Saturday, June 29, 2013

Father's Day photos- The Outtakes

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Father's Day then:  Last year on my first Father's Day, I opened up my card and presents on the floor with 9 month old Lena after church...

...And Father's Day now: Last Sunday, our family honored Bo and I to a Father's Day lunch at Famous Dave's Barbecue.  Lena is 21 1/2 months old!

Father's Day may have been last week, but celebrating the joys of fatherhood never ends!  Some photos were recently added to last week's popular Father's Day week photo spectacular post (link).  However, a few readers have let me know that they are still clamoring for us to unlock a few more.

By popular demand, here are some all new, less-then-perfect Daddy-Daughter moments that didn't make the cut last week:

Can Daddy have a moment every now and then to play a quick PS3 video game?  "I don't think so, Daddy!"

Daddy and Lena are both working through issues:

Lena's still trying to kick the habit of pulling down Daddy's hat whenever it's within her reach...


...But then again, Daddy could stand to be a bit more cautious when backpacking with Lena in her baby pack!

And remember last week's photo of Lena pulling back the shower curtain on Daddy?  Here's another one from a different morning:
Lena still does that, leaving a wet, soapy Daddy to wrestle the shower curtain away from her AND resist her pleas for hugs!

For better or worse, Kathy and I agree that Lena is definitely a daddy’s girl.  Sometimes Lena gets so distracted by Daddy that we can't even get her to look at the camera!  For example...

There were so many of these photos to choose from, but these pics gave us the most warm fuzzies:

4 month old Lena looks lovingly at Daddy after being babysat by Grandma Susan (patiently trying to make Lena look at the camera) during a night out on the town

Lena looking at Daddy instead of the camera on the airplane...

...And at Brandon England's SST high school graduation...

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...And while saying goodbye to Daddy’s “No Shave November” beard

No matter which direction Lena's eyes are looking, we know that Lena's heart is full of love for God and her adoring parents.

And that makes me one happy Daddy!

Coming next week on Garth's Blog...

Camping and hiking in the Olympic Mountains!!

And later...

Part 3- Japan: Deer maulings and a Golden Week festival in Nara!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Father's Day week photo spectacular!

Loyal readers:  My travelogue from last month’s Golden Week adventures in Japan and beyond will resume soon!  Here are the links to catch you up on the story so far:

Lena sits on Daddy's surfboard at Short Sands beach

My Mother’s Day Tribute to Kathy post last month got me thinking.  Garth’s Blog has yet to run an exclusive Daddy-Daughter blog post, and there are dozens of pictures of Lena and I from the past year that have never publicly seen the light of day.

Several of my favorite, previously unreleased photos of Lena and me from the past year are below.  A few of these may look familiar to those who can access Kathy's Facebook page, but most of these pics are all new:

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Lena, 15 months old, tries to pull the curtain open while Daddy takes a shower.  Every morning!

Playing with 14 month old Lena on the floor at home-- Kathy made this pic her "Cover Photo"!

Saying goodbye to Daddy’s “No Shave November” beard

16 ½ month old Lena and Daddy at Brent and Cheryl’s pre-wedding dinner party in Bend (link)...

...And at Brent and Cheryl’s wedding reception the following night (link)


Daddy brings gifts home for Lena from Osaka, Japan... The story of last month's trip to Japan and Micronesia will continue at the beginning of July on Garth's Blog!

   Daddy and a nearly 20 month old Lena on the floor

Daddy and 20 month old Lena at the Oregon Zoo last month (link)


Now, let's go vintage with some even older Daddy-Daughter pics.  Somehow, these are also just now being unlocked and are appearing here for the first time!

5 1/2 month old Lena and Daddy share some happy bonding time on the floor after work.
This is one of my favorites!

Before my morning jog, I fed and read aloud to Lena the Exodus story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea from my Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0, at the McCoy's house in Santa Maria (link).

Daddy rocks Lena, nearly 6 months old, to sleep.

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After staying up all night working at Delta and then going to church, Daddy crashes hard with Lena on the couch. Our friend on Facebook commented: If they were to both open their eyes, they would be looking right at each other!

Lena, 8 months old, climbs into bed with Daddy for a late morning nap.

Playing with Lena as she opens gifts from one of Daddy's Tokyo trips (link), on Kathy's birthday

Daddy helps Lena open up presents during her 1st birthday party (link).  Isn't it hard to believe that Lena's 2nd birthday is coming up in 2 1/2 months?

There are so many other adorable new photos that could be unlocked and shared, but this is a good start.  Stay tuned for my upcoming hiking blog post for a roundup of the past year's outdoor adventures with Lena.

I love being a daddy!!

Coming next week on Garth's Blog...

