Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thought for the Day....


Winter Wonderland

View from my desk
Today is a quinessential winter day in Juneau.  Everything is sheathed in white and flights are compromised.  My boss from Anchorage had the pleasure of circling around for over an hour before finally landing.  The  view from where I sit is totally white save for a bit of a red building seen through the snowfall.  It really makes the world look refreshed and pristine.  I can’t say I love driving in it but as long as we are in the winter months I do love a fresh snowfall for the facelift it offers to our surroundings.  Everything gets a fresh start today. It is grace and mercy for the landscape. 

EEK!! It's a Mouse!

At work, we have been warned recently about a mice problem on our floor although no one in my suite has actually seen any evidence.  So today I was standing in front of someone’s desk and coworker calmly said “oh, there’s a mouse right there!” whereupon I totally freaked in an embarrassing albeit sort of controlled way only to realize halfway through my freakout that he was kidding.  It provided some comic relief although I was more embarrassed than anything but a couple of my coworkers were in tears they were laughing so hard.  It reminded me of once when my cat brought in a mouse and let it go in the house and I was literally up on a chair screaming wondering how I got to be such a............GIRL.  I really don’t think of myself as being that kind of girl but i guess the evidence speaks for itself.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Home for the Holidays

After having a leisurely four days off our house is officially ready for the holidays.    This really is my favorite time of the year.  I can’t say I look forward to decorating and I definitely do not look forward to taking it all down in a month but while it’s up I totally love it.  For the first time ever we have a fake tree.  Not too long ago we vacuumed up yet another pile of needles that had surfaced since the last time a tree was in our house, TWO years ago.  I swear we have pulled the couch out numerous times and had the area rug taken from the house and cleaned during that time span but still the needles persist.   Chris had last week off so on one of his trips to the store he bought a fake tree at the Home Depot.  Which I was happy about until we pulled it out of the box and I noticed it was a flocked tree so we have now traded needles for fake snow which is everywhere.  Two days after making the purchase they were on sale for 20% off.  Such is our life!

One of the most tell tale signs of Christmas at our house is Home for the Holiday candles.  My husband does have a feminine side and this is proof positive.  He has to have them and they are sometimes hard to come by.  We got a Yankee candle catalog in the mail recently and ordered 12 candles total.  They were having some sale and every time I thought I was done the lady taking my order would say “but if you buy one more you’ll get two free” or some other sales pitch I fell for.  So we have our supply of holiday candles which definitely lends to the ambiance.  With the tree and the village lit up and all the other signs of the holidays nothing says Christmas like the aroma of Home for the Holidays.

The village is another contribution of husband dearest.  We have acquired pieces over the 9 years we’ve been married and now we have more than we can put up at one time.  This year we had to pare back even more because we had to get rid of our entertainment center when we got a big screened TV so now the village real-estate is on the parlor table.  It really is quite festive with a barn, a couple shops, a library, a church and a skating pond.  There are various other assorted pieces; skaters, dogs, farm animals, fences, benches, light poles and Christmas trees that used to all have a decorative star on top of them until Timmy made his rounds and bit off all the stars.  We consider ourselves lucky that’s all he did.  He is very small and dainty and didn’t knock one thing over in his travels. 

We were watching a decorating show the other night so I got a couple of ideas.  I filled a vase with cranberries in water and stuck a candle in it and have a bow on the outside. It’s very pretty! I also filled a another vase with shiny bulbs.  I would do a lot more but we really don’t have much display space in our living room.  I’d give anything for a mantle like Krista.  After this year I probably won’t have to worry about it because everything is where the cats can knock it over.  We have this little baby grand piano plays music when you open the keyboard up and has a dancing couple on top.  You can only imagine how enticing that is to two rambunctious teenage cats.  They also love attacking the lights dangling on the tree and the low lying ornaments. 

I was looking through some pictures recently and came across one with a quilted throw my mom gave me that I had forgotten all about.  It’s white and green and red and after a lengthy search I did locate it and now it adorns the back of the couch and really offers a nice punch of color.  Only trouble is the dog keeps trying to bury his toy in it and it won’t last long with that kind of abuse.

Good thing we love our animals because really it just adds to the season.  I can’t wait to get home tonight and put on some nice Christmas tunes and sit back in the dark with only the candles, tree & village lit and admire our handiwork.  We do that a lot. It's very nostalgic, like a big embrace of Christmases passed. 

Friday, November 26, 2010


What is the best way to handle people who just plain drive you nuts?  People you disagree with on a philosophical level on just about everything?  People whose words, beliefs and actions you find offensive in a hundred different ways?   People you can’t escape.  That is the question of the day....

