hayward house

8404866A little over four years ago, Dave and I were planning a trip to the Finger Lakes — to Ithaca, to see my friends. Or rather, to give my friends a chance to inspect my new boyfriend. (I think we decided he was a keeper.) The hotel I’d expected us to say at unexpectedly raised its rates, and I found myself saying to Dave, “How do you feel about bed & breakfasts?” After a short search and reading a few reviews, we booked a weekend at The Hayward House, and that’s how we found one of our favorite places in the world.

IMG_1357The Hayward House is in Interlaken, NY, and sort of in the middle of nowhere. I mean, not really, but it feels that way, in a good way. Driving up to it at night for the first time, gravel crunching underneath the tires and no lights, like, anywhere, you get a little worried you’ve unknowingly landed a part in Blair Witch 3. But when you get there, it’s a warm beacon if wonderfulness, a beautiful house and an amazing place to stay.

IMAG0270We’ve been back many times — a few more times when we were dating, the weekend before our wedding for a nice retreat, and just last year, in the summer. We’ve gone on the cheese trail, on sailboat rides, visited the nearby Amish market for cookies, honey and yogurt, and visited friends in the area. We’ve always loved it there — the same beautiful West View room with the lovely bedspread, the cozy chairs, and the stuffed cow that lives on the bed (I call him “Moo Moo Cow”), the alpacas next door (we got to see a newborn last visit) and the various animal residents all around.

IMG_1341The breakfasts are completely amazing — Kevin is a phenomenal cook and Michelle’s not bad herself — and we’ve always looked forward to them with glee. There is usually one other couple there when we are (though once it was just us). You meet some interesting people, some nice, some a little odd. One couple kept complaining that there was too much food… as if they force-feed you asparagus tarts and bacon and egg fritattas and delicious juice… They left the table early, which, frankly, meant more quiche for us that day. (And the house is spacious and people go their own way, so breakfast is the only time you have to socialize with anyone, just in case you get a dud like that.)

7733912_origThe Hayward House is one of our favorite places to be, hands down, anywhere in the world. And it’s a special place for Dave and I, as we went there together when we’d just gotten together, and have gone back for so many other milestones and special times. We’ll always cherish every memory we’ve made there. Recently, it went up for sale, and I hope whoever takes guardianship of this special place next continues its lovely traditions, either as a B&B or a home, of simple grace, peace and harmony.

viva las vegas

Last month Dave and I went to Las Vegas to celebrate our first anniversary (yay, us!). Dave, obviously if you know him, spends a lot of time in Vegas. But I haven’t been there since I was abuot nine years old, and I remember very little of that trip.

We had a beautiful room at the Bellagio and in many ways, that room (and the awesome room service breakfast) was my favorite part of the trip. We were upgraded to a fountain view room and it was a terrific view all around. The fountains play most of the day on a set schedule, set to music. It’s kind of neat. Like the long-gone and much lamented Kahunaville restaurant in the Walden Galleria Mall (Buffalo peeps will know what I mean), times a thousand. I tried taking video and kept having snafus, but this one’s not bad — you just see my finger over the lens for, like, half a second.

DSC02216The Bellagio is really pretty. There’s this neat conservatory they change with the seasons — it was set for Autumn when we were there. The lobby has this really neat chandelier sculpture, Fiori di Como, but Dale Chihuly. There’s also what is reportedly a very nice art gallery, but it was closed in preparation for an exhibit of Fabregé eggs. This was a little heartbreaking for me. I’ve got a thing for Fabregé eggs. Their history is fascinating, and since there are so few of them, and most in private collection, a traveling exhibit like this is a big deal. And I missed it by four days. Grrr.

DSC02221There are a lot of great restaurants in Vegas. We had a beautiful fancy wonderful dinner at Jasmine, also at the Bellagio. And I was tickled to learn that the burger place Dave took me to is Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar. I’ve watched enough Top Chef to be a big Hubert Keller fan.

I haven’t mentioned much about the casinos, which is because I don’t gamble or have any interest in gambling. I sat down at one slot machine just to try it, and then had to yell at Dave not to put $20 in it — what a waste! A dollar was more than enough. I found the whole thing kind of lackluster. The gambling areas of the casinos are a lot less nice than you see them on TV — they’re crowded. And SMOKY.

