Monday, August 9, 2010

Dreams of Peace

This collage was done by my artist friend Mizu Sugimura of Federal Way. Until I began writing on the Tacoma News Tribune blog I’d never met Mizu and yet although we were separated by only a few degrees. How I am connected to this soft spoken gentle soul, so unlike me and yet so connected, has been much on my mind lately as I have begun to climb the mountain of memoirs my father left. Mizu’s Japanese American family was imprisoned during WWII. My father was at Kaneohe Naval Air Station on the island of Oahu on December 7th, 1941. It is this chapter of his life that I have been working on to try to catch the eye of a publisher. That day changed the lives of Mizu’s and my father’s forever.

Recently I heard that an Atomic Museum has opened in Los Alamos, New Mexico featuring replicas of the Enola Gay and “Fat Man” and Little Boy,” the bombs that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. This year for the first time the United States sent representatives to Hiroshima for Japan’s Peace Day remembrance of what happened sixty-five years ago. I am happy that we can now acknowledge the destruction we wrought and fascinated and revolted all at the same time with the museum. Following WWII my father participated in Operations Redwing and Hardtack testing the atomic bomb on Eniwetok in the South Pacific. I am revolted that there’s a cathedral to an event that caused in the neighborhood of 240,000 deaths immediately and an estimated 350,000 by 1978.

I know the conventional thinking is that American lives were saved when an invasion of Japan wasn’t needed to end the War in the Pacific, but I cannot help but wonder if the same effect would not have been achieved had a bomb been dropped over the ocean as a demonstration of its destructive power. I am also fascinated to learn that Japan may have been in negotiation with the Soviet Union at that time to surrender to them because the government thought they would get a better deal with the USSR. I will be interested to find out more about that since I cannot imagine that any sort of occupation by the Soviet Union would have been superior to that by the US.

Pearl Harbor and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened before Mizu and I were born and yet they shaped our lives by creating the atomic age we grew up in. Both of our father’s went on to work for Boeing and both of us attended the University of Washington School of Communications, although we did not meet until some four years ago. Getting to know Mizu has put a face on the other side of a conflict and period of time that was pivotal in my father’s life. As I work at finding a publisher for my father’s memoirs and as we recognize what happened sixty-five years ago I wonder if we will ever universally understand how close we are as human beings. By the time he wrote his memoirs in the late 1980s my father expressed his hope that we were seeing the dawn of universal peace for all time. He self published his writing for the family and went on to live to see September 11th and our invasion of Afghanistan and his hope end. Do we still dare to dream of peace?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Grammy Summer Camp

I refer to days when my granddaughter comes to hang out with all of us as Grammy Camp days. Linda and her cousin Gabriel, who with his parents live with us, are finally old enough that they don’t squabble as much as they used to. They are within two months of being the same age and have adored each other since Gabriel’s mom took care of Linda as an infant. Cooperative play hasn’t always come easily so I was delighted last week when Linda came for a night and everything went so well I didn’t hesitate to say yes to another night. On several occasions we have taken the grandchildren individually to our summer home on the Long Beach Peninsula. Taking both was out of the question, especially before Dave retired, but they are getting to an age where taking the two of them will be plausible.

When I was the age of my two oldest grandchildren my cousin Janice and I began going to our grandparent’s house in the country outside of Vancouver, Washington. Janice and I were almost as close in age as Gabriel and Linda and the only girls in the family. She lived on a farm on Whidbey Island which was fun to spend time at, but it was also fun to go to our grandparents because as everyone knows grandparents are not your parents and will cut you more slack than parents would.

It being the 1950s there wasn’t much on television that a child cared about so our days were filled with playing outside in Grandpa’s little corn field or feeding the chickens and looking at the rabbits. An owl decided to take up residence in their yard which was also very entertaining as he seemed to not mind people in the least. One year our grandparents took us to the dime store and told us we could pick out a toy. We chose identical small baby dolls that came with little plastic bath tubs and baby bottles. As I remember Janice’s baby had a blue tub and romper and mine had a pink. There was one television show that we were allowed to stay up and watch. Our grandmother liked staying up to watch Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show. We were even allowed to eat Cheerios off of TV trays before the television. That was our secret. I NEVER stayed up that late at home.

I treasure my memories of visiting my grandparents. Out of the total of my life they are precious few days, but make up such sweet memories they might have been months or years. I hope that I am making memories for Linda and Gabriel. They will be small for such a short time and soon will not want to own knowing who their grandparents are, much less hang out with us.

Yesterday their Uncle Nadir, who is here visiting from California where he is going to school, decided to do some ice cream science with the children. He went out and purchased dry ice, whipping cream, and vanilla. This wasn’t just a cooking lesson. Uncle Nadir explained how dry ice is made and what makes it different from the ice our refrigerator makes. They were not to touch it. They combined the whipping cream, vanilla and sugar in a large plastic bowl and took turns running the mixer while Uncle Nadir shoveled in the dry ice. Soon the mixture began to thicken and spoons came out for a taste test. More mixing and more ice ensued. When Uncle Nadir declared it done a little extra ice was thrown on top and the bowl went into the freezer. While their science experiment hardened their uncle let the children stir pots of “witch’s brew” with dry ice creating the bubbling, steaming effect. As a single young uncle is want to do, their let them have a dish of ice cream before dinner. His mother will remind him of this when he has children.

On the way to meet my son at Linda’s swimming class, she begged another night and it is very hard to say no to her so her clothing is washed and hanging out to dry and the children spent part of the afternoon decorating the front patio with sidewalk chalk to welcome our family friends Jo & Jon—or JoJon as they call them. We are celebrating Jon’s birthday. Jo and Jon have no grandchildren yet, but we let them borrow ours.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bridal Showers

It’s official. I’m old. I’ve started saying, “Back in my day….” Our current onslaught of family weddings is overwhelming mentally and financially. Currently I am having a problem with the notion of a wedding shower.

Back in my day the purpose of the shower was to assist a bride in setting up housekeeping in her own home. She was going from her parents’ house to that of a new home with her husband who presumably didn’t have a lot in the way of linens and kitchen furnishings. Showers had themes usually linen, kitchen or lingerie. Increasingly it appears that showers are a second bid at a wedding gift since the shower hostess will include the name of the store or stores where the bride and groom are registered. “I’m just getting something from their list,” my daughter-in-law said sanguinely regarding my niece’s shower. Not me. If I shop off that list it will be for a wedding gift. Shower gifts are supposed to be inexpensive and the party more about celebrating the bride. Nowadays many brides and grooms have had homes alone and together for a number of years before they decide to marry and there is no longer an actual need for a "shower."

I like old fashioned embroidered tea towels. My husband had no clue what a tea towel was when we married and I still have to constantly remind him that these towels are not for dirty hands. I don’t have the time to embroider them myself anymore although I did back in my day, but I shop enough antique and second hand stores to find them. So rather than purchasing something off of my niece’s Macy’s list I hit a couple of my favorite antique malls and got three beautiful tea towels, staying away from some that were really rather racist—napping Mexicans and pickaninnies. I admit to also purchasing some sweet measuring spoons, too.

