Jordan at 30

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Jordan flashes a big smile after receiving his diploma during commencement exercises at St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington.

Today brings yet another New Year’s Eve, but in our family December 31st means something more special: our youngest son’s birthday.

This year, it’s extra special: Jordan Emilio Rede is turning 30 years old.

Hardly seems possible but, yes, our little guy is saying adiós to his 20s.

Distance prevents Lori and I from celebrating with him in person, as he’s now living two time zones away. But that doesn’t lessen our pride and joy as his parents. And I’m sure Nathan and Simone would agree that their little brother has developed into quite a guy.

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The pumpkin patch at Sauvie Island was always one of Jordan’s favorite outings.

Over the years, Jordan has transformed himself from an energetic, physically active, risk-taking adolescent into a solid, responsible young husband and father with a bright future ahead of him.

His trajectory in the last few years has been breathtaking. But let’s not get ahead of the story.

***

Growing up, Jordan was the most physically active of our three. No surprise, considering he started walking at 10 months, well before either of his siblings. He’d climb trees, skateboard and break dance. In high school, he played coed soccer, took up snowboarding and Shaolin kung fu, and wrestled.

When he joined the Army at 21, he took it to another level during basic training. I’ll never forget how trim and deeply tanned he looked when we traveled to Fort Benning, Georgia, in the summer of 2009 to see him graduate and become an active duty soldier.

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Lori and George with Jordan in July 2009 following his graduation from boot camp at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Joining the military isn’t what we had in mind for Jordan, but he was intent on becoming an infantryman and seizing the opportunity to challenge himself and be part of a team in service to his country. Of course, we worried when he was deployed to Afghanistan for a 12-month tour ending in December 2012 — five years ago this month.

That day he returned to Joint Base Lewis McChord, safe and sound with hundreds of other troops, stands out as one of the most emotional days of our lives.

Read “A soldier’s return” here

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U.S. Army Specialist Jordan Rede with wife Jamie and his proud parents in December 2012.

Jordan completed his four-year enlistment the following year and since then, the years seem to have passed in a blur.

Using his G.I. Bill benefits, he enrolled at St. Martin’s University, a small school with a veteran-friendly reputation, and plowed through four years of undergraduate study in the sciences. From their home near Tacoma, he endured a daily 50-mile round-trip commute to attend classes.

In May of this year, at age 29, he graduated magna cum laude in biology. Along the way, he won a National Science Foundation summer fellowship to study at Marquette University, an experience that piqued his interest in science research as a career.

Read “Jordan’s Journey” here

Immediately after graduation, he and his wife and their young daughter packed up and moved to Columbia, Missouri, home of the state’s flagship university, where he began a one-year fellowship aimed at giving post-baccalaureate students more experience in the lab in preparation for graduate school.

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All bundled up in Missouri: Jamie, Emalyn and Jordan.

When we visited Jordan, Jamie and Emalyn earlier this month, we was just hearing back from the first of several top-notch universities he’s applied to in hopes of pursuing a Ph.D in genetics and microbiology. Early next year, if the best-case scenario plays out, he’ll have a choice of where to go. (No specifics here, but we’re talking about Ivy League-caliber public and private schools.)

During our visit, I had a chance to see the lab where Jordan works on the Mizzou campus. Impressive.

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***

In spite of all his academic accomplishments, nothing makes us prouder than seeing Jordan in his element as a husband and young dad.

He and Jamie, sweethearts since he was in high school, have been married eight years now. She has been the wind beneath his wings, offering love and support from Day One.

They were married eight years ago on a crisp fall day in southern Oregon, not far from where Jamie grew up on a ranch. She worked as a licensed veterinary technician for several years but has shelved that for now to focus on being a stay-at-home mom.

Their daughter, Emalyn, was born in July 2016 and we were privileged to be the first ones (other than Jamie and Jordan) to see and hold her as an infant, within hours of her birth. Seeing the three of them together, whether in their cozy townhouse or out and about on a holiday outing, brought smiles to our faces.

So much has happened in the nine years since Jordan enlisted. That was a turning point in his life, for sure, as it gave him purpose while testing him physically and mentally. I would have never imagined he’d follow a path leading from the military to the college classroom to a university lab, but I’m damn proud that he has.

Today stands as a major milestone in his young life. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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2017: A year of transitions

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In a year of transitions, Lori and George celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary in September.

This year has felt like no other.

Seeing the White House change hands from the most inspiring president of my lifetime to the least qualified and least compassionate was bad enough. Watching that train wreck of a human being proceed to drive even deeper wedges into an already splintered populace — well, that was even worse.

But I’m not here to dwell on politics.

No, not even Trump can take the luster off a year that produced plenty of memorable moments for the extended Rede family.

Yes, there was sadness with the passing of my dad, Catarino Allala Rede, just six days after he turned 91 in March.

