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Archive for February 2012

One more damn thing to worry about: Cat parasites

Atlantic magazine has an excellent article this month about a researcher who is exploring the theory that a cat parasite invades human brains and causes people to dress sloppy, walk into traffic and even go schizophrenic. It could explain crazy cat ladies. If you own cats, it will make you a little nervous. It made me grateful for a mother who never allowed pets because she had “six crazy animals” as she called us kids.

(Spokesman-Review archives photo)

RIP: Play music in heaven, Davy Jones

Davy Jones, of Monkees fame, died of a heart attack at just 66 years old.

In sixth grade, when the television show started about the rock band, my girlfriends and I spent hours discussing our favorite Monkee (mine: Peter Tork). We bought all their albums, memorized all the songs, waited in line for their movies. We didn't care when we later learned that none of them were very good at playing music when they got together. They were chosen for their chemistry. And boy, did they have it.

They allowed us to daydream about love, romance and all the other stuff we didn't really know about yet in sixth grade.

Once, when The Monkees were at the height of their fame, 66 sounded so old. Now, it seems too young to die.

Thanks for the memories, Davy.

(AP archives photo of The Monkees. Davy standing up in the far back of the photo)

Grief upon grief

The report in today’s New York Times reveals that body parts of some of the 9/11 victims were incinerated at the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base and then released to a landfill. If true, this information only adds to the grief and anguish of those whose loved ones’ remains were never identified. Families may have assumed that the bodies of their loved ones had become part of the wreckage that mixed with the ground where it all rested.

How would you memorialize a loved one if you had no body, no remains, to bury?

(S-R archives photo)

Turning in her grave

My mother-in-law, a cradle Catholic who attended church every day of her adult life, would likely be as appalled as I am when reading about the legislators, in Virginia and now in Idaho, who would require ultrasounds for women considering abortion. Here's the description, from the S-R's Betsy Russell's story today, of what that might mean for some women:

In the very early stages of pregnancy, before eight weeks gestation, a regular abdominal ultrasound doesn’t provide a clear picture of the fetus, requiring instead a transvaginal ultrasound that includes penetration of the patient with an ultrasound wand. In Virginia, a female lawmaker called the original proposal “state-mandated rape,” according to the Associated Press.

My mother-in-law, who died in 2002 at age 94, told several stories over and over again in her later years. One she told with much anger. When she was in her late 30s or early 40s, she went in for what she thought was a routine, minor woman's procedure and came out of surgery without her uterus. The doctor had performed a hysterectomy without her permission.She never forgot it.

It's called “pelvic politics,” people. It's an effort by men to control women's bodies. It was unacceptable in my mother-in-law's day, when men really did rule the roost — and the operating room. And it should be unacceptable in 2012 when women are in charge many places.

Why aren't more women marching in the streets over this one? I'd like to think my mother-in-law would have been marching.

Bat flu: another damn thing to worry about

Press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

A new influenza A virus discovered in fruit bats in Guatemala does not appear to present a current threat to humans, but should be studied as a potential source for human influenza, according to scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who worked with University of the Valley of Guatemala.

(Spokesman-Review archives photo)

Alzheimer’s updates: Mice, poor sleep

Mice give people the creeps if they creep into your home, but lab mice might be the new best friends of older folks worried about Alzheimer's disease. In a promising study with mice, those given a decades-old cancer drug — bexarotene — saw fewer deposits of the toxins that build up in Alzheimer's brains. Read here.

And in unrelated news, sleep problems in mid-life might be linked to Alzheimer's later on. Read here.

(S-R archives photo)

Phosphate enemas killing older people

From Reuters Health: Sodium phosphate enemas, used to relieve constipation, may cause older people to suffer kidney failure or even die, a new report suggests.The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, focuses on a group of 11 patients, ranging in age from 61 years old to 89 years old, whose kidneys suddenly shut down after using enemas containing sodium phosphate.

