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October 2014

Their baby’s famous, but ours came first

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register


Nathalie’s Notes: As I’m editing my book I thought it’d be fun to share some of my earlier columns with you. In this one Sam is 11-months old. And Jake is maybe just starting to be an idea.


"Oh, no she didn't!”

I kept repeating it as I found myself wading in the shallow end of pop culture again, livid at the birth announcement for the world's most famous twins. 

"Why is this even news?" I muttered to no one in particular.

First, Angelina Jolie steals my boyfriend. Then, she has the nerve to give their love child the same name I so carefully chose for my son, thereby changing the conversation he will have about it for the rest of his life.

Second only to becoming parents, what to name our baby is the biggest decision my husband and I have made. It was no easy feat, as both of us worked in public schools, where we were exposed to the best and worst associations with many names.

Then, there was the fact that we each had some baggage with our own names. 

Matt's parents, who swear they never hit the peace pipe or go on gambling binges, gave all three of their children names with 21 letters.

For Matt, this meant dropping one of the 't's commonly used in Matthew. It also meant spending most of his school years as 'Matt H.'

Then there was me.

As a painfully shy kid, I dreaded roll on the first day of school. The teacher would call out, "Anna," then pause while she struggled with the rest of my name. "Naythalee Orvateez?" 

"It's Oravetz," I'd explain. "And the Anna and the 'h' in Nathalie are silent."

I'd cringe at the snickers behind me as the teacher corrected her roster. 

We thought we'd spared Sam all of that first-day-of-school awkwardness when we finally settled on "Samuel Knox." His first name is a classic and his middle name is unique, in addition to being meaningful to us.

Our son's name contains our hopes for the person he will become: confident, easy-going, creative and true to himself. We figured he'd pick which one he wanted to use as he made his way through life. 

We got a lot of flak from both sides of the family about our selection, but we paid little mind and filled out his birth certificate as planned.

Then, a few months later, it happened. My son's unique name was hijacked by Angelina Jolie and thrust into the spotlight of public opinion. 

I was devastated when Brad and Angelina named their son "Knox." What started as a meaningful name for us for our first born would forever elicit this response: "Knox? Like Brangelina's kid?"

Lest you think I exaggerate the potential ramifications of this disaster, I assure you Brad and Angelina have serious pull with name rankings. According to the Social Security Administration's website, Maddox and Shiloh - the names of two of Jolie-Pitt's children - are steadily climbing in popularity. If Sam decides to go by his middle name, he may end up being a "Knox H."

Flash forward to Sam's first day of school. His teacher will raise her eyebrows and try not to roll her eyes as she pegs us as celebrity fanatics.

I will, of course, teach Sam to say, "I was born first." But it will be too late. Assumptions will be made.

To find out the top baby names in Oregon, visit The site features a list of the 1,000 most popular names for each year since 1880.

For the record, 'Knox' hasn't made the top 1,000 since 1888. 

I hope Sam likes his name. I really do.

But whether my son thinks his name is good, bad or indifferent, I hope he grows up to be the kind of guy who knows that the names we are given are far less important than the one we make for ourselves.

Nathalie Hardy is a local freelance writer who can be found at random hours, taking notes as she walks Sam in his stroller. She invites your feedback - provided it doesn't include the phrase "unfit mother" - at nathaliesnotes AT gmail DOT com.


Question: I’m planning to publish the columns as they ran originally. But I’m also thinking of writing some of my current thoughts/notes in the margins. For instance on this one, I’m thinking of adding the stats and story on Jake’s name. And a story about how I wanted to start calling him by his middle name, Henry, because it was less common. Until the lady next to me at the park stood up and called for her son, Henry, to stop walking up the slide.

Yes? No? Just leave it as is and save the rest for the scrapbooks?

And – also – mostly, I think  my target audience is anyone who has a child, or is one – so wide range there, right? But, I’m also thinking of putting in some notes on the process of how these columns came to be. Some are more interesting than others, but is anyone outside the newsroom interested in that kind of thing?

Decisions, decisions.

(I really am asking for your opinions, email me or find me on Facebook at Nathalie’s Notes.)


