townrun

An Independence Pendulum and a Lady Lynx Meet in the Woods…

My state of independence is a pendulum, often landing in the farthest reaches of either extreme.

I’m trying to quiet the extremes and focus on circling the middle, the compromise in between. Which is why I know that when my gut tells me to do something but my pendulum of independence is starting to sway towards staying in the safe zone that it’s time to push myself.

To others, it may sound trite, even a bit pathetic. I’m o.k. with that. There are things for all of us that come easily that for others are mountains they continuously attempt to climb. Independence is my mountain and extremes are my unexpected avalanches in the mountains. I’ve done a lot of independent things in my life, but I’ve also forgotten myself too, forgotten to trust my gut or to get out of comfort for the sake of expansion or been overly independent just to prove I can despite the damage it may cause. Independence is my mountain.

So, when we came back from Anchorage last time, having not had time for much supply gathering at all (supplies which will ideally last us for the Summer, not just a month or two since both of us will hopefully be working so much that a run to Anchorage will be unlikely, if not impossible and we will have to rely upon the garden, the expensive Summer store and the kindness of others coming in for re-supplies) and planned that on our return trip for The Chief’s post-operation check up we would do all of our errands in one day since we no longer had to come in a day early to drop off the truck for service. Well, I started thinking. One day for everything?

The independence pendulum awoke.

When we were first arriving, about to touch down in Anchorage for the first time together in December we were fleshing out our town plans. The Chief was trying to explain how to strategize, how we had to watch the weather if we bought anything that couldn’t freeze. How we would have to pack and re-pack the truck over and over again and how we would store vegetables versus frozens, etc. etc. It was a lot to take in. “It’s hard to explain, people always have a hard time understanding it”.  I was offended. People? Maybe. Me? Not a chance.

Wrong (though still offended).

I still kept trying to buy perishables, still forgot we would have to unload our haul into the hotel before ending our day lest the weather shift to below freezing. I didn’t quite get it yet, didn’t have my rhythm. I needed The Chief and it bothered me. I wanted to do it all on my own.

Wrong again.

What I really wanted was to feel that I could do it all on my own. A town run with the man of your dreams is way better than going it completely solo, duh. Even if you do both get grumpy at times.

However, there is an independence pendulum compromise: time alone in town. A town run with your partner tends to involve mutual errands. Time alone means time for personal errands. It feels extravagant.

When we got home, well, I got to thinking that we were cutting our town time awfully close. We would leave on a Thursday (get in Thursday night), have a doctor’s appointment and errands all day Friday and leave for home early Saturday. Essentially, we would have one day in town. One day to get all of our supplies and materials for the Summer.

Add to that my wish to pick up some Summer clothing.

You see, my plan when we left in December was to return to California at some point in the Spring in order to cuddle my Mama, hug my friends, greet the Ocean and collect my Summer clothes.

That did not happen. Tickets to California were consistently over $600 and with additional travel costs it just didn’t pan out financially.

So, I was in the woods, with Winter clothes to get me through the Summer. It was less than ideal.

I started scheming. A plan started forming in my heard. We had a car to drive and plenty of friends headed out the same day we had planned to leave. But what if I just left a day earlier? I could get to Anchorage and do all the personal shopping I would have race through if we only had one day. I could wander through a clothing store without a strict agenda, browse if you will. I could stop at a spice shop or purchase some yarn. Pure luxury! Time wouldn’t be of the essence every second of the day and maybe I could even get a few things for the house that we never have the time to collect when we are pressed for time and sanity in town.

I talked to a girlfriend about my blossoming idea. “Oh yea, I love solo town time. You should totally do it”.

The opposite side of independence pendulum kicked in. What about The Chief? He had just had surgery. He needed me, right?

I brought it up to him. “Go for it, babe. That’s probably a really smart idea”.

I was a little miffed. Huh, I guess he doesn’t realize how much he needs me. I mean, what if he has to pump water? He’s not supposed to lift anything. I should probably stay.

I rolled around with the idea but felt that it had come from my gut and therefore, it was a challenge to myself to get out of my comfort zone. I was trying to suppress it but it’s voice just got louder and louder. The Chief would be fine and the fact that I was reticent to take the trip at all meant all the more to me that I indeed needed to do it, not just for necessity, I could find clothes or make something, but to challenge my independence.

I’d made the trip in the Summer completely solo, Costco and all. I even had to finagle ratchet straps to fit a vehicle that didn’t take the straps and tetris-ed the hell out of the car so that it was loaded to the brim. Of course I could go solo, it was simply that I had become accustomed to going with The Chief. To our rhythm, to our process. And honestly, to being more of a passenger and less of a driver. At least in winter. As the Spring sprung and The Chief’s sinuses were constantly being bombarded with surgeries and appointments, I became more of a driver, both literally and figuratively. We figured out our plans together, debated on the best routes and errands line-ups and packing methods. I was involved. This was just another step.

So I did it. I left a day early and thank goodness I did. One, because I got to leisurely peruse a few stores and then together we were able to collect all the Summer supplies and two because on the way out I got to see her.

The Lynx.

The week before, The Chief and I had seen a Lynx, just the tail end of her, fuzzy paws jumping through the brush.

 

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She looked like this…minus most of the snow

 

As I departed a week later, listening to an audiobook and finding my own road trip rhythm again, I suddenly thought of The Lynx. I was almost exactly half-way down the 60 mile pothole riddled dirt road and suddenly, the thought of her hit me like a slap in the face.

I unintentionally slowed down and as I did, there she was.

 

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She jumped into the woods on the driver’s side. I scanned her entrance point to see if I could catch a glimpse as she ran away but I didn’t have to watch her tail end this time. This time she stopped and turned towards me. We watched one another for five minutes. Her silent, me awkwardly complimenting her enormous fuzzy feet and pointed ears. I felt like a bumbling suitor asking out my first date. “Wanna, er, umm, maybe wanna go, umm, like, see like a movie, or no? Or yea?”

 

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Seriously, look at the head to foot comparison. Those things are adorably massive.

 

She gave me one last look and then as soon as our gaze was broken, she became invisible. Completely dissolved into the woods. I felt like I had been in a time warp or an alternate universe, she’d opened a little wormhole and invited me in and clumsily I had accepted, commenting on the drapes or the furniture as we went along.

I continued on my journey, feeling a bit in an honored haze.

 

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Mountains and glaciers and raindrops, oh my!

 

Hours later, when I finally reached (almost) Anchorage and had stopped for my first non-Chief stop (a craft store! Be still my heart) I called a girlfriend I had been missing and we finally got to connect. I told her of Lady Lynx and she immediately looked up the significance of the animal (I love her. Not in a million years would I have remembered to do that. Thank goodness for West County).

The Lynx tells us to listen to our hearts and to trust our instincts. Seeing one is a reminder that we are always expanding, even if it sometimes feels foreign or scary.

Boom!

O.k. okay, I can hear a few grumblings. What’s that woo-woo mumbo jumbo I hear? And I get it, but for one, I grew up in a town where hearing someone comment on another’s aura was commonplace and two, I think there’s always room to look past the obvious and search for a deeper meaning, even if in a sense, it’s self-created. Read a horoscope and have a revelation or perhaps just look at the day a little differently? Good. Nothing is harmed in seeing significance where another might just see a big ‘ol cat and you know what? Neither is correct, neither is wrong. But to me, the magic was just what I needed. She helped me to see the big sky instead of the little road.

