4th - The Start of a New Month
February, when the days of winter seem
and no amount of wistful recollecting
can bring back any air of summer.
~ Shirley Jackson "Raising
February already! Back in August, when Steve was
preparing to deploy, I remember thinking: "I hope that time
passes quickly, because January starts the year that my husband
comes home to me." January came and went in the blink of
an eye. I'm sure a lot of it had to do with spending the first
few days of the year in Madison with my kids. But then the rest
of the month flew by, each day melting into the next, the time
between weekends speeds by. I want to thank my friends for that.
Because of them, I got out of the house a lot - even if just to
run an errand or two.
January's weather was brutal, and even though we've
warmed up 10 degrees or so (to -20F on average), February is also
a cold month. There's been some dampness in the air, and occasionally
a slight wind - making the cold seep even deeper into my bones.
There have been days over the last two weeks, when I've had a
hard time feeling warm - even when buried under my heavy quilt
in bed. I hope that February brings us 'above zero' days, as predicted
yesterday on the news.
In a little over two weeks, I leave for Philadelphia.
I'm looking forward to spending time with my mother and the rest
of my family. I'll be staying with mom, which will surely bring
back memories of my younger years. She doesn't have internet connection,
nor a computer, but I'm bringing my laptop and will download Netzero
so that I can at least check my emails and hopefully chat with
Steve from time to time. Using dial up service after several years
with high speed cable, is going to be frustrating I'm sure. But
it's better than nothing. What an addiction the internet has become!
ordered enlargements of some of my bear photos. I wanted to try
out an online printing company to see the quality of prints they
offered. I'm happy with the results. The center photo in the picture
at left is 16x20. You'll remember that photo from our July 4th
bear viewing trip to Katmai this past summer. Flanking it are
two 11x14s. The close up of the bear face was also taken during
this past year's trip, but the other photo of the bears standing
was taken during our 2004 trip. The bears in that photo and the
large photo are the same family. Likewise the 8x10 of the cubs
being nursed. I hung the grouping over my kitchen table. Every
time I walk into the kitchen, I smile at the memories the photos
I've got great news to share! My sister-in-law,
Diane, is coming for a visit this summer! She's coming by herself,
so we're going to have a 'girls vacation' and explore Alaska.
She'll be in town from June 29th through July 10th. I'm so excited,
and I know she is too - although she's also very nervous about
flying in general - and flying by herself. It's not the easiest
flight to make - Philadelphia to Fairbanks is about 10 hours of
flying. The plan is to rest up the first day she's in town and
then drive down to Anchorage for a day or two. From there, we'll
visit Seward and go on a wildlife cruise. Then we'll either head
down to Homer, or backtrack to Anchorage and on to Valdez. I've
still got a few months to plan this trip, and I'm sure I'll be
writing about it here. I love my SIL like a sister. She's got
a heart of gold, and has always been there for my mother during
her illness. Diane unselfishly spends entire days in waiting rooms
while my mother goes for doctor's visits and medical procedures.
I appreciate that so much, and I look forward to showing her this
great state and giving her the chance to have fun, see beautiful
landscapes, and experience the wildlife of Alaska. I hope I'm
as good a tour guide as she thinks I will be.
I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you (my
readers), how much I appreciate the messages you leave in my guest
book, and the emails you send me personally. I've never met the
majority of you, and yet there are many of you who I feel an intrinsic
connection to, because of your kind words, well wishes, and prayers.
Some of you have taken a few minutes to send supportive words
my way, even as you are dealing with your own stresses and painful
matters. Some of you have thanked me for keeping this journal
and sharing my photos, because coming to Alaska - whether for
a visit or forever - has been your long time dream. A few of you
have thanked me because my words and photos have made you happy,
or helped you to daydream for a few moments in time. I am flattered
by your words and praises, and I hope that I can continue to keep
this journal for a long, long, time. For those of you who are
going through your own difficult time right now, please know that
my prayers are with you and your loved ones.
February 7th - Sled Dog Races and a Warm Up!
On Sunday, I picked up my friend
Nik and her kids, and drove out to the Jeff Studdert Racegrounds
for the Annamaet Series Challenge Race #5. It was a warm morning,
compared to past weekends, and there seemed to be more participants
and spectators taking advantage of above zero temperatures. Again,
I found a good vantage point to take some photos of the skijorers
and mushers as they left the starting line.
|My little old dog:
A heart-beat at my feet.
