Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Misfortune cookie

Last night I stopped to pick up egg flower soup at my favorite Chinese restaurant on the way home, and my fortune cookie read DO SOMETHING UNUSUAL TOMORROW.

Well, it's tomorrow.

Monday, January 30, 2006

...possibly the worst blogger ever

This is also a placeholder to shame me until I catch up the week since the last placeholder. Gosh, I appreciate the notes of concern but I am fine (and you people need some other diversion). Just incredibly busy with more large projects converging at once than I can remember...maybe ever. FOP stuff includes the convergence of a newsletter, a major education project, an annual report project, the new year's budget, the old year's statistics, a strategic planning task force, grant applications, board retreat research, and oh yeah somewhere in there I have an actual board meeting this Thursday and haven't begun to prep it. I spent part of weekend before last just making the to-do list. With items large and small, home and work and FOP and etc., there are currently 113 items outstanding. Well, in the time it took to write this paragraph, that list got longer.

For now I will just leave you with an idea of my grasp of current events. Each morning I come downstairs, open the front door from my split-level entry, reach out for the newspaper, turn and toss it down the half-flight of stairs onto the couch, to look at it once I've showered and dressed and have Hunter started on his day, before heading to work.

Go ahead, ask me anything.

I could post a picture of my Christmas Valentine's tree here too but that's just embarrassing. And holy mother of God, I owe the IRS $1400 by tomorrow and haven't started my Form 1040. Time for another pot of coffee.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


[Entry backdated]

Dog Tired made the cover story of this week's Anchorage Press, the 'alternative' paper in town. Archive copies are on the web for ten issues - read it while you still have a chance. Hunter was not there the day of the reporter's visit so there are no inside scoops from him. Kari is still riding high on being independently verified as petite AND fashionable!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I am a very very bad blogger

This is a placeholder to goad me into catching up the last week with posts on cold weather, my dog's fashion sense, business changes, family stuff, and the death of a kitty friend.

Friday, January 20, 2006

O...just O

[Entry backdated]

After making it most of the way through a very tough winter, my old pal O died this morning. I guess he was around 16 years old. I don't know if pal is the right word. Nemesis is a little too strong. But O was a most irascible cat. I think 'bastard' is the word I used most for him, each time I'd housesit at Keith's for the crew of four. Certainly if one compares the times he drew blood on me compared to the times I drew blood on him, he was the one to be feared. If wishes were drop-kicks that cat would have been in Russia a long time ago. And yet most nights when I'd stay with the kids, I'd wake up in the night to a rumbly white puff on the pillow next to me. (And lie very still, hoping I would not breathe wrong and somehow incur the puffy wrath!)

I'm still skeptical that there really is no story behind O's name. Keith always has said it was "O...just O" and that one could greet him with the word Ohio, as in O, hi, O. In my name ramblings through the years I had begun to call him Oboe or Ocho, which morphed into Ocho de Nueve (as in Eight of Nine, as I believed he might be a Borg kitty).

I didn't know him in his big-cat prime. He'd been sinking for a few years, not much more than skin and bones. We had begun to give him subq fluids last fall and had to gather up some nerve to do it, thinking we'd have a big fight on our hands. But most of the time it went better than expected. And as these last few months progressed and he grew more frail and impossibly thin, his bravado was engulfed in vulnerability and my heart fell for the old bastard cat. More often he'd allow me to pet him a little (but still took a swipe at me every so often on principle), and he'd still come out to greet me even though I was going to poke him with the sharp stick.

Two nights ago I stopped by to do his fluids, and when I inserted the needle, he had a seizure and we agreed he needed to get to the doctor. Last night I stopped in after my FOP meeting, to see what the day's visit to the vet had brought. The orders were to switch to daily fluids and vitB push, and we talked about scheduling and how to make this intrusion as easy as possible on the old man.

