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Olympia-based Alaffia Helps Mothers in Africa

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 1:39pm



By Eric Wilson-Edge

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 1.27.15 PMThe future is women. In the United States, women are a larger percentage of the population, they live longer and are more likely to both attend and graduate from college. The outlook isn’t as promising in other parts of the world and that’s something Olympia-based Alaffia is out to fix.

The skin care company began ten years ago with the goal of helping women in the West African country of Togo. Olowo-n’djo Tchala cofounded Alaffia with his wife Rose Hyde. Tchala grew up in Togo and saw his mother fight to rise from poverty.


Alaffia’s Abide Awesso (front) and Ibada Tchala spoke at South Puget Sound Community College recently.

Alaffia works to empower women by providing employment opportunities and maternal healthcare.  The company sets aside ten percent of its budget to pay for these programs. “The short term is providing jobs for women in Togo,” says Tchala. “The long term is investing in new projects. Purchasing Alaffia products is what pays for these projects.”

Two women quietly enter a room at South Puget Sound Community College. Ibada Tchala and Abide Awesso are at the end of a four week trip to the United States. Today they’re giving a talk about maternal care in Togo. The room is mostly full, with only a few empty seats in the back.

Ibada is the Community Project Director in Togo. She speaks first and offers a heartfelt “thank you” in a soft voice which makes the cursory statement feel like a greeting between old friends. She gives the presentation in French – Rose translates.


Alaffia maternal health clinics treat more than 1,000 women each year.

The situation Ibada outlines is altogether foreign for most of us listening. One of the biggest issues in Togo is lack of resources. Women who get pregnant often give birth at home because they can’t afford a hospital. Without proper care these women and their children are more likely to become ill or die. Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the highest mortality rates for infants and mothers in the world.

Alaffia is working for change. The company operates maternal health clinics in the Central and Kara regions of Togo. Expectant mothers have their prenatal consultations and delivery paid for by Alaffia.  Currently, 1,000 women a year receive maternal care through Alaffia.

Abide Awesso is the Alaffia Maternal Health Project Coordinator for the Bassar region in Togo. Abide has a welcoming smile and a strength hidden behind a shy demeanor. She works in 15 clinics spread throughout Bassar. One of her primary jobs is to educate women about excision. Excision – female circumcision – is a brutal practice that can result in lifelong medical problems and even death.

alaffiaThe excision project started two years ago. “In the beginning it was very difficult even to speak to women about it,” says Abide. “The men didn’t want anything to do with it.” During that first year Abide spent much of her time trying to convince people to listen. She got help from an unexpected place.  Victims came forward to spread the news and to help with training. The combined effort helped get the program going.  The next year women and even some men came to Abide for help.

The presentation ends. Olowo-n’djo asks the audience for questions. Normally, a fair amount of hand wringing and awkward silence follows. Not this time. For the next twenty minutes Olowo-n’djo, Ibada and Abide talk about life in Togo and at Alaffia. They talk about struggle and not just to rise out of poverty. The culture of Togo is rich with traditions. The trick is striking a balance between preserving tradition and embracing new ideas.

You can follow Alaffia’s Maternal Health program via Facebook or Twitter at #empowerAbideandIbada.



Olympia Weekend Event Calendar

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 6:57am



lucky eagleDaffodils may be my favorite flower.  True, they are some of the first to pop up signally spring but I love the bright yellow shining against an otherwise dull backdrop.  I smile when I see a little clump of daffodils alongside a road, looking like they bloomed there all on their own.  The cut flowers look simply elegant on a countertop and brighten anyone’s day.  If you are a daffodil fan, or just want a little detour this weekend, I highly recommend a visit to the Satsop Bulb Farm..  Enjoy Spring around Olympia!

Here’s what is going on in Olympia this weekend.

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.

Lacey City Council Seeking Youth Representatives to Council Advisory Boards

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 1:44pm



Submitted by The City of Lacey

The Lacey City Council is currently seeking applicants to serve as youth representatives on the Parks Board, Historical Commission, and Library Board. This is a great opportunity for students to participate in the government process while serving their community.
Eligible candidates should be 16 to 18 years of age, enrolled as a Junior or Senior in a public, private, or home school within the North Thurston Public School District, and be a resident of Lacey or its urban growth area. Applications will be accepted through June 1. The term of office is for one year from September to September and is limited to one term. The youth representative will be appointed by the Mayor.
Interested volunteers can contact Jenny Bauersfeld at (360) 413-4387, or by email at  Applications are also available in the Career Center of any NTPS high school, and on the City’s website at

Kaylee McNamee Serves as Page in State Senate

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 12:18pm



Submitted by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles

Kaylee McNameeDuring the week of March 10th, Kaylee McNamee served as a page with the Washington State Senate in Olympia.

McNamee was sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle. “It was wonderful to sponsor Kaylee this last week of session,” Kohl-Welles said. “She seems like a bright young woman and her help during the week was indispensable. I hope she enjoyed her time as a page.”

McNamee first learned about the page program when she came for a fifth grade tour of the Capitol, and thought it would be a unique experience. She said the highlight of the week was helping out when members were debating bills on the floor.

McNamee, 15, lives in Lacey and is a freshman at Timberline High School.

Kluh Jewelers Announces 2014 Unclaimed Layaway Sale

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 12:06pm



by L. Jeanette Strole Parks for Kluh Jewelers

Shoppers get a preview of the great deals at Kluh Jewelers Unclaimed Layaway Sale.

Shoppers get a preview of the great deals at Kluh Jewelers Unclaimed Layaway Sale while waiting their turn in the store.

The Unclaimed Layaway Sale at Kluh Jewelers in Lacey happens in March every year. This annual sale was even featured in a story last year here on ThurstonTalk. However, what is unique about this year’s sale is that Kluh’s Aberdeen store has just recently closed, and the Lacey store is liquidating all their inventory as part of this sales-event. That’s correct; there will be $250,000 worth of additional merchandise to check out. It truly is no exaggeration that this is the biggest sale  ever put on at Kluh Jewelers, and the staff are gearing up for a spectacular day of unloading top-quality merchandise.

As always, it is a one-day event, and this year March 29 is the date to circle on your calendar. The doors open at 9:55 a.m., so be there as early as you can be. Customers are helped in numerical order, so if you are late to get in line, you may have less selection to look at by the time it’s your turn, but with such a huge inventory to liquidate, there should be plenty to go around. There are 500 pieces of unclaimed layaway items, just for starters, in addition to returns, overstock items, surplus, estate jewelry, discontinued items, and unclaimed repair-jobs that have become available for purchase. Additionally, they are giving away prizes and gift certificates for the people waiting in line, so you might just come away with a few extra goodies in addition to the ones you purchase, just for showing up!

