Monday, December 31, 2007

The darkest day, celebration, and reflection.

It's been a little while. We were hunkered down in the basement, illuminated by the faint glow of 1 candle. A stray thread of light to focus our emotions on as we entered the darkest week in Alaska. It was all we could do to find sanity. December 21st, the darkest day came and went and at slightly less than 5 hours of daylight at the darkest hour.....we have prevailed. It is only uphill from here, adding 6 minutes of daylight each day. Now, as a result we are moving to South Africa this summer to enjoy a more steady flow of daylight, warmth, and a new adventure! HUH!!!!! And there were those who thought we would fold.... I have to admit, it was weird, yet humbling. I mean, you learn a new respect for the natives who have braved the difference of life here many centuries before us. You learn to adapt in ways you never had to before. Mind you, today doesn't really seem anymore light out than the 21st, the shortest, darkest day....the winter solstice. It is actually quite a celebrated day amongst most Alaskans. Even more special because it's Johns birthday! It is a day and night that many parties for friends, family, the community, whoever wants to attend takes place. At homes, churches, all over. We were invited and attended a party for the winter solstice with a group of spiritually minded healers, hippies, and native tribes people. It was a very enlightening night of drumming, singing native Indian songs, and sharing stories all in front of a bonfire in single digit temperatures. Oh, and lots of really good food! It is a belief that this day represents the elimination of all that burdens you and the welcoming of those things you want to bring new into the coming year of light. There is a story that this tradition of gathering began when native tribes people felt that the gods were angry with something they had done. This is the only reason they could figure for the days becoming darker and shorter. Basically....they pissed off the sun. So a celebration of life began in hopes of bringing happiness to a saddened sun with the hope that the days would once again be long and bright. Makes sense! ;) I tried the naked snow dance and it worked!! John spent the night at one of the community churches here in Nikiski with some of his friends for a 'lock-in'. Funny, in California it would be construed as a 'lock-down'..... Not nearly the same. Simply put, the youth attending were basically there for the night for games, dancing food and fun and not allowed to leave til morning.

After the last post we were intrigued by a development here in the house. One morning Maryann woke up and the temps were down to -20 below 0. She went into her studio and about choked when she found little ice sculptors scattered throughout the walls and corners of the ceiling. Apparently as we were to discover there is a name for these phenomena. 'Ice cactus'. This is a common thing for many homes, and most especially log homes. When the temps drop that low, any air gaps be it a door seal, a pinhole gap between logs, a draft from a window, anything that emits cold air from the outside will freeze and extend it's frozen rigidity into the interior as what resembles an ice cactus. People readily take action, as we did, to utilize these ice markers in order to seal up air gaps. I heard a story of one woman who found ice cactus around her door and used her mail to stuff into the door gap to stop the air. Others use such things as duct tape, newspaper balled up. We simply used a tube of silicone caulking and insulating spray foam. In fact we all 3 spent a long night in Maryann's studio fondling the walls to find air flow, caulking, foaming and doing all we could to better insulate it. In the end, we did pretty good. It is difficult with the log siding as so much as a fracture or split in a log can cause a draft. Plan is to really work on sealing between the logs from the outside this summer. Another thing that was neglected here by the previous owner....jackass! Sorry. All in all the rest of the house fared well. Still never figured out what that horrific noise was that night out back. There is speculation that it was moose....many moose around the lake that cold night, communicating to eachother. I don't buy that. It was a supernatural occurrence of great magnitude! I just know it.

Hopefully everyone had a safe and Merry Christmas.....Merry Christmas! And that this will find everyone with a Happy New Year. Again, many Alaskans will celebrate tonight bringing in the New Year with friends, family and community. Fireworks are a tradition here, and many folks go up to Anchorage and Talkeetna to buy displays to shoot off at home come midnight. Not the little ground sparklers either. These are those big mortar balls that launch 150 feet into the air letting off those huge showers of colored displays. I am sure there will as well be those who prefer old fashioned oxygen and settling in large balloons..... ;) We will be home tonight keeping it to family. John may have a couple friends over, and of course the party animal dogs of ours. Maryann and John worked diligently all day making homemade pizza, hor d eavors, cookies, and other good stuff for the night. I think we will be pulling out the game of Monopoly. I am somewhat hopping to make it til midnight really. The past week brought much snow, many long hours of snow plowing all hours of the day, and very little sleep. I will do my best. Toothpicks. Pryed between the eyes! So here to a new beginning. There are many friends and family who have taken some hits this year. Many who have lost someone or know somebody who lost a loved one. We actually received sad news last night of someone well known in our old community in Arnold who passed from cancer the other night. Last we saw her was last fall at another friends' wife's funeral. She looked fine and we were shocked to know different. Our prayers go out to Ron and her family. But despite all of those bad situations, those sad situations, we should look a little deeper and see the good that came out of the past year. It seems too often a focus on the bad of each exiting year. Good or bad we wish everyone enlightenment, peace, health and togetherness in 2008. Don't look back at 2007, but foreword to your dreams and hopes. Gone with your fears. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Life as a real Ice Capades performer.

Remember the Ice Capades? Before the days of Disney on ice, and all of those dress-up character ice shows. I always wanted to go to the Ice Capades when I was young. I remember seeing the commercials when they would come to Los Angeles, and ask my parents if they would take my sister and I. Much like the G.I. Joe action figure I asked for Christmas after never happened! Little did I know that later down the line, the Ice Capades would become a regular event in my life of which I would, unwillingly....or unwittingly depending on how you want to look at it, become a performing part of. Let me recap some of the recent highlights of my world of ice.

Did you know that when traveling down a highway at say 45 MPH on a cold day, that an aluminum ladder, discharged out the back of a pick-up truck, will in fact become a speeding projectile when it hits the icy road? It was almost like a flowing choreograph out of "Riverdance" the way it flew out and began a horizontal swirl on the pavement. The fashion in which it stabilized its forward momentum, and almost quite literally gained speed and then gracefully swooned to the shoulder as the two stages of the ladder began to separate.....pirouetting separately into a double sow-cow as they slide off the icy embankment to take a bow. Seem unbelievable? Well, as I caught a glimpse of something flying out the back of my truck, I looked in the rear- view and witnessed the uncanny spectacle first hand, and as you may complete disbelief! I still haven't figured out how it got out of the strap that was holding it down. I am guessing that at that speed, the latching mechanism may have just froze to the point of 'give', and 'gave'! Fortunately, nobody was hurt during this ballet on ice, and in fact the ladder did survive with only a scrap on it's rubber footing.

One of the centers that I do maintenance on has a section in the rear where shop owners and such sometimes leave their vehicles parked overnight.....or at times longer. What is amazing to me is the genius who leaves their vehicle parked for the weekend, in a large puddle of water. What is even more amazing to me is when that weekend the temperatures drop drastically, and that puddle of water becomes a block of embedded ice. With anything that was parked in it before hand becoming an affixed semi-permanent figure in that ice..... for a couple weeks. Think about it, if a toe truck ties a cable to it to try and pull it, a piece of the vehicle may come apart. On the other hand, if you try to use a propane flame-thrower, you may well melt the tires. As the ground has become progressively frozen to the point of 3 inches of solid ice on every surface that once was not, these predicaments seem to become more and more common. Do ya think!?

Speaking of 3 inches of frozen ice on the ground. We are a little fortunate here at the compound, as the ice is only an inch thick on our once thriving lawn. It is however closer to 3 inches or better on the drive and is so slick that it's glossy appearance would remind one of a subtle mirrored pond winding down the length of the drive. I know better though. Therefore I avoid the thick 3 inch ice of the drive, and often find myself taking the shortcut across the more manageable terrain of the frigid lawn. To my dismay. The other day as I gingerly traversed the rise of the grade past the corner of the garage on my way to the truck, but my feet felt a yearning desire to mimic those of no other than Mr. Bojangles. In one felt swoop I found myself doing a vertical slide which erupted into a glorious horizontal rise, attempting to defy all laws of gravity, as I felt my body leave mother Earth just long enough to mutter the words, "oh fu...., I began a rapid descent back to Earth. Fortunately I landed not on my back, but on my ass. Unfortunately, I have no ass, thus no 'bouncing effect' transpired and the sheer blunt trauma of the ensuing "thud" left me without breath and utterly dumbfounded....staring at the sky. Down at ice level, the trembling thought that was going through my rattled mind was that Maryann had already left for work, and if John decided to go to town after school, I may die of hypothermia on my ice laden lawn. Good news to this story was that after a few moments of lying there on the ice field, my unpadded ass became so cold that I could no longer bear it and the will to stick it in front of the glaring wood stove drove me to force my aching body back to it's original vertical homo-erectous position, and I waddled half-gimp idly back to the house. Oye!

