Author Archives: mariadeathstar

About mariadeathstar

This is where I express myself. The real me. Prolly not for the faint hearted. I'm also real on twitter: @mariadeathstar

Reflecting on Retiring, Part I


So a while back I mentioned that I have set a retirement date. And then I didn’t say any more about it. But now it’s time. I have no idea how this will go, I’m just sitting here with my laptop, watching what happens when I write about why I’m retiring now.

First, it’s pretty weird that I ended up working in the field of philanthropy at all. And downright shocking that I’ve now been doing it for more than 20 years. When I was a little girl in Douglas County, I never met anybody who had much money. I grew up among families of loggers mostly. My own family was a logger family. My dad fell and bucked trees, set chokers, and for many years, rode a crummy into the woods. Sometimes a Great Notion’s vocabulary felt like home to me.

When I was 12, my father was smashed between two logs when one rolled down the hill while he was bucking the other one. He was in the hospital for a long time and his back was never the same, hurting him most every day for the rest of his life. Most of the other loggers we knew were injured in one way or another. Some were killed doing their jobs. They gave their bodies to the woods.

After his accident, he had to find a new way to support our family. That’s when we moved to the metropolis of Cottage Grove (seriously, that’s what it seemed to me), where he got a job as an auto electrician, drawing from his wartime training keeping the troop and supply planes flying over the Himalayas during WWII. Cottage Grove was a pretty prosperous mill town in those days, with a lot of family wage jobs. And even some of the mill and lucrative business owners’ kids went to the community’s public schools.

Many of the mill jobs were very physically demanding and I was around enough of those families to know that mill workers’ bodies, just like loggers, were punished by their jobs, with pain and disfigurement following them into their golden years.

Being part of Oregon philanthropy, I have noticed that many Oregon foundations grew from timber industry fortunes. Thinking back on my childhood, I wonder how so much money ended up in the owners’ accounts. Should they have paid the workers more? Was the pay fair? Did the workers get good enough medical care? What was their standard of living in retirement? Workers in the Cottage Grove mills were in unions, so had some protections. But the loggers I knew along the South Umpqua River in remote Douglas County were not.

Did the owners know how large the fortunes they were amassing were becoming? Did they plan it that way? What did they know and when did they know it?

What about Fred Meyer? Could he have paid his workers more? Was he fair to them? What was their standard of living?

I have the same questions about technology fortunes of a few in the Pacific Northwest, whose riches are still piling up. When will they have enough? Why that much? Are they paying workers enough? Using too many contract workers with no benefits? Could they charge less for their products? Why don’t they?

Working in philanthropy, in many ways I am still a curious child from a logger family in southern Oregon. And I can’t always find good answers to a lot of her questions.

And that’s why, after more than 20 years, in many ways I still feel like a stranger in a strange land.

Next Up: How I found my place in philanthropy…

From whack-a-mole to a clean kitchen


One corner of a clean kitchen

I was just sitting here thinking about what a great thrill and privilege and honor it is to just clean your own kitchen.  I mean, when the most urgent thing in your life for the next 10 minutes is to clean the kitchen, it can really make you happy… and filled with gratitude that you have a kitchen to clean.

Blaine has been through several weeks of serious illness…. and despite doctor visits and antibiotics and lots of love and care, he wasn’t getting better. In fact, he kept getting worse. Sometimes it would seem like he was getting a little better, but then things got worse again. It got really really bad. And unlike when it’s your young child who is sick and you just bundle them up and carry them to the ER or urgent care, when your child is a full grown autonomous adult, you have to get their permission and cooperation to go to a hospital, as long as they are conscious.

Part of the reluctance to go to the hospital is understandable. When one of the presenting problems is the horrific state of pressure sores on your butt, the prospect of sitting on said butt for six hours or more in the emergency room is kinda intolerable. Especially when you have extreme diarrhea that will be oozing out onto the floor in the waiting room. So we didn’t go to the ER, but to yet another clinic appointment, where Blaine finally agreed to enter the hospital. Thank you, Blaine, you saved not only your own life, but your mother’s as well. Ric’s too, probably. 🙂

While hospitalized, we successfully treated some things along the way, but it took quite a few days to pin down the source of the continuing problem that kept showing up in new ways in different parts of the body. It was kind of a whack-a-mole situation. Treat one thing, see it start to get better, then another part sends out it’s storm troopers to attack on a new battlefield.

