My 2015 Baseball Observations


So I don’t follow baseball (I retired from the game on principle when Curt Flood did), but I share a home with a sports-watching dude-hub. So I can’t help but absorb some of it from time to time.

And when I do, I notice things. Probably not the things everybody notices. But there they are, just lying there waiting to be shared.

Here goes:

  1. I think somebody did something funny with the ball or the bat in the off season because what is with those high scores?? Many many double digit scores. Like 22-11 or something. That’s a respectable football score, that’s not a baseball score.
  2. Some of the uniforms are just complete puzzlements. Like I swear I saw a team wearing tunics and pedal pushers the other day. If you are under 50, you have no idea what pedal pushers are, I know. I didn’t witness it myself but someone tweeted that a team was wearing onesies in a game. Surely a sore for sight eyes.
  3. It also seems that players are muddying their uniforms more often than I remember in the past. What’s going on? More sliding into base? Have we achieved kamikaze baseball? Where’s Dick Harter?
  4. Baseball players are getting really really big. Massive. Like Sequoia tree big. Some look like football players. Now that there are tests for performance enhancing drugs, is there some kind of breeding program underway?
  5. There are a lot of empty seats in the stands for many games.
  6. With the little box that shows exactly where the pitch crosses the plate, video review of calls of plays on the field, how much longer till we have robots for umpires? I don’t see umpiring as a career of the future.
  7. I don’t really approve of rule changes in baseball. Partly because I’m old school and it just doesn’t seem right to change things. I’m looking at you, designated hitter. But partly because I’m old and I can’t remember the changes. Like I was going to comment on one here but, see, I can’t remember what it was. Your loss.
  8. On the subject of rule changes, stop trying to speed up the game. I like the leisurely pace because it’s possible to relax and enjoy the view. Talk to your seat mates. Be mellow. Calm down. I don’t know why everything has to be so quick quick wiki wiki every minute of the damn day. Allow us at least one option during which can be enjoyed at a Mary Jane mellow rate of speed.
  9. I love how international baseball has become. It seems like a lot of the best players increasingly come from other countries. Wonder how long it will be before they stop coming to the US to play because the game will be more popular and well attended in their home countries.
  10. Have the Mariners set a record for blowing leads this season?

I think there were more, but I forgot what they were. Maybe I’ll add them later. Or not. Talk amongst yourselves.

The Whole Nine Yards



I’d like to bring up a point that I haven’t seen in the discussion of the demolition of homes in Portland, to be replaced by gigantic houses or apartment buildings that use up pretty much every square inch of buildable space on a lot. In the interests of density, we are told, we have to build structures as large as we can to house as many people as we can. I get that increasing density inside the city can avoid increasing the extent of the urban growth boundary and eliminating farms and green space.

But here’s the thing. I spent a lot of the last year and a half studying and writing about Portland in the book–Pieces of Portland: An Inside Look at America’s Weirdest City (see–that was published in June. While doing that, I thought a lot about what makes Portland such a special place to live.

One of the best things about Portland are the yards surrounding houses in our neighborhoods. We live in a gardening mecca. Our long growing season and temperate weather make for more gardeners per capita than most any other place. In my Buckman neighborhood, there’s been a big move away from lawns to other kinds of plants, some ornamental, some food-producing, some that are both. Walking along our neighborhoods’ streets, we are treated to a variety of beautiful sights…flowers of all colors and sizes, green leaves that turn crimson and copper and gold, an array of flowers and seeds and fruit that attract birds and bees, beautiful bark in winter, and so forth. And the fragrance when plants and trees bloom! Have you swooned under the spell of the scent of Linden tree blossoms lately?

The temperature under a canopy of trees on a hot summer day can be double digits cooler than a street without trees and provide great relief, especially in a summer like the one we have going this year.

When the houses are demolished, the yards go as well. Oh maybe there’s a little strip of ground around the edge of the giant new building left, planted with boring contractor plants that all look alike and hold little interest. Or not, as is the case in the multistory apartment buildings that are rising in our midst. And neither do these buildings accommodate the big old street trees, whose canopy extends from the middle of the steet and over the more modestly-sized house that has been affordable to so many Portlanders up until now.

When Portland loses perfectly fine old smaller homes, it also loses the greenspace that makes neighborhoods livable. I bet someone smarter than me could calculate the net increase of carbon dioxide when that happens… all these plants consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Some plant-filled yards in Portland actually might qualify as carbon credits.

A Portland without yards is hard for me to imagine. It would be a completely different city, by any yardstick.

They are disappearing a yard at a time, and if we don’t watch out, before long it will be the whole nine yards. And that bothers me as much as the loss of homes because they are so closely connected.

As the page turns… in the real Portlandia!

Go ahead and judge this book by its cover.

Go ahead and judge this book by its cover.

Grieving is hard. It’s long. It does you in. It doesn’t end. Some days getting out of bed is the most courageous act you can imagine. And accomplish.

