Monday, February 28, 2011

Tables are turned: British couple unable to be foster parents because of anti-gay beliefs

This morning I heard on NPR that a British couple has been barred from serving as foster parents because they disapprove of homosexuality. Eunice and Owen Johns, Derby, penecostal Christians, applied to be respite carers, but they withdrew their application when a social worker expressed concern when they said that they could not tell a child in their care that a homosexual lifestyle was acceptable. The internet is rife with debate on this topic...some say that it's a shame they won't be able to care for children while foster parents are hard to find. They claim they are not homophobic--but that homosexuality in in conflict with their religious beliefs. But how would they react if a child in their care indicated that he or she were gay or lesbian?

I can't help but think of the irony of this situation. Until last year, when the law was struck down by the courts, gay parents were barred from adopting children in Florida. (Utah prohibited all unmarried parents from adopting, but did not single out same-sex couples.) So now, in a highly rare case, the tables are turned. Fascinating indeed.

Now THIS is the kind of humor I love!

If you like "Little Miss Sunshine" and Christopher Guest's will LOVE this. I love Tom Hanks!

What I read in February

The Beekeeper's Apprentice: Or On the Segregation of the Queen/A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes (Mary Russell Novels)The Beekeeper's Apprentice: Or on the Segregation of the Queen, by Laurie R. King. I read this for my book group, and I gave it four stars. Sherlock Holmes takes on a spunky young woman apprentice. I loved the character of Mary Russell, and it was because of her that I gave it four stars. However, half of my book group predicted that Sherlock and Mary would end up romantically involved  in future books (in spite of the 30+-year age difference). (I didn't see this, but clearly I was blind.) As I scanned through the Goodreads reviews for the remaining books (which I had planned to read, eventually), I discovered that yes, indeed, they do hook up. Most readers felt that this first book was the best. So I will not be reading any more. I enjoyed the what-I-thought-was-purely-platonic friendship between the older Holmes and the young Russell. The fact that the author felt it necessary to get the two detective partners romantically involved made me lose interest.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous BreakthroughWomen on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough, by Ruth Pennebaker, gets the monthly award for the book I gave up on. One star. Stopped at page 100 because I found the characters to be completely annoying and implausible. Blech.

A Dead Hand: A Crime in CalcuttaA Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta, by Paul Theroux, gets only two stars as well. The one thing I did get from this book was a new understanding of Mother Teresa...she was not the saint many people think she was. (Read my review for more information.) Theroux needs to go back to writing nonfiction.

Unclutter Your Life in One Week (Hardcover)Unclutter Your Life in One Week, by Erin Rooney Doland: I didn't give this one a star rating, but I had to, I'd probably go with two or three. It had some good recommendations, but much of what she had to say I'd read before...and I found the proposition of uncluttering your life in one week to be very difficult to get around!

It Takes a Worried ManIt Takes a Worried Man, by Brendan Halpin. Best nonfiction of the month: four stars. It's a touching, poignant memoir of a man whose wife is being treated for Stage 4 breast cancer--at a shockingly young age. Read only if you can handle sad endings.

 The Wedding Officer: A Novel (Bantam Discovery)The Wedding Officer, by Anthony Capella, wins for best novel of the month. James Gould is a British officer sent to Italy during World War II to keep the British soldiers from marrying Italian women. It was great historical fiction about occupied Italy and Naples, in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. Four stars.

Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand TourEverything Is Going to Be Great, by Rachel Shukert. This is the book I should have given up on at page 100, but I plodded on through and then regretted it (two stars). Well, at least I learned about a racist Dutch holiday tradition (read review for more info). But I had to wade through a lot of narcissism to get any kind of educational benefit out of it. Travel memoir it wasn't; it was more like a sex/alcohol/hedonist 20something tour of a few cities. And it was supposed to be funny.

Looking back on February's selection, I realize that I need to be more selective in what I'm picking up! Or give up much more quickly, as Nancy Pearl recommends.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

ABCs of me

My friend Kristin (we were in college together--we were fellow English majors and also lived in the same dorm--she's also the one who was persecuted with me for being a Democrat!) posted this on her blog, and I cannot resist a good quiz. So here goes!

A-Age: 46. Kristin said that she was the oldest person she'd seen participating, but I have her beat (because she's 45).

B-Bed size: Full. We have my grandparents' bedframe. I think when we purchase a new bed, we might upgrade to a queen.
C-Chore I hate: Taking out the garbage. I was traumatized when I was in college, living off-campus, and a garbage bag broke--and I saw a chicken bone covered in maggots. Yes, we were college students. I suppose it had been awhile since the garbage had been emptied!!! (Mike does this chore--thank you, sweetheart!) I also dislike cleaning plates that have been stained with runny egg yolks, and also dumping out stagnant water in the sink. Blech!

D-Dogs: I'm not really a dog person.
E-Essential start to the day: Taking a shower. People who have lived with me--from my dorm mates to my current family--know that I'm not very coherent before taking a shower. And not very friendly. :)
F-Favorite colors: Jewel tones: blue, green, purple.
G-Gold or silver: Silver

H-Height: 5 feet even
I-Instrument I play: Guitar, mandolin, violin and cello (long ago)

J-Job title: Writer/editor, proposal manager, communications manager, staffing manager (yes, I have to be very organized at work...)
K-Kids: Three entertaining boys!
L-Live: Portland, Oregon
M-Mother's name: Shirley

N-Nickname: In junior high, I was "Babyburger" (from the A&W burger family). Now I have a coworker who calls me "GG." I like it! I call her "CC."
O-Overnight hospital stays: Multiple, since birth. I was born with a cleft  lip and palate, so I had multiple surgeries from childhood on, including a couple of jaw surgeries. As an adult, I've had three three 3-night hospital stays each.
P-Pet peeve: Flakey people--who commit to something and don't follow through. Plus people who are disrespectful to others.  I could give you a truckload of grammatical pet peeves, but we don't want to go there. :)
Q-Quote from a movie: Drawing a blank here. I'll go with this one, from "Sense and Sensibility"--Edward, saying to Elinor: "My heart is, and always will be, yours."

