The News Tribune logo

Monday, May 31, 2010

Remembering The Lyme Warriors

Before the month of May bows out to June, I want to remember the warriors who have fallen from Lyme disease, while fighting for care and compassion in a shark tank of medical business. I want to thank the doctors and researchers and advocates who work tirelessly for a quality of life for Lyme patients and to educate the public about this very misunderstood disease.

Just today I received a call with another story of a doctor...a pediatrician...telling a mother not to worry about her four year-old who had just been bitten. He insisted that we do not have Lyme in Washington State. Our online support group now has 98 members, with 33 pending...and that's just the Puget Sound area. There are too many patients and not enough doctors skilled in combating these complex, chronic infections.

Here are some links for a short documentary on how to protect yourself from exposure to ticks...

part one
part two
part three, last part

If you don't have time to watch the documentary, keep this in mind:

How a scientist assesses risk for Lyme inside yards:

1. Rodent habitat (wood piles, leaves, mulch piles)
2. High humidity areas are where ticks can be found - shade, leaf coverage on the ground.
3. Evidence for deer.
4. Relationship between tick habitat and the risk for human exposure.
5. Do pets come through the yard or do you have a dog that goes out?

This post is dedicated to our beloved Leslie Wermers, Lyme-Warrior extraordinaire...and to her sister Tracie Schissel, who still fights the good fight.

Memorial Day 2010

It's been a reflective Memorial Day. My father, now 88, served with his generation who saved the world in the last war that seemed to make any sense, if one can ever say that about war. He hasn't been so robust lately, neither has my mother. I wish I could be with them today...but there's a ton of reasons and three-thousand miles between. Both are WWII veterans and I can't help but wonder, on what Memorial Day in the future will I honour my parents for their service?

My tradition for Memorial Day is to walk our seven-circle labyrinth with names of fallen warriors but, when I woke this morning, I wasn't sure if the solid curtain of rain would let me. Perhaps it was soldier angels who pulled back the clouds in the afternoon and let the sun shine gold from lagoon to bay. I thought about the news lately, of the 1,000th. loss in Afghanistan, as I walked down the hill. Then I thought about the man whose information I carried on a piece of paper. He was the very first to die over there and perhaps, as I like to think, he stands and welcomes number 1,000 to the peace beyond a hard and too short life of service.

Sgt. 1st. Class Nathan Ross Chapman, of San Antonio, Texas was a 31 year-old career Special Forces soldier, ambushed on Jan 4th. 2002, after attending a meeting with Afghan Leaders in Khost Province. He left behind a wife and two children. I called his name from the middle of the labyrinth, surrounded by sunlit butter-yellow Scotch Broom, goldfinches dancing madly on the wind. I thanked him for his service. In the peace of my afternoon I thought of all the men and women so far from home, so far from comfort, and sent them a grateful heart and a mother's love. The sky had cried, as did I, in the morning. It balanced with sunshine and a gentle afternoon, and that's what I'll remember. That's what I'll honour.

Local Grassroots Campaign Targets Improving School Lunches in Tacoma

A local grassroots campaign in Tacoma, Washington is looking to accomplish school lunch reform in the Tacoma School District. By gathering signatures on a petition, the campaign aims to demonstrate that Tacoma residents really want school lunch improvements and healthier foods for children. A staggering percentage of local school children are on free or reduced lunch and breakfast (and for some kiddos, this may be the biggest or only meals of the day). A "fast-food" style entree won't cut it for optimum health for ANY child. With the huge rise of organic food consumption, eating locally movements, and the national initiative, the Let's Move campaign with First Lady Michelle Obama to end childhood obesity, America is taking healthful eating seriously. And now, Tacoma residents can lend their voices to the campaign as well, by taking steps to address school lunches. Want to get involved in this petition? It's easy.

The first step is to visit the popular family website, tacomamama. In fact I'll just take you there, so click right HERE. Click on the petition link from the home page, read the instructions,  and e-sign it. Now for those of you who don't live in the Tacoma area, check out tacomamama anyway for some excellent and well written information about school lunches. You may also sign the petition symbolically (I did!). I suspect, that for many of us in neighboring Tacoma communities will find that this information will serve as a great catalyst for examining our own school districts in our own cities.

A reflection on lost loved ones and a look towards the future

Earlier this week we laid my cousin Peter to rest next to his brother Keith. They spent many years living far from each other but were in touch every day. In their passing they are once again close. They are also near their parents.

The services consisted of an inside service where prayers were said and Peter was eulogized by the Rabbi and also Peter’s niece. Peter was a very generous and giving person. I only got to know him during the last 2 years. I spent nearly 5 hours talking with him only days before he passed. In many ways we are mirrors of each other.

After the inside service we all went outside. I was one of the pall bearers. That means I got to help my cousin to his last resting place. I have performed this honor for my cousin Peter, his brother Keith and their mom and dad. After we put the coffin in place, all pall bearers stepped back for a moment of silent observation. I was standing next to his burial site, at about his shoulders and said “Goodbye Peter.” No one else spoke. A moment later his coffin was lowered into the grave.

In my religion we help burry our loved ones. Each participant that is willing can take a shovel and let some dirt fall to the grave. The closest family members go first. Each person places 3 or more shovels full of dirt on the coffin then sets the shovel down for the next person. There is no elegant way to do this, so it is done slowly. The cemetery staff provides a wheel barrel full of bark and soft dirt. This is for the first few to use. The majority of the dirt is wet and strewn with rocks. One of the most unique sounds I've ever heard is the sound of dirt and rocks hitting a casket. You never forget that.

