Monday, February 25, 2013

Yes, I do have a sense of humor!

...but I have far more respect for (smart) people who make jokes without humiliating, denigrating, or insulting people. Yes, I'm talking about Seth MacFarlane, who hosted the most misogynistic and racist Oscars ceremony ever last night.

The Academy Awards are sexist to begin with...hardly any female candidates for Best Director for example...77 percent of Academy voters are male, and 94 percent of them are Caucasian. They have a median age of 62, and only 14 percent of the voters are younger than 50. 

I did not know who was going to be hosting the Oscars last night, and it was Chris, my 16-year-old son, who told me who MacFarlane was. I've never seen "The Family Guy" (I knew it was not my cup of tea), but of course he has. From start to finish, I found MacFarlane to be obnoxious and offensive...starting with the boob song (which contained several references to movies with rape or distinctly unsexy scenes) and through the sexualization of nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis...insulting Adele and Melissa McCarthy...the racist remark about Hispanic presenters before the amazing Salma Hayek appeared onstage...the domestic violence joke and the one about women not being able to let things go...joking about orgies at Jack Nicholson's house...and the eating disorder crack about women losing weight after having the flu. Then there were the comments about Jews and gays. I was floored and also horrified, as I was watching the show with 9-year-old Kieran, who loves the movies. (Naturally, he heard what I thought about the show!)

Last night as another Facebook friend and I each posted our disgust on our wall, two males commented that they liked the boob song. MacFarlane's appearance did its trick: the ratings were higher this year. They appealed to the frat boy crowd. 

But I'm not alone in being disgusted by MacFarlane's jokes. Amy Davidson writes for The New Yorker

"Watching the Oscars last night meant sitting through a series of crudely sexist antics led by a scrubby, self-satisfied Seth MacFarlane. That would be tedious enough. But the evening’s misogyny involved a specific hostility to women in the workplace..."
In the past 83 years, only one woman (Kathryn Bigelow) has won the Academy Award for directing, and very few have ever even been nominated. Less than four percent of the acting awards have been won by African-Americans. Last night, 30 awards were given to men and only nine to women.

"I dream of someday watching women win all the non-performance categories, of women making as many films as men do, of women and men being nominated for a comparable number of awards. There are a lot of reasons why that day is far, far in the future. But I'll tell you what's not helping: the biggest night in film being dedicated to alienating, excluding, and debasing women. Actual gender equality is a ways away, but I'd settle for one four-hour ceremony where women aren't being actively degraded."
enjoyed "The Book of Mormon," even though it was shocking and blasphemous. But I was prepared for it, and my children were not with me (except for the 16-year-old). Instead, it poked fun at misogyny and racism (cloaked in religious extremism). 

One of the goals of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is to improve the movie industry's image. I fail to see how last night's shamble of a show improves the industry's image. If anything, it sets us back 40 years and insulted 55 percent of the movie-going public (women), not to mention people who are Hispanic, gay, Jewish, or overweight. 

Thank God for Barbra, Adele, the cast of Les Miz, Shirley Bassey, and "Brave." Otherwise, wholly disappointing and I'll think twice about watching next year.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

10 dumbest purchases

Yep, it's time for Monday Listicles! Twin mom Kerry has suggested this week's topic, "10 dumbest purchases." This will require a bit of thinking...most things that come to mind are on the theme of" Things I have bought for my kids that have not panned out."

1. Beer making kit
I got this for Mike once, and it sat in our basement until it was past use...we got rid of it.

2. Diaper wipes warmer
We bought one of these when Chris was a baby, and we never used it. We got rid of it, and then several years later we had Kieran. He fussed with the cold wipes, so we bought another one. Sigh.

3. Bike trailer
We bought this at a moving sale--from a neighbor who was supposedly moving away but never did--and we similar to our neighbors' lack of follow-through, we never used it.

