Recent local blog posts

National Rebuilding Day 2014 Brings the Community Together, Helping Each Other

Thurston Talk - Fri, 07/11/2014 - 7:20am



Submitted by Rebuilding Together Thurston County

National Rebuilding Day CrewSee all those people?  They are your neighbors!  They are just some of the folks who spent a recent Saturday working on the maintenance needs of some very special homeowners in Thurston County.  As part of Rebuilding Day 2014 there were over 150 volunteers who worked on the homes of nine individuals and families – all of whom were incredibly grateful.  It was a fabulous day and the rain held off just long enough to complete all the necessary repairs – whew!

With morning pastries provided by Momma Bear’s Bakery in Yelm, and a welcome from each of the House Captains, the six different work groups set about getting their chores checked off the proverbial list:  power wash driveways, decks and patios; pull weeds, cut back overgrown bushes and rambling ivy, plant new flowers, spread mulch, and water; replace windows that let in lots of cold air and water; clean out and repair gutters; install grab bars; repair drippy faucets; install new doors; paint; and lots more.

Eight of the projects were located in Lacey (including a mobile home park where four homeowners received services), so we were delighted to have a visit from Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt from the Lacey City Council.

Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet and a homeowner on National Rebuildling Day.

Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet and a homeowner on National Rebuildling Day.

She toured several of the projects, met with the homeowners and came away impressed with the work of so many volunteers and donors.  Mayor Pete Kmet of Tumwater rolled up his sleeves to work with the volunteers at Cheryl’s home.  Though she has an Olympia address, her home is closer to services in Tumwater, so it was particularly noteworthy that he was so generous with his time with RTTC that day.  Thanks to Ms. Pratt and Mr. Kmet, both of whom are clearly interested in the efforts of their citizenry to make their towns and homes healthier and safer.

Olympia Federal Savings (and their significant financial support), United Roofing (and their 12 roofers!), the very capable services of Hometown Property Management, and Lacey Gateway Rotary members (and their strong backs) were the movers and shakers behind the biggest project this year: Shirley’s home.  After her husband died three years ago, this 76 year old lady lost interest in most everything and didn’t have the ability to take care of much of it in any event.

With the assistance of about 45 volunteers, her home was transformed and in the end was a stunning example of how much good can be done in a day!  With a completely new roof, numerous smaller projects completed around the home and extensive landscape maintenance, her home is in a truly beautiful setting; and most importantly she feels like it’s something that she can maintain now that it is all under control.

Special thanks go to Western Cedar Supply/PABCO for the roof supplies, to Ken Kirkland for his House Captain leadership, and to Dirty Dave’s for a terrific lunch. Susan, a 70 year old woman now living alone, received services from the Lacey Presbyterian Church (a team of about 32 men and women who have been with us on Rebuilding Day for several years now; thank you, volunteers, and to the Church for their continued financial support of RTTC!).  Big thanks also go to Rob Hodgeman, the House Captain, and to Subway for the donated box lunches that kept the volunteers going through the afternoon.

Cathy Johnson, owner of Dandelion Gardens, sprucing up old planters on National Rebuilding Day.

Cathy Johnson, owner of Dandelion Gardens, sprucing up old planters on National Rebuilding Day.

The project at Crestwood Park in Lacey had an energetic crew from the YouthBuild Construction Trades program (New Market Skills Center in Tumwater) who teamed with an equally hard working larger group from KAYO/KGY Radio.  This was definitely a case of age and experience, mixed with eagerness and wonder – surely the best of all combinations!  All three homeowners (Curt, Vietnam vet; Drema, a 71 year old lady living alone; and Ivan, who is disabled) were all absolutely thrilled with the work done on their homes and the differences were significant!  The team of volunteers also replaced the security bollards at the entrance of the park that were taken out in a car accident earlier this year.  Coordinating all these efforts was the Sater family (Lane, Tonya and all five of their children, each of whom contributed to the successes of the day).  In addition, T & S Cleaning (Ted and Shirley were both there); Chris from Gillaspie’s Tree Service; and Casa Mia and their pizzas all contributed to a job well done.  And since then, we’ve received calls from others in the park who would like assistance.

Failing windows can cause lots of angst for any homeowner, but imagine if you did not have the funds to do anything about it.  That was the position 67 year old Cheryl was in, so with the enthusiasm of HomeStreet Bank employee Chris Hutchison and the major financial backing of the same institution, along with the construction skills of Nick Bevans (Bevans Construction) and John Hays (Puget Construction), she was the very happy recipient of five (yep, 5!) new windows!  In addition, Mayor Kmet was a member of this crew and Pizza Hut donated lunch for everyone.

And finally there were the Robyn and Cameo projects.  Both are relatively young women (Robyn with certain disabilities and Cameo a single mom with three kids) with leaking, safety, and security repairs – important to address to keep the homes in good and safe condition as both intend to live in their homes for years to come.  Lowe’s on Martin Way in Olympia was not only instrumental in providing work crews for both projects but also provided the expertise of James Powers (Assistant Manager of Lowe’s on Martin Way) as the House Captain for both projects.  Subway and Jimmy John’s provided lunches for participants.

In addition to all these outstanding companies and volunteers, there were several more who absolutely need recognition for their contributions, which were Rebuilding Together Groupconnected to more than one project:  Cathy Johnson of Dandelion Gardens worked on two projects and was instrumental in the coordination and design of both projects;  Mary Carskadon and Jackie Ashley enhanced everyone’s lunches by providing cookies and chips to each site; Cutter’s Point Coffee provided warming coffee for several of the sites; and Rob’s Excavation and NW Cascade provided port-a-potties for each work site.

And where would we be without Lowe’s on Martin Way in Olympia? Not in the position we’re in, that’s for sure.  They’ve been working with us for months to make sure that all materials we needed were pulled and delivered at exactly the right time; that all their employees were trained in how to deal with us and the coordination of materials; and their financial support has been huge.

Here’s a huge THANK YOU to our Executive Director, Raechel Kilcup, for all of her hard work and dedication to coordinating all of these projects as well as to all volunteers and participants who made Rebuilding Day 2014 the success that it was!

Altogether, we served 32 homes in our county during the month of April, utilized over 400 volunteers, and for every $1 donated we were able to turn it into $13 of service to these homeowners. Typically, $1 is turned into $4.  We are extremely proud of the work done and thankful for the support of our community.


10 Free Ways to Cool Off in Olympia (+1 that Costs $1)

Thurston Talk - Fri, 07/11/2014 - 6:43am




alley oop gymnasticsHot!  That’s the weather forecast for the next five days at least.  Olympia residents aren’t accustomed to 90+ degree weather and it can sometimes feel sweltering.  How do you cool off around Olympia without spending a dime?