But as Keith (not looking all that great himself) sat in the chair with a largely unresponsive white kitty on his lap, I had a feeling we might not ever have to follow through on the plans. And when I touched him, I could sense clearly that he was already going. I was glad to sit there quietly and spend some time before leaving the two of them to their private goodbyes.

I've taken some lovely photographs of O through the years. Here's one of the last ones I got, late last fall. His eyes had been that vacant for quite a while, and the swagger had all but left him.

Monday, January 16, 2006


Nathaniel's first substantial encounter with a dog is chronicled on his blog. Kendra posted a very cute picture (and there are more in his gallery, including some where Nathaniel apparently attempts to share his book with Doria) but I liked this photo best.

More boos and hisses

20th Century Fox cancels its plans to hold the world premiere of Ice Age 2 in Fairbanks, because it's just toooooo cooooooold.....

You have to wonder what ad agency didn't see that coming.

Boos and hisses

Michele and I went to a late movie last night at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub. As I have probably said before, I do not know why this concept has not caught on all over the country. Nothing could be better than to spend three bucks on a not-quite-new-but-not-really-that-old movie, in a great movie house that has every other row knocked out for tables, and they bring you superb food and award-winning beer brewed on premises and poured from an actual bar on the first floor of the theatre. (Non-alcoholic section is in the balcony by separate entrance.) This is just genius - and bliss. But the thing that makes it great (and would make it easy to fail for anyone trying it) is the consistently fantastic food and the home brew begun years before when the Moose's Tooth guys started as brewers and restaurateurs, prior to the old Denali Theatre (buck a show for movies about two years old, and your feet stuck to the floor afterward) being renovated for what houses a fine grill, a second Moose's Tooth cafe, and then the theatrepub itself. Sorry for the dearth of punctuation in that sentence. They're also the local source for smaller-run films that won't get seen anywhere else, as well as a regular spot for open-captioned movies.

Anyway the real point of this note is to say that the other fun thing about watching movies here is that there is a little more relaxed attitude toward movie behavior. Possibly this also has to do with the beer, but when I say relaxed movie behavior, I don't mean inconsiderate. Far from it. People are sated with great food and beer, they aren't inconsiderate. But they do interact a little more with the movie.

So we went for a second helping of Viggo Mortenson last night in "A History of Violence" which I have reviewed elsewhere in this blog in the original. The thing about last night's crowd that made it fun were the editorial comments delivered (mostly by guys) during the sex scenes, the sincerely appreciative remarks (mostly by guys) at the sight of Maria Bello's full (and waxed) frontal exposure, and the equal-opportunity spontaneous eruption of applause that swept the room when Viggo's son opens the whupass on the school bullies. And no censorship on the verbal reactions to the blood and gore, so there was a Batman sense of punctuation all around as people stopped eating their spinach and artichoke pizzas or their sun-dried tomato hummus long enough to react with disgust as the gobbets flew.

For a prime time movie at Century Theatres, I can pay fifteen bucks for admission, a small popcorn and soda. (Bottom line: I don't, almost never.) Last night I paid about twelve, which got me not only a ticket but a blackened-halibut burrito the approximate girth of a regulation football, crammed full of veggies and perfectly seasoned fish and a refreshing surprise of peach salsa, plus homecooked chips dense with lime and cilantro. Watching Viggo's fine exterior with my hands wrapped around a delicious, warm, fleshy burrito that I could hardly fit in my mouth? That's entertainment.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Volcano and a bag of chips

Mount Augustine reawakened this week and has continued with eruptions of steam and ash rising some 30,000 feet into the air. Activity at red alert for much of this week. Some ashfall warnings for the lower Kenai Peninsula but nothing has come our direction as yet. Other volcanoes in this chain which begins just across Cook Inlet from us - Mounts Spurr and Martin - are showing some higher levels of activity but no eruptions are thought imminent, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Our governor Frank Murkowski is appearing in television PSAs encouraging people to take general emergency preparedness steps. We have a pretty good system of technology as relates to state government and communication - no doubt because of our vast distances between communities. So we have an excellent state website, pretty responsive television and radio stuff, etc. But I had to wonder whether this last one was put together a little on the rush side. I'm taking this in somewhat attentively when I realize that as Uncle Frank is talking about having a week's supply of food on hand, the camera pans over a handful of items on a table and seems to settle on nothing more than a bottle of water and a large bag of chips. (Not sure what kind though the words "Sweet and Salty" appear prominently - in our current gubernatorial state, this may be a calculated message.)

