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Raise Your Glass For The Healing Center’s Oktoberfest Fundraiser

October 13th, 2014

 

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Wondering what to do this weekend? Drink, dine, and enjoy good company  in Georgetown at  The Healing Center’s Oktoberfest fundraiser. The Healing Center, a grief support community in the Roosevelt/Ravenna district, provides group and individual services for adults, teens, and children whose lives have been altered by a premature loss. The Healing Center offers special services for survivors of suicide, an annual Ceremony of Remembrance, and provides support groups in local schools. The Center relies on grants, fundraising and private donations to meet community needs with their unique and essential grief support services.

The Oktoberfest fundraising event will be held from 6-10 p.m on October 18th at the Georgetown Brewing Company on Denver Avenue South. For more information email stephaniem@healingcenterseattle.org or call (425) 417-6197

Meet Dan and Ann Streissguth

September 29th, 2014

Dan and Ann Streissguth

Dan and Ann Streissguth

“My wife is full of life; full of happiness and joy,” Dan Streissguth confided to me when Ann rose to prepare coffee and snacks for our meeting. On her return they shared their inspiring story of partnership, devotion to community, and the development of Streissguth garden. It began with Dan’s first sight of Ann in the garden next door. “She was a young assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine,” Dan reminisced. He was already a well-established local architect and admired professor of Architecture at the University of Washington. Ann was new to the neighborhood but Dan had been living alone in his 4 story house for eight years. Through the foliage of their opulent backyard gardens, plants were admired, conversations began, and now, 46 years later, Dan relays his still delighted surprise with the exclamation, “I married my next door neighbor!”

Both Dan and Ann led remarkable careers. Dan, a graduate of the University of Washington and of MIT, twice chaired the UW Architecture Department and ran a small private practice. Through collaboration with Gene Zema, he was architect to University of Washington’s Gould Hall and of Wells Medina Nursery. Through collaboration, he was one of the architects of The University of Washington Nuclear Reactor Building, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Effusive in his praise of Ann, Dan described the development of her career. Ann became the chief researcher who recognized the connection between alcohol and child development. Those landmark findings, published in the medical journal, The Lancet, garnered international interest in the topic that she, in collaboration with colleagues, would later describe as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She’s impacted policy, published countless papers, been recognized for Outstanding Service and Distinguished and Outstanding Achievements, written books, and co-founded the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Information Service. Ann also mentored the development of PCAP, Parent Child Assistance Programs, which attempt to break the intergenerational cycles of substance abuse by assisting substance abusing parents and expectant mothers. PCAP programs originated at the University of Washington and now operate in Canada and all over the United States. “Now,” she said “I’m completely retired!”

The Mother Pluckers

The Mother Pluckers

At 90, Dan confides, arthritis is slowing him down a bit though he still spends an average of 20 hours a week gardening year round. Ann, several years younger, leads an active post retirement life that includes tennis lessons, dancing, gardening, and playing the ukulele with a joyous group called The Mother Pluckers. “I put gardening, music, and friends high up on the list of things that keep me interested and excited,” Ann said. Throughout their retirement, Dan said, they’ve been hikers, backpackers, and bicyclists. They’ve joined international bicycle tours several times. Last fall they were in Austria and this summer, when I met them, they were gearing up for a favorite local ride to Shilshole for a sandwich at the Little Coney.

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Looking up toward the main stairwell from the south gardens

The centerpiece of their life together is their house alongside the East Blaine Street public stairway, surrounded by Streissguth Gardens. The gardens, sprawling left and right of a Capitol Hill stairwell, are beautiful now but, “When we bought the land south of the stairwell it was a tangle of trash and vines,” Dan explained. They’d been nurturing gardens to the north for nearly fifty years but the acquisition south of the stairs was a new adventure. “I picked the brightest and flattest place for a vegetable garden,” Ann recalled. Together with their son, Benjamin, they designed and planted one of the city’s finest gardens now nearly one acre in size. In 1996, through creative negotiation, they deeded the gardens south of the East Blaine stairwell to Seattle Parks and Recreation. The Streissguths will maintain gardens during their lifetime but they hope to ensure perpetual upkeep with an endowment they have begun.

Along a garden trail, late summer

Along a garden trail, late summer

“In buying the land, starting to garden and [eventually] donating it to the city, I think we weren’t entirely aware of how it would affect our lives,” Dan began. “In the years before the gardens we enjoyed our contact with people coming up and down the stairs. Stair use has greatly increased in recent years. We think several hundred people use the stairs each weekend, exercising, doing neighborhood errands, and enjoying the gardens. It’s increased our enjoyment of and participation in community. We have groups that come and help us. Children run on the paths and swing on the trees and they bring their parents here. The other day Ann overheard a little girl looking down on the gardens saying to her friend, ‘I want to show you this secret garden that I used to come to as a child.’ It was a touching moment.” “We really feel strongly about sharing our garden with community,” Ann said. “We have a little bit of privacy here but, for the two of us, connections to the larger community are more important than any privacy we may attain,” Dan said. “We wouldn’t for the world want to put up gates. We like sharing it,” Ann echoed. “People wonder if we’ve had problems here,” Dan explained. “Once in a while we find a trampled or stolen plant but on the other hand we often receive gifts to be shared from other gardeners.” It all balances out. The gardens draw neighbors and plant enthusiasts from all over the city.

