Friday, May 23, 2008
I just discovered (via another blog) this great clip of Ellen DeGeneres nailing it to John McCain. I think she was tremendously courageous to put her life (and love) out there on the line like that, knowing it would fall on deaf ears. She's amazing. I wish I had her chutzpah to challenge other people when they are not being fair or inclusive.
Even though I am no John McCain fan, and I think she really slams him on this one, I've got to admire his willingness to go on her show, because no doubt he must have known that she was going to ask this question. (Unless he's totally clueless!)
But take a look at how he cannot look her in the eye.
Check out this clip.
The first time I heard their music, I loved it! They have gorgeous harmonies, clever lyrics, and toe-tapping beats. Last week Mike and I went to hear them in concert at Mississippi Studios, which is a tiny, hip musical venue on very happening N. Mississippi Street in Portland. We went with two other couples, and as we were leaving the concert, one of the guys and I agreed that if we were to be in a band, Girlyman would be the type of band that would appeal to us--the beautiful harmonies, eclectic styling, and sheer fun of it all.
Not only are they amazing singer/songwriters (they write almost all of their own music), but they are also lively performers. I've never attended a concert where there was more spontaneous silliness. When the women were tuning in between songs, Nate would start composing--on the spot--one of his zany tuning songs, and the women would then start harmonizing, while they were still tuning!! Ty and Doris play several different instruments (the aspiring mandolin player in me was captivated by the mandolin playing), and they included several really silly songs, including tributes to all three major presidential candidates (without expressing their preference for one).
They have three studio CDs out and have just produced a live album, which includes concert banter and some of the tuning songs. If you haven't heard Girlyman, I highly recommend that you check them out!
I've been playing the guitar for 33 years, and I'm contemplating the purchase of a new guitar. I've never owned a new--or even near-new--guitar in my whole life. Taking up mandolin has been a blast, too, but I really need to find a way to practice both of them more. And maybe I will even get back into song writing. The last time I wrote a song was for my wedding, 18 years ago!
Girlyman inspires me to make music again...and to make better music!
Thursday, May 22, 2008
But a few seasons ago I finally got sucked in when a friend told me that she watched it with her kids. Christopher was also hooked. So I began watching and I too got hooked. When I was in grade school, I had those unrealistic fantasies about someday becoming a singer. My fantasy did not translate into ambition, however, because I never practiced my guitar or other instruments as steadfastly as I should have. I'm lucky to have a good ear and moderate musical talent, but I've never been driven to be competitive about it. During my first year at PLU, I tried out for the choir, but the competition was intense among the women, whereas the men had an easy shot. I ended up singing in an all-women's choir, and I enjoyed it, but I quit after the first year because music majors were way too intense for me. I'm much more of a "Brooke White" style of singer (although I hesitate to compare myself to her!).
At any rate, the few seasons I've watched AI, I've been disappointed to see my favorites get knocked out. Last year I liked Melinda Doolittle and Lakisha Jones...they were FUN to watch and listen to, but they didn't appeal to the majority of AI watchers (many of them teeny boppers, I guess). Melinda was the most talented performer last year, but she didn't have the look or the style of the others.
I am disgusted by the crass commercialism in AI--constant endorsements for Coke and Ford--not to mention the fact they call the women "girls." Then this season, one of my least-favorite contestants (Kristy Lee Cook, who happens to be from Oregon!) was getting trounced by the judges every week and came out the following week with "God Bless the USA," which of course bought her another week!!! Then to cap it off, the opening of "Idol Gives Back" had all of the idol contestants singing a "praise" song to Jesus!!! Please. Don't mix religion with mass media, please. So those are the bad parts. But I put up with them because I've gotten caught up in the spirit of regular Joe or Jane making it to the big time with their musical talents.
To get to my point, I was absolutely shocked last night when I FINALLY got to the end of the AI finale, to hear Ryan Seacrest say David Cook's name! From the very beginning, he has been my favorite. I've loved the original arrangements he's used of old favorites (like Billie Jean and Hello), and he has soul. He's accompanied himself on the guitar much of the time. I've always enjoyed watching him perform. Archuleta has a beautiful voice and a cute face, but that's about it. He's a baby and has his one comfort genre, in which he excels. (And he doesn't appear to play any instruments.) David Cook is versatile and creative. Go, David Cook!
He broke down in tears when he learnt that he'd won--he, along with the rest of the world, thought the crown would go to David Archuleta. Very sweet!
