Quiet town, quiet time


Looking north on the paved riverfront path that brought solitude during a couple of morning runs in Corvallis.

There was a time when I was a regular visitor to Corvallis. I’d go down to Oregon State University two to three times a year to meet with student journalists interested in The Oregonian’s internship programs.

It’s been a while, though, so I was pleased to return recently as one of several professional mentors at a summer journalism camp for Oregon and southwest Washington high school students.

Read their work on the Oregon Teens blog on OregonLive.

I spent lots of time with students in the newsroom and many hours hanging out with peers from The Oregonian/OregonLive. I’ve always valued alone time, though, so I rose early a few times to go out for an early morning run through the OSU campus and into the downtown area.

It’s a simple pleasure I never tire of.

Running at a leisurely pace, following an impromptu route, I notice things I’d probably miss if I were driving by or sleeping in — such as a deer, wandering a residential neighborhood southeast of campus.

I ran on a Sunday morning, my favorite time of the week, when all is quiet. I went out again Tuesday and Thursday mornings and there wasn’t much difference, no doubt because so many students are away for the summer.

In any case, here are a few postcards from Corvallis.



A welcome sign across the street from our hotel on the south end of campus.

HSJI.SEC The journalism institute took place on the 4th floor of the Student Experience Center.

HSJI.3 dudes

A mix-up at the front desk meant we had to figure out how to deal with one room, two beds and three dudes. From left, roommates George Rede, Dillon Pilorget and Tony Hernandez.

HSJI.broken yolk

Highly recommended: Hobo hash at The Broken Yolk cafe.


My hard-working students: Toli Tate, left, and Kyler Kaykeo take notes during an interview with a state senator.


The Oregon State campus is well maintained with lots of trees and wide streets.

HSJI.block 15

The 2016 High School Journalism Institute crew, relaxing at the Block 15 brewpub. From left, counterclockwise: Emily Smith, Cathy Noah, Eder Campuzano (talk to the hand), Elliot Njus, Tony Hernandez, George Rede, Molly Harbarger, Samantha Bakall, Molly Young (camp director, extraordinaire) and Gina Mizell.

More photos from camp on Twitter: #hsji2016

At journalism camp, it’s all about growth


Kyler Kaykeo, left, of Fort Vancouver High School, and Toli Tate, of Grant High School, teamed up to write a story on a challenging topic: campus sexual assault.

Anxiety ran high when 18 high school students from Oregon and southwest Washington came together a week ago in Corvallis to spend seven days with each other learning the fundamentals of journalism with the help of adult mentors.

Even scarier, thrown together largely as strangers, they’d be sharing rooms in college dorms, taking all their meals together, and working long hours each day to improve their reporting, writing, photography and multimedia skills.

Anxiety ran high, too, among the professional journalists who would be working with students at the High School Journalism Institute, a collaboration of The Oregonian/OregonLive and Oregon State University.

Although most came from the same newsroom in Portland, few had worked directly with each other, several were volunteering for the first time, and some wondered how they’d do as teachers.

As everyone scattered to return home today [Saturday, June 25], it was clear all that anxiety had melted away, buried under a foundation of new connections and unlikely friendships, fortified by mutual respect, and leavened by an appreciation for what a diverse, tech-savvy newsroom staff can accomplish.


Friendships built quickly over shared meals at campus dining halls. Counterclockwise, from left: Jovani Camarena, Reynolds High School; Kyleah Puyear, St. Helens High School; Hanin Naajar, International School of Beaverton; and Melanie Gonzalez, Reynolds High School.

As the final hours ticked away Friday, I asked my colleagues to describe the program in a single word.

Among the responses: Inspiring. Rewarding. “Fetch,” meaning cool or awesome, in teenspeak.

Also: Invigorating. Immersive. Incredible.

To those I would add one more: Growth.


The summer journalism program has been around for more than 20 years.

