Sunday, September 30, 2012

10 things I love about autumn

This week's Monday Listicle is "10 Autumn Must-Haves." Here we go!

 1. Beautiful Portland September weather
Walking across the bridge
We have had the most spectacular weather this fall. Summer always starts late here (after July 4 is the joke), but it lingers. My father-in-law liked the notion of "St. Luke's Little Summer," which means nice days in the autumn. It's been so nice that Mike and I have both been taking advantage of it as much as we can by taking lots of walks. Last week he came into my office so we could both get flu shots, and we took a long walk downtown and across the Hawthorne Bridge. 

2. A Farmers Market
One of Nicholas' first trips to the market (2006)
We are regulars at the Portland Farmers Market, but we haven't been going as frequently this year as we usually do. We bought so much produce last Saturday that we decided not to go this weekend, as we still hadn't made our way through it all. Portland has so many great farmers markets, but we love the urban vibe of the one downtown. We've been going regularly since our children were quite little.

3. A wonderful birth month of celebrations!
My sister and me, celebrating our birthdays (2010)
My birthday is October 6, and my sister's follows close behind on October 22. My brother's girlfriend has a birthday in October, too! I've always loved the fact that my sister and I share a birth month, and I was thrilled to meet someone (now one of my close friends) who shares my birthday (we have a 10-year gap). I'm looking forward to the upcoming week (and month) of celebrations, as my family loves birthdays!

4. A Halloween parade, with kids who love Halloween!
Halloween Parade, with Kieran as Dracula (2010)
And boy, do I have kids who love Halloween. Kieran (age 9) starts planning his Halloween costume in November! Our elementary school has a great Halloween parade. This year Kieran is plotting to be Audrey 2 from Little Shop of Horrors, which I think is just a mite ambitious!!

Kieran also desperately wants to have a Halloween party, but it appears that I will be having my neurosurgery in late October, so no Halloween party this year!

5. A school carnival
With Kieran at the carnival (2009)
Well, I'm not sure that it's a must-have, but the kids would think so. Our school carnival is always held in October before Halloween, and I must admit it's not my favorite event of the year. Hordes packed into a hot gymnasium, kids running around like mad, and my kids winning all sorts of junk (more clutter!). I might be missing it this year, depending on my surgery date, and I can't say I will be upset!!

6. Fleecy pajamas
I was just commenting to my mom today about how much I love warm, fleecy pajamas! In the fall and winter when I come home from work, I change into my pajamas, much to Mike's amusement. It just doesn't seem worth it to change from my work clothes into jeans, when I can be really comfortable in fleecy warmth from top to bottom. Fortunately, I've discovered that this might be a female thing...other women in my book group have confessed to this tendency as well. And some of them even bring their slippers to book group! These are highly intelligent women who value comfort! The best thing about colder weather is wearing my comfy PJs! I love to be warm and cozy.

Family pre-Nicholas (2005) at the pumpkin patch
7. Pumpkins!
I don't think that pumpkin patches were such a huge business when I was a kid. We always carved pumpkins, but we wouldn't go out to farms where they have trains, boats, trebuchets, and other various pumpkin attractions...not to mention charging all the pumpkin tourists an arm and a leg for the pumpkin that they would get for half the price in the store! But the kids love them, so we are all game, aren't we? 

Apple Festival (2008)

8. Scarecrows
The apple festival at the Portland Nursery has a scarecrow-decorating festival every year. We haven't been for a few years, mostly because we try to buy organic apples, but the few times we have gone it's been fun. 

9. Thankfulness
In several years past, I've focused on thankfulness during November by listing some of the things I'm thankful for in my life. It's always a meaningful exercise!

10. Thanksgiving with my family
My extended family used to gather a lot more frequently than we do now, but Thanksgiving and Christmas are always great family affairs. I look forward to seeing my aunt and uncle and cousins who live in Seattle, who usually make it down only once a year, and all of my other aunts, uncles, and cousins. And we always eat really well!
Last Thanksgiving with my sister and all of my female cousins!
So much fun! (Can you guess who is the oldest?)

I hope you enjoyed my weekly list. You can check out some others at Stasha's blog

Friday, September 28, 2012

No homophobes

We all know that homophobia exists, but because of the rise of technology and social media, we now have proof of how widespread it is. Homophobic slurs have infiltrated our language so heavily that it's common for young people to fling around words such as "gay," "faggot," "fag," or "dyke," sometimes without understanding the homophobia and scorn beneath those words.

A web site produced by the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, Canada,, tracks real-time tweets and calls on people to help put an end to casual homophobia:
"Let's put an end to casual homophobia. Speak out when you see or hear homophobic or transphobic language from friends, at school, in the locker room, at work, or online. Use #NoHomophobes to show your support. And visit one of our resource websites to get more involved." 
The web site acknowledges that sometimes when people say these words, they do not mean to be homophobic (just as people throw around the "R" word). But this language promotes "the continued alienation, isolation, and--in some tragic cases--suicide of sexual and gender minority (LGBTQ) youth."

It's actually extremely depressing. The figures in the screen shot above are the number of times those words have been used today, so far, on Twitter.