Both finalists were very classy and professional about their rivals. Neither said an unkind or competitive word about the other. They genuinely seem to like each other.
Ryan Seacrest described Cook as a former "bartender," but he actually did musical theater in high school and went to university on a theater scholarship. He dropped out of theater and got a degree in graphic design. At that point, he said he'd give himself until 26 to make it in music (he's 25).
You might say that American Idol has become one of my guilty pleasures. Now that America has finally gotten it right, I can't give it up now.
Monday, May 19, 2008
As he was jotting down a note on his clipboard, Kieran came to the door and announced: "My dad voted for the woman!" I felt compelled to tell him that we were definitely planning to support Obama in the general election (since it's 99% sure he'll get the candidacy). He was very polite and said that he would be out there campaigning in the fall for Hillary if by some chance she won the candidacy. I thought it was very respectful of him to say that (especially since we all know it's not going to be Hillary!), and I couldn't help but wish that all of us Democrats were behaving more along those lines, having polite and respectful conversations with each other!
In some ways, making my decision between the first serious female candidate or the first serious African-American candidate ("serious" meaning ones that had a real chance) has become easier in recent weeks. I know Obama is going to win Oregon by a landslide, so it made my decision much easier. (Obama had at least 72,000 people cheer him on yesterday in downtown Portland, and probably hordes more couldn't get near the event.) In the end, my vote doesn't really matter so maybe I got what I wished for. I believe we are blessed to have two such outstanding candidates. I just really hope with my fingers tightly crossed that we can turn the tide on that "no presidential candidate has ever succeeded without winning West Virginia" thing...
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Phyllis Schlafly and Mike Huckabee.
1. Back in the mid-80s when I attended Pacific Lutheran University, I attended a university-sponsored debate between Ms. Schlafly (wouldn't she just love that title?) and Eleanor Smeal, who at that time was the president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and is currently the president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. What dismayed me was how outnumbered the few college students and staff were. Schlafly had recruited her minions to attend in full force. I was surrounded by them, one of whom observed me clapping for Smeal, and proceeded to give me a full-frontal lecture about how feminism = promoting homosexuality and abortion. I just shrugged my shoulders and tried to ignore her. I felt sorry for Smeal, because she didn't have nearly the number of supporters as Schlafly did. She held her own well though. Schlafly is so reactionary and obnoxious that it's very hard to take anything she says seriously. Here are some examples:
“Sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous women.”
"And the first commandment of feminism is: I am woman; thou shalt not tolerate strange gods who assert that women have capabilities or often choose roles that are different from men's. "
"Many professors are Marxists or other varieties of radicals who hate America."
“Sex education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions.”
“When will American men learn how to stand up to the nagging by the intolerant, uncivil feminists whose sport is to humiliate men?”
“Our public school system is our country's biggest and most inefficient monopoly, yet it keeps demanding more and more money.”
“ERA means abortion funding, means homosexual privileges, means whatever else.”
“People think that child-support enforcement benefits children, but it doesn't.”
And this is what she thinks of marital rape:
"Q: Could you clarify some of the statements that you made in Maine last year about martial rape?
A: I think that when you get married you have consented to sex. That's what marriage is all about, I don't know if maybe these girls missed sex ed. That doesn't mean the husband can beat you up, we have plenty of laws against assault and battery. If there is any violence or mistreatment that can be dealt with by criminal prosecution, by divorce or in various ways. When it gets down to calling it rape though, it isn't rape, it's a he said-she said where it's just too easy to lie about it.
Q: Was the way in which your statement was portrayed correct?
A: Yes. Feminists, if they get tired of a husband or if they want to fight over child custody, they can make an accusation of marital rape and they want that to be there, available to them."
Schlafly, now 83, is in the news this week because Washington University in St. Louis gave her an honorary degree at its commencement ceremony. What is noteworthy about this sad event, at a university that purports to support diversity and equality, is that hundreds of the graduates, staff, and other members of the crowd turned their backs to Schlafly in protest. Why did Washington U. do such a stupid thing? Apparently a secret committee decided who to honor this year--another of the honorees was Quincy Jones. Some university insiders speculate that it was to attract media attention to the school.
Schlafly has called the protestors (shown below) "fools." She claims that young college women do not have enough to do nowadays and they are lazy. Her vitriol about feminists and gays and lesbians is sickening. I'm glad to see that some of the students and staff took a stand.
