Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Problem with Aliens

I love my little Alien, I really do. But sometimes it just gets so frustrating! I am so tired of him peeing on the carpets and yowling all night long.

There are perfectly reasonable excuses for each of these behaviors, so I can’t really blame him. And since his vet has said that he is as healthy as a guy his age (he’s 16) can be, I can’t use them as an excuse to have him put down = that would just be murder for selfish reasons.

He was a rescue kitty, so I don’t know what his living conditions were like before I got him – but I am suspicious that he must have been kept in a box (a kitty-carrier) because he just doesn’t behave like a “normal” cat does – and never has, even when he was younger. He doesn’t associate sounds with anything, or even smells. The only way he ever knew I was home was if I would go get him, even though he must have heard me come in the door after work (both my other cats heard and knew, so why not him?)

Now that he’s both blind and deaf, it just exacerbates the problem. He probably feels completely isolated, which is why I think he yowls (and loudly, because he can barely hear himself) all the time. That’s his way of saying, “Hey! Is anybody out there?”

The peeing behavior is a little more difficult to comprehend. I can’t exactly blame it on old age, since he’s done that since I first got him at age 12. But again, I think he was kept in a box so didn’t really get the “training” required to understand what a litter box was for.

I have done what I can to mitigate the damage to the corner he has chosen. I put plastic down, then carpet and newspaper on top, and then a layer of Feline Pine pellets to soak up most of the urine. This works, up to a point.

While I would NEVER wish for his passing (unless he were in pain, which he is not) I do admit that I dream of a day when my carpets are clean and my house doesn’t smell any more.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Clean Up Crew

It’s been years in the making, but I do think The Alaska Zoo is actually going to have their Grand Opening for the new Gateway Building! It is scheduled to be held on Saturday, October 18 from 12:00 to 4:00.

Come join us and see what the fuss is all about!

I spent a few hours today helping to clean it up. If any of you out there have ever been on a construction site, you’ll know just how messy they can be. Not only is trash thrown about everywhere, from empty coffee cups to plastic bags that used to hold earplugs, but there's nails and bits of metal strewn everywhere; plus all the garbage that comes from the new appliances and whatnot.

So, us volunteers spent the day cleaning. We took a huge load of cardboard over to the recycling center. We washed all the windows that we could reach. We vacuumed the carpets upstairs. We rearranged furniture downstairs so the work crew could install the wall base. We even tidied up the admissions booth.

Things are looking good!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Another Day, and yet Not Another Dollar

More progress has been made today – it’s actually going rather well, so far.

I finished updating my resume and got it posted on the State’s unemployment site (as required to receive benefits). I applied for a position at a local telecommunications company whose add came up because my resume was posted. I sent out several emails of inquiry to a few more companies that I’ve been told about. And I’m getting ready to create a cover letter – I have to think about it for a while, is all.

I even met Lisa, my sister-by-choice, for lunch at my favorite coffee shop in the mall. She works at the same telecommunications company I applied at – although at the time I didn’t know I was going to apply.

It was great to see her again – she lives just down the road from me, and yet we never seem to find the time to get together any more. She has her family and I have (had) my career. You know how it goes.

So, we spent the whole hour getting caught up on each other’s lives. It was great – it was also the first time I’d been out of the house in several days.

While I was out and about I dropped a few things off at the post office, turned in a bunch of rolls of coins at the bank (pocket change gathered over the years), and even stopped in at the blood bank for a donation.

And boy wasn’t that fun (not). My body really did not want to give that pint up. It put up quite the fuss – I had two technicians at my side, one with ice packs and the other with a plastic bag in case I should happen to loose the lunch I’d just eaten. At least they got the entire pint out of me this time. Last time I tried to give didn’t work. The technician punctured the vein and I really didn’t want her to go fishing for it.

Still and all, it was a good day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Life Goes On

Well, I've had more progress these past few days. Got my resume updated and sent out to a few friends for proof-reading. Am getting their comments back now, and will collate everything and see what I think of them. When it's all said and done, I will have a pretty good resume, I think.

I’ve got a list going of all the different places I’ll be sending that resume to – all suggested by either family members, friends, or co-workers. I also have a list of people I’d like to ask for letters of reference, but I’ll wait on that until I have a specific job I’m going after so they can write with that in mind.

I’m feeling fairly confident, although I’m still stressing over the money issues. I’m starting out in a much better place than last time, at least. I have enough savings to tide me over on house payments for several months, and hopefully unemployment will cover living expenses. I just need to be careful and not spend willy-nilly.

Mother invited me out to the farm yesterday – that was an indulgence that I won’t be able to give in to very often. The farm is 50 miles away, and gas costs over $4.00 a gallon. Still, it was so nice to spend the day out there.

She had Lauren over for her home-schooling day. They are working on Alaskan History, and have rearranged their school room downstairs: adding a few more desks and putting up new maps on the wall.

Heather is going to be going over there on Wednesdays as well, to tutor Lauren on Math for an hour or two each time. Lauren is really good on history and geography – but not so good on math (neither am I) so this works out well for everybody involved.

Including Mother: she loves having the kids over for lunch, and plans out the menu in detail each week. She makes a special dish each time, using curious little individual dishes to make it fun.

While Heather and Lauren were downstairs doing their math thing, Mother and I took a little ride out to Wasilla to a new bookstore that recently opened up. Mother wanted to check it out and see if it might be a place she’d feel like hanging out at. They have a nice café to one side, a cute little children’s area on the other side, and rows of very interesting books set up in between. Mother and I both got lost in the history section for a while, but neither of us bought anything. We both have stacks of books just waiting to be read, and both of us are also on a tight budget.

All in all, it was a great day.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

And So It Begins

First of all – let me go on record as having stated that I hate this. I mean, I really, really – full on – no holds bared – hate this. I absolutely hate the fact that I have to find a new job.

I apparently live in a dream world where people can retire at a job after 20+ years of service. That’s what I wanted – a place I could stay at for the rest of my working life. But, that is not reality and here I am looking for work.

