A Home In The Mountains

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Grandpas Resting place

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Heather and Andrew

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heather and me
We may be related…

 

me and heather infant
Nearly 27 years ago

 

 

In the week before the wedding our son Billy, nearly 21 now, joined us in our ventures. He’d sought out his birth father, as many foster/adoptees do at some point. I think they go into it hoping all the reasons they’d been lost to the foster system in the first place had somehow washed away, and a worthy parent would stand where disappointment once had. Alas, Billy lasted six weeks and came away with, I think, a sense of closure.

Upon his return, he announced he was ready to attend the college program I’d been trying to push him into for years. A one year certification in heavy equipment operations at the community college in Redding, CA.  And so before he could even finish stating his wishes, we’d dragged him back down to California and enrolled him full time.

So much for adventure and travel this winter, said the parents in us.  Redding, it is!

The rest of the kids rebelled against stability for a while, set on the idea of ending up on the Gulf of Mexico again. But Billy was set on school, and who wants to wake from that dream?

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Our Little Homesite

 

I don’t know what I thought I would find when I came back here.  That the trees which stood hundreds of years before would have regrown their roots?  That fallen needles would have replaced the soot and ash left behind by the forest fire that ripped through here just a few years ago? Few trees of decent size remain where giants once stood.  A little bunch hovers over my father-in-laws grave, loyal and protective of the one who’d nurtured their roots in life, as well as in death.

I don’t know if I thought it would all be easy, starting over with nothing but soil and a shovel.  I mean, we had just gotten our Alaska homestead halfway livable when we fled south in pursuit of another project. Maybe I’ve gone soft. Maybe I’m tired.  Either way, the first few days here I wallowed in depression and angst over all that lay before us. I cried in the small space of the motorhome while my teens stared and wondered what to do. The thick red dust, ashes, burned remnants of a quality of life that once thrived here, but now seemed impossible to regain. And the heat, the excruciatingly thick, hard-to-breathe heat that lay over the place. It was too much for our skin. Our eyelids sweated. Our shoulders burned. We didn’t want to do it.  Again.

And so we began to search for a rental house.  It took very few inquiries to discover what we’d suspected all along. Nobody wants to rent to a family with six teenagers, four dogs, three cats and zero rental history.  Oddly, if you own your home and don’t own credit cards, it’s somehow viewed as a bad thing. There’s something backwards in that.

And so we dug our fingers into the land once again. Some things are meant to be. I’m apparently meant to have an outhouse.

Six quarters, for three minutes  of public shower is pretty steep when there are eight of us, so we put together an old canvas shower stall we brought with us from Alaska, bought a cheap solar shower bag and strung it up with a piece of  yellow nylon rope, tied off to a branch. We have found nearby resources for hauling water in five gallon jugs. (read as: we fill our jugs at the local campgrounds when the host is away)  We leveled a spot for the motorhome where the old cabin used to be.  We set up a camp complete with barbecue and a tree stump table.  And Billy hung the door on the outhouse we built when we were here in June.  Camp setup: complete.

We take walks. Luke whips the other boys at poker while Anthony asks me again if I’m certain it’s illegal to gamble professionally at fourteen.  We metal detect old fallen down cabins so deep in the woods we wonder if anyone else knows they exist.  We read…a lot.  We search for arrowheads in the dried creek bed where water once flowed high on the banks. We ride bikes down steep hills (I see an ER visit in my future). Billy proved that the bigger the boy, the bigger the fort.  And on days when the heat overtakes us, we hit the water park in Redding,  we drive up to Lassen National Park and dip our bodies into the cool lake or we throw a line in the water at Hat Creek campground up Hwy 44 where Anthony caught his first trout.

Tonight as the sun set I watched my boys, all four of them, wrestling and chasing each other between the trees where my husband played as a boy.  “Get off grandpa’s grave,” I yelled as Billy and Anthony rolled around near the gravesite, coating themselves in thick dust and memories.

And then I remembered…that’s exactly what we came here to do. We just wandered a bit before we found the right path.

 

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Anthony making it to the top…

 

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Mya IN Lake

 

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Luke At Lake

 

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Robin Enjoying The Lake

 

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Reading As Always

 

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The Original Campfire ring

 

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Billy’s Big Boy Fort

 

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Camp

 

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The Shower

 

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Home On Wheels

 

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Comfy Cat

 

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Yatzee Tournament

 

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Getting mighty snug in here…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s Waldo?

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We drove south from Alaska near the end of May this year on a whim. Maybe I’m just tired of the winters. The darkness gets to me. Or maybe it’s just a classic mid-life crisis and the husband and I have sunk at the same time. Because in April when I said, “Let’s go south,” he grabbed his suitcase and headed for the door.

“You are leaving Alaska in the summertime?” said everyone we passed going the opposite direction on the Alaska/Canada highway.  Even the Alaska border patrol said we were headed the wrong direction but we just smiled, nodded, and pointed south.

“Where is the six-door?” others would say, knowing we normally drive a rather unusually long rig.  She is having a new motor installed, and was sadly replaced with an old 15 passenger van. I know humility is healthy, but it’s humbling to drive an ugly van after being ultra cool in the six door all these years.  Perhaps our vanity needed to be taken down a notch. The van certainly did that.

It’s somewhere around 2300 miles from Anchorage to Seattle, our first destination being another 600 miles past that in Redding, California. Every time we drive the Alcan highway we swear the next we will take more time and see the sites. But this, my 17th time, was no different than the rest in that we hit the pedal to the medal and didn’t stop until we saw the tip of the space needle.

