DIY

Workin’ Moms

If the pandemic did anything for us, I think it helped to make each one of us humans recognize that everyone else is human also. Radical, I know. We saw people in their homes working with everything from kids to cats to dirty laundry in the background and finally we decided it was OK.

Working from home the past 6 years, I’d always felt that things had to be perfect. I’d tidy up my humanity into a professional front and hope and pray that Leto wouldn’t decide he needed to serenade us or that my background didn’t look too much like a cabin (it is a cabin because I live in a cabin), or that no one would notice when I’d slip and say “I just have to run outside to use the restroom”, failing to cover up the fact that we use an outhouse.

Workstation
Also a workstation (and snack station)

In my current job, which started in April 2020, that veneer became less important. People there seemed more interested and less appalled by my lifestyle as living a simpler life and getting back to basics (hello sourdough super fans!) gained popularity. Plus, everyone loved dogs, thankfully, as that was the summer that Leto fell in love with neighbor dog and howled 24/7 for two months. It felt a little less essential to hide my life and little more appropriate to share it yet still I spent a lot of effort tidying it to look a certain way (even if that way isn’t really my way).

What have we decided that looks like again? And…who decided this?

Professional?
Cozy co-worker
Unhinged co-worker

As I came back on screen for my first day after Parental Leave, despite being on the grid with an indoor toilet and all, I worried that again I would look unprofessional. In 87 degree weather my options were thin strapped clothing or heat stroke so I chose the straps. I also didn’t have my desk setup yet so I sat outside, Bougainvillea blooming behind me. Was that ok?

Yet locale and skimpy clothes were the least of my worries, because now I had a whole human to hide. How was I going to pull that off? I mean, I couldn’t simultaneously don my professional hat and my Mom hat, right?!

The funny thing is, I don’t believe any of this inner speak I was shouting at myself but somehow it crept in anyways. Sure, my attention might be divided if I’m holding my babe during a meeting but it will also be divided if I hear him crying during a meeting and still if I can’t hear him crying at all because I’m working away from him. Why? Because, as one of my coworkers pointed out to me when I asked how she dealt with working as a mom: I’m a mom. Part of me will always be thinking of my babes. That’s ok. That’s human.

Still workin’, still mommin’

Whether he’s in my sights or out, he will always be on my mind but that doesn’t make me less of a professional or less valuable of an employee. Perhaps it’s even a strength. Wild idea, I know! It’s amazing what I’ve seen multi-tasking minds do. I can’t count the number of times my parent friends have held a meaningful conversation all while clothing/feeding/calming/teaching another smaller human. Nor can I express how absolutely fluent these people have become in all things baby in no time flat. The learning curve is steep but up that hill we all climb, slowly, steadily learning along the way. Parents aren’t dummies but I sure was being one. All it took was a three hour kickoff meeting to shake me sense-full.

Three hours is a chonka chonka sized meeting for anyone but for a new mom? Extra chonk. Even if Ollie wasn’t home with The Chief and I, I still would have had to stop to pump at some point. Yet, him being home meant I could stop and simply feed him and then go back and…that was A-OK. There were three quick pauses in the three hours and one was just for me to refill my water. The week followed suit, going surprisingly well most hours of most days.

Truth be told, no matter how well the days go it’s still hard for me to be at work. It’s hard to not be the one who knows Ollie best or has all the tricks up my sleeve but once my ego started to let that go, I could see the beauty in The Chief stepping into the spotlight as I stepped out.

Watching him rock our little love to sleep when my classic moves weren’t working slowly felt less like defeat and more like freedom. Freedom to see myself as as a workin’ mom. Freedom to start taking longer than a bathroom break moment to myself. Freedom to share in the hard. And while the baton handoff has been shaky at times (I’m not crying, you’re crying) I know deep down I needed it.

So, I’m letting myself take the gift of the pandemic and allow myself to be human, a human working mom. May you all have coworkers as wise as mine to help set you straight, if need be. Let’s all just be humans together, shall we?

With love,

From Hawaii

Happy belated Halloween!

The finish line

I’m not much of a runner anymore but I used to run in local races in California for fun (for fun?!). The longest run I ever completed was a 10k and at a point mid-race I remember thinking “Well, this will never end.”

Surprise! It did. I made it. And I lived to see another day. I know the pancake breakfast at the finish line had a lot to do with it but so did just putting one foot in front of the other, cliche as it may sound.