During that time, it’s given hundreds of students of color, as well as those with disabilities or from low-income backgrounds, a chance to learn the basics. Equally important, the students leave better equipped to tell stories reflecting their own diverse experiences and of individuals and communities overlooked by mainsteam media.

During a 30-year career at The Oregonian/OregonLive, I participated in several similar projects involving college students but hadn’t worked extensively with high school journalists. So, as one of the rookie mentors this year, I had my own doubts about how well I’d mesh with a younger demographic.

I needn’t have worried.

Each of us was paired with two students. I had the good fortune to work with Toli Tate, a rising sophomore at Portland’s Grant High School, and Kyler Kaykeo, a senior-to-be at Fort Vancouver High School.

Toli brought some experience as a reporter for the award-winning student magazine at Grant, working under the guidance of David Austin, a former institute director who’s now communications director for Multnomah County. Kyler came in as green as they come, owing to the lack of a journalism program at his high school.

For him, every single thing was new — interviewing, note-taking, pulling direct quotes, attributing facts, asking follow-up questions.

It was a similar story with other pairs of students and their mentors. A few who’d written essays in their English class. Others who’d worked on a school yearbook. A handful with limited experience on their school newspaper.

While students struggled to acquire a new vocabulary — ledes, nut grafs and kickers — and adapt to a new writing style, we professionals faced our own challenges. How do you break down the process of what you do into digestible lessons? How do you give constructive criticism without bruising young egos? When do you back off? When do you step in? How do you manage your time in order to give individual attention to each student?

In other words, how do you teach?

If it took this much focus and effort to guide two students through two blog posts, two profile stories and one news story in a single week, how does a single high school teacher do it week after week with 18 or more students? Especially with all the administrative tasks and testing requirements that come along with being a full-time educator.

I wasn’t the only one who wondered. Nor was I alone in expressing appreciation for the guidance and encouragement received all those years ago from a high school journalism adviser.

Trudging back to our hotel rooms after a long day in the newsroom, we’d trade stories and share our doubts about whether we were having an impact.

By Friday evening, after deadlines had been met and final production details left to the trio of pros who would design this year’s newspaper, it was obvious the lessons had taken hold.


Camp director Molly Young kept things moving smoothly from beginning to end.

These 18 talented students — sons and daughters of immigrants, straight and gay, rural and urban, and speakers of multiple languages — bonded and blossomed before our eyes. One after another said they’d overcome their fears of not fitting in and had learned more than they imagined possible.

In turn, the professionals declared they had learned just as much from the students and each other.

All of us in the program would be returning to our homes, our schools, our newsrooms, reinvigorated and eager to apply new skills and insights.

Whether personal or professional, that’s what growth looks like to me.

— George Rede is a former editor, reporter and newsroom recruitment director at The Oregonian/OregonLive. This article originally appeared on the Oregon Teens blog, where you can read more about the 2016 High School Journalism Institute.

Detroit: A ruined city

I’ve always thought I liked Detroit. But I now realize what I liked was the idea of Detroit.

Credit the difference to “Detroit,” a hard-hitting book published in 2013 by Charlie LeDuff, a former New York Times reporter who returned to his hometown to write for the struggling Detroit News. “Detroit” chronicles the sorry state of the Motor City and how it got that way.

LeDuff grew up in a working class suburb of Detroit and his mother and brothers still live in the area. He quit the Times in 2007, then joined the News hoping to write stories that would reveal how a once-mighty city fell into a decades-long tailspin. This isn’t a book about macroeconomics or geopolitics nor is it a feel-good story with a happy ending, LeDuff says in the prologue. “It is a book of reportage,” he says. “A memoir of a reporter returning home — only he cannot find the home he once knew.”

detroit coverThe city that gave us the automobile, unions that helped secure family-wage jobs and benefits, and the enduring Motown sound today is a shell of itself. Since 1950, Detroit has lost nearly two-thirds of its population, sliding from a peak of nearly 1.9 million residents to about 700,000 today.

