Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Farms, Farms and more Farms: Columbia County Grown

If you live in Columbia County, you have noticed the many farms in the county. Some have been here for generations (Love Apple Farm just reopened last August on Route 9H in Ghent and has been a part of the community for 40 years) and some are just sprouting. Let's face it...not all of us love the cold weather...(I'm one of those people) and so as winter approaches, I like to think about the many possibilities that spring will bring.

It's here on my blog you can look forward to finding news about "Columbia County Grown."

I'll be writing a series of farm-related posts throughout the winter. In this post, I'm going to do my best to give you a list of the farms and their locations. Throughout the next few months I plan to add more details.

The more we preserve our agricultural roots, the more beautiful the County will remain.  Here is the partial list and a brief description in alphabetical order. More details in the next post. Support of this blog will help me to expand the list, create an interactive map and add websites.

If you find any farms missing, please email me at: of course, please feel free to share this blog with your friends. For information about advertising please call: 518-755-6061.

Blackberry Farm - Hudson
Blackberry Hill Farm - Livingston- Wool/Herbs, plants
Blue Star Farm - Stuyvesant - Naturally Grown Vegetables
Bryant Farms - Claverack -
Chaseholm Farm Creamery - Ancram
Cherry Ridge Farm - Hudson - Fruits
Cheval Farmstead - Hudson - Goat/Dairy
Common Hands Farm - Ghent- Organic Vegetables
Cool Whisper Farm - Hillsdale - Grass-fed Beef & Poultry
Cowberry Farm - Hudson
Cross Farm - Germantown- Fruits & Vegetables
Darlin- Doe Farm- Germantown - Goats
Don Baker Farm - Hudson- Orchard
Dutch Belted Cow Farm - Hudson- Biodynamic Fruits & Vegetables
Dutch Hollow Farm - Stuyvesant - Dairy
Eger Brothers Farm - Hudson- Fruits & Vegetables
Farm at Miller's Crossing- Hudson -
Fix Brothers Fruit Farm - Livingston- Fruits/Orchard
Foxhill Farm - Ancramdale
Golden Harvest Farm- Kinderhook- Orchard
Grazin Angus Acres  - Ghent- Grass-fed Beef
Green Acres Farm Market - Livingston - fruits, organic vegetables
Hawk Dance Farm - Hillsdale- No Chemical Fruits & Vegetables
Hawthorne Valley Farm- Ghent- Organic Farm Market
Herondale Farm - Ancramdale
Holmquest Farm & Greenhouse- Hudson - Fruits & Vegetables
Honey Dog Farm - Hillsdale- Organic vegetables
Hopedale Farm - Livingston- Apple orchard
Hudson-Chatham Winery- Ghent
Ironwood Farm- Hudson-
Kinderhook Farm - Valatie - Grass-fed meats
Le Farm - Germantown- Mushrooms & Herbs
Little Apple Farm - Hillsdale- Organic Fruits
Little Ghent Farm Store - Ghent Animal Welfare Approved farm store
Little Seed - Chatham - Organic Vegetables
Love Apple Farm - Ghent- Orchard & Farm Market, Cafe & Bakery
Markrisco Farm - Hillsdale - Organic Vegetables
Marshmeadow Farm - Germantown - Dairy, Meat & Eggs
Micosta Enterprises- Stockport - Fruits
Millerhurst Gardens- Ancramdale
Monkshood Nursery -
MX Morningstar Farm - Copake- Organic Vegetables
New Leaf Farm - New Lebanon - Organic Vegetables
Philips Orchard - Claverack- Apple Orchard
Pigcasso Farm - Copake-  Pasture-raised meats
Red Oak Farm - Stuyvesant - Organic Fruits & Vegetables
Ronnybrook Farm - Ancramdale
Roxbury Farm - Kinderhook - Vegetables
Samascott Orchards- Kinderhook - Fruits & Vegetables
Scarecrow Farm - Hollowville
Shady Acres Farm - Canaan
Sharon Farm Market - Kinderhook - Vegetables
Shortcake Farms - Claverack- Fruits & Vegetables
Sir Williams Farm - Copake- Beef & Pork
Smith Farm - Livingston - fruits
Smokey Hollow Farm - Ghent - Vegetables & Eggs
Spencer town Farm - Spencertown- Poultry
Stewardship Farm - Hudson - Vegetables
Stonehouse Farm - Hudson
Taconic Orchards - Livingston- Orchard
Ten Barn Farm- Ghent- Vegetables
The Berry Farm- Chatham - Farm Market
Thomas Fitch Farm - Ancram - Organic Vegetables
Threshold Farm - Hudson
Threshold Farm - Philmont- Biodynamic Fruits
Tierra Farm - Valatie - Organic Nuts & Dried Fruit
Trusted Roots Farm - East Chatham - Vegetables
Vida Farm - Ghent - Herbs & Flowers
Vosburgh Orchard - Elizaville- Brewery & Farm Stand
Whistle Down Farm- Hudson - Organic Vegetables
White Oak Farm - Hillsdale - Vegetables
Windswept Farm - New Lebanon - corn, plants, flowers, trees
Yonder Fruit Farm - Kinderhook- Fruits & Vegetables

