Albany sparkled – Champagne on the Park, 2015!

tulipsIt’s been a couple of years since I last attended this event, the official kickoff to Tulip Fest Weekend. Boy, am I glad I picked last night to jump back in! What a wonderful night it was in our fair city – the air was warm, but without humidity, the evening light was divine, the flowers magnificent and the crowd festive and decked out in their finest attire. It truly was an epic night, the sort we all long for during the short, dark days of winter.

I was so busy shooting photos and visiting with friends (so many friends!) that I didn’t nosh at all, but the local restaurants put out what looked to be a satisfying spread, particularly when paired with bubbly pink wine. Albany was really at her finest . Thanks for a great evening, Lark Street BID!

Leave a comment

Filed under Albany, Events, Local, SEEN, Spring, upstate New York

Black boys on mopeds

England’s not the mythical land of Madame George and roses
It’s the home of police who kill blacks boys on mopeds
And I love my boy and that’s why I’m leaving
I don’t want him to be aware that there’s
Any such thing as grieving.

I’ve had these lyrics from an old Sinead O’Connor song kicking around in my head recently. It would be easy enough, and equally accurate, to substitute America for England, wouldn’t it? When my middle son asked me last night why police officers keep killing young black men, I was at a loss. The only response I could articulate was this – Because they’ve done it one way or another for years and continue to get away with it.

I don’t know what it’s like to be the mother of black boys, but I do understand that parenting black children, particularly males, involves issues, that will probably never impact my children. Is this just or fair? Absolutely not. Has it been the reality of our society for generations? Without a doubt, yes.

I suspect that involved and proactive black parents have discussions with their children about how to respond to law enforcement officers to avoid becoming the next Michael Brown or Tamir Rice, a topic I’ve never felt the need to broach with my sons. I very much doubt that a video produced by a young white man would resonate as deeply as this recent viral video created by Will Stack did. The reason? My sons, by virtue of their skin color and not necessarily their behavior, are at far less risk of being approached by police officers than male black teens, a truth that is well documented here.

It’s clear that we have a serious and pervasive problem in our country when it comes to law officers and their interactions with black citizens. There’s another issue, though, that we as a nation need to address – gun violence. According to this report “Firearm homicide alone, and by extension firearm violence, was the leading cause of death for Black men ages 15–34 in 2012…” Just this week in Albany, two teenagers (the same ages as my own two teenagers) and a third male were arrested for shooting three people, one a 27-year-old man, who died of his injuries.

Where are these guns coming from?  Where are the parents of those two teenaged boys who have effectively ruined their lives, as well as the lives of the 6 children now left fatherless?  Those two teenagers presumably went to the same high school as my sons.  Where did they learn that guns were a solution to conflict?

Like Sinead said “These are dangerous times.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Albany, Boys, Local, musings, News

Pay attention

On more than one occasion, I’ve listened to people complain about how much money teachers get paid. Maybe you’ve been part of such a conversation – it usually involves noting the short work day teachers enjoy, the health insurance and other benefits they’re given, and the excellent calendar which allows me them to have summers and holidays off. I’m familiar with the litany of complaints about teachers, even without the governor leading the chorus, thank you very much. I have a Master’s Degree along with nearly 20 years in the field and I just broke the $60,000 mark last year. Does that really sound excessive?

There have been a couple of things I’ve read or seen recently that make me a little insane when it comes to income or salary. For instance, the 14 wealthiest Americans increased their net worth in the last two years by $157 billion. That increase is equal to the entire holdings of the bottom 40% of Americans. Does that even seem right?

Did you know that Disney CEO Robert Iger made almost $44 million last year? The median salary for Disney workers is less than $20,000 a year, but I’m sure that he does 2,238 times more work than everyone else, right? How is this ok?

I’d love to share the income of one of our local billionaires, George R. Hearst III, but since his family business is privately held, that figure is impossible to determine without a subpoena or peek at his tax returns.  Suffice it to say, his family’s worth is estimated to be in the area of about $35 billion.  And, yes, this is the same guy/corporation that hasn’t given their local employees toiling away at the Albany Times Union a raise in more than 7 years.  Really??