When there is sufficient dirt on the grave the Rabbi and all who attend cite the Mourner's Kaddish. This is a simple prayer recited to reaffirm one’s belief in the Lord.

At my mom’s funeral my mom’s 11 grandkids were among those who attended. For most of them it was the first time they had participated in a funeral. I arranged the services and thought it a fitting tribute that the pall bearers were mostly my mom’s grandkids, both men and women. You could tell that the grandkids didn’t quite know what to make of the part of the ceremony where they shoveled dirt into their Grandma’s grave. Where my mom had 5 kids and 11 grandkids, my cousin Peter never married and in his immediate family, only his oldest brother had a child. Due to this there were few young people at Peter’s funeral.

In September of 2008, at my cousin Keith’s funeral I made a decision and have been working on that ever since. Keith was an artist and I always admired his life. He worked at home, traveled to for several weeks and most of the time did little other than enjoy life. I have another cousin who has done extremely well in the arts. I spent time with my cousin Keith when he was showing his works at the Bellevue Art fair. You’d hear the comments. Some said: “I bet I could do that.” Others would say “Look its just a couple of things put together with a nice finish.” Others still said: “Wow, with a little work I could do that.” Most others admired the beauty and artistry and were not afraid to say so.

My decision was to see if I can be successful as an artist. I've always loved photography. I started to peruse it as a formal study back when I was a mere 14 years old. In recent years I've taken 10s of thousands of photos during my travels through the woods around Mt. Rainier. I've spent a lot of time since my cousin’s passing working to teach myself the latest in print making techniques as well as the very old art form of making picture mats. I've done pretty well. It has been a labor of love. My collection of completed works numbers at a little over 50 and growing. You can see them at I've just started to look for places to show my works.

On this Memorial Day our Nation reflects upon the loss of our fallen in the military. Most reflect upon the passing of our loved ones. For many it is a day away from work and a time to rest and think. I saw a bit of my future in my cousins' passing. The day is also a good time to look to the future and plan to make a better tomorrow. For me that better tomorrow will hopefully be many opportunities to show my photographs and also hopefully have a measure of success in the arts.

What is a life, after all, but the opportunity to contribute to our families and communities?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day

Another Memorial Day is approaching. A lot of folks have forgotten the reason that they are getting Monday off from work and school. It’s origins like in the post Civil War South when some Southern ladies wanted to remember their menfolk who had died in that great American tragedy. In an effort to reunite the states the holiday became recognized nation-wide, honoring all the soldiers who had died in that war. Over time many communities extended the commemorating to include all Americans who have passed away. In some places it is known as Decoration Day. My cousin has told me that Memorial Day in the Ozarks, where our family is from, is a big event. People there take it seriously.

Until his death my Uncle Dick put flowers on all the family graves in Dade County, MO. Our family has been in that neck of the woods since before the Civil War so there are plenty of deceased to honor. He took flowers to about 70 graves including several in a long forgotten cemetery in the woods. He crawled through barbed wire fences and walked through fields to get to some of the cemeteries. Some of those graves will probably never see flowers again since Uncle Dick couldn’t get the town interested in tending the one in the woods.

I’ve got a cousin in Vancouver, WA who tends the graves of our family there. Each year he washes the graves and places flowers on each one. He’s no Spring chicken now and sick this year so just getting the flowers there will be a struggle. Maybe one of his boys will step up, but youngsters today don’t seem to care unless they’ve got a friend in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Since I can’t take flowers to my father’s grave in MO we have a trip to the Tahoma National Cemetery tomorrow. I’m taking flowers to my best friend’s father and brother. Harley Beard was the pilot of the Liberator over Germany during WWII. After the war, when he’d gone to work for the Boeing Company as a test pilot, he became friends with some of those German pilots he fought against. His sons both served as pilots in Vietnam, one in the Air Force and Neal in the Army flying helicopters. Neal died a year ago and a Huey did a fly-over while the pastor said prayers and the VFW lauded him.

The Civil War is long since gone from our collective consciousness, at least in the North, and even Vietnam is just so much history to the young ones. I hope that at the very least Americans will think of the sort of love and sense of duty that causes young men and women to go into harm’s way. Many, too many, don’t come home and whether or not we agree with the conflicts they die for we ought to be moved by their willingness to serve. One of these days, when I don't have to be back to work on Tuesday, we'll go to Greenfield, MO for Memorial Day. I'll put a flag on Daddy's grave, along with flowers and pour a little Scotch. I think he'd like that.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The TNT Reports.....Headlines Circa 1986!

The picture of Frank Sinatra above is from a concert he performed in 1986. Did you know that Frank Sinatra came to Tacoma and performed at the Tacoma Dome in the month of April in 1986? I know that he did! Here's why.

My mom and uncle have been going through my late grandma's estate and found some editions of The Tacoma News Tribune. Most of them were around big national events, just the front section only. But we got a treat! Mom found one more recently. It featured Mr. Sinatra's visit to Tacoma in April of 1986. As an eighties kid, I found this front section fascinating. Here's what I found beside Sinatra's visit:

The Tacoma News Tribune masthead was light lavender!

Front page news:

1. Sinatra rekindles days of youth
2. Tort reform signed governor unchanged
3. 19 hurt, others feared dead in San Francisco fire
4. Two underground groups claim they caused Mexican crash


Clear with patchy morning fog. Highs from 60-65 degrees.

Some People news:

1. Gregory Peck turns 70 years old.
2. John Cougar Mellencamp was nervous about playing a show in Tempe, Arizona because he got hit in the with a whiskey bottle there four years earlier.


