Friday, November 15, 2019

RIP: Moo, ?? -- 11/14/2019

Ms. Moo, two weeks ago
Less than two months after we had to euthanize our precious little boy, Pumpkin, we had to do the same to our beloved little girl, Moo. Like her puppy-brother, Moo stopped eating and only moved out of her bed to drink water and to use her potty. She was lethargic and losing weight, and she stopped grooming herself.

While the bloodwork showed no signs of infection or disease normally associated with cats her age, the X-rays told another story. Her abdomen with filled with fluid and masses -- cancer. The Vet suggested either palliative care or euthanasia. She was suffering too much so we decided to put her down. 

Meow Say Moo, better known as Moo to family and friends, was a fearless Texas spider hunter, an obsessive plastic bag eater, and a relentless begger. She was also the most cuddly, affectionate kitty I've ever had the pleasure to meet. She loved getting her belly rubbed -- no she didn't bite or claw because she genuinely loved it -- and she adored being the center of attention. She had the softest fur and the sweetest disposition. Ms. Moo is going to be sorely missed. We think she was around 15 years old.

Moo was definitely a Daddy's Girl.

My Babies, RIP.
The house is so very empty and quiet ... and way too clean. For the first time in my life I am without a pet. I am absolutely gutted that I lost both of these sweet little monkeys within two months of each other. Ed is devastated. We're going to need some time to process all of this.

Goodbye, my babies. Goodbye.

Friday, November 8, 2019

"Wild November Comes at Last"

The Hudson River from Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, New York
The wild November comes at last
      Beneath a veil of rain,
      The night wind blows its folds aside—
      Her face is full of pain.
The latest of her race, she takes
      The Autumn's vacant throne;
      She has but one short moon to live,
      And she must live alone.
~R.H. Stoddard (1825–1903), "November," c.1863

This month has been one of deep introspection, as it should be. While much of August through the beginning of October is spent engaged in the "Halloween Hunt" and enjoying the Fall, the last two weeks of October is spent mentally, emotionally, and physically preparing for Samhain. As a practicing Pagan, I take this very time very seriously. I spent most of my month journaling and reflecting on what I've done, what I am doing, and what I want to do. I thought about my journey -- the bumps in the road, the wrong ways, the backtracking, the new discoveries. And I really thought about who I am and how I am feeling. 

It's no secret that I haven't really been the same since my Mom died. Your life is forever changed when someone that close to us dies. Life goes on and yes, you have to live it ... but it will forever be altered. I think about her every day and, I've been really thinking about my Dad, who died in 2009. I can't look in a mirror without seeing my father etched in my face. As I get older, I look more like his side every day. My nose, eyes, lips, ears, facial structure, and moles all come from his side. My bony knees, ankles, hands, and feet all come from his side. And as I am getting older, I am noticing my attitude and bearing are my father's and, in many ways, his mother's. It's wild. Oh don't get me wrong, my empathy and big heart comes from my Mom, but I already know this. I always thought I was more like my Mom, until my Mom started to call me "Tony." "Okay, Tony," was a common utterance. It's taken me almost a decade to figure out why she thought I was like my Dad. 

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, New York
In many ways, my Dad's death began a decade filled with extremes. I wrote and successfully defended my dissertation, got my Ph.D., got a full-time teaching gig, and was able to pivot into the MLS program when I knew teaching wasn't what I really wanted ... at least that's what I thought. However, I fought to do my dissertation, both parents died, Ed's Dad died, Pumpkin died, and leaving academia has left me hollow and lost. Extremes. 

It's no secret that I'm the most depressed I've been in my life. I feel like I've been knocked down and someone has a boot firmly planted on my back, preventing me from getting up. While I know that leaving academia was the right decision for me, the whole culture gnaws at me. Am I doing the right thing? Am I being lazy or was teaching at Texas A&M really killing me? Am I a failure? Everyone has an opinion and they aren't afraid to share it with me: you should be writing. You can never go back! Once you're out, you're out. You'll never get another job. This coupled with my own sense of disillusionment, failure, and inadequacy hasn't helped my depression and certainly hasn't helped me feel like I can confide in anyone.

Ed and me, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, New York
My depression has prevented me from doing the things I love. It's prevented me from blogging, that's for sure! Depression has a way of robbing you of yourself and your identity. It has a way of making you question everything you do and are. It hasn't helped that the job at Princeton ended and that this semester has been one of the worst semesters I have ever had in my life. It's not the workload -- that's more than doable -- it's the actual classes and professors. Library school isn't exactly challenging. However, a certain class is in compete disarray and it's been awful. Thank Goddess for my Archives class! It's the only thing keeping me going this semester. I like the work and the professor is good and solid. 