I actually made a bit of a dent yesterday. I called my Dentist and canceled my appointment: the money I wanted to use before I lost it is effectively lost anyway, and the procedure he wanted to do costs way too much on my budget now. Assuming any new job I find has dental insurance, I’ll reschedule.

Next in line on the phone list was my stock broker. I wanted to tell her, since this does affect the choices we make. She suggested that we sell a certain stock in my regular account: it was up from when I bought it, but she expected it to go down soon what with the current state of affairs – and this frees up another chunk of change that can be accessed if needed. I also wanted to let her know that I’ll be rolling over my 401k money soon.

Earthwatch was next – and this one really hurt. I had to cancel my plans for Africa. I still will go someday, just not this coming year as I’d planned. Even if I get a new job tomorrow, I’ll still not be able to go since most places don’t give 3-weeks vacation during your first year on the job.


By this time it was 1:00 so I headed over to the mall, where I deposited my checks, bought stamps, mailed off my letters, and sat in my favorite coffee shop for lunch and did a chapter of my Human Anatomy book.

It felt good to get out of the house, except for that little voice in the back of my head that keeps tallying up the cost of lunch and gas, and subtracting the sum from my dwindling bank account. I need to weigh the pros and cons on this: is it better to get out even though it costs, or should I stay in and conserve on spending so that my money will last?

Friends and co-workers have been so helpful; I already have a list of potential job opportunities, and it hasn’t even been but a few days. All I have to do is get my resume dusted off and updated. That’s the plan for today, but I must admit that depression is already starting to set in, and the couch is so comfortable.

I will just have to make myself get up occasionally and get moving so it doesn’t settle in permanently.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Good Bye!

I dropped Cheryl and Louis off at the airport Sunday at 7:30 pm, and they are home now. It sure was nice having them up for the week; I like both of them very much.

Since they had to be checked out of their B&B by noon that day, they came over to my house to hang out. Cheryl wanted to buy some smoked salmon to pass out at work as gifts, so we headed over to Costco.

After wandering through Costco for a while, we determined that they didn’t have what she was looking for – so we headed over to Alaska Wild Berry instead. Not only did they have what she wanted, but they also had what I wanted = chocolate!

I admit it = I’m beginning to wallow… and nothing goes with wallowing like good chocolate. Alaska Wild Berry makes some good chocolate!

Once we found what we needed there, I took them over to Terra Bella’s = the organic coffee shop I like. Basically we were just killing time, so we sat there and talked about home remodeling. They are the types who are always making improvements to their house, plus she happens to work for a company who publishes a couple good remodeling magazines.

Soon enough, however, it was time to turn their rental car in. They headed off to the airport and I followed them about 30 minutes later. Once we reconnected, we went over to a bar/restaurant that overlooks Lake Hood for our last meal together.

I’m sad to see them go – but I probably put on about 5 pounds with them. And that includes the 5-mile hike we did on Saturday!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Not Thinking About It

I did not want to spend the day brooding over my new employment status, so thankfully Cheryl and Louis stepped up to the plate and helped me out.

They came over to my house at around 9:15 or so and picked me up to head over to the zoo. I got to take them around to meet all “my kids” there for a few hours. The weather was perfect with only a few sprinkles now and then. The bear cubs are still there, so they got to see them. In fact, all the bears were still awake even. It’s not that chilly yet! Best of all, we got to watch Lyutyik, our male polar bear, as he played with a bucket in the pool. What a beautiful creature he is! He made that 5-gallon bucket look like a sewing thimble…

Once we finally ambled our way out of the zoo, we decided to drive out to Girdwood for lunch. The drive out there is always a beautiful one, but right now the fall colors are out in full force – it was absolutely spectacular!

The Bake Shop was – as always – packed. The food really is good, so of course everybody in Girdwood eats there. We shared a table with another couple for the first half of our meal, until a different table cleared out – the other couple moved over, and we both had our own space.

The hike up Winner Creek Trail was breathtaking. The fall colors and smells are delightful – although Louis didn’t quite agree with me on the smell part. Not everybody thinks the smell of cranberries is a good thing, apparently. The cranberries were ripe, however, and just begging to be picked – so of course I obliged by picking and eating as we went along.

We weren’t on any sort of a schedule, so the timing of it all wasn’t really that important. But it did seem to take longer than I remembered it taking. I kept telling them “It's just around the corner!” and it kept not appearing. I’m referring to the gorge, of course, and we did finally make it there. There is an awful lot of water coming thru that gorge! I’m not sure exactly which creek feeds it, but I just love to stand there and get lost in the sound.

Both Cheryl and I have bad backs and by the time we got back to the car both of us were SO ready to sit down for a while. In fact, my back is still complaining a little bit this morning. The joys of getting older… but I am so glad we went up there.

Back in Anchorage, we attempted to stop in at The Moose’s Tooth for pizza, but their parking lot was crammed full of cars. I can only imagine how crowded the restaurant was! So, we headed over to The Bear’s Tooth (their sister establishment) instead, and somehow managed to snag a spot right in front. The wait to be seated was only 15 minutes, so in no time at all we were happily munching away on our dinners.

I spent the entire 12 hours not thinking about having just lost my job.

Well, not much at least.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I just got laid off.

The President of the company called me in to his office at 3:30 and told me = effective today.

I packed up my things and left.

Now, I have to do the whole job-search thing all over again. I really hate that.

But, I have to say: this company was a lot nicer at it than the last few were. I feel like they honestly meant it when they said they were sorry to have to let me go, whereas the other guys basiclly couldn't care less.

Does anybody need a drafter?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Honking My Own Horn

I made yet another batch of soup this weekend for my lunches - and I must say, I did good!

I started with an organic base of Carrot, Ginger, and Cashew - to which I added fresh-picked carrots, peas, and the prettiest head of cauliflower you've ever seen. I also added the obligatory freeze-dried veggie mix, the freeze-dried onions, fresh ground pepper, chopped garlic, and a huge cup full of long-grained rice.

I shared my creation this time. Mother came over a few days ago to spend the night so that she could go to a doctor's appointment early the next morning - she does not drive in the dark very well, so did not want to have to come all the way in from Palmer.

