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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Being Cents-able

I purchased a used copy of Your Money or Your Life by Dominguez and Robin and it became one of the many books waiting to be read in my room. Frugality has been a large part of my adulthood out of necessity. This book came up in Internet reading I did on that subject and since I was having a very bad year at work and longed to quit, the notion of being able to live on less was enticing. Summer, home repairs, and a sick mother sidetracked me.

At the end of the summer, as we watched financial institutions fail and the stock market fall like a lead brick, we learned that there was a possibility of my husband’s job ending and our income being drastically cut. My quitting was no longer an option, but the urgency to stretch our money was renewed. After some digging through the stacks of books in my bedroom I found Your Money or Your Life and with highlighter in hand I began to read.

The book is not about creating a budget. It is about developing a new appreciation for your time, life energy, and knowledge about where that and your money goes. I am still in the baby steps of financial independence and living the sort of life my heart yearns for, but on the 8th of January I paid off Christmas and today I put $100 into savings.

I must note that I am the one reading the book and attempting to change my life. My husband is frugal by nature, makes a great deal more money than I and we have different spheres of financial responsibility. I say this to point out that my finances amount to my salary and the drizzles and drabs of money I get each monthfrom other places. My resources are responsible for food for six, sundries for three, and clothing for two along with gifts, a YMCA membership, music lessons for my grandson and a tutuor for my Special Needs daughter. That said, if you are interested in my financial journey, read on.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Making Do in Hard Times/Anytime

I get more junk email than snail mail. I’m not always sure where it comes from. A few weeks ago I started receiving emails from, probably because I snoop around websites devoted to frugality. Today I received one from the above outfit with the “tip” titled “Coupons—not just for your grandmother.” Is this a news flash or am I just very old? Well, I am a grandmother. My age not withstanding, I have always clipped coupons.

If stretching your money is of interest to you, read more on The View From My Broom.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Blue Day...Good Day

Grey snowy weather, the ups and downs personally, nationally, and internationally (I just shiver inside thinking of so many people from my country and other countries getting caught up in fighting and killing one another),and just plain getting old frequently brought a whole lot of light and darkness into my days during the last few weeks. Darkness... having to ask again and again: "why am I here;" "am I making a positive contribution to the world I live in;" "why is aging and dying so hard and scary." Light... "I helped my friend to laugh today;" "I apologized for my errors and did not to excuse my failures;" "I listened today and the person speaking felt relieved." Listening, understanding, valuing... I can do that...
Just like the Metal Man pictured here... I can serve by standing and waiting.

Overcast and thirty five degrees out here today and people were still moving. That's what we do... we keep moving...I thank the Lord that I have eyes to see, feelings with which to identify with other people, and a mind to put the connections together-- we all need to get up in the morning, take care of our natural business, reach out to others hopefully and lovingly, and get moving... to pray, to eat, to feel known and understood and accepted, to feel our pains and our joys... to find meaning in the ups and downs of life, to enjoy being alive.

I smiled seeing so many cars outside the movie theatre. In my imagination I smelled the popcorn, felt the quiet energy of folks sitting, being moved by the music and the color and the story of the film they were watching. We do choose to take time to be with one another and to let go of the ups and downs of the moment and let other people take us by the hand and move with us... surprising us, inspiring us, teaching us, loving us.

I'm chuckling to myself as I finish these few thoughts. Just like the bush in the picture here, we are always changing--tears and scrapes here, healing and growing there... with clean air, cleansing rains, the earth beneath our feet, the sun breaking through the clouds every now and then... we do keep going, don't we...?

Don't We...

Oh Happy Day

Four years ago I was in mourning. It was not just the disappointment of having the “other guy” win the White House. It was a deep sadness and disbelief that George W. Bush was going to spend four more years occupying the most powerful office in the world, continuing to damage our standing in the world, nibbling on our rights, and waging a war that has only made our lives more dangerous. My naturalized daughter-in-law asked me how it could have happened again after all the lies and corruption. I had no answer for her, but I could not believe that Americans had turned their backs on the values that I believe are the foundation of this country--equality and freedom--and out of fear were attempting to turn the US into some sort of right wing theocracy.