R-Right or left handed? Right.

S-Sibling: A younger sister and younger brother
T-Time you wake up: around 7:00, if I'm lucky...if I"m not woken up by the kids, I could sleep until 8:00.
U-Underwear: Yes.
V-Vegetable you dislike: Raw red onions. I would usually say brussels sprouts and beets, but I like both of those if they are prepared in certain ways. Raw red onions, no thank you...this can be a problem, because they are VERY trendy.

W-What makes you run late? Kids. And thinking I can get someplace sooner than I actually can.
X-rays I've had: I've never had a broken bone, but I've had all sorts of ultrasounds and hysterosalpincograms (and such) done.

Y-Yummy food you make: I think I'm a pretty good cook--two of my specialties are spicy chicken mulligatawny and banana cake (from a recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook)
Z-Zoo favorite animal: Sea otters (not in every zoo, but they are in the Oregon Zoo!)

So there you go, all about me, alphabetically! Now it's your turn!

For the GOP, "pro-life" only applies to "pre-birth"

One thing I do admire about Roman Catholic teachings is the consistency on the matter of life. The Catholic doctrine is clear on that matter: life begins at conception, and only God can tamper with it or disrupt it until a natural death. Hence, the Vatican forbids abortion, birth control, all forms of reproductive technology, death with dignity (assisted suicide), and the death penalty. I know many Catholics who dedicate their lives to peace and justice on the basis of their faith. (Here I'm speaking of individual Catholics, not of the Vatican, which I believe ignores the plight of the poor in the world by refusing to endorse population control and the rights of women.) Sometimes they promote peace during times of war, but they have been less consistent on that front (such as in WWII or the Vietnam War). Generally, though, they are more consistent than the Republican party and right-wing conservative Christians.

These people believe that abortion is evil and must be prevented at all costs (even to the extent of saying that women who miscarry have not brought it upon themselves!)...and they defend this by saying they are "pro life." If they were really "pro life," wouldn't they support abortion to save the life of the mother? Or support policies that are pro-child and pro-family? Support health care for all children? Work for peace and against war? Fight against the death penalty? I've often laughed (sadly) at the hypocrisy of Republicans and right-wingers calling themselves "pro life."

Now Charles Blow has an excellent article in the New York Times titled "The G.O.P.'s Abandoned Babies." He tackles this hypocrisy, particularly calling out the threats to children and infant mortality posed by the House of Representatives' proposed budget and policies. He writes specifically about the plight of premature babies. Thanks to the March of Dimes, an organization that our family and friends have supported in the past 12 years by sponsoring us in the Walk for Babies, the rate of premature birth has finally been reversed after a steady climb. The International Monetary Fund lists the U.S. at the top of 33 countries for infant mortality in the world's most advanced economies.

As Blow writes, according to the March of Dimes, its success in preventing premature birth is at serious risk because of the Republicans' policies and spending cuts. I encourage you to read the article for details. He closes by commenting:
"It is savagely immoral and profoundly inconsistent to insist that women endure unwanted — and in some cases dangerous — pregnancies for the sake of 'unborn children,' then eliminate financing designed to prevent those children from being delivered prematurely, rendering them the most fragile and vulnerable of newborns. How is this humane?
And it doesn’t even make economic sense. A 2006 study by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies estimated that premature births cost the country at least $26 billion a year. At that rate, reducing the number of premature births by just 10 percent would save thousands of babies and $2.6 billion — more than the proposed cuts to the programs listed, programs that also provide a wide variety of other services."
Amen! Because if you're going to be pro life, at least support all forms of life...not just unborn babies.

Breast milk ice cream?

An ice cream shop in London is now selling ice cream made from human breast milk (the Baby Gaga!), for a mere 15 pounds per scoop. It's interesting to note how breast milk for adults is such a horrible taboo...especially given the fact that people are completely comfortable drinking COW breast milk. Our bodies are probably better suited for human breast milk; in fact, some scientists believe that it has the potential to cure cancer and other diseases.

Who knows? What's now a taboo could become a precious commodity in the future!

Friday, February 25, 2011

This young woman has her life all planned out...

A young feminist in the making! I wish I had been that self-assured at the age of 5! I hope she retains her self-confidence through adolescence.

Dear Bobby Franklin, women who miscarry are victims, not murderers!

Georgia State Representative Bobby Franklin has sponsored a bill requiring women who miscarry to file police ensure that they have not purposely killed their own babies.

This man and idea are so loathsome I can barely write about it.

As someone who experienced four miscarriages between 1999 and 2002, I know all too well how agonizing and heartbreaking the experience can be. Women are already prone to blaming themselves when they miscarry. If they are not concerned that they have done something to bring on the miscarriage, they often feel that their bodies have let them down in some way. Women who experience miscarriages, premature babies, or infertility often feel damaged in some way, for their bodies are unable to carry a baby to term. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and suffering that this kind of bill would incur for the women who would have to comply.

Over on Feministe, Jill recommends the great idea proposed by Devery Doleman that we send actual photographic documentation of our menstrual periods to Dear Bobby Franklin...on the basis of the fact that 50 percent of fertilized eggs do not implant and are flushed out of the body...a natural miscarriage of sorts, unless you are Bobby Franklin. She posts a form letter for our use, with such pearls as this: "I am personally concerned that my own murdering woman-body may have flushed out some human beings, and I may have flushed them down the toilet without knowing that I was disposing of Georgia citizens in such an undignified way."

