Thursday, December 18, 2008

English as a second language

This sign, around the corner from home, has pleased me for two years. It advertises a small, inexpensive hotel that caters to Alaska Natives in town for visits, medical care, or shopping.
I suspect a Yupik or Inupiat speaker started this. Then at least one, and maybe more, people for whom English is a second language got involved in the production process.
"Conscious", after all, is a good thing in a motel.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rocky's favorite part of Thanksgiving

Michelle brings Nino and DJ to play soccer with the dogs.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from Alaska

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fortune Cookie Chronicles

I am fascinated by Jennifer 8. Lee's book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles - the history of American-Chinese food.

I love the parts about the sophistication of "chop suey" restaurants in the 20's, the menu wars, the "Golden Venture" disaster, the nasty General Tso chicken, and of course, the mysterious attachment of American Jew to Chinese food.

Remember "Network"? "Jews know two things - Chinese food and suffering".

All this makes me think of my own personal history with Chinese food. It was a long time coming. I have dim memories of my Uncle Don (the educated member of my mother's family, he'd been to Bible College somewhere in the Midwest) telling us about a trip to a Chinese restartant. "They just kept bringing platters of pork and shrimp and vegetables," he said. My mother, with her nose in the air, "If you are willing to eat things like that".

Then there were the meals Suzanne and I shared in the dim recesses of the local Chinese restaurant in Rutherford. It had a generic name - maybe China Rose or something like that. The intimacy of passing the little metal teapot. The takeout iced tea and eggrolls in the hot Jersey nights.

The Yorks cooking Japanese food and guiding us through Chinese restaurants in New Jersey, New York, and London.

And the excitement of Szechuan and Hunan food in the late 70's. Sensations I had never imagined. The glory of HOT!

Not to mention "the you no like" phenomenon that tormented me in NYC's Chinatown in the early 80's. I DO LIKE chicken feet and sea cucumbers.

Maybe we should add the chicken who played tic-tac-toe in Chinatown for over 20 years. Yes, the same chicken. Birds are long lived unless you eat them.

But Jennifer really should add a chapter about Chinese restaurants in Alaska. How every town with a population greater than 400 has a Chinese restaurant. How they are all run by Koreans, and how they have only begun to offer Korean dishes in the last few years. About the practice in Bethel (western Alaska) of including fortune cookies with every order - including cheeseburger and fries.

Then there is the passion of Eskimos for sushi and sashimi- but that is a whole different story.

This book is much too short.

Monday, November 10, 2008

art and family in Charlotte NC

I spent Halloween weekend with my brother and his family in Charlotte. We did a lot of neat things, but my favorite was when they bought this great painting of the West Wall at the American Craft Show.A wonderful picture, and we really enjoyed meeting the artist.

the laughter continues

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

election night in Alaska...

... is very strange. Most times the networks call the national races and go home before the polls close here. I always feel a little isolated, hanging out on the western edge of the nation, four hours behind eastern time. No one is ever waiting for our electoral votes.

We have important races going on here. Not Palin (I hope). But our lone congressman (who lost a race to a dead man in the 70's and has been in office since) may lose. Our 84 year old Senator Stevens, recently convicted on seven felony charges, may lose tonight, too. Or not. These are important races and we hope to have results tomorrow.

But I will be glad to go to bed after I hear Obama's acceptance speech.

Monday, October 13, 2008

don't rush the snake

After ten years with corn snakes, I have been enjoying my king snake (another rescue from the pound). She seemed, if anything, more tolerant of me than even the sweet tempered corns. She is an alert, active snake, often looking at me with interest from her cage, and settling against my body when I pick her up.

I did notice when I fed her that she has a ferocious prey strike. Unlike the corn snake, who will gently take the rat from my palm.

I was in a hurry tonight. I'm leaving for Portland in the morning and I haven't packed yet. The king's cage had to be cleaned and it was one more chore to be fitted into a busy evening. I moved too quickly and grabbed her, and felt those tiny needles in my palm. I told her I was sorry and we rocked in front of the fireplace for a while until we both calmed down.

My brother-in-law often asks about the "secret of life". He tells a long story about one of his brothers who, in response to this question, answered "When you are offered a booth or a table always take the table". Or maybe it was the other way 'round. (This reminds me of Jackie Mason's routines about the Jews and the Gentiles in the restaurant).

The last time he asked me I told him "Never run from the bear".

Now I think "Don't rush the snake" is almost as good as a motto.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

must be the scary sweater

Walking the dogs the other day, Sookie slipped away and I heard her barking. I turned around to see her nose to nose with a yearling moose, barking ferociously and advancing on him. The moose was backing away cautiously and politely.

