Thursday, July 30, 2009

President Obama Honors 16 Agents of Change


In 2004 George W. Bush decided to award the Medal of Freedom to three people all "central to his early Iraq policy." Here is a list of past recipients. Bush's choices included many sports heroes, soldiers or veterans, and political figures (William Safire and Charlton Heston)

President Obama chose to award America’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, to agents of change....a fitting choice, given his own barrier breaking as the first African-American president. Obama said, "These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds. Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs. Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change. Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way. Their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens sets a standard to which we all should strive."

And here are Obama's nominees.

Nancy Goodman Brinker--founded the Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Pedro José Greer, Jr.--humanitarian physician who serves the poor and homeless

Stephen Hawking--internationally recognized theoretical physicist with a motor neuron disease.

Jack Kemp--a self-described "bleeding heart conservative" who worked to encourage development in underserved urban communities

Sen. Edward Kennedy--of the greatest lawmakers – and leaders – of our time

Billie Jean King--helped champion gender equality issues not only in sports, but in all areas of public life; also one of the first openly lesbian major sports figures in America

Rev. Joseph Lowery--a leader in the U.S. civil rights movement since the early 1950s

Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow--last living Plains Indian war chief and author of seminal works in Native American history and culture

Harvey Milk--first openly gay elected official from a major city in the U.S.

Sandra Day O’Connor--first woman ever to sit on the United States Supreme Court.

Sidney Poitier--groundbreaking actor, becoming the top black movie star in the 1950s and 1960s; first African-American to be nominated and win a Best Actor Academy Award, receive an award at a top international film festival (Venice Film Festival), and be the top grossing movie star in the United States

Chita Rivera--accomplished and versatile actress, singer, and dancer; winner of two Tony Awards and received seven more nominations while breaking barriers and inspiring a generation of women to follow in her footsteps

Mary Robinson--first female President of Ireland (1990 – 1997) and a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997 – 2002),

Janet Davison Rowley, M.D.--American human geneticist and the first scientist to identify a chromosomal translocation as the cause of leukemia and other cancers

Desmond Tutu--Anglican Archbishop emeritus and leading anti-apartheid activist in South Africa

Dr. Muhammad Yunus--global leader in anti-poverty efforts and pioneered the use of "micro-loans" to provide credit to poor individuals without collateral; Nobel Peace Prize winner

Makes me proud to be an American to see these amazing accomplishments honored with such a high-profile award.

Harry Potter through the Ages

Phase 1: Circa 1999? Not sure of the exact mother-in-law persuades me to try a Harry Potter book at last (being all the rage in the UK)--I'm not interested in fantasy and am not convinced I would like it. But wham! I am sucked in immediately and get hooked--read all of the books available at that time (I think only the first two at that stage).

Phase 2: We begin reading all of the books with Chris.

Phase 3: Everywhere he goes, Chris is told that he looks like Harry Potter. Then he gets whacked on the forehead by an errant wooden racquet...and ends up with his first trip to the emergency room and a scar on his forehead!

Chris dresses up as the great boy wizard on Halloween:

Although I don't think Harry himself ever looked quite that happy!

Once JK Rowling hits it really big in the U.S., we begin ordering each book so it arrives on the day of release--delivered first thing in the morning. Very exciting! Initially we try to read it as a family, but soon Mike and I begin sneaking ahead (bad parents!).

Phase 4: Years later--2007--Chris and Mike attend their first midnight book release party at Annie Bloom's Bookstore for the final book--and Chris wins a t-shirt! The next morning, bright and early, we leave for Hawaii.

Chris and his friend Garen at the party

While in Hawaii, we all try to read the book at once--but fortunately my colleague Lisa is there at the same time, and she'd finished her book! So Mike and I stay up late at night reading obsessively!! (One of these days I must go back and reread it because I can't remember a whole lot.)