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Made in Columbia County, NY? I'm Asking For Your Help!

Oh, my! It's been a while since I tended my blog. Life as a writer/entrepreneur gets a little unwieldy sometimes. That's why I'm back. I want to speak directly to the self-starters in Columbia County, of which I understand there are plenty.

I'm writing a lot these days, a new book (Hudson Valley Curiosities Arcadia Press 2017) and a new book which I'm pitching with my very first agent. If that's not enough, I'm producing a major history festival in Kinderhook, New York in October over the Columbus Day Weekend. Everyone can look that up on Facebook.

So while researching resources in Columbia County, I had the opportunity to talk with the Economic Development Corp. I kind of thought, by the sound of the name, that the EDC was there to support people like me, a self employed individual. Turns out that is what they do, but the resources they offer are things like loans and seminars. All good mind you. What came out of that conversation was a statistic that made me really think. The person on the phone informed me that one in two people in Columbia County are self employed. Wow. He even went as far to say that Columbia County was setting a trend in the country related to how new businesses are emerging.

Given this golden nugget of information I did a bit of informal research. First I scanned my friend network to see how many of them were actually self employed. In this basic exercise I deduced that of my 20 closest friends, nearly all, that's right, all of them were working for themselves. The range of jobs included: antique dealer, teacher, magazine writer/editor, media consultant, fashion trend forecaster, publicist, actress, author, editor, artist, farmer, beekeeper, consultant, potter, sales person, blogger, the list goes on! The next thing I did was to get busy writing this blog because somehow knowing this changed me a bit.

When I started this blog, my intention was to highlight the many extraordinary people who live here and write about the contributions they're making to our quality of life in the place I call home. I'm going to continue doing that, and as a way of helping my fellow entrepreneurs,  I'm going to highlight and review as many of the amazing businesses and the products created right here in CC as I can.

That said I'm asking for YOUR HELP. If you know of any products created in Columbia County, please let me know, or even better, send a photo a web link or a small sample to: P.O. Box 162, Old Chatham, NY 12136, so that I can review the product and promote it on the blog. If the business or artist needs to have the product returned, I'm fine sending it back.

Made in Columbia County will be a new addition to this blog!

I've already been in touch with some of you who make things and the range of items is so very impressive. Check your emails. So far I've discovered a person who makes perfume, a hat maker, and a very tasty nut butter cook/entrepreneur. Uncovering all of this creativity is super motivating for me....and I hope for you too.

Look for Made in Columbia County blog to be posted twice a month. Buying local has never been so much fun!

