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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Snow Days

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A few nights ago, I turned on the local news to watch the weather forecast. Hearing rumors about snow coming, I wanted to put my finger on the pulse and get the (hopefully) unexaggerated story. If you live in the northeast, you learn to quickly to dismiss most accounts of a “huge snow storm coming” until you have the local weatherman’s prediction. It is easy to get people up in arms these days about the weather. A few inches of snow coming? The lines at the supermarket become unbearable. People flock to stores to stock up as if we will be alone in our houses for days with no means to obtain provisions. Generally speaking, there seems to be more concern about the weather than there ever was when I was a young person growing up in Glens Falls. Affirming this theory was the news broadcast of widespread school closings the night BEFORE the storm hit. This occurrence of preemptive school closings is unprecedented (as far as I know) for what was going to be less than a foot of snow.

This mild hysteria got me reflecting on snow days in Glens Falls. Most parents today greatly exaggerate their childhood challenges of walking miles to school every day, over hills, in any kind of weather, without shoes (just kidding). For those who grew up in my hometown, this depiction is not that far from the truth. We did (and students still do) have to walk to school and back home everyday. There are no daily buses for the city school district. As students, we walked to elementary school, junior high, and high school. Without the concern for getting buses safely to and from schools, snow days were scarce. I can remember mornings of becoming really angry because every school district surrounding Glens Falls was closed, yet we had to schlep to school. My sister and I would lie in bed with the clock radio tuned into WWSC waiting and hoping to hear that we had a snow day. On the rare occasion that our school was closed, it meant there was a lot of snow, and we were incredibly excited!

SignSome of the greatest memories that I have of my hometown revolved around snow days and a hearty snowfall. Today, with a foot or so of fresh snow on the ground, I set off to explore my favorite winter spot in Glens Falls—Crandall Park. Engulfed in sunlight and sparkling, crystallized snowflakes blowing through the trees, the park looked as beautiful as I remembered it. The snow was piled deep and the city had plowed all the roads through the park, so I was able to take in all the sites.

Spotting the pond, I stopped my car and got out. Although the ice was frozen solid, the city had not yet plowed off the snow to make way for skating. In fact, I don’t know if the city clears the ice anymore at all, but when I was younger, this park was my very favorite place to be in the winter because I could skate all day.

In my youth, I had a ritual for getting ready to go over to Crandall Park. First came warming my skates on the forced hot air vent in our home on Flandreaux Avenue. The hot air blower was prime real estate in our house, and you had to fight for your moment on the big vent in the living room. Once I was successful in securing my turf and the chill was taken off my skates, I’d tie on a new pair of homemade yarn pom-poms. This little craft project of making pom-poms was executed by wrapping one long piece of yarn around my mother’s pack of cigarettes, over and over again. Once the winding was significantly adequate, I would tie the yarn together on one side of the pack, and then cut the opposite side of the yarn bunch to free the cigarette pack and form the pom-pom. The final step was securing it to the laces of my skates. Usually by the time I got home hours later, the entire thing had unraveled and I didn’t mind. It meant that I got to make another for the next trip to the rink.

Skating for me was a time of daydreaming and quiet. Sometimes, I went alone. Sometimes, I went with friends. Sometimes, I went to watch the boys in my class play hockey in the rink near the YMCA. The feeling that is captured in the recesses of my memories is one of peace and self-worth. I liked to skate, and I was good at it. (In fact it was the only athletic activity at which I excelled.) Overcoming fears of falling by challenging myself to skate backwards or conquer the long, steep icy ramp that led from the clubhouse to the big rink helped to create confidence that I may not have had otherwise. If there was a chance to go skating at night under the lights, it was pure magic.

Crandall PondToday, I watched as a couple of determined citizens cleared a patch of ice on the small pond and skated around shooting a hockey puck back and forth. The foot of fresh snow could not stop these skaters from having some fun. Hearing the sounds of skates and laughter brought a wonderful and nostalgic sensation to my heart and mind.

I wandered over to the clubhouse to visit the large rink from my past that was created by flooding the baseball playing field on Glen Street. Much to my disappointment, the rink was not there. The clubhouse, which looks nicely restored, stood on the hill alone—no kids running in and out and no icy hill to navigate before entering the large rink. My heart sunk. I could not help but think that this is a big loss to the city. Having free outdoor activity accessible to all is vital to retaining families at every socioeconomic level. Crandall Park certainly provides free family benefits in the summer months and provides beautifully maintained walking and skiing trails in the winter but the elimination of the rink leaves a hole in this recreational treasure.
ClubhouseI have no idea when the City of Glens Falls decided to stop providing the residents with a skating rink or when it stopped plowing off the pond, but it is sad. As I stood there in the park, there was also a part of me that felt slightly responsible for being so out-of-touch with something that meant so much to me. Perhaps my generation, many of whom have left our hometown, took the value of the skating rink with them when they migrated. I wondered if there are people who miss skating and want the rink back, like me?

Looking over the field and thinking about my childhood spent skating at the park, I took another moment to find the beauty in this place without my past and without an agenda. I realized that the park (with or without the rink and skating pond) is still a truly magnificent place to explore. I hope that someday, there will be children on skates gliding, twirling, and falling across the pond and the rink again. As Glens Falls continues to recover and prosper, perhaps the resources and demand for winter skating will emerge and materialize. The park is waiting. Can you hear it calling?

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