Category Archives: writing

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

Brooks Brothers suits

b683bae9-f62b-4ceb-96e3-a47c320e332f-10839-0000071941aafe77_tmp… my taste for customer service, that is. I don’t often shop at Brooks Brothers (their clothes are well tailored but a bit conservative for my lifestyle), but after visiting their Lee, MA outlet location twice in the last few months, they just may have made a customer out of me. Here’s why…

I dropped into their store at the end of summer to pick up a few dress shirts for a friend as a gift. I’ve never been particularly good at keeping track of measurements and sizes and that trip to Lee was no different. I had no idea where to start with sleeve length and neck size for this guy, but I did know that he has a history of shopping BB and I hoped that perhaps there was a database of customers that could be accessed. I stepped up to the counter and inquired and within minutes I knew the necessary shirt size. Easy.

What I didn’t know was that there was a preference (or even a difference) in collar style. Seems that my birthday guy prefers a close collar rather than the wider one I had randomly selected. So, for the last few months three (almost) perfectly new shirts have hung unworn in a closet. Last weekend we took a drive over to rectify the situation and that’s when the customer service took an additional, even more tremendous, leap forward.

Retaining a sales receipt for months is not necessarily my strength and we found ourselves in Lee without evidence of the purchase. I’ve been in this situation in the past and was successful in obtaining a credit by presenting the credit card originally used for payment, but, naturally, I recently switched American Express cards, so that wasn’t an option. As I prepared to log on to my Amex account to recover evidence of the transaction, the clerk asked me if I knew the date of the transaction and, miraculously, I did. Within 2 minutes the transaction was located and an exchange receipt printed. Simple.

A short time later we left the store, new purchases in hand, and headed to a place more my speed – UnderArmour. I had asked at Brooks Brothers for directions to the UA outlet since it was frigidly cold and we weren’t feeling up to wandering around the outdoor mall. As we were browsing the running gear an employee approached me to inform me that I had forgotten my phone at the Brooks Brothers store. Apparently, one of the employees there had made the effort to track us down to notify us of our oversight. Wow. Thoughtful initiative? Yes, please and thank you. Well done.

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I never imagined

imageOn our 15th wedding anniversary, my husband and I had a special dinner at a restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard. The meal was a bit of a disappointment, but the company was good.

After we had finished our meals and were somewhere between entrée and dessert, our wedding song came on over the restaurant’s speakers. I was touched and felt my eyes well with emotion. I thought to myself “we should dance.” There wasn’t a dance floor (it was a restaurant), but we could have managed a twirl or two. It was our 15th wedding anniversary.

I’ve thought back to that night a few times and wonder what might have been different if I had forced the words “we should dance” out of my mouth or if he had said “I arranged for this song to play.” If either of us had done something to demonstrate our love for the other. Would it have been enough to have prompted us to steer our ships once again to be side by side and in the same direction? I’ll never know.

By our next anniversary dinner, we were, in retrospect, clearly sailing in different directions. It was a fancy meal, perfectly executed and filled with laughter. We met the chef-owner and there were many bottles of wine uncorked. My feet hurt in their new shoes. It was good to feel something.

It’s almost 5 years later now and I never dreamed this life that I’m living. I write and run and work and eat and take pictures and I love, love, love. I feel more alive than I’ve ever felt and am equally inspired by today and the thought of tomorrow. Things may not have gone the way I imagined they would, but as an inherently grounded person, my imagination is sometimes too timid.

I never imagined I’d quote Hugh Hefner but he said it perfectly:

“In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined a sweeter life.”

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Filed under aging, love, marriage, musings, relationships, writing

Gifts of the season

So far, it’s been a particularly relaxed holiday season. I’ve been on my game – my freezer has 8 quarts of assorted homemade cookie dough ready to thaw and bake, the door has a wreath and the dining room a decorated tree. The last of the Christmas cards went in the mail 3 days ago and I’ve got 4 rolls of wrapping paper – and tape.

