Monday, April 27, 2009
I was seven years old and had just relocated with my family from Dover AFB, DE to Eielson AFB, Alaska. Dad had just returned State-side from a year's tour to Korea without us. He was withdrawn and our adventure to Alaska seemed like the only thing we had going for us. There was no room on Base, so the Air Force put my family of six and our dog up in a Fairbanks hotel. That was so much fun, especially because the maid was afraid of Russie, our fat, old Brittany! Soon, my dad moved us into a nasty, run-down cabin in Moose Creek, Alaska. In May, it snowed! My brother, Jamie, and I built 6 snowman, one for each family member, and a snow-dog, of course! :)
That summer was a blast: we had very few toys, as they were all in storage. Instead, we played in the dirt, made friends with a girl down the street, and walked alongside the railroad tracks to the Moose Creek General Store for over-priced candy-bars that are way under the price of cheap candy bars today. Dad broke his nose when he rolled a 3-wheeler on top of himself on those same railroad tracks sometime that summer. Mom worked part time at the BX and struggled to keep up with cabin cleaning and home-schooling.
In September, it snowed again! It was the 20th of September, actually. I remember this because my dad had taken all of us fishing on the bank of the Tanana River. Our senile, old dog had locked point on some bushes nearby. We scolded her for taking an interest in squirrels. A closer investigation, however, revealed a shivering, malnourished black Labrador. She was pregnant, abandoned, with fishing line cutting up her feet. Though a year in Korea without us had made him somewhat emotionless toward his family, my dad could not resist our cries to help the poor dog. Dad cleaned her up, named her Lucky, and built her a cardboard box to birth her babies. Seven perfectly plump Black Lab mixes, and one Chocolate Lab mix, of the same stature emerged from Lucky's skin and bones the very next day. Though we found a great new home for Lucky, we did keep her brown pup. We named him Sasquatch and he was the most well-behaved dog I have ever known.
We learned that winter pretty much starts around then, and soon, Christmas was upon us. It's the only year in my memory where our tree wasn't topped with a golden star my parents had made before I was born. Our tree of 1989 wore construction-paper strings, and popcorn strings at the top where Russie and Sasquatch couldn't reach them. Cut-outs from magazines also hung from the branches. It was perfectly Alaskan!
I'm not exactly sure when we moved out of the cabin, but I know we spent a significant amount of our first winter there, if not all of it. We learned that the hole we'd discovered in the summer when mosquitoes swarmed into my and my sister's room would turn that room into a frozen isolation chamber in the winter months. After that, we slept in the small living room. We also learned that squirrels could make a huge mess inside of a cabin and were very vigorous at finding a way in during the hard-to-forage winter months. We learned that if you feed a moose a potato, she will ask you for another, and another, and another, and so on. Sasquatch became friends with Molly the moose, whom my mom was the first to offer a handout to. Dad fed her from his hand, but soon made an executive decision to stop the handouts and force Molly to move on. Probably a wise decision, as I am sure we couldn't afford such an expensive pet!
Still, I think the most important thing we learned was that, together, we could make a great life here. We could endure any trial. We could overcome our past conflicts. We could love each other and be a family again. Those were the life lessons we should have all held on to as the years passed. God really used Alaska to bring us together back then. And together, we were a great team.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Alaska in the full flavor of pre-spring. Of course, we don't call it spring. Maybe it's one more act of refusal to conform, but in Alaska, it's called break-up. It's the time of year that rivers and snow begin to break-up. But what exactly does that mean to those of us who call "Seward's Icebox" our home?
- Nenana Ice Classic Tickets are on sale. The event is a State lottery of sorts. The goal is to place the closest guess as to when a large tripod will fall through the ice on the part of the Tanana River that flows through the small town of Nenana. Winners take home thousands of dollars annually. I've never played.
- Bad road conditions. "The brakes are not your friends" phrase is commonly heard at this time of year. In fact, Mom hit a moose with her Subaru last week. She's the first of the family to do so in the nearly 20 years we've been here! She and her car were unscratched. The moose, however, broke both her hind legs and had to be shot. In Alaska, churches are called to salvage all moose road kills, including Mom's.
- Ice Alaska: The world ice art championships are held in Fairbanks, Alaska. The "coolest" part of this is the kid's park. Fit for all ages, giant ice slides tower above smaller playground equipment: all made of ice. If you aren't up for a trip to Alaska in March, you can visit the Fairbanks Ice Museum from May-September. Though it doesn't hold many sculptures, there is an ice slide, to give you a taste of the real deal.
- Daylight Saving Time: Alright, some of our legislators are lobbying to get rid of the tradition, but I love it! Sure, in the dead of winter it is dark all the time, and in the middle of summer, we never see the stars, but this time of year, I just like seeing the sun still up at 9pm.
