Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ms. Etta James

I have been unwittingly going through an Etta James phase. A few months ago, I bought some of her music on Itunes and have done my best to work them into as many playlists I can, without being pedantic. Recently, I learned how to use my Itunes library to select a ringtone on my phone and naturally, I chose Etta's At Last. I appreciate a little cheekiness (isn't that a great word!) or wry humor in a ringtone, and this song makes the grade. This past Friday night, I finally watched Cadillac Records. I wouldn't say it was the best movie I ever saw, however, there were some really cool musical moments in the film and all of the performers are truly talented. I am now obsessed with Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Willie Dixon and, of course, Etta James.

I am completely curious about Etta - I hope she wouldn't mind my calling her that, but I feel like we have so much in common she just might forgive me. Okay, maybe not too much in common, but we are both "fatherless" and define "survivor" way more than one of those folks on some reality tv show. There are some questions that I would like to ask her. She is still alive, right?.

I was thinking today that maybe I should write Ms. James a letter and what I have so far is this:

Dear Ms. James;
To begin, I am a tremendous admirerer and believe that your voice, and your music, are critical components of the canon of vocal performers of the 20th century. Thank you for sharing your gift. I recently watched Beyonce portray you in Cadillac Records and wanted to know your feelings about her work. I remember, when the movie first came out, there was some scuttlebutt that you were unhappy with Beyonce's performance. If you were dissatisfied with her portrayal - could you share why? I'm interested to know about your life and wondered if you would recommend a biography which you feel accurately depicts your life. Do you really believe that the professional pool player, Minnesota Fats, is your biological father? Did that scene at the restaurant really happen in life? And, aside from all these questions, I would like to convey with all sincerity, my respect for your ability to be a survivor.

So - what do you think? Does anyone have her address handy?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Liam @13

Thinking back 13+ years ago to when Tom & I decided to start a family, I was convinced I could control everything. This belief was only affirmed when I got pregnant on our first attempt and my due date (April 5th) fit perfectly with my academic calendar. I truly believed that I was in charge! I had a wonderful pregnancy, completely uncomplicated. Very early in the morning on 2/27, I got up to pee - again. An aside here: I am continually amazed by the body's own wisdom and sincerely believe that the reason pregnant women pee so frequently around the clock is to prepare them for never sleeping more than 3 or 4 consecutive hours again. When I returned to bed and laid down, oddly enough, I peed some more. Hmmm. Back to the bathroom. I repeated this 2 or 3 times before it occurred to me that perhaps I wasn't in fact peeing myself (what a relief!), but instead might be leaking amniotic fluid. Since I wasn't experiencing any contractions and I didn't feel it necessary to bother my midwives so early in the morning, I tried to go back to sleep.

At about 9 a.m. Tom  I headed to the medical practice. Yep, amniotic fluid. Time to go home, gather a couple of things together for my imagined Bradley birth and meet this baby 5 + weeks early. There went my schedule. After arriving at the hospital I was given an ultrasound and learned that my baby was transverse, or sideways, i. e. this baby was not coming out the preferred way. There went my natural childbirth along with my midwife, in came a obstetrician and a C-section. Wait - this wasn't what I imagined - planned - expected. Oh - this is what parenthood is like - adapting, doing what is best for your child even at your own physical and emotional expense.

Liam was born at 4:24 p.m. to the sound of Van Morrison. He was perfect in every visible way - other than the fact that it took some time before he "unfolded" himself - he had seemingly had his legs straight with his feet up around his head and still was inclined to be in an awkward position. He was beautiful. The surgery was completely awful for me - I hate those kinds of drugs and I felt incredibly removed from the process. The recovery room was a blur and I only have some vague memories of Tom holding our boy and staring at him with wonder.

The care we received in the hospital over the next 3 days was sub-par at best, criminal at worst. Liam and I learned how to nurse and we were sent home with an appointment to be seen by our pediatrician (the only one we had interviewed prior to his early arrival) in a week. I won't rehash all of the circumstances that followed our discharge (I think I've only recently been able to remember those days without feeling as if I were back in those days, moments I prefer to never relive), but needless to say, there were complications - problems - serious issues.
It seemed that Liam had a birth defect - one that occurs in 1 out of 700 births, yet despite the additional people present in the operating room mandated because of Liam's gestation of less than 35 weeks, no one detected it. This birth defect, a cleft in his soft palate, prevented him from nursing effectively and he was essentially starving to death. Those of you who were around at that time remember how dire the circumstances were - we almost lost him. Those 3 1/2 weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit were the most intense, exhausting days of my life, but I sure learned a lot in those days about parenthood. About advocating for my child, about listening to myself and that voice in my head telling me that something wasn't right, about doctors not always take good care of their patients and their needing to be held accountable.
I will always carry with me a sense of responsibility and guilt that Liam had to suffer for my lack of parenting wisdom. The early intervention, the speech therapy, the PT and OT, the Special Ed...we all worked so hard to get Liam to the place he should have arrived at effortlessly. And what does all this mean on this snowy day when we celebrate Liam's birthday? Well, for me, it means that parenthood is the highest of tightropes, a balance between taking control and knowing when to yield. It means that despite all of one's planning and scheduling, children do what they're going to do and all I can do is try to prepare them for a world which, unfortunately, doesn't always have their backs. And it means that I will never allow anyone to dismiss me when it comes to the well-being of my children - ever.