This was a young and small moose, no more than 500 pounds. Sookie weighs nearly 10 pounds.

I called her and she came running back to me. She danced on her hind legs and waved her front paws in the air and told me she had saved me from the Big Dog.

It's been snowing for a week and today it started to look serious. The leaves are still on the trees but we might not see earth again until May.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tundra swans

These two stopped at an Anchorage lake a week ago for a vacation before they continue south.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

that wasn't so bad

I never voted for Sarah Palin. I never had any intention of voting for McCain-Palin this fall.

But I am relieved that she didn't embarrass us all tonight. Us? Alaskans? Women?

I do wish she would stop droppin' her g's, and saying doggone, heck, and golly. But I believe her when she says she is tolerant. Alaskans are.

The format was awful. Reaction shots are bad enough, but these two were face to face every minute. Each of them smirked and grimaced into the camera. That's production, not people.

Could have been a lot worse.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

October, am I ready?

Thanks to Jeanne Salther at, I have these talismans. The postcard is a mosaic she made from the pinkOctober M&M's a few years ago.

Still, I wasn't quite ready on Sunday when the nice young man at the grocery store asked me if I wanted to donate money for breast cancer research.

I said "no" quietly and politely.

I was thinking. About what I have already given (or lost). More than a third of my breast, three lymph nodes, every bit of my leave time for an entire year, about $10,000 out of pocket, the ability to sleep through the night, a significant amount of my waning cognitive functions, and an obscure sense of confidence in my body and my health.

A disease, not a marketing opportunity. Thanks Jeanne.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Snow on the mountains this morning. We walked the dogs in dark, wet weather. Then, for a few hours, it was sunny and lovely, with the gold palette of an Alaskan fall. I worked on putting the garden to bed. This is a rewarding activity. I have already planted bulbs, so that when I wake on winter mornings hours before sunrise I can lie still for a minute with my eyes closed and imagine them growing underground, under the snow.
Frost is forecast for tonight, although the annuals all looked lovely today. I've brought a few flowers inside.
My nasturtiums did not do well this year. The slugs didn't touch them (that peppery taste?) but I don't think they ever got enough sun.
Only a few yards away, my neighbor's nasturtiums were gorgeous. I will miss them if they don't survive the night.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor came to town last week and I was awfully glad to see him.

I've been listening to that voice for 30 years. Now I don't have a "bucket list" of people to see before they die or I do. All last summer I was irritated by displays of books like "1000 Places to Go Before You Die". I don't want anyone telling me what I should do with the rest of my life. What I should read or who I should see live on stage.

I was irrationally pleased last month when one of the authors of "1000 Places" fell on his head in his home and died at age 46.

But I have always wanted to see Garrison, and here he was in my own town with a one man show. First, I was just grateful for someone saying kind things about Alaska. (With all the media coverage of Sarah, you would think there is something wrong with people who shoot and eat moose.) Garrison says he loves Alaska, and reminded us of things we do all the time (like float plane trips or meeting moose on the trail) that are once in a lifetime experiences for visitors.

The he spent over an hour weaving a story of many old and a few new elements from Lake Woebegone. There were the Sons of Knute giant duck decoys, the Lutheran pastors on Wally's pontoon boat, the 53 Chevy septic tank and the homecoming parade, and Bruno the Fishing Dog. This was interwoven with tales of two characters I don't remember hearing about before and one wedding and one funeral intersecting with all those familiar elements. Hot air balloons and gigolos and bowling balls and parasailing.

Then Garrison talked a little about the nature of storytelling. He reminded us that we have our stories too. "I'd like to hear your story," he said. "Maybe someday you will sit next to me on the plane. Say Anchorage to Seattle. That should be enough time for me to hear your story."

So I've been thinking about the story I would tell him on the plane ever since. I've decided to go traditional and tell my "coming to Alaska" story. Most of us have them.

Mine is the best story of my life. I've told it often. Now, approaching my fourteenth winter here, I imagine telling it to Garrison on the 12:15 am flight to Seattle.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

John McCain doesn't look well

And he isn't always coherent.

This is very scary. I wasn't too worried about a McCain presidency. He seemed like a bright and honorable man and who could be worse than Bush?