I used to smoke. I quit years ago. It was really, really, really hard to do, so anyone trying to quit and struggling has my sympathy, no question. But I kind of thought a lot of people had quit. I mean, I don’t see that many people smoking anymore, out and about. But apparently all the people that still smoke are in Las Vegas. All of them. And all of them smoking all the time. Everywhere. Casino, outside, inside, at the pool, in the halls, in the elevators, even. It’s kind of gross, to put it mildly. And the smell seeped everywhere, into hallways and under doors. I bought a big thing of Febreeze and sprayed our room with it a couple times a day.

We took the bus tour around the city, though, and got to see a bunch of the other hotels. The Venetian is nice but the gondoliers are really cheesy. Paris has a great breakfast buffet. I liked Circus Circus, which Dave tells me isn’t on many other people’s best-of-Vegas lists; I thought it seemed a little friendlier and not quite as avaricious as the other casinos.

Vegas was fun, and in my humble opinion I make a pretty cheap date there, since I don’t drink or gamble. I’d like to go back, but I don’t ever think the Strip will ever hold the same appeal for me as it does for others. I was just there for the food. And the fountains.

clingy cats

I love cats of all kinds. Big ones, little ones, lap cats and mean cats and cats that are crazy and cats that run the world. Stripey, orangey, black, white, splotchy, what have you. I don’t have a preference because I like them all for their quirks and their pecadillos. It’s what makes cats fun, in my opinion. They’re such individuals.

While some cats are more affectionate than others, in general there’s a certain standard of standoffishness you expect from a cat, right? A certain “I don’t care what you do” superiority, even if they don’t mean it deep down (sometimes they’re just faking for appearances). That slow blink that says, “You have an incurable tumor? Yes, that’s very interesting. And once you’re dead, my food bowl will be getting filled how?” I mean, those of you who knew my Katie can attest that she was never anything other than annoyed with the world, something I rather enjoyed.

The point is, given all of that, I was somewhat unprepared for Fred and George. Loving, affectionate, not given to sulks or attitude, they’re wonderful kitties… even if sometimes I’m scratching my head, wondering if they missed a day in Cat Attitude School. Still, lately they’ve really taken it up a notch. These days they’re downright…clingy. If I sit still for more than five minutes, I’m generally swarmed on by orangey fluff, and if I lie down on the bed, I end up with this:

I’m not complaining, believe me. But I’ll never know what I did to deserve such kitty devotion. Of course, it’s possible they’re just using me for body warmth and ear rubbings.

this is huge: Unprecedented Breakthrough for Spinal Cord Injuries

hp_feature_bimovementLast weekend, Dave and I went to the New York ComicCon. That was an adventure in itself. :) But the most amazing thing we saw was a panel from the  Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

Christopher Reeve was a talented actor, director, husband and father. He died ten years ago this week, almost ten years after suffering from a near-fatal riding accident that left him a quadriplegic. While he never walked again, he recovered far more quality of life than even the most optimistic of his doctors could have imagined. He fought tirelessly for progressive treatment of spinal cord injuries. He had faith that a solution would one day be found.

Now, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation has news to share that is beyond exciting. Epidural stimulation has resulted in an “Unprecedented Breakthrough” for the paralysis community. Four young men who have been paralyzed for years achieved groundbreaking progress – moving their legs – as a result of epidural electrical stimulation of the spinal cord. New research published in the medical journal Brain documents the effectiveness of epidural stimulation as a therapy option for chronic motor complete spinal cord injuries. The study was funded in part by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

At the panel, we heard from Matthew Reeve, Christopher’s son and now on the Board of Directors of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. We then watched a video about their campaign, The Big Idea. There were heard from four exceptional young men who have achieved progress thought impossible. You can view the video in its entirety at www.reevebigidea.org. Below is a portion featuring Rob Summers, who was the first person to receive epidural stimulation.

Finally, we were honored to meet and hear from those four men. They were inspirational. We were incredibly moved by the entire experience.

Here are some words from Matthew Reeve. I hope you will read, visit the site, and share this amazing, wonderful news.

 


 

Honor My Father In 3 Simple Ways

Earlier this year, we brought you the exciting news that as a result of epidural stimulation of the lower spinal cord, four young men, all classified with a chronic motor spinal cord injury, were able to move their legs and stand. This was an unprecedented, unparalleled, and unexpected achievement.