We had some of my soup for dinner that night, and I sent her off to her appointment with a huge bowl of it for later. The trick is to get that bowl back - Mother has a habit of conveniently forgetting where bowls originally came from!

Regardless, I am sitting here at work doing my Human Anatomy homework while eating my soup.

It's so good!

Termination Dust

There is snow on the mountain tops!


Summer - such as it was - was so short this year. I remember having to sweep over a foot of snow off the picnic tables at the zoo barely a week before Cute Scientist Guy showed up for his visit. And that was in June!

And now, here it is mid-September and the snow is creaping down the mountains already.

Earthwatch: Mongolia

My Earthwatch presentation last night was fun. I surprise myself each time I do one: who would ever have guessed that I would enjoy public speaking? I was so painfully shy as a teenager. I guess old age does have some benefits to it…

Anyway, the Anchorage Prospector’s Society had invited me back to speak to them again, despite my having set off the alarm thereby causing the police to show up at the last presentation I gave them. This one went so much better, they’ve even asked me back yet again!

That will make three presentations for them: Earthwatch in General, Earthwatch: Mongolia, and Earthwatch: Costa Rica. I’m going to have to go on another expedition really soon so that I can have more to talk about!

Mongolia was the topic last night, and it was well-received by a crowd of well over 50 people. I wrote down an attendance of 60 on my timesheet – even without an exact headcount, I think I estimated that fairly closely.

Some of the people were brand new to the society, too – apparently they had read about it in the papers and came just to learn about Mongolia. Two of them just happened to by my friends Cheryl & Louis, too.

It went rather long, unfortunately. Lillian, the event coordinator for the society, cautioned me ahead of time that people might want to get home on time – but they actually kept me talking for so long, they practically had to kick us out of the building at 9:30. I didn’t get home till around 10:00 because they still kept asking questions out in the parking lot.

Cheryl said one of the guys was angling for my phone number, but I totally didn’t pick up on that. I honestly thought he was just interested in my expedition. He got my email address from me, so we’ll see if anything comes of it. I just hope he’s a little younger than the average age of most of those people (most are around 75 years old)!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Maid Service for a Year

My Christmas present from Mother this past year was Maid Service for a Year! How cool is that? All I had to do was find one, and she would pay for it.

I googled “Maid Service” on the internet and came up with three names (there were more, of course, but I just chose three to get a broad range of estimates) which I eventually narrowed down to the one I hired.

She actually didn’t work out, for one reason or another, so - after months of trying to make it work with my first choice – I finally called my second choice and hired her instead.

I am so glad I did! She has been wonderful. Almost too wonderful, if that’s possible.

Case in point: just yesterday, she showed up at my house for the monthly cleaning. The problem was that I thought she was going to show up the following week, so hadn’t prepared for her at all.

Call me weird, but I just feel that I have to clean up the place before my maid arrives to clean up the place. You know what I mean? At a very minimum, I should at least leave the house alarm off and a check for her on the kitchen counter.

I had done none of those things.

The first thing I knew of her arrival was the phone call from her asking how to turn off the alarm that was screaming in the background. Poor Diane was so shaken from the noise, she had a hard time punching in the proper code – I had to tell it to her twice before she finally got it turned off. The darned thing is quite loud – rather like a 747 landing in your living room.

She was still there when I got home after work, so I was able to write a check for her (Mother had given me a lump-sum check in January, which I dole out month at a time to the maid) before leaving again so that she could complete her job. Not only does she like to talk, but I do not like to see my house torn apart – even when I know it’s for the best and that it simply means a thorough job is being done.

Before I left, however, Diane very tactfully commented on the smell. I love my little Alien no end, but he does have a few draw-backs. Particularly his penchant for peeing in the corner!

I really hate that.

But he just will not go in the potty – so I have placed a couple plastic trash bags down on the carpet in the corner where he likes to go, over which I put some carpet samples from work, a layer of cardboard over that, and a layer of newspaper as well – to get as much absorption as I can. I top it all off with some Feline Pine pellets which can be scooped up and thrown into the toilet when soiled.

It seems to be working, after a fashion – but it does smell. Diane offered up some suggestions on how to mitigate that somewhat, and offered to use a carpet freshener around the house each month to help out.

I did finally leave to go browse the bookstore for a while (but did NOT purchase anything, thank God – I have found that there actually is such a thing as too many books), and when I came home I had a sparklingly clean house!

You gotta love that!

Cheryl & Louis

My friend Cheryl is in town for a week! She and I went to high school together, way back when. She brought her husband Louis up to see where she grew up – it’s his first time in Alaska.

I picked them up at the airport Sunday night and took them over to the Bed & Breakfast where they are staying. It’s a nice little place called A Wildflower Inn ( I got to take a little tour of the place when I dropped them off, and I can honestly say that if you ever need a B&B here in Anchorage you should stay at this place! It’s located within walking distance of pretty much everything downtown, and is right on the main street heading out to the airport.

Anyway, Cheryl and Louis are doing all the typical sight-seeing stuff as well as visiting her old stomping grounds. They will stop in on my presentation tonight, and Cheryl and I will meet for dinner on Thursday while Louis plays Go at the bookstore. On Saturday, I will take them to the zoo (of course!) for a couple of hours, then we’ll head up to Girdwood for a hike on my favorite trail: Winner Creek.

I think they’ll have a nice time, despite the weather. It is, of course, raining.

Family Hike Series - Part 8

The last Family Hike of the Season was this Sunday. We went on the new Ship Creek Trail, starting out at the Railroad station and making our way east towards Tyson Elementary School in Mountain View.

We didn’t go all the way; it’s only 2.6 miles, but that’s one way – you still have to turn around and get back to your car!

It was just Mother, Kelly, and myself this time: Heather and Reed had hoped to come, but she got sick and had to stay home. Noel had wanted to come, too – but she ended up sitting with a friend who just recently had major surgery and is now in recovery.

