Monday, December 31, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
The prehistoric people, as described in Clan of the Cave Bear, had strictly defined roles for men and women. The men were the hunters. They were geniuses at rushing a herd of animals, dividing out the weak or young of the herd, and slaying the beast. Then they hauled the meat home, with pride.
The women, on the other hand, were the gatherers. Their tasks were to dig roots, gather herbs, and pick berries. Their eyes were skilled at seeking treasures, both high in the limbs of a tree and low on the ground. Plants had to be examined carefully; making a poultice of the wrong herbs would not heal a wound. A stew made with the wrong mushrooms could lead to death. Picking berries and fruit was a job that encouraged quiet contemplation, or thoughtful conversations with a fellow-gatherer.
Last night I went shopping with Tim. He usually invites me to join him when he does his Christmas shopping. It's become sort of a tradition, and I'm really glad to share the evening with him. Tim and I left our house last night and headed out for what I foresaw as an evening of "gathering" - thoughtful, cautious decisions being made for each gift. But Tim was on a "hunt" - divide and conquer, rush in for the kill, and bring home the beast. He was done with his shopping by 7:30, only an hour and a half after we left the "cave."
Feeling like the evening just wasn't complete, I asked Tim if he'd like to go somewhere and get a cup of coffee or a cold soft drink before we went home. "I'm not really thirsty," he answered. THIRSTY? Who said anything about being thirsty? And that's when the Clan of the Cave Bear analogy flashed through my neurons. And I realized that things haven't changed that much . . . "hunters" are still out to finish the job; while we "gatherers" are looking to savor the experience.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
To My Democrat Friends:
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.
To My Republican Friends:
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
(credit to: Kip Allen )
Monday, December 17, 2007
It was the most exciting night of the year. We didn't have a big family, but that didn't stop us from having a big celebration. Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Bud and his little family, and "the girls" (Liz and Louise) would all be there. We had a smorgasbord of food to munch on all evening; Christmas music would be playing on the stereo; everyone would be talking, laughing and playing games; and the glow of the tree, draped in lights, tinsel and ornaments, and with gifts piled beneath its boughs, lent a mood of enchantment to the living room.
My dad was in charge of the events, and he was a master at building suspense. Although all of us knew that we'd be opening the presents that evening, he would always tease, saying that we had to wait until midnight, when it would officially be Christmas morning. I never really understood that reasoning; after all, the packages were already there, the tree was twinkling, and what more was there to wait for? But it was a game we played, year after year. I usually held out until around 9:30 before I started working on Dad to let us open the presents. Dad, though, supplied never-ending reasons why, this year, we needed to wait until midnight. By 10:00 I usually "hit the wall," and Dad, seeing a tear or two of frustration slip down my cheek (and a Bob-it's-time-to-stop look on my Mom's face), would immediately melt. He'd give me a big hug, and say, "Well, go get some presents and pass them out, Sweetheart!"
I know that many families take turns opening their gifts, so that everyone can see each gift, and the appropriate person can be thanked before the next gift is opened. I see the wisdom in that method, and admire the orderliness (I really do!) . . . but it wasn't our style. We ripped into presents with unrestraint, festive paper and curled ribbon flying, everyone laughing and talking at once, and hugs and thank-yous making the rounds spontaneously. Mom would always put a box or a large bag in the middle of the room, to hold the torn paper and ribbon scraps, but it never really worked. By the time the last present had been opened, the room was a jolly sea of holiday wrappings.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I've told you about our Japanese exchange student, Takashi. While he was living with us, he became friends with another high school exchange student, Victor, from Brazil. Of course, Victor didn't speak Japanese, and Takashi didn't speak Portuguese, so their only common language was English. Both of them did admirably well in conversational English, but their accents and pronunciations often confused those of us who were native-born English speakers. The confusion was, of course, compounded when the two of them were talking together, neither of them using their native language.
As spring approached, and Takashi and Victor's friendship grew stronger, Victor spent a lot of time at our house after school and on weekends. One day I was in the kitchen, fixing dinner, and Takashi and Victor were sitting at the kitchen bar, having an afternoon snack.
"Some day I want to see Cah-na-bal in Brazil" said Takashi. "Have you seen Cah-na-bal?"
"Yes, you do! I saw, in magazines," said Takashi.
To that, Takashi snapped back, very assuredly, "Yes, I'm sure . . . Cah-na-bal is in Rio."
"You know, Mom, there is dancing and parades and music and . . . "
Friday, December 14, 2007
So, in honor of the "white stuff," here they are . . . Santa and his reindeer, singing White Christmas. This was one of my favorites last year, and they're back for a Christmas-2007-encore. Be sure to turn your sound up.
Click HERE to view. (May take a few moments to load.)
Thursday, December 13, 2007
For years, our good friend, Bea Long, from Juneau, taught the two- and three-year-old Bible class. When Chris turned two, he was excited to get to move up, into Bea's class. The children learned a lot in that little preschool class. I was always happy when Chris would bring home a picture he had scribbled on, and tell me names and events from the Bible story Bea had taught.
