Processing SHARE 23

Updated July 22, 2015

I recently had the fun opportunity to participate in the 23rd edition of SHARE, organized by two writers, my friend Margaret Malone and Kathleen Lane. Here’s the description from their website:

SHARE is a bi-monthly event in Portland, Oregon that brings a small group of artists together to create in a shared space. Artists have two hours to create from a one-word prompt.
I was a little intimidated to go at first, but that pretty much vanished once I met some of the other folks. There were a bunch of writers, a couple of designers, visual artists, a musician, multimedia artist and me. I’ll update this post when they put up Check out their blog post of artists’ process and outcomes from SHARE 23. Below is my account of what I experienced.

Going into SHARE, I knew I would start with creating a blackout poem aka erasure. It’s recent practice I’ve taken up inspired by lots of makers on Instagram. A blackout poem is created from an existing page of text or prose. You create the poem by selecting words from the page and blacking out the rest. (Austin Kleon wrote a bestseller, Newspaper Blackout, some credit with helping to spur a blackout poetry movement.) I’ve been doing these for a few weeks, either as stand alone pieces or as inspiration for something else, another writing or a physical improvisation.

SHARE23_ttr-processI brought with me several thrift store self-help books I’d picked up for use in my blackout poems. I brought my markers and an oil cloth to mark on. I brought several books on physical improvisation, thinking that I might be inspired to create an improv or an improv score.

With FIRE as the prompt, I started paging through the book I thought most likely would have something that inspires fire. I chose Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. If you’ve ever taken a personality test like a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Strength Deployment Inventory, this book has a similar bent. It helps one assess personality traits by profiling 34 common talents, such as Adaptability, Arranger, Futuristic and Woo. (Can’t wait to Here’s my blackout poem for one page of the “Woo” section!) I thought about which of these strengths might identify as fire. The very first one in the book is “Achiever” and I thought, that’s the one, bingo. It literally had “fire” in the text.

When I improvise from a prompt, I like to take the prompt and move a step or two away from it, so as not to hit the prompt on the nose within the improv. With that in mind, here’s how my blackout poem turned out:

help drive need
some form of burning rekindles
relentless whisper brings energy jolt
it is power
it is moving

From that, I found myself drawn to the word whisper. But I also wanted to see what would happen if I paired different words within the poem together:

help rekindle
burning whisper
some jolt
power whisper
whisper form
form it
moving form
drive power
brings drive
relentless moving
energy help
is energy
of energy

“Power whisper” jumped out at me. Everything up until then had been pretty straightforward, kinda serious, earthy. I wanted to see if I could create something more funny. From there I did a free write, which I’m not going to share in full. Here’s are two excerpts one from the very beginning and one from the very end:

I love the idea of a whisper in relation to fire. The quietness of it. It’s like the power of silence. Power whisper? Like a power ballad? I imagine a person talking in a power whisper…

… could be someone with extremely high status, who says very little, but when says something it’s a power whisper where you have to lean in dangerously close to hear. Like a Wilson Fisk. Where am I going with all this? What do I do with this?

Yes, this is where I got a little stuck. I took a break and enjoyed some almond thins and more beer. I went and bugged my pal Lena who was getting into some interesting things. After we chatted, she offered for me to draw from her Science Tarot deck for inspiration. That was just the kick I needed.

Gathering more inspiration from my tarot draw, I started improvising a two person scene on paper. I had two characters in mind, and at the time, I created the script first and then wrote brief character outlines. Below I’m sharing the characters first and then the scene, to help you picture the characters. I was imagining a “post-apocalyptic sit com” kind of genre. (Not only did I have that Daredevil character Wilson Fisk in mind, I think that the recent hubbub over the impending earthquake has been blanketing my mood this week.)

The Maven

  • speaks in slow whispers
  • likewise, moves very slowly, very little
  • seems old
  • loves to be outdoors
  • never sits down, only stands or lies
  • meticulous dress
  • fastidious
  • warm, soft

The Empress

  • voice is deep and lyrical, almost a song
  • slow moving, grand gestures
  • has a feline quality
  • almost always seated
  • never leaves her space
  • cold on the outside, warm inside
Maven: Thank you for this water.
Empress: Not many places offer it for free anymore.
Maven: You’re a good friend.
Empress: An old one.
Maven: Yes, I can hardly remember.
Empress: Because you’re wasted.
Maven: Because I’m wasting away.
Empress: What was your last meal?
Maven: Peas. Four peas from one pod.
Empress: When?
Maven: Yesterday. Lucky me, eh?
Empress: An actual pea pod? Like from a plant?
Maven: I know, seems impossible.
Empress: I had peas, too, but from a can. I’m jealous.
Maven: Here, a blueberry.
Empress: You’re a good friend.