I already know I will be grieving Blaine the rest of my life. You have no earthly idea how much I miss him. Just to exchange one more glance, I would give everything. To see him smile. The universe for one more hug. The chance to say goodbye.

In what now seems clearly a survival strategy, I actually managed to finish the book I was working on when Blaine left. I dove headfirst into a deep and consuming project. Not only were the words my responsibility, but also the design and layout. And know this: when the author does the layout, the words seem never to be finished. Catch that typo. Use a different turn of phrase. Put in that cool thing you forgot. So it takes longer than it takes. (Credit to an old friend, Paul Nyrczinski, for that aphorism: “Things always take longer than they take.”)

But it finally got printed. And delivered to us. You can see a video of Joyce and I opening the first copies here. And we have a real live website and everything, look here.

Since the shipment of three pallets with 2,500 books arrived, we have embarked on a marketing campaign so we can sell the books and recover our costs. Yes, we self-published. It’s our very own necks on the line.

So far, in addition to purchasing the book from our website, you can buy it in a growing number of retail locations. Powell’s Books, for example (all stores except the one at the airport)! Did you know you can order from Powell’s online and pick it up in a store without any shipping cost? Or you could buy two books and they would be shipped for free!

The book is also available at a number of New Seasons Markets. Multnomah County Library has it (OMG, all copies are checked out right now, they better order more!!). Other bookstores like Broadway Books, Reed College Bookstore. Quite a few quilt/fabric stores: Cool Cottons, Fabric Depot, Pioneer Quilts, The Pine Needle, A Common Thread, Greenbaum’s Quilted Forest, The Cotton Patch.

And soon it will be in Made in Oregon. And who knows where all. We are relentless in our marketing efforts. By the end of this, we should be able to write a book about marketing a book. Not that that’s never been done. :)

We are proud of our book. We think it will appeal to a whole lot of people:

  • people who live in Portland and want to discover what they don’t know about their home town
  • people who visit Portland (or want to) and want a tangible record of their experience that goes way beyond a phone full of selfies,
  • quilters who have always wanted to see quilts in a leading role, and
  • every person not in the above categories

So we think you might fit in there somewhere. Check it out!

My Sweet Blaine



After Blaine’s celebration of life with an overflow crowd at the Wonder Ballroom, I pretty much collapsed. When someone passes away, there is a lot of work to do, tasks to get through, it’s a bit of a whirlwind for a while. I got through those first days using up my lifetime supply of adrenalin, and it has been a rough road since then. Losing a child is the worst kind of loss I can imagine, and losing Blaine was the worst of the worst loss. We were together every day and were so very close. I truly believe he is the best soul I’ve ever known.

There are many times I am just stunned with grief. I still don’t totally believe he will never be here again, sometimes I’m convinced that  some kind of horrible mistake has been made and he will be found. His room is exactly as he left it, so it is ready for his arrival.

There are times feel I’m getting better, then I am slammed with some realization–like I’ll never get to talk with him again, for example–that leads to uncontrollable sobbing.

I have returned to working on the book, for a month I couldn’t bear to even look at the document on my computer. But Blaine was so very excited about the book, he read it as I went along, made suggestions, and couldn’t wait till it was finished. So I’m going to finish it in his honor. And hope he is still following along, somehow, someway.

I’m going to start talking a bit about the book here, but before that, I want to share Blaine’s eulogy with those who weren’t able to attend his memorial. It’s pretty much the only thing I’ve written besides the book in several months, maybe close to a year.

Even though it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, I felt I needed to be the one to do his eulogy, because I know him better than anyone, and I wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to know just what a wonderful, awesome human being he was. And is.

I haven’t been ready to share it until now. So I hope this is a good sign.


Eulogy for Blaine Deatherage-Newsom

July 21, 1979–December 31, 2014

Even though most of you are probably convinced I have lost my mind trying to do this today, and it will be very hard, I want to stand before you today to express gratitude and make sure I’ve done my best to let you know Blaine. Because I know Blaine best, I must try to share him with you. And I’’m going to need every bit of love and support you can send up to me to give me strength to get through this.

First, i’d like to thank the person who invented sleeping pills, because without them my mind might be here but my body wouldn’t. that’s how hard it’s been. there’s no sugarcoating what we’ve been through in the final hours of 2014 and early days of 2015.

As those of you who know me best know, Blaine has been the center of my universe for 35-1/2 years. I feel I knew him at some soul connection level from the moment i looked into his eyes after he was born, the few moments i had with him before he was whisked away to the NICU at Doernbecher for surgery and intensive care. I saw the entire universe in those eyes that day. It was something I can’t even express. Just know that I knew instantly that we were meant to be together.

There are so many people to thank, there’s really no point in trying to name them, I’m sure the music would have to play me off the stage like this was the academy awards. He got great early care at Doernbecher Hospital, and then Shriners Hospital, I want to especially thank the late Dr. Tony Gallo, both for the surgeries he did and the humanity he expressed as he promised that everything would be done to ensure Blaine’s survival. He provided a confidence so badly needed at that time, as there were some whisperings around and about that the kindest thing is to let such a baby die. When Dr. Gallo came on the scene, those words were never uttered again, for which I am profoundly thankful.