1. A full living room set is priced at $599 (sofa, two chairs, coffee table).
2. The Shrine Circus is in town! 
3. An orthopedic mattress that adjusts is priced at $350 for a queen size.
4. Sewing machines were retailing for $199.00.
5. Sonics vs. Dallas this week.
6. $4.39 gets an adult a full dinner buffet at the Kings Table Buffet at four locations in Tacoma.
7. Leather, high end cowboy boots were $39.98.

A sampling of the movies playing:

1. Pretty in Pink
2. Gung Ho
3. The Color Purple

The television stations noted in the paper:


What was on at 8:00 PM on network stations (Saturday, April 5, 1986)?

ABC: Charlie Hannah
NBC: Gimme a Break
CBS: Crazy Like A Fox

One sample of one of the published letters to the editor:

Daffodil Festival needs help 

(Hmmm....I think we've seen that one before folks!)

Who remembers Percy Ross Thanks a Million

Thanks for time traveling with me! 


Monday, May 24, 2010

And You'd Look Neat Upon the Seat of a Bicycle Built for Five

On August 1st, 2009 Bill Harrison and his wife Amarins left their home in Mt. Vernon, KY with their three daughters, ages 7, 5, and 3, for Fairbanks, AK with $300 on a bicycle built for five. Since then they have loges more than 5,300 miles—averaging 30 miles per day—of a nearly 7,000 mile trip. Recently they took a little detour on their way through WA to the Long Beach Peninsula to the spot where Lewis and Clark first reached the mouth of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.

Harrison told Damian Mulinix of the Chinook Observer, the Long Beach Peninsula’s weekly newspaper, that their daughters were the inspiration for the trip. He characterized himself and his wife as gypsies at heart and they decided to see the United States and give their daughters “something they will never forget.”

Bill Harrison has used his skills in mechanics, plumbing and carpentry to do the odd job along the way. He plans to use those skills in AK to help get the family through the winter and do some volunteer work.

The family is journaling their trip on their family Web log at There you can see pictures of them on the road and read about the various places and people they have met. While they have chosen Fairbanks as their destination, they don’t have a plan set for what they will do when they get there or how long they will stay. This, they say, is all part of the adventure.

The Crow

I was out for a walk the other day. I try to walk every day. Lately it has been difficult. Not because I'm too busy. When I'm feeling down I tend to goof around on the web or work with Photoshop. I’d rather be working but that option has not been available to me in abundance recently. I did get to work the other day and in part due to that I went for a walk.

I was thinking about my cousin Peter. We spoke a few days ago. He’s having a difficult time. He has the family genes and has a number of medical problems. He needs surgery. Probably several surgeries. But he doesn’t want to do it. He’s been mostly out of work for some time. He worked in the construction industry. Technically he still works there. The construction industry was probably the first and worst to suffer the effects of the downturn. He told me that he’s depressed. He’s taking meds for it. It was hard for him to admit. I've dealt with depression off and on. To him it’s all fresh.

I've never understood why some are just rude when they talk about those who suffer depression. Due to people such as this, admitting depression is hard. Dealing with depression is not like winning a new car where you want to say: “Look at me! I'm a winner!” Instead you’re sad. You wonder if tomorrow will be any different. Many don’t like to let others know they are sad.

In addition to my cousin Peter’s medical problems, he’s lost two of his immediate family members recently. One of them was his brother, hardly over a year ago. Peter had to make a long journey to come to his brother’s funeral. It was hard for him to do. After the funeral he ended up staying a lot longer than planned so he could help clean his departed brothers home. And then he stayed an extra week after that so he could attend my mom’s funeral. Cleaning his departed brother’s home was a challenge due to his medical problems. And this says nothing of the emotional impact. He and his brother were very close. They talked every day. Peter is very generous and he stayed to help. That's the kind of person he is.

The brother that passed on was named Keith. He was artist and a collector. Keith made artist’s paint brushes and his house was used in part for brush manufacturing. He did very well on the art fair circuit and would frequently buy other artist’s works. Mostly just to help other artists. He said he’d walk around the shows and look at who wasn’t busy and buy something from them. That’s the kind of person Keith was. His house was a combination of a modern art museum, an artist’s workshop, and a home. It took a lot of work to clean the house. My cousin Peter had the help of a good friend, who made the long journey with him. They spent a lot of time at my departed cousin’s house. It’s tough to spend time in the home of someone who has just passed on. You feel a little edgy but comforted in a way. Everything is in its place except the one thing that really matters.

Peter had not begin to get past the loss of Keith when, a few months ago, their mom passed on.

She was my favourite auntie. She was a little spitfire and lived to be 92. She smoked Camel filters until about a week before she passed on. She gave me my first taste of scotch when I was young. She was about of 5 feet tall, had short red hair, a voice deeper than Bing Crosby’s, and a razor sharp sense of wit combined with an excellent memory. I miss her a lot. I know he does too. It was only a few years ago he lost his dad. I've lost both my parents and a sister so I understand some of his feelings.

The other day when I talked with Peter he said his best friend was recently tested for cancer. His friend has no health insurance. These all add up to why he’s depressed. I did some research on California’s high risk insurance pool and sent the information to my cousin the next day. I asked that he foreword it to the friend and said to let me know if I can help further.

Another relative, one of my sisters, just finished a course of radiation therapy. She told me a few months back that she had a bad feeling. Then the doctor found a cancerous growth on her cheek. My sister has had a terrible time recently. She lost her husband due to cancer just a few years ago. Then, about a year ago she broke an ankle, then at little while after that she found out she had cancer. She met each problem head on and did what was needed to get through. She had radiation therapy and right after that she needed dental work, which was probably related to the radiation treatment. She’s very brave and few have a kinder or more generous heart.