4. Karaoke machine
This was a present for our oldest son, Chris, complete with a bunch of karaoke CDs. He enjoyed it while it lasted, but then it broke and now we have the useless CDs. And now there's the Wii and PlayStation. Who needs a karaoke machine?

5. Thomas the Tank Engine set
One of my first eBay disasters, the set was supposedly Brio, but when it arrived, I discovered that much of it was fake. I find it very difficult to spend much money on eBay, because it's always a risk. (The seller was very uncooperative and rude.)

6. Robot
Kieran was desperate for a robot one Christmas, and I bought one on ebay...he soon got tired of it.

7. Heelies
Another item Kieran was DESPERATE for (Christmas)...he never got the hang of wearing them, and we took them to the resale shop, where we got a fraction of what we paid for them. They are trickier to wear/ride than they look! And I think I learned my lesson about buying Kieran's impulse gifts...I think!

8. Worm bin
Kieran and I went to a worm bin making class a few years ago, and we just have never stuck with it. I cleaned it out last summer and started over again, but I'm sure it's spoiled again. It's just not our thing...such great intentions we had!

Kieran and me in the hammock in 2004, before it collapsed!
My head still hurts!

9.  Mexican hammock
Mike got this when we were in Oaxaco, Mexico before we had kids. He'd always wanted a hammock. He hung it up in the backyard between two trees, finally, but it fell one day I was in it, with Kieran on me...and it hurt! And I am really not that heavy!

A tie for #10:

This is the stupidest purchase, by far...we bought into a timeshare while I was pregnant with our oldest son, Chris. They manipulatedly assigned a pregnant salesperson to us--such suckers we were! Typical of us, I talked Mike into purchasing it and then I immediately had buyer's remorse that evening. By the next day I had complete regrets and called to cancel our purchase (Oregon law gives you three days to do that). The timeshare people were not happy and they were very unpleasant...but as I told Mike, I just had a feeling that we shouldn't make that kind of a commitment. A few weeks later, Christopher was born at 24 weeks gestation and we were in full crisis mode.

Honeymoon trip to Spain and Portugal
We were supposed to go to Europe for our honeymoon, and we had our tickets in hand...only to discover that Mike couldn't leave the country until he got a green card. We had to forfeit our plane tickets with no refund. Later we saved up our money, thinking that we'd take a grand European tour, but we spent that on our first house. Now, 23 years later, we still have not gotten to Spain and Portugal!

Thanks to Stasha at The Good Life for hosting Monday Listicles, Check out more dumb purchases on her will make you feel so much better!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

It's "Curtains" for you!

Last night was opening night for Jesuit's spring musical, "Curtains," a murder mystery musical. Chris has been having a great time working on this play, which has a cast of 40 or so kids. It's much smaller in scale than last year's "Singin' in the Rain." It wasn't a full house last night, which is strange for Jesuit...I think it's probably because "Curtains" is a little-known and fairly new musical, even though David Hyde Pierce starred in it on Broadway.
Kieran and Nicholas thoroughly enjoyed it (except for the gunshots), and Nicholas was upset not to be able to attend again tonight. The show goes until next Sunday, when we will see the closing performance.
I'm glad Chris has had the opportunity to do theater at Jesuit--such a great program!
Kieran stylin' his hat!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hooray for the Laurel Leader-Call!

This is the front page of the Laurel Leader-Call, a small-town Mississippi newspaper. They chose to publish an article about the first-ever gay marriage in Laurel, Mississippi, of Jessica Powell and Crystal Craven.

Being small-town Mississippi (where most people are adamantly opposed to gay marriage), the newspaper had a huge outcry against its decision, and not a very polite or respectful one either. Sadly, GLBT justice brings out the worst in ignorant people. What's even more sad is that Craven has been suffering from brain cancer, but that didn't stop readers from sending hate letters, e-mails, and phone calls and castigating the newspaper staff.