 

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The symbolism of the Lynx followed me throughout my town time, all the way to leaving. You see, the night before, we had thought it a great idea to stay up late, eat at a late night diner and head out for a huge trip home the next day. Genius, right? We went to bed with grumbling tummies, cuddled up to try to take away the other’s aches.

It didn’t work.

We both awoke with food poisoning-esque symptoms (fun, huh?). It was a toss-up. Who wants to drive the first stretch? The first stretch means town traffic, errands and winding mountain passes. The second means two stops, the later stretch of a long day and…The Road.

Oh, did I mention that we were also hauling the largest load I’d ever taken? First, the truck itself is an F-350 which I barely fit in followed by two barrels of gasoline (110 gallons plus the two tanks on the truck), about 2,000 feet of fire hose donated to The Chief for the Fire Department and all of our shopping loads plus a friend’s shopping load, a generator and all of our bags. Needless to say, thank goodness the ratchet straps fit on this load. We were packed to the brim. Sideview mirrors only.

I crossed my fingers to get the first half while I simultaneously crossed them for the second since at the moment I felt about ready to vomit at the drop of a hat and I don’t ever vomit, unless I have food poisoning.

The Chief took the first leg of the trip to the Fire Department and we decided we would choose halfs there. We stopped and ogled their shiny new equipment. I turned down coffee and donuts which is a testament to the food poisoning because I’ve never willingly turned down a donut. It was rough. Finally we departed and met up with our girlfriend whom was joining us for the ride. We each did our last perishables run at Fred Meyer, switching out who was watching the truck (while trying not to get blown away by the wind) with who was grocery shopping. We filled our gas drums for what seemed like eternity in the whipping winds that made the mountains hard to see and that almost flung The Chief off the top of the truck as he pumped the gas.

A dramatic start but it was smooth sailing after that.

There’s a time in an 8 hour journey when you switch drivers and then a time right after that (if you haven’t switched) that you decide to just do the whole route solo. We were nearing that crossroads, I could feel it. I was still nauseous and starting to feel the weight of my eyelids when The Chief asked if I was ready to drive. I felt nervous, so I knew it was time.

“Yep!” I answered, trying to convince myself through a peppy response that this was gonna be fun!

Switch we did and after I had created a booster seat out of a loaf of french bread and some Fred Meyer bags we were off. It wasn’t so bad. It was still hard to simultaneously reach the pedals and see over the steering wheel (I’m not sure why I thought I might have grown since last week but I did) but the load wasn’t all that noticeable. It felt good to drive such a burly haul of our supplies in for the Summer and the bringing in of a friend made it feel even more like a journey home. I even sent my older brother a picture. Look at me! (I’ll probably never stop wanting to hear “Wow, good job Sis!” What can I say? I’m a little sis).

Then, we stopped for gas right outside of the rock parting that begins The Road.

“Is there anything I should know about driving this size load on The Road?” I asked The Chief, half hoping he would offer to drive it and half hoping I would have the strength to say no.

He did and so did I. And so, he gave me some pointers:

Slow down way before you need to (oh, great, so hopefully something doesn’t jump out in front of us)

and

Avoid the potholes.

I thought he was going to laugh after the latter comment (the potholes are essentially unavoidable) but he was trying to drive home the importance of keeping a vigilant eye for the big potholes, the ones that could pop a tire (or worse). The gravity of the load weighed on me a bit, which again meant I was doing something I was scared of. Hopefully I would grow from it.

I jumped in the truck and ate poor excuses for the earlier dismissed donuts for sugar courage (we had stopped for coffee again after I had spilled most of my cup on myself after taking the wheel. Nothing quite like that to inspire confidence. The store didn’t have coffee and so, in true Alaska fashion, they brewed me a whole pot). In the cab, munching away, I looked to my girlfriend whom after days in the Lower 48 and waiting for rides in Alaska was probably über ready to get home. “I’m new to driving such a big load, but I’ll go as fast as I can”. Before I could finish my sentence she looked at me calmly and said “You drive exactly how you will feel comfortable. Nothing more”. Yea, I knew I liked her.

The Road took over 3 hours. The potholes were plentiful as were the hidden bumps in the road. I hit a few and missed a few and got away with a truck and load intact. We stopped twice and turned around once to have a beer and catch up with friends we passed on The Road. A few miles from our turn off we dropped off our girlfriend. As we started undoing the load to get to her stuff she came tearing around the corner backwards on a 4-wheeler. Totally badass. She thanked us and shooed us off, she could secure her load herself she said and off we went the last few miles to home.

Down the driveway as we started hitting mud and muck again I worried that we needed the 4-wheel drive. But no sooner than I thought that, I felt the tires hit the tracks of trucks before us and as if drawn in through magnets we shimmied our way through the narrow drive all the way home.

“You got us all the way home in this big ‘ol truck. Nice work, babe” The Chief congratulated me.

I was proud. Proud that I had challenged myself, proud that I had gotten us home and proud to be with someone who pushes me towards my challenges and supports me through them instead of sheltering me from them or taking them on for me.

My challenges may not be yours. They may seem petty or downright ridiculous. Hey, maybe yours would to me too but that would be both of us missing the point. We should serve as a Lynx instead, reminding one another of the strength we all have within to meet our challenges, big and small, head on. We should be my girlfriends, encouraging one another to go for it and at our own pace.

Living out here has put me in a place where I can choose to challenge myself and to boost my independence or to lean on The Chief and sit back while he drives. We all can do it everywhere but I think I personally needed this place, a place where new challenges are so plentiful and so unique on the daily that not taking them would be a life un-lived and a place un-participated in. I would be missing the point but I neede a dramatic place to help me see that.

And so I try to meet my challenges head on. I try to say “yes” to a driving lesson, even if I’m not totally up for it or “yes” to snowmachining across a frozen river because challenges don’t typically come when we are wearing our battle gear, they come when we are in pajamas with tangled hair and sleepy eyes. But sometimes, that’s battle gear enough.

Cheers to the pendulum of independence, to the scary, to the self-expansion and to the challenges.

May we meet them head on…ideally, with helmets.

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Anchor(age)s Away!

Oops, we did it again.

Off to Anchorage for another sinus surgery. Last time we were caught off guard and saddled with hotel bills and food costs we weren’t prepared for. But this time? This time we knew the drill:

Prep the House to Leave for five days (see last week’s post about the serious Spring Cleaning effort that has only just begun). Clean, prep firewood, unplug everything from the battery stash except the fridge (we got a mini fridge!), turn off the propane, water the plants…in general, shut her down.

Secure Places for the Dogs to Stay (we were pup-sitting our nephew dog still). Bring over their beds and foods and bowls (these dogs know the drill better than us. Before we had even hinted to Lou that we were taking her to the neighbors’ house she was already over there the morning we were leaving, getting used to her new digs). Thankfully, in a town full of dog lovers, pup places aren’t too hard to find, especially when they are such good watchdogs.

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All four corners covered.

Head into town the day before the pre-op appointment and settle into our hotel.

Pre-Op Appointment day followed by errands.

Operation Day: Head into surgery with The Chief until they roll him off. Pick up medications and any last-minute comforts during The Chief’s surgery. Take him back to the hotel to rest and recover and then head out for more errands like laundry and Costco, etc.