Both Ann and Dan had models for good work, gardening, and community involvement in their childhoods. Ann’s father ran a fruit orchard for many years. Her mother, concerned that a ranch couldn’t sustain the family, struck out on her own working as an executive secretary for the school system. “She liked working,” Ann recalled. Dan’s mother ran a grocery store in Monroe, Washington, until her retirement. After retirement she helped organize a quilting group through her church. Over time the quilters attracted membership outside the church. Through sales of their work they raised enough money to give support to Greenpeace and helped to buy land that eventually became the site of the local library. Recalling the bonds in his mother’s group Dan said, “It was so wonderful that her community of quilters, all ages, helped to take care of her in her old age. They were still talking together and quilting a week before she died.”

Quiet pool and waterlily at Streissguth gardens

quiet pool and waterlily at Streissguth gardens

Drawn together across their independent gardens over 40 years ago the Streissguths have given Seattle their beautiful garden legacy and the fruits of their civic contributions. In addition, their enduring partnership, itself a kind of garden, planted with the seeds of care, love, and support, flowers in well-being and achievement. Their lives remind us that aging, like gardens, can be a satisfying and rich experience when we nurture our bodies and minds and welcome the company of others.

 

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Dan and Ann Streissguth’s book about Streissguth Gardens, In Love With A Hillside Garden, is available at University Bookstore. All proceeds benefit the Arboretum Foundation.

A Personal Look At Death With Dignity

September 15th, 2014

Kate, second from left, with friends from the dance world

Kate, second from left, with friends from the dance world

Last October before our coworker Kate Lounsbury died of lymphoma she asked this blogger to write about her choice to use Washington’s Death With Dignity law to acquire legal aid in dying. Kate hoped it would promote wider public understanding. Before writing, I spoke with coworkers and friends and asked for their perspectives on Death With Dignity. Many had voted for Initiative 1000 which established the law with a 58.6% margin in 2008. All said they’d vote the same way again today. That was clear. But some expressed conflict about the actual act it legalized—aid in dying. Would I make that choice? they wondered aloud. How would I feel when someone I loved made that choice?! I think many people experience similarly unsettled emotions. Some are conflicted or opposed ideologically or because of religious faith. Complicating our feelings is the fact that death is rarely discussed in our culture and is hard to imagine. In that, Kate’s view differed from us all. She didn’t have comfortable distance from imminent death. She knew her life would end– painfully– and, understanding that, she was unwavering in her determination to choose the manner in which she left this world and her beloved friends behind.

Kate and her supporting friends on October 26th, 2013

Kate and her supporting friends on October 26th, 2013

“Most people want to know ‘did my loved one die peacefully?’” Midge Levy, a long time social worker, told me. Levy is the Vice President and Chair of the Community Education and Awareness Committee for Compassion & Choices of Washington, an organization that stewards Washington’s law, supports and empowers people at end of life, and advocates for the right to a peaceful, humane death. Kate did die peacefully. “Kate was in wonderful humor and went into her last sleep telling us that ‘it was all worthwhile,’” her partner told Kate’s circle of family and friends. “Death With Dignity allowed Kate to reclaim her life from the death cancer had in store for her and to make her death her own,” friend Cate Bell observed in an email. “For Kate it was the perfect option. All through her life, she faced significant obstacles with bravery and determination, and Death With Dignity allowed her to end her life in harmony with the way she lived.”

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Walk For Hope And Cures This September

September 1st, 2014

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Lace up your tennis shoes and step out with Seattle as we walk to bring hope to people challenged by life altering illness. Every week offers an opportunity to support research and lift awareness for a wide range of conditions: Breast Cancer,  ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s, Lupus, Parkinson’s disease, Brain Cancer, Huntington’s disease, Gilda’s Club, AIDS, Sickle Cell Anemia and other causes.

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Innovative Cultural Enrichment For Early/Mid Stage Dementia At Seattle Day Program: Elderwise

August 18th, 2014

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Does spiritual essence stay the same despite physical or cognitive changes? That’s a deep question, isn’t it? We may wonder things like this when faced with serious physical decline or a loved one’s advanced dementia. How can we reach someone we once knew? Sandy Sabersky, founder of Elderwise, Seattle’s innovative day program for people living with early to mid-stage dementia, based her program on certainty that essence does stay the same. Programs are geared to access wholeness and essence through intuition, imagination, and inspiration. That core philosophy, called “Spirit Centered care,” drives the unique and nurturing day program and its exciting community partnerships.

Don paints amaryllis

Don paints amaryllis

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