2. I'm horrified at Mike Huckabee's terribly unfunny comment during his speech to the NRA. I've never been a Huckabee fan, but to make an assassination joke about Barack Obama, during the 40th anniversary of the assassinations of MLK and Bobby Kennedy? Absolutely unconscionable.
Don't get me started about an ordained minister talking to the NRA about how we need to train our children early how to use guns. Or how he fired his state police chief because he tried to pursue justice after Huckabee's son was implicated in hanging a stray dog.
I suppose he was trying to accuse Obama of being a coward (since all the Republicans are attempting to do that, given Obama's expression of willingness to talk to our enemies), and he didn't fully think through the implications of the joke. Or perhaps he had it prepared in advance and the crashing sound was planned. (That's probably the case.)
I find it fascinating to consider that people accuse Obama of being a coward for his willingness to talk to Hamas, or the Iranian president, or the North Koreans, or whomever. Seems to me that it would take an enormous amount of courage and confidence to talk to one's enemies! And what possible harm could come of it? I can't imagine that they would hate us any more if we tried to talk to them. It reminds me of a George Carlin quote I like:
"Another plan I have is 'World Peace through Formal Introductions.' The idea is that everyone in the world would be required to meet everyone else in the world, formally, at least once. You'd have to look the person in the eye, shake hands, repeat their name, and try to remember one outstanding physical characteristic. My theory is, if you knew everyone in the world personally, you'd be less inclined to fight them in a war: 'Who??? The Malaysians??? Are you kidding??? I know those people!!!'"
I can't decide whether I want McCain to choose Huckabee as his running mate or not...because if it means they'd be more likely to go down in flames, I'm all for it. Somehow I think it will not happen after this ill-advised comment.
And that leads me back to my original title: how can people like Schlafly and Huckabee truly believe in their hearts that they are behaving the way Christians should behave? To use the words of fundamentalist teens, WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? Surely not these things. Amen.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Read the comments following just about any news article about either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, and you'll find loads of obnoxious, vile comments about each of them. This might say more about the types of people who spend their time commenting on news sites than anything about the American electorate...but it is highly discouraging.
I'm glad that Clinton has made it plainly clear to her supporters that not voting for Obama out of some sense of duty to her (or some other reason) would be a terrible mistake.
I have heard a number of otherwise-intelligent people claim that they will vote for McCain if Obama doesn't win. Many of the West Virginia Clinton supporters have said they will support McCain if she doesn't win the candidacy. Both are equally stupid and beyond understanding.
Obama and Clinton have both made mistakes and missteps in this primary--I'm sure that they would rather take some words back or change some of the experiences that have been made public--but they are both human and both outstanding candidates for president.
If you are worried about the economy; the war; global warming; poverty; protecting the rights of women, children, people of color, or gay/lesbian/bi/transgender people; preserving a woman's right to choose; environmental protection; maintaining our religious freedoms; the U.S. reputation abroad; or providing our children with safer homes and food, cleaner air and water, and a better education...if you are worried about the Supreme Court further becoming a bastion of right-wing fundamentalism...how can you even consider voting for McCain? He is only slightly better than George W. Bush.
I shudder to think about how long it will take for this country to recover from 8 Bush years. How could anyone think about extending this disastrous period even further?
Democrats and Independents, please put your differences aside and vote for the candidate who best aligns with your personal priorities and interests. PLEASE don't vote on the basis of personality. We need a strong leader, and the best leader for our country is not necessarily the type of person you want for your best friend. That misguided notion (that so many Americans thought that W would be more "fun to have a beer with" than Kerry or Gore) is what got us into this mess to begin with.
Monday, May 12, 2008
I spent Friday night at the Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, celebrating my friend Shelia's 40th birthday. It was a great venue, because the bunk bed rooms are only $44 (including tax!) and there's an onsite soaking pool, theater, and restaurant. We soaked in the pool (see below), had wine and appetizers in our room, listened to some eclectic live music, had dinner in the restaurant, and celebrated Shelia's birthday with cake and prezzies (English for presents) back in our room. Friday night we were nine (seven spending the night), and in the morning, one more joined us for breakfast. As a teenager, I loved slumber parties...staying up into the wee hours chatting and socializing...and this was just as fun. It is always great to spend time with Shelia, who moved to Idaho last fall just after we had become good friends, and the other women she invited were fun as well.
