Category Archives: school

Nurturing Creativity

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You know, you don’t have to spend a ton of money in order to do something creative each day, and I think that it’s very important to do something….anything that is creative, each and every day.  We are teaching this lesson to Ingrid, who  often goes out with me for duo photo shoots.

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The object is to stroll down Division Street in Portland, and to photograph every letter of the alphabet sequentially.  These photos are then sold, via Ingrid’s own Amazon account, and are used by collage (and other) artists in their work.  While it’s nice that Ingrid can earn a little pocket money, the more important lesson for her is the art of looking.  This exercise makes her look closely at things, and to really examine and think about them.  This sign was a good example.  She read every word of it, and we had a great talk about it along our way.

Each letter forms its own complete composition.  We discuss things like color, shape, form, edges and other aspects of the design so that Ingrid can get a better overall picture of what the project is about.  She does really well, too!

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It usually takes us around 2 hours to capture the entire alphabet.  There are some tough letters, such as “Q” that can be difficult to find.  We also have a rule that once a letter is photographed from a specific window, one can’t photgraph that same letter from the same window again, so this adds more of a challenge.   I got her this little Pentax camera for Christmas.  She’s so proud of it, and takes very good care of it.

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Sometimes the letters come out fuzzy and out of focus….but that’s ok, too.

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Ta-Daaaaaaaaa!  If you are an artist and would like to use any of the photos in this post only, please feel free.  These photos are not up to our usual high standards, but some of the images are nice.  (I particularly liked the composition of the letter “B”.)

 

The Excitement of it All

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This is, perhaps, one of the most exciting times in my entire life.  I am paving the way to begin walking an entirely new path toward new goals and it feels great.  I am probably busier than I’ve been since my children were little, but I have stores of energy, and tons of enthusiasm that keep me going each day.  I have a supportive partner….two supportive partners, really….and I feel like a million bucks.

One thing that I’m doing that might seem a little wacky for a woman my age, is I’m taking a singing masterclass from Christina Agulara.  Yep.  You read that correctly.

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While I do have a strong singing voice and I do sing, from time to time, I do not aspire to be a famous pop star.  Instead, I am taking the class to learn her teaching approach and methods. Virtually everything I do these days is to prepare for my new business, and this is far from all I am doing .

I have found a dedicated business partner who complements those areas that I lack, and I complement hers as well.  We are planning our first workshop/retreat for next April, and it is exciting indeed!  I’m running around like crazy looking at venues, working on marketing, taking pictures, writing curriculum, developing products, writing …writing…writing…networking…making new business connections.

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A lot of my workshops will be centered around music and musicians  (as this  is an important, special  part of my life,) so I am learning the inner bones….the when, where, why and how of the technical aspects.  Those things, combined with my background in psychology are what have me so geared up and ready to go with these workshops.

While I do have my masters in psychology, I am now actively working to enhance that with life coaching certification classes from the Integrative Wellness Academy.  I feel that the two credentials integrated will help me with my workshops. Should take a few months to earn my certification.

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In other news….my songwriting efforts are progressing in leaps and bounds, as is my guitar playing. Taking classes for both.   I have really had a breakthrough and feel as though I am soaring.  I am so happy.  I love my life.  Honestly.  It is a good life, one that is far from perfect, but that is filled with and operated by love.  I could not ask for a better and more supportive family-family AND family of friends. Being confident in my love is a wonderful feeling.

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I have signed up for a new yoga program that will also be integrated into our workshops.  I am making art by the hour.  I am on a roll…..like butta.  Man, this is good.  I have never felt happier.  Love helps. 😉   It is what I live for.

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Happy Leap Day…well, I think…

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On this, the last day of February, I recall how I used to pity those poor kids who could only celebrate their birthdays on the actual date, every couple of years.  I felt uncomfortable about the ambiguous nature of the leap year birthday. I mean, those poor kids had to hesitate and figure out an understandable response to the question, “How old are you?”.

I have always had a distaste for ambiguity.  Therefore, I ask a lot of questions.  (Liars HATE it that I ask a lot of questions.  I catch them off guard, it seems…)  I ask people a lot of questions, not because I’m nosy but because when I have all the facts about a given situation, I can make better decisions for myself.  It isn’t a judgement issue.  It’s more like:  “If you’re going to do this….then I’m going to do that.”   “If you are going to call back later, I’ll leave my phone on.  If not, I’ll turn it off so I won’t be disturbed while I work.”  It isn’t that I’m asking someone TO call back.  Whatever their decision about this is, will be fine with me.  I just want to know one way or the other so I can take action accordingly.

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Turns out that science has now substantiated why ambiguity bugs me ( or all of us) as much as it does.   The phenomenon  actually screws with our heads.   According to a study published in the Journal of Science, the reason lies in how the brain responds emotionally, and sometimes, even illogically, when forced to make decisions based on conflicting or little evidence.   These so-called ambiguous decisions are different from decisions that we think of as risky decisions.  No wonder the person who is being lied to, for example, appears so nutty to the rest of the world. That person is being fed conflicting information.   The heart hears what it wants to hear, but the head says, “Um….hold on there just a minute….That doesn’t make sense!”

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Wait….If it looks like a duck…then, it IS a duck….but it also looks like a rabbit.  Which do I choose?

When faced with a risky decision, one  is not sure about the outcome of a particular choice but can have a notion about the probability of success. In an ambiguous decision, a person is ignorant of both factors.  Thus, the uncomfortable feeling….the uncertainty, and sometimes illogical and absurd behaviors.

Brain specialists  would say ambiguity is the discomfort from knowing there is something you don’t know that you wish you did.  This probably stems back to the fight or flight area of the brain, the hippocampus, and is a matter of survival.   In the previously mentioned experiment,  subjects were given the opportunity to place  ambiguous bets while their brains were scanned using a functional magnetic resonance imager (fMRI).  In this part of the experiment, participants  were given the choice between placing a monetary bet  on the chances of drawing a red card from a “risky” deck that had 20 red cards and 20 black cards…that is, where the probability of choosing either color was 50-50, and making the same bet with an “ambiguous” deck where the color composition of the cards was unknown.

