So long, WSUV. Hello, PSU.


Lights are off. Semester is done. Time for a new chapter as a college instructor.

After class last week, I went through the usual routine. Turned off the A/V projector. Grabbed my dry-erase markers, textbook and file folders and zipped ’em into my shoulder bag. Turned off the lights and shut the door.

Wistfully, I headed off to the parking lot. I had just given the final exam in my Sports and the Media class, and it would be the last time I would go through this routine.

After three years of teaching at Washington State University Vancouver, it was time to close the book (literally) and look forward to what comes next.

I’ve been offered a one-year, full-time faculty position at Portland State University for the 2018-19 academic year. In order to accept the job, I had to say no to further employment at WSUV.

While I’m excited to step into an expanded role at Portland State, I regret that it comes at the price of giving up the good thing I had going at WSUV. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the mix of students and small-college feel of this public university in southwest Washington, where many, like myself, are first-generation college students.

What does all this mean?

First, it means I can take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Dr. Narayanan Iyer, director of the Integrated Strategic Communication program at WSUV, for hiring me as an adjunct instructor in January 2017. Known affectionately to students and staff as Nanu, he gave me the chance to teach three different courses over my time there, stretching across the spring, summer and fall semesters.

Read “Cougartown” for a look back at my first semester at WSUV

I had no idea what Integrated Strategic Communications meant when I began. But I now know it includes a broad-based curriculum that touches on public relations, advertising, multimedia content creation, social media and digital content management, and a whiff of journalism.

I wasn’t there to teach journalism, per se. But through my Sports and the Media class and others that I taught — Media Ethics and Reporting Across Platforms — I sought to introduce students to the multimedia reporting skills and industry challenges facing digital-era journalists.

Second, I can say “thank you” to a host of professionals who gave generously of their time and expertise. Students heard directly from these guest speakers about the skills and attributes it takes to be a front-line journalist; about the professional relationships one must build with sources, including athletes and coaches; and about the ethical quandaries they encounter almost daily in the course of doing their jobs.

These talented men and women opened students’ eyes to the nasty trolling one puts up with on social media, most frequently aimed at women journalists. And in a couple of cases, speakers talked about the mental health issues that confront athletes, as well as what it feels like to be the subject of media coverage.

Here’s a heartfelt “thank you” to all who spoke to my students over these past three years: Lindsay Schnell, Jamie Goldberg. Tom Goldman, Casey Holdahl, Rich Burk, Chris Metz, Tyson Alger, Gina Mizell, Taylor Ricci, Nathan Braaten, Brenda Tracy, Mark Mohammadpour, Dianne Danowski-Smith, Chris Broderick, Beth Nakamura, Stephanie Yao-Long, Lillian Mongeau, Steve Woodward, Katy Sword, David Lippoff, Will Ulbricht, Kate Lesniak, Anna Griffin and Kyle Iboshi.

Taylor Ricci and Nathan Braaten came up from Corvallis this year to talk about mental health issues facing student-athletes, citing their own experiences at Oregon State University.

A special thanks goes out to Evelyn Smith, who was the only and one teaching assistant I had. She was a rock star during the Media and Society class I taught last fall, and graduated in December.

So what’s next?

Next school year, I’ll be teaching two courses each during the fall, winter and spring quarters at Portland State, while continuing to coordinate the academic internship program in the Department of Communication.

I’ll begin in September with Media Literacy, my bread-and-butter course, and Media Ethics — two very timely and essential topics.

Before then, I’ll head off to the U.K. this summer to teach Media Literacy in London. It will be my second time leading this study-abroad course through Portland State, and I’m looking forward to having 10 students this time, up from 6 last year.

It’s a two-week course that runs July 8-22. This time, Lori will join me at the tail end of the program and we’ll enjoy being tourists for a few days.

It’s been a great ride, Vancouver. I look forward to more of the same, Portland.


Though I’m excited about what comes next, I’ll miss the small-college feel of WSU Vancouver.

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Life after graduation from WSUV

Spring semester is winding down after 16 weeks at Washington State University Vancouver, and I’ve got to say it’s a very satisfying feeling.

I gave my last lecture on Thursday, a day after attending an event that recognized the 17 graduating seniors in the Integrated Strategic Communications program at WSUV, and I’ll spend part of this weekend preparing next week’s final exam.

I’m sure students are relishing the end of the term. So many of them are working in addition to their coursework, and I know they’ve dealt with various stresses along the way.

Me? I won’t mind at all having a lighter teaching load along with more leisure time, but I will miss the regular interactions with students and seeing their intellectual growth.

Fortunately, there are events like Wednesday’s end-of-year event to recognize graduating seniors and look ahead with them to what lies beyond.

