Friday, January 30, 2009

The First Time

My friend Karina posted this great joke on Facebook, and I couldn't resist! Why do my favorite jokes always relate to religion and sex???

A girl asks her boyfriend to come over Friday night to meet, and have a dinner with her parents.

Since this is such a big event, the girl announces to her boyfriend that after dinner, she would like to go out and make love for the first time.

The boy is ecstatic, but he has never had sex before, so he takes a trip to the pharmacist to get some condoms. He tells the pharmacist it's his first time and the pharmacist helps the boy for about an hour. He tells the boy everything there is to know about condoms and sex. At the register, the pharmacist asks the boy how many condoms he'd like to buy, a 3-pack, 10-pack, or family pack. The boy insists on the family pack because he thinks he will be rather busy, it being his first time and all.

That night, the boy shows up at the girl's parents' house and meets his girlfriend at the door. 'Oh, I'm so excited for you to meet my parents, come on in!'

The boy goes inside and is taken to the dinner table where the girl's parents are seated. The boy quickly offers to say grace and bows his head. A minute passes, and the boy is still deep in prayer, with his head down.

10 minutes pass, and still no movement from the boy.

Finally, after 20 minutes with his head down, the girlfriend leans over and whispers to the boyfriend, 'I had no idea you were this religious.'

The boy turns, and whispers back, 'I had no idea your father was a pharmacist.'

The Sweetest Little Voldemort You Ever Did See

One of the fun aspects of having three children so widely spaced in ages is that we get to go through the joys of childhood over and over again. No, I'm not talking about DIAPERS! (Although I will sing glory hallelujah when we don't have to fork out money for diapers any more!)

I'm talking about Harry Potter.

I remember when I first heard about Harry Potter...a former coworker first told me that he and his kids were obsessed with the HP books. Not being a fantasy fan, they didn't sound interesting to me at all.

Then I had my first miscarriage in 1999 and was lying depressed and recovering in bed for several days. My mother-in-law brought me the first HP book and recommended that I read it. She had to persuade me to give it a try, and since I needed an escape, I was ripe for the suggestion. Much to my surprise, I was completely drawn in.

We read all of the early HP books with Chris, and toward the end of the series Mike and I couldn't keep ourselves from reading ahead, so Chris was on his own! Chris had an uncanny likeness to HP, with his skinny frame, glasses, and even a scar on his forehead, and he made a great Harry for Halloween! All three of us have read all the books and seen all the movies.

And now it begins again. Last night I returned from work to find that Kieran had caught the Harry Potter bug:



And 15 minutes later, he had engaged Nicholas...who begun running around the house saying "I Voldemort!" No, of course he doesn't know who Voldemort is...but his big brother said it, so it must be cool.



And here is sweet little Voldemort, giving me his scary face:


Hook in hand!

I'd been thinking about starting to read the Harry Potter books to Kieran (at least, the early ones), and last night we began! We made it into Chapter 3 (it's amazing to see how short that first book is!), and he is loving it!

What I Didn't Learn in History Class about the Space Program

Do you ever see a movie, go to a play, or read a book about something that happened IN REAL LIFE and you are completely blown away that you had never heard about it?

This happens to me more often than it should, I think. It's usually related to something completely embarassing in history that people have tried to bury...for example, the U.S. involvement in Chile's politics in the 70s, or the way the Japanese treated the survivors of the atomic explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki...or the fact that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. I think it's because I had a completely pathetic course of world and U.S. history.

In general, I like to think I had a fairly decent education. I loved social studies and English, and enjoyed studying world civilizations and human relations. I remember getting quite a kick out of developing my own hieroglyphic language in 9th grade.

We studied American history in 8th grade, but I clearly remember that our textbook ended with World War II. This would have been about 1978. No Vietnam war, no Korean war, no civil rights movement, and I don't remember much about the suffragettes either. In fact, even though I was a child of the 60s and 70s, I remember seeing very little about current events on TV. Have I blocked it all out, or was I that clueless?

I was never really drawn to straight-out history, and in high school and college we had a range of electives from which to choose. I vastly preferred other social studies electives to history. I do remember an outstanding class on the Holocaust during our January (interim) elective at Pacific Lutheran University...the term when all the other PLU students were taking underwater basketweaving or something else highly difficult and educational...and not only did I take a class on the holocaust, but I wrote a final paper on Martin Luther and the Jews, and received an "Honors" in a pass/fail class. (Okay, now I'm bragging!)

At any rate, I was inadequately educated in history. What I've learned over the years has been through my own self-education. And what I've discovered about myself is that I love history through the arts. I love historical fiction and interesting documentaries, and I'm drawn to plays and movies about things that happened in the past. They are far more interesting to me than history textbooks.

