Finding Your Passion – A Giving Season

Find what you are passionate about. It will make you a lot happier. A part of what makes me happy is volunteering and supporting organizations that do good in this world. I also love supporting friends whether they are reaching for their dreams or taking part in an activity that makes them happy.

I had an opportunity to partake in Bird TLC’s Annual Auction Fundraiser “For the Birds.” I have a co-worker that volunteers with them and I went to support the birds and him. I always enjoy cheering on friends with whatever their endeavors may be. It was a fun evening of learning, meeting birds, friends, food, and a silent and live auction. I didn’t end up biding on anything; however, I really enjoyed seeing people step up to the plate and support what they are passionate about. I’m pretty sure that eventually I’ll attend a bird rehabilitation releases. Due to donations, memberships, and their auctions they were able to build and open their brand new Bird Treatment and Learning Center. The Grand Opening was today.

Beans Cafe / The Children’s Lunchbox helps in feeding our hungry and our homeless. They provide breakfast and lunch to anyone every day of the year free of charge. They also provide 3 meals to each and every child under the age of 18 to local community programs that serve children and to eight Title 1 schools in Anchorage. Besides feeding the hungry and homeless they also provide many other services such as finding housing, jobs, etc… It’s an amazing organization that does everything they can to assist those in need in our community. Every year they have their Empty Bowl Project where 100’s of artists throughout Anchorage donate bowls they have made. Anyone can then attend the event and purchase a bowl and eat as much soup as they would like. It’s a good meal for a good cause.

It seems that in Alaska there is a never ending opportunity to see live music. When a friend mentioned that one of the Denali Cooks singer / musicians, Larry was performing at the Whale’s Tail I decided to go. I’m so incredibly glad that I did. It turns out that he brought a fellow singer / musician with him. Kayti Heller is an amazing singer. She is a music teacher in the Mat-Su Valley. We somehow ended up sitting at the same table and she is an absolute delight. I wish her the best in following her dreams. She is currently making her first ever CD. I’m so excited for her. She just released her first single and I love it. Take a listen.

 

A good friend of mine, Julie takes part in the 3 Day 60 Mile Susan G. Komen Walk to help raise funds to assist in finding a cure for Breast Cancer. She is absolutely amazing. She has already walked over 1,020 miles in …. walks. Head over to her fundraising page and help support an amazing cause by donating to her walk in New England. Or you can go to the Donate page and type in her name: Julie Jokinen. Her goal in 2019 is to walk all 7 Susan G. Komen walks. That’s over $15,000 of fundraising and 420 miles. Her goal is to walk until cancer is gone.

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Us at work at 1:00Am. Not bad for crawling out of bed during an emergency.

Brooke is another friend who has found her passion. Hers is pole dancing. It’s a great way to exercise. When she told me she was part of a showcase performance I went to support her. Take a look at the skills she has. She just placed 3rd in her category at a Pole Festival in Vancouver. So proud of her.

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Williwaw Rooftop after Brooke’s performance

Kait is amazing and has spent the past three years volunteering her time to the American Red Cross. The photo below is the two of us taking part in an American Red Cross Event to thank the volunteers. I even had the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with the Chief Executive Officer of Alaska for the American Red Cross. I can honestly say that he is a wonderful human being and they couldn’t have hired a better person for the job. Not only do they do amazing things globally, they also do locally as well. You can become CPR Certified through the Red Cross. It means that someday you may be able to save someone else’s life. Pretty Amazing.

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I have so many friends that have amazing talents and skills. These are just a few of the amazing people I have in my life here in Alaska.

 

The Journey Continues

Surgery would happen a few weeks after I broke my leg. We had to wait for the swelling and bruising to go down. The more swelling there is during the surgery the more likely there is to be an infection. And no one wants to deal with that. The first month and a half were definitely the toughest part of this journey. I was living the life of a couch potato; however, it’s not my dream. It’s not easy working full time, being in pain, unable to do the simplest of tasks, and going from sitting at work to sitting at home. I missed 7 days of work total between the day I broke my leg until now. This was my first broken bone and major surgery. It wasn’t easy; however, I figured I could sit at home and do nothing or I could sit at work and try to be productive. Looking back I probably should have given myself a few more days off. However, I am a bit stubborn if you couldn’t tell, I don’t like to ask for help (even when I need it), and like to think I can do everything on my own. That being said, I cannot thank my Mom, family, friends, and co-workers enough for all the help they have given me throughout this adventure.

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I took my Momma out to eat at the Bridge before she left Alaska. I had to get her some authentic Alaskan King Crab.

