Apr 30

1.  You will do more laundry than you can imagine humanely possible in the span of just three days.

2.  You will begin to smell like baby wipes permanently.

3.  Goldfish crackers are a lifesaver when the baby won’t eat anything else.

4.  NEVER give a baby a bottle full of juice before bedtime or else you’ll just be doing fact number 1 all the time.
5.  Baby poop is disgusting yet tells the tale.  (who the HELL fed her broccoli?)

6.  Your dogs will prove to be the baby’s best entertainment.  (She cries, Pepper goes up to her and she immediately calms down.)

7.  A baby’s freshly washed head is one of the sweetest smells in the world.

8.  Motherhood really does equal less sleep.  Oh my GOD, does it ever.

9.  Any remote control or cell phone will keep a baby entertained when you and dog fail.

10.  When she reaches for you with her chubby, tiny, arms and gives you a half-gummy, half-tooth-filled grin, you forget all about the pooping, the sleepless nights, the crying, and the laundry and then begin to feel that yes, she does indeed like you and maybe perhaps you’d make a good mom someday.

Apr 28

When Valkyrie died, I failed to mention that in addition to her four girls, she also fostered an infant named Pauline. Pauline Lucille.

Pauline’s mother wasn’t in a position to raise her, and when Pauline’s grandfather asked Val if she could care for Pauline indefinitely, she didn’t hesitate. Val loved babies. Heck, she’d already reared 4 of them.

Pauline absolutely thrived in Val’s care. Born in a situation where all the odds were stacked against her, she hit all of her baby milestones, and then some. Val’s girls were always interacting with her and anywhere Val was, Pauline was always on her hip. Val had a habit of just randomly telling her kids she loved them. It didn’t matter if she was in the middle of telling me what a crappy day she had, if one of her kids came running up to hug her, she’d always say “I love you”. She was no different with Pauline. She would bring her in to the store and of course, I’d go all nuts over her, and Val would shower her in kisses and tell her she loved her. And she did. Loved her as if she was her own child.

Then Valkyrie died. And Pauline was placed back in to the care of her grandfather. This was not a bad thing as her grandfather loved her dearly. But he also worked out of town a lot for his construction company. This meant that he would have to find another caretaker at least while he traveled. With Pauline, of course, there were people jumping at the chance, including us. We loved Pauline. A few weeks ago, he found out he would be traveling again and found that none of Pauline’s regular caretakers were available during the time he would be gone.

He approached Dusty asking if he knew anyone who might want to look after Pauline. We were the first people he mentioned. Steve called yesterday. Of course we said “yes”.

We picked her up from her daytime babysitter this afternoon and she’ll be with us until we leave next Saturday for Anchorage. By then, one of her caretakers will be back.

Pauline is probably one of the happiest, most well-adjusted babies, I think I’ve ever seen. One would think that with all of the shuffling around the village she’s had to endure since Val’s death, she’d be somewhat traumatized, but she doesn’t seem affected. We spent this evening playing with her, feeding her, bathing her, and changing diapers. We are in awe of how amazing this little girl is. She isn’t finicky with food, loves the dogs and cat (and is very gentle with them) and has yet to make a fuss over anything. She did whimper a bit before falling asleep in my arms but what’s a little whimpering before bedtime?

Howard and I are still amazed at what an easy baby she seems to be so far: So adaptable and not at all freaked out by her new and temporary surroundings.

And I honestly think it’s because for the first 10 months of her life, she was in the care of a woman who gave more love than some kids receive in an entire lifetime. I often wonder if she sees Val in her dreams. When she’s in deep thought while drinking from her bottle and reaching up to the sky with her hands, I wonder if somehow she sees Val watching over her.

Tonight while laying in bed with her, stroking her hair, while she settled in to slumber, I told her the story of a woman named Valkyrie who loved her like her own daughter. A woman who very possibly molded her in to the happy, bubbly, adaptable little person she is now. Who very much intended to be her forever mother. And who no doubt would give anything if she could be back with her and her other children if it were at all possible.

I knew she couldn’t understand me. It makes me sad that she’ll never really know Val. It reminds of the line out of Steel Magnolias where Malynn cries out “How will that baby ever know how wonderful she was?”

