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Friday, May 7, 2010

The retirement of The Portland Upside

After printing our 12th issue in April, we have decided to stop publishing The Portland Upside. We spent time weighing various options (less-frequent publishing, online-only version, nonprofit status, etc.), and concluded that we are tired and are drawn to do something different.

Publishing the paper over the past year has been a fulfilling endeavor, one that we are happy to have achieved. The positive stories published in the Upside were read by thousands, brightening lives and highlighting Portland's goodness.

Thank you to each of you that helped create, support, promote and distribute the Upside. It was a shining success, and we could not have done it without you.

Sara and Rob Bednark, publishers/editors of The Portland Upside

(We will continue to maintain the website so people can continue to enjoy the issues and stories. We can be reached by the above phone number and email address, or contact Rob at and Sara at


Monday, April 5, 2010

A common bond

Breast cancer survivors swim together and support one another

By Patty Rubin
The Portland Upside
April 2010

(Left to right) Pat McGee, Dorothy Burns, Mary Schifferdecker, Pauline Gieber, Eva Hahn, and Claudia Pfenning built close relationships beyond their weekly swim to stay healthy.

About ten years ago I met the group of ladies at Howard Hall pool in the locker room as they were dressing after their swim. I could tell there was something special about them; I just didn’t yet know what it was. They swim every Thursday morning from ten to eleven o’clock and then go out to lunch together. They are, if one considers age alone, what you would call senior citizens.

We struck up a conversation. One teased, in a Phyllis Diller sort of way, about her husband and his habit of cluttering up the garage with too many used golf clubs and carts. Another talked about how cold it was in the locker room as she shuffled off to get a warm shower.

The group that brought these ladies together is not really exclusive and it is one that any woman would prefer not to belong to... It is called Encore. Formed in Portland, Oregon, in 1981 by the late Virginia Schrunk and the late Mildred Perrin, Encore is a support group for women who’ve had breast cancer.

I looked forward to seeing the women every week and admired the positive way they savored each moment of their daily lives. The group consisted of Pat McGee, Dorothy Burns, Pauline Gieber, Eva Hahn, Mary Schifferdecker, and Claudia Pfenning. They began swimming at the YMCA pool until their lifeguard made an inquiry with the University of Portland for the private use of the Howard Hall pool.

Their purpose was not as much about swimming as about each other.

I had lunch with Pat, Pauline and Dorothy at their regular weekly haunt, the Fishwife on Lombard. As we sat together, I began to ask some questions meant to capture their stories and the horrors they felt about breast cancer. I wanted them to talk about themselves. But they kept going back to the same thing, their friendship and how much they meant to each other. Fear and pity were only present in my imagination. I put aside my questions and just listened.

Pauline, sweet and pensive, cute and quiet, was long retired from the Kaiser Pharmacy. At 88, she was the oldest of the group. Her breast cancer came in 1981. She now spends the afternoons quietly with her husband or watching TV. She doesn’t swim anymore, but shows up each week to support the others.

Pat, funny and interesting, outgoing and beautiful, is the youngest at 71 years old. She was diagnosed in 1980 and right from the start let her doctor know she wanted reconstructive surgery. This was not the norm for all women at that time. She learned to stick up for herself while working for the railroad.

“You didn’t get any information until the doctor said this is what you are going to do,” Pat said.

Dorothy, sensitive, lovely, charming and bright, is 82 years old. She lost her husband two years ago, and celebrates birthdays and holidays regularly now with her friends. Although Dorothy could not remember the exact year she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she figured it was probably 1986. The corners of her eyes filled with tears as she spoke about a member of their extended group whose cancer had returned.

Eva Hahn could not join her friends because she had recently had a stroke. She did, however, send her written reflection.

“Because each of us has had breast cancer, we understand what that means. So we have understanding. We are interested in each others lives and we depend on each other. We try to comfort each other when life deals us sorrow. We are grateful to have each other, and while we are not grateful for breast cancer, it has brought us together.”


Five years have passed since I wrote this article and still the memories of the mornings at the pool will be with me forever. Pauline and Mary have passed away. Pat and Dorothy continued to swim until a few years ago when they could no longer get in and out of the pool. They keep active and see each other when they can.

On my last visit the glow of their joy for life still inspires me and reminds me of the beauty of the human spirit.

Patty Rubin grew up in Portland and attended the University of Portland. She has a son and a daughter. She taught English in middle school and now works at the University of Portland. She is working on a series of positive essays for a book.


Man helps others memorialize family, friends

By Deb Stone
The Portland Upside
April 2010

Photo by Robert Holcomb

Bill Myers has voluntarily taken over 13,000 photos of gravestones around Portland and made them available on the Web for others to see.

Imagine yourself in the picturesque city of Kalmar situated in southeast Sweden near the Baltic Sea. You are wondering why your grandfather left this industrial city in 1928, making his way to the United States. You wonder where his body was laid to rest. That’s where the Find A Grave website comes in.

Jim Tipton founded Find A Grave in 1995, creating the website as an offshoot of his own hobby of visiting the gravesites of famous individuals. The site became popular with genealogists when it expanded to house millions of records of non-famous individuals.

These records are created, edited and maintained by volunteer contributors. Consumers are not charged to search for family records or to make requests for photographs. Volunteers create memorials, update information, upload photographs and place virtual flowers on memorials for free.

Before the Internet age, researching genealogists spent hours writing letters to record repositories, visiting libraries to scan microfiche, or traveling to places where earlier generations made their lives. It was an expensive hobby. But the Internet greatly expanded information access and spread from urban to rural areas, creating communication byways across international lines. Sites grew into million dollar industries charging annual membership fees to access historical information.

In 2004, broadband Internet expanded to include almost all areas of Sweden. In early April 2009, Inger Sylén Johanson, of Kalmar, Sweden, had been looking for information about her grandfather, Jon Söderberg. She found an old letter where he was mentioned by name, and she was able to discern that he had served in WW I for the United States. He had returned to Sweden and had a son. Then he had immigrated to the U.S. for the remainder of his life. She posted a request on the Find A Grave website for a volunteer to locate and photograph his gravesite in Portland, Oregon.

“After a few days,” writes Johanson’s husband Chris, “an email arrived with the photo from the cemetery.”

The photo was taken by Bill Myers. Bill is one of 400,000 volunteers who provide free information and photographs in response to requests on Find A Grave. When a person like Inger posts a request, the website automatically sends an email to registered members within 25 miles of the requested gravesite. Those volunteers can choose to claim the request—that is, promise to visit and photograph the site within two weeks. If nobody claims the request, it remains posted on Find A Grave until someone chooses to fill it.

Bill has volunteered with Find A Grave since 2001, following the death of his first wife, Julee Jo Rea Myers, who passed away at age 45 from brain cancer. Bill wanted to memorialize her short life for their children and her extended family. While many funeral home websites offer a memorial page for family members to post the obituary and photograph of a loved one, the sites often require payment to maintain the online tribute. Bill joined Find A Grave and created a permanent, free, memorial page where family and friends can see her photographs, leave messages of condolence, and place virtual flowers at her site.

