Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's About Time moves to Ballard Library

[for more info about the series, go to our new It's About Time blog]

Peggy Sturdivant's Nov. 22, 2007, Ballard News Tribune column:

"I was already jazzed about a longtime Seattle reading series `It's About Time' moving to the Ballard Branch - the subject of this week's column, Still About Time. Since I first started attending the reading series in 1996 there have been so many times I wanted to attend but couldn't drag myself to the other side of Greenlake to attend. No more such worries.

"In my mind this week's column was a mere nod to the Ballard Library nonetheless I got a nice note from a member of the architectural team. He considers it one of his most rewarding projects:his message follows the copy of column.

Still About Time

"Let me count the ways that I love the new Ballard branch of the Seattle Public Library. At least half of the year, when our days are short, nighttime events held in the community meeting room create an outside glow as though the top of the Space Needle had landed on Northwest 22nd. Even if we're not inside that room for the District Council meeting or the author appearance, we can appreciate from the outside the importance of that space and what it delivers, in addition to all the other riches of the library system.

"A year ago in September my daughter forced me on an after-dinner run to Bartell's for school supplies. From across the street I could see that the meeting room was at capacity, the library lobby was filled and people were even standing by the exterior bushes. Who is over there, I wondered. What if it's somebody famous and I don't even know? I learned later that it was Nora Ephron reading and discussing her book, "I Feel Bad About My Neck." The Nora Ephron of book and movie fame - "Hearburn," "When Harry Met Sally," - a movie called "Sleepless in Seattle." She was at the Ballard Library. Our Ballard Library.

"I can turn down many solicitations that come by mail or telephone, but I can never turn down a phone call from a librarian. The libraries are incredible assets; if I can provide money that purchases a few more books or goes toward more open hours, I will always contribute what I can. I should write a book on libraries or start the first ever TV series set in a public library. Just imagine the dramatic potential. I even heard something from a librarian this week that gave me a sense of civic pride. The City of Seattle considers the libraries to be part of "essential services" even during a winter storm event.

"Given my admiration for the library system in general and the Ballard Branch in particular I was truly thrilled recently to learn that two of my favorite things are about to converge. Starting Dec. 13, the "It's About Time" Writers' Reading Series will make its monthly home in Ballard's community meeting room. Conceived and launched in 1989 by poet, teacher and scholar Esther Altshul Helfgott, the reading series will mark its 221st event on its Ballard debut. Mark this in the plus column as Ballard gains a Pacific Northwest literary asset.

"I was introduced over 10 years ago to this reading series, which always offers an "open mike" opportunity to attendees. Since its inception, the series dedicated to an end of racism, homophobia, anti-semitism, homelessness and war has been a welcoming venue for beginning and experienced writers to read from their work. Although assisted by supporters over the years, the writing series is still coordinated by its original founder Esther Helfgott.

"A longtime teacher, Helfgott was frustrated by the way that her students, often retired professional women in her classes at senior centers and community colleges, tended to demean themselves and their writing efforts. Helfgott was inspired by their accomplishments in life and the writing that they produced together. She asked Nelson Bentley at the University of Washington if her students could participate in a campus reading but it was reserved for enrolled students. It was Bentley who suggested that Helfgott start her own reading series instead. And so the series began in the library of then Ravenna Bryant Senior Center in 1989.

"While `It's About Time' has always been welcoming, the venues have not been as accommodating. The first location could only sit 20 people; branch libraries were sometimes subject to early closure and acoustics have been a problem in the last two locations. Despite the facility challenges the series has never faltered. Until the windstorm last December not a single event had been cancelled in 17 years.

"The reading series has also evolved over the last 18 years, never losing sight of its core mission to provide a safe place for writers to share their work on equal standing. Originally geared to women, the series now includes men and women, beginning and experienced writers. As of 2001 the series adopted its current model of four featured readers and a fifth writer presenting The Writer's Craft on process, with open mike opportunities throughout. Many of these talks are available in electronic form on the series' Web site at

"The library branches have considerable leeway in establishing their programming and the Ballard branch is showing itself to be a strong supporter of poetry and literature, as seen through its ongoing poetry events and increasing author appearances in conjunction with Secret Garden Bookstore. The calendar is filled with story times, readings, book club meetings and now, "It's About Time." Discussions about the moving the series began after a poetry event in October and Helfgott is greatly relieved to have found a worthy home for the series, ensuring its continuity. With commitment from branch librarians and the public relations support of the Central Library, the Ballard Branch will be able to advertise the event and provide an accessible and outstanding venue.