So today, Liam, we celebrate you and the miracle you truly are. XX

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

NYC - Day 3: Angela Lansbury!

On Wednesday morning, Tom packed up the two younger Lilly boys and headed pack to Albany to resume his restaurant responsibilities at Dale Miller. Liam & I left the apartment right behind them and went straight to the TKTS booth to queue up for matinee tickets. Liam has been absolutely set on seeing A Little Night Music starring Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta Jones since he became aware of this Broadway revival. I've been keeping my eye out for tickets and we got lucky, in my opinion that CZJ was taking vacation the week that we were going to be in the city. I have no issue with CZJ (and loved her in Chicago!), but unlike my slightly odd son, it seems that many people are more interested in Catherine than Angela. The line in Times Square wasn't too long and I felt comfortable that we were going to score tickets. As we approached the booth I was bummed to find there were only single seats left available - no, there was a single seat available. Damn! We abandoned the line and made an attempt at consolation - retail therapy style. Macy's, Anthropologie, Toys r Us and a few other favs of mine on lower 5th. Nothing really cheered us up - even the chicken noodle soup we had at the midtown deli failed to comfort us completely. So...back to the TKTS booth at 2:30 to line up again, this time for the evening performance. Success!
We got a couple of terrific seats for the evening's performance and even had time for a little relaxation prior to our dinner date at Bar Americain. This place kind of got on my radar after Bobby Flay had dinner at McGuire's a couple of summers ago. Yeah - I like saying that. Anyway - this was my first time here for more than a drink or lunch and I really like this place. Especially, when you consider it is midtown, not my usual stomping grounds at all. My favorite thing here is the Boston lettuce salad with bacon, buttermilk blue dressing and a poached egg. This salad single handedly taught me that you can throw an egg on just about anything and I will eat it. Liam wasn't overwhelmed with his options so he ordered a bowl of the clam and sweet potato chowder. And then another bowl. A very enjoyable dinner completely convenient to the theater on 48th St. The show was terrific - Angela Lansbury wasn't in every scene, but she certainly owned the scenes she was in. The theater was tiny, beautiful and didn't have a bad seat in it. What a great value, too, at $70 a ticket.
Thursday morning Liam & I went downtown to meet Rachel for a late breakfast in Chelsea - our old 'hood. There is an awesome (new) little coffee place on our block, The Grey Dog. Walking into the place, I was immediately at home. The music was fantastic!! Seriously, I couldn't shake the feeling that it could have easily been 1970 - Bob Dylan, Etta James, Joni Mitchell. I had to stop myself from checking in my bag to confirm that my Ipod was still there - when the Jeff Buckley and Sam Cooke came on I was convinced that someone had lifted my Ipod. Aside from the cool vibe, I had a killer egg sandwich which was served on a deliciously buttery croissant. Liam had a gigantic blueberry muffin and a strawberry-banana smoothie which filled him up until late afternoon. At which point, we were back in the 518 - a bit tired, a good bit less flush with cash, but completely saturated by the city we all love. Ah, NYC - until next time...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

