The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.


A Home In The Mountains

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  We came to this land in June of this year, in the midst of a heatwave. We thought we could make a home from the dust but we left after less than two weeks, frustrated. Our plans foiled.  Maybe it wasn’t time yet. Maybe we wimped out. And so we left. For two months […]


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,” […]


Baby Goats

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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 […]


Just Another Scenic Sunday 12-7-14

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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 […]


A Room With No View

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  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. […]


What They Did To Me Bum…

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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 […]


Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’

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  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 […]



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Let’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 […]


Bear In The Backwoods

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An Alaska Bear Tale: BEAR in the Backwoods 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 […]


Just Another Scenic Sunday 7-13-14

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      I am patting my own back over my July 4 fireworks photographs taken in Cottonwood, California on July 5, 2014. These are completely unmodified. I only shrunk them for upload, other than that they are just as they came from my camera. I’m so pleased!     Alaska Photography


July 12, 2014

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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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


Just Another Scenic Sunday 5-18-14

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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 […]


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 […]


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 […]

Shoe Attack

Arachnid Shower

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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’ […]

Me Graduation

Dreams Delayed

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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 […]


My Kids Aren’t Learning Anything

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“Mom, I need some more language arts worksheets printed,” said my nearly 15 year old this morning, who needs her world aligned at all times or she gets frantic. Order, structure, neatly stapled packets are a dream come true and the chance to organize canned foods makes her heart go pitter-patter. “We’re not doing any […]


Near Death By Bacon

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Yesterday I stabbed myself in the hand. Not just stabbed, but sawed, really, while cutting bacon. I knew bacon would be the death of me, I just didn’t realize I would go like this. I’ve never had stitches unless you count childbirth (ouch) nor have I broken a bone.  So my kids thought it hilarious […]

Sand Dollar

Where We Are

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I’m sitting on a barstool on an island, sipping a non-fat vanilla latte, casually, as if I’ve done this before.  And I don’t wanna go home. Upon arrival on the coastal islands of Texas (who knew Texas had islands?) I knew I would love this place. Long beaches, scarcely used in winter months; shells different than […]

Raisor Family 1942

Legacy Of A Life Lived

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I was twenty before I knew my father had a less than ideal childhood. He didn’t live a life open to discussing a past he’d pushed behind him long before. I didn’t fully know it until my grandfather passed away and I stood in the kitchen and watched my dad’s face, unchanged, from the news. […]


Must Be Nice To Vacation All The Time…

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I’ve been asked the same question many times these past months as we travel. “How are you affording to do this? Must be nice to vacation all the time…” There is no secret. We’ve not a pot-o-gold buried on our back forty and we’ve no inheritance paving our way across the western U.S. The fact […]

Beezy In Hotel

On The Road From Concan

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This morning the kids and I planned to wake early and leave our little cabin up the Frio River here in Texas. Yesterday we packed the pop-up, cleaned up the cabin completely, and left out only our duffle bags and breakfast food. Upon waking, I encountered a site that the family, as a whole, has […]


Y’All Come Back Now, Y’Hear?

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 “Whaaaat the blaaaazes are Y’ALL doing in Teeeexas?” I keep hearing over and over. Well, they don’t say it like that exactly, but my ears have been Texasized now so that’s how I hear it. Plus, I really like to use my new accent, even if it is just in type. Okay, here’s how it […]


Life On A Boat

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Last night some random stranger invited my niece Amy and I on an evening boat ride around the Ventura, California Harbor. Sure, complete stranger on a dark and secluded dock, I’ll get in your boat and float away to who knows where…that seems smart. And so I climbed aboard. (Hey, he was wealthy, attractive and […]


The Prodigal Son…

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  I remember clearly the night I decided to walk out on my first marriage.  I weaved between the buildings of our Arizona apartment complex in the dark of night, sobbing as only a broken teenage girl can. I clutched the handset of a payphone and held it against my cheek, eyes closed.  I swallowed […]


Just Another Scenic Sunday 12-15-2013

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This week we traveled over to Reno, spent two nights at Circus Circus in their mid-week absurdly cheap rooms, then we headed down the 395, eager to get out of the city. We camped two nights and spent three days between Reno and Mohave, landing tonight in a hotel because seriously….we were filthy and tired. […]

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Remembering The Backwoods

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Ever since we left Alaska to winter in California a couple weeks ago I’ve been getting message after message…                 “What about the cabin? Are you going back??? The cabin. My nemesis. My love.  It strikes me I’ve not written the details of how our place works and maybe I’m a tad homesick. So here […]