For starters, the Strat Com program, which prepares students for careers in public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism, honored one of my students, Brendan Nuzum, as Communicator of the Year.

Dr. Narayanan (Nanu) Iyer with Brendan Nuzum, winner of the Communicator of the Year award.

Also, my colleagues, Program Director Nanu Iyer and Assistant Professor Liz Candello, facilitated a panel discussion featuring five recent Strat Com grads who are working as communications professionals or pursuing a masters degree in the field.

They shared some familiar advice: Develop a versatile skill set. Get some internship experience before you graduate. Network like crazy. Don’t be discouraged by rejection. Turn your inexperience into an asset by emphasizing the fresh perspectives you can bring. And don’t underestimate the value of likability. No one wants to work with a difficult person.

Lastly, I was able to congratulate a handful of students in person. The list of 17 Strat Com grads includes 11 students I’ve had in my classes, including three in the Sports and the Media class I taught this spring.

Among those in the Class of 2019 is Billy Gordon, one of the most outgoing and popular students on campus. At age 64, Billy is finally getting his degree. I so admire Billy, who overcame an inferior public school education in the Jim Crow South and contributed mightily to our class discussions in Sports and the Media as a former track athlete himself.

Another is Bailley Simms, who took my Reporting Across Platforms class as a sophomore and rose to become editor of The VanCougar student magazine while securing a PR internship this summer. She’s handing off the editor’s chair to Anna Nelson, another former student who also was among those traveled to the UK last summer to take my Media Literacy in London course.

As a final note, I made sure to include this interview with baseball writer Claire Smith as part of the last class meeting this week. https://youtu.be/TP7_RJHRWAw

Don’t know her? You should.

Rollover resolutions

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More water, more fruits (and veggies) in 2019.

Three days into the new year and I’m thinking about what to put on my list of intentions for 2019.

I’ve got it: Rollover resolutions.

Since I did only moderately well on last year’s three, why not roll ’em over like rollover minutes on my cell phone plan?

For the record, here’s what I pledged to do a year ago:

  • Drink more water.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Lighten up on the iPhone.

When I checked on myself in July, I acknowledged slippage in all three areas.

Read “About those resolutions” here

This year, I’m rolling over the first two and subbing in a third one:

  • Drink more water.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Reclaim my Fridays.

The first two make a lot of sense. Coupled with a vow to resume regular exercise, they will do me good. More water, less coffee. More bananas, fewer cookies. More salads, fewer fries.

The third one makes sense in a different way. I see it as a dedicated one day a week when I do something for my mental or physical health as opposed to letting my four-day work week slop over into a fifth weekday.

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The first thing that comes to mind is doing my urban hikes again, with my tattered copy of “Portland Hill Walks” as a guide. When the weather warms up again, I’d like to go a step further and break in the “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles” I received as a gift last year.

Blast from the past: A catalogue of urban hikes

Other ideas that come to mind: daytime bowling, an afternoon matinee, breakfast or coffee with a friend, lunch with Lori (she works every Friday), a longer-than-usual walk with Charlotte.

As I write this, I know I’m giving myself some leeway to say yes to work-related events. Already, I’m committed to a lunch this Friday with school and work colleagues. Two weeks later, I’m going to speak to a group of student journalists at WSU Vancouver, something I committed to long ago.

This year, I’m going to hold myself more accountable on all three. Wish me luck.

 

2018: Looking back, looking ahead

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Sunday morning walk in Kensington Gardens, near my accommodations in London.

A wedding, a cross-country move, a teaching stint in the U.K. Those were just a few of the highlights of this past year, when a combination of factors resulted in far fewer blog posts than normal.

Let’s get after it, shall we?

The month of May brought the biggest, most welcome news. That’s when our oldest child, Nathan, married his girlfriend, Sara Bird, in a casual ceremony on a Sunday night.

The couple had been together for eight years and it was nice to see them take the next step, surrounded by friends and family at Victoria, a popular bar and restaurant in North Portland. The bride and groom said “I do” under dim lighting in the bar as a longtime friend of both, Jared White, officiated. At least six of Nathan’s DJ friends, including Reverend Jared, took turns pumping out dance music.

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Nathan and Sara clasp hands as their wedding ceremony gets underway.

It’s funny that our oldest of three children would be the last to wed, and the youngest the first to wed. The newlyweds postponed their honeymoon until the fall, but then went big — to Spain and Barcelona. Back at work, Nathan is a line cook at Besaw’s and continues to DJ while Sara works in human resources for the Bishops haircutting chain.

Best thing of all: Now we have three daughters-in-law, as different as can be in personality, stature and interests. We love them all.

