Last night Eric and I joined other folks from the 'couv for Jim Jacks campaign kick-off party. Hosted by the fireman's union at the Fire Hall, we arrived to the smell of burgers and dogs grilling on the back patio. These were added to a family style barbecue dinner of various salads, fruits and veggies, and chips.
I first met Jim when he was Governor Gregoire's representative. Tall and slim, with honest eyes and an easy smile, it's not hard to like Jim as soon as you meet him. But talk to him for awhile and you'll soon discover, his ethical aura is not an act he puts on when he's playing politician, it is true to this man's heart. I kept running into Jim at various events and I was impressed, because he always remembered my name, that Eric was my husband and that I worked for Columbia Credit Union...that's talent! But, beyond that I like Jim because first and foremost I trust this guy. This is a man who is in politics not for personal gain, but because he wants to do good things for the people he serves. Jim holds an MA in Peace Studies....now, c'mon that alone says a lot about this guy.
Jim is currently a State Representative for Washington State, and although I don't live in his district, I feel good he's in Olympia, looking out for what's good for Vancouver, Washington State, and our country.
And, Jim's a family man. Now I believe that alone doesn't make for a good politician, but the way Jim interacts with his family, speaks to his character. Last night he was standing in front of the crowd, giving his campaign launch speech when his 6 year-old daughter came up to him and hugged his legs and started playing with the buttons on his jacket. He put his arm around her shoulders, let her stay awhile and then with a nice smile and a pat on her head says, "Ok, sweetie, Dad needs to talk for a little while now."....He was so sweet and gentle with her. And if all that weren't enough, Jack's wife Brenda, who herself is about one of the nicest people you'll meet, makes the world's best brownies (seriously she could sell these things and make a fortune!).
Now, you never really know anybody truly do you? You see what's on their surface, you see what they present to the world, you see their actions, and that's what you base your judgment on them on. But, I'd say, what I've seen Jim demonstrate in our community, has me thinking...yeah...all politician's should be like this guy.
Brown pelicans on the Oregon Coast, October 2009. Photo by NancyO Photography
Pelicans like these are dying in the wake of the massive BP oil spill. I blogged about these beautiful and friendly birds a while ago. Just removed from the endangered species list, it's unclear how this will effect their fragile numbers.
Allow me a short rant: The oceans, our planet, belong to all of us. Oil companies, like BP are being allowed to rape our environment to line their own personal pockets (BP alone made a profit of $600 billion last year...yes...billion!). A native american saying goes, "We did not inherit the earth from our fathers, we are safe-keeping it for our children." It's time to stop off-shore drilling and time to hold the mega companies responsible for cleaning up (and I mean completely cleaning up) the mess they've left for my children and grandchildren. I would like to see the feds sieze BP, and use their massive assets to fix this horrible disaster. When it is cleaned up (if it can ever be cleaned up), then and only then would they get their company back. Oh, and while they're at it, take the heads of BP and coat them, their homes, their families, and their food with the same crud being allowed to soak the habitats of countless sea creatures and shore birds. People...we can not continue to kill our planet!
Ok...whew! I know not everyone may agree with this, but I had to get that off my chest.
On Sunday, Eric, Piper and I headed out for another hike. Now, I've been on lots of hikes around the Pacific Northwest, but this one...this one is now my very most favorite hike. I'm sharing with all of you...but please, don't tell anyone else (especially those out-of-staters thinking about moving here). Let's keep this between you and I so the place isn't overrun with rowdy teenagers, tour buses, and gawking tourists wearing flip-flops and "I hiked Horsetail Falls" t-shirts.
The hike we took was just past Multnomah Falls, Oregon's most popular tourist attraction. Horsetail Falls is large and visible from the Old Gorge Highway. Many people stop, get out, look at the falls, take a picture and then move on. But if they knew...if they only knew what awaited them if they took the trail up the hill to Upper Horsetail Falls and then even further through the Oneonta Gorge.
Horsetail Falls is beautiful, no doubt about it. Large and misty and right by the highway. We started there. Admiring it's long drop and enjoying the cool mist created from the water hitting the rocks. After taking a few photos with some tourists, Eric put on the backpack and we headed up the trail to Ponytail Falls.
