Sunday, September 28, 2008

Blueberry Bash

It's blueberry season in Unalaska! The annual Blueberry Bash is a long-standing tradition, featuring a competition for the best cake, pie, tart, muffin, jam, jelly, syrup, the LARGEST blueberry, inedible items such as photos of blueberries or hand crafted blueberry themed entries and more. We love our blueberries! Individuals guard their secret blueberry-picking locations and their secret recipes. Some participants seem to win one category or another (or sometimes more than one!) every year. Rich and I have been judges in the past (what a job!) but this is the first time we've entered the contest. We spent a lot of hours yesterday working on our entries--Rich made two items: a blueberry lemon tart with almond flour crust and honey mascarpone cream, and blueberry s'mores consisting of white chocolate mousse, honey graham cookies, blueberries, and toasted marshmallows. I decided to make blueberry pumpkin muffins with a pecan struesel topping and blueberry flavored icing. Upon tasting my muffins, I realized that they had an overriding pumpkin and spice flavor and blueberry was certainly not in the forefront. Ooops. Guess I should have tried that recipe a week ago! Overnight I either had a dream or a thought while half asleep that I should just embrace the pumpkin flavor and go with it, naming my entry "Thanksgiving Breakfast Muffins." LOL

This morning, we finished everything up and rushed over to the high school to submit our entries around 1:30 PM. Rich took some flak from people saying he should not be allowed to enter (we THINK they were mostly joking!) since he is a professional chef. He had to keep saying, "I am not a pastry chef; it's an even playing field!"

The competition is divided into several categories so items may be measured against like items. Rich was entered in the Pies and Tarts category and in Desserts. I was in Breads and Muffins, preferring not to compete with my husband (hmmm, maybe I believe that thing about him having an edge, too!) At 3 PM, the room was full of people chatting, kids running around, judges patting their full bellies and everyone waiting to hear the results.

Third place in Pies and Tarts goes to Richard Bye! And third place in Breads and Muffins goes to Jane Bye! Woohooo! We were just having fun, but a prize is nice, too. I was completely shocked that Rich's blueberry s'mores did not win anything (in fact, we thought they had a better chance than his tart did) but that's okay. Now no one can say that he has anything over those serious home bakers, can they?!

Debate Watch Party

We had a great time gathering together to watch the Presidential debate on Friday night. Our little community has some committed individuals who are working hard to get the word out about why we think Barack Obama should be the next President of the United States. On Saturday, two of us were trained to be volunteer voter registrars. Yeah, it's pretty late, with the deadline fast approaching on October 5. Since Rich and I were out on vacation, I feel like I am running way behind on organizing!

Our push between now and Oct. 5 will be registering as many voters as we can possibly reach. I can't stress how important it is for all of you to REGISTER if you have not already done so, and to encourage everyone around you to get registered!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Guest Blogger Susan Reports from Ole Miss

My good friend Susan teaches social work at Ole Miss, scene of last night's presidential debate. With her permission, I am reprinting part of an email she sent to family and friends, and some photos from campus yesterday. Thanks, Susan! I am so proud that social workers have always been on the forefront of creating change and you are preparing the next generation to carry it on.

Live from the Grove at the University of Mississippi: "I cannot tell you how exciting it was today to be in the midst of history. I went up to the Grove at 10 as social work students were in Issues Alley addressing poverty. I went intending to only stay a couple of hours to support the students, but got so caught up in it I ended up staying until 4:30. It was just incredible, the energy and excitement, talking to people, marching together, seeing people walk by who nodded support, took pictures. Folks with all kinds of issues present! It was just great to be with my colleagues today, and students, and see other people of like mind. I have come to love Mississippi and the hope for a better future here for our children. I was caucus leader yesterday in the Mississippi Youth and Children Convention, addressing major concerns affecting children in Mississippi and the nation. Then today, to actually be in the midst of all the people who are working for change was incredible."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Porch Flowers, Fresh Produce, To Debate or Not to Debate, and a Book Recommendation

I am happy that our flowers are still blooming. Notice I caught a photo of Rich taking photos. :) Most of these are his, but I took a few myself. When we were in Nova Scotia last year, he bought some Atlantic lupine seeds to see if we could grow any in Alaska (since we have our own variety of lupines here). The photo on the seed packet shows yellow and red blooms as well as the typical purple that we are familiar with. As you can see, only the purple ones seem to be coming out. Maybe the rest will show up before it gets too cold!

