Hazel de Helen

She stood all of 4′ 10″ and weighed 110 pounds. She was my father’s aunt but was more like his second mother. When I recently found a box with her name on the outside I felt my heart twist. Dad became her power of attorney. He passed 11 years ago; now those records sit at my house. I sat down the other night to sort the papers. They are still there. I can’t toss them, not a single one of the three-years-worth of 37 year old cancelled checks, not yet.

I grew up mostly in awe of her, the woman so much like a grandma but who wasn’t. She was, in fact, my grandma’s sister whom we visited often. She had no children–I’ll get to that–and I always wished that had been different. Of the four sisters in my grandma’s family, only one–grandma–had children (my father). The other sisters either died young or had no children. It may have been a miracle we were born.

Hazel_young woman_probably at Oakes st house_Tacoma around 1914 or so

Hazel de Helen Butterfield Kasae, my great aunt, made me laugh as often as she made me tow the line. I nearly wet myself once when I stayed with her; I was about 10. I was with her while my sister was at grandma’s. We’d switch off so they each could enjoy our charm all to themselves, then we’d switch again.

She’d bought ice cream and after dinner, we both stood in her kitchen while she began scooping. Her freezer must have worked hard that day, requiring her to use some muscle. She stressed and strained, worked a bit more. Suddenly, a scoop of ice cream went flying into the air, over our heads, promptly landing on the floor. It was the funniest thing I had ever seen, and I lost it. Her belly hurt as much as mine for the laughter; it was written all over her face. She tried to refrain. Soon, we were both toast.

Once, when she visited our house in Oregon, she and my mother were in the kitchen preparing for dinner.  Mom needed a can of something for dinner, but she’d run out. I was told to run up to the market three blocks away to buy said can. I reluctantly went and bought the desired can. I came home horribly glad THAT was over only to discover it wasn’t. I’d bought the wrong can prompting mom to ask me to go back to the store to get the right one. I didn’t want to go. I’d already been to the store. Couldn’t they do without? Apparently, not. It was Hazel who looked at me and, knowing I was upset and without saying a word, simply shook her head in the affirmative with her sweet smile, encouraging me to go. I will never forget her face, and how she looked at me then and when I got back. She was firm but kind. I loved her dearly.

Bertha and Hazel Butterfield, early 20s

Hazel was the third sister of four. Lillian, Lalla (grandma), Hazel, and Bertha were the four daughters of Orah Myrtle Smith and Elmer Hunt Butterfield.

I’ve written about Hazel before, but I’ve never written a post solely about her, in honor of her, or because of her.

I don’t know if she knew how much she meant to me, how much I enjoyed spending time at her house, and just being with her. That she tolerated her nieces playing in her basement–mixing the contents of old salt and pepper shakers until the whole room reeked of pepper–was beyond imagination in my book. She was the best.

And, isn’t that the way? We only realize certain things late in the game. Why is it that children are self-centered enough that sometimes people have to die before we realize what they meant? Did she ever know?

Hazel was every bit or more important to my father as she was to me. Dad, being the only child of the four sisters, was kind of like everyone’s child. He was the only, and being the only, was the center of attention among all the adults (that shifted a bit when my sister and I came along).

The house below is the first house my father lived in–he was born in 1929–but which was later purchased from grandma by Hazel and her husband. Here are pictures of the “remodel.”

House on Park_remodel photos_late 30s early 40sAbout that purchase? When going through Hazel’s things I came across this record of the home purchase.

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It helps to remember people if I see where they lived, where they worked, and with whom they associated. Exactly none of those papers have been tossed. It feels like saying goodbye all over again.

House on Park_Tacoma_5815 address_Bert added this front porch_House was sold to H and B from Lalla
Back then, after the remodel, and…

Hazel on steps of house on Park_30s

House purchased by Hazel and B from Lalla_now 2017

Hazel began working at People’s Department Store in Tacoma in the late 20s. She worked her way up to head cashier and was well respected. You’ll recognize her below.

hazel and work buddies I believeAs mentioned, Hazel did not have children. The story goes that she was dropped as a baby resulting in an injury to her right hip; one leg remained shorter than the other. Whether from stigma or fear or both, Hazel did not want to risk having children born with the same affliction. Notice below that her right foot rests higher than her left. She would have made a fabulous parent.

Hazel and Lalla_July 1917_Point Defiance Park
Lalla and Hazel, 1917

Regardless, Hazel welcomed my sister and I with open arms, always. She loved my father and mother as her own, and it showed.

There were no holidays celebrated without her; each time we visited our grandparents, we saw Hazel.

