Category Archives: Upstate

Why Didn’t I Leave Brooklyn Sooner?

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Why didn’t I leave the City sooner? This is a question I often ask myself. I’ve been living in the Hudson Valley for two years after living in Brooklyn for fifteen. My last few years in Brooklyn were like being in a bad relationship, it held so much promise but really couldn’t deliver. Like somehow if I stayed there maybe my dreams of being a writer-musician-wunderkind would come true, but in reality I was working so much I had nothing left at the end of the day to pursue my creativity.

I stayed because of my business. I just didn’t know how I would make money somewhere else. I stayed because of my ego. There’s some kind of identity of being a New Yorker that I wanted to hang onto. I had worked so hard to carve out my little niche that I was reluctant to give it up.

But I was so stressed out from the noise, crowds, constant stimulation, and work that my adrenals were shot, my system was inflamed and I became depressed. Everything looked great on paper- I had the business, husband, apartment but then I couldn’t get out of bed. The suicidal thoughts came and wouldn’t stop which led to shrinks, more and more meds, hospitalizations, and eventually ECT (electroshock therapy), which affected my memory and left me a shell of my former self.

We couldn’t keep going in the city. I somehow sold my business during all this, and while I was on my psych hospital tour of 2015, my husband moved all our stuff into storage upstate. We moved into the tiny weekend cottage in Catskill that we had been renting for a few years. No jobs and no guarantees that we were going to be ok. Nothing.

I wouldn’t have ever left if I hadn’t gotten so sick, that I am certain of. I would’ve worked myself literally to death. But now what would become of us?

The same day my husband moved our stuff into storage he got a job interview in his field up in Albany and he actually got the job. It was a 45-minute commute, but some people do that or more in the City crushed in a subway car with half of humanity. A typical NYC kid he’d only gotten his license in the past year after a lot of prodding from me. Now he had to buy a car and drive to Albany every day. Thankfully, the thruway between Catskill & Albany traffic really isn’t all that bad. His commute would be air conditioning, music, and mountains on either side, not riding in a subway car with a pair of discarded shit filled underwear across the aisle like he did his last few weeks in NYC.

I, on the other hand, was a mess. The depression was better, but I wasn’t totally out of the woods. I struggled with the trauma of the past year in hospitals and losing my life in the city, my business, etc. I worried the only job I could get would be working a Target at the depressed Hudson Valley Mall. But at least I’d have a nice view of the mountains. If I had to work at Lowes the same was true. And if I worked at Stewarts at least I’d probably get free ice cream.

One thing we held onto in this transition was the fact that none of our friends who had left the City and moved upstate said they regretted it and wished they could go back. They had vibrant lives and families and time to enjoy them.

For work I boarded and trained dogs and I opened a small gift and pet related shop in Saugerties called Dogerties. I had always wanted to have a little shop and the rent was so reasonable. I couldn’t have afforded to do it in the City. I started sewing and making dog coats, pillows, and bandanas. I had always wanted to learn to sew but never had time. While I was sitting in the slow shop I wrote and played music a little, but mainly I just recovered from the past year or years it had taken to get me to this place.

We were able to buy a house, a simple ranch on 7 acres, with a creek and mountain views. Our mortgage is less than a studio apartment in the City. We could sit out on the back deck and watch the pink and orange sunset over the mountains.

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I took my dog for walks on the different trails nearby, the Comeau in Woodstock, the Lighthouse & Falling waters in Saugerties, some of the easy hikes in the mountains near Tannersville. I read. I listened to music. I slept. I ate and gained weight from the psych meds and not walking everywhere in the City. I went to the gym.

Sometimes, I got frustrated about my weight and tried to go down on my meds or switch and wound up feeling like shit again and going back up. Some days I cried and was scared I was falling back down the hole again, but usually the next day would be a little better. I just had to be patient, which has never been my strong suit.

I met other writers, artists, musicians, and instead of them being competitive as they were in the City, they were oddly nice and supportive. They weren’t worried about who your agent was or how many books or records you’ve sold. There are a lot of sharp elbows in the City. Upstate people are just excited to meet and experience another creative.