"The Bea Long song?" I asked. "I don't think I know that song."
"Uh-huh," he assured me. And then he began to sing it:
"Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him - BEA LONG! [hollered out, with his fist pumping the air]
They are weak but he is strong."
Well, of course, that song isn't about Bea. But to those little toddlers, associating Jesus' love, the Bible, and Bea Long, together in one song, was perfectly understandable.
Love you, Bea!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
"Evie H passed on this morning with Arlene and Bill by her side. She had been on oxygen and in failing health this past week but she was at peace and ready to go be with Stan. She went peaceably made comfortable by the staff at the Juneau Pioneers Home. She was the first convert in 1946 when a group from Pepperdine came to Juneau for a 6 week campaign. She was baptized in the Gastineau Channel about midnight. She and Stan were wonderful, faithful Christians who showed God's love in their lives every day to everyone.
There will not be any services per Evie's request."
Humble in her death as she was in life, it doesn't surprise me that Evie requested no memorial service. There will be no ceremony, but that won't stop everyone who knew Evie from celebrating her life, and grieving her loss, in their own way.
As a child, I remember thinking that Evie looked like Aunt Bea, from the Andy Griffith Show. She and Stan were originally from Maine, and, even after their many years in Alaska, never lost their peculiar-but-delightful manner of speech, adding "r"s where there were none, and omitting them where they belonged. We all teased them about that, especially since they named their daughter "Arlene," but pronounced it "Al-lene."
In her younger years, Evie used to drive a little black Volkswagen bug. When the streets were deep in snow, she could get around town when, it seemed, no one else could. We lived at the top of a very steep hill. On snowy Sunday mornings, when we found ourselves stranded up there, we would inevitably hear the distinctive sound of Evie's little bug, climbing our hill to bring us down to church. We never asked her to come; she would just show up, laughing off our words of thanks.
I always thought that winter might be Evie's favorite season. Once the lakes froze over, she and Stan would pack up a car-full of kids and take us out to Auke or Mendenhall Lake to ice skate. I remember just standing there, on my wobbly skates, sipping the hot cocoa they never failed to provide, and watching the two of them skate off together. Although they were both jolly and plump on land, once they laced up their skates, they became as graceful as a pair of Olympic ice dancers, holding hands and gliding across the lake.
When I was in the fifth grade, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I became very ill. Although the doctors weren't able, at first, to diagnose my problem, it turned out to be an abscessed tooth that took me out of commission for two weeks. My jaw swelled up so badly that I couldn't open my mouth. I was having a hard time taking in food, and my strength was failing. Until, that is, Evie showed up at our apartment, toting a container of warm, homemade custard sauce. It was thin enough to drink, and I thought it was the best thing I'd ever tasted. Evie was tickled that I liked it, and each day brought me another container of her homemade custard. Maybe it's a little over-dramatic to attribute Evie and her custard with saving my life, but in my 11-year-old mind, that's exactly how it felt.
I had heard that Evie's health was failing this past week, and I prayed that her passing would be peaceful; I believe my prayers were answered. Stan must be thrilled to finally have his Evie there, by his side. I'd like to think of them as holding hands, once again, and skating together across some heavenly lake.
The first connection you know about if you've been reading my blog from the beginning (specifically here and here). Do you remember my successful efforts to locate Ruby, my long-lost pen pal? Ruby was my pen pal from fifth grade through our early motherhood years. And then we lost track of each other. When I wrote my blog about pen pals, it inspired me to do the Internet research necessary to find her - and I did! She's living minutes away from Chris, Kelsey and Sweetpea. And her daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids live right here in Albuquerque, just minutes from me! During this Christmas season, I'm happy to say, we've made plans to get together.
The second connection happened in a round-about way. My friend, Gloria, began reading my blog. That inspired her, one night, to look at Kelsey's blog, which mentioned their good friends, Becky and Glenn. As Gloria, then, dug into Becky's blog (I guess you could call her a chain-blogger), lo and behold, she discovered that Becky's mother, Karen, is her (Gloria's) long lost friend from high school. Karen was even a bridesmaid in Gloria's wedding. Bingo! Connection #2
There is a third connection, but it is so convoluted that I don't dare try to explain it. It would leave you scratching your head, I'm sure. It involves friends we had from our first time in Juneau, friends of Gloria's, and two sets of African missionaries. Trust me. It's complicated-connection #3.
Besides these complex connections, I've also re-connected with Betty, Genie and JoAnne - all old friends - because they found their way to my blog (or, in Betty's case, I found my way to hers).
My point here is that technology, such as the Internet or blogging, sometimes gets a black eye, because it is often used for nefarious purposes. But, like most things in this world, it's not the "thing" that's good or bad, but how we, as people, use it.
