Sunday, December 30, 2012

What! You don't have five minutes?

No phone calls here! 

A week before Christmas I gave a resident of an assisted living residence, located on Capitol Hill, in Seattle, a ride over to “Ya sure, Ballard” to buy some Scandinavian treats for anticipated family guests during Christmas.

As usual, after my always-early arrival at the home, I chewed up some time waiting and jawing with other residents until Anna was ready for our excursion.
After a bit she entered the parlor all decked out in her Norwegian reindeer sweater and matching toque, similar to the ones she might have worn as a child up north on the chilly Canadian/Minnesota border.

After our little shopping trip to Larsen’s Danish Bakery, and a small floral shop, she asked if I would take her to visit her daughter. I told her I had plenty of time and would be happy to take her for a visit. When she told me we were going to the huge cemetery in north Seattle we shared the balance of the journey in silence. When I entered the gates of the cemetery, that has been doing its business since 1884, she broke the silence to give me directions inside the sprawling landscape. She directed me to the large Lutheran mausoleum towards the eastern border of the grounds. I helped her out of the car and watched her walk to the door of the mausoleum. She stood at the door for a moment before returning to the car. When I asked her what was up she told me she had forgotten the combination. Though she now wanted to go home I convinced her that I could get the combination from someone in the administrative building located across a major four-lane racetrack that divides the memorial grounds.
After flashing two pieces of identification, one had to be photo ID; I was given the four-digit number. Off we went back to where we started from-
I cracked the door for her, helped her cut her flowers and position the flowers high up on the east wall above her daughters crypt.
Anna spent some time inside as I went out and waited in the car.

On the way back to the ‘retirement “ home Anna told me she has outlived her three children, her brother and sister and lots of other close relatives. I knew from previous conversations that her husband had died about twenty years ago when they were both spring seventy something year old chickens-
She told me about the scads of nieces and nephews, grand children, great grandchildren that were scattered all over the Northwest and parts further out.

I saw Anna again on Boxing Day.
She needed a lift to her doctor.
As is apparently our custom, I asked her about her Christmas. She told me she had not heard from one single relative.
Not one person took a few minutes to give her a call!
As I was sputtering some reaction she shared that a number of her “house mates” had mentioned they had not heard from any of their relatives either.
“I didn’t say anything. What would they all think I had done to deserve being ignored? I must be an old witch that no one would want to call.” She dryly sighed at me as we drove through the pouring rain to her doctor’s office.

Really, is everyone so darn busy there is no time left for those that need a moment of love, recognition, acknowledgement.
Well, your message has been received and it may not be the message you meant to send.
Think about it.
Is five minutes out of your life too much to give?
Oh, when I dropped Anna off she wanted to know if I wanted some of the cookies she had bought at Larsen’s.
I didn’t, but I took them anyway. 

M Barrett Miller

Thursday, December 20, 2012

An Old Time Christmas

The 1920’s, in northeastern Montana, were not for the weak and pampered!

 Anna, aged 96, fondly recalls following her father as he drove the horses pulling the plow that allowed she and her sister to plant in the irregular grooves left behind. Wheat, wheat and more wheat along with cows, pigs, chickens, ducks and two small vegetable gardens that sustained the family and contributed a few coins to moms purse on market days were all they had in those days.
Survival and hard work were what made so many of our generations grandmothers so remarkable.
So many of their stories are left untold as few questions are asked by their kids and their kids kids kids…

In winter Anna took part in the endless canning of meat for the summer months. During winter, the freezing weather took care of keeping the meat safe to eat. During summer they canned everything they would need for winter. Canning took up a great deal of their time, as they had to stay a step ahead of the seasons and the needs of the growing family.
School took place in a one-room school that rotated from one ranch to another. It was very basic with an emphasis on reading.
No electricity, a coal fueled kitchen stove, a potbellied wood burner to keep the ice off the inside walls, two outhouses fifty yards down wind from the house were the high tech luxuries that held families together.