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving 2010

I've been going through my computer finding things I have saved over the years.  This is one of my favorites and it was on decorative thing I bought from Halmark so once again I don't know who to give the credit to:

Take Time to Pray ~~

I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish
That I didn't have time to pray.

Problems just tumbled about me,
And heavier came each task.
"Why doesn't God help me!"
I wondered, He answered,
"you didn't ask."

I wanted to see joy and beauty,
But the day toiled on gray and bleak,
I wondered why didn't God show me,
He said, "But you didn't seek."

I tried to come into God's presence,
I tried every key in the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
"My child, you didn't knock."

I woke up early this morning,
And paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I am Thankful; Part II

Yesterday we got the big things out of the way, today is dedicated to the simple pleasures in life that I’m thankful for.

  1. Pomegranates! I recently bought a box of 6 HUGE, ripe, juicy pomegranates at Costco and have been eating one a day.  I fill a bowl with all the seeds then sit down and enjoy each seed as it burst in my mouth in a big, juicy explosion.  Just writing this incites a party in my salivary glands.
  2. A good book.  There is just nothing better than being transported by words and your imagination on a journey where all the worries and heartaches of life melt away.  When the book ends you feel like you’ve lost your new best friend. 
  3. A really good laugh.  The kind where you just belt out the loudest, most undignified laugh ever and you don’t care because it comes from a place deep inside you and nothing can contain it. Where you have tears streaming down your face and your face hurts and your stomach feels like it’s going to implode.  There is no release as good as a good belly laugh. 
  4. Smell of the rainforest.  I love hiking through the woods after a rainfall when everything smells so fresh and cleansed.  When the moss below your feet is a little soggy and raindrops rest in puddles on the leaves of plants.  That is serenity.
  5. A great sunrise/sunset.  There really is no wonder like watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset.  Where the ultimate creator paints a picture no earthly artist can fully capture.  It rivals only a great display of Northern lights where the colors of the rainbow literally dance across the dark backdrop of the sky with millions of twinkling stars to cheer them on.
  6. A great night’s sleep.  Especially when you haven’t had one in a while, nothing can make you feel better.
  7. Gardening. Tinkering in my garden is zen time for me.  As I look back through my pictures that bear witness to the evolution of my garden it simply amazes me.  It is such a great creative outlet and to see your yard just burst with color is so rewarding.  In the summer months I walk through my garden area probably 5 times a day and every time I see something I hadn’t noticed before.  I can’t say it always turns out the way I anticipated but it always turns out.
  8. Appreciation.  Nothing feels better than truly being appreciated.  Except appreciating someone else.
  9. Music.  I get a very visceral reaction when I hear a song that touches me. 
  10. A comforting childhood memory.  Sometimes it’s a story about something I had forgotten about or seeing a picture I’ve never seen and sometimes it’s as simple as a smell.  Nasturtiums do it for me, they take me back to being 10 years old in one little sniff. 
  11. A rare bird sighting.  We get a lot of birds at our feeders and I love it when one shows up that requires some digging to identify because it is so rare here that it isn’t in the regular bird books. 
  12. A hot bath.  Nothing more relaxing and rejuvenating than reading a good book laying in the bathtub!
  13. Wildflowers.  I love a mix of lupine and white daisies or a field of fireweed and iris.
  14. God whispers.  Those moments when you clearly discern the voice of God speaking to your spirit.
  15. Ipods.  With head phone 180’s. On a long wintery walk with the frozen snow glittering like diamonds and crunching underfoot.  A canopy of white above you.  Love that.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I am Thankful

With Thanksgiving approaching I thought it would be a good time to inventory the things I am thankful for.  There are many and listed in no particular order:

  1. God.  For a loving, caring, living, interactive God that loves me more than I can comprehend.  For his unceasing intercession, for his strength, mercy, grace and compassion.  For blessings that make my cup runneth over.
  2. Alaska. For this incredible place I live.  Some days on my drive to work, it literally takes my breath away as I take in the beauty that is Juneau.  Lately it has been cold and clear and the first light of day is beginning to appear I drive in.  The sun is starting to come up down Gastineau channel with all the hues of orange and just a hint of pink to paint the landscape.  The mountains are in silhouetted against the dark sky.  It is exquisite and I wish had a picture to prove it. (I tried my Iphone and it failed miserably.)
  3. Family.  I am thankful for my husband.  For the mother I had, my dad, my brother and my sisters.  For my nieces and nephews and their expanding families.  For the blessings and joy of the babies that have been added that will forever be joined together in the bond of cousinhood.
  4. My animals.  The love I have for them cannot be measured.  For the joy they bring to our lives as well as the entertainment, companionship and comedy that can only come from furry bundles of deliciousness.
  5. Friends.  For those I see or talk to daily and those that brighten my day by an unexpected encounter at the grocery store.  And those I hear from only at Christmas and those I’ve reconnected with on Facebook.  Friends present and friends past, all have a special place in my heart.   Also coworkers, many of whom I wouldn’t connect with were it not for being thrown together in the work place but are part of my “work family.”   These are the people I spend more of day with than any of the friends and family listed above so I am grateful for their contributions to my life.
  6. My home.  Even though there are plenty of things I’d love to change, I am still so grateful for the house we call home.  It keeps us warm  and dry and comfortable and meets all our needs.  It has a yard that allows me to garden and create.  And woods that harbor birds and squirrels.
  7. Employment.  I know I complain endlessly about having to work but I do, in fact, have endless gratitude that Chris and I are both employed.  In these times in our country where so many people have lost their income, their homes and their security we are truly blessed.  We have medical insurance and retirement accounts and vehicles that can be relied on.  We are able to pay our bills every month with money left over.  We are fortunate to be able to give to the charities and causes of our choosing.  We really want for nothing.
  8. Teachers.  To all the teachers in my life past and present.  Not only in academics but people who have taught me about life and God either by lessons and books or by example.  People who have enriched my life by empowering me with knowledge.
  9. Country.   America the beautiful, land of our liberty.  For the freedoms we enjoy and the men and women who defend those freedoms.  With all its flaws and problems it is still a country to be proud of, as are the principles we stand for.  Our democracy is a shining example for the world to see as we strive to do better and be better.
  10. Health.  I have not always treated my body with the respect it deserves but I still have more working parts than non-working parts so I’m happy.

More tomorrow........

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Mollie

Yesterday was Mollie’s 53rd birthday.  I wanted to post this last letter I wrote her – she died before she got it but the sentiment remains the same.

Dear Mollie:

Your mother told me about your situation and I just wanted to write you and tell you how damn sorry I am.  It always confounds me how and why some people draw this card in life and others, seemingly far more deserving, do not.  I am really sad that your situation looks so bleak and I would never presume to second guess when someone has had enough.

I want you to know how much I have enjoyed being your friend over the years.  From those childhood birthday parties to our many play dates to bike rides out to 11 miles in the long days of summer; those are all cherished memories.  You are one of the people in my life that I don’t ever remember not knowing.  I am so glad we reconnected via the internet in recent years and shared some laughs and our mutual love of kitties.  If I ever get that Kathy’s Animal Park I will have a hedgehog named Mollie. And every time I see that sun catcher I will remember to appreciate life, even when life kicks me in the gut.

I have no idea what to say to you here, I just want you to know you are in my thoughts and prayers and I wish you peace and the absence of suffering.  Mostly I just want you to know that your time here on earth has brightened my world.  I wish you could have fulfilled all your dreams, the dude ranch, the published material, the riches you dreamed of.  This outcome is so unfair.

In a way I almost envy you.  There are so many uncertainties in our futures; the turmoil our world is in, the natural disasters that will befall us, the threat of terrorism and the ailments and decline of old age.  It would be nice to avoid all that along with the certain heartaches we all have to look forward to, broken relationships, death of loved ones, and all manners of situations we can neither predict or avoid.  Many times in recent years I’ve thought of Cheri Pardee and wondered in the cosmic scheme of things if she wasn’t actually the lucky one and not the less fortunate one.

I don’t want this to be all maudlin; I simply want you to know how much I have enjoyed our friendship, how much I wish none of this were happening and how much I’ll be thinking of you in the coming months. I want to celebrate your life, to honor your contribution to my life and the lives of others.  SO, until we meet again my friend, peace and good wishes.

Oh, and if in the future you see my Gretchen & Hillary, give them loves from me! Tell Rissy to quit hissing at them!!

Love Always,

Your friend Kathy

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dust If You Must

I can't remember where this came from but I love it:

  Dust if you must but wouldn't it be better
  To paint a picture or write a letter,
  Bake a cake or plant a seed,
  Ponder the difference between want and need.
  Dust if you must but there's not much time,
  With rivers to swim and mountains to climb!
  Music to hear and books to read,
  Friends to cherish and a life to lead.
  Dust if you must but the world's out there
  With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
  A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
  This day will not come around again.
  Dust if you must but bear in mind,
  Old age will come and it's not kind.
  And when you go and go you must,
  You, yourself, will make more dust.
  Remember, a house becomes a home when
  you can write "I love you" on the furniture

Only In Juneau

(Michael Penn/Juneau Empire photo)

There is a "memorial service" for Romeo today.  People are gathering at the entrance of  the West Glacier Trail where he was most often seen coming from.  This is a a testament to the impact this lone wolf had on the people of Juneau.  It's a chance for people to gather and compare stories and bask in the wonderment of sharing their lives with such a magnificent creature. 

