Matthew | Bodei | Amira | Kylin & Paloma| Ben | Carson | Everly | Lily | Annabella | Paloma | Ruby | Beth | Maurine | Elaine
Matthew: Buried in a Book
“I like it and I come here because I like helping people. It makes me feel empathy towards people who might not just have everything they want.”
That’s what eleven-year-old Matthew says about spending a beautiful spring day inside at FISH foodbank, taking customers around the store to help them stock up on food.
Matthew has taken every opportunity he can to help out at FISH, often accompanying his parents or older brother Sam, until he was old enough to participate on his own. He likes reading, math and P.E. in school, and also likes to play basketball.
As a 6th grader, when he’s not at FISH, you just might find Matthew with his head in a book, as his favorite subject is reading. He is a fantasy reader fanatic and can easily list several series of books he’s devoured. Right now, his favorite reading is “Keeper of the Lost Cities,” a fantasy tale about a place, as he explains, where magical creatures and humans have to learn to interact.
Matthew is one of those quiet youth, who obviously spends a lot of time thinking about and imagining his world. Those thoughts also make him think about how his interactions affect others. When asked what he would tell someone about volunteering at FISH, he volunteered this reflection, “It opens up your mind to the world and it’s a really fun experience.”
Thank you to Matthew for participating with us at Riverside.
Bodei: Helps at Home, on the Beach
Bodei loves the outdoors, and that’s why he recently came along on the Middlers service trip to the Oregon Coast. Bodei is pictured here with a pair of kid scissors he picked up at the beach, which were still sharp and able to cut, so he donated them to the church Sunday school.
He was one of ten Middlers who went to the beach May 3-5 to participate with the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition in not only picking up trash at the Cascade Head Marine Reserve, but sorting and categorizing it for scientific research. “I liked helping out cleaning the beach and helping save wildlife by getting rid of plastics. We’ve done some school projects like that.”
Bodei is in the eighth grade, and is a very well-rounded young person, who enjoys skiing, soccer, and running long distance in track, as well as reading and math in school. He is also the oldest child in a family with three other siblings: Annabella, 11, Rocco, 9 and Nils, who is 7. Bodei says he gets along well with them and helps get the younger ones dressed and put their clothes away, not to mention his other household chores of recycling and emptying the dishwasher.
At church, Bodei completed Our Whole Lives last fall. He remarked that he learned way more in that 16 week curriculum than he ever did in school, and says, “I was kinda surprised how much I learned – way more than I expected.”
This summer, Bodei is looking forward to traveling with his family to Canada, and has already seen almost all 50 states. And when school starts up again, he and his family are regulars at the Camp Adams family camp in November. What’s his favorite activity at camp? There was no hesitation with getting an answer to that. “Playing in the gym!”
Amira: Finding the Holy in Art
“I feel really calm and collected when I look at something God created and that’s probably why I like drawing.”
Amira is not your typical 11 year old. Spend a few minutes in her company and you can reflect on the saying that “still waters run deep.”
This is a person who goes out of her way to share her talents. When Elaine Thompson’s brother passed away, she painted her a lovely picture of an owl flying in the woods. She also took a good thirty minutes in Sunday school to depict a crawdad on the banks of the river for the Rodger Schock memory book. She claims about her talent, “I’m just as good as you are, I just do it more often.”
When Amira isn’t drawing, she often likes to cook, mostly sweets, but has also made the occasional dinner of mac and cheese for her family. Amira is drawn to both cooking and art for the reason that both are something she can share with other people. She has had a few cooking failures, especially with macaroons. One time Amira says the recipe wasn’t any good, and the second time the cookies all stuck to the parchment paper! But as a young person, going into the sixth grade this fall, she says she has learned from her mistakes, and keeps trying.
Of course, she is also never far from a book, having read the entire Harry Potter series and the Percy Jackson books … all, many times. She has a busy summer planned, with roller derby camp, visiting relatives and traveling on the agenda.
