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.

Just Another Scenic Sunday 06/24/2012

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If you’ve wondered why I’ve not posted a blog in the past few weeks, you might want to check out what’s been happening. Take all the happenings, and tack on that we’ve been working until well past midnight just about every night, and you’ll forgive my lack of writing enthusiasm! Summertime in Alaska…non-stop-fun/work! I photographed […]


It’s What She Doesn’t Do

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  My boy, Billy, seventeen and barely on the brink of manhood, is deeply immersed in his first bout of young love. If you’ve seen Billy’s eyes, you correctly guessed he has no trouble enticing the young ladies…but this one, well, I’ve never seen him nearly so smitten.  It’s rather sweet, really, to see the […]


Two Down, Six To Go (aka Destini’s Graduation)

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Our Destini graduated from high school last week and in honor of her success, I’d like to embarrass her a bit by sharing a story with the world. Five years ago this August I picked up my phone to find an Alaska State Trooper on the other end.  He explained to me that my daughter, […]


Another Mother

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I’m sitting here at 11 p.m. the night before Mother’s Day.  Anthony, age 11, is here with me. He’s sleeping on the couch tonight so we’re talking. I asked him what he thinks about on Mother’s Day in regards to his birth family. As he spoke, I typed word for word (my kids are used […]


Two Kids. Two Paths. Both Right.

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In late August of this year I will be the proud mother of two college students.  Two kids on two very different paths… Destini is eighteen and will graduate Salutatorian of her senior class in a few weeks.  She has been accepted to the Business program at the University of Alaska, Anchorage and has received […]

The queen is in that tiny box on the left corner, already engulfed in her bees...

Backwoods Bees

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When I was a kid in Kasilof, Alaska, there was a honey store about a mile down the road. We’d pedal down there, present our quarter, and get a sample of honey such that I’ve not tasted since.  This year, as we move onto our off-grid property and make an attempt at becoming more self […]

Daily Drivel

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Confession time…. I never read blogs. Well, rarely.  I occasionally click on a link someone Posts on FB and enjoy a good read, if I have time.  My knowledge of the internet two years ago went as far as email and occasional Facebook or Myspace.  A friend suggested I start one and so I read […]

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Backwoods Mom Turns One!

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Yesterday was the one year anniversary of Backwoods Mom. It was just over two years ago when a friend of mine said, “Hey, you should start a blog!”  And I said, “A blog?  What’s that?” And it took me  a while to get going, as I stumbled the path of ignorance, bouncing quickly from “What’s […]

Destini Plays Her Ukulele

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Tonight Destini played the Ukulele with the Ninilchik High School Choir…which is basically the entire high school, haha…as they sang “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”.


The Long Walk Home

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I’ve not yet written about the time when Dan, Destini and Billy spent the night in the woods when the kids were in 7th and 8th grade…but it involves state troopers, a heat-seeking helicopter, a missing canoe and one night of Hell for this mom.  And I’m not going to tell it now because it […]


Thinking Outside The School Box

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After eighteen years of thinking of my children’s education in what turns out to be a totally backwards way…I’m finally figuring it out.  And boy, do I feel like I stepped off the bus three stops too late. It’s not a homeschool versus public school debate, but rather a style of learning debate that goes […]


Aurora Borealis-Ninilchik, Alaska-March 8, 2012

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Thanks to the sun doing some fancy stuff this week, we in the north have been getting quite a show.  So it didn’t let a little thing like deflated lungs stop me…I sucked down my Albuterol, chugged Nyquil and headed out.                             […]


Behind Closed Doors

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It’s a sad, sick, twisted world when you have to have your children tested for sexually transmitted diseases…because they come from a place where it’s not only accepted, but considered “just part of their lives” to be sexually abused by family members…strangers…most everyone they have ever come into contact with. And it’s even sadder when […]


My Parents Are Married…and other college scholarship killers

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With Destini going off to college in the Fall, we’ve been furiously applying for grants and scholarship as if her future depends upon it…because it does.  With seven kids in the house, surely several of them will seek further education.  And since the earned dollar only goes so far, we were hoping to spread our […]


