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.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Lesson Learned

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I had an unfortunate email encounter this past week.  It all started with a face-to-face conversation over a week ago in which my feelings were hurt.  Then the other person said something via email that made me mad, and I responded via email and then the other person responded to my response and it escalated.

Now, I am not a person who backs down easily, especially if I think I am right.  When I am pushed, I shove.  However, in this instance, I shoved a bit too hard and ended up creating hard feelings on the other person's part.  They were all: "Fine!" and I was all: "Ha! I won!".  Then when I was aggreivedly relating my tale of woe to someone who is much younger and wiser then myself, I was told in no uncertain terms that I had probably hurt the feelings of the other person.  "But, they hurt MY feelings!" I retorted indignantly.  And then I stopped and thought.  And thought, and then I got a little weepy when I realized that I had probably made the other person feel as bad, or worse, than they had made me feel.

So I sent another email to the person and asked if they could meet me for coffee yesterday because I felt bad about they way things had played out, which we did, and we talked and when I told the person that my feelings were hurt by the original conversation, they told me that they didn't mean what I thought they meant and what they meant was something else entirely.  And they told me what their intentions were, which I had assumed were the opposite of what they were, and then I got a little more weepy, and we came to an agreement and now all is well (I hope).  I especially hope that all is well because it was a fairly public disagreement in which there were innocent bystanders that were hit by the shrapnel of my harsh judgments and not-so-righteous indignation, some of whom responded by saying that they loved us both and how heartbreaking the whole thing was.

So, the lesson here is this: Even if you think your point of view is the correct one, that doesn't give you the right to be uncharitable.  And always assume good will on the other person's part, even if they appear to be demonstrating bad will, selfishness, etc.  And, stop for at least 48 hours and think about the effect your words are going to have one another person, a relationship, or a community.  And for the love of God and all that is holy, don't enter in to a debate via email, where it is impossible to interpret tone and intention.

In other words, don't be a jerk.

Lesson learned.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A New Beginning

Tomorrow will be my last day at the Front Street Clinic. I have worked there since June 1, 2015.

My time there has been rewarding, frustrating, chaotic, and incredibly fulfilling. Up until January, when a new supervisor  started there. Our styles of communication were different. I need to have things spelled out and explained, she thought she could just give an order and have it obeyed without question. I prefer to discuss and collaborate, she thought I was difficult to work with, argumentative and rude. When she started, she changed the way we did things, which meant I had a very steep learning curve, and it took me awhile to get the hang of the new procedures. She thought I was being deliberately resistant to change.

Never once did she ask what I thought, or praise me or give me constructive criticism.

It all came to a head two weeks ago today, when I was called on the carpet and, with HR on the phone, was given a thirteen (THIRTEEN!) point Plan Of Improvement, to be implemented within 30 days, or face Further Disciplinary Action, up to and including termination.  I was not given an opportunity to respond at the meeting, but was told I could respond in writing. So, I went home that evening and responded (boy, did I!)

The next day, I had lunch with Charles and told him I didn't think I could take thirty days of "Improvement", being watched like a hawk for a month, only to be given a new list at the end of it. I told him I wanted to quit, but felt I needed to find a new job first. He said: "You don't have to stay there for a minute longer." So, after lunch, I went back to the office and submitted my resignation, effective tomorrow, August 9.

I immediately felt a great weight lift off of my shoulders and knew that I had done the right thing.  I am sad to leave the patients and the folks who experience homelessness who come to the clinic for socks and hygiene items.  I have come to love and respect many of the men and women who I have had the privilege to serve at the clinic.

So, this is a new beginning, a new chapter in the Book of Paula.

Those of you who know me personally might be outraged at what happened to me. But instead of being outraged or angry on my behalf, I'm asking you to consider making a donation to the clinic. They will still need socks, reading glasses, toothbrushes, and travel size shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and soap to give to the folks. If you are in Juneau, consider stopping by to drop off a package of Costco socks, or if you travel for work, save the shampoo, conditioner and soap and give them to the clinic.

That would be the best way to show your concern and support.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Spiritual Warfare

I had a breakthrough the other day in our counseling session (yes, Charles and I go to counseling to get relationship "tuneups" when we need them).

My particular problem stems from being sexually abused as a child, which has affected our relationship.  So, we decided that we needed to get some advice, which has really helped a lot.

I sometimes wonder if I would have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression if I hadn't been abused, because there is definitely a family tendency, but that brings up the whole nature/nurture question.  I think the answer is that I have these illnesses both because of my DNA and because of the trauma that I experienced.

So, while we talked to our counselor, I realized that when I have intrusive thoughts or flashbacks to the abuse, I basically tell myself: "STOP!".  I have the ability to either distract myself with mindfulness techniques or to be overcome and powerless.  I have noticed that I am becoming better at putting the thoughts and flashbacks aside.

I told our counselor that it is kind of like holding up a mental crucifix and telling the demons to begone.  She was fascinated by this idea and we discussed spiritual warfare, and the saints who have been assailed both spiritually and physically by the devil.  We talked about how, when holy men and women were especially holy, the devil gave them even more trials to endure.  She said that as I am becoming stronger, the flashbacks and thoughts are becoming more intrusive and that my power to overcome them is increasing.  She had no doubt that soon, my fear, self doubt, anxiety and depression will decrease, as my power to resist them increases.

St. Therese, St. Bernadette, St. Anthony of the Desert, and more recently, St. Teresa of Calcutta all waged spiritual warfare.  I don't put myself in their company by any stretch of the imagination, but I know that the evil one thrives on depression and anxiety, and on all the physical and spiritual ills that afflict us.  Every time an individual suffers experiences despair and hopelessness, every time someone is hurting and fearful, the forces of evil rejoice.

So, I say: "Begone, Satan!"  Nothing so dramatic as demons being driven into a herd of pigs who fling themselves over a cliff, or a scene from "The Exorcist", but just a daily reminder to stay strong, and to be mindful of the grace of God and His power to overcome all evil.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!

Monday, May 22, 2017

God Gave Noah The Rainbow Sign: No More Water, But The Fire Next Time

"I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and every living creature- every mortal being - that the waters shall never again be a flood to destroy every living creature- every mortal being that is on earth.

God told Noah: this is the sign of the covenant  I have established between me and every mortal being that is on earth."  Genesis 9:12-17

Thursday, May 4, 2017

May the Fourth Be With You (and with your Spirit)


So this morning, I decided that I should wear my formline light saber t-shirt from Trickster Company, since it is Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you).

I mentioned to Charles that I was wearing this t-shirt especially for today, and he asked: "Why today?"

I explained that May 4 is Star Wars Day, and he replied that when he thinks of May 4, he is reminded of the May 4 student uprising in China in 1919.

That's what I get for marrying a guy who did undergraduate work in modern Asian history.

Hands off, girls.  He's all mine.

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

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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!