Back in my racing days. Color run at Candlestick Park

The last few weeks were all about one step at a time. There were so many bumps in the road I thought we might not make the finish line but there was something even better than pancakes waiting. I know what you’re thinking: “Better than pancakes?! Is that even possible? Barely, but yes.

Hawaii.

Sunset slowdowns

After spending two weeks shutting down the house and driving for 60 miles through the nearly two feet of fresh snow that dumped the day before we left (plus cutting down a tree blocking our passage), plus two moves once we got to Anchorage, a sore throat that we worried was COVID, Leto tummy troubles that had us up in the night more than our Ollie, and Ollie’s first flight, this exhausted quartet made it to Hawaii. It felt like we’d never reach the finish line but we did.

Leto bounded out of his kennel as if he’d been expecting the tropics and has adjusted well in the 10 days we’ve been here. Ollie is a little fish in the ocean who is pretty sure he can swim already and The Chief and I are learning the keys to baby + puppy travel in a new place (where the dog can’t be left in the car and the baby suddenly HATES driving) and enjoying the ease of the warmth and slow pace.

It’s been a week plus of settling, adjusting and finding new rhythms and this week marks a whole new shift: back to work. To be totally truthful, it’s rocked me. I’ve had to force myself to stay present and enjoy the magical moments this island provides and the sweetness of being with family.

Settling wise, we are nearly there. We have a car and groceries and a beautiful place to live with our relatives.

Work wise, I’m 100% panicked about starting back but…one step at a time towards the finish line, right? A finish line even better than pancakes (but I might need some of those too).

Wish me luck!

With love,

From Hawaii

P.S. Parents: any back to work tips?

Whirlwind Weekend

‘Twas a whirlwind weekend indeed, preceded by a whirlwind week. And that week? Two weeks ago.

What?!

I told you, whirlwind.

Last Monday as I sat down to write, I got about three sentences in before the sleepy wave hit. I guess that’s what getting home at 1 am will do to you. Let me explain: The week had gone like this:

The Chief, partner in crime that he is, agreed to me practicing with my band not once, not twice, but three times in a row for our upcoming gig (which he also agreed to. I told you, partner in crime). This schedule promised late nights followed by his ever-early mornings for work. It was a price we were both willing to pay to help me do something that made me feel like…me. Ollie, trooper that he is, rolled right along with it, taking the milk I’d pump throughout the day (and on the way to practice. Never anticipated that one!) from a bottle from his Pops. Everyone was run a little thin but we all got through it together.

The cuteness certainly makes any hard much easier…

Then came the weekend. With our upcoming departure to Hawaii (we haven’t talk about that yet, have we? More to come…) looming overhead, every spare moment has been set to getting ready to leave AND with the work of living in the woods, spare moments can be hard to come by. So, we spent Friday prepping for HI and prepping for the gig. It’s amazing what you need to pack for a single night away with a kiddo and we aren’t exactly the lightest packers to begin with. Into the bag umpteen changes of clothes, diapers, pump and pajamas went and by the next morning we were off!

The gig was at 5 pm, we were set to play around 7 so I tacked on an hour to adjust for well, life. By 9 pm, Ollie perfectly content in a pack on my front, we started to wonder when the curtain would call. By 10 pm, our time had come and so had bedtime (well, bedtime #2. Ollie had been snoozing since 8).

Little bear bundle

He wouldn’t get to see me go on but he’d be cozy in bed waiting for me with his Dad. We played for almost two hours to an amazing crowd and were joined by some of the finest musicians I’ve ever had the honor to play with.

Howdy, bandmates!

My cup was overflowing. Riding on the high of the stage, I walked home, solo for the first time since May and enjoyed the moment of solitude in the soggy streets. Ten minutes, a midnight snack and an unrushed nighttime teethbrushing/facewashing routine later and I was in a whole other moment, one of cozy calm with my three favorite boys. I walked into the room to see The Chief asleep, bottle still in his hand, and a sleeping Ollie, feet propped up on his Pops. Leto greeted me as I entered, letting me know that all of our precious cargo was safe.

What a day.

The next morning was a little bit of mayhem followed by a lot a bit of magic. After shuffling to find a dog sitter and rushing back just in the nick of time, we made it onto…

The boat!

What?!

Yep. In addition to putting us up and feeding us, the gig had also hooked us up with a cruise out to the Columbia Glacier. It was amazing and a day of many firsts for Ollie:

First boat ride
First whale, bear, otter, seal, and bald eagle sightings
First family trip

Columbia Glacier!

