Janet Pelz's Activity Typepad Typepad tag:typepad.com,2003:profile.typepad.com/services/activity/atom/ tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6p0120a64c3e4e970b Janet Pelz http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/person http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a64c3e4e970b tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b019aff4f7779970d Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2013-09-10T23:06:01Z <p><em>- Janet Pelz</em></p> <p>It’s a big week for women featured on this web site.</p> <p>Tuesday morning, September 11, Marla Smith will appear on the Today Show, talking about her work bringing clean drinking water and sanitation to Ethiopia, Bangladesh and other places around the globe. Her network television appearance follows a citation by SELF Magazine as a <strong>Woman Doing Good</strong>, along with fellow honorees Shakira, and Padma Lakshmi. An excerpt follows below, or read the full story by picking up the magazine on your newsstand. Read my How Does She Do It? story <a href="http://http://www.typepad.com/site/blogs/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c/post/6a0120a64c3e4e970b012876585ff8970c/edit">here</a>, and better yet, support the work of Water 1<sup>st</sup> by making a contribution <a href="http://water1st.org/donate/">here</a>.</p> <p>The Lifesaver: Marla Smith-Nilson</p> <p><strong>by <a href="http://www.self.com/contributors/erin-bried">Erin Bried </a>, SELF Magazine</strong></p> <p>Marla Smith-Nilson, a <a href="http://www.self.com/women-doing-good">Woman Doing Good</a>, helps communities access clean drinking water through Water 1st. "If you give people water," she says, "it transforms their lives."</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b019aff4f776a970d-pi"><img alt="clip_image001" border="0" height="245" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b019aff4f776e970d-pi" style="background-image: none; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; display: inline; padding-right: 0px; border: 0px;" title="clip_image001" width="429" /></a></p> <p>During a family trip to northern Mexico when she was 12, Marla Smith-Nilson was water-skiing on a lake when she saw a local girl fill a container with lake water, strap it to her back and head off. "It seemed so wrong," Smith-Nilson says. "My life was completely different just because I was lucky enough to be born 70 miles north." Today, around a billion people lack access to clean drinking water, and Smith-Nilson, 44, a civil engineer and founder of Water 1st, is working on lowering that number by helping communities in Ethiopia, Honduras, Bangladesh and India drill wells or tap mountain springs. "I want every person to have what we take for granted: clean water," she says. "It's totally possible in my lifetime."</p> <p>In addition to Marla’s recognition…</p> <p>Kathleen Flenniken earned one of the six 2013 Washington Book Awards for her volume of poetry, Plume. Read her How Does She Do It? story by scrolling down the page. You can purchase her book by clicking the Amazon ad to your right.</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b019104a34fd5970c Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2013-08-08T01:43:22Z <p><em>- Janet Pelz</em></p> <p>Kathleen Flenniken turned my perception of poetry upside down when she offered the attribute of convenience. “You have time to write poems when you have small children. You have little bits of time and poems feel like they’re a better match for that,” she described, reflecting back on how her pursuit of this craft fit within the daily chaos of young motherhood.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0192ac6cc12c970d-pi"><img align="right" alt="Kathleen F 1" border="0" height="244" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b019104a34fa1970c-pi" style="background-image: none; float: right; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; margin: 0px 0px 0px 5px; display: inline; padding-right: 0px; border-width: 0px;" title="Kathleen F 1" width="244" /></a></p> <p>When I was at that stage, I would have had “take a shower”, or “clean away the minefield of plastic toys” filling that bit of time. Poetry -- not the reading of and certainly not the writing of it -- would not have seemed like something to wedge between diaper changes and playground excursions. I always harbored the idea that poems required ponderous hours of contemplation by the reader; which by extension would require thousands more for the writer. But Kathleen, enrolled as she was in an evening poetry writing course and with young children at home, grabbed the space to spin bursts of inspiration into analogies and metaphors and put them to paper.</p> <p>Before the birth of her second child, Kathleen spent her working hours as a civil engineer. Stationed at the Hanford Nuclear site, the archeology of this nation’s race to atomic weaponry, she monitored groundwater for radioactive contamination. Her job was the natural outgrowth of a BA in Engineering from Washington State University, followed by an MA in the same field from UW.</p> <blockquote> <p>The Hanford Site is a mostly decommissioned nuclear production complex on the Columbia River in Eastern Washington. Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, the site was home to the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world. Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb, and in Fat Man, the bomb detonated over Nagasaki Japan. -  <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanford_Nuclear_Reservation" target="_blank">Wikipedia</a></p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01901ead6e59970b-pi"><img alt="hanford_reactor seattle times" border="0" height="248" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b019104a34fa7970c-pi" style="background-image: none; float: none; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; margin-left: auto; display: block; padding-right: 0px; margin-right: auto; border-width: 0px;" title="hanford_reactor seattle times" width="376" /></a></p> <blockquote> <p>          The B Reactor at Hanford from The Seattle Times</p> </blockquote> <p>That she would find herself working at Hanford was also a natural fit, having grown up in nearby Richland, Washington, where the nuclear site has been the town’s major industry. Her father was a PhD scientist working at Hanford during its heyday. Looking back she admits, “Engineering was never a really great match for me. I think I went into it in part because I wanted to please my dad, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I wanted to do architecture for a while, but didn’t have the guts to follow through. I was very worried about being rejected in those days.”</p> <p>When her childcare provider moved away, Kathleen had a reason to put her engineering practice aside. Looking for something to balance her newfound stay-at-home-mother status she perused the Experimental College course catalog. After trying classes in handwriting analysis and jazz improvisation, she chose an evening poetry writing class. </p> <p>“From my very first class I took it seriously. It didn’t feel like just a night class. I thought, ‘wow! I really want to do this!’ Right away, I was trying to be conscientious and working on it as hard as I could.”</p> <p>After finishing that class, she took it again. And again. She developed a peer group of poets and found a mentor in her teacher. And more and more of those bursts of time got filled with writing.</p> <p>“I don’t know, I think our passions find us in some way. It just kind of hit me on the head when I was ready for it. Growing up I played piano, but I never wanted to practice. I don’t mind practicing at poetry. Everything about it is something I enjoy. I love the drafts, I love the revisions, I love reading it, I  love talking about it. I don’t even mind sending work out. I don’t love being rejected – maybe that’s one thing. But there was never that feeling of, ugh, I don’t want to practice.”</p> <p>This was back in the days when Washington State did not have a Poet Laureate, not that Kathleen would have given it much thought. It would be several years before she knew that such a position could exist, her first awareness coming much later, when she learned that <a href="http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/rita-dove" target="_blank">Rita Dove</a> was the Poet Laureate of the United States.</p> <p>Fast forward through two published volumes of works and decades of practice later, Kathleen Flenniken became Washington State’s Poet Laureate in 2012, having been chosen for the work she had already produced and for the agenda of poetry literacy she proposed to bring to people throughout this state.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0192ac6cc138970d-pi"><img align="left" alt="kathleen f 9" border="0" height="188" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0192ac6cc140970d-pi" style="background-image: none; float: left; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; margin: 0px 0px 0px 2px; display: inline; padding-right: 0px; border-width: 0px;" title="kathleen f 9" width="253" /></a> From engineer to poet, it was a transition that this mother of three embraces as perfectly natural. If natural sums up Kathleen’s life path it also describes her personality. Cuddling a cup of tea at my dining room table, words and laughter spill from her without restraint. If poets are supposed to be pompous and pedantic, Kathleen did not get the memo. The character she evinces before me is evident in her poems. Straightforward, accessible, and, well, natural.</p> <blockquote> <p>“The curtain lifts on Bryant Elementary School’s Spring Recorder Recital. Ninety third-graders fumble with their instruments, take a breath</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>and blow. Their parents, braced, breathe too as “Hot Crossed Buns” emerges, a little scattershot -- the Normal Distribution brought to life.”</p> <p>From Kathleen’s poem, “The Beauty of the Curve”, excerpted from <span style="text-decoration: underline;">Famous </span>(University of Nebraska Press, 2006)</p> </blockquote> <p>“I think my style as a write is quite pared down. I don’t write ornate sentences or anything of that sort; it’s a kind of clean, lined style. Probably influenced by the science writing that I did for many years.”</p> <p>More than a decade after her first poetry class, Kathleen embarked on a project that returned her to her roots. Armed with distance and knowledge, she turned her craft on the dark secrets of the Hanford Nuclear site and the culture it engendered in her home town. In an interview with Dick Gordon for The Story, on American Public Media, Kathleen talks about facing -- and embracing -- the truths that touched every aspect of her childhood. (Listen to the full interview  <a href="http://www.thestory.org/stories/2013-07/poetry-atomic-city">here</a>. You’ll hear Kathleen’s wonderful voice talking of her experience growing up in Richland and reading some of her poems aloud).<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0192ac6cc146970d-pi"><img alt="photo_credit_alexander_flenniken" border="0" height="282" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b019104a34fb3970c-pi" style="background-image: none; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; display: inline; padding-right: 0px; border-width: 0px;" title="photo_credit_alexander_flenniken" width="421" /></a></p> <blockquote> <p>Kathleen Flenniken at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, Photo credit Alexander Flenniken</p> </blockquote> <p>Her second volume of poetry, <span style="text-decoration: underline;">Plume</span>, (University of Washington Press, 2012), is “a whole book of poems about Hanford. I wanted to write about a subject. And for me that’s the most dangerous, most difficult writing I can do. Writing towards a subject is difficult to come off as a real poem because It often comes off as an assignment or a little mini essay. It doesn’t always have the right kind of turn that I’m looking for in a poem. I wrote a lot of those poems that did not go into the book.”</p> <blockquote> <p>During the Cold War, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation was expanded to include nine nuclear reactors and five large plutonium processing complexes, which produced plutonium for most of the 60,000 weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Many of the early safety procedures and waste disposal practices were inadequate, and government documents have since confirmed that Hanford’s operations released significant amounts of radioactive materials into the air and the Columbia River, which still threaten the health of residents and ecosystems.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>The Hanford site represents two-thirds of the nation’s high-level radioactive waste by volume. Today, Hanford is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is the focus of the nation’s largest environmental cleanup. - <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanford_Nuclear_Reservation">Wikipedia</a></p> </blockquote> <p>By its reviews, <span style="text-decoration: underline;">Plume</span> succeeded. It has been hailed as: "Not only an education about Washington State and its role in the Nuclear Age but of an awakening in the American public as well as the poet herself to the peculiar dangers of invisible poisons and of trusting too much the authorities of science and government." (Jeannine Hall Gailey, The Rumpus, May 2012)</p> <p>Included in this volume are pieces coming to terms with the death of her good friend Carolyn’s father, who was given a diagnosis when he was in his 50‘s of “a chromosomal deviation consistent with people in Hiroshima. But doctors in Hanford attributed his illness to farm chemicals.” Unlike Kathleen’s father, Carolyn’s dad was among those who did the plant’s physical work, which put them in close proximity to radioactive elements.</p> <blockquote> <p>“at the same time inside your marrow</p> <p>blood cells began to err one moment efficient the next </p> <p>a few gone wrong stunned by exposure to radiation </p> <p>as you milled uranium into slugs or swabbed down </p> <p>train cars or reported to B Reactor for a quick run-in </p> <p>run-out”</p> <p>Excerpted from “To Carolyn’s Father”, <span style="text-decoration: underline;">Plume,</span> (University of Washington Press, 2012)</p> </blockquote> <p>“Some people think that poetry shouldn’t be helpful. Some think poems should be art for art sake -- and I do believe they need to be artful to work, but I also think they can be more than that. I think they can ask hard questions. Not necessarily provide answers, but I think they can be a stepping off place for a conversation, for thinking.”</p> <p>I ask her to talk about one of her poems that she thinks might describe this aspect of helpfulness, but she demurs. “That makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable. Because, if it falls short for someone, I wouldn’t want to be saying, oh, this is such a great poem I wrote.” But after some prodding, she relents.</p> <p>“There’s a a poem in <span style="text-decoration: underline;">Plume </span>called <em>Rattlesnake Mountain.</em> On its surface it’s a description of a landmark mountain on the outskirts of Richland, on the perimeter of the Hanford Nuclear site. The poem is about the mountain, but it’s also about how we got there; Richland, the history, the Manhattan Project. How we saw this place as empty and ugly, which allowed us to savage it. When I grew up I used to think it was ugly too. I thought we lived in an ugly landscape. And now, when I look at it I see it’s very beautiful. I can finally see how it’s a sacred place that we have fouled. I’ve had people tell me that the poem matters to them. Because they both love the place but they feel shame about the environmental calamity there, and the poem reflects both.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0192ac6cc14e970d-pi"><img align="left" alt="rattlesnake mountain" border="0" height="196" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0192ac6cc153970d-pi" style="background-image: none; float: left; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; margin: 0px 5px 0px 0px; display: inline; padding-right: 0px; border-width: 0px;" title="rattlesnake mountain" width="271" /></a>“...the mountain’s folds and shadows </p> <p>roll with stars, soft April greens, and lupine, </p> <p>belying missile silos hidden in catacombs </p> <p>and the waste of 50 years of atomic bombs. </p> <blockquote> <p>Our families all came from elsewhere, </p> <p>and regarded the desert as empty, </p> <p>and ugly, which gave us permission </p> <p>to savage the land. The Mountain, </p> <p>figure in repose, looked on </p> <p>as we buried what we buried at its hem.” </p> <p>From the poem “Rattlesnake Mountain”, <span style="text-decoration: underline;">Plume</span>, (University of Washington Press, 2012)</p> </blockquote> <p>Writing about Hanford, Kathleen saw her poems help tell a story that was important to many people, which has provoked her to keep moving in that direction. Today, she says, “I find myself writing about America; my confusion about where we are as a country. I’m writing those poems because I need to do it for myself, but I think if I’m successful they will be helpful for other people. The more I write the more ambitious I get for my writing.”</p> <p>Getting to the point of success in poetry Kathleen enjoys now was a long process with much work and many sacrifices along the way. One of those being her well-paying engineering career. She admits, that decision wasn’t without its burdens. “Oh yes, there was a lot of guilt. I remember one of my advisors in my engineering Masters program sitting me down and asking, ‘you’re not one of those women who get a Masters who gives it up to have babies and never uses it?’ And I was like, ‘oh no!’ I can’t tell you how many times that conversation came up in my mind when I was in that shifting period.”</p> <p>I reminded her of conversations we had many years back in the days I was coaching our daughters’ basketball team, my initial introduction to Kathleen and her family. That was when Kathleen was knitting together small writing contracts. I asked her about her transition from night class student to professional poet.</p> <p>“Now, that’s the really hard part. Taking your work seriously is one thing and really applying yourself is one thing; saying in public that you’re a poet, now that’s a really difficult thing to do. And for me it came in stages, through getting paid, which means teaching. I found my way as a teaching artist, first through Washington State Arts Commission, their artists roster, and then Writers in the Schools, and then through organizations like Jack Straw. I feel conventional in that sense that I had to get paid to do the work to be able to call myself a writer. Once I did have checks coming in, small checks, <em>really</em> small checks, it was easier for me to call myself a poet.”<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01901ead6e71970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="kathleen 8" border="0" height="187" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01901ead6e76970b-pi" style="background-image: none; float: right; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; margin: 0px 2px 0px 0px; display: inline; padding-right: 0px; border-width: 0px;" title="kathleen 8" width="255" /></a></p> <p>And then, with new focus, Kathleen sits up straight to make a point. “I should mention too my husband, who is <em>very </em>supportive through all of this. My husband is quite remarkable. He’s very open to letting me be who I want to be, and he always has been. When we first met I was a bit frustrated because it seemed that he wasn’t hands-on enough. I had some kernel of old-fashioned ideas about what a relationship should be, and thank God, he wasn’t like that. He’s the kind who hangs on loosely. So, that’s really been helpful, to allow me to find my way.”</p> <p>When I ask Kathleen to define that phrase, “hangs on loosely”, she seems pleased and surprised that the phrase escaped her lips. “It’s from some old pop song -- horrible old pop song. I don’t even remember it.”</p> <p>Interesting, I point out, that she would draw from song lyrics, which are a form of poetry. “Well, that’s why we have poems in our society! They fulfill a purpose. They are there when you need them. When I say, ‘hanging on loosely’ -- I mean, his ego and his happiness are not tied up in what I do, they are tied up the way we care for each other and our family. I let go of a fairly lucrative career choice for one that is <em>much</em> less so, but he was fine with that because I was happier.”</p> <p>As well as her husband, Kathleen’s children have also been very supportive of her pursuit.</p> <p>“I know that they are proud of me. This is something they have had to sacrifice for because I am away a lot. My daughter, especially. I bought ballet tickets for us and I haven’t been able to go to a single ballet. She’s gone with friends, twice with her dad. He sort of got dragged along but it turns out he’s enjoying it! It’s nice for them that they have this, but that wasn’t the intention. <em>I </em>was supposed to go with her. I know she’s disappointed that I didn’t go to any of them, but she’s a good sport about it. And my family knows it’s not forever. So I’m lucky. Having said that, they can only tolerate so much poetry talk before they glaze over. Yeah, they keep me humble.” </p> <p>As someone who reads mountains but almost never poetry, I asked Kathleen to put on her Poet Laureate hat and advise me on becoming a poetry reader. “I think a great way to find voices that speak to you is to check out anthologies. A collection with of a lot of voices. It’s guaranteed there will be <em>many</em> poems there that you will not like, but just turn the page and keep reading. And try something else. Even if you’re just reading half a poem, keep at it. If you find one just one poet who speaks to you, find a book of that poet’s work and read the book. And maybe you’ll find that poet leads you to another poet. And that’s what takes you in the door.</p> <p>“Poetry is like music. You’ll not like at least as many poems as you do, probably more. You just need to give yourself a chance to find the ones that speak to you. It’s not as easy as dialing the radio around. You have to be more proactive about it.”</p> <p>And what separates poetry from other literary forms? After admitting that as Poet Laureate she feels she should have a better answer to this question she responds. “Well, it does have the song quality. So distilled. And it’s so much about sound and image. Poems don’t have to be burdened by stories. They go back into our history so far -- that idea of people sitting around the fire, telling stories through poems because there’s the rhythm that helps you remember them. I think poems need to work out loud to really be poems.”</p> <p>Finishing up this story, I have a couple minutes before making dinner. I think I’ll read a poem.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b019104a34fc0970c-pi"><img alt="poet2" border="0" height="469" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b019104a34fc9970c-pi" style="background-image: none; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; display: inline; padding-right: 0px; border-width: 0px;" title="poet2" width="363" /></a></p> <p>The poet is shown here, overlaid by her own poem, “Natural History”</p> <p>PHOTO CREDIT: Hayley Young (Seattle Magazine)</p> <p><strong>Kathleen Flenniken’s Not-So-Secrets for How She Does It?</strong></p> <p>On the demands of the job of Poet Laureate: </p> <ul> <li>“Basically it’s a full time job. It’s more than I’ve ever worked since I’ve had children. It bleeds over my entire day. I’m working all day long; after dinner, I’m working in the evening. </li> <li>“There are lots of things I can’t really pursue right now. The house is a mess. Floors need to be refinished. I look forward to having some time to buy some new lights for the dining room. Some of those things that I love to do. </li> <li>Despite that, “I try to enjoy everything I do as much as I can. Part of that is knowing it’s only two years. It’s like an adventure, like a vacation. You’re accumulating experiences and you can think about them later when it’s snowing outside. </li> <li>“I’ve learned how to let go of my mistakes. I used to hang onto them. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and punish myself severely for some stupid thing I said, or a missed opportunity. I try not to do that any more. I move on to the next thing. I let go. I let go of my accidents, and try to look forward to the next opportunity.” </li> </ul> <p>On the importance of friends and mentors in guiding her transition from engineer to poet:</p> <ul> <li>“It’s no accident that I had to make a new set of friends when I became a poet. You surround yourself with people who understand that world. My new friends make me feel comfortable with my choices. </li> <li>“I’ve had mentors and they’ve have mattered immensely to me. That’s been a real source of comfort and joy. </li> <li>“I have a wonderful friend who has been my mentor. When I was 4 or 5 years into my writing I decided I wanted to go to the next level, so I found a poet. I had one of her books that I loved, and I found her on-line and contacted her to see if she would take on a private student. She has been there every step of the way ever since. And even though I’m at the stage where I shouldn’t need to have someone tell me it’s ok, if there were one person I would need to say it’s ok, it’s Sharon. I ended up getting a Masters in Creative Writing from PLU and she was my thesis advisor. She said, you’re already doing the work, so why not get the degree, so I decided to do it. </li> </ul> <p>On knowing whether a poem is finished:</p> <ul> <li>“One thing is sitting with it for a while. I have a fairly bad habit of thinking after I’ve finished the draft of a poem -- oh, this is fantastic! This is wonderful! Then coming back to it a few days later and realizing, this isn’t wonderful at all. So the first step is incubator, let it sit for a while. </li> <li>“Another is sending it out and see if it’s rejected. When you open the results and see it was rejected, yes you’re disappointed, but there’s that 5 minute period where you can see the poem with different eyes. And that’s often a gift. Sometimes that helps you locate the problems. Maybe helps you find a solution to the problem. Or maybe you realize, this piece isn’t as good as you thought it was.” </li> </ul> <p><strong>What has Kathleen read recently?</strong></p> <ul> <li>“I’ve been asked to write a lot of blurbs. And of course, when you write a blurb, you have to read the book very carefully. You have to read it a couple times with great care. I’ve been reading with a lot of intentionality. Whereas it would be fun to read a fun book, like last summer I read, <span style="text-decoration: underline;">Financial Lives of the Poets</span>, which was just a fun book, that made me laugh. It’s by Jess Walters.  He’s a Spokane author, he’s great, he’s fantastic.” </li> </ul> <p><strong>Who Should I Interview Next?</strong></p> <ul> <li>Executive Director of Jack Straw -- Joan Rabinowitz .  She built the organization into an arts and cultural center; financially in the black; they own their own building; they do all sorts of wonderful work across lots of cultural boundaries. She is an amazing collaborator. Works with all sorts of other organizations. She’s somebody who keeps going. Really smart and fun. She’d be great. They just won a Mayor’s arts award. Very accomplished. </li> <li>Barbara Earl Thomas. I love her to pieces. She says 10 smart things every minute, she’s amazing. </li> <li>Liz Mattson -- works for Hanford Challenge, an advocacy organization. She’s taking on the work of trying to get people to know about the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. </li> </ul> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0191046c572d970c Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2013-07-26T23:21:00Z <p><em>- Janet Pelz</em></p> <p>Hello friends. </p> <p>I know you probably thought I had disappeared permanently, but I’m merely taking advantage of the ultimate flex-time – writing when life allows.</p> <p>I wanted to touch base before my next story, coming soon (-ish), about <a class="zem_slink" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathleen_Flenniken" rel="wikipedia" target="_blank" title="Kathleen Flenniken">Kathleen Flenniken</a>, Washington’s Poet Laureate. Wonderful woman, wonderful story, wonderful work.</p> <p>But first, a couple updates. One happy, exciting; and one quite sad.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/01/how-does-she-own-and-operate-a-restaurant-in-these-economic-times-while-raising-a-son-and-supporting-community-organizations.html" target="_blank">Donna Moodie</a>, one of my first profiles, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $75,000 to launch a new product: Miss Marjorie’s Steel Drum Plantains.</p> <p><img align="left" alt="Miss Marjorie's Steel Drum Plantains...Perfectly Spiced!" height="374" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/ksr/assets/000/701/911/962cdf1134193da9f42deffd63f108b2_large.jpg?1372268083" style="float: left; margin: 0px 11px 0px 0px; display: inline;" width="262" /></p> <p>I’ve been hearing about Kickstarter campaigns for a while and figured this was a great opportunity to give it a try. I know Donna hopes you will, too. Click on to her Kickstarter site <a href="http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/15150055/miss-marjories-steel-drum-plantains-go-retail" target="_blank">here</a>, and watch the video featuring Donna’s son along with a cameo appearance by <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/04/stephanie-ellis-smith-volunteering-changed-her-life-and-it-could-change-yours.html" target="_blank">Stephanie Ellis Smith</a>, whose story you can also read on How Does She Do It?<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0192ac359ce3970d-pi"><img align="right" alt="Donna" border="0" height="244" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0191046c5717970c-pi" style="background-image: none; float: right; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; display: inline; padding-right: 0px; border: 0px;" title="Donna" width="184" /></a></p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p>Here is a message from Donna:</p> <blockquote> <p>It takes a village!</p> <p>It's time to take it up a notch!  I am reaching out to you to ask for a little assistance with my Kickstarter Campaign to create a retail version of Miss Marjorie's Steel Drum Plantains (our signature appetizer).  If you are unaware of Kickstarter, it's this awesome Crowd Funding Program that allows entrepreneurs (that's me!) to ask their community (that's you!) to support them in an entrepreneurial endeavor (that's bringing the beloved Plantain from my restaurant to your table!).  The catch?  There isn't one, really.  I can only keep the funds if my campaign reaches its goal. And most successful campaigns go somewhat viral (that means friends and colleagues continually reach out to their communities on behalf of the campaign).  So I am asking you to take a look at my Campaign, and tell your friends, colleagues and family.  It works very much like NPR and current Political Campaigns…no amount is too small!  It's not what you give, it's <strong>THAT</strong> you give. Your support would mean a lot to me!  And thanks for jumping on board early!</p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>The next update is certainly of a different tenor.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/03/melissa-erickson-an-athlete-teammate-and-friend-living-with-als.html" target="_blank">Melissa Erickson</a>, the former University of Washington and pro basketball player battling ALS, passed away on June 5. I learned of her passing while out of town and was sad not to be able to attend the service, which I pictured as being full of the spirit and joy of Mo. You can read the news <a href="http://seattletimes.com/html/huskies/2021131746_ericksonobit07xml.html" target="_blank">here</a>.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0192ac359ced970d-pi"><img alt="Erickson2" border="0" height="343" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0191046c5722970c-pi" style="background-image: none; float: none; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; margin-left: auto; display: block; padding-right: 0px; margin-right: auto; border: 0px;" title="Erickson2" width="233" /></a></p> <p>Life is on the move. Let me hear what’s moving in your life and who you hope I’ll interview next.</p> <p>Thanks for hanging in there.</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b017ee9a0d6ea970d Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2013-03-21T20:59:32Z <blockquote> <p>- Janet Pelz</p> </blockquote> <p>Never mind.</p> <p>I had hoped to post a two-part story of Sister Charlayne Brown, SNJM, following four interviews and a great deal of writing. Alas, at the last minute, Sister Char just wasn’t able to do it. She didn’t feel comfortable having a story about her life accessible to anyone and everyone on the internet. So we pulled the plug.</p> <p>Yes, I’m disappointed, but it would be far worse for all involved if the story was posted and <i>then</i> she had misgivings.</p> <p>In the process of researching for her story, I did come upon a great deal of information that speaks to the changing role of nuns in today’s American Catholic Church. Following a brief introduction of Sister Char, there follow two profiles of interesting Sisters from Charlayne’s congregation. And following these, some perspective on the Vatican’s recent crackdown on the LWCR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious).</p> <p>I may try to find another Sister to write about. But in the meantime, I welcome your suggestions of other women whose stories should be told. Please send me your ideas in the comment box that follows this article.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b017d422d0797970c-pi"><img title="sister char" style="border-left-width: 0px; border-right-width: 0px; background-image: none; border-bottom-width: 0px; float: left; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; margin: 0px 16px 0px 0px; display: inline; padding-right: 0px; border-top-width: 0px" border="0" alt="sister char" align="left" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b017d422d07a0970c-pi" width="203" height="269" /></a></p> <p> </p> <p>My friend, Sister Charlayne Brown</p> <p>It has been years since Sister Charlyne Brown, SNJM, stood at her father’s hospital bed dressed in her habit made of “yards and yards of black wool serge. In Hawaii. It’s hot there!” In the many years since that day, more than her habit has changed. The Church itself has swung like a pendulum, back and forth from before and after Vatican II. So has the meaning to her of the vows she took, 46 years ago, providing more significance to the terms of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience.</p> <p>Today at age 71, her black habit and coif have been replaced with a comfortable sweat suit and sneakers -- the unofficial “uniform” of many students at Holy Names Academy high school where Sister Char works part-time as Service Coordinator and Assistant for Campus Ministries.</p> <p>The oldest, continuously operating school in Washington State, Holy Names Academy has been educating young women for 132 years in the tradition of Sister Mary Rose DuRocheur, who founded the congregation in Montreal in 1844. In addition to its ongoing mission of education for women and girls are the core values of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM), which include dedication to justice, and service to people who are poor and marginalized.</p> <p>Stories of two SNJM Sisters:</p> <p><strong>Meet Janet Walton, SNJM </strong></p> <p>Professor of Worship, Union Theological Seminary, NYC</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b017c37fdbe10970b-pi"><img title="clip_image001" style="border-left-width: 0px; border-right-width: 0px; background-image: none; border-bottom-width: 0px; float: right; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; margin: 0px 0px 2px 7px; display: inline; padding-right: 0px; border-top-width: 0px" border="0" alt="clip_image001" align="right" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b017ee9a0d6c5970d-pi" width="184" height="184" /></a><b><i>For me, making the decision to join the SNJM community—and staying here for over 50 years, is all about making 'connections.'</i></b></p> <p>My connection to the community is driven by deep friendships —and my commitment to social justice. The community helps me live as justly as I can in this world, and makes it possible for me to become involved in important world issues. That's why, for example, I participate in the Congregational Justice and Peace Committee. The committee makes recommendations about how we can become involved in actions intended to create a more just world. To date, the committee has focused on the Congregation's corporate stands: anti-trafficking and water as a basic human right. We are currently developing a recommendation around immigration issues.</p> <p><b><i>'For Sisters of the Holy Names, teaching is about more than running good schools—it's also about training students to be good citizens of the world.'</i></b></p> <p>I am a grad school teacher, but I also work on the streets and on the margins of society. My students at Union Theological Seminary started a program in the 1980s called Bridges, which connected the wealthy population of Summit, NJ, with the homeless population of New York City. I went out with them on this work. Our goal was not just to bring food and clothes, but to get to know them as human beings. The people who live in boxes are my teachers, too.</p> <p><strong>Meet Lois MacGillivray, SNJM </strong></p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b017ee9a0d6cb970d-pi"><img title="clip_image002" style="border-left-width: 0px; border-right-width: 0px; background-image: none; border-bottom-width: 0px; float: left; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; margin: 0px 10px 0px 0px; display: inline; padding-right: 0px; border-top-width: 0px" border="0" alt="clip_image002" align="left" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b017ee9a0d6d0970d-pi" width="184" height="244" /></a><b><i>"The Sisters of the Holy Names stood out. They were always their own unique selves—funny, wise, and full of faith."</i></b></p> <p>Of course, my teachers at Ramona gave me more than lessons—they gave me the gift of themselves. In an era of 'cookie-cutter' Sisters, the Sisters of the Holy Names stood out. They were always their unique selves—funny, wise, and full of faith. Even back then when relationships were so structured, Holy Names Sisters were their own human, beautiful selves—that's what made them so attractive to me and other students. They knew how to be totally present to their students, so that even when they wore habits they seemed approachable.</p> <p>One day when I was a freshman doing my homework, it came to me that God was calling me to be a Sister. I thought about other communities, but the Holy Names Sisters were the ones that I knew and admired. And, since I knew they were great teachers—and that's what I wanted to be—the SNJM community was a perfect fit for me. So, one step after another, I worked my way to my senior year, and asked if I could enter. I graduated in June and entered the community in July at Los Gatos.</p> <p>In 1967, our Provincial Superior, Sr. William Marie, called me in to her office and told me that I was going to graduate school to prepare for a life of applied research. At the time, she and other members of the Conference of Major Superiors of Women (a forerunner of LCWR) were engaged in conversations about how secular social science publications were critical of religion as an obstacle to human development. Since not many Sisters were working in social science, I was intentionally prepared to contribute to the conversation.</p> <p>My early work was for the National Science Foundation, studying the effectiveness of municipal services in U.S. cities during the "stagflation" of the 1970s. The research institute I worked for also initiated economic and social development projects and I helped to administer those in Africa. I returned to California to become president of Holy Names College (now University) in 1982 and co-led the educational development component of the University-Metropolitan Forum to improve the economic prospects of the City of Oakland.</p> <p>In the last five years, I have been a member of a research team assessing the effectiveness of programs to prepare children from birth to five for school, preparing schools to be ready for children who are fragile learners, supporting horizontal philanthropy (the ways that poor communities take care of each other), reducing childhood obesity and reducing recidivism among NC juvenile offenders.</p> <p>Much has changed since I entered the community. The more relaxed, less formal manner that initially attracted me to the Sisters of the Holy Names—has become more pronounced and acceptable. I'm very proud of the ministry work our Sisters do. They've always been thoughtful and prepared. They take their work seriously, but they don't take themselves too seriously.</p> <p><a href="http://www.snjmusontario.org/who-we-are/my-snjm-story" target="_blank">(The two stories above were taken from the web site Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, U.S.- Ontario Province).</a></p> <p><strong>Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Vatican</strong></p> <p>The previous Pope, Pope, Benedict XVI, issued a Doctrinal Assessment against American’s 57,000 Catholic Nuns, represented by the LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious).</p> <p>While recognizing the valuable contributions of Sisters to the Catholic Church, the Doctrinal Assessment takes issue with the organization for statements made by individual nuns that were not renounced by LCWR. It additionally criticizes “LCWR Officers, protesting the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry to homosexual persons.” In addition, “The Cardinal noted a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith in some of the programs and presentations sponsored by the LCWR.”</p> <p>Here’s an introduction to Sister Pat Farrell, head of the LCWR, <a href="http://http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/03/vatican-crackdown-catholic-sister-pat-farrell_n_1735672.html" target="_blank">written by David Gibson, Religion News Services, reprinted on Huffington Post’s Religion Page.</a></p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b017d422d07bc970c-pi"><img title="image" style="border-left-width: 0px; border-right-width: 0px; background-image: none; border-bottom-width: 0px; float: none; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; margin-left: auto; display: block; padding-right: 0px; border-top-width: 0px; margin-right: auto" border="0" alt="image" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b017ee9a0d6dd970d-pi" width="318" height="233" /></a></p> <p>(Sister Pat Farrell in the parish of Cristo Obrero in Arica, Chile about 1984. RNS photo courtesy Sisters of St. Francis).</p> <p>Though she is at the center of one of the biggest crises in the Catholic Church today, Sister Pat Farrell is loath to talk about herself, and certainly not in any way that would make her a focus of the looming showdown between the Vatican and American nuns.</p> <p>To be sure, Farrell has spoken publicly and with quiet clarity about why the organization she heads, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, rejects Rome's plans to take control of the umbrella group that represents most of the 57,000 nuns in the U.S.</p> <p>In announcing its proposed takeover last April, the Vatican accused the nuns of embracing a "radical feminism" that questions church teachings and focuses too much on social justice causes. Farrell says the American sisters are simply doing what the gospel requires, often speaking on behalf of so many in the church who have no one else to advocate for them.</p> <blockquote> <p>                  #                          #                        #</p> </blockquote> <p>Finally, if you need any more reasons to toss aside lingering memories of your strict knuckle-rapping elementary Catholic school teacher, here’s a moving tribute to the significance many nuns have in the lives of people today.</p> <div id="scid:5737277B-5D6D-4f48-ABFC-DD9C333F4C5D:eca6f89c-9a28-4f06-b503-41ad5dfd5a58" class="wlWriterEditableSmartContent" style="float: none; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; margin: 0px; display: inline; padding-right: 0px"><div><object width="448" height="252"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/9m4moW_eFdo?hl=en&hd=1"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/9m4moW_eFdo?hl=en&hd=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="448" height="252"></embed></object></div></div> <p>Let me know what’s on your mind.  Thanks.</p> <p>- Janet</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b017ee93cc19b970d Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2013-03-12T20:21:24Z <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p>With all the focus being given to the selection of a new pope – pundits handicapping the chances of various Cardinals like ponies at the starting gates – this seems like a good time to resurrect my web site. It has been living for quite some time in that black hole of spam. I spend so much time deleting scintillating comments at the end of my pieces with authors bearing names such as “Cheap Cialis at Home” and “Pornographic Online Casinos” that I haven’t had much energy – or time – to do any real writing.</p> <p>While I haven’t been posting, I have been interviewing and interviewing. I hope to have a two-part piece posted soon, the result of many conversations with Sister Charlayne Brown, a woman who 46 years ago took her vows and joined the Sisters of the Holy Names. I figure if my web site attempts to tell the spectrum of women’s lives and the choices they make in leading them, then including a nun in the canon would be essential.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b017c37999404970b-pi"><img alt="SNJM historical" border="0" height="284" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b017ee93cbc97970d-pi" style="background-image: none; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; display: inline; padding-right: 0px; border-width: 0px;" title="SNJM historical" width="429" /></a></p> <p>The Soeurs Nomees Jesus et Marie then…</p> <p>It has been a wonderfully rewarding several months spent over many coffees getting to the point of writing Sister Char’s story. Naively I started this process thinking that someone who made a decision of that magnitude would be reflecting on it with regularity. But Sister or not, Charlayne is like many of the women I’ve written about – unaccustomed yet inspired by the opportunity to look back at the milestones in her life to see the connections. But living a life obedient to a higher calling, she has similarly been careful to keep our conversations within an acceptable boundary, a boundary I’m committed to respect. So the going has been more measured and has taken a good bit more time.</p> <p>Hopefully I’ll have something up before too long. Sister Char and I look forward to reading your comments once it’s up. If you’re a subscriber to the site, you’ll get the post in your in-box. Saves the effort of scanning the horizon for white smoke.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b017c37999416970b-pi"><img alt="SNJM contemporary" border="0" height="233" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b017ee93cbca1970d-pi" style="background-image: none; padding-top: 0px; padding-left: 0px; display: inline; padding-right: 0px; border-width: 0px;" title="SNJM contemporary" width="434" /></a></p> <p>….and the Sisters today.</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b017d3d38c1d1970c Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2012-11-02T22:03:25Z <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p>The technology gremlin undid my effort to post the Gloria Steinem message on why this election is so important particularly for women, so here's a second try. Paste the URL into your browser to connect to my site, where the video is accessible but for some reason is not being transmitted via feed. I promise you'll be glad you spent the 3 minutes watching.</p> <p>www.howdoesshe.typepad.com</p> <p><br /> </p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b017c3300f8b8970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2012-11-01T21:51:07Z <p><em>- Janet Pelz</em></p> <p>Yes, my friends, it is time to awaken the beast.</p> <p>The beast is me, this blog, in case the metaphor was wasted.</p> <p>Using this platform for a last pitch to help get our President re-elected.</p> <p>Could there be any more at stake? Sure, 4 years ago the issue was a war being fought overseas, and yes I had mighty strong opinions about that. This time, the war is being waged here, and women are caught in the crosshairs (or more accurately, the pubic hairs).</p> <p>Ouch!</p> <p>There are some great videos circulating the web, some of which will make you laugh.  But here’s one that I almost guarantee will bring tears to your eyes.</p> <p><strong>Gloria Steinem</strong> on the importance of this election.  Take 3 minutes to watch it. NOW.  And then pass it along, especially to women you know in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado and Nevada.  Those women will determine who wins this election, and this is a goldmine of information to influence their votes.</p> <div class="wlWriterEditableSmartContent" id="scid:5737277B-5D6D-4f48-ABFC-DD9C333F4C5D:084fb425-a339-4dd4-bfd3-83365b5c45a6" style="margin: 0px; display: inline; float: none; padding: 0px;"> <div id="62847c81-603b-4908-a01d-7bc20e587c3f" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; display: inline;"> <div> <object data="http://www.youtube.com/v/OKq0MwnMGcU&hl=en" height="355" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="425"> <param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/OKq0MwnMGcU&hl=en" /> </object> </div> </div> </div> <p> </p> <p>And as for “How Does She Do It?” – yes, I’ve taken a long break.  Somehow, the future of the free world has distracted me.  But I am in the process of interviewing and writing the story of a nun – a story that has taken more than the usual amount of time but has offered more than the usual amount of eye-opening.  Stay tuned.</p> <p>In the meantime, let’s win this darn thing and start doing the work that is far more important to all of us.</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b01630520fd18970d Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2012-05-03T19:36:38Z <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p>Like the French bakery whose scent lures me with the promise of butter on the tongue, I’m drawn to Cicada Bridal to tease my fingers across the textures of raw silk and lace. Not to mention dreaming in the stunning designs and outrageously rich colors.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0167661464f4970b-pi"><img alt="P1020393" border="0" height="319" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0168eb1688fa970c-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="P1020393" width="424" /></a></p> <blockquote> <p><span style="font-size: xx-small;">Starting the day at Cicada, 1121 1st Avenue Seattle 98121</span></p> </blockquote> <p>I’ve been pulled in like this on several occasions since that magical day 15 years ago when I exited the dressing room in a lavender shantung silk column dress to see my friend Judy dialing her cell phone. “I’m calling Mario’s to tell them not to hold that other dress,” she said nodding at me, “because <em>this</em> is what you’re wearing for your wedding.”</p> <p>It was an odd place to find a dress shop, on an upper floor of the old Rainier Office Tower, and one that I happened upon only because of an overwhelming need to pee and a memory of the public restroom hidden nearby. It seemed that much more fatalistic to have found this store, clock ticking the days away before my wedding -- way too soon for a future bride with any sense of decency.</p> <p>I was rescued then by the artistry of Jennifer Gay and Elizabeth Klob, the pair that owns and manages Cicada Bridal as well as designing and sewing the unique pieces of art hanging on the racks where we now sit, in their current shop on First Avenue in downtown Seattle.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b016766146532970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="P1020379" border="0" height="332" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0168eb16893a970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 15px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="P1020379" width="250" /></a> </p> <p>As they will do throughout our interview, the two throw back their heads in laughter thinking back to that old location. “What were we thinking? Why would ANYbody open a dress shop there? It was huuuuuuge; it was like an indoor golf course. All the space you could ever wish for, but nobody could find us.”</p> <p>Playing off each other they recreate some of the more outrageous stories from that phase of their career, including the time an employee took after a thief with a couple of their prized  gowns in a backpack.                                                                        <span style="font-size: xx-small;">Elizabeth (left) and Jen in the shop</span></p> <p>Jen and Elizabeth were in the back of the store, where they spent much of their days at their sewing machines. “You would think half of the dresses would have been stolen,” says Jen laughing.