Christmas was a very special time of year for everyone within thirty miles of Anna’s home. About nine miles away from the ranch was a Lutheran church that had ministered to the many Norwegians who had accompanied her mom’s immigration twenty-four years before Anna’s arrival.
On Christmas all the families would dress in their best outfits and travel to the church in horse drawn sleighs or in glued together working automobiles belching out scary noises along the roadway. Families arrived early in the morning for a special service, play and program that focused on the kids. The church was gaily decorated with a huge Christmas tree garnished with candles burning brightly. Two men kept a close eye on the tree as well as replacing candles as they burned down.
Each child received one present. Usually the present was functional but occasionally a doll would show up instead of new boots, gloves, sweaters or trousers. Sometimes a boy would receive a pocketknife that spoke of his maturity to the assembled crowd or proud adults.
Food was traditional with every family offering cookies, pies, ham, chicken, duck, homemade wines, and liquors for all to enjoy. Anna recalls one Christmas when a family arrived with a huge crate recently arrived from Norway. Everyone gathered around it as it was opened. It was full of small hand made gifts, jellies, and canned treats for the whole community.
The midday meal was followed by games, song and dancing until everyone was tired or famished or both tired and famished.
As the day darkened a final meal was served which an emphasis on desserts, candied fruit and hard candies hidden for weeks from the kids by anxious moms. 
Everyone snuggled under a ton of blankets as they rode home. The horses had bells attached to their harnesses to ring out Christmas to the darkened snow covered fields bordering the road.
“Those were the best Christmases ever!”

M Barrett Miller

Monday, December 10, 2012

"Being the change they wish to see..."

Four Members of the Colombia team

Do you want to feel proud of our young people?
If you do, I’ve got the perfect suggestion.

Take a moment to look at what a number of teens are doing here and in communities overseas.

The YMCA Global Teen Leadership program recently held their awards and recognition ceremony for Seattle area teens that travelled last summer to Colombia, Senegal and to Japan.
The kids are part of a twelve-month program designed to “develop international understanding, leadership skills and cultural competency.”
These young people are not passive visitors to a country, they provide service work in the community they visit. Some worked on refurbishing a schoolhouse, some in areas devastated by the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and some were working on a water project in Senegal.

The kids stayed with host families, travelled the countryside and interacted with kids their own age as much as possible.

At the recent ceremony it was inspiring to hear the kids talk about how their trip impacted them. They spoke emotionally about their host families, other kids they met in Colombia, Senegal and Japan, and how they helped raise the money to fund their team.
No one gets left behind if they are selected to participate on a team.
Its one for all and all for one!
Every student touched on how their involvement with the YMCA Global Leadership program has changed they way they look at their school work, their place in society and their ability to create change in the world.

Could we possibly ask for any more?

Thank you YMCA for the great work you’re doing with our young people.

* Present members of the Global Teen Leadership program are in the process of finalizing their commitments to participate in the “European Y Festival in Prague, Czech Republic, 1 August to 10 August 2013.
An anticipated 10,000 young people, from across the world, will travel to Prague to find commonality and community with other young people “being the change they want to see in the world.”
See for more information on the conference.

If you know a young person interested in Prague, Korea or Japanese Language for 2013...and for more countries in 2014 such as Senegal, and Colombia. See:

Let Kids Be Kids, Inc. is committed to supporting this incredible opportunity for our kids-

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cappy's Boxing Gym - Building Confidence.

      At Cappy's Photo by M Barrett Miller

When I wandered into Cappy’s the other day I was slightly surprised to see a number of high school girls ripping thunderous hooks into heavy bags.
I shouldn’t have been surprised.
I knew better than to expect an all boys boxing club.
As I watched, neither the girls nor boys broke stride as they moved from the heavy bags to floor exercises. The floor exercise routine included jumping jacks, crunches; push ups and shadow boxing at their elevated feet while doing modified sit-ups.
A drill involving throwing five combinations at your partner, who fields the punches with a flat mitt, followed the exercise interlude.
This is how it goes for sixty minutes.
The kids rotate from station to station pounding away at bags, mitts, shadows, jumping, squatting, running in place, dancing, firing away punches and firing away punches.
I found I grew tired as I watched them, and I was sitting in a chair!!
They could have gone longer!
The next day I was back to watch a smaller group do what they had done the day before, but with a few added challenges to keep them on their toes.
They rotated from pummeling a heavy bag to finesse punches setting up their “knock-out” shot.
Don’t kid yourself! A few of these kids could definitely bring stars to your eyes.
And, you know what?  They’re loving every moment of it.
Here, watch the video. It will give you a good sense of what’s going on at the gym.
Yesterday I enjoyed the opportunity to speak with Coach Mike Priebe. After a few comments about the routine and how the kids enjoy the challenges we got right down to it.
Mike, and the other coaches, help develop confidence in kids so they have that little extra internal “go to place” to support them when times get a little hectic.
Their minds and bodies get tuned to support their changing self-image.
Self-image is so important to kids developing through their teens.
A poor self-image leads too many kids down paths they probably wouldn’t take if they felt just a little better about themselves.
When kids have confidence in themselves they tend to lean back on the robes and take a longer view before throwing themselves into a decision.
Cappy’s is there to help-
Cappy’s Boxing Gym is doing some great work for a lot of kids in our communities.
Thanks Cappy!

