Category Archives: family

Leaving for Foster

I didn’t have to do anything except gather the plastic bags full of his shirts and pants and socks and underwear and shoes. Bags with books and teddy bears.

All he had.

I stood in the room with others, including his foster Mom.

We just waited watching him weep. Watching a child’s heart break.

He wept so silently and so constantly.

He didn’t know how much love sat in that room with him.

He doesn’t know that today may be the greatest day of his life. The day that changes everything for the better.

Tonight all I can think of is a boy who is in a house that isn’t his. No matter how bad that one was, this one isn’t his.

I’m sorry for what life has visited upon you. You touched people today who will think of you always.

Sleep tonight little man.

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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

I don’t post much anymore and this post is long and it’s not funny but I really hope you will read it. I ask you to read it. And share it because it matters not just in Portland, not just in Oregon but throughout the U.S.

My mother was a teacher before I was born. She began her career in upstate New York and then moved to Portland, Oregon. In Portland she taught at Boise (pronounced Boyce) Elementary in North Portland which in 1963-64 was a very nasty neighborhood. Race relations in the U.S. were not good at that time (not that much has changed) and the Albina neighborhood where Boise is located, was a violent, rough place.

Police-in-Albina

Albina 1969

Joan, my mom, was 100 lbs of Irish power (her maiden name was Powers). She was a tough little customer and had tons of colorful stories from her time teaching at Boise. Joan taught a little girl named Maria Pia Gompetro (sp?). Maria was a spitfire and when parent-teacher conference time came, Maria had to sit in and translate for her mother, who was from Italy. My mom would say, “Maria needs to settle down and pay attention in class.” Maria would translate and her mother would nod and smile. “Maria, I don’t think you’re telling your mother what I just said.”

She had an African-American boy in one of her classes who she walked by one day and placed her hand on his back to look at his work and he winced. She took him out of the class and looked at his back. In her exact words, his back looked like “hamburger”. She called his mother to come in and his mother said, “Don’t you worry Miss Powers, I’m making sure so and so does his work.” Her method of making sure the little guy did his work was whipping his back with a wire coat hanger. My mother told her if she touched him again, she would have her arrested.

My mother had a theory, had a goal of identifying children who were smart and had the drive to do better and getting them the education that would get them out of the ghetto they lived in. She went to Boise school officials and Portland Public School officials and begged them. “I can tell you who these kids are, get them out of here and give them a chance.” Nope. No can do, that’s not fair.”

Floyd. I can’t remember Floyd’s last name. Floyd was far too old to be in the 4th grade at Boise. He was smart and funny and his home life was a violent hell hole. Floyd loved my mother and was very protective of her. He would walk up and sit on the corner of her desk when the class was acting up and lecture them all to shut up and listen to Miz Powers. He was NOT happy when he met my dad, Joan’s fiance at the time, when my Dad came to the classroom. But he skeptically gave his approval of the marriage. A couple of years later, my mom saw Floyd on the local news. He was arrested for armed robbery.

Fast forward to 2016. I am tutoring reading at the Portland Public School for homeless children, the Community Transitional School. I tutor two kids for 30 minutes each. Homer is in kindergarten and Maria is in 1st grade. I am sorry to say that Homer is a lost cause. He is a tiny, darling African American little boy who has no attention span, can sort of kind of read a few words. One of my kids couldn’t read in kindergarten but she also had a stable, engaged family and a safe, comfortable life. Homer doesn’t have that and I think society’s ills will win with Homer.

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Oh my dear little Maria. Maria and I are pals. M is for Maria and for Maggie. I told Maria that my middle name is Mary, “Maria is Spanish for Mary.” Maria told me, “No, Mary is English for Maria.” This little girl is a live wire and she is smart. A couple of days ago, during our 30 minute time together, Maria said, “that word can’t be ‘babies’, baby has a Y in it.” Hurrah Maria! We spent the rest of our time thinking of nouns that end in Y but their plural is ‘ies’. Maria picked up on that, I didn’t point it out to her.

