All material here copyright Jean McDermott. For information on purchasing any article for your publication please use the email link. The language on this site may not be suitable for children or the extremely persnickety.
Jean McDermott is a freelance writer and professional muscian.
I think that the most annoying ads on television, now that the elections are over, are the Target Ads. They've done away with the insane woman, (who gave me the distinct impression she smelled like pee), and now have two younger insane people. They are still using the same perverted renditions of the Hallelujah Chorus and miscellaneous Christmas carols all with words about how they are so excited about Black Friday (that they might pee themselves).
Not I. I will not be getting up before 9 am, mind you forget about going shopping at 5am. Do they think we are crazy. Yes! They do!
I resent the assumption in all those commercials: that buying tons of STUFF will make you happy. That we are all just that greedy. That we would rather go shopping on Thanksgiving (yes, some stores are advertising that their Black Friday begins on Thanksgiving) than spend time with our families, friends, loved ones. Really? Are you really that greedy? I don't think you are.
I've never "done" Black Friday and I never will. The most exciting (though nothing could make me pee myself) present I could get would be seeing three special people step down those stairs at the Fairbanks International Airport: my son, my daughter-in-law and my grandbaby. That would be the best Christmas present ever.
Christmas is about love, whether you celebrate a religious holiday or not. It's all about love. So ask yourself, is buying some Chinese factory-made electronic gizmo or sweatshop clothing really showing love?
Make the love go further than the box. Buy something locally made. Here are some ideas:
1. There are multitudes of arts and crafts fairs going on these days. Attend one. Discover the talent that lives in your city, and find something unique and lovely to give to someone.
2. Buy a gift certificate for a local restaurant. Not only is this a great present, but you might be invited along!
3. Hire a local band or musician for an hour or two of music. Make that dinner together really special.
4. Have your loved ones car detailed. I'd love it if someone would buy this for me!
5. How about music lessons? A month's worth of music lessons is a creative and fun gift.
6. For the person who "has everything" you can make a donation in their name to whichever local charity they appreciate, whether it is Planned Parenthood, Association of Retarded Citizens, Fairbanks Arts Association, Red Cross, Fairbanks Counseling and Adoption, KUAC (local public radio/TV), an animal rescue or Animal Control, or, if you can't figure out which organization would appeal to him/her, donate to United Way. They spread the donations around in your local area.
7. Bake something wonderful, or buy some lovely baked good from a local bakery. Or even buy a gift certificate from the bakery. Yummm!
Once you start thinking "out of the big box" you can find oodles of lovely ways to show someone you love them. And at the same time, you can boost your local economy in a big way. Buying locally also spreads the love both ways, to the seller and to the recipient of the gift. Let's kick Black Friday to the curb and stand up and hug each other, whether it is an economic hug, or a real one, it has real impact.
Show the love. Shop locally, shop American-made this year!
If you missed the first post, go back and read what we are up to here. Basically, if we each buy a measly $64 worth of made-in-the-USA gifts for The Holidays, we can create thousands of jobs.
Don't know what to buy? That's what I'm here for: to remind you of the cool things that are out there.
There are plenty of arts fairs that go on at this time of year. Artisans and craftspeople, artists of all kinds have wonderful things to show you, and, they hope, sell to you.
Over the years I've received several lovely ornaments that can be used as Christmas tree decorations, or part of a mobile, or just an accent around the house.
Hallmark tries to market their mass-produced (probably in China) Christmas ornaments as so very special. But what is more special than an ornament hand-made by a local artist? Each of the pieces on this page probably cost less than something from the Hallmark store, yet each piece is unique.
Handmade crystal ornament that was given to me as a gift from a student. I've long since lost the original tag, but it's very pretty, don't you agree? It's real crystal, not plastic.
I was giving away some items on freecycle.com, and when the woman picked up her items, she gave me this lovely, handmade paper crane ornament.
And my favorite, the chickadee that is carved and painted wood. This was given to me by a friend.
So you see, not all ornaments have to be Santa, or elves or religious figures. Though they can be those things, too. Head on over to the next arts fair you hear of, and see what you find!
It has been a few days since James Holmes, a young man who was a brilliant, budding scientific researcher, dressed himself in black body armor from head to toe, took four guns and killed and injured dozens in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater.
Bullets in a darkened theater delivered by a man dressed black must have been absolutely terrifying. I hate to think of the children who have to live with this for the rest of their lives. I weep with the parents and families of those who killed, and of those who will never be the same for their injuries.