M Barrett Miller
Let Kids Be Kids

Friday, November 30, 2012

We Can Do Better - Can't We?

Homeless in Seattle
Photo by M Barrett Miller

What you're looking at is one persons sleeping loft. 
Well, maybe not a loft!
She has found a little space out of the rain. 
Her worldly goods are in those two shopping carts. They are parked there while she begs within sight of the carts and all her earthly pocessions.
Here are a few questions, suggested by a number of national agencies, for consideration and action if you think she could use a hand- 
Your voice will count if you let your elected officials know your thoughts and feelings.
  • Would our/your community be better off if we made year-round shelter and day and hygiene services available to more of the people who need and want them?   
  • Do you support addition shelter funds for homeless families?                  
  • Should we maintain specialized child care services for the youngest children who are homeless?  
  • Does it make sense to increase our city's investment in giving people safe, warm, dry places to be at night and during the day, or would you rather see people moved from place to place as the days get shorter and the nights get colder?   
If we have the will, there are solutions!!

Friday, November 23, 2012

"Times Winged Chariot Hurries Near..."

                   Eric photo by M Barrett Miller

Times Winged Chariot Hurries Near…”
As Eric shuffles towards his eighty third birthday he recently shared with me his thoughts on what he’s learned from his run.
A theme he returns to often is that people today have lost sight of what’s most important. “They run this way and that way looking for more stuff to make them feel good about themselves.”
He shares that when he was a kid in Kansas, before the “big war”, no one had much of anything. “We made do with what we had. We never seemed to want what the fella down the road had. I mean, if he was doing fine we were happy about it. Not jealous.”
As the War ground on, Eric, barely a teenager, got a job selling farm equipment. He was good enough at it to squirrel away a little bit of money, after contributing to the family needs, towards his education.
He did well enough in high school to get accepted into college. Later, at the University of Kansas he earned his PhD.
He didn’t wander far off campus after graduation. He taught, on a part time basis, anatomy and physiology to pre-med students.
Money was very tight in those Kansas days!
In order to pay his bills, and help out his family, Eric agreed to work for his uncle who operated a successful mortuary in town.
Until 1980 he remained in Kansas working full time in the funeral home. The call of the west, and changing times in Kansas lured Eric to the Pacific Northwest.
“When I got into eastern Washington I was completely enveloped in a cloud of dust. It was so quiet, eerie quiet! I didn’t know the volcano had blown until I stopped at a diner off the hi-way. Boy, was I ever surprised!”
Eric made Bainbridge Island his home for years.
He ran a number of funeral homes until the doctors told him, after his fourth heart attack, that he needed to consider moving to the “mainland.”
On a good day Eric’s heart is operating at about 30%.
The doc’s have said they could try for a repair but the odds were long on his surviving the operation.
Eric is okay with that news.
He has chosen to live on knowing that he is in “right now” and able to enjoy, and be ready, for whatever comes his way.
When we are together we laugh a lot about the craziness around us. He likes to poke fun at some of the zanier politicians wondering why they are so mean. “Don’t they understand how quickly this will go by? In a snap your stay is over. Why not share your heart while you’re here rather than wasting time chasing things and broken ideas.”
Why indeed!

M. Barrett Miller

Friday, November 9, 2012

"Hey, is that an angel at the door?"

