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Wednesday, March 1st - My last days in Philly and the Ice Park Adventure

My last day in Philadelphia passed much too quickly. I spent the day with my mom, over at my brother's house, since I had to leave so early for the airport the next morning and was spending the night there.

Sean's Tree FortWhile there, my nephew Sean came into the house followed by two of his friends. He invited me to come out and look at the tree fort they had built in the woods behind the house. Seeing his fort brought back so many memories from my childhood. When I was just a kid, the "Tomlinson Road Gang" (not a gang by any stretch), built a fort every summer. It was our private sanctuary in the woods and we spent a lot of time there. We'd get our building supplies from some of the new home construction sites dotting the neighborhood. We even picked up the bent nails from the ground and would hammer them straight so we could use them.

Sean's fort is a very sizeable structure. Like the forts from my childhood, it's a mishmash of wood, haphazardly nailed to several trees. He and his buddies are quite proud of their 'condo' in the trees. I just had to take a photo for him.

The girls in the familyDiane prepared a delicious spaghetti dinner for all of us, and we settled in to watch a movie afterward. Mom started getting tired, so we had to say our goodbyes to one another before she drove home. Before she left, I asked Sean to take a photograph of 'the Smalley girls'. I'm printing it out and putting it in a magnetic frame for my mom's refrigerator. From left to right is me, Mom, Diane, and my niece Rachel.

I didn't sleep much my final night in town. The alarm went off at 5:15am and we left for the airport a little after 6am to beat the rush hour traffic. My connecting flights were on time, and I landed in Fairbanks as scheduled. It was good to see Rachael and Susan waiting for me.

It is good to be back in Alaska. I found more than a foot of snow in my driveway. Rachael was nice enough to shovel me a path to my front door, but I knew I had a big job ahead of me the next morning, if I wanted to get the truck out of the garage. I looked forward to sleeping in my own bed, cuddling Airborne, and picking Sedona up from the kennel the next day.

It's been cold, but I'm tolerating it much better than the damp, windy weather in Philadelphia. The Ice Park opened yesterday, but it was just entirely too cold to be wandering around in the outdoors. Rachael and I made plans to go today instead. If you're interested in following the artists as they create their frozen works of art, visit the Ice Alaska site. There will be webcam links there so you can see the sculptures from the warmth and comfort of your home.

The first week that the park is open gives us a chance to watch the artists at work. I like this time, because it's usually not crowded. Many people buy tickets to visit once, and they wait until later in the month so that they can see all of the sculptures completed and lit up with colored lights. I buy the season pass because I like to go several times during the month and watch the progress.

I took a lot of photos today. I don't know the names of the artists or the names of their sculptures, because the site hasn't updated yet. Click on the thumbnails below to view a larger photo.

Before I end this entry, I just wanted to tell you just how much stress has been lifted from my shoulders since our house closed on Friday. Yes - the deal is finally done! One more thing accomplished in preparation for the next stage of our life.

Another wonderful thing? If all goes as scheduled, I will be holding my husband in my arms in about 25-30 days. I hope it's 25!

Monday, March 6th - Native Arts Festival and Ice Art Championships

I have had almost a week of lazy days. I don't know if there's such a thing as week-long jet lag, but that's what it's felt like. My sleep patterns have been wacky, and my energy levels have been very low. If not for all the activity going on in town, I'd be content to do nothing but lay around watching movies.

Saturday night, Rachael, Susan and I went up to UAF campus to attend the last day of the Native Arts Festival. We watched the dancers for about an hour, before browsing the craft tables. I came upon the most beautiful hand made native doll vignette - a circle of dolls holding a blanket, with another doll suspended above the blanket - portraying the blanket toss. The dolls were made of seal skin and moose hide and it was truly a beautiful piece. It was reduced in price, but still not an inexpensive investment. If we were settled in our own home, I would have purchased it. But with moving on the horizon, I'm more concerned about paring down my belongings, rather than adding to them.

Athabascan Dancers Little Athabascan Boy Haida Dancer Haida Dancers
Haida Dancer and Headdress Twirling Children Haida Haida Drummer Haida Dancers

Yesterday afternoon, I went back to the Ice Park to see what progress had been made. The single blocks were judged on Friday night. The multi block sculptures will be judged this Saturday. What a difference a few days made! I took a lot of photos of completed single block sculptures and also some photos of artists hard at work on multi block pieces. It was a sunny day and felt warmer than the 20F we reached. I'd like to go back again this week at night to see the sculptures with the lights on them. I really hope they're still standing when Steve comes home on R&R at the end of the month.