With thanks,
Allison :)

This is a photo of Taconic Baskets made here in Columbia County in the 19th Century.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Information Self-Serve...."You Can Go To My Website"

Lately I've been hearing this phrase a lot..."You can go to my website." Usually it comes in response to a question like, "Hey do you have product pricing? or What if I want to buy one ? or Do you have any press materials about your company?

I don't like hearing "You can go to my website."  I don't like being 'redirected' when I ask a question. There's something inherently new about this problem. There's inherently something wrong here. It's like asking for a glass of water from the waiter and being told go get it yourself! "You can Go to My Website" lacks the possibility for a relationship. When someone says this to me I feel like saying, "Look, I'm here in front of you right now, can't you just tell me what I need to know?"

So let me take you back to 1983 when it was less of a self-serve information world. I'm going out on a limb here but, this is the year I entered the workforce in New York City. I graduated from Fordham University. Fell in love with New York's amazingly flavorful and wonderful people. sites and sounds and plunged into an entry level job in public relations.

At the time publicity was garnered the old fashion way. We wrote releases on paper, by hand, with pens! And then when we had perfected our words we typed them on a white sheet of paper using a manual typewriter, (electric ones came soon after). It was cool to see the typewriter smack the paper with ink and watch your ideas come to life. After erasing mistakes with a special liquid called White Out that usually just made an awful smudgie mess of the letters, you took your press release to the copy machine and ran off fifty or so. After this you went back to your typewriter to compose a letter to the editor you were trying to pitch. After more smudging and some under the breath cursing, you unbound your letter from the machine's roller and made a copy of that too. Release and letter in hand you grabbed what we used to call a 'media kit' filled with brochures of your product, place or service and whatever press clips you'd collected where your product hit the news previously and prepared a package. All of this went into an oversized envelope that you sealed and then addressed by hand or again, typed an individual label.

Creating media lists, writing letters and releases and reproducing the whole packet took a lot of time, it cost money, but it was all we had. In 1983 we didn't have the following: mobile phones, computers, desktop laser jet printers, camera's on our phones. In 1983 the internet didn't exist,
so when we wanted to research the names and titles of editors, we bought large, expensive, cumbersome lists that came in huge bound books produced once a year. The directory was usually outdated by the time you got it so a lot of the time I called the magazine to get the correct editor's name and address. We then stored the name, address and phone of editors on index cards and they lived in a little neat box on my desk, like recipes.

When you were ready to pitch a story you had to send materials via the post office kind of mail. In those days we simply called it "Mail" and not snail mail, because there were no other options. When we needed a photo we called a photographer, we set up a photo shoot. We then made prints of the photos.  Today we whip out our phones and snap.

On some occasions we'd invite the editor out to lunch. We would meet in person and talk. Sometimes we orchestrated trips taking journalists to visit a site. We learned about who they were, and how they worked. But it always started out by sending a media kit.

Press materials were an essential part of doing PR in the early days and if you didn't have those materials with you or available quickly for busy editors on deadline, then you were usually SOL when it came to being included in the magazine article, newspaper story, radio broadcast, or tv program. In those days that was where we got our information.

Now it's different. I was at a trade show recently and I did an experiment. I went from booth to booth asking if the proprietors had a "media kit."  Most of the young people looked at me perplexed and called over a senior person. I explained that I wanted to write a story about their service and wanted press materials. They paused and then handed me a business card. "Ok, so you can go to our website. On the left just scroll down to the "press" page and then you'll find the information."

It happened in every booth. I couldn't even get a brochure. I walked away deflated.

Mind you, I'm all for a paperless world, don't get me wrong. Why have a press kit created when you can just find the information in the cloud. Well here's why. Because by the time I get home, and I'm ready to write the story, I've lost the enthusiasm I was feeling in the booth when I learned about a new book, a new product, a great idea. My inspiration had evaporated hours later holding an itty-bitty business card and trying to get that feeling back.  It's perfunctory to retrieve information on someone's website, but it's fun to take a press release and add your notes and then write the story from cool impressions you had actually, in real time, in the moment while it was it happening

Call me old fashioned, but the delay in getting info about something that you're jazzed about, let us say, is a real buzz kill!