With Maryann still working the time she gets home and settles it is well into midnight. Thus, I often find myself staying up and bedding down just past midnight. In the case of last night, Maryann was off so we went and did our weekly grocery run into Soldotna at Freds. Coming home later that night, I noticed the distinct white glow forming in the crystal clear night sky to the North. It appeared almost as like the 'bat signal' peering star ward in a straight column. Sure enough it begun to turn a greenish hue. The Northern Lights. Now, after arriving home I found myself continuously going out and looking at the night sky, waiting for the Aurora to emanate, but to no avail. So that night around 11:45, Maryann and I start to go to bed. I walk into the bathroom, and through the window I notice that white hue again, spread out across the sky. I alert Maraynn, and the two of us begin a dash to grab coats and slip-ons. I however was the only one to gallantly make it out the door. At -3 below 0, I guess Maryann figured she would wake John and watch through the warmth of his bedroom window with him. Now it would seem a normal thing to any onlooker, Greg runs out the door and starts to see it emanate across the sky, and as he looks upward in complete awe, staggers across the frozen grass to get the 'ideal' viewing spot. Unlike the front grass near the garage, the back lawn is less traveled therefore capped with traction bearing snow. No chance of slippage here. All of a sudden out of the dead silence I here this loud noise somewhere in front of me which literally made my hair stand on edge, and turned my legs into wilted noodles. I had never in my life heard this sound and as a hundred questions of curiosity, fear, and the urge to dis spell flooded over me, somewhere in that jumbled mess I thought, oh crap. A moose. You see, unlike the warmer months, moose tend to be a little more temperamental and unpredictable in the frigid cold. In the summer they are warm, and there is plenty of food. In the winter, they are cold, miserable and hungry since their food is encased in snow and ice. This makes those 'Marlin Perkins' like photo shots I was able to take up close, impossible as they will just assume charge and mame. Back to my thought....oh crap, a moose. I did a complete 180, and high tailed it back to the back door, I am sure leaving a trail. Meantime Maryann and John are watching out his window, wondering why dad seems to be backpedaling to the door like he just saw a ghost. Now, scared, yeah I was. But the instinctual curiosity which runs in the Phillips veins, compelled me stop and delve deeper into what had just happened. While doing so, I noticed that I was hearing no hooves trampling ice....nothing. I am befuddled. I stood there for a minute listening intently. Then out of the silence, again this blood curdling loud sound bellows across the lake, echoing in the cold night air. Now, just before this run outside to see the lights, we were watching the "X-Files" on tv. Talk about feeling the hee-bee friggin gee-bees. I darted into the house, all erried out. Somehow I persuaded Maryann to come out and listen to this horrid sound. I was telling her it almost reminded me of a loud electrical impulsing noise. Again, I have never in my life heard anything like it, but am quickly realizing that this is no animal. No, this is huge like some geophysical oddity, or a space craft about to come up out of the woods across the lake. no, this is huge, man. So Maryann comes out and soon enough she hears it around the corner of the house and says it is the hot tub. But the hot tub doesn't cycle on and off in les than 2 seconds, and echo across the lake. And, it stays in one place...on our deck. Not shifting from place to place in front of and around us. And so she gets a good one. This one is loud and I watch her eyes get big and her knees somewhat buckle as she says, "what the hell was that?!" Now, we are both about to lose to bottom end. We both freaked and immediately darted back into the safety of our confines. And so it was, just like the X-Files, "the truth is out there...." But we are oblivious much like Mulder as to what that truth is.

We have some guesses as to what kind of strange phenomena may have transpired. We are sure it was the lake. How an inanimatable body like a lake could make such an inhuman blood-curdling bellow like that, is quite beyond me. I never knew a lake could fart! We suspect it has something to do with the ice. I am sure it is very thick now, and given the gonnos, one could easily walk out onto it. Possibly the water table is slowly rising, causing the edges to pop? Or maybe expansion of the ice? But no joke, this sound is unlike what you would expect from expanding ice. I mean, this sound like it is occurring below the ice into the depths of the water. But the reverberating bellow it makes, seriously almost sounds like a huge electrical pulse. Weird doings here. So I am sure at some point we will find out the source of this mystery sound. But in the mean time, it sure was fun getting the crap scarred out of us in the midnight ice!

And so is life in the Ice Capades. Thanks mom and dad. Thanks for never taking me to the Ice Capades when I was young. You must of known in that instinctual heart that all parents have, that someday, I would be the friggin Ice Capades! Take care, and walk litely!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Phillips Family

Well we're all at home today with different chores in mind, hanging the rest of the Christmas lights on the cabin and the garage, doing some painting in my studio (if it ever warms up) and maybe taking the dogs for a run on the beach. The last may not happen. It's generally colder on the beach because the bluffs act as a wind tunnel. This morning we just didn't get up in time before the winds kicked up to go down to the beach. We've been finding with the sun not making it's appearance until 10:30am it's harder to get out of bed. That and with my work schedule I'm still not getting home until midnight. This will change soon.
So, I'm sure you've seen the picture I've posted this afternoon of us on the swing. We did this today because so many people, mostly family, have been complaining that they want to start seeing pictures of us. Here we are.... We braved a -4 wind chill to take this picture for you. We actually took several but would have to race into the house to get warm in order to get a variety and choose the best to post. And yes, that is Greg with Cherokees Christmas Antlers on. Too cute. There will be more to come.
The tree is now up and lit, a gorgeous sight of 11 feet, no joke. It is beautiful, I will post that one next. Christmas shopping was easier than ever, the stores were not crowded and with only a few stores to choose from it has made the holidays much more special. We need to do some last minute things for the dogs and we're done. Yaah!
Other than that I have to say thanks to Yvette for commenting on her special tradition on my last blog. Yvette, you had me crying....what a wonderful way of celebrating in giving yourselves to people who don't get to see too much, if any of their own family. Wow, thanks for writing. I also wanted to say sorry for your loss. We're thinking of you all.
John received an Honorable Mention Award for his sketch on the previous blog and also given forms for a special scholarship through the art guild if he should want to pursue a career in art. Greg and I are very proud of him and his achievements. And I do agree with Yvettes last comment that TJ is proudly looking down upon John for his achievement also.
We will continue to post our pics of not only ourselves but of our holidays and wish you again a Merry Christmas. The Phillips' Family.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New Traditions and The Other Artist

As a family that hasn't ever been away from family and friends during the holidays we're gathering our thoughts and ideas on how we can make these holidays memorable. Yes, we've had thoughts of building an ice cave on our property and serving Christmas dinner in it but I'm thinking that may be a little uncomfortable, although the dogs would sure enjoy it. Maybe constructing a zipline from our house above down across the lake for added, too dangerous. If you come up with anything let us know. But for now this is what we've done; Greg and John put up bright blue and white xmas lights on the cabin. Hopefully when I feel comfortable to walk across the surface of the lake I will get a picture of it. It is truly magical. With the sunlight diminishing and the Christmas lights on, I just can't explain how beautiful it is.

This past Monday John and I were shopping in Fred Meyer (local dept/grocery store in Soldotna) when we came across a Christmas tree with tiny tags of local needy children expressing what they would like to have for Christmas. John pulled a 5 yr old little girl who wanted an Island Princess Barbie and a new pair of shoes. He had such a great time, choosing her Barbie and a pink pair of Converse (Johns favorite shoe). I saw a tear in his eye when we payed for the items and left them for Salvation Army to pick up. John expressed to me how great he felt doing that for another person and wished that he could have at least enclosed a card. He did a wonderful thing and he's going to be on the lookout this spring for a 5 yr old with bright pink Converse. :0) So as of yet, this is what we have done to make our holidays special because it has been different. I will keep you posted as to the other minor details like the zip line and igloo.....don't hold your breath.

