Miss WASILLA for Vice President

Sarah Palin…I must say I was first shocked. I didnt’ think it would happen.

I knew she was under consideration.

But the more I think about it and the more I learn and listen to her…her gubernatorial acceptance speech was incredible



So, okay. That’s the word.

More to come.

Alaska- supper (29)

I had told Ray that we would meet for dessert at 7.

At the time, I thought that we would be in our hotel and done taking a nap. I thought that we would have gotten up earlier and gone out to explore the town and have had dinner already.

Things had not turned out the way I expected.

I woke up about 6, and Chris was still fast asleep. I read some to let him keep sleeping. But I was concerned about being late. And we were supposed to eat dinner FIRST.

But Chris was tired, and still sleeping.

I woke him up at 6:30. It took a good long time to pry ourselves out of bed and get out to get over to the appointed meeting place:


This seemed like a cool place. Naturally, it wasn’t there when I lived there.

Although the restaurant was new, the view across the highway was as familiar as the back of my hand:


I know those mountains. They are what mean mountain to me. I live next to mountains. This is what the mountains look like near me:

They look like they belong in the desert. Because they do. Of course, in deep and rare winters, they have snow on them, and they look like real mountains then:

2007 2008 027

That photo is from deep January, and they never look like that.

The one thing Alaska is good at, that Wasilla is really good at, is mountains.

But it was time for dinner.


Alaska – social engagement (28)

So, the one thing I had actually planned for a time on this trip was to meet a friend from college.

I’ve been talking about all the things I remember from when I lived in Alaska. And you might well imagine that there were people involved in some of these memories. But these people, on the whole, were not people I wanted to see again.

I moved (back) to Alaska with my parents when I was 11. Yes, I had been born there. And I lived there until I was 7. At that point, my parents joined a group of people who felt ‘called’ to establish a church in Humbolt County, California. So we moved down to Hippie Central, California and established a church for four years. But then, things didn’t work out, in a way that was unfortunately painful to my parents.

And their impulse, when thinking of where to hole up and lick their wounds, was Alaska. So, they packed up us kids into a VW van and drove up the Al-Can to re-establish their family in the 49th state.

Which led me to re-experience Alaska anew as an 11-year-old. And eventually led to my parents’ decision to live in the city of Alaskan strip mall, Wasilla.  And it was there that the personal tragedy of Home Schooling took hold.

However, I do remember being really really pleased with my first year of college. First semester of college, 1990, in Mat-Su Community College.

Now, I can see I was a rank Noob about the whole thing. I had found high school to be thoughtlessly easy. Yeah, I had to study, but nothing that required any more attention than I usually gave to whatever novel I was reading. And homeschool was an entirely part-time endeavor. Start at 9, done at noon.

COLLEGE, though, that was the desired and feared obstacle at the end of the prison of homeschooled high school. I had the impression that college was hard and that it was serious and that I would have to work at it. And that if I screwed up in college it would be unsalvageable. On my permanent record.

After all, not only was college work supposedly harder than anything I’d done in High School, it was also the den of Satan where I would fall into the clutches of secular humanists and Evolutionists. I had my doubts about  that, but that idea had been expounded from so many sides for so long, I couldn’t entirely dismiss it.

So, in cautious preparation, I informed my mother that I would be taking the minimum of courses the first semester. The math went like this: 12 credits was technically a full-time student for the purposes of the Pell Grant, my educational sponsor. But for the first time, I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t screw it up. I wasn’t going to go full-time. Just 9 units for me, and I would fully fund it.

“Mom, I don’t know how well I’m going to do in School. Maybe College will be really hard. I’m just going to take it easy for the first semester and only take 9 units.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”


and none of the answers satisfied me. I remember the classes I took:

English  (composition)



Here is me, at the start of my first college semester:
mat-su student ID

Note the tufts of curly hair sticking out of my quasi-fro. It’s as if I were a fledgling bird moulting the last baby feathers.

Just for some perspective, the next semester, barely 3 months later, I had acquired a better polish:


Those were simpler times. The blurred-out section in these college IDs was where the authorities had put my social security number. The WHOLE THING!

Anyway, the first semester of college was fantastic. I learned things, I spent time around other people and life was exciting.

I honestly do not remember meeting or befriending any females at the time. You would think that typing class in particular would have been rife with possibility for female friendship. It certainly was overwhelmingly attended by women. There was only one guy in the class:


Fact was, Ray was super cool. He was simply too much fun to talk to. The females in the class terrified me. They seemed to be blonde, eyelinered, and hairsprayed within an inch of the planets ozone depletion.