Once the richest city in America, Detroit is known today as a center of misery — a place plagued by crime, drugs, poverty, illiteracy, dropouts and foreclosures. Layered atop it all is a political culture defined by cronyism and corruption, with city council members and a recent mayor — the disgraced Kwame Kilpatrick — having been sent off to prison.

With a reporter’s nose for news and a gift for storytelling, LeDuff presents a compelling portrait of the city’s fall from grace. If you’re like me, you may think you know the Detroit story — a city wracked by race riots in 1943 and 1967, a city that’s become 90 percent black after decades of white flight, a city that nearly went bankrupt earlier this decade, and whose Big Three automakers had to beg Washington for a bailout after the auto industry collapsed during the 2008 recession.

But again, if you’re like me, you don’t really know the depth of dysfunction in Detroit.

In 287 compelling pages, LeDuff traces the city’s recent history and shares the backstory behind some of the most memorable stories and columns he produced at the News. Some material in the book appeared in different form in the News and Mother Jones magazine. But it is fleshed out with additional reporting that calls out the scoundrels while also singling out the unsung heroes and ordinary citizens who strive against all odds to make Detroit a better place.


My affection for Detroit began more than 30 years ago. I was among a dozen U.S. journalists chosen to spend a sabbatical year at the University of Michigan in nearby Ann Arbor. During my 10 months living in one of the nation’s great college towns, I experienced Detroit as an occasional visitor and nearly always as part of a group. We toured the Detroit Institute of Arts. We dined on lamb and sipped ouzo at Greektown restaurants. I caught a Saturday afternoon baseball game at venerable Tiger Stadium and began a fan from that day on, enjoying the thrill of seeing the Tigers win the World Series in the fall of 1984, just months after I had returned home to Oregon.

I would return frequently on behalf of The Oregonian, delighted to recruit several students from the U of M, Michigan State, and Wayne State to Portland, and happy to establish friendships with many more who went on to succeed in other newsrooms. On one trip, I visited Hitsville, U.S.A., the Motown-themed museum where so many R&B artists launched their careers.

But it was a false picture. I knew how to get from the airport to Greektown, a safe haven with familiar hotels and restaurants, but little else. I wasn’t exposed to the urban wasteland described by LeDuff.


I’ve been a LeDuff fan for years. He’s a drinking, smoking, cussing old-school reporter with blue-collar roots who started his newspaper career at the Alaska Fisherman’s Journal, landed a summer internship at the Times, and went on to become an award-winning staff writer.


Charlie LeDuff

I discovered his book by chance. While waiting for a late-night flight to Detroit as part of my Midwest baseball road trip, I noticed the paperback on a table at an airport bookstore and snatched it up. Good call.

“Detroit” is one of those books where you wind up with more than a dozen dog-eared pages. The stories are so arresting, the writing so vivid, that you can’t help but savor these scenes.

Two examples:

— The city, what’s left of it, burns night after night. Nature — in the form of pheasants,, hawks, foxes, coyotes and wild dogs — had stepped in to fill the vacuum, reclaiming a little more of the landscape each day. The streets were empty and cratered. The skyscrapers were holograms. I stood and admired a cottonwood sapling growing out of the roof of the Lafayette Building. This was like living in Pompeii, except the people weren’t covered in ash. We were alive.”

— We sat in a local diner, a rundown joint with walls the color of an old man’s teeth. I watched the detective tear into a chili dog. He weighed 350 pounds and was trying that meat-only diet.

“The whole shit is corrupt from top to bottom,” he said through his mustache and mouthful of dog. “Cops to judges. The fucking radios in the cars don’t even work. Why you think so many guys are leaving the department?”

Reading “Detroit” was the equivalent of taking the Ice Bucket Challenge. The naive picture I had of the city was doused with a bucketful of grim reality. I knew things were bad. I just hadn’t realized they’d been this bad for so long and gotten even worse.

It’s hard to feel optimistic about Detroit’s future. Like other Midwest cities, it’s experiencing a renaissance of sorts.