We returned to port 7 hours later and left to collect our Leto. We arrived to the caretaker playing Leto the Boz Scaggs song “Lido Shuffle” to try to soothe him. Apparently he cried most of the day. We like to stick together, this fam. So, we all piled into the car in search of sustenance before our 5 hour drive home.
On a Sunday.
At 7 pm.

If the week leading up to the gig had been a push this was the final haul. The food took what felt like forever and by 8 pm we were on our way, just in time for the rain to set in. A few tears (I’m not crying, you’re crying) and 5 hours later, we were finally home. What a week. A whirlwind week of firsts.

Cheers to many more, though with shorter commutes would be ideal.

With love,

from Alaska

Our second boat ride one week later!



P.S. Do you have Hawaii connections?! We are headed to the Big Island (on the Kona side) and will be looking for work and community. If you have any leads, please let us know.

P.P.S Did you have any firsts this week? Lets hear about them in the comments below!

My favorite mistake

Oh boy, you guys…I made a boo-boo. You see, apparently, I forgot where I was. We’ve added on and spruced up and I had myself fooled that this place was foolproof and needed to be (wait for it…) perfect.

Perfectly unfinished.

Perfection has haunted me most of my life but when I first moved here, our relationship changed a bit. I had to try things I wasn’t sure I’d be good at (hello chopping wood, skiing, snowmachining, etc…) and (GASP!) work at them until I got better. Imagine my horror! Everything was new and as I attempted each newbie I would oftentimes literally or figuratively fall on my ass. It was a bit belittling, a lot overwhelming and…overall? I think it was really good for me.

Yet as the years went by and things that were once foreign became familiar, I fell out of step with perfection and again we became nemeses. Which is why, when I was doing laundry the other day (INSIDE!) in our new addition on a sunny-ish day (I tell you this just to emphasize just how idyllic the situation was) and suddenly everything came to a standstill I was floored.

The washing machine stopped.

The water stopped flowing.

The power stopped well, powering.

What the…?! I wasn’t as mad as I was stunned. How could this be happening in our new house? I mean, in the old house, sure! Things were constantly not working but not now. I mean, we have a bathtub, for goodness sake.

We are miles away from where we started.

Right?

In so many ways yes. This bachelor pad has become a home to us, to our dogs, and now to our son. We have so many more amenities than I ever even dared to dream of and…we are still in the middle of the woods where everything is prone to breaking down. Damn…I forgot.

As I stood in the middle of our beautiful addition perfectionism reared it’s ugly head and the sunny day got a bit dark and stormy in my head. Why were things breaking?! Why wasn’t everything just working?! Why…

Oh, wait. I’d like to say that in that moment I had my perfectionism epiphany and realized that it was silly to ask why and instead to see what we could learn from the situation but…that took a couple of days and a couple of long walks. I didn’t look for a lesson, I wanted it to be perfect.

Long walk # 2,897,341

Things aren’t perfect out here. Things break constantly. Systems change (I can’t even remember what our power system started as and in 5 years I probably won’t remember what it is today). What worked last year won’t work this year. I know all of this but I forgot it. I think bringing home a babe, you want everything to be perfect for them so much so that it’s easy to forget what’s real. Yet I can either teach him to be frustrated, to look down on the breakdown or…we can learn.

Today, the system still isn’t back to what it once was. We’ve created a new system that circumvents the problem area (a busted pump) and I learned all about GFCI outlets. Instead of focusing on the problem, we found a workaround that is perfectly fine for now, even if it’s not perfect. As it turns out, nothing is.

Nothing is perfect?! Ohhhh no!

So, I tip my hat to you perfection, my friendly foe and greet you again. Perhaps I’ll soon learn that trying to attain you is futile. Perhaps I’ll forget again. You are, indeed, my favorite mistake.

Until then, I’ll try to hold the lesson of the washing machine: learn from your mistakes instead of belittling yourself for them. Enjoy the wonder of finding a new solution. And let perfection go.

Cheers to trying!

With love,

From Alaska

Where the wild things grow…

Love in the Woods: Year 7

Seven years in the woods.
Seven years in love.
Seven years I just realized we forgot to celebrate.

Sure, when you get married there’s the debate of “should we really celebrate our dating anniversary still?” to which I have always responded, “Um…heeeeccck yes!”. I love a good celebration and…why not? There’s enough craziness in this world, we should make sure to stop and appreciate the good.

Which we normally do but…we forgot.

Something came up, I guess.

Thanks for the towel, MK!

In addition to our 7 years together, this year also holds with it the gift of Saturn. Saturn returns. Every 7 or so years, life just seems to get realllllly real. People get married, divorced, babies are born, houses are bought, moves are made. Big things. Life things.

