Monthly Archives: November 2013

Cross off cancer — Patient follows faith, wife’s urging to treatment south of the border

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Rick Abbott, manager of Spenard Builders Supply in Soldotna, shows a pillowcase given to him by kids in his church, which he took with him to a hospital in Mexico where he sought treatment for cancer.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Rick Abbott, manager of Spenard Builders Supply in Soldotna, shows a pillowcase given to him by kids in his church, which he took with him to a hospital in Mexico where he sought treatment for cancer.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Not being a morose individual given to pessimistic thinking, Rick Abbott wasn’t expecting some of the worst news of his life to come from that doctor’s visit in November 2011. This is, after all, the man behind the inspirational quotes posted on the sign in front of Spenard Builders Supply in Soldotna. This week’s offering: “One thing you can’t recycle is wasted time.”

As an optimist, he was hoping for a treatment plan to alleviate the neuropathy in his legs, pain in his joints, migraines, fatigue, nosebleeds and other health struggles that had been worsening. As a pragmatist, he was at least expecting an explanation of what was causing his symptoms.

He got the latter, but in a form that would considerably test the former.

“‘You have lymphoma and leukemia.’ The doctor said it just like that. No soft shoe,” Abbott said. “She said, ‘I have talked to a doctor group in Seattle for over an hour about your case. I haven’t been able to come up with a reason or a solution. I don’t have a cure for you.’ When you’re given that prognosis, what do you do?”

You don’t panic, first of all. One doesn’t maintain a successful business career as long as Abbott — 40 years as general manager of Soldotna SBS and the old Superior Building Supply in Soldotna before that — by falling to pieces when faced with a difficult situation. You measure up the problem and use the best tools available to address it. In this case, as with all in Abbott’s life, that meant relying on his love for family and his strength of faith.

“I had a protective feeling of taking care of my wife (Phoebe), so I was trying to absorb what the doctor was saying, but more so I was trying to protect how she would receive this. But I know the Lord was protecting whatever feelings I was supposed to have. At that time I didn’t have any fear or anxiety — I had none of those,” he said.

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Run for a reason — 10-year-old raises money for St. Jude

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Emma Mullet accepts a donation during a five-kilometer walk/run held in Kenai on Saturday as a fundrasier for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Emma Mullet accepts a donation during a five-kilometer walk/run held in Kenai on Saturday as a fundrasier for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

While there are many lessons that are easy for kids to learn, having empathy for others can sometimes be more challenging for younger kids who haven’t quite passed the developmental stage of assuming the world revolves around them. But for one 10-year-old Soldotna girl, the ability to understand what another person is going though has already been embraced.

“Some people don’t have what I have and I wanted to help them have more,” said Emma Mullet, who had an idea to hold a five-kilometer walk/run in Kenai on Saturday to raise funds for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which works toward cures and prevention for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. No children are denied treatment based on their family’s ability to pay.

Emma’s mother, Monica Mullet, said that both her daughters have cared about issues larger than their own. Her oldest daughter, Thera, started a recycling program at her school, while Emma has been focused on St. Jude for several years.

“She’s always been very giving, but a few years ago she had a representative from St. Jude speak to her kindergarten class. She came home that day and smashed her piggy bank wanting to donate, and she’s given ever since,” Mullet said.

Mullet is touched by Emma’s charitable inclination, but also understands firsthand empathy for a sick child. When Emma was 18 months old, doctors deduced that she had an enlarged thymus gland, which can be indicative of a tumor. For two weeks the family had to wait for test results, fearing the worst. In the end Emma did not have a life-threatening tumor, but the family never forgot that feeling.

“That process of waiting and worrying really taught us all empathy for what parents really going through it are dealing with, and we’ve never forgotten it,” she said.

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Art Seen: Colorful challenge — Painters push the bounds of their medium in watercolor show

Best in Show — "Mother and Child" by James Adcox

Best in Show — “Mother and Child” by James Adcox

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Convey exhaustion, but with energy. Give the impression of a captured moment in time representing a state of seeming interminability. Re-create a posed tableau with the real-life weight of a candid scene.

James Adcox certainly undertook a challenge in trying to achieve all this in his painting, “Mother and Child,” on display through November as part of the Kenai Watercolor Group show at the Kenai Fine Arts Center.

But a fitting challenge for this style of painting, given watercolor’s dichotomous qualities.

It’s a raw, quick medium, in that paint can’t be globbed on, scraped off, covered over, worked and reworked like oils can. Yet it can be exacting and laborious for that same reason. Since a paint stroke can’t be changed or undone, every one must be thought out. There are rules to follow. Key among them is to plan out and save unpainted areas of canvass, since there is no white paint in watercolor, only the absence of it. Also, start with certain shades and layer other colors overtop, but not too many or the result will be irrevocably muddy. It’s the painting equivalent of “measure twice, cut once” in construction.