This upcoming weekend is the Chatanika Days celebration. There will be Outhouse Races, Human Bowling, and other events. If the roads are in good shape, I'd like to head out there. Chatanika is about 30 miles from Fairbanks. It's a pretty drive, but the road goes over hills and into valleys. If it's slippery, that could be a scary drive. I'm going to play it by ear.

Please keep my mother in your prayers. She was admitted to the hospital today because of pains in her abdomen. The doctor seems to think it's another abscess and has ordered a CT scan. I have no further details at this time. All I pray for is for the pain to be taken away and my mother to be healed. I hate that she's going through all of this.

Friday, March 10th - Mom and Daffodils

My mother is still in the hospital. The pain was not from an abscess. She has another tumor. It's the size of an apple. We're not clear about what the method of treatment will be. There has been talk of pre-operative chemotherapy to try to shrink the tumor before removing it, but until we talk directly to the doctor, nothing is certain. I've talked to her daily, and she's in good spirits. She's getting injections of Dilaudid, which helps with the pain. Thank you to those of you who are keeping Mom in your thoughts and prayers. It is much appreciated.

It is currently -22F here in Fairbanks. I don't know who ordered this arctic weather, but I thought for sure we'd be on our way to warming up as spring gets ready to officially arrive. I use the term 'officially' only because it is marked on calendars that March 21st is the first day of spring. But here in Fairbanks, we still have a while before we start to see signs of spring (new growth). We broke a record last year on this date with a temperature of 44F. Even though it would melt the ice sculptures (like last year), experiencing a few minutes of that warmth would be welcome right now.

DaffodilsA couple of days ago, my friend Susan surprised Rachael and I with a bunch of daffodils. What a wonderful surprise, and certainly a reminder that spring will eventually arrive. They were all closed up when she gave them to us, but putting them in water opened them right up. I just had to take photos! I'm using them as screen savers to warm me up.

In a little more than 2 weeks, Steve will be leaving Iraq to begin the journey home for a visit. I don't have to tell you how much I am looking forward to seeing him again. He is my rock, my strength, and the love of my life. I can't wait to be enveloped in his arms and held close again.

Monday, March 13th - Sled Dog Races, and a Visiting Star

We've had sunshine all weekend, despite the fact that it's still below zero most days. However, this week should see a bit of a warm up, and we're all looking forward to it.

On Saturday, Rachael and I decided to go to the Limited North American Championship Sled Dog Race. A three day event, we missed the first day because we weren't dressed for the bitter cold. We were much better prepared on day two, with lots of layers, extra camera batteries (the cold drains them quickly) and a plan to take advantage of the viewing area indoors to warm up in between races. I am always happy to attend the races and see the dogs and mushers as they prepare to race along the trails. It must be so exhilarating to be on a sled, alone on a trail, with the wind in your face! Perhaps someday I will enjoy that experience.

Determination Becky Voris
Becky Voris
Off the Starting line runners faces
Symmetry Skijorer After the Race Take a Bow Frosted Face
Frosty Malemute Frosted face Scott Campbell
Scott Campbell
Kim Wells
Kim Wells
Carol Kaynor
Carol Kaynor
Ken Benard
Ken Benard
Ken Benard
Ken Benard
Final Stretch
Pretty Face Dog Box, Sled, and Face Dog Team  

Yesterday, Fairbanks had a star in our midst. John Leguizamo (the voice of SID in Ice Age 2), was in town to officially open the Ice Park and to promote the movie opening at the end of the month. He and Gov. Frank Murkowski, 'cut the ceremonial ribbon', using blow torches because the ribbon was made of ice. They arrived on dogsled and there was a big crowd on hand to welcome them - to include me and my friends Rachael and Susan. And it wasn't a warm night either.

We got there early so we could view the multi-block sculptures before making our way over to the staging area where the festivities would kick off. It wasn't dark enough to get the traditional multi-color lit up sculptures, but we were amazed by the detail that went into the large carvings. We all took some photos, and ran inside the building to warm up. We weren't the only ones who were seeking out a few minutes of warmth to thaw our fingers and toes.