I don't typically hear people using homophobic language because I work in a professional services firm and I am not typically hanging out with large groups of teenagers and young people. I must admit that I am polite and conflict-avoidant at times and don't always call out people when they use the "R" word, although I know I should. I applaud this site for bringing this to people's attention and asking us to take a stand.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Whatever you do, don't stare!

I was inspired to read today about a young Sikh woman, Balpreet Kaur, who was the subject of Internet bullying after someone snapped this photo of her in line at the Ohio State University Library and posted it on Reddit. The Reddit user captioned it "I'm not sure what to conclude from this," and soon had all sorts of comments pouring in, most not very nice.

Kaur was alerted to the furore, and she responded in a graceful, typically Sikh way. She herself posted to the forum, saying:

"Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture...If the original poster wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled :) However, I'm not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it's who I am. Yes, I'm a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. 
However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body - it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn't reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us...By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it?...So, to me, my face isn't important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. :-) ...I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I've gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this...I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone.
She also explained her turban:
Also, wearing turbans for women is a sign of inner strength and empowerment because we too are equal to Sikh men. Sikhism advocates total equality for both genders [the only difference between them are the last names] and therefore, it is okay, however rare the occurrence, for a woman to adorn herself with the turban just like her male counterparts. I encourage everyone to go and google and expand their knowledge of the sheer diversity in this nation - as will I; and gain a better understanding of each other.
I wish I had half her grace, maturity, and wisdom--no reason to get all worked up or humiliated--just calmly explain where you are coming from and don't worry about how people react to you.

And what's even more beautiful is the fact that the original poster regretted his/her insensitivity and created another post on Reddit, apologizing to Kaur.

Lizzie Velasquez with her younger sister
The Yahoo news article I read about Kaur linked to another story: "Lessons From the World's Ugliest Woman: 'Stop Staring and Start Learning.'" Lizzie Velasquez has a rare disorder: she has no adipose tissue and cannot create muscle, store energy, or gain weight. She has no body fat and weighs only 60 pounds. She too was a victim of Internet bullying; someone posted a youtube video of her, labeling it "The World's Ugliest Woman" (now removed). But instead of letting her life be ruined, Velasquez has turned this bullying on its head. Now 23 years old, she's become an author and motivational speaker and teaches people that beauty is only skin deep. She was born 4 weeks premature (at 2 pounds, 10 ounces) and was not expected to survive. Her organs are healthy, but she has to eat every 15 to 20 minutes because her body does not store the nutrients.

Lizzie is stared at CONSTANTLY, everywhere she goes, and I imagine Balpreet is as well. I can relate to this in a small way, since I had a cleft lip and have a visible scar. Even a few weeks ago, a new school-age girl in church (a foster daughter) kept turning around in her seat to stare at me. Maybe she was staring at my three boys! But I've been stared at enough to always wonder if it's me. In my life, however, I don't generally think about my scar and my slightly off-center nose. I can put it out of my mind, but these two beautiful women can never do that.

We need to teach our children (and other adults!) not to stare and to accept differences with grace, just as Balpreet did. When we were at Holden Village this summer, there was a woman with facial hair in the village...and she was staying in our lodge. My friend Shelia thought she'd better tell her daughters, in case they were alarmed if they saw her in the bathroom. When she informed them, casually, of the fact that there was a woman with a beard in the village...her daughters were completely nonplussed. "Yeah, we know, Mom..." I love that. There was no issue.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My beautiful Pacific Northwest

Check out this beautiful time-lapse photography video created by photographer John Eklund. It illustrates perfectly why I love living in this part of the world. Stunning!! More here.

The Hobbit is coming!

On Sunday afternoon we went to a party celebrating the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit and the heralded coming of the movie adaptation by Peter Jackson. Annie Bloom's, our wonderful neighborhood bookstore and gathering place, hosted the event. Kieran has been waiting for this movie for several years now--it will be an exciting holiday season, with The Hobbit as well as Les Miserables coming to the theater!
Decorating a crown

A sword fight!

They had a large illustrated version of The Hobbit and invited people to come up to read. Mike waited until everyone else was done, and then I pushed him up there!

He might have read longer if the kids hadn't been waiting to break open the Hobbit pinata!! (Pandemonium!!)

The hobbit and Gandalf
(Costumes courtesy of Kieran)
Kieran never fails to surprise me with his inventions and creative projects. He came up with that beard in a few minutes--by collecting shredded paper (from our shedder) and taping it together and to his chin.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Listicle: 10 things about my house

This week's Monday Listicle is "10 things about my house."

Living room walls' faux finish
(Chris & Kieran--2003)
1. It's messy. We're not great housekeepers. And we're not regimented enough with our kids to get them to clean up after themselves regularly. Whenever we go into a cleaning frenzy, they ask, "Who's coming over?"

2. It needs a good redecorating. When we bought the house in 1999, it was severely outdated. The first thing I did was start peeling off the wallpaper. The living room and dining room had at least five layers of wallpaper on the walls. It took me weeks, and I was scraping wallpaper in my sleep! The family room was painted ORANGE, and the upstairs hallway and bathroom was pink. We haven't repainted everything, and the rooms that we did repaint need another paint job. Unfortunately, our house is looking shabby!