How do you think Mr. Franklin will react when he receives mail bags full of photos of used tampons and sanitary napkins? However he reacts, it will be nowhere near the grief and distress felt by women, every day, who lose their babies through no fault of their own. Franklin wants to blame the victim and turn them into criminals. Let's bombard him with the evidence of our lost babies (our menstrual periods).

What the bible really says about sex

As this interesting article in the Daily Beast notes, two new books by university scholars take on the bible's teachings on sex. Although literalists claim that the bible is extremely precise about sexuality (banned outside of marriage and between same sexes) and marriage, the authors prove that this is not the case at all. Apparently sex is often hidden in the bible and described in code (for example, "feet" are sometimes used to refer to genitals).

I've been attending a women's study group called "Bras, Bibles, and and Brew," and we've been poring over the stories of women in the bible (so far in the Old Testament). As we've discussed, women are treated like chattel in the bible, with very few rights. And as these books confirm, traditional marriage does not exist in the bible. Polygamy, incest, and prostitution (in the form of fathers giving away or selling their daughters) are more the norm.

"The Bible contains a “pervasive patriarchal bias,” author Michael Coogan writes. Better to elide the specifics and read the Bible for its teachings on love, compassion, and forgiveness. Taken as a whole, “the Bible can be understood as the record of the beginning of a continuous movement toward the goal of full freedom and equality for all persons.”

The bible constantly contradicts itself and has been used to justify slavery, genocide, war, wife and child abuse, kidnapping, racism, and polygamy. In the few stories about women in the bible, many of them are flat-out depressing. Especially for his time, Jesus was a feminist. Even though the bible was written by men, one can't help but fail to see his compassion for women and belief that they were whole persons, worthy of respect and love. He appreciated their intelligence. I would wager that he had female apostles, too, but the male writers of the bible did not include them.
I know I'm an unconventional Christian in that I take some things out of the bible and leave others. Truth be told, I have a lot of challenges with the bible. As a high schooler, I used to edit the bible with a purple felt pen...just cross out the parts I hated. Perhaps that's the best way to read the bible after all.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Beware: nearly scammed on Facebook

Last night I received an instant message from a former coworker (from Anchorage) on Facebook. I hadn't heard from her in a few years except for occasional comments on my Facebook posts. The message said that she was in London and dealing with a lot of "crap." Then the story went that she had been mugged at gunpoint and the thieves stole all her credit cards and cell phone, etc., and she couldn't pay her hotel bill...and their flight was leaving in a couple of hours.

While this tale was being spun, I got another instant message from another Alaska coworker, who told me that she'd received a similar story from Denise. That's when it all started smelling incredibly fishy. Then the person asked if I would help "her." I freaked out and immediately shut down Facebook. When I got back on to look at the person's wall, I saw that it had been wiped clean. And there was another message saying "are you there? I really need your help." I then reported the profile to Facebook and blocked it.

When I did some internet research, I discovered that this is a very common scam. Apparently the scammers wipe the real person's wall clean so that no one can post a warning on it. Right after all this happened, my computer got attacked by an anti-virus virus--essentially it's a Trojan virus that takes over your computer and keeps saying your computer is infected and you must buy software to wipe it clean. By this morning, none of my programs worked. Thank God for IT departments! I'm not sure if the two incidences are connected, or if it's from another stupid Facebook virus I got yesterday.

Here's what you need to do to protect yourself on Facebook (or elsewhere online):
  • Go into account settings and change your Facebook account to an https setting (Account Security). This makes your account much harder to hack.
  • If you hear a sob story from one of your friends via e-mail or chat, do not do anything unless you talk to that person on the phone. Ask lots of questions!
  • Report the problem to Facebook immediately.
  • If you get a virus, change your password and delete all the virus alerts off your friends' walls.
  • Do not play silly Facebook games! Those games open your account to the public--you lose all your privacy.
  • And for heaven's sake, do not click on anything that sounds too good to be true. (I'm constantly lecturing Chris on this issue...but guess how I got the Facebook virus yesterday...stupidly clicked on something about Southwest Airlines giving away airline tickets. Live and learn from my mistake!!)
I called my former coworker last night and she returned the call today. She was in Alaska, safe and sound, although a bit freaked out by having her Facebook account hacked. Her husband's relatives in Croatia cottoned onto the scheme because her husband's English was too good to be believed. Another friend questioned how they would get on an airplane without her purse.

You may wonder why I'm still on Facebook...well, it's to stay in touch with people (like former coworkers or childhood friends) who have passed in and out of my life and who no longer live near me. It's to be able to get to know my coworkers a little better. I love staying in close touch with my cousins (and Mike's cousins) around the country and around the world. Last night's scam freaked me out a little, but it's a good lesson to be extra careful.

Why milk might not be that great for women

Those of us who grew up on the USDA food pyramid learned that dairy products were an essential part of everyone's diet, right? In my family, my brother and I LOVED to drink milk, while my sister turned her nose up at it. Now she's lactose intolerant; I wonder if her tastebuds were trying to tell her something back then.

I don't drink cold milk very often nowadays...unless I'm eating a brownie or chocolate chip cookie. Typically I drink milk in my coffee or tea, or occasionally I have steamed milk with vanilla or almond extract. Beyond these drinks and eating it on my cereal, I also like plain yogurt with fruit. So I'm probably drinking the equivalent of 1 to 2 cups a day, like the average American.

According to this article in More, experts are now questioning the value of dairy products for women...because of the hormone levels they tend to carry. Several kinds of non-organic milk have 11 different types of estrogen, which can contribute to breast and ovarian cancers. The article says that dairy products are the main source of estrogen in our food (60 to 70 percent). Cows have an extraordinarily high amount of estrogen because they are milked 9 out of 10 months per year and loaded with the high hormones of pregnancy.

