Thursday, August 26, 2010


I volunteer with the Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC) of Oregon (USA).

SARC is one of thousands of international organizations who (on miniscule budgets) provide advocacy, case management, funding access, education, counseling, and a lot of different kinds of individualized support to current and past survivors of sexual trauma.

Currently, my agency is in the midst of a fundraising blitz, and I've been badgering my family, friends, co-workers, and sundry strangers to donate time or money to this cause.

[Ahem. I'm including the link to my current fundraising page, but encourage you to donate where YOUR community is most impacted.]

There are organizations in every state in the US, every province in Canada, and most major cities globally who focus on helping the survivors of sexual assault rebuild themselves and navigate their lives post-trauma.

Sexual assault is an ongoing epidemic more likely to impact someone you know than heart disease, cancer, or car crash.

Every survivor deserves to receive careful, thoughtful support and advocacy. I can attest from my own experience as an advocate that programs like these fill a crucial gap between experiencing an assault and trying to navigate the legal and health systems and services, and psychological and emotional healing process.

I wish there were programs that fought the cause of sexual assault better, and could certainly opine about how violence against women is something MEN need to take ownership of and FIX ALREADY. However, I am proud of the amazing women and men I've met in this field who do the work every day to help with the aftermath.

While April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the USA, there is ample reason to donate your money or time now: despite the fact that sexual assault reporting appears to be on a slight decline for most age groups, reported sexual assault of college-age women is at an all time high. Now is the time agencies like mine are gearing up to provide safety training and information to high school and college-age women and men.

President Obama's new Office on Violence Against Women provides a list of US resources (one per state) who can point those desiring to donate or volunteer to appropriate community agencies:

International agencies include Stop Violence Against Women.

If you know anybody who has experienced assault, you have seen (or felt) the devestating heartbreak and pain caused by sexual violence. Please take a minute today to think about this epidemic and what you can do to help.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

April, May, June, July...

Somebody graduated from Kindergarten.
Somebody likes the color pink. Still.
Imitating a cricket.
My immediate family. Or most of it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dad dad died on July 6. He was 81 and had been fighting Parkinson's Disease for over 10 years. His death was sudden, and not directly related (we think) to the Parkinson's. And I am pretty sure that at some point I'll have more to say about this. But for now, all I can say is that I am very very tired of feeling sad. I could use a bit more dancing.
This is dad's favorite poem. Well, one of them - he really loved poetry. But this one is a pretty good summary of how we lived and how he approached life:

"If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store
Two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and from the dole
Buy Hyacinths to feed the soul."
~ Sheikh Muslih-uddin Saadi Shirazi ( The Gulistan of Saadi, 1270 )

Monday, May 10, 2010

And the Best/Worst Mom goes to...

Mother's Day was pretty good: Milo gave me his first wholly hand-written card "YOU ARE THE BEST MOM IN THE WHOLE WORLD". Awesome. This was THEN, of course, followed immediately by a major fit during which he screamed "you are the WORST MOM EVER if you don't find me a chocolate croissant for breakfast".

Did you catch that? Double SCORE! By doing NOTHING I get Two Championship Titles!!!

Zel only called me stupid a few times, in honor of my special day. Because that kid? Is 3-years-worth-of-crass. She tells her loving family, friends, and - to my immense pride - complete strangers that they are poop heads. Or stupid. Or that they can poop on their stupid heads. Or stupid on their poop heads. Which is basically a barrel full of awesome.

I keep hearing (and practicing) the "ignore it and it will stop" philosophy. We've tried the other stuff, the "we don't talk to other people like that", and even the "I think you need to spend some time in your room, young lady" now I'm trying the ignoring it route. Sorry, people at the grocery store/park/school/doctor's office. She's just a little er, I don't know. Mainly, just don't cross the 3-year-old.

Jamie made me a pretty amazing breakfast in bed, and then we all went for a family bike ride on the river esplanade in Portland AND a hike in the hills. More awesome.

I also contacted my: adopted mom (she liked the flowers I sent her), birth mom (hope she liked the song Zel half sang on their answering machine), birth grandmother (very nice, and even SHE has seen Avatar - I am completely alone in my Avatarlessness, and yes I know it's overrated, but still...), birth step-mother (another message, because she is a very awesome, very patient, complete workaholic), and mother-in-law (ditto flowers).

The person I couldn't call, of course, was my little mama, my oldest sister and mother stand-in. But I spent some of the day thinking about her and all the ways she did a lot of de facto parenting of me. And thinking of/reaching out to her kids on what must have been a day similarly full of bittersweet.

