Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Saturday Market

Yesterday my daughter and I headed out of the 80 degree weather in the Greater Tacoma area for the coast. By the time we’d had dinner with an aunt & uncle in Shelton and stopped to get groceries in Raymond it was nearly full dark when we arrived in Ilwaco on the Long Beach Peninsula. Fog had rolled in off the beach as it so frequently does when it is hot in either Seattle or Portland and we shivered in an ocean breeze as we hurried to the house.

This morning it was still foggy, but it had lifted some. The grass was too damp to mow right away so I puttered around the house until it was time for the Saturday Market on the Ilwaco Port Dock. As if by magic the market opened at the same time the fog burned away to reveal a beautiful day at the beach. I grabbed my shopping bag and wallet and strolled the two blocks from our house to the waterfront. Now I’d made sure to get some cash from the grocery store so I’d have it when I went to the Saturday Market, but I didn’t get but $20. There was a method to my madness. I didn’t want to have too much with me and I purposely left the plastic at home.
I made my way down the entire length of the waterfront, peering at each stall to see what they had. There was salmon chowder which sounded good, but not tempting at 10 AM and right after breakfast. Neither were the hot dogs or the fry bread tacos. I love fry bread, but tacos at ten didn’t strike a note. It was a good thing that I hadn’t brought more money. One stall was nothing but bags and there was a black one with lilacs on it that did tempt me, but since it was $20 which would have not left me with enough for that which I’d come for I sighed and moved on.
There were handmade toys, jewelry and rag rugs. The rag rugs made me sigh, too. They are dangerous because they can slip all over the place so even though they had pretty ones in colors I like I wasn’t tempted there either. It made me think of the one rag rug I have. It was given to me by my grandmother when I was in my 20s and was made by my great-grandmother. I haven’t had it on the floor in years because I don’t want it to fall apart any more than I can help and some of the stitching is coming loose. I seldom consign an article of clothing to the rag bag without thinking of my grandmother and her mother who made quilts and rugs out of the scraps of their sewing, worn out clothing, and flour sacking. Those women knew how to use it up, wear it out, and make do. Wistfully I moved on.

There were stalls with handcrafted soap which I love, but I have an enamel bowl full of soap in the bathroom now and really couldn’t justify buying more even if I have been washing the skin off my hand since this whole swine flu thing started. The fragrances coming from those stalls were alluring, but I plugged my nose and went on.

My purpose for perusing farmer’s markets is for the produce and I wanted fresh vegetables for dinner. With my money still intact I arrived at the Asis Farm stall. This family comes from Wapato to sell its produce and you take what’s in season. None of this 1,000 petrol miles produce. I bought a pound of sugar snap peas, a bunch of baby asparagus, and a fat beet to put in the crock pot with a chicken and headed home. There was just enough time to get the crockpot going so there’d be a dinner waiting for me when I got done working in the yard.

The Sixth Ave. Farmer’s Market begins Tuesday afternoon and I plan to be there with my granddaughter. I also love the Proctor’s Market, the Tacoma Thursday Market and the Gig Harbor Farmer’s Market. Farmer’s markets are the reason I love this time of year. For a listing of farmer’s Markets in Washington State click here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Meaning of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is special to me because I was raised before it got turned into a retailer’s holiday. We got it off, whatever the day of the week, and it was about honoring those who served our nation and gave their lives for our country. It wasn’t about buying mattresses. Moving it to make a long weekend was a mistake.

I was happy this week when my son, a teacher at Clover Park High School in Lakewood, called us from school and told us to be sure to watch King5 news that night. The station was at the school covering the second year of the students making a memorial on the front lawn to those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. A white stick with the name of each fallen soldier was carefully placed to replicate Arlington Cemetery. Members of the public have stopped by and left remembrances. At least I know that those students have some understanding of Memorial Day and a visual representation of what our current wars have cost.

Thank you students of Clover Park High School, for acknowledging the true meaning of Memorial Day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dealing with Death

I work at a suburban high school. Outsiders view our community as affluent. There are affluent people here, but mostly we're middle class with a certain amount of working poor. We are not that different from Columbine, CO.

