Sunday, November 29, 2009


"Look! Aubrey's mom's an actor!"

One of Aubrey's classmates saw this poster and said this to his mom.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


“If you ever meet a girl at our school named Kim,” my third grade son Dane whispers in the living room, “you should stay away from her.”

I’m in the hallway and I stop in my tracks before I’m seen or heard. Dane’s talking to his sister, my second grade daughter, Aubrey, and I want to hear this conversation. As someone who grew up an only child, I yearned for someone to show me the ropes, impart a little extra wisdom, watch my back. When these two look out for each other, I usually can’t help but revel in how lucky they are. Just the other day, Aubrey came home sick from school, and when she didn’t show up for the after-school pottery class, Dane checked her classroom coat hook, walked the school, and then phoned home to find out where she was. When he learned she was safe, he asked her what colors she’d like him to paint her projects so they could go in the kiln with everyone else’s for the next week.

“Oh,” Aubrey whispers now. “Why should I stay away from her?”

From the hallway, I edge closer. Perhaps this Kim girl is really mean. Or maybe she knows things – bad words or sexual things – beyond her years. I wonder what sort of threat she could be.

Dane continues, “Well, she goes into peoples’ houses at night and steals their things…”

Whoa. Back up. Seriously? No, seriously!

“Wait a minute…” I hear myself say, coming out of the shadows of the hallway, cutting the scene short like the director in a shoot gone wrong. “How do you know this?” I ask.

“Well, it’s what everybody says…” Dane says, his statement sounding more like a question as he bows his head and looks up from under his mop of bangs.

“Have you ever met this girl, Dane?”

“Um, no.”

“Have any of your friends ever met this girl?

“Um, no… but that’s what everybody says.”

My God, I think to myself. Poor Kim.

“Okay, guys, I want you to think hard about this,” I say, calling them over to stand in front of me as I take a seat on a dining room chair. I’m about to get cliché on them and come down a little heavy-handed, but I want them to grasp the danger of gossip.

“How would you feel if you heard people were saying, ‘You know Dane, that yellow-haired third-grader? Well, stay away from him – he sneaks into peoples’ houses at night and chops them up into little pieces.’”

Dane gets sheepish and says, “Um, not very good…”

He sees what I mean. So does Aubrey, with a nod of her head.

I decide to soften the blow a little bit, tell them something from my own experience. But instead of going to the day in fourth grade when two popular girls ostracized me by telling all of the other girls not to play with me because I was stuck up, which hurt so bad I still feel the sting, I breathe life into old Bruce Caldwell, the stinkiest kid in school. And this story has less to do about gossip than it has to do about kindness.

“I have to tell you about a really important time in my life, when I chose to ignore bad things everybody thought about a boy in my class – and how it taught me an important lesson.”

I told them about skating with Bruce Caldwell.

Bruce Caldwell had been at my school since kindergarten. And every day since that first day in Miss Shahan’s class, Bruce came to school smelling like he’d pooped his pants.

He was a cute enough kid with squinty brown eyes, short mouse-brown hair, freckles across the bridge of his nose, and a tentative smile. He looked a lot like the other boys, except that his brown Toughskins always looked like he’d just dropped a load – and smelled just as bad. He probably had a medical condition, or was neglected at home, but nobody in 1976 really had the savvy to help him meet this head on.

At recess, few kids would play with him. In fact, bad boys like Trent and Jon and Delmar taunted him relentlessly when they weren’t off picking teams for soccer or throwing gravel at the girls on the monkey bars. So Bruce usually played alone – even when he tried to brave up and join in.

As far as I can remember, it was like that for every day of Bruce Caldwell’s school life, onto first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade.

In fourth grade, the long-awaited quarterly skating parties started. Skate parties were the perfect chance to listen to Journey, Air Supply, AC/DC and Neil Diamond all in one afternoon under the disco balls and padded walls of a roller rink. We got to shoot-the-duck, skate crazy trios (flinging the outside person wide and squealing), and, most importantly, we got to skate “couples.”

