Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Photo from Brad

I laughed out loud and scared the crap out of the dog when I saw this picture in my inbox. Enjoy.

Apparantly, he is too tall for foreign vessels of asian origin.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Nice But

Today, Josh and Roger took me halibut fishing. I am proud to report that I finally caught a fish- and not just any fish, a halibut. I could not be happier. After reeling him in from 170 or so feet below, my arms were SOOOO tired, but watching Josh skillfully stun him and bleed him pumped adrenaline through my veins. Proudly, I posed with my catch. A few hours later, after many fish feasted a la buffet style-- on both our hooks and our bait-- we headed in, the big guy still flapping around the deck, sporadically.

(Flounders that kept stealing our bait)

Back at our MWR Boat House, Josh and Roger taught me how to fillet a halibut. Practice makes perfect, so my cuts left a bit to be desired, but I am thrilled to report that no fingers were lost in my first attempts.

Josh is storing my catch this evening, and tomorrow, I will join him on his lunch break to learn how to vacuum seal my fillets, steaks, and cheeks. This way, Brad and Big Mama can enjoy some come November.

It goes without saying that Alaska continues to grow on me. It is thanks to the kindness of fellow Coasties that I have learned to fish, a formidable way of life here on the Rock. I got started late on both salmon and halibut seasons, but I am thankful for a patient teacher, who laughs with me as much as he laughs at me.

Josh driving us away from the MWR Dock

View coming out of the channel

Kodiak in the background

Barometer Mountain on the right

Cheering as the Soccer Non-Mom

Back in June, on the ferry, Brad and I spied another couple wearing their Red Sox caps proudly. Brad and Tracey became instant friends. He is a Mass Maritime graduate, and she is a proud mom of four girls (ages 12 to 4). Both are staunch New Englanders and complained about the coffee aboard the ship just as loudly as we did. Coffee-- the New England connection.

Very shortly after arriving, Tracey's Brad was shipped to FL until mid October. While he is training, she is getting the girls involved in sports, dance, and adjusting to new schools. I had seen her in the commissary, at Walmart, and on base. Each time we spoke, I made sure to have her call me if she needed a hand. My phone never rang. Not one to be shy, I called her and invited myself over for lunch. So after the Munro wives' coffee, I drove over to their abode and enjoyed a Weight Watcher's meal and good conversation with Tracey. Tracey and Brad are what I would call "good people." I do not use that term lightly. Few meet my strict criteria, but I happy that the Apitz's do. Her home was warm, distinctly decorated in a New England, Americana theme.

At lunch, Tracey invited me to come cheer on the girls at the soccer matches on Saturday morning. She needed someone else in a Sox hat with a mug of Dunkin Donut coffee to scream for the girls. Again, I am not one to be shy...

Since he had been in the cone all week, I ceremoniously removed it from Tok's neck and brought him with me. He was a hit with the kids on the sidelines, and the warm hug I got from Tracey was just what I needed. The sun was shining and the air was crisp. The cool fall morning left dew on the field, and the kids kicked it up as the two age groups took to the field in their consecutive games. Quickly, I learned the names and began cheering as each got a chance at the ball:

Go, Piper!
Come on, Micah, block it!
It's comin' atch, Avery!
Go, Olivia, go!

With such atypical names, they were easy to remember; I get lost in the Melissas, Elizabeths, Micheals and Johns of my generation.

The fields on base are in the shadow of the four big command houses-- the big white ones on the hill. I have to admit, I made a mental note that if we ever return to Kodiak for a command, we would not be able to sleep in on Saturday mornings. Families arrive at 0830, and games start at 0900...but then again, that's when Brad would get up to start watching the 1 PM kick offs for college football...gotta love that four hour time difference.

Between the morning and afternoon games, I followed the Aptizs to their home and introduced Tok to their large lab, Crockett. The two of them tore up the yard and had a blast. When Crockett tired, the neighbor invited me to put Tok in her yard to tire out her dog, Kenai, who is 3/4 Australian shepard. The two Alaskan-named dogs continued to chase and play fight at the water dish.

For the last game of the day, I loaded my muddy dog into the bug and followed the Aptiz minivan offbase to the second field for the eldest's, Shelby, game. There, in the shadow of Barometer Mountain, I sat in my red chair and watched children rub Tok's belly. They all called him a snow dog, after the Disney film that I did not know existed until their started to describe it's plot. So, for the record, the Kodiak Coastie Brats see my dog as a snow dog, not a sled dog.

