January 1st - Happy New Year!
It is difficult not to believe that
the next year will be better than the old one! And this illusion
is not wrong. Future is always good, no matter what happens. It
will always give us what we need
and what we want in secret. It will always bless us with right
Thus in a deeper sense our belief in the New Year cannot deceive
us. ~ Kersti Bergroth
Happy New Year! Today begins
a new chapter in all of our lives. A fresh page to write upon;
pure and white and ready to scribble upon. What will 2007 hold
for each of us? What changes will we see in our lives? Will we
uphold our resolutions to lose weight? Work harder? Love more?
Savor every moment? Or will we go through 2007 as we have every
year in the past?
I don't like to make resolutions.
I feel like a failure when I don't keep them. Sure... I'd like
to lose weight, get healthier, change my eating habits, spend
more time with friends and family, get my photography business
up and running, travel, make someone happy each day, and live
life as if there is no tomorrow. And maybe I will see some of
these goals come to fruition. Maybe I'll reach all of them. But
then again, maybe none of them. I don't like to start the new
year with requirements. It puts too much pressure on me. I do
much better when I wake each morning and set daily goals, rather
than yearly goals. I seem to function better with daily plans,
rather than long term ones.
We spend January 1 walking
through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to
be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the
list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking
for flaws, but for potential. ~Ellen Goodman
Yesterday, we spent the last
day of 2006 with our dear friends Rachael and James. They arrived
at our home at 3pm, and we enjoyed picking at some appetizers
while our dinner cooked. We served shrimp cocktail, spinach-artichoke
dip and garlic pita crackers, and mozzarella sticks with marinara
sauce. I was enjoying some Merlot, while Rachael got busy popping
the cork on a bottle of champagne. Our men played it safe with
soda, since they were going to be driving us to the fireworks
later that evening.
We finally sat down to eat
at 5:30pm. I made a scrumptious eye roast with potatoes and steamed
green beans with garlic. It was our first 'formal' dinner party
in the new house and I was glad that the Trujillo's were our guests.
There's nothing better than *christening* a dining room with folks
who don't care if the green beans are a little burnt. (Let's just
say that they were cooked for much longer than they should have
been. We're still getting used to this oven and stove!)
little after 7pm, we all bundled into our long johns and winter
gear and drove up to UAF (University of Alaska Fairbanks) campus
to watch the New Years Eve fireworks. They were scheduled to start
at 8pm, and we hoped to get a good vantage point. We finally found
a place to park our vehicles and put on gloves, scarves and hats
to protect us against the -20F temperature. Grabbing our tripods
and cameras, we trudged another 50 yards to an area with a clear
view of the valley below the fireworks launch site.
As soon as we left the protection
of the trees and hit the open air, we realized just how hard the
wind was whipping across the valley. Even though I was wearing
silk long underwear, my legs were immediately enveloped by the
stinging arctic wind. Within minutes they stung with the cold.
I should have worn my snow pants. The wind chill felt like -50F!
The fireworks display started
on time and both Rachael and I took photos, even as our cameras
protested under the below zero wind. In this kind of cold, batteries
don't last very long. Within 10 minutes I was showing only a half-charge
on my battery. We shot a few more frames before giving up and
deciding that the warmth of our vehicles was preferable to freezing
to death on an overlook.
They followed us over to the
Alaska Coffee Roasting Company for a much needed cup of cocoa/mocha
and some dessert. It was heavenly to be in a warm place, filling
our stomachs with warm liquid and much too decadent sweets.
About 9pm, we decided to head home. Rachael and
James went back to their place, and Steve and I continued home
to our house. We turned on the TV to watch the New Years Rockin'
Eve (which of course was recorded earlier in the evening, since
the east coast had already celebrated the new year.) I was exhausted
and fell asleep by 11pm, with my head resting in the crook of
Steve's shoulder. He woke me at midnight to wish me a Happy New
Year and to steal a kiss. I fell back to sleep immediately after,
and slept through until 9am. With my ongoing problems with insomnia,
this was quite a surprise and much appreciated!
I fell asleep, I glanced out the window and saw that the moon
had a ring around it. I just had to get a photograph. Rings around
the moon are caused by the refraction of moonlight (which of course
is reflected sunlight) from ice crystals in the upper atmosphere.
Generally, snow falls the next day. It is snowing as I type this.
Today was a lazy day for both of us. I planned originally
to take down my Christmas decor, but decided I'll wait until tomorrow.
(Steve's off from work, so he can help me) Steve has been watching
football all day, while I've been playing on the computer.