During surgery I had multiple screws and a plate put into my leg. I never had a hard cast. It was always some type of splint. All I remember from surgery is waking up to nurses telling me to breathe. Apparently I kept forgetting to breathe which sometimes happens when people are waking up from anthestia. I don’t do well with medication so after I got to the point where I was fully awake and breathing correctly, I got extremely sick and threw up multiple times. Every time I got up for the first few days I felt like my leg was being ripped open at the seams. Those first days were not fun. I rarely got up and when I did I was being shuttled by wheelchair. There would be more challenges as this journey continued.

Eventually it was time for my stitches to come out. Everyone told me that this would be the easiest part. It was actually the hardest. As the first stitch that was pulled out I screamed and then burst into tears. When the Physician’s Assistant asked how much pain I was in from a level 0 to 10. I was at a 10 for the first time in my life. It was truly the most painful experience of my life …and I have had some major health issues throughout my life. They only got 2 and a half stitches out that day. It was the most excruciating piercing pain I had ever felt. I was told that the hospital was not in the business of torturing people so she sent me home. Told me to make sure I took a painkiller and put me on another medication that would hopefully numb down my nerves. My leg felt like it was on fire and my whole body was in a lot of pain. I took that medication and when I came back a few days later to get the rest of the stitches out I was still in a lot of pain. There were tears; however, no screaming. It was a relief when all of the stitches were out. The half stitch is still stuck in my leg and will eventually work it’s way out. I’m not sure what that means so I keep looking at my leg expecting to see a part of a stitch. I was put into a new type of removable splint and told I could let my leg go into the shower; however, I could not soak it. So I would shower with my leg propped up outside of the shower and the last few minutes I’d let my leg into the shower and gently wash it.

I switched to a scooter shortly after I broke my leg. I didn’t feel safe nor comfortable using my crutches. I couldn’t carry anything, do my dishes, cook food, etc… The scooter made it easier for me to go further, safer, and easier to carry stuff. There were a few unexpected issues.

The first month I fell a lot. I even fell the first day I had my crutches. I was unsure how to use them to get off of a curb. I was actually unsure how to use them at all. I would find out later that they weren’t adjusted correctly. I actually fell multiple times. Everyone who has spent time in Alaska knows how uneven the sidewalks and roads are. I even fell when I switched to a scooter. One time I fell while in the bathroom. I landed on the floor and all my summer roommates came running. I told them I was fine and sat on the floor and cried. I cannot remember how many times I fell or accidentally stepped down on my leg. The last time I fell was while I was trying to go down my stairs. My scooter landed quite a ways away from me as you can see. I had to scoot down on my behind, drag my scooter closer to one of the parking posts and pull myself up. I couldn’t figure out why my balance seemed to be so bad.  So I re-looked up the side effects of the medication I was on and sure enough the main side effects are unsteadiness, dizziness, uncoordinated jerky movements.  Medications and I don’t mix well. My Doctor told me I could go off the medication when I felt like I was ready. I stopped cold turkey that day.

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Not my favorite day. This day however, I did change my text message tone to a dinosaur roar. It still makes me giggle and it was very appropriate this particular day.

Though I had a rough few weeks I was still able to look at the bright side of things. I am very happy that I only broke one leg and that it was my left leg, that I was able to hobble to my car on it, that I have summer roommates that have been understanding, that my Mom came up for my surgery, that I’m still able to drive, and that I have amazing friends that go out of their way to assist me. I am happy that there are such things as handicap railings in public restrooms, that many places have ramps, and that someone invented a knee scooter. It definitely wasn’t easy and there were times when I was frustrated; however I realized right away that I had two choices. I could be happy and hopeful or be angry and frustrated. I went with happy and hopeful as the other option isn’t helpful.

There were two events that still bother me about this journey. While using my knee scooter I headed over to Walmart to buy a specific item. As I came in thru the front door I was stopped by one of their greeters telling me I couldn’t come in with a backpack. I figured no problem and I put it into the lockers. Then he stopped me again mentioning that I couldn’t come in with my scooter. I told him that I only needed one item and I couldn’t put any weight on my leg (he could see my splint and I have a handicap pass). He repeated himself. I asked him how I was going to get around and he pointed to the electric scooter. I didn’t want to use that as I knew it would take me longer to get my item and I wasn’t sure what to do with my knee scooter if I was going to use an electric scooter. However, not seeing a way around I asked him if he could bring the eletric scooter out to my car so that I could ride it into the store. He looked at me like I was crazy so I asked him how he suggested I get from my car back to the store without using my scooter. He told me to use the electric scooter and he would watch my scooter. I didn’t like that; however, he didn’t give me another option. In hindsight I should have asked for a manage; however, I was so dumbfounded that I didn’t know what to do. So I left my scooter with the employee and took the electronic one to grab my item. I would have left however, I needed the item I was searching for. When I came back he was no where near my scooter. Anyone could have grabbed and left with it. I was frustrated. The scooter wasn’t cheap and it was truly the most efficient and safe way for me to get around. If my scooter wasn’t there when I got back I wouldn’t have been able to get to my car nor back into my apartment where my crutches were. He came around the corner with a big smile, decided to show me his scar from having a broken leg, and then tried to lift my scooter and put it in the electric scooters basket and told me I could take the scooter to my car. I said no thanks as I was already frustrated, I didn’t like the fact that he suddenly thought he had a solution to my issue, and was manhandling my scooter. It took me a few months before I could get myself to go back.