"Helfgott's motto is "Everyone has a voice. Everyone has a story to tell." Her teaching is predicated on that belief along with the conviction that those stories also deserve to be heard. In 1989 she felt that it was literally about time for there to be a venue for that expression, and it's still as vital as it was eighteen years ago to create that time and place for writers. Yet another reason to love the Ballard Library. Look for the glow of the meeting room lights from the sidewalk, and then go inside where you belong.

"It's About Time" details can be found at The Dec. 13th event features John W. Marshall, Emily Warn, Mike Hickey, Holly Chiron and Christine Deavel on The Writer's Craft, and runs from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. at Ballard Library.

I was fortunate enough to be the Project Architect of the Ballard
Branch. My role didn't have as much to do with design so much as it
had to do with shepherding the project through - from Design Review
meetings, Permitting, Construction and Grand Opening, through Warranty
issues, etc. The Ballard Library was and continues to be one of the
more rewarding projects I have had the opportunity to participate in
during my career. And I have been lucky to be involved in many great

I just now received today's Google Alert notifying me of your article
in the Ballard News-Tribune. As it happens, I am presenting the library
project tonight to a University of Washington Architecture class. I
will share your fine article with them!

Best regards,
David Cinamon, AIA

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
Architecture Planning Interior Design

Posted by At large in Ballard at November 22, 2007 11:00 a.m.
#69191Posted by maryw at 11/22/07 7:54 p.m.

Thanks for another informative column on our Ballard community. The "It's About Time" program sounds wonderful! I, too, am proud that it will be held at our beautiful new library.

Regarding the library building itself, I agree completly--it is beautiful. Our library is the living, beating heart of the Ballard community--warm, inviting and possibly the only place where everyone is welcome and you can mingle with folks you might not have an opportunity to meet otherwise--and you don't have to spend a cent.

A belated thanks to Mr. Cinamon and everyone involved in the planning and design.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

It's About Time article

Peggy Sturdivant, columnist for the Ballard News Tribune, wrote a nice article on It's About Time's change to the Ballard library. Thanks, Peggy!

Friday, November 16, 2007

It's About Time venue change

Dear It’s About Time Writers and Friends,

I am happy to tell you that as of Dec, 13, 2007 the reading series will be hosted by the Ballard Branch of the Seattle Public Library. Thanks to librarians, Lynn Miller and Ellen Fitzgerald.

We will be publicized through the library system, on-line and off, so I won’t be sending out monthly publicity notices anymore. I am asking readers to publicize their own events, make flyers, place in bulletins, newspapers (call reporters to write stories about you, if you like). Place on blogs, websites, and so forth. With one caveat: when announcing your own reading, please mention whom you will be reading with that night. Friends of writers are welcome to publicize too.

Now we can keep the series going indefinitely. I’ll still be coordinating, with emcee help from Diane and Denise; but the space and noise problems are fixed, and I won’t be alone with the administrative tasks. Writers: No need to send me your bios. Bring a short one with you to the reading.

If you have any questions, do email me.

Thank you for your support over the years. See you soon,


Thurs. Dec, 13, 2007 #221 John W. Marshall, Emily Warn, Holly Chiron, Mike Hickey
+ Christine Deavel on The Writer's Craft

Ballard Branch
5614 22nd Ave. N.W.
Seattle , WA 98107
6pm -7:45 pm]

[Everyone can write. Everyone has a story to tell.]

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Hebrew literature

Last night in the nextbook series:

Meir Shalev - Writer, Novelist - at Henry Gallery. He was marvelous-- funny, sensitive, aware, honest. Interested in audience response. Interacted with audience, not the page. Packed house. I went home knowing myself better. Not everyone who speaks on home and exile can do that for me.

His 6th novel is A Pigeon And A Boy

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Administrators & Caregivers

This is what a visiting nurse said to me when I said a ratio of 1 caregiver to 15 residents is not adequate: "If we hired more caregivers, they would just stand around visiting with each other."

Caregivers work so hard for low pay; they put up with all kinds of crap - not just the bodily kind. Instead of assuming responsibility for complaints about administrative and corporate issues, management blames the caregivers. It's like a trope.

Yesterday I checked a nursing home where the ratio of staff to resident is 1 to 8. Doctors are around all day, nurses, social workers --a medical (non-profit) model as opposed to a corporate one. So, do I put him in a place that looks like a hospital and is worse than grim in appearance or do I keep him with the corporation? Last night I accepted the "we have one male bed available" offer. By this morning I knew I'd turn it down.

That visiting nurse also said: You're missing a lot when you don't have fun with us. Excuse me? When I come to see my husband, I say, I'm there to cuddle with him, not to participate in a group activity, unless he wants to.

