As I embarked on 2020 in January of last year, my focus was to be grateful. Grateful for things in my control, people in my life, and all the little things that make life special. Little did I know that 2020 would become the year gratitude was most needed. I've often sing the praises of my family and friends...but this year I relied heavily on them to make it through the year as we traversed the Covid Pandemic together, albeit 6 feet apart and masked up!!!
2020 began with a bang. Behind the scenes, my friends and I (I refer to us as the Irish Posse as we are some badass women) were in the midst of planning our first CNY Irish Festival event for July 11, 2020. A multitude of meetings and development were ongoing throughout the month as we finalized the website, designed a logo, and made-up business cards and handouts, as well as holding meetings with sponsors and partners, speaking with bands and vendors, and doing all the paperwork associated with beginning an event as large as this. We all had prior experience in this type of event, and each of us brought to the table a unique and specific skill set. We were a well-oiled machine. By mid month we were ready to announce it!!! As we announced the event, the influx of support and excitement was monumental, and we were so extremely grateful to be able to offer this to so many who were looking for an event such as this to join in.
Throughout January and February I also was involved with some of my most revered colleagues as we set out to break apart from our last publication (that was under different management), and to develop a new music magazine together called 315 Music News. Redirecting our focus on not only local music, we wished to feature more of the arts, local restaurants, wineries, and breweries, and events in the area. We hit the ground running covering shows, venues, musicians, eateries, wineries, etc. in the 315 area. Covering two shows for the year of 2020 (which I will later highlight), it would be a first for me to not be in the pit or at the soundboard! My normal schedule included at least an average of two shows each month in the winter months, and up to 8-10 each month in the summer touring months. Throw in a few festivals and my schedule was booked solid. Sadly, this year was devastating for those we covered. Tours were cancelled, venues closed due to social gathering guidelines, and festivals were cancelled, including ours. Not the regular content, we managed to grow our readership through podcasts, news articles, interviews, album reviews, etc. So grateful everyone stuck with us and gave us a thumbs up and read (if not...head over and do so). Can only imagine how once the world opens back up, how good it will feel to back in the pit again bringing everyone even more that Central and Western NY offers!!!
As the snow flied in the early months of 2020, I also was able to reconnect with friends, a subject matter I don't normally cover as it's just something that we all do...but this years dinners with friends were so special to me...because they would be the only ones I got to enjoy in 2020. First, my Leadership Mohawk Valley classmates, the Unicorns...and secondly my great friends Kathy & Marsh. I truly cherished those fun nights out in the winter of 2020. Friends feed my soul...and throw in great conversation...lots of laughs...and great food and drink and I ask you..can anything be better? So grateful for those moments with them all! I think we all will never again take this for granted.
In February I was also able to attend a Syracuse Crunch game and see my son in action as he did his internship duties assisting with gameday operations. I was so very proud of him, and the fact the Crunch won just made the night better. I got an insight as to what is in store for him as he follows his dreams to work in sports management. A short time later, life would come to a screeching halt for him...the Crunch would cancel the remainder of their season, his senior year in Caz LAX would end abruptly calling him home from tournaments, and his classes would become remote. So grateful for making it to the game to see him action. So grateful to see his other LAX games in previous years and cheer him on. So grateful to have him home safe and sound as the world locked down.
So if I only had two shows to cover in 2020, I had two AMAZING shows by golly!!! The first one was a bucket list show, The Lumineers in Buffalo at KeyBank Center. This band has such substance in their music. Every song they sing pulls me in. Although I was a million miles back at the soundboard, my friend Brian lent me his 600mm lens and I was able to not only test out what I would later purchase myself, but capture some awesome shots from the show!
The second show was my pals, Enter the Haggis at the Wescott Theater in Syracuse. I love each and every performance these guys have....they are such a fun live show...and so animated for me as well to photograph. Yes, these two shows were more than enough to tide me over until we can get back out there. It would be merely days after Enter the Haggis our world would lock down. So very grateful to have seen those two shows in 2020 and captured some amazing moments to hold me through till we can reconvene life as normal in large groups again.
