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!