When I talked to the regional director the other day, he said, Well you wouldn't want to move him to go to a place with linoleum.

I'm not moving him at all. Who knows what it would be like for him in another place. I'm going to leave it alone for now.

NY son's here. He has an academic/corporate job, gives me some pointers on how to survive. "You can do it, Mom. You're doing great. Just keep your distance." I'm gonna try. "Thank you, Sweetheart."

Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Doctor Day

I was scared about taking Abe to the doctor. I didn't think I'd find the energy, but I did and he did. We even got shakes at Jack in the Box.

The disease is progressing, as I have known. I'll probably move him soon. A ratio of one to fifteen is just not enough, or even one and a half to fifteen, as has been explained to me. Somehow I don't get the "half" business; but I guess there's a way of moving a half of person around on paper.

Lauren Kessler's Dancing with Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer's (Viking, 2007) describes people with Alzheimer's as those of us who really know how to live in the moment. I want Abe to have a chance to do that most comfortably. A move will be strenuous for both of us but I think it's time.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ohhh, I was a dahctor?

I didn't go to see Abe today. I can't believe I held out and listened to myself. I knew if I went I'd never get back to my work. I called and left a message for the nurse that I'm taking him to the doc for a check-up Monday. I'll call to talk with him later.

I don't think I've been aware of how consumed I've been by this particular illness. I've probably been, and still may be, in denial. I know Alzheimer's is a brain disease, but I can't help admitting that I've been (in a child-like state?) thinking I was somehow responsible.

How could this brilliant man who was, as a pathologist, at the heart of a hospital, not remember the names of the bones in the body, much less that he was a doctor. He remembers that sometimes, but not too long ago he asked me: "What kind of business was I in?"

I said, "You were a doctor."

"Ohhh, a dahhhctor? Hmmm."

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry or to ask him if he was in the Bronx again, working in his father's grocery store perhaps. Or holding onto his mother as she peddled garments on the street. I just sat there next to him and held his hand.

Instead of going to see him today, I drove to Group Health to get my flu shot. On the way, NPR: David Sederis was reading his Great Dane/mother story (from Me Talk Pretty). I laughed so hard, I cried. God he's funny.

I didn't know today was the start of flu shot day at that clinic. It was mobbed but a lot of fun - generations of sleeves rolled up waiting for a stick. Amazing how fast medical people work. I was in and out in 10 minutes.

On the way back, more NPR. Another story. This time Brady Udall reading his armadillo story (Story Magazine, Autumn 1999)for This American Life.

Abe said once he retired all he wanted to do was read the stacked up New Yorkers and listen to NPR.

from An Alzheimer's Marriage

Who would have thought
that Alzheimer’s
could knit
the warmest
and best parts
of our struggle
into a blanket
and, like a prayer,
hold it over us
-Esther Altshul Helfgott

Written after reading Margaret Atwood's poem "Habitation"
in last week's Poeming the Silence class.


Marriage is not
a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn

the edge of the receding glacier

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire
- Margaret Atwood

"Habitation" by Margaret Atwood,
from Selected Poems II. © Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987.

Friday, October 26, 2007

On Alzheimer's, Poetry, & Such

Now that I'm understanding Alzheimer's, I have to learn to put up with institutional management that speaks a corporateeze that I'm not much good with. One way to get away from it is to go to a poetry reading.

Last night's reading at Ballard Library was lovely--laid back and comfortable, a place where one can be new and scared or experienced and still scared (or not). Thanks to librarians, Lynne and Elizabeth, who set the stage for the lot of us who read one poem each.

I forgot how long it's been since reading. What a wonderful poetry community we have here in Seattle. (Well, not always). I feel the sense of caring and community more as a reader than as a series host. Lynne read one of her poems - I love her cadences and repetitions - and it was good to see a host feel comfortable reading her own work, which I haven't felt. Last week when she read at It's About Time, she said she writes her poems to read in community, and it shows. She's a happy reader. I write as an internal need, to get things said that I feel need to be said, and to understand, but I'm certainly not a happy reader.

Brian is. When a few of us were talking - mostly I was talking - about writing depressing poems, he said "I can do happy. I can do fun." I laughed and invited him to read for It's About Time.

I had no idea what I was going to read last night until yesterday afternoon when I received an email from a Provincetown director. She wanted to use The Homeless One to help support a homeless shelter that couldn't keep up. Then I knew what I'd read: At the Back of the Laundromat, which I revised six times before the reading and am still revising; here's the original.

