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.
Kayti and Larry
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ten screws and a plate.
As splints got bigger I had to get clothes that could fit over it. Hence a skirt.
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.
Only 2 1/2 stitches were pulled.
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 Scooter my Boss let me borrow.
The 20 lb Scooter I bought that can fold up small enough to be an airplane carry on.
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.
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.
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.
I will never do this again.
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.
Left foot (gets angry when I walk on it. It reminds me of an elephant).
Right foot (normal size)
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.
Life changes in an instant, it’s a moment in time that cannot be undone.
In June a roommate and I both happened to have the same evening and next day off. We decided to go glamping. In my world that means fancy camping. We found Alpenglow Luxury Camping where we could see Matanuska Glacier and camp out in some tents. These tents were amazing and had real beds in them. Life cannot get better than that. Take a look at the amazing views. There are only three tents so getting a group of friends together to rent out the entire place would be the way to go. We enjoyed the evening on our porch chairs, watching and listening to the rain. There is a little shed / building where our included breakfast was, running water, board games, some plug-ins if we needed them, a fire pit, and a cedar hot tub to use. There is also an outhouse and some flushing toilets if you want to go for a little stroll. In the land of the midnight sun this was a fantastic adventure.
The next day we took my car down a winding road to get to the entrance of Matanuska Glacier. It’s on private land so you have to pay a fee and sign a waiver. A waiver that states you are entering at your own risk and that you understand that if you get injured you cannot blame them. Makes sense to me. I’m choosing to hike on a glacier. I can’t blame anyone but myself if something happens.
We had our Kahtoola’s, basically micro-spikes that hook onto your hiking shoes / boots. We walked the first portion of the trail without our spikes as it wasn’t slippery enough and we had to walk over metal grates and planks of wood. Once the grates and planks ended and it got fairly icy we put on our micro spikes and continued following the orange cones that marked the one mile trail. At the end of the cones we decided to continue on for a while navigating our own path. Sometimes I was leading and other othertimes my roommate was leading. We both had the proper gear and both of us have been on glaciers before. We had to turn around a couple of times and navigated what we believed would be the easiest route. At one point I thought heading down a chunk of sloping ice about 3 feet was our best plan of action. It turns out it wasn’t.
What happened next I can only describe as happening in slow motion. What I know is that I was trying to head down a chunk of ice. My micro spikes somehow got wedged in a small crack. I tried to squat down to unwedge my body was sliding down the chunk of ice. However, I couldn’t stop my momentum until I had rolled over the top of my leg. I could feel it twisting and had instant pain. I rolled completely over it. I had to reach behind me, grab my leg, and pull to undwedge it. My roommate immediately asked if I was okay. I told her no and that I needed a moment before I could stand. My first train of thought was that there was no way I was going to have her call for help (there were phone numbers and names listed on the cones) and they send a helicopter to rescue me. I didn’t want to pay for a helicopter nor did I want to have a helicopter rescue me and the medics tell me that it was just a bad sprain. My second train of thought was if I can stand, I can walk. It took me a while to stand up from the puddle I was sitting in. I was able to stand and slowly hobble off the glacier. Apparently my whole body was shaking with the exertion, adrenalin, and pain. I hobbled back a mile and a half to my car. It took a few hours since I couldn’t walk my normal pace. Sometimes I looked like a baby bird learning to fly as I flailed my arms to keep my balance. She thought I looked like a toddler learning to walk. We realized quickly that every step was painful; however, I could walk uphill (it was the easiest), flat was not fun, and it was near impossible to go downhill. This means that I sat at every downhill and scooted on my butt. My pants were soaked, I looked and felt like a wreak. Other hikers noticed and tried to assist. However, I could only trust my own body weight, pain level, and balance so I usually thanked them and said I’d be okay. Occasionally I’d take an arm.
I’m not sure I would have gotten out of that situation without Debbie keeping me laughing. She told me stories, would walk ahead of me to check the route and find the smoothest one possible, and had so much patience. I felt horrible as I realized that I ruined my roommates adventure and I didn’t want her memory of hiking with me on a glacier to be a negative one. At the end of the day, we had a wonderful adventure. Minus the pain I enjoyed the hike back. As you can tell by the last photo we took that day, that we still enjoyed ourselves.
I asked Debbie to drive my car back to Anchorage. Even though it was my left leg I didn’t feel like I could or should be driving. I asked her to stop up above so I could change into my sweat pants as I didn’t want to ride to Anchorage in wet pants. I did take off my boot for a few seconds so that I could change my pants. I did it as quickly as possible as I knew that keeping my boot on was important as it was holding my leg safety together. It was quite painful taking my boot off and putting it back on. I of course made her drive me home as I was still deciding whether or not I wanted to go to the doctor. I kept hoping it was just a sprain. I wasn’t sure if it was all in my head and I was exaggerating the pain.
Eventually Debbie said I should go to the Doctor just to be on the safe side. I was taken into the hospital room and took off my boot. It wasn’t actually all that swollen or bruised. The nurse said that it didn’t look terrible and that the doctor would take a look at it and determine if I needed X-rays. The Doctor came in and felt all around my ankle and leg and decided that I needed some x-rays. She mentioned that only one side of my ankle should hurt if it was a sprain. She was concerned it was broken. The nurse came back in and took the X-rays. She told me that she normally cannot tell if a leg is broken or not. She said the doctor usually has to outline where the break is for her. I could tell by the way she was speaking that mine was broken. So I asked. She showed me the x-rays and said “Yours is definitely broken. I have no idea how you walked off that glacier on your own.” That boot is really the only thing that held that bone somewhat inside.
It turns out that I broke my leg in multiple locations. After looking at my X-Ray and listening to the Doctor I originally thought it was just one break; however, it turns out I was wrong. It also turns out that I tore some ligaments. I sometimes wonder how much extra damage I did hiking a mile and a half back on it. Though no one can say for sure if I did. My ankle was wrapped, I received a pair of crutches, and was told that I would need to see a specialist the next day. That Doctor would determine what the best course of action for me would be. Not exactly the news I was hoping for. I’m so happy that I had Debbie with me. She not only drove me to the Doctors, she also drove me to get medication, frozen peas, and some dinner. I called work to inform them what was going on and that I would be late coming into work the next day. I was told to take the whole day off. So I did.
The next day I seen a specialist who informed me that I would need to have surgery. The broken leg would heal and so would the ligaments…they just wouldn’t heal right without surgery. They put a splint on my leg, which made my leg feel instantly better as it could no longer flop around as I didn’t have any real control over my leg. The Doctor informed me that he could actually twist and turn my leg / ankle any direction and have little to no resistance. It was a bad break…I just didn’t realize how bad it was when it happened. We then set a date for the surgery.
ACE Bandage. I’ve got a bag of peas wrapped around my ankle to ice it. As suggested by the Doctor.
This would be the beginning of a long journey. One I’m still on.
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.
Our Little Cabin
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.
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.