Kluh Jewelers has established itself for decades as one of the premier jewelery shops in the area, with three generations of the Kluh family continuing the tradition of craftsmanship, in-house repairs, and top-notch customer service. This annual sale draws both old and new customers who will stand in line for hours to get first dibs on the merchandise and for good reason; the high-quality goods that are up for grabs are not exactly gumball machine trinkets.

For example, a one-carat diamond solitaire ring that would normally retail for $3,000 is available for $599. Perhaps you have been pondering “popping the

question” – saving nearly $2500 on a ring would certainly give you more cash for the wedding or honeymoon!

Another option is a 24” gold chain, yours for only $55, Or perhaps a pair of 14K gold hoop earrings that would otherwise sell for $96, available for just $4.99!

Setting aside March 29 to browse the goodies inside the store could save you large sums of money for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, upcoming birthdays, or even Christmas, even though it’s still nine months out.

The Unclaimed Layaway Sale is an Olympia tradition that has all the anticipation of “Black Friday” but without the mayhem. Instead you will find attentive customer service, and knowledgeable staff that will treat you right.



Rochester Equestrian Team Working Towards Repeat as State Champions

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 12:05pm



By Tom Rohrer

lucky eagleA horse can serve as a friend and a team as a family.

No one knows this better than the 2014 Rochester High School Equestrian team, a group of six girls in the midst of forming a lifelong bond.

rochester equestrian

Sisters Quinn McFadden and Hennessy McFadden are joined on the Rochester equestrian team with Jakayla Dimmick.

“No matter how hard your day has been or what’s going on in your life, a horse is always there for you.  You can tell it anything and it will stand by your side,” said Rochester senior Jakayla Dimmick. “With our team, I can talk to anyone about anything and they will be happy to help.  It’s amazing.”

A common love for horses connects the group and drives them to compete at a high level within the Washington High School Equestrian Team Program (WAHSET).  WAHSET allows teams to compete in a variety of categories, including performance, dressage, cattle, jumping, gaming and show.

Created in 2007 by current head coach Robert McFadden, Rochester received the state’s highest honor at the WAHSET State Meet in Moses Lake last May.

Rochester took first place in scoring among small schools at the meet, an exciting and yet very surprising accomplishment for the team and their head coach.

“It was very exciting and we all put so much work into horses,” said Rochester sophomore Quinn McFadden. “There was so much excitement between all of us and I think it’s because we all worked so hard to get there.”

rochester equestrian

Brynna Paros was on the first place Canadian Flags quad.

“It was a total shock,” said Robert McFadden. “As far as where we came from and the years of growing pains to get into WAHSET, to win in that fashion was pretty crazy.  We didn’t really know we were in the running.  We knew we had a great showing because we had several first or second place finishes, but we were competing against 68 schools and 400 kids.”

Asked how loud his team’s celebration was, McFadden replied, “Have you ever heard a group of teenage girls scream together?”

The Warrior riders were led by Brynna Paros, sisters Beth and Natalie Sanchez, McFadden’s daughters, Hennessy and Quinn, Rilie McLeod, Maddie Smith and Jakayla Dimmick.

A year later, Rochester has familiar faces and replacements alike from the state championship.  Quinn McFadden, Dimmick, Natalie Sanchez, Brynna Paros and McLeod return while freshmen Tia Morin is the lone new addition.

rochester equestrian

Hennessy McFadden’s father is the coach of the Rochester equestrian team.

With only this weekend’s meet in Spanaway Lake remaining before the state meet in Lynden (held May 8-11), Coach McFadden is hoping the team can rekindle the magic found during last season’s championship run.

“Last year was the culmination of four years of great camaraderie, work ethic and competitive spirit that the seniors developed.  The seniors, they were all excellent horse-women, and by the fourth year, they were a force to be reckoned with,” he said. “I think we’re getting there in terms of the level we competed at last year, but it takes time.  We’re gearing up for the final push and our expectation is to perform at a high level and see what happens.”

In the groups first meet of 2014, all team members earned a first place finish in an event.  McFadden, Morin, Dimmick and Sanchez took first in the Drill Working 4s competition, while McLeod substituted for Morin on the Hand Obstacle Relay team that earned first place.   Paros was on the first place Canadian Flags quad while Dimmick posted three first place finishes in individual events.

“We have a great balance between group and individual categories,” said Robert McFadden.  “That can separate us from other teams.”

rochester equestrian

Hennessy McFadden, Beth Sanchez, Rilie McLeod and Brynna Paros are four hardworking members of the Rochester equestrian team.

Though trophies and championships are sought after, the equestrian team’s impact goes beyond competition.  During the season, which runs from October to May, the group gathers once a week for practice at either Schneider’s Ranch in Rochester or at Triple H Ranch in Adna.  These practices serve as an opportunity to hone skills for specific equestrian events.  Basic horsemanship skills and riding are practiced on the girl’s personal time throughout the week.

“It’s a grind for these girls,” said Robert McFadden.  “There are a lot of cold, dark and wet nights.”

“A majority of their work comes outside of the season or outside of our practices,” he continued. “They take lessons and practice at least four times a week, and that can go all year.”

Such dedication requires responsibility and discipline, skills the girls will have for the rest of their lives.

“You have to have a lot of passion for horses.  If you don’t, you’ll quickly fall out of the (sport),” said Morin, a freshman who hopes to become a veterinarian someday. “It’s tough but we all have that drive and passion.”

rochester equestrian

Quinn McFadden is a sophomore at Rochester High School.

“With horses, you learn at a young age about hard work and taking good care of the tasks in your life,” said Sanchez, a senior honor student and member of FFA and 4-H.  “Being on this team, you just add more responsibility to your life.  You need to keep stepping up.”

Like all athletes, the members of the RHS team are still driven in part by competition.  Last year’s state championship raised the standards of the program and the girls are looking to maintain their level of excellence.

“(Winning) motivates me to practice and to get better,” said the sophomore Paros, who plays flute in the school band and also plays varsity soccer for Rochester. “I want to do well and qualify for state.  I’m not too hard on myself but competition can do funny things to people.”

Coach McFadden, also an assistant coach for the Rochester varsity girls’ soccer team, has had to compete and work for his team’s opportunity to take part in the WAHSET circuit.

He built the team from scratch with advisor Chris Duncan and continues to run practices with help from only three volunteers.  Janna Dimmick, mother of Mikayla, uses her show judge experience as an assistant coach.  Tasha Freeman heads up drill instruction while Hennessy McFadden is in her first year as assistant drill coach.

rochester equestrian

Hennessy McFadden is in her first year as assistant drill coach for the Rochester equestrian team.

“It’s a group effort, people helping where they can, however they can,” said Coach McFadden.

The surrounding Rochester community has also stepped up to support the team as well, a necessity considering travel costs and membership fees for WAHSET.