I wrote another scene, which I didn’t share at SHARE, but I’ll include here:

Maven: I’m glad you came to walk with me.
Empress: I’m scared shitless.
Maven: The last time you were out?
Empress: 33 days.
Maven: I see. I’ve walked this path for the past 33 days.
Empress: Trying to make me feel better?
Maven: Just saying.
Empress: I don’t see any people.
Maven: I haven’t seen any people in 33 days.
Empress: You’re shitting me.
Maven: Ah, you’re right. I did see a car, I think, in the distance over there.
Empress: Maybe it’s been more than 33 days.
Maven: Yes, perhaps it has.
Empress: I should get out more often.
Who knows if I’ll ever do anything more with these characters, but I do quite like them. I do know that I look forward to more SHARE.

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.

My cooking strategy: small tasks + improvise

In my house, we’ve ended up dividing our chores in a way that I am the primary brains behind meals and cooking. My husband does a LOT of other household tasks so please don’t think I’ve got the raw end of the deal. And he often is happy to prep mise en place (thank you Top Chef for teaching us that awesome phrase we abuse daily) and sometimes even execute my ‘executive chef-ed’ meal ideas (HT again to Top Chef). Plus I care about what we eat and I do enjoy the creativity that comes with cooking.

But, it is also a big source of stress. This past summer the ante was upped because our toddler’s summer Montessori program — which serves snacks and lunch each day during the regular school year — did not serve lunch. So, not only did I have to make sure we were all fed each evening for dinner, I needed to have meals for lunch. And the toddler lunches had to pretty much be served cold.

The well-placed meal planning white board in our kitchen cruelly taunts.

The well-placed meal planning white board in our kitchen cruelly taunts.

I was on a pretty good meal planning kick for a while, but recently my kitchen spirit has become utterly non-committal. Our genius meal planning white board in the kitchen taunts.

All is not lost, though. I’m actually a trained (and ingrained) improvisor. I’ve dabbled in comedy, theater and movement improv forms. And now I embrace kitchen improvisation. That combined with breaking meal-prep into small tasks (chopping, roasted, pre-cooking) whenever we can fit them in during the week, it’s how we roll, for better or worse. I’ve also embraced Costco, and keep things like chicken stock, canned tomatoes, garbanzo beans on hand for inclusion at a moment’s notice.

Some recently improvised meals:

Chicken sausage, kale, garbanzo soup – In a Dutch oven, brown some chopped onions, then add chopped garlic stir in pan for a minute, add chicken sausage (I like to use uncooked, no casing sausage) and brown until fully cooked. (I added some spices I had on hand here, too.) Add chopped carrot cook until soft.  chopped kale and cook until soft. Add garbanzo and cook for a couple of minutes. Add a can of diced tomatoes. Mix it all up. Then add a box of chicken stock. Simmer and then season to taste with salt and pepper. So simple, super yum and kid friendly. Easy improvisations I might try in the future: use kidney beans (thanks to Costco, a little heavy on cans of kidneys in my basement), swiss chard, meatless, winter squash, noodles.

Slow-cooked beef short ribs over rice – In a dutch oven or skillet brown all sides of short ribs. Line bottom of slow cooker with chopped onions and garlic. Top with browned short ribs. Add fresh parsley, bay leaf of two, tomato paste and can of diced tomatoes. Add 2 cups of dry red wine. Slow cook for 7 hours. I’ve done similar with pork shoulder. Easy improvisations to try: create more of a rub and cook in dutch oven; create a sauce deglazing with wine; serve with potatoes instead of rice.

Beef quesadillas – Weeknight meal made from short ribs leftovers. Cheese, corn tortillas, beef, fried (no oil needed) on a skillet. Need I say more? Serve with side of guacamole and salsa. Easy improvisations: taco salad, burrito, taco bar with fixings.

Roasted butternut squash soup – Chop squash into bite sized pieces. Toss with a little oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 400 or so for 40-45 minutes. Meanwhile chop and then brown onion and garlic in a dutch oven or stock pot until soft. Add any spices you might like (curry, cumin, cilantro, cinnamon work well – improvise!). Add roasted squash and mix well. Add stock or broth. Mix well and simmer. Puree using and immersion blender (my favorite kitchen machine) or in batches uses a traditional blender. Easy improvisations I’ve tried: add cream or coconut milk at the end; add roasted carrots or any other roasted root veg.