To cut to the chase, the doctors finally found a huge abscess that had walled itself off so antibiotics couldn’t get in and wage war with the storm troopers. Once they removed the abcess, the tide started to turn!  And after it was clear the antibiotics were killing off the storm troopers, we got to come home!

And while the wound nurse and Blaine’s personal helper were here, I got to clean the kitchen. And though we have a long way to go to return everything to the way it used to be, goddammitohell, I couldn’t be happier if I won the frickin powerball.

My Bucket DeList


ImageI keep hearing people talk about their bucket lists. Good for them. I applaud their search to cross items off their lists of things they want to do before they die.

But this post is not about bucket lists. It’s just the opposite. I’ve reached the age where I am beginning to concede that there are a number of things that are not attainable for me in this lifetime. So I list them.

Why make such a list? Because it totally takes the pressure off! Weights lift off shoulders when you DeList your Bucket. You still get that great feeling you get when you cross things off lists, even if they weren’t on your list to begin with. And you get more free time! Imagine how much time it would have taken to do those things. That’s now time you saved. That’s time for living!

So here is the beginning of my Bucket DeList. I will add to it as we go forward in these times.

1. Never climbing Mt. Everest. Yeah, that’s right. I’m never going to climb any mountain, let alone the Big One. To tell you the truth, I never had the slightest interest in climbing the world’s tallest peak. When I thought about it, I realized the only reason I could imagine for climbing the mountain would be for the view from the top. So why not cut to the chase and just fly up there in a plane, and see that view from the warm comfort inside a plane.

Even that wasn’t all that attractive a prospect after hearing my dad’s tales flying over the Himilayas as a Hump Pilot in World War II, what with all the running low on fuel and being buffeted about by winds. So maybe the best unbucket approach would be to watch a high def video of the view from the top. Yeah, that works.

I did climb one mountain in my youth because my brother wanted me to and my knees have never been the same. The view was marred by smoke from fires, so I didn’t get all that I expected. I just do not have the mountain climbing gene. I don’t begin to understand why and how there even is a mountain climbing gene. Nature is not meant to be conquered, fools! Deliberately risking fairly certain death for the adrenalin rush is not favored by evolution and it is a really stupid thing to do. Hiring local people to risk their lives to carry your gear is not courageous. It’s fucked up. It’s wrong. It makes you look like rich arrogant assholes. But maybe that’s what you’re going for?

2. Walking across America. Yeah, this sounded fun at one time. I really thought it would be cool to meet a bunch of people along the way and see the land close up and personal. But now I have rather painful arthritis in my right hip. And my back and neck have all these herniated disks so I probably couldn’t really carry my provisions. So I would have to hire local people to carry them for me and that would be fucked up and make me an arrogant asshole. So that’s out.

Maybe when the rains stop I’ll walk to and from work. That might work.

3. Reading the entire Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant. I seriously intended to do this at one point in my life. All 11 volumes. Even got a set. Never read a page. Donated them to charity. Epic fail, no excuse.

4. Relearning the French and Chinese I once knew. Who was I kidding? That part of my brain is toast. Can’t even recall much of the English I use every day. Like in number 2, when I was trying to remember the name of the people who wrote Story of Civilization… I kept thinking Rousseau…no, not Rousseau, Thoreau? No not Theoreau… I had to google “civilization volumes” to get it. Turns out I wasn’t even close.

If I’m that worthless and dangerous in English, imagine how much trouble I could get into in French or Chinese. No more language tapes for me. Besides, nowadays, there’s an app for that!



I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m not sure how to go about it. Please bear with me while I blunder through it.