The trail is a nice, wide, paved trail that winds its way through the industrial portion of town. It follows Ship Creek (hence: the name Ship Creek Trail), so you have the beauty of the creek on one side, and the not-so-beauty of industrial equipment on the other side. It’s a little odd… we saw eagles and ducks, as well as homeless people and junkyard dogs. But eventually you get out into some undeveloped parts of town, with greenery on both side.

Once we made it back to our cars, we drove over to The Snow Goose for a bite to eat. This is a local brewery with really good food and a great view of the inlet. If you’re ever in the mood for some halibut, they have the best Halibut Tacos in town!

Hopefully, sometime this winter, my brother Stewart is going to take all the pictures I’ve taken, of each of these family hikes, and post them onto Mother’s website. I’ll post a link on my blog here so you can check them out.

We’ve had a good season, and are already gathering ideas for trails for next year’s season!

Moose Madness

Saturday at the zoo was Moose Madness, a fun day full of games and lectures all focusing on Alaska’s largest member of the deer family.

We had a scavenger hunt set up: a list of questions for people to try to find the answers to. The signage at the zoo gives all the answers to people if they read them, but we also had little cards pinned up all over the zoo with the answers (for example, one card read “7. Velvet” and was pinned to the railing in front of the red fox exhibit). We also had tables set up throughout the zoo with different games, such as “Guess the Weight of the Antlers” or “Moose Word Search” and we had the cotton candy machine going, selling gobs of pink sugar for $1.00 a stick.

We had a raffle for a HUGE stuffed moose, with tickets going for just a dollar a piece. That was a steal of a deal since the moose cost $150.00 if you were to buy it at our gift shop. The winner ended up being a little 10-year old girl: she just stood there when her name was called. I had to coax her over to come get it. She just couldn’t believe she had won. It was so cute to see her walk away with it: it was bigger than she was!

The Alaska Fish and Game people joined us to give a lecture on Moose. They also had posters, informational booklets, and coloring pages to hand out to people.

And, last but not least, we had Leon Rabinovitch and Steve Carson in the greenhouse teaching the kids how to draw moose. These guys are great – they do the Sketch-n-Safari at the zoo on the second Saturday of each month all year long, and provide all the supplies even.

The weather was great that day, with just a few sprinkles now and then. Just enough to cool things off, but not so much as to actually get things wet. I don’t have the final numbers yet, but I think it was a good day.

Old Friends

I treated myself to a nice lunch over at the Middle Way Café this weekend. I do love that place = they have the best food.

Standing in line waiting to place my order, I discovered that my friend, the Coffee Guy (aka: Mike) is now working there! I’d met him and his wife over at the Elim Café when I gave my Earthwatch presentations there. They are both very nice people – I’m glad I found them again. I’m hoping to arrange a get-together soon, for some coffee and Costa Rica pictures.

Once I got my food and found a table, I settled in for some reading. I’m reading the best book: The Variety of Life = A Survey and a Celebration of all the Creatures that Have Ever Lived, by Colin Tudge. This is a fascinating book – extremely well written – so I was deep into it within a few minutes of opening the cover.

Halfway thru lunch, I heard somebody say my name and looked up to see some old friends from my pipeline days: Sue & Larry Motchenbacher. I hadn’t seen either of them in years! I invited them to join me, so they sat down and we chatted for a while, catching up on each other’s travels.

Larry worked with me on the pipeline – honestly, I can’t remember exactly what he did (I’ve blanked that part of my life out, apparently) but I do remember that he always had the greatest stories to tell. He also helped me out with my snake when I first got her.

Sue was a school teacher, and I read stories to her class on my lunch hours. She taught 5th grade, so some of the kids had met me earlier when they were in the 1st and/or 3rd grade – which meant they could make requests of books they remembered and wanted to hear again. It was a lot of fun… I kind of miss doing that.

Sue is now retired, and I think Larry might soon be as well. I talked to them about Earthwatch and the all scientific expeditions they could go on: I may have sold them on it! I gave them my contact information – we’ll see if they sign up.

The Great Alaskan Home Show

Saturday, I went to the Great Alaskan Home Show, at the Sullivan Arena.

Normally, I would avoid that place like the plague: I do not like crowds and there are typically hundreds of thousands of people there. But, I had a particular goal in mind, so I had to go. I went early – got in just as they opened the door that morning – in hopes that I’d avoid the worst of it all. And I must say, my tactic worked; I was able to get the information I needed and get out of there in record time!

What I went for was window shade information. I recently got my PFD (Permanent Fund Dividend) to which was added the Energy Relief moneys our government gave out – so, I’m sitting here with well over $3,000.00! My plan is to spend about $2,000.00 on new window shades for the house (the ones that help reduce heat loss) and save the rest for my trip to Africa next year.

I wanted to make sure that I bought from a locally owned and operated company, as opposed to one of the Big Box stores (I hate those), and yet – of course – cost is an issue. Those Big Box stores do have cheap prices… But, going to the home show gives me discounts with most places: they offer specials for people who buy during that weekend – or even just show an interest.

I have three places now that I will be making appointments with. I’ll have them come over and measure everything, then give me estimates on how much its going to end up costing. Hopefully, by the end of the year, I’ll be warm and toasty with my new shades.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I was at my weekly site visit the other day, making my way through the construction to take photographs and observe the progress, when suddenly several of the workers started running towards me. I had earplugs in – a construction site is incredibly loud – so at first I couldn’t understand what they were yelling at me. Eventually, I figured out that there was an emergency and I was to call the office immediately.

Naturally, my heart started skipping beats left and right as my mind came up with all sorts of horrible things that could have happened to generate this kind of fuss. I made my way back to the job shack as quickly as I could – while still being mindful of my surroundings, of course.

Once inside, the supervisor told me to call the office right away and pointed me to a phone I could use. I called the main number and got Yvonne on the other end. You’ll never guess what the emergency was.

Mike, the president of our company, wanted a zoo tour.

At first, I thought I didn’t hear quite right. “He wants a tour of the zoo?” I asked incredulously.