This kid has it goin’ on. She doesn’t want to be too obvious with her smarts but she brings it when it matters. She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She is smart. I want to help her progress. A few weeks ago I spoke to the reading program coordinator asking how can I spend more time with Maria? And the coordinator thought that Big Brother/Big Sister would be a good idea. Nope. The school doesn’t have a connection with them. Okay, what about Trillium Family Services? A local Portland non-profit that does amazing work with children and families. Nope.

Unfortunately, CTS, as a school, does not match students with mentors through any programs. There are a number reasons for this. One is that we are not able to extend the same services to each child. It is a matter of equity. We want our families to feel we are providing a service of teaching and helping every child.

 

Are you shitting me?! What if mentoring at CTS caught on?! What if we, the privileged of this country no matter what color, what if we go out and try to save one starfish at a time? What if it’s not fair? There is still good to be done, children to be helped and nurtured, it’s not always fair but it can work.

Must Maria, who is only 7, be lost to the lowest common denominator simply because if she gets extra help, it’s not “fair”?

I was raised by Joan Powers O’Connor and my siblings will remember one of Mom’s favorite lines, “life isn’t fair.”

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Profoundly Resilient

Today is Brigid’s 16th birthday!

It is hard to believe that just four months ago this happened:

crash volvo

Brigid was in the back seat behind the driver.

Here you can see her car door stuck to the grill of the car that hit them.

crash truck

 

We were in the hospital for 10 days.

That's Oregon Health Sciences University up on the hill.

That’s Oregon Health Sciences University up on the hill.

Brigid in her bed, hooked up to tubes and monitors, being poked and prodded.

brigid rm 24

After five days, the pain was so great and the healing so limited that they operated on her and put in a plate to stabilize her pelvis and six screws to hold it in place.

Last week I took Brigid to a see a counselor, believing that any teenager who had been through such a trauma and had her life changed so drastically (missing months of school, not dancing anymore, etc.), might need to work through some of it. Jan, the therapist who I trust and respect, met with me and Brigid for a few and then I left and she and Brigid talked. I came back at the end to be told “Brigid is profoundly resilient.” Jan credits me with staying by her side throughout, the fact that Brigid has no memory of the accident, Brigid knows and accepts that she is deeply loved by family and friends, and Brigid is Brigid. Profoundly resilient.

Yesterday we went to lunch and birthday shopping.

brigid16

“And I got a birthday bracelet from Tiffany!”

I went for a walk in the woods early this morning and thought about Brigid and her 16th birthday. At one point, I was overcome with emotion and gratitude; grateful to God for blessing us with Brigid back in 1999 and again for watching over her the night of the crash in April.

Brigid, I wish for you a long life filled with love for family and friends, quiet kindnesses and raucous celebrations.

Happy Birthday my sweet girl and many many many many more.

EPSON MFP image

A Family of Names

My parents names are John and Joan. Their siblings names are Anita, Agnes Marie, Catherine, Dennis, Gerard, John, Maryann.

All of the children of those families are: Maggie, John, Katie, Molly, Michael, Randy, John, David, Jennifer, Mary, Tricia, Michael, Bill, Jane, and I think I’m missing 3 others from that family, Michael, Patrick, Tom, Yvonne, Louise, Anita, and I’m missing one from that family, John, Jane, Sean, Patrick, Tim, Peggy, Kathleen.

awesome irish

I have a cousin Michael who has a son named Tim, not my first cousin Tim…a different Tim.

My full name is Margaret Mary and my cousin Mary’s full name is Mary Margaret. We also have a Meg and a Peggy.

One of my other cousin’s Michael has a daughter named Cailin. My sister Katie is Catherine as is my aunt who goes by Kitty. And there’s Kathleen.