More also provides some options for safer dairy choices, including a switch to organic milk (which doesn't contain recombinant bovine somatotropin, a synthetic growth hormone). We switched to organic milk when Chris was a baby, after a friend told me about hormones in milk could lead to earlier puberty in girls. So we're already covered on that front. Bottom line is that if you are consuming a great deal of non-organic dairy products, it's well worth considering a switch to organic, sheep, or goat's milk.

Republicans now taking aim at children

With recent scares about high levels of lead in children's products from China, or the prevalence of cancer-causing BPA in baby bottles and teething toys, the Republicans in congress are now taking aim at the organization designed to protect our most vulnerable. I'm sure the USDA and Food and Drug Administration will be next on the chopping block...why take precautions to protect the nation's food sources?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Kristen Schaal on abortion funding

Here's another great Kristen Schaal video...this time with her creative ideas on getting rid of abortion funding.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thanks to Lady Gaga, now we can go back to shopping at Target!

In a new deal, Lady Gaga has not only gotten Target to stop giving money to anti-gay groups, but she's also gotten them to commit to supporting LGBT advocacy groups. Go, Gaga!!
“That discussion was one of the most intense conversations I’ve ever had in a business meeting,” Lady Gaga said. “Part of my deal with Target is that they have to start affiliating themselves with LGBT charity groups and begin to reform and make amends for the mistakes they’ve made in the past … our relationship is hinged upon their reform in the company to support the gay community and to redeem the mistakes they’ve made supporting those [antigay] groups.”

I'm sure my family will all be relieved they can return to the store with the red bullseye without any guilt from me.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Elvis' pelvis

Last Friday when I was singing with Kieran's second-grade class, we did the song "Down by the Bay." Perhaps naively, I allowed the kids to throw out suggestions for verses (you know..."have you ever seen a bat kissing a rat" sort of thing).

Some of them didn't quite get the rhyming thing, or the subject-verb-object thing (have you ever seen a telephone being a telephone, etc.)...but one verse definitely stood out.

One little girl offered "have you ever seen Elvis patting his pelvis?" The teacher and I both looked at each other, surprised, but we went ahead and sang it. I figured it was easier to just plow through than explain why we couldn't sing it. (Of course, shaking his pelvis or thrusting his pelvis would have been more appropro!)

Mike saw the mom of this little girl at a birthday party on Sunday, and he shared this anecdote with her. Apparently she knew that the pelvis was a part of the body, but she didn't really know what it was. The mom suggested that maybe next time she shouldn't use words if she is not sure of their meaning. Tactful approach; wise mom.

At dinner this evening Kieran informed us that this little girl likes to kiss him on the mouth (and slug him), much to his disgust (the kissing part). So maybe she is wiser than she lets on!

It certainly made for an unforgettable morning at the elementary school. And next time we sing the song, we will use verses we've vetted in advance.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Movie review: Starter for 10

Starter for 10Last night we watched this British independent film, "Starter for 10." It's about a young man, Brian, who leaves his working-class roots behind him in Essex to start university at Bristol. He's always been fascinated by the quiz show "University Challenge" and general knowledge (trivia). He tries out for a place on the university team and scores a spot (after one of the main team members gets hit by a bus).

In Brian's freshman year, he struggles in maintaining his friendships with his childhood friends (who seem to have not moved beyond their childhood) and falls for his buxom blonde teammate, Alice, who is nice enough but shallow (even though she's on the quiz team). Also featuring in his life is Rebecca, the much more grounded and intelligent student activist. It's a typical romantic comedy in the sense that you know who he will be with at the end, once he wises up.

In other ways, the film is unpredictable (no spoilers though). We didn't expect the University Challenge show to end the way it did. Brian makes a series of stupid mistakes and grows up a lot during his first year at university.

James McAvoy ("The Last King of Scotland" and "Atonement") was excellent as Brian--he is the male Meryl Streep, given how he disguises his very broad Scottish accent.

Based on a novel, the film brings the mid-1980s to life in its music, clothing style, and college culture. As both of us were in university during that time period (me at PLU and Mike pursuing his M.Phil at Oxford), we enjoyed the trip down memory lane.

Muslim pioneer Daisy Khan

You might not know who Daisy Khan is, unless you have been following the New York City Muslim community center controversy very closely. Khan is the woman behind the proposal...her vision is to promote moderate Islam and build bridges with other religions. '

In its February edition, More magazine published an insightful and balanced article on Khan. She is not always perceived in the way she intends, and it appears that she is approaching this situation in a rather naive manner. She professed shock when Americans reacted so negatively to the proposal to build a Muslim-run community center (not actually a mosque) just two blocks from Ground Zero. Since the article was published, the project's developer announced his intention to work with another imam (not Khan's husband) as the center's senior advisor (although he is still on the board).

Whatever you think of Daisy Khan, you cannot deny her courage and conviction to work toward moderate Islam in the world. The world also needs brave people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Somali-born writer and activist who writes about the devastation of Islam on her life and others throughout the world. (Khan and Ali nearly came to blows on television.) The world needs more people like her. To stand brave in the face of resistance (and yes, prejudice) from much of the American public requires faith, strength, and guts. If everyone worked toward understanding and moderation among the world's religions, I do believe the world would be a better place.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How cool is this?

I'll bet Maya Angelou never would have imagined in her 82 years that she would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from an African-American president.

Here she is, reflecting on the fight for civil rights and the fact that she never gave up hope:

I'm famous!

Trader Joe's shopping tips

I know many of my readers are Trader Joe's fans like I am, so I thought you'd be interested in these Trader Joe's shopping tips.