Brave newspaper owner Jim Cegielski defended the newspaper's decision in an editorial, feeling like he needed to speak out against the "hate-filled viciousness" directed at his staff, saying "Any decent newspaper with a backbone can not base decisions on whether to cover a story based on whether the story will make people angry." Most of the complaints were because of the term "historic wedding," but Cegielski said, "You don't have like something for it to be historic."

He then makes this excellent point about these complainers, concerned about their children seeing the newspaper front page:
"We have stories about child molesters, murders and all kinds of vicious, barbaric acts of evil committed by heinous criminals on our front page and yet we never receive a call from anyone saying 'I don't need my children reading this.' Never. Ever. However, a story about two women exchanging marriage vows and we get swamped with people worried about their children."

Violence, mass destruction, child molestation...all these things are acceptable for children to see but love is not?

I'm glad I live in a state where religious leaders are speaking up to support gay marriage. But in those states that are decades away from voting in favor of gay marriage, we need more people like Mr. Cegielski, willing to stand up against the angry masses and speak in favor of justice. After all, what would Jesus have done? He would have attended the wedding and made a toast.

Nine-year-old hero

Here are the latest adventures of my creative middle child:

1. Yesterday Mike and I both returned home at the same time to see Kieran with his hair wet. When we asked him how his hair got wet, he told us he took a shower (unlikely!). Then he began spinning a yarn about Chris' friend JD locking himself in the upstairs bathroom and how he propped up the ladder outside of the house to pass a pocket knife to JD in the bathroom so he could get himself out...and would we be mad if this actually happened? Not that it did, of course, he said...but would be mad if it wasn't hypothetical? 

Well, he finally fessed up. They covered up the bushes with a soccer ball net, moved our deck furniture, and propped our extension ladder against the house (IN THE RAIN!). Then he climbed onto the roof and into the window to pass the pocket knife to JD. Ladders scare me to death--I know of two extremely serious ladder accidents, so I kept telling Kieran I wasn't mad but very scared to think of him falling and injuring himself! He is the idea person in the family, and he thinks of this as an adventure. (It was indeed his idea...yes, the nine-year-old saved the day and also highly impressed Chris' friend, JD!) And I was coming home from a massage!!! So much for the stress relief!! I felt slightly better this morning when I quizzed Chris about it, and he told me he was holding the ladder. Chris also told me that during the first 1/2 hour while JD was trapped in the bathroom, JD was serenading him with songs from "Curtains" (the Jesuit High School musical they are both in, opening night!) and Chris continued doing his homework...ever the studious one! (Haha!) Finally he told Kieran what was going on, and Kieran hatched his plan.

2. Kieran's now taking dance three times a week and has finally given us permission to say that he's taking ballet (and jazz, but he prefers ballet). He will be dancing for the first time on stage (as a gnome!) in Portland Festival Ballet's Hansel and Gretel, after he finishes his spring tour with Northwest Children's Theater's Kids Company Northwest (which will begin the week of his birthday, in April). Northwest Children's Theater has become a second home for him! Mike took Kieran and Nicholas to see "Suessical" on Monday (no school), and Kieran enjoyed watching two of his Kids Co friends in the performance...and tomorrow he goes back to see it again with his class.

3. In addition, the film Kieran was in (made by our friend Bayard) will be shown at the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the Multnomah County Library (Central Library) screening on Sunday afternoon. Their film is featured on James Kennedy's blog. Kennedy, a writer, runs the 90-Second Newbery contest and hosts fun screenings all over the country. We discovered that he too lived in Japan. We are looking forward to this event and seeing Kieran up on the big screen for the first time, even if it's only a 90-second film!

4. As if he were worried about all the gray hairs he'd given me yesterday, when I said goodnight to him, Kieran told me, "Mom, I love you more than a thousand theaters!" That, my friends, is the highest praise I could hope to get from my little thespian. Worth every gray hair.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Food cart adventures: Tandoor's Saffron Indian Kitchen

Tandoor's Saffron Indian KitchenThis is one of the newer additions to the pod, and it's the farthest on the left, so a good place to start. I'd tried New Taste of India food cart several times, and similar to that cart, Tandoor's offers a meat special and a veggie special: two curries, biriyani, and na'an bread for $7. Mike and I both had the chicken special today--it came with a curry and chicken tikka masala.