Required Recovery Day. The hospital asked that we stay in town as long as possible in order to tell if any complications were going to arise. The most they could buckle The Chief down for was one day. More errands.

Last but not Least (Most Important, in Fact): Leave: spend the day driving home, doing last-minute grocery shopping and pick-ups for friends and then home to the pups and the cabin.

Easy-peasy!

Right?

I say this every time but still I am like Dory from “Finding Nemo”- I forget constantly that planning in Alaska is like swimming upriver with a weighted vest. It’s doable but not that enjoyable and in the end it makes more sense to ride the tide.

But I didn’t. We knew the drill but this is how the drill actually played out:

To start:

Alaska has some pretty amazing health coverage, especially when you happen to fall into the Denali Care bracket. Since many people in the state (like us) live in The Bush, getting into town for a surgery or doctor’s appointment can be a real financial hardship. The last town trip for us was a seriously unexpected depletion of funds. It was like our pockets and pocketbooks developed holes in them.

So this time, since we knew we were heading in, we were able to get coverage from Denali Care. They would take care of the hotel (something that could have been covered last time had we known we would have to stay) as long as it was Medicaid approved and they would provide a meal stipend.

This was some seriously good news. So, we set about finding a hotel. Easy, right?

Geez.

Wrong again.

We didn’t realize that the Native Youth Olympics were taking place and everywhere we called was booked. Finally we found a hotel that said they took Medicaid. We checked and re-checked with them. Are you sure? It would be a real bummer to drive 8 hours and be turned away. They agreed. It would.

It was.

After traveling the 60 mile dirt road (which takes hours to complete and is riddled with signs suggesting you don’t travel it and if you do to pack survival gear and let people know you are leaving. A little ominous, eh?) in a huge truck which seemed to hit even more bumps that were even on the road, pothole after pothole after pothole followed by more potholes, we were happy to hit the pavement for the next 6 hours. We showed up around 7:30pm, tired from the trip and both starting to feel a cold coming on but excited by the nice hotel (pools, dogs allowed! Next stay they were coming with) and great location, only to be told that they in fact did not take Medicaid and that someone (someone who had checked and doubled checked) had been wrong.

O.K.

They were able to send us to a sister hotel which I ended up being even more pleased about because it was right next to Natural Pantry (think Whole Foods) and the movie theater. I squealed with delight! Score! Now we can eat healthy food and get supplements to stave off this cold.

Wait.

They only had room for us for one night. And, they didn’t have food for us. We would have to go across town to see if we could be served and by now it was already 9pm. Tired and hungry we decided to forgo finding food and ordered in while we spent the whole night calling other hotels, hoping for something to be available which took Medicaid. The next day was the Pre-op appointment and the following day was surgery. I wanted The Chief to be settled and cozy before going under again, not up in the air and stressed.

Finally we found a local Medicaid help center that gave us a list of hotels to call. They suggested one that people “really like” which turned out to have space. Alrighty, things are starting to get better.

Right?

The next day (starting to feel even more sick than the day before) before the Pre-op we went to check out of the second hotel only to find that they needed to keep our Medicaid original voucher for their paperwork.

We needed the original voucher for our next hotel.

Luckily, at the Pre-op appointment they were able to create a new “original” for us. Alright, back on track. We went to the doctor, talked to the surgeon and the nurses and got our heads in the game for surgery. The surgeon told us that we would need to come back for screenings 2-3 times per year but that if we suddenly were dropped from Medicaid or weren’t able to pay that he would make sure we were still seen. Things were looking up.

We arrived at our third hotel in two days (both coughing and sneezing and incessantly blowing our noses) only to be greeted by a seedy scene. Seedy bars? Yes, please. I love dive bars. Seedy places to sleep? Not my favorite. Seedy places to recover from surgery? Not my first choice for my love. Things were looking down again.

We checked in with a front desk agent who was simultaneously talking on two phones, training an employee and checking us in while checking another guest out. Hectic doesn’t quite meet the feeling head on. We carried our luggage up the concrete stairs (a bit of a danger for a groggy post-op Chief tomorrow, I thought) since there was no elevator and keyed into our room.

You know when you enter a room and immediately get a bad feeling? Yup. Me too.

It was dingy and dark and right against 5th avenue. Big hauling trucks flew by. It was loud to say the least. The bed was stiff and scratchy and I immediately felt my skin start to crawl. I’ve stayed in seedy motels by myself on long road trips just to save money but I had been prepared for it (see: brought a blanket and pillow from home). We had walked straight into this one. It had been recommended. I wouldn’t have recommended it if I was paid to do so.

The Chief is a trooper and settled in to just deal with it. I, on the other hand, was not having it. This was not a place to relax and heal. This was a place to throw down one’s bags and leave for all other time but for sleep. I swear, I’m not a prissypants. This place just had bad ju-ju and dirty feelings all around it. I started making calls. We didn’t know if the day had already been recorded with Medicaid in which case we would have to spend money for a new hotel (and also go back again to the doctor’s office and ask for yet another voucher) but at that point I didn’t care. This was not the place we were staying.

Finally, we found a place. The place we had stayed last time. The place we probably should have just called all along.

We checked out of the Seedy McSeedface (name inspired by Boaty McBoatface) motel (Medicaid thankfully hadn’t gone through yet) and repacked the truck for the sixth time and headed over to the new hotel. They had a restaurant on site so we could finally use some of our meal vouchers (all of the others were off site so I would have to drive to them for breakfast and lunch and after days of errands, feeling awful and caring for a sick post-surgery partner, convenience was key) and I knew the area well after spending an unexpected week in the area last month.

Ahhhhh, a sigh of relief. We still needed to book a hotel for the Post-op appointment a week later so we booked ourselves a room there. No more risks. No more trials. Finally, we were settled.

It was already late in the day, around 5pm at this point. We had done some errands earlier in the day but after waking up über early the last few days and losing sleep and stamina from all of the jostling about and sneaking in sicknesses neither of us were feeling well enough for much more than a movie. We settled in for the night and got ready for surgery the next day.

We awoke at 6am to get to the surgery center before 7:30. Surgery was scheduled to start at 9am. Finally by 10am, after waiting for 2.5  hours in his gown, The Chief was rolled into surgery. I went off to start getting any last odds and ends he might need. Tissues and distilled water for sinus flushes, yogurt and of course, medications. But, surprise! The nurses assured me that they could make that easier. They would have the prescriptions brought over to surgery. Amazing! Too good to be true?

Yup.

They faxed over the prescriptions the doctor had given me.

One was misspelled and had to be re-sent.

They came and gathered the originals and got new ones.

Then they faxed those and returned the scripts to me for safekeeping.

I left.

They called.

The fax didn’t go through.

I drove back.

Parked the huge truck yet again. Ran back to the building again. They faxed them again. I left. Again.

No sooner had I driven all the way back to the hotel and made about ten trips from the parking lot to the room to take all of the contents out of the truck (think 30 lbs. of laundry and bags of ammo and other heavy errand items) in order to make plenty of room for a groggy Chief to puddle into when I got a call from the surgery center. The meds were there but they needed the original prescriptions to be shown in order to collect them. Could I pop in (why hadn’t they just kept them there?)? The Chief was still in surgery but they needed me to come by now. I had more errands to run before getting him but they said I needed to be there so I left.

