Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Idaho, Part 4--Hanging Out with 1-Year-Old Friends

A year ago this month we spent a week in Holden Village, Washington, with a large group from our church. While we were there, many of the families were off on long day-long hikes, while we went on a kids' hike to waterfalls a mile away with another family who also had younger children--Shelia, Ken, Beck, Myla, and Ari. We spent relaxing evenings on our front porch swings with Shelia (after Ken had to leave Holden early for work), shooting the breeze and getting to know each other. I've blogged before about what a rare gift it is to make new friends when you're an adult. It's not as easy as it is during childhood.

We celebrated the 1-year anniversary of becoming friends with Shelia, Ken, and their family by visiting them for the weekend in Middleton, Idaho. They moved to Idaho last fall to open up a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center called Bow Creek Recovery Center. We miss having them in Portland, but fortunately they visit frequently in the warmer months (when the mountain passes are open). After making the day-long drive with our three kids, I'm in awe of Shelia's ability to make that drive regularly, by herself, with her three kids. (Although she reminds me that she wouldn't do it with a 1-1/2-year-old!)

We had a fun time visiting over the weekend and enjoying Shelia's amazing vegetarian cooking. I told Mike that I'd happily become a vegetarian if I had my own private gourmet chef! Friday night we had corn pancakes with black beans; Saturday we had chocolate chip pancakes, taco salad, and yummy broccoli pesto with pasta; and Sunday it was a frittata with fresh fruit. Very tasty!

The kids had a blast together. 7-year-old Beck is buddies with Chris, and 6-year-old twins Ari and Myla play with Kieran. Nicholas tags along or does his own thing. Typical for Kieran, he announced on Saturday morning that he wanted to return to Oregon because he was bothered by something one of the girls did. On Saturday evening he and Myla informed us that they were going to get married, and sat happily watching "Little House on the Prairie" with their arms thrown around each other. We joked with Ken and Shelia about being in-laws someday!

On Saturday morning we went to see Bow Creek...here are some photos of hanging out on the porch having a snack and playing cards.

Here is my little sweetie posing for me on the stairs:

Nicholas LOVED Beck's pajamas because they featured his favorite thing of the moment: FIRE TRUCKS!

Saturday afternoon Mike and Ken graciously agreed to watch the kids while I dragged Shelia off to see the new "Sex and the City" film. Mike had no interest in seeing it, and although I know it's shallow and materialistic, I thought it was a fun escape. If you can look beyond the obsession with designer labels, shoes, and sex, you'll find a heartwarming story about women's deep friendships, compassion, and forgiveness.
Here everyone posed for photos before we left for Oregon on Sunday morning:

Nicholas loved the girls' doll strollers

The yellow stickie on Kieran's shirt is a nametag he's made for the "Alvin and the Chipmunks" play that he is planning...that is his latest obsession, from "Wizard of Oz" to "Peter Pan" to Batman to Alvin...

Nicholas has a soft spot for Shelia!

These photos of the kids are so cute that I can't resist posting a bunch!

Here's Christopher's photography work! Not bad...

The ride home was mostly uneventful--it took us about 7-1/2 hours both ways. We stopped in Pendleton at a Quizno's for lunch. LaGrande and Pendleton were interesting to check out--I'd never been to either of those towns. I was struck especially by the beautiful scenery around LaGrande. After driving to Idaho and visiting Middleton (about 1/2 hour out of Boise), I realize that I'm a city person. I think I would go stir crazy without easy access to the benefits of the city.
The people in Idaho are nice, and I love many people who live there, but I'm a pure Oregonian at heart. And don't get me started on Idaho conservative politics (and lack of helmet laws)!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Idaho, Part 3--Catching Up with Old Friends

The best part about being in Idaho was catching up with new and old friends who have settled there or who just happened to be passing through at the same time.

