Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Reunion

Tyler and Nick: the Graduates
Tyler and Nick: the Graduates

In late May, I traveled back to Minneapolis, Kansas for a family reunion and a class reunion. Thomas Wolfe once said, “You can’t go home again,” meaning reality never matches your nostalgic memories. This may be true, but I did not return to Kansas, expecting things to be the same as they were during my youth. My main reason for my trip to the small town where I was raised was to celebrate accomplishment and change. Two of my nephews were graduating from high school, and a niece was being promoted to high school. There was much to celebrate, and I wanted to be in the audience to applaud their accomplishments. As a bonus, I stayed for my high school reunion and reunited with high school mates I hadn’t seen in a long time.

IMG_1352 (2)
Russell, Melanie, and Nick

I admit, the trip was a bit stressful for me. I am a solitary, introverted person. At our lodge, I host a variety of guests throughout the year, but the groups are small, and I would classify the interactions as conversations rather than large get-togethers or parties. On my trip to Kansas, it seemed as if I had one large function after another to attend. My sister-in-law teased me when she noticed that I took every opportunity to escape to the peace and quiet of the library, but I had to recharge my batteries for the next event!


My trip was wonderful in so many ways. I managed one-on-one time with several of my close friends, spent a good deal of time with my brother, Russell; his wife, Melanie; and their son, Nick. We laughed, shared memories, and looked forward, imagining what the future would hold for us. I spent time with my oldest brother, Bruce, and his wife, Karen. I chatted with my nieces, Gisela, and Andrea, and enjoyed talking to Gisela’s husband, Steve, who recently retired from the Air Force. I loved getting to know Gisela and Steve’s children, Tyler and Kaysie, better and was amazed by their artistic abilities.


My class reunion was a little overwhelming but otherwise perfect. I saw friends I hadn’t seen since high school, and some of us struggled to recognize each other. We talked about kids (or in my case, cats), grandkids, spouses, marriages, divorces, illness, and deaths. We had all seen each other at the best of times and at the worst of times, and of course, we didn’t hesitate to remind each other of those “worst of times” situations. I was excited when a classmate told me that he was writing his first novel. We sat and talked and have corresponded several times since the reunion. I think we can help each other with editing, promotional ideas, and technical advice (his – not mine!).

High school friends Barb and Rich
High school friends Barb and Rich

My trip was going well. Russell, Melanie, Nick, and I took flowers to the cemetery on the Sunday before Memorial Day to place on my parents’ grave, and then Melanie invited the family to their house for Memorial Day dinner. Since I was scheduled to depart the next day, this would also be my farewell dinner.

Life has this way of sneaking up on us when we least expect it, and at 7:00 am on Memorial Day, Melanie knocked on my bedroom door to tell me that my oldest brother, Bruce, had died unexpectedly, probably from a heart attack. It was, of course, a terrible way to end a trip, but I reminded myself how lucky I was to have been able to see him one last time. I was even happier that his daughter, Andrea, had flown back to Kansas from her home in Nevada to attend the graduations, and she had been able to spend time with her father before he died.


Graduation in Kansas takes place in May, and May is the height of thunderstorm and tornado season. I love lightning and thunder and looked forward to experiencing some storms since thunderstorms are a rare event on Kodiak Island. On Kodiak, a storm with soft thunder and dim flashes of lightning usually makes the newspaper. Unfortunately, I was reminded to be careful what you wish for. It was stormy nearly every day I was in Kansas, and when I tried to leave, my flight was cancelled due to thunderstorms in the Dallas area where I had a connecting flight. Since flights to Alaska in June are packed, the ticket agent couldn’t rebook me on another flight for three days, so I sat and waited and wrote.

Gisela and Andrea
Gisela and Andrea

You can go home again, but It won’t be the same as you remembered it. Some changes will shock or disappoint you, but others will delight and amaze you. Life moves on and is always changing. I was exhausted after two weeks of friends, family, laughter, and tears, but for many reasons, I am thankful I decided to make this trip back to my childhood home. I have to admit, though, after being stuck for a couple of days, fighting with crowds, and being crammed into packed airplanes, I craved the wilderness of Kodiak Island.

Karen and Bruce
Karen and Bruce

How Strong is a Kodiak Bear, and How Fast can They Run?


To understand how strong a Kodiak bear is, you only need to observe one effortlessly running up a steep slope, quickly digging a den out of the side of a mountain, or easily flipping huge boulders weighing several hundred pounds. Kodiak bears have a heavy skeleton and a thick layer of muscles. The hump on their backs is a mass of muscles that aids in their ability to dig and provides a powerful striking force with their forepaws.DSC_0033

Brown bears have a shuffling, lumbering walk. They are flat-footed and pigeon-toed, and they walk with both legs on one side moving together. Their paws strike the ground in the following sequence: Right forepaw then left hind paw then left forepaw followed by the right hind paw. When walking at a fast pace, the hind paw is often placed well in front of the forepaw track.


Brown bears can run very fast over a short distance and have been clocked at 35 to 40 mph (56 to 64 kph). Even over a long distance, they can quickly cover a great deal of ground and climb steep banks with ease.

