Tag Archives: free geek

Why I am petrified


The whole pack was together then

“He says what we’re thinking.”

Hearing that petrifies me. I feel a panic rising and sometimes it hurts too much to move and I think I’m turning into petrified wood.

See, I’m one of those people who’ve had complete strangers come up and tell me my child would be better off dead. I’ve heard them refer to him as a “pathetic little thing” as they walk by. When my son was born with severe disabilities that affected every single part of his body, I found I pretty much had to prepare myself to hear and see anything when we left the safety of our home. When I wrote a letter to the editor of the Oregonian describing the need for services for children with disabilities many years ago, back when the paper published a letter writer’s home address, I got a letter in the mail telling me I should have had an abortion so I wouldn’t be burdening society with his existence. I saw people mocking my son’s unusual movements behind his back. I heard people laugh at him.

Over the years, especially after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, fewer people said cruel things and the mocking diminished. Or went underground. I chose to believe our society was becoming more accepting of and kinder to those born with disabilities. And that we had reached a kind of civic agreement that society would include them because it was right and just and good for everybody. (Even then I was admonished by a boss to stop bringing up my son as an example of lack of equity.)

A few months ago, I watched a presidential candidate openly mock a person with disabilities, to the delight of the crowd. Later I saw a video that captured someone kicking a child in a wheelchair being removed from the same candidate’s political rally, while those standing nearby cheered.

“He says what we’re thinking.”

The candidate who made fun of the body position of the person with disabilities will soon be president. He will have the support of both houses of Congress, whose leadership have made it clear for years that they want to reduce/end/privatize government programs designed to help people who can’t equally compete in the system that promises to provide “liberty and justice” for all.

We paid the extra costs we faced to accommodate our son’s disabilities (e.g. an addition to our home with a wheelchair accessible bedroom and bathroom, a 70-foot concrete ramp, vehicles that would accommodate lifts, etc.) with no government assistance whatsoever. We did this because we knew our son was as valuable as any other person on earth and we would do whatever it took to give him a wonderful life. We gladly made sacrifices to do without things other families had. But in order to do this, he had to have access to medical care that we could not begin to afford. Insurance companies were allowed to exclude people with pre-existing conditions then. When you are born with his disability and need surgery within hours to save your life, you are never without a pre-existing condition. The marketplace does not take care of people with severe health care needs because they are not profitable.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) prohibits this and makes insurance available to people who used to be assigned to high risk pools that were outrageously expensive and inadequate. Publicly funded health insurance like Medicare and Medicaid is efficient and affordable because it does not have to cover exorbitant executive salaries, huge advertising budgets, and maximize profits to shareholders. That’s why large group participation and government requirements are needed for those the marketplace will not support.

If these health care needs are not met, people die. In other words, they are aborted after they are born because their existence is deemed too much of a burden to society.

I lost my son nearly two years ago, as his health challenges were finally too much for his body. I miss him so much I can hardly make it sometimes. There is a hole in my heart that will remain the rest of my days.

I’m not the only one who misses him. While he was here, he made the world a far better place.


The day Free Geek celebrated Blaine’s 10th anniversary

Blaine worked at Free Geek for more than 11 years, teaching people who couldn’t afford to buy computers how to build their own for free. This is what the person who was his supervisor wrote me on what would have been by son’s 37th birthday last summer:

“Not only did it turn out that Blaine was interested in teaching, but what was incredible and so out of the ordinary at Free Geek at the time, was the way that he did it.  He was so generous with his knowledge, as well as so kind and patient.  He never belittled a person for not knowing something, or for making a mistake.  If someone needed extra help, or extra time, Blaine never was frustrated. He stuck by that person and worked with them, with kindness and encouraging words, until they got there.  He was open and giving with all that he knew. 


The Blaineversary cake


Blaine quickly became a star. Volunteers loved him. They felt comfortable asking questions and asking for help, when in the past they would often get gruff responses, or actually yelled at for doing something incorrectly.  I know it to be true that Blaine was the number one factor for volunteer retention in the Build Program. Not only that, but with his kindness and generosity the culture at Free Geek started to change. People started just being nicer to each other. When people are treated with kindness, they too start being kind to others. It is infectious. This is what Blaine brought to the organization.  It became a more welcoming and kind organization. It became a place where anyone could come to learn and not be afraid to do so. I have heard you say how much Free Geek meant to Blaine, but I want to make sure that you know how much Blaine meant to Free Geek, the organization.  He changed it in such a profound and positive way. He made Free Geek into the organization that it set out to be.” 

So you see, he and others with disabilities are not a burden on society. Mocking them is a travesty and should bring so much shame to the mocker that he dares not show his face until he apologizes and convinces us it will never happen again. If given a chance to be, people with disabilities can make all of us better. Just like all of us can. But what kind of world do we live in when a mother feels she has to justify her son’s existence so he gets to have one?