There is a real possibility that I will not be buying off the Macy’s list for the wedding either. In the last few years I’ve begun giving family brides and grooms pictures of their grandparents. Family is important to me and so I will be scouting out a nice double frame for copies of the sweet pictures I have of my in-laws when they were young.
On the other hand, a baby shower, especially for a first baby is quite another thing altogether. Fortunately, we haven't any of those looming on the horrizon. Three engaged nieces and one engaged brother are quite enough, thank you.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Is the Red Delicious or Eye Candy?

I’m on a broom. I work in a high school and there are a lot of vending machines. The machines make money for the student body for dances and assemblies and I have a problem with them best left to another rant. When I was a teenager the only vending machine we had was one which vended cold, crisp, juicy Red Delicious apples. It was nice at the end of the day to stop at the vending machine and get an apple for a dime to munch on the way home. I always liked Red Delicious apples and the fact that they were grown in Washington was handy.

Twenty years or more ago I noticed that Red Delicious weren’t so delicious anymore. They looked pretty, but they had no taste. Our household has long since switched its loyalty to Fuji and the occasional Gala apples. This morning I read a letter to the editor of Grit Magazine that explains why. According to former orchard owner Carol Coddington of Alexandria, Pennsylvania, the reason Red Delicious apples don’t taste as good as they used to is American public demand? Did we ask growers to great tasteless apples? No, but we did demand redder, more picture perfect apples. Apparently with apples you can’t entirely judge a book by its cover so those beauties that make for great pictures are more eye candy than taste treat. Now, says Coddington, growers are beginning to mess with Gala Apples. If they start messing with Fujis I’m going to be really mad! This is one more reason to eat locally. If you can find someone with an apple tree in their yard, bang on the door and ask if they will share or go to a local farmer’s market and buy direct from a small farmer. That’s the view from my broom.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Oregon Lavender Festival 2010 Day Two

We did not get as early a start today as we usually do during the festival. It being Sunday, Gail had some obligations at church that could not be escaped. Had it merely required attending a church service I would have gladly gone along with her since I was raised in the Episcopalian Church and can discern little difference in her Evangelical Lutheran, which despite its name, is pretty mainstream. No, she had to go and rehearse music with the organist and singing is not one of my talents—I would have been sent out the door to the curb promptly I opened my mouth—and it involved a meeting following the service which would have become boring for someone not enmeshed in the doctrine and goings on there so I stay at her house and amused myself by reading an article by Harper Lee’s biographer, it being the 50th anniversary of the publication of that wonderful novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Uninterrupted time can be as much of a blessing as any church service.

So following a hastily eaten lunch at Gail’s home in Mt. Angel, we set out, but unfortunately had to back track to Yamhill to exchange some lavender festival t-shirts she’d purchased. The expense of time was soothed by more lavender snickerdoodles and some may even make it home to my grandson. Hopefully at least one. We visited Lavender Thyme, but they seemed depleted on items and vendors and it was hot. As has happened before our best farm of the day was the last one which we barely made it to before closing. Parrot Creek Herb Farm in Oregon City has a beautiful setting and because all the other festival followers had headed home the owners had time to chat. This happened two years ago at a farm no longer even on the tour. The end of a hot day, when it begins to cool a bit can be magical and we enjoyed our chat before turning the Civic towards Mt. Angel. The best part of the day may have been the rum cake we had at a German restaurant there.

Another Oregon Lavender Festival has been appreciated and will be thought of and talked about next year when we go again. It was not as hot as two years ago, but not as comfortable as last. We did not go to any farms that were unpleasant and this is the year I got to see my friend Marlys. Undoubtedly the cold lavender milkshakes at the end of a hot day will be mentally appreciated for years to come, too!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Oregon Lavender Festival 2010

My yearly trips to Oregon for the Lavender Festival are about more than lavender. They are a chance for me to go to a pretty part of the world, relax and recharge with a friend I’ve known and loved since I was six. That is more years than I care to own. I love my big household and doing homey things, but it is divine to come to a place where you can set a thing down with a reasonable expectation of it being in that spot minutes or hours later. A household of six and a small dog cannot be as peaceful as a household of one and a cat. It is nice to occasionally visit a different world.

This year arriving in Mt. Angel, OR was an even larger blessing because of the traffic on freeways between there and my home in Gig Harbor, WA. I have long had anxiety regarding freeways which HBP medication has helped to a certain extent, but does not entirely ameliorate. Although I left Gig Harbor at 11:30 AM, a reasonable time, a trip which I have made in 3.5 hours in the past took five in 90 plus degree heat and with an air conditioner that, like a couple of things on my car, decided to take a little break! So I was grateful when the air conditioning kicked back on and I was able to get off of I-5 and onto the back roads of Oregon. I am seriously considering taking the train next year!

A salmon dinner and a shower soon made me feel better although Oregon’s heat wave prevented me from sleeping as well as I might. Undaunted, Gail and I set out Saturday morning on our quest of all things lavender. Our journey began with a short ride on the Wheatland Ferry across the Willamette River. The ferry is quaint and adds to the ambiance of a beautiful rural area.

It would be impossible to say which our favorite lavender farm is although we have hit some duds in three years of perusing. Our first stop this year was Red Ridge which quite possibly has the most beautiful prospect. As its name implies it sits on a hill top with fields of lavender sloping away from the house and gift shop. From there you can see the surrounding bucolic countryside and our visit there is always pleasant.

Willakenzie is another favorite. It, too, has a beautiful setting, an extensive gift shop that includes hand-knit items from the wool of the alpacas the farm raises along with lavender. We always find treasurers there and this year was no exception. After we’d done some retail therapy we enjoyed lavender sorbet on the porch of the shop and took away lavender lemonade and lavender ice tea for the road to Yam Hill.

After a brief stop at the Carlton General Store where I purchased sunscreen (having left my own bottle in my car in Mt. Angel) we got to Yamhill and the festival in the park there. Booths with crafts and art line the edges of the park under ancient trees while a band played on the bandstand in the center. We particularly enjoyed an extensive display of local paintings of the many lavender fields that surround the countryside of Yamhill. At a picnic table we unpacked our picnic lunch which we might have enjoyed were it not for a couple of people who seemed to think that the area we were in was the smoking area. Although our chicken salad sandwiches were good (if I do say so myself) they might have been better appreciated somewhere else. Before we left the festival grounds we purchased two lavender snickerdoodles to enjoy on the road.

Helvetia Lavender Farm was eagerly anticipated by me. It is always the busiest stop on our lavender journey with lots of booths, music and food, but this year it held the special attraction of another childhood friend, Marlys Violet Spencer, seamstress extraordinaire who lives and creates “wearable art” in Hillsboro, OR. Marlys a year ahead of me at Sammamish High School in Bellevue, WA and unquestionably the most entertaining of my acquaintances. She has done work for large and small theater groups as a costumer around the Pacific Northwest and in Hawaii. She returned to her childhood home of Hillsboro to care for a dying father and create yet a new chapter in a very interesting life. She sews wedding dresses, kitschy shirts that truly are art, and beautiful scarves all made from repurposed fabric she finds at garage sales and Goodwill. When we first stopped at the booth where I quickly spotted her wares, Marlys was nowhere to be seen, but the farm and festival is extensive so we wandered the many booths and before we left found her returned. Big hugs and introductions ensued along with a lengthy chat to catch up. When a customer needed Marlys’ attention we moved toward the car and I was dismayed to realize that I’d not gotten her picture. Before we left she told me to choose a scarf since she reckoned she owed me 40 years worth of birthday presents. I was already determined to buy a scarf for myself and one for my daughter-in-law who loves pretty things so I eagerly chose a purple and gold one for myself and one featuring shades of orange for Ana.

