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Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Year Day Tacoma!

Happy Leap Year Day Tacoma! I hope this day brings lots of luck for everyone!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Meet My Big, Cute, Gritty Friend!

Check out my new friend I met at Kukio beach on the Big Island. This beautiful, big honu (honu is Hawaiian for sea turtle) was peacefully sunning itself in the warm beach sands. That day, we were blessed to sea about a dozen of this peaceful creatures in and out of the sea. This one was my favorite because its gentle eyes were open.

Click HERE to read The Struggle of the Ancients, a superb piece about the endangered honu, it's international and Hawaiian connections and it's rapidly diminishing environment. Growing up in Tacoma and living by Commencement Bay (along with many trips to the west coast beaches), I have always been passionate about our local waters and it's animal inhabitants. After meeting the honu, my thoughts have broadened to all of the spectacular creatures that are at risk in the mighty Pacific.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Kim’s Hawaiian Boogie Boarding Zen

Boogie boarding (a.k.a. body boarding) is another form of surfing (or surfing lite). Instead of standing upright on a surf board to catch that perfect wave, boogie boarders lay on their stomachs on top of a much shortened surf board made out of different materials to catch waves crashing closer to shore. Surfers attach their boards with nylon cord and a Velcro strap around their ankles, while boarders have a wrist strap. The basic idea is to “jump on” just before the wave crests and ride it like you are snow sledding. Click here to learn more about the sport. For me, boogie boarding at Hapuna Beach on the Big Island is one of my fave-rave pastimes. It’s fun, exciting, and the water feels great in this warm climate.

Surfers have long had their own philosophy and Zen wisdom on their art of surfing; yet, I have never seen anyone get philosophic on boogie boarding. So, here I am, still on Hawaiian time and the spirit of aloha coursing through my body. Today, the best way to express that is to get all Zen with The Neighborhood. Surf’s up!

  1. Boogie boarding takes practice. Timing is critical. Don’t worry. Keep practicing. You’ll get it. And when you get the timing down and ride that first wave, it’s magic.
  2. When you see the wave about to crest, be ready for it. Get on the board and start kicking. If you’re not ready in time, it’s okay. There will be other waves.
  3. If you see a big wave coming and don’t feel comfortable with it, don’t take it. Let it crash through you or swim under it. Be comfortable with your board, your body, and the water.
  4. Sometimes, if you don’t time the wave correctly, or if the surf is too high or too rough, you can get knocked off the board, batted around, or flipped. We all make mistakes. Get back up on your board and try again. If the elements cause your fall and tumble, it’s just a temporary set back. Try again later.
  5. When you catch a pretty wave, ride it with all of your heart. Let your body and mind go. Savor the moment, savor the fun.
  6. The ocean is bigger and stronger than you. Embrace it, learn about it, and love it. You’ll get the same in return.

Much Aloha,


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How Ethnic Background & Upbringing Has Shaped My Perspectives About Elder Care In Positive Ways

The most vivid memory I have of my grandfather, Koichi Aoyama, an immigrant from what was called then Nakaizumi-machi, Shizuoka-ken, Japan is a mental picture of him from the late sixies calling out to his single, unmarried second daughter, Anne Kazuko, while lying in his bed in the South Seattle apartment they both shared.

He asked her in Japanese, "Who are these people?" referring to the family of his youngest child and second son, Frank Susumu, who had come to pay their respects to the eldest living member of the family on that particular afternoon. Although we'd all stopped by Grandpa's room at the beginning of our visit, on the way into the living room for a cup of tea and crunchy Japanese rice crackers, he had all but forgotten.

This visit stands in my mind as of the most significant ways my brother and I were introduced to old age. Our grandfather was born in 1881. We had come into the world in the mid-fifties. Although grandfather had learned to speak English following his immigration to the United States in 1905, during the period I relate what conversation he attempted was in Japanese.

My aunt frequently told us it was a blessing that grandfather didn't remember much about what was happening to him spending more of the few waking hours of his day reliving his youth. I remember my mother telling us that the whole family could be thankful that Dad's sister, our aunt, was willing to take-on the full-time job of caring for grandfather 24/7, a project that would eventually span some fourteen years.