Posing in Hawaii with prized Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Phase 5: Kieran gets bitten by the Harry Potter bug. We (mostly Mike) begin reading the books to him, and he doesn't want to stop between books...doesn't get scared by any of the heavy stuff and positively soaks up the adventures. He flies through all seven books one at a time. We let him watch the associated movies after he's heard each book.

Thus begins the beginning of Kieran's impersonation of Harry Potter...which still continues to this day. He crafts wands, broomsticks, potions, and snitches, and casts constant spells. (Although I have forbidden him from using the Avadra Kevadra curse on his brothers, explaining that it's like pointing a pretend gun at them.)

Nicholas as Voldemort--he has no idea what it means, but he likes to pretend to be "the dark lord"!

Kieran with the broomstick he made by tying a bunch of long pine needles together and tying them to the end of a stick!

Recent HP adventures at our house include Kieran mixing up potions in the living room WITH FOOD COLORING no less (by the time Mike noticed that wasn't such a great idea, the Persian carpet had yellow stains on it--anyone know how to get them out?). He is determined to procure a real cauldron (he has a plastic one). Kieran has drawn "the dark mark" on Nicholas' arm, and they frequently have red lightning marks on their foreheads. Yesterday morning Kieran was giving Nick wand lessons (every stick in the yard or chopstick in the kitchen is a wand): "Swish and flick!" Nicholas made up a spell yesterday to cheer Kieran up. 10 minutes later, I found myself yelling "Wands are not for hitting!"

More dressup

On Tuesday the four of us went to see the latest Harry Potter film. I hoped we weren't doing the wrong thing, because those movies are quite a bit more intense in the cinema than they are on the little screen. But Kieran was fine. I did have to cover his eyes during some previews--there's a movie coming out called "2012" that looks like some kind of armageddon flick. The images were upsetting for ME to look at...and I thought them too much for a 6-year-old. Of course, children even younger than Kieran were in the the past, I must admit to some horror at seeing how parents take their very young children to VERY inappropriate films.

We enjoyed the film, and yes, I cried. They left a lot of pieces out, and they added in a few scenes that weren't really necessary. Overall, we'd give it two thumbs up. Book 6 is my least-favorite book of all of them. I have to say that Jim Broadbent really brought Horace Slughorn to life. I was underwhelmed by him in the book (especially after colorful Dolores Umbridge), although Mike thought he was a highly memorable character (apparently he knew social-climbing teachers similar to Slughorn, being at an English boarding school).

The chemistry between Harry and Ginny seemed to be lacking, as it was in the book. Ginny, however, did come across as a slightly stronger character in the movie than she did in the book.

I am ambivalent about the decision to split Book 7 into two movies. On one hand, they will be able to include more detail from the book, but on the other hand, it will be hard to stop at the end of the first movie. And we have to wait 2 more years until the saga is finally ended on film!
For now, I think I will go back and reread the books so I can remember more about them. (Chris has started rereading Book 6 after having seen the movie.) And then I'm sure we will read them all over again when Nicholas becomes old enough! Onward, Phase 6!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Will I Ever Stop Blogging about Sarah Palin?

Not as long as she keeps coming across as a clueless wonder. Check out this great video from the Huffington Post: Sarah Palin vs. that Crazy Santa Cruz Woman. Hilarious(ly sad)!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Organizing Life

I've been neglecting my other blog, One Year to an Organized Life, but this evening posted two bits about recent activities--cleaning the kids' room and our beautiful garden this summer!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Husband, the Award-Winning Writer

I'm sure he will scoff when he reads the title of this blog post!

For those of you who haven't heard (I couldn't blog about this until he told his mum!), Mike received a letter this week notifying him that he has received 3rd place for fiction in the Kay Snow annual writing contest sponsored by the Willamette Writers!

Mike has been writing for 19 years now, although his first priority nowadays is taking care of our three busy boys. When we got married, I told him that I would support him for a year so he could write a novel. About five years later, I carefully broached the topic of having children. He hesitated...he wanted to wait to have children until his writing career had launched. As is typical with Mike, I just had to plant the seed and wait. (It's a good thing he changed his mind!) Eventually, he was on board to start trying to get pregnant, even though he knew it would drastically change his lifestyle.