I think of that all the time. I just hope that her other caretakers remind her that there once was a lady named Valkyrie who was ready to give her the world.

Alaska 2007 128.jpg

Apr 26

I have so much going on in my life right now, I don’t even know where to begin.  I mean, everything is good, spring is here, the snow is gone, and now we’re just waiting for the river to break up, but I have a lot going on personally.  And while nothing inspires me more than my own personal drama, well;  I’m just at a loss.  BUT!

I do have a hilarious story to share about an event that happened last September during a camping trip.

Howard’s brother Christopher came to visit us for a week and to also hunt because September here is Moose hunting season.  Our friend Brian has property down the river and his uncle was also visiting.  We thought it would be a great time to make it a big group hunting/camping trip.  So, Howard, Christopher, and I loaded up in our boat and Brian, Dusty, and Brian’s uncle Mitch loaded up in his.

We set up camp, cooked dinner, and in no time, the boys were ready to go see if they could get their bull moose.  I really didn’t want to go hunting, I mainly went for the socialization; so Dusty agreed to stay behind with me in case a bear spotted our camp and decided he was hungry.  Brian and Mitch went in their boat and Howard and Christopher went in ours.  Brian left his pistol with us just in case.

Of course, right after they left, it dawned on me and Dusty that God forbid, a bear did come upon us, and the pistol didn’t scare him, we’d have to jump into the river and swim for our lives.  We quickly put it out of our minds and he opened a couple of beers for us.  Dusty and I, never lacking in conversation, gossiped, laughed, played with Bait and Tackle (Dusty’s dogs, yes, I think their names are hilarious too), and tended to the campfire.

The bugs were out in full force and I swear to God, the more smoke we made from the fire, the more bugs we attracted.  We would swat at them, cuss at them, spray bug spray at them, but they kept coming.  Finally, I suggested we get into my and Howard’s tent because it was as big as a damn house and had big screened windows so we could still look out on the river as well as all around us.  We took our lawn chairs into the tent along with our beers and settled in, sneering at the bugs that could no longer get to us.

I decided that we needed a little music and being that no one brought a radio and Brian’s iPod speakers were on his boat, I rigged my iPod by hanging it from the very center of the tent and turned it up to full volume.  The sound was just loud enough from my tiny earbud headphones.  We gossiped, drank some more beer, laughed, and eventually went back out to check the fire and the bug situation.  The bugs had finally moved on so we brought the chairs back out beside the fire and continued our banter.

During a pause in our conversation, I heard a faint “rustling” noise.  I immediately looked to the dogs to see their reaction because we all know dogs have a keen sense of hearing.  Their ears were back and they were tensed up.  My heart started to race as I asked Dusty:

“Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?” he replied

“That…listen!” I said

He concentrated then looked at me and said:

“Oh shit, I do hear that.”

“Oh my God” I choked out

Dusty, having grown up in the Alaskan wilderness kept his cool but was still nervous.  He went for the pistol.

I was scared shitless.  I just knew either a bear or a moose was stalking our camp.  The dogs stood up and looked in the direction just behind our tent.

I jumped behind Dusty and squeaked out a:

“Oh my God, what is that?!”

“I Don’t KNOW!” he hissed back at me, no doubt, a little annoyed at my panic.

We still didn’t see anything but Dusty stood with the pistol ready as I cowered behind him.  (Some damn Alaskan woman I am, right?)

I listened a little more closely to see if I could tell exactly which direction the sound was coming from.

Then I realized what it actually was.

“Oh my fucking God, it’s my damn iPod!

We both sighed loudly with relief.

Dusty still held the pistol.  I went over to the tent but not before turning to Dusty and hissing:

“Careful where you aim that damn thing, don’t you dare shoot me!”

I was still a wee bit panicked as pistols make me nervous as well.

Dusty put the pistol down and bent over laughing.  I took the iPod down and turned it off and the dogs immediately relaxed and went back to whatever they were doing.

Then I started laughing so hard, I thought I was going to cry.

One of us said: “We are complete idiots…we can never tell anyone about this.”  We both agreed on that.

Of course that meant that as soon as the boys returned to camp, we told them.  They agreed we were idiots too.  And frankly two idiots with a pistol is way more scary than a moose or bear any day.