It is March that life began a new for the world. Life as we knew it would change not only for us, but for the entire world. Lives were lost, battles ensued against a little known virus for both patients and medical personnel trying to save them. Fear of this unknown virus caused us panic that I've never seen in all my years. Some felt it was a glorified flu...others felt it was a political ploy...but I saw firsthand how very serious this virus was, and how it changed lives of those it touched. We joke about the lack of toilet paper but seriously...it was a real thing. The unknown on how this was spreading so quickly caused us to mask up, sanitize everything as though it was an operating room, and become more cognizant of how germs spread. I joke, but it's true, my grandma Grace prepared me at a young age for this pandemic with her constant harping of hand washing and sanitizing of anything others touched. I was aptly prepared. A new found respect grew as we counted on our grocery store employees, delivery drivers, first responders, medical personnel, and all essential workers. I am considered an essential worker as I work in governmental housing. I watched as so many began to be placed on furlough or laid off from their jobs. I was so grateful my job was secure, and I could take care of my family. Although protocols changed, I was still able to continue to work safely.
So what does one do when in lockdown to pass the time? How about projects around the house that have been put off forever? Lord knows I had plenty to do, and lots of time to do them..so I decided that while I could, I needed to be productive. I found myself with some down time that needed to be filled, with the lack of concerts and photography jobs that normally kept me busy after the day job. So as spring faded away and early summer began, our state was released from full lockdown, and I decided to do a few much needed home improvement projects around the house. First thing, the backyard makeover.
My family teases me mercifully about my lack of yard work skills. Never has been something that interested me, most likely will never be, and my shenanigans as a child to dodge these chores will be something I'll never live down. I love a beautiful garden, but it's the remembering to water it and weed it that escapes me. So, you can only imagine how bad my back yard was. The trees were so thick along the property line that you couldn't see through to the unsightly house bordering it on the backside. First thing I needed to do was remove those trees. Most were already dead, and there were a few others that were leaning on the garage roof that had to go. So out they came. With the trees finally removed, my plan for the backyard was ready to begin. Only issue with my plan, it just so happened to be everyone's plan in 2020. Who would have thought that 4x4x8 foot posts and fence pickets were such a hot commodity!! They were sold out everywhere in a 60 mile radius. Forget the toilet paper, that was way easier to put your hands on! Every morning my contractor and I called every single lumber supplier trying to catch the truck on the day it came in with our supplies. We finally lucked out! With supplies in hand, the work began.
Although my plan was to make over the back yard for a more comfortable place to spend time quarantining, let's really say who it was for; my dogs. Who had a better life in 2020 than our pets? Who deserved it more for keeping us sane and still keeping us sane? My dogs deserved the world in my opinion. They forever had gone outside on a lead or leash without the ability to run and play freely. Living in a city atmosphere, they couldn't run free, and walking was not an option for a few reasons. So finally, they would have a space for themselves.
Work began and my crew was the best. My son, along with his friends Jimmy and Angelo, were my crew and they knocked it out of the park getting my fence up in no time flat. They helped to keep the cost down for me, and they did an amazing job. The next step was a few new windows to be replaced on the house and the doggie door for easy puppy access. That part of the project ended up taking quite a bit of time as both the windows and the door had to be custom made. With the door finally in, they now have free reign to run and play with each other!! It was the best money I ever spent!!
I spent the remaining spring and early summer working on the rest of the space. With the fence up and the backyard leveled off, I now could finish the rest of the work getting the fire pit in, clothes line up, gazebo built, and patio all set up. With a few hand me down pieces I revamped and made new. It was beautiful being able to finally relax outside with the dogs. I even got them their own doggie pool, which became a huge water bowl, as they didn't get the whole concept of playing in it. We'll work on that again this next year. The only thing I didn't get a chance to complete out back, was the garden areas and a decent lawn. I got a lot of the plants planted and some starter seed down, but never had the time to finish it off as I wanted, as my traveling adventures began and my squirrel like focus was shifted.