We're definitely going to go back to the park after dark to get some night photos, however we're hoping it will get a little warmer. Not too warm though! I want them to stay intact until Steve gets home, so he can see them with me. The park officially closes on March 26th. After that date, the park will be open to the public at no cost. I suspect a lot of children will spend some time on the ice slides long after the park closes.

Spring - 3rd Pl Abstract - China

Time for Tea - 3rd Pl Realistic

Time for Tea - Close up

Viking Ice Works - USA

Cheval Blanc - France

Friendship is a Gift
USA, Holland, Germany

Possession - 5th Pl Abstract

Barto's Charge - 1st Pl Realistic

Czech Republic, Slovakia, USA

Gov. Murkowski and
John Leguizamo


Mom was released from the hospital on Friday afternoon. She had a bad night Friday evening - very depressed, and feeling very hopeless. A friend stayed with her to keep her company, and then on Saturday she went to my brother Steve's house where she will be staying for a few days. She is scheduled to have surgery to implant a port in her chest so that she can start chemotherapy treatments next week. The treatments will last approximately 8 weeks, and our hope is that they will shrink the tumor in preparation to remove it.

Friday, March 17th - Sunrises, Sunsets, Moon and Ice
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The days are getting longer and it's much more noticeable now. We're gaining almost 7 minutes each day as we leave winter behind and head toward spring. I just wish the weather would cooperate. It would be nice if the weatherman was a bit more accurate too. We're being taunted with extended forecasts predicting temperatures in the 20s and 30s, and then instead, we're not getting much above zero. Add in the almost constant wind, and it feels a lot colder out there now than it felt back in December. Oh well... patience is a virtue, right?

Sunrise on the railroad tracksMorning sunrise near Birch HillSunrises and sunsets have been gorgeous over the last few days. The colors in the sky have been so beautiful, that I even threw on my many layers of clothes a few days ago, and ventured out for a drive around post just to get some photographs. I took Sedona with me and we stopped at the golf course so she could get out and run around for a little while. She didn't stay out too long. The arctic wind brought with it bone-chilling cold and even having a natural fur coat didn't help. When I opened the back door of the truck, she didn't hesitate to hop back in quickly.

Sunrise at the Golf Course
Sunrise over the playground

Rachael and I 'borrowed' a couple of kids from our friend Nik, and took them to the ice park a few days ago. Nik hasn't been feeling well (battling a cold) and her husband was due home any day for his R&R visit. We thought she'd appreciate a few hours of rest and relaxation herself. Besides, we were looking forward to visiting the ice park again.

It was crowded, as it is spring break here in Fairbanks. Can you imagine having spring break when the wind chill puts temperatures at -25F? Some spring, huh? But kids in Alaska are accustomed to this, and a few days off from school is always welcome. The ice tunnel, ice maze, and ice houses were full of laughing children, and the ice slides were a huge hit with both the children and the 'big' kids (as in daddies and mommies!). We stayed for a little over an hour before the wind got strong and bit into our skin with a vengeance. I hope it warms up a little bit before Steve gets home.

Full Worm Moon March 14thWe had a full moon a few days ago. I hope it was visible in your part of the world. It looked bright orange while it was down low on the horizon - probably because the sun was setting in the sky opposite the moonrise. The color faded a little as it rose higher in the sky. Rachael and I stopped home for our cameras and tripods and took some photos of it over the approach strip and airfield. Unfortunately, in my excitement, I left the house without gloves. I should know better - and the sticky notes that Steve has left me in the arctic room should have been a nice reminder. But I was in too much of a hurry, so I ran off without them. Big mistake.

My tripod has a plastic grip on it, but the rest of the tripod is aluminum. And when the temperatures are below zero, aluminum gets really cold. I'm talking REALLY cold. When we were done shooting, I picked up my tripod by the plastic grip, but without thinking I used my other hand to grab one of the legs and put it in Rachael's car. Immediately, I felt a searing pain on my palm. I didn't think much of it, except in that second when I yanked my hand off of the tripod. We were so cold, our only focus was getting the car heated up and our hands warm.

