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Tuesday, September 30, 2008


All text and images © 1994-2008 Lorraine Hart & Denna Oliver

Monday, September 29, 2008


All text and images © 1994-2008 Lorraine Hart & Denna Oliver

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Letting Our Light Shine... Reflection Inspired By Nelson Mandela

Tuesday I shall be leading a group of high school students in prayer. One of the readings for that day is taken from the Book of Job, the third chapter, the first through the twenty third verse. I love the Book of Job. The question it proposes is basic... how does one respond to the loss of everything.

Job loses his property, his children, his health, the emotional and spiritual support of his wife, and the respect of his friends. Here a few citations for that reading.
Job opened his mouth and cursed his day. Job spoke out and said:..."Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire? Or why was I not buried away like an untimely birth, like babes that have never seen the light? Wherefore did the knees receive me? or why did I suck at the breasts? For then I should have lain down and been tranquil; had I slept, I should then have been at rest with kings and counselors of the earth who built where now there are ruins or with princes who had gold and filled their houses with silver. There the wicked cease from troubling, there the weary are at rest. There the captives are at ease together, and hear not the voice of the slave driver. Small and great are there the same, and the servant is free from his master. Why is light given to the toilers, and life to the bitter in spirit? They wait for death and it comes not; they search for it rather than for hidden treasures, rejoice in it exultingly, and are glad when they reach the grave: men whose path is hidden from them, and whom God has hemmed in!"

At first I shook my head. "Nothing there to laugh about," I thought. The senior citizen part of me interiorly mumbled on: "Isn't that the truth. War and economic challenge everywhere. Ignorance, fear, and division are tearing us apart. But I shall be talking to teenagers," I continued. "Surely they are not ready for my moody meditations."
Then, looking back at my own teenage years, I recalled so many times when I just wanted to crawl into some deep, dark hole and never come out again... deaths in the family, sudden separations where people I cared about disappeared without one word of explanation, without any goodbyes. And I had to admit that many young people were probably going through very hard times and really would appreciate some words of comfort and encouragement.
So I started thinking about the people who had helped me to not only survive but also to grow during those tough teenage years: the quiet love of my mother and grandmother, the caring challenge of my teachers and mentors, the emotional support of my friends, the loving presence of God.For some reason beyond my understanding I remember the hard road Nelson Mandella had traveled... imprisoned for twenty-seven years, not able to see his wife or family for more than a few minutes every three months, the death of his son, the imprisonment of his wife...
He never became a hater... rather his love for all people grew and, when he became president of South Africa, he chose to forgive others and to provide food, safety, and care for all the people of his country.

So I decided that I would share a few thoughts from his first presidential speech. Here is the speech, in writing and video (9 minutes) in its entirety. STATEMENT OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS NELSON ROLIHLAHLA MANDELA AT HIS INAUGURATION AS PRESIDENT OF THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA UNION BUILDINGS
Pretoria, 10 May 1994
Your Majesties,
Your Highnesses,
Distinguished Guests,
Comrades and Friends.
Today, all of us do, by our presence here, and by our celebrations in other parts of our country and the world, confer glory and hope to newborn liberty. Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.
Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity's belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for a glorious life for all. All this we owe both to ourselves and to the peoples of the world who are so well represented here today.
To my compatriots, I have no hesitation in saying that each one of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld. Each time one of us touches the soil of this land, we feel a sense of personal renewal. The national mood changes as the seasons change. We are moved by a sense of joy and exhilaration when the grass turns green and the flowers bloom.
That spiritual and physical oneness we all share with this common homeland explains the depth of the pain we all carried in our hearts as we saw our country tear itself apart in a terrible conflict, and as we saw it spurned, outlawed and isolated by the peoples of the world, precisely because it has become the universal base of the pernicious ideology and practice of racism and racial oppression. We, the people of South Africa, feel fulfilled that humanity has taken us back into its bosom, that we, who were outlaws not so long ago, have today been given the rare privilege to be host to the nations of the world on our own soil.
We thank all our distinguished international guests for having come to take possession with the people of our country of what is, after all, a common victory for justice, for peace, for human dignity. We trust that you will continue to stand by us as we tackle the challenges of building peace, prosperity, non-sexism, non-racialism and democracy.
We deeply appreciate the role that the masses of our people and their political mass democratic, religious, women, youth, business, traditional and other leaders have played to bring about this conclusion. Not least among them is my Second Deputy President, the Honourable F.W. de Klerk. We would also like to pay tribute to our security forces, in all their ranks, for the distinguished role they have played in securing our first democratic elections and the transition to democracy, from blood-thirsty forces which still refuse to see the light.
The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us. We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination. We succeeded to take our last steps to freedom in conditions of relative peace. We commit ourselves to the construction of a complete, just and lasting peace. We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity - a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.
As a token of its commitment to the renewal of our country, the new Interim Government of National Unity will, as a matter of urgency, address the issue of amnesty for various categories of our people who are currently serving terms of imprisonment. We dedicate this day to all the heroes and heroines in this country and the rest of the world who sacrificed in many ways and surrendered their lives so that we could be free.
Their dreams have become reality. Freedom is their reward. We are both humbled and elevated by the honour and privilege that you, the people of South Africa, have bestowed on us, as the first President of a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist government. We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom.
We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world.
Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves. Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.
Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!
God bless Africa! Thank you.