The hike to Ponytail Falls is pretty short, but a bit steep with switchbacks leading you up the hill. Along the way were so many wildflowers of all colors, pink, yellow, purple, and these little white ones that were so delicate and lacy looking. We looked, we smelled, but we didn't pick. En route to Ponytail Falls, you pass by some amazing views of the Columbia River. In one such section I ventured down a little off-shoot trail so I could get closer to the edge to see the view below. As I got closer to the edge of the cliff, I spotted a monument on the ground..a marker for a teenage boy who fell to his death here in 1988. What an impactful warning, probably much more effective than "Keep back from cliff" signs. I saw the monument and decided I'd gotten close enough and headed back to the main trail.
Back on the main trail we passed a section of cliff that had a million little droplets of water dripping down the side of the moss and fern covered side. We stood under it for a few minutes enjoying the drops tickling our faces and running down our necks. This, I suppose is another waterfall just in it's very early stages of beginning. Who knows, in 100,000 years, it could be as big as Multnomah Falls.
When we finally turned the corner to Ponytail Falls I was so excited...this was one of those waterfalls where the trail actually went behind the falls! The water comes pouring out of the cliff like a fire hose creating a nice arch that allows hikers to pass through the rock cavern behind the falls. The cliff face surrounding the falls is covered in brighter than bright green moss, lush ferns, and little wildflowers...what a beautiful sight. I so loved walking underneath the falls, I passed back and forth three times before I was finally ready to move on to the trail to our next waterfall, Upper Horsetail Falls.
Again, the trail climbed up and up through forests sprinkled with wildflowers, shamrocks, and lots and lots of centipedes (ewww!). We passed many interesting old growth trees, nurse trees, and rock formations. Then we came upon Upper Horsetail Falls. A narrow footbridge crosses the stream below the falls. The bridge is made with slats of wood that allows you to see through to the stream below...it took a little bit of coaxing to get the dogs to cross the bridge, but they did. When on the bridge you get a wonderful up close view of the falls, which are sort of heart shape, and they spill into a heart shaped pool before tumbling down the hill. I thought, this would be a great place for a wedding proposal, or just a very romantic kiss.
We crossed the bridge and paused on the other side to admire the falls from this new angle. I looked to my right at the wildflowers covering the side of the hill. They were so pretty...small, delicate petals with a soft blue color I'd never seen before. As we continued on the trail and passed the flowers all the petals blew up into the air and fluttered around us...it was then I realized they were little butterflies! I'd never seen anything like it. They fluttered all around us, before settling back on the side of the moist hill..perhaps they were getting a drink of water (do butterflies drink water?). It was like something out of a science fiction movie.
We kept hiking till we came to a fork in the road. To our right was a 1/2 mile trail leading back down to the highway. To the left was a 2 mile trail leading up to Oneonta Falls. By this point we were feeling a bit tired. We saw a man with a large camera and tripod coming down the trail on the left. We asked him how far the falls was and how difficult of a hike it was. He said, he thought the falls was only about a mile, but it was a steep hike. But, he said, "Let me show you what you'll be missing if you don't go.". Then he showed us some photos of a triple waterfall. That was it...we decided to keep climbing up the hill.
The next mile took us through more dense forest, and we climbed up and up, until we were at the top of the narrow Oneonta Gorge. Between the trees we got glimpses of the ribbon of ice-cold water tumbling across large boulders through the ravine. When we came to the falls, again, we couldn't believe just how beautiful this hike is. The falls are not large, but it is segregated into three ribbons of white water tumbling across moss covered boulders. The trail dumps you out at an outcropping, that's a little steep (I almost lost my bottled water down the hill twice), but it's a good place to stop and sit on a rock, have a snack and admire the falls in front of you.
We continued on the trail, which takes you to another footbridge across the stream that feeds the falls. We had seen so much beauty on this hike...including four waterfalls. We asked another man coming down the trail what other treasures awaited us if we continued the hike. Not much he said. It was about 14 more miles up the hill through forests, but no more waterfalls. So, we decided to end our hike here and turnaround to head back down the hill to the car.
The entire hike took about 4 hours, but we walked kind of slow and stopped a lot to admire things along the way, so I would imagine you could do this hike in about 2 to 3 hours. Although there are some steep sections and some rocky sections, anyone in moderate shape should have no problem making the hike, and even if you end up with sore thighs, trust me, it will be worth it!
I kicked myself for only bringing my little pocket camera with me on this hike. Piper and I are planning on coming back with our "big" cameras so we can get better pictures of this breathtaking section of the gorge.
Now remember...this is our secret. Go on the hike. Enjoy it. But, please, don't tell anyone else!