But “Detroit” isn’t about happy endings. It’s about looking at what went horribly wrong, at who and what destroyed the city, and what we should all know about a city that played such a critical role in the U.S and world economy.

Photograph: lansingonlinenews.com

Orlando hits home


waterfront vigil

Portlanders gather along the riverfront Sunday evening, June 12, for a vigil iafter nearly 50 people were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Until now, I have been silent on social media about the bloodshed in Orlando. I’m moved to do so with my precious daughter and her wife firmly in mind.

As I write this on a quiet Saturday night, it was only a week ago that a deranged killer violated the safe space of people enjoying Latin Night at a popular gay nightclub, killing 49 people in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

As speculation ran wild about the killer’s motives, his national origin and possible allegiance to ISIS, Americans quickly engaged in the familiar, depressing debate over guns, gun control and gun reform that always follows these mass killings. That is, if you can call a shouting match with no signs of budging a “debate.”

No matter if the killer was homophobic or struggling with his own homosexuality, whether the murders were inspired by Islamic terrorism or the actions of a lone wolf, it’s clear this massacre was a hate crime.

And that is what prompts me to write.

Though Donald Trump creates a toxic sideshow every time he opens his mouth and Republican lawmakers remain steadfast in their opposition to any reforms or any kind, what really sickened me were the so-called Christian ministers who praised the massacres.

I won’t name any of these vile haters or repeat their sick words. Suffice to say it was a gut-punch to realize that so much animosity remains against gay men and women in this country.

After the legal and societal gains we’ve seen in recent years, owing to judicial rulings, new laws and rapidly shifting cultural attitudes, I’d begun to think we’d mostly left the ugly history of discrimination and violence toward gays behind us. Living in Portland, where I see same-sex couples leading ordinary lives and freely expressing affection just as any heterosexual couple would do, I guess I had begun to take it for granted that we were beyond hating people because of who they are and whom they love.


A favorite photo of Simone & Kyndall

Part of the horror for me was relating this hateful act to my daughter and daughter-in-law. Aside from being homeowners, gainfully employed in jobs serving the public and working people, and actively involved in efforts to better their neighborhood, they have an active social life too. The possibility that they and their friends could be out dancing and similarly targeted sent chills through me — and saddened me to no end.

Simone and Kyndall — and so many of their friends — are the kind of people who make this world a better place. Smart, funny, generous and big-hearted, they represent the best our country has to offer. I am ever so grateful that they live here in Portland and not in some red state where tolerance apparently has yet to become part of the fabric of everyday life.

Today our city will celebrate the Portland Pride Parade, with thousands from the LGBTQ community and their supporters expected to attend the annual event. I can’t be there to lend my support, as I am out of town, but I hope this gathering will enable people to send the strongest message possible — that love conquers hate and that Portlanders stand in unison with those in Orlando.

Photograph: Natasha Rausch, The Oregonian/OregonLive

Read The Oregonian/OregonLive coverage of the Pride Parade Sunday: ‘I refuse to live in fear’

Magician in the kitchen

bang bang 2

Nathan Rede (left) rockin’ it in the kitchen.

One of my first memories of food and our first-born son is of him sitting a high chair munching on one of those meat sticks that came in a baby food jar.

I don’t remember if it was actually beef, chicken or turkey, but I do know he ate those with gusto.

Fast forward to one night this week when Lori and I dropped in for dinner at the Northeast Portland restaurant where he recently began working as a chef. There he was, visible through a cut-out panel behind the register, gathering ingredients for the next dishes to go out to a table.

It was clear that Nathan was in his element at Bang Bang PDX. Casually dressed in T-shirt and long shorts, confident in his culinary skills and concentrating on producing another plate or bowl of Thai food to please the senses. (Check out the menu here.)

With pride, we marveled at the sight. Who could have imagined this lover of lil’ wieners would someday be in the restaurant business, pursuing one of his twin passions? If you’re going to be a foodie in Portland, why not go big and be a cook rather than just a consumer?

