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Monday, September 28, 2009

Bad As I Wanna Be

Gritty doggy, nearly 4 month old Kona (border collie pup) headed back to school the other day. Local South Sound dog training magicians, Positive Approach, served as our classroom. I was lucky enough to get Numia, our original dog whisperer and mentor to those with two legs and four legs (and vice versa).

So, how did Kona do this time?

Numia, calm but assertive, kind but directive, and very well spoken on all things dog, gave me the analysis and the exercises to see where we were at.

I have a confident dog. My dog is fearless. I have a well trained dog. My dog is cute and lovable. My dog is doggone smart. But....

My dog is not calm. My dog is not compliant. My dog can be as bad as she wants to be and I learned how she gets away with it. She's as manipulative as she wants to be. My dog is sassy. Major sassy.

So what to do?

With Numia's practical advice, I learned how to assert my position as the pack leader. We had our power struggles, however, in the end, Gritty Mama got ahead in the game (well, a little). We have a lot of work to do at home, but it will all be worth it. Kona was blown out exhausted. I have to admit, I was too.

We head back to school this coming Sunday for the "Leave It" workshop. Rest assured you'll all hear more.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Episodic Theatre with an Asian-American Twist

Above center: Cast members of SIS Productions popular soap Sex in Seattle Episode # 17 - Coming Clean at Seattle's Richard Hugo House engaged audiences last night in a short post-play discussion led by (far right) co-writer and celebrated local actress Kathy Hsieh. Copyright 2009 by Mizu M. Sugimura.

It's a real treat for myself to be invited to attend a night at the theatre where the community on stage tells a story from a vantage point recognizable to that of your own. No, I didn't write this particular play, Sex in Seattle Episode 17 - Coming Clean nor is the plot a faithful re-enactment from the stages of my life. But I understand quite well what families and neighborhoods the characters are coming from, a population significantly different from those who were called to write, direct, produce and cast the darkened stages of my youth.

The talented duo of Kathy Hsieh and ShawnJ West of SIS Productions now in residence at Seattle's Richard Hugo House have teamed up to present this multi-racial and multi-character tale exploring the issues of womanhood - using humor and drama - while incorporating themes and values particularly shared by contemporary Asian American women.

Back in those when I used to be an impressionable young girl, one rarely saw actors or actresses of Asian-American ancestry on film or television. Rarer still was a storyline from our perspective. The omission of space on the darkened national stages to tell stories from the perspective of Native American, African American , Hispanic American and Asian American communities was commonly missing - a discomforting fact of life which seemed seldom noted or appreciated by the mainstream population even in situations where our stories might even reflect more similarities than differences.

Happily today citizens with roots in the minority communities are increasingly gifted by opportunities to view stories and themes inspired by their own neighborhoods and communities played out under the lights, on film, television and over the Internet. More delightfully, we further empowered to share with mainstream communities what ideals, viewpoints and special gifts our citizens, cultures and communities offer to the world.

While Sex in the City Episode 17 is not attempting to go head to head say, with William Shakespeare or completely overturn all Western European inspired cultural norms, the long-running series has proven to possess an engaging charm of its own. During the some nine years the witty and well-acted soap opera has taken to unfold it has also built a loyal following. As Hsieh and West proclaim in pre-show publicity : "When the unspoken has been spoken, the soul can truly soar!"

Advance reservations are strongly encouraged. For tickets call the company at 206-323-9443 or go online to

Below center: Evening begins last night in the Emerald City. Photo copyright 2009 by Mizu Sugimura.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Local Woman Welcomes Party Crashers

Wanna see how this Gritizen celebrated her recent birthday and how she handled thousands of POUNDS of uninvited guests? Click HERE and check it out.

Happy Anniversary Honey!

Today my husband and I celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary and I would like to honour him, so I wrote this poem and my daughter helped me to put it on the picture. These New York skyscrapers were his mountains for many years, as a union roofer. His belief in the brother and sisterhood of unions led him to be elected the Business Manager for Tacoma Roofer's Local #153 and he gives it everything he's got.

