Sunday, September 22, 2013

Happy 2nd birthday, Lena!

The Hamiltons are back in the U.S.!  Stories and pics from Lena's first overseas trip to Spain are coming soon!!

Turns out I'm not the only one who gets a birthday blog post this month.  Remembering last year's skydiving and other birthday craziness (links) can be fun and all, but we saved the most important birthday for last: Lena turning two years old!

A small gathering of friends and family showed up for Lena's early birthday party earlier this month.  The rainy week turned summery again just in time for us to move the party to our back yard.  If only our terrific Warner Pacific alumni barbecue had enjoyed that same perfect timing the night before!

Lena has picked up some confidence in the candle blowing-out department since her first birthday party (link) last September.

Of course, Lena's gift unwrapping skills have also improved markedly since last year...

...although her little friends Reagan, Jaron, and Sami were always ready to cheerfully assume the gift opening duties whenever Lena lost focus.

Yet the party raged on, so to speak.

This was the type of party that Kathy and I need to get used to.  Not just parties for adults, or for our teenage students.  Not just parties that are all about us.  We now celebrate something even better:  Lena, our precious gift from God!

Photo by Laura Meyer

Happy 2nd birthday, Lena!!

On her actual birthday, a sleepy 2 year old Lena looks ready for her nap.

Coming next week on Garth's Blog...
Camping and boating at Banks Lake, WA!

And then, this week's adventure...

Lena's first trip to Europe!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Post-Skydiving! A birthday throwback, Pt 2

From Tuesday:

Happy birthday, Lena!  Our baby girl is two years old today!  We'll have a special birthday post for Lena this weekend.  But first... Here is Part 2 of last year's skydiving birthday weekend!

One of last year's post-skydiving birthday hikes with Kathy and an 11 month old Lena

Jumping out of a plane was just the beginning!  The skydiving action may have taken place the day before my actual birthday last year (Check out the insane skydiving stories and pics from Pt. 1 here!), but we kept the party going all weekend. We managed to work in rock wall climbing, hiking in the Columbia Gorge, go carts, laser tag, worshipping with our church family, a party, multiple coffee/lunch/dinner get togethers with friends, a Los Lobos concert, and taking a leap out of an airplane flying above 12,000 feet!

My throwback birthday post was so long that I had to split it into two parts.  Enjoy the rest of last year’s birthday weekend below:

Saturday: Post-Skydiving

DSC_0970 (2)_edited-2
Chilling for a spell:  My high from skydiving would take all weekend to come down from.

On Saturday evening, after another post-skydiving lunch with friends, we invited some buddies to hit up a local music festival with us.


Pepe and the Bottle Blondes played a crowd pleasing opener, and the always versatile Los Lobos turned the Tualatin Valley Parks Center field into a giant dance floor.

Basking in the music and sunshine

We eventually broke free from the crowd's bilingual grooving to mellow out on the lawn with our adorable Lena.

Sunday: My real birthday

Worshiping with our church family at Aloha Church of God was the perfect way to start out my birthday morning.  I thank Jesus for every wonderful year that He has given me so far, and especially for the past year with Kathy and Lena.  Life just keeps getting better and better.  What better place to give thanks than at the church where God has called us into student ministry since 2001?  We love those people.

Bullwinkles Fun Center in Wilsonville was the place to be that afternoon.  Admission to all activities was covered by the Portland Clinic for any of us who checked in for Kathy's company picnic.  We took full advantage of our all access passes!




Several rounds of laser tag ("No running!"), carnie type games, and tummy stuffers later, we left Bullwinkles and drove out to the Columbia River Gorge for some late afternoon hiking.



Hiking a couple of Gorge trails near Bridal Veil Falls

As daylight began to run out...


...we headed to McMenamins Edgefield for my birthday dinner.  The timing was right for enjoying a private outdoor concert afterwards, on the sly.  If only we had been on the guest list!

Before returning home for the night, we walked away from the lights for a better view of the starry nighttime sky above.  The faint sounds of live music still hung in the air.  Peace.


A birthday weekend like this could easily rank among my best ever.  My birthday itself, perfect as it was, was predictably overshadowed by our high altitude stunt (link) from the day before.  But that's not a slam on my amazing birthday in the slightest, especially considering how my family and friends made my entire weekend so special.

After all, I had just jumped out of a FREAKING airplane!  Cheers to making my first skydiving jump the first of many.

Bonus Pic:

A Chevy's birthday dinner with the fam, later that week:  I think we found a new look for baby Lena.

Coming next weekend on Garth's Blog...

A celebration of Lena's 2nd birthday!

No pics? Blame the F word.