“We have a lot of private and corporate sponsors and really without them and the ranches we practice at, there wouldn’t be a team,” said McFadden.  “WAHSET is huge for kids who love horses.  It opens so many doors for them and exposes the kids to a lot of different events.  For everyone to have supported us like they have, it’s pretty special.”

Even with proper financing, the RHS Equestrian team wouldn’t exist without McFadden’s dedication and leadership.

“He’s an inspirational figure for me every day,” said Quinn McFadden.  “There is no cooler experience than being with my dad, having him as my coach.  I see what this team means to him and I really respect that passion.”

rochester equestrian

Coach McFadden credits all the hard work of the students on the team.

“In terms of instruction, he’s much more than a skills coach,” said Sanchez.  “There’s always encouragement from him.  He wants you to succeed and is there to just push you in the right direction.”

Prior to the family’s move to Rochester, the McFadden’s lived in Seattle, far away from the farm and country lifestyle they sought.   Had the re-location never occurred, the RHS Equestrian team may not exist today.  Such a thought makes the head coach shudder.

“We had an epiphany a while back in Seattle that we needed to leave and go buy a horse ranch and raise the kids in the country with horses,” he said. “I think all the time, ‘what if we hadn’t moved?’”

“Then I remember all the memories I’ve made with my girls and with this program,” he continued.  “How could I not smile thinking about that?”

For more information on WAHSET, please visit


Spring Cleaning – Clearing the Clutter to Heal from Loss

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 1:38pm



olympia grief counselor

Joan Hitchens, long-time Olympia resident and life coach, helps people move forward from grief.

Many people think of spring cleaning as a day to buckle down and do the hard tasks we put off throughout the year – scrub the baseboards, wash the exterior windows, clean out the closets.

After the loss of a loved one, there is a tendency to hang on to physical items belonging to the person you lost.  This is a normal response and part of the grieving process.  However, there comes a point when doing some “spring cleaning” on your grief is a necessary step towards healing.

Joan Hitchens, founder of Navigating Grief and the Discover-Create-Share Center in Olympia, shares that “the fear of forgetting someone is one of the hardest parts of loss.  We think if we get rid of their ‘things’ that we are losing them all over again.”  But she also shares there is tremendous emotional pull connected with the belongings of someone who is gone.  They hold memories and therefore become entwined in the fear of forgetting that beloved person.

“Part of the process of going through and looking at the physical items, a room, furniture or the clothing of someone you loved,” explains Hitchens, “is asking yourself whether it’s a memory you are holding onto or whether it’s the physical ‘stuff’.”

Often, it’s the memory that we wish to hold tight in our hearts.  Hitchens suggests taking a photo of the item and writing a story to go along with it, keeping it safe in a scrapbook or memory box. This allows people to get rid of the physical clutter and keep the memory, ultimately helping move towards healing.

This is just one idea for dealing with the physical clutter that may be holding up your journey through grief.  Hitchens has a myriad of solutions for clutter, physical and mental, and helps clients find the right one for them.

“What’s most important is to learn to make the best of the memories you have and a way to keep them safe – a book, a photo, a story.  It’s an important part of holding the person in your heart forever,” shares Hitchens.

Navigating Grief will be hosting a Spring Cleaning after Loss Workshop and Showcase on April 12.  For more information about this event, click here.

To learn more about Joan Hitchens, click here.


South Sound YMCA: An Alphabet of Opportunities for Everyone

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 1:17pm



By Emily McMason

south sound ymcaSitting down with the South Sound YMCA’s Susan Callender is watching dedication is action. Callender, the Director of Development and Marketing, is clearly passionate about her colleagues, members, volunteers, donors, and the community. She animatedly discusses the new national slogan ‘The Y. So Much More’ and how it is a succinct and energizing statement to the community about the historical strengths of the Y and the new, innovative programming that continues to be developed. “I am so proud of all that we do.” All that they do for so many of us, as 47,179 were served by the South Sound YMCA in 2013 alone.

F is for Fitness and Funding

From Callender’s view, the community is aware of the Y’s focus on fitness, from youth sports that include lacrosse, soccer and cross-country to older adult options, with offerings like swimming, dance and yoga. Yet what happens in these programs goes beyond physical fitness, to connection with the heart of a child. One mother describes her son’s experience this way “there is no manual for that kind of patience and compassion but the Y staff really get it.”

Yet we are less aware of the financial assistance that runs as part of the central backbone of all programs. Community members can apply for financial assistance so they are able to participate is any of the Y’s broad range of offerings. Last year the South Sound YMCA distributed $549,260 in direct financial assistance to nearly 4,000 individuals and families.

south sound ymcaAs one parent wrote, “We would not be able to participate in these programs without assistance. Being a member of the Y has helped our family to get and stay healthy and teach our children to live a healthy lifestyle. We have discovered that we are becoming closer as a family as we get more involved in Y programs. We are all excited about what comes next as Y members!”

P is for Pilates and Prevention

“The community may know we offer pilates, but they are less aware of our prevention programs,” says Callender, explaining the new diabetes prevention program that was launched in January. This program is making a significant impact in our community and is already serving hundreds of individuals diagnosed as pre-diabetic.

The year-long program includes sixteen weeks of group meetings with a lifestyle coach and then monthly for the remainder of the year. Callender says, “The diabetes program is transformational. It is rigorous and nimble. The classes can be done at the worksite or at the Y.”

E is for Education and Endowment

south sound ymca“People are aware of our education work, but now we are taking after school to a whole new level,” explains Callender while discussing the new program as a wrap-around, surrounding the child and providing full support.

Before entering kindergarten, each student at the Y Early Learning Center at South Puget Sound Community College is assessed to determine progress in obtaining the skills needed for a successful start in kindergarten.  In the Y After-School program, children are able to design their time around their own interests, whether it is science, cooking, or math, for example. The programs at Horizons and Chambers Prairie Elementary School in the North Thurston School District and Southworth Elementary in Yelm have been nationally accredited, an arduous process that verifies the highest standards are being met, though a partnership with the Army School Age Program in Your Neighborhood. All of the South Sound after school programs, which served nearly 1,800 children last year, are benefitting from this process.

The enthusiasm and dedication of Callender is echoed throughout all of the employees of the South Sound YMCA. This enthusiasm in evident in their generous giving to this year’s annual fund campaign, where employees alone have donated nearly $30,000. Callender says she is always impressed by the employee dedication. “From our childcare providers to our CEO, everyone here sees it and gets it and wants to support it. They make sacrificial gifts to the campaign.”

south sound ymcaTogether with community donors the South Sound YMCA has established an endowment that exceeds $1 million.

While a healthy bottom line is critical to a healthy organization, there are other ways to give as well. Last year 1,483 volunteers donated 20,483 hours of their time to the South Sound YMCA.

The Y is for You

Whether you want to donate, learn, or move the South Sound YMCA can meet your needs. You can contribute online, sign up for classes, or take a look around.  The Y truly has something for everyone.