This is what we tend to buy at TJ's:
  • Flowers
  • Tortillas
  • Ginger-almond granola
  • Oatmeal (although bulk at Fred Meyer is cheaper)
  • Tea
  • Coffee, sometimes
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Sauces: soy, curry, etc.
  • Chutney
  • Tuna
  • Indian lunches (chicken tikka masala)
  • Chicken breasts
  • Pizza (for the kids)
  • Cheese
  • Wine
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Soup
  • Canned vegetables
  • Rice
  • Smart balance
  • Pasta sauce
  • Brown rice pasta
  • Free trade chocolate
  • Fondue (over the holidays)
  • Greeting cards
  • Tortilla chips
  • Black bean dip
I'm also partial to their mango and sticky rice dessert, mochi ice cream, and other desserts, although we don't buy them too regularly. They also have some amazing chocolate-filled croissants in the frozen food section--just thaw them and let rise overnight and bake in the morning. The Jo-Jos are awesome, too. How about you?

Japanese women fight to keep their "maiden" names

As many of you know, when I got married at the age of 25, I didn't even think twice about whether I would keep my own name. Not that I was particularly attached to it, but I saw no reason why I should change mine if Mike were not changing his. I told him that I'd only hyphenate if he did it too. Then on his 40th birthday, right before Kieran was born, he shocked me by announcing that he wanted to hyphenate our names. (Of course, this took me some getting used to because our two G names together are a bit of a mouthful!) But I couldn't turn back after all that! We went to court to change our names and get a hyphen added to combine Chris' two last names.

I've noticed fewer American and British women keeping their names when they get married, to my dismay. Apparently, 71 percent of Americans believe that a woman should change her name when she gets married, and 50 percent believe it should be a legal requirement! As the article linked above cited, many women feel that they can be just as much of a feminist with their husband's name as without it. I suppose it is a reflection of the way American feminism is changing with the times--women are choosing to retain some of these long traditions. I have to admit that it's hard to defend keeping one's maiden name as a feminist badge when it's passed down from the father--it's not exactly an assertion of total independence. Probably the most equitable option is to form a new name, although then one gives up the lineage of the name.

Now some Japanese women (and one man) have filed a suit challenging a law that makes it illegal for them to keep their name upon marriage. When I lived in Japan, I knew a woman who married her long-time boyfriend, and he took her name when they married. They are the only couple I know who had the man take the woman's name. I imagine that the percentage of Japanese people who believe women should take their husband's name is vastly higher than it is in the U.S., although 37 percent of Japanese support the revision of this civil code. Even though it's been over 20 years since we left Japan, I find it hard to believe that women's status has changed very dramatically in that time period. I hope the suit succeeds, so Japanese women have a choice in the future!

Friday, February 18, 2011

You give Christians a bad name

Do you remember reading about the woman who allowed (and encouraged) her son to dress up as Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween? Her son attended a Christian preschool at the time, and the moms at the preschool expressed horror that she had allowed him to dress up like a girl. Hence her tongue-in-cheek blog post title, "My son is gay."

Well, she's written an epilogue to her story. Although she did not name the moms or the church (or even her hometown), the pastor at the church has been bullying her to take down the post or apologize to the moms who she "bear false witness against." And that she should stop "promoting gayness."

In short, first the son was bullied (by the moms, not the children), and now the mom is being bullied--by the pastor and the church community.

No wonder gays and lesbians (or people who love them) do not feel welcomed or accepted in most churches.

It's stories and people like this that make me feel embarrassed to even say that I'm a Christian. I do not want to have anything to do with "Christians" like this. And I think she should publicize the name of the church and the pastor. Bear some true witness, sister.

Children's theater in February

Diary of a Worm, a Spider, and a Fly

Last Friday I accompanied Kieran's second-grade class to see "Diary of a Worm, a Spider, and a Fly" at Oregon Children's Theater (OCT). Often I've preferred the lower-glitz, more down-to-earth plays at the Northwest Children's Theater (NWCT), so I wasn't sure what to expect. OCT plays tend to be shorter and more highly packaged for kids who don't frequent the theater as often. "Diary," for example, was 70 minutes running without an intermission.

I enjoyed the play, though, and its way of educating kids about bugs in a fun, musical, and whimsical way. The set was made of recycled materials. The actors were highly talented (the kid who played "Ant" was Gavroche in the amazing Jesuit High School rendition of "Les Miserables"), but my favorite was "Fly," played by the delightful Lea Zawada. (She played the lead role in "Pinocchio" at NWCT.)

The music was upbeat (and in a rap style) and designed to appeal to lower elementary school kids. I especially liked the "timeout" song: "Timeout! It's jail for kids!" (it starts around 2:20 in this video):

Robin Hood

This evening I took Kieran and Nick to see "Robin Hood" at NWCT while Mike took Chris to see "Urinetown" at Wilson High School (which they both enjoyed very much). NWCT's world premiere of this new version of Robin Hood was comic and updated. Kieran pronounced it to be one of the best plays he's seen in a long time. I enjoyed it, but I definitely preferred "Annie." I think he liked all the swordplay and archery! Nick's favorite character was Will Scarlet, played by my favorite, John Ellingson (who is in most NWCT plays), because he wore Nick's favorite color.

The set was far more spare and simple than OCT's, but the kids didn't mind that. NWCT's shows seem to allow more opportunities for young actors to shine--their casts tend to be larger than OCT's.

The show was recommended for age 6 and up, and Nick appeared to be the youngest one in the audience. I think as our children grow up, our family's love of theater is only increasing. Chris auditioned for his middle school spring musical this afternoon, and Kieran is DESPERATE to audition for a play. We are going to sign him up for a broadway dance class at OCT in the spring--even though he's taking an after-school drama class right now, this will be his first real "official" acting class (at a real theater). A star is soon to be born.

