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One of my favorite things about reading blogs is finding out about so many great books and resources that are out there. I came across a book this week that is truly fabulous. It is a book full of folktales “for strong boys”. Every so often, finding a book makes me feel like I found a new best friend. I read it and instantly know that it will become a part of my life forever. The introduction to this book was so warm and inviting that I feel it must be shared. The author is a woman by the name of Jane Yolen. She has written more than 200 books for children and adults and have received some of the highest awards in children’s literature. She divides her time between Massachusetts and Scotland.

An Open Letter to My Sons and Grandson:

This book is for you. It is for you because this book did not exist when I was growing up. This book is for you because for the longest time boys didn’t know that being a hero was more than whomping and stomping the bad guy. They didn’t understand that brains trump brawn almost every time that being smart makes the  battle shorter, the kingdom nearer, the victory brighter, and the triumph greater.

This book is for you because “hero” is a word for winner, not whipper; for smarty, not smarty pants; for holding on, not holding back. “Hero” is about being clever, learning from your mistakes, being kind and compassionate, and finding good friends. Picking up a sword doesn’t make you a hero — sticking to your word does. ………

….. This book is for you because the stories have always been there, not only in folk traditions but in history as well, if you know where to look.

Think of heroes like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., who taught us that one can win simply by refusing to bow down to power. Gandhi helped free India from British rule by showing the British that he would fight by resisting passively. ……Think of heros like Charles Darwin, who changed the way we think about the world simply through the power of his mind. As did Sir Issac Newton and Albert Einstein, who made greater differences in the world than Attila or Napoleon or Hitler…..

This book is for you not because I think one should never have to fight, but because I think the true heroes are the ones who solve their problems – and the problems of the world – without ever having to resort to force. The tongue is mightier than the sword. As is the pen.

This book is for you because I want you to be that type of hero.

While I left out a few paragraphs about silent heros, I imagine you get the point. This book has recently become a part of my life and I hope, over time,  it will become a part of Liam’s as well.

* If you happen to be the mother of a little girl, she writes a similar collection for them; it is called “Not One Damsel in Distress” – how lovely!

 

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May is one of my favorite months. Besides being the month of my birth, it is also home to May Day (my second favorite celebration of the month), Memorial Day, Cinco de Mayo, International Workers Day, and of course, Mother’s Day. With so many celebrations, where does one begin? Well, in the words of Julie Andrews, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” (are you singing yet??)

Maypole2

picture by Pete Ashton

May Day:While, unfortunatley, a far overlooked holiday in the states, the first day of May is what’s termed a cross-quarter day…meaning that it falls approximately halfway between an equnox and a solstice. In ealier times, it was considered to be the first days of summer. It’s origins take root in many countries in Europe, such as Scotland, Ireland, and the upper Baltic states. While each country has a particularly unique way of celebrating this day, many of the countries also share silimiar traditions. Some of the common activities include dances (yes, around a “maypole”), special musical performances, songs, and traditional foods. At a local Waldorf school here in Seattle, they attended a mid-day festival full of singing and dancing. Many of the children and parents were adorned with crowns and tiaras made of flowers, grapevines, and ivy. Other places in America, people filled “May baskets” with flowers and small treats to be left anonomsly on someone’s doorstep. Tradition has it that if you are caught leaving the basket, you owe the “catcher” a kiss! No matter what the tradition is, the people that gather are taking time  to celebrate the return of warmth, of light, and in many places….green 🙂  

International Workers Day: Also on the first of May, International Workers Day is a day to celebrate the social achievements of the international labor movement. It is also a day to bring awareness to the host of labor battles that still need to be fought. In America, it marks the commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Square Bombings . Considered a “massacre”,   it was on this day that the Chicago police force took the lives of dozens of activists that were on strike, demanding an 8 hour workday. Although Labor Day is traditionally celebrated in America in September, it was out of a fear of riots that President Cleveland moved it the following year. Many countries around the world, however, still celebrate it on the first of May with thousands of demonstrations taking place each year.

Cinco de Mayo: The fifth of May is a regional Mexican war holiday often mistakenly thought to be Mexico’s Independence Day. While the actual date of Mexican Independence is September 15th, 1810,  it was on May 5, 1862 when a Mexican army of 4,000 claimed victory over an even larger number of French forces, that had not been defeated in over 50 years. It was General Seguin that led the Mexican army in what is known as the Battle of Puebla. When the battle was over, and the French were dispelled, making them not only less of a threat to Mexico, but to the US as well. Viva!