With the lock down guidelines still pretty secure limiting where we could travel and how we could gather, a plan was made to do something I always said I would do, explore my very own backyard right here in New York State. Back yards were a thing for me in 2020! It was the perfect opportunity to finally see all those places I said would one day go to. It was finally "one day". This limit on travel had become a blessing in disguise.
My first expedition was a tag along with my son and his girlfriend to hike Bald Mountain for the first time. I know!!! You can't believe I never hiked Bald Mountain either? Well, who would have thought that, but I always steered away from it thinking there were areas that I may not be able to maneuver due to my fear of heights. Well, that wasn't an issue at all, however I did find myself realizing I wasn't 20 years old any more (and a bit out of shape). A moderate trail, there are some steep boulders that must be climbed as you near the top that were a bit tricky for me, and the trail was a bit steep in a few spots. Overall though not a bad trail and one I would do again. Once up top, you got a spectacular view of the Fulton Chain of Lakes, and the opportunity to climb the fire tower for an even better view, which was a hard pass for me. I did climb up one set of stairs for a shot, but maybe one day when it's not so busy, and I build up enough courage, I'll make the whole climb. I highly recommend hiking boots for this trail, and perhaps hiking poles to assist. Glad I had my boots coming down, as it made the descent much easier on the boulders.
I have to say, I love my friends so much. They are always up for an adventure no matter where I suggested this past summer. But I need to give a special shout out to my friend, Sheila who was even more adventurous this past year. She was down with wherever I wanted to go, and camping overnight at places didn't faze her at all. In fact, she had most of the equipment we needed, and what she didn't have, I had. So, we were all set. We planned several day trips that all of our friends could join in, and a few overnight trips where camping was involved. I cannot thank her enough for being such a great and accommodating travel buddy this summer. Wherever I suggested going, she said sure and then even found a few more places in the area for us to see!! It was beyond great, and just what we needed to feed our wanderlusting souls. I also would like to thank my other travel buddies Janie, Heather, Nancy, and Gail who traversed some of the day trips with us. We enjoyed quite a few very cool and interesting places together.
Our first outing to get our feet wet, literally, was to our favorite spot up north for some kayaking. A beautiful summer day, we put in and paddled for hours around Moss Lake, then took a hike, and finished the day with lunch at Daikers. Known for their outdoor seating, it was the perfect place to social distance and stay safe while enjoying a great lunch. It felt so good to finally get out of the house, have some sunshine on our faces, and get that green machine wet again!! I did actually feature the day in a blog which I'll link here for more photos and details.
Our second trip was a full day trip chasing lighthouses. Our first stop was to Sodus Bay and Sodus Outer Lighthouses. The main building was closed for the season due to Covid, however the grounds were open and simply gorgeous with full blooms bursting out of the many gardens surrounding the light.
Next, we were off to Chimney Bluffs State Park to see the magnificent sand bluffs formed along Lake Ontario.
Finally, we ended the day in Oswego touring a lighthouse and maritime museum, and having an awesome lunch at a local spot. I recently went into more detail on these particular areas in a previous blog I'll link here. If you haven't subscribed yet to my page/blog, please do so that I can notify you when they go live!!! As a disclaimer...I know I'm not the greatest at posting these blogs timely...but in my defense, I would rather do the traveling and collect the content during the months I can, and write in the months I can't travel!!! Makes sense right?!!
The second hike was to the Ithaca area where we visited several of the beautiful waterfalls and gorges that area of New York is famous for. These two particular hikes will be featured in an upcoming blog that I've already begun, so no real details here unfortunately, but want to share a few photos to wet your appetite for the future. You would be reading forever if I tried to outline them all here in my 2020 Reflections blog. So, stay tuned for more information on all of these trips, as they were A...M...A...Z...I...N...G!!!
