Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Day Louis Armstrong Made Noise

If you are like me, you sometimes wonder whether you should have been born earlier because of your taste in music. Okay, so there's lots of reasons NOT to have been born earlier. But if I look at the contents of my iPod, I see a healthy dose of Beatles, Peter Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Aretha Franklin, Simon & Garfunkel, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, and other recording artists whose fame peaked before I was born or when I was a little girl.

One of those singers is Louis Armstrong. In fact, I have a special fondness for his most famous song: "What a Wonderful World." We used that for our first dance at our wedding and sang it to Christopher when he was in the NICU. Then my sister and her husband also used it for their first dance, and to this day, I continue to sing it nightly to my boys when I put them to bed.

So I took special interest in this article in the New York Times, about Armstrong's reaction to the Little Rock high school integration efforts and his thoughts on race in America in general. What an awkward place he and others (Ray Charles, Lena Horne, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, etc.) must have been in--entertaining those white folks who were responsible for black folks' oppression. Staying in hotels and singing in clubs where black people were barred from entrance. Exalted for their musical skills yet despised for their race. And one day, Armstrong had finally had enough and couldn't keep himself quiet any longer.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Portland Highlighted as One of Yahoo's Top 10 Green Cities

Yahoo! Real Estate ranks the country’s top 10 green cities, and Portland, Oregon, is listed first. Here’s why Yahoo named it a green place to live:

“Affordable and accessible, this city straddling the banks of the Willamette River has long made sustainable living a priority. More than 30 years ago, with other cities in a freeway-building frenzy, Portland broke ranks and tore down a six-lane expressway to make room for a waterfront park. Since then the city has set an urban growth boundary to protect 25 million acres of forest and farmland, started a solid-waste program that recycles more than half of the city’s trash and erected more than 50 public buildings that meet tough standards set by the United States Green Building Council. One of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S., Portland’s public transportation systems boasts a high rate of ridership. Add in one of the nation’s largest city parks -- the aptly named Forest Park has 74 miles of running, biking and hiking trails -- and Portland’s rep as the nation’s greenest city makes sense.”

Feeling proud to be a Portlander today!

Portlandia--statue in the middle of downtown Portland and symbol of the city

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Is America Ready for a Woman President

Since our household is in the dark ages (NO CABLE TV), I often miss out on the latest in pop culture. One such item is the famous Daily Show, which I've never seen. I just discovered a great clip from the Daily Show from another blog...it's called "Is America Ready for a Woman President," and it's a wonderful parody on "Sex and the City."

How ridiculous is this question anyway...can Pakistan, India, England, etc., be ready for a woman leader, and not the U.S.?

Is America Ready for a Woman President?

Go, Kim Gandy!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Democratic Candidate Mashup on Yahoo!

Yahoo! has created an online debate of sorts for the democratic candidates. You can pick which candidates you're interested in, and then choose your issue to hear their response. Check it out!

Yahoo! Democratic Mashup

After you're done, you can vote in Yahoo's online poll...but I'm sure it's not very scientific...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Diamonds and English

Yesterday was my lucky day...I won a $100 gift certificate to the Shane Company from a KINK Radio Station listeners' community contest. Me, who has never owned a diamond in her life. When Mike and I got married 17 years ago, South Africa was in the throes of apartheid, and at the time nearly all diamonds came from South Africa. I elected for a simple gold band because of (1) South Africa, and (2) low cost (being poor young newlyweds). I've never been one for expensive jewelry--it makes me feel too guilty. I've never owned a piece of jewelry that costs more than $200.

So now I'm going diamond shopping! I think I'll buy myself a simple diamond ring...but I'm still going by my $200 or less rule to assuage my guilt.

And here's the "English" part of my post...this resonated for this editor/writer, former English-as-a-second-language teacher...I'm sure my former students can attest to the difficulty of learning the nuances of the English language:

Why English Is So Difficult!

The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
We must polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
I did not object to the object.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
They were too close to the door to close it.
The buck does funny things when the does are present.
A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
After a number of injections my jaw got number.
Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
If you're offering me diamonds and English, I'll take the diamonds... :)

Monday, September 10, 2007

School of Horrors: United States' Own Local Abu Graib

I just read this article and feel truly sick to my stomach. Mother Jones magazine reports on a school in Massachusetts that uses electric shock to "treat" children with attention-deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, and mental retardation.

The school, called the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, does not use medication or any form of psychiatric treatment. It is run by a man named Matthew Israel, who bases his techniques on B.F. Skinner's behavioral modification research.

States and school districts pay $220,000 a year for each student--our taxes are going to support this torture center. There have been many attempts to shut down the facility, but it continues to thrive.

I'm horrified that this type of thing is allowed to continue in our own country--it's state-sanctioned torture of the worst kind, on the members of our society who need the most compassion.

I'm going to do some research to see what I can do to express my opinion about it--write to state senators, something--and I'll let you know what I find out.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Tiny Babies, Fragile Families

The Austin American-Statesman has a wonderful feature about the mental health effects on families of having a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The writer of the article is a social services reporter who had three sons: one born at 22 weeks (who died), one born nearly at full term, and a third who was born a few years ago at 24 weeks. She suffered depression and had difficulty bonding with her baby after he was born--and wondered whether other moms or dads faced the same challenges.

Then she remembered about the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism and applied for a grant to research and write about the mental health of NICU families. The result of her work is a wonderful series of truly honest interviews with families who have endured the NICU experience.

So much of what we read in the news glosses over the difficulties that NICU babies and families face and the hardships they must overcome. This article is different and worth reading.

The mom of one of the children profiled, Victor LeBourgeois, is on the Preemie-Child listserv I'm on (for parents of school-age preemies). His story is amazing and heart-breaking.

