In Memorial

Who me?
Who me?

Scamp

January 1, 2002 – August 22, 2015

I got into bed at 3:30 this morning. I usually do not go to bed so late, but today was a celebratory day, but it was not a day of excitement or merry celebration. At 2:30 am I held Scamp, my miniature schnauzer, in my arms as the veterinarian administered the drugs that put him to sleep. It was a very painful decision that I had made and I had the full support of my wife who was by my side.

We got Scamp as a 9 month old puppy at the local county animal shelter. They had found him running around loose in a neighborhood some distance away and we were the first to see him and place our name on the list. When we first saw him he was brown and gray and that was how the shelter had listed him also. We were told that since he did not have an ID chip or any tags that we had to wait three days before we would be allowed to adopt him. Three days later we went to see if he had been claimed by anyone and found that he was at the vets for a little procedure, and we would be able to pick him up the following day.

We left church about 12:30 pm and got to the shelter about 1:00. This little ball of hair was ready to see someone, anyone, he was ready to go. As we walked out he did not yet have a name. A lady was passing by and said “You are such a Scamp”. It was decided there that we would call him Scamp.

When we arrived home, and as it was my wife’s custom, he got a bath. The brown started to roll down the drain. The grey got lighter and the brown became white, talk about a surprise. His eyebrows, mustache, belly and leggings were the prettiest white which was offset by the silver-gray.

 You got to be Kidding?
You got to be Kidding?

Being a nine month old pup he was curious about everything. We had not had a puppy in the house for so many years (our last two dogs were older dogs when we got them) we had forgotten what it was like to have one this young. He looked everywhere, chewed on everything, and if we were not fast enough he did his business anywhere he wanted.

As a carpenter it was not unusual for me to be laid off for varying lengths of time, but this time was not the usual. The nation had suffered the blow of September 11, 2001 and now a year later construction had dried up. Money was not being lent, projects on the books were being cancelled, and those projects that did move forward were manned by employees who had been with the company for years. I went back to the companies I had work for in years past, but they had their crews and were not hiring. I was out of work for two years.

Enjoying a trip to Crater Lake.
Enjoying a trip to Crater Lake.

During this time I picked up small jobs to keep busy and to make some extra money, I took Scamp with me everywhere. Scamp was a traveler from day one. He was ready to go at a moment’s notice. No matter how close or how far, he wanted to go. When I was ready to go, so was Scamp. He would run out and be ready for me to open the door of the truck. Even though he was small, his legs would propel him up on the seat. I had rigged up a short leash for his safety and he would lay down next to me. We became inseparable.

After that two years I returned to work, but not in construction, but in the claims department of a health insurance company. My wife told me that Scamp would pout and be depressed all day until I got home. It was quite a while before he accepted the fact that I was no longer at home with him during day.

When I was a child my parents would not allow dogs to sleep on our bed or even in the same room. I now had a small dog, I wanted him to sleep on my bed. After a while he ended up sleeping down by my feet under the blankets between me and my wife. This became the norm through the years.

After an incident at work that caused me to retire, Scamp was happy to have me home again full-time. My wife was still his

I like the Oregon Gardens.
I like the Oregon Gardens.

main caregiver and took him for a walk every morning.   She walked him every morning until a few months ago when she was diagnosed with a progressive disease that started to interfere with her walking. I took over walking Scamp in the morning and then in the evening before going to bed. Scamp and I could now go off and do things together again. When I went somewhere and it was too hot for him to stay in the car while I did business he had to stay home. He was not pleased and would let you know about it.

In the past year we changed churches, and now Scamp would go with us. He sat in the pew with us and he wanted his own cushion to sit/lay on. I don’t think he liked the cold, hard wood of the pew. We allowed him to go to church only once a month, but he loved going and visiting with the people. Last week was the last time he went to church. At the end of the service everyone joins hands forming a circle and we sing our closing song. Normally he just laid there and listened, but this time he sat up and joined us.

Friday morning I got up at 4:30, showered, dressed and took Scamp for a walk before I headed out to meet a friend and play a round of golf. After that I went to Forest Grove, where I picked up my niece, and brought her back to our home for a Bar-B-Que and to do some shopping for school clothes and then back out to Forest Grove.