Each memorial provides space for birth and death records, names of children and parents, a biography, up to five photographs, and room for messages and virtual gifts. The person who creates the record owns the memorial and maintains control over the information on that page. In many cases, such as Julee’s page, a family member owns the record. But other memorials are created by strangers like Bill as a good deed paid forward.

Once Bill completed Julee’s memorial page, he realized there were probably many individuals who might like photographs of their family members’ final resting places. He was so moved by the history evoked at the Lake Oswego Pioneer Cemetery where Julee was buried that he decided to photograph all the headstones in the cemetery. He wanted to add them to Find A Grave. In order to post a photograph, he had to create a memorial page for each individual, entering the data from the headstone.

People searching Find A Grave on their own began contacting him to ask that a memorial he had created be transferred to them because the deceased person was a relative of theirs. Find A Grave permits the original creator of a memorial to transfer a page to another member for ongoing maintenance.

Bill also began receiving requests for photographs of cemetery plots in the Portland area from individuals living across the United States. He would stop at cemeteries on his way to and from work to fill those requests.

“Willamette National is so large and tons of requests come in,” Bill says. “So I hit that on the way home.”

River View Cemetery, on the hill overlooking the Sellwood Bridge, always has requests. He stops there often, too.

Bill is a U.S. Army veteran and he respects individuals who have served in the military. He decided to photograph all the headstones for Spanish American War veterans at River View Cemetery. He took two photographs of each headstone—about 600 photos in all—and created memorial sites on Find A Grave for each of the veterans. He then uploaded their headstone picture, even offering a CD of all the photographs to the cemetery itself.

Photographing headstones may not seem like an interesting hobby to some, but Bill’s background is in the color print industry where he started with letter press, learned paste-up and film stripping, then made the transition to digital media, learning to edit, clean, and tweak photos. He now operates Bill’s Photo Restoration and Archiving where he restores aged or damaged photos. Offering CDs of historical photographs seemed like a natural progression.

As a volunteer, Bill has added over 4,575 memorials to Find A Grave and uploaded over 13,000 photographs. He has claimed and filled over 412 photograph requests from family members around the world, including the one from Inger Johanson.

“I read her request,” says Bill, “so I shagged it down.”

He eventually located John Soderberg’s grave in Willamette National Cemetery. The photograph of his headstone reads: JOHN SODERBERG, PVT, US ARMY, Jun. 9, 1889 – Dec. 6, 1974.

”This photo means a lot to my wife,” wrote Chris Johanson. “It was the first time she had something tangible…to prove there was a person, a grandfather who had lived, even though far away from Sweden.”

Not all photograph requests are for family members. Bill has filled requests for those who wondered what happened to a buddy who served beside them in combat, and for individuals who wanted to list the final resting place for a classmate in the program of a class reunion.

“We are preparing for our 50th high school reunion,” wrote Nancy Phillips from Des Moines, Iowa, “and Marvin Harner was one of our classmates.”

Given the finite nature of human life, there is no end to the number of potential requests. As of March 2010, the Find A Grave site claims to host over 43 million records which may be accessed free at any time.


Find out more about Find A Grave at Visit Bill Myer’s Photo Restoration & Archiving at, or contact Bill at or 971-832-1465.

Deb Stone is a freelance writer from Beavercreek, Oregon, whose work has appeared in The Oregonian, The Portland Tribune, Asylum, Oregon Gourmet Foods, Poetic Voices, Kid-Bits and Willamette Writers.


Finding her voice

Brenda Maldonado, coordinator of the Multicultural Center at PCC Rock Creek, inspires and encourages students to find their own voices to make a difference.

By Meryl Lipman
The Portland Upside
April 2010

Brenda Maldonado

Depending on the day or event, the contents of Brenda Maldonado’s car say much about the work she does in her multiple roles at Portland Community College (PCC).

On January 22, her beleaguered Subaru carried 8,300 pounds of food to the Oregon Food Bank in Hillsboro. Brenda got the idea for an MLK food drive at the PCC Rock Creek Campus after reading a statistic on increasing hunger in Washington County. She challenged her students to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Day by doing service, “to see poverty as more than a conversation.”

As PCC Rock Creek’s Multicultural Center & Retention Coordinator, she convinced 105 students and 20 staffers to sacrifice their vacation day, January 18th, to stand outside supermarkets collecting food cans for Oregon Food Bank.

When Brenda arrived at PCC four years ago, she challenged herself to expand the campus’ multicultural center, which she says consisted of “students sitting all over my desk.” For the ambitious 30-year-old, advocacy meant pressing the college administration for money, an office, and a room for the students. The Rock Creek Multicultural Center is now a thriving hub of languages, music, food and conversation.

Brenda also introduced PCC to Semana de la Raza, a Latino culture and advocacy celebration that has grown over three years to become a district-wide community event at the Rock Creek campus. Every December Brenda rallies students, faculty, and staff, as well as speakers, artists and musicians for the April festival. She scrounges in her own and others’ budgets, negotiates with administrators, and cajoles sponsors and booking agents to secure Teatro Milagro, Michelle Serros, Juana Bordas and others to come to Rock Creek.

The growth of Semana has not been without trials. Rock Creek’s Associate Dean of Students, Heather Lang, recalls an incident two years ago when the festival banner was vandalized with hate slurs. Brenda gathered her student volunteers and asked what they wanted to do. With her help, they organized an impromptu speak-out on campus that empowered everyone.

“Brenda handled it with such patience and grace,” says Heather.

Patience and grace may have been survival tools for Brenda in her youth. Deaf for the first five years of her life after an ear infection, she was shuttled between her native Puerto Rico and Pennsylvania for surgeries. When her hearing was restored, she learned to speak Spanish and English at the same time.

The family moved often, as her father was, at different times, a minister and a soldier in the U.S. military. When Brenda was a teenager, her grandmother, the rock of the family, suffered a stroke, and her father came out as a gay man living with HIV. Her mother has spent a lifetime struggling with mental illness and she was often violent in those early years. Brenda also remembers sleeping on the floor most nights.

“The family was very poor,” she says.

Brenda admits that her job at PCC provides a unique vehicle for “inside work.” She has partnered with veterans’ groups, anti-poverty campaigns, and the campus’ Gay Straight Alliance, but she says she is not ready to take a platform on child abuse.

“It’s still too raw,” she says. “Someday…”

As a hearing-impaired, non-verbal child, Brenda concedes that her work helping students find their voices could be a grand metaphor.