So back to my subject of this post. Mike and I went to see a great play last weekend called "Apollo" at the Portland Center Stage. It was a play MARATHON, because it was 3-1/2 hours long! But it was completely compelling and the time passed quickly.

Essentially, it was a multimedia extravaganza, chronicling the post-WWII history of the U.S. space program, intersected with the events related to the U.S. civil rights movement. Did you know that many of the top scientists who developed the NASA space program to get Americans to the moon were Nazis? I didn't.

It probably doesn't help matters that I have never been terribly drawn to the space program. I visited the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian, but I preferred the American History museum!! Some friends went to Florida a few years ago, and told us how they spent a couple of days at the Kennedy Space Center. When we returned there last year, they were trying to persuade us to take our kids there. Mike and I both knew that they (and we!) would vastly prefer the Disney parks over the space center!!! So perhaps this is why I have been ignorant.

The U.S. government essentially waived its morals to get the Nazi scientists on board and believed that fighting the "red menace" (and getting to the moon before the Russians) was more critical than being concerned about allowing facists to have top-secret security clearance in our government.


Here is a trailer from the play so you can get a look:








The play has a wild array of characters: the Nazi scientists themselves, Jules Verne, Thea von Harbou (who wrote a screenplay about a woman going to the moon), Walt Disney, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the god Apollo, Dred Scott, Abraham Lincoln, Ralph Abernathy, George Wallace, and Robert Kennedy. It contains three acts, each one peeling back more layers of the story.
I also found myself wanting to learn a lot more about George Wallace's racism (you know that his daughter voted for Obama?) and Bobby Kennedy.
In the third act, which focused mostly on the civil rights movement and the journey of African-Americans from slavery to the 1960s, I could not help but reflect on the inauguration this month and how far we have come as a country in 40 years. It is truly amazing, given how much racism and segregation were such an acceptable part of our culture. Clearly, they sill exist...but they are hidden beneath the surface now.

If you are interested in learning more about the play, check out Portland Center Stage's excellent study guide. When searching for more information online about the Nazi scientists, I found these two videos on youtube:




















Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Hopes and Dreams of My Five-Year-Old Producer

Those of you who have met Kieran know that he is quite the promoter! After seeing the "Wizard of Oz" at the Northwest Children's Theater in December, we had a resurgence of his W of O obsession.

He went beyond engineering a birthday party based on the Wizard of Oz (which he engineered with my help when he turned FOUR!), and he planned to actually stage a play of the W of O at elementary school. Last fall he distinctly remembered the announcement that the middle school principal made before Chris' play, in which he said that a parent had approached him to ask if she could help the students put on a play. Why couldn't they stage a grand production in kindergarten, thought he?

He had a cast list all made out, with his classmates' names on it...and he was collecting and making costumes and props. He even saved up his allowance to buy a new W of O book with a little ruby slippers necklace, which he planned to present to his star and classmate, Lily (who amazingly agreed to play Dorothy!). The only problem? He couldn't line up anyone to play the Wicked Witch of the West! (Long-time readers and friends will remember that he played that role at his four-year-old birthday party, but he declared that he had moved on, and now he wanted to be the scarecrow.)

His friend Lynn was going to be the director, and even Mrs. Lang (his wonderful teacher, who knows the dramatic foibles of our children, since she had Chris too) had agreed to be in the cast--either as an apple-throwing tree or a flying monkey. We planned the performance for April, after his birthday (figuring that enough lead time would allow the idea to fizzle out), and his grand design was for the whole cast to watch the movie together, and then act out the play verbatim!

Kieran had a few play dates with Lily, where they plotted and planned for the play. We were delighted that he finally found a friend who seemed to be as enthusiastic as he was about his grand schemes.

The stage in our family room is festooned with W of O "decorations" in preparation for the play, and he has made signs that are posted outside of our front door. He was totally delighted when my parents procured a huge roll of tickets, and he's been giving them out to everyone who visits.

Here is Kieran in his "scarecrow" costume, which he had been putting on after school every day for weeks, practicing his scarecrow dance, "If I Only Had a Brain":

Peter Pan meets the hat of the scarecrow we had as an autumn decoration, with yellow paper posing as straw...all his creation!

Well, yesterday all the plans of the past month came to an end. Kieran came home, announcing to Mike that Lily had told him she was tired of talking about the W of O. Mike had a gentle discussion with him, explaining that perhaps the other kids were getting tired of the idea...and maybe he should move onto other things. (Remember when I posted yesterday about my boys' one-track minds?) Amazement of amazements, he accepted this...and indeed decided to move on. He has abandoned his hopes for producing the play, and he doesn't seem to be a bit upset about it, to my surprise.