Yup… he wanted a tour of the zoo. And for this he called me out of the middle of my site visit…

Oh, what it is to be king!

In Memory of Fran

At 1:30 pm today, the president of the company I work for called us all into the large conference room. He does this occasionally, sometimes to celebrate a new contract and sometimes to make announcements of a more personal nature.

This time, it was definitely not a celebration.

He announced that the wife of one of the company’s principal architects had passed away earlier today.

Even though you know its coming – she’d been fighting the cancer for several months –still it hits you like a ton of bricks.

If anybody out there has any prayers to spare, please join me in honor of Fran Reed, renowned Alaskan artist and a mother & wife.

She was 65.

The United Way Day of Caring

Some people are really handy to have around the house and some people are really not. I fall in to that later category.

This point was reinforced recently when I volunteered half a day to The United Way Day of Caring. The office I work for is a strong supporter of this organization, so they encouraged us all to help out.

We were sent to the Program for Infants and Children, in two shifts of 5 people = 8 to noon, then noon to 4. I was on the afternoon shift so was able to head over there after my lunch hour, and then – thank goodness – go right home afterwards.

What they had us doing was just some all-around general things you might find on anybody’s Honey-Do list: put up shelving, install curtain rods, put particle board on the wall for hanging hooks onto, sew some banners, and install a film on the exterior windows to provide privacy.

I learned, once again, that I simply cannot do things. I can help other people do things – but I just can’t do them myself.

The first part of the shift went really well. I worked with Brian and Ryan on installing the shelving and curtain rods. Then Ryan and I moved on to the window film, while Brian and Deanna tackled the particle boards in the toy room.

Ryan, thankfully, is one of those “handy to have around” type people. She and I worked quite well as a team, and were able to cover three of the four windows. But then she had to leave. That left me and one of the employees of the place to complete the task. Maggie, the girl trying to help me finish, was really nice – but she had never done that sort of thing before, so I felt like I had to be the one to step up.

It was a nightmare! Within half an hour, I was so frustrated I really had to watch my mouth. I’m not one to swear or curse, but those four-letter words were sitting right on the tip of my tongue.

So, of course, I ruined our first attempt. We tore it down, threw it away, and then went to cut another piece off only to find that we’d pretty much run out. We ended up piecing together several smaller pieces to cover the window – which is certainly doable, just with seams down the middle.

And, yes – I ruined that one, too. Poor Maggie… she tried to salvage it, but by that time it was 5:30 and we both had to leave.


Overall, she did say she was very pleased with all the work we did for them. I just hope she really meant it, and wasn’t just being nice because she could see that I was really upset at myself.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Soup's On!

When I was growing up, we had this old school bus that had been converted into a camper. It was painted bright blue, and had a table with chairs, a couch, bunk beds, a small kitchen, and even a bathroom in it. We took that thing all over the state, and packed it full of as many people as we could stuff in to it.

One time, we went on a fishing trip out to the Chena River. My parents were actually not with us at the time: mother was out of state taking care of our grandmother who was sick, and our stepfather had to work – so we went with friends of the family: Ed and Fran, and their three children. As always, we picked up more people along the way, so by the time we actually got to the Chena River I think we had a good 12 kids.

After spending a week roughing it out in the wilderness, 12 kids can get pretty dirty. Ed probably thought it would be a good idea to return all the children to their proper parents in a more cleanly state, so stopped at a campground on the Kenai River to see what we could do about the problem.

We ended up getting this big 55-galon drum, filled it with river water, and heated it over the campfire. One after another – or sometimes two and three at a time – each kid got a bath.

The last ones in were my little brother Reed and Ed’s youngest boy Dale, both of whom were about 8 years old at the time. I remember they were just tall enough to look over the rim of the barrel.

We soaped them up, and washed their hair real good – then, when we went to rinse them off, we got a bucket of water directly from the river. Those of you familiar with Alaska will know that even if the water is not from a glacier river, it’s still just this side of freezing!

We didn’t warn them – we just dumped the freezing cold water over their heads. They immediately started screaming and jumping all over the place.

At that very moment, some people pulled up to the camping spot beside us on motorcycles. Ed called over to them, “Hey! You’re just in time – soup’s almost ready!”

Those poor bikers: they saw the 55-galon drum on the fire, with two little naked boys screaming their heads off and jumping all over the place, with all the other kids trying to keep them in the drum to finish their baths.

They couldn’t get on their bikes fast enough! They left and never came back.

First Friday Art Show

My friend Lorna, whom I have known for over 12 years now, is a great artist. She had an Art Show on Friday over at the Elim Café highlighting several of her new paintings.

I first met Lorna when I went to work down in Valdez. She was a co-worker, and one of the only three females down there at the time (or so it seemed). Both of us eventually ended up back in Anchorage, and she ended up being my supervisor for several years.

Her husband was an architect, and when he mentioned to her that he was looking for an assistant she told me to apply. She knew I was unhappy working for “Big Oil” by that time, and that I had gone to school for architectural drafting, so figured that would be a good fit for me.

I ended up getting the job, which meant that now her husband was my supervisor. Nothing like keeping it in the family! I worked for him for close to 10 years on the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport project, and am still working for him now at a different firm.

As an aside: if any of you have been following the news lately, you’ll recognize Ted Stevens as being our Senator for the state of Alaska, and as being currently indicted on seven counts of failing to disclose thousands of dollars in services he received from a company that helped renovate his home.

This means that if he gets convicted, we’ll have the only airport in the country named after a felon!

Anyway, back to the Art Show…

Anchorage has an on-going event they call First Friday. Several art studios around town showcase different artists on the first Friday of each month. They have an open house with drinks and hors d'œuvres and whatnot. People can stroll from studio to studio all evening long, enjoying the art and socializing with all the other people attending First Friday.

Lorna’s show was part of this. Unfortunately for her, the café showcasing her work is relatively new, so people still don’t really know about it. It’s also off the beaten path, so to speak, so it’s relatively harder to get to. This means that not very many people showed up for it.

But – I was there, and I did enjoy chatting with her and her boyfriend (she and her husband split up several years ago).

