Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

When I was a child, we always went to church on Thanksgiving Day. What I loved about the service was that when we entered the sanctuary, we received a little slip of paper on which we wrote what we were thankful for. The sermon consisted of the pastor reading all of the blessings we had received as a community. I loved to hear the compilation of thankfulness from a community of people.

Nowadays our church doesn't have services on Thanksgiving, but we have carried over that tradition to New Year's in our family. We have a blue velvet bag, into which we place two slips of paper per person--one containing what we are thankful for in the previous year, and one containing our hopes, dreams, and prayers for the coming year.

But it is Thanksgiving today. We plan to go to my aunt and uncle's house in Lake Oswego, where we'll have a magnificent feast with my extended family. Our offering will be cider-glazed parsnips. Ever since marrying an Englishman, I've come to appreciate root vegetables. But I will never be a beet lover, like my husband is!

So onto the point of this post...here is what I am thankful for in my life:
  • An amazing partner in life who shares my philosophy about life, books, spirituality, and politics; is loving, respectful, kind, and funny; enjoys and appreciates the same things I do; and loves me exactly as I am!
  • Three funny, creative, energetic, loving, and healthy boys who make me laugh and help me remember what is important in life
  • The gift of living close to my wise, giving, and incredible parents--and our close relationship with them
  • My wonderful sister and her family, including her three sweet boys
  • Mike's entertaining and vibrant family, including his mum, who will be visiting for Christmas after a 2-year absence because of her health
  • Many other relatives living closeby
  • Wonderful friends who read my pontificating blog posts! :)
  • A Democrat coming to your White House soon, who volunteers to pass out turkeys for Thanksgiving with his family
  • A vibrant, challenging, and fun job--more than most English majors can expect!
  • The ability to read books, books, and more books...and listen to music too!
  • My family's health and vitality
  • The fact that Chris is thriving and surviving, in spite of his very difficult beginning, and the overwhelming odds of major disabilities
  • Living in a progressive city and area
  • The forward-thinking, inclusive, and hopeful view of the world our children hold
  • A vibrant, progressive church community that is trying to break down walls between denominations and people
  • The fact that I was born to my parents in the developed world in 1964, when my cleft lip and palate could be corrected and I could live a normal life
  • The fact that I went to Japan in 1986 and met the love of my life...which led to all my current blessings
  • The fact that I was able to have three children after not knowing whether the first one would survive, and whether I would have any more

That's enough for now. I could go on all day. I'm very grateful for all I've been given. Happy Thanksgiving and love to all!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cartoonists Celebrating Obama Presidency

My aunt and uncle sent me these cool Obama cartoons. Enjoy!







I posted this one once before but it's worth repeating:












And my personal favorite:

Family Meeting

A couple of evenings ago, Kieran called us all into the living room after dinner for a "family meeting." I do not have fond memories of family meetings from when I was a child...it seems that they always got called when there was a problem, and being the daughter of therapists, they were often long, drawn-out, emotional affairs. Not fun. (Sorry, Mom and Dad!) I know many families have regular meetings, and that's probably the way to go about them. But Mike and I have just never been that organized! It's also tough to discuss serious matters with children ranging in age from 2 to 12!

Who knows where Kieran got this idea from...but we were all told to sit facing him on the couch. He had a small table in front of him and called the meeting to order by rapping the table with a wooden train track (he couldn't find the wooden hammer he intended to use).

The subject, you ask? He wanted to lecture us on the importance of not eating too much on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving food is full of calories, you know! Mike and I were full of questions, such as "how will we know if we've taken too much?" (answer: he will check the contents of our plate for us), "how many pieces of pie can we have?" (answer: two!), and "how about if we exercise after eating? Could we eat more then?" (answer: No, DAD, that would be too embarassing!"). Chris just sat on the couch between us, cracking up!