Even though it had been a long day and I had to get up early the next morning I still needed to give Scamp his evening walk. Our walk started out uneventful, we walked our normal route and when we turned around to go home, Scamp’s excitement increased. As we were walking home he would stop and smell areas along the way as I would continue to walk. He could sense when the end of the retractable leash was near and he would run past me and find a new spot to smell ahead of me.

This happened 3 or 4 times before he stopped to smell a hedge. When he was through he needed to jump a curb. As he jumped the curb he gave a sharp yip and fell onto the asphalt driveway. I rushed back and picked him up because he was not able to stand and started to carry him home. A few minutes later he wanted down. I knelt and when I placed him on the sidewalk he fell onto his side and went into a major seizure. I petted his head with one hand and with the other stroked his chest and belly. I kept saying “Oh Scampie, Oh Scampie” over and over again. After a couple of minutes he laid quiet on the sidewalk. At first I thought I had lost him there on the sidewalk.

It has been a hard day.
It has been a hard day.

I again picked him up and headed for home. I stopped and called my wife and told her what had happened and that I was taking him to the Emergency Vet Hospital. When I got home, we gathered some things and drove to the hospital. After checking in, they took Scamp to the back for examination. It wasn’t long before the Doctor came out and talked to us about our options. First we could leave him overnight for observation or we could take him home. We discussed the merits and drawbacks of these options and discussed if we should continue with more tests.

After a long discussion we turned to the idea of euthanasia. I knew that he was having a hard time standing and an even worse time trying to walk. I thought about the life he had with us and what his life would be from this point forward. The doctor left us to discuss it alone. Instead I went outside and took some time to think and collect my thoughts. When I returned the receptionist offered us a room that was quiet and we could talk easier. It was better than sitting in this great big empty lobby.

After a short while the doctor came in and we gave her our decision. She went back to Scamp and prepared him. We were shown to another room that was much nicer and comfortable. The technicians brought Scamp in and laid him in my arms. We sat there talking to Scamp and as he laid there with his chin in the crook of my elbow he relaxed. He later moved to where his front paws were crossed on my arm and he laid his chin on them as if he were praying and saying I’m ready. That is where he was when he went to sleep for the last time.

I missed seeing him first thing in morning. I miss his running up and down the hallway. I miss his slapping the floor in his playing manner. I miss fixing his meals. I miss him sitting in my chair or lying next to me in bed. He was my little buddy. I will miss him more than I can imagine. Bye for now my friend, sleep well.

Decisions at the Crossroads

Yesterday while driving and listening to the radio I heard a conversation about a singer from the early part of the last century who sang the blues and many of them contained a reference to crossroads.  It got me to thinking about the many times I have had crossroads in my life.

The first major crossroad that I really remember was after my first year of college, for up until then the choices in my crossroads were pretty minor. I had not been a good student, I would rather play around and have a good time than study. This was the era of Vietnam and since my grades were not good I realized that my student deferment would not last very long.

Looking at this crossroad I figured that I had a couple of choices: 1) Find work in a field where I could get some training or 2) go into the military. Going into the military was not an option that appealed to me very much, so I tried option 1. I went looking for a job as a carpenter and hoping I could get into the apprenticeship program. Every place I went the superintendent wanted to know my draft status. If I had known that getting into the apprenticeship program would have extended my student deferment I could have told them that I had a student deferment. This meant that I was looking at the other side of the crossroad.

This branch of the crossroad involved the military or going to Canada and avoiding the draft. Many men were taking this option, some came to regret their choice and others survived the experience and return home after many years. I was talking to a friend, who was a few years older, and we were discussing my situation, he suggested that I go down to the recruiting office and see what they had to offer. Without telling anyone I went down to the recruiting offices. First I went to the Coast Guard, then the Air Force and the Navy, they all had the same message; “Sorry, but we are filled up and it will be some time before we have any openings”.

This presented a new crossroad, the third in as many months, go back across the hall and talk with the Army and see what they had to say and if I did not like what they had to say or just leave and pack up and go to Canada. Those were my only to options now, because I was not about to climb the stairs to the second floor and see the Marines. Mind you I have nothing against the Marines other than many I have known are just plain out and out crazy.

