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Impress your friends with a winter ice cream treat!

Got some friends held hostage by Trump’s demands? Host an ice cream party with your neighbors/community and find out what they need help with! Could be a group temporary loan, some sneakers for their kids or a ride to the doctor or church. Ice cream and commiserating also help if financial resources are unavailable.

Here in Alaska, WE LOVE ICE CREAM! Baked Alaska is basically an imitation of melting permafrost! But have I got a treat for you!  I served it last night after running/jogging a ridiculous 5k in zero degrees. It was such an Alaskan experience. They lent me used Ice Bug shoes to run in, just in case I wanted to purchase some later. Icebugs are shoes with screws in the bottom and they were absolutely outstanding.  I usually just wear strap on spikes but they constrict my shoes and also fall off randomly on bumps.  I am scared to see how much these Icebugs cost but was assured by a friend that they also have a guy at the store who will just drill some spikes into any of my old running shoes.

There was no real group start at the race. People just moseyed off and we followed them hoping we had the right turn around spot since there were only about 20 of us running in the dark. The cocoa and the free tee shirts from runs which happened 10 years ago were appreciated.

Anyway here is the ice cream.


This is what you do to make it even more delicious. Make some mini pancakes. Put  this delicious ice cream on top and drizzle with maple syrup. You could serve these at a restaurant and charge $8 and people would be loving it. But then I am someone who can eat a pancake anytime of the day.   I guess I would call this a  “Maple Heap”, ( you could even sprinkle chopped up maple sugar soldiers or put a Canadian sugar Maple leaf on top).   Perhaps marketing it as a “Vermont Landscape” – Maples and cows or “Over the River and through the Woods?” How about a classy French name like “Un Miracle Erable?”

The taste is like Christmas morning or Apres Ski in New England.  I don’t recommend it in the summer as it would be too sticky but you could eat it while watching “White Christmas” or “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

If we fed President Trump one of these he would forget about his damn wall for a minute and say, “Outstanding!”   If he ate a couple of gallons he might even pass on to eternity.

We eat lots of ice cream in Alaska because of the fat. I am skinny but I like to have a small roll of fat on my stomach just in case I need to avoid being the first one in a group to freeze to death. I would rather not be cannibalized but if I must be at least let me have something besides bone and sinew for my friends to feed on.

It is refreshingly cold today as well. Minus something. Nothing impressive. Minus twenty is the threshold for no physical exertion if unnecessary.  We are not there yet.  Tomorrow I go back to work from my mini staycation. It has been a great chance to meditate on my post holiday Seasonal affective disorder and my positive response to increased outdoor time and exposure to friends. I highly recommend these to anyone with emotional fatigue. And ice cream!



Run. Run! RUN FOR RECOVERY and keep running, maybe walk a little.

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All hail the mud run finisher!

All hail the mud run finisher!


I quit one race in my life. It was my first 10K. I thought: I can’t do this, flagged down the relief truck then saw that the finish line was only a half mile away. I could have walked. The force of self defeat is strong in this one. I’ve quit many other endeavors, relationships, jobs.   Instead of the catch phrase “It’s not a good fit”, I prefer  “Wrong time, Wrong tools.”  That’s why being in recovery is so cool. I have tools, I have people  in my life to help me figure out if it’s the right time to use them.

Running has been an integral part of my recovery. It’s helped me learn how to breathe. I have a tendency to  race through life and burn out before the end of the day. I’m usually ready to give in about 3/4’s way through a half mile, 5K, 10K or work day.  As I get older I’ve learned to keep a healthy pace instead of one driven by the fear of being left behind. How much more left behind can I get? In the end it’s just going to be me and God anyway.

This last Thursday, Friday and Saturday I volunteered for and ran The Anchorage Community Mental Health Center’s Race for Recovery. It’s a Mud Run, without the electric shocks and burning coals. It’s like everything I used to love about the 4th of July.  Remember the parade, the  3 legged races, the potato sack race and the egg toss at your local Independence Day celebration? Okay, I’m dating myself, now we watch other people compete on television. There was a day when it was the greatest of small town glory was to win a ribbon running on the grass tied by the ankle to  another person. The Race for Recovery has a bunch of home made and Alaska natural obstacles.  It’s damn fun even setting it up.