It's Story Week

On Sunday I Dressed Like The Sea:

Story by Lorraine Hart. Illustrations by Denna Oliver

A story of days of the week, dress-up, imagination, nature and movement.

All text and images © 1994-2008 Lorraine Hart & Denna Oliver

Raising Amy

The nomination of Governor Sarah Palin has, to some extent, spotlighted the lives of parents of offspring with Special Needs. Certainly most of those parents do not have the luxury of handing over the care and rearing of their Special Needs child to nannies and caregivers, nor would most of us want to.

I say us because I am the mother of a 37 year old daughter with Down’s Syndrome, the Cadillac of disabilities. I have been blessed. My Amy does not suffer with any of the medical problems that sometimes are part of the package of Down’s Syndrome such as a bad heart. She is funny, loving, artistic and my best friend. She has her step-father wrapped around her little finger and is the delight of her niece and nephew.

When a baby is born with Special Needs, friends and family don’t know what to say or how to behave. Frequently what should be an occasion of joy turns into grief and mourning. Certainly there is grief for the child parents spent nine months anticipating. That baby didn’t arrive. That baby was a dream they dreamt which will swim to the surface of memory from time to time as they get older, but the birth of each flesh and blood child should be celebrated and friends and family, instead of dabbing their eyes or pulling away, can help the parents by creating a cocoon of love and acceptance.

When my daughter was born she was not diagnosed immediately. Her father and I had six days to fall in love with her and I’ve always considered that a blessing. That diagnosis changed everything and nothing. She was still a baby and a very good baby. I remember that the wives of some of my father’s Flight Test buddies came to our apartment to pay a visit. I wasn’t sure if they’d come to condole or to celebrate. It was very uncomfortable. At the time it angered me, but looking back from the vantage of 37 years I am mature enough to realize that they were doing the best they could. Perhaps the notoriety of Trig Palin will change how people handle the birth of all babies.

I cannot speak to disabilities beyond Down’s Syndrome and even at that each child is unique. I have worked with students with a wide range of challenges and found things to love in each of them. Some of those students stretch parents emotionally, physically and financially. That is why the love and understanding of those who love the parents is so important.

In 1987 Emily Kingsley wrote a moving account about what it is like to have a Down’s Syndrome baby. It is easy to substitute any disability for Down’s Syndrome. It so captures my own experience that I share it here.

"Welcome to Holland"
By Emily Perl Kingsley, 1987.
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away...because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss. But...if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

BBC Radio

Seeing Ourselves As Others See Us

I am an NPR devotee. At home in Gig Harbor KUOW, 94.9 FM is the background of my life, meeting most of my needs for news and entertainment. Prairie Home Companion is a sort of religion for our family and the Weekend Puzzler is my husband’s touchstone of the week. I could go on and on about the NPR programming, but that’s not why I’ve come.

Overnight KUOW broadcast’s BBC’s Americanized World News Service. Originally they included the cricket scores which I enjoyed even though I cannot make heads nor tails of the game, but if I shut my eyes and listened I could imagine that I was not in my bed in Gig Harbor, but in an English country inn listening to the radio.