I'd give this cart a definite two thumbs up!! The curries were flavorful, spicy, and full of chicken. The biriyani was also packed with chicken. The lunch came with two small pieces of na'an...just the right amount. I look forward to going back to this cart and maybe next time I'll try the veggie special! I'm not sure if they offer anything other than the special (I didn't see anything else offered), but this is the second related cart...and apparently an outgrowth of an actual restaurant. Tandoor Indian Kitchen is their main spot. Sometimes a limited menu at a food cart is a good thing.

And it meets one of my favorite criteria for food carts: $7 gives me enough food for TWO lunches!! Looking forward to eating the leftovers tomorrow!

My verdict: Can't wait to go back!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ten tiny things that bring me joy

That's the Monday Listicles topic for this week: ten tiny (or secret) things that bring me joy. So here we go!

With my sweet sixteen-year-old
1. When my 16-year-old son gives me a hug and tells me he loves me. I know how rare this is for teenage boys!

2. When 6-year-old Nicholas talks or sings in an English accent. Or when he sings anything! I think my favorite is when he sings "Electricity" from "Billy Elliott." He has a gift for accents, and another one for music. I'm constantly amazed by how many songs he knows. Phillip Phillips' "Home" is one of his current favorites.

Cheers to friendship!
3. Seeing any of my kids on stage. Will get to do that this week--Chris is appearing in Jesuit High School's production of "Curtains," and opening night is on Thursday!

4. Hearing my husband read from his writing. Sent chills through my spine! Can't wait until he gets published and has more opportunity to do this!

5. Making music with talented musicians. Did that this afternoon; great joy!

6. Lunching/dinnering/happy houring with girlfriends or my mom and sister--I can't get enough of that!

Cousin love
7. Seeing my kids have fun with their cousins.

8. Going away for the night with Mike...just the two of us! We have a few gift certificates to use...hoping that once our life slows down a little, we can sneak in a few getaways this year!

9. Realizing how lucky I was to have been born to two inspiring, encouraging parents, who live near us and are very present in our lives.

At our book group book exchange in December
10. Sinking my teeth into a great book and not being able to put it down. Or going to book group!

Check out some of the other "tiny joy" posts at Stasha's Monday Listicles page!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

When I grow up, I want to be like them...

Alas, our 2013 has started off full of a great deal of far we have lost four people, in addition to the dad of a dear friend of ours. In addition to my Uncle Lloyd and my wonderful friend and coworker Loretta, two older women in our church have at the end of January, and one just today...two women whose compassion, faith, and courage I admired.

Marion Johnson

One of my earliest memories of Marion was attending meetings of a committee at our church to become welcoming and affirming to GLBT people. Marion's daughter had a lesbian close friend, whom she loved like a daughter. She and another woman, Gene, were close friends and staunchly challenging the Catholic church to do the right thing! Gene was impassioned, but Marion was downright feisty, wanting to march on the Archdiocese or do something else radical. She expressed great consternation at the church she felt was extremely misguided. Marion's passion and attempts to push us forward were key factors in our church becoming a Reconciling in Christ congregation and a member of the Community of Welcoming Congregations. Marion lived her faith by advocating for the less fortunate and the underrepresented. GLBT equality and justice was only one of the many things she fought for.