Okay, I exaggerate. I think there was a single can of peaches in the shot as well. Still, I must conclude that illustration was cobbed together only by whatever the production assistants happened to have in the break room and not what any authority would recommend as a week's worth of emergency provisions. But I need no further prompting to lay in a large supply of volcanic protection snack foods.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Headline news, chapter 26

Headline in today's ADN on a Washington Post newsfeed:


No address listed for get-well cards.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In step

This afternoon I took a break from work, and Emma and Hunter and I went walking around Cheney Lake. Bright, bracing cold day, temps barely into the teens.

Hunter and I have our hiking pattern established from years of long walks. I keep a constant pace, rarely stopping except for those things I want to stop for, like admiring wildlife, taking photos, soaking in a special moment. Hunter has learned that he can do all his sniffing and p-mailing on his 15-foot leash, bounding around and back, without my changing pace. That's his consideration to me. (Okay, it was taught early on. Well okay, it was actually coerced. But I do think it's very considerate.) In return, of course I stop when he has a different need that requires a longer pause. And the most fun in our walks is the last half of that hour when we are both at brisk pace, he's done fooling around and is out front of me and our minds are both focused on what's ahead.

Emma is a moseyer and it drives both me and Hunter crazy. (Nancy notices a difference when I'm the one walking Emma, because Emma comes back panting!) Emma wants to examine everything, in detail. She examines things that aren't even things. So when she walks with me, there's a lot of me urging her to come on. When she walks with both Hunter and me, there is a constant 30-foot separation between them, with him forged ahead and her fallen back as far as possible, and me in the unenviable middle.

Not today. Emma caught on right away to the plan, and I so enjoyed that lively jaunt around the lake and through the woods in the cold air. We went on high cruise to the point where I had both flexi handles in one hand and kept the other warmly in pocket. No pulling, no tangling, nothing but net.

It came to me that what I most enjoy about walking with dogs where that relationship is developed (compared to starting out with a new doggie friend) is the sense you get of connectedness in small ways. I love that the petite golden girl and the furry black boy out ahead of me both shift immediately and leap to the right-hand trail at one junction, only because I put a tiny pressure on the leashes and made a chirping sound behind my front teeth. Not a word from me, not a backward glance from them. I love that when we've all gotten a little out of breath, I say cheerily "Let's go back" and the two of them have passed me, reorganized five yards behind and the operation reverses course seamlessly. I just appreciate the time spent with these two friends of mine, as I do whenever I walk with a friend where no words are spoken because none are needed.

The cold and the sunlight and the lake's winter calm are lovely to experience. But I can't imagine it without a dog at my side.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The funeral

It was a lovely service. I know that's what everyone says, but it was. Appropriate in honoring grief and loss, but the message was one of resurrection and celebration. Kari sang three gorgeous vocal arrangements - just thrilling when her tremendous voice hits every corner and into the balconies. I don't know how she does it - well, it's her training. But how she stood there one second crying as she talked about being with Jim in his final moments, blowing her nose and weeping, and then nods to the pianist and begins to sing...

I was glad to be one small unimportant person in a huge and wonderfully mixed crowd - our Republican lieutenant governor and two former Democratic governors, architects of our constitution at statehood, business leaders and policy folk alongside commercial fishermen and working guys in their Spenard Builders Supply jackets. Crossing paths as I can imagine Jim would have liked.