If memory serves, placing grandfather in a nursing facility was out of the question. Where would we find an institution who would serve portions of rice and salted pickles that he liked daily and attend to the small requests when spoken in his native tongue?

While attending college I became aware in my Asian-American studies class at the university that older men and women who shared grandpa's immigrant past, the Issei (first-generation) often did not thrive in commercially run care institutions partly due to the same preferences.

S0, there was talk about concerned people in the Japanese-American community in Seattle to set up and run their own ethnically sensitive nursing center as was being done by equally concerned community members in the State of California to allow our elders who needed such services to spend what remaining days they had in comfort and dignity.

It was our duty we were frequently reminded, to take care of our elders the way they had unfailingly taken care of us. There wasn't a month that didn't go by when I was reminded what a hard life the grandparents had endured in order to make a future for their children and grandchildren in this country. We took pride in their efforts as well and were encouraged to do the same in return.

In such an environment Seattle Keiro (keiro in Japanese means respect for the elderly) at was born. Seattle Keiro is under the umbrella of a yet much larger organization known as Nikkei Concerns. According to its website the mission of Nikkei Concerns is to "provide health and related services in a traditional atmosphere to primarily elderly Nikkei (Japanese) in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years the organization has maintained a distinctly Japanese-American identity while welcoming members of diverse ethnic communities."

It is a model that has been emulated in years since by equally concerned local citizens in the both the Chinese and Korean communities. It may well still stand as a model of how contributions from the diverse citizens and nationalities who have come together in our multi-cultural society may offer variations upon the standard to future consumers of tomorrow.

Growing up in such a climate was a blessing for myself in more ways then one. When the day came to celebrate grandfather's life after he died at the age of 95 during the bicentennial year celebration of his adopted country, my family and I were comfortable when a perfect stranger was asked to officiate at a small memorial service.

This stranger was a native of Japan and immigrant to the United States just as grandfather. He began his address admitting he knew very little about the man whose life he was asked to celebrate. After which he launched into a short speech about his own life and experiences in this country.

I used this anecdote in an essay I wrote later that year and concluded the paper with the remarks it was a fitting address, and though the circumstances were startling to me at first,
by the conclusion of the stranger's remarks I believed whole-heartedly that my grandfather would have understood.

Readers are invited to share their own educational curve of the general topic. There is not enough conversation during most days about how we intend to address those matters that go along with getting old and even less about how we will make them happen. Whatever your age and life experiences please feel welcome to post your own thoughts, hopes, worries and impressions.

Middle-Agers, When You Need Elder Care Will The Market Offer The Shopping Choices That You Want?

After years of talk lagging behind the actual needs, even the most reclusive members of my own Baby Boomer generation are becoming aware that funding and services for the elderly have not kept up with the times. It is becoming increasing evident in a personal way to friends and acquaintances in my middle-aged circle who have been drawn into this area by the evolving needs of family members, friends and colleagues in our parent's age group that there are large gaps in the kind of resources offered and actual care available.

Much of this has occurred on our watch when the bulk of our time, energy and talents which ought to have been put to good use was frittered away while we were out dreaming about the purchases of bigger homes with faux French manor accents and gas guzzling SUV's in order to embrace all of what our generation has been conditioned to believe life had to offer.

And while many of those dreams did not pan out and not all of us uniformly embraced such dreams in the first place, the kind of thinking and long-range planning that would necessitate some dramatic changes in the area of elder care that we would like for our elders and certainly even demand for ourselves has not for the most part taken place.

As the years pass and our impending golden years come closer and closer this lack of attention and the intervening years of build-up neglect may very well bite us in the posterior in a very painful way!

Back in the late seventies I was introduced to some of the interesting developments in the area of elder resources as an intern for a editor who published a newspaper for senior citizens in Seattle. My editor was well aware of the gap in services then as a middle-aged only child of a senior mom well into her late eighties and nineties.