</p> <p>But as odd a location as that one was, it was at least bigger than their prior 1,200 square-foot shop they shared with the go-to designer for the city’s drag queen clientele. “There was a fire in that building,” says Jennifer thinking back. “A fire, but no flood -- <em>there,</em>” Elizabeth picks up. “We’ve been through fires and at least three floods in our current building. I’ve had our insurance on speed dial. It just happens when you’re a retail shop in an old building and you’re underneath condos with plumbing problems.”</p> <p>Oh well, just one more obstacle -- rather, learning opportunity as they prefer to call them -- to push through. If they knew when they first met in the basement of Retro Viva, stitching up creations from whatever bolt of fabric awaited them in the morning, that they would journey together through so many misadventures to get where they are today.... OK, after talking with them for a couple hours I have to guess they would probably do it all over again.</p> <p>“So many young women want to interview us to find out how we did it. Our friend Maggie called. She used to work for us and she’s opening a bridal store in Denver. ‘Oh my God!’, she said, ‘I think about you every single day! How did you do it?’ Here’s how -- we didn’t think about it!”, says Elizabeth, laughing.</p> <p>“We are hard as nails,” declares Jennifer, seriously. “Yes, we are hard as nails, Elizabeth agrees. “We didn’t have time to think. All these people call us and ask how we did it -- It was really 90 percent balls and ignorance. Really!”</p> <p>Jennifer can’t wait to agree. “Oh my God, not a day goes by that we don’t fuck something up and learn a valuable lesson.” This line gets them laughing in stereo. “We are crazy!” says Elizabeth, stating the obvious.</p> <p>Crazy maybe, but after 18 years, also very successful at what they do: designing, sewing, and fitting the perfect dress for any special occasion, from holiday party or prom to wedding. <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01630520f9fb970d-pi"><img align="left" alt="storefront" border="0" height="225" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01630520fa37970d-pi" style="margin: 0px 15px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="storefront" width="381" /></a></p> <p>They met when Jen stopped by Retro Viva to sell some hats she had made. “The big drag queen who worked there was like, you gotta meet Elizabeth down in the basement! And he takes me down to this dank, crap-ass basement, not even a daylight basement, but a basement basement with concrete floors. There’s Elizabeth, working away all by herself down there, weren’t you?” She turns to Elizabeth who throws in a response from the reception desk where she’s attending to details, making it clear that the two are used to jumping seamlessly in and out of each other’s conversation.</p> <p>Jen joined Elizabeth in the basement until the store owner realized she couldn’t make dresses for less than they cost coming from China, “so she very nicely said, “I don’t think we can do this anymore,” and we said, “well, how about we do it ourselves?</p> <p>“One of the things that was helpful is that we weren’t friends first. We walked into the relationship like work associates. It was a totally clean slate, with no weird pre-history. I mean, we learned we could work in a basement eight hours a day without killing each other!” laughs Jen.</p> <p>With a boost from the store owner, who rented them all the equipment at a reasonable rate, they started a wholesale line selling mostly through trade shows. Their showroom was in Georgia “because that’s where our rep was based,” explains Elizabeth. “We were just flying by the design seat of our pants.”</p> <p>“It was a lot of work for just two people,” adds Jen, thinking back. “You’d get an order for a dozen shirts and you’d have to sit down and make a dozen shirts.”</p> <p>After listening to them describe fabric shopping trips to the garment district in New York City and a business where items were made in Seattle and sold in Tennessee I asked for specifics, like how much time and money they were putting into those shirts, and how much they had to charge in order to pay themselves?</p> <p>“Those are GREAT questions that we probably should have been asking ourselves!” answers Jen, laughing once again. “That’s when we realized, we didn’t have any trouble selling our garments,” adds Elizabeth. “We were selling them way too cheap!”</p> <p>“But then we decided we didn’t really like doing wholesale -- it was kind of soul sucking,” Jen reflects. They were running into problems collecting. Some stores went out of business, others bounced checks. “That was really new to us, having to chase down money. And at the same time we were getting a lot of requests to do wedding dresses. The business kind of suggested itself to us. I think we had done about five or six wedding dresses before we decided to put a really small collection together.”<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0167661465e9970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="P1020383" border="0" height="394" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01630520fadf970d-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 15px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="P1020383" width="296" /></a></p> <p>Jen and Elizabeth will both say that the essence of their job is to make each customer feel exceptionally beautiful. “The thing with wedding dresses, we get to buy really top quality fabrics,” says Jen, and it’s evident that behind that statement lies years of polyester and velour remnants. “<em>Really</em> high quality fabrics and we get to put a lot of time into a very special item.”</p> <p>(right: Elizabeth describes a gown she particularly likes these days, noting the textures, layering of fabrics and asymmetric hem)</p> <p>A student of acting, Elizabeth appreciates the dramatic quality of the wedding, with the gown the essential costume. “There are so few rituals left in our lives – I’ve always been drawn to the ritual of a wedding. A woman gets to transform herself as if she’s on stage.”</p> <p>The two of them take seriously their role in making that transformation exactly what their clients want. Says Elizabeth, “If I were asked, What’s the biggest things that’s saved us? Customer service and really listening to our clients. In this business people are so emotional, there is so much at stake. We hear time and time again about bridal shops that are indifferent to their clients. We really, really take our relationships seriously.” And in return? “We get hugs, tears, thank you letters. For all the trials and tribulations of owning your own business, this really means a lot.”</p> <p>Jen handles most of the customer service on the floor while Elizabeth does most of the custom work. They credit their solid work relationship to having discreet areas of responsibility “without getting in each other’s hair,” Elizabeth observes. “We used to fight a lot before we did that,” pipes Jen. “We’re both east coast girls, so we speak our minds; we don’t hold back. When something is wrong we get it out!”</p> <p>There are many gorgeous choices on the floor but if someone is coming in for a specific style, Elizabeth will do a custom design. “I work a lot with full-figured women who can’t get something off the rack but who really want something to flatter them. When we first started out I was eager to please no matter what. And now I’ve gotten to a point where I will not do something that’s not going to look good on the person’s body. I ask them to trust me. Or they say, thank you very much I’ll go elsewhere. But that doesn’t happen too often.”</p> <p>“She’s very good at looking at a ridiculous number of pictures and distilling them into one dress,” says Jen admiringly of her partner. “You’re really good at that.”<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01630520fae9970d-pi"><img align="left" alt="P1020386" border="0" height="295" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01630520fb21970d-pi" style="margin: 0px 20px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="P1020386" width="222" /></a></p> <p>(left: Jen shows one of her favorite party dresses, hand-beaded in India.  One thing Jen loves about owning her own store – the ability to pursue new creative directions.  “Some work, some don’t” she admits).</p> <p>Most of their bridal gowns range in price from $1000 - $1700 with a custom design starting at about $2000. Since the economic downturn they’ve added a less expensive line, more appropriate perhaps for a beach or destination wedding. And on the opposite side of the store is a fabulous variety of eclectic designs for special occasions. So even if you aren’t planning a wedding any time soon, there are dozens of reasons to consider a shopping trip – or sensory indulgence – to Cicada. Either Jen or Elizabeth is likely to be the one welcoming you into the shop.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01630520fb8d970d-pi"><img align="left" alt="elana_th" border="0" height="334" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0167661466ad970b-pi" style="display: inline; margin-left: 0px; margin-right: 0px; border-width: 0px;" title="elana_th" width="222" /></a> <img align="left" alt="heather_bm_th" border="0" height="335" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0168eb168aa0970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 10px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="heather_bm_th" width="221" /></p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p>  (A bridal gown and evening dress in the Cicada collection.  To see more, visit their <a href="http://cicadabridal.com/index.html">web site</a>.  photos by Rathbone Images)</p> <p>While they love their work, it’s not all that fills their lives. They both had children during the course of their partnership. “And we’re both really active, creative people outside of work,” says Jen earnestly. For her part, as you might expect of someone who spends her days sewing wedding gowns, she fills her non-work hours playing drums in local punk bands. She started on her son’s rejected miniature drum kit and still takes lessons at Seattle Drum School. “I love learning new things,” she effuses. Click <a href="http://www.myspace.com/minirexmusic/music">here</a> to listen to her “girl punk” band Minirex, for whom Jen designed the group’s costumes, of course. <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01630520fbe0970d-pi"><img align="right" alt="m" border="0" height="130" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01630520fc4e970d-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 15px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="m" width="198" /></a> You can hear her keeping the beat in the sample songs there. Or you can find a youtube video of her playing with Witches Titties in a show with Alice Bag, whom Jen describes as Chicana Punk.</p> <p>Having a teenage daughter at home with a penchant for reality shows, I had to ask about the impact to their business from shows like “Say Yes to the Dress.”</p> <p>“I don’t have a television,” admits Elizabeth. Jen has seen the show once or twice when on the road. “Why would people bring so many people to their appointments? And everybody wants to have to have alcohol. We don’t allow that. They need to think about it sober -- we do not want any bubbly decisions that are regretted later.”</p> <p>For her part, despite the craziness of the business, Elizabeth has nothing to regret. “I want someday to walk out of this and say, that was the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s still what I want to do – I love coming to work everyday and I’m not good working for someone else.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01630520fc96970d-pi"><img alt="P1020392" border="0" height="325" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0168eb168b51970c-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="P1020392" width="432" /></a></p> <p>(In the back of the store where the creations are made)</p> <p><strong>Jen and Elizabeth’s Not-So-Secrets for How They Do It?</strong></p> <ul> <li>I’m not sure I’ve interviewed anyone who had an answer for this question as quickly and as categorically as Jen, who looked me straight in the eye and pronounced: “I don’t quit. Anything. I will do it until I’m the last person doing it. I will never give up. I never stop doing what I start doing. I will always be the last man standing. They say that 90 percent of success is showing up. I keep showing up.  It would never would occur to me to pull the plug.” </li> <li>And here’s probably the most important factor in their success – Elizabeth picked up precisely where Jen let go. “I personally don’t know when to say no. We never quit. Nobody has ever been backing us. We weren’t given any financial support to get started. It’s just us and two crazy credit cards.” </li> <li>And then of course, the two started laughing in stereo again.   Which suggests another key to their success – finding the humor in any situation. </li> <li>“Underlying everything is a huge amount of trust. This is paramount. Mistakes happen. We’ve been at it since the beginning and we’ve made every single mistake we could make. There is no escape. You’ve got to trust each other.” </li> <li>And as for the customer service end of the business? “You have to be really present and observe what’s going on. If I see some subtle thing on a client’s face coming out of the dressing room, I have to get to it right away.” Jen will often take the dress to the back of the store and make the alteration right then while her customer waits. </li> </ul> <p><strong>What has Jen read recently?</strong></p> <ul> <li><em>Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage. A Chicana Punk Story</em>; by Alice Bag </li> </ul> <p>“I mostly read biographies, non-fiction and brain science books.  I lost my appetite for fiction.”</p> <p><strong>Who should I interview next?</strong></p> <ul> <li>A friend of Jen’s, who plays in the band, leads Ghost Tours of Pike Place Market and makes dolls. </li> </ul> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b016765a708f7970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2012-04-24T20:43:45Z <p>It has been a couple weeks since I posted my story about Detective Cookie, which brought with it a wonderful new friend and some readers new to my site. It’s a nice feeling having a friend in the police department.</p> <p>I loved Cookie Bouldin’s reaction to seeing her story among all the others I’ve posted: “It makes me want to meet all these amazing women! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all get together and learn from each other?” Which is basically what I hope this web site could do, without the challenges of organizing schedules among a few thousand calendars.</p> <p>If you’ve learned something from Detective Cookie, I hope you’ll share it with her by clicking the red ‘comment’ link below as others have. Meanwhile, the last additions to her story:</p> <p><b>How can you support Detective Cookie’s Urban Chess Club?</b></p> <p>Donations can be made to the Seattle Neighborhood Group Inc. for the Urban Youth Chess Club at 1810 East Yesler Way, Seattle, WA 98122. The phone number is (206) 323-9666.  <a href="http://www.sngi.org.">SNGI website</a>.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b016304b396b4970d-pi"><img style="border-bottom: 0px; border-left: 0px; display: inline; border-top: 0px; border-right: 0px" title="cookie at rally" border="0" alt="cookie at rally" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0168eaa8e5c7970c-pi" width="331" height="457" /></a> </p> <p>Seattle Police Department Detective Cookie Bouldin protests the shooting death of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.  Photo: JOE DYER / SEATTLEPI.COM <br /></p> <p><b>Cookie Bouldin’s Not-So-Secrets for How She Does It?</b></p> <ul> <li>Lacing through her life story is the theme of taking counsel from others and passing it along. Detective Cookie credits the pivotal points in her own life to the people who took time to share advice with her, and not just in her past. She is energized by each new person she meets who can motivate and inspire her. She oozes enthusiasm for what’s still possible, what more she can learn, how she can grow. </li> </ul> <ul> <li>She’s determined not to keep that inspiration to herself but to pass it along. She measures her career success in a list of kids who went to college and got good jobs. Everyday she hopes to add someone to that list. </li> </ul> <ul> <li>One piece of advice she gives to kids? Have more than one goal. Don’t limit yourself to one. She points out that when she was young she had four: be a dancer, be a model, be a teacher and be a police officer. “And I reached all four. I was a dancer on Soul Train when it was taped in Chicago; I’ve appeared in major fashion magazines; I’m teaching anti-violence in the classroom; and I’m a police officer!” </li> </ul> <p><strong>What books has Cookie read recently?</strong></p> <p>· <i>Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny</i>; by Hill Harper</p> <blockquote> <p>“Letters to a Young Brother is drawn from the humbling life lessons Hollywood actor Hill Harper learned on the road to his Ivy League education and beyond.”  – Amazon review</p> </blockquote> <p>After being contacted by Detective Bouldin, Harper sent some copies to help her start a book club. “I gave it out to boys who needed that brother. Just yesterday I had a young man call me saying he was in college in Hawaii. I used to see him at the rec center, always with a basketball in his hand. I told him then that he needed to go to college. He thanked me for giving him the book three years ago.”</p> <p>· <i>Standing Above the Crowd</i>, by (former Seattle Sonic)James Donaldson</p> <blockquote> <p>“Standing above the Crowd is jam-packed full of success strategies that I've used throughout my life in the areas of athletics, business and community.” -- Donaldson</p> </blockquote> <p>“James has been a mentor and role model. His book tells you the right things to do -- never be satisfied with someone telling you you’re not good enough, keep going, keep trying. I keep it in my car, close to me all the time.”</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0168e973caab970c Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2012-03-30T23:05:55Z <p><em>- Janet Pelz</em></p> <p>It seems like everyone knows Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin, even at the times she hadn’t known herself. In the Chicago projects where she grew up, opportunities to make the wrong choice were a plentiful commodity. But thanks to strict parents and a number of adults who took the time to care, Denise Bouldin learned to know herself. And she’s determined to return the favor those people paid her, in a hundred different ways, every single day.</p> <p>In a loud and lively lunch spot in Seattle’s Rainier Valley, I wait my turn to say hello to Detective Bouldin. Dressed in police blacks with a purposeful bearing, makeup and nails mastered from her days modeling for Ebony and Jet Magazines, her entrance commands the attention of wait staff and diners alike. She knows someone at every table, shaking hands and patting shoulders, some stopping her proudly to show off their children and grandchildren. She finally takes a seat at my table, but not before her eyes meet most every other pair in the room.</p> <p>Everybody here knows Detective Cookie.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0163037dba45970d-pi"><img alt="officer cookie with student" border="0" height="267" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0163037dba4f970d-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="officer cookie with student" width="472" /></a></p> <p>(photo credit: KING 5 News)</p> <p>I came to know her after listening to a <a href="http:////www.kuow.org/program.php?id=24575">story about her</a> by Jamala Henderson on our local public radio station KUOW.</p> <p>I stayed in the car until the piece was over and scribbled a note to myself. It took a while to track her down and find a time to squeeze into her schedule for a quick lunch between two elementary school classroom visits where, as a community relations worker for the Seattle Police Department, she delivers lessons in anti-violence. And chess.</p> <p>It started like this. A while back she was given the task to organize an activity for kids in the neighborhood – something healthy for them to do while interacting with the police in a positive way. So Officer Cookie organized a basketball game between the neighborhood kids and a police team. It was a rousing success. The kids outlasted their grown-up opponents and relished the chance to rub it in.</p> <p>So, when time came around the following year for another activity, she assumed she’d be organizing a repeat match.</p> <p>“But the kids said, Officer Cookie, ‘We don’t want to do a basketball game again. Not all of us play basketball.’ And when I thought about it I realized, there were a lot of kids who didn’t play basketball but just sat and watched. So I asked them, what did they want to do? And a few of them said, ‘Let’s have a chess tournament.’ A <em>chess</em> tournament? That’s the <strong><em>last</em></strong> thing I expected to hear. But I’m saying to myself I gotta make this happen, so I said, OK!”</p> <p>But then what? Officer Cookie didn’t know much about the game and what she did know, she didn’t particularly like.</p> <p>“As a kid, I was pretty much brainwashed that I wasn’t smart enough for chess. I never saw a black person playing chess. Never. And then someone showed me all the pieces on the board and said, ok this is what this one do and this one do, and I got frustrated ‘cause I kept forgetting. And I said, you know what? I <em>hate</em> this game, I hate it, hate it, <strong><em>hate</em></strong> it. Don’t ever want to play it again,” she declared, hand sweeping the table as if she were clearing the board. “My brain just wasn’t made for chess. And when anyone would try to teach me I would say, I can’t do it, I’ve tried.”</p> <p>But this was for the kids, not for her. So she went to the Parks Department and got some chess boards and organized a picnic in a local park.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0168e973c866970c-pi"><img align="right" alt="11917-Cookie-Bouldin" border="0" height="191" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0163037dbac2970d-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 15px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="11917-Cookie-Bouldin" width="315" /></a></p> <p>“So, we got ready for the chess tournament and I set up the boards, and to my surprise there were only a couple of kids who knew how to play chess and the rest of them were just standing around watching.                          (photo from Detective Bouldin)</p> <p>“I asked the kids, be honest, how come you don’t play chess? And they would answer, ‘I’m not smart enough to play chess. I don’t play because chess is for smart people. Chess is for white people, for nerds.’ I realized that the answers these kids were giving were the same answers I gave for not playing chess. The <strong><em>same </em></strong>reasons!</p> <p>“Now, I was a real good, set-the-chess-board-up-person. And making sure kids came. But whenever the kids wanted me to play chess I would just mimic their moves. Wherever they moved their piece, I would move my same piece. I had no clue to why or whatever reason it got there and for what purpose.”</p> <p>She was getting ready for another such match when she heard a little kid whisper to her opponent. “He was about 4 or 5 years old and he said, ‘don’t worry, you’re going to beat Officer Cookie’, and I’m like, oh <strong><em>no he didn’t!</em></strong> <strong><em>No, he did NOT say that!</em></strong> All I could do was laugh, but he was <strong><em>so</em></strong> right!”</p> <p>So Officer Cookie connected with the American Foundation for Chess, who promised her she would be playing chess in 30 minutes or less if she came to one of their trainings.</p> <p>“So I went. And they taught me chess piece by piece. We started with just pawns. And after about 20 minutes, I was playing chess and I was <strong><em>LOVING</em></strong> it, I could not get <em>enough</em> of it. And I wanted to play chess day and night.”</p> <p>And the more she played chess with kids in the neighborhood, the more she realized that it was much more than a game.</p> <p>“I use the chess boards to teach anti-violence and to teach about making good choices. Cause if you don’t make good choices, there will be consequences. If you’re so quick to take somebody’s pawn and you don’t notice that there’s this knight over there hoping you make that move so he can take your queen, it’s going to kill you! Same thing on the streets! You’ve got to make this choice -- do you want to be in a gang? Do you want to pick up a gun and shoot somebody? What are the consequences? I’ve had kids tell me, Detective Cookie, you know, chess is like real life! And when a kid tells me that I know I’m getting through.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b016764728960970b-pi"><img align="left" alt="cookie teaching" border="0" height="201" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0168e973c8de970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 20px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="cookie teaching" width="355" /></a></p> <p>(photo from KING 5 News)</p> <p>Denise Bouldin knows well what real life is like for these kids.</p> <p>“In my neighborhood people tried to get me to do drugs, to sell drugs, to do prostitution. I refused to do that, basically because my parents were strict. Back in the day, you knew you would get a whipping -- you wouldn’t get a time-out or spanking, you got a <em>whipping</em>. After you get one, you don’t want to get another. That’s not to say I didn’t try. Some times I would meet my friends dressed in hoochie-mama clothes,” she confesses, arching her eyebrows to make sure I knew just what she was saying.</p> <p>A young Denise showed up once at the local Boys and Girls Club wearing some super-tight pants when an older woman pulled her aside to offer some advice. “She said, you know what? You’re not that type of person. Because of your clothes, it’s going to make people think different of you. She gave me a long talk about it. Back then, everybody could say something to a kid; everybody was your parent. I tell people today, talk to kids, cause sometimes just saying something can make a difference like it did with me.</p> <p>“I trusted what this lady said and I never dressed like that again. I started thinking about how other people would see me. It made me realize, I had friends who were gang members, but I wasn’t in the gang. I didn’t want to be seen like that so I had to give up some of my friends. Someone could come by in a drive-by shooting, they’re not going to tell me to move aside because I’m not in the gang. They just shoot.”</p> <p>When Detective Cookie addresses third graders at a south end elementary school, she shares this life history with kids who sit up straight, hands folded on their desks, listening intently.</p> <p>“There’s going to be times when someone is going to ask you to do drugs -- by the time you get to high school, maybe even middle school. You will have to be ready with your answer. If you have a weak ‘no’ they’ll hear that as a ‘maybe’. Don’t be afraid to say no; you have the right to say no; you have a right to mean no. Make your <em>no</em> mean <em>no.”</em></p> <p>And then Detective Cookie gets out the chess boards. Quietly, the group divides into pairs and sets up. The kids have all learned the lesson of the first move – reaching across the board to shake hands.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0167647289cb970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="P1020335" border="0" height="242" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0163037dbba6970d-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 5px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="P1020335" width="322" /></a> And then they get started. Most of the students seem to have a good command of the game. Solid moves and captured pieces activate the classroom. The few who are still learning the game work together in one corner where Detective Cookie circles back frequently to answer questions.</p> <p>In the school hallways the kids smile at her and wave. “Hi Detective Cookie!” is offered down the line. She knows these kids and she knows their families. If one of them misbehaves in school she’s got the family’s number on speed dial in her cell phone, and she’s not afraid to use it.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0163037dbbde970d-pi"><img align="right" alt="P1020362" border="0" height="270" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0163037dbc48970d-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 5px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="P1020362" width="204" /></a></p> <p>This kind of police work has earned the recognition of many notables. In 2011 U. S. Senator Patty Murray awarded Detective Bouldin a “Golden Tennis Shoes” award. In accepting the honor, Detective Cookie used the podium to inform the crowd the chess club would be coming to an end due to lack of funding. Read this clip from <a href="http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/06/01/meet-the-seattle-police-officer-who-stole-the-show-at-todays-patty-murray-event ">The Stranger</a> about her moving address.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0168e973c98d970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="cookie and murray" border="0" height="373" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0163037dbcb3970d-pi" style="margin: 0px 20px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="cookie and murray" width="248" /></a> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p>In 2011 she received a Community Builder Award from the Seattle Neighborhood Group. In 2010 she was chosen as the Best Police Officer by the Rainier Valley Post.</p> <p>Becoming a police officer would surprise the people she grew up with. Back then cops were rarely your friend. “I hated the police, just like everybody else. I thought all police harassed young black people.”</p> <p>(photo credit: <a href="http://redfishphoto.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/senator-patty-murrays-golden-tennis-shoe-awards/">Red Fish Blue Fish Photography</a>)</p> <p>But when she got to high school, “I met a police officer who was at our school everyday, it was his assignment -- and this police officer was the <em>nicest</em> person. You could go up and talk with him. That’s when I started thinking I might want to be a police officer like him, interacting with people.”</p> <p>Success in the Seattle Police Department didn’t come easily. “When I came to the Academy they thought I was sort of joke, because I didn’t look like a police officer. When I went to my personnel interview I dressed like my other job -- a professional model. I was in my modeling clothes; make-up perfectly done.”</p> <p>There was one white woman in her Academy class along with about 25 men. And one African American woman in the entire Seattle Police Department.</p> <p>After she graduated she learned that her classmates had placed bets that she would fail. “The ones betting against me didn’t make it through the Academy themselves! What they didn’t know, I’m from Chicago, I got five brothers, I’m street smart, <em>very </em>street smart, I’m athletic, I’m a tomboy.”</p> <p>After the Academy she had to make it through training. Although she met some encouraging officers along the way, “some were trying to get me to quit. We would sit down for coffee and they would tell jokes about the white man, the china man and the black man, and always the black man would get the butt of the joke. I didn’t say anything, all I wanted to do was to get through. One guy wrote me up for taking too long to do my report. He didn’t mention that before we got to the precinct he had us running all over town picking up his laundry and all his other jobs.</p> <p>“I had a supervisor tell me the same thing, I took too long on my call. But you have to realize what I’m doing! This old lady got in a car accident, it totaled her car. I’m waiting until the tow truck comes to get it and I’m not going to leave this little old lady ‘til the cab comes to get her. We once did a raid on a house and I stayed a little longer because I saw that there were kids in the house with no food, so I went out to get some. And then I volunteered to take the kids to child protective service so they could get in a foster home. It takes me a little longer because I’m not going to leave until the job is done.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0168e973ca2d970c-pi"><img alt="120304_chess_club_thumb" border="0" height="297" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0168e973ca9b970c-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="120304_chess_club_thumb" width="395" /></a></p> <p>(KOMO TV: see the full clip <a href="http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Crime-fighting-chess-club-faces-loss-of-funding-141364813.html?m=y&smobile=y">here</a>)</p> <p>Detective Cookie finally made it through training, and this day over her lunch order delivered to the nodding waiter as ‘my regular’, she realized she had just passed her 32 year anniversary on the force.</p> <p>“I tell kids, you gotta start planning your roads now. What you want to be way down that road to success -- start that road right now. Even if you’ve done some wrong things in the past, you can make a change right now. I stopped hanging with people doing the wrong things, and it allowed me to become a police officer. “</p> <p>As a police officer Detective Cookie has experienced some of her proudest moments. She was a body guard to Rosa Parks when the civil rights leader spoke at Garfield High School. “And I was one of the Seattle Police Officers on security detail for the inauguration of President and First Lady Obama. I had tears running down my eyes. I got a beautiful gold badge. This is something I will cherish for my whole life.”</p> <blockquote> <p>Look for an upcoming column on Detective Cookie along with directions for how to support her Urban Chess Program.</p> </blockquote> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0167605e4be4970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2012-01-11T22:25:59Z <p><em>- Janet Pelz</em></p> <p>New Years rolled in like a mild surf on the bay, the days as small waves lapping on the shore. Back in the times when New Years seemed like something that didn’t come around very often, January would crash with a resounding wash of foam upon a waiting beach.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0162ff696ceb970d-pi"><img alt="imagesCAOJH02T" border="0" height="179" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0168e55f0a49970c-pi" style="margin: 10px auto 0px; display: block; float: none; border: 0px;" title="imagesCAOJH02T" width="302" /></a> </p> <p>I’ve been aware of a numbing around the edge of days. I imagine this like a type of encroaching blindness where the periphery loses to black while only the center image remains. Is this a simple reaction to aging, I wonder, or is it a response to our moment in history? Is it internal to me or shared by everyone else – everyone outside that periphery?</p> <p>Four years ago I thundered with anticipation of each new day. We were moving toward a moment in time when something remarkable would take place. The election either of the first woman or first African American President, a dramatic reaction to the prior eight years of chest beating and dumbing down. The news was thrilling – I drank it thirstily, absorbing each nuance that suggested that the country was coming to its senses and that our side might actually prevail. My children watched me weep along with hundreds of others when my brother announced that our state had voted for Obama and the march of other states seemed to be doing the same. <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0167605e4ba3970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="ObamaFamilyElectionNight2008" border="0" height="229" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0167605e4bad970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 20px; display: inline; border: 0px;" title="ObamaFamilyElectionNight2008" width="333" /></a> And then there were the images from Chicago – the beautiful family, Jesse Jackson crying quietly on the sidelines.</p> <p>And the morning of the inauguration, watching throngs crowd the Mall despite the bitter cold to witness history. I welcomed in the elderly women in my neighborhood who I knew would otherwise be watching all alone in their homes.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0162ff696d04970d-pi"><img align="left" alt="aretha" border="0" height="244" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0167605e4bb6970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 15px 0px 0px; display: inline; border: 0px;" title="aretha" width="184" /></a> “Hurry!” I said, choking down tears, “Aretha Franklin is singing My Country Tis of Thee!”. The pundits were calling Republicans irrelevant. The country was a blank slate for us to fill, with wisdom and generosity and justice. I felt electric with possibility.</p> <p>And then came the frightening power of no – the Republicans believing their best strategy was to prevent any forward movement. It was as if we had been walking through a dark cave for years towards an elusive light – experiencing first the almost imperceptible shade of gray, the expansion of air, a thin strip of yellow that leaked in through a fissure, and then, finally, the full brightness of day stinging our eyes at the mouth of the cave. And just as we were ready to step out of the dark confine, the doorway collapsed, leaving a heap of jagged rock in our path. The light was still perceptible, but nearly impossible to reach.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0168e55f0a63970c-pi"><img align="right" alt="1_1270595339_light-pouring-down-through-the-cave-mouth" border="0" height="213" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0168e55f0a6f970c-pi" style="margin: 10px 0px 0px 10px; display: inline; border: 0px;" title="1_1270595339_light-pouring-down-through-the-cave-mouth" width="283" /></a></p> <p>The escape has been difficult, and it feels like we’ve had to shed so many parts of what we aspired to and what inspired us to be able to surmount the immense pile of rubble in front of us. And where normally I would have the ambition to help lead us out, instead I feel as if I’m climbing each boulder one at a time, with lots of deep breathing in between. I’m grateful for the protestors in Madison and the 99%-ers who are doing their best to drag us along – it seems right this time to be led rather than doing the leading.</p> <p>Hopefully in this year upcoming the path will be cleared. When presented with the alternatives, common sense will prevail. Our country will find again a sense of community and embrace the least among us with the same fervor as we did those who exploited credit default swaps (and who understand what those are). I’m working on reigniting my optimism.</p> <p>In this New Year, I hope to find the means to issue a steady parade of meaningful waves on the shore – I’ll stick to the bay and leave the ocean to those with a surfboard to navigate.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0162ff696d17970d-pi"><img alt="nathan griffith waves" border="0" height="192" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0168e55f0a75970c-pi" style="display: block; float: none; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; border: 0px;" title="nathan griffith waves" width="286" /></a></p> <blockquote> <p>                <span style="font-size: xx-small;">photo credit: Nathan Griffith, featurePics </span></p> </blockquote> <p>You may have noticed I haven’t posted in a while. Since my last post, I came by some writing gigs that actually produced a paycheck and they filled the hours between managing the family’s comings and goings. With those behind me, I’m looking forward to writing about other (extra)ordinary women. Those I’ve met in the course of this project have lifted my spirit and inspired me onward, and, if you just read everything that preceded this, you can see that both are needed.</p> <p>Let me know if you have ideas of women I should meet. I’m in the process of setting up some new interviews, but I’m always eager for more ideas.</p> <p>And in the meantime, if you have a glimmer of optimism for the year ahead, please share it by clicking the red “comment” link below and submitting your thoughts. I’m guessing we can all use it.</p> <p>Thanks for sticking with this through the quiet times.</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b014e8b96b127970d Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2011-09-16T00:19:00Z <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b015435762de5970c-pi"><img alt="foodbank" border="0" height="115" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b015435762ded970c-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="foodbank" width="453" /></a></p> <p>Part way through my volunteer shift distributing food at the Downtown Food Bank a face came through the line. I went through the data bank of my memory – did the person evoked have a job the last time I saw him? Yes – a good one working for the State. Age similar? No, this face was much older. I shut down the computer on that file, but a thought lingered. Something about how any of us could end up on the receiving end of a food line one day, and that you’d be surprised at who you might see….</p> <p>After a river of faces flowed by I closed the file on that idea as well until I saw him.</p> <p>He might have accepted my choice of milk or orange juice and moved on like any other, but the line had slowed just as he approached. And there on his chest was a badge identifying him as a seller of Real Change, the newspaper written and distributed by the homeless. And on that badge was his name: Scott Harper (not his actual name).</p> <p>The computer in my brain booted up again whirring through files of names and experiences of years past. I studied him a bit – the last time I saw a person by that name he would have been 12. How many years ago? Maybe 18 by now. What would a 30 year-old version of Scott look like today, adding a few extra years that the streets would have worn on him? He waited there longer, almost as if the line had stopped deliberately to help me put the pieces together.</p> <p>These pieces.  Those 18 or so years ago I was heading up the Seattle Center Academy. The program was a brainchild of Virginia Anderson, then the Center’s Director, to match the tremendous artistic assets of Seattle Center with young people at a particularly impressionable age. Each student had the choice of one group to study with in the morning and another in the afternoon during their two-week summer session. Hip Hop dance and pottery were among those most often requested. Pacific Northwest Ballet offered a class in the old Opera House rehearsal hall. It was filled almost entirely with girls in pink leotards. And one boy – Scott Harper.</p> <p>He arrived in a pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt.</p> <p>I stopped by that first class, knowing the one boy might need a bit of encouragement and support. Although he wasn’t fixing his hair or comparing leotard colors with his other classmates, he nonetheless seemed comfortable enough in that group. Put in other words, he didn’t do what we would have understood in that context – the pre-teen bolt. Instead, he joined the line when the instructor organized the group, and when the first chords of music struck, he straightened his back and extended his arm so gracefully that those of us watching caught our collective breath.</p> <p>Most everyday thereafter I would wander by the rehearsal hall and peek in to see how things were going. Scott was always participating with commitment equal to any of his female peers, but with an innate sense of grace that exceeded any others. When I got a chance to talk with him about his choice of classes, he responded straightforwardly, “I heard that football players take ballet to improve their footwork and balance.” Scott played football.</p> <p>At the performance on the last day of camp, Francia Russell, co-artistic director and director of PNB’s prestigious dance school was clearly impressed. “We’ll give him a scholarship to study at the school if he’s willing to make the commitment,” she offered enthusiastically. We spoke with Scott and we spoke with his mother. The deal was sealed.</p> <p> <img alt="" height="344" src="http://www.pnb.org/images/PNBSchool/dancechance_about2.jpg" width="257" /></p> <p>PNB’s DanceChance Boys in Modern class. <br />©Angela Sterling</p> <p>When the Scott Harper standing before me declared his preference for milk I asked the question in the best way I could, not wanting to probe the circumstances that had brought him to this place in front of me. “Are you a dancer?” I asked.</p> <p>He raised his head, looking directly at me for the first time. “Hey,” he said, “I remember you, from Seattle Center, right?” He delivered his words with a full smile, as if we had bumped into each other browsing the neighborhood book store. “Yeah, I had a full ride at PNB, and then I broke my leg.”</p> <p>And then he was gone. Accepting a bag of potatoes from the next volunteer in line and looking ahead to what followed.</p> <p>He left me there, leaning on the table to keep from falling over. Such a flood of emotions, the first, until I realized the egotism of it, about me. I had felt so good about making a difference in this young person’s life.</p> <p>On the shelf in my office I still hold a ballet dancer’s black shoe. On the bottom the following is scrawled in black ink, “Janet, Thanks for sending Scott to PNB. The best to you always.” It is signed by the woman who taught that Seattle Center Academy class.</p> <p>And then, once realizing that I was not the casualty in this story, I wondered about the parade of events in this young man’s life – in anyone’s life – that had brought him to selling Real Change on the street corner while relying on the food bank for his meals.</p> <p>For me, yet again there was first a lesson in humility. As exciting as the possibility might have been that his life could have been turned around by one contribution I made is, of course, unrealistic vanity.</p> <p>And then there was a small sense of satisfaction, that I could have touched this one man’s life twice – once to give him an opportunity and another to give him a gallon of milk. I hope there are others in his life to give him more of both.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Want to know more about the Downtown Food Bank, including how to volunteer?</strong></p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e8b96b117970d-pi"><img align="left" alt="About%20us_foodbank2" border="0" height="175" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b015391a30140970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 15px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="About%20us_foodbank2" width="244" /></a></p> <p>Dignity and service are at the heart of the Downtown Food Bank’s mission. In 2010, the Downtown Food Bank handled approximately 45,000 visits and provided more than 269 tons of groceries to the elderly, homeless and working poor within the Pike Place Market and downtown Seattle communities. The Food Bank also provides clothing, baby supplies and hygiene products, which are donated by the community.</p> <p>Dedicated volunteers -- many of whom are clients of the Food Bank themselves -- contribute thousands of volunteer hours to help meet the growing demand for the Food Bank's services. If you would like to volunteer, <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">contact Kevin Futhey</a>.</p> <p>You can make a contribution by clicking <a href="https://marketfoundation.ejoinme.org/MyPages/DonationPage/tabid/271445/Default.aspx?p=donationform">here</a>.</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b01539044220d970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2011-07-29T17:57:19Z <p><strong><em>- Janet Pelz</em></strong></p> <p>I catch up with Jennifer Argraves of Crown-S Ranch at the midpoint of one of the many cycles that makes up her life. Through our conversation, there are references to the cycles of the land, of the animals she raises, of the business she runs that supports her family, even of the materials she and her husband use to build their feed sheds and solar-powered chicken trains. And each of these cycles is guided by their motto, “Better for the animals, better for the environment, better for you.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b015390442159970b-pi"><img alt="OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA " border="0" height="148" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b015434178236970c-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA " width="437" /></a></p> <p>(some of the grass fed cattle at Crown-S-Ranch in Twisp, Washington)</p> <p>This weekend cycle started at 5 a.m. on her eastern Washington sustainable farm, loading freezers with beef, pork, chickens and lamb before adding 100 dozen eggs in the trailer for the monthly trip across the mountains. She’s headed for a series of drop-off locations around Seattle, where a community of consumers, careful about the food they eat and the imprint they leave on the environment, pick up their monthly deliveries. When she steps through my front door it’s as if a fresh breeze blew in, on a smile that seems to have forgotten its end point.</p> <p>Over my dining room table this urban woman tries intellectually to understand the mechanics of Jennifer’s farm, which for her is as natural as that smile. I know this conversation would be far more meaningful if I were actually watching her cattle graze or smelling her one-of-a-kind composter in action. But until I can fit in a 10 hour outing to see it all myself – which I hope to do -- I’ll have to write from my imagination, shaped by Jennifer’s words, the photos from her website (you can take a virtual tour <a href="http://www.goodfoodworld.com/wp-content/uploads/CrownSRanch/index.html">here</a> ), <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b015390442165970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="Welcome to Crown S Ranch!" border="0" height="191" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e8a377f92970d-pi" style="margin: 0px 35px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="Welcome to Crown S Ranch!" width="284" /></a>and from my taste buds when I experience the farm fresh eggs she has brought as a hostess gift.</p> <p>The eggs, she tells me, are among their farm’s most popular products. “They are collected literally in the days before we come. A supermarket egg can claim to be fresh when it is 10 weeks old – our eggs are <em><span style="text-decoration: underline;">never</span></em> that old. We collect the eggs and they just fly out.” Because their chickens graze, “it’s a real seasonal egg, so you’ll see as the flora and fauna change on the farm, the egg yolk changes. We’ll get really orange yolks when the grass is really green.”</p> <p>Jennifer and her husband Louis Sukovaty are engineers by training. After graduating from the University of Idaho they moved to the big city of Seattle to gain experience and hone their engineering skills. (It was in Seattle that they met their neighbor, <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/02/joanie-warner-and-daughter-abby-mahler-a-motherdaughter-partnership-living-with-and-fighting-breast-cancer.html">Joanie Warner</a>, who recommended that I write about Jennifer). This was part of Jennifer and Louis’s 10-year plan that would culminate with a move back to the land, where they would continue in their respective engineering fields while dabbling in farming.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b015434178259970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="Crown-S" border="0" height="241" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e8a377f9f970d-pi" style="margin: 0px 20px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="Crown-S" width="244" /></a>But as with many life plans, life has a way of complicating them. For them if was literally a life -- a new life, their son Geza. His birth set Jennifer to thinking about the food she would be feeding him, and the more she learned, the more concerned she became.</p> <p>“He was a year and a half old and that’s really where the whole story of the farm starts. All my life I’ve been a professional, I’ve done my own thing, my honey has done his own thing Then we have this baby and the baby starts to eat. I had all this time with him and I started to do all this research about food, and it’s, oh my gosh, all these things I didn’t know -- I used to go to McDonald’s! I researched about cattle being fed grain instead of eating grass. Cows are perfectly set up to eat grass, and they’re paired with us.  So for hundreds of years we’ve been eating grass fed beef. The coli that’s in their gut goes into your gut all the time. But you’re paired with it and your stomach acid gets rid of it. But a grain fed animal actually gets sick. It has different stomach acid. And that’s why we get sick from it. So I’m like, there’s no way I’m going to feed this to my child! I just became obsessed about food.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b015390442172970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA " border="0" height="114" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b015434178277970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 10px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA " width="297" /></a>This obsession coincided with the announcement from Louis’ parents that they were ready to sell their 50-acre farm in eastern Washington where Louis grew up. Jennifer and Louis bought the property.</p> <p>Their expectation? “We were just going to be engineers. We wanted to raise our kids ourselves, so the idea was we’d have one full-time working unit between the two of us. We’d continue being engineers -- we started North Cascades Engineering -- and have a little toy farm with a garden like we each had growing up.