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.
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.
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).
If you think this post is about a protective mother, you’re half right.
It was a BEAUTIFUL day amongst a slew of sloppy, soggy ones. After days of being shut in, the surprisingly sunny weather beckoned us outside like the boyfriend you just can’t quit: “C’mon babe, just give me one last chance.”. So, we did. Despite the clouds far off to the north, I layered us up, packed our snacks, and headed to The Toe with our neighbor. It’s one of our favorite spots, a beautiful landscape of lakes and caves and boulders and icebergs. I’ve been there in all seasons, from rain to snow and it’s gorgeous every time but when it’s sunny…it’s otherworldly.
Our neighbor and her dog Kosmo (who we call Kosmo Kramer because he moves with just as much gusto and with the wild limbs of the “Seinfeld” character) and Ollie and Leto and I set off, walking down the ski hill that I nine times out of ten fall down in the winter. As we rounded the corner at the base of the hill I could feel it. Something was off. The dogs stopped, ears at attention both looking too stunned to say anything.
“What is it, boys?” We wondered aloud, scanning the two-tone landscape. It was brown and grey as far as the eye could see until in an explosion of expletives I loud whispered “Oh shit it’s a fucking Grizzly bear!”. The dogs took their eyes off it for a mere second to make sure we were turned in the right direction now (away from the bear) and then started to head towards it to increase the barrier between us and it.
The bear had blended into the landscape, the lightest Grizzly I’ve ever seen, and, minus the Grizzly who chased Leto through our yard this summer who was close enough to crack a whip at, this was the closest I’d ever been to a Grizz. And while the Grizzly had been closer earlier this summer, I’d been a mere footstep from the safety of indoors and elevated away from it on our deck. This time we were on the same level and far too close for comfort.
I felt my stomach clench as I wrapped my arms around Ollie, my knees wobbly beneath me. The hardest part about seeing a bear that close is that everything inside you wants to run and the only thing you can do is stay calm. We were quickly out of view but still a distance the bear could have made up in seconds flat. I simultaneously felt as if I could pass out and rip the bear to shreds if it came to it, a weird dichotomy of fearful and brave, fight and flight, all in one.
I called off Leto but they were still on patrol, placing themselves in between us and the bear. As we climbed the ski hill I kept looking between my child strapped to my chest and over my shoulder to where we came from, expecting to see a charging bear any moment. One foot in front of the other I told myself.
We got to the top of the hill and my friend went to see where the bear had gone.
I was definitely done with our walk whether the bear had left or not (our walk was a whopping 5 minutes but it definitely got my heart rate up) but there it was, unmoving, unfettered by dogs or our presence. And with the bear? Cubs.
I told you, if you thought this post was about a protective mother you were half right. It was about two.
On the ride home, Ollie and Leto tucked safely into the car, the clouds rolled in and a blanket of rain threatened to descend upon us again. The sun had come out and we’d answered her call but for the first time this fall, I was fine with cozying up in the safety of the great indoors, my little cub and I.
P.S. As I mentioned last time, we are about to hit the road! We are heading to Hawaii so we are in full shutdown mode here. Wish us luck! How’s your fall going? Any big plans or projects? Let us know in the comments below 👇🏻
‘Twas a whirlwind weekend indeed, preceded by a whirlwind week. And that week? Two weeks ago.
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.
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).
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.
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…
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
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.
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!
Back in college, I remember reading Travels with Charley and falling in love with the idea of the road trip. I was living on the East Coast but not fitting into the suit it required. This, however, this meandering seeking for soul, felt real to me. At the age of 17, I had been on a few road trips, but most were short stints, weekend trips to “visit prospective colleges” (aka check out the party scene and get an obscene speeding ticket). No, the open road had never stretched out in front of me and after diving into the good book, I was chomping at the bit to partake in my own dog-by-my-side travels.
Throughout my teens and twenties, I dipped my toes into road-tripping and fell in love with the unknown the journeys provided. What would happen? Who would I meet? All questions unknown, soon to be answered. Fast forward to the end of my twenties and enter Alaska where suddenly the idea of a road trip took on a whole other meaning. What used to seem like an eon in the car was suddenly just a trip to the grocery store. 8 hours? Nothing. 16 hours in a weekend? Bring it on.
Just like how a “hike” in AK (an all-day event complete with vertigo-inducing heights, scrambling up scree, dirty from head to toe) doesn’t mean the same thing as it does in CA (medium terrain, snacks at the top, back down in time for Happy Hour. Heck, it can even just mean a walk, nowadays), what I would have called a road trip (anything over 2 hours in the car) is suddenly just a trip.
However, due to my love of roadtrips, I easily became comfortable with the new meaning an 8-hour drive and treated them as adventures. What would happen? Who would I meet? Countless things, countless people. Some drives I’ve started in the company of an acquaintance and finished with a newfound friend. Some I’ve spent alone, in complete and much needed silence, just me and the road. I’ve had Travels with Leto, Travels with The Chief, Travels with girlfriends and new friends and now…
Hooooooey! If I didn’t think Alaska amped things up a notch before, I certainly do now. Enter: roadtripping with a newborn, Alaska style (aka a Town Run).
There are 24 hours in a day, but apparently, there can be 24 hours in a roadtrip (one that normally takes 16 hours).
I had an inkling. I’d done the drive before with a 6-month old and there were LOTS of stops but decided to up the ante with a nearly 2-month-old (tomorrow!).
