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Seasons

I find it interesting that the changing of the leaves to the beautiful fall colors always makes me think about change and season of life in general. I don’t know why I don’t think this way through the changing of other seasons, but maybe it’s the drastic change from green to the brilliant yellows, oranges and reds that makes it so much more noticeable than the other seasons. Today as I thought about this, I thought about the different seasons of our lives and how they change kind of like the seasons of the year.

Thus, today’s post might be somewhat reminiscent for me, hopefully not super boring for you to read. My house is empty today, other than myself. My husband is at work. My oldest daughter is away on a mission for our church but will be home in November after 18 months of service. My second daughter is working with my husband today, she is still searching for her direction somewhat in life, so she gets to work with her dad in the meantime. My third child, the oldest son is at school. He is dually enrolled in high school and college, getting credit in both arenas as he completes college courses. My youngest, and second son is enrolled in a similar high school where he is taking college classes, getting high school credit as well. Same idea through different programs at the same place. It’s interesting.

When our kids were little and we were at home most of the time, I was able to teach and play with my kids all the time. We spent hours outside playing as well as hours inside reading, building, playing and learning. Then they started to go to school, we were so very busy with school, after school activities and events, programs and sports, field trips, all the fun stuff that takes what I thought was a lot of time. The elementary school they attended was just 8/10 of a mile from our house so everything was so convenient and quick. I homeschooled my kids through middle school, so we continued on with the convenient, at home or close to home lifestyle. One thing my kids have always let me know was how far out of town and away from friends we live, and those years of homeschooling didn’t help their attitudes improve.

Then we started kids in high school. Boy did I learn a little bit better what busy really was. The high schools that my kids attended and are currently attending, are not close to home as they are not our home area schools. A friend once asked me how many miles I drove a week. I said I would have to do the math, but I drove about 145 miles a day. 2 1/2 hours in the car just getting kids to seminary, school, and sports. It was a crazy amount of driving, but I loved having the kids in the car and the talks we had because there wasn’t anything else to do but talk. The kids loved being out away from home and with their friends so much more.

Then our oldest got her license. That was a huge relief on my time, at least I thought so. Then I started to miss the time, the huge amount of time I got to spend with my kids in the car. Since then, we have always had a teen driver to get themselves, and often their siblings wherever it is they need to go. It’s nice to have the help, but I have missed the time in the car. I have learned however, that the broken dishwasher has been a blessing, and that I probably won’t fix it any time soon. This has been a great uninterrupted time to talk with my kids one on one, as no one wants to risk having to help by standing in the kitchen visiting if they don’t have a chore to do already. I wash and they dry, and we talk about the day.

As time has passed however, and the kids have grown, and my time is more my own, I have thought and wondered what the next season of my life will look like. I have enjoyed learning to paint, and love sharing my art, and have recently enjoyed making YouTube videos and sharing more of what I love with the bigger world around me. I have a friend who had children quite a bit older than mine. I remember when her youngest left for college. I asked her what she was going to do with all her extra time. She asked me what extra time I was talking about, she never had extra time. Now as my kids get older and leave home, I am finding her words more and more true. I have plenty to do and lots of things I still want to do, and I look forward to the next season of my life. I also look forward to my kids coming home. My oldest daughter, who never wanted to live in rural Alaska ever again, has commented on several occasions as we have driven home from picking her up at the airport, that she can feel the stress of the world leave as she leaves the cities and people behind. She now loves coming home. Whether she, or any of our kids, will live close by or far away, I hope they know they can always come home. I may be busy doing my own thing, but I will always stop and make time for them.

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Train

Train tickets. Off we go!

This past Friday was my birthday. I am one year older; I don’t know if I’m one year wiser though! At any rate, for my birthday my husband bought me a train ride to see several glaciers. It’s called the Glacier Discovery Train Tour with the Alaska Railroad. It was a lot of fun, so I thought I would share my thoughts and our experiences here. Just a note however, I am sharing a few pictures, but I took most of the pictures on my nice camera. They are great pictures, but for some reason I cannot get my camera to connect to any of my devices all of a sudden. It has been a bit frustrating, so I am continuing with my post hoping one of my children can get things to connect. So far it hasn’t worked but I am holding out lots of hope!