We did stop to photograph the first of eighteen black bears we saw along the drive, but after that the husband would slow down and I’d hang my head out the window snapping pictures, yelling, ‘go, go, go!’ as one pissed off cinnamon black came charging towards the truck as I clicked. They say black bears aren’t aggressive, but even they don’t like paparazzi shoving a camera in their faces.

Bears, bison, caribou, elk and moose are a common site alongside the road. Or even in the road as was the case with the bison, which don’t move fast for anyone and make a mighty big dent in the bumper if you try to nudge them aside.  So we did slow to a stop for them, but other than that we flew through Canada pretty fast. Someday…some day we will stop at the hot springs and wander the streets of Dawson City like we always promise. Or maybe not.

If you didn’t follow us in the winter of 2013-2014, we did a similar trip and spent six months travelling from Alaska clear down to the gulf of Mexico on the Padre Islands of the Texas coast. We spent a month there, headed up to Utah for a month, and spent the rest of our time relative hopping and camping across the western United States.  We returned to Alaska in May, 2014, spent one year at home (half of which was laid up after an injury involving a bear, two boys, and my superhuman-porch-leaping skills) and now we are off again.  This time for a full year.

We stopped off in Portland, Oregon and had a day with our adult kids, Heather, Destini and Billy as well as Heathers fiancé, Andrew.  We had a phenomenal day in the sun with the kids, and then headed south to the mom-in-laws in Redding just in time to put the husband on a plane to go back to work. Poor guy.

Here was the initial plan: The husband inherited an acre of land an hour east of Redding, deep in the logging roads behind Shingletown, California. It was, long story short, his childhood playground and the place where his family escaped the city life of southern Cal, his entire life. His father’s ashes are there, in a memorial rock, and a few years ago the whole place burned in a forest fire, leaving behind a few trees and nothing much else.  The ‘property’, as it’s known to the family, went from a shaded oasis of redwoods and pines to a desert of deep red dirt and ash.

And we came south to revive it. We bought tents, cots, lawn chairs, shovels, rakes and camping equipment and planned to spend the summer rebuilding the past, so the children of the future could love it as he did.  We started with an outhouse. But here is what we discovered..

Redding, California and the surrounding area, is like LIVING IN A TOASTER OVEN.

And sleeping in a tent, in a toaster oven, gets unbearable by six a.m.  So each day the kids, the pets and I loaded up our picnic and headed for higher ground.  The property is at 4000 ft elevation, so the only higher ground around was Lassen Volcanic National Park, not far up the road, and beyond that Hat Creek and Burney Falls recreation areas where we spent the next week.  We lazed in the lake by day, then headed back to the property around seven p.m., just in time for the air to become almost tolerable to these poor Alaskan kids who thought California was trying to kill them.

Clearly, camping out on the property and rebuilding was not going to work this time of year. So when my cousin, Tina, told me one night, “Go to Roseburg, my cabin is empty,” we were packed and out of there in ten minutes flat.  Off to Oregon we went.

(Backstory: I didn’t grow up around my family. Born in Roseburg, Oregon, as were my parents, my grandparents and my great-grand parents, we moved to Alaska when I was eight. I have a giant extended family in the Roseburg, Glide, Cottage Grove, Oregon area and I know about six of them.)

We spent five days in Roseburg at my cousins place which sits behind her folks house, overlooking the city. They have a pool, so it’s a wonder we ever left. We went to our first ever baseball game, met some cousins, swam in the pool and soaked up the hospitality. The husband flew in from work and we headed over to Pacific City on the coast where we were again spoiled by some old neighbors of ours who have retired at their beach cabin a couple blocks from the beach. It pays to have friends and relatives in ‘high’ places, or at least with swimming pools and beach cabins.

While on the coast, pondering our next move and wondering how long we could live in tents on friends and relatives good nature, we went down to a camp trailer dealer and impulsively bought a 30ft motorhome. A 1996 with only 27,000 miles on it, we got it super cheap and felt good about the decision.  Homeless no more, we headed south back to Redding to spend July 4th with the husband family where all four of his sisters had gathered at his moms.

Back into the firepits of Redding we went, though this time armed with air conditioning. We felt like we were on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, rolling down the road in style rather than our 91’ E350 van with the rusted roof and nonexistent air conditioning. Yes, Mother, I know there are starving children in Africa, but I’m Alaskan and I need my coolant.

After the 4th we dropped the husband down at the Sacramento airport and a couple days later we headed back up here to Roseburg so we could again lounge in my aunts pool. I’m not sure how long she will put up with us, but I have Steven mowing her lawn now and Mya cleaned her living room. With three kids left to do chores, I figure we will last through the weekend.

Our next stop is Portland again, then over to Tillamook where my DAUGHTER, HEATHER, IS GETTING MARRIED on July 25th! And then who knows.

After two months of answering Craigslist ads, we have discovered something definitive. NOBODY wants to rent to a family with 5 teenagers, 3 dogs and 3 cats. Hence the motorhome purchase. We like the looks of a Lake Havasu, Arizona snowbird rental where we can get a house with a pool and experience city life for a while.  Though we don’t actually like to spend any money…so…

But what we have really figured out…is that maybe we don’t want to settle in somewhere. Maybe the open road, an open atlas, and an open mind is the best option for now.

 

 

 

 

Baby Goats

We aren’t animal people, exactly. I know it seems such, since we are constantly surrounded by fur balls. But really, they find us, not the other way around. I’m not one of those gushy people who oooh’s and aweee’s over babies, animal or otherwise. But I’m telling you…there’s nothing quite like a newborn ANYTHING to make the heart swoon.  This afternoon just after sunset our goat, Millie, gave us a set of twins. The first of several births to come in the next couple months. I don’t really know how this happened…that we ended up with nine goats…but they sure are cute.