NYC - Day 2 - Eating

Our second day in the city began with some killer bagels - they were light and toasted up beautifully in our apartment's toaster. I wish I knew where they originated from, but they were just something Tom picked up at a nearby deli. We headed out to the Intrepid following our breakfast amid swirling snow. Again, our apartment's location was terrific and we arrived at the river in no time. It was a bit more expensive to get in than I anticipated ($105 for our family of 5), but it was definitely cool and Liam's response was worth the price of admission. The Intrepid was recently (within the last year or 2?) renovated and everything about it was shiny and clean. We spent a couple of hours going through the ship, examining the fighter planes on the deck, touring the docked submarine and checking out the retired Concorde. There was a multimedia presentation with multiple screens and flashing lights and smoke, which really gave a flavor of what it must have been like to have been aboard the ship during WW II. The Intrepid is pretty damn cool and I would recommend it.
Next, we dragged the kids to Chinatown for lunch @ Joe's Shanghai. It was quite a walk, particularly for Tom with Q on and off his shoulders, but the guys were troopers. Yes, we do know about mass transit, but Tom & I are all about walking. We enjoyed a glorious feast at Joe's - 2 orders of pork soup dumplings, crispy duck, fried squid with hot peppers and salt, marvelous green beans and an order of sesame chicken which Q essentially devoured. Thanks, Rachel, for turning us on to this place! A trip to the city is incomplete without a stop at Porto Rico Importing to stock up on coffee. This place totally rocks - wonderful coffee and very reasonably priced. At this point in the day, the boys were getting a bit whiny - being out in the snow and walking 50 blocks can do that to a person, I guess. We cheered them up with a stop at Rocco's on Bleeker St. If you are a fan of the black & white cookie, this place kicks them up a notch by applying a very thin smear of apricot preserves between the cookie and the icing - divine! The guys had some cocoa and massive cupcakes laden with frosting. I tasted the cupcakes and they were really good - not dense or heavy at all. We yielded to the boys' wishes and caught a train uptown to relax (I think I even napped for 20 minutes!) before our Valentine's date.
Niece Jessica arrived at the apartment around 7 pm and Tom & I jetted out to Tabla. As with every Danny Meyer restaurant that we've ever visited, the service was gracious, accommodating and unpretentious. When I made our reservation, I mentioned we were restaurant folks and the staff couldn't have been nicer. We had a great table looking out at the Flat Iron building and thoroughly enjoyed our meal. Tom found a funky Italian Gewurztraminer which paired beautifully with the Indian style fare and we completely enjoyed the hospitality and food. We cabbed it uptown and I do believe we were passed out by 11 pm.

Flower Show at the NYS Museum

Can you believe that spring will be here in a month? Personally, I feel as if winter never really arrived other than a brief ultra-cold spell in January, but I am looking forward to watching things poke through the dirt in my tiny front yard. Until that day comes, however, there is the annual Flower Show at the New York State Museum to get a girl through. Yas & I visited it yesterday and it definitely is a spirit lifter. The displays are in place for 3 days only and generally by Sunday afternoon, they are a bit tired looking. My favorite year in memory was when the flower arrangements were on display with the quilt show, but the photography exhibit currently hanging is pretty amazing. If you feel the need for a burst of premature spring - get there today or tomorrow. And don't forget to take a ride on the carousel!

Friday, February 19, 2010

NYC - Just Like I Pictured It.

Where to begin? The train ride down was terrific despite the fact that Tom & I did not consume a bottle of champagne on the way south, as is our decadent tradition. Quinn actually took a little nap and woke up not-too-crabby and the apartment rental thing went fine even though collecting the keys was a bit sketchy. The 2 bedroom place we rented for 3 nights was reasonably priced ($150 a night) and nicely located on W 58th between 9th & 10th - in Brian & Lisa's old neighborhood. The layout was a bit weird, picture a long hallway with a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen off the right side, finishing with a sitting area and a 2nd bedroom. Over-heated, of course. Perfectly acceptable for us and very convenient for our activities. Day 1 we had a nice pizza lunch - very thin crust, and got busy by visiting the Titanic exhibit at the Discovery Center. It was particularly cool to see the artifacts that had been recovered from the ocean floor, especially since Liam & I had visited the shipyard where the Titanic had been built in Belfast, last year. Tom took the other two boys to Toys r Us in Times Square while Liam & I did our thing. We rendezvoused midtown and wrapped up the evening with a viewing of Percy Jones (Johnson?? Jackson) and the Lightening Thief. The movie was predicatable, but it did afford me a 10 minute nap, which I sorely needed. And that was Day 1.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Welcome to DelSo, Able Bakers!

Able Bakers has finally opened on Delaware Avenue and I couldn't be happier! I can now look forward to walking to a bakery offering breads, cookies, cakes, pies and pastries. I can also look forward to shopping for larger sized clothes after walking to the bakery with frequency. We sampled three items today - a fabulous coffee stick (pictured above @6-12 o'clock on the plate), a sticky cinnamon roll and a traditional crumb topped coffee cake. There wasn't anything on that plate that I would hesitate to order again, but my absolute favorite was the coffee stick. It was delicate without being overly flaky or buttery, and had a lovely chocolate taste without being aggressively sweet. I am so happy that I live in a neighborhood where walking is the ideal means of travel for going to dinner, a movie, the library, a drugstore and now a terrific bakery. Rock on, DelSo.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fire - Destructive or Constructive?