This round of Return has obviously brought with it a huge, beautiful change and it has me feeling extra nostalgic.

Reading goes a little differently now…Great book, by the way.

Since coming home with our little, it’s as if I’m simultaneously seeing this place with old and new eyes. The magic of this place feels renewed. As I look around our consistently improving house, I see where this brand new life began. I look to the corner that used to house a mess of a desk in the middle of the kitchen that now holds a real refrigerator (that’s even stocked with vegetables!).

Where it began…
Where it stands today…(see, I told you I like to celebrate!)

I look at our bedroom, now downstairs so we can all be together as a family. I look out to our porch and almost miss for a moment the Ramp of Doom.

Really, Mom?!

Almost. I think back to my first night at this bachelor pad and marvel at how far we’ve come and how unlikely it was that we ever came together in the first place.

As I enjoy this summer from more of the sidelines than ever before, I see how so many things have come full circle and this view brings with it a lot of gratitude and a little bit of disbelief. Is this real life? Did the perma-bachelor and the determined to be single traveler really make it work? Not without trials and troubles but…my answer is resoundingly “yes”. Sure, this (non-existent) anniversary looks a lot different from years past but it’s beautiful in its own right. Life has been busier than ever and so I take a moment to pause and give thanks.

From one Saturn Returns to the next and to many, many more together. I choose you. Happy very belated anniversary.

What did year 7 bring? A few changes...
Thanks for the photo, JH!

With love, always,

From Alaska

P.S. 7 year anniversaries also mean this blog has existed that long. Whether you’ve just joined or have been there since the start, thank you. I am so honored to have you come along on this journey.

Welcome, Little One

I’ve spent the entire day trying to open my computer to write to you. Our child has had other plans.

Our child.

The two words I’ve hoped to utter for so very long. He has finally arrived. All 7 pounds, 11.5 ounces of him came into this world 11 days ago tonight. His birth was so fast we almost greeted him at home but luckily made it to the center just in time. Up he came out of the tub and into our arms, wailing immediately until we locked eyes. Curious and kind right from the start. We are head over heels for our little Oliver, Ollie for short. I can’t wait to share more with you.

See you in two weeks!

With love,

From Alaska

40 weeks pregnant labor signs: a guessing game

Last night I awoke from a dream with a startle. Tomorrow was Monday. Monday was the beginning of the workweek. Did I have any meetings I had forgotten to prep for? Did I have any first thing To-Dos I needed to prioritize?

I didn’t and I don’t because, for the first time since I started working, I haven’t been to work in weeks. Any meetings I used to attend will be held without me and any To-Dos will get done in the fall when I return. So why the worry?

Alaskan Malamute
Worry? Why?

Perhaps because today is our babe’s “due date”. The start of the biggest project we’ve ever endeavored upon and certainly the wildest adventure and the countdown clock has now rung out. “Today is the day”, it announces.

Yet so far, today isn’t the day. In the last two weeks, however, there have been a few days that certainly felt as if they might be. The first week The Chief was gone, I was awoken multiple nights by strong contractions and back pain. “Oh, please not yet. Unless you need to” I thought to myself as I breathed through the discomfort and started to calculate if and when to call The Chief, and then…nothing.

40 weeks pregnant labor signs
The ostrich move.

A few days and a few false starts later, The Chief was back home with us, and we visited our midwives. Things were looking good. It could be any minute now…

workin' moms
Gotta get the new Workin’ Moms in first…

Near the end of the week, things started to really get moving, enough to start looking at a clock and timing the party my uterus was throwing. It was also our moving day. As I looked around at the bags packed and to be packed, the many things to be moved I whispered “Not today, unless you need to” to our little bean. Another contraction. I busied myself with the moving shuffle and by the end of the day, things had slowed down again.

Yesterday, we settled in, nestling into our newest and thankfully last nest until we return home.

Malamute puppy
Leto, wedges himself next to the baby seat, despite a totally open backseat for him to enjoy. Protective already.

Some sweet friends delivered us dinner (you are the best!) and we paused to enjoy the wonderfully Alaskan meal of salmon and salad goodness.

Yummmmmmmm!

It was amazing and so nourishing after days of half-hearted meals made out of necessity rather than excitement. My belly has been up and down and all around and I’ve pretty much subsisted on a fussy toddler diet of beans and cheese and rice which hasn’t exactly been inspiring for someone who loves food as much as I do. We decided to call it quits on settling in for the night and settled on a movie and…the contractions started again.