Shockingly Good Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

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  A few weeks ago my friend, Rhea, brought me a plate of cookies for the kids and said, “Here, they are gluten free…”  And I thought what most every other wheat loving person in the world would think… “Oh…um….thanks…I think.” And then I ate one.  Shock is not sufficient a word to cover how […]

Today In Anthony’s Brain…

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Anthony: “I have to look up on the computer how much a certain kind of rock is worth, but I can’t tell you which kind of rock…because in my writing assignment I am going to ask you questions and I don’t want you to look up the answers ahead of time.” Has he just assigned […]

Today In Anthony’s Brain…

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Anthony: “Mom, you know how Mars has lots of carbon dioxide?  We should plant some plants there because they breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen.  It would take a while, but eventually we would be able to live there.  But there are some disadvantages, I’m just not sure what they are yet.”

Mommy, Where Does Money Come From?

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I’m standing in front of the candy rack, neck kinked upwards, staring at the boxes in the top row. I can’t see inside them…they are too tall and I am too small.  But I know what’s in there.  And I know it’s out of reach in more ways than one.   The twenty-five cent rack…might as […]



Posted · 23 Comments

Sometime in the next few months our family of nine intends to move from our 7 bedroom, 3300 square foot house, into a cabin less than half that size.  Good luck, you no doubt laughingly say, and we’ll need it.  We’ve spent the past six months slowly narrowing down our belongings to a reasonable amount, […]


Blockbuster Babies

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My daughter Destini wrote this for a class this year…I thought it was really good so I thought I’d share. Destini is eighteen years old and a senior in high school.                 In most cases, “you’re going to have a new sibling” is a surprising, exciting, interesting, unusual experience […]


Firewood Day

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Our current home is over 3000 square feet ( I know, you are trying to picture us living in the tiny cabin come summer…) and because the cost of heating fuel is upwards of four dollars per gallon here in Alaska, we compensate by burning wood in our wood stove as much as possible. Last […]


At The End Of The Trail

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As I sit in the Alaska dark, waiting for Spring, I can feel the grit beneath my nails, the sweat across the back of my neck and the ache of my arms after a day in the woods.  The course skin of hands, dry and stiff from the leather of my gloves, the grain of […]

They Pay Me To Live Here

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Whenever I tell people from the lower 48 that I live in Alaska, I inevitably hear the same question: “Don’t they pay you to live there?” It’s kind of like saying, “Why the heck would you live in that frozen wasteland? Oh yea…that’s right…they pay you.” They are referring, of course, to the Alaska Permanent […]


Deck On The Verge

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This year, because of homeschool, we moved our couch in front of our sliding glass door to the deck, and thus…it’s been abandoned until Spring.  Unkempt and ignored…it’s built up…and up…and up!  I’m a bit worried about the storage room that lies underneath…but at least that will make for good photos when it collapses.  


Anthony The Artist

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By popular demand…Anthony, age eleven, has finally completed five sketches he would be willing to sell.  In print form, of course.  And I quote: “Once they start selling really well, we can raise the price in tiny increments until I am making a lot of money.  Then I will split the income up. I’ll give […]

Two Foot High Kick

Native Youth Olympics II

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When Steven and Luke moved in they were already heavily involved in the Native Youth Olympics, and so I threw Anthony into the mix because…let’s face it…it gets him out of the house for four hours a week.  This year Robin jumped aboard also and they have been diligently working towards competitions for months now. […]


If You Give This Pig A Pancake

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As I suck down a pile of peanut butter coated, from scratch, pancakes…drizzled with real maple syrup and chug back a giant mug of cold milk, I peruse the list of challenges I’ve just signed up to follow for the next six weeks. A health challenge, offered by our local health club here in Ninilchik, […]


Damn Her

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  A while back I had Billy into the local clinic for a sports physical.  The doctor scanned his chart, did some quick work with his stethoscope, and said, “How long has it been since he has seen the heart specialist?” “A few years,” I said.  “They told me it was nothing to worry about.” […]

DO I work

I Am Mom…Do I Work?