Apr 22

South Park has got to be the filthiest, most vulgar, politically incorrect show on television.

Which is why I LOVE the show.  But you guys already knew that.

Anyway.  I just have to say.  South Park while buzzing on Blue Boar Ale?  Is even more hilarious.  My beer came out my nose tonight.

The episode called “Fat Butt and Pancake Head” is one of the funniest.

Just thought you all should know that.

Apr 20

With the tragedies of Virgina Tech and the Nasa facility in Houston, I’d say this week was a pretty sad one. When things like this happen, it makes me reflect on how precious my own life is. Makes me realize just how fast it can all be gone.

Today, Richard would have been 48 years old. Tomorrow, Judy is having a bonfire in his honor. I could see the pain in her eyes as she told me that Howard and I “had better have our asses over there”. I hate knowing that nothing I say or do will ease her pain. Tomorrow, we’ll have a drink and no doubt cry a bit, but also have a great time. We always have a great time with Judy.

Then I pull a letter out of my post office box today with no return address but postmarked from our Bering Sea Village. I open it and find a picture of the Ishnook children and immediately know the letter is from Sharon, James’ mother. I never mentioned that 10 short months ago, James’ younger sister Jade, died from an accidental gunshot wound to her face. The kids were left in the care of a careless babysitter. Jade found an old shotgun in the attic and it went off, robbing Sharon of yet another child. Sharon’s words were loving but sad. She said that she and her children have “never forgotten us and our kindness”, then told me that losing two of her children has changed her life forever. There was never any doubt to that. As I was reading it aloud to Howard, I choked up before I realized it, getting through the letter, wiping tears from my face. In the photo, her kids were all smiling and two of them were holding a framed photo of James and another framed photo of Jade.

I’m going to sit down this weekend and write her a nice long letter and thank her for writing to me and for sending along a photo.

No doubt, other people out there are feeling her pain this week. Feeling that loss of a loved one that will never really go away. It’s heart wrenching. It never gets easier.

And I’m just really glad this week is over!

Apr 15

Before I get started, let me just say that this past Friday the 13th was a real pisser.  You’re sitting there asking yourself “why wouldn’t it be” right?  I mean, it’s Friday the 13th, after all!  Truth is, my Friday the 13th’s are usually very good.  I’ve never had a bad one.  In fact, I think my luck is unusually good on those days, but this past Friday disappointed me.  At least until I went to steak night.  Then it got interesting.  Long story short, there was alcohol, several friends, my drunken dance partner Dusty, and a jukebox.

Yep, I sent Friday the 13th packing like nobody’s business and welcomed Saturday the 14th with a drunken slur and some out of rhythm bumping and grinding.  Not to mention waaaay too many Malibu Pine’s.

But.  I needed it so don’t expect any apologies here.  We all have our vices.  A-hem.

Anywho.

Now that I’m well overdue with filling you all in my vacation, I figured it was finally time to tell you all about it, however; I did promise to make sausage and egg burritos this morning so when I hear Howard stirring, I’ll temporarily end my re-cap and leave you all hanging.  Sound good?  Okay.

I will definitely say that this vacation was much better than last year’s when it came to visiting with family.  For the first time, Howard and I took the stance (and I think I mentioned this earlier) of making everyone come see us.  I mean, we visited our immediate families and of course, I made the trip to see Julie, but as far as aunts, uncles, cousins, etc, who get upset that they never get to see us because we don’t come see them?  (Nevermind that these are the same people who never call, write, or even email during the year between visits.) we didn’t go out of our way.  This year, we told everyone in that capacity that if they wanted to see us, they knew where we were.  The people that really wanted to visit, made the effort, the ones that didn’t…didn’t.  Yes, I’m sad that I didn’t get to see everyone and I know some of you are probably thinking Howard and I are selfish relatives.  But you have to understand where I’m coming from:  I just shelled out a good chunk of money and spent an entire day flying across the country to be only 5 or 10 minutes from where my friends and family are.  I think taking a few minutes out of your day to actually come by and see me or at least call, isn’t asking too much.