I'm not sure where this comes from, because we don't talk much about calories, diets, or eating too much. Fortunately he didn't tell us that he was concerned about our weight or anything like that. The primary purpose was to prevent getting stomachaches. He also wanted to have a chance to lecture us!

Later that evening, we glimpsed Nicholas in the living room, practicing for his opportunity to run a family meeting! I will take those kind of family meetings over my childhood memories any day! It's those types of moments that make me enjoy having three very funny, high-energy kids!

Monday, November 24, 2008

If You Love Old Photographs Like Me...

I was THRILLED to discover this treasure trove of wonderful old photos--LIFE magazine is posting its archives online, and they are searchable! If you love history or old photos, it's worth taking a look. Here is a handful of what I found through my random searches....


Abraham Lincoln and friends


Louisa May Alcott



Emmeline Pankhurst being arrested


The Titanic in the dock at Southampton, England


Emma Goldman--not a happy camper, but who can blame her?



Gandhi with his grandchildren
Here are some photos of premature baby care in 1939:
Those poor babies must have been terrified by that getup!
Looks like an iron lung!

Children in China in the 30s
A Chinese wet nurse breastfeeding Siamese twin babies
Woody Guthrie and friends
Emperor Hirohito
Great Rosie the Riveter poster
African-American Rosie
Hiroshima
Mother and child in Hiroshima
Survivors of Hiroshima bomb
Segregated south
Gloria Steinem, believe it or not!

More Gloria
Diane von Furstenberg, Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, and Barbra Streisand

Jane Fonda at a protest rally

Oregon loggers
Joan Baez as a young woman

Elton John with his parents
As you can see, it's great fun to search the archives to see what slices of history are available. Have fun!

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's Time to Count Our Blessings

I tend not to write much about work in my blog...partly because some of my readers are coworkers, and partly because I don't feel comfortable freely waxing about work on the web. But this week I write with a heavy heart, because the firm has done its first-ever massive, all-in-one-day layoffs.

When I say "massive," I have to put it into perspective. It doesn't compare with the scale of what financial, manufacturing, or high-tech firms experience. But massive for our employee-owned, founded-in-Oregon, people-oriented company. Yesterday around 1% of our workforce was laid off. The marketing group in our corporate headquarters was decimated. Two accounting managers who had been with the firm for more than 20 years were told that their positions were being eliminated because of firmwide restructuring.

I have faith in the leaders of our company; I know that they had to take drastic action to protect the firm during this difficult economy. Just 6 months ago we were in a period of massive growth, and now our outlook is flat. As our incoming CEO said recently, "flat is the new good."

I can't imagine how these employees must be reeling from the sudden changes in their lives and livelihoods. I've had to do layoffs and firings for cause many times over the course of my career, and the layoffs are the hardest, without question.

Now that the dust is settling and we who are left have learned who is now gone (there have been no names announced...it has just traveled through the grapevine), we have learned that we are all at risk. All we can do is work as hard as we can, play well with others, and do our best to be valuable employees. And deal with the survivor guilt.

The economic crisis--which seems to get worse every day--and the state of my 401K are stressing me out. But this next week, I will be extra grateful for my blessings...to have a job, a wonderful family, and my health. I don't have a lot of patience right now for petty little complaints. And I will also say a prayer for all those former colleagues of mine who are not feeling very grateful right now.

The Sweetest Love Story: Ellen and Rosemary

Get out your tissues.

This from the DailyKos.com:

Ellen

My wife and I bought our house in May 2006 from Ellen and Rosemary, an elderly lesbian couple. They had done beautiful work to the house, having planned on staying here the rest of their lives. But grandchildren came, and with that, they ran off to North Carolina to be closer to the little ones. I told them how exciting it was that they could help turn North Carolina Blue.

This house had a lot of memories for them, including being the location of their commitment ceremony. They were intensely proud of the house, even flying off the handle when the housing inspector found a few inoffensive nitpicky "flaws" in his inspection report. Even though my wife and I shrugged at those minor blemishes, when we moved in, the couple had already had them all fixed.