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Twin girls born this afternoon, January 8, 2014 to Millie.

 

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Just starting to move around…
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Stumbling around like drunks…
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OH MY GOSH they are cute!
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The Three Wise Hens…looking on.
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It’s been a rough night…
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MOOOOOMMMM….stop it!!
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Soooo tired…

 

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Yes, I’m cute.

 

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Sisters!

 

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Wobbly goat legs…
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She wouldn’t stop following Robin…
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She knew just what to do.

 

Just Another Scenic Sunday 12-7-14

Alaska Photos … Scenic Sunday

I know it’s been since July that I’ve put up a Scenic Sunday and no, I didn’t disappear completely. I’ve just been…well…lazy.  My camera went in for repairs.  I broke my booty and ended up bed ridden for six weeks.  And then, by golly, it took a LONG time to move normally again.  I don’t have much to show for my absence other than a slight limp and utter disorganization, but today I found my desk under a heap of crapola and broke out the laptop. It feels good.

So, here’s what’s happened since I’ve been gone: Mostly, we look like a zoo.

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My oldest baby, Heather, announced her engagement to Andrew and we are SUPER EXCITED about this! July 2015 in Tillamook, Oregon. :-) Also she is so beautiful.
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Did I mention how beautiful my Heather is? (she obviously looks like me…)
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Destini (right) and her BFF Andrea left Alaska and toured the west coast for a while before settling in Portland. They are having a blast.
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And now Destini is off to see the great big world!
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I’m so glad my oldest girls are near each other even if I can’t see them all the time. ;-)

 

And now for the farm life…

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I’m ADOPTED?!?!?
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Bagel and Mya are such good friends.
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This friendly girl came to live…and brought her pregnant belly.
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And this guy, her boy from a previous relationship…
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Cocoa, the creeper in the back, looks suspicious.
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We brought Rio, our companion horse, home to live. She needs some special kinda loving.
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Bagel swears she didn’t eat the tether ball…
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In case you ever wondered what our kitchen looks like…it’s clean here. So…snapped a pic.
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I have a bit of a thing for old cast iron…
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We got some old, new to us, furniture. It’s super comfy and nobody has to sit on the floor.
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We finally got some snow.
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Rio said goodbye to her buddies.
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One big happy family.
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The sun peaking through over Homer, Alaska
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We gave the goats a playground…
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And some of them liked it.
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But some of them don’t know they are goats…
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WHAT?
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She’s so FLUFFY!
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We filled the woodshed.
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We built a lean-to for the goats and Boots helped. OH, and Anthony’s hair got curly. Remember when it all fell out? Now it’s turned curly….hmmmm
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We got some new POWER for our cabin!
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Starting to look a lot like winter.
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Oh yes, and we homeschooled….and Steven made a story that actually made sense and nobody died. That’s important in a story.
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The boys and I began to take apart Destini’s old coffee shop, Hooked, that was damaged in an ice flood. We are turning it into a Tiny House guest cabin so you all can visit!!
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And we schooled some more. We are SO happy with our schedule this year. Everyone is learning tons.
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Beezie somehow got even cuter…
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Robins volleyball season came…and went…
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Robin is super bouncy.
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Mya found a connection and love…
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I surprised the husband with a new toy to renovate. He was shaking with excitement. He’s weird like that.

 

 

A Room With No View

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Destini and Robin…ready for anything…

 

I hate those arrogant ‘update’ blogs. As if the world is waiting, on the edge of their seat, to learn the fate of that once frequent blogger who mysteriously went AWOL from the Facebook feed.

But alas…here I lie, tapping away at the keyboard. So much to say… so little of it actually interesting.

It’s been over three weeks since I had surgery to repair a Hamstrng Avulsion.  That’s a fancy way of saying I ripped my hamstring muscle clean off the pelvic bone.  Damn, that hurt.

The surgeon made about a six inch incision across the back of my buttocks in the seam where my booty meets my thigh. They drilled some holes in my pelvis, fished around inside my leg until they found the run-away muscle and zip-tied it back to the bone.  I crutched out with instructions to go home, lie down, and don’t move a muscle for six weeks. Minimum.

And so I have been here on this twin bed we shoved in the corner of the cabin. Twice I’ve ventured out and both times ended up back on pain pills. Summer has left us; the leaves are crisp and yellow. It has rained for eleven days straight. Still, I’m here, until the ground freezes.

I’m three weeks from my first goal and it couldn’t come sooner.  Then I can slowly ease back onto my feet, begin physical therapy, and eventually all this will be behind me. (that’s right, I said ‘behind’ me…)

I have to say, a few things have surprised me about these weeks on my back:

Muscles, when not used, deplete very, very quickly. 

I’ve never broken anything before. Never been laid up for more than a few days with the flu and until now, I couldn’t remember the last time I napped.  My leg is pretty well useless already, thin and shapeless.  I’ve always been proud of my strength and muscle tone. Even when I’m chubby, my legs still look good and I rarely lack the strength to do whatever I want. But in just the seven weeks since my original injury, I’ve lost it all. Such a good lesson in ‘use it or lose it’ and I hope I gain a new motivation for keeping my body in shape when all of this is over.

Injury to the body affects the mind.

I’m not a crier. I rarely react emotionally to any situation. My older kids tell me I’m dead inside and I’ve a reputation for being a bit nonchalant about emotional subjects to say the least.  But I’m telling you, lying here all these weeks, staring at the ceiling with nothing to do but think…I’ve cried more than I had in my previous 43 years combined.  It’s not pity, I don’t think. Well, maybe partly it is.