Dogerties was losing money despite my best efforts and I knew I would close when my lease was up at the end of the year. I’m glad I got to try having a shop, but honestly, sitting around waiting for someone to come in is not for me. But I value the experience as something I wouldn’t have had in the City. I made friends with the other shop owners in town and met a lot of nice people.

I didn’t know what I would do next, but I got more and more interested in real estate since I had been looking at Hudson Valley & Catskill Real Estate for so many years in the City. The real estate agent who had sold us our house became a friend and encouraged me to study for my real estate license. I passed and got a job at her company. I really enjoy it, but it is a lot of work and you’re never sure if you’ll actually make money. I’ve done pretty well so far selling a few houses in my first year and I hope with the hustle I learned in NYC I’ll be able to make my business grow to sustain me.

I went back to Brooklyn recently for the first time in two years. A lot of friends have moved away and the few we have left there are anxiously hanging on or planning their exit. Brooklyn has become a caricature of itself. Everything is “Brooklyn” loft or “Brooklyn” coffee or “Brooklyn” mayonnaise. I don’t even think Brooklyn is in Brooklyn anymore.

When I moved there in 2000 Brooklyn was creative, rough around the edges, rife with possibility. I see all that more in Catskill and Kingston than in Brooklyn these days. It’s exciting to be a part of a community again where regular not wealthy people are starting out shops, galleries, restaurants, doing their art, and finding their way.

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I think it’s possible upstate because it’s more affordable and there is more down time, which is what Brooklyn used to be. Now Brooklyn is more expensive—the art space that used to be around the corner from me is now a gym, the tattoo shop an insurance firm, the record shop a bank.

I’ll never be grateful for the sickness that drove me out of the city, but I am grateful for the life I have today. It’s quiet, but not boring, there’s actually so much going on in the Hudson Valley & Catskills that I can’t do everything. From music shows, to literary readings, to gallery openings, to hiking, swimming, and farming. I thought I would feel isolated, but I’m always running into someone in town that I know, always meeting yet another City expat or weekender that wishes they could be here full time.

I think the best gift that this move has given me is that now I know I can hustle anywhere. NYC gave me the gift of making me tough, creative, and resourceful and now I get to do that in a beautiful place where I actually have time to enjoy it.

If I could’ve told myself anything a few years ago it would’ve been just to leave. Leave before it gets so bad you have to leave. Life is too short to be miserably hanging onto what you think you are and where you think you need to be. Just fucking leap, you will land and it may be even better than you’d thought it would be.

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Filed under Brooklyn, Catskills, depression, Dogs, Hudson Valley, Moving, Music, NY, Poetry, Spirituality, Upstate, weight loss, Writing

I’m Fat, How did this happen?

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I’m fat, how did this happen?

I just want to get real here in this blog post to start a discussion and support for myself & everyone who’s struggling. I’m 5’ 9” and a comfortable weight for my body seems to be around 165-170 and a size 12. Yes, I’d like to weigh less than that but I tried for years & despite dog walking 5 hours a day & going to the gym that was about as low as I could get.

I’m ashamed to say I currently weigh 198, and am a size 14 which is completely shocking and not ok. Other people seemed shocked by this number because they say I “carry my weight well.” That’s why I wanted to put the number out there.

There are many factors that have lead to this. Last summer I was in & out of the hospital for depression, on & off several medications. I got down to around 160. Since getting out of the hospital, I’ve been on Seroquel (known for weight gain), which I got off of. I’m now on several medications including Abilify (which is supposed to be weight neutral but isn’t from my experiences on it over the past few years). While I do believe medications can effect your weight, I also have to take responsibility for what I put in my mouth.

I’ve always had a sweet tooth. I was a chunky kid, a girl scout who sold some cookies but also ate a lot. When I got to middle school I joined the soccer team and went on a 1400 calorie a day diet per a doctor. I was hungry a lot but lost weight.

In high school I took up smoking, and drinking, and not eating much. This kept me thin but then I got sober and food once again became an issue. In college I started running a lot which helped me stay around 165-170. Then when I moved to NYC I was not only walking everywhere, I started a dog walking company which had me walking 4-6 hours a day. I could pretty much eat what I wanted & not gain weight until my late 20s. Then my metabolism bid me farewell. I started going to the gym in addition to dog walking to maintain my weight.