Here are 10 ideas to keep your cool during these hot weather days.

  • Visit your local branch of the Timberland Regional Library.  You know the library is a great stop when the months of rain get you down.  Try a library visit for hot days too.  Perhaps you can even find a book about polar bears, ice cream, and ice caps.  Get more details here.
  • Jump into the Heritage Park fountain.  Check hours here.
  • Take a power walk inside the Capital Mall.  Play “I Spy” with the kids to keep them engaged while you circle.  Bonus if you wear a pedometer and log some serious miles.
  • Skip around East Bay Public Plaza.  Cool off in the stream.  Come early to get under one of the umbrellas.
  • Step next door to the LOTT Wet Science Center.  Bask in the air conditioning while getting some valuable information about preserving our precious water.
  • Swim at a local beach.  Information on six beaches can be found in this article.
  • Dip your toes at Long Lake Park.  Learn more about this summertime destination here.  Find more swimming holes here.
  • Find shade under the playground equipment at a local park.
  • Take a hike.  Get under the cool shade of massive trees.  Try Staircase in the Olympic National Park or a local nature trail.
  • Stay inside during the day and venture out at night for a free outdoor movie at Huntamer Park.  Find the schedule here.

Bonus: If you have $1 in your wallet, take in a family-friendly movie on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Get all the details on $1 summer movies here.

Want more free ideas?  Find our bucket list of 25 free things to do with kids this summer here.

Did we miss your favorite way to stay cool?  Drop us a note at


Picturesque Picnic Places in Thurston County

Thurston Talk - Fri, 07/11/2014 - 6:04am



By Lisa Herrick

all star ford sponsorFew things are more enjoyable and easier than a summer picnic-especially when natural beauty surrounds us in Thurston County. Whether headed out to a local park with kids, a romantic excursion by the water, or mid-week break with work buddies the picnicking options are plentiful.

Simply grab your picnic basket and enjoy one of summer’s best activities.


Priest Point Park

priest point park

The best of summer-watermelon and a great family picnic spot at Priest Point Park.

A quintessential Olympia picnic locale, Priest Point Park offers a combination of nature trails, views of downtown Olympia and the State Capitol building, plus access to Budd Inlet on the Puget Sound.  Just one mile from downtown Olympia on East Bay Drive, Ellis Cove is nestled within the 314-acre regional nature park. The Ellis Cove Trail winds through old trees to the beach. Picnic tables and shelters can be found throughout the park with several adjacent to the pirate ship themed playground on a springy rubber surface and the lush rose gardens on the east side of the park.

Located at 2600 East Bay Drive NE in Olympia.


Percival Landing Park

One of Olympia’s downtown waterfront parks, Percival Landing is a popular go-to picnic spot for both locals and tourists. Located in downtown Olympia on the southern most tip of the Puget Sound, the park stretches along a one mile boardwalk beside wooden docks and boats in the water, marine birds resting upon the shoreline, art sculptures, a grassy field and an expansiveplay structure for children. This scenic and easily accessible park is perfect for a waterfront outing and meal.

Located at 405 Columbia Street NW in Olympia.


tumwater falls park

Kids delight in the gentle spray of water from Tumwater Falls after enjoying a picnic in the park.

Tumwater Falls and Historical Park

Tumwater Falls Park is 15 acres that runs next to the Deschutes River. A walking path leads you by the several falls including the Upper Falls, Middle Falls and the main Tumwater Falls all of which are breathtaking. You can cross two bridges that span the river for amazing picture taking opportunities.  Plus the bordering Tumwater Historical Park reveals some of the area’s past as the historic Olympia Brewery frames the park and tells a story of a bygone era and the site is recognized as the first American settlement on Puget Sound where the settlers used the river to power their mills.

Located at 110 Deschutes Parkway SW in Tumwater.


Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is a great park for a family day or just an adventure for two. Pack a picnic, bring your binoculars or borrow a pair from the visitor center, and head out for your stroll throughout the refuge. There are several hiking options in the refuge, but the most exciting is the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail as it leads to an observation platform. Find a bench along the trail to listen for the sounds of the birds and animals while enjoying your picnic or find a table near the Twin Barns.

Located at 100 Brown Farm Road NE north of Olympia.


huntamer park

Huntamer Park is the site for many family friendly outdoor events throughout the summer.

Huntamer Park

In the heart of Lacey and the hub of the city’s events, Huntamer Park is a great location for families to meet up in the middle of the day for a picnic. This downtown Lacey park is the site of numerous outdoor events throughout the summer. The kids can run around and play on the climbing rocks. If timed right, you can picnic and catch one of the many summer performances on the stage. Just set out a blanket and unpack the fixin’s!

Located at 618 Woodland Square Loop SE in Lacey (Corner of Woodland Square Loop and 7th Avenue SE)


Find more stories about Olympia area parks and beaches by clicking here.

Olympia Weekend Event Calendar

Thurston Talk - Fri, 07/11/2014 - 5:53am



Wow!  If you haven’t looked at the five day forecast yourself, then I’m certain that someone has told you about the 90+ degree weather that we have in our future.  We don’t get many weekends like this in Olympia.  Take advantage of the sunshine and try a new outdoor activity.  Our Activities section is packed with family-friendly things to do around town.

Submit an event for our calendar here.

ThurstonTalk aims to be your source for positive information and events happening in Olympia.  If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at  For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.


Dr. Murray Smith’s Top 10 Reasons for Lower Back Pain (and How to Prevent It)

Thurston Talk - Thu, 07/10/2014 - 2:03pm



By Kate Scriven

Dr. Murray Smith at Eastside Chiropractic enjoying his favorite past-time - fishing.

Eastside Chiropractic’s Dr. Murray Smith enjoying his favorite past-time – fishing.

Dr. Murray Smith has seen a lot of patients in his nearly 25 years serving Thurston County patients as an experienced chiropractor.  His practice, Eastside Chiropractic, has grown over the years to include experienced massage therapists, a licensed nutritionist, and most recently, another chiropractor to meet all his patient’s needs.

With this longevity comes a lifetime of knowledge about what most often lands patients in his office.  The number one complaint by far is lower back pain.  Through the years he’s seen nearly every reason for back pain and here shares his “Top 10” reasons from his patients.  Or, as Dr. Smith, with his quick wit and terrific sense of humor states, “The Top 10 Things that Keep Murray in Business!”

While Dr. Smith may crack a joke about these common areas of patient discomfort, he’s very serious about his commitment to helping patients heal, educating them about how to stay healthy, and ultimately away from the chiropractor’s office.

Dr. Smith’s Top 10 Reasons for Patient Pain

  1. Don’t Work Out – Yep, it’s as simple as that.  If you don’t move your body, keeping your muscles in shape and your joints mobile, you’ll usually end up with pain.  Dr. Smith isn’t askingpatients to run marathons, just to include a regular routine of moderate physical activity in their daily lives.