Our second box of fresh organic produce arrives tomorrow, just in time, since we have about finished off all of the goodies from the first one.

Interesting news that McCain is trying to call off the debate. We have a debate watch party planned for Friday night and will use that time to finalize the rest of our activities for the home stretch of the campaign. If the debate doesn't happen, I think we will still get together and work on our letter writing project. We are sending Unalaska postcards from AK women to women in swing states, letting them know why we are supporting Obama. If you want to do something similar, look on the candidate's website for Women for Obama. It's fun and it's easy and you can make a difference!

I am always running behind on reading. Just finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which I believe was published in 2006. A young girl, Nazi Germany, sweet relationships, the power of words, small miracles, heart wrenching experiences, good vs. evil on Himmel (which means 'heaven') Street, stolen books and stolen lives, narrated in a weary yet sometimes funny and sarcastic voice by Death itself all combined to make this one of the most memorable books I've read in a long time. I wish I hadn't waited so long!

Speaking of books, our local book club starts back up on Sunday night (we take the summer off) and I haven't even found the first book yet. In fact, I don't even remember what it is. Not a good sign.

Hope everyone is having a good night. :)

Monday, September 22, 2008

White Privilege

Okay, I guess I am going to be a little more political in the next several weeks. You will have to bear with me!

I am getting so many good forwards that I cannot resist posting some of them. My good friend and fellow social worker, Courtney, sent this one to me today. In social work, we deal with the reality of white privilege every day. As a white person, I know that I am afforded certain privileges based only on the color of my skin. It's hard for people to understand and hard to 'get it' sometimes. This essay by Tim Wise lays it out for us.

I didn't know who Tim Wise was, so I looked him up at He has written and spoken extensively about racism and was an adjunct faculty member at the Smith College School of Social Work (which gives him cred with me) in 2005. At this time, he is the Oliver L. Brown Distinguished Visiting Scholar for Diversity Issues at Washburn University in Topeka, KS. He's a white guy.

Here's his essay:

This is Your Nation on White Privilege
By Tim Wise

For those who still can't grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because 'every family has challenges,' even as black and Latino families with similar 'challenges' are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a 'f***in' redneck,' like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll 'kick their f***in' ass,' and talk about how you like to 'shoot shit' for fun, and still be viewed as a
responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first
place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don't all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you're 'untested.'

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words 'under God' in the pledge of allegiance because 'if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it's good enough for me,' and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the 'under God' part wasn't added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and
terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school, requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto is 'Alaska first,' and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she's being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you're being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college and the fact that she lives close to Russia--you're somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don't even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because suddenly your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a 'second look.'

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn't support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is when you can take nearly twenty-four hours to get to a hospital after beginning to leak amniotic fluid, and still be viewed as a great mom whose commitment to her children is unquestionable, and whose 'next door neighbor' qualities make her ready to be VP, while if you're a black candidate for president and you let your children be interviewed for a few seconds on TV, you're irresponsibly exploiting them.

White privilege is being able to give a 36 minute speech in which you talk about lipstick and make fun of your opponent, while laying out no substantive policy positions on any issue at all, and still manage to be considered a legitimate candidate, while a black person who gives an hour speech the week before, in which he lays out specific policy proposals on several issues, is still criticized for being too vague about what he would do if elected.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God's punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you're just a good church-going Christian, but if you're black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you're an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a 'trick question,' while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O'Reilly means you're dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to go to a prestigious prep school, then to Yale and then Harvard Business school, and yet, still be seen as just an average guy (George W. Bush) while being black, going to a prestigious prep school, then Occidental College, then Columbia, and then to Harvard Law, makes you 'uppity,' and a snob who probably looks down on regular folks.