I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ll ever understand why a small percentage of our population holds such a disproportionately large share of the wealth.  How much do they need?  How can anyone justify a CEO-to-worker compensation ratio (in 2013) of to 295.9-to-1?   All I can say is Bernie Sanders.  Enough.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, politics, Rant

My mythical beast turns 16

On a sunny day, not unlike some of the ones we’ve enjoyed this week, my water broke and labor began for my second child. Neither of these occurred with any haste – it was more a leak than a gush and the progress of my contractions was painfully (literally) slow. When my red-faced, bald-headed baby boy finally made his debut it was a new day and I was in awe – of both his perfection and the strength of my body. Birthing him was, most definitely, my proudest physical accomplishment.

Sixteen years later this child continues to amaze and exhaust me. I do, however, find myself worrying about him more than I do either of his brothers. His humor, intelligence and charm have provided him with wonderful life experiences. Unfortunately, though, his gifts have also given him the opportunity to avoid truly exerting himself. Ever. Everything has come so easily to this guy…it kind of scares me.

During my run yesterday I was thinking about him and life and challenges to be met and conquered. I thought about all the things I want him to know – about himself and life. Of course, being a teenager, he only ingests my motherly wisdom in small doses and on an as needed basis. Hopefully one day he will come to know all of the following…

  1. Nothing in life is more important than health and happiness.
  2. There is satisfaction in doing your best and working hard.
  3. You have been blessed with many talents.
  4. Be where you are.
  5. Don’t ever lose your sense of right and wrong.
  6. Responsibilities will make you a grownup far more than a driver’s permit.
  7. You can do anything.
  8. Take your time figuring out what you want to do career wise. There’s no rush.
  9. That being said, finding yourself is a self-sponsored trip.
  10. You may look like your father, but so much of your behavior mirrors my own. I get you.
  11. Travel and see as much of the world as you can.
  12. Be honest. In the long run, it’s easier.  I promise.
  13. Keep carrying groceries for old women.
  14. Never stop giving good hugs.
  15. Going to concerts with you has been one of the best rewards of parenthood.
  16. You are loved.

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, birthdays, Boys, musings

No safe harbor – Mariner’s Harbor, Kingston

imageYou’ve probably considered at least once what defines a restaurant experience as a positive one. Was it the menu? The presentation of the plates? The value? Maybe location or ambience? Or was it the service and attention to detail? While we all may have personal opinions about which components of dining out are most significance, I’m here to provide you with an example of the incredible importance of having an educated, competent and polite front of the house staff.

Last night I met my girlfriends for a dinner in Kingston’s Rondout district. Post-dinner we decided to find a place for an after dinner drink and found ourselves at a well established place none of us had ever ventured in before – Mariner’s Harbor. It was about 8:15 when we arrived and, after consulting with the accommodating hostess, we elected to take a high-top table at the bar where we would be able to enjoy our drinks after ordering and purchasing them at the bar. This is where things got bizarre…

I asked the young bartender if she had port. She looked puzzled. I asked again this time adding the word “tawny” as if that was going to get me somewhere. She shook her head with confusion. I spelled P-O-R-T and explained what it was to no avail. Realizing the futility of my quest, I asked for a wine/drink list. That, at least, she was able to provide.

My friends ordered a couple of cappuccinos and a Sambuca while I came to terms with the limitations of the list I had been handed. I asked if maybe they might have specialty coffees or cordials. Her eyes lit up with a glimmer of life and she dashed away to retrieve a different version of the wine list. Or so it seemed. In actuality, it was the very same offerings I had previously perused, only this time they were in a more elegantly bound list. Sigh.

I stepped away from the bar and asked my friend to order a sombrero for me, explaining that it was Kahlua and milk. The bartender apparently went right to work searching for guidance as to how to make a sombrero. When my friend, Lisa, interrupted her research and described the drink’s ingredients, she was rewarded with a muttered “Why didn’t you just say ‘Kahlua and milk?'” Um, I don’t know. I wouldn’t order a vodka and o.j., I’d order a screwdriver, right? Was it really unreasonable for me to order a drink by its proper name?

My friends and I moved on from our head shaking about the attitude and incompetence at the bar and spent some time visiting. At about 9:00, Virginia and I decided to hit the bathroom before hitting the road. When we approached the bathroom (which was directly across from the kitchen doorway) there seemed to be a crisis of sorts. It appeared that a number of servers had been congregating and then subsequently disbursed at our approach. Kind of like cockroaches when a light goes on.

We entered the bathroom where we were immediately confronted by the sight of a woman vomiting in the sink. She was being consoled by a friend and reassured that she was just fine. I beg to differ. It is not “just fine” to vomit in the (only!) sink of a public bathroom. If you’re sick (or have been over served) and vomiting is unavoidable, the spacious stall would be the more appropriate venue for your regurgitations.

