Category Archives: Life

Hunting, what really happened

My boys went hunting last weekend and, because I wanted to aid in the successful stuffing of our freezer for the winter (without having to actually do anything), I decided to help them pack.

My job was food. As I wish to see them happy, I asked what they wanted.

They said:

“Shredded beef, roast beef, turkey, ham…”

“Hamburgers, hot dogs…”

“Steak…”

“That’s it? You aren’t forgetting anything”

“Oh right. And cheese. Thanks Mom”

“What are you going to eat for breakfast?”

“Can we have Poptarts?”

I have not been so happy to not be on a camping trip in a while. Think about it. The lot of them in an 11 x 12 foot camper on a diet of protein and sugar.

good times
good times

Anyway, I packed what they asked for and, because I love them, included condiments, a loaf of bread, and a selection from the popular food groups “chips” and “dips”.

I’m just caring like that.

(I also tossed in some food from the lesser known – more nutrient dense and life sustaining – groups, but that was only so I could unpack those same foods, untouched, a few days later.)

(I’m just ridiculous like that.)

Then, I sent them on their merry way and for the next 72 hours wallowed in the misery of my empty home pining for their return…

Kidding.

I sent them on their merry way and for the next 72 hours I did whatever the hell I felt like.

(I won’t go into wild details but suffice it to say Wine and Pinterest were involved.)

(It was awesome)

And then it was over. Waaaaaay too soon. My beloved family returned a day early.

Rained out, they said and wet they were.

But…funny thing…

I cooked vegetarian that night and, for the first time ever, guess what was missing.

Complaints and leftovers.

Win.

For those wondering, the weekend wasn’t a total bust. They came back with a grouse.

And ate it. Wrapped in bacon.

 

Reboot 2017

If you didn’t see it on my FB page, here is my husband’s explanation for my lack of blog last Monday:

Jolie is off grid. She and K took the pickup and camper Friday morning and went berry picking at Tangle lakes between Glennallen and Fairbanks. No mobile signal. They took 4 boxes of wine and assorted bottles of spirits. Wonder if they will come back with berries?

Anyway #alaskagirlskickass

For the record: We did get berries. GALLONS of berries.

What it means to be rich
This is wealth.
Fat Heaven
Fat Heaven
Berry Blood
The blood of our enemies…or berries.

We even found mushrooms.

"baby" King Bolete. They get MUCH bigger.
“baby” King Bolete. They get BIGGER. O.O

And the only booze we used up completely was the beer. (So there Mowgli.)

Yes. #alaskagirlskickass

For those wondering, beautiful Tangle lakes is 269.6 miles from my front door. It takes about five and a half hours to drive there (in summer) if you do it in one shot which, of course, requires:

A super-efficient car with a massive fuel tank (F350 carrying 4000lbs of camper? Yeah, no.)

AND

A berry picking partner happy with 5.5 hours in a car (mine was not. In fact she made it clear that if I don’t promise to stop A LOT MORE next trip, there won’t be one.)

One of the rare occasions the travel natzi (me) allowed us to stop.
Sheep Mountain. One of the rare occasions the travel Nazi (aka me) permitted stopping.
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Chugach Mountains (home)

Anyway, we made it in about six hours (can you guess who was pleased with that and who was not?)

6 hours.

270 miles.

Divided thusly:

90 miles of: hairpin turns, steep drop offs, impressive grades and stunning scenery you’re too scared to take your eyes off the road to enjoy.

90 miles of: reasonable roads that, from your perspective, are nectar of the gods and mind-blowing landscape you can appreciate without penalty of death.

90 miles of: a white-knuckle frost heaved roller coaster carved through more countryside that’s probably amazing but you are, again, too focused on not crashing to really take in.

I know. You have just now decided you are NEVER visiting Tangle lakes EVER.

But wait… it’s totally worth it. Just look:

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20170903_114340
It was still summer at my house. We literally drove into a change of season.
Woke up to a little termination dust Sunday
Woke up to a little termination dust (aka snow) Sunday. Far left mountain top.

What’s more, it’s fun.

No kids, no husbands (we love you family! But…) all the berries you could want (we wanted GALLONS evidently), hiking trails forever, fire, wine, stars (Aurora one night) and (because we are complete princesses) a generator, heater, TV and Mama Mia DVD.