I'm saving the best for last here. John recently had an assignment in his art class, which consisted of sketching a picture of what he felt was Patriotism. This is his sketch which is hanging in the Kenai Peninsula Fine Arts gallery (the same place my experimental project was in) it is truly unique. The bottom right side says, "Silence of War Where Some Wounds Remain Unseen." The twin towers sit in the upper right corner above the soldiers head. There's about 30 drawings and they've been judged by the Womens Auxiliary and we're just waiting to see what the outcome is. I think John won when he sketched and entered this piece, it is truly dramatic and breathtaking to see.

We hope your all having a magical holiday season and know you are always being thought of by us. Please take a moment this year and do something (even if it is small) for someone in need.

The Phillips Family in Alaska.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A photo fest

Good morning....or good noon to those who had sunrise at a relatively early hour of the day! We are into 5 hours and 52 minutes of daylight today, and it is dropping by 6 minutes a day until the darkest day, December 21st. Then the daylight starts to increase again. The temps this week have been....well, by most Alaskan standards "unseasonably mild". Now to someone who moved to Alaska to savor the cold and snow, this flat sucks! However, we did have a tasty shot of winter last week, as the temps hovered in the 9-15 degree range with wind chills dropping to -22 below 0. Now let me tell you something about wind chill....if I might. They say that when a 'wind chill' kicks in, it only means that "it feels like" -22. I feel compelled to say that there really isn't much difference between 'feels like' and 'is'! It was just plain cold, man. Maryann and I braved it one morning and went out into the hot tub for a soak. My beard began freezing within a minute or so from the steam of the water, and both of our hair would ice up where it touched the water. It was great fun to...dip the each others hair freeze. Dip the head to melt the it freeze again. Very entertaining! What was even more entertaining was getting out and the trek between the tub and the house! Lets just say, things happen when the human body is wet in that kind of extreme. We have got some snow, not alot, but nonetheless the ground is staying permanently frozen now, and should remain that way until 'break-up' in spring. I hear 'break-up' is an eye opening experience.

Big news here this past week. We finally got DSL!!!!!!!! The eternal 'waiting list' finally drew our number in the lottery, and we are now in high speed heaven. Don't know what to do now that we don't have so much time to do household chores, cook meals and such while waiting for the computer to download! No, now it is strictly business as we have no time for these things anymore! ;) Those little teaser trials with DSL at the hotels on the trip up here last summer lit the way for a faster future, and I can't say I ever want to be a 'Slowski" again. Ever. I sure do miss those 'cookie bars' in those motels on the road!
Yesterday found me with some time on my hands as Maryann was at her watercolor club at the Fine Arts Center. So I spent time hanging in and around Kenai. I had the chance to see some pretty spectacular scenes this day as the weather was nice, and the day beautiful. I grasped the opportunity and decided to share some of Kenai.

This first photo looks out across the tidal flats. Beyond the tidal flats runs into the Kenai Wildlife Refuge and that spans for many miles to the Caribou Hills which you can see snow capped in the backround. The Caribou Hills serves as a very popular place for dog sled teams, snow machines, and some beautiful hiking and sights in the summer. Somewhere the other side of the range would be the town of Seward. Not much happens in Seward as it is small....small. Although it is a beautiful place to visit. Next, we find ourselves at the mouth of the Kenai river, where it flows into the Cook Inlet.

A spectacular thing about the Kenai, as well as several other rivers of the area, is that the water is a very sectacular and vivid teal color. Almost like out of a fairytale or something to that effect. This is because of the small particulate glacial matter that flows down from the higher glaciers. As a result, the water in the inlet sometimes will appear a little muddy, and this is from all of the sediment and silt that flows into it from the glacial rivers. If you look carefully in the lower left corner you can see a couple of people at the top of the snow on the beach.

These two were actually snow sledding on the beach as I was taking this picture, as seen in this next one. Clever! The other day I was out on the highway out north, and there was a woman jogging on the bike path that runs along the highway. She had her dog by the leash jogging behind her....and her dog had a sled by a tether pulling her child behind it..... People here definitely take advantage of recreational activities despite any odds! The actual town of Kenai sits just above the mouth here, and as you could imagine depending on the weather, and how the light is, there are some really beautiful sights from this bluff. It's kind of like a 360 degree serious display of eye candy!!

I found myself next down at beach level and got a great shot of the Caribou Hills. There was a couple off in the distance walking the beach, enjoying the mild beauty of the day. Believe me, it would be hard not to enjoy the beauty or a nice day on this beach. It is spectacular, and a very calming place to put ones' hemispheres back into phase. As you turn to the right of this photo you would be looking down towards the Gulf Of Alaska, and about an hour and a half drive would find yourself in Homer. Remember the 'spit'?! Now this was about 1:00PM and you can see behind the clouds that the sun is already on it's way back down.

The waves were really nice this day and were making that mellow "pounding sound" as they broke on shore. I can't say enough what a beautiful day it was to be on the beach.

In Alaska, no matter where you go you will find old buses. School buses, church buses, bus buses.... Everyone has buses! Alot of them are often used for storage. I mean, you will drive past someones property and see an old bus parked next to the house, trodden in weeds, full of...stuff. You can see it piled up in the windows sometimes to the roof. This is actually a great utilization of space, for storage. In the historical part of downtown Kenai, there is another old bus parked along side the road. This bus however is a special bus. If asked the fabbled question, "are you on or off the bus?", the wise answer for this bus would be '"on it, man!"

This is one of the best digs in the area. The Burger Bus. They turned this ol Bessie into a take out burger joint, and they serve the best burgers in Alaska. Just ask John! I was the first to eat at the Burger Bus, and when I told him they had the best burgers this side of the Yukon, he had to go see for himself. John is a devout Burger Bus boy now. He has his own Burger 'punch card' and is working away the punch outs for his free burger as we speak! Be it a regular burger with fries, a sweet grilled chicken burger....a halibut is killer.

I could not pass up the opportunity for those who can appreciate an efficient piece of equipment. These large plows are actually a common sight in and around Kenai and Soldotna.

As you can tell by the "stoic immensity" (a phrase of your delight, Mike) of this beast, some plow services here don't mess around with snow. Look to the right of the blade....that is 'little' ol me. Kind of an illustrational testimonial of the capacity of this plow. The Binford model of snow removal equipment!

And so as the sun soon would start to set, Maryann and I found a delicious lunch across this parking lot at The Acapulco Mexican restaurant, one of the best for Mexican food in the area and afterwards headed back home. Home. I love the sound of that word. If you would have told me that this would be 'home' a year ago, I would have thought, "wow, that would be nice, huh". No longer do we have to 'think' that, because this is home now. True, we do miss many aspects of what 'home' was, in fact I still find myself in conversation making reference to "back home" at times. But to anyone who wondered, worried, or wished the best, I can honestly say to you that we are home now, and are discovering a subtle comfort and happiness that we only dreamed of before. Come visit, and I promise you, you will quickly see why! John, Maryann and I went out and bought some Christmas lights today at Fred's and John and I came home this afternoon and strung them around the house... in the dark. It looks so nice, and I can honestly say as I stood back tonight admiring them, it definitely solidified in my heart that this is our home now. Take care, and our love to all.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Once in a while you can get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right."

A very strange yet believable thing happened to me one morning almost a year ago this month. We had just returned from Alaska, our 2nd re-con trip to scope out the possibility of moving. When we returned I think we both knew in our hearts that we wanted to live in Alaska, and just needed the courage to move forward to make it happen. Of course, the first question that goes through ones mind at that point is, "are we doing the right thing?" or "am I sure this is what we should do?". Ok, there are a few other general questions that go through ones mind at that stage, but all along the same lines. I remember laying in bed one I often did in the mornings..... I always enjoyed looking out our skylight, and it was intentionally positioned right over our bed so we could scan the treetops, and whatever other scenes that would come into view. Sometimes a chickaree peering through the glass down at us. Sometimes clouds drifting by, or snow wafting earthbound. Was always very relaxing and we loved our skylight. But this one morning, I saw something that would forever change how I looked through our skylight. After this particular morning, I was truly never able to look through it again without seeing and feeling a strange comfort, yet I was always at a loss of words to describe what I would see and would think that I was...well, crazy! But it was real, and the circumstance in which it transpired....breathtaking.
You see, it was this particular morning that those questions of "what?", "is it the right thing?","holy crap what are we doing?" were flooding my mind, and I just wanted someone to tell me what to do. And then like a flash of lightning, it was there. Like someone had opened the flood gates all at once and I was washed with a chill and the feeling of, "it's gonna be ok." It was Jerry , man. He was looking down upon me through the skylight, and I just knew at that moment that it was going to be ok. I knew at that instant what we had to do. Now this is no joke, no props. This is a real image, from our skylight, and a true story of what led up to this. I had never seen it a day before this particular morning, and I looked through that skylight religiously. And from that morning until we moved, he was there everyday. Look to the middle left of the actual skylight in the photo. He is there with a grin.
I cropped the image to give a better perspective. Now I don't want anyone to think that Jerry Garcia, fallen frontman of the greatest rock band of all time, the Grateful Dead, was the reason we moved to Alaska. In fact I think we were on our way regardless. But this jumble of thoughts and questions, and then the strange unprecedented apparition, I could only see this as one thing. So for those who think...."what the hell is he on?" Or those who are going "far out man...". Or yet to those who are saying, "....yeah, whatever...." I had to tell the story, and share what I saw. You decide for yourselves, and see what you want to. But for someone who wasn't sure where their life was about to go, or whether or not it should go there, this morning was somewhat of an inspiration. It calmed the nerves, and allowed me to see things from a different perspective. If nothing else, it was a moment of needed relief, in a tempest of insecurity, and indecision. If nothing else, it cleared the senses long enough to have a chuckle, and lighten up. He sang it himself, his words to a 'T'. "Once in a while you can get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right."