- Fur Rendezvous: Another event I've never taken part in, though this one sounds GREAT! Held in downtown, Anchorage, participants are welcomed to join in a variety of winter games such as dog sledding and reindeer races.
- March Madness at Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area: Located on Ft. Wainwright, this is a local favorite. Events include everything from pudding eating contests to ski-n-surf. It is held the last weekend of March.
- Dog weight-pull championships: The Fairbanks events are usually held in the Bentley Mall parking lot. This is a really fun event to watch or participate in. Dogs compete to see which can pull the sled carrying the most weight. Any dog can participate!
- Mush For Kids: This event is held at what I must grit my teeth and call "Pioneer Park" (formerly known as "Alaska Land"). It is free event to support the Alaska Children's Trust. Various vendors provide free services for children such as dog sled rides, hockey, puppy petting, crafts, etc.
Though there must be countless more community events happening, I'll end my list here. What I enjoy most this time of year is the water dripping from my roof, the sun shining past 9pm, taking my own dogs on dog sled rides, wearing a light jacket and Crocs to town, and just knowing summer is weeks away!
Monday, March 2, 2009
I woke John, changed, and instructed my mom to call the ER with my information: 33 weeks pregnant. Placenta Previa. Massive bleeding. Doctor's name is Bartling. We left the kids in their beds and Mom was here to stay with them.
The sparseness of cars on Alaska roads (especially at 2:30am) came in at a great advantage. John drove over 80 mph to get to Fairbanks Memorial hospital. The administrations clerks at the ER were throwing fits that I was not pre-registered. I told them I was bleeding all over thee floor and they said, "That's ok, we'll clean it up!" LOL, like I cared about the floor!
Once in Labor and Delivery, the Dr. stated the obvious: immediate C-section required. We had to wait for the anesthesiologist, which seemed like forever. Finally, just after 4am, I was taken into the OR. It was 6 minutes from the time I went in, to the time Gabriel Wayne was being walked out! I was not conscious, and I had nearly bled to death. They started a transfusion right then, and I would end up receiving a total of 6 units of blood just to get my blood count stabilized.
On a side note, please consider donating blood to your local blood bank. Thank you, Jen, for donating and saving people's lives. It might not get your name in the newspaper like saving someone from a car accident or something, and you might not get an award for inventing a great piece of life-saving equipment, but giving blood is just as heroic. Somewhere in Fairbanks, Alaska are 6 donors who maybe received a glass of orange juice for their contributions, but they are my heroes. Without their donations and God's mercy, my newborn son would not have his mother today.
Anyway, as I received my care, Gabriel was getting his. He was a tough little fighter! He received lubricating medicines for his pre-mature lungs and was breathing heavily on his own. When his breathing continued to labor, his Dr. opted to put him on a ventilator. Gabriel kicked and swatted at the Dr. so much he had to be sedated. Dr. Foote said we were going to have a discipline problem with this one. I think he was right: a day or two after it was inserted, Gabe removed the breathing tube himself! He seemed to be able to breathe without the heavy laboring, so they left it out and placed a feeding tube through his nose. a day or two after that, he pulled that out!
At that point, it was decided he could suck minute amounts of breast milk through a rubber nipple. He did it, but the "nutrient IV" was still providing his basic needs. The IVs soon began to swell, and an increase of milk volume was made. Gabe sucked it down. By yesterday, at one week old, Gabriel was off the IVs and medicines. He was only hooked to a monitor. A nurse last night put another feeding tube in. She said he only ate half his food, but I have not had any trouble getting him to eat and neither have any other nurses. He eats over a 1/4 of a cup of milk every 3 hours and loves it. Though he dropped from 5 pounds, 12 ounces to 5 pounds, 2 ounces, he has now gained back almost 2 ounces. He has also grown one inch: from 18 inches, to 20. His only step left toward release is maintaining his own body temperature in an open room. Really, that means adding more body fat to keep him warm.
God is amazing. He had this planned and controlled since he first formed Gabriel. As the Psalmist said, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." I truly believe my bout of pneumonia and month-long illness was to keep me from walking and having this happen sooner than it did. Gabriel would not have been ready a day sooner. God made him a large baby too. I know His hand is in all things. I miss my little guy more than anything in the world. The love I have for him truly is, as they say, like wearing my heart on my sleeve. Leaving him in the NICU was very hard, but knowing he is doing so well, makes it much easier. I think he may be home within a week or two.