 

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The item I promised a friend I would get as I was borrowing her car. It turns out Walmart was out so I went to O’Reilly’s Auto Parts.

The other event involves using Uber. I am always outside when I submit a request for an Uber as I don’t want to miss my ride. This particular day the Uber driver showed up, rolled down his window, said my name. I said yes, and then he drove off, canceled my ride, and I was charged. The reason it stated as to why I was charged was that he had arrived, waited five minutes for me, and that I didn’t show up so he canceled my ride. The thing is that from the time I submitted the request for the uber to the time that he canceled the ride wasn’t even 5 minutes. I can only assume that since he had a brand new car and I had a small scooter he had no interest in picking me up. Another Uber driver was there dropping off a customer and saw what happened. He pulled up and asked if that was an Uber driver. I said yes, he told me to submit another request for an Uber driver and he’d accept (I’m assuming he wanted me to know he wasn’t just some creep). So I did. He informed me that I should submit a complaint to Uber and ask for my money back. I did and Uber was wonderful and refunded me. Needless to say there are good people and bad people in every job. I still think Uber does a wonderful job…however, because of one awful driver I tend to take Taxi’s instead.

These two situations happened within two weeks of each other. Both were disheartening. I’m not trying to inconvenience anyone. I’m just trying to live my life to the best of my ability. I can only imagine what it is like for someone who is permanently disabled whether it be physically or mentally. I have a much larger respect for anyone with disabilities and a better understanding of what they deal with constantly. It’s been a long and painful journey.

After 3 1/2 months I was finally able to put some weight on my leg. I realized I couldn’t actually put my full weight on my leg and I couldn’t hardly move my ankle, I was still quite swollen, I had muscle atrophy (deterioration of muscles due to not using them), and lots of pain. For the first few weeks after starting Physical Therapy I felt like I was getting a bit stronger, having less pain, and my ankle was getting more and more flexible. However, I feel as if I still have a long ways to go and that I have plateaued. Though that is probably normal. When I started Physical Therapy I began using my crutches to get around with some weight bearing and a walker when I needed to carry stuff (such as dinner from the kitchen to the table). Eventually I worked my way to one crutch.

For the past week I’ve been walking without crutches. It’s a skating rink outside and my leg is not stable enough to handle that real well. I have metal spikes on the bottom of a cane that I occasionally use outside when it’s icy. If it’s not icy out I don’t touch it. I also bought some new shoes from Skinny Raven. It’s an amazing store that has personalized service. They do shoe fittings, test your stride, etc… to help you find the right shoe for you. The shoes that I was told to try out are called Ice Bugs. (You can get them at REI as well). They have metal cleats on the bottom. I put them on outside and take them off before I enter into a building, (which means I always have to carry a second pair of shoes with me). The nurse and Doctors suggested I do this for my safety. They said it would take a year for my leg to completely heal. For each day I didn’t use my leg it would take three days to get back the strength and muscle tone. So 3 1/2 months of not using my leg equals 10 1/2 months of working on it to get it better. I don’t walk normally quite yet. I’m still very slow, have a gait that is a bit off, am slightly unbalanced, cannot go down stairs without adapting how I walk, and am still in pain. I’m basically still a work in progress. My ankle and foot is still swollen and when I walk on it for longer periods of time it swells up like an elephant. It’s now 21 weeks (just over 5 months) since I broke my leg and am in week 7 of Physical Therapy. I will say the Doctors and Physical Therapists I am working with are the friendliest and most helpful Team I have ever worked with.

This journey will continue for the rest of my life; however, my leg should be fully healed in a year. My left leg will never be my good leg. On the bright side I’ve gotten a lot better, I hope that eventually all the pain will go away, that the swelling will continue to go down, and that I’ll be able to walk like a normal person again.

It’s Gonna Be May

It’s gonna be May…or at least it was April…then May.