White privilege is being able to graduate near the bottom of your college class (McCain), or graduate with a C average from Yale (W.) and that's OK, and you're cut out to be president, but if you're black and you graduate near the top of your class from Harvard Law, you can't be trusted to make good decisions in office.

White privilege is being able to dump your first wife after she's disfigured in a car crash so you can take up with a multi-millionaire beauty queen (who you go on to call the c-word in public) and still be thought of as a man of strong family values, while if you're black and married for nearly twenty years to the same woman, your family is viewed as un-American and your gestures of affection for each other
are called 'terrorist fist bumps'

White privilege is being able to sing a song about bombing Iran and still be viewed as a sober and rational statesman, with the maturity to be president, while being black and suggesting that the U.S. should speak with other nations, even when we have disagreements with them, makes you 'dangerously naive and immature.'

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism and an absent father is apparently among the 'lesser adversities' faced by other politicians, as Sarah Palin explained in her convention speech.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren't sure about that whole 'change' thing. Ya know, it's just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain.

White privilege is, in short, the problem.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sarah Palin Does Not Speak for Me

When I started this blog, it was intended to be a way for family and friends to keep up with our life in Alaska. Although those of you who know me well know that I have always been pretty left wing in my politics ("voting Democratic is a move to the right for me," is my favorite quote), I have specifically chosen not to write a lot about politics in the blog. My family and good friends run the gamut of the political spectrum and I did not want this blog to be a vehicle of discord and argument. Although I may not always agree with the thoughts and opinions of everyone who reads this, I think it is fine to agree to disagree and to love each other anyway. Of course, since the Convention was a big deal and a part of our vacation, we did post about that experience and I hope that it was at least interesting, even if you are not a Democrat! :)

However, as a woman and as a person who lives in Alaska, I really just cannot be silent any longer on the issue of Sarah Palin for vice president. I have heard many of the pro Palin comments and I respect the idea that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I hope that I can be given the same respect for mine. There seems to be a sense that many women and many Alaskans are jumping for joy at the candidacy of Ms. Palin. I want to help lay that to rest.

I find it insulting that McCain and/or his advisors seem to believe that women will vote for anyone with a uterus. Yes, I would love to see a woman in the White House, hopefully within my lifetime. I think there are many intelligent, capable, amazing women who will do the office of President or VP proud. But I, and many others, are not voting based on gender alone. Although I respect all that Hillary Clinton has accomplished, I have supported Barack Obama all along. At our local caucus back in February, that raised a few eyebrows among some women who supported Hillary and thought it was disloyal for a woman NOT to. I certainly feel the desire to be supportive of my sisters and to do everything I can to end discrimination against women, which has plagued our society for so long and continues to do so. However, I cannot let my loyalty to my gender overshadow my concern for moving the country forward and I believe that Obama is the right candidate for that task.

It is also silly to think that just because we live in Alaska, we will support the ticket with the Alaskan on it. No real need to go into that, I hope!

If gender and geography do not sway me, then we turn to the issues. I have many points of disagreement with both McCain and Palin. As for Palin specifically, I don't believe that she is qualified to be vice president and believe that she was chosen only to rally either the extreme right wing who have not supported McCain very enthusiastically, or in an attempt to sway women for the Republicans. I don't believe that "executive" experience as a small town mayor (where she hired an administrator to help run the city) and two years as governor of Alaska give her sufficient experience to be VP. If she were qualified to be VP and even President should something happen to McCain, why could she not talk with the press, answer questions from citizens, or participate in interviews right off the bat? The American people have the right to know about her knowledge, experience, and stance on issues. By the time she had an interview with Charlie Gibson, she was so scripted and unnatural that many of us in Alaska found it amazing and amusing. And even the preparation did not help her to know what the Bush Doctrine is, and could not pad her resume enough to avoid the embarrassing assertion that living next to Russia somehow counts as foreign policy experience. For those of you who say that lots of people don't know what the Bush Doctrine is, lots of people are not running for VP.
One of the biggest problems I have with her right now is her handling of the so-called "Troopergate" issue in Alaska. Way before she was VP nominee, this story was statewide news, though maybe not national news. We were already following it before the McCain campaign came to town and changed the scene. When Walt Monegan was fired as Public Safety Director, the only thing the governor's office said was that it wanted to go in a different direction and offered him another job in state government, which he refused. If he was such a rogue employee, why in the world would she offer him another job? She also agreed early on that she would participate fully in the investigation and that she had nothing to hide regarding allegations that she or individuals in her administration attempted to use their influence to get her former brother in law fired. The process was moving along until she became the VP nominee. Now suddenly there is all of this stonewalling and refusal to participate, claiming partisanship and crying foul. What changed? And why does the McCain campaign think it can come to Alaska and dictate what happens in a state issue? I thought the Republicans were the ones who believe in 'state's rights' and the federal government keeping its fingers out of state business?

