Tag Archives: Meyer Memorial Trust

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.


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.


CKC #35: Is it hot in here, or just Smokey?


So this is how it went.

I met the planet’s most compassionate and generous man when I interviewed him for a feature story – Three Men Who Save Children –  for the Meyer Memorial Trust’s annual report in 2001.

Duncan Campbell grew up on Portland’s north side, the story of his childhood can be illustrated by his memory of wandering the streets in the wee hours of the night when he was a toddler as his parents drunk themselves into a stupor at the local tavern. Somehow, against all odds, Duncan survived childhood and grew up to be a very very successful businessman. He used his success to reach back and find the children who had lives like he had – and worse – and provide them with what he didn’t have: support that builds resiliency.

He founded Friends of the Children, one of the most impressive nonprofit organizations I’ve encountered. The organization identifies children in its communities who have the most dire and challenging lives and provides them with a friend. A mentor who is there for them for whatever they need whenever they need it. And they usually need a whole lot a whole lot of the time. Friends of the Children pays its mentors the same salary as public school teachers and hires only the best among those who apply.

Duncan is delighted by Smokey’s performance and by his bringing the delight to such an appreciative audience (us)

This model has been replicated in other cities, but the heart and soul of the organization is in Portland, not all that far from where Duncan toddled out in the middle of the night alone to look for his parents.

I’ve met a lot of people who appear to enjoy the happiness of others. Some of them genuinely glory in success they see others achieve. But I’ve observed that if you stick around long enough, some people’s apparent celebration of others is hijacked by feelings of envy and bitterness lying somewhere at varying depths beneath the surface. Eventually it shows and it is so painful to watch.

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who enjoys others’ happiness more than Duncan. He is the genuine article. His delight grows as it is powered by his enjoyment of another’s delight. That’s one reason so many people love him.

When Duncan learned about our household’s love of soul music, especially from the golden years of Motown and Stax Volt, he’s made it a point to help us get where and when a legend from that era appears in Portland.

For example, we sat in the second row at the Schnitz when Jerry Butler came to town. When he sang Your Precious Love (one of the all time most incredible love songs, he wrote it for a school assignment when he was a teenager!), Ric and Blaine had to spray reconstitution oil to the puddle on the floor that was me. And then we got his autograph and I begged him to please come join the Multnomah County Commission (it was in a hot mess at the time).

So this summer Duncan found himself with three unused tickets to see Smokey Robinson at Spirit Mountain Casino. So he called us and asked if we’d like to go with him. Hello? Smokey Robinson? Is the Pope Catholic?

It is the unanimous opinion of the household that Smokey Robinson is among the greatest music geniuses of all time. And we are not kidding. Has there ever been a songwriter with a more clever and distinctive use of words? We think not. Have you really listened to his rhyming structure? Take this line from Tracks of My Tears:  “My smile is my makeup I wear since my breakup with you…” Do you see how amazing that is?

Smokey Robinson at Spirit Mountain

Smokey left it all on the stage at Spirit Mountain (his band was great as well)

It’s not just our opinion, by the way. You do realize that Bob Dylan, no slacker when it comes to words, called him the Shakespeare of Soul? So if you don’t know Smokey, you better go there now. Your life’s work is not done yet.

We had seen Smokey live twice before years ago (once at the Oregon Zoo and once at the Oregon State Fair) but the performance we just witnessed was the best ever. The man is 72 years old. And he jumps and leaps around the stage. And bumps and grinds. Yes, he really did. We weren’t expecting that.

And he wore purple leather pants. They were awesome. He’s still writing and recording and we thought his new music was great! Some people just keep on getting better. Wouldn’t we all like to be one of those people??

I must point out that I took all the photos used here with my iPhone. Yes, my iPhone.

Oh, yeah, we ate dinner at Legends at Spirit Mountain Casino before the show. I would tell you what we ate, but I can’t seem to remember. I think it might be because it’s all smokey up in here.

Closeup of Smokey Robinson at Spirit Mountain

See how it’s all smokey up in here!

CKC #32: Drywall, mellow mushrooms and batshit crazy soldiers, not necessarily in that order


Ric and Blaine at Jeld Wen Field, where we all got to sit together (I was between them when I wasn’t talking this photo_

Once in a while, my employer – Meyer Memorial Trust – plans social events for staff members and their families. This year we went to a Portland Timbers game (oops, I mean match), a first ever experience for our family, although Ric and Blaine have watched games I mean matches on television.

First we met at the Mellow Mushroom (surely named by someone from the 60s), where I must say Ric and I both went for the Magical Mystery Tour (see what I mean?!), which is a pesto base pizza and crust with button and portobello mushrooms, mozzarella, spinach, feta and jalapenos. Way way tasty. Blaine had a big pretzel, cheese bread and a slice of cheese pizza.