Amira is looking forward to her twelfth birthday in September, and she shares that birthday with two other siblings. As a triplet, she has noticed the benefits of always having someone to play with, but explained that also means she always has to share everything as well, which is an art in itself.
And art is part of what she likes about coming to Riverside. When asked about her favorite part of church she said she really likes “all of it”, but would tell people it’s a “cool place where you can get connected to God. It’s easy going, fun AND there is lots of art!”
Kylin and Paloma: Adventure Girls Buddy Up
Nothing like having a buddy at youth group!
Kylin has been attending Riverside since she was a very young girl, but Paloma just started this past year. They met during a skit the youth group did for a spring worship service, and then bonded this summer at a week-long girls adventure camp.
When they both showed up to serve at FISH foodbank last month, they wanted to be together helping the customers.
“I like Paloma because of her humor,” says Kylin, “and, I like her shoes!”
Paloma was wearing a pair of stylish red Converse and she noted of Kylin, “She’s very calm and mature. She’s definitely quiet, but in a good way.”
In fact, Kylin did not want to be interviewed alone, but opened up once we got talking about Oregon Battle of the Books, a passion of hers. Every summer, Kylin reads 16 books – two times each – to enter the competition. She was understandably proud to beat her older brother, Lucas’s team, when she was in fourth grade.
Now she’s entering seventh grade and is the middle of three children in her family, with her younger sister, Alyra three years behind. Kylin says of being the middle, “I get to do things earlier than my brother, but Alyra gets to do even more!”
Paloma is the oldest of four kids, and welcomed a new baby brother, Bennett, to the family this summer. Her other siblings are Georgiana, 9 years old and Julian, 3.
Paloma loves drama and was recently in the Mary Poppins production put on at the middle school summer program. She is also passionate about any kind of crafting. “Hot glue is my favorite!” She is enrolled at Frontier Charter, taking her public school classes online.
That’s why the girls first met at church and later at adventure camp, since Kylin goes to Hood River Middle School. Part of the girls shared adventure camp experience had been at FISH foodbank, pulling weeds. But they also enjoyed hiking Beacon Rock, going white water rafting and learning survival skills.
They are looking forward to more time together in the middler youth group, as Paloma has told Kylin about the beach clean-up trip she was able to take with the group this past spring.
Both new friends said about church that it is “fun” and when asked what they liked best, agreed wholeheartedly that, “it includes everyone.” And Kylin, with her shy giggle added, “And at Easter, the little kids don’t get trampled!”
Ben: A Riverside Native
If you want an example of a well-rounded and balanced young person who has grown up at Riverside, look no further than Ben.
At 17, Ben consistently shows up at FISH Food bank to volunteer, has spent the past seven years going to Camp Adams, is involved with the church youth group, graduated from OWL and has been to the UCC Western Regional Youth Event.
We chatted as we sat on a bench at FISH Food bank that he created as part of a required school project. He made the bench realizing that, “People here need to take a load off. I imagine they are dealing with so many other things.” Ben says he likes being part of the youth group, which nudges him out into the community and gives him opportunities to help. At Fish, he observes the customers are “just normal people like us, who need a little boost.”
Ben is the still-waters-run-deep type, who will open up about his spiritual side if asked. Camp Adams is a spiritual home for him, where he says he “feels connected to people and God.” One of his favorite camp traditions is going to vespers every night, crossing the bridge and being silent as he goes up the hill to chapel. One of the connections he has made is a friend in Portland, another UCC youth from the Parkrose church. Now that Ben is old enough to drive, he was driving in to see his friend later in the week. And he is also good camp and school friends with Mateo Campos-Davis, who attends Bethel UCC.
Ben excels at school, especially math. He has his sights on going to California and hopefully Cal-Poly for college in a year. Besides school work and volunteering, Ben also finds time for soccer and tennis. His older sister, Caitlyn, just graduated from college in California and she was also very active in the church youth groups and camp.