As dark as those days were, the joy I felt on Inauguration Day watching an intelligent, eloquent African American be sworn into the Office of the President of the United States is beyond words. Watching George Bush fly away, I felt an oppressive cloud lift with the helicopter and realize that it truly is a new era in America. Colors look brighter and so does the future. Although living in a world in recession and personally with an uncertain financial future, I cannot help but feel optimistic for the country and the world. The face of America no longer looks only like old white men.

Our willingness to put fear and prejudice behind us cannot end with this historic election and inauguration. Not since the murders of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. have we felt this sense of possibility. We have another chance to get it right. We have another chance to demonstrate American leadership in diplomacy, environmental issues, and sustaining life on the planet. We have another chance to go down the road of equality and freedom and it will take everyone pedaling the bicycle of Democracy. We cannot expect President Obama to do it alone. Tough times and tough choices await us. We have to return to notions long abandoned like thrift and saving and delayed gratification; freedom of religion and privacy; personal responsibilty.

There are right-wing ideologs who are praying for our president’s failure. You’ve only to turn on Fox”News” to hear their venom. President Obama is going to be held to a microscope, criticized and misconstrued. He hadn’t made it to the first inaugural ball before some began to decry his oath-taking which was botched by Justice Roberts. There are those who would rather wish our country ill than to see a Democratic Black Man lead us out of the morass left by the last administration. Undoubtedly some of these people wish President Obama more ill than just failure. Evil does not just dwell in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Perhaps the election of an African American could not have happened in my lifetime without the eight dark years just ended. Perhaps there could not have been a Barak Obama without a George W. Bush. Regardless, I am happy to say, “Nah, nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, goodbye.”

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Keeping the Skies Safe

Seattle has historically had an aeronautical presence with Boeing. We have two international airports that serve major airlines and light planes. The Regional FAA is headquartered in Auburn, but what you may not know is that in 2005 Lockheed Martin took over the job of weather briefing pilots. The job was privatized.

FAA briefers who had enough time in with the government retired, many of them going to work for Lockheed. Those who did not have enough time in to retire were told that they would be found other jobs in the FAA and keep their seniority. Many were encouraged to stay on with Lockheed because the company needed trained employees to continue doing weather briefings while they revamped the organization and trained new briefers.

Promises were made on both sides, from the FAA and Lockheed that have not been kept in many instances. The computer program Lockheed had written did not begin to equal the system previously used in any way except that it can access information nationwide.

Employees have struggled to give pilots good information about their flight plan and keep them safe. Every time a plane disappears the briefers involved take it personally. Airports along their route are checked by phone or, in the case of unmanned small airports, getting someone to check what planes are parked at the airstrip. I’ve done it myself in Ilwaco when my husband, who has worked at Seattle Flight Service for 19 years, has called me at our summer house and asked me to drive the two miles to the Ilwaco airstrip and see if a particular plane was there.

Sometimes the planes never turn up or are found on a mountainside in the Cascades or Olympic mountains. The briefer who last talked to them is upset by the loss, wondering if there was something more they should have told the pilot. Tapes of calls are reviewed. Even when it was not the fault of the briefer, which is generally the case, losing a pilot haunts the briefer.

Briefers take their job seriously and have not looked favorably on the takeover by Lockheed. Some who stayed on following the takeover quit after the new system was in place. Some have left or transferred as Lockheed has closed down facilities around the country. Pilots who call for a briefing and to file a flight plan may or may not be talking to someone familiar with the area they will be flying through. In theory the system Lockheed has in place is supposed to give briefers all over the country information about anyplace, but in practice pilots are not getting the same service they did under the FAA. And it is only going to get worse.