So anyway I’m thinking about all this and my mom’s recent passing while on my walk and I see a crow on the ground. I know a little about crows. They are intelligent and wary. Similar to ravens. They can also be deceptive. This one was having problems. His beak was slightly open and his head was down. Not down as in looking for food but down as in having problems. The crow was moving mostly sideways and was lethargic. I watched him for a moment. He didn’t like my intrusion and was moving slowly away from me, toward the roadway. I didn’t want him to wander further onto the road, so I let him be and continued my walk.

During the walk I tried to think about other things. It was a beautiful day but sometimes no matter what the sights, your thoughts are elsewhere.

Hours later I got to go out and do an errand for a client. I asked my partner if she would like to come with and she said yes. While driving home I told her about the crow. My partner is an animal lover and has been known to pull off the road to remove a dead animal from the roadway. I told her it looked as if the crow had maybe had a stroke. She wanted go the area to see if it was still there. I said: “To what end?” And she said: “Just to bury it.” I really didn’t want to go and churn up the thoughts I’d had earlier, but she persisted. We had a little spat, which was mostly silence, and in the end I agreed. We detoured to go to where I saw the crow earlier in the day. There was no crow to be found. She said “It’s probably in the bushes.” But she was content look no further, and so we drove home.

As I reflect on these events I realize that we need to make an effort to help. I guess to degrees even when it may be futile. What else is there?

Postscript: It’s been about a week since I wrote the article above. I learned that my cousin Peter passed away yesterday morning at his home.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tacoma Artist Shows Work at Rosewood Cafe

Recently thirty-six year old Tacoma graphic designer Joshua Casey opened a showing of six Warhol inspired oil paintings at the Rosewood CafĂ© in the Proctor District. Trained at the Northwest College of Art in Poulsbo, Casey went to work for Burke Gibson Inc in Auburn following graduation. In 2006 he struck out on his own with his own graphic design company, Josh Casey Designs based in the North Tacoma home he shares with wife Jamie and their two daughters. Just as he was beginning to develop a clientele the economy took a nose dive in the fall of ‘08. Despite some struggles finding projects, he’s been able to acquire some commissions that if not lucrative have been highly visible.

The First Night Poster for 2008 was a feather in his cap and helped garnered him some work with Metro Parks designing brochures for the summer programs at Pt. Defiance. The down economy also allowed him to be Mr. Mom when Jamie—who works as a court reporter from home—gave birth to their second daughter Lydia in the fall of 2008. At the Day of the Dead Exhibition at the Tacoma Art Museum, Casey had a work featured on one of the altars.

The down economy also gave him time to return to his first love, painting. The result is on display at the Rosewood located at 26th and Warner in North Tacoma. A long-time fan of Casey’s work, I have a signed First Night poster hanging in the entrance to my home and some of his earlier works, much earlier works, in my bedroom. You see, this talented 36 year old happens to be my oldest son. And to borrow from Paul Harvey, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

Friday, May 21, 2010

I (Heart) Yoga the Gritty Way!

I nicknamed last Thursday, Crud Thursday. It was a tough day all around, with many too many people falling apart, things piling up, and issues to solve. It was also crud because I wound up missing my first introductory yoga class at the terrific Source Yoga in Tacoma. I guess I must have carried my cruddy feelings through yesterday, because when I arrived at the yoga studio, I was excited, but tired, curious, but dull feeling. I yawned a lot before class. Gratefully and blessedly, this quickly changed.

First of all, yoga people are NICE people. Each and every one. My instructor, Angi, was the leader in NICE. Angi exuded this: no worries on the missed class, welcome, and here's some respite, enjoy. And this I did.

In a cozy, relaxing environment, out of the wind and rain, and most importantly, out of my house, I was sold after the well designed, well led meditation principles and practice that we began the session with. The crud washed away and I was ready for practice. I mean really ready.

And, as it turns out, I was ready for this class overall. When I first wrote about Source Yoga, in this blog and others, I noted that I have been doing yoga for some time. Out of some books. Yep, I studied the books, sequences, poses, diagrams, and did them on my own. It was so nice to be in a class because I wasn't really truly sure if I was understanding completely what I was supposed to do or not do and let's face it, doing yoga from book can be a bit lonely.

With Angi and her relaxed, warm and open style and PERFECT pacing, I began my journey refining, relearning, and developing my yoga skills. It felt good and my hunger for continuing my home practice and I wanted to learn to more to boot.

With that being said, for my local readers, if you are interested in beginning a journey in yoga, and you are new to the practice, in the future, consider this class. It will be worth your while. If you are looking for a different style of yoga practice, the Thursday evening meditation class may be right up your alley (click HERE to see more--for the summer session it is right after the intro class that I am in). I plan on attending that one next week to give it a try and I am really looking forward to it.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Most Welcomed Surprise

I must begin by thanking Monica Nixon, the Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs for coordinating the absolutely splendid Fortieth Anniversary Banquet of the Office.

Here is the O.M.A website page for that wonderful event.

I do not know what moved me to want to attend that event. I was hoping that I would have a chance to see some of the wonderful people who had been students back in the days when I was so very, very blessed to be the acting director of the Office. I did know that, without them, I would not have survived my five years as acting director and because of them I continued on my life's task... becoming the Black man I was born to become.

Check out this picture of Fr. OJ McGowan, SJ, 1977. I had a wonderful beard and some great thick hair then.

It is very easy for me to remember the times I thought I failed my students... being tongue tied at meetings with students and faculty when the teacher and the student could not come to a mutually acceptable compromise about the students' grades or career options; having nothing to offer students who needed wise counsel or financial assistance but my confused presence; failing to say the right words when I was challenged by a frustrated student or staff person...