The other passion is music. We’re equally proud that our oldest child has found a niche as a much-in-demand DJ who plays at clubs, house parties and wedding receptions all over the Northwest.

This weekend, in fact, you’ll find Nathan Detroit in the lineup at the What The Festival 2016 in little Dufur, Oregon. It’s a four-day festival bringing together live acts and DJs on multiple stages. It’s the biggest venue yet for our son, with an estimated 10,000 people expected to attend, according to our favorite DJ.


Can you find his name? (Hint: Left side.)

As a young boy, I remember my father telling me often that all he wanted for each of three children was for them to be happy, healthy and financially independent. I’ve taken the same approach with our trio of kids and it’s nice to see each of them checking off those three items.

In Nathan’s case, his dual pursuit of food and music has been all the sweeter knowing it wasn’t a straight path from high school to college to the present. There was a big hiccup between starting at the University of Oregon and finishing years later at Portland State University. But the maturing that took place in those years was both significant and necessary, I’m sure he’d agree. Now he’s putting those business and marketing degrees to good use as he navigates his way in the restaurant industry while branding himself in the music world.

Closing the loop here, I’ve gotta say it’s pretty cool to go out for a meal of kung pao sticky rice cakes, green papaya salad with blue crab, and a pineapple curry bowl and delight in the knowledge that the professional cook who just blew away your taste buds is that once-chubby little guy with fistfuls of meat sticks. You might even call it magical.

Note: If our first visit was any indication, Nathan works with some very nice people. Enjoyed talking to the owner, Alex, and our server, Steph.




Friday flashback: ‘My daughter, my self’

Natasha & Lisa

Natasha, at age 9, with mother Lisa.

June is the month for high school graduations, a timeless tradition marking a key passage in the lives of students and parents alike.

A year ago, my cousin Lisa Gonzales saw her only child, Natasha, walk across the stage to receive her diploma. I thought of mother and daughter as I considered what to share in this week’s look back at previously published posts.

It seemed like a good choice, an opportunity to honor the relationship between parent and child, but also to raise the question Lisa asked in her 2012 blog post: “Are our children really a reflection of ourselves?”

It’s a good question. Probably every mom and dad has tried to figure out how his or her child is similar or dissimilar from their parents. How much of their physicality and personality is inherent or developed. Where their interests and idiosyncracies come from.

As Lisa suggests, the answer is multifaceted.

“I can look at my daughter and there is no way to deny that she is mine,” she writes. “Actually, who she is goes beyond the reflection in the mirror. Maybe the reflection is more about the values we pass down to our children? The values my parents taught me, I have passed on to Natasha. Her actions are the reflection of me and what I have taught her from the day she was born.”


Mother and daughter on 2015 graduation day.

Anyone who knows Natasha knows she is a mini version of her mom. But they also know she has multiple talents in music, dance and sports and that she is very much a product of the influence of her late grandfather — my Uncle Pro.

Natasha attends the same community college in Monterey County, California, that her mom attended. With her whole adult life ahead of her, there’s plenty of time for this young lady to blaze her own trail — or maybe follow in her mom’s footsteps.

Read Lisa’s Voices of August blog post: “My daughter, my self”

Discovering Dummy Hoy

The world can be an ugly place. In the face of mass killings and terror attacks, racism and discrimination, it can be discouraging — if not downright depressing — to see how we treat each other on this planet.

That’s why I was delighted recently to step away from the mayhem and learn about a late-19th Century baseball player who overcame a disability and discrimination and went on to make a lasting contribution to the game.

My history lesson came in the form of “The William Hoy Story,” a children’s book published earlier this year to much acclaim.


It’s written by Nancy Churnin, the wife of my longtime friend, Michael Granberry. Both are Texas journalists — she’s the theater critic at The Dallas Morning News, he’s an arts writer at the same place — and both are big-time baseball fans.

