Christmas Gorilla 

Once upon a time there was a small gorilla who believed in Santa Claus.

And so every Christmas he would put on his Santa hat and his bright red boxer shorts.

Each evening during Advent, he would sit down with his iPad and write a letter to Santa:

Dear Santa, (He would begin)

I am writing you a letter on behalf of someone I know who really needs a Christmas present.  She has everything she needs of course, but I”m sure you can come up with an appropriate gift.  Look into her heart and see what she has always wanted, please.


The Christmas Bear

Santa was confused, of course.  He was used to Christmas letters requesting toys, video games, bicycles, dolls and such, but this was a new one. The Christmas Bear? (He looks like a little gorrila in the picture above) And who was this little girl who was to receive this precious present? where does she live? How do I find out what she dearly wants?

So he wrote him back asking these questions.

Dear Christmas Bear,

I received your letter filled with warmth and love, but who is this little girl? Is she someone close to you? Someone you obviously care for and have empathy and compassion for. I must know more about her to be able to identify what she has always wanted.


Santa Claus

The little gorilla pondered this letter from Santa and worried about how to tell him about this wonderful woman (50 years old) who had suddenly made such a difference in his life.  She was 9,000 miles away. She was a single mom of 4 children and took time to help the world on YouTube!

She knew about fitness, sleep meditation, yoga, healthy diet and much more that she shared in her YouTube vlogs, her blogs, her books and herself on several social internet sites.

She was like, OUT THERE!

So he wrote back,

Dear Santa,

It’s me, the Christmas Bear again. In answer to your questions,

Yes, I am intimately acquainted with her through something called ASMR, a whispered meditation, and she always talks directly to me; never too busy to ask how I am doing: how I’m sleeping; how I’m getting along in my relationships, how I’m decluttering and setting up happy rituals at bedtime.

She has come back from a traumatic divorce, takes care of her kids like a guardian angel, and still takes time to talk to me.

I live in Oregon. she lives in Australia.


The Christmas Bear

Now Santa was intrigued. He was having some fitness and diet issues as well as some trouble sleeping. Again he wrote back to the Christmas Bear,

Dear Christmas Bear,

Boy Howdy, does your friend sound like someone special.  Yes, I can deliver to Australia. If you tell me her name I will watch some of her YouTube videos so I can get to know her too. 

Could you tell me her name?


Santa Claus

The little gorilla felt like he was manifesting a Christmas surprise!

Dear Mr. Claus,

Her name is Lauren Ostrowski Fenton, wait let me check the spelling. No, it’s correct (I often get it wrong).

We are close personal friends, I just know it.

Thank you for all your help. It’s in your hands now.


The Christmas Bear. 

PS I just hope she will come to America sometime.

– Small town boy



I learned the power of Acceptance in 2005 while I was working on Kausay Wasi Clinic in Coya, Peru.

I was there with twelve others from Portland, Oregon, on a construction mission sponsored by  Northwest Medical Teams, to change a prison into a medical center in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Sitting on a plastic five gallon bucket turned upside down, I was working on a wall socket that had been wired in series instead of in parallel, causing all to go out if one went out, like a Christmas tree light string.

As I listened to our hosts, Guido and Sandy Del Prado, discussing next year’s mission to continue this construction, I had an epiphany.

I could fund next year’s work.

I had fortuitously invested in Microsoft at it’s beginning and had the funds necessary.

As soon as I thought this I was struck with an overwhelming feeling of ? Of what? Of love? well-being? of I don’t know what, but it was powerful, emotional, and wonderfully frightening.

I was being loved and all my sins (?), past indiscretions, worries, guilt, negative energy, and more, were melted away by this feeling.

I was stunned. I felt of a sudden the power of love (acceptance). I felt good could  overcome evil, not because it was good, but because love is very, very strong. Strong enough that it could melt me with just a little more given to me then.

Love isn’t creamy and smooth. Love isn’t being starry eyed. Love is a very great, misunderstood power in the universe.

Like the mythological story of the wind and the sun trying to get the man to take off his coat (which sun won by warming him, doing what the wind could not by blustering). Love simply accepts you. I felt it. I felt it accept me.

I didn’t know I hadn’t felt accepted until this event happened.

I now knew what Acceptance was and that I had to accept myself.

I felt like a hot dog.

I felt like the bun, the relish, the catsup, the mustard, and the blemishes when stripped away and I felt accepted, allowed this glowing inner self to be revealed and seen and touched by me.

