Monday, April 30, 2012

May Day

In Germany, where my mother comes from, May 1st is a holiday.  There are flowers and Maypole dancing and tree planting ceremonies on this day which celebrates spring's midway point. It is a sweet, sweet day, reminiscent of a more simple time. My mother, the third of fifteen children, never really celebrated her own birth on this special day, nor really on any other day. For her, May Day was just another day to be disappointed by life.

My second child was due on May 1st, 1999, his soon-to-be-Oma's 61st birthday.  I was mildly distressed by this coincidence because I certainly didn't want my child to share a birthday with someone who didn't acknowledge her own life with joy. Of course, since there was little I could do to determine Baby #2's arrival day, I just hoped for an early arrival and, when my water broke on April 29th, I knew I got lucky.   Griffin Hudson arrived exactly one day early, beautifully pink with a hearty cry and a bald head. Unfortunately, his birth was a disappointment to my mother since she had fervently wished that I would have a daughter. You know, a girl as revenge for all the trouble I had caused her during my teen years, trouble I presumably still cause as an adult. At least one of us was happy.

I remember bringing Griffin home from the hospital, driving down Hackett Avenue and noticing that in the 2 short days since Griffin joined our family, everything looked different. The tulip beds in the median had popped and the blue sky was filled with white cottony fuzz from some unknown tree. Spring had arrived with this perfect baby boy.

Although I have considered Griffin to be an old soul since his infancy, today Griffin enters the rank of teenager. It's a weird thing to know that I'm heading to the Wine Bar tonight to work rather than preparing to share a special meal with my boy, but, I know his Dad has things covered. I was fully present the afternoon he arrived 13 years ago and, on his request, we'll enjoy dinner tomorrow, May Day, at Cafe Capriccio. At least there will be someone joyfully greeting the month of May. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pink Party 2012

You'd think that after attending the last three of these events I'd know precisely what to expect - attractive men and women clad in various shades of pink having a good time for a good cause.  I always see someone I haven't seen in years, the beverages usually lean more to vodka than cava and the night would be incomplete without a smooch from Tom Moore.  Yet, despite the predictability of this annual event, there's always room for a surprise - like last night's, and I hope this term isn't offensive, drag queens.  How fun!  And I have never seen as many swingers in one room as I did last night.  I mean, that's what you would call the folks taking liberties with the rope swing at Matt Baumgartner's house, right?  

A great host, a beautiful crowd and good cause = a fun night.  Thanks for always being a gracious host, Matt.  You really know how to throw a party!  More pics here.

New series: If I were mayor...

Seeing as how we only get 2 or 3 mayors in a lifetime* here in Albany, I often find myself wondering what I would do if I were ever in that position.  I know I wouldn't get corrupted by power or throw all the construction business in a particular direction thus guaranteeing each building project looks exactly like the one which preceded it, but, what would I do?  

I've been running - a lot, and I've really been mixing things up - the Corning Trail, down along the Normanskill, through the city streets, around Washington Park and the Capital. There are so many beautiful and challenging places to run around my fair city that I can't imagine ever growing tired of the options available for outdoor exercise.  So, returning to my original premise - if I were mayor I would promote the hell out of Albany as a place for active people to live.  We've got bike paths and running trails and great places to walk.  Why aren't we capitalizing on the opportunities for exercise and fresh air that are available here?  How come more isn't being done to improve or simply advertise the existing quality of life here in Albany?

Have you ever spent any time down by the river on the bike path?  Between the boathouse and the I-90 bridge there are some funky pieces of equipment that look like they were intended to be exercise apparatus.  Maybe one of the local gyms could take on the task of creating a true circuit of exercises?  I bet there are local benefactors who would sponsor a stop along the trail just like there are sponsored holes at Capital Hills golf course.  

Wouldn't it be awesome if there were outdoor yoga classes down by the river or in Washington or Lincoln Park?  Perhaps a series during the summer months.  Or how about some organized moonlight runs?  How cool would it be to run in a group at night through the city?  And would it really be that challenging to close Washington Park to automobile traffic on Sundays to allow families to gather with bicycles, roller blades and skateboards?  Perhaps even have vendors in the park with some of the yummy food trucks that line Washington Avenue and State Street during the work week.  Wouldn't that be amazing?