Bedroom walls
 (and carpet, which needs to go!)
 (Nicholas, 2007)
3. It's eclectic and has personality (like our family). The rooms I have gotten to reflect my eclectic personality. The living room and dining room have faux finish walls, and the dining room has a teal ceiling. Our bedroom is painted a burgundy purple, which at first we didn't like but now have grown to appreciate (although it, too, is getting a paint job!). Many of the rooms have painted a form of blue, because both Mike and I like blue--it's calming and pleasant.

4. It's full of books, paper, music, and costumes. That's what happens when you put two English majors-writers together, and then add story-, music-, and theater-loving children. Most of our books are kept in our downstairs study, but we have a proliferation of paper everywhere you look. And then there are musical instruments, CDs, art supplies, and addition to Harry Potter and Indiana Jones Lego, costumes, and props. Six-year-old Nicholas recently repurposed 16-year-old Chris' old DS case into an Indiana Jones satchel. Two corners of the living room are filled with Lego creations.

Friends for dinner in the backyard
5. It has a large, wild backyard. We moved to SW Portland when Chris was three because our lovely old 1910 bungalow in SE Portland had a very small yard. Our current house is on a 1/3-acre lot, with a wild, rambling backyard with two apple trees. In our fantasies, someday after we retire we will become avid gardeners. For now it mostly grows wild (as well as the frontyard, which does not have a lawn because of the enormous trees that suck up all the nutrients).

First day of school shot
 (in the front yard)
6.  It has that old-school character.  It was built in 1938, and the garage is in the back of our backyard. In fact, you enter the garage from a different street.The kitchen has a cute little kitchen nook. One of Chris' friends recently came to visit. He lives in a huge mansion in Beaverton, but he was actually quite taken by our house. It was built in the days when every house on the street looked different! It's funky and lived-in, and 74 years old!

7. It is surrounded by trees, so it stays cool(er) in the summer. Most older Oregon homes do not have air conditioning, because it's not really that hot that many days during the summer here. Our house stays comparatively cool in the heat, and if things get really bad, we can always sleep in the basement, which stays very cool. The downside to all the trees is that it's difficult to grow anything in the front yard.

8. I regularly fantasize about what we could do with our house. If money were no object, and we had more time, our house could be so much nicer. It would help if I got organized and tackled some projects. I have so many things I would LIKE to do!

In the dining room
(you can see the mahogany window trim)
9. It's a mix of old and new, thanks to the previous owners. We learned enough about the previous owners during the sale of the house to know we wouldn't have liked them very much. They were in litigation with the neighbor, a detail they failed to disclose to us. They did weird things such as cut out a huge batch of rose bushes in the backyard (we discovered this when one of the people who lived in the house years ago stopped by to take a look)...and they left a load of rubbish in the garage for us to deal with. They were constantly arguing with the neighbor on the other side about the property boundary. They installed butt-ugly aluminum siding on the house, which I hate and we have still not done anything about, but thank God they retained the beautiful mahogany trim in the living room and dining room!

Celebrating Mom's birthday last January
10. It's full of love, energy, and laughter. Okay, so even though it's messy, outdated, and desperately in need of redecorating and's full of spirit. Our children know what's most important. Not our house, but them.

Thanks to Monday Listicles (organized by Stasha at for making me realize what I love and what needs to change about my house. Check out some more! 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Little Shop of Horrors

Last night I took Kieran out to see "Little Shop of Horrors" at the Broadway Rose Theater. For his birthday in April, we gave him a coupon book with coupons for a trip to the Dollar Tree, a trip to the candy shop, a Starbucks date, a movie night, $20 anytime, quality time with Mom and Dad (separately), and a night out at the theater. He decided to cash in the theater coupon for this show. I was delighted to accompany him! We've attended a number of kids' and teen shows at Broadway Rose, but this was our first "real," professional show.

And what a show!! I'd never seen a production of "Little Shop of Horrors," although I love the movie and enjoyed introducing the kids to it last year sometime (forgetting that line "No shit, Sherlock!" Whoops!!). Broadway Rose's production apparently is a combination of the old B-grade horror movie and the movie musical. It had several more musical numbers than the movie, and the cast was biracial. (In the movie, the girl singers are African-American, but the rest of the cast is white.) I love Steve Martin's rendition of the dentist, so it took me awhile to adjust to someone else playing that role, but I got used to it. The actor who played the dentist, Brian Demar Jones, not only played the dentist but he also played a wide variety of characters who try to offer Seymour rich-and-famous contracts. It was especially funny to hear him talking with a Jewish accent! And man, does he have amazing legs (and voice)!

I was impressed with the quality of the singing. Bobby Ryan and Rebecca Teran were perfectly cast as Seymour and Audrey, and the singing trio (Chiffon, Ronette, and Crystal) sounded great together, too. Darren Hurley as Mr. Mushnik had a surprisingly good voice, showcased in a couple of the songs.

And the most impressive? The puppet! Audrey II grew from a small plant into an enormous one that took over the stage and was operated by a puppeteer inside. Phenomenal!

The show runs until October 21...the theater is small, so there are no bad seats. We were lucky to snag the two remaining seats together for opening night. Kieran's desperate to see it again!

My date
Here's a preview video, which gives you a taste:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

One term more!