Listening to the BBC Radio gives Americans an opportunity to view ourselves from an outside point of view, from the view of cousins surely, but without some of the emotional attachment we feel to institutions and policies. Seeing ourselves as others see us is an important exercise personally and nationally. Not only that, but it’s a good idea to find out what is happening in the rest of the world from a source other than our networks and cable news. Listen to BBC and you’ll discover that although our dollar has not been faring well in comparison to the British pound or the Euro, Britain has economic problems of its own and banks like Bradford and Bingley are in as much trouble as WaMu.

It is true that American politics and economics effects the health of countries around the world, but there’s something insufferably conceited in the rest of the world being familiar with our culture and institutions and Americans’ complete oblivion when it comes to the lives and concerns of the rest of the world.

When I am away from home getting my BBC fix via NPR can be dodgy, but BBC Radio can be streamed in a myriad of languages. For fun you might try listening in Persian. It’s a lovely sounding language, but personally, I think that anything sounds lovely when communicated in a British accent.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Raising Mother

Baby Boomers Trade Childcare for Parent Care

Dave escaped yesterday. It took three buses and a train to get him back to Gig Harbor from Ilwaco, but he made his escape and under the circumstances I cannot blame him, only wish I would have been able to go, too.

My mother is ill and I am wending my way through American medicine and health care and the disposition of the elderly. I know I am not alone. We Baby Boomers have raised our children, are nearing retirement and would like to enjoy our grandchildren, but a new responsibility has replaced childrearing—care for aging parents.
This experience has been made needlessly harder from the beginning. I have dubbed it “St. Elsewhere of the Coast.” From the failure of the ambulance attendants to properly asses my mother when her medical security system called them—the first time—to the hospital’s decision to release her there has been frustration in getting her the help she needs.
If this subject interests you, read the rest of the story on my View from My Broom blog.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Year of Fog

I’m a sucker for a happy ending which probably accounts for my love of Jane Austen, but life doesn’t always hand us happy endings and the nit and grit of people living real lives can be compelling. Not everything ends tied up in a neat bow. That was certainly the case with Michelle Richmond’s The Year of Fog which I completed reading this week.

In the novel The Year of Fog, Abby Mason had been on the verge of her own happily-ever-after when the six-year-old daughter of her ideal fiancé disappears off a San Francisco beach while in her care.

“Here is the truth, this is what I know: I was walking on the beach with Emma. It was cold and very foggy. She let go of my hand. I stopped to photograph a baby seal, then glanced up toward the Great Highway. When I looked back, Emma was gone.” (Richmond)

The Year of Fog examines how a moment in time can change the course of lives and how the power of love can surmount seemingly impossible odds. The story of Abby’s search for Emma is riveting and heartbreaking all at once. Anyone who has ever for a moment misplaced a child knows the heart thudding panic as the waking nightmare specter of what can happen to children at the hands of evil or in an ocean plays out in the mind. I lost my own son on a foggy beach and although he was 12 the panic I felt racing up and down the beach calling his name, the thoughts going through my mind as I searched frantically for him, Richmond nailed when describing Abby’s desperate search for Emma. Fortunately my search only lasted a few minutes. Anyone who has ever loved a child or just likes a good mystery could not fail to be compelled by this riveting novel.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Quickie... A Novel By James Patterson And Michael Ledwidge

James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge's Quickie socked it too me...kept me turning pages for three straight days! I loved the main character, Lauren Stillwell. Quickly I felt at home with her in New York City and its surroundings-- now shocked, then angry, saddened, and wanting desperately to get even with her husband. And really wanting a happy ending and....

Here's a quick summary of the story
James Pastterson's steamiest summer thriller yet starts with a one-night stand gone terriby wrong.
A Stolen Kiss
When she sees her husband with another woman Lauren Stillwell's heart nearly stops beating Their marriage is perfect, she has a great job, she loves her life. But his betrayal turns her into something she never imagined she could be- a woman lusting for revenge.

Was Her First Crime
It was supposed to be a quickie, a way to even the score. But Lauren's night of passion takes a shocking turn when she witnesses an unexpected, unbelievable, deadly creime. Her horrifying secret threatens to tear her life apart, pitting her need to uncover the truth against her fear that the truth may be too horrible to bear. And whichever choice she makes could cost her dearly-her job, her marriage, even her life.