I knew this already but Blaine’s recent serious illness, hospitalization and recovery brought this right back into focus. My husband, Ric Seaberg, is a such a wonderful husband, father and all around human being. He’s been there through every bit of what was a really hard time these past few weeks. I feel like the luckiest woman on the face of the earth. I wish you could see how he is with Blaine. So patient, so kind, so generous of his time, giving him opportunities he would never otherwise have…Blaine would not be having such a happy and fulfilling life if it weren’t for Ric.

Many of you may have no idea that in his late teens and early 20s, Ric was on his way to become a rock star. I was never fortunate enough to hear his band–Morning Reign–play live back in the day, but I’ve heard records they made and the stories about appearing on the tv show Happening ’68, recording at studios in LA in 1969, and so forth. And I got to see him perform at a reunion of his band for a show last fall and he’s definitely still got it! (Check out him doing a cover of Good Lovin at that gig and you’ll see what I mean!)

Jonathan Nicholas (remember him? where is he now?) once wrote in his Oregonian column that in a kinder and gentler world, Ric would have been a rock star. I think he’s right. He may have even made it in the real world, but the realities of becoming a teen parent sent him in other directions. Where he did great things too!

Fortunately, I get to watch Ric make music now, recording it in his little bedroom digital studio. He’s such a talented songwriter, I swear his lyrics could not be more brilliant. Would you believe he once rhymed garage with maharaj?? And his topics! No one on the planet writes songs about things Ric observes or imagines or makes up. I think his new CD–Consciousness–is his best one ever.

Ric loves his life and has no regrets, but I know there’s a little part of him that wonders, “What if…” I think he sorta kinda wishes he could have a hit song in this lifetime.

So there’s a little thing I’d like to do for Ric, to thank him for all he is and does, especially for Blaine. Just once, I’d like him to experience the feeling of having a hit. But I need your help. Ric’s music is on

I am going to ask you to go to one of those places between now and March 5th and buy something. It can be a song or an album or any combination of whatever you want. If you don’t have even 99 cents to spare, I know it’s a tough time right now, I’d be really happy give you a scholarship if you just let me know!

If you’re going to buy just one song, I recommend “The Blessing and Curse of Consciousness” on the Consciousness album. If you want to buy an album, I recommend Consciousness, then 1000 Songs, then Santa Monica and so forth…

It’s about the numbers. He’ll be able to see a sudden jump in activity and he will be so so excited and happy! He’ll feel on top of the world. And don’t you agree that would be the most wonderful thing for him?

Won’t you please help me pull this off? And can you pretty please pass this on to your friends and family. I want this puppy to go VIRAL!!  And seriously, I’m only doing you a favor, because if you haven’t yet discovered Ric’s music yet, you don’t know how much you’re missing and how happy you’ll be to discover it!

Thank you so much for your help, I sure hope this works!!

About Rhoda I Mean Bethenny


O.M.G. I just figured something out. Maybe others saw this a long time ago, but it took me this long to finally get this. But it feels important.

So it begins with the admission of something I should be embarrassed about but I’m not because I’m old enough to not be embarrassed by the embarrassing things I do. At least not as much as I once would have been.

I confessed my fascination with Hoarders a while back. Someday I’ll share my thoughts on Honey Boo Boo. Believe me, I have some. And they’re probably not like yours.

But tonight the subject is Bethenny. The very spelling of the word should immediately reveal who I’m talking about, as I’ve never seen anyone else use that particular arrangement of letters for a name.

I first met her on the Real Housewives of New York City, yes, I watch RHNYC. Also Atlanta. Not Orange County, I can’t tell the women apart. Not New Jersey, too much distorted reality. Not Washington D.C., that’s just too many housewives. And now there’s some in Miami??? Shut the front door!

But I digress.

Apparently Bethenny Frankel had already been introduced to a national audience on the Apprentice, the one with Martha Stewart. She lost, which can only be seen as a win because frankly, I don’t think she and Martha would have been worked out. Can you even imagine?!?

I immediately took a liking to Bethenny. Her observations about the other housewives and their antics were just so spot on. Like the time she commented on the behavior of one of the wives who calls herself a countess: “That wasn’t very countess like. That was discountess.” Every sentence that came out of her mouth was so funny, so insightful, so smart. And honest.