It bothers me that the news stories rarely take into account the victims who survived. These kinds of stories often bring out the black and white dichotomy. Black: the man with the gun, the dead. White: the unharmed and the survivors. But it's not that simple.
The victims who are lying in intensive care at this minute, even those who are not in ICU, but wounded, will sustain physical injuries that may take away their potential almost as cleanly as the gunman took away the entire lives of those who died. These victims will have psychological hurdles, PTSD, any manner of emotional problems to deal with on top of that. Are they lucky? I don't think I'd feel lucky, even though others died. Would you look forward to life as a quadriplegic?
What if you were one of the people who escaped physical harm? Depending on who you are and your state of mental matuity and health, would you be just fine, totally okay? Of course not. I know I'd be afraid of the dark, afraid of crowds, and afraid to go to the movies. Some may barricade themselves at home. Some may need extensive counseling to be able to function on a day to day basis. Some may commit suicide. And some may adjust and be able to move on with their lives.
I don't know these people, but the aftermath of this thing will go on for decades for most of them.
And what of James Holmes? I strongly suspect that he had a psychotic break with the onset of schizophrenia. He's the right age, it often hits in young adulthood. It's not something he could control, and as brilliant as he was, eventually it started controlling him. I heard that he'd started counseling, and I'm sure he was struggling with it before it took over his life and he lost touch with reality. Perhaps he would have committed himself if he had known ahead of time how bad this was going to be.But I bet, being so smart, the thought he could manage. And unfortunately, he was wrong.
I'm interested to find out what his parents have to say. It has been reported that at first, ABC news thought the "James Holmes" that was responsible for the massacre was a different "James Holmes" associated with the Tea Party. I think it was this that caused James Holmes, the student's mother, to call ABC and tell her who she was. I suspect this quote is out of context of a conversation where ABC is trying to make sure that this time they have the right person on the phone, a person related to James Holmes, the shooter. And so she says, "You have the right person." She wasn't saying that the police have the right person, her son. She was saying, "You have the right person," the mother of James Holmes the actual shooter. I could be wrong, but this makes much more sense than the way it was reported.
There is a possibility that she knew something was seriously wrong with her son. But being so far away from him, he in Colorado and she in San Diego, it is doubtful that you can blame her for anything. She probably had an inkling something was wrong. Mothers are like that. Or maybe she was already getting ready to go see James, perhaps he'd made an alarming phone call and she was already making plane reservations. Who knows? But you can't blame her. Until very recently her son was a brilliant student.
What I'm getting at is there are no Bad Guys. No Jokers. No one to blame.
Holmes was secretive, quiet, and outwardly nice, if a little "off," the days before the shooting. When someone is psychotic, it's not always visible. Someone as smart as he is can fool a therapist. Can "pass" among us. It's only when people walk around talking to invisible friends out loud that we really see it. As far as the reports go, James Holmes was acting socially inept, but not unpleasant.
Our local theater is now saying they are going to be scrutinizing everyone who comes into the theater. Well that's stupid. James Holmes came in through the back door, he didn't stand in line in his body armor and carrying all those guns and buy himself a ticket. He sneaked into the theater through the back door emergency exit. We, the theater goers, are being blamed. This is absurd.
Everyone in that theater is a victim. There is no blame that can be assigned. We want to, oh how we want to assign blame! It's a horrendous, nightmarish thing and it makes me cry. I wish that James Holmes had gotten help, had committed himself, or that someone had figured out what was going on with him. Likely this thing came on him slowly and it was too late by the time he was completely out of touch with reality.
Nothing is left but pain and sadness. Pray for everyone in that theatre, including James Holmes. Including the parents and families of every single person there, those who lived, those who will survive, and those who won't.
One last thing. There was a campaign years ago in the 70s when public service messages ran on television. The text was simple: Practice Good Mental Health. It was up to the viewer to figure out what that was. I took that message to heart and began reading (extremely helpful book: Your Erroneous Zones by Dr. Wayne Dyer), getting counseling, and learning how to keep from destructive mental habits, to pay attention to stress and negative thinking. To get help when I needed it.
I can't help but wonder if we need a renaissance of this sort, to encourage people to take care of themselves emotionally, not just physically. No one ever mentions how powerful our thoughts are. Your thoughts and your emotions are who you are. We live inside our heads.
I grew up with a mentally ill parent who never got treatment. I suffered. I vowed never to be like that parent, and I never have been, thanks to that public service announcement. So all of you, ALL of you, take a good look at yourselves and take care of yourselves. It's important.