In the majority of  cases, the participants  decided  to place the risky bet. Logically, however, both bets would have been equally good because in both cases, the chance of pulling a red card on the first draw was 50-50.

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The brain scans taken during the experiment revealed that ambiguous betters were often accompanied by activation of the parts of the brain known as the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC).  These are  two areas of the brain that are involved in the whole emotions processing thing.   The  amygdala has been found to be closely associated with fear, which, again, harkens back to being in survival mode.   If you think about it, a correlation between aversion to ambiguous decisions and activation of emotional parts of the brain makes  perfect sense from an evolutionary point of view.  Do I go into that dark cave or don’t I?  Well, first, I need to know if a saber toothed tiger is in there, right?  And I’m going to be a little nervous about it until I find out.  Should I leave my boyfriend or not….Well, first, I need to find out if he really IS cheating on me.  In the modern human brain, this translates into a reluctance to bet on or against an event if it seems at all ambiguous.

The results of this study could help those of us in the field of Psychology,  understand how humans make decisions in the real world, because the choices people make are often based on very limited information.  (i.e…..All signs point to cheating, but he denies it….or I’m not going to walk into that dark cave if there’s a tiger in there, because it will eat me alive. )

Makes sense to me.

Anyway….Happy Birthday, Leapers…er…Leap Yearlings…um…people whose birthdays are on leap year.  Here’s a nice mug.  Have some coffee.

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How to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body

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This is so, so good….and I’m really proud of my daughter, Sarah, an excellent mother herself, and of my son-in-law, Nate, one of the best fathers ever,  for taking this approach with Ingrid….who is a strong, dynamic child. However, as a grandmother, I can’t help but tell this child that she is beautiful…frequently….because she is. Inside and out….but I do try to stress her intellect and personal strengths over her outward appearance.

Nothing wrong with feeling pretty, but when women are made to think that this gives them their primary  value in life, that is where the problems begin.

Read this and think about it carefully….

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How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one:

Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.

Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.

If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:

“You look so healthy!” is a great one.

Or how about, “You’re looking so strong.”

“I can see how happy you are — you’re glowing.”

Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.

Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.

Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.

Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don’t say, “I’m not eating carbs right now.” Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.

Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.

Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn’t absolutely in love with.

Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture.

Teach your daughter how to cook kale.

Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.

Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.

It’s Official! 

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There is no greater feeling in life than accomplishing a goal that one has worked hard to achieve….well, maybe seeing my daughter receive HER masters degree was a greater feeling, but this is a significant personal milestone and I’m feeling pretty good about it today.  Congratulations, me. 😀  

Lavender for Migranes

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Lavender has been studied recently for several purposes including treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, as well as a number of other things. Its analgesic effect, however, its painkiller effect, is one of the widely studied properties. Surprising, then, that there hasn’t apparently been a single documented clinical trial to study lavender for the treatment of migraine headaches that affects tens of millions of Americans every year. Until now: “Lavender Essential Oil in the Treatment of Migraine Headache: A Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.”

Migraine sufferers were asked to—at the early signs of headache—rub 2–3 drops of the lavender essential oil onto their upper lip and inhale its vapor for a 15-min period of time and score the severity of their headache for the next two hours. In the control group they did the same thing except they used drops of basically unscented liquid wax. Neither group was allowed to use any painkillers. In the lavender group 74% of patients had an improvement in their symptoms, significantly better than placebo. Though in the study lavender wasn’t directly compared to more conventional treatments, lavender appears to stack up pretty well compared to typical drugs. Lavender helped about three quarters of the time, high dose Tylenol only works about half the time, and Ibuprofen 57% of the time. The #1 prescription drug, generic imitrex, is effective 59% of the time, and then the hardcore treatment they use in emergency rooms where they inject you under the skin, 70%. All of these work better than the original migraine therapy, known as trepanning, where doctors drilled a hole in your head to let the evil spirits escape.

Conclusion: The present study suggests that inhalation of lavender essential oil may be an effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches.

You can buy pharmaceutical grade lavender for $21 HERE.

A New Adventure for Ingrid

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Our Ingrid has always loved clothes.   She is one of the most innovative, free spirited and creative dressers that I know. We have always let her choose her own outfits, ( for as long as she has expressed an interest in doing so) and she is just one of those kids who has an eye for what looks good.

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It is not unusual to see her decked out in formal attire, strolling through the isles of Whole Foods with her own shopping cart…

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…..  or walking the dog….or to find her strolling about town in designer clothes and shoes of some kind.  She has a fanciful imagination and playing dress up is one of her favorite activities.  We feel that it feeds her creative spirit.

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In a couple of months, she will begin her first year of school and must wear uniforms every day.  Her mother attended private school and one of the main worries at that time was that she hated wearing uniforms.  It didn’t take long for her to customize them in ways that were within the dress code, but that also highlighted her unique personality.  I have no doubt that Ingrid will do this as well…but for now, she is excited about the uniform.  They do offer several options…khaki pants, different sleeve lengths and so forth.  We will see how she does.  The excited part is rather nice.  I wonder how she will feel about it by the end of the school year?

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Day 23 – Good Times

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Ballet and Flowers

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Yesterday, little Ingrid participated in her first real ballet since we put her in the Portland Classical Ballet Academy.  It was a modified presentation of Swan Lake, and was utterly adorable.  It is not uncommon for me to cry during live ballet or opera anyway, but big salty tears *really* slid down my cheeks  during this performance as my heart swelled with pride. All of these precious little children working so hard to do their amazing performances really touched me.  They were all so cute.

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Ingrid had been very nervous and anxious about the performance, but you’d never have known.  She exuded confidence and looked so secure and happy up on that stage.  I honestly believe she had a good time, which, for me, was the most important thing.  She worked toward and achieved an important goal, and I think that made her feel great.  She seemed proud of herself afterward, and I know *we* were very proud of her.