Secretly, I've been hoping that it would all fizzle out by April (last week he had me draft a letter to his principal, Mr. Blanck, asking for permission to use the school stage!), but now that it has, I feel kind of sad for him. I'm not pushing the matter, because I certainly don't want him to get upset about it! But you know? It's hard to see your kids have their hopes brought down to reality. The kid is certainly a dreamer and a planner!

We have a little secret: Chris' fifth-grade teacher confided to Mike the other day that the school music teacher is considering a W of O theme for the school's spring musical. We might drop a hint to the music teacher that Kieran is a huge fan, but we think we will keep the information to ourselves unless she decides she wants to engage him somehow...

In the meantime, he will continue dressing up and masquerading in his spare time...until he comes up with his next plot or strategy! I suspect we'll be moving on to "Bye Bye Birdie" next, as auditions for the middle school play are next week. Last night we were trying to help Chris decide what to sing for auditions, and Kieran had lots of suggestions! Personally, he has a strong preference for "WE HATE YOU CONRAD, OH YES WE DO! WE DON'T HATE ANYONE AS MUCH AS YOU! WHEN WE HEAR YOU SING, WE SAY PEE-YOU! OH CONRAD, WE HATE YOU!!!" Wonder if they'd consider casting a kindergartener?


The batman pirate

This is what I came home to yesterday...a cross-dressing, umbrella-carrying Groucho Marx: (that's my black camisole there):

What I didn't take a photo of was what he was wearing last night...my pantyhose and heels! I figured that might be going a bit too far in terms of blackmail potential!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Tale of Two Brains

I just discovered this hilarious monologue by a comedian talking about the difference between men's brains and women's brains.

Brain science confirms that the corpus collosum (the tract of fibers that connect the brain's hemispheres) is larger in women than in men, thereby making it easier for women to go from one topic or task to another more quickly (although apparently this theory has been disputed recently).

In my very small study of data (my mom, my sister, and me, in comparison to my dad, my brother-in-law, and Mike), the theory that women can process all sorts of different information all at once is definitely confirmed! Then there are my three boys...who all have one-track minds (Rock Band, Wizard of Oz, and Cinderella respectively).

After doing a bit of research, I discovered that Mark Gungor is actually a PASTOR, and not a comedian. He does marriage workshops, and his theology is probably very different than mine.

But I do appreciate the humor in his message!

Getting a Little Bit Crafty!

Last fall I took a fused glass class with my mom at Chris' middle school. They have a program called SUN Community School, which the county subsidizes...its main purpose is to offer after-school activities for school-age kids. But they usually offer an adult class as well.

At $30 for six weeks, the cost could not be beat! It was an hour each week, and I just went right to class after work on Monday evenings.

Here are some of my creations...beginners' fused glass, at best! The tricky thing is that one never knows how exactly things will look after they've been fired in the kiln.

My first creation--a little ladybug suncatcher:



This little dish kind of caved in a bit on the sides...



I really like the way this one turned out, except for the bubbles!! (One is not supposed to have bubbles in fused glass!)



Our teacher doesn't like to do jewelry, but I enjoyed that evening...my favorite one (and the only one I've worn yet) is on the chain.



In the final class, we did Christmas stars--the idea is to wrap them with wire and beads, so they can be ornaments...but I haven't gotten around to that yet.



Mom and I both reenrolled for a new 7-week session, starting yesterday. Very fun! I love having a defined period of time in which to be creative...and to learn a new craft!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Eat the View!

There is a movement afoot to encourage the country's most-admired family to grow its own food and help feed the country...by planting a garden.

"Eat the View!" is a campaign to urge the Obamas to replant a large organic Victory Garden on the First Lawn with the produce going to the White House kitchen and to local food pantries. "Eat the View" is coordinated by Kitchen Gardeners International, a Maine-based 501c3 nonprofit network of 10,000 gardeners from 100 countries who are inspiring and teaching more people to grow some of their own food.

Join the movement, and spread the word! Here is my Eat the View page.

Fallen Off the Fitness Wagon...

We are nearly at the end of January, and so far, both Mike and I have done a pretty darn good job sticking to our resolutions. He has been faithfully writing one page a day, no more and no more less. (I've told him that if it were me, I'd be tempted to race on and produce more than one page if I were on a roll, and the children were out of the house, like they were on Saturday...)


I've continued with my One Year to an Organized Life, prodded along by my new blog and also some organizing friends I've met along the way! I know we're only nearly 1/12th of the way through the year, but so far so good! I haven't got a very good record on previous resolutions.