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The scene at the funeral home in Silver City, New Mexico.

But even then, there was a silver lining to his passing. I got to do a mini-road trip with daughter Simone to and from the Phoenix airport to Dad’s home in southwestern New Mexico. There, we were reunited with my stepmother, my two sisters, a niece, a nephew, and assorted cousins that I hadn’t seen for several years.

It’s funny how life’s milestones — births, weddings and deaths — are those that bring families together from near and far. But when your siblings and other relatives are spread out all along the West Coast — from Alaska to Southern California — that’s the way it is.

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With my sisters Cathy (from Dillingham, Alaska) and Rosemary (from Oceanside, California).

Aside from Dad’s death, this year of transitions was dominated by our youngest son’s graduation from college, followed just days later by his move to Middle America.

In May, Jordan graduated with a degree in biology from St. Martin’s College, a small Benedictine school outside Olympia, Washington, where he had commuted for four years from his home in Spanaway, near Tacoma. It was a remarkable accomplishment for someone who began college just months after completing a four-year enlistment in the U.S. Army, including a one-year posting in Afghanistan, and who became a father during his junior year.

 

We had barely had time to celebrate before Lori and I returned to Spanaway to help Jordan and Jamie pack up their house for a 2,000-mile move to the University of Missouri. There in Columbia, Jordan would do science research in a fellowship program designed to help students prepare for the rigors of graduate school.

Father and son embarked on a four-day road trip, with me driving a 20-foot U-Haul truck and Jordan driving the family’s Honda Fit, packed to the gills and including their two dogs and one cat. I had envisioned the trip as an upbeat adventure, but it quickly took a dark turn when the U-Haul truck got a flat tire on the first day and again on the second day in remote areas of Idaho and Montana.

We made it on schedule, but only after pounding through really long third and fourth days where sightseeing took a back seat to the urgency of sticking to our schedule. We arrived late on a Friday, unloaded the truck’s contents on Saturday, and I flew home early Sunday.

 

How I wish Dad had lived to see his youngest grandchild graduate from college and become a father, as well.

As for the rest of 2017, well, it’s no wonder it feels like these 12 months flew by. Lots of memories and two end-of-year milestones.

Travel: We stuck close to home with three trips to our quiet cabin on Orcas Island. We always look forward to the week-long respite from urban life. The trips entails a 250-mile drive to Anacortes, where we board the ferry for a one-hour sailing to the island, and then an additional 45-minute drive to our place above Eagle Lake.

Pictures are worth a thousand words.

 

In early December, Lori and I returned to Missouri for a quick pre-Christmas visit. It was a joy to spend time with our sweet granddaughter, Emalyn, and her loving parents.

Books: Literature is a passport of its own, with talented authors opening doors to unfamiliar places, people and experiences. Among those I enjoyed this year were: “Among the Living and the Dead,” a memoir by my Latvian-American friend and former colleague, Inara Verzemnieks; “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest,” the last in the trilogy of Swedish crime thrillers churned out by the late Stieg Larsson; “Hillbilly Elegy,” a window into the Appalachian hillbilly culture written by one who escaped, J.D. Vance;  “Lab Girl,” a peek into the world of Hope Jahren, a pioneering research scientist; and “Evicted,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning examination of American poverty through the  racist practice of eviction. (Racist? Read the book and you’ll see what I mean.)

 

Music: I like to think I have broad tastes, though family members would disagree.  But, what the heck. I think I did pretty well catching a handful of concerts featuring artists ranging from Janet Jackson and Coldplay to Lady Antebellum, Michelle Branch, Tuxedo, Liz Longley and ZZ Ward.

Movies: No links this year because I wasn’t as diligent as usual. But I did enjoy “Get Out,” “Lady Bird,” “Detroit” and, most recently, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

Visitors: We had a surprise visit in early May from Chiho Hayamizu, a lovely young lady from Japan who was just 20 when she came to live with our family during a year of study at Portland State University. Our oldest child, Nathan, was just 13 when Chiho moved in with us in the spring of 1993.

Chiho, now 44 but still looking 20 (and even 30) years younger, was back in town for an unofficial reunion with friends who’d also been exchange students in Portland.

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Lori and Chiho: Radiant smiles, no matter the location or the year.

In October, my best friend, Al Rodriguez, came up from Santa Barbara to spend a few days timed to coincide with the annual Voices of August writers meetup. It was great hanging out with my longtime buddy, whether it was grabbing lunch from the downtown food carts or attending opening night of the Trail Blazers’ 2017-18 season. (They actually won!)

 

In November, two of Lori’s best friends, Terry (Long) Mullaney and Lin Dillon, came up from San Francisco for a long weekend of sightseeing and hanging out. Lori and Terry grew up on the same city block, and the two of them met Lin at the all-girls high school they attended. Nice to see such an enduring friendship.

