Looking Forward

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Coming to a joint-decision, compromise or creating consensus in a marriage can be a challenge and when it’s done skillfully with love and patience, its incredibly rewarding. For years my husband Philip has been living in fear that he will eventually be coerced into moving from our home in Saratoga Springs to my hometown, Glens Falls. For some people, a move 15 miles away may not seem like a big deal, but this is not the case with us. You see, my husband’s quality of life is directly proportionate to the distance of his employer to his home and we live less than a mile from his office in Saratoga. Riding his bike or walking through our neighborhood park is an activity that he looks forward to daily. Being able to come home for lunch, give the dog a walk or just pop in to pick up a forgotten item is a convenience that most people do not have, and he greatly appreciates it.

Although I empathize and understand the value of proximity to work, there still exists a bit of tension over my wish to head north to my hometown and Philip’s desire to stay put. Over the course of our marriage, one of his favorite (and slightly cynical) declarations has become, “I know, I know, everything is better in Glens Falls.”

An indisputable prospective that we share is that living in Saratoga has been a great financial investment and a wonderful place to raise our boys. We love our neighbors and the historic Eastside of the city. The real estate has proven to be a sound place to put our money, and now that are kids are grown up, we are able to rent our house during race track season to make additional income. Although I assure Philip that I agree we are doing the sensible thing by living in Saratoga, there are certain times when my mind could be changed, and I could pick up and move back to my hometown. 

With all of the positive attributes that living in Saratoga has to offer, what could possibly drive my desire to move back to my hometown? On the surface, I have been restless, experiencing a need for a change of scenery. I also believe there is potential for financial investment coupled with an undeniable fondness in my heart whenever I am in Glens Falls. Walking through the old neighborhoods and around downtown, my mind wanders back to what once was and to where this town could be going with a little more attention and investment. What comes up from the depths of my being is a sense of creativity and excitement and the desire to be on the cutting edge of something great— a place that is coming back to life after some rough years— and a chance to make a difference.

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One of my favorite places, The Crandall Library

Recognizing that our points of view are equally important and relevant to our happiness as individuals and a couple, Philip and I have spent countless hours daydreaming; inventing and reinventing scenarios in which we could both feel our needs are being met. Driving in the car or sitting at the breakfast table we volley ideas back and forth. We scan houses over and over again on Zillow testing the waters and our feelings about moving. I’ve come to realize that Philip may be somewhat moveable on this idea if it makes “good financial sense.”

We explore the idea of buying a second home (perhaps a duplex) in Glens Falls so we can rent the Saratoga house more often and vacate to Glens Falls. We crunch the numbers to see if it makes sense financially. Can we accurately speculate how much income can we make renting the Saratoga house in the off season? What are the taxes like in Glens Falls? Do we really want to be land lords? We start to form thoughts about our comfort level in taking on more risk and living with what we do and do not know.

This is a familiar process that the two of us create and move through. We have practiced it many times in our marriage, and I am always grateful for the compatibility that Philip and I share when taking on risk in both investments and employment opportunities. I can trust that he is not going to make a case for a rash decision and that we will take the time to talk a it through over and over again. I also know that we have a similar pace in making decisions, and that when we do hit on something that “adds up” and feels right, we have the confidence to go for it.

Happily, after months (maybe years) of considering life in Glens Falls, we have landed on a plan that is the perfect amalgamation of both our ideas and what we feel we need to sustain us economically, creativity and spiritually. It’s the perfect balance of generating income, being in new surroundings and not taking on too much risk until we have a clearer picture. The process which involves moving to Glens Falls has been no different than any other decision that we have made together. When, jointly, we hit on the right scenario, we both knew it.

So, here’s what we came up with. We move to Glens Falls for one year. We rent, not buy, a small place to live, and we post a listing for our home on AirBNB to see just how much cash we can roll in to our bank account. Knowing that we have our August track rental secured for 2015 allows us to tip toe into the next phase of living in Glens Falls, for the short term. The decisions about long term can come later, when we know more.

Our co-created adventure in Glens Falls is proving to be a lot of fun, and this is very important. I never want to feel stagnant or afraid to make change. In the end, however, the process with which we move forward is considerably more valuable to me than the direction in which we go.

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Home sweet home, Glens Falls style

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A Missed Opportunity

ImageSometimes it’s a bit painful to look back on life and recognize a potential missed opportunity—a treasure overlooked. As an adult, I know intellectually that there is no way to change the past. My thoughts however lingered recently on what I didn’t know as a kid and how a lack of knowledge could have shaped my future.