Friday, September 05, 2008

Help! I'm Stuck and I Can't Get Out!

This morning started out just like any other morning.

I woke up to find Thing curled up beside me and Djuna perched up on my hips. I rolled ever as carefully as I could to turn off the alarm (don’t want to disturb Djuna, since she is just beginning to not run away every time I make a sudden movement) before it wakes The Alien up. I made my way quietly to the bathroom to brush my teeth and get ready for the day ahead. I refilled the water bowls at the sink so Thing and Djuna would have water throughout the day which will hopefully keep them from drinking out of the toilet. I made my bed and got dressed. I finally woke The Alien up to give him his morning brushing, then filled all the food bowls and emptied all the kitty pots.

Morning as usual.

The departure from “usual” happened when I tried to back the car out of the garage. That’s when I discovered that the garage door wouldn’t open. I even tried to open it manually, and it still wouldn’t open. How am I supposed to get to work if I can’t even open my garage door!

I went back in to the house and called the office to let them know I’d be late, then I called the repair man – only to discover they don’t open for business until 8:00 (I typically get to work at 7:30). So, since I had time to kill, I called my internet provider to deal with the email problem I’d been ignoring these past few days (all taken care of now!).

Finally, at 8:00, I called the repair man again to schedule a house call. He said he just had to load up his truck, then deal with an emergency call (somebody’s door was stuck open all night), and then he would come over and deal with my problem. He estimated it would be around 9:00 before he’d get to my house, and he was actually pretty dead on.

While waiting for him, I ended up putzing around the house doing this and that. Actually got quite a bit of stuff done, amazingly enough.

Finally, the repairman arrived. When he took a look at the door, he said that my spring had sprung, and that it would take him about an hour and a half to fix it.

He got to work, and I went back to my putzing… which, by the way, really annoyed my girls. They assumed that since I was home when I would normally be at work, then I should be holding them and doing some quality snuggling – the fact that I wouldn’t even sit down for much longer than a few moments was just unfathomable to them.

Finally, $198.00 and 3 hours later, I backed my car out of the garage and headed on to work.

Mammoth, the movie

I watched the coolest/stupidest movie last night, called "Mammoth."

Here’s what Netflix has to say about it:

“A defrosted 40,000-year-old woolly mammoth goes on a rampage after a meteor smashes into a town museum and revives the prehistoric creature. Federal agents must team up with museum curator Frank Abernathy (Vincent Ventresca) in an effort to control the beast. With his B-movie aficionado father (Tom Skerritt) pitching in, Abernathy must act fast in order to save the town. Summer Glau co-stars in this action-packed sci-fi adventure.”

I had actually seen it before; apparently it was a made-for-TV movie played on the Sci-Fi channel. That’s a euphemism for “low budget, cheesy flick.”

Just my kind of movie!

At one point, they are arguing about how to deal with the rampaging mammoth. Frank, the main character, wants to deep-freeze it (again) by using liquid nitrogen “borrowed” from a convenient near-by mining operation. The federal agent, who looks suspiciously like a “Men in Black” agent, wants to just nuke the town.

The main character pulls her to the side and says, “May I be frank with you?”

And she replies, with a completely straight face, “You are Frank.”

“Oh… right…” he says, and walks away.

The Pink Elephant Car Wash

Since my dental appointment didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would, I found myself heading home a lot earlier than expected last night. I decided to get my car washed since it’s been a very long time since the last one, and since it’s right on my way home anyway.

Boy! Getting your car washed during the work hours is a lot different than getting it washed on a weekend. You get a much better wash, that’s for sure.

On the weekends, every body and their brother is right there in line with you, so the guys who run the carwash are moving double-time to get them all thru the line as quickly as possible. All total, they probably spend about 5 minutes on your car before they usher you in to the machines, and then maybe (if you’re lucky) another 5 minutes rushing you out the door on the other side.

During the weekday, however, there was no one else even at the pumps let alone in the carwash. The guy at the front of the line spent a good 15 minutes pre-washing my car, and the guy at the end spent about the same amount of time drying my car off on the other end.

I have such a clean, sparkling car now!

My Dental Appointment

Well, the good news is that I don’t have to have a root canal. The bad news is that the dentist doesn’t think he can do anything about the fact that one of my teeth is “zinging” me occasionally.

I made the appointment because I have a not-so-small lump of money sitting in my Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) that will disappear at the end of the year if its not used. I figured I may as well take care of the tooth that I’ve been ignoring all this time.

I was so sure I knew what tooth it was, too. I knew he would need to know – no sense in working on a tooth that doesn’t actually need working on – so each time it happened, I paid very close attention. As always, once Dr. Welch got in there and started poking around we discovered that it was the tooth next to the one I thought it was.

The tooth in question has a crown on it. What is most likely happening, according to the dentist, is that the crack that prompted him to put the crown on in the first place has probably gotten bigger. Since it already has a crown on it, and (thank god) a root canal would not help, the only other option is to pull the tooth. I just don’t have that kind of money (upwards of $4,000.00) for a procedure that really isn’t necessary.

As long as the “zinging” happens only occasionally, and as long as I can continue to ignore it (as I have been doing for several years now), we’re just going to let things be.

However, I still have that money sitting in my HRA account that needs to be spent somehow. I told Dr. Welch about it, and he suggested taking care of a completely different tooth that has been on the top of the “watch” list for a good 5-6 years now.

It’s not critical, obviously, but it is one that will need to be taken care of sooner or later. I went ahead and made an appointment in October for it. I want to make sure the whole ordeal is well over before I go on vacation next year!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Homework -vs- Reading for Pleasure

I had totally intended to do a chapter a week on my two classes, alternating between the two of them. Week 1 & 2 = Chapter One of Human Anatomy then Chapter One of Methods of Building Construction. Week 3 & 4 = Chapter Two of Human Anatomy and then Chapter Two of Methods of Building Construction. And so on, and so on…

Reality, as always, is never quite as good as your imagination makes it out to be.

Chapters One for both classes went as planned, being mostly just an overview of the materials being taught. Chapter two is being more difficult, and I haven’t even started on the Methods of Building Construction one.