We ended our lavendering at Mountainside Farm where we had a barbecue chicken dinner that featured lavender potato salad. It was quite possibly the best potato salad I ever ate and since I have culinary lavender at home I am determined to add it to the next potato salad I serve. Please note that I did not say “make.” Costco sells a very good potato salad which I doctor up to suit myself saving time and effort. Potato salad is not important enough to me to labor over.

Our day was not done. We stopped at a large berry stand that included an ice cream parlor where we ordered lavender milkshakes which we enjoyed in their outdoor eating area. A cool breeze had come up and it was the perfect end to a lovely day. Gail said that the milkshakes were even better than the lavender sorbet we had at Willakenzie. That’s a tough call and I’m glad we had a day that included both.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Looking for Organic Beets

Today Dave and I went looking for organic beets. Sometimes I feel like I’m the “hunter/gatherer” in my quest to find healthful food for our family.

We are committed to eating as organically as possible and to that end try to buy from local farmers and organic stores and even have organic produce and dairy delivered to our home in Gig Harbor. We seldom/never shop at Whole Foods because of the attitude of CEO John Mackey who came out against health care reform. Yes, eating healthful food can help you stay healthy, but people get sick even if they exercise and eat right. My sister-in-law died young of pancreatic cancer despite years of eating organic and exercising. A coworker has been organic forever and a day and within weeks of retirement was diagnosed with breast cancer, so it happens. Mackey thinks were stupid if he thinks shopping at Whole Foods is better than health care reform.

On the Long Beach Peninsula, where our “someday retirement” home is, finding organic food is more problematic than at home in Pierce County. Still, it is possible. Today we set out and started with Green Angel Organic Farm on the back road. They sell to the little organic market in Long Beach, but I like to cut out the middle man if I can. We wanted beets, but got skunked and settled for summer squash instead. Next stop was the Organic Market where we found potatoes and hotdog buns.
Seeing how the mist seemed to have settled in hard enough to discourage yard work we decided to sneak over the bridge to Astoria and see the new digs for the Astoria Co-op Community Store. I liked their funky old store located in one of Astoria’s aged downtown buildings. Their new place is nice, slightly bigger and they have an eating area they didn’t have before. They don’t have a deli like Marlene’s in Tacoma, but they do have some packaged salads that can be purchased and consumed on site. During the 1970s my first husband and I joined a co-op that grew out of a play group our children participated in. We didn't have a store front, but took turns going to Seattle to the industrial area to pick up large quanities of food stuffs the members wanted, then took it back to Kirkland where we lived to be divided into orders for members. Getting healthful food without breaking the pocketbook has always been a problem. The agribusiness likes it that way. Thank goodness that there are getting to be more and more organic store fronts and that mainstream markets are carrying more and more organic products!

Because I have a guest coming early Wednesday morning for tea while her husband is down the road at physical therapy, I wanted scones to serve with the tea and so we stopped by The Blue Scorcher Organic Bakery where I bought hamburger buns, but no scones. I finally resorted to buying a scone mix and will brave my screwy oven that seems to run hotter all the time. Fingers crossed that I don’t scorch the scones!

A New Teacher Launches

One of the nice things about having a blog is sharing other interesting blogs. Recently I was turned onto the blog of a young woman who is just starting out in life and teaching for the first time. Sadie Newell is the daughter of a friend from my days as a Special Education paraeducator at Ocean Park Elementary School on the Long Beach Peninsula. Sadie was a toddler in those days. It is hard to believe that she’s all grown up.

Following graduation from the University of Washington Sadie was one of 8,000 accepted applicants, from 46,000 for the Teach For America program and will be spending two years in Tulsa, Oklahoma far from the beach community where she grew up or the Puget Sound Area where she attended college. Along the way she is doing training and teaching summer school to low income students in Phoenix, AZ. She’s keeping a blog that I’m sharing. What a wonderful thing this bright young woman is doing. Check out her blog and maybe drop a note of encouragement or teaching tip.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Two Very Different Stories of Family


My Uncle Dick always said that the Ozark Mountains are the oldest mountains on Earth. The Internet says that geologists don’t know for sure, but nominate the Appalachians and Urals as possible candidates. I was never of a mind to argue with Uncle Dick. Besides, the Ozarks feel ancient—primordial. Human beings may have come out of Africa, but the Earth came out of the Ozarks. You can feel it.

Although I have never lived there I am of the Ozarks. Our people have been there since well before the Civil War. I study the Ozarks like it was a foreign country because for someone raised in the Pacific Northwest it is foreign. The food is different, the notion of time is different, the language is different. When I come upon something having to do with the Ozarks, specifically the Missouri Ozarks, I sit up and take notice. That’s why my summer reads have been Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell and The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton. Both of these books are set in my father’s beloved Ozarks and are very, very, different books. I believe they show two different aspects of life in the Ozarks. Both authors were born and raised in the Ozarks, separated by 40 years. Both novels are about family and loyalty and tradition. These families face different challenges that they handle differently, but in the end it is that “blood is thicker than water” belief that draws them together.

The Moonflower Vine is a re-release of a novel first published in 1962, again in 1990 (don’t know how that slipped by me) and again in 2009. Set in the 1950s, it is the story of a family and their lives outside Renfo, MO. The adult daughters come home together in the summers although they are scattered as far as New York. The Ozarks call them back, not unlike they called my family back over and over. It’s a family you wouldn’t mind visiting, sitting on the porch and watching the moon flowers bloom. It has the heat and humidity of summers back there—those days that are two shower days, although the Soames don’t have indoor plumbing and in the summer bathe in the creek. By the 1950s my grandparents were living in Washington State, but the Soames are a family not unlike the Friezes—especially those relatives who remained there. Although Renfro is in Moniteau County, reading the Moonflower Vine is like a step back in time and south to Dade County. Jetta Carleton was born in Holden, Missouri, not far from Renfro.

Winter’s Bone is a contemporary novel about a family with problems that many Americans may believe are the province of big cities. In Woodrell’s Ozarks methamphetamine has replaced moonshine and fifteen year old Ree Dolly’s daddy is a crank cooker. Dad has put up the family farm as bond and disappeared. Ree needs to save the farm to care for her mother, who has escaped to more peaceful places in her mind, and her two younger brothers. Living in a holler that’s populated by family who are distrustful of the law at best and outlaws at worst, Ree’s world appears different as can be from that of the Soame’s in Moonflower. As the title suggests, it is set in the winter and the language is as jagged and raw as the winter wind. It bites at you. This is not my father’s Ozarks, but yet it is. We may or may not have had our moonshiners and outlaws, but the bond of blood was the same.