From there we walked to Jeld Wen Field, a bit of a trek for Blaine, but Ric and my boss Doug Stamm took turns pushing him up the hills. The stadium is quite beautiful, much improved from its last incarnation as PGE Park where the Portland Beavers played. And for once, all three of us got to sit together at an event, which was totally awesome but maybe not the usual arrangement, maybe we got to do it because we had the whole section. In nearly every case, only one of us can sit with him and the other has to go solo somewhere in the crowd. Not so very family friendly.

Although I confess I didn’t really follow the nuances of the game and it looked to me like most of the kicks and head butts resulted in the ball going in pretty much totally random directions, I’m sure those in the know saw all sorts of subtleties and it made total sense to them. Perhaps I didn’t have enough beer.

When the Timbers score a goal, the Army takes the crazy up a notch and green smoke is released among their ranks.

Speaking of beer, Portland is known in soccer circles for its Timbers Army. Let me walk you through it. About one third of the stadium is occupied by people who might be normal in their regular lives, like maybe they are shy librarians and socially awkward beancounters and so forth, but when they don their scarves and other army uniform apparati they become uninhibited extroverted soldiers who literally stand and sing and/or chant odd and strangely familiar-sounding fascinating songs, following a script, and whip ginormous flags back and forth and hold their scarves up and perform other maneuvers for at least three solid hours without a single pause. For no apparent reason.

Perhaps it’s a fitness regimen? Some kind of happiness therapy? Or an anger management diversion program?

You gotta hand it to them. Next to this, Blazer fans seem… well…. underwhelming. Disorganized. Tame.

So I wonder why soccer has an army but baseball and basketball and football (I know, I know, soccer is the real football) don’t? Imagine if the whispering sports like golf and tennis had armies? That would be pretty awesome, I think. Will somebody please get on this stat?!

Uh oh, looks like I went astray again… back to the game I mean match, the Timbers won! They beat the leading team in the league 2-1! When a Timber goal was scored, everyone cheered, the army went even more batshit crazy, green smoke was set loose into its ranks. And a logger guy wielding a huge chain saw sawed a circle off the end of a log. That must be the timber part.

We almost have a room now!!

The Timbers win wasn’t the only victory in town though. We got drywall nailed and the first coat of mud! It almost looks like a room now. I kinda feel like standing and singing for the next three hours!!

A day of me, for me, by me


Today is a bonus day. I find myself in the position where, if I don’t take a vacation day, I will lose it forever. Which brings me here. I have nothing planned today, no appointments, no obligations, no deadlines, no nothing, so I actually get to decide how to spend my time. What a luxury…

So I decided to begin my day visiting my long neglected blog. I want to use it to look back on the last three months since I posted our holiday letter thingie to remind myself what’s been happening so when I forget what happened, it won’t be lost forever.

Let’s start with last night. Greg Hartle came for dinner. He’s a guy with a very interesting backstory who is now touring the US with ten dollars and a laptop to see how people and communities are changing as a result of the Great Recession. After a serious health crisis, which was resolved by a kidney donation from his mom, he cast off his former crazy-ass-go-for-broke-get-rich-quick-everything-is-competition lifestyle, rid himself of his possessions, save for $10 and a laptop. He started in Washington in January, Oregon is his second state. He connected with me through a combination of people and the web, so I invited him to sample Ric’s delicious cooking and come over for a chat. You really should follow his updates and watch for him when he comes your way.

We really enjoyed conversing with him and learned a lot from him. Here’s just one gem to ponder: being fit is not the same as being healthy.

I’ve been on a major quilting jag lately. I would say more but then you would expect to see photos and I haven’t taken any yet. Quilts are really really hard to photograph. For one thing, they’re so big! When I figure out how to do it better, I will show them to you.

Along those lines, a very happy piece of work-related news is that Meyer Memorial Trust now offers sabbaticals to staff members who have been there more than seven years. And I believe I just reached the end of my 15th year there! Longest place I’ve ever worked by far! So I will have four weeks off in August. Do I hear a wOOt?!  I’m so excited!

We had to submit a plan for how we would use our sabbaticals – in both professional and personal realms – and get them approved. One of my personal promises is to plan a show of my quilts! And of course you are all invited. More on that in future months.

My dear friend Joyce and I took in the nation’s largest sewing show in Puyallup a few weeks ago. So much fabric. Not enough time. In a bizarre side note, I found myself being drawn to Japanese quilting fabric at the expo, buying some for the first time. A few days later, the horrible earthquake/tsunami happened. I’m so sorry.

Have you done what you can to help them? I need to do more.

I’ve been crazy busy at work, hatching a HUGE project, this after I promised myself I would never have any big ideas ever again, and if I did, I would keep my mouth shut. So of course I violated all those rules, but rest assured, I am being suitably punished. But I just know it will result in a really COOL thing that will really HELP people get shit done, as they say in the vernacular. As Joyce would say, it’s populist and involves technology. What else is there?!? When all is fit to print you will be among the first to get the scoop.