On the way home, I had the strangest thing happen. I felt so strongly impressed that there was something more that I should do, and felt like I was being sent to Dirk and Kari's house - of course they were all at the post-funeral dinner and the post-dinner private gathering that went late into the night. I didn't know why until I pulled into my own driveway (I live a few blocks away) and then carried out what was given to me - I went over there and set Jim's regular place for Sunday dinner, and placed a poem on the plate. I'd felt very certain about which one it was supposed to be - the story of the ship, and how when it disappears in the distance and is lost to us, it has only crossed a horizon and there is a glad shout of recognition from those on the other shore.

Yesterday afternoon Kari called to ask whether I'd been at the house, and I fessed up. She told me a lovely story about a photo of Jim on a halibut boat he'd had built. The boatbuilders had used a great photo of him in their advertising - coming into the harbor at Homer with a little wake behind him, waving and smiling from the flybridge as he brought the boat in. Things tie together neatly. She said they'd enjoyed the mystery of wondering how his place at the table had appeared.

Tonight I went over for dinner and it made me feel good to see the place still set when I arrived. Kelly (Jim's wife) was also there briefly and the gesture clearly touched her. I couldn't take any credit for it; it wasn't thoughtful in terms of planning to do something that was just right. I just did as I'd been told. But I felt blessed and warmed by following an impression I didn't understand. I'm glad I followed orders and that I did so immediately. Maybe that means the universe will entrust me with more errands to run.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Jim Campbell, 1932-2006

Kari called me on Sunday night as their family followed the ambulance to the hospital after Dirk's father Jim had suffered a massive stroke during their traditional Sunday family dinner. He died the following afternoon.

Jim was a prominent public figure in business, community service, and both local and statewide politics, and so this grief has both the sadness of my friends' pain and also a sense of loss across Alaska. My impressions of this man were formed years ago - many years before I knew Kari and for that matter, many years before she was part of the Campbell family too. It's no secret that I live in daily embarrassment of today's Republican politics in Alaska, except for a few notable exceptions in our state legislature. But in the 80's and 90's Alaska had a crop of Republican leaders in whom even this left-leaner felt a tremendous confidence, and Jim Campbell was one of those fine people.

He was successful but worked hard for his success. He was compassionate, responsive, practical, visionary. He was intelligent and straightforward. He was refreshingly plain spoken.

All I want in my leaders is ultimately that they possess integrity. He had it, and we all had a little more of it because he was here.

January 4, 2006

Businessman's history was one of turning failures into success
Former gubernatorial candidate dies at 73

Jim Campbell, a businessman who turned Spenard Builders Supply into a dozen-store success before he became one of the state's most prominent Republicans, died Monday. He was 73.

Campbell died at Providence Alaska Medical Center after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage at the Anchorage home of his son, Dirk, at a family gathering the day before, said his wife, Kelly. He had been living temporarily in an assisted-living home as he recovered from surgery to repair a dislocated artificial hip, she said.

In 1994, Campbell came within 536 votes of being governor.

You can read the full story online at:

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Quote for January

"Go easy, and if you can't go easy then go as easy as you can."

- Gertrude Stein

In Santa's sack

You know I'm just not a big lover of "things" generally, have had to travel light much of my life and find I prefer it that way. So the things that I really cherish are the things that come to me from the heart of the giver, however large or small. Things with meaning and sentiment and reason behind them. It was fun to have some unexpected packages in the last week's mail, and I'm sharing just a few of the surprises here.

This adorable doggie-bank was from my boss Deeta, who didn't know I have been looking for the perfect piggy bank for a while. (Just as I didn't know she'd been agonizing over a perfect scarf, which I had already bought for her back in October at the quilt auction and saved until Christmas.) I love that his little spots are pawprints, and the daisy-spot around his eye. (If you're in Anchorage, she got this at the Providence gift shop, of all places, and they have blue kitties too!) He barks when you put money in him but that's his only bad habit. The color is distorted by the flash in this pic, he's actually a lovely dark magenta with very pale pink accents.