Quickie got me feeling and thinking about a lot of good old human stuff:
a. I felt afraid because I know that, like Lauren Stillwell, either out of fear or anger or loyalty to friends, I might choose to ignore what is going around me, lie to protect those about whom I care, or strike out at those who abandon or betray me.

b. I find it easy to imagine how uncomfortable one feels when, like Lauren, is considered by friends and other individuals in one's profession to be trustworthy when one is anything but.

c. I wanted the story to end with good winning over evil... but...

d. Quickie left me just a little more able to say "every now and then, life gets really messy... try to keep walking, ok?!"

I got this one at the Martin Luther King Library!!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Digital Memories Of Puyallup Fair Preserve The Small Pleasures

Above: The All-American cowboy theme of the Fred Oldfield Western Heritage Center provided the perfect backdrop for this talented duo. Photo by Mizu Sugimura copyright 2008.

Right below: A display featuring an original oil painting that some lucky
fairgoer may be able to display in their home -from the paintbrush of
longtime cowboy artist and Federal Way resident Fred Oldfield.
Photo by Mizu Sugimura copyright 2008.

While memories of the Puyallup fair will be all that residents in the South Sound will have to sustain them until next year, now that the curtain has almost fallen on this year's 2008 Western Washington State Fair performance, thanks to the miracle of digital photography we've put up a few preserves!

Thanks to my son and a longtime Pierce county resident and family friend of mine, I had some companionship in between putting in the necessary computer time required to post about the fair as the News Tribunes on-line fair blogger on Tuesday, September 16, 2008.

My girlfriend, whose twenty-something long role as the long-suffering mother of five has finally made way in recent years for time to play. So her company on that day was especially treasured. Sadly, space permits me only to post a photographs of only a few things we all so enjoyed.

Below: Trying to keep cool in the bright sun it appears that a hardworking male representative of The News Tribune tries to convince a passing fair attendee why signing up for home delivery will mean savings in her pocket. Photo by Mizu Sugimura copyright 2008.

Below: My volunteer stint as a guest on-line blogger at the fair for The News Tribune
was greatly facilitated by able reporter and all-around dynamo Melissa Santos (left) who graciously
poses for my camera with my adult son in the role of "Joe Cool" (left) who came along with me that day.
Photo by Mizu Sugimura copyright 2008.

Right above : Eventually the feet of the most ambitious fairgoer, in this case ones
belonging to none other than yours truly, can become awfully tired. This handy
little coin-operated invention promises to soothe your troubles away and it does
for as long as money you can afford to spend to keep it running lasts.

Due to technical problems in the blogging office that afternoon, despite the assistance of Melissa and a uniformed gentleman in the office whose name I didn't catch, I was unable to post any of the digital photographs I took while looking around the fairground. Anyways "Thanks for everything Melissa! Loved your stories in the main edition." Moving along, after returning home I had prior commitments and a unfortunate need for ah, ah....lengthy recovery time. However it's said better late than never. So may this be then better.

Below: For fair attendees of a certain age that day the fact it was Senior Tuesday may have heavily influenced the composition of the big crowds of older "children" at some fair venues like this old-fashioned merry-go-round not too far from the Gold Gate. Photo by Mizu Sugimura copyright 2008.

Below: The competition by local granges as to whom has the most variety and artistically varied display of products has been a favorite of my family for years and may date back to the pre-World War II California based farmers and agronomist in my mother's immigrant family. Photo by Mizu Sugimura copyright 2008.

Below: These beautifully accessorised members of the Red Hat Society participated in the special parade held to salute them during mid-day festivities at the Puyallup Fair on September 16. Photo by Mizu Sugimura copyright 2008.

Below: Flower enthusiasts had much to look at including this impressive wall of winners. Photo by Mizu Sugimura copyright 2008.

Below: Other fairgoers enjoyed performances of a more contemporary kind like crowd gathered to watch this bang-up concert courtesy of a group of drummers extrodinaire - known as simply the Procrastinators! Photo by Mizu Sugimura copyright 2008.

