Farewell to the admiral

Veeka and I in front of St. Mark's Cathedral

Veeka and I squinting in the sun in front of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle.

I think one of the loveliest moments during my dad’s funeral last Sunday was listening to the organ play “Nimrod” from Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations. If you have never listened to it, do so by clicking on the link. It’s lovely and poignant.
We were fortunate in that although the day started out with rain, the sun was coming out as we approached the church. And during the reception, it was warm enough to leave the doors open.
The family had a brief Communion service just before the funeral, then all of us processed into the nave at St. Mark’s Cathedral. Coast Guard Admiral Mark Butt, who had just moved to Seattle three weeks before, showed up at my mother’s side to walk her down the aisle. I was so grateful for that. My mom had been married 65 years and she’s used to having my dad walk with her. I processed with Veeka, who was delighted with her sleeveless black dress and new high heels.
IMG_2111The funeral program came with two photos: One of my dad in full dress uniform and one of him relaxing during a vacation in Israel. He was sitting in a hotel garden in Jerusalem when a stray kitty wandered by and jumped into his lap and took a snooze. My dad loves cats and that photo was so him.
My brothers and I read from Scriptures that my father had selected years ago that he would like read when the time came. We sang his favorite hymns, including “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” and of course “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.” Then after prayers and a short sermon given by the dean of the cathedral, a bugler played “Taps,” during which two US Coast Guard men in uniform unfurled a flag and held it up for all to see. Then Admiral Butt presented it to my mother.

Admiral Butt presenting the flag to my mom and thanking her for my dad's many years of military service.

Admiral Butt presenting the flag to my mom and thanking her for my dad’s many years of military service.

Adding to the drama was a congregant seated in the front row across the aisle from us who fainted at that point. As people rushed to his side, they could not find a pulse for a brief moment, but fortunately he eventually revived, right in time for the 911 medics who came dashing in. Never a dull moment.
Afterwards, the reception table was laden with a huge spread, including the wine and cheese that my dad insisted we have, because going to heaven is a celebration, right?
I am so grateful to some of my friends who showed up; a couple from Church of the Redeemer who lives just east of me and some friends who made the three-hour drive from Portland, which is true commitment! Three of my dad’s nieces flew in: One from California and two from Minnesota. There’s not much you can say during these times, but presence means everything. And for the 137+ who sent me messages on Facebook along with a few who sent personal notes, thank you as well. I’ve learned that when death happens, it’s important to say *something” even if it’s only a few words and nothing profound. Believe me, those grieving notice every kindness.
And so we adjust to the new normal, as my mother is now living alone, although her friends at the retirement home promise me they will keep her busy. And I live only 14 miles away; Steve is three hours away and Rob is moving back to the area in the fall. With us, there is little other news. A journalism/PR position came open at the last minute at university just south of me, but I lost out to someone with a PhD. In that I’d just gotten another MA to ward off such a possibility, it wasn’t enough.

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In memory of my father

“Why is there death, Mommy?”

The memorial to my dad set up at the retirement place where my parents live

The memorial to my dad set up at the retirement place in Redmond where my parents live.

That’s the sort of questions Veeka has been asking me ever since my father – and her grandfather – died a week ago on June 24 at the age of 91. Mercifully, she’d been at camp all day but when I picked her up late that afternoon, she knew something was wrong right away. Much earlier that day, the nurses in the unit where my dad was staying woke my mom up to say he seemed much worse. She went downstairs to the unit and held vigil for a few hours, then returned to her apartment for a quick nap. Then my brother Steve arrived from Portland. He’d left at the crack of dawn to get there and he found a kind employee called Ron Cole who, not wanting my dad to be alone while my mother slept, had been sitting by my father’s side. Steve wrote about this encounter in the Oregonian this week.
Then my mother returned to the room. Also arriving was Jim Eichner, an Episcopal priest I knew from a nearby parish and someone who dropped by my parents’ retirement center to offer Communion every fourth Friday. Several days before, I’d asked him to drop by my dad’s bedside before going to the monthly service. So he showed up just after 10 a.m. at about the same time my brother and mom walked in. At this point, my dad was breathing quite laboriously and Jim quickly surmised that he didn’t need Communion; he needed Last Rites. He quickly prayed this over my dad, ending with the Lord’s Prayer. I think he left the bedside at this point and texted me, saying I’d better drive over as quickly as possible.
I’d just gotten out of the shower, so I texted Steve to ask how Dad was doing and to say I was on my way. He and my mom both noticed that after the Lord’s Prayer, my dad had visibly relaxed, as if the prayers had released him in some way. Or maybe he knew he could let go. His breathing slowed and then stopped. They called in a nurse, who listened for a heartbeat. There was none. It was just before 10:30 a.m. Steve called me to say not to hurry too much, as my father was already gone.

Veeka poses with her two counselors at the camp she was at last week. It was a few minutes after I took this picture that she noticed something wasn't quite right with me. It was then that I told her that Opa had died.

Veeka poses with her two counselors at the camp she was at last week. It was a few minutes after I took this photo that she noticed something wasn’t quite right with me. It was then that I told her that Opa had died.

I got there about a half hour later and the three of us held vigil by his body until the funeral home got there two hours later. We were dazed, not believing that he had left us so quickly. It had been such a grace that the priest had arrived at just the right time to say the prayers that helped my dad depart and that Steve had left Portland 180 miles away at just the right time he needed to reach my father’s side so my mother would not be alone.
I insisted about an hour later that we call my parents’ church so they could be looking for a date for his funeral. It will be July 10; a military funeral at the Episcopal cathedral where my parents attended for so many years. Two days after his death, the Compline choir at St. Mark’s kindly included my dad’s name in their prayers for the newly deceased. You can listen to it here at about moment 21. And many folks have been reading the column that Steve wrote last summer about my father’s last trip to his birthplace in New Ulm, Minn., and his farewell to his older sister. She died last December and now he’s followed her just over six months later.
Just a week before on a Friday, my father had been sitting in his apartment, there to see his beloved kitties. We didn’t realize it would be his last visit there. The following Sunday, Veeka and I went raspberry picking and showed up in his room with a flat of fresh berries. He ate one but at that point, he was hardly getting down any food. That was the last day I saw him alive. And so we’ve planned a service that has the hymns he wanted and a reception (wine and cheese!) he would appreciate.
At the same time, we go shopping today for the appropriate black shoes and clothing for a funeral. As I’ve thought and mourned, this Benedictus by Karl Jenkins has expressed the emptiness I feel. And so does the arrangement of “In the Mansions of the Lord” from the movie “We Were Soldiers.” I selected the version played at President Reagan’s funeral, which I thought was heart-breakingly beautiful, expecially the instrumental part when the crucifer team heads down from the main altar. When people die, you know they are happier and pain-free now. We mourn for ourselves, the dreadful loneliness that we feel when someone we’ve known since birth is gone. The older you get, the harder it is to form new relationships and the more you lean into the ones you’ve had when you were young. For instance, we’ve been back in the Seattle area almost a year now and I’ve made no friends. Oh, there are people who’ve helped us in various ways, but there’s been no new friends. Most of mine are in Portland or back in Washington DC.

