Monthly Archives: September 2008

A good time was had by all.

One of the golden moments of an author–there are quite a few, actually–is the big hometown booksigning/reading/talk/party that launches a new book.

Last night we had a fairly decent turnout, despite competing with the first Presidential debate, and we all had a good time. I read a story from The Northwoods Chronicles, Alan M. Clark presented me with a matted print of the cover art for the same book, we ate, drank and made merry. Lisa Alber even came down from Portland with her adorable little pooch.

After the party, seven of us came back to our place to watch the debate.  Anticlimactic, to be sure. The crock pot chili that we ate while watching the debate was definitely the highlight of that event.

In addition to everyone who went out of their way to come help me celebrate, I received literally dozens of cards, emails and phone calls from people who couldn’t make it to the party for various reasons. All of which made me feel good. I have lots of friends, lots of fans.

What a great evening. Thanks, everyone.


Filed under Friends, My New Novel, Promotion, Reading, Writing

About the Health Care Mess

I read this piece by John Stossel from the New York Sun in the 9/29/08 issue of Forbes Magazine.

“Imagine if your car insurance covered oil changes and gasoline. You wouldn’t care how much gas you used, and you wouldn’t care what it cost. Mechanics would sell you $100 oil changes. Prices would skyrocket. That’s how it works in health care. Patients don’t ask how much a test or treatment will cost. They ask if their insurance covers it. They don’t compare prices from different doctors and hospitals. Prices do vary. Why should they? They’re not paying. Although they do in hidden, indirect ways.

“In the end, we all pay more because no one seems to pay anything. It’s why health insurance is not a good idea for anything but serious illnesses and accidents that could bankrupt you. For the rest, we should pay out of our savings.”

A problem can never be fixed until it is defined, and I think Stossel has just put his finger on it.

Just because we can do something (like perform a hip replacement on an 87-year-old woman dying of stomach cancer) doesn’t mean we should.

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Filed under politics

I’ve been arrested!

Fortunately, it’s just the March of Dimes that has held me captive, and I must raise my bail of $1,000 or they won’t give me lunch.
Seriously, though, Al and I have made a donation to the March of Dimes in gratitude for every single one of our eight grandchildren that has been born healthy.
Think about this: One in ten babies is born premature. One in 33 is born with a birth defect. One in eight women receive inadequate prenatal care. All of these things contribute to our high and inexcusable mortality rate among infants in their first year of life. Something has to be done, and the March of Dimes has been doing it and will continue to do it.
Please give, even if it’s $5. I know this is an inconvenient time of financial insecurity, especially since I hope you’re also donating to the political campaign of your choice.
If you don’t want to make your tax-deductible contribute online at
You can send your check, made out to the March of Dimes, to me, and I’ll make certain it gets to them. Email me for my snail address.
Thanks for helping me make bail. And thanks for helping the babies.

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Filed under Goodness, Social Consciousness

Seward, Kenai and Dolly Varden

Part III

We trained from Talkeetna to Anchorage, rented a car and drove to Seward. This is September, and we were late in the season. We went late in order to miss the big tourist season, and we did, but things were turning toward winter. We got the fall colors inland, but the rain was coming in in the coastal areas. It poured rain most of the time we were in Seward.

But it’s a fun little community and in the river behind our hotel a family of river otters gorged themselves on fish every morning. Very fun to watch. We took a tour through Kenai Fjords National Park and saw dall porpoise, harbor porpoise, stellar sea lions, lots of bald eagles, enormous jelly fish (Al thought the first one we saw was a submerged buoy), blue glaciers — and even some crazy guys surfing right in front of one. Big blue ice bergs floated in the fjords. Again, the landscape was fantastic. Photos do not capture the amazing scope of this amazing land.

After two nights in Seward, we jumped in the car and drove through more astonishing wilderness to Kenai, where we stayed with our fishing guide, Gabe Linegar and his lovely wife and two beautiful daughters.  Gabe, of Drift Alaska Charters, is a great fishing guide. Al fished first while I explored the galleries of Homer (Homer was virtually closed for the season), and he caught a dozen rainbows, the best of which was a 10 pounder. (No photos, because I had the digital camera.) Then the two of us fished the next day, and Al got shut out, only snagging one after another of the millions of spawned-out, dying pink salmon, but I caught a little rainbow and a nice, 5 pound Dolly Varden. The Kenai River is certainly salmon-choked, and while we missed the big salmon run, the evidence of bears was everywhere, in the matted down foliage at the riverbanks and all the salmon carcases left there to rot. The third day Al fished, he caught a 17-pound steelhead on the Kasilof River, and his trip was truly complete.

Then we drove back to Anchorage. I miscued about how often I might find a gas station, and we drove fifty miles through wilderness on fumes and prayer. Al was busy scouting all the trucks that carried spare gas cans. But fortunately we found fuel at the last possible moment in Girdwood and were ready to get back to Anchorage.

We got back to the hotel to find a sign up on the door that warned guests of a black bear in the neighborhood. We took a walk around that quaint and unusual little town and could easily see how a black bear could live in downtown Anchorage without being caught.

It was good to get home again.

Bottom line: We’ll go back. We’ll certainly go back to the Kenai for salmon fishing, and from here, we could actually do that over a long weekend. Now that we’ve done the whole tourist thing, next time we’ll get off the beaten path and go to Kodiak, and perhaps fly into Ilianna for some wlderness adventure.

If you haven’t seen Alaska, I suggest you do. Put it on your bucket list and be amazed.