I’m intent on getting off this bed if for no other reason than I will be able to once again run from my emotions.  In all seriousness though, it has been eye opening to get a teensy-tiny taste of what some folks go through. Knowing my injury is temporary, it’s been difficult to remain emotionally intact. If this were a permanent injury keeping me down…well, I’m just not sure I’m a strong enough person to handle it. Kudo’s to those who do.

My children are saints. (All but one anyway…)

There’s a failure in the chain of command when the leader goes down and soldiers are sent scrambling in unknown territory. Suddenly those accustomed to being cared for are the ones doing the caretaking.  And for the most part, my kids stepped up.  The husband had to go back to work days after my surgery and my kids took over the role of parents. They cooked, cleaned, chopped firewood, tended the farm animals, harvested the garden, kept me fed and alive.  My girls shaved my legs, changed a bandage that wrapped well into my nether regions, helped me dress and shower and put up with the aforementioned mood swings from Hell.  My small boys were less aggravating than normal and shockingly well behaved 90% of the times. (The other 10% they’ll pay for when I can run again.) Friends and my mom brought meals, paid visits, kept me sane at my lowest points. But it was those kids of mine, trapped in the woods for weeks on end with nobody to drive them anywhere, waiting 24/7 on this cranky mother….that is what impressed me to no end.  There is a reward at the end of this long tunnel for those little people who held me together through this difficult recovery.

And so I’m on the road to wellness. These past few days my right leg goes purple from hip to toe each time I get out of bed. Clearly something is wrong yet a trip to the hospital found no blood clots so we assume swelling may be cutting into the blood flow. As long as I stay on my back staring at the ceiling, I’m fine. My neck is kinked as I type this and so you’ll probably not hear from me again until I’m at least able to sit in a chair.  Even leaning on a pillow at a slant puts pressure on my healing wound.

I’m going to lay back now and stare at the ceiling some more. I’ll pop in another 80’s movie, open my third bag of caramels, and enjoy the silence that pervades my little cabin as the children have escaped outside between rain showers.

I’ll check back in as my body allows. Thanks to all who read my words, all who wish me well, and even those who don’t.  There I go, getting all emotional again. Crap…

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Mya keeping the animals alive and healthy…

 

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Outside my window…(ohmgosh, remind me to tell you about my friend Tony and the miracle he worked with my yard….)

 

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Luke…just because….

 

 

 

 

What They Did To Me Bum…

If you’ve not been following the sage of the bear/boys/bum injury, here’s a couple of links:

Bear In The Back Woods

Cruisin’ For A Bruisin’

Last week I went in for an MRI at the request of our local clinic doc here in Ninilchik who took one look at this bruising and said, “How long did you wait to come see me?” shaking her head and pursing her lips like my mother when I was a teenager.

Bruise

 

The MRI tech gave me a similar head shake and “Oh My Goodness, honey,” and sent me to an Orthopedics fellow in Homer. But before I could even get to his office he called me, said he’d reviewed my MRI, it wasn’t something he could fix, and he shuffled me off to Anchorage.

Monday the husband drove me up to Anchorage, about a four hour drive, to meet with Dr. Powell, orthopedic surgeon, who diagnosed me before I even left the waiting room based on the way I was hanging half my ass off the edge of the hard plastic chair.

“We’ll do the surgery tomorrow,” he said. “The sooner the better before it gets worse.”

Come to find out, two of the three tendons that hold the hamstring to the pelvic bone had ripped clean off and were just dangling around in the back of my thigh.  Ouch, is right. The fear is, if left too long the nerves can get all twisted into the mess and cause permanent damage. We can’t have that, can we?

So Tuesday morning at eleven I arrived at the Anchorage Spine Center for my appointment where I was promptly given my very own open backed blue gown, fuzzy socks, and a hair net.  A good look for me, I think.

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Here is a link describing the surgery they performed, complete with gory pictures and what appear to be forks ripping into the thigh. I’m pretending mine was much prettier. SURGERY LINK

Apparently what they did was slit a hole across the bottom of my right butt cheek from inner to outer thigh, somewhere around 6 inches across. I’ve not seen it yet, it’s well packaged up. But boy, can I feel it.

Then they fished around until they found the dangling tendons and hamstring so they could reattach the little buggers.  They drilled HOLES in my pelvic bone and hooked the tendons in place with some kind of super strong wires, then sewed the whole mess back up.

Then an hour later they stuck me on crutches for the first time and sent me on my way.  No dilly-dallying around the hospital these days.  Just a few crackers and you’re outta there.

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The husband planted me in a hotel room with flowers, peach yogurt, crackers and my cell phone. He knows me so well. And we spent the night in neighboring beds, him snoring, me whining, and then after a checkup with the doc, we drove home today.

I’ve been instructed in no uncertain terms by Dr. Powell to lay here in this bed in the middle of the cabin for the next six weeks.  I’m not to use my right leg, not to hop around trying to do things for myself or others and I’m not under any circumstances to chase any more bears.

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My view for the next six weeks…

I think I can follow thru with most of that.

I’m not gonna lie…I’m in a lot of pain. The meds they gave me make me sweat a lot and my breathing feels funny, if I take the full dose so I cut myself back to half which controls the pain, but doesn’t take it away by a long shot.

We were brought a halibut dinner by one dear lady, another came and picked up the boys for an overnighter, the girls are gone and the husband went right out to push some more gravel onto our driveway before the sun set.  So I’m alone in my little bed we put it the middle of the cabin, wincing at the pain and trying to look at the brighter side of things.

I aint dead.  I’ll get out of dishes for the next six weeks. And as was pointed out by so many readers…at least I’ll have more time to write.

 

 

 

Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’

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For the record…I don’t know how to get my blog to stop showing you TWO of the same picture in each post. Sorry.