Ahhh, earmarks. Should we even talk about the "bridge to nowhere" and Palin telling the feds, "thanks, but no thanks"? That's a blatant lie. The Republicans went after John Kerry with a vengeance for being a "flip flopper" on the war. Guess what? Palin was FOR the bridge before she was AGAINST it and only against it once it became an embarrassment for the state. And we still kept most of the money. Go figure.

I disagree with her position on the war in Iraq, I disagree that being next door to Russia counts as foreign policy experience, I disagree with censorship in libraries (no, she didn't have a chance to actually do it, but she certainly checked out the possibility), I think human beings DO contribute to global warming, I think sex ed in schools would help prevent unwanted pregnancies and yes, prevent abortions, when we know that "just say no" does not really work in many circumstances, I think the polar bears are endangered, I don't think that "drill, baby, drill" will solve our problems (especially not immediately) and we need to be looking at alternative sources of energy, I don't believe in hunting wolves from planes, and I think gay people should be able to get married if they want to. There's more, but you know what, those are enough reasons for me to say that I am not willing to vote for McCain/Palin. I am speaking about Palin in this entry but I will just say that I have never supported McCain, regardless of his running mate, but this choice just demonstrates to me how low he is willing to sink in order to try to win the presidency. I cannot believe that he has the country's best interest at heart if he is willing to cast aside many good choices of a running mate in order to try to woo certain constituents. This is not being a "maverick," this is irresponsible.

As a social worker, I was SO highly offended by Palin and Guiliani making fun of community organizers during their speeches at the Republican Convention. Community organizing is a huge part of social work and among the best traditions of social work. Community organizers have helped people obtain rights and services, have assisted people who were marginalized and oppressed, have helped communities pull together and take on huge issues like clean water, children's health needs, employment discrimination, public safety, voting rights, racial and ethnic discrimination and so on. For goodness sakes, if you think about it, the PTA does community organizing, churches do community organizing, the right to life movement does community organizing, the NRA does community organizing, veterans do community organizing. Their own party does community organizing (what do you think "get out the vote" is?) and yet they try to make it a dirty word somehow because Barack Obama worked with poor people in Chicago? I promise you, if I had any respect for Sarah Palin, I lost it at that moment. She's been a community organizer herself and doesn't even know it.

I do agree that we should not ask Palin any questions about "can you handle the vice presidency along with raising a family?" if we are not willing to ask those same questions of a man. I think candidates should be treated equally, regardless of gender, which means that they should all have the same level of scrutiny and should not be allowed to cry "unfair" if they are asked hard questions. I do think her children should be granted a great deal of privacy, unless she chooses to put them in the spotlight herself and then I think we have the right to ask questions. I feel sorry for her 17 year old pregnant daughter who has been thrust into the limelight as the poster child for the pro-life movement. Bless her heart; can you imagine how she must feel? I wonder a bit about a parent who is willing to put her own child through that sort of scrutiny and gossip and innuendo for the sake of mom's political aspirations. I think it's a wonderful personal decision that the Palins chose to have a baby they knew had Down syndrome and I know that Trig will get everything that he needs. But I used to work at a physical rehab facility in Texas and I know how hard it is for every-day people to obtain all of the services that their special needs children have to have--the cost, the run around and denials from insurance companies, the frustration with eligibility requirements for state programs, the lack of funding for equipment and medications and physical therapy and special education, the lack of support for working parents to take time off with their child, the stress, the fears, the absence of emotional support. Most kids are not fortunate enough to have a person of power for a parent, so I count on the Democrats to be the real champions of children's services, health care, and education, not the Republicans.