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Filed under Travel, Vacation

Bear, Moose, Wolf and Vistas

Part II

From Fairbanks, we took the train to Denali National Park. The rules for the park are very interesting, in that there is only one 92-mile road into the park, and private vehicles can only go so far in. The rest can be traversed only by park buses (hop on, hop off, hike your brains out in 6 million acres of wilderness) or tour buses. All of which is very interesting park management, and has kept the wildlife wild and the area pristine. I wonder if other parks ought to be so managed.

We took an 8-hour tour that went 62 miles up. Saw 13 grizzly bears, lots of moose, ptarmigan, Dall sheep, and three wolves, one of which trotted across the road right in front of the bus. At the end of the 92-mile road is a luxury resort on Wonder Lake. I’d love to go back and stay there for a week or so.

Mt. McKinley was only kind of visible at one point, but the rest of the views were incredible. The landscape is glacier-sculpted, so there are mountains, valleys, and “braided rivers in unfit river valleys” the likes I’m sure to never see elsewhere. Breathtaking, and I don’t use that term loosely.

We stayed two nights at Denali, and went for a nice hike across the river from our hotel, and then hopped the train for Talkeetna, traditionally a staging area for those who want to hike Mt. McKinley. And there, we found the real Alaskan color. Al made friends with a reindeer, we met a couple of true characters, ate breakfast–complete with reindeer sausage–at The Roadhouse, and saw the mountain out in all its glory from our room at the Alaska Talkeetna Lodge.

We took a little river trip and saw how the old trappers used to live, and we could have done without that particular tour. We stayed two nights in Talkeetna, and played lots of gin rummy. One night would have been perfect.  At least the mountain came out for us.

And then… on to the Kenai Peninsula. Stay tuned.

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Filed under Travel, Vacation

We started at the Arctic Circle

Well, we really started with our list of things we absolutely had to do before we die. The current buzz word is “bucket list,” but that is just flat-out too cliche for me. Regardless, Al and I spent some time considering the reality of how many summers we have left of adventure travel, and how we want to spend them.

This trip to Alaska was at the top of both of our lists, and while there wasn’t too much adventure involved, we did the grand sweep of Alaska and found out what we want to go back for. And boy oh boy, will we be back.

While trying to arrange the trip myself, there were just too many possibilities, so we put ourselves in the most capable hands of Alaska Tour and Travel.  They were quite amazing, and with one small exception, everything they set out for us to do was spot on. I even argued with them about the twelve hour (!) tour to the Arctic Circle, but they assured me we would enjoy it. They were right.

So we started in Fairbanks, and spent an afternoon in the amazing Museum of the North at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The next day, we flew an hour and half or so in kind of a rickety 1980 Piper Navajo bush plane with a pilot that seemed a little too casual, but landed safely in Coldfoot. There we met our tour director, Barbara, and the five of us drove 10 hours back to Fairbanks. 

What a great trip. We inspected the pipeline, met strange and wonderful people, watched the sunset from the Yukon River, saw caribou, moose, a lynx, gorged on wild blueberries and most of all, luxuriated in the vastness of a wilderness so immense it’s hard to grasp.  The fall colors were breathtaking.

Even the aurora came out and gave us an incredible show from Joy, Alaska, where we stopped for late-night coffee. There were only five of us in the little van, including Barbara, the tour guide, who had just retired from the UAF, and she was very smart about everything. The Haul Road (Dalton Highway, built to build the pipeline 30+ years ago) is not for the faint of heart, as we drove 230 miles on this dusty gravel road with gigantic semis zooming past throwing rocks as big as my fist.

An amazing adventure. I don’t need to go this far north again (although Al would like to traverse the Brooks Range and go all the way to Prudhoe Bay), but I’m glad I saw it. There’s nothing quite like walking on tundra (it’s like walking on a trampoline) and getting the whole story from a woman who majored in soils management. What a day.

Next: Denali National Park.

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Filed under Fall, Learning, Possibilities, Vacation

Book Launch Party!

The Northwoods Chronicles is out, and Tsunami Books is helping me celebrate. I hope you will, too.


There will be food and drink, although if you want to bring something for the snack table, please feel free, and if you want wine or beer, you’ll have to bring that as well.


Regardless, bring a friend and let’s kick this book off right.


Friday, September 26 – 6pm – at Tsunami Books, 2585 Willamette St., Eugene, OR 97405.


See you then!



Filed under My New Novel, Writing

Criticism as Gossip

I used to be very critical.  I was critical of everything, and very vocal about my criticisms, too, even when those being criticized were within earshot.

Then my  mother moved close by to live out the rest of her life, and I saw how horribly obnoxious that was. I heard the same things come out of her mouth that had been coming out of mine, and it was awful.

Then one night I was critical of a good friend and he called me out on it. I spent a long time contemplating this, and have tried very hard to not be critical ever since.

Recently, I was taking a walk with a good friend who pointed out all the ugliness in everything we passed. It sounded just like the way I used to sound. As we walked, I tried to pinpoint exactly what bothered me about it so much, and eventually, asked the question: “If the owner of that boat were here, would you tell him what a bucket of junk it is?” Well, of course not. Yet the next yacht, sleek and well-maintained, escaped my friend’s comment, but we both knew that if that owner were standing next to it, we would both remark on the beauty of it.

So that got me to thinking: is cricism the same as gossip?

Gossip does no good to anyone. It is inherently destructive.

And I think this kind of criticism is exactly the same. It tends to color the lenses through which we view the world in a dark and negative way. 

Not for me. Not any more.

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Filed under Beauty, Spirituality