In a box chock-full of several surprises from Lenette were a "Mutts" compendium book and this print of Patrick McDonnell's "Peace to All Beings". "Mutts" is my favorite comic for the way it makes the animals into fully dimensional characters, and for its underlying sense of respect for life. I also respect him for all the attention he brings to the needs of homeless animals - he's a constant, visible advocate - so this is a real treasure. Looking forward to choosing a frame for this.

As I am with this adorable print from Suzy Toronto's "Wonderful Wacky Women" series, this one called "She Who is a Survivor." There's a poem on the back that reads:

Lemons to lemonade,
This woman is a survivor.
When opportunity knocks,
It sometimes knocks her down.
But this woman never
Lets it get her down for long.
Whether it be relationships,
Her health or professional life,
Her reservoir of love and faith
Emerges as a triumphant shining example.
She is a woman who truly knows the value of
Family, friendship, and the gift of time.
Laying aside all judgment
And giving unconditional love.

Sounds like a woman I'd like to be. But it gets better... Genny, who sent this (along with Icelandic Fish Skins for Hunter, which in this house is the equivalent of doggie crack, and several other things) has only just told me tonight that she is leaving an empty marriage of 19 years and taking her life back. How courageous! It invests this little gift with such power and purpose and inspiration that crosses many thousands of miles and years of experience, and challenges me to live up to the words and the intent, and dance with possibility. And maybe in that dress too.

My best New Year's memory

[updated to add photo of Peg and Ginny on the night described]

Well, 2006 is here and the sky out my window is filled with fireworks, some officially sanctioned, most not legal but honestly there is a large-scale fusillade in progress and it's beautiful in the winter night sky. I see the lights of a few small planes to the north - wonder how it is to watch from that vantage point.

I've been thinking today about my best New Year's memory, which actually is my best-ever memory in this life. It's a pretty simple one. Just a few years ago, I awoke on New Year's morning in Ginny's little farmhouse. The little spare bedroom was cool and the windows looked out on a grayish snowy morning. I was tucked comfortably under a quilt and entwined securely with the man I believed was finally the love I'd waited my life for. Okay, so setting aside all the A's (alcohol, anger, and abuse), I'm still not sure he couldn't have been, because I saw the so many something-more's inside him.

But this is not a waah-waah story.

The previous evening we'd had a lovely dinner out with Ginny and Bas and Mike and Katrene. Happiness is written all over my face in the photos from that night. Back at home, when the ball dropped, we toasted and kissed and he whispered "This is our year." (I used to live with a guy who made pointedly sure he didn't kiss me on New Year's after New Year's, I guess just to remind me I wasn't all that important in case I ever managed to escape that knowledge for a single second...) I remember that kiss and those words - I remember not having to hope that the one I loved would give me that moment's consideration, and being delighted when he did.

It was a year, all right. It was a year of death, job loss, bankruptcy, illness, torturous breakup, and relocation to the other side of the continent.

I feel... not cocky or proud, but grateful that I was the one who released that future, whether or not anyone thinks I didn't do it soon enough. I did it, and years sooner than I might have because I've certainly had a track record of sticking with someone long past the point where I've become the insignificant other. That's the thing about me - I'm loyal and I stick.

It was a year, all right. But I woke that morning feeling tremendously satisfied and happy, surrounded by love, eager to move into the future (wow, how wrong I was!), and that everything was right. Not that everything was perfect - there were already enough danger signs. But that everything was right.

The house isn't Ginny's anymore, nor her next house either. My relationship ended, her marriage ended, I moved back across the country again. And those are just a few things on the list of changes in this roller coaster car of a life that jumped the tracks a long time ago. But with all that's happened since, I find that I now hold that memory without any baggage, with love and not with the later pain. I hope that it continues in me to be capable of separating the strands of loss and protracted struggle and find those memories completely untarnished by their epilogues. I've never felt happier and more serene and more loved than I did that morning, down to my toes and with my whole soul. I don't want to forget that.