Voices: For the seventh consecutive year, I curated a month of guest blog posts during the month of August. It’s become something that I look forward to every year, the opportunity to be informed, inspired and entertained by a changing cast of friends, relatives and online acquaintances, with ages ranging from 14 to 65-plus. Each person writes on a topic of their choice and does so in a way that brings variety and texture to the whole.

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This year’s VOA peeps gathered Oct. 20 at McMenamin’s on Broadway. Front row, from left: Gosia Wozniacka, Elizabeth Gomez, Jennifer Brennock, Lynn St. Georges, Lori Rede, Lakshmi Jagannathan. Back row, from left: George Rede, John Killen, Bob Ehlers, Al Rodriguez, Keith Cantrell. Not pictured: Eric Wilcox.

This look back at 2017 wouldn’t be complete without two final notes:

— This is the year both Lori and I moved into a new age bracket: 65. She’s still rockin’ it as the owner of her personal training business and I’m enjoying my work as well, as an adjunct college instructor and part-time communications coordinator for a local education nonprofit.

— Chalk up another year with our two pets: Mabel, the mellowest of cats, and Charlotte, the energetic mutt who’s won our heart with her antics and underbite.

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Up to no good. Again.

 

 

The mother of all milestones

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Three reasons to be a proud father: Nathan, Simone and Jordan, all gathered at a family dinner in May 2017.

So I’m sitting in my favorite chair, with my little dog stretched out atop my lower legs, and I’m looking out the window at a silvery-gray sky. It’s perfectly quiet.

“I don’t know what to think or how I’m supposed to feel,” I say.

“It’s just like any other day,” Lori responds.

“Is it?”

A milestone day I never imagined has arrived. On this 27th day of December, life’s odometer has reached LXV. The Big Sesenta y Cinco. Sixty-Five.

An age that officially makes me a senior citizen, though some businesses and organizations consider you to be so at 62 or 60 or even 55. Whatever.

In any case, I’m now 65, eligible for Medicare and Social Security.

I don’t feel it. I’m still swimming, running, lifting weights. Working three part-time jobs: teaching at two universities and working for a local nonprofit. Reading, writing and blogging.

Two thoughts come to mind:

— The two people who gave me life are both gone now. My dad, Catarino, died in March of this year, six days after reaching his 91st birthday. My mom, Theresa, died four years ago in October, one day short of her 86th birthday.

I am eternally grateful to them for instilling so many enduring values — of hard work, honesty, loyalty — that I’ve tried to live by, as well as pass on to our three children.

I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without their love, support and encouragement. Neither had the opportunity to attend high school (though my dad went back and got his G.E.D. much later in life). Both worked a variety of blue-collar jobs and took pride in my earning a college degree, knowing I could then make a living with my head instead of my hands.

— I have much, so much, to be grateful for.

Three adult children — Nathan, Simone and Jordan — each with a personality as different from the others as one can imagine. Two daughters-in-law — Kyndall and Jamie — and one more —  Sara — who will become the third next May. One granddaughter. Emalyn. Everyone in the family healthy, happy and gainfully employed, or else in school or at home by choice.

Two furry roommates that provide entertainment and companionship: 12-year-old Mabel, our brown tabby cat, and 4-year-old Charlotte, our border terrier mix.

One wonderful wife. Lori has been with me since college and at least a half-dozen moves, most of those coming in the early years of our marriage. She adapted every time as we moved from San Jose to Portland to Bend to Salem to Ann Arbor, back to Salem and up to Portland again, finally settling in a place that brought financial stability and a great city in which to raise our family and build our careers.

SC.jacketI know I drive her nuts after 42 years of marriage, with my forgetfulness and I’ll-get-to-it-in-just-a-minute approach toward too many things. But there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t recognize what an amazing and tolerant and generous woman she is. I love her deeply.

And not to be overlooked: My stepmother, Ora, now living without my dad in the home they made together in his native New Mexico. We grew very close over the course of her 46 years of marriage to my dad, and I am grateful for her love and support as well.

So, is turning 65 just like any other day?

We shall see.

Today I’m wearing my dad’s San Francisco 49ers jacket, the one I inherited upon his death. Wearing it with pride.

 

 

 

A quiet Christmas

It’s coming up on 10 o’clock the morning after Christmas and all is peaceful in the Rede abode and in our neighborhood.

Slept in, had a leisurely breakfast, and put Norah Jones and James Taylor on the CD player. (Some things don’t change.)

Outside, the distant rumble of a garbage truck making its rounds is the only sound disrupting the silence. Patches of white on the street and sidewalk bear witness to the light snowfall that we had on Christmas Eve. The mercury hasn’t moved much since then, although I’m looking at sunshine and blue skies.