I told them I was on my way, maybe 15 minutes out. About 5 minutes before I arrived they called to say that instead I needed to just go to the pharmacy because they had left with the meds instead of waiting.

I get it. They are busy. But I could have just picked these up at Walgreens anytime.

This was supposed to be the easier route. I should have known. Planning. Dory brain.

O.k. so now I need to park at the pharmacy. The local University is having a game or a show or a something that is borrowing all of the parking at the pharmacy except for one lot. Cars are circling like vultures around a carcass. There’s no humanity here. I circle and circle and circle. Like a doodler on the phone. 30 minutes later and just as I am about to say “screw it” and park illegally (because the surgery department has called 10 minutes prior and said that The Chief is out of surgery and asking for you) and a spot opens up. I hurriedly run inside and collect the prescriptions (I’ve already paid the $1.oo co-pay over the phone. $1.00!). I run back outside only to see a lot full of open parking spaces.

What in the…?

It doesn’t matter, it’s time to speed off back to the surgery center and pick up my love. The surgeon comes by, happy with his work and with The Chief’s progress. All of the nurses comment on how tough he is and that he hasn’t agreed to or asked for any pain meds yet (but giving me the look like “you need to convince him to take some or he’s going to be in a world of pain in a few minutes, thank you”. I mean, he did just have his face drilled into, again). About thirty minutes later (twenty more than I was supposed to park in the Surgery Pick-Up lane, whoops!) The Chief climbs into the truck and off we go.

Recovery time.

For both of us.

My cold has turned into a full-blown yuck-fest and both The Chief and I are down for the count. I am able to take care of him but not like I would like to. We both rest in bed as yet another day of errands goes to waste.

The next day The Chief is up and at ’em (as much as one can be and probably more than one should be post-surgery) and I am down and out, feverish and exhausted. The minimum amount of errands that must be done before we leave the next day are laundry and washing the truck. The truck is going in for service and clothes, well, it’s good to have clean ones to wear. Finally, I work up the energy and (after almost leaving without half of the laundry due to having Foggy Cold Head Syndrome) head to the laundromat nearby that I’ve found online.

I arrive to a vacant lot.

Oh. Apparently it no longer exists.

I find a self car wash (since the truck likely won’t fit through an automated one and I don’t want to be the one to test it out. Plus, after hauling garbage for last week’s clean-up, it needs some TLC, or at least some hands-on soap).

I promptly spray myself in the face with the soap hose. Off to a good start.

People start lining up behind me and then just as quickly, as if I have a sign that says “Seriously, I am moving at turtle pace today. Please, please, pick another lane.” they move to another stall to wait. In between blowing my nose and sneezing triplets the truck is finally clean enough and off I go to find a laundromat.

Laundromat found.

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My co-pilot mountain of washables almost took over the entire cab

Washers-a-plenty and…not enough quarters and no cash.

Ugh.

I put in as many loads as I can and stumble out into the city to find cash-back somewhere. I look a mess. Watering eyes and a red puffy snotty nose. A vision of sickness in motion, if you will.

Finally, I’m stocked up on quarters like a slot winner in Vegas and a few hours and seventy tissues later, the laundry is done. Thankfully, I got in there before the crowd hit. Who knew that laundry was a popular Friday night activity?

“Not I”, said the fly.

Beyond ready to get back to the hotel and into bed I remember a birthday present that I have yet to get The Chief. It took me three phone calls and some fancy footwork to track down. I am not missing this opportunity. I park at the hotel and walk (see:hobble) to the nearby store that has just what I am looking for. 30 minutes later and I’m back at the hotel ordering dinner that I will later walk (see: crawl) down from our room and pick-up. Almost done for the day.

A few minutes later, an angel of a friend comes by offering to let us borrow his car so we can drop the truck off the next day instead of next week when we come in for the Post-op appointment. This means we can spend one extra day at home with the dogs (and one extra day that we don’t have to find them puppy-sitters) before turning around again for the appointment. And, it means a much smoother ride over the pothole laden 60 miles of dirt and rock which, for someone just out of surgery, is a big deal. We are so grateful.

I realize that we will need a permit for the car so I call the front desk and let them know we have another car to add to the permitted cars with us.

You need to come down.

I almost cry.

I am so tired. My face feels like it’s in a vice. I am sweating and shivering all at once.

O.k. I’m coming right now.

Great, I’ll have the paperwork all ready for you.

I make my way down.

No one.

Not a soul is around. My fever is up again and simply standing upright is a chore I’m not sure I can check off the list for much longer. I head outside to sit and wait.

Finally, someone arrives. I explain again what’s happening and finally get the new permits, head to the parking lot and place the permits in both cars, keycard back into the building and finally, finally get into bed. It’s 10pm and I am pooped.

The next day is departure day. The Chief, not having felt much pain the last two days is suddenly in pain (probably because although he isn’t supposed to lift anything he is helping me to load the car and move over laundry etc. from the truck to the borrowed car). He is a trooper. We head to drop off the truck at the mechanic’s and find that despite it being a Saturday, he is in. He lived in our town back when it was even more like The Wild West and has stories for days. We both are starving and tired already with grocery shopping and an 8 hour drive ahead of us but hearing someone with such nostalgia for the place we love keeps us for an hour before we have to excuse ourselves lest it be nightfall before we leave town.

Finally, we leave. I shop on our way out, a few groceries and odds and ends that end up taking an hour to complete, get gas and we are off.

The signs of home start to come. The mountains. The rivers. The lakes. Your favorite turn-outs or vistas. The glaciers. The gas station with the familiar faces welcoming us back from the big city. The 60 mile road. Our turn-off and finally, our puppies. We stop at the neighbors’ house to collect them and despite being exhausted and sick, it is so good to catch up with the ones we love, both furry and human.

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It must be rainy season. Miss Lou’s coat, looking like a porcupine.

A little while later and we are finally home to a cold but cozy cabin. The Chief builds a fire as I bring in our haul from town, load after load, wading though the muddy muck outside that weeks ago was feet of snow. Spring is here and so is the rain and with it the muddy season. But, thanks to being in town, we now both have rain coats to shoulder the season.

Unpacking finished and groceries settled away and it is finally time to rest in our own house, in our own bed, under our own sheets with two furry family members downstairs to greet us in the morning.

The next town trip looms in the future but for now, we are tucked into the woods, warmed by a fireplace, surrounded by mountains, blanketed by rivers and rocked to sleep by raindrops.

Oh home, how I have missed you.

The Three Amigos Leave Anchorage (The Final Installment)

Monday morning: surgery time.

Surgery is amazing. They put you under, do their thing (or thang, if you prefer), wake you up and send you away. Maybe call you again or see you again for a check-up and boom! You’re better.

That’s the ideal. And don’t get me wrong, the surgery went great and I am so grateful that we have made scientific advancements enough for it to have been an option for us…but I really don’t like surgery.

Watching your person go under and then just waiting, not knowing what is happening to them, is something I’ve done twice before (with my Mama) and something I hope not to do again. It’s a powerless feeling. I don’t know these people. They don’t know that they are operating not on a person but on my world.

Are your scalpels sharpened? Did you have just enough coffee this morning? Did you wash your hands correctly? Remember to remove all your tools from his sinuses? What if he wakes up in the middle of it? Is he warm enough?

This is my person.

I know nothing about what it is to be a doctor, but I do know that human error, no matter the field, exists. That thought plagued me for the next few hours.

