Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Use your bean: There’s a better way to joe!

Is your coffee habit burying the planet? Read why coffee pods are not good for the environment or your health.

(This is an article and infographic we published at work on National Coffee Day yesterday. I know it's a controversial subject, and I don't want anyone to feel guilty if they own a Keurig or other type of coffee pod machine! But it's such important information that I wanted to share here on my blog. Thanks to my coworker Austen who helped write this.)

Are you one of the millions of coffee drinkers who own a single-serve, pod-style coffee brewer? 
Because we care about the health of our people and our planet, we do not permit the use of these coffee pod machines in our offices. Here’s why:
  • Your health matters. Heating plastic is a dicey business, releasing potential toxins into our food and drinks. Coffee pods are made from an unclassifiable composite of plastics, which can contain potential carcinogens (such as polystyrene).
  • The planet’s health matters. More than 13 percent of Americans drink coffee from single-cup brewers every day, creating waste that mostly cannot be recycled. Coffee pods are made from a mixture of paper, plastic and aluminum, which means they are not recyclable. So our coffee-drinking habits are flooding our landfills with huge amounts of trash. In 2011, discarded coffee pods could have circled the planet six times. Last year, the most popular coffee pod company sold 8.3 billion cups, which, end to end, could encircle the earth in waste 10.5 times. 
  • Single-serve coffee pods cost two to three times more than other options. Not taking into account the cost of the coffee machines, individual coffee pods cost about US$0.50-$0.60/cup versus $0.25/cup for coffee beans. If you already own a coffee pod machine, you could save US$200 to $600 just by switching to a reusable coffee filter!
  • Our clients count on us to walk our talk. We all contribute to a corporate culture where we show our clients that environmental efforts matter. Choices, like the types of coffee makers that we use, reinforce our global commitment to sound business practices and environmental care.

But let’s talk quality. And speed. 

The good news is you can enjoy fresher coffee for much less money by using a single-cup drip filter or French Press. (Keurig also makes a reusable coffee pod filter, the My K-Cup, which is on sale on amazon at the moment for just $5.33!) Fast, easy, awesome cups of joe.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

50 celebrations, Part 2: Tattoo!

I feel compelled to try new things this year, and I debated between getting a nose piercing or a tattoo. I decided on the tattoo for two reasons:

1. I'm not crazy about my nose...it's crooked, probably because of my cleft lip and subsequent surgeries.

2. I'm a word person, and I liked the idea of expressing myself in words on my body as a personal statement.

I pondered what words and images to use, but when I came up with a quote, I knew it was the right one. My decision was sealed when we saw a production of "Midsummer's Night Dream" in the park this summer and I witnessed the little, fierce Hermia expressing herself!

So yesterday I took the plunge. I found a tattoo artist at New Rose Tattoo, a woman-owned tattoo shop in SE Portland, and talked to her (Carrie Smith) about my ideas.

Here is a photo collage of the process, thanks to my lovely and talented photographer/friend who accompanied me!

Putting on the stencil

Ready to go!


Outside lines done

Starting on the text


At least I was able to smile!
Thankful I had a friend to talk to and distract me!

I survived! With Carrie Smith at New Rose Tattoo
Before bandaging
Photos of the shop

After I got my tattoo and had lunch with my friend, I went off to get my hair done. I was threatening my teenager Chris that I would get blue hair (he was much more horrified at the thought of having a mother with blue hair than a tattoo). So my hairdresser had a little fun--she put a blue feather in my hair!
Can you see the blue?
With Nick later on at Costco
 Today it's a little sore--feels like a sunburn--but I'm very happy with my new tat!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

50 celebrations, Part 1: Brandi Carlile and book group

Eleven days until I hit five decades.

So far I am more excited about this occasion than depressed about it. But I suppose that could change. I plan to celebrate all year long, with a series of celebrations and surprises, some of which will appear here on my blog, and some that will not. 

My birthday celebrations began on September 5, when Mike and I went to see Brandi Carlile perform with the Oregon Symphony--his gift to me. Even though I'm a long-time folkie, I only got hooked on Brandi Carlile in the last year or so...and Mike knew very little of her music. Now she is one of my favorites, so it was a real thrill to see her live with the Oregon Symphony (here's a link to her rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah). She performs with twin brothers--Phil and Tim Hanseroth--multi-talented musicians. Fantastic concert!! If you don't know her music, check out her NPR Tiny Desk Concert. I can't get enough of her, so it was a great way to kick off the birthday fun.