For the past several weeks, the message to Buy! Buy! Buy! has been hard to escape as retailers, advertisers and marketers throw all their energy at us from every which way — print, TV, radio and especially online. We’ve gone from Black Friday to Cyber Monday to Last-Minute Bargains to End-of-Year Blowout Sales without missing a beat.

Whew. And, no thanks.

***

We had a quiet Christmas this year. Simple and meaningful and celebrated in two phases.

With our youngest son and his family in Missouri, we took the opportunity to visit them in early December, well ahead of the stress that comes along with Christmas travel. We enjoyed the company of Jordan, Jamie and Emalyn over the course of five days and four nights without the manufactured pressure of the holidays.

We did indulge in the spirit of the season, however, with a nighttime visit to the ranch where Anheuser-Busch raises its famous Clydesdale horses. Holiday lights, hot cocoa, handfuls of kettlecorn, and a close-up view of these magnificent animals made for a chilly but memorable evening.

Back in Portland, we celebrated the holiday on Christmas Eve with our other two children during a Five Dog Night.

Nathan and girlfriend Sara came over with Uni, their Yorkshire Terrier, and Hector, their rescue mutt. Simone came over with Quimby, my favorite Chihuahua, and Templeton, a Mini-Me version of an Irish Wolfhound. (Her wife, Kyndall, was unable to join us as she was committed to visiting family members in eastern Washington and Idaho.) Charlotte, as the rambunctious hostess, made it five four-legged creatures.

Dinner, drinks and dessert were a nice set-up for Punderdome, a card game for pun lovers. (Truth be told, the gathering also served as an early birthday celebration for yours truly.)

When it came time to leave, the streets were slick and icy enough that Simone spent the night, resulting in bonus time with our daughter on Christmas morning.

As dusk arrived, we kicked our plans into gear: Grab an early dinner at Frank’s Noodle House, a family-run joint featuring Chinese hand-pulled noodles, and then head on over to the Hollywood Theater to see “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

Frances McDormand delivers a powerful performance as a strong-willed mother taking extreme measures to prod local law enforcement into doing more to solve her daughter’s murder. Great movie with a cast that includes Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes and Peter Dinklage.

(Interesting that the movie is set in Missouri. Not really, though. No such place as Ebbing. Plus, the film was shot in North Carolina.)

All in all, a very nice celebration. Even when it’s not possible to have all your loved ones in a single place, there’s a way to celebrate separately with meaning.

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A Christmas gift for the two of us. Miss him.

 

Holidays in Missouri

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Happy, smiley Emalyn. (Photo by Lori Rede)

The last time I set foot in Missouri was six months ago, at the end of a grueling four-day road trip to help our youngest son, Jordan, move across country into the college town of Columbia.

We unloaded a 20-foot U-Haul truck and I left, exhausted, early the following morning.

When I returned last week with Lori at my side, everything had changed.

  • The townhouse I had last seen piled with boxes and furniture had been remade into an appealing space.
  • Jamie and baby Emalyn, who had stayed with Lori during the move, welcomed us into their home.
  • Jordan was now six months into a fellowship program at the University of Missouri designed to prepare students for graduate study in biomedical research.
  • I’d just finished giving the final exam and posted grades for my class at Portland State.

Now, we were here — 2,000 miles from home — to spend a few days with the kids and our 18-month-old granddaughter.

***

The visit went well. In fact, as Lori remarked, it’s hard to imagine a better time.

We booked our flight months ago, opting to visit well ahead of the craziness of the Christmas rush yet close enough to feel the holiday spirit.

The weather was clear and crisp, with bright sunshine and subfreezing temperatures that reminded us of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where we once lived for a year during a sabbatical.

We made a couple of trips to the local mall, did some shopping, saw Santa, put Emalyn on the carousel, and visited the ranch outside Columbia where the famous Budweiser Clydesdales are born and bred.

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We did some babysitting, visited a nearby park and played with their dog, Jax, a gentle pit bull. We also watched a forgettable Netflix movie (“The Ref”) and a new-to-us TV series (“The Punisher”).

Jordan and I got some guy time, and he showed me the lab where he does his research.

***

Most of all, we enjoyed every minute around Emalyn. She is a delight.

At this age, she is walking confidently, communicating in sign language with a vocabulary I estimate at 50-plus words, and smiling her way through the day. She’s an adventurous eater (watch your hummus if she’s nearby), a lover of books and animals, and a physically active girl.

She takes Baby Yoga with her mom, goes to the municipal pool for swimming, clambers on the play equipment at the park, and throws a slobbery rubber ball for Jax.

Emalyn sees us regularly on FaceTime, so it didn’t take long for her to connect the small-screen images with the real-life Nonni Lori and Papa George.

What’s most striking about Em — aside from being the most photogenic child on the planet — is that she is just so happy. Jamie, as a stay-at-home mom, has done a wonderful job as a parent and teacher with Jordan’s help and reinforcement.