This little worry-wort had planned to wait in the lobby and pace like a caged big cat for the next few hours until the nurses promised they would call me about anything and everything and basically shoved me out the door.

Fine.

So I headed outside only to remember that leaving held with it a whole other slew of worries.

You see, we never planned on The Chief becoming incapacitated and me having to drive.

“Drive?” You ask.

“What’s wrong with driving? You’re an excellent driver!”

Why thank you (and I couldn’t agree more). The thing is (again) I’m from California. I’ve been to The Snow (as in Lake Tahoe) but I’ve never driven in it. Anytime I’ve ever had the option to drive it I’ve always been with more seasoned snow-drivers and so they’ve taken the wheel. In retrospect, I wish I would have been more adamant about learning then because now I was faced with the icy streets of Anchorage.

But hey, The Chief gave me some pointers and we have 4-wheel drive and the streets aren’t that bad. Basically it’s like having training wheels for snow driving, double training wheels even.

I’ve got this.

Oh yea, I forgot to add that the vehicle I’m driving is (to put it correctly) a big ‘ol truck. I have to jump a little to get in and, to make me feel really grown up and in control, I have to take all the books we just bought and put them under my buns and all the jackets in the truck and  put them behind my back in order to see over the steering wheel and reach the pedals.

Yup. I’m an adult. With a booster seat.

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Ok, I’ve still got this under control.

Now, let’s get real. First thing is first: pancakes. I love pancakes more than anyone I’ve ever met (and if I ever meet someone who loves them as much as me or more I can’t wait, because we are going to be best friends) and in times like these, the only thing that is going to make me feel better are:

a. a call to my Mama

b. pancakes. a full stack.

Lucky for me, The Chief had suggested Middle Way Cafe as a place to get soup for him for post-op and from the moment I walked in, my little hippie tummy knew we would be in good hands.

A stack of multi-grain blueberry pancakes, soup to go and a call to the Mom later and I was almost able to forget to worry. Almost.

I went to the pharmacy to get the rest of The Chief’s meds. They didn’t have them. I started off for another just as the hospital called.

He’s ready.

I rushed to the second pharmacy and grabbed the remaining supplies and raced back.

They had told me before the surgery that I would be able to see him immediately in recovery. I got there only to be told I’d have to wait a bit. Good thing I rushed.

Resume prior plan of big cat pacing. Panther pacing, that rings right.

But again, my mind was taken away as I opened an email with a link to my hometown newspaper. I clicked and my jaw dropped as I saw my girlfriend’s house (a place she was gracious enough to share with me when my ex and I broke up and I had nowhere to move) bisected by a redwood tree (it turns out there was actually more than one).

It made me want to gather all of my people under one roof. Could everyone I love just be safe and sound, please? I tried to reach her but couldn’t and so I called a friend of ours to see what had happened and what I could do but in the middle of our call the front desk lady came to me – I was finally allowed to see The Chief.

My love was groggy and a bit bloodied but doing amazingly well. I received a myriad of instructions, do’s and don’ts and definitely don’ts and before I knew it we were out the door and headed back to the homestead (our hotel).

There’s nothing quite like being able to take care of someone when they need you. Making soup from scratch. Warms cloths on their forehead. Getting their cozy jammies ready, tucking them into fresh sheets and putting on a movie.

Being in a hotel room was not like that.

I heated the restaurant made soup in the microwave, fluffed the foreign to us pillows and tucked in my babe without cozies. Nothing was on TV (is there ever anything on?). I took a a trip for supplies and dinner…

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Taking in the sights of a supplies walk. Melting ice sculptures from a competition downtown.

After which I was able to upgrade us a little bit with the help of an HDMI cable and new pajamas, though we couldn’t get the HDMI working until  11pm, and with me running back and forth between the laundry every thirty minutes and Iditarod partiers hooping and  hollering, it wasn’t exactly what the doctor ordered. But, trooper that he is, The Chief rolled with it well.

With massive amounts of laundry done the only things left to do were collect the remainder of The Chief’s meds (a misprinted prescription sent us into an insurance whirlwind but with a lot of help it all worked out) and grocery shop.

No biggie, right?

{Begin ominous soundtrack}

Our third amigo came with me to Costco so I wouldn’t have to pack and unpack alone, but in Costco it’s every man for his own shopping list (and since we hadn’t been to Town since December our list was as long as I am tall). There are two sides to Costco: booze and food. In your planning, you decide which is first depending on how you are packing your rig (which after two days of driving, I was feeling much more confident in…but still short). Booze first? In our case, yes. We would fill up the many side compartments of the truck and leave the bed for food.

Well, about $500 later we went back out to the truck and started loading the first round. Thirty minutes later we were back at the Costco doors.

Shopping for food for the next few months alone is a mental exercise in restraint, splurging and balancing. You see, you always return home wishing you would have bought that thing you debated on (yes, you really do want those olives). But the thing is, when your person is with you, you have a little sounding board, your decisions come easier and (at least at the time) feel valid. Alone, it’s a whole different ballgame. But this time I decided to go in armored up with the intention of leaving with truly everything we needed, even if I was going to have a minor heart episode at check out. I took off my jacket to prepare for the warm indoors and set it in reaching distance for when I got to the dairy aisle. I was ready.

About an hour and 20,000 decisions later (how much do I need this to be organic? $5 extra much? Do we have mayo?  I swear we did…Toilet paper! Almost forgot) we were in line (I had two shopping carts). For some reason, all the people in the store with 5 items or less started lining up behind me. I was in a daze and didn’t realize they were there  until the checker started calling them all ahead of me.

Ten minutes later, it was finally my turn.

Check out time.

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Baskets and baskets and baskets…

The bagger/boxer cracker her knuckles, took a deep breath and jumped right in. We had a game plan. Perishables together, non-perishables together. Box ’em up, box ’em out. Another ten minutes and ten banana boxes full and we were out of there. People were staring.
“Having a party this weekend, little lady?!”

You better believe it. At this point I’m feeling so close to being home that every moment is a celebration.

Thirty minutes later and the game of packing Tetris complete we finally leave Costco $1100 poorer but smiling all the way.

We return to The Chief and it starts…that sinking feeling you get when you feel a little sickness coming on.

Stage 1: Denial

Stage 2: Raid the medicine cabinet (or in our case, take your multivitamin and a dropper full of GSE and hope for the best).

Stage 3: Cross those fingers and toes

We all awoke in the morning beyond ready to leave but there was still the packing off all the supplies back into the truck which always takes longer than planned. Parked right next to a No Parking sign we played packing Tetris again (high scorers!) and finally, we were off.

The last stops between us and home:

Fred Meyer in Palmer (Safeway, essentially): For any last perishables that Costco didn’t have…maybe even some fresh herbs?

and

Fred Meyer Gas: To fuel up our barrels from home

Once you leave Palmer, you are basically home. You still have 6-8 hours before you actually arrive, but it’s the last taste of a city you’ll have for months and boy does that feel good.

I shopped again, we Tetris-ed again, loaded ourselves in again and we were off. Homeward bound (oh, I love that movie!).

Despite Doctors orders, The Chief drove the entire way home. Once you’re on a roll on the road it’s hard to stop. Our Third Amigo plagued with the Anchorage Ick too (and worse than me) got sicker and sicker as the drive wore on. I was still in the denial/taking supplements (of which I had loaded up in Palmer) stages but feeling worse as every mile flew past. Two more stops for fuel and last bits at the country store and we finally took our turn off down our 60-mile driveway home.