Tomorrow evening, we'll be taking Rachael and James
to the airport as they head off on their Mexican Riviera cruise.
Warm weather, sunshine, beaches, turquoise waters... OK... so
maybe I'm a little bit jealous! It is a much deserved holiday
after such a long deployment. I know they'll have the most wonderful
time, and I can't wait to hear all about it when they get back
in a few weeks.
I hope that you all had a lovely New Years celebration,
whether it was low-keyed and intimate, or wild and crazy! May
you all have a year of good health and prosperity, with many blessings!
January 9th - Snow, Frost and Frigid Temperatures!
I apologize for my absence. I haven't had much to
write about, since I've been spending almost every moment of each
day trying to stay warm! We've had some very cold weather lately
- the kind of weather that even makes your vehicle scream when you
take it out. My poor car; the sound effects that come off her motor
when she's going down the road are just pitiful! And no matter how
hot you crank the heat in the car, it takes forever to actually
warm up the inside, and then you have to deal with fogged up windows
on top of everything else. Yes, this weather is best handled by
not going out in it! Today, it was -46F here in North Pole. Anyone
up for a winter visit to the frigid arctic?
Because of the extreme cold, the dogsled races have been pushed
back a few weeks. There was a race this past Sunday, but Steve and
I had brunch reservations with some friends (we just love the Champagne
Brunch at Pikes!) so we didn't make it. According to their website,
the race was run despite the cold temps. I hope the next one is
run as scheduled this coming Sunday.
On Wednesday and Friday, I did manage to get out and take some
photos of the beautiful landscapes around us. Basically, the technique
is to drive until you see something nice, jump out of the car, snap
the photos, jump back in the car, shiver, and then find another
photo opportunity. The first day I went out, I was wearing my hiking
boots (rated to -15F) and my feet were blocks of ice even though
all I did was jump in and out of the car. So I came home and changed
into my arctic boots (rated to -60F) and went back out. I made sure
I had all kinds of extra clothes in the car with me, and took Sedona
just in case I needed a warm body to cuddle up to.
I drove around on Fort Wainwright - just taking the side roads and
the back roads near the golf course. I ventured back to the A-frame
neighborhood, but couldn't find anything that inspired me. There's
a slough along the way that I like. I've photographed it in the
winter many times, and couldn't resist another photo. I took another
photo of the one lane bridge as I got close to it too. As you can
see, our landscape is comprised of only four colors lately: black,
white, blue and gray. I do look forward to spring and some color.
My longing for spring is coming earlier this year. I suppose it's
because I haven't been to any dogsled races and I don't feel very
full moon was an awesome sight to see, especially as it rose so
early in the afternoon. The sky was a medium blue, and the snow
was blue with dusk. The moon shone brilliantly as it made its way
over the horizon. I just had to pull off the road and snap a few
photographs. It turns out I pulled off onto a 'no private vehicles
allowed' road and ended up with a snowplow behind me. I couldn't
turn around, so I had to keep going until I found a place to pull
off. I thought I was going to get in trouble for trespassing, but
such is the price of getting a good photograph. I didn't get in
trouble; I just hurried up and got out of there!
Friday, I drove around North Pole. A few online friends of mine
have been asking me for photos of some of the North Pole sights.
Some think it's pretty special that this town celebrates Christmas
all year round. I personally don't pay too much attention to the
little touches of 'Christmas' all over the place - except for at
Christmastime. I suppose you just get used to seeing candy cane
light poles and a 45' Santa Claus standing along the highway when
you live here long enough.
I shot some landscapes too, and made it to the beautiful footbridge
at the city park near the school. I've photographed the footbridge
in every season, but this may have been my first time photographing
it in the winter. (I'm not sure) I'm pleased with the way the photo
turned out. It was a very serene, and lovely sight. Here are the
rest of the photos I took while driving around North Pole:
||There is a privacy about it
which no other season gives you... In spring, summer and fall
people sort of have an open season on each other; only in winter,
in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you
can savor belonging to yourself.
~ Ruth Stout ~
I've been spending my indoor days working on resizing photos for
my Gallery. I will be revamping my Gallery site (hopefully soon)
and removing some photos and replacing them with new photos. I've
been getting quite a few emails from readers asking me when my prints
will be available for purchase, and that's my New Years resolution
I've been ordering prints for myself to see if the quality is good,
and I've been pleased so far. My entire home will be filled with
only my work (a direct order from Steve), and I've got a nice tall
stairway to decorate, in addition to the walls. It's harder to choose
photographs for the bedroom. I want landscapes, and my color scheme
is maroons and browns. I've been sorting through my autumn photos
in search of the perfect scenes. It's too bad I don't have a blue
room. There are a lot of blue photos in winter.