“It’s maybe a medium that is more technically difficult, I’m learning. There’s a lot more rules to watercolor as opposed to oils,” Adcox said, remembering something an art teacher once told his students. “He described oil painting as like making love, and watercolor as downhill skiing. One you can do, the other one you have to learn how to do. It’s not easy, it’s technical.”

To add to the challenge, and the conundrum, Adcox is still fairly new to the challenging medium of watercolor, yet took it up because of its ease.

“Being a dad, with two kiddos, I think have more limited time. Oil painting takes time, and watercolor is a much faster medium for me. To complete a painting, I can usually do that much sooner in watercolor. I think it probably deals with dry time with oils, and it’s layer upon layer, and I revisit the same painting and rework the finish. And with watercolor, I don’t. Watercolor, to me, it seems the less you put on, the fresher the look of the painting,” he said.

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(Hot)dishing family affairs

Hunting, Fishing and other Grounds for Divorce,

By Jacki Michels, for the Redoubt Reporter

Over the past decade I’ve shared a lot about our family, at times too much information (perhaps) but, hey, to my credit I’ve never discussed anyone’s hemorrhoids, nor have I trampled upon the sacred ground of adolescent dating rituals. Go me.

That being said, I have shared openly about the dining habits of toddlers as well as a smorgasbord of other grotesque bodily functions. Yes. I’ve stooped to serving up a cheese-cutting rant on farts. I’ve disclosed some not-so-secret aspects of my girlfriend’s clothing faux pas, and I’ve even gone as far as to spend over 500 words on my oh-so-varicose veins.

I always wanted to grow up (still working on that) and be the kind of writer who gently fans the flame of succulent prose that flows deliciously, yet deeply, into the very marrow of the reader’s soul.

Nope.

Not happening.

What I get when I scrounge for a scribble stick and scrap of paper is something like what one gets when they excavate the surviving remnants from last week’s eats in order to create what we affectionately refer to as a Midwestern hotdish. Surprise! I went to explore the deserted, deepest regions of the fridge to see what I can whip up — and, well, with a can of cream of mushroom soup and a few stale potato chips we will dine on an untitled dish of questionable digestibility and an idea for a dissertation regarding the state of affairs of a potential botulism outbreak.

Eventually I’ll put all the metaphoric green beans and noodles of our lives together and end up regurgitating more information than one should ever share if they hope to ever have company over for dinner.

So this month’s column got me to wondering — what the hell to write about, why do I write what I write in the first place and, dear God, why would anyone read it?

A little side dish of brutal honesty, there. Bon appetit.

Truth is, our family is exceptionally unremarkable. It’s not like we would ever preface a statement with, “Hey honey, remember that speech I gave at the White House?” Unless, that is, we were reflecting on how we hosted a boy-burping contest and they mimicked the speech, “If you like your — URppppppp — health care — uuuurp!”

If there were a vote we would be voted Most Likely to Have a Family Board Game Night.

Puzzling. Maybe it’s the fact that we all live to tell our homely stories and enjoy hearing other people’s? Face it, not even Hollywood folk really live like the tabloids tell. I bet their very best stuff is their off-off-off Broadway moments.

  • Grounds for Divorce No. 7, 450: Being a sore loser at Yahtzee.
  • Grounds for Divorce No. 7, 451: Talking politics or the origins of the hotdish during dinner — especially if there be company.

Jacki Michels is a freelance writer who lives (and loves) in Soldotna.

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Plugged In: Picture-perfect holiday gift ideas

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

With the Christmas shopping rush nearly upon us, it’s time for our annual holiday suggestions.

v Sharing memories: Many Alaskans have relatives who live far away and whom we see only infrequently. This Christmas, why not send a nicely printed and bound book of family and Alaska photos to far-away family? I’ve done this for some years now and have found it to be a welcome, personalized gift.

I’ve generally used a service called MyPublisher, found at http://www.mypublisher.com. You’ll need their free software to build your book, but it’s easy to use. Generally, the quality is more than adequate and the company offers books in larger sizes than other print-on-demand companies, up to 11-by-15 inches. Having used this company for some years, I’ve found that the regular prices are rather steep but that frequent sales reduce per-book prices by up to half. If you decide to try this self-publisher, I suggest downloading their software, preparing your book ahead of time and then uploading and purchasing the book when there’s a good sale.

I suggest avoiding the leather-bound premium volumes because the leather covers tend to delaminate. I use the “Photo Finish” hardbound style and find it more durable.