On Thursday some of us gave out tee shirts to people picking up their bibs at Skinny Raven in downtown Anchorage. I love Skinny Raven even though I’m more like a fatted calf.  I tried on a bunch of clothes and basically chatted up anyone I saw. I do this when I’m nervous and also when I’m happy. I am a little too keyed up these days but also I’m happy because I know I’m going to start taking better care of myself by taking a long break from work. Don’t get me wrong, I love to work but I’ve burnt myself out and I need to refuel. It’s sometimes safer to refuel on the ground rather than in mid-air.

Friday afternoon, the gals from The Alaska Military Youth Academy  showed up in force to set up obstacles and test the first half of the course. They even got their instructor to run it.  I ran it with them because it was thought that I knew the course a bit having run it for a couple of years.  Of course we got lost because I’m always looking down so I don’t fall over.  I wasn’t very good at the landmarks. We all got back safely, eventually. At first they were screaming their way into the natural mud holes but they made sure to help their fellow troupe members across. By the end they were basically  playing in the  man made mud pool covering each other  like it was a beauty treatment. My biggest contribution was the natural bug repellant I had stashed in my pocket which I doled out to everyone about half way through as they were crawling with mosquitoes. It is so great that we don’t have ticks in Alaska (or at least not in the swamps.)

I like to dress up for the race because not only is it a celebration of recovery from mental health issues, but it’s a journey and who doesn’t like to dress up for a trip?  And trip I did.  My favorite fall was near the end.  I was actually running  through waist high grass when someone I knew yelled, ” Hey Joan, great job, you’re almost done!”  My mistake was to look up so I missed a ubiquitous tree root and flopped like a flounder in the mud.  Another great achievement this year was that I’m pretty sure I was the winner in the most swear words uttered during the run. The winners ran the race in 30 minutes (it was 5 muddy K). I ran it in an hour. The last participants dived across the rinse pool about an hour after me and they were all co-workers who are very nice people. My logic suggests that the winners didn’t have as much time to swear as I did and the walkers were chatting and supporting each other, laughing and enjoying themselves.  I find that difficult. I could have listened to myself swearing and slowed down but  something drives me like a Funny Car who likes to crash.

At the end, my arms were all bruises  because they are twig-like and I had to haul my 168 lb. tree trunk legs over some walls.  I  rewarded myself with two delicious hot dogs, about 25 mosquito bites and a very red nose and neck.  It was the best day of the year for running. Actually everyday is the best day of the year if I think about it. Today my roommate told me that he marvels at the idea that we are living the farthest in the future that any human has ever lived.  I’m taking a break from work for about a month in order to slow down that funny car inside me which has been crashing so hard that it’s started to cry. I hope to blog more, run more, paint, draw, and do tai chi, not to excess! I’m not going anywhere special except inside myself. That’s the part of the recovery journey I need to run for now.

A big thanks to Jennifer Smerud for organizing the run, to Roni, Carolyn, Maria, Brent, Carlos, Heather, The Community work service team, the folks from Skinny Raven,The Alaska Military Youth Academy and all the sponsors and volunteer who made The Race for Recovery possible. See you there next year.

An outstanding finish in the anxiety triathlon

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Pay no attention to the supposed official events of  swimming, biking and running. The real challenges were:


2. Forcing myself to do things far beyond my capability

3. Exhaustion to the point of vomit.

Technically I’m not even done. The nausea has gone away, (took about 2 hours) but my heart is still racing  at 11 pm which means I overdid it. I doubt I will be sleeping.

I’m way out front in the worry category  because of my rigorous practice of seeing the worst ahead, often doing double or triple workouts each day. Like most people, I worried the night before the race.. Then I worried myself into getting to the race early even though everyone knows that the higher your number is the more behind the swim starts get. I started 3 hours later than I arrived but I got to chat and rest. Then I started worrying about sunburn even though I had sunscreen on.  I worried about not having eaten and about being too exhausted to finish.  I’ve got this part down. I am a champion worrier.

