About Me

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Douglas, Alaska, United States
I have lived in Alaska since 1978, having come to Juneau as a Jesuit Volunteer. I fell in love with Alaska and now live on Douglas Island with my husband and two dogs.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I Am Boo

Image result for Boo Radley to Kill a Mockingbird
The other night, Charles and I were lucky enough to attend Perseverance Theatre's new production of "To Kill A Mockingbird" here in beautiful downtown Douglas.

First of all, it is astonishing to me that we have a nationally recognized theatre company just blocks away from our house, and that they always feature "pay as you can" performances, so going to wonderful productions is relatively easy and inexpensive, and always rewarding.  As a matter of fact, a member of their acting company, James Sullivan, one of the nicest guys in the world, lives across the street from our house.  James was in this production and played the part of Bob Ewell, the villain of the piece, although the true villains of the book, film and play are bigotry, fear and discrimination.

I first saw the film version of To Kill A Mockingbird when I was a little girl.  My mother loved the book and the film and I remember watching it with her, and being impressed by how much she lived out the values of acceptance, openness and kindness to the people she encountered who were different than herself.  From the individuals who had physical and cognitive disabilities with whom she worked at the University of Oregon Child Development and Rehabilitation Center, to the Watkins salesman with cerebral palsy who regularly came to our door (and about whom, coincidentally, a film was later made), she made every effort to be friendly, welcoming and nonjudgmental. So it was no surprise that she was so taken with To Kill A Mockingbird.  She often reminded me that, as Hispanics, we were in no position to discriminate against others, since we could be the targets of discrimination ourselves.  When I was a bit older, I read the book for myself, and was completely entranced.

I will admit that when I saw that PT was going to do a production of Mockingbird, I was skeptical.  Would it live up to the book and film?  Would I be disappointed by the depictions of beloved characters?  But, being a loyal Douglasite, and a friend of one of the cast members, I decided to give it a shot.  I wasn't disappointed.  The acting was wonderful, the sets simple but very well done, and the costuming lovely.  I had forgotten that the backstory, the setting of the town of Maycomb was so very integral to the story, and that was accomplished by the use of the character of Miss Maudie, who served as the narrator.  In the film and book, it was the grown-up Scout who was the narrator, so while it was different, it was not jarring.

This isn't supposed to be a review of the play, but a reflection of it through the lens of my recent experience as an advocate for individuals living with mental illness, and my lifelong experience of living with mental illness myself.  The character that resonated more than any other in this production was that of Boo Radley, the reclusive neighbor of Atticus, Scout and Jem.  Boo was different that the other people in Maycomb.  When he was young, he reportedly stabbed his father with a pair of scissors, wiped the blood off and went on cutting paper.  He was taken to the jail and would have been committed to an asylum, but his father took him home and kept him inside. The children, Jem, Scout and Dill, made up stories about him and made him out to be a frightening, mysterious figure.  Then, Scout and Jem discover little gifts left for them in the knothole of a tree, left there, they suppose, by Boo.  The climax of the story is the attack on Jem and Scout by Bob Ewell, who goes after them in an attempt to get to their father, who publicly humiliated him during the trial of a black man who was accused of raping his daughter.  Boo saved the children, and turned Ewell's knife on Ewell, killing him.  The sheriff insists that the public be told that Ewell fell on the knife, and that if the townspeople knew that Boo had saved the children, he would become a hero and would be dragged into the limelight, which he had always avoided.

Boo Radley is a symbol of those individuals who live with mental illness, who have been labeled as crazy or scary.  In my work at a downtown clinic that serves folks who live on the street, and as a peer mentor for individuals who have been diagnosed with mental illness, I have had the opportunity to encounter such people.  Many folks with mental illnesses are able to function in the world with the help of counseling and medications, support groups and advocacy and education organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  While there are definitely people whose symptoms are not controlled and who might be unstable and frightening while experiencing a crisis, the majority of individuals who I have met who live with mental illness are good, kind, functioning, and productive people. 

