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 Then Congress rescinded the Trespass Act and replaced it with the Bull Run Watershed Management Act 0f 1977, which legalized further clear cutting.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.

A different feeling…


I noticed that today I felt so much more relaxed than usual on a Saturday. I’ve been in some kind of adrenalin rush on weekends because there is so much I want to get done before Monday morning. When I started to feel that way this morning, I reminded myself I don’t have to do that anymore. It was so very nice.

I still have a lot of loose ends to wrap up for work, even had to bring my desktop computer home because I had nothing that could store 56 gigs of documents etc. that I need to sort through and delete or organize. But I can take my time. What a concept!

I am becoming aware that I’ve sorta been living in a state of emergency for at least two years. That. ends. now. And I mean it.

Retiring Reflections, Part 3


Note: Part 1 of Retiring Reflections can be found here, Part 2 here.

So where were we, before this nasty cold took me out for the last week? Oh, that’s right. I had just started working as a consultant for Meyer Memorial Trust, handling the Small Grants program.

Everybody in the Pacific Northwest knows about Fred Meyer because the stores that bear his name can be found in most of the region’s substantial cities.  When Fred Meyer died in 1978, his will directed that his fortune was to to be used to establish a charitable trust, or “private foundation” as they are also known. He named five trustees to oversee the foundation, who hired an executive director who hired a staff to administer the foundation and award grants to nonprofit organizations.

When word reached the ears of anyone connected with a nonprofit in Oregon that Fred Meyer’s fortune (about $120 million worth of Fred Meyer Inc stock) would be given away for the public good, there was much celebration across the land. In 1982, when the foundation opened for business, $120 million was a lot of money. It would create the largest foundation in the Pacific Northwest and one of the largest in the country. People doing good were salivating at the prospect of wonderful things to come from it.

So here I was, 10 years later, starting to work for the Meyer Memorial Trust. By this time I had formed a nonprofit organization with some other mothers of children with disabilities, but we had not managed to muster up the courage to ask Fred Meyer’s foundation for money. It was just too intimidating. [We did get a small sum from March of Dimes to publish our newsletter, but it didn’t go very far. But that’s another story for another time.]

Being intimidated by wealth was my last intimidation fence to clamber over. Here’s something I know for sure:  when your child is born with life-threatening and life-altering conditions and you stare down his potential death and it blinks first and looks away, it’s really hard to be intimidated by anything ever again. It gives you a perspective that can’t be taught. You just have an certain inner strength from then on. And it carries you through some pretty dicey situations.

Okay, permit me another digression please. They are just part of my package, I guess. When Blaine was still a wee lad, I landed a job being an advocate for parents of children with disabilities in the school system, ensuring the students were indeed being served as federal law required them to be. I was one of six women assigned to a cluster of counties across the state, my cluster being Multnomah, Washington, Columbia and Clatsop counties. As soon as I started, I heard tales of a particular special education director in a particular school district in my region who was really hard to work with because she was really mean and a total bully. Everybody was terrified of her. I was curious to see her for myself and it wasn’t long before a parent in her district asked me to attend an IEP meeting with them. The special ed director came to the meeting, but never once looked at me or in any way acknowledged my existence inside the known universe.

Well, that wasn’t working for me, so the next week I called her and asked her to give me a tour of special ed services in her district. She seemed stunned and quite possibly that’s why she agreed to do it. On the appointed day, I met her at her office and we took off in her car. When we arrived at the first stop of the day, the parking lot was full, the only open space was the one reserved for people with a disability. After circling the lot and determining it was the only space left, she said, “Well, I’m just going to have to park here.” You know that television show, the one where the producers set up a situation just to see how people will react? I think it’s called “What Would You Do?” Well, the moment she pulled into that parking space, I had a What-Would-You-Do moment. If you know me, you know I am not pleased when able bodied people – even if they’re “just going to be a minute”– take spaces intended for people who really need nearby parking. Things have vastly improved on that front, but back in the day, there seemed to be no end of violators.