“I see a lot of students who are voiceless. I see a lot of dim lights who’ve been told they won’t amount to anything. But I see amazing human beings so I push them. I’m a pusher,” she laughs.
Brenda embraces difficult discussions while helping students find their voices. She is involved with Rock Creek’s “Open Mind – Open Mic” and a more structured series of round tables called “Courageous Conversations.” She mentors several PCC programs including Oregon Leadership Institute, in which Latino first generation college students mentor high school students from similar backgrounds. She also mentors international students, as well as graduates of her programs. She even organizes a multicultural graduation ceremony for international students and others whose families might be overwhelmed by the large PCC graduation at the Rose Garden Arena.

Yet Brenda still finds time to take her activism off campus, improve herself and have a little fun.
Over spring break she plans to do first aid at the Arizona-Mexico border because she believes medical care is a right, even for desperate Mexicans crossing into the U.S. illegally.

And one Thursday a month Brenda packs her car full of books and an overnight case, and heads to Silver Falls where she’s finding her own voice by studying for a PhD in Education with an emphasis on community college leadership.

Brenda is not all business, however. Although she will gladly trade vacation days for service work, there are non-negotiable times when Brenda’s car is reserved for her snowboard and shredding the slopes on Mt. Hood with a posse of boarder friends.

In February she put together a ski trip and lessons for 20 of her students. Several had never before seen snow.

“Combining my two loves, my students and snowboarding, was pretty darn cool,” she says.

Indeed, dressed most days in jeans and a t-shirt, Brenda’s students see her as approachable and just plain cool. She is like them, only older and farther along on her path.

And although she works and studies full time, Heather Lang says she has never heard Brenda complain.

“Brenda just doesn’t put that energy out there,” says Heather.

Brenda’s strategy for success may well be that she takes great care with her voice, avoiding negativity. She sums it up best:

“I’m not interested in drama and I don’t want to fall into a victim mentality, so I don’t engage. I don’t care who’s talking about whom. I care if they’re hungry or safe at home.”


Meryl Lipman has a masters in writing from PSU and has worked for Portland Community College since 2003. In her spare time she loves to travel and jump out of airplanes.


From the editors

Rob & Sara Bednark
The Portland Upside
April 2010

“How’s the paper going?” is a common question we get asked nowadays. We answer a variety of ways depending on the day, how well we know the person asking the question and how close we are to a publication deadline.

Truthfully, it is going well.

We are pleased with the quality of the publication we are putting out. Each month many new and committed readers pick up the printed version of the Upside around the Portland metro area and many more visit our website to read the online version. We’re getting great feedback from our readers, advertisers and the subjects of our articles. The number of volunteers who write, photograph and distribute for the Portland Upside is growing and becoming more diverse.

But the truth is, also, that our funds are running out. From the beginning, we’ve focused on keeping our expenses low and we’ve been able to create 12 great issues, financed not only from advertising, sponsorship, and donations, but primarily from our savings account.

We love publishing the Upside but we need more financial support to continue supplying Portland with the best good news in town. If you enjoy reading it and want to see it continue, please support the Upside with a donation, sponsorship, or advertising.


Go online to to donate or get more info about advertising and sponsorship. Contact Sara & Rob at 503-663-1526 or Or send your donation to The Portland Upside, 10013 SE Eastmont Dr, Damascus, OR 97089


What people are saying about The Portland Upside

The Portland Upside
April 2010

“A friend just sent me a copy of your paper. I read every word. What a breath of fresh air!”

Beth Enos, Portland, Oregon

“Someone is leaving your newspaper in our office and I must say it’s so nice to discover a change! I gladly read The Portland Upside, it’s simple being is a joy. You’ve got the ideas that a lot of us are searching for and it’s like a reward from front page to last.”

Stephen W. O’Curran, Gresham, Oregon

“I just came across The Portland Upside this week and said to myself, ‘Finally, a newspaper with a heart, positive thoughts and positive stories that make everyone that read it develop a smile of hope.’ Congratulations on your achievement. ”

Veronica Esagui, West Linn, Oregon

Send your comments to


Mortgages, marriage, and making time

By Matt Elerding
The Portland Upside
April 2010

Photo by Briena Sash,

“Hello Matt, it’s Jack.”

“Jack! Good to hear your voice. How are you?”

“Um, not so good. Diane and I are getting a divorce. I need to do a refinance in order to buy-out her half of the equity.”

“Oh man, I am so sorry to hear that, Jack. What happened?”

“You know, Matt. I’m not entirely sure…”

And so it begins. A failed marriage results in a new mortgage loan.

I write about fifty of these ‘divorce loans’ a year, about one per week on average. It is a sad and humbling process fraught with emotion, anger and fear. I have handled countless numbers of these loans and I suspect I will handle countless more.

But no matter how many times my phone rings or my email chimes as the result of a divorce, it is a part of my job that saddens me to the bone. It is something I will never get used to.

So I started asking why. I really wanted to know. Why does this happen on such a consistent basis? I would ask this question of the poor soul on the other end of the phone line. I would ask them what went wrong.

It’s not my business, of course. It’s certainly not part of the loan process, but if I felt I had enough of a connection and rapport with the client, I would begin to peel back the layers of onion, tears and all, to find out just what, exactly, went wrong.

Surprisingly, it’s not the biggies we have come to expect. People Magazine and Inside Edition would have us believe that “irreconcilable differences” involve infidelity, drug and alcohol addiction, verbal and physical abuse, or the intoxicating allure of too many trips to the blackjack tables. But after 12 years of writing these painful loans I have found the real culprit, the surreptitious killer of marital bliss, is the lack of communication.

While this seemingly simple explanation may elicit a “Well, duh!” from the peanut gallery, I have found that it is the most common reason I receive when I ask the question. More often than not it is the growing apart of two people that eventually has them calling a cavalcade of characters to help them divvy up the fine china and the Visa card balance—the lawyer to file the divorce, the realtor to sell the family home, and the loan officer to write the mortgage.

It seems comically ironic that at a time when communication whistles around the globe in a nanosecond and we are all armed with Batman utility belts dangling BlackBerrys and iPhones, Facebook and Twitter, half of all marriages fizzle due to a lack of communication.

It is only now that I have file cabinets filled with the loans of irreconcilable differences, that I have begun to appreciate the depth of what it means to communicate with one’s spouse.

About six years ago own marriage began to veer off the smooth ride of the paved interstate and on to a bumpy and unfamiliar road of frustration and sadness. I was working too much, grumpy all the time, and before long I came home to a wife who was fed up with the path we were on.

Desperate to find a solution to the unraveling of my own home-life, I hired a personal coach. I dove headlong into a series of conference calls, challenging assignments, and browbeating accountability. I was absolutely determined to get my life, and my wife, back.

One of my assignments was to schedule Date Night into my calendar. I was given explicit directions that I was NOT to simply ‘try and schedule a date night every now and then’ but rather, I was to schedule this into my life as a non-negotiable activity. I was to treat this calendared event like a meeting with the ever-important client. I was NOT to miss or reschedule it.

Everything changed.

