After spending 54 years from birth to 2008 living in Iowa I was presented with an opportunity to live in Fairbanks, Alaska. My blog is a diary of the adventure to get to Alaska, day to day life in Alaska, as well as facts for loved ones left behind in the Lower 48. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Oops! Where did 2011 go?

Can't believe I didn't post at all in 2011. Well, it's history by now. I will include our Christmas/Valentine's Day posting I sent to some friends and family below. As for 2012 I purchased this neat journal in which I could write daily notes. You see, years ago I came across my Grandma Lawrence's diary that she kept and I found it ever so fascinating. Since she passed away in 1959, when I was only 5 years old it gave me a glimpse into her life. One comment she made sticks in my mind to this day. 'Paul (her husband) helped with the laundry today.' In today's society it isn't uncommon for the men to share equally in household chores. However, back in the days she was writing household chores were done by women; men took care of the outside chores.

As a youngster I kept a diary, as well as throughout my two pregnancies. It was interesting to compare what I was experiencing during the pregnancies. Similarities, yet some major differences. Just like my offspring. One male, one female. To this day I attribute the fact that I was carrying a boy during my first pregnancy that caused my never-ending nausea and what came post nausea. I learned that popcorn was the "best" food to eat, as it was least harsh coming back up.

Well, back to the 2012 journal. I ordered it on the internet (living in such a remote area doesn't provide much selection), and received it in November. I could not WAIT for 2012 to get here so I could journal. Boy oh boy, January 1st I wrote in the journal, and it felt so good. Unfortunately that was the last entry I made. I've decided that it would not be so much the day to day activities I've been doing; rather it would be my thoughts and experiences of life. Living in Alaska I'm living a slower, more reflective life. Or is it my advancing age? Regardless, I find myself frequently thinking about my childhood, school friends, choices I made and experiences afforded to me over the past years. It's hard to not dwell on mistakes; I need to frequently remind myself that they made me who I am today.

I will get back to posting in the journal. There's so much in my head that I want to pass on to future generations in hopes they will have a few, okay, maybe at least one, "aha" moment when reading my journal, similar to how intrigued I was when reading my grandma's diary.

To catch you up to date in 2012, Nate and I both have the same jobs, and are doing well. After having snow on the ground since early October, we are getting eager for spring. Yet, how is it that each time it snows, as it is now as I post this, we find ourselves somehow comforted by it, and in awe of its beauty? The comfort comes from having a warm, comfortable home in which to watch the snowfall, and the awe in that here in Alaska each snowfall is that perfect Christmas card snowfall, the flakes gently falling to the ground, not blowing like there's somewhere other than our yard that they want to land, like it snowed back in Iowa.

Camilla flew from Anchorage to spend this weekend. She commented, and I can so relate, that when we lived in the Lower 48 that flying in an airplane was such a big deal, and a rare occurrence, and that here in Alaska it pretty much means if you are leaving town, or traveling over 100 miles you expect to fly. With her living an 8 hour drive/1 hour flight it only makes sense to fly. Alaska Air makes it enticing to use their credit card as each dollar spent qualifies for one "mile". Somehow their miles and actual miles aren't the same thing. I think someone needs to explain to them that we are nearly 4000 miles from Iowa, yet it "costs" us 50,000 air miles to fly there. While I could take that as my next task, what good would it do, right? Nah, think I'll continue to live the laid-back, non-stressed life. Thank you very much.

In February Nate and I made an unexpected flight back to the Lower 48 to reunite with the family, as my sister's husband of nearly 40 years passed away suddenly from a heart condition. From the time he experienced chest pain until he was heaven bound was only a few hours. Quick for him, but way too young (64 years young) and still difficult to grasp as reality. It was so good to see my family again. One year ago in May we all met in St. Joseph, Missouri to celebrate my parents' 65th wedding anniversary over Memorial weekend. We had the best time ever. For their 66th anniversary we found ourselves together mourning the passing of perhaps the most awesome man I've known personally. Mike was very, very intelligent, a Mensa member (google it if you aren't familiar with Mensa), and yet could explain the most complicated things in terms that anyone could understand. He had a way of making everyone feel important and comfortable around him. He was genuine. Such a blessing to have him to greet me on the other side some day.

With that unexpected expense which, of course, added more "miles" to the Alaska Air credit card, we have no return trips back to the Lower 48 planned at the present time. We have accrued enough miles for an emergency trip back, should the need arise. We are hoping that isn't any time soon.

I was so pleased that Camilla decided to cut short her vacation in Orlando with her husband Brian and his sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, Austin, from South Dakota, short so she could be with the family in the Tulsa area. Nate and I were able to give her a ride back to the Dallas airport and we all boarded the same plane to Seattle. Due to the flight being delayed out of Dallas we were on short connections to our Fairbanks/her Anchorage flights, so texted a good-bye hug to each other at the airport, as we were leaving out of different terminals and she had a seat near the front of the plane, ours near the back, and she was long gone by the time we got off the plane. Probably best, as she was our last good-bye to family that trip, and emotions were running pretty sad at that time.

If anyone would like to follow frequent updates and lots of photos from our Alaska experience, friend me on Facebook at marcia.lawrence. (My mom, a non-computer user, calls it Space Book. Cute, huh? When I'm in my 80's I want ppl to think that giving nearly-correct names to things will be considered cute as well.)

Well, as promised here's the Christmas letter:

In these Christmas letters everyone writes what has been happening in their lives the past year, which gives us reason to try to remember all the highlights. Our life is quite mundane, albeit in a good way. Marcia continues to work at Boys and Girls Home, ( going on 23 years with the Agency. She is responsible for the client records, transcribes the psychiatrist’s dictation, and other CQI (continuous quality improvement) tasks in her position as CQI Coordinator. For the first time in over 22 years she is not a supervisor and loving it. Previously she oversaw the receptionist positions, which meant early morning “I won’t be in this morning” to “I need to leave early, can you cover for me” phone calls. Talk about liberating!