The satellite dish guys came out today and got our TV up and running
again. I don't know what the problem is with reception, but I'm
glad it's working. Let's hope it continues! They gave us some vouchers
for our trouble over the past few months. We can use them when we
pay our bill, which is nice. At least we'll save a few bucks over
the next few months.
Tomorrow is Brandon and Becky's fourth wedding anniversary! It's
hard to believe that my "baby" has been married four years
already. Time sure does fly. I remember the day he called me and
told me he was getting married. It was the day before he shipped
off to Iraq in 2003. He thought I'd be angry with him for doing
something so sudden. He was only 19, and assumed I'd give him a
hard time about getting married at such a young age. Under normal
circumstances, I may have tried to discuss the seriousness of marriage
with him. But he was heading off to war and he was in love. And
anytime anyone goes off to war, there's the possibility that they
won't come home. I wanted him to be happy. I wanted him to know
that he had a wife waiting for him. I wanted him to be careful,
and keep his spirits up; to daydream about, and plan homecoming.
I believe that loving Becky, and knowing that she'd be waiting for
him when he got home, is what got him through the deployment.
Of course, he didn't know that Becky would end up being shipped
to Iraq. He found that out after the fact. He believed she was home
here in the states, looking for an apartment for them to start their
married life in. I'll never forget the phone call; the one when
I had to tell him that his wife was over there too. I heard him
sigh. And I heard the worry in his voice. I wished that I could
take him in my arms and comfort him. I wished that I could guarantee
that everything was going to be OK, but I couldn't. I was scared
to death for the safety of my child. And I was scared for my new
daughter in law too - a young woman I had never met, but who had
won my son's heart.
Fortunately, they both returned safely from Iraq - a little worse
for wear, but alive. And they did get the chance to set up their
first home together, and adopt a puppy. *grin* And the more I got
to know Becky, the more I liked her. The more I liked her, the more
I loved her. She is a beautiful young woman, with a soft heart and
a caring spirit. I couldn't have chosen a more perfect mate for
my youngest son.
Happy Anniversary, Brandon and Becky! I love you both.
"Love one another and you will be happy. It's
as simple and as difficult as that."
~ Michael Leunig ~
January 17th - Off to the races!
We continued with the terrible cold spell for a
few days last week. It dropped to well below -30F, which kept me
inside where it was warm. We also lost satellite reception when
a tree became thick with snow and blocked our signal. (The never
ending saga of Dish Network!) Nothing's worse than no television
and being homebound. I've become quite spoiled by modern technology.
Thank goodness the internet stayed up and running so I could find
some bits of entertainment.
I took advantage of the frigid cold and lack of TV, by sorting
through thousands of photos and resizing my favorites for printing.
It was nice to look through hundreds of photos taken during the
spring and fall. The colors were mood-lifting, after seeing nothing
but black and white and gray for what seems like ages. I always
feel this way in the early part of the year, and fortunately activities
around town kick off and keep my spirits up.
past Sunday, Steve took me to Mushers Headquarters to watch the
Annamaet Challenge Series Race #2. This race was originally scheduled
for back in December, but was postponed due to lack of snow and
frigid weather. They're trying to play catch up now, and there are
races scheduled for just about every weekend from here on out.
It was an overcast day - not the best for getting good photos.
Those few that didn't turn out blurry, were much too dark for my
liking. I had to take them into my editing program and adjust the
levels and brightness. This made them much too grainy for my liking.
They look OK for web posting, but they're not good enough quality
for printing. I'm hoping that future races will take place under
sunny blue skies.
Here are a few from Sunday morning:
I met a new friend last week. I originally met Dawn online.
She and her family came to Fort Wainwright back in October. Her
husband is also a soldier. We finally met each other in real life
and had lunch at The Cookie Jar. Conversation flowed easily, which
was very nice. Dawn was born and raised in Plymouth, MA (her husband
was also born in that area). She told me that it was nice to hear
a 'northern' accent again. I really didn't think I had my northern
accent any longer - especially after spending 12 years in the southeast
- but I suppose my visit home in August and September, and being
around 'Philly people' brought it out again.
This past week has been a rough one for me in regards to insomnia.
