“Deep Dive” by Paul Haeder
Note — Ahh, the vagaries of working for small town (or even big town) news organs. So, here is the scam — I started the column, Deep Dive (my idea, my pitch, my creativity, my reporting, my deep dive into people’s lives. That was June 2019. For the not-so-illustrious Oregon Coast Today.. As a writer, my philosophy is to write! No matter where. Did some of my columns in the puny Oregon Coast Today resonate, and did some of them reach the level of “greatness” whereby the coulda/shoulda been published to a wider audience?
Yep. But life isn’t so simple — good writer (me); seasoned reporter (me); well-traveled thinker (me); taking it outside the box doer (me) will not in most cases get the big prize or brass ring of “journalism” (whatever that is now with AI, and aggregating news [sic] sites flooding Google, Facebook, the WWW.).
Will these Deep Dives live long over at Oregon Coast Today? Nope. But, I did contact the former owner of the weekly, and they said the pieces will be here for, hmm, who knows how long. Paul Haeder, Deep Dive. And, here. That final note is related to the trillions of unimportant stories inudating the news (sic) feed, the Internet, the in-boxes, the social (anti-social) media sites like Fuck-You-Book and how mired we get in the shit-show that is now the common thread of a shit-hole country like the USA. The media hate us. The politicians hate us. The religous leaders hate us. The corporations hate us. The banks, insurance, investment, utilities, big pharam, big medicine, big business, they all hate us. We are their marks, their slaves, their cash cows and victims for their next and their next totalitarian ways. So, getting a few paragraphs into silly Word Press on a couple who is attempting to scratch out an existence and a family in a Time of Covid-19, to me, in all my radical, revolutionary and “sophisticated” zeal, is vital. How many people should see this article? Millions. How many will? Dozens.
And so it goes!
The Oregon Coast, I have learned, attracts many different people for many different reasons. Just sitting down and talking to someone anywhere, from Yachats to Otis, I find a dearth of interesting people/characters. I don’t have enough days left in my life to record all the tales.
Artists, drop-outs, activists, scientists, environmentalists, the houseless, people with two or three previous lives now hunkering down on this both amazing and challenging area, the archetypes for a decent people-focused are on our coast.
At Waldport’s Azul Mexican restaurant (Oregon Coast), my wife and I ran into a husband-and-wife server team on several occasions. We had delightful conversations – real ones, too.
Hopes and dreams.
How they got here and why.
Even talks on the trials and tribulations of the autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s, which both my wife and Mary the server have.
Get this – they moved out here from Nebraska on a flight of fancy, and a wing and a prayer, so to speak. Andrew, 29, and Mary, 24, make up two-thirds of the Tipken Waldport clan, having moved here July 4, 2019?
The other player in this trio is a new arrival: A Child in a Time of Covid. On April 24, Evelyn Mae Tipken, hit gravity and air at Newport’s Samaritan.
This six-pound bundle of joy for the Bay Shore couple is a bit of a miracle.
Technically, the trio is a quartet – there is the rat terrier/red healer mix, Lucky.
Baby almost makes a wedding – Si se puede!
The couple married two weeks before Evelyn Mae’s entrance into the world – April 10. The guitar player who riffs at Azul, Robert Mugnai, and Azul’s owner’s son, Romero, were witnesses.
One of the more engaging aspects of Andrew’s work at Azul Mexican Restaurant (he and Mary now work exclusively for The Taphouse at Nye beach) was his quick wit, self-deprecating humor and willingness to engage in banter and serious conversation about his goals.
I recently met them at their house and then at The Taphouse.
Mom was breast feeding and dad was beaming with a smile. It was their morning off before hoisting ale mugs and platters of pub food.
For all that’s been going on in the world, in the States and Lincoln County, this couple is surprisingly positive about the possibilities in their lives here, their immediate future, and their hopes and dreams.
Cesar Chavez coined, “Si, se puede – Yes, we can.” And this seems to be the Tipken Family motto.
They both state things are pretty copasetic thus far: the locals and tourists they serve at the Nye Beach establishment have been respectful and understanding of the Covid-19 mask requirements.
Early Days – Corn Huskers
Andrew grew up in Eagle, Nebraska, on a 30-acre pasture farm. His old man worked for North Tech Natural Gas company.
I asked about his roots, and it was enlightening – he counts Danish and German as part of the clan roots, including great grandfather who was Scottish.
But then 23-and-me came into the conversation.
“I was shy and quiet as a kid,” he says. “I like to learn about people. I am an extrovert who gets energized around people.”