Lori and I arrived on a Wednesday evening and flew home Sunday afternoon. It was a wonderful visit and one we hope to repeat again next year.

 

Autumn memories

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A good way to start a weekend visit? With a hot drink at happy hour. From left, Lin, George, Lori and Terry.

Seems it wasn’t that long ago that summer turned to fall. Mornings got cooler. Trees went from leafy to naked. And another academic term began at Portland State.

And now what?

Halloween, Thanksgiving and the World Series all have come and gone. Today kicks off the last week of classes at PSU. And the winter equinox is less than a month away.

Before another day slips by, it’s time to pause and reflect on a few highlights of recent weeks.

Catholic school girls: Early in the month, two of Lori’s closest friends came up from San Francisco to spend a three-day weekend with us. Terry (Long) Mullaney is Lori’s BFF.  They grew up across the street from each other in the City by the Bay, and Terry still lives in her childhood home with her husband Mike.

Lori and Terry attended Catholic schools from first grade through 12th, and it was at the all-girls Mercy High School that they met Linda Dillon and became fast friends. After graduation, the trio took different paths to college and the world of work, but have stayed in close contact through the decades.

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We tried to make the most of their time here, showing them a couple of neighborhoods to get a feel for Northeast Portland. We also rode the Portland Streetcar to and from the South Waterfront district for lunch and a trip on the tram to Oregon Health & Science University. We popped in at Powell’s Books, went to dinner at Aviary and had some great home-cooked meals as well.

It’s always fun to get the female perspective from hanging out with three longtime friends.

Rip City: November means the start of the NBA season and, in Portland, there’s no better ticket in town than the Blazers. Lori and I got to see only one game together last year, so I’m making amends this season, hoping to attend at least three more with her.

We saw the Blazers take down the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 28, the first Saturday of the season. After seeing them lose all six games I attended last year, it was good to see the team get off to a winning start this season.

Happy hour: Teaching has gone well this fall at PSU, and I’ve added a new responsibility as internship coordinator for the Department of Communication. But I’ve also enjoyed being part of the crew at my other job at the nonprofit Portland Workforce Alliance.

Our executive director is out on temporary medical leave, so the other four of us have been working extra hard to keep things going in his absence. We bring together local high school students, leading employers and community volunteers, helping to facilitate career days, classroom speakers, mock interviews, essay writing workshops and other activities that help teens prepare for college and career.

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The Dream Team at Portland Workforce Alliance includes, clockwise from left, Susan Nielsen, myself, Sherri Nee and Kristen Kohashi.

Last week, my co-workers and I got together after work during a happy hour that was therapeutic for all of us. Our schedules often don’t mesh, so it was nice to finally get some down time together. I’m very fortunate to work with such smart, likable people.

Giving thanks: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday simply because it is the most meaningful in terms of appreciating your loved ones and the least driven by commercial hype.

This year, Nathan was the only one of our kids available to join us. His girlfriend, now fiancee, Sara hung out with her parents. Simone and Kyndall were on vacation in a place with a tropical climate. And, of course, Jordan, Jamie and baby Emalyn were 2,000 miles away in Missouri.

We had a relaxing evening with our oldest child, and an obscenely delicious meal built around a roasted turkey prepared by Lori.

The next day, we invited Chris, a new friend from the neighborhood, and her dog Oliver to join us for leftovers. Chris is a warm and generous soul. Ollie, her trusty Jack Russell Terrier, is Charlotte’s best friend. The two romp together and walk together, and on this night wound up relaxing next to each other on Charlotte’s bed in front of the fireplace.

Four-star movie: This post began with Catholic school girls and it’s ending with another Catholic school girl. Lori and I saw a Sunday matinee showing of “Lady Bird,” one of those independent films with an engaging coming-of-age story and a quirky but lovable lead character.

Saoirse Ronan, who turned in an Oscar-nominated performance in “Brooklyn,” stars as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a restless 17-year-old who can’t wait to be done with her senior year of high school and move to New York for college. Lady Bird (a name she gave herself) is bored with her hometown of Sacramento, California, and oh-so-done with the rules and restrictions at her all-girls Catholic school. She’s also got a rocky relationship with her hard-working disciplinarian mom, played wonderfully by Laurie Metcalf.

The problem for Lady Bird is that her grades are mediocre and she’s just gotten suspended for mouthing off at school. Plus, she’s trying to navigate friendships and loyalties, romance and sex, and figure out who she is herself as someone who’s grown up poor and aspires to something more, whatever and wherever that may be.

It’s a refreshing film that lets you see the world through the eyes of a smart and still-evolving teenage girl. As writer and director, Greta Gerwig has come up with an entertaining story, believable characters and authentic dialogue. As the film’s namesake, Saoirse Ronan is sweet and funny, vulnerable and unsettled. I won’t be surprised if she, Metcalf, Gerwig and the film itself are nominated for Oscars next year.