Just out of college myself, it was an eye opener to even be introduced to the world of elder care as like so many of those growing up in the 50's and 60's, older people were no longer always living at home with the family. Old folks homes were a part of the community in the areas where we grew up that youth in our age group seldom saw unless a family member or friend had been placed there.

Furthermore unlike the traditional Japanese immigrant family where my parents were raised, youth not the elderly, was the byword of society and the emphasis was on thinking and staying young which made it all the more easier to push gently aside or even forget all-together issues which affect all of us towards the close of our lives. Unfortunately, this behavior and mind-set does not make the challenges which go hand-in-hand with this era go away.

Is it realistic, for example, to expect a family which may not even entertained the idea of housing options for an older member of the family to find the ideal placement for their just discharged relative in assisted care in 24 hours or less?

This is exactly what happened to my brother and myself two years ago when our mother who had been going hale and strong for over 70 years, came to the point in her life's journey where she ran headlong into a full-blown health crisis.

While the home we were able to place her for the short period advised for by her physician, she was not pleased with the result. We had just received the news the recent signs of memory loss he had been investigating on her behalf could possibly be early onset Alzheimers.

The facility most nearby my brother was able to located for her in this narrow time frame specialized in caring for patients with memory losses more severe than Mom's. It appeared their afternoon activity time consisted largely of watching soap operas.

In her younger years, Mom never enjoyed this kind of programming and more often than not declared it a complete waste of time. She had not changed her opinion. When my family was able to visit her during this time period she greeted us on several occasions with a fully packed suitcase and firm request to be "let out of there right now" and go back home.

During one point she was in and out of the hospital three times in a month. Her medications were stopped then restarted. Somewhere along the line the balance was lost and her heart actually needed to be restarted. Subsequently, she made a decision with her doctor that in the future, she did not wish to be resuscitated for which my sibling had been informed.

Unfortunately, I was inadvertently left out of the loop and discovered only after the episode where mom's heart was re-started that had it happened a second time, I would have most likely learned of her choice after she died. And while mom is absolutely within her rights to make these decisions, it is a good example of the kind of emotional turmoil that can occur because one is not prepared.

How about finding yourself in a nursing care center while recuperating from a major stroke in your thirties or forties at the same time close family members just happen to be dealing with some personal and health issues of their own?

Just imagine no one is available for a short period to support you in the way family could and you have no Plan B. Unfortunately, the well-meaning but overworked staff at the center are not able to act upon your concerns with the rapidity that you desire and frustration soon becomes your best friend.

It's not a perfect world by any means, but so many of the difficulties encountered by patients, residents and families along the way did not have to happen if time, money, resources and personnel had been employed with the same enthusiasm that was dedicated to developing personal communication devices and increasingly portable packable entertainment centers.

We cannot undo the past. Indeed, the start-up time alone to effectively address many of the overflowing basket of needs has past for many of us. However, I would argue it is even of more pressing import that we and fellow members of society (who may well end up paying for our inattention) including our children and grandchildren spend at least 2 or three hours of our time each month boning up on what resources such as the Long Term Care Ombudman Program (LTCOP) discussed in my earlier blog entitled "Thinking About Accessibility & Resources For Our Elderly/Disabled Neighbors" are on hand while taking a good look at what the community might be able to do in the near future.

Readers - If you have any thoughts or experiences along these lines and would like to share them with me, I encourage you to do so by leaving your comments! We are only as strong individually as we are collectively.

Arts Corps Offers Tips For Teachers To Incorporate Art In Core Subject Areas

(My earlier blog "Utilizing Art Resources To Build A Strong Future " introduced the Seattle based community organization Arts Corps as a resource to parents, educators and community members interested in promoting a higher level of arts education experiences in the public schools. -MS )

Local teachers who are interested in staying creative and incorporating the arts into core subject areas are invited to attend the workshop series entitled Creative Habits for the Classroom conducted by the Seattle based organization Arts Corps during April and May 2008.

Saturday workshops have been scheduled for the following: primary elementary school teachers (April 19); intermediate elementary school teachers (April 26) and all elementary school teachers (May 10) from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. at Seattle's Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, located at 4408 Delridge Way, SW. Free parking is available.