Pastor Laurie speaking about Marion at the prayer breakfast
Today at her wonderful memorial service, our priest Father Neil told a story about his first encounter with Marion. Back in 1982, they were going to be starting up a new parish. She got hold of his phone number and quizzed him about his standing on social issues...she wanted to know if his beliefs were acceptable before she would come to the new church. After 20 minutes, Neil said he wasn't sure if he had passed or not, but the next morning she showed up at church. Marion's passion for justice and love of humanity were key themes throughout the celebration of her life today.l

Jewish, protestant, and Buddhist clergy who spoke
On Valentine's Day Mike and I eschewed hearts and candy and instead attended an interfaith prayer breakfast to kick off the Oregon United for Marriage initiative to get gay marriage on the ballot. Our gifted pastor was one of the many clergy who spoke on that inspiring morning. She talked about Marion and how she bravely challenged her church. Today she said that Marion was one of the fiercest women she knew, who taught her how to own her own height and stand proud.

She'd battled cancer a couple of times, had at least one stroke, and in recent years succumbed to Alzheimer's. She leaves behind a loving and devoted husband, five children, six grandchildren, and scores of friends who will miss her dearly, but whose lives have been forever touched and inspired. What I learned from Marion, and was reminded of today, was to not be afraid of speaking my mind and doing the right thing.
Marion planned her own memorial service many years ago, and it showed. The songs and readings were upbeat and inspiring, especially the final one, "City of God." As we were walking out, they played "Oh Happy Day" by Ladysmith Black Mambazo. And most inspiring of all was this photo (to the right) on the back of the program and in front of the church, accompanied by these words:

"On one final note...Ciao, arrivederci, so long, been good to know ya, I did it my way, and seriously folks, I love you!!!' Think of me as laughing and enjoying what I had in this life but off on another adventure and looking forward to new sights and renewing old acquaintances."

Mary Olson

On our way home today from Marion's memorial service, I learned that my lifelong friend Mary Olson died yesterday.

Dancing at Mission of the Atonement's
 25th anniversary party
I've known Mary since I was 3 or 4 years we attended Atonement Lutheran Church as I was growing up before it became Mission of the Atonement. Mary and her husband Oscar were charter members in 1961, and my family joined several years later, around 1967 or 1968. Throughout my childhood, she was there...I remember her coming to visit me in the hospital when I had my final cleft palate surgery at the age of 15.
At Holden Village in 2011, with her daughter Annette

She and Oscar danced their way through most of their elder members of a local folk-dancing troupe. Oscar carried around little slips of paper in his pocket that advertised their dance group and invited everyone to join them. At church special events, they would put on their international folk costumes and dance for us. It kept them young, I believe! At their 50th wedding anniversary party, Oscar wore his military uniform--how many men would be able to fit into their uniform that many years later? Must have been the dance!

Beautiful Italian Mary!
In recent years, Mary began losing her eyesight and both she and Oscar had health problems...but they both made it past 90 and celebrated over 60 years of marriage together. Several years ago they moved into a retirement home, and a year and a half ago I visited them with Mike's mum, Olga. Mary was delighted to have us visit and toured us all around the facility.

Every time I saw her, she called me her "baby," and she delighted in telling everyone that she'd known me since I was a little girl. She did the same for my sister Nadine when they visited our church. They were passionately dedicated to our church, even though it meant getting rides from others or even taking the bus to church each week, after they stopped driving.

Beautiful photo taken by their granddaughter
Mary volunteered for years and years in hospitals, until she couldn't any more. Both she and Oscar have always LOVED children, taking their time to learn every child's name and get to know them personally. Mary was a prayer warrior...and another thing that strikes me about Mary and Oscar is that through all the changes we have faced in the church...whether that is voting to be Reconciling in Christ or trying out a two-service format (which was highly controversial!!) or starting a capital campaign, they have been accepting and loving. They have been more progressive than some of the younger people. They have always been filled with faith, acceptance, patience, and loving kindness.

Talking to Annette at another 25th anniversary party
Mary was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer just a few short weeks seems that once she found out that it couldn't be treated, she decided she was ready to go. As she told our pastor, she hadn't seen her mom and dad in a long time...she was peaceful and as always, accepting. She leaves behind her beloved husband Oscar, three children, and two grandchildren. I think many of us thought Oscar would die first, as I imagine he might have as well. I can more easily imagine Mary without Oscar than Oscar without Mary, this was a surprise to all of us.