It’s been several years since a student committed suicide, but our hiatus ended last night. It’s not for sure that this young man killed himself, but his body was found near the home he’d moved to in March in Packwood. Besides the sadness that accompanies the loss of someone who has not yet begun to live, there is also the fear that goes along with it. There’s the fear that the school won’t do enough to acknowledge the loss, but there’s also the fear of doing too much—creating more drama and making suicide look alluring for students struggling to deal with adolescence. The previous school administration chose to do nothing when we had suicides. I didn’t agree with that, but I’m not sure I know what would be appropriate. For today and because the death is an on-going investigation the administration decided to do nothing. It’s Friday of Memorial Weekend. By Tuesday they will have decided how best to deal with the situation.

Death seems to be stocking us at school as if budget cuts and lay-offs weren’t enough. We have a teacher whose wife is dying. I didn’t know until last week. This week a Bible appeared on his desk. He’s a nice man; quiet, with a dry sense of humor—a Baby Boomer who ought to be thinking about retirement and traveling with his wife. I don’t know him well, but my heart aches for him. The principal called a special staff meeting after school today. I assumed it was about the student, but if the teacher’s wife had died I didn’t want to know yet and I left at the end of my paid day. He wasn’t in school today and I’d overheard a small portion of an anxious conversation on his cell phone the day before. “Why’s he been coming to school?” a young teacher asked. “Maybe he needs something in his life that’s normal,” I said, remembering how important work was when my father was dying. “Besides, a sub isn’t going to be able to help the students. They’re supposed to launch their rockets next week.” No, a substitute for an aerospace teacher isn’t likely to be found on subonline. It’s not like it’s rocket science…but wait, it is. But mostly I think of him. Maybe we can have the students write condolence letters instead of sending their handmade rockets streaking into the sky. Maybe she isn’t dead. Maybe she’ll rally over the weekend.

The students and staff spend six plus hours a day together and although we are a family of 1,600, we are a family nonetheless. The ending of this school year isn’t as joyful as it ought to be. Our family will be smaller next year in many ways.

Stimulating the Economy

My daughter-in-law Ana and I were talking about how it’s ironic that as a nation we got ourselves into this economic mess by living beyond our means as individuals and a nation, being willing to believe deceptive people and institutions who enticed us to spend more than we should and now being willing to spend our precious dollars is supposed to be how we get out of the mess. I’m afraid I’m not doing much to fuel the economy other than buying food. Signing up with Terra Organics is my way of stimulating the economy.

We received our first delivery of organic fruit and vegetables from Terra Organics two weeks ago and today the fresh shipment comes to the front door. For five years I have been trying to convince Ana that throwing away food is the same as throwing away money and finally I am beginning to see the fruits of my nagging. In the past she has been willing to buy huge quantities of fresh food and then allowed it to spoil in the refrigerator. I could not convince her that even if it was a better deal than buying a smaller amount that she was wasting her money by not then actually cooking whatever it was before it spoiled. At first I demurred from cooking produce purchased by the kids, thinking that they’d been purchased with a special meal or meals in mind. When throwing out large amounts of broccoli, etc became a habit I began using as much of what they buy as I could because I was poor enough, long enough to know that it would be just as easy to throw money in the storm drain in front of the house. Whether it was the recession or my nagging, Ana seems to be taking the hint and trying to actually cook the things in the refrigerator instead of dreaming up what she wants and then going shopping.

I admit that I can find shopping recreational although I pursue my sport at Goodwill not Nordstrom’s. I haven’t been 100% good about not purchasing anything but food, but there’s been many times since September that I’ve been tempted and caught myself. Border’s sends me emails, but book stores are like a cocktail party for an alcoholic. It’s best if I don’t go in. I’m staying out of Target because that place is evil. There’s a siren song in there that pulls money out of my wallet! Last night my husband was rolling up the coins in his piggy bank. “Are we going out to dinner tomorrow,” he asked. “Nah,” I told him. “We’ve got vegetable soup left from tonight and a fresh box coming from Terra Organics.” We’ll find something special to do with the money like take Amy to a movie or Gabriel to a Rainer’s game. We’ll get it into the economy sometime. Are you saving or spending right now?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pet Peeve