Because Blaine enjoyed life more than anybody I’ve ever met. And if you think you know how good Blaine really was, what a pure soul he was, what joy he felt, please multiply that times infinity and then do that again and again and again until you fall asleep and then you might be getting close. He was the best human being I’ve every known or known of. Just pure and utter goodness.

He saw the good in everybody. Absolutely everybody. No exceptions. Well, Ted Bundy never came around, thank goodness, but I wouldn’t even rule that out.

Blaine’s early years were full of joy and fun, he had many friends who loved him to bits. I’ll never forget the first parent teacher conference with his kindergarten teacher. She told us that many parents had asked her who Blaine was, because their children were always talking about him and how much fun he was, how much they enjoyed him. When the teacher told them, “He’s the boy in our class in a wheelchair,” the parents were shocked. Stunned even. Their children had never even mentioned that. My heart soared like a hawk, and I took that as a sign that our society really had changed and if all children of all shapes, sizes, colors, etc could just be in a place like school together, and grow up with the feeling that everybody belonged, the world would be exactly like the one I wanted to live in.

Well, over time, that didn’t hold, because as he got older, his friends went on to other things, he met students who hadn’t grown up with him and he was increasingly overlooked, left out, and there was cruelty. Some of it was overt. But much of it wasn’t mean spirited, he just couldn’t keep up with their movement and somehow they didn’t notice he was left behind or know how to include him. I remember one day I spent going from class to class with him in middle school, how I cried myself to sleep that night, and how I understood why parents decide to home school their kids.

High school was really hard. Our neighborhood school wasn’t accessible, so he ended up going to a very large one on the other side of town, where many of the students lived very privileged lives. It wasn’t really accessible either, but Portland Public Schools called it so because it had a freight elevator. It was too heavy for Blaine to operate alone, so he had to wait until a student came to assist him, then still try to get to class on time. His junior year, I think he was under so much stress that the stutter he had when he was very young came back. Not only did Blaine have regular classes at school, he had speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy…. just so much work.

One day I took a book he had forgotten at home to him at his high school, it was lunchtime, I went to the cafeteria and looked around the mass of perpetually moving, laughing, teenagers and finally spotted him. All alone at a table meant to seat a dozen or so… most of the chairs had been removed from his table to join bigger groups at nearby tables. My heart broke into a thousand pieces. How, I wondered, does he have to strength to endure this? How much can one child take all this and still love themselves and find joy in the world? I don’t know the answer but Blaine did. Because not only did he find a way to survive this, he found more authentic joy in life than anyone else I know. Or ever will know.

When he was about two, a neurosurgeon (not Dr Gallo) had estimated his IQ to be around 50. When he was young, there was all sorts of talk by professionals about how he was likely very developmentally delayed. But when the experts told me this, I told them about South America. While changing his diaper, he soon tired of the “where’s your nose?” “where’s your forehead?” game, so we started doing the countries of South America on the giant map of the world wallpapered to the wall beside his changing table. And he learned them all by the time he was 18 months old. Including the galapagos islands. I was one of those parents who obsessively sought out every last bit of information available on spina bifida, making list after list questions of doctors and other specialists. It took two years before I had the courage to ask the only real question I had: “How long will Blaine live? How long do we get to have him.” The answer: “Barring something unforeseen, there’s no reason to believe he won’t have a typical lifespan” gave me a lot of comfort, even after i realized it was something that applied to everybody. Typical lifespan were the words I chose to hang on to.

When he was in kindergarten, I taught him to play chess. Well, as he always pointed out, I taught him the moves. He learned chess from books. When he was in 8th grade, he played in a tournament that ended in him becoming chess champion of his age group in Oregon. Here’s the ironic twist. During a break in the action, which was held at the World Forestry Center, we went down to OMSI, located where the children’s museum is now… they had a medical ethics exhibit at the time, and the question posed was whether a child born with spina bifida (the description of the baby sounded a lot like Blaine) should be saved by expensive medical treatment or allowed to die. I guess you know how both Blaine and I voted. But we couldn’t help but notice the baby was losing the popular vote.

After surviving high school, there was no way Blaine wanted to face college. He was smart enough, but high school had taken such a toll on him. He was a bit adrift. Thank god for the Internet… he had very active online relationships, in fact often people treated him with more dignity and respect there than in real life, actually, because they had no idea he had any kind of disability. Noted author, thinker and teacher Howard Rheingold wrote some columns about that, and used Blaine as an example of the amazing power for good the Internet could be in testimony before Congress.

He still had all the therapies he was supposed to be doing every day. Just so much work. He didn’t enjoy it, I hated nagging him about it, so we made it a big priority to put fun on the calendar. I think the times Blaine loved best were the trips we took, because they always turned into adventures. Which provided us with endless hours of stories that were told and retold over the years.