One of my coworkers and friends invited me to head to Seward for an overnight adventure. Seward is on the Kenai peninsula which is also known as Alaskan’s playground. 4 girls and a dog piled into a car and headed south for the night. We got to Seward fairly late in the night. We grabbed some dinner and headed out to our dry cabin. A dry cabin means no running water. Though it had no running water it did have electricity which meant we played some card games into the middle of the night. We had to walk next door for the restroom. It was a chilly rainy night. The next day I woke up early…since I’m an early riser. I took the dog for a walk so that I could explore Lowell Point. I had never been to that part of Seward before. Next door to us was a school bus that could be rented out as a dry cabin. Next time I’m staying in that school bus just because I can. We spent the day going Grey Whale Watching. We didn’t see any Grey Whales; however we saw two Humpback Whales (which are grey by the way). We wound up running into some friends throughout the day.

I was so excited when it became May and I was able to go on the road and help train our new Tour Directors. A matter of days after my overnight adventure with friends I was headed back down to Seward. There isn’t much difference between Spring and Winter in Alaska. There is even a song by Johnny Horton that’s called “When it’s Springtime in Alaska” and one of the lines is “When it’s springtime in Alaska it’s forty below.” This was May 4th.

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I couldn’t resist making a snow angel with Julie. Check out our view at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. The view from Talkeetna is the best view of Denali. Denali is the tallest mountain in North America. If you are looking for a great short movie on hiking Denali I’d recommend Climbing Denali it’s sold by Alaska Geographic. Denali used to be known as Mt. McKinley. The Native Alaskan Culture has always referred to it as Denali meaning “The Great One” or “The High One”. We were very excited when it finally got its original name back. We also got to go on a flight seeing adventure around Denali as part of Tour Director training.

We have an event every summer called the Frontline Trade Show that is put on by Visit Anchorage. Visit Anchorage is a wonderful source if it’s your first time to Alaska. I go every year as you can always learn something new and it provides some amazing opportunities to those that attend. I try to stop by every booth to see what is new and exciting. This year I was given the opportunity to go on a Segway Tour. I’ve been on a Segway once before for about the distance of a block. Taking a two hour segway tour was a bit terrifying to me. Terrifying because you watch a video of all the bad things that are possible then you strap on a helmet, get on a Segway, and head down a hill. The first 10 – 15 minutes as we headed down to Ship Creek my feet and legs were bundled tight in nerves and it was painful. I kept trying to trust myself and the Segway so that I could get my legs to relax. After we got off at Ship Creek and then got back on the Segway I was completely fine. We explored Ship Creek, part of the Coastal Trail, and downtown on the Segway. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. Will I be getting on a Segway again…maybe someday. I definitely got more comfortable with it as I got more and more used to it. I definitely enjoyed the adventure.

I love working in tourism. It gives me opportunities I could never have imagined. I had the day off and my boss texted me asking if I would like to go out on a Helicopter Ride. I said of course. So I drove my car out to Knik River Lodge and went on a helicopter landing tour. I’ve been on Knik Glacier before by Helicopter and as per usual it was an amazing experience.

 

Spencer Glacier Float was another opportunity given to us from the Frontline Trade Show. We took the train to the Whistle Stop at Spencer Glacier. Alaska is the only place left in North America that has a train that still uses whistle stops. It was an amazing day. After we got off the train we got on a school bus to continue our way to Spencer Glacier. There are no roads to this stop which means that every spring they bring the school buses in by train and every fall they bring them back to the Anchorage area by train. We then got off the bus and walked to the lake and got in our inflated boat. We got to sit back and relax while the guide did all the paddling. We paddled up to icebergs, down a river, thru rapids, and under bridges. It was amazing. We ended at another whistle stop where we waited for the train to return to pick us back up.

Words cannot describe my tour experience of the Nike Hercules Missile Site that was built during the Cold War. It rests atop Mt. Gordon Lyon. It was a part of the Rings of Steel defense system to assist in protecting the US from a Soviet missile attack. It’s the only site left in Alaska that still remains. Through the Friends of Nike Site Summit (FONSS) I was able to take a tour. I’d been waiting for this opportunity for years. This is one of only two sites where live test fires were conducted and missile boosters can be found in the nearby hillsides. We had some retired Military Personnel that had worked at the Nike Site on our tour giving us firsthand experience of what it was like to live and work there. It was fascinating. FONSS is currently working on restoring as much as they can as this site is unique compared to other Nike sites. Most of that is due to the extreme weather Alaska has.

Alaska is an amazing and beautiful place with a lot of opportunities. Sometimes you just have to search to find them.