Marriage is an extraordinarily difficult dance, a do-se-do of patience, humility and forgiveness. Ah, but when we learn the moves and manage to boogie our way into a groove of understanding, selflessness and, above all, communication, we discover the critical secret of marriages that last a lifetime. I don’t care if it sounds corny, but Date Night is one of the best things I have done for my marriage in a very, very long time.

Now do me just one favor. Reach down and unclip that cell phone from your Batman utility belt and call the one you love. With all the hopeless romanticism my aching heart can muster, I promise you that good things will happen.


Matt Elerding grew up in Sitka, Alaska, and attended the University of Portland and Notre Dame. He lives in Battle Ground, Washington, with his wife, Heather and his two children, Gage and Abi. He can be reached at


In My Pocket

By Julianna Waters
The Portland Upside
April 2010

Photo by Julianna Waters

I took you with me in my pocket,
folded but not crumpled,
to see the canyon and the mule deer,
to hear the Imnaha River
sing to rock, grass and limb:
rush, rush, don’t hurry
rush, rush, don’t hurry.

I worked my way up a crumbling path.
The sun, barely awake,
had not yet poured it’s warm glaze
down the canyon wall.
Even with you in my pocket,
I was afraid of falling.
When I reached the top
I felt winded and hot,
but proud.
You said nothing,
but, as I sat down to take in the view,
I could feel you there,
paper thin and folded against my hip.

After a bit, I stood up, turned and faced the wild rose forest.
Teasing out the paths that centuries of cattle had
beaten into the sod with their heft,
I joined one that headed toward a verdant saddle,
hoping for water.

The sun rose higher and
warmed the breeze, but not much.
When I looked down at my boots,
hoof prints mingled in the hard dirt:
cow, deer, and elk,
and I thought to myself,
“how lucky are we?
me with my eyes and bones here in this land,
you in my pocket,
on this cloud free day,
with summer just around the bend.”


Julianna Waters is a therapist and writer who lives in Portland with her husband, terrier and two cats. She’s an award winning songwriter, co-founder of Heart and Hammer Music, and lives for long, slow walks in wild places. She can be reached at


The kindness game

By Galen Pearl
The Portland Upside
April 2010

Photo by Jozelin Garcia

“Life is short, and we have but little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel this way with us. Oh, be swift to love. Make haste to be kind.”
–Henri Frederic Amiel

Sometimes my daughter Mia, like most any high school kid, is focused on herself. A while back, I thought it might do her some good to think outside of her own life. So I came up with a game.

Each day we compete to see who can do the most nice things for other people. It could be something as simple as smiling at someone as you pass by, or saying something encouraging. If you do something nice for someone in your family, you get double points, because we often overlook those closest to us. At the end of the day we compare notes to see who won.

Playing the game is fun. I go through my day a little differently when I am actively seeking opportunities to be kind. I catch myself smiling more, greeting people, listening more attentively, offering to help a little more quickly, finding something nice to say. I wrote out a compliment card for someone who helped me at the store. Mia ate lunch with a student from another country who was often isolated.

One day, Mia called me as she walked home from school to ask for directions to a certain address. When she got home she explained that she had seen a young woman looking distressed and crossed the street to ask if she needed help. The young woman was developmentally disabled and had gotten off at the wrong bus stop on her way home. She was disoriented and couldn’t figure out how to get home.

After I gave Mia directions over the phone, she walked the young woman all the way home, even though it was quite a bit out of her way. I could see that Mia felt compassion for this young woman and was pleased to be able to help her. Because I have two sons, Mia’s brothers, with autism, her kindness was especially meaningful. I would like to believe that someone would do the same for them if they were lost. When she told me the story, I readily conceded the game for that day, for the whole week.


Galen Pearl has lived in Portland for 20 years. She is developing a program to help form habits to grow a joyful spirit. You can learn more about it on her blog or contact her at


Donna Smith, a voice for urban farming

By Cathy McQueeney
The Portland Upside
April 2010

It was at a family farmer and rancher community grassroots meeting that I met Donna Smith. My husband and I had driven in to Portland to attend the January meeting. We wanted to see what this Agricultural Reclamation Act (ARA) gathering was all about.

As a relative newcomer to the farming community, I was more of a listener than a participant in the meeting. Among the many interesting things I heard that night, Donna’s unique approach to farming in urban Portland stood out.

An increasingly visible presence in many Portland neighborhoods, Donna is co-owner of Your Backyard Farmer, a successful business that brings an innovative approach to community supported agriculture through urban backyard farming.

For the past five years, Donna, and her business partner, Robyn Streeter, have created small, sustainable organic farms in people’s yards. They help urban farmers grow fresh, in-season produce right at home, utilizing the homeowners’ own land.

I approached Donna in the parking lot after the meeting to get her business card for a friend I know would love to have a mini-farm at her home. I also wanted to congratulate her on volunteering to be a farmer and rancher delegate in Corvallis representing the Portland area.

The Agricultural Reclamation Act (ARA) is a tool designed to give family-scale farmers and ranchers a voice in shaping Oregon’s future food and agricultural policy.

On Sunday, February 28th, over 60 farmers and ranchers came together for the first annual Farmer and Rancher Delegation in Corvallis. Local Portland farmer and entrepreneur, Donna Smith, was among them.

A final version of the ARA, drafted by the farmers and ranchers who attended the meeting, will be approved and made public in May. To learn more about the Agricultural Reclamation Act, visit theFriends of Family Farmers.

She told me it was a very big night for her. For the first time she had really felt included by other farmers, who often discounted her micro-scale urban agriculture as merely “gardening.”

“We’ve always known that we were farmers because we were growing food. No matter if it was 25 acres or 400 square feet, a farmer farms food,” Donna explained to me.

For years she felt that her work wasn’t recognized as a viable part of the farming community. But this evening was different.

“Michael Moss [of Friends of Family Farmers] reinforced to me specifically that I have a voice and a right to use it and to bring it forward and he asked me to attend the Delegation. I said yes, even though I didn’t know what I would say or do, but I wanted to have a voice.”

I was certainly surprised to learn that Donna has not been viewed as a “farmer.” She so clearly seems like one to me. Imagine my reaction when I learned that not only has the traditional agriculture community been slow to recognize her status, the State of Oregon has no definition of a “farmer” or “farm,” so she doesn’t even enjoy legal recognition, an issue that came up at their grass roots meetings as well as at the Delegation.

I caught up again with Donna after the Delegation convened. I wanted to find out just what she said and accomplished.

She was excited about the opportunity and described the discussions as “so passionate and so fresh,” remembering the inclusiveness she felt.

“A string runs straight through us,” she said, “connecting us all—a room full of passionate farmers.”

While Donna attended primarily to ensure that urban agriculture was part of the dialogue and included in the Agricultural Reclamation Act, she was delighted to discover that others shared her view. Returning to her seat after a short break, she overheard a fellow delegate, a small family farmer from the Eugene area explaining to another farmer from Canby that urban agriculture was “the wave of the future.”

