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Thursday, April 30, 2009

How will you stimulate the economy?

After talking about it for a couple of years today I signed up to get fresh organic produce delivered to our house by Terra Organics of Tacoma. Now why in the heck would I do that in the midst of an economic crisis? It’s my form of economic stimulus. Yesterday I received my letter from the Social Security Administration informing me of my one time payment as part of the “American Recovery Act” (it was nice to have good news from SSA for once). Since I am not in want of a television or stereo and the amount is not enough to go to Europe or anything like that, what better way to stimulate the economy than by giving my recovery money to local farmers, something I like to do in good times, too? The produce will be fresher and it’s one less thing to think about when I’m shopping for our large family.

How will you use your recovery money?

Gig Harbor High School awarded We the People Bookshelf Collection from National Endowment for the Humanities

Gig Harbor High School is one of 4,000 libraries across the country selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the American Library Association (ALA) to receive free hardcover editions of 17 classic books as part of the We the People Bookshelf grant program. The theme of this year’s Bookshelf is “Picturing America.” The school also received a grant for art prints representing the same “Picturing America” theme. These collections will be on display in the Gig Harbor High School Library and available for staff and student use. Last year’s collection, “Created Equal”, which was also awarded to the Gig Harbor High School Library, will also be a part of this ongoing display.

The award is part of the NEH’s We the People initiative, which supports projects that strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture. Selected public and school libraries in all 50 states each will receive a set of the 22 books (including Spanish translations of three of the titles and two bonus titles), posters, bookmarks, bookplates from the NEH and the ALA, and access to online planning and promotional materials. Since 2003, NEH has awarded 13,000 We the People Bookshelf grants to school and public libraries across the country.


I have gotten old enough to cherish, that's right, not appreciate, CHERISH friendships. When I was young I felt safe and happy when I recognized that I had become part of a little group of buddies who played baseball out in the old, weed-infested lot or some kind of cops and robbers game on our neighborhood streets in Houston.
Always I shall recall with shame and understanding of my hatred of my dark skin when I remember this very beautiful little dark skinned girl (she was a few shades darker than I) asking me, in the seventh grade in Houston, if I wanted to be her boy friend, thinking too myself ,"wow, she's really pretty," and "oh, she's too dark for me." I am so sad that this hatred of skin color continues to be a worldwide psychological illness that divides people of color from one another.

That is one illness I have to deal with daily and the other is the ongoing need to get beyond folks white skin color and choose to be with them because of the quality of their character not because of my fear, anger with, attraction to, or deference towards (yes, I suffer from that "if you're white, you're right bias)them because they happen to be white. Lots of mental and spiritual illness out here, I think.

How am I getting pass the color illness? Total gift! Having the opportunity to be with human beings who show themselves to be frank, caring, and open human beings over a long period of time.Here are two of my friends who have chosen to be there with me when life has been very good and when life has been incredibly hard... Caron and Donna.

Donna lives on a houseboat. And she went way, way, way out of her way to come and get Caron, who works in downtown Seattle and me, who was having a wonderful time reading and writing near Lake Washington in Seattle. She had to drive around for thirty minutes until she finally found the home where I was staying. We three spent some great time together on Donna's houseboat on the Sound that afternoon.
Donna creates beautiful objects in colored glass, she is a wonderful painter, and she help people to bring order and pick appropriate furniture for their homes.Here is one of the colored bowls she designed.

The hours passed so very quickly. We shared stories... living, loving, losing, failing, trying again, needing, finding, caring, hoping stories... and Donna took Caron and I to her studio and the view from her studio...well, you reach your own conclusions about the view.

The day ended too very soon... but I returned back to my wonderful rooms in Tacoma... refreshed and so grateful to have had that time with two wonderful friends.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thanks To Dedicated Local Volunteers The Hills Are Still Alive With Sounds From Switzerland's Rich Musical Heritage

bove: Singing beloved and familiar tunes such as the popular "Edelweiss" local members of the Swiss Mannerchor attired above in the dark traditional and handsome embroidered jackets take to the stage in Bonney Lake, WA during their annual 2009 Spring Concert. Photo by Mizu Sugimura copyright 2009.

In the early seventies, a young lady enrolled in my high school physical education class could be counted on sure as clockwork to miss daily roll call at the beginning of the period. This was partly due to the fact she had to catch her ride to the Kirkland school from a location in Seattle where both her immigrant parents had long since put down permanent roots.

Yes, surely as it rained in the Pacific Northwest, my good friend Beatrice (Bischofberger) Abbott could be counted on to arrive after most if not all of the alphabetical tally of class members was completely over to the weekly consternation of our more or less drill sergeant female instructor.

But Beanie as she was called back then didn't merely carve out a place at our high school by merely being late to first period roll call. She stood out from the crowd in positive ways, one being she was always proud of her immigrant Swiss and Danish heritage, and she continues to honor her ancestry and exemplary role in the community at large as a longtime health care professional employed by a well-known and respected east side health care provider.

So you can bet that I was more inclined to immediately bite on a last minute invite to join my now older, married, former high school classmate (also a proud wife and mother) who recently drove down with her parents, brother and family friends to enjoy an enchanting interval of music and songs by the 2009 Mannerchor "Edelweiss" Spring Concert at the Swiss Sportsmen's Club in Bonney Lake, WA.

For Northwest residents like Bea as she now prefers to be addressed today, with Swiss heritage prominent in their immediate family tree the melodious evening may brought tears of recognition and waves of warm and welcome nostalgia.

Far right: Beatrice (Bischofberger) Abbott and her Swiss father, Seattle violin maker, Hermann O. Bischofberger.