In a day and age when many youth are questioning God, I thought Ben had a beautiful answer to what God feels like to him. We both admitted God was beyond description, but in essence God comes to him in “a sense of unity between people and everything working in harmony.”
And when you are sitting together on a bench made out of compassion for people, you can see that unity at work in the world through the hands of Ben.
Carson: Oldest Brother Sees God in his Heart
If you don’t know this fourth-grade boy with twinkling blue eyes, you’ll recognize him from his comments during Children’s Time. He’s the one, when asked what makes his heart happy, pointed to his one year old baby brother Isaac and said, “He does.”
Carson has a full household: a younger sister, Lily in kindergarten, two goats names Bingo and Bongo, one dog, Lucy and a tabby cat Talulah, along with mom, Melissa and dad, Kevin. Grandma also shows up on a regular basis to enjoy the baby.
If you want to get to know Carson, who describes himself as “kinda shy,” he says it’s OK to share a seat beside him during coffee hour. His favorite thing about church is getting to load up his plate with treats. Then he might tell you his favorite class in school is science, and as an inventor, he’d like to create a robot that makes coffee and cocoa.
Carson is also exceptionally talented at origami, and was seen last year at Camp Adams folding paper into all sorts of objects. At camp this year, he’s looking forward to crawdad fishing and making bracelets.
He also was asked during Children’s Time what he was grateful for, and stumped Pastor Vicky with his grown-up answer of “R and R.”
“R and R?” she queried. “You mean rest and relaxation?” Carson claims as an avid reader he learned the term from a book. He adds to his life with soccer in the fall and is a year-round water polo player.
His favorite food is a cheeseburger, but hold the pickles, which he will not eat.
However he has ingested a great deal of spiritual sense through his family and church along with the loaded plates of treats. What Is God to Carson? “I think God is a kind being, because he created everyone.” And where does he see God? “I see God in my heart.”
Everley: Aspiring Thespian Co-Writes Christmas Play
Everley has been at Riverside since she was a baby. Her earliest memory is being baptized at church. She’s not sure how much of that memory comes from the photos or the actual event, but there’s something about the water on her forehead and being held up by her mom, Pastor Vicky, that resonates with her.
These days, you can often find Everley with her friends, and she brings many of them to church with her. When she was younger, she admits her favorite thing was to play tag after the service in the sanctuary. As a young teen, now she likes activities like meditating with the Middlers in that space as a spiritual activity.
You might also know that Everley likes peaches! There was many a Sunday when she sat on the altar steps and routinely offered thanks for peaches during Children’s Time. But her tastes have changed, and even though that special fruit will always bring Everley to mind for many of us, she would say her tastes have expanded.
As an 8th grader, Everley also is taking the Our Whole Lives class, and says she would recommend it to any kid. “Even the adults should try it,” she says. Overall she feels OWL is, “really informative and makes you feel more comfortable with yourself and that topic in general.”
You probably also know that Everley is the pastor’s younger daughter. Her older sister, Charley, is now away at college. Everley misses her a lot, but is such a social young lady that her days are full. She likes language arts the best in school, and is known to be quite a writer.
In fact, since about 4th grade, Everley has written, directed and produced a Christmas play featuring many of her friends. She staged one last year downstairs in the Fireside room and invited parents and friends to watch. The plays included songs and dance numbers, as Everley is also a dancer and is currently enjoying hip-hop.
This year, Everley asked Youth Pastor Elaine Thompson if they could do-write the Christmas play, and suggested a show themed around the Wizard of Oz. This picture of Everley was taken while she and Elaine met at Dog River to flesh out ideas, and the mug seemed to fit her approach to life perfectly. Everley has a knack of knowing how to do more of what makes her happy, and we look forward to seeing her creative talents this Christmas at church.
Lily: Drawing, Listening for God’s Voice
If you haven’t noticed a budding young artist in our midst who loves to perform, let us introduce you to Lily. Lily is just 6 years old, but took the podium with her mother, Melissa, in November, to help read a kid’s poem. As a kindergartner she is just learning to read, so Lily took the time to memorize her lines, and recited them into the microphone without missing a word, all the while maintaining eye contact with the crowd.