So as she pulled in, I gulped hard and said, “I can’t let you park here.” Her head spun toward me and disbelief was scrawled all over her face. “I’m serious,” I said. “Someone may really need this. We’ll have to park on the street.” I may have closed my eyes in anticipation of the explosion that was sure to follow. But guess what? She said, “Okay, you’re right” and parked on the street. We got along great after that. I think it made her respect me. And explains why I am loathe to tolerate bullies to this day. Oh, believe me, I’m not perfect, but I’m way better than I was before Blaine was born.

Getting back to the subject at hand, when I started working for Meyer Memorial Trust, I still felt intimidated by rich people because I didn’t know how to act around them. I had attended college with quite a lot of rich kids, but for the most part I had no idea they were rich because everybody wore tie-dyed t-shirts and bellbottoms under their army jackets. So that didn’t count and I didn’t figure out the lesson there until much later.

Like I said earlier, every nonprofit in Oregon hoped their financial woes were over when Fred Meyer’s money started arriving, but it quickly became clear that there was a pretty high bar to jump over to get a grant. Another many-are-called-but-few-are-chosen kind of deal. It didn’t take long for nonprofits to see MMT as unattainable for all but the big, well-established charities. A wave of disappointment replaced the joy that had spread over the land as it seemed MMT was out of reach for most. I remember being in a meeting once where no less than Neil Goldschmidt said the only way to get grant from MMT was to play golf with one of the trustees.

It seems the foundation was aware of the issue because in 1988 it established the Small Grants Program so smaller nonprofits would be able to realistically compete for MMT funds. And that’s the program I operated beginning in 1992.

To tell you the truth, many of my rich foundation fears evaporated during my job interview with Executive Director Charles Rooks because of who he is. Working for him was such a privilege. It’s hard to explain, to put in to words really. He just quietly brings out the best in everyone. And he is personally very humble and gracious, and set the tone for how a foundation should treat people.

In 1996, Charles hired me as a staff member, adding creating the annual report and other communication products to my small grants portfolio. [Since then I did a several-year-long stint as a program officer and in 2002 officially became the Director of Communication. Director of  Learning came a bit later on.]

On my third day on staff, I walked into Charles’s office and marveled, “OMG, you really want to give money away. You really, really do. I had no idea!”I had already grasped that there really was no secret rich-people code and was shocked by how wrong my perceptions about foundations were. I quickly learned that most staff members came from anything but privileged backgrounds. Even more stunning, as I got to know the five trustees, I discovered their back stories were just about as humble as my own, in some case more so. Wow.

I was baffled. Why did things look so different on the inside and outside? It took me a while to realize that my mistaken imaginings had largely been created in a vacuum, and it was an absence that allowed them to flourish. Because I had never been presented with an opportunity to see inside a foundation for myself, it was all too easy to conjure up a worst case scenario. And if the only weapon against misperceptions on the outside is to get inside, one person at a time, it’s going to take a very long time to reach the tipping point. To put it another way, that’s one heck of a lot of golf games.

So when I became responsible for communication at MMT, I welcomed the opportunity to use what I understood about being outside to help make the inside of Meyer Memorial Trust visible and accessible to more than one person at a time.

Mind you, I’m not saying all foundations are like MMT. I still laugh at the memory of attending a national conference on philanthropy some 15 years ago. For three solid days, as thousands of people passed in the hallways and other conference spaces, not a single person made eye contact with me. Their eyes came to rest on my name tag and my foundation and location information therein did not merit raising their gaze above my bosom.

When the World Wide Web came along, the heavens opened for communication. My own mission became creating a website that shows we’re not a foundation where you have to play golf with a trustee. And it would remind us not to become like that. Ever.

I’m going to tell you something I want you to believe. By far, the single most important thing I learned about communicating on the web comes from The Cluetrain Manifesto  (the whole book, not just the summary list). It begins:

“People of the earth…

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies. These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.

Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.”

The manifesto was first written in 1999 and it still as relevant today. If you are in any kind of business or seek any kind of audience connection, you fail to read it at your peril.