How to Survive the Alaskan Winter

I’m constantly asked how I deal with the darkness and cold in Alaska. My response is always the same. I grew up in Minnesota. It actually gets colder there than in Anchorage. We have the mountains and the ocean that help control the temperature here. It rarely gets below zero. As far as darkness goes, well…you have to distract yourself. The shortest day of the year in Anchorage is around 5 and a half hours. In Minnesota it is around 8 and a half hours. Everyone handles it differently. Some go outside. Outside is a term we often time use in Alaska for the residents that head south to the lower 48. (As in the rest of the US). Some take on a second part-time job, some go tanning, most take vitamin D, some use Happy Lights. I even have one friend that selects a different room in his house each year to remodel. It’s all about distracting yourself so that it’s harder for you to notice the darkness.

I make sure I always have something to do, I make sure I get out and stay out of bed until I’m done with the day, and I make sure I get out of my apartment every day even if it’s just to take out the garbage. Here are a few of the adventures I took in this winter and spring. Our spring doesn’t look much different then our winter. Spring only lasts a few days. If you blink you miss it.

Have you ever been to a Melodrama? Better yet, have you been to an Alaskan Melodrama where you can throw popcorn at your least favorite characters. I’ve never been to such an interactive show…nor one you could throw popcorn at the cast. Honestly, I ate most of mine as I definitely would not want to be the person that has to sweep the mess afterwards. It was interesting. I love theatre. How those actors and actresses were able to stay in character with people throwing popcorn at them is beyond me. Apparently it’s a theme as there is a melodrama performance during the renaissance festival in the summer where patrons can throw tomatoes at the cast.

Most everyone has heard of Paint Nite or Paint and Sip. I’ve attended a few of these events and though I love the arts…my painting skills are not all that great. I’m better with a paint by numbers. How many have heard of Paint a Scarf? Well, in Alaska you can. I found a Groupon. (If you are unfamiliar with Groupon, I highly recommend you check it out). A friend and I went and had a blast. The great thing about painting a scarf is that we aren’t trying to paint an object. Instead we are painting a design of our own making. Which means that my design and the person next to me will be totally and completely different from everyone else’s. Check it out. In the summertime you can go out to their cabin in Chugiak and in the winter you can paint a scarf at a pub. It started in Alaska and now has a branch in Arizona. While the scarfs drying you can enjoy a drink or a meal at the pub.

“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” There are many small towns and villages in Alaska. However, Hope, Alaska is a community I talk about it on every single Alaska tour I have led. It has great history dealing with the Gold Rush and the school system in Alaska. However, I had never been there. Over Easter weekend a friend asked me if I would want to go on a road trip. In Alaska you have to drive everywhere to get anywhere. So off we headed. It was a gorgeous day to head down the Seward Highway to Hope. We roamed the small town of less than 200 people, we took pictures, and went into a gift shop. I love supporting the local community. We made our purchases and headed back home. The road trip itself took about 5 hours. Four and a half of those hours were spent driving. So yes this was more about the journey then the destination. I now can paint a picture in my mind of what life was like for people in Hope back in the Gold Rush Days.

I make plans every day in the winter to do something. Even if it means putting together some furniture for my apartment. Items like end tables, a desk, a tv stand, etc… Once I bought these items I realized that I didn’t have tools to put all the furniture together. I had two options: go buy the tools at a store or go to a Home Improvement event where the first 100 women to attend got a free tool kit. So I went to the Home event. Not really something I needed to go to as I’m not making any home improvements. However, I did get the free tool kit and have used it multiple times. Sometimes it pays to go to an event that you may not typically be interested in attending.

Being a Part of Something Bigger

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The re-start is on a frozen lake in Willow, AK.

Imagine, walking into the frozen tundra, onto an ice covered lake, as the sun is rising, watching snow frost glitter, your hair freezing, and it being 8 degrees Fahrenheit. Imagine the quiet, the stillness, and the peace that brings. And then that peace and silence is broken as over 1,000 dogs begin to bark and howl as the excitement starts setting in. 67 mushers, over 1,000 dogs, 100’s of snowmobiles, and thousands of spectators start converging onto that same lake getting ready for the worlds longest tailgate party. Fires are set, music is playing, snow mobiles are revving, and helicopters are flying overhead. Everyone is arriving to be a part of something that is bigger, something that is more important than any one single individual. Everyone is here for the same reason. To cheer on the Last Great Race in the Last Frontier. And a Great Race it is.

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Good Luck!!

Dogs are amazing creatures. When you throw your dog a ball it chases it. These dogs, the Alaskan Husky, when hooked up to a sled they pull. They are born to do this. These dogs are a huge part of Alaskan history. These dogs can pull pound for pound more than a horse. They are survival in its most primal form. When our Native Alaskan Culture was nomadic and had to follow their food for survival they used these dogs to pull their sleds. When the gold rush happened these dogs pulled sleds, when the mail was delivered before our current road system existed these dogs pulled sleds, today Denali National Park is monitored by dogs that pull sleds, today 82% of Alaskan Communities are not connected by a road system and these dogs still pull sleds (at 40 below your snow machine won’t start; however, your dogs will still pull your sled). What a better way to honor the history and importance of these dogs by watching them do what they do best. These dogs are chipped, blood and urine tested, get hooked up to EKG’s and are better taken care of on the Iditarod Trail than anywhere else in this world. Over 1700 hundred volunteers from around the world come to Alaska to be a part of this. Because this is bigger than just you or I. These dogs are amazing athletes and are the reason that Alaskans have survived as long as they have.

