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Boating Trip

My neighbor Mike and I took a couple of kids out on the Yukon one Wednesday night last month. The weather was pretty chilly, but the sky was gorgeous and the Yukon was glassy and calm. The evening consisted of three of the most glorious hours of my life. Words cannot describe boating on the Yukon River. There’s nothing out here – *nothing*. Bends and twists in the river, sandbars, and groves of trees serve as landmarks. We watched for moose, saw a few otters, hunted a couple of ducks, and fished for grayling. The river was calm and glassy, the air cool and crisp. Autumn clung to the breeze and temperatures dropped as the hours flew by.

I couldn’t help but think about the thousands of years the Yukon has flowed across Alaska, and how Native peoples would kayak up and down her. Not much has changed along the Yukon since those times, which allows me to let out a sigh of relief.

Here are a handful of pics from that night:

watching for moose

heading home

There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still,
There’s a land-oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back-and I will.
It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

-Robert Service, The Spell of the Yukon

…isn’t too shabby.

Ice floes are making their way down the Yukon and Mount Kuzulvak is blanketed in snow.

Winter is coming.

Or freeze to death.

Or get eaten by a bear.

I did, however, have a fantastic summer! Before I fill you on how this school year has been going, here are some of my summer highlights!

I spent a couple days in Seattle after school got out and of course had to hit Pike Place Market:

Then I met up with my parents and Grandma and we took an Alaskan cruise for a week (I am fully aware of the irony of that sentence).

I could get used to cruise life!

One of our ports-of-call was Skagway, Alaska, where we took an old train up into the Chilkoot Mountains and Yukon Territory.

riding the rails

Chilkoot Mountains

We also stopped in Ketchikan, Alaska. Ketchikan is one of my most favorite places and I really hope to live there one day! See that cute little white church? That could be my church! And all those boats? I’d definitely make friends with someone who owned a boat.

Historic Creek Street, Ketchikan

While in Ketchikan, we visited the Saxman Native Village and viewed one of the largest collections of totem poles in the world. It was pretty impressive.

Saxman Native Village

 

totem poles in progress

After the cruise, I flew down the L.A. to visit my friend Sara for a week. We did many fun things while enjoying the sun and warmth, one of which was eating lots of Brazilian BBQ at the farmer’s market!

Brazilian buffet!

We also went hiking in the Santa Monica mountains:

Our hike ended here, at "The Grotto." The hike was downhill on the way in, and entirely uphill on the way out.

While in L.A., I also got to visit my dear friend Shannon and her daughter, Lucy. It was so great to see them and hang out!

how adorable are we?

Lucy cracked me up! She was SO happy to see me and we became BFFs. I love her!

SO happy!

I headed to Kalamazoo after my week in L.A. and stayed with my parents for about six weeks. While there, I started working on my Master’s degree and spent an inordinate amount of time working on papers at Water Street Coffee Joint.

I took six credits in three weeks. I wouldn't recommend it.

I was able to catch up with some dear friends while in Michigan, too. I headed to Ann Arbor one day to hang out with my friend Stacey and her boys. Stacey introduced me to spinning and we visited a spinning/fiber shop in Howell, Michigan. So cool! Someday, when I need something else to occupy my time, I believe spinning will be added to the list :)

I must admit to hair lust whenever I see Stacey...

I was also able to get in a Tigers game with my family while in Michigan. So much fun! I hadn’t been to Comerica Park since it’d been built, so it was cool to see the new park. The Tigers played the Braves and won! My first Tigers win, EVER!!

me and Aunt Loretta

This summer I had the privilege of visiting some new places, one of which was Georgia. I flew down to Atlanta from July 1-5 to visit my friends Cathy and Carrie. We had so much fun hanging out, eating lots of yummy Southern food, crafting, and playing with Carrie’s baby, Charlie. I had my first taste of Chick-Fil-A and now find myself craving it. I also tried boiled peanuts. I have yet to crave those.

Cathy, me, Carrie, and Charlie, with bonus Shannon and Lucy who were with us in spirit!

Cathy and I went to the Georgia Aquarium one day, which was really cool. The Georgia Aquarium is the largest in the world! They also had this really neat tunnel you could walk through while sharks and fish swam above you:

Carrie taught me and Cat the art of freezer-paper stenciling one day and we spent hours stenciling little onesies for Charlie and Cat’s soon-to-be baby, Jack. These were so easy and fun to make!!

Cat is a high school English teacher, so this onesie only seemed fitting

Carrie and Charlie, the Happiest Baby Alive. Aren't they beautiful?