And Ray was interesting, full of dry humor and snarky comments. Truly, now that I think about it, he may have been the very first guy to introduce me to my life-long preference for the companionship of smart nerdy men.

Girls I can take or leave, but put me next to a smart nerdy guy, and I’m immediately charmed.

So Ray and I hung out and talked during the breaks of typing class. And often, after class was over, we’d walk together to the computer lab. I was taking a computer class too. The computer class was definitely the most challenging class.

I wish I had worked harder at it. But the nice men in the computer lab were so helpful I left that class having turned in very little of my own work. I wanted to understand what the class was teaching, but  the guys explained the concepts by showing me how to do it, and before I knew it they had DONE the work and were saying “See?” Only I didn’t really. But the homework was done and I got an A.

Personal nerdom was yet to come.

Anyway, Ray and I kept in touch over the years through email and IMming. I hadn’t really kept in touch with anybody else from college.  So, this first night, I wanted to see Ray again face to face and catch up–holy god, EIGHTEEN YEARS after we first met.

We’d arranged to meet at the Trout House, a cafe that had not existed when I lived in Wasilla. He’d bring along his wife, and Chris would get to come too.

As long as we woke up on time.

Alaska -home sweet hotel (27)

Back to Bogard road and our hotel and pending BED.

We got in and the young lady who was running the hotel was behind. But she kindly gave us a room that was ready to be occupied instead of the one the computer had assigned us.

A key…metal and on a chain…was given to us and we entered our room rolling our bags behind us.

The room was better than I would have thought. We had a whole little kitchen, fridge, oven and all.

“Look!” I said to Chris. “We have three closets!”

“Why would you need three closets?” he wondered.

“Well, you need a place to hang your moose!”

Chris, my clean-cat husband, went to shower after the world’s longest day. I collapsed on the bed. The joy of soft horizontality seeped into my muscles and bones for a good ten minutes. Then I realized my skin needed a rest too, and I hoisted my weary bones up to find my satin jammies.

THEN, approximately 30 hours since I last slept in a bed, I fell wholly asleep.


So, I feel like cooking.

They say that pregnancy makes you feel like nesting, and that may have something to do with it. But pregnancy is a great guilt reliever when it comes to dieting or discipline with food moderation.

I get to eat! My huge hips are GOOD all of a sudden.

So, I now would like too cook all those forbidden things that I normally avoid on my usual constant diet.




Cakes and brownies!

Perhaps I should venture into homemade macaroni and cheese. I could get really good at that in the next few months. Who DOESN”T like mac ‘n’ cheese? and for the next couple months, it is a permitted food.

But here’s the thing:

1. It’s hot

2. Our oven is broken

The oven has been temperamental since we moved in here. Mostly, we use the oven to reconstitute frozen pizza, so it hasn’t hampered our lifestyle too much. It gets in the way if we ever want to host a meal here. So, mostly we don’t.

But! I want to cook, already.

I should just call a repair man and have him fix it. I’d LOVE to have some popovers.

Alaska – lunch (26)

“So where do you want to eat?” Chris asked.

After the longest day of my life, spent mostly in the rain, all I wanted was a bowl of chicken soup. But i knew Chris would want a hamburger.

“Why don’t you get a soup from the deli here, and then meet me at the Carl’s Jr.?”

Freaky thought that Wasilla has a Carl’s Jr. But that was a good idea. He could have his hamburger and I could join him with the soup.

“Can you make it across the parking lot?” He was makign sure I was okay.

“I think so.”

So I got a big bowl full of soup and ventured across the parking lot. It was larger than it looked. But I made it there before Chris had his burger.

11:30 and we still had a half hour to go. We cooled our heels until we could finally get into the hotel.

Alaska – the everything store (25)

“Well, what should we do then?” Chris asked.

It wasn’t quite 10, and the motel said that we wouldn’t have a room until noon. It still wasn’t quite time for lunch, so we had yet another hour to kill.

“We should go back and see Fred Meyer’s. We can shop until it’s time for lunch.”

Wasilla had more places to shop than when I lived there. Wasilla has a right to be called, even if my no one else but me, the Strip Mall of Alaska. The ‘strip’ would be the Parks Highway, but still.  They’d closed down the real non-strip mall of my youth, but in an early trend adopting move, they’d fully stocked the area with big  box stores. A full Sears, a full Super Walmart, a Home Depot, the already discussed Carr’s grocery store. And then there is Fred Meyer’s.

There had been a Fred Meyer’s in Anchorage for a long time, even when I was a teenager. But when I was an adult (barely) they opened it up to be a full service Fred’s. Grocery store!