So these days I'm still providing public relations services to clients. I've recently added pr packages for authors looking to promote their books. I'm thinking about how to best serve their needs, and decided to create some press packets and mail them to the writers and editors of big magazines, radio talk shows, etc. I'm going to do this as a service to the media person. It may look excessive, or that I'm paying homage to an era that's dead and gone, but I think not. I want the experiment to play out and see if there's still room in the PR world for delivery of cool information direct to a person's hands, like we used to do, in the olden days, when life happened in the moment and not later, on someone's website..... More....

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

When it's Good, its So Good...Hudson Children's Book Festival.

So I had the pleasure of being included in the 7th Annual Hudson Children's Book Festival last weekend. Because I've organized events before, I know what a huge undertaking it is to run anything like this which included 75 authors and illustrators from around the Northeast and beyond, and just one day to funnel some 5,000 attendees through a gymnasium so that we, the authors, could promote and sell our books to students. Ultimately the event was designed to promote reading. What a wonderful goal!

My book, The Hidden History of Columbia County- NY, was included because, well, Hudson is part of the book and the book is all about shining an interesting light on Columbia County.

Allison and Assemblywoman, Didi Barrett
The women, volunteers and contributors of the festival deserve a resounding round of applause. Everything ran like a well oiled machine...from the fun cocktail party on Friday night at the Hudson Boat Club, to the breakfast Saturday morning at the Elks Lodge, to the event itself. Every detail was considered and planned for and it showed.

 I was truly thrilled and honored to be a part of such a professionally run event. And what was most astounding was that it was free to authors. Wow...what an opportunity. I must have meet over 300 people during the five hours we were in the Hudson Junior/Senior High School gym (which is gorgeous by the way). My favorite conversations were with students who came over to leaf through the pages of the book and buy it to take home. There were shy teenaged boys and gushing sixth grade girls dressed head to toe in pink and green. I met boys and girls from many different towns who genuinely couldn't wait to find out what happened in their own back yards 100 years ago. It was a thrill. Best of all was when Didi Barrett stopped by to buy the book and tell me about how much she's doing in the state to marry (finally, thank you!) history and tourism.

This is the kind of event that really brought the community together. Thank you to Lisa Dolan and Jennifer Clark the co-directors from the Hudson City School District for their fine fundraising and exceptional event skills! You knocked it out of the park ladies. And I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my "author handler" Kath, (you heard correctly), she was my designated volunteer who brought me coffee, retrieved a delicious boxed lunch and sat in my booth when I needed to run to use the facilities. Wow, I could get used to that kind of personal service!

The sales were extraordinary too and that was due to the fine work of Kelly Drahushuk the co-owner of The Spotty Dog bookstore in Hudson. Kelly and Alan handled all of the book sales with grace and professionalism. So grateful!

If you happened to miss it this year, please mark your calendar for 2016. You will truly enjoy the experience...I know I did!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Pizza in Valatie

When I was growing up in a tiny town in Connecticut in the 1960s, there were a couple of places my family would go for pizza. Now mind you, I came from a very (and I mean very) Mediterranean home where my Dad was French (my grandparents only spoke French), and my Mom (my Mom's parents spoke Italian) was Italian and so we ate home cooking a lot. And why not? It was really good home cooking...A subject that I can't wait to write about later this month. And furthermore, our cousins were the owners of the original "Pepe's" Pizza in New Haven (pronounced Na-Haven, btw).

But on Friday nights, we'd go to the local pizza 'house' which was next to the supermarket, near the shoe store, around the corner from the butcher. In those days,  the pizza parlor was just one big room, with big square tile floors, paneled walls, ceiling fan and a guy behind a counter making pie.

