Saturday, December 30, 2006

Movie: Charlotte's Web

One of the perks of being a 'parent' again (to an 80-year-old) is going to movies I would never end up going to otherwise. I loved the nostalgia of the farm landscapes in their rolling beauty, and I cried when the spider died.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

If you say so

On the big sign outside Party World in midtown Anchorage:


Monday, December 25, 2006

Role reversal

It definitely felt like some tables had turned this morning when I got up to fix a nice Christmas breakfast, listened to some holiday music while sipping my eggnog latte, then sit and look at the tree and watch Nana open her gifts - I tried to spoil her this year and she was up to the spoiling - and later to fix a lovely London broil supper. Just... I don't know. Very much felt my role as parent, I guess. Best thing under our tree for me was the dog (that's Hunter barely visible on the floor in the foreground - Willow was off somewhere). With a couple of feet of snow on the ground and no place to go, a few well-wishing phone calls, indulging my mom by sitting and playing through multiple books of piano solos, and it was a simple and relaxing Christmas.

The kids certainly enjoyed being snuggled and attended to all day - Nana had her lap full of them for much of the afternoon.

And I'm glad that Willow seemed to feel very much that she is part of the family. She's clung to me from the minute we met a couple of days ago, and it's paining me to think of taking her back to boarding care after the holidays. For right now, it's 'to all a good night.'

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Santa's little helper

I have some blog gaps to fill, but meanwhile, here is Willow helping me wrap presents for Nana tonight.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Angels we have heard, way up high

Tonight we had a houseful of folks over for a carols-around-the-piano party. Well, really what happened is that Kari invited herself and family to our house since we have the piano, and then she invited another person and another person and... Through a stroke of luck, 4-5 of them had to cancel otherwise I would have been looking for places to hang them on the walls in our little house.

Having a friend who was a professional opera singer (that's Kari) certainly raises the level of the parlor music, but the group singing was just as much fun. I expected we'd maybe sing for an hour or two, but nearly four hours passed as the snow fell (14 inches during the evening) and it certainly felt a lot like Christmas as everyone had to dig out cars before they could try to maneuver down our unplowed street.

Hunter and Willow in particular were not satisfied with the private dog party upstairs, so came down and both of them impressed me with how well they settled into a group of strangers. Kari's parents are visiting, so we listened to Kari's mom tell stories of growing up in England, and her dad is rather a mad scientist as Kari describes him, and always has something interesting to say.

Naturally for us amateurs, the excuse of singing carols was really just to fill in the spaces between having Kari sing for us. Toward the end of the evening I asked her to sing "The Holy City" and though I couldn't see over my shoulder from the piano, I'm told that Hunter and Willow ended up in Kari's lap trying to peek down her throat, and when she chose to finish on a note way higher than the one that was written, it resonated thickly in my right eardrum and the dogs' heads nearly twisted off trying to see where that was coming from!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What holiday food are you?

You Are a Gingerbread House
A little spicy and a little sweet, anyone would like to be lost in the woods with you.

Christmas for the teacher

At DT we've had holiday treats by the truckload from clients, lots of wonderful things provided to the staff at large. Today when I stopped by to drop off our new foster (more on her later) for some playtime, I saw the staff cubbies were also filling up with little cards and gifts. I pulled out the ones addressed to Miss Peg. I hadn't seen that coming. I also hadn't seen coming the big lump in my throat as I opened each one, and all of a sudden realized I was clutching them to my chest with tears in my eyes because I love all the dogs here, and it's meaningful to receive sentiments of sincere thanks. How thoughtful.

It's like working at a preschool with the benefit of not having to deal with children....

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Every time a bell rings...

The same guy has been at the Salvation Army kettle every afternoon this week as I've run errands at the mall near Nancy's. This afternoon as I trudged through a near-blizzard I could hear a small ring of the bell even though I wasn't yet inside the mall entry. Not the enthusiastic jing! jing! jing! that shames you into giving as though you had planned to all along. Just a sort of dull jingk.... long pause... jingk.... Turns out Santa's helper was outside on a smoke break, with the bell idly trailing to his lips.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Herewith the filling of gaps

Life has been screaming along but I have felt pretty detached from a lot of it. Odd feeling to be more overworked and overwhelmed than usual, but have it all filtered through the grief lens. I have felt like there are things to report but they are all missing flavor.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Michele and Chuck gave us another 'experience' gift for Christmas this year, and tonight the four of us went to see the national touring production of 'Joseph' in its final Anchorage performance. Clarissa Grace was phenomenal as the Narrator - what a set of pipes. It's just the same charming and goofy show that people have loved for so many years now, a few updated twists here and there (communications between Egypt and Canaan via cell phone, the Pharoah head with a giant set of sunglasses). I suppose some folks would think of this piece as sacrilege, but the fun being poked is only at itself. The audience was engaged, and with the storytelling style (and some direct interaction, as when Pharoah-as-Elvis encouraged the various parts of the house to kick it up for the King), it feels like there's no barrier between audience and stage. Very warm and embracing. It was fun to clap with the final Joseph Megamix and see the obvious appreciation on the faces of the performers in the ovation.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Evening at the improv

My mother is downstairs playing the piano by ear, whatever comes to her. She just finished "I'm a Child of the King" and has launched directly into "There is a Tavern in the Town." Is there any wonder how I turned out the way I did?

Friday, December 15, 2006


I suppose it was bound to happen the longer I work here at Nancy's, and more deeply in operations instead of the communication stuff I was hired for almost eight years ago. But somehow and without my realizing it, the gap has been bridged between the sophomore girl in Mr. Ranney's second period business math class and the person I am today. It occurred to me all of a sudden today that I actually understand dollar cost averaging.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Movie: The Nativity Story

I know this film is getting crucified (er...sorry) by a good many critics (bad sign when the movie advertisements are reduced to using noted cinema authority The 700 Club as its review source), but I have to say I loved it. I don't care who found it pedantic or boring or lifeless - I thought it was gentle and simple and human. I don't care who thought it reduced the greatest story every told into a big screen version of a Hallmark card - I still leaked tears at the totally over-the-top starlit manger scene. I don't care who thinks Catherine Hardwicke has played it way too safe - for once I didn't have to spend two hours appreciating something because it was edgy and daring. I liked the retelling from the perspective of a group of simple people being touched by big events whose importance they have yet to experience or understand, instead of portrayed as iconic heroes of faith who have that stuff all figured out from 2000-year hindsight.

Ciaran Hinds looks exactly like my eight-year-old mind envisioned King Herod every time I read the Arthur Maxwell Bible Story books. On the flip side, Alexander Siddig looks out of place as Gabriel - sorry, but I just saw ST:DS9's Dr. Bashir. (He also has a way of appearing earnest that just looks menacing somehow.) Keisha Castle-Hughes (as Mary) may yet make a whole career out of her ability to look appropriately introspective. The breakout part in this is Oscar Issac as Joseph. Realizing that much of this story had to be invented (a strict interpretation from the Gospels would make a movie approximately 14 minutes long), Hardwicke believably fills those gaps, but what she chose to do with Joseph was wonderful. In the Bible, of course, he's the ultimate also-ran, second banana to the Almighty in the dad department. Yet in the veneration of Mary through the centuries, one has to think that God wouldn't have wanted her or Jesus stuck with a mediocre man. Here Joseph is portrayed as vital, intelligent, courageous, tough, and selfless - the sort of remarkable but truly human person that God might have wanted as a partner for Mary and a father for His son.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Raina followed Skye a little while ago.