When I was invited to join the board of our local NAMI affiliate, I was hesitant because when I was asked why I joined, I knew I would have to be honest about my own diagnoses of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder, and be willing to share my own experience as a person living with mental illness.  However, since I had just emerged from a three year major depressive episode, that had finally resolved with the help of a medication change, I knew firsthand just how debilitating and paralyzing a mental health crisis could be.  I felt it was not only my responsibility to advocate for my peers, but my privilege to do so.

Being a member of the NAMI Juneau Board and receiving training as a Peer to Peer mentor and as a mentor trainer has opened up a world that I had never known.  I used to be afraid of encountering a person with mental illness because I thought their behavior might be unpredictable or frightening.  However, I have found my peers to be insightful, funny, intelligent, brave and inspiring. 

When I have shared that I live with mental illness, some people have expressed surprise.  I don't "look" like a person with mental illness.  I don't "act" like a person who lives with mental illness, either, at least their ideas of what mental illness looks or acts like.  However, in 2016, it was estimated that in the United States, 16 million individuals were diagnosed with depression, 40 million individuals were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and there were 200,000 cases of schizophrenia.  Everyone knows someone who has been affected by mental illness, either a family member or a friend, a coworker or a fellow church member.  Many of the people who have been diagnosed receive successful treatment of their symptoms and are able to function.  Some struggle with symptoms and require hospitalization. 

Popular culture and negative depictions of individuals who live with mental illness add to stigma and marginalization.  Education can be a major component to reducing stigma and increasing acceptance and compassion for those who live with these diseases.  Advocacy can serve to increase services and funding for research.  I am proud to be part of this effort on a local level, and as a part of the larger NAMI organization. If you would like to contribute to NAMI Juneau or to participate in our efforts, please click here.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

It's A Brand New World, My Weekend, And Other Thoughts

This is my first post on my brand spanking new lap top!

I have been sporadic about posting because my old lap top was very clunky and difficult.  I did write a few posts on my phone, but was unable to add photos to my posts, which has been very frustrating!

However, I am back on line and looking forward to posting more often.

So, yesterday, I treated myself to a haircut and highlights.  I was a bit nervous, as I have attempted highlights in the past and ended up with dark brown hair with orange stripes (a la Tony The Tiger).  Needless to say, that experience was not GRRRRREEAATT!

This time, I went to Agape salon, and was pampered by Brieanne, who is a fellow parishioner, a friend of our son and his fiancée, and wonderfully talented young woman who is a whiz at the hair styling biz.

Here are some photos of during and after the process:

As you can see, I did not end up with tiger stripes!

I wanted to do something a bit different to celebrate both the coming of springtime and my weight loss of 30 pounds.  Well, since I had ankle surgery in November, then Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the loss of my dear father in law in January, I will admit to some cheating on my food plan, so I have gained back about 5 pounds, but I am back on the program and am able to get more exercise, now that the snow and ice are melting.

This afternoon, our plan was to see "Beauty and the Beast", but when we got to the theater, it was sold out.  So we went to the library instead, and then to the grocery store, and then home, where I unwrapped and set up this new computer. 

It is so good to be back in the blogosphere, and to be able to post photos again!

I hope those of you who follow my blog haven't left in disgust at my lack of posting.  I am grateful for comments and I hope to be posting a lot more! 

I am also looking forward to catching up on the blogs that I used to read so avidly when I had a computer that worked!

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Small and Quiet Christmas

It's been a week of ups and downs. I got my cast off on Tuesday, and I had to get used to walking around on crutches pretty much full time. I had no idea I would get so tired.

I kept the knee scooter to use at home and so I don't have to struggle with the crutches in the middle of the night when I get up to use the bathroom.

I have to do exercises to get my ankle back to normal and to wake up the muscles and nerves. My foot is still very swollen and stiff. The exercises make my ankle very sore, but they do reduce the swelling.

Getting around at work is a pain, especially if I need to carry something in my hand.  Just going to the fax machine is an expedition.

And to top off the week, Charles' 89 year old dad was admitted to the hospital. We feared the worst, but we got good news today that he is responding to treatment. He'll need to be in a skilled nursing facility for a week to continue his antibiotic therapy, but if he continues to improve, he'll be able to come home.

Charles is tired, too - he has been taking care of everything: cooking, cleaning, laundry and lifting my scooter in and out of the car, which is not good for his back. Now that I'm only using the scooter in the house, he is relieved of that duty.