Here is the article:


You might have to register to get access to the article, but it's a pretty easy process and you can easily elect not to get added to the mailing list.

A Perfect Day at the Beach

We spent a few days at the beach last weekend, and had a few perfect Oregon days on the coast...not too hot, not too windy, and not too much rain. Nicholas enjoyed crawling through the sand and napping on Grandpa, while Chris, Kieran, and Mike flew a kite, and Kieran built a beautiful sand castle adorned with tons of oyster shells we found in the shallow surf. Later in the day, Grandpa took the boys on their first fishing trip. Although both boys caught some fish, the trip was not entirely successful, I should add, because Kieran's fish were tiny minnows and had to be thrown back.

Still, overall, it was a lovely, relaxing couple of days.

Loving the freedom!

Relaxing and watching the boys

Chris flying the kite

"Hedwig Resurrected," as we were calling the owl kite...

All that crawling around in the sand tired me out!

Building sandcastles with Grandma

This is the easy way to fly a kite!

Sandcastle Stage 1

Sandcastle Stage 2

Kieran's turn to fly the kite

Getting ready for their first fishing trip

The rugged adventurers!

Chris, who at age 11, has recently discovered a love of jigsaw puzzles!

Friday, September 7, 2007

So Many Books, So Little Time!

Which kind of a reader are you?

A. You buy your books in hardback and have an alphabetized, orderly collection on your neat bookshelves.

B. You cling to each book you purchase and would never consider selling them or giving any of them away.

C. Not only are you are a frequent library patron, but you are also always trying to find ways to feed your book habit without breaking the bank…and you just hold on to your most treasured books.

If you answered B or C, ignore this post. If you answered C, however, read on. (When we first got married, Mike was definitely "B," until he found out how much credit he could get at Powell's for trading in his books! Now he is a confirmed "C"!)

A friend of mine told me about a great website called paperbackswap.com, which is a nifty way to get paperback books for the cost of postage and a swap. This is how it works:
  • When you sign up and post 9 books you’re willing to swap, you automatically get 3 credits for books.
  • When someone wants a book you have posted, you print out a wrapper from the web site with the address already included and the correct postage noted.
  • When the person receives the book you send, you get another credit. Credits can be cashed in for books.
  • You can create a wish list of the books you desire.
The site carries audio books and hardbacks in addition to paperbacks, but in my case I’m going for the paperback because most of the library books are hardbacks and I like having paperbacks for travel. So far we have mailed off five books, received two, and are waiting for two more.

Are you interested in joining? If so, click the following link:

If you join, I will receive an additional credit for the referral. It’s a fun, low-cost way to add to your library. Happy swapping!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

A Day at the Fair

On Saturday, September 1, we went to the Oregon State Fair. Yes, we were crazy to go on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend! But Christopher requested tickets to the Chris Daughtry concert on Saturday evening, so we decided to make a day of it. In the evening Mike headed home with the little kids to put them to bed, and Chris and I stayed for the concert.

I hadn't been to the fair in years and years, and I happily discovered that it was really fun! In previous years we've been more likely to "do the Puyallup" (as in the Western Washington fair in Puyallup, where my sister and her family live), and I think that there might actually be more to do at the Oregon State Fair.

We went on rides, had a picnic lunch, watched a number of performances (including the amazing hypnotist, Travis Fox), participated in a play (photos below), watched another play, visited the animals, bounced in a bounce house (Kieran, that is), and of course Kieran ate shave ice (which pales in comparison to Hawaiian shave ice...I don't know why he even bothers!).

Chris LOVED the concert...which was fun, but very short. Chris Daughtry (American Idol runnerup) has only one CD out and a fairly small repertoire. I enjoyed spending one-on-one time with my 11-year-old, who kept telling me that it was the best birthday present ever.

Next year I'm determined to go to the fair on a weekday, however... :)

Me on the hang glider ride--fun! And not nearly as scary as the wild swing ride, which went really high and fast, and freaked me out a bit when I realized I was being hurled over the fair at top speeds and was only suspended to the ride by two chains!! (see below) I'd been on similar rides before and had been fine, but this one was much higher and faster.

Kieran and Mike on the fire engine ride

Chris decided to opt for the tamer kiddie swing ride instead of the big one--smart choice, as I later discovered!

Kieran taking a canoe ride

I couldn't resist asking these young women to pose with my own lovable Chris!

Posing with a friend

Nicholas enjoying a hip-hop break dancing show

Mama and baby lamb

My animal lover

Chris (above) and Mike (below) participated in a play by the Middle Earth Theater Players: The Burgermeister of Nuremberg. Chris was a knight, and Mike was a burger! Kieran--our little dressup king--surprisingly elected to be an audience member instead.

With good ol' Smokey the Bear

With the players of "The Emperor's New Clothes from The Enchanted Forest

Waiting for Chris Daughtry to make his appearance

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Message to my e-mail subscribers...blogs getting lost

The other day I did three blog entries in one day, and only one of them got sent out via e-mail. There must be something fishy with Blogger that limits a blogger to one e-mail a day--not sure what happened.

At any rate, I just thought I'd let you know that there are two more blog entries to view from that day: one about a really great way to help the women and children refugees from Darfur (I'm really excited to tell people about it!), and the other is a recap of the boys' birthday parties last weekend, with a few photos. Click on this link to take you right to the blog.

Just got back from the Oregon State Fair yesterday, and Chris and I went to the Chris Daughtry concert last night. We are now heading off to the beach for a couple of nights to celebrate the last two days of summer (before school starts on Wednesday)...I'll blog about the fair and post more photos when we return.

Happy Labor Day, everyone! (and happy birthday to Nicholas, who turns 1 on Tuesday!!)