At home, he is my rock. He is a wonderful dad to Anna, working with us on Lyme Advocacy, and good friend to my son, who has joined us at the Aerie. There aren't enough ways or words to say how grateful I am for my life-partner...honey, I'd do it ALL again!

My wish is that soon everyone will share in the right to celebrate love in this world.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumn Equinox

Well, it seems we have eased-on down the road to another Autumn season. This afternoon at 2:18 Pacific time, we balanced for a moment before beginning our lean-back from the sun.

The light begins to play differently through the leaves and the cool nights begin to send a signal for the plant world to dress in her Cinderella best...starting with the smallest pops of reds, yellows and purples.

Later flowers still colour our world...and it's early enough that the pumpkins are green in a neighbour's garden. Happy Fall to All in the neighbourhood!

Local Dog Trainers Tame The Gritty Beast (Well Sorta)

Recently, I took my 3+ month old border collie puppy, Kona, to the Puppy Workshop at Positive Approach, local dog training masters. Border collies are known for their intelligence, so naturally I expected my dog to be brilliant.

She was horrible really.

At home, she NEVER barks. There, she barked the whole time. At home, she can and does "chill-ax;" there, no, she yanked and tugged and got into the trainers stuff. The other puppies were sitting at their owners feet calmly while mine is bouncing off the walls, raring to go. I don't think it helped that we got to the workshop late (because Gritty mama couldn't figure out a way to park her oversized car in an undersized parking space) and the Gritty doggie pee'd on herself (with a little on me). We kind of came in the room like a hurricane, but our kindly trainer and kindly classmates didn't mind.

So, the training commenced and we learned all kinds of things about potty training, teaching manners, greeting puppies, keeping puppies safe, healthy, and active, and all the good stuff (of course, I suspect some didn't hear as much in the class due to my noisy pooch). But the best part was letting the puppies off leash to play and interact. Not only was it cool and fun to watch, but I learned so much about my dog.

Kona ran circles around the other puppies--that canine can RUN! She could "dish it out" but sometimes couldn't take it from her fellow puppies. She loved to keep moving. And our training expert really acknowledged this. He was great with Kona (gently whispering to her, "...let's keep you busy."). When he used training examples, he used Kona ("let's put you to work" he'd cheerfully say). She LOVED this. Here's what I loved.

My border collie is too much. Too much of everything. She too cute, too smart, too high energy, too loving, too demanding, too stubborn, too much energy, well, you get it. And this is why I love her. She's an interesting breed; not an easy one, certainly, but fascinating. Most people don't want borders; not enough time, patience, energy, etc. Don't get me wrong, she can be naughty and over the top, but that's why I like her. She'll give me a run for my money.

At the end of the training, the trainer commented that lots of dogs match their owner's personalities. The whole class looked at me and laughed. Yeah, I was the student that asked too many questions, too loudly, and I was shouting, "Run it, Girl! Get that sprint on!" with enormous glee.

Good match, eh?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Take a Trip to Alaska: Visit Scribbit

I would have loved the Internet when I was a young mother. I love it now. Back in the 1970s if you wanted to find out what mothers in other parts of the country were doing you read women’s magazines. Some of them had pen-pal sections and you could find a woman with similar interests to yours and exchange recipes and craft ideas. Most of them were stay-at-home-mothers like me.

Tacoma News Tribune “In Your Neighborhood” blog pal Mizu Sugimura turned us on to Pet Peeves and Other Ramblings a blog written by Grandma L. in Yakima, WA. Now it is my pleasure to turn on the Neighborhood to a gem up north, way up north. A Facebook friend turned me onto Scribbit, a blog written by Michelle Mitchell, an Alaska writer and mother. Michelle has a BA in English, has been a free lance technical writer, done research for the National Archives, gardens, is a wife and is the mother of four living near Anchorage.