Yet here we are this morning, babe still in belly and…I’m OK with that. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten from different weekly subscriptions with the general sentiment of “Is this over yet???”. Sure, I’ll agree that the last few weeks are uncomfortable (hello flattened feet! Hello nausea and cramping and sleepy but sometimes sleepless nights) but as of now, I’m still happy to be the host (and to fully unpack) and to take our last waddles around the lake as a family of three, anticipating becoming a family of four.

University lake dog park, anchorage, ak
This must be the place…

Only time will tell just what day and what time our little one will arrive. Until then, I’ll be here, watching for signs, checking in on times, and riding the wave.

With love,

from Alaska

Two Weeks

Life is a mountain of milestones, isn’t it? As kiddos, we’re always grasping for that next accomplishment. When riding a trike was once a herculean task, now we set our sight on two wheels. When sleeping at home was the norm, we try for a sleepover. When going to the movies used to be a family affair, suddenly we’re meeting our friends and embarrassed of our parents as they drop us off. These changes, these stages and jumps in time, happen so fast and once we move forward, we rarely move back into the past from whence we came. We are changed, we are changing and we are always looking to the next challenge.

Looking back on the last two weeks, so much has changed…

The Chief celebrated another waltz around the sun (and I learned that one should never bake having just oiled one’s pregnant belly. Cocoa powder explosions are simply an inevitability and cocoa paste does oil and powder make).

Birthday cutie

“We” (AKA I orchestrated and The Chief did all the moving) moved our bed downstairs, which meant ratchet strapping it burrito style and shoving it through the hatch in the floor (during a work call where I could not stop myself from laughing and so felt it was only fair to turn my video around to show the bed debacle).

DIssasembly…
Landing…
Re-entry…
Landed.

I had my last day at work (cue the Hallelujah chorus!) preceded by a surprise virtual baby shower (thank you!).

At which point baby prep began…

Thank goodness for the deck…

And so did packing up to leave for X amount of months. “How long will you be in Anchorage?” I keep getting and continually ask myself to which I answer “No idea”. If I’ve learned anything during this being preggo process it’s that I have no idea what’s coming next and planning is only a possibility so long as you leave room for a million variations. So, I packed for who knows how long which was totally not stressful. When my Mom asked me how it was going, I sent her this:

Feelin’ greeeeeaaaaaaattttt. Not panicking AT ALLLLL.

The Chief too was feeling the pressure, enough to go gray in an instant:

Just kidding…he bumped his head on something white but still, it was amazing

I shifted from not wanting to leave home at all to feeling very ready to leave the punchy snow (and distant medical care) behind. I guess that will happen when you’re 9 months pregnant and falling up to your knees in snow on the way to the outhouse each morning.

We moved to Anchorage, which meant caravaning with The Chief for the 8-hour drive and getting in at 9 pm to a new and unfamiliar home. Leto immediately got familiar.

Peek-a-boo practice

We arrived in Anchorage to a whirlwind of appointments and appointing a new home with everything we’d need for the next however long. We met with our midwives and our doulas, we handled baby business our too busy schedules hadn’t allowed for, we found a pediatrician and FINALLY installed the car seat and packed (mostly) our Go Bags for Go Time.

The baby prep continued…

We both started losing stamina…

And so did the celebrations…

Triflin’
Feet up. Thank you, Mel.

And I spent my first Mother’s Day ever getting pampered by a dear friend while feeling the kicks of our baby. I also spent it realizing that my Mom and I would forever share this day in an entirely new way from here on out.

Mamas

Most importantly, I finally bought sweatpants (I kid, I kid…sort of).

And the baby dropped it lowwwwwww.

Two weeks ago, we were celebrating the birth of my love with friends who live only footsteps away. We nestled in at home (with a working shower!) after our last Town Trip and in full-on Go Mode to get everything done in one week’s time. Two weeks later, I find myself alone in a house I’m still learning, in a neighborhood where my closest friend is miles instead of a few steps away. Alone? The Chief had to start work this week in order to more easily take leave for the birth and so the week starts with our separating, again.

Two weeks ago, the reality of our kiddo’s impending arrival felt distant. Two weeks later, it feels MUCH more real as the tasks at hand begin to dwindle and the biggest task yet of giving birth lies ahead of us. I can’t imagine being back to two weeks ago, to feeling less focused on birth and more focused on our house and two weeks from now…I can’t even imagine. Perhaps we will be celebrating another birthday. Who knows?

WIll he love German Chocolate cake like his Daddy-O?