My cousin Tricia is married to a guy named Matt and their son is named John Matthew. My sister Molly’s son is Matthew John.

So we have four Johns, five if you count Sean (and I believe there’s an argument for being Gaelic-ly inclusive.)

meanwhile-in-ireland_o_321790

My maternal grandfather’s name is Walter Michael. I have a cousin named John Walter and then a few Michaels on both sides of the family because Irish.

My paternal grandfather’s name is John Joseph, as is my dad’s, as is my brother’s. My Uncle Gerry named his son John Joseph and tried to call him John Joseph III which caused a battle and resulted in my dad and uncle not speaking to each other because Irish. (As a matter of fact, I think that uncle was dead for months before I even heard about it, “Gerry? He died months ago.” Ahhh, thanks.)

irish calmThis is all apropos of nothing except that I was trying to name all my cousins the other night. I do that instead of counting sheep when trying to go to sleep.

irishsarcasm

I leave for vacation tomorrow night. I think I may schedule some greatest hits posts because who out there isn’t going to feel a bit less fulfilled, a little emptier in my absence?

 

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Dear Katie,

For my readers who don’t know Katie’s story, please refer back here and here. Katie has been home for a few months and returns to school today. She is still working so hard and has come so far and her reward is a touch of normalcy, she gets to go to school half time for the rest of the year! Go Katie, Go Katie!!!

 

Dear Katie,

What a huge day for you after so many months of struggling and fighting! Congratulations on your return to ol’ LOHS!

I think about you and your family everyday and I am not the only one. Can you believe there are 2083 followers of your Facebook page? And I know the number of people who know and care about your story is much larger. I have friends around the country who know about you and ask me how you are doing and pray for you. There are THOUSANDS of people around the country and around the world who think about you and pray for you and are cheering for you. Isn’t that something? Why do you suppose that is?

Well, yeah there’s the whole interwebs thing, but bigger than that. Why are there literally thousands of people, many of them strangers (unless you know waaaayyy more people than anyone else I know) who know your story?

I have some ideas.

1. You’re a good kid. By all accounts, from my daughter, Annie’s, first encounter with you freshman year — to all the stories I have read in the past six months. You are regarded to be as nice, as kind, and as enthusiastic as your reputation would have us believe. The real deal! When nice people get hurt, other nice people and even not-so-nice people, wish them well and pray to whatever god they believe in for healing. You are young. People want young people to have long, happy lives. I haven’t met you but I can see there is a vibrancy to you that the world needs.

From left: Katie, sister Annie, and mom Trina (although I am just guessing that's Trina because she doesn't look much older than her girls.)

From left: Katie, sister Annie, and mom Trina (although I am just guessing that’s Trina because she doesn’t look much older than her girls.)

2. Moms. I know there are dads following your progress and praying for you but I am a mom and I will speak to the Mom part of this equation.

Katie's dad, Dave, the day in December when though in a coma, Katie signed "I love you".  Dad's rock.

Katie’s dad, Dave, the day in December when though in a coma, Katie signed “I love you”. Dad’s rock.

From the moment a mother knows her baby is on the way, she is protecting it. Taking folic acid and eating right and exercising (unless you’re me and then you eat tater tots and ice cream and grow to the size of an NFL lineman). We read to our babies inside us. We plan rooms and buy the right cribs, buy darling little outfits and blankets and little hats to keep the little baby head warm. We make sure the car seat is installed correctly and the baby faces backwards for a year. Katie, moms make sure the house is baby-proofed, that our little people wear bike helmets, and walk on the sidewalk, we practice letters and numbers with our tiny scholars, and make lunches and beds, and apply sunscreen.

Mothers do every single thing we can think of to keep our children safe from bruised knees, broken arms, broken hearts. Unfortunately we can’t control everything and we aren’t meant to. The goal of all this tending to our children is so that they will eventually grow up and take care of themselves. Slowly, children gain more and more independence, from putting their shoes on by themselves, to making their own toast, to walking to school, reading alone, the list goes on and on. We have to let you go out into the world and roll the dice.