I’ve known Mike since we were summer interns at The Washington Post during our college days. I met Nancy when I visited the couple in the fall of 2014 and took an instant liking to her (even though she’s a Yankees fan).

Nancy sent me an autographed copy of the book and I set it aside to read last Saturday.  I’m a lifelong baseball fan and pretty knowledgeable about the game’s history, but I had never heard of William Hoy. Thanks to Nancy’s research and writing, distilled into 27 pages of text and illustrations, I now know about another of the game’s pioneers.

William Ellsworth Hoy was born in 1862 on a farm in Ohio. As a 3-year-old, he contracted meningitis and lost his hearing and speech. He graduated from the Ohio School for the Deaf and worked as a cobbler, but also played baseball and signed his first professional contract with a minor league team in 1886.

He broke into the major leagues two years later and set a National League record for stolen bases his rookie season. At 5’5″ and 148 pounds, he played as an outfielder for seven teams, including the Cincinnati Reds, during a career spanning 14 years.

nancy churnin

Author Nancy Churnin.

Back in his day, “Dummy” was a common name for people who were deaf and mute, according to the book. William was proud of being deaf and so referred to himself as Dummy. (Thank goodness, we’re beyond that.)

Hoy’s legacy: Working with umpires to introduce hand signals so that spectators, as well as players and coaches, could see as pitches were called balls or strikes and runners were declared safe or out.

We take those signs for granted. But it’s inspiring to realize they came about because of a little-known player who endured teasing because he couldn’t hear the umpires’ calls.

Dummy Hoy died in 1961 at age 99. Thanks to Nancy and Jez Tuya, her artist collaborator, I now know more about an important sports figure — and I hope schools and libraries across the country will add this little gem of a book to their shelves.


In a review for The New York Times, Maria Russo praised the “delightful and illuminating biography,” saying of Nancy Churnin: “She tells William’s story patiently and clearly, with a wonderfully matter-of-fact tone about the ways a deaf person navigates life. She strikes just the right balance between reporting the hardships and discrimination he faced an owner who tried to underpay him, fellow players who laughed at and tricked him and emphasizing the personal grit that allowed him to persevere and overcome daunting obstacles.”

Read the review here.

Photograph: nancychurnin.com


Three for ‘fore’


Not Ready for Prime Time Golf: Ed, George and Tom.

Even if you’ve never played the game, you probably know golfers yell “fore” to warn other golfers of an errant shot. Luckily, there were no heads bonked and no close calls during a round of nine holes  with two friends.

Instead, there were the usual hits and misses you’d expect from guys who play less than five times a year. Long, straight drives and impressive putts mixed in with hooks and slices off the tee, divots, whiffs, and sand traps.

Such inconsistencies might frustrate an accomplished golfer. But when you roll with my crowd, it’s easy to keep things in perspective. The point is to have fun — enjoy the fresh air, revel in the occasional good stroke, celebrate the rare “par” — and go have lunch afterwards.


Tom and Ed walk the fairway after massive drives off the tee.

That’s exactly what my buddies, Tom and Ed, and I did yesterday at Eastmoreland Golf Course in Southeast Portland. Bordered in part by the Rhododendron Gardens and Crystal Springs Lake, Eastmoreland is ranked by Golf Digest among the top public courses in the country to play.

The front nine is mostly flat and, though lined with trees on every fairway, we didn’t lose a single ball. Yesterday’s weather was perfect, too. Overcast skies and mild temperatures came on the heels of blistering hot weather earlier in the week and rain that fell later in the day.


Eastmoreland Golf Course dates back to 1916.

Yesterday was my first time at Eastmoreland. I got the idea to play there during a recent urban hike in the Reed College area that took me past the perimeter of the course.

Based on this week’s experience, I wouldn’t mind playing here again. Maybe 18 holes next time?

Noteworthy: The scorecard showed that each of us roughly shot our age in strokes. I call that success.