He is the product of adoption, and that 23-and-me test showed he was 1/3 French and 1/3 Irish. It wasn’t an open adoption at the time, and his biological mother made a last-minute financial decision to adopt out Andrew when he was a few days old.
We talk about the power of separation and not knowing who one’s biological parents are. For Andrew, seeing this child ramifies the need to see oneself in one’s child’s features.
For Mary, she has a younger brother who is adopted. “My parents went to get him (Matthew) n Tennessee, but the birth mom changed her mind. He lived with his biological mom for two years.”
Matthew’s first two years was with a biological mother who drank, used drugs and partied all night long. Mary’s brother is 13 years old.
Andrew and I talk about how his adopted family “always included” him in everything.
It’s clear this couple is open about their pasts and their trials and tribulations. For Andrew, his life was one of arguing with his parents, who are “super conservative” religiously. He laughs when relaying how his parents thought he’d make a good lawyer “since I liked debating them on everything, to include religious beliefs.
His life included a bit of community college, where he was majoring in human services. “I know I’d have a hard time taking all that home with me,” Andrew states. Social work and case management are fraught with pitfalls like finding personal care and dealing with all the trauma one sees in a day.
One Family’s Success, Is Another Family’s Struggle
We talk about this odd time in the county and world. The baby is only months old, but in one sense, this time of Covid-19 and the challenges tied to less good work, shifting careers, more fear of viruses and possibly a long-term economic turn down are relevant.
It’s clear that on this journey, my MO is not to force deeper introspection about “Our Times.” I realize a young couple with a newborn needs some sense of hope and forward look.
Ironically, part of my work has been in education along the US-Mexico border – community colleges, UT-El Paso, gang reduction programs, in prisons and with children of migrant workers. In the Pacific Northwest I’ve been a social worker for adults with developmental disabilities, for homeless veterans, for recovering (not always) substance abusers, for foster youth teens, and for just-released felons.
I know when to put on kid gloves and not overreach. Andrew and Mary are on a pathway that seems simple but foundational – he is working on a real estate license (he failed the first state test last month). They want a rental home for “passive income.”
Their big dream is a restaurant.
Ironically, I know many in the restaurant biz here, in Portland, Seattle, Spokane and back east. For many, the new normal is an abnormal – fewer restaurants, fewer big places, and many well-known eateries filing for bankruptcy and folding. Family run places are the most vulnerable.
A baby in a time of Covid-19, on the Oregon Coast, well, they embrace the challenge and will to be positive. It’s not always an easy thing for anyone to encompass, but a necessary trait if we as a society are going to grapple with the new (ab)normal.
Harmonizing the Hand Dealt You
“As soon as I saw you, I knew a grand adventure was going to happen.”
—Winnie the Pooh, to his human foster friend, Christopher Robin.
“I always tell Genesis she was born from my heart, not my belly.”
— Viola Davis
Andrew tells me that both he and Mary talked about adopting. She has a chronic thyroid illness, Hashimoto’s, and the disease took her down hard with complete exhaustion, lethargy, brain fog, constant chills.
She was working at Applebee’s in Lincoln, Nebraska, and eventually at La Paz Mexican Restaurant (also in Lincoln) where the two met in 2016.
But we need to rewind a bit – she was a pregnant unwedded mother. Around 27 weeks into the pregnancy, in 2015, she was told the fetus had a genetic disorder — Limb-body wall complex (LBWC). Essentially, it is characterized by multiple, severe congenital abnormalities resulting in openings in the chest and belly and defects of the arms and legs.
The boy, Charlie, was stillborn, and she still has a recording of Charlie’s gestating heart beat and an urn with his ashes.
To make matters worse, her grandparents and other family member, being hyper religious in a detrimental way, would not allow Mary to break bread at such occasions as Thanksgiving. She married the fellow who was 15 years older: “He was not a nice guy and it didn’t last long.” Twelve months later, a divorce.
Evelyn Mae is that “surprise, surprise” as Gomer Pyle would say. For Andrew, the baby is a “happy accident.”
For them both, finding a baby sitter has been easy – there are three to rely on. The Taphouse is 20 minutes north. They both work fulltime, sometimes overtime. Andrew also cleans the beer tap lines.
Hikes, Food and Living the Dog’s Life
The four of them have been on quite a few hikes in our area. The current plan is to find the camp site where Mary ended up on a family trip to Cape Perpetua years ago. She laughs telling the tale of the brother who was in the midst of potty training letting loose in the shared tent.
“This was a big loop road trip.” She says her parents met attending a bible college in British Columbia. She has Canadian roots and family in England.
They chose the Oregon Coast sort of out of the blue. The Smoky Mountains was one possible destination.