I also spent some time with my sister this past year. As you may recall, our father passed away last August so each holiday, such as the date of his birthday or passing, we've tried to get together to do something. Last year we got our tattoos, this year...we hiked. It was crazy too, because for all the hiking we've both done in our lives, this would be the first time we hiked together. Black Bear Trail in Inlet was our choice. I wanted to complete my Fulton Chain Trifecta badge (Bald, Rocky Point, and Black Bear Mountains), so off we went. It's a pretty trail, and it was a great day for it. The trail itself is pretty wooded and we were actually very surprised to be able to stop and witness a flock of pheasant in a nearby area. Very random, and I know it was a sign from Dad that he was there with us. Never before had I seen something like that. They were there for the longest time too. For those of you who didn't have a chance to meet the very unique man my father Larry was, he was an avid hunter. His whole life revolved around hunting, even his decisions on where we ended up living were driven by the local areas to hunt. So, for this flock to meander through where we were and hang with us, yep that was a sign from Larry for sure.
Once reaching the top, that view was amazing. Funny as the two trail heads are right next to each other (Rocky Point and Black Bear), but at the top of Rocky Point...the view is so much different (as you'll see in a bit). A trip into town and a delicious prime rib dinner later, it was the best day ever, completed with a few beverages around the fire pit with Zach and the squad once we got back home! The next day..right back at it with a quick trip up the road to Pixley Falls!!!
Our final August trip I think was hands down my favorite of the year; Letchworth State Park. This was our first camping outing for Sheila and I, and doing so for a long weekend was perfect.
Letchworth State Park is known as the Grand Canyon of the east, and rightly so. Viewing this spectacular area was literally life changing for me. The first morning we awoke early and headed down to capture the sunrise. If you've never watched the sunrise here...you must do so. The colors were spectacular. Oranges, blues, greens, purples, and golds painted the sky as the mist of the clouds rose through the mountains. I catch my breath just thinking of it again.
Joined by our friends Janie and Nancy for the day, we discovered the three waterfalls known to the park and had the best day exploring and hanging out at camp together. Who cares that the racoons stole our cookies and we got rained on...it was well worth it!!
September was originally supposed to be my trip to Charleston, SC with my sister so having the whole week off, I decided it should still be a trip with water and fun, so once again my friend, Sheila, joined me and off we went to discover and camp Long Island instead! Still part of New York, you feel as though you've been transformed to another state completely. Passing through the city and getting on the Long Island Expressway, traffic is something to remember when traveling this area. We chose Sunday evening around 6pm, yep not the best plan. We originally wanted to stay out toward Montauk, but it was all booked up so we found an alternative place a few hours away that was more centrally located to everywhere we were going. It was fate too, as we ended up with the greatest camping area right on the northern shores of Long Island. Every morning and evening we were able to walk to the beach for sunrises and sunsets. It was glorious.
While on Long Island we chased some major lighthouses. One day included Montauk Lighthouse, Cedar Island Lighthouse, and a lighthouse cruise out to Long Beach Bar Lighthouse or aka Bug Light; another day a trip to Fire Island Lighthouse, and another trip into the city to visit Governors Island for the day. Squeaking in a few more on the way home, and the best lobster roll since my trip to Maine, the trip was outstanding with some fun times, lots of laughs, and memories to get us through till our next Sheila/Kathy camping excursion!!
At the end of September, I unexpectedly lost my oldest sister to cancer. Her diagnosis and passing were all within a months time. A shock to us all, I needed to escape and have my own day to mourn and celebrate her life, so I headed north to Old Forge and Rocky Point again. Nancy and I at one point lived together here in New York, and during that time I brought her north to Old Forge and she loved it up there. She didn't get to hike as she wasn't physically able at that time to do so, but she loved the general store, the lake, and all the little shops and diner in town, so I thought this was the best way to celebrate her, to go north and share some quiet time remembering her.