What we do know? In the next two weeks we will move again (because we are geniuses like that), thankfully within Anchorage this time. The Chief will return and we will reunite once more, until we have to separate once more. And every day we will be closer to meeting this little being who has been simultaneously so known to us and such a mystery. Other than that, I can only guess what the next two weeks will bring. Perhaps a babe, perhaps more waiting (which is fine by me, especially until The Chief arrives). The future holds its cards close to its chest and so we simply take the next step, every day…

Wishing you and yours lots of luck in your next steps, whatever they may be.

With love,

From Alaska

And from Leto and I trying to take a Goodnight picture

P.S. For realsies though…who knows what the next two weeks will offer but…as two weeks from now I’ll be 100, I mean, 40 weeks pregnant, there’s a chance you won’t hear from me right away. Then again, perhaps you will. Either way, I’ll update the blog as soon as possible…

Shower Power

I’m a water baby. If there’s a body of water nearby, my body wants to be in or around it. Label it the siren’s call to the substance we are mostly made of. Blame it on the zodiac (I am a water sign) or rule it without reason completely. Either way, there’s something in me that craves to be near the element. Growing up and until moving to Alaska, water was my north star. Wherever I was, I oriented against it using the ocean. I always knew west, I always knew home.

Home base by the Bay

Upon moving to Alaska, all of that changed. I did a lot of looking at water, rather than leaping into it. Glacially fed rivers and swimming holes were my watery haunts yet I rarely dove in (at least, not on purpose). I oriented myself by the river that roughly traveled North + South to decipher East + West and again my home fell into that orientation but it wasn’t quite the same. It took me a while to get my bearings, hell, I still am. Alaska is enormous, the landscape constantly changing, and gathering perspective is like looking at a painting close up (read: you rarely can see the big picture).

Little Leto looking for it (the big picture)

Before moving to Alaska, my favorite way to start my day was with a nice hot shower. I’d come out bright as a beet from the heat and lavish on lotions and potions aplenty in my steamy bathroom. Little did I know that this daily ritual would turn into a true treat in an instant. Upon arriving in Alaska, I was greeted with endless water. Unlike the near-drought (now drought) California I was leaving, there was water everywhere yet somehow, showers, my church, my moment for rejuvenation, were suddenly a luxury.

I did not sign up for this.

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to dive into

I remember going to The Bar one of those first nights in Alaska and someone saying “Wow, did you just shower? Smell her! She smells great.” Granted, I had just showered and my girlfriend’s shampoo was delicious but this noticing of what I deemed a natural daily occurrence had flipped my world. Everyone commented on how lucky I was to stay where I was staying, a shower every day, if I dared. I didn’t. Luxurious as it was by comparison, it was still an outdoor shower and despite summer’s march to the neverending beat of the sun, mornings were chilly. On the colder mornings, I opted for birdbaths in the comfort of the cabin some days. Always, on the days I didn’t, on the days I braved the chill for the comfort of a hot shower with a view, someone always commented. “Did you just shower?” It cracked me up. What was this place?

Within a month I had adopted the local vernacular. “You smell great! Did you just shower?” I’d find myself saying. What had I turned into? A woman of the woods, it seemed. When I moved (read: suddenly realized I was living with a man I’d just met) into The Chief’s house, he had a shower as well…and a well. I had fallen in with a bougie bunch, it seemed. Having a well meant water every day if I wanted it. All I had to do was gas up the generator, carry the 50-pound sucker to the well, fire it up, inevitably troubleshoot it when it wouldn’t start, and fill the 50-gallon drum that was our shower reservoir. Easy peasy. Sort of. While I did find myself in the shower more days than not, it wasn’t quite the same as the steamy showers of merely a month before in California. My life had done a solid one-eighty. Everything had changed and…for the most part, I accepted those changes with open-ish arms. I adapted. It turns out we are more pliant than we think, especially when we are in love.

But then, come winter, the adaptations began again and this time, they were a little more drastic.

Hauling water post-shower at 25 below zero. Fun!

Shower? Sure! All you have to do is:
Step 1: Think ahead (this step was often forgotten and another day would fly by without a shower). Make sure to have filled all the water in the house, defrosted the bathing bin and get the house nice and toasty. For those three things, there’s about 15 steps total and a whole lot of forethought. Needless to say, this step was thwarted often.

Step 2: If everything in Step 1 was satisfied, move on to Step 2: Find the step stool, balance upon it as you lift the stairs, and secure them over your head.

Step 3: Use the aforementioned stool to hang the shower curtain and protective black plastic sheeting so your house and pantry aren’t drenched by your endeavor.