~ Edith Wharton ~
The weather lately has been absolutely beautiful! Yesterday we
hit a high of 34F above zero, and currently it is 25F above zero
at 7:30pm. What a treat to leave the house without long underwear
and a scarf wrapped around my face. I don't expect this warming
trend to last (nor do I want it to, with the Ice Festival coming
up at the end of the month), but it's certainly been a nice respite.
I've enjoyed taking Sedona for longer walks, savoring the sunshine
and blue skies.
I took Sedona for a ride and did a huge loop around Fairbanks and
North Pole. I stopped at a little park along the river where I could
let Sedona run free for a little while. It was wonderful to run
and play in the snow with her and we spent a good thirty minutes
soaking up the sunshine.
We came back onto Post and took the long way back to the house.
But this time, instead of bypassing the road which leads up to the
Birch Hill Ski Lodge, I decided to see if the road leading up to
the top of Birch Hill was navigational. While the Alaska Range wasn't
clear because of cloud cover on the horizon, the sun was starting
its descent and I hoped to see the sky change colors from above
the time I got to the top of the hill, the weather had warmed up
so much that snow and frost were quickly melting and falling off
the trees, leaving behind the dead, brown look of late fall and
early spring - not a pretty sight. I'm sure this look isn't going
to be around forever. We've got a good two months ahead of us that
could bring some more hoarfrost and snow to the branches.
Today, I took a drive to Eielson AFB with Rachael to visit their
PX. On the way, we stopped in North Pole to have lunch at the Pagoda
Restaurant. It was my first visit, and it was delicious. I ordered
the lemon chicken lunch special which came with pork fried rice,
an egg roll, wonton soup, and tea. It was a great value for the
$9.95 price tag. I can't wait for Steve to come home on R&R,
so we can go back together. (That concludes my restaurant review
for this entry. *grin*)
On the way back from Eielson, we drove into Chena Lakes Recreation
Area in search of moose. There was no sign of wildlife, except for
the snowmachiners speeding across the frozen lake! There were two
ice fishing houses out on the lake, but we didn't see any fishermen.
We could hear the happy barks of sled dogs as they passed nearby
in the trees on one of the groomed trails. The last time I visited
Chena Lakes Rec Area was early spring of last year. I remember that
drive, because I discovered willow catkins blooming and knew that
winter would soon be over. Here are a few photos from our drive
Frozen Chena Lake
Snowmachiner, Ice Fishing House
Snowmachiner with Levee
Steve wasn't able to get online for the past few days. We finally
touched base this morning. Our chat mostly revolved around R&R,
and how excited we both are about seeing each other again. If all
goes as scheduled, we will finally be in each other's arms in 50-55
days. At least it's less than 60! Hopefully, the time between now
and then will fly by. And then I want it to slow to a crawl while
he's in town. Two weeks isn't a long visit, but it's something.
We'll take what we can get. I'll be so glad when this is over and
he's home for good. I miss him terribly.
I started booking lodging and activities for when Diane is in town
in July. Our tentative itinerary includes visits to Anchorage, Seward
(where we'll do a wildlife cruise), and Homer. I managed to get
reservations for a hotel room in Seward during July 4th week. I'm
excited as I've always wanted to see the Mt.
Marathon Race on July 4th. We'll be checking out of the hotel
that morning, but will be hanging around for a little while to check
out the race and the July
4th festivities before driving down to Homer. It should be a
lot of fun. I love hanging out with Diane, so I know we'll have
a great time.
I'm looking forward to the Yukon
Quest this Saturday. I'm going downtown to shoot some photos
before the race, and as the first couple of teams leave the starting
gate. From there, I'm planning to visit friends (*waves at Gip and
Carmen*). They have a view of the river, and I'm hoping to catch
a couple of shots from their place. You'll be experiencing the day
in pictures as soon as I get them downloaded and resized. I'm excited!
