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Cottonwood in the Flood

I had the opportunity to view a special showing of Cottonwood in the Flood, Saturday, June 11 at the International Firehouse Cultural Center (IFCC). Bottom line: two thumbs up, beautiful exploration of history through the lens of one family.

I graduated from Portland State University in 2008 (unbeknownst to me, it started as Vanport College). In my studies, which focused on urban planning, community development, and geography, Vanport was mentioned a few times. It can be summarized thus: ship building, segregation, and a big flood. The conversation was sometimes the start of tracking a history of Portland race relations where, often, poor and black found themselves the object of eminent domain (Memorial Coliseum, Legacy-Emmanuel Hospital, I-5 corridor), and most recently the increase of gentrification in North Portland. What was never clear to me was where Vanport was, who it really affected, and how we could have let something like this happen with the flood.

A friend in housing-social justice recommended I see Cottonwood in the Flood, so when the opportunity presented itself, I had to say yes.

Cottonwood in the Flood, written by local playwright Rich Rubin and directed by local artist Damaris (rhymes with “glamorous”) Webb, was a beautiful collage of local headlines, radio reports, and relevant history, knit together through the story of one family. The companion piece is the exhibit IFCC hosted on their second floor gallery, where you can see maps, local headlines, and other stories about what happened in Vanport.

What happened in Vanport – it has ended with a muddled history and retelling, until now. For example, to give a nod to the suffering, there is a display on one of the transit stops giving space for the history where it happened. It would be like taking all the suffering of Hurricane Katrina and siphoning it to one train stop. A train stop that has a particular audience, is off the beaten bath, and you have to be in the know to know it’s even there.

Thanks to people like Damaris Webb and Rich Rubin, along with the actors in the play and their community partners, we can explore this complex history more fully. Rich Rubin’s play, Cottonwood in the Flood, explores the allure of hope and a better way for a family under the cloud of war. His play explains the changing tensions, the unfairness, the subtle racisms, the overt racisms, the government double speak, while telling it through a family you easily fall in love with. Grandpa, mom, dad, and two brothers, who all they want is a better life where they can achieve their own human potential. It’s their story of how they navigate the social constraints, how it affects their moods, their livelihoods, and how they overcome … or don’t.

I spent four years at Portland State, and I never got a comprehensive story of what Vanport was. Two hours plus a 30 minute discussion, and I finally have a working understanding of the hope, the devastation, and the work we have to do to never forget.

See also…

The Mercury’s review
Vanport Mosaic
Damaris Webb
Rich Rubin

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I needed to be reminded of this amazing, thoughtful, poem today. 

by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

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Why TV Has Its Place

[This post was started on January 31, 2011.]


I’m watching Chuck. I don’t watch this religiously, and it’s easy to pick up if I miss a few or several episodes. I find it endearing. It hits the action, spy, and campy love stories. I enjoyed watching TV as a kid, and always had the lineup of my favorites. Then, I got older and TV became less important. Movies, in some form, were always a constant. Soon, I moved out on my own, and I found myself, like many young people, with meager belongings. I didn’t have a television. I was fine, though, because I did have my radio – and that was my connection to the outdoor world.

I have blogged about this topic before (TV Confessions of a New Mom), but it rarely fails to fascinate. My mom used to chime, often, “Garbage in, garbage out,” an accusation on why we shouldn’t watch TV or certain TV. I’m sure my mom was flabbergasted that as a 13-year-old girl, all I wanted was (the original) Beverly Hills 90210.


Patient Mommy No More!
Patient Mommy is in Bed by 9pm

Well, now as an adult different desires for TV watching transpire. As a child, I felt like I was cool if I was able to keep up with the cool TV watching. Some shared in that desire, and we’d swap entertaining stories about the latest punch line. Some didn’t, and I failed to be cool like I thought I was able to be, by watching TV! Now, as an adult, though, I watch TV for different reasons. Sometimes it’s art. Sometimes it’s education. Sometimes it’s a distraction.

Mostly, it’s distraction. I’ve written before about how tiresome balancing these roles has become. As such,sometimes instead of writing, I watch TV. Back again are the lineups. Back again are the pontifications. But, mostly, it’s about the brain drain. It’s about not thinking.