I don't mean to be passe', because I know that EVERYONE AND THEIR SISTER resolves to get fit at the beginning of the new year...can you believe all those ads for exercise equipment and attire? However, I really must do something about my pathetic current state of health.


I'm hoping that by documenting this resolution to all of you lovely readers out there, I'll be more likely to stick to it.


I went to the gym today at lunch...after THREE MONTHS AWAY!!! Yes, I know...I've been very bad indeed. The worst part about it is when I think about paying a monthly rate to the gym and not taking advantage of it!!


Part of the problem is that my gym is over on the other side of town, near where my office used to be. I have refused to change gyms, because it's the only women's gym in town...and I really like it. But it's terribly inconvenient.


I was shocked to discover that I have gained a bunch of pounds. Hardly surprising given the holidays and my throwing self-restraint to the winds. My clothes have felt slightly tighter, but not significantly, so I was surprised. So it's back to the daily tracking of what I eat and how I exercise via Fitday. Otherwise, I have a harder time turning down sweets offered to me!

I've never been an athlete...and working out does not give me a thrill. In fact, I find it incredibly boring, so I must read a book and listen to fast music on my iPod while I use the cardio machines. (You will be happy to know that I put the book down while lifting weights...)

My role model for getting back to shape is my college friend Kristin, who a few years ago lost a bunch of weight and is now running half-marathons all over the world! I will NEVER run a half-marathon, but she's a true inspiration to me. I was lucky as a girl because I never had to worry about what I ate. I weighted 85 pounds when I graduated from high schoool!! I realize that as a female, I was fortunate not to worry about my weight when I was growing up--and not have it hang over me as a burden all my life (like Oprah).

But I think at some level I still think I'm 16 and I don't want to have to worry about what I eat! My goal is not to become stick thin or to become a marathoner...I just want to feel healthier and live a nice, long life. So I know I need to try harder.

Ironically, I came home tonight to discover that Mike had made crab cakes and some English potato dish with cream and butter! (Nice traditional English cooking!) But I just sampled them and filled up with veggies and leftover salmon from the weekend, and I was glad I hit the gym earlier today!

I hope I can stick with my healthy eating plan and continue hitting the gym somewhat regularly. I will never be a gym rat, or a health fanatic, but I'm aiming for moderation, and a good cholesterol check at my next physical!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Words for How We Feel Now by Emily Troutman

Washington DC-based writer and photographer Emily Troutman traveled around the city this past week, asking people how they were feeling about the new Obama administration. She asked them to choose from 26 words:

Alive, Angry, Anxious, Awed, Believe, Curious, Dancer, Excited, Grateful, Happy, Hopeful, Human, Humble, Jealous, Joyful, Love, Obama, Patient, Proud, Ready, Scared, Skeptical, Tired, Together, Wonder, Worried

The result is a beautiful video montage of people from all walks of life, expressing their feelings about this week in a few simple words:



Thursday, January 22, 2009

I Am...Elinor Dashwood!

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Thanks to my new friend Lizzie in Arizona via goodreads (who has a gorgeous blog and a beautiful little boy, Beau), I've discovered a great web quiz to determine which Jane Austen heroine fits your personality. Being a Jane Austen nut, I couldn't resist.

No big surprises there...I absolutely adore Emma Thompson, and "Sense and Sensibility" is one of my favorite movies. No wonder I love Elinor Dashwood--I am her!! :)

Take the Quiz here!

Woo-Hoo!!! The Senate Passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Today!!!

What a great start to Obama's first week and for our Democratic-majority Senate! As I wrote last year, Michelle and Barack have both spoken in favor of pay equity for women (this is the bill John McCain and other Republicans belittled and said was unnecessary).

I just received this message from the Feminist Majority:

By a strong majority, the Senate passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (S. 181) after defeating a series of hostile amendments. President Obama and the Democratic Congress are keeping their pledge to women and all workers to reverse the Supreme Court decision that gutted the right of employees to fight wage discrimination," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority. "We're on a roll to rebuilding women's rights and civil rights taken away during the Bush era."

The Senate Act, which has already passed the House in a version coupled with the Paycheck Fairness Act, will go back to the House as a single bill. The House is expected to pass the Senate bill on Tuesday. President Obama is expected to sign it into law shortly thereafter. In almost straight party line votes, the Senate kept the pledge of President Obama to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act almost immediately after being sworn in.

Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson's killer amendment was defeated 55-40 in a nearly straight party vote with Democrats voting against it - only Republican Olympia (ME) voted with Democrats. Several other debilitating Republican amendments also went down to defeat.
The Ledbetter Act corrects the Roberts Supreme Court decision that gutted the ability of women workers to sue for wage discrimination. The act passed helps not only women, but all workers who are victims of wage discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, or disability.