Last year though I moved upstate and am now driving everywhere. I continue to go to the gym and walk dogs here and there but I’m obviously not getting exercise anywhere on the scale I used to.

Sugar is my best friend and my worst enemy. A cookie here, a scone there, pie, chocolate etc. Never in huge quantities, but almost every day I have eaten something sugary, I’m ashamed to admit. I’m an addict and apparently I need to learn how to abstain from this.

In the past year I’ve hired a personal trainer, been on & off Weight Watchers, did a weekly vegan food delivery service multiple times. I got a juicer and starting drinking green juices but could never seem to have the resolve to do a full on no eating juice cleanse. I’ve watched copious amounts of documentaries from Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead to That Sugar Film to Vegucated. I’ve been to the Catskill Animal Sanctuary & Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. I know how fucked up the food industry in regards to animal products and processed foods. I’d really like to go vegetarian or vegan but I struggle with that as well.

I’ve gotten a lot of solace and inspiration from Jasmine Singers book “Always Too Much and Never Enough.” It’s a memoir about how she struggled with her weight even as a vegan and her path (which involved juicing) to losing weight and getting a better relationship with food and herself. I’d like to find more books like this.

Before I blow up anymore I’m committing to a 3-10 day juice cleanse starting Monday 9/26/16. I want to detox and get off sugar etc. I’m trying to look at the fast as a spiritual challenge not just deprivation. I’ll see how long I can go for, but I’d like to make it 10 days. It’s like I’m afraid I’ll have a total meltdown, but things have gotten dire so I’m willing to give it a try.

I’m going to go to the gym or do some kind of exercise 5 times a week.

I’m going to go back to counting points on Weight Watchers.

I’m going to try to eat vegetarian and hopefully make my way to vegan. I want to eat whole foods and a mostly plant based diet.

I also may go to Overeaters Anonymous for support.

I’m tired of hating myself so I’m committing to this publicly and will post updates. I’d love to hear about your struggles and successes as well.

Anyone want to join me in this challenge?

 

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Filed under Upstate, weight loss, Writing

A Simple Heart- My Struggles with Insanity

No one ever really sets out to lose their mind. The hardest part is trying to piece it back together, particularly after ECT. Yeah shock therapy, yeah they still do that. It helps a lot of people but it didn’t really help me. It just made me confused and depressed instead of just depressed. I had 14 of those motherfuckers, so you can imagine it left me pretty confused afterwards. It makes you lose your memory which you’re supposed to get back over time or at least that’s what everyone tells you. I’m still waiting.

I’m not really sure what happened. I’d lived in Brooklyn fifteen years running a successful dog walking, training, and pet sitting service, which I loved. But managing people as it grew was a constant source of stress. As you can imagine the turnover rate is pretty high and people drawn to the profession aren’t always the most responsible. I had one guy lose a whole set of keys twice and then quit and then try to claim unemployment so I’m getting audited by the department of labor which is a nightmare of paperwork.

I was (am) happily married, we had an apartment in a nice neighborhood, Park Slope, until they built the fucking Barclay Center which totally ruined things. They started throwing up high rises left and right and every rich douche from Manhattan started moving in. It became crowded, expensive, and unbearable. I started wearing earplugs just to leave the apartment, sometimes in the apartment along with the fucking white noise machine so you can attempt to sleep through neighbors and sirens and the like.

So we moved to Clinton Hill, a little quieter neighborhood which it turned out was kind of a transportation nightmare with the old neighborhood and work. The G train isn’t the best line to be on. And when you work from home and your business is based in another neighborhood, and parking subway are pretty much ridiculous what do you do? If you are me you have a nervous breakdown apparently.

It wasn’t just that, it was like life was this giant game of Jenga and the pieces kept getting pulled out until the whole thing just fucking toppled. You’ll have to excuse my use of the F-word, I’m hoping at some point this whole thing becomes a spiritual experience but right now it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through and there is no other word to adequately express myself.

So one of the biggest Jenga pieces happened that February. We had been renting a cottage upstate a few hours to get away near Saugerties and Woodstock. We paid for it by bringing dogs up for a country get away. We’d sometimes throw 5 dogs in the car and take them up. It was ridiculous. Some of my happiest memories (that I can remember) were there. The dogs loved it and we did too, the simplicity, the nature, the small town.

