Sunday, March 24, 2019

A rose by any other name . . .

A recent anthology of essays, poems, and even a couple of short plays includes several items authored by me. As anyone who writes and submits their work knows, it can be terrifying to let someone putting a book together read previously non-critiqued work. Once the author sends off the submission, a storm of insecurity blows back hard, so it's all the more exciting when the word "acceptance" appears in the eventual response.

In December 2017 I submitted several poems and essays in response to a call by Elizabeth Coplan for short works on the topic of death and grief. In July 2018 I, along with sixty others heard good news. Acceptance! The book was rushed into print so it could be unveiled at the Reimagine End of Life week in NYC in late October, so not surprisingly, there were some typos and copy editing oversights in it. We all have experienced fallout from needing to accelerate a project too quickly.

After itemizing the small errors in my work and receiving confirmation changes had been made, I was confident in the revised first-edition, which was issued in late January. I was taken aback by the appearance of the same mistakes in the revision. But . . . I'm a big girl. I got over it.

Since 1990 I've been published in the following local outlets: Seattle Times, Prime Time, The Stranger, Eastside Journal, and University of Washington Alumni Travel Association, as well as a 2010 anthology by Nancy Worssam, In Our Prime: Empowering Essays by Women on Love, Family, Career, Aging, and Just CopingWith one exception, all that published work (multiple pieces in several of the outlets) had the correct attribution: Sara J. Glerum, my legal name. The Seattle Times published one of my travel pieces with lower-case j. as my middle initial, which annoyed me at the time. Probably no one notices but the author, but it's cringe-worthy to see myself in one volume as the following: Sarah Glerum (h and no middle initial), Sara Glerum (no middle initial), Sara J Glerum (no period after the J), as well as the 'real me,' Sara J. Glerum. 

BUT . . . even with the "h" and no middle initial, I'm still happy to be in Grief Dialogues: Stories on Love and Loss, especially when I learned the book has been nominated for a Northwest Booksellers' Award because of its purpose. As you can probably guess, it's intended to help demystify death by talking about the one event in life we are guaranteed to experience. I'm proud to be part of the movement and the anthology.


Saturday, March 2, 2019

Why the Y? Let me count the ways . . .


I'm going to tout the YMCA's good work for a moment. Yes, you've heard me before on the topic; it's a passion of mine. If you have a Y in your neighborhood or community, I'm guessing it has a fund drive going on now (and it most certainly does if you live in the Greater Seattle area). If you like the idea of helping an organization that helps people get healthier--youth, children, adults of all ages, including people my age (old), please consider making a gift.

The Y is a non-profit organization that quietly gives back to its communities. It is much broader now than it was 165 years ago when it was founded, but its generous reason for being is the same. However, you don't need to be young or Christian or male to participate. Nowadays the YMCA is as inclusive an organization as exists anywhere in the world.

Many of its programs are offered at no charge to anyone who needs them. Cancer survivors can participate in a twelve week LiveStrong program, families with children struggling with obesity referred by their physicians or school nurses can participate in a program designed to change eating and exercise habits for the whole family, also a twelve week program. Y memberships for the entire family at zero cost to them are included with both programs, and they are just two of many the healthy-living programs available to members and community.

Financial help and scholarships abound, and that's the main reason for our fund drive. Everyone knows about the Y summer camps, and many have heard of teen leadership program in which teens in grades 8-12 learn about, and engage, with the legislative process. But lots happens behind the scenes. For instance, my branch partners with the local school district to send teens who qualify for lunch subsidies home with backpacks filled with fresh produce and healthy snacks for weekends. Another generous thing my Y does is to have "women-only nights" so that women with faith-based reasons for not swimming or exercising in mixed company can utilize the Y's facilities.

A gift to my branch of the Y will actually allow almost 2,500 people to access programs, including before and after school care for kids.  If you don't want to donate to my YMCA, how about donating to yours?  It's a great organization.