Holiday preparations are so well in hand that I’m adding challenges to the upcoming days. I’ve got a few recipes which I’ll be debuting over the next few days, a riff on apple fritter waffle donuts, overnight pull-apart brioche cinnamon roll bread and a killer roast for Christmas Eve. And, yes, I already ordered the beef from the butcher. How did I manage to be so on top of things? I’d have to say it was because I remembered to put a few things for myself on this year’s gift list.

Last week, I loaded two of the three boys into the car and drove to go pick out a tree. At Price Chopper. Yep, we bought our tree from the Golubs, the same folks from whom I bought the potatoes and onions for our latkes. Talk about one-stop shopping! Generally we go out to rural Rensselear County for our tree, not suburban Slinglerlands, but the week’s wet snow made the appeal of tromping through a field searching for a tree pretty minimal. I gave myself the gift of simplicity. $35.00 and car filled with pine needles later, we have, as always, the perfect tree.

Last night, I had a hankering for latkes. Even though it was Friday and I felt kind of beat, I made the effort to grate the potatoes and chop the onion and fry a batch of latkes. With each step, I considered, then accepted, what I had to do next to get this out of the norm meal on the table. As the pancakes fried, I peeled apples for a quick sauce and grilled sausages. We didn’t sit down to enjoy our dinner until after  8:00, but I felt so relaxed because I didn’t rush the process or myself. I gave myself the gift of indulging in something I was really craving – sour cream and generous glass of Riesling included.

During these often hectic holiday weeks, when so very much (festivities, shopping, food and drink) is crammed into each day, I purposefully left my calendar open. I quietly refused to commit myself or take on obligations. It has been remarkable. I’ve been available to do some fun relatively last minute things.  I’ve been writing and reading, taking long walks with Jeter and enjoying my home and boys. I gave myself the gift of time.

I hope you’re giving yourself something priceless, too.

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Filed under aging, Boys, Christmas, Cooking, family, holidays, musings, writing

Man crush Monday



This is my first attempt at noting this weekly event so forgive me if I fail to acknowledge it appropriately. I’m a word girl and my crushes are literary, not literal and, since I’m a librarian, I’ll give them to you alphabetically.

The most local of my crushes and the only dedicated nonfiction writer is Paul Grondahl. Reading Paul’s work in the Albany Times Union has taught me an incredible amount about writing, my community and life. I wish I knew how many stories of Paul’s I read before I began to recognize a consistency in my response to his words, to note his byline. His ability to present human beings in an utterly nonjudgmental fashion is truly an art and we in the Capital District are so very fortunate to have access to his words.

Recently, Paul visited one of the schools where I teach and hearing him speak only caused me to admire him more. He shared his experiences along with his suggestions for conducting quality research and when he spoke disparagingly of Wikipedia, I felt my crush deepen. Absolutely dreamy!

My longest term literary crush would have to be John Irving. I believe The Cider House rules was my introduction to his work and, captivated by his talent, I quickly read each of his novels. After many years, I recently reread A Widow for One Year and was once again charmed by Irving’s ability to convey a story about individuals and, for lack of a better phrase, the human condition. His characters are both blazingly unique and potentially our next door neighbors. It’s magical.

Of the three writers I’m crushing on, John Irving is the only one I haven’t been fortunate enough to meet. Yet. He’s kind of overdue for a new novel and I would love to catch him on tour, so if you happen to hear about him being around (and by “around” I mean within a 150 mile radius), please let me know.

And my final literary crush? You know – I love Richard Russo with an ardor that rivals Band Aid Penny Lane’s obsession with Still Water. Really. What that man can do with words on a page is remarkable and I can’t imagine ever growing weary of their sound. His novel, Bridge of Sighs, just might be my favorite book ever. The voices of the characters are so true and honest when they narrate and the emotions they share so raw, that I find myself rereading this book almost annually. It moves me.

Exactly what one wants from a crush, right?

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Wading in with my new wellies

bought these last month in Ireland - hasn't rained since.

Bought these last month in Ireland – hasn’t rained since.

