"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
John Muir

Monday, November 29, 2010

PREPARE TO STOP-- winter driving

I love the beauty of the fresh snow.
The world is clean, fresh, white and sounds are hushed and muffled.

But driving in it is another thing, entirely.

Growing up on Long Island, NY, we had some huge blizzards from those nor-easters coming up the coast. The garbage trucks (now called waste management sanitary disposal vehicles-what a mouthful--whew!)) would temporarily hook up big plows in front and push most of the heavy, wet snow off the roads. The snowpack remained behind and we loved ice skating (snow skating??) out on the street in our new Christmas ice skates.
For us kids, it all melted way too soon.

But in all our years in upstate NY, where we had serious snow that never left for months after its first appearance, the giant snowplows were permanent structures. They also spread salt and sand that cleared the main roads down to the asphalt, mostly. More than once these noisy giants even pulled into our own private driveway to push back the hugest drifts or spread some salt. Nice guys. I appreciated living in a small town where we knew the first names of the road crews. I also remember the countless nights of snowstorms where I was comforted by the lullaby of the huge plows rumbling through the dark hours.

Well, snow removal here is quite different. Rather than salt, gravel is spread. Now gravel provides grip for tires (so they say) but does nothing to help melt snow nor clear roads.
This gravel is stored in man-made mountains.
The gravel spreading trucks also work as graders, packing down the dry, fluffy snow.

The problem with gravel is that it gets driven into the packed snow on the road. Occasionally tires will hit some loose and these little chunks propel onto windshields with great speed.
Thus, many, many (actually most) vehicles have cracked windshields.

Intersections are the toughest of driving challenges
for the pause at a red light causes ice to build-up quickly.
An interesting phenomena are these signs located about 1/10 of a mile ahead of stoplights.

Since the snowpacked and ice-covered roads are so slick, stopping is a real challenge. These "prepare to stop" signs are placed strategically so a vehicle can stop safely when the light turns red. The trick is to actually begin to break gently when the warning light starts to flash.

I have prayed daily before leaving the parking lot, obeyed the signs and driven very slowly, much to the chagrin of the drivers behind me. I have remained safe up until this point. Thank God.
My grip on the wheel has lightened up a bit. And I still love the beauty of the snow.
But I do miss my friendly car starter, snow scraper and chauffeur.
He headed back to Texas with just his memories of Alaskan snows.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Look at the World with Thanksgiving

Since first singing to John Rutter's music in the community Christmas choir many years ago, I have been touched by his melodies and tender lyrics. I came across this song recently and it expressed my overflowing heart as I reflect on God's goodness to me this particular Thanksgiving. I hope you have the 4 1/2 minutes to spare and can watch and listen and let your heart be filled.
May God bless and keep you, my friends. May He open your eyes to the "joys and miracles along the way" in a fresh, new way this day. And then you may be able to join me in praise and thanksgiving to a God who created such a diverse and incredible world for us.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

If wishes were horses...

My mother-in-law taught me the expression
"If wishes were horses all paupers would ride."

As I struggle with slipping and sliding in my car along the roadways,
I see a number of folks still managing to travel on their bicycles. Incredible.
They remind me of that expression for some reason.
Would they rather have a horse? Or car?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Santa Claus and the North Pole, Alaska

Ho-Ho-Ho to Santa's house we go!!

Today we did a little sightseeing, scheduling it into the 4 brief hours of daylight.
We drove SOUTH of Fairbanks to the town of North Pole.
That seemed a little odd to both of us, honestly.


This is the tallest Santa I've ever seen!
Notice how small Jack looks standing near his feet. Sort of like an tiny elf.
That sled is actual people-sized, not miniature.

North Pole stores big blocks of ice from last year's frozen river under sawdust for months until this time each year. Then the ice sculpting begins. It is simply remarkable how coarse chainsaw blades can carve such delicate details. We sat in this ice sleigh just long enough
for the picture--the frozen bench chilled our bums!
This lovely carved sleigh was attached to 2 beautiful, life-sized, prancing ice reindeer.
The real reindeer were in a pen behind us, munching hay.