Hiking in at sunrise, I got a little off trail, but found my up as the sun began to peak out. Two women were already there...but quickly left me to be alone as I took in the most vibrant colors of the trees in what was the most spectacular fall we've had in years. The solace, the reflection, and the time to say goodbye was much needed and was one of the most spiritual times of my year. Coming back down the hill I met a family making the hike up before remote school, which I thought was the greatest thing ever....secretly wishing I lived closer to have that option while raising my kids. I bought a sandwich at the donut stand, a place known to all who ever went north, and then sat by the water eating my breakfast remembering the time Nancy sat there too. With a quick tour of the General Store, I finished my memorial service and headed home as the convoy of cars made their way past me to also see the spectacular leaves.
The adventures didn't end at Long Island as my friends and I headed northeast to Ausable Chasm out by Plattsburgh at the end of September. Another amazing gorge area in New York State, this hike was spectacular, but the drive in even more so. With Covid restrictions in place, we made reservations ahead for the hike of the trail. I've featured Ausable Chasm in a prior blog, but I have to say each time is like seeing it all over again for the first time. The wonderment and awe of God's nature is just breathtaking. A quick stop on the way home in Lake George for lunch, made for the perfect fall day.
Every fall for as long as I can recall, my sister and I did a wine tour. This year was a bit different due to Covid, but a good different. This year we explored the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail. Stopping at a few wineries along the lake, we took in the beautiful changing leaves, and had an amazing dinner. It was an awesome day, but the highlight of that trip was very unexpected. It was my discovery of Grape Pie!!! Yes, you heard that correctly, and it was delicious!! Just imagine the sweetest grape juice in pie form. It is NOW our new tradition!!
Our final friends outing was at the end of October, and it was such an awesome day. The day after Halloween we headed down to Sleepy Hallow and Tarrytown. Booking a tour of the grounds at Lyndhurst Mansion, it reminded us of our time together in Ireland, a trip we all had to put on hold this past year. It was a dreary drizzly day out, and there was a huge castle like building involved. Yep, it was the next best thing to being in Ireland! The grounds were beautiful, and although we couldn't go inside any of the buildings, it was still very informative just meandering in and around the multiple buildings on site. The property sits on the shores of the Hudson River overlooking the new Mario Cuomo Bridge (aka the Tappan Zee Bridge), and the trains run every few minutes down below on the tracks that follow the River. A nice lunch in town, we embarked in hopes of finding me the Tarrytown Lighthouse before making our way to the Sleep Hallow Cemetery to see if we could spot any spooky sites. Due to construction we weren't able to get very close to the Lighthouse that day, which is okay as I wish to go back next year just the same. The cemetery was super cool, and massive. We only had a short time before they closed the gates to the entrance, so a quick spin around inside, we were amazed at all the folks resting there we had heard of. Only seeing a fraction of the cemetery and town was enough to convince us that we would be back in 2021 to spend a lot more time there.
Gatherings this past year were sparse. If it couldn't be held outside so that distances could be kept, they didn't happen. It was heartbreaking to not be able to celebrate my son, Zach's, college graduation. Done virtually, I cheered as we watched his name announced Live online but it wasn't quite the same. Tears still flowed, and I am still so very proud of him, but I felt bad for him as all the years he put into it was just another day.
We squad moms decided to do it our way, and through Zoom meetings (a norm for the year), we planned an outside graduation party for all our sons that graduated to include only immediate families. We weren't going to let their achievements go uncelebrated. Keeping the numbers down to the allowed amount, we ate, drank, and had the best time (6 feet apart). The guys were so very surprised, and it was so nice to be able to celebrate their accomplishments.
That was how a few other parties I attended in 2020 played out. In July we celebrated my friend and travel roommate, Heather; and in August we celebrated my granddaughter, Remi's 2nd birthday. Gathering outside was one way to finally see our loved ones, but boy was it hard as I am a hugger, and it was so difficult to not hug and be close to those I love. Despite the inconvenience, it still was definitely the next best thing this year and moments I'm grateful to have had!! By the way...show of hands of who misses hugging?