It’s Spring at last and the flowers and trees are beginning to bloom. Mother Nature is beginning to parade her handiwork which is marvelous indeed. With all the beauty that Nature bestows on the Earth, can someone please tell me why florists find it necessary to die cut flowers colors best left to black light posters? I realize that this is not an Earth shaking matter like the economy, the lack of affordable health care and global warming, but it annoys me when I go to the grocery store and see these poor flowers tramped out--cheapened. Try buying flowers for your favorite aunt or mother-in-law that don't look like they fell into the Peeps vat. Am I the only one who thinks that dying flowers is sacrilegious?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Memorial Day

Recently I received an email from the UW’s NPR station KUOW asking what or whom I think about for Memorial Day. It bothers me that for most Americans Memorial Weekend is a long weekend to get away. For retailers it is an excuse to entice people into stores for sales. For me Memorial Day is one of the special times of the year that I pay tribute to my father, Conrad R. Frieze, and the Greatest Generation that included his brothers and brother-in-law. All of them were in the Navy during WWII. My father and his older brother Richard were on the Island of Oahu at Kaneohe Naval Air Station on December 7th 1944.

In an autobiography he left for us, my father describes the confusion of waking to the Japanese attack which struck Kaneohe before moving on to Pearl Harbor, his panic for the safety of his older brother who had worked the night shift at the hangers that housed the PBYs stationed there, the joy of finding him alive, and the fury with which they fought back with a machine gun they mounted in the waist hatch of a PBY.

When I was a child I assumed that all daddies were brave. They saved the world and then came home to raise families, become aeronautical engineers (I was raised in Bellevue and most daddies were) and build a great nation.

It was not until I had boys of my own the age that my father and his brother had been that day, as the first shots of American involvement in WWII were fired, that I realized that they had been babies. Now I look at a photo I have of the two of them standing in a bomb crater with their machine gun, shielding their eyes from the sun and scanning the sky for more zeros, and I wonder at their youth.

It would be a few hours before news of the attack would reach their mother who was visiting her own mother in the Missouri Ozarks and longer still before their telegram telling of their survival would reach their parents back in Vancouver, WA. My grandmother told me how that night she lay in bed with a cousin and listened to reports on the radio and wondered if her boys were still alive.

My father went on to fight in the battle of Midway as a PBY gunner and afterward received a cap device from a captured Japanese officer who was glad that my father had not shot him and his companions in a lifeboat which my father’s plane circled until an American ship could take them aboard. Many years later my father tracked down that Japanese officer who was by then a retired admiral. My father offered to return the cap device, but the admiral told him to keep it as his war trophy. They became friends and exchanged visits to Tokyo and Seattle.

In 1945 my father married my mother in Vancouver, WA. He was stationed on the Island of Guam for a time and then left the Navy to attend college. He graduated from Oregon State with a degree in aeronautical engineering and went to work for the Boeing Company. He worked on the B-52 program and participated in operations Redwing and Hardtack in 1956 and 1958, testing atomic bombs in the South Pacific. He worked on the 707 program and was the “voice of the 727” when Boeing sent it on a world tour that last six months. My best friend’s father, Harley Beard, was at the controls of the plane for that trip. My father also worked on the 737, 747 and 757 programs before retiring to Sandy Point near Bellingham.

Along with his birthday, Father’s Day, Veteran’s Day, and December 7th, Memorial Day is a day for me to reflect on the nineteen year old boy who frantically searched for his brother and then teamed up with him to defend our nation. I am sorry my father and his brothers are gone, but I am honored to be related to them.