Among the guests that day was my stepmother, Ora. She flew in from New Mexico to spend a few days with us and we thoroughly enjoyed her visit. She sang a traditional Mexican song to Nathan at the wedding rehearsal lunch, and saw a lot of the sights in the South Waterfront district with me when I took a day off to ride the trolley and tram with her up to Oregon Health & Science University.

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Three generations: Lori, Grandma Ora and Simone.

The other big family news came in August, when our youngest child, Jordan, completed another cross-country move on his path to a Ph.D. He and his wife Jamie and their daughter, Emalyn, moved from Missouri to upstate New York so he could begin a five-year Ph.D program in microbiology at Cornell University.

They’re living in a rented farmhouse just outside the village of Spencer, about 20 miles south of the Cornell campus in Ithaca. They are 200-plus miles northwest of New York City, nestled in the Finger Lakes area, so named for five lakes that resemble fingers on a downward-facing hand.

They are in a beautiful part of the country,  marked by two-lane roads, rolling green hills and colonial style homes. Lori and I visited Jordan and family to help unload three big Pods and get them settled into their new place. Lori returned on her own in November for a pre-holiday visit and loved spending time with little Emmy, who at 2 1/2 years old grows smarter and more adorable each day. We’re making plans for a return visit in March.

Our time with Jordan and Jamie came on the heels of my teaching a summer course in media literacy in London, England.

It was a pinch-me, is-this-really-happening moment that lasted two weeks. I had six students come with me from Portland and Vancouver for an intense but thoroughly enjoyable time in one of the world’s leading cities. We visited the Houses of Parliament and leading media organizations, hosted guest speakers, crisscrossed the city on the tube, and saw a variety of historical landmarks and tourist attractions from a bus, a boat and on foot. On the final weekend, I took a day trip to Oxford by train and the next day saw an Agatha Christie play in a magnificent building set next to the Thames River.

Assuming I can recruit another group of students, I’m going back again in July 2019 to teach the same class. Only this time, we’re planning to have Lori join me toward the end for a shared British vacation.

(Because of my travels to London and Ithaca, I put my annual Voices of August guest writers project on hold. I’m anticipating more free time next year and looking forward to version 8.0 with contributions from near and far.)

***

What else happened in 2018? Here’s a quick rundown:

Sports: While Portland is considered a backwater for major league sports, I still got my fill of professional and amateur events. I attended a handful of Trail Blazers games, saw my first Portland Timbers match, showed up for two Portland State basketball games at the new Viking Pavilion, and took Lori to see a Portland Thorns soccer game

Most enjoyable, however, was taking in Day One of the NCAA Track and Field Championships at the University of Oregon in Eugene. The four-day meet in June was one of the last major competitions at Historic Hayward Field, which is undergoing a huge redesign and rebuilt that will culminate in a larger, world-class facility in time for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials.

My friend Eric Wilcox works for a Portland architectural firm that is part of the stadium redesign project, so he was able to get us the NCAA tickets. We had great seats in the West Grandstand with a good view of the finish line for all the running events.

Music: I saw a handful of favorite artists in concert, all of them packed into the second half of the year: James Taylor, Hall and Oates, LeAnn Rimes and Liz Longley. The superstars need no introduction, but you may not be familiar with Liz Longley. She’s a Nashville-based singer-songwriter whose music was introduced to me by a longtime friend who’s also a professional music critic. I’ve seen Liz four times now in four venues in Portland. Wonderful voice and very happy to pose for selfies after her shows.

Books:  I did relatively little reading this year, so I have no trouble recalling “Behold the Dreamers” as my favorite. It’s the debut novel by Imbolo Mbue, a Cameroonian immigrant, and her story about a wealthy New York couple and a young immigrant couple from Cameroon takes place just as the Great Recession takes hold in 2018.

I re-read two books — something I never do — but these were extraordinary novels and deserving of another read: “Devil in a Blue Dress” by Walter Mosley and “Winter’s Bone” by Daniel Woodrell. I also enjoyed “Slide!” by my talented neighbor, Carl Wolfson; “Shot Through the Heart” by MIkal Gilmore; and “The Piano Lesson,” a play by August Wilson.

A related highlight: In October, I attended a Think & Drink event with the author Eli Saslow at the Alberta Rose Theatre. Oregon Humanities is presenting a series of four conversations on journalism and justice during 2018-19, and the Saslow event was the first. He talked about his book, “Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist.” Sounds intriguing. I’ve put it on my reading list for 2019.

Sold: In September, we shared a bittersweet moment when we sold our beloved cabin on Orcas Island. During the 13 years we owned it, we treasured every trip to our little piece of paradise, a modest log cabin tucked into the woods with a view of the ocean water. It was a place to soak up the silence, appreciate nature’s beauty, and let the stress melt away. We take comfort in knowing that the place will be in good hands — those of a young Seattle-based writer who was looking for a quiet place to do his creative work.