A friend of mine has entered what may be his final dance with AIDS. 
Whenever he has the opportunity to share his story, and the challenges of his diagnosis and how people have reacted to him, Trudy James’s name is always part of the story.
When he first arrived in Seattle he was as sick as a dog.
His family had walked away from when he was diagnosed.
He had no friends in the community.
He was in bad shape.
Long into his hospital stay he received a visitor that would change his life.
One lonely afternoon he was sitting in a chair looking out his hospital window towards the Olympic Mountain range, when he heard a soft knock on the door.
The lady who entered took one look at him, crossed the room and gave him a big hug. (These were the days when large warning signs hung on patient doors warning people of the patient’s medical status.)
My friend loves to share that she said, “Help is on the way.”
He further shares that she was the first non-medical person to touch him in months.
He often chokes up when he shares this moment.
I first met Trudy at a meeting at Multifaith Works, an organization dedicated to serving those challenged by HIV/AIDS and other debilitating diseases. I had joined a “CareTeam” made up of students who had volunteered to offer support to a “Care Partner” seeking camaraderie.
Because of Trudy’s insightful management, empathy and orchestration of teams supporting the sick, my respect and admiration for her has grown exponentially!
A few years ago Trudy left Multifaith Works to found Heartworka non-profit dedicated to working closer with people dealing with planning and decision-making in preparation for the final grand adventure.
To understand her path, and the incredible contributions she has given to everyone she has touched, I will share a bit of her journey.
Trudy is a trained hospital chaplain. She graduated from the University of Kansas and Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
She was the founder, then Executive Director, of the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (RAIN) in Arkansas.
In seven years, 1500 faith-based RAIN volunteers served over 500 individuals with AIDS—20% of the AIDS population in Arkansas at that time.
Trudy was passionate about recruiting, training and supporting volunteer CareTeams and shared the AIDS CareTeam program model with ten other states. 

In 1997, she moved to Seattle and began a successful CareTeam program under the umbrella of Multifaith Works, a nonprofit dedicated to compassionate community-building.
She served as CareTeam Program Director and CareTeam Program Specialist for eleven years, retiring to focus on Heartwork.
Trudy also served as a per diem Chaplain at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for five years and continues to give phone, hospital and home support to individuals with life-threatening diagnoses or on-going illness.
She is on the Advisory Board for Compassion and Choices of Washington and on the Outreach Board for Foss Home and Village.
She does ongoing “5 Wishes” and bereavement groups for Providence Point Community, Issaquah, and Northaven Senior Living, Seattle and other venues throughout the Northwest.
A couple of months ago a teaching colleague, and friend, got the diagnosis he never wanted to hear.
After talking long and hard with friends, doctors and family he decided to go for chemo treatment #1, and if needed, chemo treatment #2.
Each week I would drive him to the hospital for his treatments.
About mid way through chemo #2 he told me he was going to pass on the third level of treatment.
After way too long in silence I asked him if he wanted to talk to anyone outside of family and friends.
He did.
About a month after introducing him to Trudy we were headed up to his doctors one afternoon when I asked him what he thought about talking with her. He said, “It’s kinda like talking to an angel.”
Well said.
Check out Heartworkyou’ll find that my friend was right-
Oh, if you get a chance to meet Trudy ask her about breakfast in the White House with Bill Clinton and Al Gore. 
M Barrett Miller
Let Kids Be Kids, Inc.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Trusting Kids to Teach About HIV/AIDS