So - if you were mayor, what would you do?

*And people complain about tenure for teachers? Ha!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Falvo's returns the love

DerryX brought my attention to this recent addition to the Falvo's website.  I had been thrilled to see a Vinoteca piece I wrote posted on their deli cabinet last month when I picked up my brisket, but this goes even beyond!  Thanks, Falvo's, for the links and most especially for being such a great butcher shop.  I'll be in for my bacon later today.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A good red wine, preferably Italian

You guys use $85 bottles of wine to cook with, right?  

A good red wine, preferably Italian


We finally got down to the New York State Museum yesterday afternoon to check out their Canstruction exhibit.  This "zoo" display is comprised of a dozen or so animals constructed completely from canned food items and is remarkably cool and creative.  The exhibit is only up until Thursday, April 26th at 3pm, so you need to get there NOW!  The entire display, along with a spin on the carousel, takes only about 25 minutes to view.  Bring a few cans of food to vote on your favorite animals.  All food will be donated to regional food pantries to provide assistance to local families in need. 


sea turtle



busy beaver


Monday, April 23, 2012


What do you do with all of those heels and the last couple of slices of bread?  I've been throwing them into the freezer recently and yesterday I pulled them out and did something I've wanted to do for a long time - I made "fresh" bread crumbs.  It took about 90 seconds, all totaled, and I can't  wait to use them.  Maybe I'll add some dried herbs before I coat those extra thin chicken breasts I'm planning to lightly fry in olive oil. 
Directions?  Rip bread into large pieces.  Place in food processor.  Pulse.  Done.  Satisfying to my cheapskate self and hopefully to the taste buds as well.  What are your thrifty kitchen tips?  Got some to share?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

FDR's Hyde Park

On a recent sunny afternoon, I fulfilled one of my oldest son's longstanding requests - we finally visited the FDR estate in the Hudson Valley's Hyde Park. He's been wanting to visit this National Historic site for years. You see, he's got a thing for FDR. Back in his trick or treating days he actually wanted to be Franklin for Halloween. I persuaded him to be Teddy instead, because we lacked a wheelchair, but his admiration of Franklin remained undeterred. 

We headed south and exited the thruway in Catskill, opting for the scenic route down 9G on the east side of the Hudson.  Along the way we passed numerous other historic sites, most notably Olana, that have already made their way onto our summer calendar of things to do.  During the highway portion of the drive, Liam watched a documentary on FDR on his iPad, agreeing to turn it off once we hit the rip Van Winkle bridge.  When we arrived in Hyde Park, he was ready - prepped with new information about Franklin and excited for the tour.  Tours are one hour in duration and cost $14 - kids 15 (Liam!) and under are free.

Our National Parks employee (ranger?) was a knowledgeable and patient guide to the property and I learned a lot about FDR, his family and his presidency.  I mean, I knew he was our most longstanding president but didn't realize he was an only child and had arrived late in his own father's life.  He had a fear of fire following a childhood incident in which he saw a young girl set aflame after an incident with an early generation hair straightening device and preferred to be on the ground floor when traveling.  Franklin also enjoyed collecting stamps and birds and seemed to most enjoy being in the country as evidenced by this quote:  "All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River." Kind of how I feel about New York City, I suppose.
One of Frankllin's wheelchairs
His home was considered a country home, and was not particularly fancy or formal.  Especially in comparison to some of the more elaborate estates like the Vanderbilt's spread.  The original footprint of the house had been enlarged with wings built on both sides.  A third floor, for the children, was also added.  Both Eleanor and Franklin are buried on the property amongst a rose garden which was just showing signs of life on the spring day we visited. 

We grabbed some lunch at the nearby Hyde Park Brewery, where I enjoyed my burger and Winkle Lager.  Liam and I agreed that our next visit to the area will center around the ladies, namely Eleanor and me, with an intended stop at Eleanor's cottage, Val-Kill and a meal at the Culinary Institute.  Who says history can't be fun?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Taking it apart

Staying home this past week has done wonders for my inner peace. Truly.  I've eliminated a bunch of crap I no longer (ever?) needed and my house feels very peaceful.  And that's despite having a houseful of boys.  I'm ready to go back to work and dig in for the next couple of months and then, say goodbye to another academic year.  They go very fast, faster each year, picking up momentum along the way. 