I know. It's easy to make fun of this news. But an interesting historical note makes this more interesting and more dangerous than you might imagine. Ask any oldster in your life from the Depression and World War II era and they will tell you enema stories. The enema practice (and drinking cod liver oil) were in vogue for children of those generations, thinking that proper “elimination” each day was essential to children's heath.

“At the beginning of the 20th century, scientists established that cod liver oil was antirachitic, and it became commonplace for mothers to give it to their children,” according to Medscape News.

For some, the enemas became a habit begun in childhood by well-meaning but misguided parents. Combine the habit with the reality that as people age “almost all old people will become obsessed with their bowel movements at one time or another,” according to Kathy Quan, nurse and aging expert in this article.

So if you have oldsters in your life, warn them. 

And the Oscar goes to…

The wise and experienced…and a bit older…actor: Christopher Plummer …and the Oscar goes to the nominated-17-times…Meryl Streep…and the evening was hosted by…we all love him…Billy Crystal…and the best picture goes to…  a silent film. Has anyone under 40 ever even seen a silent film before The Artist? And Woody Allen won for his Midnight in Paris original screenplay.

While the younger women wore the  tight-fitting, shimmering, perhaps Oscar de La Renta -designed gowns, the highest awards went to the seniors…a perfect Oscar fit.

(S-R archives photo: Woody Allen earlier this year)

Anne Lamott ~ urban grace

Anne Lamott arrived in Tacoma for her evening talk at Urban Grace Church. Her truth-telling- no-matter-what stories and edgy wisdom gave the audience reason to sigh, ponder and affirm: we are in this life together.

I sat in the front row and listened like I would in a college class: eager attention, pencil in hand.

But when Anne started to talk, I stopped listening with just my brain and allowed my heart, too, to grab onto her words.

I try to write the books I would love to come upon, that are honest, concerned with real lives, human hearts, spiritual transformation, families, secrets, wonder, craziness—and that can make me laugh. When I am reading a book like this, I feel rich and profoundly relieved to be in the presence of someone who will share the truth with me, and throw the lights on a little, and I try to write these kinds of books. Books, for me, are medicine.

She spoke of her childhood – in a family where her parents hated each other…she did say hated. Soon, she learned to strive for her own perfection…to be the people-pleaser and the problem solver…tough when you are five-years-old.  She is a sober alcoholic, a recovering drug addict and tells the audience that the “light didn’t go out” inside her. Somehow, there was a dim slice of life within her that was nurtured by mothers and others, sent to her. She survived and started to listen to her own truth.  

And then, she wrote and wrote and wrote the truth. We are grateful… for tonight she illuminated an auditorium, providing urban grace.

(S-R archives photo)

Florid descriptions of death

Looking through some old, old newspaper clippings the other day, I came across some old obits, from the early 1900s, and from various newspapers.

Of one 94-year-old who died in 1908, it was written: “For several weeks, she has been lingering from day to day only awaiting the summons to lay down down the mortal for the immortal.”

Of a 38-year-old man who died in 1912: “Bright's disease, followed by a complete breakdown with nervous prostration, was the cause of death.

And this sad one from 1880: “Happy Alice King died of Psuedo Membrane Laryngitis. Aged 1 year, 7 months and 27 days.”

Who stole the Virgin Mary?

My co-collaborator on the blog and column, Cathy Johnston, works for Providence Centralia Hospital on the state's West side. On Ash Wednesday, someone walked away with the chapel's 2-foot ceramic Virgin Mary statue.

They tried to steal Joseph, too. And broke him while trying.

“Either they were interrupted or they didn't like the condition they created for him,” Cathy told KING5 News.

“We just want our Mary back. They can bring her to the information desk at the front and we will welcome her home.”


See Cathy interviewed here.


Use your imagination. Help solve this crime. Why would someone steal a Mary statue?