Our 100th Post & We're Still Here

Wow, this is our 100th post. It's unbelievable how FAR we've come to be here on 100.
Yes, hello, it's me Maryann....I know, It's been a long time. Greg has been harassing me to do a post and I finally have a chance. I just think it's kinda funny that my post comes in at 100. :0)

Well, life here just keeps getting better and better. We find ourselves happier and more excited everyday. Sure we have our down moments but with every new experience comes so much more appreciation for this place and our love for one another as a family. Does that cause you to have a tear? It does for me. I find myself contemplating that Greg and I are growing older, our son is becoming such a man and one day here soon he will be on his own and ready for life outside of ours. It is very exciting but also scary for me (and Greg) because our life has always been centered around John and his well being and what will happen when that day does come? Well, I can tell you this, Greg and I will be very supportive. John has always been a free spirit. John has always held a job and saved his dollar wisely. He's never confronted Greg as "just his stepfather", he has always called him dad and has always respected Greg. That makes me proud immensely. As of yet John has never been unruly or a typical teenager; defying his parents or saying mean and nasty things ( like I once did, sorry mom). John is a wonderful person to say the least, we have friends in California that absolutely adored John and didn't want us to leave because of the bond they had with him. He is just extraordinary and a wonderful person. What can I say, I am biased. :0) But knowing that that day may come soon, I cherish the moments we have together as a family, together, here.

Last night Greg and I were taking a pic of the moon rising above the lake when we heard what sounded like an animal walking just feet from us in the dark. Scary but I had a sneaking suspicion it was a moose and it was. It's amazing, moose are like cows they just graze and move, graze and move. And as long as you keep your distance and the dogs aren't out, your good to go.

It's been cold enough that I'm not too concerned that it may be a bear or wolf, but I still try to keep my distance-which is good, we have porcupines here. Ouch! :0) We're currently waiting for the next snowfall so Greg can spend another 20 hours or more plowing, he's getting the itch. A friend of his calls plowing"Pennies from Heaven".

I'm doing well, I have my moments when I miss certain aspects of California, friends and family but one day I will be back for a short stay to come back home to my piece of heaven here. I once lived in Mukilteo, Washington for 3 yrs and loved it so much that I cried driving back to California to start life anew (another story). I feel like I'm living back in Washington state again only it's 100% better and I am at home. This is my home. And if one day I change my mind, at least I can say I experienced Alaska and I loved it. But, don't hold your breath because life here is Awesome......Take care, love ya M.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Happy 4th-giving!

Hopefully this post finds everyone recovered from turkey hangovers and pie highs. May the leftovers be abundant and different ways of preparing such be new and exciting....and that those extra pounds you were dreading disappear before the next round of culinary overindulgence at Christmas! Ours was nice. We were invited over to our Realtors house to join her family for a gourmet dinner. I mean nothing was standard issue. This woman is a chef and left no room for the plain old ordinary! I call it 'sexy' food, but however you cut it it was divine cuisine. Maryann did have to go to work for a split shift at 6:00P and afterwards John went to forage more leftovers from friends' house....he was invited. Apparently John was really impressed at the amount of friends who invited him over for Thanksgiving dinner since he was new to the area. Of course, he denied all of the invites, because he just absolutely wanted to be with his parents for Thanksgiving....wrrrriiight! We did have something to be extra thankful for this year. Just being able to be here, together, and living a long awaited dream.

In typical Alaskan style, the Thanksgiving holiday is extra special here, as another big holiday is celebrated at the same time. Every year in Kenai, the Friday night after Thanksgiving day is the long awaited celebration of the 4th of July. They have a 4th of July parade after the sun sets, complete with Santa Claus, and then a fireworks show. 4th of July for Thanksgiving! So it is definitely different around here this time of year, and alot of locals look forward to this time of year because of it. Now of course Friday after Thanksgiving day was the fabled 'Black Friday' shopping day. You see, everyone throughout the peninsula flocks to Fred Meyer in Soldotna to hit the day after sales. Isn't much in the way of shopping on the peninsula! Freds is about it. The big excitement for those who would rather not shop til they drop, is to sit in the furniture section of Freds and watch the herds of people scampering about mindlessly scoping out the best buys.....this in itself can be wholesome entertainment for the casual observer! There was a time long ago when Kmart was in Kenai. When Kmart closed nationwide, the one in Kenai closed as well. There was an ensuing crisis following the closure. The good people of Kenai had nowhere to buy socks and underwear! Thank God for Fred Meyer. Sad thing is, is that everyone in the area has to wear the same kind of socks and fact it is a spoken rule of shopping here, that if you don't want to look like your neighbors, you have to go the 4 hour drive to do clothes shopping in Anchorage to get variety. The things one has to deal with to be original. I am thankful that I don't particularly care, myself! ;) And for the record....I get my underwear mail order from Campmor.

The weather has cooled down again, and seems like it is drifting towards snow. Could that be considered a ...'snow drift'....? I was asked today if it snows on the beach? Yes, in fact it does. Quite an oddity. In fact the inlet does ice over once the heavy freezes set in. We are hoping that we get more snow soon, especially now that I am kind of relying on it to make some winter cash flow with the plow. The last round we had last weekend found me going out plowing at around 2:00AM Sunday morning, and not getting home until 10:00PM Sunday night. I was just a little tired to say the least! But nonetheless it was fun. Remember, I am a little weird like that...I mean what I consider fun....and I am told it just keeps gettin more funnerer. ;)

Maryann and I have been re-exploring the thought of finishing off the downstairs room, and renting it our as a vacation cottage in the spring and summer. I say re-exploring because we thought about it....then lost the thought about it....and here we are again thinking about it. You see, it is not uncommon for people here to rent refurbished garages, done up storage buildings or lofts, or just rooms within their homes to summer vacationers. Sometimes just any kind of space that can be livable is rented. And this is a huge industry. We originally were looking a couple years ago at properties in the area that had additional cabins on the property to rent out. Believe it or not they are out there and priced reasonably. In other words, the chances of us succeeding at renting the downstairs room out on some kind of consistent basis are good. It is big enough down there for a queen bed and dresser, small couch, tv, maybe a small cafe table and a little reefer with a microwave. As well, it has an attached bathroom...unfinished as of now. As well as having locked access through the basement/utility area (for us) it also has it's own outside entry so all someone would have to do is park their ride, walk down a set of garden steps, and they can come and go anytime they want without ever interrupting us. The outside entry is such that they would have their own private grass area, where they could barbecue, walk a short path to swim or picnic at the lake, access to the sauna. And our location to the beach, Captain Cook State Park as well as close proximity to Kenai would make our location ideal. Pipe dream this is? Maybe. However, when we made this move we went in knowing that we would have to be creative and motivated to do things differently than we have been used to doing in the past to make cash flow. We took a calculated risk moving here. We had a steady and lucrative business that we just stopped cold and left behind to start quite literally over from $0.00 dollars a month. And no joke we did start at $0.00. At this point we have to look at things like our art, pottery, and say, this extra room as investment opportunities. We have to invest in ourselves and use our talents and the resources we have available to us to make our income. This is all part of the dream, man. Maryann says, "build it and they will come". Tom says, "put an apple on your desk and the teacher will teach".....or something like that. Sorry Tom, I know it is a good saying, just get confused on the verbiage! In any event aside from some obvious finances needed to complete the room and bathroom to a rentable status, there is nothing saying it couldn't happen. It does everyday in Alaska, and we know several people first hand who have done the same and reap the financial stability from multiple income sources. It would be a sweet set-up, and has so much potential both inside and out to be made inviting. Marketed right, we know it would be a success. So anyone who was thinking of visiting had your chance to do it for free, but when that room is done we're gonna charge you! Rest assured you will be comfortable though....I guarantee it! I posted a couple photos to kind of help with some visual aid of the setting and potential. Remember, the log outbuilding is the sauna, and the mentioned room is the open door going into the house.