St. Mark's Cathedral on Capitol Hill overlooking Seattle.

St. Mark’s Cathedral on Capitol Hill overlooking Seattle.

And so family is all we have here. And it’s been so wonderful to be part of peoples’ birthdays and holidays and to no longer have to wait for strangers to invite us in.
Fortunately, three of my high school friends are in the area. All of us are turning 60 this year. If I live as long as my dad did, my life is only two-thirds done. The way ahead sure feels lonelier. At least I live close to my mother; Steve is still a three-or-four-hour drive away and my other brother Rob is moving back to Washington state in the fall, although he’ll be several counties away. I am so grateful that this year is not last June, when I was still in Fairbanks. I would have gone crazy knowing my dad was dying and not being able to be there and do things like get the paperwork filled out for the crematorium and just be there. I am glad we are back home at a place where I can see the mountains when I am driving down the freeway.
I keep on telling Veeka that our true home is elsewhere and that if at times we feel homesick, it’s a natural feeling that shows us we’re meant for heaven. C.S. Lewis wrote about this inconsolable longing in Mere Christianity:

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.”

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May showers and birthdays

My yummy chocolate cake

My yummy chocolate cake

We’re finally into May and since I last wrote, there’s been several birthdays. This past Thursday, I had a birthday, a rather significant one, but one that made me feel quite old! When I turned 50, I was months away from adopting Veeka, still employed at the newspaper and at the top of my game. I traveled to Jamaica and India that year and skiied at Breckenridge for a week. Those days are over and things are tougher now. But it is wonderful to be close to family, as this birthday was the first one in 34 years that I’ve had at home in Seattle. I think there were 13 of us assorted brothers, sisters, grandchildren and grandparents, so we simply dined in one of the rooms at the retirement place where my parents live and my mother bought me a cake from QFC because they’re so moist.
Unfortunately, the rules at the center forbid lighting candles inside, so I had none to blow out, which is just as well. Of course it was rainy outside. For awhile, it had been sunny and quite lovely here (finally) after a record-setting rainy winter. One of my snow tires wore out, so I ended up gifting the rest to the local Firestone. In early May, there was a Northwest Paddling Festival at Lake Sammamish

Veeka trying out a toddler boat in the kiddie pool at the paddling festival. To her chagrin, she could not keep it.

Veeka trying out a toddler boat in the kiddie pool at the paddling festival. To her chagrin, she could not keep it.

state park, not far from where we live. So when Veeka arrived home from school, I told her to forget the homework, put on a bathing suite and off we went. We got to kayak twice and wander about these wonderful boating and camping booths. Would love to start camping but I have nowhere to store equipment. I did get to paddleboard on the lake and it was magnificent. On the first try, I felt into the lake, but on the second, I was happily zooming about on the board. Would love to do more of that.
My WaPo piece on the Dalton Highway got lots of hits (I am told) and was picked up by the Denver Post and Alaska Dispatch (in Anchorage), among other places. About two weeks later, another piece of mine came out on the Religion News Service about the #westcoastrumble, which I’ve talked about previously. I talked with two experts on a movement that this revival is related to known as the New Apostolic Reformation. Some of its leaders claim they know nothing of it nor are a part of it, but it’s a loose network of evangelists, revivalists and “apostles” who visit each other’s churches and share teachings and personnel. For instance, the Seattle Revival Center, which was at the center of my piece, is in frequent contact with folks from Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., which is at the epicenter of this movement. Christianity Today’s April 24 cover story talks a lot about Bethel. There are some professors at Biola University outside of Los Angeles that are following this movement. This is what one of them said (and which got cut from the RNS piece because of length):

Brad Christerson, a sociology professor at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., and a fellow with the University of Southern California’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture, is coming out with a book on the new Pentecostal networks that Goll, Nelson, Martin and Shamp belong to. He noted that very few of these revivalists are answerable to a denomination.
“What’s unique about this group is their network structure, which is much more suited to growth in the global religious marketplace,” he said. “It is flexible and you can do experimental things you can’t do with a church that has a board and a doctrinal statement. They are independent agents but they are networked together and share each others’ resources and followings.”
Many of the 30-something revivalists are networked with Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., pastored by Bill Johnson, a key leader in this movement. Bethel left the Assemblies of God in 2006.
“Bill Johnson told me he travels 250 days a year,” Christerson added. “These guys are going all over the world. These guys have god-like status among their followers. I don’t have the sense there’s abuse going on but the amount of influence they have is frightening.” 

Veeka blowing out candles at her birthday brunch.

Veeka blowing out candles at her birthday brunch.

The folks at Seattle Revival Center (which parted ways with the Assemblies of God in 2015) were pretty happy with my piece and the meetings are continuing there in their 12th week. The last time Veeka and I went, there were 65 folks there; not huge numbers. As I’ve watched the services online, I have noticed how the church is not at all full, which one could interpret several ways. I have heard of some good and maybe miraculous things happening there, but spectacular healings are not one of those things. As the pastor says, “We’ll show up as long as God shows up,” so it’s a matter of figuring out how much God is truly showing up. It must be costing a mint to fly in these evangelists plus hire local worship bands, so if the crowds are thinning out, folks must be wondering where this is going.
Other events: Veeka turned 11 in April, so some of the family kindly showed up at a brunch I held for her. Then we spent the afternoon seeing the Pacific Northwest Ballet perform “Coppelia,” which was a gift from Oma and Opa. The month since then has been lots of ups and downs. For a time, I thought I was going to get a well-paying contract to help someone write a book. I did some preliminary work on it, only to have this person get cold feet and walk off the project. But Veeka finished a year with Awana in May and has a T-shirt and lots of Bible verses to show for it.

Sol Duc Hot Springs

Sol Duc Hot Springs

I’ve gotten two assignments from local magazines and three more travel assignments from the Washington Post, so my freelancing has picked up. Then a week ago, my mother had a birthday, so we showed up on a rainy Sunday evening with a lemon cake and dinner, as my dad was feeling poorly and my mother didn’t feel like cooking. Oh, and a coupon for a massage, as I’ve been trying to talk my mom into patronizing a very nice salon in downtown Redmond. This was a few hours after Veeka and I arrived home from a weekend Girl Scout camp on Vashon Island. The locale was nice but the weather stunk. Another bright light was the few days we spent over spring break with friends in Port Ludlow, across Puget Sound from Seattle. It was a nice break just to get away and they drove us to places like Neah Bay and Sol Duc Hot Springs in the Olympic National Park. We also drove down the Dungeness Spit in Port Angeles and spent a (rainy, of course) today puttering about Port Townsend.

Oma celebrating her birthday. We had to light her candles on the balcony, as the place where she lives doesn't allow lit candles indoors.

