Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I went to an awards dinner last night, where my son was honored, along with eight other seniors.

Eight in the state of Oregon.

He had been nominated for a college prep program his sophomore year, and we learned last night that the nomination came from two different teachers.

This program is unique because it reaches out to children that have a sort of X factor, something special that a teacher sees, rather than just grades, or the predictable jock angle.

Students apply for the two year program, and the chosen folks meet weekly to form a plan.

A master plan for how they are going to be successful in college.

Sound simple, but my goodness, what I would not have given for any kind of guidance at that age.

In addition to strategic planning, they were supported in applying for grants and scholarships, given field trips to colleges and coached on the etiquette of being successful.

Maxwell is was born diplomatic and eloquent, but this program helped point him in the right direction, in ways that I, raised by a pack of wild corndogs when it came to college prep, could never have done.

Two years is a long time for a teen to stick with something, particularly something as boring as these meetings surely were, but he did and in the end he got a $6000 scholarship, but more importantly, he will have on going support for four years, from the advocate that runs the program.

One of the very best pieces of this whole experience, is that each child was plugged into a project that was uniquely suited to their skill set.

Maxwell was able to do an internship with the city of Milwaukie, and fell in love with urban planning and the notion of local politics.

Instead of flipping burgers this year, he was making $15/hour working at city hall, and more importantly, making connections.

Mark and I have worked with him extensively to make sure he makes good choices, does well in school, feels supported, has enriching experiences, but we can use all the help we can get.

While so many people I know have the wheels falling off with their teens, I feel like we have had an amazing experience parenting him through high school and that he can have reasonable expectations for a bright future.  

Thursday, May 4, 2017

I recently watched The man in the high castle, which is a dystopian two season series based on a Philip K. Dick story.

I really liked the first season, the acting was excellent and the story was fascinating-   what if Germany and Japan had won WWII?

The story took place in 1955/1963 (sort of a vague time travel vibe) and demonstrated both institutional  oppression and man's drive for independence beautifully.

My friend Steve said seeing all of the displays of swastikas was disturbing, but naturally that was the whole point.

Many people are comparing the show with our current political shitshow, which I think is absurd.

Both the Nazi's and the Japanese ran their respective parts of the conquered US with great precision-

Oppressive as fuck?


Crumbling infrastructure and toxic drinking water ?


I would liken our current political situation more to Dr Strangelove, or may Jerry Lewis' Cinderfella.

Anyway, I continue to keep my garden loppers sharp in the event the reinstate the draft, and I need to remove a toe from either of my babies.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I took Mark to see Patton Oswald for his birthday.

He is turning 50, a big one, and impossible to buy for, and experience gift seemed like the way to go.

My friend Barb was shopping for gifts for her husband over Christmas, which made my heart catch a little.

I cannot think of a single deeply meaningful gift, that I have ever given Mark ( and I am a really good gifter, usually).

He is just one of those people that buys himself the things he desires, and he is terribly unsentimental, so it makes him my great challenge and failure, which is doubly terrible, me being me and taking that sort of thing very seriously.

So when I read on Facebook that Patton Oswald was performing in May, in Portland, I snatched up those tickets like a crazy person.

I got one for Maxwell, too, since he just had his big, meaningful 18th birthday and comedy is something he shares with his father.

I was WINNING, as the slang goes.

I also bought a ticket for myself, which was highly unusual.

I am typically so frugal, so cheap, that we have in 20 years together rarely done things together.

In some ways my neurosis around money has been good.

We almost own our home outright.

We have no debt, and money in savings.

But in some ways it has been damaging to our relationship.

I am terrified of debt, homelessness, wreck, ruin, failure, that ominous rainy day you always plan for.


Living with real and imagined danger around every turn is wearing, and I know it has been hard on Mark to navigate my fear of spending money.

So this time I shocked him and went along and we had a terrific time.

I did not complain, or fret, I just went and even purchased a teeny plastic cup of $9 wine for me, and a $5 bottle of water for him.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

I buy coffee every morning at a small cafe near my house.