So for now I leave you with a thought to ponder. What is 'chance' but to have the chance? What does this mean.....hell if I know, but it sounds good! Have a good Sunday.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

When the snow starts a fallin' there's a name you should be callin'....

Now by all standards, it has been said by many native Alaskans that in fact this winter is getting off to a slow start. Should be colder by now, should be more snow on the ground. We are content, but I must admit we were expecting much more of the extremes. So this summer we are moving further north to Barrow. Now if you no Barrow, you know that there is "much more of the extremes"....if you know Maryann, she aint gonna let it happen! She is content on the peninsula!! Ok, I am too. I called her up the other day to say hi while I was out working. You see, this week found me building an outdoor entry building to access the basement of one of the apartments I maintain. I told her that I was endurance training for next winters' season of crab fishing in the cold Bearing Sea...... It was cold out that day, and snowing litely. I think it was the wind chill that had me. You know, no matter how much you dress for the gotta keep moving to stay warm! However, I would rather layer to keep warm, as opposed to having to get naked to stay cool. So I feel it is a fair trade off. Did I enjoy my week of working outside in the elements? I am told that I live in Alaska now. So if I did not enjoy it, I better start! Like I said, as long as you keep moving. Now by most standards, that wasn't even cold. And it wasn't. When we were here in November last year the daytime highs were about 15 degrees, and the nights got well below zero, not taking in the wind chill factor. That is about when your facial hair...hell, your hair....turns brittle and cracks when you brush it with your hand. Your chest gets numb just breathing. All in all it was a gratifying experience this past week, knowing that I am slowly adjusting my California metabolic system, into a mean, lean, Arctic machine! Maryanns feelings on this? She hasn't complained or commented so I can only say she is content. Johns feelings? Well. He would have you believe that he would rather be back in California, but I think he is enjoying the difference of life here. Quite a guy he is. We are fortunate to have him with us as he has truly been an asset to our setting up and prepping for winter.
So, I bit down and made the investment. I bought a new plow for my truck this past week, and will start plowing snow as part of my services. There is a demand for plow drivers here, and I have been told by more than one that there is really good money to be made. If you remember a couple posts back I had mentioned how I am now working for another big investor in the area. He is also the Broker for one of the Real Estate offices in Soldotna. He has several other handymen which he keeps busy maintaining all of his many included....and although we are all have our own businesses, work under an independent contractor status for him. The really nice thing is that we are all a 'team'. Literally. And it is turning out that we are not only a team for Erik, but also for each other in our own endeavours. I was heavily encouraged by Erik and this team to plow, and have been given the opportunity to help plow not only the investment properties, but each handyman's own plow clients, as I build up my own route. How cool is that?! Alaskans although wanting to be left alone to do their thing, are also very helpful, giving, and caring of others. We feel very fortunate to be in this community. I look forward to continuing to work with this crew, and develop relationships.
Maryann, again, is having her work premiered in a coffee house in Soldotna. Quit amazing she is! I was so honored the other day to walk in and see her work hanging on the walls. It will be there for the month, and then she will be participating in another similar event next month. Did you know that moose grow snow on their backs during the winter here? No joke. I got to see it up close and first at a petting zoo. I was on my way back to the apartment after getting a steamer at the coffee house and checking out Maryann's display. Most of the streets in the town of Soldotna are limited to strictly 25 MPH and as well, none of the streets get plowed during the first snows. Or at least seems the case. So all the snow is packed on the road now, and pretty much ice. As I am cruising doing between 20 and 25 down this residential street, I am sipping my steamer, cranking the heater full blast trying to get hot as I can before I have to go back out in it. I think Johnny Cash' "Ring Of Fire" was playing on the radio and out of my peripheral I see something that appears to be running next to me. I slowly turn to look out the drivers window and there is a young moose running next to me. By instinct I go to apply my brakes, only to start sliding and try to come to a stop. I am going to let him win, you know. Now this is a slow speed encounter and almost seems surreal, as I slowly slide to a stop and this thing skips past me and crosses in front of the truck and disappears into....wherever moose go in the middle of town. What intrigued me, besides the incredibly slow crawl that this encounter took place, was that this thing was covered from head to ass in a dust of frost, as if it was part of the making of his fur....and it wasn't snowing this particular morning! I guess their fur just kind of freezes during the winter. Strange. Glad I am not a moose!
And so the verdict is in. I am officially backing out of the "Christmas In Kenai" show next week. Yes, my kiln is officially D.O.A. I am so devastated. Yet, although I can't figure it, somehow have to believe that there is a reason for it, and I have to find some common understanding of the situation. To be honest with you, I was tempted to use my new plow, to push the thing into the lake. ARGH! So as of now, I am only half a potter. However, we are muddling over possibly getting me a new kiln. I just want to have the piece of mind that the next one I get is not going to let me down again, when I need it most. I spent alot of focus this summer on all of the faires, weekend markets, craft shows, and festivals that take place form here to Fairbanks and I want to be a part of them this coming season. The new kilns are much more efficient which not only saves on energy cost to run them, but produce more evenly fired ware. And the technology is a little more sophisticated than their predecessors. I just decided that I didn't want to take the risk of buying another used one and taking the chance of something going wrong down the line. What more can I say about it. From the death of my effort this round, will come the birth of a promising future with my pottery. A big goal of mine in moving here was to market my pottery and increase my sales to become a more financially promising business. I know it is logistically possible to do here, and just need to be properly prepared to do it.
Well, there it is. I am not sure what happened to Maryann. Been a while since she posted. I assure you she is alive and well, and very happy to be here though. I will have to give her a little grief and get her to post more. Take care for now, and although we are happy as clams in sand, we do miss our families and friends and think of you all alot. Thank you Conitha! We do miss you and your name comes up often.....don't worry, it's good! ;) Mike, I laughed my butt off with that email the other day. I usually don't do forwards much, but that was just too friggin much! I wish there was a way to link it to the there? I am giggling again just mentioning it! Thanks for the laugh. Re-runs of '24' come on tonight in 20 minutes so I am off!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Beautiful doings, funked becomings, and the sun shone...finally!

Had ya worried with that last post, didn't I? Sometimes it's healthy to have an alter-ego. Sometimes. But in actuality I am just fine. We are just fine. True, it seems like the sun hasn't been out much for a couple weeks now due to constant rain or overcast, and lessening daylight but we are still loving it. Anyone who has seen "The Shining" could appreciate the last post....those of you who haven't need to see it! I think I had to throw a bone to all those who took bets we wouldn't make it the first 6 months! Not losing it, not trying to escape the looming grip of winter, not looking at the dogs like tomorrow nights' roast....just loving it! Sanity prevails. The sun is coming up at 9:25 AM now, and setting around 4:15 P.M. but daylight continues to get less each day. Maryann took this picture a few days ago out the front door, as the sun was coming up.