Thursday while I was partying and working in the office, Mike and the boys hung out at the hotel pool and played in the park, which was conveniently located right behind our Residence Inn. That evening, we went to the house of one of my friends from PLU, Tami, and her husband Matt. Tami and I overlapped in Japan for several months--she came during the last year we were there, and she stayed on for a few years more--so Mike knows her well too. We attended Tami and Matt's wedding in Boise 11 years ago, and Mike hadn't seen them since. Last year Tami and I finally reconnected (beyond annual Christmas card greetings) and had dinner in Boise when I was there on a business trip, and also joined a group of coworkers and friends for a girl's night out. It has been wonderful to reconnect with her again!

They invited us to have dinner in their beautiful home and garden...they have built a pergola with climbing grapevines and other plants in their backyard, and they have a fabulous vegetable garden and climbing delphiniums, all of which I unfortunately neglected to photograph. We had yummy barbecued chicken and great accompaniments while sitting outside admiring the beautiful backyard. They have three dogs and two cats, and Tami and Matt (and the dogs) were patient with our three children, two of whom are afraid of dogs. Chris was bitten a few years ago and gets panicked around dogs, although he did very well that evening. Nicholas, however, has a love-hate relationship and is very intrigued with them, as long as he is being held and they do not get too close...in which case he definitely panics and cries! I can't say I blame them as these were big dogs (two of them huskies), which is the equivalent in size and intimidation to Nicholas of a grizzly bear to us!

Tami was gearing up to leave the next day for her first triathalon! These women who do such things in their 40s positively put me to shame!!! They showed us their beautiful photographs from their trip to Japan last fall, and we had a great, although all-too-short-and-distracted-by-children-and-dogs time catching up. Tami is a speech pathologist, and Matt is a conservation geneticist (I hope I got that right). It was wonderful fun to see them again!

Tami and Matt in front of their house

Old (ahem, YOUNG!) college friends

Our trip to Boise happened to overlap with a business trip for my close friend Nancie, who is my colleague in our Seattle office. Nancie was VERY busy with all-day and -evening meetings, but she arranged to stay at our hotel so we could at least have early breakfasts together. Nancie is my birthday sister--we were born on the same day, 10 years apart.

Nancie and her husband are Nicholas' godparents, and my children LOVE her and never get enough time with her. Before she left for home and we left for Middleton on Friday afternoon, we met up in a very sunny Starbucks for an hour.

Nancie and two of the boys

Nancie reading Nicholas one of his very favorite books of the moment, Fire Truck, about a little boy who loves fire trucks and turns into one!

Moving onto another favorite book, this one with several varieties of trucks! Terribly exciting, I tell you!

Kieran, who wanted to be in a photo all on his own!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Idaho, Part 2--Amazing Coworkers and an Inspiring Leader

Visiting my team members in Boise always makes me appreciate my extreme good fortune in finding the job that I have. My company has a reputation for hiring the most talented engineers, scientists, planners, and technical experts. What some might not realize is that we also hire the most talented, dynamic, and miracle-performing publications specialists in the industry.

It is not an easy place to work, and ours is often a thankless job. We make the consulting staff look good to their clients. In general, they are not required to use us, so we must be experts at customer service, in addition to being detail-oriented, flexible, deadline-driven, and diplomatic experts at our craft.

What makes the stress worthwhile is the quality of the people. I love my coworkers. They are bright, funny, caring, and passionate about their work.

I will never be accused of being a workaholic. Compared to my family and my personal life, my career is on a lower rung on my ladder of priorities. However, because I work with such amazing people, I rarely dread going into work, and I am hardly ever bored.

Our team in Boise is exceptional. Elisa, the operations leader of the group, was one of 50 leaders recognized across the firm with an award for frontline leadership excellence (two of our Northwest Publications leaders were nominated). Last Thursday we threw a little lunch in her honor to celebrate.

I initiated the party, but didn't do much else besides invite people, provide the music (Elisa's favorite, Josh Groban), and show up. My party planners created beautiful posters and props with Elisa's photo; arranged for some artfully displayed, healthy food and sparkling cider; and created a wonderful party atmosphere. We also invited her husband as a special surprise.