Maybe Sarah?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

the truth about Palin

But I loved the SNL segment last Saturday! Tina was born to be Sarah!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Frog"s midnight snack

Last week I took the dogs out later than usual. I had been transfixed by a disturbing and lovely movie on DVD, "American Crime".
So it was nearly midnight when we went walkies.
Now there are things I could worry about in this neighborhood at night. There are gang members, drug users and sellers, pimps, johns, prostitutes. I've met them all but always had civil encounters. Drunks are sometimes a problem, but my littlest dog Sookie can handle that.
There are often moose. Bears are a distinct possibility, but I've never run into them here in Midtown.
I am afraid of some of my neighbors.
I moved into this condo thinking about snow removal and roof repair. There are some elderly condo board members who have been here more than 30 years and long for the good old days. They regarded me, at 54, as a dangerous youngster. A dog playing frisbee on the lovely and rarely used grounds is an abomination.
My next door neighbor Mary is one of these people.
So we had a nice walk. I saw a huge earthworm on the sidewalk and thought how much FrogBob would enjoy it. (FrogBob is a wonderful animal but insists on live food.) So I scooped it up carefully in one hand (slightly yeechy) and held the leashes in the other as we headed for home.
My elderly neighbor was in her carport. I couldn't imagine what she was doing up so late and she was calling "Karen!" which isn't my name.
She asked me if I was "in the book". I tried to explain that I didn't have a landline, realized that she didn't understand, and said
She asked me for my number. I found a pen in my pocket and tried to juggle one large and angry worm and two little dogs (Sookie was threatening Mary with dismemberment) while I wrote my name and number on an envelope.
I never thought to ask her why she needed my number, Couldn't be anything good.
FrogBob did enjoy the worm.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

horrible things in the garden

Its official. We had two days of summer - when summer is defined as a day when the temperature reached or exceeded 70 degrees F.

And it has rained. And rained.

Usually the gardens can count on endless sunshine, warmth, and few bugs. Too little rain, so watering is important.

When I lived in Juneau there were slugs. Huge, colorful characters. Juneau is Pacific Northwest rainforest, complete with banana slugs and other large and alarming creatures.

Most years in Anchorage, I have seen two or three slugs a season and ignored them. They were welcome to a bit of the garden.

This year, my little walled garden is dank with mold and moss and slimy with slugs. Hundreds of them. They ate the dahlias right down to the ground - no small feat when you think how fast dahlias grow around here.

And now they are breeding. Like most invertebrate sex, this is complicated and I'm not sure I understand it. I do know they are true hermaphrodites, and I find them linked together at two orifices. I don't dare look closer. The thought of another generation next summer alarms me, so I have been hunting them (easier now that they are two by two) and dropping them in a tub of salt.

This is uncharacteristic. I like invertebrates in general. Echinoderms are my favorites in the world, of course. I remember the movie Microcosmos featured sex between two slugs or snails that moved me to tears. I have just stuck that disc in the DVD player to try to recapture my usual tolerant self.

I'm just cranky because there was no summer.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


There was the excitement of the announcement, the ambivalence, and then the hurtful nature of the press. Alaska bashing. New ways to trivialize women.

I didn't vote for Sarah, and I won't be voting for McCain-Palin. This is a small state (in population, not area). We meet our governors at the airport and picnics and (unless the governor is Murkowski) we get to know and like them. Talk to them.

Sarah is smart, tough and thrilling. I trust her, I admire her. Don't underestimate a woman who shoots, fishes, flies, and raises five children. Maybe running the PTA is adequate training for running the world. No one has tried it before. This is the first lactating vice-presidential candidate we are talking about.

Maureen Dowd was snarkier than usual today. I resented her characterization of Alaska as an "overgrown igloo" and Sarah as a "Cinderella chick flick".

The most painful parts of this are statements like "she is a hero because she gave birth to Down's syndrome child". That is little Trig they are talking about, and we are very protective and proud of him here. Not because his mother didn't abort. She never described the experience in those terms. Sarah and the First Dude presented him proudly and spoke candidly about the prenatal diagnosis and their efforts to come to terms with it. They never presented their experience in political terms.

I am horrified at the implication that a feminist pro-choice Democrat would automatically abort in those circumstances, Someone like me. If I had been lucky enough to be pregnant at 44, or any other time, and learned that the baby had Down's, I never would have considered abortion. There's nothing wrong with people with Down's. Trig is a beautiful baby and an Alaskan. He is not a pro-life icon and Sarah has never suggested that.

Now I am unexpectedly excited about the Republican convention. I am even distracted from "Nixonland".

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

conventions and history

I am watching the convention with interest, but it moves rather slowly. Worse than the Olympics.

So I sit in front of the television with "Nixonland" in my lap. Still convinced that Nixon is the story (and the horror) of my lifetime. I find, reading this, that I had forgotten a surprising number of details.