Another day on the Greenwater Trail

Even wonder if you’re lost? I long ago discovered that in any effort, the willingness to try to succeed makes everything possible. I don’t mean to try as in make a one time effort, but to define a time frame, such as an afternoon, a day, or in some cases months or years, and a give a regular block of time to an effort, to see where it leads. Overall this has worked well. The process is akin to heading up a trail, and taking the occasional side trail, just for the enjoyment of it. My sense of exploration is in part a willingness to try things. But these trials have a prickly way of turning into obligations. And too many obligations is just that. I've been doing this kind of thing for my adult life and sometimes I wonder if I've been lost by doing so.

Then there are the events which serve as a kind of cool breeze into an autumn morning to remind that it’s time to reassess plans. I've had some of those recently. Little stuff: the flood, the minor back injury, paying the lords of maintenance, and of course reminders of all those projects started but which are at a standstill for one or more reasons. A project being stalled usually is due to the project which gets the biggest block of time – the career. Between the events and necessities, I sometimes feel as if I'm in a proverbial case of loosing the trail because of the trees. There are so many trees. It adds up to the indisputable fact that the last year has been extraordinarily busy.

One thing is for certain. It was time to head to one of my favorite trails for the afternoon, and that trail is the fabled Greenwater Trail, which is about 11 miles back on USFS-70. The trail has a therapeutic effect on me. The trail winds its way along and crosses the Greenwater River more than once, and meanders past several lakes as it meanders towards Corral Pass. You could spend a couple of days on this trail, and may not see all of it. And it would be a nice a nice way to spend a couple of days. If you don’t have a couple of days, which I never seem to, you can spend several very enjoyable hours on this trail. The scenic moments start at the outset and keep on coming.

I've written about this trail before, and today’s trip was a chance to stretch my legs and to test my nearly recovered back along an inspiring and enjoyable path. From my first step off of the parking area (which requires a forest service permit) and onto the trail, a beautiful sanctuary of trees, rock formations, and a measureless array of plant and wild life awaited.

This trail is used by horse and foot traffic. The first several miles are a very well maintained path dappled with boardwalks and foot bridges to guide you. It has a feel of being more like a theme park than a typical back country trail.

My plan was to walk about an hour outbound and then start my return. Along the way back I planned to check out a side trail I hadn’t previously tried. Forest light is often heavily filtered, and I used the opportunity of an overcast day to take some time lapse images.

The image (left) is a 14-second long exposure. Looking at the trail over even short periods of time creates a far greater glimpse of how we see than a briefer view. What may appear static in a typical high-speed photo is shown here to be subject to nearly constant change. This change is not unlike the difference between a plan and a work in progress. A plan is not quite a footstep in the soft soil, but it is where the expectations are formed.

Someone placed stepping stones across this frequently traveled-over creek long enough ago that moss has well established itself. Part of the enchantment of the Greenwater trail is that it is a highly developed trail while remaining intimate with the forest. This 25-second long exposure shows that the creek, some plants and branches are in constant subtle motion. Time lapse photos give a painterly quality of selective blurring. It uses a paint brush called time. Even though this area is pretty calm, you can see motion everywhere.

Of course not all crossings nor all creeks are the same. I remember the first time I traveled this path. A group had just started to rebuild the bridge. At the time of construction the hand supports were not yet in place, so there was only a split log suspended over the rapids. The log was a little bouncy to cross. Well, as often happens, I spent too much time on the outward part of the journey that day and the forest grew ever darker as I was heading back. I had visions of trying to cross this bridge in near darkness. The effect of the moving water and sound works to amplify the sense of motion on the bridge. Between the low light and lack of hand rails, I felt a little like I was on a tight rope. But that was another day.

Today, in no small irony I find that being over-committed is a lot like crossing that not yet finished bridge, in the twilight, without handrails. Having too many “goals,” makes the journey very involved. I’d rather have handrails, but often, don’t get a choice.

Here light, a ridge, and time-lapse photo conspire to turn a mountain trail into a painterly play of color and light.

Along the way a fellow traveler I encountered - a butterfly – performs one of life’s memorable plays: One’s entire focus can be held by a simple convenience of nature, which for the butterfly is the flower he’s sitting upon. But all too soon someone is buzzing near by, encouraging you to move on.