Our Boise office has been struck by a horrible wave of cancer incidences. Three of our Boise Publications employees have family members sick with cancer, and a beloved 30-year employee (in IT) is very, very ill with a cancer recurrence. The team--and the office--is in shock, but they continue to support each other through these crises.

Elisa cheerfully wore the tiara provided for the occasion!

Me and Elisa
Three buddies posing--Katie, Janie, and Jen

The whole team, minus Larry (who rushed off on a deadline)

Elisa and her sweet husband, whom she adores (and it's mutual)

The party planners, the party slacker (me!), and the guest of honor

Mike Broke His Vow Again--Venturing into Another Red State! Idaho--Part 1

When Bush Sr. stole his second election, Mike vowed that he would never again visit a red state. Alas, that vow was too lightly made. It's not usually too difficult for him to honor, except when the only flight to the UK has to go through Texas, necessitating a layover...or when his American relatives live in Florida and we decide to attend his cousin's son's wedding and meet up with his mum there.

I made plans to visit our Boise office last week, and because (1) the boys are out of school, and (2) some good friends of ours moved to the Boise area last fall, I asked Mike whether he wanted to drive there with me. It was the longest car journey we've yet taken with our kids--about 7-1/2 hours with stops--and we survived!

In spite of its red state status, we enjoyed our time in and around Boise. I know a fair number of liberals who live in Idaho (my friends and many coworkers included), so all hope is not lost!

Here are our most glaring observations about Idaho:

1. There is no helmet law for adults--for bikes OR motorcycles. Our children were shocked to see people racing down the freeway on motorcycles without wearing helmets. I found it quite alarming, too, given the fact that I saw the aftermath of a horrific motorcycle accident when I was on a family road trip as a child, and I know of several coworkers who have been injured on motorcycles (one last month). As soon as we were 1 mile away from crossing back into Oregon, we saw a road sign that said "Helmets Required." Apparently the anti-helmet activists in Idaho maintain that helmets are dangerous, and that requiring them is unconstitutional. Children on motorcycles are required to wear helmets until the age of 18.

One night when we were having dinner in lovely, lively downtown Boise, we saw a number of parents who had their small children either sitting in bike seats or hauled behind them in bike trailers, and the children were not wearing helmets either. Scary! Idaho has no law requiring bicyclists--adults or children--to wear helmets. I was surprised to discover that Oregon is more the exception than the rule, in spite of the fact that statistics clearly prove that helmets save lives. Idaho is one of 29 states without a bicycle helmet law (Oregon requires helmets for bicyclists under age 15; however, the majority of Oregon bicycling adults appear to wear helmets). According to information from the Idaho Department of Transportation, 27% of bicyclists older than 35 wear helmets, and only 14% of bicyclists under 35 wear helmets.

2. Bumper stickers must be an Oregon (or coastal?) thing. We noticed people looking askance at the back of our car. Our friend Shelia, who recently moved to Boise, was relieved when she drove into the parking lot of the Boise Unitarian-Universalist Church, because she discovered that her car was not the only one with bumper stickers!

3. The line between church and state is blurrier in "God's Country." When Shelia and I were driving through Nampa, Idaho, we saw a huge banner for the God and Country Festival. Here is one of the declared goals of the festival:

"Dedicate a significant portion of the program to emphasizee, particularly to young people, the precepts on which our country was founded: Individual rights, belief in God, a representative form of government guided by an assemblage of laws created by elected individuals, sanctity of human life, and all other rights outlined in the Constitution and its supporting documents."
Shelia described attending a car race earlier last week, when before the Pledge of Allegiance, the audience was urged to bow its head in prayer. Toto, we're not in Oregon any longer!
Next up: photos from our four fun days in Idaho catching up with our blue friends living in a red state!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Media Finally Paying Attention to Sexism in the Campaign

On the heels of Nicholas Kristof's article, today's New York Times features an article about the sexism rampant in the campaign coverage...not so much in the regular media coverage, but in the commentaries. Commentators such as Tucker Carlson and Chris Matthews deserve to be censured for their rotten, misogynist, and completely unacceptable digs about Clinton. Now the commentators are turning their spiteful ire to Michelle Obama.