The economy has impacted Lockheed and the air industry. Closures have been sped up and experienced briefers encouraged to retire. Seattle Flight Service has not received a closure date, but is down to a skeleton crew. They are no longer open 24/7. Call after 11 PM and you will be talking to a briefer in Prescott, AZ, one of the legacy sites that will remain open. Recently a Prescott manager was in Seattle for the funeral of a Prescott employee who was from here and had committed suicide.

Most people do not realize that a vital part of the FAA was privitized. It has gone largely ignored by the media. If you’re interested in reading what a briefer has to say about the situation click here. This is a link to an emotional blog written by one. If you are a pilot, please know that weather briefers are still attempting to give you the best possible information, but are doing it with one hand tied behind their backs. Sometimes taking a service out of the hands of government is a mistake.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Broadway Center for the Performing Arts Still Thrives Despite Economy

I have had the privilege of seeing some shows through the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts late last year and early this year. Of course I purchased my tickets some time ago and hoarded them like a greedy little squirrel in my event goody box in the kitchen (home of the restaurant coupons, 2 for 1's, local art and food announcements, and the like). I caught Martin Short at the Pantages last fall, Billy Joel and Twyla Tharp's "Movin' Out" at the Pantages, and most recently, the Rock 'n' Roll American Gospel Choir at Theater on The Square.

All these shows were positively AMAZING and worth every cent. I witnessed some of the finest and most dynamic performers I've ever seen live. EVER. Each show whisked me outside of my life, little ol' Tacoma and deep into the world of music, dance, and comedy. I am very proud of Grit City and the Center's ability to attract excellent, high value entertainment. David Fischer, Executive Director of the center, wrote a beautiful letter in the "Encore Arts Programs" publication. He profusely thanked the local community for all of their support, despite these harsh economic times. And he noted, "...We are happy to fulfill and hopefully make your life a little better."

Ain't that the truth!

It saddens me to see empty seats at the shows, but I understand. As the old saying goes, when the economy goes sour, the arts tend to be the hardest hit.

So, I'll be saving my pennies to devote to live theater and performance going forward. To me, the transportation to another world and into the dream like swoon of the theater, is worth it.

Readers, bloggers: Are you passionate about the local arts? If so, what local arts venues are the most important to you? What ideas do you have for our local arts venues to attract more customers and business? How do you enjoy the arts without breaking the bank?

Do tell!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I'd Say That I Have Spring Fever, But I Know It Isn't Spring

“I’m as restless as a willow in a wind storm; I’m as jumpy as a puppet on a string. I’d say that I have spring fever, but I know it isn’t spring.” ~Frank Sinatra

I feel as giddy as a school girl the day before a big date! I have a date today in front of my television. I’m taking the day off to witness history as an African American, elected in a landslide, will assume the oath of office of President of the United States.

My front row seat in the family room will include watching George Bush fly off into the sunset, as it were. I expect the sigh of relief from most Americans will be audible. I realize that Barak Obama is not the messiah, although we may be welcoming him as one, but it’s not like he’s got a tough act to follow. George Bush and some die-hard Republicans are claiming that history will show how truly great he was. The chances of that happening died when John McCain didn’t get elected, have a heart attack and make thereby make Sarah Palin president. I had thought that events could not be worse than four years ago, but a Palin presidency would have sent me packing to Lorraine’s parents in Ontario. Hopefully now she can stay in Alaska—where she doesn’t appear to be that popular any more—and watch Russia from her front porch and Joe Wurzelbacher can go back to Ohio and get his plumbing license.

I cannot believe that I have lived to see this historic event. Just four years ago, just two years ago, who could have imagined that the anguish of the last eight years would end with such a momentous achievement on the part of Democracy and on the part of a people who have decided to elevate our national consciousness? This shows that the common citizen in this country wants equality, wants justice, wants a change from the “good ol’ boys” governing so that they increase their wealth on the backs of the rest of us. Change will take the hard work of all of us; of holding ourselves to a higher standard. Barak Obama may well be the man to set the example and make a difference—make a change. He has been left with a country in a two front war and slipping into a depression. May his heart, head and hands be blessed as he faces governing our country in crisis.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Tomorrow, Barack Hussein Obama will be inaugurated as the 44th President of these United States. I did not vote for him nor do I think his agenda is good for this country. That said, let me serve notice that Barack Obama will be my President.