 

I don’t have mirrors in my house. I mean, there is a tall mirror in Robin’s room because, well, she’s seventeen and that is required.  And we have a small hand mirror in the kitchen of course, because doesn’t everybody? But it’s just something we haven’t bothered to buy since moving up to the cabin. Maybe we just don’t want to know.

 

So when I walked out of the bathroom in a towel last night and my husband yelled out, “YOWZA”, I thought it was because he’d just come home from a two week shift at work.  But alas, it wasn’t my smokin’ hot body that set him off.  It was the GIANT BRUISE on the back of my leg.

 

It’s been over two weeks since the “BEAR INCIDENT” (long story short, a grizzly scared my boys up a tree, I jumped off the porch to save the day, and then remembered I am 42…)

 

In the weeks to follow what I assumed to be a strained hamstring, I’ve limped around doing my thing for the most part.  There is just too much to do in an Alaska summer to stop for a little old sore leg. Okay, so excruciatingly painful leg, but still…lots to do.  So I just limp around.  I haven’t been able to shave the bottom half of my leg in weeks…the kids are now able to out run my wrath…and my bedroom is at the top of a steep ladder so I whimper a lot at bedtime…but other than that I’ll survive.

 

On Thursday last week after chewing out my son Anthony for leaving my drill out in the rain, I stomped off as only a mother can, towards my greenhouse to take a few breaths before I was minus one 13 year old. Just in front of the door I slipped on the mud and my legs went opposite directions as I hit the ground on my back.

 

The howling and screaming that came from my mouth as I fell and re-injured my hamstring, paid the boys back for scaring the tar out of me when the bear put them up a tree. They all came running, assumedly, to bury my crumpled body. But I was still alive on arrival, so they just stared at me lying in the mud, rain pelting my face, as I clutched my leg and cried.

 

Last night after discovering my thigh looks like plump plum, I did some Googling and discovered the bruising could be indicative of a larger issue with the muscle. As stubborn as some of us are about going to the doctor…I just called and made an appointment.  I’ll report back to let you all know if they had to amputate. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

Salsa

999Let’s make one thing clear. I am not a cook. The fact that my family is still alive can be attributed directly to Kellogs and Wonder and only in the past few years have I began to actually enjoy what happens in a kitchen.  Most of the time when I bake something from scratch it is almost purely a financial decision because frankly, I am too cheap to buy it if I can make it for less.

And yes, with maturity (old age) comes the desire to live longer, thus suddenly analyzing the long list of unpronounceable ingredients and deciding to cut back on the poisons we ingested for our first forty years.

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So I’ve become a ‘canner’.  And because I have at least one child who sustains herself almost solely on chips and salsa and we go through so much of it, I decided to cook some up today.  I ended up with 23 quarts (made two batches) and I figure I spent about 25 bucks. And DESTROYED my tiny kitchen.

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SALSA (mega sized)

Large black stock pot

Two 6lb cans crushed tomatoes

One 6 bl can diced tomatoes

8+ jalopenos chopped/with seeds

2-3 cups chopped onions

1 bunch cilantro chopped

2-3 t cayenne pepper

6 T white sugar

2 limes juice

Salt

 

Simmer to mix ingredients. Spoon into jars and hot water bath 15 minutes.

Bear In The Backwoods

An Alaska Bear Tale: BEAR in the Backwoods

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The scene…

My two boys gathered blueberries from their secret patch near the road. Jars filled, they headed back towards the cabin, Anthony leading the way. Just before the sawmill, Anthony heard a loud noise rustling through the brush. Steven, behind him, startled at the noise and looked up to the face of a brown bear ‘bouncing up and down’, headed his way.
“BEAR,” said Steven, an Alaska Native born to the woods, not one to waste time on more words than needed. He began to climb the nearest scraggly spruce tree.
Anthony unsheathed the 8 inch survival knife my boys carry on their belt everywhere they go at home and lunged towards the next tree in his path. He tripped, dropped the knife, pulled his backup pocket knife from his jeans, and shimmied up a tree prepared for what, he wasn’t sure. He didn’t see the bear, but he’d heard its loud movements and knew he didn’t want to get any closer.
And then he began to scream loudly for help while Steven, in typical Steven fashion, waited calmly at the top of his tree.
The rumble of the dozer filled our woods all that day as my husband pushed gravel in our pit, piling up the rock for the driveway we’d been building.
I heard vague yelling from somewhere outside my cabin. One ear pressed to my cell phone and my mom on the other end, it was hard to tell where it was coming from with the dozer running.
‘Hold on,’ I told mom and stepped out onto the front porch.
My smallest boy, Luke, was running up the drive, looking back over his shoulder. From somewhere in the woods the noise turned to desperate screams drowned out by the loud hum of the dozer.
The dozer. My mind went to my husband pinned beneath tons of machinery. The screams were muffled, words distorted, yet terror was clear and I knew it was bad.
“Somebody is screaming,” I said, and clicked off my phone, leaving mom wondering.
Our cabin, raw and unfinished, has a front porch but no steps because we enter through the back. Five feet up, I lunged from the deck onto the ground below at a full run towards wherever my family was. In pain? Dying? I didn’t know. But the fear was clear, if not the source.
I scanned the woods, listening, my legs pumping at a full sprint. About twenty feet from the porch my right leg collapsed beneath me, sending me to the dirt. My sandals flew behind, hands desperately clutched fresh soil as I tried to stand. And like the dream where you are running for your life but can’t move…trapped immobile, unable to escape the monsters in your head…I couldn’t move. I couldn’t make sense of it. The screams felt all around, the dozer noise overwhelming, my legs wouldn’t carry me. I’ve had the dream a hundred times. Now it was real.
I saw my truck ahead in the driveway and my daughter, Mya, standing nearby and pointing further up the drive. Luke was clueless, unsure what to do, as we all tried to piece together what was happening in mere seconds.
Finally, I was able to stand and hop to the truck, something in my upper hamstring burning. I looked down the driveway to see my husband safely inside the dozer, earplugs in place, hands raised as if to say, “What’s going on?”
Mya pointed up the drive. He looked where I couldn’t see, then yelled, “GET THE GUN!”
The gun…of course…but I couldn’t even walk, let alone make it back to the cabin to fetch the gun. Unable to get my body to cooperate, I knew the truck would at least get me to what I now knew were my sons.
I threw my useless leg into the seat of the truck, started it up, and whipped backward towards the husband at top speed into the road to the gravel pit, turned around, and flew past him. I had my eyes pinned down the driveway, trying to find my boys, windows cranked down so I could hear. I knew then it was a bear. What else would it be? I pictured them being attacked. Everything I knew about bear attacks came to me in a vision, me helpless to stop it.
I scanned both sides of the driveway as I drove, flew to the end, turned around and had aimed back down towards the cabin when I saw Anthony descending a tree. Steven right behind him in another spindly spruce.
Eyes wide, the boys jumped in the truck before I even came to a stop.
We didn’t see which direction the bear went after Anthony likely scared the bejeebus out of it with his screams. But there is a beaten path through the brush that crosses our driveway and continues on.
And today my sons were right back out there because nothing, not even a grizzly, could keep my boys from their beloved blueberry patch hidden in the depths of the backwoods.