In her profile Mitchell writes that she’s “Writing daily from Alaska, I’m mother to four children and publish my favorite recipes, reviews, crafts and giveaways with stories of life in the Last Frontier.” If, like me, you don’t get to travel, the Internet highway can take you places you’ve never been and see through someone else’s eyes.
You can get to Alaska by clinking here

Sunday, September 20, 2009

L'Shana Tova to my Jewish Brothers and Sisters

Took this pic Friday morning...and thought about the wonderful Northern Exposure episode where Joel goes through his repentance and greets the dawn of a new year, eating an apple. I tried to find it on yooztoobie, to no avail.

I love that time is taken to reflect on the year...that it is deeper as both end and beginning. Humans can choose whatever markers to measure time, but in the rush of daily living how often do we stop to truly reflect the journey...and how we have carried ourselves along the road?

My first experience of America was driving over the Ambassador Bridge from Windsor, Ontario to Detroit (...don't forget the Motor City...all you need is music...sweet music....) and my father's 'adopted' parents in Oak Park. During WWII English pilots came over to America to do some training and my father was on his way to the Naval Airbase at Pensacola. First stop was Detroit. There they were met by families who took them home for dinner and into their hearts. Molly and Irving Pitzak took my father in.

In 1965, after moving to Canada, we were all welcomed into this large, Orthodox Jewish family. Their roots were in Russia and Poland and their branches were All-American. It was a strange and exotic New World to me and I wanted to know the stories. Stories came aplenty...and my hand was allowed to caress the numbers tattooed on if a caress could alter the if a caress could make me understand what it took for them to be in this New World and the good life.

It all seemed so alien to me, until the first Friday night, when Molly covered her head and lit the candles. The feeling was the same as when Tai (my Chinese Buddhist Amah in Malaya) lit her joss sticks in the early dawn...that peace and inner connection, the intent of love within something greater than all of us...the blessing of all.

So I say, "L'Shana Tova...Happy New Year" and wish everyone the time for reflection and new beginnings.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Blue and White...the Sisters are Dynoooomite

It was a smoking, hitting high seventy degrees' afternoon on the field,
but the team had come ready to put their bodies on the line...

Both teams kept my attention as, again and again, they moved quickly back and forth
on the field, doing their very best to put the ball in the net.

Focused, hard running, giving their best... I thank you, Blue and White... I can only say that, as a team, you are Dynooooomite!

Mind Your Manners

My mother kept two books of etiquette on the bookshelf in her bedroom and we actually looked things up in them from time to time. My mother always said that these tomes boiled down to “doing the nicest possible thing in the nicest possible way.”

Over the years Americans have abandoned etiquette like rats leaving a sinking ship, thus making us the ugly Americans we are renowned to be. We have had ample proof that people are not interested in, in even the most formal situations, being civil. Many Americans have become so self-absorbed that they believe that the world is interested in their every move. If we were not, things like Twitter and Facebook would not exist. I admit to using Facebook because it is a place where I find and communicate with people I don’t see daily and maybe haven’t seen in forty years, but I try to refrain from posting my every move. “Stephanie: hasn’t had enough fiber…”

The abandonment of etiquette and manners paved the way for Representative Joe Wilson’s monumental breech of it during the president’s speech to Congress on health care. Regardless of your stand on health care reform, if your mother raised you right you were outraged. Clearly Wilson was standing behind the door when his mother attempted to impart manners. He sure didn’t have my mother.

And then there is Serena William’s outburst. It was shocking when McEnroe behaved like a boor and certainly came off just as bad in this ill humored prima donna. I am happy to say that up until recently I neither knew nor cared who Kanye West or Taylor Swift were, but I hope West’s mother gives him a serious dope-slap the next time she sees him. Crying on Jay Leno’s program doesn’t absolve him from being a lout when he interrupted Swift’s award acceptance speech to say that someone else should have gotten it. Whatever made him think that was a good idea?