February 9th - Warm Enough for Snow and the House in NC
evening we got snow! One of the benefits of warming up, is the probability
of a nice fresh dusting of white stuff. It didn't last long, but
the flakes were large and there were many. Because it was so warm
(high 20s), I ran out into the yard to get a few photographs, while
Sedona bounded through the snowdrifts playing. You're probably wondering
why snow is such a big deal. It's a big deal because it's not a
common occurrence in the dead of winter. When it's too cold, there
is rarely snow. I found the following explanation HERE:
Snow can form at any temperature provided the right conditions
exist, but it has a hard time forming in really cold air. Right
around freezing is where you will see the most snow. This is because
the air can absorb more moisture while it's still cold enough to
freeze. Once it drops below -20°F, the chances of snow are virtually
nil (but still possible).
We get the most snow in the early months of winter (October and
November), and additional accumulations in December. What falls
in these months generally hangs around until "break-up",
which is typically sometime in April. Seeing snow fall in January
or February is a rare treat. Not only is it a beautiful occurrence,
it also means it's warmed up a bit - and these periodic warm-ups
are always welcome, especially after weeks of arctic temps. The
only thing that would make me happier than seeing fresh snow, would
be seeing the northern lights. I thought I caught a glimpse of them
very early this morning (around 2am), but they were faint and I
was too tired to put on my boots and take my camera out in the yard.
Some other news: Steve and I own a home in Fayetteville, NC.
We bought the house when the army transferred us from Fort Benning,
GA to Fort Bragg, NC in 1996. There was a saying back in those days:
"Once at Bragg; always at Bragg." Steve was in the 82nd
Airborne, and being on airborne status narrowed down the possibilities
of stations. So, when we arrived in NC, we bought a house. I stayed
in the house until Brandon joined the Marines in 2001. After he
left home, I joined Steve in FL and put the house on the rental
We've been lucky in that we've had good tenants, who always paid
the rent on time, and caused minimal problems/damage. But being
a long-distance landlord - even with a property manager looking
after the house - is stressful and can sometimes be costly too.
When something needs painting, you have to hire a painter. What
would normally be a $100 job if we did it ourselves, turns into
a several hundred dollar job. A malfunctioning ball cock in a toilet
ends up costing $90 because the plumber charges $75 in trip charges
to install a $15 part - that I could do myself if I lived closer.
On a good note, the rent always covered our mortgage payment, so
our investment paid for itself over the last five years.
We have no intention of ever living in NC again. Even if we couldn't
stay in Alaska, NC wouldn't be our choice for retirement places.
While we certainly enjoyed our time living in the southeast, and
have many friends there, Steve and I know that we prefer a climate
which includes winter snow. So... with talk of Steve's retirement,
we decided to sell the NC house. It will be much better for us to
start off this next chapter of our life with the least amount of
debt as possible.
The house went on the market on Tuesday. Four hours later, an acceptable
offer was made. If all goes well, closing is scheduled for the 22nd
of this month. We are really keeping our fingers crossed about this
sale. The only thing that 'freaks me out' at this point is passing
the home inspection. While there's really nothing obviously wrong
with the house, you never can tell what a home inspector may find,
since the house is 20 years old. (I can see fresh gray hair sprouting
as I type this.) I'll be so glad when this is behind us. And we'll
be one step closer to realizing our dream of retiring in Alaska.
February 12th - The Yukon Quest!
|What a day I had yesterday! First
of all, the temperature gauge in the truck was reading 46F at about
2pm. I don't know how accurate that is, but it was WARM! The temperature
at the start of the race is said to have been 35F.
I picked up Rachael at 10am and we headed downtown. I found a place
to park near the Newsminer (local newspaper) and we walked over
to the staging area to get photos of the dogs and mushers, before
heading to the river and the starting chute. Rachael was a little
paranoid about being on the river, even though it was frozen. I
teased her a little, but truth be told, I was a bit paranoid the
first year I climbed down on it with Steve to watch the Quest. There
definitely is something unnerving about having thousands of people
standing on a river.
We stayed to watch four teams go off the line, before making our
way back to my truck. And then we discovered that a bunch of people
had parked illegally - essentially trapping about 12 vehicles -
mine included. I was angry because I was planning to run over to
my friends' place in North Pole to get more photos of the teams
as they came along the river.
Rachael called the police and reported the illegally parked cars,
as I contemplated looking for a car with unlocked doors so I could
throw it in neutral and push it out of the way to make an opening.