Many of our guests are surprised to learn that Kodiak bears can swim, but brown bears are excellent swimmers and can swim for a mile or two to cross a bay or lake. A brown bear swims with his body below the water and his head and nose slightly above the waterline. Although bears are strong swimmers, they seem ill-at-ease and vulnerable when swimming, and when approached by a boat, a bear may give up his plan DSC_0116to swim across the bay and return to the shore he just left, even if he is closer to the opposite shore. On sunny summer days, it is common to see Kodiak bears lying in water or splashing in the ocean to cool themselves, and some bears while even dive underwater to catch salmon. Snorkeling is a funny fishing technique employed by a few bears where the bear walks through chest-deep water and submerges his head to look for fish.


I never grow tired of watching bears. Sometimes they amuse me when I watch the interactions between a sow and her cubs, and other times I get caught up in the drama when two bears square off against each other. I am always amazed, though, by their tremendous strength and their ability to cover a great deal of distance in the blink of an eye. The combination of these two characteristics makes them the rulers of their domain.

Don’t forget, my Facebook Launch Party is tomorrow, June 20th, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm EDT (6:00 pm to 8:00 pm CDT, 4:00 pm to 6:00pm PDT, 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm ADT).  Also, stop by my website Launch Party page, sign my guestbook, and enter to win $25 Amazon gift card!

This is the official invitation from Publication Consultants:






Launch Party

It is party time! I want to invite all of you to the Launch Party for the re-release of my novel, Murder Over Kodiak! As I posted a few weeks ago, I self-published this novel last year, and then it was picked up in November by Publication Consultants, a publishing company in Anchorage. If you have already read a copy from my first release of Murder Over Kodiak, the story has not changed. It does have a new, glossy cover, and we’ve done some minor interior editing. More importantly, the novel now has the force of a publisher behind it.

My publisher, Evan Swensen, wanted me to have a release party, but I live in the middle of the wilderness, and I doubted even my cats would show up for my party. My husband would be there, but he doesn’t have a choice, so I studied my options and decided to do an online launch party.

This party is a Facebook party, and I know and understand that many people do not like Facebook and do not want to go anywhere near it. That’s okay! For those of you who hate Facebook, please go to my Launch Party page on my website and sign my guestbook. You can stop by my website anytime to sign my guestbook, and while you are there, sign up for the Rafflecopter drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card. Between my Facebook party and my website, I am giving away over $500 in prizes to celebrate the launch of my novel

I hope all of you will attend my party, and please invite your friends to come with you. I especially want to invite those of you who have already read one or both of my novels. You have no idea how much I appreciate you and your support, and this is my chance to show you how I feel!

Here are the details:

What: Facebook Launch Party for Murder Over Kodiak

Where: Facebook (click on this link)

When: June 20th from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm EDT (6:00 pm to 8:00 pm CDT, 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm PDT, 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm ADT)

Why: It will be fun!!!

You will have to provide your drinks and snacks, but there is no dress code. Wear whatever you have on or nothing at all!

See you at the party! Don’t forget to sign my guestbook on my website. You can sign it any time; just click on the guestbook link.

A doe and her three fawns stopped by this morning to say hi and to wish me luck.


How Intelligent are Kodiak Bears and Can they Communicate?


You don’t have to spend much time watching Kodiak bears to realize how intelligent they are. Some researchers consider bears to be as intelligent as primates, and others believe a bear is as smart as a dog. Intelligence is difficult to measure, though, and to compare the intelligence of bears to that of other animals is a guessing game. It is clear that bears learn quickly and remember what they learn, and unfortunately, this can be to the bear’s detriment if he learns to associate food with humans. Bears can adapt to environmental changes or unique situations, and they will remember what they learned from a single situation or experience.DSC_0111

Bears are only able to make a limited range of sounds, and they do not have the necessary muscles for facial expressions. They can’t curl a lip like dogs do, and their small ears don’t allow the expressive maneuvers of cats, but bears do communicate with each other by posturing, attitude, and vocalization. A sow may send her cubs up a tree with a woofing sound or call them to her side by popping her jaws. Many bear vocalizations sound alike to a human’s ears, but bears can differentiate the sounds and understand what they mean.

DSC_0199We often hear bears growl while fishing near each other, and sows frequently growl at their cubs to reprimand them. A loud roar is a much more serious vocalization than a growl, and a grunt or a woofing noise often signifies a distressed or upset bear. A bear will grunt or woof at us if he is surprised by our presence, and this vocalization sometimes precedes a lunge or a false charge. The message delivered by a vocalization has as much to do with the message giver as it does with the vocalization. A large boar needs only to stomp his feet or issue a sharp “woof,” and smaller bears flee his presence. Those same actions and vocalizations delivered by a sub-adult bear likely would go unnoticed.

Bears communicate with humans just as they do with other bears, and understanding their language or choosing a guide who understands their language is important if you plan to spend time in the wilderness in bear country. Correctly interpreting vocal signals as well as body language and posturing may alert you to back away from a stressed or agitated bear.

Please leave comments, ask questions, and make suggestions about topics you’d like to see on my blog.  Also, sign up for my free monthly newsletter and learn about true crime in Alaska.  Thank you for visiting my site!