Hi friends!  Garth's Blog is having technical difficulties.  Thanks for your patience.  The narrative and photos from my "Pt. 2" conclusion to last week's skydiving weekend post has been completed and ready to publish here for quite a while now.  However, Flickr continues to hold my unreleased "private" photos hostage.  For shame!

Lame tech-y details:  Many, but not even close to all, of the older photos you saw on Garth's Blog in the past were actually hosted on my Flickr page.  In order for any of the Flickr photos to appear here, I needed to change their individual privacy settings to "public."  Recently, a bug on the Flickr website (no, not the updated, infamously slow-loading Flickr redesign that launched in May) has stopped allowing me to do that.  The problem has already been noted on the Flickr help forums.  Your move, Flickr.

[2:50 p.m. update: Problem fixed!  But not before being unexpectedly (incident removed- I regret not using better judgment when I hastily posted this update.  Although I stand behind my original comments that the angry Flickr forum user who attacked me could use a hug)).    Gotta love the strange, intimidating world of internet forums!]

In the meantime, join me by releasing a frustrated scream of solidarity... and enjoy the stories from my previous post:  Skydiving!  A birthday throwback, Pt. 1.  I'll probably switch back to uploading my photos to BlogSpot directly for future posts, cutting Flickr out of the loop again.  Still love that site, but lesson learned.

Coming YESTERDAY on Garth’s Blog…

Our skydiving birthday throwback continues--



--with rock wall climbing, hiking, go carting, laser tag, worshiping, dancing, partying, and more!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Skydiving! A birthday throwback, Pt. 1

This is my unpublished skydiving blog post from August 2012, originally to be titled “Freefalling: A 13,000 Foot Birthday Plunge.”   Now that we’re home from our Mexico mission trip (link- photos to come later!) and Banks Lake camping/boating weekend, I just couldn’t wait any longer to upload this.

Last year’s birthday skydiving weekend was so full of thrills that I decided to edit this post down AND split it into two parts!  Part two should be finished soon, stuffed with photos, and uploaded here by next weekend.  Just for kicks, click here for this year’s low key birthday week.  Admittedly, it’s hard to outdo yourself after you jump out of a plane!

Skydive Oregon:  Bro and sis walk away triumphantly from the drop zone

Skydiving topped my list of birthday weekend adventures this year… and we squeezed in A LOT last weekend:  rock wall climbing, hiking in the Columbia Gorge, go carts, laser tag, worshipping with our church family, a party, multiple coffee/lunch/dinner get togethers with friends, a Los Lobos concert, and taking a leap out of an airplane flying above 12,000 feet!  By my math, this all added up to one adrenaline pumping time!

A few months ago, I had assembled a skydiving posse just large enough to score a group discount: my sister Summer and me, Andrew and Melissa, and Austin and Emily.  Strangers to each other, they at least knew me and shared my thirst for thrills (but not necessarily my fear of heights).

Getting Psyched

The day before Austin’s and my birthday, the crew assembled at Skydive Oregon in Molalla for the big plunge.  Kathy, Lena, and some other friends and family were ready to cheer for us near the drop zone.

Andrew, Melissa, Summer, Garth, Emily, and Austin prepare to take the big plunge at Skydive Oregon


On the ground, our instructor Terry led us through the motions and answered our questions.  Dang it, flipping out of the plane wouldn’t be allowed.  We had already signed a few novella-length liability waivers which suggested countless ways to usher in an untimely death/paralysis/dismemberment while skydiving, so what more did we have to lose?


An eternity seemed to pass as we waited for our plane to swing around to pick us up.


As our group marched across the taxiway to board the plane, a Skydive Oregon rep intercepted me by the fuselage to break the disappointing news:  my video/camera guy wouldn’t be jumping with me to grab that sweet mid-air footage of my free fall.

A fleeting tinge of disappointment was almost immediately flushed away as I embraced the bigger picture:  This was about to happen!  This was happening!!



Words cannot express the paralyzing fear that gripped me as our plane slowly climbed to jumping altitude, between 12,000-13,000 feet.   The boarding door was left wide open for a few minutes, revealing the grassy fields below us as they got smaller and smaller.  Shutting the door subdued the outside noise but did nothing to erase that terrifying imagery from my mind.  The agonizing anticipation, even dread, of facing my fear of heights would turn out to be the scariest part.  Little did I know that the worst was almost behind us.

The moment of truth

Just below 13,000 feet, the boarding door slid open again.  The camera person sitting in front of me disappeared into the light, followed by his seat mate.  With Terry and our parachute strapped to my back, I was next.

We scooted up to the airplane door.  I dangled my feet outside, curled my legs under the plane, and anticipated Terry’s final instructions.