Students at the Annual AIDS Walk Photo by M Barrett Miller

Trusting Kids to Teach About HIV/AIDS to Their Peers!
I am not often blown away, but I was totally rocked back on my heels this week by a number of students at Newport High School, in Bellevue, Washington.
Every year Seattle hosts an “Annual AIDS Walk” in Volunteer Park. For the last dozen or so years I have shot lots of photos of the activities that generate donations towards ending the HIV/AIDS scourge in our local and global communities.
I like to concentrate on kids supporting the event, as their involvement will help educate and curtail the spread of the disease in the future.
Each year the most visible kids are wearing very cool ASPEN sweatshirts. This year I was able to talk with a couple of kids, and introduce myself to their teacher, Barbara Velatequi.
During our quick conversation we agreed to exchange emails. My hope was to visit with her, and her students, at the school so I could get a better idea of her program and why these kids are so enthusiastic and dedicated.
I also wanted to know why Ms. Velatequi had dedicated the last nineteen years to educating kids about HIV/AIDS, STI’s and behaviors that might put them at risk.
Unfortunately there are still too many “adults” that think kids are, to use Ms. Velatequi’s words, lazy, untrustworthy, sexually active, drug addicted, and permanently plugged into loud, obnoxious music.
Not so-
My experience, with many schools, is that they forbid any realistic sex education classes. A number of them have requested that the speakers I have brought in to visit with students, about living with HIV/AIDS, do not speak about sexuality, their particular life style, contraceptives or anything that might challenge their sole message of abstinence. When that happens we try to make the best of it and hope the kids see through the blockade.
I felt confidant that the kids I had talked with at the AIDS Walk were not treated in a similar fashion.
After a number of emails with Ms. Velatequi I was scheduled to spend a morning in two classes at the high school.
A few days before the visit I received a number of answers to my questions to Ms. Velatequi on why she had taken the risk, 19 years ago, to introduce a mature curriculum in the face of traditional administrative and parental objections. She had accepted the state mandate to teach about HIV/AIDS though little did anyone realize how well she was going to rock the status quo with her kids-
“…Changing human behavior is a daunting task; as a rule people do not like to change! Add to this barrier the young adults’ sense of invulnerability, and HIV prevention work becomes a greater challenge. For every barrier there is a solution, and the power of a dedicated, well-trained and passionate group of teens was my solution. I knew I could harness positive peer pressure, personalize the HIV/STI risks, help my students develop empathy for people living with HIV, and model acceptance of every human being. The ASPEN Educators could break through barriers and reduce the spread of HIV and other STI’s…”
With that, added to some other remarks of hers in mind, I arrived at the school ready to see what was what-
The first class I observed was made up of juniors and seniors. They were practicing a demonstration they would later use when they conducted a class for freshman and sophomores. The three girls orchestrating the demonstration had each student in the room share their cup of water with three other students. They were told to keep a record of whom they shared the fluid with.
Almost immediately a number of students noticed that the fluid in their cups took on a light pink color. (A chemical had been added to a statistically accurate amount of cups)
They were the infected ones!
The “healthy” students sat down with a sigh of relief.
The girls walked their fellow students through the process of determining who was the source of the infection.
As you can imagine there was some lighthearted banter as reality focused in on one student who started the infectious ball rolling.
A great demonstration!
Ms. Velatequi gave me the high sign to join her in the hall. She told me, as we walked downstairs, that two of her students were about to conduct a ninety-minute class with sophomores in a Health Class. The students we were going to visit only had the very basics on HIV/AIDS, STI’s etc.
This is what I wanted to see!
For ninety minutes two young ladies walked their fellow students through the most comprehensive training I have ever seen outside of medical school.
They did a better delivery of information than I have done in 23 years of presentations.
Better than I ever did in my college classroom!
Their use of posters, slides, poignant questions directed to students, humor, demonstrations, acceptance of choices, abstinence as a valid choice, compare and contrast, definitions, on board pre-written statements of challenges & solutions, walking around the room, recognizing unstated questions, statistics, sources, resources is a model for all of us given the opportunity to share knowledge with students.
I have seen embarrassment in student’s eyes when adults present touchy information to a class. I didn’t see one kid react that way during this presentation.
While watching these two girls I so wished they had been in my suitcase when I shared information in the third world to people so at risk.
I wished they had been conducting the “lesson” in every classroom I’ve ever walked into-
At the end of the presentation I shared with Ms. Velatequi, and the two girls, exactly what I have written above about their presentation.
I told them they should take their presentation on the road!
They seemed pleased.
Ms. Velatequi told me the girls had practiced for hours and hours and hours.
Under her tutelage these kids knocked it out of the park!
While talking with the students they shared their understanding of ASPEN and its reach beyond the sharing of information about HIV/AIDS.
“…The ASPEN program is to promote acceptance of all people, engage in service work to support those living with HIV, teach prevention strategies to reduce the transmission of HIV/STI’s, and create a diverse group of peer educators who will serve as role models and as a resource for all students at Newport High School. One of the five lessons that that ASPEN educators teach is the Diversity Lesson. This lesson is the celebration of diverse populations to whom we deliver our lesson. Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Gay, Straight, Transgendered, American, Middle Eastern, Chinese, young and old, everyone is deserving of respect, equal treatment, and physical and emotional safety. Acceptance of all people, a realization that we are all citizens in a global community, is the foundation of the ASPEN program…”
These kids are not just talking blue sky; they’ve been accepted in the greater community.
“In the past two years kids in the ASPEN program have had the opportunity, through the World Affairs Council, to meet with world leaders who are working on HIV prevention in their countries.
Last March, ASPEN hosted 10 teens from Serbia to share education curricula, strategies, and pizza. Face book, email, and skyping have allowed this collaboration to continue.
ASPEN is now needed, respected, and cherished by Lifelong AIDS Alliance and Dunschee House, both highly respected organizations in Seattle.
ASPEN students have served as keynote speakers and entertainers at the Seattle AIDS Walk as well as being phenomenal fundraisers.
Last year twenty-six ASPEN students raised over $45,000 for Lifelong AIDS Alliance, more money than any other team in the walk, including Microsoft, Starbucks, and every other corporate sponsor.
The team has also been entrusted with a food delivery route for Chicken Soup Brigade; each week two of the students pick up meals for clients of Lifelong AIDS Alliance. These deliveries ensure that their clients will be well fed for the week.”
When you Trust Kids amazing things will happen.
Can you see why I was blown away?