Hazel and her husband were eventually able to buy a larger home, also in Tacoma, within a few blocks of grandma. Her husband added the garage, and they had a dog and raised chickens in the back for a while. They lived in this second home when I knew her.

Below is that new house when first purchased, and at bottom, you’ll recognize two little girls who gave their father a run for his money.

She may not have given birth, but Hazel did, in fact, have children. She had all of us. Dad did right by her. The journalist and “stickler for details” man he was, he kept records of all phone calls, all conversations, why and when. I have those, too. If something seemed off, he called and recorded the outcome. He followed up on anything amiss until it was clear. He did it all from out of state. He was POA for the youngest sister, Bertha, too.

Mom grandma and Hazel with us at Hazels house_Tacoma
Front yard of Hazel’s house, Tacoma

It’s difficult to throw away those papers, the recordings of her life. It’s proof that she was here. Seeing her beautiful, showy handwriting again made me smile. She and I wrote letters when I was young. The direction of her sentences often took various turns such that she wrote upside down, along the side, or my favorite, in circles. She’d jump to the next, non-sequential page, conveniently leaving off page numbers. It was up to me to figure out where she was going next. It was sheer joy reading Hazel’s letters.

In the later years Hazel developed a form of dementia, particularly painful to me on one specific visit. Dad, Hazel and I had gone out for lunch, and while in the restaurant, she looked at me and said, “Are you Lynne or Karen?” It crushed me that she could not distinguish me from my sister, but I could see in her eyes that she honestly didn’t know. It broke my heart. I cannot recall how well I hid my hurt, whether or not she knew how her question affected me. I simply said, “I’m Karen,” and smiled. She smiled back and my heart swelled and broke all over again. It was my first introduction to dementia.

Her decline was also evident in her changing signature.

I’ve never met anyone like Hazel. I doubt I ever will. She was part of my life from the very beginning, even though she lived out of state. Below: Mom, me, and Hazel.

Karen walking with mom and Hazel_backyard of 228 South 59th_Tacoma_May 1960

So, why all the fuss for my father’s aunt? Today is a very special day.

I wish I could make her a great big chocolate cake.

I wish I could scoop some ice cream on top and celebrate for days.

I wish she were here so I could say, “Happy Birthday!”

Born on this day in 1902, she would have been 115.

❤ Wherever you are, Thank you sweet lady, and know you will not be forgotten. ❤

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Hazel de Helen Butterfield Kasae

May 1, 1902- June 16, 1982

Hazel_birthday cake at bottom_not sure of the year_likely 60s

Those papers? They are still in the box….

Let the seniors cuss, dammit!

“Do not regret growing older. It’s a privilege denied to many.”


“God DAMMIT!” Stella blurted after stopping at her doorway. She’d maneuvered her walker to her entryway and was fumbling for her keys. We said our hellos as we passed by, were almost to mom’s door when it happened. At Stella’s proclamation, we tried not to look at each other. We smiled. Stella could not see our faces.

You know that moment when you’ve heard something, something startling or funny, and you WANT to look but it’s too soon? You are too close physically but social protocol requires a few minutes to pass before you can look without being obvious. You pretend to ignore it, act like nothing happened. You try very hard not to look. Because you know that if you look too soon, they will be glaring daggers, at you. You can feel it. This was that moment.

Stella (not her real name) is mom’s friend. I’d met her, we’ve chatted on several occasions. Stella lives near mom in Independent Living. Both ladies are leaning on 90. At their age, are they not entitled to swear when looking for their keys?


A couple days ago I had lunch with two of the best friends a girl could ask for. A few minutes after we’d eaten, I headed for the restroom. I entered the stall, turned, and with my right arm reached up to close the door. That’s when someone blurted, “God DAMMIT!” I was horrified. Who said that?! I was the only one in the double stalled room, so it could have been me. After business, I left the stall and headed to wash my hands. With my right arm, I reached forward to turn on the faucet. That’s when I heard someone drop an “F” bomb. The truth is, I’m almost, practically certain it was me.

When I was in college–fine! It MAY have occurred on occasion a few times since, maybe–I had a potty mouth. (Didn’t we all? Right, that’s no excuse.) But this? This is not the Karen most people know. We had to stop cussing when we had children. So, what gives?

Life. Usage. Living. And, what could be more normal?


I’ve been dealing with what appears to be a rotator cuff injury; it’s my right arm and I am right-handed. Years of working in a field that requires one to raise their arms repetitively can be the cause. Since I prefer to heal from within-try to find the cause before I start popping pills or allow surgery–I wanted to find exercises, try them, and see what happens (and, of course, seek medical advice if this does not help).