Princeton and this semester has taught me some valuable lessons. I have no interest or intention of working in a library. I also don't think general archival work is for me. This semester has shown me that I was moving in the right direction back in 1996 when I was working for the Education Department at the Museum of Modern Art. Museum work has always been my first love. Becoming a professor and academic wasn't even on my radar ... well, not until I started my Ph.D. I guess I thought museum work wasn't attainable and it's not like I got any really solid advisement. I think folks just didn't invest in me because they didn't think I would finish. I am not, after all, from the demographic that gets a doctorate in Art History. So, I'm focusing on archival classes that will help me in the museum world, especially those that will help me in curatorial and museum collection management. And if something in museum or historic education comes along, I'd never say no! 

Here I am, changing careers. I'm lost and I'm terrified of the future ... a future that is much shorter than it was when I was 20 or even 30. My mother died when she was 73, my material grandmother was 81, my paternal grandmother was 93. I'm 47. Here's hoping I truly take after my father's side of the family! 

Depression is a wild ride. Realizing that your life is more than halfway over is mind-boggling.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Apple Picking and New Discoveries in New Paltz, NY

Apple Picking at Dressel Farms, New Paltz, NY

While most Staten Islanders head to New Jersey to embark on their annual apple and pumpkin picking, yesterday, Ed and I headed north to New Paltz, NY. Neither Ed nor I particularly like the orchards or farms in New Jersey, probably because they're always packed with Staten Islanders and because we tend to favor the gorgeous views in New Paltz, NY.

View of Paltz Point from Dressel Farms.
We've been going to New Paltz, NY for most of our married life. We first made the trip north to taste New York State wine along the Shawangunk Wine Trail ... and let me tell you, if you haven't tasted New York State wine, you probably should do so and quick! Stop being such a snob and drink some local tastiness! And while you're at it, sample some of New York State's awesome hard cider! Anyway, our trips to New Paltz lead to our discovery of orchards, farms, and farm markets like the Wallkill View Farm Market. Naturally, our trips also led us to explore the town of New Paltz and its surrounding area.

More of the ridge.

Our favorite apple orchard is Dressel Farms, a family owned farm and business that specializes in "pick-your-own," fresh cider, hard cider, and other delicious endeavors. As someone who believes in supporting local farms by "eating and drinking locally," picking at Dressel allows us to support three generations of Dressels who run the farm. 


But let's be serious, *ahem* we started picking at Dressel because of the gorgeous view of the Shawangunk Mountain ridge! By the second and the third weeks in October, the colors are amazing and the weather is perfect for wandering about an apple orchard. And our favorite types of apples -- Stayman Winesap and Crispin -- are at peak.

Ed posing with his favorites: Stayman Winesap.

Loaded apple trees with gorgeous fall colors.

So pretty.

A perfect day in the Hudson Valley.
I have to admit, days like yesterday really make me want to pack my apartment and move to the Hudson River Valley. While I adore Boston and the North Shore, MA, I wouldn't turn down a chance to live in the Hudson River Valley. I swear, if I get a good archival or museum gig in New York City, we're heading north ... perhaps to the east of the Hudson River so that we'll be on the MetroNorth Hudson Line. 

20 pounds of apples.

So happy!
Ed and I picked 20 pounds of apples. What am I going to do with all of those apples? Well, we'll be eating some of them. I'm sure I'll be baking pies and other goodies, and I'll be making apple sauce. I'll probably stuff pork chops with apples and raisins, and put them into pancakes and muffins. Hell, I'm sure we'll be eating apples until we're sick of them ... good thing it will be orange season by then! HA! We also stopped at Wallkill Farm Market before heading into town. I was in the market for beets, but alas, they were sold out! We ended up with a 20 pound pumpkin, cauliflower, and some frying peppers.

We spent the rest of our day wandering around town, mostly searching through the antique shops and having a most delicious meal at Bacchus. While we were walking back to our car, I noticed a graveyard up the hill. Mind you, we've been parking in this spot for years and we've been going to New Paltz as long as we've been married. I never saw the graveyard before! I swear a tree was removed or something changed that I noticed it. We decided to walk up the hill to check it out. Good grief ... after all these years we finally discovered Historic Huguenot Street!

New Paltz was founded in 1678 by French Huguenots on the site where Historic Huguenot Street sits today. I'm embarrassed to say that I had no idea that New Paltz was a French settlement. For some reason I thought the majority of settlements in New York State were Dutch! Ed pointed out that Staten Island was settled by both, the Dutch and French Huguenots. Looks like I need to do some historic exploration of my own state. Sheeze.