The best – and worst – part of couples skate was that electric tension that could course through your body as you wondered if Matt or Kevin or even a bully like Jon or Delmar or Trent would ask you to skate. Because, when they did, you got to hold their sweaty (Matt), calloused (Kevin), or skinny (Jon) hand while you both tried to smile or not smile, talk or not talk, and laugh or not laugh while Steve Perry sang about the smell of wine and cheap perfume, something of which you maybe only knew half about.

To get asked to skate was dreamy – or at least it was if you were included. To not get asked to skate, though, was heartbreaking, as you sat leaning over the side of the shag carpeted rink wall either staring wistfully off at the DJ, or trying to look nonchalant as you waved and laughed and smiled at all the couples who rolled by, smiling and talking and laughing. Or not, as it were.

One such day, after I’d had the attention of at least one male roller skater (maybe sweaty-palmed Matt?), Bruce Caldwell rolled over to me. His hands were stuffed deep in his brown pockets, his brown eyes squinting. With his shoulders kind of hunched, he shrugged with each word of his question: “Hey Anjie, you wanna skate with me?”

I’m not sure I’d ever seen Bruce skate with anybody.

I saw Trent and Jon roll past us with their partners, pointing and yelling, “Hey Poopy Brucey!” I saw Tara and Rhonda next to me at the rink wall, giggling and whispering to each other with furtive glances at me. I saw Bruce sigh, and then lift his shoulders again with some sort of extra resolve.

In that moment, I knew that to say no would be one of the meanest things I could do; I knew that saying yes was just plain right. So I decided to go the brave and honorable route: I smiled and said, “Sure, Bruce.” I took a shallow breath and followed him to the rink. Once there, he shrugged again, smiled tentatively, and held out his hand.

Bruce’s hand had a little bit of dryness to it, which was nice since he smelled like poop, and it was warm, which could be nice or not, depending on how you look at it. He didn’t hold too tightly, but he didn’t let it get loose either. And so we skated. And kindness won the day without hurting anybody.

And that’s where I ended my story for my kids, because the story is about kindness, and my point is that kindness feels good.

But here’s what I didn’t tell them: I failed.

After ten feet in the rink, I became acutely aware of our classmates looking at us, staring across the rink, passing us, glancing over their shoulders from in front of us – and I hate to admit it, but I freaked.

What had I gotten myself into? Was everyone going to think I was Bruce’s girlfriend? Were they going to think we were “going” together? Was Bruce going to ask me to “go” with him? Was I going to start stinking too?

And before we’d gone one complete revolution round the rink, I’d decided I wanted out. I couldn’t hack the pressure.

And so it was that I’d held Bruce Caldwell’s hand in all likelihood for twenty seconds when I said, “I’m sorry, Bruce, I just can’t do this anymore,” and I skated off the floor in shame.

I skated off to the booth where Rhonda and Tara were sitting. I had a hard time looking either of them in the eye, I was blushing, and I couldn’t answer their awful questions: What was that like? Why’d you do that? Was it gross?

I looked across the floor to see that Bruce had skated off to the arcade, and was staring at the screen in front of him, pressing buttons madly like he was playing a game. He probably hadn’t even put a quarter in the machine.

The shame was awful, and even then I knew it wasn’t the shame of having skated with Bruce, it was the shame of having not skated with Bruce. I knew his life sucked. And I was ashamed I couldn’t hack for one revolution what it took to be Bruce Caldwell for life.

So, sitting on the dining room chair, telling my kids they ought to give this girl Kim a chance, that they should never make a judgment about a person without at least having spoken to them personally, that they should practice kindness every chance they get, I’m actually crying.

I’m crying because I couldn’t give Bruce a full skate – and I wish I would have been kinder.

Someday I’ll tell my children the whole story. After all, I’m not afraid to tell them my vulnerabilities – they know of other mistakes I’ve made – but for now I make the choice to stop at simply having said yes to skating with Bruce. For now, this is a lesson in kindness; it’s the kindness pep talk.

I want my kids to feel the courage to practice kindness, to try to give some future Bruce the full skate. Because maybe, just maybe, where I once failed, they’ll succeed. And that would be the greater kindness. For everybody.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Okay, I'm just going to get the saddest stuff out of the way first.