I'm kind of obsessed with fire. Not arsonist obsessed, just interested. Perhaps drawn would be a better word, for it. How do you perceive fire? Is it a force of energy that creates more than it burns? When someone is on fire, or sparking, they are blasting out this energy that is tangible, and we know at that moment that fire is a good thing. The connection between fire and heat and light can often define relationships, but maybe, I'm becoming overly personal here and simply expressing my own history. What lasts longer - fading light or dying ember?

Understand that I am speaking in mostly figurative terms - I very much know what havoc a fire can cause. When I was 18, we lost our home to fire and I know the sense of displacement and loss that results from a fire. However, when I reflect upon that loss I must also acknowledge the growth which followed the devastation, the awareness of what is truly necessary rather than burden of possessions which we all carry. Fire is powerful and ignites what it touches, yet fire is also, as Matt Lauer said this afternoon, "the greatest symbol of peace in the world." Wouldn't it be lovely if fire didn't have a tendency to destroy prior to enriching the soil with nutrients only created by devastation? much to think about. With what fire are you most familiar?

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I don't know about you, but some days I feel like I take care of EVERYTHING! I understand that I take on a lot of responsibility for planning, budgeting, organizing and generally making things work, but sometimes, I really feel like I want someone to take care of me. Most of the time, I recognize that we all have a skill set in life and my own strength involves figuring how to make things work. However, I must admit that I fantasize (not in an intimate sort of way) about what it must be like to release the reins and let someone else take control for awhile. I imagine not having to consider what to pack, where to go, when to eat and where to eat and what to eat (eating is pretty important to me), what to charge, what to spend cash on, how to get somewhere, who to call, where to meet, what to do...see?? It is exhausting, isn't it? Thank goodness that this funky mood generally passes fairly quickly for me. And for the gym. And cocktails. Not necessarily in that order. :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In Honor of Q - 5 Things He Has Taught Me

  1. Cancer and numerous miscarriages were not enough to keep us apart. He completes our family beautifully.

  2. Childbirth & raising children are unique experiences regardless of how large your family may be.

  3. Perhaps I should honor and respect my body as much as he does - his favorite touchpoint is my belly button.

  4. Nothing begins the day better than a cuddle and a shared glass of orange juice.

  5. Taking little steps may in fact be the best way to experience the wonders of the world.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Albany Art Room

Yesterday we celebrated Quinn's 5th birthday at the Albany Art Room on Madison Avenue. This was Quinn's first "real" birthday party and I think everyone had a very good time. Quinn was as gracious as a 5 y/o can be, and there were no tantrums or crying - the definition of childrens' party success. If you haven't been to the AAR, you really should check it out. The party format was organized without being remotely rigid. As the kids arrived they decorated their goodie bags with crayons, markers and rubber stamps. Once everyone was there, they smocked up and moved into another room where they used handheld mirrors for inspiration as they drew self-portraits. These individual drawings were bound together into a birthday book of friends for Quinn to take home - very cool. Their next activity was to paint wood picture frames - there was some serious painting going on. The palette of colors had been selected by Quinn and turquoise was, of course, represented. As the kids finished up their projects, we got the cake and juice ready to go. We were a very manageable group of 9 kids with 10 or 12 parents. As the kids were occupied, the grownups actually got to sit down and relax without being concerned about beads, paint and glitter being generously strewn about. We had a little additional time at the end of the party and there was a final project involving pipe cleaners and beads being fashioned into bracelets. Everyone left with a picture frame and I think I managed to get a decent photo of each child to place in their frames. Check out their website for ongoing activities and classes. It really is the perfect place to kill a couple of hours, particularly in a winter big on cold and lacking in snow.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fumbling in the dark - missing the light

Usually, 2 mornings a week I go to the gym before school. On these days, I am so happy to be able to go directly home after school, that leaving the house by 5:25 doesn't seem too daunting of a task. Generally, I have my workout clothes ready to go in the bathroom and I simply get dressed and slip out of the house. Well, this morning I wasn't my usual organized self and I needed to grope in the dark to find a suitable shirt for my yoga class. I have a pretty amazing tactile sense and I reached into my t-shirt drawer and felt a shirt that I haven't worn or seen for quite awhile. When I pulled it out, I had to smile - it was a shirt given to me by my mother-in-law, Sheila. Today is the 2nd anniversary of her death and as I typed those words, my eyes filled with tears. I really miss her. And her absence in our family (her family) is very much a void which can never be filled. The memory of her, her light, will always outshine any darkness and I know each time we find something we need that came originally from her, (a pair of flip flops in my car when I was on my way to get a pedicure, a springform pan when making tiramisu, a lavender pullover for yoga this morning), that she is still shining on us. Thank you, Sheila. We love and miss you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Delaware Avenue Public Library Branch