The whole town is a year-long Santaland.
Here is an example of all of the light poles. Clever, huh?

Even the businesses get in the spirit.

But some of us were getting a little disgruntled about the outdoor activities,
so we went into the Santa Claus house to warm up our attitudes.

It is as charming as you can imagine, packed with any and every Christmas ornament and collectible known to man. Christmas music filled the air.
But my favorite part were the letters. They covered the posts and some walls.
Letters children wrote and mailed to Santa.
One reads, "I want my Daddy home. And dress up clothes."(hee hee)

You may want to click on this pic and enlarge it twice to read these cute letters.

This child was so specific about the kind of race car and telescope he was asking for that he cut out the picture rather than risk Santa bringing the wrong ones.

The cozy Santa Claus house thawed out some frowns and turned them into smiles.
Look who found a big, warm and furry friend to hug.

And I found a cheerful friend, as well.
He made sure I sat on his knee and then told me he'd had knee replacement surgery last year.
Yipes! I jumped off in a flash.
This well-travelled Santa shocked me as he'd visited more places in Texas
than I ever have.
But of course, he IS Santa, after all.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Happy Snowday Birthday

Today is my husband's birthday, that special once-a-year-day!
The man who hates winter celebrated the day being snowed in.
And he was happy about it!
We left the old Chevy plugged in all day as there was no place we had to be
but with one another.

We did venture out for a walk in the winter wonderland.
The snow is so dry and fluffy that we can blow on it to make it puff away.

And I love the sound of the crunch with each step.

The day was made special by phone calls from those who care and Facebook
messages of good wishes. Then Josh and Kathleen came over for dinner and a few card games.
And a round of singing "Happy birthday", of course.
The wish that baby Abigail would arrive on his birthday didn't happen
but we all forgive her, anyway.
She knows her arrival time but is still keeping it a secret.
I am so happy that he is here in Fairbanks with me for this special day.
Maybe next year we'll be back in Texas or somewhere else. Who knows?
We've been together for his birthdays for 40 years. That's what matters.
Happy birthday, Jack!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Never say never

For over 7 years, my man has adamantly declared,
"I'll never go up to Alaska in the winter!"
But the draw of a new granddaughter and missing me weakened this resolve.
He dug out his gloves, packed the long johns and boarded a plane in Austin .
I've been so excited!! The visit is a surprise for Kathleen and Josh, so I've had to hold all my thoughts of it inside for 3 weeks. Whew-that's been so hard!!!


Poor guy, who is a confirmed winter-hater, left Texas in 78 degree sunshine and arrived in Fairbanks 17 hours later to this:
That's a temperature difference of almost 80 degrees!!!

But notice how happy he looks as he listens attentively to the words of the official greeter at the Fairbanks International Airport.
I wonder what wisdom he is whispering in his ear?
I'll bet it's a good joke...

Posing with a gentle moose, do you recognize this jacket? (Don't even try if you were born after the early '70's.) This special edition was the exact coat that the ABC News broadcasters
wore during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.
If Jack held a microphone in his hand you would have guessed right away,
I know. You just needed a little hint.
("And now, reporting live from the 90-meter ski jump....")
Why is he wearing a 30-year-old winter coat?
This "classic" was obtained after I worked a mere 3 days for ABC's Production Management Dept. just prior to the start of the Olympics.
Great job, wrong timing, enough said.
But the memorable coat made the cut when we were moving to Texas and parted with all other things "winter". Soooo, the good man had to find something to wear while in the far north
and this coat was pulled from the back of the closet.

Sometimes it's a handy thing to be a pack rat, right?