I knew I was getting tired when I they played “My Sharona.” There’s something about the combination of a massive athletic event for women and My Sharona that made me hide my face in the grass.  Had I  been sold on the plucky funness factor of doing a triathlon?  Wouldn’t I be better off just taking a nice run and/or bike ride by myself and relaxing today?  Luckily, the grass smelled wonderful.

The overdoing it part is second nature but I’ve really got to hand it to myself today.  I said I was going to have fun and I did for maybe half the race when I was ringing my bell at people on my bike, when they played the “happy” song while I swam, and while I was race walking to give myself a break from the oppressive heat and sun of a nice day in Alaska.

I  totally overdid it in the pool. I would have been fine if I had not started out so fast that I could not move my arms once I was done. Oh, the humanity. After 5 tries I had to have a helping hand to get out of the pool. I thought I might be disqualified but  people get helped up by other racers when they fall off their bikes so as long as another racer does it you’re set. Yes, my arms are the skinniest part of my body but either I have to lose weight or swim slower.

The bike ride was a step up from that disaster until about mile 12 because  I thought there were only 12 miles in the bike race. There were 14. I barely made it over the last hill even though it was quite tiny. Then I saw it – water. I was so dehydrated, not just the despicable dry mouth but the swollen hands.  I swore to stop at every water station on the run and I did, even the one that ran out of cups. I just put my mouth  under the spigot.  I also taste tested two types of gatorade,  blue and purple, for good measure.

I knew I had really mastered overdoing  the run as my legs were kind of going backwards. I decided to use the “fartlek”                  ( playing with speed) or lazy ass method to finish off the race. I would pick a spot ahead, run to it then race walk until I felt like running again. It was very hot and dusty, especially when the military convoy came by. We were running on the JBER tank road so this is to be expected and the dust to be expectorated.  I got to one of the photo opp points and noted that the photographer put his camera down. He saw my face which said NO!  He probably thought I would take out all my self-loathing on him.  Good choice.

I eventually finished and walked straight over to a trash barrel just in case the barf  came out, but it did not. There was nothing to barf up. I did beat my bike to the finish line and then beat a path to The Olive Garden as I promised myself I could get take out there even if I barfed it up.  I didn’t barf but I didn’t really enjoy it. I’m barely enjoying this.  I am only enjoying the idea that if I don’t sleep at all I might have to call in sick tomorrow.  Triathlon fever, overdoing hangover, anxiety about not sleeping causing insomnia, whatever it is, no one will probably ask. Only I will know how far I have fallen. I may even see a matinee of Godzilla. Of course I will get a charley horse if I sit that long but it will be so worth it.


Something a little less than a winner

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Entering contests is like dating. I know I’m desperate for attention and it’s likely to end badly. Yet I persist. Here are some of my latest losers in the poetry division. I’m not saying they’re putrid but the winner of said contest wrote a very good salmon haiku which you can read at:

The Salmon Project

The winner really has all the qualities of a good haiku – a clear voice, humor, an abrupt change by the last line.

After reading the winners, read mine.  They are technically losers, as all of us are who are not Angelina Jolie or Michelle Obama.  I like to think of myself and my poems as  slightly less clever and definitely  less marketable.

Here is one example which is WAY too precious.


under milk wood

 Waking Dream

Under Cottonwood,

Pale light and crystal creek bends

Bright salmon prisms


Literary illusions aside, it does little for me but make me feel like a nerd.

The next one is equally nerdy but in an Irish way.




 The Irish Way
Finn McCool grew wise

Licking a salmon-burnt thumb.

Trust the scent of home.


I like the second one better because it does speak a couple of truths to me.

1. Knowledge is most often gained accidentally

2. The smell of home can take you away.


Here is a last one to share as the others are way too embarrassing. This one I like because it was just a thought and it probably means nothing to most people who did not go to college with me.




Lox on a bagel:

Brandeis University,

Tastes of Alaska!