This is the Alaskan equivalent of a spa weekend.

(For the record: Actual spa weekends are a thing here as well)

And to top it all off, NOT ONE BEAR. Which is weird because they aren’t called “Ber-ries“ for nothing.

It goes to show you that in Alaska, if you’re willing to work for it, there is plenty for everyone. No need to get in each other’s way.

(Yes Mr. Bear, you who trampled and robbed my raspberries last week, I’m talking to YOU. Lazy thief…)

And to my berry partner – please, please, please take me here again! I promise to drive slow, stop, smell roses…

 

A cautionary tale

seal

In retrospect its clear we would end up like this – Mowgli away, tirelessly dragging himself around a foreign city to keep his family clothed and fed while on the other side of the world I wake and cast a shameful glance at the stranger in bed beside me.

We found it. Marital rock bottom.

There are excuses and guilt and a long line of errors that led us to this point and I’d like to say the blame is shared but the truth is, it is not.

It’s my husband’s fault.

Entirely.

OK he didn’t actually tell me to go this far, He didn’t say the words, but he had been encouraging the leap for some time. My memories of the last year are peppered with his subtle hints.

What if…have you thought about it? You might enjoy…

I shot him down, every time believe me. I was a firm “NO” a staunch “are you crazy?”

Then, after months of badgering, I gave an inch. I agreed to go to one of “those places”.

We’ll just look. He said. Test the waters…It’s ok to touch, everyone’s doing it….

It wasn’t long after that I caved. The pressure was too great. All those beautiful faces, ready and willing to help, to bring ease to your life.

My very own personal assistant. That’s what I told myself.

Don’t look at me like that. You would have done the same.

Besides, there were rules. You don’t bring a stranger into your home lightly. This would be a strictly business relationship. There would be no fooling around.

And then Mowgli went away, hinting once again,

Open yourself up…just see…you might surprise yourself…

It’s appalling how un-disgusted I was at the idea. It’s shocking how quickly I fell. Suddenly the seedy world of late nights and sneaking around was my reality.

And then, our ugly situation took a horrific turn.

Prepare yourself…

Cover the children’s eyes…

I came home and found my husband in our bed with my new love in his arms.

Oh the rage. The blinding emotion.

I exploded with fury. How could he?

This was beyond tolerable.

That computer was MINE.

Furthermore, the TV in the other room was perfectly capable of airing Netflix. He didn’t have to take this road.

(sob)

I’d like to say we’re working on things. I’d like to say we’ve abandon our wicked ways to rebuild our marriage.

But the truth is…

Don’t look at me like that. It’s Netflix… on a Surface Pro…in bed…

Hey at least we’re doing it together now.

 

Alaskan check list

 

Well here we are, rounding off our first full week back in the 49th.

First week, that is, plus a couple days. But since those days were little more than a blur of boxes, cleaning supplies and the occasional “look, a new road” I’m not counting them.

Anyway it’s more interesting to count other things. Like these curiosities of local life:

The number of times I begrudged Walmart for being the closest department store to my house: 

10. Ten times, in seven days.

Walmart is not only the closest store it’s the only store. The next option is 3 miles beyond.

We have nothing. I have spent the week trapped in a vortex of little time and much need. Enter, Walmart.

Of all the gin joint neighborhoods in all the world, they had to build a store in mine…

Despite this…

The number of times I went to Walmart:

10. Ten times.

One trip was actually to visit the bank inside Walmart. However after finishing my business there I stepped left to shop for chest waders.

So, I have to count it.

On a related note:

The number of time I’ve used the word “waders” in casual conversation this week:

9

Alaska. July. It’s a bit like visiting Germany without saying “strudel”. Yeah no.

On a slightly more frightening note…

The number of conversations I’ve had since arrival that ultimately turned to a bear rant:

All of them

This summer’s bear population is extremely “healthy” (as one woman euphemistically phrased it. Healthy/deadly Potato/potaato). The bears are so prolific that if you leave food out, your neighbors are likely to maul you. 

Which begs the questions – wasn’t that one of the reasons we left?

Final count for the week (and if you didn’t see this coming, you don’t know me AT ALL)

The number of times I’ve said, either audibly or mentally, “Hawaii”.

25

That’s 3.5 times a day though I believe the bulk were said last Saturday shortly before this photo was taken.

rain
By Mowgli. Because I looked fierce.