Above is a photo of girls I went to elementary school with. We've recently been in touch on Facebook, which has been a total delight. That's Renee Bourdess up there, third from the right. We were best friends in Kindergarten and 1st grade -- Mrs. Aasland called us the "Sunshine Twins," which I think has stayed with me as one of the best identity builders ever. Other girls in there include Renee Walrath, second from right, who was a cheerleader in 7th grade and loved MTV so much she could dance like anybody she wanted to emulate -- Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Boy George. And there's Janell Stussy, second from left, always the pretty tomboy, and Cheryl Anspach, third from the left, everybody's friend and someone who could always be counted on.

But someone is missing. Missing, missing, missing. And it's Shannon Boone. Shannon Boone, who was so theatrical and brilliant and passionate. Mrs. McNeil chose her to play Imogene Herdman in our 3rd grade Gifted Class's rendition of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever -- possibly because Shannon was scrappy and effusive and loud, but probably mostly because Shannon was smart enough to know how to play Imogene with edge and heart -- because Imogene Herdman had to be the character the audience could see as the most powerfully changed by the Christmas story, a hard knock kid playing mother to the baby Jesus.

I moved away from these girls in 7th grade, but I've often thought of Shannon -- and how she could drive me crazy with her loudness, her sensitivity, our mutual jealousies over our favorite friend Dawn Looker -- and I've wondered what became of her.

And I'm sorry to report that Shannon died of breast cancer. It makes me so sad to write that. Here's what Renee Bourdess told me in an email -- and it's absolutely heartbreaking:

Hi Anjie-
Yes, we did walk for Shannon. She died of breast cancer 5 years ago this January. It is horribly sad, I actually have goosebumps as I type it.

Where do I start.......Shannon was married and had just gotten pregnant with her first baby. She went in for her first OB appt. and they found a lump in her breast. Did a biopsy and turned out to be Stage 4 breast cancer. At that point, it had already spread. She chose to do chemotherapy and fought a valiant battle for 13 months until she passed. She did not end up having the baby. :( It's an awful, heart wrenching story.....she was only 34 years old. Ugh.

Her parents had a memorial service for her at Franklin Pierce and that's where I ran into all those gals you see in the photo. A lot of them I hadn't seen since high school or shortly after. So we decided to meet for dinner and we all showed up and have been doing "girls night" once a month ever since, or at least we try. That's how we came to be the Pinks.......

As sad as it was to lose Shannon, we all feel very blessed that out of her death came the reconnecting of all of us and the development of amazing friendships. It was such an honor to do the walk in memory of her. Her mom walked with us and she is one of the most amazing women I know. We have all become close to her and she is such an inspiration.

Whew, goodness, as you can tell this is very close to my heart!

So, those are the Pinks up there, including Shannon's brave mother (on the far right) and that's Shannon's story.

My pal Karen's family lost their Aunt Mary last year to breast cancer. This year the family Walked for Hope in honor of her:

Here are a couple friends who walked the Avon 3-Day in honor of survivors and living fighters.

My friend Amy Vattuone, third from the right and 4 months pregnant here, walked with a group of her girlfriends in Seattle -- calling themselves something like the Aereola Borealis Team:

And my dear friend from the dental school years, Shari Michaud, (at right, below) walked with her sister Julie in honor of Julie's current fight against breast cancer. I've posted about Shari's sister/endeavor before, if you'd like to read her story.

Here's Shari's report:

Last weekend Nov 13-15 was the Three day walk. After 60 miles we were tired and sore but hope was alive! It was an amazing experience and I feel so humble to have such wonderful friends and family that made it possible for my Sister Julie and I to participate...

It meant the world to us to be a part of something so personal and to have the chance to fight Breast Cancer as sisters! There was a moment at the closing ceremonies where they honored the survivors and my sister Julie was standing there so strong and so brave.

It was emotionally overwhelming. I never want to lose her and I believe in a cure! She is an incredible mom, sister, wife, and friend. I know Breast Cancer and Cancer have taken so many loved ones and caused so much pain. However, last weekend they were able to raise over 4.1 million dollars in the fight to cure cancer. I know with God a miracle can happen!
Think Pink.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Boy

Aubrey came home from school early on Thursday with a headache and fever. She and Dane were scheduled to take their fifth of six pottery classes that day right after school. It was 3 o'clock and the pottery class had been going for 15 minutes when I realized Dane might be wondering where Aubrey was.