A few minutes later a girl showed up (who was parked illegally)
and looked at the other vehicles parked next to her and said, "Wow...
I can't believe they all parked like that and blocked you in!".
She was obviously part of the problem, but I'm glad she came along
and let me out.
I dropped Rachael off at her house and made my way to Gip and Carmen's
house (Thank you for allowing me to come by!). I saw that
Gip had already shoveled a path in his yard to the bluff overlooking
the river, so I could set up my tripod. He and I sipped coffee as
we waited for the teams to come by. It takes about 45 minutes for
the teams to come from downtown to their house, so I made it in
plenty of time. We took some photos, chatting in between teams.
When the last team went by, we went inside and I spent some time
talking to Carmen. She 'reborns' dolls: hand weaving their hair,
repainting them and restuffing their bodies. Her house is full of
dolls and doll parts and supplies. Some of her 'real life' babydolls
were so real looking, I couldn't help but pick them up and hold
them. Sheesh, this urge to be a grandma is overwhelming sometimes!
(Don't rush though, Brandon and Becky, OK?) I enjoyed my
visit, as always, and look forward to having lunch or dinner with
them when I come home from Philadelphia at the end of the month.
I took a lot of photos today, and I think the ones I chose to post
here are a pretty good representation of yesterday's adventure at
the Yukon Quest. Oh, how I love ALASKA!!! (Click to enlarge)
February 14th - Valentines Day (Warning: Mushy Entry!)
in the evening - before midnight on Monday)
It is 11pm here in Alaska. Not quite Valentines Day yet. All over
the rest of the country, it is officially February 14th - a day
set aside for love and romance.
The man who has my affection and devotion is in a country thousands
of miles away. It is raining where he is, and muddy. It is nearly
lunchtime where he is, and Valentines Day is already 11 hours old.
I went to the mailbox today, hoping that I'd find a card from him.
I know there is one coming, because he told me so. He mailed it
more than two weeks ago, because he wanted me to get it in time.
But there was no card from him, and I felt my heart sink. Perhaps
it will come tomorrow.
It's not really the card which is so important. It's the fact that
his lips and his tongue touched the glue on the envelope to seal
it. It's the fact that his hands touched the card as he signed it.
It's the fact that for the short minute or two that it took him
to pen a message inside and sign his name, his thoughts were totally
focused on me... and us.
He doesn't have to send me cards. He doesn't have to send me flowers.
And he certainly doesn't have to do anything different on February
14th, than he does any other time of the year. There is no reason
to prove his love for me. I know the depth of that love without
flowery cards, and sentimental words. He shows me that love in his
I haven't touched him in almost 6 months. The last time I felt
the warmth of his skin, I was sitting in his truck and he was standing
in the parking lot at his office. It was late - nearly midnight.
We said our goodbyes with hugs and kisses and tears, but couldn't
let go. My arm hung out the window and our fingers were laced together.
I couldn't bring myself to drive away from him.
When I finally found the strength to pull away, I stopped in the
middle of the street and looked at the lone figure dressed in camouflage,
turning his entire body to follow the slow movement of the truck.
I heard him yell, "I love you, Babydoll" as I lost sight
of him. I felt numb. Just writing about that night brings tears
to my eyes. So much anguish.
Now we touch with words. And we touch with laughter. And we touch
with tears. It's not the same, but it keeps us connected. When he
gets online, we spend the first few minutes saying "I love
you", because we have learned with experience, that those times
you don't say those words, are the times his internet service will
go down and the chance is lost.
Then he'll write, "I want to see you". And I'll make
all kinds of excuses for my appearance: I just woke up, I haven't
brushed my hair, I don't have any makeup on. And he'll insist I
turn on the webcam anyway. And when he sees my image on his computer
screen, he always types, "There's the most beautiful woman
in the world!" and I type back, "I think you need to have
your eyes checked." And we laugh. But the truth of the matter
is, I do feel like the most beautiful woman in the world with him.
Steve is an old fashioned guy in so many ways. I thank his grandma
for that. She instilled in him manners that unfortunately have fallen
by the wayside with some of the younger generation. I like that
he holds a door for me. I like that he opens car doors for me. I
like that he takes my arm or my hand when we cross a street. I like
how he extends a hand to me when we're hiking - to help me up a
steep incline, or over a ravine. I'm not a woman who needs 'taking
care of', but I welcome the care he shows me.
