Columns 2003

Holiday often brings no joy to troubled children

As best we can, those of us who work with troubled and abused kids try to get them as close to home as possible for the holiday season.  It just seems wrong to leave a kid in detention over Christmas if it can be avoided.

Often, we can’t actually let the kid go home for a variety of reasons – some related to the child and some related to the conditions in the parental home.  But we try to find someplace close by where they can feel it’s at least a little bit like Christmas.

Working with village kids makes

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Columns 2003

Holocaust museum creates feeling of horror

I think it was the picture of the kids that got to me and bought it all down to a painfully human level.  My sister has a similar picture in her living room.  It’s a picture of six cousins lined up on Cayuga Street in Philadelphia sometime in the very early fifties.  One cousin, Joe, has struck a bratty pose with a hand behind his head and another on his hip. The rest of us, my cousins Marina, Toni, Joe (a very common name in our family), my brother Philip and I, all stood obediently in a row smiling at

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Columns 2003

Accordion and Mr. Whitekeys bring back childhood memories

When my brother and I were growing up, my mother worked very hard to instill some culture in us. She didn’t want us to be street kids.  One of the ways she sought to achieve this goal was through music lessons.  I took piano lessons, and for reason known only to her and her god, she made my brother take accordion lessons.

Truth to be told, I was jealous of him. I just had a boring old brown piano to play on. But mom bought him a gold and white accordion that had glitter and buttons and straps and all

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Columns 2003

Family makes holiday table complete

Since mom’s death, my sister, brother and I have gotten into the pattern of spending Thanksgiving together.  Christmas is not a holiday I enjoy, and after spending one with me recently, my sister suggested I just shut myself up for the season so as not to poison it for others.

But I like Thanksgiving. To me it’s the perfect holiday.  Not too much decorating.  No presents to buy.  And, if you’re lucky, a great meal full of traditions and memories that stretch back through your whole life.  What’s not to like?

One year Judy came to Alaska to share Thanksgiving

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Columns 2003

Kennedy assasination remembered

I was a seventeen year old high school senior getting ready for opening night of my high school play the day Kennedy was shot. I recently found the paper I wrote that year about those events.  Kennedy’s death was a defining moment in American life whether you liked him or not. It marked the end of the 50s and the beginning of a decade that, for better or for worse, would redefine America.

Here, edited for length, is some of what I wrote then.  The piece starts as we are finishing final rehearsal for the play.

Just before we began

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Columns 2003

Remote villages offer no safe place for victims of domestic violence

The November 2, 2003 front page of the Anchorage Daily News featured a story on village justice.  It related the difficulties faced by small villages in coping with violence when they have no police and a trooper is stationed a plane ride away if the weather is good.  As always, the main violence encountered in these villages is alcohol fueled domestic abuse.

You would think that living near family would provide a buffer zone for abused women in small villages because they would always have somewhere to go. But the truth of the matter is that in most Native villages

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Columns 2003

An aging mind is a scary thing

One of my friends recently announced she was moving to Tucson, Arizona.  Too bad she’s not moving to Phoenix.  Because that’s where I’ve placed her in my head. And once she’s been placed there in my mind, it’s a pretty good bet she will be retired and living in the Bahamas before I correctly remember her new hometown.

I don’t know why Phoenix got stuck in my mind other than it being the first Arizona city I think of when I think of Arizona cities, which is admittedly not all that often.  But I have found that as I get

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Columns 2003

“Handicapped” aunt sure didn’t act that way

When my aunt contracted polio as a child in the early years of the last century, the idea of any special accommodations for people with handicaps was still over 50 years away. So she grew up learning how to make do in a world that didn’t quite know what to do with her, the braces on her legs, or the limits they imposed.

We now live in a country where every new public building automatically accommodates handicap needs thanks to federal law mandating that it must.  If there are stairs in the building, you’ll find a ramp or an elevator

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Columns 2003

Being responsible is our family curse

According to Newsweek Magazine (Oct. 13), in the face of natural disaster Americans stock up on batteries, water and Pop-Tarts.  Yes, Pop-Tarts.  A wholesale club back east noticed a 20% jump in sales of Pop-Tarts right before a hurricane. The theory for the jump is that they are cheap, stay fresh up to a year and are tasty even when not toasted.

The government apparently approves of this because they fit the government requirement to have “high energy, stress/comfort foods” around in case a hurricane is about to blow you to Kansas or a nuclear bomb is threatening to rearrange

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Columns 2003

E-mail – what did we do without it?

Septentrion (sep-TEN-tree-on) noun – the north.  From Latin septentrionalis, from septentrio, singular of septentriones, originally septem triones, the seven stars of the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear, from septem (seven) and triones (a team of three plow oxen. These are the principal stars of the Great Bear, which is located in the region of the north celestial pole. These stars are more commonly perceived as the Big Dipper.

I learned all that and much, much more about the word septentrion, which I’d never heard of before, thanks to an e-mail buddy.  It’s the kind of critical e-mail that I

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