If it seems like our posts have been fewer and far between, it's by no means that we are huddled mumbling to ourselves in complete darkness, losing our fragile minds, or that we are trying to find comfort in a 'light box', rather we have just been staying busy. Native Alaskans tell us this is what you do to keep from going nuts in the winter is keep busy. So far it's working....with the exception of the last : ) The temps have been pretty consistently cold now. Dips down into the low 20's to teens at night, and stays around the mid to low 30's by day, however the wind chill has been much colder. Been a little snow flurries, but no significant accumulations yet. It's very beautiful out though and it never gets boring to look at. This morning Maryann had to follow me into Kasilof right about sunrise and as the sun....yes, today had some sunny the sun was rising it was hitting the frozen tips of the aspen, and birch trees along the highway and they were literally lighting up as if they were being illuminated by strands of white Christmas lights. So vibrant! Never have the camera when you need it. Took all we had to stay on the highway, as you couldn't help but marvel at the magnificent beauty. It's little things like this that have stimulated the senses and make us truly appreciate where we are and how blessed we are to be here. And everyday brings something new and breathtaking. The other night I was coming home at sundown and as I was crossing over the Kenai river at the tidal flats, I was in complete awe to see that the high tides of early winter in the bay were literally spilling the Kenai over it's banks there at about the last mile or two of the mouth of the river. Thus they call it the "tidal flats". So the tidal flats become somewhat of wetlands.....until they freeze solid! In any event, I was really intrigued by what I saw. Again, as each new season has come, we discover new and exciting phenomenon and happenings of the land in which we live. It is duck season now, so you see a truck with a dog kennel in the back parked along the highway at the tidal flats now and then. Never see the hunters though. They are pretty elusive....huh huh huh huh huh!
I personally met a double blow this week. A leg injury that I acquired back in July came back to haunt me, tweaked out on me Friday night, and caused some serious inflicting pain, and major swelling. It is healing...again...much faster than in July, so I am thankful that it wasn't as bad. Maryann bought me a really good brace today, and I am going to get back to work tomorrow God willing, and see if I can at least fake it the rest of the week. I also had a major system failure with my kiln Sunday morning. I had it all loaded and ready to go with everything I have thrown for the 'Christmas In Kenai' show next week. Got up at 5:30 AM Sunday and started it up to do the first firing, and went back to bed. Woke up and went out to check on it at 9:00AM, and it was barely hot.....not a good sign. In 3 and a half hours, things should begin to glow in there. So with a bunk leg and complete disappointment, I fuddled around with it Sunday and this evening trying to figure out what is wrong. I have been in touch several times with the tech guy with Cress Mfg in Carson City and he is guiding me through the trouble shooting end of it, and I think we have it down. Bad news is I would have to pay out the nose to get the parts 1 or 2 day air, and then pray that they get here by Friday, I can get them replaced and they cure the problem, and then pull off 2 fires including glazing before Thanksgiving. Can it be done? Oh, it will be a hard run, man. But by the grace of God it can be done. So I am just remaining positive that I will be at that show come the Friday after Thanksgiving, and it will work out. I have really been looking forward to this one, as it is a big thing here every year. I will truly be bummed if I miss it. In fact, I will be buying a new kiln if I miss it! I will spare you the expletives that would follow that statement! So there you have it. Beautiful doings, funked becomings, and life rolling forward in the last frontier. I would write more, but I have an ensuing cramp in my right ass cheek due to the leg injury, and I have to walk it off! I leave you though with a couple pics. Two weekends ago when we were doing the weekend jaunt with the dogs on the beach, one of the pictures I took with Maryann and the dogs caught a boat in dry dock having some work done on it. Then, last week when we were out on the beach Monday, on our way out I saw the same boat sailing out into the inlet. The beauty of this sequence was the backdrop of the snow covered Aleutian Range poking out above the clouds across the inlet and the perception I had of this vessel, watching it sail into the storm that loomed ahead. Winds howling, black clouds prevailing, sea churning. Where as just the week before, we had the warmth of watching it obtain repairs and prepare for the voyage to sea completely unknown to us that we would one week later watch it set sail. Take care for now, and any donations for a new kiln would be much appreciated!! ; )

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Today found me feeling a little stressed....

It's getting dark. The thought of little to no light is concerning me....deeply. The cold. Not the cold....the damned wind chill. Cant even open my mouth without getting tooth-chill. The sun hasn't shone in near a week now. Just want to sleep every morning til the sun comes up, and then I cant drag myself out of bed. What am I doing here. What was I thinking? I want out. This was a bad idea. If something doesn't change, I am going to loose it! They say it's only $400.00 bucks to fly to Hawaii. Get me out of this frigid hell so I can think straight again. They tell me to keep busy with things and I'll make the winter just fine. Just fine. I want to go back to bed now. I'm cold. It's cold. The humanity of it! It's just a good thing I have my family to keep me straight. Tomorrow may bring salvation....or some sunlight....or warmth.....something better than today. I just love ALASKA. Hogwash! Get me outa here.....

Friday, November 2, 2007

That was wild!

We had our first taste of whats to come the past several days. What came to mind in the midst of the tempest was the story of the Three Little Pigs. I was laying in bed the other night listening to the gusts of wind battering the side of the house, flipping the spa lid, slapping the bathroom vent pipe, and making our windchims sound like a bad Manheim Steamroller soundcheck, trying to remember what structural materials the 3 pigs finally used to build their house that the wolf couldn't blow down. I didn't remember it being 'logs', therefore worrying me a tad of the fate of our home. As it turns out, if the 3 pigs had used logs as opposed to bricks, in fact they would have found that logs do hold the same bearing force load as bricks, and it probably would have been cheaper to live and learn. No snow in this one, but alot of rain. The average daily temps were only 39 degrees, but the wind chill was 18. So every time I would smile out in it, the chill would whistle through my chops and send shearing pain into my aching gums......I learned real quick to keep my mouth shut....tight! But hey, this was nothing I am sure, as I have heard the stories of when it starts getting down to -40 below 0 with the wind chill at -70 below, and how life tends to somewhat stand still for a couple weeks. Can't wait! And you think I am kidding. Reason #8 why we moved to experience real winters. The whole episode also brought back some childhood memories of a windstorm in La Crescenta one hallowed night many years ago. I think the statute of limitations would have long since expired regarding this story, therefore I suppose I can safely tell it. We lived at the base of the San Gabriel mountains in a canyon town outside of Los Angeles called La Crescenta. I was little....can't remember how, but little. We had a terrible wind storm one night, as many times the Santa Ana winds would blow, but this one was different. I woke to this horrible clattering sound. The best I could describe it as was...well, Santa's sleigh with all his reindeer in tow landing on our roof. At first I was too frightened to move. You know, as a kid when you are scared shitless and literally freeze in place under the covers. I finally couldn't take it anymore and made a mad running dash into my parents' room. But they weren't there. I find my mom in the living room, and she tells me don't worry in a frustrated voice. It's your dad up on the roof she says. So naturally, as 'Dad' is a boys hero, I figure he can only be saving the house from blowing away, right?! Come to find out the next morning when I woke to find roof shingle strewn throughout the yard, he was up there in the dark, ripping shingles off in the wind storm. We wonder why our insurance rates are so high! I guess the neighbor looked out the window that night to see what the commotion was across the street, and could only say to his wife, "looks like Roger is at it again". However, the new roof the nice insurance man paid for was sturdy and true, and never again would I have to worry in a wind storm of our house blowing away.... My dad was a little hell raiser back then! He used to be a welder, and him and one of his neighbor buddies would go out late at night into his garage and they would fill these huge oversized balloons too the hilt with oxygen and settling from his welding tanks. They would go down in the caldesac where his buddy lived and would tie long fuses to these balloons, lite the fuses, and let go as the balloons floated upward in the peaceful night sky. These things would get a couple hundred feet up and when the lit fuse hit the balloon, would just cut loose a powerful blast that would light up the sky and send out a kaboom that would reverberate down the canyon and rattle the neighborhood windows. The cops never did figure out who the mad-bombers were! Fortunately it was a tight knit neighborhood, and everyone would just giggle anytime something happened...."Roger is at it again"! I remember one time he was having a huge problem with fire ants tunneling under his driveway. Now, times were tight and money was hard back then, and my pop was too cheap to waste money on a pest exterminator.....when he could just take care of it himself. No, he decided he would fill the cracks of the driveway with oxygen and settling, and run one of his infamous fuses into the main crack. You should have seen the dust billowing out of that cracked driveway. Remember the end of the movie "Caddyshack"? Needless to say the ant problem was solved and the driveways cracks were a couple of centimeters bigger. Then the story that sticks in my mind the best was the story of Plunket Volkswagen, where he worked as a VW mechanic. One day at lunch break the shop was empty as all the mechanics were at lunch. Dad decides to put together one of his oxygen/settling balloons in the tool room. He proceeds to go out into the shop and lites the short fuse, lets go, and runs the other direction. I guess he didn't quite make it out of the shop when that thing cut loose.....KAAAABOOOOM... It was so loud that paint was literally falling off of the ceiling. Judy Plunket, the owner, this wirey little guy with bottle glasses comes out of the front offices his eyes as big round as his glasses and plastered to the lens' screaming. "What the (blankety blank) happened". "I want the (blankety blank) who did this....." I guess Judy's sphincter was at 'pucker factor' 0 that day. Yes, this was my dad! He has mellowed with age thankfully, and meeting him, one would never guess the mischievous little hellion he once was. So the winds have died down, and are possibly going to get some snow tonight. Not alot, but the temps will be cooler for the next several days as we eagerly await winter. I started working with another local investor as an independent contractor this week. I was referred to him and he seems to be very happy to have me on board working maintenance on his properties. Needless to say, since I dont have welding tanks, he won't have to worry about exploding balloons going off in his shop! He is a really nice guy, down to earth, simple and has a great team of a handful of handymen who independently contract with him. They are into teamwork and really make working an enjoyable and supportive item. So I am looking forward to moving forward with this client. As for my Real Estate class. I have to finish the hours this week and study like no other to get the test done. It is going to be a challenge, as there is alot to learn, and I am new to this kind of exposure. But I am still eager and will push ahead. Remember that D.E.C. incident with that leaking fuel tank. You know, the one I allegedly rolled into the lake. That whole thing turned into a fiasco. Apparently that tank had been leaking for a long time. The contaminated soil seemed to go down China even.... John and I gracefully backed out of that deal, as it was apparent that the owner would need some heavy equipment to complete the task. As for the D.E.C. agent, I am sure he was sad to see me go...... What a mess that turned out to be. I don't think I ever mentioned the outcome of the fabled tank. I was able to get a guy that runs a used tank disposal business out on the highway to take it off my hands for a 12 pack of Corona. Saved me alot of trouble. Getting rid of those things is like trying to pass off spent uranium. We just had to change out the 25 gallon propane tank we had here. It is one of those outdated ones that doesn't have the new safety valves. I'm gonna use it as a pontoon for the dock I want to build lakeside. Well, I am going to go now and settle by the fire and await the arrival of my lovely wife from work. At least I know my house can't be blown down, and 'crazy Jack' isn't a welder ;) Before I go I left a couple of pics. We take the dogs out for a walk on the beach every weekend. They like this....alot. Funny thing is, they tell us what day it is. You see, they have come to know that Maryann and I are both home on the days we take them to the beach, unlike the weekdays when Maryann is home and I am working. So they literally go ape, and won't give an inch until we take them to the beach on the weekends. Who says animals aren't smart. Good night!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I want to be an airborn ranger.