Tok and I stopped at the do it yourself dog groomers, and he got a bath. I returned home and showered myself and prepped the house for dinner. Josh and Roger (Margo's boyfriend; Margo went back to the east coas for the next month, so Roger took her place in our trio) joined me for dinner before we headed to the talk, Climate Change 101: Some Hard Truths You Should Know. We grilled some steaks and ate some organic salad (thanks to my coop delivery this week) on the back porch. It was a wonderful way to end the amazing day I had had-- from soccer non-mom to hostess to treehugger.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Northern Exposure

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It's a time of the year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year, and it's time to reflect on what's come before.

-- Mitchell Burgess, Northern Exposure, Thanksgiving, 1992

Cannery Workers

This afternoon I found myself in a position where I could help. I stood in the line at the USPO, and one of the post masters behind the counter was trying communicate with what looked like (and smelled like) a cannery worker. It got to the point where he was yelling and speaking in a high monotone to make sure the kid understood him. Sigh. Silly Americans. The post master desperately scans the crowd, "Does anyone speak Turkish or French?" I said "Oui, je parle francais." You might have thought I solved world peace with the look on both of the faces. Sheesh. So, I waltz over, and explain, in French, that I do not practice often and my vocabulary is terrible. Over the course of the next hour, I learned that he was on a student work visa, from Turkey. He had applied for a Social Security Card a few months ago, and just now got the notification that his application was missing info and had not yet been processed. I was trying to determine whether or not he should mail his application to Anchorage SSA office; he would be there next week, and wanted to see if sending it ahead would help expedite his application.

There was no way for me to explain the complexities of our govt departments, much less the SSA, so I just helped him get photocopies, notarization, and helped him assemble the package. Luckily, the owner of Mill Bay Coffee was in line; she is Parisienne, and she was able to clarify a couple of verbs I did not understand. Further, she encourage him to keep copies of everything and to call and set up an appt at SSA. Just showing up would put him bad position if they did not have advanced notification that he needed a French or Turkish translator.

I gave him my card with my mobile and wished him, "Bon Chance." The crazy thing about his departure is that he leaves from Anchorage to Salt Lake to Atlanta to Brussels to Ankara. Wouldn't it be easier to go the opposite direction? Hmmmmmmm. His paperwork showed that he was born in 1985. Younger than my sister and traveling halfway across the world to work in our canneries-- on our tiny island of 6,000 people. Wow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tok the Contortionist

Tok preens. I have watched him stick his hind legs in his mouth and use them to clean the back of his ears and then lick off all the mud from his paws and underbody. He does it 2 perhaps 3 times per day. Needless to say, the cone has been an issue. He continues to preen-- cleaning the inside of this cone more than his body, but, dernit, he still tries.

When I came home today, I took Tok out of his kennel and saw that he had dried blood on the outside of his cone. I knew he had been contorting his body to clean, and today he had rubbed his incision. He had not been able to lick it, but the hard plastic had obviously irritated his skin.

Fearing infection, I made a followup appointment with the Vet. She prescribed penicillin to combat any possible infection, and then she asked about his behavior. I described the preening. After she finished giggling at my dog's feline tendencies, she recommended sedatives. By today, the incision was supposed to be scabbed over; it was not. And she thinks that knocking him out would be beneficial to his healing.

So, I brought home the "preener" and opened his two new prescriptions and assessed how to feed them to him. I grabbed some of Julez Treats, and he took the sedative easily. Now onto the penicillin, which was a gelcap. I gave him the med with a treat and then put the caps onto the bottles. I look back down at the coned dog, who is now covered in white powder and chewing on an empty gelcap. It had exploded all over his face and the floor below him. So, I pulled out a slice of cheese, wrapped up another gelcap and fed it to him, making sure there were no other explosions.

Let the healing begin.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tok the Patient

On Friday, Tok got neutered. His blood work came back clean, and he weighed in at 50 pounds. Yes, 50 pounds at five months old. He's gonna be a big 'un. He hates the cone he has on his head, but he still manages to contort his body enough to lick some areas. He is a very clean dog, so not being able to preen is killing his ego.

Classic Alaskan Weekend

I have been waiting, wanting, desperately seeking an Alaskan weekend: one with good weather, one with good company, one with good story-telling adventures. I considered putting out a personal ad or wanted ad for this type of adventure...until Friday came about.