In an afternoon break out session where young and beginning farmers talked about the lack of available and affordable land to farm, Donna was able to join right in and advocate for urban agriculture as a way of addressing this issue.

With 67 individual small farms under cultivation this spring in the Portland metro area, and 27 consulting clients across the U.S., Canada and Australia starting similar farming ventures, Donna Smith and Your Backyard Farmer believe the future is now.

“We’re losing acreage annually to urbanization and erosion. People have lost the knowledge of how to grow their own food, have stopped teaching their children. We need food. We can bring food home again so that we all know where our food comes from. Urban agriculture will be a crucial piece of reclaiming and rebuilding our food system.

“I think that if we do not bring food back into the cities, we’re going to have safety, security and sustainability issues. We have to protect ourselves and our communities better, have our food sources closer to home, grow food specific to our area, not thousands of miles away.”


To learn more about Donna Smith and Your Backyard Farmer, visit, email or call Donna at 503-449-2402.

Cathy McQueeney owns Blue Flower Family Farm in the Willamette Valley where she raises Shetland sheep, a variety of chickens and fruits, vegetables and herbs using a sustainable, biointensive model. Contact her at


Submission of the month

A surprise quilt

The Portland Upside
April 2010

We are students in Art Class at The Bridge, a special residential community in Beaverton, Oregon. Last Fall, we made quilts. We used fabric markers to draw pictures on some of the squares. The Blockbusters Quilt Club quilted the quilts for us. We each made a quilt for ourselves. In addition, we all worked together to make a quilt for our resident manager. We kept it a secret and surprised her. She loves her quilt. Here is a photo of the quilt, our resident manager and us.

Do you believe The Portland Upside is too important to let go?

The first 12 issues were funded mainly by us. Now our savings account is running out and The Portland Upside needs your financial enthusiasm to keep it going.

You can save The Portland Upside!

Go online to to donate or get more info about advertising and sponsorship. Contact Sara & Rob at 503-663-1526 or Or send your donation to The Portland Upside, 10013 SE Eastmont Dr, Damascus, OR 97089


From the bike lane

By Jen Bond
April 2010

Sponsored by

Biking has changed our lives in countless ways, helping us to adopt healthier lifestyles, make new friends, explore new places, feel young again and even conquer our addictions. Our bikes give us freedom, fresh air, exercise, focus and fun! Sure, we replace parts, do maintenance on them, or even have to buy new bikes occasionally, but they seem to give back so much more than they demand.

I recently asked friends, acquaintances, and random Portland bicyclists about the positive things that biking adds to their lives. The overwhelming response was heartfelt gratitude. Here are a few of the responses.

“To me, cycling is not just a mode of transportation or weekend activity. Somehow, it has worked its way into every aspect of my life.” –W.B.

“Biking keeps me healthy despite my debaucherous lifestyle.” –B.H.

“Traveling by bicycle is so different from any other mode of transportation. After trying it, I don’t think I’d travel any other way. You get to meet really interesting people, observe wildlife, be in contact with nature, feel the wind on your face and the sun on your skin. It reminds you of what is possible in the world, with just a little effort and an open mind.” –A.M.

“Biking enables me to exercise regularly while both grounding and slowing my energy. Being around the youth as a teacher, it also provides a positive model of making progressive and easy changes in our collective lifestyles. Most of the time my bike rides are liberating as well.” –R.M.

“I love mountain biking on ‘The Hide and Seek’ trail with my dog Otto right on my wheel, trying not to go so fast that I crash. Going from banked turn to banked turn, it’s like a Hotwheels course for bikes. I’m always wishing the trail was longer, and soon it will be!” –J.B.

“Cycling helped me kick my habit.” –J.D.

“Biking is a great way to spend time with my kids. We all have fun, laugh and see things we would never see from a car!” –J.M.

“I love riding my bike around Portland in the springtime, along streets lined with beautiful fragrant flowering trees, the petals drifting around me in the breeze, seeing all the other smiling bicyclists and thinking how very lucky I am.” –H.M.

“Bicycling kept me out of the army and jail.” –Z.B.

“Biking is the closest thing to flying that we humans will ever experience.” –K.Z.

“Riding my bike allows me to explore new places while searching for cute sheep, goats and donkeys.” –A.C.

“Biking keeps my life grounded, and more simple. It keeps me a little out of the mainstream, and helps give me a perspective that I would not have if I mainly drove. Bikes slow you down, and let you experience your surroundings. Riding lets you say ‘good morning’ to the people you see, gets you breathing fresh air and gets your systems working. Biking excites your cerebral spinal fluid, and connects both sides of the brain. Your balance, coordination and awareness improve. Bicycling helps young people develop, and old people stay young. Bikes are so energy efficient, that riding somehow seems like cheating. I have personally noticed all of this, and try to appreciate it every time I ride.” –D.G.

“Riding my bike makes me feel as free as a bird, powered by youthful energy, fast and light and full of the joy of simply being and moving, without a care in the world.” –J.B.

“Biking is my anti-drug!” –J.P.

“Ever since I started riding a bike, I fell in love with cycling and it has completely changed my life. I don’t know what I would do without it. I just love it!” –N.O.

“The sun, the sky and two tires on the road. That makes a great day!” –S.H.

“The one thing that cycling has brought to my life is a lifestyle. Of course Portland has helped cultivate that. It seems like I have always ridden bikes, but it never became a lifestyle until I moved to Portland. I still own a car, but that’s mainly just to ski and mountain bike. Biking is my transportation, my living and my recreation. I never get tired of my bikes. I ride all of them, but my favorite is always my mountain bike.” –D.D.

Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts about biking with me. Happy pedaling!


If you have a biking story you’d like to share with Jen you can email it to

Jen Bond is a River City Bicycles employee, cycle-tourist and all-around bike-enthusiast.


Picturing a better world for at-risk teens

By Brian Schaeperkoetter
The Portland Upside
April 2010

Focus on Youth encourages students to find beauty in a world that hasn’t always treated them kind. Pictured above are Focus on Youth students from the Portland International Community School.

In Portland we pride ourselves on the culture of creativity that defines and unites us. Thanks to the inspiration of Donna Lee Holmes and the Focus on Youth program, even our city’s most at-risk population has the chance to share their talents, express their creativity and be successful.

Focus on Youth is a nonprofit organization that works to keep inner-city teens on the path to graduation by using photography and mentoring to inspire them to achieve academic success. The program develops not only photographic skills and creativity, but also encourages students to focus on goal setting, personal responsibility and involvement within their community.

“The difference in the kids is phenomenal,” says Donna Lee, who founded the program in 2003.

“They’re excited about learning digital photography and computer software programs. They are thrilled to be going on location shoots with the mentors and exploring places they have never been before. They can’t wait to get to the studio and look at the photographs they have taken. When you give them a camera, they start seeing beauty they never saw before.”

