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, April 25, 2017


Yesterday, when Charles and I stopped at the store to pick up dinner supplies, we passed a young boy, about 11 or 12 years old, and his mom asking for donations for AquaLaps, the annual fundraiser for the Glacier Swim Club. Charles asked him what strokes he does and he replied that he does all of them. "Including butterfly?" Charles asked, and he replied "Yes, sir". Then he talked about how he loved to swim.  He was so polite and eager, and his mom was so obviously proud and supportive of him. As we left the store, I said: "Good luck!" and Charles said: "See you at the Olympics!"

When we drove over the bridge we pulled over as a Douglas Fire Department truck came speeding by at full speed, siren blaring and lights flashing.

When we got home, we found out that the playground at Twin Lakes was engulfed in flames, and when we woke up this morning we found out that two thirteen year old boys had been arrested for arson.

Who knows what the lives of those boys has been like? Has abuse and neglect played a part in this episode? Is bad parenting/modeling/lack of attention or support what made them act out and destroy a local treasure? Or were they just goofing around and made a big mistake? 

I have a friend who, as a boy, while playing along with his twin brother in his parents' barn that also housed his father's workshop, managed to burn the barn to the ground. He got in a lot of trouble, and probably was punished in some fashion.  Of course, the barn wasn't worth millions of dollars and it didn't break the town's heart when it was destroyed.  Coincidentally, this friend grew up to be a bishop.

I have read a lot of comments about the boys who started the Twin Lakes fire, calling for them to be hanged, demanding that their names be published, demanding that their parents be identified and forced to pay for the damage.

The boys are lodged at the local juvenile detention facility, where they will await trial. 

My hope for them is that they will be given the help they need to grow up to be good citizens, that their punishment will not make their lives worse, but better, that the anger and hurt our town is feeling will not fester and turn to hate and revenge and vigilante justice.

I pray for their families, for their parents and aunts and uncles and siblings and cousins, because this is a small town, and word will eventually get out, and when it does, hopefully they will not be shunned and despised but comforted and supported.

I pray for the grieving children of our town who just lost a beautiful place to play, especially with summer just around the corner.

I pray for all of us, all of us, who have experienced on a tiny scale what people in other countries experience every day: horror, fire, destruction, suspicion, fear, violence and hatred.

What is is that can make a boy like the young swimmer so obviously successful, and can make these other, slightly older boys arsonists? Is it the presence or absence of a supportive, proud parent? Was it a bid for attention, a cry for help or just a bonehead mistake that will change their lives forever?

I wish that we could have a do over. 

I wish. I hope. I pray.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


Last night, while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came upon this article about PSAs produced by David Schwimmer ("Friends", "Band Of Brothers", "American Crime Story:The People Vs. O.J. Simpson") about sexual harassment.  I watched them and was increasingly uncomfortable, until I got to the last one, which produced a full blown anxiety attack. 

The final video depicted a woman who goes to the doctor for a sinus infection.  He diagnoses her problem and then starts talking about something that he notices about her breast (a "depression") that he tells her should be checked out.  While watching it, I started hyperventilating and sweating and went into panic mode.  It brought back a memory of an incident that occurred when I was a young mother.

I had a doctor in town who was very nice and who Charles and I happened to be friends with.  We socialized with him and his wife and family, visited their home, etc.  I had an annual exam scheduled at his office, which, as the female readers of this piece know, consisted of a Pap smear and bimanual exam.  The usual standard of practice is that health practitioners will always have a chaperone in the room when they do these procedures, both to protect the patient and the clinician.  At this visit, there was no chaperone in the room.

A bit of history: I had recently disclosed to Charles that I had been molested by a family "friend", a seminarian,  when I was 11 years old.  I had started counseling and was in pretty bad shape emotionally.  I had confided in my doctor friend about my difficulties, both emotional and sexual, that were the result of the abuse.

So, during the bimanual exam, with one hand on the inside, and one hand on the outside, the doctor began giving me a running commentary on what he was doing.  He palpated my abdomen ("there's your uterus, no masses on your ovaries", etc.).  Then, he felt my cervix and said: "And here is your cervix", and withdrew his fingers a little bit and then bumped them against it twice and said: "Bonk bonk!".

