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Life of late

One last frigid glimpse of my beloved Connelly. Burrh!
One last frigid glimpse of my beloved Connelly. Burrh!
The Shrek float.
The Shrek float.
My favorite float. Who can resist an enormous skull with a nasty habit? I sure can’t!
My favorite float. Who can resist an enormous skull with a nasty habit? I sure can’t!

It’s been a hectic few days but I did find the time between moving back and forth to enjoy Kingston’s St. Paddy’s Day parade which is held just a mere hop, skip, and a jump from Connelly. Some friends came over beforehand to cook me brunch and we made the most of my apartment’s minimal furnishings. Then it was off to enjoy the festivities. It was a cold day, but people came out in droves to celebrate. Admittedly, I was a bit tired so I cut out early to take a nap. Pretty lame, I know. The days leading up to this were all about packing, moving everything by myself (including a queen-size bed), renting a cargo van, hitting a deer with the rental, Petunia hyperventilating the entire seven hour trip because she was terrified of riding in the van, trying to find someone to sublet my place (easier said than done), saying goodbyes…the usual craziness.

Life of late has been all about letting go, looking forward and wanting to sleep all the freakin’ time. Nevertheless, I’m really excited to be returning home for a little while. It’ll be great to see all my old friends and play Auntie Jaime to their little munchkins. I’m also pondering my plans post-Yellowstone. So many options. Last night, I convinced myself that I was going to boondock across the country in a stealth van. The pluses of that plan outweigh the minuses but we shall see… If this sounds up your alley, you definitely have to check out Nomadic Fanatic on Youtube. That dude is my hero! Last night I was up until 4 am watching his videos. Yikes!

Packed and stacked, especially in the back! (Name that tune.) If there’s one thing in life I excel at, it’s most certainly packing.
Packed and stacked, especially in the back! (Name that tune.) If there’s one thing in life that I excel at, it’s without a doubt packing.
Farm Life

Dark and Stormy

A snow stormy Connelly
The lovely but harrowing view from my window this morning.

Well, it’s been one heck of Valentine’s Day! I hope you’re spending yours someplace where you’re warm, well-fed and surrounded by loved ones. The weather these past two days has been, to put it mildly, challenging. I think the snow accumulation totalled somewhere around 20 inches and we have another 2 to 4 inches coming tomorrow.  My “fun” (that word is comprised of, dipped in and drizzled with sarcasm at this point) began yesterday. I was working outside at the farm all day and, of course, the snow completely pounded us from the moment we arrived. It began as large, luscious flakes that quickly turned into a horizontal, wind-whipped whiteout. To make matters worse, it was my new co-worker’s second day on the job (and I thought I started at a bad time)! He could have completely run for the hills but instead he and I totally rocked it. Together, we worked with summertime efficiency and accomplished more than my supervisor had ever thought possible in a snowstorm. We all triumphantly left work knowing that we showed the day who was boss.

road conditions
My view as I waited, with my neighbor behind me, for the plow to finish clearing our road.

I managed to successfully white-knuckle it home thanks to my new snow tires and when I arrived just outside of Connelly, my neighbor pulled me over to say that they hadn’t plowed any of the roads…at all. It was 4 pm and nothing had been touched. Ahh… Connelly, the little hamlet that Kingston forgot including the town plows. As luck would have it, the plow was right behind me so my wait was minimal. Once my neighbor and I gunned our cars up the hill, I had, in the matter of minutes, aggressively carved out a spot for my car to safely ride out the rest of the storm. I was still so pumped from the day that I even paid it forward by shoveling out the neighbors car in the driveway. Then I settled in for a relaxing night with Tuna and WordPress (I know, it’s romantic.). By the time I was ready for bed I could hear the freezing rain pounding on my windows and I knew I was in for an early morning of excessive, agonizing digging.

snow buried car
My car is in here somewhere.

I woke up at 5 am to check the situation and come up with a game plan. The roads were completely covered, as well as my car, and even the evidence of my neighborly deed was buried by 10 inches of snow. In the end, I begrudgingly decided that my fate was in the hands of the town plow and that I was going to have to practice patience. I was a tad bit concerned that there might be a repeat performance of yesterday’s single 4 pm showing but as luck would have it, the plow came at 7:15 am to clear the roads AND encase my car in a sturdy, rock-hard snow bank. Thanks mister, you shouldn’t have!

I called my supervisor to tell her that I was running extremely late and that I’d get there sometime before next year and she was just so glad to hear that I was coming into work in some way, shape or form. She’d already experienced her own snowy snafus which included driving her truck into a ditch. Luckily, with the help of four manly strangers who agreed to stand on her rear bumper, she was able to get out.