I ended up talking with the Army Sergeant and decided that joining would definitely be better than getting drafted. Going to Canada was still in the back of my mind and I had not signed any papers, yet.

I went home and for the next couple days pondered what I should do. I ended up going into the Army. After the physicals, waiting around to be sworn in, going to the airport and waiting for a flight to Fort Ord, CA, I paused and said to myself “What the hell did I just do”?

After Basic and Advanced Training, I found that I was becoming to like the military and its way of life. After a year and a half of living a pretty easy life, reality jumped out in front of me, I got orders for Vietnam. Since I worked in personnel, I like everyone else tried to find any way feasible to get the orders changed, to no avail. So the next year was spent sitting behind a desk on the Army side of beautiful, downtown Cam Ranh Bay, though the Air Force side of the peninsula was not much better except they had the beaches on the South China Sea. I did not see any combat during my stay, for that I am grateful.

Upon my return to the US in May, which was a short stop over on my way to Germany, I proposed to Kathy, the girl I had been seeing and writing to for over four years, she said yes and we planned to be wed in October. This meant that I would go to Germany and arrange for a place to bring my wife, go back to the US, get married and return with my bride to Germany.

Not long after moving into our apartment my wife became ill and was sent to the hospital in Nurnberg. They were unable to treat her and she was sent to the Army hospital in Landstuhl to continue her treatment. She spent six long months at Landstuhl before they decided that she needed to be treated in a hospital closer to home. We were sent to California, she to the Presidio of San Francisco and me to Oakland. We were in California for two years and she got progressively better.

From California we traveled to Massachusetts where our daughter was born and off we went again to Germany, this time to Munich. We spent three years in Munich, going to the Oktoberfest, Volksmarching and learning about the culture. Now came the first of two major crossroads we would encounter during our years in the military, all of them concerning either to stay in or get out. Towards the end of our three years in Germany we needed to decide if we wanted to reenlist or move back to Portland, Oregon. Many letters went back and forth across the seas and we finally decided that with ten years already served it would be foolish to throw them away and return to an uncertain job market.

Our next move was to Fort Huachuca, AZ, a post out in the middle of the high desert of Southern Arizona, not far from Tombstone. We liked our new home, we bought a house and began to think we would retire there. During the ten years we called Arizona home I went back to Germany again, by myself, and was fortunate enough to return to Fort Huachuca until we decided to retire.

Our second crossroad occurred in January of my nineteenth year, we learned that my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. After visiting my parents and returning to Arizona we decided we needed to retire and return home and be with our families while we still had time to spend with them.

Returning to Portland I was unable to find work that corresponded with what I did in the Army. Now after twenty years and thousands of miles traveled I finally became a carpenter. The work was challenging and rewarding. As a carpenter you work in many different areas, I worked with concrete and finally worked in clean rooms for a major computer chip maker.

September 11th had a major impact on our industry, one year later work came to a grinding halt. Many were laid off and work was hard to obtain. I was out of work for two years when I looked at another crossroad this being whether to continue waiting for work to pick up or step out of this field and go back to my army training of administration. The decision was not all that hard since my unemployment had been exhausted and we did not want to dip any farther into our savings.

Working for a temporary agency has its ups and downs, one day you get called for a job that will last one day or one that will last a week. Finally I was called to a long term job, it lasted six months when I was then eligible to be hired full time. I was there for eight years before I lost my job and had to again decide which path of the crossroad I would take. For social security I was right between early retirement of 62 and full retirement of 66. The economy still had not picked up from the 2008 recession and being a senior did not make for a good job prospect, opportunities were slim. Kathy and I decided to pull the pin and fully retire.

Retirement has had its benefits and its challenges. I know that I am enjoying my retirement. Now that spring is here I am looking forward to getting back onto my bike and do some traveling in the area. Kathy’s retirement has not been as easy as we had hoped, her illness has not allowed her to fully experience the joy of her retirement.

Crossroads are intersections where we must decide whether to go straight ahead or to turn left or right. I have experienced that I was able to choose the right course for me and my family with a fair amount of confidence. Whether it be luck or the hand of God (which is what I believe), it is with the knowledge you are not alone, and that choosing the right path is a matter of believing in yourself, and hopefully when you look back it is with the confidence that the right choice was made.

Is there Really a of Joy of Christmas?

