Thursday, February 20, 2014

Last week I sent a personal message to a group of friends that had been friends with my high school boyfriend that committed suicide in 1985.
The message included a photo I had found during our packing up, of Leo and me in a photo booth at Newberry's, taken in 1983.  I check in with this small group around this time of year, because it feels important to me to share the remembrance of someone so special to me, someone I cannot bear to have forgotten.
In the photo we are both smiling, wide and goofy, the way people in photo booth photos smile.
I know that it is summer, because I am wearing a madras print blouse I purchased at the Brass Plum in summer.  It was a purple plaid, and had a matching skirt that was unflattering and homely.  It was cotton, and required a great deal of ironing to look even halfway decent.  Leo is wearing a madras shirt too, but his is vintage, and we purchased it together on an excursion to the Goodwill bins.  It is a cotton poly mix and requires no ironing, which makes sense, because boys don't iron.  That is what I said about that shirt, at the time, which seems foolish now.  At the time I didn't know that my friendship would be rather short, or I would have been more clever.
I first met Leo at the city bus stop when I was 14, introduced by a friend that I hoped would be a boyfriend, but never was. We spent a great deal of time together, and he had a huge influence on me. Everything from my taste in music to my decision to cut off my hair and move to a more edgy look, to sparking an awareness of politic and social justice issues.  We rode the bus often, went to music shows, smoked a great many cigarettes and drank a lot of coffee.
Leo had a family that was so different from mine, that they seemed to come from another country.  His mother was a painter, his father a philosophy professor and his older sister exuded coolness from the pores of her porcelain skin. The first time I met his family, I was scandalized by their messy, book cluttered house, the cat in the kitchen, and unmatched furniture. We walked through the massive garden, and his father handed me a stalk of celery, which I realized, after taking a large bit, was actually fennel, which I had never seen before.
My own home was neat and tidy with small groupings of modest, but matching furniture.
I fell madly in love with the notion of a bohemian life, a life of abstraction and color and textures, chipped china and splattered tomato sauce.
After Leo died, I remained close to his mother.
We exchanged letters regularly over the years.
When my son was one she gave me a beautiful painting she had made for Leo as a child. She spent Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas dinner with us.  She sent my children beautiful cards and precious gifts.  Two years ago when my husband was going through cancer I didn't send an invitation to holiday dinner.  I felt overwhelmed and tired.  This year I phoned, but her number, a number I had been calling for 32 years was disconnected.  I didn't follow up- time just got away from me, it just passed.
When I sent that message, I got a message back from one of the boys, saying "my sister told me that Leo's sister died."
The two older sisters went to school together.
High school news, even old news has a way of spreading.
So for a week or so J and I have been playing detective.
He would report back to me, I would report back to him, the tiny snippets we uncovered.
Yesterday I cracked.  I sent a message to Leo's father asking, and he replied that it was true. 
The older sister had passed away, by "her own hand", last week, and that Leo's mother had been moved to assisted living. 
I didn't know her well. 
She was five years older, chic, beautiful. 
She had a white leather jacket and high cheekbones. 
In 1982 when I met her  she called me "Glamourpuss" and thought I was vapid.
She took photographs and smoked. She was punkrock and tough. She had blue, blue eyes and an exotic name.  When Leo died she enlarged the photo booth photo and mailed it to me.  I thought that she was kind. 
She was beloved by her mother. 
She was someone's child, and now she's gone.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A rock and a hardplace

 For the most part my work life is relatively simple.  Lots of paperwork, a fair amount of attending to competing needs of grown ups and children and a good deal of people pleasing.

It's been snowing here. 

A. LOT.  

A lot for Portland, not that much for people that are from other places where it snows. 

Snow, ice and bad weather mixed with a school means making tough decisions around closing, staying open, and the fall out from either scenario.

One way that people like me cut down on the stress factor is to follow the big guys.  I personally am a huge fan of following the public schools, because a lot of my families will also have school aged children, and therefore already be inconvenienced in a way that is so big and comprehensive, that they wont make too much of a fuss.