Feeling very happy about this turn of events. May it continue!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Photos That Make Me Smile!

Sunday, in church, I couldn't resist taking a few photos on my BlackBerry of this wonderful sight, of our friend Oscar, in his late 80s, holding baby Michael (a baby of a family who takes in special needs foster babies). Oscar and his wife Mary have known me since I was about 4 years old, and I love to see them when I go to church...reminds me of my history! One of my favorite memories of Holden Village two years ago was sitting on the porch swing with Mary and others, passing the time. They are both wonderful with children.



You could tell he was just in heaven! I got the privilege of holding one of these sweet babies (twin brothers, born prematurely) a few weeks ago, and I know why he is smiling. Although I would never want to have another baby, I do love the feeling of holding a baby!!

And here are some sweet pictures of babies born in Kenya yesterday, named Barack or Michelle:










And finally, some great photos of today--the first day of a new era of integrity and justice!

Obama's first official photo in the Oval Office
Michelle and Barack together this morning

Our Evening Inaugural Festivities...

...were very quiet...Moroccan chicken (from the slow cooker), quinoa, and coleslaw for dinner, followed by a reading of a children's book about Barack Obama, which the three kings brought Kieran for Epiphany.




The kids listening to Mike read


No, he's not Peter Pan: he's the scarecrow from "The Wizard of Oz"--Kieran is planning to stage the play, and nearly all his conversations and clothing of late relate to this topic!

We just discovered this evening that Chris is now as tall as me!! I can't believe he is going to be 13 this year!!! Heaven help us!

The book reading ended with a spontaneous chant by Kieran and Chris: "O-BA-MA! O-BA-MA!" soon joined by Nicholas and the rest of us.
I discovered this web site (probably later than the rest of the world) that allows you to "Obamasize" yourself. Take a look at what I did:


Very fun!!
What did you do to celebrate the inauguration with your family? Check out this web site (Share My Inauguration.com) to see how people have celebrated throughout the world, especially with children.
And now the truly hard work begins...good luck to you, President and Michelle Obama and team!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In Honor of Aunty Helen...

All the inauguration excitement has been slightly dimmed by our learning yesterday that Mike's Aunty Helen had died.

Aunty Helen had been in the hospital for five months, during which time she kept falling seriously ill and then miraculously rallying. Her husband, Uncle Clem, was on a complete roller coaster during all that time, being called to her bedside to bid goodbye on several occasions, only to see her make a recovery. (But never fully enough to return home.)

Yesterday, she finally passed away. Sadly, the last time we were able to see her was in 2004, when we visited England and attended the Jubilee celebration of Mike's Aunty Gena (her 50-year anniversary of being a nun, for all the rest of you non-Catholics out there). Not too long after that, she and Uncle Clem moved to Scotland, and we were not able to get up there at Christmas because we had such a short trip.

I will always remember Aunty Helen's wonderful Scottish accent, great sense of humor, and abiding faith. She would often preface her statements with "Please God," so as not to tempt fate. She consistently remembered all of the birthdays of nieces, nephews, and their children (and even me, a niece-in-law). And she was a devoted, faithful wife to Uncle Clem and a loving aunt to her nieces and nephews.

Mike also learned today that one of his mentors in Japan, at the university where he taught, died this year. So it's been a tough week of losses for him.

It's one of the sad parts about living so far away from Mike's relatives, as they are aging. Mike's dad (who died in 1992) had four sisters, one of whom died several years ago.

Here are Olga (Mike's mum), Aunty Helen, Aunty Gena, Aunty Kath, and a friend cracking up at some inside Gilmartin family joke, no doubt!



And I love this photo of our family with Aunty Gena and Aunty Helen:


(That's Kieran at age 1-1/2--but Nicholas always insists those baby photos of Kieran's are him!)

So here's to Aunty Helen and to the loved ones she left behind.

Samudra Plays in the Snow!

I just saw this video on a former colleague's blog, and I just had to post it...in honor of Nicholas, who continues to talk about the baby elephant Samudra. Time to take him for another visit!! This is SO cute!! And for those people out there who don't believe in elephant exhibits in zoos (I'm a true Libra, ambivalent on the matter)...this cavorting in the snow should give them pause for a moment.

Rev. Joseph Lowery's Benediction: When White Will Embrace What's Right

By Rev. Joseph Lowery, 87-year-old civil rights icon:

The Last Word at the Inauguration Ceremony...

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou, who has brought us thus far along the way, thou, who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to thee, oh God, and true to our native land. (Note from Marie: this first paragraph is from a beautiful, spiritual hymn called "Lift Every Voice and Sing," by James Weldon Johnson, often referred to as the African-American National Anthem.)