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Here in Portland, we continue to enjoy good health, good friends and our furry companions – Charlotte, our feisty Border Terrier-Pug-Chihuahua, and Mabel, our sweet-natured brown tabby cat.

With a new runner’s watch (a birthday gift from Lori) and new resolve to use it, I look forward to a more physically active 2019. Likewise, new opportunities await at work and at play. Can’t wait to get started.

 

Another trip around the sun

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I’ve always enjoyed having a birthday that falls between Christmas and New Year’s. Three reasons why:

No. 1: I seem to always have the day off.

No. 2: In the long run-up to the major holidays, my special day has always seemed like something of a respite. If it gets overlooked, no big deal.

No. 3: The weather is usually cold and wet. If I’m driven to stay indoors, that’s not a bad thing. I can always read a book and/or get warm by the fireplace.

This year, I was off again from work. The weather was cool and dry. And while I enjoyed kicking back yesterday morning — with a book and a swim — there was no way my birthday was going to be overlooked.

Lori took me out to dinner and presented me with a pile of small gifts afterward, ranging from sushi-themed socks to a new runner’s watch. And thanks to assorted texts, voice mails, social media posts and other well wishes sent from near and far, I’m feeling the warm fuzzies that come from knowing so many fine people in addition to my extended family.

Now that I’ve reached, um, the big Sesenta y Seis (that would be LXVI in Super Bowl years), I suppose that I ought to have something halfway profound to say. You know, something along the lines of facing life’s challenges — or looking back on this or that path not taken.

But the truth is, I feel quite content and even a little guilty.

I’m happily married to my college sweetheart, 43 years and counting. We share a lovely home with our dog and cat in a cool neighborhood in a great, if imperfect, city.

I’ve got three wonderful children, three wonderful daughters-in-law, and one wonderful granddaughter. And though only two of our kids live here in Portland, we’re making plans to visit the third in upstate New York early next year.

I’m healthy and reasonably fit, though I know could (and resolve to) work out more regularly.

I’m enjoying a second career, having transitioned from the newsroom to the college classroom three years ago.

In short, I have nothing to complain about and much to be thankful for.

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A Christmas Day gathering with some of the people I love most. Clockwise from left: son Nathan, daughter-in-law Sara, daughter-in-law Kyndall, daughter Simone and my wife, Lori.

Funny thing, the book that I’m reading now centers on a larger-than-life character who couldn’t be more different than me. In his memoir, the guy holds back nothing about his thieving, drug-addled, promiscuous past, starting with a failed attempt at college, working alongside a swashbuckling group of heavily tatted, hard-drinking  cronies, and  rising, then crashing and burning, in his chosen profession.

As I’m reading this, I’m thinking “What a life!” From a publisher’s standpoint, how great to have such a talented writer so willing to share tales of wretched excess in a compelling narrative that surely culminates in redemption. From a reader’s perspective, how enthralling to experience the “bad boy” lifestyle through the lens of the one who’s actually lived it.

And from my point of view, how very different my own life has been.

Honestly, I’m one of those guys who largely stays within the lines. I’m not a big risk-taker. Hence, no broken bones (ever), no arrests, no sordid tales from college days or travels abroad. No teenage pranks, no school suspensions, no elaborate pranks. No tattoos, no piercings. Heck, I even drive the speed limit.

No best-selling memoir for me.

But, you know, I’m pretty happy all things considered. I know there are an awful lot of people out there dealing with all manner of stresses, whether it’s work, family, finances, relationships or retirement. Depression, anxiety and worries about physical health are widespread.

I’m fortunate — blessed, really — to be in this situation and I don’t take it lightly. Having just completed another trip around the sun, I look forward to another Year of Not Living Dangerously, with appreciation for all those people I love and all the things I enjoy.

If you’ve read this far, I hope you’ll enjoy this soothing song that’s one of my favorites. It happened to come up on YouTube as I was composing this post.

Letting go of Orcas

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Eagle Lake: beautiful from any angle.

After 13 years of enjoying a piece of paradise, we no longer own our lovely cabin on Orcas Island.

We sold our vacation home in September, a bittersweet moment for sure. The fact that it’s taken me more than three months to finally write about it suggests that I may be in denial. After all, this is a place that created so many wonderful memories for our family over the years.

But, yes, it’s true.

We sold it to the ideal buyer — a Seattle-based writer who had visited the island many a time and was looking for a quiet place to nurture his creative talents. We think he made a great choice.