Robin Hood is in the house

And Nick Hood is stocking his bow with scissors and screwdrivers! I'm sure after we see "Robin Hood" tonight at Northwest Children's Theater, we'll have more of these creative attacks!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The DAAP Michele goes after the smart Michelle

Rep. Michele Bachmann, otherwise known as DAAP, has now decided to shoot directly at the breasts. Even though she admits that she breastfed all five of her children (for 2 weeks, perhaps?), she is attacking Michelle Obama for trying to remove barriers to breastfeeding...such as providing tax breaks for moms who purchase breast pumps. She accuses Obama of trying to create "a nanny state" (perhaps because breast pumps allow women to go back to work after they have children...and promoting the use of breast pumps would allow women to be independent and have a she does???).

And how does a tax break translate to "government going out and buying a breast pump"???

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My celebrity lookalike on rape victim abortion funding

Love her. She's an amazing straight woman to Jon Stewart.


Kieran (aka Perseus) has been invited to a birthday party for Athena (aka, his friend Kayra) on Saturday. In anticipation of the great event, Kieran spent his allowance (plus arrears) on a Perseus costume. It arrived today, along with the gift he chose for Athena. WeGlow International Snake Charmer Head Band (each)

Because he's a consummate planner, he's already wrapped up the present and decorated it with ribbons, the cutout of the costume package, and his beautiful handmade card:
Perseus with his present for Athena

In a very manly pose!
I can't wait to hear about the party! I'm sure they'll be the only ones in costume.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A nanny, a stammering king, and a cheesy romance

All of these delightful movies feature Brits--maybe that's why I enjoyed them!
Nanny McPhee ReturnsNanny McPhee Returns
Last week Chris attended an evening event at school, so the rest of us had a family movie night and watched "Nanny McPhee Returns." First of all, Emma Thompson is one of those actors who I would watch reading the phone book. She's one of my all-time favorite actors, and she's marvelous as always in her reprise of the magical, unpleasant-looking Nanny McPhee. This time Nanny arrives at a farm in the country at the home of a mom and her three children whose father is away fighting in a war. (The film is set in an undistinguishable time period, although Britain is at war. At times it seems like the 1940s, while at other times it seems like the modern day.) The children's snobby, rude cousins have arrived because their parents have sent them away...and the five children are fighting and being horrible to each other. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays the very English mom, and her accent is fantastic! In one scene, in which a girl is defusing a bomb, Nick said "How can a kid save the day?"

Because I'm a sap, I was pleased with the happy ending. We all enjoyed it.

The King's SpeechThe King's Speech
We thought we were the last people in our circle to see this film, but apparently not. Everyone I know has loved this movie, including one friend who HATES movies. I wasn't sure if it would live up to the hype, but it did. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush were brilliant, and I was relieved to see the wonderful Helena Bonham Carter in a more normal role for a change (apparently she filmed "The King's Speech" on the weekends while she was portraying Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter films during the week! And I will never forget her bloody role in "Sweeney Todd"!).

Not only did it sensitively and gently depict the story of a man who had been bullied as a child (by nanny, brother, and father) and developed a stutter as a result, but it also told a sweet story of friendship between two very different, fascinating men. British actor Michael Palin (Monty Python) writes his own thoughts about this movie and his experience of having a father with a stammer. Highly recommended!

Letters to JulietLetters to Juliet
So it was cheesy and predictable, but it was also romantic and scenic. "Letters to Juliet" is about an American woman (Sophie, a fact checker for the New Yorker) who goes to Verona, Italy, on a "pre-honeymoon" with her work-obsessed chef fiancee. While there she discovers that women leave letters on "Juliet's wall" and a quartet of women respond to the letters on behalf of Juliet. She then discovers a letter that had been left there 50 years ago by a woman who was in love with an Italian man but decides to leave him behind to return to the UK. Sophie takes it upon herself to write back to Claire.

Then Claire arrives in Verona with her decidedly grumpy (and handsome) grandson, Charlie, to look for the man she left behind 50 years ago. Sophie, neglected by her fiancee, invites herself along. They journey all around Siena trying to find the man. Yes, I could guess what was going to happen...but it's ITALY (Tuscany)! And I can never resist a movie with an American woman and British man who fall in love, ever since we saw "A Fish Called Wanda" in Japan in the late '80s and Mike and I were the only ones laughing at all the jokes. I still recall the scene where John Cleese is speaking in another language (can't remember which one) to Jamie Lee Curtis, and she finds it be incredibly erotic...even though he's superbly clumsy at the same time. Must watch that movie again!

So if you want a completely predictable but romantic movie, check it out. Vanessa Redgrave continues to be her lovely self, and in many ways this movie reminded me of "Mamma Mia" (Mediterranean setting, Amanda Seyfried playing a young woman named Sophie). Perfect for Valentine's Day!

Crafty Valentine's Day

Mike and I celebrated Valentine's Day a little early on Saturday. My parents took the kids overnight (SO grateful to have grandparents in town!!) and we went to see "The King's Speech" at last. (I will post my thoughts on the movie later on.) Then we joined some friends for a wonderful dinner and adult conversation...lovely!

On Sunday afternoon I had some friends over to make valentine cards. As I was pulling out my craft supplies, I realized I have a serious paper addiction and I really should never buy a greeting card again. (As my mom commented, I've ALWAYS had a paper addiction...I used to collect stationery as a child and I was a prolific letter writer.) I love making handmade cards, and I don't do it nearly often enough. I also don't send enough cards to my friends and family. I find it sad that handwritten notes and letters are going out of fashion, because I do love to receive them myself.

After everyone had left, Kieran and Nicholas had fun making a few of their own valentines--for me, Mike, and Chris. So sweet!