South Sound Solar Dispels the Weather Myth of Solar in Thurston County

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 6:35am



olympia solarWashingtonians often comment on our region’s cloudy and rainy weather, particularly on the west side including Thurston County. It would seem that lots of hot sun is needed to create sufficient solar power. So how does solar work in an area without an abundance of sunshine?

Kirk Haffner, founder of South Sound Solar explains, “It is true that in the winter time in Thurston County we have a marine climate that is highly overcast with short winter days. But it is also true that our long, cool summer days are ideal for solar.”

While it might seem counterintuitive, solar is actually more efficient in cooler climates. For example, solar panels that produce electricity are affected by their operating temperature, which is determined by the air temperature and level of sunlight. The energy production efficiency of solar panels drops when the panel reaches hot temperatures.

While the strength and duration of sunlight are the primary factors in solar panel power production, our local conditions are highly conducive to creating solar power. In fact, whenever there is light outside solar panels will produce electricity. Plus solar credits stores up with the utility so you can use it when you need it.

As a point of comparison, Germany is the world’s leading user of solar and has less sunlight on average than Western Washington. So if you think our weather cannot support solar power-think again! Due to the benefits of solar, expertise of South Sound Solar, and financial incentives, solar projects have been growing each year in our community, decreasing our dependence on non-renewable sources of energy.

To learn more about how solar can work for your home or business visit the South Sound Solar website by clicking here, calling 360-352-7869, or attending an upcoming informational workshop.


Saint Martin’s Theater and Music Departments Present ‘Into the Woods’

Tue, 03/18/2014 - 4:20pm


Submitted by Saint Martin’s University

into the woods“Witches can be right/Giants can be good/You decide what’s right/You decide what’s good.”

These and other intriguing lyrics by Stephen Sondheim can be heard beginning April 5 when the Saint Martin’s University theatre and music departments present the Tony Award-winning “Into the Woods,” the Broadway epic in which everyone’s favorite fairytale characters are brought together for a timeless but relevant piece of American musical theater.

With book by James Lapine, this riff on the creations of the Brothers Grimm follows a baker and his wife who wish to have a child; Cinderella, who wishes to attend the King’s Festival “more than anything;” and Jack, who wishes his cow, Milky White, would, well, give milk. When the baker and his wife learn they cannot have a child because of a witch’s curse, the couple sets off on a journey to break the spell.  Everyone’s wish is granted. But everyone learns to be careful what they wish for when the often disastrous consequences of their actions return to haunt them later.

Performances will run April 5 – 6, and April 10 – 12 at the State Theater, 204 4th Avenue E, in downtown Olympia. Tickets at the door are $12 for general admission, and $7 for students, seniors and military personnel. Admission April 9 is Pay-What-You-Will. Advance Tickets can be purchased online at

Performance times are as follows:

7:30pm, April 5

2:00pm, April 6

7:30pm, April 10, 11, 12

Brendon Chertok set for Transition to Olympia’s Garfield Elementary as Principal

Tue, 03/18/2014 - 1:58pm



Submitted by The Olympia School District

Brendon Chertok, current principal at McKenny Elementary, will transition next fall as the new principal at Garfield Elementary.

Brendon Chertok, current principal at McKenny Elementary, will transition next fall as the new principal at Garfield Elementary.

The Olympia School District announced today that Brendon Chertok will soon be the new principal at Garfield Elementary on Olympia’s west side. Chertok is already a principal in the district, having served in that role at McKenny Elementary since 2006. He has worked at Garfield Elementary in the past, having been a fifth grade teacher there from 1999 through 2004.

Current Garfield principal Bob Hodges will retire after the 2014-15 school year. Hodges, who has served as principal at Garfield since 2006, expressed a desire to co-lead the school with an incoming principal during the 2014-15 school year to ensure a smooth transition in this Title I school. District administrators agreed that plan would work well for Garfield students, staff and families. As a result, Hodges and Chertok will each work half time and co-lead the school next year before Chertok takes over sole principal responsibilities at Garfield in the 2015-16 school year.

“Garfield is an excellent school. I know this from my work in the District but also as a parent of two boys who attended Garfield,” said Chertok. “My wife, Rachele, and I have lived in the Garfield community for many years and raised our children here. To have the chance to play a more active role is exciting. I am looking forward to partnering with Bob Hodges, working with great staff in a supportive community, and continuing Garfield’s important work. McKenny has been my home away from home for the past eight years. I am grateful to the community, the exceptional staff and wonderful students who represent what is best about our work.”

Chertok began his teaching career in Lacey in 1994 and joined the Olympia School District as a fourth/fifth grade teacher and principal designee at Boston Harbor Elementary in 1997. He later worked at Hansen Elementary and Garfield Elementary before becoming an Assistant Principal in the Puyallup School District in 2004. In 2006 Chertok rejoined the Olympia School District as principal of McKenny Elementary.

Chertok earned his Teaching Certification from St. Martin’s University in 1994 and his Master’s Degree and Principal’s Certification from the University of Washington in 2004.

Principal Bob Hodges expressed his pleasure with the selection of Chertok to co-lead the school next year and transition in as principal. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the selection of Brendon Chertok as the next leader for Garfield Elementary,” said Hodges. “Brendon and I have partnered at Camp Cispus for the past eight years, which has given me a chance to get to know him well. He is a capable and competent leader who is well-organized and value-added every day. I am looking forward to what I believe will be a smooth and orderly leadership transition for our school.”

Olympia School District Dick Cvitanich said he feels very confident that Chertok will be a solid leader at Garfield.  “We are very pleased that Brendon will work alongside Bob next year,” Cvitanich said. “Garfield Elementary is a terrific school that has a strong tradition of success because of outstanding staff and strong community support. We look forward to Brendon’s transition into the Garfield Elementary family.”

In addition to co-leading Garfield Elementary next year Chertok will also spend time assisting district administrators with a number of district-wide responsibilities.

Garfield Elementary serves about 350 students in preschool through fifth grade.

American Senior Benefits Welcomes Washington State Retirement Advisor Charles Zubrod

Tue, 03/18/2014 - 1:20pm



Submitted by Charles Zubrod for American Senior Benefits

charles zubrod, American Senior Benefits

Charles Zubrod, Retirement Advisor with American Senior Benefits.

Charles Zubrod, Puget Sound resident, has joined American Senior Benefits. Offering a leadership team with over 115 years of experience serving those 55 and older, they are honored to serve the “Greatest Generation” and this mature market.

“My philosophy related to the senior market is based on my personal history of experiencing the challenges confronted by my parents and family associated with my mother’s illness and the resulting financial and emotional difficulties,” Zubrod said. “I endeavor to share my experience, and educate others who may be someday faced with the same challenges.”