If I was the queen of the world, I would make a blanket policy and just follow the schools, but alas I am not the queen of the world, I am me, and I work for people and stuff and I have to use some discretion.  I used such discretion in December and opened on time, when Portland Public opened late.  I won that time, because the snow never really manifested. 



Last Thursday, Portland Public waited until 10:37am to call it a day, and such down business by 1:00pm.  My team of teachers did a beautiful job of closing our operation down and everyone got picked up mostly on time and I felt really great.  We closed the next day, as it was clearly a mess. 

Last night the issue was right in our faces again.  There was still ice and snow on the ground.  To close or not to close?  Portland Public called it at 7:30pm.  I talked to my boss, ate some penne, thought about my staff that have school aged children, thought about the ones that live an hour away and ultimately decided to close. 

I personally would prefer to be open. 

I don't like disruption in my routines and I don't like the grumble from people that are pissed off by closures, but at the end of the day, it just felt unethical to make my staff drive in the slush and ice.  If anyone got hurt, or wrecked their car, I would feel like a creep. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

You are such a weirdo

Our lives have been a bit chaotic. 

We are back home, from the rental (the rental saga is for another day), but the kitchen isn't finished, wont be for another day or two.

The ice maker on the giant new fridge is broken. 

A piece, a gray piece of plastic in the back, cracked.

It cracked and made the ice maker not work. 

I've lived 46 years without an ice maker, but the broken part of this one made me cry. 

We are all at a cracking point now.  

There is a great deal of soot every place, and our brand, spanking new ice maker is broken and it is starting to feel like a bit much to take, even for me.

Even for someone that can take a lot of disappointment, the way I can.

Last night at midnight I heard yelling and banging in the kitchen.  I ran down to find Mark stomping around.  The contractor had left the breaker off and the fridge was off and Mark was losing his mind over our small stash of food being spoiled. 

I leave the house at 6:30am most days.  Today a bit earlier to account for the ice that might be lurking on Mt. Tabor, slowing me down. Mark takes the kids to school and he apparently woke up in a foul mood over the fridge, over the delays and over the lack of a toaster to toast the bagel I left for them. He told Maxwell to hurry, and in his haste Maxwell picked up a bottle of mouthwash.

The blue kind of mouthwash that I favor.  


A bottle of my favorite mouthwash with just a tiny bit left in the bottom, just enough for a swish or two in the car. 

It seems that in the absence of his lunch box and water bottle (buried in the packing up) Maxwell had the bright idea that he should fill the empty mouthwash bottle with water, to drink at school. 

At 10:00 the principal of the very conservative school called me at work, but I was in a meeting, so they called Mark at work, calling him out of a meeting, to report that our 14 year old had been sent to the office for drinking out of a bottle that said 26% alcohol on the label. 

The bottle was filled with water, Maxwell explained to the principal.  

Never the less and still...  

 Said the principal. 

We were informed. 

We apologized for our kid being weird and our lack of proper water vessels. 

At 3:00pm the reporting teacher phoned to apologize to Maxwell. 

"I felt like I had to legally, report it."
"He is such a GREAT kid, please tell him I am sorry for stressing him out."

He is a great kid.  He is a smart kid, smart enough not to drink SCOPE, or at least not in public.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Funny haha not funny strange

It's been a funny week and when I say funny, I mean strange.

We are wrapping up the remodel, but there are mountains of details, of unfinished parts that will make the whole a WHOLE. Ben has been good, great even about working them out.  Many things are his fault, in the sense that if he had been a bigger contractor he would have had more help, more resources, but here's the thing, a bigger guy, a bigger outfit, might not have been able to hear my tiny 1" high voice.  They might not have heard me when it mattered, so I am grateful to Ben and his small self and his cute wife, who work every evening until her blood sugar gives out.  He tells me that when they were in Minnesota, his wife worked for a doctor that left her sad in the evenings... "I just felt like punching that guy in the face, every night." That is the guy I want  in my corner.  So, yes, we are behind, but there are other things to consider, like ethics, like punching some asshole in the face if he makes your wife sad.