Books on the table

I’m feeling rather tired and boring tonight, but nagged by NaBloPoMo commitment. So, like any good improvisor I’ll look for a little inspiration where I can find it. Tonight my coffee table will have to do.

I’ve got a stack of New Yorkers and these three books sitting on my coffee table:

Oregon Curiosities: Quirky characters, roadside oddities & other offbeat stuff by Harriet Baskas

Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco

Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann

coffee table books

Longing, a list inspired by my coffee table books

I long to have space for travel and to travel in space.I long to learn more about the place I live.
I long to show my daughter the joy in exploration, discovery, getting lost.
I long to be creative create.
I long to stop feeling like an imposter.
I long to be daring.
I long to know more about my family history, my cultural history, my country’s (real) history, my local history.
I long to read more.
I long to write more.
I long for an ‘instant tidy’ button.
I long see my parents.
I long to have time to luxuriate in making a meal.
I long to listen.
I long for stories, words to tell the story.
I long for the complexity of simplicity.
I long to long for less.

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Three picture books depicting adoptive families

Our two year old loves books. Now that she’s old enough to understand more and to have conversations, I thought it was time we check out some books that include adoption in the stories. Here’s my take on the three we have checked out from the library at the moment:

Pablo's Tree book coverPablo’s Tree by Pat Mora, illustrated by Cecily Lang

Plot: It’s Pablo’s birthday and he’s very excited to see his ‘Lito,’ short for ‘Abuelito’ which means grandfather in Spanish. Lito has a tree that he planted when Lito was born and he decorates the tree each year for Pablo’s birthday. The story follows Pablo on his birthday adventure to Lito’s. It’s revealed that Pablo’s mom, a single mom, adopted Pablo as an infant. Lito bought the tree when his daughter announced her intention to adopt. Then, he purchased the tree in happy anticipation of his grandson.

Thoughts: This one was actually a surprise. Lilli grabbed it off the shelf at the library. It looked pretty good from the first few of pages. It was about a Mexican-American boy, and because Lilli is one-quarter Panamanian, I thought it might be nice to read about other brown people. Didn’t find out until we read it through the first time that it’s actually an adoption story. I really like this book for three reasons. 1) The specificity of the story is refreshing. I appreciate the lack of stereotype in how this adoptive family looks. Pablo’s primary family is his mom and his grandfather. The family is Mexican-American. The adoptive mom is a single parent. The story of Pablo’s adoption is talked about openly between the characters. Even though this does not look much like our adoption story, I feel much more of an affinity and resonance than in other books I’ve read (including one of the other ones I’m including in this post). 2) I really appreciate inter-generational stories. 3) The illustrations are rich and colorful.

Megan's Birthday Tree book coverMegan’s Birthday Tree: A Story About Open Adoption by Laurie Lears, illustrated by Bill Farsnworth

Plot: The story follows Megan, a school age girl who is a daughter in an open adoption family. She maintains a relationship with her birth mom Kendra. The story unfolds as Kendra announces that she will be getting married and moving soon. At Kendra’s current house, Kendra planted a ‘Birthday Tree’ for Megan after she was born. With Kendra’s pending move, Megan becomes worried about her birthday tree and worried that Kendra will forget her if she doesn’t have the birthday tree to remind her.

Thoughts: All in all, it’s a sweet story (got me teary-eyed at a certain point) and probably a good one to have around as we begin talking to Lilli about her birth and adoption story. I don’t imagine there are many books specifically about open adoption out there for children. The lovely thing about the book is that it focuses on the relationship between Megan and her birth mom. One thing I appreciate about our type of open adoption is that it really focuses on transparency of the adoption relationships and honors the birth parent(s)’ place in the family. This book comes from that philosophy of open adoptions. The down side to me in this book is that it feels sort of generic in its approach, which is useful to be inclusive, but feels a bit preachy. Also, it hits the open adoption message on the nose too much for my taste. And it’s these two things that make it feel more heavy handed and clinical to me, rather than a expressively and creatively written story. The illustrations, while quite masterful, also feel a bit heavy handed.

Imageand tango makes three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole

Plot: The story takes place at New York’s Central Park Zoo. It follows the relationship of two boy penguins, Roy and Silo, who become a couple. They eventually are given a penguin egg to hatch and become parents to a baby girl penguin named Tango. It’s based on a true story.