I have fun writing. That is why I do it. I have no desire to write a novel. I impress myself with my useless knowledge of the humanities. I am always surprised when someone reads this blog, but I do check! I’m not that much of a loser that I don’t want anyone to read it.


This weekend I will run yet another “sprint” triathlon.  The word “sprint” suggests that some people will actually be moving quickly. It is, to the untutored eye, another giant competition. I see it only as modest defense against death anxiety.    I like running, swimming and biking and can never, ever get anyone to do all three with me in one day, even for a short time. Out of 1800 women who will compete, 85 are in my age bracket. I will not win a prize. I will have fun. I will ride a clunky mountain bike, I will sing and ring my bell. I will eat snacks both before and afterwards, not in order to carb load for maximum performance but because I have started taking less of my anti-depressants and I can hardly stand myself.   Writing and running are age old remedies for depression, as are painting and walking, biking and swimming.  I suppose I could add baking and eating in there too.  If I add work then I could say I spend about 90 percent of my time on anti-depressant activities.  That puts me way above average. Perhaps I can win in one of life’s competitions, if I can just find the right one.







What’s more fun than a carbonated can full of zombies? How about the Frightening 4K folks holed up in the lobby of The Captain Cook Hotel waiting for the race to start?  The tourists got an twisted eyeful of the real Anchorage as they exited the elevator expecting waffles with whipped cream and instead encountered men with knives through their heads.

May I get you a Bloody Mary to start your brunch?

May I get you a Bloody Mary to start your brunch?


What I like best is the smile on this guy’s face when I took the photo. Totally twisted.  When we  saw Captain Cook staff members, it was hard to tell them from the runners.  A tiny chef in her toque appeared carrying a pumpkin head and plunked it down on the table.  Here it is.

Doctor,I hear this little voice that's driving me mad

Doctor,I hear this little voice that’s driving me mad


They have some cool automatronic stuff in the lobby but that’s difficult to capture in a photo. Let’s just say there was a witch with glowing eyes wiggling her hips like a hooker while stirring her cauldron.  She would have made a great pair with a dancing Santa.


It was about 35 degrees outside so the lobby was packed. The Captain Cook is an nice traditional hotel. In keeping with the theme of the British nautical hero who travelled to Alaska and was killed by the people he was trying to discover/conquer, the décor is dark, historic and a bit haunting.


Note the background in the following photo.




The two fellows in the foreground appear to be enjoying their status as minions. Looking over their shoulder is  someone who is wearing similar headgear but does not look like minion-hood would set well with them.  He is probably thinking, “So this is what it all comes down to…”


Some folks preferred to wait outside as they came costumed for the weather.

The weather inside is frightful but the cold is so delightful

The weather inside is frightful but the cold is so delightful


Halloween gives people a chance to wear their insides, (fantasies) on the outside. This is a good facsimile of the average Alaskan man – an abominable snowman. Sure there were tons of Supermen, Wonder woman. We’re all so delusionally powerful but Halloween is a time for the shadow to escape not the saint.  Here’s a couple more examples.


Move over slowpokes, Jesus coming through!

Move over slowpokes, Jesus coming through!


Technically Jesus is sort of a Saint, sort of a Superman but playing him on Halloween actually makes you a bit devilish. Might I add that this guy was about 6’6″ and ran really fast.  As a friend pointed out – no cross!


I've got Cabin Fever!

I’ve got Cabin Fever!


There were a couple of Red Riding Hood and Wolf duos. This guy lost his gal pal but notice the wall minion looking over his left shoulder. He isn’t scared. He’s thinking , “Give me a spear.”  May I add there were many bearded costumes apropos to facial condition of most Alaskan men.  Some came as Red Sox Nation.  Others as world travelers.


We get around.

We get around.


The cutest costumes were the kids but I don’t take photos of kids because it’s trouble putting their little faces on the internet. Some people say Halloween is a children’s holiday.  That’s a little like saying war is for children. Sure in the last 50 or so years kids have Trick or Treated but in the Way Back, young men were sent out in disguise to deal with the undead the night before the new pagan year which became All Soul’s/ All Saints day.