While they couldn't officially marry in this beloved house of theirs, they eventually went up to Massachusetts this past September and married. It must've been really sweet.

Being elderly and living in the East Coast, they apparently went to bed early on Election Night. Sometime in the middle of the night, Ellen woke up and asked Rosemary, "who won?" Her wife pulled out her laptop, and said, "Obama did. It's now official." Ellen, a huge Obama fan, smiled and went back to bed. Shortly thereafter, she died.

Rosemary jokes that Ellen waited just long enough to find out the results so she could go and tell Obama's grandmother the great news.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lovely Little Nicholas

Our little "bonus baby" has turned out to be quite an entertaining and amusing child! I do a horrendous job of documenting milestones in a baby book, so all of you will have to suffer through my recordings of cute things Nicholas is doing! :)

I've written before about the novelty of having such a verbal 2-year-old; neither of our other boys started talking (or singing!) so early and so expansively at this age.

1. My parents have been out of town for a few weeks (watching my nephews while their nanny went on her delayed honeymoon), so Mike took Nicholas along to his children's writing group last week. One man in his group had a son who went to an alternative school, and in one of his son's classes, they had a tradition of saying "I'm twinkling you" if you like something that someone has done. They have adopted this in the writing group, much to my amusement. Mike had taken the portable DVD player, hoping that N. would happily watch Bob the Builder while he met with the other writers. However, N., similar to the rest of the family, wanted to be in the spotlight. Each time Cliff would say "I'm twinkling you" to another writer, N. would launch into a loud rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"! Mike grew increasingly annoyed and left the meeting early. He recounted this later to me on the telephone, and sadly, instead of giving him sympathy, I just cracked up!!

2. The other day as I was trying to get N. to go to sleep (he's the person in the family who seems to need the least amount of sleep), he was chattering away as usual. "Mommy goes to work." "Daddy stays with me." "I watch Bob the Builder all day long." Later I amusingly reported to Mike that I heard he let N. watch videos all day long. We are thinking that he must have picked this up because Mike has said to him "you can't watch videos all day long!" Last night at dinner, after he had appealed to no avail for more TV-watching time (we are such TV nazi parents!), he kept saying "just a leetle bit? just a leetle bit TV?" in the cutest little voice. Nice try, buddy. Your parents won't be charmed into more TV!

3. The other day he hit his head on something, he came running up to me in tears, and I was having a hard time deciphering what he had hurt. Finally, I figured out he was saying "I hurt my noggin"! Later on, we were sitting in a Thai restaurant and I was teasing Mike about using the word "noggin" for head...I told him that in the U.S. we don't regularly use the word "noggin." Later the couple sitting in the booth behind us got up to leave the restaurant, and the man (British!) complimented us on our well-behaved children and told Mike that he was glad he taught his boys to use the word "noggin"!

4. I'm doing my best to start calling him "Nick" at times, because when I ask him a rhetorical question such as "are you my little sweetheart?," he declares vehemently, "No, I NICK!" Soon followed by "I TWO!"

5. Between the play and rehearsals and picking up Chris after band practice post-school, we often find reason to drive to the middle school. And to get there, we go down a lovely steep hill, which, if you take it at the right speed, is reminiscent of a roller coaster type feeling. N. loves this hill, and as soon as we take off, he starts shouting "Whoaaaaaaaaaa!!" in a sing-songy way, like one would do on a roller coaster. How he learned that, I'm not sure, since he's never been on a roller coaster! I have a feeling he's going to like them when he's old enough. Ya think?

6. He continues to love "Bob the Builder" (and loudly bellows the song, with a syncopated rhythm, no less!), Barney, the Wiggles, Winnie the Pooh, Thomas the Tank Engine, and all things fire trucks. He's also discovered the singer Laurie Berkner and adores her song "I'm Gonna Catch You!"