After casually walking in on an unsuspecting Kathleen at work, she kept repeating increduously, "Dad, what are you doing HERE?" She introduced him to her fellow office workers as "My Dad who said he'd NEVER come up in the winter!"
Then she had to sit down because she was getting contractions!

At the end of the first snowy day, after scraping the car windows 3 times; getting stuck in deep snow in Josh and Kathleen's driveway and finally just walking up the path to their house; feeling the fatigue from jet lag and a 3:30pm sunset, he fell asleep quickly.
I am thanking God he is here.

Remember, never say never.
You just never know...


"Close friends [make] the music sound sweeter...the laughter ring louder." J. Viorst

My daughter Kathleen was born with true friend material qualities. She is honest, kind, generous and knows how to keep a secret.
This weekend I, in turn, have been most blessed to watch her friends love her back. These friends joined efforts to give her a baby shower.
My role in the event was as background support staff so I had plenty of time to watch these special women in action. Here are a few pictures of the prep time:

Heather,#1 party planner, turning a shade of blue as she blows up the giant pink balloons.
We had to pick her off the floor right after this pic was taken. (just kidding!)

Nicole, with her prizewinning smile, decorates the gift table and scurries to find the missing answers to her Nursery Rhyme quiz.

Fashionista Ashley, adorned in appropriate pink accessories for the occasion, creatively displays some of her gifts for Abigail on a decorative clothesline.

Claudia works her wonders in the kitchen with platters, dips and yummy strawberry punch. She's the very same talented woman of diaper cake fame. (Note the blog on 11/2/10).
And her frequent, humble reply? "Oh, it was an easy recipe."

Laura's "Very Hungry Caterpillar" cake was perfect for the shower's theme of children's storybooks. Adorable and most delicious, as well!

And here is the Dream Team of smiling workers thankful for the chance to bless
Kathleen and Baby Abigail with their talents, energy and love.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Library Lure

Libraries have always been some of my favorite places. Often, while
visiting new cities and towns, Jack I have searched out local libraries.
They all have a little touch of their own personalities.
Usually it's the small town library that is the most charming, I think.
Did you ever stop to notice how people in a library are relaxed, quiet, pensive, and restful?
There is no kinetic energy or noise. Maybe that's why I like them so much.


The Fairbanks Public Library is no exception. It has an extensive collection of
books, media and collections but is offers much more than that. There are plenty of groupings of chairs and tables scattered about and many of them face out picture windows onto the grounds, encouraging calm and thoughtfulness.

This lower level room is a "silent zone" where folks can sit and read, be online, or just gaze out the windows while being warmed by a big fireplace. It's so cozy and lures me to come and linger. The view beyond is of a winter wonderland but in the summer it is filled with bountiful
gardens of flowers and trees.

I admire this stained glass entitled "Alaska in Vitro" which is 5 or 6 feet tall.
It depicts the northern lights, Denali, gold mining, bear, moose and whales.
A lovely work of art that adds warmth and color to the atmosphere.

The children's room is always the fun part of a library.
Here they've placed a huge birch tree placed in its center.
If you enlarge this pic by clicking on it you can see what's hiding here.

Among the branches are tucked life-sized birds, squirrels,
and both bird and bee nests. Did you see them? It's a fascinating thing.
And the wall of windows gives it a real outdoor feel.

This little parakeet lives happily in the children's room.
Who wouldn't?

Oh, Abigail is going to love the many times she'll come here with her mother.
Kathleen will pass on her love of reading in this room. She'll point out the birds hidden in the branches of the inside tree and sit at the tiny tables with her little girl. Today she is just practicing and dreaming. But tomorrow...
I roamed around the library today, specifically taking pictures for the blog. The chairs and windows were inviting, but seeing Kathleen walk in the door was the best view I could ask for.
Meeting up with her, seeing her happy smile and getting that great hug remain such a blessing and joy for me! It's always a thrill! Every time!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Denali-The Great One

Mt. McKinley is the pride of Alaska.
Also known as Denali-"The Great One"-by the first people here, the Athabascans,
it is over 20,000 feet high, the tallest peak in North America.
Denali is reputed to be the coldest mountain in the world.
It's a unique privilege to see the top 1/3 of the mountain as it is usually covered in clouds.
I was super happy to photograph this view one clear, wonderful day.