For persons of non-Swiss heritage such as myself (both sets of Ojiichan (Grandpa) and Obaachan (Grandma) wore Japanese-style kimonos not lederhosen, etc.) the music would soon awaken all of my authentic alpine meadow memories. The highly familiar Hollywood images were in turn directly gleaned and still filed under their original Tinseltown subheads. They include but are not limited to: Academy Awards, Christopher Plummer, Julie Andrews and the soundtrack from the 1965 hit movie "The Sound of Music."

Choir director Kurt McKee directed the fine performance by the Mannerchor who later yielded the limelight to an equally gifted guest chorus from Olympia, WA by the name of the Helvetia Alpengluehn under the direction of Cliff Fairley. The talent, devotion, skill, musical ability, and craftsmanship that all members clearly invest in these performances is readily apparent and roundly appreciated by their supportive and discriminating audiences.

Below left: Exterior view of the Swiss Sportsmen's Club. Photo by Mizu Sugimura copyright 2009.

Outsiders like myself will find it encouraging to note the recruitment and presence of younger members whose ties with the old country as less easily discerned as snowy-haired veteran members of the choir whose accents sometimes still carry (for this listener) an exotic Bavarian lilt.

I'd be happy to recommend both talented choirs to musical audiences in the greater Puget Sound community who will most certainly enjoy an introduction to these dedicated singers, as well as an opportunity to learn more about Swiss people and their culture while recognizing a much beloved and diverse musical heritage of fellow Puget Sound area neighbors whose delightful echoes can also be recognized and identified within a myriad of other familiar and popular contemporary tunes and formats.

In the face of such abiding love and affection it surely suggests to this new fan that choir members will continue to keep Swiss melodies in one key or another ringing in the hills of our own beautiful Pacific Northwest for as perhaps as long as the memory of the sturdy and steadfast alpine blooms of which they so deeply and eloquently recall.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Halibut Plus Terra Organics Salsa Recipe Is Bliss

A short time ago I did a post on the local Tacoma based organic produce delivery service, Terra Organics (click HERE to see my original post). In each delivery box, Terra Organics provides a fact sheet on environmental tips and some recipes to try. The recipes incorporate the produce you received in that delivery.

We tried our first recipe last night from our box and it was amazing and simple. Here is the recipe for Avocado Mango Salsa, courtesy of Terra Organics:

1 avocado--peeled, pitted, and diced
1 lime, juiced
1 mango--peeled, seeded, and diced
1 small red onion, chopped
1 habanero pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste

Place the avocado in a serving bowl and mix with the lime juice. Mix in the mango, onion, habanero pepper, cilantro, and salt.


This would be a great salsa for many dishes (or just as a salsa with chips). However, we paired the salsa with fresh halibut grilled in a light preparation. We placed the halibut on a bed of white beans and topped the fish with this salsa. It was delicious, flavorful, healthy, and filling (and just the right amount of heat, spice wise for us). We think other fish would be a winner with this idea (e.g. ahi tuna, mahi mahi, tilapia, and so on).

Thanks Terra Organics for the great produce and recipe to try!

More to come!
Our In Your Neighborhood blog spot has featured wonderful pictures taken by South Sound adults. All through the snow and into the first stirrings of Spring, we’ve seen the South Sound through each other’s eye/lens. Once again, Key Peninsula Middle School is getting into the act.

KPMS photography teacher Michael Hunziker has 200 photos by Key Peninsula students currently posted on his website “Pride of the Peninsula.” “I've added two very impressive projects to the Cool section of the site, as well… one by Jamie Fairbanks, and one by Yvonne Breithaupt,” says Hunziker.

Twenty-six photos will be on display in the Tacoma Art Museum during the month of May and the same number on display in the Gig Harbor City Hall building in June.

If you have not seen the new St. Anthony's Hospital you should check it out. While there, be sure to see the permanent display of large (22X17 inch) photos from KPMS on display near the emergency room entrance. They will be adding another gallery of photos in oncology soon.
The student work is amazing so stop by Hunziker's website or St. Anthony's.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Springtime jog in Tacoma's Wright Park

Nothing says Spring like a jog around Tacoma's Wright Park on a sunny afternoon wearing shorts, shades, and a holstered handgun.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Love and the Local Farmers: Terra Organics

I am passionate about locally grown food. It just feels good to contribute to local farmers and farms. The food is good for my body and tastes great on my plate. And lots of times, it's awesome for my pocket book too. In the South Sound, we are lucky because we have many ways to get great locally grown foods. My favorites are:

1. Farmer's Markets (Downtown Tacoma, 6th Ave. and Proctor).

2. Going to the farms directly to purchase (Terry's Berries).

3. Eating at restaurants featuring locally grown eats (Primo Grill).

Now, I've got a fourth favorite, Terra Organics. Terra Organics is a Tacoma based organic produce delivery service. They provide varied boxes of fresh, delicious produce right to your door. The company uses some of my favorite local farms. Produce is selected to provide interesting and practical combos for you and your family. Packaged attractively and environmentally friendly, the produce tastes just great. Terra Organics provides a weekly sheet of environmental tips and tricks, GREAT recipes, and other account info in your box.

And speaking of account info, it's easy to manage your order. Everything is online. You can change the size, contents (substitutions are allowed) and frequency of your order. Simple and user friendly.

And as local growers get more and more bounty as we get deeper into spring, I can't wait to see the surprises in my box!

Check 'em out and see you around the upcoming markets! Yeah!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hope and the American Heartache

When I saw this car the other morning, waiting wearily on a Tacoma street, I thought of how much I had wanted my own car back when I was a teenager.
"In the day, however," I did not feel in any way left out, riding the bus. I remember on a number of college dates, either busing it, or heading down town with my very obliging fried on foot, easily getting to the movie theatre on time for an early evening showing of the latest and greatest (we're talking the original Psycho, friends) and having enough money to cover the film for two, popcorn, and a hamburger and soda before we walked back to her home.
I wonder what happened to this very special car... someone's dream came to a hard, hard end.