As an American, I do believe in freedom of the press. However, it dismays me that Americans are drawn to this kind of rumor-mongering and hateful discussion.

Perhaps the conservative commentators will all self-destruct, and people will rush to the Democrats as a result of their anger at the media. One can only hope.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Nicholas Kristof Must Be Reading My Blog, Dontcha Think?

In his column today, Nicholas Kristof (love his first name and the fact that he's a native Oregonian son!) urges Barack Obama to give the "sexism speech," similar to the one he gave about racism. (I've suggested this in my blog a couple of times...) It would be a wonderful way to give tribute to Hillary Clinton's campaign and to appeal to the women who have been supporting Clinton. I'll be waiting, Barack Obama...in the meantime, we continue to get daily phone calls from the McCain campaign!! Today I was going to answer the phone but it disconnected after two rings. Fishy!

In other news, I'm glad to read that Obama has set up a web site to combat all the awful rumors flying around the internet (that he's a Muslim, or that Michelle Obama said "whitey," etc.). One of my frustrations in previous campaigns (Kerry and Dukakis come to mind) is that Democratic candidates do not fight these smear attempts very aggressively or proactively, if at all. I'm glad he's taking a modern, technological approach to this situation, although I also hope he will find a way to reach the unconnected (those who don't get their news via the internet). The web site is very clean and professional. I like this approach.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another Great Video by My New Favorite, Kristen Schaal

My friend Catherine just sent me this new video from Kristen Schaal's recent appearance on The Daily Show, spouting off about sexism in the media and popular culture. I love her!! She is spot on, while being hilarious and not taking herself (or her opinions) too seriously.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

How the Time Flies!

In the past couple of weeks, we've seen both of our older boys be "promoted" from preschool and elementary school. After two years at Small Friends Preschool, Kieran will be moving on to kindergarten in the fall, and after six years at Maplewood Elementary, Chris will be heading to Robert Gray Middle School (yikes!). We will be at Maplewood for a total of 17 years! It's a good thing that we love the school, principal, and teachers there.

I look back on the past six years and wonder where the time has gone. When Chris started kindergarten, I was pregnant with Kieran after multiple miscarriages...and just getting used to the idea of finally having a second child. And now somehow we have found ourselves with three!

Here are some "before" and "after" photos of both of the boys:

Christmas photo, kindergarten (2002)

Getting ready to leave for first day of school, first grade (fall 2003)

Chris posing with Maplewood's wonderful principal, John Blanck, who is out there at the crosswalk every single morning, and knows every single child by name, face, and personality.

Chris and his buddy from preschool, James, in first grade

Kieran on the first day of school at Small Friends (fall 2006)

More fun preschool times (2006)

Kieran had his "promotion celebration" at Small Friends in May, when his class performed several songs and shared cookies and punch afterward:

I apologize for the quality of these photos...but you can see how much our boy enjoys performing!

Posing with Grandma, Grandpa, and Little Brother at the party
Future Small Friends student Nicholas shoving a cookie into his beloved Grandpa's mouth!
At age five, Kieran has been smitten by the love bug! I've never experienced anything like it. He's absolutely besotted with a girl named Mara. He has built a "love machine" in the backyard (for her to enter and fall in love with him); regularly draws pictures depicting the two of them together; often tells us how beautiful she is; and twice presented her flowers after school. It's been fascinating to witness! Since school ended, we haven't been hearing quite as bit about Mara...but they did have a play date at the Children's Museum, after which he announced that we must move next door to her family. When asked what we should do if no house was available for sale, he told us that we could then live in a tent!

Kieran and Mara posing with the flower of the day
Kieran, Mara, and a friend

Posing with Kieran's Teacher Sydney
And Teacher Mara
On Monday, Chris had fifth grade promotion at Maplewood. It was quite a hoopla! One of my similar-age colleagues commented to me the other day that when she was a child, they had no such ceremonies or events beyond high school graduation--I had the same experience. Now schools celebrate each milestone, a wonderful thing in my opinion. It's always good to celebrate children at every opportunity.
At the fifth grade promotion, Chris' teacher and the principal were quite emotional about this class moving on to middle school. Both fifth grade teachers and the principal gave wonderful speeches about the positive traits of this particular class of kids.

