Category Archives: Education

I like that

2B1BA3C8-94F6-4EDB-BBAF-12E804849B00When I was an undergraduate, studying English and Women’s Studies at the University at Albany, I didn’t often buy prepared food in the basement of the campus center. There was one occasion, though, when I was on campus in the evening for a panel discussion and needed a bite to eat. I walked downstairs and hesitated a moment before entering what was then the grill area of the food services concession. As I stood at the doorway I witnessed the cooks behind the line blatantly eyeing up (and down) each woman. As the women approached the counter to place an order I could clearly hear the men saying “I like that. I like that.” They made no attempt to hide what they were saying, nudging each other and smirking. Did they think they were offering compliments as a side order?

I, being full on a diet of Women’s Studies, stepped up to the counter and addressed the cooks and informed them that what they were doing was unacceptable and they needed to stop. Their response? “What are you? Anita Hill?” This was late fall, 1991 and the news was full of Clarence Thomas’s nomination to the Supreme Court and Anita Hill’s testimony accusing him of sexual harassment. Knowing that I wasn’t going to get anywhere dealing directly with the kitchen guys, I walked away shaking my head.

The next day, I wrote a letter to the then head of Food Services at the university. A couple of days later, I received a phone call from his office and arranged for a meeting with him on campus. He complimented me on my letter writing skills and we discussed the incident. I explained my position and the concern I felt for 17 and 18 year-old women who might not be comfortable confronting men who were engaging in inappropriate verbal harassment and that campus should be a safe place for everyone. He was sympathetic, understanding and assured me that the situation would be addressed. I never went back to the cafeteria again.

Maybe those men were spoken to and developed a new understanding of what is acceptable in terms of addressing women and professional demeanor. Maybe they have daughters of their own now. Maybe they even now know that we don’t like it. At all.

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Filed under Albany, Education, girlhood, Local, musings, writing

Telling the truth – in Albany

We are living in scary times, friends. I don’t know about you, but I feel anxious about the state of our country and the relationships we have internationally. It seems like a long time since I’ve woken up without having to wonder what kind of outrageous statement or action with which Donald Trump has greeted the new day. It simply doesn’t always feel good to be an American in 2017.

Last Friday, though, was a bright spot in an otherwise dark time thanks to the New York State Writers Institute. Their schedule this fall is fantastic and the symposium they hosted over the weekend was absolutely tremendous. Although I was able to attend only two sessions of the event, I walked away with a glimmer of hope and a new sense of pride in my city. Bravo, Paul Grondahl and the NYSWI.

A few observations about the panels I attended:

  • The participants* were smart.
  • The audience was interested and mostly respectful.
  • Page Hall was packed.
  • The time went remarkably fast.
  • It was affirming, inspiring and reassuring.

Check out the rest of their schedule of events. There’s something there for everyone – and it’s free.

*Participants included moderator, Bob Schieffer, Douglas Brinkley, Franklin Foer, Amy and David Goodman, Maria Hinojas, Harry Rosenfeld and Tim Wu.

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Filed under Albany, Education, Events, Local, News, Observations, Recommendations, upstate New York

Getting on the bus – Barcelona to Lisbon

When I travel I hope to gather experiences. Sampling local cuisine, seeing new places, absorbing the flavor of a previously unknown culture, is what I’m all about. This trip has certainly provided those opportunities – and more. The nearly full moon over the Mediterranean, the Park Guell, white anchovies and jamon washed down with sangria, it’s all been wonderful and appreciated.

All of those good things have made the new experience of missing my flight a bit easier to swallow. I don’t really know how it happened. I can only say it was a combination of a leisurely lunch and a couple of missteps with transit that led to us arriving at our gate only to be turned away as too late to board. Plan B, as in bus, became our best option.

I don’t often ride the bus at home, preferring the train for trips to NYC and opting to drive or fly to other destinations, but the bus was our only play to get from Barcelona to Lisbon. At about the time our flight was scheduled to land in Lisbon we got on the first of the three buses required to get us across Spain and into Portugal.

Bus travel is weird. I don’t know why the vibe is so different from flying. It isn’t as if planes are all that much more luxurious these days than a decent coach bus. The bus has individual entertainment monitors, wifi and reclining seats just like a commercial plane, yet somehow it seems to magnify the sounds and scents of its passengers in a way that an airplane fails to do, generally at a fraction of the cost. Bonus?

The smells on the bus were sobering – food and farts and foreign scents. I took my shoes off both as a means to get comfortable and self defense as I added my own aroma to the potpourri that filled the air. You’re welcome, bus riders. Our overnight travels allowed for a bit of sleep and when I awoke, we were nearing Madrid. My alarm at the state of my feet upon our arrival, swollen perhaps from the surprisingly good Chinese food we had consumed prior to our 7 hour ride, was completely trumped by the sight of my fellow passenger brushing her hair in the bus station bathroom. See, she had removed her hair attachment completely, revealing a much more staid coif than the Charo style hair she had been rocking when I last saw her in the seat behind me.

