Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Maid Service

One of the many hardships I had to endure in my time of unemployment was the loss of my monthly maid.

Boy, I sound so pretentious, don't I? But really, it was quite distressing.

However, after taking a look at my financial state now that I’m working again, I determined that I can once again afford the luxury. Believe me, once you’ve had it, you’ll find almost anyway you can to get it back.

I am doing quite well, though. I had money saved up ahead of time, and was given a severance check when I was let go. All of that on top of stringent budgeting means that I can afford to relax a little bit.

I may even be able to get my blinds that I’ve been wanting: the energy-efficient ones that help to hold the heat in so well.

I’m a happy camper!

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Tangled Web

My family is getting large enough that I am beginning to not know what to call people.

Take for example my brother. He married a girl, who then became my sister-in-law. Well, she has a sister: what is she to me? And now, that sister is getting married: what will he be to me?

Another example is my sister's son: he would be my nephew. He married a girl a while back: what is she to me?

Also, my sister's daughter - otherwise known as my niece - had a baby boy. What is he to me?

Can anybody tell me?

And then, there's my sister-by-choice. She's been a part of our family for 25+ years, but is not related to us by blood. I made up her title because I don't think there is one for her. Well, she went and got married and had two kids. What do I call them?

And last but certainly not least, there’s my Cousin Chris: who isn’t really my cousin but is instead my cousin’s son.

It’s so confusing.

Christmas Day

After opening gifts at my sister’s house, and after having just one more piece of Christmas Stolen, I packed up my stuff and headed on over to the farm for the day.

Mother had all kinds of good food baking in the oven when I arrived – the whole house smelled so good!

She stopped me in the entryway, however, and took me out to the barn to check on her girls first. Her girls happen to be a bunch of chickens and three turkeys. And not all of them are female, either. But – they are fun to watch, regardless of their gender.

Mother had gotten rid of all her chickens not two months ago, and had thought that she was done with trying to keep the birds alive through the winter – but a friend had a slight emergency and had to leave the state for a few months. He needed somebody to look after his flock, and who better than Mother! Heck, some of his flock was originally hers anyway. So, now she’s back into chicken farming – and although she complains, it’s fairly obvious that she loves it.

When we finally got back to the house, I hauled all my packages into the office where Mother had her “system” in place: huge boxes with family names written on the sides. Each person bringing packages placed them in the appropriate box, so that later on we could easily hand them out to whom they belong. I divvied up my packages and went back in to the kitchen to help Mother with all that food.

People started arriving one after another, shortly after that, till eventually all 21 of us were there: Mother, Stan, Dorothy, Stewart, Julie, Kelly, Danny, Tara, Laurel, Corbin, TJ, Gareth, Robin, Jamie, Noel, Hank, Katy, Lauren, Me, Reed, and Heather! The only one missing was Cousin Chris, who had gone home to Montana for the holidays.

It was a great day, full to overflowing with good food, lots of good conversations, and even a little bit of drama thrown in for good measure.

The drive home that evening was horrible, though. A blizzard had started blowing in around noonish, and was just getting it’s stride going by the time I headed home. It wasn’t the worst weather I’d ever driven home in (that honor belongs to Noel’s surprise 40th birthday) but it was no picnic.

I made it home, though, a little too well fed but happy.

Christmas Eve

It’s always been a tradition for me to spend Christmas Eve out at my sister's house. I've been doing this for over 20 years, ever since the girls were born.

It started out in part as a babysitting job: my sister Noel and her husband Hank are both in the choir at church and needed somebody to sit with the babies during the midnight mass. It’s also a way for me to enjoy family life without having to actually HAVE a family (meaning kids). I have loved every year of it. Now that the girls are older, it's more an opportunity for me to spend some time with each of them.

I took off right after work and arrived just in time for Christmas Eve Dinner with Hank’s parents at a nice Italian restaurant. After our meal – which was scrumptious - we headed off to church for the early service. Both Noel & Hank, and this year Lauren as well, headed downstairs to warm up with the choir while I hung out upstairs, helping Katy with folding programs for the evening's service.