A short time later, a Kodachrome moment

Nearby this spot is a side trail I’d long thought to find. On other days I was intent on following the main trail. But not today. After only about a minute of looking for it, I found the side trail I suspected must exist somewhere, hidden by the trees and brush. The trail leads around to the other side of one of the most amazing sub-alpine lakes in the area - the Lower Greenwater Lake. It is breath taking in its unblinking expanse. The calm water, muted colors of rock and plant-life show nature in daylight nuance.

There are places where the ordinary is so far removed from daily experiences as to seem extraordinary.

Some old trees, water and plants can portray that change is the core of nature.

Before long a slight change in light warned me that I had to be heading back. The time of day is rich in soft light and just a little downhill from the lake, the recently calm water feels the pull of the downhill journey.

Back in the old growth, the day fades to show a sanctuary caressed by soft light.

And under the silken advance of evening, the trail has lead back to the parking lot. Perhaps I'm not lost at all, and time spent exploring diverse paths is important.

Note: A duplicate of this article, but with bigger photos can be found at

It's Coming!

Autumn is almost here. The last vestiges of summer are still around, but you can feel them leaving. The days are cooler and the clouds are starting to fight the sun for dominance. The nights are a little cooler and the days are shorter. Green is giving way to red, yellow and eventually brown.

Here are some signs in my neighborhood that Fall is just around the corner.

The tops of some trees are staring to turn!

Some are already well on their way!

But you can still find a flower to smell!

Get out into your neighborhood and enjoy summer's last hurrah!


Saturday, September 20, 2008

It Was An Affair To Remember...

Above: The time was this afternoon. The place was
Affairs - Cafe & Bakery in University Place, WA. And the occasion? Joseph McGowan sang it so much better than I'm able to do "In the Neighborhood" here at The News Tribune on-line on September 4, 2008.

And yes I'm afraid one of our bloggers is involved and let me warn you now it's a very big one! For more steamy details and a few more snapshots - one click is all it takes. Photo by Mizu Sugimura copyright 2008.

Recipe for Shower Cleaner

Making Do in Hard Times

I’m not a fan of cleaning the shower. Once, in a frenzy of cleaning, I used two different commercial products that oughtn’t to have been used together, burned my lungs, and ended up at St. Joseph’s for a week with pneumonia and thoraxic surgery. Keeping the shower from getting icky is important to me and so is saving money.

Daily shower cleaner came out in the late 1990s, but my frugality drove me to find a homemade alternative. After all, if you’ve got a large family you’re asking to use it each time they shower, keeping the shower clean can become a spendy proposition.

The Internet is our friend. On, now, I found what I was looking for and our family has made it ever since:

8 ounces of all purpose cleaner which is probably under your kitchen sink already

16 ounces of rubbing alcohol which if it’s not in your medicine cabinet can be purchased cheaply (get a big bottle so you can get more than one gallon out of it.

Filtered water—the water should be filtered or purified so that you aren’t adding minerals to your shower walls.

Empty clean gallon jug

Measure the first two ingredients into the jug and fill with water. It’s as simple as that. It works as well as any of the daily shower products and keeps the pennies in your pocket. There are other recipes for shower cleaner on the web, but this one is cheap and easy, both favorite adjectives of mine.

Eventually your shower is going to need cleaning no matter what, but if you’re very lucky you have a spouse who remembers the month you spent in bed with pneumonia and will clean it for you occasionally. Thanks, Dave!

Friday, September 19, 2008

My local safe streets.

At our last meeting we were asked to write what we thought our neighborhood group was about. I can't speak for others, but I can try.

Lincoln West Safe Streets Group

A personal goal of mine for our group is to lose the consistent need to carry a gun. I may not own one, but unfortunately I picture myself using the barrel to knock around a few dirty pesky panhandlers. I could never shoot the darn thing, but it would be fun using it as a makeshift brass knuckle.

The group’s man goal is to rid our neighborhood of its cockroaches. That being drug dealers, transients, burglars, and gangs. We would like our neighborhood to be maintained. Our yards should be in order and our streets and alleys should be clean. We don’t want any homegrown chops shops or backyard drug gardens.

Safety is another high dollar issue. We want to buy our groceries without being intimidated by panhandlers. We want our children to be able to walk home from school and play in our yards without fear. Most of us remember growing up and playing freely around our neighborhoods. Now we can’t let our children out alone in their own backyards.