Finally home (again, against Doctor’s orders) The Chief, our Third Amigo and I unloaded box after box after box into our little house. As I leaned behind the seat to grab perishables, my headlamp fell onto my nose right as I hit my head into the window and cracked my nose.

“Ouch! I just cracked my nose…”

I realized that I was saying this to someone who had just had surgery two days before (like I’ve said before, I’m not the pain threshold bad-ass in this family).

We divided up items for our Third Amigo to haul home across the river and bid one another adieu for the night.

Inside, the house was mayhem. Feeling the sickness creeping further and further into reality I was ready to call it a night and start again in the morning but The Chief (thanks a lot prescribed steroids) was ready to organize! So we did and I’m glad because even organized, we had basically brought half of Anchorage back with us. The house was packed to the gills with goodies. I was so excited that I could barely sleep because I couldn’t decide what it was I would eat first in the morning.

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Oh, the bounty. The ebb and flow of eating begins…

Tucked into cozy fresh sheets, with jammies and homemade (Meyer!) lemon tea we settled in for the night. The trip was finally over. We were home.

I could finally take real care of The Chief. He could finally rest. I would cut the wood and make the meals and pamper the patient back into health. Finally he could start the post-surgery process right.

Right?

Ha! Wrong. I woke up feeling terrible the next day. He chopped the wood. He made the fire. He fed me and cared for me and pumped me up to be able to head to work (it was too late to call in sick and after being gone for so much longer than planned, I really needed the money).

You’d think by now I would finally realize that to make a plan out here is to shoot yourself in the foot but no, not yet. I planned and it failed but lucky for me I have a partner in crime.

Throughout this week he’s been told to rest, he’s checked in on me, made me tea and food and tickled my back. After everyone telling me how lucky The Chief was to have me, it turns out I was the lucky one…but I already knew that. We both are lucky.

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And so, despite playing my nurse, The Chief is healing up well. And in spite of staying longer than planned and spending more than hoped we are happy. Happy to be home and happy to have found home in one another.

Hey, there’s nothing like a town trip to bring you closer.

And there’s nothing like coming home to rainbow fireplaces and our favorite pup.

Home sweet home.

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The Three Amigos Hit Anchorage (and Anchorage Hits Back)

When you live in “The Bush”, as we do, there is a cyclical rhythm to your wants and a constant balancing between your wants and your needs. Ice cream may sound delicious but not at the price of an 8 hour drive into town. Ta-Da! Balanced.

When you are fresh off the highway from a Town Run you are so happy to be home that no convenience of modern life could sway you to return. But the erosion of that stance sneakily begins the moment you return. For me, the rhythm of wants and the balance between want and need concerns items and actions that are threefold.

List of Things I Lust for While Living in the woods:

#1: FOOD

Freshly returned from town you are flush. You have fresh fruits and vegetables (although only heartier fruits and vegetables since a sweet peach will likely perish on the trip in, while fruit like apples and veggies like carrots and broccoli are sturdy road dogs) all of your pantry staples are stocked and you even have the special extras like good chocolate and maybe a bottle of nice wine (if you didn’t get too overwhelmed and just say “screw it” when you looked at your non-necessities list, yea we organize them that way). Heck, you might even have fresh herbs (I think I just heard a chorus of angels sing “Hallelujah!”).

At first you eat vegetables at every meal. Then the cooler that serves as our refrigerator starts getting a little sparse. You can see the bottom. So you slow it down. You opt for two pieces of lettuce on a sandwich instead of four, you chop the vegetables finer so you use less and feel like you have more and you might even break into the frozen stock in order to slow the depletion of fresh.

But then, the cold snap of weather you’re experiencing (20 below) breaks and it starts to heat up (30 above). The cooler starts to warm even though you place it in front of the door by the draft to cool it via the winter air. The water bottles you put outside at night to freeze to keep the refrigerator cold don’t freeze as quickly and suddenly…

The produce starts to turn.

Now it’s go time. You question yourself. Why did you wait so long to eat it? Why did you pace yourself? Now you’re in a race against spoil. So you get to preserving and eating and sharing. We all know the feeling out here of bringing a salad to a potluck and watching time stop. Tummies stand still. Could it be? Greens? (Cue those angels).

Eventually the produce party ends. You eat your last apple, you commence the carrot countdown and the idea of salad is something you only dream of in potluck fantasies. The only fresh thing left is growing in your living room, but hey, in the middle of nowhere every little bit counts.

 

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My babies…

 

At this point you are at the mercy of your friends. Thankfully, they are merciful. But when someone is coming in from town, fresh items are the hardest to ask for. It’s not a simple 24-pack of beer that can be thrown in the bed of the truck. You question how necessary items are. You estimate: Do they have room in the cooler or the cab? Left out, the produce will freeze. It’s equivalent to asking someone to go to a specific store for a specific bottle of wine that needs to stay at a certain temperature during transport (after they’ve already performed the task 100 times for themselves). But that’s what friends are for and so for a few weeks you are supplied with just enough eggs and carrots to feel like you’re warding off the scurvy until the next time when you are the friend going to town.

#2: SHOWERS

For the first ten days when we returned in December our shower was not functioning. We had purchased an oven in town and it had taken over the original shower area and so we had to move everything around to find its new place beneath the stairs.

Real talk: The shower had been an item of high anticipation for me. For months I tried to comprehend via diagrams and explanations from The Chief how this whole indoor shower minus indoor plumbing was going to work. I wouldn’t say it was an issue of comprehension but more of denial. As much as I love food, I love showers, and that’s a lot. Due to the drought in California I had significantly reduced my water use but I still would shower near daily and fully enjoy my short time with my sudsy self. In the summer in Alaska we had an outdoor shower that could get a little chilly or buggy but was pretty amazing nonetheless. We used it almost daily. But when I asked The Chief how often people shower in the woods in the winter and he replied “Oh, every ten days or so” I nearly fell off my high horse and bumped my shampooed head on the way down. What?!

Extreme cold I’ve never experienced? Bring it on.

Removing myself from family and friends? Ok, I’ll miss them but at least I can still call them and connect.

Being in a town in the middle of nowhere cut off from civilization? I’m game.

But a shower in a bucket every 10 days or so? No thank you.

*It should be noted that having a shower in your house in the woods is not a given. It didn’t take me long to realize that I had gotten extremely lucky by having any sort of running water at all (and hot water at that).

Eventually with some quick construction a la The Chief the shower found it’s home beneath the stairs and as long as I refilled the tote reservoir I could shower every day if I liked. But it turns out that every day is simply not feasible here, at least not for me. You just don’t have the time. The house needs to be warm enough so that you aren’t freezing in your little tote tub. The water has to be filled (and that can take a whole day, remember?) Plus, do you really have the time to let your hair dry? Go outside and it turns into icicles (you’re quickest route to a haircut if you’re too handsy). It’s a process I couldn’t have totally understood until I went through it but now it makes a lot more sense.

And so we resort to daily cat baths and to showers as often as we can. This voice of shower apathy doesn’t sound like me, yet it is because by the end of a long work day the idea of getting water, heating the house, setting up the shower, blocking off the upstairs for anyone else (goodness forbid if you forget something you need for your shower up there), showering, disconnecting and draining the shower and air drying wet hair can sound like a whole other work day and you decide you’re just not that dirty.