You have to understand, I was a single parent, we had very little money, so we did all our trips on a very low budget, not staying in the best places, etc. And quite simply, to pull things off, we had to rely a whole lot on the kindness of strangers. We sometimes needed help to get Blaine into buildings, for example. But we always found that kindness, every single time. Like the time we went to Philadelphia so Blaine could play in the World Chess Open… a trip that was a gift of a man we met through the Meyer Memorial Trust, a most generous and kind man as you’ll ever meet. When we went on a bus tour of the city, I think Blaine and i were the only two customers, the bus driver carried Blaine in and through every inaccessible place, including the Betsy Ross house, where she made the flag. If you’ve ever been there, you know it’s really hard for an able bodied person to make it up and down those narrow steep stairs. But that bus driver took Blaine to every corner of that house, and you could tell he considered it a privilege.

When Blaine was 16 we went on a trip to Chicago, where we encountered adventures from the moment we landed. I jogged down to the L station at the airport to make sure it was accessible, only to be told that the L only had two elevators in the entire system and one was broken. So we could get on the L, we just wouldn’t be able to get off. Somehow we convinced an airport shuttle driver to let us on, hauled his wheelchair onto made it to our hotel. The first day we headed out to Grant Park and the Aquarium. When we finished there, we were heading to the Sears tower, but we were exhausted so we called a cab. A cab came but we weren’t able to get his wheelchair collapsed enough so it would fit in the trunk. We asked the cab driver if he could call an accessible cab for us, and he told us there were no accessible cabs in Chicago. Unable to believe our ears, we said there had to be, we’re from a small city and this is Chicago! He said there were only two cities in the US that had them: Boston and Portland.

That’s when we figured out we were going to have to walk and roll to the Sears Tower and all the way back to our hotel on the north side. On our way back, we passed a street fair and saw a table for disability services in the mayor’s office. We took a business card, thinking it might come in handy. When we collapsed back into our room, we took out the map and found out we had walked/rolled more than eight miles that day.

So the next morning I called the mayor’s office and talked with a very kind man. He admitted there was no real wheelchair accessible public transit in Chicago. When I asked him if we were going to have to walk to Comiskey Park, he decided to help us, and given our circumstances, he did an emergency signup of some kind of accessible van service. Later we figured out it was what transports people with disabilities and very low incomes to medical appointments, mainly for kidney dialysis. We met some very nice people on those vans.

Sure enough, the next morning a van with a pull out lift pulled up to our hotel, we got in and started off down Lake Shore Drive, heading to the Field Museum. After a few minutes, one of the guys sitting in the seat we were all wedged into said, “Are you the people who called the mayor’s office?”

Ok, so apparently Chicago is a small town too. We were going to the Field Museum so Blaine could see the dinosaur skeletons, among other things. We asked the driver to please drop us off at the accessible entrance. He pulled around to the back of the building, there was the biggest and steepest ramp I’ve ever seen in my life… I asked him, “Are you sure this is the accessible entrance?” He said, “absolutely, ma’am, i’ve dropped lots of people here before.” so we went for it. First there was about an 8 inch gap between the ramp and the sidewalk and once I managed to get Blaine up on it, I basically had to walk backward pushing his wheelchair with all the strength of my legs to ease him up, with him pushing forward on his wheels with all his might. We were both drenched in sweat when somehow we made it to the top, of what I would say might have been 50 feet or so. “Yay, we made it” we yelled.

Then we looked down to see that we were now standing in loose gravel, and Blaine’s front wheels were sunk about five inches deep. Beyond us, for the next 30 yards or so stretched that deep bed of gravel. After we caught our breath, we went for it, tilting his wheelchair back so the front wheels were above ground and pushing with all my might with the big wheels. I have no idea how long it took us to negotiate that ground, but it did cross my mind that the museum might close before we made it to the door. We finally came to concrete! At last!!!! We were almost in! Then we turned the corner and what did we see before us? A huge staircase of a good 20-30  steps. I was about to snap. Were we being punked?? If this is the accessible entrance, what must the able bodied people have to do to get in? Complete a triathalon?

So I told Blaine to wait here, I went up the stairs, found an information desk and said, Okay, we made it up that ungodly ramp, we drug our way through the acres of gravel, and now we find a huge flight of stairs. Is this really what you call accessible in Chicago? The woman looked at me and shook her head, “Oh, for Christ’s sake, that’s not the accessible entrance, that’s what we use to get the dinosaur skeletons into the museum. If you go back down, and around the block, there’s an accessible entrance at street level on the other side of the building.” That’s when the kindness of strangers came in… I walked back down the stairs and flagged down a random guy who was happy to help me carry Blaine in his wheelchair up that flight of stairs and we spent the next few hours in the Field Museum.

That might have been when we adopted the slogan, “It’s not a vacation, it’s an adventure.” In the way National Lampoon means it.