Donna Lee pairs each student with a professional photographer who mentors, coaches, encourages and instructs. Schools, agencies and other nonprofits refer the students, ages 14 to 20 years old. They come from backgrounds that are culturally and ethnically diverse, economically disadvantaged and socially difficult. Many are recent immigrants who face hardships including poverty, limited English skills, racism and homophobia.

“In the process of learning photography,” says Donna Lee, “they not only see the world differently, they begin to see themselves differently, and that is a very positive thing.”

Through Focus on Youth, students learn the patience and self-discipline that photography demands, the same skills that help them in life.


To find out more about Focus on Youth, visit or call 503-341-6878.

Focus on Youth will hold its first annual art auction on May 1, 2010 at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. The funds raised will help provide scholarships for at-risk, low-income students to take photography classes for free. Details are available on their website.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Never too old to succeed

Dream of learning to read realized after 40 years of patience and persistence

By Deb Stone
The Portland Upside
March 2010

Photo by Robert Holcomb

Marcy Kamis (right) was one of the 30 million American adults who can’t read, but because of her courage and belief in herself, she found a teacher in Merry Gilbertson (left) and is now a successful reader.

Merry Gilbertson attended the first grade near Milan, Minnesota, in 1956. Being successful in school was so important to her family that she never questioned it. Of course, she got good grades. Of course, she would go to St. Olaf College. That’s what people in her family did. And first, she would learn to read.

Everyone learns to read, right? Wrong. According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 2003, 14% of Americans over the age of sixteen—30 million adults—could not perform tasks that
required simple reading.

The year Merry started first grade, Marcella “Marcy” Kamis was born in Roswell, New Mexico. She was the firstborn daughter of a Caucasian woman and a Navajo man. Her father, an Air Force pilot, was so proud of his daughter he called her his little Belladonna (beautiful lady).

But once she turned two, Marcy would not hear the endearment again. Her mother took her to live with a new stepfather, where Marcy doesn’t remember them ever calling her by name. They called her Stupid or Idiot or a string of expletives. The family moved often to avoid eviction. Each year another child was born. Each year, school became a greater burden.

“When a teacher knows you can’t read and they continue to call on you, it’s humiliating.” Marcy said.

Still, she tried to do what was expected. She went to school, came home, and helped with chores.

By 1972, Merry Gilbertson was attending St. Olaf College where she shared a room in an old Tudor building with leaded glass windows and large open beams. That same year, Marcy’s family moved to a three-room shack near Canby, Oregon, where the 11 children slept body-to-body across piles of clothes. At Canby High School, Marcy failed all of her ninth grade classes except sewing and choir. She didn’t need to read to pass those.

When the school called about Marcy’s inability to read, her mother pulled her from school and sent her to work in the fields where she weeded hops by hand, and trained them on upright supports. When hops season ended, strawberry season began. After that she picked raspberries, cucumbers and green beans. She worked in the field all day, gave the cash to her mother each afternoon and went about her chores.

In 1977, Merry finished her Master’s Degree in Special Education. Marcy had two sons by then, and struggled to make ends meet. When she turned 21, a Woodburn bar owner offered her a job. Marcy couldn’t read the Oregon Liquor Control Commission test, so the owner took the test for her. Marcy worked days at the cannery, nights at the bar. She put in many hours and left her young sons with her mother for days. Conditions were not good. Welfare workers intervened.

Marcy was afraid she would lose her sons forever. When her boss suggested Marcy give her temporary custody of her oldest son Robert, Marcy signed the papers. She drove her youngest son Teddy to an aunt’s home in Arizona. When Marcy called to visit with Robert, her boss explained that Robert was no longer Marcy’s son. The papers she signed had granted an adoption.

Marcy struggled along for a few years. Her younger sister gave away several children of her own. When the sister became pregnant again, Marcy asked what she intended to do with the baby. Three months later, Marcy’s sister placed baby Jessica in Marcy’s arms. This time, Marcy paid for the adoption attorney herself, so she would know what the papers said.

Jessica was a precocious child. When she read her first grade primers aloud, Marcy followed along. By second grade, Jessica could read better than her mom could. Marcy enrolled her in piano and dance lessons. At six, she attended Starstruck Studio owned by Bill and Rose Holden.

“Times were tough,” Rose said. “But Marcy would do whatever it took to make sure Jessica had music and dance.”

Rose offered Marcy a job at the Oregon City Golf Course. Marcy could frame walls, hang sheetrock, repair plumbing, and lay tile. She could take orders and manage events. She had an uncanny knack to anticipate Rose’s needs.

“If I said, ‘gee, I’d like to…’ she had it done,” Rose remembers.

But Marcy’s lack of tact sometimes rubbed others the wrong way. Rose thought it had to do with Marcy’s inability to read. She paid for Marcy to attend Sylvan Learning Center. Still, Marcy did not learn to read. Reluctantly, Rose let Marcy go.

By then, Jessica was a member of the Oregon City High School dance team coached by Gail Hoskins.

“I never met anyone,” says Gail, “who worked harder than Marcy.”

Even though she worked two or three jobs, Marcy was the first to help at fundraisers. She never took a handout.

“I felt lucky,” Gail says, “to see the vulnerable side of Marcy. There is so much more to her than her tough exterior.”

Gail helped Marcy apply to be a substitute custodian for the Oregon City School District, where she eventually worked full time. She didn’t earn enough to pay Jessica’s dance team fees, so she applied at K-Mart for a second job. The store director permitted Marcy to have someone read the evaluation questions to her. She passed the test and was hired. She worked days at the high school and evenings and weekends at K-Mart.

Marcy had limited social skills, former Oregon City High School Principal Carol Kemhus recalls.
“But she was grateful for any opportunity. She wanted to do things right. She took her responsibilities seriously. Sometimes, too seriously.”

In hindsight, Marcy realizes she could be impatient and abrupt.

“Some of the kids called me Hall Nazi,” Marcy says.

Although she did not recognize it at the time, she now believes she resented the students who loitered in halls instead of attending class. Didn’t they know how lucky they were to be in school?

In 2004, Marcy, now 48, walked into a room where students received academic coaching to ask if someone would help her learn to read. Merry Gilbertson worked as the Special Education Coordinator. She agreed to do an informal assessment and found that Marcy’s sound-symbol association was rudimentary. She appeared to have a visual processing disorder.

Marcy worried she had failed the test. “I’m never going to learn to read,” she recalls.
However, Marcy was on Merry’s mind.

“I kept thinking, ‘I know how to help her,’” said Merry. “If I don’t, who will?”

They began working together twice each week. Merry sat directly behind Marcy, and together they touched and said each letter sound aloud. The neurological effect of hearing, saying, and touching at the same time imprints the brain in a particular way. Before Marcy could read words with fluency, she needed to be able to have more instantaneous recall of the sound associated with each letter.

“I thought she would give up on me,” Marcy says. “But she kept coming back.”

Together they worked on individual letters, then letter combinations. Three years later, Marcy read her first novel, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. She threw herself a fiftieth birthday party to celebrate her success and told everyone she had learned to read.