At home, I've moved furniture and cable lines, shifted purposes and meanings of rooms. Things which I have planned to do eventually and someday have happened.  Accomplished.  I'm single, no longer with my soon-to-be-ex-husband-excuse for not moving forward.  It's time. Baby steps, but motion nonetheless.

Tasks sometimes appear as insurmountable because we're unwilling to live with the messiness of dismantling something.  Oh my God,  have you ever had home improvements done?  The ripping the kitchen apart, washing dishes in the bathtub and eating off the grill every night?  The dust and clutter and noise necessary to deconstruct and build are formidable.  There's that moment when you're untangling the wires for the umpteenth time and feeling overly confident about your ability to remember what plugs in where, when you wonder why you just couldn't have left well enough alone.  Why must you crave improvement?  

But, if you have a clear vision, maintain a gaze ahead at where you want to be, it happens. And it is satisfying and good and well worth the effort.  And the wait.  Putting it together, correctly and right, more than soothes the temporary devastation necessary for changes to be made. Not to mention the angst created by living a life always yearning for something better. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Emptying out my closet

That's literal, friends.  I am achieving great satisfaction on my hands and knees, cleaning my closet.  I've wiped down the walls and the ceiling and the shelves, mopped the floor and am enjoying all the room an empty closet offers.  Room for pretty things, lovely things, belongings to enjoy.  Organizing handbags and shoes, and skirts by length.  Satisfying.

I've lived in my home avec children, sans man, for nearly a year now.  Cords and knobs that have been MIA for months and months, are finding their way to where they belong.  Small projects are slowly being addressed and accomplished.  I feel a bright, shining emptiness when I look around my space.  I feel myself putting things together, in their place, where I want them to be.  Empty doesn't always describe a negative thing. 

I weeded a large shopping bag of clothing out of my closet, so far.  Items I haven't worn in more than a year. things that no longer fit, stuff I merely tired of - all of it.  Going.  I was raised to love clothing - my mother is a magnificent seamstress and my childhood wardrobe was impressive.  I was taught to respect clothes and fabric and my clothing lasts for a long time.  I don't have as many occasions these days to wear overly dressy things - out with them!  I like the feeling that having less provokes for me.  Lightness.

Are there things I keep in my closet?  Personal, secret items?   Yes, absolutely. The most special to me are cards, letters, notes and photos.  I have a sentimental side that occasionally surfaces.  Case in point below, my oldest personal possession - Teddy.  He sits in a place of honor, on a shelf between two pairs of Doc Marten's and a jar of dried lavender.  And doesn't that array of items just about sum me up?  Edgy, sweet and romantic - DelSolo.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mama's boys to men

Two of my three sons are now taller than me. I rarely look at them without shaking my head in amazement. When did that happen? I've officially been a parent for a third of my life. How is that possible? My boys are turning into young men in front of my very eyes and the evolution is remarkable.

There have been some recent instances which have caused my heart to swell with pride and satisfaction, occasions that have certainly bolstered my positive response to those who inquire about how the boys are doing. In the past couple of weeks, the boys have demonstrated to me that beyond merely being fine, they are, in fact, growing up nicely. My 15 year-old opened my eyes to this fact by pointing out that I don't let him help me. It was a simple statement but I've heard his words repeating in my ears since he spoke them. And I'm trying.

We watched a wonderful movie the other night, Midnight in Paris. I know, welcome to spring 2011, right? Anyway - I'm glad we delayed viewing this movie until the ideal time because we both were utterly charmed. It was a lovely, lovely film. During one of the scenes, as the camera panned around the magnificence that is Paris, Liam asked me if I wanted to go there. I assumed he was angling to add a day or two to our hoped for trip next year - the visit to Germany that he has requested for "his" next special trip. I've been to Paris before, but only long enough to determine that it was the most beautiful city I'd ever visited.  I acknowledged to him that I would love to go to Paris again and he said I should go next year.  When I pointed out that he was in the rotation for next year's trip, he asked me a stunning question: 'Mom, when is it your turn?"