Ric made some seriously major improvements to our long suffering kitchen, triggered by a nasty ant infestation. The kitchen is better now. We hope the ants are not.

Would you believe that our hens have all been laying some days? Three eggs a day sometimes! Before spring began even! They are such productive little hens, as if they existed to create chicken embryos. Oh wait. They do.

Our yard is threatening to burst forth, the daphne and michelia fragrance is intoxicating and the white camellia flowers are opening. I dread discovering all that we lost in the harsh winter freeze though. We could all use a little sun and warm temperatures, that’s for sure.

I’m quite worried about my wayward adopted son, Rev Phil. He’s taking his bike porn tour across country lines and was detained at the border. Fortunately, he is channeling Hunter Thompson and has lived to tell. I know this makes no sense to many of you, and it is far better that way. A mother worries though. And seriously hopes he drops his plans to include Turkey in his European tour.

On that enigmatic note, I shall close this chapter and strive to remember anything else that has happened in the past three months. The well has run dry for now. I must go do something else unplanned.

Keep the faith. Sometimes that works.






A day for helping Haiti, we need an app for that


Today was Mission Day at  Meyer Memorial Trust.  Sayer Jones and Aaron Nelson initiated MMT Mission Days, when all staff members head out to local nonprofits to provide hands-on help for a day.

Little did they know when they selected this month’s organization that it would provide us with an opportunity to help with the world’s latest worst disaster.  We went to Medical Teams International, a nonprofit organization with headquarters in the Portland metro area that provides medical disaster relief wherever it is needed around the world. Today, for example, it sent a group of doctors and nurses to Haiti to join the front line response to the crisis following the earthquake two days ago. (If you want to know more about MTI, you can watch a short video we made a while back, when it was called Northwest Medical Teams.)

MMT staff divided into two groups: the largest group sorted donated medical supplies and equipment diverted from Goodwill donations while

GoGetEm Grant

the rest of us worked the crisis phone bank. I was in the latter group.  Four of us got a brief training session using the brand new phone bank system, scripts for answering the most anticipated calls, and we hit the ground running.

Lots and lots of calls. Grant Kruger‘s lightening reflexes meant he was first to answer, so he more than likely fielded more calls than anyone. Sally Yee was only slightly slower. Phoebe Owens and I covered the rear flank.

Mustang Sally

Some people called in tears. Caller after caller – from all over the country – had been watching television or listening to the radio and were so affected by the tragic state of affairs they needed to do something. Now. Anything. Just needed to help.

By far the most calls I took were from people who wanted to go directly to Haiti. Now. They wanted to help in the worst way. Many were more than qualified, lots of nurses, doctors and other health professionals. A fair number had years of experience working in Haiti. Several spoke French and Creole.  And it wasn’t just medical professionals calling. One man who called said he had operated heavy equipment for 26 years and he figured there would be a need for people to help remove all that rubble… another man called who said he was just young and strong and could do a lot of heavy lifting.

A student nurse in Arizona wanted to organize a first aid drive among nursing students there, companies called wanting to send medical supplies, medicine, all sorts of emergency equipment. The calls kept coming.

FairlyFast Phoebe

While we directed callers to departments and hotlines at MTI when appropriate, unfortunately we had to tell many callers that organizations like MTI have to prepare far ahead of a disaster in order to effectively respond, so we wouldn’t be able to put them on the next plane and deliver them to the streets of Haiti, they would have to fill out a volunteer application and be screened and someone would get back to them. And while I know all that is true, and delivering people to the disaster zone would just clog things up and make things worse, I hated having to tell people to fill out a form and wait. Many callers had already heard the same message from many other organizations they had already called. But they didn’t want to take no for an answer. They needed to help.

And while I write this, I’m watching Anderson Cooper 360 and seeing all the people in pain and anguish, without food or water, needing medial care and someone to operate heavy equipment and do heavy lifting, and my heart is breaking.

The privilege of speaking to so many ordinary Americans today touched me deeply. Some gave monetary donations, but a fair number told me they were unemployed and were free to travel right now. They wanted to do something with this time on their hands.

I’m wondering if we can marshall our compassion and energy and wish to help into planning ahead, to filling out forms and figuring out a way to help before disaster strikes, when adrenalin isn’t flowing. So we can be ready when it is. There’s so much we could do before the next crisis comes. And one thing we know for sure, it will. We need to prepare for that one now.

I think we need an app for that.


Please do whatever you can to help Haiti now. What relief organizations need most is money, because it gives them flexibility to respond in the most helpful way.  You can check nonprofit organizations out on Charity Navigator. You can help two world class organizations with headquarters in Portland provide on-the-ground help now: MTI and Mercy Corps. The Red Cross is also providing direct relief.

The US government has a comprehensive overview of ways to help here and through the Center for International Disaster Information.

There are lots of ways to matter, even if you can’t get to Haiti.

Check out my co-workers’ great blog entries about this subject:

Grant Kruger’s blog post.

Phoebe Owens’ blog post and update.

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