And its a big book - big enough to get me through both conventions.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

relax - mouse is dead

My new snake is, like my Sunshine corn snake, a stray. Adopted from the pound. This probably happens only in Alaska, since we have no snakes living here. Its just like Alaskans to rescue any snake they find and deliver it to the animal shelter.

She's a california king, not quite full grown, plump and mild mannered. I don't need another snake, but she is so lovely and so easy to handle I couldn't resist.

I have spent much of the weekend in various pet stores buying snake equipment of various kinds. And observing other pet freaks. I had a long talk with a man buying tropical fish. He said he hand-fed his fish and they would come to rest in his hand. He was bursting with excitement over the new fish in his plastic bag,

It seems odd, compared to the relationships we have with our dogs, How could I be so attached to my reptiles? They react to me, but I don't think they know me. But they are lovely and silent. I look forward to seeing them every morning and after work every day. I look forward to feeding them and cleaning cages each weekend. Apparently humans are wired to love fish, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates (when we are not eating them),

My frog is singing, a loud, plangent sound. I love him too.

Friday, July 25, 2008

This has been bothering me ...

Why am I in such a minority? I fully expect to live out my life without dying of breast cancer. It looks like something else will get me first. Survival? Pure luck, random event.

Who are these "positive attitude people"? They had a lot of high tech medical care for a disease that is not all that lethal and they attribute their survival to a "positive attitude"? Keep these women away from me

Thursday, July 24, 2008

thoughts on weather and dogs

Gloomy summer headed toward infamy
CHILLY: Anchorage could hit 65 degrees for fewest days on record.

Snow on the mountains this morning. I didn't actually see this because the skies were so overcast. But here is the Anchorage Daily News photo. With a long story about how this may set all records for the coldest and rainiest summer ever.

Everyone complains about the weather. But to put this in perspective, we had snow from early October through late April last winter.

Summers are usually brief but so glorious that no one is ungrateful enough to complain. This cold, overcast drizzle is hard to take.

Last night I watched a documentary on suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm not sure why - I think Netflix told me I would like it. In a way I did. The bridge was so gorgeous against the sky and the water. There were interviews with the families of some of those who died there. These were people with severe and long-standing mental illnesses, and the stories of their lives were more painful than the stories of their death.

One couple described the unbearable story of their son's life and death in a dozen different scenes. In each scene, they were sitting on a comfortable couch in a cozy living room with their dachshund.

The dog moved back and forth between them. Each person petted him, rubbed him, cuddled him. The dog sat quietly, or rolled over to show his belly, or carefully licked their hands. He never barked or made eye contact with camera.

I tear up thinking about the dog. He was a working lap dog, providing comfort to people who were suffering an intolerable loss. Working with tact and skill. A heroic little wiener dog.

I want a bumper sticker that says "lap dogs are working dogs too". Mine do their work with great dedication and sensitivity.

Rocky once gave me career advice. I was working a nursing management job with 24 hour call and lots of clinical time. (Except for working all the time and being paid less per hour than any of the people who worked for me, it was a wonderful job). One night I came home late as usaul. While I was making dinner, Rocky went into the closet and got up on his hind legs to get to my parka. He took the beeper out of my pocket. Then he hid under the bed and chewed it to pieces.

The next morning I went in to work and turned in the fragments of beeper and my resignation.

Everyone should have such a good dog.

Friday, July 11, 2008

beware the ferns!

This summer has been cool and overcast - perfect fern weather. I have some ferns in my garden and struggle to keep them under control.

But Linda has this glorious fern garden on her east wall.

I don't think I could sleep with these gorgeous prehistoric creatures filling up the garden and blocking the exit and threatening the house...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

4th of July in Alaska

The Fourth is always a big holiday here in Alaska. In the gold mining days, the mine closed only for Christmas and the Fourth of July. Every town celebrates with enthusiasm, but Juneau's holiday is my favorite.

I flew down Thursday night and got to my friend Alena's house in time to mix a batch of margaritas and watch the fireworks from her living room. Perfect view out over the harbor.

Then the parades. There are two parades every year, the first in downtown Juneau and a second smaller parade in the center of Douglas - the island across the bridge. Parades included pipers, a Tlinkit Elvis, and a pack of marching pugs and their humans.

This year I've been thinking about how much the Filipino communities in Alaska add to the Fourth. The best float (Anchorage). The best marching band (these eagle-costumed folks in the picture in Juneau). Then, of course, there is the traditional Fourth of July lunch of chicken adobo, steamed buns, and panncit.