Oma celebrating her birthday. We had to light her candles on the balcony, as the place where she lives doesn’t allow lit candles indoors.

Jobhunting continues apace but for the most part, things are quite discouraging. I went to a local job fair last week and realized I could be an emergency substitute and that the hours might work for me along with my freelance projects. So, we will see. I’m also putting together a creative writing class for fifth graders that I’d like to shop around the district. It’s based on a similar class for talented writers that I had in fifth grade and which really got me started on a writing career. So I’ve been volunteering at a nearby elementary school, working with nine fifth-graders each week to see what lessons work and which ones do not, as fifth graders have changed a lot since I was 10 years old. The teacher tells me they really enjoy it and he is glad to recommend me to other teachers. In a few weeks, I’ll have an author day at the school where I’ll be doing a reading and hawking my children’s book, so am hoping for good things. I am grateful this particular elementary school is letting me try out my ideas with their students this spring.

Posted in Family, life in Issaquah | 5 Comments

Age discrimination is simply everywhere.

Me running away from it all by skiing at Stevens Pass.

Me running away from it all by skiing at Stevens Pass.

See this picture of me skiing? That’s what I do when I can’t handle the age discrimination in the job market. After eight months of applying to everything from Amazon to Alaska Airlines’ magazine, I’m amazed when my resume and cover gets no responses. OK, we’ve got two master’s degrees here, a distinguished job record and joy of joys: This weekend the Washington Post is publishing my travel article on the Dalton Highway in Alaska’s far north. You’d think articles like that would at least get me a call back. I’ve won awards for my writing all over the country but the past eight months has been a frustrating desert.
People ask me: Why aren’t you a technical writer? Well…here’s what Google expects of its tech writer applicants for jobs in their spiffy low-slung white-walled office building in Kirkland:

Responsibilities
• Learn complex technical information and write technical documentation for Google engineers, such as architectural overviews, tutorials for software developers, API programming guides, and more.
• Respond to technical questions from Google engineers about the subject matter that you documented.
• Edit documents written by others; coach engineers to improve their writing skills.
• Develop tools and processes to automate document creation and maintenance.
• Read and write code in C++, Java, JavaScript or Python.

Sorry, folks, I don’t do Python. Even non-techie places like the real estate company Zillow has openings with these names: Data scientist, quantitative analyst, graphics engineer, senior IOS engineer. I’d need a third MA for that. Jobs that end with the disclaimer “college degree required” are not aimed at anyone over 25. A lot of companies want advertising or design agency experience, which I don’t have. I loved getting this second MA, but it is not helping me get hired. So I run away and drag Veeka on mountain hikes like Little Si, whose summit is shown below.

At the top of Little Si in North Bend. This charming hike in the Cascades was crowded due to the long-awaited sun. Veeka is in the foreground.

At the top of Little Si in North Bend. This charming hike in the Cascades was crowded due to the long-awaited sun. Veeka is in the foreground.

There was a fascinating Seattle Times article about how local industry is scrambling for talented help. Then I read the comments section where folks over 50 were saying no one’s looking for them. One person wrote:
“On the one hand, a company doesn’t want to spend time/money on giving a older worker any “on the job training.” And on the other hand a company will hire a new graduate with no real world working experience – and spend $$ more on extra perks and creating a youth culture environment. That student usually is ill-prepared to hit-the-ground-running at a new job. They may as well help train the older worker, it’s probably less expensive.”
Then someone with 30 years in Systems Engineering and Systems Management in the IT field said he couldn’t find work because companies are hiring college grads and H-1B visa foreign workers.
Person after person (in this same comments section) talked about the willing and desperate older workers who’d take jobs in a second. For example, one wrote, Microsoft is willing to train young veterans with minimal tech experience by giving them classes in the basics, then putting them to work in entry-level jobs. Why not tap the “older worker” in the same manner? Many already have much tech experience and only need a refresher class to bring them up to date, and a chance to work.
Another said, Yep, I agree with you but don’t expect anything to change. I’m in my 60’s, EE, mgmt experience, web design, C, C++, HTML/CSS/js, sql, php and electronics design experience but nobody will even call or email back if I put my history on the resume. (The reason why, he added, as that older people don’t want to work 100-hour weeks, they want decent pay and they tend to get sick more).
Another said: You would do very well getting high-paying temporary assignments. You can make a living that way if you have skills that are in demand–I do, and I’m not even in tech. If they don’t have to pay you benefits, employers don’t care how old you are.

At least someone in our family is making money. Last day for Girl Scout cookies

At least someone in our family is making money. Last day for Girl Scout cookies

And even if you do get hired, if you’re female, you’ll still get paid less, according to this  New York Times piece.

Surely, folks tell me, you could get hired by Amazon? They’re scooping up as many humans as possible to move to Seattle. Well, here is what they are looking for in a tech writer:
• Degree in English, Technical Writing, Computer Science or related field highly desirable
• Experience with cloud/Web Services, IaaS, PaaS, or related areas is a plus
• Previous experience working with agile project management methodologies is a plus
• Programming skills in at least one programming language, such as Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, PHP, or .NET (C#) is a plus
• Experience with GitHub a plus
• Experience working directly with engineering teams

I don’t even know what PHP is. I do know what Ruby is, though. Should I try somewhere else? How about the travel company Expedia? Well, here’s their ad:

Expedia is seeking an experienced IT professional with a background in Technical Writing, Onboarding & Operational Readiness. The person will have responsibility for the creation/editing of technical content created by the Engineering teams and create onboarding/transition-support documentation, operational processes and procedures for the EDW Platform. This is a key role that will involve you partnering with the Engineering teams and creating the right level of high quality documentation and ensure that all procedural / technical details are gathered completely and accurately. This is a senior role that will require you to be self-disciplined, self-motivated professional. This will be a rich, rewarding opportunity for the right professional, to include exposure to some of the best IT talent and technologies in the world, and an opportunity to be largely self directed and to be afforded creative latitude to develop the processes for this new function.

Veeka and her troop hard at work selling those Thin Mints. Companies are hiring folks closer to her age than mine.

Veeka and her troop hard at work selling those Thin Mints. Companies are hiring folks closer to her age than mine.

One bright spot this month was that Veeka sold 55 boxes of Girl Scout cookies by slogging it out door to door and then she earned about 100 more points  helping sell cookies in front of various Safeways and WalMarts. I taught her how to present the cookie sale sheet; how to explain what each cookie contains and that we don’t collect the $4/box now but later when we deliver and by the time we were doing the last 10, she was getting pretty accomplished at her spiel. I had hoped for 30 sales; she easily surpassed that during our walks around the complex where we live, so I began to hope for more. We had finally reached 50 and were walking home when we dropped by a neighbor I’d met by the condo dumpster, who ordered 4 more. Veeka gets a badge if she reaches 55, so I threw in a box for us and her goal was met. And we got to meet a bunch of people near where we live.

Posted in jobhunting, Veeka, Writing | 6 Comments

West Coast rumble?