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The spindly tree Anthony climbed. Stevens is just to the right.

 

July 12, 2014

I rarely take all my kids anywhere at the same time. Specifically since we came home from six months of road tripping, we all avoid the truck and scorn the idea of even the shortest ride. But this morning the girls had to be somewhere at nine and the boys at ten, so we woke early and scrambled about madly.

Late, as usual, I ran out the door at top speed, passing the boys who rather than load up as instructed, were playing with skateboards in the dirt.  (A good combination, tiny wheels and mud, but hey, you work with what you’ve got)

I ran from the cabin to my truck while pointing and yelling at my boys to turn off the loud generator. My boys…having never actually seen me run and unable to hear me…followed BEAR protocol and fled the scene in panic. That’ll teach me to run.

After prying the boys from the safety of the indoors and swearing there was no bear in sight, we made it into Ninilchik and I dropped the girls off to head to town where Robin was playing the FROZEN princess at the grocery store to promote the Kenai Peninsula Fair while Mya showed off goats and rabbits to do the same.  (Somehow at the end of the day we had gained two rabbits…)  My boys spent the day shoveling gravel into wheel barrels and pizza into their faces with the local teen center group.

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You can say hello to this guy at the Ninilchik Farmers Market on Saturdays!
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Baah.

I WENT TO THE GYM for the third day in a row. I feel like that deserves all CAPS. Yes we have a lovely gym here in Ninilchik which I normally only hit in the winter months but to recap…six months sitting on my butt on a road trip. Ergo…the gym.  Then I stopped by the Farmers Market where I resisted hand-made cinnamon rolls in favor of Bok Choy. I don’t know what that was about….must have been still on a runners high. And then I went home.

I’m not normally good at kid free. I get creeped out when alone. But I had a date with my typewriter (laptop to those not trapped in the 80’s) and a low-blood-sugar-cranky going on so it was all good.

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FLOYD hates all things.

I’m working on a book. Well, about twenty of them actually, but this particular one is a kind of “how-to” for foster/adopt/step parents that I’ve been planning for years. Today…drum roll please… I finished my outline.  That’s right, moving at lightning speed.After that I wrote some song lyrics, walked around my garden, petted Destini’s cat she left here for the summer (That Darn Cat), and before I knew it, it was time to pick up the kids.

 

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YES THIS IS MY GARDEN! Let’s be clear…I have never had a garden that looked this good in my life.
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This is the dogs wanting to eat the baby bunnies.

For The Bees

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I love that at 11:30 at night I can wander out to check on my bees and the sun is still bright enough to see by. Mya tagged along as bear patrol….though what she would do if one pounced out, we aren’t sure.  But since bees don’t take too kindly to being harassed in the hot sun, we wait until it cools off to open them up. I don’t know much, but they seem to be doing okay. I’m sure my bee lady, Sarah, will see this post and let me know if they are on the verge of extinction!

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Fishing For Elders

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Yesterday the kids and I found ourselves on the Ninilchik beach helping pull king salmon from the water to feed some of the village elders.

Here on this same beach many years back, the natives of Ninilchik built fish traps and pulled nets much like us, feeding their families before there were grocery stores to ease the burden.  They relied on the water for survival, taking only as much as they needed and using all that they took, down to the last piece.

It was a privilege to take part in providing a feast for those who can no longer do it themselves. Those who carried on the traditions of their people and lived to teach the next generation how to live from the land.

We pulled six King salmon from the net in just a few hours. The kids tied knots, pulled nets, learned some good things and laughed while doing it. It was a good day.

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Just Another Scenic Sunday 5-18-14

Driving through British Columbia and Yukon Territory is like breaking into a zoo after hours and tearing down the fences. Animals roam everywhere, seeming to prefer the middle of the Alcan highway.  It helps to break up the monotony of the 40 hours of driving it takes to make it from Seattle to the Alaskan border.