Concerns of many mature Americans include: running out of money, premature death, cost of nursing home and home confinement, and medical bills. With American Senior Benefits, Zubrod is able to address these issues while offering a variety of options with companies providing Medicare supplement, long-term care, annuities and life insurance.

As a graduate of Seattle University, Zubrod brings over 20 years experience in accounting, financial analysis, operations consulting, management and business ownership to this position. “My passion is helping individuals protect their financial assets, provide for their financial security and leave a positive legacy,” Zubrod said.

For an appointment or more information, please contact Charles Zubrod at his office number: 253.244.5520.  He may also be reached by cell phone: 253.686.8099. You may also find out more by visiting his website.

Local Leprechaun Hunters Set their Traps

Tue, 03/18/2014 - 8:35am


By Kira Stussy, Tumwater High School Intern to ThurstonTalk

all star ford sponsorA blur of green, a flash of gold, a tiny cackle, and then gone. Leprechauns, a type of Irish fairy, are small and mischievous individuals who store their collected shiny coins and other forms of wealth in a secure pot at the end of a rainbow. They are typically depicted in Irish mythology as old men, no more than three feet tall, sporting the infamous green hat and coat. They are famously known to pinch those poor souls who forget to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. They are also known to be greedy and tricky little devils that are downright near impossible to see due to their lightning speed and agile demeanor. For ages, American children have built complicated traps, with various gold covered triggers and deliciously glittery baits in an attempt to capture the deceitful little guys. This is because if a human is lucky enough to catch a leprechaun the creature is then forced to grant its captor with three magical wishes, anything the human could ask for.

Vivian and Jensen Werner set their Leprechaun Traps each year in hopes of snaring the mischievous little men.

Vivian and Jensen Werner set their Leprechaun Traps each year in hopes of snaring the mischievous little men.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of leprechaun sightings, witnesses to these elusive creatures are few and hard to come by. Luckily, there happen to be two local leprechaun hunters who are very passionate about their occupation. Vivian (age 7) and Jensen (age 5) Werner of the Thurston County area have devoted valuable time and energy to catching leprechauns. The brother and sister duo have taken on the immense challenge of pursuing those pesky leprechauns. They agreed that they were green little men who loved gold. They also recognized the undeniable fact that these critters are rather difficult to catch. They both admitted that they had not yet caught a leprechaun but they are not about to give up the quest. For a couple of years now they have made traps designed to lure in the Irish fairies and contain them until the three wishes are granted. Although the traps have been technically unsuccessful in the past, that does not stop the Werner siblings.

Leprechauns are said to be easily lured by money and shiny objects.

Leprechauns are said to be easily lured by money and shiny objects.

One thing the two did not particularly agree on was what they would do with a leprechaun when they finally catch one: What to do with the slippery leprechaun once it was captured. “I would put it in my room,” Jensen confirms. Vivian, on the other hand, exclaimed that “they are pretty” and that the leprechaun would be “her friend” when she catches one. When asked if the leprechaun would be his friend, Jensen immediately replied with a stern “NO!” Even though he admitted that the leprechaun would be a nice guy he followed that comment with “But he will be stinky!” And that was that.

In the traps they have built in the past, the Werners have used various shiny materials as bait to capture the leprechauns. When asked for specifics about what they have and

will place in their traps Vivian replied matter-of-factly, “Gold…duh!” Even though they have yet to construct this year’s model of the leprechaun trap, they promised they would complete the project in time for St Pattie’s Day, the day when the leprechauns are most likely to be out and about and scouring for their gold. It is on St. Patrick’s Day that every leprechaun hunter is poised and ready to spring the trap in order to accomplish what it is they set out to do every year. It is the leprechaun hunters, like Vivian and Jensen that limit the amount of pinches, stolen gold, and pranks this time of year. It is a difficult task to take on, especially for such young people in the community, but a worthwhile commitment. Vivian and Jensen are excited to get started on their trap and even more excited for the fantastic rewards it may yield.


Panorama Art Studio Offers First-Rate Art Experience, Camaraderie for Residents

Tue, 03/18/2014 - 6:47am



By Gale Hemmann

panorama art

A watercolor artist puts the finishing touches on her painting.

Watercolor. Gouache. Sumi-e. Zentangle. Did you know that, tucked away on the lush Panorama campus in Lacey, there’s a lively and vital arts community, brimming with talent and life experience? The Panorama Art Studio, nestled in the basement of the campus’ main building, is the hub of it all. The bright, well-appointed studio offers an array of classes for residents, who range from novices to accomplished professional artists. And, as this ThurstonTalk writer was lucky to discover, it also offers so much more. It is a place for community, camaraderie, and a sense of joie de vivre as bright as the students’ oil-color paintings lining the walls.

At the helm of the art studio project is Marcene Oakley, a Panorama resident and an enthusiastic proponent of the arts. Oakley is a warm, energetic person, with a generous smile and a gleam in her eye. Her story is a true testament to the quality of life at Panorama: she worked on the sales staff for 18 years, and then decided to move in after retiring because she liked it so much.

panorama art

Anita Ellison, an Olympia-area art teacher, coaches a student in her watercolor painting class. The Panorama Art Studio classes are geared to be encouraging, warm and positive.

The campus has always had an art studio, but until recently it was quite modest. Oakley says that, as long as she worked at Panorama, she had a vision of seeing the studio reach its full potential: a vibrant space for seniors to create, encourage each other, and share life stories. A place to truly celebrate the arts, set up to accommodate the range of ages and physical needs of the residents.

Oakley describes herself as a self-taught artist, who began creating charcoal drawings in college to sell because charcoal “was cheap” for a young student. As she pulled out several examples of her drawings to show me, the evidence of her life in art was clear: a skillful, tender drawing of an infant, for example, was both delicate and vivid.

She has always had a “do-it-yourself” ethos, and said she’s always enjoyed figuring out how to make something work (mastering a new drawing technique, for example). She wanted to share this spirit with the other residents, some of whom had never had time to pick up a paintbrush until retiring and moving to Panorama. While Oakley is a committed artist, she is even more dedicated to fostering artistic opportunities for others.

So, how did Oakley turn her dream into a reality? Over a cup of coffee and an array of art supplies fanned across the table, she shared with me the history and making of the current art program. About five years ago, Oakley and several other like-minded artists got together to form an arts group. They began arranging classes, and quickly realized they wanted to formalize their efforts, earning Panorama management’s official blessing of their efforts. With Oakley at the helm, they began renovating the art studio top-to-bottom in the summer of 2013.

panorama art

Panorama resident, painter and art studio co-founder, Marcene Oakley, partakes in a Watercolor Level II class taught by Anita Ellison.