Nathan began his third year of delivering the local newspaper, Newsminer, ( on a motor route from Fairbanks to Denali National Park, working midnight – 8 a.m. (noon in the summertime) Tuesday-Sunday nights. Each morning when he returns home he gives Marcia the wildlife count, Aurora Borealis viewing report, as well as informs her of the various weather patterns and wide ranges of temperatures he’s experienced while on his route. He enjoys his work, especially the overtime pay. Marcia’s heart truly softens when he has to head out in the darkness and –40 temperatures.

Brian and Camilla, Marcia’s son-in-law and daughter, moved from the lower portion of our duplex to Anchorage in September. Brian found work in a pawn shop (perfect job for bargain-lover Brian) and Camilla is working as a psych RN at North Star Behavioral Hospital, days, Monday-Friday on the young children’s unit. Both are enjoying their jobs and life in the “big city”. Marcia flew to Anchorage to visit them over Thanksgiving and Christmas weekends. Anchorage is a six hour drive over the mountains and through the woods (literally), or a 45 minute flight. We miss not having them downstairs to share daily happenings and special activities and outings, yet are happy for the opportunity to do some real shopping when visiting them. Fairbanks has few stores, so Marcia takes an empty suitcase with her, and brings the bulging bag back to Fairbanks with treasures and bargains in tow.

Brian and Camilla’s dog, Bubba, (obviously) moved with them. He and Rambo, our Alaskan Eskimo/Husky mix dog enjoyed wrestling and running around our large fenced in back yard. Concerned that Rambo would be lonesome, Nathan found a retired sled dog on Craigslist, that we adopted. Guava (she came with the name) was 100% outdoor dog when we got her, and she continues to adjust to living indoors. She seems to prefer indoor living, as her potty trips outside are out and right back in, no time wasted. She and Rambo get along very well. Rambo has taken on the dominant role and takes advantage of every opportunity to intimidate Guava. She either doesn’t recognize it or gives in easily, and doesn’t have any reaction to his bullying.

Due to us not having simultaneous days off work we don’t get much chance to get very far out of town to explore. We had a garden again this year, in the raised garden bed Nathan built, 4’ x 32’. We had a LOT of rain early in the summer, and our crops were minimal at best. With 24 hours of daylight in the summer it’s amazing how fast the vegetables grow.

Over Memorial weekend Marcia’s family (us, her kids & spouse, her sister & spouse, niece & spouse, nephew, spouse and two children) all gathered at a hotel w/water park in St. Joseph, Missouri to celebrate her parents 65th wedding anniversary. We came from New York, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Alaska, so had us coming from both coasts. This was the first time ever that the entire family had gathered simultaneously. It was a fun time together, ending with many tears being shed as we went our separate ways.

Marcia and Camilla took a road trip to Valdez, Alaska in August, retracing the same trip Marcia and her son, Sam, took in August 2010. We have a 1977 Dodge motor home that provided inexpensive lodging and high gas consumption on the trip. They were in Valdez at the time the spawning salmon were returning to their birthplace, so got to see the thousands upon thousands of fish as well as a couple of bears dining. On the return trip the motor home decided to not start after pulling off to take a look at the Brooks Mountain Range, prompting a visit by an Alaska State Trooper, an attempt by the AAA responder to reattach the battery wires, a small fire starting which was quickly extinguished, the need for a tow, overnight stay near a repair facility, and Brian driving 4 hours to pick up Camilla so she could report to work for her overnight shift (at that time she was working in Fairbanks as a nurse at the local detox center, where inebriates come to get sober, usually an overnight stay). The initial repair was very reasonable; the rewiring not so cheap. We don’t live an exciting life most of the time here in Alaska, but when things do get exciting we seem to go overboard!

The end of September we returned to Iowa to “switch over” tenants in our house in Sioux City. We rented our furnished home to a lady about our age when we moved to Alaska in 2008 and made arrangements to meet her to do a walk-through prior to her vacating the property. When we arrived at the house, she was not there, and neither were the majority of our furnishings we’d left in our home. She also placed a dead mouse in the house, disconnected the pipe connecting the gas water heater to the chimney, left severe water and mold damage throughout the basement, as well as cut the vines we’d grown the prior six years as a privacy area to the back deck. We attempted to contact her, however our calls and texts went unanswered. We spent an entire week painting, repairing, recaulking, scrubbing, crying, installing new window treatments, cleaning, re-carpeting the main floor, and removing all remaining personal belongings, selling at a rummage, taking to Goodwill or the dump, or packing into suitcases and bringing back to Alaska. The place looked so good when we left, better than when we purchased it. Over the past few months we’ve had the moldy basement carpeting and walls replaced. We now have a new tenant (someone we have known personally for several years and are confident we can trust) and are happy to have that chapter behind us.

Over the past two years we became Big Brother and Big Sister to two children. The first was a 10-year old girl. We met with her about three times when she decided we weren’t bonding, (yeah, after three whole visits) and she discontinued our match. The second match was a 10-year old boy who had recently been discharged from where Camilla currently works. We were matched for several months until he was readmitted to the hospital and subsequently placed in a long term residential facility in the Lower 48 (Texas).

That pretty well highlights our year. As said earlier, we don’t live an exciting life, it’s a comfortable and relaxing life. For us, it’s a great life. We hope your life is as rewarding and you find joy and peace in even life’s simplest events.

We miss and reminisce about our loved ones back in the Lower 48. Feel free to comment or friend me on facebook or drop us an e-mail.

Until next time (hopefully before 2013), Sunny skies/soft snowfalls.