A grievous loss

I don't even know how to say it really, other than as bluntly as it happened. Earlier yesterday, Pat and I had talked about the speed of Raina's further decline and that it would be good for me to visit soon (which I plan to do tonight). Late in the afternoon, she called in tears, but not with the news I'd feared..... Dear, exuberant, beautiful Skye had literally dropped dead. Pat hopes to know more after the necropsy but meanwhile I just don't know what to say. She was such a wonderful rottiegrrl, just six years on the earth.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

That's "Mother Governor" to you

Alaska's youngest and first female governor, Sarah Palin, was sworn in yesterday in Fairbanks. The Anchorage Daily News in what surely is a stroke of perversity which I deeply appreciate, chose to run above the headline these two Sarahgems from the inaugural speech:

"Alaskans, hold me accountable. And right back at ya."

"I will unambiguously, steadfastly and doggedly guard the interests of this great state as a mother naturally guards her own."

On behalf of women everywhere, can we get a do-over?


Our friend Saucy, a six-month old Bulldog, has been staying with us since last week when her mom and dad had to leave unexpectedly for family matters back in Texas. So I am getting my bulldog quota every day. She's such a funny, determined girl. But she's very polite and an easy keeper, no doubt because Katie (a DT co-worker) is so consistent with her about everything. Take her out on leash and she goes immediately to potty, no dawdling, no looking around until business is completed. Attach her seat belt harness and she sits quietly through the whole car ride. She comes home exhausted from daycare, eats dinner, and puts herself to bed. The one time she isn't quiet is All Night Long, as she sleeps (all night!) with a loud and untroubled snore. She has two speeds, full ahead and full stop.
She's not a cuddler; will charge into you like a rhino for a quick scritch and woob-woobin of her adorable face, then off to whatever needs thrashing next. She's very fond of the Egg Babies toys and last night fell asleep happily with the duck, though she's more entranced by the actual eggs. She can be sober as a judge, which of course makes us laugh all the time. What a sweetheart. She has also warned us on a number of occasions that the two remaining yellow Lab puppies next door are not as cute and fluffy as they appear, in case they should find their way under the house and come to kill us all.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Yesterday afternoon we went with Michele, Chuck and Duane to hear the community chorus performance of "Messiah." A friend of theirs was the director this year. I used to sing in these performances years (decades) ago before I let my voice go to waste, and it was always very interesting to me to see how the director each year would approach the work - what portions would be chosen, what style we were going for. This was a very refreshing take from this particular director's extensive background in Baroque music and direct experience with this work. He came out not in a tux but in a simple black shirt and pants, and having already written his remarks in the program, he basically nodded to the audience and said "Let's do it." He presented the work as a light chamber piece rather than a choral work, with minimal orchestra. The fact that 140 volunteer singers make up the chorus is something you can't change as far as making this a smaller endeavor, so his inspiration was to bring in a group of 12 elite singers to do all the heavy lifting. Thus certain of the pieces, like "For unto us a child is born," was sung by the small group with the chorus only coming in on the easy crescendos of "Wonderful, Counselor..."

Even the solos didn't sound as ponderous as I've experienced them in the past. Near the end, I wept during "I know that my Redeemer liveth" - that was the first time I've ever heard that aria sung as a plain-spoken profession of faith in a time of personal devastation, exactly as it is in the book of Job. It was tremendously touching and the tears are coming to my eyes even now.

When we all stood to sing the Hallelujah chorus, I'd been thinking throughout that if I'd been a chorister this year, I might have been alternately relieved and a little disappointed at all the stuff I didn't get to sing because it was given to the master singers, when just as in response to that thought, we got to the end and the chorus continued without us through the full "Amen!" - I don't think any of the performances I've been in have used that part, and it was almost redemptive for the choristers - like, oh yeah, we didn't sing the hard stuff? well listen to this!

(edited to add): I forgot to say that this director (Andrew Sweeney, who is also an organist, operatic vocalist, composer, etc. - what a tremendous talent) rewrote the "Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion" for three sopranos instead of as a solo, and it was so refreshing to hear something familiar yet very new as the voices tumbled over each other, as though a group of sisters had heard the most wonderful news and all reacted at once.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A place to pour time right down the drain

Thanks to my buddy Pat, I am now aware of a perilous place called Etsy, which whispers oh-so-wholesomely while it ravages large pieces from one's life... Before, I only had (1) no money and (2) no talent for creativity. Now I have (3) no self-esteem and (4) no end to the envy of what people can (1) do and (2) make money at.

Project Rrfff-way

Maddie's task at puppy kindergarten was to learn to be handled all over, so the teacher had everyone dress their dogs. Maddie was workin' it!

Back on the horse

I've been out of commission on computer stuff other than a little email for the last week with this neck injury. I'd intended to spend the four-day Thanksgiving weekend working hard on FOP projects - we have critical year-end stuff to produce - but it just hurt too much. I'm healing and at this point the panic of missed deadlines is overcoming the pain in my neck so I'm back in the slog. Working on catch-up posts next.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Buried treasure

Last Wednesday evening, I stopped by the veterinary clinic that does most of our paid boarding (we don't have enough foster homes in rescue), to bring home a dog for the four-day weekend. Just a taste of home life for a few days. I chose Emma (not 'our' Emma), a cute 45-poundish long-haired blackdog that looks a little like a newf/retriever mix. She's gotten along well with the other dogs in care, so I was surprised when her arrival at home was most inauspicious. I let her meet Hunter for a few minutes through the glass door, and when I brought them together, she went after him ferociously. He was respectful and didn't respond, and even stood there wagging his tail slowly like "Hey, can't we be friends?" And even when put in the airline kennel her snarling was intense. Very uncharacteristic of her.

I wasn't sure how to keep them apart all weekend and achieve the goal of a nice weekend for her and for all, so very regretfully high-tailed her back to the clinic before they closed at 7, thinking to pick up some other lucky customer. Michele met me there with a Shih Tzu that's just come into rescue. At Animal Care & Control, it appeared to be one of those cases of an 8, 10, or 12-year-old dog that's never had any care - a horrid huge mass of tangles and mats, pinching the skin out in obvious tents - just awful. She'd taken shears and quickly cut off about a wastebasket full of hair. Enough to make an amazing discovery - this was a puppy barely six months old. I don't know how it even had time to have become such a rotten mess of tangles, or why in the world the clinic didn't shave him while he was knocked out for his neuter - that would have been the humane way to approach it. But there wasn't any Thanksgiving prep work at home that night (we were going out with friends for the holiday dinner, then making all our own turkey and trimmings on Friday), so I entrenched us both for four painstaking hours of clipping and scissoring and being bitten a dozen or so times, taking breaks and going at it again. He was incredibly tolerant, all things considered. This is what lay beneath. We named him Giblet.

And that was before I spent another two hours on him the next morning. He looks like an actual puppy now.

When I returned him tonight to go back into boarding care, I admit that I cried. It's not the right dog or the right time, but it's been forever since I had a baby in the house. And since my neck and back were killing me, it didn't feel like as much of a wasted weekend on the couch, alternating ice and heat packs, when I could hold this little guy. He had his playful moments but for the most part surveyed everything most implacably, with a calm Buddha countenance. Settled in every night next to my pillow. Hunter was just beautiful with him - never raised a lip or said anything to put him in line. Giblet is also a toe-hog extraordinaire and would set himself most assiduously at either Nana or me, and nearly swooned at the chance to do that straight out of the shower. Silly pup.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Menu reconsiderations

Despite its culinary ambition and appeal, I still can't fathom why anyone would want to name a holiday dish 'turducken' or anything that starts with "turd." I propose a name change - at least 'kenductur' sounds vaguely like the promise of a jolly ride on a steam train.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


So last night I'm trying to tackle some of the house chores that didn't get done over the weekend, and it turns into moving some furniture around. I moved the piano deliberately, slowly, taking care to really use good body mechanics and not hurt myself. But apparently I hurt myself - either with the piano or the tables or the entertainment center or the couch, or something. My neck started to hurt badly. Nothing else hurt, so I didn't associate it with the lifting. I thought I had a bad cramp in my neck. Put heat on it and things felt worse and worse. Went to bed in a fair amount of misery and lay there in pain almost all night. Well, if you don't count the eight times I got up because I hurt so much in any position.