The booths were covered in marbled green vinyl and the formica tables were speckled grey. Like I said, it was sparse and in the 1960s they packaged up your pizza in big cardboard dishes; one on the top and one on the bottom. Then the pizza guy would slide your scalding hot dinner into a thin brown bag! I can still remember having to hold those hotties on my lap in my Dad's huge black Buick.

The Pizza always smelled delicious, but they nearly burned the skin off my bare knees. Driving back to house was torture...the smell, the pain...despite all that,  I learned to love pizza early and I still do.

Later in my life I moved to New York City. Going to college in the Bronx at Fordham, you have the advantage of being close to one of the most popular Italian neighborhoods on the planet; Arthur Avenue. I ate there as often as I could. We made regular nights at Pugsley's and other great pizza places. This kind of food gets into your veins. You get spoiled for life.

As I later settled in Columbia County, an early transplant here in the early 1990s, I naturally searched for some fabulous food and of course, great pizza.

My unending search eventually turned up a funky little joint in Nassau, NY, on the edge of Malden Bridge going toward Albany. The building was tiny and it literally straddled a fork in the road between 203 and Albany Tpk. It was called "Lou's Pizza Hub."

Now no New Yorker worth her weight would even consider going into something called a "Pizza Hub" (what is that anyway?), but I went. And OMG! What I found was a cool guy named Lou with a thick Sicilian accent, slinging dough like a pro. Not only that, Lou was so fastidious about his food. Lou told me one day that he actually smuggled fresh Italian basil out of his native country each time he went there for a visit. The basil leaves were then hand ground to preserve the flavor and mixed with precious extra virgin olive oil also packed directly in Lou's baggage. The result was amazing grass-green pesto.

Lou's specialty (when he had the basil) was fresh pesto over homemade tortellini. I was home! Italian heaven. Hold that thought. It wasn't long after I discovered Lou that he was gone.  I'm not sure Lou was fully appreciated in Upstate NY. I often heard the locals refer to this dish as "Paste-A with Paste-O." Go figure!

Lou's pizza was also awesome. Cripsy, crusty, thin with slow cooked tomato sauce and finely dusted with fresh mozzarella cheese. Yum. I felt no need to look further with Lou virtually at more doorstep. It wasn't long after I discovered Lou that he was gone. I'm not sure he was fully appreciated in Upstate, NY. I had often heard the locals refer to his speciality dish as "Paste-A with Paste-O". Go figure. Lou eventually packed up his basil and retired back in Italy. I was crushed like a ripe plum tomato.

Down the road was Kay's Pizza, another institution on a local lakeside. The Pizza was so so, and adding insult to injury, they had a rule that you couldn't take the pie out, and so you were forced to eat it sitting on old picnic tables in all kinds of weather.

Beyond that, I couldn't find much in the way of really good pizza. Nothing like the pizza I had grown up on. Well that was until Labella's opened in the Hannaford Shopping Plaza in Valatie a few years ago.

I have to say that I'm not the type of person who will voluntarily eat in a strip mall unless you count the time I was stuck in Farmington, New Mexico, about 200 miles into the desert away from true civilization and it was either eat in a shopping mall or dine on burritos in the convenience store. But that episode is for another day.

So I got a tip from a reliable source that the guy at Labella's can "really cook." By that I mean he's thinking about the ingredients, he uses his hands in the food, he sings, perhaps a few lines from an Italian opera while he's in the kitchen. You see where I'm going with this.

And so I venture in one night and order the recommended dish, the Marguerita Pizza. Now here's a little history (if you know me, you know I'm into history).
Pizza originated in Italy as you might have guessed. In fact it dates back to the 1st Century B.C., in Roman times.

For a wider look go back further and you'll find that Persian soldiers baked flatbread on their shields and added cheese. And before that you had the Greeks, Egyptians, Indians and naan bread and so on. But let's start with Pizza Italiano!