Rachel, my friend from high school, showed up with her little one shortly after we got started. Since Rachel is in the choir also, we agreed that Elly should sit with me in the audience for the service. I also had Katy and her friend sitting next to me - lots of company this year!

After that, we headed over to Hank’s parents' house to celebrate my sister's birthday (yup - she was born on Christmas) with presents, goodies, and tea/coffee. The dogs came with us and even got to open their own presents - causing a minor squabble over whose toy was whose. Apparently the puppy still doesn't quite understand the concept of sharing!

By then it was time to head back to the church for the midnight service. I chose to stay home, as did Katy, so she & I got to catch up on all of her goings-on at college. I crawled into bed shortly after that, since I am most decidedly NOT a night owl, and didn't even hear the others return home.

The next morning, Noel & Hank got up early to let the dogs out for a potty break and to put the turkey in the oven. I heard them putzing around in the kitchen so got up to join them. Normally, the girls would be the first ones up - frantically urging the adults to WAKE UP so they could open their gifts - but, as my sister noted, apparently ages 18 & 20 are the magical ages where sleeping in is more preferable to early wakening: they didn't get out of bed till nearly 9:30.

When they did finally get up, we proceeded to open our gifts at a nice, leisurely pace - munching on the Christmas Stolen and drinking special Christmas Tea/Coffee in the process.

It was a great holiday!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Help Me Please!

Here’s a couple questions for you – Let’s see how many responses I can get from the world out there. But, first: some background to better understand my questions.

I am going on a scientific expedition to Africa in November of 2009. This is with Earthwatch, which – as you might know from reading previous blog postings – I happen to be the Alaskan Field Representative for. Not that I get to go on these expeditions for free, or anything. But I do get to talk to people about Earthwatch and get them all excited about it like I am myself.

Anyway, my questions are:

1. What is the temperature going to be like in November over there?

I will be in Kenya, in the Samburu region. I’m told that is almost directly ON the equator but has a high elevation. I’m expecting it to be hot and muggy, but for some reason I seem to recall somebody telling me that it would actually be cooler up there than one would think.

2. How does one train for high elevations when one happens to live at low elevations?

The expedition briefing says that the elevation ranges from 3,000 to 5,000 feet. The problem is that I happen to live at only 300 feet, and the highest point I can get to without serious climbing gear is about 1,500. So, what should I do?

I’m climbing stairs at work, to start with. I only work on the 4th floor, so it’s only three flights of stairs. But, I do it 4-5 times a day – that should count for something.

I also have intentions of loosing these extra pounds I’ve been carrying around lately. We’ll see how that goes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day One

I survived my first day! I’m tired, but happy.

I started at 8:00 today, but from here on out my days will start at 7:30 and end at 5:30. I’m on a schedule where I work 9 hours each Monday thru Thursday, then just 8 hours on one Friday and not at all the following Friday.

The only bad thing about that – well, actually there’s several bad things. One is the traffic on the way home. I’ll be smack in the middle of rush-hour traffic on the main artery in town. I won’t actually get home till around 6:30, and since I go to bed at 10:00 that barely leaves me about 3 hours to get all my chores done AND snuggle with all three of my kids properly.

I’m sure I’ll get used to the schedule eventually.

The other thing I consider bad about this schedule is the fact that I will have to somehow keep track: is this my Friday off, or is this my 8-hour Friday? And to make matters worse, I get the feeling that they sometimes ask you to come in on your day off and work anyway. This will definitely take some getting used to.

But, the work is interesting. So far, I’ve worked on an addition to the culinary arts school in Seward and a warehouse storage area for Change Point (a local church). I have volunteered my help to consolidate some sort of office standard, and have mentioned (several times) that I want to be one of the first to be trained on Revit, whenever they get the program in house.

The people are all very nice. It’s a small office, so I only have about 12 names to try to learn. I’m so bad with names! I think I know about 3 so far… I hope.

My little cubicle is on the East side of the building, so I have the most beautiful view of the mountains! It is truly spectacular – particularly this morning with the bitter cold, the hoar frost all over everything, and the morning fog shrouding the area. It’s almost too beautiful – makes it very hard to concentrate on my work. It's better than the view on the East side, though: they get to watch the homeless people all huddling together trying to stay warm.