I will use the titles "Mister", "President" or perhaps just his last name. I did similar with President Bush.

There are a lot of people who disliked Mr. Bush. That is fine. You are free to do that. You even have the right to be disrespectful. A lot of people were and still are disrespectful. I think it's juvenile and I think it is wrong.

Mr. Obama is worthy of all due respect of his office as was/is Mr. Bush.

As I stated above , I will probably disagree with much of Mr. Obama's agenda - sometimes vehemently. I might even agree with him at times. What you won't ever see, is me being disrespectful to the President of the United States. It's just not right.


The Gift Of Loving

Thank You, Lord, for the amazing gift of so many people around the world, who are choosing, like Dr. King, his wife, Mrs. Coretta King, their family members, and so many people of different races and spiritual experiences did, today to reach out and give their lives so that our world can be a safe, fruitful place for all. The Martin Luther King icon is reprinted here with the most gracious permission of John O'Brien, the owner of Trinity Stores (see Trinity Stores website).

Thank you Kalieb Nash-Walker, from Life Christian School, for sharing the gift of your singing Amazing Grace so confidently and graciously with us at the Bellarmine Martin King Assembly

Bless You Sir

This is one of those moments in history I am so proud and pleased to be alive, to witness firsthand. With this moment, I believe America begins to leave behind its adolescence in our struggles, hope, and determination for the future of our entire world.

I think back to the days in this virtual neighbourhood, when Cheryl would post about meetings at Denny's to read "The Audacity of Hope" and discuss the man who will take the helm tomorrow. It was millions of people like her who have made history and redirected the river's flow. Thank you Cheryl; you are a neighbourhood hero.

Here in our little United Nations Neighbourhood, we've discussed...and sleeves-up debated at times. I have not seen this level of honest and deep discourse in forty years. We have worked our differences for a unity of purpose and, even in our deepest divides, we've found islands of common ground and respect for one another. We have kept it as real as....America! Along the journey, first judgements gave way to firm friendships and respect, despite our differences.

I am so excited to welcome a president who has struggled to find out who he is in this world, not just in this country. I'm excited to raise the bar on intelligence in leadership. I'm excited for all the broken barriers and the ones cracking. I'm excited for the dream that could become the world and for the work we all face to make it happen.

Bless you sir. May your heart, mind and soul walk in truth and service...for this country and for the world.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's The Little Things

I have a thing for all that is miniature; it's been a passion since childhood. I'd nick my mum's compact mirror and make a tiny pond with it, in a miniature garden.

My husband bought this old printer's box at a yard sale, years ago and it's become the perfect shadowbox home for little treasures. You can ask me about anything in here and there will be a story to tell of walks, travels, friendship, love and its magic.

I have been given beautiful perfume and snuff bottles for my little collection. This painted porcelain miniature came from Jalna, a young woman who has been like a daughter to me for fifteen years. It's been five years since I've seen her but not a week goes by that I don't get an email, letter, or phone call. This bit of porcelain is like her, beautiful...and stronger than it would appear.

My mother brought this one back from India, years ago. It's made from silver and tortoise shell and once hung on a chain. Apparently the idea was to have something handy that smelled better than what (or who) was being passed by! That's the story my mother told me when she gave the gift.

This snuff bottle is my favourite of the collection. My husband found it in a small antique shop in New York and gave it to me for our seventeenth wedding anniversary. I love the carved lion in the jade.

Quite a while back we had fun sharing pictures of dolls, so I thought I'd share my shadowbox with you...and ask...what do you like to collect?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Congratulations To The Young People At The Martin Luther King Assembly

Thanks to every staff person, and student, who worked so very hard in putting this assembly together. Thank you, Ylisse Bess, for graciously hosting the assembly.