I did not realize until the night of the banquet how much the wonderful human beings I had the pleasure of being with from 1977-1982 considered me to be their mentor, counselor, and advocate.
Here is a picture of some of them.

I was so surprised by what was said about me that night that I just sat in my chair completely silenced, inside of me and, definitely, I could say nothing, I just smiled. And then I was asked to come up to the stage, I kept shaking my head
meaning "No, no, I have nothing to say; I just need to sit at my table and let all of this sink in." But somehow I got up the stairs to the podium. I was given an absolutely wonderful plaque. I managed to say a few thank yous, made it down the steps, back to my table, and quickly let the other folks at my table look at the plaque.

That beautiful banquet touched me very, very deeply. I am a better person for having gone to it; I am still becoming the Black man who I was born to become... and I am so very happy to admit that the human beings I met for the first time that evening and the ones who shared space and time with me in the Office of Minority Affairs were and are a delight and inspiration to me.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Words & Music Part III: John Batdorf and Connie Walle

All pictures are copyright 2010 Dale Goodvin

You know you're really a "Mossback" when you're content to wait for the view that hides behind stubborn clouds. For March's "Words & Music" concert it was dark when we arrived. For April's it was very overcast. But, at Saturday's third concert, in the series so generously put on by Jerry and Pamela Libstaff, the reward came. There, across the burnished gold water of Case Inlet, sat the purple, snow-capped Olympic Mountains, in full sun-cooked glory. What artist wouldn't want to perform with a sunset, sandwiched between clouds and mountains, as back-drop?

Before the show, I found singer-songwriter John Batdorf quietly taking in the view from the back deck. We shared an easy conversation about the process each performer goes through in the minutes leading up to stage call. As John said, "You could trip on a cord just walking up to the microphone, hit bad notes, not make that all-important connection with your audience...." It may sound like worries but, in reality, this is a mindful litany and adrenalin pump, one that begins the connection in a musician before any instrument is picked up, or microphone turned on.

John was delightful to chat with, and so very sweetly humble for a man with such impressive credits in the business. He's been doing this since he was a kid and was signed by Atlantic Records at age 18, in 1970. That same year, a young soldier was killed overseas in Laos. Many years later, after John sang a song he wrote with Michael McLean for the young men and women in our military called, "All For You," the parents of that soldier gave him the bracelet made in memory of their son. It still overwhelms him.

Being early, I was also able to chat with our hostess, Pam, for a bit. She told me of her dreams as a young girl, dreams of holding soirees with music and poetry, art and discussion. She became very dear to me in t
hat moment as she said, "Here it is!" with her face aglow and arms sweeping the room. And...speaking of glowing, Tweed arrived as a third-time grandmother! Her daughter had given birth that day, but still Tweed whirled in with paints and brushes, ready on heady adrenalin, to do her thing.

Poet Connie Walle handed-out tiny booklets of her poems beforehand, some of which she read to us. The sun lit-up the windows behind her as she began to read "Sacred Ground," my personal pick of the night. She caught my ear with lines like, "...The quiet is so deep you can feel the velvet touch of the wind...," and, "...I watch the colorless stream roll over boulders, know that salmon worship here too." Of course she had the audience laughing with a poem entitled, "Real Men Ask For Directions." Meanwhile, Tweed's hands began flying, knowing this was to be a short reading. Her fifteen minute, lightning-quick portrait still captured the essence of Ms. Walle's command over the room.

John Batdorf took over for the rest of the evening with a wide range of his songs, some from his early beginnings in the seventies, right through to his newest CD getting a LOT of buzz, "Old Man Dreamin'." His voice has that smoked edge like Rod Stewart, but sits lighter and more relaxed on the air. His playing got me moving in my seat. Again I'll say, the secret to a good solo performer is always rhythm, from their playing, through lyric and rhyme, to the pacing of songs alongside an audience's heartbeat. John gave us a comfy ride, his rhythms making Tweed dance at her easel, his songs making the night roll on in easy smiles.

Stay tuned for June by checking out the "Words & Music" website or facebook page.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Discussion on Animal Cruelty in TNT

A letter writer from my community of University Place wrote a letter to the editor about the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding animal "crush videos." (To note: if you've heard about this form of, in my opinion, animal cruelty, you know what I am talking about. If you have not, nationally syndicated columnist, Kathleen Parker has a superb piece about the topic that recently ran in the TNT. Click HERE to read it. Be aware, the article is difficult to read due to the disturbing content and is meant for mature audiences only).

Okay, there's a little discussion going on about the letter on the Letters to the Editor blog on the TNT. To take a peek, check it out HERE.

Typically, I like my posts on this blog to be tied to local issues, events, and people for the most part. However, I am very passionate about animals and fairness, as I suspect many of my fellow South Sounders are. For more information, check out the ASPCA website and The Humane Society of America.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Caring for Spirit

At the risk of repeating comments from previous blogs, and to no one’s surprise, our 21st century lives are far too stressful, even for “Type A” personalities. Those people may think they are happy being wound up like 30 day clocks and multi-tasking 90 miles per hour, but it is only a veneer of fulfillment and unhealthful. It is easy to get caught up in the daily grind of work and family and to wonder what the point is. Look at how we talk about it—“daily grind.” Life is not supposed to be a grind. Caring for our spirits is as important or perhaps more so than our physical heath since the two are intimately tied.

I was reminded of this recently when I read an article online about the need for recharging our batteries—Winding the Clock—the Importance of Daily Spiritual Practice by Hafizullah. He encourages people without a spiritual practice to investigate various practices to find one that fits and then to allow for as large a portion of time possible for reflection and “winding the clock” before beginning one’s day. This article is a must read for the Neighborhood. Regardless of the tradition an individual feels comfortable with, the need for daily meditation or reflection is significant.