M Barrett Miller

Friday, November 2, 2012


SNAP fights for victims

To all those concerned about all our kids,

With yet another sexual misconduct charge levied against a local cleric, O’Dea High School Principal, we need to ask some serious questions of those who are ultimately responsible.
If only it were that simple!

It’s difficult to ask questions when the first lines of defense presented by the Catholic Archdiocese is to claim ignorance of the activity, claim the “victim” is mistaken, blame the “victim”, dodge and weave behind every legal machination richly paid attorneys’ can think of, discount the damage by the passage of time, attack those who stand up for the victims.

The latest news stories about O’Dea High School included all the above ingredients. 

If nothing else the church is predictable on how they wrap their arms around themselves.
They hope there are still enough people, press included, that will give them the benefit of the doubt, each and every time, in spite of the avalanche of historic evidence.
They continually seek the forgiveness they seem unable to offer their victims for exposing them.

1.     Why doesn’t the Bishop step forward and speak to these charges?
He’s the Shepherd of his flock and responsible for everything that happens to kids under his authority.

2.     Why does he have a “spokes-person?”
Is he so busy with other important functions? Functions so vital that he delegates dealing with child abuse to a paid shill who looks for cover, any cover.
The Bishop’s little man didn’t stand up for kids when he spun a tale to the press. He blamed the bankruptcy court, which is overseeing the Christian Brothers bankruptcy, due to excessive abuse settlements and charges, for forbidding the Bishop to do his job.

3.     Yes! It’s the courts fault that no parents, students, neighbors, faculty, clerics knew of the pending actions against the school principal.
If it’s the courts fault for putting kids at risk is the Holy Apostolic Catholic Church going to raise heaven and hell condemning the court for its tunnel vision and dedication to money above all other values?
Not on your life!

4.     Why does the church insist on “confidentiality agreements etc.” whenever they settle a case?
If there were an institution that should be transparent you’d think it would be them!
Nope! Those agreements keep parents in the dark to the lurking dangers their kids may face at their school, club and in the very church itself.  
At this moment such an agreement allows a priest to oversee a school after a “settled” case of sexual harassment brought to court by fellow clerics. What is the actual story? Who knows? It’s wrapped in a secret settlement agreement.
Would you want your kids to go to that school?

5.     Maybe a bigger question is, “Why are parents still putting their faith in an institution that has shown no faith in them?”
This latest case at O’Dea will not be the end of this ongoing series of revelations, as much as the Archdiocese hopes and “prays” everyone will just move on…

N.B. The following email from an associate who once worked for the Seattle Archdiocese touches on the anger out there.

"...        1) The O’Dea guy had previous charges against him yet the Christian Brothers made him principal  - with the approval of the Archbishop
2)      the other priest, you mention, had a history of accusations of child endangerment (at the LEAST) which the Chancery ignored.

These things make the hierarchy COMPLICIT. We should be calling for an indictment against the Archbishop.

I mean, cut to the chase. The Archbishop was in charge. Charges were made which were ignored. The clergymen were permitted to stay on the job. No laws would have been broken by the Chancery had the accused been IMMEDIATELY removed and put on leave until the issues were resolved. Instead they hid it and the accused were allowed to remain in place, thereby continuing to endanger children. The hierarchy was complicit and should be indicted! (Precedent has now been established!) ..."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Please, No More Stigmas..."

    Kirkland Marina photo by M Barrett Miller
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) had a successful fund raising Walk, on Saturday, October 27th. It began/ended at Marina Park in Kirkland. 
The NAMI Walk is the largest fundraiser for all NAMI affiliates across the state. The event included MC Patti Payne, the Mariners Moose and ponchos for the rain! 
"Our mission is to address the unmet needs of individuals with mental illness and their families through advocacy, public education, information and referral, and self-help support groups.
NAMI Greater Seattle has served the community since 1978. See the web site, above, to join in anticipation of another 34 years."
Great organization doing great work- Time to reach out and help all those who are challenged in any way----

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

C'mon America, we can do better!!

