Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Author's Reflections

I was so impressed with an interview ( I read this morning featuring Juneau author Lynn Schooler, I just had to blog about it.  He is a great writer, his words flow like poetry and they are so pleasurable to read.  He writes mostly about Alaska as well and I love Alaska based books.  They are thrilling, informative and descriptive.  His first two books, The Blue Bear and Walking Home are non-fiction but he has a work of fiction that is coming out soon.  It centers around the Gold Rush of 1998 which I find fascinating in part because I have hiked the Chilkoot Trail that the stampeders travelled.  So, although the book is fiction it required alot of research to make it historically accurate and that presented it's own challenges. He speaks of the era of "yellow journalism" of that time which some would argue is still prevalent today.

One of my favorite quotes from the interview is this: "I love language. Words are brush strokes, each one filling in a small space to create an image across a broader canvas, and I always try to bear in mind the prophet Mark Twain’s admonition to budding writers that 'the difference between a good word and the RIGHT word is the difference between the lightning bug and lightning.'”   He articulated EXACTLY the way I feel.  I love words.  I am constantly looking up words I'm unfamiliar with and I used to keep an ongoing electronic list of words I wanted to keep track of.  It's one of the great features of electronic books, just hovering over a word produces the meaning.  The problem I have more and more these days is lack of recall of these words when I need them.  I have developed a little game I play to remember some.  For instance, I can never recall the word "patronize" when I want to, to I have trained myself to think of A&P grocery store, and then I ask myself why and eventually I realize I am a patron there and then I get to patronize.  There is a decorative evergreen I can never remember the name so I think of Michigan (and sometimes this process takes a few minutes) but then I get to Ann Arbor and then I remember Arbor Vitae. 

As important as words are, sometimes less is more.  My next favorite quote of his reads "to accurately describe it in words requires not the use of a verbose, purple pen overflowing with florid adjectives, but a scalpel with which to slice away everything but what truly is."  He is often describing the landscape of Alaska, or amazing wildlife scenes and he does it feel like you are standing there witnessing the scene alongside him.

Although I thought about this post all day somehow it isn't translating to paper the way I hoped so I guess I better go read more Lynn Schooler and learn from the master.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Electronics are the scourge of my existence!!

I think I've alluded to the fact that we've suffered a catastrophic meltdown of epic proportions with our PC.  Thankfully we had the foresight to buy an external hard drive just for such an event but unfortunately someone, who will remain nameless, but let's just say it wasn't me........didn't actually back anything up for months.  You would be correct in assuming that kind of defies the reason for having a backup.  But I digress...I was finally able to buy the songs I've been wanting last night after using Pay Pal instead of my credit card so I synced my Ipod and just before I left for a walk today I happened to notice things were not as they should be. 

My Itunes library is a work of art.  I began by going through all our CDs and copying all the songs I wanted off them.  Then over the years I have tried to resurrect every meaningful song I can remember.  And there are a lot. It's a very eclectic collection, everything from Color My World to Phantom of the Opera to Roger Whittaker to We Are the Champions of the World to a nice collection of praise and worship songs and lots of country.  I am always on the lookout for more songs, if something strikes my fancy I MUST have it now.  And when I find a new favorite song it gets played over and over and over again.  Which is why I love my Ipod so much.  Remember the days when you'd actually have to get up and go the record player and adjust the needle?  Or rewind the tape to just the right place?  I have gotten songs from all kinds of places, TV shows are a great source.  I'll be watching a show and suddenly everything stops as I madly write down some key words, then I run to the computer and type Lyrics + "key words" to see if the correct songs appears in google. Recently my life got easier when I found an app called SoundHound where I just let my phone listen to a song or say the key words and it will find the name of the song. 

My play lists are artfully and carefully constructed.  I have all my new favorites in one play list so I don't have to search far for them.  My older favorites are in another.  I have a play list for Christmas music, and P&W music and ones for a 30 minute workout and one for a 45 minute workout all carefully chosen for their ability to make me want to move and fast.  (OK, fast is a relative term.)

I have spent a vast amount of time and money on my collection so imagine my horror today to discover my playlists were all in they were as they had been before our computer was backed up the last time........months ago.  Thankfully I have 3 Ipods so I was able to reconstruct the proper lists and order was once again restored to my life.