Chris receiving his certificate from his teacher and principal

Part of the fifth grade class posing for their photo (Chris is on the left-hand side, waving his certificate in the air)

Chris with his fifth grade teacher
Yesterday, the last day of school, was the fifth grade talent show. Chris got his wish, to be the emcee of the show. Unfortunately, I didn't get any good photos of him up on stage, but he did a great job!
I'm feeling ambivalent about his moving onto middle school. Maplewood has been a wonderful school for him--it's relatively small and he's been able to get more special attention than he might have in a larger school. It has not been without its headaches, though, particularly because some of the boys have not always been kind to him. On the other hand, what I do love about the school is the way they emphasize the principles of respect and kindness, and negative behavior is not ignored.
Middle school might have its own particular demons...I was bullied in junior high school, by the "hoods" who tormented me at the bus stop. Although it's somewhat comforting to me to think that they are probably all total losers as adults, at the time it was difficult to put into perspective.
What I've found about Chris is that he has a far-greater capacity for forgiveness and compassion than I do. If we point out that certain boys who are mean to him actually might have difficult lives or home circumstances, he feels sorry for them. This ability to show compassion to those children amazes me (while Mike and I are thinking far less-than-charitable thoughts about them!). He is a true testimony to "turn the other cheek." It worries me that this could make him more of a target in middle school, because he is kind and gentle. I aspire to be as forgiving and understanding as my son.
As far as Kieran goes, we never have to worry about him sticking up for himself. He's the direct opposite of Chris. After one of his school friends pushed another one into the creek at a recent post-school playdate, he announced that the "pusher" is no longer one of his friends! He is much less likely to forgive, much more likely to hold a grudge, and certain to defend himself in any way possible. Such interesting opposites.
In looking over these photos and pondering the years gone by so quickly, I am reminded of the need to stop cleaning or puttering around the house when my children want me to sit down with them and read a book or cuddle up while they are watching a video. (I wasn't going to attend the talent show yesterday because of missing some work on Monday, until Chris begged me to attend.) The boys get less cuddly and more angular as they grow up, and they are less likely to want to hang out with me the older they get. I must savor those requests for attention, however distracting they might be at times, because I know they will most likely fade with time. And then I will be very wistful.

Thank You, Hillary Clinton, for Breaking Cracks in that Glass Ceiling

We've begun getting phone calls from McCain for President, which has been puzzling because typically we only get campaign calls from Democrats. Then we noted an article in the newspaper about McCain's campaign strategy to recruit Clinton supporters. Now we know why they're calling us (thank goodness for caller ID!). Then yesterday afternoon we got our first phone solicitation from the Obama campaign. We agreed to make a donation--it was a turning point in our household, to fully support Obama for president. Chris is thrilled, as Obama is the COOL candidate at school.

I'm listening to Hillary Clinton's landmark speech while I'm writing this. I have to say that it's the most inspirational, moving speech I've heard from a national politician. It's the first time that anyone has addressed head on the disadvantages women and African-Americans face in politics. She acknowledged the suffragists and the civil rights workers, and paid respect to all those who have gone before us to work for equal rights for all.

Here's an interesting analysis, questioning whether Hillary might have been more successful had she embraced her feminity earlier. Somehow, I doubt that. I think she had to present herself as tough, aggressive, and strong; wear pantsuits; and fight hard. She paid a price to break those cracks in the ceiling, as Gail Collins says in her tribute to Hillary's campaign in the New York Times.

Thank you, Hillary, for paving the way for another woman to become president. I am sad for those elderly women who wanted to see a female president in their lifetime, and might not live to see the day...for the women who were alive before women could even vote and who proudly cast their vote for Hillary in the primary. I am grateful to both Clinton and Obama for offering hope to our girls and children of color that perhaps one day they might be president. I hope that in the coming months, Obama will find a way to engage Hillary's female (and male) supporters and convince us that he will fight for women and children as well as Hillary does.