Knowing how to read is more than settling down with a good book. Marcy has developed the confidence to laugh at herself.

“When I first moved to Oregon,” she says, “I used to see “House For Sale” signs in people’s yards. I always wondered why so many people had horses for sale. When Merry taught me the sound difference between o-u and o-r, I suddenly understood they were selling houses. You see why you believe you’re dumb? If you can’t make sense of the world because you can’t read, you feel lost. When you learn to read, you hear conversations differently, so it changes your relationships.”

Over the last five years, Marcy and Merry have become friends. Merry believes a simple twist of fate gave them different beginnings. She admires Marcy’s perseverance and hard work.
Before she met Marcy, Merry thought differently.

“I bought some line that people could get by without reading. That technology could accommodate. I didn’t understand that learning to read actually changes the architecture of the brain.”

K-Mart manager Kristi Bays says Marcy is more confident. She can now write layaway orders and take payments. She can adjust prices on the shelves for the weekly ad. She trains new employees.

Marcy continues to work at K-Mart and at Oregon City High School. Some days she works two eight-hour shifts back-to-back. Sometimes she still struggles to find the right tone of voice or words to use. She tries to stop and ask herself, “How would someone else say this?”

Not long ago her son Teddy asked why she did not answer the letters he had written to her as a child.

“I saved them all,” she said, “but I didn’t know how to read.”

Last year she found the courage to return to the Navajo reservation to meet her father. For the first time in fifty years, he called her Belladonna.

When I asked what she would like non-readers to take away from this story, Marcy said, “They won’t be reading it, will they?” After laughing, she said, “I want them to know that there is someone out there, someone who is going to help you. It could take you years, but you’ve got to find them.”


Deb Stone is a freelance writer from Beavercreek, Oregon, whose work has appeared in The Oregonian, The Portland Tribune, Asylum, Oregon Gourmet Foods, Poetic Voices, Kid-Bits and Willamette Writers.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

A tale of two Robs

By Matt Elerding
The Portland Upside
March 2010

Photo by Matt Elerding

While doing his Little League Dad duties of encouraging his young son to keep his chin up, “Baseball Rob” unknowingly becomes an inspiration to his close friends.

In my job as a mortgage loan officer I write occasional articles, essays and blog posts on the current state of this unraveling industry. But I just don’t have it in me to pen another depressing manifesto about the current state of real estate and mortgage lending.

Even if you’re not directly tied to the real estate world, you understand that we’ve all been through a rough period of change these past couple of years. And if you’ve been touched at all by this change, then this story is meant for you.

It’s a story about two guys named Rob.

I met the first Rob in the spring of 2007 when we both added the role of Little League Dad to our parental résumés, a title that carries brimming levels of responsibility, leadership, and above all, an unbelievable amount of time.

“Baseball Rob” and I arrived every Tuesday afternoon, the trunks of our cars crammed with baseball mitts, bats and dirty cleats that would forever decimate the resale value of our automobiles. We escorted our young soldiers onto the battlefield and did our best to teach them the ways of the world on that hallowed ground known simply as The Baseball Diamond.

While neither of us was an official coach of the Red Sox, we both looked forward to our duty as the unpaid helper coaches of this ferocious gaggle of fearless 10-year-old boys. Under the guise of coordinating baseball drills and handing out juice-boxes, my new friend and I secretly etched new chapters into the book of memories with our sons.

On that field, deep in the heart of Battle Ground, Washington, I grew to admire, respect and love this man. He worked hard in his role as a regional manager, treasured his beautiful wife and found time to shower his five children with immeasurable amounts of affection. Baseball Rob made me want to be a better man.

Meanwhile, an equally incredible man—I’ll call him Realtor Rob—came into my life. He too demonstrated all the qualities that should be printed in the textbook on how to be an amazing human being. He sold real estate for a living and had been doing quite well. Rob oozed effervescence and all who encountered him knew that it was genuine and true. Despite an unwavering commitment to his career, he always managed to strike the perfect balance that allowed him to love his wife and be a role model to his three adoring children.

Shortly after we became friends, Realtor Rob randomly asked me one day if I had a favorite song. I answered his question with a raised eyebrow and we moved on. A few weeks later I called his cell phone and was greeted, not with the standard ring of an incoming call, but with the soothing reverie of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. My song. I couldn’t help smiling at the simple thoughtfulness of his gesture. Realtor Rob, like Baseball Rob, made me want to be a better person.

As 2007 unfolded, it looked as though our collective gravy train would be pulling into the station in dire need of a massive overhaul. The real estate market, that once unstoppable juggernaut, came to a grinding halt. Before long, virtually everyone—including those even loosely tied to real estate—was feeling an unaccustomed level of strain.

All around me I watched people fraught with stress and anxiety, unable to shake the palpable reality that the economy was contracting and nothing could be done to prevent it. Our incomes were suffering and those pesky monthly bills kept showing up with remarkable consistency.
Despite their positive outlook, the two Robs were feeling the pressures of the change.

Realtor Rob experienced a painful dip in his real estate business. His listings were not selling and his potential buyers had a difficult time obtaining financing. (Curse those mortgage bankers!) He was working twice as hard for half the income. He would eventually go through the painful experience of a short sale on his own residence and move his family into a rental home. A few weeks later his wife, and partner in business, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Never had I seen a friend bear such a tidal wave of bad news. Yet through every nightmare transaction and through all the unthinkable battles of his personal life, his bright smile and infectious demeanor never wavered. Not once.

Meanwhile, although not directly connected to real estate or banking, Baseball Rob was also feeling the pain of the souring economy as he struggled to make ends meet. His company was changing directions and he, too, faced financial difficulty. But with bootstrapping endurance, Rob showed me that perseverance is not merely a choice but an obligation. Around that same time Rob wasn’t feeling very well and went to see his doctor. A week later he was diagnosed with cancer.

I watched as my dear friend battled melanoma for three long and painful months. I watched as his frightened wife and terrified children saw the most important man in their lives dwindle to a frail human being incapable of walking and, eventually, unable to wrap his once strong arms around his family. Yet his spirit inexplicably seemed to grow stronger with each passing day.

My friend, bedridden and so weak he could barely muster a smile, had become the most monumental hero I had ever met.

The night before Rob died, I went to his bedside. I leaned over and kissed his brow and told him how much I loved him for helping me to realize what it meant to be a hero to so many people.

I feel so blessed that these two Robs came into my life to show me a level of optimism I had never experienced. Here were two guys struggling with all the ills and setbacks that life can throw at you, yet they maintained a positive attitude. The two Robs showed me that for every chunk of bad, there are infinitely more nuggets of good, if you just look for them. And sometimes the things for which we should be most grateful are the things we don’t even notice.

They taught me that there is good to be extracted out of even the simplest of moments; like sitting in a restaurant, eating with your family, your five senses firing on all cylinders; watching your children scan the menu even though they can’t yet read; the sound of the ballgame pouring from the TV mounted above; the smell of dinner wafting from the double doors of the kitchen; the contagious laughter of the toddler two tables over.