Howard and I enjoy our visits back home very much but too often we find ourselves running all over town trying to see everyone who calls.  In fact, it’s one of the reasons why we usually take an excursion in between ie: Argentina, Italy, Morocco, because we really want to feel like we got a vacation out of the deal.

Anyway, my point to all that is: this year we stopped running all over town, and it made all the difference.  We ended up being less stressed-out and our visits with people were much nicer.

Our first week home, I spent a lot of time with my sister and my niece and nephew.  We had lunch, we shopped, we gossiped, we laughed.  Mainly, I just enjoyed being with my only sibling and her children.  Kim and I are so different it’s eerie at times.  But we’re never short on conversation.  Whether it’s bickering over something we disagree on or reminiscing about the past, we make the most of our time together.  The only “low” moment was while eating our pizza, one of us brought up pawpaw, and my sister choked up and said “Oh God Chris, I miss him so much!” and then I choked up and said “Oh God Kim, me too!”  Sometimes I forget that I’m not the only grandchild in the family who lost their father-figure.  Though hard, it’s nice to share that exact same grief with another person.  Kim and I might be different but we do share the same childhood, the same memories, and the same genes from our mother.  We are all the other one has when it comes to remembering things like that.  This visit made me realize how very much I love her, how the older we get the more she means to me,  and how happy I am to have a big sister like her.

I also got to spend some quality time with my dear sweet Julie!  We had lunch, I hung out with her at her office for a while, and most importantly, I got to spend her birthday with her.  We had a big party at Mama Jean’s, I bought her a cake, my memaw gave her a birthday card because “she just loves Julie and thinks she’s such a good person”, Julie and I made a couple of trips to the liquor store (where she flirted shamelessly with the employees who both flirted back because Julie just has that way about her), we drank Cosmopolitans and Apple Martinis, and laughed until our sides hurt the next day.  Julie and I were long overdue to do something like that and I think she had a really good birthday because of it.

Of course, Howard and I took memaw out to eat several times because she just loves to do that and heck so do we!  Living in the bush means with the exception of steak night and lunch at the only cafe, eating out isn’t an option.  So of course, we always take advantage of it.  I wish I’d gotten to spend more time with my mom but she has a crazy work schedule that has her up very early in the mornings and translates into her having to go to bed very early in the evening.

Howard’s brother drove up from Cary for the weekend to see us and my friends Mandy and Jessica drove down from the mountains to see us too.  Along with other friends and Howard’s extended family, including his cousin Jason, they shared in Julie’s birthday as well.  Of course that meant that Jason and I came up with a running joke of the night and giggled about it anytime either of us brought it up.  It’s something we always do and something we didn’t get to do last year so I’m glad he was there. (HOLLER!)

We also drunk-dialed Dusty because we promised him we would.  Of course, that meant that I passed the phone around so he had to talk to all of my friends and Howard’s family.  He, no doubt, handled it flawlessly.  I’m also now convinced that Dusty and Julie are perfect for each other and must eventually marry.  Now the dilemma of closing that 3000 mile gap between the two of them.

Howard and I also made our yearly day trip to Boone and the surrounding areas.  We bought Sun-Drop in the glass bottles with the citrus pulp in the bottom, we bought homemade honey butter, sourwood honey, and a few other things indigenous to western North Carolina.  We go through there every year to get our “mountain fix”.  I love being at high altitudes.  You know that saying “Altitude is attitude?”  There’s something to that.  It just does something to me.  It also makes me very homesick.

We ate copious amounts of Livermush, which is also something one can only get in my part of the state.  Now let me explain what it is:  It’s various pork parts, spiced and cooked, mixed with cornmeal then shaped into a block.  You can cut off a slice and eat it as-is, or you can fry it, which is what I prefer.  It’s a lot like Scrapple except the flavor of Livermush is a lot richer.  Let me also say that I hate Liver but in Livermush you can never taste the liver.  It’s mixed with so many spices and cornmeal that if you didn’t know Liver was in it, you’d never be the wiser.  When Mama Jean comes for her annual visits to Alaska she always brings us a big block.  Oh Lord, just writing about it here makes my mouth water.  Seriously.  Just ask any of my North Carolina friends who are from my part of the state and chances are they all like it too.