The world where “he says what we’re thinking” now feels like a death sentence.

People with disabilities are not the only ones petrified by “he says what we’re thinking.” I write this because it is what I know best. Please listen to all the petrified. Think about what they are all hearing and feeling. You may not be in any of these vulnerable positions right now, so please find it in your heart to imagine if you were.

I can’t see and hear “he says what we’re thinking” any more right now. To survive, I have to take a break from television, Facebook, twitter and other places that scare me to death. I hope to be back sometime, but for now, I just can’t anymore…



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.

It’s almost 30 hour day!


Tomorrow is the premiere of an event, the likes of which the world has never seen: 30 hour day.

No sleep. All for charity.

A bunch of really kind and creative and brilliant and geeky people in Portland are streamcasting a telethon. A streamcastathon, for lack of a better word.

For 30 straight hours. No sleep. To raise money for charity. It starts at 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 18th and runs til 10 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19th.

I’m really excited about this, and I’m one of the people on the schedule around 10 p.m. tomorrow night. I would love it if you tuned in and watched, made a donation, bid for an auction item, and generally just became part of this awesome community for at least part of 30 hours.

Some of the money will go to Free Geek, where Blaine makes his second home! Hope you can stop by!

The return of the holiday letter: 2008 edition


So it is officially four years since I did a holiday letter.  I used to be famous for them.  Or maybe it was infamous.  Don’t remember for sure.

Once again, my big ideas and oversized ambition got the better of me.  Three years ago I decided to make a holiday video instead of a letter.  So I did.  Well, I shot and then edited a bunch of footage, put it to music, and only had the narration left.  Still need to do that narration. Guess there were just one too many steps in the project.

So, as our friend Patrick used to say, we’ve got a lot of catch uppin’ to do. But you do realize that my memory ain’t what it used to be, so there’s no way I can reconstruct three years of activities at this point.  So what you’re gonna see here is what you call a quick rundown and overview…

pippopI’ll take it family member by family member, beginning with the doggies. Did I mention they were Doggies of the Month at D’tails in the Pearl grooming salon?


Okay, so much for Bichons being insanely healthy dogs. Since we last talked, Pippi has had a few challenges:  surgery for an infected anal gland (sorry, TMI), surgery for bladder stones, then she was in the ICU for more than a week with pancreatitis (we almost lost her), and then another bladder stone surgery (turns out the special diet she was put on after the pancreatitis caused bladder stones?!?)  (As I always say, why stop at having human family members with a disability, let’s get goddammed dogs with disabilities!!  Hell yeah!!)

So now we make their food, using only organic ingredients.  dfoodingred1Every month Ric sets up a production line in the kitchen and whips up a bulk recipe, using 5 lbs. of boneless skinless chicken breast, two number 10 each of cans of yams and carrots, brown rice, whole oats…  He freezes them in individual scoops and give the dogs 1-1/2 scoops each every morning and night.dogfood

When she’s not suffering from an ailment, Pippi is a very happy little pup who continues to welcome every human visitor with her tongue up their nostrils, immediately after closely sniffing the butts of every canine visitor. 

She just turned 7, and so far has only cost us about her age in years times 1,000 in medical bills! We love her very much, and she thinks she is Ric’s wife.pippi-poppi


Unlike Pippi, Poppi has always been our healthy dog. There was only one exception, but it was a really really big one:  last year she had a herniated disk, requiring neurosurgery and an extended stay in the ICU as well.  She just turned 6-1/2 and yes, that’s about how many large she’s cost us in surgical bills.

Not only that, since she’s not supposed to jump anymore, look what Ric built her so she could still sleep with the humans:dogramp2

It’s an unfortunate fact that a Ukranian refugee family partly depends on watching us to understand Americans.  Upon seeing the dog ramp, Domke asked what it was, and when I explained it to her, her eyes widened and then she asked, “You use too?”

We love our Poppi, she has the sweetest and most adorable disposition, probably partly from being constantly kept in check by Pippi, who considers Poppi her bitch.  Poppi may think I am her wife. 


In June, Blaine celebrated five years of service to Free Geek, his home away from home.  There’s a lot more about this in a recent blog post I wrote.  He is a true and utter geek and contributes a lot to the place.blaine-at-fg

He’s still into chess, but hasn’t played in a RL (real life) tournament in a while.  He plays on the Internet and kicks chess geek ass at Free Geek once in a while.

Blaine has the gambling gene. As he explains it, it’s one of the few ways he can really take risks, which apparently is something men like to do. Go figure. He and Ric go to the casino a few times a year. I’m so grateful they don’t make me go along, I get to stay home and snuggle with the dogs (and visit them in the hospital).