</p> <p>“So while I started to learn about food Louis was starting to learn about systems. And it just got to a point where I wouldn’t eat chicken unless we raised the chicken and I wouldn’t eat pork unless we raised the pig. And pretty soon we’re going to raise all these things, and we have friends who want good food for their kids too, and I can’t find anyone out there who’s doing this. And Louis is loving it and every mom should know where her family’s food comes from.”</p> <p>From there, Jennifer describes the process that incrementally transformed this ‘toy farm’ into a professional business and lifestyle shift, growing in inverse proportion to their engineering business until they finally closed North Cascades Engineering.</p> <p>Now they apply their engineering skills creating and testing systems for an organic, sustainable farm. And they do all this while challenging the assumptions Americans have had about farming since the arrival of petroleum-based fertilizers and other toxic elements that, while advertising their efficiency, ignore a phalanx of complications they create.</p> <p>Instead, Jennifer and Louis come up with simple ways to control pests without pesticide by working with natural cycles. <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b015390442188970b-pi"><img align="left" alt="29518_126159724068790_125725147445581_250588_2220563_n" border="0" height="184" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0153904421a4970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 10px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="29518_126159724068790_125725147445581_250588_2220563_n" width="244" /></a> “We layer everything. In one pasture, the cattle will go through, the sheep go through, the pigs rotate, the chickens go through. What we’ve found is that most animals are a dead-end host for the animal before them. So any kind of parasite that might come with one animal doesn’t make the next animal sick.”</p> <p>Chickens help control the pests that on other farms are killed with chemicals. “They are really good at picking horn flies and face flies out of manure.” Chickens come through a pasture recently grazed by cattle in their solar powered chicken tractor (click the link to see it in action).</p> <div class="wlWriterEditableSmartContent" id="scid:5737277B-5D6D-4f48-ABFC-DD9C333F4C5D:11bb25a2-7783-46e6-a858-a7df6f37724a" style="margin: 0px; display: inline; float: none; padding: 0px;"> <div id="9830435b-452a-4b47-bf26-bcecb6cf9dd1" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; display: inline;"> <div><embed height="310" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/qnCX53JVWCY&hl=en" width="371" /></div> </div> </div> <p>It’s a Rube Goldberg-like contraption made of salvaged wood powered by a solar panel so it moves by itself, guiding the chickens to new grass and bugs. “The chickens eat the flies in the larva state so they never mature. The chicken also pulls the pat apart, and the rest literally gets absorbed into the soil, providing nutrients, and you never have the smell.”</p> <p>Perusing farming manuals from before World War II (pre-petrochemicals), Louis read about a passive walk-through flytrap -- a low-tech solution in our hi-tech world -- and set out to build one himself. The cows simply walk through baffles that brush the flies off their bodies. These fly up to a light above – their natural instinct – and they die in the baffles and fall down. (I pointed out this process sounded a bit like my writing – I start with about 15 pages of interview and then run that through baffles until a few ideas fall down and then I put them together like a jigsaw puzzle).</p> <p>“Then we take the flies and compost them or we feed them to the chickens because they are protein. Industrial farms use two different pesticides to do the same thing. We get the same numbers or better with our chickens and fly traps, and we use no pesticides. The more you work with nature, slow down and look at it, the more these solutions come up.”</p> <p>As another example, Jennifer points proudly to a photo of their compost facility as another mom might show off her daughter’s chess trophy . “I don’t know of any other compost facility like this, not only in the state, but I’m not sure where.”<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0153904421b9970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="Waste and manure is composted using a "hot compost" method that prevents bacteria growth; it is regularly turned." border="0" height="210" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01543417828e970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 20px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="Waste and manure is composted using a "hot compost" method that prevents bacteria growth; it is regularly turned." width="312" /></a>  (photo below of composter)</p> <p>Everything of a butchered cow that can’t be eaten is sent to the composter. “In six weeks it will completely break down. It’s just a matter of having nitrogen and carbon. Nitrogen is the animal, carbon sources would be from our organic straw or chips from our mill. It’s a balance of that, plus water. We use the water from our poultry processing facility – recycled water. That water goes through a septic system to remove the pathogens and it comes out gray water and we pump it here. When the compost is heated up it gets pushed over the wall to the back. Then we take the compost and put it into a manure spreader, so the nutrients that came off the farm get put back into the farm.  We’re actually building top soil – our soil is more fertile now than when we started because of the way that we farm.”</p> <p>For a long while, “the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) wanted us to take all the offal and bag it all up to take somewhere. We had to prove from an engineering standpoint that what we were doing actually worked.” Louis and Jennifer pointed out that industrial farms take animals and feed them to other animals (which Crown-S doesn’t do). So, they argued, if a chicken can be broken down to the point that another animal can eat it, it should be safe to take parts of that same chicken and break it down into compost to put back into the soil.</p> <p>On the Crown-S Ranch the cycles of the land and the animals weave among those of the entire family. Geza, now 13, “rocks when it comes to systems.” Before the Ranch had its own WSDA certified chicken processing facility, Jennifer and Geza did the chicken circuit together. “At about 10 at night, my son would crawl into the coops and hand the chickens to my husband. They’d do it in the middle of the night so it’s less stress on the animals. I would go to bed and at about 1:00 in the morning my son would be done, so he’d crawl into the truck with me and go to sleep while I’d drive us through the night to Spokane – a four-hour drive to the nearest processor. So at 7 a.m. when the processor starts in the morning, we’d pull in, drop the trailer and go to sleep in a parking lot – I mean, this is where your food is coming from! We’d have breakfast and then we’d bag the birds because we want them to be perfect. We have these shrink wrap bags, we’d put them on ice right away. It’s quality – we’re eating it, you’re eating it!</p> <p>“My daughter Icel (even the family names are recycled. Icel’s great-grandmother and grandmother both had the same name) knows the sounds of the country. She knows if a chicken is in distress, she baahs for her lambs and they come to her. She has a feeling of the earth. I don’t know how she does it but my daughter actually has chickens in her room. And she has cats in her room and the cats don’t eat the chickens.</p> <p>“My daughter wanted a dog and I was, like ugh! I just can’t deal with a dog – they’re so much responsibility! I suggest a lamb instead -- they just seem so much easier. I know it doesn’t seem that way to you, but she can bottle feed them all summer when she’s actually home and then they go off with the flock. But a dog? My gosh, you’d have to walk it and train it and what if it ate a chicken? The lamb deal was way better.”</p> <p><img alt="" height="306" src="http://a6.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/63330_158851827466246_125725147445581_435891_6690894_n.jpg" width="408" /></p> <p>Icel with Betty and Rose</p> <p>Though the kids live on 50 acres, the community K-12 school campus is right across the street. Yes, they may have a long way to get to a soccer match at another rural school, but Jennifer points out that a 30 mile drive on country roads might be easier than traveling through Seattle at some times of the day. The family doesn’t have a television – they figure there’s always plenty of fun to be had outdoors.</p> <p>Since starting the farm, Louis and Jennifer have been adding to it incrementally, careful not to grow too quickly, a fault that has put similar operations out of business.</p> <p>Starting with the 50 acre farm they bought from Louis’s parents, the couple now leases an additional 70 adjacent acres. On 10 of these they grow their own feed – field peas and wheat side by side and without pesticides. “It’s really healthy food we give to the animals that are supplemented with grain (cattle eat no grain). If the animal is healthy then you’re healthy and the environment is healthy.”</p> <p>Each new addition – a new animal, a new system, a new crop -- is methodically measured and analyzed with an engineer’s precision. The data generated, they hope, can help others replicate their success.</p> <p>“Once you close all the cycles on 150 acres, you can determine, ‘we can grow this much food to feed this many people.’ And then you ask, how much land do you need if you have this population base? When we first started everyone told us, oh, you’re such a cute little farm, but you can’t feed the world. But what we found is that we can feed the world -- better.”</p> <p>(most photos on this site credited to Ken Kailing, <a href="http://www.goodfoodworld.com">GoodFood World</a>)</p> <p><strong>Are you interested in eating healthy and supporting the efforts of Jennifer and Louis?</strong></p> <ul> <li>Now that the summer market season has started, you can meet Louis and/or Jennifer and their kids every Sunday at the <a href="http://www.mifarmersmarket.org/welcome/">Mercer Island Farmers Market.</a> Pick up some of those farm fresh eggs, a cut of meat, and learn about becoming part of their <a href="http://www.crown-s-ranch.com/csa-buying-club.html">meat CSA</a> (Community Supported Agriculture).<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e8a377fd4970d-pi"><img alt="Jennifer, Louis, and their daughter, Icel, the young shepherdess." border="0" height="219" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b015434178297970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 30px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="Jennifer, Louis, and their daughter, Icel, the young shepherdess." width="327" /></a> </li> </ul> <blockquote> <p>            Jennifer, Louis and Icel at the farmer’s market</p> </blockquote> <ul> <li>Sign up any time to be part of the meat CSA for beef, pork, chicken, eggs, and lamb. Jennifer will bring your orders of their sustainably-raised meats and eggs to drop off locations in seven different Seattle neighborhoods. </li> <li>You can save money by buying in bulk if you have a big freezer. Order half a pig or a quarter of a steer cut to order (about 100 pounds of meat or four shopping bags full). </li> <li><a href="http://www.crown-s-ranch.com/our-products/">Buy individual cuts</a> for a big family celebration or pre-order a turkey for Thanksgiving, or look for their products at local restaurants such as the Herbfarm and Sun Mountain Lodge. </li> <li>Come experience the farm at the Haycation house. <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0153904421cd970b-pi"><img align="left" alt="image" border="0" height="164" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0153904421d2970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 15px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="image" width="244" /></a> A great place for families to help out on the farm and enjoy the freshest eggs and bacon in the process. You can participate as much or as little as you want. Be a farmer for a day, have your kids collect the fresh eggs. <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e8a377fea970d-pi"><img align="right" alt="image" border="0" height="244" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e8a377ff3970d-pi" style="display: inline; margin-left: 0px; margin-right: 0px; border-width: 0px;" title="image" width="215" /></a> It has two bebedrooms bedrooms and a full kitchen. Check it out <a href="http://www.crown-s-ranch.com/downloads/haycation.pdf">here</a>. </li> </ul> <p><strong>Jennifer’s Not-So Secrets for how she does it:</strong></p> <ul> <li>More than anything it all comes down to priorities. There’s always more to do than there are hours in the day. This is the time of the kids. Really, they’re part of the farm and I’m always thinking about ways to integrate them. </li> <li>Time is what you can never get back -- hopefully, we’re all doing what we want to do. </li> <li>In small ways, I’m trying to make it more manageable. I really need to figure out where to focus -- we don’t need to do every single farmer’s market. We don’t need everyone to buy our products -- just enough so we can continue doing what we’re doing. </li> <li>We’re really low on cash so I think hard about getting a new pair of shoes -- all the money goes to the farm. We’re getting good about trades. </li> <li>I don’t know how our society got to the point where it’s all this stuff. What are you going to do with all your stuff? I mean, when you die they just pull up a truck and throw it all in the garbage. </li> <li>You look for the balance. You don’t just plow under a field and then think about what you’ll do. You take a step back. Like the soil -- it’s sort of like raising a kid, you’re in it for the long haul. It’s a relationship. In farming -- you take one day at a time and do what you can do. </li> </ul> <p><strong>What books has Jennifer read recently?</strong></p> <p><em>The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East</em>, by Sandy Tolan</p> <p>And if you want to learn how modern farming is damaging our health and environment, read <em>The Omnivore’s Dilemma,</em> by Michael Pollan or watch the documentary Food Inc.<em> </em></p> <div class="wlWriterEditableSmartContent" id="scid:5737277B-5D6D-4f48-ABFC-DD9C333F4C5D:7da4502f-1838-4116-8556-b33eafc9882f" style="margin: 0px; display: inline; float: none; padding: 0px;"> <div id="bf559b11-cb8f-4960-969b-e9b4f6472da3" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; display: inline;"> <div><embed height="264" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/5eKYyD14d_0&hl=en" width="317" /></div> </div> </div> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b014e8998e367970d Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2011-07-04T23:40:16Z <p><em>- Janet Pelz</em></p> <p>This New Year’s resolution was to find myself in some unexpected places and to say yes to some unexpected offers. Fortunately, no one has invited me to go skydiving or to dine on cockroaches.</p> <p>I’ve already stepped into some new territory this year and had reason to congratulate myself. But then the big offer came through – the one coming at the midpoint of calendar that allowed me to draw a big black line through that resolution and mark it ‘done’.</p> <p>It started when my brother Dwight Pelz, Chairman of the Washington State Democratic Party called and posed the question. “I don’t suppose you would have any interest in, say, going to the White House when the President (of the United States, just in case you were wondering) congratulates the Seattle Storm on their national WNBA title last year? Like, if I were to come up with two invitations for you and, I don’t know, maybe your daughter Casey, to go?”</p> <p>Red meat on a plate for supper.</p> <p>Women’s basketball, my daughter, oh yeah, the President (not just any President but one I would actually want to meet and one who is not just a fan of basketball but of women playing basketball), seeing my sister and one of my very best friends? Let’s add that up.</p> <p>It comes to a big, hell yes!</p> <p>So then came the challenge of booking a flight (thanks to my wonderful husband Bob, who coughed up a stinking heap of frequent flyer miles and who, because of his super-duper flying status earned us access to someone who could cut through the red tape and actually get us on a flight, not to mention a free cocktail on the way home). And then there was the process of getting security clearance into the White House (I’m not even going to start with the list of offenses they had to ignore for that to come through). And all of this to get done within a week.</p> <p>But get done it did, and there we were, my basketball-playing daughter Casey and me, on an early morning flight heading east. She, sacrificing two days of her basketball camp and me having lined up play dates and carpools for her brother Matthew for those same days. Landing in DC, on a flight with one of the team owners, the Storm’s CEO and VP, dinner that night with my sister Mary and my dear friend Gail Dratch and then the announcement that because Gail’s husband is the head of OSHA, he was able to score her a pass as well. Perfect.</p> <p>Even more perfect when Tuesday’s thunderstorm scared all the humidity out of the air and the weather was a sunny, breezy 85 degrees. Casey and I got dolled up in our bought-for-the-occasion-40%-off-JC Penney-dresses and drove downtown with Gail. We killed some time walking the neighborhood before getting in line at noon at the guests-only White House gate.</p> <p>We were the first ones there (having not gotten the memo that the gate time got moved back an hour) but enjoyed the time meeting and greeting the new arrivals. The first were a couple of young women – Katori and Ingrid -- who, like us, were there because of a connection with the Democratic National Committee.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01538fa57280970b-pi"><img align="left" alt="P1010348" border="0" height="197" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01538fa57287970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 15px 0px 0px; display: inline; border: 0px;" title="P1010348" width="261" /></a></p> <p>(l-r Ingrid, Katori, and Katrina – sister of player Ashley Robinson, who flew in from Dallas for the event.  In the background Seattle’s mayor checks his emails).</p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p>Then others began to arrive, including Anne Levinson, one of the team’s former owners, Dwight’s former colleague on the King County Council Larry Gosset, the Mayor of Seattle, Mike McGinn (who, we discover as we’re chatting with him and waiting, has a daughter who went to elementary school with Casey), and many others. The waiting took on a quality of a pre-event tailgate party sans keg.</p> <p>When the gates opened, Casey, Gail and I sprung to the front and were the first to clear the several security checkpoints and be met by the dress-uniformed greeters. When I asked if we could walk on the grass to the water station at the opposite end of the Rose Garden, the female officer told me “Make yourself at home. After all, this is <em>your</em> house.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01538fa5728f970b-pi"><img alt="P1010349" border="0" height="263" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e8998e2e3970d-pi" style="display: inline; border: 0px;" title="P1010349" width="349" /></a></p> <p>(Casey greeted as she enters the Rose Garden)</p> <p>Loved that. I mean, not to get too sentimental, but in what other country on the planet would that be the invitation?</p> <p>The Rose Garden itself is not that much to write about but the portrait of FDR on the hallway leading there certainly caught my breath, as did the façade of the south portico, which was close enough to touch. We were snapping photos like fools, and I had to get one of Katori, who had put on her crown and ‘Miss Black America District of Columbia’ sash when she entered. What a tease to keep that bling in her bag!</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01538fa5729a970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="P1010353" border="0" height="234" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01538fa5729e970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 20px; display: inline; border: 0px;" title="P1010353" width="310" /></a></p> <p>(Gail, Queen Katori and Casey inside the Rose Garden)</p> <p>Then they let us through to the opposite side of the portico, and we’re kids in a candy shop, clicking the cameras again. But we stop in time to make it to the lawn where chairs are set for the event. We snake around the back row to nab some empty seats near the front, so we have a clear line to the podium, which bears the Presidential seal. More photos of us framed by the White House, of the other visiting notables there for the occasion. We recognize Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services; Ron Sims, former King County Executive; Former Washington Governor and newly-appointed Ambassador to China, Gary Locke and his wife Mona, and Senator Patty Murray. The two Washingtons in one place.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01543378c50c970c-pi"><img alt="P1010369" border="0" height="245" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01538fa572a7970b-pi" style="display: inline; border: 0px;" title="P1010369" width="325" /></a></p> <p>And then that thing happens when everyone spontaneously stops talking and moving in anticipation of something big. We mute our giggling to a whispered voice.</p> <p>Doors open and out march the WNBA Commissioner, the team owners and managers, and the players – the beautiful, tall athletes, their strong shoulders proudly worn in dresses to set them off.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01538fa572ab970b-pi"><img alt="P1010375" border="0" height="319" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e8998e2f8970d-pi" style="display: inline; border: 0px;" title="P1010375" width="425" /></a></p> <p>(Storm team and owners, their trophy in lower right)</p> <p>And the Big Guy makes his entrance, alongside the Storm coach Brian Aigler (the team’s affirmative hire) and takes the podium. In case you ever find yourself in this situation – this is a time to stand. Show your respect to the most powerful man on the planet.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e8998e303970d-pi"><img align="right" alt="P1010389" border="0" height="234" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e8998e30d970d-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 30px; display: inline; border: 0px;" title="P1010389" width="310" /></a></p> <p>Though in this context, strength is not what he’s out to prove. As he must do with countless of these events – which for his audience are once-in-a-lifetime occasions – he presents himself with warmth, grace and a touch of self-deprecating humor. He lauds the team for their accomplishments, for the fact that they exemplify teamwork, for providing to girls like his two daughters wonderful role models of women who are strong, self-assured, and know how to compete. He shares the experience of coaching his own daughter’s basketball team a couple times since taking up residence in the White House. He acts overwhelmed with surprise when presented a Storm jersey bearing his name as well as a ring matching the championship style on all the players’ hands.</p> <p>(Click <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2011/06/29/president-welcomes-seattle-storm">here</a> to watch the video of his comments and see the event for yourself)</p> <p>But for that pesky debt-ceiling issue I don’t doubt that he would have stayed for another hour of hand shaking, but he had another podium to get to and under far less pleasant circumstances. After he left, the team filed out through that colonnade <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01543378c518970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="P1010402" border="0" height="279" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01543378c51e970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 20px 0px 0px; display: inline; border: 0px;" title="P1010402" width="210" /></a> you always see in White House movies and photos – Kennedy worrying over the Cuban Missile Crisis, Bush trying to understand what just happened inside -- and disappeared inside the White House to conduct a basketball clinic with some local Boys and Girls club kids.</p> <p>We popped up to shake hands and grab a photo with Gary Locke, whose daughter also went to school with Casey in Seattle and amazingly was coached in soccer by my brother-in-law when the family moved to D.C. area, and with whom I shared a rickshaw ride around Beijing on the Ambassador’s first ever trip to China many years ago. We also greeted former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowski, the current Federal Drug Czar, whose bigger claim to fame is that his parents live in the same retirement home as mine. All these connections spanning the continent and every member of our family adding to what was already an amazing afternoon.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e8998e31d970d-pi"><img align="right" alt="P1010401" border="0" height="210" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01543378c531970c-pi" style="margin: 0px; display: inline; border: 0px;" title="P1010401" width="278" /></a></p> <p>We clicked a few more photos before making our way out the gate, just like hundreds of thousands of others have done, who undoubtedly felt just as special as we did at that moment.</p> <p> </p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01538fa572c6970b-pi"><img alt="P1010358" border="0" height="277" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e8998e33f970d-pi" style="display: inline; border: 0px;" title="P1010358" width="209" /></a> <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01543378c54d970c-pi"><img align="right" alt="P1010411" border="0" height="226" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01538fa572d5970b-pi" style="margin: 0px; display: inline; border: 0px;" title="P1010411" width="300" /></a>Giddy and with time to kill before heading back to the airport, Gail had the brilliant idea of taking the elevator to the top of the Hotel W across the street from the White House, where an open-aired porch offered fabulous views of the DC skyline as well as lunch. We sat there savoring the moment and took up a whirling conversation with a young woman chasing her toddler son who had to stop to note how Casey and I looked so much alike and how wonderful it was to see strong women and Mazel Tov and a kiss to Casey in congratulations for something, though it wasn’t clear just what. On the way to the airport I told Casey that it was if we were on the set of the Truman Show and everyone with whom we came in contact were actors put in place to say and do wonderful  things for us.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01543378c559970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="P1010427" border="0" height="242" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01538fa572e9970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 10px 0px 0px; display: inline; border: 0px;" title="P1010427" width="321" /></a></p> <p>Debt ceiling and Republican recalcitrance aside, it was truly perfect. A once-in-a-lifetime experience, or at least the last one until Casey is standing behind a future President, celebrating her team’s national title. In which case, I intend to be sitting in the first row.</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b014e87a8bf25970d Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2011-04-12T21:41:33Z <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p>For Seattlites, <a href="http://www.uwajimaya.com">Uwajimaya</a> is not just the destination for home-made sushi ingredients, it is a journey to a far-away place at the end of the ride-free bus. Amid the shelves piled high with exotic food items you’ll see the regular neighborhood customers, many of whom are elderly immigrants, filling their grocery carts with reminders of home. You’ll see pre-school classes ogling the live fish and bins of strange fruits and vegetables, tourists taking photos and office workers on lunch break. It’s a place that has come to define Seattle almost as much as the Space Needle.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e60ca039d970c-pi"><img alt="P1010150" border="0" height="329" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e4242356970b-pi" style="display: inline; border: 0px;" title="P1010150" width="474" /></a></p> <p>I enter the sprawling retail complex that is Uwajimaya looking for my interview with its CEO, Tomoko Moriguchi-Matsuno and notice a woman whose head barely rises above a display of rice sacks. She is engaged in what looks like any conversation between two neighbors catching up with family news, although here, one is the store owner and the other a customer.</p> <p>I introduce myself as she finishes her impromptu chat and she takes up with me as if I were the next neighbor. We climb the employees-only staircase until Tomoko stops a man descending. “What’s up with that -- ‘Can I meet in an hour’?,” she asks him tauntingly. “The soy sauce rep, doesn’t he understand we’re one of their biggest customers?”</p> <p>“Not <em>one</em> of their biggest customers,” corrects the man with a smile, “their <em>biggest</em> customer!”</p> <p>“Well, you tell him next time that won’t work, and I don’t give a rat’s ass what he says!” She giggles with these words. “And don’t forget,” her voice shifting to business mode as she continues upward, “I need the names and addresses of the big-wigs in San Francisco to invite to our event down there.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e424238f970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="DSC08550" border="0" height="257" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e60ca0435970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 15px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="DSC08550" width="341" /></a></p> <p>We’re on a hunt to find a place to talk, and though she has just arrived, she knows what’s going on in any possible space. “That one’s busy with a 401(k) training,” she nods as we approach a room filled with employees. Tomoko offers greetings and personal comment to each person she passes. Striding into an office area she raises her voice loud enough to address everyone sitting at their desks. She breaks into a friendly exchange in Japanese with one woman as we squeeze through to a small room at the back, where Tomoko pushes a stack of supplies to the edge of the small round table, and pulls up a stacking chair.</p> <p>Across the table from me in this supply-closet-turned-Executive-Conference-Room sits Tomoko Moriguchi-Matsuno, Uwajimaya’s CEO, dressed in a palette of color suggesting an artist’s sensibility. She carries none of the officiousness one would expect from a corporate executive and indeed our interview is peppered more frequently with self-effacements than with boasts of business success.</p> <p>In the next hour I’ll come to see that this one woman, who reaches 4’10” in a pair of sensible shoes, embodies a package of contrasts which she moves between as quickly and easily as images in an iPad commercial. She speaks fluent Japanese and in English can swear like a sailor. She is an artist surrounded by engineers and business leaders. She was born in the custody of an internment camp yet embraces her American heritage. She can barely reach a kitchen counter, but she worships the giants of the NBA, calling herself a Kobe Bryant ‘freak’.</p> <p>Raised in a traditional Japanese American family where the men are in charge, she sits at the head of her family business, which last year had $95 million in sales.</p> <p>From the moment we begin talking, Tomoko demurs, suggesting there is nothing so interesting about her that would fill the paragraphs of a story.</p> <p>“This is really just a grocery business, it’s not rocket science. I think my family is more interesting than me -- what they are to Seattle and to the Japanese community.”</p> <p>Although I’m not convinced, I agree to travel back in time to the beginnings of the business at the top of which Tomoko sits today.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e60ca0489970c-pi"><img alt="P1010143" border="0" height="272" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e60ca04e4970c-pi" style="display: block; float: none; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; border-width: 0px;" title="P1010143" width="362" /></a></p> <blockquote> <p>          (some of the colorful shelves at Seattle’s Uwajimaya)</p> </blockquote> <p>Uwajimaya, named for the Japanese town of Uwajima where Tomoko’s father Fujimatsu Moriguchi learned his trade (the suffix ‘ya’ means ‘store’), began in 1928, when he started making fish cakes in Tacoma to sell to the Japanese farmers and fishermen around Washington State. It was part of his plan to make $5,000 and then return to Japan. “My father was very, very poor. He had just a seventh grade education, if even that.”</p> <p>But before Fujimatsu Moriguchi could realize his dream, the war came, and with it Executive Order 9066 in 1942 which forcibly relocated to internment camps 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent, the Moriguchi family included.</p> <p>An arranged marriage had partnered Fujimatsu to Sadako Tsutakawa, sister to George Tsutakawa who later would achieve international renown as a Seattle sculptor. Mr. and Mrs. Moriguchi had sent their oldest child, a girl, to Japan before they were interned. Tomoko, their youngest child, was born in the land of the free but not in freedom. She was the last child born in the internment camp in Tule Lake California, her sister having the distinction of being the first child born there.</p> <blockquote> <p>Tule Lake, in northern California, was one of the most infamous of the internment camps. Prisoners there held frequent demonstrations and strikes, demanding their rights under the U.S. Constitution. As a result, it was made a "segregation camp," and internees from other camps who had refused to take the loyalty oath or had caused disturbances were sent to Tule Lake. At its peak, Tule Lake held 18,789 internees. Tule Lake was also one of the last camps to be closed, staying open until March 20, 1946.  -- <a href="http://www.lib.utah.edu/portal/site/marriottlibrary/menuitem.350f2794f84fb3b29cf87354d1e916b9/?vgnextoid=885a31af8dade110VgnVCM1000001c9e619bRCRD&vgnextchannel=3774f882f22de110VgnVCM1000001c9e619bRCRD">J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah</a></p> </blockquote> <p>With two other children born before and three born in camp, the Moriguchis were released in 1945 -- a family of six children with $75 in their father’s pocket, the dreams of returning to Japan having vanished like the smoke from an incense burner. “So, we came back to Seattle and moved into what I learned a little while ago was a barn -- I always thought our house was a little bit strange,” her voice floats higher as her eyes roll upward. “You know, we were very poor but we didn’t know we were poor because we had such good people in our lives.”</p> <p>Her father started a store at 4th and Main in Seattle’s Nihonmachi, or Little Japan Town, an area just a shadow of what it had been before it was cleared of many of its residents. “It was a very small Uwajimaya store where he made his fishcakes again.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e87a8bb8b970d-pi"><img align="left" alt="clip_image002" border="0" height="343" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e60ca057f970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 30px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="clip_image002" width="266" /></a></p> <p>The family worked hard. “Oh, we lived in the store, my mother and father worked 7 days a week; 15 - 20 hours a day.” Knowing a life of poverty, Fujimatsu was determined that his children would have greater opportunities, starting with a solid education. Undoubtedly reflective of his recent experience he would tell his children, “There are many things that can be taken away from you, but not an education.”</p> <p> Of the seven children, every one went to college with the exception of the oldest sister in Japan. Represented among them are engineering degrees, chemistry degrees, home economics, and Tomoko’s fine arts degree.</p> <p>(Left: Fujimatsu outside the original Seattle Uwajimaya)</p> <p>While he was still alive, her father gave the business to the four boys. “He expected the girls to get married and not do anything.” With the sad passing of the family patriarch in 1962, Tomoko’s brother Tomio Moriguchi left his job at the Boeing Company where he was working as   an engineer, and took over the family business, running it for the next 40 years.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the youngest sibling Tomoko, was working as a graphic artist in San Francisco, living near her sister. Tomoko married her husband, Koji Matsuno, a San Francisco native, and they had two daughters. But when her sister announced that she was moving back to Seattle for her husband to take a job with the family business, Tomoko told her own husband that they would be leaving, too. “He was an engineer for the Navy, and I told him he would have to transfer.”</p> <p>When she came back was it to be involved in the business? “No, no, no, no. Trust me, this is not what I thought I’d be doing today,” she says sotto voce.</p> <p>And what did she think she would be doing? “I didn’t think anything beyond just bringing up my kids. I do everything for them, but I’m a tiger mom, too. People criticize that woman, I don’t criticize her. First of all, she’s not telling you what to do. That’s the way I brought them up, we were tough and they’re successful. I didn’t beat them, but we were tough.”</p> <p>Shortly after her return to Seattle, “I was working part-time, fixing up the stores, setting up the displays. It was just a nice way for my family to give me a job. Actually,” she says conspiratorially, “I don’t know if they did give the job to me -- I think I just ended up doing it. We always kid that no one would hire us so we all had to come back to the family business.”</p> <p>Over the years, her job at Uwajimaya grew to entail oversight of much of the business’s day-to-day operations. Tomoko was the one responsible for opening new stores in Beaverton, Oregon and in Bellevue and Renton, Washington. Along the way, she put her artistic flair to work in designing vivid store displays.</p> <p>Then in November 2000, Uwajimaya made its second Seattle move since the 4<sup>th</sup> and Main location, to anchor Uwajimaya Village. Along with the grocery and gift market, the 66,000 square foot retail space includes Kinokuniya Bookstore, an Asian food court, underground parking and several other retail stores and services. Above the store sits the 176-unit Uwajimaya Village Apartments. Altogether, it represents a project of incredible magnitude for a family business.</p> <p>(You can read more about the business in this <a href="http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008238711_uwajimaya08.html ">Seattle Times story</a> commemorating the 80<sup>th</sup> anniversary of Uwajimaya).</p> <p> <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e4242519970b-pi"><img alt="image" border="0" height="218" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e60ca077e970c-pi" style="display: block; float: none; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; border-width: 0px;" title="image" width="376" /></a></p> <blockquote> <p> (Exterior of Uwajimaya Seattle; Village apartments visible above)</p> </blockquote> <p>“And then, the four brothers for some crazy reason all retired within years of each other and they said, oh, we’re going to have <em>you</em> run it.” Tomoko was 62.</p> <p>Her answer? “Well, I guess there’s no one else to do it,” she says with her eyes moving from side to side, feigning a search for an alternative. “We wanted a family member. So I thought, I think I can do it for a year (I’m in my third year now). But I’m very, very bad with numbers. I’m an art major! And my brothers said, we’ll just put good people around you and that’s what I have -- I have really good people around me. So, what choice do I have?” she asks as if scheming to find another solution.</p> <p>“I was already doing so much of the day to day operations for the retail -- but I didn’t have the wholesale and everything else. But I’m always good at telling people what to do,” she says mischievously, her eyes sparkling.</p> <p>She jokes about what the first days were like. “I just sort of sat around and thought, hmmm,” her shoulders hunched as if her goal were to make herself even smaller than she already was. “You know, I don’t have a secretary, I don’t have an assistant. It wasn’t like I was in a whole new world where people were driving me around and bringing me lunch -- in fact, I have to go out there and beg people to get me something,” she says, faking outrage.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e87a8bd36970d-pi"><img align="left" alt="Tomoko Moriguchi Matsuno Sept 2007, 032" border="0" height="244" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e87a8bd7c970d-pi" style="margin: 0px 15px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="Tomoko Moriguchi Matsuno Sept 2007, 032" width="164" /></a></p> <p>She acknowledges that much of what she knows about the business comes from having been in it basically all her life. “I not just grew up in it but I understood from my brothers which were the important parts.</p> <p>“The store is us and we are the store.”</p> <p>The store seems to function as the sun in this family’s solar system. Each of the siblings, like planets, may rotate independently but their orbits always bring them back to Uwajimaya. Over time, each of the siblings have added to the family network, like moons to the planets, but still they all feel the gravitational pull of a business in its third and fourth generations, that is open seven days a week for most every day of each year after year. And like the sun, its steady presence becomes indistinguishable from the daily pace of life. It is no wonder there are no apparent boundaries in Tomoko between the personal and the business, from a chat with a neighbor to instructions regarding a contract. In addition to her Japanese upbringing, to which she attributes her reticence to take credit, the business is such an intrinsic aspect of daily life that it often goes unnoticed for how amazing it really is.<em> </em></p> <p>At this point in the interview Tomoko stops to challenge me. “How interesting is this? It’s so weird to think that anyone would want to read about me. Running the grocery store -- that’s not interesting, that’s second nature.”</p> <p>After she describes all that is part of this family business, including an arm that sells wholesale products to Asian restaurants, I challenge her initial premise that this isn’t much like rocket science. It sounds pretty complicated to me.</p> <p>“I wish I could say it is but because we’re in it every single day and it’s human. Retail is like farming -- you have to work with what you have, you have to have good common sense, good social skills, you have to think fast, and because you’re working in a grocery store, you can’t tell everyone to go to hell.”</p> <p>I ask what changes Tomoko has witnessed in the decades her family has been growing the business. “It used to be (in the original Seattle store) that people actually worked for us -- and I don’t mean this in a power play at all -- because we were a business. Now the company works for the employees to give them good jobs and good benefits.” I note the 401(k) seminar we passed and she nods her head. “Thirty-seven cents of every dollar goes to employee benefits. For a small Asian family business, we work hard to take care of our 500 employees. We want our employees to be citizens, to pay their taxes, to get the same privileges of any other person.”</p> <p>She points out that if the philosophy weren’t so ingrained, the family “would have taken a lot of money out of the business to drive fancy-dancy cars, but that doesn’t suit us. Now, were not starving,” she states sincerely, to assure me that martyrdom isn’t part of the business plan, “but we are not here to live the kind of life that we wouldn’t know what to do with.”</p> <p>Where their clientele was once all Japanese, they are now 50% non-Asian in all their stores, and their Asian products represent every part of the continent. “The mix makes it stronger,” she says noting that the mix comes not just from the products they sell but from the different cultural and ethnic backgrounds and 30 native languages represented in their employee base. “But our policy is that you can only speak English on the floor unless a customer asks for something in another language. Because we’re America,” she says with a mixture of national pride and retail pragmatics. “We find it insulting to customers if we’re talking away in a language they don’t understand.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e60ca080e970c-pi"><img align="right" alt="P1010145" border="0" height="290" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e87a8be3c970d-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 15px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="P1010145" width="218" /></a></p> <p>Has she changed during these three years of being in charge? “Yeah, a lot, but I can’t tell you exactly how because they are subtle things. I understand numbers better but I still hate them. Numbers are good but your heart is even more important.</p> <p>“At the end of the year if we didn’t make $1 million but we made $900,000 and we did it by not letting people go -- the numbers can’t always drive you. If we were a public company, the investors would come in and tar and feather me. But for all my life working in this business, there are many stupid things I have done, not once have I been reprimanded. But also, my family figures since I never listen to them, why tell her?”</p> <p>Tomoko sees herself in this position for another two years, but her family insists it will take longer than that to groom other family members to take over. And when she’s done being a CEO? “I’m going to find myself in either art or food or both. I like to cook, but I also have this art in me. I do crazy things with fabric. Somewhere I’ll find a mix with my art and my food, but I don’t know what it is yet. And I would like to tell women, in Japan mostly, that they don’t have to abide by the old rules.”</p> <p>Before our interview comes to a close, Tomoko pauses to check her cell phone for a message. “My lawyer’s wife fell down today and he said he would call the minute she was diagnosed.” We leave the supply closet whereupon Tomoko issues a few more jokes to the office workers and a couple instructions regarding a contract negotiation before heading downstairs to see an old friend. I leave her by the rice sacks, talking to a customer just as I had found her a couple hours earlier.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e60ca0879970c-pi"><img alt="P1010138" border="0" height="260" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e87a8be8f970d-pi" style="display: block; float: none; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; border-width: 0px;" title="P1010138" width="382" /></a></p> <p><strong>Tomoko’s Not-So Secrets for How She Does It?</strong></p> <ul> <li>You know what I’ve gotten with age? I’ve been able to kiss off worrying about things I have no control over. </li> <li>If she had a group of Japanese women here what would she would tell them? “First of all, if you’re a mother, be a good mother, be a good wife, a good partner, whatever you are. I’ve had the opportunity to break some <em>silly</em> social glass ceilings both for my family and myself. I would tell them, you have to not feel inferior. There is always something you can do -- I don’t mean reinvent the light bulb, but even the littlest thing, every single day, if you have some control to make it better, you need to make it better. I think, as women, we sort of think, oh, somebody else should do that, especially in the Japanese community. You don’t have to be a leader, but you can focus everyday on what you can do. That’s the advice I would give them.” </li> <li>I’m always figuring out how to have a really good time, but the good time comes because you’ve had some crappy times. </li> <li>Being able to wake up is a good time. Everything is a good time, even when my mother died it was a good time because she suffered so much. </li> <li>I always have a really good time with my two girls when we take a good trip -- those REALLY are good times.  My other good times? Just laughing. I love laughing -- I feel that it’s really good for your heart. </li> </ul> <p><strong>What has Tomoko read recently?</strong></p> <ul> <li>Besides every grocery article in the whole entire world now? I read the newspapers inside out. I read the NBA sports stories. I’m a Kobe Bryant freak. I was very sick one year and I had to stay in bed, and the NBA playoffs were on. What I was admiring about Kobe, not only do I think he’s cute, but he had this incredible physical talent. I fell in love with him. And of course his name is Kobe -- probably because his mother liked Kobe beef. I am just impressed with NBA physical talent -- you can see them do nine things in half a second -- if you don’t admire that there’s something wrong with you. I love basketball. I’ll lie to people, if a game is on and there’s something I have to go to, I’ll lie in order to watch it. </li> </ul> <p><strong>Whom does Tomoko want me to interview next?</strong></p> <ul> <li>Megan Macphee -- a young woman who is an artist, going through melanoma. Her story is amazing -- the art piece she’s creating is just amazing. It is something she needs to be doing. </li> <li>Mickey Flowers -- she used to be on channel 7 news. She’s done a lot with the African American museum. She’s one of twin sisters -- it would be very interesting to interview them together. </li> </ul> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0147e27d5a02970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2011-02-10T21:49:26Z <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p>The sun is shining today and with it comes the prospect of spring, new life, long evenings outdoors, the hot bake of sun on the face, and bare feet in the sand.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e27d5989970b-pi"><img align="left" alt="imagesCA0VCLCW" border="0" height="192" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e27d5996970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 15px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="imagesCA0VCLCW" width="318" /></a></p> <p>I’m working on setting up some interviews – I have one next week that I’m excited about and others in the email exchange (Would you be interested? When are you available? Don’t worry – every woman I interview says there is nothing interesting about her life…)</p> <p>In the seven days since I posted the story about Sandy Hirsch, I’ve had more than 600 hits, along with several new subscribers. Most of you are seeing my site for the first time. Welcome!</p> <p>So, in this break while waiting to write my next story, I thought I’d explain for the new visitors what this site is and how it works. I’ve also got some updates on people I’ve written about previously, for those of you who like to track their progress. And in the course of this column, I’ll share with you some of the results I got from the survey many of you were kind enough to take back in November.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e27d59c7970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="first bloom" border="0" height="224" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e27d59cb970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 20px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="first bloom" width="297" /></a></p> <p><strong>The Story of How Does She Do It?</strong></p> <p>I was always writing. At work I wrote the policy papers, the speeches, the memos -- whatever required putting one word after another in print seemed to fall to me. But when the recession hit, words were no longer a marketable commodity. I heeded a pent-up call to write what I wanted to write and a bad novel grew slowly from my keyboard.</p> <p>Then the revelation struck that my world was filled with characters much richer than anything I could create from my imagination. They lived next door, their kids went to the same school as mine, they were friends and friends of friends -- all ordinary women living extraordinary lives – quietly, far from the headlines.</p> <p>I set out to tell some of their stories.</p> <p>I approached each of them like a gift, to unwrap carefully and find the treasure inside. And to each of these women I gave a gift in return -- their lives, with every bit of humor, resolve, passion and love wrapped up in one story.</p> <p>I spend an hour, maybe two, listening to a woman tell me her life. And at the end I ask, “Whom should I interview next?” In this one community my stories have featured women of ages 11 - 99, mothers, artists, teachers, community leaders, gay, straight, and of diverse cultural backgrounds. Through their individual stories a much larger one is told -- our communities are filled with amazing women who are each doing their part to change the world. And you don’t have to do much to find them -- just ask.</p> <p>The stories clearly hit their mark. Readership of the site grows steadily, mostly through word of mouth. People comment that we need more of this -- inspirational stories about regular people; a way to root ourselves in a broader world.</p> <p><img alt="" height="339" src="http://forums.steves-digicams.com/attachments/panasonic-leica/57076d1142799706-first-signs-late-spring-p1010069.jpg" width="452" /></p> <p>In the process I also aspire to connect people, even if just through the diaphanous threads of cyberspace. My friend Charlotte in the Phillipines had suggested in her survey response (miss you, Charlotte!) that I interview “a man who started life physically as a man but has chosen to live as a woman.” My friend Jane recommended I interview Sandy Hirsch, who has built a specialty of working with transgender clients. So I sent an email to Sandy and asked if she would like to take part.