Monday, February 16, 2009
The temperature has been great as well. Saturday, it was 20 degrees. John took the kids skiing. At 3 and 4 years old, I didn't expect them to stay out too long. Five hours later, John was dragging Paris into the lodge and leaving Judah to follow after "one more time." They were awesome and I was jealous to be confined to a chair by the window to watch. Still, knowing I had taught both of them this sport was pretty gratifying. Paris did insist that "Daddy teached her," and I suppose that's ok since she is a little girl and I understand how little girls idolize their Daddies whether they deserve it or not. LOL
When we finally left the ski lodge, Paris was asleep before we left the parking lot. We managed to keep Judah talking for the 20 minute drive home in order to prevent him from a late nap. At exactly 9 pm, they were both in bed for the night. Within 5 minutes, they were both asleep. They slept. And they slept. And they slept some more. We opted out of Sunday-School just so they could finish resting. It was a quarter 'til 10 when I woke them up. Nearly 13 hours of sleep and they were still well worn!
Today, I will send them in the backyard to go sledding for a while. This time of year really is great!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
During this time of much sitting, my last post has been bothering me. Though it is a very small town, North Pole is so much more than the last post. There are so many more memories and things to say about why I am happy to have grown up here, and even happier to raise my children here. I suppose I may just have to compile a book about it one day. :)
In the meantime, to Jennifer, I'd like to say that I am not arguing that North Pole is better than any other home-town. I am sure there is charm and deep memories in most peoples' home-towns. Perhaps that is what I am digging at: a reflection from my heart of why North Pole was great for me, and a challenge to others to reflect on their places of origin as well. We all come from somewhere. Though that Somewhere will never be the same as it was when we were there, it will always be "perfect" in our hearts.
For Shane: The Great Alaska Pizza Company took over all of the area Little Ceaser's when the national chain downsized. The only topping unique to the Alaska-based company is reindeer sausage. The pizzeria itself is fantastic competition to the more well known, Pizza Hut, offering such deals as an every-day Large, one-topping pizza for $7.99 and a once-a-month "customer appreciation" day where Large , one-toppings are $4.99 each. Still, the place is nothing real special, in my opinon anyway. It is not specialty pizza or something anyone considers a local favorite.
And, for my "anonymous husband:" Elkhart, Texas has its charm as well. It's just that no one explained to anyone there that life is ever-changing, so the people there all seem to be "stuck" in the same reality that they have been for years!
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
On the flip side, ravens are amazing creatures in the wild. They have mimicking capabilities. I have heard them "bark" at my dog, Tigerlily while we walked our trapline. Sometimes they whistle. Mostly tthough, their sound is just a throaty "caw" similar to a crow or a deep clucking. The most amazing time to hear them is when they have found a fresh animal kill. I don't quite understand what, other than God, directs them to kill sites, but they seem to appear as soon as an animal is killed. After they find the site, they just seem to multiply in the sky. From six to a dozen black birds, soaring high above the blood on the ground; circling and calling loudly. Calling: yes, calling to stir the other forest inhabitants. "Aww-Aww-'Freshly killed moose below,'" they say, hoping to reach the ears of a wolf pack or a hungry bear. They repeat this ritual for hours at times, scarcely ever swooping down to peck at the meat. Ravens prefer to have someone else do the dirty work. If they can call in a hungry carnivore to rip the hide and make a mess of the carcass, they will gladly wait. Then, and only then, does the ravens' feast begin.
It is a shame to see the raven in such a negative light around the cities. Instead of scavenging after bears and wolves, they scavenge after humans. They are pecking at the remnants of OUR meals, and living a very poor life due to that. I once asked a lady from the Alaska Bird Observatory about the lifespan of the raven. Though I don't remember her exact answer, I wasn't surprised to hear that city birds die much sooner than those in the wild. Not because they have a rougher life, but because they have high cholesterol, heart disease, and other nasty illnesses caused by their custom of eating our table scraps.
Well, consider yourself a little more educated on the most common bird in Alaska. And if you come to visit this Great Land, and you share a french-fry or hamburger with a raven, just remember, somewhere beyond the city lights, there are moose who dread the sound of the raven's cry. It means death to them, but life to a wolf and to the ravens there, who know nothing of our human filth.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Go ahead, Outsider's, blame us for your "arctic cold front." However, this picture just tickles my funny bone: According to the accompanying CNN article, these ladies are "enduring the cold" which is hitting Massachusetts at 20 degrees. LOL, we haven't had 20 degrees since October! Now I will recognize that the humidity level near the east coast and the wind in the mid-west contribute greatly to a cold feeling which is more than ambient, but, there is nothing like the way your lungs fail to open at -40 and colder. Sorry you're cold, Lower 48ers, but I can't deny that your misfortune comes at a time of great pleasure for us!