But . . . if you want to help my fundraising efforts (I've committed to raising $3,000), just click the link that follows. You can make your gift here and every little bit helps. And a lot of people will join me in saying thank you. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Deserved Customer Loyalty

The picture says it all. Yesterday I heard a funny clicking coming from my car's back right tire as I slowly drove through my 10 MPH street. As I gained speed on the  major road, I didn't hear anything, so I stopped worrying. I was running several errands on my way to my favorite local bookstore and stopped at the post office to mail an over-sized envelope. When I returned to my car, I noticed the head of a large bolt stuck in the tread of the rear-right tire. (Oh, how I wish I had taken a photo of it.) Aha! That was the source of the sound I heard. My dashboard low-tire icon was NOT lit . . . but nevertheless, Les Schwab Tires was on my way, so I pulled into its parking lot.

The service person, who had rushed out to greet me while I was just pulling in, asked me how he could help. After locating the bolt, he told me he would extract it, then check to see if the tire was losing any air. "Looks promising--it likely hasn't punctured the tire, but don't worry, M'am. We won't let you leave until we know the tire is OK or repaired."

It did lose air when the bolt was extracted, and within half-hour, at NO CHARGE to me, the tire was repaired. As a person who is consistently timid about car malfunctions, I couldn't have been more relieved or happier.

Thank you, Les Schwab Tires! If only every merchant were as smartly run--understanding that helping with something little gains fierce customer loyalty--the world would be a better place. 

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Family resemblance

Standing behind an older man in the Express Checkout lane of my local supermarket, I was relieved to see he only had few Sumo Mandarin oranges and a box of coffee filters. As I unloaded my several items, I overheard this:


Clerk: These are sure ugly with all those wrinkles, but they're sure delicious.

Customer:  Yup.

Me:  (silently)  Just like me.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Jep's Chef House Now Occupies Preservation Kitchen

For many years a restaurant near my home (and the only one within easy walking distance to me) has been a delightful source of food, drink, and ambiance. The restaurant location was once the home of mid-century mayor of Bothell, Charles Kaysner, so patrons were eating in an historic house built in the first third of the twentieth century.

In the 1980s and '90s, the location housed what was considered one of the best French restaurant in Greater Seattle and whose chef had a fantastically equipped commercial kitchen added to the house. When the chef retired, the historic house with its famous kitchen was sold to a new owner . . . and sold again . . . and eventually was bought by a family who'd successfully run other restaurants. They named their newest endeavor Preservation Kitchen because the kitchen was so amazing, it deserved to be preserved.

Recently they have retired and leased the establishment to a new owner who is calling the restaurant Jep's Chef House. However, all the locals are so accustomed to calling the location Preservation Kitchen, few can remember the new restaurant's name. Inevitably, a person wanting to call about hours or make a reservation resorts to the the Internet to search for Preservation Kitchen,  only to come up with this message: CLOSED.

Needless to say, this isn't doing much for the new restaurant at the old location, Jep's Chef House.

I'm writing this commentary for one reason only: to help Jep's Chef House get established--to help people poking around on the Internet to find the name of the new restaurant at the old location.

The Kaysner House is far too wonderful for the newest entrepreneur at the venue to fail. The food at Jep's Chef House is delicious (don't miss the Lemon Souffle on the dessert menu) and the ambiance is delightful.  Imagine, restaurant where you can actually have a conversation without shouting! Eating there, whether in the fireplace front-room, or the cozy informal dining room doesn't cost a fortune, either. Let's give Jep's Chef House a chance to survive.  No one wants the restaurant at that location of fade out of existence.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

An Old Woman Learns Her Lesson

If you're my age (78) or, at least, in the same age bracket (65+), you've no doubt heard your peers rant about the pitiful behavior of youths who are overly absorbed in their cell phones. "They never look up . . . never interact . . . never hear anything," etc.  It can get tiresome.

