Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hiking in Kodiak

The three of us have enjoyed the sunshine in the past week. The rain eased up just before the Christmas holiday, and we have had a good time taking in the sea smoke, snow covered mountains, and sea lions. Our local stellar sea lions sun themselves on a platform within St. Herman's harbor. Their calls can be heard from certain vantage points along some of the trails on Near Island, but they are best seen and smelled at the edge of the large floats that house some of the area's largest trollers.

While standing there, I could not help but be mesmerized by Barometer's reflection in the water.
My poor attempt to be artistic...
I just love the name of this boat.
A floatplane heading out.

And lastly, here is a shot of the sunrise last Wednesday, 24 Dec. As I drove home from Rotary and a couple of stops to wish clients happy holidays, I took a short cut along Mission Road, where I saw the crescent moon in the morning hues.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More Eagles

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Greetings

Each year, I revel in the joy of holiday cards. Our relatives send quirky cards, and our witty political friends send us the year's best politico cartoons dressed in holiday gear. Regardless of the shape and size, each one is met with utter joy. Opening the mailbox becomes a much anticipated daily ritual. I slice open the envelopes to reveal glitter, bows, pictures, hand written notes, long diatribes about the past year, and wishes for a healthy and happy season and new year.As an Army Brat, I still keep in touch with families with whom we were stationed over twenty years ago.

As our horizons broadened as a new couple, our list has grown extensively, as has our collection decorating the entryway. Tales of retirees, of active duty stations, and families abound, each season updates us on our loved ones' pursuits and happiness.

This year has been a big year for many of our friends and family: weddings, new additions to the family-- bipedal and furry alike--, home ownership, and new stationings. We are thankful to hear how well everyone is doing, and I am delighted to continue adding to our list. Even if they/you are those from whom we only hear once a year, your tidings are more than welcome.

Happy Holidays from Kodiak!
(Oddly enough, this picture is from Yellowstone in June!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snowshoeing in Girdwood, AK

Brad and I escaped to Girdwood, AK, to enjoy snowshoeing at the large public recreation area near Alyeska Ski Resort. The sun rose on the pristine, snow covered mountains that protect Moose Meadows from the elements. At 4 degrees and the sun rising, we set out with a few cross country skiers, wandering along the major, groomed trails. During our second hour, Brad started taking side paths that gave him a more difficult terrain [that he had the gear to transverse]. Exhilarated and addicted to our new hobby, we finished with icicles hanging from our eyebrows, eye lashes, and scarves.

Anchorage Zoo

Due to weather, we had a quick layover in Kenai. After loading up the rental car, we checked the temperature gauge, which registered 8 degrees. We checked in Big Mama at her hotel and commandeered her room to put on our long underwear. With an hour of daylight left, we headed to the Anchorage Zoo. Along with two other people, we entered a winter wonderland. Snow packed paths and covered signs made it difficult to get around, but Brad and I were overjoyed to not have stroller slamming into us as we navigated the poorly designed map.

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


Big Mama is visiting, and I am trying to learn my new camera. Brad used his Family Separation Allowance to purchase me the Nikon D40. I took the short lense with me and Big Mama as we explored the Buskin, where we found chum salmon and lots of eagles...lots.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tok, Going on Eight Months Old

Playing the in the snow last week.

Pentagon Nuances in Kodiak

It's a small, small world sometimes.

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

Thanksgiving Reflections

Brad and I decided to not travel this holiday season. During this is the time, our extended Coastie families become our immediate family around the dinner table. That's not to say that they replace our beloved blood relatives, but the smiles, laughs, and tongue-in-cheek jokes are reminiscent of our relatives' jabs from across the dinner table.

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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Those Cheeks!

Ain't she beautiful?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Taking a Second Look

“Let me get this straight: they pay us to live here?”

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

He's Home

And eating halibut. We're signing off for a while...

Happy Veteran's Day


For eight years I have always had the same scenario: the night before, I cannot eat, I cannot think straight, I cannot sleep, and I have butterflies in my tummy.

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

Prego Rego

Our dear friends, Chris and Regan are pregnant. We have been following her progress on her blog, and I got to see her in the flesh thanks to careful coordination among Kristi and her sister, Renee.

So, here are the embarassing and funny pics of my dear friends. Enjoy...we certainly did!

Fall in Lafayette Square

On a warm, 70 degree afternoon, I caught up with dear friend, Kenney, in Lafayette Square. The trees were in fall colors, the tourists came from all directions, and our laughter scared some of the abnormally large squirrels scurrying around.

Home Sweet Home in Appalachia

The air smells so sweet up there.

As I drove north from the foothills in Hickory to the higher peaks in Avery County, the leaves grew darker and became more sparse. Avery County rcvd snow recently, leaving the lower foothills with the remaining fall color.

I drive the backroads and take part of the Blue Ridge Parkway into Banner Elk, home of Lees-McRae College. From one of my favorite perches, I took the below pictures. My smile broadened and my olfactory senses kicked into gear as I drove with the windows down, curving around some narrow runs that wind along crocked streams.

My time at home in the midst of an alma mater going through a rather large Renaissance period was inspiring and heart warming. The hugs I receive from faculty and staff who have watched me and supported me as a leaped from college to law school to the professional world to Alaska were given back in full. Meeting new students was a highlight, and seeing old friends was a tradition. Already, I am making plans to return in May, for yet another meeting. This next time, I plan to stay for several days to hike, commune with nature, and breathe some more of that sweet, sweet air.

Halloween 2008

Kate and I readied the boys and James for trick or treating. Joe was the Ghost Rider, and Jamie was a Transformer. James went as the Grim Reaper, and a fairy friend joined their ranks as they filed out in search of candy. Kate and I sat on the porch with a bottle of wine between us, a huge bowl of candy, and some serious gossip to catch up on. BOO!

Wounded Warriors

His twang was at just the right pitch. His black stetson parked on his head at the correct angle, and his song selections perfect for his tenor. He sat in a wheel chair, with one leg bandaged and supported at a 90 degree angle; his other amputated just above the knee. Involuntarily, he tapped his amputated limb as he rolled through the lines on the screen in front of him. As he finished, his friends, fellow amputees and civilians alike, cheered loudly and he wheeled back to their perch in the bar.

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

Run Away Mommy

Height: 5'0"

Weight: Oh, we are so not going there, buddy

Hair: Black

Eyes: Brown with flecks of gold

Accomplice: Crazy redheaded and conniving best friend who stole her from the newly minted god daughter

Last seen: Eating sushi as if it was the most lavish experience that life offered to a new mother.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Novelty Item

"Oh, this is my friend/relative/social butterfly, Christina. She lives in Alaska!"

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.

Perhaps, a la Palin, I should create my own line of bobbleheads.

Coastie Chicks Re-Unite

Cafe Atlantico in Penn Quarters boasts table-made guac and a cotton candy twist on their mojitos. Around the table sat Judith and Ann Marie, two dolls I met on coastiechicks. In my last year in DC, they became fast friends who laughed as much as they talked and loved as much as they smiled. We got along instantly, and we miss each other very much. Tonight's dinner is just what I needed-- smiling faces laughing with me as I recounted my adventures in Kodiak.

L-R: Judith, me, and Ann Marie

Cotton candy delight
Cotton candy all gone!