In desperation around 4:30 am it occurs to me that this is not a cramp. This has got to be a sprain. Nothing else hurts this much. Which means all these hours of heat were A Bad Idea. It also finally occurs to me that there are excellent prescription drugs in the house courtesy of a friend who passed off a bottle of pain meds to me once they were no longer needed. (This is the Peg version of a health insurance plan.) But since I need to get up around 6:30, I know a pain pill is a bad idea. So I go find them, cut one in half and then start icing my neck instead to bring down the inflammation, and I did get an hour and a half of something more resembling sleep.

Up and at 'em all day but feeling quite out of it. Kari (my secondary insurer) gave me one of her migraine pills because they don't make you sleepy, and that got me through the work day until around 3pm when I conceded defeat and headed on home. Do piano movers frequently sprain their necks? I sprained mine once years before, in the shower rinsing my hair, and ended up in the emergency room. Weird.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Mulligan's long sleep

Our sweet old Mully went to the Rainbow Bridge tonight. This picture is literally the last moment I saw him, on August 21 as I headed out the door to hop a plane back home to Anchorage. I kissed him several times and I said what I knew were the last goodbyes, and he was asleep in front of the floor fan before we even opened the door to leave. He was 13 1/2 years old and a dear big lug.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Movie: The Queen

Okay, so I had no idea that this movie was primarily around the events of Princess Diana's death, thereby answering the question I had all along which was "Who in the world (besides me) will spend movie money on a commercial film about Queen Elizabeth II?" So I'm a little out of touch. I also didn't find this movie as spellbinding as its reviewers have. Helen Mirren is amazing (of course), the production values were great (of course), the scenery is stunning (of course) but the mixture of drama with news footage made me think this film was made for the small screen a la The History Channel. Where it would have been a great movie. On the big screen, well, eh. I saw this film as a string of really great scenes that together didn't make a great movie.

For me the best part was seeing it through Michael Sheen's portrayal of Tony Blair, the young modernist against the timeless institution, whose human compassion wins out against the blithe sarcasm of his own contingent seeking to make sweeping change. (This actually plays a little differently from facts as I remember them when Blair came to power, but I viewed the discrepancies rather benignly.) When he eventually snaps, passionately defending Elizabeth's vulnerability during the public relations fiasco around Diana's death, he sounds like a defector from his own proposals, but only for a moment - that's when you realize much more fully that he's embraced the challenge of leadership from conviction, a deep love of country which includes a love for his queen.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Social call

We went over to Pat's this afternoon to visit with little Raina (and Pat and Skye of course). I'm amazed at how much better she's doing. Of course she is still very fragile but she's there. When we arrived, she was in the sunshine on her warm fuzzy bed alongside a unique hot water bottle - a tinted bag of Ringer's upon which all of the vets and techs had signed autographs. Nana so enjoyed holding Raina, sort of a loaner cat since she can't have her own and still have a breathing, functional daughter.

Pat also gave me a luscious treat of several dark chocolate Dagoba bars, including the Xocolatl flavor which I haven't yet experienced - dark chocolate with chilies, cacao nibs, maca, nutmeg and vanilla. She also found their brand of unsweetened dark hot chocolate mix. I'm thinking of just converting my spare closet into a shrine where I can be alone. Luckily Pat is the sort of friend who completely understood when I told her I was really trying to concentrate on her end of the conversation, but I was beginning to swoon with distraction with such riches in my hands. Check out their line of apothecary chocolate - these are people who Really Get It.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I'm out of Post-it's

That's all the backlog I have time for right now, so the catch-up posts are:

Nov 14 – Googleblog
Nov 14 – Raina’s rally
Nov 12 – Revolving door
Nov 09 – Growth trend
Nov 04 – My odometer turned
Oct 29 – First REAL snow of the season
Oct 27 – Bull market

Reasons not to go to work, chapter 19

"Today - mostly sunny. Highs 5 to 15 above. North wind 15 to 25 mph gusting to 40 mph. Wind chill readings 20 below to 35 below zero in the morning."

As in THIS morning. One of the few real godsends during the week that Kari was away and Peg was holding the world on her shoulders was that it didn't snow any more after that last weekend in October. If I'd had to shovel at both houses on top of everything else, I might have just sought a sturdy ice floe and made my graceful exit. But it was single-digit cold and it's been that way every day since - 17 straight days, which is wearing. And now the wind has kicked up over the last two days. Often that means somewhat warmer temps for us but this is a straight north wind and it's just cold. Damn cold. Hunter goes out in the snow to potty and doesn't last more than 90 seconds before he's picking up his feet from the painful cold. I bundle up for scoop duty and the one bright thing about it is that freeze-desiccated poop is so easy to manage. Up on the mountain I could take a golf club and tee them off, well clear into the high woods.

But the car starts right up with its engine heater, and this past weekend I got the studded snow tires on too. And this morning I finally reached up to the top shelf for the oatmeal, the Official Breakfast of Those Who Admit It Is Winter, so I'm fairly started up too. Nothing for it now but to get out there and get swept away.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Raina's rally

While Raina's mom Pat was out of town, I was supposed to stop by the house this last Tuesday afternoon to give Ra her fluids. I left work early to take my mom to the polls for her first election as an Alaskan voter (in the gubernatorial, she walked past the incumbent Republican lite gov in the poll lobby and voted for a Democrat - either the chill air or my steady brainwashing has gotten to her, though actually I voted for the Independent candidate).

After a couple of other errands, we were headed to stick Raina, when Pat called from Arizona to say that Ra had been quite ill for a few days prior, and was hospitalized. After my mom's own doctor appointment that afternoon, I headed over to the clinic where the kind staff accommodated me in visiting our sweet old girl. I just felt pretty helpless, as I always do when a very old animal seems to be drifting beyond reach. I held her and talked to her quietly; she didn't respond much other than a little bit of a motor rumble. I couldn't see anything in her eyes. Her physicality had become somehow transparent, though clearly not in any distress or discomfort. But, oh, what a time for Pat to be thousands of miles away. Both of being women 'of an age,' practical and accepting of the way of all living things, we agreed that only because it's Raina would it come as a surprise that a cat of 21 years would decline. She's been in the world forever. As I went home solemn and worried, later that night I held a squirmy, silly puppy and was so struck by that sense of immersion in the full river of life. I thought by the next day, Raina would likely be released.

But 24 hours later I was holding a remarkably different cat - aggressive treatment had brought her infection around, though she still had lots to overcome. By Saturday she was home and by early Monday morning Pat was home too. I'm looking forward to a visit with them this weekend, but meanwhile, I am just so grateful that this one small precious thing hasn't slipped our grasp just yet.


No, it isn't a troll under a bridge somewhere, it's just me trying to begin once again on catching up the blog. When you see what I've been up to (or up against) you'll understand why the blog continues to be last on the list, but meanwhile I'm posting a small something to see what Fantastic New Features are available in the Googled version of blogspot.