Screenshot 2016-03-17 03.07.06I’ve covered plenty of revivals in my time but what happens when one starts at your own church? Most are calling it the “West Coast Rumble” and naturally, it has its own Twitter handle already. Yep: #WestCoastRumble. Two 30-something pastors are key to the events here. The meetings started the last weekend in February and they haven’t stopped yet. First, some background. Last fall, I began attending a charismatic church called Seattle Revival Center that’s in a suburb called Newcastle across Lake Washington from Seattle and about nine miles from where we live. Chelsie, a woman who has special needs kids befriended me and (my daughter) Veeka, which was an enormous inducement to continue attending there.

Charlie Shamp's preaching and healing services are what helped start off the current revival services in Seattle

Charlie Shamp’s preaching and healing services are what helped start off the current “West Coast rumble”  just east of Seattle.

Starting Feb. 25, the church had a revival weekend – a “declaration” conference they called it – that I didn’t attend, as I had another conference in town that was more important for me to be at. Nashville evangelist Charlie Shamp, the Sunday morning speaker, got such a good reaction that they had a Sunday evening meeting as well. I had listened to Sunday morning online off the church’s website as my daughter wasn’t feeling great. I found the service rather underwhelming, to be honest, but others didn’t and so many people were said to be getting healed of various ailments, they extended meetings to Wednesday. I dropped by briefly that Wednesday night, but Veeka’s early rising hours the next day meant I couldn’t stay.
So I began watching services each night on the live feed from the church’s web site. What’s kind of fun is the chit-chat between those of us watching it (one can log in and leave comments and they have Google translate for non-English speakers) and the folks in the service will actually pray for petitions you email in. Some folks have contacted the church to say they’ve been healed while sitting by their computer watching it all. There’s no way to verify a lot of that but I’ve never heard of revival services incorporating various devices the way this one does.

Darren Stott (right) pastors SRC. Charlie Shamp is to the left.

Darren Stott (right) pastors SRC. Charlie Shamp is to the left.

That Thursday night (March 3), Shamp was being handed cell phones by some of the congregation whose friends had called in asking for prayer. On Friday night, Shamp asked audience members to call people right there and pray for them with their cell phones lifted up. I am sure this evangelist had only planned to stay in Seattle this one weekend and he wasn’t expecting a revival to spring up around his preaching, but as folks kept on showing up at the church, he’s remained in town. I’m not sure whether his wife has had to Fed Ex him a suitcase of clean clothes, but I think he turned 34 while all this was going on.
The pastor of Seattle Revival Center, aka SRC, is called Darren Stott and he too just had a birthday – I think that too was his 34th. He’s a pretty hip dude who gives some profound sermons but I don’t think even he was expecting something to blow up at his church. My grasp on some details is a bit foggy, but beginning in January, there was a revival at another church in San Diego that had the SRC folks all excited. Some even flew down to experience it, as they said there had been prophecies of a revival going up the Interstate-5 corridor from San Diego to Vancouver, BC (which is technically not on I-5 but we won’t argue over details).
Here is this Darren’s explanation of these meetings. One of his better quotes: “It feels like God has flown through the windshield of our bus, knocked us out of our seat, hijacked the bus and taken us to a new place we’ve not been before.”

Charlie Shamp praying into a cell phone.

Charlie Shamp praying into a cell phone.

Another moniker they’re applying to this event is “apple wine;” Washington state being the country’s largest producer of apples, exporting some 125 million boxes a year. So, there’s always an apple sitting by the podium during the service and there’s even a prophecy (from the San Diego folks) about God releasing apple wine over Seattle and the entire state. Which is pretty funny considering how secular a place this is. Politically, it’s bluer than blue. Culturally…let’s just say that when I take my many religion books to Half Price Books, a well-known local used book retail outlet, they just stare at me and explain how there’s no demand for books about God. In terms of religious movements, at least Los Angeles had Azusa Street (a famous 1906 revival that lasted four years) but nothing like that has happened further up the Left Coast.
In one of his taped messages a week or two into these meetings, “I feel like in the Northwest we are giving birth to a baby and it needs to be nurtured,” Darren said. “The Pacific Northwest is one of the most difficult places to be a pastor. Churches are closing down all over the place…(but) this is what I was born for!” That said, he added that he’d had 15 hours of sleep in three days, as people were flooding the place.
It’s sure been interesting to see how SRC has marshaled resources  to try to meet the demand. I talked with one couple who said they were experienced at handling revivals and they’d quickly shown up to offer their services at managing things. The church’s website was ramped up to provide some history of the past three weeks plus new graphics have been added plus links to videos of the meetings. Whoever’s doing the camera work for the services is pretty good although I know the church staff is stretched to the max and there’s been announcements asking for members to help out more. Soon after the meetings started, they put a black taped line around the perimeter of the sanctuary as a place for people to stand when they want prayer. It’s an efficient way to manage a lot of people at one time.

Charlie Shamp praying over one of many people who come forward for prayer.

Charlie Shamp praying over one of many people who come forward for prayer. Notice the catcher in back of her.

Anyway, on Saturday night (the 5th), a guest pastor named Suri came up to do the prayer for the offering. He called up two SRC pastors and then the three of them collapsed to the ground convulsed in laughter. So we watched the three of them roll about on the floor (one holding an apple) as everyone walked up and put money into the collection baskets. There’s a lot of talk about getting “drunk” on this apple wine of the Spirit at these meetings and some take that literally.
The truly funny moment (to me) was when Jeannette Wuhrman, the female half of the couple that helps out with revivals, got up to say announcements. She gave instructions on leaving one’s email near the back so they could be updated by the church on what’s going on “as soon as we know what that is.” That doesn’t sound funny but it actually was, because of course the church doesn’t have a clue what the end result of these meetings will be and they seem to be making it up as they go. Which lends an endearing quality, actually, as nothing is worse than something that’s obviously produced.
Most of the meetings are centered around Shamp calling out healings that he believes are happening among people there, or among those listening online or even among folks who know nothing of these meetings but have some connection with those attending or listening in. The church has posted one set of X-rays by someone claiming healing from cancer. There was one woman who got up at a service to say she was healed and then I saw her a few days later back in her wheelchair. Hmmm. There’s been echoes of 1990s Toronto revival stuff at these meetings; people claiming that God has given them gold fillings in their teeth (SRC has actually posted a photo of one such person’s mouth) plus reports of feathers drifting through the air. I’ve not seen any of the latter.

The children line up for prayer during a March 9 service at SRC.

The children line up for prayer during a March 9 service at SRC.