When making books intended to send as gifts, first consider what ideas and themes you want to convey, and then choose photos that work together to showcase your “message.” Whenever you undertake a project like this, first ask yourself what you are trying to convey, whether you successfully did so, and is it a “message” that’s worth the effort? Family photos never fail this test but some other, perhaps more esoteric, projects might.

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In the spirit of the music — Spirit Daddies concert spreads jams of prolific songwriter

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Matt Boyle, center, leads a rehearsal of his Spirit Daddies music recently in preparation for a World Music for the Kenai concert Sunday.  Boyle has been writing and recording music as the Spirit Daddies for about 20 years now.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Matt Boyle, center, leads a rehearsal of his Spirit Daddies music recently in preparation for a World Music for the Kenai concert Sunday. Boyle has been writing and recording music as the Spirit Daddies for about 20 years now.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Deciding which Spirit Daddies songs the Baked Alaskans and their Spawn will play in their World Music for the Kenai concert Sunday should have been a monumentally difficult task, what with hundreds of songs on dozens of albums from which to choose.

“We’re basically hitting the very tip of the iceberg with this concert,” said Kurt Eriksson.

“Frank Sinatra, Roy Orbison and the Beatles probably don’t have that many,” said Mike Morgan.

And it’s not like there’s only a couple obvious standouts in a sea of B sides. Each Baked Alaskan has enough Spirit Daddies favorites to fill a separate concert.

Dave Edwards-Smith is a sucker for the ones with rocking, funky beats or a great story. Morgan stops what he’s doing to marvel at the more unusual, orchestrated instrumentals when they shuffle up on his MP3 player.

“Amongst the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who and all the music I’m used to listening to, something would come on and I would go, ‘Who is that? I don’t have any music like that. Where did that come from?’ And I’d go look and it’d be Spirit Daddies. That’s how unusual it is, I don’t even recognize the music,” he said.

For Eriksson, it’s the musicality.

“The stories are wonderful, but the dynamics that brings those lyrics out really is why I think Spirit Daddies stands head and shoulders above the popish alternative stuff you’re going to hear on the radio. I mean, there’s great stuff out there, but this combination is what makes it for me,” he said.

When it came time to choose a set list, one guiding parameter was used to sift through the genres, inventiveness, unique sound, interesting lyrics, complexity, variety and sheer volume:

“The ones that we could play,” Eriksson said.

“The ones, in all these, that are humanly possible,” Edwards-Smith added.

“I’d listen to a CD going, ‘It would take me a month to learn one of these songs,’ because they’re so orchestrated and different and unusual,” Morgan said.

Challenging, but well worth the time it has taken to learn and rehearse them, Morgan said, particularly since that time is about two decades overdue.

“I played with the guy 15 years,” Morgan said. “The Baked Alaskans, we’d just play three-chord songs, and that’s fine. But then Matt would give me these CDs and I always felt guilty every time I got a new one, knowing we should be playing this music, but I never had time to stop my life and say, ‘We’re going to rehearse Matt’s stuff.’”

Matt being Matt Boyle, who’s been playing for years with Morgan and Eriksson in the Baked Alaskans, before that with Morgan and others as Men With No Pride, and during that entire time has been cranking out song after song, album after album as Spirit Daddies.

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Trail tuneup — Resurrection Pass Trail trims fire danger

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Billy and Grace Morrow investigate a pile of slash this fall cut down along Resurrection Pass Trail in Cooper Landing to limit fire danger and promote wildlife habitat.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Billy and Grace Morrow investigate a pile of slash this fall cut down along Resurrection Pass Trail in Cooper Landing to limit fire danger and promote wildlife habitat.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Summer hikers — and, soon, skiers — traveling along the southern end of Resurrection Pass and the Bean Creek Trail will have better views courtesy of a Chugach National Forest project to reduce the potential for wildfires and improve habitat for wildlife.

“A lot of the area was thick with beetle-kill, so you really realize how much land is there once it’s opened up,” said Joe Ford, Chugach vegetation project manager.

The project began in 2010 and runs from the two trail heads along the Sterling Highway in Cooper Landing, north to where they connect to each other just above Juneau Falls.

“The total project area is around 700 acres with around 250 acres along the trails. Roughly 210 acres will be treated for hazardous fuel reduction and 40 acres for habitat improvement for wildlife,” Ford said. “It only runs to where the two trails interconnect because, north of that area, the habitat changes, and there is more hemlock than dead or down spruce.”

Treatment for hazardous fuel reduction includes the removal of fallen, dead standing and dying unhealthy trees to reduce potential sources of fire ignition.

“Some of it is being removed, if it’s sound with at least a 6-inch diameter or more than 9 feet long,” Ford said “The smaller stuff was put into piles to be chopped and burned during the winter months, beginning in October of 2014, since the project should be done with the clearing phase by the end of next summer.”

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