By that time, I had been working at my firm for several years and had become successful enough that we knew I had more earning power than he did. In contrast to Mike's upbringing in England (where his college and grad school were paid for by the British government and he could even collect unemployment in the summers!), I had worked my way through school--both in high school and at university. So I appeared to be much more employable. We continued in our pattern of me going out to work, and Mike staying home and writing. And then taking care of the kids and writing when he could fit it in.

I know how lucky I am to have a stay-at-home dad (or what I call a "household manager," because that's more accurate to describe his role). When I was on maternity leave and recovering from three c-sections, I realized how blessed I was to have someone there to take care of me and the baby (and the other kids, once we had more than one). In addition, having three boys...what a blessing for them to be raised by a father, a wonderful male role model.

I would be lying if I said that I never get envious. Our ideal situation would be for both of us to work part-time. On the other hand, over the past several years, I've also become keenly aware that I need to go to work; it suits my social personality and my need for external validation. Staying home seems to suit Mike more than it does me. Before we had children, he was content to work alone all day long. That would have been a real challenge for me. He loves to live vicariously through the office politics that I share with him. He's always enjoyed telling me who I should fire! Thank God I usually don't take his advice on such matters, that is.

In recent years, it's been much harder for him to find time to write, and I feel badly about that. In addition, some rejection in the early years seems to have discouraged him some. He's written such a wide variety of pieces, from novels and short stories to children's books, but hasn't stuck with anything for awhile. Maybe he has a bit of the dabbler in him as well! I can relate.

A few years ago, though, things seemed to shift. He's been a part of a monthly writing group for over 10 years now, but recently he was invited to join a children's writers' group, which meets twice a month. He's been working on a young adult fantasy novel, and I think it's one of the best things he's written (and perhaps the most publishable)--but then again, I'm his greatest cheerleader and not a very good critic. That's why the writers' groups are good for him!

At the beginning of 2009, he began a new regime: he writes one page a day. That's it. No more, no less. I've asked him, "So what if you're in the middle of a thought, or are just getting going, and you want to write more?" Nope--he quits at one page. I've blogged before about how religiously Mike sticks to his rituals--much more so than the loosey goosey Marie. If my writing were going well, I wouldn't want to stop. But it somehow works for him.

Our friend Lynn asked him in the spring whether he was going to enter the Kay Snow awards this year, and initially he said he wasn't. But he changed his mind, and this is the first time he's ever received money for anything he has written. It's not the money ($50--which was spent on the celebration!); it's the significant milestone.

I'm hoping that this is the start of big things for Mike. I could never do what he does--I'm much more comfortable with nonfiction. I would also get very impatient with all the constant revising and rewriting he does after getting feedback from his writers' groups and mulling things over.

He wrote the short story he submitted specifically for this competition, because the word limit is quite short. He's hoping to expand it for submission to some publications. As the category was fiction, the other entries were probably chapters of novels along with short stories. They receive hundreds of entries from all over the country.

Here's Mike and me in 2003 at the awards banquet, when Mike won an honorable mention in the fiction category. Unfortunately, we had to take Kieran with us because of a family medical emergency...and I was out of the banquet room when he received his certificate because of the baby! This year will be different. No missed photo ops this time!

The day Mike got the letter, I stopped on my way home from work to pick up some cheery sunflowers and a bottle of champagne, and we had takeout Thai food to celebrate!

I have always believed in Mike's talent and potential, but now I have a hunch that he's on his way. Let's hope I'm right! Mike, remember us little people when you make it big! (I don't want to be the Chad Lowe of the Newberry Awards...) Haha!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why Can't All Weddings Be This Fun?

We had a great time at our wedding, actually, but it was 19 years ago. If we were to do it all over again, I'd do a lot of things differently. Like walk down the aisle like looks like a blast! Why are most weddings so staid and serious?