Last night my wonderful book group surprised me with a birthday dinner, those sneaky bibliophiles! Asian food (which they know is my favorite), lovely delicacies, wine, lots of laughter, great friends...that's all you need for a party!

With my wonderful friend Kristin

Caley, Niki, and Gitte

The hostess and her pup

The gorgeous desserts (and gorgeous server)

With the lovely Caley, who I've known for 20+ years
(She and her daughter decorated with streamers and "Marvelous Marie" behind us)
(Keep Quiet and Don't Stream refers to what was happening behind the French doors!)

I love my birthday card!
(They identified me out of tribe of women)

Love this phenomenal group of smart, funny, wise women!
Topped off with flowers, sparkly, and money to spend on books at Powell's, the celebrations have begun! Thanks to Caley, Niki, Kristin, and Gitte for kicking off my birthday in such a fun way!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mama, will you be at my wedding? (on being an older parent)

I never planned to have a child one month before I turned 42. I never imagined I'd have to answer the question my 8-year-old son posed to me tonight:

Mama? Will you be at my wedding?

He expressed this fear after telling me he doesn't want me to die, and then later he asked me how many days until my birthday. He must be realizing that I'm an older mom. Most of his friends do not have moms who are about to turn 50. I wouldn't be surprised if he told his friends and they expressed shock at my age.

My soul collage
How could he know that my aging and his youth have been in the forefront of my mind recently? He is such a sensitive soul, and I fear the day when he will lose his parents at a younger age than most of his friends and his brothers.

How could he know that I did a soul collage about this topic with a close friend a few months ago? The topic was fear. I expressed my worries about Nicholas and the losses he will endure in his life...about the fact that I might not be alive when his children grow up...about how my heart grieves every time he asks me, "how old will you be when I'm 50?" and I know there's a good chance I won't be alive.

Nicholas is such a sweet, sensitive soul. He craves love and attention (his usual mantra if we have to go out for an evening meeting or a night out is "you're always leaving me!"). When we came home from a meeting this evening talking about how cute a friend's baby was, he expressed his disgruntlement. He has always disliked it when we've called ANYONE else cute. He's the cuteness factory himself.

He's had a hard year...he loved kindergarten and first grade, but after first grade he began a sort of mini-OCD stage with a perpetual fear of throwing up and catching e coli (so he's a thorough hand washer and hand sanitizer user). It's improved quite a bit since the beginning of the summer, but he still carries big fears inside of him and says he wishes he had the "old Nick" back (the one who didn't worry about throwing up). And he's not enjoying second grade nearly as much. It's much harder, with not as many "fun activities." And he sadly asked us to remove the red-and-black polish I put on his fingernails this summer (Trail Blazers, at his request) because some of the other kids were teasing him about it.

First day of school
(one of the oldest moms in the classroom)
On his 8th birthday recently, we gave him the birthday card at the bottom of this post. When we read it together, both of us ended up crying! He said it made him feel so loved. (I also made my 18-year-old cry on his birthday, when he watched the video I'd made about his life. I guess it's my ritual.)

When Nicholas asks me questions like "will you be at my wedding?", I can't help but think of friends and family members who've battled or are battling cancer ...or who had children when they were older than me...these questions must haunt them too, to an even greater degree.

With this sweet, sensitive son of mine
I know too much about life's fragility to promise Nicholas I will always be around. But I also can't be brutally honest with my scared 8-year-old, who knows his parents will not be around forever. So I tell him, fighting back the tears, that I will do everything I can to be there for his wedding. (And pray that he gets married before he's 40 or 50!)

My sweet questioning son is a constant reminder to savor every moment of life, for we don't know how long we will have on this earth. I remember my friend Laurie's lament that she wishes she'd spent more time with her 4-year-old son Zacary on his last day on earth. If only she'd known.

I also ponder the fact that Nicholas is drawn to tough, macho male figures...in particular, Indiana Jones, WWE wrestlers, and recently Trail Blazers basketball and Rocky. He loves to take his shirt off and flex his muscles, trying to look tough...amusing since he's such a skinny thing! I think he's trying to battle his fears and reassure himself he'll be okay. Maybe he'll develop some superpower to keep his old parents with him as long as possible.

He who is my little boy...

The card that made us cry!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What I read in August (2014)

So my husband informed me today that he thinks blogging is going out of style. That might be true in general, but it made me reflect on how much I've been neglecting my blog and how bad I feel about that! I must make a renewed effort to post more! It seems like my life has spiraled a bit out of control lately and I don't have as much time to be creative. So here I stand (as Martin Luther would say), stating my desire to recommit myself to blogging!!

Here's what I read in August.