Mothers Day: While this date need no introduction, it is typically is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. In ancient times, this day was traditionally set aside as a day to worship female goddesses. However, even the more “modern” celebration of mothers dates all the way back to antiquity. The first North American Mother’s Day was conceptualized with Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870.  Howe had become so distraught by the death and carnage of the Civil War that she called on mother’s to come together and protest what she saw as the futility of their sons killing the sons of other mothers. With the following, she called for an international Mother’s Day celebrating peace and motherhood. It took over 40 years for the first state to adopt this day as a holiday, and my has it blossomed since then! While Mother’s Day is celebrated in over 40 countries around the world, each with their own traditions and  date (not all of them are in May), not all of them spend nearly what the United States does, where it is a 14 billion dollar industry. In some countries, like Sweden, their is an emphasis on giving to charity, not just to moms.

Memorial Day: It is on this day, the last Monday in May, where we honor all those who have given their lives fighting for the United States. Originally known as Decoration Day, it began in 1868 as a day to honor the sacrifices made by those during the Civil War. Those honoring the dead would actually “decorate” the graves of those who had fallen. For the next 100 years, there were arguments as to who the day should honor and what day it should be, but in 1971, Congress declared the last Monday of May an official holiday, as a tribute to those who died in all of America’s wars.

Any days I missed??

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The past two years of my life have been a whirlwind of new experiences. I married, moved across the country, and gave birth to my first child. Along the way, I have not only learned a great deal about myself, but have picked up some useful tips on friendship, parenting, and well… life.

1. When you find yourself pureeing peaches for your six month old…make Bellinis!

mmm....bellini

mmm....bellini

2. You CAN survive on four- hour blocks of sleep.

3. When you threaten to start stalking your friends, they will usually call you back. (I say “usually” because there is always one that I actually have to stalk!)

4. One hour to myself can seem like an eternity now that I have a child. It is something I look forward to more now than I ever did. I am not sure if it is the alone time or the eventual reunion with my child that makes it all worth it.

5. When you travel, the best places are often found when you stop looking for them.

6. Time out’s are for adults, not children.

7. The root of parenting is learning how to live in harmony with your child. It is not about “doing to” as much as it is about “doing with”.

8. The best food is not found in a box, a wrapper, or a bag; it is grown in your backyard, bought from local farmers, or sometimes even found on your daily walk.

9. Libraries are one of the greatest public resources we have. Use them!

10. Live life in the slow lane. Enjoy each moment, no matter how hard that moment may be.

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Little Things, Take Two

So recently I wrote a post, What does your pizza box say?, about how when asked why I love Seattle, I often resort to answers such as the outdoors, the open-mindedness, blah-blah-blah, but when it really comes down to it, it’s the little things like what’s on my pizza box that truly explain how I feel. Anywho, since I come accross these “little things” all the time, I figured I would start a series. So for my two loyal readers out there, Ray and Aunt Lyn, be on the lookout for more “little things” to come.

Little thing number 2: My neighbors yard man uses words like primordial and assimilate.  In fact, he used more four-syllable words than my last professor at UNF. And he was smart! I just happened to be out taking the family for a walk on a beautiful October day, and I got drawn into a conversation I swear came out of an essay in my Freshman year philosophy course. But no, the yard man was not Decartes incarnate, he was a yard man.

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Today Was a Good Day

Although it looked nothing like Ice Cube’s, I must admit that today was a good day. Despite gettting a $50 bill in the mail for an appointment I had to reschedule, there were many highlights to overshadow that one setback.

  1. Today was absolutely beautiful in Seattle! Sunny, warm, and no rain… it felt like summer!
  2. My laptop arrived in the mail today which means I can officially start my new job AT HOME!!!!
  3. One of me best friends K.D. welcomed a brand new baby girl into the world!! Love you guys xoxo
  4. And last, but definitley not least, I VOTED FOR BARACK OBAMA!! 🙂

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Seattle vs. Portland

So, I have been meaning to take a break from the baby business and write a post on Seattle. Well, here it is… sorta. Having spent two summers here in Seattle, my husband and I decided to venture down south and see what Oregon is all about. We decided to take a mini-vacation down to Eugene, OR. On the way, we stopped in Portland for a day and took in as much as we could while we were there. On the way back, we took the scenic route through the Colombia River Valley near the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail just outside of Portland. While my short visit to Portland and my 15 months in Seattle by no means make me an expert on either city, I figured I would give my “outsiders” opinion on the two.