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This is Ingrid after the performance, coming out to take her bows with her classmates.  She is the little one second in line from the teacher.

During final bows, each child was presented with a rose.  Of course, we also bought her a gigantic bouquet of them, but these single stemmed yellow roses were really sweet for them to get on stage.  And the thing that touched my heart most was when her parents drove me back home.  As I was walking up to the house from the car, she rolled down her window and called to me, so I returned to see what she wanted.  She told me I was the sweetest Gams in the world and said that she wanted me to have her yellow rose.  Lump in throat.  More tears….but happy ones.  Ingrid is such an articulate little girl…so sweet.

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I smile every time I think of it.  I am lucky.  I am blessed.

And I know it.

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Life is really, really sweet.  Ya know?

Sending kisses to your heart, little Ingrid.

I love you.

Guns Are Created to Destroy….children…women…men.

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 That’s what they are for.   They are made to kill human beings and other living creatures.  Far too often, those human beings are innocent children. STOP GUN VIOLENCE!  …and yeah, you redneck pansy mama’s boy…I know it’s your RIGHT to carry one.   That doesn’t mean you have to.  EVOLVE beyond your redneck mentality.
Obama hasn’t taken one single gun away from anyone, as your fear based existence has claimed.  He is only trying to stop the senseless violence like the murder of all those Sandy Hook children.
Target practice is fine.  Hunting is, too, although I don’t agree with it personally.  It is this endless, senseless killing that has to stop.  It just has to.
STOP GUN VIOLENCE.
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence's photo.
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence's photo.
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence's photo.
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence's photo.
 

This is gun fetishist Evan Hernandez of Florida, who likes to dress his kids up as shooters and etch Biblical inscriptions into his gun gear. On Sunday he was playing cowboy in front of a mirror with a loaded gun and it went off, killing his 6 year-old daughter Izabella, a leukemia survivor. Please call Florida 14th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Glenn Hess at (850) 872-4473 or (850) 472-4461 and tell him you want charges brought against Hernandez immediately.

A “Ten Things” Check In

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A “Ten Things” Check In

I am spending very little time online these days.  Time is fleeting as I count down the days until my final 10 weeks of school work and I am staying quite busy….working, playing, learning….  There are not words sufficient enough to describe how much I needed and am enjoying my current break.  My capstone (thesis) course begins on Sunday, but I probably won’t check in and look at it until Monday.

During my break, I have accomplished a lot and have felt joyful and happier than usual, simply because I have so much to feel grateful for …and because I am so close to completing this monumental goal in my life.  Things seem to be falling right into place in virtually every area of my life.  However, I remain ever-mindful that I could lose it all in an instant. That is the nature of life……so I am enjoying what I have in the moment, and am feeling extraordinarily thankful.

Here are some of the things that make me feel so lucky:

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#1.  John – My husband is such a good person.  He is a genuine blessing in my life.  His play writing endeavors are getting a lot of positive attention and reviews.  It makes my heart jump with joy to see him thriving in this way.  He is happy, so I am happy.  That’s how a good marriage works.  His job is also going very well.  He was just promoted and given a nice raise and a extended contract…AND, he will now be an exclusively online professor, meaning that he can work from anywhere in the world.  He will be moving back home to Portland  at the end of May, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  We have many adventures planned together.  While we have settled into our separate routines in separate cities over the last five-ish years, with him coming home during holidays and over the summer,  we have always wanted to be permanently reunited.  This will be a dream come true for us both.  This will also give me the opportunity to take care of him better…diet, exercise…tender loving care.

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#2.  Art – I am on a roll with my art, becoming more inspired each day, learning new skills, trying new techniques.  Just this morning, I finished a mixed media portrait of my best friend called, “Lightworker”.   My head is constantly filled with art.  Right now, I am taking one of Deryn Mentock’s fabulous jewelry making classes, but I am also designing a new mosaic fireplace surround for our house, working on a painting, doing a series of guitar-related art, working on a new tee shirt graphic and am generally living the art life.  I love it.  I set aside a number of hours every evening to focus upon and create new art.

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#3. Music – Music, of course, is its own form of art, but I feel it deserves its own category.  I am practicing my guitar each day and still taking lessons. Not getting very good, but am learning a lot.  The main problem lies in the fact that despite being a keyboardist for the vast majority of my life, I do not have strong hands.  I understand how to play guitar perfectly.  My fingers, however, struggle.   I am, again, taking the Berklee College of Music songwriting course, and I will probably enroll in it again and again.  Even though the lessons are the same each session, I learn something new each time.

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I am working on writing these country songs that are really coming together!  I am also still attending jams on Sunday afternoons/evenings and am becoming deeply immersed into the Portland music scene.  I am having fun, meeting a ton of great people and have found yet one more thing to be grateful about.

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#4.  Friendship – With each passing day, I am more thankful for my best friend and the energy, love and kindness that he bestows upon me.  Two peas in a pod, we are, and demonstratively indestructible.  He is a gift straight from heaven.

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This is real love….real friendship, and I am grateful for it every minute of my life.  It has its negative side, as all things do, but since I have learned to ignore that, I am better able to reap the benefits of the positive. I used to take the negative aspects into my heart and allow them to hurt me or worse, allow them to make me angry.  Today?  I can’t believe I ever allowed them to bother me.  The positive is SO good, that it completely cancels out the negative.  I simply ignore the fluff and embrace the substance.  The love is substantial.

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  In addition to my bestie, I have other friends that enrich my life every day that I live it.  My friends are exceptional people, individuals from whom I continue to laugh with and learn from.  I am so fortunate to have these awesome, intelligent, remarkable people in my life.  What a gift!

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#5.  Organization – I am becoming remarkably organized, purging things from my life, becoming more minimalist, materially, and less dependent on STUFF, as I become more dependent on living a rich, full and active life.  I am sorting, adding shelves, tossing things out, donating things and really taking a new perspective on every THING that I own.  Stuff is simply not that important to me any more.  I find it easier and easier to let go.

