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.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Welcome, Wise Men


As Charles moved the Wise Men from our Nativity scene closer to the crèche, I was reminded of a story about our friend Ril Thibodeau, of blessed memory.

Ril, along with her husband Bob, had a large family of twelve children (if I concentrate really hard, I can remember all of their names).

Ril told me once that as each of her children were born, she gave them a gift of a Nativity set for their very own. As the years progressed, and as the family grew, the Nativity sets were displayed around the house, and as Epiphany approached, the Wise Men from each set slowly made their way to their respective crèches.

One year, close to Epiphany, Charles and I were at the family home and saw the parade of Magi (36 of them!) scattered around the living room as they made their journey to the Christ Child.

We joked with our friend Therese (one of the five Thibodeau daughters) that they looked that they were on their way to a Wise Man convention and that Ril should put up a banner proclaiming: “National Association of Magi: Welcome Wise Men!”

But all joking aside, we realized that Ril had it exactly right. She recognized that her children were individuals and that they each deserved a chance to celebrate this holy feast in their own way.

I can imagine the sense of wonder that the children in the Thibodeau family had every year as they moved their own Three Kings closer to the baby Jesus.

Bob and Ril had a wonderful family and Juneau and Douglas (we mustn’t forget Douglas!) were (and still are) fortunate to have them among us.

We remember Bob and Ril so fondly and we pray that, together again in heaven, they can celebrate Epiphany together with the Holy Family and the Wise Men.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

What A Year

 You know, crisis-wise, there are two different kinds of people: those who fall apart during the crisis and those who are relatively calm during the crisis, but fall apart afterwards.

I’m the second type. 

This horrible year, this Trump-laden, COVID-19-infected, murderous of people of color, Capitol insurrectionist, mass-shooting year has been just awful. And that’s just the global stuff. There is also the stuff that’s closer to home: the spectre of my childhood abuse raising its ugly head again, 50+ years later, sending me back to intensive therapy.

But, through it all, I have endured, mostly.  I’ve had lots of good phone and FaceTime conversations with friends and family, including with my 15 month old granddaughter (who, apparently, can FaceTime me all by herself, although that could have been a fluke). I didn’t do all the chores I wanted to do, but have had sporadic bursts of industriousness and have done some cleaning and organizing.

I’ve read a lot, spent too much time on the couch and on my phone. We have subscribed to streaming platforms that I wasn’t even aware existed before March 2020.

I can Zoom like a champ now.

I took 12 weeks of online Heritage Spanish classes with my kids. By the way, I highly recommend our teacher (I’ll send you the link if you’d like)!

What I haven’t done, up until now, is fall apart (in any major way).

I’m writing this after a night of zero sleep, and after three weeks of my therapist taking time off (not the best timing for me, but who can predict these things).

Of course the other horribleness that was 2020 still is with us: systemic racism, violence against BIPOC, the cancer that is Trumpism, and more (and more) mass killings).

There were two momentous days this month: March 18, which marked a year since I stopped working and went into hunker down mode, and today, March 25, which marks my fully immune status. I’m feeling reflective, sorrowful, grateful, still anxious, but seeing light at the end of a very long tunnel, as far as the pandemic is concerned. And so I’m safe. After a year of fear and trepidation, I’m safe.

The other awfulness is still with us, of course. All I can do is call out racism and injustice when and where I see it, and be grateful for the small and large kindnesses I see in my community.

I can be more mindful of my own thoughts and behaviors. I can get off of the effing couch. I can form new good habits and work on losing some of the bad ones I’ve acquired in the past year.

I will take deep breaths and be grateful for the good things and for the lessons learned from the bad.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Treason and Sedition

Do you remember back when (2 days ago), you were horrified by Trump’s threatening phone call to Georgia’s Secretary of State? 

Yesterday, Trump effectively said: “You think that’s bad?  Hold my beer.”

I woke up early today, and unfortunately, he is still in office, still tweeting (via a staffer’s account), saying that there will be a “peaceful transition”.  Too late. Four people are dead, many wounded, (including our republic).  Hundreds of people were allowed to breach the Capitol, the temple of Democracy. Hundreds of MAGA-hat wearing, fur-bearing, Confederate flag-waving, cloven-hooved non-patriots were allowed to literally smash the windows and doors of the most sacred symbol of our country and ransack its rooms.

You can’t look at images of BLM protestors being met with tear gas and rubber bullets, with violence and bloodshed and arrest juxtaposed with those of Capitol police opening the gates and allowing domestic terrorists to break into the building and tell me that systemic racism doesn’t exist. If it had been another demonstration (say, in a park across from where the President wanted to hold up a Bible), it would have been an entirely different outcome. Nobody tweeted to the BLM protestors that they were “very special” or “we know how you feel” or “we love you”. No, they were treated very differently.