Trooper killed

Another law enforcement person has been killed in the line of duty. Early this morning a Washington State Patrol trooper was performing a routine traffic stop. The trooper called in the stop and when the dispatcher did not receive a status check from the trooper, a Kitsap County sheriff‘s deputy went to the scene. He found the injured trooper next to his car. The trooper later died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma. He is the 27th trooper to be killed in the line of duty in Washington State Patrol history.

Trooper Tony Radulescu was a man of courage, of commitment.

This tragedy happened within one day, in the same community, of a little girl shot at school when a gun discharged in a little boy’s backpack. These children are in third grade. Where do third graders get guns?

The questions always come at these moments: When will the violence stop? What feeds our society’s perception that guns and using them is acceptable?  In one community, in one day, a trooper is murdered and a little girl clings to life.

When will the violence stop?

(S-R archives photo:  Governor Chris Gregoire with WSP Chief John Batiste)

Facelift culture? Not a Spokane thing

A bonus for growing older in the Inland Northwest? We don’t have a real obvious facelift culture. You spot them here and there on women and men, but there’s no real pressure to go under the knife for vanity’s sake. People age in place and face. A story broke today about a small study that indicates face work shaves about seven years off your age. The more surgery, the more years. That kind of media buzz will likely generate even more business for plastic surgeons. Good for the economy and good for the women and men who choose it. But living here makes it easy to pass on the plastic. Agree?

Top this story!

In our EndNotes column today, we answered a question about why people tell cancer horror stories to people going through cancer treatment. Or why they react in weird ways to cancer news. For instance, when my co-author, Catherine Johnston, confided in a colleague that she was taking several weeks off for cancer treatment, the woman replied, “I have news, too. I’m getting a new job!”

Cathy stood up and left the room.

The column is a good reminder (to me!) to listen better to all stories, especially those involving suffering. It seems like it's helpful to share a similar story (it conveys you know what they are feeling, etc.) but people about 99 percent of the time just want their story listened to.

A kind gesture that can kill

It happened again this morning. I was driving in the right hand lane on North Monroe. A car in the left hand lane had stopped for a pedestrian I couldn't see (not in a crosswalk). The pedestrian had started across in front of the car. If I had not slowed down, alert to the thought that something like this was going on, I would have plowed right into the guy walking, because I couldn't see him as he started his venture across.

I have witnessed at least five near misses in this mode. A driver in the left lane thinks he/she is being courteous by stopping for a pedestrian, but people in the right lane don't know what's going on so they speed along, oblivious.

Be kind to pedestrians, yes, and always those in crosswalks. But if you are letting them cross the street, and there's a blind spot for other drivers, pass on the gesture. You could save a life.

Together from birth to death

Found this in one of the emails mentioned in the post below. Pretty good. I think:

The tears happen: Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person who is with us our entire life is ourselves. LIVE while you are alive.


Work: The death of snail mail

I've been on vacation for nearly two weeks and returned today. In my mailbox at work? A letter from a prisoner (they can't email) and a brochure from Poynter, a journalism institute, and my paycheck stub.

Three items.

My email? About 700 emails and counting. I've been at the newspaper 27 years and remember in those early years, stacking up my snail mail in two piles and taking the entire week to finish off the pile, working on it off and on.

Now, 700 emails sounds like a lot. Half will be stuff I can delete right away, so we're talking about an hour or two of  work on emails this morning.

I still love snail mail. But I must say, this is easier for re-entry to work after two weeks away. 

Presidents’ Day…why?

I am “of a generation” that remembers the two holidays for two presidents - before the merge. In my childhood, it did not matter where the holidays landed – mid-week or not, we remembered the men for whom the holiday was set.  

You know, before it was a consumer-focused day: “three-day sales” at local malls.  Such an odd way to honor political turning points in our American heritage.

Take time today to ask someone under 30-years-old what this holiday celebrates – other than a day away from school or the office.

She rests…in peace

Whitney Houston was celebrated and honored and remembered…for hours… as her family and friends memorialized her life.