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#6.  Adventure – I am trying new things a lot…going places I’ve never been, re-examining things that are familiar to me and seeing them through more appreciative eyes.  I am studying things more….nutrition, geography, philosophy….and taking on new perspectives about virtually everything.  I love trying new things and learning lessons about them.

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#7.  Simplicity – This one fits in closely with my binge toward organization.  I am learning to simplify…physically, emotionally and in every way.  If something is not working in my life, I have learned to simply move on with no regrets.  This happened with a couple of members of my family that simply could not be happy with anything I did in my life.  Therefore, I simply let them go and moved on happily, with no regrets and no negativity.    It’s funny.  I have let go of family members, but have not had to let go of any friends….but I will, if I need to.  I just haven’t needed to.  My friendships remain positive, probably because of the old adage that you can choose your friends, but not your family.

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#8.  Family – This is another category that should go higher on this list, in terms of priority…but I’m not writing these things in order of importance.  I am writing them as I think of them.  My family has taken some dramatic shifts over the last few years.  I have grown very close to my mother and father.

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I have grown closer to my cousins and have an Auntie that I feel very close to and thankful for.  I have a new daughter-in-law with whom I am very close, and a new grandchild who delights me with each encounter.  I love and appreciate my family here in Portland, and thrive on my encounters with little Ingrid.  I have grown closer to my granddaughter, Maya, and embrace the idea that she will soon live here in the Pacific NW again.  I admire her sense of adventure and love it that she is not afraid to make drastic changes and try new things.  She is an adventurer of whom I am quite proud!  I am one lucky woman and I know it!  Exceptional bunch of people, my family…..at least some of them.  😉

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#9.  Finances – I am learning more and more about business, about how to manifest money….about how to work the system to my advantage so that I might help others. I’ve learned to make lists and to prioritize.   It gives me such pleasure to share what I have and to make other people’s lives easier.  Using my financial prowess to do good in the world is my ultimate goal.  So far, so good.

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#10 – LIFE – Life, in general, is good, but I never take it for granted.  Rather than fear the future, I am grateful for what I have in the moment.  I know there will be losses eventually, but I prefer not to focus on that and, instead, really live the life that I have, while I can, and to do as much as I possibly can with a big smile on my face.  Life IS good!

Greatness

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I have just finished my major project for Forensic Psychology, in the form of an almost 30-page paper.   Today. I plan to finish up my Organizational Consulting project, which consists of an outline and the end of an incremental slide presentation that I have been working on all term.   Next week, I will have to turn in a 30 page “Plan of Action” for a corporation that I have been conducting and internal analysis on.  After that, I will have completed all of the class work involved in getting my masters. I will have a week off and then I will begin a 10-week journey to complete my final Capstone Course, i.e. the equivalent of a thesis.  This feeling of accomplishment and pride is unlike any I have ever experienced before. This degree program was difficult.  It was time consuming.  At times, it seemed virtually impossible to complete….but I’ve done it…and my grades, thus far, reflect straight A’s.

Today, one of my professors presented the following video.  It brought me to tears.  I want to post it here today, in hopes that it will have meaning to even one of my readers.  It is about greatness.

Hey, Dumbass. This is for YOU.

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Stupid is as stupid does….and Jonathon Gatehouse expresses it brilliantly in this repost from MacCleans.

America dumbs down

The U.S. is being overrun by a wave of anti-science, anti-intellectual thinking. Has the most powerful nation on Earth lost its mind?

Jonathon Gatehouse

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

South Carolina’s state beverage is milk. Its insect is the praying mantis. There’s a designated dance—the shag—as well a sanctioned tartan, game bird, dog, flower, gem and snack food (boiled peanuts). But what Olivia McConnell noticed was missing from among her home’s 50 official symbols was a fossil. So last year, the eight-year-old science enthusiast wrote to the governor and her representatives to nominate the Columbian mammoth. Teeth from the woolly proboscidean, dug up by slaves on a local plantation in 1725, were among the first remains of an ancient species ever discovered in North America. Forty-three other states had already laid claim to various dinosaurs, trilobites, primitive whales and even petrified wood. It seemed like a no-brainer. “Fossils tell us about our past,” the Grade 2 student wrote.

And, as it turns out, the present, too. The bill that Olivia inspired has become the subject of considerable angst at the legislature in the state capital of Columbia. First, an objecting state senator attached three verses from Genesis to the act, outlining God’s creation of all living creatures. Then, after other lawmakers spiked the amendment as out of order for its introduction of the divinity, he took another crack, specifying that the Columbian mammoth “was created on the sixth day with the other beasts of the field.” That version passed in the senate in early April. But now the bill is back in committee as the lower house squabbles over the new language, and it’s seemingly destined for the same fate as its honouree—extinction.

What has doomed Olivia’s dream is a raging battle in South Carolina over the teaching of evolution in schools. Last week, the state’s education oversight committee approved a new set of science standards that, if adopted, would see students learn both the case for, and against, natural selection.

Charles Darwin’s signature discovery—first published 155 years ago and validated a million different ways since—long ago ceased to be a matter for serious debate in most of the world. But in the United States, reconciling science and religious belief remains oddly difficult. A national poll, conducted in March for the Associated Press, found that 42 per cent of Americans are “not too” or “not at all” confident that all life on Earth is the product of evolution. Similarly, 51 per cent of people expressed skepticism that the universe started with a “big bang” 13.8 billion years ago, and 36 per cent doubted the Earth has been around for 4.5 billion years.

The American public’s bias against established science doesn’t stop where the Bible leaves off, however. The same poll found that just 53 per cent of respondents were “extremely” or “very confident” that childhood vaccines are safe and effective. (Worldwide, the measles killed 120,000 people in 2012. In the United States, where a vaccine has been available since 1963, the last recorded measles death was in 2003.) When it comes to global warming, only 33 per cent expressed a high degree of confidence that it is “man made,” something the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has declared is all but certain. (The good news, such as it was in the AP poll, was that 69 per cent actually believe in DNA, and 82 per cent now agree that smoking causes cancer.)