And I was one of those very idealistic young men who was ready to give my life to defend my country. The Korean War had me frightened... Korea would fall, then all of Asia, and soon, very soon the enemy would be dropping bombs right on my doorsteps.
I was in the ROTC in college, and so very thrilled to be doing well (B's and C's) in the classroom and on the field. I had no idea what function I would play in the Army but I was determine to join my buddies in the ROTC and defend "truth, justice, and the American way."

I ended up going into the seminary and I am still enjoying supporting and being supported by other people. My three closest ROTC friends served in VietNam. They returned home safely and I think they are very happy.

Four close friends, four survivors who have seen our dreams take shape in ways we did not expect. I think, like me, my friends are still choosing to love and be loved. I hope the folks on the Tacoma streets I walked on are also choosing to love and be loved.

What shape are your hopes and dreams taking these days...?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Stress of the Economic Crisis

The current economic situation brings out the best and worst in people. The nightly news is featuring stories about people who are rising to the occasion of this recession and unselfishly taking pay cuts and putting off raises to help their employer keep people working. Unfortunately, for some the frustration of looking for employment forces them into the murky waters of prejudice and selfishness. “How come that person has a job and I can’t find one?” When “that person” has an accent or disability or is a different color the risk is run of sliding down the slippery slope of prejudice. The United States may not be in the same position as Depression Era Germany—yet—but we are seeing and hearing the sort of frustrations that hateful people used to acquire power. For some the fear is so great that they cannot see beyond their own needs. I’m reading and hearing things that disturb me. I believe that we are in this lifeboat together. If you’re interested in what I’m seeing in our little corner of the South Sound read more.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Very High Moments

I am so very grateful that my life glistens with so many beautiful moments... sights and relationships that just reduce me, mind and emotions, to a deep, sweet, inner silence. Here are three recent moments.
Up early on a spring morning. I opened myself to the beauty of the rising dawn sun. A little later in the day I would hide my eyes behind thick sunglasses. Still there were breath taking moments when I could not look straight ahead. And I owe my daily breathing to the sun... blinding and life giving...

The mountain, the are the occasion so often for my stopping,staring-- becoming so amazed that I can barely breathe.
You stand so powerfully over me, quiet, unassuming, with no need to strut back and forth trumpeting to all who would dare ignore you that you are strong and awe inspiring... you are what you and power standing gloriously above me...

Father Stephen Okumu, priest administor of St. Therese Church... your love, warmth, and good humor are the occasion for my crying one moment during the Mass and laughing the next. I am so privileged to be on the same planet with you. Thank you.

Any moments you would like to share, my dear friends...

Maxwell's Speakeasy and Lounge: What's Going On?

The hubby and I recently had a chance for a night out to take in a show. There was no question where we would dine before the show: Tacoma's Maxwell's Speakeasy and Lounge on St. Helens in the historic Walker Building. We love Maxwell's--the vibe felt very 50's and 60's (with lounge tunes and standards from that era playing in the background). Groovy chandeliers, golds, blacks, stripes, intimate candlelight, and great, smoky lighting. The bartender makes a killer martini and the servers are helpful and delightful. And the food--hearty, flavorful, succulent. Bring on the fish dishes, the sides of mashed potatoes, and just right veggies, all with an elegant presentation.

So, I called to make a reservation (it was a Friday night after all). They informed me that they don't take reservations anymore due to the "new laid back vibe." Hmm... Okay. I wasn't sure what a "laid back vibe" meant. But no matter. I was oogling over their menu on their website. Yum! The day of our meal, I hadn't had much to eat. I was hungry and ready to go.

However, we were surprised to be greeted by changes in the seating environment/furnishings. More "lounge-y." The Sinatra classics weren't playing but hipster, electronica, youngish, current, bar kind of music. We were shown to our table and got the "menu" but we thought there was a mistake. The menu looked like just appetizers.

Alas, no mistake.

They have a couple of small entrees still, a couple of salads, and mainly appetizers (small plates). The concept is to nosh on the small plates, share with your fellow dinners, and drink (and probably drink, drink, and more drinking). Hmmm.. sounds like "20 something" age demographics to me.

I didn't let that deter me though. I got the signature martini (perfection) and enjoyed a small salad, some pita with various toppings, and delicious prawns. It was all very good. And very INEXPENSIVE (we came during happy hour and got the pita bread for $1.00).

Yet, after those options, I was still, well, hungry. I ordered the cheese plate. My husband said he was FULL and said I could have the cheeses. He proceeded to eat over half of it. I am not a dessert person, so I had another drink. Still a little hungry though.

Okay, so the food was great. The service was great. The cost savings was huge. All pluses in my book. For them, I hope that they get the concept to work for them. For me, not so sure. Before, I saw patrons of ALL ages. Will folks get "bored" with the limited menu? I wonder what will happen going forward?

Readers/Bloggers: Have some of your favorite home town restaurants or eateries changed? If so how? Does it work for you? Why do you think this is happening?

P.S. Maxwell's website is NOT updated to date with the new menu.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Springtime In Japan Evoked At Annual Seattle Festival

"In Your Neighborhood" blogger Kim Thompson isn't the only one on this block whose been smitten by networking sites such as Facebook . In the last few months I've been delighted to discover the exodus of population groups whose college days are the stuff of several reunions gone by also means plenty of opportunities to re-connect with those high school classmates whose addresses and phone numbers had faded.

This last week I was able to contact and the arrange with a girlfriend I actually met for the first time at Kirkland Junior High School (now only a memory) and enjoy a quick mini-reunion with a fellow alumnus of a Lake Washington High School in the charming lakefront community of Kirkland, Washington named after a Peter Kirk who once had a dream to transform the area into the "Pittsburgh of the West".