True Confessions of a Mother of the Bride, cont'd.
I spent the week before Brianna's wedding in Seattle doing last minute running around, baking cookies for candy/cookie buffet, arranging the flowers, and reviewing all the details with the church and reception site.
On the day of the rehearsal, I spoke with one of the catering manager's from Salty's. Now, before I go any further, let me say, Salty's was awesome! The setting is spectacular, the food incredible, and the staff couldn't have been any more helpful. So, anyways, as I was dropping off some decorations for the reception the day before the wedding, they reminded me that we had to be out of the room (including cleaning up all the centerpieces and decorations) at the latest at 5:00 pm since they had another wedding coming in at 6:00 pm. I've coordinated many a function over the years, and I know that if I only had one hour to set-up for a wedding reception...I'd be feeling a bit stressed. But...I guess that would be their problem.
At the rehearsal, the wedding coordinator for the parish (who by the way I adored...he kept the stress low by making everyone laugh...but he kept us on task as well), pulled me aside and just reminded me that we needed to be out of the church by 11:00 am since they had a baptisim at 11:30 am. The wedding was to start at precisely 10:00 am, the coordinator told us, since the ceremony would take about an hour.
The morning of the wedding was rushed and hectic. Eric and I were up at 4:30 am delivering flowers and the cookies/candy to Salty's. We fought our way through minor traffic and made it back to the hotel in time for us to have only about 20 minutes to finish getting ready before pictures would start. Of course, my hair picked today to freak out on me...but I left it as was. Being there for helping Brianna put on her dress and sharing those few moments before the wedding were more important than my hair.
We made it to the church on time, the wedding started on time, and it finished on time. But then, afterwards we needed to grab a few more group family shots since some of the family wasn't present for the photos we took earlier that morning. The "Ellis" side of the family was waiting to the left of the alter to be up next to take pictures when my neice tugged at my sleeve and pointed to an alcove off to the side. Behind a screen was...a casket. Oh, goodness...apparently the "baptisim" was really a funeral. We needed to hurry up and get out before people for the funeral started arriving! As we were leaving the church I noticed all the funeral flowers waiting in the vestibule and the people for the funeral just starting to arrive. How weird I thought....here Brianna and Ken were young, just starting their lives together with family gathered around sharing in their joy....and just minutes later, a woman's family was bidding their final farewell in the same church....a beginning and and ending.
Thankfully, I don't think Brianna and Ken noticed the funeral about to begin as they climbed into their vintage rolls royce to head to the reception.
The reception site, as I've mentioned was beautiful! Salty's sits across the sound from Seattle, so diners get an amazing view of the Seattle skyline. The tables were decorated with vintage silver vessels of all sorts filled with white flowers. Accents of turqoise blue brightened the room....it was, as Brianna described it, "A modern take on Tiffany".
The reception went nicely. The food was served, the cake was cut, toasts were given, dancing occurred...and about 3:45 pm (we had the room till 4:00 pm) some guests began to say their goodbyes and leave. The Salty's crew, knowing they had to turn the room around quickly for the next receptiong starting at 6:00 pm, began clearing tables as people left, and putting down fresh linens....which were black...umm, not looking so good with the Tiffany blue and vintage silver. I was a bit confused when I saw this happening. Then I remembered the other wedding that was coming in a soon as we left to decorate. I felt for them, knowing they were going to have to bust hump to get the room set-up before 6:00 pm...but at the same time I didn't want to be rushed out ourselves. But as more tables began to get cleared, we took the hint and started taking down decorations and packing them up. Thankfully, but this time, only about 15 or so people remained at the reception.
We started hauling out boxes of vintage silver, crystal, and Tiffany's gift boxes. As we walked through the service entrance to take things to the car, there standing in the pouring rain were the next group with their boxes of bamboo shoots, modern Asian teapots, and zen gardens waiting to come in to decorate. And believe me they wasted no time. As soon as they saw we were packing up, they were in the door setting up their tables.
So, alas, the day was over. Although I felt rushed for most of the day, I did manage to get to really savor some moments from getting ready, to the meaningful ceremony, to watching Ken and Brianna have their first dance. It was a happy, happy day.
By the way, all these beautiful photographs are from the amazing Jaquilyn Shumate Photography. To see more photos from the wedding, visit Jaqui's blog.
A continuation of the series...True Confessions of a Mother of the Bride.