For maybe the first time in my life, I think about Mother's Day as a holiday for me as a parent, and not strictly for the many many mothers in my life. Not that I don't celebrate them, but I think I finally see myself as a member of their ranks. I'm not sure why it took me 6 years of being a mother to get here, but woo! Apparently I'm the Worst Mother Ever, but DEFINITELY it was MY day to shine at it!


Thursday, April 8, 2010


My son goes to Catholic School.

And in a couple of years, barring a miracle, I guess my daughter will go to Catholic School too. And the fact is, Catholic School would have been right up there with Druid School before our lives as parents intersected our lives as citizens in a pathetic school system.

I'm not an educator or a public administrator. I've got ONE kid in ONE school. So this rant is pretty personal and focuses on that ONE experience.

Nevertheless, there's a LOT I could rant about when it comes to WHY we chose Catholic School. Such as how, by the time we settled on parochial school for Milo, we'd already been completely flattened by a difficult year personally, and then again by our perceived failure of both the local public school and then of the public school lottery system, through which, theoretically, we could have sent Milo to one of the slightly better public focus or charter schools.

Anecdotally, I repeatedly hear my parent-friends and neighbors kvetch about how the Portland public school system thunderingly fails to provide their children a good, challenging space for that child to reach their education potential. That's a mouthful, isn't it? But it seems to be true: most schools here in Portland seem to feel they are successful if they've provided the mean basics to about half of their students.

Most schools have no art, music, PE, or any other instructors for subjects deemed "Extra". And the No Child Left Behind Act hasn't seemed to make any kind of impact toward "improvement" other than to make the schools dramatically reduce anything not accounted for by that program.

Our local school, which has always been ranked "Low" (on a scale of Unacceptable > In Need of Improvement > Low > Satisfactory > Strong > Exceptional > Outstanding), is still "Low". Their test scores are still some of the lowest in the city. Except now they also don't have any of the Arts or other extras to sweeten the day...

And when I spoke to our local school principal about my fears regarding their rankings and ratings, about the anecdotal negatives we'd heard from our neighbors regarding their focus on English as a 2nd language and how kids in that school are falling far behind grade level by the time they take 3rd grade standardized tests, she put the onus back on us - if the school fails to teach your child, then you need to be involved: come to the school, volunteer there, improve the school with your own energies! Which...huh. Sure.

In that paradigm, what do we need the school for? We are involved parents...who work full time. Our expectation is that the school is supposed to provide enough challenges and varied, exciting curricula that our involvement can remain at the homework/discussion/extras-like-music-lessons/reading-at-bedtime level; that the school will still do their job well enough that our child is an enthusiastic learner each day in their classrooms using the materials and skills ~they~ bring to the table.

My son isn't a genius. He's average. He's MY average kid, with his own uniquely challenging and sweet personality.

I'm not talking about trying to meet a gifted or special needs child's educational requirements.
  • I'm talking about I am not sure he would be reading/writing/doing math/learning history and science at grade level in the Portland public school system.
  • I'm talking about boredom, overcrowding, apathy, limited classroom options, and a system that is barely ~barely~ making it.
  • I'm talking about a kid who, in that program, would grow up thinking "PE" and "Recess" are synonymous.
  • Who would never hear a symphony with his classmates, or see an in-school play, make art with an instructor who really knows something about art, or even just go on a field trip.
And even THOSE gaps are ones we as parents can fill, if only the basics weren't failing as well.

So, because we can - barely - afford the sacrifice, we chose to not put our kid in our local elementary school. Which makes me feel like an elitist, but also like a very fortunate parent who can choose whether my kid goes to a failing school or learns how to genuflect while he attends a generally more successful school. For money.

Also, I'm pissed. And even though I believe the sacrifice is totally worth it - given our choices - I'm PISSED that I have to make it at all. Mainly for all the people who can't afford anything LIKE Catholic school. Because what does a failing system mean for them? That they work just as hard as they can and KNOW that their kid will still have to be exceptionally motivated to excel in a poor system?

It's broken.

I could go on all crazily even further when it comes to the focus/charter program. And the wealthy neighborhood schools vs everybody else's opportunities. And the $18,000 private secular schools. (Seriously? $18,000 for KINDERGARTEN? Previous rant aside, is there ANYTHING worth that much that a Kindergartner needs?) Sigh...

Monday, March 29, 2010


Thursday it will be 1 year since Jamie's heart surgery. One, long, pretty rough year. And also? A year with a major avalanche of love on all sides. And with every pain and every bump and scuffmark, we've also gotten a LOT of powerful and generous help and compassion from so many people. My birthday was this month, and once again my friends proved what angels they are. I feel undeserving, but very full of warm lovey-love.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

February: Ann's Eulogy

Grief is such a trip.