Chapter Two of the Human Anatomy class is on The Chemical Level of Organization. I took Biology 101 last year, which covered this very subject - so one would think that going over all that again should just be a refresher course for me. But I have a problem with things on the molecular level. It’s hard for me to relate to something so small – even if it is such an important part of life.

I understand why they’re going over it: one does need to understand things at the most basic level so that it makes sense on a broader range. I also am finding it very interesting: it amazes me that the human brain can comprehend all of this in the first place, let alone pass on the information to future generations to build on.

However, I am into my second week on this chapter, when I should be on to the other class.


I suppose it doesn’t help things that at the same time I am reading two other books, each of which are not exactly brain candy.

The first one I'm reading (typically on the weekend when I’m taking a break from my classes) is the book that Mother gave me for my birthday (and, coincidently enough, so did my sister-in-law, which means I have two copies of the book) “Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity.” This is a fascinating book, written by some of the top scientists in their fields. It is not, however, an easy book to read. First of all, it’s big. I mean, physically = its big. It measures roughly 12" wide by around 24" tall, and is about 3" thick. Hauling this thing around take some muscle, and finding a place to sit and read is not easy either.

The second book I’m reading (typically at night when I’m winding down at night after a hard day’s work) is called The Time Before History, by Colin Tudge – one of my favorite authors.

Here’s an excerpt of the synopsis on the back of the book: “Tudge paints a broad canvas of our last 5 million years with fascinating descriptions of the waxing and waning of species and populations because of climate changes and plate tectonics, including massive migrations around the planet; the fabulous animals that covered the earth when our ancestors first emerged; the unique and exquisitely destructive characteristics of the first neo-apes, from their ability to exploit the savanna while living safely in the trees to the advantages of the rotating shoulder joint, which permitted missile throwing and thus changed the risk-reward balance of hunting forever.”

As you can see, it too is rather a “heavy” subject: but it’s written so well, it’s actually a joy to read. And once I’m done with that one, I have another book by the same author waiting for me to read: “The Variety of Life : A Survey and a Celebration of all the Creatures that Have Ever Lived.”

There just aren’t enough hours in the day… either that or there are just way too many books to be read – and I know that can never be!

Family Hike Series - Part 7

It’s a considerable stretch of the imagination to call this Sunday’s outing a “hike” – it was more a walk in the park, since it was at the UAA Campus and we walked mostly on sidewalks or in parking lots. But, it was still fun, regardless.

I told people that I would have my car parked as close to the intersection of 36th and Lake Otis as I could get it, so I found my spot and settled in with my book to await everybody’s arrival. Not very much time later, Mother drove up in her truck with Kelly in the front seat and Noel in the back.

With a few minutes to exchange stuff (there’s always stuff to exchange), get coats and whatnot organized, and hand out the paperwork I brought with me – and we were ready to start on our Walk of Trees!

I had a map of the campus with locations marked on it for the trees we were to see, a document that explained each tree’s Latin name, common name, characteristics and date of planting, and a few more informational pages just in case: all complements of the Alaska Division of Forestry, Community Forestry Program. More specifically, Patricia Joyner: she was my “contact” at the forestry division, and had helped me out greatly on putting this outing together.

Help also came from my own company; Tamas Deak, our landscape architect, had helped Patricia put this together oringinally, along with Ed Leonetti, our other landscape architect. Both of whom sit not three desks away from me, and both of whom were quite happy to give me all the information I could handle (and then some more).

The campus at UAA is really quite beautiful. You drive past it every day, but you just don’t really see it. For instance, did you know they have a geological display of various rocks (quite large ones, too) dating back several thousands of years in age, all with informational plaques telling you where they came from and who donated them?

The trees were all in their fall colors, which admittedly isn’t that impressive in this state. The flowers, however, were quite beautiful. We all had fun trying to identify them (they were not on my map, so I didn’t have any cheat-sheets for them). I am happy to say that I actually knew one that no one else did! I am the world’s worst gardener – ask anybody, they’ll agree – but this was one that lives at the zoo, so I was able to give it a name: Berginia.

Fall is the time for berries, and they were out in full force! We resisted as long as we could but finally couldn’t stand it anymore and started picking when we came across the Nanking Cherry bush, located back behind the automotive building. Noel had a poop-bag (unused, thankfully) in her pocket, so we filled it with barely enough room to close it off. She made jam that night and passed out jars to each of us!

It took us a good two hours to see everything we wanted to see, by which time we were hungry so we headed off to The Moose’s Tooth for some pizza.

A Freezer Full of Fish

Just when you think the world has gone to pot - when all you read about in the papers is murder, war, and natural disasters – when all you see on the streets are homeless drunks and scary guys just waiting to mug you or worse – when your life is consumed by worries of rising gas prices and the dwindling bank accounts – somebody comes along and with one generous act of kindness makes it all beautiful again.

That’s a rather sappy way of saying that some people really are nice.

Mother and I spent the day in Seldovia a few days ago, and on the water taxi we took from Homer we met Archer & Kate, a couple also going to spend the day in Seldovia.

The ride across was just over an hour long, and we spent the time chatting with them about this and that. Once we docked in Seldovia, they took off to do their thing and we took off to do our thing. It is a very small town, however, so we ran in to each other occasionally, each time stopping to chat a while about the things we’d seen and done. And of course, since there’s only one taxi that goes back and forth between the two towns, we sat with them again on the way back.

Just as we docked in Homer, and were gathering up our stuff to head back to our hotel room, Archer handed me his business card and said, “Give me a call when you hit Soldotna on your way home. I’ve got some fish I can give you.”

Mother and I were imagining a fillet or two of the halibut they’d caught a few days ago – they’d shown us pictures, and it was a doozey!

What they ended up giving us, however, was much more than just a fillet or two: the box held two halibut fillets, two king salmon fillets, two red salmon fillets, two silver salmon fillets, two ling cod fillets, and two packages of smoked salmon!