James 1:17 - Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
But this weekend it wasn't machinery that revolted. My own body turned on me! I was happily baking cookies for a Christmas party on Saturday, when I turned to pick up something from the counter and a pain in my back stopped me in my tracks. I hobbled through Saturday and half of Sunday before giving in and staying home Sunday afternoon and evening, and all day Monday. I probably should have stayed home today, as well, but thought that some activity might actually help the situation.
I'll mend, and I really only mention it to explain why I didn't post any new blogs on Sunday or Monday. Although neither lying down nor standing are too problematic; both sitting and transitioning from sitting to standing are painful! That makes using the computer a little uncomfortable.
But here is some good news. I told you I'd let you know when Sherry was doing better. She's still weak and taking it easy, but she felt well enough yesterday to make a brief trip to the store - her first outing in over three weeks. Thanks for the prayers on her behalf.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Can you guess what the theme of the party was?
I called to wish Sweetpea a happy birthday this morning, and caught her and her Daddy in the car. They were returning home, after having their weekly "Daddy and me" Saturday morning breakfast. Chris handed her the phone, while he drove, and she carried on a wonderful "conversation" with me. They say that children learn foreign languages more easily than adults, and now I know it's true. I'm not sure which language she was speaking, but she was definitely fluent and very expressive. And, for my benefit, she threw in a few words of English as well . . . "Hi Grandma" "Two!" "I love you" and "Bye."
I hope, by tonight, I'll have a picture or two of the birthday girl to post for you. I can hardly wait! Isn't technology wonderful, though? Just think how different it is today than a few years ago, when my children were celebrating their early birthdays.
Here's how it went back then (with apologies to my Mom, who must have been just as eager to see grandkid birthday pictures, then, as I am today):
Party Day (January): I snap a dozen or so pictures with my Instamatic camera. There is no way to know if the pictures are any good; and since film and developing cost $$$, I try to limit how many I take. At the end of the party, there are another dozen pictures left on the roll, so I put the camera away.
Five months later (June): While on a summer vacation, I use up the rest of the roll of film. I take it out of the camera and tuck it away in my little overnight travel bag, for safe-keeping.
Three days later: We fly back home from vacation-land. I unpack my overnight bag - not remembering that the film is in the little zipper pocket - and store it on the top shelf of my closet. Out of sight, out of mind. I never give the film another thought, until . . .
Three months later (September): I pull my overnight bag from the shelf and prepare to pack it for a women's retreat weekend. "Oh, what's this?! A roll of film. Hmmmm, I wonder what's on it?"
Five days later: After the retreat, I take the roll of film into the drug store, and they send it off for processing. Processing takes a week to ten days, and I spend that time trying to guess what might be on the roll of film.
Ten days later: The pictures are ready. What an exciting day! I drive over to the drugstore to pick them up, and, even before leaving the store, I am ripping open the package. Inside are ten pictures that are no good - too dark, too blurry, or with my finger in front of the lens. Of the remaining 14, 12 are from our June vacation (almost four months earlier). They turned out pretty good, because they were all taken outside, in natural light. And then there are two not-so-bad pictures of the birthday boy, eating his cake and opening a present. "I should send copies of these two birthday prints to my mom and dad," I think.
Three days later: Back I go to the drug store, with the two negatives, to order copies of the two birthday shots.
Ten days later (October): The duplicate prints are ready, and I make a trip over to the drug store to pick them up. I figure that Mom will be disappointed to get the pictures without a hand-written letter. So I put the pictures beside the telephone, on the kitchen bar, until I have time to write a letter.
One month later (November): Feeling bad about the delay, I finally sit down, during the boys' nap, and write a letter to Mom and Dad. Into an envelope go the letter and the two pictures. Oh, no. I don't have any stamps.
The next Thursday: It is grocery shopping day, and I make a special trip to the P.O., as well, for stamps. I place a stamp on the envelope and drop it into the mailbox.
Three days later: Mom and Dad get the letter and the pictures of the birthday boy, who is just about ready to turn yet another year older.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Maybe I should have formalized the things I wanted to do in my life by writing them down. I keep seeing lists on the Internet, entitled, "One Hundred Things I Want to Do Before I Die." I was reading one person's list yesterday and thought to myself that they really weren't very high aspirations - unless you call going to the top of the Empire State Building a "high" aspiration, because that was one of his 100.
I figure my life is about 2/3 completed. So, hopefully, 2/3 of my goals have already been achieved. I remember a few of those early goals:
I wanted to be a teacher. I achieved this one, but didn't stay in that profession as long as I thought I would.
I wanted to get married. Uh-huh. Did that once, and stayed with it.
I wanted to have twelve children. I didn't have twelve, but I had two, and those two were such a blessing (or a handful) that I felt completely fulfilled without ten more.
But, some goals I haven't yet realized. For instance, I wanted to be a missionary, and haven't made good on it yet. But, I still have that final 1/3 of my life to go, the Lord willing, so there's still hope.