And for months that is fine. But eventually the idea of a real shower starts creeping in. You start daydreaming about suds-ing up with the water still running. Luxury at its prime. And so, as your food starts to dwindle, you start to plan for that shower…maybe even a bubble bath.

#3: EATING OUT

The last thing I lust for in the woods is the joy of going out to eat. It’s the thing I miss the least but it’s still in the top three because although it’s an entirely unnecessary luxury, it’s a luxury just the same. You see, when you live in The Bush you make everything you eat. Except for the occasional potluck or dinner invite your three meals a day (who am I kidding, we rarely fit in three but at least two, with snacks is feasible) are yours to create along with the dishes that come with them. In some ways it’s one of my favorite things about living out here. I know my food. I know what it contains (for the most part) and I know how it was prepared.

But there are times when no one wants to cook and the idea of recreating the pasta wheel just isn’t the experiment you are up for. Carrots in pasta? Should be good, right? (Ok, it was, but that’s not the point). Sometimes you just want to sit back and enjoy a meal without having to cook it or clean it. Sometimes you want to order a drink at a bar that has ice in it instead of snow (and is at a bar instead of your living room).

And so between the food and the showers and eating out, the town lust starts to creep in.

In reality, if you stop to think about it, you don’t really want to go. It’s just lust, nothing real. To leave you’d have to leave the house to freeze (meaning take out everything that can’t freeze and drain all water), you’ll have to find hotels that take dogs or ask your neighbor (her uncle) to watch your pup (meaning you also have to be away from her) and then, you have to scrounge up the money for the trip to resupply.

 

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No, I think I’d rather stay with this little lady.

 

When you stack all these needs against the wants of fresh produce, showers and eating out they pale in comparison and so you wait again for the next friend to come in and put off town for another stretch…

Until you no longer can.

You see, sometimes, town has a plan for you.

In our case, this plan was enacted via a sinus infection. The Chief has had a sinus infection since the second week we came home. Tough as he is, it’s been tougher to get him to a doctor. And so, after one round of antibiotics with little results we finally (meaning The Chief finally had time off from work and I finally could convince him to leave) decided it was time to put our heads down and head into town.

A Town Run (cue the ominous music).

But this time was different.

We were actually getting a little bit excited instead of totally weary of the idea of the big city. We would see the doctor, go to the dentist, shop and leave. Bing bam boom! Take care of things, get in some good shower time, eat out and leave. Our friend even decided to come along and it ended up we would be there the week of the Iditarod start (though we would leave on the day of the ceremonial start). Still, a quick Wednesday to Saturday trip was exactly what we needed. Three amigos on an adventure.

 

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Uno. Dos. Tres. Vamanos!

 

Spirits were high and pockets were full (with enough cash at least to last the few days). We all kept remarking that we surprised by feeling excited to go to town. Fur Rondy was happening (a pre-Iditarod event) so we all brought any fur we owned (thanks to Miss K-Po I had an Arctic Fox stole to parade around in) and prepared for a few days of fun and function mixed into one.

 

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Sidenote: Yes, California, I hear you gasping. Fur?! The thing is, fur here is like an insulated rain jacket from REI in the lower 48. It’s what you wear because it’s the best way to handle the elements. Fur is what has been used since people first inhabited this place and it beats anything synthetic. No, I haven’t suddenly become PETA’s worst nightmare, I’m not sporting a mink bikini and chasing down polar bears but my ideas about fur have shifted as I’ve seen people’s need for and appreciation of it throughout this winter.

Ok, back to town. We prepared for fun.

 

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Even the six foot ceilings in the hotel couldn’t keep us down

 

And it was fun. We went out to eat and out to drink, watched toilets flush and showers stream, saw friends from home and made new friends. We were even surprised with the gift of a sunset helicopter ride over the city and the water from our third Amigo (muchas gracias, senor!)

 

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Bouncy equals blurry.

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The view from the bird.

 

Two days into our trip and one dentist appointment down, we had one doctors appointment to go and a half day left to shop. Then we were home free. We made our way to the hospital. The appointment was at 9:30 so we had waited to eat. It wouldn’t take long. A new round of stronger antibiotics and we would be on our way to breakfast, right?

Wrong.

You see, when you live in the woods your pain tolerance seems to start to skew. The Chief had been dealing with this infection for almost three months with no more than Advil to calm the pain. He didn’t even complain, he would just close his eyes and take a deep breath as the swelling and pain would visibly go up and down (Disclaimer: I may live in the woods but my pain perception is straight on and my need for a kissed boo-boo is intact. I’m not that tough yet). The doctor couldn’t believe he had been able to last this long with this bad of an infection. She sent us for a CT Scan and before we knew it…

“Can you stay until Monday?” (It was Friday, we were set to leave in the morning, post-shopping).

“Not really. Why?”

“We’re going to need you to stay until Monday. You need surgery. There’s no way we can safely send you back to The Bush with just antibiotics. The bones in your face could break from the pressure of the infection at any moment. You are literally a ticking time bomb. We are surprised you’ve made it this long without incident.”

Oh joy.

So much for in and out with antibiotics.

That morning, on our way to the hospital while planning just what and where exactly I would eat that day I had thought to myself:

“Thank you world for letting us get through this trip without bumps.”

A lot of times, people end up in Anchorage much longer than planned. A car breaks down or needs more work than planned or some other surprise arises and suddenly a three day trip turns into two weeks. I was so thankful that hadn’t happened.

I guess I thanked too soon.

The requested stay until Monday turned into Wednesday (and a quick appointment turned into leaving at 3pm, starving). They couldn’t just operate and let him leave. Potential adverse effects of the surgery would show up within 24-72 hours so they begged us to stay the week and do a post-op appointment before we left.

The week?!

We had budgeted to be here for four days. Our friend had budgeted to be here for four days. It’s not like he could just rent a car and drive home. There aren’t any rental returns anywhere nearby nor is there public transportation to our home. No one we knew was headed back into town. I was supposed to go back to work (I got a job – cue the celebratory trumpets – which I was now missing – cue the sad trombone). Our whole world was turned upside down within minutes. Things were going a little off course. But what did I expect? This is Alaska after all, the Laugh at You State when you try to make plans.

Besides, The Plan doesn’t really matter. Not when a doctor tells you your boyfriend’s face is an infection’s playground ready to blow. And so we buckled down and settled in for the stay. We compromised to leave Wednesday to give us enough time (hopefully) to notice any adverse effects from the surgery and to let The Chief recover enough to make the long trip back home (the pressure changes throughout the drive certainly pose a bit of a treat for him and the thought of driving in snow for the first time in my life on an Alaskan highway was a sweet surprise for me).

Bright Side Benefits:

Because of the extended stay we did get to see the Iditarod ceremonial start. I love puppies as much as I love pancakes (puppies, food and showers and I’m pretty much set for life, oh and The Chief too, please).

 

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A little something for Norway

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Booties for the babes

 

…and we did get to see the Running of the Reindeer (think Running of the Bulls in snow… with reindeer).

 

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We did get to keep flushing toilets and taking showers and ordering in.

We did get to go to a carnival too (though The Chief couldn’t ride anything for fear of face break).

 

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Never did I think I’d attend a carnival (rides and all) in the snow. Brrr metal seats.