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WE LOVE VISITING CANADA!
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Caribou wandering about…
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Big Daddy Stone Sheep…
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Stone Sheep
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Little Baby Stone Sheep!!! Could they BE any cuter?
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Yep, still cute!
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Hundreds of bison roam along the highway….
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Big Ol’ Bison
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Scraggly black bear!
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Blackie
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Elk are very curious!
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Almost missed the shot of this beautiful black wolf in Yukon Territory. Snapped this through the window, then stopped, got out of truck, lined up to take another shot, and he disappeared into the woods while I lined up. Fantastic.
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Only one moose the entire way through Canada!
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Caribou
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Caribou Crossing

May 17, 2014

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After spending six months pretending we were on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, the adjustment back to cabin life has been a bit of shell shock. Frozen water pipes and batteries didn’t help to ease us back into the woods with grace, but rather encouraged tantrums and big-baby-fits by all. We’ve since gotten the water to thaw and flow enough to trigger the on-demand-hot-water-heater we adore, giving us a trickle of a shower…even if it is in the dark.

With four dead batteries running 400 bucks each, we’re back to flashlights and kerosene these days while we await a couple of paychecks and recuperate from the $7 per gallon fuel on the return trip through Canada. Life on the road is expensive. Multiply it times five kids, three dogs, two cats, six months and a fuel guzzling diesel, you’ve got one mighty spendy trip. Who needs retirement, anyway?

And so a flashlight dangles from a nail just above the shower wall, a magnetic flashlight shines across my cook top and a lantern sits upon the counter waiting for the Alaska midnight sun to fade beyond the volcano dotted skyline before being lit.

It’s just before one a.m. and since a gaggle of giggling teenagers are sleeping in a tent on my back forty, I’m awake and on guard. Cooked by flashlight, I’m devouring a mushroom/egg breakfast burrito in the dark while typing away on my laptop with exactly 13 minutes remaining before I fade into the dark, just me at the distant giggle of girls in the woods.

It’s good to be here, though, despite the trials of adjustment.  And as life gets back to normal and our spoiled selves get back in tune with the difference between want and need, I’m sure we’ll remember why we came out here to the woods.  I’m sure of it…any day now.  Six minutes of battery life….goodnight.

 

 

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

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We crested the hill just before our driveway in the backwoods of Alaska after six months traveling in the lower 48 and my girls jumped from the truck nearly before we could come to a stop.

“Let us out to run,” they said, these teenage girls we’d dragged to the big city to see another life. And not far behind, our three boys leapt to the ground and beat foot down our long and winding driveway home.

We pulled in behind them, my husband and I, in the truck we’d just driven well over 15,000 miles, and watched their faces light up at the site of our little cabin in the woods.  The heaping firewood pile still ready for a winter we’d not seen; fencing fallen where a bear crawled over in search of feed and fodder; the view, oh the view, right where we had left it on the edge of what is ours; and the cabin we’d built with our hands, sweat and faith.

Our boys grabbed their bikes while the girls pulled on work boots and said, “What’s first?” knowing there was work to be done after such a time of rest.

Six months we traveled from Alaska, down through Canada, Washington, Oregon, California both north and south, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, back into California, up the west coast and back up to Alaska again. We showed our kids a world they didn’t know existed and gave them but a small taste of what’s out there, hopefully gifting them a curiosity for more to come as they grown and live and teach their own children. No regrets. It was fantastic.

But really, when all was done and we made our way home, empty pockets and irreplaceable memories, we watched their face more lit up then they’d been at Disneyland and realized we’d taken our children from the woods…and tried our best to ruin them.

We came home to frozen water pipes, batteries dead as can be, dust coating everything and a big mess where we’d rushed out of here last Fall in a frenzy to escape the cold. We’ve managed to thaw the water and determine our four batteries need replaced.  At $400 each, we’ll be living in the dark for a while since we spent our last pennies on the way home picking up our new Honda generator.  Two extension cords run our well pump and our coffee maker, and who needs more than that?

We went right to work on the sawmill making siding for the generator shed, practice for the cabin we hope to finish this summer. We sent the husband back to work, kicking and screaming, and while he’s gone we’ll continue to build, visit with friends we’ve missed, and try to remember what life was like on the Gulf of Mexico where the dolphins replaced moose and walks on the beach were a little warmer than here at home.

“It’s good to be back,” said Robin one eve as we chopped veggies in the dark kitchen. “I mean, even though the water and power don’t work, it’s good to be here, in our kitchen.”

“I missed it,” agreed Anthony as we pounded in nails the next day.

“The slave labor?” I joked.

“No,” he said. “Being able to DO things.”

“We just spent six months DOING things, I reminded him.”

“True,” he said.  “But I didn’t have my hammer with me.”

 

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Arachnid Shower

This morning I had to climb under my truck because we spend more time under it, than in it and that’s a lot considering we are traveling across country. After banging around with a hammer for a while, I crawled back out, reached up to fluff my hair hoping I was one of ‘those chicks’ and it would do some good, to find I’d been attacked.

In Utah, as in Texas, Arizona, California and every other state we’ve traveled through this winter, we’ve discovered why they groom their trails, pave their roads, and stay inside a lot. Every attempt to be outdoorsy leads to this:

Shoe Attack

This would never happen in Alaska. I may risk being feasted on by bears, but at least I can take a jaunt through the woods without becoming human Velcro.

SO when I crawled from under my truck this morning, late for an appointment already, the back of my head looked a bit like my feet in the above picture only the prickly pests were smaller, disguised as grass, and matted deep within my abundance of freshly scrunched curls.

So I run to the bathroom, strip down, lay my glasses aside because I’ve been too lazy to open my phone app that orders new contacts, and jump in the shower.

Let’s step back a bit to the missing contacts. Without them, I’m darn near legally blind.  Picture an old Eddie Murphy/Stevie Wonder skit, and this is me without my contacts.

So I get in the shower, lather up my hair with what I can only assume is shampoo, and begin the meticulous task of disengaging the tiny claws from my scalp. When out of the corner of my eye, I see a blurry blog moving across the ceiling of the shower.

