Friday flashback: ‘Lucky number 13’


Isaac, 13, and Camo, 8, in 2014

Orlando. Dallas. Istanbul. And now Nice, France.

We don’t even have time to properly grieve anymore before the next mass killing assaults our senses and heightens our sense of the world unraveling before our very eyes.

At a moment like this, it’s good to roll out a guest blog piece that is all about the positive.

My friend Tammy Ellingson, in a 2014 essay for Voices of August, wrote about her good fortune as the mother of a 13-year-old boy who goes against all stereotypes of a snarky, surly teenager.

“I feel privileged that my son wants to be around me and actually enjoys my company, or at least is kind enough to make me feel like he does,” Tammy writes.

As a fellow parent, it’s heartwarming to read Tammy’s take on her only child, Isaac:

“I notice his growing independence every day; coupled with his love and compassion for his father and me. There are times I know he has more patience with us than we have for our own parents. He spouts old soul practicality and wisdom, and exudes a grace that makes me realize I have a lot more growing to do.”

Read the piece right here: Lucky Number 13

Friday flashback: ‘A purpose-driven life’

mother cheetah

Mother Cheetah and her brood.

As the fifth annual Voices of August guest blogging project approaches a month from today, I’m pleased to revisit a piece by one of my favorite contributors: Lakshmi Jagannathan.

Thanks to my well-traveled friend, I’ve experienced snippets of what it’s like to visit certain places in India and East Africa. I like the way she connects her observations to past and present, as an immigrant, a mother, a visitor, a lover of animals.

lakshmi jagannathan

Lakshmi Jagannathan

In a 2013 post, she described a day trip on the border of Kenya and Tanzania and the life lesson she drew from watching a mother on the hunt.

She began her piece this way:

“Pink sunlight filters through the dust. A cool breeze cuts through the windows of our jeep as it curves through a dirt track. We see her first in the distance — a quick movement in the bushes. A mother cheetah.”


Read the entire post here: “A purpose-driven life”


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”

Friday flashback: ‘Drowning in technology’

Technology is awesome. So says Nike Bentley.

With a simple handheld device, she can Skype with family, send messages to friends, take pictures, watch a TV show, listen to music, call her grandparents, map directions to a destination, take notes, and play Tetris.

social-networksBut with so many applications and places to explore — Blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and more — it’s easy to get distracted. And easy to become disconnected from real life.

” I can’t remember the last time I had an honest, thought-provoking conversation with anyone outside of my inner-circle,” Nike admits. “Why should we when we have nearly constant access to the inner-workings of everyone’s heads? … Possibly because everyone has their noses in their phones…”

Sound familiar?

I thought so.

Read Nike’s contribution to the 2014 Voices of August guest blog project: Drowning in technology



Friday flashback: ’10 tips for staying married forever’

J&J christmas

Jerome and Jeanne Faulkner: December 2012

Jeanne Faulkner is an author, a maternal health advocate and a neighbor of mine in Northeast Portland.

When I asked her during a busy time in her life if she’d like to contribute a piece to the 2013 Voices of August guest blogging project, she hesitated only slightly and then did what all busy, accomplished people do. She said yes and then made time for it.

What resulted was a gem: 10 tips for staying married forever.

She wrote it a few months after she and her husband Jerome had celebrated their 32d anniversary.

“We got married way too young and the odds were probably stacked against us,” she wrote. “And yet, here we are so many years later and we’re still  together.”

What’s the key to their longevity? No matter if you’re a recent newlywed, someone approaching double digits or someone who’s been married 20 years or more, there’s plenty of good advice to be gleaned from Jeanne’s piece.

Read it here and feel free to add to the list.

Friday flashback: ‘The need to create and escape’


Like his father before him, Eric Wilcox finds release in the process of creating stained glass works of art.

As young boys, we typically look to our fathers for guidance and wisdom in the ways of the world. If we are fortunate, who we become as adults is shaped by the life lessons we pick up in the company of our dads.

My friend, Eric Wilcox, wrote about that very topic in a 2014 blog post for Voices of August, recalling the once-a-week routine when his dad, a physician, would take him out of school to go work on the family’s wheat farm in Eastern Oregon.

“We worked hard, building fence by the mile, hauling rock by the ton, shoveling hog manure ad nauseam,” Eric wrote. “We would work for hours, stopping only for a swig of lukewarm water from a mud-covered canvas canteen and maybe a stale animal cracker. We didn’t talk much, there wasn’t much to talk about.”

Young Eric was learning about the value of work.


Dean Wilcox

When his dad turned to stained glass as a way to create art for family and friends, Eric also learned about the equally important need to make time for relaxation.