So that was ..gasp…15 years ago. And Fred Meyer’s has made a good relationship with Alaska. On their website they advertise bush delivery. Next day even, as long as the bush  planes are flying.

I had been wanting Chris to see the inside of a Fred’s. I’d described it to him before, but really, it was something you have to experience.

Where we live now, Super Walmarts are feared and protested against.  In fact, there was a long grocery store strike because the owners were tightening belts against the onslaught of Walmart carrying grocery-store items. The workers struck for cherry benefits, and it went on for months. In the end, the workers just gave up because unions have little-to-no power on the west coast anymore.

Anyway, the Super Walmart idea is to have a full grocery store with dairy, produce and everything in the same store with all the usual Walmart things–which means everything.

Chris and I had encountered a super Walmart on our trip to Yellowstone in Bozeman Montana. But Bozeman is small. And their walmart was small,  comparatively.

As a shopper, I was familiar with the idea of having everything in one store-BECAUSE I’D EXPERIENCED IT IN FRED MEYERS. In Anchorage. I thought it was a great idea, very convenient and it should come to Los Angeles already.

I hadn’t been to Wasilla since the Fred’s opened there. I wondered what this one would look like.

So I wanted Chris to see this. We wound our way back to the Fred Meyers and entered through the side next to the garden center.

Garden center! Landscaping. My former city was civilizing itself. Hard to believe.

So we went inside, and beheld a store that had a slightly more finished interior than a Costco. The floors were covered, not just plain concrete, and the shelved contained inventory that was not still Plastic-wrapped. But that was the extent of the polish.

Directly in front of us were couches. Full upholstered, huge-armed couches that Chris and I had learned to associate with living rooms that were not cramped for space. To the right, we saw large packages of assorted fireworks. To the left, fishing tackle and hip-waders.

We walked over to the couch. “Not bad.” I said.

Further on we found an entire aisle of identical dining chairs stacked seat to seat. Further on was an aisle of insect repelling devices.

“We need to get you a maternity muumuu from Alaska” Chris was delighted with the thought. “Where are the clothes?”

We walked through aisles of dizzying diversity, took a right at the deli, bakery, and espresso counter and found the clothes. We looked through the ladies section, and though there was a large selection of large sizes, I couldn’t find the maternity.

I spotted a store employee and asked her “Where is your maternity section?”

“We don’t have one.”



I guess it wasn’t an everything store after all.

Xtian confidence

It occurred to me, while I was pondering my usual frustrations, that it might behoove me to find something else to do with my frustration.

Like, you know, Jesus was surrounded by people who _I_ would have found frustrating. What was UP with those Pharisees? In power, and torturing the people with all these crazy rules that were not only distracting but harmful.

And he did, every once in a while, give them the what-for. But not nearly as often as you might think.

So, as I consider my reaction to frustrating…evil?…people, I think I would prefer to be more like Jesus.

And then, I thought about how he handled it, as compared to how I handle it. I mean, I think I torture my friends by double-checking my reactions to thing.

But I really can’t see Jesus doing that. I can’t see him saying to his disciples, “I don’t know…What do you think?”

He didn’t need to get affirmation to know what he knew was right. Jesus was very confident.

And maybe that can be a good thing to emulate. Not retreading worn ground. I know what’s right, and I know what’s wrong. I also know what is in my power to change, and what isn’t.

Jesus was also kinda patient. So, I guess I should learn how to wait.

Because endless frustration is not how I want to spend my time. I can just be confident that with patience the good things will come. Or at least I can try.

Ron Clark

So I have finished watching a Johnson&Johnson TV special called “The Ron Clark Story”.

I include that it’s a Johnson&Johnson special because I want to make sure to convey the treacle that this story is filled with.

It’s about a teacher who gives up a job in a quiet little town and follows his dream (why is this his dream?) to teach a class in New York, oh no, not just New York but deep dark scary


Now, he is tried and tested and perseveres and all those troubled kids learn to do well in their end of the year standardized tests.

I bought it. I bought it and kinda teared up more than once.

It’s tried and true and it is so cliche, but I believe in what he’s selling. And I believe even more than the cliche.

Why is it that teachers are the easy target? Why is it that this story has to be thrown so low and slow?

Is it because no one could possibly disagree that CHILDREN need to be encouraged and nurtured and that CHILDREN are required to do their best, their best at all sorts of things that they don’t even enjoy, whether that be math or english, P.E. or learning to sit still while someone else is talking?

Children must learn, because…because…Because they will need it when they become adults!