Step 4: Realize you forgot something upstairs. Undo Step 2. Gather your goodies. Repeat Steps 2-3.

Step 5: Kick up the heat! The fire has somehow died down in what feels like the 5 minutes you’ve been prepping your shower (probably more like an hour). Go outside, chop wood, bring it in and stoke the fire.

Step 6: Recalibrate. What the hell was I doing? Oh yea, showering.

At this point, showering seems about as good an idea as this does…

Step 7: Prep your space: get all your shower goodies and put them nearby (don’t forget your towel).

Step 8: Shower military-style (I don’t know when we adopted this term but I’m not sure it really applies): water on, water off. Suds up. Water on. Water off. Shampoo. Water on. Water off…you get the drill.

Step 9: Dry off and dump the water. Hopefully, you were judicious in your use of agua or you’re about to be hauling a hefty load, my friend (or, in my case, co-hauling with The Chief).

Step 10: Wait for the shower curtains and bathing bin (read: a Rubbermaid storage tote) to dry. Put them away.

These Steps 1-10 can span days and so, sometimes, can your bathing routine. Showering once a week in the winter out here is heroic and despite how this cadence failed to meet my CA expectations, I was always brought down to AK earth when someone would mention and point “She has a shower” and everyone would oooohhhh and ahhhhh. It’s all about perspective, I guess.

And still, sometimes that perspective shifts. When we decided to start our addition, we didn’t realize that we had also started a whole new project (read: baby on board) and so our focus was on one thing: amenities. Yes, it had come time, time for a year-round shower. No outdoor shower for half of the year, spanning from frozen showers in the spring to frozen feet in the fall. No more hoping the system wouldn’t break (and being disappointed multiple years when it did due to an unanticipated freeze). No more set-up and takedown from inside to outside. No more hours or days-long winter Steps 1-10. Nope. Permanence, my friends.

The project started last fall and just this week I am happy to report I took my first ever on-demand shower in our house.

Just a few weeks ago, we started here…

Now…we are here!

To say that it felt amazing is an understatement. I cried tears of joy the whole time as I laid down in the tub (the tub!) and let the water cascade down upon me. Did we come by the shower easily? Heck no. Did The Chief have to do endless research, make countless calls, and search for parts near and far? Did it work and then need tweaking and surprise us with hurdles unanticipated?

Did it seem like the project was giving us the finger at times? Yes. Worth it? Yes.

Of course it did! It was construction (in remote Alaska nonetheless), there are never any certainties. But one thing is certain now: we have a shower, shoot, we have a bathtub, and I am in heaven. And for the first time ever, we left Anchorage with excitement in our hearts to return to our shower instead of savoring every last second in the shower in Town. Our shower.

While our human addition grows within me, our house addition grows before my eyes and I have become ever more in awe of the man I married. From the ground up, he’s created for us a whole new reality. One of brightness and ease and luxuries large and small. It hasn’t always been easy but it certainly has been worth it. Together, we’ve divided and conquered, taking on the tasks most in our wheelhouse, both adding on to our family as we go, I with our babe in my belly, he with hammer in hand.

It’s wild how life can change, how perspective can shift, and how the things we took most for granted can become pure opulence. I am still a water baby, always will be, but I have a different appreciation for that water than ever before and I’m grateful for that shift. Despite growing up with it, I hope our little nugget will appreciate it too. If he forgets, I know our town will remind him how lucky he is every time he wanders into Town freshly showered.

With love (and running water),

From Alaska

P.S. Today mark’s a special day, The Chief’s birthday. Happiest of birthdays to you, my love. We are so lucky you were born.

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Sometimes, I feel a little like an anthropologist in our back and forth life. How do people live? What are the customs in this new land? What are the social graces and faux pas to learn? After a certain amount of time away, each new locale, even one as familiar as my childhood home or as my home in Alaska, feels like a whole new adventure and with that, a whole new learning curve. And so, we investigate, we learn, we stumble a bit, we right ourselves, and eventually, it’s off to the next adventure, the next learnings.

Carlsbad, CA Ranunculus
Learning, growing…hopefully.

California: After landing in California, I had to remember how to drive over 65 miles per hour, and learn traffic patterns (i.e. don’t try to drive between 3 and 6 pm). I re-discovered that Farmer’s Markets happen year-round (wooooohoooo!!!), and that winter has a whole other meaning the farther south you go (hello tank tops in November!).

