The Day of All Saints

Since losing my Mom in March, I have appreciated the gentle guidance of a page-a-day journal called "Healing After Loss." Today's meditation was on the topic of the "communion of saints" — the fellowship between the living and the departed. It was a fitting subject because today, the 1st of November, also happens to be All Saints' Day.

Admittedly, I never really paid much attention to this day of remembrance when I was growing up in the Deep South. It seems I was always recovering from the sugar high of Halloween or more focused on trading candy with my parents and my friends.

I'm thankful that today, my lovely friends, Jenny and Chelsea, introduced me to the tradition of All Saints' Day when they hosted a potluck in honor of the occasion.

Their invitation simply stated, "You are invited to bring anything to share which reminds you of those {saints} you love." I knew instantly what to contribute. That's right, you guessed it: Momma's peach cobbler. Other than that, I wasn't sure what else to expect for the evening.

As folks gathered together in the cozy space of my friends' home, we had a smorgasbord of memorial dishes laid before us — lasagna from a WWII recipe, mashed potatoes with a secret ingredient, broccoli and mayo, white chicken enchiladas, kielbasa in pumpkin porter, grandpa's pecan pie, grandma's peanut brittle, decadent chocolate sauce, and saucy finger lickin' good barbecue ribs.

We sat around eating and sharing our cherished memories and celebrating our Loved Ones. It was a deeply touching evening, one I hope to take part in again next year.

Here's to the blessing of shared memories, warm hugs, and the comforting presence of dear friends. May the memory of your Loved Ones be eternal.


Making Their Case

Thankfully, it happens just once every four years -- the first debate between presidential candidates.  Like many Americans, I am looking forward to this election season being over -- and with just 42 days to go, Election Day can't get here quickly enough.

This evening, my good friend Richard and I co-hosted a viewing party of what turned out to be a rousing debate (no surprise there) between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Richard invited his friends, I invited mine, and it was a wonderful inter-mingling of folks from different backgrounds, everyone eager to listen to our next Commander in Chief (whoever that may be).  

We reserved the "Owner's Box," a big private room at McGivney's Sports Bar and Grill in downtown Juneau.  Hats off to McGivney's staff for their attentive service, especially with my insistence that televisions were all set to different channels, so we could see the variety of coverage.  And, oh, was there a variety of coverage amongst CNN, FOX News, and Free Speech TV!

It was so much fun having a secluded space to broadcast the debate on the multiple big screens.  The reclining theater-style seats were a big hit, too.  Richard's friend, Bev, organized entertaining bingo cards, fortunately taking the place of any drinking game that could have been disastrous.  About 30 people came out for the festivities, and I'm happy to say there was no fighting or bad temperament!

But the best part of the evening here in Juneau?  On the block for the winner of the bingo game: a 1992 vintage Ross Perot sweatshirt, donated from Richard's personal collection.  At the end of the 90-minute debate, I didn't win, but I sure had fun trying.


Mudrooms Defined

A 'mudroom' is a small sheltered spot at the entryway of a home.  It's where you remove muddy shoes and wet raincoats before entering the house.  Before moving to Alaska, I hadn't really ever heard the word 'mudroom.'  I was more familiar with formal foyers and wide open porches, probably because my hometown wasn't nestled in a rainforest. 

Well, mudrooms abound in soggy southeast Alaska.  But the word 'mudrooms' means so much more here in Juneau.  

A few years ago, a couple of inspirational and thoughtful volunteers organized a fundraising event - called "Mudrooms" - centered around Juneauites sharing personal stories.  The idea was modeled after an Anchorage event called "Arctic Entries" and centered around a monthly theme with seven speakers, each having seven minutes to tell their story.  

What began in 2011 as a small intimate gathering in a downtown cafe has blossomed into an eagerly anticipated monthly event that welcomes hundreds of visitors to listen in, both in person and later on the radio. 

To date, "Mudrooms" has raised $60,160, and this Wednesday, September 14 will be the premier event for Season 6.  The theme is "Cheechako," and speakers will be sharing stories of being green in the Great State.  And surprise --- I'll be one of the storytellers!

If you're in Juneau Wednesday evening, please join us at 7pm at the Northern Light United Church (downtown in the Flats).  There will be live music by Njuzu Marimbas, and a $7 cash donation will be collected for the Zach Gordon Youth Center.  If you can't make it, just listen in later to the online archives.  

There are some great stories out there, just waiting to be heard.

Happy Alaska Wild Salmon Day!

Happy Alaska Wild Salmon Day! Alaskans couldn't be prouder of their fish, especially Alaska wild salmon. And what's not to love? It's decadently delicious, superbly succulent, and downright in demand!

Here's a throwback photo to my first time doing field work for Fish and Game. This was a chum salmon tagging project at Douglas Island's Fish Creek. I had never in my life been so up close and personal with a fish!