And sometimes when you go out into the world horrible things happen.

Katie, this is why there are so many people praying for you and thinking about you daily. Because you are all of our children. There isn’t a mother worth her weight in varicose veins, who doesn’t realize it could have been our child in the accident. You have become a daughter to all of us. Especially to us moms who have teenage daughters, you are the beautiful girl that owns our hearts, who we have to set free.

And your mom is all of us.  We have all cried for your mother, not knowing anything else to do. We know the fear that goes with injury to one of our cubs. Moms can make all the casseroles in the world but that can’t fix an injured child or replace the ferocious love we have for our children. We all feel for your mother and we all thank God everyday that we don’t have to be as strong as she is. And we all know the strength it takes to keep all the balls in the air, the hospital, the house, the doctors, on and on. And there is your sister and your dad, and the mom has to take care of everyone she loves. It’s a big job and we are all so proud of Trina.

lenin mom

3. Renewal. Life is rough. There is so much bad news every damn day. Plane crashes and tornadoes, politics and business, it can all be so overwhelming.  In the midst of the 24-hour news cycle madness, life can still get through to us. At the most unexpected times, in the most unexpected ways, life brings renewal and hope and awareness of a much larger picture. The spiritual journey that we have traveled with you through a Facebook page has been uplifting and uniting. I’m Catholic and have a deep faith but as a Catholic, I’m not much of a bible reader. If I need to know it, it’s probably in the missal 🙂 I have read some beautiful passages from the Bible on your Facebook page, most I have never read before. Those passages have lifted my spirit, as I hope they have lifted yours.

Your life these past almost six months has inspired thousands to remember what is really important during our time in this world, that can all too often be much too short. You, Miss Katie, are a miracle. Not just for being on this planet today and walking (!) into school today but because you have shown thousands of people what true character and might look like. You have reminded us to love our children and our parents.

I hope to meet you and your family soon. You have all had a great impact on me, on my parenting and on my faith.

In advance, please excuse me if I completely fall apart when I finally lay eyes on you. I’m like that.

Happy Friday Miss Katie!

xoxox

Maggie

 

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Parenting Disclosures from my Childhood

I am happy to report that three days in, the new rules at my house are still working. No one has missed the Volvo bus to school. The girls understood the situation that while I was really upset on Sunday, this is not a punishment but more a reorganization. Thank you all for your comments, FB comments, and emails regarding this issue. I always appreciate hearing from friends, old and new, and I was happy to know I wasn’t alone with my beautiful monsters.

Mitch and I had lunch yesterday to discuss the girls, the new normal, summer jobs, etc. And we are on the same page with everything, he really never had morning issues with them so he doesn’t need to make changes in that area. We agreed that we bear much of the responsibility for the girls’ behavior. We both have tended to just do things ourselves because it is easier. This eruption has been years in the making but we have not wanted to deal with it.

Before we even had kids, Mitch was pointing out that some of my child rearing principles might be a bit off. I assured him that he was most definitely wrong and the way my parents did it was absolutely correct.

So here is some background on how I was raised.

My mother did everything. Everything. There are four kids in my family: me, John (16 months younger), Katie and Molly (twins 6 years younger than I am). One dad and usually two dogs. My mother got up at 5 a.m. just to have some time to herself with coffee, cigarette and her reading material for the day. Her reading material wasn’t the newspaper, it was all the notes left on the stove by her children the night before.

“Mom, Could you please hem these jeans so I can wear them tomorrow? Thanks!”

“Mom, please type this paper for me, it’s due 3rd period and has to be double spaced.” No computers back then.

“Mom, can I have only carrots and crackers in my lunch today?”

“Mom, can you iron this for me?”

Not kidding.

My mother in 1973 when she had an 8 year old, 7 year old and twin 2 year olds.