    Guerilla Running Capital Lake

    Regular exercise helps tone core muscles, supporting the lower back.

  2. Lift Heavy Object Incorrectly – Helping your neighbor move?  Decided you could remove that old washing machine on your own?  Chances are the results include pain in the lower back with potentially lasting effects.  Learn to lift correctly.  Eastside Chiro’s patient care includes functional training on how to maneuver daily activities without injury.
  3. Own a Trampoline – Yes, it is fun.  It’s also a major cause of accidents and pain for many people that come through Eastside Chiro.  Think twice about your fitness level before taking a turn on the trampoline at the next backyard BBQ and maybe leave it to the kids.
  4. Go Snowboarding –Smith knows well that the fixed footed position of snowboarders causes a myriad of issues for those attempting the sport without proper training  and conditioning.  Know your limits before diving into a sport that may result in a longer relationship with Dr. Smith than you were planning.
  5. Ride a Quad – Again, it’s pretty fun.  But also pretty dangerous.  If you choose to ride an off-road vehicle do so safely.  Wear protective gear, don’t take unnecessary risks, drive sober, and ultimately, know your physical fitness level.  Without good core strength and tone for spinal support, a quad can do a real number on the lower back.

    gardening photos 004

    Be cautious of over-doing on the weekends, causing increased back pain.

  6. Have a Garden – I’m pretty sure that Dr. Smith wouldn’t say having a garden is bad for your health.  However, he sees the effects of weekendwarrior-style gardening.  Again, know your limitations.  Use physical aids (weeding stools, power tools, strong friends!) to assist when heavy jobs are athand.  Take on smaller chunks of work and don’t put in a 12 hour day in the yard when you’ve spent most of the winter tending the remote control.
  7. Overindulge in Alcohol – When the summer months of BBQs, boating and fun in the sun ramp up, so do the instances of alcohol related pain.  The lowered inhibitions after a few drinks may make you try risky behaviors you may not normally attempt.  Riding quads and jumping on trampolines often go hand in hand here.  Be cautious, be smart.
  8. Get older – Sadly none of us can avoid this one.  Age is an inevitable and common cause of increased pain and discomfort in our joints and spine.  While we cannot slow time, we can help mitigate its effects by staying active, drinking plenty of water, getting good rest.

    eastside chiro

    Eastside Chiropractic includes nutritional counseling services.

  9. Sleep on an Old Mattress or the Couch – We spend a large portion of each 24-hour period in our beds, resting and restoring our body for the next day’s activities.  If that sleep is compromised by a poor mattress, or worse a couch, it can seriously impact the amount of pain during waking hours.  Assess your bed.  Does it sag?  Is it more than 10 years old?  Doyou have difficulty finding a comfortable position?  Might be time for an upgrade.
  10. Gain Weight – No one would say that gaining weight is a daily goal, however many of the choices we make each day add unwanted pounds.  Choosing healthy foods, walking instead of driving, drinking water instead of sugary drinks, and getting away from the screen are all daily choices keeping weight down.  Our spines were not designed to carry excessive weight and each pound over your optimum weight adds stress, resulting in pain.

Dr. Smith wants all his patients to be pain free.  And while he may joke about these 10 things that will keep patients coming through the door, his primary focus is to educate each one about how to stay far away from the Chiropractor’s office.

Back pain is avoidable.  Stay active, keeping your weight down and muscle tone up is the key for most people.  Increase flexibility with daily stretching.  Know your limits, avoiding activities that will cause pain.  It’s a simple prescription, but a proven one for a healthy life.




Saint Martin’s University Welcomes Back Genevieve Canceko Chan as Vice President of Marketing and Communications

Thurston Talk - Thu, 07/10/2014 - 1:46pm



Submitted by Saint Martin’s University

Genevieve Canceko ChanSaint Martin’s University welcomes back Genevieve Canceko Chan as its vice president of marketing and communications. Chan, who served in that role from 2009 to 2010, replaces Jennifer Fellinger, who recently accepted a position in another state.

“We’re excited to have Genevieve return to the Saint Martin’s community,” says Saint Martin’s University President Roy Heynderickx. “Her expertise in marketing, communications and social media will help propel Saint Martin’s to the next level – we know this from the superior quality of her work and her great attention to detail.”

As vice president, Chan will be in a pivotal role at the University, where she will serve as the University’s chief spokesperson and provide leadership and direction for all marketing and communication initiatives for Saint Martin’s. Chan will report directly to President Heynderickx.

Chan looks forward to reconnecting with the many members of the Saint Martin’s community and to growing the university’s visibility by sharing the stories of its students, alumni, faculty and staff.

“I’m grateful for this opportunity to once again be a part of the inspiring, mission-driven environment that is Saint Martin’s,” says Chan. “I am eager to continue the exciting momentum that the University has built in recent years and to strengthen our role as an important resource for education and innovation in the greater South Sound area.”

A communications professional for more than 15 years, Chan brings a wide range of experience in strategic planning, academic publishing, marketing and public relations. She has worked primarily for nonprofit organizations and higher education institutions, including the American Bar Association, Beacon Press, Dartmouth College and, most recently, Olympia’s Hands On Children’s Museum.

She is a member of the Leadership Thurston County Program class of 2009-10 and the Flagstaff Leadership Program class of 2011-12. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and her master’s degree from the University of Michigan.

Chan resides in nearby Olympia with her husband and young son.

Port Commission Will Consider Marine Terminal Master Plan And Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement

Thurston Talk - Thu, 07/10/2014 - 1:32pm



Submitted by The Port of Olympia

Port OverviewThe Port Commission’s July 14agenda includes an advisory on the proposed Marine Terminal Master Plan and a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for each of the Port districts, beginning with the Marine Terminal District. Commission action on this item is anticipated for the August 11 meeting.

Also on the agenda is the Commission’s consideration of bids to construct Warehouse B. The Commission could go forward with warehouse construction or potentially reject all bids.

The Port’s SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) determination and the City of Olympia’s land use approval decision on Warehouse B are final and not subject to further review or challenge. However, the Port’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) dates back to 1994. While the FEIS’s underlying assumptions and analyses of the general land uses of Port properties are valid, the age of the FEIS and its many revisions and addenda to support current planning over the years make it unwieldy in terms of analysis and implementation.

If approved by the Commission at its August 11 meeting, the Marine Terminal Master Plan and SEIS project is anticipated to take 18 to 24 months to complete, exclusive of any appeals. This timeline includes preparing the Request for Qualifications, solicitation and award of contracts, preparation of the draft and final SEIS documents, and public comment.