Feeling worried about the election or the news that rice has high levels of arsenic in it (we eat a lot of rice in our family, especially brown rice!) or that the arctic ice is melting at an alarming rate? That last piece of news makes me extremely worried about what kind of earth we are leaving for our children, and what will happen in developing countries that are prone to typhoons and flooding? It's very depressing and scary. Even though I wish Obama could do more (I was happy to learn about the new rules about gas economy), I shudder to think what will happen to the environment if Romney were to win the election and the Repubs were in power again.

Feeling down in the dumps, I was so glad that a Facebook friend posted this video this morning. Created by a man nameDon DeMesquita, "One Term More" is political parody at its finest. He got a bunch of Broadway stars and musical theater performers together to produce this video, criticizing Mitt Romney and the Republicans and demanding that we give Barack Obama one more term. DeMesquita has penned a letter to explain the video here.

I have huge fondness for Les Miserables, ever since my college friend sent the soundtrack to me on cassette tape when I was living in Japan...and then we saw fantastic productions in London and at Jesuit High School.  Can't wait to show this to my other Les Miz lover, Kieran!

If you are an Obama supporter, this video will put a smile on your face! 

One Term More - With Subtitles from One Term More on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Twelve-year-old's letter to Mr. Romney:

A twelve-year-old boy from Colorado has written a letter to Mr. Romney, expressing his concern with his proposed policies. He has particular cause to be concerned, because his seven-year-old sister was gravely ill as a baby and continues to face health issues. She has been denied health insurance until recently. Here's the letter, spelling and grammar intact!
Dear Governor Romney,
I’d like to say congratulations on winning the republican nomination. But, I wish you stayed in Massachusetts. You’re plan for America isn’t what we need, and would hurt us more than it would help.
First, repealing Obama care and other health plans he’s put in place have helped families across America, including mine. I live in a middle class family, and two years ago my little sister; Kennedy was denied insurance because of her pre-existing condition. This was a huge emotional stress and financial burden on my entire family. Under Obama Care, insurance companies can no longer deny Kennedy and kids like her, the coverage they need and deserve. Because of Obama care my little sister was able to have the several surgeries she needed that helped save her life. Once the President was elected he put Obama Care into action, just like he promised and made it so that you could get insurance with pre-existing conditions. This has made a direct impact on my family. My family is with out a doubt better off now, than we were four years ago!
It is to my understanding that you stated that you were going to repeal Obama Care, including the part I have mentioned, which will take away the insurance we have and need for my sister Kennedy. Why do you think she doesn’t deserve health care? Also, when you were interviewed on “Meet the Press”, you stated that you would NOT repeal this part of Obama Care, but then your campaign backpedalled and on the “Tonight show with Jay Leno”, you said that you WOULD repeal this.
Also, you’re domestic plans (birth control, gay rights etc.) are horrible! Women should get to manage their own health, and if you wonder why you’re not appealing to many women voters, rethink your birth control and women’s’ rights plans. And people should be able to marry whom they want. We built this country so people could have freedom, and not have religious beliefs control them to that length. This country was in no way built on any religion, so we should not create laws that repress the American people in a religious way and hurt our most vulnerable.
Jackson Ripley, age 12
From the mouths of babes! Go, Jackson!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday Listicle: Ten things about our wedding

This week's Monday Listicle is 10 things about weddings. We got married at the young ages of 25 and 27, and I loved our wedding. However, if we were to get married now, I would do some things differently.

Five things that would remain the same

1. Simple and homemade
Even though we didn't have a lot of money, we felt strongly about paying for our own wedding. We were adults and had been on our own for several years. Mike had some money saved back from Japan, and I was still paying off college loans. My college roommate's mom did all the food for us at cost, we had friends and family be our musicians and DJ, we were able to get a wedding video at a bargain rate (because he was British and knew we didn't have much money), and we made as much as we could (dresses, favors, programs, etc.). I went for a less traditional (and less expensive) wedding dress and hat, which better fit my personality than the full train and veil. We bought our wedding rings in Cannon Beach--they are simple gold bands, $200 each, and we still have them to this day. (I didn't want a diamond because of apartheid in South Africa, where most diamonds were from at that time.)

2. Family 
All of our siblings were in the wedding party. At the time, I hardly knew Mike's siblings at all, but I'm glad they were part of our wedding. The only person missing was our wonderful sister-in-law Shemara, whom we didn't meet until many years later. Family is forever, and friendships can change. Sadly, Mike's dad died only a couple of years later, and I'm so glad we have his wonderful Scottish brogue captured on the wedding video.

3. Music, poetry, and ritual
My handsome groom
Mike wrote a poem for the bulletin cover. I wrote a song, "Walk With Me in Love," and we also had "Sunrise, Sunset" sung. (Mike's dad was initially shocked that we would have a nonreligious song like that sung at our wedding, but he wiped away tears throughout the song, as recorded on the video.) The prelude was a triumphant processional written by a PLU music professor, which many alums use for their weddings. We gave a rose to each parent, and we drank from a marriage cup in addition to lighting a unity candle.

4. Personal and heartfelt
We've all been to impersonal weddings where the minister or justice of the peace does not know the couple marrying them. Those weddings are not usually very personal or memorable. We had intended to be married by our Catholic priest and Lutheran pastor (since we attend a Catholic-Lutheran church), but the Lutheran pastor didn't think he would be able to make it. We had pre-marriage counseling with the Catholic priest, a Franciscan, and he did the honors at our wedding. I still remember his inspiring message, even though he had us do some unusual things such as welcome everyone to the wedding and sit down in chairs during his homily. To this day, Father Matt remains a very special person in our lives and marriage.