"Juneau has a history of being kinder to its local animals than a lot of places," according to Joel Bennett, a local filmmaker. 

It's one of the many reasons I love living here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wilma K.

It’s taken me a long time to be able to write about the passing of my mom.  It was quite a journey for both of us. 

It was the latter part of 2006 when she got sick.  She called every Sunday night as she had for years and I thought she had a bad cold that she was having a hard time shaking.  It had gone on for several weeks and she kept saying she missed church so I knew she must be sick but then one night our neighbor, Mrs. Matthews, called me and said “you know your mother is really sick” which immediately got my attention.  She went on to say she hadn’t even gotten dressed in weeks, that she just lay on the couch.  Then mom’s calls stopped coming and one night I called her and dad said she couldn’t come to the phone.  He said she had been at the clinic that day and her heart had stopped but they managed to resesitate her.  I can’t even convey the affect those words had on me.  It literally stopped me in my tracks.  Intellectually, I knew my mom was old (89) and obviously I knew she wouldn’t live forever but it was at that moment that my heart finally grasped what my mind hadn’t allowed me to absorb in the prior weeks.  My mom was dying.

I immediately made plans to go up to Haines.   When I got there she was indeed confined to the couch in her pajamas but she would get up to eat her meals.  She seemed a little frail but not too bad.  A nurse would come by daily and check on her.  I can’t say enough about Becky Malone, the nurse in Haines.  Throughout the months she was sick, Becky was an absolute angel, lending support not only to my mom but to us, her family.  She would advise us of things to come and what to expect of the dying process.  My mom had refused further medical treatment so it was a matter of keeping her comfortable.  At that point she was still able to get up daily and make a few laps around the house with her walking stick.  Just as I was leaving to go back home, my brother Tom arrived so he was with her for a few days too.  I think having her kids there rallied her spirits more than anything else could.

My mom was known for being very self-sufficient, no-nonsense and downright frosty.  God used those months she lay in bed to soften her entire countenance, to make her more grateful and thankful than she had ever been.  Never a word of complaint.  As Heather Lende put it in her book, Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs, "the holy spirit had gentled her."  She was the perfect patient.  She appreciated everyone so much and she couldn’t quite understand why people were making such a fuss over her. 

I came back home and worried endlessly.  I had just started a new job so I felt torn between my responsibilities there and wanting to be with my mom.  A few weeks later my sister Barb came from Cordova and we went up together.  We were able to get her in the shower and wash her hair and that was the first time she had bathed in weeks. A local hairdresser came to the house and did her hair.  We were all so grateful for the love and support shown to her by the members of the community.  The house was filled with visitors every day and I know it meant a lot to her.  Pastor Ron Horn stopped by with his wife Jacque and she would massage her legs.  Faith Tuhey, from hospice, would come by and assist with changing her bedding or clipping her nails or anything else to make her more comfortable.  By then she was requiring assistance to go to the bathroom, even with the use of a walker, and her meals (such as they were) had to be fed to her.  We would try to get some calories in her by enticing her with her old favorites but nothing sounded or tasted good to her. 

The next time I went up to Haines the decline was unmistakable.  She was in a hospital bed by then and had a portable potty next to it.  She required assistance as my dad said she had fallen in the middle of the night trying to use it.  Now she would ask for a straw filled with water to poured into her mouth.  She barely ate anything.  It was most distressing.  She was also on some pain medicine to ease her discomfort.

A couple weeks later in early April Barb & I returned.  She hadn’t eaten in almost a week.  She was still alert and was always listening although it took a lot of energy for her to speak.  One day my dad was talking about the “Monday Thursday” service and she piped up, quite unexpectedly, “it’s MAUNDY Thursday!”  She had been correcting his English for 61 years and she wasn’t about to stop on her death bed.  Easter Sunday arrived and the church choir called and sang “He Is Risen” over the phone.  She had sung in that choir for over 50 years and they wanted to honor her.  It was a very touching moment.  That day she was quite uncomfortable, her heart working so hard to keep pumping that she would get really over heated.  At her request we’d have several fans on her body at once.  We were administering a lot of pain pills too. 

I was sleeping on the couch next to her bed when she woke that night thrashing about.  Barb and I spent some time with her and gave her more medicine.  She seemed to calm down a bit and we went back to bed.  When we got up in the morning she was sleeping peacefully.  We were going about the process of getting ready for the day when I went into the living room and noticed her lips were blue.  Then her breathing seemed a little irregular.  Both Barb and I were holding her hands and telling her how much we loved her when she took her last breath.  She had fought for 89 years and she was tired.  As my dad put it, she just plain wore out.