Thoughts: I don’t know how I missed the news of the gay penguins at Central Park Zoo when it became a minor sensation through a New York Times article. But I was delighted as I read this book to Lilli. I knew it was about adoption, but didn’t know about the gay theme, as well. Like Pablo’s Tree, I like the specificity of the story, which make sense because it’s a true story rather than an archetypal story like Megan’s story. And heck it’s a great story which is why it had so much notoriety. (Okay, so the notoriety also came from the folks who don’t like the idea of gay penguins and apparently it’s among the most banned books.) Another plus is the illustrations are quite lovely. What I don’t love is the tone of the storytelling. It feels a bit like the authors are talking down to the reader and sometimes over simplifies the concepts in a way I don’t think is necessary.

A couple of other thoughts.

I like the birthday tree concept. I wish we had started some sort of tradition like that when Lilli came into our lives. We still have time to start a tradition so I’m looking for ideas, especially something to commemorate the day of Lilli’s placement, which is also the day she came home with us. Considering calling it our ‘love’ day.

Despite some of my critiques of the books above, I appreciate all of them as they help share the concepts of adoption and open adoption. We are also eager to read more. If you have favorite adoption books for children, please share them below.

Every day adoption

I think about adoption every day. It’s not like I’m dwelling on it. But, it’s a fact of my life and a part of my identity now. When I became an adoptive aunt by through my husband’s family years back, I became much more sensitive to adoption issues. And now being an adoptive parent, it’s become another filter to my worldview. Just like my reality as a working mom, as an Asian American woman, and other pieces of my identity that confront daily life, I can’t help but see adoption in so many things around me.

Adam Pertman's Adoption NationFor one, I’ve got Adoption Nation by Adam Pertman as my bedtime reading. (I’m about halfway through. Once I’m finished I’ll write more about the book. I have some thoughts, but already definitely consider it a ‘must read.’) Each night I close the book, shut my eyes and I’m left with some sort of thought provoked about the world of adoption or how adoption has impacted society.

And as Pertman notes in his book, many, many people are somehow touched by adoption in this country:

Extrapolation from U.S.Census data, we can guesstimate that there are at least 7 million adopted children and adults in the United States today; add in birth parents, adoptive parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces, and the number of people directed connected to adoption soars into the tens of millions.

Aside from my choice to think specifically about adoption, this week the topic of adoption has come up in my media consumption.

My friend Ed posted this touching story on Facebook about a gay couple who adopted a baby they literally found in a subway station, and then eventually… actually I don’t want to spoil the story so go read the post. And have some tissues on hand. Ed is gay man with a long time partner. As far as I know (and as far as he’s let on in his status updates) he has no intention of having a child. My point here is that Ed’s interest in the story (I’m guessing) was his identifying with the gay couple and the sheer drama of the story. And there just happened to be an adoption angle.

The other adoption connections this week are about adoptees from Korea.

Kristen Kish

The first happened to be on the finale of one of my favorite shows, Top Chef. Again, I won’t spoil it in case you haven’t watched the episode. Kristen, one of the bad ass finalists (both awesome women chefs, yeehah!), was adopted at age 4 from Korea. In a touching “confessional” moment, Kristen talks about wanting to visit Korea if she wins Top Chef (the winner receives $125,000):

“The one thing I do miss is seeing two people that look like me… I just need to see where I came from.”

The other adoptee moment came when I read my neighborhood paper, the Hollywood Star News. It’s a feel-good story from the nearby Northeast Community Center, about a young man who grew up going to the center named Henry Meece. Meece, a developmentally disabled adult, competed as a snowboarder in the Special Olympics World Games which took place in South Korea. It just so happens Meece was born in Seoul, Korea and then adopted at six months by a Portland couple. A sweet story.

I recognize that I am more aware of adoption stories now that I’m an adoptive mom, but it does seem true – adoptive families are everywhere! And they each have such a unique and complicated story.

One thing I’ll be more on the hunt for, though, are stories that reveal the complexities of adoptions with some measure of openness. Do you know of articles, novels, tv programs, movies that show open adoption stories? If so, please share in the comments, so I can try and check it out.