We want our neighborhood back. We want to feel safe. We don’t want to wonder if our neighbor is cultivating meth. We don’t want to constantly fear our child’s safety.

Join a group if you feel the same. Gather and protect your own neighborhood. Take your piece of mind back and let the scum fret for now on.

The Fair Is Still Not For Me (Sorry, Sorry, Head Bowed In Shame)

Oh, South Sound. I tried. Again. And while some stuff was cool, the rest well…. Sorry Puyallup Fair lovers. I still don’t like the Fair.

I have never liked the fair, even as a kid. I have bad allergies to animals and hay, rides scared me or made me sick, and I stunk at the games (my mom told me that I got furious when I couldn’t flip a dime and win an ashtray in the 70’s and my little brother could). And I didn’t like scones, elephant ears, or much of the fair food.

Fast forward to now. As a parent of two small kids, I’ve taken them to the fair. Sorry (again), but it was too hard, too crowded, too stressful, and too expensive. So we told the kids the fair wasn’t in Puyallup but in PENNSYLVANIA.

This year though, I relented. My dear friend,fellow blogger, and ultimate Fair lover and cheerleader, Patty and I were supposed to go together, but we couldn’t go.

So, after a rough, long week (long story), the family and I decided to give it a go on Sunday spontaneously. I tried to channel my inner Patty to love the fair. I tried, I really did.

First off, I didn’t eat. I don’t eat meat and well, that’s the bulk of the food. I found a couple of vegetarian options, but they looked totally gross. I didn’t want a big old pile of fries and I don’t like fair sweet treats. I am a freak for that, I know, I know.

The rides and the games were, er, interesting. First of all, we bought the wrong colored tickets for the games. In fact we bought LOTS of the wrong tickets. Then we didn’t understand that the Sky Ride was separate. We waited in long lines. My daughter insisted on the roller coaster. I went with her. The two of us agreed that we were done with the rides, basically forever.

Allergy meds taken, I fared well through the animal exhibits. I loved that. I also liked the Northwest Outdoors pavilion and I ended up having a delightful conversation with the Tahoma Audobon Society. I joined. My kids enjoyed the environmental and fishing stuff. We did too. It was free.

In fact, all the free stuff is what stuck with us even though we spent tons for the other things.

So, there I stand.

Okay, folks, I am ready. Go ahead and let the comments rip.

Bastyr Campus Screening of Lyme Documentary Oct. 3rd

Here is a newly available excerpt of Under Our Skin, a brilliant documentary about Lyme and the Business of Medicine. Join us Oct. 3rd, 6p, at the Chapel on Bastyr Campus in Kenmore. Entry by donation. For details, please go to:


Making Do in Hard Times

This morning on the way to work through the mist I turned on the windshield wipers I was reminded that we haven’t had rain in a while. Our cars and streets are dirty and the wipers have been hibernating. The wipers on my car only smeared the mist across the windshield. This brought to mind a tip from my mother years ago, clean your windshield wipers with vinegar before you head for the auto parts store.

Like everything else these days, windshield wipers don’t seem to last as long as they did in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but by keeping yours clean, you may extend their life.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Making Do in Hard Times
My mother was born in 1922. She doesn’t remember the stock market crash so she says she doesn’t remember anything like what’s happened to the stock market this week. We’ve joked about liquidating or mutual funds and putting the money in a coffee can in the back yard. I’m sure that our financial advisor will pat me on the hand and tell me to just ride this out. In the meantime we are cutting back wherever we can.

I’ve written before about Amy Dacyczyn’s “Tightwad Gazette,” a newsletter she began in 1976 where homemakers, still mostly women then, could exchange tips on making their money go farther. In 1992 the first compilation of those newsletters was published with two more volumes to follow. Dacyczyn and her readers came up with ways of running households, raising children and saving money that would make our pioneer foremothers proud. Many of their tips I figured out along the way of raising my own four children, largely alone, during the same time as these domestic goddesses.

The only place, besides disposable income, where I feel I have much control over money is at the super market. That’s where I am, as my mother-in-law says, making a penny scream. Dacyczyn has many tips on shopping and cooking for a family and one that’s appeared on our table is what I call Tightwad Casserole, although Dacyczyn calls in “Corn-Broccoli Casserole” in the first volume of the Tightwad compilation and I’d like to share it here in the hopes that others will share with the Neighborhood tips on getting the most out of our dollars.