I don’t have to make any choices, expect which show I want to watch when. And, since our lineup has been minimized, we have gone to borrowing our favorite shows (Burn Notice, Leverage, and Psych) from the library. Now, we can have our “date night Saturday nights” however we’d like them and in what order.

The pattern is, get up, quickly get ready for school, encourage the kiddo to eat, make lunches, put on make up, rush out the door by 7:40 am. Providing we’ve all rushed around together, we make the family trip to drop Levi off at school. We switch, so I drive the husband back home, then I take off for work. The desired arrival time is 8:10 am.

Then it’s work, work, work. I generally work through my lunches, but once or twice a week take an extended lunch to dine with a friend or testify for City Council. Then, I finish up work between 5 pm and 5:20 pm, rush to get the kiddo by the 6 pm cutoff. We race home, and have an hour for dinner activities, before an hour for bedtime activities. As soon as 8p hits – my brain is dead. I’m tired of having a polite smile on my face. I’m tired of being patient. I’m tired of measuring my words. I’m tired of thinking before I speak. I’m tired of forcing smiles on my face when I’d rather scream. I’m tired of considering laundry. I’m tired of thinking about what has to be done before the night is done. I look around at all the obligations, and it just makes me more tired.

And, on those days, a good fiction in the form of moving pictures on the TV is all I want. And, as an adult, making a cognizant choice to numb my brain – I think that’s okay. There are so many more opportunities for thinking, for feeling, exchanging  community building, and growing – that my nightly ritual of dumbing down… it’s a-okay.

And, now, I’m learning, it’s an introverts way. Maybe not TV specifically, but the absolute need of refreshing. We express so much energy interacting, that quiet time, alone, refreshes us so that we can be chipper and friendly to do it all over again the next day.

So, that’s why TV has its place. It helps me refresh in this crazy world with too many obligations and conflicting priorities. It helps me think of nothing else than fictional bombs blowing up while our favorite former CIA guy goes around rescuing the under-served  A bit of hope in a world where it’s not always clear who will be the good guy and where the winners are.


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Memorial Day Weekend

We now close another holiday weekend. Three days off, where the work email was also turned off. We had a fairly busy weekend, and unfortunately bread wasn’t made.

First, we had dinner with our friends, and we dined at the local taqueira. Cheap, yummy, Mexican food. Levi even ate a cheese quesidilla! For the rest of the weekend, that’s all he’s wanted for his meals.

“What’s that word again?” he’s asked, completely out of context of any meal conversation. So, it leaves me wondering what the heck he’s talking about. We make our way around to food and food options, and suddenly it becomes clear. The irony of it all is, although eh’s enjoyed these homemade quesidillas – he doesn’t really eat them. He eats maybe half of one-eighth!

Ensuring the arm has the right protection.
Ensuring the arm has the right protection.

Saturday, we found ourselves playing at a park and seeing a play. A friend is getting ready to embark on an exciting adventure. So, she and her fiance put together a tour of the neighborhood to celebrate with loved ones their new adventure. We met them at the park. Levi was able to play for about an hour, and then we headed off to the play.

But, not before one of the party-goers pulled out their remote control cars. (Expensive remote control cars that are also quite fast.)

More remote control car.
More remote control car.

Next we visited the Northwest Children’s Theater and School to see a wild performance of El Zorrito, The Legend of the Boy Zorro. I told Levi Friday night what our plans were. He didn’t really understand “seeing a play”, so I began to describe the show to him explaining the boy uses a sword. I explained he was kind of like a super hero. Levi was a little concerned about the use of a sword, but then he linked it, “He only uses his sword on bad guys, right?” “Yes! On bad guys!” I exclaimed.

Parts of the show were quite exciting, to the point I’m not sure Levi was ready for it. And, naturally, his body needed to potty just before intermission or the end of the show. Although we missed some parts of the play, we were first in line for the bathroom. And, despite not having cash for the cupcakes, which caused a severe few moments of emotional distress … Levi had a great time. He was absolutely star struck over this Boy Zorro. (“Mom, what’s his name again?”)

El Zorrito, signing his autograph.
El Zorrito, signing his autograph.

Now, on Friday, we experienced a thunderstorm, from the quiet of our house, after returning from King Burrito. We were able to give our children one of the first lessons in counting how close a storm is and tracking as it leaves with the seconds between lightening and thunder. With four adults and two kids getting excited over it, it was hard for the kiddos to be afraid.