Well, not really. I want to be a Real Estate 'agent'. But then again that would be verbally incorrect. Because in the day of the ever changing 'job title' so too has the term 'Real Estate agent' become extinct. Just as an auto mechanic is preferably a 'performance technician', a credit card customer service rep is now a 'customer excellence assistant', and the janitorial profession has become an art form, so too has the term 'Real Estate agent' become a 'Real Estate licensee'. It doesn't sound right to me and is somewhat disheartening for someone who has always just wanted to become 'an agent'. Now, on the brink of achieiving my dream of an agent, I have been reduced to a licensee! "Hi, I am Greg Phillips, and I will be your licensee on your search for your dream property". Oye. If it was me on the receiving end of that introduction, I would turn and run! Especially if I was looking for the time honored 'agent'. Carol, is this just an Alaskan thing? Or have you also lost your title as 'agent' to a 'licensee'? Should I be moving back to Cali to obtain my dream of agenthood? Honestly, we are only required to take 20 hours of pre-license course here, as opposed to....100 0r s0 there??? Guess you just don't need as much training to sell igloos to Inuits! "Take this 1000 acres of barren, frozen tundra. Your dog team will love stretching out and spanning here". Where is all of this leading? Merely that I started my pre-licensing course this week, and am on my way to obtaining my become a licensee. Excited.....I am. Despite the title travesty, I am on my way to achieving a goal I set when we moved. This is what I have wanted to do, secretly, for a while now. Naturally, I would choose when the market went belly up to do it! But, there is still hope. The market will turn around in time, and I will be seasoned and ready for it when it does. 'Quinn' will be knocking at my door for that dream piece of permafrost. Actually, the market here, is not near as bad as what I have heard of other parts of the nation. A little slow, yes. Prices being reduced a little....not near as severe as in California. Until then I will work diligently at continuing to grow my maintenance business, and pursue my pottery....and boldly pot where no man has potted before... I start next month in fact at a Christmas gift bizarre in Kenai. I have a booth for two days and am spinning wares as we speak!

In other interests, Maryann is lovin her job. It is looking very good that her proverbial move up the ladder will come soon. They are very impressed with her abilities and performance. Our belief is that no later, if not sooner than spring, she will be at the Kenai operations as it is slated to be open by then. It will be alot easier of a drive for her, and less spent nerves for me. Until then, shes enjoyin' the ride, ice or snow....moose or not, and keeps on smilin'! John has been working with me for a few weeks now, and it is looking like he has some other opportunity to continue working for himself, for a much better than minimum wage. I think he would prefer to just retire.....but if I can't neither can he! He has his toy to support now, and all of the joy of bills and the gas it sucks, to contend with. Retirement for him is unlikely anytime soon. He has a hockey game to go to this weekend with the firefighters from his department and fellow Explorers. They have graciously invited me, but I have class until 5:00 that night, and there's a 'hippie' festival in Kenai going on til 7:00 that night which I want to make an appearance at. So who knows if I will make it to the hockey game. But I was honored all the same. However, I remember the last time they invited Maryann to one of their outings, they dressed her up like an umpa lumpa, took her out on a speedboat and flipped they could rescue her..... I think I'll stick with the hippies! Much more passive!!

In still other interests, Maryann once again made the paper. If you recall, a few weeks ago a write up was done on her and her piece that is being shown in the gallery now. Unfortunately this time was not as glamorous. In fact 'she' wasn't in the paper so much as the accident that she held front row seat to on Tuesday. We had snow Monday night and as a result the roads were frozen Tuesday. She was on her way to work that afternoon, the roads still frozen, and was passed rather foolishly by some idiot who was in a hurry. Trouble began when Maryann pulled out her concealed weapon, and blew out the rear tire of the passing.....not my little Maryann! On a serious note, as the idiot passing her came back into her lane after 'the pass', she cut Maryann off due to oncoming traffic, and lost control....(now lets think about this for a moment. Do ya think?!?! The road is frozen....duh!)... did four 360's before slamming head on into an oncoming vehicle who had nothing to do with any of it. Innocent victim. He ended up being airlifted to Anchorage and as of yesterday, when the State Troopers called Maryann regarding the investigation, was in bad condition. The idiot turned out to be a 20 year old girl from Kenai and is in the Soldotna hospital doing fair. Apparently it was very surreal and horrifying for Maryann, as after the crash she heard the girl screaming and as much as she wanted to run over to her, couldn't. Thankfully there were several others who arrived at the same time and aided as much as they could until emergency units arrived. Needless to say, be it California or Alaska, it takes some 'set in' time for people to remember it's winter now and time to slow down. It was an unfortunate parable to the absolute need to think of those around you, and slow down. Hopefully, a parable, not to be spoke at the expense of anothers' life. Of course with Arnold being 75 the other day....who needs to slow down for winter there!

I leave you with a picture I took the other night. This is Alaskan moonshine. It'll get ya lit!
Have a great rest of the week. Oh, and speaking of Carol. Carol, congradulations on your book deal. Gerion wrote us the other day and mentioned it. How exciting! Best of luck for whats to come! Take care.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A micro world of life.