If you have easy improvise-able meals you like to do, please share!

Good read: NY Times Magazine’s ‘A Game of Shark and Minnow’

The New York Times has set the bar for digital storytelling with their brilliant, award-winning Snow Fall piece. (At OPB we certainly took some inspiration from their work for our excellent THIN ICE multi-platform project.)

Screen shot: A Game of Shark and Minnow'

Now they’ve gone and ‘snow-falled’ a fascinating political drama taking place in a remote area of the South China Sea. Here’s how the story opens:

Ayungin Shoal lies 105 nautical miles from the Philippines. There’s little to commend the spot, apart from its plentiful fish and safe harbor — except that Ayungin sits at the southwestern edge of an area called Reed Bank, which is rumored to contain vast reserves of oil and natural gas. And also that it is home to a World War II-era ship called the Sierra Madre, which the Philippine government ran aground on the reef in 1999 and has since maintained as a kind of post-apocalyptic military garrison, the small detachment of Filipino troops stationed there struggling to survive extreme mental and physical desolation. Of all places, the scorched shell of the Sierra Madre has become an unlikely battleground in a geopolitical struggle that will shape the future of the South China Sea and, to some extent, the rest of the world.

The story of isolated Filipino crewmen on a dilapidated military vessel weaves in and out of the wider context of a geopolitical dance. It’s a visually rich longread – including photos, video, maps – worth taking the 20 or so minutes to dive into.

And if you haven’t checked out those other two I mentioned above, do it. Consider all this screen time a respectable media binge.

Adoption stories from hell, literally

So this awful thing happened:

U.S. adoptive mother guilty of homicide in death of Ethiopian girl

And I had just been reading this Mother Jones article as I was waiting for a medical appointment today. Similar to today’s news about the Ethiopian adoptee, MoJo’s piece reflects on evangelical Christians adopting loads of children from Liberia. I mean seriously 5-6 at a time. The article goes into a lot of horrifying details about this particular community’s trend towards ‘saving’ children from Liberia.

As a parent who certainly has picked up a book or two to glean some insight or nugget to help point me in what I feel is the right direction as a mama, this part struck me as particularly disturbing. An intern describes her experience working at a magazine associated with these Christian adoptions from Liberia:

“I had only been there about a day when I realized that things weren’t really right,” she said. For one, she saw the Allisons and the Campbells refer to To Train Up a Child, a book by fundamentalist preacher Michael Pearl and his wife, Debi, that advocates strict physical discipline starting when children are less than a year old. The book, which has sold nearly 700,000 copies, promises that “the rod” (the Pearls suggest flexible plumbing supply line) will bring harmony to a family in chaos, creating “whineless” children who have learned to submit. “Somehow, after eight or ten licks, the poison is transformed into gushing love and contentment,” they write. “The world becomes a beautiful place. A brand new child emerges.”

This same book is referred to in the recent death of the Ethiopian adoptee girl.

When I read stories like this, it reminds me what a huge spectrum there is in the world of adoption, and parenting. I try very hard not to judge other parents. Obviously what these folks have done is completely inexcusable. But there are so many choices, so many fine and thick lines to cross. I’m on the Portland Mama’s FB group, and even in a self-selected group like that there’s such a range of opinion on how to raise children, how to be good parents. Reading stories about abuses like these make me incredibly sad, but also make me feel very lucky.

My new favorite dish to make: turkey quinoa meatloaf

I had bought some ground turkey because we had leftover mashed potatoes. I thought I’d try making a shepherd’s pie. We ended up eating the potatoes with another meal so I had to figure out a new plan for ground turkey. Enter meatloaf.

I am kind of weird. I do not like ketchup. Nor do I enjoy catsup. I blame this deep-seeded peverseness to my brothers who absolutely loved ketchup growing up. One of their favorite meals was ketchup and rice. And once, my youngest brother pounded on a ketchup packet on the counter and it squirted in my eye. That’s the legend, anyway.

The reason I bring this up is because many, many meatloaf recipes use ketchup. For years I didn’t eat meatloaf. I finally tried it at some hipster joint here in Portland (I think it was at Pause Kitchen and Bar.) knowing that it was ketchup free. To my delight it was rather devilishly delicious.