Saturday night, however, Levi and I did not fair quite so well. When the play was over, we approached the back exit as the front was much too crowded. Like a good theater, we didn’t have access to light or any cues of what was happening outside. So, we were quite suprised to see torrential rain pouring out of the sky as we approached the exit. We decided to go back to the crowd to get another peak at El Zorrito. And, then, back to the exit to wait out the rain. Levi refused to walk out in the rain. We watched three groups of people courageously venture out into the downpour, and suddenly, Levi was ready.

We charged out teh door, held hands, and we ran. The puddles were immense! Rain, thunder, lightening, and it was only a block and a half to the car! The front tires were covered 12-18 inches in water, and the corner curbs were submerged in this mini flood. We got soaked. Our heads were soaked. Our shirts and sweaters were soaked. And, our pants were soaked mid-calf.

I suppose it’s no wonder we kept our tasks for Sunday and Monday to a dull roar. I’m not sure we have had such an adventurous Saturday, well not at least for a long time.

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The Sounds I Hear

The Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean

The glass door is open maybe three inches. It is a dull roar, punctuated by the clear sound of crashing waves onto the flat beach. The heater behind me adjusts. My husband rolls over in bed. Levi is silent.

We are at the beach.

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Inherited Collaboration

It’s all my mother’s fault. Seriously. Who else should I blame but her? She’s the one who drilled it in us [me], especially as we grew up and participated in sports. Yes, my desire for ground up planning; my desire for collaboration; my desire for fair teams — I blame this all on my mother.

I find myself, often in a few of the circles I travel, advocating for collaboration. I feel like I’m often asking people to slow down, consider other view points, seeking out the dissenters in order to move a process and hear their concerns. I often find myself planning for things where it doesn’t include a “star” of the team because I understand life happens and the team is nothing if it can’t function without a member.

I’m leery of sounding arrogant here. I’m leery of sounding like I’m always a team player. I’m leery of sounding like I don’t fight to get my way. Because, I do these things. I’m not always a team player, and sometimes I do fight to get my way. Sometimes, depending on the situation, I even close myself off to the other opinions I crave in other situations!

Seeing the trouble my arrogant methods sometimes yield, and seeing the solidification of consensus based decisions proves to me the preferred way to make decisions. I also grew up in a big family. A family that, when brought together, talks over one another and sometimes you have to shout to get your voice heard. I’ve been the one waiting and waiting to be heard, and I hate that. Something about looking in from the outside, I have the ability to see when other people may feel the same way. I know that when I’m watching other people talk, I have sometimes a million thoughts going through my head. I suspect that they do to. I want to hear what they are saying. I want the others to stop talking and give space for the quiet ones.

And, I’m going to blame my mother on this. She’s the one who insisted we “walk in another’s shoes for a mile” before judging. She’s the one who insisted we think of others. She’s the one who made sure we were thoughtful in our actions. She’s the one who ensured I listened to others.

So, yes, I blame my mother that I prefer consensus. Consensus, as described when it runs well, insists that we put our whole bodies into a process. We recognize our logic, our ration, and our emotion. We acknowledge these pieces to our brain (our bodies) as a whole. We are called to hold these pieces and give space for them, to allow for better decisions all around. We are called to think outside of ourselves, using our knowledge and experience, and consider choices that are best for the group. We are called to let self-interest rest and bring our self-less selves into the process.

Instead of blame, Mother dear, I thank you.

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A Day in the Life of….

We went to Hopworks for dinner tonight. Yum.

The Basic Burger & Fries
The Basic Burger & Fries
Levi enjoying his fries
Levi enjoying his fries

I went for a walk at work. I discovered a new sculpture in a park I’d never been.

Lunchtime Exploring
Lunchtime Exploring

Peter bought a big wrench.

Levi & The Big Wrench
Levi & The Big Wrench

We discovered Walgreen’s has a car charger.

Walgreen's Goes Electric
Walgreen's Goes Electric
Walgreen's Goes Electric
Walgreen's Goes Electric
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Saturday Night

I realized something the other day. I don’t like writing when I’m sick.