Then there’s me. I won a costume prize. That’s because mine was very, very homemade  looking and I kept prancing around interacting with everyone.  You can’t quite tell what I am from this photo but I wasn’t going to pay  the $10. for the lovely shot they took of me crossing the finish line.


The inner insanity is leaking like the Exxon Valdez

The inner insanity is leaking like the Exxon Valdez


First of all the skirt is floor length, shiny and scaly with orange tulle shooting out the sides like fins. It’s also lined with fleece and easy to run in given the side slits. I made the scallop shells pinned to my bra and you can just barely see the shark swimming around my back, also attached to my bra.  I have a flashing candy corn necklace on just in case it looked like I didn’t try hard enough.  I won a  $50 gift certificate to Allure Day Spa which will cost me as their treatments run about $150 but you only live once and my skin looks like it’s lived twice already.  Other winners included a giant spider lady who I chastised during mile 1 for “eating and running”, just plain rude.  As they gave out candy en route I can brag that my  time of 25 minutes could be readjusted for candy procurement and reattaching the shark head which bobbled off in mile 2.  Also a lady in a wheelchair boat accompanied by a fish and fisherperson got a prize as well as an adorable light up robot and a washing machine with underwear on her head.


The race itself was short and brilliant, with the fog lifting in the rail yard to the theme of Ghostbusters.  The way down tot the rail yard was appropriately frightening as the thin layer of moisture left it covered in ice which I chose to slide down instead of running.

I learned a new joke from another runner. “Why does a mermaid wear Seashells?”

“Because the B shells are too small.”


In terms of alter egos, the crazy mermaid archetype  is not new for me.  I will show you instead my true inner persona who I have place on a throne in my front yard for the duration.

This is the real me!

This is the real me!


That’s me alright. Flaky skin, cranky face, all spread out in an easy chair.  Miserable and showing it. Daring you to try and make me smile.  Couldn’t go out without snazzy shoes though! Hippy Halloween to y’all!






Fear, loathing and the triathlon

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My triathlon trajectory

My triathlon trajectory

The more I do any sport or probably anything like reading, baking or watching TV, the more likely I’m desperately responding to anxiety. Activity, engrossment in some goal,  deflect from my  dis-ease with myself.   Being totally fed up with myself I decided to put down some money on a triathlon registration. I’ve done this before.  I ALWAYS overdo everything.  I get so anxious about  finishing that I go too fast or I cramp up out of sheer nerves and/or over-preparation.  I’m like the cheese covered toast you put in the broiler just before you have to go to the bathroom – ruined.

I am going to get a tee shirt made that reads” BEWARE:   NERVOUS TRIATHLETE. Stay away! I may wipe out on my bike. I’m really likely to trip on a tree root.  I could breathe water up my nose in the pool and have a choking fit. I might start swearing and crying because I can’t get my shoes on in the transition area. You really should see me swimming. I look like I’m fighting a shark. One can hardly call it the crawl.  A death march would be more appropriate.

I’ve also been an actor and comedian of sorts. That means I’m twice as likely to be disturbed. Not only do I run around in circles to escape myself but then I have to write or talk about it all the time.  The triathlon is Sunday. Today I felt like the bones in my thighs, femurs I expect, were going to poke right out of my skin. I went home and ate lots of food just in case I had gotten too skinny but I don’t think that’s it. I probably just did something too much and my body is saying STOP!

So I did, but I also picked up my triathlon tee shirt, bib and chip this evening. I  tried to hide this from my body so it won’t figure out we’re still going to run the race on Sunday. The running is the last part anyway.  I can always walk it if necessary or dance it, crabwalk it, whatever.   Last time I went down twice on the run with charlie horses.  This time I will eat a banana right before the race and drink lots of water.  Don’t tell my body. It just thinks we’re going there to volunteer writing the numbers on people, which we will, right before jumping in the pool. This is why I do the co-ed triathlons. It’s fun to write on people you don’t know, kind of like being a celebrity autographing people’s body parts. Don’t let them know I said that though or I’ll have to just stand on some cold, lonely turn on the road not touching people.