To inquire about classes or to register contact Arts Corps at 206-722-545, by e-mail at or go to their website at

Utilizing Arts Education Resources To Build A Strong Future

I'm delighted to report that Arts Education has taken a turn for the positive in the decade or so that has passed since my grown son passed through the doors of his elementary school for the last time.

In those days, I was distressed to discover as a fledgling parent, that at his school classroom experiences in the arts were not a mandated part of the overall curriculum but largely and simply a function of the time, energy and degree of comfort that his individual teachers were with the subject.

One of the first steps I took as a parent was to check-out the resources of the school which included a stop with the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) in order to network with other parents. Parent volunteers there assured me I was not alone in my concern about the lack of a strong intentional priority in the area of arts education. Unfortunately, the group as a whole had other more pressing pre-WASL era issues on their agenda which I was welcome to join a committee.

To be fair, I cannot leave this issue and era without adding I was directed to the possibility of making a small volunteer contribution to the arts in my son's class by signing up to be the Art Cart mom or dad.

The original thinking behind the Art Cart was commendable. If memory serves it included cards on famous art subjects of note with associated material on the artist who created them. Over the years some of these items had been lost and could be supplemented by a short trip to the local library, etc.

I served as the Art Cart mom for one year, but still despaired of the lack of available resources at my son's school particularly because it was for the most part, essentially a passive experience, and not designed to actively engage the minds, attentions and more importantly hands its audiences!

Local parents with children going through local public schools today have much more hope despite years of in my personal opinion longstanding and knee-jerk cuts, slashes and gouges in funds earmarked for arts education and experiences in area schools on the mistaken impression that arts are a frill which in tight economic times that we cannot afford.

This very idea can largely be traced to a lack of creative thinking in the areas of those who make and administer public policy on the subject which may well directly lead upon closer analysis to the sorry truth that the state of arts education during the time they grew up and came of age was also deficient.

While I do not hold a degree in elementary, secondary or post-secondary education and would not ordinarily presume to supplant experts in the field, as a layperson my own beliefs encircle the general concept that arts education ought to be mandatory in the public schools from the elementary level upwards because exercising art skills builds the potential for future creativity in the citizenry as surely as repetitious exercises in the gym build physical musculature and increase overall health and stamina.

So I took my concerns over and above my local PTA and shared opinions and concerns as listed above as a member and citizen appointee of the City of Federal Way Arts Commission in the mid-nineties. Unfortunately during this period what time and effort could be spared by the hard-working and otherwise able members of this body and similar resources in the community did not appear to have reached the critical levels upon which changes along the magnitude I would hope for could realistically happen.

So it is with special pleasure that I pleased to witness and pass-on to fellow parents and community citizens of like-mind interests a resource such as the Seattle-based organization Arts Corps at whose vision is to provide the young with "Freedom to imagine, courage to be." and whose stated mission is to " provide and inspire art education programs that develop creative habits of the mind to enable young people to realize their full potential."

Charles Hoff, local citizen and retired member of the community who recently stepped down the Federal Way School Board of Education has begun a column in one of the two weeklies serving the area to begin a series outlining in perhaps more thoughtful detail his take and concerns about the state of public education.

I mention his efforts because while I've found my own conclusions on the topic to often be on the opposite side of the floor than Hoff in the past, he reminds me once again that it is important to persevere if time and opportunity permit, in championing those values and developments in the community that we hold dear even if these interests should require far more years than we'd originally imagined.

There will always be room for discussion and disagreement in the areas of educational policy and priorities in the school system. However, the birth of an organization such as Arts Corps gives yet more more resource for those who would seek to improve the overall depth of understanding in the arts and humanities among the generations who will come after us.

I invite interested parents, teachers and community members to take the time to go to and check-out this exciting and innovative group of people whose ideas and accomplishments since work began in 2002 have begun to transform both horizons and lives.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Thinking About Accessibility & Resources For Our Elderly/Disabled Neighbors

Last week, I accompanied a good friend of mine who had errands in the rapidly growing neighborhoods around the City of Kent's East Hill. While my friend drove, I enjoyed the passing panorama of the area and could not help be struck by the placement, location and number of advertisements along the street in front of this or that local adult residential care center or adult boarding home.