We bought the place in 2005 with a hefty down payment we made with our share of an inheritance from Lori’s parents. In the years since, it’s been a place where we could come and relax for a few days at a time, knowing we’d find solitude and serenity at the end of a gravel driveway with a gorgeous view of water, mountains and forest.

 

The memories are too numerous to mention. But I list a few here just to remind myself of the special occasions and extraordinary number of places on the island where one could enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of nature.

None surpasses the day in August 2014 when our daughter Simone married Kyndall on a spectacular Saturday afternoon ceremony that extended into a lively, intergenerational party in the rented Odd Fellows Hall. Nearly 100 people came from a dozen states to join in a celebration that was preceded by a rehearsal dinner at Eagle Lake.

Another favorite: When I spent a long weekend alone with my two boys, Nathan and Jordan.

 

But there was plenty more:

— Family walks and solitary runs around Mountain Lake, Cascade Lake and Twin Lakes. Day hikes to Obstruction Pass State Park and Turtleback Mountain.

— Kayaking trips out of Doe Bay and Deer Harbor. Playing nine-hole rounds at Orcas Island Golf Club.

— Sitting at the edge of Eagle Lake with a beer or a glass of wine on a sunny afternoon, gazing at a bald eagle or an osprey as trout occasionally breached the water’s surface.

— Walking the Lake Trail around Eagle Lake, first with Otto, our Jack Russell Terrier, and then with Charlotte, our Border Terrier-Chihuahua-Pug. Doing the same on the trails above our home, leading up to Peregrine Lane.

— Driving through Moran State Park to and from Eastsound, the center of commercial activity on the island. Taking visitors to the top of Mount Constitution for a majestic view of the San Juan Islands, Canada and the U.S. mainland.

— Discovering the quirky vibe of Open Mic Night at Doe Bay Resort while savoring a tasty dinner. Patronizing local vendors at the Farmers Market. Buying farm-fresh duck eggs and live clams at Buck Bay.

— Sampling the many great places to eat on the island, ranging from the elegant Inn at Ship Bay to our favorite lunch spot, Asian Kitchen, to the old-school Lower Tavern, where I could count on a delicious burger and fries and a billiards table, to Brown Bear Bakery, with its luscious treats.

 

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Even with all of that, the greatest pleasure was simply being alone in our cabin, waking up to the sounds of songbirds and preparing a leisurely breakfast. We’d have lunch outside on the deck, go for an outing somewhere, curl up with a book in front of the woodstove, cook a nice dinner, watch a movie or play a board game, and go to bed in a loft bedroom partly illuminated by moonlight and a blanket of stars.

We would come up three to four times a year, usually for a week at a time. Part of the routine was stopping for coffee breaks and designated rest areas at the same spots along I-5 on our way to and from the ferry landing in Anacortes. During the years that Jordan and Jamie lived in Spanaway, just outside Tacoma, we’d stop in for an overnight visit.

But with the two of them, and our granddaughter Emalyn, now living on the East Coast and our two oldest kids and their spouses preoccupied with many other things in their lives, we realized the time had come for us to think about selling the property.  Plus, Lori wanted to be free of the burden of maintaining a second home, especially when we were only getting up there not even a handful of times a year.

 

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We will always treasure the friendships we made on the island, particularly with Carl and Juliana Capdeville, who took us under their wing as Eagle Lake caretakers when we first arrived in this neck of the woods. We shared many a meal with them, got to know their three adult children, and were pleased to have them prepare and serve the catered dinner at Simone and Kyndall’s wedding.

I found myself feeling sad the other day, realizing there was no place I’d rather be than in the living room of our cabin, dozing in the recliner with Charlotte in my lap, and absolutely nothing to do other than read a good book. The moment passed, however, when I realized that I have this blog to remind me of the beautiful images and wonderful memories made in this tranquil place.

Like it or not, I need to close this chapter of our lives. I am letting go of Orcas.

 

Done with finals!

There’s nothing quite like back-to-back Finals Week at two campuses to make you appreciate the moment when you’re done.

Yes, it’s a lot of work. No, it wasn’t something that could have been avoided. But heck yeah, it feels good to have it all wrapped up. Now I can look forward to three weeks off at the holidays, enough time to reflect and recharge.

In this, my third year of teaching as a college adjunct, I’ve gained some new insights and plan to share those in my next blog post.

Today, though, is all about celebrating the end of the semester at Washington State University Vancouver and the end of the quarter at Portland State University. It’s also about celebrating my good fortune to have two outstanding students who worked with me as teaching assistants. More on them in a minute.

First, some context:

I began teaching at WSUV in late August. It was a 17-week semester that ended on Friday, Dec. 14, with the posting of grades and a faculty lunch at a Portland barbecue joint. In between, the 11-week quarter at Portland State started in early September and finished a week earlier in early December.