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Last year my daughter was assigned to interview a person about their job for school.  She asked, “Can I interview my mom?” “Does she work?” asked the teacher. Hmmmm…do I work… For the better part of my adult life I’ve been at home with my kids.  I don’t have a ‘job’.  I don’t get a […]


Fire Starter

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With snow piling up by the foot, not the inch, on these long…dark…January…Alaska days, the number one thing on our minds is “Heat”.  Well, actually, Netflix is the number one thing on our minds…but heat is a close second. About fifteen years ago my mother-in-law, the most self-sufficient, independent, 70-something woman I know, taught me […]



Posted · 22 Comments

Anderson Hill, near Ninilchik, Alaska… In celebration of our first completed week doing our schooling at home…and after all the kids were finished with their work…we hit the sledding hill down the road.  Billy built a jump…and it was all ‘downhill’ from there! Luke…has…no…nerve…endings. He bursts throug the jump…   Billy attempts snow boarding…   […]


Home School…Day One

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Day one of home schooling six kids brought with it a fair amount of anxiety as I plunged into the unknown with all the doe eyed innocence and organizational skills of a preschooler.  I’d been down a similar road before when I took on Anthony for nine weeks of his second grade year so we […]


Caroling In The Backwoods

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I was about ten years old the first time I went Christmas caroling with the other neighborhood kids.  And while in some neighborhoods the houses are door-to-door and kids can walk from yard to yard making joyful noise, in the back country of Alaska, it’s not that easy. Our houses are tucked down narrow, unplowed […]

Three Small Things

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Originally written in May, 2011…re-posting. A small brush fire near my home last night brought a trooper to my door saying to prepare for the worst…the wind was taking it our direction…be ready to leave without warning.  Warning. Wasn’t that what he just gave us? I went back into the house and gathered the children.  […]


Adoption Day

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In February of this year our family grew by two when Steven and Luke came to live with us.  Tomorrow morning, the 19th of December, 2011, we welcome them into our family permanently in the Homer, Alaska courthouse. These guys aren’t complicated kids. They don’t understand the size of the world and they don’t know […]


My WHY of Home School

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As my family announces its intention to home school six of our kids starting in January, we’ve received many responses similar to, “WHAT THE CRAP!?  ARE YOU CRAZY?!  And while the answer to that question is a resounding, “YES”, there are other reasons behind our decision to home school our kids besides the crazy factor. […]


The Shield Of Confidence

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  In 2004 I graduated with a 3.89 GPA from one of the highest rated private colleges on the west coast.  And I did so, while parenting eight children, six of whom had some kind of special need.  My final semester I managed 25 credits at two different colleges, picking up some missing credits at […]


A Trip To Good News Bay

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I put in a call to a client a few years back to arrange a trip into the village of Good News Bay, Alaska, where I would assess an adoptive situation and write a report for the courts either approving, or denying, the potential adoptive placement. The young woman who answered the phone sought to […]

Realistic Advice To Teenage Girls

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 Because naive parenting leads to unprepared teenagers… Nobody really looks like that.  Stop trying to achieve the impossible. That eighty dollar pair of jeans looks exactly the same as that thirty dollar pair of jeans. In ten years you will be nothing like the person you are today.   I know you don’t believe me.  But […]


Times Are A Changin’…

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  When I was eight I years old I spent my summer shooting BB’s at everything that moved, and everything that didn’t.  When the gun ran dry, I cocked it back, aimed, and blew the crap out of ant hills with the powerful puff of air that came from the tip.  I rolled down steep […]

Children Will Remember

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As parents, we spend our lives trying to be good enough.  Trying to keep up.  We worry that we’ve failed.  We worry that we’ve screwed up our kids to the point of no return because somehow we’ve not been good enough…as parents.  But let me explain something. Our children will not remember their childhood the […]


Moments Of Your Life

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“It can’t get any better than this,” says the new parent, over and over, as they hold their precious newborn for the first time.  And yet it can. Because the best moment of your life is not when your child is born…it is the billions of moments to follow. It’s the moist smell of her […]


Thanksgiving Day 2011

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I once had a foster child who’s most vivid holiday memory was sitting on the side of the freeway watching fireworks while smoking a joint with her parents.  Oh, how sweet…those parent/child bonding moments… We’re not a family with solid holiday traditions.  We don’t have a special platter we use for turkey.  We don’t have […]


