Monday, November 7, 2016

Judge Neal Lemery Publishes New Book


Neal Lemery, retired Tillamook County Justice of the Peace, has published a new book. Homegrown Tomatoes: Essays and Musings From My Garden explores mentoring youth through gardening and other teaching opportunities.

“Growing young people is much like tending a garden,” Lemery says. “We can all make a difference in the lives of young people, helping them grow strong and self-confident.”

Judge Lemery will read from his book and offer his book for sale at the Five Rivers Coffee Roasters author panel and book fair in Tillamook November 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Homegrown Tomatoes is available on as an e-book and paperback.

 Lemery is the author of Mentoring Boys to Men: Climbing Their Own Mountains and is a volunteer mentor at the Tillamook campus of the Oregon Youth Authority. His book emphasizes community and enriching the lives of young men, by being present in their lives, and offering them support and emotional strength.

He offers us hope in troubled times, and helps answer the question: "What can I do to make a better world?"

“This new collection of short, powerful essays and poetry took me by surprise, nevertheless. I found myself moved to tears, uplifted, inspired, and even sometimes exalted as I read. I devoured HomegrownTomatoes in one sitting. These musings will inspire readers to look with new eyes at their own backyards and to dream of new ways to take action as peacemakers in our own communities.” says Rhonda Case, MA, Professor, College of the Redwoods.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Revealing Otolith

                                    The Revealing Otolith

            Heard at the Tillamook Bay Watershed Council, October 25, 2016:

            “Therein lies the story.”

            The biologist, Dr. Daniel Bottoms, speaks about the salmon in the river he’d studied for ten years, how they lived, and how their habitat changed after dikes were removed and estuaries are regaining their primordial way of life.

            Research is showing that the assumed cycles of life and old assumptions grew more complex.
            Much is revealed in the otolith, a bone found in the sensory organs, the “ears” of salmon. It grows every day. A new layer of bone is added, much like a tree ring.  In each day, there is the record of the nutrients consumed, growth, the salinity of the water. 

            Scientists analyze the rings and measure the amounts of strontium, a telltale sign of salt water. 
            He talks of estuaries and restoration efforts, man trying to undo what has been done in the last one hundred and fifty years, hoping to bring back the number of salmon, strengthening species and the various runs in a particular river and estuarine system.  Estuaries provide a varied mix of salt and fresh water, nutrients, and food populations.

            Oregon has twenty estuaries, ranging from a few miles to 148 miles on the mighty Columbia, from the ocean to the head of tidal influence.  Within those systems, a wide spectrum of salinity, and complex “detrital based food webs”. 

            What is learned is that within a species, within a particular run of salmon on a particular river, there are up to six varieties of life histories.  There is diversity in numbers and adaptability.  Resilience is directly related to habitat, the more diverse the better. Both genetics and environment are major players in their lives.

            In the Salmon  River estuary, north of Lincoln City, Oregon, various marshes have been restored over a 30 year period.  In restored areas, salmon tend to spend more time, and life histories become more diverse.  Food becomes more plentiful and diverse. 

            Depending on the environment, salmon can shift their life behaviors, thus ensuring their survival and their success. 

            In the Salmon River estuary, 70% of the Chinook population has significantly benefitted from estuary restoration, but only 30% of the coho have significantly benefitted.

            Old hypotheses have been revised, and there are more questions to be answered. All of the research reveals more of the complexity of the life of salmon and more questions.

            Tillamook Bay is now undergoing significant estuary restoration, with 528 acres undiked and tide gates and other barriers removed.  This is the largest estuary restoration project in Oregon. We aren’t sure what this will mean to salmon in this watershed but the changes are significant. 

Pathways to Resilience: Sustaining Salmon Ecosystems in a Changing World, Bottom, et al, Editors, (Oregon State University Sea Grant, 2011)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Defining Family

            "What IS family, then?" The young man asked. 

            He's getting out in less than a year, and we were talking about his plans for when he is "out" and life no longer has the physical limits of being "locked up". 

            Going home is not the most attractive of his choices.  There, old ways, old relationships, and old expectations for how he is to live and move ahead in life are all in play.  He's no longer a young teen, struggling with addictions and bad choices, and the labels that comes with the mistake he made at a tender age, the mistake that cost him his freedom. He's earned a fresh start, and be able to move ahead without the baggage of prejudgment and assumptions.  He's not who he was, and he's rightfully proud of that accomplishment. 