Okay, I'm still waiting.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Revolving door

One of the reasons that I had to get back to my own house even though Kari and Dirk weren't back from vacation was that another round of guests was starting at my own place. Emma was here a couple of weeks ago, and on Saturday, the lovely miss Abbey came to stay the weekend. She's a former FOP rescue and a Dog Tired client. To quote Steve Irwin, isn't she gorgeous? Normally at daycare she zonks out in the quiet room or with the little dogs or in her own bed behind the DT front counter, because her dad has taken her on a long run ahead of time and she's just there to chill, not socialize. This weekend I've learned a lot more about her silly side. She's a great bed cuddler too except for the slamming her paw into the middle of your face when it's time to get up. I had no idea about her more feisty nature when she hasn't just run 7 or 8 miles, so that's been lots of fun. She and Hunter both woke up around 3am on Sunday morning (but heck, by then I was entirely used to that) and had a snow romp in the bright moonlight.

Next up on Monday was a late night call from Michele, managing their large crew alone while Chuck was out of town - we'd gotten a call from the women's crisis shelter and needed to give Safe Haven to a puppy in a domestic violence situation so she came here rather than advance the ranks at Michele's. A delicate but energetic little brindle girl, the general size and shape of a fox terrier or whippet (not the lab mix as advertised). Dropped her off at the vet's Tuesday morning for shots and boarding. Got some really adorable photos of her and Hunter, who was by turns accommodating and, um, instructive toward the little skink. He's a good trainer and especially so with puppies and small dogs.

Tuesday night, Michele was running late so Kramer, a FOP rescue who'd been a guest at daycare that day, came home with me. He's a sweet little beagle boy found in our bitter weather, wandering on the hillside above Anchorage. Emaciated to 9 lbs only a week and a half ago, he's up to 15 lbs now. Cuddly and well mannered. We kept him a couple of nights. It was clear from the start that he had a hitch in his gitalong (besides a tail that from the base turns 90 degrees one direction and then 270 degrees the other direction in the first couple inches), and his assessment has revealed severe hip dysplasia (probably the tail deformity is also part of that).

By the weekend it seemed like the guest kennel was too empty so I went yesterday morning and picked up the puppy so she'd have a home life for the weekend, but had barely gotten her home when the call came that her mom was out of the crisis shelter and in a place where she could have her dog back. With a little sadness but with hope that what this tender little spirit has known in her short life is all behind her now, we sent her on her way. Loving them 120% while they're with you and releasing them fully (okay, maybe 90%) to an unknown future is both the challenge and the reward.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Growth trend

Maddie is around five months old now, I think, and over half as big as Emma (who isn't a big Golden, for that matter). Emma herself is transforming - she's lost a ton of weight in all the play and hijinks. She'd gotten truly worn out, actually, and a few weeks ago while Nancy and John were away and she stayed with us, she didn't eat or interact or anything but sleep for two whole days. Her level of exhaustion was concerning, and they are taking more care now to give her additional breaks from the constant onslaught. She seems much better now, and the two are wonderful playmates. I snapped this through the door of my corner worksspace.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

My odometer turned

(backdated entry)

Kari and Dirk went out of town this past week to see Cassi, who's playing for the Toronto Rattlers this year until March, when she'll come back home to graduate with her high school class. It all sounds so simple when you put it in a sentence like that, doesn't it? What this meant for me was:

Monday - come home from work, get Hunter and Nana squared away, pack my things and head to Kari's house to petsit for Abby, Maddie, Tobe, and Oliver (the dog they are petsitting), as well as the Major Beefcat Rascals, and Pennies the Petite.

From then on, the week became a blur. Partly because while ALL of these dogs are bed cuddlers, something about the disruption in routine (Tobe is attached to Kari and hadn't ever really been separated from her before) made it such that I went through the week with almost no sleep. The general routine that I've almost managed to block from my memory was to get up around 5 am having slept maybe 2 hours total through the night, get Kari's animals through their morning routine, head to the shop by 6:30 to get things opened, stay there until 8:30 when other staff arrive so that I can now go to my regular job, work all day, swing by the shop on the way home, run by my own house to make sure Nana and Hunter are okay, back to Kari's to get the critters through their evening routine, and then run forth and back between houses, FOP, the shop, errands, and whatever else, fall into bed around 10pm and not sleep for the night until it started over again at 5 the next morning. (Well, it was only the very last morning that we finally got it to be 5 am, and not 3 or 4. My naivete was such that I actually was worried I might oversleep and not open the shop on time every morning, so I brought both of my own alarm clocks thinking my ear would be tuned to them. My only need for an alarm clock all week was to lob it at the Catahoula dropping tennis balls on my head at 3 am.)
Don't they look innocent? Doesn't that huge bed look inviting? Sure - that's how they get you.

However, these two little guys were pretty darned adorable. Oliver (left) is the pug currently on loan, Tobe is the pug/beagle mix that Kari adopted this summer. I didn't know Oliver very well since I'm usually with the large dogs at daycare, but he decided that I was an acceptable port in this storm, and every night these two guys cuddled fervently against me all night long. I was so looking forward to easing my continued back pain by luxuriating in Dirk and Kari's new TempurPedic bed; however, I soon learned that being pinned by a pack of beasts does not allow for any comfort whatsoever, no matter the vast real estate of the bed nor its cost. They need lessons from Michele & Chuck's crew, where six of the 12 resident dogs can pile easily into your one small bed and remain comfortably close but adjust with every move you make without any evidence at all. My theory is that they actually levitate whenever I toss or turn.
Sleeping in my own bed tonight but since Dirk & Kari were delayed on their return, I still have to be over at their place at 6am for the breakfast routine. But somehow in all this I covered both the houses (Nana was a huge help with caring for Hunter and keeping things going at my house), covered both jobs, covered the combined FOP duties, etc.... but if my life were measured by miles I'd be about 240 years old by now. I sure feel it.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Independence Day

Five years ago this night I was sleeping my first night alone in the little cabin on Lazy Mountain, Diva and Courtney a few miles down the road at George and Becky's kennel while I spent several days getting things unpacked and ready for their arrival. I've made a lot of painful mistakes in my life before and since, but the end of that relationship with a fundamentally dishonest man sure isn't one of them. I used to think that I was sorry that he was the one who had to end it through (another) betrayal instead of me being the one who left, but that is so insignificant. Who can be sorry for getting one's own life back? I remember little about the leavetaking part - it was a bitter day (single digits) and the moving men made me laugh by telling me "You're too good for him." One of them had forgotten to bring gloves, and when I went up to ask Jim whether I could borrow a pair and I said I'd be sure they didn't get taken, he said "It's okay. I trust you" and I thought with some amusement that that was pretty effin ironic.

You Must Accept
by Kate Light

You must accept that's who he really is.
You must accept you cannot be his
unless he is yours. No compromise.
He is a canvas on which paint never dries;
a clay that never sets, steel that bends
in a breeze, a melody that when it ends
no one can whistle. He is not who
you thought. He's not. He is a shoe
that walks away: "I will not go where you
want to go." "Why, then, are you a shoe?"
"I'm not. I have the sole of a lover
but don't know what love is." "Discover
it, then." "Will I have to go where you go?"
"Sometimes." "Be patient with you?" "Yes."
"Then, no."
You have to hear what he is telling you
and see what he is; how it is killing you.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

First REAL snow of the season

(backdated entry)

Still, it weren't much. A few days of shoveling morning and night, maybe 10-12 inches in all. And convenient to have it happen on the weekend. (For fading-daylight trackers, this dreary pic is taken around 11:00 am.) But lord, I need to get the new snow tires put on the car SOON. I hate hate HATE driving an automatic on winter roads anyway, but an automatic with no decent shoes on its feet is a hair-raising experience when every intersection becomes a lottery draw.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Bull market

(backdated entry)

While I've said for years that I'd never want to have a Bulldog because of the various problems they suffer from human interference in their DNA, I must say that I've become the bulldog lady at Dog Tired - we have half a dozen or so, each very different from each other, and I'm besotted with all of them for various reasons.