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Leaf pick-up day finally arrived last week, just as several piles in our neighborhood swelled to the size of a mid-sized car.

Enchanting Eagle Lake

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Morning silence enhances the feeling of tranquility on Eagle Lake.

Some things just never get old. In the dozen years we’ve been vacationing on Orcas Island, we’ve never failed to visit Eagle Lake, a picturesque body of water that inspires feelings of tranquility.

Walking around the perimeter on the Lake Trail not only encourages you to slow down, it requires it on the eastern shore. You’ve got to watch your steps on the narrow path that takes you to the water’s edge. Tree roots poke up here and there as the trail twists and turns beneath towering Douglas firs that provide shade and silence.

Lori and I took two walks at the lake during last week’s stay at our cabin a mile away. The outings were perfect bookends to our visit, giving us a chance to soak up sunshine and fresh air when we weren’t relaxing indoors.

Charlotte came along and gave us a mild workout. When this city dog gets into the outdoors, she’s overcome by all the animal scents (deer, otter, squirrels, waterfowl) and goes into Iditarod mode. Imagine a 15-pound terrier mix straining on her harness as if she were leading a pack of huskies through the Alaskan tundra.

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Charlotte the Explorer checks out some new turf.

We’ve walked this trail countless times (I’ve run around it too) and I always feel better after having done so. There’s a timeless beauty to these placid waters that makes even an amateur photographer look good.

We’ve seen bald eagles (hence, the name of the lake), osprey, Canada geese, turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, mallards and other ducks on or above the water. On a solo run a few years ago, I witnessed a great horned owl in flight. Magnificent.

Eagle Lake holds a special place in our family. Aside from the Lake Trail, we’ve taken canoes out onto the water, played Scrabble at a dockside table, enjoyed potlucks with other residents and, most memorably, held a pre-nuptials dinner here to celebrate Simone and Kyndall’s wedding three years ago.

Some things just never get old.

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Hand-crafted signs mark the way.

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The trail provides views like this.

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Mid-morning sun glints off the water’s surface.

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Even tree branches make room for views like this one.

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Is there a better place to relax than a couple chairs in the shade?

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A sturdy shelter provides a gathering place for potlucks and barbecues.

Wiener wars

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 Cincinnati chili with all the fixings: red beans, cheddar cheese, diced sweet onions and oyster crackers.

It was a weekend for wieners — and I’m not talking about politicians.

Nope, we’re talking tube steaks, cased meats, working-class sausages.

Saturday brought the 8th annual International Hot Dog Competition, a fun-filled celebration of the humble dog that took place at the home of our daughter Simone and her wife Kyndall.

About 17 competitors, including Lori and me, showed up with our own specially crafted toppings to lay on top of seven or eight hot dogs that in turn were cut up into tasting-size morsels so everyone present could have a chance to sample and rate them.

The friendly competition began in Pittsburgh, when Simone and Kyndall were living there for a couple years, and then switched to Portland when the ladies moved back.

It’s a kick. It takes place every year around the Fourth of July in their backyard and features some of the most audaciously creative toppings ever to grace a bun. The hosts provide the wieners and buns (although you’re free to create your own homemade buns) and the entrants provide the rest.

We’re not talking ketchup-mustard-relish, mind you. Not by a long shot.

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The hostesses with the most-eses. Kyndall (left) and Simone, the human hot dogs, welcome their guests and announce the rules of competition.

We’re talking jawdropping creations like the Poutine Dog, made with cheese curds, beer-soaked French fries and brown gravy; the Fidel, a Cubano-style entry made with slow-roasted pork, ham and cheese; and the Cheeseus Take The Wheel, made with eight cheeses, mac-n-cheese and Flaming Hot Cheetos crumbs. Every one of them served on top of a wiener nestled in a bun.

Some entries are deep-fried, some smothered in sauces and gravies, and others prepared with savory vegetables and meats.

With roughly 70 to 80 people in attendance, there were plenty of tasters. Each person voted for his or her three favorites and the top three votegetters were honored with prizes. The highly coveted first-place prize is a bust of Abraham Lincoln containing years-old cologne. It rotates from winner to winner and who knows what kinds of chemical reactions have occurred inside that fragrant flask over the years.

I couldn’t tell you the names or ingredients of the first- and third-place winners, but I do know the second-place entry was fashioned after the Monte Cristo sandwich. This one was called the Monte. Like its namesake, it was prepared with ham, turkey and swiss slices, dipped in an egg/milk mixture and grilled to a golden brown, then topped with powdered sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Lori wowed the crowd with her Brown Betty, a scrumptious combination of carmelized onions, brown sugar and bacon.

I did a Cincinnati chili dog, consisting of a meatless chili, red beans, diced sweet onions, shredded cheddar cheese, and oyster crackers — just as they do it in Ohio.

