Friday, November 30, 2012

The Boss rules!

Facing severe disappointment when my surgery date got pushed out into mid-December (after hoping it would be at the end of October, and then the end of November), I decided to do something fun as a consolation prize. So Chris and I bought tickets to see Bruce Springsteen!

I've never been a huge Springsteen fan; in fact, I never paid much attention to him until he recorded the Seeger Sessions album (tribute to Pete Seeger) and he caught my attention! I love that album. And then he campaigned for Obama not once but twice. He's apparently also an advocate for gay marriage.

My friend Nancie (who paid for part of Chris' ticket as a birthday/Christmas present) told me that Bruce gives one of the best concerts ever, but I really had no idea what an amazing performer he is.

The morning of the show I read online that Bruce had gone to the 24-Hour Fitness in the Pearl District on Tuesday night to work out. I should have known that a star like that who works out in a regular, public gym is not your average rock star.

So here are just a few things that made this a concert to remember!

Crowd surfing
Singing "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town"
  • He clearly loves his audience! He enjoyed interacting with them, was constantly smiling, and sought out people to bring up on stage with him.
  • He engages his audiences by inviting them to bring requests on signs. At one point he goes out into the audience and collects the signs and chooses from the requests.
  • The music--good, salt-of-the-earth songs about the struggling in America. He talked about his hometown on the Jersey Shore finally becoming successful after so many years of economic depression, only to get hit by Hurricane Sandy.
  • He has incredible respect and fondness for his band. After the band took their final bows, Bruce left the stage last, after patting each band member on the back as they walked off the stage.
  • And his band, man were they amazing! Five horns, two percussionists, a fiddler, piano player, a couple of guitarists, and two backup singers. Oh, and an accordionist! One of the guys playing saxophone is the nephew of Springsteen's long-time saxophone player, Clarence (clearly very popular with the crowd and beloved to Bruce). He had a beautiful tribute to Clarence at the end of the show.
  • Fun and touching ways of reaching out the audience. He was constantly urging the audience to sing along and shaking people's hands. He kissed an older woman in the front row and pulled countless people up on stage with him to dance. When he got a sign request for "Growing Up" from a new 50-year-old, he invited him up to sing with him (that was one of the times I cried). Some women had a sign that said "Lesbians Love Bruce," with t-shirts to match. He invited the whole crew up onstage with him to dance their hearts up. He danced with young girl, and invited two others to sing (although they didn't know the song). He also sang a heart-achingly beautiful song with acoustic guitar, sans band, called "If I Fall Behind" (another request, from a couple who had the song at their wedding). I cried...again.
  • Pure stamina. I have never before seen such a high-energy, vivacious, happy performer, who sang nonstop for nearly 3-1/2 hours! The man is 63, but he moves and interacts like a 20something. Twice he walked out into the pit to sing in the middle of the crowd, and once he crowd-surfed all the way to the stage (that's trust!). Truly amazing. The music critics agree.

I didn't know a lot of the music (except for the mega-hits), but I really liked it and wondered why I'd never listened to him much before. I never knew I was a Bruce fan, but now I'm definitely a devotee! Loved every second!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My top girls' names (Monday Listicles)

I'm married to someone who often looks askance when I tell him about other unusual names people have used for their children...I can always predict how he's going to react! He tends not to like the especially trendy ones.

Needless to say, we stuck with fairly straightforward names for our boys: Christopher Hugh, Kieran Robert, and Nicholas Robert. Since I got to use my top boys' names, I thought I'd focus on girls' names:

1. Susanna: This was our first-choice girls' name, which we never got to use because we had all boys! I wanted to use Susanna Hope or Susanna Marie.

2. Michaela: I doubt my hubby would have gone for this one, but I always liked it...and she could have been named after him!

3. Kate: Not sure whether this would have been derivative of a longer name (perhaps Katharine), but I've always loved the name Kate.