Memorial Day is more to me than a day off from work or school. If it means more to you, too, check out my post on the In Your Neighborhood blog spot of the Tacoma News Tribune about another veteran, the brother of my best friend.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Stimulating the Economy Locally

It may seem to make no sense, but even with the economy the way it is—maybe because of the way it is—I chose to sign up for home delivery of fresh organic produce from Terra Organics of Tacoma. This is in addition to our home delivery of organic milk from Smith Brother’s of Kent. Because we are a big family I chose to receive a large box of produce every other week, but leaving the option open of adding another box on the alternate weeks. Our first box arrived last Friday and it was like Christmas unpacking the treasure of Nature’s bounty.

Granted, some of the items were not local, but as Spring comes to the Northwest more and more local items will be added to the box. Terra strives to find the most local and best value produce to fill its boxes and includes recipes as serving suggestions. I have long been an advocate of planning meals around what is on sale. Now we plan them around the box from Terra Organics. Yesterday the fava beans went into the crock-pot with other vegetables and meat for stew.

I like to think that I am helping out local farmers and the local economy by buying from Terra Organics. I’m not purchasing a vehicle, large appliance or other electronics. Except for bills and the occasional inexpensive gift which I keep an eye out for at all times, our money is going to food these days. My value is giving our family the best possible food within our means and keep our dollars in the community.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

This I Believe

NPR just completed a four year run of This I Believe, a revival of the Edward R. Morrow series of the 1950s. I’ve enjoyed listening to the episodes of essays written by Americans about what is important in their life.

More than once over the past four years I thought about writing down what I believe. Since I enjoy writing it seemed like a natural fit, but I had trouble crystallizing the overall factor that is at the root of everything I believe. So the run of This I Believe came to an end with no submission from me. Then I received a forwarded email that both raised my hackles and brought my life into focus so this is what I believe.

I believe in love. Without love, fear, suspicion and prejudice thrive and out of them grow tyranny and disaster.

The love I feel for this big blue spinning marble is the basis of my belief in walking gently upon the earth and being a good steward. I believe that we are here to be stewards of the earth and all living things.

My love for the Constitution includes a belief in the freedoms outlined in that document as well as the Bill of Rights. I believe that those freedoms belong to all Americans regardless of ethnics, creed, religion, sex or sexual orientation. I believe that the Constitution protects women’s rights to have dominion over their bodies. I believe that it also protects the freedom of speech even for Nazis and racists, regardless of how scurrilous I find their rhetoric. I also believe that every state has the right to a state militia and police force to protect citizens and those citizens, who are found to be of stable mind, have the right to own rifles for the purpose of hunting or defending one’s property.

I believe that no one else’s marriage can diminish mine. Loving, stable relationships enhance our society and those relationships deserve to enjoy the same rights that my marriage does. No law can force a priest, pastor, minister or mullah to officiate at a religious ceremony for a couple whom they are unwilling to bless, but as long as the state seeks to legalize relationships between people it ought to do so wherever there is a commitment to making a life together. I believe in equality for all Americans.

My love for this country makes me believe that taxes are the dues we pay for our Democracy. I believe in roads to drive on, bridges to cross and a military that is well paid and cared for. Most of all I believe in keeping the most vulnerable of our citizens safe and that each American has the right to health care regardless of their income level. Taxes, including gas taxes, help pay for the infrastructure that is now crumbling in this country.

My love for my fellow Americans is the basis of my belief that businesses large and small have the right to make as much money as they can as long as they do so without hurting people or the environment and pay taxes at the same rate as the little guy and without loop holes unavailable to the rest of us. I would prefer that they made their money here.

Because of my love for America I believe that the $720 million per day being spent on a war based on lies has not made us one bit safer. On the contrary it has done more to create more terrorists and sew more hatred for us than anything we have ever done as a nation. Iraq is a made up country which our invasion destabilized. That $720 million of our tax dollars would go a long way toward repairing our aging infrastructure, education, renewable energy and health care for children.

When I was a child I asked my mother what manners were? She had two books of etiquette, but managed to distill it down to this; doing the nicest possible thing in the nicest possible way. Along with the Golden Rule, these two things are the basis of my life. “And harm none.” Choosing love over fear and hatred allows me to sleep at night. It allows me to greet encounters with everyone as an opportunity to give and receive love. Every encounter has something to teach as long as I choose love. Even the ones that raise my hackles.