Law enforcement in DC should have seen this coming.  Trump knew exactly what he was doing. He’s been working his base up into a frenzy since the election. Yesterday, he commanded his supporters to storm the Capitol.

I’m disgusted. And disappointed. And sickened that he is still in office after the tragic and terrifying events of yesterday. He did a tremendous amount of damage to our country in less than twenty-four hours. Imagine how much he can still do between now and January 20.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Family Is Everything

I went on a walk today with Phoebe and baby Rally. Not a long walk; just up St. Ann’s Avenue, up the hill to Fifth Street and down again to C Street and home. Phoebe had Rally in the backpack and she fell asleep, but not before watching Niyaa chase a little squirrel up a tree and admiring the geese our neighbors have in a pond.

Phoebe and I ran into friends and chatted a bit. And she and I talked about nothing in particular, but it was so nice to just be together.  I’ve appreciated this time of family togetherness so much.

Odin left to go back to work this morning, flying to Anchorage and then driving to his job in Glenallen. Phoebe and Rally are staying until Thursday. 

We’ve had almost a month of pandemonium, lots of cooking of family meals, fish catching and processing, unsuccessful hunting trips, socially distanced visits with friends, poker games, Scrabble, inevitable squabbles and lots of laughs.

I’m going to miss them when they return to Fairbanks. 

Friday, May 1, 2020

What Now?

How many of you remember the avalanche in April 2008 that took out the Snettisham power supply? Juneau and Douglas residents had to drastically reduce their power consumption.

I was thinking today about that time. Everyone, private citizens, government offices, churches, private companies, all worked together to drop the amount of electricity we used. The power company had to raise their rates to pay for the diesel that was fueling the generators that we’re providing our power.

This time we’re living in, this pandemic,  is similar in that we are expected to work together to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of the virus.

Unfortunately, it has become an opportunity for people to become even more polarized than we were before the pandemic (if you can believe that it is possible).

Wearing a mask or refusing to has become a political statement. Insisting that things go back to normal or that we continue the measures that helped prevent further infection, illness and death have resulted in protests and civil unrest, arguments and ad hominem attacks against those with whom we disagree on social media.

There are very few people left (if any) who remember the Influenza epidemic of 1918. I remember my mother, who was 7 years old during the epidemic, describing the impact it had on her town and nearby towns in northern New Mexico.  I remember her talking about a diphtheria outbreak that took the life of her baby brother. And finally, I remember her talking about her terror every summer when polio would break out when my older brothers and sisters were young.

Thankfully, we have vaccines against diphtheria, polio, and most strains of influenza.

COVID-19 is a brand new disease. There is no vaccine, and no cure. The only thing that medical providers can do is treat the symptoms and hope the people who are afflicted recover.

When the Snettisham avalanche took out the power lines, we had a tentative date when they would be repaired.  In our current situation, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. In fact, there are predictions that things could get even worse.

In addition to the threat of disease hanging over our heads, we are also experiencing a cataclysmic economic downturn. Juneau will lose millions of dollars in revenue due to the cancellation of the tourist season.

So, how do we cope? What do we do?

I wish I had an answer, but I don’t.

But, maybe, if we really try to pull together like we did in 2008, that would help. I see individuals helping by sewing masks. I see breweries and distilleries making hand sanitizer. I see businesses completely changing their business models and switching to manufacturing personal protective equipment. I see folks taking food to health care providers and making donations to local nonprofit agencies.

Maybe, curbing our anger against those who disagree with us might help? I’m as guilty as anyone of name calling and blaming.

Eventually, this crisis will end. Until that time, maybe we can try to (as author Heather Lende says) find the good.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Points North: Bethel, Anchorage and Fairbanks

On  September 25, Charles and I flew to Bethel, Alaska to facilitate a retreat for the Yup’ik deacons and their wives. Bethel is a really different place from any other place in Alaska where I’ve traveled. Nine years ago Charles and I went to St. Mary’s, Alaska to facilitate a retreat for this same group. 

The diocese of Fairbanks has a program where they train and ordain Yup’ik deacons to serve in the villages in Western Alaska. These men are dedicated to providing pastoral counseling, the sacraments of Baptism and Marriage and Services of the Word and Eucharist to the the Catholic people in their villages.  Bethel is located in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (the delta at the mouth of the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers) so therefore it’s a very flat and interlaced with ponds, lakes and tributaries. There used to be very little vegetation and no trees in Bethel in the past, so much so that the one tree had a sign next to it that said “Bethel National Forest”! However we found that a lot of willow and alder have grown up quite a bit, which has really changed the the area. It has affected the permafrost and actually is starting to attract more caribou and larger animals to the area. 

The retreat that we facilitated was a study using Lectio Divina, a meditation on the words and rituals of the rites of marriage, baptism and the funeral rites and prayers for the dying and Viaticum (Eucharist before dying). 