Even more surprisingly, these men also experienced significant improvements in autonomic functions, including bladder and bowel function, sexual control, and temperature regulation. This is a major breakthrough for millions of people living with paralysis and signals the start of a new era in research.

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation just launched a new campaign titled The Big Idea, which will support the next phase of epidural stimulation research.

The goal of this initiative — the largest in our history — is to raise $15 million to accelerate this critical study.

This money will fund 36 new participants to further evaluate the efficacy of epidural stimulation in restoring autonomic functions and movement. From there, our goal is to expand the program to hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands of people living with SCI to dramatically change their lives.

This is a HUGE undertaking. And we need your help.

Here are three ways you can show your support and be a part of this revolutionary new step toward reversing some of the most life-threatening effects of paralysis:

1. Visit ReeveBigIdea.org and make a financial contribution. Just $36 to change 36 lives will make all the difference but any amount can go a long way.

2. Email your friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and anyone you can, to encourage them to show their support as well.

3. Rally for the Reeve Foundation by posting to Facebook or Twitter using #JoinReeve and linking to ReeveBigIdea.org — and let everyone know that you are investing in the future of SCI research.

On the 10th anniversary of my father’s passing, we have a chance to change the future of what it means to live with paralysis.

My father once said, “Nothing of any consequence happens unless people get behind an idea. It begins with an individual and they share the idea with more individuals…and eventually it becomes a movement.This is our movement. This is our moment. Let’s make it happen.

Thank you,
Matthew Reeve
Board of Directors
Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

here’s what you missed

yearsNext month, it will be ten years since my mother died. More times than I can count, in those ten years, I’ve wanted to tell her about something only to realize that, even if I could, she wouldn’t understand — she’s been gone long enough, now, that the world is a different place, full of things she never saw. Instead, I’d have to catch her up a little, first. So with that in mind — Mom, this is a bit of what you missed in the past decade.

 

So, we’ve got a lot of Internet stuff we didn’t have when you were here. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. And then gadgets like the iPhone. The iPad. iEverything. I can’t imagine you’d have cared about most of that. But the Kindle —  you’d have liked the Kindle. I can just see you sitting there in the green chair, reading (squinting through bifocals, sure, but still). That would’ve made an awesome Christmas present for you.

You missed a really exciting election, which is a shame because you died the morning after a really disappointing one. (Election night, 2004, my mother went to bed disgruntled, saying, “Wake me up if Kerry somehow wins, but for God’s sake let me sleep if it’s just Bush again”. The next morning that she passed away. I know you were pissed off, Mom, but that was a little extreme, don’t you think?) Anyhow, you would have been happier with the outcome in 2008. Sorry you missed that.

Speaking of changing the guard, you missed an entire pope. It was something. JP2 died, and then there was this guy who looked like the Emporer from Return of the Jedi, not that you would have known that, not being a Star Wars fan yourself. Get this, though: a few years later, he stepped down. I know, right?! They aren’t supposed to be able to do that! Crazy. You’d like the new guy though. He seems nice.

You missed the end of “The West Wing”. It was really great. Leo died of a heart attack the year after you did — not the character Leo, I mean John Spencer. Kinda sucked. As you would know. I missed watching it with you. (That and “Lost” — we saw the premiere and the first few episodes together. I loved it. Six seasons. But I still can’t really explain what the smoke monster was, though.) Anyhow, a lot of other people died since you did. Obviously. People we knew, even. Also the usual “In Memoriam” roll of celebrities each year. Michael Jackson, which was sad but strangely predictable. Robin Williams, just last month, which wasn’t. It was awful, actually. Well, maybe the afterlife just got a lot more entertaining, at least.

Your John Elway, Mom, he’s back with the Broncos — he’s their General Manager now. You would have loved that. Though at least you were spared watching another team of yours losing the Super Bowl.

I really wish you’d been here with me, watching marriage equality struggle to be born. You’d have been proud to see it happen. You were so great that way — you got smarter and more enlightened and more open-minded the older you got. I loved the talks we had, and watching you think about things, letting your opinions evolve over time. You have no idea how rare that is. Most people get smaller. You got bigger. It reminds me of your favorite mini-series, “The Forsyte Saga”, when Old Jolyon dies and his son says:

“Some people retreat as they get older. Not Dad. He grew better with age. His horizons broadened, he became more flexible. More compassionate. He accepted that different people might want to live their lives in different ways. He was a man of honesty, bravery, conviction. Never afraid to apologize. Never afraid to love.”