5. I'd marry the same man!
Of course! I still wonder occasionally how I found myself so blessed to find a life partner who is kind, wise, funny, musical, romantic, handsome, poetic, loves the same things I do, shares my values and beliefs, and most important--loves ME! It's been 22 years, 3 months, and 2 days, and I love him even more than I did at age 25.

Five things that would be different now

With my family
1. I'd have us each walk down the aisle with our parents
Being a young feminist, I chafed against many of the traditional marriage rituals. I couldn't bear the thought of being "given away" by my father, while Mike would walk in and stand independently at the altar with the groomsmen. Instead, we walked in together, representing our shared commitment and independence.

I've always felt a little guilty about this, though, because I was first to get married in my family. If I did it all over again, I would have us each walk in escorted by our parents.

With Mike's family
2. Still nontraditional
Weddings are just about the most traditional rituals around, and I am an individualist, not bound by tradition. I'd still forego the diamond (but perhaps choose a different stone), go for a less traditional dress, write our own vows, have lots of music, and have a female ring bearer (we had two girls [my cousins] instead of a flower girl and male ring bearer]). Needless to say, I did not address the wedding invitations as Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, as the etiquette books tell you to do. When we got married, I kept my name. After we'd been married nearly 13 years, Mike announced that he wanted us to hyphenate. We had to go to court to legally hyphenate our names, and even had to pay to get a hyphen added to Chris' name! (He had both of our names without the hyphen.)

With the ring bearer and flower girl
(my cousins Elena and Annie,
who I took care of during college)
3. Larger and slightly different group of people
We got married after returning from three years in Japan. Mike knew very few people in the U.S., as he'd only been here for five months. Now we have a vastly larger community of friends...both together and separately. Many of our wedding guests were old family friends or my friends from college and high school. Over the years, friendships change as we ourselves change. Many of my closest friends now are people I have met in the past 10 to 15 years. One of my close high school friends, and my freshman roommate at PLU, was at our wedding with her much-older husband and three little boys (she, too, was only 25!). That was the last time I saw her, as she didn't stay in touch. I often wonder what ever happened to her!

Fortunately, we had two people come from Japan from our wedding...Seiji (one of Mike's groomsmen and one of his students) and Kazue, his friend from Oxford days (and his inspiration for going to Japan). Sadly, we have also lost touch with Seiji, who returned to Japan to become a salaryman (Japanese businessman).

In addition, many older family members and friends who attended our wedding have died (including Mike's dad and my grandma and many aunts and uncles). Watching our wedding video recently, we were stunned to notice this.

Wedding party
4. Different music!
I'd still want the Gipsy Kings. I'd also still want our first dance to be "It's a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong and the dance with the parents to be "That's Amore," but we'd forego Madonna (the long version of "Get Into the Groove" that went on and on) and especially the song, "If You Don't Know Me By Now," which was my brother's favorite song at the time. He was our DJ, and although we gave him a list of our favorite songs, that song was NOT on it--and got played at least twice! Even though we did like Simply Red, that song is not the most romantic!

We've all got our
Own funny moods
I've got mine,
Woman you've got yours too
Just trust in me like I trust in you
As long as we've been together
It should be so easy to do
Just get yourself together
Or we might as well say goodbye
What good is a love affair
When you can't see eye to eye

If you don't know me by now
You will never
Never never know me
See what I mean??

Bridal Veil Lodge
5. A more exotic, faraway honeymoon
Our plan was to go to Spain and Portugal for our honeymoon--we even had the airplane tickets in hand! However, what we didn't realize was that Mike was unable to leave the country for several months because of immigration. We had to forfeit our plane tickets (no refund!) and we never made it to Spain and Portugal! Instead we spent a few days in the Columbia Gorge at the Bridal Veil Lodge and played tourist in the gorge--going on the Sternwheeler, dining at the Multnomah Falls Lodge, taking hikes. We had a lovely time, but I would have loved to have a European honeymoon. Perhaps for a milestone anniversary?

So young!!
I'd marry him all over again in a hot second
Thanks to Monday Listicles (organized by Stasha at for jogging my memories. Check out some more! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Kieran's excitement

Kieran has had a whole spate of auditions this summer. In May and June, he auditioned for Northwest Children's Theater (NWCT) and Oregon Children's Theater (OCT), and in early July he had an open audition for "It's a Wonderful Life" through a smaller local theater company.

Theater is rough for little people! He didn't get the roles with OCT and never even heard back from the other theater company (yay or nay). He had big dreams of starring in one of the main stage shows at NWCT, but instead he was called back for Kids' Company Northwest, NWCT's advanced acting troupe...they are essentially the company's ambassadors out in the community. Each season they perform a musical revue at nursing homes and other locations throughout the city, in addition to two performances on the main stage. Initially, Kieran was very disappointed (because he wanted to get on the main stage), but Mike and I think that this is just the type of professional training he needs...after getting the  lead in the Hullabaloo last fall after his first-ever audition, he has high expectations for himself and doesn't understand that he needs some coaching and guidance.