Winter’s Bone got the attention of director Debra Grankin as well as the Sun Dance Film Festival where the movie version (Ree is 17 in the movie) won Best Picture and Best Screen Play. Filmed in Taney County, my cousin predicted that anything filmed there was going to be a “yawn.” If the movie is anything like the book, it is anything but. It opens at the Grand in Tacoma on July 26th and I plan to be there.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Old Mother Frieze and the View from Her Cupboard

Gradually we have switched over to eating as much organic and local produce and meat as possible. The factory farms are the agricultural equivalent of BP. They are only interested in making money regardless of the risk of genetically engineered food, the chemicals used in processed food or the inhumane treatment of animals. You do away with all that by buying locally grown and organic food.

I wrote a blog about this on the Tacoma News Tribune blogspot “In Your Neighborhood” a couple of years ago and was accused of being un-American and seeking to bring down capitalism. Now this guy is a Rightwing wacko who likes his Big Macs and I know that. Buying meat from the farmer down the road if you can or organic meat at Costco or your local market, if you’re lucky enough, ensures that fewer animals are leading miserable lives. Cooking from scratch or at least finding organic versions of processed foods is the most healthful and humane thing to do. And it isn’t that hard.

Safeway and Fred Meyer carry organic products and the more people buy them the wider the variety is. For a mainstream store, Fred Meyer is the best with an extensive selection of organic product, even in bulk, at reasonable prices. They carry organic chicken and some beef, although organic beef is expensive. Some, but not all, of the Costcos carry organic meat. If you can find a local farmer who raises beef cattle at least you will know how the animal was treated. If you are in doubt as to who factory farms treat animals you can find videos of it on the Internet, but it’s not for the faint of heart or queasy of stomach.

We are fortunate enough to get fresh organic produce delivered to our door by Terra Organics. They have farms all over. I have a friend who gets their produce down in CA. Smith Brothers Farms, based in Kent, WA, carries organic milk to our door, too. We shop at Marlene's Market in Tacoma where we enjoy meals in their deli while we shop the store. They make the best vegan chocolate cake you ever put in your mouth.

You can find coupons for organic foods on the Internet. Organic Valley has coupons for milk, butter, eggs, and other dairy products. If you visit the websites of organic products and email them how much you like their products you can get coupons for all sorts of things. I have received coupons for carrots, organic chips, dishwashing liquids, etc.

There are local health food stores and co-ops like PC in King County and Marlene’s in King and Pierce County. I don’t like Whole Foods because the CEO, John Mackey, is against health care reform. His opinion is that if you do your shopping at his store you won’t need health care. I have a sister-in-law who ate all organic and still got pancreatic cancer so you can still get sick, your chances are just less if you aren’t putting all the chemicals that come in factory farmed meat and produce and processed food into your body.

The best thing you can do for yourself and family is to cook from scratch and then sit down together. It does more for the body and spirit than anything else you can do. Yes, it takes a little longer, but it's worth it. That's the view from my broom and my cupboard.

Friday, June 4, 2010

First World Health Care?

I’m on a broom about health care in the United States. The only folks who are happy with our current system are the ones with Cadillac insurance policies, but for common men and women, especially the elderly and under insured, getting help is a nightmare. Families are expected to become impoverished and overworked to care for chronically ill family members which actually damages their health and therefore puts the family unit at even more risk. Caretakers are forced to extreme measures to get help from the medical community and Medicare.

I have a friend whose daughter has been battling chronic Lyme disease for more than a decade. This devastating illness has robbed the girl of her youth as well as her health. My friend has been unable to work as her daughter requires around the clock care and Medicare has ceased paying for a home health nurse, forcing mom to care for medical procedures that are out of a mother’s job description unless there’s an RN after her name. Because of the word “chronic” Medicare will also not pay for prescriptions that improve the quality of life for the daughter thereby increasing her symptoms and making a bad situation worse.

My 86 year old aunt has Lupus. As a result she suffers from water retention in her legs making it difficult and sometimes impossible for her to walk. Like the chicken and egg story, one thing just exacerbates the other setting up a cycle of downward spirling existence. Twice last year she was hospitalized when she became unable to walk and then sent to a nursing home for rehabilitation. Each time she got better, only to come home and have the situation recur. It happened a third time and when her daughter, who herself has Lupus, fibromyalgia, and emphysema, had her taken to the hospital following a fall, they refused to admit her because her malady is “chronic” and Medicare doesn’t pay for chronic conditions. With a cracked eye socket and swollen lip and face, my aunt was sent home (in an ambulance because she could not walk) where she was accidentally dropped in the yard by the firemen, bruising her bottom, and told that if she couldn’t walk to the bathroom, to put a commode by her recliner where she basically lives. Her world had shrunk to a few square feet.

When she could not even stand well enough to do that and her exhausted daughter could no longer change and care for her, my cousin called the Medics again and had her taken to the hospital. This time she resorted to something no family member should be forced to, she didn’t go to the hospital with my aunt. She was afraid that they would tell her to take her mother home and she couldn’t face it. I cannot imagine how my cousin felt at not being able to be in the ER with her mother nor how my aunt must have felt at being there alone, but my cousin saw no other way to get help. Without hospitalization my cousin could not get her mother into a rehab center and get help. Fortunately this time the ER doctor realized the truth of the situation and even apologized to my cousin when she finally went to the hospital.

So this is the glorious system the Rightwingers so vehemently want to protect. Some would even abolish Medicare, thereby depriving recipients of what little help they can now get. Is this how we treat the Greatest Generation and our fellow citizens? God help us all.

Ruminations on an Unknown Life

My car radio is on vacation. It does this every once in a while. I thought it was back this morning since it worked for about three minutes. My tachometer acts weird too, but I’ve learned to live with that. We tried to get the radio fixed, but there aren’t repair people in the world anymore. My appliance repair guy fixes things over the phone. Maybe I should call him. I don’t want to replace the entire unit because I love my four disk CD changer. It’s just right for the 150 mile trip to the beach I make every two weeks.

Anyway, once in a while the sound begins misbehaving so that there’s a few seconds of sound when you turn it on or start the car and then nothing which gives me plenty of time to ruminate these days. Recently, following my weekly trip to Goodwill, I ruminated on the clues we leave behind about our lives. We tend to think of archeology having to do with ancient civilizations, but I’m more contemporary in my digging.

Purple is my favorite color and when I’m shopping my eyes scan the goods for shades of purple. My eye lit on a photograph at Goodwill what either by age or design was purple. It wasn’t a very clear picture, almost Impressionistic in fuzziness. I turned it over to see if the photographer had signed it or if there was information about the picture where I found a handwritten statement: “Looking East toward the Med from Harry’s place in Fuengirola, Espana, 8 PM New Years Day. Taken with one minute time lapse” this explains the dreamlike quality of the picture. The handwriting speaks of another era. Taken in 1980 the photographer is most likely dead. It is a moment of at least two lives in a very pretty place.

Through the what I still consider the magic of the Internet I looked up Fuengirola. It’s beautiful and I thought of this moment of an unknown life captured forever. Was the photographer a man or a woman? Whoever it was had a friend named Harry who had a house in Spain and spent New Year’s with him in 1979. Harry is not a Spanish name so he was an expat of some variety, either an older American or a Brit? Having never gone anywhere of note and having no friends with homes on foreign shores, I find the whole thing rather romantic and certainly entertaining enough to get me from Goodwill the four miles home in a silent car.