My little crafty boys
Some of their creations

A birthday card Kieran made for his friend Kayra, who is another
Greek mythology nut--that mountain is Mt. Olympus!
Valentine's decoration Nick made at church
Last night I came home to this beautiful table--Kieran helped Mike decorate
Kieran announced he was going to get "gussied up" for dinner!
We had a lovely Valentine's Day meal and evening! I felt very blessed to be surrounded by four loving males. While on the topic of Valentine's Day, I thought I'd post this sweet little interview of a couple who have been married for 74 years. If Mike and I last that long, I will be 99!!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ever wanted to be like Murphy Brown and put the idiots in their place?

I was a huge Murphy Brown fan...I always wished I could come up with a bold, snappy response to people's stupid comments. Of course, she wasn't particularly nice to people at times...she didn't suffer fools gladly. But what I admired most was her speed. (Yes of course she wasn't a real person, but we all know people who have this ability.)

If you enjoy that kind of snappy retort, you need to read this clever e-mail exchange between a homophobic redneck and a blogger: "I have read your website and it is obvious that your a foggot." Yes, the writer makes some broad generalizations about working class, uneducated sorts  (ever notice that the worst kind of insults hurled on the internet involve horrific grammar and spelling?)...but the foggot-name caller was asking for it. Again and again and again.

This one made me laugh out loud. And admire the writer's wit and way with words.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Did you know you are supporting child slavery with that cheap chocolate?

As I wrote about before last year's Valentine's Day, most of the abundant chocolate we consume in the developed world is produced on the backs of child slaves.

And no, the problem was not solved in the past year. It has not improved since then either. What dismayed me last year, and continues to distress me, is how little information is out there in the popular media...and I consider myself to be a well-read person. If you internet-search slavery and chocolate you'll find a bunch of hits, like this article in the Huffington Post...but most people still are unaware of what's going on.

I only buy free trade chocolate now. Yes, it's more expensive, but high-quality chocolate tastes so much better! I'm still waiting for free trade chocolate chips though!!

Want to know how various chocolate companies score? Check out the chart below.

Won't you join me in refusing to buy mass-produced, slavery-supported chocolate? We've got to spread the word and take a stand!

Why women's fitness magazines are really not much better than fashion magazines... has an excellent analysis of three popular women's fitness magazines: Self, Fitness, and Women's Health. I've never read any of these magazines, although I've picked up a copy occasionally in a waiting room.

According to the article, "weight loss as the goal of fitness and calorie counting as a requirement of eating was mentioned and repeated and harped upon on over 100 pages. The second most popular topic featured in women's fitness magazines? Makeup and beauty products, which take up 60 pages of the publications. We also are taken on a delightful journey through clothing, accessories, and jewelry, because nothing says "health" like having a nice healthy watch by Tag Heuer or a cancer-fighting Kate Spade bag."

Because the #1 goal for every woman is to lose weight, not be healthy and strong, right? And look beautiful while we are losing weight! If not, life is not worth living!

Just a few of the stupid things the Republicans are doing...

Slashing EPA's budget by $1.6 billion, yet preserving $4 BILLION in oil subsidies! Yes, you can tell what they believe is truly important. BIG OIL.

Considering Donald Trump as a viable candidate for 2012 presidential race. Not sure which one would be worse (or better for the Dems): Trump or Palin?

Posing without a shirt on Craiglist (although he's a married man).

Attacking women's health and fighting against family planning. "This legislation is really about whether the role of America's government is to continue to fund a practice that takes the lives of over one million little Americans every year."—Republican Representative Trent Franks of Arizona, who also chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee overseeing the legislation

Trying to persuade people that taxes on soda pop are going to cripple American working families. Oh please. If you are having troubles paying the food bill, DRINK WATER!

Proposing all sorts of cuts that will hurt Americans (and those overseas) on every level, including cuts to domestic violence prevention programs.

Wanting to rename rape victims as "accusers."

Considering all manner of buffoons as possible presidential candidates.

So now I'm completely depressed.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

For the love of affectionate boys

Nick in Florida last summer
Although some people disapprove, our boys have often ended up in our beds at one point or another. Both Kieran and Nicholas slept in our beds as infants, as I nursed them through the night. All of the boys have gone through stages when they have ended up in our bed in the morning for a snuggle. (Nick is going through a nightmare stage, so he comes barreling down the stairs in the middle of the night and slips into a sleeping bag on our bedroom floor.) This morning, as Nick climbed into bed with me (while Mike was getting Kieran ready for school), I realized how fleeting this experience would be. He has a year and a half left of part-time preschool, and then he'll be off to kindergarten every day, bright and early in the morning. For the last 14 years, I have had a boy to snuggle with, nonstop.

I realize we are extremely lucky because our boys all continue to be affectionate. Chris and Kieran often come up and give me hugs or tell me they love me. They seem genuinely glad to see me when I come home. Kids get more angular when they get older and lose their baby softness. As they grow up and become more independent, they seem less likely to reach out for affection...even the affectionate ones.

Me and Kieran at the "Rain" performance, January 2010
Family dinner at Marco's
I hope I never take my children's affection for granted. I also don't push it...when I drop Chris off at stage band rehearsal at school two mornings a week, I do not expect a goodbye hug or kiss! Just not cool at school, you know? I can handle that.

Nick tells me that he doesn't like kisses because he doesn't like getting wet. So I kiss him on the top of his head. If my kids ever get tired of sloppy affection, I can always inflict it on my three sweet little nephews, who are just as affectionate as my kids!

Kieran and Garrett, Vancouver, BC (August 2010)

Kieran, Daniel, Nick, and Ryan (Vancouver, BC, August 2010)

Mother's Day 2010

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why Ronald Reagan was not the great American president

I know I'm preaching to the choir, but here's the first reason:

And here are five myths about Reagan's presidency, debunked.
I am proud to say that I never voted for Reagan (I know that a lot of Democrats were suckered into supporting him, for some reason). The first presidential election I voted in, when I was at PLU, I heavily backed (and voted for) Mondale/Ferraro. I will never forget going to an extremely packed, then-newish Tacoma Dome to hear Geraldine Ferraro (I couldn't see a thing because I'm so short!). It was very exciting to be able to cast a vote for a woman on the presidential ticket my very first time! Alas, we have not been able to repeat that since 1984!!