The service was attended by 300 mourners, including Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson, Diane Sawyer and Houston's cousin, Dionne Warwick.

While many people have discussed Houston’s talent, her demons, her appearance, her marriage, her rise and fall and hope to rise again, one dimension of her life everyone seems to agree on: her unwavering faith in a God who loved her and cared for her.

Perhaps, now it is Whitney who listens to her Creator’s words: “I will always love you…”

(S-R archives photo)

No more airbrushing

The Arizona statehouse is contemplating this according to the Arizona Republic: “House Bill 2793, proposed by Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, would require advertisers who alter or enhance a photo to put a disclaimer on that ad alerting customers that ” 'Postproduction techniques were made to alter the appearance in this advertisement. When using this product, similar results may not be achieved.'” We just returned from sunny Phoenix where, around the pool, we saw all sorts of bodies. Young, old, wrinkled, botoxed, natural. It's the reality of the human body as it ages. Would you like to see it reflected in your advertising?

Writing to save a life

Amanda Knox has a book deal - and hopefully a chance to pull her loving parents out of the debt they plunged into when they lived through her four years of incarceration. The legal fees, the travel expenses, the cost of supporting themselves while seeking all means possible to save their daughter, cost Amanda’s family $$$.

But the end of this nightmare offers redemption. The money will help a family regain its financial footing, but more importantly for Amanda, the chance to write her story, to write through the terror, confusion, manipulation, long days- months- years, the process of safely stepping back in time to convert experiences and emotions to words, will bring an emotional healing and wholeness that no other therapy could possibly provide.

Amanda is a writer, and as all writers know: writing can save your life. Perhaps, that is exactly what Amanda already did.

(S-R archives photo)

Perspective and grace

Mary Matsuda Gruenwald was 17-years-old when she was taken with her family to her first assembly center. Like many Americans of Japanese ancestry, she spent time in an internment camp during World War II. Once freed, she eventually joined the cadet nurse corps. She wrote a book about her experience. 

While the internment experience left her feeling demeaned and like a non-person, it was her mother’s words that sustained and inspired Gruenwald. They are inspirational words for anyone experiencing challenges.     

“What kind of memories do you want to have of how we conducted ourselves with dignity and courage during this time of trial?”

(S-R archives photo)

Cycling into the future

The new washing machine arrived today. I really was sad when the 26-year-old Maytag was hauled away. That old machine had three buttons – for water temperature – and three options for washing cycles. It was a “top loader” and on the shelf above I stored the giant jug of detergent with the dispenser aimed right at the machine. Reach up, push the button and the liquid flowed right in. It was a forgiving washer: if I omitted a towel, I could open the lid and throw in the towel (so to speak). And quiet, except when I fed it too much and it waddled around the floor, unbalanced.  

The new machine has 15 buttons and an equal amount of cycles to choose from. It locks when it starts. Really, the door locks. I know this is true because the lock button says so. No throwing in the towel with this appliance. And it talks to me in sci-fi language of beeps and beep-beeps. Perhaps it is speaking a form of electronic Morse code. Really irritating. I do not like machines that talk, only when they are expected to - like the television and the radio and the CD player. Otherwise, mute is the preferred setting.

 I want to be like my friend, Mary, who died at 91. Mary could always tell me about the latest gadget or trend or celebrity. She told me the secret to a long life was having a reason to get up in the morning and to be curious about life, not afraid to change. I can hear her applauding the new washing machine, reminding me of the tricks it will do to save time, energy, and my sanity.

 Sometimes it is the people in our past who launch us into the future.

(S-R archives photo)

Who was Saint Valentine?

Good question. Lots of answers.  

Sometimes it is best to imagine the answer: Saint Valentine was the perfect, thoughtful lover or even a magical cupid who causes one’s object of affection to return that passion.

However, Valentine was most likely someone we are less likely to identity with: Roman martyr or temple priest?