Here's the video link. Cheers to Mike's school friend, Rob, who posted it on Facebook.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Book Review: Blue Boy

Blue Boy Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Blue Boy is a beautifully written, bittersweet story about an Indian-American adolescent growing up in Ohio, discovering how different he is from everyone around him. I was drawn to this book because the name of the main character, Kiran, is similar to the name of one of my sons (Kieran).

Kiran is a highly artistic, creative, and spiritual child. He is drawn to pink, dressing up, makeup, Strawberry Shortcake, and the finer things in life. He has an amazing sense of self in spite of the ridicule and scorn he is subject to from the Indian community, his classmates, and even his parents.

While reading the book, many times I cringed and thought to myself, "he's not really going to do that, is he???" But he did!

The author graduated from Princeton's creative writing program, and some of the story is based in his own life and experience. (I thought it was interesting that I happened to read a book by a Princeton graduate right on the heels of Admission, the novel about the admissions process at Princeton.)

These final sentences, in the Q&A with the author at the end of the book, when he is asked what he would like people to take away from the book, summarize this book well:

"Most importantly, I want them to have laughed good-heartedly. And I want them to have seen the world somewhat differently--to understand how hard childhood can be for the culturally and sexually marginalized but also how such isolation affords a child a very strong sense of self."

As someone who enjoys reading about different cultures and different ways of seeing the world--and also as the mother of sons, this was a satisfying read.

View all my reviews >>

Born Identity: Jon Stewart on the Questioning of Obama's Citizenship

Some of the best lines:

"He's been president now for 6 months, and the fairies we were sure would ride in on his wings and solve all of our problems have yet to materialize. WHERE ARE THE WORLD-FIXING FAIRIES, Obama??"

"Not that he doesn't have an ambitious agenda: health care, climate change, two wars, the economy. So in that context, you can imagine what is everyone's topic #1 on this anniversary."

"It's on the internet? Well, it must be credible then!"

"Her name is Pilgrim. How much more American can you get?"

"Oh my God. Barack Obama's running the old Kenyan prince birth announcement scam."

"Now here's where the scam gets tricky..."


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Born Identity
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

Here's the link.

This, as an Editor, Has Made My Day: Vanity Fair Edits Sarah Palin

Vanity Fair asked its research and editorial team to take a crack at Sarah Palin's resignation speech. The colorfully marked up speech is a gem. Just think how much ridicule she could have saved herself with a great editorial team. Never underestimate the value of a talented editor (and research team)!

Thanks to my former colleague and fellow editor Mara for posting it on Facebook!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Faux News Declares Dr. Regina Benjamin "Too Fat" for Office

Some fitness nazi on "Faux News" has declared President Obama's surgeon general candidate pick, Dr. Regina Benjamin, as "obese" and not a fit choice for surgeon general. Benjamin has won multiple awards and is amazingly well qualified for this post. Her closest family members died of "preventable illnesses," and she has said she would like to focus on wellness and preventable disease during her term.

If she is like almost every other middle-aged woman I know, she is probably trying to lose those extra 20 or 30 pounds. She probably knows all the right things to eat and how much she should exercise. But it's clear that she's incredibly focused on her career as a rural health care family practice physician. She moonlighted for years to keep her clinic open. My guess is that she didn't have much time to eat well or exercise as much as she should have.
I don't remember anyone making similar such comments when Reagan appointed C. Everett Coop to be surgeon general. But we also didn't have Faux News back then.


Tonight I went to a rehearsal for Sunday's church service, which will be a joint service with a nearby Presbyterian church, full of folk songs. I took Chris along to do some drumming. The visiting musicians played guitar, banjo, and mandolin.

The mandolin player put me to shame--he was kick-ass good. Afterward, I asked him how long he'd been playing mandolin. "A year or two--not very long. But I played the guitar for 10 years before that." As if that should make me feel better. I've had my mandolin for 4 years (didn't play it much until 2 years ago) and have played the guitar for 34 years!!! As if the guitar playing helps any (the chords are completely different). Just when I was beginning to feel more comfortable on the mandolin! (He did also mention that he had lots of disposable time...ya think?)