The oldest members with the
 youngest member at the time, Sydney
Today we went to see Oscar and their children and got to visit Mary's room and leave our respects. A few Valentine's cards were propped up against the wall. Two of them were Oscar and Mary's cards to each other. They had each used the same Valentine's card each year, marking the year and a sentiment. I thought that was the sweetest thing, reflecting a love for and commitment to each other that spanned the decades. Oscar told me that although Mary was ready to go, he wasn't quite ready to let her go.

Even though Mary's sight was failing, she could always sense my presence and greeted me with a smile and a warm hug. How I wish that the last time I saw her, I hadn't been so busy at church...and I had taken more time to chat with her. How little I knew that it would be my last time to connect with her and how I wish I would have told her how much I loved her and what a positive influence she has been in my life.

Mary dancing with April
"To keep the heart unwrinkled.. to be hopeful.. kindly.. cheerful.. reverent... that is to triumph over old age." 
~ Amos Bronson Alcott

As my friend April just wrote on Facebook, "this is Mary, who taught me what life should be like at 90. I will miss you." Exactly...I want to be just like Marion and Mary when I get older...wise, wonderful, inspirational, and compassionate women who modeled love and justice for all. My life will not be the same without you.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Oh no, you didn't! (Monday Listicles)

This week's listicle theme is "OH NO YOU DIDN'T" a friendly educational guide to what not to give me for Valentine's make it easy on our partners. Most of these Mike already knows...but if not, just in case!! (Or in other words, ways I'm not your typical woman!) Happy Valentine's Day (a little early)!

Here are my "Oh no you didn't!"s:

1. Anything Twilight
Just no!!! 10 Reasons I Hate Twilight

2. Unnaturally dyed carnations
I prefer more natural flowers...preferably ones with nice smells, like daphne or lilacs.

3. Harlequin romances (or anything overly sappy or formulaic)
Although I did go through a Danielle Steele phase in college, I have NEVER read a Harlequin romance or anything of the type. I'm a little bit of a book snob.

4. Cheap chocolate
First of all, I like my chocolate to be fair trade if at all possible (ever since I learned a few years ago about the child slave labor that produces most cheap chocolate in the world). Second, I have converted my palate to prefer dark chocolate that is less sweet (and more expensive!). I always used to love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, but no more. Green and Black's Ginger Chocolate is one of my favorites.

5. Tickets to the Civil War game
Living in Oregon, most people are either rampant Duck or Beavers supporters and they go crazy over the Civil War. I went out of state to college, and I'm also not a football I have absolutely no opinion about OSU or U of O. Being a liberal arts person, I would have fit in better at U of O...but my company was founded by OSU I'm completely neutral. And I don't watch the Super Bowl either! Last night at our elementary school auction I was talking to some other women, and we were all expressing our gratefulness that our husbands are not obsessed with sports. Mike only watches tennis and the Olympics. I'm more likely to be a Game of Thrones widow than a football widow.

6. High heels
When I was in high school, I loved to wear 4- or 5-inch heels to make myself taller. No more! Comfort rules. Life is too short to wear shoes that make your feet hurt!!!

7. New hardback books
Regular blog readers might recall that Mike got me a hardcover book for my birthday, The Casual Vacancy. I am too cheap to pay full price for hardcovers. Most of my books I get out of the library or on Of course I would have had to wait ages to get The Casual Vacancy from either of those venues. I finally accepted the gift and read it! But I think I can only bear one full-price expensive book per year, darling! :)

I might end up with this...

8. A purse (or coat)
I have a huge love of bags (or purses) but I try to restrain myself and not go too crazy. As I wrote about last week, I own two Queen Bee bags and would love to have another one. I have a coworker whose husband bought her a coat for Christmas...she didn't like it much but she wore it anyway so she wouldn't hurt his feelings...until she got the guts to tell him she didn't like it. Purses and coats are just too personal to buy for another person.