I brought in a plate of home-made fudge (thank you Mother!) for my first day of work. It was half gone before 10:00, so I think it was a success.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I Have A Job!

It’s official – I have accepted a position at NVision Architecture! I start work tomorrow.

It would have been today, but I had already told the zoo I would help out with 400 students coming to learn about Tigers.

This morning I contacted the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and let them know I was no longer interested in their lead position. Then I called the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation to let my friend know that I would not be working for them either.

Then I let NVision know that I would be in first thing tomorrow morning, ready and willing to work.

It’s a beautiful thing… although I must admit = I have a huge migraine today. I’m sure it’s the stress of starting over again.

Friday, December 12, 2008


To celebrate my impending employment – regardless of which one I end up choosing – I treated myself to a bit of online shopping tonight!

Mother gave me about 10 new pairs of pants a few weeks ago (well, new to me at least) so I decided to get some tops to go with them. Eddie Bauer is my favorite place to shop, although I must say their website is not as fun as the actual store. However, I ended up choosing two shirts and two sweaters – all of which were on sale! They should arrive by Christmas.

Next I went to the Victoria’s Secret website for some much-needed underclothes. I’m embarrassed to say how long it’s been since I bought new ones – I’ve just been making due with what I had on hand. Again, I hit the sales table and ended up with some pretty bras and panties – although that probably qualifies as “too much information”.

I had to stop myself from hitting the bookstore – that has always been my reward of choice, as is evident by the stacks of books located on just about every flat surface in my house. I so need more bookshelves. I actually caught myself storing books in my car a while back!

The grand finale of my celebration consisted of heating up a brownie and eating it with a cup of Market Spice Tea while watching CSI New York.

When It Rains, It Pours

I had 2 – count them, two! – job interviews today!

The first one was with ASRC, or Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (as in, Big Oil). A guy I used to work with way back in my Fluor Daniel days is the manager of the EIC group (electrical, instrumentation, and controls) and had recognized my name when my resume made its way across his desk.

In fact, he had tried a few years earlier to get me to work for him - but at the time I was happily employed and didn’t want to switch gears.

He invited me to lunch with him at the Peppermill restaurant, just on the other side of the parking lot to his building. We had a nice lunch (I ate an Ahi Tuna sandwich that was truly scrumptious) while catching up on old times and going over the job parameters.

After boxing up the leftovers and paying the bill, we headed over to his office to go over the particulars.

The building he works in is relatively new, and is really a nice building. It has a good feel to it when you’re walking down the hallways, even though they are stuffing as many cubicles as they can into an open space – a concept that managers love but worker-bees tend to hate.

The work I would be doing is basically the same as what I did in my pipeline days – it wouldn’t take that much of a learning curve to get back in to the swing of things. I’d have to learn their layering system, their plotting styles, and all that sort of thing - of course. But I’d have to do that no matter where I end up. At least at this place it’s got a familiar ring to it.

I saw quite a few familiar faces while walking around: people I had worked with both here in town and down in Valdez. Quite a few of them recognized me in return, even! One guy actually said, “You used to have red hair!” in reference to the grey I now have. Oh well… he’s a guy – what more can you expect?

The offer that was made to me was quite impressive, and very tempting. Not to mention the fact that they would like me to start today if at all possible (it’s not). But – since I had another interview scheduled for today that I still had to go to, I told them I would decide once I knew what I had to choose from and get back to them.

So, off I headed to my second one of the day: at NVision Architecture.

This company is located in a building that’s not quite so nice and is in a part of town that is trying to clean itself up but hasn’t quite gotten there yet.

Inside is very nice, however. The floors are poured concrete made to look like marble = very classy. The interiors and special features are obviously created to impress clients, and are very warm & inviting.

I like it!

I sat in the conference room with the lead architect and spoke to him for about half an hour. Apparently, he has spoken to other people about me (that’s always an uncomfortable thought) so had an idea as to my capabilities already – he mostly needed to hear what I had to say about things before making up his mind officially.