I got very passionate about turning MMT’s website into a conversation. Being real. Talking like humans. Being social, not “doing social.” Mind you, not everybody on staff was thrilled about that. But my new boss – MMT’s second ever CEO Doug Stamm – embraces innovation and enthusiastically backed me, more or less turning me loose to go about putting into practice what I learned about this new frontier. (Granted, I had been around long enough to know where the boundaries are, and yes, they still exist, even at MMT.) It took a long time to get it all done, and I’m quite sure several on staff were really tired of me by then. In fact, some of them left, but I’m sure it was entirely for other reasons. 🙂

Because when it comes to meeting a mission, I would way rather be respected than liked. I think you really have to give up on everyone liking you to be an activist of any kind. I took very seriously contributing to turning MMT into a national model of a regional foundation. I pushed myself to figure out how we could excel in communications, how we could hold ourselves accountable, behave with impeccable integrity?

The answer seemed pretty clear: By being authentic and transparent. I guess I was vocal enough about it that later I was invited to write about foundation transparency for the Foundation Center’s website. If you want more about the utterly fascinating subject of foundation transparency, go here and here and here.

When I look back from here, I can say I feel like I helped move Meyer Memorial Trust forward on the path to transparency and revealing our humanity. That work will never be finished, of course, but my part in it is coming to an end.

Which brings me to the present moment, on the cusp of retirement. Which I promise I will actually write about in the next installment of my Retiring Reflections.

Hope you get my drift…


So we weren’t planning on getting another dog. At least not till we were both totally retired. Overall, the caregiving duties in our household have grown over the past couple of years, and were not entirely relieved when we lost Pippi when she was felled by her tumor last May. After Pip was gone, Poppi seemed to enjoy her new found freedom, as she no longer had an overseer monitoring her every move. Even though Pip was about half her size, she was the total alpha dog. In fact, when we first brought Pippi home at 8-1/2 weeks old, she immediately started bossing our ginormous chocolate lab around.

So Poppi never really got to decide what she did and in what order or where, everything had to get Pippi’s approval first. Poppi is so mellow we figured she was happy just going along, but after Pippi died she did seem to be totally relaxed for the first time ever. But after a while, Pop seemed a little lost and when Blaine told us she had whined and cried when Ric and I went out one day, we started worrying. Then she whined and cried when I left the house for a while one day and was pretty much inconsolable until I returned, we knew we had to figure this out.

Those who know us understand we are pretty much fixated  on Bichon Frises. That’s what happens when you have one. Or even meet one, as in our case. Blaine and I were set on them way back when Blaine was in elementary school and there was a Man’s Best Friend store with stuff for dogs on Hawthorne Blvd. near our home. The owner had a Bichon she brought in to work with her. Blaine and I would roll and walk respectively down Hawthorne just to visit the dog. There’s just something about Bichons. They have SO much personality and are such great companions, especially in the city. They’re just….special!

Because they are so desirable, they are really expensive when you get one from a reputable, responsible breeder. Pippi came from a backyard breeder we found in the newspaper classified ads (remember them??) before we knew about backyard breeders. A few months later we got Poppi from a family moving to Sweden. We actually went looking for a playmate for Pippi, who was becoming more human than canine. They advertised a two year old male, so we went to take a look. Their dog was a stud dog and we no more than entered the door than he hopped astride Pippi and humped her through the kitchen, down the hall, around the living room and back to the doorway where Ric scooped her up to save her from this serial rapist. In the meantime, I had picked up the ‘pick of the litter’ puppy that had been their payment for his last consenting adult sperm donation. And  instantly fell completely in love. We purchased Poppi before Pippi could suffer any more indignities and made our escape. That was more than 10 years ago, and the price has gone up a whole lot in the interim. Out of our reach, especially considering what will be our meager income in retirement.

I’m all for adopting a “rescue” dog, but I didn’t think Bichons come up very often. Actually, it took me a while to get my head around the whole rescue situation. I didn’t hear that term growing up, but I pictured it meaning a dog had fallen into a roaring river and a fearless human dove in and pulled the dog to shore just above the crest of a 50-foot waterfall. Or the house was burning down and all the people were accounted for but the little girl cried out, “Where’s Sparky?” and the fireman sprang through the scorching flames and carried the pooch out and administered oxygen before Sparky coughed his first breath. One day when someone told me her dog was a rescue, I asked what calamity the poor pup had survived and she told me the family down the block decided they couldn’t give him the best possible care and asked the neighbors if anyone wanted to take the dog, and she volunteered. Where I come from, we called that “getting a dog a new home.” It’s not exactly a “you’re-at-the-50-yard-mark-on-a-100-yard-railroad-bridge-and-a-train-appears-around-the curve-only-20-yards-away” emergency type situation. But whatev. If it makes people feel better to call giving a dog a new home a rescue and it results in more dogs getting more homes, I’m all for it. We live in dramatic times, after all.