I've been having a really hard time staying asleep. Falling asleep
has never been a huge problem, but if I wake up in the middle of
the night, I can't go back to sleep. This happens for two or three
days in a row, and then I'll have a really long power sleep of 8-10
hours. I've taken Ambien, Melatonin, Unisom, etc and they might
work the first night, but don't work the second. Perhaps I just
don't need any more than 4-5 hours sleep a night? I don't feel tired
during the day, although there are times I do feel like I could
take a nap. The funny thing is that most people have a problem sleeping
in the summer (with all the light), and go into hibernation mode
in winter. I guess I'm the opposite. The sun can shine in my eyes,
and I have no problem sleeping.
A huge shipment of my photos got lost in the mail. The company
is sending replacement prints, but I'm very perturbed that the first
shipment was lost. I tracked the shipment online, and it was signed
into the Fairbanks Main PO on January 4th. Here it is 13 days later
and still no sign of them. The delays in getting mail in and out
of Alaska can be so ridiculous sometimes, and run very smoothly
others. I just don't get it. How can a package take only 2 days
to get from California to Fairbanks, and then take 8 days to get
from Fairbanks to North Pole? Or disappear completely? Aggravating!
I'm going to work on more photos today, and then hopefully post
an updated page of photos I currently have available for enlargement.
I hope to get this page up over the next few days. My sister-in-love,
Diane is looking for a photograph to hang over her fireplace in
her newly remodeled family room. I hope she finds one in the group.
January 24th - Snowscapes
have been diligently working away on my photos; resizing them for
prints. Slowly but surely, I'm getting everything ready to update
my Gallery page. That's what has kept me away from this journal
for so long. I haven't spent too much time out with my camera. It's
been cold, and pretty much dreary - with gray skies contributing
to the monochromatic landscape. However, there have been days when
I woke to glorious cobalt blue skies which set off the snow covered
trees quite beautifully.
Monday, I decided to take advantage of those blue skies and take
a short drive to Chena Lakes Rec Area. (The photo at left, is a
pano I shot of the frozen lake and two storage buildings. I like
the sign on the building to the right. It says: Life Jackets required
at all times. How funny!)
In the winter, the park is used for mushing, snowshoeing, snowmachining,
and cross-country skiing. The frozen lake is a popular place to
set up an 'ice fishing house' and do some fishing. In the summer,
the park comes alive with the laughter and squeals of children as
they splash in the lake, or kayakers as they make their way through
the smooth water. Families can camp here, or have a barbecue. There
are paths for walking and biking. Last summer, there was even a
grizzly spotted in the park.
I didn't go too far, but I took Sedona along for company. She's
grown quite accustomed to going 'bye bye' with me and jumps at the
chance for a car ride. I snapped a few photos on the way back to
the house and after we got home, so you can see how pretty it looks
here when the sun is shining, and the skies are clear.
Steve's been very hard at work doing inventory. This is one of
the tasks he has to complete before he retires. He's been responsible
for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and office
supplies, etc. and he has the tedious chore of accounting for each
and every item, before signing the stuff over to the new soldier
in charge. He's been under a lot of stress lately - even more so
than he was during the homecomings in November and December. He's
looking forward to the day when he has no other responsibility than
to 'take up space' as his time winds down.
He should be going on terminal leave in mid May. Terminal leave
is for the purpose of using up all of your leave hours before you
get out of the military. His final day will be July 31st. He'll
have served for one week more than 23 years by then. I think he's
done his share for our country.
As these final weeks have become more and more stressful, Steve's
feeling much more secure in his decision to retire. Perhaps he'd
feel different if he was a 'traditional' soldier - a man or woman
who entered the military right out of high school. But he didn't
join until he was nearly 30. He's 52 years old and, while he's in
great shape for a man his age, he's starting to notice a lot of
new aches and pains. Ahhh, the joys of aging!
Steve's considering taking the summer off before he looks for another
job. He'd like to work on Fort Wainwright or Eielson AFB - in a
civilian position, doing military work, because that's what he is
familiar with. The subject of taking off for the summer has been
discussed briefly, but a final decision hasn't been made yet. Financially,
it's doable. But Steve's worried that he'll miss an opportunity
for good employment if he doesn't go in search of a job before August.
I do understand his concern, but I also believe that it would be
in his best interest to take several months off to 'decompress'
after so many years of military service. Who knows when he'll have
this opportunity again? I just want him to have the opportunity
to relax for a change. He certainly deserves it.
January 31st - Anniversaries, Weather Warm-ups, Friends, and Drives
48th Anniversary, Mom and Dad
Today my parents would be married
forty eight years. I miss them both so terribly, but there
is also a part of me that is thankful that they are together
again - for eternity.
is something eternal; the aspect may change, but not the essence."
