My Christmas List
Published on December 4, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my Christmas list - an annual ritual.

Click here to read it.

What's My Age Again?
Published on November 18, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about feeling a bit old when I watch sports, or listen to 17-year-old singer Lorde.

Here's an excerpt:

"Lately I’ve been getting ominous messages through Facebook warning me that my high school reunion is fast approaching. I went to my 10th, and I’ll probably go to this one, too. But I have no intention of helping plan the thing, or build a float for the alumni parade, or any of that stuff. Mainly I’m interested in satisfying my basic curiosity about what has happened to all those people I went to high school with.

I recently got together with some friends from high school, and they seemed equally astonished that our 20th reunion will be held this summer. Is it really possible that we’re almost 40? Frankly, this is unbelievable. I don’t feel at all like someone who will soon be 40. Maybe it’s because I don’t have children. Or maybe it’s because I don’t understand numbers. But I still think of myself as someone who is fairly young. Like maybe in my mid-20s. Of course, this illusion can only be maintained as long as I don’t spend any time with people in their mid-20s.

Recently, I’ve become dimly aware that most major league athletes are younger than I am, and that those close to my age who are still playing are widely regarded as old. And not just old. But as freaks of nature who are defying the odds. 'How many years does the 36-year-old Tom Brady have in him?' football commentators are fond of asking. 'How much longer will Kevin Garnett’s knees hold up?' basketball observers like to ask. 'After all, he’s 37 YEARS OLD!'"

Click here to read the whole thing.

Death of a Cat
Published on November 11, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the death of my cat Paul.

Here's an excerpt:

Shortly before my cat Paul died, I fell asleep on the couch while watching a movie, as I sometimes do. And when I awoke 1 a.m., I had every intention of getting up and going to bed. But then I noticed Paul purring softly in my lap. Rather than disturb her, I closed my eyes and went back to sleep. Paul could be a bit standoffish, and her friendlier moods were always a bit of a treat.

I began worrying about Paul around the end of October, although I had a hard time pinpointing what exactly was bothering me. She (yes, she had a boy’s name) seemed less active. She was sleeping in places she didn’t usually sleep. She seemed smaller and frailer. I assumed her age — she was 14 — was finally starting to catch up with her. But I scheduled an appointment with the vet for Monday anyway. Perhaps he could give me some tips on how to care for an older cat.

The vet did a basic examination, then looked at Paul’s chart. She had lost weight — about three pounds, which is a lot for an average-sized cat. And her breathing was a bit labored. The vet drew some blood for a test, and promised to phone with the results the next morning. I wasn’t particularly worried. For the most part, Paul seemed fine. When I brought her home, she ran and hid under the bed. When I came back from work, she greeted me at the door. Later that evening, she fell asleep on the window sill. She ate and drank and used her litter box.

But Paul wasn’t fine. The next morning the vet informed me that she had kidney failure and a hyperactive thyroid. 'The kidney failure explains why she’s less active,' he said. 'But the thyroid probably explains why she’s been pretty energetic until recently.'"

Click here to read the whole thing.

A Perfect Weekend
Published on October 23, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about how hiking and the Red Sox mae for a perfect weekend.

Here's an excerpt:

I have two baseball caps that I like to wear when I’m hiking: a Red Sox 2004 World Series champions cap, and a Red Sox 2007 World Series champions cap. And with the Red Sox headed to the World Series, I’m hoping to add a third cap to my collection.

On Saturday morning I donned my 2007 cap for a hike up Rocky Peak Ridge, one of the Adirondack high peaks. A friend and I attempted this hike about a month ago, but from a less traveled, fairly difficult trail that starts in New Russia. We hiked and hiked, but ended up turning back before reaching the summit due to the late hour, dropping temperatures and ominous clouds. Despite failing to meet our goal, we had a fantastic time: Much of the hike takes place on bare, open rock, which makes for outstanding views. And we didn’t see any other hikers, which was nice. We felt like we had the forest and mountains to ourselves.

Last weekend we decided to return to the high peaks and hike Rocky Peak from the west. This is a more popular route, because it is shorter and takes hikers past Giant Mountain, quite possibly my favorite high peak. We started off surrounded by other hikers, but quickly got away from them. It wasn’t long before we were above the trees, marching over steep, open rock and taking in the stunning scenery. We could see the surrounding peaks, Chapel Pond and the fading yellow leaves of the poplars. The weather was on the cool side, but nice: I wore wind pants, a long-sleeved shirt and, at one point, gloves. When we lunched on the summit, I took off my baseball cap and put on a knit cap. But I warmed up quickly once we got moving again.

