing cute or frilly, instead a gift the happy couple registered for, so they must need it. Baby showers, wedding showers, engagement parties, weddings, birthdays, who knew having friends could be so expensive? Why, praytell, do we still celebrate someone else’s love and good fortune by showering them with gifts they probably already have? It’s so superfluous and tradition for the sake of tradition is such a waste. Wedding gifts are ancient tradition started in the 16th century. Giving gifts to the bride and groom came about when a dowry was paid by the bride’s father to his future son-in-law and his family. The practice of paying a dowry died out long ago so why are we still following the practice of buying gifts? Call me an envious cynic, but if anybody should be buying gifts it should be them doing so for everyone else. They found each other, they’re combining incomes and they’re making it last, if not a new set of linens for the rest of us, how about sharing some advice on how we can make it work too? Of course, showers still have their place for unexpected pregnancies and low-income families, but for the rest of us the whole concept needs revamping.

Say Cheese!

cheese Last Friday, Photographers and Reporters at Albany’s FOX Channel 23 were pelted with processed cheese slices by the “cheese ninja” on live television. A media spokesperson says the disgruntled viewer was just venting his frustrations with media coverage that he says resembles packaged and processed cheese. And this week, coincidentally another cheese story is making headlines in England. Read on to get your daily allowance of lactate and laughter! “Chasing an 8-pound cheese down a hill is more dangerous than it sounds. Contestants in the cheese rolling competition broke bones and skinned their knees and elbows Monday in their pursuit of the big cheese. The competition, in which participants hurl themselves 640 feet down a hill after the cheese, has been celebrated for centuries in Gloucestershire, west of London. Teenager Chris Anderson, who won one of four cheese rolling races Monday, was taken to hospital on a stretcher, clutching his winning slab of cheese to his chest. “The pain was worth it,” Anderson said. “This cheese is going straight in a cupboard when I get home. It’s definitely not for eating.” The race is thought to originate from a heathen festival to welcome the spring. The first person to follow the cheese across the line at the bottom of the hill wins the cheese and a small cash prize. Thousands of people attended Monday’s event and the local ambulance service reported three people were taken to hospital with suspected fractured limbs, while 18 were treated for bruises and abrasions.”

New Love Sears the Brain

captive This is not my revelation but it sure explains a lot. I condensed a few thought-provoking paragraphs from today’s NY Times Science Section called “Watching New Love as it Sears the Brain”.
New love can look for all the world like mental illness, a blend of mania, dementia and obsession that cuts people off from friends and family and prompts out-of-character behavior – compulsive phone calling, serenades, yelling from rooftops – that could almost be mistaken for psychosis. Now for the first time, neuroscientists have produced brain scan images of this fevered activity, before it settles into romance or a long-term commitment…The research helps explain why love produces such disparate emotions, from euphoria to anger to anxiety, and why it seems to become even more intense when it is withdrawn. Researchers are also analyzing brain images from people who’ve been rejected by their lovers. “When you’re in the throes of a romantic love it’s overwhelming, you’re out of control, you’re irrational, why? Because she’s there,” said Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University and the co-author of the analysis. “And when rejected, some people contemplate stalking, homicide, suicide. This drive for romantic love can be stronger than the will to live.” In the study, a computer-generated map showed hot spots deep in the brain, below conscious awareness, in areas called the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area. These areas are dense with cells that produce or receive a brain chemical called dopamine, which circulates actively when people desire or anticipate a reward. In studies of gamblers, cocaine users and even people playing computer games for small amounts of money, these dopamine sites become extremely active as people score or win, neuroscientists say. Yet falling in love is among the most irrational of human behaviors, not merely a matter of satisfying a simple pleasure, or winning a reward. And the researchers found that one particular spot in the caudate nucleus was especially active in people who scored highly on a questionnaire measuring passionate love…One reason new love is so heart-stopping is the possibility, the ever-present fear, that the feeling may not be entirely requited, that the dream could suddenly end. Researchers have found that new love involves psychologically internalizing a lover, absorbing elements of the other person’s opinions, hobbies, expressions, character, as well as sharing one’s own. “The expansion of the self happens very rapidly, it’s one of the most exhilarating experiences there is, and short of threatening our survival it is one thing that most motivates us,” said Dr. Aron, of SUNY, a co-author of the study. To lose all that, all at once, while still in love, plays havoc with the emotional, cognitive and deeper reward-driven areas of the brain.

Nature Needs Nature

farb With 30 pounds hoisted over his shoulder, Nathan Farb, the Adirondack Park’s Greatest Photographer, darts around Lake George looking for a shot. He usually focuses on the deep woods, back bogs, alpine tundras and remote ponds but not today. Today, he’s all mine for a short news feature but I can barely keep up with his 70 yr. old energy. Finally, he rests his 8×10 Deardorff camera on a grassy hill overlooking Lake George. His camera is ancient, build in 1910, but it captures 50% more detail than a 35mm and his 7 best-selling picture books prove it. The “nature of nature” is how Farb describes what he takes. His work is truly stunning and beautiful and his philosophy on interdependency is even more revealing than his photos. He sums it up perfectly in the following passage: “There’s a persistent conception of nature as a test for the self. Surviving on one’s own in the wilderness for a few days proves one’s mettle or so the thinking goes. Like many young people, I approached nature this way as a teenager; it was a means of affirming my manhood. But today, I no longer look at nature in this light. Due to a car accident that left my daughter disabled and depending on people I changed my attachment to the idea of nature as a test. I began seeing nature as a means by which a person could measure one’s interdependence, the connectivity of things, especially in nature. Just as my daughter depends on others for her survival; so too, do species in the wild depend on each other for their own survival. There is an immeasurable and implicit beauty in this interdependence.”
I couldn’t agree more Mr. Farb and for those out there who think differently – your not living, your merely surviving.