I finally made it to the newly opened Delaware Avenue branch of the Albany Public Library on Monday. It is a bit embarrassing that, as a librarian, I missed the grand opening, but, we all do our best, know what I mean? Our visit on Monday was a mission to borrow a couple of books to get inspired for Griffin's science fair project. Or as I like to call it, the %&*$ science fair project. They really hit it out of the park with this renovation! The building is totally cool, there is a decent sized parking lot and the interior is bright and beautiful. Seriously, between the schools and the libraries, Albany is looking pretty good these days. We did hit a speed bump when we approached the shelves to browse for some titles - there are no Dewey numbers and I was a bit lost. Fortunately, there was a helpful clerk who guided us in the right direction and we were able to locate some books which should be helpful as we (We?? Who am I kidding?) jump through the necessary hoops for Griffin to meet the requirements of this annual onerous task. I look forward to returning to the library for more enjoyable activities, such as Ms. Rebecca's Story Hour and borrowing books and dvds frequently. Another great reason to live in the DelSo!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Restaurant Nightmares

No, really, literal restaurant nightmares filled the hour this morning between 4 and 5 a.m. If you've worked in a restaurant perhaps you've had your own version. For me, they usually involve unexpected diners and a lack of necessary items such as menus, silverware, glasses, etc. The version that I experienced this morning was particularly vivid. I was at McGuire's and expecting a party of 6, which became instead a party of 9. I went in the kitchen to gather additional silverware, glasses and napkins. When I returned to the dining room there was an unexpected party of 6 sitting at a table which had been rather haphazardly put together. I addressed the party of 9 and got them situated only to see that the surprise party of 6 was now 10. I returned to the kitchen for place setting items and, of course, the party of 10 had morphed into a total of 40 people scattered throughout the restaurant. Now, if you've been fortunate enough to have been to McGuire's, you know it is a lovely, small restaurant. In my nightmare, there were all kinds of additional rooms where people were impatiently waiting to be served. I was running around like a crazy woman trying to gather sufficient silverware, which, of course, we did not have enough of. I was unwrapping forks and knives and spoons from their annoying little plastic bags and basically losing my mind. When I finally got the last place settings in front of the guests who were waiting none-too-patiently, a woman sniped at me that "most restaurants set their tables prior to their guests being served their meal." I looked her dead in the eye and said "Most people, particularly when they are traveling in a pack of 40, call a restaurant prior to arrival," which, honestly, is something I would really say. She tried to provide an excuse about how they were celebrating some unexpected political victory and I discerned that they were all Republicans. What can I say? Even in my nightmares the Republicans are the bad guys.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lost: The Month of January

Generally, I find the first month of the year to be exceedingly long, particularly in a year with a severe lack of snow. Something, however, happened this year and the month of January flew by me. When I rolled out of bed this morning to half-heartedly welcome a new work week and month, I wished for another January day - preferably a Sunday. As I considered why I was so tired, I thought I would share what the last week in January 2010 entailed for me.

Monday 1/25 - Barenaked Ladies show at Wolf's 1-11 followed by a lite dinner at Creo

Tuesday 1/26 - An appointment in the morning followed by lunch with the girls in Woodstock

at the Little Bear.

Wednesday 1/27 - Meeting after school and finally an evening at home!

Thursday 1/28 - Volunteered to help at the Hope for Haiti event - made mad mojitos!

Following my bartending stint, headed to Dale Miller to say hi to the hubby

and then met a friend at New World Bistro Bar for a glass of wine - home by


Friday 1/29 - Took the boys to Crossgates to address Liam's need for new sneakers. Dinner

at Johnny Rockets - a greasy crowd pleaser.

Saturday 1/30 - Spinning class, housecleaning, manicure then work at McGuire's

Sunday 1/31 - Brunch for 6 at home - Eggs Benedict, more housecleaning and then to

dp's/Yono's for Tom's holiday party.

And that, my friends was a pretty typical week in the life. On deck for this week - Science Fair Project (I despise the Science Fair), a retirement dinner and the first episode of the last season of LOST. And hopefully a recoup of my energy so I can write something that is more than a regurgitation of my week's activities.