I like the way he holds me when I'm sad. I like the way he offers
his t-shirt tail to me so I can dry my eyes when I cry. I like that
he doesn't care that my mascara has run all over the front of him.
"It will wash out", he'll say, when I apologize for the
I like that he pulls the covers up over me before he leaves the
house in the morning. And I like that he makes coffee and brings
me my first mug of the day while I'm still in bed. I like that he
helps with the housework, and the laundry. And I love that he cooks.
I've missed all of this for six months. Now that we are apart,
I have become the primary nurturer in our relationship. I nurture
him with words. I shower him with love and support. I remind him
of all that awaits us when he is finally home again. I assure him
that I will stand beside him forever - no matter what - just as
we vowed nearly 14 years ago. He really needs to hear that - especially
now. He's never doubted me, but he sees marriages crumbling all
around him. Relationships that have already fallen apart under the
pressure of deployment and separation. And we're only at the halfway
point. How many more will disintegrate? How many will survive the
deployment, and falter after the reunion? It's scary stuff.
We talk about that too. Our expectations when he comes home. We
speak in a joking manner. I tell him that I will never give him
control of the remote again. We laugh about it, but he remembers
how irritated I get when he changes the channel in the middle of
something I'm watching. I tell him that he will never get his side
of the bed back, because the featherbed is now perfectly formed
to my body and he has the bigger nightstand to hold my books. There
will be adjustments. We know that.
When things settle down, and the honeymoon period fades, we know
there are going to be disagreements. We know that we will have to
redefine his space vs. my space. We know that we're each going to
crave alone time. After all - as much as we hate this separation
- we've learned to cherish quiet time in our respective lives. We're
going to have to learn to live together again. That's frightening
to me. I imagine a few less than loving words as we make this transition.
But all in all, there is no other man I want to go through all
of this with. No other man has made me feel so valued and so appreciated.
No other man has made me feel so safe.
I look forward to growing old with Steve. I look forward to many
more years of butterflies in my stomach when he looks at me that
certain way. I look forward to years of laughter.
I can't wait to hold his hand again. He will forever be my only
Valentine. Happy Valentines Day to the love of my life!
February 15th - Beautiful sunrises, and Valentines Dinner with the
Yesterday wasn't as melancholy
as I thought it would be. It didn't have a chance to be sad, because
my day started with a phone call from Steve. I was so surprised
to see the familiar communication company name on my caller ID and
snatched up the phone before it rang a second time. Steve was so
concerned that the card he sent wouldn't get here on time, and wanted
to call me himself and wish me a Happy Valentines Day. (The card
still hasn't arrived - must be slow dogsleds from Iraq). I'll take
a phone call over a card any day!
ran a few errands before noon, and saw that the sky was a pretty
shade of orange and yellow as the sun came over the horizon. Since
I had my camera (I almost always have my camera), I decided to drive
to the top of Birch Hill to get a photo of the pretty sky and the
Alaska Range. Lately it's been cloudy enough that the range hasn't
been visible. When it is visible, it's hard to believe
that it's several hundred miles away. I can't wait until spring
comes and I can drive down to the Donnelly Dome area and get even
closer to the majestic mountains.
I made plans to have Valentines Day dinner with Rachael and Missi.
Missi made reservations at Pike's Waterfront Lodge. Pike's has two
sides to the dining portion. One side - the restaurant side - is
more formal, with cloth covered tables, slipcovered chairs, and
an atmosphere very conducive to romance or for celebrating a special
occasion. While celebrating Valentines Day without our husbands
isn't very special, we did want to do something nice for ourselves.
was delicious, and the company was wonderful. We talked and laughed
a lot, had a few glasses of wine, and ordered dessert after dinner
- even though our stomachs were exploding. To make the night even
more special, the sunset over the frozen Chena River was magnificent.
Rachael brought her camera, and we got a waitress to take our photo.
Rachael and I took our 'husbands' with us, but Missi forgot and
left 'Tim' home in bed. Of course, we had to get a photo of just
the guys. I sent the photo to Steve and although he sometimes says
I'm silly for dragging this little stuffed entity around with me,
I know he also thinks it's sweet that I want to share the special
things with 'him'.
what made the day even more special? Just as I was leaving for dinner,
the Fedex guy showed up with a special delivery for me. Despite
my assurances to Steve that I didn't need anything from him for
Valentines Day, he still made sure that I knew he was thinking of
me on this day of romance.