Thank you, Trejor Brooks and Sergio Coleman for concluding our program with your wonderful singing of the Black National Anthem.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Living Martin's Dream

It is glorious that Martin Luther King Day, the day we honor the man who paved the way for Black equality, will be followed by the day we inaugurate the first African American President of the United States. It is thrilling to be alive at this time and despite the concern over the economy I feel as optimistic as I did last summer.

I have lived a lot of history. I was in 7th grade when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In high school when they killed Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I watched the funerals of these brave men and wept. Now my tears are for joy.

Not since 1963 has Washington D.C. seen the likes of what will happen on Tuesday, January 20th. I am just as excited as…when I saw the Beatles. It ought to be a national holiday this year as we have the opportunity to witness history. We can tell our grandchildren and great-grandchildren that we lived into an era that saw Martin Luther King’s dream begin to be realized. When America put its collective heart where its mouth has been and decided to live the life for which Lady Liberty lifts her lamp.

Barak Obama carries a huge burden because so many hopes are pinned on this new president, but what American accomplishes depends on all of us, not just one man. On MLK Day we can ask ourselves what we can each do to make America a better country and live the dream.


Join me and many people around the world as we commit to EARTH HOUR!

March 28, 2009 @ 8:30 pm

This is me doing my part by spreading the word. I am just one person, but so are you. Together we are more than enough to make a difference.

Please go to EARTHHOUR.ORG to sign up for the event. Learn more about this Global Effort.

Holy Homeschool! Help Mama Gritizen!

I put a version of this post on own blog, but it's really better suited here, South Sound style.

Well, I guess I am a home school mom now. Actually, it's not a guess, it's a fact. And it's totally cool. It also wasn't planned or necessarily by choice, but rather sort fell in my lap. Of course when you think your life is going to go firmly one way it veers another (at least for me). But it's okay because life will be fresh and new and that's fine. How this got started is a long story, but a story that will have a happy ending.

So, I am new to this journey, like totally just born. Any ideas, thoughts, resource brainstorms or if you just wanna say good luck are all welcome!


Economy Woes

So I have decided to write about the current hot topic we all know so much about, yet a lot of us don’t quite understand.

Our economy blows. A little over five years ago I bought my house for $90,000. My husband and I were just starting out in our adult life with our adult purchases and all the other adult decisions that went along with it. Shortly after, a friend of ours also purchased a house. In just over two years we were told our houses were worth more than twice the amount we paid for them. So a lot of owners decided to sell their houses at these sky rocketed prices and make their quick bucks. I will admit I dabbled in the idea of that fad, but I also knew if I sold my home at this doubled price I would still be buying another home at the same over-marked cost. So we didn’t sell. We refinanced and paid off some debt. We didn’t take the full value we were told our house was worth. We had some common sense. Houses just don’t double in price over night. I am glad we didn’t fall into this fad. As of now our houses value has “dropped” immensely since we refinanced. Due to our decision not to go for more than we needed we do not own a home worth less than we are paying. I want to know who decided to mess with honest home owners and cause the sudden foreclosure crisis? It was not the owners. Was it the bankers that are now going through bankruptcy or the realtors that can no longer sell the houses on the market?

I remember working at a pawnshop about seven years ago. It was right across from a Shell Gas Station. My husband use to pick me up from work when he needed to fill up his truck. That gas station always had the best price in our area. I remember we were paying .99 cents a gallon at that station. Now we are racing to pay $1.89 a gallon when just a few months ago we HAD to pay around $4.00 a gallon because some higher power though it would be funny to stick it to us. Are you still laughing now? Our economy stinks like dog crap and everyone wants to leave it burning on your front porch. Who is to blame here? I watched a “community meeting” on television regarding the over -priced gas. You know what I saw? I saw a bunch of honest citizens looking desperate. “We can’t afford to fill our trucks.” The trucks that they thrive on to feed their families. I saw a few balding men sitting in front of these honest people sweating because they were taking the blame for their greedy bosses. Look what that greed has gotten us now. We can’t afford your gas. Many people can not afford to get to work. Thank you.