Sunset at the Golf CourseThe next day, while taking Sedona for a walk, I couldn't understand why I had an ache in my palm, where I was holding her leash. I pulled off my glove and found a blister dead center. A tiny portion of the skin at the edge of the blister was white. My third winter here in Alaska, and my first experience with contact frostbite. You can bet I won't forget my gloves again.

If all goes well, I will have Steve home with me in less than two weeks. I wish I could put out more precise information, but I can't for security purposes. Believe me - you'll know when the time arrives! We spend almost every second of our online time talking about the upcoming visit. He looks forward to emptying his mind and recharging his energy. I look forward to cuddling with him before I fall asleep, lazy days snuggled up on the sofa watching movies, and maybe taking a drive or two. Scenic drives renew our spirit. Steve's itching to get out and hit the open road - letting the beauty that is Alaska rejuvenate his soul. We'll play it by ear. There will be no schedule, no plans, and no obligations. The only thing we care about is being able to reach out and touch each other after 7 months of separation.

The butterflies in my stomach arrived days ago. I wish I could fast-forward the next week or so.

Mom News: Mom had a Pet Scan yesterday. We should get the results on Monday or Tuesday. This scan is a more accurate picture of the tumor. Wednesday, she is going in the hospital to have her port installed. I didn't get a date from Diane on when Mom's chemo treatments will start. She will go every other week, for four treatments. At least she's having the chemo at a local hospital (Holy Redeemer, for family members reading this) and not downtown. This will ease the situation for both Mom and my sister-in-law Diane, by eliminating the 'all day' ordeal of traveling to center city Philadelphia. I can't say enough how much I appreciate Diane for all that she does - and has done - for Mom.

Currently, Mom is staying with Steve and Diane (and niece Rachel and nephew Sean). I feel better knowing that she is surrounded by family, rather than home alone. And she's lucky too, as Diane is an excellent cook and Mom will definitely benefit from having delicious meals prepared for her. Not to mention the great company!

Thank you, Diane. I love you, sis!

Monday, March 20th - An Event Filled Weekend

I feel like I've been away from this journal for a long time, and it's only been three days. I have been running around all weekend, taking lots of photos (you're being warned that this will be a very photo-heavy entry), and enjoying the *goings on* in Fairbanks. I'm thankful to have my friend Rachael to enjoy the events with. She's been having fun taking photos with her Canon G6 and I've been sharing my knowledge about camera settings with her, so that she can get the best results. She managed to capture the Northern Lights the other night - her first time. She's excited, as she should be.

Northern Lights over yardNorthern Lights and IcicleSpeaking of the Northern Lights - what an amazing display we had near midnight on St. Paddy's Day. They were positively magical and I saw huge streaks of purple for the first time. A little after 11pm, I was heading up to bed, and as is customary, I glanced out the window to look for the lights. How glad I am that I did! They were bright and dancing across the night sky. I grabbed my camera, tripod, and a few items of clothing and ran into the back yard to get a few photos. The photo at left was taken from my yard. The one at right shows the killer icicle hanging from the roof of my house. I don't want to be standing under that deadly spike when it falls!

As they got more intense, I decided to drive down to the playground/open field for some shots without houses and overhead wires. It's only about a block away, so I put on a few more layers of clothes before jumping in the truck. When I got to the field, they were nearly invisible. I was so disappointed, but decided to stand and wait anyway. I'm glad I was in a patient mood, because 15 minutes later, the sky was lit up with green again.

aurora borealis aurora borealis aurora borealis aurora borealis

I stood out in the elements as long as I could before it got too cold to tolerate. The lights were slowing down and growing dimmer, so I figured the light show was over for the evening. I drove home, downloaded the photos from my camera and resized a few to share in my journal. I spent a good hour playing with photos, and before I knew it, it was after 1am. I shut down my laptop, climbed the stairs to bed, and changed into my pjs. I pulled back the covers and got ready to climb in. I don't know what possessed me to walk into the guestroom (in the back of the house) and look out the window, but Oh. My. Goodness!

Northern Lights out bedroom windowNorthern Lights out bedroom windowI have never seen such activity before in my life! They were so bright that shadows and light danced around the bedroom! I ran for my camera and my tripod and set it up facing out the window. I am quite impressed with what I captured, but I will remember to take the screen off the window next time. I couldn't see the interference of the screen grid in my LCD screen, but it did show up on the photographs. Lesson learned. How I wish my family would come visit me in the winter sometime, so that they could see this phenomenon. Can you imagine laying in bed while this incredible light show played outside the window?