My mother in 1973 when she had an 8 year old, 7 year old and twin 2 year olds.

My mother taught me how to do laundry the summer before I went to college, which ruined the gig for my sisters because my mom realized the monster she had created.

I didn’t use an alarm clock till I went away to college. My mother would wake me up every morning, sitting on my bed and saying, “Maggie, now is the hour.” During my mother’s annual trips back east to visit her family, we would be left alone with my father which was terrifying on many levels. First of all, he didn’t know how to properly wake us up and would just walk down the hall pounding on doors and barking, “Get up!” He didn’t buy much at the grocery store other than canned soup and ice cream, although he did buy just about every flavor of both. So we had it pretty rough when mom was gone.

Come to think of it, I can’t remember how I took my Tetracycline for my acne when my mom was out of town. Mom and I had it down to a science. I had to take the medication an hour before I ate anything, which was tough because I like to eat as soon as I get up so we worked out a system.

How to give teenage Maggie medication:

  1. Enter her room quietly around 5 a.m. holding one Tetracycline pill and a glass of water.
  2. Gently nudge Maggie awake.
  3. Maggie will hold out her hand.
  4. Place pill in Maggie’s hand.
  5. Maggie will put pill in her mouth and hold out her hand again.
  6. Place glass of water in Maggie’s hand.
  7. Maggie will swallow the pill with a gulp of water and hand the glass back.
  8. Quietly leave Maggie’s room. Return in an hour to wake her for school.

If all goes as it should, Maggie will not have ever opened her eyes.

I don’t know how I wound up spoiling my children.

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An Open Letter to My Daughters

Dear Annie and Brigid,

Your nonchalant refusal to take me up on my invitation yesterday to join me on my trip to the cemetery to take flowers to my parents was completely thoughtless, showing that you have hit new lows in self-indulgent, inconsiderate behavior. You were not only disrespectful to me, you were disrespectful to my parents, your grandparents.

Please let me remind you that BaBa and MéMé were caring for you, in Annie’s case, when you were just a couple of weeks old. My mother was my daycare until you were six months old. Who do you think was funding the weeks in Gearhart and Palm Springs when you were little kids? Who do you think bought the tickets for the first TWO Broadway musicals you saw? Who was paying for Waverley Country Club so you could swim and have people bring you popcorn and lemonade and anything else you wanted? My parents adored you two, nothing made them happier than having you around.

And you two couldn’t take less than an hour out of your busy, busy Easter Sunday to accompany me to pay your respects to two people who definitely deserve them.

winechildren

You two have heard me comment more than once, if you want to understand children’s bad behavior you need only look at the parents. I am a lot of things but I hope to never be hypocritical so since your refusal to join me yesterday, I have been thinking about you both and how your father and I have raised you. You are both polite, charming, kind people. I have never once had a complaint from a friend, family member, another parent or teacher about your behavior. So that’s all good.

Unfortunately, dad and I have clearly not instilled in you a sense of respect for your parents and family. You have been overly-indulged and catered to. So I gotta fix that.

As I told you yesterday, I will no longer be waking you up or concerning myself with whether or not you have breakfast or lunch. You are 14 and 16, you can handle that yourselves. On regular days, I will be in the car at 7:15. On late opening days, I will be in the car at 9:05. If you are in the car, I will take you to school. If you are not, you’re on your own. Any tardies or absences are on you and will go unexcused by me. Once Annie has her license, you will be entirely on your own in the morning.

You will be making dinner on Tuesday nights from now on. You will plan the menu, make it, serve it and clean up. Let me know what groceries you need (for this and anything else) and I will get them.