I hope you will feel this Acceptance one day. It seems more powerful than, but including, forgiveness.

Can you accept what I’m saying?

Can you see that you are accepted, no matter who you are, no matter what you have done or haven’t done?

And ultimately, can you accept yourself?

There is no need for forgiveness, just a need to understand.

You are accepted for who you are now.

You are loved more than you can know, because if you knew it would overwhelm you.

God is love. Love is power. Acceptance is how it manifests.


-small town boy


Life Quilt, row 4,#4 – My Career as a high school science teacher

Retirement came in 1998 after thirty two years of teaching high school math, physical science, chemistry, physics and  computets. I was recruited from Colorado State University on a cold blustery ground blizzard kind of day in February. Go pack they said, the Camilleas are in bloom in Oregon.

Later I found out from the science supervisor why I was hired.  He liked certain special science teacher candidates. If you hadn’t taught, and you had A’s and F’s, he picked you because it showed him that you could do the work if you wanted to, but you weren’t above failing a class if it wasn’t good.  If you were an experienced teacher, then he looked for evaluations that said you were a good science teacher, but couldn’t keep quiet at faculty meetings. Therefore he filled the district high school teachers that were renegades who often led the teachers unions.

Four of the five high Portland schools I taught in are closed. I started in 1966 at the height of the baby boom at Roosevelt High where I taught Physics (PSSC), general math(SMSG), special math, Introductory Physical Sience (IPS) and was the Neighborhood Youth Corps coordinator after the previous guy left for Job Corps, in the North Portland neighborhood of St Johns. Roosevelt is still open and undergoing remodeling to become a community center.

In 1969 I was selected to join the faculty at the new Adams high school, run by Harvard PhD candidates and using the school within a school model.  the rest of the district called us ‘Disneyland by the park’ because we were filled with radical staff, hippies, and union members.  I taught physics (HPP), Integrated Science (That I helped write at Portland State University), Dr Wong’s physical science (Individualized projects and grading) and General education (THE multidisciplinary course for All students within the College Exploration School (CEX) within a school.) I served as Science Department Chairman.

Beginning in 1966 I was involved in PAT-OEA-NEA, serving as building rep, and trustee for OEA. In 1974 I was the teacher spokesman for the teachers bargaining team. In 1976 I was elected President of the Portland Association of Teachers. Later I would serve as chair of the grievance committee.

When I finished my year at PAT I was assigned at Jefferson High School, a magnet school for the Performing Arts. I taught Chemistry (Chem Study), physics (PSSC), and computer programming. (BASIC and Pascal on the Honeywell mainframe at district headquarters. I also. Served as unit leader for the science, technology and math group;

NOTE: Jefferson is actually still open, but has changed to what is being called a ‘Middle College’ when it joined with Portland Community College (PCC) across the street from the football stadium.

I left Jefferson in 1983 to create the new Instructional Technolody program, a child of the Curriculum and data Processing departments, which eventually situated itself at the old (closed) Washington High School. I was a teacher on special assignment (TOSA).

In 1989 I received my PhD in computers in Education from the University of Oregon, and promptly lost my TOSA position as a result of the passage of Ballot measure 5 which restricted property taxes and was then sent to Marshall High School in SE Portland. (Washington is currently being restored to become a performing venue and restaurant.)

At Marshall I taught Physical Science on Macintosh computers using STELLA, Image Processing, mouse trap cars and video measurements. (Marshall was closed in 2011.)

I retired in 1998 and became a global volunteer, working in South Africa, Mexico, Peru, Viet Nam and Cambodia, and moved to Corvallis.

= Small town boy

Life Quilt – row 1, square 4 – Northwest Medical Teams, Part 2, Ben in Peru

My memories with NWMT are linked to three men that went with me: Wild Bill (Mexico), Ben (Peru 1), and Jeff (Peru 2).

Coya, Peru

This Northwest Medical Team (NWMT) construction team went to Coya, Peru to make a prison into a medical center in Coya, a small town in the sacred valley of the incas about an hour and a half from Cusco in 2003. It turns out that the prison in question was a prison for run away horses, but you get the idea.Most of the men on the team were experienced in construction, in one form or another, except for me, a teacher, and Ben, an attorney.

At this point in the process we were working on infrastructure: sewer, water, electricity and building renovation. Our in country people were Sandy (from Portland and retired from USAid) and her husband Guido (from nearby Calca and just retired from US State. the had a home in Calca and in Miami. Guido acted as translator for President Reagan when he visited the president of Mexico. They met in the MexicoCity earthquake.

