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.