~ Vincent Van Gogh ~
past week has been absolutely gorgeous! The sun has come out nearly
everyday, and the temperature has risen to above zero. Last week
(Thursday), it was nearly -30F and the next day it went to 21 ABOVE!
The photo at right is the thermometer I bought Steve for Christmas
so he could see with a glance, how cold it was outside. We've since
moved it to a place on the front porch. As you can see, it was showing
a frigid -29F last week.
With the arrival of practically 'spring' warmth, the entire town
seemed to come alive with people who were willing to leave their
homes and venture out into the sunshine. I know I took advantage
Friday, I met some friends at Boston's for lunch. It was wonderful
to finally meet an online friend in person. Abby is quite outgoing
and sweet, and I hope we'll continue to spend time together. The
rest of the gals and I had a great time talking, eating, and laughing.
We spent two hours at the restaurant.
Later that evening, Steve and I went to the Fairbanks Funny Festival
with James and Rachael. The Funny Festival gives locals the opportunity
to get up in front of an audience and do stand-up comedy. For a
week prior, they train with a professional (in this case, John DiCrosta).
After the 'amateurs' did their thing, John got up and entertained
us with his zany sense of humor. I haven't laughed like that in
ages! If he ever comes to a venue near you, go out and see him.
You won't be disappointed.
Saturday started off sunny, so Steve and I decided to take a drive
up the Steese Highway to Davidson Ditch in the White Mountain Rec
Area. The skies didn't stay sunny, unfortunately. The further up
the highway we got, the more gray the day became. It was a lovely
and relaxing drive, but I didn't get any photographs that I felt
were worth posting.
of coming straight back to the house, we diverted up to the top
of Murphy Dome. I haven't been to Murphy Dome since last April when
Steve was home on R&R from Iraq. As we drove up the winding
road to the summit, the temperature gauge in the car climbed higher
and higher. It read 26F above zero at the top. Trucks and trailers
(for snowmachines) were parked everywhere, so we knew the trails
were going to be busy. We opened the door, and stepped out into
some very strong winds. Despite the 26F temperature, the wind made
it feel like it was below zero.
only managed to walk a short distance, before turning around and
rushing back to the truck and some warmth. However, we did come
across a team of dogs that were running loose while their musher
lashed his sled to the roof of his truck. They were a friendly bunch
and came over to say hello to us. Patting their heads and seeing
their excitement gives me the urge to add another dog to our family.
(Steve says one is enough!).
day long, the moon hung over us in the sky. It seemed brighter than
ever, and as the sun made its way down towards the horizon, it glowed
even more brightly in the mid-day sky. When we arrived home, I put
my long lens on my camera and set it up on the tripod to try to
capture the moon. I had never photographed the moon during the day,
but I'm pleased with the result. (I had to adjust the photo a little
bit to bring definition back to the craters)
On Sunday morning, after a very restful nights sleep (a rarity
for me during the winter), I met Rachael and her furkids at the
campground on post. It has been a while since we've gone walking,
and we were looking forward to getting some exercise. We decided
that we're going to try to get back into a routine - especially
if the daytime temps stay above zero.
Monday morning, I got dressed for our morning walk, and opened the
vertical blinds on the sliding glass doors, as I always do. Much
to my surprise, there was a huge cow moose napping in the rear of
our yard! I immediately grabbed my camera and zoom lens and went
out into the yard to get some photos. She heard me come outside
and turned her face to look at me. Her snout was covered in snow.
Either she was napping with her face under the snow, or she had
knocked some off the trees as she made her way through the woods.
I squeezed off about five photos before she became tired of my
presence, got to her feet, and lumbered off into the woodline. But
she was my first moose sighting in the yard, since we moved in back
in November! Last week, I saw hoof prints crossing my driveway,
and that got me excited, but actually seeing her in the yard was
even better. I hope she comes back again soon.
I can't believe January is over already. The month flew by for
me, and I'm grateful. I've been so antsy for spring (even though
it's still three or more months away for us), but the days are gradually
getting longer. We have almost 9 hours of visible light now, and
we're gaining nearly 7 minutes each day.
I'd like to work on a few flower beds this summer. Steve says we
can't plant grass yet, because he wants to thin out the woodline
around the house and remove all the dead fall and skinny saplings
first. If we grow grass, he'll end up tearing it all out as he drags
the logs and twigs across the yard. This means both yards will be
a muddy mess come 'break-up'. I am not looking forward to that at
all! He did say I would be able to at least start my border beds
with flowers. I hope my thumb proves to be green.
©2007 Susan L Stevenson