Whomever he was and whatever the origin of our celebration, Valentine’s Day remains an opportunity to pause and show our affection for those whom we call friend, family, or lover.

(S-R archives photo)

From engineering structures to sentence structure

Our Boomer generation has been busy about seeking new adventures as we age.  

Meet Kathleen Flenniken, 51, a former  Hanford engineer, turned poet. Washington state’s poet laureate, 2012-2014, that is.

 Flenniken earned engineering degrees from WSU in 1983 and from the University of Washington. She earned a master's degree in fine arts from Pacific Lutheran University.

 She took a poetry class in 1993 as a way to get out of her house in the evening, to challenge herself.

 Her first book of poetry titled “Famous” won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize. Her second book of poetry – “Plume” – will be released later this month.

 Flenniken’s new vocation reminds us to take chances, explore our interests and not limit our talents.

 What interest would you love to explore, what secret talent or passion do you long to nurture?

(S-R archives photo)

The high price of talent

When the news of Whitney Houston's death hit Saturday, CNN showed a photo of her taken years ago with Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson. All people blessed with great talent. All people who used the talent well for many years.

But all four fought battles with addiction. Only Minnelli remains alive.

If you were given a great talent — in acting, singing, dancing, fine art, writing — would you accept it, knowing that the addiction demon comes with it? Post-mortem questions today.

(Spokesman-Review archives photo)

Mary Fairhurst: Cancer, hope and candor

My Wise Words interview today is with Mary Fairhurst, a Washington state Supreme Court justice, who talked so openly about living with cancer that could kill her sooner rather than later.

She's realistic that she might have less than a year to live while at the same time, she's optimistic that she'll beat this cancer.

Thank you, Mary, for being so open in our interview. Your words will help others today and in the future.

(About the photo: For Mary's 54th birthday last summer, 700 of her friends and family gathered at a Mariners game, where she threw out the pitch, helped by her “crush” — the Mariner Moose. Photo courtesy of Mary Fairhurst)

Whitney Houston, 48, dies

 Her voice was sultry and strong; her smile, beautiful. Her life – a bit tumultuous.

Whitney Houston died on the fourth floor of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, on the eve of the Grammy Awards, which she was to attend.

Houston was at the prime of her career from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s. She had a graceful presence on screen. Her films included The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale.

Her 2009 album “I Look to You” was a comeback attempt and debuted on the top of the charts; the album would eventually go platinum.

Houston leaves behind a daughter – and many grieving family members and friends.

(S-R archives photo)

The right rights

Two sweet, innocent children will be buried today. Their father murdered them.  

The story has been in all media sources over the last week. The blame, the questions, the speculation are the subject of every lead story in the local news.  

I have questions far beyond the tragedy. Questions I ask every time I read a story like this one, every time I listen to a woman speak in fear about her husband or boyfriend and what she learns about their evil actions toward children: when, when, when, will this country seek to protect the rights of children first – before the rights of grown-ups? We extend our freedoms to those who violate our laws; our laws extend respect and exception to those who lack respect or even simple decency.  

These children needed advocates; they needed the law to protect them from that DSHS goal that has killed other children: reunification of the family. Where there is pornography, where there is a missing mom with evidence that points to dad as the person responsible – there is no family.

(S-R archives photo)

Near miss: Life in a flash

We were traveling out of the area yesterday and on a busy street with a lot of retirement communities that open onto the busy street. I saw the elderly woman dart out in traffic behind the wheel of her mid-size car. She flew across three lanes of traffic, including ours, narrowly missing several cars. I laid on the horn and she switched lanes quickly and crashed into the back of an SUV idling at a red light. Luckily for all, she was going slowly. When she crossed my lane, I was close enough to see her eyes. She looked dazed, clueless to the three or four accidents she had almost caused. When we left the scene, she was moving her car to a side street, slowly, following the man in the SUV. Had the woman had a stroke? Or high on prescription drugs? Or a woman whose license should have been pulled years ago? These were the questions that haunted us after this near miss.