Words cannot accurately describe what it is like to be a part of such an event. You could feel the electric excitement amongst the dogs, mushers, and spectators. I’ve spent 5 years wanting and waiting to be a part of this event. I’ve been blown away.

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Thankfully it was sunny…even if it was 8 degrees Fahrenheit. 

I was not only a spectator, I was also a part of it all. When I made the decision to move to Alaska in the wintertime one of the first things I did was look up how to volunteer for this event. I wasn’t sure I would get selected; however, that didn’t stop me from signing up. I spent three days at the volunteer registration desk meeting people from all over the world. Peter a veterinarian from Australia, Julien a photographer from France, Douglas a Dog Handler from Montana, Libby an Iditarider/Volunteer/Sponsor from New Zealand, Jeanette who has volunteered for the past 20 years from Wyoming. We had 1700 volunteers and about half were not Alaskan. I got to meet many of them as they came in to fill out paperwork and receive their volunteer badge. I enjoyed every moment of volunteering. Everyone has a story to tell if only you are willing to listen. I was constantly amazed by the stories of the volunteers of the Iditarod.

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The official re-start in Willow. Yes, we got there before everyone else.

The Wednesday before the Iditarod started I was at work when I walked around the corner and was greeted by a dog. Not just any dog…it was 6 year old Zig who has raced in several Ididtarods as the lead dog and is the mom to several of the dogs on Jeff King’s team. Best day ever. I mean really…does work get better than this. After some good ear scratching I had to go back to work and she had to continue getting ready for her big race.

On Thursday I decided to take in the Musher’s Banquet. I am so happy that I did. It started with a Musher’s Meet & Greet. I could have stood in line to speak with Martin Buser, Jeff King, DeeDee Jonrowe, or Aliy Zirkle. However, I have met them all so I decided to find some new faces and learn about them. I met Allen Moore who just won the Yukon Quest, Jessie Royer a woman from Montana, Joar who is sponsored by Libby (the New Zealand Lavender Farmer volunteer). I didn’t get autographs instead I got photographs. The Banquet itself was Alaskan’s version of the Oscars. I was lucky enough to sit at the same table as Scott White. I just had to know how and why this man from Washington got into Dog Mushing. As I learned his story, I was once again blown away. He would probably tell you that he was never really into mushing when he was younger. He was an avid hiker when an accident caused him to blow a disc in his back. The doctors told him he could never carry a hiking pack again. So he bought a dog to carry his pack so he could continue to hike. One thing led to another and the next thing you know he has a dog sledding team. He’s been in two Iditarod’s. This will be his third. I will be cheering for him as well as Joar, Aliy, Jeff, Martin, DeeDee and Allen.

The Ceremonial Start is in Anchorage every year. The mushers were probably pretty thrilled to have snow this year and not have the restart moved to Fairbanks. A group of friends and coworkers throw what they loving call a Trailgate party. We literally were standing on the sides of the trail that the dogs and mushers would be running on. It’s themed every year, involves lots of food, music, and a megaphone. This years theme was “Out of this World.” Many mushers slowed or stopped when they got to our group as we cheered them on and wished them good luck.

I’m glad I went as it was a lot of fun and a major energy booster. It was fun watching the experienced mushers that just kind of shake their head and think “There they are, once again.” Then seeing the 16 rookies come thru with shocked looks on their faces as they wondered “What in the world is going on.” After the Ceremonial start I headed downtown to take in the Reindeer Races which was the only event of Fur Rhondy I took in this year. Maybe next year I will be able to take in more.

 

On Sunday we headed to Willow for the Re-Start. This is the official start of the race. You can see the determination in the faces of the mushers. Even the dogs know that it’s go time. Most of them are about to run 1,000 miles in less than 10 days. It’s what each dog and musher have been preparing for. It was once again amazing.

Though the race isn’t over yet, I’m ready to sign up again for next year. Who knows, maybe I’ll be on the trail as security or at a Checkpoint. Or maybe I’ll stick with the registration desk and parking the Mushers.

This has been a super exciting two weeks in Anchorage. As I look over my schedule for the next few weeks it seems that even though the Mushers and Dogs have left Anchorage that there are some exciting events on their way.