Though the wienerfest is the big draw, there’s no question that the hours of socializing are what drives the annual event. There’s a totally chill vibe that makes for easy conversation with friends, new and old, and support from the crowd for every contestant. It’s a family-friendly event, with lots of couples, several young children and a few dogs — the furry kind.

Lori and I are the oldest ones there and we’re honored to be invited each year to hang with Simone and Kyndall’s many friends. It’s also nice that our oldest son, Nathan, and his fiance, Sara, are among the regulars.

***

On Sunday, wieners also were at the center of a gathering at our place. We get together every few weeks with some great friends — Irma and Joe, Renee and Ed — for a dinner party. Each couple takes a turn hosting the dinner, and Sunday it was our turn.

deck friends

Up on the roof. Back row (L to R): Ed, Renee and Joe; Front row: Lori, Irma and Janet. Too close to camera: George

We had extra hot dogs from Saturday’s bash and I cooked up another pot of Cincinnati chili. If you’ve never had it, just know it’s got cinnamon and chocolate, as well as cumin, cloves, allspice, chili pepper and cayenne pepper, so it’s sweet and savory at the same time.

deck tarts

From Irma’s kitchen: marionberry and raspberry tarts.

Irma brought her friend Janet. who was visiting from Seattle, and we all enjoyed a tasty meal on our rooftop deck, finished off with raspberry and marionberry tarts a la mode.

It was a weekend with wieners and it was wonderful.

Orcas on my mind

OI.sunrise3

Daybreak on Orcas Island. Nothing more peaceful.

I’ve been home less than 24 hours and already I’m missing the place where I just came from: Orcas Island.

Maybe it’s because we returned home to 100-degree weather — 25 degrees warmer than what we left. More likely it’s because the past week was so relaxing — again.

Lori and I visited from Saturday to Saturday, marking the second time this year we’ve visited our humble log cabin in the woods at the far east end of the island.

The first time, in late March, was bittersweet. We began our stay by sharing the cabin for a couple of days with our son, Jordan, his wife, Jamie, and our granddaughter, Emalyn. We ended it by heading back to the ferry with the knowledge that my dad had died the day before at age 91.

This time, it was just us and our little dog, Charlotte.

(Click on images to view captions.)

***

Our first two days on the island were damp and wet. At one point, a thick fog rolled in worthy of San Francisco, making it impossible to see very far down the hill, let alone all the way down to the water.

No worries, though, because we had some settling in to do in order to transition from the everyday stresses of urban life. We each started a new book and I kept the wood stove going. We did some light maintenance around the property and waited for the weather to clear.

When it did, it reminded us of what a lovely place this is. It’s not just the view of Mount Baker and of nearby islands that we enjoy from our porch. Nor is it the ability to walk up the road above our house and see deer and a forest panorama of cool green hues.

No, it’s simpler than that. It is the utter stillness of the place.

Morning brings the welcome sound of grosbeaks, juncos and finches flocking to the bird feeders. A stiff wind might rustle the trees. But for most of the day, and certainly when evening comes, it’s nothing but silence.

OI.deer

Morning visitor visible from the dining room window.

***

On Sunday, despite the drizzle, we headed out to the Orcas Island Artworks Gallery to attend an annual ice cream social and view the latest creations by some 50 artists. A line of volunteers crowded onto on the porch to dish up sundaes while others huddled under a lawn tent to do face-painting.

We walked around Eagle Lake one afternoon, anticipating a leisurely outing. Charlotte was overwhelmed by the scents of wildlife, however, and I wound up carrying her two or three times just so she wouldn’t overdo it straining to pull ahead on her leash.

We left her home the next day while we hiked around Cascade Lake on a picture-perfect morning. We’ve done that hike several times and it never gets old. We came upon a Pileated Woodpecker hammering away at a fallen log, and enjoyed the variety of lake views as we circled the water.

As we passed through the concessions stand at one end of the lake, we “bought” a scoop of locally made Rocky Road ice cream to share on the back end of the route. I say “bought” because I left my wallet in the car and had no money to pay. The teenage server said, “Just pay later today. We’re open until 6.”

And so we did. We’d planned to have dinner out anyway, so we stopped in and paid before continuing on to the Inn at Ship Bay, a marvelous place that’s the equal of any in Portland. We ate at an outdoor table with a magnificent view of the water. Before the food arrived, we joined other diners in wandering down to the water’s edge to see an enormous bald eagle perched in a tree. How many times does that happen in the city?

I got up early the next morning and ran around the perimeter of Mountain Lake. I arrived in time to snap a few photos of the sun glinting like a diamond on the water’s surface. Until the last half-mile, when I encountered a young couple coming toward me, I had the nearly 4-mile-long trail to myself.