We see it every year in the faces of children on TV. The dChild Sitting on Santa's Kneeays before Christmas we see their Little Girl Waitingbright shiny faces, the sparkling eyes and big grins whenever Santa appears. Then the thrill of Christmas morning as they open presents filled with the dreams promised on TV and in store displays. This is the Joy we see every year on our TV screens, in advertisements and made for TV Christmas movies. It would be nice if these were the sights and sounds of the Joys of Christmas.
Today too many children do not get to feel the Joy of Christmas. But it is not only the children who are left out, it is their parents and those without families, and the homeless, the forgotten in nursing homes and hospitals. It is the family whose house or apartment is destroyed by fire, be it from Lonely Boycarelessness or a deliberate act. It could be the family torn apart by domestic violence, fathers or mothers removed from the home by the police in handcuffs or the children taken by officials for their welfare.
They are all suffering and not feeling the Joy of Christmas. Their suffering can be caused by many forces. Most of the time it is fear, fear of the unknown or of someone who has beaten them and threatens them with more of the same. It can be the fear of not having enough to eat, because Mom and/or Dad is working two or three minimum wage jobs and still there is not enough toBoy looking at his dinner provide adequate food for growing bodies, or instead of food the money goes for alcohol or drugs.
TV has played upon our emotions to the point where we forget about those not like ourselves. A population that is growing larger by the day. Many think they are those who dropped out of school or are too lazy to get better work. It is not only those who dropped out or are lazy, certainly there are those fit into that category, but they are high school grads and college and post grads who cannot find work within their field of study, and many with college and post-graduate degrees have debts so big that many may never get them paid off.
So I ask “Is there really a Joy of Christmas?” I have my doubts. I can find it within me and that is where it starts. But I must work at it to make that Joy be seen and felt beyond the frame-work of the TV and store displays. It is not easy, every day is a new struggle to show the world what the Joy of Christmas really means.

My Challenge for the Year

The Challenge: Ride the premier route called the “Bridge of the Gods” ride from Portland to
Cascade Locks and return.

The other day I took off on a ride that was certainly a challenge. I rode the one of the premier rides of the Great Pacific Northwest the “Bridge of the Gods” ride. It is a very demanding route, depending on which way you start and finish. You can ride it as a century or cut it down at the last moment to 87 miles, as I did. When I first started planning I intended to start by crossing the I205 (Glen Jackson Bridge) travel along Washington State Route 14 to the Bridge of the Gods where I would cross over to Cascade Locks, Oregon, this would then cause me to climb up to Crown Point, a long and steep hill. In discussion with friends it was suggested that I should think about going the other way. This is one time I wish I had not listened to my friends.

The ride started out uneventful, I left the house at 6 am and traveled east towards Troutdale where I picked up the Historic Columbia River Highway. After passing the Stark Street Bridge I started the long and slow climb up to Corbett. Little did I know that this climb was a snap compared to what I found lying ahead, passing through Corbett it felt like they were still sleeping at 7:30am, it seemed too early even for the roosters to be crowing. The sun was just starting to peek over the top of the mountains. It was warm and it felt good. At the top of the hill I stopped and took off the jacket, my first mistake for the day. Not more than a couple hundred meters I again entered into shadow and now an east wind came down the gorge, the jacket went back on.

Starting down the hill my first stop is Vista House situated on the majestic and prominent out cropping of rock called Crown Point. Stopping I took pictures, one cannot seem to have enough pictures of Vista House and views from this vantage point are magnificent. Leaving I started down a long hill, curling around the house I started to gain speed, after the climb to Corbett it felt good to coast my way down the hill. Passing through Bridle Veil the road became a series of long rolling hills.

Arriving at Multnomah Falls I stopped to replenish my water bottles and grabbed an oversized cinnamon roll. Continuing on I passed Ainworth State Park and few small towns that were by-passed by the old highway and the Interstate. I finally ran out of the active part of the historic highway, it now became the abandoned part only accessible to pedestrians and bicycles. Even though the terrain continued a slow uphill grade I was able to maintain a constant speed. Before long I reached a place where I needed to navigate down a series of stairs. With the wheels in the trough, one hand on the brake, the other on the handrail and the seat pressing into my back I slowly descended the steep stairway.