One thing that I have taken more of a notice to lately is the life of the lake on which we live. Not that I never noticed the lake, but more of now that our world is slowing down and we are becoming what we can call "settled" in our new life, I have found the lake calling more to my attention. As I have mentioned in posts past, there seems to be a world of a different level within the confines of this wetland sanctuary. We have noticed an unspoken oath between the various water fowl and other creatures that frequent the lake. One of peace, sharing and communication amongst those that gather about it. An interdependence on each other. It is a serene feeling actually to watch and listen as a silent observer and yet as such, these creatures are very aware of us onlookers and willing to go about their doings despite our presence. During the summer months we had 2 loons who lived on the lake, and it was a daily spectacle to watch them float around and chatter be it to each other or the moose, or when they would be airborne and coming in for a landing it was like watching a float plane skim the waters surface to a splash of a stop....just to go on like it's no big deal for them. Playing. Just like children. I am not sure where they have gone, but I am sure it is wherever loons go in the onset of winter, and something tells me they will be back in Spring. Of course on a larger scale were the antics of the neighborhood moose's, their swims across the lake, and their howling both day and night. The way the moose and the loons virtually communicated with each other. The moose are still quite present here, and as the lake has somewhat quieted down for the winter so have they. The howling and swimming has turned to shoreline grazing. Almost like the party's over and the guests all went home, so they will settle down to a casual lull. And so on the wing (pardon the pun) of a new season arrived two very majestic....not stoically, rather, just majestic....Tundra Swans. Oh these two fowl are just beautiful to watch. Their regimen consists of a stealth-like landing into the lake...which is amazing to me when you look at their size...and what would appear to the layman as just a mere floating about. In reality these two are swimming the shallows where they dip their long necks into the lakes bed to pull out worms and other food from the silty bottom. If you watch long enough it will appear as if they left, but they are really just somewhere else along the lakes shore. Then, almost as if they are preparing for take off like a couple of jetliners in a hold pattern on the tarmac, they will start to shake off and rustle about, and with almost precision timing will begin to sprawl their wings into the lakes length, slowly lifting their mass from the water and into the air. They will circle the lake twice as if to gain altitude to clear the tips of the trees and then it seems as if they have chose their flight path right over the house. Let me tell you, even the dogs stare up at them as they fly past! Their wing-span has to be at least 5 or 6 feet. They have visited the lake twice now that we know of in the past 3 weeks. Apparently they choose their mates and this mate will become a lifelong mate. They will always be together. We have also taken observation to two other species of new arrivals to the lakes scene. Now Maryann is more on to what they are called than I. Both are small duck-like fowl. The first set of arrivals seemed to just enjoy appears to me at least that that is all they do is float. They do occasionally dive under the surface of the water, only to reappear yards from where they submerged. More than likely diving for food. What was particularly funny was the other day when Cherokee and Kenai were having their daily session of 'grab-ass', and ended up in the back chasing each other around the swing. One of these mini ducks was close by and literally turned to see what the commotion was. His curiosity got the best of him as he began to float towards the direction of the noise. Now the two dogs are completely unaware of it's presence and the proximity to the shore, and ensue chase down the trail towards the lake. It took only the sight of the onslaught of flying fur for this little guy to casually and nonchalantly turn his rudders to head out for deeper water! Wanted nothing to do with these two and their trickery. Also as of the other day has been the arrival of another small white and black mini duck. Seems to be the same ritual as the other variety of mini duck....just enjoys the passivity of the lake. Last week came the beginning of the freeze over on the water. All the time, these visitors undeterred by this. To be able to watch all of this can't be described in words just have to come and visit to see it for yourselves! All I know is that it is very peaceful to observe and can bring the busyness of the day to a complete halt at the chance to settle into the surroundings of the lake. My favorite mornings are when we wake to find fog settled above the water, or even better was in the early fall when the fog would blow in from the beach and drift the length of the lake. So awesome to watch. Mind you these mornings are becoming few, for me at least, as it is still dark when I leave for work. With the sun rising at around 8:40AM now it is getting tough to wake up! Any way you look at it, the lake has a life of it's own, and one can see how it would be easy to let this feeling of quiet lucidity take you into a complete sense of 'oneness' with the lake and the world that relies on it's presence, within yet a larger existence of being.
Yesterday was the opening season for Bearing Sea crab fishing. You know what that means....fauder for the upcoming season of deadliest catch. As you may have figured by now what with this post is, that I am not on those crab boats as some predicted may come about. No, I have developed a love affair with the land and a warm fire to come home to at night. It is not likely that this will ever happen for me! Apparently the number of fishermen lost during the crab fishing seasons in the 1990's is down in the past 7 years. Something like 70 deaths in 90's and if I remember correctly it is under 10 the past seven years. The weather to start this season is relatively mild. As mild as mild is on the Bearing Sea. Dutch Harbor is coming in with lows in the mid 30's and scattered rain and snow throughout the night. So it will be interesting to see how brutal.....or not, this season is for those brave and hard working men and women. God bless them, they will be in our prayers. That's all for now I suppose. We are all well and making an earnest go at it these days. I finally got the reverse osmosis water unit installed so we have good, wholesome drinking water now that doesn't smell like butt! At least in the kitchen. The rest of the house is another story. Argh! Nasty! Take care and have a positive filled week. Our love.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Have I expressed how much I love living here? The past week we have had gorgeous weather. The days have been sunny, seldom creeping above 30 degrees, and the past couple nights have been down to 15 degrees. What was really nice was when the breezes were whipping through here the other evening when the sun was going down and it was 22 degrees, and that's not including the wind chill. I can't tell you enough how great it is to be in cold, crisp, Alaskan air. And whats really exciting is soon it will be getting down -20 below 0 at night and in the teens by day. Crazy....maybe, elated about this.....very! I have started to plug in my rig at night. It has an engine block warmer built into the engine that I plug into the outside socket to keep things from freezing, and to keep the oil from becoming jelly. Makes it nice to fire up in the morning, when even the decking you walk on is so frozen that it sounds as if it will snap as you walk across it. John and Maryann will have theirs installed by next week. Another nice feature that John and I have, and is a very big deal here, is 'remote auto-start' for the rigs. Never have to go outside to start it up in the mornings, just hit the start button from the warm house, and your ride is warmed up and heated when you are ready to go. Maryann is being humble, telling me she will do without auto-start in the name of saving money, but I feel it is essential and will be getting hers in here very soon.
We had our resident mama moose and her calf visit this morning. We have noticed that the

moose are becoming very sluggish with the cold. In fact their metabolisms slow in the winter due to the lack of food. Often times in the winter when the snow flies, you will find them using the roadways to do their walking. It is less energy for them to expel on the road since the roads are kept plowed, as opposed to trekking through the snow. The challenge is that they....although sluggish...tend to make sudden 'lane changes without signaling' if you know what I mean?! So you have to really slow down and be wary of them while you pass. Then we here about those foggy days when they stand in the middle of the road...... Oh, it may make for an interesting winter! They are peaceful, majestic creatures, and when they stare at you it could well make one soil ones self due to their stoic immensity....but they aint the sharpest tool in the tool shed when it comes down to it! Just never thought I would see the day I would share the road with a moose! I leave you with one for the road. This is a shot from the Gulf Cross Ferry 'Kennicott' of the sun setting over the Gulf of Alaska at 1:00AM back in June. Maryann and John took this one during their 'fateful trip...aboard that rock'in ship' of the final leg of the move. You remember the one. Where I was laid up in a cush hotel watching tv, while they went through a seafaring nightmare ?! That one. Not sure if we ever posted this pic, but I find it quite beautiful, especially when you think of the emotions running through us all back then, and what it all signified. One more thing before I check in for the night. Scott and Phyllis, congratulations! What you two have just done is huge. As scary as it was/is, it is obvious that it was meant to be, or the good lord wouldn't have put you in such a wonderful place. You two have enjoyed Dorrington for years now as your place of respite and escape, and now you can call it home. Once living there ourselves, I can truly say what a beautiful place for you to live now. Let go of your fears and inhibitions now, and lavish in the world that God has put before you. The opportunities you will discover and the peace that is yours to enjoy is what you have to look to now. Don't look back on what was....look unto what is now. It is amazing to me how many friends as well as ourselves have taken or are taking such huge, and faith filled jumps of major change in their lives. My sister Julz has just made a similar adjustment in her life, and we are very proud of her and her accomplishment. The bravery and courage it takes to step out into the unknown and leave behind your cushion of comfort is a huge thing. It is amazing! But after experiencing what we have just recently, and seeing our friends prepare for similar experiences of change, I have to say....and this means you too Yvette.....just let it happen, and cherish every moment of the experience. Your fear and insecurity, or unsureness will want to take the front stage, I think this is natural. But relish the moments of this change, because you will look back on it all some day, maybe not far from now, and wonder what all of the worry was for. In a weird way you will wish that you had just let go and watched it all happen before you. I have always believed that if it's Gods will, than thy will be done. Interesting. Maryann just walked in from work....say, "hi Maryann".....and handed me this little bit of inspiration. Ironically the timing of such is impeccable. It goes like this, "Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst, a spark that creates extraordinary results!" Wow. Have a great day, live today to it's fullest, and walk with the confidence that change is healthy. Change happens for a reason! Go with it, and enjoy.