Tonight I was at a community meeting with fellow neighbors. We have been having burglary and drug crimes running rampant within a small block radius. I admit tonight I was a little late. So while I sat with the group the entire time I wondered, “When is the officer going to be here. I wanted to talk to him tonight.” Towards the middle of the meeting I found out where our Community Liaison Officer was. He was told he could no longer attend because the city could not afford the over-time. I looked around the room and I saw a room full of disappointment and defeat. Our CLO was our voice. If we had a problem we could talk to him personally. We felt as-if he was there to stand by us as we fought against the crime we are forced to live among. I felt my own disappointment. This was the second community group I have been a part of. The first one lost it’s funding. I lost my resourceful officer. When I first moved into my home I had drug dealing neighbors who loved throwing used condoms in my driveway. The same driveway I would walk down with my then 2 year old daughter. Do you know how it feels to watch your toddler nearly pick up someone’s used condom in your own driveway? I still haven’t gotten over it. At that time I found out about our communities meetings. I met an officer through it who did not stop fighting for us until those neighbors were gone. I will forever be grateful for his help. So I understand the defeat in my fellow neighbors eyes when we no longer have our CLO at our meetings. It is one thing to leave a message for him. It is something else when you can see him there next to you supporting you and helping our neighborhood clean itself up. We want our CLO with us. I think we should at least have that.

Donna Burwell
Lincoln West Safe Streets Group

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Call To Understanding In Building Community

The keynote speaker at Bellarmine High School's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Assembly was Rev. Dr. Leslie Braxton, Pastor of New Beginnings Christian Fellowship Church.

He challenged each student to develop his/her emotional, intellectual, and spiritual gifts so that he/she could focus with integrity, sensitivity, courage, and compassion on helping other people to enjoy the freedom, security, and dignity they deserve. I found his presentation timely and moving.

Monday, January 12, 2009

January 12... A Gray Day-- A Happy Day

Monday, nine in the morning, I headed over to the Bellarmine Booster Gym. At 9:40 the school celebrated, at an assembly, the birthday of Martin Luther King. Gray and overcast outside.

Just brimming over with talent and love on the inside. Check out the dancing phenomenon, Ja'ir Canon, from Lakeland Hills Elementary School, Auburn, Washington.
He got students, teachers, staff, and visitors laughing and clapping. Thank you, Ja'ir.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Neighborhood Salute For Gig Harbor's Stephanie Frieze

Frequent visitors to "In Your Neighborhood" are well aware of the tireless efforts and frequency of postings by Gig Harbor writer and blogger extraordinaire Stephanie Frieze to keep up this blog particularly during the last year. In fact, if memory serves there have been periods when it seemed Stephanie herself carried the entire blog.

The old adage about the faithfulness of those government workers who in the old days carried the US mail comes to mind - in sun, rain, snow and sleet. If we rephrased this with our space in mind, it would conclude with a phrase to the effect "that this talented writer's (Stephanie) dedication and diligence will never be beat!"

Those outside the bounderies of "In Your Neighborhood" may be familiar with Stephanie as a para-educator or as the author of her informative and entertaining blog The View From My Broom.

So Stephanie Frieze - now is the time to come and take a little bow! Then what we'll all shout in unison is a very hearty and well deserved WOW!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Getting Out the Word: Lyme

Lorraine Hart has written extensively about her experience with chronic Lyme disease. She is my heroine. I am sure she’s her daughter’s heroine, too. Because of her tireless efforts to get the word out about how to protect loved ones from this insidious disease and how to seek treatment for those who have it, people’s lives will be saved.

Because of the upcoming screening of “Under Our Skin” to be held at Gig Harbor High School (instigated by Lorraine) I sent out an email to the staff there and discovered that Lyme has touched more lives that I would have thought.

Even if you think you’ve become educated about Lyme disease come to the screening. Email your friends, family and neighbors. For ride pools. If Lorraine could, she would knock on every door in Pierce County to help educate the public about a tiny bug that can devastate a life. Anyone can become a Lyme warrior and help stop the disease cold. Let’s help her by getting out the word that Lyme hurts. You may be surprised to discover that it has already touched the life of someone you know.