One of the main lenses Pertman’s ‘Adoption Nation’ explores is the revolutionary change in adoptions caused by the opening of adoptions. A study from the Donaldson Adoption Institute says that the vast majority of adoptions today have some level of openness. Yet my experience has been that people are still generally very uncomfortable with the idea. I’ll tackle some of that topic in a future post.

Back to Blog A-Z

A. apricot and cherry crumble with alden’s vanilla bean ice cream
B. basement = “summer palace” when it’s 94º outside at 8:30pm
C. our new favorite card game is called “hand and foot”
D. waiting for DVR to capture a good chunk of sytycd
E. sick of walking on eggshells around certain stressful individuals
F. font: CarbonType
G. goal!!
H. our neighborhood hollywood farmers market rocks my world
I. inspired somehow to get back to blog
J. joke – q: Why does a chicken coop have two doors? a: Because if had four doors it would be a chicken sedan!
K. thinking of getting a flip camera or a kodak Zi8, please share thoughts if you’ve got ’em.
L. love my hubby lots
M. our 2 yr old nephew maceo loves trucks and hummus
N. nuts i love: almond, macadamia, cashew, filbert
O. our nephew oscar brought over his pet hamster furball
P. harry potter. obsessed. anxiously awaiting for bk 6 from the library.
Q. we made two different, delightful quinoa salads last week
R. reading like mad
S. word scramble 2 interface on my ipod touch is very cool
T. finally got our tax return
U. conveyor belt sushi delivered unagi tonight
V. on the librarian recommendations new release shelf, picked up ether: seven stories and a novella by evgenia citkowitz. evgenia. neato.
W. time to talk about something besides the weather
X. x-ray? x-men? xylophone?
Y. finally getting some yardening on
Z. zit on my nose = contact lenses

Sweetness

I’m trying NaBloPoMo again this month. I tried it a few months back and lost steam because I went out of town a few times. For the month of May I will post on my blog once a day. Yes, every single day in May. That’s 31 posts. Of course I picked a month with 31 days! But it is spring, so I suppose I’m feeling inspired. The theme for the month is “Sweet” if I choose to use it. Today I will…

If we’re talking sweets, we’re talking dessert. If we’re talking dessert, then for me, above all else, we’re talking CHOCOLATE. And I mean the real kind, not the icky, weird concoction they call “milk chocolate.” Here’s a few factoids and trivial things about our friend chocolate:

  • The Mayans and Aztecs were the original chocoholics. Some of them loved it so much they even grew cacao in their backyard gardens. Now, that’s my kinda urban gardening!
  • One of my favorite chocolate books is Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquival. Each chapter of the book begins with a recipe. The novel employs a heavy dose of magic realism which works well with the foodie, soap operatic plot.
  • Xocolātl is a popular cacao drink that the Mayans and Aztecs made. Dagoba makes a bar they call Xocalatl.
  • Seeds from the evergreen tree Theobroma cacao are used in making chocolate.
  • Another fictional chocolate I enjoyed is the film Chocolat with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. The themes aren’t entirely different from Like Water for Chocolate with passionate chocolate making and high drama about a small conservative French town who receives a big shake up with a new chocolatier in town.
  • Theobromine is the bitter alkaloid in chocolate that gives you that nice chocolate buzz.
  • “Chocolate gives you zits.” Remember that old rumor? Well, bust that myth, cuz it ain’t true.
  • Portland is home to some pretty nifty chocolatiers. Alma Chocolate, Cacao Drink Chocolate, and Moonstruck Chocolatier are some of the standouts.

Here’s a young girl after my own heart. Photo courtesy of RIPizzo on flickr.


Gorging on the gorgeous Gorge

Matt and I took a much-needed day off today. It was time for a little nature adventure. Our first thought was to hit the famous Multnomah Falls. A friend advised we try some of the other, slightly less popular (and less crowded) hikes. So, we consulted our trusty Afoot & Afield Portland/Vancouver hiking guide. After considering a few, we decided to check out Horsetail Falls.

I can’t believe how close all this stuff is to Portland. The Columbia River Gorge is only about 30 or so miles east. I’m embarrassed and a bit regretful that we haven’t explored here sooner.