2. "Love You" from Nicholas
I called home Saturday morning to chat with the boys, and Nicholas said "Love you" on the phone. I'm still in awe of having a 1-year-old who can talk, since neither of my older boys talked at this age. Chris didn't talk much until 3, and Kieran until 2. Of course, I cannot get him to repeat this trick, the little stinker. Every time I say "Can you say 'love you'?," he says "Baba!" (which is his name for his brothers), with a cheeky gleam in his eye. He's quite the little joker. A few months ago, every time I would ask him to say "Mama," he would say "Baba"! This morning he said his first three-word phrase: "Bye bye Auntie Deedee," referring to having said goodbye to my sister yesterday afternoon.
3. Mother-Sister Bonding Time
On Saturday afternoon (after spending a few hours with my kiddos in between activities), my sister Nadine and I took my mom to the Barefoot Sage on Hawthorne (tiny photo above) to have foot baths and massages. It was lovely! Then we had dinner downtown at Mother's Bistro, one of my favorite Portland restaurants, where they honor one mother a month by featuring her recipes (in addition to their standards). Here's the three of us after our meal at Mother's.
We went to my parents' house after church for lunch--my dad had made casserole the day before. Mom, Nadine, and I posed for another photo outside in their backyard:
Grace (Eventually): Some Thoughts on Faith is the third of Anne Lamott's books about faith and life and how they intertwine. I first discovered Lamott years ago, before she was very well known, when my friend Mary lent me Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year. I was struck by her raw honesty and beautiful writing. Not many mothers will admit to their desire to throw their newborn baby out the window (because he wouldn't stop crying)!
At first, I struggled to get into Grace, but eventually it took hold of me. My favorite essays covered topics such as:
- Lamott's helping in a dance class for developmentally disabled adults
- Her description of an old friendship that went sour because of her jealousy and her friends' self-absorption and materialism
- A panel discussion she participated in when she had the courage to speak her own truth about her views on abortion
- Her experience helping a dear friend to end his life (because of a debilitating cancer)
- An experience she had with a dishonest carpet dealer and her decision to move on and not harbor anger about the loss of her money
- Her reflections on the difficulties of raising a teenage son
- Her look back on life with her mother
Here are some of the memorable passages in the book--they caught my attention either because of the quality of the writing (her similes are amazing) or because of the depth of her spirit and honesty.
"As a Christian and a feminist, the most important message I can carry and fight for is the sacredness of each human life, and reproductive rights for all women are a crucial part of that. It is a moral necessity that we not be forced to bring children into the world for whom we cannot be responsible and adoring and present. We must not inflict life on children who will be resented; we must not inflict unwanted children on society."
"Grace arrived, like the big, loopy stitches with which a grandmotherly stranger might baste your hem temporarily."
"Sometimes grace works like water wings when you feel you are sinking."
"'I liked those ladies! They were helpers, and they danced.' These are the words I want on my gravestone: that I was a helper, and that I danced."
"He got me a cup of tea with honey, toast with honey, yogurt with honey, like I was John the Baptist with the flu."
"And she is going to dance, dance hungry, dance full, dance each cold astonishing moment, now when she is young and again when she is old."
"I remember staring at my son endlessly when he was an infant, stunned by his very existence, wondering where on earth he had come from."
"Jealousy always has been my cross, the weakness and woundedness in me that has most often caused me to feel ugly and unlovable, like the Bad Seed. I’ve had many years of recovery and therapy, years filled with intimate and devoted friendships, yet I still struggle. I know that when someone gets a big slice of pie, it doesn’t mean there’s less for me. In fact, I know that there isn’t even a pie, that there’s plenty to go around, enough food and love and air. But I don’t believe it for a second. I secretly believe there’s a pie. I will go to my grave brandishing my fork."
"Mel was somewhat surprised that as a Christian I so staunchly agreed with him about assisted suicide: I believe that life is a kind of Earth School, so even though assisted suicide means you’re getting out early, before the term ends, you’re going to be leaving anyway, so who says it isn’t okay to take an incomplete in the course."
"You've got to wonder what Jesus was live at seventeen. They don't even talk about it in the Bible, he was apparently so awful."