The guy who is leading the music is a fairly new member, and he is also a "beginning banjo player." He played the banjo like this guy played the mandolin, though. (Reminds me of when I played ping pong with Mike in the early years of our relationship--after he told me that he wasn't very good--and promptly whipped me soundly--before confessing that he played a lot of ping pong in boarding school.)

I have thought about this theory before, but now I am quite certain of's completely a generalization, but here it is: when men pick up an instrument, they spend as much spare time as possible mastering it. It's true of most male musicians I know. We often go to concerts with some good friends of ours--Dave and Christie--and each evening when they return home from a concert, Dave stays up late at night writing music and playing his guitar! When I was growing up, when male friends started learning the guitar, they would close themselves up in their bedroom, practicing for hours on end. I've never been like that. I've spent probably 20 hours total (in 2 years), on my own, practicing the mandolin. Too many other interesting things to do, I suppose.

When I came home and told Mike about the talented mandolin player, Chris told me to stop putting myself down. I kept telling him that I wasn't doing's not a personal thing at all. I love listening to talented musicians!

Which leads me to another conclusion about myself: I am a dabbler (not to mention a lazy musician). I have dabbled in music throughout my life, playing violin, guitar, cello, organ, piano, and mandolin. I have dabbled in arts and crafts--having done cross-stitch, pottery, drawing, sewing, calligraphy, beading, card making and paper crafts, scrapbooking, mosaic, faux finish painting, batik painting, weaving, letterpress printing, book arts, Japanese calligraphy, fused glass, and knitting. Never have I stayed with one particular thing to get kick-ass good. It's just something I'll have to accept about myself. Perhaps one day I will be able to focus a huge amount of time into music, or some form of art. But maybe it's just not in my personality.

I'm a dabbler, and I'm kick-ass good at dabbling. So there.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rachel Maddow vs. Pat Buchanan on the Race Issue

Rachel Maddow corrects Pat Buchanan's virulent "facts" about race in America.

Love that Rachel Maddow!

Eight Miles Wide

The phenomenal, amazing Storm Large has just released a music video of her song, "Eight Miles Wide," which she performed in her hit show, "Crazy Enough," which I've seen two times. Portland Center State just extended the show again to August 16 and apparently they are looking for a new venue to continue the show.

This video is not for the prude or faint of heart (or for those under 16)! :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

English Dad Gets His First Run, and Fun at the Beach!

Last week we had Kieran in a week-long baseball (t-ball) skills class, and on Friday I went to watch the boys (all boys!) play the parents. Kieran's never played sports before beyond swimming, and this turned out to be a good experience for him.

Nicholas' favorite thing to do while Kieran was playing t-ball--ride "the horses"!

Kieran warming up to get ready to play the parents:

Up at bat!

Mike playing 3rd base--and Kieran on 3rd base

Mike's first experience playing t-ball...and his first run!

Nicholas watching the game

Up next to bat

Getting ready to run the bases
In the early afternoon on Friday, we met our friends from Idaho to caravan off to the beach house. On the way, we stopped for Tillamook ice cream!
left to right: Ari, Myla, Beck, Ken, Shelia, Chris, Mike, and Kieran (not pictured: me and Nick)
Kieran and Nick eating ice cream

Ari with her "mud slide"

Me with Kieran

Myla after finishing her chocolatey ice cream
The kids had a whale of a time on the beach!

Ari collecting seashells

Me with Nick (who, sadly, had a bit of a tummy bug this weekend so wasn't feeling great...)--notice the VERY wet Kieran behind me! Kieran, Beck, and the girls got absolutely soaked and sandy each time we went to the beach!

Ari looking for shells



Ken burying Beck up to his neck!