I must point out the fact that when Mother and I divvied up the goods, she took all the ling cod and halibut! Of course, I got all the salmon, but still…

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Seldovia is a small fishing community just south of Homer. The only way to get there is either by air or by boat. Mother and I took a water taxi across; a trip that took about an hour and fifteen minutes – but could have been a lot shorter if we’d had a faster boat.

The trip across the bay was beautiful. We had clear blue skies and hardly a wave in the ocean! Birds were abundant, of course, as were the otters and other sealife. Some people saw whales, but I have to admit I was not one of them.

Mother and I spent the trip sitting at a table with another couple we’d met on the docks. They were long-time Alaskans who were currently living in California and had come up for a vacation to visit their old stomping grounds. Somehow, we got onto the subject of Hobo Jim: a favorite singer of ours, and apparently a good friend of theirs.

Once we docked in Seldovia, mother and I were met by my friend Tracy (she’s the one who gave me both Thing and Djuna). I had gotten some cat food for her from Anchorage, since she can’t get it there in Seldovia – or even in Homer – so we handed that off to her and she dropped us off at the trail head.

We’d read about this trail on the way across the bay: it’s called The Otter Bahn trail (as opposed to the autobahn in Germany), and is about 1.5 miles out to the ocean – so 3 miles round trip.

What a beautiful trail that was! It went up the hills (not a bad climb) through the rain forest full of salmon berries, watermelon berries, and blueberries and down to a small cove that looks out to Mt. St. Augustine and Mt. Redoubt. (both active volcanoes). Mother and I sat there on some driftwood for quite a while, watching some ravens pester a pair of eagles.

I love the sounds and smells of the ocean!

Once we made our back to town, eating handfuls of berries along the way of course, we ambled up and down the streets looking at houses till it was time to meet Tracy again for lunch. We ate at a place called The Tidewater Inn, a very nice little restaurant overlooking the boat harbor. Of course, we talked about cats: not surprising when you have three cat lovers sitting at the same table.

Once we were done with our meals, she took us to her house to meet her kids! She currently has 10, half of whom are 7 weeks old. Tracy breeds both the Devons (like my kids) and Oriental Short Hairs – so having 10 cats at a time is apparently normal for her.

For mother and I, it was a real treat to get to play with them all. Sitting on the floor with all those kittens and cats piled up all over me – that was so cool. I fell in love with one of her males, named Spaz. He’s about 6 months old and is another Devon (I do love a Devon) – and yes, he’s fat & hairless, just like my Alien.

Apparently, I like my men naked!

Unfortunately, mother is allergic to cats and had forgotten to take an allergy pill at lunch, so that - plus the fact that we had to meet the taxi at the docks at 4:30 - cut our visit shorter than I would have liked. I mean, 2 hours of playing with kittens just is not enough!

The ride back to Homer was uneventful except for the detour to pick up a bunch of kids from the NOAA camp site. Apparently they were just finishing up on a 3-day field trip for a science class, and needed a ride back to Homer.


Mother and I headed out on the road Thursday morning and went to Homer for the weekend!

It’s a 250+ mile trip along the coast though some very beautiful country. That’s quite a long way to drive, but between the two of us we managed in about 6 hours or so. We stopped a few times along the way to get out and stretch, eat a bite of breakfast, and switch places so the other one could drive for a while.

We left my house around 7:30 in the morning and hit Homer around 2:00 – just in time to check in to our hotel room and take a much-needed nap!

The Hotel we stayed at was called the Ocean Shores Hotel, and was quite nice. Actually, it was quite ugly from the outside. They had these long buildings of room after room after room, side by side, and a long walkway in front. However, the insides were very nicely done, with comfortable beds, a small table to sit at while, and a view to die for!

As their name might imply, they had a gorgeous view of the ocean, with Mount St. Augustine in the background and all the birds along the beach. I really wanted to have the back door open while we slept, so that I could listen to the waves crashing up onto the beach, the birds arguing over their dinners, the fishermen excited over their catch… but it was just a little bit too cold for that. Besides, while Homer is a small town still, they are getting bigger – and one never knows exactly who is rooming next door (they did just have their first homicide in 20+ years).

We didn’t get to spend too much time in and around Homer, since the purpose of our trip was to head over to Seldovia for the day on Friday. But, we did get some time to do some sightseeing.

Homer’s new library is a big deal in the “green” community as it is one of the first LEED Silver building in Alaska. We had to go see that, of course! We had a little trouble finding it at first, since we had forgotten to bring along the address with us the first time we went out. When we finally did find it, we realized we’d gone right passed it – of course… isn’t that how it goes?

It’s a beautiful building.

Habitat for Humanity

The company I work for is very much in to serving the community, so had organized a day for us to spend working with Habitat for Humanity. There were two shifts of five people each, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I signed up for the afternoon shift.

The job site we were assigned to is out in Spenard, a neighborhood with a questionable reputation. They are working on changing that, however, and are actually doing a pretty good job of it.

Habitat for Humanity is putting up some townhouses there; twelve 4 bedroom/2 bath units all with a courtyard in front and a deck on the roof. Very nice homes, with energy efficient fixtures and other “green” features.

When we got there, we were put to work on the courtyard. The team before us had hauled 2 feet of gravel (large stones) into the area and had leveled it out. We were to put another layer of smaller gravel stones over the top and then compact it down for the pavers to go on top.

I have no strength to speak of, so I grabbed a rake and started leveling out the piles of gravel that they guys would dump in place. They had a huge mound of gravel out in the alley that they were hauling in wheelbarrows; that is very hard work! With two people working the rakes, we just kept up with the two people handling the wheelbarrows.

After a while on the rake, the foreman put me onto the compactor. This is a very heavy machine about the size of a small lawn mower. Thankfully, it’s self-motivated – so all I really had to do was guide it around the courtyard. The smaller gravel had to be compacted down into the larger gravel, so that the paving stones could go on top and be level and well-set.

Forgive me for going all “female” on you here, but I have to brag. I managed to work for 4 hours without breaking a nail – not an easy thing to do, but I did have gloves on. I’m sure that helped.