That First Winter

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We came to Alaska when I was nine years old, stacked into a Toyota pickup so packed full that my grandfather had done the final shove with a broom stick to get it all in. At the time, it was just life. I didn’t know that other kid’s dads didn’t shove them into the back […]


Always Be Prepared

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I was once in a vehicle that slammed into an eight foot snow burm, flipped to the right and rolled onto the top, spun in the center of the road, upside down, and finally came to a stop.  I crawled out a broken window with two other people, unhurt, and quickly realized the next vehicle […]


To Tell Or Not To Tell

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Today a friend asked me if I shared my history with my kids…if they know my sordid past or if I keep the dirty details to myself. Funny, it never even occurred to me not to tell my kids…at least my teens…my story.  It is me. They know it all. They know I smoked pot.  […]


Dirty Little Secret

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  I’m not a neat freak by any stretch of the imagination. On any given day you can find my house fairly messy.  I clean it every single day, or at least have my little minions do the job.  But with nine people as busy as we…well…the white glove test…we would not pass. If you […]

Wearing For The Weather

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This morning I slipped on my stage four Patagonia long underwear under my Carhart coveralls.  I pulled my Smartwool hat over my head and my Smartwool socks on my toes. I stuck my feet into my Garmont work boots, tugged my Under Armour sweatshirt over my head, shrugged into my Mountain Hardware windbreaker and was […]



Posted · 18 Comments

I approached the dark porch with excitement, eager to see my classmate in full Halloween garb.  I knocked on the door and clutched my pumpkin shaped candy bucket in one small hand.  The boy opened the door a few inches, peered out at me in nothing but jeans and a t-shirt, and said, “We don’t […]


I See Camo People

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I’m not sure I believe in a sixth sense…or some other level of understanding beyond what is right in front of our nose.  I’m a skeptic by nature and find myself consistently questioning…always needing some irrefutable proof or scientific fact to back up data.  I rarely believe things I hear or read…until I’ve heard it […]


It’s The Little Things…

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It’s the little things that get to you. It’s the, “Not Me” that always gets blamed.  The Birds and the Bees that needs explained. It’s the cookies hidden beneath the bed.  The fifteen millionth book to be read. The science fair project that’s due tomorrow.  The hand held out, wanting to borrow. It’s the crusty, […]


A Balance Point

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Lately I find myself in a sort of evaluation of priorities in which I stop…look around…take a breath…and consider my life from an outside perspective.  I call it…readjusting my motor.  Because going full speed ahead is not always the right way to go…if you are pointed in the wrong direction. And somehow I need to […]


The Root Of All…

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This morning Anthony asked if any of his birth relatives had been approved for visits…like an uncle or cousin.  When I asked why, he said, “I’d kinda like to know my roots.” Roots. By definition the root is the foundation.  It is the beginning, the base.   It is the fundamental cause or essence of something…the […]

Kids With No Cable

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[singlepic id=241 w=320 h=240 float=center] It was a sunny afternoon in 2002 and the kids were zoned in on the television with rapt attention.  Dan walked in the room, stared at our bunch for a moment, and then walked right outside and cut the satellite television cable in half.  After the shock wore off, the […]


Anthony the Anomaly

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Over the past couple of months our family has been trying to get to the bottom of Anthony’s hair loss.  For those who’ve asked, I thought I’d write an update on the situation. Let me start by saying we’ve been extremely lucky in that none of our children have ever been ill. They are, in […]


Through My Lens

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The camera. I knew it had to be mine. Surely my parents had noticed that I’d carried my father’s 35mm around all the summer before with great interest. The typewriter.  It had to be for my brother. He was the smart one. He was the one who actually did his homework.  What would I do […]


Free…To Whom?

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My small boys wake each morning and come directly to the kitchen table, still rubbing the sleep from their eyes.  I send them to wash while I pile on their plate either eggs and potatoes and toast or oatmeal with honey and butter. Sometimes we have peanut butter toast and a sliced pear and once […]


Sawmill Saga

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In August, shortly after we purchased our 40 acres, we acquired a portable band saw mill with the intent of creating our own lumber with which to build our own home. But first…knowing we couldn’t afford to complete a home this year nor did we have time to begin with winter nearing…we decided to build […]


How Did I Miss This?