 In Naples (referred to as "the old country" by my relatives) pizza was always made in  a stone or brick oven. It was around 1760 when it became popular in Naples to bake tomatoes on top of flat bread. For this we can thank Ferdinand, King of Naples, who rather liked street food and hanging with the locals. People actually thought he was kind of vulgar in that he loved flat bread with olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and a splash of oregano. Sounds like pizza to me.

Despite the King's cravings, his Queen wasn't so hip on food from a cart. The Queen in question would be Maria Carolina of Austria, the sister of Marie Antoinette. She thought her husband's choice of food was, rather, disgusting (I'll bet you he had a man cave too).

Though she wouldn't allow pizza on her own dinner table, she gave in and let her husband install pizza ovens in the palace of Capodimonte. Voila! The first pizza party was launched.

 In 1889 it was another Queen Margherita who wanted to try Neapolitan pizza so when she visited, they called on their very best pizza maker, Raffaele Esposito, to make her a pie. To make the pizza special, he added mozzarella cheese and whole basil leaves and Boom! the Margherita pizza was born.

Now the reason I mentioned this is back in Valatie, Felice Salvioli, the owner of LaBella's, is from Naples. His family moved to NY, and he transplanted he and his family to Valatie from Brooklyn. Thank God, because he's the real deal. Felice makes the best Margherita pizza around.

I love the atmosphere at LaBella's too. It's like a neighborhood bar in the front...Old School...the tv is on, guys are drinking beer in work clothes, people know each other. Around the bar and in the back are acres of tables. There's a semi open kitchen like when I was a kid where you can see the pizza's being made. Nice!

The walls are lined with wine and chianti bottles. Music on the weekend is...what else? a nice old gentleman playing and singing on an electric keyboard. I love it.

When my grandmother used to serve me some super Italian dish that I didn't like,  she would say, "You don't know what's good." But thanks to Grandma Rose, I learned.

Go to Labella's. The pizza is only the start of the menu. They have every item for every taste and enough room for a small Italian wedding (say 200).
Labella's is good and they're open until 10pm. 6 Broad Street in Valatie, NY. 518-758-6611.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Million Reasons Not to Go to Yoga Class

So here's a million (maybe that's a lot, but here's some) of reasons why I never wanted to go to a yoga class. Maybe some of these sound familiar:

1. I don't like the way I look in yoga clothes.
2. I don't like doing things in a group.
3. I don't know how to do yoga.
4. I'll be the only one in the room that doesn't know how to do yoga.
5. I don't do THAT kind of of yoga.
6. I'm not a "yoga" kind of person.
7. I'm not into traveling to do yoga when I can just stretch in my living room.
8. A friend of mine got hurt in yoga.
9. Yoga people are weird.
10. I haven't worked out lately.
11. The person next to me will be much better at it.
12. It costs too much and I don't want to spend money.
13. I already go to the gym.
14. I'm an athlete so why bother.
15. It's boring.
16. I can't cross my legs.
17. I'm too busy.

Ok so there are a few of the reasons. I get it. Yoga isn't for everyone. But here are a few things that might surprise you.

1. It's no one's business what others think about you.
Meaning, if the person next to you is judging your outfit, your fitness level, your hair, your thighs, then maybe they have a lot to of work to's none of your concern.

In yoga's all about you and what goes on on YOUR MAT. Kind of like you're on your own private island, in the sun, enjoying yourself. The teacher is the sun. It's just you and them. So in that light, it's easy to ignore the group, the girl next to you and focus on yourself.

2. Knowing HOW to do yoga is a process. That's why it's always called a "Yoga Practice." We go to practice.

Here's a secret. Few yogis actually graduate from yoga. Talk to anyone who's been in it for 20-30 years and they will tell you they still have a 'teacher.'  If you graduate, then you hit nirvana...think about how many people you know who have hit nirvana.