In time, the son would inherit the father’s studio and immerse himself in the same hobby, finding joy in designing and creating works of art.

Dean Morrison Wilcox died last month at age 88. He was a gregarious, generous family man who instilled great values in his son, my friend.

Read Eric’s piece: The need to escape and create




Friday flashback: ‘The joys of my summer’


Bob Ehlers, former Iowa farm boy.

We’re not even at May, let alone summer, so why resurrect a three-year-old blog post about the joys of summer?

Here’s why:

— Because on a rainy day like today, you want to remind yourself that warm, dry days lie ahead.

— Because any photo of a homegrown tomato conjures only good thoughts about nature and food.

— Because my longtime buddy, Bob Ehlers, nailed it when he wrote this piece about simple pleasures, including a list of 10 things that bring him joy. Among them: “eating fresh sweet corn” and going sockless.

In his 2013 blog post for Voices of August, Bob wrote: “For me, some of the most basic and enduring sources of summertime joy are sensory — riding my bike past a field of aromatic freshly cut hay, or walking barefoot around our yard seeing the hostas and fruit trees in full foliage. But the single event I truly, truly anticipate every year is standing in our garden, taking a bite of the first ripe tomato, a personal mini-celebration of taste.”

Read more here: “The joys of my summer”



Friday flashback: ‘Saying hello, saying goodbye…’

Sometime during her final year of clinical training before becoming a hospital chaplain, Andrea Cano had an epiphany: “Birth and death are not medical events, they are sacred events.”

“How DO we experience these two most extraordinary moments during our lives? How have our cultures and societies changed rituals and customs into medical procedures and clinical venues for the two most fundamental events every single one of us will go through?”

andrea cano

Andrea Cano, chaplain at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital

Andrea posed those questions — and others — in a 2012 blog post for Voices of August, an annual month-long guest blog project.

And who better to raise them than my friend, an ordained United Church of Christ minister who was born into a Catholic family, raised Southern Baptist, and studied Eastern philosophies and religion in college?

“How do we say ‘hello’ to new life and ‘goodbye’ to our loved ones?” she asks. “What social, spiritual, or cultural meaning do death, healing, wholeness, quality of life and quality of death have for each of us?”

With the passing of each year, such questions take on more importance. Speaking for myself, I just said “goodbye” to a dear aunt, my mother’s sister, Antonia. This summer I will say “hello” to our first grandchild. Indeed, both are sacred events.

Here’s the piece by the Rev. Cano: Saying hello, saying goodbye, and everything else in between

Photograph: Oregon Health Care Interpreters Association


Friday flashback: ‘Chicago’s mind-numbing numbers’


Honors student Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago murder victim.

The Chicago Police Department is in the news again. To the surprise of no one, a task force created last year by the mayor issued a report this week slamming the department for decades of discrimination and a place where racist officers have gotten away with police brutality.

The news brought to mind a 2014 Voices of August blog post by Tim Akimoff, who was then working for Chicago Public Media. In his piece, Tim talked about the awful toll of gun violence in the nation’s third-largest city.

‘When we came to work on Monday, no one had to ask what the numbers were,” he said, following a three-day holiday weekend. “We all knew 82 people had been shot, 14 fatally. Two of those were teens shot by police.

“So far 235 people have been shot and 39 killed in July in Chicago.

“It is no wonder some people have started calling it Chiraq.”

Of course, police shootings are just part of the picture. Unmitigated gang violence continues to claim both willing participants and innocent victims.

“I always wanted to work at a New York Times bureau in some war-torn city in Africa or Asia,” Tim wrote.

“I wanted to tell the stories of the victims of war, to reveal the cost of violence on the resources of a city or a region.

“Here I am in the upper Midwest, in the Second City, right smack-dab in the middle of a war zone.”

Tim has returned to Oregon and is now working for the state’s fish and wildlife department. Two years later, his piece still packs an emotional punch.

Read it here: Chicago’s mind-numbing numbers


Friday flashback: ‘Confessions of a dog mom’


Lydia Ramos with her “rescue” dog Princeton, aka Papa.

“In this dog-loving world, few speak of the grief that comes with the loss of a pet.”

My friend, Lydia Ramos, wrote that sentence in a 2013 blog post for Voices of August. In a piece that tapped into the emotions of anyone who’s ever loved and lost a mutt, she paid tribute to Princeton Xavier Ramos, a “Tina Turner lookalike” she adopted as a puppy in July 2003.

“I ‘rescued’ him but really, he rescued me,” Lydia wrote. “He made me learn how to care for something other than my job.”

Read her lovely essay right here: “Confessions of a dog mom”