Getting on in Anchorage

The train departed Anchorage at 9:45 am. We were told we needed to be at the station by 8:45, so we left home about 7:00 so we had about 15 minutes to stop somewhere and get snacks for the ride. We arrived a little bit early and got checked in. I of course had to stop at the gift shop. Because it was the last 2 days of the season all their products were on sale! My husband wasn’t interested, but I got a T-shirt to commemorate our adventure. Once we were boarded, we had a long ride with lots of stops before we got to the glaciers. One thing I love about the train however is the ability, even encouragement, to get up and walk around, explore the different cars, grab a snack at the snack bar, and visit with your fellow passengers.

The train was very full which surprised me a little bit being the second to last day of the season, but the seats are comfortable, so it wasn’t a problem. Once we got out of Anchorage, we started along the Turnagain Arm. I have never seen Beluga Whales going down through there, but Saturday there was a small pod. I then realized why I hadn’t ever seen any, because they look a lot like the waves as they never really crest very far above the surface, just far enough to breath. On the way down we made a number of stops. First Girdwood and then Portage (The train stops at Portage a lot; this was stop #1). At both of these stops we picked up more passengers. Then it was on to Whittier. I have been to Whittier when the Ferry was there loading passenger and cars, and it’s a pretty big boat. But I have never been there when a cruise ship was in the harbor. Wow those are big ships! Most of the passengers got off in Whittier, almost all of them getting on the cruise ship. That gave us quite a bit more room as well as the ability to move to the top of the dining car where it was easier to see the scenery.

Cruise ship in Whittier

From Whittier we went back to Portage (Stop #2), and much to my surprise we picked up even more passengers. These were specifically going to the glaciers. I didn’t know you could board there but found out that it’s quite a bit cheaper than starting in Anchorage. Maybe we’ll have to do that with the kids next year. At the second Portage stop we also picked up Park Rangers that would guide our trip through the glaciers. Then we were off.

There are several glaciers up through the pass. I cannot remember all the names, I cannot remember if the first glacier we came to was called Skookum Glacier, or if that was the area we were in, but that was first. Then we got to Spencer Glacier. This is a stop on its own and many passengers unloaded here. It is about a 1-1/2 mile walk from the train stop to the lake where you can see ice bergs floating and the leading edge of the glacier on the other end of the lake. You can also see this glacier quite well from the train as well as the ice bergs as you travel farther south and into a series of tunnels. Spencer Glacier also offers kayaking, rafting, and there are a couple of cabins that you can rent if you want to stay overnight.

Glacier in the far back, can’t remember which one.

Continuing on we came to Grandview. This is where the train stops and turns around. My husband isn’t a really big fan of hiking, so we opted to stay on the train at Spencer Glacier and go on to Grandview. There is a glacier called Trails End just before and somewhat visible from this stop, but there is also some hiking options and great picture opportunities. We hiked to a waterfall, this was only about 1/2 a mile from the train, so we decided that was a great way to stretch the legs before we headed back. The waterfall wasn’t what I would call impressive, but the forest hike getting there was very pretty. There were also several informational signs at this stop that had historical pictures and information on them. It was pretty interesting. Once we were all loaded back on the train we headed back, stopping at Spencer Glacier to pick up those we had dropped off about 3 hours earlier.

From Spencer glacier we headed back to Portage. At this Portage stop (Stop #3) there were a couple of options – stay on the train and do the same stops in reverse order that we had done coming down, including going back to Whittier. This puts you back in Anchorage about 9:30 pm. The other option, and the one we chose, was to get off the train and onto a bus that went directly back to Anchorage to the Train Depot without any stops. It took about 45 minutes, and we were back at the depot by 6:15 in the evening. I really enjoy riding the train, but both me and my husband were ready to get off at that point and grateful for the quicker ride back to Anchorage. My husband also had a great visit with the bus driver. The bus driver had previously driven bus in Denali National Park for 25 years. My husband had done several road construction jobs in the park, so they were able to visit about the area for part of the ride.