The rules of etiquette grew out of the notion of Chivalry during the Middle Ages when society was attempting to be more civil. I am sorry that so few people care about them anymore. It’s the reason we have children who are rude, road rage, and outrageous behavior on Little League fields and in the halls of Congress. It would make the world a much nicer place to live in if we could return to some more genteel behavior.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Discovery of a new cafe and deli

Charles and I met a dynamic woman who has just moved here from Oregon. Simultaneously, we discovered the great new cafe and deli that she and her family have just opened, in Tacoma. When we stopped in for a bite to eat, I discovered I had left my camera at home, so I was disappointed that I could not snap a few pictures right then.

Next week I'll go back and take my camera along so that I can share some tantalizing shots of the nutritious and beautiful foods she lovingly bakes and prepares along with the inspiring story of the new owner and her bold ideas about building community. I think you'll all like her a lot.

More to come... --Jaynie Jones

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sunday Car Show

Six o'clock Sunday morning in downtown Edmonds, and I woke out of a deep sleep to the voices of men quietly talking. "Okay," I thought, "these folks are some serious old car lovers.!" I am in no way serious about cars.

I never had a chance to get behind the wheels of any kind of vehicle until I was eighteen. I just about scared my future stepdad bald that day. He never let me get near a car again. That's right... I did not try driving seriously until I was twenty eight. So there is no way in the world would I have had any worthwhile stories to share with my buddies at a car show. But I showered and dressed quickly and caught some serious car watchers gagaing on some cars that even I thought were hot!

That's right 2009... brand new day...there were some women who were getting wrapped up in the show too!

If you are ready for a little bit of the car show... HIT THE GAS

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Breast Cancer Walk

Saturday morning in downtown Edmonds. Participants in the Breast Cancer4 3 Day Walk are proudly walking by. I am proud and excited to be able to see them.The cat in this picture appears to be fascinated by the people walking by.

My friend, "Teddy Bear,"
appears to have decided he really could care less.

But the walkers are applauded and given bottles of water by their supporters!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Coming Out Of Hibernation

I'm entering that time of life when the image in the bathroom mirror occasionally startles in an unsettling way when I look bleary eyed at the vaguely familiar reflection which greets me first thing in the morning.

When did I start looking like that? I say to myself inwardly shaking my head while fondly recalling a more youthful version that I'm still (Yup it's still there!) clutching under my arm.

Yes, I don't recognize my arms either. The skin on my forearms now links me with older women in the family - my mom and my grandma in their middle years. I don't need another birthday. Why didn't I notice until now?

And yet there's a tiny little tyke of the female gender which recently emerged from the dusty crawlspace of my middle school and high school years where she had retreated unbeknownst to me much too long ago.

Better yet I'm quite comfortable with the idea that human beings do not necessarily require one's bona fide date of entry into the world in order to bequeath to themselves a second chance - new perspective. While we can't go back the womb and redo babyhood, the fresh eyes we can bring to our lives, families and shared communities is a unexpected gift too precious and valuable to be ignored.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What A Wonderful Day

Late Tuesday morning. I was so excited. This very evening four wonderful women... Jasmine, DaVerne, Gwen, and Barbara would join me in celebrating my sixty-ninth birthday at my favorite restaurant...Wok Teriyaki.

Wednesday, September 9, the feast of my patron, St. Peter Claver of the Society of Jesus, is my actual birthdate. But my dear friends had appointments they had to keep Wednesday, so I was delighted to say "yes," when Barbara asked me if having a meal together Tuesday would be ok. "Ok? Absolutely wonderful," I replied.
At four o'clock I came to Gwen and Barbara's office all bedecked in my clerical finery and Barbara drove me to the restaurant. Gwen and Jasmine came a few moments afterwards. Daverne came later and we reminisced and laughed and shared stories and ate wonderful food.Barbara took this picture of the happy group.

