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Moose

As winter starts to settle in, the moose are headed down from the high places, and we get to see more moose than we do during the warmer months of the year. As the snow gets deeper, we will see more moose in the roadways than normal as well, which is scary in the dark. This morning we had some moose visitors, a cow and 2-year-old male calf, around our yard. We own a large open area of land that is swampy and wet all summer, but the area is now frozen, and the moose can move more freely out in the open. Not that we don’t see them out there in the summer, they have really long legs and don’t seem to be exceptionally concerned by all the grass, muck and brush, but they can’t move as fast, consequently they tend to stay near the edges up in the trees and only venture out in the open when they are quickly crossing to the other side, usually later in the evening. For some reason however, in the winter they spend more time out in the open. They probably know hunting season is over!

I have lived in Alaska for 26 years; my husband and children were all born here, but when a moose wanders through, we all still stop and watch, often taking lots of pictures. They are impressive animals, and when they get up close, you can really see how big they really are. They are exceptionally quick on their feet for their size and have been known to stomp anything in their paths they feel is a threat in anyway, be it animals or humans. We are fortunate not to have too many scary stories with moose, but we have heard quite a number of scary encounters with moose from many, many people.

My oldest daughter still remembers vividly meeting a moose one day. She was only 5 or 6 years old. The kids were outside playing in the snow after school. She found some moose tracks out near one side of the building and, not realizing they were fresh tracks, she started following along the path they created. She said she was engrossed in the path when she stopped to rest and looked up to realize she was almost nose to nose with a large moose. It startled her, but the moose had seen her coming. Fortunately, the moose was more curious by this small child than afraid, and just stood there. She said she was close enough she could have reached out and touched its nose. My daughter had enough sense to back away slowly, and now has a fun story, with a happy ending, to tell people who are curious about moose. Please note, this kind of up-close encounter with a is moose and not being attacked is the exception, not the rule.

My sons and I had a bit more of a scare with a moose one summer afternoon. We had been out running. I am not as fast as they were, and we were almost home so my older son decided to run ahead and beat us home. He rounded the corner coming up to our house and startled a large moose. At that point I am grateful the moose didn’t attack him, but instead decided to run away from him through the woods, directly at me and my youngest son. My older son yelled “MOOSE!” just as I saw it come into view. I saw the moose look directly at us, running full tilt, lay its ears back, lower its head and charge. I yelled at my younger son to follow me. He doesn’t always listen very well but must have felt the urgency and we ran around the back of the nearest building, around the side and into our shop building. The moose was more concerned about getting out of danger than it was attacking us and kept running. I’m grateful we had somewhere to go rather than just being out in the open.

This year we have had moose out in the yard, not a lot, but enough to make my daughter’s dog be on alert a lot. She is a very quiet dog, rarely barking, but she loves barking at the moose. This morning we were alerted to the moose in the swamp by her barking. She has always kept a healthy distance from the moose, but these were quite a bit closer than normal, and they were ignoring her. She gave us a scare as she decided to run closer. We’re not sure if she was trying to scare them away or exert her dominance and let them know this was her territory, but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have hesitated, if she had gotten close enough to stomp at. She is still in training but has about a 95% recall for her name and “come.” This was a huge distraction for her, and we had to call 3 times, but she finally decided to obey and came back so we could bring her inside and out of harm’s way. I was impressed that she didn’t get much closer when we called, and grateful that she came back.

Alaska has a lot of wildlife. Whether you’re in a city or a more rural area, or out in the middle of nowhere, you will see wildlife. The most important thing however is to remember that they are just that, wildlife. They aren’t pets or tame in any way and should be viewed from a safe distance. This world we live in is such a beautiful place and I am grateful that I get to see some of its beauty every single day.

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Fresh

Last night it snowed. It snowed about 2 weeks ago, but didn’t really stick, so this is the first official snowfall in my book. We had about 5 inches this morning when I went out to start my car, and this snow is here to stay for the winter, I’m sure. I love how beautiful and clean fresh snow makes everything look, and how sparkly the driveway looks as I drive down it and the lights hit the different crystally snowflakes.

My daughter’s puppy has never experienced snow. She was born in April after the snow had pretty much all disappeared. This summer she was too hot when it was really hot, and you could tell as it cooled off this fall that her energy level was increasing every morning. She has a very thick coat, and she loves being outside in the cold. But this morning was extra exciting with all the fresh white stuff, she has had a lot of fun playing in the snow today. It was fun to watch her as she bounded through the snow finding new things to smell, old things that are now hidden that she gets to rediscover. Everything is just fresh and new.