</p> <p>Researching my site, Sandy read about someone she knew – <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/11/mary-ellen-buchanan-pushing-past-limitations.html">Mary Ellen Buchanan</a> – but didn’t know that Mary Ellen was a powerlifter. While I was interviewing Sandy, Laura saw us in the café. When Laura saw the story, she was moved to tears and shared the link on her facebook page. Mary-Ellen read Sandy’s story and sent her greetings through the comment link. Sandy sent the story link to her client <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qajl1eURH0Q">Jerica</a> to let her know she was featured in the story. Jerica was thrilled and shared the link with several transgender websites and on her youtube video log. Jerica is now a subscriber, and several hundred have found the site through Jerica’s links. I love that.</p> <p><strong>More from the survey:</strong></p> <p>Here are the types of women you’ve encouraged me to write about through your survey responses:</p> <ul> <li>women in their 40’s or older </li> <li>moms trying to find balance in their lives </li> <li>women who overcome obstacles and are living with power and purpose </li> <li>any woman in a male-dominated profession </li> <li>athletic women </li> <li>women who have chosen to veer from a particular set path to pursue a passion or social cause. </li> <li>women rights, immigrant, poverty, racial minority and labor activists for justice </li> <li>amazing teachers and parents making a difference in our schools </li> <li>a stay-at-home mother who has started her own business or chosen to work on a social cause or in politics </li> <li>a novelist – what’s it like to sit alone and write? </li> </ul> <p>I’m pursuing some leads on several of the above, and I always welcome your ideas for women who fill any of these categories and particularly, for women most of us have never heard of.</p> <p>As for the rest of the survey responses, I learned that 50% of respondents don’t always read the stories because they don’t like reading on the computer or the notices get lost in their inbox. This lends impetus to the idea of compiling the stories into a book, which could be enjoyed with a bedside light. Some find the stories too long – it’s always the hardest part, to edit out words or experiences from these women I find fascinating. Few of you are subscribers, preferring instead to wait for an email from me notifying you of a new story (warning: you will miss several of my postings because I don’t always send an email, but the story will always come directly to your inbox if you subscribe).</p> <p>Not a one of you responding to the survey have purchased anything from an Amazon-affiliated website from the ad on my site. Guess I don’t exactly have a good business model going on. I should do a lot more to try to generate revenue to pay my costs, I realize, but I always choose to spend my time writing instead. Always open to ideas on this front, of course, so feel free to pass any good ones along.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b014e5f224e4e970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="image014" border="0" height="254" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e27d59db970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 20px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="image014" width="336" /></a></p> <p>(Speaking of business models, a memo leaked that Nokia, the world’s largest cell phone company, is worried about going bankrupt. Any ideas why?)</p> <p><strong>Coupl’a Updates:</strong></p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/03/melissa-erickson-an-athlete-teammate-and-friend-living-with-als.html">Melissa Erickson</a> has set up a Foundation to receive contributions to help fund her health care costs (she is the former UW basketball player battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Click <a href="http://melissa-erickson.blogspot.com/">here</a> to go to her site. It’s easy to send a paypal donation – I just did.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/02/how-do-they-nurture-the-musical-prowess-of-a-young-violin-virtuoso-and-the-spirit-of-a-teenager.html">Simone Porter</a>, the young violinist I wrote about last year, finally had to give up on public school and pursue her studies on-line – a situation more conducive to her schedule with The Academy, an elite conservatory program for pre-college musicians which requires being in L.A. every week from Sunday –Tuesday. Writes <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/02/motherdaughter-deborah-and-simone-porter.html">Deborah</a>, her mother: “After barely a week of this online program, Simone is thriving. She feels empowered by being able to work ahead and she is able to practice her violin more and still have free time to exercise and even meet friends. Next year Colburn may allow her to actually board there, which, while heartbreaking for me in many ways, would, I know deep down, be great for her. She has emerged to a level of consciousness where she knows she is a musician first and foremost.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e27d59e3970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="4061841753_3ea6694ec2" border="0" height="186" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e27d59e7970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 15px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="4061841753_3ea6694ec2" width="276" /></a></p> <p>“We just returned from England where Simone performed the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with a great orchestra. The conductor just happened to be in the Barbican when Simone was rehearsing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra last year (talk about luck!), heard her, and almost immediately invited her back to solo with his orchestra. Upcoming performances include soloing with the New West Symphony in L.A. in March, and soloing with the Hong Kong City Chamber Orchestra in July.”</p> <p>Thanks for reading and as always, stay in touch.</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0147e23be88c970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2011-02-02T20:39:54Z <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p>Her own childhood marked by a series of 11 checkerboard moves -- from Belgium to Germany to Switzerland to England to Germany and back to England -- Sandy Hirsch brings a certain empathy to her clients.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0148c844f518970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="IMGP2350" border="0" height="215" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0148c844f51e970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 20px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="IMGP2350" width="306" /></a></p> <p>“I had an immediate affinity with never really feeling at home anywhere as well as feeling at home everywhere because of all the traveling I’ve done. Never feeling ‘bien de sa peau’ -- feeling right in one’s skin. I have the ability to morph constantly because that was what I was trained to do as a child. I know what it’s like to feel as if you don’t belong.”</p> <p>Sandy’s clients, those who make up about 95% of her private voice and communication practice, are transgender women -- men in the process of becoming women. People in the middle of a complex journey to become the person they’ve always wanted to be.</p> <p>Whether through her studies of French and the classics, teaching herself languages as she moved throughout Europe, or her first career as an actress and singer, Sandy’s life has all been about communication. “My passion is voice. Mimicry is something I’ve done since I’ve been able to speak.”</p> <p>But after tiring of waitressing while trying to support herself as an actress, Sandy went to graduate school to study speech language pathology.</p> <p>“My very first voice client in graduate school was a transgender woman. I was one of a few ‘mature’ students there. People knew about my theater background.” The match was made. “Working with her was such fun, so challenging.</p> <p>“In that period of time before starting my practice, it was obvious to me that I would be seeing transgender clients.” One of the supervisors at the UW Voice Clinic had a two year wait list “so she started sending her clients over to me because I was the only one in town. Then once the web hit, it went national and then international.</p> <p>“Suddenly, you’re the person in the world who does it -- along with a bunch of other people, but there’s only a small group. When I started there were fewer of us, but there’s been a real explosion of people transitioning and coming out. Society’s views have changed, and by definition, the need has increased the number of services.</p> <p>“Which is why we wrote the book because there was no clinical text for people to turn to in the voice world.”</p> <p>Sandy shows me the book she edited and co-authored: <em>Voice and Communication Therapy for the Transgender/Transsexual Client: A Comprehensive Clinical Guide (</em><a href="http://www.pluralpublishing.com/">Plural Publishing</a>, March, 2006). Included within are cd’s which we listen to together. They feature transgender women speaking before and after therapy. The difference is dramatic – the ‘after’ voice every bit female.</p> <p>In addition to speech and voice work, Sandy provides training in other aspects of communication, such as walking, posture, sitting, facial expressions, and gestures. Counting off her fingers with delight, Sandy points out “I get to do my theater, I get to meet <em>really</em> interesting people, I help people speak the truth, which is what being a speech pathologist is all about -- you get to help people express themselves the way they always wanted to, or get them back to where they were before.”</p> <p>It is for this reason she calls her business <a href="http://www.givevoice.com/index.htm">Give Voice</a>. </p> <p>Her clients come to her at varying times in their transition. She sees most of them in her home office and Skypes with others further away. “It’s a little different with everybody. They come to me having just started hormones, and others have been transitioning for a couple years, and they’ve never done any voice.”</p> <p>Her one criterion, “I require that people come to me in their feminine mode, in some relatively honest manifestation of their gender transition. They may not be out at work yet, but they’re spending enough time as a woman to use what I’m teaching them. It’s like the difference between textbook French and being in France. Their goals and outcomes are more achievable with a certain amount of immersion time.”</p> <p>As part of their gender transition, Sandy helps her clients learn a new way to use the body to produce different sound. She works on pitch -- how high or low the sound is; resonance -- the timbre of the voice; where the sound resonates (men tend to resonate in the chest or lower larynx, and women in the upper larynx or head); and inflection -- how the sounds move higher or lower in pitch from word to word.</p> <p>“Women produce a light sound, which is not just about pitch, but where the voice plays the mouth and in the head. The sound is out front,” she says, pouting her lips forward. “I’m training people to begin raising pitch so the vocal chords are vibrating faster. It’s nearly all ear training. Really, it’s like learning a foreign language, but learning sounds rather than words.”</p> <p>Sandy clicked on a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qajl1eURH0Q" target="_self" title="video">video</a> to show me the affect of her work with a client.  <img alt="TullysAlbertsons" height="151" src="http://i4.ytimg.com/vi/NKdka8BssAo/default.jpg" width="201" /><img alt="Cousin's Wedding" height="151" src="http://i4.ytimg.com/vi/rObfeIDKKfM/default.jpg" width="201" /></p> <p>In it you’ll s<img alt="Thumbnail" src="http://s.ytimg.com/yt/img/pixel-vfl3z5WfW.gif" />ee Jerica alternating clips from before and after her therapy over the course of nine months. “Initially, she’s presenting as an obviously transgender woman and later, you wouldn’t know if you saw her on the street.”</p> <div class="wlWriterEditableSmartContent" id="scid:5737277B-5D6D-4f48-ABFC-DD9C333F4C5D:98c38a91-3077-464e-9dca-6bb4547a63e5" style="margin: 0px; display: inline; float: none; padding: 0px;"> <div id="d56077a5-be58-45a0-93c7-dc8206013a3f" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; display: inline;"> <div> <object data="http://www.youtube.com/v/753gLNUlRww&hl=en" height="355" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="425"> <param name="data" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/753gLNUlRww&hl=en" /> <param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/753gLNUlRww&hl=en" /> </object> </div> </div> </div> <p>(click the above to hear Jerica’s challenges with mastering a new voice at work, her estrangement from her parents, and her new boyfriend)</p> <p> </p> <p>The vast majority of her transgender clients are men transitioning to becoming women. “There’s a reason for that. For transgender men, testosterone does change pitch.” Transgender women, on the other hand, have to train their bodies to produce sound in a different way.</p> <p>But changing voice requires a lot more than the physical work. “I warn people that when they want to move to complete change in the way they sound they will hit a psychological wall at three months. It’s like going through the Looking Glass -- they begin to ask, where’s this other part of me? As long as you sound the same, you can still pretend you haven’t changed.”</p> <p>Who among us can’t relate? I hear my own voice and think I’m still 35 years old.</p> <blockquote> <p>(When Felicity Huffman was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in <em>Transamerica,</em> NPR produced a story about her voice training and that of transgender women. Listen <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5246222 ">here</a> and you’ll hear Sandy at the end of the story)<em>.</em></p> </blockquote> <p>“Our voice is our inner anchor.” The hardest time to retain one’s new voice is with family or on the job -- in a context where you’re either forced to be hyper-intellectual, or with people who evoke from you your former self. Sandy knows those situations well.</p> <p>“I can speak street German pretty well, but I could never give a professional presentation in that language. The higher the cognitive level, the harder it is. It’s just like levels of fluency. For my clients, being able to present professionally, that’s a much higher level test vs. can I order my coffee.”</p> <p>Similarly, when Sandy gets on the phone with English friends or family, her childhood voice returns. “A while ago I went to London to present to a conference. It was like I’d never left -- It was like putting on my bedroom slippers. The way I communicated, the way I behaved -- everything -- the pace of my walk. I fell back into being in London.</p> <p>“That’s the change my transgender clients have going back to their families I sometimes tell my clients to make sure there’s a mirror around so they can constantly remind themselves of who they are.”</p> <p>If voice is such a critical inner anchor, I asked Sandy how she reconciled her own voice shift. During the course of our conversation I hear traces of her native British accent fluently intermingled with American ‘r’s’ and idioms. “I have a pretty confused voice -- I don’t mean that in a deep psychological blah-blah way. It’s really different all day long.” Sandy finds herself moving from a very English voice to one that is very American, depending on whom she is speaking to and what sort of mood she is in. “When I’m doing my community volunteer work I’m in my American head, because I never did any of that in England – I was too young. But when I’m annoyed at my kids I’ll often realize I’m using a very English sound. Or like after I’ve spent time with (our mutual friend) Jane, I’ll say, “How are you? How’s Jim? How’re the boys?”</p> <p>Her replication of Jane’s voice is uncanny. I wonder immediately about how Sandy will imitate me to Jane when she sees her next.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0148c844f530970c-pi"><img alt="IMGP2188" border="0" height="286" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0148c844f53a970c-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="IMGP2188" width="425" /></a></p> <p>(Sandy with her husband Jim West, and sons John and Finn West)</p> <p>She relies on her speech pathology training to work on voice with her clients, but for the other package of verbal and non-verbal communication, she falls back on her experience in acting and the fact that she is both “an acute observer and a woman.”</p> <p>Much of the information she imparts has to do with how women relate to one another. “If we were men,” she says leaning back against her chair, “we’d be talking like this.” She drapes one arm across the back of the chair and extends her legs in front of her, “instead of like this.” She caresses her coffee cup in both hands placing her elbows on the table and leaning toward me. “It’s the art of the chin wag, that’s a British expression, which means getting together to chat.” Women do this; men, not so much.</p> <p>Laughing, I pointed out that in addition to different posture, we also weren’t likely to be having this conversation if we were both men – I wouldn’t have called her to ask for an interview and not knowing me, she wouldn’t have accepted.</p> <p>Sandy has taught workshops about the secrets of Girl Talk at a Port Angeles conference called Esprit. “We’ve done everything to quilting to bead sorting, to looking at photographs together -- experiences that force people into this different kind of communicative style.” As I listen, I imagine her students taking notes: women choose beads and talk like this when they are sewing quilting squares… It’s fascinating to consider how her students are working intellectually to adopt a whole series of actions that women perform everyday, whether they come to it naturally or train themselves over a lifetime.</p> <p>“There’s a book called <em>I Know Just What you Mean – the Power of Friendship in Women’s Lives</em>, by Ellen Goodman and Patricia O’Brien. (From Publisher’s Weekly: <em>Goodman and O'Brien discuss how women listen, talk, care for and empathize with their women friends). </em>“An exercise I’ll have my clients do when they’re out there in the real world is to say at least five times an hour, ‘I know just what you mean.’ Men don’t have that empathy piece. They are more like to say, ‘Just give me the facts, ma’am’.”</p> <blockquote> <p><em>Sandy’s approach towards teaching “authenticity”, which includes everything from hand and facial movements, to voice and ways of thinking, has made a huge difference in my confidence and ability to live more fully in my chosen gender. I would recommend her without reservation to anyone seeking true authenticity in their chosen gender presentation and voice.</em></p> <p><em> </em></p> <p><em>B.C.</em></p> </blockquote> <p>Her private practice is just one leg of Sandy’s professional stool. She also works part-time doing acute care at Swedish Hospital Edmonds with patients on “everything from the neck up: language retrieval, speech, reading, writing -- the whole communication ball of wax.” Issues that could come about from stroke, cardiac arrest, traumatic brain injury or other causes. She also works with an agency in long-term care facilities, mostly with geriatrics in rehab.</p> <p>“My patients make me laugh; they make me cry.” Sandy played for me the role of a recent 83 year-old patient – a woman with a southern accent who married for the first time at the age of 72. “I was an undiscovered treasure,” she mimics, whistling the ‘s’ in treasure in a way that would make Tennessee Williams smile.</p> <p>Juggling different part-time jobs leaves time for Sandy to be involved in her kids’ schools and in community work and provides some freedom to pursue her many other interests. <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0148c844f556970c-pi"><img align="right" alt="IMGP2199" border="0" height="191" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e23be87a970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 15px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="IMGP2199" width="282" /></a> “Singing is a huge part of my life – our whole family is very musical. My husband plays sax and I sing classical and jazz.” (click <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4BcHeGtkn4">here</a> to listen to Sandy sing jazz at Tula’s). “Food is a huge part of my life -- having people over for dinner gives me great joy. If someone moves into the neighborhood, I make them welcome -- I’m a networker. The community work I do has fed me. I feel enormously lucky in the randomness of my life and so I do feel a need to be giving back.</p> <p>“I feel like there’s so much in the world to feel, smell, see, eat and hear, and the patients I work with remind me every single day that I could not have this in an hour, in five minutes. That keeps me moving forward. Realizing, I can do this, I can do this. It makes me think, how dare I not? When I was trying to decide whether to write an update to my book, my sister reminded me, it’s not bloody rehearsal, come on!”, she says in her English accent. “Why wouldn’t you write that book? How dare I not?”</p> <p><strong>Sandy’s not-so secrets for How She Does It:</strong></p> <ul> <li>My life is: Danny Kay, Nichols and May, opera, languages, good food, skiing and visual arts. All of those things have led me to where I am now. </li> <li>The obvious answer, this is the only way I know how to do it -- to have many different things going on because it’s never boring. Life is never boring -- that’s how I do it. </li> <li>I was lucky enough to have been born to great parents who offered me lots of wonderful experiences as well as a superb education. I'm constantly shocked at the randomness of that fact. They were very organized parents, so I have a sense of multi-tasking. </li> <li>I have an unbelievably supportive husband; we support each other’s careers a lot. </li> <li>It goes without saying that my kids give me huge joy, but that’s sort of a category of its own. </li> <li>I feel really privileged to have a healthy mind and feel like it’s my duty to use what I have – there’s no excuse for being bored or lying fallow. My mother died when she was really, really young, so in some ways I feel it’s my responsibility to live my life fully in honor of what she didn’t have. </li> <li>Keeping things new as well as keeping tradition. </li> <li>My brother and sister give me tremendous joy. We have a language we speak together – our own terms of family humor </li> <li>Traveling with my husband and sons gives me an enormous joy; being outside of my comfort zone culturally. </li> </ul> <p><strong>What books has Sandy read recently?</strong></p> <ul> <li><em>Consider This, Senora</em>: by Harriet Doerr </li> <li><em>Enduring Love</em>: by Ian McEwan </li> <li><em>Half of a Yellow Sun</em>: by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie </li> </ul> <p><strong>Whom does Sandy want me to interview next?</strong></p> <ul> <li>Our mutual friend Jane Zalutsky, who knows everyone and everything interesting, “obviously.” </li> <li>Liz Bullard – a speech/language pathologist who spearheaded the creation of The Children’s Playgarden – a playground designed for children with special needs. </li> <li>Sandy Eshelman – very interesting friend who has had every career known to man. </li> </ul> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0147e1c9b107970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2011-01-20T22:10:32Z <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <blockquote> <p><em>I was chatting with Rebecca and Carol at the gym (</em><a href="http://www.welldonevents.com"><em>www.welldonevents.com</em></a><em>) and they asked what I was doing today to change the world.  O.K., so I’m not changing the world, but having a web site provides me the chance to describe it from my point of view when the mood strikes.  So, in a departure from my usual fare…</em></p> </blockquote> <p><img src="http://assets.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/politics/Palin%20crosshairs%20NJ.jpg" width="452" height="226" /></p> <p>The Tucson shootings have sparked another round of debate centered on our interpretation of the First and Second Amendments to the Constitution. Did it occur because of hate talk and conspiracy theories, or because of easy access to high powered weapons and higher capacity ammunitions?</p> <p>I imagine they both played a role, but without guns, conspiracy theories are just, well, theoretical. </p> <p>It’s hard to draw an incontrovertibly straight line from the issuance of speech to the actions of its consumer. Words of hate and fear are released over the airwaves in overwhelming volumes and at warp speed in our hyper-tech culture. But who’s to know for sure if the crosshair image or the charges of clandestine Muslimism is <i>the</i> thing that sets someone off.</p> <p>But the trajectory of a bullet is indisputable.</p> <p>Traveling from the barrel of a semi-automatic weapon through the skull and brain of its first target, with the next in quick succession through the heart or lungs of a 9 year-old girl or a 79 year-old woman. It moves a distance of 1,230 feet per second in a straight line. This is not left to interpretation, but a selling point of the gun’s manufacturer.</p> <p>You can give a loaded dictionary to a crazy person and you might encounter him mumbling to himself in some public place. You can give a loaded gun to a crazy person and it’s likely that several random individuals will soon be lying in a pool of their own blood.</p> <p>So, we proceed through the same ritual as we did after Columbine, the D.C. Sniper, Virginia Tech and all the others. (ABC News printed an alarming list of mass shootings in the U.S. since 1999). As a nation we are shocked anew by the carnage, outraged at the commission of such an act, and we debate the cause. Then we agree that nothing can be done – apparently mass shootings are a reasonable price to pay for the right of citizens to keep and bear hand-held grenade launchers -- except to appeal to everyone’s better nature. And then we wait for the next headline.</p> <p>Fortunately, most of us have a better nature that we’re in control of. In a group of 100 people, 99 of us will join together to decry the violence and behave rationally.</p> <p>But then there’s the other guy. The one who lost his job, or is jealous of his ex-wife, is tired of being bullied in school, or is off his medication. And as long as getting a semi-automatic weapon and a 33-round high capacity magazine is as easy as it is in Arizona, ABC’s list is just going to get longer.</p> <p>Stop to think about it – have you ever read the parallel list of national tragedies caused by mentally unstable people <i>unable</i> to get hold of semi-automatic weapons? How many innocent people have died because of a waiting period, or regulations against gun trafficking, or background checks? Or because they could only buy a magazine that fired 10 rounds before reloading?</p> <p>In a day where the Tea Party has made constitutional fundamentalism a key tenet, I suggest we revert to the days when the Founding Fathers drafted those first two amendments. Let’s agree that political charges can only be made with handbills glued to the doors of public buildings and citizens can only own muskets that require a funnel and gun powder to re-load. There might be a lot more of us around in the future to appreciate our freedoms.</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0148c7a7d82f970c Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2011-01-16T03:03:23Z <p><strong><em>- Janet Pelz</em></strong></p> <p>If Neighbor had a rank, Anne Travis-Barker would be a General. Four star.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e19ea21a970b-pi"><img align="left" alt="Standard 033" border="0" height="351" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0148c7a7d7d2970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 20px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="Standard 033" width="219" /></a> There is nothing militaristic to her calling. Rather, it is rooted in her Christian beliefs, and stirred with real world understanding and lots and lots of love.</p> <p>Ms. Anne’s neighborhood is wherever she is at the moment – her south Seattle seven bedroom home which she fills with children; the back corner of a modest building nearby which is active with evening AA meetings, mentoring sessions for young women, Church service on Sunday and any other needs her community might have on all other days of the year. Her neighborhood travels with her from the local bus stop, where she asserts her responsibility to break up a fight, to the poorest places in southern Mississippi and even when she goes on vacation.</p> <p>“If someone is in need I’ve got to help. My kids say ‘one day you’re going to get yourself killed’,” she recounts, throwing her head back laughing, but her expression soon becomes serious. “You have to be a citizen, you can’t just look the other way. I saw this guy beating a woman, right on Cherry Street and nobody was stopping to help her!,” says Ms. Anne incredulously. “So I headed straight for him and I told the lady, get in the car! I drove her to Swedish Hospital and I asked her, what are you doing? You don’t have to live like that.” Pride and self worth are among the gifts Ms. Anne shares both with strangers on the street and with children in her home.</p> <p>A strong Christian, Ms. Anne quotes scripture at a pace that would make a cattle auctioneer envious. “In the Book of Mark, chapter 12, Jesus is asked which of the Ten Commandments is most important and he answers number 1: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; and number 2: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” she says, reciting the latter with an emphasis on every word. “Now, there are a lot of people who aren’t too happy with that one because they think that what is theirs should stay theirs.” Ms. Anne, on the other hand, is of the mind that most anything of hers can be shared with someone who needs it.</p> <p>I met Ms. Anne in her “office” at the back of a non-descript building in Seattle’s Rainier Valley. No sign identifies its purpose but it’s clear that anyone who needs to come here doesn’t need a sign to tell them what it is. Ms. Anne emerges from behind a makeshift office divider moving slowly and deliberately, but her face displays no pain, just radiant joy. A young man quietly and efficiently helps seat her in a stacking chair, and unfolds a table for me to set my laptop on before bringing out a cup of coffee for me and Ms. Anne’s preferred ginger tea.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e19ea227970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="P1000078 249" border="0" height="215" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0148c7a7d7e0970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 30px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="P1000078 249" width="285" /></a></p> <p>Anne Travis Barker also refers to the Bible to explain her view of the special role women play in society. “In the Bible it says the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. But then it says that God <em>fashioned</em> woman to be his help-mate,” she says, arching her eyebrow with a knowing look. That word, ‘fashioned’ suggests to Anne, that God’s creation of woman was more intentional, as if He were considering what He had forgotten in the first attempt.</p> <p>“God gave us something very special – the emotional side of Him; He gave us a different way to see outside of just strength, outside of just logic. He gave women a spirit of influence that He didn’t give to man. That influence is doing something for the better. Barbara Bush once said something, ‘we who rock the cradle rule the nation’. Women can make the world a better place. I really believe it starts with us.”</p> <p>I met Anne through the <a href="http://www.mockingbirdsociety.org/">Mockingbird Society</a>, a local organization working to improve the foster care system. Understanding the effort involved in raising my own children, I wanted to interview someone who was helping raise others. And as with so many of my interviews, I found that the reason that drew me to Ms. Anne was just a slice of what was remarkable about her. In fact, it wasn’t until she had generously shared more than an hour with me that the topic of foster care was ever broached. Before that I got to learn about all the other good work that keeps her up until late at night and rising before 5 in the morning.</p> <p>“Once a year I take a southern tour and drive to Louisiana or Mississippi – I went to New Orleans after Katrina. We pack up a van with bedding, housewares, kids clothes – whatever I can get, and we just start driving.” Her journey takes her down the country roads of some of the poorest places in this country. “If I see a bad conditioned place, I stop and ask, is there anything we can do for you?</p> <p>“Once when we were in Mississippi I heard this racket, my, but it was loud. I turned around to find out where the noise was coming from and I saw this little boy pushing the frame of a rusty bicycle,” she says, her beautifully manicured hands providing accompaniment. “It had no wheels, but he was pushing it up the road as if he were riding it. I asked him where he lived and he led us to this house and introduced us to his mother. We told her we came from Seattle to offer help. We went in her house. She was very embarrassed because the place was just horrible – I mean you just could not imagine living in there. And I said, we have several men here with us and they fixed the roof, and we got the kids new bedding, and gave them our last rug. We spent all day with them. Then I asked, was there anything else she needed? The woman said ‘no’ but the little boy stepped forward and said he wanted a bike. So, we called Walmart and arranged for <em>all</em> the kids to have new bikes. But the family had no way of getting to Walmart, so we hired a cab to drive the bikes out to the house. Sometimes it takes a while, but we do everything we can!”</p> <p>Normally on these southern marathons Anne is joined by 4 – 8 others in the 15-passenger van. “I’m always happy to have people come along, but I tell them, it’s a rough trip. We’re not staying in fancy hotels. Sometimes we’re sleeping in the van. We’re going to work, not to vacation.”</p> <p>Though even vacations have turned to work for Ms. Anne. “I was in San Diego on vacation with my kids, and I thought, let’s go over to Mexico. And I know it was just the hand of God we ended up in this place. I heard all this crying, and I said to my kids, let’s go over there and check it out. I’m nosy!”, she says, giggling. “And we see these kids, and they are just horribly filthy. They were crying and looked like they weren’t eating well. Well, I learned that the place was an orphanage without much money. The place looked like it needed a good scrubbing. My kids said, ‘mom, we’re on vacation!’ And I said, not today. Today you’re working.</p> <p>“So we cleaned that place top to bottom. We went across the border and bought every diaper we could buy from K Mart and went back the next day. We brought clothes. And I asked, how much would it cost per month to help support these kids? And I took on seven.” For the last 10 years, Ms. Anne has been sending boxes to this Mexican orphanage. In April, she’ll be going back there again. “I want them to know that I’m not just a sender. I’m going to follow-up.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e19ea235970b-pi"><img alt="20166_107236302627105_100000222065535_189325_6984107_n" border="0" height="333" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e19ea246970b-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="20166_107236302627105_100000222065535_189325_6984107_n" width="466" /></a></p> <blockquote> <p><span style="font-size: xx-small;"><strong>                  Anne and her children at the orphanage in Mexico</strong></span></p> </blockquote> <p>About four years ago, Ms. Anne got some help creating a non-profit structure to the work she was doing on her own. The organization is called Hand and Hand. “It’s about helping your neighbor and your neighbor is anybody who needs help.” With a 501(c)(3) she can solicit contributions from local businesses (and individuals). She’ll call the hotels to get sample soaps and hygiene supplies. Target has made contributions, and Pepsi, who has a bottling plant nearby, often supplies beverages and the volunteers to distribute them. She’ll package things up and put a label on the bag that credits the company who donated them. “I want people to know that there are many people helping them.”</p> <p>And then, as she was preparing to do the next morning, she’ll distribute them.</p> <p>Doing so isn’t as easy as placing a piece of candy in a Trick or Treat bag. On this Saturday a week before Christmas, Ms. Anne was preparing to feed the homeless under the freeway in downtown Seattle the next morning -- starting at 5 a.m. <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e19ea258970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="DSCF0857" border="0" height="224" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0148c7a7d7f9970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 20px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="DSCF0857" width="297" /></a>That’s when she’ll get the chili and coffee going so she can offer warm food and drink to people who have been sleeping in doorways that December night. She has gathered up gloves and hats and scarves, soaps and shampoos. She and the other volunteers will serve under the overpass and then, “we’ll target doorways. We drive down First Avenue and if we see someone who wasn’t able to make it to the feeding we’ll stop the van. I’ve done this enough so I know how to do it right. You can’t just walk up on someone in a doorway because they might have mental health issues. So instead, we just open the van and invite them over. We have hot chili because they need something filling – they may not have eaten the night before.”<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e19ea266970b-pi"><img alt="DSCF0876" border="0" height="270" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e19ea26a970b-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="DSCF0876" width="359" /></a></p> <p><span style="font-size: xx-small;"><strong>Ms. Anne (foreground above) and volunteer crew preparing for street feeding</strong></span></p> <p>That was the first item on her to-do list for Saturday. The second, following at 11 a.m. was a holiday party she was organizing for not just her own foster kids, but all the others in the homes that along with hers make up the network for which Ms. Anne serves as the Hub Home. She is at the center of a structure that the <a href="http://www.mockingbirdsociety.org/">Mockingbird Society</a> has pioneered, its intent to support both the kids and the parents who take them in. In her role as the Hub Home, Ms. Anne not only raises her own foster kids, but she serves as a resource and mentor for the other families, and she always keeps two beds open at her house just in case she needs to take in a child for crisis respite care. In anticipation of the holiday party tomorrow, Ms. Anne has been busy trying to secure donated gifts for all the kids, but she has found this year a particularly difficult one. She sadly contemplated the possibility of many disappointed faces.</p> <p>So, finally we made it to the topic of foster kids, though when I used that term, Ms. Anne quickly corrected me. “These aren’t foster kids, they are <em>my</em> kids. I tell them when they are in my home, they cannot refer to themselves as adopted kids or foster kids. Don’t label yourself like that!” she pauses a moment to shake her head in sadness. “I don’t like that stigma. If they say that to me, then they’ll say that at school, they’ll start to think of themselves like that.”<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e19ea270970b-pi"><img alt="02-19-2009" border="0" height="351" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0148c7a7d817970c-pi" style="display: block; float: none; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; border-width: 0px;" title="02-19-2009" width="452" /></a></p> <blockquote> <p><span style="font-size: xx-small;"><strong>                           Anne Travis Barker with a few of her kids</strong></span></p> </blockquote> <p>The topic of foster care elicits the fighter in Ms. Anne, who has taken in children for more than 25 years. “Trust me, I do it because of the children, not because of the system. It’s a system that needs changing,” says Anne sitting up straight and looking in my eyes with conviction, “and I plan to be one person to make it change!” It’s a reason she strongly supports the <a href="http://www.mockingbirdsociety.org/">Mockingbird Society</a> “because they are trying to make it better.”</p> <p>Her frustration stems from the fact that the system has lost its compass – it no longer points to the kids who are in need of help, but to the adults who manage it. According to Ms. Anne, they have more concern for their own careers than for the kids they are supposed to be serving. “You have all these people who are promotionally motivated, but they’re not children motivated.”</p> <p>She illustrates her frustration with stories of kids she knows who have been shuffled from home to home with no recognition of the need for family stability or the child’s special issues. Throughout her stories, there are frequent mentions of <em>he</em>r kids. Now, I know she has two kids of her own (“I had a hard time having kids – I lost a lot of them. I had two but I always wanted 12 children.”), so I stopped her to ask, just how many kids <em>have</em> you fostered?</p> <p>For the first time in our interview, Ms. Anne is quiet. “How many?” she asks herself, as if disbelieving such a question could exist. “Oh my lord I couldn’t even begin to count.” She bows her head, leaning it against one hand while the fingers of the other move quickly in succession. The quiet continues and I see her lips move slightly. Finally, she looks up and says, “well, if you don’t count those who came for just respite care, say all the kids who have been with me for 90 days or more, I don’t know, maybe 60?”</p> <p>60 children. Not for a hotel stay, but for parental support, guidance, doctor’s appointments, mental health evaluations, school lunches, teenage parties, college applications, and love.</p> <p>Within that number there is sadness. “Jamaal was killed on Memorial Day in a car accident. My other son was hit by a drunk driver; my littlest boy developed cancer; I have a daughter that had uterine cancer….” her list continues. But there are the bright spots as well – the daughter she has had for 10 years is getting ready to start community college. “She wants to be a pediatrician.”</p> <p>For each of these kids and all the others she touches, Anne strives to find the unique value within them. “That’s why we got so involved in Northwest Junior Orchestra – that’s a way out for some of these kids. We have a boy who has had some real problems, but he’s an excellent musician. We tell him, you’re not a dummy, you’ve got talent.</p> <p>“We expose these kids to the world outside this neighborhood; we help them discover beauty. We go to the Nutcracker every year, we expose them to new things – let’s go to Jefferson Park and see the beautiful trees and learn to play golf -- we were able to get a young man into golf, he loves it, and he earned his own golf set.”</p> <p>Seeing crime as a frequent result of dropping out of school, she started Way Out Tutoring in her building on Thursday nights. Two teachers, an elementary teacher and a Garfield High School teacher donate their time and she gets money for school supplies from the City.</p> <p>“And for each of these kids I don’t have to worry about him robbing me some day; I don’t have to worry about him attacking me someday. Folks have got to understand, if you don’t make a change, you’re going to face these people at some point.” When you do face them, figures Ms. Anne, it’s a whole lot better if they’re on the right path.</p> <p>Some times Ms. Anne does have the chance to see the people she has touched in the past. “This young man came by here and he said, you put your arms around me and I couldn’t believe it. And he said, what should I do now? And I said, you put your arms around the next man and it all gets better.”</p> <p>That’s what Ms. Anne did with me. At the end of this wonderful conversation, more than once having felt blessed to have shared the time with someone who, but for this web site, I would have never met, Ms. Anne folded me in her arms with a hug every bit as warm as those she undoubtedly delivered to 60 or more kids.</p> <p>And I put my arms around you.</p> <p>If you would like to support the work done by Ms. Anne and Hand to Hand, she eagerly welcomes more helpers, to solicit and pick-up donations, assist with the early morning feedings, pack hygiene bags.</p> <p>And she could really use some help setting up a simple web site that might help inform people of what she needs help with and when. If you have skills in that area, leave a comment below and I’ll try to hook you up.</p> <p>Meanwhile, financial contributions can be mailed to: <strong>Hand and Hand, PO Box 28177 Seattle, WA 98118</strong></p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Ms. Anne’s not-so secrets for How She Does It:</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>“I was married for nearly 30 years and granted the highest position in the world – Motherhood. I believe it is though my children that the journey of life really started – consider just for a moment, that there is a little person who is counting on you for everything. One day I really thought about this – the power of making the world, the place I live, other people’s lives better by what I did or didn’t do with my little person. I finally put a name to this revelation – it’s called the power of One. </li> <li>“Sometimes life can get overwhelming with problems, injustice, bad laws – these things don’t get corrected because of the lawyer, senator or other groups. It is my feeling that if each of us do all we can do – everything gets better. The power of One starts and ends with you and me.” </li> <li>She works at having balance in her life. “We feed on the street, we have a party for foster kids, but I need to go get my nails done! I get to take a steam bath and I’m not taking my phone. These are my Anne Times – I think I’m better person when I take time for me.” </li> <li>Anne’s mother has been a huge influence in her life. Though they were poor growing up, “we always had somebody live with us, she always did things for other people. My mom always pressed us to become educated. She would tell us, ‘I don’t want you to ever carry anything heavier than a pencil -- that’s the heaviest thing I want you to lift in life. Sit at a desk and earn a living.’ They knew the fields.” </li> <li>“I’m not perfect. It’s something I tell the girls I mentor. Obesity is an issue. It’s one of those health problems that hits our community hard: obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, breast and prostate cancer. I’m learning to eat more healthy even when I’m eating Black food.” Removing the pre-frying of collard greens and eating carrot cake made without sugar are two recent revelations to her. </li> <li>She doesn’t like talking about herself, claiming that her good deeds are only possible because of the people who work with her. “Everybody wants to be famous -- why? They’re glory seekers and I never want that. I just want life to be better for everybody and I think that can happen. I want justice, I want it to be right. </li> <li>“I’m not as organized as I want to be. I do a calendar for a whole year and I don’t let too many things disrupt that calendar. Sometimes I examine myself, did I miss something? I try to keep my eye on the priority and let everything adjust. </li> <li>“I can go two or three days and not really sleep.” </li> </ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"> </span></strong></p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">What books has Ms. Anne read recently?</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>Re-reading <em><strong>The Shack</strong></em>, by William P. Young. A father tries to unravel the murder of his daughter after he receives a suspicious note, apparently from God. “It shows his journey. I feel like I’m on a journey.” </li> <li><strong>S</strong><em>hopgirl</em> by Steve Martin. “You have to read things that stimulate you and keep you grounded.” </li> <li>“And of course, I read <strong><em>my Bible</em></strong>, because it keeps me grounded. Especially the Proverbs -- you gotta have that remembrance.” </li> </ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Whom does Ms. Anne want me to interview next?</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>Pam, who started NW junior orchestra. “Out of nothing she has gone to people and gotten new instruments, gotten musicians to donate their time; she even has her grandkids teaching. She has helped a lot of kids stay out of trouble through music.” </li> </ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">What ahead for Anne Travis-Barker?</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>She’s really into Egyptian history -- her next adventure is to travel to Egypt </li> <li>She has a long list of certificates and diplomas, including a PhD in Theology. The next thing she wants to learn? Glass blowing. </li> <li>She’s working to buy a new place that will have space in it to do the things she currently does, but that can also provide a meal and a bed for the homeless each night. </li> </ul> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0147e145974c970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2011-01-04T21:25:10Z <p><em>- Janet Pelz</em></p> <p>It’s interesting how my attitude changes towards each New Year. Often I approach it with a surge of energy to tackle goals, usually ones that got lost in the year-end holiday run-up. I’m sort of easing into this one, less intent on accomplishments than on opening up to opportunity.</p> <blockquote> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e145972a970b-pi"><img style="border-right-width: 0px; display: block; float: none; border-top-width: 0px; border-bottom-width: 0px; margin-left: auto; border-left-width: 0px; margin-right: auto" title="P1000940" border="0" alt="P1000940" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0148c74f1b7c970c-pi" width="347" height="262" /></a>                              Holding on to Autumn</p> </blockquote> <p>I think my new attitude is shaped in part by the amazing women I’ve had the opportunity to interview for this site. They’ve taught me that focusing on a path is not necessarily the avenue to fulfillment, especially if it blinds me to other possibilities. I don’t mean to get overly philosophical here. I guess the feeling I have is one of humility. I thought I had it pretty well together, but these women have taught me how much more “together” can be. Sure, I’ll take on some resolutions, but I also hope to find myself in some surprising situations in the next 12 months.</p> <p>I feel so fortunate to have never had a list of resolutions weighed down with a commitment to stop smoking or to get in shape (since I never started smoking and never stopped exercising). How punishing those pledges must feel at the top of any list. I could only imagine getting to January 7 and having a cigarette and thinking, well crap, I just blew that one! <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0148c74f1b87970c-pi"><img style="border-right-width: 0px; margin: 0px 0px 0px 15px; display: inline; border-top-width: 0px; border-bottom-width: 0px; border-left-width: 0px" title="P1000929" border="0" alt="P1000929" align="right" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0148c74f1b91970c-pi" width="241" height="320" /></a> </p> <p>Without those punitive goals I can approach a new year with creativity and inspiration. I think it would be great if all of us made a collective resolution – imagine that impact! My suggestion? Pledge to help someone get a job this year. Whatever you can offer – editing a resume, providing leads and contacts, offering an informational interview, making a financial contribution to a community job training or job placement organization. And if you’re in the position to offer even a little work, consider hiring a mom part-time. There are so many amazingly qualified and under-employed women who have so much to offer, communication and time management skills at the top of their lists.</p> <p>It’s tough out there to find work, and for those looking, it’s a yoke worn every minute of the day. While our country is not in the same dire condition as we were when Roosevelt instituted the WPA, we can still appreciate what that surge of employment meant for this country, not just economically, but in the purpose and pride it restored to hundreds of thousands of the chronically unemployed. Each person working supports dozens more. Together, we could be a very, very, very, tiny WPA.</p> <p><strong>What are your resolutions, hopes, plans for the upcoming year?  Leave your ideas by clicking the red ‘comment’ link below.</strong></p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0148c6903a70970c Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-12-09T19:27:30Z <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p>I’m always interested in a good read. My guess is that you are, too.</p> <p>So, how about sharing some of the best books you’ve read this year. What titles do you think we should all consider and why? Maybe we’ll get some ideas for year-end gifts or just a boost of reading inspiration to take into the next year.