Louise is my favorite of all the dogs at Dog Tired, but don't tell my 20 other favorites that I said that. She's moody, affectionate, complaining, hard-charging, playful, stubborn, and (maybe this is the simpatico part for me) is SOOO effin cranky when she's tired. She's a monster and I just love her to death even when she's raining brimstone on other dogs for daring to approach me. I love talking to her from across the room when she's asleep on her feet and so very wishing that she was home in her own bed. She'll look at me knowing that I understand that in her heart she'd rush across the room to be with me if she could just pull her butt off the couch. Her exploits at home are a delight to hear about too - like when she called in sick the day after Halloween because managing the trick-or-treaters had just been Too Much. It's Lou's world and we're just living in it.

Okay, it has to be said right here that one of the reasons the bulldogs like me is that several of them know that Peg will help a brother out when there's a delicate matter that needs attending to. Since most bulldogs are genetically engineered such that they can no longer reach their own asses, hygiene can be a challenge, and they've each figured out their own way of asking me to give them some personal assistance.

Miles is quickly becoming another favorite of mine mainly because of his sad affection for the toybox. We don't have toys in the playrooms on Miles days because he's So Not Into Sharing, though sometimes he'll play alone with a big plastic ball out in the hallway between classrooms - heaving and snorting and really being far too engaged, while trails of slime are rolled from wall to wall and back again. He quickly learned how to take the tops off the toyboxes and climb right in, so now they're kept up on kennels. Miles will sit nearby, or underneath, and pine with a mournful squall - something like the sound your camel makes when you squeeze it too hard.

But eventually the vigil becomes tiring, and like Louise, Miles goes to sleep on his feet, and finally fades away to dreamland, where all the toys belong to him.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Teddy the Hatchet

Emma decided it was time to take out Maddie's favorite teddy bear - she destroyed half his face and half of his foot. Nancy sent him home with me with an accompanying note asking for him to be admitted to the Good Nana Hospital and to send her the bill. Nana and I went through the fabric bin and discussed surgical options, and this is the result. Nana wrote a note in return which reads: "I had to give him a tissue transplant because his foot was pretty torn up and ragged, so Emma donated some stuffing from the sunflower toy she carries around when she visits. I also trimmed some of the hair around his right eye - he'll need that since he lost the left one. Teddy was very good, didn't cry, slept through the whole procedure. Nancy will not be billed as Nana's hospital does not charge for Teddy Bear surgery."

When I had gotten home from my meeting tonight, she showed me the progress and when she mentioned cutting the hair around his other eye, I looked up seriously and said simultaneously with her, "Well, yeah, because he'll need that" and then we both cracked up laughing.


Hunter has never been a bed cuddler, much to my disappointment. He might jump up there briefly but usually is gone in a flash. He does cuddle with his Nana, however. I don't know if it's affection or possession (that is, not as nice as it appears). Don't know, haven't spent time trying to figure it out, will give him the benefit of the doubt for now. But as far as that goes, Hunter has always enjoyed serious cuddle time with any female except me. I live with the rejection.

So I was especially touched this morning when we got up early for him to head outside to pee on the snow, and he jumped into my bed when we get back, scooted over politely as I got in, and then not only stayed with me cuddling, but stayed under the covers too, for a good hour and a half. And was the most precious sleepytime boy this morning, for a quiet talk and little loves between us until I got up to go to work.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Hunter takes a dip

Like many old-time Alaskans, Hunter takes a bath every few years whether it's necessary or not. The weekend I adopted him, I bathed him because he had a bit of vet-boarding smell and because I thought it was the caring-mommy sort of thing to do. That was over four years ago and I haven't done it since. He's never needed it. This dog never smells bad, his coat is never oily or dirty, and if he goes out in the rain he comes in gorgeously fluffy and smelling like he stepped out of a fabric softener commercial. I comb him out frequently but still I've never had a dog that didn't need a bath ever beyond a rinse of muddy paws.

Tonight that changed. Although his second round of Frankenfeet went away finally, I feel we haven't gotten to the bottom of whatever it is that's itching him so much. His skin's been dry and the hair around his armpits and his eyes is thinning. No other allergic symptoms though. Anyway, he's looked flaky and scruffy so I figured let's give the boy a soothing bath and see if that helps, and we'll go back to The Holy Man soon for more workups.

Hunter was bewildered. Now some of you remember, this is a dog who early on in our life together up in the Lazy Mountain cabin, walked into my shower and couldn't find his way out. On more than one occasion. Tonight he reluctantly got in the bathtub, but somewhat like my dear old Diva, he didn't fight but he needed to be comforted. (Diva would be wonderful for bathing as long as you kept your arms wrapped around her in a total hug the whole time and bathed with her.) And I realized how long it's been since I bent over to wash a dog in a bathtub. That won't ever happen again either. My low back hurt so much in the first 20 seconds I didn't think I'd have the courage to continue.

After bathing, I combed out tons of undercoat, predictably shed by all good Alaskan dogs at just the point when the weather suggests they really need it. He looks quite a bit thinner all over but is curled up in a sweet fluffy ball on my bed, smelling lightly of oatmeal and tea tree. I haven't seen him scratch once since the bath, so if nothing else he's gotten a few hours of relief tonight.


I have found the true theobroma. While Nancy was in Oregon last week, she visited the Dagoba factory in Ashland and returned with a sampler box of organic chocolate bars, which happen not only to be orgasmic but socially responsible. I mulled over my choice of the 12 bars and picked the dark chocolate with lavender oil and blueberries. And I have decided that social responsibility doesn't extend to sharing it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

First snow of the season

(this pic is taken at 3:30 pm - daylight is already noticeably wimpy these days)

On the west side of town we got a minor skiff - less than 1/2 inch - but it was cool enough today (20's) to stick. Supposed to get an inch overnight, maybe a couple more inches tomorrow. I had just put an engine block heater on the Tercel last year a couple weeks before it got totaled. Today I took the Civic in for the city-sponsored block heater program - $25 fee to the mechanic but the block heater is free. Anchorage has problems with emissions levels in the winter, with inversion layers that keep vehicle exhaust close to the ground. Cold-starting vehicles is a large contributor to that problem, plus a car just starts up much more willingly in subzero temps when it's spent a few hours plugged in. Still have to put glacier grips on it. I hate that this car is an automatic - so much easier to keep control on icy roads with a stick shift. All in all I'm not so sure I'm against global warming.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Meanwhile, back at the moose factory

Welcome to the world as we know it, William Matthew Gallatin, born this morning in Idaho to nephew Josh and his wife Tiffani, on the heels of cousin Zachary born not quite two months ago. These boys are the grandchildren of my oldest brother Matthew, whose two children Josh and Kaci now have one son each. What fun for these little ones to grow up together.

However, that clean Pacific Northwest air must contribute to mutant children - at 9 lb 13 oz and 23 inches, William was even bigger than chunky Zack.

It feels odd to me to know that to these boys I'll be one of those distant sort-of-relatives, as in "she was my grandfather's sister." Something dusty and vague, as though this morning my eyes are not welling with immediate joy.

Monday, October 16, 2006

What is urgent / what is vital

"The vital task rarely must be done today, or even this week. The urgent task calls for instant action. The momentary appeal of these tasks seems irresistible and they devour our energy. But in the light of time's perspective, their deceptive prominence fades. With a sense of loss we recall the vital task we pushed aside. We realize we've become slaves to the tyranny of the urgent."

Charles E. Hummell

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hunter comes home

I had to run a late-night errand tonight, and took Hunter along with me. When we returned, he went offlead from the car, up the steps to the front door, as he's always very good about doing. This is really the extent of his offlead privileges as he has only one direction (away) and only one speed (full).