As I was perusing these "Before I Die" lists on the Internet, yesterday, I got tickled. Here are a few of the things I found people putting on their "One Hundred Things to do Before I Die" lists:
1. Finish my mending
2. Make a Waldo dress and have someone find me in a huge crowd
3. Pet a seal
4. Learn to walk in higher heels
5. Kiss in the rain (awwww, that's a sweet one)
6. Stretch my lobes to 2" (ugh - and that was the same person who wanted to kiss in the rain!)
7. Eat jellied eels from a stall in London
8. Converse with a parrot
9. Light a match with a .22 rifle
10.See Area 51
Feel free to leave a comment, if you wish, with one or more of your "Things to Do Before I Die." And make it a frivolous thing. After all, I already know that all of you want world peace, to feed the hungry, and to see your children and grandchildren leading upright and faithful lives. So let's go for the "bling" here!
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Yeah, don't I wish I could move like that?!
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
I started out visiting great wonders of the world - the Giza Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, Red Square, the Grand Canyon, even Disney World! Then I began exploring wild places - Antarctica, Iceland, Greenland, the Amazon jungle. It's all there, photographed from satellites, in high resolution images. You can "fly" over the landscape to get the big picture, or zoom in close enough to see people standing in line at the Eiffel Tower!
Tired of going where all the tourists go? Take a peek at the English countryside, or the streets of a small town in Australia. Have you ever wanted to really "see" the Dutch dikes you read about in your fourth grade geography books? Well, then, take a tour of Kinderdijk, Holland. Isn't it a beautiful place?!
Monday, December 3, 2007
Here are a few pictures of the event.
She's been waiting all year to see this man in red.
The little girls loved singing Christmas carols
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Is the longest time of year
It seems as though Old Santa
Never will appear.
How many days 'til Christmas?
It's awfully hard to count
So the little pieces of candy
Will tell you the exact amount
Untie a treat every night
As the Sandman casts his spell,
And Christmas Eve will be here
By the time you reach the bell.
Isn't it funny how it seemed that Christmas would never arrive, when we were kids, and yet, as an adult, I hardly get the tree down and the decorations put away before the holidays are sneaking up behind me again!
But something is different this year. Once again I'm feeling like "December first 'til Christmas is the longest time of year." Do you suppose it's because I'll be trading hugs with Sweetpea for the first time since May? I can hardly wait to hear that jingle bell ring on Christmas Eve.
Friday, November 30, 2007
One morning my friend, Cyndy, with whom I worked, came to the office telling about her encounter, the night before, with a bear in her back yard. I wrote this poem for her.
Rattle of cans, clatter of bottles!
Lifting a corner of the pull-shade
she takes in tonight’s good-natured bay
and the moon-washed, spruce-bough canopy.
“Not the wind,” she mutters.
Door ajar, she peers into the night.
He stands erect, nose testing the air,
paws draped across the garbage-shed roof.
Moonlight polishes his glossy fur,
and frames his upright ears.
A hot cloud of breath is suspended
in the frosty air. Glittery eyes
assess her with a slight hint of fear
and a measure of self-righteousness.
He considers the risk.
She smiles at the sweet intimacy
of the moment. Bruin and human
sharing the shadows. She speaks softly,
“You’d better get out of there, my friend,
or you’ll be in big trouble.”
He drops heavily onto all fours,
responding with a deep breathy “woof”
and lopes off into the underbrush
of Juneau’s thick coastal rain forest,
abandoning the trash.
-- October 2002
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Shortly thereafter I began to smell a strange odor. I assumed it was something to do with the failure of the microwave - perhaps an overheated wire or part, I didn't know. Well, Dan would figure it all out when he got home.
About 4:15 Dan came in the back door, and before I could tell him about the microwave, I heard him saying, "I smell gas in here!" I hadn't thought about that odor being gas! Sure enough, apparently when I was messing with the microwave, I accidentally bumped one of the stovetop burner buttons, turning it on without it lighting. The gas was escaping into the house. (Linda received a lecture about never ignoring that type of odor again. I won't. He only lectured because he loves me.)
But I digress . . . back to the microwave story. After Dan tried several times, without success, to get some water to heat, we called the GE help-line. The lady we spoke with told us to unplug the oven for 30 to 60 seconds and then plug it in again. If that didn't work, she said, we needed to call for a service representative. The unplugging and replugging trick didn't work
Since our microwave is about 12 years old, and since a repair would probably cost almost as much as a new one, we decided we might as well replace it. So, on our way home from Bible study last night, we stopped at Lowe's and got a new one. As we were paying for it, the cashier said, cheerfully, "You know, those were on sale for $98 the day after Thanksgiving." That was just what we needed to hear.
Like our old one, this is a microwave/hood combination. So you can guess what Dan will be doing this weekend.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
So, as Christmas approached, we decided not to travel, but to stay home and celebrate the holidays together as a newlywed couple. We waited until just a couple days before Christmas to get our tree. We went to a Christmas tree lot, off of South First Street in Abilene, that was advertising trees for 50 cents/foot. The trees were seriously picked over, but we found one that seemed just right for us; the tag tied to the top of the tree said 5-feet.