</p> <p>One of my book highlights this year came to me from a suggestion. My friend Leslie, who has known me for long enough to know told me I should read <strong>The Elegance of the Hedgehog</strong>, by Muriel Barbery.<img style="margin: 0px 20px 0px 0px; display: inline" align="left" src="http://reviewsbylola.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/elegance-of-the-hedgehog.jpg" width="184" height="283" /> I fell headfirst into an amazing novel that took equal care with the smallest moments and the broadest themes. Plus, it’s set in Paris, so I had lots of mental imagery to supply. I wasn’t too fond of the ending, however. What did you think?</p> <p>Among books I read that I wouldn’t recommend, <strong>A Map of the World</strong>, by Jane Hamilton. An unthinkable sadness occurs in the first chapters and from there the story becomes even more depressing. I also disliked Alice Hoffman’s <strong>Here on Earth</strong>, <img style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 25px; display: inline" align="right" src="http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1165517889l/5159.jpg" width="150" height="242" />another from Oprah’s Book Club. The book spins you into a number of complex characters, some reminiscent of Dickens, and at the end they all just scatter, like dandelion seeds. I’d be curious to know if anyone had different impressions of either of these.</p> <p>On the non-fiction side, I’m having fun reading <strong>The Tipping Point</strong>, by Malcolm Gladwell. Don’t know how much of it I’ll ever have the chance to apply to my own life and pursuits, but it’s full of interesting anecdotes and studies, connected in a fascinating way.  And of course, I was bowled over by the women’s stories<img style="margin: 0px 15px 0px 0px; display: inline" align="left" src="http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/half-the-sky.jpg" width="171" height="252" /> told in the book Esther Instebo gave to me, <strong>Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide</strong>, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.</p> <p>The women I’ve interviewed for How Does She Do It? have many interesting things on their bookshelves – scroll back through the archives to see what they are reading.</p> <p>If you buy books – or anything else – on Amazon, click onto their site from the ad to the right.  Your purchases earn a few pennies to support this web site.</p> <p>What have been your favorites/dud this year?  Click the word ‘comment’ at the end of this story and add your recommendations in the white box titled “Post a Comment".”  Then check back periodically to see what others have written by clicking the red comment link again.  </p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0147e045cdcf970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-11-30T22:29:27Z <p>By Janet Pelz</p> <p>I met Mary-Ellen Buchanan prepared for an interview with a gifted teacher of children with exceptional needs, but within moments of settling down with our coffees, the conversation took its own path.</p> <p>For me this became less of a story about her professional calling than a broader story about the webs of support that we create, taking turns both doing the holding and allowing others to hold us. Committing to the idea that no one is beyond, beyond needing help, beyond being worthy of it; beyond the limitations we thought that age or mental or physical development brought with them.</p> <p>This is how we started.</p> <p>In a soft voice edged with reminders of Queens, Mary-Ellen tells me, “I’m a power lifter -- I’m a competitive power lifter. I’ve won a world championship and I have Washington State records.”</p> <p>Mary-Ellen is 66 years old. She stands a mere 5’1”.</p> <p>“It’s all age and weight,” she explains. In the 61 – 67 year-old division, she’ll compete in the 105 – 114 pound weight class for just one more year. The next division will take her to age 75. “You should see those older athletes -- <em>un</em>believable. It’s quite amazing what they do.” After that she’ll compete against every woman older than 75 in her weight class. No more divisions, just lots of opportunities to outdo herself. Again.</p> <p>In 2008 she bench pressed 132 pounds, eclipsing her previous state records of 110 and 115 pounds. “Now I want a fourth state record. I would like to get the world record, which is now 165 pounds. I used to think it’s out of my range, but now I’m thinking it’s possible.”</p> <p>She pushes a bar loaded with significantly more than her body weight from her chest while lying, back tightly arched against a bench. Under her wrestling singlet she wears a special shirt so tight it takes her coach several minutes to dress her. Once in it, her arms are almost immobile (she demonstrates for me with a kind of zombie walk, arms straight out ahead).  The only thing they can do is press the weight. Up. The weight her coach Joe Head hands her in the meet. How many pounds Mary-Ellen doesn’t ask. She trusts Joe implicitly to know what she can do.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e045cd85970b-pi"><img alt="00000001" border="0" height="380" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e045cd8f970b-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="00000001" width="506" /></a></p> <p><span style="font-size: xx-small;"><strong>Mary-Ellen Buchanan competing in the World Championships, 2008, with coach Joe Head spotting</strong></span></p> <p>While Mary-Ellen embraces the work that’s required – three work-outs a week of between 2 – 3 hours each in the gym and running the other days – she gives the pace and flow of these work-outs completely to her coach, a former pro football player who now runs his own gym, High Performance HQ Fitness in South Seattle.</p> <p>“You got a coach, you do what he says. He has the goal in mind; he’s always fine-tuning. As you get close to a meet, you start your shirt, you start working on the weight you’re going to lift. I’m trying not ask how much weight is on the bar, I’m just doing what I’m told -- he handles all the numbers. Whatever the next one is, it’s Joe’s determination.” Where’s the next meet? “I don’t know what Joe’s got in mind for me. But we’ll definitely do the World Championships in Las Vegas in the fall of 2011.”</p> <p>Mary-Ellen started lifting in 1987 after suffering a running injury. Training with Joe since 2000, she didn’t start competing until 2006. What factored into her decision to go competitive? “Joe said I could do it,” she answered matter-of-factly. “He said I had the ability. I remember Joe saying, you know, the Washington State record in your age group is 75 pounds, and I thought, oh man, I can do that! That was a little tease.</p> <p>“I never competed in anything, except running. I used to do marathons. But I’m not the fastest runner, by any stretch. I’m steady. And, you know, growing up, we didn’t have Title IX. I didn’t play soccer, I didn’t do any of that stuff.</p> <p>“But I really love weight lifting -- neurologically, I think it suits me perfectly. It is so centering both physically and mentally. You’re holding that weight -- it’s just all that proprioception,” she exclaims, throwing out a term that requires definition. “It’s how your body feels things in space. I just feel the weight go all through me,” she says, swiping her hands down the opposite arms. “It just feels good.”</p> <p>Mary-Ellen is tuned into ideas like neurological fit and proprioception. When she’s not power lifting, she works as an early childhood special educator at the <a href="http://www.boyercc.org/">Boyer Children’s Clinic</a>, a non-profit therapy and early childhood educational facility serving children who have neuromuscular disorders such as cerebral palsy or delay in development.</p> <p>The work at Boyer “is very physical, <em>very</em> physical. I’m lifting kids, sometimes I lift kids in their chairs. I don’t have a bad back. At work, you have to get up and down off the floor <em>a lot</em>. I said, Joe, I really gotta do legs, and you know what? Since we added legs, my knees do not hurt at all. It’s great because this is a job you don’t see old people doing. I thank Joe for that,” she adds, laughing. “And I always say, I have no plans for retirement -- not a thought in my mind. I tell him, Joe, you’re my old age insurance!”</p> <p>Most of the kids she works with have vision impairments. “I work on their cognitive, visual and social skills. I want them to be able to look at what I show them, shift their visual intentions so they can scan their environment, and then I want them to be able to choose between options. Do you want the ball or do you want the baby?”</p> <p>This is how she met Jonah Israel, whose mother’s life was transformed by Mary-Ellen’s work. Said Joyce when I wrote about her for <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/05/joyce-israel-finding-unconditional-love-for-her-special-needs-son.html">How Does She Do It?</a> last May:</p> <blockquote> <p>“I remember, we walked into her classroom and she held up these two objects in front of Jonah and she said brightly, ‘Jonah, which of these do you like, do you like the blue (pointing to one hand) or the green (pointing to the other)?’ And I thought, lady, what, are you on drugs? My kid is a vegetable, what are you doing? And do you know, within six months, Jonah was turning his head, making a decision between the blue and the green? She gave me hope. This woman changed my attitude about my child in a huge way. I came to understand that there was somebody home. And gradually, gradually, I learned how to love him.”</p> </blockquote> <p>On Tuesday and Thursdays, she does home visits of children, some of whom may be too sick to come to school. Often, these families have come to Seattle from places far away -- Somalia, Viet Nam, Ethiopia. “I love going into any foreigner’s home because it feels like I’m traveling and I love traveling.”</p> <p>For these and others, Mary-Ellen is often the person who can help an overwhelmed family learn how to decipher and attend to their children’s special needs. “What I really enjoy and I’m good at is working with the families. I mean, it’s very painful. You’re the first teacher, it’s an important time in their lives. I get that and I get the pain. Yes, my job has a sadness to it, but I am also often struck by the resiliency and strength of the families.  It is a privilege when they let me into their lives.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e045cd98970b-pi"><img alt="00000004" border="0" height="248" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013489a1f5a7970c-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="00000004" width="468" /></a></p> <p><span style="font-size: xx-small;"><strong>Mary-Ellen singing the ‘Shout and Whisper” song here and the ‘Umbrella Song’ below.  The songs allow kids to make choices during music/circle time and encourage social interactions.</strong></span></p> <p>Advancements for these kids don’t come in a straight line. “They can do something real good one day and the next day they have a seizure and it’s all gone. But it’s still worth it to just keep plugging ahead. Because if you’re plugging ahead, the parent is so glad to have someone plugging ahead for their kid. You’re not saying, well, this child’s not going to make it, so why bother.”</p> <p>Mary-Ellen and several of her colleagues are trained in Reiki, a Japanese technique for healing and stress reduction. It’s a practice she calls upon daily, at home, at work, at the gym. “There was a boy who would come to my classroom -- he has since died. He was the only one there and we would put a towel on the table, turn the lights down and I would just treat him with Reiki for the hour. It’s just something I could do. It was important not to write off that kid or his family.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e045cda7970b-pi"><img align="left" alt="00000003" border="0" height="199" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013489a1f5ac970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 20px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="00000003" width="274" /></a></p> <p>“I see a lot of these kids being written off. Some would say, why are you working so hard? I’d say, we know what he can’t do, that’s pretty obvious, let’s find out what he can do.”</p> <p>In her life, Joe helps Mary-Ellen find out what she can do and he’ll push her to get there. He won’t write her off because of her age, or her size. And Mary-Ellen never gives up on herself.</p> <p>“I got injured once at a meet. I’ve never been one to say, ok, I got hurt, I gotta stop. I say, what do I need to do to fix it? I rehabbed that shoulder for a year. My shoulder is probably stronger now than it was.”</p> <p>At this age, Mary-Ellen has already lived longer than both her parents. In addition to her exercise schedule, she eats a low fat diet, and with a husband who is a really good cook, she eats well. “I don’t want to deal with weight. Could you imagine having to compete and THEN having to lose a pound or two in 10 hours? Uh-uh. I was 20 pounds heavier at one point. I took it off and that was it.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0147e045cdb7970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="00000002" border="0" height="395" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013489a1f5b0970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 25px; display: inline; border: 0px;" title="00000002" width="260" /></a></p> <p>In addition to Boyer and the gym, Mary-Ellen’s life is full with friends, her synagogue community, and her husband Tom, who recently retired from a career with Boeing to become a full-time social activist. “I always say, you know, I have a wonderful husband, I have a coach, a Reiki master and two rabbis -- I am <em>very </em>supported.”</p> <p>Like Joyce Israel, there are countless parents of special needs kids who would list Mary-Ellen as a critical pillar of support in their worlds.</p> <p>Taking turns – doing the holding and having others hold her.                                                  Mary-Ellen and husband Tom Buchanan</p> <p><strong> </strong></p> <p><strong>Mary-Ellen Buchanan’s Not-So-Secrets for How Does She Does It:</strong></p> <ul> <li>“When you get older you really take stock. Is there anything I have to regret? I think the only thing that sucks is that half your life is over. ‘Cause I’m stronger, I’m a much better teacher than I was even 10 years ago. </li> <li>“I couldn’t be the person I am now without Tom, without all my friends, the families I work with. I wouldn’t be as happy without Joe. The thing about growing old -- some people’s world gets smaller and smaller. The good news for Tom and me is that our community keeps getting larger and larger, stronger and stronger. The synagogue connects to it, the gym connects to it, and work. At the synagogue right away you can become friends because you have so much in common. </li> <li>“I have a good job. It’s very satisfying work. People say, oh, I just want some meaning in my life – well, my work gives me meaning. The only bad thing is you don’t make much money.” </li> <li>“You hope your life will have activity. You hope that when you compete, you have the mental toughness to get through. And you know what else? You hope you have that mental toughness throughout your life. You don’t want to grow old and decrepit; you want to grow old and strong. And you can -- I’ve seen it!” </li> </ul> <p><strong>What books has Mary-Ellen read recently?</strong></p> <ul> <li><em>The Museum of Innocence</em>, by Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Laureate </li> <li>One of my favorite authors was Octavia Butler, who won a MacArthur genius award. I was so sad to learn she had died. </li> </ul> <p><strong>Whom does Mary-Ellen want me to interview next?</strong></p> <ul> <li>A good public school teacher is worth her weight in salt. And I have two very close friends who are teachers who have given a lot of thought to schools in general. <ul> <li>Leslie Sager -- teaches 1st grade at Roxhill Elementary in Southwest Seattle </li> <li>Gladys Fox – a middle school librarian in Tukwila </li> </ul> </li> </ul> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b013488ec17ca970c Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-11-12T17:34:35Z <p> </p> <div class="wlWriterEditableSmartContent" id="scid:66721397-FF69-4ca6-AEC4-17E6B3208830:6c79b593-34f9-420a-9d59-938def5a07a6" style="margin: 0px; display: inline; float: none; padding: 0px;"><a href="http://cid-b1c91b133463b459.skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?page=browse&resid=B1C91B133463B459!105&type=5" style="border: 0px;"><img alt="View stories" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013488ec1767970c-pi" style="border: 0px;" /></a> <div style="width: 400px; text-align: right;"><a href="http://cid-b1c91b133463b459.skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?page=browse&resid=B1C91B133463B459!105&type=5">View Full Album</a></div> </div> <p>It was one year ago that I launched How Does She Do It? promising prospective readers:</p> <blockquote> <p>“You’ll be inspired by the extraordinary and ordinary life stories of women in the Seattle area.</p> <p>Each week I’ll interview a single mom, elite athlete, artist, or community volunteer; women who have arrived at their destination or women in transition – about who they are now and what choices they made to get to this point.</p> <p>I’ll ask these women to tell who has made a fundamental impact on their lives, and what resources they turn to for support. And I’ll ask, whom should I interview next? We’ll start a thread that could weave throughout the region, and we’ll follow it wherever it takes us.”</p> </blockquote> <p> <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f5cbf688970b-pi"><img align="left" alt="DSC03593" border="0" height="244" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f5cbf691970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 20px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="DSC03593" width="184" /></a> With the first story about my mother <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2009/11/index.html">Kelly Pelz</a> I’ve gone on to write about 24 other women, ranging in age from 13 – 99, women involved in the arts, sports, non profit organizations and business; women making an impact in this country and around the globe.</p> <p>In the process I’ve also had my eyes opened to the power of the web to connect us. Google provides more information than I can use, but here are some of the more impressive statistics:</p> <ul> <li>Since I posted my first story, I’ve had more than 13,000 page hits. When I started writing, I was excited to see the number of readers rise by 25 with a new story. Now I regularly get between 30 – 60 hits on the days I don’t even post from people who have Googled something and seen my page on their results page. </li> <li><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013488ec1778970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="lacey alone" border="0" height="244" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f5cbf6a0970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 20px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="lacey alone" width="164" /></a>My biggest single day was 328 hits about <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/06/index.html">Lacey Evans</a>, captain of the Rat City Roller Girls. By way of update – you’ll recall she was planning a kickball game at her wedding to determine the couple’s new last name. The groom won, and Lacey is now Lacey Ramon. </li> <li>85% or so of my readers in any month are new to the site. These are people who might be looking to read about a specific person I’ve profiled, or they may be looking for information on a topic like raising children as a single mom, living with ALS, or owning and operating a restaurant. </li> <li>Through Google searches I’ve been found by readers on every continent. A reader in Kenya read about <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/03/index.html">Trish Dziko’s</a> efforts to educate children of color. <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f5cbf6a9970b-pi"><img alt="n723563376_4121" border="0" height="137" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013488ec178e970c-pi" style="display: block; float: none; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; border-width: 0px;" title="n723563376_4121" width="204" /></a> Someone in Venezuela read about <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2009/12/index.html">Marla Smith-Nilson’s</a> organization <a href="http://www.water1st.org/">Water First</a> and their efforts to bring clean drinking water to the poorest parts of the planet. Readers from European and Asian countries regularly visit my site. </li> <li>Without question the story that is most often Googled is the one I wrote in two parts about the young violin virtuoso <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/02/index.html">Simone Porter</a> and her mother. <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013488ec1794970c-pi"><img align="right" alt="4061841753_3ea6694ec2" border="0" height="164" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013488ec179c970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 15px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="4061841753_3ea6694ec2" width="244" /></a> Simone’s high profile as an international performing artist has inspired a lot of interest. (She got a nice acknowledgment for her performance with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the concert she was preparing for when I interviewed her). </li> <li>Sometimes another web site directs their readers to me. <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013488ec17a3970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="Joanie and Abby" border="0" height="244" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f5cbf6c9970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 15px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="Joanie and Abby" width="164" /></a> There was the time when the website <a href="http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2010/03/24/amazing-women-joanie-warner-and-abby-mahler">Feministe</a> picked up my story about <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/02/index.html">Joanie Warner</a>, who has been living with breast cancer for 17 years and her daughter Abby, who was organizing a rock concert as part of a high school project to raise money to eradicate the disease. I saw a spike in readership from that link, including one woman who was an old friend of Joanie’s from North Carolina. The two friends found each other through my web site and are once again in each other’s lives. </li> <li>70 of you currently subscribe to the site – thank you for your vote of confidence! If you don’t do so yet but like the idea of each new story showing up in your inbox when I post, just fill in the white box in the upper right hand column where it says “enter your email address here” and hit the “subscribe” button. No cost, no obligation even to read, but it’s there if you want to. Likewise, if you prefer not to receive my regular emails notifying you of the new story, please don’t hesitate to ask to be taken off the list. I know how email overload can become an issue. </li> </ul> <p>While most women eventually agree to be interviewed, almost all of them start with the disclaimer that they aren’t interesting enough to merit a story. A few have turned me down, including one woman I greatly wanted to interview who sent me this:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>“I do wish I could say I'm enjoying my time as a full-time teacher with the Seattle Public Schools, but that's sadly not the case. Rather, I feel thwarted at every turn. It seems to me that creative people are not wanted in the public schools. I don't believe I can continue as a public school teacher.</em></p> <p><em>“Due to my present lack of inspiration, both for teaching and writing – teaching has taken all the time and energy I had for writing – I'm afraid I'll have to decline Janet's gracious invitation for an interview at this time. I wish I were in a better place to provide inspiration for other women.”</em></p> </blockquote> <p>Heartbreaking.</p> <p>Although I get wonderful kudos about the stories I write featuring other women, I don’t feel as successful in trying to establish the site as a place for readers to connect with each other. My other goal in starting was this:</p> <blockquote> <p>“So, how do <strong><em>you</em></strong><em> </em>do it?</p> <p>Is your secret as basic as a crock pot or as meaningful as the words Aunt Lola whispered to you on your wedding day? What gets <em>you</em> up on a rainy morning and sustains you through one more meeting, rehearsal, breast feeding, burnt casserole, proposal deadline, or arrival of the Great Hormonal Onslaught?</p> <p>I’ll open up topics and ask you to weigh in.</p> <p>We’ll learn from each other, share our secrets, and promote the people, organizations, books – even kitchen gadgets -- that add value to our lives.”</p> </blockquote> <div class="wlWriterEditableSmartContent" id="scid:66721397-FF69-4ca6-AEC4-17E6B3208830:167e675e-4db1-4dbb-b1b5-e9c795ad0799" style="margin: 0px; display: inline; float: none; padding: 0px;"><a href="http://cid-b1c91b133463b459.skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?page=browse&resid=B1C91B133463B459!111&type=5" style="border: 0px;"><img alt="View stories 2" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f5cbf6cf970b-pi" style="border: 0px;" /></a> <div style="width: 400px; text-align: right;"><a href="http://cid-b1c91b133463b459.skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?page=browse&resid=B1C91B133463B459!111&type=5">View Full Album</a></div> </div> <p>The times I’ve put out a question for your response I’ve been met with deafening, well, silence, which makes me think, either I’m asking the wrong questions or you don’t have an interest talking to each other through the milieu of a web site.  Consequently, I’ve become reluctant to try.</p> <p>Likewise, the comment function of the site doesn’t get much use. My hope is that the site could grow into something more like a book club than a text message – something that inspires conversation rather than tweets.</p> <p>All of this represents the growing pains, the adjustment period.  You can help me with your ideas by clicking <a href="http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XPV8JZB">here</a> to take a survey.</p> <div class="wlWriterEditableSmartContent" id="scid:66721397-FF69-4ca6-AEC4-17E6B3208830:7d8c80c1-791c-428f-9a68-c49b28cb774c" style="margin: 0px; display: inline; float: none; padding: 0px;"><a href="http://cid-b1c91b133463b459.skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?page=browse&resid=B1C91B133463B459!116&type=5" style="border: 0px;"><img alt="View stories 4" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f5cbf6d9970b-pi" style="border: 0px;" /></a> <div style="width: 400px; text-align: right;"><a href="http://cid-b1c91b133463b459.skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?page=browse&resid=B1C91B133463B459!116&type=5">View Full Album</a></div> </div> <p>And finally to the business side of this project. I spend between 10 – 20 hours a week on the site, arranging and attending interviews, writing and posting stories and trying to master the technical aspects of blogging. As compensation, I’ve made about $94 in advertising and referral sales. I thank the person who ordered a camera on Amazon by clicking from my site -- that grossed me a whopping $16! If you want to help support this project, you can do your Amazon (and affiliated sites) shopping by clicking their ad on my site. I’ll get a percentage of your sales as a referral fee at no cost to you. Similarly, if you just click on any site ad, you’ll earn me a few pennies even if you never make a purchase.</p> <p>Obviously, I don’t have the business model to make this a financial success, but I definitely feel as if I’m building something of value in writing these stories. I’m looking for other ways to share them (a book, perhaps?). If you have any ideas, I hope you’ll send them along.</p> <p>If you have a few minutes, I’d appreciate your responses to a brief 10-question survey. <a href="http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XPV8JZB">Click here to take survey</a>. I’d love your ideas for how to make the site a more valuable place for you to spend some of your time each week.</p> <p>I can’t thank you enough for your support.</p> <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <div class="wlWriterEditableSmartContent" id="scid:66721397-FF69-4ca6-AEC4-17E6B3208830:b9855692-39b0-4b1d-8384-d85961d62321" style="margin: 0px; display: inline; float: none; padding: 0px;"><a href="http://cid-b1c91b133463b459.skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?page=browse&resid=B1C91B133463B459!121&type=5" style="border: 0px;"><img alt="View stories 3" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013488ec17b0970c-pi" style="border: 0px;" /></a> <div style="width: 400px; text-align: right;"><a href="http://cid-b1c91b133463b459.skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?page=browse&resid=B1C91B133463B459!121&type=5">View Full Album</a></div> </div> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0134888a08f8970c Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-10-28T20:38:59Z <p>It’s bustling on Saturday morning at the Haller Lake Social Club, home to the <a href="http://www.creativedance.org/">Creative Dance Center</a> for the last 15 years. The 1920’s wood frame structure, with its creaky stairs and broken up spaces is alive with a “Cheaper by the Dozen” kind of feel (I mean the 1948 book, not the cheesy Steve Martin film). There’s a sense of family among the multiple generations coming to dance with their babies or to drop their grandchildren off for class. And there’s Anne Green Gilbert, the nationally and internationally recognized visionary in the field of dance education, unassumingly weaving herself through the crowds to join a group of first graders for class.</p> <p>This year Anne celebrates the 30<sup>th</sup> anniversary of the Creative Dance Center where she has served as Artistic Director, teacher, intellectual and philosophical guru, mother and grandmother to the more than 10,000 dance students who’ve entered her doors.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134888a0891970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="Anne Green Gilbert" border="0" height="327" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134888a0899970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 20px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="Anne Green Gilbert" width="205" /></a></p> <p>On this morning, she brings an excited group to gather around her on the floor. Unfazed when an apologetic grandfather interrupts to explain that his granddaughter is reluctant to come in, Anne is quickly on her feet to help locate an extra leotard (though clearly there is no dress code for this class). With a graceful yet businesslike bearing, Anne quickly returns. The purpose in her steps, the ease of her posture, the effortlessness with which she re-seats herself on the floor -- it’s clear that this 63 year-old grandmother of four is a dancer.</p> <p>Unlike my own daughter’s ballet experience, which lasted approximately four minutes -- the time it took for her to break down in tears when the teacher insisted I leave the room -- Anne’s class is suffused with an aura of acceptance. I’m sitting in the back of the room with my 9 year-old while another mother watches nearby. The door opens periodically when a curious person peers in. Anne’s attention is on the kids and their attention is on her.</p> <p>“We are very flexible. I don’t know why people can’t have more of that feeling. Many of these traditional dance schools can be so harmful. Dance should be joyful!”</p> <p>I recognize elements of the Anne’s BrainDance in the warm-up she leads, though rather than using scientific terms such as “core-distal” or “vestibular” she encourages her students to express different emotions like a puppy, wagging its tail or shaking its head. Each of these she does as if for the first time, the emotion in her movement as convincing as it must have been more than 40 years ago when she first started teaching.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134888a089f970c-pi"><img alt="2004431900" border="0" height="295" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f569f856970b-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="2004431900" width="451" /></a></p> <p>(photo credit: John Lok, Seattle TImes)</p> <p>Every class Anne teaches will be similar to this one and every one unique. They will be based on the 5 - part lesson plan that she developed, “always moving back and forth between technique and improvisation, to really create a whole dancer. It’s a very multiple intelligence, very holistic approach to dance.”</p> <p>From the parents dancing downstairs with infants in their arms, to the adult and senior classes, the summer institute for teachers and <a href="http://www.creativedance.org/kaleidoscope/">Kaleidoscope Dance Company</a>, Anne’s presence is indelibly evident. The approach to dance is one that Anne developed, in part a reaction to what was wrong with her early dance experience (“I hated my dance studio when I was young. I had a ballet teacher who hit me with a stick, who yelled and screamed”), but developed and constantly refined in response to need, experience, experimentation, science, and movement. Always movement, in a forward direction.</p> <p>“I’m a Thrust.<strong> </strong>When you’re a Thrust you don’t look at things as a challenge. Because you just do it, there’s something inside you, a passion, a fire, where you don’t have a choice. And you don’t really think too clearly about what you do,” she says laughing.</p> <p>“Like my books, I never should have written each book. I didn’t know what I was talking about, but I <em>needed</em> textbooks.” What she needed didn’t exist, so she created. Three of them.</p> <p>The first in 1977 was <span style="text-decoration: underline;">Teaching the Three Rs Through Movement Experiences,</span> born from her frustration teaching third grade students who were chained to their desks all day, expected to regurgitate facts rather than solve problems. Photos of children moving joyfully as they gallop their letter P through space and arrange their bodies together to make an asymmetrical shape illustrate the very clear lesson plan suggestions.</p> <p>Her second book, <span style="text-decoration: underline;">Creative Dance for All Ages</span>, first printed in 1992, receives only 5-star reviews on Amazon with comments such as: “Her methods are generous and joyful, reflecting her passion for giving children (and adults) the experience of dance without fear or feeling threatened.”</p> <p>Anne’s third book printed in 2006, <span style="text-decoration: underline;">Brain Compatible Dance Education</span>, starts with a section for Understanding the Brain and outlining the four stages of brain development from conception to adult. With the basic science explained, she moves on to describe the BrainDance.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f569f85f970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="braindance" border="0" height="256" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f569f869970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 20px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="braindance" width="200" /></a></p> <p>“The <a href="http://www.creativedance.org/about/braindance.cfm">BrainDance</a> is an exercise I developed in 2000 comprised of eight fundamental movement patterns that we move through in the first year of life,” from touching and squeezing to creeping and crawling. “These movement patterns wire the central nervous system by laying the foundation for appropriate behavior and attention, eye convergence necessary for reading, sensory-motor development and more.”</p> <p>As Anne taught children over the years, she was seeing an alarming increase in motor learning development problems. The culprit? Hours spent sedentary before a computer screen or strapped into a car seat, families under stress, high-stakes testing in schools. “Movement is the key to learning, but people today spend hours simply sitting. When we watch television, we go into ocular lock, staring with no movement in our brains. In the critical years as their brains develop, children should move, dance, play and interact with peers rather than stare at screens.”</p> <p>Anne launches in on new negative forces creeping into children’s lives. “I read this awful article about toddlers on the iPhone -- it’s like a drug. They have these special apps. They can just do this,” she says swiping her hand through the air, “and wild animals come on, and these kids are hooked. But they don’t know what the thought process is, so we’re just creating more stupid people. They just see flashing lights, but there’s no tactile, no three dimensionality -- their brains are not really wiring the way ours were. And some of the research says, so what? This is evolution. These people don’t need the hunter gatherer brain anymore.</p> <p>“And I say, ok but the kids I’m seeing are obese, they’re nervous if they sweat, they can’t relate to people, they can’t read, they can’t write. And what really kills me is the whole social relationship -- when we lose that, the violence is right here. If we don’t have a moral compass, if we don’t know empathy, than we’re just going to keep killing. To me, that’s not evolution, world peace is evolution,” she sighs.</p> <p>BrainDance was born from the need she saw to prepare her students for learning, “I just started trying it out in the schools, it made kids focus, and over the long term it made children behave better and in certain cases, it made them learn better.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134888a08c3970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="Director Anne Gilbert (2)" border="0" height="244" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f569f877970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 15px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="Director Anne Gilbert (2)" width="242" /></a></p> <p>Not just BrainDance, but all aspects of Anne’s methodology and philosophy come from perceiving then addressing a need, starting with her first days teaching at the University of Washington in the early 1970’s. “I was asked to teach dance for children and I knew nothing about that. But I said yeah, I can teach dance for children, I can teach dance for the P.E. majors, I can teach folk dance, I can teach ballroom. I had never done <em>any</em> of these things, so that’s when I became an autodidact. <strong> </strong></p> <p><strong> </strong><strong>“</strong>I just started to read. I read every book on creative dance there was. I got Arthur Murray dance records and I would teach myself the tango at night and go teach it to the students the next day. And the next night I’d learn the fox trot. And then I thought, here I am teaching these college kids how to teach children, I<em> </em>better teach some children dance. So, it was like a laboratory. I started organizing classes for preschoolers while I was teaching at the University and dancing in a dance company. I would see what worked and then I would tell my students the next day. I began to just make up my own ideas and own philosophy and own methodology. See, most of the time I don’t know what I’m doing,” she says laughing at herself.</p> <p>Anne’s assiduous study of the brain introduced her to another concept that guides not just her teaching but the way she manages the Center and even how she understands her husband. It came from Betsy Wetzig, Coordination Pattern theorist (explaining the impact of movement on learning, communication and creativity by making movement a window to the mind’s work) who developed terminology that resonated with Anne.</p> <p>By this theory, Anne is a self-described “Thrust/Swing -- I get things done and I love to play. I’m not so much a Shape, which is about what’s correct.” She goes on to explain.</p> <p><strong>Swing:</strong> “This person is always giggling, bouncing, one leg on one side, shifting legs,” says Anne, demonstrating all of those movements from her dining room chair. “They are the networkers, they love social groups, they love talk, they’re the playful people, they love to add color, they’re good nurturers, hostesses.”</p> <p><strong>Shape </strong>: “Is about being correct. Their movement is sitting still, they’re much more about what is correct, and usually it’s their own point of view. They like to edit; they put things in a box, they make lists, they’re analytical. My husband is very analytical but rarely gets things done because he’s afraid that it might be the wrong thing.”</p> <p><strong>Hang</strong>: “Falls off the chair,” says Anne, sliding from one edge of hers to the other. “They have meandering pathways, they are the ones that have the big ideas, constantly conceptualizing, big idea, big idea, they can’t edit, can’t get it done, They kind of take on other people’s personalities, they get pulled in, so, they’re kind of messy. Sometimes you can’t be quite sure what they’re saying because they’ll start in the middle of a thought that they’ve been thinking so hard.”</p> <p><strong>Thrust</strong>: “Is a doer; often sits forward, they move in a forward, diagonal direction,” says Anne, while gesturing with her right then left hands. “They get things done, they’re activators, they like to reorganize data, they don’t have the big ideas themselves. That’s basically what my books are -- I’ve taken all these things I’ve read, reorganized it, made it very accessible. I’m really a translator.</p> <p>“I’m so attuned to movement I can see someone come through the door and think, Hang, and I can be prepared for a certain communication style. And you really need every single type in a committee.” Anne attributes the success and longevity of her non-profit’s Board of Directors to carrying a balance of the four types. “You want to encourage the Swing person to be the hostess at your auction, encourage the Shape to do your budget and encourage your Thrust to get things done. If you have all Shapers, or all Swingers on a committee, you’re in trouble.”</p> <p>In case you haven’t yet caught on, I’m not writing about a ballerina here with an equal amount of sawdust in her head as in her toe shoes. This woman, so generously sharing her time and her dining room with me is mindful, purposeful, bursting with energy, inspiration, and evangelism for movement.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f569f87d970b-pi"><img alt="Anne" border="0" height="454" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134888a08d1970c-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="Anne" width="313" /></a></p> <p>Anne and Dionne Kamara, teaching partners at CDC's Summer Dance Institute for Teachers</p> <p>Anne shares the BrainDance widely. You can read about it in her book, on her <a href="http://www.creativedance.org/about/braindance.cfm">web site</a>, or purchase a dvd or video to watch it in action. She shares it with classroom teachers and through her Summer Dance Institute for Teachers (“designed for educators, dance teachers, arts specialists, and therapists who wish to understand the vital link between movement and cognition”). But she has no desire to trademark or register it. “People say I should own BrainDance, but I don’t want to, I don’t own these patterns. Whoever created us created these patterns. I just translated it and made it accessible.” That’s the Thrust talking.</p> <p>And she sees the application of the BrainDance reach far wider than young children. “Because BrainDance goes through these patterns it really does rewire the brain. It reboots the computer. It’s not just random movement. It’s specific neuro-developmental movements that created our central nervous system.<strong> </strong>And if you do it everyday, you really do change. Your memory is better.</p> <p>“As I get older, I’m moving into older populations and doing a lot of workshops on BrainDance for adults and seniors. It’s exercise, but it’s also expression -- much more interesting than going to 24-Hour fitness and looking at a screen because it’s about emotion, and feeling and community and connections. We do these improvisations and I say, ok, this is going to delay Alzheimer’s; this is better than crosswords because we’re using our whole body, we’re thinking of solutions.”</p> <p>And what would she to say to somebody who hasn’t danced at all or hasn’t danced in a really long time? “Come, come! We see people who haven’t danced for 30 years and are re-finding that voice, and we have people who have never danced. It’s very open, very flexible. That’s what this method is.” The age range of her weekly adult class is 39 – 69 years. “I wish there were more opportunities for creative dance for adults. There is wonderful contra dancing, and senior dancing, but it doesn’t have the community. In my class, we’re always touching, weight sharing, talking, observing. It’s much more in-depth than just exercising – it has that emotional, expressive component.”</p> <p>Anne is all about movement – movement of ideas, movement of bodies, of spirit, moving on to new projects, to the next class, the next workshop, the next performance. She suggests that really she is quite shy, that she would prefer to be reading her classic English novels in a quiet corner of the living room, but within moments she betrays herself yet other new ideas. “I want to write an alphabet book, do more dvd’s,” her expressive hands in movement to illustrate a point as if the energy can’t be contained.</p> <p>“Everyday is a lab -- I’ve been teaching 40 years but I’m still trying new things and trying to be better. I’m, excited about planning the next lesson, I like thinking of new ideas, I like creating so much. And this gives me such an opportunity to be using my brain, solving problems, and playing! That’s what it is, it’s not work, it’s play.”</p> <p>To re-energize, every summer Anne retreats to the old 1916 stone schoolhouse in the grazing land of rural Colorado. It’s the place where her father, a true cowboy reluctantly turned lawyer, went as a boy each summer to work as a ranch hand. Reachable only in the warm months, the schoolhouse is now shared by Anne and her three sisters, each of whom an artist in her respective discipline. But it is Anne, the dancer of the four, who finds a special history there. “This is where Agnes De Mille went to her first cowboy dances and got the ideas for the choreography for <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKChyxd9MnM&feature=related">Rodeo</a> and ultimately, for the Broadway musical Oklahoma. These were all-night dances with fiddlers and she danced on the same floor! Whenever I go to this schoolhouse, I always dance on this floor – it’s very romantic. Agnes De Mille is one of my total heroines because she never had a dancer’s body and I never did either.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f569f8a3970b-pi"><img alt="BG" border="0" height="339" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f569f8ad970b-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="BG" width="451" /></a></p> <p>Anne with grandchildren Pryor, Emerson and Finn and daughter-in-law Tindley dancing on the old schoolhouse floor</p> <p>Over the years Anne has brought her three children, all dancers themselves, and now her four grandchildren to join her, handing down the ritual and joy of dance through the generations. And soon, she’ll see her daughter Bronwen back at the Creative Dance Center, this time to dance with Anne’s new granddaughter Kaija Isadora (named for Isadora Duncan, the mother of modern dance).<strong> </strong></p> <p>There are a lot more people to move. “I see changes in these kids everyday and it’s not me that’s changing them, it’s the dance. I’m just allowing that to happen.”</p> <p>Happy Birthday Anne.</p> <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p> <strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Anne Green Gilbert’s not-so secrets for how she does it:</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>“I’m doing what I love to do -- it’s this passion I’ve had since I was little. And it doesn’t mean that everyday is great. It’s difficult sometimes, difficult parents to deal with, difficult grant issues, fundraising, costumes. But I think a lot of it is that Thrust personality. </li> <li>“My husband is very supportive of what I do. He has always worked long hours – he’s an excellent physician very dedicated to his patients just as I am dedicated to my dance students. </li> <li>“I didn’t have the time to stop. I had 3 kids in 5 years, I was teaching, traveling, organizing, creating. I took the kids to class when they were sick; I’d teach my class and then come home. Now I’m sitting back a little and wondering, how <em>did</em> I do that? It all went so fast. I can’t even remember it. </li> <li>“I just kept going.” </li> </ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">What books has Anne read recently?</span></strong></p> <ul> <li><strong> </strong><em>Prisoner of Zenda</em>, by Anthony Hope, an 1894 classic of swashbuckling romance she read with her book group; </li> <li><em>The Barsetshire Novels</em>, by Angela Thirkell published in the 1940’s, Anne is re-reading these well-written classics. “I’m a person who rereads novels that I love because I don’t want to waste time on a bad novel.” </li> <li><em>Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain</em>, by John J. Ratey . “I read a bunch of neuroscience books.” </li> </ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Whom does Anne want me to interview next?</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>My neighbor works for the Seattle Police as a Community outreach officer. She’s so passionate about what she does, and I think her job is so needed, and she just got a pink slip. She’s the most empathetic, sympathetic, loving person, and she has to work with these old boys. She’s living in a world that I can’t fathom and trying to change that world like I’m trying to change mine. </li> </ul> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0133f5248c4f970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-10-17T20:07:00Z <p>As How Does She Do It? readers you might be interested in supporting a couple events coming up in the Seattle area.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f5248c0d970b-pi"><img align="left" alt="Presenters" border="0" height="281" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f5248c11970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 25px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="Presenters" width="97" /></a></p> <p><strong>October 19: Preview the film “I Know a Woman Like That,”</strong> a documentary film that features some amazing older women, including Maxine Hong Kingston, Rita Moreno, Gloria Steinem, Lauren Hutton, Eartha Kitt, and other not-so famous women, including a 92 year-old ballroom dancer and yoga instructor and a 90 something year-old water skier.   Maxine Hong Kingston and the filmmaker will be on a panel moderated by Mayumi Tsutakawa following the film.</p> <p>Broadway Performance Hall, 5:30 - 9:00. Your $50 contribution supports Kawabe House and Senior Services</p> <p>For reservations, click <a href="http://www.celebrateagingfilm.org/">here</a>.</p> <p> </p> <p>And another:</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01348844b2aa970c-pi"><img alt="picture-2" border="0" height="288" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f5248c1b970b-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="picture-2" width="430" /></a></p> <p><a href="www.water1st.org">Water First International,</a> the organization started by <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2009/12/index.html">Marla Smith-Nilson</a> (featured on this site May, 2010) is preparing for its 6th annual Give Water • Give Life Benefit, their premier fundraising event of the year. More than 700 people will gather in support of people in need of clean water in <a href="http://www.water1st.org/about/work/index.html">India, Bangladesh, Honduras, and Ethiopia</a>. Last year’s event raised a record $510,000 for sustainable water supply, sanitation, and health-education projects. I went last year and was overwhelmed by the great work this organization is doing. I’ll be there again, enthusiastically supporting their efforts. Hope to see you!</p> <p>DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 13, at 6:00 pm</p> <p>LOCATION: <a href="http://www.wsctc.com/about_us/directions_parking.aspx">Washington State Convention & Trade Center,</a> Seattle</p> <p>Enjoy a cocktail reception, live music, and a unique silent auction, followed by a dinner and a Water 1st presentation and film featuring current and future Water 1st project beneficiaries.  There are no tickets for this event. Suggested minimum donation is $150/person.</p> <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p> </p> <p><strong><span style="font-size: medium;">And a follow-up on the story about Meg Tremblay</span></strong></p> <p>I thought you might enjoy reading about her typical day living in Zambia (read her full story about her Peace Corps experience <a href="http://www.howdoesshe.typepad.com/">here</a>)</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f5248c2a970b-pi"><img alt="Members of the village gathering sand and breaking rocks building school" border="0" height="236" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f5248c2f970b-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="Members of the village gathering sand and breaking rocks building school" width="313" /></a></p> <p>5 am: Morning run</p> <p>6 am: Haul water from well and take a quick cold bucket bath outside in my bathing shelter, which was just a little structure made of straw without a roof. Usually I had a big pot or plastic tub filled with water and a big cup to pour the water over myself.