Needless to say, she is already looking forward to being in the Christmas play on Dec. 15, saying she loves “when you get to wear your costumes.”
We caught up with her after church, when she was waiting patiently in the pews for her parents to finish up at coffee hour. What was she doing? Lily had drawn three different pictures for her maternal grandmother, all of which said, “I love you.” She claims to like drawing “ice cream, flowers, hearts, and chocolate chip cookies,” because “they look cute if I add eyes.”
Lily and her family, which consists of older brother Carson, younger brother Isaac, parents Melissa and Kevin, came to Camp Adams this year, but had to leave before the variety show on Saturday due to illness. Lily was heartbroken but recorded her ballet dance on an i-Phone for the show. The crowd watched it and sent back a video of them applauding.
Lily loves to dance and takes ballet and tap. Besides expressing herself through art and dance, Lily has no trouble sharing her thoughts about God. She says that God “helps me a lot when I need help. He tells me what to do … it goes through my body and into my brain.” Lily says that “God lives in my heart,” and that is where she hears God speaking to her.
Amen to those sage thoughts from a 6 year old!
Ruby: Easy-Going Ruby Contemplates Health Care
Ruby has come to church since she was a little girl. You might remember she always wore a dress. Now, she still dresses up for church, “to look presentable,” but is no longer a little girl. Ruby, at 15 and a freshman at HRVHS, is learning to drive. She “likes her independence and being able to go anywhere,” even though she is still in the permit phase, and needs a parent to come along.
Ruby is well traveled, and remembers some of her favorite destinations as Bermuda for Thanksgiving and Vermont every summer to visit relatives. She is also well-balanced, and can list just as many indoor activities she enjoys as outdoor pursuits. You can find her doing anything from reading a romance or mystery book, enjoying her two cats, to playing with friends, jumping on the trampoline, swimming, snow or water skiing.
She also will tell you, when asked about her faith, “I am a Christian and I believe in Jesus.” She likes the ways the church has taught her, but more than anything she “lives her life by experiences.”
And the experience of growing up with both parents in the healthcare field has got her thinking about a related occupation. Right now, she wants to be either a pediatrician or a nurse midwife.
Ruby likes our church because she finds it to be very open, and “no one is afraid to speak” about themselves or their preferences. “like LGBTQ we accept it,” she says and is old enough to know that not all churches accept everyone regardless of gender or race.
Ruby is admittedly a very quiet person. However, she takes time to be with the youth group, and has participated in numerous service activities, like the recent afternoon making Christmas cookies for the shelter guests.
What would she like people to know about her, even though she is quiet? Her answer: “I’m a very easy-going person.” Quite a statement for a teenager these days!
Annabella: Lighting up the Sanctuary with her Smile
It’s often said that the kind of person you are on the inside ends up showing on the outside.
That sentiment certainly shows in the beautiful demeanor of 7th grader Annabella.
Annabella will readily tell you that she has a mantra of positive thinking. It started for her on the lacrosse field, when she worried about being able to catch a ball. She realized that when she worried about the catch, she’d miss the catch. But when she turned that thinking around, and started telling herself, “I can do this, I can do this,” she’d land the catch way more often than not.
From there, she has taken this positive mantra into many parts of her life from giving a speech in front of her class at school or when she’s about to go on stage in a show. You might remember she was Glinda in our Christmas play, and had all her lines memorized.
Annabella comes from a family of four kids and she’s the only girl. She has an older brother, Bodei, and two younger brothers, Rocco and Nils. She admits it can be annoying at times, but because she is the only girl, she gets her own room and sometimes special privileges.
But her family life has given her reason to think about her future and her gifts. Because her brother Rocco has had speech difficulties, she has a desire to help other children with speech issues when she grows up. If you ever see her with her brother, you can see the love and empathy she has for him. On the steps during Children’s Time, there has been many a Sunday she gently put her arm around him and spoke for him when he wasn’t able to, or was too shy. Rocco has made a lot of progress recently, and having such a caring sister certainly makes a difference.