Don't think I'm saying that this sort of thing could have avoided the theater massacre. I doubt that it would have made a difference. Schizophrenia is a physical illness that no one can cure, and no amount of counseling can "fix." But other emotional problems that can become serious, such as phobias, OCD, depression, violent acting out, and lots more, can be headed off at the pass if you can recognize what's healthy for you and what's not. We can all learnt to take care of ourselves, and each other if we all practice good mental health.
Sometimes it is good to live in a place where the time zone is four hours earlier than the East Coast. That meant I was watching President Obama tell us about the killing of Osama Bin Laden at 7ish or so, instead of midnight. It gave me time to think.
Which time I didn't actually need. How did I feel? Mixed feelings, to put it mildly. Slightly nauseated. Slightly relieved but also disgusted.
I always felt that the reason Osama bin Laden hadn't been killed by our armed forces was because there was a conspiracy or agreement that we would look like we were going after him, but ultimately we wouldn't actually get him. It seemed crazy that one guy could evade an entire government for so long.
On the other hand, the CIA has never been able to get Castro, either. And I'm sure they have tried.
So maybe O bin L really was wiley. Maybe he really was that hard to kill.
Be that as it may, it disturbs me to see people PARTYING over the death of someone. Death is not a partying item. Death is death. Dark, final, and a doorstep to the next world. He will get what is coming to him, be sure of that. I just don't feel like going out in the street and waving a flag.
Don't get me wrong, O bin L was a very bad man, who killed thousands upon thousands, not just in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon but all over the place, Muslims as well as others. And I'm not just talking about his suicide squads, he targeted non-wacko Muslims, too. Not just Americans.
It makes me sick, though, to see people cheering in the streets. O bin L affected my life, yes, by making it horribly inconvenient to take an airplane anywhere. Now I have to have a passport just to drive from Alaska to the Lower 48. It now takes six months to get a passport.
If anyone thinks that this situation is going to change with the death of the head madman, you are mistaken. Now we will walk around fearing retribution from his brother wackos.
It had to be done. Agreed. But you won't see me out in the streets because I just don't feel that way. Instead, last night I said prayers for both the souls of those killed by Osama bin Laden, and for O bin L himself, that he moves on to the next stage of whatever his (insane) journey is. He is out of our world now.
And I will not be seeing the movie that is sure to be made. The title "Hard to Kill" has been taken. But I'm sure they'll come up with something.
Since around 6am this morning it started with freezing rain and as I type it is midnight and the rain hasn't stopped yet. It's so bad that Fairbanks has basically shut down.
I didn't take this picture and I don't know who to credit, but a friend in this area posted it.
This is why no one should go out driving.
Want another example? How about this?
Photo by Tabitha Omeilly. This is Ballaine Road from the top of the incredibly steep hill. It's looks less steep than it really is. In reality that hill is a real killer.
The freezing rain continues to fall, and the temperature keeps hovering around 32°, which means the ice is as slick as it could possibly be. If the temperature would drop to say, 0, or -10 then it would give a the roads a chance to dry out and the ice wouldn't be so slick.
Tomorrow morning I'm going to have to plug in my damn freezer again. Once again, these temperatures are very anomalous!
On the upside, the snow is now wet enough to make a snowman!
The dogs haven't seen it yet, but I bet they kind of freak out about it. If I'm stuck home again tomorrow I'm going to make a SnowDog, or a SnowMoose, or maybe a wife for this snowman.
For the last six or seven years or so, I've been the Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month in the Interior of Alaska. My own novel writing efforts have rather suffered of late, and this year I want to concentrate on finishing rather than coordinating meetings and awarding prizes. Not that awarding prizes isn't fun, it is! I think the most popular prize last year were two great, huge pomegranates that I picked up at Safeway on my way to the meeting.
It's been lots of fun, actually. You aren't required to buy prizes for the writers, but it does help get folks to come to the write-ins. Fruit is a great motivator, here in the dark winter of the arctic. I think most of us go around severely fruit-deprived anyway, so something fresh like that is, well, fresh. I asked for donations toward the prizes last year out of necessity. One year I spent close to $75 on gewgaws and thingers just to spice up Nanowrimo meetings. That year the money came straight out of my pocket. I could afford it and it was fun to shop for toys for folks. But you needn't do any of that, if you have other ideas for motivation. The NaNoWriMo site is chock-a-block with ideas for fun and productivity.
I hope that someone, possibly someone reading this blog, will step up and take the reins this year. That someone needs to be organized, even-handed, and positive. He or she should take the rules for MLs seriously. You must be truly working on a novel yourself, for one thing. Here, directly from the NaNoWriMo site are the requirements for being an ML. Look it over! Note, you must have already done NaNoWriMo before. Read on. I will be more than happy to talk with anyone who wants to do this.