California Adventure Week Two

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Yesterday Luke saw two black widows and a lizard…he has had enough of California and is ready to go home now.  Actually, he thought the lizard was a scorpion…time for Alaska boy to get a desert education. Grandma’s house has been great. She lives in a guarded gate community which is nice because the kids […]


Bison Of British Columbia

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I’ve actually got nothing funny to say about today…which is good news since that means nothing bad happened. Good for us, bad for entertainment value. It’s late, we drove about 13 hours today through windy, mountainous, freezing, roads and we’re tired. We drove, we ate, we watched me cower behind the truck while a buffalo […]


South of the Border (Canadian That Is…)

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We bedded down last night in Tok, Alaska in a highway frontage hotel.  If I have learned anything on this trip so far it’s that there is no need for an alarm clock with five kids, three dogs, and two cats who are all used to the silence of the backwoods. Nobody sleeps through hotel […]


South From Alaska

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I was born a nomad.  In my forty-two years I have lived in 18 different homes in four different states and yet I feel like I’ve been stationary my whole life. My feet get the urge to wander and my family knows it’s time when I start thinning my belongings to a manageable heap. So […]

Depression Image

The Sinkhole of Depression

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I don’t know when it started, for sure. The feeling of not feeling.  A few months, maybe more. But without warning, without any clear signs it was even happening, I lost myself for a while.  I don’t remember when I stopped being me. Or exactly when everything dimmed.  Just suddenly, I was dark. But nothing […]


Locked and Unloaded

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I’m not an avid gun handler. I mean, I grew up lugging around a BB gun and could take out a Budweiser bottle as well as any filthy boy next door. I blew away ant hills and sabotaged unsuspecting spruce hen deep in the woods of Alaska late in the fall of my childhood. But […]


Life…and Death…on a Farm

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We were lounging in the cabin Saturday evening, arguing over whether MASH dvds were worth generator fuel, when my husband stood to stretch, glanced out the window, and bolted for the door yelling, ‘The dogs have the goats!” He supermanned off the front porch, shoeless, while I screamed at the dogs in my most commanding […]


Just Another Scenic Sunday 8-11-13

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Apparently we only have Sundays about once a month this summer…either that or I’ve just been TOO BUSY TO SIT AT THE COMPUTER! Probably, it’s the latter. But here’s a glimpse of the past few weeks. Alaska Photos


Just Another Scenic Sunday 08-04-2013

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They say you never really know your area until you have company…or at least that’s what it seems.  This past two weeks my oldest daughter, Heather, and her boyfriend, Andrew, have been visiting from Oregon. SO we are playing touristy and seeing the sites.  These pictures come from our ferry trip across from Homer to […]



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For many Alaskans, “summer” means three things for sure…fish, fish and fish!  We dip, catch, and net fish…we clean, cut, can, freeze and smoke fish…we eat fish, love fish and sometimes we smell like fish. At least Destini does after logging over 136 hours at the processing plant in the past two weeks. She smells […]

Mya and Peter

It Takes A Village

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Our little community of Ninilchik, Alaska, is saddened by the death of one of our local teens in a four wheeler accident on the beach this past weekend.  A boy with a history of trying to find his place.  A boy being raised by a village, known by many and understood by few. A few […]

Me in sunglasses

Things I Don’t Tell You

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The other day on my Facebook page, I commented something about having a bad day.  A reader replied, saying she was relieved I was having a bad day because it seemed like I always knew what to do…or something like that. I laughed out loud…shook my head…and started to type. It’s so easy to appear, […]

boys in canoe

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch…

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I think often of this site…ideas for improvement flitting through my head, one-liners jotted down in yellow notebooks, good intentions paving the road to nowhere. And then life slams me back into reality as the land of the midnight sun has us attempting to complete a year worth of work in the four months of […]

Dan Shawnta

Dads…Who Didn’t Have To Be

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It’s after midnight, which makes it Father’s Day, and one of my old foster kids just sent this message: “can u tell Dan happy fathers day plz and think u i miss u all love u Keri.” It’s been nine years now since she was ours.  My heart aches for her life now.  But it […]


Just Another Scenic Sunday 5-26-13

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This week Destini spent some time in Portland with my oldest daughter, Heather…the snow finally melted at the cabin and we started our summer of work (disguised heavily as play)…and I continue to fall madly in love with our new baby goat Pluto.  I never thought I’d be one of those goat people…I’ve crossed a […]


New Babies!