The Marine Terminal Master Plan would not be effective until the Commission adopts it as part of the Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements and Capital Budget. Both include public process.

The Marine Terminal’s SEIS—and the SEIS for each Port district—would thoroughly assess and document the environmental impacts of planned future re-design or expansion projects. The Port would use each district’s SEIS to provide SEPA review for the district’s elements of the Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements and Budget adoption for those elements.

The SEIS process essentially follows standard Environmental Impact Statement procedures. Issuance of the SEIS and any associated appeal process are governed by the SEPA statute, implementing SEPA regulations, and the Port’s adopted SEPA Policy Resolution that is then in effect. The Port Commission is currently considering revisions to its SEPA Policy Resolution.

The public is invited to the Commission meeting on Monday, July 14, 5:30 PM, at the Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW, Olympia 98501.

Calling All Open Class Baking, Beverages and Preserves

Thurston Talk - Thu, 07/10/2014 - 1:28pm



Submitted by The Thurston County Fair

Open class food entries due before fair opens July 30

This year’s Thurston County Fair has baking, canning, brewing and bee-keeping for the whole herd! But you’ll have to hurry—entries for many of this year’s open class food contests are due during the week before the fair opens on Wednesday, July 30:
  • Open Class Baking: 3-7 p.m. on Monday, July 28 — Enter your favorite yeast or quick breads, cakes, cookies, candies, or pies. Remember to also enter the daily baking contests listed below and get free admission with your tasty baked treats.
  • Open Class Beverages: 3-7 p.m. on Monday, July 21 — Ales, beers, ciders and wines are all welcome in the beverage contests. Check the 2014 Exhibitor’s Guide for a complete list of categories.
  • Open Class Preserved Foods: 3-7 p.m. on Monday July 21 and Monday, July 28 — Enter your canned fruits and vegetables, pickles, sauces, jams and jellies, vinegars, meats, and dehydrated foods, plus many more preserved foods. Check the 2014 Exhibitor’s Guide for a complete list of categories.
  • Open Class Honey: 3-7 p.m. on Monday, July 28 ONLY — From Water White to Dark Amber and everything in between, test your cache of golden honey against the best in the South Sound in the open class honey contests. Honey entries will not be accepted with other preserved food entries on July 21.
All open class food entries are submitted at Heritage Hall at the county fairgrounds. For all the best bakers with flour to spare, be sure to enter the Dessert of the Day contests during fair week. Bakers who present their Dessert of the Day entry at the gate get free admission to the fair for the day!
  • Thursday, July 31—Chocolate Cake Contest
  • Friday, August 1—Cookie Contest
  • Saturday, August 2—“Berry Best Pie” Contest sponsored by Spooner’s Berry Farms
  • Sunday, August 3—Cupcake Contest
All of the information and details you need to compete in open class food contests and hundreds of other open class and club contests are included in the 2014 Exhibitor’s Guide. The guide also includes information on entry forms, camping, and this year’s calendar of events from July 30 through August 3. Download the complete 2014 Exhibitor’s Guide at For more information on the 2014 Thurston County Fair Exhibitor’s Guide, contest entry forms or other fair activities, contact the Thurston County Fair Office at (360) 786-5453 or visit    “Fun for the Whole Herd at the Thurston County Fair!”  July 30 – Aug. 3

Where would've been a better place to put Evergreen?

Olympia Time - Thu, 07/10/2014 - 10:28am
@jeff_james is always on my back about Olympia. It isn't a college town, he says. It doesn't have the normal trappings of the Midwest college towns that he was used to. Somehow it always comes down to college bars, but I think that's just what I remember.

Ken also points this out, that the relationship between Evergreen and Olympia is different:

Nicandri said there’s a lack of things for students to do on the college campus, and its physical isolation causes even more problems.   “There’s no place for a student to buy an aspirin or visit a laundromat or buy other needed items without leaving the campus,” he said.

While touting the great academic component of the college, Nicandri said its time to re-look at the campus and perhaps allow some commercial activities.   This has to be coupled with renovating the existing dorms and constructing additional housing facilities.

“Perhaps its time to talk about requiring students to live on campus,” he said.Evergreen and Olympia are inseparable, but the reality of their actual physical distance (and irony that people need to be able to drive to campus) has some real impacts. If you are a student with a job or even a family life, its easier to live off campus than on. The cultural mix between the campus community and town is stilted.

Sure, people can point to things we have here (OFS, general art community) that we can credit to the college and its alumni. But, you'd have to admit that these institutions would be stronger and more diverse if the campus was closer (or actually in) town.

Which begs the question, how would the founders of the school, in 1968, found a place closer to Olympia? It isn't like Evergreen is the University of Washington. The UW was founded in the 1800s, and the city and the school literally grew together over time. Now, the school is firmly integrated into the city's geography, but it took decades for that to happen.

What choices did the school founders have in the 1960s to get closer. Turns out, they had at least one great choice, not far from the current campus.

The site where the Olympia Auto Mall, the South Puget Sound Community College and Mottman Industrial Park was nearly empty in the late 1960s (image from Earth Explorer):
Not only was the site empty (seemingly available) it was also connected to a portion of Olympia that was already developed, granted it was a sleepy residential neighborhood at the time. But, in the decade soon after the founding of Evergreen, the westside of Olympia exploded with commercial and residential growth. Other parts of town I looked at included the general Southeast (less open space, more houses) and Northeast (same). But, I'm curious about other parts of town. Would it have been possible to do Evergreen NYU style? Build a handful of reasonable office buildings downtown? Maybe the emptying of downtown happened 10 years too late for that to work out, but it would've been interesting. Anyway, food for thought.

Jessica Dana Still Chasing Her Dream Of Racing NASCAR

Thurston Talk - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 1:05pm



By Gail Wood

les schwabShe’s become a familiar scene at South Sound Speedway, racing her late-model white Chevy Impala with No. 12 in black on the car door.

Jessica Dana is the gusty, step-on-it race car driver chasing a dream – she wants to become NASCAR’s next Danica Patrick. Four years ago, at just 15, Dana, barely big enough to see over the dash, first started racing at the tracks, topping 90 mph speeding around Tenino’s South South track.

Two years ago, a TV production crew was talking to the Dana family about doing a reality-documentary type program about her racing. And a national sponsor was showing interest in jumping on the Dana dream train, sponsoring her and covering the costs of car repair, travel and expenses.

jessica dana

Jessica Dana’s racing career began with quads when she was eight.

“We had a ton of momentum,” said Troy Dana, Jessica’s dad, her biggest fan and her crew chief.

Owners of the South Sound Speedway told Troy his daughter was the fastest among the limited late models racing at the track. But the reality show fizzled and the national sponsor never signed. And Jessica, at the ripe age of 19, is finding that good fortune can be fickle.