I finally did get to attend an entire meeting on Saturday the 5th on a rainy night. I’d say the sanctuary was about two-thirds full but not packed by a long shot. My daughter came with me and soon after we arrived, we went to the front and were prayed over briefly by the evangelist but nothing seemingly happened, so we repaired to a seat near the back. Next, there were several baptisms. I was noticing that the worship team had been playing pretty continuously since 7 pm and they had to be exhausted. There’s been a different worship team each night. This group came from elsewhere in the state, so apparently someone’s been calling around to bring in reinforcements or bands are calling the church to volunteer their services.
At around 10:30 p.m., everyone who wanted prayer lined up on the aforementioned border of black tape that had been placed around the sanctuary. Easily 70 or so folks lined up. As the evangelist and other ministers moved around the perimeter of the room, most of those being prayed for – like 99% – fell back to the ground in a faint-like trance known as being ‘slain in the Spirit.’ When they prayed for Veeka, she dropped to the ground and said later that she felt faint and overwhelmed, albeit in a good way. Unlike nearly everyone else, I did not fall. Believe me, I’ve been prayed over by the best of them – from Rodney Howard Browne (here’s my essay on what that was like) to the folks at the Toronto Airport Vineyard – and it simply doesn’t happen to me and I’ve stopped stressing over it. Veeka felt convinced that something deep had happened to her during the service and she had great hopes of being healed.

Jeannette Wuhrman giving announcements.

Jeannette Wuhrman giving announcements.

We returned the following Wednesday night (the 9th) where they were having a special prayer time for kids. Veeka went up for prayer, but felt nothing and didn’t drop to the ground as she had before. Plus, she was distraught over having prayed for healing on Saturday and then Wednesday night, only to have nothing happen. Kids don’t process too well not being healed when the preacher is stating that folks are getting delivered of everything from bladder problems to cancer via their cell phones, so I’ve not taken her to any nightly services since. Adults can better handle such disappointment, but kids don’t. I will say she likes listening to the nightly services on her iPad at home, so you never know.
I went back last night (the 16th) briefly. There were about 100 people there when the service started and maybe 125 when I had to leave to pick up Veeka from the Awana meeting, then went home to listen to the rest of the service online. Shamp was calling out specific healings, ie a woman listening in online who was hooked up to a breathing apparatus and a man with the last name of MacDonald. When people come up to the front to be prayed over, he places a hand on their forehead, blows on them and 9 out of 10 will crumple to the ground.

Suri (a visiting pastor) and two SRC pastors lie on the dias during a service laughing hysterically or "drunk" with "apple wine."

Suri (a visiting pastor in the white shirt) and two SRC pastors lie on the platform during a service (choose one) laughing hysterically or “drunk” with “apple wine.”

“Wheat God reveals, He heals,” he said – or maybe it was Darren who said that – can’t remember. “How many of you know it’s a done deal?”
It got very weird at one point last night when Shamp was asking everyone to say “Yum, yum” (in reference to the apple wine, I guess) and believing the Spirit would fall on them if they did so. “Less thinking, more drinking,” he would tell folks as a number of them were strewn about on the floor. I’m guessing SRC has had to requisition every able-bodied male they can find on the church rolls to be “catchers” for all the falling bodies.
So, what do I think? I’ve reported on and attended a bunch of these revivals, ranging from Toronto to Brownsville, many of which had petered out or ended badly. I remember interviewing the two pastors at the head of the Brownsville meetings and I asked them what was the most unexpected thing about having such an event at their church.

Shamp prays for a congregant. Stott is the catcher in the blue shirt.

Shamp prays for a congregant. Stott is the catcher in the blue shirt.

“Toilet paper,” they said. When the crowds show up, you can’t get enough of it. God knows that folks here in the Northwest have felt at the periphery of spiritual renewal. Other than pioneers like Dennis Bennett, this area is not a place known for its great spiritual life although the meteoric rise (and fall) of Mars Hill Church showed that the local populace will attend a house of worship if they find it engaging enough.
I’m certainly not on any inside track at this church, so I don’t know what sort of discussions are going on about the coming weeks. Judging from the online comments during the service, people are tuning in from around the world and there is a procession of local pastors visiting the place. One of them there tonight was a Nazarene, which amazed me, considering that his denomination is not known for being open to charismatic phenomena.

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Enjoying the sun in Corpus Christi

Veeka overlooking the Gulf of Mexico from our restaurant

Veeka overlooking the Gulf of Mexico from our restaurant on the Bob Hall pier.

We are in Corpus Christi this week and it’s been so delightful feeling the sunny breezes. When we walked off the plane, we were wearing dark clothing for the gloomy weather we left behind and we looked like refugees from the Land Where Rain Never Stops. Meeting us were Bob and Nancy Eckert, who were major players in the saga of Church of the Redeemer that I wrote about in my 2009 book. Bob is now writing a book about his life and he asked me to come down for a week to help him finish it. Veeka and I have taken walks in the sun and visited two beaches, one of them a restaurant on a pier overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
I’ve been following the Yukon Quest – which is a dog mushing race considered tougher than the Iditarod – and I found this delightful video about musk oxen, who live WAY north in Alaska and Greenland. So, click on it if you want to transport yourself up to the northern regions.
Back in Seattle – well, actually I live on the Eastside, a region where a lot of folks don’t travel downtown if they can help it. I run into plenty of people who tell me they are never in Seattle and don’t want to be. I try to get downtown if possible, as there are things there that one cannot find in the suburbs. It’s a place where you can find restaurants that serve “decadent vegan food” and where anything right of Bernie Sanders is mocked in the local media.

Veeka got a box of chocolates from one of her classmates for Valentines Day. Having all boys in her class has its advantages.

Veeka got a box of chocolates from one of her classmates for Valentine’s Day. Having all boys in her class has its advantages.

As it says in the Seattle Weekly “Conventional wisdom in Washington politics states that all the votes Democrats need to win a state majority can been seen from the Space Needle, but in recent elections Republicans have successfully nibbled at the edges of this turf.” This was from a column that lamented how the Neanderthals in eastern Washington are trying to outlaw abortion and that due to an unfortunate accident of geography, the much despised and red-state Idaho lies just to the east of that. Of course I’ve lived in blue states before but rarely where the loathing of all things conservative is so palpable.
Another really depressing part of being here is the housing. Homes everywhere are selling for more than half a million dollars; condos (which is what I’d probably be in) are edging close to $300,000. I’ll get some money from selling my house in Tennessee, but not that much. And without a full-time job, there’s no way I can make enough money to buy a home at present. Housing in King County, where I live, went up 11% in a year and it’s not going down any time soon. Not only that, but lots of Wall Street speculators are in town, buying up homes like crazy, then renting them. This editorial tells why consumers are being had over this. No wonder there’s so many homeless here in town!

My little Girl Scout in the process of selling those 55 boxes.

My little Girl Scout in the process of selling those 55 boxes.

One bright spot this month was that Veeka sold 55 boxes of Girl Scout cookies by slogging it out door to door. I taught her how to present the cookie sale sheet; how to explain what each cookie contains and that we don’t collect the $4/box now but later when we deliver and by the time we were doing the last 10, she was getting pretty accomplished at her spiel. I had hoped for 30 sales; she easily surpassed that during our walks around the complex where we live, so I began to hope for more. We had finally reached 50 and were walking home when we dropped by a neighbor I’d met by the condo dumpster, who ordered 4 more. Veeka gets a badge if she reaches 55, so I threw in a box for us and her goal was met. And we got to meet a bunch of people near where we live.