Oakley is quick to note that it has taken a team effort to create the arts studio and classes. She cites Panorama artist-residents Kay Tolles, Paul Stebbins (also an Executive Committee member), and April Works as key movers and shakers. While Oakley focused on renovating the room, handling everything from budgeting to material selection, Tolles has helped develop the arts class curriculum over the past five years, finding local instructors and teaching a number of classes herself. (Classes are taught both by residents and established local artists, such as Ellen Miffitt.) The room now features new flooring, gallery-white paint, trip-free extension cord holders, a projection screen with laptop hookup capabilities, professional track lighting, adjustable chairs and tables, and much more. Each detail, Oakley explains, was carefully thought out for the residents’ needs. Glass doors were selected to entice passers-by into visiting the studio (and they do, says Oakley).

Art classes are offered Monday through Thursday, and each Friday is “open studio time.” Residents can be found trying out the plethora of art supplies, checking a book or DVD out of the “arts library,” or finishing up a project. For those with limited mobility, the art space provides generously-sized lockers, so residents don’t have to carry their materials back and forth.

Oakley also cites as motivation the fact that art can help anyone, especially senior citizens, live longer and healthier lives. Seniors who are involved in the arts stay connected, tuned in to their interests, and mentally stimulated.

panorama art

Students in the Watercolor II class at Panorama’s newly-renovated art studio work on finishing their paintings of a tranquil mountain scene.

Panorama is the Pacific Northwest’s largest continuing-care retirement community, boasting over 1,200 residents. It offers a full and lively arts program, including a weaver’s studio, a woodworking studio, a writer’s group, a theater troupe, and much more. The community is also home to some very well-known artists, such as underwater photographer Ernie Brooks. April Works is a talented textile artist, and she recently brought together the rich variety of residents’ fabric and quilting art to create a show in the Resident Council room.

In talking with Oakley and the art class members, one gets the sense that their roiling enthusiasm will only lead to bigger and greater plans; their vision includes creating a designated art display space to showcase residents’ work, as well as offering more types of classes (such as photography) and art-therapy services for residents in convalescent care. Several hundred residents have already taken classes in the studio.

While the classes are currently open only to residents, there are several ways you can support their arts program. You can stop by for some truly lovely, reasonably priced gift items made by the resident artists in their Gift Shop, open to the public (proceeds benefit Panorama’s Benevolent Fund, a non-profit organization, allowing them to do more enrichment programs for the residents). A number of the artists also show their work in the community, and are active in such groups as the Olympia Art League. Oakley notes that quite a few residents had work displayed in South Puget Sound Community College’s Minneart Center for the Arts “Fine Art Postcard Exhibition” this past winter.

And perhaps the most important take-away from the Panorama Fine Arts program is this: Art is for everyone. “There’s nothing like a group of artists coming together,” Oakley says.


Treacy Duerfeldt Lifts Weights in Fight against Polio

Tue, 03/18/2014 - 6:45am



By Gail Wood

pints logoTreacy Duerfeldt has discovered a new motivation for lifting weights – to fight polio.

Motivated by his past – he’s lifted weights since he was twelve and he’s been a Rotarian since 1991 – Duerfeldt will be both weight lifter and polio fighter later this month. In his unique fundraiser on March 21, Duerfeldt will attempt to lift the max weight at all 25 weight machines in less that 70 minutes at the Valley Athletic Club.

That works out to over 6,000 pounds.

man vs machine

On March 21, Treacy Duerfeldt plans to list the max weight on all 25 weight machines in under 75 minutes.

“I’m doing this crazy stuff because there are people who can’t do normal stuff,” Duerfeldt said.

In October, Duerfeldt’s “crazy stuff” plan began with Saturday morning workouts. Every Saturday, Duerfeldt, who is 47, weighs 250 pounds and stands 6’1″, has worked out on every weight machine at the Valley, doing several reps at every stop. He has lifted the max weight at each machine, but never all in one day. In his weekly workouts, he does about eight reps at a manageable weight.

“My training focus has been on injury prevention and cardio tolerance,” Duerfeldt said.

Which means in his hour and a half workouts, he doesn’t take long breaks between lifts, simulating his challenge day. The most he’s done in one day is 20 machines. Four machines – that work the hamstring, shoulders, biceps and the butterfly for the triceps – give him the most problems. Bench press – which is 300 pounds – is something he’s done regularly. The heaviest lift is the leg press, which is 500 pounds.

Come challenge day, he plans on lifting a max weight every three minutes, giving him little time to recoup between lifts. It’s the pace of the lifts that’s got him worried.

“I’m hoping I can do it,” Duerfeldt said. “We’ll see.”

man vs machine

The Valley Athletic Club will host Duerfeldt’s challenge on March 21.

He’s built, as he says, an “escape clause” into his challenge. He can substitute a lift – like the bicep machine he struggles with – with another machine if he does 10 reps on it. He can substitute one lift with another twice.

In his PR attempt to raise interest for his fundraiser, Duerfeldt has compared his feat to the old folktale of John Henry, who raced against a machine in pounding railroad spikes into the ground. Like old John Henry, Duerfeldt is matching his strength against a machine.

“I said how can I make this interesting?” Duerfeldt said. “What about man versus machine? The legend of John Henry.”

From that came the image of Duerfeldt’s fundraiser that’s posted on his website.  The image is the smashing of the respirator machine polio victims sometimes had to use to breath back in the ’50s.

Besides his Saturday workouts on the machines, Duerfeldt lifts free weights, pushing the bars and dumbbells, on Wednesdays, working out with weights twice a week. To help with his conditioning, Duerfeldt also plays tennis several times a week and works out on a rowing machine, the Elliptical and the StairMaster.

For nearly 40 years, Rotary has partnered with other programs in a fight against polio.

man vs machine

Duerfeldt has coined his challenge “man vs machine.”

In the 1940s and ’50s, polio broke out in the United States, scaring the nation. Images of children in leg braces and on crutches on March of Dime posters moved the country. Jonas Salk became the man “who saved the children” when he made the polio vaccine, eradicating the disease in the U.S. At its peak, one in 5,000 children were effected by polio in the U.S. It’s been over 20 years since there’s been a polio case in the United States.

Last year, there were 300 reported polio cases worldwide.

On March 21, Duerfeldt, who is a program manager for a financial consultant firm, will do his “man versus machine” fundraiser starting at 1:30 p.m. at the Valley. He plans to raise about $2,000. In addition to the money, he hopes to raise the awareness of the fight to eradicate polio worldwide. Rotary has been a longtime partner in the fight against polio, highlighting Duerfeldt’s interest.

“We don’t need this stuff coming back,” Duerfeldt said. “The fact that we saw it move from Pakistan to Syria recently, it was a weapon against civilians. That is so wrong.”

The Taliban were killing health care volunteers administering polio vaccinations in that region.

“They claim they thought we were poisoning people,” Duerfeldt said. “Yeah right, we were removing their biological weapons.”

Duerfeldt’s dream is to eradicate polio worldwide.