I’ll never forget those months.  Although it was painful it was also the most purposeful time of my life.  I have always wondered why God saved me through some very careless and crazy years…years I could have died several times.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that if the whole purpose of my life was to help my mom during that time than it was more than worth it. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Lucky Little Oscar

Daddy & Boys

About three years ago, just when everything was all calm and merry at our house, I saw a cute little dachshund in the pages of the Gastineau Humane Society.  After we got married in Arizona we drove up to Skagway and got on the ferry to Juneau.  While we were waiting in the ferry terminal in Skagway there was a man out walking his little dachshund and I thought he was so cute (the dog, not the man)!  It must have planted a seed because as soon as I saw Lucky (who became Oscar) looking for a home I knew he had to be ours.  We had been talking about getting a dog for years and he seemed to be a perfect fit.  We had just gotten Piper, our beautiful little Siamese cat, just months before and peace reigned at 4121 Birch Lane.  Now that I look back on it, I’m not sure what we were thinking!

I should insert here that the cute little dachshund came with the disclaimer he exhibited a “submissive urination” problem.  He was about a year old and lived with a family that were caretakers for several elderly patients who lived in the home.  It was easy to surmise that they must have health department guidelines to adhere to, hence a tinkling canine would not be a good fit.  We were sure with the proper amount of training and love we’d fix him right up.

"Tag, You're it!!"
 From the moment he arrived our lives were turned upside down.  The first few weeks were filled with regret.  He has submissive urination, and excitable urination and he hates to get wet so on wet days it is not unusual to find other, shall we say more solid deposits laying about.  He does try - occasionally  he will run to a door and wait but if you are in a different room or just plain not watching him all bets are off.  On wet days he will do anything to avoid going, even though he carefully remains under the eaves of the house.  Sometimes I can get him excited about feeding the squirrels and he’ll run out to the squirrel tree to investigate and then do his business as a side note.  Other days we’re not so lucky. We have learned to manage many of his bad habits just by altering OUR behavior such as greeting him outside so he can pee and wiggle about at the same time with no dire consequences.  We have to be diligent about inviting him to go outside and can’t  rely on him to tell us.  And some days we have to squeeze it out of him...we have our tricks too.
All the kids playing

When Oscar arrived he weighed 13 lbs.  Everyone warned us not to overfeed him because dachshunds typically develop back problems when they are overweight.  We vowed to keep him fit.  I walked him every day and he had tons of energy.  He would run the whole time.  We took him to doggy daycare twice a week and he would go on 2-3 walks a day there.  Then he started not wanting to go to daycare so we stopped taking him. Then he started not wanting to go on walks, if he saw me grab the leash he would hide under the bed where I couldn’t get him.  By his 1-year follow up appointment he weighed 22#.  Since then he’s added a couple more.  I still take him on walks and every time I stop for anything he turns around the opposite direction, clearly indicating his preference to return to the car.  He will dawdle that entire way out and then run once we turn around. 
Oscar & Timmy

On the flip side he is one lovable little puppy.  He loves his daddy more than anything...every evening he waits on the back of the couch looking through the blinds until he sees his car pull up and then he dashes full speed down the hall to greet him.  He loves his toy bone and spends hours burying it in his blanket.  He loves Timmy and Piper and they wrestle and play all the time.  When Chris is throwing his toy down the hall for him to chase the cats both wait in rooms off the hallway and ambush him as he runs by.  He loves going for car rides and frequently comes to work with me.  The car is one place he is very well behaved.  Most of all he LOVES giving puppy kisses.  Even though there isn’t one square inch of floor that hasn’t been assailed by his bodily functions we still love the Oscar. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


My friend Susan said I ought to do an entry on the “Dumb Mama” moniker of my blogger fame and it started me thinking of all the nicknames I’ve had in my life (and there have been a few). 

My brother Tom, who is only a year older than me, started called me “Beeb” when we were babies and it lasted all through my childhood.  To this day he can’t wrap his tongue around Kathy but he has refrained from Beeb so I’m happy.  He usually over compensates now and addresses me as “Kathryn Lois”...go figure.

When I was in grade school “Henny” was pretty popular, or “Henny Penny.”  With a last name of Henderson it was hard to escape the “Hendo” designation that had plagued my siblings as well.  When I was in college I left behind my favorite dog, and for some unknown reason my friends started calling me his name, “Pooties.” In my early 20’s I lived in a geodesic dome shaped house with some friends and everyone called us the “dome dogs”.......I’m sensing a trend here, by themselves none of these names sound particularly flattering but one must take into account the spirit in which they were intended!   Then I had a friend in Haines whose name was Jeff but I started calling him Jeffery and he started calling me “Thryn” as in Ka-thryn.  That name stuck and pretty soon everyone called me that. After I moved to Juneau a former boyfriend always called me Kathers and soon his family and others picked up on that name, except for his brother-in-law who always called me “Kathreenst” and still does. 