One time we went to the movies in Saugerties and we got their 30 minutes early to make sure we could get seats like you do in the city. The theater wasn’t even open yet. Turns out they don’t open until like ten minutes before the movie starts because unlike the city doing a normal activity isn’t a shit show you have to plan for as if you’re going to battle. After the movies we’d go get pie at the local diner or visit our friend Rae who runs a kick as chocolate shop/ café that she lets us bring our dog into. We’d take the dogs on nature hikes and send pictures to their owners who were ecstatic because their dogs seemed so joyful in nature.

The cottage we rented from a really great artistic couple of NYC ex-pats who lived in a bigger house on the property. The cottage was small but the land was big, we had a few fenced in areas but were also surrounded but a hill, woods, and a creek. We tested the dogs on a long line always to make sure they would stay close and listed if we let them off leash. They’d swim in the creek chase each other around and basically have a blast. The cottage this place was our safe place our sanctuary from the cares of NYC until February 2015.

norms rock

Norman king of the creek

Norman running free Norman creek

We took my dog, Phoebe, and another terrier mix Norman upstate for the weekend. Norman had been up several times and listened really well so we had no reason to not let him off leash. Phoebe is a smart somewhat mischievous dog who kept testing the boundaries of how far she could go from us. She particularly liked going up the hill on one side of the property to try to find deer poop to roll in which was it’s own joy to deal with. She took off that day up the hill and Norman followed her. We followed them immediately not liking any of the dogs to be out of eyesight. We kept calling for Norman. Phoebe finally came back without him and I knew then something was wrong. I heard a hawk screech above us. I got in my car and started driving up the road to look for him to see if he’d just gotten lost or something. Dennis kept searching the woods. I rounded the corner and there he was dead on the side of the road. Some motherfucker had hit him and didn’t even stop. I screamed and burst into tears. I put him into the car and drove back to the house honking the horn and yelling for Dennis.

Harry and Catherine our landlords came out to see what all the commotion was I was sobbing so hard there was snot running down my face. I could barely speak. I love animals more than people because they have a simple heart unlike people who always have their hearts covered and cloaked by the things they’ve had to live through. There’s none of that with dogs. They just love you. I called Norman’s owners hysterical they couldn’t have been more understanding of the accident. I asked if they wanted me to bring him back to the city or bury him up there. They told me to bury him up there. Harry got a shovel and helped us dig a hole. I wrapped Norman in my favorite Walt Whitman T Shirt and said some prayers. I can’t stop blaming myself.

I was in shock, this couldn’t have happened in our one safe place to one of the dogs I had loved and cared for for years. But it did happen. I haven’t been the same since. If you told me I would lose my mind over a dog dying I would’ve told you to fuck off. I’m from Brooklyn I can handle that. But like dogs I have a gentle heart as much as I try to act tough.

The depression started soon after. First I didn’t want to go up to the cottage, then I didn’t want to be in the city. I started having trouble getting out of bed, leaving the house, basically functioning and showing up for life. Then the suicidal thoughts started coming. I’ve been on meds and in therapy most of my adult life for depression but it had never been like this, it had always been manageable. The hospitalizations started and endless series of doctors in the city and upstate. The darkness came and went but was always there. My mom came up and stayed with me for a while upstate since Dennis was working in the city. I put one of my trusted employees in charge of things for the most part and attended about a month long partial hospitalization program. That helped and the people of Kingston/ Benedictine hospital are very kind.

I decided I couldn’t go back to the city. And even got a receptionist job at the local SPCA. I decided to sell my business. I worked out a deal with another dog walking company I knew. But then after a few weeks I started to feel better and I also started to get scared. How could I let go of the business I had worked so hard to build for a part time job in a city my husband wasn’t even in yet. I went back to Brooklyn and that’s when it got really bad. I asked for the business back and the buyer obliged but I couldn’t run in I could barely function yet again. So I wound up selling it to her again for a smaller percentage. I didn’t feel like I had a choice I was painted into a corner and didn’t exactly have the time or energy or sanity to go looking for another buyer who would keep my employees and customers in tact and happy.