Stories like that have entertained us and our family and friends ever since. We took other trips that had similar tales. And always included the kindness of strangers. Like the guy at the chess world open Philadelphia, Blaine’s opponent in the second round. He was 13 at the time, his opponent was so blown away by Blaine (I’m pretty sure Blaine beat him) that he and his wife took us to a Baltimore Orioles game and he actually took the week off work in case we needed transportation and tourist help around Washington DC. That’s the kind of effect Blaine had on people. Time and again. That’s why he loved his life. That’s why he was so full of joy, even though people found it hard to believe he could be.

That brings me to a couple of touchy points I need to bring up to help me and all of you. Please don’t say “He’s in a better place now” because I know as well as I know anything that his best place was here with us. I am happy for you to believe what you believe and I know you mean to comfort people when you say it, but it’s doesn’t work in this case. And please don’t say, “He’s not suffering anymore.” Blaine loved life. He loved it more than anyone I know. I’m pretty darned sure he loved it as much or more than all of you here today. He wasn’t suffering. He was living life fully and was full of joy.

So I will thank you not to say that. Just putting it out on the table, as I am wont to do.

What I mostly want to do is to thank you all for coming here to love and support us and most of all, to honor Blaine. Being his mother, caring for him, was such a privilege. There were times it was hard, especially as he grew older and heavier, but it was never ever a burden. And I think, and hope with all my heart, he never felt that any of us viewed it that way. Because we didn’t.

I want to thank Annamarie Clayville and Pat Arnold and Francesca Ervin who couldn’t be here today, for their amazing and loving help with Blaine’s care over the past few years. Blaine loved you, he loved your company, he looked forward to seeing you every day, you enriched his life so much. And you allowed me to keep working as long as I did. I know there are giant holes in your hearts too. I wish I could fix them.

Blaine’s father was very much involved in his care and life before we were divorced when Blaine was 10 and for the next 10 years, I am very grateful for that, Blaine loved him so much. I want to honor him for that and thank him.

P8033386_1For the past 15 years, there’s been another father figure in Blaine’s life. Ric, you will never really understand what you meant to Blaine, how much you enriched his life, and therefore mine, first joining us on the trip that was Blaine’s HS graduation present: a trop to Motown and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and many points in between. That was a risky thing, inviting you along after knowing you just a few months. But of course since it was you, there was no actual risk involved.

Installing a lift in your van, calling Blaine your son and treating him like one, taking Blaine fishing, to Blazer games, to a Seahawks game, to Free Geek and back, to casinos because, as Blaine explained to his skeptical mother, guys need to take risks, gambling was one his body didn’t preempt him from that his peers might be doing. And we remember the day Blaine rolled out of his room, and told us, in his way of broaching subjects, his gentle way of getting started, getting all his words out, a couple months before his 19th birthday that he had done some research online and found that it was legal to gamble and drink alcohol in Canada at age 19, so he made an appointment with his neurologist and arranged to go off his seizure medication so he could do that so we went to Canada a few months later. I’m so glad my mom got to go on that trip and others to follow. We had so much fun together when she was with us.

And I’m so glad we made a trip this past September, to Lake Tahoe. Yes, Blaine did some online research and showed me there were two quilt shops so I would have something to do while he and Ric gambled. We had so much fun together, Blaine enjoyed that trip so very much.

I don’t know what I would have done these last 15 years without Ric. Or what shape I would be in today without Ric. I always thought Blaine has been a wonderful filter of men in my post divorce dating life, may I pretend it never happened or admit all that did. Anyway, I was right, because Blaine was in Ric’s heart even before he met him. Ric made much of Blaine’s adult joy possible. My gratitude to Ric is endless. And the fact that his dowery included two amazing daughters Stacey and Amy, sons-in-law Tim and Gary and now six grandchildren Tim, Colin, Owen, Calla, Caitlyn and Ellery. I have six grandchildren! I was afraid I would have even one! And I just want you to know I’ll need you more than ever now. And Ric’s extended family Elaine, Tom, Julie, Cory, Angela, Max, Tessa and little sweet P.

I want to thank the rest of my family, especially my sister Sarah and brother Dave Koss, and nephew Jeffrey, who took the time and space to really get to know and appreciate Blaine and came to our side as soon as they heard. Their love and support over the past couple weeks has lifted us and carried us. My mother, who is here despite her own health challenges and risks, to honor her first grandchild, Blaine held a very special place in her heart, they had such a close and wonderful relationship. My brother Curt, who always made sure Blaine was included in family events and expresses his love in his own quiet way, who put together the slide show you saw. My niece Velvet who blew my mind by flying in from southern California to be here today. My brother Denny and Tammie who have been a wonderful example of inspiration and support by bravely facing their own challenges with love and grace and have always been there in time of need and Denny built the most kickass ramp I’ve ever seen so Blaine could get in their house at Christmas.