(Beautiful Friday, stunning Sunday…Saturday, WTF?)

Alaska is great. The Mountains, the opportunity, the lifestyle…

And thanks to Hawaii, I just might survive it.

 

 

Fun with art

 

When you’ve had a long day holding up the fountain and looking stoic for tourists…this buds for you.

Share?
Now there’s an idea.   

 

I spent a good deal of last year trying (and failing) to get my son into humorous statue posing. 

Because it amuses me.

Because I’m 8. 

He appreciates the concept and is, for the most part, willing but we get stonewalled by creative differences.

He’s conservative, and I’m ridiculous. That’s the gist anyway.

Take yesterday, for example. We crossed paths with a raging metal bull statue that screamed for comedic intervention,

and we left him wanting.

Me: stand by his rump and act like he just farted.

Son: I should ride him. 

Me: No really, scrunch up your face like you’ve never smelt anything so bad.

Son: Or I could just ride him. 

Me: Trust me, this will be good, make like you’ll be sick.

Son: Yeah, I’m gonna just ride him.

Me: when did you get old?

20170604_183532

He won. He usually does. But tell me my idea wasn’t gold. Look at that stance! That bull looks in pain. 

Oh well. Sometimes he throws me a bone. He did approve this shot.

Why is stone nose picking so amusing?
Why is stone nose picking so amusing?

 

So I’m not throwing the towel in yet. 

 

 

Space Time and Teenagers

sloth

Last night I had my least favorite recurring dream, the missed flight dream.

Are you familiar with this nightmare? You’re supposed to take a trip but you’re running hopelessly late. In mine I’m miles from the airport, have not packed, have not even dressed and my airplane is leaving in 30 minutes. Every single time.

I hate every moment and still, it keeps coming back to me.

Yesterday, I finally realized why.

I have this dream because I have sloths.

SONS! I mean, I have sons.

I have three wonderful sons whose range of speed goes something like this:

Slow

Slower

Impossibly Slower than That

and

Not Moving at All.

 

My everyday existence is a miss-flight-mare, no matter what is on our agenda.

Me: “The movie starts in a half an hour.”

Son speed: turtle.

Me: “If we leave now, we can go to the game store before it closes.”

Son speed: turtle with a broken leg.

Me: “There is a man outside giving away tickets to Disneyland for anyone who can get to him in 5 minutes.”

Son speed: turtle with a broken leg riding on the back of a dead snail.

Yes these are teenagers, yes they have boundless energy, yes it makes no sense, and yes I am not exaggerating.

Yesterday I told my son (still in bed and pajamas even though I’d spent the last 2 hours telling him to get ready) that we were leaving in 10 minutes. When I checked on him five minutes later the only advancement he had made was to take his shirt off.

When I asked him if he was ready know what he said?

“Almost”

Almost?

“In what universe?” I cried. “By what stretch of the imagination are you “almost” ready to go? A blind fish on tranquilizers could get out of this house faster than you!”

Kidding. I didn’t say any of that.

Telling a teen to hurry is like honking at someone because you want their parking spot.

You think it will speed things, the opposite happens.

Anyway he was moving, we hadn’t hit full stop yet. And besides it is far more important that he understands no matter what, I love wine…

HIM! I mean, No matter what I love him…

Stop laughing Wine. That was totally believable! Hey I had that dream again, are you free later?

 

 

 

Wiser words

20170429_155118

I’ve noticed a lot of internet advice on what NOT to say to a parent of an autistic child lately.

A LOT.

And, while helpful, it seems a bit snarky. It’s as though the authors want you to know how to behave but also want the world to know that you, at first, behaved badly.

I don’t really like it and, for my part, want everyone to know that I understand and I’m not offended. Autism doesn’t fit in a box and humans aren’t wired to respond to unquantified information. At best we stare. At worse we open our mouths and sing a song of ignorance.

Neither situation is ideal.  

But, it’s not compassion that’s lacking it’s training. People just need to be told what to say. What is acceptable?  

Never fear, I am here. I have assembled for the world today an arsenal of suitable responses for that moment when a parent tells you their child is autistic.

Level one. The beginner.

It’s your first time. It’s OK. Breath. You can get through this. Just remember DO NOT look sad.