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Whizzing through the snow

As the snow falls on Cleo, the Ewing's affable kitty, their chalet is in the background. Dick made it basically by hand and it took years for it all to come together.

As the snow falls on Cleo, the Ewing’s affable kitty, their chalet is in the background. Dick made it basically by hand and it took years for it all to come together.

For years, I’ve wanted to go cross-country skiing in the largest cross-country ski area in North America and this past MLK weekend, we did so. It was a 238-mile drive over 2 mountain passes to Winthrop, Wash., home of the Methow Trails in the beautiful Methow Valley in north-central Washington. To get there from Seattle, it’s about five hours with a short dinner break. And of the 120 miles of trails that exist there, I only scratched the surface. I’d advise anyone going up there, however, to have some kind of traction tire and fortunately I had my Firestone Blizzaks from spending last year in Fairbanks (where one MUST have snow tires).
We were spending 3 nights with longtime friends Pam and Dick Ewing, who moved to the area 30 years ago. I’ve stayed at their gorgeous log home many times and this was Veeka’s third stay there. We’d always come in warmer months, so this was a first. But winter is high tourist time up there. When we showed up the next morning at the ski rental place in neighboring Mazama, it was packed with folks from Seattle. Like us. We learned later that Saturday was their busiest day EVER renting out skis. We hit one of the loop trails just to warm up. Now Dick *teaches* cross-country skiing so it was great to hear some of his tips on how to correct what I was going wrong. Veeka had taken lessons last year in Fairbanks, so she kept up a fairly good pace. I was OK until I tried to go downhill and ended up falling backward. One problem with these skis is it is very hard to get UP off the ground when you’ve fallen and especially if you’ve a frozen shoulder like I do. We recovered afterwards with Mexican hot chocolate at the Mazama General Store, a lovely place in the woods that sells pretty things and great food.
On Sunday, we tried a trail through the forest. I think I did a face plant at one point. Dick

This was near the end of our first day and Veeka was getting tired, so Dick thought up a cool way of towing her back to the car.

This was near the end of our first day and Veeka was getting tired, so Dick thought up a cool way of towing her back to the car.

had waxed my skis, which made things even more interesting. It was showing hard, which made the abundant snow even fresher. Veeka, whose Kazakh heritage includes some snow in her blood, adores winter weather and spent a lot of her free time running around Pam and Dick’s 5 acres on the edge of town. There were so many other places to try, but we only had 2 full days and believe me, I was even more tired after the second day. Am very out of shape….
Other than that, it has been a quiet month. Veeka has joined a local Girl Scout troop that meets in a neighborhood of $1.3 million homes. The meeting spot has some of the best views of the Seattle area I have ever seen, as it’s atop Cougar Mountain. Veeka walked into the home, saw the gorgeous views and just shrieked with happiness.

One of the weird contraptions at the Chihuly.

One of the weird glass contraptions at the Chihuly museum.

A few weekends before, we visited the Space Needle which she didn’t like because of the height but the view was great. We also saw the Chihuly Garden next to the Space Needle. The Chihuly is a killer collection of cool glass sculptures with brilliant colors and exotic shapes that I’d never seen. And I’d not been atop the Space Needle in decades. We then drove up Queen Anne hill to get more views and again, I think it was the first time I’d even driven up there.
Other than that, the one event of note was that my parents finally bought an iPhone so they are now officially in the 21st century! Of course it’s been a tough go in terms of them learning how to work the thing so I tell them that it took me 4 months to figure out how to operate my Apple laptop back in the fall of 2006.
Job-wise, things are not looking up at all. One website contacted me about working nearly full time for them doing writing and editing out of my home, which seemed ideal. We were several steps into negotiations and everything seemed like a go and then they disappeared into the ether. Fortunately, an old friend contacted me recently to ask for help in writing his book. I’ve been asked this sort of thing before by friends who expect me to do many hours of line editing for free, so I told him my hourly rate and that I simply could not give away my talents any more. He was willing to pay it, so I’ve been spending much of January working on his manuscript. I have really enjoyed it and wish there was a way to get more work like that.

Pam and Veeka playing in the snow.

Pam and Veeka playing in the snow.

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The funeral before Christmas

The light show at Bellevue Botanical Gardens

The light show at Bellevue Botanical Gardens

This is the first Christmas in 32 years where I don’t have to climb aboard a plane to go back home. Instead, we drove 14 miles on E. Lake Sammamish Blvd. past gorgeous homes with flashy light displays against a dark lake. It’d done nothing but rain here recently, but it’s dumped 15 feet of snow in the mountain passes to our east which means GREAT SKIING as soon as I get my snow tires on next week. We spent yesterday with my parents going to Christmas Eve services at St. Mark’s Cathedral downtown and generally lazing about today.
It was nice being restful considering what the rest of my week was like. On Dec. 14, we got word that a beloved aunt, Alice Hinnenthal, had died at the age of 100. She caused an uproar when she showed up at my father’s 90th birthday party last year. Then my parents and brother Steve went to visit her in Minneapolis this July, a meeting that Steve chronicled so tenderly in a newspaper column as they all sensed it’d be the last time they would see each other.
Alice had some 39 descendants which, together with spouses, totaled about 51

To the left, Alice with four of her 5 children. To the right, a news clipping about my father. Below, from left to right: My father, Alice, Alma and Ed and Jerry (brothers). This was taken sometime in the late 40s.

To the left, Alice with four of her 5 children. To the right, a news clipping about my father. Below, from left to right: My father, Alice, Alma and Ed and Jerry (brothers) sometime in the late 40s.

people who were flying or driving in for her funeral on the 21st. Starting when I moved to Virginia 20 years ago, I had been seeing more and more of my father’s side of the family, all of whom descended from Siegfried Duin, who immigrated to Minnesota from northern Germany in 1903. He was the 11th child and only 17 when he came over, as he was due to be conscripted by the Prussians for the draft when he turned 18 and his family didn’t want that to happen. He already had two brothers over here and a sister named Gretchen who’d become pregnant outside of marriage and so was being shipped to the New World to not bring disgrace on the family. Siegfried married a young woman named Alma Engelbert and they settled in a small town called New Ulm, had four kids, the 2nd of whom was Alice and the 4th being my father. Unfortunately, my grandfather died at the age of 38 during a botched gall bladder operation, leaving behind a wife with four kids, the youngest being my dad, age 2.
The three sons grew up and all had military careers and moved away from Minnesota. Alice stayed, married the pastor’s son and moved to nearby St. Peter and had five children. When we would drive from Maryland during my childhood to visit them, I remember the hot summer evenings we’d spend playing with their kids and generally hanging out. For years, we all attended each others’ weddings and sadly one funeral – my cousin Anne who died at age 39 of breast cancer – until now. None of the Duins outside the Hinnenthal clan (Alice had 5 children, 13 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren) were coming to the funeral that I knew of, so after lots of thought (Veeka was off school and I wasn’t working), I decided to go. Who knew when I’d see a lot of these folks again and besides, Alice deserved it! I managed to amass enough frequent flyer miles to get us to Minnesota and back plus pay for a rental car and hotel.