While Kirk's vision of Pittsburgh never materialized, the town bearing his name has emerged from the sleepy little backwater suburb my classmate and I were more familiar (remember an eatery called The Happy Clam?) in the early seventies to a most lively destination spot and definitely more posh.

Although my classmate and I (who still remembers when J.C. Penny's had a spot downtown?) chose to get-together at the annual Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival at the Seattle Center on Sunday, our memories of those teen years on the other side of the lake were as close to our hearts as the billowing blossoms shown in the pictures that accompany this blog!

Above: Fully-loaded blooms such as this one made it very easy for visitors on foot to imagine they've just been swept off their feet and whisked away to a far off place. Photo copyright 2009 by Mizu Sugimura.

Above: Flowering trees provided a perfect frame for visitors heading to the Seattle Center last weekend to attend the annual Seatle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival. Photo copyright 2009 by Mizu Sugimura.

Above: Martial arts demonstrations entertained a crowd during last Sunday's festivities. Photo copyright 2009 by Mizu Sugimura.

Above: This beautifully dressed Japanese emperor doll eyed passersby from behind the security of his own glass wall. Photo copyright 2009 by Mizu Sugimura.

Above: Festival visitors took time to view a potpourri of colorful booths, exhibits and vendors including this display of bold calligraphy. Photo copyright 2009 by Mizu Sugimura.

Above: Other beautiful flowers graced the grounds at the Seattle Center and along with the cherry blossoms underscored a cheerful greeting that spring is at last upon us!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Colourful Language

I feel the need for colourful language on the a thousand words per. It's the Fever!

April PAD Challenge: Day #16 prompt "colour."

Her Blue Period

Pacific Northwest
Rain Forest enters
her Blue Period,
a woman cool,
and mysterious.
With fresh brush
she paints her
sacred self
in periwinkle,
blue bells, and
that strayed
beyond confines
of a garden.

Weekend Family Project

It started with my husband pointing out the remains of a leaf to me; he thought it would make a good photo. It was first in colour but I changed it to black and white before sending it to Anna. She began to tinge with a bit of green and overlaid the words I'd written. Then it just seemed natural to add the Lyme-Awareness ribbon in the corner. Anna finished it off with a bit of framing...c'est tout...a Spring poster. Now, can you find the five ticks in this picture?

Calling My Birding Neighbours

Can anyone help me with identifying this wee yellow bird? The closest I could find in the book was a Thompson's Warbler...but the colouring was slightly different on the face. Thank you for any help you can give me.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

An Open Letter To My Liberal Friends

re: the recent "tea parties"

Dear Liberals,

I know you want to dismiss our movement as racist. I know that you think we don't care about "the most vulnerable" among us. I know you want to claim we are anti-government and worse, even terrorists (or at least wannabes). I know that some of you think we are mouth breathing rednecks. I understand your ideological bias. I have my own biases and I catch myself in them as well sometimes. It is that blind bias that sometimes keeps us from seeing the forest because all of the trees that seem to get in the way of our view. Let me attempt to help you understand exactly what we are doing and who we are.

The tea party movement is not just about paying taxes. We all must pay taxes to support a certain amount of government. We need to educate our children, protect our citizens and ensure that we have adequate infrastructure to provide those critical services. It's not about Republican or Democrat. It's about responsible representatives who view taxes as the people's money, not their private little slush fund to favor whatever special interest group that contributes the most to their re-election fund.

Many of you want to point a finger at Bush and the Republicans for their irresponsibility and that's a fair charge. It's also why the Republicans lost their majority. Ostensibly, it's why Obama was elected. He promised to change the way Washington DC conducted business. He promised to attack wasteful spending and to end earmarks (even though he was one of the bigger practitioners of the earmark art).

Instead, Obama and the Democrats are on track; not to just increase the national debt like Bush and company, but to double the debt before his first term is even ended. Indeed, Bush was bad for the budget, but comparatively speaking, Bush was an amateur at spending. Obama, Reid and Pelosi are consummate professionals!

The people in the tea party movement are not a bunch of selfish, gun-toting racists. We are middle class Joes who have mortgages, car payments, credit cards and utility bills. We get up in the morning and go to work so we can pay our bills and our fair share of the taxes. We are patriotic Americans and we love our country and our liberties. We are not anti-government - indeed, we want to preserve our republican form of government. Many of us are veterans who took an oath to defend this great land from all enemies, foreign and domestic, who seek to steal our liberties and our way of life and we don't believe we've ever been released from that oath. Most of us believe in a God, but there are also some amongst us who do not. It's not a requirement. We are not Timothy McVeigh wannabes plotting some heinous act of insurrection. We abhor that kind of thinking.

Many of our detractors point out that the original Tea Party in 1773 was about taxation without representation and it is our duly elected Representatives who are doing what we elected them to do. Their point would be valid if we were protesting present day taxes. That's not what we are doing. What we are protesting is the taxes our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be forced to pay to service the debt Obama and company are incurring today. Our grandchildren aren't asking for this. They don't even know it's coming and before they are old enough to drink from a cup, they are already tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

How can you not see what the future holds for our kids? The party rages on, but at some point in the not too distant future, the bill will come due. Obama and the Congress will be forced to raise taxes and it won't be just on those making $250,000 per year. It is impossible to tax that bracket enough to pay for these excesses. The costs will be passed down to you, me and then on to our progeny and it won't be cheap!

People cannot be taxed into prosperity. It doesn't work that way. Government cannot create wealth. What government can do is provide for a stable and unobtrusive environment so that good jobs can be created and money can be invested. In that sense, it's not about the government actually doing anything to create prosperity, it's government staying out of the way.