Meantime, I’ve discovered that a plethora of bad language unintentionally escapes when I use that arm. It hurts to shower, to use my hair dryer and brush my teeth. To reach out and upward, every single time. It hurts to sleep on that side. It takes very little to make that arm hurt. It’s not a dull ache. It freakin’ hurts.

I’ve started the exercises. I am using massage. It hurts. “No pain, no gain,” they say. Fine. But, certain words slip out of my mouth, completely unintentional proclamations. Bad words. Did I mention it hurts? That’s when I remembered Stella. And, I realized something.


When we heard Stella’s outburst in the hall, it could be she forgot the correct key. It may have been due to pain. Maybe it hurts to walk; she uses a walker, after all. There may be hip pain. Back pain. Joint pain in several places. She may have arthritic, painful fingers. She may have been unable to see. The lighting in the hall is plenty for me, but I’m not pushing 90. Glare can be a problem with aging eyes. Maybe there were bladder issues, the inability to get to the restroom quickly enough. When you visit Independent Living and see the folks who live there, see how they navigate the halls, how they interact and how they live, understanding dawns about what it takes to get through a day. It ain’t easy for many.

The fact is things don’t work the way they did when we were younger. Some people live with chronic, overwhelming pain, and it can be deadly. And tiring. And frustrating. And sometimes, bad words slip out. And you know? It’s darned damned OK.

I realized that these bodies take a lot. Living requires wear and tear. Life demands a bit of loss. So, where does that leave us?


It’s possible Stella loves to cuss. Maybe she hadn’t cussed in days and was tired of holding it in. She may have no pain whatsoever. The walker is probably a scam. My gut says she’s a rebel. Maybe she was bored to tears, was facing another day in that apartment alone and wanted to see if her language could start a hall fight. Maybe saying “God DAMMIT!” at exactly 1:15 every day is a family tradition.

We never know why people use the language we hear. We cannot know for sure. Whatever the reason, it’s probably a good one. It does not matter because either way, we are in no position to judge. We haven’t walked in their shoes or experienced what they have lived through.


My guess is they have earned the right to say whatever they darn damn well please. I say, if they’ve made it that far, if they are leaning on 90, let ‘er rip. Whatever the reason, I reserve the right to smile. Thank you, Stella.

These made me laugh. Enjoy.






a-site-for-women_sept-2016As I work through my exercises, I’ll try to temper my mouth. Meantime, if you hear unsavory language in a bathroom stall somewhere in Oregon, it’s probably me.

Just smile, and remember to celebrate aging.

We go around once.


Silver, Saggy, & Wrinkly…Oh, My!

As I continue to climb the hill, I notice things about my body that are not altogether pleasing. It can be very, very discouraging and depressing. We live in a culture rich with placing worth on appearance. And it gets old. Very, very old.

But, today I read an article about a woman who, for the very first time, bought and wore a bikini after years of feeling inadequate. I was inspired. Her story brought tears to my eyes. At nine, she went to weight loss camp, at eleven, had surgery. She is now 21. Her name is Lesley, and here is the link to her story.

Then, I opened my Reader and found a great post written by my new friend Heather Anne. Heather Anne had seen a post on another blog about positive body image and was motivated to actually take time to name things about her body she liked. Think about that!

I decided to take that challenge and make my list. This is very hard. Nonetheless, here goes:

  1. I have always liked my height. I am 5′ 7″ and have never felt too tall or too short. This comes in handy; I can reach whatever I need, have never wanted to be taller for any reason.
  2. I love my skin. When I was a child I was teased about this. I was born with jaundice. My mom says the whites of my eyes were yellow (for a short time!) and my skin color remained a bit darker, I guess from having a bit more pigment. At any rate, over the years I’ve come to love my skin “tone.”
  3. I could be the “Brown-eyed girl.” I got my parents’ large, brown eyes. Enough said.
  4. I have slim ankles and wrists. No Pop Eye here.
  5. I have strong legs. Running, walking, and hiking have always come easy. My ability to do these things has changed ever so slightly–some days I have a hitch in my get-along, and the knees and feet don’t always cooperate–but, when I want to, the legs usually come through.

WAHOO!!! I did it. Yay!! Please join me in this most important challenge. And for the rest of Heather’s story, read on:

Body Confident Challenge: Name 5 Things You Love About Your Body

Good evening to all my beautiful and talented internet friends. Earlier today I was reading through different blogs instead of actually doing my job. I went from posts about beauty, to mental health, to everyday life opinions. Every once in a while I stumbled upon a post that hits me and stops me in my tracks. Today, the lovely Cookie over at ihaveanopinionidliketoshare did just that. Said post can be found here.