Or this...

9. Bling
I do not wear a diamond ring...when we got married, it was a statement against South African Apartheid. Now I wouldn't mind a diamond ring or some fancy jewelry, but I think I would like to pick it out together. My friend Amy's husband buys her beautiful jewelry and she loves her bling. It's just not my thing...I love jewelry and pieces that fit my personal style. And blingy cell phone cases? DEFINITELY not my style!!!

10. Iron
We know a woman who actually purchased her husband an iron for his birthday. She was explaining the rationale of her purchase...he had been complaining about the iron, so she decided that would be a perfect gift. I think he was less than excited about it. They often bought extremely practical, unromantic gifts for each was like a never-ending cycle. We are no longer friends with them (but not because of the iron)!!!

So there are my Monday Listicles for the week. Thanks to the wonderful Stasha who sponsors this fun activity!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Losing Lloyd and Loretta

Well, so much for 2013 starting off on a better note. I have lost two people I cared about in the last week and a half. My Uncle Lloyd died nine days ago, and a dear coworker and friend, Loretta Davis, died yesterday after a brief and horrible fight with cancer.

My mom with her sister Janet and brother Lloyd

My Uncle Lloyd was nearly 90 years old, 17 years older than my mom (who was the ultimate bonus baby!). He was an artist, husband, and father, and sadly all of his nuclear family (wife Audrey and sons David and John) died before him. His only living descendant is his grandson, Matthew, who lives on the east coast. When I was growing up, I didn't see much of my Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Audrey even though they lived closer to us than many of my other Oregon relatives. I remember my Aunt Audrey as being a smoker, independent, feisty, funny, and opinionated. She used to do most of the talking when they were together. In my memory, he was the strong, silent type. I also remember selling Girl Scout Cookies when I was younger...and he had painted the picture on the box. That made me feel so proud! Several years ago, we saw Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Audrey in Fred Meyer in Burlingame (near their house). They popped up behind us and Audrey made a sarcastic comment...I can't really remember the details, but it was a strange encounter after not seeing them for so long.

When Lloyd's younger son, John, got sick a few years ago, my parents became involved in helping both John and Lloyd. John, like his parents, was also reclusive. Sadly, he soon died and so began the process of my parents rebuilding their relationship with Uncle Lloyd. It's a beautiful lesson of sibling love. So many siblings who fall out of contact never really re-establish that contact. My mom became closer to my uncle during his last few years on earth than she ever had been before. Both of my parents have dedicated much of their recent time to caring for their brothers--both my Uncle Lloyd and my Uncle John, who is suffering from Alzheimer's (married to my Aunt Barbara, who died of melanoma last year). When we visited my uncle, I was so touched to see how much he adored and appreciated my mom. This is what my mom wrote about Lloyd the other day on Facebook:
For those of you who don't know, I lost my 89 year old brother, Lloyd, on Monday, after he had two very bad infections and other medical complications. The good part is that we were able to take him home from the hospital and he had some very good days at home. He was a kind, thoughtful, curious, creative man who taught me many lessons about life.
Like my parents, in recent years I saw more of my Uncle Lloyd than I ever did in my younger years. One of my fondest memories is of visiting him last January with Kieran, and getting a walk-through art show in his home. He was ready to die, I think, and I too am glad that he was able to die at home, knowing that he was loved and cared for. Instead of a service (which he did not want), my parents will honor him with an art show in his home.