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day.

We pray now, oh Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration.

He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national, and indeed the global, fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hands, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations.

Our faith does not shrink though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.

For we know that, Lord, you are able and you're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds, and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, of the least of these, and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that yes we can work together to achieve a more perfect union.

And while we have sown the seeds of greed -- the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.

And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountain top, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia.
We go now to walk together as children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone.

With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around ... when yellow will be mellow ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.

Alice Walker's Advice to Barack Obama

"I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. Not to mention your brave and precious grandmother. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: it is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is only what so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, but this is because it is not clear to them yet that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone."

Oh Happy Day!!!

I stayed home from work this morning to watch the inauguration, and at the moment the Bushes are flying away from the Capitol in a helicopter. At the same time (multitasker that I am), I was reading today's New York Times, and was struck by an op-ed article by Norman Ornstein, talking about how gracefully Mr. Bush has acted during the transition, and I must agree. It could have been so much worse, and he could have done even more damage during the 3-month transition period. He has been pilloried in the press and the internet for the extensive damage he and his colleagues have done to the country (and deservedly so)...but to throw boots at an effigy of Bush outside of the White House? Very unclassy.

So do you think that Chief Justice Roberts flubbed the oath on purpose? I was disgusted to note that the first news articles I read after that happened claimed that Obama had screwed up the oath, instead of getting the facts right and noting that Roberts screwed the whole thing up.

I loved Joseph Lowery's benediction (can't find the text online yet), and the fact that he had the last word! (My thoughts about Rick Warren's prayer were that it was embarassingly WAY too "Christian," especially for a country founded on the basis of religious freedom!). And Aretha Franklin's rendition of "America." And what a refreshing speech, and the pride to have an articulate, inspirational, and intelligent president representing our great country?

It was great to watch the inauguration with a new citizen...it must have been amazing for Mike to know that his very first two votes as a U.S. citizen contributed to this day.

Today I'm feeling very proud to be an American, more so than any other day in my memory. I wouldn't want to be Barack Obama and face the momentous challenges he has before him (more than any other president, perhaps, in history)...but I'm so grateful and relieved that he is the one who is in that position, leading this country during a very challenging time.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Very Depressing News...

It has just been disclosed that Portland's mayor, Sam Adams, who is the first openly gay mayor in the country, has just admitted to a sexual relationship with a teenager.

He's in Washington to attend a mayor's conference and the inauguration...but he has admitted the relationship, after much pressure to do so, to the Willamette Week and the Oregonian.

I've long been a fan of Sam Adams. A former friend used to work with him in Vera Katz's office (and I believe she went to college with him) and has always spoken highly of him, and I've always enjoyed the fact that he was the announcer at our little local Multnomah Days parades. He spoke at the "No on 8" rally we happened on last fall downtown. From what I've read about Adams, he has prided himself on being actively engaged in community events...he's a mayor of the people.

So it was with great disappointment that I read that he had a relationship with a man half his age...whether he was 17 or 18 at the time cannot be confirmed for sure. And even worse, when he ran for mayor, he reportedly encouraged the young man to keep quiet about the relationship.

Very, very disappointing. I do not care about this man's sex life. Personally, I do take issue with people who gallivant with others who are more than 20+ years their junior. But the most egregious thing about this situation is that he covered it up. And for all this to come out on the eve of such a momentous inauguration.

The Willamette Week acknowledges that other politicians have had "indiscretions" (such as Barney Frank) and have made amends and have gone onto be successful and effective public servants. But this is a very sad start to his term.

Barack Obama, whatever you do, please don't disappoint me. No matter what comes, please stand by your integrity and ethics.

More on the Momentousness of Today and Tomorrow...

When I came home today, Kieran had Nicholas' baptism candle on the table and announced that we needed to light it for dinner. (Our church has a tradition of a baptism candle, which you are supposed to light on the anniversary of the child's baptism...have we ever done this??? NO!) We said, "But we're supposed to light that on Nicholas' baptism anniversary..."

Kieran declared that we had to light it in honor of Martin Luther King Junior's birthday. Well, who could argue with that?

Here are some great articles I read today in the New York Times about the inauguration and MLK's birthday:

"White Like Me," by Frank Rich, another white kid who was marked by the classic Black Like Me, and who reflects on the ongoing racial issues in Washington DC

"Dear Sir Obama," letters to Obama from schoolchildren

"Dr. King's Last Birthday," by Jesse Jackson Sr., who was honored to be able to be with Dr. King on his last birthday alive

And finally, I saw this incredible video coverage of Dr. King being interviewed by the BBC's Bob McKenzie in 1964. Dr. King predicted that there would be a "negro" president within 40 years, and perhaps even within 25 years. He was filled with a spirit of wonderful optimism about the future of race relations in this country.