Margo called me mid afternoon. We opted to go fishing at Mission Lake. Salmon jumped and taunted us; and whereas we caught nothing, the sun warmed us, a nesting pair of eagles flew over our heads and landed in their nest in a nearby tree, and a sea lion popped his head out of the water 250 yard away from our empty lures.

Later that evening, we joined Josh at the Old Powerhouse for some sushi and catching up before we attended a talk at the Nature Center. A UAF professor presented on his summer excursions along the Aleutian chain. He and five other divers and scientists completed 440 dives and found 20 new species of invertebrates. His slide show featured amazingly clear pictures of the colorful sea stars, urchins, fish, and octopi; I was in awe. After the lecture, we came back to the house so I could medicate Tok (he was neutered on Friday morning). We put him on his pillow on the back porch and sat outside drinking beer and eating popcorn. As the moon rose around 2300 AST, we were in the back yard gazing up at the stars as Josh pointed out constellations.

24 hours later, on Saturday eve, I joined a bunch of friends at Dave's place. We celebrated his "Open the Bar" party and several friends' recent promotions from O3 to O4. The crowd was small but lively. We all lamented at the reality of fishing season coming to a close and made plans to either fish or hike the following day.

We ended up hiking after Josh got out of church. Josh picked up Margo, Roger, and me, and we headed to Three Sisters, an aptly named chain. With my freshly baked granola in each of our camelpacks, we made out way up the mountainside- through salmon berry bushes, intermittent streams, and long grass. Having gone to school in Appalachia, I have been privy to remarkable colors that our deciduous trees cast as the seasons cool. In Kodiak, the moss and shrubs bloom into amazing wildflowers in late summer, and then the foliage turns, very similar to how our east coast trees turn...but on the ground...not in tree tops.

We spied some pretty fresh bear scat early in the trail but saw no other real signs of them as we made our way to the top. The view from the top of the two peaks allowed us to spy down on the town of Kodiak. Eagles soared underneath us, we heard shots from the local VFW firing range, and we were all disappointed when no whales showed up in the bays beneath our perch. As the sun started to set, we reached the second peak and watched the sun glimmer on the side of a Princess Cruise ship that left our docks. Earlier that morning, at church, Josh had met one of their crew members, who stated that they were headed to Korea, China, and Japan. As we hopped and half slid down the opposite side from whence we came, I thought about how exciting it would be to take such an adventure, and then I stopped thinking and just absorbed that I had climbed about 2500 feet and covered roughly five miles of trail in one of the most remarkable places on earth. And although I have a few sore muscles this morning, I could not imagine a more invigorating Alaskan weekend.

Me, early in the hike-- notice the lack of sleeves

Josh and me on the hillside on the way up the first peak.

Roger and me with the valley behind us.

The bowl along Devil's Prongs. Golden mushrooms and red cranberry leaves.

Roger, passed out...half way up.

Mad skillz...

Josh and me taking in the view as we make our way down to the pass from the first peak and onto the second peak (notice the sleeves).

A view half way up the second peak.
I love the mohawk of grass along the trail of the second peak.Tall grass with Kodiak in the background.

Group shot (L-R): Josh, me, Margo, Roger (notice the hat)
Black tailed Sitka deer (notice how different is the vegetation from the previous pictures. You can really tell we descended another peak)
Editor's Note: I did not have my camera with me; I made a last minute switch in vests and forgot it in the other one. Margo and Josh took plenty. These are from Margo; When Josh shares his, I will update this post.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Kodiak College

Last week, a current professor asked me to apply for an adjunct position at the college. She asked me to teach a 200 level course at 3 credits. I selected the following course, put in my application, and now play the waiting game. You see, the department heads meet next week, and they will decide the spring semester course offerings. From there, the students sign up; I have to have ten students to have a gig. If and when the course fills up, HR will contact me to complete the paperwork and get on the payroll.

ENVI A211. Study of the relationship between people and their environment. Considers environmental problems and potential solutions. Examines the ecological impacts of social systems and policy as well as of our personal choices as citizens.

Right up my alley, eh?

I am beyond excited about the possibility of teaching. The money ain't much, but that is of little concern. I want the experience. A lifetime goal of mine is to pursue teaching, eventually...when the consulting gig gets boring. I attended a small school, so the small atmosphere of Kodiak College is inviting to me. Smaller classes will help me hone my schools, learn to mentor and guide my students toward their own conclusions and life choices.