If the rise in uninformed opinion was limited to impenetrable subjects that would be one thing, but the scourge seems to be spreading. Everywhere you look these days, America is in a rush to embrace the stupid. Hell-bent on a path that’s not just irrational, but often self-destructive. Common-sense solutions to pressing problems are eschewed in favour of bumper-sticker simplicities and blind faith.

In a country bedevilled by mass shootings—Aurora, Colo.; Fort Hood, Texas; Virginia Tech—efforts at gun control have given way to ever-laxer standards. Georgia recently passed a law allowing people to pack weapons in state and local buildings, airports, churches and bars. Florida is debating legislation that will waive all firearm restrictions during state emergencies like riots or hurricanes. (One opponent has moved to rename it “an Act Relating to the Zombie Apocalypse.”) And since the December 2012 massacre of 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn., 12 states have passed laws allowing guns to be carried in schools, and 20 more are considering such measures.

The cost of a simple appendectomy in the United States averages $33,000 and it’s not uncommon for such bills to top six figures. More than 15 per cent of the population has no health insurance whatsoever. Yet efforts to fill that gaping hole via the Affordable Health Care Act—a.k.a. Obamacare—remain distinctly unpopular. Nonsensical myths about the government’s “real” intentions have found so much traction that 30 per cent still believe that there will be official “death panels” to make decisions on end-of-life care.

Since 2001, the U.S. government has been engaged in an ever-widening program of spying on its own—and foreign—citizens, tapping phones, intercepting emails and texts, and monitoring social media to track the movements, activities and connections of millions. Still, many Americans seem less concerned with the massive violations of their privacy in the name of the War on Terror, than imposing Taliban-like standards on the lives of others. Last month, the school board in Meridian, Idaho voted to remove The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie from its Grade 10 supplemental reading list following parental complaints about its uncouth language and depictions of sex and drug use. When 17-year-old student Brady Kissel teamed up with staff from a local store to give away copies at a park as a protest, a concerned citizen called police. It was the evening of April 23, which was also World Book Night, an event dedicated to “spreading the love of reading.”

If ignorance is contagious, it’s high time to put the United States in quarantine.

Americans have long worried that their education system is leaving their children behind. With good reason: national exams consistently reveal how little the kids actually know. In the last set, administered in 2010 (more are scheduled for this spring), most fourth graders were unable to explain why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure, and only half were able to order North America, the U.S., California and Los Angeles by size. Results in civics were similarly dismal. While math and reading scores have improved over the years, economics remains the “best” subject, with 42 per cent of high school seniors deemed “proficient.”

They don’t appear to be getting much smarter as they age. A 2013 survey of 166,000 adults across 20 countries that tested math, reading and technological problem-solving found Americans to be below the international average in every category. (Japan, Finland, Canada, South Korea and Slovakia were among the 11 nations that scored significantly higher.)

The trends are not encouraging. In 1978, 42 per cent of Americans reported that they had read 11 or more books in the past year. In 2014, just 28 per cent can say the same, while 23 per cent proudly admit to not having read even one, up from eight per cent in 1978. Newspaper and magazine circulation continues to decline sharply, as does viewership for cable news. The three big network supper-hour shows drew a combined average audience of 22.6 million in 2013, down from 52 million in 1980. While 82 per cent of Americans now say they seek out news digitally, the quality of the information they’re getting is suspect. Among current affairs websites, Buzzfeed logs almost as many monthly hits as the Washington Post.

The advance of ignorance and irrationalism in the U.S. has hardly gone unnoticed. The late Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter won the Pulitzer prize back in 1964 for his book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, which cast the nation’s tendency to embrace stupidity as a periodic by-product of its founding urge to democratize everything. By 2008, journalist Susan Jacoby was warning that the denseness—“a virulent mixture of anti-rationalism and low expectations”—was more of a permanent state. In her book, The Age of American Unreason, she posited that it trickled down from the top, fuelled by faux-populist politicians striving to make themselves sound approachable rather than smart. Their creeping tendency to refer to everyone—voters, experts, government officials—as “folks” is “symptomatic of a debasement of public speech inseparable from a more general erosion of American cultural standards,” she wrote. “Casual, colloquial language also conveys an implicit denial of the seriousness of whatever issue is being debated: talking about folks going off to war is the equivalent of describing rape victims as girls.”

That inarticulate legacy didn’t end with George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. Barack Obama, the most cerebral and eloquent American leader in a generation, regularly plays the same card, droppin’ his Gs and dialling down his vocabulary to Hee Haw standards. His ability to convincingly play a hayseed was instrumental in his 2012 campaign against the patrician Mitt Romney; in one of their televised debates the President referenced “folks” 17 times.

An aversion to complexity—at least when communicating with the public—can also be seen in the types of answers politicians now provide the media. The average length of a sound bite by a presidential candidate in 1968 was 42.3 seconds. Two decades later, it was 9.8 seconds. Today, it’s just a touch over seven seconds and well on its way to being supplanted by 140-character Twitter bursts.

Little wonder then that distrust—of leaders, institutions, experts, and those who report on them—is rampant. A YouGov poll conducted last December found that three-quarters of Americans agreed that science is a force for good in the world. Yet when asked if they truly believe what scientists tell them, only 36 per cent of respondents said yes. Just 12 per cent expressed strong confidence in the press to accurately report scientific findings. (Although according to a 2012 paper by Gordon Gauchat, a University of North Carolina sociologist, the erosion of trust in science over the past 40 years has been almost exclusively confined to two groups: conservatives and regular churchgoers. Counterintuitively, it is the most highly educated among them—with post-secondary education—who harbour the strongest doubts.)

The term “elitist” has become one of the most used, and feared, insults in American life. Even in the country’s halls of higher learning, there is now an ingrained bias that favours the accessible over the exacting.