After the stairs it wasn’t long before I was peddling into Cascade Locks it was now 11:00 o’clock and time to look for a place to have lunch. Everywhere I looked I could not find a restaurant that had places to lock up a bike. I ended up at the local burger joint. As I arrived there was a group who had passed me when I had stopped to read one of the historical markers along the way.

As I was waiting for my order a young man and his young son drove up and parked near the place where I was waiting. They got out of the SUV with two mountain bikes on top and went over and ordered. As we waited we started to talk, they had come to Cascade Locks to participate in a cross country ride, as it turned out the ride wasn’t until 4:00 pm. I asked them what they were going to do until then, and man’s son piped up and said that they were going fishing.

I asked the young boy how old he was. He told me very proudly that he was 5 years old and his name was Ethan and his dad’s name is Demetri. Where are you going fishing? I asked. He told me a place that I was not familiar with and his dad told me it was a brewery located near the river and they were going to fish near there.

My order came and I sat down at a picnic table to eat, a few minutes later their number was called and they asked if they could join me. As we ate we got to know each other better. It was a joy to spend time with them and the time passed much too quickly. As I prepared to leave I thanked them for their company and it had been a pleasure to break bread with them. I proceeded to retrace my steps to the bridge where I crossed into Washington.

Crossing into Washington I headed west toward Vancouver. The going was easy for several miles and I was making good time. Then I hit my first hill, as I started to go down the gears my pace got slower and slower. Before long it felt as if I were crawling up the hill, I felt as if I would never reach the top. When the top finally came into view it was a welcome sight. Passing over the top I started to gain speed and race down the hill.

It wasn’t long after the hill when the road started back up again. This time it was for four long miles that took even longer to climb. At one point I stopped to rest and decided to walk the remaining few hundred meters to the top. I realized that I was walking almost as fast as I had been peddling. Again I sped down the hill the wind cool upon my face as I neared my turn off into Washougal. As I got closer to the turn I decided to forgo a portion of my ride and go in a more direct route home.

The map that I was following showed that the route followed the main highway, as it turned out it was more a freeway than just a highway. After passing under the I205 freeway I found my turn directing me to the bike path to cross over the river back into Oregon. As I got nearer to the other side of the river it was like a magnet pulling me closer and closer to home. Now there was only one more hill to overcome and I would be home in less than a half an hour. As I completed my 87 mile trip I arrived home to be greeted by my wife and dog, she directed me straight into the shower. After dinner we watched some TV and then I went to bed concluding a very long day.

A Time for Resignation

It is funny to use that word when you are referring to your relationship with a church, but that is how it feels now that Kathy and I have decided to sever our ties with the church we have been members of for 14 years. They say that they are a “Welcoming and Caring” Church, I have my doubts about that. They can be welcoming and caring when they are face to face with you, or when you call and request a visit. But when it comes to regular conversations during fellowship that part goes away very quickly.

A few years ago our Head of Staff retired, it was time, not only for his sake but also for the congregation’s. This left two associate pastors to take the reins until an interim pastor could be found. Then came the process to find a new Head of Staff, this process usually takes about 1.5 to 2 years to complete. The interim came on board about 3 months after the retirement ceremonies. This guy was liked by many, he gave good sermons, and he mingled with everyone. His job was to help heal the wounds that the congregation feels when a pastor leaves. One of the rules of our denomination is that an interim may not be called as a permanent replacement.

A strange thing happened before the search committee had completed their work, the interim (who had missed a few Sundays) announced that he was leaving to become the Head of Staff of a church in another state. This was about 6 months before the congregation would hear about their selection of a new Head of Staff for our church. In late June or early July a meeting was held to hear the pastor the committee had selected and decide to accept or reject. As it turned out it was not just a Pastor and their spouse, but a man and woman team (Co-Pastors) that were applying for the position. They both give very good sermons, hers being somewhat better than his, but he is much better with the children’s sermon.

We tried to get to know them at the church after the service, but they never seemed to have time, except those who were more active or influential in the church. I did have a chance to meet with him once or twice away from the church, and I thought I was starting to get to know him a little better.