Merle Norman Creates Customers for Life

Tue, 03/18/2014 - 6:43am



acne treatment olympia

Learn about acne care in a private setting at Merle Norman.

It is a story Merle Norman consultants hear from their customers all the time. It goes something like this, “I began using Merle Norman because my (mom, aunt, grandma) brought me here when I was a teenager with terrible acne. I started using Merle Norman products, my skin cleared up and I’ve been a customer ever since.”

In fact, some of these women are in their nineties, and almost without exception, the women look 10 to 20 years younger than other women their age.

Here is the secret: Merle Norman acne products clean out pores and help remove dead skin cells.  Continued use of these products will keep your skin clear of any more problems.  In addition, the skin is exfoliated which also results in younger looking skin.

Women who continue to use the products do so because they continue to get results and great looking skin.

Most anti-acne regimens involves four steps and Merle Norman products to too: A great cleanser with salicylic acid, toner, clear complexion spot treatment, and moisturizer. However, Merle Norman is not interested in selling a “one-size fits all” product bundle. Instead, they’ll create a skin-care regimen that is customized to each skin-type.

It’s All About Privacy

Let’s face it, acne is embarrassing for most teenagers, and seeking help at a busy department store’s make-up counter is far from private. Merle Norman offers a private setting in their Lacey store. Skincare consultants take the time to help customers find the right product for their skin, then provide necessary training for proper product use for optimum results.

Merle Norman consultants help customers learn about their skin type and the best way to treat breakouts. Take it from their many customers, from teenagers and on up, these products work, and great skin-care now creates amazing skin for a lifetime.

For more information about acne-prone skincare, contact:

Merle Norman Cosmetics, Wigs and Day Spa

3925 – 8th Avenue SE, Suite F

Lacey, WA 98503


Northwest Christian Senior Jessica Griffin Set to Graduate after 13 Years on Campus

Mon, 03/17/2014 - 6:52am



By Emily Van Marter, Northwest Christian High School Intern to ThurstonTalk

Northwest Christian High School Senior Jessica Griffin has attended school on the Foundation Campus since Preschool.

Northwest Christian High School Senior Jessica Griffin has attended school on the Foundation Campus since Preschool.

At Eighth Grade Promotion, most schools have the students stand based on the number of years they have been enrolled in the school. It is a way of honoring not only the students that have been there as little as a year, but also the students that have been there from the beginning, some since preschool.

Jessica Griffin was one of those students standing for her attendance since day one, and though she is now a senior in high school, she has kept the Foundation Campus as her choice for academics.

Griffin has attended the Foundation Campus’ school programs since preschool. As a senior at Northwest Christian High School, she is in her thirteenth year with the program. Though this may seem like a long time in one place for some, Griffin has loved every second of it. “I never wanted to transfer schools, or move somewhere else. I loved the place where I was. It was small enough where the people I went to school with weren’t just my friends, they were like my family.”

Griffin’s involvement in the Foundation Campus program stretches outside of the classroom as well. For many years, Griffin and her family also attended the church connected to the school. “We started going there when I was young. The church moved a couple of different places on the school grounds. My family and I continued to go there until the church got its own building of campus, and then we moved somewhere else,” she recalls. Even though her family no longer attended the campus-based church, Griffin found meaningful ways to get involved in leadership outside the classroom.

Griffin's graduation from 8th grade launched her into new leadership rolls in high school, including as an ASB Officer.

Griffin’s graduation from 8th grade launched her into new leadership rolls in high school, including as an ASB Officer.

Griffin demonstrates her leadership in multiple ways on the Foundation Campus. Since middle school, she has played sports, a leader on her team, setting examples of hard work and perseverance for her teammates. Griffin is also the secretary for the ASB at Northwest Christian. Through this, she has been able to plan events, lead activities at the school, and ultimately help in making positive decisions impacting students she may not otherwise interact with.

“I think that going to this school, and coming through this program for so many years has really helped me come out of my comfort zone,” shares Griffin. “Because our school is so small, it has really given me the opportunity to get to know the people here on a deeper level. I feel more confident in myself as a person, and my abilities to lead because I know I have people that will stand beside me.” Though Griffin doesn’t know many people outside of her own school, it doesn’t bother her. “I would rather know everyone in my school than not know everyone in just my own class.”

Though Jessica sets an example for the school and its students, she hasn’t been alone in her journey. “The teacher that has influenced me the most would be Mrs. Ketchum,” she says, referring to the English teacher at Northwest Christian. “I had her for seventh and eighth grade, and also my junior and senior year, but she has been a very present person in my life in between those years as well,” she explains.

Jessica Griffin Senior Picture“(Ketchum) is someone who not only teaches you a subject, but also teaches you life skills,” Griffin adds.  ”She cares so much for her students, and I know I could go to her for anything. She never lets us forget that we have the power to change the world, and that we can do great things with the power we have been given.”

Griffin feels that all of the teachers, not only Ketchum, show this same level of care. “My favorite part about this school is the involvement of the teachers and faculty. You can tell with how hard they work that they really do care about the students and their well-being, not just in school, but also in life.”

Griffin has been able to use this encouragement from her teachers, and also friends, to grow as a person over the years. “I honestly love all of my friends so much, and I wouldn’t change anything about my school career. The people in my life have really made me the person I am today, and I am so lucky I got the opportunity to become as close with all of them as I did.”

Jessica will be graduating with the 2014 senior class of Northwest Christian High School, ending her thirteen year career on the Foundation Campus and heading off to college. “I’m excited and nervous, all at once,” she confides. “But I know I’m prepared because of the people I knew here.”


Elite Cleaning Gives You the Gift of Time

Mon, 03/17/2014 - 6:00am



olympia house cleaner

Scottiejo McNulty is the owner of Elite Cleaning Services of Washington, an Olympia-based house and office cleaning company.

I admit it; I tidy my hotel room so the maids don’t think I’m a slob.  I’d probably do the same before a cleaning service arrived too, which always led me to think I wouldn’t benefit from their help.  But something Scottiejo McNulty of Elite Cleaning of Washington said struck me: “I truly believe that hiring cleaners gives you the gift of time.”

That’s a tremendous gift in our busy day and age.  Imagine no more snapping at spouse and kids to vacuum, sweep, or dust (and receiving sloppy work in response), no more wasted sunny days washing the windows when you could be out meeting our award-winning friendly neighbors.  Elite Cleaning’s successful, customer-first philosophy means that no job is too big, small, weird, frequent, rare, or difficult.

Whether it’s advice on the perfect home cleaning toolkit of supplies or how to remove gunk from the walls of your microwave, McNulty is always available to answer questions.  But more importantly, the team will do the jobs that make you wince, wrinkle your nose, or postpone until they’re a crisis like the underside of the fridge, toilet seat, or oven.  Blech.