Annabella is the kind of person who is eager to make a difference not only in her family, but in her world. When Ann Harris from the Justice and Witness committee spoke to the Middlers, Annabella quickly embraced the idea of doing something to help educate about climate change. She likes art and readily used her skills to help paint a sign, saying, “I’m worried about the future and how climate change will affect my life.”
She tries to make a difference in little things herself, by walking when she can and acknowledging, “It would be better if everyone could drive electric and eat less meat.”
Church is a place where she enjoys not only friendships with other kids, but much more than that. Annabella says, “I like hearing from all ages of people.” She is still exploring what spirituality means to her, but loves putting her faith in action. She’s been to Fish food bank numerous times, participated in the buddy bowl last year, and gave up two weekends in a row last fall to do service work in Portland.
Now, she’s looking forward to another service event of selling reusable produce bags that were handmade and donated to the youth by Anna Diem. When we were thinking about where to use the donations, Annabella lit up with a wide smile when she heard of a tree-planting event. “Yes, I want to plant trees! When can we plant trees?”
And when that beautiful smile lights up her face, you can see the beautiful inside where that enthusiasm comes from.
Paloma: Loving the God of Tiny, Good Places
If you missed seeing the Christmas play this past year, you missed a very special performance from Paloma, age 13, who attends Riverside. Paloma took on the daunting role of Dorothy in our mash-up play about Rainbowland and the birth of love through Christ.
She knew from the beginning that the role involved singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and worked with Tim Mayer to perfect the song and her delivery. It’s the rare teen who will eagerly take on a long and difficult solo in front of the entire congregation – but Paloma pulled it off.
Acting, writing, directing: Paloma feels these theatrical skills are her talents, and she finds many ways to explore the craft whether it be in school productions, community shows or even as a working talent on the west coast. Paloma has an agent who represents her for commercial work and has been in a couple independent films.
She loves that acting “… gives you a chance to be other people,” and believes what actor Johnny Depp says that, “A part of yourself has to be the role otherwise it’s not acting, its lying.”
Paloma comes from a loving and expanding family, who welcomed baby Benny into their lives about 8 months ago. There is also brother Julian, age 3 and sister Georgiana who is 10. The family recently took a year off and traveled all over the United States, where Paloma discovered San Diego was her favorite place, along with Zion National Park and Washington, D.C.
The family decided to move to Hood River from Portland when they returned and so she is new to our area. Paloma really likes the community of church and says “I really love what this church believes in, like that kindness is really high.” She adds, “I love how Pastor Vicky changes up the gender of God,” and “I believe God is the universe, God is like all the tiny good places. God is everything.”
Paloma, even though she admits it is incredibly hard to be self-disciplined, is home schooled, and at her age, that means really taking on her own education. She enjoys spending time on the subjects she loves, which are English and writing. Those are important to her, because she believes there is “power in words.”
And if you look at Paloma’s home screen, you will see a picture she took of an eagle in flight along with these powerful words, “I am grounded, centered and present.” She’s a creative spirit, who just like the eagle, is sure to soar.
Beth: Artists Hands All Along
When this is all over and we are passing the peace again on a Sunday, grasp Beth Hartwell by the hands, and take a good look at them. These are her treasured possessions, trained to manage business at the highest level, drive a fork lift, sew, make art, turn a page of music and cook food that begins close to the earth.
“I had good grandmas who taught me how to put my hands to work at a young age. They put knitting in our hands, spoons in our hands, a garden trowel in our hands.”
Beth grew up in San Diego in a big extended family. Her grandfathers were entrepreneurs, one venturing into potato chips before they were a thing. Her father was the consummate salesman, as San Diego was exploding.