As I watched her it reminded me of our children when they were young. My husband and I were married for five years before we had our kids. Christmas and birthdays, first snowfalls and puddles, and things like that were not as exciting, and some things, like the first snowfall, the first flowers of spring, etc. weren’t as noticed as they could have been. We had seen it, it wasn’t as impressive as when we were kids, I guess. But as we had kids, Christmas became exciting again. In fact, everything became exciting again. Fresh snow, especially the first one is always exciting with kids. Puddles to jump in when it rains, leaves falling from the trees, fresh flowers, vegetables picked from the garden, everything is fresh, everything is new and exciting.

So, today watching my daughter’s dog brought back all these memories. But more importantly, it brought back the reminder that I need to look at life with fresh eyes sometimes. See the glitter when I come down the driveway, play in the first snowfall, get excited about the first potato or carrot I dig out of the garden, jump in a puddle once in a while, and just enjoy all the little things in life! These are the things that make life exciting and fun. We experience a lot of big things in life, but there are so many more little things to experience, and this is where most of the joy in life is found.

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Support

I know I have talked a little bit about this subject in the past, but I am always impressed when I see it in action and so I am again going to talk about it in a little more detail today. It is amazing to me how many people believe that success is limited, and that if someone else succeeds that somehow makes it less likely that they will succeed. Because of this thinking often we see people sabotage each other trying to increase their chances, or simply not helping each other when they could, preferring to watch others struggle thinking we are somehow getting ahead in the meantime.

This weekend I had the opportunity to watch quite the opposite. My sons participated in a bouldering competition on Saturday afternoon in Fairbanks. Bouldering is climbing without ropes, no more than 15 feet high, with large mats underneath to catch you when you fall, because you will fall, even if you complete the route. My boys have become quite good rock climbers and participated for the first time in the most competitive division available – the men’s advanced division. This is the only division that has a finals round, the rest just total points and hand out awards based on those points.

Prior to the finals however, there are 10 routes in this particular competition with a 2-hour timeframe to complete and/or attempt all 10. There are points for different positions on the route, this is determined by the gym. They all start at 5 points a few holds from the beginning, some have several points in between, in 5-point increments, this particular competition just had the 5 points in the middle and 10 if you completed the route. There is a lot of excitement in the air as the competition begins and people start climbing all over the gym. There is no particular order, but it becomes apparent fairly quickly which routes are the easier ones and which are the harder ones. The climbers mark their scores on an honor system which is way different than any other sport I’ve watched.

Sitting back and watching however, there is a unity in the air. Everyone knows they are competing to make it to the finals, but that doesn’t prevent anyone from helping or cheering on their competitors. You are not allowed to give advice to a climber when they’re on the wall, but before or after a climb you can discuss, and there is never a shortage of discussion. More experienced climbers take time to visit with new climbers, giving advice and suggestions how to hold holds, where to put your feet, and lots of technique options. Climbers who are obviously going to make it to finals and compete with each other will stop and talk about different routes, different techniques, and ultimately, when they’re on the walls, they cheer each other on. I watched this as one of my sons climbed to the last hold of one of the hardest routes in the gym, and as he was about to the last hold the entire gym stopped to watch, and yell and cheer. It was amazing to see all these people, previously strangers, unified in their desire for someone else to succeed. I saw that happen over and over again with climbers all around the gym. All the climbers experienced the highs and lows of each other together. Again, amazing to experience.

Success is not a limited commodity. Any and every one of us has the opportunity to succeed based upon our work and effort put forward to do so. We may not all succeed in the same ways, but we often aren’t looking for the same things. Some want money and things while others want minimal possessions and more experiences, and then there’s everyone else in between as well. But we can all cheer each other on all along the way, knowing that by supporting each other we don’t reduce or limit our ability to succeed, but we increase ours and everyone else’s chances of success as well. I am grateful for the rock-climbing community that my boys are a part of and what they have taught me about success as well as how to support each other in all situations.

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Renew

Goals are a funny thing for me. I tend to do better in my day-to-day life when I have goals to achieve. I also utilize my time more wisely when I have a clear direction for my day. But I also get distracted easily. Especially if my goal is a long-term goal. But I find when I am distracted it is usually because either we are super busy as a family or with my husband’s business, or I haven’t set my goals correctly, usually making the steps too big and I get discouraged and give up. So, every once in a while, I have to reevaluate and adjust my big goals, my everyday goals, and the progress goals just to make sure I am headed in the direction I want to go.

The past 3 weeks or so have been that adjustment. This summer was so busy, and the garden took up a lot of my free time, which was good and necessary, but I got out of the habit of doing a number of things, like keeping track of my eating and inflammatory foods, painting, exercising in a productive manner, etc. Getting back to school and back into a good routine also took a little bit of doing. I am not a morning person but have to wake up early during the week, which takes me over a month to adjust to at the beginning of every school year. I don’t know why I let myself get out of the habit, but I really love going to bed later, like around 11:00 instead of 9:30 and waking up around 7:00 rather than 5:15.

