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.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

An Unfortunate Event

I had a very distressing thing happen at work today.

One of our patients came in, very drunk (not an unusual event at our clinic).  He asked for a toothbrush and razor, which I gave him and he said he wanted to "see the doctor" (she's actually a nurse practitioner).  He told our case manager that he wanted to quit drinking and was ready to go to rehab.

We called the van from the local recovery center, which is associated with our hospital, and they said they would send someone right away to pick him up.  The case manager explained to him that he needed to go to the sleep off unit to sober up before he could start rehab and he expressed understanding.

The driver showed up, loudly greeted the patient (who was well known to the driver) and asked the patient if he wanted to go to sleep off.  The patient said that he needed help and was ready to go.  The driver said that "sleep off is all I can offer you"  and then went on to aggressively talk to the patient, putting his finger in his face and telling him that he needed to go to sleep off, get sober, then fill out an application for rehab, make an appointment, KEEP THE APPOINTMENT and then he would be accepted into rehab.  He was increasingly loud and the patient kept saying:  "I need help".  The driver kept telling him he had to go to sleep off.  When I attempted to intervene, as the patient was getting increasingly agitated, the driver turned to me and said: "I don't have to take this from you!" and left.

The poor patient, confused and upset, said: "What just happened?  Am I going or not?"  I went in and reported the driver's behavior to the case manager and she tried to call the supervisor of the recovery center to no avail.  She went out to the lobby to talk to the patient, who by this time was tearful.  She asked him again if he wanted to go to sleep off and he said yes.  She asked him if he knew that he would not be going to rehab right away but needed to get sober first, and he said he understood.  She asked him if he would go to sleep off if we called the van driver back and he said yes.

I called the recovery center and they connected me with the driver who after introducing himself as an EMT, and listening to me explain that the patient wanted to be transported to sleep off, yelled at me that the patient "wasn't incapacitated and could take care of himself".  I told him the patient wanted to go to sleep off, with the goal of going to rehab.  He said he would "be right there" and hung up.  The patient was still tearful and upset, and continued to wait in the waiting room.

The driver arrived, banged open the clinic door and stuck his head and upper torso through the open sliding window between the waiting room and the reception area.  He stuck his finger in my face and said: "Look, this is what's happening.  You need to be educated about our program, and I'm going to educate you!".  I replied:  "We will be educated about your program by your supervisor.  Right now, this patient needs to go to sleep off" and he wheeled around and said "My SUPERVISOR?!  Come on, (patient's name), let's go talk about this outside" and left with the patient.

The caseworker witnessed this last exchange.  The driver was over six feet tall and was a big guy.  He got in my face and yelled at me while leaning in my window.  I am less than five feet tall and was very intimidated.  I will have to say that I have never been physically intimidated by or afraid of a patient, drunk or sober, since I have worked at the clinic, but I was definitely rattled by this encounter with a person who I thought was going to be helpful and instead made the situation much worse.

The poor patient was stuck in the middle.  The driver obviously is burnt out by his job.  My husband pointed out that if he is that rude and intimidating to the intoxicated and homeless people he transports in front of others, how must he treat them when there is no one around?

I was appalled at the unprofessional behavior of someone who is supposed to be a first responder and whose job it is to assist people to get to a safe place when they are intoxicated.

Please, say a prayer for our patient tonight.  Pray for his safety, pray that he doesn't give up and is able to achieve his goal of recovery from alcoholism, and pray for the people on the street who struggle with drug and alcohol dependence.  And while you're at it, please, please pray for me.  There will be an unpleasant conversation with the driver's supervisor tomorrow, and I hope, a good resolution to the matter.

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.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Time Has Come, The Walrus Said...

...not to talk of many things, but for me to finally lose some weight.

I have now reached 188 pounds on a 4'9 1/2 foot frame.  I looked at a chart today and that puts me in the "Obese" category.

I am starting this new regimen by eliminating wheat from my diet.  Not because of any intolerance to gluten, no, it is more of an absolute love affair with bread, and pasta, and cake and pie and cookies.  So, if I don't eat wheat, I will not be eating any of the above.

I started the no-wheat routine on Tuesday after weighing in at 184 on Monday.  Today I weighed myself at the doctor's office and I had GAINED four pounds.  I am chalking it up to a discrepancy between scales!