On Saturday, Rachael and I decided to attend the GCI Open North American Championship. From the website: ONAC is the premiere sled dog sprint race in the world, attracting the top sprint mushers from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Japan. The three day race is run every year in March from downtown Fairbanks, Alaska, with heats of 20 miles the first two days, and a grueling 30-mile heat on the final day.

Downtown Fairbanks fur auctionfurs for auctionI took some photos at the start of the race, as well as a few photos of the stage where The Alaska Trappers Association was hosting a fur auction. Hundreds of pelts from various animals were on display - each one numbered and with a 'starting bid' posted on it. There was lynx, coyote, red fox, mink, wolf, bear, beaver, and probably a few other types of fur. We didn't stay for the auction because our plan was to make our way to another checkpoint along the trail where we could get closer to the action. The crowd downtown lined the street, limiting our vantage point, but we stayed to watch the first couple of teams get off the starting line.

JP Norris Siberian HuskiesWe drove over to an area near Creamers Field to set up for some photos of the teams as they came off the field and down onto the slough. We were told by my friend Jan that this is a good place to see some sleds go up on one runner because of the angle of the turn. We definitely saw some clouds of snow when the made that turn, and were able to crouch right next to the trail for a dog's eye view.
Release the dogs Ed Wood Chugiak Musher JP Norris and his huskies
Bill Kornmuller Musher and team Over the hill
Happy dog faces Entering the slough Snow off the runners

Despite below freezing temps, the blazing sun really helped to keep us warm and made the day quite enjoyable. We stopped at Starbucks before heading home to put on lounging clothes and be lazy the rest of the day.

northern lights from birch hillnorthern lights from birch hilNear 11pm, I saw that the lights were out again. I buzzed Rachael and asked her if she wanted to take a drive with me to the top of Birch Hill for a better view. She was game and off we went. It was a bit scary making the drive in the dark like that, and I was glad to have her company. We set up our cameras, I gave her some input on settings, and we started shooting. I'm glad we managed to catch them, as they didn't stay out for long and clouds rolled over Fairbanks quickly.
northern lights from birch hil northern lights from birch hil northern lights from birch hil

On Sunday, Rachael and I went to breakfast at The Cookie Jar. It's our 'regular' Sunday morning breakfast place, and we were hoping that Susan and her friend Amanda could join us, but she had other plans. I ran into some local friends who belong to the same Alaska Living group I do. In addition, one of our members - and his family - from Eagle River (near Anchorage) was in Fairbanks for the weekend and looking forward to putting faces on the names. I spent a few minutes chatting with them, before Rachael and I took off for "A Woman's Affair" - an expo type event featuring women's businesses, seminars on women's healthcare issues, etc. We had free tickets (thanks Susan!), and time to kill before the Parka Parade at Pioneer Park. (Say that 5 times fast!)

We got to Pioneer Park early and walked through the 'historic town' part of the park. I took a few photos and converted them to B&W to make them more interesting. I've been to Pioneer Park many times, and always find something to photograph (or photograph again).
pioneer park church pioneer park village pioneer park doors pioneer park train

Parka Parade Art expo 2006Fur ParkaWe went back inside to see the parkas on display. Unfortunately, there weren't many participants in the parade. The parkas were hand made. Some were more ornate than others, but all were beautiful and took a lot of work. There were five fabric parkas - with fur trim - and one all fur parka (absolutely stunning!) which took a year to make. It was constructed of Holstein cow hide, beaver, fox, and mink. I took a few closeup photos of the woman wearing the winning fur parka (the only competitor in the fur division). Isn't it beautiful?!

Ice Park Entrance 2006With a few hours of downtime, Rachael and I made our way home to grab some dinner and rest up before we took off for a night visit to the ice park. I was really looking forward to seeing the sculptures lit up with the colored lights. Viewing them at night is an entirely different experience than seeing them in the daylight. It's festive. Almost Christmas-sy. We really chose a good night to go, as the temperatures were a bit more manageable. Nevertheless, I was bundled up with several layers. I didn't want to take any chances of being cold. It worked. I was toasty warm all night long. I really hope that the sculptures are still looking as beautiful next week when Steve is home with me. (YIPPEE!)