Then at the beginning of December while riding my bike to work I hit a patch of ice, fell and broke my hip. I contacted the church and one of the associate pastors came to see me in the hospital and one time at home after I was discharged. Kathy asked for some help with meals since she was now not only preparing meals, taking care of the house but also me. This would not overwhelm most people, but Kathy also has disabilities of her own. She called the deacon in charge of congregational care two or three times and finally called the church. When the deacon, who finally delivered a meal, she was in such a rush she barely stepped inside the door before she rushed out again. It was like she didn’t have time to find out how we were so she could report back to the deacons committee.

From just before Christmas until sometime in middle of January, when we again were able to attend church regularly, we heard neither hide nor hair from our friends or pastors in the church. Even after we returned, we found that only a few would bother to take time to stop and talk. We found this to be disconcerting and after a couple of months stopped going to church altogether. Still we never heard from anyone in the church, who are “Welcoming and Caring”, call or visit to see how we are doing.

After a few months Kathy and I again discussed what we wanted to do about our spiritual/church life, we decided to return to our church. We found that not much had changed. In December I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor and had been fired from my job. Then we had people coming up and expressing their concern. This only happened when we were at the church, it was like the rest of the week we were invisible.

In October last year Kathy ended up in the hospital as a result of complications with one of her disabilities, it was a difficult time for Kathy and me. The pastors all seemed to be too busy to find but just the smallest amount of time to visit with Kathy. I was dealing with my own fears and concerns about my wife and could not find anyone in my church that had time to sit down and talk. Because of my wife’s disability (she has Bipolar disorder) we feel that we are being shunned within our own church. Mental illness is such a scary and menacing illness that one must be weary of direct contact.

I attended the men’s retreat this year after having skipped a year and I did not come away from it with strong spiritual feelings. I felt disconnected after my attendance there, along with the interaction with the men that attended, and the church as a whole have left me feeling incomplete. I no longer enjoy going to the fellowship time because I am tired of having to be the one who must approach someone to talk to, or see the pastors turn away when they see me, whether I am moving in their direction or not. And if I should find myself in a position to talk with them, they are always in a hurry to be somewhere else.

Why go to a church, which has been your church home for 14 years, only to hear a sermon? It may be a really good sermon, but is it worth the time and energy to go for only that? I do not think so. Therefore, Kathy and I have decided that we would start the processes of church shopping again. We are discussing whether or not to stay in this denomination or look in another direction. One thing is for sure it will give us a chance to look much closer to home.

Summer to Fall

The sweltering days of summer are almost gone.
The heat that once continued long into the night

Now gives way to a cool refreshing comfort.
The days now are warm and the smell of fall is in the air.
Before long the rains will return and start to replenish the Earth preparing the ground for its next phase, that of winter.
But first the cooling days and then the rains.

 

I long for the cooler days of autumn. The briskness in the Morning to the warmth of the sun in the late afternoon. Mornings are filled with puffy white clouds keeping the sun from reaching the ground. It is as if they are a filter to disperse the light into awe inspiring shapes.

How soon will the rains appear? I do not know. They will Start slowly, a day here and a day there. They will gain Momentum, gaining frequency as autumn makes its way into Winter.

The early parts of autumn is what I relish. A time to ride Into the open spaces on a bike. To smell the changes that are Taking place. Open your senses to the sights and feelings of The season.

The season is also fraught with unexpected dangers. Fallen Leaves that become slippery when wet. The sudden gust of Wind that may take you by surprise. The warm morning that Lulls you into forgetting your raincoat and umbrella. Beware autumn is beautiful but she has a wicked sense of Humor.

Can you Smell it?

The hot suffocating heat of summer is starting to give way to the sweet smell of fall.

Can you smell it?

The sense of the changing temperatures at night, the quickness of the dark and the late rising of the sun.

Can you sense it?

The faint changes of color in the trees and bushes.

Can you see it?

The thin coating of dew on the grass and the cars that sit outside over nights.

Can you feel it?

Fall is trying to slip in without notice, with the stealth of a thief in the night.

Creeping silently, stealing from the night which once belonged to the day.

The heat of the day is still here, sometimes stifling or gently warming the soul.

Soon the rains will begin again, gone the warm days of summer.

The coats on our pets will start to change from short coolness to long and shaggy.

The shedding gone until the emergence of spring.

Goodbye summer, hello fall for you will soon envelope us all.

Can you smell it?