Sunshine and Music-- Nourishment for a Rainy Winter Day

A laugh is just like sunshine. It freshens all the day,
It tips the peak of life with light,
And drives the clouds away.

The soul grows glad that hears itAnd feels its courage strong.
A laugh is just like sunshine
For cheering folks along.

A laugh is just like music,It lingers in the heart,
And where its melody is heard
The ills of life depart;

And happy thoughts come crowding
Its joyful notes to greet;
A laugh is just like musi
For making living sweet.

Author Unknown

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Neighbourhood Hero: Maureen Barta

We are blessed and lucky to walk amongst heroes in our lives. They are the heart and soul of all our neighbourhoods, ordinary folk in extraordinary situations, doing their best every day. Today, I'd like to tell you about one. Her name is Maureen Barta and she has been my daughter's IV nurse for the last year and a half. Maureen has become a cherished member of our family, for her tender loving care AND for her Lyme advocacy.
Not only does Maureen do hands-on nursing, she is a professor of nursing students at PLU and teaches a health class at Gig Harbor High School. Oh yes, she also goes to Haiti every year to volunteer her services in clinics there. Those of you from the Blog Squad who came to our gig at Jazzbones last year may remember being introduced to Maureen and her husband, Eric. Maureen was the person who was immediately checking on Anna, after our performance. That's her love for her patients and her vocation.
Eric had been battling cancer for eighteen years and, on Sunday, he let go of his tired body with Maureen lovingly at his side. His obituary was in yesterday's (Tues. 6th.) TNT. Bless you Eric, rest in peace after a long, hard fight. Anna and I will honour your request and sing for you.
You would think Mrs. Barta would retreat and rest for a wee bit...but that is not our Maureen. Yesterday she arrived at her usual time, to take care of Anna's dressing, after teaching her class at the high school. You would think (with her husband's funeral on Monday, Jan. 12th.) that helping put on the screening of "Under Our Skin" and being part of the expert panel for questions, the very next night, might be too much for her...but that is not our Maureen. As she told us yesterday, taking care of her patients and educating our area (poised within a perfect storm for tick-borne illnesses) about Lyme is her passion and keeps her going. She assured us that she was doing what she needed to do.
What better service could we do, here in the neighbourhood, than raise up our unsung heroes. Maureen Barta is the first hero I choose to celebrate this year. For her strength, for her skills and knowledge, for her infinite heart and the love she works in the world, I salute her. I could not begin to tell you the measure of our gratitude for her presence in our lives, other than to simply say, we love you Maureen.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Snow...Teen Flicks... And...

Just when I thought the snows were over, I was sitting in my room watching a teen flick oriented horror movie, I looked out the window and saw (surprise,surprise)
the snow was back...

The movie, "Clawed," had kept my attention until then; but I began to wonder... "what's going on; what will tomorrow bring;my I love sitting in a warm room looking at the snow,"

Another flick caught my attention. But the snow fall got thicker; I had expected a light snowfall, then rain, and a sunny, streets cleared of snow Monday... here is what I was hoping Tacoma would look like Monday evening

But my expectations are one one thing; And reality is a whole different trip...

Life in Gaza

If you are interested in reading about life in Gaza right now go to "Raising Yousef and Noor," a blog by Laila El-Hadad, a journalist, wife, mother, and Palestinian living in Druham, NC. El-Hadad's parents are doctors in Gaza.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Getting Back in the Swim

Most Americans resolve to lose weight when New Year’s rolls around. I would like to, but that’s not one of my resolutions. Maybe next year. I would, however, like to be in better shape and to that end my daughter Amy and I returned to our water aerobics class at the Morgan Family YMCA in Tacoma after a six month hiatus. We got back into the swim of things.