That was you, too. So I can only imagine how much more awesome you would have become, by now.

As for me? Well, a lot of things changed. My name, my address, my life. But all those changes aren’t really what I think about, when I remember how long it’s been. Truthfully, the world became a different place for me the moment you weren’t in it, and all I’ve missed in the past ten years is you.

toy story

I’m a grown-up. I have bills, a car, a job, and I pay taxes. I can rent a car, drink legally, and I get flyers in the mail from AARP occasionally (too soon!). Definitely a grown-up. But I also cannot deny this:

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I’ll say right off the bat that only some of them are mine. About two-thirds of them. But it doesn’t matter where they originated, because I’d never get rid of any of the members of our Stuffed Animal Collective now. I look at that shelf in the closet and think, yep, you guys are going to be with us to the end. Don’t worry. If I have a home, you have a home.

I’m not generally sentimental. I don’t tend towards the gushy. But you can only watch Toy Story so many times (or Toy Story 2, or Toy Story 3) before you absorb the idea that toys have lives of their own. Granted, I was a particularly susceptible subject for this philosophy. I used to make up entire soap-opera-worthy stories about the lives and times of my crayons, and I had the 64-pack and the caddy and everything. It was like Falcon Crest meets Crayola in there. Burnt Sienna was such a tramp.

But I can tell you exactly when my problem solidified, and when I knew I’d never be able to get rid of another stuffed animal again. It was when I saw that scene in Toy Story 2 with Jessie the Cowgirl — you know the one, with the sad (is there any other kind?) Sarah McLachlan song, showing some heartless wench ditching her formerly beloved toy in exchange for nail polish and a pretty pink phone. Jessie basically gets put out with the trash. It’s gut-wrenching.

So, that’s all there is to it. I can’t do that to a toy, even if it is just an inanimate object (well, most of the time). They’ll be with me til I die. Now, it goes without saying that new stuffed animal purchases are strictly verboten, except in exceptional circumstances. After all, FredCo can only support so many dependents. But on the Pixar fade to black in our house, these guys have nothing to worry about.

all good things come to an end

IMG_1507… including summer.

It’s not officially over yet, but with August coming to a close and the fall upon us, schools re-opening and buses back on the streets, we’re getting there. For me, summer is at an end because our pool closes this week.

This was the first summer of my life that I had a pool of my own — well, it belongs to the complex we live in, so sadly we have to share it, but you get what I mean. Every other year I’ve been a sporadic swimmer at best, sometimes getting to a pool only once or twice, sometimes not at all. (Beach? In Buffalo? Surely you jest.) But this year, it was every possible day for the entire summer. Am I sad to see it end? Yes… and no.

I like the pool, I do. It’s great for cooling off, though I’m also partial to central air for that, and it wasn’t that hot of a summer to begin with. I like having friends over to the pool, and I like hanging out there with Dave and our cousin Adam. I freely admit I don’t always like the other people, not when they’re rude, or loud, or just annoying. The Real Housewives of Long Island can be funny, but they can also be nauseating. And I’m huge fan of babies in the pool — they’re darn cute in those swimmie-contraptions they have these days, they look like Baby Pool Armor, and they always seem to be having such a blast — but I am not quite as fond of preteens playing endless games of “toothpaste” and jumping in the pool right on top of my head.

I did like the exercise more than I’ve liked any other exercise I’ve done in my life. I swam laps all summer, almost every day, working my way up to 30 a day. I would have liked to do more, but I’ll keep at it next summer. I also discovered I can float effortlessly and can tread water apparently forever (I got bored after 15 minutes and stopped, but don’t think the end was anywhere near), so if we’re ever on the Titanic, Dave can just hang onto me and we’re set.

I won’t miss the chlorine, though. I mean, god knows it’s necessary (all those kids, and no one ever gets out and goes into the bathroom in the clubhouse — you do the math), but the smell is icky. Every day when I get home Fred sniffs my hand disdainfully, and doesn’t warm up until I’ve had a chance to shower. My hair could do without the chemicals, too.

Overall, it was a good summer at the pool, but I confess I’m looking forward to a nice, long, harvesty autumn, and even a cozy warm winter by the fireplace, snug at home.