(S-R archives photo)

A rose is a rose…is a tavern

The hangout for many Gonzaga alums was called The Bulldog. We drank beer, bantered our various philosophical viewpoints and made out in the booths (Well, I didn’t, but I witnessed those whose passion increased as they sipped the suds.)

The iconic landmark is in search of a new name.  What should it be?

Enter the contest:  People can submit names by using the website  If you have a Smart phone, stop by the formerly-known-as Bulldog and grab the QR (quick response) barcode at the pub and use it to suggest a name.

In years to come, we will hear stories from the new alums about their adventures at ???

(S-R archives photo)

Awash in grief

Our relationship lasted almost 26 years. Reliable, always willing, a tacit understanding of our roles.  We were together over all the holidays, birthdays and sometimes the relationship required lots of attention or relied on the simple rhythm of daily life.

Suddenly, the relationship is over. I had no illusions: “nothing gold stays forever,” says Robert Frost.  And so, tomorrow I will have to say good-bye.  After 26 years, my performed-perfectly Maytag washing machine…has died.

(S-R archives photo)

Feeling hopeless? Pack a bag

This week, for a future EndNotes column, I interviewed Robin Prince Monroe, a South Carolina woman who lost her daughter to leukemia in 1987 when she was just 6. Robin has survived several other losses since that time, including the loss of her job and her husband's in the recession. (They are both employed again.)
Robin has written seven books on grief. (She's also a painter and one of her art pieces is posted with this.)
I asked her if, in the depths of the losses, she ever felt like running away. She told me this:
I had a suitcase packed with a credit card in it in my closet. Because of all the pain. When I felt so desperate, I would say “OK, I have a choice. I can stay here and deal with this or I can catch a plane and run away.” I knew I had a choice. I wasn't stuck. It was a choice. It wasn't being forced on me. You think you are going to leave the pain behind but you bring it with you.
In times of great stress, have you ever felt like running away?
(Painting by Robin Prince Monroe)

What’s your heart attack/stroke risk?

With Valentine's Day around the corner, let's talk about our hearts.

Here are some of the risk factors for having a heart attack or stroke or a serious cardiovascular disease (called CVD). High blood pressure. Smoking. High cholesterol. Diabetes. Obesity. 

The Cardiovascular Lifetime Risk Pooling Project reported its findings recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, according to a National Institutes of Health press release. Bottom line: If you have two risk factors, your chance of “having a major CVD event” goes way up.

From the report: For example, 45-year-old men with two or more risk factors had a 49.5 percent chance of having a major CVD event by age 80, whereas men with optimal risk-factor levels had only a 1.4 percent chance. Forty-five-year-old women with two or more risk factors had a 30.7 percent chance of having a major CVD event by age 80, while those with optimal risk-factor levels had a 4.1 percent chance.

How do your odds look?

(S-R archives photo)

Mary Oliver: pay attention

Mary Oliver was the featured keynote speaker at Seattle University’s fourth annual Book Festival on Saturday.

Like most authentic human beings, she was humble, direct, quietly confident in her work – and a bit humorous. She read the favorites: The Journey, Wild Geese. And she read about her beloved Percy, her dog. She read without great drama, her crisp writing style needed no contrived flair.

But the Q/A after her poetry offered equal insight into the writer: When asked what her wisdom is for living a full life, she simply quoted herself: “Pay attention, be astonished and tell about it.”

While noting she has never been depressed - “I know it (depression) is real and exists, but I get up every day ready to get at it,”  - she says two things have saved her life: spending hours in the woods as a child and writing. She spent so much time with the two activities overlapping: she stored pencils in the trees. Pay attention, be astonished, tell about it…

Eva’s Song: Forever wisdom

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Temple Beth Shalom, writer Michael Gurian will read his oratory poem “Eva's Song” written in the voice of Holocaust survivor, Eva Lassman, who died a year ago at 91. The poem is stunningly beautiful with wisdom gems all over the place. I was able to put only a few of the verses in my story Thursday. Read here.