I am walking more as well.  I walk twice a week with my friend Linda, and I took a long walk with Miguel on Wednesday.  I hope to walk at least three times a week in an effort to shift some of this weight.

So, here it is:  my BEFORE picture:

This is a picture of me in Spokane with my friend Sr. Josephine.  Observe the large belly, the big arms and the portly thighs (on me, not Josephine).  I need to lose the weight before some well intentioned person asks me when the baby is due (a question that should never be asked unless one actually is observing a baby emerging, by the way)!

So this is it, folks.  

The time has come.

P.S.: I had a fabulous time in Spokane, visiting my friend Jeanie, which I will write about next time!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Twelve Years Ago This June

The other evening, Charles and I went out to the Shrine of St. Therese for dinner with our bishop and the priests of the diocese, who were on retreat.

We were invited by Bishop Burns, because Bishop William Skylstad, the retired bishop of Spokane, was the retreat master, and Charles had mentioned to Bishop Burns that I would like to see Bishop Skylstad while he was here.

We had a lovely evening and I appreciated the opportunity to visit with Bishop Skylstad, who is a very kind and wise man.

I met Bishop Skylstad in Dallas in June 2002, at a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting.  How I ended up being at that meeting is a long story, one that began in August of 1969...

When I was twelve, I was molested by a seminarian, a so-called friend of our family, who was on break from school and staying at our house that summer.  I didn't disclose at the time of the abuse because I was afraid of the effect it would have on my family, especially my mother.  I kept the secret until I was 29 years old and pregnant with my first child.  My mother came up to visit me and brought Jose', the man who abused me.  As far as my mother knew, Jose was just another close family friend.   The news of their upcoming visit sent me into an emotional breakdown and I told Charles what had happened to me as a child.  I began therapy and the long process of healing.  Eventually, I told my mother and the rest of the family about my experience.  Jose' was never prosecuted for his crime, because of the statute of limitations.

I was at home on a Friday afternoon in June of 2002, helping my son clean his room, when the phone rang.  It was Fr. Clete Kiley, an official from the USCCB.  He asked if I would be willing to come to Dallas and speak to the assembled bishops about my experience.  I asked how he knew about me and he told that the (then) bishop of Juneau, Michael Warfel, had recommended me to the President of the USCCB, Bishop Wilton Gregory.  I agreed to come to Dallas and Fr. Kiley told me that the USCCB would take care of my airfare, meals and hotel costs.  I was to fly to Dallas the following Wednesday and would speak on Thursday.  He told me to try to keep the news to myself, as the USCCB was concerned that the survivors who were invited to speak would be hounded by the press before our presentations.  He told me that of course I could share the news with family and close friends.

I called my sister and asked if she could tell the rest of the family, and we told Charles' parents.  The entire meeting was going to be televised on C-Span, because of the huge impact the news of the clergy sexual abuse crisis had caused in the United States.  I was to speak before the assembled 300 bishops, the staff, and the press who would be present: a total of about 1000 people.

I called my therapist, Nancy, and my friend Jeanie and our friends and neighbors Ed and Betsy.  Ed was working for the Juneau Empire at the time and I stressed to him that I was telling him as a friend, and not a reporter.  He asked if he could put his reporter hat on and asked if, when I was done with my presentation, I could call him and give him an interview.  I promised that he would be the first interview I gave.

I flew to Dallas, accompanied by Bishop Warfel, who was kind and attentive during the trip.  We arrived in Dallas and took a shuttle to our hotel, the Dallas Fairmont, certainly the nicest and most luxurious hotel I had ever been in!

I was greeted by a lovely flower arrangement in my room from my sister Mary.   It had a note with one word written on it: "Courage".

I was so nervous, I couldn't eat.  At dinner time, I went to the dining room and looked at the menu.  The only thing that appealed to me was a small shrimp salad.   A nice bishop came and asked if he could sit with me.  He introduced himself as Bishop Michael Pfeifer from San Angelo, Texas.  He asked if that was all I was going to eat, and urged me to eat more than just a small salad.  I told him that I was so nervous about my presentation the next day that I couldn't eat any more.  He said: "How about dessert then?  Young man, (gesturing to a waiter) do you have ice cream and cake?"  I assured him that I really wasn't hungry for dessert (very unusual for me), and thanked him for his kindness.  He then gave me a small Holy Spirit medal (which I still wear today) and gave me a blessing for the next day.