We haven't done any decorating at all for Christmas. We are going to put the tree up tomorrow with Phoebe and Odin's help, and get the house spruced up for the holiday.

For a few short hours we switched from thinking about finally getting ready for Christmas to thinking about the quickest way to get Charles to California to be with his family, but the news today was good, so we changed directions again, back to holiday preparation mode.

I'm glad that I have a long weekend, and that Charles has all of next week off. Phoebe and Odin are here from Fairbanks, and Miguel and Becca are back east with Becca's family for Christmas.  We decided not to have our open house this year, so Christmas will be quiet and small: fewer gifts, fewer decorations, fewer cookies, but with just as much expectation, joy and love,  and, thinking about Charles' dad, with much gratitude and relief.

Monday, September 5, 2016

A Down Week

I've been down this week.  I had an unfortunate incident at work, and it has stuck with me, resulting in thoughts of "If only I had handled things differently...", and "I should have done THIS, not THAT...", and wondering if I am in the right place.

Self doubt, regret and not a little depression have been my constant companions his week.

But God's excellent timing brought me Hallie Lord's new book: "On The Other Side Of Fear: How I Found Peace". It's a quick read abut trusting God and being grateful in all things. She experienced health problems, financial difficulties and marital discord, and writes so honestly and openly about her life.  It was just what I needed this week.

I'm still having a hard time, but I am going to try to put my trust in God.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Phew! That Was Close!

Hi gang - remember me?

It's been a long time (again) since I posted, and I almost didn't post this time, because I couldn't seem to access my "New Post" button.

Anyway, problem solved, thank God!

Among the many reasons that I have been incommunicado is the fact that this laptop is on its last legs and is really uncomfortable to type on.  I suppose I could post on my phone, using my thumb, but that leads to pain and suffering.

I have been keeping up with Facebook (maybe a bit too much Facebook, according to my son, who thinks I live on Facebook).  I do enjoy reading my friends FB posts and commenting on their goings on, and I like to post photos, which I can't seem to figure out on this computer.  How do I get my iPhone photos on my MacBook?  Anyone?

IF I could figure out how to do this, I could put pictures on El Bloggerino.  So, any ideas would be helpful.

I need a new laptop.  OR, I need a tablet with a really good keyboard.  Charles has an iPad with a separate keyboard.  Maybe that's what I need.

In other news, I have lost 22 pounds!  Hooray!  Thanks to Dwija over at houseunseen.com, who turned me on to Trim Healthy Mama, I have finally found the key to losing weight!

Let's see, what else?  Our car is dead, so we need a new car.  Preferably one that runs.  And that is not a 2003 VW New Beetle.  Remember those cute old VW Beetles, that had the engine in the back, and seemingly ran forever?  The 2003 VW New Beetle is not one of those.  Our Beetle, which we bought because it was cute (never be taken in by cute), and it was a diesel (better mileage! less $$!) turned out to be a disaster.  We still owe almost 5K on it, and it would take about 3K to get it running again.  I think we would rather spend 3K on a better car.  So, we will take the bus and borrow cars and beg rides until we have enough scraped together to get a different car.

We went to Sitka this past weekend, which was great.  However, when we returned home, we were greeted by our two dogs, one of whom, Beans was limping and holding up a bloody paw.  I tried to stop the bleeding by applying pressure, but she was really losing a lot of blood.  So off we went (via Becca's car) to the vet, who stitched up Beans, who had torn her little pad down to the bone, and cut in between her toes.  Fifteen stitches and $872 later, we brought her home to recuperate.

            [Gosh, this post really is not supposed to be about money, or the lack thereof!]

Good news!  I lost 22 pounds (I know I said that before, but I'm trying to change the subject)!

One of the things that happened while I was trying to figure out how to post was that I couldn't find any of my followers. I thought that they had all disappeared, or abandoned me because I am such a bad blogger.  Thank goodness, when I fixed it (I have no idea how it happened), PRESTO! there they were again.  And I'm glad!

Bear with me and be amazed at the sheer quality of my ramblings.  And perhaps, you may be treated to photos, if I can figure it out.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

It's Been A Long, Long Time

Hello friends!