            Yes, being "inside" has given him many opportunities, and he had taken advantage of them, growing into a smart, sensitive, and thoughtful young man.  A young man I'd be proud to call a son and live with me, become part of my family.

            He's looking ahead, and looking for options,  possibilities for a new life, moving ahead with his life and seeking his dreams.  At the core of that is being part of family.

            So what IS family?  Yes, the first, quick answer is the biological answer: the family I was born into.  Yet, family can be and probably should be so much more. 

            Being a part of a family is a choice, a conscious, deliberate choice. We can do that in many ways.

            When we marry, we intentionally create a new family, blended or mixed from both spouses' biological families, or the families each partner is currently a part.  We mix it up, sometimes adding kids and also adding in-laws, and close friends from both sides of the marriage.  New rules and new expectations emerge, along with new dynamics. 

            New territory and new challenges await us as we navigate these fresh and often turbulent waters. 

            What is it that this young man needs, what I need, in a family?

            We made a list: love, respect, a place in which to belong, be accepted, nurtured, cherished.  A place to grow as well as a place that you come home to after a day out in the world, being challenged and jostled.  A place that takes you for who you are.  A place where there's a chair and a table setting just for you at dinner. 

            "We each need to make our own family," I said.  "And the definition needs to fit what we need, creating a place where we grow to our full potential." 

            My young friend has figured it out.  He knows what a family is, the family he needs and wants, a place where he will flourish.  Like all of us, he just needs permission to seek that out, and be good to himself, to find his very own family, creating his own happiness. 

            And, yes, its OK to want that, and its OK to make sure that having that good family is part of our lives, helping every one of us at achieve our dreams and live a productive, love filled life. 

-- Neal Lemery 9/30/2016


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Suicide: Getting to Resilient


            Five percent.  One out of twenty.  That’s the reality of our community, our country.  Within the last year, one out of twenty adults seriously considered ending their life.

            Suicide.  It is an epidemic, and we don’t talk about it much.  Suicide talk is taboo.  Don’t go there.  But, we must.   

            Every person needs to be connected to at least one other person, and to be able to reach out, talk about depression, sadness, and hopelessness.  We all need hope, an expectation that there is a tomorrow, there is opportunity for change, that our lives make a difference, and that life is worth living. Life’s problems can’t be only on our own shoulders. 

            Last week, I was part of a workshop, getting trained with skills to take on this intensely personal problem, to be a first responder in addressing suicide in our culture.  Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is a national movement to develop a first response model in our communities.  Evidence based models and techniques gave us the tools and the confidence to reach out and connect with someone who is possibly contemplating ending their life. 

            Invite a conversation, and plunge into the “perfect storm” that is roaring through their lives, and make connection.  When the signs are there, find the courage to “ask the question” and begin talking about suicide, and options for change, connecting them with you and connecting them with resources to be able to move ahead with their lives, and regain hope. 

            Suicidal thoughts have stormed through my own life, sometimes ending lives far too early, or paralyzing people with deep depression and isolation.  Surviving family and friends are wracked with uncertainly and chaos, leaving profound questions unanswered and lives thrown off track. 

            Making connections is what changes lives and saves lives.  What I’ve learned in life, and relearned at the ASIST training, is that you do connect.  You do reach out, engage people, and show your genuine concern for them and their well-being.  You connect with your own humanity and your fellows, and make that vital one to one connection. 

            Showing concern and empathy, and making that connection often saves lives and gives people a new sense of hope and possibility in their lives. 

            Help make them safe now, and help them develop their plan to be safe now.

            When you have that conversation, make those connections, one to one.  And, help them connect with others; not only with friends and family, but professional care givers and health care providers.  Be the gatekeeper for them and help them find their way. 

            The National Suicide Prevention Hot Line, 1-800-243-8255(TALK) is a  valuable resource. I’ve added it to my phone contacts.  Other resources:, Youthline (1-877-YOUTH-911) and their text: TEEN2TEEN@839863.

            Connect with your local mental health services provider.  In my hometown, Tillamook, their crisis line is 800-962-2851.

            All of these services operate 24 hours a day, because suicide is a 24 hour a day issue of community wide concern. 

            Help build a resilient, safe community.

            ----Neal Lemery 9/1/2016 
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