What it all boils down to is we want what you should want for yourself, your children and their children. We want opportunity, liberty and the ability to own our lives. We don't care about the color or gender of whoever sits in the Oval Office. We don't want to overthrow the government or march on the White House with pitchforks and torches. All we want is for government to be our servant, not the other way around.

As Lincoln reminded us at Gettysburg, government should be OF the people, BY the people and FOR the people, not a bunch of career corruptocraticans whose only real interest is keeping their cushy job. That, my friends, is what our movement is about.


All that glitters...

Goldarama has been featured in television news and a blitz of ads on TV this recently. Today and tomorrow (9 a.m. - 6 p.m.) they're set up to evaluate and potentially buy scrap gold, silver or platinum at the Best Western Park Plaza, on Puyallup's South Hill, in the Georgian Room, on the 3rd Floor across from the elevator. Out of curiosity I went there this morning with a hodgepodge of items to have evaluated.

Five pleasant, efficient people were working at a series of tables performing the assessments. Guests were invited to enjoy a cup of coffee and a Krispy Kreme doughnut. (This turned out to be the best part of the trip to Puyallup!) Overall though, it was an interesting and transparent process to observe.

The first step is sorting with a magnet. If items are drawn to a magnet, they're ferrous metal and thus not what they're looking for at all.

Of the items I lugged along to have them assess, only one tiny bracelet -- I do mean tiny -- was actually gold. How tiny? After weighing it and calculating the value, it came out to 18-cents. Since that was the only item I had that actually had any gold in it (as opposed to 'on' it) I didn't want to put them through the hassle of writing me a check for 18-cents, so I just kept the tiny bracelet.

As I learned, the refiners will not accept anything gold-plated or silver-plated. Even a watch, which was stamped "10kt" on the back, was disassembled and tested. It, too, turned out to be gold-plated, but not gold.

There were only two other potential patrons there at the same time that I was:
  • A man had brought in a ring with a large stone in it; they suggested he take it to a pawn shop for a better value.
  • A woman had brought in a gold crown from a molar stating that her dentist told her she should get at least $340.00 for it. She appeared to be in shock when they told her that it is worth $38.00. She objected at first, but the person in charge quickly chirped, "$38.00 is better than just having that sitting in your drawer, isn't it?" The woman looked as if her mind was whirling, but agreed to accept a check for $38.00.

My tiny 18-cent bracelet...the man and his ring referred to a pawn shop...and the woman's gold crown for $38.00. Hmmm... Underwhelming to say the least. But the hot coffee and fresh doughnut made the adventure worthwhile. As I walked back to the elevator and noticed the glistening, shimmering chandelier in the lobby below, I could not help but think, "All that glitters..." is definitely not gold.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Getting Trashy Over The Bridge: What's Up?

Here's a letter to the editor I submitted today. Not sure if they will want to publish it, but sent it anyway. With Earth Day coming up soon, well, the timing couldn't be more right. Read on:

About a week ago I traveled to Longbranch on the Key Peninsula to visit relatives. I was HORRIFIED at all the trash on Highway 16. It was everywhere on the road, especially in the middle of the highway. I even saw old furniture lying there in a heap. When I took the Purdy exit, the Key Peninsula Highway wasn't much better. So, what's going on with this? Is it due to unsecured loads? Is it due to folks chucking trash out the windows? Both of these things are against the law, yes?

I spoke to several local residents and they said the litter on the road has been a long time problem.

Shame! That area is so pretty but the trash is unsightly and embarrassing. I think as a community we could get this figured out how to keep it clean. Right?

Kim Thompson
University Place

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring Is Bustin' Out All Over

How was Easter for you... a lot of friends asked me that question today. I know, I know, it's a way of warming up the vocal cards and sharing the healing fires of the heart...
A question that gets one past good morning and invites a sharing about the good times and, perhaps, the not so good times...
I used to ask my mom why we moved from Houston (floods and freezing rain and hot, dry days... still it was my home town) because I have never been comfortable with the grey days, the rain, and the freezing temperatures in our Evergreen State.
Still, I have gotten enough balance in my life to appreciate the give and take of conversation in the Northwest... when I left Houston in the early fifties, I could not get books from the public library... the good old days... hah!
So, my Easter... so many hugs and shared stories and laughter and wonderful music at the church... just a beautiful day for me...

Seeing so many adults supporting the children's choir at St. Therese... a standing ovation at the end of the worship service... and a large group of folks stayed after the service to listen to them sing a few more songs and applaud for them... they deserved it...
and seeing the community supporting them in sharing their gifts delighted me... that's what healthy spirituality is about... loving each other and loving our children

So my Spring Resolution is to get on with living in the moment, enjoying the journey, rain, hail, sunshine, cold piercing winds, hot dusty days... I am going to choose to feel, and let folks share their stories with me, and find strength in our union to meet the downs and ups of the day with gratitude and creativity.

Kudos to the Peninsula School District Administrators

Even with passage of the levy in February, the economy will hit the Peninsula School District hard. Like so many school districts, Peninsula School District will have a deficit of a minimum of $3 million next year and possibly a great deal more. This will mean changes for the 2009-2010 school year. For once the school district isn’t trying to save money on the backs of the support staff alone. While looking at creative alternatives to save money, the administration has stepped up to the plate and will be taking pay cuts rumored to be between 3-5%. Without question there will be certified and classified job losses this summer, but they will be a bit easier to swallow knowing the pain will be shared. Personally, I would be willing to take a cut in hours if it meant someone else keeping some part of a position.
Like families, many school districts will face serious challenges next year.

The Beginning of Another Hopeful Day...

Above: Photo copyright 2009 by Mizu Sugimura.

One of the first views of the neighborhood I saw outside my windows this morning was a cheerful yellow school bus going down the road underneath a sky we in the Pacific Northwest would declare as being a state of intermittent clouds (I.C.) with occasional sunbreaks (O.C.).