I went to the library this week and got a book The Courage to be Brilliant. I am not usually inclined to self help books, but the title appealed to me. It rang true. I know that it takes courage to push to your best, to push past the people around you. It takes courage to face people that don’t want change, and don’t want you to challenge them. Did I say Challenge? Maybe ‘shame’ them it what I really mean.

I read a bit of the book and felt pretty inspired. Let’s just say it’s been a rough month at work. On a lunch run, I brought it up.

“Ben, I got this book from the library: “The courage to be brilliant.” I was thinking about telling you about it so that you could come up with reasons against it.”

“No, that sounds like a great book! really, that seems like something that would be really good.”

I smiled at him, waiting. He went on, “But you know, you have to learn to accept that if you don’t have what it takes you really can’t be ‘brilliant’. I can practice the piano all day long and never be John Coltrane.”

I left the mixed metaphor alone and said, “That’s a logical fallacy. If I say, ‘I can never write like Shakespeare, so my writing will never be brilliant’ then I am equivocating. I place brilliance in a category that is unattainable and therefore excuse myself from ever having to try.”

Ben: “But you have to know your limitations! You can’t go around just thinking you can be brilliant because you want to. I wanted to be an animator when I was a kid, but as hard as I tried I had to accept that I was never going to make a living at it.”

“Why do you think that you have to make a living at something to be brilliant?”

“Well, I just know I’m never going to be an Ansel Adams”

Adams didn’t start out as Adams either. “Ben, I read an essay by a famous photographer and he described how he learned to do his job. He said that he was crap at first and had no talent whatsoever. The essay was called “The myth of Talent,” because he declared there is no such thing as talent. It’s all just hard work and motivation.”

“I don’t believe that. You have to have some talent to be brilliant. Like, I’m sorry Murphy, you can work as hard as you want and never be a brilliant Long Jumper.”

“But why does the standard of brilliance have to be about the audience? It’s really about personal best. Because if you don’t work towards personal best you’ll never get to the point of recognition.”

I work with this guy, so I knew it would end up like this.

One of the things that the book says is that if you accept mediocrity in your life, it spills over. That mediocrity will pull.

I have fought so hard to hard to acheive excellence..Brilliance?..in my workplace. I know the inertia I’m fighting against. And I don’t know if I’ll ever get very far.

But Mr. Clark, you had it right. Dream Big and Take Risks. I say, that goes for everything. I want to achieve brillance in my creative work. But the 40+ hours I spend at my job will drag me down in all other areas if I don’t push for excellence there too.

The kids in harlem didn’t have anyone rooting for them. And the people at work don’t even want things to get better.

That’s not the point. Applause is not the point.

I’m the point. Me trying and feeling good about myself is the point. Even though I am not in the 6th grade anymore.


Alaska – Palmer, the civilized city (24)

I showed Chris where to find the Palmer-Wasilla Highway. It’s not really a highway, just a substantial road (meaning two lanes with the occasional turn lane).

It was drizzling.

Palmer is really close to Wasilla. It’s a farm town, though, and was started by “the colony”. During the depression, President Roosevelt tried anything he could think of to boost the economy and called these collective stabs in the dark “The New Deal.”

Palmer was one of those deals. He persuaded a bunch of down and out farmers that Alaska couldn’t possibly be colder than the midwest in the winter, so why not go? He would give them a place to live and 40 acres for free. Remember, this was before Alaska was a state (1935). I cannot imagine why this would give the economy any kind of boost. But, hey, I wasn’t there.

A bunch of families from Minnesota in particular, and surrounding states, came up to Palmer and were housed in a tent city to await their 40 acres (no mule). This was not what they had in mind. True, the winters in Palmer were actually less cold than the winters in Minnesota. But the SUMMERS! summers are far far far less warm. So far less warm that tent living was not a pleasure.

Some of the people stayed. Many left. Palmer was peopled by folks who understood what a town was for and why it might be a good idea. Civilization was not something that the Palmer farmers were running from.

Therefore, there were houses of a certain vintage in the area. Original Colony Houses. These houses had a kind of charm that made them very distinctive in their surroundings. They would have been unremarkable if located in North Dakota or Minnesota, but architecture and homeyness was scarce in Alaska.

So, Palmer has a fairly concentrated downtown area. They boast a soda fountain, a fabric store, near the library and post office and train station

And a Carr’s grocery store and a McDonald’s across the street is around the corner.

Palmer did not have a mall, or the many big box stores that Wasilla has.

“This does look a little more like a town,” Chris admitted.

“We never came here,” I said. “I guess it was too far away, and we just didn’t have a reason. I guess I remember coming for special things, like maybe for 4-H.”

“What else is there to see here?”

“Um…” I said. “This is it.”