It all started with Ansel Adams. The Hyde Museum in Glens Falls was exhibiting the photographic works of Ansel Adams. Having only a few days before my job got busy again at the farm, I decided to do some research on the show and take myself to the Hyde for an afternoon. Heading straight to the museum’s website, I realized that there was more than just an Ansel Adams exhibit. The museum had brought together a large body of painterly photographers known as the Photo-Secessionists and curated a show of oil paintings titled Winter Light. Looking over the array of exhibits clinched my decision to drive over to the Hyde immediately.

Visiting the Hyde Museum is always a bittersweet experience for me. Enjoying many hours of my life looking at this impressive collection, ducking in and out of rooms and fantasizing about living in the original house is the sweet part. Yet, I often feel a little saddened by the state of affairs of the neighborhoods around the museum, specifically the paper mill with the spewing of smelly biproducts from the smoke stacks and the rundown condition of some of the housing near by. In my mind’s eye, the entire Warren Street corridor is thriving with middle-class homes and businesses, and I hold out hope that the rebirth happening downtown will eventually encourage some sprucing up around the Hyde.

Today, while poking around on the Hyde website, another aspect of this extraordinary gem came to mind, The de Blasiis Chamber Music Series. The Chamber Series was started by the de Blasiis family of Glens Falls when they began inviting local and national artists to perform at the First Presbyterian Church on Glen Street. Later, the series moved to the Hyde Museum and it continues to thrive there today.

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First Presbyterian Church of Glens Falls

The crowning jewels of the de Blasiiis family and the Concert Series were Giovannina (Gio) and Virginia (Ginny) de Blasiis. To me, they embodied musical genius and refinement. Ms. Virginia de Blasiis was a fine violist and her sister Gio was an equally accomplished pianist. Ms. de Blasiis was my violin teacher at Jackson Heights Elementary School, and she taught every violin, viola, and cello student in the entire public school system.

Ms. de Blasiis introduced me to the violin and was an infinitely patient woman. The best and most formative memories that I have of Jackson Heights Elementary School revolve around music: playing in the orchestra, eating lunch with fellow violinists and Ms. di Blasiis every Friday for extra lesson time and occasional moments of actually picking up my teacher’s instrument and playing it. In fact, during this period of my life, I loved music so much that I wanted to become an orchestra conductor.

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Jackson Heights Elementary School

What I knew about Ms. de Blasiis when I was a young student was very limited. I knew that she had a really amazing sounding violin. I knew that she had a musical family. I knew that she must have practiced a lot because her calloused fingers tips and left mandibular bone indicated years of dedication. And I knew when she played the violin it sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. Having no reference point for any of these attributes, there was no way for me to know what it meant to study with Ms. de Blasiis, until today.

While looking over the de Blasiis Concert Series website, I came across a biographical statement of Virginia. This is what I learned:

Ms. de Blasiis studied at the Curtis Institute, The Juilliard School, and Skidmore College. She was concertmaster of the Vermont Symphony, played with the Schenectady and Glens Falls Symphonies, and taught in the Glens Falls school system.

Even a few years ago, this information might not have packed such a powerful punch. However, by witnessing my stepson, Christopher, preparing and applying to conservatories all over the country, I have come to understand what it means to attend Curtis Institute and The Juilliard School. It means that you are among the finest musicians in the country—the top of the heap!

Taking this one step further, to study with a graduate of Curtis and Juilliard is a serious privilege. Parents who wish to pay big bucks to help their son or daughter pursue a conservatory experience seek out teachers like Ms. de Blasiis. And here she was. The cost was nothing to play the violin in our public school and receiving her instruction was just part of the package. I can’t help but wonder what she thought about teaching a lot of violin hacks (myself included).

Although mostly, I wondered what I could have accomplished musically if I had practiced more and appreciated the opportunity before me. The thought stings. Unfortunately, this is how life is dealt out. Children have no way of understanding the depth of potential in a scenario such as this. Likely, most adults (parents) don’t even have a reference point to know the value of a conservatory-educated music teacher. I must accept with some small level of regret that I missed that boat, and it isn’t coming back.

As I walked the grounds of the Hyde Museum after viewing the glory of Ansel Adams and all the spectacular exhibits inside, I felt lifted up. I see now that Ms. de Blasiis is just like this great institution. Virginia was an island of beauty, artistry and genius surrounded by the grit of everyday life. And, like the Hyde, she continues to inspire through the de Blasiis Concert Series and enrich the lives of those who seek cultural nourishment here in our hometown.

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