So, how’d it go? A little like this:
Monday through Wednesday: Prep for Town (which is turns out is A LOT slower when you have a newborn strapped to your chest. I didn’t realize how often I bend down until I started trying to avoid squatting an extra 13 fidgeting pounds. It’s difficult, it turns out.
Wednesday evening: Have the typical What time should we shoot to leave tomorrow? conversation. My vote was to wake up extra early and bail…
Thursday morning: I was up by 6 am with the baby to address his requests: Milk! Diaper! Milk! Diaper! Smiley play time! Milk! Milk! The Chief slept in (after two straight weeks of 13 hour days) until 8 am and…we were off, right?!
By noon, however, we were off! The road out, our 60 mile driveway, if you will, normally clocks in at about 2 hours. By 4 pm we had made it to the end. This was due to be a long day. Had we thought about introducing a bottle pre-trip? We sure hadn’t! Did we wish we had? We sure did! Just before the clock struck midnight that night, we tucked into bed in Anchorage. We’d already done one load of laundry.
Welcome to Town.
Friday: The next morning, we were up early again and off to doctors appointments but not before making the rookie mistake that would plague us all day: we didn’t eat breakfast. By 9 am we were at the midwife and…hungry. By the end of the appointment, we decided Leto needed a stroll. We’d get food afterwards. One lake walk (I made it all the way around for the first time since Ollie was born!) + one bathroom mission + feeding the baby later and suddenly…it was time for our next appointment.
Still no food. We raided the diaper bag snacks. Jerky for breakfast anyone?
At the next appointment, it turned out that my wrist problem was an actual problem and they wanted to get me into a specialist that day. Our day of 3 appointments suddenly turned into 4. Oh joy! Oh boy. After scrambling to set up this new appointment and schedule an earlier time for Ollie’s checkup there was no time again for…you guessed it! Food. By this point it was late afternoon. Off we went to the pediatrician. After a battery of boohooo inducing shots (actually, he did quite well. A few tears quickly resolved by a little cuddling and a lot of milk) it was finally time for FOOOOOOOD! We ordered and ate as we drove to the next appointment at which they suggested I go to one more appointment that day for my problem wrist. By then it was 5 pm.
By the time we got home, we’d been gone for nearly 10 hours. Thankfully, we’d had a few hours left with our post-birth helper and she did our ENTIRE Costco run for us. We wouldn’t have made it that day. She also brought in a haul of garden goodies. After everything was packed away and processed and everyone was fed, Ollie, ever the champ, was ready to settle in after his pokey procedure, leaving The Chief to manage the remaining chores.
Saturday: Up early, out early, right? You know the drill by now and so do we but somehow we thought we might escape the time suck that is packing up and hitting the road. A little before 11 am we exited Anchorage and again, the first 6 hours of the drive were pretty rocky. We stopped to nurse which turned into a diaper change, which turned into multiple diaper changes and back to nursing and finally back to the road. One stop was over an hour yet back on the road we ventured and by early evening Ollie was ready for a long snooze. Off and on he slumbered all the way home as we pulled in the drive at 11 pm.
As it turns out, just because you make it home, doesn’t mean you’ve made it home scot-free. The next few days we paid for our expeditious adventure with newborn wails of a timber we hadn’t yet heard. The Chief also received his first phone call from us at work where we were both crying. Oh joy! Needless to say, it was a rough week but as the distance grew between us and our covered distance, things mellowed, patterns returned, lessons were…learned?
We will see. I still haven’t decided which was the lesser of two evils: doing a Town Run with only one day to run about Town or returning home and having The Chief return to work the next morning. Both are unweildy options. Both are the options we have.
So, Travels with Charley? I’d give an 8 out of 10. I don’t remember thinking the prose was as poetic as his other works but it inspired me and that’s nothing to ignore. Travels with Ollie? Ten out of ten, all the way.
Ten?! Reallllllly, Julia? Ridiculous.
OK, OK, in the moment, in the Crying So Hard He’s Turning New Shades Of Red I Haven’t Seen Before moment, sure, in that moment I’m wondering if I can give it a rating below 0. But overall, it was one of those Alaska moments. One of those longer, harder, rockier “hikes” than planned but the one that left you feeling accomplished and adventurous and…just a smidge insane. I think those are pretty solid components to a good life. And now that it’s done, I know that we can do it. Am I looking forward to the next time? In a way, yes (OK maybe that’s the insane portion speaking a little too loudly). But honestly, I love bringing Ollie into our fold and creating memories with him on a journey I’ve traveled umpteen times without him, dreaming of him someday coming to be. It’s not always easy, this life of ours, but it is rewarding. Remind me of that next time the baby cries himself crimson.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
With love, always,
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.
As I type this, I have one hand holding our babe and one hunting and pecking her way through the QWERTY-verse. Coming from a Mavis Beacon graduate (where my elder Millennials at?!) this is a sorry excuse for the flying fingers I’d unleash upon the keyboard just 30 days ago. Still, it’s a drastic improvement from my previous postpartum post. In this last month, I’ve come to learn about this little human I’ve spent the better part of a year growing as well as a few other lessons like…
I’ve spent the entire day trying to open my computer to write to you. Our child has had other plans.
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.
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?
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.
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…
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.
Some sweet friends delivered us dinner (you are the best!) and we paused to enjoy the wonderfully Alaskan meal of salmon and salad goodness.
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.
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.
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).
“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).
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…
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:
The Chief too was feeling the pressure, enough to go gray in an instant:
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.
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…
And so did the celebrations…
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.
Most importantly, I finally bought sweatpants (I kid, I kid…sort of).
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?
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.
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…
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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),
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.