I called the office to get a message to him. The secretary said she'd get a message to Dane, but, for some reason, Dane didn't get the message. However, at 3:05 I got a phone call.


"Hi honey..."

"Did Aubrey come home already?"

"Yeah, didn't you get the message in pottery?"

"No... I went around the school looking for her after I went to her classroom and saw that her things weren't on her hook."

"Aw... were you worried?"

"Yeah. But it's okay... Can I talk to her? I want to ask her some questions."

I hand the phone to Aubrey. I hear her say things like, "Yeah, I got a fever" and then "Blue... red... yeah, red... yeah, there's three things..."

Turns out that was the day they were going to get to paint their pottery items, and Dane wanted to make sure hers got painted.

Of course I'm biased, but what' s there not to LOVE about a boy like that! He's about the sweetest boy ever. He's always like that.

Man, I love that kid.

Dane with Aubrey and his Mema.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Dane, try saying diarrhea out loud... Doesn't it sound beautiful? -Aubrey, age 7


Monday, November 09, 2009

Monday's Rockin' Recipe Share

This one was originally published in The Oregonian, but I didn't see it there years ago -- so my best pal Karen took it upon herself to send it to me this weekend. I doubled it and gave half of it to Dane's buddy's family, who has a new baby in the house as of two days before Halloween. It was EASY and DELICIOUS, two things which, of course, go great together.


1 lb ground beef, chorizo or turkey
1 envelope taco seasoning mix
1 envelope ranch dressing mix (there's one with chipotle powder if you like spicy)
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained
1 15-oz can pinto beans, drained
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (any style, seasoned or not)
1-1/2 c frozen corn kernels
4 c water

Garnish with any or all of the following (I recommend ALL!):
crumbled tortilla chips
cubed avocado
shredded cheese
sour cream

1) Brown the meat in a soup pot over medium heat, breaking up chunks with a spoon.
2) Drain the fat. Add the taco and ranch seasoning mixes, and stir to incorporate.
3) Add the beans, tomatoes, corn and water.
4) Bring to a boil and then heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

You're done!

Makes 6 servings.

Friday, November 06, 2009


This is the living room BEFORE we bought the house

This is what it looks like NOW:

(note: the walls look washed out in my photos,
but they're a light sage green)

Dane's awesome new guitar is going to hang
next to that window (above)

You may recall we spent the summer in transition--
demolishing the kitchen, eating food in the back yard,
doing dishes in the bathtub, living with boxes covering the floor
to the ceiling in the living room... When we finally furnished
this space in September (after three long months)
it felt like a place where we could kick up our feet, read a good book,
and even do a cartwheel (just ask Aubrey).

Here's the view into the living room, which we never
would have had if we hadn't removed a chimney,
taken out a wall, and created a new bar and counter:

I wouldn't say it's quite done, but it sure feels like a great start.

Will post pictures of the new kitchen and the dining room
after I, um, clean it up a little.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The festivities started out on Friday afternoon with costumes and a Ghost Walk at the kids' school. They begged me to come dressed up and in the spirit of things, so I pulled together this little number in a matter of minutes. It's amazing what you can do with a brown Crayola marker, pieces of wig hair, and a little Caro syrup.

It's also amazing how easy it is to gross your kids out and have them beg you to take off your costume and do something different.

So, the next day I changed my get-up, but Mick absconded with my idea and made it his own. Talk about gross.

That's right, ladies. I married for love.

But here are the real stars of the show:


Cleopatra and the Grim Reaper (with Avery the Pirate)

Grim Reaper and Jack Sparrow pre-parade.

Cleo with Felicity, the Monarch Butterfly

with Indi the Geisha

and, of course, there was Elvis (Logan)

Funkity Ann (Kerry) with Val Pal

The Geisha Girls and a couple of Ninjas (cousins, Auntie, their Grammy)

Scary brothers.

and the stunning hodge-podge

of Halloween Fright.