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.