But seriously, since then, I’ve learned about puppy mills where females are kept in cages they can’t even turn around in all their lives and are just used as breeding machines, a cruelty I can’t imagine any human justifying on any level. And I’ve seen horrendous cruelty to dogs on shows on Animal Planet, from Animal Hoarders to Animal Cops. Not to mention the dog fighters and the so-called shelters that euthanize most of the animals because they don’t have enough room for all the unwanted animals that show up on their doorstep. So, yes, I have learned that dogs really are rescued from inhumane, intolerable and fatal conditions.

I see I have drifted from the main plot line a bit, so let’s steer this rig out of the ditch and back on the highway.

I didn’t know that Ric had actually begun scanning the web for puppies when he sent me an email saying “Drifty is 1.5 years and needs a forever home.” I clicked and saw this:

I need a home where I am wanted. anybody?

I need a home where I am wanted. anybody?

I surprised even myself when I immediately threw caution to the wind and texted “Omg we have to get this dog.” So Ric started communicating with the dog rescuer and we arranged a meeting. Poppi was all for the idea and kept reminding us!

He was a Bichon/Maltese mix, rescued from a shelter in southern California that has way more animals than people who want them, so an awful lot of the dogs are killed. A woman down there picks out dogs she thinks are adoptable and drives as many as she can carry to Portland, where there are more people looking to adopt, especially given the “End Petlessness” campaign that’s been underway here. Lori Cory of LoCo Rescue here in Portland works with her, finding families and making matches, ensuring that from this day forward, these dogs have the life they deserve.

Well, of course we loved him and wanted him. Our only hesitation was how he would do with Poppi. She’s a senior dog now and has arthritis and related spine issues. They didn’t interact much during the initial visit, and we wanted to make sure Poppi didn’t have to live under another petty dictator for the rest of her days. So we agreed to foster him to make sure they were good together.

We took him home and he was wide eyed and curious, just watching and watching. He was skin and bones, smelly and dirty. The most telling thing for me, and most heartbreaking, was seeing what a tiny little ball he curled into when he slept… as if he was trying to hold in every molecule of heat he could muster. Or be as invisible as possible. It seemed he had never experienced stairs before and didn’t quite know what to make of them. He was a little shy, but very affectionate and interested in everything as we walked through the house. Bichons can be somewhat notorious for peeing in the house, and our floors and rugs had taken quite a hit during the last several months of Pippi’s illness, to the point that we had the floors refinished and rugs professionally cleaned after she passed. We were pretty worried about housebreaking Drifty, especially since it wasn’t clear he knew what a house was, and planned to be ultra diligent about training him.

So I was a little smelly when I got here, but I clean up really nice!

So I was a little smelly when I got here, but I clean up really nice!

He slept in a crate next to Ric the first night and when Ric took him outside first thing in the morning, he immediately peed and pooped right where he was supposed to. Interesting. Neither Pippi nor Poppi had been so cooperative. After Ric took him in for a bath and grooming, we could see what a handsome little fella he is.

He seemed kinda traumatized at first. Maybe he couldn’t really grasp what was happening. Or that it really was possible to be safe and carefree. When he was snuggled up with me in the covers the first morning, I could hear his eyes say, “Am I really here? In a warm bed? Do dogs really get to live like this the rest of their lives?” And I whispered back in his ear, “Yes, Drifty. Yes they do.”

Do dogs really get to live like this the rest of their lives?

Do dogs really get to live like this the rest of their lives?

Blaine is so happy to have a dog that will jump onto his lap and stay there again. Blaine is back in canine heaven. As you can see.

This is what I'm talkin bout!

This is what I’m talkin bout!