Veeka (who fortunately had a black dress) and I at the grave site.

Veeka (who fortunately had a black dress) and I at the grave site.

So we flew there on the 20th, getting up before the crack of dawn and arriving at SeaTac (the local airport) to find huge crowds there at 4 a.m.! We got to Minneapolis by mid-day (thank God for clear weather nationwide), got to Alice’s viewing, had tons of conversations with people, then left for some down time at the Mall of America and the hotel pool. The next day, we attended the actual funeral at St. James Lutheran, where we marched in the procession (we were, after all, part of the extended family) and met folks who were descendants of another of the Duin sons (George) who’d emigrated along with Siegfried. From them and other folks, I pieced together more of my grandfather’s story. I had thought our family was basically peasant farmers but no, they were well-to-do landowners near Leer and Hasselt, small towns on the German/Dutch border. And my great-grandfather had traced the names of all 11 of his children in cement circles at the family farm. When Siegfried died, my grandmother had to do sewing and take in borders to make ends meet. Someone told me that the boarders got to eat butter with their bread, but not the kids, as Alma couldn’t afford butter for both. I can’t imagine not being able to afford butter.
Veeka and I had been through Minnesota 18 months ago when we were moving to Alaska and had connected with some of the clan back then, but many who were at the funeral were folks I’d not seen in since a 2008 reunion in Montana. We all then drove about 70 miles to New Ulm for the burial in a cemetery I had visited the summer before. It was so odd to have only been there the year before in the hot July sun and then to be so quickly back onsite on a cold December afternoon. Mercifully, it was not snowing, as I’m not sure that my rental Kia could have gotten through any white stuff without sliding everywhere. At the reception afterwards at St. Paul’s (these are all Wisconsin Synod churches), I had more conversations with many family members who, like old friends, I have known for many years. Finally, we pulled away.

Part of the Hinnenthal clan as they posed for a family photo.

Part of the Hinnenthal clan as they posed for a family photo.

Thankfully, our trip back the next day was problem-free, although we did have an eight-hour layover in Houston. But an old friend was in a nearby terminal at IAH, so he came by where we were camped out at one of the United Clubs. I only get 2 passes a year for those clubs and thankfully I had my two for this year, as it was a lifesaver for us to just relax there. And the BlackLivesMatter demonstrations that partly shut down the Minneapolis airport came a day after we departed on the 22nd.
The rest of our month has been quiet. I’ve taken Veeka to Christmas lights displays, a dinner party with old friends from Maryland, a gingerbread house decorating party at her school and a Lucia fest at a Lutheran church in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. There’s a lot of ethnic Swedish places in the area and this church had a service on Dec. 13 wherein a high school senior marches down the aisle in a white gown and a crown of blazing candles set atop her head. Other girls march down as well holding candles but the “Lucia queen” is actually balancing them. It was a rainy, nasty evening but the service was interesting and the treats afterward were quite the sugar high.

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Thanksgiving weekend in the Seattle suburbs

Veeka playing with Wyatt

Veeka playing with Wyatt

Must say I need to be posting more than once a month! We had a lovely Thanksgiving at the home of my niece Lindsay and her husband Jason, who live about seven miles south of us. Lindsay is an amazing cook and her table settings were so elegant. Veeka had a great time playing with their 1-year-old son Wyatt, a real cutie. And Wyatt has a huge playroom all to himself, which Veeka very much envied. She had similar space back in Tennessee but the days of living in a 2,400-square-foot home are passed, I am afraid. Earlier that day – it was sunny out – we had a lovely ride along the shores of Lake Sammamish in what I hope will be a yearly tradition. The bike path, lined with bushes of snowberries and rosehips (we had rosehips in our back yard in Fairbanks so they’re quite a hardy plant) were so pretty and all sorts of people were out walking.

My little Elsa with some face paint on.

My little Elsa with some face paint on.

Otherwise, there has been so much rain this past month. It poured buckets on Halloween, so I had to take Veeka to a party at the church, as it was no fun walking about. She had on the perfect Elsa get-up. Fairbanks was sunny and dry. Traffic and rain here are not a good combo, even with a populace who I thought were practiced in driving in wet conditions. There’s not been a lot of news this past month although it looks like we’ve settled on a church about nine miles away from our place. My days have been taken up with getting physical therapy and acupuncture for my frozen shoulder plus lots of issues in getting the right medication and counseling for Veeka. I am beginning to set out some Advent decorations and start working on Christmas cards.
Today (Black Friday), I took Veeka on a 2-3-mile hike around Anti-Aircraft Peak, a popular Cougar Mountain trail not far from our home. The views of the mountains were spectacular and she really enjoyed exploring an abandoned clay pit and walking through a forest filled with frosted brown leaves. I did a holiday bazaar last week but the attendance was low and I lost money by going there. That is, the table fee was more than I made! I have another one in Snohomish (which is east of Everett) next weekend and I hope to do better there.

Hiking on Cougar mountain

Hiking on Cougar mountain

Veeka is still without friends, which is heartbreaking, but it doesn’t help that her classroom at school is all boys, many of whom are quite kind to her, but it’s not the same as having little girl friends. So, I’ve enrolled her in an Awana classs at a nearby church on Wednesdays which is helping a bit. Last week, she memorized enough Bible verses to win a green and white T-shirt and backpack, which pleased her to no end. But our apartment complex is mainly older people and although there’s a family across the way with two girls her age, they’ve not reached out at all to us. We’ve dropped by there twice to say hi but when there’s no response, one has to move on. That kind of attitude is more typical than you’d think. We were amazingly fortunate last year at UAF to have a family in the next duplex who were friendly and had an open door policy in terms of kids. Then again, Alaska is in a time warp (of a nice sort) whereas here, it’s very 21st century in how all kids are kept inside and no one plays outdoors.
So Veeka and I tend to do things together, like visit sushi places and coffee shops. An article in a local magazine rated all 104 Seattle Starbucks stores, which I thought was pretty funny. Wish they’d do that for the Eastside!

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From Poo Poo Point to the Palouse

 

Opa's 91st birthday. From left: Opa, Oma, Veeka, Susan and me.

Opa’s 91st birthday. From left: Opa, Oma, Veeka, Susan and me.

Lately I’ve been realizing I must update my social media accounts, which all have pictures of me in some cool Alaska locale. However, I am Down Here but I’m inbetween jobs, so it’s hard to categorize what I am right now. I’d like to stay in academia but I may have to go back into “the industry,” as they call it. Yes, I’m working on several unfinished projects but in terms of living as a freelance writer, been there, done that. It does not pay the bills. So I’m blogging part time for getreligion.org and I hope to return to teaching. I am not wild at the prospect of being an adjunct, as there are already lots of them around here and it’s not the happiest existence. There were great professorial spots elsewhere in the country but I chose not to apply, as I so wanted to move closer to home. And so we are here.