4. Zora: Ala Zora Neale Hurston...what an unusual, cool name it is...namesake of a real renaissance woman.

5. Kayra: This is the name of one of my son's friends, and I really like it. It means grace, favor, benevolence, and kindness.

6. Sophia/Sophie: I am very fond of at least two wonderful young women named Sophie!

7. Karen: I have never met a Karen I don't like. Karen was the name of my favorite teacher (fifth grade) and Chris' primary nurse in the NICU. Karens are often amazing.

8: Renee/Renay: When I was young, my family had a framed print of the "Girl with a Watering Can" by Renoir hanging up on our living room wall. My dad used to call her Renee, so I wanted to be called Renee. Then both of my older boys had an amazing second grade teacher named Renay, who has become a close friend of I think I might go with that spelling, since she is so wonderful!

9. Maria: By third grade, I wanted my name to be Maria--and my third grade teacher humored me and called me that name. And then there's Maria Von Trapp, of course!

10. Eleanor/Rosa/Maya: I could have named a daughter after so many women I admire, but these two names come to mind in particular.

Thanks to Stasha at for organizing Monday Listicles. Read about other names (or photos from people's phones, the other topic) by checking out the other participating bloggers.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ten things I learned in 2012 (Monday listicles)

Last month just before I turned 48 I wrote about my 10 life lessons, so I feel like I've already been there, done that. But this list will focus on the things I've learned in the past year.

1. Never give up...even if it takes 22 years! In January, my husband Mike (who has been writing steadily since 1990) landed an agent contract. No book contract yet, but we are hoping his agent will be successful soon!

2. It always pays to follow your heart, and 25 years passes in a blink! In January, we celebrated 25 years of our meeting at a wonderful Robert Burns party. The night I met Mike, my life was changed forever for the better! I still am amazed at my pure luck to end up with such a wonderful man and life partner.

3. There is nothing, nothing like a night away (or at home) with your girlfriends. From getting away in February for a night at the beach with the girls, to visiting Shelia and family in Boisehanging out on the porch at Holdencelebrating special occasions, and painting with wine...I never get enough time with my girlfriends. They add such depth and spice to my life. Thank you, friends!

4. Never underestimate the efforts of a creative child! Kieran continues to be our thoughtful, sentimental child...from surprising us on Valentine's Day with letters under our door to providing breakfast in bed on our birthdays. Sometimes he doesn't adequately clean up after himself, but he has such a big heart!! My lesson is to allow him to use materials creatively without worrying too much about the resulting mess. Then there's our musical teenager (blasting out the neighborhood with his drumming) and our always-clad-in-Indiana-Jones-garb Nicholas.

5. It is a good thing to try to refrain from complaining. I attempted a complaint-free Lent this year and I'm not sure I was terribly successful, but it was a good practice. I think I will try it again next year. Maybe I will see some improvement!

6. It's always possible to change one's life. This year we celebrated the fact that my brother has been one year sober, after spending most of his life addicted to drugs and alcohol. We are so thankful to have him active and present in our family life again! He'll be two years sober in January!

7. I can never get enough of getaway time with my honey. In March we went to one of our favorite getaways, the Sylvia Beach Hotel, and the night after Thanksgiving we are planning to go the the Hotel Grand Lodge in Forest Grove for another getaway. It's always so precious to have child-free time, and I'm grateful to my parents to helping us accomplish those precious getaways! This is not something I learned in 2012, but one I am continually reminded of.

8. Life is too short to hold a grudge or refrain from expressing your love. Again, not a new learning for me but this year I've had too many reminders of this. My aunt died of melanoma this past spring, Mike's aunt died around the same time, and my dear friend is battling Stage 3 breast cancer. You never know when your life changes completely, giving you a whole new perspective on things and turning previously important matters to trivia.

9. Children grow up before you know it. I can't believe I have a sophomore in high school, a fourth grader, and a kindergartener. Life gets so crazy sometimes that it's easy to let things pass you by and not really appreciate them. Children, most of all. Soon they will be going off to college and I'm sure to regret not appreciating this time more.