But the Pacific Northwest called. They made an offer on a house in Gold Beach, but that fell through when they were here. The house near the Bay Market in Waldport came up. It’s a wooden beach style house with spiral rod iron staircase to the bedroom.
Both Andrew and Mary love cooking, hence their desire to get into the restaurant business.
It would be a health-focused place, with organic and locally sourced ingredients, Mary says. Andrew says he’d like to get a place eventually around Lincoln City, grow the family, grow food and be within a day trip turnaround to Portland.
The menu for this dream restaurant would include many foods from many parts of the world, on a rotating basis.
Mary says her mom and grandmother are amazing cooks, using Swedish and German recipes. Her mom would buy a cookbook and prepare each and every recipe in it.
I asked them what would be a go-to meal they’d cook for someone coming over.
“Chicken Euro” is chicken marinated in tzatziki sauce (Greek yogurt with dill and olive oil), and then pan fried in the yogurt concoction, with bell peppers, onions and served over quinoa and presented with a Greek salad and homemade pita.
For me, the vegetarian, they’d do a Stuffed Eggplant a la Waldport – spinach, onions, garlic cooked in milk and served with quinoa and pita too.
Mary would like to go to culinary arts school to get a more formal tutelage in cooking. The goal is to have Andrew as the head real estate licensee and Mary coming on as an agent.
Then, a rental property and then a restaurant, A & M’s Magical Kitchen (my name for it).
For this team, Waldport is a friendly small town, and people want to see the newborn, and the place is right here, in the great outdoors. They even love the rain. “I do miss the thunder and lightning shows,” Andrew says with a laugh.
We do get into a spiritual aside, since both Andrew and Mary have rejected the stern, conservative and closed-mindedness of many of the churches and practitioners in the Nebraska bible belt.
He leans toward C.C Lewis, the golden rule, and live and let live. “We all make mistakes. I try to be kind and caring. Everyone has a desire to be loved.”
Fort Mary, moral values are keen in her life. They want to build a family and live in a place that they love.
“We always work together as a team. We have learned how to negotiate if we have disagreements,” Andrew emphasizes.
The big picture is to have a place where people will say, “let’s go to Andrew and Mary’s place.” A home of acceptance, where problems can be dealt with and where honesty is the bedrock.
Refreshing, healthily naïve in some regards, but this couple is willing to see the big world. “I always knew I was going to be somewhere else,” he says. “The world’s a big place.”
The journey I have taken has been a road less traveled, plenty of time moving, on the road, in other countries, always a writer, teacher and activist. I understand the complexities of being a human on the planet, and in a time of Covid-19, during the Dirty War in El Salvador, during the American War in Vietnam, or when I was in Vietnam during the normalization of relations with the USA, I have met people who struggle, persevere and sometimes fail.
Just in Newport, there is a Mexican family who had to shutter their restaurant last month. The place was more than an eatery. It was the hub of information, connections and support for the Latinx community – and not just Mexicans.
Covid-19 under capitalism has turned the screws a lot more on us, on the rest of the world, making it more difficult to both dream and realize those dreams. Restaurants were a tricky proposition before this new normal of the service economy being gutted. Now . . . ?
I just recently spent time in Mexico, once again, and the reality of sacrifice of those living there and those wanting to better their lives by risking coming the United States lends pause to any white male of privilege. For all citizens of the US!
Marco’s restaurant closing is for me my restaurant closing. I don’t see the world being set up as a dog-eat-dog place, but it is. Snide comments could be coming from people reading this column on this couple’s hopes and dreams.
Alas, that’s where the reader would be wrong.
Everywhere I have lived and traveled to, the people, the families, they just want safe and healthy lives. Something a bit better for their children than they themselves had. I’ve been in other circles, where wealth, status, and being on top of the manure pile are values held dear.
Anyone still with the bandwidth to understand the hardships and dreams of families who come to this country, and who have their own country of origin also as a hope and dream – Mexico – would be wise to read Paul Theroux’s latest book, “On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey.”
In so many ways, the Mexican family’s story is our story, and is the Tipkens’ story. Struggle, pain, family, many small triumphs.
Thank the stars for those stories.
Asking Key Questions
The idea is to get the couple’s responses to the same questions separately, and both Mary and Andrew were real troopers and came through for these. Below, their responses:
1. What makes for a strong relationship?
Mary — Communication and empathy are definitely the biggest things in my opinion. There are going to be times when your partner upsets you, and there are going to be times when you upset your partner. What you do in those situations has a big impact on your relationship. Communicating openly about what bothers you and being willing to listen and see things from your partners point of view when they are bothered by something you do keeps your relationship healthy. Also making time to focus on having fun together and not just getting lost in the busyness of everyday life is important. Strong relationships are like good teams. You’re always working together towards a common goal, not competing with or working against each other.