Kathleen and I were thrilled to see it one other day while driving south.
(By the way, this was Kathleen in pre-pregnancy days.)
We were at a private spot she and Josh had discovered and we use for a picnic place.

Many businesses use the mountain in their names.
It signifies strength and power.

And I got a kick out of this soda machine.
Mt. McKinley looks great here, too. Don't you think so?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Creating Saturday

I had a sleepover at Kathleen's and Josh's house Friday night.
I awoke to the aroma of zucchini bread (yummy!) as Kathleen had already been up and baking.
By late afternoon she had created 2 loaves of zucchini bread, 4 loaves of banana bread and a batch of lemon cookies. Boy, the house smelled delicious!
(And she's still doing all this without countertops or a kitchen sink!)

On the lower level of the house, Josh used his power tools
and built maple and driftwood end tables and maple shelving for the kitchen.
His creative wood projects reflect his own designs and talent.

And I spent pleasant hours in the new upstairs nursery making burp cloths at the sewing machine. I smiled to hear the busy sounds of hammers and drills from the basement and
smell the delicious breads and cookies from the kitchen.
We were all busily and contently creating in our own ways as the day wore on,
each of us in our own part of the house.

The only one to poop out was Mr. Zeke. He tucked himself into a little corner of the woodshop/basement and fell asleep in the shavings and sawdust. With the volume of those power tools and Zeke's big ears, I'm not sure how he accomplished this, but this picture proves he spent much of his day dozing. Dreaming of quiet and carrots, no doubt.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

So what do you do, actually?

During this past months of blogging, I have had a few dear readers request that I write about what I do. What is it that brings me up to Fairbanks to work?
Simply put, I have a contract with Banner Health to work as a nurse at this hospital.
Banner provides me with housing as long as I am working a 42-hour week.

I'm glad I took that previous picture on Sunday afternoon because, since the time change 2 days ago, I no longer see any sunlight on working days. I leave for the hospital at 6:30 AM and walk out around 5:45 PM. I took the following pictures at 5:20 PM today.

This is the entrance where I go in. I work in the Outpatient Dept of Special Procedures. This area includes Wound Care, Endoscopy, Interventional Radiology, Pain Treatment Center and Infusion Therapy.

Here is the main entrance of the hospital. It includes an attractive and spacious new Emergency Room, separate building for the Imaging Center, incredibly modern and impressive nursing home called the Denali Center, and Chief Andrew Isaac-a clinic that provides care at no cost to anyone with Native American blood, whether Alaskan or from the other 49 states.
I like working here. Ever since I was a young girl, my heart beat a little faster whenever I passed a lit up hospital at night. I always wanted to be part of the goings-on within the walls and I don't mean as a patient!

Due to patient confidentiality, I really can't show you anything active.
This is a boring picture, I know. What you are seeing is the recovery area of the Pain Treatment Center where I spend part of my time recovering patients who have just had injections for pain, usually somewhere in their spines.
I also work often in the Infusion or IV room. It has a similar look with just more chairs and infusion pumps (but no window, unfortunately). I administer just about anything you can imagine that goes through an IV line, except illegal drugs. Some examples include blood, chemotherapy, antibiotics, clotting factors, iron, steroids, TPN and assorted specific drugs. I take off blood like the blood bank on certain people, as well, and give various injections. It's a room full of needles and that probably doesn't excite you nearly as much as it does me...
but what I enjoy most, after the clinical part, are the relationships. Most of the patients come on a regular basis or come once in awhile but stay all day. My patients become my friends and that's the best part of nursing for me! I am inspired by each of them.
Like I said before, I like my job here.