            Seattle Photo by M Barrett Miller

  • This man is mere feet from some very upscale shops in a residential neighborhood community in Seattle.
  • Why he is there doesnt really matter. He's there and we are faced with determining what we may want to do to help him and many others who are on our streets.
  • Not everyone can get into a shelter, surf a relatives couch, or get space in the already packed Tent Cities.
  • Here are a few questions suggested by a Seattle coalition dedicated to making life a little bit easier for those on the margins.
  • Wherever you live is probably facing some of the same challenges as the big cities. Should you respond to the following let your elected officials know how you feel-
  • Would your community be better off if we made year-round shelter and day and hygiene services available to more of the people who need and want them?   
  • Do you support additional shelter funds for homeless families?                        
  • Should we maintain specialized child care services for the youngest children who are homeless?  
  • Does it make sense to increase our city's investment in giving people safe, warm, dry places to be at night and during the day, or would you rather see people moved from place to place as the days get shorter and the nights get colder?   
                              We all deserve better!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tari - Am I the Face of Homelessness?

Milk Crate Mattress photo by M Barrett Miller

Today Tari guided a group of children, and dads, around her new home in the woods.
Woods adjacent to a church.
A church that has opened their arms to the less fortunate for the next ninety days. 

The kids arrived with fifty Halloween cards, candy enclosed in each card, and fifty sets of athletic stockings filled with rice and a pinch of lavender. The socs can be heated up in a microwave for a couple of minutes to offer hand warming or sleeping bag warming comfort. The dash of lavender ads a nice scent as well as chasing off little critters. 
Tari and her, Viet Nam injured, purple heart recipient, husband moved into a tent seven months ago.
This video is just part of Tari's story. 
This particular home, for 85 homeless souls, is not too far from Seattle. 
Not far from the exquisite homes that dot the neighborhood, though leagues from the lives of many who are not aware of its existence, or the plight of so many- 
The kids were young enough to think living in a "Tent City" was all pretty cool. 
The dads got it. 
Life in the woods, in a tent, sleeping on plastic milk containers isn't all that plush!

When I am with older students, or adults, I try to remind them that if one of the "Tent City" residents is kind enough to share their story it is not our role to cast doubt on it, or try to unmask what may not sound rational or believable at the moment. What would our story be if we lived in a tent in the woods out of sight of the passing by world…
We all deserve better!
Thank you Tari.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Photo by M Barrett Miller

At yesterdays Seattle AIDS Walk I saw lots of remarkable people reaching out to help those so much in need- 
I spoke with this man for a bit about this and that.
When I wandered over to watch the beginning of the race/walk I noticed him pulling up to the path. At first I thought he was going to ride some distance in support of the event. What I saw when he stepped out his chair tells the story-
Even with 23 years experience with those suffering from HIV/AIDS I am so often blown away by what I witness-
A couple of steps were enough---courage, conviction, dedication, support----
The following video says it better than I ever could.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Just the Facts Please!

Dear Kids, particularly those of you that are presently in high school. 
Please ask your parents to support your collective demand that your health/science classes share current information on choices beyond abstinence.
"The United States has one of the highest rates of unwanted pregnancies in the developed world — nearly half of pregnancies here are unintended, and there’s been no improvement in the situation for a decade…" NY Times 18 Sept 2012
*Last week I was told by one school administrator that the seniors there "might" not be able to read "Ice", the book I wrote sharing stories of people fighting HIV/AIDS, as there are sexual connotations/references within…
The fear that one of the stories would somehow give immediate permission to kids to immediately leap into a sexual relationship was shocking.
It has been my experience with kids that if you show you respect them, they will take informations offered with the seriousness that its presented. 
They know when you're pulling the wool over their eyes. 
This is too serious a subject to be handled by continually sharing dubious information, or having teachers who are too embarrassed to share reality.
A third of 1000+ high schoolers recently said one could get HIV from mosquitoes-health teachers were in the classroom when the kids shared this belief----
See the following article for more information:  Between Contraceptives, a Gap to Bridge.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Are You Kidding?