Here’s who we’re looking for:
You're over 18 years old. We know our younger crew is full of
boundless energy and great ideas, we just don’t want to be the reason
you don’t get into college.
You've done (and won!) NaNoWriMo before. Writing a novel
in 30 days is insane; writing a novel in 30 days while trying to
wrangle a posse of itinerant novelists is, well, more insane. We just
prefer you know what you’re getting into with the first NaNoWriMo before
you sign-on to ML for the second.
Here’s what you’ll need to do:
Commit to the whole 30 days. If you sign up, we need you to
show up. And not just for the kick-off party. We need people who aren’t
going to fade into the background as soon as the word count gets tough.
Your fellow writers are depending on you.
Coordinate meetings and events. Kick-offs, TGIO parties, weekly write-ins.
Answer every email. Don’t know the answer?
Be present in your regional forum. Make sure people's questions are being answered, events are announced in a timely manner, and that everyone is playing nice.
Engage in some light fundraising. Whether you post a
link in your Regional Lounge, send out an email to participants, or pass
around a cup at write-ins, your fundraising efforts help keep NaNoWriMo
churning out the magic.
Reach your 50,000 words. Okay, we can’t hold you to that, but it’s much easier to be a role model to your troops when you actually accomplish the task.
Whatever else floats your boat! Hound local press for coverage, work with local schools... you know, over-achieve!
If you are an Alaskan, ex-Pat Alaskan, and agree, go sign it! Please be sure to note that you are Alaskan if you have a non-Alaskan address. The petition will be presented to the Fairbanks Northstar Borough and the City Council.If you are not Alaskan and have never been here, please do NOT sign it. We appreciate your concern but this is a local, Alaskan issue and the Borough only wants to know what the Alaskans think.
Why go back to using that name? If you even have to ask, go read my funny Ole story, below this instead!
Reasons most often cited:
1. There are hundreds, if not thousands of Pioneer Parks all over the US and Canada. It's a very generic name. I searched Google and found 3 MILLION hits on "Pioneer Park." The first five pages list park after park after park in town after town after town. All of them "Pioneer Park."
2. It sounds like it celebrates White pioneers, instead of our whole population.
3. Fairbanskians grew up going to Alaskaland, it's the name we love for the good times we have had there!
4. Almost no one ever calls it Pioneer Park! We all call it Alaskaland!
May 13, 2010
I'm still amazed at the outpouring of agreement that we really should change the name of our park back to Alaskaland. My office neighbor just dropped in to tell me she's proud of me and that she is so glad that people are getting together over this. I'm finding that it cuts across all boundaries: politics, religion, money. It doesn't matter who you are,or what you do: every person I run into says they want the name of the park returned to Alaskaland. And now they all stop and tell me about it!
I started the Facebook Page some time ago, and it now has 1, 772 members and counting. Then on May 11 at 2:03 am, having had too much coffee that day, I decided it was time to write the petition and get going on this issue. By 3:30pm the same day there were 189 signatures, by 6:30pm there were 207. We are now nearly to 300 and still adding folks. I'd like to hit 1,000 by Sunday. Tell your friends and neighbors about the petition.
My brief spot on Channel 13 took the most inflammatory thing I said and put that on TV, which is what news organizations sometimes do. The announcers thought the twist to the story was that the petition is online. Well, maybe they haven't been online for four or five years? There are oodles of petitions on the internet and have been for years. But that's okay, because I am glad they thought it was important enough to cover.
Inflammatory? What I said was the "r" word. I said the sign is racist, in that it celebrates the white pioneers but not our whole community, which is diverse.
In simple terms, what bothers me about the name "Pioneer Park" is
that we went from having a name, Alaskaland, that included everyone, to a
name that only included a select set. I think this was not intended to
be racist by the FNSB, but in essence, that's the way it worked out. I don't think the Borough thought this through but I don't think the intent was anything but well-meaning.
Our community takes care of each other. We are all in this together. If you see someone walking on the side of the road in the winter you stop and ask if they need help, same thing if you see a stalled vehicle. Until recently. we rural folks left our cabins unlocked in case a hiker or snow machiner needed shelter from the cold. It's a small town in a harsh climate and we need each other.
The name Alaskaland reflects our community spirit, our caring and cooperation with each other.
I strongly suspect they did not do a search to find out how many Pioneer Parks exist already. Perhaps if they'd done so a different name would have been chosen or Alaskaland would have kept its name.