Last weekend he had a five-hour audition for Kids Co., in which the 100+ kids were split into smaller groups and taught dancing, acting, and singing. We knew he was lucky to get a call-back, because the initial auditions had 400 kids participating.

This week he found out that not only did he make it into the winter troupe ("London is London") but also into the spring troupe, "Hillbilly Heaven." It will involve every Saturday all during the school year, with a break for a month from Christmas through mid-January. It's a wonderful opportunity for him, and the other kids involved seem very upbeat and encouraging. (The kids have to re-audition every year. At the end of the audition workshop, each child got up onstage for 1 minute to introduce him or herself and to do a song, dance, joke, etc.)

I'm really excited for him to step into this next phase of theater training. At age nine, he's one of the younger members of the acting troupes (aged 8-14).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Apologizing for America's values?

Mitt Romney has exposed himself as supremely unpresidential. Romney's response to the news of the horrific attacks in Libya was to attack the president. And for what? For "apologizing for America's values." The Egyptian embassy and the president both condemned religious intolerance (which IS an American value!!) while expressing sympathy and horror at the violence and bloodshed that occurred as a result of the religious intolerance.

After the Egyptian embassy was breached, it issued a statement condemning the "Innocence of Muslims" film, which portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a homosexual who endorses extramarital sex and pedophilia, in addition to other things. This is the statement:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims -- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
It's called DIPLOMACY. People who work in the diplomatic corps understand that getting along with people involves negotiation and compromise. It involves respecting other cultures and religions, even if one does not agree. And it's also involves not FANNING the FLAMES. Later, the embassy condemned breaches of its compound through its Twitter feed, but also said "neither breaches of our compound or angry messages will dissuade us from defending freedom of speech AND criticizing bigotry."

Consequently, Mitt Romney says that "the embassy is the administration" and Barack Obama is, effectively, "apologizing for the right of free speech" because he said "We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, but there is no justification for this kind of violence. None."

What would Mitt Romney have the president do? Arrange for a showing of this film in the White House? Invite the film maker to dinner? Attack Egypt and Libya for the actions of a few crazy terrorists? This man scares me. Clearly, he is clueless about foreign policy much less diplomacy, and he is so not fit to be president.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Joe Biden's moving 9/11 message

We all remember where we were on 9/11. It's our generation's assassination of JFK or MLK Jr. I was at the airport, of all places, ready to take a business trip. I had checked in and had wandered down to the Horizon terminal, only to see the shocking coverage on the television and then learn that all the flights had been cancelled. I took MAX (Portland light rail) back to my office and called Mike on the phone--he hadn't heard the news yet. 

Whatever your political affiliation, I encourage you to read this beautiful 9/11 remembrance by VP Joe Biden. Only someone who has experienced deep, personal loss like he has would be able to speak like this to the victims' families. 
Remarks by the Vice President at the Flight 93 National Memorial Commemorative Service
Flight 93 National Memorial
, Shanksville, Pennsylvania
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Superintendent—Jeff, you've done a remarkable job here. And the thing I notice when I speak to you is you're invested in this place. It sort of has a—sort of stolen a piece of your heart. And that's why I'm confident that all that you plan will happen.
Patrick, you're keeping the flame alive, and keeping the families together is—from my experience, I imagine you all find solace in seeing one another. There's nothing like being able to talk with someone who you know understands.
And it's an honor—it's a genuine honor to be back here today. But like all of the families, we wish we weren't here. We wish we didn't have to be here. We wish we didn't have to commemorate any of this. And it's a bittersweet moment for the entire nation, for all of the country, but particularly for those family members gathered here today.
Last year, the nation and all of your family members that are here commemorated the 10th anniversary of the heroic acts that gave definition to what has made America such a truly exceptional place—the individual acts of heroism of ordinary people in moments that could not have been contemplated, but yet were initiated.
I also know from my own experience that today is just as momentous a day for all of you, just as momentous a day in your life, for each of your families, as every September 11th has been, regardless of the anniversary. For no matter how many anniversaries you experience, for at least an instant, the terror of that moment returns; the lingering echo of that phone call; that sense of total disbelief that envelops you, where you feel like you're being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest.
My hope for you all is that as every year passes, the depth of your pain recedes and you find comfort, as I have, genuine comfort in recalling his smile, her laugh, their touch. And I hope you're as certain as I am that she can see what a wonderful man her son has turned out to be, grown up to be; that he knows everything that your daughter has achieved, and that he can hear, and she can hear how her mom still talks about her, the day he scored the winning touchdown, how bright and beautiful she was on that graduation day, and know that he knows what a beautiful child the daughter he never got to see has turned out to be, and how much she reminds you of him. For I know you see your wife every time you see her smile on your child's face. You remember your daughter every time you hear laughter coming from her brother's lips. And you remember your husband every time your son just touches your hand.
Sidewalk in Williamsburg, Brooklyn,
where a friend from Japan now lives
I also hope—I also hope it continues to give you some solace knowing that this nation, all these people gathered here today, who are not family members, all your neighbors, that they've not forgotten. They've not forgotten the heroism of your husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers. And that what they did for this country is still etched in the minds of not only you, but millions of Americans, forever. That's why it's so important that this memorial be preserved and go on for our children and our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren, and our great-great-grandchildren—because it is what makes it so exceptional. And I think they all appreciate, as I do, more than they can tell you, the incredible bravery your family members showed on that day.
I said last year my mom used to have an expression. She'd say, Joey, bravery resides in every heart, and someday it will be summoned. It's remarkable—remarkable—how it was not only summoned, but acted on.
Today we stand on this hallowed ground, a place made sacred by the heroism and sacrifice of the passengers and the crew of Flight 93. And it's as if the flowers, as I walked here, as if the flowers were giving testament to how sacred this ground is.
My guess—and obviously it's only a guess—no two losses are the same. But my guess is you're living this moment that Yeats only wrote about, when he wrote, pray I will and sing I must, but yet I weep. Pray I will, sing I must, but yet I weep.
My personal prayer for all of you is that in every succeeding year, you're able to sing more than you weep. And may God truly bless you and bless the souls of those 40 incredible people who rest in this ground.