He did say that I had some of the best references that he’d ever come across before! That’s quite the complement, I think. People think well enough of me to actually recommend me for employment – even without me asking them to!

This firm is considerably smaller than ASRC; they have 12 people right now and are hoping to ramp up to about 16. There’s no chance that they could come even close to the pay-scale that Big Oil offers, but they are offering slightly more than I was making at my last job.

I haven’t made up my mind officially yet.

Do I work for Big Oil, make buckets of money, have awesome benefits and loads of work (mandatory 16 hours of overtime each week) for years to come?

Or do I choose the work I went to school for, where the jobs are not guaranteed and the work load fluctuates regularly from “pick-your-nose boredom” to “oh-my-god this-has-to-be-finished-tonight”?

Call me crazy – but I think I’m actually going to turn down financial bliss.

Either way, I start on Tuesday!

Bear Cubs at the Zoo

As most of you know, the elephant that used to live at The Alaska Zoo has moved down to sunnier weather and now resides in California with a herd of 5 others of her kind. She is, I am sure, a lot happier now – but the problem remains in Alaska of what to do with her old enclosure.

We haven’t quite figured that out yet.

Temporarily, however, half of it got turned into a holding pen for our two bear cubs this week. I got to help out for a few hours while several of the maintenance staff, along with the director and the curator of the zoo, got the place ready for them.

We put up fencing all around, about 8 feet tall with 3 feet of thick black plastic on top (to stop the cubs from climbing out). We placed several toys in strategic places, to keep them occupied. We constructed a “den” out of hay bales. We filled two big tubs of water, partially in hopes that they might get the hint and take a bath. We even gave them a nice big snow pile to roll in. Basically, we made it as cozy and inviting as we could for them.

They got moved in the very next morning. I wasn’t there to see that, so I’m not entirely sure how they did it – but I suspect they just got them crated up in portable carriers similar to what you would put a dog or cat into for transport.

The two cubs are orphans (not related to eachother) and had apparently been on their own for a while because by the time we got them, they were severely malnourished and dehydrated, requiring a lot of medical attention. They are both underweight – by this time of year they should be about 150 pounds, at least, and yet both are not much more than 50 pounds.

One good thing about that is that makes them a lot easier to crate up and transport across the zoo, from the infirmary to their new home in the old elephant house! They will live there until they are ready to go to their new permanent home in Memphis, Tennessee – probably sometime next fall.

Putting two little cubs into a new environment can be quite stressful – both on the cubs and on the zookeepers! One can never be 100% sure that all the escape routes got blocked – so a babysitter is needed for the first few days.

That’s where volunteers come in! I spent most of Tuesday in there with them, keeping an eye on their activities and making sure they didn’t get where they shouldn’t be. I also got to talk to any zoo patrons who happened to stop by, which really wasn’t that many. It was cold and snowing outside, and word of the cubs’ new exhibit hadn’t hit the news yet.

Mostly what I did was homework. I sat up in the viewing area with my Human Anatomy book and did a whole chapter! I have to say, that viewing area isn’t the most comfortable place I’ve ever done homework in: concrete floors, a hard wooden bench, and barely enough heat to keep warm with.

It’s perfect for the animals, however. They were feeling just fine; sprawling out for the occasional nap in between their inspection of the new place. They didn’t seem to be too interested in getting out – most of their time was spent destroying the cardboard boxes we’d scattered around for them. They also destroyed the den made of hay bales, and the snow pile took all of 5 minutes to destroy, after which it simply melted down the drain.

If you’ve ever had the good fortune (or bad, depending on your point of view) of running across bear cubs out in the wild, then you know the sounds they make. It’s really not describable – you have to hear it to believe that such an awful sound actually came out of that little teddy bear looking thing.

Now put that sound into a building made of concrete and bounce the echoes all over the place and you get an idea of what I heard all day. The girl cub kept trying to get closer to the boy cub – but the boy cub wanted nothing to do with the girl cub (they have girl kooties!) and would start to scream at her whenever she came into sight.