I never noticed that the coast was not clear.

As I was juggling my purse and keys in the dark, a rustle caught our attention and I turned to see a full-antlered young bull moose in the dark, at the edge of my front yard. It started to walk directly toward us on the porch. I dropped everything in my hands and tried to move quickly with my keys, but my knees were jelly and my hands shaking. I got the first lock open as the moose began to trot with 10 yards to go. Hunter stiffened and I yelled NO and tried to hold his collar (why? so we could both get stomped?), but he shot off the porch and down the street after the (surprisingly, fleeing) moose.

I jumped in the car and tore off down the street. Nothing in view in any direction. I rocketed up and down the side streets and saw nothing. Called Kari who lives very nearby, and she said she would get in her car right away and start working from her direction.

But honestly I thought that was hopeless. I wouldn't find him tonight in the dark, or maybe ever when he's frequently shy of strangers. He never turns around when he starts to run. And I learned the night that I almost got killed that he can't be easily called off.

I drove back to my house where my mom was standing in the doorway. I stopped the car engine and called up to her that if Hunter came home - which he wouldn't, but... - for her to call me. We spoke for a few minutes and then she said:

'There he is."

And he walked up the driveway, paused as I got out of the car and took him by the collar, and we walked in the house together.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Do as I say

I've been feeling pretty low lately about my lack of effectiveness as an animal advocate. In the broader realm, I know I am reaching people. My words are educating people, helping them through grief issues, and making them open their wallets to help Friends of Pets. But lately I am struggling about the people around me. When I do that inventory, I despair of what good I do in the world - feeling low about how my immediate circle of influence includes backyard breeders, irresponsible neighbors, those who abandon their lifetime commitment, and others who purchase from breeders while another rescue dog dies. In my close circle - and actually even beyond in my more extended network of dog friends too - it's like everyone is so enamored of their dog du jour that it's just sort of gone out of vogue to care about the innocent dead unless they have a dramatic backstory. The vanilla homeless are someone else's problem. As Heidi Klum says, you're either in, or you're out. Auf wiedersehen.

But of course that's a judgment call and one I'm not qualified to make. So I guess I should quit pouting and figure out how the hell to start making an impact someplace that it matters.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Pennies from heaven

Actually it's quite a few dollars from heaven, since besides today's direct deposit of the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend ($1106) into my checking account, I got an entirely unexpected 15% raise from Nancy when I arrived at work this morning. I had knocked out a ton of billings for her on Sunday and Monday, and Nancy tends to show her gratitude in tangible ways of either time or money. We both have noticed lately that my job knowledge has leapfrogged considerably in the last couple of months - some of the particularly complicated stuff has just suddenly clicked for me - and it made me feel great when she said that she wanted to bump me to the same level pay as my (formally qualified) predecessors because I was showing the same performance. The increase is especially welcome now that my mom has moved here - just taking some pressure off. I have been around the block enough to know how quickly fortunes change, but today I am grateful for this ray of relief.

Monday, October 02, 2006


In some of my mom's boxes moved here from back East are two of my high-school yearbooks - I have the senior book somewhere (dunno where) but these are from sophomore and junior year. Here are just some of the things my schoolmates felt should go into the permanent record...

- Best of luck to ten talented fingers and a caustic wit.
- Wanna throw the frisbee?
- I hope you can put your intelligence to something great in later life. (God, I hope so too!)
- Thanks for all the encouragement and wisdom you tried to bestow upon my feeble whatever.
- Thanks to you I really don't care what people say about my driving.
- Remember all of the fun we had in health class writing about Mr. Lenzi on the blackboard in shorthand.
- It's too bad you're not in any of my classes this year. Remember geometry class the first marking period when you sat beside me and we talked all the time. That was the best part of geometry.
- Remember the Business Club banquet and that lady who took my apple butter.
- I honestly don't think you'll be a Problem Of Democracy.
- It's a pleasure having you in class and if you live long enough maybe you can get off the mountain...after all the way your mother drives...
- I'll always remember you...on a brace...taped-up....etc.
- You have made me a thinker, and a better human being. (okay so I had to throw in something sincere)
- I can't quite put my finger on what I did wrong in basketball this year.

Also from my yearbook comments it appears that I played a LOT of Truth or Dare, as there are numerous threats of retaliation for things about which I have no memory at all. No wonder I never had the nerve to attend a class reunion.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Kiss my face but leave my soap alone

I love the Kiss My Face product line of soaps with natural oils and other good things, but they have gone to the dark side with something akin to crack in their new fragrance of grapefruit and bergamot. I wash my hands probably 30 times a day anyhow but now I'm going to the sink just to huff the soap.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Nana has landed

My mom arrived tonight after a day of airport-hopping - who knew that getting from Spokane to Anchorage required not only a visit to Seattle but to San Francisco too? Anyway, the arrival itself was inauspicious; she came off the plane pale and shaky, and that's when I determined that the diabetic hadn't eaten at any point in the trip. After we got her bags and headed out to the parking garage, she swooned and tumbled backward right off the escalator step - thank god I was right behind her and braced her weight in a very undignified manner up what felt like an awfully long stair climb until she was dumped off unceremoniously at the top. We dusted off, put her shoes back on and out to the car. I live very close to the airport, so it was only minutes until I could put a healthy sandwich and milk in her and then it was pretty quickly that my more recognizable mother appeared.

Hunter is doubly thrilled because Auntie Kari was over earlier and cuddled him for almost two hours, and now Nana has cuddled him for nearly that long. Now that Hunter is not coming to work with me (because of the young puppy - who is now named Madison, by the way) he's been spending long days alone. Now they both have some company.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Tail end of a dog tired day

Either I have hit on the perfect prescription for post-Dog Tired recovery, or maybe I am just getting a little physically stronger despite only doing it one day a week... As soon as I got home last night I got into a very hot shower, then comfy clothes and over to Keith's for his first try at homemade margaritas. (Two out of two researchers agree that the experiment merits repetition for statistical validity. However, I must ask: What the hell took us all so long to know how easy these are to make?) Stretched out on the couch with a heater cat on my legs, sipped multiple beakers of the experimental solution, forgot about the cat on my legs and rubbed my eye, drank more of the experimental solution medicinally to help me forget how badly my eye was messed up from cat mojo, home by 10:45, in bed by 11, slept well until 7:30 and wasn't even hungover.

Then the moment of truth. I always arise gingerly on Saturday mornings because generally I hurt like hell after 12-13 hours of dog wrangling the day before, having stiffened up overnight and also given the day's accumulated bruising time to achieve its bold and bright potential. This morning I got up and even walked down the stairs with nary a pain anywhere. So that's either the right cooldown routine, or maybe it's just that I have had margaritas three nights this week so am finally reaching tequilibrium?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Four generations

Today my mother made the first half of her journey here, landing in Spokane to be with brother Matthew and the Idaho family for the next week before arriving here in Anchorage. I am smiling to think that the oldest member of our family (Mom turned 80 on August 20) is meeting the youngest member of our family (her great-grandson Zachary, born August 29).

Oh, and yes, I did ask for photographic evidence of this alleged baby, and Matthew gave me the hospital pic - apparently mom Kaci has been too occupied to email pictures? What's up with that?

And speaking of air travel, I am now officially a big fan of wheelchair escort. It has relieved my mind so much both in sending Mom back from Anchorage to Harrisburg in January, and now on these two return trips west, to know that she is getting gate-to-gate service. Given enough time, I have no doubt that she could do it on her own, but I am just glad to know that it's up to the airlines to make her gate connections for her instead.