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A holiday wreath adorns the Multimedia Classroom Building at WSU Vancouver.

It was inevitable that the end of the PSU quarter and the end of the WSUV semester would come right on the heels of each other.

At Portland State, I taught Media Literacy, a topic that examines the news, advertising and entertainment media, and gives students the tools to better understand the origin, design and purpose of the bazillion media messages that bombard us.

At WSUV, I taught Media and Society, a class that explores the social role of the media. It’s a wide-ranging topic that looks at the economics and government regulation of the media industries; the evolution of print, radio, television and the internet; media content and representation; and how the development of technology affects our social world and vice versa. (Think of the ripple effects of social media and online shopping, just to name two examples.)

Together, the last couple weeks meant 51 in-depth essays to read and a final exam to prepare and grade at one campus, and 41 essays and a final exam to prepare and grade at the other.

Oh, and there was the online internship class that I supervise, too, at Portland State. That meant rounding up employer/supervisor evaluations plus reading final papers and updated resumes from the 10 students who registered to receive credit for their on-the-job experiences this fall.

But I’m not complaining. On the contrary, end of term is when you realize you’ve made a positive impact on the lives of many students, especially those who came in with only a vague idea of what it means to be media-literate in today’s society — and why it matters.

Here’s a thank-you card from a single mom who was chosen as a Ford Opportunity Scholar this school year. The scholarship covers up to 90 percent of unmet financial need for students who are single heads-of-household. (She was one of two Ford Scholars in my class. Both earned an A-minus.)

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Note from a student at Portland State.

***

Nothing I accomplished this past fall would have been possible without the help of two exceptional young women who served as my TAs: Evelyn Waka Smith at WSUV and Tullia Fusco at PSU.

Aside from senior standing, each had to have taken a class from me previously and received a straight A to be eligible for the role. Each had to be someone I could rely on as accurate and impartial.  Each had to be someone I could trust. Both easily met that bar.

Evelyn was indispensable to my efforts at WSUV.  She came up with two to three questions for each chapter quiz that I gave during the term, plus the midterm and final exams, and did most of the grading. Once, when I had a photocopying job to finish in another building, she stepped in with no notice to lead a class discussion in my absence.

Tullia was essential, as well. She graded her peers’ work involving twice-a-week writing assignments and tracked their scores. Like Evelyn, she provided excellent feedback on my lesson plans, before and after, and some end-of-term suggestions of what to tweak for future classes.

Evelyn is graduating this winter. At 26, she is well positioned to launch her career as a Digital Technology & Culture major with minors in Business, English and Communication. She took a gap year off following high school, then obtained an associate degree and worked for a time as a nurse.

She switched gears, went back to school at a four-year university, and wound up in my Sports and the Media class. This past summer, while I was teaching in London, she was in Valencia, Spain, studying business under through a WSU Study Abroad program.

Tullia is on track to graduate in the spring or possibly the summer. She, too, took a gap year off after graduating from Grant High School, the same Northeast Portland school that two of our kids attended. Tullia spent a year in Italy studying the language, then enrolled at PSU, where she is majoring in Communication.

She took my Media Literacy class nearly two years ago, and was so impressive that I reached out then to her as a potential TA, not realizing she was just a sophomore. Now 21, she returned to Italy for her junior year for more in-depth study of the language as well as several required courses in English.

When the new year begins, I’ll be on my own with just a single class at WSUV (Sports and the Media this time) and the online internship class at PSU. During the spring quarter at Portland State, I’ll be teaching Media Literacy once again. If enrollment surpasses a certain number, I may qualify to have another TA. Whomever it is will have a tough act to follow.

 

Thanksgiving for two

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With my sweetie on the mean streets of Portland.

Thanksgiving long ago replaced Christmas as my favorite holiday. I appreciate its meaning — of giving simple thanks — much more than I do the relentless commercialism that has come to characterize the latter.

And while Thanksgiving is commonly associated with family gatherings, I’m here to say Thanksgiving for Two can be just as enjoyable. Yesterday’s celebration with Lori was totally relaxing and just as satisfying.

I was the wingman on mashed potatoes as Lori concocted another delicious feast — roast turkey, stuffing, gravy, salad and green beans casserole. We settled down to a mid-afternoon meal and took turns before and after the meal napping with Charlotte, curled up in our lap, in our favorite recliner.

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No food porn photos. Just the bottle of New York state wine that Lori brought home from a recent pre-holiday visit to Jordan, Jamie & Emalyn.

Lori worked on her crossword puzzle — a growing leisure activity for her — and I did some non-school reading.