Blaine is a pureblood Blazer fan.  blaineatblazerAs far as I can tell, he is in charge of all sports forums on the interwebs.  He’s VERY active in all sorts of discussions, both on and off topic.  For example, here’s an interesting and revealing recent discussion you might enjoy reading.

He and Ric have purchased half-season Blazer tickets for the past two years and have a blast attending the games, especially now that the Blazers actually win and no members are doing time (that would be a jail reference). 

Blaine’s health has been good (knock wood!) and we’ve had a REALLY ginormous development along those lines in the past few months. A wonderful woman named Francesca fran1has been helping him with his personal care! And it’s been a completely liberating experience for both Blaine and me!  We feel so much gratitude to her, I can’t even begin to tell you…

Blaine’s resolution for 2009:  to get a resolution.


Ric loves the Blazers almost as much as Blaine does, and he loves to get in on the gambling action too. He claims he’s going to the casino to give Blaine a ride, but I know better.

A couple of years ago, he started a handyman business, which is going gangbusters. He only advertises on Angie’s List and by word of mouth, but he’s always booked about a month ahead. So many people need the kind of help he can provide, and he has the tools and the chops to be very versatile. In fact, he has SO many tools he had to switch out his van for a bigger truck. And boy is it ever bigger (a Sprinter)! rictruck He even wrote a love song for it (which will be on his new CD).

Yes, he’s putting out a new CD in the next month or so. And trust me, it’s really good!  I think one of the songs on it (“Hear Me”) is his best ever!  The new CD is called “A Thousand Songs.” He’ll let you know when it’s available, it will be on iTunes, of course.  Ric has been especially productive musically this year, with topics ranging from new trucks to lost and found love to colonoscopies. Okay, never mind…

Ric’s health has been good too (knock wood again please) and he stays very active!  That’s my Ric!  (Although he hasn’t made many entries since he got busy handymanning, his blog remains a rich archive of some of our activities from earlier years.

All the spaces in his commercial building are finally rented (Cha!Cha!Cha! Taqueria, FaceBodySoul day spa, Alexander’s Goldworks jeweler, and Edconline math teacher training/tutoring business), after Ric spent several months fixing up a new space from the former warehouse storage area.

We only got to take our Airstream Toaster Moon out once this year, but now that Fran is in the picture, we plan to do so more often next year. We can’t wait!airstream

Ric’s had four birthdays since we last talked, and the most recent one was number 60! Wow! He’s a  sexagenarian!! And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Ric wishes he could visit daughters Stacey & Tim and Amy & Gary and grandchildren Joe, Colin, Owen, Calla, Caitlyn and Ellery more often, but we love it when they come down!  They visited for Christmas last week just before the big snow storm hit, thank goodness they didn’t wait til this Snowpocalypse weekend!  We went to a performance at Do Jump! theater together and Caitlyn got to dance with a cast member on stage!  They are growing up so fast, and we are so very proud of all of them.  They are the best grandkids evah!  Which can only mean they have the best parents!iricgrandkidsgrandgirls

Ric’s resolution for 2009: to learn how to use a router.


Marie continues to work as director of communication and learning at Meyer Memorial Trust. Her biggest project over the past three years was connec+ipedia, a shared learning tool for the nonprofit community that is a wiki with database capabilities.  She’ll be working on a major redesign of the MMT website over the next few months.

Marie also serves on the board of directors of Free Geek, partly as a way to support the organization that means so much to Blaine, and partly because it’s the most amazing nonprofit she’s ever met.

She’s been trying to fit in more quilting, having now finished six quilt tops that she is beginning to actually get quilted.  She and her mom spend a week or two quilting together every summer, something we both enjoy so much!  Her mom is a quilting wonder woman, and Marie wishes she could inherit just 10% of her talent and patience.  littlerugMarie also took a rug making class and just finished her first ever rug, likely the smallest rug in the history of the world, but it’s for the bathroom floor in Toaster Moon, which itself is the size of two size 10 feet.

Speaking of small, Marie loves being in the World’s Smallest Book Group with Joyce and Reba and Darcy.  We’ve been meeting monthly since September 1990!  That’s a lot of book discussing, and a boatload of conversations about every possible thing under the sun. Decades-long friendships with women  FTW!

Marie wants to make more movies, but finds it hard to fit in. Maybe someday she can retire and do that! She certainly is way full of a lot of documentary ideas!  But Marie did finally start making semi-regular posts in her personal blog (after many many many false starts), where you can keep up with her randumthots in the future.  She also frequently tweets on twitter.