Postscript: I couldn’t get the photo out of my mind so yesterday I returned to Goodwill and purchased the picture for $1.99.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Another Memorial Day is approaching. A lot of folks have forgotten the reason that they are getting Monday off from work and school. It’s origins like in the post Civil War South when some Southern ladies wanted to remember their menfolk who had died in that great American tragedy. In an effort to reunite the states the holiday became recognized nation-wide, honoring all the soldiers who had died in that war. Over time many communities extended the commemorating to include all Americans who have passed away. In some places it is known as Decoration Day. My cousin has told me that Memorial Day in the Ozarks, where our family is from, is a big event. People there take it seriously.

Until his death my Uncle Dick put flowers on all the family graves in Dade County, MO. Our family has been in that neck of the woods since before the Civil War so there are plenty of deceased to honor. He took flowers to about 70 graves including several in a long forgotten cemetery in the woods. He crawled through barbed wire fences and walked through fields to get to some of the cemeteries. Some of those graves will probably never see flowers again since Uncle Dick couldn’t get the town interested in tending the one in the woods.

I’ve got a cousin in Vancouver, WA who tends the graves of our family there. Each year he washes the graves and places flowers on each one. He’s no Spring chicken now and sick this year so just getting the flowers there will be a struggle. Maybe one of his boys will step up, but youngsters today don’t seem to care unless they’ve got a friend in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Since I can’t take flowers to my father’s grave in MO we have a trip to the Tahoma National Cemetery tomorrow. I’m taking flowers to my best friend’s father and brother. Harley Beard was the pilot of the Liberator over Germany during WWII. After the war, when he’d gone to work for the Boeing Company as a test pilot, he became friends with some of those German pilots he fought against. His sons both served as pilots in Vietnam, one in the Air Force and Neal in the Army flying helicopters. Neal died a year ago and a Huey did a fly-over while the pastor said prayers and the VFW lauded him.

The Civil War is long since gone from our collective consciousness, at least in the North, and even Vietnam is just so much history to the young ones. I hope that at the very least Americans will think of the sort of love and sense of duty that causes young men and women to go into harm’s way. Many, too many, don’t come home and whether or not we agree with the conflicts they die for we ought to be moved by their willingness to serve.

Monday, May 24, 2010

You'd Look Neat Upon the Seat of a Bicycle Built for Five

On August 1st, 2009 Bill Harrison and his wife Amarins left their home in Mt. Vernon, KY with their three daughters, ages 7, 5, and 3, for Fairbanks, AK with $300 on a bicycle built for five. Since then they have loges more than 5,300 miles—averaging 30 miles per day—of a nearly 7,000 mile trip. Recently they took a little detour on their way through WA to the Long Beach Peninsula to the spot where Lewis and Clark first reached the mouth of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.

Harrison told Damian Mulinix of the Chinook Observer, the Long Beach Peninsula’s weekly newspaper, that their daughters were the inspiration for the trip. He characterized himself and his wife as gypsies at heart and they decided to see the United States and give their daughters “something they will never forget.”

Bill Harrison has used his skills in mechanics, plumbing and carpentry to do the odd job along the way. He plans to use those skills in AK to help get the family through the winter and do some volunteer work.

The family is journaling their trip on their family Web log at There you can see pictures of them on the road and read about the various places and people they have met. While they have chosen Fairbanks as their destination, they don’t have a plan set for what they will do when they get there or how long they will stay. This, they say, is all part of the adventure.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

And Now You Know the Rest of the Story

Recently thirty-six year old Tacoma graphic designer Joshua Casey opened a showing of Warhol inspired oil paintings at the Rosewood CafĂ© in the Proctor District. Trained at the Northwest College of Art in Poulsbo, Casey went to work for Burke Gibson Inc in Auburn following graduation. In 2006 he struck out on his own with his own graphic design company, Josh Casey Designs, based in the North Tacoma home he shares with wife Jamie and their two daughters. Just as he was beginning to develop a clientele the economy took a nose dive in the fall of ‘08. Despite some struggles finding projects, he’s been able to acquire some commissions that if not lucrative have been highly visible.

The First Night Poster for 2008 was a feather in his cap and helped garnered him some work with Metro Parks designing brochures for the summer programs at Pt. Defiance. The down economy also allowed him to be Mr. Mom when Jamie—who works as a court reporter from home—gave birth to their second daughter Lydia in the fall of 2008. At the Day of the Dead Exhibition at the Tacoma Art Museum, Casey had a work featured on one of the altars.

The down economy also gave him time to return to his first love, painting. The result is on display at the Rosewood located at 26th and Warner in North Tacoma. A long-time fan of Casey’s work, I have a signed First Night poster hanging in the entrance to my home and some of his earlier works, much earlier works, in my bedroom. You see, this talented 36 year old happens to be my oldest son. And to borrow from Paul Harvey, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I Can't Believe I Used to Eat That!

Last night we stopped in Shelton to see my aunt and uncle on our way to the Long Beach Peninsula to shop for my mother and her sister. I don’t have many of the “grown-ups” in my life left and these two happened to be favorites even when I had a bunch.

We decided to keep dinner simple and made sandwiches. I commented that since I started buying Costco’s Kirkland Brand sliced turkey for sandwiches I can’t hardly abide the packaged lunchmeat they sell in the supermarket. I’m sure my daughter-in-law would say it’s the chemicals and she’d probably be right.

We started talking about things that we used to eat that just don’t seem as good. I was raised on a typical American 1950s menu that included white bread and a large allotment of canned food. Mind you, canned food is a blessing when a winter storm hits and I keep a modest supply in the pantry, but for the most part I steer away from canned and packaged food.

As a child my mother fed me a prodigious amount of canned macaroni and cheese (gag). Maybe the boxed kind that required the addition of milk and butter and the time to boil the noodles, but Franco American carried canned (gag) macaroni (gag) and cheese….And I loved it! The macaroni was long and fat and looked like some sort of Albino worm that slithered in a pale yellow sauce. Once, back in the 1980s in a fit of nostalgia I decided that I’d take a can home from the store and have a little comfort food. Oh my goodness! I have no clue either why my mother thought that stuff passed muster as food or why I didn’t balk at eating it. Goodness knows I sat at the table for hours refusing to eat canned peas. It’s true that you can’t go home again. But sometimes you can.

Recently my uncle was laid up from knee replacement surgery. With a lot of time to lie around in a drugged state his mind wandered back to food they used to eat and hadn’t had in a long time. He lit on creamed tuna on toast and poached eggs (not at the same time) and when my aunt obliged him they discovered old friends and even went out and bought a new egg poacher.

One comfort food that continues to please me are toasted cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Power of Objects

I am a recovering packrat. For a couple of year I have been attempting to divest myself of the pile I have accumulated in the past 50+…well, -60…years. Don’t laugh. I have my Teddy bear and dolls from the 1950s so the pile has gotten rather large. I think I have always valued people over things, but there is no denying that I attach a lot of emotion to certain objects which have been owned by or remind me of people I love. Looking at them, touching them, wearing them connects me to the past or a particular person.