What a guy! I'm a lucky woman to have him by my side.
February 19th - Insomnia and Stress, A Trip Home, and A Beautiful
The past week has been a very
stressful one for me. And with stress comes insomnia. I haven't
slept a full night for at least the past two weeks. I've tried herbal
remedies (Sleepy-time Tea, Melatonin) as well as pharmaceuticals
(Ambien), but can't seem to get more than 4-5 hours of fitful sleep
each night. While I'm groggy in the morning, I do manage to function
OK during the day, when my second and third wind kicks in.
I'm sure all of the recent increase of stress in my life is contributing
to my inability to rest completely. I fall to sleep at night with
my mind going a million miles a minute, and I wake up the same way.
I wake throughout the night, and it sometimes takes me more than
20 minutes to doze off again.
Someone told me that the halfway point in a year-long deployment
can cause depression in some people. While I am thrilled that half
of this deployment is behind us, I hate that we have to repeat an
equal amount of time before we reach the end. We still have R&R
ahead of us (only about a month away now), and that is the brightest
light on the horizon for both of us. It's all we talk about when
we communicate with one another.
Another matter of stress in my life, is the sale of the house in
NC. My fears about the home inspection were well-founded, and there
are going to be almost $1000 in repairs necessary before we can
close the deal. Needless to say, the house will not be changing
hands on Wednesday as planned. If we're lucky, it will take place
on Friday. Fortunately for us, the buyers really love the house
and are doing all that they can to make this deal happen. Our nemesis
in this scenario is the home inspector - a man appointed by the
VA to examine the house and guarantee that it is sound. If it's
not, VA will not finance the loan. While I certainly understand
the importance of a sound inspection - pointing out blown light
bulbs, worn carpeting, and loose bolts on a commode are totally
unimportant matters. And yet this man has notated these types of
things, mandating that they be *fixed* before he will sign off on
the inspection. It's an added stress that I really don't need right
now. Being thousands of miles away, and having to rely on handymen
to make these minor repairs is costly. But we have no choice. I
will be glad when the deal is closed and the house is no longer
ours. Perhaps then I will sleep again.
I'm leaving tomorrow evening for Philadelphia. I have been somewhat
vague about my trip home, but there are reasons for my visit besides
catching up with my family. If you've been reading me for a while,
you know that my mother has been battling cancer on and off for
the past 25 years. After she was diagnosed at age 41, and had the
necessary surgery and radiation treatment, she was pretty much pronounced
cured. Just after my father passed away in 1996, the cancer recurred.
It is believed that the cancer came back before then, but because
my mother was preoccupied with caring for my father, she neglected
her own health and ignored the symptoms. She had another surgery
in 1996 to remove even more of her colon. In the summer of 2004,
she was diagnosed with kidney cancer. She had laser surgery to remove
the tumor. No further treatment was undergone, but she goes back
quarterly to be scoped and if any tumors are found, they are removed
with a laser. Last summer, a large tumor was found on her colon.
This one had grown into her abdominal wall. The tumor was removed,
and while further treatments were recommended (chemotherapy), my
mother decided against it. I support my mother 100% in her choice
not to have chemotherapy.
I have not seen my mother in nearly 14 months. I have heard from
some members of my family that she has lost weight and is showing
the weariness that battling illness can cause. I already know the
emotional toll this illness has taken on her, as we have talked
about it at length over the phone. She also suffers from S.A.D.
every winter, so I'm sure everything seems overwhelming at best.
I am a little fearful of what I will find when I get there. I'm
sure this fear has also contributed to my sleeplessness.
Being alone through all of this hasn't been easy, but I'm certainly
not an incapable woman. I handle it. I manage. But oh how I wish
my husband were here wrapping his arms around me and sharing his
closing, I'd like to share a photo I took of one of the roses Steve
sent me in my Valentines bouquet. I lowered the saturation on it,
so that it appears pink, rather than red. I wanted the veins and
texture to stand out more, and making it paler helped me to achieve
that. The roses still smell so fragrant. I have been diligent about
changing out the water and feeding them the special food that came
with them. They have all just about opened up fully too. Simply
I'm not sure how often - if at all - I will be able to update this
journal while I'm in Philadelphia. I'll be taking my laptop, but
my schedule will be full. I do hope to at least make one update,
and post some photos if I get the opportunity.