My 86 year old mother suffered two life threatening infections that bookended home renovations and the whole of which was capped by bad weather and the holidays. So last night I pulled out my familiar bag which already contained my suit, my YMCA card, my towel and my shampoo. Amy was ready and waiting for me when I came back from walking the dog and off we went wondering who we'd see.

Morgan Family has undergone some renovations and now sports a beautiful new lobby, desk, and lounge area. It may be trying to keep up with its new sister in Gig Harbor, but we love the large therapy pool at Morgan which Gig Harbor does not have and we love our instructor and classmates. Orginally we'd intended to move over to Gig Harbor when it opened, but we just couldn't leave the folks we'd got used to seeing three evenings per week.

June was the last time we’d been. January 2nd and a Friday was a good day to go back. For the most part the Y classes were on break. The adult water aerobics classes go on as usual and it was nice to not have to dodge little wet bodies in the locker room and basically have the place to ourselves. Whereas the class had become too large making it difficult to exercise in June, this last weekday of the holiday break fielded a small class of familiar faces and one new one.

Well, three new faces. The lap pool was fairly quiet. Dean, retired Special Education teacher and our instructor looked over at the lap pool and waved to two young ladies watching our elderly group bob and bounce to the music Dean provides. “Why don’t you join us,” Dean called. The girls giggled and some of speculated how old we thought they were. Middle school, we decided. A little while later they appeared at the end of the instructional pool, whispering to each other and giggling. When we looked up one tentatively asked, “Can we join you?” They were received with warm welcome and enticed into staying for volley ball after the aerobics class. They were 9th graders at two different junior highs and this class, which is largely made up of educators of one variety or another, made them feel comfortable. Who knows if they will come back, but it was lovely to have two young ladies want to splash around with a bunch of old farts.

Going back to water aerobics wasn’t on my list of resolutions. It is something that we were already doing and got interrupted. Actually, going interrupted one of my resolutions which was organizing, but spending time with Amy is divine and (unfortunately) my stuff was still waiting for me when we got home.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Polar Bears at the Olalla Bridge Continue New Year's Tradition

For New Year’s I opened my Simple Abundance to January 1st, read the reading and then took a long hot shower to wash off the old year and leave myself open to the possibilities of 2009. Everyone has their way of welcoming the New Year.

On the other hand, my husband Dave thinks that jumping off the Olalla Bridge into Burley Lagoon in Puget Sound at noon on New Year’s Day is the way to welcome in a New Year. The event that draws jumpers and watchers from all over the South Sound and beyond has been going on since it began informally amongst friends in 1984. At noon a cannon fires and the mayhem begins.

This year it took little to persuade Dave to dress up in the outfit he created for “Pink Day” at work. Here he is waiting for the cannon.

And here he is coming out of the frigid water to get his robe from our daughter-in-law waiting by the bonfire on shore.

Sleighbells Ring, Are You Listenin’?

No, I’ve not lost my calendar or mind, but the recent snow storm that battered Western Washington and Oregon caused me to miss a trip to one of my favorite NW spots—Sleighbells, located in Sherwood, Oregon.

At least twice per year—more if I can wangle it—I turn the Zonker, my screaming yellow Neon, South to Mt. Angel, OR and my best friend’s home. From her house in the cute village of Mt. Angel we fan out into the Oregon countryside visiting shops and farms in what has to be some of the prettiest landscape in the NW. Mother Nature cancelled our December get-together, but did not squelch Christmas altogether. We will be opening gifts, having our Christmas, and visiting the tea room at Sleighbells.

Those of you familiar with the Beach Basket Christmas store in Gig Harbor can get a mental picture in your mind, then triple it, add a Christmas tree nursery and a tea room and you have Sleighbells. I am not so out of the Christmas spirit that I won’t enjoy yummy tea food and a good browse around their shelves and shelves of Christmas decorations. After all there are only 358 shopping days until Christmas and only 348 by the time I get there!

Sleighbells is open year ‘round so even if you get near Sherwood on a summer jaunt, consider stopping. I will give you a review of their tea after the fact, but having been there before I am assured of a wonderful time.