Here are a few "new favorites" for your consideration:  Only Prettier (Miranda Lambert), Real (James Wesley), From a Table Away (Sunny Sweeney), Sit With Me Tonight (Garrison Starr), The Day God Called You Home (Rest For Your Soul), The Breath You Take (George Strait).

Friday, October 29, 2010

And then there was Timmy........

Back in April of 2008, a coworker/friend/neighbor adapted a kitten from the Humane Society.  She wanted it for an Easter present for her three year old.  You gotta love people who treat animals like a children’s toy for they know not what they do.  Shortly afterwards she and her husband had to leave town for medical and we ended up babysitting for a couple months.  When they did take him back they soon discovered small kids and small animals are rarely good companions so back he came to our house. 

Sierra & Baby Timmy
I’m not sure if it was the days he spent at their house fearing for his life and dodging an over-exuberant 3-year old or getting yelled out for attacking baby hands and feet as they wiggled about but our Timmy is a scrappy little thing.  I’m sure he has some feral genes not too far back in the family history as well because he can be a little spitfire. When he first arrived he was only 6 weeks old and teeny tiny.  Oscar & Piper wanted nothing more than to be his new best friend.  They wouldn’t give him a moment’s peace so he had to quickly learn to set his boundaries.  It didn’t take long before they were all playing and roughhousing and wresting non-stop.  Even now Oscar plays a little rough and poor little Timmers sounds like he’s being tortured but he is usually in the instigator. 

Outside he is a holy terror.  He can race up a tree in seconds – we have a feeding platform he likes to frequent but sometimes he heads up a good 20 feet or so.  Coming down is a little harder and I’ve seen him fall more than once but it doesn’t phase him in the least.  He sticks out like a sore thumb outside because of his coloring but he takes cover in the brush pile out in the greenbelt behind our house.  For being such a balsy little guy he’s also very much a scardy-cat.  If he hears people talking he hides and between the kids next door and people walking on the foot path along Duck Creek he spends a fair amount of time under the brush.

Inside he is also a holy terror.  He loves to snag bare toes.  One morning recently I was stepping out of the shower as he laid in wait behind the shower curtain.  He saw my toes and knew it was time to strike.  He had the element of surprise on me as my face was covered by the towel.  I knew he had gotten me but it wasn’t until I saw blood streaks on my new lightly-colored rug that I realized he incurred real damage.  His other favorite attack spot is under the bed as you are making it...for the same reason.
Who could resist this???

His new favorite resting place is on top of the DVR.  It gets nice and warm and he curls up to snooze.  He’s a little cat and even though he is full grown he looks like a kitten.  He squirms around and rolls into a ball and looks very cute....when he sees us walking by he beckons us to come scratch his chin.  He loves that but goes from ecstasy to fighting mode in half a second.  He has his daddy wrapped around his little paw and he knows it.  “Poor little Timmers,” I hear constantly as daddy seeks to make something else right with his world.  

Timmy and his best friend
His favorite food is pork and beans.  Not the beans themselves but the sauce they swim in.  You open anything with the can opener and you can be sure  our wiry little warrior will be there in a second, making his presence known.  He is very loud.  He is also very fond of ice cubes in his bowl of water.  And Oscar’s food.  Since the days of his Purina kitten food I haven’t actually even seen him eat cat food.

He absolutely adores Oscar...sometimes to his detriment.  Anytime Oscar is laying with me in the chair Timmy wants to join us and love on him.  He purrs like a chain saw and wants to lick and nudge and pretty soon Oscar puts an end to that.  Our family just wouldn’t be complete without the little Timmers.