10. Shit happens. And all you can do is just deal with it and try to make the best of it. Even though a good rant can be cathartic, having a negative attitude, complaining incessantly, or worrying too much can eat you up inside. I'm not a naive Pollyanna. I complain with the best of them. But I have found that settling down and accepting what's happening, and trying to be positive about it if I can, is the best avenue for my sanity and well-being.

Thanks to Stasha at for organizing Monday Listicles. Read about other 2012 lessons by checking out the other participating bloggers.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Racists are made, not born

If you think that racism is not still a problem in the U.S. or that it's only in the south, you're dead wrong.
Jezebel has collected a series of the worst racist tweets posted after Barack Obama won re-election this week. They are so depressing; they seriously make me ashamed to be an American and share the same space as these evil idiots. Sadly, many of them seem to be young people (as above).

The night of the election, one of Chris' classmates posted a racist comment on his Facebook wall (something about blackness). I only saw it because Chris responded and it showed up in my ticker. I was shocked because this student in question is a highly respected student in his high school. Apparently the next day he apologized to Chris, so I'm wondering whether someone told him how inappropriate he was.

Someone commented that many of them are looking for sports scholarships for college and encouraged people to write to the colleges to discourage them from offering them admittance:

"Please feel free to share these exceptionally racist remarks with their future schools.
Ricky Catanzaro - football player at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn
Lou LaDonna - football player at West Islip High School
Kordie Girton - baseball scholarship to Indiana State University
Addison Sykes - football player at Jackson Christian Jackson, TN
Brandon Norrie - baseball player at Sickles High School Tampa, FL
Michelle Brosam - soccer player at Rider HS Wichita Falls, Texas
Cole Krut - baseball player at Beaver Falls, PA
Demi Keely - pageant girl in Carencro, Louisiana
Gabe Dutch - baseball player at Redwood HS Visalia, CA
Stehl Taylor - hockey player at Central York HS York, PA
Davis Moody - runner at Mill Creek HS Hoschton, Georgia"

I will be sending some e-mails...feels like that's one small thing we can do. So sad.

Nine lies and a truth (Monday Listicles)

View from the roof (where Mike proposed)
This week's listicle comes from Anja at either "10 things James Bond or any other secret agent" or "10 fictional facts about you (but one must be true). I opted for the second because (1) I've never been much of a James Bond fan (in fact, we've never even seen "Octopussy," which was filmed at the place we got engaged, the Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, India), and (2) it reminds me of "Two Truths and a Lie," which we play at one of our favorite places--the Sylvia Beach Hotel.

Can you tell which one of these is not true?

1. Before I was old enough to go to school, I decided I wanted to take a drama class one summer at the local high school. I remember that I had to find my way around the enormous high school and it's a wonder I didn't get lost. I can't imagine where my mother was at the time--probably keeping track of my younger siblings? They cast me as Alice in "Alice in Wonderland."

2. Our first pet was a turtle named Marlo. She lived for a couple of years until my brother forgot to feed her.

3. My first grade teacher spanked me for pushing another girl...she was named Sabrina and she took my milk.

4. My third grade teacher had a bunny in his class called "Donny," and one time he escaped and set the whole school into a massive panic.

5. I was bullied in junior high by two girls named Kayleen and Shannon, but I got even. I saw them both working at McDonald's in Beaverton last week.

6. When I was in high school, my friends and I would go into Dunkin Donuts and order one maple bar and split it six ways. They were much easier to cut into six pieces than a round donut.

7. When I went off to college, my freshman roommate's boyfriend was a drug dealer. I walked in one night to find them smoking pot in our room...after I smelled it down the hallway.

8.  One summer during college I worked for Intel as a product development manager; I was subbing for someone on maternity leave. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. One week I shipped $500,000 worth of product to Puerto Rico, when it was supposed to go to China.