I have a feeling that by now, they are quite comfortable in their new home, and are more active and vocal – well worth a trip to the zoo to visit them!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Concert at the Museum

I attended a Holiday Concert this weekend at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art. I was actually supposed to go to our Family Movie Night that day, but it had been cancelled – in part because of this concert: my sister Noel was part of the event as she is a member of Cantora Arctica, the woman’s choir conducted by Janet Stotts.

The concert was really good. The museum is a very classy place, of course. The foyer is a very large two-story space, with the sweeping staircase and the water feature with glass blocks at the base. The acoustics were perfect for the music, and the holiday decorations added just the right final touch.

And may I say: the Christmas tree was beautiful!

It was probably 12 feet tall and about 8 feet in diameter at the base. I didn’t get close enough to see if it was real or not, but with the quality of fake trees these days, there’s really no reason to waste a perfectly good tree just for decoration purposes.

It was the garland that was really cool. Somebody had made hundreds of dolls, each one about 18 inches tall, and all dressed in traditional clothing from all over the world. The dolls all held hands, creating the garland, and wrapped the tree from head to foot.

I had my camera with me, and took lots of pictures, so if anybody wants to see the tree, or – more importantly – my sister, just ask!

Speaking of my sister: let’s get back to the subject of the concert (the whole reason for this entry in the first place!).

The program opened with a group called the Suzuki Students of Karyn Grove. I am not familiar with them, so am assuming that Karyn Grove is the name of a school – but it could have been the name of their leader. Either way, the group consisted of about 12 kids, ranging in age from 9 to 16, all of whom played violins.

They were amazing. They stood up there, in matching outfits, and played 26 pieces of holiday music = all without any music books in front of them! They did the entire show from memory.

Now, I can totally understand singing that many songs from memory. I do it every day, and have been doing so since almost before I could talk. But playing the violin! At the age of 9!!!

Truly impressive.

Cantora Arctica filed on stage next along with the Alaska Children’s Choir (also conducted by Janet Stotts). There were probably somewhere around 50-80 voices by the time they all got to their positions. There were kids lined 4-5 deep all the way up the stairs, with the youngest voices down on floor level in front of the adults.

The songs they sang were specifically chosen to showcase all the different age groups present, so that each group got to highlight their talents and be in the spotlight. There were several duets, some solos, and even a couple where everybody sang together.

Again, the acoustics in the museum are really quite beautiful, and the human voice can do some really amazing things when properly trained.

I was impressed, to say the least.

If you’re interested, Cantora Arctica is performing at another concert this coming Sunday, December 14, at the St. John Lutheran Church in Palmer, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. Tickets are $15.00 for adults and $10.00 for children & seniors.

I highly recommend you going to hear them. You won’t be disappointed!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

He Is Not Ugly!

The other day, as I was carrying my little Alien out of the exam room over to the check-out counter at the vet’s office after his little medical emergency, there was a lady in the waiting room. She had a leash in her hand, so I’m assuming she was waiting for her dog to be returned to her.

As she saw me come out of the exam room, she said to her husband “Oh look! It’s a... small.... something...” her exclamation of endearment turning to uncertainty as she got a closer look at him.

I just shook my head sadly and said “He’s a cat.”

“Okay.” She said, as she nodded her head gently and looked at me as if I were clearly a crazy person that must handled carefully.

He’s not that weird looking… is he?

Sunday, November 30, 2008


It started snowing last night and has not yet stopped. I’ve got well over a foot of snow so far, and have had to shovel my driveway twice just to get in and out.

The plows have been by several times so far, each time leaving a huge snowberm in front of my driveway. Thankfully, the neighborhood where I live is a really friendly one. When neighbors see you out battling a 3-foot berm, they generally come and help you out.

This year, my neighbors have most definitely earned the box of Northern Delights chocolate I try to get for them each Christmas – even though I’m unemployed and should conserve my spending. They are well worth it, let me assure you.

A little boy, probably age 12 or so, always comes around offering to shovel for me for the low price of $10.00. He’s not very good at it, but he is out there and any little bit helps – so I usually let him, if I have money at the time.