“I’m learning there’s always up and downs in racing,” Troy said. “We’ve experienced both this year.”

First came the good – a ninth place finish at Wenatchee in April. Then came the bad – a wreck last month at Evergreen Speedway that totaled her car. On the first lap of a qualifying race, Jessica got side swiped as she was moving up two cars, spinning her car completely around and facing the wrong way. Another car then hit her head on, damaging the car but fortunately not hurting her.

“The front of the car got pretty messed up,” Jessica said. “But it could have been much worse.”

Troy talks about his daughter’s journey as a race car driver in “And She Thinks We’re Just Racing,” a book written from a father’s perspective. The impetus of her NASCAR dream began in a two-month period in early 2010. Jessica, then a sophomore at Tumwater High School, beat two racing legends – Travis Pastrana and Jeff Gordon – in charity go-kart races.

Making those wins even more impressive is that she had been racing go-karts for just a couple of months. Then, keeping to her full-speed ahead approach to chasing her NASCAR dream, Jessica again did the unexpected. Just a year and a half after beating Gordon in a go-kart race, she raced in the Miller 200 at South Sound Speedway. In her first race, Jessica, reaching speeds of over 95 mph, finished 11th in a field of 25 cars in the late-model stock car division. She became the youngest female ever to enter that Miller 200.

Jessica, who graduated from Tumwater High School last year and will begin classes at South Puget Sound Community College in the fall, has always had an infatuation with going fast. When she was 4, Jessica, much to her mother’s disdain, began riding quads. By the time she was 8, she was racing them.

But even though Jessica has always had this penchant for speed, her dad was never the one coaxing her to race, pushing her because that’s something he wanted.

“This has been Jessica’s dream,” Troy said. “I’m there to support her. The minute she says ‘Dad I’m scared’ or the minute she says ‘Dad I’m done,’ I’m good with it. You’ll see a for sale sign on some race cars real fast.”

Jessica’s dream is still to become a NASCAR driver. But she knows the clock is ticking.

“Oh yeah, I’m still working on it,” she said. “I’ll be at the ripe old age of 20 in December.”

There is a time limit to when the NASCAR extends the invitation to join the circuit.

jessica dana

Jessica Dana is still hoping to race in NASCAR.

“We don’t say there’s a cutoff line, but what we’ve noticed is that they pick up the new up and comer drivers at 18, right when they get out of high school,” said Jessica, who graduated from Tumwater last year. “So I’m a year late.”

Because of their limited budget – while they’ve got some local sponsorship much of the costs are out-of-pocket – Jessica doesn’t get much practice time on the track. Naturally, practice time costs in rental time on the track.

“That costs about as much as four tires,” Jessica said.

So, her practice comes on race days. Still, Jessica is comfortable behind the wheel, traveling as fast at 140 mph on the straightaways at Evergreen. She doesn’t dwell on accidents. She can’t.

“If you think about it, you’re going into the race in the wrong mindset,” Jessica said. “I know my dad probably thinks about it. So, I let him worry for me.”

Sometimes Troy does fret. He is the dad. But he’s loved this journey that’s cost him a lot of money but brought him closer to his daughter. For Troy, car racing has been his chance at being together with his daughter. It’s been like what other fathers do with their daughters, like camping, fishing or going to the park – minus the serenity.

JESSICA AND CAR“We got through the terrible teens and she still calls me dad,” Troy said. “I’ve been so fortunate, so blessed that I have that bond with her. That to me is the rewarding part. And to go out there and do what nobody thought we could do and be competitive when no one thought we could. That’s pretty rewarding, too.”

Earlier this year, K&N, a pro circuit on the west coast that televises its races, invited Jessica to race in its series. But with a limited budget, the Dana’s turned down the offer.

“They rolled out the red carpet for her,” Troy said. “It’s a national platform. But we wouldn’t have any money left to run locally.”

They could have afforded to race in just two K&N races. Instead, they’ll race in five or six local races. Her next race will probably be Aug. 16 at the Evergreen Speedway.

“That was one of the toughest decisions that she and I have had to make,” Troy said.

To order Jessica’s book or to get updates on her driving, go to her website at


Golden jam

The Plum Palate - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 12:10pm
Last spring we planted a stand of ‘Anne’ raspberries, between the fence and the walkway in the back yard. These are golden raspberries, plump sweet ones that grew all through the summer, in defiance of the grower, who told us it could be a year before we saw a yield. The new plants are prolific […]
Categories: Local Food Blogs

PNW author Ned Hayes reading at Orca Books

OlyBlog Home Page - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 11:00am
Event:  Sat, 07/12/2014 - 7:00pm

Orca Books is thrilled to welcome bestselling Northwest author Ned Hayes to the store on Saturday, July 12th at 7pm.  Ned is the author of Sinful Folk and Coeur D'Alene Waters. logo Twitter logo Google Plus One Facebook Like

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Marbled Murrelets in the Wild

Maria Mudd Ruth - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 10:45am

The Marbled Murrelets put on quite a show on the wild central Oregon Coast this week during the Portland Audubon Society's  9th annual Marbled Murrelet citizen survey.

Please hover and click your way through the photo gallery above to see scenes from the morning survey in Audubon's Ten-Mile Creek Sanctuary (where sanctuary manager Paul Engelmeyer lead one of several groups of pre-dawn surveyors) and the coastal area near Yachats where we later observed these fast-flying, forest-nesting seabirds on the water just beyond the breakers (with the help of Kim Nelson, Oregon State University).

You might think that getting up at 4 a.m. is not your cup of tea, but you'll find yourself gulping in every minute of the morning when you are standing in a grassy meadow lighted with fog-diffused moonlight and across the creek from stands of old-growth spruce, hemlock, cedar, and fir. You can feel the life in this sanctuary where the forest is being lovingly restored to balance, where the dawn chorus of thrushes, robins, grosbeaks, and waxwings are so loud you fear they will drown out that cherished keer call of the bird you have come all this way to hear.

Luckily, there is nothing quite like the piercing call of the marbled murrelet. Our group of eight is intent on hearing the call and catching a glimpse of a fast-flying Marbled Murrelet as it flies from the ocean some three miles to the west and the old-growth forest where it are incubating an egg or feeding a chick.

It takes most of us a while to calibrate our ears to high-pitched call and to figure out where exactly to look in homogenous depth of gray fog to look for the tiny fleeting forms of the murrelet. It is easy to mistake mosquitoes and the floaters in your eyes for marbled murrelets.

Thankfully,  the murrelets called loudly, often, and gave us time to find them in the sky. Everyone got the hang of it. While many flew above or in the fog, we did  see many murrelets flying below the fog--in  solo, in pairs, and in groups of four and five. They made their keer calls and the "alternate" or "groan" calls--the one I think sounds like a murrelet impersonating a duck playing a kazoo. They circled over the meadow and behind the trees. They flew silently. They had us pointing, turning, spinning in the meadow. It was spectacular.