7. His favorite book of the moment is I'm a Little Teapot (thanks Shelia, Ken, Beck, Myla, and Ari!!), and we sing/read it several times a day. He can finish each line if I leave off the word at the end. It's an elaboration of the classic song, with the teapot taking two children all over the world on adventures. His favorite verse starts out with "I'm a little teapot, golly gee!" He seems to have developed the same love of language and expressions as the rest of the family.


one of N's favorite pasttimes is walking on walls...

In short, Nicholas is a joy to have in our family and I simply can't imagine what life would have been like without him!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

All the World's a Stage for Our Family

Mike and I were both involved in the theater in our teenage years--me behind the scenes, in the box office or as an usher, and Mike on the stage. We are both theater lovers and have been season ticket holders at Portland Center Stage for much of our married life, and we've also taken the kids to the Northwest Children's Theater and Oregon Children's Theater on a regular basis.

We started instilling the love of theater in our children at early stages...starting out with Portland's own Ladybug Theater for small children (which, incidentally, has been going since I was a child!), and Chris and Kieran have gone to summer camp with Michelle and Matt at the Ladybug Theater. Chris has also taken acting classes at school and at the community center.

It wasn't until this year, however, that he was finally able to act in his first play with a real script. His middle school produced "The Glass Slipper," a spoof on Cinderella. Chris' role was the announcer, Mr. Sez-So. They had two performances last week, and all of the parents were surprised at how well the kids did, given the difficulty of getting them all together in one place for rehearsals (with all their conflicting appointments in the afternoons) and the fact that they didn't seem very prepared a few days before their performance.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos of the performance or of Chris in costume...but here are some photos from the display in the hallway at the school. He did a great job! He put on an English accent for his role, and (ironically), his English cousin is also in a play this fall, putting on an American accent!




Here's Chris!


The younger kids were mesmerized by the performance, and the whole family enjoyed the show. It was a great experience for Chris, and he's looking forward to trying out for "Bye Bye Birdie," which they will be doing in the spring.

The men in our family seem to have the acting and performing gene. All four of them love to be in the spotlight. I am less apt to jump on stage unless I'm singing or making music.

Kieran has now decided that he wants to stage a play at Maplewood. This idea has been lying dormant for some time, as I recall him pushing this idea several months ago before he got to kindergarten. He heard the Gray principal talking about how the parent-volunteer director had approached him about putting on a fall show. So Kieran has decreed that Mike needs to talk to the Maplewood principal about producing "The Lion King." He will, of course, be Simba--we have a bit of a Lion King obsession going on at the moment. "Now I just have to decide who will do concessions..." (Mike was in charge of concessions last week.) I have a feeling that he's not going to drop this idea any time soon! He's been actively practicing his ROAR! He is so anxious to get on the stage.

Nicholas is our little songbird, and I have no doubt that it will be a matter of months before he's ready for his stage debut.

"I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being."
--Thornton Wilder
"Theater in America is a kind of weed sprouting up in the weirdest places. It's deeply democratic and deeply human, and I think it's one of the best things our culture does."
— Mac Wellman

Monday, November 17, 2008

Yum! Wild Mushrooms!

