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November: National Adoption Awareness Month

Nov. 21, 2014 9:58 p.m. - Updated: 10:38 p.m.

We all deserve to know our own story. Many people who were adopted wonder where they began their life. Michaela Pereira of CNN shares her story of growing up in a family of girls who joined their family through adoption. As an adult, Michaela found her birth family – and a new wonderful friend.

In Washington state, 2,167 children live in foster care, waiting for their own forever family.  We all know there are no unwanted children: it really is just a case of geography – matching eager little ones with adults who long to become parents.  

(S-R archive photo: My son, Alex, adopted when he was four months old.)


Mike Nichols, director, dies at 83

Nov. 20, 2014 8:38 a.m. - Updated: 11:09 p.m.

Mike Nichols died suddenly Wednesday of cardiac arrest. He was 83. Nichols was an admired and award-winning director. His genius earned him Oscar, Emmy and Grammy awards. He won nine Tony awards.

Stars loved him: Jack Nicholson, Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts, Ron Silver, Anne Bancroft, Candice Bergen and Gene Hackman all worked with Mr. Nichols more than once.

His work includes: “The Graduate,” “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” “Carnal Knowledge” on the screen.  He won an Oscar for “The Graduate.” He directed theater successes “Barefoot in the Park,” “The Odd Couple” and “Death of a Salesman” on stage.

Nichols’ unparalleled success spans decades.  

Mike Nichols was born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky in Berlin, on Nov. 6, 1931. His dad, A Jewish doctor from Russia, escaped the Nazis and fled to America in 1938; Mike and his brother followed the next year. Mike’s mother arrived in 1941.

Longtime friend, Elaine May once said: “So he’s witty, he’s brilliant, he’s articulate, he’s on time, he’s prepared and he writes. But is he perfect? He knows you can’t really be liked or loved if you’re perfect. You have to have just enough flaws. And he does. Just the right, perfect flaws to be absolutely endearing.”

Mike Nichols is survived by wife Diane Sawyer, daughters Daisy and Jenny and his son Max, his brother, Bob and four grandchildren. 

(S-R archive photo: Director Mike Nichols at the premiere of “Closer” in the Westwood area of Los Angeles, in 2004.)

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Snowflake babies

Nov. 19, 2014 8:44 a.m. - Updated: 8:47 a.m.

When couples long for a child and are unable to conceive, they seek various options. Liz and Kevin Krainman opted to “adopt” a snowflake baby – a frozen embryo that was implanted into Liz.

The frozen embryo is considered “property” and the rights of the property are transferred to the receiving couple. The action can be perceived as an ethical alternative to destroying or donating the embryo.

Liz says, “Love is what made her. The love of so many people went into creating her and bringing her here.”

(S-R archive photo)


Poignant grief

Nov. 16, 2014 7:22 a.m. - Updated: 7:30 a.m.

Some stories feel too painful to tell, yet they are extraordinary tales of human compassion and resurrection of the spirit.

Chris Picco buried his wife, Ashley and their son, Lennon, on Saturday. Chris met his wife while they were both assisting firefighters after the September 11, 2001 attacks. They married in 2007. His pregnant wife – with their child due in February - died in her sleep last Saturday. The baby, named Lennon, was delivered 16 weeks premature. Lennon died on Wednesday.

As the baby struggled to live, Chris Picco, played a guitar and sang the Beatles’ song, “Blackbird” with the tender words: “take these broken wings and learn to fly.”

The video, posted on YouTube, evoked responses of sorrow and compassion from viewers. 

(S-R archive drawing: Duncan Cooper)



Nov. 14, 2014 7:09 a.m. - Updated: 7:13 a.m.

I have been away for nearly three weeks.

Traveling home to my native Minnesota and then to the Caribbean with friends from high school, offered perspective. St. Augustine wrote: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.”

Conversations with Mom and friends connected my present to the past. Cool, crisp Minneapolis weather reminded me of childhood ice-skating parties and high school days of marching band and boyfriend kisses. A week in the Caribbean forced me to listen to myself.