Two egregious examples of sexist lunacy

1. Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall (R, of course) claims that God punishes women who have abortions by giving them disabled children:

The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children."
As the Think Progress web site wonders, what will Sarah Palin say? Most likely, she will ignore this instead of attacking someone in her own party.
2. Arguably worse, Pat Robertson (who has spewn hateful comments against GLBTs, feminists, atheists, adoptive parents, etc.) aims his vitriol at women who do not obey their husbands

Yesterday on "The 700 Club," Robertson got a call from a man named Michael, whose wife "has no respect for me as head of the house."

Robertson advised him to become a Muslim so he could beat her. His co-host laughed. He went on: "I don't think we condone wife-beating these days but something has got to be done to make her." Because the scripture doesn't allow for divorce, Robertson told Michael to move to Saudi Arabia, where he could beat his wife.

Of course, the video clip on the Christian Broadcast Network's web site has been edited to remove these comments. 

By the way, guess who he hang out with last weekend? You guessed it: he's Mitt's buddy, and he's helping Mitt on the campaign trail. Will Mitt distance himself from this man who has a truly bizarre idea of what it means to be a Christian?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Listicle: Musicians who have inspired me

This week's Monday Listicle is 10 things about music. Well, where to start? I love music. I began playing a musical instrument at the age of nine (violin) and took up guitar at age ten. I wrote my first song shortly afterward. Over the years, I've dabbled with cello, organ, piano, and mandolin. As I've written before, though, I'm a lazy musician. I know I could be so much better if I spent more time practicing. Perhaps someday!

I call my 16-year-old my "walking musical encyclopedia." I swear it's because we sang to him every single day in the NICU, wiring music into his consciousness and helping him form an association between music and comfort. When a song starts, he can quickly identify the musician (like me). He remembers lyrics like nothing else. He loves to have music constantly playing. Even though both Mike and I went through this musical obsession phase in our teens (we both loved mix tapes and the top 40, or "Top of the Pops" in the UK), I've retained this tendency to soak myself in music more than Mike has. If he's driving, he prefers the quiet. Not me--I must have music (or NPR).

So here are some musicians that have influenced and touched me throughout my life.

1. Simon and Garfunkel: This is the soundtrack from my early childhood. I'm sure my parents listened to other stuff, but Simon and Garfunkel are who I remember in the late '60s and early '70s. To this day, I still love their harmonies and lyrics!

2. John Denver: John Denver was my first big concert. He performed for 3-1/2 hours, raising my expectations for future concerts to come. Amazing. He also wrote easy songs for the guitar...a plus for a beginning guitar player. I still have my John Denver songbook! I still sing this song to the boys every night when I'm putting them to bed. Such a shame his life was cut so short!

3. James Taylor: I learned how to play the guitar in the park near my house (Wonderland Park), from a 70s-era hippie who didn't know much about how to teach kids to play guitar. Case in point, he started out with the harder chords and "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor and "Get Together." Somehow, it took for me, though. (My parents were taking an adult guitar class in another park, taught by someone else who shouldn't have been teaching beginners, and they soon gave up after seeing how quickly I picked it up.)

I have always loved James Taylor's smooth, sexy voice. My brother-in-law has teased me about him, claiming he sounds like Perry Como! We've seen him several times in concert, including a great one with Carole King a few years ago. I have so many favorites, but here is just one.

  Check out this great parody of James Taylor that Jimmy Fallon recently performed, "Romney and Bain." At first I thought it was James Taylor, but then I realized he looked so much younger. Fallon really mimicked his voice well!

4. Peter Paul and Mary: Sometimes I wished I had been a teen in the '60s. Peter Paul and Mary were another early influence on my musical life...I saw them in concert a few times as well. I love their harmonies and passion for justice. I was so sad when Mary Travers died! Here's my favorite PPM song:

5. Joan Baez: Speaking of activism and passion for justice, Joan Baez is a true icon. She is one of the musicians I admire most. Not only has she been a successful recording artist since those days of singing in coffeehouses, but she has also never sacrificed her values and commitment to peace and justice. The last time we saw her in concert was the best, by far, right after Obama was elected. Amazing! I like her old stuff,  too, but I prefer her newer songs (with the exception of her blues album, the only one I'm not crazy about). I own most of her albums. Here's one of my many favorites (written by Bob Dylan, her former lover):

And here's a delightful video of her performing with her granddaughter (starts at 2:18).