The coffee is much too acid for my taste, but I buy twenty ounces anyway, because I like to be supportive.

The cafe is on Foster, a street that needs a great deal of support.

The cafe is not very cute, despite some effort from the owner, a man I suspect is about my age, but looks older, with a bald head and an unfortunate beard.

He wears hats most of the time, felt fedoras beige and loden.

He is a darter and and lacks charm.

He parks wonky and makes it challenging for me to get in and out of the gravel parking lot.

The whole place is a small L shaped room, with a restroom tucked into the corner.

Homeless people try valiantly to use the restroom and the staff, grumble at them to purchase something.

I watch this exchange almost every morning.

There was a very large homeless camp in the large gravel parking lot, but a developer bought most of the lot last year and put up a chain link fence.

So now most of the campers are more covert, slipping under hedgerows after dark.

Foster is one of the last ungentrified stretches of old Portland.

A place with wide unencumbered streets with plenty of parking, and run down buildings, with interesting storefronts.

The inside of my charmless cafe, suffers from an identity crisis.

The tables look as though they were meant to sit outside in a beach town.

Round with orange mosaic tile.

The mosaic tile tables were no doubt purchased from a big box store and cheaply made somewhere with shameful human rights practices.

It is one of those things you can just tell about things.

There are pastries in a plexiglass case, which looks a little old, even at 6:45am.

There are also breakfast sandwiches, which people seem fond of.

Some mornings there are several people ahead of me, and two or three invariably order a sandwich.

Usually the ponytail guy and the mail carrier woman.

They may think of me as impatient, frumpy, red lipstick lady, or messy bun, zaftig, gal, who knows.

I always ask if I can cut ahead and grab just a coffee, and they always let me.

There are two fellows that work the counter, both named Andy.

I call the dark haired one Jimmy, because he looks like Jimmy from Quadrophenia.

The other Andy is tall and skinny and appears to cut his own blonde hair with clippers, and I think of him as Shawn, because he looks like my friend Shawn did in 1984.

They like to play jazz and I like to surprise them with a tiny bit of jazz recognition.

This morning Jimmy asked me again why I call him Jimmy and we had a nice laugh over Quadrophenia.

Jimmy is from Salem and plays in a band.

Shawn is from someplace more sophisticated and has the demeanor of someone that studied philosophy, or maybe comparative literature.

Shawn never greets me, but Jimmy always does.

I'm not really keen on sales people calling me by name, but coming from him, it feels ok.

He is just on the very edge of smarmy, but he pulls it off well.

We talk about the changing neighborhood often, and about food service, and a little about movies and music.

I have precisely the taste in movies, books and music that arty school drop out boys have, so it works well.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I made my bed with great care and attention to detail, which is a departure from the slapdash job I typically do.

I have a quilt from my grandmother on the top, having given up bedspreads ages ago.

The quilt is enormous and made up of blocks embroidered flowers, on a field of white. 

Each block was made during the war, by one of my grandmother's sisters, or sister-in-law, or aunt. 

There is a block for each member of the family, including the children, and I suspect it was made as a gift to my great-grandmother Anna.

In those days most women had some degree of handwork skills.

You can tell the ones that were not enthusiastic, or gifted.

The daisy people.

Then there are the strongly gifted like my grandmother, with more intricate designs, done in a traditional palette of color, deftly sewn, with fancy flourishes and French knots. 

On the other end of the spectrum there is my Aunt Alice, baby sister of the family, the sweet one, who elected to embroider pineapples and hibiscus, despite being in Idaho. 

And finally, the rebel, with garish burgundy, done in a sloppy hand.

In addition to the flowers and cones and occasional pineapple, there are names on each block.

My Aunt Mable cheated and did one block for both children, with a Tommy & Sherri, crowded into the corner.



I can imagine my grandmother sighing at both her eldest sister's burgundy rose, and her middle sister- the good looking one- and her double name block.