Back in Connelly, the whole block banned together to dig one another out with shovels and snow blowers and with their help I was on my way to work by 9 am. I left feeling just like the Grinch whose heart grew several times its size because of all the good deeds being witnessed. On my way to work, through all the slides and sludge, I drove by a little person and a very tall man walking along the busy street together. They were all bundled up, seemingly happy, and I couldn’t help but think of how I love this world sometimes. I love that mother nature has made each of us unique. We have little people, we have extremely tall people, we have all shapes and sizes and that’s really freakin’ fantastic! Life would be so boring if we all looked alike. Mother nature is a genius!

petunia the pitbull in the snow
Petunia was traumatized by how deep the snow was. She ran out, peed, and refused to venture back out after that.

I arrived at work to find a snowy shit-show. I hadn’t even made it halfway down the driveway before I saw a volunteer–who drove all the way from NYC in the storm (we have the best volunteers!)–had gotten her rental car stuck. All of the animal houses were buried and needed to be dug out before we could even go in to feed or water them. So needless to say, the shoveling was never-ending. I got the farm truck stuck seemingly a million times and had to use my patented rock back and forth technique. The snow was over Pep and Pepita’s fence (a sassy yet adorable duck couple) so they literally waddled right out of their enclosure and onto the frozen pond to join a flock of wild ducks. Since we’re buds, all I had to do was call for them at the end of the day and they came right to me, thankfully. The list of near disasters was fairly endless but it all turned out great because we pulled it together…AND there was cake involved which is always a good motivator.

a snowy animal sanctuary
A volunteer demonstrating the depth of the snow. The homestead looking all inviting. A glorious view of the farm featuring billowy blue skies and Kerrie’s arm.

On the way home I stopped for dinner at an Italian restaurant I frequent (the owner calls me Roll In The Hay because I always come in covered in hay) and they gave me flowers for Valentine’s Day. I was so darn touched. I’d forgotten what day it was. When I arrived home I opened up a package from Ling Ling and in it I found an infinity scarf that she had knitted me (or Petunia), a glorious pair of thermal footie pajamas that I will never take off, tons of chocolate and several gossip magazines which I absolutely loathe–but like train wrecks, I can’t look away from them once they’re in front of me.

petunia the pitbull
Petunia enjoying my flowers, footie pajamas and scarf. She tried to eat my flower though…ungrateful tramp!

This morning, as we dug out the animal enclosures, I asked the NYC volunteer how they were handling the storm down in the big apple. She mentioned witnessing a slap fight between two cranky women who had enough of bumping into one another on the subway. All people kept saying was that it was too early for a fight and all the volunteer kept thinking was that it isn’t about the time of day, it’s about the inappropriateness of fighting with a complete stranger over personal space on a crowded subway car. I couldn’t help but see the contrast between her experience and the one I just had in Connelly where we all helped one another. We’re only about an hour apart but the difference is night and day. All in all, for having to work in such a terrible storm, it’s left me with a tremendous feeling of satisfaction, hope and more than anything I feel grateful.

Travel

A Hudson Valley Hamlet: Connelly, New York

I'm obsessed with this old firehouse.
I’m obsessed with this old firehouse.

I wanted to share with you some photos of where I live. In January of 2008, I was offered a dream job (turtle biologist!) in the Hudson Valley with the stipulation that I would start almost immediately. This was particularly challenging since I lived almost four hours away, I didn’t know the area very well, and it was the dead of winter–thus making it hard to just whizz on down there to look for suitable lodgings. Even worse, my sweet Petunia is a pit bull so most landlords won’t even consider us. My task seemed im-freakin-possible. However, my friend/supervisor ran into an acquaintance who was looking for a tenant. And as luck would have it, she was having an open house the next day. Petunia and I jumped in the car Dukes of Hazzard style, prayed for good weather, and made the slushy drive. Three and a half hours later, we found ourselves in perhaps the quirkiest place that this crazy state of New York has to offer. And that’s saying a lot! It has the claustrophobic street layout of New Orleans, the feral cat population of Key West and the diversity of New York City.