I use jewelry as talismans. When I have a potentially stressful appointment or day ahead, I put on jewelry that has belonged to people from whom I can draw strength and calm. I have a ring given to me by my best friend. We’ve known each other since we were little girls. The ring was hers and when she tired of it she gave it to me to sell at a garage sale, but I kept it. Her strength, of which she has a lot, flows through me when I wear it. I have the engagement/wedding ring my father gave my step-mother forty years ago. When she remarried following my father’s death she tearfully pressed it into my hand. It is beautiful. I love the fact that she wore it for over thirty years and that my father picked it out. They both travel with me when I wear that ring. I have my great-grandmother’s engagement ring. It is little and delicate with filigree. I wear it when I want a connection to the strong women of my family’s past. Amanda Austin lost a son to diphtheria, traveled from the Mid West to the Olympic Peninsula where she, depending on which family version you subscribe to, either had another baby in her mid 40s during the 19th Century or adopted a Native American baby and raised her as her own. Either way, I figure she was tough as nails. She looks pretty no nonsense in her pictures.

I won’t even begin to list the things of my dad and his family that I have. I have shared some with my children, but pretty much if my Dad owned it I have trouble turning loose of it. Recently our household inherited some furniture that belonged to my ex-in-laws. I loved them and I love those pieces. Always have. They are not mine per se, but I get the use of them for the time being and I could not be happier. The best of the bunch is the table. I was eighteen the first time my ex-husband took me home to his parents’ house for dinner. They had a big family and a big round table which I found enchanting. Later we married and had babies who ate at that table as well. Mom and Dad were kind and loving from day one and I learned more from my mother-in-law than nearly any other woman. The table has three leaves to accommodated spouses and grandchildren and now it sits in my dining room. I’m keeping it for my ex-sister-in-law who lives on the other side of the country. I am hoping that distance and age will make her less likely to come fetch it, but in the meantime I think of Mom and Dad every time we sit down to eat. If no one comes to get it, I hope that someday it will belong to one of my grandchildren and that more generations will eat off it after I have no more need for it.

I do believe in the power of objects. You may choose to think that it is psychological. Real or imagined, those objects have the power to soothe my heart.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Caring for Spirit

At the risk of repeating comments from previous blogs, and to no one’s surprise, our 21st century lives are far too stressful, even for “Type A” personalities. Those people may think they are happy being wound up like 30 day clocks and multi-tasking 90 miles per hour, but it is only a veneer of fulfillment and unhealthful. It is easy to get caught up in the daily grind of work and family and to wonder what the point is. Look at how we talk about it—“daily grind.” Life is not supposed to be a grind. Caring for our spirits is as important or perhaps more so than our physical heath since the two are intimately tied.

I was reminded of this recently when I read an article online about the need for recharging our batteries—Winding the Clock—the Importance of Daily Spiritual Practice by Hafizullah. He encourages people without a spiritual practice to investigate various practices to find one that fits and then to allow for as large a portion of time possible for reflection and “winding the clock” before beginning one’s day. This article is a must read. Regardless of the tradition an individual feels comfortable with, the need for daily meditation or reflection is significant.

Based in Seattle, Hafizullah has been a practicing Sufi since 1976 after having traveled a path of so many who came of age in the early 1970s. In his own words, he has “walked, stumbled, crawled, and danced the Way of the Sufi”. The ‘70s were a time of social and political change when Americans began to look beyond Western traditions for spiritual solace and meaning. Hafizullah is a senior teacher of the Sufi Order International and teaches “the Turn” of the Dervishes nation-wide and has a “special interest in the interface between psychology and spirituality, and believes that establishing a spiritual basis for one’s life is the most pragmatic approach to living with authenticity, inner freedom, and dignity in today’s world.” He says his passion is sharing in sacred space and spiritual practice with those who are awakening.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sydney of Oysterville

Although out of the scope of our South Sound Neighborhood and since I’ve never demurred from sharing neighbors in our larger electronic world, I’m sharing a smooth coastal gem I found on the beach on the Washington coast. Most readers know of my love for and the large portion of time I spend at the Long Beach Peninsula. I lived there fulltime for only three years, but my family’s love of the place goes back generations and my own childhood summers were spent there.

During the time my children and I lived on the Long Beach Peninsula I was fortunate enough to meet and work in the same school as Sydney Stevens. At the time Sydney taught a first, second, third split class at Ocean Park Elementary School, but it was obvious that Sydney was more than a wonderful teacher who organized things like “Mother Goose Week” whereby the rhymes we all grew up with, but were falling out of children’s common knowledge, were taught and culminated in everyone dressing up as their favorite character and parading around the little school—she was passionate about the Peninsula.

Sydney’s family went back generations on the Peninsula and she was passionate about preserving and teaching the children about the rich history that was all around them. Although she’d lived elsewhere during her adult years eventually the soft salty breezes and even the wild storms called Sydney home. A teacher by trade and a historian by heart she combined the two and published little children’s books about the history and culture of the area.

Once Sydney retired from teaching she got serious about writing. I wrote a blog about her collection of letters from an aunt who grew up in Oysterville, Sydney’s family home, in a much simpler time a couple of years ago. What I didn’t know was that she also began writing a blog. So I am here today to introduce you to Sydney Steven’s. Check out her blog

PS The little church you see in the background of the picture of Sydney is where Dave and I married 20 years ago.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What Were They Thinking

I don’t like the politics, the homophobia or the pedophilia of the Boy Scout Organizaiton. Those aspects of the organization are jingoistic, intolerant and immoral. Now they have proven the organization to be down right ludicrous. Boys can earn merit badges for things such as archery, carpentry and canoeing and the many things of that ilk that we associate with Scouting, but now, dum ta, ta dumb, they can earn one for PLAYING VIDEO GAMES.

What were the executives of the organization thinking when they decided to give out a merit badge for sitting on the couch playing video games? I thought Scouting was about being out doors and science and helping old ladies across the street, not being a couch potato. Actually I thought it was about everything that couch potatoes are not.

I guess I’m just getting old. My children constantly tell me that childrearing isn’t want it used to be. I’ll say not!

I'm Boycotting AZ

I am so thankful that my husband chose to retire rather than to transfer to AZ! What is up with those people? First they did not want to observe Martin Luther King Day and now they want to lead us down the road to a national identity card. If you think such a card would not have a computer chip in it, think again. When I think of people having to produce identification randomly I think of Nazi Germany—and by the way Homeland Security sounds a lot like the Fatherland and always has.

We are a nation of immigrants and if we need reforms on immigration instead of harassing people who may well have been born right here and therefore will have to prove they are Americans. That’s not acceptable. I know that other countries have identity cards, but we aren’t other countries. We are a nation of immigrants where people have historically come to make a fresh start. Why not make it easier for them to come here legally?

No, Mexicans are not going to take jobs that Americans could have. Americans are too spoiled to be picking fruit and vegetables, cleaning motel rooms and mowing lawns. Yes, we do need immigration reform, but passing laws designed to target aliens and intimidate voters is not the way to go. I have a son whose father came here from Iran as a teenager. He went to college, applied for a green card, and became a naturalized citizen. My son was born in Castro Valley, CA, but he has a Persian name and dark hair and eyes. After 9-1-1 I truly worried that Bush would round up all the Arabs and Persians and put them in concentration camps ala Roosevelt and the Japanese-Americans. South Carolina’s Congressman Barrett (R) attempted to have all Iranians deported earlier this year.

It is typical during an economic depression/recession for Americans to become more jingoistic and look for scapegoats for their distress. Sending all the illegal Mexicans back to Mexico will not improve our economy. Quite the reverse. And I have no wish to be forced to prove that I was born in Kansas. I will not be buying anything from or visiting AZ anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Buddy Can You Spare a Dime?