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Right outside the hotel

 

The thing is though, the sparkle of town wears off in a few days, sometimes faster, no matter how many puppy pancakes you get (and especially when your face becomes a medical anomaly). Anchorage Angst is the expedited way to explain what starts to happen the longer you are here.

Here’s the long version (and it isn’t a slam against Anchorage at all, it’s just the juxtaposition of living in the woods and getting stuck in the big city versus choosing to be there. Perceptions start to shift):

Having money and spending it is so foreign (the only time we have a transaction at home is for poker night or to pay a friend back from brought in groceries) that at first it almost feels like playing Grocery as a kid. Heck, I even almost forgot to pay for something and just walked out because it felt so unreal. But once you realize that it is real and your funds are dwindling it loses it’s glitz pretty fast.

Money Angst.

The shower you so adored just starts to feel excessive. I don’t need to use all that water. I don’t need to leave the water running as I suds up, buttercup.

Excess Angst.

Dining out starts to feel like a chore (and a strain on your pocketbook). Eating out can end up being a great meal or terrible but either way it’s a. a strain on your funds and b. probably not all that healthy. Your tummy starts a rebellion. You grocery shop to try and offset the cost but you can only eat yogurt and apples for so long before you go insane. You miss your own kitchen and knowing your food.

Tummy Angst.

And all the while, as the Angst is building, we are prepping for surgery (an extra side dish of nerves). Surgery after which The Chief isn’t allowed to do anything to exert himself for 6 weeks.

Six?!

Oh, perfect!

Logging doesn’t count, right? Does chopping and carrying firewood? Do hauling water and building projects count? Going to work on a construction site? Driving a snow machine?

Our life is built around exertion and I like it that way (lack of exertion also adds to the Anchorage Angst. Being gone for four days I figured I could get by without my running shoes, I could handle surviving on walking and yoga in the hotel room. A week and I’m feeling like a caged pup. Atrophy Angst). I like feeling tired from tending to our life and I know The Chief does too. But we will have to work around it. Just as we didn’t plan to still be here, I know I can’t start to plan what life will be like after the surgery. All we can do is show up and be grateful that we finally caved and came in.

And so the rhythm of wants changes her beat again. Days ago we couldn’t wait to arrive. Days later we are chomping at the bit to leave. It’s the ebb and flow. But even as we sit antsy in our hotel room watching “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” for the umpteenth time we have to remember that soon we will return home and start the rhythm all over again.

Soon we will be home with fresh vegetables, maybe even herbs, maybe even chocolate, so glad to be home and not even able to think about another town trip…

and then, before we know it, the hankering for an iced cocktail and a B movie re-run might come over us…

I can’t wait to get there.

Until then, wish us luck.

 

To be continued…

The Road to the North (The Journey into the Woods)

Coming home in California

  1. Get off plane
  2. Grab bag(s)
  3. Walk to meet ride
  4. Drive home
  5. You’re home, traffic willing, in under 2 hours. Traffic won’t-ing you stop for food. Poor thang.
  6. Enjoy.

Getting home to Alaska:

It took us 5 days from when we left California to get home to Alaska.

From CA we drove 11 hours to Portland.

In Portland we said our last goodbyes and headed to Anchorage via PDX.

Once we hit Anchorage and picked up the dog (thank you Alaska Airlines for not losing her, that was cool) it was GO time.

Town Run time.

Slang description: [Town Run] When people mention a Town Run (a.k.a an Anchorage Run) everyone seems to take a moment of silence together for the sanity that was inevitably lost in the process. Town Runs are supply runs. To me, supplies come from hardware stores. In the woods, supplies are everything you will (or hopefully won’t i.e. first aid) need until the next time you go into town.

When’s that?

Hopefully a few months.

Gulp.

All of your food. Clothing. Hardware (see, I knew it). Crafts. Entertainment. Building materials. Propane. Gasoline. Sanity (if it’s for sale).

Everything.

Ah, and you’ll need to be able to carry it all with you in one vehicle (we had a big ‘ol truck –seemingly enough). Add another consideration: freezing. Things that can’t freeze have to all fit inside the truck (this was a heart breaker for a veggie lady like myself). Everything else in the bed of the truck will likely freeze (the weather will decide if she wants it to or not) and therefore must be able to.

 

Things like this are just not in my typical thought process. Can mayo freeze? Sure, but then it gets “all weird” when you defrost it. Ok, but produce takes anti-freeze priority so…weird it’s gonna get.

Prioritizing like a boss.

We also had to purchase ALL of my “gear” (“gear” meaning clothing but because it’s focus is function it’s called gear). Not to be confused with fashion, function rules supreme. Asking “how does it look?” will inevitably elicit the response “how does it feel?” meaning, don’t even bother to look in a mirror – you don’t have one at home anyways – this gear is your only protection from the elements so even if it’s made of more neon than the 80’s or gives you a few (20) extra lbs. in your caboose, the point again, is function.

Fine.

Bibs that were tough enough to haul trees in, boots to withstand the low below zeros, two hundred pairs of socks (or so), skis  and ski boots and goggles and layers, layers, layers.

Sidenote: women’s “gear” is majorly lacking. I even went to the kids section because they at least make that stuff that can take some rowdiness. Nothing makes you feel more like a woman than asking if there’s a Kids XL Husky (real sizing lingo) available for your nearly 30 year-old self.

I’ve never shopped so long and hard in my life (or criss-crossed a town more – our path would have looked like a word search). 12 hour days for two days. We had to shuttle supplies into our hotel at night so they wouldn’t freeze and pack and re-pack the truck over and over.

Lastly, we shopped for perishables right as we hit the road (hours later than planned due again to criss-cross applesauce) so as to increase their chances for making it home (but certainly not guarantee it) then we picked up a few last minute pretty pleases from friends in the woods and…

Finally, we were off.

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She’s a Two-Lap Dog

 

Leaving a Town Run is the best feeling. Even with an 8 hour car ride ahead of you it feels like you’re already home. If I was in California, I would be in LA or Oregon in 8 hours. In Alaska…you’re still in Alaska.

 

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Plus, when this is the road you’re driving things are pretty alright.

 

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But then, in true Alaska fashion, it couldn’t go too easily.

 

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But six eyes are better than two.

 

We left at noon and didn’t get home until midnight.

Throughout the day we received calls about the conditions of The Road (The Road is a dirt road off the highway that is our straight shot home. It is a famed road for breakdowns in every season but winter is a special time for concern). A friend was caught in a road glacier (this is a real thing) and calling for help and to warn us of conditions, others called to tell us of their recent trips and what to watch for.

It takes a village to be able to return home.

As we turned onto the road and stopped to celebrate with the required traditional road soda, a friend pulled up out of nowhere and told us about our friend’s birthday party just a few miles down the road.

This is Alaska to a T. You’ve spent days stressing, spending all of your money, trying to make it home and as you’re almost there you get a taste of why it’s all worth it. Alaskan serendipity calls again. What a welcome home.

Leaving the party we approached the aforementioned road glacier which we thankfully crossed unscathed and finally (50 miles later) we pulled all the way into the driveway 5 days after leaving California.

Time to relax.

Nope.

Now it’s time to unpack everything you’ve brought. In the snow. In the cold. At midnight.

But first, let’s light off a lantern and hoot and holler “we’re home!” into the woods because really, that’s all that matters.

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Welcome home.