A word to diabetics: don’t try this at home. This casserole is incredibly cheap and can be thrown together with things in your cupboard and refrigerator, but it’s high in carbs which is why the kiddies may like it. Remember, this is making do, not eating on the South Beach Diet.
This casserole does a wonderful job of absorbing our abundance of mystery-can corn. Yellow squash, zucchini, cauliflower, and a wide variety of other vegetables can be substituted for the broccoli with impressive results. This one-dish supper can be made in about 15 minutes of hands-on time if you are using preshredded cheese and frozen broccoli. If you use fresh broccoli, it should be steamed aldente first.
1 can corn,
1 can creamed corn
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
4 eggs,
2/3 cup milk
1 sleeve saltines, crushed
2 tablespoons margarine,
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first seven ingredients and ¾ cup of saltine crumbs. Pour into 10 ½ inch metal-handled frying pan or large casserole dish. Combine remaining crumbs with margarine and use to top casserole. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes, or until firm.
Serves eight. (Dacyczyn, Tightwad Gazette, 136)

We seldom eat canned corn or canned vegetables period, but I keep a little canned corn—at 69 cents a can— around to make this casserole if we get to the end of the money before the end of the month or I just don’t feel like going to the store. Our allotment of canned vegetables may increase as we struggle to save every penny we can in these uncertain times.

I admit that the corn and the crackers would send a diabetic’s sugars to spike. If you’re healthy and need to feed the family on a small amount of money, this might fit the menu. It’s easy to keep a little bag of frozen broccoli on hand for this casserole, but you can be more creative. Whatever’s in the freezer or refrigerator will do. Today I decided to throw this casserole together, but I wanted to incorporate some of the Autumn harvest so I stopped by Patterson’s Fruit & Vegetable stand in Gig Harbor on the way home. Instead of frozen broccoli I decided to add zucchini and yellow squash and red bell peppers for color.

I cooked the onion and the chopped red pepper well until they began to sugar while I sliced the zucchini and squash and tossed it all in a bowl. I baked the whole thing in my mother’s cast iron chicken fryer which meant it took a little longer than the 40 minutes the recipe calls for. It came closer to 50 minutes.

I hope you have ideas on saving money as we head into Fall and the holidays.

Wednesday Evenings Get Togethers...So Beautiful To Me

Wednesday nights… every Wednesday night for three years, I have joyfully passed two to three hours with couples in WorldWide Marriage Encounter. Those Wednesday nights have just bubbled over with teasing, laughing, deep, deep moments of silence as we talked about our sorrows and joys.
I have talked about the ups and downs of my life… about alcoholism and its impact on my family, about the ups and downs of my love life in college, the shock and anger I experienced when Dr. King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, the joy and pride I felt as men and women I supported when they were in college went on to lead happy and successful lives---so many of them have chosen to share their time, money, and talents with people who have not had the chance to go to college (I am smiling right now just thinking about them!!!)

My friend, Martha, was courageous enough to sit and take this picture with me. She is one honest, sensitive, caring person and I just am so glad I know her.
The couples with whom I have spent so many wonderful Wednesday evenings have helped me to become a more thoughtful and confident human being. How? We have listened to each other, shared our feelings honestly and clearly, come to understand each other, and, as one of the fellows said a few weeks ago: “We are family now.”
Such wonderful words for me… an only child whose parents have gone on to God.

My greatest dream is that such sharing will, more and more, become the ordinary way that human beings who love God spend time with one another. I really want all of us to stop clicheing each other into Inanity Heaven, going on and on about work, sports, politics, crises and chaos, pleasantries and positive clichés (let me be honest one affirmation I say to myself every day---cliché it may be--- is “Every day in every way I am getting better and better.” )
A cliché a day do keep some grumblers away.
Wednesday evenings, after my time with the couples, I go home intellectually stimulated, emotionally replenished, and spiritually inspired. I think each one of us deserves, daily to feel that way.
What do you think? Please tell us about other occasions and processes you find which enrich your inner life.

Wednesday evenings...such beautiful moments for me... enjoy this Joe Cocker/Patti LaBelle duet (who is that yonder looking so cool... it's Dr. Bill Cosby teaching life school)