Of course, as the title of this post indicates, this "heat wave" is not all fun and games to those of us who now have to drive to work on wet roads which are still so cold that the melting snow immediately freezes over. I am sure as my husband drives to work at 5am, that he will be praying for his safety. I am sure he will pass a half a dozen motorists whose cars will have slipped off the roads. His patrol should be quite eventful as well. Ahh, weather sure is a complication to our lives here in Alaska. Still, it amazes me to no end!
On a personal note, I haven't had the chance to enjoy the weather myself at all! Two days ago, I woke up with a sore throat which quickly turned into some sort of strange flu. I ache all over, feel chilled to my bones, then in the next ten minutes, I sweat harder than I would after running the Midnight Sun Run! I sent Judah and Paris out to go sledding this afternoon and the 30 degree weather felt like -12 to me. Pregnancy is adding to my discomfort. Oh well, it will pass: probably about the time the temperatures fall back below zero!
UPDATE 01/16/09: It's nearly 50 degrees at my house today! Another problem is occuring: Our stash of ice cream and crab legs had to be relocated from the front porch to the freezer! :)
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
- If I step on the snow beginning with my left foot, I must leave the snow from my right foot.
- Lynx chili is pretty good and I know because my dad made it for his own retirement party.
- I can't swim: I just don't know how, and this is not very smart since there is so much water in Alaska.
- The longest I've gone not owning a Brittany (Spaniel) was the first year of my life.
- The longest I've been without a shower is 10 days while on float-hunting trip during which time I shot my first moose.
- (slightly off topic, but funny) When we first got married, my arm muscles were bigger than John's and I owned more firearms....Now he has a couple more guns than me.-and FINE, he's managed to gain some muscle too. :)
- I was 18 years old before I saw a black bear in the wild...and I shot him!
Alright, that was everything you really didn't need to know about me and now I am tagging: My Sister-in-law, Jennifer (Because she's the "survey queen"), Rebecca (Because she'll probably do it), Gretchen (Because -45 for the last week and a half is driving her to boredom), Jennifer's sister, Lauren (Because she's the "survey queen's" sister), Crystal (Because she's online all the time), John's Aunt Kristi (Because she might be up to the challenge), and James (Because I just don't know anyone else who might keep this thing going).
Thursday, January 1, 2009
So, what do we do when it is this cold? I could point out the number of Alaskan babies born August-October, but that's pretty much a given. What really occurs is a whole lot of cabin fever. My kids are sharing germs, arguing over toys they received for Christmas, and wearing so many layers of clothes that they each weigh 10 pounds more than usual. My dogs are mad at me for forgetting about them when they were outside. Don't worry, the dryer was on, and despite their "bird brains," they had enough sense to huddle together under the vent. This kept them plenty warm. Moses must have actually forgiven me because he keeps ringing his bell to alert me that he wants out yet again. Crazy fool, doesn't the air choke his breath as it does mine? Mrs. Jones is not as forgiving: she is huddled in front of the electric fireplace (which is not turned on) and sending evil glares my way.
As for me and John, I assume, we are like most spouses who are forced to deal with the in and outs of life at sub-zero temperatures. Meaning, we are frustrated that elements of our home are not functioning properly, that one of our cars decided it would rather be living in Florida and is refusing to run, and secretly knowing that our utility bills will arrive with a whole new stress of their own.
Still, this isn't the worst of winter. No, after all, we are warm, at least. We are saving money because I am not driving anywhere, using gas or spending money on groceries and the like. In fact, one would think I could accomplish a lot of household duties during this period of self-inflicted "lock-down." However, THE DARKNESS DRIVES ME INSANE! Sure, every light in my house is on, the sun is shining somewhere above the fog, but the dreary, dim light that stays so flat for only about 5 hours is very depressing. Somehow, it is even snowing right now. Tiny crystals of dry ice flaking from the sky don't even cheer the mood. They are menacing, in a way; taunting me to realize that this winter is far from over. 6 months pregnant, truly not long to go, but the months of January and February in Alaska seem to drag like the tip of a snail's tail.
Ahh, I will survive, as I always do. And When March finally does pull through, the fresh smell of Break-Up and the sunshine will rejuvenate me once again. I will not be thinking about today: it's darkness, its depression. I will only see Alaska and its winter beauty. I will see the dogsled teams mushing in the daylight, the sun sparkling on the hills, spend a day with my family enjoying ice sculptures, and as I absorb it all, a twinge of guilt will touch my heart as I recollect today's dark feelings. I will realize that there is no where else like Alaska. There is no where else where a person's body can sway with the seasons like this. There is no where else that I can show my kids how boiling water freezes in mid air. And there is no where else I'd rather be right now.............
Well, Hawaii was great in January...