In case you have never done a triathlon. Some people have very nice expensive equipment – clip in pedals on 24 speed super light bikes with carbon elements which might just come to life. They wear special quick dry onesies and heart monitors so they don’t wimp out on maximum pumpage.  When I’m tired I slow down so I don’t have a heart attack or I try harder because I’m afraid that I’m just afraid.  I don’t want a heart monitor because I’ve learned not to take myself or anything I do that seriously. It’s okay to be somewhere near the end of the finishers on my ten speed or my wicked heavy mountain bike because it looks like I’m actually working harder than they are with their ultra-lights. If I had a heart monitor it would probably sound an alarm or explode. Machines get that way around me.  Anxiety can read like a heart attack. It’s bad enough they want you to write all your medical information on the back of your bib in case they find you unconscious somewhere on the course.

Other riders will meticulously rehearse their multitasking – strapping on their bike helmet while running barefoot from the pool to their bike.  It’s surprising more of them don’t die during this transition but perhaps they are less anxious than I. I will just be chanting “Don’t be anxious, DON’T be anxious, Don’t be ANXIOUS! on my way out of basin of doom and onto the bike of Beelzebub. Running and not bumping into things is multitasking for me.

I also like to put my anxiety on other people. I have a nasty habit of singing and talking while biking up  steep hills. This is done both to relieve my anxiety as well as to psych others out.  The other day there was a practice ride for this race. I kept passing this one gal going up the big hills because I had only 10 speeds so there was no gearing down. She would in turn pass me going down the hill.  I compensated by singing as I was pulling closer to her on the uphills so she would know I was coming and spend energy resenting me.  I was singing ” It was the summer of ’65. Those were the best years of our lives.” She was at least as old as I am.  I am bad.

Wish me luck.  I could pick up a man with the  clever line, “What’s your number? Ohh, I’ll write it here so I won’t forget it.”

Signs that depression is getting the best of you

My Charlie Brown tree is bigger than yours

My Charlie Brown tree is bigger than yours

1. I threw away an $8 bar of chocolate, couldn’t find anything good about it. No will to eat it. That’s sad. Okay, it was gingerbread flavored.

2. Took a day off from work and felt worse than if I went. It was cookie day and I still had no will to go. Pretty lame. I did get up before noon though and haven’t watched a single cat video, so no reason to panic.

3. Uncontrollable desire to unfriend  everyone on facebook.   Oh the polemics!  Everyone is flying some kind of flag.   My new quest is to find at least one post a day I can make a positive comment on. Keep the cats coming.

4.   Can no longer untie knots, open jelly jars, negotiate new technology or operate a motor vehicle without using the f word several times. Nuff said.

5.  Have not had my haircut in 9 months.  It  looks like Farrah Fawcett’s if she had lived and it got all thin and grey, some weird layers, tangles and unintentional wildness going on.

6. Even though I’m taking enough medication to kill a rhino the tears keep coming. I’m reminded that sending in more troops is usually the first response to losing  a war. Perhaps I could learn from that. Now I’m watching Due South, the old TV show, and I’m crying about the handsomeness of Paul Gross. Is that right?

Is anyone really this perfect?

Is anyone really this perfect?

7.  Feel like there is consistent low pressure area in my head, a storm that just won’t break. I don’t want it to break but then I wish it would. I have no control of it so I’m just waiting it out in the cyclone cellar. Let Dorothy tough it out.

8.  Running again.  It’s a great way to feel better than everyone else but not so good for the ankles. It’s freakin’ cold out but that just makes me feel more superior, for at least 20 minutes.

9. No fun reading, writing, creating. I’m only writing this because I skipped out on work and would feel even worse if I did nothing at all. It’s not even funny but then that is perhaps the point. If I only write when I’m funny am I being as honest as I would like to be? I thought honesty was funny, maybe being funny is symptom of depression lite?

10. Wish it would snow! Does that make me sound depressed or just childish? Can’t change the weather, got to live with it.  Now off to look for cheap Christmas decorations to see if they brighten up the gloom, or maybe I should stop fooling myself and go for a Tim Burton theme this year.