Pet Peeve Alert

Lately I have had some major pet peeves that beg for documenting.  So I begin, in no particular order:

·         Word Verification.  Why is it they always make the word you are supposed to duplicate so hard to read???  Letters run together or are stretched out of shape.  What is the point of this?  One day recently I had to enter a word four times before it accepted it. 
·         Husbands.  Last Sunday I made some chili.  I had bought this seasoning mix from a catalog of some school kids trying to earn money, I get on wrapping paper overload sometimes and have to branch out.  Anywho......I added all the usual ingredients, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, burger and beans and then I dumped in a container of grape tomatoes which were great and we had two ears of corn on the cob leftover so I scraped the corn off and threw that in.  Cornbread as a side.  It was really tasty.  Chris ate it and complained it wasn’t chili, it was goulash because I had put corn in.  I ate it for lunch and/or dinner for four days straight and I came home Thursday night and to my complete and utter horror found an empty can of chili sitting on the counter.  He didn’t even have the good sense to throw it away so I wouldn’t see it. This pretty much sums up my experience cooking for Chris...I make healthy meals with lots of fresh ingredients and he grudgingly eats it once then I am responsible for all the leftovers.  And then insult to injury he chooses a can of HORMEL over my fresh chili. And given even the slightest chance he can’t wait to pontificate on how I never cook for him. 
·         Itunes.  I have had an Itunes account for several years now.  Recently we had a major meltdown of our computer and had to completely wipe out our hard drive and start over.  We had everything backed up on an external drive though so all my songs were secured.  I tried to purchase something the other night and it wouldn’t accept my security code off my credit card.  You know, the same credit card I’ve used to spend hundreds of dollars buying ITunes songs.  I wrote to them explaining my problem and they said it’s a card problem, see your bank.  Funny, it works everywhere but Itunes but it’s a bank problem.  If I could I’d boycott them but hey....I want my songs.  I guess I’ll buy an Itunes card but it pisses me off.
·         ELECTION TIME.  I can’t even have the radio on in my car anymore.  I am so sick of politics and all the negativity but I swear if Joe Miller becomes our newest senator I’ll throw up.  I do love Alaskans but lately they have taken leave of their senses when it comes to the polls.  While I’m at it, can we make it official and disown Sarah Palin? FYI, It is NOT Sarah Palin's Alaska.....

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Growing Up Piper

I knew I wouldn’t get very far in this blogging business before I had to do an entry on my kitties, Piper & Tim. (OK Barb, you can quit reading here!)  To love me is to love my kitties.  Back in December of 2008 we had just lost my 15 year old cat Hillary after she had a stroke.  We were bummed.  Hillary had kind of been the forgotten child throughout her life with me, she was very good natured but she took a back seat to Hailey (my special favorite) and Higgins, who was obnoxious beyond belief.  She seemed content enough but she just didn’t get the kind of attention the other two required.  That all changed when Chris came on board.  Hillary had had enough; she was going to stake her claim! Chris was never a cat person and he was very detached from all three....that is until Hillary won him over.  She started by waiting at the door when he came home from work.  Then she started coming in the bedroom when he was getting ready for work.  She was a talker and they had some great conversations.  She never wanted to be held or sit on your lap or any of the usual cat behaviors non-cat people object to.  She just wanted to be talked to and petted.  I knew Chris was a goner the day I heard him singing to her “I’m a little teapot” and using her paws to do the motions. 

After her death we were down to one cat and things were way too quiet so talk of adopting commenced.  One trip to the Humane Society revealed 7 or 8 lively kittens........I always hear people talking of their cats picking them so I was waiting for some kind of sign.  They were all cute and I would be happy with any of them but one little Siamese got my attention.  He was beautiful with his blue eyes and creamy fur and so soft.  He didn’t seem particularly smitten with me however, and I had decided I didn’t want any more males and I have never had any affinity towards Siamese but after a second visit I decided he was it.  Once at the house he just made himself at home.  He slept with us that first night and after I got up he and Chris spent the morning bonding.  He was all over the place and launched himself off the armoire on top of Chris’ head as an initiation.  Chris won with flying colors and they’ve been best buds ever since.

Piper loves games........hide and seek is his favorite.  He follows Chris around like a little puppy.  We have a long hallway and we can hide in different entry ways and Piper will come side-hopping down the hall to “find” us.  He still does that particular little game and it still makes us laugh. 