Kieran's the Hillary supporter amongst our kids, and he announced that since Hillary lost, he is in favor of McCain. That prompted lots of protests from Chris, until we reminded him that at age 4, he supported George Bush! Of course, he doesn't believe us...I retrieved this article Mike wrote around then, which proves it! (And by the way, we were successful in convincing Kieran to support Obama...thank God!)

(or the Travails of a Progressive Parent)

My wife, Marie, and I are thoroughly modern parents. We advocate “positive discipline,” which means we honor choices, and talk about consequences. We don’t spank. We uphold the virtues of “unconditional love.” We’ve been known to say of our four-year-old, Christopher: “He can be anything he wants to be. Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy. Lawyer. Gay. Just as long as he’s happy.” But …a Republican?! Good grief.

My wife and I are not yellow dog Democrats. We’re dead-dog Democrats. We’d even have voted for Kevin Mannix in his Democrat days. In our house, the word “Gore” is uttered with reverence. The only “Bush” we can bear talking about is the one in our yard that needs pruning. Savagely.

So it was with nary a thought of disaster that Marie, idly pointing to a post-debate photograph of the presidential candidates, mused “Who do you think is going to win, Chris?”

Without hesitation, like a viper in the nest, our son pointed to Bush. “I want him to win,” he uttered, staunchly.

The resultant howl was so chilling that I raced upstairs to see who needed immediate evacuation to the emergency room. When the cause of the outrage was explained, I too felt an apoplexy coming on. It was time for desperate measures.

“Honey, if Bush becomes President he’ll take all the money away from the children’s schools.”

A shake of the head.

Marie added: “He’ll cut down every tree.”

“I want Bush to win.”

“Just think of it,” I continued. “Republicans hate PBS. No more Sesame Street. No Dragon Tales. And you can kiss Barney’s big purple buns good-bye.”

The look in his eyes was that of a GOP spinmeister leaping to deal with reports of George W. forgetting to mention an arrest for drunk driving.

“I get it,” I said, clutching at every conceivable straw. “You’re being a comedian! That proves you’re a Democrat. Republicans don’t have a sense of humor.”

His reply: the same old Bush-loving mantra.

We tried reverse psychology, bellowing “Bush is best.” Christopher looked pleased. Marie collapsed in a chair: palpitations, nausea.

I launched my final attack, betting everything on Christopher’s recent veneration of a bunch of talented munchkins who sing Broadway hits. “George W. Bush hates The Broadway Kids.”

Chris looked at me with compassion. “No, Daddy. He listens to The Broadway Kids all day long.”

The kid will be a renowned lawyer.

We have become subversives. We spell the candidates last names or refer to George W. as “shrub,” “undergrowth,” or “thicket.” Our fervent prayer is that we won’t have to speak in code for the next four years. As I lie awake at night, I try to look on the bright side. Perhaps it’s fitting that George W. appeals to those with the acumen of four-year-olds.

At least Christopher isn’t baying for Buchanan.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Memoir Crazy!

As many of my readers know, I read voraciously. I will read the back of the cereal box if it's the only thing on the table. One of my favorite activities is to hang out in great bookstores with a pad of paper and a pen, jotting down books that I want to read. I'm also a cheapskate reader...If I bought all the books I read, it would become an expensive habit. Instead I get them out of the library or from http://www.paperbackswap.com/. I used to keep my lists in a Word document, but now that I'm active on goodreads.com, I keep my "to read" books there. What I like about that is I can sort them according to the number of stars they've received from other goodreads members (and see if my own friends have read them).

In addition to really good fiction, I also enjoy well-written nonfiction, in particular memoirs and biographies. So imagine my delight when I discovered this exhaustive list of recent memoirs in Entertainment Weekly (and consequently was able to find the list online). A memoir for every occasion and circumstance! Many of them I've already read, but I have discovered several new titles to add to my list.