This is Horsetail Falls. So wonderful to sit underneath and just experience the falls crashing into the creek. It’s springtime so all the falls are going off.

As you can see from my curry chicken salad sandwich, we enjoyed a divine lunch in front of Three Falls.

The famous Multnomah Falls. Stunning.
You can see more of our photos from the trip at my flickr photostream.

And here’s my curry chicken salad recipe:

2-3 cups of chopped chicken (you can use canned, or I always used leftover rotisserie chicken)
2-3 tblsp curry powder
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 -3/4 cup peas
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2-3 tblsp mayo

Fold all that stuff together in a bowl until well-mixed. Serve with greens or in a sandwich.

Ruminations from Powell’s Coffee Shop

Enjoying a 12oz chai at Powell’s always hopping coffee shop/reading room. Not supposed to have more than 5 books, but i suck a couple of extra in. Figure, I’m pretty much set on buying almost all my items. It’s always fun, and a bit daunting to peruse this institution. I always find it’s good to have a game plan, i.e. a couple of key things you are looking for. This trip I was on the hunt for 3 things:

1) Birthday present for Matt. Wanted to find an fun, encouraging film book to support his pursuit of creative projects.
2) Information/reference books for my Pub Quiz Oregon quiz writing.
3) Zine(s). I’m a big fan of zines (however, as a dabbler, not deeply knowledgeable – just know what I like).

Here’s what I ended up with:
1) Making Short Films by Jim Piper (coincidentally the name of our very nice previous landlord). It seems to have mixed reviews, but I like that it has pictures and seems somewhat The Conversations by Michael Ontaje. Looks very inspiring.
2) The reference books are my little secret…
3) A new local zine “Monster of Fun! a collection of Razorcake columns by Amy Adoyzie” which looks very promising. And hey she’s APA which is always nice to support. Also picked up “time enough at last” by A.j. Michel out of Lansdowne, PA. I’m a list junkie and this one is subtitled: “A Reading Log 2007” including juicy documentation of A.j.’s reading habits over the past year.

another year, another set of resolutions

Greetings and happy new year, whether it be gregorian, julian, lunar, tet or other. I’ll admit it, I’ve got some resolutions in mind for 2008. Trite, but useful. We’ve got the rules of improv, recipes for cooking, outlines in coloring books – which can all be considered structures, but in my opinion can also provide a smaller container from which to explore freely. I’d like to think that resolutions can do this too.

“Resolution” as defined on Wiktionary:

  1. The state of being resolute.
    His stalwart resolution is perhaps admirable, perhaps foolish.
  2. A statement of intent, a vow (often New Year’s Resolution).
    My resolution is to cut back on the fast food this year.
  3. The act of discerning detail.
  4. (computing) The degree of fineness with which an image can be recorded or produced, often expressed as the number of pixels per unit of length (typically an inch).
    Printing at higher resolution will cause a reduction in performance.
  5. (computer hardware) The number of pixels in an image that are stored or displayed.
    This monitor’s maximum resolution is 800×600.
  6. A formal statement adopted by an assembly.
  7. (sciences) The separation of the constituent parts (of a spectrum etc).
  8. (sciences) The degree of fineness of such a separation.
  9. (music) Progression from dissonance to consonance; a chord to which such progression is made.

Some of those sound pretty juicy. I especially like the #7 and #9. Here’s just a few of my resolutions, vows, intentions for 2008:

  1. Blog at least twice a month
  2. Eat more veggies
  3. Intentionally move my body at least once a day
  4. Work with Matt on completing at least three video shorts
  5. Continue improvisation PLAYgroup
  6. Organize and maintain my office/craft space
  7. Buy a house
  8. Raise money for KBOO and Bitch Magazine
  9. Create one audio documentary piece
  10. Learn and practice more Spanish
  11. Streamline programming of the Portland Grassroots Media Camp
  12. Watch lots of films
  13. Practice sewing at least twice a month
  14. Read these books – Omnivores Dilemma; Eat, Pray Love; Brave New World; Tokyo Cancelled; People’s History of the United States; Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White; Writing Down the Bones
  15. Teach an improv class
  16. Take a walk at least once a week
  17. Sing
  18. Practice my New Zealand accent (currently obsessed with Flight of the Conchords)