Mysterious Pearl Beach walker Dancing Allure
Nature and Animals Incognito Incognito Time for Tea
The Chase Ice Maze  

With the passing of another weekend, I am even closer to having Steve home with me. I spent the day straightening up around the house, and cleaned out the inside of the truck. I hope he doesn't read this particular entry, because if he does, he'll know that I've been allowing Sedona in the truck for rides. I can't help it; she's my furbaby. I love to take her with me when I get the urge to take a drive around post for photos. Steve has always been one who doesn't care for animals in the vehicle - although he never took issue to it when she'd ride with me in my Nissan. But when he bought his truck, he made it a point to tell me that when Sedona goes with us in the truck, she has to ride in the bed of the truck in her kennel. (There's a cap on the truck to protect her from the elements). OK... so I've been bending the rules a little bit. *grin* I've been careful about laying a blanket down on the leather seats so that she wouldn't tear them up with her claws, and the blanket has attracted her fur to it too, so less flying around the inside. I don't think he'll be on to my secret, as the truck looks great inside. If you're a local friend reading this, shhhhhhh!!!!

Home PoemThe excitement is building as I get closer to seeing my husband again. I replay what I think it will be like to see him in the airport. It's hard to believe that it's been 7 months since we said goodbye to one another. One day last week, I was feeling creative and wrote a poem for him. I emailed it to him and he printed it out and hung it over his bed. It is so wonderful to love and be loved.

When we see each other on the webcam, we can't help but grin from ear to ear. We mostly talk about seeing each other again and all the little things we've missed the most. The sound of each other's laughter being one of those things. It will feel nice to laugh with him again.

Saturday, March 25th - Curling Competitions and Playing the Waiting Game

snowflakessnowflakesThe weather has been warming up - warming up enough that we've been getting snow. Ever after 6 months of winter, I still enjoy seeing the snow fall. The flakes have been so big, that you can see the individual ice crystals in them. This past Tuesday, it was so warm (about 25F), that Rachael and I decided to leash up the pups (Sedona and Stryker) and take them for a long walk. We hit some patches of deep snow which slowed us down some - and gave us one heck of a workout, but we managed to walk a little more than 3 miles. It was good for us and our pups, who got the opportunity to smell new smells and see a change of scenery after months of only seeing the back yard and areas around our homes. I can't wait until walking becomes a regular part of our daily schedule again.

Curling arena - Fairbanks Curling ClubOn Thursday, Rachael and I attended the USCA Mixed Nationals at the Fairbanks Curling Club. We had never attended a curling spiel (game), but thought it would be a neat experience. When we got there, we were seated up on the second level, warm behind a large viewing window. This gave us a bird's eye view of the curling arena. When I started taking photos, a woman sitting next to me (who was very knowledgeable about the game) told me I looked like a 'professional' [as in photographer] and told me I could go down on the ice if I wanted to. There were children down on the ice already, viewing the game, so Rachael and I decided to take advantage of the offer and get some photos from the players' level.

We didn't know much about the sport of curling, but it appeared to be played similarly to Bocce, or even Shuffleboard. Teams release a 'stone' or 'rock', which glides down the 'curling sheet'. Rocks must land between the hog line and the back line and between the boards or out lines. Expertise is used to direct the stones as close as possible to the center 'button', while knocking opponent's stones out of the way. After both teams have delivered eight rocks, the team with the rock closest to the button is awarded one point for each of its own rocks that is closer than the opponent's closest rock. You can read about the sport of curling on the Wikipedia site. Best part of all? There is no age limit for curling! The Fairbanks Curling Club has players ages 5 to 85.

The local curling club has an annual Rookie Spiel - when amateurs can come out and compete. The woman I spoke to invited me to create a team and come out for it. I don't know about that. I'm not very nimble on my feet, and the thought of sliding across ice reminds me of retrieving my newspaper from the driveway in the morning. I'm the furthest thing from graceful that there is. *grin*

Delivering the Stone
Delivering the Stone
Curling Stone or Rock
Curling Stone or Rock
Stone in motion
Curling Stone in Motion
After the Delivery
After Delivering the Stone
Stone and brush
Curling Stone and Brush
Sweeping in front of the Stone
Delivering the stone
Delivering the Stone Curling

Steve really enjoys watching curling, and the season lasts until sometime in April. I might just have to take him over there to watch a spiel or two. You never know... he may be up for getting a team together for the Rookie Spiel in October or November of this year.

