Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Because life is as short as the winters are long

The snow came slipping in on the first day of fall. She was the guest that showed up for the party on the wrong Saturday, a month too early. But instead of retreating in embarrassment, walking backwards down the sidewalk in profuse apology, she came right up to the front porch, invited more friends. Next thing I know, we're surrounded by flakes.

It was the earliest snowfall in over 60 years. Alaska really rolled out the white carpet for us.

Can we let this sink in for a moment? I had to send the kids into school with snow pants in September. Also? I had to find the snow pants on a Monday morning with zero minutes to spare. Which did not create a considerable amount of merriment and glee on my part.

When the bus returned that afternoon, the kids came barreling off, begging to put off homework until after they had a chance to play in the snow. Because it might MELT before they could play! Um, you guys? Eight months. You have EIGHT MONTHS to play in the snow.

Oh well. I gave in. Go play. And yes, you can have hot chocolate. And sure, marshmallows too. Because life is as short as the winters are long, and I'm going to try to say "yes" as much as possible.


My husband is home after five weeks away. He essentially deposited us in Alaska and then took off for military training. Which was remarkably similar to the pattern of medical residency (times two).

It goes like this. We move somewhere new (Maine, Ohio), and before I can say "honey do list", he disappears into the halls of the hospital for lordknowshowlong. The only differences this time were that he didn't come home to sleep and he did his own laundry. Will I get in trouble if I say it was easier this time?

I'm so glad to have him home. This didn't register super high on the list of difficult things we've done, but it was still on the list. He's already back at the hospital, but at least he's not four time zones away. He's definitely worth the extra laundry.


Last Monday, I had to change my running route because a bear (a BEAR!) was reportedly meandering down the bike path that I normally run. So I pulled up my big girl shorts and found somewhere else to run for a few days. I'm faster than I used to be, but I won't be outrunning a bear anytime soon. So 'tis best I continue to employ bear avoidance tactics and leave the 1x10m bear sprints out of my speed workouts.

Why yes, those ARE ice chunks on my hat and fleece
This Monday, the running obstacle of the week was snow. The good news was that I didn't have to spend much time digging out my hat and gloves. They were already in the middle of the floor along with the entirety of the winter gear for our family of four. (See above: locating snow pants in zero minutes.) There's another upside here to snow, maybe two. First, who needs a hydration belt when you've got snow flying straight into your face? Second, it's damn gorgeous and beats the heck out of a treadmill screen.

Yes, I miss crisp fall days and apple picking and outdoor soccer and acorn squash from the farmer's market and watching with my own eyes Giambi's walk-off homer in the thick of the Tribe's hunt for the wildcard. (Shockingly, we don't get the Sports Time Ohio channel in Alaska. Lame!) I could stir up trouble in my heart thinking about how long eight months of winter running is going to feel. But what's the point of that? I've decided to take it a run at a time, to take each day and mile for whatever it is.

Today the sun came out clear, and the snow on my roof went dripping into the driveway. Grass is glistening green again, and the mountains are the brightest white. It's September, and my lungs are filling up with the clean, cold air of the last frontier. I can see my breath, and every morning there are so many opportunities to say yes.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Nine {Just Write}

Oh, there are so many things right now. For one, he's going to turn nine this week. NINE. As in almost ten. My baby.

He has glasses now and we just finished Harry Potter number three. We usually read together, but he got so excited that he couldn't wait for me, and he read ahead on the bus. The first thing he said when he stepped off the bus was "Mom, I have so much I need to tell you."

I'm thinking, oh, field trip info for tomorrow or something happened on the playground, but no, he sputtered out a dozen breathless paragraphs, every last one about Harry Potter.

Tonight as we read the last chapter, I didn't hurry. I glanced up at least a dozen times to see his not quite nine year old eyes twinkling in the soft lamplight. I savored each page. Because it's not every day you get to read the last chapter of Harry Potter number three for the first time.


This weekend we went chasing the sunset and wound up in a place that reminded us of Maine. My birthday boy named it "Mainetown, because it's like Chinatown is for China people, a place you can go that reminds you of home." He's almost nine, and he's an old soul, and he's my baby.

I'm just writing again with Heather. Because of course.

Monday, September 9, 2013

White Hatted Mountain (Just Write)

There are a hundred things I've been meaning to write, and a hundred ways I've been thinking I'd say them. But I've run a hundred miles in these twenty days. And the miles steal my words, quiet my heart. They take away my urge to speak, replace it with an urge to listen (and to eat).

Today I ran a new road. I hugged the curve, pad padded on the gravel shoulder, lifted my head, and bam, I ran right into Autumn.

Fall here isn't so much the turning leaves as it is the mountains putting back on their white hats. The tallest ones go first. They wear them well after Labor Day in the most scandalous unfashionable magnificent way.

From here on out, I'm going to take my cues from the tall, gutsy white-hatted mountain who lives around the corner from me. Today she told me to stop slouching and stretch tall into a quiet rhythm. To stop caring whether it might keep raining, to start seeing the faces in the clouds. To give up hoping to be heard, to bundle up and to lean hard into listening.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Do you know what's beautiful in the rain? (Just Write)

It's not always unicorn-shaped glaciers and rainbows around here. Sometimes it's just the rain, minus the bow, for days on end. The Alaskan clouds aren't so great at reading the social cues. Reluctant to part, they linger long after the proverbial hostess clears the table.

The latest spell of clouds and rain lasted just long enough for me to forget what a sunset looked like. Such that when I caught the orange and pink hues peaking through the pine trees just now, I nearly flipped out. "ohmygosh ohmygosh, I've got to take a picture. I wonder if that's the aurora borealis? Ohmyword it's just so gorgeous! This stupid phone photo isn't going to to do it justice!" And so on...

You learn to appreciate, to celebrate the rarities, whatever they may be, wherever you are.


Yesterday, I wanted so desperately to hike to a scenic overlook here in town. But we woke to rain and clouds. And my son complained of a sore throat. And my daughter complained of a severe hiking aversion. And I knew right then that no amounts of bribery and sugary snacks were going to make that hike feasible, let alone pleasant.

I picked at the leftover corn bread and sulked for all of five minutes before it hit me. You live in freakin' Alaska. Quit your pouting and go find something beautiful. Pretty sure glaciers don't melt in the rain, you big whiny baby. At noon, I was googling "glaciers near Anchorage". Two hours later we were standing on the shores of a glacial lake. 
The clouds, the rain, they hung on. But so did I. That's what raincoats and boots and triple shot lattes are for. It's going to rain and snow for most of the year. No choice but to grin and gear it.

But here's what I'm really trying to say:
Do you know what's beautiful in the rain?