That's the point of yoga. Accepting that we are all humans in training. Once you feel that in your bones, it's freeing.

3. Though there are several schools of Yoga that teach postures (asanas) in many different styles, Yoga is really only one thing. Yoga is an ancient philosophy... a practice that brings joy and harmony on the deepest most lasting level.
You can achieve that joy by practicing yoga in many different ways; like flavors of ice cream. But in reality, it's really simple.

You can go to yoga, lay on your mat and breath, and that qualifies as a valid yoga practice.

So pick your flavor and then find an instructor that serves that up. You'll be happy you did.

4. Getting hurt in a yoga class is a real fear, a real concern and you can avoid it. It's important that you follow one simple rule in a yoga class since all teachers are trained differently. Decide what's best for you and stick to your own, personal limits and don't waiver even if you're tempted to compete or do exactly what the teacher tells you.

I have often just sit on the mat when I'm tired no matter how funny that looks and I'm a yoga teacher with a lot of years doing this work.

In the most cliche terms, listen to your body, and obey it. If something pinches, strains, or causes a biting pain, stop and slow down. If the stretch is within your limits and you're breathing and expanding then follow your body and go with it.

 Yoga does offer a  fair amount of "discomfort" and that's a totally different subject and something I teach in my classes to discern.

When in doubt consult the teacher, or just stop. Don't be afraid to be different when it comes to protecting your own body.

5. On the subject of being boring, let me say this about yoga. I think there's a perception today that anything that's not loud, fast, and produces money or sweat isn't worth the effort. I'd like to cordially disagree with that.

Yoga is like talking to an old person. At first glance you may see used up body, a feeble mind, a person out of synch with the world. But if you take the time to sit down and talk to them, you learn how fascinating their life has been, the cool lessons they've learned, the creative thoughts they have, the people they've loved. You walk away changed and you're not sure how that happened.

That's yoga, in a sense. It will change you for the better, and you won't know how that happened.
The thing about slowing down is that it's scary for some people. The idea that you would remove all the distractions and be alone with your thoughts for an hour is quite daunting.
I invite you to try. You might find it's a cool exploration and who knows, it might be as amazing as mountain biking.

So in conclusion, when you think of going to yoga class, be sure to run down your list of reasons why not. That exercise alone can burn a few hundred calories, but you will have missed the opportunity to try a new adventure.

I teach yoga at my home in Malden Bridge and at various studios in Columbia County. Please come. You are invited always.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Coming home to Yourself

Well, this is so cliche from the outside, I am self conscious about writing a blog about loneliness, but here goes. My Dad's birthday was yesterday. He died 36 years ago...I was named after him...This one's for you...

This post was inspired by a friend who's a poet and who just published a new book of poetry on this very subject of loneliness. She just lost her Mom (a friend of mine) to cancer. The reviews of her new volume of poems were great. They called her work "brave" and "courageous." They heralded her ability to tackle such an unpleasant subject.

Now some of you may be thinking that being "lonely" is a prerequisite for any writer, a natural fit, like the shoes that every writer walks in are the shoes of a loner. Like maybe writers (I am one) prefer to limp along, sad and reflective.  Well if you believe that you also probably believe that all writers are drinkers, and that all football players beat their wives (did I just say that?).

The bottom line is it's not just writers who are alone, we all are. We enter into the world solo, and we exit the same way...the trip we take through life is body, one mind, one soul (if you will) all neatly packaged inside YOU.  You can hold someone's hand, you can make love and feel joined, you can marry, you can co-habitate, you can ride around life with a companion, a significant other, a friend, a dog even, but no matter how you look at this, it's you and whomever is standing beside you is them, and that still leaves just you standing with them...but in reality, it's still just YOU.

Few people live alone out here in the northern parts of Columbia County, but some of us do. I've talked to people about this. Some non-couple domestic dwellers (*I'm trademarking this phrase so don't get any ideas Gweneth Paltrow) seem content, others are clearly making up stuff in their heads to get by. It's all good.