9. I met my husband at a raucous Robert Burns night in Osaka, Japan.

10. When my soon-to-be husband was being held by a grumpy INS officer in Minneapolis because he didn't have a fiancee visa, the grumpy man called me up to quiz me. What finally convinced him of our genuine love was a love letter he read from start to finish, including sexy bits...which he informed me of when he called to tell me he was going to let him come through to Oregon.

So I'm just not that good of a liar. I'm reading a book right now called Let's Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson (aka the Bloggess), and it's a memoir of sorts. She had an absolutely batshit crazy childhood (her father was a taxidermist and it was normal for her to grow up around wild animals--alive, stuffed, and in between--in the house!), she suffers from anxiety disorder and depression...and she embellishes HEAVILY. Way more than even my husband does. Sometimes she confesses when she's embellishing, but sometimes she doesn't. She uses a fair amount of foul language, much of it directed at her husband. The embellishment just doesn't come very naturally to me, so it's a real stretch (my husband is the fiction writer, not me!), and of course I don't swear at him either.

So if you want to know the answers to these questions, scroll down a ways and I'll tell all. Here are some James Bond/Octopussy photos to distract you while you scroll:


1. They wanted to cast me as the baby, and I was so insulted by this (as a very mature kindergartener!) that I quit the class!

2. Our first pet was a dog named Sunshine, and she got run over by a car. But I loved Marlo Thomas around that time because of "Free to Be You and Me."

3. She spanked me for clearing off the chalkboard in a classic brown  nosing event...because a boy was staying after school to copy down what was on the board. Yes, spanking was allowed in 1969. My mom claimed I never told her about this, but I'm sure I must have. It was terribly traumatic and I've never forgotten it.

4. We had a bunny, but his name was "Sir." I'm not aware of him ever getting loose.

5. I never got even, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that I'm way more happy and successful than they are! They were horrible and nasty to me.

6. True.

7. She asked me if they could smoke pot in our room, and I said no. I'm not aware of him being a drug dealer, but who knows?

8.  The first part is true, and I certainly didn't know what the hell I was doing! But I didn't make a bad shipment, as far as I know.

9. The raucous Robert Burns night was in Wakayama, Japan.

10. There was no sexy love letter...what convinced the grumpy INS agent was a handmade calendar I'd made for Mike. When he called me to tell me he was sending Mike through (after 3 months of separation), he complimented me on the calendar and told me I should market them. JUST SEND MY FIANCEE ON THE PLANE!!! WHO CARES ABOUT THE FRIGGING CALENDAR?

How did you do? Did you guess correctly?

Thanks to Stasha at for organizing Monday Listicles. See how many other lies you can scout out by checking out the other participating bloggers.

Painting with wine

Last night I went to a painting party at The Loaded Brush with some friends and family members. We had bought a Groupon several months ago, but it took us quite some time to get a time where we could all go...we were a sizable group and the calendar of classes fills up quickly. Unfortunately, two of our members were unable to attend. 

First we had dinner at Stickers Asian Cafe, which I highly recommend for its tasty, reasonably priced food. Yum!

Then we drove off the Loaded Brush. The owner/teacher, Aaron, led us through painting Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, step by step. He's developed a process and technique that can turn painters into those of us who have never or rarely picked up a brush before. It was really fun.

Getting ready to paint

April beginning her painting

Lois in the first steps
Ginger and Victoria 
Mary putting the final touches on her painting
Finishing off

Lois the engineer (trying something new!)

April's and my paintings
Unfortunately, my brushes were not cooperating. My medium-sized brush was too stubby and my small brush was not narrow enough. Consequently, my painting had much broader strokes than I wanted.  Next time I will know better and find better brushes.
Lois had her painting framed (not bad for a computer sciences professor)

My final result--I was happier with it in the morning!