As you can imagine by reading these quotes, many in the fundamentalist communities are not Anne Lamott fans! She recently appeared on the Stephen Colbert show and quietly referred to God as "She." The blogosphere and amazon community is full of incensed Christians, trying to figure out just what the heck people see in Lamott. Another reason to find her appealing! Here is another quote from Lamott, summarizing how she feels about salvation:
"I don't believe God is a God of judgment. I certainly think the right-wing God says that if you're anything other than what they are, you're doomed, and I can't find that in the Bible. The right-wing Christian God is a God of extreme bigotry and elitism...Jesus as I understand Jesus welcomes everyone to the table."
Since that sums up how I feel about faith and a God that includes everyone and every journey, I am an Anne Lamott fan.
Friday, May 9, 2008
- In a few hours, I'll be joining my friend Shelia in celebrating her 40th birthday at a Girls' Night Getaway at McMenamin's Grand Lodge in Forest Grove. I haven't had a girls' night overnight since my sister's bachelorette party in '97!! That's bad. I'm really looking forward to it.
- Tomorrow afternoon, after stopping home for a few hours to see the kids, my sister and I will go out with my mom. We usually take her out to brunch the day before Mother's Day, but my plans tonight mean we've had to revise plans. I'm looking forward to our annual women-only time.
- Sunday we'll go to church, which promises to be emotional. Each year on Mother's Day and Father's Day, three members of the community share their own personal stories of mothering or fathering. (Mike was asked to talk this Sunday about my qualities as a mother, but it was sort of last minute, so he declined and told me that I shouldn't take it personally--he likes to have more time to prepare for those sorts of things. [I don't take it personally...it's the last thing he needs to worry about since he'll have all three kids for much of the weekend!]) At any rate, Mother's and Father's Day services are always highly emotional and touching.
- After church my dad, Mike, and wonderful brother-in-law are making and serving us lunch.
- After my sister and her family depart in the afternoon, we will go off to the Portland Art Museum to see the Degas exhibit on its last day. I was able to get free tickets via my company's membership, and it will be the younger children's first visit to the art museum. Since Kieran has become an absolutely obsessive artist, I'm hoping he will enjoy it!
Nicholas just woke up from his nap and I played this Mother's Day song for him (my mom sent it to me). It made him giggle out loud! He loves balls and babies, and this little ditty had both!
Thursday, May 1, 2008
However....lest I wallow in self-pity...I cannot. I have my health, and my children and immediate family do as well. We have a roof over our heads, plenty to eat, enough $ to do fun things, and a huge amount of love and laughter in our home and our circle of family and friends. We are not fighting cancer.
Recently, cancer is everywhere I turn...
- Last fall the daughter of an acquaintance (who used to go to our church) went off to start her freshman year at Princeton and was diagnosed with a massive tumor in her chest...and has been home in Portland undergoing chemo all year. Her mom just shaved her head as a fundraiser for children's cancer, and to match her daughter's bald head.
- In our Boise office, the IT lead has had a recurrence of cancer, to the extent that involved a 9-hour surgery to remove several major organs...and a followup surgery because of complications that was akin to a liver transplant.
- Also in Boise, two of my staff are dealing with cancer...one has a husband who was recently diagnosed with throat cancer, and another has a 27-year-old daughter who has an inoperable brain tumor and months to a few years to live. This blog post was written by the former pastor of the employee whose daughter has the brain tumor.
- My aunt has had a recurrence of malignant melanoma on the back of her leg. The prognosis is good, but melanoma is damn scary.
- Our small church community has been stricken with an astonishing number of cases of cancer over the past several years. Two people have died from it, one a very sweet, older man, and the other a vibrant woman in her 40s, leaving behind two sons and a husband. In recent months, there have been more cases of colon, breast, and mouth cancer amongst otherwise healthy people.
- Several days ago I learned that another of my coworkers has been dealing with breast cancer.
Cancer sucks. There's got to be some sort of environmental link going on, because man, it's everywhere. And compared to any piddly little stress I feel related to my job, how I feel my parenting skills might be lacking, or how guilty I feel that I'm not devoting enough time to my marriage, children, friends, or extended family...it's all nothing. Life is too short to waste time on feeling guilty, stressed, or angry. Life is too uncertain to waste energy on holding grudges.
At a recent training I attended, someone led us in a yoga exercise, in which we were to take three slow cleansing breaths and stretches, while saying the following:
Oh well is right. My life is full of blessings, and I need to thank my lucky stars I'm not dealing with cancer. And I'm praying for those I know who are dealing with it themselves or supporting their loved ones through the ordeal...for peace, for wisdom, and for the strength to fight and the will to survive.