Knowing what I know about the marbled murrelet, one glimpse of this bird or one burst of keer calls is more satisfying to me than the experience I had the day before of seeing  thousands of Common Murres just offshore (below).

So common. Just one of the off-shore colonies of Common Murres (and  few cormorants) near the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Newport, Oregon. You could watch, hear, study, photograph, or paint the 65,000 murres here all day long! (Photo by MM Ruth)

So common. Just one of the off-shore colonies of Common Murres (and  few cormorants) near the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Newport, Oregon. You could watch, hear, study, photograph, or paint the 65,000 murres here all day long! (Photo by MM Ruth)

Alas, I have no photographs of marbled murrelets flying by, no recording of their calls--just the memory of their flight and the echo of their call to treasure.

Thanks to Paul Engelmeyer, Kim Nelson, the Audubon Society of Portland, and many others for all the work over so many day, months, and years, to make such an experience of a wild bird and a wild forest possible.



Categories: Local Environment

Saint Martin’s Faculty Studies Connections between Food and Literature During Recent Fellowship

Thurston Talk - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 10:15am



Submitted by Saint Martin’s University

Jeff BerkensteinSaint Martin’s University Associate Professor of English Jeff Birkenstein, Ph.D., recently returned from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where a fellowship from that University’s Clements Library enabled him to further his research.

The recipient of an Upton Foundation Fellowship on American History, Birkenstein spent a month delving into the library’s Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive for his upcoming monograph examining significant food in fiction. The archive has a vast collection of cookbooks, menus, diaries and ephemera related to American culinary history from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century.

Birkenstein, a 2013 Fulbright Teaching and Research Award recipient, has long studied the role and symbolism of food in literature. His archival research at Clements Library involved combing through old cookbooks and other food-related documents for narrations, explanations, quotes and stories that would help illuminate the role of American food in fiction written both then and now.

Describing himself as “a successful eater for my entire life,” Birkenstein specializes in American literature, short story and food-and-culture literature, the last of which led to a University course called “Food & Fiction.” He also has team-taught two interdisciplinary courses, “Food and the Economy of Culture” and “Food, Culture and Fiction,” with fellow faculty members Heather Grob, Ph.D., associate prof. of business, and Irina Gendelman, Ph.D., associate professor of communication, respectively.  An avid traveler, he uses his journeys to learn about – and enjoy – the local food scene.

Birkenstein argues that food, though important, is rarely the end in and of itself: “Rather, food is a vehicle, a lens, through which we can seek to understand what we always seek to understand when reading fiction: the human condition,” he says.  “I am, ultimately, interested in the connection of cooking, cookbooks and discussion about cooking to various forms of community and political engagement.”

Birkenstein, along with co-authors Anna Froula, Ph.D., of East Carolina University, and Karen Randall, Ph.D., of the University of Bedfordshire, UK, recently published a book, “The Cinema of Terry Gilliam: It’s a Mad World” (Columbia UP/Wallflower). He earned his doctorate in English, as well as a master’s degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, from the University of Kentucky. He received his first master’s degree in English from California State University, Long Beach, and his bachelor’s degree, also in English, from the University of California, Los Angeles.


Lacey Community Market Opens for 2014 Season

Thurston Talk - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 10:06am



Submitted by The City of Lacey

FarmersMarket_LaceyMarket1 copyA wide variety of produce, flowers, food, and craft vendors will line the streets surrounding Huntamer Park in Lacey this Saturday, July 12, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. as the Lacey Community Market kicks off its summer season. Visitors to the market will stroll through more than 60 booths of eclectic offerings, locally harvested foods, bakery treats, and repurposed treasures.
The theme of Saturday’s market is Yard and Garden Day and guest speakers will be on hand to provide expert advice. Beginning at 11:00 a.m., Joan Hurst from G & H Pastured Poultry will explain the ins and outs of raising chickens in an urban environment. At 12:00 noon, renowned plant expert Kellie Peterson from Gordon’s Garden Center will show how to create traffic- stopping, fender-bending potted plant displays. Finally, Mary Corso from Courtyard Antiques will be on stage with her paint brushes at 1:00 p.m. demonstrating how to repurpose old furniture into new garden pieces with the use of chalk paint.
In addition to unique vendors, great food, and expert advice, the Lacey Community Market also offers free activities for children, plenty of nearby parking, and a pet-friendly atmosphere. New this year is Zumba in the Park, beginning at 2:00 p.m.!
The Lacey Community Market is held every second Saturday in the summer at the beautiful Huntamer Park, just off College Street SE at 7th Avenue SE in Lacey. Market dates this year are July 12, August 9, and September 13. New vendors are welcome. More information can be found on the city’s official website at

Section of Thurston County Transportation Trail Closed July 12 for STP Bikers

Thurston Talk - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 10:04am



Submitted by Thurston County

A portion of Thurston County’s recreational-transportation trail system will be temporarily closed this Saturday.  The closure of the 14.5 mile Yelm-to-Tenino trail is to accommodate the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic.  This is the only event that causes the temporary closure of the trail to the general public. The closure allows passage of an estimated 10,000 bike riders over a relatively short period of time.  The trail closes to the public from 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM. on July 12 and signs are posted on the trail.

Some Background-

  • The 14.5-mile-long Yelm to Tenino Trail starts at a trail head behind Yelm City Hall at the corner of Hwy 507 and Hwy 510 in Yelm.
  • The trail runs from Yelm, through Rainier, and ends at the Tenino City Park.
  • The trail has been swept, mowed, and otherwise prepped for the event.  Signs announcing the temporary closure have also been posted.
  • The public can view the riders from the trail heads at Yelm, Rainier, and Tenino. There is plenty of room for parking and sitting at picnic tables at all three locations.
  • Tenino City Park will have water stations and other services for bike riders set up adjacent to the parking area in the park.
  • The 202-mile-long Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic started in 1979 with only 1980 off, because of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.


Buy 2014 Thurston County Fair Passes Now and Save

Thurston Talk - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 9:37am



Submitted by the Thurston County Fair

DDM Thurston County Fair-30Advance purchase discounts on admission passes and carnival armbands

Buying your admission passes and carnival ride armbands in advance of this year’s Thurston County Fair will get you savings for the whole herd! Discount admission passes and carnival ride armbands are on sale now at the Thurston County Fair Office.

Get your biggest savings with your advance purchase of carnival ride armbands for only $19 each—that’s $5 off the regular price. Carnival armbands are good for unlimited carnival rides for one day during the 2014 fair that runs Wednesday, July 30 through Sunday, August 3.