Later, we went to see the newest remake of “A Star Is Born” at a small indie theater. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper were an impressive pair, and the story, updated for the modern age, held my interest throughout. Gaga is an amazingly talented woman, with that powerful voice and surprisingly good acting chops. Go see it.

We came home to a slice of pecan pie and an episode of “Nurse Jackie” — exactly the kind of irreverent entertainment we both enjoy.

At dinner, we agreed we were thankful for good health and general happiness, owing to our long marriage and meaningful work that we each do, and grateful that our three children and their wonderful spouses are living life independently and in pursuit of what makes them happy.

Yesterday, incidentally, marked the 9th anniversary of Jordan and Jamie’s wedding. Likewise, that meant that Lori and I have now lived in our townhouse for 9 years. What an exciting but chaotic week it was back in 2009, when we not only saw our youngest son get married in Southern Oregon, but also scrambled back to Portland to move out of our house and into this more compact place, all in the same week.

Lots to be thankful for, for sure.

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With my sweetie at the summit of Mount Constitution on Orcas Island. (July 2016 photo)

Upstate New York: Too good to be true?

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Emalyn gets a ride atop Daddy’s shoulders on a tour of the Cornell University campus.

Sometimes you’ve just gotta pinch yourself. Twice.

Two weeks ago, Lori and I packed our bags and flew out to Syracuse in Upstate New York with a final destination of Ithaca, a college town more than an hour’s drive away. We were headed there to help Jordan, Jamie and Emalyn move into their new home, a rustic rental on a rural property about 18 miles south of Ithaca.

We were blown away.

As first-time visitors to this area, we were dazzled by the beauty of the Finger Lakes region, four hours north and west of New York City. With endless greenery, gently rolling hills and charming villages strung out like pearls along two-lane state highways, the landscape compared favorably to anything we’ve seen in western Oregon.

And when we toured Cornell University, the Ivy League school where Jordan embarked this week on a Ph.D in microbiology, we were mightily impressed by the history, architecture and physical layout of the hilltop campus. Jordan’s pursuit of a doctoral degree will take five years, maybe even six.

As Lori and I looked out across campus toward Cayuga Lake and the forest-green surroundings, we could only shake our heads and marvel at the situation. After seeing our son and daughter-in-law endure what they did the past few years as they struggled to manage school, work and parenthood, along with a temporary move to the Midwest, here they were — in an idyllic location and at one of the world’s leading universities.

***

A year earlier, following Jordan’s graduation from tiny St. Martin’s University, they had moved from Spanaway, Washington, a working-class town that’s home to a lot of military families, to Columbia, Missouri. There, during a fellowship at the University of Missouri, Jordan gained valuable experience in a science research lab that he hoped would make him a stronger candidate for graduate school.

His efforts paid off.

Jordan was offered a teaching assistant position in the Ph.D program he most coveted. He had also been courted by Dartmouth, Penn State, Emory and the University of Michigan. This week, he began his graduate studies and TA responsibilities, working with a single professor. He will rotate through several labs in the coming years to help narrow his focus of study within the field of microbiology.

Meanwhile, Jamie began settling in as a stay-at-home mom, raising their 2-year-old daughter in a setting almost too good to be true. They are living in a farmhouse on about 70 acres just outside the village of Spencer. Their landlady occupies one half of the structure; Jamie, Jordan and Emmy occupy the other half. They have two bedrooms, a  woodstove to heat the main living area and a loft, and a spectacular view from their kitchen window.

They look out to a huge garden and a barn, where their landlady raises sheep, and have access to a grassy area that leads into the woods and a small creek with a waterfall. The place is set way back from the road, so it is quiet and pitch-black at night.

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This area of New York gets frigid weather during the winter, so undoubtedly it will be a snow-white landscape for several months. In between now and then, they will enjoy a classic New England-style fall with deciduous trees exploding in red-and-gold colors.

We couldn’t be happier for these two and our granddaughter.

When I last wrote about this young family, it was early June. They had just left Missouri and were driving back to the West Coast to spend a couple months in Southern Oregon living near Jamie’s parents. That was a nice break for them. They got to spend time with family and celebrate two milestones with them: Emmy’s 2nd birthday and the wedding of Jamie’s younger sister.

Jordan got to do some fishing with his father-in-law and brother-in-law and Emmy got to enjoy a taste of the life Jamie had growing up, being around baby chicks and other farm animals, and riding a horse (with some helping hands, of course).

They came up to Portland the first weekend in August and we had a chance to see them together with brother Nathan and sister Simone and their wives before they hit the road for the nearly 3,000-mile trip to Ithaca, accompanied by their dog and cat.