We have so many dear dear friends who have been with us in our hours of need… we would be here till Tuesday if I named them all, but please know you are loved and appreciated, all your cards, your emails, texts, messages on Facebook and Forever Missed. My Copettes, my new circle of strong women. Very special thanks to Grant Kruger for setting up the online memorial page for Blaine and performing so many other tasks, with love and compassion. And then there’s my friend Lynne Cartwright, I hadn’t seen in years and years who came unbidden as soon as she got wind of what happened, because her own life experience equipped her to provide us a measure of comfort that is unparalled.

The surgeons, doctors, nurses and others at OHSU tried so hard to save Blaine’s life when things went so wrong so fast, they had tears in their eyes along with us. We are so very fortunate to have people like them here in Portland and Oregon. Blaine’s primary care doctor Scott Fields, who wanted to be here today but couldn’t, sending words anyway. And I have so much gratitude to Dr. Mark Merkens, who headed up the Myelomeningocele Clinic at CDRC at OHSU for much of Blaine’s life. I never quite got over the fact that he retired, it was always so wonderful to have his wise counsel and humanity.

I’m also so grateful to my relatively new but very dear friend Marilyn Sewell, who will give us some words about how we go forward when we are dealt such a horrific blow.

And my dear dear friend Joyce Brekke. My friend since September 1967, when we met the first day in the dorm in college. In the wikipedia entry for friend, I’m planning to put her photo there, because there is no one in the world better at friendship than Joyce. She’s perfect and Joyce, I am not going to allow you to shake your head and disagree with me. I am four months your elder, show some respect.

Our dear friends Stan and Nyla, whose business Dot donuts in Vancouver, has provided the donuts today. We thought it would be the perfect refreshment, because nobody appreciates donuts like the geeks at Free Geek. Whenever Ric and Blaine would bring donuts, the geeks would be drawn like moths to the flame.

Which brings me to biggest thanks of all I want to convey today. Geeks. Free Geeks. Free Geek. It is a place where so many of the overlooked, the outcast, the don’t-fit-ins, the want to make a difference even though there’s not much money in it people. etc. find a home. It became Blaine’s home away from home. We worried there might not be one. Our gratitude to the people and the organization knows no bounds. Free Geek is responsible for so much of the joy and love in Blaine’s life since 2003. Let me show you what they did on the day Blaine had been volunteering there for 10 years.

show video

We love you guys and hope you stay in our lives. Blaine went there every day he was able from June 2003. He built and helped others build more than 6,000 computers. People who otherwise would not have had computers. People with few resources. People without houses. People without teeth. People who are often made to feel unwelcome among us. Free Geek is still giving people like Blaine a home. And why we are asking those who are so moved to make a donation in Blaine’s honor in lieu of flowers.

Blaine was the perfect person for that job because he looked down on no one. Never had a bad word to say about anyone. Never had a bad thought about anyone. As I said before, as good as you think Blaine was, please multiply it by infinity. And keep doing that.

Which was such a blessing, but in an odd way, a curse. When you have the privilege of knowing and being around someone like Blaine every day, you know what love can do. It can do anything. So then when you look out at the world, at the hate, the rage, the killing, the disrespecting, the insulting, the greed and the grasping, the dark things that just keep happening and won’t let up, the world just makes no sense. When you see what the power of love coming from one single person can do, you just can’t get your head around why we are fighting and warring and killing and ruining each other and our only planet.

So can I just ask each of you, from this day forward, to just go out and take some of Blaine and his love and joy and help stop the insanity. We can’t go on this way. It has to end. If every one of us thinks kind and loving thoughts like Blaine, and treat one another that way, every moment, maybe, just maybe, it will go forward and the people you know will be touched and so on and so forth and it will grow and grow and there will be no stopping it. That’s how Blaine would have it.

And I think we owe it to him to make it so. Please promise me we will all try our very best to make a world Blaine would want, one that actually deserved him. If I know that, I can go in peace and start remaking a life, one with a gigantic hole, but one that Blaine would want me to have, Ric to have, all that knew and loved him to have.

thank you.

Why I’m Voting No on Portland’s Water Board Measure


There’s something that really bothers me about the campaigns and lawn signs and ads and tweets and posts I’ve seen about taking control of Portland’s water away from the City of Portland and into the hands of a board of private citizens. It’s because I haven’t heard either side talk about the issue that worries me most, based on my study of Portland’s water over two decades.

The real control of Portland’s water and the Bull Run watershed that provides it lies with Congress, not the city of Portland or a future board of private individuals. The federal government owns the land and decides what happens on that land.

Those of us who have lived in Portland for a long time remember when there was clear cutting on a large scale in the watershed, despite the Bull Run Trespass Act that President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law in 1904. Because logging and the associated construction of roads is known to increase turbity (muddiness) of water, which makes treatment with chlorine less effective and is a public health issue, a retired Portland physician sued the U.S. Forest Service in 1973, charging that logging violated the Trespass Act.

Bull Run Reserve from the air. Image by Oregon Wild.