“There’s a pervasive suspicion of rights, privileges, knowledge and specialization,” says Catherine Liu, the author of American Idyll: Academic Antielitism as Cultural Critique and a film and media studies professor at University of California at Irvine. Both ends of the political spectrum have come to reject the conspicuously clever, she says, if for very different reasons; the left because of worries about inclusiveness, the right because they equate objections with obstruction. As a result, the very mission of universities has changed, argues Liu. “We don’t educate people anymore. We train them to get jobs.” (Boomers, she says, deserve most of the blame. “They were so triumphalist in promoting pop culture and demoting the canon.”)

The digital revolution, which has brought boundless access to information and entertainment choices, has somehow only enhanced the lowest common denominators—LOL cat videos and the Kardashians. Instead of educating themselves via the Internet, most people simply use it to validate what they already suspect, wish or believe to be true. It creates an online environment where Jenny McCarthy, a former Playboy model with a high school education, can become a worldwide leader of the anti-vaccination movement, naysaying the advice of medical professionals.

Most perplexing, however, is where the stupid is flowing from. As conservative pundit David Frum recently noted, where it was once the least informed who were most vulnerable to inaccuracies, it now seems to be the exact opposite. “More sophisticated news consumers turn out to use this sophistication to do a better job of filtering out what they don’t want to hear,” he blogged.

But are things actually getting worse? There’s a long and not-so-proud history of American electors lashing out irrationally, or voting against their own interests. Political scientists have been tracking, since the early 1950s, just how poorly those who cast ballots seem to comprehend the policies of the parties and people they are endorsing. A wealth of research now suggests that at the most optimistic, only 70 per cent actually select the party that accurately represents their views—and there are only two choices.

Larry Bartels, the co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University, says he doubts that the spreading ignorance is a uniquely American phenomenon. Facing complex choices, uncertain about the consequences of the alternatives, and tasked with balancing the demands of jobs, family and the things that truly interest them with boring policy debates, people either cast their ballots reflexively, or not at all. The larger question might be whether engagement really matters. “If your vision of democracy is one in which elections provide solemn opportunities for voters to set the course of public policy and hold leaders accountable, yes,” Bartels wrote in an email to Maclean’s. “If you take the less ambitious view that elections provide a convenient, non-violent way for a society to agree on who is in charge at any given time, perhaps not.”

A study by two Princeton University researchers, Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, released last month, tracked 1,800 U.S. policy changes between 1981 and 2002, and compared the outcome with the expressed preferences of median-income Americans, the affluent, business interests and powerful lobbies. They concluded that average citizens “have little or no independent influence” on policy in the U.S., while the rich and their hired mouthpieces routinely get their way. “The majority does not rule,” they wrote.

Smart money versus dumb voters is hardly a fair fight. But it does offer compelling evidence that the survival of the fittest remains an unshakable truth even in American life. A sad sort of proof of evolution.

The De-Flowering of Flower Mound

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I cannot imagine, in my worst nightmare, subjecting a child to the kind of racism and general First World redneckery inherent in living in Flower Mound, Texas.

 

A Waltz on the Forensics Dance Floor

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How many of you love television programs that have to do with crime solving?  Shows such as CSI, Dateline and others that entail looking inside the heads of criminals are quite interesting.  They tend to hook their audiences by providing clues that audience members can easily fit together to solve the crimes from home.  When I signed up for a Forensic Psychology class this term, I thought this was what I would be doing.  In reality, crime solving is only a tiny aspect of being a forensic psychologist.  The discipline is so much more than these highly publicized sensational aspects.  The rest involves a fusion of psychology and technical law that can easily confuse even the most astute student.

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A lot of people equate forensic psychology with forensic science or law enforcement.  They tend to think that the forensic psychologist arrives at a crime scene, surveys the area and eventually identifies a number of psychological clues that can help catch the bad guy.  These things that you see on TV easily lead to a number of incorrect conclusions about what Forensic Psychology is. In fact, psychologists are rarely called upon to act in this capacity at all.

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Simply stated, Forensic Psychology refers to any application of psychology to the legal system. Most often it is clinical psychology, but not always.   There are different ethical standards regarding confidentiality and other issues that apply in the forensics field, as opposed to therapeutic psychology work, and forensic psychologists take completely different approaches to their clients than therapeutic psychologists do.  Some might even argue that the intersection between psychology and the law is more like a collision than a fusion.

The work that I am currently conducting is a case analysis of a Muslim immigrant who was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic.  He lived on the streets and was arrested and jailed for trespassing.  While in jail, he was given anti-psychotic medication for his mental illness.  However, upon his release back into the streets, he discontinued taking the medication.  He began to suffer visual and audio hallucinations and to believe that Nazi youth were coming to assassinate  him.  One night, as he was asleep on a park bench, he was, indeed, attacked by a gang of hoodlums.  They beat him, kicked him and left him lying on the ground, but he was not seriously injured.  After they left, the man searched until he found a pipe which he stashed in the shadows for his own protection.

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The next morning, the man saw two young teenaged boys approaching from the park’s pathway.  They were on their way to a music lesson.

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Thinking they were the youths who had attacked him the night before, and believing they had returned to kill him, he sneaked up behind them and began to wield the pipe wildly.  He struck the elder boy in the head knocking him to the ground before he began to repeatedly beat the younger brother.  The elder brother was able to escape and seek assistance.  When the police arrived, the man had bludgeoned the younger brother to death and was continuing to beat his lifeless body as he lay on the ground.  The man went completely limp when he was apprehended by the police and did not resist arrest.

The man was evaluated, deemed incompetent to be tried and committed to a mental health care facility where he underwent pharmaceutical therapy for the paranoid schizophrenia.  After 6 months of treatment, he was reevaluated and deemed competent to stand trial.   He was tried and convicted of capital murder.  It is my job to determine whether or not he qualifies for and should get the death penalty.