My last blog post about Brianna's wedding was about my "ex-family"...and well, just how nice it was to see them and share in the joy of the occasion. So, now, let's segway, into my present family.....
Let's start with the siblings (and their children)
I come from a relatively large (by today's standards) Catholic family. I have two older brothers, and two older sisters. (I'm the baby of the family, which for those of you who know me should explain a lot...but that's a whole 'nother blog post.) So..back to the sibs. My oldest brother Eric, who lives in Chicago, wasn't able to make it to the wedding and we missed him, but my brother Chad and his partner Doug came up. And what a godsend they were. Even though we had a day-of-coordinator for the wedding, I really needed someone I could trust to set-up the reception site, including the centerpieces, candy buffet, cake table, guest book table, and gift table. This was no easy task, because each table was to be individual and unique. I knew I could trust Chad... and bless his heart...he and Doug, were up before the birds with suits on and out to the reception site making sure everything looked just right. They did an amazing job, and then rushed back to the church in time to take photos and help keep the mother-of-the-bride relatively calm.
My sister Laura, also made it to the reception, and this was no small feat. She drove from the far eastern corner of Oregon all the way to Seattle. En route she had not one...not two...but three, yes THREE flat tires...in the middle of nowhere. Thank God for the good samaritans and Les Schwab grease monkeys who helped her out and got her back on the road. She finally rolled in around midnight the night before the wedding....talk about determination! I had been worried about her driving that far, so was very relieved, and happy when I finally saw her the next morning.
My other sister Karen, had a stroke about a month and a half before the wedding. She wanted so badly to make it, but she was still too weak to make the trip. Instead, all three of her children and their spouses came up. Major road construction on I-5 meant they had to get up at 2:30 am in order to make it in time for the 10:00 am wedding. They made it to Seattle around 8:00 am, in time to have breakfast with their Aunt Laurie before the wedding. When I came down to the lobby of the hotel before heading out to the church, I saw them all gathered around the lobby and a tear jumped to my eye. It touched me so that they all made it...Michelle, Luke, little Jo, Jack, Patty, Ashley, and Chris...all of them.
My daughters...all so very, very, very different. And all so amazing. Brianna was a very calm bride. She stressed and worried before the wedding, but when the weekend arrived, she approached it with calm, letting others take on any worries, so she could focus on enjoying this moment in her life...and that's how a bride should be. Jessica, Sara, and Piper...all there to support their sister, share her joy, and celebrate family. They were all beautiful. All supportive and helpful. I was so proud of them all. And...a special shout-out to son-in-law Jesse. He was so helpful..doing things that I didn't even know about until weeks after the wedding to help out.
My rock aka: my husband:
Eric arrived on Friday morning with loads of wedding paraphernalia, two daughters, a son-in-law and a dog. He spent the next two and a half days helping me in every way imaginable, keeping me calm, solving any problem that came up, holding my hand, making sure I ate, schlepping more stuff than anyone can possibly imagine...and just letting me be crabby when I needed to, crying when I couldn't hold back the emotions, and being peacefully happy at then end of it all. He made sure that everyone else had what they needed, stepping in to help, so others could just enjoy the weekend.
The morning after the wedding, Eric had volunteered to drive Sara to the airport (see, yet again, being the helpful guy that he is). As we dropped Sara off, the three of us stood at the curb saying our goodbyes. Never one for outward signs of affection, Sara gave me a hug, and then said, loud enough so Eric could hear her, "Eric was a good bitch for you this weekend, Mom." and then she hugged Eric goodbye. Now, if you know Sara, you'll know that she just gave Eric the supreme compliment. He laughed and hugged her goodbye, smiling and bragging aftewards that he got a compliment from Sara.
The one thing that did sadden me on this weekend, was that my Mom and Dad weren't here. Dad's been gone for many years...he never even had the chance to walk me down the aisle, let alone watch a grandchild's wedding. And Mom, well, she's only been gone a little over a year. She would have loved this wedding. The beautifully historic Catholic church, the mass, and Ave Maria being sung after communion. I cried for them both at the wedding, I cried for me missing them...but I took comfort in the thought that the two of them were in heaven with front-row seats to it all, holding hands, smiling, looking at their children and grandchildren, and knowing they had done their job well.
Whenever I count my blessings...I count my family twice. A perfect family, no they're not, but then whose is? We are all gloriously dysfunctional in our own way. We have our foibles. We have spats. We have differences. But, we are family, with a strong undercurrent of love. And on this particular weekend, I could hardly contain my love for them all.