It’s been a weird morning. Time to find the next bus and continue our journey – Lisbon or bust.

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Filed under Education, Europe, Uncategorized

Inspiring vs. Inciting – Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump

Photo credit: Griffin Lilly

Photo credit: Griffin Lilly

Yesterday was a huge day for politics in Albany, our Capital City on the Hudson. My schedule only allowed for me to attend one of the three pre-primary political rallies, but I am ever so proud to say that my older sons represented at the two events held during the early afternoon. How cool is it that they are interested and participating at their ages – 16 and 19?

Photo credit: Liam Lilly

Photo credit: Liam Lilly

Liam, my oldest son attended the Kasich rally in Troy, essentially because he is taking classes at HVCC and the event was very conveniently nearby. Liam leans further to the right than I and often threatens to vote for candidates who hold much more socially conservative positions than I do. He didn’t really have an opportunity to share many impressions of the speech but he did say Kasich is a moderate Republican with a repeated refrain of jobs, jobs, jobs.

Griffin, my middle son, is always game to skip school and the Bernie rally gave him a fine and legitimate reason to cut out of class with my permission. He liked Bernie’s message but found him, when compared to President Obama, to be a less powerful speaker. He was in agreement with the message, but said Sanders had a “Grandpa cute” vibe. Griffin did really enjoy the folks present, though, and felt comfortable in the tightly packed crowd in the Armory. There might have even been some hugging, from what I understand. I was sad to have missed it.

Made in China - worn with total irony

Made in China – worn with total irony

Later in the day, after a fortifying beer meal at McGeary’s, all 3 of my boys and I headed to the Times Union Center for what we referred to as the circus. We arrived at approximately 6:40 and waited in line for entry and security for about 20 minutes. It was an informative time as we looked around at the other folks in line wondering what their stories might be. Were they genuine supporters? Local? Perhaps merely curious, like us, there to see the spectacle? It was impossible to know.

imageWe made it to seats in the upper deck just minutes before Trump graced the enthusiastic crowd with his presence. He immediately launched into his stump speech, littering his diatribe with meaningful phrases such as “New York values,” “building that wall” and “making America great again.” His words were resonating with the crowd who greeted his sound bites with cheers and the frenzied waving of their Trump signs. Other people present began to respond as well to Trump’s claims, but these people were protestors, not supporters. The energy in the arena shifted from simple enthusiasm to a more complicated mélange of fear and anger. My children began to feel uncomfortable.

imageI looked around at the people surrounding us and tried to think about what might have made them so angry. How could they possibly be more furious with Mexican immigrants than they are with corporations which relocate to Mexico to lower production costs and maximize profits? Why are they resentful of citizens desiring comprehensive and affordable healthcare, but not with pharmaceutical companies using government money for research yet not making their products financially within reach of those who may need them? How does a New York City billionaire represent the interests of what looked to be a mostly blue-collar crowd?

We witnessed a couple of fights break out and saw a number of attendees being removed from the facility. The threat of more ugliness was pervasive. The boys asked to leave, which we did just before 8:00.

To me, Bernie Sanders brings light to our country’s political landscape while Donald Trump delivers a fire that threatens to incinerate all it touches. More than once last night I considered the similarities between the scene in front of us and what was Germany in the 1930s. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I’ll confess that I repeatedly thought: “Is this how Hitler gained power? Is this how it begins?”

Primary Day can’t come soon enough.

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Education, Events, family, Local, Observations, politics, Uncategorized, upstate New York

International Women’s Day is over

imageLast night Lark + Lily represented at a lovely event held at the Opalka Gallery at Sage College in Albany. It was a lovely event attended by a diverse crowd and I was really happy to have been asked to participate. Our beet juice pickled, deviled eggs garnished with roe were beautiful and well received and I was really proud of my chef’s creativity and the reputation we’re building. After the event, I drove to Lark Street and was really happy to see that the restaurant was busy with all tables seated with guests. It was a good night.

Today, though, despite the dazzling sunshine and mild temperatures, things are feeling not quite as rosy. As I read the morning’s paper an article raised my ire to a level of frustration and annoyance high enough to chase away my sense of satisfaction with regards to International Women’s Day. Maybe you feel the same?

This article from today’s Times Union left me almost speechless, not due to the incident itself (I vividly recall the Tawana Brawley case and was greatly dismayed to see this sort of situation occur again), but rather because of the words spoken by the two attorneys involved with the case with regards to the decision made by their clients to not attend a disciplinary hearing being held at the University of Albany. Or, as one of the attorneys described it, the “University of Injustice.”