February 23rd - In Philadelphia...
My flights were on time and went
smoothly, and I actually arrived in Philadelphia on Tuesday morning
a good 15 minutes early. While I'm not fond of the flight from Anchorage
to Minneapolis - because it's so long - the overnight flight allows
you to at least sleep (if you can), making the flight pass more
quickly. I lucked out in that the plane wasn't full, so there was
a seat between me and the other person in my row. This gave both
of us plenty of room to spread out a bit and I was able to doze
off for about 3 hours of the 5 hour flight.
My mom and her friend picked me up at the airport. We stopped at
a diner for brunch on the way to my mother's, as I was famished.
As I mentioned back in December, Northwest Airlines no longer feeds
you (for free), but you can purchase a snack box if you like. I
had some crackers to tide me over, but getting a real meal was definitely
on my list of things to do first. We spent a couple of hours enjoying
our meal and catching up with one another.
unpacked my stuff and lay down with Mom for a few hours nap. She
was tired from the trip to the airport and lunch, and I was exhausted
from going 48 hours on only about 5 hours sleep total. We had plans
to go to Diane and Steve's (SIL and brother) for dinner later that
evening. We spent about an hour talking before dozing off. Our nap
lasted a lot longer than we planned, but we made it in time for
dinner. I was famished and Diane always cooks a great meal! The
company was great too. I even took "Steve" to dinner,
so my family could see my hubby doll. We watched a movie after dinner
before Mom and I headed home.
Yesterday, Mom wasn't feeling very well and hadn't slept too well
the night before. She hoped a nap would rejuvenate her enough to
go to a movie and lunch with her friend. This is a regular Wednesday
routine. I certainly didn't mind her going out with him, as I planned
on spending the afternoon with my SIL. I needed to get online and
check my emails - hoping to find one from my husband (I did), and
my broker regarding closing (I didn't). I can't get online at my
mother's place, even though I have Netzero installed for dialup
service, because she still has PULSE service (used for rotary phones)
and not touchtone. I couldn't believe it! When I asked her about
it and she said there was no reason for her to upgrade the service
as she's perfectly happy with it the way it is. While her phone
has a switch to simulate touchtone (so she can use touchtone menus
when calling businesses), the line itself doesn't get me online.
So I went to Diane's to use her phone line, which worked fine. I
later found out that Mom didn't go anywhere - instead spending the
day sleeping and watching TV. If I would have known that, I would
have stayed home with her.
Today my mother had two doctor's appointments. Her doctors are
downtown at Jefferson Hospital. She schedules both appointments
on the same day so that she only has to drive downtown once every
quarter or so. Diane is the one who takes her to these appointments,
but since I was in town, I took her. After today, I have even more
appreciation for Diane. She is definitely an angel in my book!
It only takes about 30 minutes to get downtown (when it's not rush-hour),
but the trick is to find a parking lot centrally located between
two different medical buildings which are about 6-7 blocks apart.
Once parked, you walk to building #1 and wait hours for the doctor
to see you. Her appointment was for 10:30am. We weren't seen until
after noon. The appointment was a follow-up and lasted 20 minutes.
Then we had to walk 5 blocks to the second building. A torrential
downpour ensued. It was windy too. And we didn't have an umbrella.
We got drenched, and Mom was freezing as we made our way. We kept
ducking under eaves to rest a little and get out of the downpour,
but still ended up looking like drowned rats. Doctor #2 took us
right away, and had us in and out in less than 20 minutes. Fortunately
the sun came out, so our 4 block walk back to the car was dry. Then
I had to fight center city traffic to get us home. Definitely not
a stress-free day, but we're both glad it's over. Tonight we're
Tomorrow night, we made reservations to go to dinner and a comedy
show at the restaurant where Steve and I were married. It will surely
bring back memories. The laughter will be good for all of us, and
the food is great too, so I'm looking forward to it.