Speaking of Steve... he got online last night (my time), which was Saturday morning his time. He has begun the journey home, but it could take several days to a week - depending on transportation and schedules. We've waited this long; we'll continue the waiting game. Just knowing that he's one step closer to getting home to me is enough. I look forward to the phone call telling me he's in the US and waiting for a flight to Alaska. Then I'll know he's truly safe. We're both so excited about seeing each other again! As of today, he's been gone for 212 days. I remember when the counter at the top of my journal page was still less than 10. Our anniversary is on the 5th (April). We'll be married 14 years. And we'll be spending it together. That's the best anniversary gift in the world. *doing a happy dance*

MOM NEWS: Mom was admitted to the hospital to have her port-o-cath installed. There was a problem during surgery and it didn't go as planned. Needless to say, the port was not installed. They have rescheduled the surgery for this upcoming week. Mom was kept in the hospital for observation. I spoke to her yesterday, and she hoped she was being discharged. One concern we have at this time is her rapid weight loss. From the time I was there visiting earlier this month, until now, she has lost nearly 15 pounds. The nutritionist has recommended drinks like Boost, etc. but Mom hates the taste and texture. I'm glad she's staying with Diane and Steve. Diane is an excellent cook and will make sure Mom eats. She was in good spirits yesterday - a plus. We appreciate the thoughts and prayers from so many caring people.

Sunday, March 26th - Downy Woodpecker... and Soon to See My Honey!

Downy WoodpeckerWhile out walking Sedona this morning, I heard the familiar chirp and 'rat-a-tat-tat' of a woodpecker. I glanced toward the direction of the sound and was thrilled to see a Downy Woodpecker on the side of a tree. He was happily pecking away at a birch branch and didn't fly off as I got close enough to him to snap a few photos. Perhaps he wanted me to take his photograph! Only males have a red patch on the back of the head. Here is some more information about the Downy Woodpecker.

Steve called me at 4am this morning. He finally has an itinerary and flight numbers. Barring any problems with the airlines - and we know how reliable the airlines are *insert eye roll here* - I will be watching my husband get off a plane in the wee hours of Wednesday. Fortunately, the rules have changed regarding meeting your party at the gate. If you're welcoming home (or sending off) a service member, there is a special pass issued which allows you to go up to the gate. You better believe I'll be up there watching for him to come up that long hallway! We're so close now and the butterflies in my stomach have become huge birds.

It's been so long.... but soon the love of my life will be standing right in front of me. It all feels like a dream. I suppose it will feel this way until I actually see him, and hold him, and kiss him.

I will try to post a brief entry letting you all know he has arrived safely. After that... well... you might not hear from me for a while. :)

Tuesday, March 28th - My Love is on His Way!

This morning I heard the most wonderful voice on the phone. It was Steve and he was in Dallas on a long layover. What a relief to know that he is finally in the states! From Dallas, he'll head to Seattle - where he'll have another fairly long layover, and then onward to Fairbanks.

Our soldiers were welcomed very nicely in Dallas, and given an opportunity to shower- which he took! When I spoke to him, he was eating a sandwich, reading the paper, and watching CNN. He said it's great to be back in America.

Steve had a very short layover in Ireland on the way home, and he had the opportunity to shop. (Oooohhh! Presents!) Having him home is present enough, but how sweet that he thought of me. Someday, we'd like to go to Ireland on vacation.

I spent the morning doing last minute touch-ups to the house, posting little love notes in secret places, and hanging a few small posters where he'd see them. The front porch post is wrapped in yellow ribbon with bows, and there's a big poster hung out front where he'll see it as soon as we get home from the airport.

It still feels like a dream to me, and I've been told that the next two weeks will fly by - but I'm not going to think about tomorrow. I will take each moment as it comes and savor it slowly. For the first time in 7 months, I will be complete.

"Love vanquishes time. To lovers, a moment can be eternity, eternity can be the tick of a clock."
~ Mary Parrish ~


© 2006 Susan L Stevenson