Andrew — Trust, honesty, and mutual respect are important for a strong relationship. Also having a sense of humor doesn’t hurt! Knowing that you are on the same side and working towards a common goal is important.
2. In a short response, what makes this spouse of yours ideal for you?
Mary — He is my partner in everything and my best friend. He appreciates my weird humor and quirks, and we have the same overall goals for life. Even though we have really different ways of doing things, we’re able to appreciate how the other one’s strengths complicate our weaknesses and vice versa. There’s no one I’d rather spend time with. He never stops trying to make me happy, and goes out of his way to do the little things that make me feel really loved and appreciated. I can only try to do the same for him!
Andrew — Mary is an ideal partner because she is loving and strong. She calls me out when I need it and always supports me in all of my goals. She’s also very driven and inspires me to strive to be the best person i can be! She’s also very beautiful!
3. What are the biggest challenges you see within yourself, connected to your own set of narratives and baggage?
Mary — In the past, I have made the mistake of trying to force myself into the things other people wanted for me and pretend that I was always happy and always fine with everything that was happening. If people hurt me, I would pretend like I was unbothered. I can also be really prideful, which is good when I’m taking pride in the good work I do and holding myself to high standards, but is bad when I don’t take constructive criticism well and am too stubborn to let what could be incredibly helpful advice sink in. I’ve been trying to work on myself both as a partner and in the rest of my endeavors to listen to others when they are trying to help and not shut out advice given to me.
As far as baggage and my marriage goes, I try very hard to be open and honest about both the things I’ve been through and the mistakes that I’ve made with Andrew. I tell him things I’ve done poorly in the past, what I want to do differently, and ask him to call me out on it if he sees me doing those things. I’ve shared with him pretty much everything I can recall about my first child who I lost. At first, I think it felt weird for him to hear me talk about it, he would always tell me how sorry he was that happened to me. As time went on, he began to understand that I wasn’t necessarily talking about it because I was sad, I was talking about it because it was a big part of my life, and it feels natural to talk about. I think I processed the pain of losing a child very well during the first few years, and though I of course wish things had been different, I don’t feel like there’s a huge piece of my heart missing like I did those first few years. And that isn’t just because I have a live child now, I felt healed well before I got pregnant, which I think was a blessing. I don’t want to gloss over that part of my life and just replace Charlie with Evelyn. Charlie was an important part of my life, and Evelyn will know she had a big brother, but I won’t talk about it with sadness, just happiness for the time I did get with him.
Andrew — It’s challenging for me to stay focused on the small things in life. I get caught up worrying about big picture issues and neglect the small things.
4. What would you do differently in your life, from youth to adulthood?
Mary — Some of the same stuff from that question above! As a kid, I was even more stubborn and prideful. No matter what the adults in my life told me, I just had to make the mistakes for myself and learn the hard way. As an adult I’m definitely working to listen to others and learn from them instead of clamming up and getting defensive. That’s going to be very important for me if we are able to make a foray into the restaurant business. I have a lot of things to learn and I need to come at things accepting that I will need help and advice.
One of the biggest things I’ve tried to do different in my marriage now is honesty. In my prior relationships I had tried to avoid conflict to the point of letting completely unacceptable things happen with zero complaints from me. I thought having a good relationship just meant that you both stayed together and didn’t fight, no matter how you were treated. In my marriage now I am honest when things upset me and it has helped us have productive conflict on occasion. I am a generally happy and easygoing person and so is he, and when we have conflict I think we both genuinely want to solve it as quickly as possible. Real honestly makes me feel confident in the relationship, and it provides a deeper level of connection that I love!
Andrew — I don’t think i would do anything different. It’s easy to look back and say I shouldn’t have done this or that but everything I’ve done has brought me to the place I’m at now. I might not have me Mary or have had a beautiful daughter.
5. What one or two issues or topics do you get really serious/passionate about, with some sense of holding onto strong beliefs around those issues?
Mary — Hmm. Well one would be that people in my age range need to vote in larger numbers. I can still barely believe that Trump was elected. I think if we can get a better turnout in the presidential election this year, we should be able to get someone in who will do a better job! I mean pretty much anyone would do a better job, but you know what I mean.
Another thing would be ICE and the terrible injustices committed by them. I haven’t heard of this happening in Oregon, but when I was living in Nebraska, there were ICE raids in the restaurant business and a couple of restaurants got shut down for having illegal workers. The same happened with the farm workers, and they were just out looking for people in small towns. I hate the profiling, I hate that there are children basically stuck in ICE camps, I hate it all.