Drifty and Poppi started sleeping together on the couch, moving closer, and closer, then finally spooning. They are surely bonding. Although Poppi can’t quite keep up with Drifty’s pace of playing, Drifty keeps trying to get her to buzz about with him. We play “throw the toy and try to get it away from him when he returns it because he doesn’t yet get that he has to let go for us to throw it again” game. I put aside my quilting for a time, although as he gets more comfortable, he’s happy to sit in the chair as I sew and pose with the quilt in progress.

I could sit here all day watching my humom make quilts

I could sit here all day watching my humom make quilts

He’s discovered looking out windows and while I was sick in bed with the nastiest cold in years, he sat on a stack of quilts and watched out for me, looking at a world he had never seen from inside a warm home he had never known. It’s so much fun seeing him explore and learn and become himself.

I never saw the world from inside glass before. There is so very much to see!

I never saw the world from inside glass before. There is so very much to see!

And Ric already taught him to talk. Seriously. See for yourself!

Yes, he is home at last now. Where he belongs. Look at this picture. You get my drift?

No more drifting. Home at last.

No more drifting for Drifty. Cuz he’s home now.

Reflections on Retirement, Part 2


The first installment in Reflections on Retirement is here.

Given that my childhood did not put me on a path that led directly to the place of wealth and philanthropy, how the heck did I end up there? I guess you could say I sort of fell into it. Come to think of it, when I look back I can see that my life was pretty much unplanned all the way along, I just availed myself of opportunities presented to me and fairly naively took it from there. I’ll show you what I mean.

Take college for example. One day, Miss Rice – my social studies teacher at Cottage Grove High School who also served a kind of career counseling role – handed me an application for a scholarship and said, “Your SAT scores are good, I think you should apply for this.” I looked at it, it was an application for the Grass Roots Talent Search program at the University of Chicago that – if you were accepted – guaranteed complete financial assistance for four years if you kept up your grades and contributed positively to the university community. Early in high school I had my heart set on going to Stanford, I don’t really remember why, probably because I had heard of it. But then in my junior year I read somewhere that 200 valedictorians flunk out of Stanford their first year, so my heart abandoned that plan and I figured I would go to the University of Oregon because it was close by. But I went ahead and filled out the U of Chicago paperwork because it didn’t have a submission fee, even rather enjoyed it because it included a writing assignment, and promptly forgot all about it. I continued to check out colleges in Oregon like Willamette and Pacific Universities.

Imagine my surprise, when in the middle of April 1967, I got a letter in the mail that said I had been accepted into the University of Chicago and had a four year scholarship that covered all expenses (tuition, room and board, books, etc.) I went into shock and had an out of body experience, like I was drifting through the air watching myself drive to the high school to show Miss Rice, then on to my after school job at the Cottage Grove Sentinel. I instantly knew I would say yes. My sister reported that my parents were against me going there, but in my head I was already packing. It was a way of escaping the boundaries that are so easy to get caught in around a small town where everybody knows your business, and you know theirs. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just knew I needed more exposure to more differences: different experiences, different points of view, different places, different people, different everything…

Well, that was a rather long detour, was it not. I went there because it shows how I fall into things rather than devise a plan and follow it. My style is more one of discovering the possibility of a plan and giving myself over to it. Fallow, not follow. 🙂 If I had a plan upon leaving high school, it would be that I would become a journalist. I had really found my niche working at my hometown newspaper, over time doing pretty much all the steps required to publish a newspaper, even selling advertising. Once I got to Chicago, I discovered it didn’t have a journalism program. Oopsie! At the U of C, majors weren’t that big a deal, but they did exist. Even ones with names like Philosophical Psychology. My favorite classes in high school had been geography classes (CGHS had a very innovative geography program before the regular school day started). Chicago had some very distinguished geography professors, so I took several classes. Mind you, I took as many art and art history classes, but my declared major was Geography. Now geography as a major doesn’t get all that much respect, but take my word for it, it’s the most interesting thing ever, because it’s about everything. Anything and everything from a spatial perspective. It’s really that great.