Another new place I got to check out this summer was Washington, D.C. I can’t believe I’d never been to D.C. before! I’m so glad I went, too. It was 100 degrees, really humid, and there was even an earthquake while I was there. Exciting!! I also got to hang out with some more awesome friends while checking out the sights. Here’s me and my friend Anne in front of the White House:

If you squint and look really hard, you can see the tiny White House waaaay in the distance. hee :)

Anne and I also met up with our friend Mai and spent a day in Alexandria. They even found a little creperie that served wheat- and gluten-free crepes for me! Yummy peach crepes, coffee, and fantastic company made for the *perfect* brunch. Oh, and air conditioning. It was super hot that day, too. After brunch we walked around downtown Alexandria and hit a couple of awesome yarn stores. Fibre Space was our favorite:

These two just make life so much fun!

I stayed with the lovely Julie Frick and her family while in D.C. Jules and I spent an entire Saturday sewing and making quilt blocks. Seriously, it was one of the best days I had all summer. I’d been wanting to learn how to quilt for some time and I finally got to sit at the feet of a master! I even got to check out and perhaps even paw through Julie’s fabric stash. WOW. Just wow. We had a great time chatting, cutting, and sewing that day. I’m really excited to buy fabric and supplies over Christmas break so I can start sewing!

And being the instigator inspiration that she is, Jules also got me into embroidery this summer:

my first embroidery!

Embroidery is so quick and satisfying. Guess what ya’ll are going to be getting for Christmas this year…

I ended my summer back in Seattle for a week or so. I hung out at all my favorite places, got my fill of sushi and coffee, and spent a great deal of time with two of my most favorite kiddos ever. Gracie and Oliver were appalled to learn that I lived in Seattle for six years and never once rode the Monorail. So one day we went downtown and rode the Monorail back and forth. :)

on the monorail

 

All in all, I had a pretty a-mazing summer and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Of course, it was also really nice to return to Alaska, the village, and sleep in my own bed. I love my quiet, slow-paced life here. And since I literally wore the same six outfits all summer, returning to my closet full of clothes was like Christmas!

 

Only seven more months until summer break of ’11…..

 

 

we're such goofballs

sundog

“What’s a ‘sundog’?”, you ask?

Well, since you asked….

Copy and pasted from Wikipedia:

A sun dog or sundog (scientific name parhelion, plural parhelia, from Greek parēlion, (παρήλιον), παρά(beside) + ήλιος(sun), “beside the sun”; also called a mock sun) is an atmospheric phenomenon that creates bright spots of light in the sky, often on a luminous ring or halo on either side of the sun.[1]

Sundogs may appear as a colored patch of light to the left or right of the sun, 22° (or more) distant and at the same distance above the horizon as the sun, and in ice halos. They can be seen anywhere in the world during any season, but they are not always obvious or bright. Sundogs are best seen and are most conspicuous when the sun is low.

Sundogs are formed by plate shaped hexagonal ice crystals in high and cold cirrus clouds or – during very cold weather – by ice crystals called diamond dust drifting in the air at low level.

Sundog forming rays enter a near vertical prism side face of a crystal and exit through a second side face inclined 60° to the first. There is net refraction at each face and the light is dispersed into colors. There is no single angle of deviation through the crystal, which effectively acts as a 60 degree prism, but the minimum angle of deviation is ~22°. This corresponds to the distance of the inner edge of the sundog from the sun when the sun is low.[2]

As the sun rises higher the rays passing through the crystals are increasingly skewed from the horizontal plane. Their angle of deviation increases and the sundogs move further from the sun.[3] However, they always stay at the same altitude as the sun.

Sundogs are red colored at the side nearest the sun. Farther out the colors grade through oranges to blue. However, the colors overlap considerably and so are muted, never pure or saturated. The colors of the sundog finally merge into the white of the parhelic circle (if the latter is visible).

yay, update!

Haha!

The past two months have been kind of crazy in a lot of ways and it feels really good to finally be updating this blog! How is it March already?

Well, let’s see, what have I been up to?

First of all, lots of knitting! One of my dearest friends is pregnant and is having a little girl in April. I’m sending out a box to her this week, but I’ll post a few pics of the knitted goodness she’s receiving….the rest of the pics will have to wait until after she receives the box. Gotta keep some things a surprise!! :)

propeller

propeller

wee lil' ruby slippers

I’ve also been doing lots of rereading my favorite books. Here are the books that I love to reread every year, in between reading new books, of course:

i like to read good books.

I’m currently re-reading A Prayer For Owen Meany and am reading The Long Winter aloud to my students.

