Sunday, December 28, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Our first stop was the series of tanks that hold seals, otters, and polar bears.
Onto land mammals: lamas, camels, musk oxen, wolves, and yak. There was an elevated platform that allowed us to peer down into the wolf compound and the amur tiger compound. The pack of wolves reminded us of Tok, and the four year old male tigers are new to the zoo and their keepers. Their keeper, a gregarious transplanted New Englander, showed us how he continues to bond with the tigers who had female handlers in their former home. He uses a bottle filled with heavy whipped cream to sooth the beasts and gain their trust.
This same handler showed us the way to the converted elephant house that now holds two abandoned brown bear cubs. As the cubs snoozed, we learned about their trip to their new home, which is a stopover for their permanent home in Memphis, TN.
The sun set, we stopped in to see the lynx and snow leopards and hurried to the car.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
As a member of Rotary, I attended the Kodiak noon Rotary meeting on Tuesday. Our guest speaker was Lt. General Atkins. Atkins wears many hats, and the purpose of his visit was to meet supporting USCG personnel at ISC Kodiak. In his speech, he expanded upon the roles among his other hats, including his role in the Joint National Training.
My ears perked up. My company had been trying to find more intelligence on the proposed Pacific Alaska Range Complex (PARC), an $80M proposed joint training range. Despite the high level colleagues dedicated to this, whose jobs are to be sleuthes-- in a sense, we had come up dry on details.
Until little ol me attends a Rotary meeting on a Rock in Alaska. He took questions, and I posed one (of course! Do you think I would miss this opportunity?). In particular, he had spoken of the attributes of the Battle Area Complex and Combined Arms Collective Training Facility (BAX/CACTF) at Donnelly Training Area (DTA) and how cool it is that the Army has this amazing training center to reinforce what troops learn at the National Training Center (NTC). I posed my questions in complete acronym-ese (I worked on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the BAX CATCF at DTA). The looks on his entourages' faces were priceless.
Afterwards, one of the majors asked how I knew about all those nuances, and I informed them that I worked for US Army Environmental Command and G3 (the Training Support Division of the Army's sector within the Pentagon) before PCSing to Kodiak as a proud Coast Guard wife. Again, blinks. Priceless.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Here on the Rock, a small group of us put together a small progressive potluck dinner. For each course-- appetizers, main meal, desserts, and after dinner drinks-- we assigned a host and each of us brought a plate to each house, each course. With our varied backgrounds, we attempted to introduce each other to our family's traditions, some of which reflected our geographic homes: meat stuffing with Portuguese sausage, southern style green bean casserole, etc.
At each home, surrounded by food and friendly faces, our "family" gave thanks for the simple joys within our lives. Personally, as we trekked across the ice-laced gravel roads through our neighborhood and cul de sac, I breathed fresh air and in my own personal way, reflected upon how great my life is and gave thanks for my family's health, my amazing marriage, our new home, and for all those simple pleasures I take for granted. Further, I gave thanks for this new family of mine: the ones who helped me endure a difficult, long patrol and continuously made me smile as I explored our new Alaskan home.
Above all, I am thankful for this special time in my life. As Brad loves to boast: they pay us to live here. We are so lucky.
Monday, November 17, 2008
He cups his hands in a pointing gesture that we all know as adorable, quintessential Brad. He is marveling at the cloudless, clear, cool day and how the sun is reflecting off the snow capped mountains, specifically Barometer.
“Yes, dear, they sure do. I picked well, didn’t I?”
“Well, I think it was more of a joint decision…” he lowers his hands and charms me with a splendid smile.
When he left, the island was covered in clouds, fog, and rain. Only in the pictures posted on the blog, like you all, he lived vicariously and saw only what the picture could convey. The natural beauty is lost on a photograph. Truly, you have to be here to witness it firsthand.
With Tok, we took a small jaunt to Spruce Cape. With the crashing eight foot rolling waves in the background, we carefully picked our way over the iced path, eagles passing overhead, about 15 yards from our heads, and Tok’s nails clicking into the ice, fastening his grip as we declared the need to pull out our yak trax soon.
We ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner together, each day. We have enjoyed returning into that comfortable, married couple routine. The dog still has no idea what to make of our new routine, but he is adjusting to two people giving him love and affection as opposed to one. Something tells me he will cope...
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
It used to happen when I drove 16 hours nonstop from my dorm room to his at Chase Hall.
It used to happen when I packed up my Federal Natural Resource Law books and study guides to read between quarters at the academy football game.
It used to happen when I cleaned our little apartment in Portsmouth, NH, to greet him after a grueling four month southern patrol.
It used to happen when I flew SWA from Baltimore to New England on those sporadic weekend visits during his geo-bach.
It used to happen when I walked across the street and went home to him everynight for our two year stint in DC.
And it happened last night...
Sunday, November 9, 2008
It was Karaoke night at the bar James and Kate took me to, and I had never had so much fun and felt so patriotic. Kate and James' group of friends includes mostly James' fellow military intelligence unit stationed at Fort Belvoir. The smiling faces greeted each other, cheered for those competing, and sang along with some memorable chorus lines from well-known tunes. More than once, the bar was quiet with reflection as a sad country tune recounted the trials and tribulations of soldiers fighting for our freedom and their own lives. The room was filled with OIF vets, all of whom lost someone in their units, in addition to their own natural mobility.
As the night wore on, I heard someone say, "Oh, that's the Coastie." Not one to be shy, I wandered over and introduced myself as a Coastie wife and asked her name. She smiled, gave her name, and stated that she is stationed with the Honor Guard there in DC. She had just come from the ISC here in Kodiak. Thrilled to recount home with someone, we spoke of Tomi-san at Powerhouse, and she begged me to pay him her regards. What a small world. As she and I laughed about the upcoming winter in Kodiak, her friend pulled up a chair. "hey, why is it that you are getting hit on by the ladies and not me?" I turned my head and greeted the vet with a prosthetic leg, and the Coastie replied, "She's married anyway." "Damn," he replied. Nonetheless, we chatted briefly, and I thanked him for his service to our country. I held up my Yuengling in Cheers fashion and returned to my tables of revelers.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I walked around DC in a sleeveless top and no coat. Fellow citizens pass me, casting crazy glances from their muffled necks and bundled torsos. It is a balmy 50 degrees, and suddenly, I am the novelty.
Fast forward to me in a tank top, driving down I-95 in 77 degree temps, desperate for some sunblock. I stop in a Travel Plaza where I am sure to find everything from beef jerky to slushis, and hopefully some much needed SPF. I ask the clerk, "Where do you stock your sunblock?" "It's winter. We don't carry that anymore." "Honey, it is 77 degrees outside; this ain't winter." Alas, I have more freckles on my left arm than my right thanks to the 16 hours of driving I completed in the past week.~~~~~~~~~~~~
We bowed our heads in prayer over dinner. I sat among my fellow alumni and some new students in the renovated student athletic complex at my alma mater. The chaplain, an old mentor of mine, read from her notes, asking God to bless our meal and thank him for the safe travels of the board members who came so far to join us that evening--- "even from Alaska," she concludes. I smiled and raised my head at the end of the prayer and was greeted by eight smiling faces around the table, all looking at me. "So, are you the alum from Alaska?" the sophomore next to me asks.
Sipping beer and wine at a Friday night tasting event, I remark at the varying degrees of yumminess. "Another pour for my friend. She came all the way from Alaska to taste these wines with you this evening," boasts my host.
L-R: Judith, me, and Ann Marie
Cotton candy delight