Our team coming over the pass from Cusco.

The Peruvians were surprised and confused as to why a maestro and an abogada were doing the manual labor. We explained that we didn’t have the work skills the others had. There was one attribute that Ben had over others (beside the fact that he spoke Spanish because his mother wwas from Spain.). He was tall.

We worked and we ate and we went to markets and we saw the Sacred Valley and Manchu Piccu. But something special happened (before Ben got sick in the Lima airport while passing through customs) and it happened here:

We had each taken our turn trying to rewire this plug (The Peru team had wired it in series, like a Christmas tree lights, so. If one went out they all went out).  While I was sitting on the bucket that you see Ben sitting on, I overheard Sandy talking about next year and wondering how were they going to find funding which would include a $2,000 Ophthamological microscope.  So, I’m sitting there and I think, “I could fund that project!”  Microsoft had been good to me and I decided to share the earnings with the Kausai Wasi clinic in Coya, Peru.

Suddenly I felt overridden with a serene calm that accepted me, despite my sins and warts, and made my soul feel validated to a degree that was both wonderful and frightening. Frightening because I felt the real power of love, I believe it was the Holy Spirit.  We hear that love can trump evil, but until then I had no idea about the real power of love. Holy cow!

When I returned to Portland I talked to my wife and then NWMT about funding the next trip.  They asked why and I told them of my experience. They said “and the microscope?” I said yes.  I wanted them to negotiate with Sandy andGuido and set the price, then money was transferred. Boy howdy!

– small town boy

Life Quilt – row 1, square 4 – Northwest Medical Teams, Part 1, Wild Bill in Mexico

I told you earlier how my wife and I got connected to Northwest Medical Teams (now Medical Teams International).

My memories with NWMT are linked to three men that went with me: Wild Bill (Mexico), Ben (Peru 1), and Jeff (Peru 2).

(Let me pause here to show you the awesome quilting talent Joanne exhibits. Watch the background fabric, how she worked to match it in concept to the tee shirt square.)

Wild Bill

The first mission I went on with them was to Mexico on a Gift of Hope mission for families living in the city dumps at Oaxaca and Mexico City. My roomate came to be known as Wild Bill, not because he was wild, but because he looked the part. Wild Bill was from Laramie, WY and he had just returned from a trip to the Amazon with his daughter. His working life was in Chille where he worked in the forest.  When he was through he drove the Pan American highway all the way home in a VW bus. He told me he spoke passable spanish.

Oaxaca dump

In Oaxaca we had christmas presents for the children.  Bill and I went door to door with bags of presents with family names and children’s ages on the outside, provided by our incountry agency Manos de Vida. We were to tell them these presents came in nombre Jesus Christo. (NWMT is a faith based organization which is a major reason why i love them and ultimately led me from the Episcopal church to the First Congregational UCC church I now attend and where my spiritual journey began)  I kept bugging Bill to. remember to say that and finally he had to. Ask me to stop.

Later in the week we laid concrete floors in two huts  for families that live in the Oaxaca dump.

Mexico City dump

In each site Manos de Vida took us to the Children’s club. And then we went out among the homes from there.

We walked and walked till I grew tired and had to have a ride back to the. Children’s Club house. The dogs kept us company as we went door to door.

This trip was after Thanksgiving 2003 and into December.  We were sad to leave, but glad to return home.

Wild Bill was the oldest volunteer to travel with NWMT at age 85.  He has since passed away. Bless your heart and thanks for helping me understand.

– Small town boy

My Life Quilt #2 – Costa Rica

This is the second square of memories from the Life Square made for me by my friend Joanne for my 75th birthday..

My wife Betsy and I went to Costa Rica on a birding trip with Road Scholars where I bought this tee shirt with the macaw in it.

While it’s true that we saw birds everywhere, even during meals in outdoor restaurants and dining rooms, the most memorable event we shared was because Betsy wanted to walk along the beach.

We left the tour bus and walked through a small town to get to the beach, when we heard raucous cries. When we looked up we saw a pair of macaws flying into the trees near the shore. Exquisite! We couldn’t have had a better show or viewing of a mated pair. Thank you Betsy.

One more thing in this memory: a hotel on wheels! At the other end of the beach was a semi truck with a very large trailer. As we walked closer we could see that it was set up and being used for a hotel!

Sort of like this German one called a Rotel, but the one we saw was from Australia, I think.