Boy, I got off on a real food tangient there didn’t I?  Well, I do have to admit that I will always be a fan of Southern cuisine and it’s one of the biggest things I miss about not living there anymore.

Speaking of food, I’m off to make burritos, but I promise to have another re-cap very soon.

And by “very soon” I mean, don’t get your hopes up, it could be another month.

Apr 12

Our good friend Hoi left yesterday morning with her daughter Yukiko for Key West, Florida.  She and Joe, her husband, are moving there because Joe got a job in the area.  Hoi went on ahead with the baby to get settled in their new house.  Joe will be leaving mid-May.  They are the first of our friends to be saying “goodbye” to our lovely village.

Mark, our full-timer succumbed to his homesickness and moved back to North Carolina.

Billy and Alpha are moving to New Mexico.

Julie is moving to Wyoming.

Jacen and Stephanie are moving to Texas.

It seems like our circle of friends is breaking apart, at least here.  Being somewhat of a gypsy myself, I can understand their wanderlust.  Howard and I have moved a lot in our 13 and a half years of marriage.  In fact, most of our friends are like we are.  Never quite settled, they start to feel restless if they’re not packing up to see what new destination life will bring them to.  Most people that aren’t native to rural Alaska that live here, are usually nomads like us.  Always seeking that next adventure just around the corner.  It’s cool.  I love having friends spread all over the world.

But it never gets easier saying goodbye.  Nomads like us learn to appreciate the time we have together.  We tend to spend a lot of our free time bonding, “hanging out”, sharing stories of our travels, etc.  Those bonds usually happen quickly and fiercely.  Naturally the more friends we make in that capacity means more “goodbyes.”  And let’s face it:

“Goodbyes” always suck.

Tuesday night, we gathered at a friend’s house bringing appetizers, beer, and brownie with ice cream.  We laughed and ate, Hoi and I passed the baby back and forth, and of course we shared more stories.  We all hugged and kissed both of them numerous times before promising to see them off at the airport.

Yesterday morning we took pictures, we laughed, we all were stoic because who wants to cry when Hoi’s going to lying on a beach in Key West in a few weeks? (she’s driving there with her best friend from Anchorage)  Amazingly, we didn’t cry.  No one did.  Except when Hoi was boarding the plane.  Joe said he could tell by the expression on her face that it finally hit her that she would probably never see our tiny village again.

We already miss her and will no doubt give Joe the same kind of send-off, but having friends in Key West means we’ll never have to rent a hotel room when we visit as long as they’re living there.  That’s definitely a huge perk to having friends all over the world. You’ve always got a place to hang your hat.

As hard as the goodbyes are, the chances that you’re gonna have a friend right around any corner of the world are pretty good, and if it means I have to say a lot more goodbyes, then I’ll take that any day.

Alaska 2007 095.jpg

Apr 10

Happy Birthday Mom.

So many things to say right now and I don’t know how to express them.

Count that as a first.

Just know that I love you and hope you have a great birthday.

Love,

Christina Renee’

Apr 8

Happy Birthday Kristen!

Without friends like you, we’d have never had such funny times like this.

Or that other time.

Have a great day sweetie!

Love you and miss you!

Apr 5

I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this sooner, but I am playing the part of Abby Brewster in our community production of “Arsenic and Old Lace”!

It’s actually put on by the high school drama class and being we only have a population of 300 here, and only about 10 high school students, that narrows the margin of students actually wanting to be in the production by, oh say, about half.  Hence the need for community members to fill out the rest of the cast.

Anywho.  I’m playing the lead and I’m so excited.  It’s been a long time since I was on stage but it brings back so many good memories of high school and doing local community theatre in my hometown.  I actually lettered in Drama.  Yes, I know most people letter in football, cheerleading, baseball, and other sports but at my high school you could actually letter in other extra-curricular activites besides sports.  I still have the letter jacket packed away in storage.

Now you all understand why I run around singing broadway show tunes, drunk and sober.

You know what’s even more cool?  Howard and Dusty have a part as well.  Unfortunately, there’s only one scene where we’re all together on stage and that’s the final one.  In any case, it’s going to be a blast.

Now, to find a way to mask my southern accent and not sound like a complete idiot.

« Previous Entries