I squint, stand on my tip toes, and determine the fuzzy blur is a spider. Eek!  I plaster myself to the opposite shower wall, twist the shower head upwards as far as possible, cup my hands and try the “splash down” method, prepared to climb the wall if he floated towards my feet.

He was on to me and scurried away from my pointless splatter of water.  Mission foiled.

My only option at this point was to shower as quickly as possible, keeping one useless eye on the blur as he crept slowly, purposefully, in my direction. But then I remembered my legs were like steel wool and needed a good shave, as I’d spent the night with my fuzzy blanket clung to me much like the infestation of spurs in my hair.

Oh yes, my hair.

As fast as I could I scrubbed and untangled the mass, plucking those scratchy matts from my hair one at a time and washing half the Utah dessert down the drain.  Meanwhile, the demon on the shower ceiling was getting closer and closer to being straight above. Regardless of where I moved, he followed. Stalking, creeping, plotting my demise.

Hair good enough, Check.

But the legs still needed gone over with a razor. Problem number one, I had no new blades so the existing, half rusted, dull blade would have to suffice. Problem number two, similar to shaving my legs in the Alaskan lake at summer camp as a teen…Goosebumps which weren’t going anywhere  until that spider was a distant memory.

Desperate times, as they say, call for desperate measures.  One eye still on the blur of a spider, I grabbed the dull razor, scratched it over lumpy, bumpy, hairy legs as best I could, held back the ‘yowza’ from the burning pain of shaving half the goosbumps off, and tossed the razor back to the tiny shelf before the spider plunged into attack mode just over my head.

I spent a terrifying thirty seconds struggling with sketchy shower doors, hopped out of the shower, dripping, no towel in site…or at least my limited vision…and breathed for the first time in six minutes.

Still soapy, scraped, tangled and terrified, I started my day. The good thing about days like this is, it’s GOT to get better. Right?

 

 

 

 

 

Just Another Scenic Sunday 3-9-14

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Abandoned Mine

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Carlsbad Caverns
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Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico
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Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico
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Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico
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A Friendly Mule along the way…
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I took 1264 pictures of the Utah desert…this pretty much sums up how cool it is.
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Somewhere in Utah
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And more Utah
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Love all the old buildings here in Utah
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Right…like anyone is going to pay attention to the foreboding sign over the door…
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I love how these trees thrive despite the obstacles.
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Sent the husband up on this rock to dig a bone out from between the cracks…it’s a whole big bone story…
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Cacti…
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We hiked to the top of this mountain…no trails hikes are the best.
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We visited some ghost towns and the kids noticed most of the headstones are of children.
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The kids really respect the cemeteries…I’m so glad of that.
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What’s of some of these towns from more than 100 years ago.
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Silver Mine Kilns I think…
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Impressive amount of work went into building these structures that lasted so long.
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The boys LOVE the rock hounding.
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Acres and acres of this at these old town sites.

Dreams Delayed

Me Graduation

In the spring of ’03 I had just finished up the third year of my writing degree at Linfield College. (read more) My fellow students were planning their summer vacations, jobs, going home to a family. I was raising one.

One morning a professor handed me a piece of paper with a circled ad.  An internship at a publishing house in Portland.  ‘Apply for it,’ he said, emphatic.  And so I did.

I can still smell the copy and bindings, slick sheets of creamy paper heaped on desks, shelves to the ceiling, books and boxes piled high.  I wore borrowed slacks and stumbled through my first, and only, real interview at thirty-two years old.  They hated me, I just knew, and before I was home there was an email asking when could I begin.

I came from my computer elated, floated into the living room excited to tell the news.  I remember this moment like it wasn’t eleven years ago. Don’t people always remember the moment their lives changed?

Only I remember the moment mine didn’t.

Because when I walked into the living room all seven of the children who lived with me sat. Sixteen, fifteen, twelve, ten, nine, six, and four years old, all flopped down on the floor watching Blue’s Clues, heads turning to me because that’s how we were, them and I.  And I knew. I knew I couldn’t take it.

Forget that over half of them were special needs. Forget the diagnoses, the history of some of my kids. Discounting the DD, FAS, ODD, RAD, SID and every other acronym bombarding them.  Forget the caseworkers, the visitations, the court cases and eminent reunifications or adoptions. Forget the turn-of-century house remodel and the husband who already carried me. Heaving that heavy load aside…I could have made it work.  Maybe I could have anyway. I don’t know.

What I do know is that the forty hours a week, unpaid  internship that I couldn’t accept…would have changed the course of my life. I would have walked away with an education college couldn’t offer and the experience to maybe land the job of my dreams. I would have walked away with connections. I would have walked away with a different life. Better? I don’t know. Maybe just different.

It’s those proverbial forks in the road where we are forced to choose a path and sometimes…sometimes we have to take the paved route. Not easier. Certainly not easier. But smoother…for those along for the ride.

And you will say, ‘Oh,Keri…but look at the lives you’ve changed with your kids…and how you’ve built a family…and how they love you. Blah…blah blah…” And I know. Life is about choices and at that moment, those kids needed me more. I know this is true and I pat myself on the back when nobody is looking but sometimes…sometimes I just want it to be about me.

Sometimes I want to climb to the top of the laundry heap and scream, “When? When is it my turn?”

Oh but if I’d chosen that rutted, twisted path through the woods, how different things might have been. And most days…honestly…I’m tempted to trade a kid or two for the chance to find out.

And the husband says to me, “We’re almost there…hold on…” But I fear, in the deepest part of me, that he is wrong.

 

 

 

 

Alaska Foster Adopt Family Off Grid