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About an hour ago our dogs began to bark like crazy. I yelled to Mya to go find out what they were barking at and she comes screaming back towards the house… “PICA HAD A BABY, PICA HAD A BABY!” Sure enough, we have a baaa-ing baby girl and perhaps another on the way.  And […]


Into The Woods

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Winter has finally succumbed to spring here in south central Alaska, though that is debatable since we are forecasted to get snow on Friday.  But most of the snow has given away to mucky mud and for some reason we are all excited to see it.   I’ve emerged from hibernation ten pounds heavier, lethargic […]

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All He Needs To Know

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My boy, Billy, turned eighteen in November and a month later his brain fell out of his head and rolled into a deep ditch somewhere.  I imagine his brain has company in that dark place and other parents know the pain of watching that fall. That transition into adulthood is a twisted path for many, […]


Frozen Assets

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This afternoon I drove down to HOOKED ESPRESSO here in Ninilchik, Alaska.  Hooked is the coffee shop owned by my teen daughter, Destini. (Read about that HERE and this story will make a lot more sense.) I’ve not been down to Hooked in several months though I’ve driven by a thousand times. Destini is closed […]


A Moostacle Course!

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We spent most of the day trapped in the house by two friendly bull moose who just don’t realize that next Fall, they may be dinner.  The mistake is, when they are babies they are so darn cute that we just ignore them…don’t try to scare them off. Well eventually they grow up and become, […]


Aurora Borealis March 2013

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Robin and I trudged through the cemetery in Ninilchik, Alaska in the week hours of the night on St. Patrick’s Day 2013 to achieve these pictures.  The auroras were floating directly above, to the north, south, east and west. They were everywhere. Robin lay in the snow on her back, reaching her hand up to […]

Six of the kids on the beach...

Ninilchik, Alaska Beach Of Winter

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  The kids and I made an evening trip to the Ninilchik Beach today under the false pretense that Spring was just around the corner and the sun that shone so brightly might ACTUALLY BE WARM!!!   We walked briskly, snapped quickly, and jogged back to the truck with frozen hands and toes. We’ll give it […]

Billy Cast

Broken Billy

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Teenage boys are not exactly famous for the their common sense.  And then for some reason we allow them to operate machinery capable of 80 miles per hour. Billy took a portion of the money he earned last summer as a deckhand on a salmon fishery  and spent it on a pretty darn fast snow […]

Make a difference

Six Seconds

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I stood in line at a Carl’s Junior restaurant in Palm Desert, California, eager to order my Chicken Fried Steak sandwich and strawberry shake. Sixteen years old, pregnant but not yet showing, my parents had whisked me away from hometown shame and embarked on a sudden cross country trip. A modern day escape from ruination. […]

Just Another Scenic Sunday 2/10/2013

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An impromptu trip to Anchorage and a snoopy trip behind the Ninilchik, Alaska post office led to some icy photos this week. Also some timed night shots…I love playing with long exposure. [nggallery id=12]

A Day At The Races

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  Unplanned fun is the best kind, and so when my phone woke me this morning with Billy on the other end asking me to bring snowmachine oil 16 miles up an ice mountain road, I thought…why the heck not?  It was a warm day, in the 30F’s, the sun was popping out from the […]


The Brier Patch Chore

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My kids do chores. Every day, without fail, they clean my entire house. I know, I know…you don’t believe me. I’m just as in shock as the next guy and when I trace my actions to figure out how I accomplished such an impossible task, it still makes no sense. I’ll save that for another […]

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Child of a Child

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I was just two weeks into motherhood when I took a job at the Dairy Queen on 28th drive and Cactus in Phoenix, Arizona and made the first of many bad parenting choices.  A few days past my seventeenth birthday, I was still fresh from prom nights, backseats and football games, not quite ready for […]


Behind The Wheel

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There’s a time for every season…except when rain falls on snow and makes a sheet of ice on which to drive. There’s no time for that.  Not when a boy wants to learn to drive. This week Billy got his driver’s license. Yes, I know, he’s 18 (did I mention Billy turned 18?) and should […]

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Stalactites Of Winter

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When winter blends in to the fall that precedes And darkness consumes us and sunlight recedes Tall spears of ice, from the roofs edge they dangle Nearly to ground—a precarious angle.  ~ Through winters of wonder, they magically hold Till summer comes closer and Christmas grows old Near April the ice swords, wet, shiny round […]

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Rookie Home Schooler Here

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I caught myself yesterday in a newbie home schooler mistake, trying to replicate the very system from which I removed my kids last winter.  It’s an easy trap to fall into, the “re-create the classroom at home” theory that I had when this all began. A classroom works perfectly well, for some kids.  And I […]

Dairy Queen (2)

Fragments Of Sanity

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It was just before noon on a Monday morning, sometime in the fall of 1988, in Phoenix, Arizona.  I stood in my pale blue polo shirt behind the counter at Dairy Queen, my breast milk dampening the front of my uniform.  My baby girl was somewhere across town in a basement apartment with some sitter […]


Admitting Defeat…and a photo journey of success

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I’ve not written in weeks and I promise this won’t be one of those “I’m sorry I’ve not blogged” posts. But well, I’m sorry. Okay, that’s out of the way. Phew. SO now down to why I’ve not written…Pride…purely pride.  You see, we’ve retreated into our old house for the winter and I’ve been afraid […]

Ryan Woods

You Aint Dead!

