Basha Brownstein, manager of the healing arts program at Cancer Lifeline in Seattle, calls herself a 'chopped liver Jew.' Growing up in her non-observant, but culturally Jewish household in Jamaica, Queens, her family would gather around the dinner table on Friday nights and argue noisily, but cheerfully, about who got the pupick or the tuchus of the chicken (that's giblets and tail bone to the uninitiated).
Although she was given the Yiddish name Basha at birth, Brownstein was always called Barbara until just a few years ago, when she was moved to reclaim her birth name at a meditation workshop.
The Vashon Island resident came to Seattle in the early 1990s to study fabric arts at the University of Washington. She had an undergraduate degree in social work with a focus on community organizing, and a variety of work experience, including co-owning an inn in the Netherlands and being a weaver. These seemingly unrelated things became the perfect background for someone whose current job is to help people ill with cancer ' and their family and friends ' express their feelings through creativity.
Cancer Lifeline is a non-profit organization offering support through classes and workshops.
'My goal,' says Basha, 'is to regenerate the wellspring of creativity that is a healing modality in all of us, not just something added on to keep people busy.'
This creativity 'allows us to get in touch with some of the deeper questions: why we're here and what we want to do while we're here, no matter how long that is. People can gravitate to writing, visual arts, collage, movement or sound.
'They're all very profound,' she observes.
The Lifeline, with locations in Seattle and Bellevue, started as a 24-hour hotline staffed by volunteers, a service they still offer. In addition to classes and support groups, the organization offers workplace consultations when a co-worker has cancer, the only program for which there is a fee. They maintain a lymphedema program, providing special massage as well as information and networking groups for those whose lymph nodes were removed during treatment.
And, of course they are always looking for volunteers and instructors. (Esther Helfgott and Pesha Gertler, two writing instructors previously profiled in this column, both teach at Lifeline.)
'I think that when you create, you have to allow for chaos,' observes Brownstein, 'I need control in other parts of my life, but in group work I don't. I love helping people come together to create.'
Cancer often causes communication to fly out the window, she further observes, and one of the roles of the Lifeline is to facilitate that communication through creativity or talk.
Currently Brownstein is looking forward to her participation in Healing Journeys, a bi-annual conference for cancer survivors. The 2006 meeting will be held at UW's Meany Hall.
'It's the third year I've been asked to anchor the interactive art project,' says Brownstein. 'The first year we did a portal of transformation. The second year was a torso project ' Costco donated bathing suit displays and people used them as storyboards.'
Both Cancer Lifeline and Healing Journeys have Web sites which your search engine will easily locate. In the Seattle area, you can call 206-297-2100.
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Last we heard from Kevin Brashem, over a year ago, he was on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. With his project complete, he will receive his award on Nov. 20.
The Bellevue International School senior has been scouting since first grade. In addition to his wide variety of scouting activities, he has earned an Aleph emblem from the National Jewish Committee for Scouting, and a Ner Tamid emblem from the Boy Scouts.
For his Eagle project, Kevin left 1,000 empty sacks on neighborhood doorsteps one weekend with a request that they be filled with books. The following weekend a group of scouts and adults collected over 3,000 books which were donated to the Bellevue Youth Theater book sale. Unsold books benefited Starlight Foundation's literacy program.
Brashem continues to be active in King County Explorer Search and Rescue, logging over 700 hours of service with them in the past three years. He's become a team leader and is involved in training new members.
Kevin is the son of Terry and Mark Brashem and brother of Stacie. His grandparents are Joan and David Lerner of Mercer Island and Joan and Martin Brashem of Gig Harbor.
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Bellevue resident Nolan Newman is using his 19 years of experience as a certified public accountant to launch his own firm.
Newman says he likes to help people get what they want out of their companies. 'Helping clients achieve their business objectives is one of the most enjoyable aspects of serving as a professional advisor,' he says.
Nolan will work with small and owner-operated businesses and healthcare organizations to meet their tax, accounting and planning needs. Previously a partner in Arthur Andersen, Newman has worked in South Africa, Orange County, Calif., and Seattle. At Clark Nuber, PS, in Bellevue, he was a tax principal specializing in healthcare, mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, compensation and other tax issues. Local clients have included Children's and Overlake hospitals, Legacy Health Systems and the University of Washington. Nolan has also been the chief financial officer for a private holding company.
When not working, Newman enjoys being outdoors, playing golf and tennis, as well as backpacking. He is a board member of Provail, a Seattle non-profit supporting people with disabilities, and of Herzl-Ner Tamid Congregation on Mercer Island.
If you're one of our out-of-state readers, Nolan is licensed in Oregon and California, in addition to Washington. He can be reached at his Seattle office at 206-284-1383, or at his web site, www.nolannewmancpa.com.