Dan carried our tree over to the fellow who was keeping the cash box. He looked tired, grumpy and cold - it was almost closing time, and he was probably wishing he were home with his own family on this windy December night. He took a look at the tree's tag, and said, "That'll be $2.00." Now I wasn't a math major, but even I knew that a 5-foot tree at 50 cents a foot came to $2.50, not $2.00. So I said, trying to be an honest customer, "I thought it was 50 cents a foot."
The man screwed up his face, threw his hands in the air, as if he'd had all he could take of last-minute tree shoppers trying to get bargain prices on a Christmas tree, and said, "Okay. Okay. $1.50!"
As I recall, Dan paid the $1.50 and left a dollar tip. I remember hoping that the tip might help restore this man's faith in mankind - or at least brighten up his evening a little.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
It is common knowledge that the Finch family, portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird, was modeled after Lee's own family, and that the little tomboy, known as Scout, in the book, was based upon Nelle Harper Lee, herself. The drama that unfolds, namely the trial of a black man who was accused of raping a white woman, was also based, loosely, upon one or more events from her childhood.
Shields, in writing Mockingbird, interviewed 600 people to learn the real story of Nelle Harper Lee. Lee was born (1926) and raised in Monroeville, Alabama, where she still lives with her older sister, Alice. Her childhood friend and neighbor was Truman Capote. The child character, Dill, in To Kill a Mockingbird, is based on Capote.
Mockingbird, the biography, gives insight into Lee's early years, when she lived with a father she adored and a mother who was, most likely, mentally ill. She later went to college, where she was a maverick, and made few friends; and then to law school. She did not complete law school, disappointing her father, who wanted her to follow in his, and her sister's, footsteps by becoming an attorney. But by this time in life, Lee knew she wanted to write. She moved to New York City, where she began writing what would be her only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. A large section of the biography details Lee's friendship and collaboration with Truman Capote, particularly her role in doing research for his book, In Cold Blood.
There was, for me, a personal sense of disappointment that developed as I read Lee's biography. Based upon her novel, I naively dove into this book, certain that I would be reading about a kindred spirit (so to speak) - someone I would have befriended, had the opportunity arisen. But the farther I read, the clearer it became that I would have found it difficult to have been friends with Nelle Harper Lee. Her relationships were complicated and limited, and, to many, she was seen as reclusive.
Learning about Lee has renewed my interest in To Kill a Mockingbird, and in no way diminished my respect for her talents, nor my love of her novel. I intend to re-read it soon, and to watch, again, the movie that was based on the book.
Monday, November 26, 2007
In early 1973, before Chris was born in March, we bought our very first house, on Jerry Drive, in Juneau. It was just under 1200 square feet, with three bedrooms and a bath-and-a-half. It was a modular house, and had been a model home, set up on our builder's uncle's grocery store parking lot, before they relocated it to its permanent lot, in the new Green Acres subdivision, and put it up for sale. Because it had been a model, our builder, Mr. E, had the bright idea of using the house to display a variety of colors of shag carpet that were available in his homes. Every room had a different color of carpeting -- red, green and orange in the three bedrooms; and gold in the living room and hall. But, tasteless as that sounds, we were happy to have our own place, and just in time for bringing home baby.
We moved in the middle of a Juneau snow storm. The road to our new little house was not paved, and the snow had not been cleared by the city. Luckily, a couple of fellows from church had 4-wheel-drive vehicles, and showed up, without notice one Saturday, to move us in. Of course, they wouldn't let me lift a finger because of my "maternal condition." I was stationed at the new house, and assigned the job of directing where furniture and boxes were to be deposited. I remember looking in one box, only to find that these good-hearted and hard-working men had picked up our kitchen trash can (full of garbage), packed it into an empty cardboard box, and delivered it to the new house.
As soon as we moved in, we began experiencing a problem with the water faucets. Every time we turned on the water, a burst of air would shoot out of the faucet, ahead of the water. It was such a strong, explosive burst, that it sometimes would blow a glass right out of my hand. And, even worse, we noticed a strange odor, and the water tasted salty.
We called Mr. E to the house, and he said it was just air in the lines, because they were new. There were only three houses in our little subdivision, and he said as we all used the water more, the air would work itself out and everything would be fine. That didn't explain the odor or the saltiness, but I got the sense that he thought the taste and smell were just figments of my imagination. No Satisfaction there!
So we called the health department, and they tested the water. Yes, they said, it had salt in it, but it wasn't so bad that they could make Mr. E drill a new well. No satisfaction there, either.
Maybe our water wasn't bad enough for the health department to take action, but it was bad enough that I, still very pregnant, wasn't about to drink it; so we hauled our drinking water in some large containers (that was before the days of these convenient little bottled waters).