When he got a little older his canine teeth started growing.  Apparently it is inherent to that breed  (Seal Point) but his two teeth are longer than his mouth and they show!! We are always telling him to keep his big old teeth in his mouth.  He has also turned a dark brown.  Now he looks like a rich cup of coffee with only a few little creamy parts.  He really is beautiful and I love that color combination, especially with the blue eyes.  He is also the sweetest, most congenial feline I have ever owned.  We were worried about the typical Siamese howl that you always attribute to them but Piper is very quiet.  When he does meow for attention it is very mellow. 

All this is not to say he doesn’t get into mischief though.  He is all little boy when it comes to trouble.  He loves to run and chase Timmy and Oscar and rip through the house at 100 mph.  He’ll knock anything on any surface that isn’t nailed down.   Just to see what happens.  He broke my favorite plate doing that once.  But who can stay mad at my Petey Piper.  I really am madly in love with him. 

Tomorrow:  All about Timmy!!

Do Unto Others........

Yesterday morning about 6:30 AM the doorbell startled me out of my sleep deprived haze...there is just something grating about that sound so early in the morning.  There is also a sense of foreboding....nothing good ever comes at 6:30 AM.  I answered to find a woman I had never seen before with my neighbor's dog.  I have a neighbor, two houses down, that is on vacation.  She had her mother's coworker, who is inbetween homes, come stay at her house to take care of the dog.  My neighbor had intended to give me her garage door opener as a backup plan, you know, in case the house/dog sitter locked herself out.  The night before she left she called me to say she didn't feel like walking it down but she'd stick in it in my mailbox the next morning.  She never did.  And now this stranger appeared at my doorstep because she locked herself out of the house.  It was dark, and cold and she couldn't get into the house or her car and everything she needs to save herself is in that house.  Plus she has in tow the dog she was walking.  She's new to Juneau, and this is a strange neighborhood to her.  She was completely at my mercy. 

I invited her in and we spent the next hour making calls and trying to find a solution. We eventually got ahold of another occupant of the house who was at work and he came back and unlocked the door.  I was only a little late for work and we had a nice visit. 

It reminded me of the many times in my life that I have made a wretched mess of things and have been completely at the mercy of God.  With absolutely no backup plan.  How many times God has patiently and lovingly sat me down and helped me through each and every step?  How many times he has forgiven me so I could proceed to the next day and the next mistake.  I know how that woman at my doorstep felt:  utterly vulnerable and undoubtedly wearing a healthy dose of self-loathing.   Today I am thankful for such an understanding God and I hope that I treated that woman (whose name was Sherry) with every bit as much patience and kindness as has been shown to me.   Because there but for the grace of God go I..........

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Remembering Cheri.......

I was thinking about an old friend yesterday who is now deceased so I thought I'd write some memories down. She was such a character!

One of my first memories of Cheri Pardee was in the 3rd grade. She was in Haines for a while and then her family left. I was crushed. I was really morose for a while because she was my best friend although I don’t have any specific memories of her until she came back. One day I got home from school and my mom was ironing. She sent me into the bedroom off the kitchen for some hangers and as I was walking back Cheri jumped out from behind a chair and scared the crap out of me. My best friend was back. She and my mom got a real kick out of that trick! Cheri was a very precocious child and my mom was a stern and serious lady....I know she came to love Cheri but she certainly tested her resolve a few times. She knew Cheri didn’t have many rules to follow and no one seemed to know or care when she was away from home. I seem to remember my mom being quite relieved when Cheri and her family left town so she was being quite a good sport to aid in Cheri’s antics upon her return.

Sometime around then Cheri got this new blue bike with a banana seat and streamers coming out of the handle bars. It was really sparkly and she was very proud of that bike. She would come up to our house and my brother Tom, being the typical older brother, would take off on her bike. We had a figure-eight road around our house and to this day I can see it.......Tom riding full speed ahead with Cheri running after him screaming “Missssssssussss Hendersoooooon, Tom won’t give me my bike back!”

One time we both had the same straw purse except one was white and one was a natural straw color. We had an argument about whose dad was smarter and somehow, to prove our point we dropped our new, beloved purses in the pond behind the barn.

I also credit her for teaching me to sing Merry Christmas in Hawaiian. She had spent some time in Hawaii and we sang “Mele Kalikimaka” with great gusto.