She came to Oregon to go to OSU, where she majored in business and behavioral science, tutoring others for beer money. When her first job after graduation brought her back to California to work for Proctor and Gamble, she brought a creative spirit to sales and marketing. She was focused on getting to know what her customers wanted, while her P&G co-workers were intent on selling customers an end-of-aisle mouthwash display, whether they needed it or not.
“I didn’t last very long,” in that culture, she said, especially when her college boyfriend, Tom, was pleading with her to move to Longview, WA, where he was working for Weyerhauser. She was convinced she’d never work for that company, but five months later she was a management trainee, and then, foreman at a paper mill. She had no idea how the plant operated or what her crew did, and was certain she’d been set up to fail in this “men only” environment. But shortly after she arrived, the plant went on strike for five months. She worked 12-hour shifts, doing the work of five people, driving a forklift and loading trains. When the workers returned, her trial by fire behind her, “Nobody could pull the wool over my eyes.”
But after marriage to Tom, and two-plus years at Weyerhauser where upward mobility was just not in the cards (“My boss told me it took him 25 years to get his promotion. I wanted more, for sure.”) they heard about a ship in Seattle – a wooden WWII sub-chaser named The Phoenix – that was going to dive for sunken treasure. The crew needed a cook, and Tom’s mechanical skills, so they stored all their stuff and rented out their house.
For six months, they remodeled the boat, living on board, Beth cooking for a crew of 16, three meals a day, mostly from an odd assortment of items left in the pantry. “A #10 can of bean sprouts? Really? Finally, I was down to a five-pound block of Velveeta, and I tried to make Welsh Rarebit. It was so awful the crew was feeding it to the ducks, and the ducks were sinking.”
It was clear the boat was never going to leave the dock. Some of their fellow shipmates got jobs in a nearby mini-market, and Tom figured out there was money to be made in just such an enterprise. Soon, they were the owners of a beat-down market near Green Lake called Young Pine. Beth started cooking, filling a dairy case and a front counter with baked goods and prepared food. They were on the very leading edge of a new food revolution in the Pacific Northwest, with companies like Nancy’s Yogurt, Bob’s Red Mill and Kettle Chips just starting out, and soon they were rubbing shoulders with this new class of food entrepreneur.
It was the beginning of the microbrew explosion, too. In two years, they sold the market and moved back to Kalama, starting the iconic Pyramid Brewing Co. Tom made the beer; Beth made the money. She was just 30.
“There was a ton of creativity: signage, marketing, cooking, naming, branding … those were the things that sustained me through the long hours and hours on the road.” Her first child, Sterling, was born the month they took the lease out on the brewery building. Six years later, with second son Vance on the way, they sold the brewery and moved to a farm.
It was here that Beth began to explore Christianity.
“I’d grown up completely unchurched.” She started attending the Battle Ground Episcopal Church, and something awakened.
When the children were four and ten years old, Tom and Beth separated. She stayed near the farm for six years, caring for the boys on alternate weeks. She did whatever she could to work and still parent: catering, painting. Finally, when Vance started school, she took a job with a digital voice recording company in Bend, OR, and then moved to an exciting Bend start-up that was building a new kind of network based on GPS.
“It was the best job ever.” But the new start-up was short on cash, and soon, Beth was out of a job. Then 9/11 happened.
“I had a lot of interviews, but no one was hiring. That’s when I found a little take-out place to buy: sack lunches, breakfast to go, a one-girl shop, called ‘The Regular.’ I started connecting over the counter with my customers I saw every day. It was like Lucy’s five-cent advice.”
She started attending Trinity Episcopal in Bend, a large church where her skills took her into the kitchen to work out Family Kitchen, their plated meal program. “It was life changing in so many ways: connecting with community and the challenges of the homeless.” Beth said she always had a heart for volunteering but this was different. Between the church and her business, “My heart just burst open. Others are not just like me! Once that veil is pulled back, there is no going back.”
After six years, driving back and forth weekends to Battle Ground to see her boys, she decided she just needed to be closer. She sold The Regular and moved to Hood River to take a management job with Gorge Net. There, she met Kim Alan Miers, her husband now of eight years. “Yin to my yang,” she says.