As restrictions became more relaxed this past fall, I found my photography business starting up again. Seniors still needed portraits for their yearbook, and families still wanted photos of their loved ones. Being so beautiful this fall, it was the perfect time for these sessions. I also gave my boys a surprise graduation portrait session to mark their time and accomplishments, and also to provide them some headshots for their LinkedIn profiles. With a few family sessions, a few newborn portrait sessions, and even an elopement, 2020 ended up being a great year for me to be able to create memories for others. It was a busy and wonderful photography year. I found some new friends, welcomed back some old friends, and got to capture a few of my favorite ever photos.
2020 was not what we expected, and 2021 has had a pretty rough start so far. Let me ask you though...when has life been easy and just as planned? Never. At least not for me. It's how we perceive our situation and how we make the most of it that defines us. One of my favorite moments this year was my friend Brian's celebration. It was here that I saw what love was all about. It was here I learned about "Live a Great Story". We all gathered to celebrate our friend, Brian, who has touched all of our hearts so deeply, and lives life to the fullest. All socially distanced and masked up, we enjoyed an evening of hearing stories from Brian's "Greatest Story". From far and wide, family members, friends, and famous musicians gathered and shared their stories with Brian. Brian is one of those revered colleagues I referred to above. I met Brian through my friend Mike Kohli, and together we've worked to bring our shared love of music and photography to others over the years. Brian is one of the wisest people I know. He has a calming manner to him that puts everyone he's around at ease. What a gift that is. And smart!!!! His knowledge of music in general but locally too floors me. On this night I also learned what a prolific writer he was too. He had penned some lyrics years ago and gave to one our mutually favorite artists, Mike Powell, to maybe someday put music too. On this night, as a gift to Brian, he did just that. There was not a dry eye in the room, and the standing ovation for this collaboration was very emotional. Over the years, Brian visited and got to know the artists that played in Woodstock at the Levon Helms Studios. On this night, all of those artists came together in a video thanking Brian for his years of support and friendship. There was so much love in that room that night, it will stay in my heart forever.
You see, for all of the times I said how 2020 was rotten, there were good things in 2020 as well. Although they may seem insignificant to most, we found happiness where we could. It was taking joy in the little things, like finally finding The Office, Game of Thrones, and Yellowstone. We all binged watched tv and movies throughout the year, and The Office helped me maneuver some tough times with a story and a smile. I also was surprised one day to open my email and find finally after years and years of waiting, I was the new owner of FlashbackPhoto.com. I know, these are the little things, but boy did they make me smile. That's what tough times are about I believe. My word, grateful, helped me through the year. I was so grateful to have all the extra time with my son and the dogs this past year. I was so grateful for hitting pause and being able to catch my breath from a schedule that was on fast forward every day. I was so grateful to be able to spend such quality time with my friends in one of the most spectacular regions of the world I call home, New York. I was so grateful for my health and those I loved as we all remain safe through this pandemic.
What will 2021 hold for us? It is still so unsure. But I have a plan for the year, and a new word. My new word is potential. Within ourselves, we hold the key to so many things in life. We just need to unlock our potential. We also need to recognize in others their potential and respect their uniqueness. Our world is in a state of change daily, our differences become a divide, but in the end we are all the same and need to respect others and their differences. We don't have to agree with them, but we need to respect them and their voices. We may not understand it, but we need to listen to them and keep an open mind. We need to recognize they deserve to see their importance and potential. I believe that by recognizing potential, we can grow together, hopefully like my gardens this year.
When I bought my house and first moved in, a tiny vine began to grow along the back of the house and one day I noticed the tiniest of roses blooming on it. Year after year I neglected (as I am famous for) this vine and sometimes it would bloom and sometimes it wouldn't. But I left it alone and it kept coming back year after year, despite me. Last year I took the time to try and assist it by guiding it up by the new fence that sat next to it. Last year I had several roses bloom. I see it's potential, and it believed in mine. In my mind it's a hearty vine weaving in and out of my fence with hundreds of blooms. But I know this won't happen right away. Neither will our own potential. But we can help it grow. So this year I want to tend to a few projects of learning and widening my skills, see more of our beautiful world, and meet and spend time with new and great friends. I think that's a solid plan. I see 2021 and all it's potential.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this blog. Till next time my friends.