Season passes are also bargain at 40 percent off the full price daily admission rate. Family Passes will get you five admissions for $25 when purchased in advance, but Family Pass supplies are limited, so get yours today. Remember, admission for children 5 years old and under is always free!

All advance purchase passes and carnival armbands are available only at the Thurston County Fair Office.

For even more savings, bring your carnival armband on July 30 for “One Buck Wednesday.” All adult, youth and senior admission prices are just $1 with a non-perishable food donation per person to the Thurston County Food Bank. Doors open at 10 a.m. on One Buck Wednesday. Be sure to check out all of the One Buck Wednesday specials, including one buck food specials, and other One Buck Wednesday deals at participating vendors.

Other special discounts are available at the fair this year. Kid’s Day is Thursday, July 31 when all admission tickets for kids 6 to 14 years old are just $2 when purchased at the gate. August 1 is also Buddy Day when you can get two carnival armbands for $24 if you and a buddy are both present at the time of purchase (no advance purchase available for Buddy Day special).

Friday, August 1 is Military Appreciation Day at the fair, when fairgoers can get $2 admission tickets when they present their military ID at the gate. There are also lots of other vendor and food deals—just ask about Military Appreciation Day specials and present your military ID.

WHAT:          Discount Advance Purchase Fair Passes & Carnival Ride ArmbandsDDM Thurston County Fair-31

  • Family Pass (limited quantities available, buy now!) — $25
  • Season Pass (40 percent off the daily admission rate) — $10 to $21
  • One-day unlimited carnival rides armband advance purchase — $19  (gate price $24; ride tickets $1.25 each)
  • *Children ages 5 and under are always FREE!

WHEN:          On sale now through Tuesday, July 29

WHERE:       Thurston County Fair Office at 3054 Carpenter Road SE in Lacey, 98503


To learn more about 2014 fair events, entertainment and exhibits, contact the Thurston County Fair Office at (360) 786-5453 or visit

“Fun for the Whole Herd at the Thurston County Fair!”   July 30 – Aug. 3

Flipping Out over Filipino Phil’s Sauces

Thurston Talk - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 6:02am



By Mary Ellen Psaltis

filipino phils sauce

Filipino Phil created the business alongside his wife Michelle Meithof. Phil creates the recipes and Michelle handles the business.

Filipino Phil is a big man with an equally big heart. His zest for life comes through loud and clear when your lips wrap around food dunked, blended or topped with any of his Filipino Phil’s Nuclear Chipotle Sauces. Bold and bright, these multi-purpose sauces are ready to add greater depth and flair to any meal. Maybe you’re already a fan. But did you know that Filipino Phil and his secret recipes live in Thurston County?

It’s hard to say where it all started, but let’s begin with Filipino Phil’s grandfather who emigrated from the Philippines to the United States in 1928. He taught Phil to cook rice at the young age of three. Phil was a natural in the kitchen and became proficient at an early on, though he chose carpentry as his life’s trade. He acquired the nickname Filipino Phil as a youth, as well. It quickly solved the questions people asked about his ethnicity. The name stuck.

Moving ahead to 2010, Filipino Phil was having fish tacos for dinner and wanted something new to put on top. He was “bored in the kitchen” and whipped up what is now the original sauce – Nuclear Chipotle. Jelly jars were filled and given away to family and friends. The response was positive and many encouraged them to go into business. Though people kept wanting more and Filipino Phil liked the idea of creating new recipes, he was uninterested in turning his sauces into a business. He told his wife Michelle Meithof, that if she wanted to run the whole thing, he would do the recipes if she would do everything else. She agreed.

Michelle handles all aspects of the business, besides recipes, while also working full-time at Red Wind Casino. She enumerated the ways they used the various sauces at home: pizza sauce, baked with chicken, grilled with salmon, topping for burgers, squirted on sausage and crackers and mixed into pasta. Use Filipino Phil’s with your oysters or shrimp cocktails and even in your Bloody Mary. You could mix the sauce with sour cream for a lively vegetable dish, but Meithof said they are planning to come out with their own ranch dressing. The recipes are already complete.

Filipino Phil realized that having three sauces would work best for marketing purposes. The first one, Nuclear Chipotle, was thought by some tasters to be too hot. The recipe was changed and the temperature brought down and Sissy Sauce was born. Those who love heat thought that the original sauce was not hot enough. Then came Nuclear Meltdown. My taste buds are not sissies but were invigorated by the Sissy Sauce. You get to decide for yourself what intensity works best for you.

filipino phils sauce

Filipino Phil’s sauces can be found at Bayview and Ralph’s Thriftway stores.

The first retail bottle appeared in October 2012. Already Filipino Phil’s sauces are award winners. The Nuclear Meltdown received a 2014 Scovie for Unique Wing Sauce and the Nuclear Chipotle for Condiments – Hot & Spicy.

To my delight, there is mustard, too. Though a bit resistant initially to developing his own recipe, Filipino Phil embraced the challenge and after numerous incarnations and a bevy of local tasters, Swawsome Mustard became product #4. The comical yellow label features a fiery hot dog with a ghost pepper travelling through it. My deviled eggs will never be the same. After trying the mustard (or my eggs) you’re going to want some more – because it’s awesome. Swawsome.

Recognize Filipino Phil’s Nuclear Chipotle Sauces by their colorful labels and characteristic peace sign. They were designed by Filipino Phil with the help of a label maker. All recipes and labels are owned by the business. You can find Filipino Phil’s Nuclear Chipotle Sauces at both Stormans grocery stores, Bayview and Ralph’s. They make great additions to your pantry – and a great gift. All their products are gluten free.

filipino phils

Filipino Phil’s sauces are made locally in Thurston County.

The unique combination of cucumbers, peppers and spices provides a sauce that is meant to be hot but to still have the flavor of the food come through. “We don’t want to kill the taste of the food,” assures Meithof and we are “very particular about the product.” What’s coming up? Filipino Phil told me that the recipes for their dry rubs are all finished. Keep watching for them.

A full dose of Filipino Phil’s Nuclear Chipotle Meltdown Sauce may not be for the faint of heart (or mouth), but used judiciously (or extravagantly) you can rev up your barbequed meats and side dishes. Live Boldly!

Eat Well – Be Well


Avoiding Burnout: Caregiver Support at Garden Courte

Thurston Talk - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 5:57am



Garden Courte 1Everyone needs a break sometimes.  Whether it’s from work, children, or the hustle and bustle of everyday chores, our health depends on those little moments of rest.  Sometimes, however, that’s easier said than done.