I’ve had a cold for a few days. The timing is ironic as I’m scheduled to read at church and we just had a steering committee meeting. Although, last time, early December, my sinus-infection-thing was much more debilitating than this cold. (Wine)

So, I’ve missed writing. I like picking a part my day, no matter if it’s mundane to you (my dear reader). It’s a great way for this introvert to process. Which is a great segue to something I’ve been thinking over.

People are surprised that I am an introvert. First, I didn’t really know the difference between introverts and extroverts until I was first introduced to an informal Meyers-Briggs test around 2003 or 2004. I always test as an Introvert, but where along the spectrum varies. I’ve never tested as an “extreme” introvert like my husband. Over the years, I have learned to not be afraid in crowds, like I was when I was a kid. I have learned that “no” isnt’ that scary, and it’s okay to approach people. As such, I’ve been known to start conversations, approach strangers with a smile, and even engage in “small talk.” I think these are things people witness that make them respond with shock and awe when I say, “I am an introvert.”

But, I am an introvert. Introvert, defined as needing refresh time alone. A co-worker said she gets her energy from her alone time, in the woods. I don’t need to be in the woods, but alone in a cafe, observing and not talking will sometimes suffice. Reading in bed, without talking, works too. Writing, though, that’s where I really process. The space where I can digest all my thoughts. The space where I can make sense of some of the nonsense in my head. The space where I can take my own rampant speculation and clarify it.

The Introvert Advantage claims that the world is only 25% full of introverts. I thought I recall a description of Meyers-Briggs that explained the world in halves. More or less, half of the world was introverted (extroverted), intuitive (sensing), feeling (thinking), judging (perceiving). So, I’ve been taking an informal poll at work. I’ve asked at least half those I work with, and only two are extroverts. Either my place of employment is rare (likely) or the world is full of more introverts than we realize (also likely in my opinion).

So, I’ve been grouchy lately. I told my mother once that I need 6 hours of alone time a day. She said figure out how to work around it because it’s likely not going to happen. The point is, I need a lot. And, I haven’t been getting it. As a worker bee, a mother, a wife, knowledge bearer in a club, friend, sister — there are demands of my time. I don’t always recognzie that when I say yes to something I am often saying “no” to my refresh time. So, I haven’t been getting my refresh time, and it’s been showing. And being sick, sure things have been quiet, but I haven’t been processing.

Here’s to writing and processing. May the tradition continue.

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Dramas in the 21st Century

I grew up with my parents watching Dallas and Knots Landing. If we woke up in the middle of the night, we were hushed and rushed back to bed. I only remember glimpse, and I remember the opening songs.

Later, when I became slightly acquainted with soap operas, I realized that these night-time dramas were simply night-time soap operas. I don’t recall the medical or criminal dramas of the day.

So, from this look back to childhood from adulthood, I have a very slim perspective. However, it seems as if our dramas have changed. I’m finishing up the last season of Desperate Housewives, a drama I became interested in after marathon breastfeeding sessions. I’ve become acquainted with TV as a mother and more accepting of its fictional relief. So, I also watch Once Upon a Time. There are a few other shows that trickle into my routine, and I’m noticing a trend. The story lines seem to have changed. Sure Desperate Housewives is about glitz and glam, but the relationship side seems more involved than my limited view of Dallas and Knots Landing.

What’s your perspective?

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The Introvert Advantage

People mistake me for an extrovert.

This surprises me.

Some people think that because I willingly engage in conversations with strangers that I must be an extrovert. Some people think my often chipper disposition makes me an extrovert. Some people mistake my community engagement as an extroverted tendency.

I am not an extrovert. I do not hate people. I am not chipper all the time. And, I often loathe talking to people.

I am an introvert. I am an introvert with the strengths input, intellection, belief, learner, and deliberative. I am an introvert who lives internally. I live in my head. I think in my head. I deliberate in my head. I find energy — in my head.

That’s what makes me an introvert. It’s not how well someone can engage with others that makes one an introvert. It’s not enjoying parties. It’s where you draw your energy. It’s how you refresh. A fellow introvert answered the question of where she finds her energy with: alone in the woods. That’s an introvert. I am getting energized writing this. Sure, there are distractions around. Sure, the TV is on. Yes, my husband is in the room. Yes, we are together, but I am not engaging in those other activities. I am writing. I am writing, more or less alone. I am in my head pondering, reflecting, deliberating.

That’s what makes me an introvert.

Top 10 Myths About Introverts


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