Fifteen years ago I had never eaten any of these wonderful foods. Moving to Alaska was like moving to New York only better -
diversity and great stuff to eat!

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Cosmo - the big blond guy - is a funny looking dog. He gets a lot of attention at the dog park, with everyone asking about and speculating on his ancestry.

He has an enormous head and a very handsome tail. His short legs are all knees and ankles and his feet might be on wrong. His long heavy body makes him enormous when he stands on his hind legs.

Cosmo is a sociable dog, always ready to be petted and admired. People laugh out loud when they look at him.

I gave him a DNA test for his birthday. We half expected a call from the company to say "what the hell is this?" They reported that he is predominantly (more than 50%) german shepherd. None of his other DNA matches anything in their data base,

The shepherd part makes sense, although he is little dim for a shepherd. But he herds other dogs by running in circles and loves rules (many of which he makes up himself).

No explanation for the lack of legs.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

George Carlin

I've been hearing George Carlin's voice in my head since I was about twelve, and his death isn't going to change that. I can recite "dogs and cats" and "football and baseball" from memory - they are on my iPod if I start losing my mind. I never mastered the "seven words" and the sequels because I laughed too hard when I got to "tit - OK if it is five am and there is a cow in the picture".

Whenever I hear a weather report I re-phrase it in Al Sleet's terms "Darkness begining in the evening and continuing through the night". I rarely pick up a bottle of water without hearing him say, "What the fuck, is the nation so dehydrated? Get a drink of water before you leave the house!"

"When will Jesus bring the pork chops?" is on my bedside table right now.

I was so lucky to see him on stage once, about ten years ago. In Fairbanks, in the winter. (No one plays Fairbanks in the winter). Slim and intense in black, what came through so much more clearly live was his anger. It glowed, it thrilled, it made me gasp when I tried to laugh.

And I was moved by Seinfeld's tribute, above. I was surprised - I don't really think of Jerry having human feelings.

Years ago I saw a PBS special on Carlin where he and his brother talked about his background. The alcoholic mother, the absent father. And the amazing fact of the unusual Catholic school where he was recognized as a genius immediately and treated with great respect and kindness until he ran away.

He hated religiousity above all else and insisted we go nowhere when we die. But he lives on in our language and metaphor - I don't think he would mind that.

He riffed on death all the time. "Wouldn't it be interesting if the only way you could die was that suddenly your head blew up? If there were no other causes of death? Everyone died the same way? Sooner or later, without warning, your head simply exploded? You know what I think? I think people would get used to it".

Monday, June 2, 2008

more about martial metaphors and cancer

You'd think that all these years after Sontag's "Illness as Metaphor" we would be over this....

I never battled cancer. Hell. this is a part of me we are talking about. I don't regret the slash/burn/poison, but this was never a war.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

not all that interesting

Last week, when I was in Barnes & Nobles looking for the new George Romero DVD, I noticed Shelley Lewis's book, "Five lessons I didn't learn from breast cancer". Thinking about the first anniversary of diagnosis and everything that followed, I bought it.

I guess its all right (notice that Rocky is not impressed). Of course I agree with the premise - we do not suddenly become better after treating this very common disease. Little or no insight attached. There are some good lines in the book."If you honestly think breast cancer is a gift, you can't come to my birthday party". And whole chapters about the healthy and useful aspects of denial - I'm still amazed about how little information I took in and how little I sought out.

Maybe a year is too soon to look back. But now, my main thought is that the experience was not very interesting. I wouldn't want to repeat it. There was a little fear, a lot of anger, but mostly the experience was boring. It didn't teach me much.

I have always found my patients' stories about their illnesses absolutely fascinating. But mine was boring. A series of tasks, a sequence of worries.

more about the evil beaver

Sunday, May 18, 2008

local moose and other urban wildlife

The tulips are ready. Any day now a moose will come by, walking neatly on the sidewalk, and carefully bite the bloom off each tulip. A sad thing but it can't be helped. They are not nearly as fond of daffodils, fortunately.

The cows are moving into town to give birth. Bears and wolves love to eat moose calves. Unlike moose, bears and wolves tend to avoid humans. So throughout the city the cows will give birth in back yards, parks, schoolyards, and hiking trails. Anywhere people tend to be. In Denali National Park, they often choose the tennis court or the hotel parking lot (right next to the espresso bar).

We all love calves, bright red and the size of goats. But their urban presence is something of a worry. Mother cows are very protective. They give birth near us, but are likely to charge to defend their babies.