Click here to read the whole thing.

It's All About the Journey
Published on October 7, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about all the crazy twists and turns life can sometimes take.

Here's an excerpt:

About six months ago, I received an email from the mother of an old friend.

“You are one of the few people I know who are doing what they said they wanted to do, at a young age,” she wrote.

I frowned when I read this.

Was my friend’s mother right? Was I doing what I’d always wanted to do? Was I living the dream?

Sure, I’d always wanted to be a writer and work at a newspaper. But I never imagined that I’d end up in upstate New York. And I never thought I’d stay so long once I got here. When I arrived in late 2001, I’m sure I thought of the Capital Region as just another stop on life’s journey — one of many possible stops. After all, I could have gone some place else.

But then I wouldn’t have met all the great people I’ve met here, and done all of the interesting things I’ve done.

Of course, I tend to meet interesting people and do interesting things wherever I go.

The other night I spoke with a friend who recently moved to Charleston, S.C., and by the end of the conversation I was ready to plan a trip there. Charleston sounds fascinating — rich in history, with beautiful architecture, a vibrant arts scene and a pleasant climate. Could I live in Charleston? Absolutely. Will I ever live there? Probably not. Although life is full of possibilities, and you never know.

Perhaps this mentality explains why I recently announced to my editor that I never want to read the sentence 'It couldn’t have ended any other way' ever again in my life. This sentence pops up frequently, and I’m convinced it’s never true. Things can always end differently. Plans frequently change. You set out to do one thing, and you wind up doing another.

Click here to read more.

Animals in the City
Published on September 30, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about how I like seeing animals in the city.

Here's an excerpt:

"When I leave work, I’m usually in a hurry to get in my car and drive home.

But the other night, I paused as I made my way across the parking lot.

There, feeding in the grass that edges the woods behind the office, were two deer. They glanced at me, their faces curious and watchful, their eyes bright and alert and unafraid. Not everyone lives and works in such close proximity to wildlife, and I marveled at my good fortune.

During the summer, I lost my temper one night while walking at Empire State Plaza.

The reason: a group of preteens throwing garbage at the ducks. The ducks are one of the season’s highlights. The adults take up residence in the spring; soon after, they give birth to fluffy yellow ducklings that learn to swim in the reflecting pools. Wooden ramps, strategically placed on the sides of the pools, make it easier for the ducklings to climb in and out of the water.

In my mind, the ducks are something to be celebrated.

I like living in the city, but urban life comes with certain sacrifices. I live near some pretty nice parks, but nature itself often feels like it’s at a distance. I see squirrels and mice from time to time, and on one of my evening strolls an opossum darting out of an alley caused me to jump in fright. Years ago, I was treated to the unexpected sight of a trio of beavers swimming in the ponds and ambling along the banks of the Corning Preserve. But such wildlife sightings are few and far between. When I walk, I expect to see pavement, parking lots and multibuildings. Not animals."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Meeting My Pig
Published on September 23, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about buying a pig ... and meeting it.

Here's an excerpt:

"About a year-and-a-half ago, one of my high school classmates moved to Schoharie County from Philadelphia with the goal of becoming a farmer.

He began leasing a farm that was no longer in use and raising goats, chickens, rabbits, sheep and pigs.

And when he began taking orders for pork earlier this year, I decided I had to buy some. Not because I love pork, although I do. But because I had some extra cash, wanted to support him and thought it would be cool to eat locally raised, organic pork from a farmer I went to high school with.

I didn’t think I was capable of consuming half a pig by myself (or fitting all of the meat into my freezer), so I asked my landlord and her boyfriend if they wanted to go in on the pig with me. They said yes, and during the winter we made a $150 down payment.

'You can visit the farm this fall and see the pig,' my high school classmate said when I handed him the check.

I mentioned this possibility to my landlord, who shuddered.

'I don’t want to see the pig,' she said.

I understood my landlord’s perspective.

But I did want to see the pig."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Officiating: It Gets Easier
Published on September 15, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about officiating my third wedding.

Here's an excerpt:

"When Washington state legalized same-sex marriage, my best friend from high school, Beka, and her partner of 15 years, Laurie, immediately got engaged.

'I can marry people,' I told Beka, because I suspected this information might suddenly be of interest. 'I’ve been ordained online.'

A couple of months later, Beka asked me to officiate at her wedding, and I said yes.