Father's Day photos- The Outtakes!!

And later...

Part 3- Japan: Deer maulings and a Golden Week festival in Nara!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Part 2- Japan: Golden Week in Osaka

Continuing our story from Part 1-  China: Shot Down (link)...

Shitenno-ji Temple in Osaka, Japan

The scheme I had hatched for an extended weekend in Beijing, China had fizzled in a big way.  I thanked God for a job at Delta Airlines that allows me nearly unlimited travel options.  Never one to take my ball and go home, I redirected my energy towards Kyoto, Japan.

My Japanese friends had warned me against visiting the country during the ever-crowded Golden Week.  Reportedly, even the locals have difficulties getting around and finding accommodations!  How could I resist the challenge?


Shortly after landing in Osaka, I discovered that all of Kyoto's hostels were booked solid through the end of the week.  And the hotels.  Even if I stayed within the city of Osaka, the Guesthouse Tennoji hostel had the only bed available in the whole region... for a single night.  One night down, one to go.

Surely I could hunt down a room somewhere within an 1 1/2  hour train ride from Osaka or Kyoto to sleep the following night, right?

The Kansai airport/train station displayed one of the more thoughtful rail maps (mostly in Japanese) that I've seen in my travels, visually simplifying a potentially confusing fare and transfer system. Combined with my free city map, no directions were necessary for any of my stops.  And my hostel was just a few minutes walking distance from the prominent Tennoji train station!

Here are a few photos from that afternoon, snapped while making my way across Osaka to the Guesthouse Tinnoji hostel:

The Guesthouse Tennoji Hostel

Planning ahead for Operation: Nightlife, I arrived at the hostel (pictured above and below) and immediately started scouring the bunks for willing accomplices for a later evening jaunt into the Dotombori district.  Although all the beds were booked solid, few other backpackers had checked in yet.  Xia, a Chinese graduate from Australia, was a perfect candidate.  He was no stranger to wild nights, and he would try to recruit other hostelers to join us while I went out sightseeing.

Checking in at the Guesthouse Tennoji hostel:  This is my well-traveled day bag, propped up next to the folded sleeping pad for a moment before I continued my Osaka sightseeing.  I didn't even have to share a bunk bed!  This certainly beats the Tokyo capsule that I slept in last year (link to "Tokyo Drifting, Pt. 1").

Osaka Castle, the Umeda Sky Building, and Shinsekai were all within running distance.  Hey, I was short on time.  The time spent with new friends at the hostel left few opportunities to slow down for pictures.  The sun was just about to drop as I jogged into the courtyards of everyone's recommended point of interest: Shitenno-ji Temple.

The last hour of daylight was used up at the 6th century (albeit mostly recreated) Shitenno-ji Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan.  After watching the sunset, I walked back to my hostel in the dark to rally the troups for our party in the making

Xia and I were game for some rowdiness, but no one else in our hostel took the bait. Most of our fellow backpackers played the exhaustion card.  The Nebraskans sharing my loft upstairs had apparently partied too hard the night before.  And some were too worried about where they would be sleeping 24 hours later (as I should have been, seeing as our hostel and every hostel in the Osaka area was overbooked the next night).  It would be a not-so-low-key bros' night out.

Did I mention it was Golden Week?  A Japanese friend back home in Portland had described Golden Week as "the most crowded time to visit Japan, with the streets completely overflowing with drunk Japanese people."  Her memories weren't too far from the truth, but no local I asked could satisfactorily explain the reason for the season.

Dissuaded by the dense crowds in our own Tennoji district, Xia and I abandoned our ambitions for seeking out nightlife in Dotombori (including a club name that is absurdly unsuitable for print- lost in translation, we assume?).  Instead, we headed to a nearby hot spot with a mere a 20 minute entrance queue, and waited to get inside.  And so the night began!

 Gotta love Xia.  He's such a great guy!

Shawn, Ritsuko, Kate, Aiko, Jim, and other friends along the way made my time in Osaka even more colorful.  I could write more about things getting ridiculously out of hand.  But I'll quit while I'm ahead.

This travelogue series will resume at a later date.  I'll be busy with other trips in the near future.  But I promise:

Coming later this year on Garth's Blog...

Part 3- Japan: Deer maulings and a Golden Week festival in Nara!

But first...

A Father's Day week photo spectacular!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Part 1- China: Shot Down

The Forbidden City in Beijing: Definitely next time!   Photo credit: Jacob Mee's Flickr photostream.