Probably the most prolific nickname came in my early 30’s.  I was at my friend Sandra’s house one night and her brother and former husband were there and they started calling me “Hollywood” much to my dismay.  I had known them for years at the time and this came completely out of the blue.  Nicknames can really take on a life of their own sometimes and pretty soon everyone was calling me that.  Some people didn’t even know what my real name was.  It wasn’t until much later I found out it came from Hollywood Henderson, an NFL player.  Monstrously huge, black, famous and male.....it’s easy to make that association I guess!!  It definitely brings back good memories though, it was a fun time in my life.  The most common pronunciation was “hollyWOOD” – it makes me laugh to write this.  I bet Sandra will chuckle too!

Chris has actually called me “Pokers” for the entire time we’ve been married and I have no idea how that evolved but he literally never calls me Kathy.  One day after we got Oscar, I did something clumsy and almost ran over the puppy and Chris said, (speaking on behalf of Oscar), “dumb mama!” and now, forevermore, any time he speaks to me channeling the animals, that’s the name he uses.  It appears we have four rather talkative pets because I hear it a lot! The envelopes of my cards are always lovingly addressed to “dumb mama” as well.  I have even heard myself refer to myself as such.  I guess it just stuck!

So there you have it.  I’m sure I’ve been referred to by a few other names than these but that’s for someone else to post!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jack of All Trades I am, I am

I started thinking the other day of all the jobs I have had.  I’ve actually had quite a few and have done a variety of different types of work. 

It started off when I was a freshman in high school working at the Halsingland Hotel.  It was kind of a rite of passage in our houseshold although I mostly cleaned rooms versus the waitressing my sisters did.  That was actually a fun job, I worked with Joannie Gulliford and Mollie Manuell and we had some good times.   Plus it kept me out of the garden which was my main objective!

From then I went on to grocery store clerk at Howsers.  I worked there off and on for about five years.  It seemed longer! Once again, my coworkers were classmates and friends and that made it fun. 

My next job was a dental assistant, first in Port Angeles and then Juneau.  I did that for about five years as well, and worked for 3 different dentists throughout those years.  There was a period of time in there that I was a fill-in, ready to cover for assistants on vacation or out sick.  I also assisted a periodontist that came down from Anchorage one week a month.

I worked part time at a Best Western Hotel as a night clerk checking guests in for a while.  During that time I also worked cleaning houses as time allowed.

Next I got started on my career with the state inputting PFD applications at the Department of Revenue.  That only lasted the summer and then I got a job with the Department of Corrections, Adult Probation Office.  Even though I was a lowly clerk typist III, I had alot of responsibility and I loved that job.  I wrote up presentence reports for felons, transcribed the notes from the visits with their probation officers and scheduled misdemeanor jail time.  I also had access to NCIC and ASPIN, two offender data base systems.  It was my first job utilizing a computer for word processing. 

After DOC, I went to the Department of Law as a legal secretary I for the Governmental Affairs Section.  About two years later I moved to the Attorney General’s Office as a legal secretary II and then moved into the executive secretary position for a few years.  During my tenure there we started in DOS and then moved to Windows, first with WP and then MSWORD.   In 2004, a new governor brought a new attorney general and I was out of a job. 

My next position was an Administrative Assistant with the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.  I ensured the various shelters around the state got their monthly federal grant money and organized tribal/state forums around the state.  Besides working in AKSAS I was also the human resource person.

I hadn’t been there long when I was commandeered to the commissioners office.  They found themselves without an executive secretary so I filled in there and then remained there another two years.  From there I went back to CDVSA and then over the Department of Health & Social Services; Director’s Office.  I worked for the then director, Dr. Mansanger, but shortly after I was hired he moved on so I transferred over to Injury Prevention and EMS Section.  I was the sole HR and accounting person there and and I got to work from 7:30-3:00 PM which was so perfect.

Which brings me to my present job.  There isn’t much I can say about this job except it has been the most challenging position I have ever had.  Not because of the duties of the job but because of the personalities and dynamics of the management.  It’s the only job in 20 years that I don’t have my own printer.  Or a decent chair to sit in.  Or the ability to make a decision on my own.  On the positive side my Juneau coworkers are all enjoyable and the Anchorage people are safely 800 miles away.  You’d be surprised at how easily they can still make our lives miserable though.