The well for the village either froze up or ran dry, so our water is now being pumped straight out of the Yukon. This happened last year, too. I have a water distiller but a fuse went out on it and I’m sending it back to the company for a replacement. In the mean time, I’m hauling water from our natural spring:

A friend of mine picked me up this evening to go haul spring water. She came with her sled hitched to her snowmachine so I was able to fill up around ten gallons of spring water this evening. It was nice to be able to not have to pull it by hand in a sled! The spring is probably about .75/mile from my house, so there and back is a good hike. And lemme tell ya, there is nothing like snowmachining down the Yukon at 60 mph in -37F temps just after sunset and by the light of the full moon. It was so. very. very. cold. My water was the consistency of slushies within five minutes!

Speaking of the weather, we’ve actually had a pretty mild winter. A week ago, temps were nearly 40 degrees above, and here we are now at 30 below! We don’t have that much snow, either. It’s kind of nice, actually. Just three more months of winter…

School is going well and my students are still pretty great. We’re practicing our multiplication facts like crazy. The kids are really loving them and it’s so fun to have kids line up, begging to tell me their times tables! We’re also reading, reading, reading….as well as preparing for the state testing that happens in roughly five weeks. I’ll be ready for those tests to be over, for sure. I can only imagine how the students feel…

I’m so glad that we’re almost into March! Time is flying! We just had Ash Wednesday and Easter is around the corner….followed by the end of school and SUMMER VACATION. Growing up, I had no idea that teachers look forward to summer vacation more than students do. But we do. We really, really do.

ash wednesday

I’m greatly looking forward to this summer! I start grad school in Juneau on June 7th! I’m currently in the process of searching for a fun, easy summer job that requires very little thought process after teaching for a full year. I’m thinking that either being a barista or working in a gift shop sounds like a good plan. The other big news is that I’m going on an Alaskan cruise with my parents and grandma at the end of May! I get out of school May 18, will head to Seattle on May 22nd, and then jump on a cruise ship and head back to Alaska the next day. I find this sort of hilarious, but I’m also really excited. I can’t wait for my grandma to see Alaska! And she gets to see one of the most beautiful parts of the state, to boot! We’re cruising the Inside Passage: Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, and Victoria, B.C. Then I’ll spend a few days in Seattle before getting on a plane and flying to Juneau for the rest of the summer and working on my master’s degree! Yay!!

All in all, life is pretty good.

Just really, really cold.

But that’s Alaska for ya, I guess…

When I was in the eighth grade at St. Augustine Elementary in Kalamazoo, MI, my creative writing teacher – Mrs. Oosterbaan – assigned us an essay. We had to imagine that it was the year 2010 (10 years after our high school graduation). She asked us to write about what we were doing at the age of 28 and how we got there. A famous St. A. alum – Derek Jeter – wrote that he’d be the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees  within ten years after he graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School (he actually achieved his goal a mere three years after graduating!). My essay included me graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in flute performance, heading to Julliard, and eventually ending up as principal flutist for the Boston Pops. Well….yeah. I didn’t do a single one of the things I’d written about or dreamt up back in 1996. And I’m okay with that. The past nine years have been some of the most amazing ever and have defined who I am, what I stand for, and where I am headed.

I realize that there’s still one more year left in this decade, but it still seems fitting to look back at the years from 2000 to the present as we head into 2010 in a mere hour (AK standard time). I got this great idea from my friend Francesca :)

Now, without further ado…..

2000 –

  • I turned 18 and graduated from Mattawan High School. Go Wildcats! :)
  • Autumn – I moved into Henry Hall at Western Michigan University and joined InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
  • My roommate was my friend Christina from high school, whom I nicknamed “C.” C and I watched every. single. Audury Hepburn flick ever made that year. We were great roommates!
  • Winter – attended IVCF’s Urbana 2000 Mission Conference over Christmas break in Urbana, IL. I stayed in a dorm with two girls from Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, CA,who had never seen snow in their lives and were a little taken aback at winter in rural Illinois. There was also a large cardboard cutout of Hannibal Lector in this dorm room, which we promptly threw a towel over, lest we all have nightmares for a week.