In this article, Cookie said that only 22% of women in Canada feel confident in their body image. Only 22%! That’s less than a quarter of woman in the country. That’s just sad and disheartening. Unfortunately, it’s not surprising.

Now, I live in the United States, but I couldn’t imagine our percentage looked any better. According to the Huffington Post article, only 24% of American women feel body confident. Still less than a quarter of women in my country. That’s terrible, and it shouldn’t be this way!

Because of that, I’m rallying around Cookie. As women, we must change this perception. Not only for our own sake, but for our future generations. At her request, I’m listing five things I love about my body.

  1. My ass brings all the boys to the yard. And their like, it’s better than yours. No. In all seriousness, my ass is Italian and awesome.
  2. My breast aren’t large. They’re definitely smaller than average. But then again, so am I. Despite their small size, I think they’re perfect
  3. My hair is easy to manage. Naturally straight. Pretty cooperative. Double bonus.
  4. With my short stature, I can fit into just about any small space with ease.
  5. I have curves, and I like to show them.

Wow. That was surprisingly difficult to do. Took me a hot minute or two to come up with, if I’m being honest. But now it’s your turn! Find five things you love about your body and post them for all to see. Show the world that you’re not afraid to love yourself! Don’t forget to check out Cookie’s website here! Happy Wednesday, everyone! Until tomorrow.

Heather Anne

Here is the link to her blog: The Magical Thinker.

So, while I may be seeing a bit more silver, and a few more sags and wrinkles, by golly, I’m gonna like ’em!

❤ You are all beautiful. Have a fabulous day! ❤

You Just Wait

Through the years I’ve heard people lament that they’ve become their mother, or their father. I’ve seen blogs with clever titles reflecting the humor or chagrin of their realization. They sometimes seem disappointed.

That is far from my thinking because I had and have great parents. Becoming my dad or mom would be a very good thing.

I see my mother once or twice a week, sometimes more. She’s now 87 and “going strong.” Yesterday at the beginning of our visit, mom and I caught up, reviewed the week’s events. She shows me her latest knitting or card making project, tells me the scoop. Mom calls Independent Living home now, and where she lives, there is hardly a dull moment. She tells me about the book she’s reading–there is always a book–and we often trade, talk about our favorites.

Then it was my turn. I’d been feeling low. One of my children left for the summer and it is always difficult, no matter their age. I looked at mom and said, “It’s just hard,” and that’s when it happened. She looked at me, and with a small smile and tears in her eyes, said simply, “I know.” Then she paused and we locked eyes.

And, right then, I realized something. My mother and I were the same, one in the same, and we shared a very specific bond. We both knew and felt the very same, unspoken thing in that one moment. She knows because I’d done it to her. My sister had done it to her. Now it’s being done to me, again, and it hurts. I’d left her, my children left me, but if she survived, so will I. It was love, and hurt, and enduring, and life, and survival in one single moment.

Then, mom abruptly stood up and said, “Oh, I have something for you” and headed for her bathroom. When she came back, she said, “Here, this is for you. I don’t really like the color.”

nail polish_june 2016 (3)What happened next is still something I don’t fully understand, because those who know me know that not only do I dislike pink, I don’t paint my nails. (I’m all over having a frequent pedicure, partly because with age and a bad back, I can scarcely reach my toes and I’m not that old. Yet). Through the years I found that maintaining painted, sculpted fingernails while working in dental hygiene was difficult. Not only that, I’m a gardener, berry picker, and I work in the dirt. These are outdoor hands.

But, what did I do?

I opened that bottle of pink polish and applied a coat to my left thumbnail. And, I love it. I looked at mom, and she me, and we both smiled. She got up again and went to her bathroom, and the next thing I knew, I was leaving with all of the items below. “No, you take this. I’ve got another full bottle of remover, and a full package of the rounds,” mom said. And, “Here, I have more No Chip, you take these.” “Take them, you have fun!” she said.

That’s when I realized this is something mom really enjoys, that having nice nails and making her hands pretty makes her feel good. It’s such a simple thing. Her words have fun stayed with me last night, long after I came home.

nail polish_june 2016 (2)I did just that. I began with the file. I shaped, trimmed, and prepared. I caught myself smiling because after just that much, my outdoor nails looked so much better.