We took the dogs to the park today. A muddy section of trail forced us to a section we usually avoid because of the presence of a beaver dam. Usually we walk at midday when the beavers are asleep. Today we were a little early - that happens when the sun rises at 4 am. Having screwed up twice, we met the beaver. First he slapped his tail. That meant something to the humans, but the (rather slow) dogs were intrigued. Rocky and Cosmo stood at the edge of the water on full alert.

The beaver, who weighed at least 50 pounds and was smarter and faster than than the dogs came rearing up out of the water, standing tall, and chirping at the dogs. We hastily called them back and leashed them and dragged them away.

Never mess with a beaver. Or an otter,

Monday, May 12, 2008

good mammogram

Notice how, in addition to the pinkish pasty over the nipple, I got to wear little radio-opaque pink triangles (pink triangles!) over the incision lines. There was another row of pink triangles over the scar from the sentinel node biopsy, but it got all wrapped up in a ball before I got home to take a picture,
But everything looks fine on the first anniversary, alive and well.
Now I have to rethink the follow-up. Every couple months I have an appointment with another doctor - another one I like very much. I go in and show my tits and we say hellos and I write a check.
It might be time to stop that and learn to keep my shirt on like a normal person again.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Plant for the cure?

And its not even October yet! Look what I found when I went out to buy marigolds today. I can't even garden in peace.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

what is it thinking?

The Christmas cactus bloomed nicely in December. Why now? Maybe I forgot to water it for two weeks in a row. That's possible. These are great plants. Any time they are negleded they burst into bloom.

Friday, April 25, 2008

on snow and illness

We've had more than a foot of snow today and it doesn't look like it will ever end.

I'm starting to feel better after two months of asthma symptoms. Asthma is very unpleasant, with all that coughing and gagging and retching. Asthma is more likely to disable or kill me than breast cancer at this point.

But I've been going to the pulmonolgist, standing in line at the drug store, writing large checks, and having chest xrays and somehow it hasn't bothered me much at all.

No one is trying to raise awareness of asthma or use it to sell me something. No asthma survivors are running around talking about it endlessly. The pulmonologist's office has normal magazines, like Audubon and Redbook. instead of Cure!, Heal!, Thrive! and (my favorite, although I've never opened it) MAMM.

The pulmonary equivalent? Maybe WHEEZE! or ?BREATHE.

Just an ordinary, common, unpleasant chronic disease. Like cancer.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

now! maybe?

Last weekend it snowed.

Today I found my lawn chair in the garage, and sat out in the sun with my coat on, reading Maureen Corrigan's "Leave me alone, I'm reading". Then I took my coat off. Rolled up my pants and took my shirt off. Then I moved into the shade.

The little dogs, like me, adore our little enclosed garden. It always amazes me (I have loved and farmed acres at a time) how wonderful a 40 foot by 40 foot space can be.

For 6 months of the year I hate my little condo. The 70's shoddy construction, the worn out windows and nasty cheap floors, the low ceilings and the little rooms.

Then, in the spring, I imagine the first time I saw it. Lilac, lily of the valley, bleeding heart, tiger lilies. The lovely single rose at the front door.

Today there are traces of poppies and day lilies.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

fried spinach - Birmingham, Alabama

I love southern food. I love having people following me around with silver pitchers murmuring "Sweet tea?". The answer is always yes. I believe southern fried foods are some of the most delicious things on the planet. (But then, I love muktuk too). I am neutral on okra, unless it is fried. Fried okra is good.

This fried spinach was rather yuukky. The texture of a potato chip, but with a taste of all that is dubious in spinach.

"You people will fry anything!" I said rudely.

Craig, a fellow diner, laughed. "You cain't hardly think of nothin' around here that ain't fallen in hot grease!" he said.

Actually Craig, like most Southerners I've met, is an educated man who speaks standard English elegantly.

Birmingham is a lovely city and I only wish I'd had more time to spend there. The "magic city", and the great figure of Vulcan looming over the pretty park. Dogwood and azalea.

Meanwhile, back in Alaska, we have had two feet of snow in a week and more predicted. But the days are sunny and endless, and it is hard to complain about something as lovely as new snow under that intense blue sky.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

halibut is here

The vernal equinox is also the time the first fresh halibut of the year hits the market.

What a wonderful fish! Mild, sweet. It can be cooked any of hundreds of ways and they are all good. Halibut is one of the best parts of living in Alaska.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

spring really is coming

Linda has a south facing exposure, and her bulbs are always the first out. Look!