I also liked her because her circumstances were not nearly as elevated as the other cast members, who seemed to have no end of riches and designer bags and, well, excess. Bethenny lived in a little apartment, she was struggling financially and romantically.

In other words, she was relatable. Not normal exactly, but weird in the way normal people are weird. And open about her failures, her struggles, her worries. She kind of just laid it all out for the world to see. The genuine article.

Suddenly tonight I figured out why I liked her the moment I met her. It’s because she’s Rhoda. She’s the goddammed 21st century reality tv version of Rhoda. They even kinda look alike!

I’m referring, of course, to the BFF and sidekick of Mary Richards, from the Mary Tyler Moore show. The second fiddle, unlucky in love, call ’em like she saw ’em, funny and brilliant Rhoda Morgenstern.

We all wanted to be Mary Richards, of course. She was the tall, beautiful, willowy, kind-hearted, spunky sweetheart of America. But she was unattainable. We wanted to be her, but we knew we never could be and, in the end, it didn’t really matter, because we could be Rhoda. We WERE Rhoda. And nobody said it out loud, but Rhoda was really a lot more fascinating and fun than Mary. She’s the one we’d like to hang out with drinking one too many glasses of wine. The one who would make us laugh when our hearts were broken by a man once again. She was the natural. She was just herself. Authentic. We women LOVED Rhoda.

Bethenny has left RHNYC and gone on to have more financial success than probably all the other cast members on the show combined (some of whom seem very very jealous, saying silly snarky things like “oh she just copyrighted the word ‘skinny'”, I mean really, do you not know depraved how you sound when you say that??). Soon she’ll have her very own national talk show.

But she presents herself in the same way she always has. I don’t know her, of course, have never met her or had any contact with her. We live on different planets. But I really don’t think the money has changed who she is, nor do I think it will. She still seems very much herself. She can’t help it. She’s a natural.

This week I heard that she and husband Jason have parted ways. I’m sad her search for love has hit another dead end, and I’m surprised but not shocked. Remember Joe? Rhoda and Joe got a divorce too. When that happened, I wanted to reassure Rhoda, give her a hug and say something comforting.

Rhoda, I mean Bethenny, it’s okay. You can still have a wonderful and happy life. It’s a real challenge for some people, uh, I mean some women, to have a forever love relationship. It’s just really really hard in our culture in these times. Let it go for now. Breathe.

We women still LOVE you, Rhoda, I mean Bethenny. Always will.

2012 at Madison Pond, as seen through my iphone camera

new years eve dinner

We started off the year with a New Years Eve dinner featuring turducken and the wonderful company of Tom and Joyce.

pups on couch

Pippi was diagnosed with cancer and when we found out she would need weeks of daily radiation under general anesthesia after surgery, and her heart condition would most likely mean sudden death during one of those, we decided to let her live out her days with us, one day at a time. And while her tumor is now the size of a cantaloupe, she is still with us, wagging her tail, playing with her toys, eating and drinking. As long as we feel she is not suffering and has a good quality of life, we love having her with us. She is one very special dog, Pippi is. Poppi too, who appears here to be camera shy.

memorial balloon

We lost a wonderful family member when sweet Cindy Coop was killed when her auto was struck by a flatbed pickup on Willamette Pass. Our hearts were broken and we wanted to hold brother Curt tighter.

superbowl spread

The Koss family came for our Superbowl extravaganza, but I must have been focused on eating as I have no pictures of the people, only the food.

book group

We had a wonderful visit with Cynthia, a woman from Beijing Marie met when she visited Joyce and Tom in China in 1997. She spent several days with Joyce and Tom and we were fortunate enough to get to share a dinner with them, where Cynthia gave us wonderful wishes on paper. She also came to a meeting of the world’s smallest book group, which has been meeting monthly since September 1990 (except those months when Joyce is gadding about the globe). From left, Joyce, Cynthia, me, Darcy and Reba.

mom and pippi

Mom visited with us each time she was seen at the Digestive Health Center at OHSU, following her small bowel removal surgery after it more or less came apart at the seams. We loved having her here, as did Pippi.