Based in Seattle, Hafizullah has been a practicing Sufi since 1976 after having traveled a path of so many who came of age in the early 1970s. In his own words, he has “walked, stumbled, crawled, and danced the Way of the Sufi”. The ‘70s were a time of social and political change when Americans began to look beyond Western traditions for spiritual solace and meaning. Hafizullah is a senior teacher of the Sufi Order International and teaches “the Turn” of the Dervishes nation-wide and has a “special interest in the interface between psychology and spirituality, and believes that establishing a spiritual basis for one’s life is the most pragmatic approach to living with authenticity, inner freedom, and dignity in today’s world.” He says his passion is sharing in sacred space and spiritual practice with those who are awakening.

Once again I have widened the boundary of our Neighborhood, but in this age of global information the world is our neighborhood and Hafizullah is practically next door in Seattle.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Good News From Our May 1st. Key Center Library Screening!

For the May 1st screening of "Under Our Skin" we worked with Carol Dike, Senior Branch Assistant at the Key Center Library to try and get the word out. Carol popped in and out while the film was playing and joined us for our discussion after. Now, I'm so pleased to let my community know that Carol has seen to it that two copies of the fully-featured DVD have been purchased for the Pierce County Library System! Feel free to ask for it at your library, through an inter-library loan.

To the wonderful folks who work so hard at the Key Center Library, especially Carol Dike, we give our heartfelt thanks!

Words and Music: Don't Miss This Saturday, May 15th. For Connie Walle and John Batdorf

This coming Saturday, May 15th. will be the third in the Watermark Writer's "Words & Music" series at Jerry and Pamela Libstaff's home on Case Inlet. For less travel-time, less traffic, and less money you can enjoy some incredible folk artists and poets in the intimate setting of a House Concert. For a donation of $15, this upcoming show promises to be one of the best...and there are still a few seats left!

Starting the evening will be Tacoma's own "poetry diva" Connie Walle, founder and president of the Puget Sound Poetry Connection. As Jerry says, "She is one of the guiding forces in the literary world of Western Washington. [She] has introduced, supported and guided poets for 20 years. For two decades, Walle has worked to bring together people of all ages and ethnicity to experience, celebrate and share their love of the literary in Tacoma. She has received the Faith Beamer Cooke Award from the Washington Poet's Society, for service to the poetry community in the State of Washington, as well as the Margaret K. Williams Award from the Pierce County Art Commission."

"Connie also host the "Distinguished Writer Series and Open Mic" each month, featuring poets from around the world and offering an opportunity for new and seasoned poets alike to share their work. She is currently working on a series of arresting poems about her neighbor who escaped the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia."

Jerry goes on to talk about John Batdorf:

"John Batdorf is an icon. His writing and singing career began as a member of Batdorf and Rodney. With three nationally successful albums, they toured with groups like America, Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, The Youngbloods, Hall and Oats, and Dave Mason to name a few."

"When Batdorf and Rodney split, John continued as a staff writer for major groups, singer of title song sor several movies and TV shoes and background singer for Rod Stewart, Motley Crue, Dave Mason, Eric Anderson, the Jefferson Starship, Berlin, Donna Summer, Dwight Yoakum and David Lee Roth, among others."

"During the '90's he produced records, wrote songs and recorded 4 CD's. In 1996 Batdorf scored the music for the CBS show, "The Promised Land" then went on to compose music for "Touched By An Angel." He followed that by composing the score for the TV movie, "Book of Days," and the play, "The Best Two Years" in 2004."

"His newest CD, "Old Man Dreamin'," the third in recent years, is receiving airplay on top radio stations across the country and throughout Europe. When you hear his voice, you'll remember and feel the excitement that has surrounded him since the beginning."

"Old Man Dreamin'," is now #1 on the Internet Weekly chart on Roots Music for Top! Well, let's take it to the yooztoobie...

I'm excited enough that I intend to drive straight from a gig of my own to Jerry and Pamela's house for this. As I said before there's a few seats make a reservation for a good show, good nibbles, beautiful setting overlooking Case Inlet and the Olympic Mountains, call (253)778-6559. I'll see you there!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

She's somebody's mother

In Loving Memory on this Mother's Day 2010

For many of us our mothers have been gone for years yet they live on in our hearts, in our daily lives, in the actions we take, the decisions we make based upon the early training we received from our moms on what it means to be a mother. Even the simplest things a mother does such as choosing the burnt toast for herself in order to give the perfectly toasted slices to the children create an impression, a lifelong impact that will be felt in other ways that demonstrate the spirit of self-sacrifice for the children. It is simply a mother's love.

One of the best lessons I learned from my mother when I was about 10 years old occurred as we were driving down a city street when Mama pulled the car to a stop to allow an elderly lady cross in the middle of the street, where there was no crosswalk. It was puzzling to me that the woman had stepped out into the street where there was no crosswalk, and also puzzling that Mama stopped to allow her to cross and waited patiently as she slowly made her way all the way across the street and safely up onto the sidewalk. Mama turned to me as we waited and explained quite simply and directly, "She's somebody's mother." That was a profound lesson in respect that I learned not at my mother's knee, but there in the car that day. Simple as that. "She's somebody's mother." What a lesson that was in respect for the aging and elderly.

Today among the dozens of obituaries n The News Tribune, there are many, many women. Reading through them gives me pause as I look back and remember what Mama told me more than fifty years ago, "She's somebody's mother."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Down the path

The last two years has been a remarkable progression of tragedy large and small for nearly all of us and it has been no different for me. I've been fortunate that I have been working and very busy until recently.