One morning, soon after, when Dan was getting ready for work, he thought he detected the odor of gas when he approached the sink. He took a match, lit it, held it under the faucet and turned the tap on slowly. With a whooshing sound, the faucet turned into a torch! Since the health department had already declared our salty water "OK," this time we called the fire department. They came out, tested our torches - I mean faucets - and found that the level of methane gas pegged-out their gas-sniffer-meters. "Good thing neither of you smoke," they told me. The well would have to be redrilled, by order of the fire department! Satisfaction, at last!
It turned out that Mr. E had actually drilled our well too deep, which is why he had gotten into salt water and methane gas. He drilled a new, shallower well, and it provided us with wonderful, sweet, fresh water the rest of the time we lived there - about 5-1/2 years.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
The day turned off cold, at least for Albuquerque. And on Friday morning we awoke to a little bit of snow on the ground. It didn't melt off during the day, because it never warmed up. It was a perfect day for being at home, in front of the fireplace! And, since I had the day off, that's just where I stayed!
Friday turned out to be one of the most relaxing days I can remember having in a long, long time. I had already cleaned the house thoroughly on Wednesday, so, on Friday, I had the entire day to do whatever I wanted, guilt-free. Here's a mathematical equation for you:
Here's one of the scrap-pages I did on Friday. I happened to have pictures of both Sweetpea and me on our first pony rides. These photos were begging to be made into a scrapbook page. I'm the one with my mouth open, probably hollering, "Look at me, Mama!"
[Reminder: you can click on the images to see them larger.]
On Saturday I came down with some sort of 24-hour bug. I'm thankful that it came and went quickly, because it wasn't fun while it was here! And today (Sunday) Dan is feeling a bit under the weather, too. I'm praying he will be able to kick it as quickly as I did.
I hope all of you enjoyed this special time, at a bountiful table, with good friends and family.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Until then, here's a Thanksgiving greeting from Dan and me. I'm certainly thankful for good friends and family, like each of you.
Saw some wildlife on the way to Whitehorse - another moose and two foxes. One of the foxes "posed" for us, but the other ran across the road in front of us, then down into the brush in the ditch at the side of the road.
Stopped at the Braeburn Lodge for one of their famous, huge, and be-sure-you-don't-miss-it cinnamon rolls. Each one takes up an entire pie pan. We shared one and ate all we could of it, then packed out enough for tomorrow.
Took a short side trip so to Lake LaBarge. Lake LaBarge is the setting for the famous Robert Service poem, "The Cremation of Sam McGee," which begins like this:
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold,
And the arctic trails have their secret tales
that would make your blood run cold.
The northern lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was the night on the marge of Lake LaBarge
I cremated Sam McGee . . .
Bought new tires for the Escape in Whitehorse. After this difficult trip, we needed them (except for the one we bought at Eagle Plains). Turned out Dan was able to swing a deal, whereby the tire store bought back the one new tire, so we now have four new ones, all alike.
Left Whitehorse and drove to Skagway, Alaska. While in Skagway, we went out to Dyea, the historic start of the Chilkoot Trail.
Boarded a ferry at 4:15 p.m. and arrived in Auke Bay at 11:00 p.m. We were back home to our own condo and our own bed by 11:35 p.m. Tim waited up to welcome us home.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. If you get the chance, and are not afraid of adventure, make this trip. If you do, here are some tips:Don't go without a copy of the current year's publication, The Milepost. It's indispensable on a trip like this.
Be sure you have some sort of written confirmation for all of your lodging reservations.
A 4-wheel-drive vehicle is almost a necessity; and make sure you have at least one spare tire (not those little donut ones), as well as a patch kit and some way to put air into a flat tire.
Make sure your vehicle can go 250 miles without a gas fill-up.
Take mosquito repellent and, if you can find them, some netted hoods.
Don't skimp when it comes to taking the flight up to Tuktoyaktuk. It was the highlight of the trip, for me.
Plan your travel dates so that you can be in Inuvik for the Great Northern Arts Festival, and, especially, for the opening night ceremonies, which we missed.
When budgeting for the trip, add in the cost of a set of new tires. You'll probably need them after 1000 miles of sharp, shale gravel.
Keep all receipts, at least for everything that you are actually bringing home (not food or lodging, in other words). You can apply for a sales tax refund after you get home, using your receipts. Ours was sizable, especially since we bought the tires in Whitehorse. Ask for the application form for the refund at the customs/border patrol office.
Take the time to talk to everyone you meet along the way. They come from all over the world to drive the Dempster, and they all have a story to tell.
Let your friends and family know that you'll be out of reach for awhile - cell phones won't work on the Dempster. Have the time of your life!
Monday, November 19, 2007
Monday - Eagle Plains, Yukon, to Dawson City, Yukon
Sporting a new rear tire, we left Eagle Plains after breakfast. It was raining slightly in the beginning, but the road was not muddy or slick as it had been on that same stretch, going north. The road was in good condition the entire way to the end of the Dempster, where we stopped to take a picture. A young couple from Spain was there with their bicycles. They had ridden from Whitehorse and were trying to decide whether they wanted to try the Dempster. They asked lots of questions and we gave them as much information as possible. When we left them, they had not yet made up their mind about tackling the highway.