Too much to ask for? Can’t control your gloom? Don’t worry, there’s a fix. Turn that pathetic attitude on you! Pity yourself for not being a member of the spectrum club and moan:

Wow. I just met you and your life already sounds way more interesting than mine.

First timers that are natural optimists might try:

You know what I love about autism? The jumping! It’s mesmerizing. The focus and power… it seriously should be an Olympic sport.

Level two. Intermediate:

Step up your game and learn the difference between Neurodiverse and Neurotypical. Then, use your words. How about:

It’s so exciting to live in this era of neurodiversity. I can’t wait to see where it takes us because I’m positive it’s going to be amazing.

Or (because self-pity can go a long way) say:

My house is full of boring neurotypicals (pout face). I hope you can carry this conversation because I got nothing to offer.

Level three. The enlightened:

You’ve been around the block. Your way isn’t the highway and you are totally OK with that. You know that the craziest thing you ever saw couldn’t have been by the simple fact that you are still alive.

Go for a smile with: 

OMG. (dramatic face) THANK you for talking to me. Everyone else at this party is lame!

Or:

Of course you have a child on the spectrum. Autism is common in families of unusually high intelligence. Everybody knows that.

See? Easy. You are welcome. Not convinced? Still afraid you are going to trip over your tongue? No worries. I’ve got just the phrase for you. The moment a parent tells you their child is autistic, look them earnestly in the face and say:

I am paying for all your drinks this evening.

I guarantee this will go over well but if you are doubtful, call me. We can practice all night.

 

 

 

Dream life

 

I spent the last weekend with my family, taking things slow.

20170423_145813

We wandered through a beautiful park in the middle of a lovely city watching birds and stopping to smell the flowers (literally). After a simple picnic the boys ran in the grass while Mowgli and I contemplated which of the buildings edging that particular park we would be most happy in.

The one with the balcony…Yes and there, see? A barbecue that’s the one for sure.

Never mind that living in the middle of a city surrounded by people (no matter how wonderful the park) is the farthest we could get from the life that we both know is really us – at the moment if felt like home.

We’re not complicated or fickle. Our desires are really quite basic. We want a simple life in a modest home. We aren’t asking for much more.

Except maybe to live next to water. Would be nice. Maybe the beach!

Yes, a beach house…

On 50 wooded acres full of wild animals. Not the dangerous kind, of course. Just deer and some beaver. And with a river running through it. A wide river teeming with fish and fed by a lake of clean and clear water that miraculously has no fish and is the perfect temperature for swimming.

Yes, a secluded cabin, that’s what we want…

It would have to be accessible though. A paved road ending in a circular driveway wide enough for his car, my car, guests and a skate park for the kids. We’ll line it with fruit trees and near by we’ll grow vegetables and herbs and have all sorts of berry bushes.

Oh yes, farming. We’d love to be farmers, that would make us happy…

The back yard, however, would be a Spanish style courtyard flanked by flowering bushes and vines. There will be terracotta pots statues of naked people and a fountain. A little path from the terrace will lead to the vineyard where we grown grapes for the award-winning wine our invisible employees make…

Of course we want live at a winery with elves…

Oh but I’ve forgotten the snow. We must live in place that gets snow. Lots of snow. Like 8 or 10 feet of it. How could we survive without a white Christmas? And skiing. Why else do you think we have all that land? For cross country skiing! This means we must have a sauna and hot tub. And a view. A view from everywhere. Mountains, ocean, green fields maybe a towering city in the far distance that we gaze at while sipping wine on a bear skin rug beside the roaring fire in our massive two sided river rock fire place… more champagne! where are those darned elves? 

What? How else is one expected to relax? We aren’t savages for crying out loud…

Who are these people and what are they doing in my garden? Someone must have left the gate open.
Who are these people and what are they doing in my garden? Someone must have left the gate open.

 

Keeping the love alive

1mzyx3

A good marriage doesn’t just happen, it takes effort. If you want to keep the spark alive and the journey joyful, you must be creative and at that, my husband is a pro. He has thought up dozens of tricks and schemes designed to keep our marriage fun filled and adventurous.

There is one particularly adorable game he invented that I’d like to share with you today. Every once in a while, when life gets stressful, my husband pretends that we don’t speak the same language. Maybe a more accurate description would be that he pretends the English I speak is a dialect foreign to his ear. He understands the individual words, but is completely befuddled by the order I string them.