In one such area, I counted three to four such facilities within what seemed to be a two mile or so radius, which gave me pause just to consider how many facilities of a similar nature are sited in my own community of Federal Way. And despite the fact I am over a twenty-year city resident, I was appalled by the fact I was at loss to recall the location of all but a few.

It is quite likely, that due to different restrictions on zoning and promotional signage between the two communities, may be responsible for the fact it is far more difficult to be as easily familiar with the actual presence of these facilities in Federal Way as it is for those residents in Kent's East Hill.

Fortunately for myself, a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being introduced to Mary Fogh, the able volunteer coordinator for King County's Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP), who staffed a most professional-looking information table alongside about a dozen or so organizations and community groups in the lobby and hallways at Decatur High School, prior to the City of Federal Way's annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration on Monday, January 21st.

According to Fogh, there are four nursing homes, five assisted care facilities and 69 adult family homes in the vicinity of Federal Way. Additionally, there is at present a critical need to fill up to fifteen volunteer slots in the area to assist the program and serve some 1,200 seniors and other disabled residents in this locale.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Celestial ecstasy: total lunar eclipse on a night with clear skies in the Northwest

Lorraine wrote so eloquently (as she always does about every topic) when she posted her thoughts about the wondrous total lunar eclipse.

I cannot add much to Lorraines observations except to say that it is well documented that there is at least one fearsome phenomenon that accompanies these events: major earthquakes within the next 48 hours or so...big quakes occurred in Indonesia and Greece and closer to home the one in northern Nevada; hopefully, the northwest will be spared, but this is also a good time to remind everyone to have their emergency supplies ready.

I had opened a small piece of Dove chocolate candy in the afternoon prior to the onset of the eclipse at 5:43 and the message inside the foil candy wrapper said, "Sleep under the stars tonight." I thought to myself, uh-oh, is this an omen of some kind? Thankfully not, but it was an interesting synchronicity.

I had had the eclipse on my calendar for a week or so to watch the eclipse and had prayed continually that we would have clear skies for viewing, which seemed a most unlikely possibility, but for which I was quite thankful. And a double-header in the skies that same night with the shoot-down of the satellite in the hour following totality. No coincidence there either.

I shot more than 120 images during the various stages of the eclipse and am posting only few of them here. Enjoy!

Lunar Eclipse, Feb. 20, 2008: Photo by G. Saunders, Gig Harbor

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Moonlight, Movement and Magic

The odds of moon-watching in February around the South Sound aren't usually so very good but last night we hit the celestial lottery...a front row seat to, not only the last beautiful full moon of winter, but also a breath-taking full lunar eclipse. For three hours we watched the dance of the universe above Joe's Bay, TV and dishes forgotten.

La Bella Luna rose over the mouth of the bay, just visible between the trees that line our neighbour's driveway. Already a shadow was caressing her cheek and she began to blush, though still lighting the water and sky. By the sounds of things people were gathering down on A street, at water's edge, for the show. If I had known the night would be so clear, I would've invited friends to our wonderful back deck at the Aerie.

As the moon ruddied in the earth's shadow I could see more of her true orb shape, rather than the flat disc of light she often appears to be against the sky's indigo curtain. Stars, planets, even swirls of the Milky Way burst into twinkling light over the darkened countryside. Small planes over the Sound looked like slow-motion shooting stars...oh, what a night to be flying! Even standing on our deck I felt as if it were the bridge of a huge starship, the night dark and eternal in front of me.

I thought of our ancestors and the fear of these mysterious celestial happenings before the movements of the solar system were known. Christopher Columbus was able to frighten Caribbean natives into doing his will by predicting a lunar eclipse three days before. He told them it would be a sign from his angry God for refusing to take care of him and a large, hungry crew.