I'm not a religious person in the traditional sense, but I do believe in greater powers. These powers are generally there if you simply open yourself up to them. I don’t know that anything other than ourselves can actually do anything to help ourselves but by asking we might find insight. I'm not talking about the powers of a book but the willingness to be open to rational suggestion. This, as opposed to rationalizing which we all do much of the time. If you don’t know the distinction, do look up both words. At the very least if you are open to suggestion and willing to be rational within your own thoughts you have greatly increased the options available to you. And that is perhaps the greatest power of all.

Back in September of 2008 my first cousin Keith passed on rather suddenly. He was 60 and had a stroke that quickly progressed into irreparable damage. His brother had the unbearable options of letting his older brother live as a vegetable or letting him go. Keith lived in Oregon so his brother was able to do the right thing and let him go.

The funeral was a couple of days after Keith passed on. Keith was loved by all. Everyone in the family except his ill 92 year old mother and one of my sisters attended. His mother was too ill to be there.

I held my 84 year old mother’s hand at Keith’s funeral. Mom lost a daughter, my sister Janie, many years ago, and her loss is closer at times such as this. From time to time I still get visited in my dreams by my sister Janie. It always makes me happy to see her. My mom said she had similar dreams.

After the services completed, mom and me walked around the cemetery, joined by 2 other sisters. My mom was very unsteady on her feet. She had not been feeling well for some time. We visited the grave site of my dad - her husband of over 50 years. He’d passed on back in 2002. It doesn’t seem that long ago. We looked at his grave site in silence. It was a site for two, with my mom’s side unoccupied. Then we walked a short distance to visit the grave site of her dad, my Grandpa Leo. Grandpa Leo passed on back in the 1960s. At his grave site, while holding my hand, she said to him “I’ll be joining you soon.”

Three weeks later she did.

Loosing mom was very difficult. It was made more difficult due to the recent loss of my cousin Keith.

The next bad thing came to the surface within hours of my mom’s passing. I found out that one of my sisters, the one who didn’t attend cousin Keith’s funeral, had been doing questionable things with mom’s estate. To make a long story short, I ended up getting a court order to help protect mom’s estate from this sister. Following that was a year of painful work for me and what turned out to be a nearly foot tall stack of very expensive legal paperwork related to the probate process. There was not much in the estate, courtesy largely of this sister, and if it were left to her, there would have been nothing.

Our parents were very poor throughout most of their lives and never had much to give to their children. I was the youngest of 5. Where friends had childhood stories of family trips, we had stories largely untold, of our parents borrowing food from our uncles. It was mom’s desire that her estate be shared by more than one of her children and I honored her wishes as best as possible.

Back to my mom’s funeral – according to our religion, the dead are to be buried within a day or two of their passing. Due to this I had only part of a day to write my mom’s eulogy. It’s difficult to summarize a life in few words and it is more difficult to do it when under duress. And then there is the part about speaking in front of a bunch of people. I was wise enough to use a large font and double space the text, so that I wouldn’t get lost, even though, on a different level I was very much lost.

The stress of speaking in front many kept the tears from my eyes. Many at the gathering did cry. One of the most memorable moments of that day was that my mom’s 11 grand kids and 2 great grand kids attended. Six of mom’s grand kids (men and women) were pall bearers. They were selected for this honor by me.

I received only three of mom’s possessions, which are a photo of her, a small light fixture, and a piece of jewelry. I gave the jewelry to my partner. My sister kept the vast majority of our mom’s possessions for herself. No surprise, given the person she is. The photo and light fixture sit by my desk. The light fixture is ornate so it doesn’t get used a lot.

My mom was born in 1924 and was a child during the Great Depression. Recently it has started to look as if my biggest client is going to go out of business. They have been in business for 40 years. This has caused all that work there a lot of stress. As I write this I don’t know what we will have after the Great Recession. Mom and her family survived the event that started in 1929 and stretched until the late 1930s. It is said that were it not for World War 2, the Great Depression could have stumbled many years longer than it did. Mom's passing was at the beginning of the Great Recession. I talk to my mom’s photograph sometimes, remember some of her wisdom, and try to apply it to these challenging times.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sydney of Oysterville

Although out of the scope of our South Sound Neighborhood and since I’ve never demurred from sharing neighbors in our larger electronic world, I’m sharing a smooth coastal gem I found on the beach on the Washington coast. Most readers know of my love for and the large portion of time I spend at the Long Beach Peninsula. I lived there fulltime for only three years, but my family’s love of the place goes back generations and my own childhood summers were spent there.

During the time my children and I lived on the Long Beach Peninsula I was fortunate enough to meet and work in the same school as Sydney Stevens. At the time Sydney taught a first, second, third split class at Ocean Park Elementary School, but it was obvious that Sydney was more than a wonderful teacher who organized things like “Mother Goose Week” whereby the rhymes we all grew up with, but were falling out of children’s common knowledge, were taught and culminated in everyone dressing up as their favorite character and parading around the little school—she was passionate about the Peninsula.

Sydney’s family went back generations on the Peninsula and she was passionate about preserving and teaching the children about the rich history that was all around them. Although she’d lived elsewhere during her adult years eventually the soft salty breezes and even the wild storms called Sydney home. A teacher by trade and a historian by heart she combined the two and published little children’s books about the history and culture of the area.

Once Sydney retired from teaching she got serious about writing. I wrote a blog about her collection of letters from an aunt who grew up in Oysterville, Sydney’s family home, in a much simpler time a couple of years ago. What I didn’t know was that she also began writing a blog. So I am here today to introduce you to Sydney Steven’s. Check out her blog at

PS The little church you see in the background of the picture of Sydney is where Dave and I married 20 years ago.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Lesson in Auction Fundraising!