***

A few days later, we flew out to meet them to help unpack three U-Haul pods that had been delivered to the rental property. When we left six days later, everything had been moved in and most boxes put away, but there was still much left to do in the Decorative Touches Department to make their house a home. Jamie was well on her way to making it so, with some help from Lori.

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Ithaca, population 30,000, is in central New York, about 60 miles south of Syracuse and 230 miles northwest of NYC, which doesn’t appear on this map.

With moving in as the No. 1, priority, we didn’t make time on this trip to do any sightseeing, though the Finger Lakes region is known for its lakes, parks and waterfalls and has a thriving wine-making industry. We went into Ithaca just once, long enough to see a charming downtown with historic buildings and a pedestrian mall with a huge variety of shops and ethnic restaurants. The city is quite hilly — think a smaller version of Seattle and San Francisco — and in the midst of it all is Cornell.

We began our visit at the Cornell Dairy Bar, which has been making fresh ice cream, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products there at the school since 1880. The Microbiology Department is right next door in Wing Hall, where a historic photo hanging in the lobby showed polo matches taking place on the grounds out front. Those have been developed since then into a parking lot (of course) and a track and field facility.

Walking toward central campus, we were amazed at the colorful flora and fauna that provide a sharp contrast to the muted browns and grays that typify most higher education buildings. We joined students and other visitors in photographing the many classic structures on campus, many of them dating back to the late 19th Century.

Quick aside: Cornell was established in 1865 as a land-grant university focusing on science and agriculture (think Oregon State University) and later became a private research institution, as well. Today Cornell is home to about 15,000 undergraduates, 5,600 graduate students and 2,500 professional students, owing to its medical schools in New York City and Qatar, in the Middle East.

Co-founder Ezra Cornell, a carpenter and a mechanic who later made a fortune in the telegraph business, famously said, “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.”

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When I think back to the path our son has traveled, I pinch myself. This is the kid who, at 18, dropped out of college a few weeks into his first semester, leaving a four-year, full-ride ROTC scholarship on the table because he’d had his fill of being in a classroom.

A few terms at a local community college, a part-time job making sandwiches and a lot of time playing video games occupied him until he turned 21, when he enlisted in the Army as an infantryman. He did a four-year hitch, including a year’s deployment in Afghanistan, and lived with Jamie at bases in El Paso, Texas, and just outside Tacoma, Washington.

During that time, something clicked. Upon completing his military service, he went to school on the G.I. Bill and graduated in four years, with honors, with a degree in biology. That meant four years of commuting, including one as a new dad, thanks to Emalyn’s arrival in July 2016, just before he began his senior year.

Then came Missouri. And now Cornell. At age 30, Jordan is more than ready for the next chapter in his academic career and we are excited to see where this late bloomer’s journey takes him.

Map: http://www.ntep.org/states/ny.htm

About those resolutions

Fruits and Veggies

How simple can this be? Follow through on a resolution to eat more fruit and veggies. Improve your diet and health at the same time, right?

When the year began, I vowed to K.I.S.S. — Keep It Simple, Stupid — when it came to making New Year’s resolutions.

  • Drink more water.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Lighten up on the iPhone.

So how am I doing halfway into 2018?

Honestly, not as well as I’d hoped.

I started off fine — in fact, I’d even say very well — in the first couple months. But if I’m being honest, I’ will acknowledge that I’ve had some slippage in all three areas.

Oh, it’s not like I’ve utterly failed. I’m aware of all three of these pledges. It’s just that I’ve let old habits creep in. You know, going straight to the coffee pot in the morning instead of starting the day with a glass of water — or even a few sips.

resolutionsI’m eating a decent amount of vegetables, thanks in so small part to Lori’s positive influence on my diet. But I could consume more fruits, especially now that summer is here and there’s plenty of fresh, seasonal selections such as watermelon and cherries.

As for the iPhone, I made a conscious effort to leave it behind on neighborhood walks or simple errands, figuring — correctly — that almost any news or personal communication could wait until I’d returned.

I also was very aware of Oregon’s distracted driving law, which prohibits drivers from using any function of a cellphone that requires holding or touching. The new law took effect last fall and raised the penalty for first-time offenders to $260.

But texting or making phone calls while driving isn’t the real issue. It’s simpler than that. It’s being aware that the phone’s mere presence can have a negative influence in situations where my attention ought to be focused on the person or people I’m with, or the event I’m experiencing.

Having a conversation? Put the phone down. Better yet, put it away. Be present. These are the things I need to keep telling myself.

Handheld devices are incredibly useful and helpful. But six months into this year, I’m reminded that I can do better by putting it aside more often when it’s not needed for work.

Photographs: www.active.com; www.thewritelife.com