Whom, where and whatever your circumstances today, it is my hope is that there will be an abundant supply of O.C. for you!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Somebody at Sears didn't get the memo...

Most major malls around the Puget Sound area are closed today in observance of Easter including Tacoma Mall, but it seems that Sears 'didn't get the memo.'

Sears is the only Tacoma Mall retailer that is open today; Sears will be open until 6 p.m.

Other businesses and malls that closed surely did so not so much in observance of Easter, but in observance of their employees' cherishing a special holiday in worship and/or simply time with their families.

The Poet's Corner In April

In March of last year, Blogonia Bud Kim sent me some information about the Writer's Digest Poem-A-Day Challenge. April being National Poetry Month, I was intrigued by the thought of responding to daily prompts and keeping at it for thirty straight days. Ooh-la, what a month it was! There were days I wanted to give up, days that flowed easy like an old and gentle river, nights when the deadline was closing-in as I typed, and the day of the dreaded sestina which, ultimately, became my favourite of the month.

I felt like an Olympic athlete, just for breaking through the tape across April's finish line. Granted there was a lot of chaffe that blew away in the winds of editing but, at month's end, I had a decent chunk of work to look back on and a wonderful feeling of satisfaction for seeing April through, one poem at a time. I don't know if I properly thanked Kim for this maddeningly beautiful gift of work, so let me do that now. Though I grumble and wail through the work-out, my right-brain rejoices as it tones. Thank you, my dear friend! I dedicate "The Poet's Moon" to you this that came without a prompt, just whispered on a moonbeam by the Muse.

How quickly the seasons turn to bring the PAD Challenge around again. My right-brain is dressed in leotard and leg-warmers; I walk around mumbling cadences, pen behind my ear and notebook in hand. Some days I feel deep and metaphoric...others, a Hallmark Haolie as I practice my drive-by writing, in-between all the other work of the day. It's hard to believe that we've already completed 40% of the challenge. It began like this:

Day #1 prompt "Origin"

What Was I Thinking?

I don't know where it began,
the first thought that bubbled
from a hidden singing spring,
then like rapids rushing in
they carried me away with them.
Stroking back against the flood,
I dove to rescue my point.
Day three was dedicated to my high school English teacher, Fran McMullen, a passionate writer who threw me a life-preserver all those years ago.

Day #3 prompt "The problem with ___"

Problem Child

The problem with you, he said,
is you just don't listen!
I think there was more
but a bird sang at the window
and I so desperately wanted
to be outside.

The problem with you, she said,
is you just don't work to your potential,
her hands busy ripping the sleeves
from the sodding flowered dress
every girl was required to sew.

The problem with you, he said,
is you're a sky-high dreamer!
Knowing a nightmare waited within
the bottle in his bottom desk drawer,
I laughed and flew to detention.

Waiting for her to start,
I fingered the possible problems
like a Rosary ritual made by a soul
sinful and devoted.

You're a writer, she said,
and led the world---my dreams, my dread
through pen to each pristine page.

From the right brain in my head
she gently led me forward.
Day five's prompt inspired two poems. The better of the two came from childhood memories...but I can't resist sharing the second in the neighbourhood:

Day #5 prompt "Landmark"

Tacoma Telly

There's a bloody big telly
on the Pierce-King County Line;
commercials in living colour angled
for view from I-5 just fine.

Drivers--already in recliners and
mindless conversation over phones,
catch up on what they're missing--
what they sell on television;
there's no wasting time between
their work and homes.

Ooh-la--the screaming of the tires,
slamming, rolling cars on fire,
Jack and Jill have broken more
than just their crown---
Being known as quite the liberal ranter, I had fun with the sixth day's prompt. I'll leave you today with this one, but not before inviting you to join-in on National Poetry Month. You don't have to run it as a marathon; take any prompt that sparks you...and feel free to share with us in the comments. Poetry is for everyone...just break it out of the box to suit your fancy!

Day #6 prompt "Something Missing"

Speaker's Corner


Pardon me
while I climb
upon my box
and have a rant.

it won't take long.
Here we go.


Do you want
to know
what's missing?

I'm ready to tell you,
today I'm more than
ready to tell you,
hoo-boy, lemme tellya!

and kindness,
that's what's missing.

Thank you for listening,
and please clean up
after yourselves
before you go.

I'll miss you.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter Neighbours!

(Day #11 prompt "Object" for the PAD-Challenge)

Easter Egg Thoughts '09

Eggs in a nest-basket
from a bunny seems
funnily strange,
for the range of

Ostara in a Pagan Spring,
the stirring of life
behind the coming light.

Bunny-funny eggs,
ovoid canvas for kids
and those patient enough
with minutiae for its own sake.

The delight of bright Fabergé
sparks Revolution,
dark and mechanical.

My eyes pull to the window;
bald eagle sentry in crooked fir,
just looking for a bunny,
concerned only with her
eggs in a nest-basket.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Signs of employability in the unemployment workshop

(Background music that is running through my mind as I write this is a song from 1970 by the Five Man Electrical Band; the song was called "Signs"...lyrics pasted in at the end of this post)

I attended a 2-hour WorkSource (Washington State Employment Security) workshop on unemployment benefits and job search counseling. It is disheartening to see so many others in the job market and so many who are so ill-prepared that they even showed up without having the forms filled out.

Even more remarkable though is that the facilitator of the class had such a poor command of English, it boggled my mind that HE was employed and the rest of us are not.

An example?

At one point he said, "This is how we does it."


"You must apply for a 'pacific' position."

I believe he was trying to say "specific" but each time he said it, it came out as "pacific"...

So, maybe there's hope for me that I'll land something...somewhere...if there is still any value placed on being fluent and proficient in English.