Photograph: Eastmoreland Golf Course

The old neighborhood


The castle at the intersection of NE Wistaria Drive and 39th Avenue was a familiar sight during our years of living in the Grant Park neighborhood.

More often than not, it seems I’m doing my urban hikes in the rain or at least cloudy skies. That was the case again last week, so I picked out a route that I knew didn’t have any hilltop vistas. I mean, why waste the scenic rewards if visibility is limited?

That’s how I wound up doing the Alameda Ridge Loop, a 4.75-mile trek through the four neighborhoods — Beaumont, Hollywood, Grant Park and Alameda — that once provided a home base for my family.

Here is where we lived for 25 years on a corner lot on a leafy street. Here is where our kids attended elementary and middle school. Here is where we took them and our dogs to the park. Here is where we shopped for groceries, went to nearby restaurants and belonged to the old YMCA.

(Click on images to view captions.)

We moved away six years ago, packing fond memories but no regrets. Our new home frees us from yard work (a huge time-saver on weekends) and puts us right in the middle of an urban neighborhood where just about every service is 10-15 minutes away on foot.

So while I enjoyed being back on familiar turf, I can’t say I was overcome with emotion. Strolling the residential streets on a Thursday afternoon, I appreciated the tranquillity and enjoyed seeing familiar sights.

Following a route described in Laura O. Foster’s “Portland Hill Walks,” I started my hike near NE 51st Avenue and Sandy Boulevard and headed north and west at almost a 45-degree angle as I walked along Wistaria Drive, Klickitat Street, down 32nd Place, up 30th Avenue, and finally onto Alameda Street. The route back took me along Ridgewood Drive, Edgehill Place, Fremont Street (the only commercial street on the hike) and Alameda Street before dropping back down to Sandy Boulevard.

There were five staircases along the way, starting with one of 88 steps leading from the flat lands to Alameda Ridge. Thanks to Foster’s guidebook, I’ve been on more of these staircases than I can count — each one providing a short-cut and many of them offering a leafy respite from sun or rain.

All in all, another outing to put in the memory book.:



Labor pains

spanaway sunset

Sunset on a suburban cul-de-sac south of Tacoma.

With only a few weeks to go before our first grandchild makes her debut, we headed north this weekend to try to make ourselves useful to the parents-to-be.

Lori had long ago proposed that we spend a weekend with Jamie and Jordan at their home near Tacoma to help them with a backlog of chores before baby arrives. Between their two jobs and Jordan’s full-time college schedule, we knew they could use some extra helping hands.

And so it was that Lori and I put on our grubbies, pulled on some work gloves and went to work alongside our son and daughter-in-law during the hottest weekend of the year. Excellent timing, right?

spanaway jax

Jax is the playful pit bull that Jamie and Jordan adopted as a puppy and nursed to health as he recovered from a broken leg.

Starting Friday evening, continuing all day Saturday and finishing Sunday morning, we accomplished quite a bit together in their expansive backyard — weeding everywhere, yanking out ivy, taking out a hawthorn tree, cleaning out a fish pond, a greenhouse and a couple of sheds, and then hauling two loads of yard waste and assorted debris to the local landfill.

If you looked at our forearms, you might have thought we went mano a mano with a couple of alley cats. But, no, the accumulated scratches and minor cuts only spoke to the thorny nature of the work. If there were labor pains this weekend, they were of the sore muscles variety — not those associated with pregnancy.

It wasn’t all work this weekend, by any means.

We got a sneak preview of the nursery room, tastefully decorated; went to dinner at a favorite Italian restaurant; watched “The Revenant” together; and viewed an ultrasound image of Baby Rede at the veterinary hospital where Jamie works.


Jordan and Jamie, during their most recent visit to Portland in May.

It’s always a good thing visiting with Jamie and Jordan. They are such a hard-working couple, utterly devoted to each other, and so appreciative of time spent with family.

We wish they lived a little closer. But, hey, at least they are three hours, not three time zones, away by car.

There’s no doubt in our mind that they will be excellent parents.