I love weddings, and I especially love to be involved in them. I’ve been a flower girl, a reader, a maid of honor and officiant. I’m by no means an expert on weddings, but over the years I’ve learned a fair amount about how they’re supposed to work and what makes a wedding satisfying. And I’m finding that officiating gets easier the more you do it.

The first wedding I officiated, for my friends Heather and Davi, was a huge challenge that involved trying (and mostly failing) to get headstrong people to do what I said.

During the rehearsal, I worried that the ceremony would be a total failure — that nobody would be able to hear me over the nearby traffic, that the groomsmen would do something crazy, that my notes would blow away. But the service went extremely well, mainly because everybody kept their mouths shut, listened to me and waited for my cues. This is when I learned that even the most difficult people tend to be respectful and polite (and silent!) during weddings.

I also officiated my sister’s wedding, and it also went quite well. I had learned from my previous officiating experience. I’d gotten better at bossing people around, and I understood that wedding parties, much like children, need guidance and structure."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Pleading My Case
Published on September 12, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my recent court appearance.

Here's an excerpt:

"I know people who contest every traffic ticket they receive.

I’m not one of those people.

I’ve always had a difficult time explaining why I should get out of a ticket I know I deserve.

This reluctance to plead my case stems from something I first became aware of in childhood, when I observed classmates shamelessly lobbying for better grades on tests. Now, I can totally understand asking for your grade to be changed if you uncover a mistake — if the teacher erred when correcting your exam.

But that’s not what was going on here. These students weren’t pointing out mistakes. They were arguing that because they really wanted a higher grade, they should get one.

My few attempts to engage in this sort of behavior were abject failures.
During tests, I observed that my classmates were sometimes able to summon the teacher, ask for clarification about a question, and receive helpful hints. I decided I should try this, too, and requested some extra guidance during a chemistry exam. My teacher simply stared at me. 'I can’t just tell you the answer,' she said.

Perhaps this experience explains my lack of confidence at pleading my case."


Click here to read the whole thing.

Parents and Bananas
Published on September 3, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about how sometimes parents drive their children bananas.

Here's an excerpt:

"When I was in college, I spent one of my fall breaks driving around the Northeast with my friends Nachie, Geoff and Theresa.

One of our stops was the New York City apartment of Nachie’s mother, and the opportunity to observe Nachie in his natural habitat proved fascinating. Nachie is one of the most easygoing people in the world, but I noticed that even he chafed at suggestions and guidance from a parent. When his mom gave him careful instructions on how to select the best bunch of bananas at the market, he came as close to losing his temper as I’d ever seen.

'Mom, I’ve bought bananas before!' he yelled.

Of course, Geoff, Theresa and I found this hilarious.

'Nachie doesn’t need his mom anymore,; Geoff said.

'He knows how to buy bananas,' I said.

I sometimes remember this story when I visit my own parents. Though I’ve never yelled 'Mom, I’ve bought bananas before!', I’ve certainly had my 'Mom, I’ve bought bananas before!' moments.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Yes, I Am Going to Run a 5K
Published on August 27, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my ambitious plan ... to run a 5K. It might not sound like much ... unless you never imagined doing such a thing.

Anyway, here's an excerpt:

"I started running a few months back, and it’s definitely having an impact.

For one thing, I feel stronger. I’m less winded when I hike and ride my bike, and I’m more relaxed — running seems to clear my mind of all the mental garbage it accumulates during the day.

That said, I’m still very much a novice runner. My longest run has been about 40 minutes, and I remain in awe of anyone who has ever competed in a marathon or a triathlon. But I am gaining confidence, which is why I’ve sometimes found myself thinking, 'You know, I could probably run a 5K,' as I run in circles around Lincoln Park or Empire State Plaza.
I dismiss such thoughts immediately, of course.

I remind myself that I’ve never liked running, and that running in an organized event has never appealed to me. Not long ago, my friend Kim suggested that I might enjoy running in the Boilermaker, a 15-kilometer (9.3 miles) road race in Utica. 'You like beer,' she said. 'And it ends at a brewery.' But I was unconvinced. “I’ll never do that,” I remember thinking.

And who knows?

Maybe I never will."

Click here to read the whole thing.


My GPS is Scrambling My Brain
Published on August 18, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about how my GPS can be helpful ... but also not helpful.

Here's an excerpt:

"When my parents got me a GPS for Christmas, I responded with skepticism.