Movie: The Illusionist

I was entranced by this film set in Vienna at the turn of the last century, where a childhood friendship between a cabinetmaker's son (Edward Norton) and a duchess (Jessica Biel) is reawakened in later life when he returns as a master illusionist. Their story unfolds against the backdrop of a planned coup within the imperial family, into which the duchess is about to be married. I've always loved Edward Norton for his intensity and for his chameleon quality in a role, but up to now I've thought of his range more in the scrappy, wiry, blue-collar or less-than-legal vein. As an intelligent, elegant, romantic hero? Oh my god, the man is just plain HOT and I never knew it! Okay, part of me says there has to be shoe-lifts involved, but everything about his physical portrayal has this hint of restraint such that you understand that the illusionist Eisenheim's whole life is about knowing secrets that others do not. His showmanship is artistic rather than crass; he weaves the legerdemain with the grace of a dancer, and I'd never had reason to notice before that his hands are absolutely beautiful. (I'm way into hands)

Paul Giamatti's considerable chops are not used to any new capacity in his role as a police inspector aspiring to be Vienna's mayor under the new regime, but we get his trademark eyebrow-twisting concentration and his wide laugh when all is eventually illuminated. And I have to admit that when put together with real actors, even Biel delivered a passable performance that some other young scrawny ingenue would not have carried as believably as her healthy, real-woman quality. The movie is photographed beautifully with a palette of color and light that maintains that sense of distance and time suspended. I was so charmed by the story that it had to lead me into the reveal... and then I was doubly charmed for realizing the spell I'd been placed under.

We were in the theatre with a bunch of (drunk?) louts who apparently thought it was a comedy and guffawed throughout, so I'll be going back to get the lines I missed to audience misbehavior. But ultimately it's one for the DVD shelf, because I'll need private time and a pause button............

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Yeah, like I needed the computer to tell me

My existential Vectra just flashed me a minute ago "You are operating at 97% of your quota..."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The new hire

The junior executive at Nancy's has arrived to help Emma in the HR department. This little girl doesn't yet have a name. She's just eight weeks old, so unfortunately this also means that Hunter has been laid off (well, I guess that would be FURloughed) from the company until the little girl is old enough for full vaccinations. And by then Hunter's nana will have arrived so he will probably stay home to keep her company. I've been so grateful to Nancy for letting me bring Hunter to work every day, and he's been such a good boy there.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Staff pix at Dog Tired

Kari updated the staff page on the website and is there any doubt that I am happy in this job?

The dog with me is Foxy, who should have a staff photo of her own. She's a husky/elkhound mix - the latter being rather ironic, since it was in fact a moose who relieved her of the sight in her left eye. She is one of the best canine communicators that I have ever seen. She has a wonderful sense of equanimity about her and has the respect of every other dog in the place without having had to muscle about it. If a puppy gets over-exuberant, she explains things with only the amount of emphasis needed to make her point. If there's something the staff needs to know, she has a wonderful wooooooo with nuance and diction. She's truly a teacher and a role model to the other dogs, patient and affable but with clear security and strength. I would be well served if I had half of her qualities of self-possession and elegant interaction with my own species.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I don't know why I did this, and I surely don't know why I'm blogging it, but probably the answer to the latter is that I hope by the time I finish this post I may understand why.

I couldn't sleep last night and was reading some back emails from the online magazine Slate, and one of the international features I was reading led me to think about the case of Nick Berg, an American who was abducted and later murdered by beheading in Iraq two years ago. And somewhere in there, too, was some contemplation of the events of 9/11 as that anniversary approaches, with the sense of the great momentum of fury that is growing toward our country and the certainty that more attacks are coming.

Well, I don't recommend any of this as a cure for insomnia, but I thought quietly about these things. And then I watched the Internet videotape of Nick Berg's decapitation.

I was not compelled to do this by morbid fascination. I thought I knew what the images would portray, and I was correct. But there was in me a sense of deep gravity and responsibility, that as an inhabitant of this planet being torn apart by rage, that I needed not to turn away from the reality of the clash as it urgently and hopelessly changed the story of one human life.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Happy birthday, Shane

Pedro says, "Wish Shane a happy birthday and all of your wildest dreams will come true." Love ya, kiddo.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Almost makes it worth coming back to work

Nancy has installed these cool keyboards with Contour Design's RollerMouse Pro, and I am loving it! I thought it would take time to learn (the 'trackball' is a bar just above the buttons that rolls and goes side to side and can be pressed for a mouseclick also), but it is so intuitive and I can already feel how much better it is for my hands.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

(Water-) breaking news

Welcome to the world as we know it, Zachary Tyler Gallatin, born this morning as the newest leaf on the Idaho branch, and the first of the next generation of Gallatins. Mama (my niece Kaci) is in surgical recovery from her c-section, while proud grandparents (my brother Matthew and wife Alice) survey the new addition - a chunkster at 9.1 lbs. Great-grandma Peggy will meet this one when she makes a pit stop on her relocation trip to Anchorage in a few weeks, but will miss the next one - nephew Josh and Tiffani's baby is not due until mid-October. What fun to have two babies within a month of each other!

Peg, who always knew she was
a great aunt but now it's official

Monday, August 28, 2006

Blog: The Reconstruction Era

It's starting, mainly with easy posts on what ready photos I have available. I'll summarize again later, but the first catch-up posts are on 7/14, 7/20, 7/25, 7/27 and 8/5 and there's a LOT more to tell if I have the endurance to tell it!

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Blog still on hiatus - I'm on the east coast for the second time in two weeks but will have lots to tell in Return of Blog.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Today Lauralea completed the Steelhead 70.3 half Ironman triathlon - her first of this distance - and I am so awed and inspired and proud I could cry, and I did.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Shake her but don't wake her

(backdated entry)

About 5:15 this morning we had a very strongly felt earthquake - one of the largest I've personally felt in terms of it being close and very shallow. It wasn't like the deep world far below was moving, more like someone had set a giant eggbeater loose.

I was so bone-exhausted from staying up half the night working every night this week that my reaction was less than textbook. I was lying on my stomach and felt the bedsprings sproinging as though someone were standing against the bed shaking it sideways. A moment later it occurred to me that I sleep on an oak platform bed, so I tried to revise my understanding of what was going on. Hunter had exited the bedroom like cannon shot, but as the jostling went on and I heard something shift or fall (not heavily) in the next room, I really really tried to make myself care but I wanted soooooo much to go back to sleep. I just rode it out to see what would happen but I didn't even change position or lift my head (the pillow felt soooo good). I learned later that it was a 5.1 quake (yow!) centered five miles east of us (yow again!). I promise next time I will try harder to keep my eyes open.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The luge run of life

I admit that I was delusional when I blithely thought that I could ably manage preparing for houseguests, help put on the Dog Jog this weekend and hop a plane East as soon as it's over... The thing about life as a luge run is that it isn't just a matter of hanging on for the ride, you really do have to adjust for every niche and bump in the ice as you encounter them at 100 mph, and maneuver them with finesse.

My finesse is a little frayed at the moment. But I hope to get back to the blog before long, as I have little moments to share including wonderful summer flower gardens, a visit from a mama moose and her two babies, Nathaniel's latest news, my kitty friend Raina's 21st birthday and of course the latest exploits of Hunter the Faboo. But right now I just have to tighten my helmet.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Eat your greens

This mama moose and twin calves visited Nancy and me (and a very WOOFY Emma and Hunter) at work today. We watched them demolish Nancy's ornamental trees for about 45 minutes before hollering them over to the neighbor's buffet next door.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Posy patch

(backdated entry - and these flowers got even more prolific and beautiful in the following weeks but I'm lucky I got any pictures of them at all...)