I left home at 18-years-old; seems I have been on a field trip for decades. At the Minneapolis airport yesterday I felt I was leaving home to travel home. And while travel means I have read many pages of the world’s book, I can only stay on one page at a time. My heart, dissected by time and place, always leaves pieces behind.

(S-R archive photo)


Veterans: Thank you!

Nov. 10, 2014 5:55 p.m. - Updated: 6:05 p.m.

Today we honor our veterans, men and women who left their known lives to serve our country. May  we honor all those soldiers who courageously walked into the unknown to serve America. No matter the act of remembrance - free drinks at a local restaurant, a parade, a holiday - we honor all our service people whose commitment to freedom made our gestures of gratitude possible. Peace from a grateful nation.

(S-R archive photo)

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Time to get shot

Nov. 7, 2014 6 a.m.

While Ebola has hit the headlines, we must pay attention to a bigger threat to our health: the flu. Each year that illness claims thousands of lives.

People over age 65 and younger than 2 years are at higher risk than others. Anyone who lives among a lot of other people in places like school dormitories or long-term care facilities may be at higher risk. And those with chronic health issues such as heart, lung, or kidney conditions, diabetes, or a weakened immune system should consider the vaccine. 

(S-R photo: Jessica Shinn, a third-year pharmacy student at WSU Spokane, puts a bandage on nursing student Addie Burkhart after giving her a flu shot. )

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Nov. 4, 2014

A previous supervisor told me her husband never votes, never has, never will. And because I wanted to remain employed, I said simply, “Oh, that is interesting.” And kept my opinion quiet.

He doesn't vote because he believes his vote does not count. Try telling that to former Governor Chris Gregoire. She won in a recount by nearly 130 votes.

Today I say,”Vote!” It is a privilege and a responsibility. We take it for granted in our country, but voting gives us a chance to have our opinion counted, our views considered. Millions of people around the world, in different countries, have walked miles and miles, stood in line for days to  drop their vote into a box. 

Take time, consider the candidates, their views; consider the Initiatives and what you believe and then…vote accordingly. Don't keep your opinion quiet.

(S-R archive photo)


A child’s dreams come true

Nov. 3, 2014 6 a.m.

Justus Uwayesu started at Harvard this fall as a freshman. He has traveled a long distance – across the globe and through a sea of sadness. As an orphaned child, he lived in a garbage dump in Rwanda.

Then along came Clare Effiong, an American charity worker who offered several children a chance to leave with her. All but Justus refused.

When he told Effiong, “I want to go to school,” she made certain he did.

He lived in an orphanage run by Esther’s Aid, the charity Effiong founded. In Rwanda, he learned English, French, Swahili and Lingala. He earned straight A’s; he attended a high school specializing in science and he oversaw the student tutoring program. Uwayesu helped found a youth charity among his nation’s high schools, a charity that buys health insurance for poor students and gives medical and scholastic aid to others.

And now the young man adjusts to his American setting: Harvard. He has a full-scholarship, studying math, economics and human rights. He would like to earn an advanced science degree.

Juliette Musabeyezu, a sophomore, another student from Rwanda has posted a photo of Rwanda’s Harvard students. The caption reads: “My people are finally here.”

(S-R photo: Gate at Harvard) 



All Saints’ Day

Nov. 1, 2014

Art Miller, 91, hung onto life in the open sea for two days during World War II. He knew he had to get home to Norma, the love of his life. He did. They married, raised their children and traveled after his retirement.

When we say, “I do,” we often imagine a life of passion and joy and fun. We do not easily anticipate the end times when health deteriorates.

After 68 years of marriage, Norma lives in a retirement community where her health needs can be met. Art lives with one of their daughters.  But Art still visits Norma, six days each week.

Says Art: “Every afternoon when I leave, I leave a piece of my heart there. I’ll always say, ‘Honey, I’ll see you tomorrow.’ The next morning when I come in she always says, ‘There you are!’ ”

Sometimes the remarkable people around us are those who live their vows, in good times and in bad, with quiet compassion and grace. Saints in our midst; people to celebrate.

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