In fact, my friend Kristin and I were such vociferous Democrats in our dorm that we were targeted by the dorm's VERY weird Young Republicans, aptly named Sid and Jim. They posted "KGB-approved" stickers on our doors and one morning I woke to a rigged door--they had put an album cover full of flour under my door so that when we opened it, flour would shoot out all over our room. It got so bad that we all had to meet with the dorm director to discuss it. It was my first (and actually, only direct) experience of right-wing repugnant harassment. All we were doing was minding our own business (and posting bumper stickers on our doors and signs in our windows). I'm sure they are neonazis now, or at the very least, Glenn Beck groupies.

I dare you to watch this and not shed a tear...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Seinfeld, recut

I'm posting these great Seinfeld recut videos in honor of my brother-in-law, David, who (in the old days of VHS) videotaped every single episode of Seinfeld in existence. I have to admit, it was a great show!

Jerry the Great:

and Kramerica:

David, I know you rarely have time to watch your old Seinfeld gems any longer, so enjoy this (very brief) walk down memory lane!

Have you ever wondered what happened to Stephen Hawking?

He's still alive and vital, after 50 years of living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the longest anyone has ever survived with the illness.

Earlier this week Hawking went to see Jane Fonda in "33 Variations," a play in which she portrays a woman with ALS.

As Jane Fonda writes on her blog:
"I asked him if he thought I acted the ALS properly in the play... Letters and numbers darted around the screen... unfathomable. 'You were...' was all we saw for quite a while. I thought (arrogance?) that maybe he was going to say, 'You were brilliant!' When at last he finished the sentence it read, 'You were my heart-throb,' and... the (computerized) voice said the words aloud.

"I about fainted and everyone broke into laughter. 'What's this 'were'?' I asked. 'What am I now, chopped liver?' And I could see he was laughing although all I saw was his face blushing and his cheek moving slightly. But I know he was laughing. 'It must have been Barbarella, right?' I asked. And he typed out 'Yes.'"
Clearly, it was a moving (and funny) interchange for both of them. She closes by saying:
"All of us went home last night–i know I did–enlivened and inspired by Stephen. If ever I am confronted with terrible physical impairment, I will remind myself of him, try to be stubborn, and not forget my sense of humor–or my heart throb(s)."

Such a fun day, not watching the Superbowl!

First, after church, I made a shrimp salad for both me and Mike. Today is the last day of South Beach, Phase 1, and boy am I ready to add grains and fruit back into my diet!! (Not to mention dark chocolate and wine!) Mike, of course, wants to stay on Phase 1 because he likes the rigid structure. Not me!

Then I went to Bargain Hunting NW at the Crystal Ballroom, Kieran in tow. It was my first time to this craft/boutique sales event, and I enjoyed it. It was fun to have Kieran along, but I felt a little bad for him because it wasn't that exciting for a 7-year-old boy. I bought him a Sprite afterward for his patience! He also scored some fingerless gloves (which he's been aching for) and a nice black hoodie. He helped me choose some fleece hats for Mike and Chris (made out of recycled soda bottles), and a Queen Bee Designs bag for myself. He also helped me choose the first one I bought, a few years ago:

QB Bag #1 (I unfortunately ripped part of it on a doorjamb last month, so I inquired whether they could repair it.
They said they could, but the minimum repair fee was $40, so I might as well buy another bag,
which were $40! I'm still hoping to patch it somehow with superglue or something--it's not that noticeable.)

This is my new one--I love it! I know it's a splurge, but $40 for a Queen Bee is a huge bargain,
and I'd pay that or more for a nice purse at Macy's that isn't nearly as pretty!
Not that I needed a new purse, but it's art! Bags are my weakness.
I also got some beautiful jewelry buys for myself and gifts. (When I had Kieran helping me by holding my purchases, the jewelry craftswoman asked Kieran if he'd like a little beaded ring. He was polite but I'm sure he was horrified! She must have thought he was a metrosexual 7-year-old!)

I will definitely be returning to the event, just like Crafty Wonderland, which I discovered last December!

After returning from our shopping spree, I picked up a grocery list and took Nicholas off with me to Fred Meyer for groceries. He had fun steering one of those little cars attached to a shopping cart (which are amazingly difficult for the adults to steer!). Nicholas informed me that his daddy told him yesterday that he got to have a donut for a treat. "Oh really?" said I. But softie mom that I am, I let him choose a donut for dessert and two for his was sweet to see how carefully he selected them for Chris and Kieran. (Nick had a chocolate cake donut, Kieran a maple bar with sprinkles, and Chris a purple sprinkly donut.)

On the way to the car, a woman commented: "You can't see this, but you have a very conscientious driver with you. That bodes well for when he's 16!"

I explained the woman's comment when we were in the car, and told Nick that he'd be able to drive when he grew up. He informed me that he was never going to grow up, because he didn't want to get a wife...he didn't want to have to kiss anyone.

Progressive parent that I am, I told him that he didn't have to ever kiss anyone or get a wife, and that he could live alone if he wanted to, or live with a friend. He liked that idea much better. He proposed either his friend Nick or his cousin Daniel.

Then he told me that he didn't want a girlfriend; he'd rather have a boyfriend. I told him that he might change his mind about the kissing thing.

At home I made grilled rock lobster for dinner with sauteed garlic asparagus and salad. (The kids had pizza.)

Chris is the only one who's watched the whole Super Bowl--Kieran and Mike have watched a bit. I did not see any of it--I have only watched it twice in my life, and it was only because we were invited to parties!