Waterfall at Grandview

This was such a fun birthday present and would make a great summer adventure with family and friends coming up to visit. I think living in Alaska that I would probably skip the train ride from Anchorage to Whittier and get on at Portage when it came back out of Whittier, just doing the Glacier tour. I think that you can see the Turnagain arm well from either the train or your car, and it takes the train quite a bit longer to get down there than it does to drive, as long as there’s not something like construction inhibiting traffic. There are a number of other things to see in that area that would be fun to add on to the trip as well, one of our favorites being the Wildlife Center across the highway. Driving your own car down would give you plenty of time to visit this and other scenic sights before getting on the train. I would highly recommend this train ride though; whichever leg you choose to start on. I would recommend bringing a warm jacket for weather if you plan on getting off the train, as well as snacks. They do have some on the train and their prices weren’t outrageous, but it’s nice to have ones you know you like. The restrooms were well maintained and well cleaned, every car having 2 somewhere in the car (I find that important!). They also had a junior ranger program for the glacier portion of the train ride. One note however is not to go too early in the season. I probably wouldn’t go before July just so the snow is melted enough to actually be able to see the glaciers. We rode the train to Seward one year at the end of May and there was still quite a bit of snow in the pass and not as much to see.

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Art Update

I haven’t stopped painting and doing art! But it seems like it has been in super small increments, taking forever to finish a single project and painting mostly small, quick projects. I also haven’t been getting my Friday blog post written because of time, and I have decided that 3 days a week is probably too much for me at this time anyway. So, I will not be doing the art blog post of Fridays, I will just update you periodically on one of the other days. Today I thought I would share what I have been painting, and the fun new kind of art I had the opportunity to try recently.

First the paintings. I am subscribed to a website called Emily Olsen Art, and she has been doing daily challenges every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Some of these challenges inspire me, others not so much. With time constraints I only do the ones I really like but those have been quick, easy, and fun projects. Some of the ones that I did this past month are:

But this one here was my favorite. I have painted mushrooms before, but I really like how fun this turned out, and the simplicity of it all.

Mushrooms

Now, for the new opportunity. I have a friend WillowAK Pottery who makes pottery. During a Garden and Art Tour, we participated in at the end of July she was offering bisque pottery (I apologize if I get the terms wrong, I am still learning!) that you could then choose your glaze color and a few other things. I thought this would be fun but couldn’t make it the day of the sale as I was selling art in the same tour in a different location. We were able to get together later, and she had a better idea for me. She allowed me to take a couple of pieces home and try using pottery pastels to “paint” some images on a couple of pieces of the bisque fired pottery. She then put a clear glaze over the pieces to finish them.

Before:

After:

I loved being able to try this new medium for sharing art, and I love how these turned out. I am excited to have some of my art on something that is useful as well, it doesn’t just hang on the wall. With this new opportunity comes new ideas, and I have been having fun watching YouTube tutorials about different techniques and all the possibilities there are. Just like learning anything new, this has opened my eyes to new possibilities, and I am excited to be able to explore some of them.

I love art, I love how relaxing it is for the most part. There are so many different types or art, and they are all fun to explore. I am so grateful I get to paint on a regular basis, and I love having the opportunity to try new things as well.

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Development

We have had a very crazy busy last few weeks. So, I figured this was a good place to put my thoughts so that I could move ahead again. What set it all off was my older son decided which school he wanted to attend finally. He had his choice between the school in our area, homeschooling, and what is called Middle College. He had previously decided he really didn’t want to attend the school in our area for a variety of reason, so had mostly decided to homeschool. I was not thrilled necessarily, not that we wouldn’t have proceeded forward, but high school is harder, requires more paperwork on my end, and more time than he devoted in middle school.

3 days before the deadline for Middle College he decided he would like to try and get in. They were thrilled to have him, and he had already completed 1 of the 2 required tests to see if he could get in, and passed it with a score high enough to get in. So, we knew he was eligible regardless of his other score. But there was so much paperwork to fill out in a very short space of time. My daughters both went to Middle College, and I remembered the paperwork, but they had months to complete each step, we had days for some of it, up to a week later for other pieces, but it required a lot of phone calls on my part and zoom meetings with counselors on his part. But he did it!