Beth went to St. Marks, but the transition from Trinity was difficult. As the congregation’s Gorge Ecumenical Ministry representative, she met Pastor Vicky and John Boonstra, and connected to FISH food bank, the warming shelter and other believers in progressive congregations.
“I laugh, sometimes it’s just God’s humor. I had never heard Vicky preach, only gone to her for advice. And then Kim and I went to Riverside, and I got home and just laughed my head off. This is what I’ve been missing, and it was here all along!”
It was at Riverside that Beth realized her hands have been artists hands all along, too.
“I’ve always thought of myself as analytical with organizational skills, a distance view of time and motion. It always felt very left-brain to me. But then I did an exercise with a deck of cards called Calling Cards and discovered that every card in my hand is a creative card! Oh, I realized: all this dreaming and planning, these processes are creative! Who I was as an artist was who I had always been.”
Then Karen Harding asked her to make a piece of art for the sanctuary.
“I thought, ‘If Karen thinks I can, I can.’” Because she’d been unable to draw a horse in third grade, she was told she couldn’t be an artist. What she has learned, however, is that “art is for every single one of us if we get our heads out of the way.” That first project was a robe of healing, made of fabric, filled with lichen, that hung on the wall in the Riverside sanctuary.
She started singing with the Threshold Singers several years ago, too. “I hadn’t sung since I was 12. It was a plunge into our cultural world, and I realize how uptight we are, how many of us say we can’t sing, even though everyone else in the world sings.” She also serves on the Riverside Kitchen Team, applying her artist’s hands to food.
Today, most of her art is textiles. “Playing with color to me is like a toy box.” Her room in her home with Kim is filled with organized stacks of fabric: wool, silk, batik, often old garments that she is up-cycling.
“Sustainability has been my companion for years. There were many years I lived with very little. I hate making waste. More and more, that’s what calls me forward. I feel so strongly in these last three weeks that our focus can change, instead of buying new, to focus on reducing and reusing. Any time I am without, I love being challenged, that’s when the greatest creativity comes forward.”
Into hands that have always been artists hands, whether they knew it or not.
Maurine: Gratefulness Eases Pain of Isolation
She might grow up to be a doctor or a model. She loves hot dogs and misses eating Banku. She loves learning Spanish, but her original language was a Liberian English dialect. She has lived in big cities like Chicago and now lives in the small town of Cascade Locks. At 15, Maurine is a girl worth getting to know, not just for her diversity of experience, but for the spiritual side that has grown and nourished her through those transitions.
Maurine is admittedly shy, but she loves being around friends, and has had plenty of experience making them. She grew up in Ghana, but her dad came to the United States and she followed at age ten. She first lived in The Dalles for a year, then went to the Midwest, bounced back to Hood River, and now lives in Cascade Locks. She and her siblings and step-mother followed her dad and his work in the medical field. Finding friends along the way continues to be difficult, but with her love of track and sports, she connects through team activities.
Covid-19 has changed her ability to be with those friends, but for her 15th birthday on April 1, Maurine got her first cell phone. So she is enjoying some virtual connections, and joins the RCC youth on their bi-weekly Zoom meetings when she’s not studying. Online school is not her favorite, but her advanced AP classes are good, and she says, “I don’t like being bored, and I liked to be challenged.”
Maurine is also juggling being at home with four younger siblings who range from Maxine, who turns 8 on May 5, Muna, age 6, Mika, age 4 and baby Meerah, just a year old. She likes being a big sister for the fun times of playing together and talking to the younger girls, but at the same time, as a teenager, needs a little space, which they don’t always understand. But she says “you can always write in a journal” or take a walk or ride a bike to cope with the shelter-in-place restrictions that keep her family in tight quarters at home.
