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Posts published in May 2015

Rewriting the story of me

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This column is included in Raising The Hardy Boys: They Said There Would be Bon-Bons which could make a pretty cool Mother’s Day gift, just sayin’. My next book signing gig is Saturday, May 9 at the Coffee Cottage in Newberg from 3 to 6 p.m. Come say “hi” and maybe pick up a copy of my book as a mother’s day gift? Oh, and tell your friends! By the way, there WILL be bon-bons! .

Whether you grow up in Disneyland or Dysfunction Junction, friction is a natural part of family life. Who doesn't have moments when they look around the dinner table and wonder how they could possibly be related to these people?

Imagine my surprise when I found out, 21 years ago, that this occasional passing fantasy was actually fact in my case.

Let me set the stage for you. It was my freshman year in high school. The assignment was to write an autobiography, with the incentive of extra credit for creativity.

I decided to use a picture of my mom, pregnant with me, for the cover. But I couldn't find any such picture.
I tried to substitute one from the period my mom was pregnant with my brother. None of those existed either.
I found it difficult to believe my father, who even takes pictures of his food, didn't have a working camera available during a pair of nine-month spans. So, overachiever that I was, I had no choice but to take my project to the next level.

When my parents were out one evening, I went into reporter mode, snooping through my mom's red address book. One by one, I called close family friends to announce I was doing a project for school.

Naturally, they were all happy to help. That is, until I asked: "Could you tell me your favorite memory of my mom pregnant?"

Whether by hesitation, an awkward pause or the sharp inhalation of surprise, my suspicions were confirmed.

A couple of them wanted to know if my mom knew about this project. She sure didn't, but this was pre-cell phone, so no one could text my parents a heads up.
Why didn't I simply ask my parents? I did in 1991, and purely by coincidence, it was on Mother's Day.

After a painfully awkward brunch on Bainbridge Island, and a silent drive home, my parents finally told me the truth about my birth.

I felt as if my foundation had cracked.

In retrospect I wonder what that news changed exactly. I mean, besides where I spent my first week of life, everything else was the same.

But it wasn't. Not really.

I wish I could tell you I handled the situation with grace and understanding. But, alas, I was 14. So there was plenty of drama.

Unconsciously, I started to ignore the idea that my parents loved me and instead dwell on the fact that someone I'd never met didn't - at least not enough to keep me.

Now I understand the best way my birth mother could show her love was by acknowledging she couldn't do for me what my parents could. But back then, I started telling myself the secret truth about me was that I was simply unlovable.

This became a core belief of mine, one I sought out and affirmed in my relationships.

It wasn't until very recently that I learned the story I was telling myself wasn't true. How could I have been so wrong about something I was so certain about?

The thing about our birth stories is that they're just that: stories. The meaning we give the story is what matters.

I could focus on the fact that nobody was with me during the first week of my life, or I could instead remember that my parents canceled a ski trip to come and get me as soon as they heard they could.

At every birthday since, I've heard that story. And it delights me every single time.

I don't know very much about my biological mom, besides the fact with was an Irish X-ray technician with four children. But I can tell you my real mom has cutting boards stained green with parsley, can make goulash in her sleep, has fingers calloused from a lifetime of hard work yet still capable of soothing a feverish forehead, keeps her nails clean and cuticles trimmed, has a favorite apron in green, and smells like Gucci and geraniums.

She is probably reading this with tears in her eyes. She should know that while I'm sorry for that one awful Mother's Day, I have loved her as my real and only mom on every one of them before and since.

By the way, I did get extra credit for my bonus chapter: "My Adoption." I like to think of that as my first investigative reporting piece, inspiring a career in journalism.

On the front pages

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Climate change underway at Yellowstone Park (IF Post Register)
Funds arrive for new Terry Reilly Caldwell clinic (Nampa Press Tribune)
Cassia draws discrimination complaint from ACLU (TF Times News)

Some rural drivers may self-pump their gas (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Eugene electric sues over flaws at dam (Eugene Register Guard)
Obama arrives in Portland, draws comments (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune, KF Herald & News)
Judge closes Jackson Co pot dispensary (Medford Tribune)
Crater Lake may develop sister-park with China (Medford Tribune)
UO employees investigated over medical records (Portland Oregonian)

E Coli outbreak results in CDC call (Seattle Times)
Murray says more money needed from arena backers (Seattle Times)
Seattle, Tacoma ports take details of deal public (Tacoma News Tribune)
Obama arrives at Portland (Vancouver Columbian)

Lessons from Baltimore

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“Why am I being arrested? I haven’t done anything wrong. Why am I being treated this way? I live here. The curfew law is stupid. I live here. The law’s stupid. Why are they arresting me? This is so wrong!”