The bottom line is I’m ready to retire.  Working isn’t the problem, it’s more that I’m so tired of having to answer to people who have little regard for their employees. Or punks with attitudes.  In the state system, in order to advance almost always you have to supervise.  There are many people who are probably really good at their jobs but just SUCK at managing employees.  It is the tragedy of many lives here.  When you spend so much of your day in a toxic environment it can’t help but bleed into your life.   My biggest regret is that I never discovered a vocation, a job that was my passion. I really envy people who do.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes...

Last year at this time I was going through one of the worst experiences of my life.  It started innocently enough when I woke up with a backache.  I was prone to lower back problems so I didn’t think much of it.  For years I had to leave the bed after a few hours of laying in it and move to the couch where I had more back support.  Sometimes I’d wake up fine and then bend over for some reason and not be able to straighten up.    I chalked it up to fun times in your 50’s.  Old. Age. Sucks.

By Monday I had gotten progressively worse so I called in sick to work and scheduled a chiropractic appointment.  I was sure he could fix me right up.  I was really crippled when I walked in there, unable to straighten up and in a lot of pain.  He took some X-rays and then quickly came to the conclusion that it was beyond his scope of treatment.  He recommended I get an MRI.  Throughout the rest of the day I could find some level of comfort as long as I was sitting but after a trip to the bathroom that evening I sat down and suddenly full blown pain prevailed.  I tried shifting around to ease it but nothing helped.  I tried laying down, I tried standing up, I everything inbetween but the pain was unrelenting.  The best way I can describe it is like a toothache in my back.  I have had some painful things in my life, broken bones, kidney stones, kidney infections, appendicitis, simultaneous kidney stones and appendicitis, but nothing has ever hurt to the degree of an abscessed tooth.  Even an abscessed tooth, however, has its moments of reprieve.  I’ve probably had 8 of them and when they flare I can ease it starting with room temperature water.  And then cold water.  And eventually ice.  It buys me a little time and the moments inbetween the pain get shorter and shorter but it’s something.  With my back there was no reprieve.  I laid there on the floor crying for a good half an hour before I realized I needed a plan. 

I called Barb who told me to call a friend for help.  Chris was out at Kensington and I knew I need to get to the ER and I knew I couldn’t drive myself. I’m not sure why I needed her to tell me this but somehow it validated me into action.  I thought about my friend Carole but I knew she had to work the next day.  I thought about my neighbor Kara but she has two little kids.  I HATED to prevail upon anyone for a trip to the ER, it’s like the greatest imposition ever.  I did eventually call Kara but I hung up before she answered.  She called me back and I didn’t even have to ask, she just said “I’ll be there.”  It is one of the most kind and gracious things anyone has ever done for me.   I kept telling her she could just leave me there and I’d take a cab home but she stayed until the end.  I was really a mess walking in the ER, I couldn’t straighten up, I was bawling, and I was literally writhing around on the floor in pain. I would have been embarrassed had I had the presence of mind to do so.  After the perfunctory hour or two of waiting I did eventually get a shot of something and some pain medication with orders to come back for that MRI.  The next day was Veteran's Day and I was so happy I didn't have to worry about work.

And so it began.  In the following days I did get the MRI and then another trip to my doctor who said I had I had needed to see an orthopedic specialist, Dr. Bozarth.  Everyone who saw my MRI and X-rays concluded I had a I had a ruptured disk and some of the rupture material was floating around land landing on nerves.  They had isolated it to the L3/L4 area of my spine and that area affects the left leg.  After the night at the ER most of my pain centered around that leg.   Any movement, sometimes just a cough or a sneeze would precipitate a sharp, gut-wrenching pain down my leg. The kind of pain that took my breath away and caused involuntary yelps.  My left knee was numb and prone to giving out on me.  I fell more than once when it buckled.  I was taking pain medication round the clock but oxycondone was developed for post surgery pain, not nerve pain and although it helped a bit, it barely took the edge off.

I had some leave scheduled in November before all this happened but I still was missing more days.  It was one of the most humiliating aspects of the entire experience, constantly calling in sick and feeling the perceived judgment of my boss.  In all fairness the judgement may have been entirely in my head but it was my reality.   I had a really hard time sleeping and would usually get up sometime in the middle of the night and watch TV sitting up for a while. The way I shuffled around the house I felt like I was 90 years old.  As the weeks went by the constant pain and lack of sleep threw me into a very dark place.   It doesn’t take long for depression to suck you in to its dark swirling abyss.  The entire time Chris was gone for 4-5 days a week and I was trying to hold a household together, managing the day to day functions.  Buying and carrying groceries, loading the stove with pellets, changing the litter boxes were all challenging.   Sometime in early December I had a steroid epidural where a steroid is shot into the space in my spine where I was having the most trouble.  It realized a very temporary improvement.  Then on December 22nd I had arthroscopic surgery.  This time they discovered I had an extra nerve root growing on top of my spine and a broken blood vessel on top of that.  They had to chisel a trough in my spine to lay the nerve flush and reroute the blood vessel.  Thankfully my disks were all fine.