For simplicities sake, Connelly is three marinas in various states of shabbiness with a few adjoining streets. It’s on the Roudout Creek and is almost directly across from Kingston’s bustling Roudout-West Strand Historic District. Being that it’s only a few streets wide and a few streets long, it’s not on anyone’s radar. Some of its quirks include a dog poop station, a fix-it station, a community tomato garden, a memorial to residents who’ve passed, and a sketchy bait and tackle shop. Plus it has the amenities of a larger town such as its own post office (located in a house) and even its own fire department. I loved it as soon as we drove in, even in its snow-covered state. Petunia immediately won over the landlord, the apartment was perfect, and the rest is history…or so I thought. In 2009, the place I worked for nearly went under so I moved back upstate–leaving my sweet Connelly behind. Throughout the years, my landlord (who I would now consider a friend) would contact me to let me know that “my apartment” would soon be available and that the place isn’t the same without Petunia. I’ve been tempted many times to return but the timing just didn’t align until now. I’ve always told my friends that this place is magic and I definitely believe it. Just yesterday, Petunia and I took our early morning walk with an older lady who paints pet portraits for a living. The day before, my car-hoarding Jamaican neighbor threw butternuts at me and cracked up laughing because I couldn’t figure out where the heck they were coming from. There’s hijinx everywhere. Oh, it’s grand to be back!

This is where I live.
This is where I live.
This lovely abandoned building is actually the view from my porch.  The owner is hoping to make it into a creative space for makers.
This lovely abandoned building is actually the view from my porch. It was once an old school house.
A view from my street. That brick house is seemingly abandoned and it's a crying shame.
A view from my street. That brick house is one of my favorites. It was seemingly abandoned for a while but now a family has moved in.

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Our lovely park complete with playground equipment, a b-ball court and baseball field. Sadly, all underutilized.
Our lovely park complete with playground equipment, a b-ball court and baseball field. Sadly, all underutilized.
I adore the bright yellow house on the left.
I adore the bright yellow house on the left.
Tuna-butt!
Tuna-butt!

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Why the heck don't I have a boat? I clearly didn't get the memo.
Why the heck don’t I have a boat? I clearly didn’t get the memo.

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One of Connelly's wonderful quirks.
One of Connelly’s wonderful quirks.
It's all mine...as soon as it goes up for sale.
It’s all mine…as soon as it goes up for sale.
Standing at the four corners.
Standing at the four corners.
A memorial for resident who have passed.
A memorial for residents who have served our country.
Travel

From Yellowstone and back

004So it’s been several weeks since I’ve returned to my norm but before I bring us totally up-to-date, I thought I would fill you in on the happenings post-Yellowstone.

From Yellowstone, I drove seemingly forever to Fort Collins, Colorado to stay with one of my best buds for a few days. I’d never been to Fort Collins before so this was a real treat. It’s a fantastic town and I can see why my friend raves (non-stop) about it! I was operating under the misguided notion that Fort Collins was just some crappy suburb of Denver but I was quickly schooled. During my visit we enjoyed some beers at New Belgium (Wow! That place is huge and busy!) and enjoyed two flights at Equinox Brewing. Their Darth Ryder Dunkelweizen is the stuff of dreams! We ate at Lucile’s Creole Cafe which was freakin’ delicious! It’s affordable, tasty, and the servings are enormous. Plus, it made me miss New Orleans (oh my sweet NOLA…). And although the focus of this leg along my American tour was mostly devoted to eating and drinking, I managed to slip in some exercise and nature. We hiked the Arthur’s Rock Trail at Lory State Park which overlooked the city and the Horsetooth Reservoir bustling with boats. It was a relatively short hike compared to what I was used to and it rained on us, but the views were well worth it.

After a few days in Fort Collins, my friend and I were off on a long, tedious journey to the east coast. He was going to his sister’s in DC and I was headed to my brother’s in Ocean City, MD. I was so thankful to have him along for the ride because I abhor driving and it was great to actually have some company for once. On a recommendation from my brother we listened to the audiobook of Pete Townshend’s Who Am I for most of the first day. It was interesting to say the least but we both got sick of Pete whining about how no one understood or wanted to back his Lifehouse Project (it’s basically how one musical note can unify the world). Sorry Pete but I happen to believe that life is way too complicated to be fixed by just one note. Our first night was spent in the creepiest campground known to man! I’m not even joking, exaggerating, or putting anything mildly. I believe we were somewhere in Missouri and the “campground” was a field alongside Interstate 70 yet it was completely abandoned apart from us and the owners who lived in a camper. Since my insomnia was acting up and I was a little freaked by my surroundings, I swung on the swing set for most of the night until the coyotes started howling. Then I was beyond freaked and proceeded to run into the tent to hide. The next night we stayed at a super nice KOH campground not too far from Morgantown, West Virginia. There I finally was able to sleep. Then before you knew it, we were just outside of DC and I was bidding my travel companion farewell. After being completely spoiled, I was left to my own devices to brave the DC traffic on my own. Apart from being terrified, I did remarkably well and I was at the Arlington Trader Joe’s (my brother insisted that I stop there to procure a wide assortment of cheap nuts) and then my brother’s in no time. Admittedly, I cried a little (or a lot) on my drive there. It was the first time I’d been alone since I left Yellowstone and I missed it all. I missed the beauty, the animals, the air, the barracks, the danger, my field partner, my friends, and now one of my best friends was gone too. It all felt so overwhelmingly terrible yet it was a welcomed release.