You will be expected to feed the animals, clean and sweep the litter box area, and load/unload the dishwasher, clean the kitchen and keep the big room downstairs and your bathroom clean. Every. Day. What you do with your rooms, is your business but the common area must be clean. I will no longer do your laundry and that includes your bedding.

c-section-meme

Here’s the big one….Summer employment. I suggest you start now and get summer jobs. If you do not, I will get them for you. This means applying at parks and rec, country clubs, retail although that may be tough with your ages. Camp Counselors. Oregon Humane Society. Dove Lewis. Habitat. If you need ideas, I can help you. But make no mistake, you two are not spending the summer sleeping and hanging out with your friends. I started working 40 hours a week the summer before I entered high school. I have been remiss in requiring you to work. It builds character and apparently you two are in need of that.

I think you both know that I am your biggest supporter and have worked hard to ensure you are happy and have nice lives. I have gone overboard and need to make some adjustments. It is embarrassing to write this as I’m sure some people are going to be thinking “what the hell is she doing?” And I’m embarrassed for both of you.

This one left a mark but ultimately I believe we will all be the better for it.

Much love,

Mom

 

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A Miraculous Good Friday to You!

Ten years ago on Good Friday my dad was dying. Not like, he was sick and frail and was going to die soon. Dying. Multiple organ failure and that Friday his kidneys were beginning to fail. Renal failure generally means you aren’t long for this world. He had been ill for weeks. My parents came home early from Palm Springs, a trip he never had any memory of. When they returned to Portland they went to St. Vincent’s hospital for testing and then home and then back to the hospital for close to two weeks and that was when the organ failure from congestive heart failure almost got him.

I was married to Mitch then, stay-at-home mom and the girls were 4 and 6. I remember Matea, the cleaning lady (who was only in her 20s at the time) was working. My father “discovered” her. She called him “Sir”, even when referring to him. “How is Sir?” instead of “How is your father?” Matea has a thriving business today and I will say that is in no small part due to my father’s efforts to spread the word about how great she is. Anyway, Matea was at the house, all 4’10” of her and she said, “I so sorry Maggie” and I fell apart and cried all over her.

Good Friday is a horribly sad day. This past Sunday, Palm Sunday, I teared up as I do every year at the reading of the Passion.

‘My Father,’ he said, ‘if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.’

That line gets me every time. Jesus was human and he knew what was coming and reeeaaallly did not want to do it.  The story is so awful. A good man was taunted, tortured, and murdered. He was abandoned by those He trusted. What a dark and empty day. And that is how I felt, that day in 2004. So sad and scared.

I have a strong faith and I have never asked “God, why are you doing this?” When the shit comes down, I’m not blaming God,  I’m praying for God’s support and when necessary just letting Him handle it because I can’t. This is the season of miracles and back in 2004, the miracle came in the form of Dr. H. Dr. H was a friend of my dad’s and also the Chief of Internal Medicine at St. Vincent’s Hospital. And he had one more thing to throw into the mix and if that didn’t work, we would have to say goodbye to my Dad and I knew none of us were ready for that.

And on the third day he rose again. “He”, in this case, being my father. On Easter Sunday, the nuclear antibiotic that was being IV’d into my dad began working and brought him back! Miracles don’t have to be supernatural, sometimes miracles are trained professionals and modern medicine. Sometimes miracles are foster parents or paramedics. Sometimes miracles are good Samaritans or teachers or friends or dogs or technology. And I always thank God whenever a miracle happens.

adorable-candy-help-distract-easter-ecard-someecards

In other Holy Week news. Derwood is being confirmed into the Church tomorrow night. That amazes me. I certainly didn’t ask him to convert, this is something he has been thinking about long before he met me and this is the year he’s doing it. I can’t imagine picking a religion and putting it on. To me, it is a true leap of faith. And when you throw Catholicism into the mix, dear God!

The Catholic Church is a mess just as any huge bureaucracy is a mess and I have been appalled at the priest sex abuse scandal, the coverup, the greed, etc of the humans who run the organization that is the Catholic Church but it has never affected my faith. I love Catholicism because you always have the chance to start over. Every single day. I don’t find the Church to be one of hellfire and damnation but one of forgiveness. No matter how far gone you may feel, you can always start over again. There is always that opportunity to live a little longer, a little better, a little happier.