This brings up countless ethical issues with me.  I am an avid opponent of the death penalty for many reasons.  First, it is unfair.  Ethnic minorities are more often convicted and sentenced to death for the same crimes when non-minorities receive lesser sentences.  It costs more to execute a prisoner than to give one life in prison.  Death of the criminal does not bring back the victim.  There are just too many reasons to say, in full, why I oppose it on legal and ethical grounds.  However, my personal opinions do not count in this instance.  Only my professional ones do.

I have to consider what the prisoner needs, in terms of his rights being observed.  I have to consider what the state needs, in terms of keeping the streets safe, and I have to consider what the court needs, in terms of arriving at a just solution.  It is a lot to think about, and there are so many laws and legal loopholes and psychological issues and ethical standards to consider that it really makes my head swim!

I do not believe I will pursue a career in Forensic Psychology…..but this is an interesting class, nonetheless.

When Someone You Love Succeeds

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When Someone You Love Succeeds

I have to admit it.  Personal success feels great.  Each time I accomplish something that sets me one step closer to my goals, I feel elated.  However, that feeling pales in comparison to the emotions I experience when someone I love achieves success, be it a friend or a family member.  That’s right.  I take more joy in seeing someone I love succeed than I take in my own accomplishments.  For instance, yesterday, I received this email from my husband, John:

 

My Dearest Wife,

Early this morning,  I received the news that my “The Merchant of Pittsburgh: A Comedy” was selected to kick-off San Francisco Dramatists Guild’s  spring Footlights, staged-playreading series on March 2nd.

Attached is the invitation that will be sent out from New York in a few days.

Love to you,

J

SAN FRANCISCO FOOTLIGHTS – March 2, 2015 presentation.

Please join the Dramatists Guild for a staged-reading of John Freed’s

 

“The Merchant of Pittsburgh: A Comedy”

 

on Monday, March 2 at 7PM
Tides Theatre
533 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA

 

Play Synopsis:


“The Merchant of Pittsburgh: A Comedy” is set in an Equity-based, regional theatre in the late eighties and concerns a fed-up Jewish board member who takes over as acting artistic director in order to stage a Shylock-friendly production of “The Merchant of Venice” while being forced to confront his own set of racial and ethnic prejudices.

 

                        “A brilliant mashup of Shakespeare and August Wilson.”   Arno Selco, Ithaca College

 

 

John Freed’s Brief Bio:
East Coast native by birth, the high point of his acting career occurred at age seventeen playing the lead in “Kiss me, Kate.” He received a standing ovation for his fireman’s carry off-stage of  his co-star after her slap nearly knocked him out at the close of Act One.
Fast forward to teaching dramatic literature, especially Shakespeare,  at Penn State as well as being the theater critic for the “Erie Daily Times” and film critic for New York’s “OneWorld Magazine.” He adapted Richard Wright’s novella “The Man Who Lived Underground” as a radio play produced by the local National Public Radio station and co-wrote “When Shakespeare Was a Woman” while functioning as pro bono drama consultant for the artistic director of the Pittsburgh Public Theatre.
His own writing evolved further from developing a series of creative writing and new media courses at the University of St. Thomas in Texas and at Brandman / Chapman University here in the Bay area.   During this time he wrote  “Love me, Fuseli: A Play about Mary Wollstonecraft and her Circle of Friends” and “Figaro’s Follies” – a new adaption of  Beaumarchais’ “Le Mariage de Figaro” which had staged-readings by the EastBay Players in the fall of 2014.

 

He is currently working on the book and lyrics for a musical entitled “All Hallows at Hearst Castle” with composer, Jeff Dunn.

John bi-locates to Portland, Oregon where his wife, Stacy Alexander, is a graduate student, a professional writer and a mixed media artist.  His playwright website is http://freed98.wix.com/johnfreedplaywright .

 

Dramatists Guild’s San Francisco

(end)

My response to John:

To My Most Admirable Husband,
So, once again, a public acknowledgement and congratulations in the midst of many, my darling.   What an honor for your play to kick off the season!  There are insufficient words to convey how proud of you I am.  Each play you write is better than the one that came before it.   I enthusiastically encourage you to continue with your play writing, just as you have always encouraged me with my own creative endeavors.  It is with great happiness that I  look forward to seeing what you come up with next.  Oh….and “break a leg”  (figuratively…not literally)  🙂
Your loving wife,
Anastasia

Last Update of the Year

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Last Update of the Year

I have been trying to make it over here to do an update before the end of the year, but this has been my first opportunity to do so.   First, let me thank my 590  wonderful subscribers and other readers for your continued support.  I appreciate each and every one of you and hope you have gained something from being a part of my life through this blog.   I wish each of you a happy and prosperous 2015.

As I approach the end of 2014, I have made some big changes in my life.  First, I have eliminated some unhealthy familial relationships that were dragging me down,  and have grown closer to other family members.  Both moves proved to be freeing and healing.

I have begun a regular meditation and yoga practice.  I am making art again.  I still have a four point in grad school and am slated to graduate this summer.   As for friendships….every single friendship that I had at the end of last year is still in place.  One, in particular, is stronger than ever, and I feel so blessed because of this. (4).

r     Rene Best musician

Life here has been a December whirlwind!  I took a couple of fun little trips…some that I can talk about, and some that I can’t.  However, my break from school proved to be no break at all.  I had a difficult midterm that took an entire day to complete, two discussion papers to write, a paper on women in leadership roles and a psychometric analysis of a psychological testing instrument used to determine levels of creativity.  Eeeee!  I still have two papers left to write before the fourth, but I’m fairly certain I will be able to complete them on time.  I have also been finishing up a lot of work projects that I had to finish by tonight.  Those are completed and sent to my editors, so I feel great about that.

The good news is that John is home, and we have been having the best time!  We took Ingrid Christmas shopping and to Peacock lane.