Well...isn't that an interesting perspective. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

On timing, springtime and past times

How appropriate was it that my divorce should become official as the religious celebration of rebirth approached? There are times in life when timing is perfect, and this is a fine example of that phenomena. New life, miracles wrought by faith and love, light where there had been darkness...This is very much a season filled with hope and optimism for many, including me.

I've been guilty, more than once, of saying that holidays aren't very important to me. I find it just as potentially meaningful to have a meal with those who I love any evening of the year - a red letter day isn't necessary to make a shared dinner special. I can appreciate however, the power of a holiday to make an experience a lasting memory. The boys will be with their dad this year and the promise of Easter baskets at Dad's will motivate them to move a little faster than usual on this Sunday morning. Last year Griffin and I flew east Easter Sunday after spending an idyllic Passover in Palm Springs - not too shabby for the goyim, right? We spent the afternoon in Connecticut with family, the same relatives I hope the boys will be enjoying the day with today.

My childhood Easters are a mishmash of memories - hunting Easter eggs after an ill-timed late snow, organized annual activities at the home of a gracious Greenwood Lake resident who opened their property to the community's children for festivities, pretty dresses, baskets filled with plastic grass and shrink wrapped chocolate bunnies. Dinner was always ham - from a can, naturally. Pineapple rings, maraschino cherries and brown sugar elevated that piece of meat into something that never fails to make me smile. Good memories.

Spring break was the school vacation that found my brother and I daring one another to jump in the lake for our spring "baptism." We leaped into the barely thawed water shrieking with laughter and life. Alive. Afternoons were spent collecting sacks of polliwog eggs, fascinated by the thought that from this cold jello-y substance frogs would come. Miraculous.

I hope you and yours, today and everyday, know the miracle that is life. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Reading between the (budget) lines

A number of years ago, then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo conducted a press conference in the library where I have worked for the past 8 years. The topic was predatory lending to college students and the media was there with notepads and cameras. This may have been the first time I became aware of Cuomo's self proclaimed assertion that he was to be a voice for the students, their powerful ally in a world looking to take advantage of them. We spoke briefly. I earned his laughter when I responded to his question regarding why the librarian field was so dominated by women with a cheeky, "because the job requires a lot of multitasking," letting the reply lie there for the moment it took for him to get the joke. His aide said it was the best answer to a question he had received all day.

But maybe my answer was incomplete. Maybe it's time to consider some additional factors that might make the position more appealing to woman than to men. Because, while dividing my attention, sometimes in 200 ways when "my" library approaches capacity is something I do every single day, there are some other aspects of the role of school library media specialist to consider. And, no, they're not on the evaluation form Mr. Cuomo has strong armed districts around the state to adopt. I have a facility with more than 40,000 items - books, movies, audio books, electronic items such as databases and e-books, equipment, newspapers, 60 computers stations... There is a budget to be supervised and staff as well, but these items will prove to require less attention as money and staff are further eliminated each year, I suppose.

Another reason females may be more prevalent in the librarian field is the fact that women are typically more accustomed to being marginalized. Year after year librarians are made to justify their contributions to the academic success of students. Elementary librarians are continually being replaced by untrained clerks and parents because the state does not mandate trained professionals fill a position that is often perceived as one where reading and shelving books are the primary focus. And we all know anyone can do that.

My library is anticipating a reduction in our staff by nearly 50% for next year. People, just so you know, the fat is gone - we're cutting through muscle and bone at this point. I'm disturbed, dismayed and disappointed by the decisions which have been made regarding which positions to eliminate, but I can't be angry with my district. Not to the degree that people seem to be angry with teachers, that is. Can we clarify a couple of things here? Thanks, I've got a couple of points to make...

For the last three years my union has voluntarily given our salary increases back to the district to preserve programs. We were under no legal obligation to defer our raises, but it was the right thing to do in these economic times (for which we, as a profession, are completely devoid of responsibility) and it was done with very little grumbling. I haven't ever noticed a professional athlete returning their salary due to their having a less than stellar season, but teachers, who will never make in a lifetime what an exceptional baseball player makes in a single season, allowed their anticipated income to be redistributed for the benefit of the students. And I don't ever hear anyone complain about how few days a year a professional athlete works either.