We went to bed right after dinner, because we were really tired, and wanted to enjoy our day in Dawson tomorrow. But at 8:00 p.m. the hotel fire alarm began blaring. I pulled my jeans and a windbreaker over my PJs, slipped into some shoes, and then we went outside, where the sun was shining, it was hot and I found myself very overdressed . . . but I couldn't take the windbreaker off, and stand there in my PJs! Only a handful of others came outside. We wondered if everyone else was ignoring the alarm, or if the hotel was nearly empty? We stood outside about 15 minutes before the alarm stopped and someone told us it was all clear.
After breakfast we went to the Dawson City Museum. It is very interesting and well worth the $7/person tickets. It was an all-day pass, so we were able to go back later in the day for a courtroom melodrama, as well. While there Dan got to participate in a gold "rocker box" demonstration.
After lunch, at the Triple J Hotel, we went to the Robert Service cabin on 8th street. Between 1:00 and 3:00 there is a free viewing, which we took advantage of. At other times there is a $5 charge. It was really exciting to me to see the little two-room cabin where so much of Service's poetry of the Yukon was written. Dan had a hard time getting me to leave. I wanted to move in!
After a rest break, we had dinner at Sourdough Joe's, an indoor/outdoor restaurant across from the river. Good food. Then, at 7:45 we went to the Robert Service Show. Tom Byrne is the star of the show - and yes, he was the man we had seen eating at Klondike Kate's Cafe on our first stop in Dawson. He does an outstanding job. Not only did he recite poetry (The Shooting of Dangerous Dan McGrew, The Cremation of Sam McGee, The Spell of the Yukon, Goodbye Little Cabin and Betsy's Boil) but he also used his marvelous story-telling talents to detail the life-story of Robert Service. The tickets were $8/person and worth more than that.
Tomorrow we leave Dawson City - reluctantly, on my part - and head back to Whitehorse.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
It was Sunday, and the only church we found was the Catholic Church (the Igloo Church). We considered attending the service there, but discovered that it started around noon, which would put us on the road to Eagle Plains too late in the day. So we ate breakfast in the hotel and said good-bye to Inuvik at 9:25 a.m. [Since then, I have read that there are two other churches in Inuvik - an Anglican and a Community Church.]
We weren't too far down the road when we saw a wrecked car, down off the road. It looked like it must have rolled. We were concerned that it might have just happened, and that someone might still be in the car, so we stopped and Dan got out and climbed down into the bushes to check it out. We were relieved to find that no one was in the car.
We made good time to Fort McPherson and across the two rivers by ferry. However, soon after crossing the Peel River we came upon the first section of road with freshly-laid shale gravel. Shale is very sharp, and before we reached the Arctic Circle, a piece of it punctured our rear driver's-side tire.
Dan jacked the car up, removed the tire, and used our tire patch kit to plug the hole. [Until now, we hadn't realized that our spare was one of those little emergency donut tires. Dan didn't want to try driving on it.] After getting the patched tire back onto the car and pumping air into it, we found that the plug was not holding.
Dan began using a can of aerosol tire sealant. Two men from the road crew stopped while he was doing that and warned us that the sealant would ruin the tire; but Dan was pretty sure that the tire was already ruined, and he was only hoping that we could "limp" into Eagle Plains with it. We went two or three miles down the road, and then checked the tire. It was still leaking. Dan pumped more air in and we went a few more miles -- still leaking, more air. We continued this routine all the way into Eagle Plains. I lost count of how many stops we made to air up, with our little portable air pump.
The good Lord was watching out for us, though, because the puncture happened only about 50 miles out of Eagle Plains. And it was heart-warming that no one passed by without stopping to ask if we were okay or if they could help. Everyone watches out for everyone else's safety here, we have found. We arrived in Eagle Plains at 4:45, which was 5:45, Inuvik time. Our tire adventure added a little more than two hours to today's travel time.
Once we were safely to Eagle Plains, we bought a new tire and had it put on at the garage (they have a good inventory of tires). So, again, Eagle Plains was our oasis.
I had hoped to call Tim tonight, but there was no phone in our room.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
I got up at 7:00 a.m. Since Dan was still sleeping soundly, I left him in the room and went down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, by myself. I took a little spin around town again, then came back to see if Dan was awake yet. He was. While he got ready for the day, I did some laundry. The hotel only has one washer/dryer combo, so I had to do our two loads one after the other.
When that chore was finished, we went to lunch together, then we dropped by the tour office, to see if we could somehow get back our certificates that I left at the Tuk airport yesterday. The lady there said she'd try to have someone retrieve them, and asked us to check back after 4:30 p.m.