We had my dad with us for another year and a half. That was a miracle.

Derwood is taking on the mystery of faith tomorrow night and that to me is a miracle. I am so proud and so in awe of his decision. And he will have his new beginning, which I’m sure will rub off on this ol’ cradle Catholic and give me a new perspective and interest in my faith and religion.

Happy Easter. I hope the renewal and miracle of Easter stays with you throughout the year.

 

Just two Catholics just takin' a selfie.

Two Catholics just takin’ a selfie.

 

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A Life Story That Got Me Thinkin’

The ever brilliant David Dixon’s post last week ties in exactly with this post so go look at it.

Fabulous, right?

My parents used to call the Obituary section of the newspaper “The Irish Sports Page”. Like them, I read the obits every day. I love the stories which most of the time make me smile although there are those heartbreakers in there.  So much of life is encapsulated in the obituaries; life’s tragedies and triumphs, marriages, divorces, accidents, celebrations, war, friends, family, neighbors, history, community….all in the obituaries.

I spotted an obituary a week or so ago, it caught my eye because it was so long. The deceased, William Wood Wessinger, was born in 1917 so of course, it was a long obituary….there was a lot of ground to cover. Mr. Wessinger was born in his family’s home in Portland in 1917.  He went to school,  he was a Boy Scout, played sports, went to college. Like many American men of his generation, he enlisted in the army in 1941. He was a harbor master and was decommissioned in 1945.

After the war, Bill took a job in Eastern Oregon as a freight forwarder and then returned to Portland working for Luckenbach Steamship Company. He met his future wife, Patricia, at a homecoming party held in his honor in 1945. The two were married for 65 years and had five children and 14 grandchildren.

In 1949, he went to work for his family’s business as an assistant treasurer and went to school at night taking accounting classes and eventually earned his CPA in 1951. During the ’50s he worked closely with his brother to get the family business headed in the right direction as it had been been failing since the end of the war. The two brothers worked closely together for nearly 50 years.

Photo courtesy Oregonlive.com

Photo of William Wood Wessinger courtesy Oregonlive.com

Bill was civic-minded, working for numerous public and private charities and causes over the course of his lifetime.  He clearly was not interested in the spotlight because the only photo I can find of him is shown above and was the one his family selected to put in the paper for his obit. He was an outdoorsy man who loved climbing mountains and skiing. He slowed down after his wife died in 2011 but continued to be close to his family and walking his dog, Cowboy, who he got as a rescue from the Oregon Humane Society.

That’s a nice story isn’t it? I am a pro at reading obituaries and I can read between the lines.  Oftentimes, obits will list all these professional accomplishments and at the very end mention that so and so had a spouse and children. Yee, that’s not good. Mr. Wessinger’s obituary is not like that at all. He was clearly close to his siblings and parents, had a long and fruitful marriage, was involved in a ton of athletic activities with his wife and kids, did more than his fair share for non-profits, etc. A full life, well-lived.

Soooooo….this is what I got to thinking about….

What I didn’t mention about Mr. Wessinger is he is from a very prominent Portland family and the business was Blitz-Weinhard Brewery, which is now owned by SAB Miller. Which is neither here nor there, except for the fact that this man didn’t just sit around living off his grandfather’s money. He grew up in privilege moving to Dunthorpe when it was a new Portland neighborhood, he went to Cornell and played lacrosse.

BUT he also enlisted in the army and was a WWII vet. He worked. He went to school at night. He was married to the same woman for 65 years. He created one of Oregon’s great success stories with Henry Weinhard’s Brewery. The list is long of all the charities he supported, he helped create the first student housing at Portland State University, he was a quiet philanthropist who has left a strong legacy in the arts and outdoors in the Portland area and throughout the state.