Another State employee who came in to teach a section of the class informed us that he is the person that employers work with to find job seekers whose qualifications match the employer's needs. He has long hair pulled back in a ponytail. Not that I don't like long hair on men (I do!) but it was surprising that he is the State employee who is the gatekeeper between the unemployed and the employers. (Hear the lyrics to "Signs" playing in the background?)

It was also eye-opening that the young woman/job seeker shown in the PowerPoint had a piercing in her nose. If I were an employer, someone with a nose piercing would be the last person I'd hire. Well, maybe second or third to the last... Those with lip and eyebrow piercings would be even farther down the list.

During the workshop ponytail-man emphasized that we must not apply for positions that list required qualifications, which we do not possess.

At the end of the class, another State worker presented me with a printout of a job that she was convinced I was absolutely perfect for, but when I looked at it, it was one I was already well aware of and knew that my credentials do not match what they are seeking. She persisted, insisting that I apply for it in spite of what ponytail-man had just underscored that we must not do.


Even more confusing?

Interviews cannot be counted toward the quota of three job search contacts in a week. That's right. Even if you are lucky enough to be granted an interview for a position you've applied for, you cannot 'count' that.

It's crazy-making...

(Credit given to the 1970 hit by the Five Man Electrical Band ... I hear them singin' in the background... )

And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply

So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why

He said you look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you'll do

So I took off my hat I said imagine that, huh, me working for you, whoa!

Sign Sign everywhere a sign

Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind

Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

And the sign said anybody caught trespassing would be shot on sight

So I jumped on the fence and yelled at the house, Hey! what gives you the right?

To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in?

If God was here, he'd tell you to your face, man you're some kinda sinner.

Sign Sign everywhere a sign

Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind

Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign

Now, hey you Mister! can't you read, you got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat

You can't even watch, no you can't eat, you ain't suppose to be here

Sign said you got to have a membership card to get inside Uh!

And the sign said everybody welcome, come in, kneel down and pray

But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn't have a penny to pay,

so I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign

I said thank you Lord for thinking about me, I'm alive and doing fine.

Sign Sign everywhere a sign

Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind

Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

April: National Poetry Month

The Poet's Moon

Light and darkness need
each other;
space punctuates
the forms.
We could not smile
if we never
cried storms.
such a sacred space,
light gives it
loving cover;
no lines you'll find that
could define
this one without
the other.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Let The Children Sing

Supporting the children during a Sunday morning rehearsal at St. Therese

I cannot begin to imagine what type of human being I would have become if my teachers had not taken time to teach me how to play the organ when I was in grade school. And I thank Sister Clothilde, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family, and all the other teachers who in grade school, high school, and college, taught me to sing and speak before groups. Thanks to the folks at St. Therese in Seattle that are getting the children ready to sing on Easter Sunday... who knows how many lives these children are touching now and will touch during their adult years...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Harrison Family murders and suicide

No one else has brought this up yet here 'In Your Neighborhood' and admittedly Orting and Graham are not my neighborhood either, but the pain that this story/crime has evoked cannot be contained merely on the 'Lights & Sirens' blog, the main page online, or the front page of the printed newspaper.

Listening to radio programs today, e.g. The Commentators on KOMO with Ken Schram and John Carlson, and to Dori Monson on KIRO 97.3 FM, and comments by callers to those programs gives an interesting spectrum of points of view. I would like to add my own thoughts.

First and foremost: Mass murder and suicide are not an individual's first foray into domestic violence. It does not begin and end in one summary act. That entire family -- now silenced -- had to have been living in a hell at home that no one on the outside was privy to. Neighbors may have known of fighting and loud yelling coming from the home, but no one could have known what was going on inside that home who did not live it every day.

A common thread I've been hearing is, "If he wanted to commit suicide, why didn't he just kill himself?" And then the immediate assumption that he killed the children to hurt his wife.

That's not it.

If you think about it, that he went back up to Auburn to kill her, too, it wouldn't hardly have given her much pain, no time to suffer just to be told that he had killed the children and now she was going to die.


He killed the children, because of his rigid beliefs. One of those beliefs was surely that he did not want his kids to have to endure the stigma of coming from a broken home. Yes, in his warped way of thinking, that was almost certainly the ultimate shame -- to come from a broken home. So he killed the children to spare them that shame. That's what people do in these situations. It was not about inflicting pain on the wife, it was about sparing the children the pain of growing up in a broken family with one parent or the other not in the home.

People who try to apply logic to this insanity will get it wrong (as they have been doing speculating about his motive). There is no sane logic to what he did. But he did what he did, because he loved the children and was 'sparing them'. Clearly, it was a deranged, controlling 'love.'

His pain over the loss of his wife, his child bride whom he had knocked-up at age 13 with the first of those five babies who were to be born into that hell, was pain over the loss of control that he had of her: statutory rape of a minor child that then led to the marriage and the births of each of the children thereafter. That's what his rage was about.

And for those who blame the mother (such as Dori Monson) for 'leaving those children with a psycho while she goes off on a two-day bender with her new boyfriend'... No one could foresee the criminal insanity that would unfold. Sure, it would have been better for her to try to make a clean break for herself and the kids before becoming involved with someone else. Of course, it would. At the same time, he had her wrapped so tightly that she probably had no idea of how to get out of the situation. And where do you go with five kids? Who will take you in? Who will ever want you again? That is all she has known since age 13.

Little girls are often raised with the belief that you are "only half a person" until you are married at which time you become "whole." This is the belief that drives the mindset that "I've gotta have a man in my life or I'm nothing; I'm only half a person; I need a man so I can be whole." Serial relationships follow. It'd be great if every relationship yielded that perfect union, but sadly it is more rare than it is the norm.