Sad to say, it has taken nearly 45 years to reach such a day, but hallelujah, it's here at last!!

MLK's sister, Christine King Farris, was not as optimistic about the future possibility of an African-American president...especially after her brother was brutally murdered.

And finally, I want to close with this wonderful message sent to parents from the Portland Public Schools--very timely given the front page coverage in The Oregonian yesterday, naming Portland as one of the whitest cities in the country:

Dear Portland Public School Community and Friends,

We write with greetings at the launch of a momentous week. Today, we pause to recognize and reflect on the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tomorrow we inaugurate our country's first African American President.

As directors of your Portland Public Schools, we know that the events of this week are more than historic moments. They are a call to action. For many years, our schools have worked to better serve our students of color. But we must do more. Our drop-out rate among students of color remains too high; our achievement scores too low. We must raise our expectations and work relentlessly to get results. As Dr. King said: "The time is always right to do what is right."

We are a majority white city, educating an increasingly diverse student body in our public schools. Inherent in Barack Obama's election is the message that our racial differences can be a bridge not a barrier. We pledge as your elected school board to help our schools walk across that bridge. We will build on policies that support our educators' abilities to believe in and reach every student, policies that reward positive results. We will pay close attention. We will expect more.

We hope you will join in this effort. We know that overcoming deep inequities takes persistence, and this is not a job that your schools can do alone. But it must get done. There are many more presidential elections to come. Maybe someday we will elect one of our own graduates.

May you experience and act on the inspiration of Dr. King and of our new President Barack Obama.

Sincerely,
Your Portland Public School Board
Dilafruz Williams, Co-chair
Trudy Sargent, Co-chair
Ruth Adkins
Martin Gonzalez
Sonja Henning
Bobbie Regan
David Wynde
Olin Stickler, student representative
###
At Portland Public Schools, this is our goal: By the end of elementary, middle, and high school, every student by name will meet or exceed academic standards and will be fully prepared to make productive life decisions. Portland Public Schools is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

An Appeal to Our Better Angels

While our problems may be new,
what is required to overcome them is not.

What is required is the same perseverance
and idealism that our founders displayed.

What is required is a new declaration of independence,
not just in our nation, but in our own lives--
from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry--
an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels.

- President-elect Obama

Mom's Birthday Celebrations, Part 2

Friday afternoon my sister Nadine took the Amtrak train down to Portland, and we surprised Mom by taking her for a girls' night away. We showed up around 4:00 at their house and told her to pack her bag. She was a bit overwhelmed (having just woken up from a nap!), but she fortunately likes surprises. (I told a coworker what we had planned, and she was horrified, since she hates surprises!!)

I captured the "surprising" on video, but I haven't figured out how to easily and quickly post homemade video to my blog yet! Here is a photo, though:



Dad took us downtown to the Embassy Suites Downtown Portland, which is an old historic hotel (formerly the Multnomah Hotel), built in 1912. It's not the typical Embassy Suites! Mike and I stayed there overnight years ago, so I knew it was a beautiful old hotel. The basement swimming pool is especially lovely.

After unloading our bags in our suite (which I unfortunately neglected to capture on film), we attended the evening reception--with free drinks, popcorn, and nachos:



Then we walked a few blocks to the great Mother's Bistro for dinner--we had taken Mom there for Mother's Day in 2008, too!

Here we are with our dinners--Mom and Nadine had scallops, and I had chicken paprikash:



And as we were about to leave the restaurant:


After we got back to the hotel, we visited the hot tub (Mom swam in the pool for a bit, but Nadine and I felt too lazy) and then returned to the room to drink champagne and eat chocolate. Then we talked until midnight.


Saturday morning we had the full Embassy Suites breakfast in the morning, and spent a few hours wandering around the Pearl District looking in art galleries. Fun!


In the meantime, Nadine's husband David drove down to Portland with the kids and Mike made a cake for that evening (in addition to rescuing my dad, who had lost his car keys). Such superdads! That includes my dad, who dropped us off at the hotel on Friday and picked us up on Saturday.


That evening we celebrated Mom's birthday (again) with a family dinner, along with my brother Stephen and his girlfriend Gina, who was also celebrating her birthday this weekend.


Here are the kids drawing together while we cooked:
Cousins Kieran, Garrett, and Daniel

Nicholas wanting to be just like the big boys...



Stephen and Gina hit the Dollar Store to pick up belated Christmas presents for the kids. The boys loved all the costume bits!