Today, I painted. I found myself enjoying the entire process. I applied two coats of the pink, and one coat of the No Chip. I giggled the entire time trying to hold still and get the polish on my nails instead of my fingers. Patience was never one of my strong points.

They don’t look perfect but I did it, my very own and first manicure in many years. And, I had fun, just like mom. I love the color, the shine, and having newly shaped nails. I smiled over a job well done.

As I set down the bottle I wondered about the name they chose for this color.

nail polish_june 2016 (1)

You Just Wait.

I don’t think I have to. I’ve become mom.

Saturday Snippets–Biker Wisdom

Today I hoped to catch some inspiration from two specific sources: The Best Quotations For All Occasions (1), and As A Man Thinketh (2). I planted myself on my front porch, early, and was overjoyed it was going to be only me, the bees, and an occasional car. The bushes along the railing are humming, but it’s OK; the bees stay put.

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Ah, serenity. Ah, calm. Then….

“…different road things represent…”

Voices! I wasn’t alone. Dang! I looked up and saw they were back, a herd of bikers, en masse. Apparently, we live on a very appealing route to bikers. Bicycle riders, that is. Hmmm. Should I stay put or go inside?

“…where the ‘F’ is your….?”

Yep. I’m staying right here. We’ll just have a listen, keep an open ear. Maybe I’ll learn something.

2015-06-06 09.47.05

Back to Susan. Sarandon, that is. I’ve been chewing on something she said. It reads: “I look forward to being older, when what you look like becomes less an issue and what you are is the point.” Of course we all want that to be the case. I agree with her, but…

I saw my doctor this week. Along with the other annual unpleasantries, there was something new. “You are a little bit over weight.”

“…that’s not really anybody’s fault…”

Right?!!? That’s what I’m thinking. This is the first time a doctor has told me this. How come two years ago, at my same weight, a different doctor told me my weight was just fine?  I even questioned her; I know little a bulge–OK, two–when I see one/them. It has to be perspective: the doctor two years ago was on the chubby side. My new doctor is on the slim side. So, who is right? The biker, of course!

Then there’s the hair. Two and a half years ago I decided to stop coloring. At first it was a “demi color,” whatever that means. It didn’t hide the gray, it just minimized the shock. You know, the pair of gray horns that seem to stick straight forward at eye level? Uh, huh. After three or four months of demi, I went cold turkey.

“…I’m not sure we were on this street last year…”

No kidding! Check out this comparison:

2015-06-05 08.21.27 694

This is a brand new boulevard. I’m trying to fully embrace Susan’s words, though. Yeah, the part about who you are versus what you look like. It’s just happening so quickly.

“…you OK?…”

Well, that’s just it. I’m just OK. I’m not great, but thanks. To make matters worse, while the bathroom mirror at work is complimentary–I am clearly 15 pounds slimmer at work–the lighting is on steroids. To be fair, it is a dental clinic, and it is most advantageous to actually see our patients’ teeth. On the other hand, under this scrutiny, neither Clairol nor Cover Girl can do their best. I don’t want to start on aging skin.

“…see you later, guys…”

Ain’t that the truth. Goodbye brunette tresses, hello silver streaks.

If I’m honest, I have to say I am learning to appreciate ( i.e. the residents at mom’s Independent Living home think I live there, too) my graying mane. My hair feels healthier than it has in too many years to count. It isn’t as flat as it was. It’s more full, and it’s very soft. I will go so far as to say that without chemicals it has…lift. I could use lift.

“…if only all the roads were this nice…”

Exactly! I don’t have to do anything, yet each day I sprout increasingly larger numbers of gray hair. This has been a relatively easy transition as far as aging goes, aside from that little weight problem.

“…would you consider going back to college?”

Well, I just did, and while I appreciate the thought, I don’t think that would help. I know how to reduce caloric intake, and I do know how to exercise.

“…ugh…it’s a workout….”

I know, no pain, no gain. I get it. It’s not that I’m unwilling. We garden, we hike, we walk, and I started planks. We love our fruits and veggies, especially those we grow.

It’s more a matter of what she said. Susan. I am learning to accept this thing called aging. I don’t necessarily like it, but I am trying to go with it. It’s not like I have a boatload of choices. It’s not like I won’t really age, like I can stop it. We learn to manage it, like we manage our profile settings.

Ultimately, it’s about being content with oneself (dark and slim or gray and chubby? I’d be happy with slim and gray. I think).

“…and it IS weird…”

Yes, I definitely agree Susan is on to something, but maybe I need to get on a bike.

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(1) Henry, L. The Best Quotations For All Occasions.

(2) Allen, J. As A Man Thinketh.