Spring in Alaska is much better than spring in New England. The days are long and usually sunny. Breakup happens with thrilling speed. There is no mud season - just a few days of floods and excitement.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

the best Iditarod ever

I know I said that last year. But really, seeing Dee Dee and Paul in the early leads, friends Jim Lanier and Robert Buntzen having such good runs.. And the trash-talking but gentlemanly stuff between Lance Mackey and the great Jeff King... and Lance's second win! The second time this crazy man and Larry, Hansom, etc won both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod back to back,,, what a thrill!

The teams run at night because days in the Arctic this time of year are too warm for the dogs. During the Idtarod I often dream that I am on the trail. I see my dogs ahead of me in the light of my headlamp.

Last night I dreamed of Lance running through the night. I was amused when four different people told me of similar dreams.

Imagine all of us dreaming of Lance as he runs...

Good dogs!

Monday, March 10, 2008

my first trip to New Orleans

This was a business trip, and I suffered through 36 hours of Death by PowerPoint in an over-crowded ballroom.

But what a weird and wonderful city! The food was so good I found myself tearing up with joy. (Ate a lot of crawfish.) The Cajun brisket at Tujacques came with a tomato horseradish sauce to die for. The locals all sound like they come from New York. I was surprised to find large and active Irish, German, and Italian enclaves. The language I heard most often was Spanish. Great Cuban restaurants. No bookstores anywhere, unless you count porn.

At night, the "Touchdown Jesus" casts a shadow as high as the cathedral.

The architecture made me laugh out loud. Tara next to Greco-Roman next to ...

There is something called a dacquiri. This is a Slurpee in a variety of lurid colors generously laced with grain alcohol. They range from large to gallon at very modest prices. What a horrible way to drink! I liked the mango ones best..

I took a bus tour to look at Katrina damage ( a lot) and recovery (very little). Miles and miles of devastation, almost three years out. We looked at levees that failed, and levees that held. The most poignant thing, to me, was how lovely these devasted neighborhoods must have been. Little "shotgun houses" with front porches and fenced yards, the bright paint still visible on the ruins. I can imagine people on the porches and dogs in the yard.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Dee Dee first into Cripple!

Got into a cab this afternoon, a little disoriented after five days in New Orleans. I asked the cab driver how the Iditarod was going, and he told me beautifully. Dee Dee was first into Cripple, the halfway point, after Paul Gebhardt got turned around and started back the way he had come. We spent ten minutes deep in the details of mushing. Aside from baseball, this is the only sport I know and love and can talk about endlessly at the slightest provocation.
Dee Dee scratched last year, and I didn't think she was going to run again. She broke her hand and blamed it on the drugs she was taking to prevent a recurrence of her breast cancer. She had run the 2003 just weeks after completing chemo.
But maybe this is her year!!!!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Iditarod start

On a perfect spring day I volunteered at the take-out for the ceremonial Iditarod start. Over one hundred teams came through, including the absolute heroes of Alaska, Lance Mackey with Larry, Hansom, Rapper, and Hobo.

I also make an exception for celebrity breast cancer women and even pink ribbons for Dee Dee Jonwroe. Here she is signing autographs. Pink was her trademark long before she had breast cancer - even her dogs' harnesses are pink. I hope she has a great run. to Nome this year.

Friday, February 22, 2008

celebrity breast cancer

I'm not really into celebs with breast cancer. They are too young (average age at diagnosis in the US is 62) and thin and rich. But I downloaded Sheryl's "Make it go away (the radiation song)". It was a week before I dared listen to it. And it brought the experience back so intensely I was shaken. Radiation doesn't hurt and doesn't make you sick. And I really lucked out with a one week course and a radiology staff that was wonderful. But it scared me, and Sheryl reminded me of that.

Last weekend I talked to Uncle Pat and Aunt Barbara. (I should have done this earlier.) I an totally incapable of pretense with any of my aunts and uncles, and they all know me too well. This was very helpful. I explained to Pat, "Now that it's over I can say it wasn't a big deal. And it is over, and unlikely to cause more trouble. But at the time I complained a lot and I was very upset!".

How nice to be able to say that! And to listen to someone else say it in song.

Monday, February 18, 2008

it got warm

I was awakened last night by a crash in the garden. It had gotten warm and the 6 foot ice phallus had collapsed.

It's early yet - might get cold again.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

damn redpolls

Did the math today - these birds are eating $10 of sunflower seeds a week.

Friday, February 15, 2008

try to think of it as ice art

A pipe drips water, and this phallus of ice is created in the garden. I think I kicked over a two foot version months ago.

This one is at least six feet.