I was home for three weeks afterwards recovering. Even though the whole experience from start to finish was less than 3 months it felt like it was forever.  It still gives me problems and I never have gained my strength back in my lower back.  Sometimes it feels great though.  Just recently I did a brisk 4+ mile walk and felt great, had no residual pain the following day and I felt really hopeful so two days later I hiked the hill up behind town and started down the path I used to walk every day.  In doing so I managed to put myself a good month behind.  For some reason I really struggle with hills. 

One thing I know for sure:  I will never take my health and my mobility for granted again.  I saw how quickly and how easily it can all disappear.  And how long it takes to get back and how deeply it affects not just your physical health but your mental health.  So take a moment to give thanks to your creator that you enjoy whatever health you have and then put yourself on your to-do list and treat yourself kindly.  You body may be falling apart but it’s the only one you got!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

God Bless Our Veterans.......

As I'm enjoying my day off work today I thought I'd do a shout-out to all the members of our Armed Forces, those intrepid men and women both past and present that have made such sacrifices for our freedom and our way of life.  And the freedoms and lives of those that are being persecuted elsewhere.  I hold them all up in prayer, that God would protect them and encourage them, that He would hold them close and give them courage and comfort and be with their families while they are away.  I cannot pretend to imagine what it would be like to be torn from your spouse, your children and all those you love to be shipped away to some foreign lands where you are unappreciated and put in harms way every day.  It is shameful that they come home with broken bodies, broken spirits and damaged minds and they are often forgotten and ignored.  At least today the general sentiment is to support our troops, but let's not forget what our Vietnam Vets came home to and let's pray that never happens again.  There are so many things about this country that are great, that make us all proud to be citizens of the United States of America but there are also some things to be ashamed of, mostly the way we have treated some of our citizens whether it be the Native Americans, the African Americans, or our returning soldiers.  For anyone reading this blog today I would implore you to lift our Veterans up in prayer, to thank a soldier, and/or lend support to a family in need.  It is my fervent prayer that one day our returning service men and women would have unlimited resources at their disposal to ensure they live as whole a life as possible upon their return.  That they would be valued and respected as much after their service as during their service.

I am the first to admit I sometimes take it all for granted.  It is so easy to become complacent until some particularly gruesome headline catches our eye.  We have become numb to the stories.  The yellow ribbons have blown away.  Perhaps we don't have a personal connection with any soldiers.  September 11th seems like a long ways away by now but I know everyone can still remember how united we felt during that time.  How we treated our neighbors just a little more kindly, our children a little more patiently.  We flew our flags a little more proudly.  I pray for an America that remembers our vets with the same reverence as we had for victims on that horrible day.   So here's to us America, on this Veteran's Day 2010, let us vow to do better!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Planting Tulips

♥♥We Love You Mom♥♥

Today we planted tulips,
On the mound above my mom
She lies there waiting patiently,
While we live joyously and long.

If every bulb we carefully placed,
Represented wisdom she imparted,
We'd wear fewer lines upon our face,
And less hurts inside our hearts.

If every colored tulip was a day she loved us dearly,
And every stem a day she was our mom,
Then every day for us would be a day sincerely,
That we would all be luckier than some.

She aspired to live her life by the African Proverb
to pray always with your feet...
And she continually gave thanks to the Lord,
 until her heart no longer beat.

Today we planted tulips,
On the mound above my mom,
She lies there waiting patiently,
Until we join her in her final song.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Then and Now

I have a picture on the slide show that is my screensaver at work and every time it pops up it makes me reflect on my family.   I grew up the youngest of five kids.  My nearest sibling was my brother that was a year older but the oldest three were eight, ten & eleven years older.   Early photos of me show my sisters dressing me up in doll clothes.  There is one picture in the family album that shows one of them holding me next to the goat pen (coincidentally I also remember them telling me that I came to be part of this family when I was found out in a goat pen one cold morning but that’s another story).  What isn’t apparent in the photo is the fact that I am terrified of the two goats behind me, their names were June and July and July never missed an opportunity to terrorize me, but safe in the arms of my older sister I knew they couldn’t get me.  That’s the nice thing about older siblings, that sense of security when they are around.  I remember that I felt as good with them as I did in the arms of my mom. 

We don’t see each other much these days but when we do it’s as if no time has lapsed.  Below are shots of the four of us, circa 1960 and 2005.  No matter how old we get we are still the little brother and sister and they are still “the bosses of us” (so they think)!