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike, #2)
The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith

This is #2 in J.K. Rowling's new adult mystery series. Detective Cormoran Strike is an interesting character--he's a disabled veteran with a prosthesis, born to a famous rock star father but alienated from him, motherless and still deeply ambivalent about breaking up with his psychopath girlfriend. I preferred the first book in the series, The Cuckoo's Calling, but this one still contained vintage J.K. Rowling story telling.

Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother's Tokyo KitchenJapanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother's Tokyo Kitchen, by Naomi Moriyama with William Doyle

This book is a combination health book and cookbook. Japanese home cooking is so much more than sushi and sashimi...you can find more of it at American Japanese restaurants than when we first returned from Japan. This book made me miss Japan and Japanese food so much! I love the way Moriyama gives tribute to her mom's own Tokyo kitchen...and I definitely want to incorporate more Japanese cooking into our own kitchen. But the truth is that cooking Japanese does take a great deal more time, and we don't all have Japanese housewives in our families!\

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

Such a wonderful quiet surprise of a book! Harold Fry, an Englishman in his early 60s, is feeling driftless in his retired years. One day he learns that his old coworker and friend, Queenie Hennessy, is dying of cancer all the way at the farthest north point of England. He's inspired to walk all the way up England--a 600-mile journey--to see her, with the hopes that she will stay alive until he can get to her. He thinks this will save her. I thought this was a sweet, sensitive book, and extremely English. It's also very sad--both about Harold and his wife Maureen's life and own son--and about Queenie herself. But in the end, he finds redemption...always a good ending in my book!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Do you have what it takes to support friends in their difficult times?

Today I was remembering the moment when our friendship with another couple reached a critical turning point. After our oldest son, Chris, was born at just 24 weeks gestation, he lay in his warming isolette for weeks in the hospital. In the first few months, he was connected to a high-frequency ventilator and had all sorts of tubes and wires attached to him. Sometimes they put IVs in his head (when they ran out of other veins). He was heavily bruised, scrawny, fragile, and red. He looked like a tiny baby bird. 

But we thought he was the most beautiful thing we'd ever seen. Months later, my OB told me she was convinced he could not possibly survive...and that he looked like a fetus. (Yes, he did, but did I want to hear this? No.) I remember feeling so grateful for people who told us he looked beautiful and who cheered him on!

My little baby bird
The painful turning point in our friendship with the other couple came on an evening when we took a break from the NICU and visited these friends. After dinner, we showed them some video footage of Chris in the NICU. I will never forget their silence. They did not say a word. I suppose that was better than saying something horrible, but their silence spoke volumes. They did not want to see this video, and they did not know how to provide the support that we needed at the time. Gradually, over the years, we distanced ourselves from them. But we were still friends until many years later, when other events led to a falling out. I view that video as the beginning of my realization about our friendship.

Between my oldest and middle sons, I experienced four miscarriages. In the beginning, friends were supportive, but as the time went on, they became less so. I have many painful memories of friends acting insensitive. In one case, it seemed that one close friend actively avoided me because she was pregnant and didn't want to be around me. On another occasion, when I told my then-women's group that my feelings were hurt because of their insensitivity, they became defensive and did not even apologize.

Facebook Apologizes For Banning 2-Month-Old Heart Patient's 'Gory' PhotoI was reminded of these stories when I read about the parents who posted photos of their sick baby on Facebook. Dad Kevin Bond is trying to raise money for a heart transplant for his son, Hudson Azera Bond. Facebook banned his photos, deeming them too "scary" and "gory" and would not allow him to promote the photos with a $20 ad. Although Facebook eventually reversed its decision and apologized, nothing can reverse the damage that has been done to this family.
 “It hurt our whole family,” Bond, a photographer, told Yahoo Health. “Nobody wants their beautiful son compared to ghosts, zombie ghouls, dismembered bodies, and vampires, and whatever else that rejection letter said.”
I've reported lots of photos and messages on Facebook for hate speech or horrific sexism, and they allow those posts to remain...yet break a family's heart by saying their baby looks gory. 

Insensitive words and actions (or inactions) have such great power and often irreversibly hurt people and destroy relationships. Since those days of the NICU and infertility, our close friendships have evolved and I have incredibly supportive, compassionate, and amazing friends. I can't imagine any of them having these kind of reactions.

This, then, is the true test of friendship for me:
Do your close friends have what it takes to support you when you are facing difficult times? Can they buoy you up, encourage you, be able to see the beauty in your fragile baby bird? Are they able to be in the difficult places with you?
If not, you need new friends. Cultivate them now!