 

Adulting

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I’ve officially moved back to Alaska. I have some amazing friends and support system up here which made the move a lot easier. Many people offered a place to stay until I found a place of my own, a vehicle to drive, help moving stuff out of storage, and assisting me with finding a car to buy. Words cannot say how thankful and grateful I am to have these people in my life. The above photo is from my friends place where I stayed the first few weeks I was in Alaska.

I started my job and am enjoying it greatly. The first couple of weeks were pretty mellow since I was learning my job, trying to find a place to live, what I needed to buy, and a way to get around. However, I still managed to have a few. I did go to a Super Bowl Sunday Party at a friends place. Most of the ladies enjoyed chatting and hanging out with Little J while the guys enjoyed the game. I was happy to have somewhere to go on Super Bowl Sunday even if I’m not a huge Football fan.

I also joined Meetup. Have you heard of it? How fun is it that there are random groups filled with people (some who know each other and some who don’t) that plan activities that people can join in on. I know this may surprise everyone since I lead groups of up to 50 strangers at a time on adventures throughout Alaska; however, this is out of my comfort zone. It’s outside of my comfort zone because this time I’m not in charge of the leading. I’m following and for some reason when I’m following a group of strangers it always makes me a bit nervous. However, I’m so very glad I decided to join this group. My first Meetup was with the Women Beginner Hikers Group. About 10 of us met up at Simon & Seaford’s for Happy Hour. Though I have spent 5 summers in Anchorage, I have never been to Simon & Seaford’s. So I got to Meetup with some amazing ladies and I got to try out a new restaurant. Take a look at the view in the back. Simon & Seaford’s has an amazing view of the Sleeping Lady aka… Mt. Susitna. Come to Alaska and I will tell you about the legend surrounding this mountain.

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I have also found a place to live. I had a few requirements: It’s in a decent neighborhood, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, it’s not too far from work, and I needed somewhere that had some space. I have moved in; however, I have not finished unpacking. These guys helped me move stuff out of the storage unit and into the apartment.

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I love to try out new restaurants. So when a good friend of mine got back from his adventure to Bali we celebrated at the Rustic Goat and ate Nachos. It’s what we do when we get together. It’s a tradition that started almost 3 years ago on a 2100 mile road trip.

I bought a car and it’s fancy. At least it’s fancy for me. Especially if you take into consideration that I haven’t owned a car in over 6 years. I’ve given my parents, sister, and one of my brothers the grand tour of my car. A friend volunteered to go with to test drive the car before I bought it. I’ve already been back to the dealership as I was having issues with the Key. I also had to check the air pressure in my tires as a warning light went on. I hadn’t bought an air pressure gauge yet…go figure. My car also has summer tires on it. It travels fine on the snow. However, once the snow gets slushy and then freezes and it creates divots in the road then it sometimes gets stuck and the tires just spinand spin. I’m 0 for 2 and both times my wheels were still on the road. I’ve had to call a a tow truck as my passenger tire got stuck in one of those divots and no one was around to help me push the car nor did I have cardboard or a shovel with me. Another time it involved a 60 or 70 year old woman pushing my car. So winter tires are a must up here. No worries though I now have a shovel and a piece of cardboard. Alaskan’s usually have winter tires and studs. They also do not salt the roads and I haven’t figured out the plowing schedule yet. I’m learning…sometimes the hard way. Now to figure out my best option for snow tires…

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On a brighter note, I had my very first visitor. Brooke and I lived next door to each other over 5 years ago in Juneau. We both made our way to the interior working seasonal jobs. Brooke is another adventurer. She was able to stop over prior to flying down to Cordova where she works with a Heli-Skiing Company. Basically people jump out of helicopters with their skies already attached. I haven’t skied since I was 12 and I wasn’t any good at it. So you won’t see me jumping out of any Helicopters anytime soon. It was great to see her. She is pretty much amazing. She just finished a solo trip in Africa. Check out her Podcasts that she recently started.

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A few days ago a friend and I went to Arctic Entries. I love storytelling and it has always been a big part of my job. It’s the second one I’ve gone too. There was live music as well. We had a great time.

It was a big decision for me to come off of the road and stay in one spot for a while. Even though I’m excited to be able to unpack and have a somewhat normal life I know I still need to have adventures. Apparently I’m getting the hang of this adulting thing and it’s kind of terrifying.

 

 

Let the Good Times Roll!!