Shockingly, there were none.  No countdown, no dramatic pause, no moment of soul searching.  Only our predetermined “go” signal… a quick pat on the shoulder.   Without a second of hesitation, we fell away from the plane.

The initial drop was so intense that I forgot I was supposed to be scared.  My stomach leaped into my throat as gravity yanked us downward.  The cold air pummeled our faces and sucked the air out of my lungs.  The sound was deafening.

That early sensation of free falling quickly faded into weightlessness.  The most surprising part was how not scary it was.  At all.  Any fear I would’ve felt was overcome by exhilaration. 

Granted, we were still plummeting to Earth at terminal velocity.  Those tiny, grassy fields were getting bigger and bigger again at an alarmingly quick clip.  But it was peaceful, almost euphoric.  I never wanted it to end.

 Parachutes Away!

Terry deployed our parachute after a couple minutes, bringing our free fall to a screeching stop.  It almost felt like we were being sucked back up into the sky.  We could finally communicate without screaming, but there was no need for words.  Looking around at the mountains, forests, and fields below left me speechless.  And the view from above was magnificent.

So how far could I push this?  At my request, Terry indulged me in some light tomfoolery as we drifted toward the ground.  He knew the physical limits of our parachute, and I had absolute trust in his 20+ years of skydive instructor experience.  We stayed within the rules, but I jumped at the chance to get a little more bang for my birthday buck.


Jumping out of a perfectly good plane: Summer (in the pink parachute) passes up her big brother (I’m just above her, in the yellow) because I just couldn’t resist some mid-air messing around.

As the ground drew closer, Terry advised me to prepare for a hard landing.  It wasn’t so bad.  In fact, our touchdown was much lighter than the brutal impact I absorbed in Jamaica years ago, while landing my parasail onto a private boat in Montego Bay.

I pose ridiculously and brace for impact!



My sister Summer, my friends, and I all walked away from the drop zone that morning with a new appreciation for being alive.  I had tackled my fear of heights like never before, head on.

The other Garth scheduled to jump that day—yes, we met a random tall guy at Skydive Oregon who only made the cut for this blog because his name is Garth--had no idea what he was about to get into!

11 month old Lena and the two Garths

The after-party begins

Kathy, Lena, and the gang headed back into town for a “what in the name of Middle Earth did we just do?!” lunch at Jasper’s CafĂ© to decompress, followed by Austin’s and my obligatory free birthday coffees at Dutch Bros.

Dutch Bros birthday freebies for Austin and me… with some free pizza (?) inexplicably thrown in for good measure

Amusingly enough, the barista asked if Austin and I were non-identical twin brothers.  Not so much.  Failing to notice how haggard I must have looked from my extreme lack of sleep, she then earnestly asked which one of us was older.  Flattered, I was speechless.  Austin is still in his early-20s.

The smile on my face only got bigger as I drove Austin and Emily home in the Jeep.  The rush of skydiving was even more intense than I could’ve imagined.  And my birthday weekend was just getting started!

Coming this Tuesday on Garth’s Blog…

Our birthday throwback continues--



--with rock wall climbing, hiking, go carting, laser tag, worshipping, dancing, partying, and more!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Video: Twerking 9 to 5

Twerking for a living?

I've resisted clicking on this outspoken video response to Miley Cyrus' controversial performance at the VMA's all week, despite it's persistent badgering in my Facebook newsfeed.  Turns out it's well worth checking out, and the good stuff begins at 0:36.

I'm not really into the potential victim-blaming and "public shaming" aspects of Jae Tracie's rant, but it's encouraging to hear from a woman who doesn't confuse self-worth with cheap sexual provocation.  A woman who respects herself enough to call for class, restraint. and reasonable modesty certainly stands out among the masses.  Isn't that a good and noble thing?

And guys (I do have male readers, right?):  Are we letting women know that we value them as more than mere objects for our own gratification?  Are you single fellas choosing to be true gentleman by encouraging the ladies to respect their own bodies?

And do we married dudes make a conscious, daily effort to have eyes only for our wives?  Are we showing our precious wives that we value them for their whole being-- emotional, spiritual, physical, mental, AND sexual?

It's safe to assume that many of us (myself included) could use help adjusting our casual attitudes towards sexuality, both guys and gals.  So...  Ladies: Keep it classy.  Fellas: Let's work together to end the uncaring, misogynist objectification of women.

Oh, and in case you didn't read the BIG NEWS on my blog last week... Kathy and I are having a baby boy in January!!

Coming tomorrow night on Garth's Blog...


Never before seen action pics and stories from last year's birthday skydiving!!