I found a recipe on a blog recently for wild mushroom crepes, and it's autumn in Oregon. Out to the Farmer's Market we went to purchase fresh wild mushrooms and try it out. I am a sucker for crepes!
I need to take some lessons in food photography--the photos never seem to capture the presentation very well...but here they are:
The kids are squeamish about mushrooms (who can blame them? I was as a kid, too), so I made a pan for them filled with leftover pasta sauce, made with ground turkey. They loved them! I took a risk and substituted spelt flour (because of our wheat sensitivities), and they turned out fine, akin to whole wheat crepes. (They probably would have been lighter had I used white flour.)
Wild Mushroom Crepes
for crepes:
1 ½ cup milk
2 tablespoon canola oil
3 eggs
1 ½ cups flour (spelt, in our case)
1/8 teaspoon salt
for filling:
1 teaspoon olive oil
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
4 ounces oyster mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup chicken broth
1 4-ounce can tomato paste (I substituted tomato sauce because I didn't have any tom. paste)
1 tablespoon flour (again, used spelt)
1/2 cup (generous) part-skim ricotta
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash of freshly ground pepper
for Parmesan sauce:
3 tablespoons flour (spelt)
1 1/4 cup low fat milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1 14-ounce can petite diced tomatoes or pureed tomatoes (I used fresh tomatoes instead)
fresh Parmesan for topping
freshly chopped parsley for topping (forgot this part!)
To make crepes, mix all the ingredients and whisk well until smooth. Using a little non-stick spray in the pan, pour several tablespoons of batter into the pan and tilt to cover the bottom. Cook over a medium-high heat for a minute or two before loosening edges with a spatula and flipping to brown the other side.Once browned on both sides set aside to cool and repeat for the rest of the batter.
For the filling, saute the mushrooms and garlic in the olive oil over a medium-high heat. Cook until the mushrooms have shrunk and turned dark brown. Add oregano and cook 1 minute more, then add broth and tomato paste and whisk to combine. Add the flour, whisking well to prevent lumps, then simmer until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat, stir in ricotta, Parmesan, salt and pepper.
For sauce, gradually add the milk to the flour in a small saucepan, whisking until well blended. Stir in salt and nutmeg then bring to a medium heat and cook until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan until melted.
To prepare: spoon 1/3 cup mushroom mixture into the center of a crepe, roll up and lay with the seam side down in a lightly greased baking dish. Repeat with the rest of the crepes then spoon the Parmesan sauce over the top and with the tomatoes. Sprinkle with Parmesan then bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Garnish with parsley.

Bon appetit!

Pot, Calling Kettle Black

Leaders of the U.S. Mormon and Catholic churches are upset because they believe they are being targeted for supporting California Proposition 8. All they were doing, they say, is "exercising the most sacrosanct and individual rights in the United States--that of free expression and voting." How unfair to target them for just urging their members to vote!

Oh please. Can you say "millions of dollars" poured into the campaign? A well-orchestrated effort to get their members out knocking on doors and making phone calls to spread fear?

On Saturday after the Farmer's Market we stopped by the massive rally in the park blocks. Rallies were held all over the country in opposition to Proposition 8. The sound system was pretty awful, but the crowd was massive. Current Portland Mayor Tom Potter (who has a lesbian daughter) spoke, followed by Portland's openly gay mayor-elect Sam Adams. Add to that the fact that very RED Silverton has its first transexual mayor-elect...and you've got a pretty diverse mayoral group in Oregon!

What I loved about this rally was my 12-year-old's questions. I was explaining the whole Proposition 8 story to him and explaining signs such as "I love my gay Mormon husband." Chris just could not understand what anyone would have against same-sex marriage, or why any one's church would urge their members to discriminate against gays and lesbians. He remembers attending the same-sex wedding of friends years ago, back when Multnomah County legalized marriage for a few months. Gay and lesbian families are just another kind of normal for him and for all of our kids. This gives me hope.












Coincidentally, on Sunday during our adult forum at church we discussed the life of the amazing Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who stood up to both Lutheran and Catholic churches in Germany during the Nazi era. He even took it one step further by collaborating to assassinate Hitler. Bonhoeffer founded the Confessing Church in Germany, along with Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller.
Niemoller was the one who wrote this famous poem, a commentary on the fanatical support Germans and other Europeans gave to the Nazi terror (90% of German citizens voted for the Nazi party). Here is the poem in its original translation:

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.
Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.
Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.
Als sie die Juden holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Jude.
Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.
And in its English translation:



If we do not speak up for the rights of others, who will be left to speak for us?
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