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I stayed with my brother for only a few days–despite his begging that I move in with him and start a family business. My first day there we went on a kick-ass brewery tour and had the best time. You wouldn’t believe how many microbreweries are popping up in Maryland and Delaware. It’s like I died and went to hop heaven. Overall, we hit two states and six breweries: 16 Mile, 3rd Wave, Evolution, Burley Oak, Tale Tales, and of course Dogfish Head. Hazards don’t mess around when it comes to beer. We’re going on brew tour #2 next time I’m down there so Ling Ling can be the designated driver. Having to restrain ourselves was cramping our style. On my second day we went to Rehoboth Beach to eat and drink at Dogfish Head. This is our mecca. Oh my poor liver…but the rest of me was in heaven! We spent our nights watching movies and catching up. He’s truly one-of-a-kind and I’m lucky to have him as my brother. I’m so proud of what he’s accomplished in the past year. The day I left he was devastated that I wasn’t going to live with him. I think he was operating under the assumption that I was for some reason. As I was packing, he gave me the talk about how I was at a crossroads in my life, this is my pivotal turning point, and living with him was the best move. It’s nice to feel wanted and appreciated like that, especially by a family member, however, I already made commitments in the Hudson Valley so I left–with a delicious crab cake in hand– feeling a tad down. The 6.5 hour drive to my mother’s house in Cortland, New York was filled with non-stop rain, sometimes blinding torrential downpours, and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Needless to say, it took me nine, painful, hours to get there. That night I spent about two hours soaking in her bathtub, mindlessly reading her gossip magazines. I never wanted to drive again. All I wanted to do was sleep forever, hide from the world, and just be blue.

I spent a week at my mother’s trying to get back to some sort of normal life. Detoxing from the grandeur of nature and trying to learn how to be social again. Even now, weeks later, I’m still feeling a little more socially awkward than usual–and that’s saying a lot. I went to the Chemung county fair with my best friend, her parents, and her little daughter Sophia. It was sooooo nice to be with them and feel like I was part of their family. I can’t tell you how guilty it makes me feel to not be a regular part of their lives. We walked around all of the barns and it was neat to see how comfortable Sophia is with animals. On the downside, a mischievous donkey came up and bit me in the crotch. The creature munched me so hard that it left a bruise. I handled it like a champ though because I didn’t want Sophia to think of her Auntie Jaime as being a total wimp. The next day I learned that another friend just had her second baby while I was away so I made it a point to visit her and the rest of the fam. Here’s what a crappy friend I am: I didn’t even know she was pregnant! There are no words to describe how this makes me feel other than that it became blatantly obvious that I had dropped the ball on the best part of life: enjoying family and friends and just being social. I’m vowing to change this but I’m finding that being a hermit is a hard habit to break. And one of the sweetest things happened while I was home visiting: I attended my parents’ class reunion with both my mother, father and my step-sister. I love going to their reunions because their classmates tell me naughty stories about them. Hah! My dad was a handsome, heartbreaking, bad-boy!  I’m not kidding. The guy could have been an actor or male model. Even though my father and sister only stayed for two days, the four of us enjoyed dinner at an Italian restaurant, had breakfast at their hotel, and did some catching up at the house. The visit was short but we made it count. I will always be glad that my parents divorced because even to a young kid it’s obvious when people aren’t happy, but I’m blessed that they still enjoy and genuinely care for one another. Plus, I got a great step-sis out of the deal so I can’t complain.2013-08-03 19.07.052013-08-03 17.50.372013-08-03 16.28.082013-08-01 19.38.30

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Then it was time to move back to the Hudson Valley. This go around, instead of living with housemates in the barn, I would be moving back into my old apartment in Connelly. I always loved that apartment but I had to give it up when my biologist job hit the skids and we were all not getting paid. Now that I’m a little better off, I can hopefully afford to live there again. My fingers are crossed. So Ling Ling and her boyfriend Craig caravaned with me across the state to move me out of my expertly packed storage unit and into my new/old apartment. The move, shockingly enough, was smoother than silk. A better moving experience has never been had; I should totally hire them out! Just like my favorite line from Dumb and Dumber states: “Senior citizens, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose.” Horrible, I know! Hilarious but awful at the same time. That brings us almost to today but not quite…2013-08-10 12.55.45