Cross your fingers. More coming soon!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fishing on the Russian River

Margo and I met up with Josh for another evening of fishing. Margo caught two fish that were past their prime but alive; we tossed them back in. I maintained my record breaking rock capture, and we spied a deceased chum salmon. Chum salmon is known as the dog fish, not only for its fierce canines (see how it "eats" Josh's boot) but because Alaskans smoke this catch and feed it to their dogs. While there, an eagle interrupted the squawking among the sea gulls. He dipped down and grabbed a salmon carcass. He ate it on a nearby shore, and while I stood there casting, he moved up onto a small log, placing himself above the seagulls who were gathered on the shores around him. He was regal but too far away for a decent shot with my camera.

Mosquitos v. Mosquito Hawks

Yesterday, I learned that the large, 2+inch in diameter mosquito-looking insects all over out front window are Mosquito Hawks.

When you see the pictures of our infamous state bird, it is, typically, a mosquito hawk. They look very similiar to the other pesky creatures that devour us each summer, but they are MUCH larger. Now, don't get me wrong, the acutal mosquitos are still ginormous compared to the lower 48. It is nice to know that aside from the spiders and cardinal-sized dragonflies (I kid you not-- the first time I spotted one, I was on the phone with mama, whose ears are still ringing from my exclamation), these hawks are helping me control the mosquito population so close to our pond.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bear and C130

From a fellow Coastie Chick here in Kodiak.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Gone Fishing

A friend, Margo, and I were treated to a personal fishing lesson from fellow coastie, Josh. Josh hails from Washington State and is an avid outdoorsman. Early this Saturday morning, Margo picked me up, and we headed straight for the sporting goods store. I bought a fishing pole, lures, and learned to tie knots with the sales staff while Margo picked out some boots.

Josh met us there and led us to the Buskin River. He loaned us some waders belonging to his out of town roommates, and we descended into the riparian area. The silvers are running; and the rain is washing away the decaying pinks that the line the riverbed and banks. I still need to master my casting technique, but I did snag two rocks and a dead pink. So: at least I caught something.

I did not get stuck, nor did I get wet; so, I view this first foray as a success: regardless of how empty is my freezer.

Did I mention it poured the whole time? Ugh. Recreation in Kodiak. To thank Margo for her recent house-sitting while I went to Anchorage- and for Josh's superb patience in answering the most asinine questions- I treated them both to lunch at Java Flats. On our way there, we pulled over and saw my bear: the same guy from a few weeks ago. He was in the middle of the stream, and not but a 200 yards away were fishermen, casting in the mouth of the Sargent River.

And no, I did not have my camera. I did not pack it in my coat as I was certain I would fall in the river. I was warm and dry while viewing the bear from Margo's truck, but I was disappointed that I could not catch him on film.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Lost the election for the Vermont Law Alumni Board

So, I lost an election by 3 votes. I ran for a posititon that I created. Last winter, I worked with my graduate institution to engage our master's students. With the blessing of the development ofc, I created a committee of 12 other committed alumni. For the past 7 months, I have hosted meetings, composed a position paper, and spoke to the Board about creating the very position for which I ran. Essentially, I was the acting chair of this committee. We agreed that, pending the outcome of the election, we would determine whether or not I would remain the chair or if the elected rep would take over those duties. To date, I have not yet had this convo with the winner but will do so before the week's end.

I had some other competition, one of whom is from a recent class, 2007. She had the backing of her classmates who are still a very organized, cohesive unit. She lives close to the school, and she can make meetings much easier than me. Granted, it does make my life easier: I was going to travel to the east coast for five weeks if I had won (meeting is scheduled for 11 Oct). I am on the Board at my undergrad aluma mater, and that mtg is scheduled for 6 Nov.

I am disappointed, for sure. I worked tirelessly and thought I had made my case in the running. But, the majority made their selection; and being a staunch democrat, I have to respect those wishes.

The silver lining is that I am still engaged, elections run each year, and I may still be able to chair the committee I created. We'll see.

Off to book my rewards travel.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ana Sofia and the Flamingo

Today, I finally got the proud papa on the phone. After 24 hours of labor, Paula, John, and the newly-minted grandmother remain at the hospital: resting, visits from the lactation consultant, etc.

John told me about an ironic, and somewhat hilarious, tidbit about the labor. During the horridly long labor, their original doula had to leave and be replaced by a veteran consultant with a sense of humor. To brighten the mood in the delivery room, she brought in a pink flamingo stuffed animal.

She had no idea the connection she made.