We got to watch grandson Owen in a baseball game he played near Portland, which was such a great treat. This is him at bat.

We got to watch grandson Owen in a baseball game he played near Portland, which was such a great treat. This is him at bat.

We were in completed admiration mode as we watched oldest grandchild Joe Stoutt graduate from Eastside Catholic High School, where he was a star student and athlete. He's now at Carroll College in Montana, where he is no doubt hard at work making a name for himself.

We were in completed admiration mode as we watched oldest grandchild Joe Stoutt graduate from Eastside Catholic High School, where he was a star student and athlete. He’s now at Carroll College in Montana, where he is no doubt hard at work making a name for himself.


Grandson Colin Stoutt taking in the scene at a party in Joe’s honor at their Grandma Donna’s house.

stonework in garden

We had some stonework installed along our driveway and fence moved to the property line and in the process created a new area for plants. YAY!

Toaster Moon

Ric and Marie got to go camping in Toaster Moon at Prineville Reservoir State Park.

ric fishing

And Ric got to fish!


Our yard bloomed like there’s no tomorrow! Apologies for our lovely neighbor’s lovely wall in the background. We’re working on walling it off with a wall of plants.

kitchen before

We remodeled our kitchen. It went from this….

kitchen after

…to this. We owe great thanks to old friend from high school Paul Dunn for seeing this gigantic project through! Another old friend from high school Terry Carpenter helped with the wiring. So it kinda feels like a CGHS kitchen now! 🙂

granddaughters eat froyo

We had four glorious days with our extra special granddaughters Calla, Caitlyn and Ellery. We stayed busy doing lots of things, including eating froyo

doing art

and art projects! and more!


Ric’s new CD came out and I do believe it is his best ever! And even better, you can support him by buying Consciousness as a song or album on itunes or broadjam or amazon.

smokey robinson

Thanks to the most kind and generous heart of Duncan Campbell, we got to see live and in person one of our family’s superheroes: Smokey Robinson. Take our word for it, he’s still got it!

Ric as Morning Reign frontman

But speaking of who’s still got it, check this out! Ric’s old band from the late 60s/early 70s – the Morning Reign – got back together for a Salem gig (along with the Kingsmen, Merilee Rush, etc.) so I finally got to see him perform. Let’s just put it this way: if I had seen him back in the day, I wouldn’t have been crushing on Mark Lindsay so hard.

caitlyn plays soccer

We also got to watch granddaughter Caitlyn Stoutt play soccer this fall, which was totally awesome. She’s one to watch, that’s for sure. We didn’t get to see Calla and Ellery perform gymnastics this year, but we hope to do so soon. They are so talented.

curt turns 60

Curt’s year was looking up by the time he turned 60 this fall. He takes such good care of Cindy’s beloved dachshunds.

blaine halloween

With the help of a caregiver Pat Arnold, Blaine transmogrified into the devil for Halloween. He’s far too convincing, I’m thinking.

We came to the realization that we are getting too old (and an ROI of about one egg per $100) to be gentleman/woman farmers so we gave our hens back to the Urban Farm store and the coop to a man and woman who told us they had three chickens living in their bathroom?? And now there's more room for more plants. Every loss is a win in disguise? :)

We came to the realization that we are getting too old (and an ROI of about one egg per $100) to be gentleman/woman farmers so we gave our hens back to the Urban Farm store and the coop to a man and woman who told us they had three chickens living in their bathroom?? And now there’s more room for more plants. Every loss is a win in disguise? 🙂

commissioned quilt

I managed to fit a bit of quiltmaking in this year, though not nearly as much as I hoped I would. There’s always next year…

bright lights

And speaking of next year, we hope yours is awesome and full of peace and joy. May it be as bright and colorful as this new quilt I’m working on.

Happy holidays from our pond to yours… may you have good food, good company and good cheer. Let’s kick 2013’s ass!