Atop Poo Poo Point. Notice the gorgeous view to the west of us.

Atop Poo Poo Point. Notice the gorgeous view to the west of us.

And so I’ve been networking with some old friends and new contacts. Was on the University of Washington campus speaking at a journalism day for high school students when I walked into the offices of the Mass Comm dept. I saw this on the door of the department chair.
SAFE ZONE – This is a safe place to talk about lesbian, bisexual, queer, intersex or transgender issues. Disrespectful or prejudicial language or actions will be addressed.
Seriously, folks, what are the chances that the ultra-lefty UW campus is a hive of anti-gay sentiment? I could see this on the door of a counseling office or psych department, even. But journalism? Why not something about this being a safe place for all opinions, as journalism is a place for truth seekers? This department chair had made up his mind as to which issue was uppermost for him.

The WSU campus and Miss Veeka.

The WSU campus and Miss Veeka on a fall day.

Two weekends ago, I attended a conference of local college professors (the Pacific Northwest Association of Journalism Educators) meeting in Pullman. Now Pullman is in the far southeastern corner of the state. Veeka and I drove east four hours to have dinner with a friend in Spokane, then south for another 90 minutes to Pullman, a small town that houses Washington State University. I’d never been to WSU and it was a nice campus albeit in an isolated spot. One of the broadcast journalism profs was from New York and she was wryly commenting on how there is so little to do there. No kidding. I got to the journalism buildings, wander about campus, then quickly dash east a few miles to Moscow, to see the University of Idaho. All this was in the “palouse,” a huge area of rolling hills and farmland over lava from ancient volcanoes. Eastern Washington is so unique because of the sand dune nature of its farmland. Most breadbasket regions are flat, but not here. On our way back, we stopped by Palouse Falls, a waterfall in the middle of nowhere that appears in the basalt canyons that bisect this territory. There is such a beauty to this region that

Veeka in the foreground; the Palouse Falls in the background and lots of rolling hills all around.

Veeka in the foreground; the Palouse Falls in the background and lots of rolling hills all around.

you don’t see in places like Kansas where there’s no topography to speak of. Tons of winter wheat grows here along with vines, which was the reason we stopped at several wineries on our way to Walla Walla, to spend our last night in the region with a friend. It’s not the Napa Valley, but the state has some 700 wineries, so it’s getting there. A lot of them were getting started when my family moved out west in the 1970s and some of them have lovely show rooms. We discovered one winery in Benton City that produces not only Gewurztraminer, my favorite kind of wine, but also ice wine, an unusual drink where you let the grapes sit on the vines well into winter and where the weather must be 17ºF or lower three nights in a row before you harvest frozen grapes in the middle of the night. I am not making this up. The Canadians produce this stuff, but I was glad to find a winery nearby that does so as well. They were nice enough to open an hour earlier for me on Columbus Day as I was trying to get home and didn’t want to hang around until their official opening time of noon. Later that day, we were in Ellensburg, where we dropped by the home of my niece and Veeka’s cousin Carley and her cutie pie daughter Brynley.

Brynley and Veeka

Brynley and Veeka

Brynley is talking now, so the two girls played together.
Compare all this with Fairbanks, which had its second snowiest September in history this year. They closed school in Fairbanks because of it (which is very unusual). Note the link says schools are never closed in the Denali borough, home to the just-renamed mountain. Usually it’s in the 40s during September – as it was last year when we were there. Looks like all that snow that went to Boston in 2014-2015 may end up back in Alaska this winter although friends of mine up there say the September snow quickly melted. On several levels, it seems like the timing was right for us to be in Fairbanks last year. My mom’s health is better than it was a year ago but my father is far more fragile. He just turned 91, so Veeka, my sister-in-law Susan and I were there to help celebrate.
Veeka/Ollie and I miss Alaska more than we thought we would. When I left New Mexico 20 years ago this fall, I had bonded in a similar way with that wonderful state and I returned there for many years. Alaska changed me more than I thought it would. I am still writing about it; just re-did an academic article on Alaska’s newspaper barons that I hope to

During one of our walks along Lake Sammamish.

During one of our Sunday walks along Lake Sammamish.

publish in an academic journal although the first editor I sent it to ripped me to shreds for not having a literature review! (For those of you not familiar with academic papers, it’s an overview of the scholarly materials the writer will use for his/her paper). I reminded him that other journalism history papers at the recent journalism profs convention I attended in California didn’t have lit reviews either. Anyway, it’s not just the landscapes but the people in Alaska who are such a mixture of darkness and light. It’s a state where domestic abuse is sky-high and sexual abuse of children is six times the national rate, especially in the villages where there’s no police and nowhere to go for help. But it’s also a state where if your car breaks down, there’s a ton of people who will stop to help because they know that getting stuck outdoors is a matter of life and death. I can see why the reality shows can’t stop filming there. Anyway, the disconnect I feel being in the Seattle area is balanced with the fact that we got to explore a wonderful place for a year. A week ago, there was a meeting of UAF alums in downtown Seattle that I got to attend. Ollie, who is newly afraid of heights, didn’t like being on the 34th floor in the offices of the law firm that hosted us but eventually she was entranced by sunset over Puget Sound. The news at this gathering is that budget cuts are continuing at UAF, so it’s not the happiest of places at present.

Carley presenting Veeka with her new bike.

Carley presenting Veeka with her new surprise bike.

On Oct. 16, Veeka turned 10 ½ years old, which pleased her to no end. We celebrated by going to a park on Lake Sammamish and buying her a small desk lamp at a crafts sale. Being that it’s officially fall, we’ve gone on some hikes. One was called Poo Poo Point (no joke) aka the Chirico Trail and it’s a steep climb up Tiger Mountain to a spot where the hang gliders jump off the mountain. Once we finally got there at about 3:30 pm, we saw two of them take a run and glide off the mountain. The views were lovely. But it nearly killed us to get up there. It’s been a really nice fall here so I’ve been trying to get out.
And then a few days ago, I got a call from my sister-in-law Susan who had been trying to find a used bike for Veeka. She works at a nail salon, where one of her customers said she’d order a NEW bike for my daughter. And so last Sunday, with an unsuspecting little girl talking with Susan and Lindsay (together with Brynley and Wyatt, age 1), Carley snuck up to the back door wheeling this 24-inch aquamarine bike. Ollie was stunned at this huge gift. Now she doesn’t want to go a day without riding her new bike. Of course she has to get her homework done first…

From left: Brynley, Carley, Susan, Wyatt, Lindsay and Veeka.

From left: Brynley, Carley, Susan, Wyatt, Lindsay and Veeka.

Posted in Family, Teaching at UAF, Travels, Veeka | 3 Comments