Should a woman be VP or President? Emphatically, YES. Is this the woman for the job? We will all decide that on Nov. 4. I have already made up my mind and I hope you will do some serious soul searching if you have not.

Please click on the blogs listed to the right on this page: Celtic Divas Blue Oasis and Alaska Real, for lots more detailed information and insight from a couple of Alaskans who are posting more than I could possibly summarize here. And they have additional links on their blogs.

Don't be taken in by a pretty face and some funny quips. Sarah Palin does not speak for me, nor does she represent all women in Alaska.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fresh Produce!

We received our first shipment of fresh organic produce from the Full Circle Farm today! Here's what our box contained:

1.5 lbs. freshly dug Yukon Gold potatoes (they still had dirt on them!)
1 cantaloupe
6 Bartlett pears
2 bi-color sweet corn on the cob
2 Japanese eggplant
.75 lb. Romano beans
5 Dapple Dandy pluots
.6 lb. Thompson grapes
1 pt. red grape tomatoes
.34 lb. cut greens salad mix
1 bunch green kale
1 bunch escarole
1 fennel

YUMMY! We picked up a roasted chicken at the store and had a nice salad, along with some grapes, cantaloupe, pears and pluots (had to taste just about everything!) It's all delicious! Now Rich has to dream up something good to make with the veggies. :)

Tomorrow we get to log on and make our choices for next week. What fun!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Medicine Dream and other good things

Home again! Our kitties were glad to see us and our flowers on the porch are still blooming, much to my surprise. It's been cool and rainy since we arrived at home; I am afraid summer is about done. :(

I went right back to work on Thursday and am also taking the after-hours call for the next two weeks. Can't say I am crazy about either one. It started out hectic and hasn't stopped.

Last night we went to see a band called Medicine Dream. The Aleutian Arts Council brought them in to do a concert and it just happened to coordinate with my agency's annual Health Fair today so some of the band members were doing workshops for us this afternoon. Oh my gosh, these guys are GREAT! Most of the members are Alaska Native of various nations, the lead singer is a Native guy from Newfoundland and the lead guitarist is part Aleut, the bass player Yup'ik. They combine rock music with traditional indigenous music and some amazing sounds result. They can rock out, they can play the blues, and they completely respect their Native heritage in all that they play. They are also carrying the message of wellness and wholeness, sobriety and spirituality and reconnecting with culture. A totally positive and uplifting group of guys. They all have "day jobs;" the lead singer is a substance abuse counselor and the guy who plays traditional drums and flutes works at the Southcentral Foundation in the traditional healing department. Those two did a workshop on wellness today but unfortunately I was not able to attend. I did get to talk with the bass player and the drummer out in the hallway--super nice guys who said they were really enjoying being in Unalaska. They have 3 CD's out so I bought their latest one last night and have been playing it today. I wish I had taken my camera and had a picture to post but you can see them on the website--check it out at

So I had to get up early this morning and go work at the health fair but it was fun to be there with lots of people from the community and to put the word out about our services.

My other excitement is that we did finally get signed up for the organic produce that I mentioned awhile back. We should receive our first box this coming Thursday. I am so pumped!!

Rich and I have been talking about our requirements for living somewhere after Unalaska. So far we have a few:
1. Closer to kids and grandkids
2. A nice farmer's market
3. Fast internet
4. Public transportation
5. Reasonable access to a good airport
6. Progressive politics/community activities
7. Not too terribly cold (Jane's requirement, Rich doesn't care)

That's not too much to ask, is it? If you have any suggestions for a wonderful place that meets those criteria, let us know! :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008