Bull Run Reserve from the air. Image by Oregon Wild.

He won and logging was halted for a short time. Then Congress rescinded the Trespass Act and replaced it with the Bull Run Watershed Management Act 0f 1977, which legalized further clear cutting. The watershed was managed by the U.S. Forest Service, which many thought saw the watershed as a source of income from timber sales. Logging resumed full steam ahead and critics argued that water quality suffered as a consequence. By 1993, close to a quarter of the Bull Run Reserve had been clearcut.

In 1994, another lawsuit put part of the reserve off limits in order to protect the habitat of the northern spotted owl and other species dependent on old growth forests. Finally–33 years after the lawsuit–in 1996, Congress passed the Oregon Resources Conservation Act, which prohibited logging on all Forest Service land in the reserve, and in 2001 it was extended to include all land in the Reserve and the Little Sandy River drainage. Portland’s water was finally fully protected by federal law.

But as happened earlier, what Congress gives, Congress can take away. In the last several years, we’ve seen a forceful assault on laws and government bodies that protect natural resources for the public and Congress is under a lot of pressure to maximize revenue without raising income taxes. Don’t assume for a minute that Bull Run watershed won’t be on the table again as a potential revenue source, just as it was not that long ago. And depending on who controls Congress and the executive branch and who sits on the U.S. Supreme Court, we could have much to fear about what’s in Portland’s water.

Frankly, I think Portland’s water’s chances are better in the federal system if local operational control is in the hands of a City government. I think a City has more clout, more credibility and more power going up against Congress than a newly formed group of citizens, however well intentioned they may be.

Viewing this ballot measure as a way to fight pet projects or covering reservoirs is dangerous, I think. Those are distractions, in my view.

I want us to keep our eyes on the big 500-pound-gorilla. And to do that, we have to think about where the water comes from and what happens to it before it gets here. And that’s why I’m voting NO on 26-156.


My perspective on Modern Quilt Perspectives


This is the first book review I’ve done about a quilt book. It may be the first book review I’ve done about any book. I really don’t remember. Just please note this is an extraordinary circumstance. And it came about because when I commented on an announcement of the book on Facebook, the book’s author asked me to let him know what I thought.

There seems to be something called a blog tour going on about the book, but this is not part of that, I don’t really know how those things work. I’m not (yet) part of the larger quilting community, though I’d like to join. :)

I had preordered the book Modern Quilt Perspectives from Amazon based on reading some of the blog posts Thomas Knauer has written over the past couple of years. I first discovered him when I was pondering questions like whether quilts are art or craft, what’s the difference between modern and traditional quilts, etc. If you want to learn a whole lot, start with his post A Brief History of Modern and follow the links to subsequent posts. (But I can’t find the 4th in the series?)

So when I heard he was doing a book about Modern Quilting I knew I had to read it.

Cover of book Modern Quilt Perspectives

Cover of book Modern Quilt Perspectives

Here’s the thing: I think this is the first quilt book I’ve actually read like a book. I mean I own plenty of them, but now I realize I don’t read them, I use them. As one uses recipes from a cookbook. I look at the patterns and figure out which ones I want to make and read the instructions to see if I am patient enough to follow them. Then the real fun begins: what fabrics to choose, how to make it my own. I read a paragraph or page here and there to help with a particular task.

There are some I plan to read like a book, even start at the beginning, but soon I find myself paging through to see what the author’s approach looks like… to look at the quilts, searching for inspiration. If it’s a Kaffe Fassett book, I look at them again and again, trying to discern what makes his fabrics and quilts so appealing, why they make me so happy. But even that isn’t like reading a book, it’s more like devouring it with my eyes.

But Thomas’s book is different. First, it must be said that he is just effing brilliant. I don’t say that often. Hardly ever, in fact. It’s not just that he knows so much about art history and quilt history and puts them in a cultural context. He also thinks about what it all means. And his quilts so simply and beautifully illustrate his insights into those meanings.

Each quilt is accompanied by a short and accessible story or essay explaining how it came about and why it matters. For example, how quilting and community are connected. The role of individuals in a healthy society. What identity means. How babies are made. Social commentary and political expression.

My favorite might be In Defense of Handmade, which uses the bar code of a mass produced quilt as the pattern. How freaking brilliant is that?!? The quilt could serve as the poster child and its essay the manifesto of the maker movement.

At the same time, the book is filled with little gems in boxes…like about using tonal fabrics, aiming for randomness. How to get beyond symmetry. And techniques for achieving quilts I had never imagined, like joining four small quilts into a larger whole with loops and buttons.

He’s also so very observant, of very big and very little things. For example, one of the quilts in the book is made of multiples of the letter H, because when he and his daughter were walking in the sun holding hands, she pointed out that their shadow was an H. The fact that he was attending to her, noticing what she said, being so inspired by it that he designed a quilt and then included her in the making of the quilt shows her that her ideas matter. She matters. Imagine our world if every child grew up with that. When I see and hear this story, the letter H also becomes Hope for Humanity.