Lovely...


Stephen and Gina with the beautiful scarves my mother-in-law knitted for them for Christmas!
Pirate Kieran with Garrett
Nicholas loved the plastic "bling" necklace!


I think the birthday celebrations are finally over until March--when Mike will celebrate 46!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"We Are One" Concert for Obama Inauguration

I meant to do some more organizing of my kitchen tonight, but the great distractor--the internet--has sucked me in. I'm watching the broadcast of the wonderful concert given today in honor of Barack Obama (via the HBO web site). However, I just discovered that it's only a snippet of the concert. Here's one significant piece that was left out:

The Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire (the country's first openly gay bishop)

Opening Inaugural Event
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009


Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will...

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic "answers" we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.
Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.
AMEN.

Here was a song that brought tears to my eyes--the amazing, 89-year-old Pete Seeger, singing "This Land Is Your Land," with Bruce Springsteen!

And here's another of my faves, John Mellencamp, singing "Pink Houses":





This one is not great quality, but led by one of my long-time favorites, James Taylor:




The people in the audience looked COLD!! (Damn! January in DC! I can't imagine how cold it must have been!) But man, what an experience it must have been!

I'm going to have to replay that video of Pete and Bruce. Amazing!

Friday, January 16, 2009

This Is What a Feminist Looks Like: Barack Obama

Today my Winter 2008 issue of Ms. arrived in my mailbox. I was delighted when I saw the cover. Apparently it's attracting all sorts of discussion, mostly from hardcore feminists who feel that Obama has not yet proven himself as a feminist, and do we really want a photo of a "superman" on the cover of Ms., implying that he has arrived to save women?

I agree with Eleanor Smeal, who writes in the Huffington Post that we are not giving Obama a blank check: he must prove that he supports the rights and further the cause of women.

But I love the fact that when meeting Ms. Smeal and Peg Yorkin, Obama introduced himself as a feminist. That alone, and the fact that he is passionately invested in women's rights, having been raised by two strong women, being married to another one, and raising two of them, is enough reason to put him on the cover. It's about time for us to reclaim the word "feminist" as a positive, empowering word! I love the fact he calls himself a feminist. To my knowledge, he is the first president who has ever done so.

Here's more on this controversial cover from CNN:




What do you think?

Celebrating My Mom's Birthday (the First Time!)

I say "the first time," because we celebrated her birthday on the actual day itself (January 9), while my mother-in-law was still here...and we will celebrate again this weekend when my sister and her family come down for the weekend!

Mike tried out a new slow cooker recipe (we love our slow cooker!), Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya (from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook). It was yummy--tasted better than it looks here:

I made my specialty banana cake. The recipe comes from The Silver Palate Cookbook (which we received from my friend Kristin as a wedding or shower gift!). I have fond memories of eating yummy banana cake at a little Indian-themed tea shop in Osaka, Japan, with my friend Tami. It was called Ganesh (the shop), and the cake was unfrosted, but delish. With cream cheese frosting and walnuts, it's even better.

To save myself from typing out the recipe, I looked for it online, and found an adaptation on another blog. This adaptation has RUM in it, which no doubt would make it even better, and similar to another banana cake I love (served at local Cuban restaurant Pambiche). Here is that recipe:

BANANA CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Cake:
1/4 pound (1 stick) of sweet unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (I freeze bananas so I always have some on hand for baking)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (can substitute plain yogurt)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (don't use fake vanilla)
1 or 2 sliced bananas

Here are the blogger's yummy-sounding additions--I will try next time!

  • some freshly grated nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • somewhere between a capful and 1/4 cup of Jamaican rum

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans
3. Cream butter and sugar together
4. Add eggs and beat well
5. Add mashed bananas, mixing thoroughly
6. Sift dry ingredients and add to butter mixture. Stir until just combined in.
7. Add buttermilk and vanilla.
8. Pour batter into pans; bake 25-30 minutes or until knife comes out clean. Cool.

Cream-Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temp
6 tablespoons sweet butter, at room temp
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
juice of 1/2 lemon (i've also used orange)

Cream butter and cream cheese together in bowl. Slowly sift in confectioner's sugar and continue beating until fully mixed. Stir in vanilla and juice from lemon.

Assemble the cake by putting one layer on a cake plate and frosting it. Then put a layer of sliced bananas on the top, before adding the final layer and frosting it completely. Apply chopped walnuts to the side of the cake by putting some in your hand and pressing them to the cake. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

Here is Mom getting ready to blow out the candles, with her admirers:



(Note the huge Cinderella!)

They love their grandma!
Happy birthday (the first time!), Mom!
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