Kieran and Mike

Nick with his "feather town"

"Cinderella's carriage"
We had a really nice time with the Dengler-Shaws...Shelia and I were able to take a wander on Saturday afternoon to Nehalem and Manzanita while the men watched the kids. On Saturday night, the adults were even able to play a few board games! (Before children, we used to spend many a beach house evening playing board games!) All in all, a very fun weekend but alas too short!

Myla's drawing of all six kids, and the ocean

The D-S family had to head out somewhat early on Sunday because they were driving all the way back to Idaho in one day! We were sad to see them go!

Chris on Sunday afternoon

Nick playing with animal puzzles

Mike reading Harry Potter #7 to Kieran--about halfway through!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

White Men Can't Judge: Jon Stewart on the Sotomayor Confirmation Hearing

Jon Stewart pokes fun at the complete ridiculousness of these senate confirmation hearings and the irony of Republicans calling her racist. Politicians can be such blowhards.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
White Men Can't Judge
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

E-mail subscribers, view the video here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Roadrunner Weekend!

because it sped by way too quickly! BEEP BEEP!

Psychologically, it seemed shorter than usual because I wasn't able to work at home on Friday--my work-at-home Fridays are good transitions for weekends. Our modem became operational last week, so we had to wait for Qwest to provide a new one. Since my job consists almost entirely of being online (via e-mail and accessing the company server and intranet), I had to go into the office. I know...poor me! (I know how lucky I am to be able to work at home!)

Saturday we finally got back to the Portland Farmer's Market (which the Huffington Post has named as one of the top 10 farmers' markets in the country!). Our garden is doing wonderfully (photos coming one of these days), but it's still not producing much beyond lettuce and herbs. So we needed to stock up on veggies...and my favorite, BERRIES!!!

This is Nicholas' favorite thing about market days--walking on the "wall" near my parking spot (near the office):

The boys eating their ice cream sandwiches:

Chris also used his allowance to buy a bag of broken cookies! :)

We got some lovely raspberries (which we freeze, mostly, for the winter!) and boysenberries. Last week, Fred Meyer had organic strawberries on sale we've been indulging in lots of berries lately. Fresh berries are one of the best features of living in Oregon!

Sunday afternoon we drove up north on I-5, halfway to Tacoma, to the Lewis & Clark state park. When the weather is decent, we like to meet my sister Nadine and her family there for the afternoon. I just discovered that it's one of the last major strands of old-growth forest in the state of Washington (probably why I like it so much!). We were celebrating my wonderful brother-in-law David's birthday, along with Nadine & David's and my parents' anniversaries. We had a picnic, and the boys had a great time tearing around on their bikes.
We also did a bike nephew Daniel passed down his "Thomas the Tank Engine" bike to Nick, and we had an extra bike for our oldest nephew Ryan to use.

Nicholas had a look of PURE GLEE on his face when he got his new bike!!

Lunch in the covered area (it was cold and a bit sprinkly):

Kieran, Daniel, and Ryan

Garrett and Nick

Mom and Nadine
Me, Chris, and David

Two amazing men: my dad and my husband!

Another amazing man: guitar-collecting David in the shirt we gave him last year

Putting on a "Scooby Doo" play--which involved lots of chasing, a bit of dialogue, and Kieran telling everyone what to do!

Nicholas performing as well!

Wanting to be one of the guys!

Kieran as a terrified Shaggy!

Daniel getting ready to make his appearance as the runaway mystery van!

David with his brownie and fresh berries

Dad, David, and Mom (wrapped in blankets to ward off the chill...except for David, of course, who is always warm)

David with the photo of Mt. Rainier we gave him...David has expressed interest in climbing Mt. Rainier, along with getting another motorcycle, both of which Nadine has given him permission to do...when he is 95!
After the too-short visit, we headed our separate ways home...but first we drove through the park looking at the lovely wooded camping area. We are plotting a return to go camping there. However, I did just spy the mention of "bears" on the state park Web I will have to investigate further before we plan any camping trips there!