It's this invisible cloud surrounding me and through which my entire life is filtered, but nobody else can see it. I really GET why people used to wear mourning or mourning symbols in previous - whether recent or ancient - cultures: it's because you can ADVERTISE your state of mind.

So I'm trying to do small things in my life which both speak to my feelings of grief and process them. Like deliberately bringing my sister into conversations (not mindlessly, but relating experiences with her more deliberately than I used to, just to be able to TALK about her). And taking time to do a lot of silent, mentally untaxing tasks, like sewing, leaving my mind free to focus on that process.

So THIS post is a copy of my notes from her eulogy.

Giving a eulogy at a Mormon funeral was full of unexpected pitfalls, which is a completely different post about how out of touch I am with my roots, so much so that I hadn't thought I'd feel like such an outsider in that world at my own sister's service, and maybe a bit about the collision of my disbelief in an afterlife with the grieving of people convinced they'd see my sister again. But that's not today.

Ann's funeral was attended by 350-400 people, and it was held at the same church I attended my entire childhood, at which my father served as a Mormon bishop. The meeting house was packed, so full that I gave an involuntary squeak when I stood up at the speaker's podium and realized that the room was full all the way through the chapel and attached gymnasium.

Ann Marie was really loved and really impacted many many people. I miss her terribly.

Ann Marie's Eulogy - 12/16/2009___________

Hello and welcome.

I don't know how many of you ever spent much time with my sister, Ann Marie, on the telephone.

Ann is not a chatter. I doubt in the past thirty-odd years we ever talked about the weather, current events, movies, or our hair.

Phone conversations with Ann, like everything else in her life, were held eclectically and passionately. No detail of anyone's life seemed uninteresting to her. With her amazing mind, she knew and catalogued information about the smallest details of everyone's life, and would always respond to any confidence with a lot of heartfelt advice.

I never spoke with her without taking away information about what I should eat, a book or article I should read, a lecture I should locate, or some other specific, personalized symbol of how much she was listening to me and caring about my well-being.

Right now I have saved on my cell phone the last voice mail I'll ever get from Ann Marie. It's nothing unique in the history of our relationship: in the course of 2 minutes, she gives me the name of a supplement she thinks I should be taking, the website where I can order the supplement, the name and telephone number of a doctor she looked up for me to see in Portland who would prescribe the supplement if I needed, the location of the article she first found mentioning this supplement, including publication, issue and page number and it's author. She left that message three weeks before she died, when surely every bit of her energy was precious.

I grew up in a family of bright, intense, highly spiritual people. And of all of us, I think it's safe to say that Ann amplified those gifts to megawatt brilliance. I doubt there is any facet of her life that she didn't approach with a deliberate, scholarly thoroughness, whether it was child-rearing, home decorating, cooking, gardening, and, of course, reading.

Her passion was health, particularly nutrition, but no subject seemed unworthy of her intense scrutiny.

Ann had a wonderful sense of the ridiculous. Her eyes were always full of sparkle, and I can't think of her without picturing her gesticulating and rolling her eyes at something that made her laugh, whether from pleasure or disdain.

Some of you may know that Ann studied and could read in multiple languages, mostly to support her private scholarly pursuits and read historical and biblical texts in their original form. The few I remember are Ancient Greek, Ancient Hebrew, Mandarin Chinese, and I think Korean, as her husband Marshall spoke that language.

In Marshall, Ann was so lucky to find a partner who could match her brilliance and intensity. The two of them have always seemed so in love, and I have many early memories of observing their courtship and thinking how well suited they are.

I've always loved Marshall, but I have to tell you that these past few months seeing and hearing about his work to help Ann fight this, the worst battle, Marshall has been not just her partner, but Ann Marie's hero. During several conversations this summer and autumn, Ann repeatedly said that Marshall made her feel like a princess in a story.

I said that we never talked about movies, but many times she noted that she felt like Princess Buttercup from the movie The Princess Bride, with her Wesley telling her he would always come for her.

Marshall, Ann loved you so deeply and she knew how loved and cherished she was as your wife.

I've probably exceeded my allotted time. And in some ways, I don't think I will ever be able to stop eulogizing my sister. But I did want to tell her children - my wonderful nieces and nephews, who so obviously reflect their parents gifts - how loved they were and are. You don't have the smallest toenail that Ann wasn't interested in and devoted to, and I am proud and so happy that, while I will always miss her, that I will also always see her shadows and reflections in each of you.