If you've always lived alone, then maybe you're used to it, but if it's new to you, then maybe you're just getting used to it, or maybe you're not. I'm in the 'maybe you're not' group...but tracking toward, 'getting used to it.'

However, here's what runs through my squirrelly little mind...I'm a glass...
Is the glass half empty? Is the glass empty? Is it just a glass with great potential to be much more...full? Is it time to refill the glass? Is it really a glass after all if it's not filled with something? Why does anyone even need a glass...oh right, to fill it.

To me, that's what "alone" is all about....
You can be inside the lonely house looking out at a full world, or retreating to the lonely house taking refuge within the walls. You can reach out, or, reach within. You can fill the house with things and still feel alone among them. There are activities you can take part in by yourself and yet, whom do you tell them to later? Is it really a life if you're not sharing it? This is what being alone gets you thinking about.

But here's the kicker...if you're on the inside of an empty house looking out and waiting for the house to be full...let me tell'll be waiting a long time, cuz Santa is definitely not sliding down the chimney tonight.

After many, many months of pondering this, it finally occurred to me what the problem truly was. I was waiting for something to happen "to" me. As if some brave super hero was going to swoop down into my kitchen and arrange things so that I wasn't feeling so alone. Huh? How old are you?

That's what a childhood friend of mine used to call "Birthday Cake World."
Here in Birthday Cake World, there's pink icing on your super, duper creamy cake and what you expected as your birthday gift gets delivered with a giant red bow on top! Yippee.
Ugh...not so...

The truth is, I think the Birthday Cake World notion is right on. I fantasized that someone was going to make this better. It wasn't until I got brave, mustered some courage and examined the feelings I was having did I understand what was truly going on.

Finally, one day, while walking the country roads that circle around my neighborhood I got the nerve to say to myself..."what the hell is this feeling after all"....What Is IT?  I walked and walked thinking and crying and feeling like plain old shit.  I dug inside my heart, I yanked on the pain, I heaved it up to the surface and laid it on blacktop. I looked it in the was black and bloody, like a tick I has scratched out from under my skin.  And it was ugly, but we were going to have it out, a good old fashioned "come to Jesus" moment once and for all.

There it was, the God awful thing I didn't want to see...FEAR.

Fear. Yep. I was totally afraid. Yikes. I was afraid that I couldn't be alone. Couldn't cut it. Afraid that I couldn't take care of myself. Afraid I couldn't make happiness real without another human. Afraid of spending a holiday alone eating cereal out of a box. Afraid of being unknown, unseen and forgotten by the world...and the f-ing list goes on.

But the thing that I was most afraid of was not having that joy I used to feel having someone I love come home at the end of the day. When the sun started to set, I would get physically ill. I longed for that Donna Reed, Father Knows Best, Beaver Cleaver, Brady Bunch, kind of warmth that you're supposed to get at the end of the rainbow, if you do your life right and win the prize.

I hated that it was missing. I hated that I missed that feeling. I hated myself for acting like a was the essence of loneliness for me.
And then this happened. I got a phone call from a friend who said, "you may be lonely, but you're not alone." I could have kissed this person for illuminating that simple truth. And there it was. WHAMMO. The real answer to this problem.

You can come home, damn it. You can be the one that comes home to you. You can be the one that's warm and happy to see you and loving and kind and brings flowers and great news and plans. It can be you! You do this for others, now do it for yourself.
Wow...was that a revelation.

Now a days, I'm going to like me better than anyone else does. I welcome me at the door. Honey, I'm home!

And even though there is a new special someone in my life who might come home some day...I'm not just getting used to being alone, I'm kind of liking it.

For right now, I'm still dating myself, and I don't want to hear anyone out there laughing because you could be doing the same thing some day. It makes perfect sense. I can treat myself to me...and just for today, that's plenty.