2001 –

  • I traveled to Belize with InterVarsity, where I met Karin Holsinger – now one of my dearest friends
  • I was accepted into Belfast Bible College in Northern Ireland and realized that it wasn’t what I was meant to do. I’m so incredibly thankful that it didn’t work out and that I didn’t end up moving there.
  • Spent the summer working for the City of Kalamazoo’s Water Dept, where I worked on the crew laying water main. I was a flagger, hand-dug holes for utilities (talk about a GREAT workout), and rode around on Harley Davidson’s on my lunch break.
  • Traveled back to Belize in August of 2001 (my first independent trip anywhere) to deliver 50 pairs of children’s shoes to King’s Orphanage in Belmopan. That was just two weeks before 9/11.
  • Not knowing what exactly I wanted to do, I left WMU, moved back home, and attended Kalamazoo Valley Community College to get some gen ed’s out of the way.
  • I spent lots of time in the dark room at KVCC during my second B&W photography class

2002-

  • There was a warm spell in January that caused all the snow to thaw. I happened to wear a pair of Mary Jane’s one Sunday, slipped in mud, and sprained my right ankle.
  • As a result of spraining my ankle and being bored on my parents’ couch, I taught myself to knit. Thus, the craze began and is still going strong….
  • I led a small group Bible study through KVCC in my friend Julie’s basement. We lit luminaries along the long, country driveway each week so people could find the path up to the house. We also ended our weekly gatherings with a game of pool.
  • My parents and I traveled to Seattle to check out Seattle Pacific University
  • Grandpa Jim passed away right before Memorial Day weekend….he was surrounded by all 5 of his children and all  6 of his grandchildren when he took his last breath
  • I spent the summer working as Activities Staff at Cran-Hill Ranch in Big Rapids, Michigan
  • Made friends with Kim and Andrea at Cran-Hill, who remain two of my dearest friends
  • Packed up all my stuff and moved to Seattle on Sept 25th and transferred to Seattle Pacific University

2003-

  • I moved in with my friend Sara, and credit her with my becoming a feminist and a Harry Potter addict
  • Made my first trip up to Vancouver, BC, where I was told not to tell anyone that I’m a Red Wings fan
  • Started attending Bethany Presbyterian in April
  • Turned 21 in May and celebrated by watching the Yankees stomp the Mariners at Safeco Field :)
  • I took as many theology classes as possible and decided that I will attend seminary someday
  • Became an education/language arts major
  • Worked as Maintenance Staff at Cran-Hill that summer
  • Got my first tattoo (I only have one, but may get another sometime…we’ll see!)
  • Read Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and fell in love with Russian Lit.
  • Lived in an on-campus apartment that Autumn with Lael, Jen, and Laura
  • Fell in complete and total love with sushi

2004-

  • Traveled back to Michigan to be in my friend Kim’s wedding on May 1
  • Took as many Women’s Studies courses as possible that year
  • Worked as the Park Ranger at Cran-Hill that summer
  • Fell 17 ft off a ladder while painting Scripture on the climbing tower at Cran-Hill Ranch. Thanks to amazing doctors, friends, and God, I hobbled out of the ER later that evening badly bruised and sore, but well taken care of
  • Traveled to the isle of Iona, Scotland, on a discernment pilgrimage with 10 other women from SPU, just a week after the ladder fall mentioned above
  • Road tripped from Grand Rapids to Seattle in 5 days, encountering pretty much every obstacle known to woman along the way, including prairie dogs, my car overheating in Badlands National Park, and then my car being stolen my first night into Seattle. The police found my car – and all of my stuff except my 35mm camera – a week later.
  • Visited Wounded Knee, South Dakota – a place I’d longed to visit since I read Dee Brown’s, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee in the 7th grade. Sadly, my B&W photos from that visit were in my camera that was stolen from my car
  • Got my nose pierced on a complete and total whim while lost in Missoula, Montana. I haven’t regretted it for one second.
  • Lived with Sara, Kari, and Meagan in the coveted Duplex on campus
  • Met Gracie and Oliver (then ages 4 1/2 and 2) and thus began many adventures with those two lovable kiddos!

2005 –

  • Road tripped down to California’s wine country with my friend Emily to be in Karin’s wedding. Emi and I made the mistake of taking directions from a local and ended up on a one-lane highway that literally took us past every. single. redwood in NorCal and made us approximately eight hours late to our destination. Thankfully, the wedding wasn’t for another two days.
  • Stood at the rim of Crater Lake in complete and total silence, closed my eyes, and just listened.
  • Worked on SPU’s paint crew all summer, which was surprisingly more fun than I had imagined it to be
  • Lived in the same Duplex, but this time with Sara, Emi, and Sonya
  • Became a member of Bethany Presbyterian Church

2006 –

  • Student taught in a 2nd grade classroom at Whittier Elementary from January through May
  • Graduated from SPU – finally!!
  • Moved to a house in Ballard, where I lived until I moved to Alaska two years later
  • Road tripped from Seattle to L.A. with Sara so she could attend law school at USC that fall. All her stuff – including, Alki, her goldfish – was packed into her car. That fish sloshed in a small trash can all the way down I-5, and then went belly-up a day after we arrived at our destination. Sara has kitties now, and they seem to be thriving better.
  • Wasn’t sure about teaching right away, so got a job at Pottery Barn Kids, eventually working my way up to Assistant Stockroom Manager/Shipper-Receiver
  • Met the Heverley family in November and became little Ella Jo’s nanny when she was just 6wks old. Little did I know, but that little baby would help change my life.