One of the few photos I have with my Uncle Lloyd,
taken on Halloween 2011 (he loved Halloween!)--
we took the kids over to his house to trick or treat

Sadly, I don't have any photos of the two of us together--
but I found some nice photos on her Facebook page
My friend and wonderful coworker, Loretta Davis, died yesterday after an extremely quick and horrible battle with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and the resulting homeolytic anemia, in which the body's red blood cells multiply excessively and destroy healthy blood cells. Less than two weeks ago, we received a surprising e-mail announcing that Loretta had been diagnosed with lymphoma and would be on leave starting the next day. She sent a follow-up e-mail to her close coworkers with her private e-mail address. Apparently she had been feeling unwell since December, but I was unaware. While she was going through all this worry, she had been praying for ME (because of my surgery). The last few e-mails I got from her before her diagnosis were joyous, telling me how glad she was that I was back at work and everything had gone as you can imagine, I was shocked to learn she had cancer. The next day, she was in the ICU and in crisis.

On a camel in the United Arab Emirates
(where she was working)

Although we've both worked at the same company for many years, I only began working closely with her a few years ago when my career transitioned out of staff management and I began focusing more on communications, marketing, and writing. At the time Loretta worked in our corporate marketing & communications group in Denver. We both saw each other through major career transitions. For a time, she thought she was going to lose her job and I know she lost some sleep over that while trying to be her upbeat, optimistic self. Fortunately she found a new niche in our Environmental Services group, where she was greatly valued and appreciated. She loved her job and her coworkers, and she also loved her vacations!

Loretta was a HUGE cheerleader for me (as I tried to be for her), and as I moved from managing full-time to needing to look for work to keep myself busy, she began sending great writing and communication opportunities my way. Together with another dear friend and coworker, Judy, we started a Communications Community of Practice...trying to connect various people doing communications work throughout different organizations in our firm. Loretta was a wonderful networker, always trying to help other people. As one coworker wrote on her Caring Bridge site, she was his #1 go-to person. She always knew who to go to in order to get things done, and she never turned people away. She was one of my very favorite coworkers--never failing to be encouraging, kind, honest, and upbeat, even when she was under stress. 

Her brother and close coworker and friend, Leslie, kept us updated through her CaringBridge website. Most of the last couple of weeks, Loretta was in the ICU as the doctors battled to stabilize her red blood cell count. She received over 10 pints of blood, and she wasn't getting enough oxygen to her brain or heart because of the anemia. I sent Loretta daily quotations to inspire her, and on Saturday she responded (to my great delight!). I will treasure this e-mail forever--my last contact with her:
Marie - you are my light. I love getting your messages and I just got caught up with the week (love Sheryl Crow!). This is an exhaustive journey, so big I could never imagined that I would be going through it. Every day includes doubt, fear, lots of tears and it takes so much energy to do just the slightest little task (like this). I am so humbled by the messages on CB and this account. I can never thank you enough for your unwavering support. Love from the bed at Sky Ridge Oncology. :)

With her close friend/coworker Lesli

I never, for one second, imagined that Loretta would not survive this illness. I know so many people who have survived this disease...generally, it's curable. We rejoiced when we found out it had not spread to her bones and was still in Stage II. She was full of optimism and hope--that's how she lived her life--and I was sure I'd see her the next time I went to Denver and we would celebrate her survival. I was terribly shocked and devastated to learn of her sudden death. The world has lost a true gem of a person. I don't usually tell my coworkers I love them, but I did tell Loretta after she got ill.

Last night when I went to sleep I knew I would wake up and grieve once again, wishing it had just been a dream that she had died. In fact, I dreamt about was as if her spirit had already left her and it was just her body. I embraced her and told her how much I would miss her. This gave me a small bit of reassurance that I was able to say goodbye to her in my dreams.
She loved Miss Piggy, because her sister designed Miss Piggy's costumes. Sadly, both of her sisters also died young from complications caused by diabetes. We spoke a few times about the genetic disposition for diabetes we shared. I'm glad she can be reuited with her sisters but she died way too soon, and left behind so many people who loved her and miss her so much. So here's to our unique and wonderful Loretta from Miss Piggy:

"All my scenes are my own. A double? Impossible! I am unique."

Her life and way-too-sudden death is a reminder of how we must cherish every day and tell our loved ones how much we appreciate them. Being kind is the most important thing...that's what I learned from Loretta.