Just when I think I've heard it all someone jumps up and kicks me in the reality knee!!
A friend, who has been long suffering with all that comes along with an AIDS diagnosis, recently moved out of a top notch medical facility that manages a nursing home for the terminally ill.
He made the move because he wanted to feel like he was still in control of his life.
At the moment he is "healthy." That means he is staying alive ingesting various drugs on top of the Morphine and Oxy he takes to manage excruciating pain.
When you live in a nursing home your comings and goings are controlled, you eat their food and share community space with others also fighting terminal diseases.
Not always a happy place to live, as most never leave under their own steam.
Once my friend had made up his mind to leave, and gotten his doctors, DSHS (Department of Social and Health Services), Social Security Administration, Medicaid and the facilities administrations approval to move he began his search for a place to live. 
Before he could commit to a new place he had a few more simple hurdles to leap. 
He had to agree to return to the facility three times a week for checkups, drug pickup and a few moments with the social worker overseeing his care.
No worries. He was ready to go-
The day he flipped open the Seattle Times to look for an apartment that would meet his needs one jumped off the page inviting him to call.
It sounded perfect.
The apartment was located on the ground floor, no stairs, close to stores, close to a bus route, affordable, quiet, has a small lanai, southern exposure and off the main streets.
When he went to view it with two friends it took him less than a minute to tell the apartment manager that he wanted the apartment. She told him to come back within 24 hours with a months deposit, damage deposit, electrical deposit, payment for a credit check and references.
He was able to accomplish it all with the help of DSHS. (It is less expensive to assist in housing outside a nursing facility so they are motivated to help in a timely fashion.) 
When he returned to the apartment house with the checks he was told by the apartment manger that she had to interview him before the final approval of him as a tenant.
He said fine.
Her first question was, "Now, just what exactly is wrong with you?" She pointed at the wheelchair he was sitting in as she asked. She must have been thinking about it for the previous 24 hours as he had arrived at the first meeting in his sporty motorized chair.
He asked her what she meant by the question knowing full well she couldn't legally ask the question.
She said she was uncomfortable with someone with needs and wanted to know what was wrong with him.
After thinking of all sorts of replies that would have had him looking elsewhere for an apartment he told her he had AIDS.
She went nuts!! 
"What about my tenants? I don't want them catching it! What if you bleed on the carpet? I don't want people infected by you when you wash your clothes, cough or throw up. I don't want all sorts of strange men coming and going etc. etc etc."
2012-Yes, it's 2012 with many people still ignorant of the facts on HIV/AIDS and how it is transmitted.
When I first got involved in the 80's with HIV/AIDS victims I expected to hear such fear wrapped in ignorance. Unfortunately, there are still lots of people in the dark to the facts around this malady. 
Fortunately for my friend the managers husband, and one of their friends, a fellow tenant, joined the interview just when it became necessary to calm down this woman.
She was literally freaking out sputtering all sorts of nonsense. The two men were trying to cool her jets as best they could considering she was way off the rails.
My friend had had enough!
He mentioned what laws were being violated and suggested she spend some time becoming familiar with the disease. He put the checks on the coffee table, turned and left saying he would make arrangements to have his furniture delivered. He was prepared for her to come up with some excuse for why he couldn't move in. He waited for her phone call - to his surprise, she didn't call.
The two men must have talked some sense into her. Maybe, the fear of a law suit played a role. 
He's now a proud "living on his own" tenant in a very cool studio apartment.
We laughed about the manager, though we wern't laughing humorously.
 It was sad laughter.
N.B. One cannot become infected by sharing a washing machine that a person with HIV/AIDS has used even if they were to wash bloody items. The virus is too fragile to survive.
For more information see Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Multifaith Works and my book "Ice" which shares story after story of people living, loving and surviving the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Help Us Help Them...

Student drawing...

Hungry kids in the state of Washington!
Help us help them-
If the recent statistics put forth by the U.S.Department of Agriculture are anywhere close to accurate we have a severe problem right here in the land of plenty.
Here are some highlights:
1) From 2008 through 2011the number of hungry families increased from 88,000 to 163,000. Only six states had higher growth rates.
2) In 2011, 15.4% of state residents said they struggled to attain enough food.
3) The Children’s Alliance estimated that 440,000 children (25%) live in households that do not have enough food for everyone in the household.
4) The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction reported that the number of kids receiving free or reduced lunches has increased from c390, 000 kids in May of 2008 to c470,000 in May of 2012.
5) Northwest Harvest, a food distributor, has increased distribution by 9,000,000 pounds over the last four years. (17 million to 26 million pounds). Visits to their food banks have hit 700,000 visits a month.
According to a recent Seattle Times article there is hope.
A number of non-profits, schools, and groups of students are increasing their awareness and contributions towards helping those on the margins.
Help us help them. See our website and our profile on Universal Giving.

Sources: * Northwest Harvest, Seattle Times, Seattle Schools, Greater Seattle Cares, USDA, and Children’s Alliance.