Although I had done a lot of traveling after my retirement, as a global volunteer, this was only one of two trips Betsy was able to come with me. You see, we had adopted three of our grandchildren in 1992 and that required her to stay at home, so I really loved her for coming in this beautiful trip we had planned together.

I love you Betsy.

– Small town boy 

My Life Quilt – Portland Oregon 

This is the first story from the first block of the Life Quilt that my friend Joanne made for me.

These stories are for her; she is my muse.

This story begins with 9/11.

After that disaster occurred in New York City, my wife Betsy and I felt we needed to act, to support a charity that had shown quick meaningful help in emergencies .

We chose Northwest Medical Teams (now Medical Teams International) located in Tigard, OR, because they were first out the door bringing needed medical people and supplies to the heart of  disasters.

After we made a sizable donation NWMT, they contacted us to see if we wanted to go on a trip.

The trip was a Gift of Hope trip to Mexico, Oaxaca and Mexico City. I went.

After returning I asked if there was another one I could help with.

NWMT said yes. Peru?

When I was departing for Peru I found this Portland Oregon tee shirt at an airport gift shop.

I had long collected tee shirts in my travels with city names for my daughter, Becca. 

But this time I wanted to wear the shirt to show people where I was from, Portland, OR.

Though I am originally from Fort Collins, CO,  I had lived in Portland for thirty years and taught high school science, math, and computers. I had raised my family there.

I was proud of the Rose City.

You can see it served me well in Peru from the very first day. I was there from March 26 to April 6, 2004.

We were in Coya, Peru, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, an hour and a half from the nearest medical clinic in Cusco (the navel of the world, well one of them, there are seven).

We were there to change a prison (it was a prison for runaway horses, but you get the idea) into a medical clinic so that teams of doctors from the states could come and treat local people. There were specialized teams for  plastic surgery, orthopedics, ophthomology and more.  Sixteen medical teams, as it turned out, came after the completion the next year.  .

We worked for seven days, went to see Macchu Picchu, and ate local foods (though not cuy, because my son Teddy had a favorite guinea pig at home).

I, and the attorney Ben, were the only ones not experienced in carpentry, plumbing or electricity. We worked as the manual labor.

Every time I see the Portland Oregon tee shirt I think of Peru.

I sleep in my memories made into the Life Quilt.

– Small town boy

My Life Quilt

I received a handmade quilt for my 75th birthday.

My friend Joanne is a quilter.

I had asked if she could make my tee shirts into a quilt.

She said box em up and send them.

That was months ago.

I am stunned by the results.

I have been overwhelmed by the heartfelt generosity of this gift.

I wanted to give her something.

So, at 3:30 am I got an idea.

I would make a video explaining what each of the 20+ panels means from my life.

Then I got a greater idea!

I will write 20+ stories telling the significance of each.

I told Joanne she had given me my life back. 

I’ve been recently been diagnosed with vascular dementia.

I’m on a med and a patch.

I am easily distracted and forgetful.

But now, thanks to my Life Quilt, I have mental exercise, recollection, and will archive memories before they disappear.

Bless you Joanne.

So, beginning tomorrow with the Portland Oregon tee shirt, now Life Quilt, I will write the stories.

Stay tuned.

– Small town boy

Lonely heart

Neil Young’s heart of gold

Sings to my lonely heart.

The. Heart that has loved too many

And not enough.

I have a strong heart. And I believe it

When it says it is in love.

I believe it when it yearns for another’s touch,

Another’s kiss.

My heart is no fool.

My heart is not a foolish heart.

When my heart feels the love,

I pay attention.

My body fills with a seizure of the 

Blood and gut.

My brain looses all rational thought.

My spirit soars to the heavens

Thanking God for another go

At love Devine and corporal.

My friend died waiting for someone to love.

I have many who love me.

Maybe it’s the passion that I miss.

The rush.

The excitement.

My whole self yearns for 

Touch and kiss.



Remembering when.

Remembering who.

Wanting more.

The song they played at his funeral, his song?

“I need someone to love me.” By Queen

I know he is where love abounds, now.

I know he’s found someone to love him.

I loved him.

– Small town boy

Gift of Hope, Oaxaca and Mexico City, Northwest Medical Teams, 2003

A team of eleven people, led by Mary Lee Roesener, took gifts to people living in the dumps of Oaxaca and Mexico City.  I was privileged to be one of them


Dedicated to Wild Bill

Small Town Boy