Pregnant besties
And the joys of being with old friends in new times of life

I felt the sheer joy of being 30 minutes instead of 4-8 hours from a doctor when I needed one and the ease that was everything medical, comparatively. I also remembered how expensive CA life can be and how gratifying creating and sticking to a budget feels.

Alaska: Since my return to Alaska a few weeks ago, I’ve had to re-learn quite a bit as well. Most of my sentences have been littered with “Do you know where X is?” and re-discovering my systems.

Home remodel off-grid Alaska
Or tearing old ones apart

Why did I have empty space there (a luxury no one has)? Oh, right, because it was still “warm” when we left and I was using it as a cool place to store fruit. Now, it’s too cold. Time for the winter version of that space: non-freezable goods. I’ve also had to remember how to walk on slick surfaces (and learn this as a different version of myself who really, reallllllly doesn’t want to fall), how to drive in snow, how to be patient when everything takes longer than expected and…that AK life can be damn expensive as well. There have been lessons aplenty and my knowledge gap is still there but the best thing I’ve remembered from our life here has been neighbors.

Neighbors?

In the last place I stayed in California, my friend had a truly sweet little ‘hood full of best buds within walking distance of one another. They would cruise to one another’s houses to drop off goodies, help one another, play hoops or catch in the street. It was really sweet and also something I personally hadn’t experienced all that often in my life in CA. Don’t get me wrong, I have a super sweet group of friends. We would spend our holidays together, we vacationed together, dropped in on one another when we were close by but…we weren’t super close by. All of us were at least 15 minutes away by car.

Here, I’m footsteps away and boy did I miss walking those paths. In our little ‘hood live three households of our best friends, all within a 3-minute walk of one another. Despite being way out here, we are tucked into a community of close-knit comrades and the intimacy this juxtaposition breeds of being so far away from society yet so close to one another is pretty amazing.

Alaskan Malamute
Lone wolf, not so alone

For instance, right now we have two dogs: our pup Leto and our nephew Kudo. I love that instead of leaving the Valley, little KuKu gets to stay here with us while his pops is working down south. No one expects him to be boarded with people and pups he doesn’t know (not that there’s anything wrong with that and not to say that he wouldn’t be thrilled), we all just pitch in to make sure he’s well taken care of. We will have him for a few weeks and then when we move to Anchorage the next neighbors will start their round of care.

And that’s a huge part of our days here: taking care of one another. Don’t get me wrong, you have to be self-sufficient to survive the 180’s of life in the woods. Yet the hard here also facilitates a closeness, a breaking down of the normal barriers and that builds an intimacy I truly love. Sometimes it’s as small as sending someone home with one of your last pieces of fruit because you know they’re low too or doing loops around your neighbors yard to give them easy access to their house when it’s been snowing and they’ve been out of town. Sometimes it’s as big as your friend snowmachining down a frozen river to your house every day to drywall and paint (and even clean) before you come home. From small to large and every variation in-between of borrowing a cup of sugar to borrowing a vehicle, there’s a closeness here, a softness bred out of the hard.

Winter in Alaska
Probably not borrowing this vehicle though…

Yesterday, while in full-on nesting mode (read: I pulled the entire living room apart and dusted, scrubbed for 8 hours straight) I realized I was down to my last pair of skivvies. Not a good look. It would have taken me hours to get (read: find) our little washer, haul and heat water and get through 10 pairs. Plus, it would have greatly delayed my top to bottom scrub-a-thon. The solution? Neighbors to the rescue! Off I trudged with my bag over my shoulder and our still slightly frozen detergent in hand. 40 minutes and a quick walk-n-talk with my girlfriend later, we returned to her house and a load of laundry, freshly clean. Heaven.

After months of being gone, I still do feel like an anthropologist somedays. I forget that when I suggest we take a Sunday Drive it will mostly consist of me white-knuckling my way through, supporting my bouncing belly as The Chief navigates the icy terrain that are our roads. Not the windows-down-let’s-look-at-(the nonexistent) wildflowers-spring-vibe I was going for. I re-learn not to take power and water and food for granted. I remember just how much dust a woodstove can produce but also how absolutely delicious it is to sit in front of on a chilly morning with a book. Slowly but surely I’m remembering the ways and bringing back with me newfound findings from the exotic Lower 48 (like the fact that oat milk is delicious and a little amount of pampering goes a long way). But my favorite (re-)discovery so far has certainly been our little neighborhood and the neighbors within it. Nestled amongst the trees, tucked into the far away wilderness, lies a closeness I’ve always craved. It’s good to be home.

With love,

From Alaska

Alaskan Malamute
Cozy homebodies