Now I'll take the dog for a walk and go buy a battery for my chirping smoke alarm, which is driving me nuts.

I've decided not to go see Abe today because I was so upset with the management of the place Wed. When I walked in, there was a staff party going on and no caregiver in Abe's section. I was livid. This is not the first time the party scenario's happened, but saying anything only serves to get me and everyone else upset.

Abe was happy. When I asked somebody to clean the bathroom, he said: Good for you! He's still Abe. LOL. I don't know how they will have staff enough to take care of him as the disease progesses - which they promised - but I'm staying away for another twenty-four hours, at least.

Well, I guess I'm into blogging again. It's Peter's fault. I find his blog, which includes much on poetry and medicine, helpful; and it's inspired me to write outside my room again.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

25 poets read 1 poem each

Tonight, Thurs. Oct 25th
6:30 pm

Ballard Library
5614 22nd Ave NW
6:30 pm.

Bring a poet, bring a friend.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Caregiver's 'village' not big enough


Caregiver's Village Not Big Enough

Seattle P.I.
August 15, 2007

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards

Mrs. Edwards said she's marking 10 years as her "bottom line."

"But even then I'm not happy," she said. "I'm 67 in 10 years. That's not enough. I've got more stuff to do."

New York Times, April 3, 2007

You go, Girl!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Alzheimer's Patient

Ten Requests from the Person with Alzheimer's
by Twice Blessed, a Caregiver

[I don't agree with all of these; for instance, I don't know that AD patients always have hope (perhaps the hope is in the caregiver) or that they miss the way things used to be. Generally, they don't remember (perhaps for a fleeting second), but these are good guidelines from a caregiver who participates in the Alzheimer's on-line community. She posts this above her husband's bed. I'm not sure I would ...EAH]

Ten Requests from the Person with Alzheimer's

1. Be patient with me-- Remember I am the helpless victim of an organic brain disease which is out of my control.

2. Talk to me-- Even though I cannot always answer you, I can hear your voice, and sometimes I can comprehend your words.

3. Be kind to me-- for each day of my life is a long and desperate struggle. Your kindness may be the most special and important part of my day.

4. Consider my feelings-- for they are still very much alive within me.

5. Treat me with human dignity and respect--as I would have gladly treated you if you had been the victim lying in this bed.

6. Remember my past--for I was once a healthy vibrant person full of life, love, and laughter, with abilities and intelligence.

7. Remember my present-- I am a fearful person, a loving husband, father, grandfather, uncle, or dear friend who misses my family and home as I knew it very much.

8. Remember my future-- Though it may be bleak to you, I am always filled with hope of the tomorrow.

9. Pray for me--for I am a person who lingers in the mist, that drifts between time and eternity. Your presence may do more for me than any other outreach or compassion you could extend to me.

10. Love me-- and the gift of love you give will be a blessing which will fill both our lives with light forever.

from Twice Blessed's website

Friday, March 30, 2007

Bringing Him Home

March 30, 2007
5 am

It has been seven months since Abe entered the ALF and though he has adjusted well to his new surroundings, I am yet to get used to his absence in our home. This past week - perhaps this was the first time it sunk in - I finally acknowledged that he lived somewhere else and he would never be in our house again. I kept walking up and down the stairs, going in and out of the rooms repeating: He’ll never be in this house again.

Since last August when he went into the facility, I have been wanting to bring him home, all the while knowing this was physically and emotionally impossible. Or thinking it was. I had gone out to eat and to a poetry reading with a friend the night before, the first time in I don't know how long and, all of a sudden it kicked in: Abe really lived some place else; even though he is alive, he lives some place else.

The next morning I called the ALF and let the caregiver know that I would be there early and could she have him ready to go out. It was 9 am, he hadn’t wanted breakfast and was still in bed. I spoke to him and he got right up. When I arrived he was sitting on our love seat smiling. I said, “Come on, it’s a beautiful day. Let’s go for a ride.” He was delighted. I brought him home.

We drove the scenic back roads so he could see the cherry blossoms, and on the way we stopped to pick up bagels and cream cheese sandwiches for brunch. He went into the deli with me, sat while I waited in line, and enjoyed the comings and goings of the customers. When we pulled up to the house, he recognized it, I think, unbuckled his seat belt and came inside with me. I took him up the elevator which he found comfortable but did not recognize. (Maybe he was in a fog even then, four years ago, when we were having it built). And we sat down at the table to eat our sandwiches.

Afterwards he sat in his recliner and noticed the gas fireplace that I had had installed since he left. I turned on the switch and he watched the flames. I put on Mozart, curled up on the couch, and watched him watch the flames. I felt as if a world I had known for centuries had returned to our living room and all of a sudden, after all these long months, the house - with him in it - made sense again.