The Family Caregiver Alliance states that over 43 million adult family members are caring for someone over the age of 50, with almost 15 million supervising Alzheimer’s or dementia care.  Their statistics claim that “the value of unpaid family caregivers will likely continue to be the largest source of long-term care services in the U.S., and the aging population 65+ will more than double between the years 2000 and 2030, increasing to 71.5 million from 35.1 million in 2000.”

Olympia’s Garden Courte Memory Care Community is a local network of loving support for our aging population.  Their award-winning staff host community fundraising events and provide school supplies for our local students in need.  They offer every manner of eldercare, from determining ‘when it’s time’ to sharing the exciting meals, activities, and stimulating interaction needed as we age.

Community Marketing Director Marilyn Richards is proud of the Daycare and Respite offerings at Garden Courte.  “Wouldn’t a break for myself make me a better caregiver?  Many people don’t realize until it is too late that they could be facing ‘burnout’ with the individual they are caring for.  Especially with dementia it can be tough because there is definitely some anxiety on both the caregiver and the individual suffering from the disease.  Possible wandering that could put them in harm’s way, up at various hours of the night keeping the caregiver awake all night, safety fears with kitchen items, bathing hazards, or getting into something that might be hazardous to their health.

“All this takes a toll on people and the situation,” Richards continues.  “When given an opportunity to ‘get away from the stress/environment’ and re-charge it can make the situation attainable upon return.  Revitalized caregivers make for better caregivers.”

Respite care is traditionally for a few days or weeks, whereas daycare is just that.  Whether it’s to attend an out of town event or just a pending medical appointment, caregivers are free to arrange a break, knowing their loved one will be secure, engaged, and provided the best care in town.  As Richards explains “Now they can have a break to run errands, meet friends for lunch, go places and do the things they need to stay happy and healthy while still providing them with the comforts of home on their schedule.”

Garden Courte 2These temporary offerings are also a great chance for aging relatives to get comfortable with the staff and layout of Garden Courte.  Should full-time elder care become a necessity down the road, the transition will be much less stressful for everyone, caregiver and recipient alike.

Richards notes that Garden Courte offers many activities to residents, including “Outdoor courtyards, wide open walking halls, great people to mix and mingle with. Our activities are designed to distract, engage and offer an opportunity to be a part of a quality of life that rewards them and gives them a feeling of purpose.  Not all folks participate hands on, but just being in the room and watching allows them to feel at ease.  The music Garden Courte invites into their community is bar none the best.  With a variety of instruments our entertainers play, the residents get lost in the moment.  It is a true ‘moment of success’.”

Staffers at Garden Courte also offer caregiver support in the form of monthly guest speakers and online question-and-answer sessions.  These can be invaluable not only as resources but to help build a support network of like-minded allies and friends in the community.

The US Department of Health and Human Services explains that caregiver stress is a very real thing.  They conclude “To begin with, never dismiss your feelings as ‘just stress.’  Caregiver stress can lead to serious health problems and you should take steps to reduce it as much as you can…Although caregiving can be challenging, it is important to note that it can also have its rewards. It can give you a feeling of giving back to a loved one. It can also make you feel needed and can lead to a stronger relationship with the person receiving care.”

Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help, but it’s also a tremendously vital thing to do.  By reaching out to qualified medical staff, people in similar situations, and the community around you, the day-to-day responsibilities are made so much easier.  Garden Courte is always there to help. Call 360-339-5080 or visit them at 626 Lilly Rd NE.


Army Sergeant Luke Cifka’s Road to Recovery

Thurston Talk - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 5:57am



By Eric Wilson-Edge

Olympia Auto Mall sponsorSergeant Luke Cifka catches me off guard. We’re talking about a surgery he underwent when he says something profoundly funny. The procedure made it possible for the Army Sergeant to use prosthetics. “Every time I get new prosthetics I get a little taller and see a new part of my house,” says Cifka. “My wife can’t hide things on top of the freezer anymore.”

Cifka is recovering in a special unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.  On May 31, 2013 Cifka stepped on an IED while serving in Afghanistan. He lost both his legs above the knee. The blast also broke his pelvis, hands and several facial bones.

luke cifka

Luke Cifka stands for the first time while recuperating at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

An Olympia native, Cifka joined the Army after a few years at Washington State University. “I didn’t want to work behind a desk anymore,” says Cifka. He deployed to Iraq at the end of 2009. “I got back from Iraq and realized the military is what I wanted to pursue as a career.”

Cifka transferred to reconnaissance platoon and from there went to sniper school before redeploying to Afghanistan. He credits the Army for helping him find direction. “I like being part of a unique brotherhood,” says Cifka.

A few weeks ago Cifka, his friends and family celebrated the Sergeant’s Alive Day. “It was a time to reflect on how far we’ve come in the last year and not necessarily dwelling on the anniversary as the day I lost my legs,” comments Cifka.

The process hasn’t been easy. There have been surgeries and setbacks. Cifka suffered a traumatic brain injury in the explosion. He needed both physical and speech rehab therapy. “A lot of peaks and valleys,” notes Cifka. “One day you might have a great success, might set a new record for something you might not have done the week before and the next day you take two steps back.”

Cifka’s attitude helps, as does the support of friends and family. “Kait is really the superhero of the family,” says Cifka in reference to his wife. Kait’s father is also in the military. When he found out about Cifka’s injury he asked for and received a compassionate reassignment to nearby Fort Mead.

luke cifka

After spending 13 months in wheelchair, Cifka is learning how to walk with prosthetics.

Back in Olympia, one of Cifka’s former teachers held a walk-a-thin at Griffin School, in Luke’s honor. The event raised more than $13,000 dollars. The money went toward modifications including building a ramp at Cifka’s in-law’s house.

Cifka spent a large part of the past 13 months in a wheelchair. He just recently started using prosthetics.   “It’s like trying to walk on your knees, all of the muscles associated with taking a step are different.”  Despite the challenge, the Sergeant is happy. “It’s a huge change from being in a wheelchair every day to be able to stand up and walk around.”

Cifka, his wife Kait and their 16-month-old son live at Walter Reed. The place they call home is specially outfitted for wounded soldiers. “This is one of the best places to be for amputees,” says Cifka. The family will remain at the medical center for another year.

What’s next? Sergeant Cifka wants to stay in the Army. He’ll have to go through a medical evaluation board which he’s pretty sure he’ll fail. However, he can appeal the decision.  “I might not be able to do traditional jobs but I have these skills and I can be of service,” says Cifka. He’d love to be an instructor for the sniper school at Fort Benning, but his dream is to be a member of the Army’s Olympic or Paralympic shooting teams.

One of the more lasting parts of our conversations is a jar. The family writes down a positive experience and places it inside. At the end of the year the jar is opened and the experiences are read.  These letters on paper offer perspective.“I don’t think the universe throws anything at you that you can’t handle,” says Cifka.

To follow Cifka’s progress, click here.


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