We ventured into Eastsound on Friday. I hit a bucket of balls at the driving range (I still suck) while Lori did some light shopping. We went to lunch at The Kitchen, a local institution that serves “fast (enough) Asian food” featuring organic vegetables and other local ingredients. Jordan worked there for part of one summer long ago, so we’re especially fond of the place.

On the way back home, we stopped in to visit our longtime friend, Juliana, at her place overlooking Buck Bay. Her husband, Carl, was away in Montana for a few days, but we hope to see them soon if a planned trip to Oregon’s wine country materializes this summer.

Before we knew it, it was time to close our books, pack up the Scrabble game, and clean up the cabin in preparation for Saturday morning and the trip back home. We left reluctantly, knowing the mainland would bring triple-digit weather and the usual handful of testosterone-fueled drivers who make I-5 an uncomfortable place to be.

Seated now at the window looking out at my urban neighborhood, I can’t complain.

No. 1: If you’re going to live a city, they don’t come much better than Portland.

No. 2: This year’s World Naked Bike Ride took place in Southeast Portland, miles away from our home. For those 10,000 people who biked in the buff, more power to you. All the same time, I’ll keep my clothes on.

 

OI.cascade dream
Look closely. Can you see what an inspired hiker left on the Cascade Lake trail?

 

Don’t forget about Idaho

ID.trail

Waiting for a rear truck tire to be replaced on our moving van, we found ourselves next to  the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.

My recent storytelling about the Road Trip From Hell probably was unfair to Idaho. So let’s set the record straight.

On Day One of our four-day drive from Washington to Missouri, Jordan and I were slowed down by a flat tire in a mountainous area of northern Idaho as we were traveling eastbound toward the Montana border.

We had to wait three hours for a two-man crew to arrive with a spare tire for our U-Haul moving van. That gave us plenty of time to kill while we waited just off Interstate 90 somewhere in between the towns of Kellogg and Wallace.

The delay set us back significantly on our goal of reaching Missoula, Montana, that same evening. We made it — nearly 500 miles — but we arrived just before midnight rather than at 8 or 9 pm as I had envisioned.

The flat tire experience, resulting in another three-hour delay, was repeated on Day Two as we made our way from Missoula to Billings.

In looking back over the four-day diary, I realized I’d mentioned Idaho just the one time — and obviously not in the most favorable light.

So here goes…

***

It was still early afternoon when we cruised through Spokane, in eastern Washington, and crossed over into Idaho. We knew we wouldn’t be here very long, as I-90 covers only 75 miles of the Idaho Panhandle before continuing into Montana.

With out two-vehicle caravan, we zipped through Post Falls on the western end of the state and stopped to refuel and get lunch in Coeur d’Alene, population 44,000. Lake Coeur d’Alene is gorgeous, even when you’re passing by on the freeway.

Lori and I had stayed here one night during our honeymoon in the mid-70s, but I’m not sure I’d ever been back. Pulling off the freeway, Jordan and I parked the U-Haul van and the Honda Fit and let the dogs out for an extended walk on the grassy area just off a freeway exit near the city center.

There was a fair amount of public art here in this park adjacent to the Idaho Centennial Trail, a 900-mile scenic trail that traverses the state. We enjoyed the shade for a bit, then went to get gas and a quick meal.

ID-dawg-sled

Next road trip, I may be taking Charlotte along in a Dawg Sled.

We wound up at Roger’s Ice Cream & Burgers, an old-school place that’s been around since 1940 and offers more than three dozen milkshake flavors. We took our orders to go and ate in the shade of some leafy trees on a residential street.

Quick story: I had to use the public restroom two blocks away on a four-lane commercial street. As I stood on a corner of an intersection with no stoplights, no stop signs and no crosswalk, not one but two drivers stopped to let me cross. Nothing like small-town politeness.

With full bellies, we took off again toward Missoula. Forty miles later, a rear tire gave out on the U-Haul and I feared we’be stranded, not knowing whether we’d even get cell phone reception in that remote an area.

Fortunately, I was wrong. While help was on its way, I took a walk in the area and found it to be quite lovely.

ID-mtn creek

Waiting for the road service crew to arrive, I could at least appreciate the clean, free-flowing Coeur d’Alene River outside Wallace, Idaho.

Turns out we had broken down near the Coeur d’Alene River and the paved trail I was walking along was part of the Trail of the Coeur’ d’Alenes,  a 73-mile trail that follows a former railroad right-of-way from Mullan, a mountain mining town near the Montana border, to Plummer, a town on the prairie near the Washington border.

Idaho is among our country’s most conservative states, so there’s no way I’d even think of living here. But this part of Idaho is undeniably beautiful, with its clear mountain streams and lush forests.

I’ve traveled through southern Idaho a few times on Interstate 84 and that dry, high-desert landscape has no appeal, believe me. If and when there is next time I’m traveling I-90, I hope circumstances will be far different. I wouldn’t mind hanging out in Coeur d’Alene again for a couple of days.