I’m not going to provide either lawyer with additional “print” exposure so I won’t mention their names, but Attorney One characterized the University’s adherence to its internal disciplinary process as an opportunity for it to “manufacture and perform an academic lynching.” Yes, he was directly quoted as saying “lynching.” How does that do anything but perpetuate racial divide? As for Attorney Two’s statement that his client is unable to appear at the scheduled hearing due to the criminal charges she is facing and how “that’s not fair,” I’m afraid I don’t have much sympathy. Perhaps counsel should attempt to get the hearing delayed so she can be held responsible legally for her actions prior to facing discipline at the University?

I can’t begin to truly understand the discrimination that minorities face in our country. I’ve witnessed the racism to which our President and his family have been subjected and it makes me sick. How can our society remain so divided when it comes to race?  As a white person, I know I will probably never be subjected to systemic racism, but I can look at the experience through a different lens; that of gender.

As women, we are often taught to fear men and their actions.  The initial reports of the bus incident indicated that the young men had aggressively menaced and threatened these young women, an occurrence which is always a potential threat to females in our society. This was not the truth.

I don’t know what the solution is to the systemic racism in our world, but I can say with confidence that the actions of these three women students did nothing to advance that cause. In fact, their decision to fabricate an outrageous story has damaged the credibility of other women who may truly be victims of racism and misogyny.  That is nothing to celebrate.

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Filed under Albany, Education, Local, News, Rant

Milestones aren’t meant to be millstones

imageMy oldest child turned nineteen this weekend. I think the child that makes a man or a woman a parent is the child who is more closely observed, documented and measured than any additional children. As a family expands, it just isn’t possible to continue the almost obsessive attention that is paid to a first child. When there are two or three other humans demanding that their needs be fulfilled, things like growth charts become extraneous.

The literature suggests that first born children have a lot of pressure upon them to perform and I can concur on that. As far as my own child goes, he eventually internalized the demands he felt from his parents, teachers and early intervention providers. He now (self) imposes a timeline of expectations, and what he considers necessary progress, even more rigorous than the one promoted by the medical experts we felt so wed to when Liam was an infant and toddler and receiving services designed to help him catch up to his peers.

But, what if it isn’t really a race? What if we each reach the next step on our path in precisely the amount of time we’re supposed to? Maybe all those expected outcomes and definitions of normal are more generalizations than a reality for which to strive. From my vantage point of nearly fifty years old, it seems perfectly clear that life and how we experience it, is more individualized than something that can be easily plotted on a growth chart or measured in expectations and achievements.

As my son begins his last year as a teenager all I want for him is acceptance of who and where he is in life – his own acceptance, that is. I’d like for him to understand that it really doesn’t matter how many classes he takes or how quickly he progresses through college. It doesn’t make a difference if he is on par with his cohort; it’s his journey and no one else’s. Milestones may be indicative of progress but they shouldn’t ever be allowed to weigh a person down.

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Filed under aging, birthdays, Boys, Education, Observations, stress, Uncategorized

Birthdays and buildings – Vote Yes to AHS

new_exterior-washington_ave_view_1-16On February 9th my youngest child turns 11. I seriously don’t know even know where the last decade went. We brought him home from the hospital one winter afternoon and here it is a lifetime later. In an ironic way, the baby who was supposed to be my baby has grown up faster than either of his brothers. Such is life – grab the moments while you can.

This February 9th, I’ll be accompanying my boy and his classmates on their field trip to the Albany Institute of History and Art. I figure there aren’t many field trips left and I’m excited to spend his birthday with him and the exhibit, The Capital Region in 50 Objects interests me. It’s embarrassing how infrequently I get to the institute and I’m very much looking forward to seeing 50 objects which define the city where I have lived for more than half of my life.

Looking through the list of objects included in the display, I noticed a few buildings represented. As you might imagine, the Empire State Plaza and State Capitol are on the list, along with the residence of Stephen and Harriet Myers. You see, buildings are important and can help to define a city.

My children and I have witnessed the construction of a number of significant buildings in our lives here in Albany. I recall the construction of the Knickerbocker Arena Times Union Center and a number of other downtown buildings which have changed the landscape of our city. My children have benefited from the community investment made to improve libraries and both elementary and middle schools in our city and, as a parent, and taxpayer, I was pleased to support these initiatives. No longer do children in the city of Albany have to attend classes in buildings which are decrepit and lacking in modern amenities as was once the case.

This February 9th, we as a community again have the opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the city and its children with A Vision for Tomorrow. While none of my children will directly benefit from this ambitious undertaking, I will gladly accept the small (approximately $25) addition to my annual tax bill.  It’s the right thing to do and will help to provide the best opportunity for our teens to succeed. If we can justify building an entire plaza to impress the Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands can’t we provide our own residents with a building for which they can feel pride?  Maybe you could think of it as a birthday gift to Quinn?

Need more information?  Check out one of these community forums and get yourself up to speed.  Let’s not allow a decision this big to be decided by a small group of voters.  Our kids deserve better.

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Filed under Albany, birthdays, Boys, Education, Events, Local, Schools, Uncategorized