Those were the words of a young woman in Baltimore about 10:30 on a recent Friday night as police were hustling her off to a waiting prisoner transport van. I’d guess she was in her early 20's - well dressed - good makeup - nice looking young lady - probably a college student. Oh, and she was white. It was a small moment in the nights of rioting and police baiting. But it was a microcosm of the week in all the noise and activity.

There is so much wrong with what she was shouting to the TV camera as she was being hauled away. So much.

First, the curfew was not a law. It was an executive order of the mayor approved by the Baltimore City Council. Second, the order had been widely published and had been enforced two previous nights. Third, the time of her arrest was 30 minutes past the curfew limit which was being broadcast from helicopters and police vehicles on the ground and which thousands of others had obeyed. Fourth, she obviously did not live in this section of the city - maybe some other Baltimore neighborhood - not this one. Fifth, just because she thought the order “stupid” gave her no legal standing not to abide by it.

Finally, she had no idea why she was there. My guess is it was to be “seen” - to be where the action was. Or because some of her friends were there. But let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. Suppose she was a young, bleeding-heart who wanted to stand beside her oppressed “brothers and sisters.” Suppose her motives for being in a place she didn’t live with people she didn’t know - and with many black citizens who likely wouldn’t have welcomed her misguided participation - were pure as snow. Christian, as it were.

The facts were these. It was well-past the curfew limit - the well-publicized curfew limit - which made her a violator whether she agreed with the “law” or not. Her white face sent a clear message she didn’t live in the neighborhood and she was there during a curfew applied to all of Baltimore - not just the west end - though it was being enforced primarily in the west end. Police had lawful orders to close streets and arrest anyone out past a certain time. It won’t take Clarence Darrow to prosecute her appearance in court.

The young lady was in the wrong place at the wrong time learning nothing. Plus being wrong at the top of her lungs.

The place to be for nearly all of us to learn was in front of the TV. There was a lot to see and learn. You could learn, that is, if you ignored the often broadcast grandstanding, self-promotion and some of its deviant journalistic behavior. Especially Faux Nues which promoted the cops at all times in spite of what may have been going on.

At our house, we were surprised to learn how many black public officials - Congress on down - have had ”the talk” with their teen sons about how to deal with cops on the street. Media types and clergy. too. Few of us have had to do that. We learned of - and watched - the individual heroism of retired USAF M/Sgt Robert Valentine who put himself alone between police lines and young demonstrators to keep the two sides from clashing. He did it several nights running.

We watched a black minister live his faith when someone torched his church’s nearly completed multi-million-dollar senior community center. “We’ll begin again,” when asked how he felt. No condemnation for the arsonist. No self-pity. Just “begin again.”

We learned courage and tough love from a scared black mother who charged into the street to pull her teenage son out of the rioting crowd. Yes, she hit him in the head with her hand. Yes, more than once. She yanked off his black ski mask. She pummeled his head, arms and back with her fists. She got him back. And, 24-hours later on national television, the kid said “Thank you.” I wouldn’t have blamed her if she’d hit him with a 2x4 in her terrified act of love. Mother love.

We watched some of the crowd offer bottled of water to the heavily-dressed officers on the line. We heard many officers say “Thank you.” We watched citizens put themselves in the smoke-filled space between crowds and police lines amid flying debris to carry signs saying to the crowd “Go Home.” For several nights. And most did.

We saw dozens and dozens of clergy, business people and just plain folks walk into the fray to plead with both sides to “stand down” and avoid confrontation. We learned courage could come from people who had probably never thought of themselves as “courageous” people. But there they were. Being courageous.

We, who do not live in Baltimore’s west end - or any other large city’s depressed community - had no business being there those nights. Never - never - could we understand what so many innocent people were saying to authority out there on the asphalt. We could not know or understand the indigenous frustrations and fear caused by simply facing another day or month or year living under those conditions. Even after nights of watching, we still don’t know how to feel it. We do know a little more about it.

These days, the streets of Baltimore’s west end are no place for white 20-something’s who live comfortably somewhere else and who have no use for or understanding of “laws” they believe are “dumb.” There’s simply too much work to be done by people who are charged with the many and varied tasks of community rebuilding. We need to sympathize - to understand - but to stay out of the way.

The young prosecutor who brought charges against six cops will likely not get convictions - at least at the level of those charges. What the reaction will be then - several months if not years down the line - will have to wait. Right now - now while most west end residents seem to want to work for better days - now is the time to put some flesh on those desires. I hope those who are leading will get to work. Now.