I went back upstate, my mom came back. They put me in the hospital again. They changed my meds again. Nothing but darkness, an empty hole where I used to be able to feel things. I kept asking my mom to kill me. We didn’t know what to do so I drove back to Florida with her. We were scared if she left me alone up there I’d try to kill myself.

A day after we got to Florida they put me back in hospital. Psyche wards are just not a place you ever want to be more on that later. I can’t remember much about that hospitalization because that’s where they gave me ECT. They would put me under 3 times a week and shock me. I’d wake up confused, but I guess they thought I was getting better because they kept doing it. Then they released me on like six different medicines I needed a chart to keep track of. They enrolled me in a Partial Hospitalization Program. On the third day I told them I was having suicidal thought and they kicked me out. They said I had to go back to the emergency room. Fuck that the first time I waited 28 hours to get help there and so far I was still fucked up. They referred me to a shrink who referred me to Wakiva another behavioral treatment hospital.

At this point I had what I know now is called Akathisia which is an inability to stop moving. I was pacing, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sit still. Apparently, this was a side effect from all the medicines I was on. They admitted me at Wachiva to a ward where a woman wouldn’t stop screaming cuss words all day and night which I can tell you doesn’t do a whole lot for your depression. They took me off all the meds then called me bipolar (which no one ever had before) and put me on lithium. I thought it was working cause the shaking and pacing stopped so they discharged me. But then seven nights went by without me being able to sleep. I stayed up all night pacing. (Add More about hospital homeless and starting an AA meeting)

This time they put me in the hospital at River Point (which is nowhere near a river I can assure you). There they took me off lithium and put me on prozac. They eventually, discharged me to their Partial Hospitalization program even though I kept asking if they thought I was ready because I was still crying and having suicidal thoughts. They told me to let the meds kick in. They didn’t so the new doctor I started seeing put me on Brintellex. Which mad me nauseous and gave me diarrhea. I’ve been on it 3 weeks, with lamictal, and kolonopin. I had a good week when I was going down on the prozac and up on the Brintellex but then he tool me off the Prozac. Suicidal thoughts again.

Meanwhile my husband Dennis up in NY and I guess I (don’t remember) decided to sell our apartment and move upstate. He got a job and moved everything. Himself with the help of some of our friends. I want to go back but I have to get stable enough. I had a dream the other night that I hung myself at the cottage which was enough to scare the shit out of me. I don’t know what to do at this point. I’m sleeping on my parents couch and going to partial. I’m scared sometimes to leave the house or drive but I’m making myself.

I’m in AA for 18 years so I go to meetings and call people. I do step work. I’m trying to change my belief in God to something more positive working the second step “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” but I’m so fucking mad at God right now. All I’ve done for the past 18 years of my sobriety is try to help other people get sober, do service work, even in my job I just wanted to help people and when I really, really need and am begging God for help it feels like he’s nowhere to be found. I suppose he’s in the people who have helped keep me alive until now. But I just keep begging for this depression to lift. I want what’s left of my life back. I miss my husband. I’ve been in Florida for four months trying to get well. My poor fucking parents. They are saints of patience. I just keeping praying for God to heal me. There are days I feel like I can’t go on but I can’t just kill myself. It would hurt too many people, and I know this is just my diseased mind.

NYC pissed me off a lot but I don’t know if I was ready to leave my business, apartment, and friends. Not in this way. It didn’t feel like much of a choice. It seemed like survival. Sometimes, I wish I could’ve stayed there and gotten the help I needed and gotten through it. Maybe I could have but that isn’t what happened. When I get well I don’t know what I’m going to do in rural NY. I suppose I can do some pet sitting, I want to learn dog grooming, and I can still train dogs. That part of my memory seems to be coming back. I don’t know when this will lift. I’m hanging on by a thread, hopefully someday I’ll be able to help someone else with this experience. If I make it through. I’m a goddamn warrior though, I’m not going down with out a fight.

normanface

Here’s a poem I wrote for Norman and his folks

Pay Attention!
for Norman

You had so much to say when I met you barking, Look a dog!
A pigeon!
Look a lady smiling!