Charles and I took turns reflecting all these various rites and rituals with the deacons and their wives and asked
them to share their own personal experiences of serving 
in their individual villages. 

I had the opportunity to get together with the wives separately at the end of the retreat and we were able to discuss the difficulties and challenges of being the wife of a deacon in a small Western Alaska village, where everybody knows your family, your history, and your children. We talked about how difficult it is to to be such a public person in such a small place and that everyone in the village knows your business. We also talked about the joys in being the wife of a deacon and being part of a couple that is so public and that ministers to the people and participating in the lives of the people of the village and in both their joys and sorrows. We had an opportunity to sit together and to work on a craft while we talked.  We made wire beaded barrettes for them to take home with them.  We all found that it’s easier to talk about difficult 
subjects when you are you sitting around the kitchen table with other women working with your hands. 

While we didn’t have time to see much of the town,  we did meet some wonderful people! Jesuit Fr. Mark lives in Bethel and ministers to the villages in the Delta, and his housemate Fr. Rich is the pastor of the parish in Bethel. Sister Kathy  flew in from Saint Mary’s along with her assistant Marian to help coordinate and to provide meals.

We had a wonderful time and I really enjoyed getting to know the retreatants!

On the evening of September 29th we flew to Anchorage, spent the night, and spent Monday visiting with friends in Anchorage. That evening we flew to Fairbanks to visit Phoebe and Odin. We were very fortunate to be able to stay at Odin’s mom’s house and to borrow her car, since she was out of town.

Phoebe was working on Tuesday, Wednesday and 
Thursday, so we had the opportunity to drive around 
Fairbanks and get more of a sense of the area, which is 
VERY spread out! Phoebe and Odin live in a dry cabin 
(no bathroom or laundry), except they do have running 
water in the kitchen.  On Friday, Phoebe had the day off, so we drove (and drove, and drove) way far away to the farm of her friends Anni and Justin to pick up nine (!) bags of baby clothes for Phoebe and Odin’s baby, which is due November 27!  The farm is up a very long, very steep, very dark, very muddy road, and my heart was in my throat the whole time driving up (and down), especially because the car we were in was missing a headlight. But we had a lovely visit and a great dinner of ground pork sliders (from their own pigs), carrot slaw and stir fried vegetables. On the way back, we encountered dense fog (not fun with only one headlight!) for which you can’t use your high beams. Needless to 
say, by the time we got back to town I was an anxious wreck (the problem with having an anxiety disorder and 
a being a control freak is that I can’t control everything, 
including the weather)!

The next evening we had dinner with Phoebe and Odin
 and their (and our) lovely friends Dave and Norma. Salmon, halibut, chicken, pasta and salad made a great meal! We also feasted on dried smoked salmon from Bethel, given to us by Helena, one of the deacon’s wives.
The next morning we left for home, sad to say goodbye to Phoebe and Odin, but looking forward to our next trip to meet our new grandchild!

Here are some photos from our trip.

The parish church in Bethel

Me and Jane
Me and Winnie
Beautiful Downtown Fairbanks
Phoebe showed us the work of her artists at the FRA

Several of her artists won awards at a juried show that weekend!
De-icing the wings before we depart

Friday, May 17, 2019

Screen Time

Facebook has been both a blessing and a curse for me. The downside is that I spend an inordinate amount of time on my phone, reading others’ post and comments on their posts and comments on their comments, etc, ad nauseum.  So much so that I will find myself, hours later, still on the couch, dog draped around me, surrounded by empty coffee cups and Diet Coke cans, blinkingly awakening as from some sort of self created vegetative state with the dishes undone, pansies still unplanted, walks untaken, and real life unlived.

On the upside, Facebook has also brought me new friends, renewed relationships, new ideas, new resources and lots of laughter.

For example: I now have two new in-real-life friends, heart sisters that I never would have known otherwise if it hadn’t been for social media. 

One, Allison, came to visit me, sight unseen, with her son Lucas a couple of summers ago. We immediately clicked. She returned last summer with her family to attend my son’s wedding. Another, Fran, came up at my invitation to facilitate a retreat for our parish women’s group. Again, as with Allison, there was an instant rapport and a feeling that we had known each other for years.

That being said, however, I know that I need to find a balance between my on-line life and the life around me.

I plan to attempt to accomplish this by limiting my screen time and increasing my here and now time, in small but increasing increments, one hour at a time. Before checking Facebook, I’ll take a walk around the block, for example. Before looking at Instagram, I’ll do the dishes, etc.

Those who know me are aware that self-discipline is not one of my strengths, but I can only try.

By the way: If you do see me on social media, please don’t reprimand me. It only makes me cranky (like when I’m trying to watch my carb intake and someone asks me if I really NEED that donut).