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We spent a quiet Christmas together at home, then went to our daughter’s house for gift exchange and a delicious dinner.  My son in law, who makes THESE  gorgeous knifes and teaches black smithing,  hand forged an incredible cheese knife for me. I am so proud of it!  (I love handmade gifts best of all!)   For the handle, he used exotic wood that had some naturally-formed cracks in it.  He ground up turquoise, suspended it in resin and filled the cracks with it.  The picture does not do it justice.  This is a gorgeous knife! He also hand carved a beautiful wooden spoon for me and gave them both to me in a nice wooden holder.  So talented, he is! Thanks, Nate!

knife

John wanted to do something extra special this year, so surprised me with a trip to Sun Mountain Lodge   up in the beautiful Cascades. What an incredible trip! It was cozy and romantic, stunningly beautiful and gave us the opportunity to get caught up after spending a long time apart.  We loved it there and want to go back in the spring.

cascades

Met some friends there, and were able to parlay the journey into a side trip Seattle where our granddaughter, Maya, is visiting from the East Coast.  We were absolutely thrilled to learn that she plans to return to the Pacific NW.  We have missed her in the 5 months she has been gone!

ingrid and maya

We stayed with our darling friends, Sheryl and Dylan and really enjoyed the company.  Sheryl is like family to us.  It was high quality, beautiful family time.  We visited and took Ings to the park.  We went out for dinner.  We went to an incredible display of Christmas lights.  It was so much fun.  I feel so happy just thinking about it.

ings and sheryl

Much, much more has happened, but I haven’t the time to write about it all.  Tonight, we are going to join our friends, Toni and Peter, as we did last year, for dinner, drinks and dancing.  We’ll start the evening off at a little wine bar known as “Arrivederci” and then meet other friends in another location to ring in the New Year together.  There won’t be any redneck bars and plastic cups in the mix for this year,  but as my friend pointed out, I’ve always been more of a crystal stemware type anyway, so it all works out. 🙂  I know I’m loved.  I’m happy.

I’m lucky….and I know it.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Be safe and have fun!

Another Reason to be Proud of my Daughter!

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There are countless reasons why I am proud of my daughter, Sarah, (Ingrid’s mom).  One of them is because she has worked so hard as part of its Board of Directors, to organize and affect the upcoming  opening of the Portland Toy Library.  What follows is the article that recently appeared in the Oregonian Newspaper:

PDX Toy Library to open in Southeast Portland with a mission of promoting play

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Cat Davila, founder, president and director of PDX Toy Library, says her daughter, Lilah Hurst, was the inspiration for her new nonprofit. (Courtesy of Cat Davila)

Portland’s newest library, opening next month, will be all about play.

The PDX Toy Library, an all-volunteer nonprofit, has a mission of lending out high quality toys and play equipment to help infants and children up to age 8 with their physical and educational development.

Its founder, Cat Davila of Southeast Portland, a former nanny who is now a full-time mom to a 5-year-old daughter, said she came up with the idea several years ago, when her daughter was about 2 and a half.

“She became really interested in board games and just wanted to play one after another all day,” Davila said. Davila began wishing she could trade in the games she had for new ones. When she learned that toy libraries existed, she decided to start one in Portland.

The idea also fit with her interests in child and family welfare, the sharing economy and environmental sustainability, she said. And, she said, “I always wanted to be a librarian.”

The PDX Toy Library, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, now has five board members, all volunteer moms from Southeast Portland, Davila said. They will start out in an approximately 300-square-foot room they’re renting from Sunnyside Centenary United Methodist Church, with hopes of moving to a larger space once they can afford to do so, Davila said. She also plans to use an adjacent room for storytimes, craft times and other events.

PDX Toy Library
Address: 3520 S.E. Yamhill St.
Phone: 503-610-6061

The library will be open only to paid members, with 12-month memberships for $100 and three-month memberships for $30. Those who sign up before the library’s planned Jan. 17 opening will receive discounted memberships of 15 months for $100 and six months for $40. Oregon Trail Card holders will receive a 50 percent discount on memberships.

There is no limit to how many people can use a membership, Davila said, but members will be limited to checking out three items at a time for two weeks.

The PDX Toy Library will have its first event from 10 a.m. to noon Monday, Dec. 22, with a storytime, balloon animals, snacks and ornament decorating; those interested in memberships can sign up during the event. Donations of $5 per child are requested to cover entertainment costs; additional donations are requested for the snacks and crafts.

The first day of checkouts is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17. Davila said she and the rest of the library board are still working out library hours, but hope to open three days a week, including Saturdays. In the meantime, the organizers are seeking donations of gently used toys and games for the library’s collection and to sell to help cover operating expenses.

The concept of toy sharing isn’t new to Portland. In the Woodlawn neighborhood in Northeast Portland, for instance, the approximately 115 member families of the nearly 3-year-old Woodlawn Swap N Play can swap not only toys but also clothing, books and baby gear while taking advantage of an indoor play space, said director Beth Ivester. In the Woodstock neighborhood in Southeast Portland, the Southside Swap & Play cooperative (formerly Sunnyside Swap Shop) provides its approximately 105 member families with the opportunity to share and swap toys, books, clothing, games, art supplies and baby gear.

And at the West Slope Community Library in Washington County, patrons can check out board games such as Qwirkle, Ticket to Ride and Word on the Street.

Nationally, toy libraries have been around since the 1930s, said Judith Iacuzzi, the executive director of the USA Toy Library Association, based in Evanston, Illinois. The 30-year-old association has about 350 members in more than 30 states. (Three Oregon toy libraries are listed on the association website, two in Hood River and one in Medford. The one in Medford is no longer operating, nor is the one listed at a Marina Way address in Hood River. The third couldn’t be reached Monday.)

Iacuzzi said the first official toy library was established in Los Angeles during the Great Depression after a store owner saw children stealing toys and got the idea of starting a lending program.

Most of the association’s member libraries are affiliated with larger institutions, such as community libraries, hospitals, social services agencies or child care programs, Iacuzzi said. The freestanding toy libraries are often affiliated with the disabled community, she said.

Either way, they share a mission “to provide quality play experiences in a localized environment with specialists who can help select toys and advise parents or the caregivers on the quality of the toy or the play experience,” Iacuzzi said.

The association uses the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio as a resource for choosing toys.