I don't know when I will be able to upload to this journal, so
you'll probably be reading this entry at a later date. It's wonderful
to see my family again, and my mother looks a lot better than I
imagined. She's lost a lot of weight and is thinner than she's ever
been, and that's a big concern. But her appetite - while not the
best - is OK and she's at least getting nutrition. She's also in
intermittent pain which requires strong medication that in turn
makes her sleep. I don't like that she has days when all she does
is stay in bed. I realize that she might not have the strength to
get out and do something everyday, but I think even an hour or two
of fresh air would do her wonders. I know that her illness is physical
and mental, and that sometimes her mind and her thoughts are more
debilitating than the pain itself. Living alone doesn't help matters.
I've seen a big change in her just while I've been in town. She's
even spent some time laughing with me and talking about things that
do not revolve around the big "C" - and that's a good
Here are more photos I took today at my brother's house:
Mom at dinner
Mom at dinner
Sean on Daddy's (Steve) bike
Refrigerator with Coke Theme
February 26th - Hanging out with family
Mom and I went back over to Diane's house to pick her up and go
shopping. Mom had a gift certificate for Steinmart and wanted to
spend it. The closest Steinmart is 40 minutes from her house. We
didn't find much, and she still has a huge credit on the gift card.
I'm going to email the company and see if I can get them to cash
it out, since the store is too inconvenient for her. They wouldn't
do it at the store; company policy. I've never been very happy with
the practice of crediting gift cards instead of giving you cash
back. After all, cash was spent on it.
Our shopping excursion exhausted Mom, so afterward we came back
to the house so she could nap before dinner and the comedy show.
Before she dozed off, she told us that she wasn't going to make
the dinner, but that she would meet us (with her friend) at the
comedy show which followed. A little while later, my brother Marc
and his wife called to tell us that they were going to skip the
dinner as well, but would also meet us at the show. So we opted
to order in ourselves and just meet everyone at the show. Just before
we were ready to leave for the show, my mother told us she wasn't
feeling well and wouldn't be coming after all. We were very disappointed.
The show was fun, but Mom was missed.
On a positive note, we closed on our house on Friday morning! Although
the paperwork hasn't been recorded yet (it will be finalized on
Monday), it's a *done deal* for all intents and purposes. I am so
relieved! I got an email from Steve expressing his happiness. It
is good to be through with that part of our life as we move toward
Yesterday (Saturday), we decided to rent a couple of 'chick flicks',
order pizza and hang out at Diane and Steve's again. It was a very
lazy, but relaxing afternoon. I snapped a few photos of my brother
and SIL riding his new motorcycle. The weather was bright and sunny,
but the wind was cutting and bitter cold. (I do not miss the weather
of the northeast!) Despite the laid back day, my mother and I fell
right to sleep as soon as we lay down.
We're leaving here in about an hour - once again heading to Steve
and Diane's place. We're having dinner there, and I will be spending
the night, as my flight out of Philadelphia is at 8:30am tomorrow
morning, and in order to get to the airport in time (rush hour will
be in full force), we need to leave the house by 6am. It's going
to be another long day of travel, and while I don't look forward
to the trip itself, I do look forward to getting back to Alaska,
my pup Sedona, my friends, and regular contact with Steve. Except
for two short emails, we haven't had any other communication, and
I miss him terribly.
Steve and Diane
My mother has photos of her parents hanging in the living room.
I don't have any old photographs of my grandparents, so I took photos
of the photos. They're not the best quality, but they are better
than nothing. I see a lot of resemblance between my mother and her
mother - more so in the photograph taken of her when she was a younger
woman. My grandparents are both deceased - my grandfather passing
in 1981, and my grandmother in 1988. I have fond memories of spending
time with both of them as a child, although in my teen and adult
years, visits weren't as frequent. I sometimes wish I would have
taken the time to get to know them better.
February is almost over, and March brings me closer to R&R
and two weeks with the man whom I love with all of my heart and
soul. I want the time between now and then to pass quickly, but
I want time to stop when he gets home.
I look forward to being back in Alaska with the wide open spaces,
fresh air, and wildlife. While I love going 'home' for a visit,
I can't tolerate the rude drivers and fast pace anymore. It will
be good to sleep in my own bed, take Sedona on walks in the woods,
and slow down. And the Ice Art Championships open tomorrow too -
an added perk to living in Alaska.
2006 Susan L Stevenson