I’m not averse to regular ground beef, but this week I opted for turkey in one my current efforts to eat slightly healthier. I searched around for recipes on the web but a lot of them had pretty low reviews. The turkey tends to make it come out dry. This one caught my eye and it was well-reviewed. I made a few adjustments based on what I had in the kitchen. Turned out super yum. I didn’t know how good it was going to be so I didn’t think to take a pic. I’ll take one next time and update this post. Plus I think this is good enough to make it for the in-laws (including my Southern mother-in-law) when they visit in a couple of weeks.

Here’s my version:

T’s Turkey Quinoa Meatloaf


20 oz ground turkey
1/4 cup quinoa (cooked – I made a 1 cup batch of quinoa and then just used 1/4 for this recipe)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato soup (I used tomato red pepper soup)
1/2 large onion chopped
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 egg

1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon tomato soup
1 teaspoon water (opt.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Make quinoa. Set aside to cool. (This can be done ahead.)
  3. Saute onion on skillet until translucent. About 5 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and saute for one minute. Remove from heat and let cool. (I let it cool for about 10 minutes and it came out fine.)
  5. In a large bowl mix together ground turkey, quinoa, w. sauce, tomato soup, salt, pepper, egg, onion and garlic. It will be very moist.
  6. Form it into a loaf and place it on a foil lined baking sheet. It will be a sort of loaf blob. (The original recipe writer said the using a loaf pan is not a good idea because of the turkey.)
  7. Smooth the topping paste over the loaf.
  8. Bake for about 50 minutes or until cooked through. Inside should be at about 160º.
  9. Let stand for about 10 minutes and then slice and serve.

Tiny door in a fairy garden

Tiny door in a fairy garden

On my NE Portland street, this garden — including tiny door — was put in to welcome neighborhood fairies. It’s got a little house and a fancy, tiny tea service. I wrote a little post on Ecotrope about tiny doors in trees.

Waiting for daddy

Can't resist posting this cute little video of Lilli. I pick her up from Montessori every day and then I usually have to multitask like crazy to get dinner ready in good time for her night time routine. But today all I had to do was heat up some leftover butternut squash soup.

Aside: Matt and I have been trying to do meal planning each week so we don't feel overwhelmed by feeding ourselves healthily and economically. It's actually been working great! A friend recommended the book Time For Dinner which inspired my yummy butternut squash soup. (See the section that lays out Kabocha squash recipes. I subbed butternut squash because I could find any of that yummy Kabocha. From two roasted squash, I made my own version of the soup, plus used some in the recommended savory squash cheddar muffins with a little leftover for Lilli snacks.)

Since I was just reheating soup for dinner, that gave me a little extra chance to just focus on the little lady. It always pays off to unitask with her! She's ridiculously fun right now in all her toddler, babbling, singing glory.

Here she's “chatting” about waiting for her dad to come home. And watching herself on the iPhone screen. She really can be a ham.


Let’s do this

I’ve been meaning to get back to blogging for a while now. I have lots of very valid excuses… I’m mama to a toddler, I work full-time, I travel a lot… boring, true but not necessarily the biggest obstacle for writing.

under the hawthorne bridgeFor me, once I’ve been away from something for a while, it always feels deceptively daunting to come back. Yoga, improv theater, knitting have all suffered from this… fear, I guess. All I need to do is just do, right? Instead, I ponder, stress, worry. Instead of doing, I think too much and I feel a weight come over me – I should commit to committing.. I should come back whole-hog, full-force… I can’t just dabble away with a post here and a post there – Which is bunk. Just fear holding me back. Dabbling is titular here!

Months ago, I started drafting this big post. My deep, thoughtful re-emergence in honor of Lilli’s first birthday. It was going beautifully, but as is my weakness, I raised the stakes too high and then kept pushing it off because it wasn’t ever “complete.”

My new year’s resolution (I’ll take the Lunar New Year!) is to dabble as I can. Fleeting, fledging is a-ok. Trite, but true: it’s not about the process, not the product. Today, it is February 23, 2013, not a particularly significant or momentous day. Today, I blogged, goddamit.

hey baby, what’s your favorite color?

My husband and I were joking recently about how well we knew each other and I said, yeah, like what would you say if someone asked you what’s my favorite color. And he said, uh, what is your favorite color. And I said, actually, I don’t really have one.

There’s a really cool design article about color from Smashing Magazine, and online mag aimed at web designers.. It’s actually a three part series called Color Theory for Designers.

Etsy has two pretty rad color tools to enhance your handmade shopping experience. Find them here and here.

Here’s a few cool photos I found on flickr:

from gem66
Tucson Arizona colors

from mag3737 through the squared circle group
Worshipful Company of Gardeners

from kholkute

from Auntie P

from woody1778a