Besides those coping strategies, Maurine credits prayer with keeping her going during this time. She says the biggest influencers on her growing spirituality and prayer life have been her stepmom, Rachel, and dad, Maurice. She says they pray at dinner and at night before bed, and Maurine feels the purpose of prayer for her is “when you are feeling down on yourself, you can pray and it helps.” She also advises praying “when other people have something you don’t – you can pray about it and get some peace.”
But right now, Maurine is struck by how much her family does have compared to others. She doesn’t like watching the news for that very reason, and says she feels “really sad about people” and the situations of homelessness and hunger exacerbated by the pandemic. Watching the news, “make me cry,” so she avoids the headlines. Instead, she says what is helping is another spiritual tool she was taught by Rachel and her dad, which is, “to be grateful.”
And no matter where life takes her from here, Maurine will try to keep focusing on that attitude of gratitude.
Elaine: Beauty Queen Inside and Out
Elaine was born in Bound Brook, New Jersey and attended the University of Vermont where she majored in Home Economics. While in college, she met Scott, her future husband, and they were married a year after Elaine graduated. The wedding would have happened earlier except Elaine had won the Miss Vermont competition and was busy with her responsibilities associated with that title. She was thrilled to represent Vermont at the 1963 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, hosted by Bert Parks. [We know a celebrity!]
Elaine and Scott moved to Oregon where Scott took a position with the Oregon Extension Office in Salem, filling in a one-year sabbatical. During that year in Salem, Elaine enrolled at OSU and secured a Master of Science degree in Home Economics, specializing in Textiles & Clothing/Sociology. From Salem, Scott and Elaine moved to Woodburn, Oregon, for a job opportunity for Scott with the Birdseye Division of General Foods. There they bought their first home.
Both Erik and Kent, the Johnsons’ two sons, were born in Oregon, Erik in 1966 and Kent in 1968. In 1969, the family moved to Modesto, California, where Scott had been transferred by General Foods. Elaine became a Home Economics instructor at Modesto Junior College, where she enjoyed a 20-year career. During their time in Modesto, they traveled a lot, both nationally and internationally.
They were able to retire while still in their 50s, and during the 1990s they traveled to Hood River for several vacations, drawn by the excellent conditions for windsurfing. At one point, they vacationed for an entire summer in Hood River and, by the end of that vacation, Elaine wondered why they didn’t simply move here. Scott agreed and, in late June of 2001, they moved into their new home and proceeded with some major renovations. They scrambled and were able to host Erik’s wedding in that home in August. Thus began a new life in Hood River where they enjoyed not only windsurfing, but also water skiing, fishing, and snow skiing. Although Scott and Elaine did not take up snow skiing until midlife, Elaine still enjoys cruising down the trails at Mt. Hood.
She lost Scott in 2014, but during their previous years in Hood River, she and Scott hosted six exchange students through the Lions Club Student Exchange Program. The young women, each of whom traveled to the U.S. for six weeks during the summer, came from Denmark, Italy, Austria, and Yugoslavia.
Elaine remains an active member of the Hood River Lions Club where she and Scott both served as officers and in various board positions over the years. In addition, she serves on the board of the Hood River History Museum and has been a staunch supporter of the various arts programs in Hood River.
At Riverside Church, Scott and Elaine were an active team when it came to decorating for any of the church’s fundraisers, especially the annual Spring Fling. Since Scott’s passing, Elaine has remained an active member of the leadership team that creates and presents the Spring Fling. She has served on the Diaconate and on the church Council, has volunteered as a Sunday School leader, participated in the programs at Camp Adams each fall, and was (with Scott) a key supporter of the Fresh Start Culinary Arts Program that resulted in the upgraded commercial kitchen at Riverside.
Elaine was raised a Presbyterian, and while they were in California, the Johnsons attended a Presbyterian church fairly regularly. When she and Scott moved to Hood River, they began church shopping, with Riverside Church being their first stop in the process. They never left. Susan Princehouse was pastor at the time, Vicky Stifter followed Susan, and the Johnsons loved our worship services. Today, what Elaine likes best about Riverside is the community involvement, the social justice focus, and the concern for the welfare of wildlife and the environment.