Scenery: The Pacific Northwest is one of the, if not THE, most beautiful part of the country. It is a place where snow covered mountains literally meet deep blue seas; where waterfalls are abundant, and where a breathtaking vista is a stone’s throw away. Likewise, both Oregon and Washington are gorgeous. However, when it somes to strictly comparing the to cities, Seattle wins handidly. Now I may be biased having been here longer, but when you are in Seattle, you are surrounded by deep blue water and snow peaked mountains alike. Everywhere you look, you see trees, parks, lakes, etc. In Portland, there was definitely an abundance of trees and parks (the park lining Park St. actually trumps anything downtown in Seattle), but besides the murky Willamette River…not too much water. I would take sitting outside on Lake Washington or Puget Sound anyday over the riverfront in Portland!

Eats: When you think of good food, Seattle is probaby not one of the first cities to pop into your head, but if you live here or have travleled here frequently, you would be amazed to find excellent local good eats! From Vietnamese to Italian to Arabic, Seattle has an abundance of local as well as world cusines. Since living here, I have even experienced Hong Kong food. Those stone pots are delish!!! When we visited Portland, we loved how they had all of the steet vendors downtown. And these vendors were not just selling hot dogs and pretzels!! They were serving food from all over and it smelled and looked awesome. Had I ahd known, I may have skipped lunch at JAke’s crawfish, although the crawfish were yummy. So as far as food goes, I would say that they are probably tied when it come to quality, but Seattle is a bigger city, so there are more choices.

Vibe: When I visited Seattle for the first time, I though to myself, “Wow, these people are really laid back!” When I visited Portland for the first time, I wish I had a take-back for my comment on Seattle. When it comes to easy-going, Portland takes the cake! I think that on the surface Seattle seems casual, but when you start really looking at people’s attire and attitude’s, you begin to realize that yes, everyone is wearing jeans and jackets, BUT they are designer jeans and expensive jackets! Don’t get me wrong, Seattle is no L.A when it comes to fashion; in fact they are nowhere even close, but it seems that many Seattleites are well off, and it definitely shows…perhaps not in Dolce and Prada, but in $5,000 road bikes and $600 North Face jackets. I am sure there is some of that in Portland, but it doesn’t make up the masses. I saw people riding bikes, but they were Schwinn’s not Gary Fischer’s. I saw people with their babies everywhere, but they were in Graco’s and not Bugaboo’s.

Things to Do: In this category, there seems to be an even tie. Both cities are less than an hour from the Cascades. Both cities are close to great outdoor parks and forests; Portland has Mt. Hood and Seattle has Mt. Rainier. The coast is also not too far from either city;  its about 2.5 hours from Seattle and perhaps a little closer in Portland. Oregon and Washington are both home to hundreds of winerys and brewerys, and both are full of museums, historic sites, and local shops.

The bottom line is … visit these cities!!! They are great anytime of the year (despite the critics), and unless your my dad,  you just might want to stay clear of the beaches in December. (He’ll never hear the end of it)

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When I was in middle and high school, I remember having grandiose ideas about what it would like to oneday be someone “important”. Of course back then my idea of who was important not only included world leaders and humanitarians, but also movie stars and socialites. I always wondered what it would be like to “be” one of those people; to walk around on this earth knowing that I was someone important. To grow up and be “ordinary”, well that seemed like a disease I definitely did not want to catch. That’s what society can do to us I guess… fantasize about what we could have done, or perhaps who we could have been.

Entering into my late 20’s, I never imagined just how wonderful being ordinary can be. I enjoy the simple things in life. I love being outdoors, eating wholesome food (as local as I can of course!), and spending time with family and friends. I am an aspiring vegetarian (I still eat some seafood), a conscious consumer, and have recently become passionate about food activism and natural parenting (part of the inspiration for this blog). I see how we are all connected. I understand that a small action on my part can have huge ramifications in other areas, and it is important for me foster that understanding in others.

So while my life story may not top the New York Times bestseller list, I have realized that I am actally an “important” person. I am important to my hard-working husband, my five month-old son, my friends on the east coast, my four brothers, my dog, and my loving parents. And to me,  that’s a lot, especially for being so, ya’ know….ordinary.

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