Recently I attended an early-evening meeting and was driving by a local favorite hamburger joint when I realized two things: I was hungry and had nothing at home I wanted to eat. Aha, I thought . . . I'll get a Ranch-burger for dinner--Yum! It was well after 7 p.m. and the joint was pretty much packed with high-school kids. Instantly realizing I was the oldest one in the place, I jestingly asked the sixteen-year-old order-taker if it was OK to eat in, or if I'd put a damper on the "party." She smiled good naturedly and assured me it was OK to stay. I ordered a burger and (ah, heck, why not) a shake. She took my money, gave me a number, and said it would be a ten minute wait.

I chose one of two empty booths near the door. Everything else was occupied--some by groups of like-gendered friends, others by boys and girls together. I felt self-conscious because I was at least fifty years older than anyone on the premises, including management. Wanting to occupy myself while I waited (I didn't want to be perceived as staring at the kids as they laughed and chatted with each other), I decided to check my cell phone for messages. After all, I'd been in a meeting with my phone silenced, and there was bound to be some stuff to read. Sure enough . . . and my favorite word game app beckoned, as well.

Somewhere in the ruckus of chatter I was dimly aware of an echoing vocal phrase. After four or five repetitions, I looked up. A young man with a tray was pacing the restaurant calling out a number. Yes, it was my number! I raised my hand and he came hurrying to  my table. As I pocketed my phone I quipped, "Well . . . I guess I'll never be able to complain about how young people are too absorbed in their phones." The look he gave me was hilarious. He must have been thinking the exact same thing. He mumbled, 'Yeah, guess not,' and left my table grinning from ear to ear.

Reader, please hold me to it: I promise never to complain about young people lost in their cell phones!  

Friday, December 21, 2018

Once Upon a Homesick Christmas

Oberammergau Nativity Scene circa 1956
When I was a junior in high school, our family hosted the school's 'official' exchange student. Sigrid was sixteen and from Braunschweig, West Germany (yes, the wall was still up in 1956). She arrived in Seattle in time for the first day of school in September. She was shy, still struggling with English, and the first few months were a tough adjustment for her. My ever-gracious mother did her very best to provide the nurturing care that Sigrid had grown accustomed to, but sometimes nothing Mother did could alleviate the extreme homesickness that afflicted her. If only someone in our family spoke German! (My sister had studied a lot of German, but she was in college and not home much.)

It was really hard on my mother because she felt like she couldn't find a way to truly comfort Sigrid. I wasn't much help, as much as I wanted to. Sigrid didn't jive with my friends--she was really very shy--so I led a divided life that semester: time with Sigrid vs. time with my friends. She and I walked to school together every day and I tried everything I could think of to help to integrate with the social and academic scenes, but I failed as much as my mom. The difference is I didn't take it quite as personally.

But we kept trying--and definitely had some good times, despite the stress of hosting an unhappy and sad girl living with us. She made a beautiful Advent Wreath from a coat hanger and fresh evergreens, then led us in her Lutheran Advent prayers each Sunday evening in December. When Sigrid gave my mother a gift on Christmas Day, little did anyone in the family suspect it would still be part of our Christmas decor these sixty-two years later. The Christmas box sent by Sigrid's mother to be shared with her host family made for a memorable day.

This lovely hand carved and crafted nativity scene was tagged as a special thank-you gift for my mother, who was properly impressed. "Exquisite," Mother said over and over. "Oh, Sigrid, that is so kind of your mother."  I was sixteen and had never even heard of Oberammergau, but the miniature scene enchanted everyone our family.

This photo doesn't do it justice, and it is definitely the worse for wear with tiny pieces of the carving having broken off over the many years it's been part of the Johnsone/Glerum Christmas tradition. But I still love it. Usually surrounded by my collection of eclectic angels, it has only a few angels paying homage this year. Still . . . it evokes all kinds of wonderful memories, one of the joys of the season. Thank you, Sigrid.