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  Today a dear friend lost someone they love to a prescription drug overdose.  Such a sad thing.  As I shared the news with Billy, he looked confused. “What’s Oxycodone?” he questioned. “It’s an addictive prescription drug.  A pain medicine.” “I don’t understand,” he said.  “That kills you?” I don’t understand. WHAT? How did I […]

Fiction Friday 9/23/11

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Fiction Friday, my way of forcing myself to write outside my comfort zone of non-fiction, by backing myself into a corner every Thursday night. Chapter ONE   Chapter TWO Chapter THREE Chapter Four By Monday morning, word had gotten around the village and whispers had turned into assumptions which had quickly become pure fact, as […]


When They Were Sisters

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Mya and Shawnta 2004   They sit at the tiny table, the two of them. One across from the other Cutching crayons In pink fingers.  Perfect little fingers.   The girl on the left is four, the right six. Sized almost the same Almost identical They are sisters in life—if not by blood.   The […]


I Can Not Tell A Lie…

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I came across this “letter of apology” today. I have dozens of them from Anthony over the past four years.  Whenever he is sent to his room to reflect on his behavior….which is a LOT…he likes to write a note or draw a picture about what happened.  On this day, I’m guessing he was busted […]


Porcupine Piracy

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  When I found a porcupine in my yard a couple of nights ago while videoing the coyotes across the driveway, it never really occurred to me to do anything other than Facebook his picture…because what else would I do…until my friend Cindy suggested I should collect some quills for crafting. And me being a […]


Fiction Friday 9/16/11

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Fiction Friday, my way of forcing myself to write outside my comfort zone of non-fiction, by backing myself into a corner every Thursday night. To read Chapter ONE To read Chapter TWO  Chapter Three There’s something good to be said for small towns, but Jess wasn’t sure what it could be.  She’d lived in Sherman, […]

Backwoods Bread

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Backwoods Bread I grew up on homemade bread.  It was thick. It was soft. It was healthy.  It was probably delicious. And I hated it. So when I became a parent myself I swore to give my children only the best store bought, fluffy white bread.  But when I acquired a houseful of children who […]


Whaling Away Her Youth

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Photo courtesy Charles Lampe-Kaktovik, Alaska Yesterday Sandi’s daughter, Kendra, climbed into a twenty foot boat with a group of close friends and family.  They pushed into the Arctic Ocean off the shores of Kaktovik/Barter Island…the only permanent settlement in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on the North Slope of Alaska.  They scanned the waters and […]

Alaska Log Furniture

Alaska Log Furniture

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For more than twenty years I wanted to know how to make log furniture…I’m talking cut the tree down, pack it out of the woods, custom, from scratch kinda log furniture. Not the neatly perfected pieces you find in most furniture stores. I’m talking backwoods…Alaska style. So last summer I did it. Now, mind you, I have […]

Fed up

Fed Up!

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  My chiropractor has a chicken nugget sitting on her shelf that is four years old. And it looks like you could dip it in barbecue sauce and chow down.  It’s not discolored. It’s not shrunken. It looks exactly like it did four years ago when it came hot out of the magic oil at […]

Fiction Friday

Fiction Friday 9/9/11

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Fiction Friday, my way of forcing myself to write outside my comfort zone of non-fiction, by backing myself into a corner every Thursday night.  To read chapter ONE To read chapter THREE Chapter Two Heavy steps ran toward Jess as she sputtered snow from her mouth and struggled to remove the small boy from her […]

Youve Come a Long Way Baby

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!

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  Four years ago…don’t be fooled by that cherubic face! Anthony got a citation at school today.  He walked in the door and without hesitation explained to me why it wasn’t his fault and the teacher was wrong. She always is. I’m surprised she still has a job with all the times she’s wrongly disciplined […]

What Comes Around

What Comes Around

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  I’m not a good gift giver.  I show up to parties without a bottle of wine.  I send my kids to birthdays with no bag of trinkets.  I rarely remember my friends with a card or a gift certificate to their favorite book store.  I’m probably snickered about behind my back.  Eye rolls likely […]

Why Off Grid

Why Off-Grid?