Of the books on the list, these are the ones I've already read:

All Over but the Shoutin,' Rick Bragg
Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller
Running with Scissors, Augusten Burroughs (but I didn't finish it--had to go back to the library, and I needed a break from it!!)
Waiting for Daisy, Peggy Orenstein
Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer
The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls
Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott
The Color of Water, James McBride
How Starbucks Saved My Life, Michael Gates Gill
Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Relin

Alas, only a fraction of the memoirs on the list. I'm going to love reading my way through the list!!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Consorting with Papists

I have much to blog about recently, and not enough time to do it!

As many of you know, our family belongs to a progressive faith community of Lutherans and Roman Catholics, called Mission of the Atonement. I'm proud to say that last year we voted to become members of Lutherans Concerned (a nationwide Lutheran organization that supports and welcomes gays and lesbians) as well as Community of Welcoming Congregations (an ecumenical Oregon-based organization of faith communities who declare themselves as welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people). It's a unique group of people who believe that there's no "one true church" and have found benefit in being a part of an ecumenical community. I love the fact that our many older members--as well as the younger ones--have embraced ecumenism as well as the idea of being welcoming to all.

At the end of May, our priest, Father Neil, retired (again). The community held two parties in his honor, one featuring a poetry slam, and the other a roast. At both events, the community's new band performed: "Consorting with Papists II."

Consorting with Papists first formed a number of years ago to play at another community celebration, and its resurrection resulted in a much larger group of musicians. (The title comes from a critical comment written by a conservative writer about our hip young Lutheran pastor right after she joined the community.) We practiced for several weeks in a row (to the point where our spouses were looking forward to the end...) and prepared 10 to 12 songs for both gatherings. Our fearless band leader Dave wrote a wonderful song called "Confessions" (of a Lutheran's Priest), and we also performed a great heretical version of the Lord's Prayer called "Our Father" (by Susan Werner) and a song by Judy Fjell called "Where Are You Standing." The arrangements of the usual folk song standards were fresh and unexpected (like the reggae "If I Had a Hammer"), thanks to our bandleader Dave and creative drummer Brad. We had talented improvisational solos from our clarinetist and keyboard player. Our version of "Wade in the Water" featured our pastor's husband, Drew, channeling Mavis Staples in a deep, soulsy style that had his daughter rolling in her chair in laughter. It was great fun--we captured some of it on video, but I haven't figured out how to edit my digital video yet!

All of this music--and playing with very talented musicians--has inspired me to make more music. As an adolescent and young adult, I wrote songs regularly. The last time I wrote a song was in 1990, for my wedding! Talk about a long dry spell!

Last summer I finally picked up the mandolin I had received for a 40th birthday present and taught myself how to play a few chords. I do not find enough time to practice either mandolin or guitar, so it was good to have a regularly scheduled musical outlet.

After attending the Girlyman concert and participating with the "Papists," I was inspired to think about upgrading my guitar. I owned two--one a classical (nylon string) one I'd owned since the age of 12 or so (my second guitar!), and the other an acoustic (steel string) that my parents had given me a number of years ago (and they had bought secondhand). After 33 years of playing guitar, I had never owned a new guitar.

On Friday, May 23, I went to the Guitar Center and sat in their enclosed acoustic guitar room and played several guitars. Within 45 minutes, I had made my decision and purchased my first new guitar! It's a Fender electric-acoustic, with a very cool built-in electronic tuner--and boy is it fun to play a new (and beautiful) guitar!

Here are some not-very-good shots of (part of) the band in our second performance:

And here are a few glimpses of some of the audience:

It was also fun to sing and play with such talented harmonizers. Our last verse of "We Shall Overcome" a capella was stirring. That song always makes me remember a march to an interfaith service at a synagogue in northwest Portland around the time of Measure 9, following behind the Portland Gay Men's Chorus who were leading us in "We Shall Overcome."
Onto making more music and writing songs before my 18-year dry spell turns into 19 years!