</p> <p>Quick breakfast, usually bananas or mangoes depending on the season, maybe some buns and coffee made the night before. I usually wouldn't make a fire in the morning to try to save coal/time etc. I would try to shop about once a week when I went into the town to do work there. I'd buy onions, tomatoes, greens, beans, bananas, or oranges, sometimes sweet potatoes, eggplants, watermelon or avocados when they were in season, and when I needed it, toilet paper, soap, candles, washing powder.  Once every two months I'd get some other supplies (salt, spices, powdered milk, flour, coffee, etc.) from the actual store in the provincial capital and haul them back to Katete then bike them out to my village.</p> <p>8 am: Biking the 10km into the town to work with the Network of Zambians Living Positively or the 3km to the clinic where I would meet up with clinic staff and then bike out to one of the villages to meet with the Neighborhood Health Committee members and do maternal and child health outreach.  This might including weighing babies, the nurse giving shots or tending to the sick. We'd also do health education talks while we had so much of the community there on things like condom usage, malaria prevention, what to do if one gets diarrhea, good nutrition, etc.</p> <p>1pm: We'd be done with the work and I'd grab a quick bite with the clinic staff and Neighborhood Health Committee members. The community would sometimes make us the traditional Zambia dish of nshima, which is a flour ground from corn and then mixed with water until it starts to get harder, then it is used to pick up and eat other foods like cabbage or beans or rape (dark green).  Then back on the bike to another one of my villages for a meeting or training or working on one of our projects (for example the school in my village of Malata or the well we built in another one of the villages).</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01348844b2cc970c-pi"><img align="right" alt="kids outside hut after they painted it" border="0" height="213" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01348844b2d4970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 20px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="kids outside hut after they painted it" width="283" /></a></p> <p>5-6 pm: Back to my house and greeted by the kids. Draw more water from the well and then  play with the kids, basketball, soccer, jumping rope or drawing, etc. While the kids are hanging out at the house, gather twigs and straw, put coals in my brazier and light the fire. It takes sometimes 15 minutes or longer to get the fire going. Once the coals catch I would swing the brazier to get the coals hot and to get the fire to spread. Then I'd usually put a big pot on the fire to heat bath water.</p> <p>6 pm: Cut up some greens or beans or whatever else I'm having for dinner (the kids are still hanging/playing at my house during this time), take the bath water off the fire and put on the food. The adults that were in the fields all day start to arrive back to the village so sometimes they would come by to sit and chat or I'd help my friend Rhodah with her school work or she'd help me with my chichewa.</p> <p>7 pm: Try to get the kids home and take a warm bucket bath outside, often after dark depending on the time of year. This was always one of my favorite moments because I was tired and the warm water felt like such a luxury.  The village settles down and I can hear families talking around fires and drumming. Often I’d be bathing under the stars. Then eat dinner.</p> <p>7:30 pm: Prepare materials for whatever I'm doing the next day.</p> <p>8-9 pm: Read, paint, draw, write letters etc.</p> <p>8:30-9 pm: Bed time.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01348844b2dd970c-pi"><img alt="New Image" border="0" height="315" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01348844b2ec970c-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="New Image" width="419" /></a></p> <p>Meg’s village at night</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0134880f6986970c Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-10-08T19:57:41Z <blockquote> <p><em>Before we even start, Meg Tremblay and I have reason to laugh at the irony of where she is today compared to where she lived just months ago. When I set out my iPhone to record our conversation she’s as surprised to learn it has that capability as I was when a 17 year-old pointed it out to me. “I missed out on that whole smart phone explosion,” confesses Meg, the only person I know under the age of 30 who could admit to that. “I could have used it for net distribution.”</em></p> <p><em>I’m thinking she’s referring to yet another aspect of online marketing until she explains that no, she’s talking about handing out real nets, like the ones used to prevent the spread of malaria. Two worlds, juxtaposing yet coinciding, in the young woman I’m about to interview….</em></p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f4efb6fb970b-pi"><img alt="Washing dishes outside hut" border="0" height="340" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f4efb6ff970b-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="Washing dishes outside hut" width="452" /></a></p> <p>When Meg Tremblay’s fellow graduates were tuning up their resumes for Monster.com, searching the want ads for an apartment to rent or packing their bags for law school, Meg was waiting to learn what far corner of the world would be her home for the next two years. An interest in working abroad that budded in her first year at Lewis and Clark College, a school that attracted Meg mostly for the rowing program but then captured her with its strong international relations program, had her turning to the Peace Corps for her first post-college experience.</p> <p>“I took a middle east policy class from a really great professor who had worked for the Shah of Iran. He became my advisor. He encouraged us to not just make this a classroom thing but a lifetime commitment. It made me want to work abroad and learn more about the things he was talking about, and the Peace Corps was the only option that I wouldn’t have to pay for and where I would really live in local communities.”</p> <p>Though Africa had been a siren call through her undergraduate years, friends had convinced her that a posting in the Middle East or Southeast Asia would be more comfortable. She was getting a lot of advice back then, most of it suggesting she forego the Peace Corps for a more lucrative and shorter job experience in the States. “My mom was the only one who encouraged me to do it,” says Meg looking back. A young woman with a sense of purpose on display throughout our conversation, Meg needed just one voice added to the one that spoke so strongly within her.</p> <p>As it turned out, neither the Middle East nor Southeast Asia had opportunities for her. Instead it was the tiny country of Zambia in southern Africa that was written on the letter that finally arrived from the Peace Corps in December. Meg scurried to a map to see just where it was.</p> <p>“Fate has a funny way of working out. I ended up where I was supposed to be.”</p> <p>Also in the letter was a brief description of her posting. She’d be living in a mud hut. She’d have miles to walk to get from one place to another.</p> <p>“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, but it was quite a leap when I did it.”</p> <p>Soon, she was flying off to Zambia’s capital city Lusaka. “Once in country, you have three months of training -- six hours a day of instruction in the Nyanja language and three additional hours each day of technical training” learning to become a community health worker.</p> <p>When the training was over, Meg set off for her new home in Katete about 400 km from Lusaka, at the meeting of the Mozambique Road and the Great East Road that leads to Malawi.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f4efb709970b-pi"><img alt="Meg's hut bathing and cooking shelters" border="0" height="265" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f4efb712970b-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="Meg's hut bathing and cooking shelters" width="468" /></a></p> <p>(Meg’s hut, bathing and cooking shelters)</p> <p>Home for Meg was a mud hut. No electricity to read by, no running water to bathe with, no stove for cooking. She was to work with Neighborhood Health Committees (NHC) from seven different villages which she traveled to on her bicycle, training them “in health issues, like maternal and child health, malaria, tuberculosis, malnutrition, HIV, and in other things, like business skills.” Each month she would meet with the Health Center Committee, which included two representatives from each village. Together they would share issues and concerns of their respective villages and talk about possible solutions.</p> <p>(inside seating area of Meg’s hut)</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134880f692a970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="sitting area Meg's hut" border="0" height="222" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134880f6931970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 15px 0px 0px; display: inline; border: 0px;" title="sitting area Meg's hut" width="295" /></a></p> <p>“By the time I finished my training I could communicate in Nyanja, although the local Chichewe dialect was a little difficult.” It was important to Meg that she learn the local language, and knowing it became a badge of honor. “I wanted to spend my time with Zambians – that’s why I was there. All the health presentations I did in local language. Some volunteers get a translator, but you never know exactly how you’re being translated.”</p> <p>The Peace Corps places three ‘generations’ of volunteers, each serving a two year-term and building on the efforts of his or her predecessors. “One of the things I absolutely love about the Peace Corps is that they really promote incremental and sustainable change. My NHC had already been trained -- I feel really lucky because it allowed me to work with them on bigger issues.”</p> <p>For Meg, one of those “bigger issues” became her signature accomplishment. In their NHC meetings, the villagers complained of the lack of schools for local children. “In Zambia, kids don’t start going to school until age 8 or 9 and by the time they reach that age, often the schools are full and kids postpone for another year or more until they can finally get in. There is nothing like Kindergarten that can prepare the younger children.” The NHC wanted to build a pre-school, but the cost was overwhelming.</p> <p>Meg helped the villagers write a proposal to build a community school and a chicken house that could generate income necessary to pay a teacher’s salary. Taking advantage of the Peace Corps Partnership program, she posted a proposal online to solicit donations for the money required -- $2,000 – to build the new school.</p> <p>“While we were waiting for the money we started making the bricks. It was very physical labor, going down to the river to gather sand to mix with the cement. Working alongside people, they learn that you care about them. This was one of the most important lessons I learned. You can make things happen if you put in the work.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f4efb71d970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="mising mud and clay for school" border="0" height="196" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f4efb729970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 15px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="mising mud and clay for school" width="260" /></a></p> <p>Meg’s friends and family here in the States sent in contributions, and before long, the NHC had the funds to see their idea take shape.</p> <p>(right: mixing sand to make bricks for school; below: building the school)</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134880f6943970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="building the school" border="0" height="423" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134880f6947970c-pi" style="margin: 5px 15px 0px 0px; display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="building the school" width="318" /></a></p> <p> </p> <p>Eight months later, the school was finished. “It’s a one room building made of brick; windows made of glass; a chalkboard and a tin roof. The books and bookshelves were donated. We started out without desks – we just had mats for the kid to sit on. The first teacher taught before the chicken house was built, working for free as an investment in the community.”</p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f4efb765970b-pi"><img alt="teaching the younger kids in the school" border="0" height="379" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f4efb76a970b-pi" style="display: inline; border: 0px;" title="teaching the younger kids in the school" width="504" /></a></p> <p>(Kids learning in the new school)</p> <p>Meg barely had time to celebrate the opening of the school when the accident happened.</p> <p>“I was riding my bike back from work when I got t-boned by a drunk motorcyclist. I was thrown in the air and landed on the cement road on my back.”</p> <p>Her medical training tuned to the danger of moving someone with a possible back injury had her objecting, unsuccessfully, when some villagers picked her up and threw her in the back of a truck insisting she go to the hospital. The fact she could have become a paraplegic doesn’t seem to phase her now.</p> <p>“They took me to the local hospital that didn’t have x-rays at the time. Then the Peace Corps brought me to the capital city to do another x-ray, but I had to wait until they found someone who could read it.” Finally, someone told Meg he didn’t see anything specific but acknowledged the technology there was antiquated.</p> <p>“So they sent me to the big hospital in South Africa and they told me, ‘you’ve broken your back in two different places. We’re going to be sending you home’. Being stubborn I said there’s no way I’m going home. I don’t do well with people telling me I can’t do things – it just makes me want to do it more.”</p> <p>The way Meg saw it, it wasn’t time for her to go. The school had just opened and they still had the chicken house to build. “It was my home. I wanted to figure out what we could do to allow me to stay.”</p> <p>Fortunately for Meg, her South African doctor was willing to help her recover without surgery. “He fit me with a back brace and told me I needed to stay there for two weeks to regain my strength. He said if it’s still this bad after two weeks, there’s no way I’m allowing the Peace Corps to let you stay.” She was given exercises to strengthen her back and to cope with the pain. After the two weeks, her doctor gave her clearance to return. But the physical therapist in South Africa told Meg she would never be able to run again.</p> <p>“When I got back to Katete I was in a lot of pain. I realized how much of my work depended on being physically able. I was the volunteer who did everything, hauled water, made bricks, rode my bike. And running everyday was my time. I’d go to bed at about 8:30. Every morning I would get up at 5:00 when the day started and go for a long run.”</p> <p>(below: Meg in her back brace with kids outside her hut)</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134880f694f970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="kids and meg with brace outside hut" border="0" height="236" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134880f695a970c-pi" style="margin: 0px 20px 0px 0px; display: inline; border: 0px;" title="kids and meg with brace outside hut" width="313" /></a></p> <p>Fortunately, Meg’s mother Bev was planning a visit just at the time Meg returned to her village. “She spent 12 days in the village, and she was a real trooper. I had planned things to do for her, but the accident meant I couldn’t and there were things she couldn’t do it either, liking making the fire. But it was really great having her there.”</p> <p>On her road to recovery, Meg had to learn how to put running back in her life. “I started going for long walks in the bush after doing my morning physical therapy. I had to figure out how to have new expectations while still pushing myself. I had to start all over again, jogging just a half mile and building back up.”</p> <p>And though the school building was complete, there was still lot of work to do. “I was still working three days a week with this HIV organization in town, made up entirely of volunteers who are HIV positive. We would go out to different communities to do training, education, and bring meds. Area 1 where I was working had one of the highest rates of HIV. Being at the intersection of two major roads, we got a lot of truckers and a lot of prostitution.”</p> <p>After her official two-year Peace Corps term came to a close, Meg chose to extend her stay another year, working for a non-governmental organization in Lusaka. “Zambia has the highest retention of volunteers of any Peace Corps country and the highest extension rate. I think it’s because of the people of Zambia -- people are just -- they make you their family. They are so friendly it’s easy to feel like you’re at home.</p> <p>“I wasn’t ready to go, I still loved Zambia. I wanted to learn a different side of things, from a national level. I worked for an organization called Reaching HIV AIDS Affected People with Integrated Development and Support (RAPIDS). They had an integrated approach, which included income generating activities.” She helped the group provide training in gender based violence, nutrition and malaria. “People who are HIV positive have a much higher susceptibility to malaria because their immune systems are already lowered. It’s a lot harder for them to fight it.”</p> <p>In this new position she suddenly had weekends, which she spent going back to her village. In her third year, she got more funding for the school, allowing them to build desks. The chicken house was finished, and they were now able to pay the teacher. She was thrilled to see the impact the school had on the children. “All the kids from the village school that went to basic school passed grade one.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f4efb78a970b-pi"><img alt="kids testing out desks" border="0" height="344" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134880f696d970c-pi" style="display: inline; border: 0px;" title="kids testing out desks" width="458" /></a></p> <p>(kids testing out their new desks at school)</p> <p>And two years after her accident, Meg ran the Victoria Falls half marathon in Zimbabwe.</p> <p>Now that Meg is back in the States, talking to me in a coffee shop at the intersection of several busy arterials, she seems oblivious to the incongruity of the two places she considers home – Seattle and Katete.</p> <p>She has plans to return someday to her village to build a new block to her school to teach another grade. “I would like to be able to start an organization eventually in Zambia. I understand now how interconnected everything is. I’d like to train recent high school graduates to teach, to give them something more to do with their education. Another thing I’d be interested in -- creating more places for people to sell their amazing crafts. The income really does make a big difference.”</p> <p>To fill the piece that potential employers find missing in her impressive young resume, Meg is busy submitting applications to schools to earn a Master’s in Public Health. She’s also applying, unsuccessfully so far, for work, preferably in her field so she can learn more skills to carry back with her to Africa. “It’s really difficult -- everybody’s having a tough time now. I did something that I was passionate about for the last three years and it’s hard to come back to see a lot of people competing for jobs.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134880f697a970c-pi"><img align="right" alt="With ou Victoria Falls Zimbabwe Half-Marathon" border="0" height="184" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f4efb7a9970b-pi" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 30px; display: inline; border: 0px;" title="With ou Victoria Falls Zimbabwe Half-Marathon" width="244" /></a></p> <p>(right: Meg on left with friends after completing half-marathon)</p> <p>“I couldn’t foresee not going back -- that’s harder to grasp than how I’m going to put all the pieces together to get there. I really do feel as if it is home.”</p> <p>And when she is living that life, what does she miss about this one? Not the lattes, like the one she just finished. “I really wish I had been here when Obama got elected. When my brother got engaged I wished I was here. It was really hard when my grandma was sick, and not being here to help.</p> <p>“That’s what you realize when you live abroad. You have a life in two places and there are big life things you’re not there for -- sickness and happiness. I feel the same thing with Zambia --- when I get updates on how things are changing, how the kids are doing or that a shop has changed. I miss it.”</p> <p>Her advice for someone considering the Peace Corps? “I 110% recommend doing it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s an adventure – go into with an open heart and open mind and it’ll be great. Trust yourself. You’ll learn so much more than you’ll ever be able to give -- it’s a really big gift.”</p> <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Meg’s not-so Secrets for How She Does It:</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>I think my stubbornness gives me the ability to not give up. When the going gets tough I tend to just put my head down to power through it.</li> <li>There's not a lot that can't be solved by hard work and a dedication to what you're doing.</li> <li>Play with kids, they keep everything in perspective.</li> <li>Listen to other people and pay attention. Sometimes I feel there are very few people these days that truly listen to what other people are saying. You can learn a lot just by listening. </li> <li>Learn to laugh at yourself and don't take yourself too seriously. I'm a big dork at heart and I embrace that. </li> <li>Surround yourself with people that make you happy and challenge you, life is too short to deal with drama or bad friends. I am very blessed to have a family and some close friends that encourage me and believe in me.</li> <li>Take care of yourself and try not to feel guilty for doing so. I'm still working on this, but when I make time for myself whether it's working out or for art I am better able to serve others.</li> <li>Music gives me such a release, as does dancing. </li> </ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">What books has Meg read recently?</span></strong></p> <ul> <li><em>Mountains</em><em> Beyond Mountains</em>, by Tracy Kidder</li> <li><em>An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action in the Twenty-first Century</em> by James Orbinski; </li> <li><em>What is the What</em> by Dave Eggers</li> </ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Whom does Meg want me to interview next?</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>Sara Young: amazing artist and entrepreneur that uses her art to conduct social experiments that make us question ourselves and the world around us. Recently she has created her own business using art to try to provide chiropractors with realistic examples to better serve patients.</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Jennifer Dyson: She served with me in Peace Corps Zambia but was medically separated when she learned she had cancer. She is not only a survivor of lymphoma but is now an activist and devotes herself to raising money for others with the disease</li> </ul> <p>(Look for a description of Meg’s typical day in Zambia as the next post)</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0133f4c84072970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-10-01T23:47:58Z <p>Readers:</p> <p>Thanks for hanging in there with me over the summer while my postings were, well, non-existent. I used those hours instead for a contract that helped pay some bills, and swimming – sometimes literally but more often, swimming to keep one step ahead of a busy schedule of children’s activities.</p> <p>But now that the contract is done, the pool is closed, school is in session and the rains have driven me indoors, I’m ready to take up the adventure of this web site once again.</p> <p>I left off last spring with an update about <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/04/index.html">Esther Instebo</a>, the 99 year-old crusader for social justice. Before she died, Esther gave me the book <strong><em>Half the Sky; Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide</em></strong> which, through the stories of amazing women, makes the case that the most pressing foreign policy issue is not nuclear nonproliferation or terrorism, but the oppression of women.</p> <blockquote> <p><em>“The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls have been killed in the last 50 years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the 20<sup>th</sup> century.</em></p> </blockquote> <p><em> </em></p> <blockquote> <p><em>“In the 19<sup>th</sup> century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the 20<sup>th</sup> century, it was the battle against totalitarianism. We believe that in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world.”</em></p> </blockquote> <p>Nicholas Kristof and wife Sheryl WuDunn travel to the poorest places on the globe to tell the stories of courageous women who are transforming their villages and sometimes their governments by standing up for others. They encourage us in comfortable western countries to do what we can to support these international efforts. And they find reason for optimism in this upcoming American generation who have a greater world view and who are committing themselves to working for social justice abroad.</p> <p>So, the thread Esther started by giving me this book (click the ad on this site to order it from Amazon and support this web site in the process) made me seek out a young woman doing some of this work. Meg Tremblay, niece of my good friend Shelly Yapp, just returned from three years in Zambia – working first in a small village (below with her Health Center Committee) and then in the capital city Lusaka. She kindly agreed to meet me and share her story, which I hope to post soon.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013487e826c0970c-pi"><img alt="Meg with my Health Center Committee" border="0" height="334" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013487e826c8970c-pi" style="display: inline; border-width: 0px;" title="Meg with my Health Center Committee" width="444" /></a></p> <p>In the meantime, keep in mind that I deliberately chose an interactive format to share these stories. I appreciate reading your reactions, getting your suggestions for whom to interview, and seeing how <strong><em>you</em></strong> do it. That’s what the red ‘comments’ link is for at the end of this and all stories. When you add your words there, you help broaden the conversation and even more importantly, you lend your support directly to the women about whom I write. The personal emails to me are always nice, but I’ll be the only one who reads them.</p> <p>So, thanks for staying on this journey with me. Thanks for your support and thanks for spreading the word.</p> <p>- Janet Pelz</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b01348763e976970c Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-09-15T22:36:13Z <p>There’s a movement happening in Seattle though for most people it’s under the surface.</p> <p>No, we’re not talking another Nisqually earthquake.</p> <p>Seattle’s women’s professional basketball team, the Storm, is one game from winning the national title. It could get decided tomorrow night, which means you’ve got one day to become anointed.</p> <p>Anointed to the power, speed, skill, size and grace of the only team of professional women athletes in this city. Ready to celebrate the first national title by a local pro sports team since, well, since the Storm won it all in 2004.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f4446a79970b-pi"><img alt="cash_710_100905_2" border="0" height="334" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f4446a86970b-pi" style="display: inline; border: 0px;" title="cash_710_100905_2" width="487" /></a> </p> <p>Storm forward Swin Cash after sinking a bucket (Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)</p> <p>That’s right, I’m saying <em>national</em> title. This is the World Series of women’s basketball, though if you listened to the café conversations or bus stop chatter you might not even know it was happening.</p> <p>38 years after the passage of Title IX and women still need to elbow their way into our communal sports consciousness. I’m amazed at the number of local sports fans I talked to on Monday, the day after the Storm won the first game of the series, after Sue Bird coolly drilled the ball through the net with less than 3 seconds to play, who were clueless. “Man, did you see the game?” I would ask. “Yeah, the Seahawks finally won one”, or “Yeah, the Mariners lost another.” Or the lamest one I heard, “I find girl’s basketball boring. The last time I watched was about 8 years ago.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f4446a90970b-pi"><img alt="100914_atl_05" border="0" height="297" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01348763e96a970c-pi" style="display: inline; border: 0px;" title="100914_atl_05" width="446" /></a></p> <p><strong>Sue Bird beats Angel McCoughtry to the bucket for two points.</strong> <br />Aaron Last/Storm Photos</p> <p>As my daughter would respond sarcastically, “really?” Meaning, “really, are you that out of it?”</p> <p>But I have to admit, I can see how they would be. Though it’s the biggest sporting event in town, you can’t watch it on network television (it’s not even broadcast on the main ESPN station, but on ESPN 2). The front page of the paper isn’t amping the hype as it might be for, say, a Sounders game in the middle of the season. If you didn’t know what the Storm team flag looked like, you’d think that the fabric waving from the top of the Space Needle might be signaling the end of national pancake month.</p> <p>So, I’m lending a hand here. I’m helping you find your cool by directing you to a television set tomorrow night at 5:00 p.m. (Check <a href="http://www.wnba.com/storm/playoffs2010/hype.html">here</a> for places to gather before a communal screen).  On Friday morning you’ll have lots to talk about at the bus stop. Maybe even a national title.</p> <p>(click <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/03/index.html">here</a> to read my interview with Storm owner Ginny Gilder)</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0134855546d8970c Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-07-10T04:46:24Z <p>I knew what it was before I unwrapped it. It came from Esther Instebo with this note:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>Dear Janet:</em></p> <p><em></em></p> <p><em>I have had this special card for a long time, and it has always been a card that is too good to use. But for a hard working Mom and an excellent writer, at last there is the occasion that warrants its use.</em></p> <p><em></em></p> <p><em>How you managed to write a piece that made good sense out of that garbled interview I gave you will never cease to impress and astound me. Then to think that you could go into the internet and find that piece that must have been written about back in 1997 or 1998 really overwhelmed me as anything related to the computer world always will. Thank you for that effort on my behalf using time out of your very busy life.</em></p> <p><em></em></p> <p><em>- Esther</em></p></blockquote> <p>When my mother handed it to me I said, “It’s <em><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Half the Sky: Turning Oppression of Women into Opportunity Worldwide</span></em>“, the one Esther recommended at the end of my interview with her.</p> <p>I was engrossed in the volume immediately, knowing why it moved Esther and understanding how she knew it would move me. In my head I was writing the thank you letter I planned to send her, along with copies of the stories of other women I had included in this blog. (Esther doesn’t own a computer, so sending the web link would have been pointless).</p> <p>And then my mother, the one who had urged me to interview Esther and to get around to it quickly, called to tell me that Esther had passed away the day before. Not too surprising for a woman about to celebrate her centennial birthday, but full of poignancy nonetheless.</p> <p>You see, according to my mother <a href="http://www.howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2009/11/index.html">Kelly Pelz</a>, Esther availed herself of the Death with Dignity services now legal in our state. The date and the setting of the event had been planned out long in advance.</p> <p>And in that list of things to do before her date, she had included the wrapping of that book and the careful typing of that note. She had other things on her to-do list. According to Kelly, Esther wheeled her mobile walker from her apartment through Freeway Park to the Convention Center whenever she could to collect signatures for Initiative 1098, the measure that would restore funding for critical government services through an income tax on the state’s highest wage earners.</p> <p>Esther Instebo. Filling her days with the good fight and leaving it on her own terms. Look for her obituary – I contacted the Seattle Times and encouraged them to write a story about her and they’ve indicated that they will.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134855546b6970c-pi"><img alt="biden and esther" border="0" height="276" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134855546bc970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="biden and esther" width="407" /></a> </p> <p><strong>Here are some other updates which don’t require a handkerchief but could require good eating and drinking:</strong></p> <p>Back in January I wrote about <a href="http://www.howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/01/index.html">Donna Moodie</a> and her restaurant, Marjorie. Thankfully, she has reopened this wonderful refuge, this time in the Central District. She has been getting <a href="http://http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/allyoucaneat/2011971830_marjorie_a_first_bite_report.html">great reviews</a>. Stop by for a meal and tell her you read about her on How Does She Do It?</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f22f8427970b-pi"><img alt="donna's produce" border="0" height="164" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134855546c2970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: block; FLOAT: none; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: auto; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-RIGHT: auto" title="donna's produce" width="244" /></a> </p> <p>You don’t get many chances to support a good cause while drinking at a string of local bars, so you should put this one on your calendar. <a href="http://www.howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/03/index.html">Melissa Erickson’s</a> friends and supporters have once again organized a <strong>Ring Around the Needle Pub Crawl: Back for Mo! on August 28. </strong>To learn more and to sign up, visit <a href="http://www.melissa-erickson.blogspot.com">Melissa’s redesigned blog</a>. If you join the action, let Melissa know you heard about her through How Does She Do It? <a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134855546c9970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="Erickson2" border="0" height="301" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134855546d0970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN: 0px 15px 0px 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="Erickson2" width="204" /></a> </p> <p>Melissa’s new site is looking great and has some inspiring updates on how she brings passion and commitment to each day she lives with ALS. You’ll also get connected to this <a href="http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WByBF2eXp6M ">youtube video</a> Melissa helped do for the Evergreen ALS Chapter. Watch and listen to Melissa and others describe their journey with ALS and where you could go to lend a hand.</p> <p>As for me? I just spent a wonderful week on Kauai with my family, snorkeling, paddling, hiking and zip-lining. It is a magical place, well worth returning to. I’m currently doing some work that will help pay the expenses of this web site – I’ll have the money to buy a laptop, which should make the whole writing thing more efficient, but the pace of new stories will be slowed as a result.</p> <p>If <em>you</em> want to help add some pennies to support the site, you know what to do – click the ads on the site and do your on-line shopping through them.</p> <p>Thanks.</p> <p>- Janet Pelz</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b013484efe92a970c Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-06-25T21:57:35Z <p>What does the face of the homeless look like?</p> <p>Does it look like this?</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f1c92ee7970b-pi"><img align="left" alt="kanti mani portrait" border="0" height="362" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f1c92f0b970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN: 0px 25px 0px 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="kanti mani portrait" width="241" /></a> </p> <p>There are many paths to homelessness, and in her lifetime, Kanti Mani has seen many of them -- her own path as well as those of the numerous women who end up at the shelter Kanti once called home.</p> <p>Her path began half a world away in India, growing up in a solid middle class family. Family in Kanti’s culture extends far beyond the parents and siblings who share a house. It includes cousins and cousins of cousins and friends of cousins and onward. It is a universe that extends around the globe but is as close as a phone that whispers the goings-on of each member of its extended community. It is a place where love and dedication to parents means doing nothing that would cause them shame. It means marrying the man they have chosen for you even if he lives a world away.</p> <p>Kanti never really thought twice about her arranged marriage. After all, it had worked out well for her sister, and the man her parents had chosen for Kanti was the cousin of her sister’s arranged husband -- family.</p> <p>Without even the benefit of a current photo beforehand, Kanti celebrated her engagement with her future husband when he came to meet her in India. Her extended family was there to witness the engagement and to send Kanti off to the new world for a new life there.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f1c92f4a970b-pi"><img alt="kanti engagement" border="0" height="348" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013484efe796970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="kanti engagement" width="402" /></a> </p> <p>Kanti (right) at her engagement party with father, mother, sister (behind) and other family</p> <p>The actual marriage happened within days of her arrival in North Carolina. Kanti had no use for the dress she had carried from India for the occasion. They got married in a courthouse, with her husband’s father and their cab driver for witnesses.</p> <p>The abuse started that night.</p> <p>Often it was just emotional, the constant criticisms of her dress, of her cooking, of the way she spoke. But then it became physical, often escalating after her husband had been drinking, which was frequent. So frequent, in fact, that the good job he had presented for himself to Kanti’s parents was gone within weeks of her arrival. “He had a Master’s in computer science. He looked like a pretty stable person with a good job. But a week and a half after I got here his company gave him notice that he had to finish rehab if he wanted to keep his job, and he did not comply with that.” </p> <p>And then he lost his driver’s license after a DUI conviction. Though she had held a professional position with LG Electronics in India, in her new country with no paperwork to get a job of her own Kanti spent many of her days driving him around and many of her nights in fear.</p> <p>At first, she suffered the abuse in silence. “I knew that it was not normal, but I didn’t know how to react to it. Being the kind of independent woman I’ve tried to be I didn’t want to ask anyone for help. I wanted to fix it myself.”</p> <p>But then slowly, carefully, she began to share her situation with family. “My mom and dad were very supportive of my position. My father told me to stay away from him a little bit, but he did not want me to get a divorce. Maybe my husband would find that he would miss me and want to do something to make our life better, but that never happened.” As the situation worsened at home, Kanti became more convinced that this was not something that could be cured with a light dose of ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ medicine. </p> <p>“He was physically abusive. He’d throw stuff at me, push me against a wall. There were so many nights we slept in different rooms and I would have to lock myself in the other bedroom. One time he had a knife in his hand, chasing me.”</p> <p>She told her cousins and word spread. “There was lots of opposition in my family to leaving him. Divorce is not very common in India. Everyone talks about everyone and there was a lot of pressure on me. So I was worried I would be coerced to get back with him even though that was not what I wanted to do.”</p> <p>She knew she had to go. Kanti contacted her cousin in Seattle who offered her a place to stay for two weeks. After she bought the airplane ticket she had had just $100 left.</p> <p>“I had planned on running away but I didn’t know what would happen to him, if he would try to get in the car and go looking for me and get in more trouble. I decided it was best to tell him I’m going to my cousin’s house on the west coast.”</p> <p>He wouldn’t let her take a suitcase, so she shoved what she could in a garbage bag, the wedding gown brought from India left behind. On the way to the airport she stopped by the Goodwill and spent six of her precious dollars on an old suitcase and emptied the contents of the garbage bag into it.</p> <p>“When I left he got really mad and his parents were really mad because everyone found out about it and it reflected badly on them. It showed that they had hidden a lot of things they shouldn’t have. At first I was thinking I should support my husband and not share his weaknesses with other people. And then I thought, this is an arranged marriage that everyone was supposed to know about beforehand.”</p> <p>As Kanti tells me this story I’m struck by the dispassionate recitation of her past, similar to the way one might describe one’s employment history to a recruiter at a job fair. And it occurs to me that this is a story that has been told many times. Undoubtedly recited to the many agencies and care workers she came across once her flight had started.</p> <p>I also see Kanti, a world away from what is familiar, from the parents and sister who had always been her pillars of support, making choices for herself that she knew would provoke a torrent of criticism and rebuke from the outer circle of family. Having the wisdom to know what she needed to do and the strength and independence to do it.</p> <p>Where did that come from, I ask. Who were the people in your life who showed you this way? “My mom is pretty strong but I won’t call her independent. She works as a clerk for a public agency, but even for the smallest things she would have to ask my father.  Now that he has gone she has become stronger.”</p> <p>Whatever its source, this young woman sitting before me exudes poise and self-confidence. She owns her own past without apology and refuses to pass blame to anyone else.</p> <p>“I figured it was a decision I had made to move out of the relationship. If that meant that I had to live on the streets for a week or two weeks I knew I would do it. I didn’t have the money to go back to India. I couldn’t ask my cousins for the money. It was a choice I had made and I knew I had to face the consequences.”</p> <p>When I point out that her husband was not her choice, she remains consistent.</p> <p>“If I wanted not to be married I could have told my parents, and they would have felt bad about it. It could have happened, but I guess that was my choice to follow my parents’ decision.” Looking back it seems like a risky choice to make, but not for Kanti then. After seeing her own sister’s husband chosen by her parents, she had been expecting the same for her.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013484efe7c7970c-pi"><img align="right" alt="kanti as baby" border="0" height="183" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133f1c92fd4970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN: 0px 0px 0px 10px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="kanti as baby" width="254" /></a> </p> <p>(young Kanti with father, right)</p> <p>Plus, there was the promise of America. Kanti’s father was ill and she knew it would be up to her to support her parents and help pay the medical bills. “I anticipated that I would move from a middle-class family in India to a better off family in the United States.  That would allow me to send money that I earn to my family, which would be considered a shame to the girls' family in India."</p> <p>But things didn’t work out the way she anticipated.</p> <p>Finally away from her abusive husband, Kanti now became hostage to the deadlines that dictate the lives of the homeless.</p> <p>Before the clock ran out on her Seattle cousin’s hospitality, Kanti found <a href="http://www.newbegin.org/">New Beginnings Shelter</a>. By now, her irate husband had crossed the country and tracked her down. When he began stalking her, counselors helped get a protection order. “The protection order kept me safe. I was able to call the police.”</p> <p>New Beginnings provided a room for her first 45 days. Before that clock struck, she had to find another shelter or face living on the streets. Fortunately, she found <a href="http://www.elizabethgregoryhome.org/">Elizabeth Gregory Home</a>.</p> <p>When one looks at the process of transitioning to a bright path, it is like undoing an intricate lock, one tumbler at a time. For Kanti, leaving her husband was the first. New Beginnings the second, and Elizabeth Gregory seems to have a bearing on every tumbler thereafter, including the one the brought her to me.</p> <p>I had the privilege of meeting Kanti as a result of my previous story about Joyce Israel (<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/05/index.html">finding unconditional love for her special needs son</a>). After our interview, Joyce and I arranged to get together for dinner with our husbands, and it was Rick Israel who suggested I meet Kanti. A successful businessman, Rick had been looking for a community charity for his company to adopt. He wanted to do more than write some checks, he wanted to really make a difference. After reading <a href="http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008099179_homelesswomen08m.html">this story</a> in the Seattle Times about a shelter for homeless women that had lost its funding and was on the verge of closing, he found his target. (Several other donors responded similarly. Read <a href="http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008117738_womenshome16m.html">this inspiring follow-up story</a> in the Times). Rick now serves on the Board of Elizabeth Gregory Home (EGH) where he met Kanti.</p> <p>Today, after having been a resident there for ten months, Kanti Mani works at Elizabeth Gregory Home. “I started out being an overnight resident manager. Then I got promoted to being an operations manager, and I’m the program director now.” She does some accounting, the field in which she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in India, as well as some fundraising and general operations work, because the shelter doesn’t have the money to hire a development director. As program director, “I pretty much sure the program runs smoothly; enforce the rules; and ensure that everything is going fine for the resdients and the agency.  Due to lack of funding we have downsized our staff from 10 - 3, which means a lot of multi-tasking for everyone.” </p> <p>“My job at EGH has been the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had. Because I’ve gotten so much out of EGH, I feel that I should give back.”</p> <p>In July, Kanti will start work on what she hopes will eventually be a PhD in either clinical psychology or social work. She’ll be enrolled in evening and on-line courses in that pursuit. </p> <p>After leaving EGH, she moved to permanent housing through the Seattle Housing Authority, and now happily lives in the U District with roommates her own age. She has no plans to return to India, though she dearly misses her mother, sister and niece. Her father passed away recently.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013484efe81e970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="kanti with seattle roommate" border="0" height="317" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013484efe866970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN: 0px 15px 0px 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="kanti with seattle roommate" width="260" /></a> </p> <p>She likes living in Seattle, where “the people are friendly and the houses are closer together” (than in North Carolina). “People have big hearts here. One thing I appreciate about this country, especially, is that people, if they believe in something, they give money or they help in one way or another. That’s different definitely from India.</p><br /> <p>(Kanti with Seattle roommate)</p> <p>“I do want to get married some day, but I don’t think I’m ready. Thinking about my last marriage, I would have been in a lot better situation if I had been financially stable. If the marriage did not work and I had money I could have gone back to India, but that did not happen. Instead, I had to buy the $6 Goodwill suitcase.”</p> <p>About being homeless, Kanti would have us all remember, “people don’t always become homeless because it’s their choice.” There are many paths to take, and Kanti’s is one.</p> <p>If you would like to help others like Kanti find their way out of homelessness, she would be happy to take your <a href="http://www.elizabethgregoryhome.org/donate.php">contribution to Elizabeth Gregory Home</a>. Your gift can make the difference to a woman like Kanti, to set them on their own path towards a life off the streets.</p> <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p></p> <p></p> <p></p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013484efe8a7970c-pi"><img alt="kanti with sculptures" border="0" height="313" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013484efe8c6970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="kanti with sculptures" width="470" /></a> </p> <p><strong>Kanti Mani’s Not-So-Secrets for How She Does It</strong></p> <ul> <li>“It has a lot to do with my self confidence and my love for my parents. Every decision I’ve made I’ve thought, how does this reflect on my parents? When I left the marriage I knew people were going to talk about them but I thought eventually I would get a job and I would be able to support my family, and keep my father alive. I was sending money to them from the little government support I got. I feel a responsibility to my parents.  I miss my mom very much and I would like to bring her here to stay with me a few months.” <li>“I think people need to believe in themselves. That a tiny bit of confidence in themselves goes a long way.” </li> </li></ul> <p><strong>What books has Kanti read recently?</strong></p> <ul> <li><em>Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars</em>, by John Gray “It’s helped me understood a lot of things about the opposite sex and I learned a lot about myself.” </li> </ul> <p><strong>Whom does Kanti want me to interview next?</strong></p> <ul> <li>Many women at Elizabeth Gregory Home have amazing stories to tell. </li> </ul> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0133efa0ed60970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-06-02T21:31:03Z <p>Lacey Evans is a pioneer.</p> <p>Not the gingham-bonnet-covered-wagon kind. She’s the kind that rolls on the flat track.</p> <p>Lacey Evans, a.k.a. Carmen Getsome, is a pioneer in the resurgence of women’s roller derby. She’s a leader in the Rat City Roller Girls, where the women push and shove without apology, the fans scream, and the men cheerlead – in multi-colored tutus.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013482cd4ad1970c-pi"><img alt="pic-mainImageHeadline-02" border="0" height="113" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013482cd4adc970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="pic-mainImageHeadline-02" width="446" /></a> </p> <blockquote> <p><em>This is the real deal. None of the action you’ll see is scripted or pre-planned; this is a real sport, and we play for keeps. </em><em><a href="http://ratcityrollergirls.com/">ratcityrollergirls.com</a> source of text and image above</em></p></blockquote> <p>A former soccer player – the one who liked to stand right in front of the penalty kick daring her opponent – Lacey watched her first bout in 2006. She went there expecting “something hokey like WWF Wrestling,” but instead saw something that amazed her. She was hooked immediately. “I went with a bunch of co-workers and they all thought it looked nuts, so I decided to try out.” </p> <p>Despite not having been on skates since circa fourth grade (I forgot to ask if she still needed a key to tighten her skates back then, and has anyone yet discovered where all those lost keys went?), Lacey earned one of four open spots on the team. It was sort of a training spot. They made her skate on the outside of the pack for the first three months until she got her chops and could stay upright while her teammates bumped their way past her.