I feel like the past 3 weeks however have been so good because of the finally steady schedule and renewing or reenergizing of my goals. I use my time better, my house is cleaner, I have been making better, healthier homemade dinners, I have been exercising regularly in a more productive manner, and I have been painting! I love painting because it is so relaxing to me, and this has helped immensely to relieve stress and focus my mind. I love having direction, and I am so grateful to have the renewed energy that I get when I have direction and purpose to my days. The remainder of my post today will be pictures of my most recent paintings. Renewing my goals helped renew my inspiration, and I have enjoyed feeling that excitement to sit and paint everyday.

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Camping

I love being out in nature. I find nature inspiring and the more time I can spend in nature the better, it relaxes me. I am not however, a fan of camping so much. I do it, but the older I get, the more amenities I like to have, like a cot, plenty of blankets, warmth, things like that. I have also found that having the right gear to wear for the weather makes a huge difference in how much fun camping is. If I can stay dry and warm, I am in much better spirits than when I get cold and/or wet. My boys and husband went on a camping trip this past Friday night/Saturday morning for a Young Men’s activity with my Church. The weather this time of year is cool and rainy, this time they got snowed on Saturday morning. The boys had a great time, my husband was glad to be home. This type of activity does not interest me in any way, shape, or form.

I think my dislike of camping however comes from the first 17 years of our marriage. When my husband and I got married he had some property and he had previously built a shop building on it. But the building was just a shell. There was no insulation, a dirt floor, no water, no plumbing, no electricity. We arrived in Alaska in September and were able to get the concrete floor poured. We then spent the winter in a house that his brother owned that wasn’t finished. Our job was to finish that house so that it could be sold. We then went to Alabama to work for several months and came back to Alaska in the spring.

That summer we worked and were able to purchase a foam insulation machine that we insulated our shop with as well as several other people’s attics and shop buildings. We had thought about possibly doing that for a living but once we had done several, decided that wasn’t what we wanted to do all the time. At any rate, we got the shop insulated. We moved our travel trailer inside the shop, which had a wood stove, and we lived in the shop, in the travel trailer for about 6 years working on getting the inside finished while we lived in it.

About 3 years after I arrived in Alaska, we were able to get a well drilled. Having water is something so many people take for granted, but not something I will ever take for granted again. You would not believe how nice it was the first time I was able to flush a toilet in my own house, well shop any way! We moved the travel trailer out of the shop after about 6 years because our family would be growing to 4 people that summer and we needed more space. We set up a temporary kitchen near the front door. The only sink in the building was a laundry sink at the back by the bathroom, so the kitchen didn’t have a sink in it, and we hauled the dishes back to the laundry sink the whole time we lived there.

7 years after I arrived in Alaska, we got electricity. Prior to that we had a generator. We ran the generator for 2-3 hours in the evening so that we could pump water and get the kids bathed and do dishes and things. On Saturday’s I would run it for several hours during the day so that I could do laundry and the deeper cleaning. Electricity is another thing that I have learned to be very grateful for. We continued living in the shop for the next 10 years after electricity as we saved for and built our home so that we could stay out of debt. It was a long process of temporary living in what some might consider substandard housing, but it worked ok for us, and our kids were small.

Since then, I have been quite uninterested in camping. My kids have often asked why. They never had to haul water because by the time they were born we had the well. They don’t remember never having electricity. The youngest of our 4 children doesn’t even really remember living in the shop very well. The older kids didn’t know anything different, looking back they have very fond memories of being in the shop. I too have fond memories, but I also remember the inconveniences of living without water, without electricity, of trying to cram 6 people into a very small space without any walls except the bathroom.

There are many aspects to camping that I really do love. I love sitting around a campfire, but now I have a firepit right here in my yard. I love being able to go hiking, but I have so many hiking trails, some within walking distance of my front door, some I need to drive to, but they’re right here, I don’t really have to go very far. People love camping in the woods, but I live in the woods, I don’t have to go somewhere to get out away from people and into the woods. Lots of people go camping so they can go fishing. Again, some of the best river fishing in Alaska is right here in Willow, less than 5 miles from my home and I can always wander over there if I have a desire to fish.

I really do love nature, but I also love that I can enjoy it from the comfort of my own home. I can be outside by the fire, hiking any number of trails, fishing or whatever, and then I can then go home at night and sleep in my own warm bed at night, getting a great night sleep so that I can wake up the next day mentally and physically prepared for my next adventure. I still camp once in a great while, but 17 years of what felt like camping have cured me of any desire to go do that for “fun” on a regular basis.