Inuvik is hosting the Great Northern Arts Festival this week, and I have been eager to go see it. We missed the opening ceremonies last night, which would have included music and Native dances, because we didn't get back from Tuk until late. Finally, today, we had time to go. It was a very nice show, with artists demonstrating their skills and selling their products. Most of the art pieces, though, were "too nice" for my pocketbook, so I didn't buy anything. (Maybe I should have bought one of those felt-and-seashell trinkets in Tuk!)
We found the grocery store today, which we have been looking for ever since we drove into town. It is no wonder we didn't find it earlier, since it is inside a large metal warehouse , with no exterior sign. Actually half of the space is dedicated to groceries, and the other to clothing. I only thought to look inside this building after seeing a lady come out with what looked like grocery sacks in her arms.
Before dinner we dropped by the tour office, once again, to see if they had successfully retrieved our certificates. They had! I was really happy to have them back.
This evening our hotel restaurant was closed for a private party, so we ate at the McKenzie Hotel. It is an elegant restaurant, and the food is both delicious and expensive. today was relaxing, which was good, since we begin our return trip tomorrow. I'm looking forward to spending some more time in Dawson City.
Friday, November 16, 2007
But it was foggy this morning. We sat in the tour office, hoping that the fog would lift. At one point, I dashed across the street, looking for some snacks to take with us, since we didn't know when we would get a chance to eat. As I was hurrying into a shop, an old Native man stopped me, held out his hand, smiled, and introduced himself, "Hi, I'm Winston." I regret that I was in such a hurry (not knowing when our tour might leave for the airport), because he was such fun to talk with. When he heard that I was from Alaska, he told me that he had relatives in Fairbanks. "A long time ago," he said, "our people were divided, and some became Alaskans, and others became Canadians - because of an imaginary line someone drew."
When I got back to the tour office, I learned that the morning flight to Tuk had been canceled, and we were told to return at 12:30 for a 1:00 flight (hopefully).
We returned to the tour office at 12:30 and began loading into a 15-passenger van to go to the airport, which was south of town. As Dan stepped up into the van he smacked the top of his head on the door sill and made a 2 to 2-1/2" long gash on the top of his head. I was worried that he wouldn't feel up to going, but he folded a paper towel, placed it on the cut and held it in place with his baseball cap. He was ready to go.
There were ten of us in the tour, including a lady from Tokyo, Japan; a man from Belgium; a couple from Houston, Texas; a couple from north of San Francisco; and a couple from Ottawa. The man from Belgium had taken the same tour three years earlier and was back for a "re-run."
Our pilot and co-pilot, Chad and Ian, were young. The plane was just large enough to accommodate a small group like us. The flight up took about 25 minutes and was smooth and pleasant. At one point, the pilots pointed out, on the horizon, the polar ice floe. They said it was not always visible from here, so we were lucky to see it.
At the little airport, in Tuk, we were met by a man named Rick, our tour guide, who loaded us into another van. We spent the next hour or hour-and-a-half getting in and out of the van, over and over, to see one sight after another. Rick's son, William, rode along with us, but was shy and didn't want to talk much. I figured, since English was not his first language, he was probably not comfortable speaking with us.
Our first stop was at the "Welcome to Tuktoyaktuk" sign, for pictures. From there we went to the pingos - odd, cone-shaped formations that occur in a pond when permafrost is present (I didn't get a very good picture of the pingos, so here's a link where you can see one); and to the beach, where we all took off our shoes, rolled up our jeans, and waded in the Arctic Ocean. One man actually went clear in and immersed his entire body a couple times (YES! It was very cold). He explained that he had gone swimming in five of the seven seas, and this would make the sixth. After this trip, he would only have one more to go.
Among the other sights Rick showed us were the old Roman Catholic and the even-older Anglican churches (we got to go inside both of those); the entrance to the underground community freezer (just dug into the permafrost); and the remains of an ancient sod house.
Finally he took us to Maureen's house. Maureen is a Caucasian lady who came to Tuk to teach school in the '70s, married an Inuvialuit man and has lived there ever since. She prepared some Native food for us -- dried whitefish; dried whale meat (the red meat), called "bipsy"; cooked muktuk, (whale blubber); and caribou soup. We tasted everything, even the muktuk, although I ate only one small bite of it. It was not so bad, but not so good that I asked for a second serving. To my palate, the bipsy was the most objectionable; it had a strong, strong flavor, not like anything I had ever tasted before.
A van was waiting at the airport to pick us all up, but not far from the airport the van had a flat tire. The driver didn't know where the jack was, or how to change the tire ["I'm a driver, Jim, not a tire-changer!" - for all you Star Trek fans]. It took the cooperation of several of the men, including Dan, to figure out where the jack might be hiding and to change the tire. We, the women (and the driver), all stood beside the road, smacking mosquitoes. It was nearly 11:00 when we finally got back to Inuvik. A few crackers and peanut butter served as a late "dinner," and then I took a hot bath before bed.