The reason I bring this up is because just 3 months ago, he saw the amount of paperwork, the 2 tests, and everything else required and he gave up. He decided he would take the easy road and just do one of the other 2 schooling options. This summer through some of the things he has done working with his dad, he has developed confidence in his ability to do hard or scary things and knows that he can push through. I am proud of him and his courage to try, not knowing if it was even possible, and so excited that he is excited for school this year!

Also, this past week, our 2nd daughter had the opportunity to learn and develop doing something hard and scary. Interesting how that all works out sometimes. She is graduated from High School, still trying to figure out what she wants to do with life. She has really wanted a dog for a number of years, and finally this summer she bought one. I have been impressed by her ownership of all the tasks involved without me even jumping in and giving advice. The first couple days she asked me a lot of questions, but after that, she just went for it and has done a great job. But last week we noticed a lump on her dog’s lip. Everything in my daughter’s life turned upside down as she worried and wondered. We decided she should take the dog to the vet. She thought a lot about this, and then asked if I would please go with her. I agreed but reminded her she was paying!

On the day of the appointment, she talked to the vet for the most part, she took really good care of most of the situation and only needed help a couple of times. She is not a people person, and sometimes freezes up when she has to be in situations like these. But she did fantastic (so did the dog). The bump is most likely a small infection, but we will have it checked again in a month. I was so impressed by how much she had grown recently, by having the dog, and by choosing to get out and be around people in a variety of situations this summer that she wouldn’t have chosen to do previously.

My kids are always inspiring to me and watching these two grow this summer in a variety of ways has been amazing to watch. I am so grateful for opportunities to learn and grow in our lives, so grateful that we don’t have to be stuck in one spot, and that everyone has the opportunity to become better.

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Growth

It is the week before school starts, and it has been a very busy week. I again missed Friday; I suspect that might be the case for a few more weeks as we get things going and get back into our routine. Last minute registrations at different schools, counseling appointments, vet visits and trying to get my products restocked in the local stores has been exhausting lately. But it’s been good, and we were able to work through everything, no matter how frustrating and daunting it has seemed at times, and I think, I really think we are about ready for the school year, except school clothes shopping, which is going to have to happen after school starts.

I have been thinking this morning about growth, personal growth. This week with all the pull in so many directions, I have neglected my scripture study a couple of days and I can tell it makes a difference in my day. I find myself more frustrated with smaller things, and I find myself being more judgmental of others who also are doing the best they can, but sometimes come across as really judgmental as well. But I have also had several people be exceptionally patient with all my questions, repeat questions because I forgot, and tons of help working through the paperwork that needed to be done and I am super grateful for the time they gave to me and their patience.

This morning as I was finally studying again, I listened to a conference talk about having clean hands and a pure heart, and that you can have one without the other. Clean hands are often easier because it is the outward presentation, but pure hearts are sometimes harder as no one else can see our hearts except God. I was thinking about my week, and about the condition of my heart this week and decided sometimes it was where it was supposed to be, but probably more often than I would care to admit it was not where it should have been. But this morning, I am grateful for the reset, not only from the conference talk I listened to, but because it is the Sabbath day, because I get to go to Church, partake of the Sacrament, renew my covenants with my Heavenly Father, and I get to start over and try to do better this coming week.

Through all this I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes, the one that has really influenced my life in positive ways. I think I have shared it here before, but I’ll share it again anyway because it is a good reminder for me, and you might like the reminder as well. It is by Mother Teresa:

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;

Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;

Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;

Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and it may just never be enough;

Give the world the best you have anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it’s all between you and God;

It was never between you and them anyway.

The last two lines are in my window above my sink so that I read them every day. It is a great reminder that no matter what I do, and who I become, it is always between me and God, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. This week though, I have been thinking about my judgements of others, I guess flipping the perspective. My opinion of others doesn’t affect them in the whole grand scheme of things, who they are is between them and God. But it does affect my heart in a negative manner when I judge them, and it can affect their lives if I treat them poorly because of that judgement. I want to have a pure heart. I am grateful for the reminder, and to see my favorite quote from a new angle. I will be pondering and trying to internalize this different perspective this week so that I can strive to be kind, do good, build, be honest and frank, and everything else along with all that in my own life better. But more importantly, seeing others striving, helping them, being kinder and more patient with their progress. I think part of having a pure heart is sincerely helping others succeed along their paths as well, and I am going to try harder to do that.