The next day, I arrived in the huge conference room and Bishop Warfel met me and took me around the room to meet as many bishops as he could introduce me to.  That's when I met Bishop Skylstad.  All the bishops were very kind and encouraging.

After I gave my presentation, I took a few minutes to go to my room and recover a bit.  I called Ed and gave him the promised interview.

Then all four of the survivors who spoke were given the opportunity to speak to the press.  I was interviewed by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Dallas Morning News and by USA Today.

Then we were invited to watch the bishops as they worked on establishing the Charter For The Protection of Young People, a huge document that would become the guideline for dioceses in the United States.  At one point, a bishop was arguing against having stipulations that one offense would mean removal from the priesthood.  I was sitting in the observers section and I stood while he was speaking and remained standing until the bishops voted down his amendment, then I crossed myself and sat down.

Speaking in Dallas changed me profoundly.  I used to be afraid of speaking in front of groups of people.  I am no longer afraid.  I used to be afraid to tell people about my experience of being abused - so much so that I was hesitant to join a support group of survivors because, as I told my therapist: "I can't talk about what happened to me".  I used to feel powerless and helpless.  Now I am strong.  Speaking in Dallas was a healing experience, and while I am not happy for the reason that I was selected to speak, I am glad that I was given the opportunity to share my story.

Me, Bishop Skylstad and Charles at the Shrine of St. Therese

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What I Wore Sunday

I got a new peasant blouse from Target and I love the color, although it is so sheer, I have to wear a shell underneath it.

Sorry about the blurriness - but don't you love the color and pattern of the fabric?

I am wearing my blue glass earrings, although they are hidden in my hair.  How do you like my rebellious upper ear piercing?  I got it done for my 50th birthday and plan to get another for my 60th!

I also am happy because I am able to get into my denim skirt that didn't fit me two weeks ago.  Lent has been helpful in so many ways!

Have a great Sunday!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bored Already (and it has only been 6 hours)!

Charles flew this morning to Anaheim to attend the LA Religious Education Congress, where more than 30,000 Catholics come from all over the country to hear some of the most renowned and respected Catholic theologians, writers, teachers and speakers in the United States.

I wish that I had been able to go with him, but our new austerity plan (translation: NO MONEY!) dictated that I stay home this time.  I have been amusing myself by applying for the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, in order to rectify the above situation, and also playing on the computer, which is charged for the time being, by means of borrowing Miguel's charger.

Oh what fun to be back in blogland again, catching up with some of my favorites and even finding a few new blogs to look at!

Last night, we attended our monthly Parish Night, where Charles spoke about Catholic Relief Services and where the children in our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd religious education program presented a commercial for the bean soup jars they are selling to benefit CRS during Lent.  Charles has done such a good job of catechizing the parish about CRS that even the children are on board to help the poor, disadvantaged and to quote one of our kindergarteners, "the people at risk", in the developing world.

While I think Charles is pretty cute, he is not nearly as cute as Ani, Jessica, Noah, and Jackson!  

For more info about CRS, check out the website or go to YouTube and view one of the many short videos about CRS.  Charles said last night that he thought it would be great if families viewed one of the videos every week and discussed them during dinner, with the Rice Bowl on the table!

I saw a cute picture of my blog friend Marie's little Elizabeth, sporting pig tails and told her that I was wearing braids today as well - so she urged me to take a selfie, which I am sharing with you.  Sort of mutton dressed as lamb meets Pocahontas, but here you go:

I am so glad my hair is now long enough to DO something with - I am tired of brushing it out of my face.  I have been wearing it up in a bun when I substitute teach at the School District preschools, and one little girl asked me why my ears are so big.  I told her that my grandma had big ears and gave them to me when she was done with them.

Let's see...what else?  Good news on the fuel oil front:  The oil company used to not refill the tank if the customer was carrying a balance on their account.  The new owners have changed that policy, so now we don't have to worry about our tank running dry, our pipes freezing in the winter, snowflakes on our eyelashes, and the threat of burning our furniture in the woodstove to keep warm.  This winter is almost over, and I don't foresee any big freezes (you never know, however!), but it will be nice not to have that big worry next winter.

That's all the news from the soggy North - it is raining and the ice and snow are melting from the streets, sidewalks and lawns - I can see green grass!