Oh yeah, one more thing:  Marie is now a member of the clergy. Whisky Tango Foxtrot?!?  I shit you not! And she has married people even! And did you notice her clergy outfit!  revmarie

Marie’s resolution for 2009:  to turn 60, get her fitness back (no more excuses, just get off butt!), to reconnect with long lost friends she’s neglected in her correspondence (like you maybe?), to finish all the quilts she’s started, to finish at least one documentary, to walk the dogs more, to spend more quality time with Ric and Blaine, to not watch any more reality tv except Project Runway and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew,  to never forget another birthday, anniversary, graduation, etc. for the rest of her life, and to become the kind of person who doesn’t set ridiculous unattainable goals.


Okay, so now we’re cool, right? Starting with a clean slate next time? Good. You have no idea how relieved I am right now. The holiday letter thing has been on my to-do list for the past four years, and I feel like such a failure when I can’t ever cross it off and I start the new year with a hangover from the prior year.

My mom and Sarah, Dave & Jeff and Curt & Velvet and Denny, Tammy & James are supposed to come for Christmas dinner, if the weather cooperates.  That will be a lot of fun, and I can finally give James the present I got for his graduation from high school last June and his November birthday. See what I mean?

The three of us are counting down the days and hours until Jan. 20, 2009, if you catch our drift.  And speaking of drifts, please let us know if you need any snow… we had another six inches last night on top of the foot from yesterday, and it’s still snowing.



So here’s to you and yours. Have the holiday season you dream of…


Marie, Ric, Blaine, Pippi, Poppi

Free Geek Followup


I really really heart my friends! They are really putting out for Free Geek!

Thank you so much Reba Sundberg, Charles Rooks, and Beth Kanter. (That I know about!)

q40800296_595That wonderful Amy Sample Ward has made Free Geek her birthday cause! She’s turning 26 on Dec. 27th and is asking folks to donate $26 to Free Geek. Look at her site to see how much she’s raised so far!

dollfionaflannery1_2And famous artist and author (of book and blog) Alicia Paulson is donating proceeds from the sale of one of her beloved dolls to Free Geek.  Fiona Flannery  is an Irish dancer (and also plays the bodhran semi-professionally), frequently attending ceilis around county Antrim. She’s single, but fine with that.

 This eBay auction is a quick one, better act fast if you want to get in on the action, ends at 6:49 a.m. on Dec. 18.

Much thanks also to Rick Turoczy of Silicon Florist for including in his blog and to Oregon Startup Blogs for reposting.  

Thanks to Howard Rheingold, Marshall Kirkpatrick, Beth Kanter, Jean Russell, Amy Sample Ward, Phoebe Owens, Grant Kruger, Doug C0leman, Chris O’Rourke, Sandra Golden, Don Park, Tom Mack,   Greg Lund-Chaix for retweeting (that I know of…)

Blaine recognized as volunteer extraordinaire!


So Blaine just passed his 5th anniversary being a big help at Free Geek.  He got a certificate and a gift certificate to spend at the FG Thrift Store.

Here’s a photo of Blaine getting the handshake from Luis.

And one of Blaine with the paperwork:

Blaine:  You make us so proud. I know what goes into you getting to Free Geek everyday, how determined you are, how generous and kind you are, and how much better you make the place.  And it’s not just because I’m your mom.  You are such a star!

Prediction:  it may take him the next five years to decide how to spend it.

By the way, have you been to the Thrift Store lately??  Better go!  It’s really got the most amazing computer bargains anywhere!

The Geek Gets Gorgeous!



We finally have something to show for our work!  Come on down and check out the storefront windows at Free Geek!!

In fact, stroll through the whole facility…you’ll see a new level of orderliness, cleanliness and appreciation for the esthetic at every turn.  What the heck is going on??

If you’ve been to Free Geek, you may have noticed that for the past few years, many of the storefront picture windows have served more or less as a storage closet for plywood, cardboard, styrofoam, etc. – basically anything and everything that was completely opaque (thereby blocking all the light) and butt-ugly.  It kinda felt to me like Free Geek was mooning visitors  ;-(

Everytime I pulled up in front, my heart sank.  So I proposed we beautify the windows by making some kind of community quilt to hang along the front.  There was an initial hesitance from some quarters because there was fear it would block the light (huh??? you mean the light you haven’t ever seen???), but we assured them we could hang it in a way that would allow ample light.

We had some great old linen napkins that had been Ric’s grandmother’s that we used to create quilt square kits, handing them out to anyone who agreed to participate.  

Deborah Hubbard and Moira stepped forward and together we joined the squares that were turned in.  We loved the variety that appeared…

Of course there were penguins:

and cleverly used computer detritus:

and words that capture the Free Geek essence:

and Free Geek weirdness:


On Saturday, Ric (aka Call the Fixer) spent the whole day attaching wood to concrete, designing and creating little wooden thingies to put the brackets on, and getting the rods in place so we could actually get them up.  Thank you Mr. Fixer Man!!

We have a few more to hang, so it would be well worth your while to come take a look… it sounds weird when I say it out loud, but Free Geek is getting gorgeous!!!