On the front pages

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

New partnerships in Boise River cleanup (Boise Statesman)
Ag-gag lawsuit ruling just ahead (IF Post Register)
Labrador criticizes Republian budget plan (Lewiston Tribune)
Scramble to avoid massive wster shutdowns (TF Times News)
Cassia commission admits meeting law violation (TF Times News)

LCC course eliminations prove controversial (Eugene Register Guard)
Theatre security frisking patrons as they enter (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath commissioners want wolf delisting (KF Herald & News)
Solar farm planned for site near Bly (KF Herald & News)
Medford proposes improvements to its water plant (Medford Tribune)
Mt. Bachelor closing site unusually early (Medford Tribune)
Pendleton city goes after local panhandlers (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Closing in on a new president for EOU (Pendleton E Oregonian)
About Obama's visit to Portland today (Portland Oregonian)
Damascus residents ask what their taxes went for (Portland Oregonian)
Many rape kits in Portland weren't tested formerly (Portland Oregonian)

Snohomish limiting new pot business locations (Everett Herald)
Medical exminaner stays at Snohomish, for now (Everett Herald)
Seattle debates over whether mitigation means trees (Seattle Times)
Winthrop Hotel in Tacoma sold (Tacoma News Tribune)
Federal trial over water pollution dropped (Yakima Herald Republic)

Zorba and Baltimore

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Like many news junkies, I’ve been reflecting on the events in Baltimore over the last ten days. I keep coming back to a fact that has been completely absent from the debate. I will explain by first quoting from Nikos Kazantzakis’ great novel,Zorba the Greek which was made into a fine movie with Anthony Quinn playing Zorba.

Zorba is getting acquainted with the sober-miened Englishman who asks Zorba if he is married. Zorba replies:

“Am I not a man? Are not men STUPID? So I married---wife, children, home, the whole CATASTROPHE!”

Inevitably, one laughs because this hits too close to home. As the old saying goes, the truth often is in a joke. Most, if honest, will concede, even the brightest and most disciplined among us can and often do stupid things, some totally inexplicable.

In my expereience, young men, regardless of race, creed or color, full of too much testosterone, sometimes do some really stupid things. Take me, for example.

True confession: Fifty years ago I “technically” assaulted one of New York’s finest.

It was early fall of my freshman year at Columbia. Classes had just started so many young men were milling around with little to do but cause mischief. Someone said, “Let’s do a panty raid on Barnard (the women’s college next to Columbia).” Yes, in 1965 this anachronistic practice was still in vogue.

Before you could snap a finger, 200 young men had stormed across the street and were standing on the south side street of the main Barnard residence hall, chanting and demanding that they be tossed women’s undergarments. I went along­­­ as can happen when in a crowd.

Of course few items were tossed out. It was then the Idaho kid decided to show these wimpy easterners how to take action. Amidst cheers I scaled up the side of the dorn two stories and into the residence hall where there were indeed young ladies milling around, screaming at the sight of a guy demanding undie’s and bra’s. Some young ladies handed me the items so back to the window I went to toss the contraband to the wimps still standing and yelling for such.

Then back down the wall I went and dropped straight into the arms of one of New York’s finest just waiting there. Grabbing me buy the arm, he informed me I was going with him. I replied, “Like hell, I am.” Then I committed the real stupidity, I struck the officer’s arm holding me, knocking his grip loose, ran and melded into the crowd.

As I wandered back to my dorm room I realized just how stupid I’d acted. I easily could have not been able to get away. Then, I would have faced an “assaulting an officer” charge, a felony no less, and easily could have lost my scholarship and probably might even have had to do jail time.

My future no doubt would have been quite different. Try getting a job even today if you’ve got a felony on you record.

Life has ways of evening things out. It’s often called the “school of hard knocks.” My hard knock was literally a hard knock but I looked upon it as an element of divine justice being meted out. No matter what you term it, New York’s finest got even in less than three years.

In April of 1968 a student protest led by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) against Columbia building a new gym on a large part of Morningside Park (One of a few areas where the African-American population in Harlem could recreate) led to a shut down of the campus. SDS leader Marc Rudd led the seizure of Hamilton Hall and Low Library where the administration offices were.

After several nights of a stand-off it was clear the police were about to move. I joined a group of students that formed a circle, holding hands, around the library. We thought as pacifists we could protect those that had seized the building and that the police would respect our non-violent stance.