Jasmine took this one so that Barbara could be in one of the pictures. I was just beaming in both. Gwen is sitting at the head of the table, DaVerne is next to her, I am just glowing in third place, and Barbara is beautifully posed at the front of the picture."I've come along way from the young college student who was afraid to speak to a beautiful young African American woman," I thought. Thank God I survived long enough to enjoy this wonderful day.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Am I Getting You Now

The Encounter Workshop, Formation Through Relationships was very important to me. I came to appreciate the difference between two words I use (and live by) constantly:
Understanding, Experiencing.
I am good at thinking... defining terms, putting together a logical piece of writing. And I did not realize that, for years, I believed that if I presented my concerns logically, many people would find my work persuasive. Their understanding would grow; and they would choose to act in ways that I would find supportive and helpful. If people understood my concerns, they would help me to address those concerns.
Most of the time I thought that people understood what I was saying. Rarely did people address my concerns. I became frustrated, angry, depressed, and ended up walking away from them.
I think, now, that if I had approached my concerns in a far different way, namely invited people to come and share some of my experiences, we would have been able to work together on concerns that were no longer mine, but our concerns, and I would have been a happier and healthier human being.
At the workshop, a couple at my table had a chance to demonstrate how words move us very little. Mrs who participated in the exercise is standing; Mr. is sitting (he is the first person in the picture from the left)

Their task-- to sit back to back, and put together a paper puzzle. Mrs. got a page with the puzzle completed and the puzzle pieces highlighted in such a way that she could see their shape and where they had to be placed. Mr. had the pieces.
The rest of us had to watch and keep our lips sealed.
They worked really hard but they were no way near completing the puzzle when time ran out.My point... without eye contact so that one could see the other's body language, one's chance of accurately experiencing what the other person was experiencing and accurately gauging what they were saying was very, very poor.

Words are powerful...but vocal tone and body language are key to appreciating the person's speaking concerns.
Understanding without experience does not help people to tune into each other. I am so glad that I am coming to terms with that...

Communicating takes a lot of loving and a lot of work doesn't it

Don't waste your time with this lavender queen

Ever since I learned to, I have loved to read. My parents were great readers. In the end my father lost his eye sight and my mother has just stopped reading. It’s easier for her to sit in front of the television. I hope I never cease reading because there are so many books I want to read. The stack of unread books in our bedroom is unseemly and I frequently renew my vow to not purchase any more until I’ve finished what I’ve got, but something I hear reviewed on the radio or see in a book store will sing its siren song and I hand over my debit card excitedly for books can take you places you’ve never been or on adventures you haven’t the time or talent for.

This summer I succumbed to one of those siren songs while I was touring Oregon’s Lavender Festival. At one farm they had a beautiful book for sale in the gift shop—The Unlikely Lavender Queen—a memoire of a woman, Jeannie Ralston, who up stakes her life in NY and ends up growing lavender in Texas. Two years ago I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The Unlikely Lavender Queen promised to be the lavender version of that book which had left me wanting to drop in on the Kingsolver family to see how they were doing. My daughter-in-law Ana frequently sighs wistfully saying that if she was to win the lottery we’d buy a lavender farm for could there possibly be any place lovelier to live? My friend who was touring the lavender farms with me asked if she could read the book when I was done as I forked over $24.

A rainy Labor Day weekend seemed to be exactly the excuse to escape into so promising a volume and I devoted an entire day to indulging in a favorite activity. The book begins with Ralston, a NY freelance journalist (hey, there’s a fantasy of mine!) grudgingly cutting lavender in her family’s farm to take it to a market where she’s embarrassed to be entering through the back with other farmers. My first thought is why the heck did she get into the business if she finds it embarrassing to selling lavender? Well, it’s only the first few pages and then she takes us back to how she got to Texas by betraying her fiancé for a Texas photographer. Okay, not nice, but he’s wonderful right? She’s making the right decision to dump her self-absorbed fiancé for the young gorgeous National Geographic photographer, right? Pretty quickly it becomes apparent that the ex-fiancé wasn’t the only self-absorbed person in this story, but Ralston tries to compromise on her love of the urban live in NY and agrees to move to Austin, Texas (which she considers rather uncivilized) with the hunk. They haven’t even bought the property that will become the farm when it becomes apparent that Ralston is a whiner about country living and her photographer husband is a demanding perfectionist. I would not have moved across the street much less across country for this man. Okay, if I just keep reading I’ll find a reason to like these people, right? Wrong.