Since the beginnings of civilization society has had those individuals who for one reason or another find it necessary to ask—beg—for help from those more capable of making their way in life. They have always been with us. During hard economic times even more so. They make us uncomfortable and we’d rather they be invisible so we don’t have to think about them. We pass laws against panhandling as though we can outlaw homelessness and poverty. Tacoma has tried it with the result that the beggars came to Gig Harbor. Gig Harbor prefers to keep those things invisible or on the other side of the Narrows Bridge.

Up until recently there have been three or four individuals (never more than two at one time) standing at the intersection of Pt. Fosdick and Olympic Drives holding signs asking for help. Since the appearance of an article on the phenomenon in the Peninsula Gateway, Gig Harbor’s weekly newspaper, they have disappeared. Did they all get jobs? Were they all run out of town on a rail? Are they in the bushes behind Safeway where homeless people, some of them Tacoma ex-gang members, have lived for several years?

I don’t have a problem with panhandlers or beggars. It reminds me that we are not doing enough to care for each other. If I’m not the one driving and we are stopped at the intersection I will give them a $5 bill. No one need feel obliged to give money to these people, but our family firmly believes that there are people for whom it is just impossible to hold a job. Most of us would not even want to attempt to employ them. Does this mean that they just deserve to starve or die from the elements? I don’t think so. The fact that people are in a position where begging has become their only option speaks to our failure as a society to care for our own. The way we outlaw poverty is to provide support for these people not pass laws that attempt to make them invisible.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Embroidery and Life

I’ve been doing homey sorts of things lately. Actually, I’m a homey sort of gal. Although I like to see new things I like coming home and although housework is not my favorite sport it feels good to be doing Spring Cleaning. I’ve even been participating in the lost art of ironing.

Ironing is a four letter word as far as I’m concerned. Had I a place to leave the ironing board up I might be more inclined to do it oftener, but half the time I don’t even know where the board is because there’s nowhere convenient to keep it. But starting Saturday I hauled out my old wooden ironing board and have been ironing the curtains and dresser scarves we have washed as we clean up for Spring. Ironing gives me a chance to ruminate.

Another thing I like is hand embroidered linens. I inherited pillowcases that my mother had done for her Hope Chest—do girls still have such a thing? No, they just register a Bed, Bath and Beyond and instead of things made by their mothers, aunties or their own hands, they have things sewn in China (and don’t attempt to get things properly monogrammed—I did and Latin letters and the order they should be in are beyond their understanding over there). The linens my mother decorated seventy years ago have been worn out for some time. When I was a stay at home mom in the 1970s I embroidered myself, but never as well as my mother. Now I rely on others, scavenging thrift stores, bazaars’, crafters’ malls and senior centers. I love embroidered pillowcases, tea towels, and dresser scarves even though I didn’t do the work myself and don’t know who did.

I don’t mean to stereotype, but I do believe that in general women seem to be better equipped to make a pleasant home. I would not go back to the bad old days when women could not vote or work and I know that they still are not paid on a parity with men, but I think we’ve lost something having so many women out of the home and I eagerly await the time when I can afford to do more around the house on a daily basis instead of throwing all of my energy into tasks on the weekends only.

As I’ve been ironing linens that someone used their talent and time to decorate with flowers and birds and crochet edging for I wonder about the life of each woman who did the work—her likes and dislikes, her hopes and dreams. As they worked they embroidered their lives and that of their families. It is sad that their work was cared for so little by those around her that it was relegated to a thrift store, but good for me. I am in the process of paring down my pile of books because I know very well that my children will not care two straws about them regardless of how much I do, but the linens I intend to wash and iron and love until like me, they wear out.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Battle of the Bulge

I scored a little victory in my battle of the bulge yesterday morning when I stepped on the scale and discovered that I've lost 12 pounds since my birthday last month. That puts me at 215 which is two pounds less than my previous high in 1987.

I know that oatmeal is supposed to lower cholesterol, but I don't like oatmeal unless it is in an oatmeal cookie. For a quick breakfast I decided on oatmeal muffins. After trying out several recipes I have landed on a combination of them and now consider it my own.

Healthy Oatmeal-Raisin Muffins
· 2 egg whites—can substitute 2 tsp cornstarch, but use honey in place of brown sugar.
· ¾ cup of milk
· ½ cup vegetable oil
· ¼ cup wheat germ
· ¾ cup oatmeal—soak in milk for a while first, if old fashioned oats are used, soak longer.
· 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
· ¼ cup unbleached white flour
· 2 tsp. baking powder
· 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
· 1 tsp. salt
· 1 tsp. Cinnamon
· 1 tsp vanilla
· ¼ tsp. Nutmeg
· Two handfuls of raisins, dried cranberries or a combination

Heat oven to 400°. Grease bottoms of muffin cups or use muffin papers. Put dried fruit to soak in warm water while you measure dry ingredients. Drain dried fruit and stir into dry ingredients to coat. This will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the muffin. Beat egg, stir in milk, oil, and vanilla. Fold egg mixture into dry until moistened. Batter will be lumpy. Fill muffin cups about ¾ full. Bake until golden brown approx. 20 min. Remove from pan immediately.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Life in the Fat Land

Obesity is the last characteristic that it is politically okay to make fun of. Writer and teacher Irene McPherson has stated in her blog In the Shadow of Fat that as she looks forward to her wedding this fall the nasty little childhood ditty of “Here comes the bride, big, fat, and wide” sticks in her head. She should be planning more romantic music for her wedding, but what bride doesn’t want to be ravishing on her wedding day? The good news is that the lovely man who proposed to her loves her just as she is, to borrow from the movie “Bridget Jones’ Diary.” And yet, our society is so obsessed with thinness that girls end up anorexic and models are airbrushed to impossible dimensions.

It’s okay to discriminate against fat people. I have a hard working, tender hearted, large girlfriend who was discriminated against when she applied for a secretarial job. She had the seniority and skills to do the job, but didn’t fit the image the boss had for his front office. I asked her to grieve the action with her union since the department had flagrantly ignored the fact that she was senior to the woman who got the job. “Why would I want to be somewhere where I’m not wanted?” she asked me. Ultimately it worked out for the best because eventually she landed in a department where her skills and character count for more than her size. She is treasured just the way she is. The man who didn’t hire her ended up with difficulties of his own from higher above and left the organization altogether.
Those of us who have yo-yo-ed over the years have wound up with crappy metabolisms that only exercise will get going again. I don't eat that much and while I admit to being addicted to carbs I do not consume copious amounts of them. My body, because of my near anorexic experience in the '90s doesn't want to turn loose of anything for fear of another famine. As the kdis would say, it sucks.