During the few minutes we were in the bathroom, taking turns with one of the two stalls since the other stall was occupied by a server, as evidenced by her black apron on the stall floor, no employees addressed the situation. For all we know, that woman is still prone in the sink, thong exposed and mumbling. We won’t be back to check. Ever.

Leave a comment

Filed under Dinner, drinking, friends, Rant, road trips, Uncategorized, upstate New York

How do you smell?

Did it always look like a sex toy?

If you had asked me that same question 35 years ago, my response would have been “baby soft,” as in Love’s Baby Soft. Unless it was summer, of course. In summer I was devoted to Love’s Fresh Lemon. You 70s girls know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you?

In many ways I’ve moved on since those days. I progressed through Estée Lauder’s White Linen and Clinique’s Elixir (there may even have been a brief interlude of Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers, but I’m not willing to admit that publicly) until I finally landed about 8 years ago on Chanel’s Chance.

Everything about Chance was perfect for me – the name, the package, the slightly spicy, definitely sexy nose…it was a grownup fragrance in every way. I wore the lighter version (eau fraiche) during the warmer months and imagined that my fragrance, like the tinkle of my charm bracelet, would be a signature for those closest to me. I had found my scent.

Recently, though, I found myself sometimes going days without a spritz. I didn’t feel the desire to punctuate my presence with Chance. I was over it.

imageOn my return from Paris we had a layover in Dublin, an airport that happens to have an excellent array of Duty Free boutiques and stores. I spotted the Jo Malone shop and immediately thought of my friend, Will, who wears a Jo Malone fragrance that makes me want to lick him whenever he has it on. Which is exactly what I told the lovely older woman working at Duty Free. After she recovered, she assured me in her lilting brogue that we would certainly find that, immediately.

The shop is simple, almost stark. The 16 available colognes were arranged in general categories – citrus, floral, spicy and woody. I assumed that the fragrance I obsessed over was woody or spicy because I love cedar and bergamot. After applying two scents and grabbing a bite to eat, I returned to the store disappointed that neither was quite what I was looking for. The saleswoman handed me a floral choice, I inhaled and immediately knew I had found my new fragrance – Pomegranate Noir, the very same scent that Will rocks. Will’s scent was now mine, and for a bargain of only 81 euro or about $85. The same bottle retail goes for $120.

I smell good.

1 Comment

Filed under Fashion, favorites, friends, Recommendations, travel

Echo – Pam Munoz Ryan

One of the benefits of my job is the opportunity to purchase new materials for students and faculty. Even after nearly two decades, the thrill of unpacking and handling a box of new books remains a highlight of my professional day. A recent shipment included Pam Munoz Ryan’s latest novel, Echo.

My first impression was “This is a really long book. How am I going to get kids to read this nearly 600 pages long historical fiction novel?” After reading Echo myself in less than 4 days, I know my bigger problem is going to be maintaining the waiting list of students who want to read this absolutely enchanting book.

Echo is a little hard to explain without giving too much away. Essentially, there are three narratives which ultimately combine into a heartwarming and satisfying ending. The thread which waves the story together is music and its power to inspire, comfort and convey emotion via a special harmonica which almost magically lands in the hands of each of the three essential characters.

The first is Friedrich, a 12-year-old in the Black Forest of Germany during the Nazi buildup in the years leading to World War II. His love of music, nurtured by his father and uncle, provides him with an escape from the harsh realities he contends with as an often bullied young boy living during an increasingly scary time.

The story then shifts to Mike, an 11-year-old orphan in Pennsylvania committed to remaining with his younger brother despite challenged beyond what any child should have to endure. His innate ability to play the piano, previously fostered by his now deceased grandmother, provides him with the means to communicate emotions and wishes he often does not have any other way to express.

And finally, we meet Ivy, an American girl of Mexican descent living in California with her family as they struggle to improve their circumstances during the early days of America’s involvement in World War II. The harsh realities of gender roles, racism and the consequences of war are daily insults in Ivy’s world, abated only by her ability to make and appreciate music.

Each of these three young people come to be in possession of a very special instrument, a harmonica which provides them with opportunity and hope during their time of need. The selflessness with which Friedrich, Mike and Ivy eventually, in turn, part with the instrument is one of the most striking and beautiful parts of this very special book. I can’t wait to reread this book over the summer with my boys. Wonderful!

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Boys, Librarians, Recommendations