One last thing, there was also discussion/whining and complaining about why it is that the schools bring in grief counselors from the outside. "Why don't parents talk to their kids themselves? Why don't kids talk to their parents?" Sadly, there are many homes: many, many homes in all socioeconomic levels (not just the classic trailer park as in this instance), but all across the board, across every community there are homes where there is relentless physical, mental, and verbal violence.

An educator brought up the following scenario to Ken Schram, 'How can these kids talk to their parents about domestic violence when they are living it in their own home and are afraid of their parents? Afraid that their dad will kill them?' In a knee-jerk reaction, Ken put that caller down stating, that that just does not happen, that's not gonna happen.

But it does.

When you have seen a line in a movie or television show where a parent says to their child -- either in a sitcom or seriously in a drama -- "I brought you into this world and I can take you out." That is the reality for many children. That is the fear and the tyranny they live. And whether or not the abuse is directed physically at them or at their mother, the message is clear: "Cross me, and you're dead."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Daffodils, Pirates, and Cupcakes

The Thompson mother (me) and the Thompson children made our way to downtown Tacoma for the Daffodil Parade. This year we opted to seat ourselves near Union Station towards the end of the parade route. Parking and finding a spot to view the parade went smoothly. However, I am not a good parade parent (never have been) and stayed true to form this year. I forgot food, beverages, and something to sit on. So, the hungry Thompson children and I planted our behinds on the cold, hard, dirty curb.

The first thing we noticed is that the folks handing out flyers to various events, coupons for local businesses, and asking for signatures for various petitions, always SKIPPED me over. It was weird. I was sitting with my two kids, then there was another mom and dad sitting right next to me and another set of adults on the other side of my son. They got stuff. I did not. My seven year old thought that was funny and enjoyed laughing at me. So, I asked this woman dressed in medieval attire if I could have a flyer. She looked at me funny and said, "...well okay."


Then my daughter and I got the giggles and could NOT stop. The only time we stopped laughing is when my daughter got snatched up from the crowd and practically put on a float. It was some pretty maritime themed float and this exuberant guy took her up to the float to shake the boat queen's hand. Then he asked the crowd to cheer. Erin turned every shade of pink and I didn't have the sense to use the camera that I literally had in my lap. Wouldn't have mattered if I got the picture anyway. Read on.

I did take some pictures. So did my son. Four were blurry and didn't turn out and the ones my son took, we'll they didn't seem to exist. So, I continued my tradition of having virtually no parade photos.


Lastly, I was attacked by the pirates. Can't get a flyer or coupon to save my life, but I can get harassed by pirates. One of them got right in my face and I heard this "gong" kind of sound. He said, "Do you know what that means?" I replied no. He laughed and said, "Just you wait." I thought it was a bad attempt at pirate acting when this huge cannon explosion went off.

I screamed so loud that the toddlers in the family next to me all started to cry and I nearly pee'd my pants. Then all the pirates made fun of me. Cool. The kids laughed until they got the hiccups. Then they wanted cupcakes, so we ducked out and went across the street to Hello Cupcake. Frankly, I am sure the family of the terrified children was glad to see my quick exit.

So after forking out about $5.00 for TWO, count 'em TWO, gourmet cupcakes, we made our way down Pacific, watching the parade and slowly making our way back to the car. To my horror, the Thompson children, said nearly in unison, "We are done with these now!" and proceeded to quickly toss the cupcakes in the nearby garbage can before I could intervene. It wouldn't have been bad if the cupcakes had actually been EATEN. No, the Thompson children licked off the frosting only.


Hence, another Grit City parade experience that will live in infamy.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Traditional School, Home School, Unschool: South Sound Options

A true educational movement in this country is underway. American families, more and more, are looking at "alternative" means to educate their children beyond the traditional school model. This movement has taken two forms: homeschool and unschool. Parents choose these routes for a variety of reasons (religious, ethical, practical, and so on). However, a growing population of "special needs" students are joining the ranks for homeschooling and unschooling. There are a variety of reasons for this phenomenon, but typically, the most common reasons are traditional school systems being unable and/or unwilling to provide accommodations, medical issues, or the child simply would thrive better in a nontraditional environment/schedule. Whatever the reasons involved, Washington State is in the forefront of fostering alternative education. With laws that really work in the families favors, it's becoming more of an option. The Washington Homeschooling Organization (WHO) has an amazing websites that explains the law, requirements, resources, and support.

Sounds perfect? Oh, no. Complications can (and do) arise. It isn't easy. But what about any kind of education is easy?

What is simple to understand is the concept of homeschool. The child does their schooling in the home environment under the watchful eye of a parent/guardian/caregiver. This adult is responsible to teach and administer lessons. This can be done in a variety of ways. Purchased or borrowed curriculum can be used or a more free form approach (developing one's own curriculum and materials). It's up to the parent's judgment and what works best for the child. Homeschool parents provide continuous enrichment in the community, through events and activities, to supplement the child's home education and stay within the law.

is another approach that is popular particularly in Puget Sound. The Unschool philosophy is that the child shapes his/her own experiences, life lessons, and education, by going, doing, and being. Unschoolers are like homeschoolers, but with a very free form kind of structure and philosophy.

What's interesting is that each home school is unique. Parents can combine multiple approaches, or just use one. I know families in which their children have all three methodologies at their disposals (part-time traditional school enrollment, which is allowed for any child in our state, and then elements of homeschool/unschool).

Regardless of one's opinion as a parent or citizen (and believe me, there are a lot of opinions on this issues, some of which are quite heated and even downright venomous), at least where we live, as parents, we have some options.

Readers/bloggers, come into the discussion. What do you think about the homeschooling trend? Where do you stand with our traditional school system? Is there a happy medium? Families of special needs children, your thoughts?

Where local education is concerned, this is only the beginning folks.