One third of the way through the book and all of the way through the day I’d given over to reading and little else I still didn’t like these people and could not have cared less if they were suddenly abducted by aliens from the Texas hill country. I turned to to see what other readers had to say about the book and wasn’t surprised to find that I’m not alone in thoroughly disliking these people. One review said that the reader had at first reacted the same as I, but stuck with it and ended up liking the book. Were I in some sort of class and this were required reading I might gut it out, but I’m cutting my losses. My stack of books waiting to be read is just too high to waste my time with people I wouldn’t want as neighbors much less friends.

For our anniversary my husband gave me Seattle author Heather Barbieri’s The Lace Makers of Glenmara. I think I will try that next and let you know how I fare.

Friday, September 4, 2009

La Bella Luna: September

Harts of Lyme: September Report

While many WA doctors are still supported in using the outdated "wait-and-see" approach to tick bites and possible infections, more and more families are affected by tick-borne disease. Learn about Lyme; knowledge is power. The estimated national yearly rate of infection is now roughly 480,000 cases. Close to half a million people!

The CDC reports 23 new cases of Lyme in WA last year -- I can tell you we have been contacted by many more people yet to be properly diagnosed, or who have had their diagnosis rejected by the health department, insurance companies, and indeed most doctors who are behind in the facts.

Kris Newby, an award-winning screenwriter and science writer, blogs:

Lyme cases spike 77% from 2006 to 2008

Blog: Under Our Skin, published by Open Eye Pictures.
Written by: Kris Newby

August 23, 2009

Lyme disease continued its steep rise in 2008, as the CDC posted a final
tally of 35,198 reported cases, a 28% increase over the previous year.
Looking at a two-year timeframe, cases increased by 77% from 2006 to
2008. According to CDC epidemiologists, these reported cases are
underestimated 6- to 12-fold, due to inherent flaws in its passive
reporting system. So, the actual number of new Lyme cases in 2008 may
total upwards of 420,000. And many Lyme-literate physicians believe that
the real numbers may be even higher.

In 2008 the CDC changed its Lyme reporting process to include both
"confirmed" and "probable" cases in the total, and during this
transition year, it's difficult to tell how this affected the accuracy
of the case count. Fifteen states failed to report any "probable" cases.

Read the complete blog entry and join the conversation:

Related Link
Final tally of CDC Lyme Disease numbers for 2008:

Please contact your Representatives in Congress to ask them to support the Lyme Bills (HR 1179 & S 1352)...any information needed about the bills can be found at This would mean a lot to the Lyme Community, made up of many of our neighbours.

For online support in our state, please see:

Thursday, September 3, 2009


I live right across from the playing fields: football practice here, soccer practice, and.. the band is getting ready to fire the team and the fans up....

AMAZING--Young people's energy, practicing hour after hour... AMAZING...going over the same material over and over again... AMAZING...creating something very, very old, very, very dear, very, very new

I congratulate you, band members...your Patience,your Persistence, your Genius

An Autumn Melody Wafts Through The Air

The air if you've noticed in this part of the South Sound is feeling so much crisper now with as lazy summer days fold back to reveal just a hint of fall.

With swirly plumes of fog greeting my household on two mornings in the last week I feel as if we are being called to say goodbye to summer.

While the snapshot I took of the cellists shown here in the photo to the left was not captured in our beautiful City of Destiny, but on another oh so slight overcast sky one day in 2007 by London's Thames River, it admirably serves as a suitable postcard of this local bloggers present mood.

Holding that thought in mind, the photo presents a perfect invitation to retrieve what classical music CD's I have had here tucked at home for a soothingly pleasant and long-overdue audio review!