Posted · 9 Comments

We turn the handle, water flows from the faucet.  We flip a switch and a light goes on or off. We flush a toilet, crank the thermostat, open the fridge…and voila, magic happens. And then we all get three days off and we spend it sitting around a campfire, looking up at the stars, listening […]

Scenic Sunday 9-4-11

Just Another Scenic Sunday 09/04/11

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This week in my life I… Was thankful for lots of nice milling trees… Was thankful that DAN had to limb this one, and not me… Realized that logging is a painful job… Thought, if only we had 50 logs like this…our cabin would be done… Got back into the swing of packing school lunches… […]

Fiction Friday

Fiction Friday 9/2/11

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This is the first installment of Fiction Friday, my way of forcing myself to write outside my comfort zone of non-fiction, by backing myself into a corner every Thursday night.  Read chapter TWO Chapter One It would be unlikely to find a small town that was not governed, propelled and held captive by gossip.  Sherman, […]

Native Youth Olympics

Native Youth Olympics

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My boys play basketball with vigor, ride bikes nonstop and roll in the dirt for fun. But their favorite activity…by far…is the Native Youth Olympics. The programs events are based on the life skills of past generations of Alaska Natives.  They simulate their hunting and survival skills and are intended to strengthen and create a […]

Honesty Is Not Lost

Honesty Is Not Lost

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A few weeks ago my mother’s wedding ring fell from her finger while she was shopping in town.  Now, this is a small town…so there aren’t that many places to look. But my mom lives a half hour from town and only goes in about once a week so she makes it worth her while. […]

Hello My Name Is

Hello, My Name Is….

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I’ve always thought it appalling that we are forced to name our children the moment they are born.  As if a newborn has any personality whatsoever.  I mean, what if we label a child as Sally but two years later she doesn’t seem like a Sally at all? My oldest went home from the hospital […]

When Someone You Know

When Someone You Know…Becomes Someone You Knew

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We’ve all been there… I’ve had friends…who I loved…who I couldn’t imagine my life without. Friends who were dear to me.  Friends…best friends…you thought would stick around forever. And then you move. Or they do. Or something happens and life just leads you in opposite directions. You swear to remain close. You call, you write, […]

Mislead By Example

Mis-Lead By Example

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This morning I popped Anthony on the butt.  I don’t normally spank my kids…gave it up years ago when I started fostering simply because it seemed unfair to spank one kid, and not the other, when they both did the same thing wrong. So I spanked Anthony, one solid whack to the backside.  Which is […]

Corn On The Job

Corn On The Job

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My phone rang late tonight.  Normally I’d be worried, but it’s Alaska in the summertime…there is no such thing as “too late to call”.  And I love living in a world where someone calls in the middle of the night to pass along a garbage bag of frozen corn.  I’ve had similar calls involving moose […]

Scenic 8-21-11

Just Another Scenic Sunday 08/21/11

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This Week In My Life I…. Watched the Kenai Peninsula Fair Racing Pigs in action… Had the most amazing food at the AKSupper Club in Ninilchik…(highly recommended) Seriously…phenomenal food. Chef Paul Warner…amazing… Made some new friends… Saw oysters for the first time in my sheltered life… Ate a raw oyster right from the shell…did I […]

Waiting For Results

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There are few sentences in the world that will stop you dead in your tracks as fast as, “You have a lump.”  Like hitting a brick wall. The invincible, indestructible you suddenly feels like a paper airplane in a hail storm…helpless and going down fast. And in those first days of waiting, you examine every […]

The Feel Of The Food

The Feel Of The Food

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  This morning I followed a trail of broken, dry, Top Ramen noodles down the hall, across the living room and to the garbage can where the empty plastic wrapper lay crumpled on top of the garbage.  Yesterday it was an entire package of Coconut Dream cookies, bought for a trip.  Before that, eight granola […]

Destini Reads

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Apparently, children learn via repetition…as demonstrated in this video of Destini at about 2 1/2 years old.  Let me start by saying, Destini had an unusually good grasp of language at a very young age. I have video of her using full, complete sentences, at fourteen months old.  By two, she was speaking very fluently. […]