Um, Paris Hilton…what are you up to? Do you think the latest generation (not the Greatest, the latest) is up to the task of being responsible tenders of their forebears’ legacies?

To those whom much is given, much is expected.    John F. Kennedy

It seems, based upon absolutely no research of mine at all, that the latest generation of old money families is more focused on Celebrity than participating, than working, than recognizing that their privilege gives them unique opportunities to affect change, to support arts and letters, to create, to help communities and the world at large. They are partying and becoming faux-celebrities who have accomplished nothing.

I have been running the Google on wealthy American families and the word I am looking for is “celebutante”. These are the offspring of wealthy people who go on to be famous because of how much money their family has. Think Hilton and Kardashian.

One of the country’s wealthiest families is the Hearst family. The movie Citizen Kane is a fictionalized account of William Randolph Hearst, founder of the family media empire. Some of you may remember Patty Hearst, granddaughter of William, in the 70s she was kidnapped and brainwashed by the domestic terrorist group the Symbionese Liberation Army. During her time in captivity, she joined the SLA and is now a convicted bank robber. It was a really weird story. She has since married and has two adult daughters who are both “models” and “actresses”. Her daughter Gillian has been a strong supporter of condom use. Not in Africa to stop the spread of AIDS, just when you’re screwin’ around definitely use a condom.

The Johnson family of baby shampoo fame is a fairly hot mess what with one of the brothers on trial for sexually abusing his step-daughter. The family has a long list of scandalous stories but one of the more recent is the death of Casey Johnson, daughter of NY Jets owner Woody Johnson.  She died at the age of 30 from drugs or diabetes or organ failure but probably she just died of too much money and being engaged to Tila Tequila.

The Bronfman girls, Clare and Sara, heiresses to the Seagrams liquor fortune are in some sort of trouble because of $150 million that has gone to a cult.

In these super-wealthy families, I’m finding many of them are on the boards of the companies or foundations. It is hard to find information on them probably because they don’t want the publicity and don’t get it unless something really awful happens.

Is it not just them?

Perhaps I am being unfair, are the upcoming generations all more spoiled than the ones that came before? I know I was required to work 40 hours/week during the summer at my dad’s office starting the summer before I entered high school. My kids have never held jobs like that. What do you think?

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Snow Weekend in Portland

Snow storms don’t hit Portland, Oregon very often. We had a huge storm five years ago which I didn’t enjoy as much as I should have because my mother had died 8-10 weeks previous so I wasn’t in a good mood. And, it was over Christmas. Portland shuts down when snow shows up so, at the time, we couldn’t get off our street and wound up with no Christmas tree.

This time…we have had the perfect storm. It started snowing Thursday around lunch time. And snowed all day through Saturday when freezing rain moved in. It’s still so beautiful and monochromatic.

Derwood and I have had a lovely weekend. Lots of food, wine, movies, crackling fires. This is what a snowstorm should be!!!

Here is my photo album.

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Front Yard pics

Front Yard pics

The Mudd Series:

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These are my artistic shots.  I think art should include recycling bins when possible.

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Before it got too deep and the freezing rain started, I let the cat go out. Now I won’t, so she walks around crying. There is nothing better than non-stop cat whining.

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The photo below is the height of the snow.  And tomorrow (Monday) afternoon….it will warm up and it will just be raining. I gotta say though, this was the perfect storm. The girls were safe and warm (if not “booorreeddd” at their dad’s, no fault of his)  Derwood had chains put on his car Thursday during his 3-4 hour commute home. The weather was beautiful. We walked the dawg. Had roaring fires. Good food and wine. We watched movies…. Prisoners (NO), Enough Said (the most authentic movie I’ve ever seen), Dallas Buyers Club (my second viewing, one of my most fave movies ever).

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And they lived happily ever after.

During this brutally cold winter, remember your local homeless shelters. For my Portland readers, Portland Rescue Mission is one of the best..

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