One of Eva's main messages: Love the family and friends God put in your path in this life. They are there for a reason, even if they drive you crazy. (Sentiment in italics is my paraphrase)

Here are some lines that reflect this message:

What you must do, is keep your promises.

My dear friends, you must care for your family as a promise,

you must take photographs of loved ones, and realize:

they are your masterpiece.

(S-R archive photo of Eva Lassman)

Friends! No matter what

Tomorrow is my birthday, but today it is Steve’s birthday. I love! Not that kind of love. The I love- you-no- matter-what kind of love that friends have. And there has been a lot of no-matter-what.

Steve is wild, a word used to describe me about four times in my life. He has vacillated between addiction and recovery over the last decades.  We connect only a few times during the year. Still…

We have shared this birthday bond since we met the first day of college. He was dating my roommate. He did that more than once. When she dumped him sophomore year, he landed in Florence the following year with me and 90 others. He surprised me on my 21st birthday that year when he escorted me to various bars and then opened the door to a favorite Florence restaurant where our friends yelled “surprise!” Friends, including a man I did “love with that kind of love.”  During dessert Steve leaned over to me to confess his love – for my good friend. I giggled and said, “You’ll be happier when you tell her!” He did. They dated for the next few years.

When he married Mary Jane, I read scripture at their wedding. When I married, they drove over the mountains to attend; Steve put his arm around me at the reception and whispered outrageous comments in my ear. I laughed uproariously in a most unbride-like fashion.  He always makes me laugh – I am his best audience.

When my uncle died, Steve dressed up and sat in the back of the church; I looked at his smiling face when I delivered the eulogy. He kept my tears in check. And when Mary Jane died, I sat next to him at her funeral.

We are unlikely friends. Someone once asked, “What is it between you two?” I am not sure, except that I know there is a kind and gentle soul that lives in that man – sober or not - a kindness I adore. The disease often masks that true nature, but I refuse to be fooled.  And every February 2,  I call him, to tell him of my gratitude for years of memories, gentle moments, good conversations – and birthdays shared.

Happy birthday, Steve. ..All my love, Caterina

Who are the unlikely “friends-no-matter-what” in your life?

(Photo: Cathy and Steve on Cathy's wedding day)

Love you and honor you the rest of my life…

We love it when we witness a marriage ceremony: people with their eyes full of hope and passion for a life together. We want the best for their future, for the family they have created.

Finally, those couples who love each other, and are the same gender, who create  a family, and want simply to have their relationship recognized as a family  may soon have their status as a married couple legally acknowledged in Washington state.  

To deny people their civil rights is not what we do here in America; we abhor that behavior in other places around the world. And nothing is more human, more civil, than a commitment to love and honor another human being.

 A House vote to follow next week and a certain signature from Governor Chris Gregoire.

(S-R archives photo: Sean Fritz, left, and Tim McQuillan exchange rings during their wedding as the Rev. Mark Stringer officiates in Des Moines. Associated Press)

Hillary: Looking the part

We had a great photo of Hillary Clinton in the newspaper today, posted here, too. Hillary, as always, is still criticized for how she looks. Publisher Tina Brown kind of called her fat a couple of years ago. And her hairstyle is always a focus. Too young. Too old.

To me, Hillary is looking like the women of her age I've seen in Europe in trips there. Not afraid to be solid in her body, because she is solid in her place in the world. Figuring out the easiest hairstyle, because she's busy. And enjoying herself most of the time, despite the hard work she's doing in the world.

As women, our lives get written on our bodies from day 1. Other people often try to write that story, especially in the teen and young adult years. Hillary's writing her own story now. And it shows. 

(AP photo)

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Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

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