I’m not some Pollyanna; we’re surrounded by bad stuff. It’s everywhere. In our relationships, in our careers, in those we love and in those we don’t know. There are jobs being cut, people losing their homes and parents exploiting their children to garner media attention. Make no mistake. Bad stuff abounds.

Maybe our existence isn’t going to be all that we had imagined as kids fearlessly sprinting across playgrounds. The altered dreams and humbling realties of our lives are scattered up and down the I-5 corridor as we bumper-to-bumper our way to jobs that sometimes aren’t very much fun. Sometimes we look around and feel like we’re the only ones living in a constant state of fear, disappointment and regret for a life that is not always unfolding the way we had planned.

But I also believe that we all have glimpses of grandeur and hope for the years that remain, even if only for brief and inspired moments at a time.

I keep a picture of Baseball Rob tucked into the sun visor of my car. He is there as a constant reminder of the kind of man I aspire to be. And from time to time I call Realtor Rob’s cell phone just to listen to the familiar notes of that soothing sonata and to remind myself that we’re all in this together. That gives me hope, and that’s a good thing.


Matt Elerding grew up in Sitka, Alaska, and attended the University of Portland and Notre Dame. He lives in Battle Ground, Washington, with his wife, Heather and his two children, Gage and Abi. He can be reached at


How does she do it?

Many households set out one can of garbage each week. Jeanne Roy produces only one can per year.

By Cody Dollowitch
The Portland Upside
March 2010

Jeanne Roy has reduced her garbage output to one can per year by finding more recycling options and by making better buying decisions that eliminate excess waste.

Jeanne Roy is a full time volunteer and co-founder of The Center for Earth Leadership. She also cut the amount of garbage she produces to one can per year. When she’s not teaching, developing curriculum, planning events, or recruiting for her organization, you might find her composting in her yard or x-country skiing on Mt. Hood. The Portland Upside recently caught up with Jeanne for a short interview.

Portland Upside: When did you start trying to produce less garbage?

Jeanne Roy: It started in 1971 when my husband and I dramatically changed our lifestyle, or at least our outlook. I can remember in the 1970’s when companies stopped packaging cottage cheese in wax paper cartons and started packaging it in plastic containers. When the containers started to pile up I knew it was time to make a change.

In 1987 I formed a recycling organization and we’ve been limiting our consumption ever since. When our three kids where at home we had it down to four cans a year. When they moved out we got it down to about one.

Upside: Why did you decide to try to make less garbage?

Jeanne: In trying to reduce my impact on the planet, I think it is easier to control what I consume than it is to control other things I don’t always have control of, like housing or transportation.

Upside: So what are some steps readers can take to reduce the amount of garbage they make?

Jeanne: You can start by recycling curbside and taking what can’t be recycled curbside, like books or electronics, to a recycling depot. Composting all of your yard debris and food is important.

The next big step is something I call pre-recycling, which means thinking about what is and isn’t recyclable before making a purchase. For example, people can buy meat from a meat counter rather than buying it prepackaged. Leaving packaging that isn’t recyclable at retailers is a way to let retailers know how unnecessary extra packaging is.

Buying things in bulk and eliminating the use of disposables is important too. Of course there are certain exemptions to this rule, like toilet paper. It can be hard for people to give up disposables because of their relative convenience.

Upside: What have you enjoyed the most about reducing the amount of garbage you make?

Jeanne: The thing I’ve enjoyed the most is getting in my yard and turning over the compost. It puts me in touch with nature. It’s great to keep the cycle in my own yard and not have to buy soil additives. It’s also nice not to bother with the hassle that comes with garbage.

Upside: What’s been the hardest part of reducing the amount of garbage you produce?

Jeanne: It’s hard not bringing home things that you can’t recycle. But the hardest thing for me has been finding places that will use the things that I don’t want around the house anymore. If you take something to Goodwill you never know if it’s just going to end up in the garbage. It took me a long time to find a home for some of my children’s old trophies, but I eventually found a trophy shop to donate them to.

Upside: Besides the amount of money you save on garbage removal, do you have any idea how much money you save by reducing the amount of garbage you make?

Jeanne: I have no idea on a dollar amount but when you buy in bulk you save so much money. I once figured out that buying popcorn in bulk is 14 times cheaper than buying it prepackaged in individual servings and there’s a lot less packaging.

Upside: Thanks for taking the time to talk. Is there anything you would like to add?

Jeanne: Well, I’m really excited about a course that we offer at the Center for Earth Leadership called How to be an Agent of Change in Your Circle of Influence. The easiest places to change are the organizations we are already involved in. This class teaches people how they can make a big difference at their work or school.


For more information or to enroll in classes you can reach the Center for Earth Leadership at 503-227-2315 or reach them on the web at


From the editors

Rob & Sara Bednark
The Portland Upside
February, 2010

Since the beginning, The Portland Upside has been an act of faith. Would we be able to create a newspaper out of our home? Would anyone like a paper with all positive stories? Yes, and yes.

But one of the crucial unknowns was would we get enough content to fill an eight-page paper every month? And thankfully for 11 issues the answer has also been “yes.”

Each month is a new adventure for us. We start with a blank document, a request for articles and no preconceived plans. Writers run ideas across our desk, then go home to write.

We have no idea what articles, poetry or photographs will be in the next issue until the submissions start filling our inbox—some expected, some a surprise. What we receive is then distilled into the issue you read.

Without our growing number of contributors and readers, we would never have learned about therapy horses in Oregon City (“Horses are the therapists at new riding center”), following your heart and the taste of chocolate at Alma Chocolates (“Chocolate leads Sarah Hart in unexpected directions”), or the transformative power of learning to read (“Never too old to succeed”).

Our wish is that everyone feels like they are a part of the Upside writing staff. So we invite all of you to send in your stories, poetry and photographs that highlight the positive side of Portland.

Sara & Rob


Send your submissions to or contact us by phone at 503-663-1526. You can view our writer’s guidelines and all of our past issues on our website,


You, too, can be a member of Portland’s growing Upside!

Do-it-yourself membership gift. Cut out and duct tape to bumper, glue to mug, tape to window or pin on shirt.

Do you value the positive news that The Portland Upside reports and want to add to its growth?

Show your support:
sponsor an issue,
advertise your business, organization or event,
or donate.

Go to to donate or view advertising rates or contact Sara & Rob about sponsorship and for more info.

503-663-1526 10013 SE Eastmont Dr Damascus, OR 97089


What people are saying about The Portland Upside

The Portland Upside
March 2010

“I appreciate your paper as we need to focus more on the positive things going on in the world, not just the drama.”

“I just love your publication! I picked up my first copy yesterday and read the whole thing non-stop.”

“I love the paper, I read several editions online and I really think it’s about time we start focusing on positive stories!”


Send your comments to