Our group--it was fascinating to see how each person's was slightly different!
Aaron also offers a class in making cigar box guitars, which I'm intrigued by. I'm looking forward to an opportunity to try the painting process again. Of course, the wine made it more fun!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mike's first public reading

Mike was featured recently in a local book called Brave on the Page, described as "a craft book, a how-to guide, a catalogue of successes and failures, and above all, a celebration of what it means to be a writer in Oregon. The 200-page collection, edited by Laura Stanfill, features 42 authors and their views on creation, revision and the publication process." 
Brave on the Page features author interviews and essays about the craft of writing. Mike was one of 15 authors interviewed for the book. At the book's launch party last weekend, several of the writers read from their work, including Mike. We didn't do a very good job publicizing the event to our family and friends, unfortunately. Kieran and I got to hear him read before I had to race off to deliver him to a rehearsal. We were so proud!! Here's a sneak preview of Mike's book, Shakespeare on the Lam

After I dropped him off, I came back for the tail end of the readings and the Q&A. 

The authors on the stage for Q&A
It was a fun afternoon to be surrounded by so many writers and meet some new friends. And hearing Mike read his first chapter of Shakespeare on the Lam, I felt that some publisher, somewhere, must surely recognize his talent and wit. Hoping this first reading is a sign of good things to come soon.

Mike and friend Duncan Ellis (another Brit)

With Duncan and Jennifer Ellis (friends from the elementary school)

So proud of my author husband!

Thursday, November 8, 2012


More women than ever elected to the U.S. senate.

This. Marriage equality in three states, and a refusal to ban gay marriage in a fourth!!

Portlanders voted to keep their libraries open more hours, finally repair our falling-apart schools, and institute an arts tax. That will probably increase our personal property tax by $850, according to the Oregonian. But it will go a long ways toward maintaining the vitality of our city and supporting our kids. No one expected all three to pass. Guess it's true that I never met a tax increase I didn't like. (Oregonians still have a much lower tax burden than most other U.S. states, not to mention Europe and Canada.)

The Oregon Legislature now has a Democratic majority in both the senate and the house. Maybe we can finally reform our antiquated school funding process.

Not only did we elect more women to the Senate than ever, but we elected the first openly gay senator and the first disabled female veteran to the Illinois House (who beat a Tea Party candidate)!

And this.
Todd Akin? Loser! Richard Mourdock? Out! And out of my uterus, while you're at it!!
Seen on Twitter: A black president, a gay Senator, and how many rape-accepting men voted out tonight? DEMOCRACY WORKS.
Oh, and let's not forget this.

Karl Rove also loses big time (and loses his mind). And Fox News nearly self-destructs.

And Donald Trump pitches a hissy fit. Poor baby.

Oh, and Rush Limbaugh. And let's not forget Bill O'Reilly, who went off on his own little racist rant. You're damn right, Bill, we are no longer a "traditional America." Poor baby.

And this.
Americans say "Hell no!" to big money, in spite of multiple CEOs telling their employees how to vote, churches distributing voter guides and urging members to vote for Republicans (I've never heard of a church telling its members to vote for a Democrat!), a huge wave of voter suppression, insanely long lines at polling stations designed to reduce the number of people allowed to vote, voting machine errors and unreliability, robocalling to mislead voters, and the list goes on. I find all of these dirty tricks to be extremely depressing and dismaying.

The voter suppression tactics by the Republicans this year are especially hurtful to African-Americans, who have a history of having to fight to vote.

In spite of it all, justice triumphed. I don't remember such a happy election night, ever. The only two disappointments were (1) the Republicans retained control of the U.S. House of Representatives, and (2) DAAP Michele Bachmann barely squeaked by and got re-elected.

Thank you! To all the people who worked on behalf of these individuals and ballot measures. To those of you who got people registered and called to get out the vote. To those of you who standed in line for hours to vote...and to those of you who had to go out of your way to register to vote (my young friend in WSU had to drive to another town to register and brought several sorority sisters with her). Thank you for standing up for justice.

And I'll close with the words of my president, who I was so proud to vote for!
"Young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America." – President Barack Obama, 11-07-2012