There would have been a certain resignation and vague disapproval. 

When I was a child I loved to hear my grandmother's stories. 

I sat upon her draped like a cat, around her neck and asked her 10,0000 questions. 

This was one of the few times you would find my grandmother inactive. 

She was a powerful woman that had many things to do, and limited leisure time, but we would sit and watch Perry Mason at noon and I would chatter in her ear and she would tell me stories of the farm, or her harsh, alien childhood, and her courtship with my grandfather.

All of the names, of the colorful cast of characters, where represented on the quilt, which would much later wind up on my bed.

At four I was scandalized by the block with the mysterious Viola embroidered in black, with a blue heart basket, filled with tiny forget me nots.

"Her name was VIOLA?!"  

Her name was Viola and she was Grandpa Jesse's first wife.

I was from an old fashioned family, where people had one wife, and one only, so this was doubly fascinating to me.

I would make my grandmother tell me how everyone died, and how many children they had, whether they were beautiful, ambitious, homely, or shiftless, who could bake a decent pie, who bought store brought bread, and never swept up properly.

I knew my grandmother's aunt Effie had eleven children, and was loving and kind to every, single, one (something her own mother was not.)

I knew that Alice was the pie baker, and my grandmother's specialty was cake, and that her mother would pull them out of school at harvest time, to cook for the threshing teams.

My grandparents lived in a sort of time capsule, with wood heat, and a wringer washing machine, and home grown vegetables.

While other children were charmed by shows like The Waltons, my family lived it. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Max and the Zacks went over to Zak L's place after band practice.

I can host practice, but the over night thing is not my favorite, Zak's parents have a bigger house and a rec room.

When he came home this morning he said that they had taken the dog for a walk around 11:30, and run into  a man beating up a woman at Richmond park.

When the boys walked up the man ran away.

The woman said she didn't want them to call the cops and that she would be ok. 

They walk on, but as they were coming around the other side of the block, they saw the guy chasing the woman down the block, so they rant after them.

The man turned and yelled at the boys, that he was a Crip and some other slurry nonsense, and Max said that while he wasn't afraid that a gang of Crips would come, he was concerned about the guy being armed and extremely unstable.

He said right at the moment they were going to call 911, a cop walked out of the cafe across from Village Merchants, so they told him about the couple and the cop jumped in his car and drove off toward the park, where they were last seen.

He was a little shaken up, as we don't have a lot of violence and drama in our lives (thank goodness) and he has certainly never seen a man punching a woman in the face before.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Last night I went to bed very late, because I knew I didn't have to get up for work.

As I was falling asleep, I heard a scratching, coming from the built in cupboard, next to my bed.

Our house was build in 1916, and at some point someone finished the tallest parts of the attic and put in this chest of drawers and two cupboards right into the wall. 

Good concept, poor execution, because they didn't finish the back. 

The cupboard, is deep and opens right into the wings of the attic; you can see the roof, and a little bit of daylight, where the insulation ends.

I asked Mark to check.

He went downstairs and got an oven-mitten and a flashlight and slowly opened the cupboard door. 

There was nothing there.

We went to sleep, only to be awakened again at 3:00am and 4:45. 

I banged on the door, and barricaded it shut with my sewing machine and the trash can.

At first I was thinking rat, which was horrifying, but then I changed my mind to squirrel, because of the nature of the scratching.

When I worked for the yogic school we had a squirrel problem in the house where the nuns lived.

They were horrible pests, running through the walls and on one occasions busting through into the kindergarten room.

One tiny paw, sticking through the plaster, in a black power style salute.

This morning I asked Mark to look again and he said there was no poop (which rules out rats!), but there was the beginning of a nest, with pieces of insulation.

My plan is to blow dry the insulation back out of the cupboard, to create a hostile environment, then trap the squirrel, using the trap my neighbor lent me this morning.

I can then drive the squirrel five miles away, and release her.

I can't do any of this until this stupid snow melts, because driving is currently impossible.