</p> <p>But just as the jammer angles her way past the other team’s blockers, (how’s <em>that</em> for derby talk?) Lacey skated her way up the team ladder to where she sits – or skates – now, as Captain of both her Grave Danger team and of the traveling all-star squad from the Rat City Roller Girls.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133efa0ed14970b-pi"><img alt="grave danger" border="0" height="305" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013482cd4af3970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="grave danger" width="455" /></a> </p> <p>Lacey Evans a.k.a. Carmen Getsome leading her team Grave Danger (photo credit Joe Schwartz)</p> <p>I met Lacey Evans at her team’s Saturday morning practice inside a hidden warehouse in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. She and 15 or so of her teammates were skating infinite ovals, their wheels clacking against the plastic tiles laid over cement floor which make their practice rink. Coach Quadzilla, watched the action atop his own set of skates, occasionally barking out commands and issuing blasts from his whistle which would provoke some reaction that my untrained eye was unable to discern. The whistles echoed in the immense space, the open beamed ceilings rising a good forty feet above, and nothing within to absorb the sound, the extent of décor being a few fold-out camp chairs and one overstuffed floral sofa.</p> <p>One drill had the skaters packed tightly together in rows. At Quadzilla’s command, the trio of skaters in the rear attempted to break through the front ranks, delicately rising to their toes or sending their bodies sideways through the small gaps in the pack ahead. Once to the front, two of the three skaters attempted to block out the third with hip bumps, sliding to close a gap, or splitting their legs wide to grab as much space as possible. Occasionally, any of these actions might send a skater sprawling. The others in the dense pack reacted seamlessly, parting around the fallen while skating onward.</p> <blockquote> <p><em>Derby</em><em> is a full-contact sport and skaters will use all legal means at their disposal to get the job done, including hitting the opposing team with their shoulders and hips, pushing and pulling on members of their own team, and doing a cool slingshot-like maneuver called a whip to speed their jammer through the pack.</em></p> <p><em><a href="http://ratcityrollergirls.com/">- ratcityrollergirls.com</a> </em></p></blockquote> <p>Practice ended and most of the team headed to the chairs or the sofa to undo their many items of padding and change into street shoes. Some put in a bit more time on the track but Lacey and the coach had team business to attend to. Along with the captain’s title comes the uncomfortable job of informing a couple skaters that they won’t be carried on the roster for the championship bout next weekend. With great talent comes great responsibility.</p> <p>Afterwards, Lacey and I hook up in the storage room off the track and settle in for our conversation. I find myself facing an athlete like any I might spin with at the gym or play softball with in the evening. A composed and focused young woman, absent any extraneous body piercing or tropical tattoos. She appears to have all her teeth and speaks articulately, her passion for the sport exploding forth in everything she says.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133efa0ed23970b-pi"><img align="left" alt="lacey alone" border="0" height="270" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013482cd4b01970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN: 0px 15px 0px 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="lacey alone" width="182" /></a> Carmen Getsome rose to her title of Captain with a combination of hard work, aggressiveness, and, as one of her teammates offers on their <a href="http://ratcityrollergirls.com/">web site</a>, “she not only is a leader and positive force on the track, but works her butt off getting the league training program up and running. She’s always ready and willing to do what it takes to get everyone motivated. She’s an outstanding member of our league!”</p> <br /> <p>(Carmen in her all-star uniform, photo credit Joe Schwartz)</p> <p>Working hard means four practices a week, each of which is 2 – 3 hours long. It’s a 50 minute drive each way from her home. In addition to captaining two teams, she’s head of the training committee and pulls extra shifts, as do all the skaters, helping with marketing, p.r., production, and anything else that needs to be done in this all-volunteer operation. She’s one of the reasons for the league’s astronomic growth in its few years.</p> <p>When Lacey started skating, the bouts were held inside an old airplane hangar in Magnuson Park where the indoor event could be rained out because the roof leaked like a sieve. Nonetheless, the 2,500 tickets for each bout sold out within hours, and Carmen and her teammates always skated before throngs of cheering fans, packed into the temporary bleachers. Rat City Roller Girls lost their permit to skate in the hangar at about the same time Seattle’s NBA team, the Sonics, picked up and moved to Oklahoma, leaving lots of empty dates at KeyArena. So now these women are skating in the premiere athletic venue in the region, where they recently set the national derby sales record of 5,700 tickets for one match.</p> <p>“I thought when I started that this would just be a fad. I didn’t expect it to be picked up and become mainstream, but it has. We’ve been lucky and we’ve worked really hard. But without the people loving roller derby here we wouldn’t be successful.”</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>If you haven’t yet checked out Rat City, you’ve got one more chance this season. The championship bout is being held at KeyArena Saturday June 5 at 5:30. You can buy your $14 general admission seats in person at <a href="http://www.fastgirlskates.com/">Fast Girls Skates</a> in Wallingford and <a href="http://www.birdonawireespresso.com/">Bird on a Wire Espresso</a> in West Seattle, or get them on-line at Ticketmaster. Find more information at <a href="http://ratcityrollergirls.com/">ratcityrollergirls.com</a> </strong></p></blockquote> <p>What should you expect if you go?</p> <p>“As long as you’re open to anything, you’ll have a great time,” said Carmen. “We are PG 13. Some of the leagues I’ve played against are ‘R’ rated, with girls wearing racier clothing. But I appreciate that we are so family friendly. And everybody’s <em>really</em> friendly.” In the audience Lacey sees an eclectic group that includes “lots of die-hard sports fans that stumbled into roller derby and they love it. My parents are always there. We get a lot of support from the Gay/Lesbian world; people go on a date to watch roller derby. We’ve got biker chicks, moms with their families – it’s just awesome”!</p> <p>From what I saw, she’s got the eclectic label nailed. When I went last month, my friend Leslie and I sat behind a row of silver haired fans dressed in Ralph Lauren country club. Next to us were two moms with their 13 year-old daughters, (who spent as much time cruising the merchandise table as watching the bout, and who could blame them with cool items for sale such as <a href="http://ratcityrollergirls.com/merch/">these</a>) and across the aisle was a group of army fatigues and brightly died Mohawks. We made for one big happy family.<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013482cd4b06970c-pi"><img align="right" alt="Cheerleaders wearing Sockit Wenches colors of blue and orange at the Derby" border="0" height="354" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013482cd4b15970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN: 0px 0px 0px 15px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="Cheerleaders wearing Sockit Wenches colors of blue and orange at the Derby" width="267" /></a> </p> <p>I think some of the crowd could actually follow the rink action, but Leslie and I had a blast just taking in the audience and the half-time show, which featured three cheerleaders dancing expertly to Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’. The overhead center court scoreboard showed repeated close-ups of the long hairy legs on the center dancer, a 6’3” mustached man in a pleated skirt. Much hooting and hollering accompanied the music. (right: Derby cheerleaders in the Sockit Wenches team colors orange and blue)</p> <p>Like all the ladies, Lacey brings her skater name and alter ego to the track. When she first started skating, her Carmen Getsome personality provided a toughness she didn’t yet have on wheels. “I just focused on being Carmen, a bad-ass girl who thinks she’s tough and can do anything she puts her mind to. Now, I’m pretty outgoing, but at the time I was kind of quiet and a little bit on the nerdy side of life. So I created this Carmen character who was stronger and able to overcome everything and never let anything bother her. I mean, it’s hard to be the slowest person on the track, but that doesn’t bother Carmen.”</p> <p>Make no mistake, skate names are a major part of the show. Names like </p> <ul> <li>Georgia O’Grief <li>Ida Slapter <li>And Lacey’s and my favorite, Sara Problem? </li> </li></li></ul> <p>Skate names are so important, in fact, that they must be entered on a national registry. Before you can create your own, you’re responsible to make sure there is no one else by that name or anything close. “If there is, you have to get the permission of that skater. Like, there is a skater named Drew Blood and another woman wanted the name Nancy Drew Blood, so the two came to an agreement they could each use those names, but if anyone else asked to be anything close they would both have to say no.”</p> <p>Lacey will be adding a new name to her persona on August 21 when she gets married, though she won’t know until the kickball game that day what her new last name will be. Lacey and her fiancé, who is “incredibly supportive, probably the most supportive derby widower there is” are each mounting a team of wedding guests to spar for the right to choose the couple’s new last name. If he wins the two hour kickball match, she’ll be Lacey Ramon. If she wins, her name will be Lacey Roxx.</p> <p>Whatever the outcome, they’ll take their vows later that day after a shower and a change of clothes.</p> <p>Best wishes from us all, Lacey Whatever-Your-Last-Name-Becomes. May your marriage be as successful as your career on the flat track.</p> <blockquote> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133efa0ed42970b-pi"><img alt="lacey skating" border="0" height="287" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013482cd4b29970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: block; FLOAT: none; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: auto; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-RIGHT: auto" title="lacey skating" width="428" /></a></p></blockquote> <blockquote> <p>Carmen Getsome blocking a jammer from Derby Liberation Front(photo credit, Joe Schwartz)</p></blockquote> <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Lacey’s not-so secrets for How She Does It:</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>A lot of time management. If I’m scheduled to take a rest, I’m going to take a rest. If I don’t plan on taking a rest I won’t do it. </li> </ul> <ul> <li>I have to use every minute and be committed. It always boils down to commitment. What are you more committed to, going out and having a margarita or going to practice? My team always comes first over those other activities. If I ever feel like I wanted to do XYZ and then I get to practice, within minutes I know yeah, this is where I need to be. </li> </ul> <ul> <li>Measuring and balancing the important things in life. </li> </ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">What books has Lacey read recently?</span></strong></p> <p>I’m a multi-book reader, one book that makes my mind work and one that’s completely relaxing. I have to keep one of each to stay interested.</p> <ul> <li><em>Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence, </em>by Gary Mack and David Casstevens – a mental training/emotional mastery book (order by clicking the Amazon ad to the right and support this blog when you do!) </li> </ul> <ul> <li>Anything by Harlan Coben, mystery writer. They’re my comfort read. </li> </ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Whom does Lacey want me to interview next?</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>Val Tron 3000 (Valerie Morris), we call her Dr Tron. While skating she finished her doctorate. She’s a research person at Fred Hutch. She’s really smart and one of the most caring people I know. </li> </ul> <ul> <li>My mom is wonderful – she’s changing the world one child at a time at the elementary school where she works. </li> </ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">After the bout</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>If you go to the bout June 5, or anytime you’re at Seattle Center, don’t forget you can support Melissa Erickson’s foundation (<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/my-blog/2010/03/index.html">read her story here</a> ) by buying a drink in her name at <a href="http://jabuspub.com/Home_Page.php">Jabu’s Pub</a>, 174 Roy Street (between 2nd Ave N & N Warren Ave). Jabu’s is also a sponsor of Derby Liberation Front, one of four teams which make up Rat City Roller Girls </li> </ul> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0134818157bf970c Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-05-24T17:03:57Z <p>What would <em>you</em> do if you were asked to save a stranger’s life?</p> <p>For Wendy Carlyle, her answer was unwavering. “It was never a question for me. Never.” </p> <p>Though first she had to get beyond the skepticism with which she took the call from Miami in 2008. The person on the other end told Wendy she was a possible match for a bone marrow transplant which could save the life of a man dying of leukemia. “And I was thinking it was a prank phone call, because I had NO recollection of registering. I finally said, I need to see something in writing because I don’t know <em>who</em> you guys are!”</p> <p>Arriving at her doorstep the very next day, the paperwork refreshed her memory of an event six to seven years earlier. A friend at her synagogue had egged Wendy into giving a swab from her cheek as part of a bone marrow donor registery sponsored by the <a href="http://www.giftoflife.org">Gift of Life Foundation</a>.</p> <p>A lot had happened to Wendy in those intervening years – it’s no wonder she forgot that day. Like having two more babies and her husband Reuven’s announcement in February that he planned to run for the state legislature that November.</p> <p>Although Reuven had been involved in politics from a young age, it was new turf to Wendy. She soon learned how all-consuming a campaign could be.</p> <p>“Reuven’s the kind of guy – when he decides something it’s an all or nothing gig. It was a very tough election and he did it all, <em>all</em> the time. He put 100% of his time and effort and everything into the campaign.” Fundraising, sign waving, attending events, and ringing as many doors as possible each night before the sun set – and during the Seattle summer the sun can set as late as 10:00. </p><br /> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ee51a425970b-pi"><img alt="Wendy, Reuven and kids" border="0" height="347" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ee51a432970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="Wendy, Reuven and kids" width="433" /></a> </p> <p>Wendy Carlyle, husband Reuven, and their 4 kids in a campaign photo</p> <p>Their nanny took care of the kids when Dr. Wendy Carlyle was at Virginia Mason Hospital, where she works part-time as an anesthesiologist. “But the nanny really just worked the hours that I worked. So when I came home she left, and it was home from work and Reuven not there and it was <em>all</em> the carpools, <em>all</em> the dinners, <em>all</em> the activities…” Wendy counts off the items with her head turning, as it must have been doing at high speed back then.</p> <p>“And on top of that, I would have to show up at all these campaign events. When I could I went doorbelling, and on the days I came home from work at a reasonable hour, I’d stand at the corner and wave signs, sometimes with my one year-old. </p> <p>“That was a hard year,” she says, and then emphasizes, “a <em>super</em> hard year”.</p> <p>It was into this level of family mayhem that Wendy took that call.</p> <p>Her skepticism now put to rest, she agreed to take the first step – the initial blood work. Wendy pumped out a few vials to send to the lab to test if her markers aligned with the recipient’s, and learned shortly thereafter that the tubes had broken in transport and she’d need to do it again.</p> <p>“And then months go by, really. And finally, I get a call back and they say, ‘you’re a perfect match. A 5 out of 5 match for man with leukemia and would I be willing to donate’?</p> <p>“So my only response was, could it wait? I’m not sure how urgent this is, but if I could wait until after Election Day it would be easier.”</p> <p>Reuven Carlyle got elected to the Washington State Legislature on Tuesday November 4, 2008, and the following Monday, Wendy checked into the University of Washington Medical Center to donate her bone marrow for a total stranger.  (below: Wendy and 2 year old Nava t Mount Rainier)</p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ee51a438970b-pi"><img align="right" alt="Wendy and daughter" border="0" height="333" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ee51a43f970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN: 0px 0px 0px 15px; WIDTH: 279px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; HEIGHT: 304px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="Wendy and daughter" width="251" /></a> <p>But before the actual donation – and squeezed into the busy campaign season – Wendy was fully evaluated, both physically and psychologically. There were many hours spent, for an EKG, chest x-rays, blood work and a total physical exam. All to make sure there was no hidden medical condition that could put her at risk. The psychological exam was done to determine that there was no coercion, no money being passed under the table. “They close the doors and say look, you know you really don’t have to.     </p> <p>“People I talked to would say they would never do it, but for me, there was never, <em>never</em>, an inkling of hesitation. When I got the phone call that said I was an exact match I was just overwhelmed with the opportunity to potentially save somebody’s life.”</p> <p>Sitting with Wendy two years later at our outdoor café table, I see the emotion of that moment in her eyes. It has the look of someone overwhelmed by the generosity of a tribute or a gift. It is the emotion of gratitude mixed with humility. The feeling of someone deeply touched who doesn’t feel herself worthy of the recognition.</p> <p>“It was an amazing experience, an amazing opportunity to save someone’s life. I mean, I’ve given birth, I’ve given life. I have four children, but it really is nothing like this. And it’s all anonymous, which makes it even more special,” says Wendy, pausing a moment to compose herself. “Because you’re doing it not out of personal love for somebody or family obligation, like if your brother needs a kidney and there’s all that emotional <em>stuff </em>that comes with that. But I have no idea of who this person is.”</p> <p>Wendy knew only that the recipient was a 46 year-old man with leukemia who weighed twice as much as she did. Given that he was so large, they had to take the absolute maximum amount of bone marrow from her that would be safe. Even that was just the minimal amount that would be acceptable to him.</p> <blockquote> <p>Bone marrow donation can be done in one of two ways, either through a surgical procedure where needles withdraw liquid marrow from the back of the pelvic bone; or through a non-surgical procedure where the donor receives daily injections of a drug that increases the number of blood forming cells in the bloodstream which are then separated out through a machine like that which is used for dialysis.</p></blockquote> <p>Wendy didn’t want to go through the medication, so she chose to have the marrow extracted surgically. </p> <p>“The day of the donation was so exciting, it was just so exciting.” The nanny took the kids to school while Reuven and Wendy went to the hospital where they were met by a representative from <a href="http://www.giftoflife.org">Gift of Life</a>, who had flown out from Florida to be with them.</p> <p>With her share of experience in the operating room, Dr. Wendy Carlyle wasn’t too concerned about the procedure itself. “But it was a big blood loss because they had to take so much. I was severely anemic and dehydrated. My only concern in the recovery room -- I was just weeping because I was so hoping that it would work for this person. I knew I’d be ok. I did what I could and now it was out of my hands and I was so overwhelmed with emotion for him.”</p> <p>Wendy knows her recipient survived his first year, at which point communication cuts off unless he chooses to initiate contact. She would like to know how he’s doing but she’s fine with giving him the choice to contact her or not.</p> <p>The year after her donation Gift of Life sent Wendy two tickets to their annual fundraising event in New York. “I took my oldest daughter and it was an AMAZING evening. They introduced three sets of donors and recipients who met on stage for the first time. There are tissues on every table because there is not a dry eye in the place. Everybody made such a big deal about the donors, but the way I look at it, for the donors, the procedure is an inconvenience, but it’s not life threatening. I think the real heroes are the recipients who have made it through this amazing medical procedure.” </p> <p>Gift of Life is a Jewish bone marrow registry, recognizing that ethnic groups have a higher chance of having bone marrow similarities. A visit to their web site introduces one to a Rabbi who reminds us that “this is an intrinsic Jewish value to share the gift of life.” (For another amazingly inspirational story about the importance of ethnic bone marrow registries, listen to or read this story on <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122314554">NPR</a> about a Nigerian Olympic hopeful and graduate of Yale Law School who started a registry to help people of African descent after he was diagnosed with leukemia).</p> <p>This year, Wendy’s chance to connect with her Jewish heritage was a spiritual rather than physical one. Her eldest daughter, Adi, had her Bat Mitzvah and in celebration, Wendy and Reuven took her and her sister Liat to Israel.</p> <p>“The girls really got the connection between the Jewish history and the Jewish present and the fight for the Jewish future.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ee51a449970b-pi"><img alt="Wendy, Adi and Liat" border="0" height="215" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134818157ab970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="Wendy, Adi and Liat" width="322" /></a> </p> <blockquote> <p>Adi, Liat and Wendy in Jerusalem </p></blockquote><br /> <p>As for the Bat Mitzvah? “It was really the first moment when it felt like I was passing the baton. It’s not any more about me and my generation – it’s the moment where you see that this is the future. I don’t think I expected that.” </p> <p>It’s a theme that underscores our entire interview – Dr. Wendy Carlyle, passing on her love, nurturance, spirituality, life, to those she knows and loves, and even to those she doesn’t.</p> <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p><strong>Wendy Carlyle’s Not-So-Secrets for How She Does It?</strong></p> <ul> <li>I think I keep everything in perspective. I really don’t get rattled or worked up about a whole lot of things. Part of that comes from the job that I have where I see real emergencies, people with real illnesses and real crises, so it’s hard to get worked up about my situation. </li> </ul> <ul> <li>If you’re a little late, so what? Everyone’s going to eat, no one’s starving here, they’ll all get to sleep. I just try to not sweat the small stuff. And I have good kids, who are pretty independent, and they’re all used to being in a very busy household. </li> </ul> <ul> <li>I exercise almost everyday. I run, I ride my bike to work. I take aerobics classes at the health club. I see friends when I can. </li> </ul> <ul> <li>Wendy places tremendous value in her community of friends. After the bone marrow donation, “I was blown away by my friends who dropped off meals, came and helped with the kids – the support from my community was amazing. Really, it takes a village. I could not have done it without that support for sure.” </li> </ul> <p><strong>Whom Does Wendy want me to interview next?</strong></p> <ul> <li>In my own circle of friends, they’re all amazing, but you should interview Carol Wiley Cassella, who just published the novel <em>Oxygen</em> (click the Amazon ad on this page to order it and to support the blog!) She has two sets of twins that were born 15 months apart; she’s double-Boarded in internal medicine and anesthesiology. I don’t consider myself amazing. I’m just a regular person, but <em>she’s</em> amazing. </li> </ul> <p><strong>What books has Wendy read recently?</strong></p> <ul> <li><em>Girl with the Dragon Tattoo</em> trilogy by Stieg Larsson. “Fabulous!” (click the Amazon ad on this page to order it and to support the blog!) </li> </ul> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0133ee11b763970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-05-20T19:50:18Z <p>My last interview, Joyce Israel, talked about what she did when in need of a ‘pity party’.  You know what she means, those moments when the weight you carry threatens to send you deep into a box of kleenex  or a family size bag of Fritos with sour cream dip.  Joyce turns to the tear-jerker movie rental, preferring to cry at someone else’s woes rather than her own.</p> <p>How about you?  Do you have a tried and true outlet when you feel like the ASPCA has brought all its dogs to your front lawn to poop?  Any advice you care to share?</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ee11b6b0970b-pi"><img alt="casablanca" border="0" height="321" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ee11b718970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="casablanca" width="406" /></a>  </p> <p>On the more optimistic side, look for my next post coming soon on a woman’s path to save a stranger’s life.  Would you do what she did?</p> <p>- Janet Pelz</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0133ed5ea37d970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-05-07T00:07:13Z <p>Jonah wasn’t her first. Seven years earlier, Joyce Israel had Noah, a bright eyed intense baby boy. “He popped out of the womb and I was in love. I never knew you could love that intensely.” Those early years with Noah were magical “He had to learn everything, and do everything ahead of schedule. He was very, very bright. He was all right there.”</p> <blockquote> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ed5ea343970b-pi"><img alt="noah israel" border="0" height="225" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b013480923962970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: block; FLOAT: none; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: auto; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-RIGHT: auto" title="noah israel" width="336" /></a> Noah Israel today </p></blockquote> <p>Living in Australia for her husband Rick’s work, Joyce became pregnant again. Everything went smoothly, with none of the first baby anxieties Joyce had with Noah. “I had never been so fit, it was all fabulous. And then I had a baby and everything seemed fine, but Jonah never really responded to me the way Noah did.”</p> <p>All children are different, the doctor reassured her. Don’t expect another Noah. “So, I thought, all right, he’s different – fine. And then three months down the road he starts having miniature seizures.</p> <p>“At this point I realize something’s wrong – I mean, I’m a fairly astute person,” says Joyce rolling her eyes upward.</p> <p>She and I are satisfying our mutual need for rich coffee after our morning workouts, Joyce looking much better put together than I. Her time in the locker room produced a matching white bag and trench coat while I barely managed a clean pair of yoga pants. We both arrived at the café a couple minutes before our appointment time. “I’m ridiculously punctual,” says Joyce, as if an apology is needed.</p> <p>She saw the pediatrician immediately who said Jonah needed to see the neurologist. It was the Friday before Joyce’s 41<sup>st</sup> birthday. “So the doctor called to make an appointment and he hangs up and said, sorry, no one can see you for another month, and I said, yeah right. I get on the phone right there in his office and I say, someone is going to see me, MONDAY.”</p> <p>Joyce and Rick spent an anxious weekend waiting with their three month-old for that Monday appointment. After preliminary tests, the neurologist insisted that Jonah stay overnight in the hospital. “They’re doing all sorts of tests on my little boy – I have to hold him while they do this.” Joyce holds her arms as if they still have her baby within them. “They’re monitoring his seizure activity, they had to do a CAT scan on his brain. And that’s when we get the results. Neurologists – they so lack in the personality department. He tells us our kid has a condition called lissencephaly. And he tells us Jonah has a particularly severe form -- he has agyria. – which means he has no gyri.”</p> <blockquote> <p style="TEXT-ALIGN: center"><em>Lissencephaly is caused by an arrest in development of the fetal brain during early pregnancy. The cerebral cortex, the top layer of the brain controlling higher thought processes, does not develop the normal indentations or valleys in the cortex, and gyri, the ridges or convolutions seen on the surface of the cortex. Instead, the cortex in a person with lissencephaly is thickened and smooth with disorganized neurons that have not migrated to their proper places.</em></p></blockquote> <p>“And then he tells us outright, Jonah’s got two, maybe four years to live. He’ll be vegetative. He won’t eat orally. He might not ever smile. And they want us to spend another night in the hospital and we’re like, ‘why’? We’ll just take our kid home and let him die,” Joyce voice trails off, remembering the feeling of futility.</p> <p>While they were still in the hospital, in a room along with several other kids, Joyce remembers seeing another mother tend to her child. “She was so beautifully dressed. She had a 13 or 14 year-old boy, and the nurse was about to start a tube feeding on him and she said, ‘no no no, I’ll do that.’ She was so efficient, and I thought to myself, that’s me! That’s my picture right there! I sure hope I have the nice clothes too! It was like watching an out of body experience. I couldn’t fathom any of this.</p> <p>“Sadly enough I spent the first year and a half of my kid’s life waiting for him to die. Maybe wishing for him to die,” Joyce admits. “I don’t know, maybe I wanted to get on with my life if he wasn’t going to stick around.</p> <p>“I couldn’t get invested emotionally. It’s really sad for a mother not to bond with her child, and I so regret those years when I see who Jonah is to me now.”</p> <p>Amazingly, today Jonah Israel is almost ten years old, smiling, eyes twinkling from his wheelchair. He’s beaten the odds, outlived the predications. And Joyce has learned to love him unconditionally, counting each day a blessing while remaining realistic about how many days may remain.</p> <p>She attributes her transformation in large measure to the people she brought into her family circle to help. Topping the list is Jonah’s inspirational pre-school teacher at the <a href="http://www.boyercc.org/">Boyer Children’s Clinic</a> in Seattle, Mary Ellen Buchanan – “now <em>that’s </em>who you should interview next”, Joyce tells me, underscoring this with a fork pointed in my direction.</p> <p>“I remember, we walked into her classroom and she held up these two objects in front of Jonah and she said brightly, ‘Jonah, which of these do you like, do you like the blue (pointing to one hand) or the green (pointing to the other)?’ And I thought, lady, what, are you on drugs? My kid is a vegetable, what are you doing? And do you know, within six months, Jonah was turning his head, making a decision between the blue and the green? She gave me hope. This woman changed my attitude about my child in a huge way. I came to understand that there was somebody home. And gradually, gradually, I learned how to love him.”</p> <p>It was Mary Ellen who encouraged Joyce to have Jonah tested and fitted for glasses. “Glasses? I don’t know how they can figure out a prescription (since Jonah can’t read an eye chart), but they do, and all of a sudden he’s sleeping less during the day, he’s focused more – I can see that his world is opening up.”</p> <p>Joyce believes so strongly in the Boyer Children’s Clinic that she sat on their Board for five years.</p> <p>“So, at this point, I’m starting to see that I have a little person here. I’m starting to see – I know how to keep this child alive.” Recognizing that Jonah is not processing food well, Joyce starts him on a high fiber, low-fat diet. He can’t eat solid food so she grinds his breakfasts of bran cereal, lunches of salad with avocado, and dinners of tofu and vegetables. He’s no longer constipated, which means his body can absorb his medications. She has him working with one of their long-time helpers doing yoga, which she describes as miraculous, helping Jonah avoid hip surgery, a common occurrence among children with lissencephaly.</p> <p>Monday through Friday he’s at <a href="http://www.seattleschools.org/schools/lowell/">Lowell Elementary</a>, a Seattle public school that houses the city’s Low Incident Special Education program, teaching children in specialized, self-contained special ed classes. In addition to his physical, occupational and speech therapy, he spends time in a general education classroom that pairs with Jonah’s class for activities each week.</p> <p>“For me, school for Jonah is primarily social. I mean, he’s never going to read, he’s never going to write, whether or not he’ll ever use one of those fancy- schmancy boards to communicate I don’t know. I’ve never had lofty goals for my kid other than that he should be happy. And being around other children makes him INCREDIBLY happy.”</p> <p>And this year, school has brought what all parents hope for their children – a friend. “This is the first time this has ever happened. This little girl put a note in his lunch box asking if they could have a play date together! So I’ve taken them to movies, the Science Center, the Aquarium. When we go to the museums, she’s busy looking at the exhibits and he’s looking at her. It’s all about her. I mean, you even mention Dylan’s name to Jonah and you can see him light up. She even sits with him at lunch at school. This little girl <em>loves</em> Jonah. It’s a miracle. And they’re perfect for each other because she can’t stop talking and he can’t talk at all!”<a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01348092396a970c-pi"><img alt="Jonah with Dylan" border="0" height="333" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ed5ea35f970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="Jonah with Dylan" width="441" /></a> </p> <blockquote> <p>Jonah Israel enjoying an outing with friend, Dylan</p></blockquote> <p>Joyce describes a time when she set Jonah up in his room so Dylan could read to him. “When I returned, she had him cuddled in her arms. It was too sweet,” she says the emotion of that moment still very strong. </p> <p>Jonah has many others in his life who adore him. There’s Rick, whose love for Jonah is returned tenfold. “He still loves his dad more. Which pisses off me, and all the other girls who help care for Jonah. Here I am, diapering him, getting him to go to the bathroom, grinding his food, giving him his meds, everything he needs. Dad comes home, and boom, that’s it. Whatever,” she says waving it all away with a smile on her face.</p> <p>“Look, I’m mostly function. He expects me to feed him. I’m the only one who can help him have a bowel movement in the toilet. He knows I’ll be the one to come in the middle of the night when he calls out.”</p> <p>For almost 10 years now Joyce has been getting up with Jonah one, maybe three times a night. “I’m like an Alzheimer’s patient during the day because my memory function is impaired due to lack of sleep.” Despite this, she doesn’t nap. “I don’t want to. I want to live my life. Instead, I’ve got this,” she says, lifting the coffee cup for a long sip.</p> <p>And then there are Joyce’s parents, who “are incredible with Jonah – they just love him so much.”</p> <p>That wasn’t necessarily a sure thing. “I never would have suspected my mom would be ok with this kind of situation because, you know, in her mind, people who aren’t perfect get exterminated.”</p> <p>Both of Joyce’s parents are Holocaust survivors, her mother having been in Auschwitz for more than a year. “Somehow she managed to survive that. She is a very, very strong woman.” Joyce acknowledges some of that strength got passed down to her.</p> <p>When I asked how much of a presence her mother’s concentration camp memories played in Joyce’s childhood, she answers that rather than being overt, it was “more like the Seinfeld, yada, yada, yada, like, ‘When I was young I got into a fight with an SS officer and yada yada yada and now I can’t see out of my left eye.’ And six years later you find out she was pistol whipped.”</p> <p>Despite her horrific past, Joyce’s mother helped set a standard for being a mother to Jonah. “She is the epitome of unconditional love. There is nobody like this in the universe, who would lay down herself gladly for anything.</p> <p>“To need to learn to love your own child -- I just felt like such a terrible mom. Now I think he’s fantastic – he’s such a sweet little guy, so cheerful. It’s impossible not to be happy when you’re around him because, oh my God!, he just so enjoys life. You can wallow in your pity party as much as you want, but this kid, he’s not. It forces you to look at things differently.” </p> <p>That’s not to say that it isn’t hard or that every day is a happy one. The pain gets less and less as the years go on “since I’ve learned to love Jonah for who he is. Certainly initially, yeah. I’d hear a curly haired boy calling his dad and I’d break down in the grocery store. There are things you want for your child – I have very simple wants now. If I could just hear my kid say, ‘mom’, I would be happy. But I don’t expect to, and you know what, that’s ok.</p> <p><em>- Janet Pelz</em></p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ed5ea36c970b-pi"><img alt="Joyce and RIck" border="0" height="291" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ed5ea373970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="Joyce and RIck" width="437" /></a> </p> <p>Rick and Joyce Israel</p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline">Joyce’s not-so secrets for How She Does It:</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>Red wine, coffee, yoga, new shoes, and date night every Saturday. <li>And if I’m having a pity party, a sad movie really helps. It helps to have someone else to feel sad for. <li>I hire help. I outsource! If I had been the only caregiver for Jonah all these years he would be vegetative. <li>I am incredibly fortunate. There seems to be a big correlation between disability and poverty and I don’t have to worry about that. I can get extra help, I can buy a necessary piece of equipment. And here’s the irony – I’ve never been a person who needed a whole lot of money. It never appealed to me, but thank God that Rick has done so well in life because Jonah will always be taken care of, get medical care – that’s one big worry we can put to rest that many families can’t. <li>Rick adores this child and is devoted to him – thank God our marriage is solid. I’ve been really blessed to have married such a wonderful man. The divorce rate for people with kids with disabilities is up around 75 – 80%! You add a big stresser like that, add the economic stress, if parents don’t agree – we don’t have any of that. <li>Noah is a wonderful presence in her life, bright, personable, witty “he’s constantly cracking me up with his one-liners!” <li>I’m pretty damn lucky. I feel so blessed. </li> </li></li></li></li></li></li></ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline">What book has Joyce read recently?</span></strong></p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline"></span></strong></p> <ul> <li><em>In the Time of Butterflies</em>, by Julia Alvarez </li> </ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline">Whom does Joyce want me to interview next?</span></strong></p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline"></span></strong></p> <ul> <li>Mary Ellen Buchanan of the Boyer Children’s Clinic </li> </ul> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0133ed16b145970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-04-30T21:05:11Z <p>My last story about Stephanie Ellis-Smith told us what opportunities may be waiting when we follow our passion. Stephanie took that terrifying step of putting her profession, and all that it brought (identity, status, security) -- behind in order to pursue something different – what it was, she didn’t yet know. Her new world opened up eventually through volunteering but first, she had to be willing to walk away from all that was familiar.</p> <p>How have you done it?</p> <p>Do you have an experience to share of pursuing a passion? What did you do, and where did it lead you? How about a volunteer pursuit? Do you have advice to share about where to go to find fulfilling volunteer opportunities, or how to shape your volunteer experience to get the most from it?</p> <p>Click the comment button below this post and share your experience and ideas. There may be someone reading this who is looking for your guidance.</p> <p>In my next stories, I write about women whose lives changed, not because they pursued an opportunity but because of an unexpected event that they were challenged to meet. Look for these, coming soon.</p> <p>Thanks for reading, and thanks for leaving your ideas on How Does She Do It?</p> <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01348046de5f970c-pi"><img alt="DSC00052" border="0" height="358" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ed16b131970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="DSC00052" width="476" /></a> </p> <p>   My husband Bob and daughter Casey take the plunge, in an icy stream</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0133ecdb8576970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-04-22T04:37:41Z <p>It was the way that both Donna Moodie (see January archive) and Trish Dziko (see March archive) offered her name and hers only when I asked them whom I should interview next. “Have you met Stephanie Ellis-Smith?” they both asked. No, was my answer, but clearly I was meant to.</p> <p>Not long after having found Stephanie at our café rendezvous (are you Stephanie?) I wondered how it was that I had lived in this town so long and known as many people as I did and not yet met her. I suspect Stephanie has this affect on everybody.</p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ecdb8555970b-pi"><img align="left" alt="ellissmith" border="0" height="209" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134800b829c970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN: 0px 15px 0px 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="ellissmith" width="218" /></a> <p>Stephanie Ellis-Smith by her own admission is a preparer. Like the scientist she was trained to be, there is a clarity and organization about how she expresses herself, and how she approaches life and work. And yet within that context, there is boundless creativity and impulse and passion, like the artist and cultural thinker she has come to be.</p> <p>“I am inconsistent and I take some pride in that. To think bigger you do need to be inconsistent. I change my mind a lot. I like that about myself.”</p> <p>After she had “literally wrung every nickel out of my education at UCLA“, taking classes wherever her curiosity led her, she finished with a double major in biochemistry and English literature. Which, she admits, should have tipped her off to what would come later. </p> <p>She set out on a biochemistry career and then moved to Seattle with her new husband, Russian historian and author <a href="http://www.douglassmith.info/3/author.html">Doug Smith</a>. In the world of science, she had developed a name for herself. Accomplishments aside, being noticed was never a problem.</p> <p>“Being Black and being female – well, there weren’t very many women at all in the field, and no Black people period. Everybody knew who I was. There are plusses and minuses to that. When I was hot I was a superstar, and perhaps unnecessarily so. I think expectations were low, so when I would hit the mark, she is a <em>genius</em>! And I would think, no, I’m just doing my job. But the flip side – if I would make a mistake… well, we told you about <em>those</em> people. <em>They’re</em> not very committed, <em>they’re</em> not very focused.”</p> <p>In Seattle Stephanie almost lived in the lab, working grueling 80-hour weeks while earning a meager paycheck. “I never saw my new husband – he would bring dinner to me at the lab. And I finally just said, you know, I don’t want to do this any more. But my whole identity had been wrapped up in science. That was a very, very difficult transition, not knowing what was coming next.”</p><br /> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134800b82a1970c-pi"><img alt="Stephanie with husband (2)" border="0" height="313" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134800b82ac970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: block; FLOAT: none; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: auto; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-RIGHT: auto" title="Stephanie with husband (2)" width="416" /></a>    Stephanie Ellis-Smith with husband, Russian historian Douglas Smith</p> <p>Released into daylight, she set out to discover the city she had been living in but “I had never seen an inch of because I was always in the lab.” One day she stumbled into the <a href="http://www.sedersgallery.com/">Francine Seders Art Gallery</a>. (See related story on Gail Grinnell, December archives). Stephanie had heard that African American artist Jacob Lawrence lived in Seattle and on a lark asked the gallery staff if they happened to have any of his works.</p> <p>“They were so kind they pulled down everything they had even though they knew I wasn’t going to buy anything.” After many hours of this they suggested Stephanie seek out “this little non-profit that had prints (of Lawrence) they were selling, for much less money to raise money for their work.” </p> <p>It took Stephanie a few weeks, batting away a creeping depression that came with her lack of life direction, before she tracked down the organization. “It was a non-profit technically, but essentially it was just two art historians who were cataloging, researching and re-photographing for publication all of the extant works of Jacob Lawrence.”</p> <p>On the white board in this little office was written in bold letters: FIND A RESEARCHER. “So I asked, what do you need a researcher for? And they told me they needed someone to call every single gallery in the country to ask if they had any works of Jacob Lawrence. So I said, well, I’m a researcher. I had zero marketable skills, much to my father’s chagrin after spending all that money on my education. I mean, I couldn’t even send a fax. But they said they just needed someone who could handle a lot of information, and I said, I can do that.”</p> <p>Stephanie began volunteering 10 hours a week making scores of phone calls. After about six months, her volunteer post transitioned into a fulltime job which she held for five years. “The project we were doing is called a catalogue raisonné. It’s very, very prestigious. Only the most highly esteemed artists have a catalogue raisonné done in their honor. And this was the first one ever done for an artist of African descent. So it was a <em>big</em> deal. All of this I learned in the process.”</p> <p>Stephanie Ellis-Smith is an evangelist for volunteering, and understandably so. Volunteering changed her life.</p> <p>“Volunteering gives you the opportunity to just feed your soul, open your mind to doing something else. A job is not going to do that – that’s not the function of employment. With volunteering, you explore worlds and ideas that you can’t when you’re only working and coming home to turn on the TV. I just find it to be incredibly, incredibly rewarding. I mean, how would I have ever met art historians, or Jacob Lawrence and his wife Gwendolyn?</p> <p>“I loved them so much – just thinking about them gives me chills. I’m very close to my family. I grew up with both sets of my grandparents. Leaving home, one thing I missed was being around old folks, so they were in a way my surrogate grandparents. And it was such a lovely way to learn about art history and museums and art book publishing, design -- the whole nine yards.”</p> <p>Stephanie finished the catalogue raisonné, coming to appreciate how “Jacob’s work was unequivocally about the African American experience, but it spoke to so many people from all these different backgrounds – white, black, rich, poor – they each found nougats and kernels of importance in his work. I learned from that how the African American culture is so unique but so universal – it represents monumental triumph paired with struggle.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134800b82ba970c-pi"><img alt="300_fs" border="0" height="346" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0134800b82c3970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="300_fs" width="476" /></a> </p> <p>One of Stephanie’s favorite works of Jacob Lawrence: “The Lovers” Taken from the site: <a href="http://www.jacobandgwenlawrence.org/artandlife04.html">The Jacob and Gwen Knight Lawrence virtual resource center</a></p><br /> <p>Working on that project along with her reading of Quintard Taylor’s <em>The Forging of a Black Community – the History of Seattle’s Central Distric</em>t  “opened my eyes to the unique and inspiring history of African-Americans in the Pacific Northwest.”     </p> <p>So, with a how-to book on starting non-profits and a founding Board who shared the vision: To inspire new thoughts and challenge assumptions about African American culture, Stephanie Ellis-Smith created the <a href="http://www.cdforum.org/">Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas</a>.</p> <p>“I wanted to get people thinking about African American arts and culture from a broader perspective -- more contemporary; what people are thinking about now.”</p> <p>Initially, she gave the effort three short years, but a track record of successful programs kept it strong enough for Stephanie to retire from the organization ten years later. Along the way, she and the CD Forum collected commendations, including the 2004 Mayor’s Art Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Community, and the 2008 Seattle Weekly recognition for <a href="http://www.seattleweekly.com/bestof/2008/award/best-expander-of-cultural-boundaries-477104/">Best Expander of Cultural Boundaries</a>.</p> <p>Their program<strong>, </strong><em>Black to the Future – Blacks in Sci Fi</em>, “was amazing. Hundreds of people came, 60% of them from outside Washington. It was avant garde, intellectual and slick.” Under her leadership, CD Forum examined LGBT issues in the Black culture, (“there’s a big strain of conservatism in the African American community”), identity issues, such as who is African American, and the impact of gentrification in the CD. Dance, theatre, and Food as Art were also part of the dynamic year-round programming that continues with Stephanie no longer serving as director.</p> <p>“I loved the CD Forum, but it was my job. My first duty to this community is to unleash two well adjusted kids.” At ages 10 and 6, raising her kids is now Stephanie’s job. “I cannot outsource the existential growing pains of a 10 year-old girl – that is MY job, no one else’s. I’m just fortunate enough to be able to do this.</p> <p>“I miss having an identity entirely around my job. But it’s actually more important to me to spend these next 10 years at home and get my kids out of the house to the best of my ability, and then I can get back to that. Right now, this is my priority.”</p> <p>Setting priorities is a big theme in Stephanie’s life. “For the things that are really important -- you’ll find time for it. If people want to shake things up, get into a new way of thinking, we all have two hours a week we can spend on that – we just do. Whether it’s volunteering or whether it’s rollerblading. It comes down to priorities. We all have the same 24 hours a day.”</p> <p>In her 24 hours, Stephanie continues to find time for volunteer pursuits, or “community writ large.” She was recently appointed to the Seattle Arts Commission and continues on the board of <a href="http://www.kuow.org">KUOW public radio</a>, (to which she hopes you will pledge if you didn’t get around to it during the recent drive). She’s got more time to volunteer at her kids’ school, and most importantly, time for family and friends – “community writ small.”</p> <p>Stephanie’s physical community is about to change for a while. She and the family are moving to London for a year while her husband is writing and researching his next book.</p> <p>“My 20’s were about science, my 30’s were about art. I turn 40 in June – I think my 40’s will be about family. I can’t wait till my 50’s – I’m not sure what that will be.”</p> <p>Now that I’ve met Stephanie Ellis-Smith, I can’t wait to know either.