 

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Turtle Hospital

Florida holds so many wonderful memories. My first stop was to visit Casa Frita and his two kids. Casa Frita and I worked together years ago at Disney. He was an artist and I was the person that sharpened the pencils. Lol. He is Columbian so once in a while I would say a random phrase in Spanish to him. My most common phrase was when I was trying to say “What’s up home fry?” in Spanish. My translation was “Que pasa case frita?” If you know Spanish at all then you most definitely know I was not saying “What’s up home fry?” Little did I know I was saying “What’s up fried house?” For months I’d say this to Sebastion and he would just smile or laugh. Other friends that also spoke Spanish let me continue on for months as well. Finally I had to ask why they found it so funny. After he explained we had a good laugh and then we continued to say it to each other. Eventually we shortened it down to Casa Frita…aka…we call each other fried house. We all thought it was funny. So yes, I call some of my Spanish Friends Casa Frita and they say it right back to me. He sent me this meme a while back. And this meme says so much about our friendship. Lol.

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My absolute favorite part of Florida was getting the chance to visit my cousin Andy, his wife Ashley, and their little guy Shea. Andy and I grew up less than 10 miles from each other and was one of my closest cousins growing up. It was my first visit with Andy and Ashley in 3 years and my first time meeting Shea. I’m sure glad that Shea and I became fast friends. He is an absolute cutie with his Dad’s personality. This may be my favorite picture of us. We visited the Turtle Hospital and an animal sanctuary. I was not ready to leave when it was time for me to go. I hope all of our paths cross again before to long.

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Then I was off to Symposium. This was my 7th Symposium in a row. I look forward to this event every year. The first two years I went to try and find jobs. Every year since I have gone for the reunion. As I like to tell people “These are some of my favorite Humans.” My first year I was a volunteer Human Arrow, worked my way up to a Super Volunteer, and then a few years ago I was invited to join the ITMI Team at Symposium as the Coordinator of Volunteers. This years Symposium sent us to Cozumel by Cruise Ship. It was my first ever cruise. Since I’m the Coordinator of Volunteers this involved a lot of time studying Deck plans and trying to figure out where and when I needed people to assist. I was also representing Premier Alaska Tours during Marketplace. So the added challenge of this Symposium is making sure volunteers were where they needed to be and when even though I couldn’t be in multiple places at one time. So first off I have to send a huge shout out to all the volunteers that assisted us and the people who stepped up to the plate last minute and volunteered. We couldn’t have done it without you. We were able to greet people onboard the ship wearing t-shirts and sailor caps. I saw some wonderful friends, met some amazing people, and had a lot of fun representing ITMI and Premier. I’ll be honest, I never did make it off the boat to Cozumel though I had every intention of roaming around the city. However, I did catch a lot of R & R on our free day.

 

One of my favorite parts about Symposium is our final night. I love themed parties (though I’m not a huge fan of Halloween). This years theme was Disco. As you can tell I tend to go all out for my costumes. Since I was working most of the Cruise I didn’t take many photos Our next Symposium is in November in Tuscon, AZ. I look forward to seeing you all there. I’m already wondering what our theme for the final night will be.

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Can you tell it was a Disco Party!!

My flight home was an added adventure; however, a wonderful one. Not many people would say that on a delayed by almost 24 hours flight. My flight was delayed due to a break in the Hydraulic Line. Eventually the flight was canceled due to the Hydraulic Line and blizzard conditions in Minneapolis. Myself and two other ladies seemed pretty relaxed while everyone else was in a near panic. A few things I have learned traveling as much as I do. One: you should always leave yourself some leeway when it comes to flying. As in don’t have every moment of everyday planned. If you need to be somewhere at a certain time / date then perhaps you should fly in a day sooner. Two: If you fly in the winter to Minnesota you should already be well aware that your flight may very well be delayed. Three: a plane is just like a car. Sometimes they break down even if you take good care of them. I don’t blame the ticket or gate agents for this. There is literally nothing they can do and getting angry at them due to mechanical issues or weather will serve no one.

Delta Agents at FLL Airport provided us with sandwiches from Jimmy John’s. There is a first time for everything. Thanks for feeding us Delta. My delayed flight got delayed hour after hour until it became a 5:45Am flight. I watched as many people walked up to the Gate Agent and changed their flights. However, I was watching MSP’s Twitter account and I realized that almost all flights would be canceled. I’m glad I didn’t switch flights. A mechanical issue delay involves a free night at a hotel. A weather delay involves no such compensation. So even though my flight was delayed and then canceled and rescheduled for the next day and then delayed again I was able to get 2 free meals (Jimmy Johns and a Nacho Bar at the hotel) and a free night at a hotel. While all other flights were delayed and canceled due to weather they did not receive any compensation. Yes, I had places to be and things I needed to get done; however, I knew the risks I was taking trying to fly into Minneapolis in January. So I rescheduled what I could. The best part of the delay is that my sister and her husband would be in the Cities heading home and could pick me up at the airport. Which meant no shuttle. It was wonderful spending time with the two of them. I was glad to finally get home about 24 hours after I should have been.