Laughing and high on adrenaline due to lack of sleep, John and Paula imparted "our" story to the new doula. After much laughter and comments about irony, the flamingo presided over the labor and delivery. John said he has some pictures with the flamingo in the background.

I knew there was some way I was there in spirit.

Pictures forthcoming when the family returns home and settles in this weekend.

A Family in Mourning

Aside form our immediate blood-line connections, Brad and I are part of a family: the Coast Guard. Compared to other services, we are quite small, but our hearts are just as big. When one of us mourns, we all mourn and reach out in support.

Today is a sad day for our family. During a routine training exercise, one of our helicopter crews went down [in Hawai'i]. Three members' bodies were recovered; one is still missing. Our thoughts and prayers for these family members.

For more information: http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080905/BREAKING01/309050013/-1/LOCALNEWSFRONT

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Afternoon Hike at Fort Abercrombie

Tok and I took a small hike along the wildflower trail at Fort Abercrombie. Although the wildflowers have peaked and the fireweed reigns supreme, this was a chance to enjoy the sunshine and get Tok used to his new collar. For training purposes, we have switched to a pinch collar. When used appropriately, it lays on his puppy scruff, and when he pulls away from me or does not adhere to a command, a quick and slight pop reminds him who is the dominant in our relationship. He is doing exceptionally well and does not seem to mind the collar. When he sees me switching out his everyday, red collar, for this one, he does get excited b/c it means we are going out. "Yay! New stuff to smell!"

Here are some views from the high level perches along the trail. The last of the fireweed indicating summer's end.
Since he did so well on our hike, I began picking some of the delicious salmon berries and feeding him "treats" when he obeyed commands. It was a nice change from cheerios, I am sure.

All gone!

Ana Sofia is HERE!

Late last night, I rcvd a text message from my friends, Paula and John. After 24 hours of labor, Ana Sofia joined our world. Mother and baby are well. In the next few days, I hope to receive pictures and then post them for you. I AM A GOD MOTHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


When we first arrived in late June, our pond was filled with green lilly pads and ducklings. Now grown, the ducks returned to our pond today. The vegetation is started to fade, but the delightful sound of their splash made me smile as I ate my lunch on the back deck.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day: the END of summer

Since graduating from law school, my summers have been filled with weddings, trips to the Cape to see Brad, long weekends with friends, pool parties, embassy garden events, lazy afternoons with girlfriends, and lots of eating outside.

Personally, my social calendar fills before May, creating this mad rush of events in the Month of Flowers. So, even before summer *officially* begins on Memorial Day weekend, I am adept at balancing my calendar, sleep schedule, and already have sunblock in each bag-- just in case.

As I sit here on this cold, windy Labor Day morning, I am reflecting on what was this summer: to me, to us. Upon his return from school, Brad and I had a whirlwind May, filled with loved ones vying at the last chance to say goodbye. Our Memorial Day weekend was an emotional rollercoaster as we hosted family, hosted our own goodbye party, closed on our home in AK, prepped for the movers, and celebrated Brad's birthday. And per usual: June arrived and then fun began.

But this summer: the fun was so...different. Far from the sundresses and chic poolside conversations about the latest Foreign Policy publication, I hung out with my best friend allthewhile clad in a tank top, northface pants, and chaco flops. No makeup. No hair products. Just a camera, a map, a camlepack, and a garmin.

We got paid to travel the country and experience new sights, sounds, and adventures. For those of you who tracked this trek, you recall the amazing "firsts" for Brad: bison on the range and not on a plate; eagles soaring above and not in a refuge; black hills; forest meadow; 4 feet of snow in Yellowstone-- with the latter being a first for me, too.

Our voyage to Alaska was a once in a lifetime, life-changing trip. Priorities changed. Family members were added. New bonds were forged. We grew as a couple. We packed in so much into the month of June that when July arrived: I was not ready to continue. But with deadlines looming, we painted, we gardened, we unpacked, we said goodbye.

As last few days of warm summer sun were blown off the island by the recent storm, I find myself incredibly lonely and missing the big lug. I got so spoiled this summer. We played chess by flashlight in the tent. We hiked up to marvelous peaks. We satisfied our culinary inclinations at Road Food's best recommendations. We welcomed a new puppy into our home and lives. We went to sleep next to each other each night. That pronoun: we...man, it hurts just to type it.

Later today, I will bake a pie and head over to our neighbors who hosted us for Fourth of July. Brad and I were together for the first and second summer holiday. Truly, he will be missed for the season's last hurrah.