I decried society’s increasing reliance on electronic gadgets to perform basic tasks, and bemoaned the fact that I would never get lost again. I forwarded them an article about a Belgian woman who accidentally drove 900 miles to Croatia thanks to a GPS error; though her destination was only about 90 miles away, she drove for two days, slept by the side of the road and got into a minor accident.

But when my irritation finally wore off, I found that my GPS was pretty useful. On my road trip in April, I used it to guide my journey from New York to Alabama, and whenever I travel to an unknown destination, I plug it in and wait for its soothing robotic voice to give me directions.

Because I am not an early adopter of new technology, many of my friends have responded to my use of the GPS as if praising a precocious child.

'Well, look at you!' my friend Monica exclaimed, when I plugged it in for our drive to Mass MoCA’s Solid Sound music festival back in June. She then recalled her harrowing late-night drive home from Solid Sound two years ago, which involved getting lost on the steep and windy back roads of western Massachusetts at 1 a.m. and taking an unorthodox route back to the Capital Region through towns such as Voorheesville and West Sand Lake.

'A GPS would have prevented that,' she noted."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Appreciating Where You Live
Published on August 12, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about appreciating where you live, and why that's a good thing.

Here's an excerpt:

A couple of months ago, I visited my sister in New Hampshire, not far from where I once spent my summers working at camp.

As always, I was struck by the natural beauty of my home state — a beauty I took for granted growing up. Rivers, mountains, hills, lakes, forests — none of this seemed particularly special or noteworthy to me back then.

Instead, I yearned for the day when I could live in a town with a movie theater, and other cool spots, like rock clubs and art galleries and museums. On my first trip to New York City, in seventh grade, I was dazzled by the scale of the place and the constant hum of activity; we saw cathedrals and rode the subway and gawked at the sheer number of people.

It took attending college in Ohio to gain some appreciation for northern New England. Ohio was just so flat — there was one hill on campus, and everything was laid out neatly, in straight and boring grids. During the especially bleak winter months, I often found myself wondering whether a more dynamic landscape would cheer me up.

Click here to read the whole thing.

When Favorite Places Close
Published on August 5, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I reflect on the imminent closure of one of my favorite places to hear music, and some of my other favorite places.

Here's an excerpt:

"For music lovers in the Capital Region, July brought some sad news: Valentine’s Music Hall in Albany will close.

The small, gritty concert hall is a casualty of Albany Medical Center’s plan to redevelop the city’s Park South neighborhood. I’m not here to weigh in on the merits of this plan, but rather to lament the loss of one of my favorite local establishments. I wasn’t a Valentine’s regular, but I attended concerts there with some frequency, embracing the club’s idiosyncrasies and scruffy atmosphere.

For instance: Bands often played simultaneously, one downstairs and one upstairs, which could lead to problems: When I saw folk-rock singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright perform, she became increasingly annoyed by the dull pounding of drums and bass coming from the second floor and ended the show early, marching off-stage in disgust. But in general, Valentine’s is an excellent place to see talented (and untalented) local bands, up-and-coming rock bands and seminal artists such as Mike Watt and The Meat Puppets.

My basic feeling is that every community could use a club like Valentine’s — an atmospheric dive bar that specializes in good music, good beer and a heartfelt appreciation for interesting and colorful people.

Wherever I go, I seek these kinds of places out."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Hey, Where's My Beach Ball?
Published on July 29, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about July.

Here's an excerpt:

"I spent last Monday and Tuesday at Wiawaka Holiday Center, a retreat center of Lake George, volunteering at an archaeological dig. My cellphone is still fairly primitive, and I didn’t feel like lugging my laptop along with me. So I decided to go without the Internet for a night. 'Maybe it will be good for me,' I thought. Because occasionally, I wonder whether my habit of checking my email 600 times a day is healthy.

After dinner on Monday, I went for a quick swim, dried off and found a quiet bench from which to bask in the cool evening temperatures. As I sat there, I reflected upon the fact that I’d only told a handful of people where I was going. Would my parents be alarmed by my failure to post a blog for two days, and wonder what had become of me? Also, what was going on in the world? Was I missing out on some important news?

I needn’t have worried.

The next morning, I asked some of my fellow dig participants what was going on in the world.

'The royal baby was born,' they said.

There are lots of people who care about the royal baby, but I am not one of them. Hearing that the royal baby was born didn’t exactly make me think, 'Boy, I sure regret going without the Internet for 24 hours.' It made me think, 'Maybe I should forgo the Internet more often.'"

Click here to read the whole thing.

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