If your allergies make cleaning solutions irritable, they’ll use natural products; if you can’t bend or stretch, they’ll reach what you can’t.  If your in-laws are arriving next week and the whole family has been down with the flu, Scottiejo and her ladies will have the house germ-free and ship-shape before and after the visit.

Because they have the flexibility inherent in a successful small business, Elite Cleaning can work with almost any schedule, cleaning frequency, or request.  They offer free on-site estimates, competitive rates, 100% satisfaction guarantees, and rave reviews from happy customers.

Renters, imagine being able to move your last box onto the moving truck and leave clean-up to the professionals.  Home sellers, imagine letting someone else handle the cleaning before your big open house.  Office managers, imagine things returning to normal after the holiday bash while you’re home with your feet up.  This is the kind of peace-of-mind Elite Cleaning can provide.  And for my money, it’s well worthwhile.  Call or text 360-529-2277.


Synergy HomeCare Offers Tips to Keep a Senior’s Home Safe

Mon, 03/17/2014 - 6:00am



olympia home care seniors

Brad Rossman is the General Manager for the Olympia branch of Synergy HomeCare.

We’ve all probably stubbed our toes on a piece of furniture or tripped over something in the hallway.  Usually these blunders only hurt our pride. The same can’t be said for the elderly. Our aging friends and family can get seriously injured by what might look like a harmless fall.

The staff at Synergy HomeCare want to prevent these kinds of accidents from happening. Synergy offers a free home assessment to all of their clients. The assessment is a four-page inventory of what seems like every feasible scenario from poor lighting to throw rugs. “Throw rugs can become a tripping hazard,” says Brad Rossman, General Manager of the Olympia branch of Synergy HomeCare.

You don’t necessarily need a walkthrough by a professional to make sure your loved one is safe, however we offer that as a free service to the community. “The older we get, the more our homes tend to get cluttered,” says Rossman. Making clear lighted pathways and getting rid of clutter will lessen the chance your friend or family member will get hurt.

Also, check the lighting. “Because of how our eyes age we don’t see dark shadows as well as we used to,” he explains. Rossman says it’s a good idea to paint a white line on steps to increase visibility.

Finally, don’t forget about the garage. Make sure boxes and crates are not stacked too high or that often used items aren’t stashed away on the top shelf.

If you’re interested in learning more about Synergy’s home assessment call 360-338-0837 or visit their website by clicking here.


Suzana Bulatovic – The Artist Next Door

Sun, 03/16/2014 - 12:05pm



By Lisa Herrick

salish cliffsInside a typical home in a quintessential Olympia neighborhood lives a fascinating artist, Suzana Bulatovic. Visiting Bulatovic’s home is like walking into an art gallery. Paintings and sketches adorn the walls, sculptures decorate the shelves, individual beads lie upon an art table transforming into beautiful pieces of jewelry.  Bulatovic appears humble, gracious, and witty. She is many things-wife, mother, graphic designer, tennis player-but most authentically and in her core she is an artist who likes to experiment and create.

suzana bulatovic

‘Umbrellas’ was Suzana Bulatovic’s first painting upon moving to Olympia.

Bulatovic was born in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia where she got a degree in fine arts at the Academy of Art, Sarajevo University. “For four years, I strictly studied art – history of art, painting, sculpting, drawing, printing making,” she comments.

She explains that she was always doing something creative growing up and was the illustrator for her high school newspaper. In fact, she met her future husband through illustrations she would leave upon a high school desk that he sat in later in the school day. They exchanged notes and drawings before their actual face to face meeting following one of his basketball games.  Bulatovic left Sarajevo upon the start of the war in (former) Yugoslavia. She initially emigrated to Canada, then moved to Chicago before settling in Olympia.

Bulatovic shares, “I immediately felt at home in Olympia. Olympia reminds me of my country – the smell of the sea and being surrounded by mountains.  The one difference is that Sarajevo has four specific seasons while Olympia has more rain.”  This dissimilarity in weather led Bulatovic to paint ‘Umbrellas’ when she moved to Olympia.  ‘Umbrellas’ is a distinctively eye catching piece of artwork upon entering her home. She explains with laughter, “When I moved to Olympia I realized that this is a rainy area.”

suzana bulatovic

Bulatovic enjoys experimenting with her artwork from painting in oil and acrylics to jewelry making, sculpture, and even 3D digital art.

However, she is quick to point out that she did not paint in greys but rather used lots of color to express a brightness. Bulatovic claims that her artwork is portrayal of her moods and personality. She is a happy person, optimistic, and someone who looks toward the opportunities of the future not the sorrows of the past. The painting depicts a rainy sidewalk scene teeming with people carrying umbrellas, while colors are vibrant yet subtle and figures are evident yet not defined.

Much of Bulatovic’s artwork is of women. She comments “Women are something I know best. That is who I am and I am most familiar with women.”  Although she briefly reflects that while in art school most of her subjects were men. Bulatovic then points to a painting above her couch that is an alluring self portrait. She explains it represented a time in her life when she was missing her husband. You can feel the longing exude from the painting.  Bulatovic paints to express her feelings.  Each piece of her art tells a story or expresses her mood all the while with her experimenting as an artist.

suzana bulatovic

Suzana Bulatovic’s art palette in 3D digital art form.

“I just like to make things. I like 3D art where the image rotates. I like sculpturing.  I also like making jewelry, not like industry jewelry but more like pieces of art. For me, my artwork is all connected even though I create in different forms. I like to experiment. And I like colors – sometimes I just put colors on a canvas and see what I can do with it.”

Bulatovic prefers oil painting and pencil drawing. Many of her commissioned portrait pieces are done in oil so that she can achieve more realism. However she currently works mostly in acrylics confessing, “I don’t have to wait for acrylics to dry. I can better express myself in acrylic because it dries immediately and I can put on more layers instantly. I want to see how my work is emerging while I am creating it and feeling it.”  Bulatovic also enjoys the creativity and exploration allowed by mixed media. She will often paint a portrait in acrylic but use oil for the skin to create a smoother and more realistic appearance.

suzana bulatovic

Pencil sketched self-portrait of Suzana Bulatovic

Most recently, Bulatovic has been focusing on her freelance graphic design business where she has a variety of international clients. While Bulatovic is not actively selling her artwork right now, she continues to do commissioned work and charitable donations-primarily portraits. In fact, recently she donated a portrait to a fundraiser for SafePlace. She glances around and says, “I might need to sell something so that I can get more space on the walls for my new stuff.”

Bulatovic has been a member of the Olympia Art League, as well as exhibited her art locally at South Puget Sound Community College’s Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts Gallery where she was described as “fascinated with the process of painting, she puts particular emphasis on color, texture, shapes and light. She aims for the paintings to reflect her state of mind rather than the reality of the external world.”

To view the vast array of Bulatovic’s artwork visit her website.