Andrew — People that are falsely accused of crimes. I think it stems from my religious background and the sense of guilt i felt as a child for doing anything the people i was surrounded by considered wrong.
6. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats around owning a restaurant: SWOT!
Mary – strengths: I am great at multitasking and getting things done. I have a strong work ethic and a high capacity for work, and I really enjoy doing things that I am good at.
weaknesses: Pride, for sure!
opportunities: I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure what you’re asking for here. I am hoping that having a rental property and having Andrew working in real estate will give us the opportunity to be financially stable enough to start a restaurant at some point. It’s also definitely useful that we currently have jobs in the restaurant industry and are able to learn firsthand about the business.
threats: Threats would be mostly financial in my opinion. Financially it’s a big risk to open a restaurant, and it will take a lot of money to save up to open one in the first place. If we are able to save up all that money, then it will be very crucial how the first couple years go to see if we can make our investment money back. Consumers are often looking for a very specific thing in a specific location and we’ll need to give it to them in a timely manner or we will fail!
Andrew — Strengths of owning a restaurant are creative control, mentoring employees, creating a place where people can come and enjoy themselves.
Weaknesses of owning a restaurant are its a financial risk.
Opportunities of owning a restaurant are if it goes well it would mean a better life for my family and an opportunity for my child or children to take over or at least work at.
Threats of owning a restaurant are failing. What if we cant make? What if we pick the wrong location or we just can’t get customers in the door?
7. What would you like the readers to know about you that I did not cover?
Mary — It’s probably going to be quite a while until we’re able to open a restaurant (maybe 10-15 years or so?) But when we do, my goal is to focus on local foods and build the menu around that. We’ve talked about listing the sources for our main ingredients (i.e. fresh caught salmon from Luna Sea Fish House in Yachats, OR) and showcasing one or two of them each month (with a small story/bio about them listed on our menu in a “Get to Know Our Suppliers” section or something like that. We’d have a few staple dishes year-round, but then the rest of them would rotating based on what’s in season and growing near us. We’re open to different styles and types of cuisine but the focus of the menu will be the ingredients and bringing out the best flavors. We’ll work most of the shifts ourselves at first and try to keep costs as low as possible when we’re starting out, but I always want to be involved the day to day operations of the restaurant. I want to be an involved owner, helping out whenever possible and trained to do everything as well as my employees so if someone calls in, I can fill in and not leave us short-staffed.
Andrew — Things you didn’t cover. I love to paint. All abstract paintings. I love music. From bluegrass to hip hop to punk rock!
8. Favorite food?
Mary — Can I say pizza? Hah. I honestly love pretty much everything, and I like a complex flavor profile, but there’s just something about pizza that’s comforting.
Andrew — Favorite food is chicken tikka korma.
9. Favorite movie?
Mary – “The Lord of the Rings” series for sure. I love an epic tale that gives you something to believe in.
Andrew — Favorite movie is “The Fellowship of The Ring.”
10. Favorite book?
Mary — This is an odd one… “Walk Two Moons” by Sharon Creech. It’s a young adult fiction book that I enjoyed reading when I was about 10, so it’s fairly simplistic, but it deals with loss and meant something to me at the time so it has always held a special place in my heart.
Andrew — Favorite book is “Dune.”
11. If you were to be reincarnated as an animal, what would that be and why that one?
Mary — I’d be a dog. I know that sounds boring, but, and I mean this in the least demeaning way possible, I know myself and that’s just what I am. I am loyal and devoted to my family and super sweet, but will protect my family with my life if they are threatened.
Andrew – Reincarnated as an animal would be a fox. Foxes have just always been my favorite animal.
12. Definition of friendship?
Mary — Friendship is enjoying being in the company of someone else. Sometimes it involves talking, or doing the same activities together. Sometimes it is just being in the same place and enjoying it more because the other person is there.
Andrew – Friendship definition would be someone who accepts you for who you are and is there for you in the good times and the bad times.
13. Definition of success?
Mary — Success means being happy with what you have accomplished. You may do a lot, or it may just be a little, but if you are happy with it then that’s a success.
Andrew — Success definition would be knowing what you want out of life and doing everything you can to get that. At the end of the day knowing and loving yourself and finding people that know and love you too.
One thought on “Love and Raising a Baby in a Time of Covid-19”
I’d change the A.A. Milne quote to the following: “As soon as I experienced Covid19, I knew a grand adventure was going to happen.” Thank you for sharing the beautiful story of your friends Mary and Andrew, and for interviewing them.
All of us need to hear positive stories about people who are embracing the challenges and looking forward to the future!