Let me open with a nod to Saratoga in August: I’ve got no horse in this race. I state this has an attempt to assure you that I have no investment in the current Capital District food blogging dust-up. But while I don’t really care either way about who is “right,” I’m not without some opinions. Which I’d like to share, naturally. Hell, everyone else has, so why not?

I’m not 100% clear on the exact chronology of things, but it seems that Daniel over at the Fussy Little Blog wrote something about the food culture of the Capital District. Now, Daniel isn’t a native, something he doesn’t attempt to hide, and he has a critical eye and high expectations. He often is disappointed, yet remains surprisingly optimistic about where things are going food-wise in the Albany area. We aren’t always in agreement – he will never understand my devotion to Cafe Capriccio, nor my fondness for Emperor’s Palace, and I’m ok with that. I suspect he is too, because he does give me a coveted link from is blog.

Michelle Hines Abrams of MHA Innovations, is someone I’m familiar with due to our sharing mutual friends. We often seen one another at events and our encounters are always pleasant. I could be wrong, but, from my observations of her social networking activities, I assume she is employed in some capacity as a public relations professional by various restaurants and other hospitality outfits. I’ve frequently wondered what her position is and how she was fortunate enough to have created a career in which she spends her time wining and dining. Sounds pretty satisfying to me. Lucky her!

Well, Michelle wrote a piece which kind of read, to me, as diatribe in defense of the Capital District restaurant scene. In all honesty, I didn’t read the complete post because it was too damn long. I think it would have been more effective broken up into smaller, more manageable bites, but, again that’s just me.

I don’t regularly read Michelle’s blog, but a lot of what she posts on Facebook seems to be links to published stories from other sources. Not so much innovative, more a regurgitation. I don’t intend that as a harsh criticism (who am I?), original writing isn’t always necessary in a blog, right? Many bloggers accumulate hits based upon give-aways and polls, promoting other people’s work is in a similar vein, I suppose. Whatever.

From what I understand, Daniel is an advertising guy – or was in a previous life, at least. If Michelle is indeed a professional hospitality industry booster, I would imagine they have more in common than either would ever admit. They both have experience with promotion, no?

The fact that they are in such disagreement over the state of the local food scene is a little amusing. More than that, though, it is proof that there is more of a local food scene than there ever has been before. Believe me, 25-years-ago there wouldn’t have been sufficient mud for either of them to lob at the other.

I think I’ll just keep my boots on and see what happens next. How about you?


Filed under Albany, Eating, Food, Local, Observations, Random, Restaurants, writing

The Paris Wife

Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris.” Isn’t that an inspired opening line?  I, regrettably, just finished reading The Paris Wife and all I can do is sigh that it is over.  Wow, I almost feel as if I just had 2 trips to Europe, one via a printed time machine, to those heady expatriate days I originally fell in love with while reading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and A Moveable Feast.   In this creative,  fictionalized retelling of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage, author Paula McLain has told a completely captivating tale of a time with which I could easily become utterly obsessed.  Ok, maybe I already have.

A long time ago, I took a course, or two, on Hemingway and pretty much read everything he wrote.  I had a bit of a conflict between my Women’s Studies minor and Papa’s misogynist ways, but overall, I was smitten.  His use of language, his characters, the romanticism of the time period and the settings.  I became an admirer and have never wavered in my affection for his talent, or my fascination with his life.

In the Paris Wife, McLain has beautifully recreated those days and tells the tale from Hadley* Richardson Hemingway’s perspective.  The debauchery and drinking, the traveling from city to city, country to country, the presence of other famous literary personalities and characters… I absolutely could not stop reading this book.  I was completely taken in by the story, one which was familiar to me from my studies, and truly feel as if I was given a bird’s-eye view to the birth and subsequent death of a marriage, along with the nearly mythical career of one of America’s finest writers.

Fascinating, well-researched and written, this is the best novel I’ve read since Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken.    Get it.

*Hadley was my “girl name” if I ever had a daughter.

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Filed under Books, Europe, favorites, Recommendations, writing