The historic site was closed when we finally made it up there and the sun was quickly setting. We're going to head back to New Paltz just to take the tour of Historic Huguenot Street. Maybe it's time that I really start looking at New York's colonial history so that I can plan some awesome outings for us. While I adore Boston and Salem, I need to remember that my own beautiful state has a lot to offer history buffs like us, that it's not just about camping, hiking, and fishing. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Picking Up the Pieces ... or, Change Happens

Changing leaves, somewhere in the Berkshires

Change is the only thing in life that remains constant. And sometimes that change can bring more change. This belief that we find a job, or a relationship, or a place to live forever is a fantasy; as is the idea that families will always remain strong and together. These ideas have been sold to an eager Post-WWII society looking for stability, and they remain knitted into the fabric of American society much in the same way as the "American Dream." Truth is, nothing is constant. Everything changes -- whether we like it or not, so it's best we just get used to the idea.

There have been tons of changes around here in the last three weeks. As you read in my last post, Ed and I had to put down Pumpkin ... something neither one of us were prepared for and something that has left us gutted. We're back to one fuzzy kid and it's weird. We're definitely not going to rush into getting another dog any time soon, but I would be lying if I said we weren't talking about it. We've agreed to wait until I'm done with my MLS, settle into a job, and (hopefully) in a house of our own. For real this time. Moo has been quite content being the only kid again. She's even decided that my lap is the premiere spot for a good snuggle, something she's never done before.

And then there's my job. Yup, this week is my last week at Princeton. I know, I know ... my post in early September waxed on about how wonderful everything is and how much I love it, etc. However, the reality of juggling my classwork with that awful commute set in pretty quickly. Let's face it, I'm behind in my reading, I barely get my work done on time, and I'm exhausted to the point of tears. School is just too important to me to screw it up for a temporary, part-time gig -- a gig that isn't what I thought it would be when I first started. I'll leave it at that.

One thing that this job has taught me is that academia is academia no matter where in the university you work. Honestly, I want out of academia in all of its forms. I just don't have the patience or the personality for it. I love teaching undergrads, but I hate what full-time and tenure track brings with it. I'm just too damned sensitive to deal with all the criticism and bile. And, I'm not willing to sell my soul for tenure, either as a professor or as an academic librarian/archivist. I started to apply for part-time, archival internships (paid) and gigs in non-profits and public institutions. Hell, I even transformed my CV into a real resume -- a herculean task to be sure! I want to engage in my research on my own terms and in my own way. Who knows what all of this will bring!

A few days ago, it dawned on me that ten years ago my Pop died. I was studying for my 1st exam, an exam that qualified me to move forward in the program and propose my dissertation topic to the departmental committee. Ten years ago would be the first of the major endings and goodbyes in my life. Ten years ago would also be the first of the major battles I would have to wage in the name of my "career." This decade has been one of goodbyes as both of my parents, Ed's Dad, and Pumpkin have died. It has been one of moves, battles, victories, successes, and utter disappointment. These last ten years have taught me that getting what I think I want isn't always what I really need. It's been a decade of bitter endings as I say goodbye to a career that I thought I wanted ... a career that has defined me as a person for more than 20 years! And it has been a decade of burning it all to the ground and starting over. I'm tired. I'm devastated and lost ... but yet, I'm hopeful. I'm not in the best health, but I'm trying and that's all that matters.

I was recently told to be careful not to burn any bridges just in case ... sigh. No, I most definitely will burn bridges because I don't intend on going backwards. After all, I burn bridges to light my way. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

RIP: Pumpkin 10/31/2005 - 9/20/2019

This past Friday afternoon, Ed and I had to put our precious little Monkey Boy down. He fell suddenly ill on Tuesday and got increasingly worse with each passing hour. His bloodwork showed that his liver enzymes were elevated and had a large amount of white blood cells in his blood. Furthermore, the X-Ray and ultrasound showed what was wrong: masses and irregularities in his spleen and gall bladder. Poor Pumpkin was not eating, losing mobility very quickly, and getting sicker by the minute.

Because of his age and his condition, our options were limited. We decided that the best course of action was to euthanize him. He wouldn't be able to handle any of the operations they were suggesting and his quality of life would be horrible.

Ed and I are gutted. Our littlest Pork Bun has crossed the Rainbow Bridge on his way to my Mom, who was surely waiting for her little Man. 

Pumpkin Zawadzki, the Great Pupperdini! 

Goddess speed, my little Fuzz Buzz.

October 31, 2005 -- September 20, 2019

He was the Best Boy ever!!