I am fortunate because my own husband, who has seen me yo-yo from overweight to borderline anorexic and back again, also loves me just as I am. I’m not looking to get a job as anyone’s office decoration, but I know that I would be discriminated against if I did. My reasons for wanting to lose weight is mostly about health and sticking around to see my grandchildren all get born and grow and take care of my own Special Needs child. As my mother would say, I don’t expect to be in the front row of the follies, but if I could buy a new dress for Irene’s wedding (which will be recycled for our niece’s wedding in December as well) it would be a nice fringe benefit.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Remodeling Me

Our bathroom is remodeled and our grandson installed in his new bedroom after he and his mama spent Winter in Brazil. The seasons are turning and it’s time to remodel me. Like most people I can know intellectually what I need to do, but can live on the rive Denial and in the land of Procrastination. Since I became a mother I’ve had issues with my weight. Each baby added more to the scale and no amount of nursing got me anywhere near where I’d been when I got pregnant with that baby much less the first one at age 19. Although I’m not looking to weigh 115 again, I’ve known for some time that I need to lose weight. A lot of it. Right after the holidays, right after my birthday, as soon as school is out, tomorrow. Tomorrow’s come.

My blog buddy Lorrene LeMaster of “Pet Peeves and Other Ramblings” has written about how much she hates blood draws. She and I suffer from the same malady. Our veins take one look at the needle and roll over and dive so when my doctor ordered a couple of blood tests about a year and a half ago I thought it a matter of some importance and about a month ago I decided to take care of it while at Group Health for a check of my blood pressure. It was an early morning appointment and not hard to fast before showing up for my 8:30 appointment with PA Gross. This was just before my 59th birthday when we had reservations at a B&B in Snohomish with my best friend who was also having a birthday. I got the bad news (results) the day we were to leave. Although my HBP is under control, my cholesterol is through the roof and I’m staring down the barrel of Type II Diabetes. Aside from that I have two bad knees and was sitting at my highest weight ever—227. Tomorrow had come or at least it was going to come as soon as we returned from our three day vacation.

I’m motivated to share my struggle publically because my soon-to-be-sister-in-law is fighting her own battle with the scale and has taken her struggle to her own blog. It seemed like a good idea. Maybe if I have to be publically accountable my progress won’t turn to regress so if you don’t mind I will share my successes and failures here for whatever it is worth as I struggle toward a class reunion and my brother-in-law’s wedding.

So here I am, the day after my third baby’s 34th birthday. I am down seven pounds. Not amazing for almost a month, but, hey, it didn’t go on all at once so I can’t expect it to disappear all at once either. I'll let you know how I'm doing.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Rennovations Continue

It would be tempting to whine about having only one bathroom and having to trudge downstairs in the middle of night while our renovation is going on, but with the reality of what much of the world has to live with coming into focus with the daily pictures of Haiti I realize how much I have to be grateful for. The fact that I have a bathroom at all is blessing indeed and that perhaps by the end of the week it will be freshly remodeled with a new larger shower, new vanity and medicine chest, fresh paint and new flooring is wonderful. And when judged with my other contractor experience this one has been a breeze.

There’s no getting around the upheaval of remodeling unless are working on an empty house. Our clothes, medicines (we’re old and have lots) and cleaning supplies as well as linens are in tubs and piles in our bedroom which adds to the nightmare of middle of the night trips to the bathroom. Personally, I’ve been living out of what’s in the laundry basket which means that my coworkers are being treated to repeated viewings of my wardrobe. Since it is mostly purple they probably have quit noticing what exactly I’m wearing.

The work on the bathroom went much faster than that which we had done to the kitchen several years ago. All but the shower door is done and we await the flooring man to do the floor in Gabriel’s bedroom with the expectation that it will be done before his return from Brazil.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Remodeling the Bathroom

I hate home repairs/remodeling. For those readers of the In Your Neighborhood blog spot might have seen my posts about getting the south side of our house in Ilwaco, WA resided. It turned into a disaster. The contractor, who will remain nameless, bought and installed the wrong windows, promised to change them and then disappeared. Over last winter the shingles began coming off the side of the house and my husband had to make repairs last summer because the contractor was nowhere to be found.

In the past we’ve had trouble with a shady character my husband hired to finish reroofing our house in Gig Harbor when the sun and height began to take a toll on him. Had I been home at the time Dave struck a deal with this man I would have put a stop to it, but I was in Ilwaco. That mess had to be corrected by a professional roofing company and it would have been cheaper to hire them in the first place.

There was the Gig Harbor kitchen remodel. Following a little kitchen fire the insurance company recommended a particular outfit to do the repairs. It took them three months to do it while I washed dishes in the old sink set on saw horses on the patio and cooked on a barbecue. Thank goodness it was summer. We ate out quite a lot, but that gets old pretty fast and rounding up four people to go out three times a day is a pain in the youknowwhat.

Now the time has come to do some more remodeling. We’ve drug our feet and cannot any longer. For a while we’ve had a little leak from the upstairs bathroom into the downstairs little bedroom which has served as my son’s “art room.” What was a little spot of mold on the ceiling has become two spots the size of tennis balls. Because the house was built in 1972 and remodeled in 1980 the fixtures, etc. are dated and ugly. We knew that if we ever want to sell the place that having updated bathrooms would be important. Our daughter-in-law and grandson’s departure for two months in Brazil seemed a good time to get the work done since the art room is going to become a bedroom for grandson so before Christmas I began to look around for a contractor.

Although the disappeared contractor had been a recommendation, I asked some coworkers who they would recommend and came upon someone who seems honest. The work will begin on Monday, Dave's second day of "retirement," and I will let you know how it goes. If things go well I will tell you who we got. If they don't...

“What fun,” my mother exclaimed. Yes, packing up all our vitamins, medicines, cleaning products and supplies along with the linens and our entire closet is sure fun.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Does Technology Connect or Isolate Us?

A coworker and friend on Facebook and I chatted a few weeks ago about the love/hate relationship we have with technology. While we love the feeling of connection that the Internet and Facebook provides, we commented that we spend more time fertilizing each other’s crops on FB’s Farmville than we do having “face time.” Technology connects and isolates us all at once.
I use “texting” a lot. My husband cannot receive calls at work except to call his supervisor and ask to have Dave call me. Although they are not supposed to have their cell phones turned on while on the floor at Seattle Flight Service, per Lockheed Martin’s regulation, Dave leaves his on vibrate and responds to text messages. Until he began working day shifts those messages were the only connection that we had so I’m pretty familiar with texting.

My kids text me. When I am at work my situation is similar. I’m not supposed to be answering personal phone calls and the concrete school I work in is a bunker for cell signals so I understand them wanting to send me a text message if they have a question. Never-the-less I find myself getting irritated when they text me at times that they know I am off work. I know why they do it. It is easier to text a person with a brief question and get an answer without having to perform the “hi, how are you?” ritual that makes us civil human beings. They are too busy to actually talk to me. They don’t really want to know how I am just then. They don’t really want to share how they are either. I find that sad and wonder if I am the only mom/person who suffers from the technological disconnect? I am grateful for what snippets of information I receive about friends and family via email and texting, but what are we losing? Are we not losing the warmth of human contact, of looking into the eyes of a loved one or hearing their voice on the other end of a phone line?

In times gone by children climbed into a car or wagon and moved miles and miles away from family with only letters to connect them to parents and sometimes they never laid eyes on one another again so I guess that I’m grateful that Thomas Edison figured out the telephone, but sometimes I believe that technology as done as much to hurt as to help us. We must be wise in its use. That’s why one of my New Year’s resolutions is to spend more time actually talking to the people who mean a lot to me. I do not have to be too busy to do that. There has to be a way to simplify my life.