Part 1 of 5

(Or, the continuation of my "Beijing in My Sights" blog post)
(Or, Part 1 of my Asia travelogue series, sorely missing the cool overseas photos coming in Parts 2-5)

Unintentionally, my blog post titles about a hopeful China visit have maintained a misconstrued warfare motif... "Beijing In My Sights" and "China: Shot Down," anyone?  What's next?  "Aiming for Beijing?"  Actually, that WILL be the title chronicling my next attempt to visit China.

My convoluted scheme for a 72 hour visit to China "in transit" without paying for a visa seemed foolproof.  Although frowned upon by nearly every ticket counter agent I encountered, most employees conceded that the plan was fully legal.  A tad risky and complicated, but legal.  I had carefully assembled the various documentation to prove it.

For reasons I won't specify, my plan required me to depart from Seattle airport on a day that I was working at PDX.  I used a lunch break to purchase a standby flight pass on Alaskan Air, finished my shift at Delta, hastily completed a crucial shift bid after work, got involved in a minor security-related scuffle, and barely checked in in time for my flight to Seattle.

PDX airport, after my Delta work shift:  My Alaskan Airlines flight bump-a-thon to Seattle

Oversold.  I got bumped to the next flight.  Then the next flight.  Then the next flight.  Five flights later, I finally nabbed a seat out of Portland.


Landing in Seattle several hours late, I was still optimistic about making my connection to Beijing.  Making that connection, however, would mandate sprinting through the Sea-Tac concourse like a madman.  And sprint I did.

Gasping for air, I dashed into the Beijing departure gate just before the final boarding call.  The gate agent begrudgingly signed off on my travel plans, although she was clearly skeptical and disavowed responsibility for the outcome.

Unforeseen Problem:  All of us standby passengers had seat assignments (and the others had already boarded), but the airplane was overloaded with cargo.  Clutching my worthless boarding pass, I helplessly watched as my fellow non-rev passengers were unceremoniously deplaned.

My flight to Beijing needed to lose some weight before I could board.  I'm such a fatty!  

It was getting late, and the next flight to Beijing wouldn't leave Sea-Tac for two more days.  Extending my long weekend into a full week away from baby Lena wasn't an option.  Kathy and Lena would be home from Salem by Saturday night.  It was time to admit defeat.


My relative Eileen was gracious enough to pick me up from Sea Tac and allow me to crash overnight at her triplex, near the University of Washington.  We had the best of times catching up on life since Brent and Cheryl's February wedding in Bend (wedding party blog links here and here)!

Early the next morning, Eileen dropped me off near the Seattle light rail line on her way to work at the U of W campus.  It wasn't really on her way... but with a heart as big as hers, it didn't seem to matter.

Plan B was already in motion.  En route to Seattle the evening before, I had scoured the Delta flight schedules on my Galaxy Note 2 for alternate options.  Osaka, Japan was a wide-open route, and Kyoto should be an easy train ride away from Osaka.

Problem: The immensely popular Golden Week festival was underway in Japan.  I would be a fool to visit Kyoto on such a frenetic, crowded week without plans, lodging, or a confirmed seat!

Opportunity: See "Problem," above.  I couldn't resist!

A couple hours later, I scored a seat in the Business Elite cabin to Osaka.  I was on my way to Kyoto for Golden Week!

Coming Monday night on Garth's Blog...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Update:  New pics were recently added to last week's “Lena’s First Zoo Visit” blog post (link).

One thing I'll miss about my early morning shift at Delta: Catching these gorgeous sunrises at PDX airport!

Thank you, Delta Airlines, for keeping me employed 17 years as of today!  Yesterday was the start of my new sleep-friendly Delta work schedule.  I already feel like a brand new man!

That means goodbye to waking up at 2:30 each morning for work.  Au revoir to scraping by on 3.5 hours of sleep a night.  Arrivederci to reduced intensity workouts compromised by extreme sleep deprivation.  Adios to looking and feeling like my actual grownup age!

And what to do with all of this anticipated energy, renewal, and vigor?  Here’s a hint:  God, family, friends, and coworkers are about to witness the Garth that has been long forgotten.  The real Garth.  I’m ready to start feeling like myself again.  Physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally--   I’m ready to whip myself into the best shape of my life!

This new schedule will require squeezing in significantly more hours for (and commuting to) work than in previous years.  But the time left over will be consumed by loving, living, serving, and adventuring.  And that’s what Garth’s Blog is all about! 

Here's a small taste of what's coming in the next month or so on Garth's Blog...

Camping and hiking in the Olympic National Forest... and other outdoor adventures!

Lena's first visit to Enchanted Forest!

A Daddy-Daughter photo blowout for Father's Day!

And premiering tomorrow night on Garth's Blog...

An outrageous, five part travelogue on how my attempted weekend in China led to the temporary seizure of my U.S. passport in Micronesia last month!!