Maybe I will kick it down before gravity takes its course.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

way too cold for little dogs

Too cold. Sookie, even with layers of coats and little booties, can't come to the dog park with us. The temperature has hovered around
-20 to +10 for weeks. I'm not complaining. It's been -50 to -70 in the Interior. And I used to live there, and I've experienced those temperatures. For seconds at a time, it's thrilling. You wonder, "Will I survive? Will I be able to get to work? Will the planes fly today? Can I breathe? Why does the sky look like that? Look, ravens can fly."

But for most of the day, cold like that is grueling. You wear so many layers of clothes that you can go outside and survive. But it takes so long and so much energy to get dressed that there is nothing left to DO anything. On Saturday afternoon you think "Should I go out to a movie? Is it worth the discomfort and the very real risk? Or should I just sit here and admire the chickadees at the feeder? Watch the moose graze along the path I shoveled?"

Anchorage isn't so bad. And we are up to more than 8 hours of daylight.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Goodbye to all that #2

too many redpolls

I started with two small feeders and a block of suet. I would fill the feeders and come home (after dark) to find them empty. The redpolls are back.

These birds form huge flocks. In a give year I will see none, dozens, or thousands. And I can't believe how much they eat. I added another feeder. Watching the feeding frenzy on Sunday afternoon,I started throwing the seed directly on the ground for them. That works.

The thing is, I don't like redpolls very much. They are curiously lacking in personality. When they mob the feeders the chickadees, nuthatches, and purple finches disappear. A flock of redpolls has none of the grace and excitement a flock of bohemian waxwings brings.

But it's ten below zero, so I'll keep feeding them. And I'll be relieved when they disappear.

Friday, February 1, 2008

one block wonder

Ever since I saw the stack'n'whack quilt Aunt Anne made for her grandson John, I have longed to make one. I bought the books and had three minor disasters. The nice little triangles I made can still be used, but not for this technique.

Stack'n'whack and one-block-wonders are particularly obsessive variations of the quilters' art. Start with a wonderful fabric. A lovely fabric. A perfectly lovely fabric. Then cut it up and sew it together again.

I know this makes no sense at all.

So I took a class last Sunday. I think I have it.


I love my reptile and amphibian friends because they don't bully me like the mammals and birds in my life.

My snake is easy to read. I feed her when she looks around for food, and leave her alone when her eyes are hooded and she is ready to shed.

The frog is harder. From time to time he estivates. Estivate means he hangs out in his hide box, buried in moss, for weeks. He sheds during this process, pulling his skin into his mouth with his little forelegs. But I can't tell when he is going to do this. Or when he is done.

Unlike my mild-mannered corn snake, the frog is an irritable character who bites whenever he can.

But of course, I am nuts about him anyway,

Sunday, January 27, 2008


The "way too dark" part of the winter is over already. Now I admit it is cold - about zero. There is plenty of snow. The redpols in my back yard are eating half a pound of sunflower seeds a week.

But there is Daylight! Not enough maybe, but now that we are above seven hours and gaining more than four minutes a day anything seems possible.

I had a follow-up visit with the surgeon this week. Everyone came in to admire my breast (I used to be shy about such things). Actually, it looks better than the good one and I no longer have a matching set but I'm not complaining.

Marilyn said very few women were opting for the short course of radiation (twice a day for five days instead of five times a week for six weeks). I was the third woman in Anchorage to go that route. It is in Phase 3 trials now and is not yet standard therapy. She said when the radiologist said "long term results are unknown" that seemed to scare women off. I never thought twice about it. Marilyn suggested that we health care providers know damn well how little we know about anything and therefore worry about it less. That might well explain my attitude.

I can come up with dozens of questions that can't be answered. What's one more?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

yet another obsession

My mother introduced me to this. The circle knitting loom. This is a variation on the spool with four nails we used as kids to create long, useless yarn cords. I have instructions to actually make stuff with these, but all I do is go around in circles and make simple knitted hats. This is very absorbing and it is hard to stop. There are many groups that collect winter hats, baby hats, and chemo hats. This is fortunate, because I'd be drowning in these things.

I actually wear one of these hats myself and like it very much.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Good Mammogram

I never used to worry about these things. But I don't wait for results anymore. The test was done Friday, and when I looked at it I was worried. On Monday I went to the hospital to pick up the report. A good report!
One dot is the radiopaque thingy over the nipple. There are three gold bead in the incision site.
The stuff I was worried about was just scarring.
So far so good...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Plan B

I watched "The Simpsons Movie" on DVD this week. Its not as good as the average television episode, but I loved it when they moved to Alaska. They were homeless and penniless when Homer announced, "I always knew I would need a Plan B for my life eventually" and pulled a big poster of Alaska from his pocket.

Yup, it was just like that for me.