Here in the twenty-first century, the sight of a lunar eclipse no longer brings anyone to their knees in fear of the world ending but it is still a most incredible, awesome, humbling vision. We are made suddenly and dramatically aware that, yeah, we're hanging in space, not seeing a painted backdrop to the human world of illusion. In that realization we become focused on our sense of being instead of doing. In the ballet of light and shadow, we are made aware that humans are a small but integral part of something so much greater.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

This Disturbs Me

It disturbed me to read this morning that Edward E. Scott, the former Naval Base Kitsap Command Master Chief Petty Officer, will be allowed to retire from the navy with full benefits and honorably discharged.

From KOMO-TV News:

Edward E. Scott, 44, once the local base's highest enlisted man, was arrested after a sting operation in which an officer posed as the mother of young twins in an online forum. Scott was met by police at a Bremerton motel where he had arranged to have sex with what he believed was the mother and both children.

Petty Officer Scott is a disgrace to his country and his uniform. Scott held a position of trust and authority that few enlisted ever attain and to seek sex with children while in that position and wearing that uniform is the highest form of mockery.

Scott should have received a court-martial and at the very least, a bad conduct discharge. The fact that he is retiring with an honorable discharge cheapens the meaning of that type of discharge.

True, he had a stellar record of service prior to this incident and we don’t know that he ever hurt a child, but the fact that he was willing, and was prepared to do so when he was caught, negates all of that.

Scott is a dangerous sexual predator and should be treated as such. He does not deserve his pension or the status of a retired member of the Armed Forces.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Permission to speak freely, sir!

my thanks to joseph and the amazing technicolor newspaper for providing us another opportunity to represent ourselves and our communities.

sadly it will be a few more months before i may be allowed to clutter up the ether with my contributions

once it was found that i was providing commentary to a mouthpiece of the 'liberal media', i was warned at the highest level. this despite the fact that not a single entry offered the merest whisper of my work, let alone national security. all the while soldiers were blogging from a theater of war receiving nothing more than a cocked eyebrow from their constituent commanders.

but if I post it all in lowercase, then it doesn't matter. right?

i shouldn't even be posting this, but doing the right things hasn't really seemed to work for me either.

yup, things are rough all over

now stop reading this and go on to a more worthy article... whichever one is next.

Happy Valentine's Day Tacoma!

Hello Tacoma ~

Happy Valentine's Day Tacoma! I hope all of your florists are making lots and lots of $ $ $ today and your restaurants are filled with happy lovers dining out!

Spring Fling 2008

March is just around the corner and we count the precious minutes of light coming back into our daily lives. I thought I'd take this opportunity to give you a heads-up on one of my favourite Key Peninsula annual events, the Two Waters Arts Alliance's Spring Fling.

Here is just one beautiful example of the artwork that will be shown and available for purchase. These vibrant tulips, chosen for the show's advertising poster, are handpainted silk by Bev Pederson. Bev's personality is as warm and lively as her brushstrokes and her wearable art takes my breath away. This is your chance to meet and talk with the various artists from TWAA, to view their work and perhaps find that special piece that must go home with you.

The 6th. annual Spring Fling will be held at the Key Civic Center, 17010 South Vaughn Road, Key Peninsula, Saturday March 15th. Doors open at 7pm. Admission is $15 for non-members and $10 for members and patrons of Two Waters. There will be a no-host bar and hors d'oeuvres, comfortable seats and good company...and...did I mention music?

Entertainment for the evening will be provided by Jazz Musette! We're ready to kick it into gear for a new year...and it's a special one. This month marks my tenth anniversary with the band and I intend to celebrate for the entire year! We have been thrilled to be a part of so many Two Waters' shows and it just seems right to begin our season with this wonderful community of South Sound artists. Speaking of artists, I'd like to thank my daughter, Anna Hart, for the creation of the very cool "Jazz Musette Collage" shown here.
So, good Grit City folk, get your visas stamped and make up your car-pools with designated drivers. Take the jaunt over Bing Crosby's bridge and cross the historic causeway through Wauna (means 'shining waters') and down the peninsula to the flashing amber light in Key Center. Take a right turn, follow the road to a stop sign and you will see the Key Civic Center on your left. Join us for an evening of art, music, and a joyful celebration of the emerging spring.
For more information, write to