I recently attended an auction to benefit Lowell Elementary School in Tacoma that was held and the Tacoma Yacht Club. I attended the auction as an alumna (Go Class of '81!) and because I have dear friends whose children attend the school and love it just as I did. Now look at the picture above--that's little ol' me perusing the many items in the silent auction and working the crowd (and raising my wine glass in celebration). What a wonderful time we had! Terrific items, great food and drink, visits with friends, making new friends, and fun in a festive atmosphere. Great, right?

Here's what better. I've attended many local charity events over the years and this one in particular really gives a blueprint of how to run a successful auction. Let me break it down (the points below are in no particular order).

1. Enthusiasm, hands down. My friend Rachael and her auction team really sold the fun and excitement of this event through word of mouth and written advertising. Upon attending the auction, I watched as EACH auction chairperson happily introduced themselves to auction patrons and warmly welcomed their support with a sense of fun and purpose.

2. Energy and momentum. Again, the auction team was tireless and hardworking throughout the event, but had fun too! The auction was lively yet moved at a nice pace (not too fast, so folks would get overwhelmed, but not too slow, so folks would lose interest).

3. Venue. The Tacoma Yacht Club features panoramic views of Commencement Bay and maritime scenery. Parking was ample and employees of the club were friendly and helpful. Food and drinks were great and food service and delivery was timely and efficient.

4. TELL people to dress casually and they shall come! This auction said hey, wear your favorite jeans and add a little sparkle just for fun. Jeans? Did you hear the collective sigh of relief? The Pacific Northwest is a casual place and to honor that makes people feel comfortable.

5. Procure, procure, procure (and get stuff for everyone). The auction team had a number of items (from art to beauty treatments, to restaurant fare, to sports equipment, to trips and everything in between). There were items to fit every budget, taste, and lifestyle.

6. Give a healthy dose of the auction RECIPIENTS and keep reminding folks why they are there. The children were represented well with artwork, student pictures to mark the tables, and many terrific class projects for family and friends to bid on. Plus as an added bonus, lots of teachers, the principal and other school staff were on hand to celebrate and participate. In fact, the teachers had the rowdiest table in my opinion.

7. A great emcee and auctioneer. That adds fun, interest, and professionalism. Again, this auction hit the mark!

8. A great seating and weather plan! Silent auction items were moved outdoors on the spacious deck area but were nicely covered with an enclosed tent with a view and heat lamps. Plus, having a SECOND bar there was an added bonus! Having items out in this area, freed up space on the interior for comfortable dining and visiting.

Here are some more pics of our evening!

Here is my husband Rick bidding away!

Ah, the dessert auction! This was the most PERFECT red velvet cake I have EVER eaten!

My friend Nina and I feeling happy. Well done Lowell!

Meet Harry the Hiker....

Here's a little help to have a discussion...along with some colouring fun!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Soledad O'Brien's Latest CNN Special On Haiti

I found the article whose website address is right below this enlightening. It focuses on the needs of our sisters and brothers in Haiti, Ms. O'Brien's own children, and her understanding of race and color in the USa. Please note the time when her latest report on Haiti will be presented this Saturday in our area.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May: World-Wide Lyme Awareness Month

Yesterday, around the world, folks stood up for the Lyme disease community. People wore green, in ribbons, clothing, bracelets, buttons, and necklaces. Signs were put up that said, "Lyme Lives Here," or, "Surviving Lyme" in windows and on gateposts. Radio spots and interviews talked about Lyme and screenings of the Lyme documentary Under Our Skin were put on, including our screening at the Key Center Public Library. This push will be going on for the entire month of May. We do it to be heard...and we do it for you.

May is Lyme Awareness Month because it is the most dangerous month of the year. In May, nymph ticks are no bigger than poppy seeds but can still carry the same stew of infections as the easier to see adult tick. It's been estimated that thirty percent of ticks carry infections in the Northern California Redwood country, and they just love the cooler, wet climate we have around Puget Sound. Here, ticks can happily live out their two-year cycle of life, tucked in the wood or leaf pile...riding on the deer..or birds..or rodents.

Inside all the screenings, the interviews, the community outreach and every advocacy conversation, is the hope to educate my community. I want folks to be able to enjoy the wildness that beautifully surrounds us, knowing how to keep themselves safe from a debilitating mish-mash of bacterial infections. Then there are those screenings that mean the most to us, like yesterday, when a family recognizes their loved one in the cases presented within the film. After years of being told it's all in their head, they find a possible physical cause and other families with similar stories to validate theirs.

It doesn't get any more grassroots than families, who are sick and tired, pulling together to wave the green, to show "Under Our Skin," to shout in very small voices that there is an epidemic in the world that is being allowed to grow, unchecked, so that a small group who call themselves doctors and medical researchers can hold on tooth and nail to their already tattered reputations. Never mind that it's going to cost millions of dollars in this state, in this country, and in this world, to uphold that fantasy. Never mind these boots of denial, stomping across my daughter's sick-bed, stomping across the graves of our friends and world-wide Lyme community.

I don't want to have political arguments about health-care reform, but I will fight for my daughter and all the good people of Washington State to have the right, when dealing with Lyme and other vector-borne infections, to a choice. Let the patients and families choose whether to follow the IDSA Guidelines of doing not enough in the beginning of infection and NOTHING for the tertiary stage, or the ILADS Guidelines that use long-term antibiotics and supplements to maintain a quality of life. State after state after state, that has become soaked with the Lyme bacteria, has passed legislation allowing this choice. California already has laws in place. It would behoove Washington to do the same.