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Once on an episode of COPS, a woman, upon being arrested, was throwing a Made-For-TV tantrum when her mother, giant breasts sagging out the sides of her tank top, cigarette hanging from one side of her mouth, drawled, “Shut up girl…you aint dead.” You aint dead. And ever since, when things are tough or one […]


Just Another Scenic Sunday 9/30/12

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This weeks Scenic Sunday is created entirely by Robin Riley, age 15.  This summer Robin set her sights on a camera and did what it took to get it.  She babysat, cleaned house, and begged to save the $600. And you can see here why she was so eager to get her hands on it. […]


September 22, 2012

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My lantern oil just dimmed to nothing and left me in complete darkness but for the glow of my laptop and the internet box blinking green to my right. I see the hazy glow of Luke’s flashlight bouncing as he walks back in from the outhouse and another in the hall where Anthony pulls a […]

Anthony the Author

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Anthony: “Luke, sometimes when you send a book you’ve written into a publisher, they just put it into the slush pile and nobody looks at it.  That’s why I need an agent.”


This Is My Land

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It was more than forty years ago that my in-laws, just after giving birth to their seventh child (my husband) purchased an acre of land. An escape, they said, from the L.A. life they found themselves living. Bud worked the assembly line at General Motors in Van Nuys, and Patricia worked in a medical office.  […]


Pre-Cabin Fever

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This is not going to be well written, of that I am sure. It’s late at night, I’m tired, and I have computer access for just a short time. I apologize ahead of time… The past few weeks have been very stressful.  We left behind our 7 bedroom home, moved completely out, cleaned it spotless […]

Took Destini to college in Anchorage...and I let her drive the whole way...

Just Another Scenic Sunday 8/26/2012

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This week in my life I…. This is the grizzly bear playing in the river…oh wait…we didn’t get that picture because Destini wouldn’t pull over…##@$@%@# driving Nazi!!!!!     Then we moved all of Destini’s stuff into her itsy bitsy dorm…   AND THEN WE LEFT…..and it was sad.  


This Blog Is Not Real

Posted · 33 Comments

Last night a young lady with a history much like my children’s wrote me a message and asked for advice.  But before she asked, she spent several paragraphs telling me why she wasn’t worthy of my time.  “…as if reading your blog somehow makes me worthy of placing myself in your life,” she said. As […]


Boys In The Backwoods…

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I don’t remember being covered in bruises, blood and broken skin on a daily basis as a child…perhaps that is the key difference between little girls and little boys.  Then again, the way I used to roll my 3-wheeler down every dirt hill within miles, it’s rather surprising I made it through my eleventh year […]

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The Contact

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This week Billy was contacted by his birth father via Facebook message.  They were Facebook friends for a while, though they never actually talked, until the man signed his comments with DAD one too many times and Billy, who says he only has one daddy, deleted him from his page. Billy showed me the message.  […]


The Mighty Fisherman

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  Four days now, Billy has been gone on the fishing boat where he makes his summer living.  At seventeen, he’s one of thousands of kids in Alaskan waters earning more than most teens around the world ever dreamed. (Read last summer’s post about Billy’s job here…When The Boy Becomes A Man) He’s been texting […]


Happy Birthday Robin

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Robin hit the magic age of fifteen today. There’s something about fifteen…not quite the landmark of sixteen, but somehow not a little kid anymore either. It’s a big day. In celebration of her day, I think I’ll tell her story. Robin came to us when she was six. Her brother, Billy had come to us […]


Battle Scars

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Tonight while making dinner, the boys were swapping scar stories, as boys do. Steven showed off a rugged mark of a playground fall and Luke talked about a scrape from an old porch board.  Anthony nodded his head forward to show them one in his hairline and said, “My birth dad told me one story […]


Revival–by Anthony

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It’s about 11:30 at night and Anthony just knocked on my bedroom door to show me a poem he’d written.  This work will make more sense if you’ve read other things about or by Anthony.  See a list of links at the bottom of this page.  Here’s what he handed me… My memories are broken… […]


And On The Seventh Day…

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Even God rested one day a week, or so I reminded Dan this morning as we made our list of “to-do” things during breakfast. He’s home just two weeks at a time, then gone again for two or more.  So when he’s home, it seems we do a lot of running and make little progress. […]