Would you look?!
Do you see?!
Barreling breathlessly along with an occasional hop Your short legs struggling to keep up
With your riotous exuberance for every creature Under the wide open sky. Shiny under-bite smile Electric shock of white hair and brown eyes beg Pay attention!
Do you see that hawk over the hill?!
River rock juts up and out, a perfect perch
for you to survey all of God’s creation.
Pay attention!
Don’t worry, just run through green fields
Chase me or I’ll chase you!
Pay Attention!
Remember to play, and jump, and tease despite The cold November freeze and chest aching.
Cold has come and grey has settled into winter.
I will always remember what you taught me
to delight in the trees and wonder at the flowers, insects buzzing. The Spring must come again
with new life blooming, and we will pay attention.

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Filed under Brooklyn, Dogs, God, NY, Poetry, Spirituality, Upstate

Hudson Valley Dog Boarding

Dennis with Phoebe, Marco, Penny, Charley

Dennis with Phoebe, Marco, Penny, Charley

Since November 2012, we’ve been bringing dogs up to our cottage near the Catskills on weekends and occasionally weekdays depending on our availability/ability to get away! Here are some highlights!

3 stooges

Mo, Qwerty, and Phoebe walk by the lake

country

Hike at Falling Waters on the Hudson River Susie with Penny, Zeke, Phoebe

field

Qwerty & Mo enjoying the back yard

goob comet

Comet & Phoebe frolicking

mo & qwerty creek

Mo & Qwerty in the Kaaterskill Creek behind our cottage

pile on

Christmas weekend pile on Susie Phoebe, Oscar, Willis, Sampson

Falling waters hike

Hike at Falling Waters with Zeke, Penny, Phoebe

For more fun photos please check our facebook page!

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Filed under Brooklyn, dog training, Dogs, Upstate

Cidiots take Saugerties/Catskill!

Our new rental cottage in Catskill, near Saugerties!

We finally did it! After years of browsing, dreaming, and scheming on Craigslist and Upstater we finally rented a cottage upstate from a nice couple in Catskill, NY near our favorite upstate town Saugerties! Catskill is about 30 minutes from the great towns of Hudson & Kingston, NY. 20 Minutes from Woodstock, and 40 minutes to Phoenicia. I have been treking 2-3 hours upstate from Brooklyn for the past 5 years on occasional weekends and loving everything about it except the ticks! I’d love to move up there full time but unfortunately the job situation isn’t is good up there as in the city. So for now we are weekenders.

Cottage from road

After sitting out Hurricane Sandy in Brooklyn last week on Friday we packed our car full of stuff and drove up to move in. Sleepy’s Kingston (highly recommend they were great!) delivered our bed and a futon for guests/couch and we were set. I was having a ton of financial fear after losing a week of income due to the storm but, I’ve always worked hard and been okay at the end of the day so why lose faith now?

Bedroom

Living Room with new Quilt and Rug from Ronnie at Saugerties Antique Center

Kitchen

We took a break from moving and drove a few miles away to Palenville, NY where we grabbed a sandwich at the great general store/eatery the Circle W Market.

First meal by the propane fire!

I hope to bring Brooklyn dogs up there on weekends in the near future to help pay for the cottage and give them some country time. I also hope to do some writing and making music up there without the distraction of the busy city.

View from Writing Nook/Back Porch of the Yard

Yard

The large property leads down to the Kaaterskill creek.

Kaatersill Creek/ summer swimming

Over this weekend in addition to moving in we went to Saugerties First Friday and said hello to our friend Raye at Lucky Chocolates and Bill at Rock Star Rodeo. This month First Friday had a Day of the Dead theme since it was so close to Halloween. Lucky Chocolates had free hot chocolate and sugar skull decorating! I’d love to open a pet store/ dog training/ boarding place up there someday….

We saw Argo for $8 (Instead of $12-14 in the city) at the cute old Orpheum Theater downtown Saugerties. We purchased a rug and quilt at the Saugerties Antique Center which has great stuff for reasonable prices.

On Sunday we took a long walk near the new cottage and saw this:

Nearby walk

Fields Nearby

We feel so lucky to be able to do this and can’t wait to head back up this Friday! I’m so grateful to have an escape from crazy NYC. We truly are living the dream….

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Filed under Dogs, NY, Travel, Upstate