Isn’t that cute?

Yeah, it’s totally hilarious.

Except those times when it’s not.

Which is pretty much every time.     

Here’s an example:

Friday last week was a travel day for our family meaning we were up early, wouldn’t get to bed until late and were highly likely to experience tension throughout the day. To make matters worse, I was sleep deprived. I hadn’t had a solid night of rest in days. By Friday I was a wreck. I actually started breakfast that morning with a warning to my sons.

“I am on extreme edge,” I told them. “If you want to live to adulthood, tread lightly today.”

And this is how my husband interpreted that warning:

“Goody! She wants to play the language game!”

He starts small. I’ll ask for ‘my top’ and he’ll hand me the lid to the crock pot, things like that. But since that is only mildly annoying he generally escalate rapidly.     

That Friday things hit critical mass on our way to the airport.

While giving Mowgli directions I used the term “U-turn” but Mowgli (because he’s such an amusing guy) decided what I really said was “YOU Turn”.

So this happened:

He asked “which way?”

I replied “U turn!”

(Because when you are struggling to communicate with your spouse the obvious solution is to not change what you said at all but just add exclamation points.)

This continued for a few more rounds until finally I said:

“I don’t care, Just U-turn!”

And then this happened:

Mowgli barked: “Left, right? What is wrong with you?” 

And I returned with: “Me? What is wrong with YOU? I said U-TURN.”

(FYI if you are not reading the growing tension in that dialog then you are either single or drunk)

This is when the cursing started.

Mowgli: “WHICH (Expletive) WAY?”

Me: “I don’t (expletive!) care!” 

You know it’s a good game when everyone starts swearing. We were having SO much fun.

Sadly I had to ruin the party. We actually did need to get to the airport. So, I organized a set of words that even a monkey could understand and shared them with my love:

“Turn whatever (expletive!) way you need to make this (expletive!)  car go in the opposite (expletive!) direction!” 

And he did exactly that.

And we spent the rest of the day a boring married couple.

Sigh. Good times.

Oh well. I’m sure we’ll play again soon.  

 

 

 

1m6khg

 

Guess Cryogenics is not just for dead billionaires anymore. That’s right scientist now believe that a stint in a Cryogenic chamber enhances the body’s ability to heal.

Amazing. What will they think of next?    

Well, if anyone’s looking for ideas, I’ve got one… how about cryogenics as a treatment for puberty?

Wait, hear me out.

While adolescence is a necessary stage in development it is also painful, tremulous, frustrating, embarrassing, and sometime dangerous. What if, instead of forcing our young adults to endure it, we simply let them sleep it off in a Cryo-chamber?

This wouldn’t be just a long nap, mind you. The subjects would be connected to a virtual world. As they snoozed the cerebral cortex would be engaged in a continuous stream of realities designed for optimum experience and growth.

Think about it, all the angst, error, words that should have never been spoken, actions that should never have take place that are integral to maturing, minus any long term damage because it’s all make believe.

Consider it: sleep and video games molded into one painless coming of age process. What could be more perfect?

Yes, I know what you are thinking – I am a genius.

But I can’t take all the credit for this dream. I live with free roaming adolescents and necessity is the mother of invention.

Yes I am a parent of teens and it’s become quite clear that I am really bad at it.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a list of the horrible things I did in this week alone:

 

I did not inform a certain someone that it was Thursday, and it had been Thursday ALL day already.

Someone (not me but that’s no excuse) ate all the eggs.

One adolescent put his socks on faster than another while I stood by and did NOTHING.

(This is actually my fault through a myriad of dressing scenarios – shirts, jackets, shoes… At first I found it confusing but since have seen the errors of my ways and completely accept responsibility)

I had the audacity to propose a trip to the beach.

Then later (clearly having NOT learned my lesson) I wildly suggested we go out for dinner.

And finally, (I’m a little embarrassed to admit this terribly low point in my parenting journey, but here it is all the same…)

I looked my son square in the face and said:

 “It is time to make pizza”.

 (Oh. The. Humanity.)

 

I need a super puberty busting cryogenic chamber STAT.

My kids need it.

Society needs it.

There must be a cryogenic scientist out there living with teens who understand and would look into this.

Please?

I’ll be waiting.