6. Annie Lennox: Our Scottish friend Cath (who introduced me and Mike) first got me into the Eurythmics when we were in Japan. "Missionary Man" and "Would I Lie to You" are some of my Japanese soundtrack songs! Lennox rarely tours, but shortly after I turned 40, Mike and I got to see her in concert with Sting. She was absolutely amazing, and a wonderful inspiration to me after that milestone birthday. Sting paled in comparison--I would have preferred a concert entirely from Annie. She, too, continues to work for justice--her particular commitment is HIV/AIDS awareness. Love her! Too many favorites to choose from, but here's a recent one:

7. Dar Williams: I cannot begin to count the number of times I have seen Dar in concert, the most recent being this spring. I never get enough! Her career was boosted with help from Joan Baez, and she has many similarities in her songwriting. She writes all her own music, and it's intellectually rich and thought-provoking. And I love the way she bounces on the upbeat songs. Here's an old favorite, which can make me cry!

And as my birthday approaches in October, I must mention my favorite Dar song, a great affirmation of growing older: "You're Aging Well."

8. Indigo Girls: Are you noticing a theme yet? Female singer-songwriters in the great folk tradition? Yes, I'm a folkie, or a modern one at least. Of course I love the Indigo Girls, as well, and savored the opportunity to see them up close in 2009 at a very small concert. Did you know that they recorded "Jesus Christ Superstar," with Emily playing Mary Magdalene and Amy playing Jesus? It's a beautiful, little-known album. Here's a tidbit:

9. Girlyman: I discovered Girlyman when they opened for Dar, and they are now one of my favorites. I try to see them in concert whenever they come to Portland, although I've missed a few. I describe Girlyman as the Indigo Girls crossed with Peter Paul and Mary. Love their beautiful harmonies, sense of fun, and catchy tunes! Here's one of my favorites:

10. Oh no! Only one left! Well, I'll cram two into one. One of the best concerts we've seen is Elton John and Billy Joel, two favorites from my teen years. They were completely amazing separately, and together! Here's a clip from their concert in Japan, where we first saw Billy Joel in the 1980s!

Bonus: It's so hard for me to come up with just 10 (or 11) here are some other musicians that I've enjoyed over the years:

  • ABBA (one of my first records was "Dancing Queen," and Mike's given me a new appreciation for them!)
  • Adele
  • The Avett Brothers
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Beach Boys (seen in concert)
  • The Beatles
  • Blind Boys of Alabama
  • Bobby McFerrin
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • Bruce Springsteen (especially the Seeger sessions)
  • Cheryl Wheeler
  • The Chieftains (seen in concert)
  • Cyndi Lauper (seen in concert last year for the first time)
  • Dan Zanes (seen in concert)
  • Tracy Grammer and Dave Carter
  • David Cassidy (formative years!)
  • Dixie Chicks
  • Dolly Parton
  • Eddie Reader
  • Elvis
  • Emmylou Harris
  • Eric Clapton
  • Eva Cassidy
  • Fiona Apple
  • Fleetwood Mac
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • George Winston (listened to a lot of him in college--good for studying)
  • Gipsy Kings (saw for the first time 2 years ago--also reminds me of Japan)
  • Harry Belafonte
  • Harry Connick Jr.
  • Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
  • Jack Johnson 
  • Jake Shimabukuro
  • Janis Ian
  • Jason Mraz
  • Jen Cass
  • Jewel
  • Jimmy Buffet
  • John Mellencamp
  • Judy Collins
  • kd lang
  • Kate & Anna McGarrigle
  • Kathleen Edwards
  • Kenny Loggins (seen in concert)
  • Lady Gaga
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo
  • Lenka
  • Libby Roderick (seen in concert)
  • Linda Allen (seen in concert)
  • Linda Waterfall (seen in concert)
  • The Little Willies
  • Loreena McKennitt
  • Madonna
  • Mahalia Jackson
  • Mary Chapin Carpenter (seen in concert)
  • Melissa Etheridge
  • Miriam Makeba
  • Misty River (seen in concert)
  • Motherlode (seen in concert)
  • Mumford & Sons 
  • Nanci Griffith
  • Natalie Merchant (seen in concert)
  • Neil Diamond (he's not on my iPod now, but I liked him a lot as a teen)
  • Norah Jones
  • Pink 
  • Patty Griffin
  • Pink Martini (seen in concert)
  • Sara Thomsen
  • Sarah McLachlan
  • Shawn Colvin (seen in concert)
  • Shawn Mullins (seen in concert)
  • Sheryl Crow
  • Shicky Gnarowitz (seen in concert--at the farmers market!)
  • Sonny & Cher
  • Soweto Gospel Choir (would LOVE to see in concert)
  • Storm Large (seen in concert, on stage)
  • Susan Werner
  • Sweet Honey in the Rock (seen in concert twice)
  • Three Dog Night (seen in concert)
  • Tish Hinojosa
  • Tracy Chapman
  • UB40 (seen in concert, in Japan)
  • Van Morrison
  • Yo-Yo Ma

Thanks to Monday Listicles (organized by Stasha at for the inspiration. Check out some more!