2007 –

  • Continued to be Ella’s nanny
  • Played my flute at church as much as possible, especially with Sylvia on the piano or organ :)
  • Joined the Easter choir at Bethany Presbyterian and ended up staying with them for over a year
  • Realized that I’m meant to be a classroom teacher
  • Started dreaming up a children’s book
  • Went on a (free!) Alaskan cruise with Ella and her family. It was while I was surrounded by a sea of crystal-blue glaciers that I decided I’d move to Alaska within a year

2008 –

  • Learned how to knit socks!
  • April 9 – Accepted a teaching position with the Lower Yukon School District in SW Alaska
  • June 21 – was honored to be the Maid of Honor in my friend Andrea’s wedding
  • July – packed up all my earthly possessions into twelve 18-gallon Rubbermaid totes and shipped them off to a village in rural Alaska I’d never even seen (and was praying actually existed).
  • Was blessed with three going away/send-off parties and a the gift of a Nikon D60 with the instructions to “take amazing photographs of Alaska and send them back to us!!”
  • August – got on a plane and moved to bush Alaska at the age of 26 – exactly one year from the day I was amidst glaciers and decided to move to Alaska
  • Moved in with a Lindsey from Arkansas who didn’t own a single piece of winter clothing, but could dish out the sass like nobody’s business
  • Learned to dish the sass right back at Linds, to which she jokingly replied months later, “You were so much sweeter when I first met you!”
  • Started taking pictures every. single. day. for my 365 Days photo project
  • Began my teaching career with my first teaching position: 2nd grade!

2009-

  • Learned what cold really is, and bought all the appropriate winter gear to accommodate accordingly
  • Discovered what the term “low maintenance” really means
  • Survived my first year of teaching (just barely) and signed another teaching contract for the following school year
  • Made some truly incredible friends in Alaska and all over the world
  • Witnessed the start of the 2009 Iditarod sled dog race in Willow, Alaska
  • The Summer of the Nomad
  • Upgraded my camera to my D90 and began teaching myself PhotoShop
  • Began my second year of teaching, but this time with 4th and 5th graders
  • Discovered that I really love 4th and 5th graders and hope to teach this grade for forever
  • Was accepted into the University of Alaska Southeast’s Master of Education – Reading Specialist program

I’ve learned a lot about myself this past decade. I’m much stronger and more resilient than I had originally thought. There’s an adventurous “why-not-pack-up-and-move-somewhere-new?” streak that runs through me, which is both exciting and scary at times. This past decade I made the most amazing friends ever; drove every. single. mile. of Interstate-5 (in chunks, not in one trip); and discovered my love of photography and knitting. I’ve learned to love my naturally curly hair; not to care what others think all the time; and that it’s okay to make mistakes.  Best of all, I’ve learned to trust in the love of God.

Our life is something opaque, not transparent,

as long as you look at it in an ordinary human way.

But if you hold it up against the light of God’s goodness,

it shines and burns transparent, radiant, and bright.

And then you ask yourself in amazement:

Is this really my own life I see before me?

–Albert Schweitzer

Thanksgiving

I *love* Thanksgiving. I love it even more now that I’m a teacher and it means four whole days without students!!

We had a short day this past Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving). Students arrived at the normal time of 8:50a and were sent home at 10:30. 11:00am was when our traditional Thanksgiving Feast for the entire community began. Given I only had a little over an hour with my students, I didn’t plan much for Wednesday.  Actually, I only planned an art project. We made some very untraditional turkeys to decorate the tables at the feast:

untraditional turkey centerpieces

gobble.

Okay, so they don’t really look anything like turkeys. Next year we may just make them Thanksgiving ptarmigan instead. :)

The Elders in the community were the first to eat at the feast, so they arrived around 11. Everyone else arrived around 11:30. Our cooks cooked everything and we teachers took turns serving. We estimated that we fed nearly 600 people in 2 hours!

feast!!

A bunch of us teachers had Thanksgiving dinner together on Thursday. We held it in the largest apartment in the four-plex. Three diningroom tables were put end-to-end, and a long table held all the food. And man, there was some *good* food.

I made sweet potato casserole and pecan pie:

sweet potato casserole

pecan pie

We also had:

turkey perfection

there was also a ham...

and no meal in Alaska would be complete without traditional Filipino pancit!!

Not a bad meal for the Bush, eh?!

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