All through our years at school we had this big competition of who had the nicest handwriting. It's hysterical to think of now because mine has deteriorated through the computer age. So, better late than never, I officially surrender my self declared winner status!

We went to Rainbow Glacier camp together in the summer after 4th grade. When we got there we were assigned bunk beds and she was assigned the coveted top bunk. On the last night we were told to switch for the night and she pitched a huge fit! I teased her about that for years. I mean to say, she had a screaming, crying, major meltdown about having to sleep in the bottom bunk for one night.

Cheri was always given way more money than any of us. She always had the best snacks too. One day she came to school with a huge bag of cheese puffs....the size of which I could only dream of. As was the tradition at the time, classmates would ask for “bites”. I When I asked for “bites” one time she took one cheese puff out of the bag and broke it in half and handed it to me.

She was a very busy little girl and never took the time to blow her nose. I remember on several occasions she would be laughing or otherwise occupied and suddenly this endless supply of snot would spew out of her nose. We’d all go scrambling for the Kleenix. You’d think after this happened a few times she’d learn but I have memories of this happening throughout our childhood.

In high school we both took typing. We loved our typing teacher, Mrs. Pryse. She was a very classy lady and something of an enigma to us. Cheri was a big talker and Mrs. Pryse had this poster in room with a drawing of some little cartoon kids and the warning below read “busy hands and a busy mouth rarely go together!”........we always got such a kick out that because it was quintessential Cheri. Mrs. Pryse eventually gave her the poster. She also called her “loquacious” and it took us forever to find the meaning of that. To this day I think of Cheri as being synonymous with loquacious.

For May Day one year we made baskets full of treats, and as traditions states, we would knock on doors and run away, leaving the basket on the porch. We got to her house and kept knocking surreptitiously but her stepmother would never answer. Eva was the quietest, strangest lady I had ever met. She wanted nothing to do with Cheri and she acted as though she didn’t exist. Years later, Cheri told me she suffered from depression and after she got treatment she and Cheri enjoyed a very cordial relationship but Cheri was an adult by then. She was a great baker though and I loved going to Cheri’s house because they always had fresh brownies or chocolate chip cookies.

Cheri & I went to Girl State together the summer after our junior year. We stayed at a college campus there. It was great fun, I always enjoyed going places with her because I was very shy and Cheri would make all these friends for the both of us. Our last night there we snuck off campus with my roommate for the week who had a car and we drove all around Anchorage. When she drove us back we pulled up and it looked like people were looking for us. All I could think of was the disgrace we would bring to our parents and the American Legion in Haines and I was absolutely terrified. I remember getting out of that car and my knees were literally knocking together as I walked. It turned out no one ever knew we were gone....but that’s the kind of trouble I’d get into with Cheri!!

Cheri was exactly two weeks older than me. Those fourteen days in July were the longest of the year growing up. She loved to rub it in, particularly as the milestones got more significant....16, 18, 21. Then somewhere along the line I started getting her back...for two weeks I’d be YOUNGER than her! I tried to torment her to the appropriate level but it figures that she got the last she will be forever 48 while I, God willing, keep having those birthdays.

Monday, October 25, 2010

♬ To All The Blogs I've Loved Before (to the tune of a Willy Nelson song)....♪♪♪

It is no accident I started a blog. I have been an avid reader of blogs for a few years now and want to share a few that have particularly inspired me.

The first blog I started to read was called 'Up in Alaska' by Jill Homer. She had just moved to Juneau (from Homer, incidentally) and was working at the Juneau Empire. During her time here she became a serious biker, eventually competing in the Iditasport - a 300 mile portion of the Iditarod trail that is human-powered; either skiing, biking or running. She went on to write a book about her experience called "Ghost Trails." After five years she left the state and is now living in Montana. She is still biking, blogging and taking incredible pictures. Her blog is now entitled 'Jill Outside,' in reference both her outdoor lifestyle and to the Alaskan colloquialism "outside" to mean the "lower 48".

No blog list would be complete without Pioneer Woman. Housewife Ree started a blog to keep her family updated with pictures of her own growing family on their remote Oklahoma ranch and parlayed it into a career. Along the way she started writing a story of her romance with husband, "Marlboro Man' and that is now being turned into a book with a possible movie in the works. She is also reknown for her cookbook and has been all over the country promoting it and been on every morning show AND Oprah. Go Pioneer Woman.