</p> <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ecdb8569970b-pi"><img alt="stephanie e-s (2)" border="0" height="289" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ecdb856d970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: block; FLOAT: none; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: auto; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-RIGHT: auto" title="stephanie e-s (2)" width="385" /></a> Stephanie Ellis-Smith (far right) with sister and parents </p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline">Stephanie’s not-so secrets for How She Does It:</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>With a lot of support and sacrifice from my parents and family. I was raised essentially by 6 adults. They poured every ounce of everything that either they earned or mental energy into my sister and me. They gave me my education, which I think gave me the tools to manage my life currently. <li>I ask for help, from friends, I hire help. I have no shame. I don’t believe in running myself into the ground. Self-preservation is a big driving force. <li>I play squash to get out my energies and anxieties; I do Pilates to keep me relaxed. <li>I take a lot of time with my husband who is my best friend, and other friends, socializing, going out to parties. I don’t think people do that enough, but it’s so important – it feeds your soul. </li> </li></li></li></ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline">What books has Stephanie read recently?</span></strong></p> <ul> <li><em>The Unwritten Rules of Friendship</em>, by Natalie Madorsky Elman and Eileen Kennedy-Moore <li><em>Wench</em>, by her friend Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Stephanie just did a book launch party for her) <li><em>The Pearl,</em> by Stephanie’s husband Douglas Smith </li> </li></li></ul> <p>(to find these books, click the Amazon ad on the right side of this page) </p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline">Whom does Stephanie want me to interview next?</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>Sarah DeRuyck – a mom, a volunteer, a runner, and a PhD candidate. “She’ll be mortified I gave you her name but she deserves it.” </li> </ul> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0133ec872a60970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-04-07T19:37:27Z <p>Esther Instebo rises slowly as my mother and I walk through the apartment door she has kept ajar for our benefit. She invites us into her tidy, compact living room, offering the two comfortable chairs while she settles onto the seat of her wheeled walker. Looking around the room I have a sense that everything here has a purpose and a place. The bookcase is the first piece that catches my eye, likely because soon upon getting settled Esther points out a particular volume there.</p> <p>It’s Naomi Klein’s <em>Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism</em>. With a hint of the first grade teacher that she was for 41 years Esther tells me, “I think everybody should read that book. She’s definitely a brilliant woman. She’s also Canadian. I think Canadians are particularly good critiquing us – they can see our follies.”</p> <p>And this is how we start our two hour conversation, which journeys far back into the past and farther into the future than many people half her age have gone.</p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01347fb71dbe970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="esther and kelly" border="0" height="360" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01347fb71dd2970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN: 0px 10px 0px 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="esther and kelly" width="271" /></a> <p>Along the way it becomes clear to me that Esther Instebo has quite a head for numbers.</p> <p>She would demure on this point, insisting that it was her late husband Al, retired from Puget Power as an accountant, who wore those stripes in their family.</p> <p>But I would have to differ. Consider the evidence.</p> <p>This year Mrs. Instebo will claim the big round number, turning one more tumbler on the date clock -- to reach 100 years old.</p> <p>(Kelly Pelz, left, with friend Esther Instebo)</p><br /> <p>And how about these numbers? She was born in 1910 on a farm in northern Minnesota and got her first teaching job at age 19 through a program to encourage high school graduates to teach in rural schools. Hers was a one-room schoolhouse with 11 students spanning eight grades. She had a three mile walk to and from school each day, many of those battling the snow of Minnesota winter. For this she was paid $85 a month.</p> <p>Esther’s body may not be moving quickly these days, but her mind has an agile grasp on the importance of numbers and not just those from her distant past. She can cite the cost benefit analysis of family planning ($1.00 spent saves $4.39 on pregnancy care) or the amount of money Senator Patty Murray has amassed for her re-election campaign ($5 million), or the level of taxes happily paid by Norwegians, for which they are provided universal health care, among other benefits (50%).</p> <p>These days, Esther applies her numbers savvy to her ardent support of Senators Murray and Maria Cantwell, Planned Parenthood, and other charities important to her. Her reputation for filling tables at their fundraising events is legion, often paying for others to attend. “I just feel it’s our obligation to participate. There are so many people who could buy those tickets without even missing the money. I don’t have that much, but we all need to make sure that these people stay elected.”</p> <p>Her career as a political fundraiser started when a friend invited her to a luncheon for Patty Murray back in 1998, and Esther decided it would be fun to take her sister as a birthday present. She had a wonderful time, sitting next to a social worker who knew a High Point housing project family that Esther had helped while she was teaching at the elementary school nearby. Esther was hooked. Since then she has become a mainstay at such events, often bringing with her dozens of her aging neighbors.</p> <p>She is particularly loyal to women leaders and supported Hillary Clinton’s Presidential bid with passion. It was then that her fundraising prowess was caught by Erik Lacitis, who wrote in his feature story about her in the  <a href="http://http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2004195031_yesshecan22m.html">Seattle Times</a>: </p> <p><em>It's doubtful that there is an older active fundraiser in Seattle. She sits</em><em> in her studio apartment, and, on her 30-year-old IBM Selectric typewriter that she bought for $25 at a flea market, types out notes to her fellow residents at Horizon House.</em></p> <p><em>    The Selectric just keeps running, like its owner. </em></p> <p><em>    Instebo walks down the halls, attaching her fundraising messages to clips on the doors of each residence.</em></p> <p><em>    "If you can support our senators in this way, you will find it an enjoyable experience," she typed out on a leaflet for $100 and $150 seats for the annual Patty Murray Golden Tennis Shoe Awards.</em></p> <blockquote> <p style="TEXT-ALIGN: center"><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01347fb71de3970c-pi"><img alt="Steve Ringman ST" border="0" height="259" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01347fb71df3970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: block; FLOAT: none; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: auto; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-RIGHT: auto" title="Steve Ringman ST" width="402" /></a>Esther Instebo promoting her Presidential favorite, Hillary Clinton photo credit Seattle Times, Steve Ringman photographer</p></blockquote> <p>Women in positions of leadership equate with economic and democratic prosperity in Esther’s mind. “That’s why China is where it is. It was Mao Zedong -- he would say China had to include women in their economy and educate women because they hold up half the sky.” As she says this she points out the volume on the table next to me, <em>Half the Sky, Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide</em>, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Another must-read, according to Mrs. Instebo.</p> <p>Given her forward-thinking politics, it may seem surprising to know just where Esther came from. Back there on the northern Minnesota farm, she was coming into her 20’s about the same time the Depression was hitting this country.</p> <p>At the end of her first year teaching, “I went to Duluth and got a job as a maid for the summer for $30 month. Every girl should have that opportunity. I learned that I could keep a big house. And I still have a recipe from those days – pork chops and rice.” </p> <p>Fortunately when she returned to teaching in the fall, she got assigned a school much closer to her parents’ farm. Living at home, she was able to save all of the $90 a month she was now earning. But this was the Depression, and the following year’s pay promised to go down, not up.</p> <p>“But my father was far-seeing enough to know that there was a new teacher’s college opening in Bemidji, and there they could make a teacher out of you so you could teach in a graded school.”</p> <p>After three years of one-room school houses she enrolled. “They had a nice dormitory that cost $20 a month for room and board but that was a figure I couldn’t possibly afford. I think my tuition was about $30 and the books were free. And for $5 a month you could rent a room and share a bed with somebody. There was a kerosene stove in the room and I brought most of my food over from the farm.” </p> <p>Right about this time, Esther Carlson met Al Instebo, a Norwegian immigrant who had come to Tacoma, Washington to earn a living as a logger. But when the Depression hit there, Al thought, “why stand in government soup lines in Tacoma when he could work on a farm in Minnesota for room and board.</p> <p>“He and his friend were working at my neighbor’s place. And one night that neighbor set the boys (my future husband) to churning ice cream for the evening (it took forever to freeze the ice cream because they were using snow and salt). He got very tired of cranking and grumbled quite a bit about it, but the neighbor said, ooh, the Carlson girls are going to be worth it! But the Carlson girls weren’t exactly enamored with the Norwegians. It’s a wonder I ever married him, but he was so good looking, and so smart!” she says laughing. “But he had such an accent!”</p> <p>When the lumber business picked up Al went back to Washington. “I thought that would be the end of Al, but he didn’t forget me. At Christmastime he came back and stayed around for Christmas break, and there’s where I discovered his talent. I was knee deep in chemistry, and Al helped me with such aplomb that I got all my homework done. And that’s when I came to really appreciate how smart he was.</p> <p>“That summer, he came again to solidify the relationship. He had a beautiful new wardrobe – I remember that gray flannel suit,” says Esther, keeping up a steady chuckle. “He really got to me that time, he was so good looking.” Esther gets up slowly from her chair and crosses to the bedroom to fetch a photo of her Al. Indeed, he was a looker.</p> <p>She insisted he go to college. “I’m not sure another woman would have pushed him so hard, but being a teacher, I couldn’t see myself married to someone who didn’t have a college degree.”</p> <p>Esther throws in a few more chuckles and draws a deep breath. “I know you’re not getting much from me, but you’re giving me an audience, which is very nice of you. I guess that’s what old people like most of all, to reminisce. And most people don’t want to take the time to hear our stories.”</p> <p>For much of their marriage, Al and Esther had her brother or mother living with them, despite the fact that her brother George was very difficult. “He told this story of seeing a fortune teller when he was a young man. The fortune teller looked at his palm and said, I see here that until you’re 40 years old you’re going to be lonely and depressed. And George asked what would happen after that and she said, you’ll be used to it. It was the saddest thing. And then I began to understand why he had been so difficult and mean – because if you’re lonely and depressed, you’re going to be difficult and mean to your loved ones.”</p> <p>Years past his death, Esther has pondered the cause of George’s loneliness. “I think he had been a Gay man all his life and not known it. It makes me sad every time I think of him, living out in the country alone and wondering why he wasn’t like the other farm boys. He lived to be 90, and what a frustrated life it must have been.</p> <p>“And that’s why I’m hooting and hollering for the rights of Gays and Lesbians.”</p> <p>Walking home from Plymouth Church in 1995, Al had a cardiac arrest, his fourth. “The doctor realized the seriousness of his heart condition but first, he had to prove to Medicare that Al was worth a pacemaker. They finally put one in, but 17 days later Al died, pacemaker and all.”</p> <p>For the first time in our interview Esther has stopped chuckling. “The first year I had to live without him. Which…. is the hardest thing I think we all have to do eventually.”</p> <p>But hard doesn’t stop Esther. My mother, who was the one who encouraged me to interview Mrs. Instebo (see her story in the November archives), tells the story of seeing Esther in the copy room shortly after she returned from a hospital stay during which she was seriously ill. “I asked her what she was doing and she told me that the lovely nurses who cared for her didn’t understand what was in the health care bill. So she was planning to take this information back to them.”</p> <p>It will be difficult to keep Esther Instebo down, as long as she can be standing up -- for a good cause.</p> <p><em>- Janet Pelz</em></p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ec872a43970b-pi"><img alt="biden and esther" border="0" height="249" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0133ec872a4c970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: block; FLOAT: none; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: auto; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-RIGHT: auto" title="biden and esther" width="367" /></a>Esther with Vice President Joe Biden at a recent Patty Murray fundraiser </p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline">Esther Instebo’s not-so secrets for how she does it:</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>She continues to make a difference for the issues she cares about. <li>“I’m not quite ready to die, but I don’t want to be a centenarian for long.” <li>She’s up at 4:00 am to take her medications and then goes back to bed to let them settle and wakes up again at about 11:00. <li>In her community at <a href="http://http://www.horizonhouse.org/">Horizon House</a> she finds many other seniors who share her passion for civic activism and keep her company at events <li>She continues to expand her mind and her attitudes through reading, conversation, and introspection <li>She has a great filing system that allows her to put her finger on any piece of information when she wants it. <li>About the scholarship endowment she made to Bemidji Teachers College she said, ““One’s halo really shines when we realize it allows us to live on in the lives of the young people who receive the scholarships long after we have gone.” </li> </li></li></li></li></li></li></ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline">Mrs. Instebo’s must-read book list includes:</span></strong></p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline"></span></strong></p> <ul> <li><em>Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, </em>by Naomi Klein <li><em>Half the Sky, Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide</em>, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn </li> </li></ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline">Whom does Esther Instebo want me to interview next?</span></strong></p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline"></span></strong></p> <ul> <li>Someone connected with the Death with Dignity movement </li> </ul> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0120a96506f4970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-03-22T20:18:23Z <p>Ginny Gilder is a rower. It’s something you should know about her. It explains a lot.</p> <p>She brings the ethic of a competitive rower to most aspects of her life. Break it down. Train. Train some more. Persist. Bring the pieces together when it’s time to perform. Compete to win.</p> <p>So, it’s no surprise, really, that she would be one of four women to buy the Seattle Storm basketball team from the departing owners of the Sonics. In some way, she was training for that her whole life.</p> <p>And rowing played a big part.</p> <p>“Almost everything I learned in life I learned from rowing – or my kids.”</p> <p>It started when, as a junior in high school , Ginny went to Boston to see a rowing race. “I just thought it looked amazing.”</p> <p>That race was the Head of the Charles, famous enough for this non-rower to know of. Ginny saw it for the first time in 1974.</p> <p>In 1982, 1983, and 1984 she won it. She set the course record in the women’s elite single in 1982, and that record still has not been broken.</p> <p>Ginny comes from a family where business acumen is held up as the ultimate trophy. No one in the family had much experience in sports. “I was a complete non-athlete; I was asthmatic.”  The summer after Ginny first saw the Head of the Charles, her dad suggested that for her birthday, “he get me some rowing shoes. There is no such thing as rowing shoes – it just shows you how much we knew about the sport.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01310fcc09ae970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="1649465" border="0" height="314" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01310fcc09b5970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN: 0px 15px 0px 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="1649465" width="219" /></a> </p> <p>She started rowing as a freshman at Yale, training with two Olympic rowers. “So I thought, hmm the Olympics. I want to do that. No one thought I had much of a shot, with my coach at the top of that list.”</p> <p>Ginny is one of thousands of women in this country who came to sports along with Title 9, who were instrumental in crashing down the doors that opened the field to millions of young women, Ginny’s daughter Sierra among them.</p> <p>One door to crash – the lack of facilities for the women’s rowing team at Yale. After a month of waiting in wet clothes on the bus while the men showered at the boathouse, Ginny and her teammates held a ‘Strip In’. With ‘Title IX’ written on their backs, they walked in to see the head of women’s athletics, turned their backs to her, and dropped their sweats. The moment was caught by a New York Times stringer and the Yale Daily News and the image went out over the wire. By the following fall, Yale had started an addition to the boathouse.</p> <p>Too bad the digital archives don’t go back far enough to relive that moment.</p> <p>With Olympics in mind, she tried out unsuccessfully for the national team in 1977, 1978, and 1979 while still at Yale. After graduating, she moved to Boston and continued to train.</p> <p>Finally, she made the Olympic team in 1980, the year the Americans stayed home.</p> <p>After that huge disappointment she retired from rowing. Still in Boston, however, the Charles River lured her back and she learned to scull from one of her former Yale teammates. “By myself, I could practice when I wanted and hold a full-time job. And then I just got manic and good.</p> <p>“One of the biggest things I learned from rowing was how to structure my life. I loved the rhythm of getting up and going to practice. So I’d get to work at 9:00 and I had been up since 5:30, and I would look around and just feel sorry for everyone because they hadn’t been out on the water; they hadn’t seen the sunrise; they hadn’t gotten to sweat; and all they had was this dumb job. And then I’d go and work out in the afternoons.”</p> <p>In 1982 she made the national team in the quad (four scullers), racing in the world championships where her boat came in 4<sup>th</sup>.</p> <p>And in 1983 she won the singles trials, and was recognized as the fastest sculler in the country. That year she came in 3<sup>rd</sup> in the World Championships.</p> <p>Things were going well for Ginny. She was shooting to finally make it to the Olympics as the single in 1984, “but ten days before the trials I broke my rib. I was over-training and I injured myself. It was my own fault.”</p> <p>The odds-on favorite, she went to the trials anyway, “but then it all came apart and I did really badly.” She went to the doctor the next day, who saw the broken rib on an x-ray. “He said, you’re not alone, some of our best athletes won’t be in the Olympics this year, and I just thought ---- you. <em>I’m</em> going.”</p> <p>Her recent times combined with the information about her injury convinced the Olympic coach to add her to the quad (quadruple sculls with coxswain). “And I won silver as the stroke of the women’s quad at the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984. So, it worked out ok.</p> <p>“Rowing was the driving force in my life for 10 years. It’s all about testing, figuring out how much pain you can inflict on yourself. Plus, rowing gave me a sense of purpose. On some level at the time I was fighting a battle to know what was meaningful enough to keep me tethered. And I think rowing was it. It gave shape to my life at a time when I was not very solid internally.”</p> <p>Family is another driving force in Ginny’s life, both the family of her parents and siblings, and the one she has fashioned with her own children and partner.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01310fcc09be970c-pi"><img alt="ginny and gilder" border="0" height="290" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01310fcc09c7970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="ginny and gilder" width="551" /></a> </p> <p><span style="FONT-FAMILY: ; FONT-SIZE: 12px">Ginny rowing the Head of the Charles with her son, Gilder, in a parent/child double in 2008</span></p> <p>Her mother, fiercely pro-choice and “her own version of a feminist”, passed those qualities down to Ginny and her two sisters. Her parents divorced when Ginny was a pre-teen and it is her relationship with her father that has endured.</p> <p>The shadow cast from that divorce still hovered over Ginny into adulthood. In the early 80’s Ginny had been in a relationship with a woman but broke it off because she wanted a family. “This was at a time when I wasn’t very close to my mom and I really needed my dad and I felt like if I came out then I would lose him.</p> <p>“I met this very lovely guy and we were engaged within about two months. Everything was ok for a while, trying to be happy but not quite understanding why I wasn’t. And then I met Lynn. I had signed my husband and me up for tennis lessons because we needed to do more together and she was our tennis instructor.”</p> <p>Falling in love with Lynn was “really was like a bomb going off. I knew that everything had changed. It was like walking through a door and not being able to go back.” </p> <p>Still, facing the idea of divorce seemed impossible because of her kids – Ginny and her husband had their son Gilder then adopted Max and Sierra. “Because when my parents got divorced I resolved I would never get divorced.” Ginny shared her dilemma with a therapist who challenged the notion that she should stay married because of her children, pointing out the unhappiness and resentment that would result.</p> <p>“One of the promises I made to myself was that this relationship was going to be worth breaking my kids’ hearts for -- each one of my kids to this day remembers when we told them we were separating, and it’s really hard to be the one who breaks your kids’ hearts the first time. I promised myself that I would not turn away from my kids’ pain – and that was the hardest part. Acknowledging when they were struggling and being able to look at them in the eye, hold them and listen. I just said to myself that there would be no question when they left our household as to what love looked like.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01310fcc09da970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="at Lopez" border="0" height="261" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01310fcc09e1970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN: 0px 10px 0px 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="at Lopez" width="346" /></a> </p><br /> <p><span style="FONT-FAMILY: ; FONT-SIZE: 12px">Relaxing on the beach at Lopez Island: (left to right: Sierra, Ginny, Max, Lynn; in front, Gilder)</span></p><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>Ginny and Lynn merged their two families, creating a picture that makes the Brady Bunch look simple. Ginny had her three children (Gilder, Max and Sierra) and Lynn had a daughter, Toni and son, Jesse. “We had some very hard times with five kids. Lynn and I have been living together since 1999 and have had teenagers in the house the entire time. We call it ‘teenage hell swamp.’”</p> <p>That will change soon when “my baby” Sierra heads off to Division One Colorado College with a soccer scholarship in the fall. (at signing day, below)</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01310fcc09ec970c-pi"><img align="right" alt="ginny and sierra" border="0" height="278" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a96506b9970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN: 0px 0px 10px 25px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="ginny and sierra" width="216" /></a> </p> <p>There’s plenty to fill the void, starting with the family business.</p> <p>In the years after Ginny left home, Richard Gilder became hugely successful in his investment business, and has shared his success generously with many New York institutions. In addition to plaques and statues that recognize his generous contributions to the Central Park Conservancy and the Rose Planetarium, he has endowed the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and owns one of the biggest collections of original documents from American history, which he is donating to the New York Historical Society. “He is extraordinary.”</p> <p>Ginny’s tremendous love and respect for her father is a chorus to our interview.</p> <p>In his late 70’s now, her dad began to wonder what would happen to the family business once he was gone. None of the four siblings were particularly interested in taking over, so Ginny has stepped in to help build a bridge to her family's financial future. She spent the last six years learning the investment business.</p> <p>“I do it because I love my family and I love my dad. I’m providing for my family. But it doesn’t fuel my competitive fire to make money.”</p> <p>Rather, Ginny gets her juices going with social justice issues, which she currently impacts through the family foundation she started, the Starfish Group. Focusing on the intersection of climate change and poverty, they “get to fund the issues and organizations we care about, all over the world.”</p> <p>It’s not the only social justice effort Ginny has taken on. In 1992 she founded Washington Works, after she learned from the birth mother of her adopted children Max and Sierra that she had given up her kids because she couldn’t afford to raise them. Ginny stayed with Washington Works, a non-profit whose goals were to help women get off public assistance and into livable wage jobs, for about six years. </p> <p>Later she served on the Board of Directors of Seattle Girl’s School (SGS) along with Dawn Trudeau. A private middle school, SGS strives to bolster self-esteem and academic confidence of girls during their critical adolescent years.</p> <p>Enter the Seattle Storm.</p> <p>“The world of finance is so heavily dominated by men I was just thinking, I really wanted to do something again with women.”</p> <p>When her SGS compatriot Dawn Trudeau organized a lunch with Lisa Brummel, Senior VP for Human Resources at Microsoft and a former three sport athlete at Yale, Ginny was happy to meet with them to discuss the possibility of keeping the WNBA franchise in Seattle after the Sonics moved to Oklahoma. “The three of us talked about why we would do this. I think for Dawn and Lisa, they really love basketball. Me? I love women’s sports. I was intrigued by the idea that we could invest in something that would open the doors for women at the highest echelon of sports.</p> <p></p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01310fcc09fe970c-pi"><img alt="storm owners (2)" border="0" height="236" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a96506d7970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: block; FLOAT: none; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: auto; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-RIGHT: auto" title="storm owners (2)" width="359" /></a> </p><font size="1"><span style="FONT-FAMILY: ; FONT-SIZE: 12px"><span style="FONT-FAMILY: ; FONT-SIZE: 11px"> <p style="TEXT-ALIGN: center"><font size="2">Seattle Storm owners at a game: (left to right) Ginny Gilder, Lisa Brummel, Anne Levinson, Dawn Trudeau</font> (from Seattle Times)</p></span></span></font> <p>“It was the opportunity to bring together all the things I love about life. I love working collaboratively. I feel really lucky to be part of an ownership group like this. We respect each other, we work well together and we work hard. I love that I’m doing something for the community. I love really getting to roll my sleeves up, to work on the business side. It’s rooted in my own history, and I can take my kids.”</p> <p>A package deal. All of the things Ginny has been training for, peaking for this performance</p> <p>Force 10 Hoops, the ownership group, “sees a business model that gets us to profitability and we’re investing to make it happen.” Just like any other professional sports team in America they need a deep fan base, a deep sponsorship base, good ownership and a championship caliber team. “We have the best player in the world – Lauren Jackson who just re-signed, and a great coach – he’s our diversity hire.”</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01310fcc0a09970c-pi"><img alt="best_2009_06" border="0" height="298" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a96506e9970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="best_2009_06" width="445" /></a> </p> <p><font size="1"><strong>Storm’s Lauren Jackson attempts to block shot of Becky Hammond. </strong>Aaron Last/Storm Photos</font></p> <p>And that leaves the rest of us, the back-up band to the Force 10 lead singers. The Storm home opener against the National Champion LA Sparks is coming up May 16 at KeyArena. I’ll see you there.   Go to <a href="http://www.wnba.com/storm"><font color="#9c2626">www.wnba.com/storm</font></a> for ticket and schedule information.</p> <p>- Janet Pelz</p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline">Ginny Gilder’s not-so secrets for how she does it:</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>I don’t think I do anything particularly extraordinary, I just do what’s there. <li>My general policy is to catch whatever ball is falling down fastest <li>I do a lot of self care – I usually work out everyday. <li>I try to remember, if I die tomorrow a lot of stuff would go undone and no one would care, so I try to deal with what I can handle and not worry about the rest. <li>I have really good partners everywhere – nothing that I do I do alone. So I never feel that if I’m struggling, I have to figure out the answer by myself. <li>I have a partner who has been really good at making it desirable to be at home. It’s really fun to be in this family. <li>I’m a real believer that persistence pays – the darkest moments are before the dawn, so don’t give up. <li>I love what I do, and I have a really clear sense of responsibility. I love my family and my work is an expression of who I have to be to support them. <li>I think dysfunction occurs when you keep secrets and you don’t tell the truth, because you don’t get to have your assumptions tested. </li> </li></li></li></li></li></li></li></li></ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline">What books has Ginny read recently?</span></strong></p> <ul> <li><em>The Glass Castle</em>, by Jeannette Walls (in case you think your family is dysfunctional!) <li><em>The Hours</em>, by Michael Cunningham <li><em>American Pastoral,</em> by Philip Roth (“a great book!) </li> </li></li></ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline">Whom does Ginny want me to interview next?</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>Karen Bryant, CEO of Storm, “she’s been involved in professional women’s basketball since it started in Seattle. She’s really quite an amazing person.” <li>Sharon Hammel, a co-founder with Ginny of Seattle Girls School <li>Nancy Nordhoff – “oh my God, she is incredible!” <li>Leanne Moss – Executive Director of Women’s Funding Alliance, “she’s kick-ass” </li> </li></li></li></ul> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b01310fa97229970c Janet Pelz is now following The Typepad Team http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/follow 2010-03-16T15:59:55Z tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b01310f944c54970c Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-03-12T19:56:11Z <p>“I want people to know I’m just not a diagnosis.”</p> <p>When Melissa isn’t struggling with some activity that she once could do while spinning a basketball on a fingertip, Melissa is the Melissa she’s always been. “I want to be viewed as strong, emotionally and physically; compassionate, empathetic and loyal.” And a really good basketball player.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01310f944c29970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="Erickson2" border="0" height="319" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a92d9600970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN: 0px 10px 0px 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="Erickson2" width="217" /></a> </p> <p>Melissa Erickson came to the University of Washington with the first recruiting class of coach June Daugherty. After a strong career at her Colorado high school and an even more impressive traveling AAU team, Melissa had four universities interested in her. “I remember walking into Hec Ed and thinking, wow, this is so cool!” It was her first recruiting visit, but “as soon as I came home I committed to the UW.”</p> <p>It’s a decision she’s never regretted, even during her junior year season when the team hit the skids. But their fortunes turned around in senior year and despite Mo’s (that’s what Melissa goes by with her teammates) ACL injury, which sidelined her for the end of the season, she was right in there cheering her team on to a PAC-10 title.</p> <p>After playing four years at UW, Melissa tried her hand at coaching. She picked up a couple gigs, her first year at a small school in Louisiana, which taught her more about the reality of race relations in the south than it did about basketball. Happy to leave behind the Confederate flags, she took another graduate coaching job at UNLV in Las Vegas.</p> <p>But she just couldn’t shake the urge. That itch to be out on the floor making the plays rather than calling them from the bench. So she pursued an agent, who landed her on a team in Krefeld, Germany, and in the fall of ’02 she went to Europe for the first time. “I loved it. It was exactly what I wanted to do. It was just a blast. I didn’t get paid very much. I basically got paid to travel and experience the culture.” And, what could be better? Paid to play basketball.</p> <p>After the season in Europe she returned to the States and got a job working at Echo Glen, the state’s juvenile rehab center, in the drug and alcohol unit. “I really enjoyed it and felt I had found my niche. I’ve always wanted to help people who are less fortunate, and had been intrigued with at-risk youth.”</p> <p>Soon autumn was coming and with it the migration back to Europe for women still playing. A friend of Mo’s was playing in Portugal and she was invited there for a trial and then made the team.</p> <p>“Around then I started feeling that my body was kind of different. At the try-out I just figured I was out of shape. I remember not being able to get off the ground, and my balance was really off. But I played through it. I lost weight and got in better shape, but my deficiencies continued and began to get pretty evident. So I started to work out harder. I just figured that whatever was wrong with me could be overcome with getting stronger. That’s how athletes work, right? Well, obviously, that didn’t happen.”</p> <blockquote> <p><em>Muscle weakness is a hallmark initial sign in ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), occurring in approximately 60% of patients. Early symptoms vary with each individual, but usually include tripping, dropping things, abnormal fatigue of the arms and/or legs, slurred speech, muscle cramps and twitches and/or uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying</em>.</p></blockquote> <p>In September of 2005 she started going to doctors to figure out what was going on. She remembers the date, September 18, when she got the initial diagnosis that “it was a motor neuron disease of some kind but the doctors didn’t know what.”</p> <p>The process was frustrating. At first doctors thought it was a pinched nerve that could be cured easily with surgery. Melissa’s biggest concern at the time was how she would be able to take time off from work since she hadn’t yet accumulated sick time. “Man, if only it was that easy!</p> <p>“With ALS there’s no blood test, nothing that says for certain, this is what you have. So the doctors kept coming back with what it wasn’t – it wasn’t cancer, it wasn’t MS. While I was happy that those were cancelled out I kept wondering, but what <em>is</em> it?”</p> <p>Melissa was referred to the regional specialist at Virginia Mason, Dr. Ravits, who continues as her neurologist. (Melissa has nothing but praise for him. “He’s overflowing in compassion. He immerses his life in finding a cure and a treatment.”) Ravits takes on patients “that are a little different than the normal ALS.” Melissa’s young age, 26, and gender put her squarely in the column of ‘different.’</p> <blockquote> <p><em>Most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, with an average age of 55 at the time of diagnosis. ALS is 20% more common in men than in women. </em></p></blockquote> <p>By Thanksgiving the diagnosis was confirmed.</p> <p>When her doctor told her, he waited for a sign of understanding from Melissa. “I didn’t know what it was. I had heard of both ALS and Lou Gehrig’s disease and didn’t know they were the same thing. Even when they were saying it was a motor neuron disease, I didn’t know the gravity of that diagnosis.”</p> <p>Understandably, the news hit hard, but with the conviction of an athlete she immediately focused on how to fix it. She tried alternative treatments “some of which were terrible and took my money and offered nothing; and others which offered, not a cure, but ways to treat it through dieting and other things.”</p> <p>Fortunately, as the bad news came, Melissa’s friends and family stepped in. Her parents moved to Seattle from Colorado. Her girlfriend Jessica, who she started dating just a month after she was diagnosed, “has been there pretty much the whole way.”</p> <p>(Melissa, right, with Jessica, left)</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01310f944c3a970c-pi"><img align="left" alt="Mo and Jessica" border="0" height="243" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01310f944c41970c-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN: 0px 5px 0px 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="Mo and Jessica" width="322" /></a> </p> <p>And then there were the teammates. Still getting her back, they started the Melissa Erickson Foundation to raise funds to help Mo manage the costs of the disease. <a href="http://www.melissaerickson.org/">www.melissaerickson.org</a></p> <p>The dollars raised “are for anything I need. A trip to see friends, a bed that will be more comfortable, anything that helps me. I am surrounded by just, the most amazing people. My words can’t do justice to how awesome they are.”</p> <blockquote> <p><em>In his famous retirement speech, Lou Gehrig told the crowd: “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day?”</em></p></blockquote> <p>Listening to Mo, I quickly understand that her teammates provide more than monetary support. They sustain the link to the Melissa inside, the one a stranger can’t see. To them, Mo is still Mo, the one who had their back on the floor and who might have snapped them with a towel in the locker room after the game.<em></em></p> <blockquote> <p><em>“Melissa was a 6’2 reserve small forward who could hit the 3 and bang with the best of them. She was an enforcer who wore a goofy white headband back when no other white girls were wearing white headbands. She was different. Melissa never met a sprint that she liked and enjoyed partying far more than studying. I was a young and energetic first year D1 assistant coach and I was gung ho about class checks, discipline and following the rules. As you can imagine, I was Melissa’s worst nightmare and she was my biggest challenge. That might be why I loved her so much.”</em></p> <p><em>-   Shimmy Gray-Miller, Head Coach St. Louis University women’s basketball, former UW assistant coach. Read her full story about Melissa here</em>:  <a href="http://www.coachshimmy.com/blog.html">http://www.coachshimmy.com/blog.html</a></p></blockquote> <p>“ALS is kind of a funny disease because you lose parts of yourself gradually,” says Melissa growing quiet.</p> <p>Until now our interview has reviewed a chronological progression from the University of Washington to where we sit today, Melissa in her electric wheelchair and I at her kitchen counter. It’s the first time we’ve met, but the conversation has flowed easily like two friends catching up after a long time apart.</p> <p>She takes a moment to resist the tears that come despite her effort to hold them back. “I’m trying to get good at this so I don’t cry every time,” she explains, as if her left-handed hook has been eluding her.</p> <p>“I mourn, I mourn the loss of basketball and the athlete. But even when that was gone, I still had so much more, I still walked and could do everything else. And then you lose walking and you mourn that and then you lose the ability to sit up and you mourn that. It’s like a never ending grief/acceptance, grief/acceptance cycle. And I think that’s <em>the </em>hardest part of living with this disease. I continuously say, if it just stops here I’ll be fine, but obviously it didn’t really listen to what I wanted.”</p> <p>No, what Melissa wants is not part of the ALS agenda. So, like any good basketball player, she’s working on her defense.</p> <p>Her basketball career and the incredible friends she made help sustain Melissa physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Even today, while she’s trying to get comfortable in the wheelchair she has relied on for the past two years, I can see in her smile that the feeling of running the floor is not far away.</p> <p>Melissa is living her life everyday with strength, optimism, and humility. Though memory is leaking from her muscles it is still strong in her spirit -- memories of the adrenaline rush from a game, and the camaraderie of teammates afterwards, win or lose, on the court or off.</p> <p>Basketball is that drug her doctor can’t prescribe, and it may be the thing that is most effective in her struggle against this insidious disease.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b01310f944c49970c-pi"><img alt="teammates" border="0" height="182" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a92d9613970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-LEFT: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px" title="teammates" width="311" /></a> </p> <p>(Mo with her white headband at left)</p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Mo’s not-so secrets for How She Does It?</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>“I surround myself with close friends and family.” <li>Healthy denial – she doesn’t descend into interminable Google searches about the disease. <li>Vodka – it’s part of the denial part but also important to being able to let loose and have fun <li>“I try to view myself as normal as much as possible. I’m pretty independent and stubborn, which helps get me through my daily life with ALS.” </li> </li></li></li></ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">What books has Melissa read recently?</span></strong> In a book group now, she’s “super into reading recently.”</p> <ul> <li><em>Water for Elephants</em> (“love it!”), by Sara Gruen <li><em>Little Bee</em> (“I recommend!” Amazon Best of the Month 2/09: “… braids the fates of a 16-year-old Nigerian orphan who calls herself Little Bee, and a well-off British couple”), by Chris Cleave <li><em>Say You’re One of Them</em> (“tells of the horrors faced by young people throughout Africa”) by Uwem Akpan<em></em> <li>and Mo’s confession, <em>The Twilight Series</em>, by Stephanie Meyer </li> </li></li></li></ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Whom does Melissa want me to interview next?</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>Sonya Elliott, a fashion model, basketball player, and designer. Check her out at Peace, Love, Basketball <a href="http://www.peacelovebasketball.com/">www.peacelovebasketball.com</a> . 50% of their March profits go to the Melissa Erickson Foundation. “Sonya’s is a story of huge tragedy, which she’s come out with so much grace.” </li> </ul> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">What Can You Do to Support Melissa?</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>Make a Pay Pal contribution on <a href="http://www.melissaerickson.org/">www.melissaerickson.org</a> <li>Buy a cool t-shirt this month at <a href="http://www.peacelovebasketball.com/">www.peacelovebasketball.com</a> <li>Stop by Jabu’s Pub, near Seattle Center, and enjoy one of two drinks named in Melissa’s honor: the Motini and the Motail. $1.00 from each drink will go to the Melissa Erickson foundation <a href="http://jabuspub.com/Home_Page.php">http://jabuspub.com/Home_Page.php</a> <li>Let Melissa and all of us know how her life and story has made an impact on you by leaving a comment by clicking the link below. </li> </li></li></li></ul> <p>- Janet Pelz</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b01310f8af27d970c Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-03-11T04:10:46Z <p>I’m slow on my story for this week for a couple of reasons.  </p> <p>First, I focused my writing effort on calling attention to the criminal level at which our state and school district are funding public education.  Below you can read the column I wrote that was published this morning in the Seattle Times.  </p> <p>Second, I’m working on a story of an extraordinary woman and hope to have it up tomorrow.  This story represents a big step with the blog – it’s the first time I’ve interviewed a woman who I hadn’t met before.  Her name is Melissa Erickson – she was recommended to me by Julie Baker, the subject of one of my previous posts.  Melissa’s story merits the same level of care and effort as she puts into the mundane tasks of daily life.</p> <p>Here’s the column.  More tomorrow.</p> <p><b>A Sophie’s Choice of the School Budget Ax</b></p> <p>I spent three hours at a budget retreat for my son’s elementary school.</p> <p>And then I went home and cried.</p> <p>I mean, really, is this the best we can do? Even fewer resources and bigger classrooms while losing the staff necessary to hold the pieces together. </p> <p>In a stealth attack, the Seattle Public School District eliminated its funding of a half-time counselor position in all elementary schools. In our school, gone too is the half-time math coach critical to teaching students in each of four split-grade classrooms. And there went the full-time librarian – we got funding for only half that position.</p> <p>Right about now the School Board is countering, hey wait, we gave you some “discretionary” dollars! You can choose to retain one of those three part time positions.</p> <p>Talk about a Sophie’s Choice.</p> <p>But there’s more. We’ll no longer have a full-time art teacher. They don’t give us money to pay for the daily copying of math work sheets for every student, as mandated by the District’s new math curriculum.</p> <p>And here’s the worst of all. With the elimination of staff positions, we won’t have bodies to supervise kids during after-lunch recess. Instead, we’ll hold them in the cafeteria for an extra 15 minutes, and then at the point where the sugar in their system ignites with claustrophobia, we’ll shoo them back into their classrooms for the rest of the afternoon.</p> <p>There is no race to the top here – it’s more a freefall to the bottom.</p> <p>I face the naked truth of these budget numbers with teachers who take on yet another cut with resignation. They’ve been through this – or something just as dire – many times before. It is to their enormous credit that they don’t walk just out and refuse to return until the situation changes.</p> <p>They remind me of that knight in the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The one who comes out raring for a fight and gets his arm chopped off. Blood spews from the shoulder, but he retains every bit of cockiness taunting his opponent to continue. And so it is with our teachers saying, “I can teach these kids! I can teach these kids!” Whack goes the other arm and still they keep coming back. We laugh while the legs are cut and blood is pouring from where every appendage once was.</p> <p>But this is not a joke. These are our kids, the people we’re supposed to be preparing to cure cancer or end global warming or educate the next generation. These are our kids, the education of whom is our government’s top priority as stated in Washington’s Constitution: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.”</p> <p>This notion that we might get around to fully funding our Constitutional obligation by 2018 is ludicrous. By the time we start, we’ve already lost an entire generation. I say to Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, bully for your income tax proposal, but keep the other taxes as well, because we can’t afford revenue neutrality and the cuts you are pushing down the pipeline.</p> <p>And I say to the Seattle School District, shame on you for putting us in this situation. For slashing, with no warning, the School Counselor positions. For denying Federal Title 1 support for kids who need it when you closed schools and shifted student populations.</p> <p>I’ve heard the stern lectures that adequate funding does not correlate directly with student performance. But I also know what you get when the money isn’t there. You get what you pay for. </p> <p>Janet Pelz</p> tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a6ace86d970c How Does She Do It? http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/collection tag:api.typepad.com,2009:6e0120a64c3e4e970b0120a8fc7c7d970b Janet Pelz posted an entry http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post 2010-03-04T22:39:30Z <p>Trish Millines Dziko has a question for you. How much do you care about public education and how involved will you become to make it better?</p> <p>For Trish the answer to both questions is ‘lots’. “Right now I spend most of my time trying to transform public education for kids of color.”</p> <p>She has many reasons to care. Four of them live in her house. But there are hundreds of thousands more reasons as well. People Trish has never met and never will but whose stories she knows all too well. These are the forgotten children of color, low income kids, girls. The ones who, by virtue of the happenstance of birth have been tracked into low achievement and even lower expectations.</p> <p>Trish might have been one of those back when she was in high school, but “I got lucky and had some teachers realize that I was put in the wrong track, and they made sure I got to where I needed to go. That meant I had to go to summer school every single year starting my freshman year all the way through college, in order to catch up.”</p> <p>Catch up she did.</p> <p>She went to college and got a degree in computer programming, setting in motion a course for her life that would continue to circle back to that realization, that she, among legions of African American girls, had been shown a door that she pushed her way through.</p> <p><a href="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a8fc77a4970b-pi"><img align="left" alt="n723563376_4121" border="0" height="176" src="http://howdoesshe.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a64c3e4e970b0120a8fc77ad970b-pi" style="BORDER-RIGHT-WIDTH: 0px; MARGIN: 0px 10px 0px 0px; DISPLAY: inline; BORDER-TOP-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-BOTTOM-WIDTH: 0px; BORDER-LEFT-WIDTH: 0px" title="n723563376_4121" width="262" /></a>After graduation, Trish moved through a career ladder that wasn’t exactly accommodating to people who looked like her. “It was hard getting a job because people weren’t hiring Black folks no matter how smart they were. Really, the only place where you could get a good job was with a government contracting company.”</p> <p>That path took her to, among other places, Hughes Aircraft Company. “I realized that was going to be a dead end, working on military style machinery, going from radar systems to missiles.”</p> <p>She came to Seattle in 1985. After a stint with a start-up that crashed and a time working for herself, she got swept into the Microsoft maelstrom. Before long, she was working the not-atypical Microsoft workweek of 70 – 80 hours as she and her team pushed to get a new product to market.</p> <p>After leaving that group, Trish got hooked into Microsoft’s outreach efforts to attract more people of color.