So during fourth year of college, when I started thinking of what to do next, and my husband at the time wanted to go to law school, I figured since we will be at a campus, I might as well go to grad school in geography. By the end of the fourth year, Chicago’s physical environment was getting really hard for me to take (I swear the potted cactus on the window sill got cancer from the coal dust in the air) and Oregon was tugging on my heartstrings. And that’s how we ended up at the University of Oregon after college and I became a duck after all.

Beginning in grad school, I taught geography classes at the U of Oregon, and then continued doing so at Portland State University, Willamette University, Lewis and Clark College, etc. after we moved to Portland. Again, just kind of fell into it beginning when a professor at PSU was on sabbatical and they needed someone to teach his classes. I was still teaching and leading field trips through Portland right up until the month before Blaine was born.

And, of course, that day everything changed.

I tried to continue teaching after Blaine was born but my heart wasn’t in it. Child care was an issue, because most people didn’t feel comfortable watching someone with as many complications as Blaine. He went to an early intervention program beginning when he was 18 months old and I found myself spending a lot of time navigating though a tangle of medical systems and social bureaucracies that a family with a child with a disability encounters. And mind you, this was back in the day when families were not considered a very important part of the equation. Given my nature, and my excellent college and grad school education that prized inquiry, I was not one to lie back and be happy with whatever we were told or not told, shown or not shown. For example, in the beginning, it took weeks and weeks and much back and forth communication to even get copies of medical reports. I became a vocal part of the movement toward family-centered care. (And we really changed things. A new day has indeed dawned in medical systems for families of children with disabilities. The tales I could tell!) I began sharing what I learned by publishing a newsletter… well, it was more like a zine but zines hadn’t been invented yet. Maybe we invented them????

Well, advocacy and writing a newsletter didn’t produce income, and after Blaine started first grade, I found myself battling the public education bureaucracy I felt did not serve students with disabilities as well as the law required. I got a paying job as an advocate for families of children with disabilities. Well, the pay wasn’t great, but the job was pretty much right up my alley at the time. And the best part was meeting, working and becoming family with the other mothers from around the state doing the same job in their regions. OMG. I love those women so much. And when we get together it’s like only an hour has passed since we last hugged and talked and laughed for hours on end.

Returning to the actual subject of this post, I had to leave that job and take one that paid a little better when I was going through a divorce. It was with a consulting firm that worked on disability issues, purported to be in support of families of children with disabilities. I thought it would be a continuation of the kind of things I had been doing for the past several years, but I was wrong. They did evaluations of disability programs around the country and I got to see the sausage making that goes on inside consulting firms.

When Blaine was 12, he had the most complex surgeries of his life, which involved putting rods that attached to both the front and the back of his spine to arrest his ever worsening scoliosis (he had two curves in opposite directions that had to be addressed in serial surgeries.) He was in the hospital for more than two months, and encountered one complication after another, including sepsis from an infected Hickman central venous catheter. The very day the doctor had tears in his eyes as he told me how sorry he was about all the things that were going wrong, I got home to find a fed ex envelope in the door with a letter inside terminating me from the firm for my absences. It felt like such a cruel irony because I had been recruited for the job so they could say they had someone on staff with a child with a disability. When, during the interview, I told them they would be crazy to hire me because Blaine was facing the biggest surgeries of his life, and I would need to be with him during that time, they told me it was not a problem because they kept a sick leave pool I could draw from to cover my absence. So having the actual parent of an actual child with an actual disability on their actual staff was more than they could actually handle, I guess.

Blaine was in a full body jacket at home after leaving the hospital, and it was really hard. I remember the time Niki watched me carry Blaine in his body jacket up the stairs to his bedroom. Her eyes widened in horror and she promptly started taking Blaine’s bed apart so we could move it to the first floor and set it up in the dining room. Shit was getting real.

That’s when I faced the reality that I had to get a job I could do from home. One day Abby called to say her friend Sandy had called on behalf of the place she worked, they were looking for someone who could work from home who had a Macintosh. Well, that sure sounded a lot like me so I called and met with the executive director of the Meyer Memorial Trust. He hired me, and I began inputting, reading, analyzing and writing reports on the applications to the Small Grants Program.

That’s how I fell into philanthropy. I blame Blaine. And Abby and Sandy. And Steve Jobs. In that order. 🙂

Next time: What I found inside philanthropy once I got there.