We thought wrong. When the police moved we were all shoved and clubbed out of the way. It was then the scales of justice evened out for one of New York’s finest nailed me in the back with his billy club.

The moral of this story is yes, the chattering media can talk about lack of jobs, lack of education, lack of fathers or male mentors, lack of hope in Baltimore, and it all does contribute and it all needs addressing. Don’t forget, however, that men, especiallly young men, can act in a very stupid way at times. Only God knows why.

On the front pages

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Boise showing good crime rate (Boise Statesman)
CWI may reconsider doing property appraisals (Boise Statesman)
New report blasts need for Dubois sheep station (IF Post Register)
Caldwell rejects ethanol plant permit (Nampa Press Tribune)
Moyle says land buy appraisals should be required (Nampa Press Tribune)

Anderson moves from Oregonian to Register Guard (Eugene Register Guard)
New apartent complex planned for north Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
Irrigators will cut water runs (KF Herald & News)
Second Klamath pot dispensary may open (KF Herald & News)
Local residents deeply involve in pot rules (Medford Tribune)
Checking local impacts of PERS decision (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Pendleton council sets pot rules (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Cop camera measure passes state House (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Upcoming Obama visit parly about trade (Portland Oregonian)
Hales wants to spend surplus on street repair (Portland Oregonian)
Debate on school vaccination disclosure bill (Salem Statesman Journal)

Index area timber harvest okayed (Everett Herald)
Housing prices rising to near 2007 levels (Seattle Times)
Comcast will open Spokane-area call center (Spokane Spokesman)
Mentally ill subject of hot legislative debate (Vancouver Columbian)
Water district ends water for two weeks (Yakima Herald Republic)

A new look

Yes, this is still Ridenbaugh Press, and the stuff that's been here is still here - including all our posts going back to 2005. We'll be making some substantive additions in the weeks and months to come, but the change you're seeing today is mainly cosmetic.

We've used the same basic design for more than five years, so it was past time for something new. As it happens, Google gave us to the push. One of the big pieces of recent news this season for people running web sites is that Google is ratcheting down in its search rankings any web site that isn't "responsive" to a range of viewers - not just desktop or notebook computers but smart phones, tablets and so forth. The old design was not "responsive," and making it so (while keeping it generally the same) would have been a complex and messy operation. So we decided to start fresh.

And according to Google's own web tool, ridenbaugh.com now is fully responsive. (Try it out on other sites; you may find the results interesting.)

What you see here today is what we've done after spending a couple of hours tweaking the core design (it should be more complete within three or four days), which is called Ignite. The simplicity of it, and its emphasis on the word and on typography, were appealing. But let us know what you think.

On the front pages

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Some SkyWest pay in Boise lower than expected (Boise Statesman)
Boise finds waste at new park, could spend $2.5m (Boise Statesman)
Otter posts child support proposal (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Higher teacher pay coming to Idaho (IF Post Register)
St. Luke's shows off new Nampa hospital plan (Nampa Press Tribune)
Nampa council approces new streetscape (Nampa Press Tribune)
New building inspector approved for TF (TF Times News)
Buhl Herald reopens with new owner (TF Times News)

Senate approves background check measure (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Tribune, KF Herald & News, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Small rural areas seeking medical help (Medford Tribune)
Senate passes agri-tourism liability bill (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Prison criticised over mentally ill treatment (Portland Oregonian)

WSU looks for med school dean (Kennewick Herald)
Seattle wants new permit for drills at terminal (Seattle Times)
Rate increase request for Avista reduced (Spokane Spokesman)
Predictions for water this summer get worse (Yakima Herald Republic)

In the Briefings

Senator Mike Padden said he went into the 2015 regular session with a goal of increasing the opportunities for public participation in the legislative process. An analysis of the Senate’s remote testimony pilot program shows that Padden and his colleagues in the Senate took significant steps toward achieving that goal in that chamber, and now he plans to push just as hard to encourage the House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead. Remote testimony was offered 53 times during the regular-session pilot project – 31 times by invited participants and 22 times on an unsolicited basis from members of the public. (photo/Washington Senate)

Early indications: The Washington legislature will be using up most of the days available to it in special session. Maybe all of them.

The big legislative and budget news in Oregon this week was made not at the Statehouse but nearby – at the Oregon Supreme Court, which rejected (as violating contract terms) most of a grand compromise agreed to in 2013 by Democrats and Republicans. The PERS battle may begin again.

The suspense finally broke, at least on one level, last week: Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter said that he would call the legislature back into session this month. Whether it will do what he is asking it to do – pass a child support interstate agreement it rejected during the regular session – remained a little less clear.