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Find a need and fill it

By NATHALIE HARDY | September, 2014

Published in the Yamhill-Valley News-Register

Find a need and fill it, page 1Find a need and fill it, page 2

Suicide has been on my mind a lot lately.

No, not like you might think, but I’ve been there too.

Following the self-inflicted death of my classmate, Jennifer Huston, then actor and comedian Robin Williams, and most recently Pink Martini percussionist Derek Rieth, my social media feed is blowing up with friends sharing personal stories about depression.

It’s depressing reading all of this, a friend observed.

No, it’s actually encouraging, I think. And courageous.

In my mind, this adult version of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” is brave. And also? It’s time.

It’s time for us to start saying, “See? There are parts of me that are broken, too. I’ve been there and here’s how I came back.”

The same thing that worked for me might not work for you, but the more we see that depression and recovery can work in as many different ways as there are people suffering with it, the more possible it becomes for people to feel more OK and less alone in their darkness.

I was going to write about my own battle with clinical depression, but instead I decided to share with you how I found a way to light a candle for Jennifer Huston, instead of just continuing to curse the darkness.

After 12 days of desperate searching by family, friends and complete strangers, Jennifer was found. Tragically it was too late to save her from herself.

I wrestled my way through denial and anger. For days, I was stuck in a loop between those first two stage of grief.

Then I started to pray about what I could do to be helpful instead of feeling so desperately useless. What, if any, silver lining could come of this?

Was there a way to show Jennifer’s devastated husband and children that they were not alone? Was there a tangible way to show we cared for them despite, or even more so because of, the sad conclusion of our search efforts?

And God said, actually, yes. Yes, there is. You can fill their pantry with gluten-free and dairy-free food to accommodate their son’s food allergies and ease the burden of this transition on Kallen.

But I can’t afford to do that, I reminded God.

And He said, “But you can make it happen.” And I was like: “Uh, no. I’m not good at that kind of thing. And I don’t have the time. Good idea, though.”

But God promised people would step in and step up. All I needed to do was be willing to see it through.

You guys!

In the 10 days following my announcement of the Pantry Project, we filled 11 bags and boxes full of gluten- and dairy-free foods, plus a huge box of freezer items and gift cards for local restaurants. We were able to deliver all of that, along with $1,000 in cash for the family to spend as needed. And we did it one dollar and one bag of brown rice noodles at a time.

The platform was a Facebook page created by my friend, Donny Lehmann.

He was inspired to create the Newberg-Dundee Citizen Info Group in honor of three family members murdered in the ultimate act of domestic violence by Randall Engels in 2012. Today, that page has more than 5,700 members, and has bridged our modern social media culture with our old school roots of neighbors looking out for each other.

Through this site, we spread the word quickly. For 10 days, every time I came home, I found a new package of food on my porch. Every time I looked, there were a few dollar bills under the mat or a check in the mail.

This small town’s simple mission to feed an entirely different kind of hunger brought people together with a simple purpose, and it gave those of us who wished there was something we could do that something.

The project didn’t just help the family, it helped all of us who participated. That’s kind of how this business of living in service of one another works, right?

My heart still breaks for Jennifer, and those who loved her, but it is also filled with hope — hope for today, for tomorrow and for what can happen when we show up to say, “Yes, I can help.”

Nathan Schrader, owner of the Blue Dolphin Car Wash, summed it up best when he said he wanted Kallen and his kids to know they weren’t forgotten and weren’t alone. “Every time they drive by, I hope they remember this community stands beside them,” he said.

Schrader and his wife, Crystal, hosted a benefit car wash. Including their own donation, they netted $400. Then their employees, on their own volition, chose to contribute the $200 they had received in tip money.

The rest was collected in dollar bills and checks from people as far away as North Carolina and as close as friends standing in my driveway.

What does all this have to do with a column about parenting? Well, I’m glad you asked.

One concept I’m trying to consciously impart to my boys is the habit of identifying a need and then meeting it.

In other words, don’t be the guy standing there with his hands in his pockets. Don’t be the guy sitting on the couch asking “What can I do to help?”

Instead, figure it out. Then go do it.

And the best way to teach is by showing, not telling.

As I drove home after delivering everything with a group of friends, I realized what we just pulled off was the epitome of Margaret Mead’s eloquent reminder: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

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