Finally the bathroom called and afterwards we went outside for a walk, about half a block, and he was tired. And I was tired watching him be tired and I took him home, collected our things, watched him not say goodbye to the dog and got us in the car. When we arrived back at the ALF, he smiled at the people who greeted him. He wanted to sit down. I watched him sit down. Sat next to him for awhile, then kissed him goodbye and went home.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Primo Levi

I'm still reading Primo Levi. This time The Drowned and the Saved. I realize that comparing illness to the concentration experience is invalid, perhaps even unjust; but Concentration Camp literature is helping me conceptualize Alzheimer's more than anything I've read on Alzheimer's. For instance, "... our ability to decide had been amputated. Therefore we are not responsible and cannot be punished." (p.29)

I think of how often Alzheimer patients are punished for "bad behavior," eg. I don't want to take a shower. Leave me alone, and given drugs to modify that behavior so personnel can get their work done. On the one hand, understandable; on the other, a ratio of 1 care worker to fifteen patients is untenable.

One day Abe raised his cane at a resident who was bothering him and right away the head nurse wanted to put him on drugs. "Except for Abe, they're almost all on depacote," another nurse said. I spoke to the doctor and a resident's daughter and that's not at all true. Meanwhile, the cane raising hasn't happened again and he didn't have to go on drugs. Plus, that person has let him alone.

Levi is hopeful, as well as helpful to me:

Why does one write?

Because one feels the drive and the need to do so.
To entertain oneself and others.
To teach something to someone.
To improve the world.
To make one's ideas known.
To free oneself from anguish.
To become famous.
To become rich.
Out of habit.

-Primo Levi

from his essay Other People's Trades

Lines 1 and 6 apply to me more than the others...

New York Son's Here!

My New York's son here. He's grateful for Seattle and la la land, as he calls it, and is great at hanging out. It's quite wonderful to like your kids. We talk non-stop from the time he's off the plane till he goes back. He'll be here 7 days!! but is here for a conference so has to work too. He's already done his Nordstrom's shopping - so that's over - and gone food shopping -- lots of chips and dips and expensive wine.

When I told Abe New York son was coming and he'll have a new visitor today, Abe said: And an important one at that. What a blessing that he still feels the connection.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Reading Update


Haim Gouri's Words in My Lovesick Blood

Interpretation of Murder, Jed Rubenfeld - funny spoof on psychoanalysis

The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros - coming of age

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King - super macho but good

Along the Bloodline, Adelle Foley - haikus

Last Wife: Poems, Claudia Emerson - narrative

Bodies and Souls: The Tragic Plight of Three Jewish Women Forced into Prostitution in the Americas, Isabel Vincent - well-written history by a Canadian reporter.

The Book of Blessings: New Jewish Prayers for Daily Life, The Sabbath and the New Moon, Marcia Falk - she turns some of her poems and those of Yiddish women writers into prayers. Helpful to me as I continue managing Abe's care.

February - lots of poems, plus work by Rabbi Naomi Levy regarding Abe's care. She'll be at Beth Shalom last weekend in April but I'll be in NY at the Pen America conference

American Imago: Psychoanalysis and the human Sciences

Freud's Requiem: Mourning, Memory, and the Invisible History of a Summer's Walk, Matthew von Unwerth - Freud takes a walk in the country with Rainer Maria Rilke, and Lou Andreas-Salomé - stunning


Survival in Aushwitz, Primo Levi - A powerful life force. Even helps me understand Alzheimer's better.

Collected Poems, Primo Levi

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Resolution: Keep better track of what I'm reading

Today: Hebrew journalist/poet Haim Gouri's Words in my Lovesick Blood. His poem Inheritance is representative. Referring back to the Akedah, the last two stanzas read:

Isaac, we're told, was not offered up in sacrifice.
He lived long,
enjoyed his life, until the light of his eyes grew dim.

But he bequeathed that hour to his progeny.
They are born
with a knife in their heart.


I haven't read Gouri until now, and I like him. Here's another representative stanza. From I Live Now In An Ancient Book:
I move between the saintly
and the lovesick.
I see men and women
returned from the world to come.


And from Often I Dream Dreams, I love this line:

Often I dream dreams which belong to strangers. (p.71)

[Poems by Haim Gouri, trans and ed by Stanley F. Chyet, Wayne State U Press, 1996]

I think this was one of the books Abe and I bought together at Open Books the last time he was there, before he went to assisted living. It's been sitting on the shelf waiting for us to read.