Saturday was Jessica's birthday. She decided she'd like to go hiking for the day and then go out for dinner. So, Eric and I picked the hike to Latourell Falls with dinner at Skamania Lodge afterward. I'm pretty sure Jessica has a direct line with God, because the forecast had called for rain, but we ended up with a beautiful sunny day to enjoy the glory of the Columbia River Gorge.
I remember still, very well the day Jessica was born. And although it was a happy day because I had my new baby girl, I have to say, this day was much more enjoyable. The hour hike to the falls, was much easier than the 10-hour labor (natural, thank you very much). Happy Birthday Jessica!
Last Sunday, without any plans, Eric, Piper and I decided to play tourist in Vancouver. I've strolled by, or driven by many of Vancouver's sites without really paying too much attention to what they were or what their significance was. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Vancouver is way cooler than I knew and although I knew Vancouver had a big heart...I didn't realize just how big it was.
We started the day with breakfast at the Stardust Diner. Located on 164th Ave. just south of Mill Plain, you can't miss it. It looks like it was transported straight out of 1957...bright silver with blue neon. The inside is equally nostalgic. Be sure to read all the fun vintage ads and magazine articles on the walls...good for a few laughs. The food was fantastic and the staff....hyper-efficient!
Next we headed downtown to walk the "Discovery Trail". We started at Fort Vancouver. We didn't go in the Fort because we've been many times...a fascinating living history museum, I'd recommend it to anyone. Anyways, we walked around the beautiful outer grounds and then headed toward Vancouver's newest achievement...the "Land Bridge". Part of the Confluence Project to reconnect the Columbia River to the land and to commemorate the history of the Native Americans and early settlers of the area, the bridge was designed by Maya Lin (designer of the Vietnam Memorial). I drive under this bridge everyday as I travel along Highway 14 on the way to work. I've never really been too impressed with it and didn't understand what all the fuss was....until I walked it. The pedestrian bridge is wide and planted on both sides with native flowers, trees and grasses (check out my link to the bridge for a great aerial shot), and provides interesting facts about the area as well as art. The bridge leads you to the other side of Highway 14 where you pass under a beautiful arch with a glass Native American face set into it...stunning! Pass through the arch and you'll find yourself in the Old Apple Tree park.
The Old Apple Tree is something I've heard about often since I've moved to Vancouver, but never saw it or even knew where it was. The tree is 176 years old, the area's oldest known apple tree, and is believed to be the matriarch of the Washington apple industry. The city of Vancouver has been lovingly caring for this tree for a long, long time. The last few winters, followed by brutal summers, took their toll on the tree...half of it's gone and it's insides are hollow. A steel pole runs through the tree to keep it upright and grafts cover the holes in hopes of strengthening the tree. You know, to me, it says a lot about the soul and heart of a city that puts this much effort and care into keeping a tree alive...preserving a piece of it's history.
From the Old Apple Tree Park we walked along the Columbia, under the (in)famous I-5 bridge stopping at a monument to Lewis and Clark and the early settlers who came up the Columbia River. From there we walked toward downtown, stopping to admire the war memorial murals painted alongside the railroad bridge. The murals are well done, depicting war posters and battle scenes...which I admired as a tribute to our soldiers. Then I saw a signpost in front of the murals. The post simply says, "May peace prevail on earth"...this was a war memorial designed not only to remember our fallen heroes, but also to give a message of war no more.
From the war memorial we walked a few blocks up to Ester Short Park and the Vancouver Farmer's Market. I love the market! Crafts, plants, produce, and wonderful food of all kinds. We strolled around, bought some local honey and asparagus, chowed down on a giant blueberry scone, and talked with a few friends we ran into. Even Peanut made a friend (thankfully Vancouver's Farmer's Market, unlike Portland's, is still dog friendly).
After the market we walked past the new downtown library under construction, just a few blocks from where I work. It's huge...four stories, with a rooftop cafe planned for the top (can't wait till it opens). We also passed the Academy Building. Built in 1874 as a ladies academy, it now houses offices, a restaurant, and a beautiful wedding chapel. We continued our stroll, walking through the Historic Reserve, (a street of meticulously restored army officer homes and meeting spots) and back to the Fort.
It was a beautiful, inspiring, educational and delicious walk. Sometimes you don't see the forest through the trees...but on this walk, I saw the tree, and I discovered I have some pretty awesome trees growing in my backyard.