I have been out of touch for a while, mostly because I was experiencing a bout of depression and anxiety for a couple of years.  Remember those blog posts about being sleepy and low energy?  Turns out that they were symptoms of a major depressive episode.

I thought that I didn't FEEL depressed, so I couldn't possibly BE depressed, right?  Wrong.  I finally talked to my doctor and said that maybe the medications I was taking weren't working.  So she changed my depression medications from Cymbalta and Abilify to Brintellix!  Aha!  After about a week, I started to feel much better!  We kept the same dosage of my anti-anxiety medication, Buspar, but I soon realized that I was waking up with a huge knot of anxiety in my chest, so we upped my dosage and I started to feel much less anxious.

During this episode, and its aftermath, I was asked to be on the local board of NAMI, the National Alliance On Mental Illness, as a person living with a mental illness.

I thought that I wouldn't be able to contribute much, since I am not an expert or a clinician.  However, I agreed.

What a privilege it has been to work with such a dedicated group of people!  Family members of those who experience mental illness make up the majority of the board, along with several folks living with mental illness.  I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco to the National NAMI Conference, where I heard wonderfully moving stories, and learned a tremendous amount about the research that is being done in an effort to help those who struggle to achieve recovery.

In August, I participated in a Peer Mentor Training, that enabled me to become a teacher for our local Peer to Peer Class, which started on Monday, and will go for 10 weeks.  Again, a privilege to share knowledge, and to help my peers on their road to wellness.

In other news, when I knew I was feeling better, I decided that staying at home was not a good idea for my healing, so I decided to seek a full time job.  I started as the receptionist/medical assistant at the Front Street Community Health Center, which serves low income, uninsured people, mostly those who are homeless.  It is a perfect job for my skill set: I worked as a Public Health Nurse Aide in our local State public health clinic for 15 years, and learned basic skills in taking vital signs, charting and assisting the nurses, and also had helped out at the front desk, so this job was just a great fit!

So, while I have been experiencing a relapse of my anxiety lately (but with another increase of my dosage of Buspar, and counseling with a wonderful therapist), I still feel pretty good.  I'm proud of my ability to weather the last few years and have come out stronger than before.

If any of my readers have been wondering where I went, now you know.

I have had some adventures, lately, not the least of which was traveling to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, and the Pope's visit!  But I'll talk about that in another post.

For now, good night!  It is GREAT to be back among the living!

Monday, June 9, 2014

One Pound of Flesh, Pentecost and Fire and Brimstone

Well - I weighed myself day before yesterday, and I had lost exactly...one pound.  One measly pound, after going without bread, cake, cookies, pie, etc. for two and a half weeks.

So I have reconsidered the no-wheat plan and now I am going to try to eat healthy, still trying to avoid all carbs and perhaps throw in a fast day here and there.  I never have been a crash/fad diet sort of person, but I thought that the no-wheat plan was going to be a winner.  Nope.

In other news, yesterday was Pentecost Sunday, and the church was all dressed up in red and even some of the parishioners were wearing red in honor of the day (including me)!  Here is a photo that I took of one of the windows that Charles designed, painted and helped build for the Cathedral:

Our pastor was out of town, so Mass was said by another priest, who started out his homily quite well, talking about the many languages that were spoken by the apostles on Pentecost, and asked us to imagine each of us given one or more of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  And then, he took a turn for the worse and started ranting.  It was an old fashioned fire-and-brimstone homily.  It was awful to watch and to hear.   There were so many other themes he could have talked about: the joy of Pentecost, the gifts of the Holy Spirit (he so very briefly touched on this) or the birth of the Church.  But instead it was hellfire and damnation for 20 minutes.   I wanted to stand up and ask him to stop shouting at us.  He hectored and accused and scolded and went on and on and on.  I know that his style can be pedantic, but I have actually heard him give bearable (if not good) sermons over the years.  This was way over the top.

It was a real shame.  Mostly I found myself praying that this would not be an occasion of sin for me (uncharitable thoughts, etc), and cringing because we had so many visitors attending Mass that day (Juneau is a tourist town), and also musing that anyone who speaks to an assembly of the people of God this way can not be a happy man.  

So, please pray for him, folks.  I think he needs prayers, like we all do.