Another one I particularly enjoy is 'Nienie Dialogs', the amazing journey of Stephanie Nielson who, several years ago was in a plane crash with her husband and burned over 80% of her body. She had started her blog before the accident but since then it has been about her amazing (and long and slow and still ongoing) recovery. Her husband was also burned but not nearly as bad. She lives in Utah with and has four young kids. I have learned alot about her Morman faith and from her blog I've found others to link to including 'CJANE,' her sister Courtney who kept everyone informed on her progress for the months Stephanie was in the hospital. This is a family that really looks out for each other.

'Snickollet' is the story of a young woman who found out her husband had cancer days after their wedding. She gave birth to twins about 6 months before he died and she chronicles her struggles as a single mom and widow. She is very resillient but her pain is palpable. Like all of us, she is a work in progress.

Karen Russell authors 'My life...just not the road I expected...' She is a former dental hygienist from Southern Oregon who took her love of scrapbooking and began teaching classes and developed her own scrapbooking line called Narratives. In the process of taking all the pictures for her scrapbooking she became an accomplished photographer and now goes around the country and the world teaching photography classes. She recently got back from Greece. Not a bad life! She also has the cutest little girl ever!!

I could go on and on but this is getting lengthy so I'll conclude by saying by far my favorite blogs are more personal ones, my niece Krista has one called 'For Some Reason' and my friend Susan has one called 'Freezerburned' and someday, when I figure out how to do so, I will link this eclectic collection of blogs to my own.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Incredible Survivors

This weekend I watched a video clip of The Today Show with Sean O'Keefe.  He was one of the four suvivors in the plane crash this summer that claimed the life of former Senator Ted Stevens and four others.  I had followed the story as it was unfolding and was aware of most of the details but hearing it from the perspective of the survivors was chilling.  As one who has flown all my life it is definitely one of my worst and most justifiable fears.  

One of the most striking comment from Mr. O'Keefe was this:  "The degree of separation between survival and not was a fraction of what you'd ever imagine and it could have been anybody....the randomness of this whole experience was such that ... any doubt you have about divine intervention goes away."

He describes the long night in the cold temperatures and pouring rain.  He and his 19 year old son Kevin, a 13 year old Willy Phillips, the son of lobbyist William "Bill" Phillips Sr., who died in the crash and lobbyist Jim Morhard were at the tender mercies of one woman doctor who had rushed to the scene.  The weather prevented any more rescue planes from getting in.  They were all in incredible pain and her supplies were limited.  She knew all the passengers including the five that perished, the pilot was her next door neighbor.  I just think of her strength, being dropped into the wilderness not knowing what she find at the crash scene, and then having to do what she could for the four suvivors while mourning the loss of those that died.  They spent the night shivering and praying and trying to hang on.  At one point in time she described looking through her backpack and something hit the floor, it was a metal pill box that she carried with her because of her now deceased mother's migranes and it contained some Valium and Demoral.  It was all the pain medication she had and it literally dropped out of nowhere.  She had forgotten it was even in her bag. 

Another hero of that night was Willy.  He had a broken ankle (and other injuries) but was the only one mobile at all. He was able to leave the aircraft and his waving his brightly colored shirt is what helped the doctor locate the wreckage.  Can you even imagine the panic that must have been surging up his throat, a city boy, only entering his teens, thrown in this nightmare so far removed from anything he could imagine.  His dad had just died yet he rose to the challenge and helped facilitate their rescue. 

I cannot imagine the immeasureable ways their faith sustained them through that long and miserable night.  I cannot imagine the strength and comfort they felt knowing their Lord and Savior was with them, that they were not alone.  An example of that is Mr. O'Keefe's comment that once he was finally on the rescue helicopter on his way to an Anchorage hospital, only then did he allow himself to let go and he passed out.  Somehow a courage he had never known, a strength he had never tapped into, had kept him awake for more than twelve hours, suffering unspeakable pain but knowing he had to stay alert to survive.  The presence of God in that rescue was indisputable.