Most of all, Thomas encourages readers to use his book as a point of departure in their own quilting journey. It explained a lot of things that made my own progression make more sense and why I’m at a kind of crossroads now. I don’t think I would know I am here if I hadn’t read his book.

When I first started quilting, I was learning techniques. Enough to follow very simple patterns. I even made one from a kit!

I picked fabrics I liked but didn’t know to pay attention to how the fabrics worked with the pattern, or not. Often not in my case.

Once I felt comfortable enough with technique, I focused on fabrics with gorgeous saturated colors, then looked for a pattern that would let it glow. At this point I just wanted to make quilts that were beautiful. Something to eat with my eyes.

After shit happened

After shit happened

Blocks before shit happened

Blocks before shit happened

But then that was no longer enough. One day I made blocks with colors I thought looked great together and were “on trend” but looking at the top laid out on my design wall I was overcome with a feeling of utter boredom. I mean, the colors were pleasing and all, but just. so. boring.

So I timidly slashed some of the blocks and mixed up their order. Making “mistakes” on purpose. Basically trying to deconstruct the boringness by introducing unpredictability. Which is inherently more interesting to me than the blandness of every square the same size, a pattern repeating. A funny footnote on this quilt: Every mistake was on purpose until I got to the very last piece in the very last block in the sequence, the one in the bottom left corner, when I inadvertently sewed the last seam with the wrong side of the fabric facing up. I started to rip it apart to resew then started laughing as I realized it was the perfect period on the quilt that I named Shit Happens. (And I thank Thomas for helping me feel it is okay to use the word shit.)



My next quilt was one I designed to convey differences among settlement patterns. Drawing from my academic background studying geography, I tried to take the concept of differences between gated communities of large private estates and inner cities that are crowded and chaotic and illustrate the different feelings they evoke. That when settlements have too much order and privacy they can lose serendipity and liveliness. And why I would rather set myself up for unexpected discoveries and unforeseen moments even when it means giving up security and control and comfort.

I used a print collection by Malka Dubrawsky (from moda) to help make this point but after reading Modern Quilt Perspectives, I have enough confidence to try expressing myself relying less on the fabric and more on my own design.

While I will still make quilts because they are beautiful (especially as long as there is a Kaffe Fassett Collective!), now I know that I will seek more meaning whenever I start cutting fabric for my next quilt.

Yes, I’m aware that this book review has turned into an examination of my own quilt journey, but it feels like that’s the way Thomas Knauer would want it. And that’s why his book matters so much. And why you should read it.

I’m still here…


Yes, I have been neglecting my blog. I’ve been sorting things out, settling…trying to get a handle on this new phase of my life.

Along the way I have learned what a toll waiting and uncertainty takes on me… and how big a part of my life unpredictability has been.

I remember trying to explain to Ric how I have to live soon after we met and started our “conscious coupling.” (Sorry, couldn’t resist… don’t get me started on that particular variation on contemporary culture please.)

All Blaine’s life, there has been the distinct possibility of the other shoe dropping and disaster befalling us. His shunt could stop working. His shunt (and brain) could get infected. He could get pressure sores. His pressure sores could get infected. An infected pressure sore could result in sepsis. He could die. His urinary tract infections could ruin his kidneys. He might need dialysis. He might need a kidney transplant, although I don’t know if he would get on the list.

And those are just the physical health issues. There are lots more in other categories. But this list will do for now.

The consequence is I always have to keep something in reserve. I can’t expend all my energy on anything at one time because I never know what I’ll be called on to face in the next week, or day or hour. So I can’t run a sprint that completely exhausts me, I have to hold back in case the finish line is 26.3 miles rather than 100 yards. And it might end up being more than a marathon.

Adapting to this kind of life has no doubt shaped me. For example, I look for reasons to be happy. I seek out light even in the deepest gloom. I find a lot to be grateful about in the moment. I get a lot done because I think this hour might be all I have to work on this for now. I am pretty good at keeping the big picture in mind while breaking things down into one step at a time.

But it’s also taken its toll on me. When uncertainty is at its greatest, I get stuck because I don’t know if I can plan. Well, I make a lot of lists but they don’t go anywhere. They just get carried over and grow longer. The longer they grow, the worse I feel. The worse I feel, the longer they grow.

I dither. I can’t figure out where to start, so I start pretty much everything then switch to something else 10 minutes later. I’m in a big mud hole, my wheels are spinning and I’m sinking further into the muck. I feel so unsettled.

When I have another layer of uncertainty on top of the background  radiation of it that is the rest of my life, it gets really bad. This has kind of been going on in the background ever since I semi-retired. I had a plan about what I would be working on part-time, but before I could begin, it had to get funded. And that has has been my condition for more than two months. I believe it will all get sorted this next week and I will get back to my usual level of uncertainty.

And hanging on to that hope has finally given me the courage to appear here.

So hello. I’ve missed you. I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful renewed relationship.