The salary and benefits package a teacher earns are negotiated and agreed upon. For teachers to be vilified for coming to an agreement with the representatives the residents have freely elected, is unfair and small minded. Health insurance premiums continue to increase, yet, I don't recall demands for fiscal conservatism or retention of current rates, being made of these corporations. We all recognize that our economic situation as a nation has suffered in the last decade and future contracts will certainly reflect these conditions, but please, can we stop blaming teachers for the current fiscal state of affairs?

My district is moving ahead with an action to challenge the governor's 2% tax cap. I was proud of the leader of my district for taking this stand, yet found it more than a little bit ironic that the news conference to discuss this legal action was held, again, in my library. I couldn't help but consider why the library media center is perceived as such an ideal location for news conferences, yet is held in such low regard educationally. I have to wonder if future news conferences might be just as convincingly conducted with the backdrop of a magical green screen and an lcd projector. It seems that the library media center after all is merely the setting for a story which I'd rather not have to read.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The day I got divorced

The sun was shining, but the wind was chilly. I went to the gym and used heavy weights that I knew would leave me sore the next day. I picked up my completed tax returns (married, filed separately) and discovered I might be able do some home projects. I realized that just like the wedding is a minuscule part of the marriage, the divorce finalization is a blip on the Geiger counter of the relationship's ultimate decay.

It had been a long time coming. No, it wasn't the transgressions, it was truly the knowing that together we would go no farther. We were done. Not with the children and parenting them, but with each other. I was more exhausted than sad, shaking my head with bemusement, wondering why it was so easy to remember when the love started, not so easy (all right, impossible) to recall when it began to fade. Like childbirth, you simply forgot.

Being successfully married (insert your definition here) is always described as being "hard work," and you know I don't mind working hard. It's just that I ended up finding other things which I invested my time and effort in to provide better returns. I'm a romantic, but I'm also brutally practical. I wasn't getting enough and I couldn't give more. Period.

The word divorce comes from the Latin "divert, or change direction," an apt etymology that parallels my own path. I still don't have a map, but a change in direction is something one can choose to embrace or to shun. Life is too short to snub change.

The day I got divorced was today.

Monday, April 2, 2012


image from:
You know how I put most everything out there, right?  I was thinking about that personality trait of mine during a recent "get back into it, dammit" (after a 4 day stomach bug hiatus), run, and realized that I think I spill so much because I believe secrets have far more power to hurt than the truth. Examples?  Oh, yes, I've got a couple...

The things that have most deeply driven a fatal wedge in my relationships were secrets.  As a preteen, I learned some big stuff about my family history.  Nothing really worth repeating here, and nothing maliciously scandalous, just information  I (over)heard from family friends rather than from the adult I deserved to hear it from.  And once I heard this history, this story of how I came to be, I didn't know what to do with it.  I couldn't imagine raising the topic with a woman I always found unapproachable, so I swallowed it and allowed it gurgle and bubble inside of me, occasionally feeling it escape in an episode of bad behavior or a rebellious act. Not good.  

Maybe I would have ultimately moved beyond, or around, the crevasse  in this primary relationship, but, unfortunately, that wasn't the last time that a previously unknown was unveiled in a such a way.   Each of these spikes nailed  the door between she and I that much more tightly closed, and, at this point in my life,  I am content to let it remain unopened. I guess it's true about the physical spaces between the known and the unknown being described as the Doors, huh?

In more recent years there have been other secrets kept from me, and perpetuated by me, and they've all prompted more pain than honesty ever would have caused.  The power of those secrets has torn down structures originally designed to provide shelter for a lifetime. Or two lifetimes, perhaps.

I don't want anyone to have the ability to rock my world by revealing secrets about me or those I care about.  When someone on the periphery owns knowledge that those who are most deeply involved are lacking, the exchange of power is irrefutable.  And potentially devastating.

I'll keep your secrets, my friends, but as for mine, I'm sharing.  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Saturday night!

My latest SEEN gallery over at the TU. Check out all the smiling happy people.