Because of my fragile emotional state, I was confused and wondered if I had done something to cause his behavior.  I didn't say anything about it as he casually took off his gloves and told me that I could expect the results of my Pap smear in a week or so, and he left the exam room.

I never reported it, and didn't even tell Charles about it, except to tell him that I felt uncomfortable during the exam (I always was uncomfortable during an annual exam in the best of circumstances). 

Watching the video about the doctor in this series of PSAs brought this memory flooding back.  I know I didn't do or say anything at the time because of my history of being sexually abused as a child,  However, if I hadn't had that history, would I have been able to report his behavior?  Did he do it because of my history, because I had already been a victim and was therefore more vulnerable?

Most women are conditioned from childhood to not say anything about harassment.  We are told that "boys will be boys", that men are ravening sexual beasts and we can expect this sort of leering, uncouth, sexually aggressive behavior.  We are told not to dress in a way that will invite men to approach us, to abuse us, to rape us.  We are told that we have to be careful to avoid dangerous situations.  We are told that when the man who is running for President of the United States says on tape that when you are a star, a woman will "let you do anything, even grab them by the pussy", it is just "locker room talk", and therefore forgivable.  And then that man wins the election.

After the election, when millions of women and their allies marched in the street to protest this sort of mindset, they were described as shrill sore losers.

This makes me angry.  This memory, from almost 30 years ago, makes me angry.  It is too late for me to do anything about this incident now.  This doctor no longer lives in town, Charles and I lost contact with him and his family and it is probably long past the statute of limitations.  Regardless of his intentions (grooming me for future molestation, a crude attempt at humor, a breach of ethical boundaries), what he did was wrong.  It was wrong.  And over 30 years later, I am suffering because of it.  I am still suffering 50 years after being molested in exactly the same way by the seminarian when I was a little girl.  It has affected me in every aspect of my life.  And now, this.  I had not forgotten this incident, or blocked it out.  I remembered it, but really didn't think about it as what it was, which was sexual assault, until last night.

So, watch the PSAs, share them with your friends, both men and women.  And if you are a survivor of sexual harassment or child sexual abuse or sexual assault, be aware that it may trigger a flashback, like it did to me.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


Yesterday, I came home from work early because the fire alarm in our building kept going off with bright flashing lights and an insistent headache-inducing clanging noise.  Once the fire department determined that there was no fire, we were allowed to go back in the building, but the alarm kept going off.  After many episodes, the building owners sent their maintenance men to figure out the problem, which meant that they had to turn off the alarm.  Legally, we weren't allowed to keep the clinic open with no working fire alarm system, so we had to close the clinic and go home early on a Friday afternoon.  So I came home and was ready for a quiet, relaxing rest of the day.

However, because of the heavy snow load, warming temperatures and lots of rain, the city and borough decided that they should do avalanche abatement, which means that they fire a howitzer across Gastineau Channel from above Sandy Beach (about a half mile from our house) to the mountain above Thane Road on the mainland.  This sounds exactly like you would imagine a giant cannon would sound.  Loud enough to shake the house, rattle the windows and scare the neighborhood dogs to bits.  Our poor little Beans was cowering under the woodstove when I got home.  I fished her out and sat on the couch with her on my lap.  She panted nervously and trembled with every loud boom.  Frida didn't seem too troubled by the noise, and was mostly upset that Beans had usurped HER usual position on my lap, so she draped herself around my shoulders.

Beans, trembling
 The city decided to do the avalanche abatement not only because of the above stated reasons, but also because, earlier in the day, there had been a large avalanche off of Mount Juneau, above the Highlands neighborhood in downtown.

The avalanche was filmed by a local woman from the parking lot of the downtown swimming pool.  The avalanche zone is the site of a huge avalanche that occurred many years ago that created a snow cloud so immense that the people in Douglas thought that Juneau had been obliterated.  The event yesterday, while impressive, was much smaller and no damage occurred, although the snow stopped just 50 feet from a house and damaged a car that was parked on a neighborhood street.

It was a close call, however, and a reminder of the awesome power of nature.

The avalanche made the national news, and I received a concerned phone call from my mother in law, who saw it on TV.

Here is the video of the avalanche.

It was a rather exciting day, for our town, and for our local 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 wrongly 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.