Hanging baskets are a popular tradition up here in the summers, and I'm a fan of stuff that keeps easy, so rather than do nothing, I decided to go with the never-fail petunias. My three favorites this year are my old standby Supertunias for the front porch basket, a perennial called self-heal (that's the tall stuff in the bed - it went wild with deep colored spiky blossoms) and my new discovery is Wave petunias, which spread like crazy as a ground cover through the beds and bloomed fearlessly despite some rather, um, inconsistent husbandry from me. (In my defense, inconsistent husbandry is the only sort with which I have been acquainted...)

This group (below) started from a hopeful little plant with just two blooms and spread this far in about four weeks. I like alyssum for ground cover but it takes forever to go anywhere, and this was lickety-split. And as I backpost this on Aug 28, it's still blooming like crazy.

A Rio runs through it

(backdated entry)

Starr (now named Rio Catalina) has found a lovely home with Betsy and her young labradoodle Blossom. I am very very happy for a wonderful placement, but we'll sure miss her a lot here. Unlike Hunter, she was very happy to clamber up on the couch and plop full length on top of me for a naptime cuddle. (She can also sleep with her eyes open; I don't know whether that's related to her blindness, but it's a little disconcerting somehow.)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Elephant Dog

The other night Hunter was licking his left hind foot and I realized that it was bleeding. Profusely. But I couldn't figure out from where, which puzzled me no end but the bleeding stopped finally. Never did find a wound per se, but there was sort of a raised white area on the side of his toe.

Fast forward two days (to yesterday) and our visit to The Holy Man, who believes that Hunter had an abscess. In the meanwhile he'd been licking that foot a lot so it's a mess, and now we are living in Conehead land and having lots of topical meds. Ron is speculating that it's a contact reaction, maybe to grass? which hasn't ever happened before and I would hate to think would be starting now. While we were there, he looked at all of Hunter's feet, and sure enough one of his front feet had the tiniest little bump on one of the pads, maybe the size of a pencil eraser.

By this morning the pencil eraser was the size and heft of a fat grape and had a twin appearing on the next toe. Poor Hunter. He's clearly miserable and his feet are turning into fat Frankenpaws as his toes succumb to this one by one. Starr is back with us for four days and hasn't been affected by whatever this is.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Raina gets carded

(backdated post)

I was honored to receive an invitation to Raina's 21st birthday party today, at her veterinary clinic. Although I'd stack Gryphon's medical file against anyone's as Best Substitute for a Child Booster Seat, Raina's particular claim to fame (among many) is that her medical file outweighs her (she was up to 4 lb 4 oz today though - good girl!). I am very blessed to have Pat and Raina (and rottiegrrl Skye) as friends.

From ancient Raina I have learned that there is wisdom and depth in quiet reflection, but also that complaining very loudly until you get what you want is a perfectly reasonable fallback position.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Movie: A Prairie Home Companion

[will upload the photo when stupid Blogger fixes its server]

Devotees of all things Powdermilk are of course required to see this movie or suffer a heap of Lutheran guilt and more. I went at the midnight hour with a small band of National Public Radio types, and it felt immediately comfortable in precisely the same way as it did when I walked into the auditorium for PHC's 10th anniversary broadcast performed live right here in Anchorage mmfty-mmf years ago.

The thing is, I have no idea why people think Robert Altman is a genius. For my money the only Altmanesque thing worth watching in this movie was a patois delivered by Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin as sisters reminiscing on their family's early roots as gospel performers. Beyond that, one could argue that the characteristic Altman approach is already covered in the screenplay by Garrison Keillor, framed as just a larger version of his trademark yarns, with the slow and uninteresting spots and the parts that pierce the heart so unexpectedly, strung together with the knowledge that the fun is always in hearing how GK might find his way out of the mess he's talked himself into and weave an ending to the tale.

It's those small nuggets of gold that were so worth it. Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly (as the cowboys Dusty and Lefty) with "The Bad Joke Song" - Lindsay Lohan in an extemp delivery of "Frankie and Johnny" filling in the memory gaps with her own teen-suicide-poem words, tentatively at first, then selling it full out - an unexpected death backstage and the aching of a lover's heart in the chest of a 70-year-old woman. Kevin Kline brings actual depth to Guy Noir, a character I tired of as soon as I heard it on the radio show, and finally can say I enjoyed, once.

A month or so ago, Meryl Streep reprised one of the songs, "Goodbye to My Uncles," on the PHC radio broadcast. You can listen to it here. I have a VocalEssence recording of this song that I just love. It's not a great song, it's just an honest song, and I always weep with the very first words. I liked that I could sit there in the theatre with the tears streaming down my face and hear the sniffles of others around me. And I liked that as the players gather on stage for a rousing finale of "In the Sweet By and By," a small group of voices raised around me in the little cineplex just as it would have in the Fitzgerald on a Saturday night.

Goodbye to my mama, my uncles and aunts,
One after another they went to lie down
In the green pastures, beside the still waters,
And made no sound.
Their arms that have held me for so many years,
Their beautiful voices no longer I hear;
They're in Jesus' arms and He's talking to them
In the rapturous New Jerusalem.
And I know they're at peace in a land of delight
But I miss my mama tonight.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Did you miss me?

The week careened by and I have much to tell but no time to tell it. Wisely staying behind the curve of first-run movies, I've gone to the theatre in the middle of the night (that's my free time) to see Click and A Prairie Home Companion. Have worked productively at my real job, encountered about a hundred effing frustrations in other areas of life, sent Starr back to her primary foster this morning (boo hoo hoo) and thought hard about her permanent future and what it might take for that to be here with us. Hunter has distinguished himself with basically just one thing - his first (I think) bite incident. Unfortunately it would be have been more distinguished if he hadn't been the one who did the biting. And I've just learned that the landlord and her two dogs (including Molly the American Bulldog who stands on my shed roof and projects her nerve-shredding bark directly into my bedroom window for approximately 23.5 hours a day) are not coming back to Alaska next spring. They're coming back next week.

Once I have located my nicest, fattest, most yielding vein, I may come back and tell the rest of the story. The really sad part is that in my life, this week doesn't even get an honorable mention for drama and trauma.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Maw and paw

We were out on the back deck this evening when suddenly my arm was inadvertently swallowed by the puppygirl...

We shook hands and made up. I love her giant feet!

I learned today that the eye surgeon said that Starr's visual range is not nearly the 3 feet or so that her previous owners had thought. That's consistent with what I've seen, which looks to be about 12-15 inches of 'whatever' she has. She stumbles but she learns where things are quickly. She is not as acute at locating by sound as I had thought she might be.

We had a very warm day - into the 80's in places - and she enjoyed some time on the back deck. However, she tried to get Hunter to play by using obnoxious tactics - poking and being very pushy - and finally he let her have it and literally tried to bite her head off. She immediately cried and went and hid behind a deck chair and whimpered. She wouldn't come out for the longest time and finally I dragged her out. Her little feelings were so hurt. But on the whole she is a mellow and happy girl. She stays nearby and I like it when she gets up close - she gives tender little chin nibbles, and it seems that she is really trying to see you with those empty eyes. You can't really see her soul through them, but that is coming out in other ways.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Belle Starr

Starr is visiting with us for the next several days - a last-minute plan to relieve some demands on her own foster family. She's a Fila Brasileiro, 18 months old, with juvenile cataracts that limit her vision to within a few feet. And she is all puppy. She and Hunter spent the evening getting acquainted at a FOP committee meeting (and doing a lot of disrupting the meeting) and the homecoming worked out pretty well - Hunter did most of his grumbling before we got home. They played for a while in the backyard. She has some tentativeness when she can't figure out what's in front of her, and then every so often the puppy takes over and she is a howitzer on the loose. I'm hoping she'll settle so we can get some sleep before the alarm goes off at 5am as I have to open the daycare in the morning.