He actually woke me up this morning, ringing my doorbell at 10:00. Yes, I admit it = I was still sleeping at 10:00 in the morning. I had a bad migraine last night and took sleeping pills to try and get some rest. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!

He told me he would be back by tomorrow to shovel some more, if it keeps going. Looks like I will be hiring him again, because it does not look to be slowing down at all.

It sure is pretty though!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Medical Emergency

I noticed yesterday that the Alien had a wet spot on his behind. It was as if he had diarrhea, but he didn’t. It concerned me; he is 17 years old, after all. I decided to keep an eye on him and if he got worse, I’d have to take him in to the vet.

Today, my sister and her daughter-in-law came in for a visit. When I took them upstairs to meet the Alien, we noticed that he was swollen back there. It looked pretty bad, but didn’t seem to hurt him all that much. He continued purring even when I poked around to see what was what. Even so, I knew he needed to have it looked at, so I called the vet.

Of course, they were booked solid all day. When I explained what was going on, they went ahead and squeezed us in between appointments so that we wouldn’t have to wait two days till Monday for him to be seen. I got Alien bundled up in his travel box with his portable heater and got him to the doctor’s office.

As luck would have it, we got to see the best vet there = Dr. Riley Wilson. He’s the zoo vet! He’s seen Alien before, and we like him a lot.

He knew right away what it was: a blocked anal gland.

At first he said that he’d send me home with antibiotics and Al would be fine. But, when I said that Al really doesn’t like taking pills, he changed his mind and had me take Al to the back room to try and drain the abscess manually.

In case you were wondering = Aliens really do not like to have their anal glands drained manually.

It was really bad.

Dr. Riley was amazed at the amount of puss. He even called to his assistants to come and see it, and they all kept saying things like “Cool” or “That’s awesome!”

Poor Al was not a happy camper even though they had given him a local anesthetic.

They got all that gunk out, flushed it out with a Betadine solution, and then topped it off with an antibiotic shot in the butt.

Dr. Riley told me that he was glad he’d changed his mind. If he had sent me home with Alien the way he was, he could have gotten really sick.

Alien is home now, snuggled up to his heating pad and nursing his sore behind.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving Day, full of good food, family, and friends! My day was spectacular!

I got to sleep in – although that’s not really a treat, since I sleep in every day now that I’m unemployed. But my cats enjoy snuggling with me in the mornings: Thing curls up at my stomach and Djuna lays out on my hips. Even the Alien comes in and joins us sometimes, although he can’t jump up on the bed anymore – I have to haul him up and get him situated under the covers with me.

When I finally got myself out of bed, I relocated to the computer room and got started in my daily routine of checking all the job banks and applying to any that catch my eye. I’ve sent my resume out to about 41 places so far – and have heard back from quite a few of them.

See previous postings for job interview status.

Once I got that out of the way for the day, I started getting things ready to take out to Palmer for the big dinner. I had two jars of apple cider, some mulling spices & a cinnamon stick, and a big pot placed in one big tote bag. I had the crock-pot and three packages of corn placed in another big tote bag. And last but not least, a bunch of miscellaneous items placed in a third big tote bag.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to drive all the way out there this time. My friend Lisa and her husband Mark said that I could catch a ride in with them! So, I headed on over to their house around 1:00.

Unfortunately, the turkey was being difficult. Lisa had gotten up early to put it in the oven, timing it so that it would be ready by the time I got there. However, something wasn’t right – and the turkey was still very much undercooked.

We waited another hour, hoping it would be finished by then – but it wasn’t.

In desperation, Lisa called Heather to ask her to have the oven preheated so that they could finish cooking it out in Palmer. We bundled the thing up, loaded the car with all our stuff, and headed on out – arriving only slightly late.

The house was crammed full of people when we arrived. There were so many cars in the parking lot they were backed up into the driveway even. I guess Lisa and I were the only ones to think of carpooling. Heather did several head-counts and I think the final tally was somewhere around 37 people, ranging in age from 6 months to 90 years of age!

Heather had her dining table and three folding tables set with napkins and placemats, so amazingly almost everybody got to sit down to eat. All the food was laid out on the kitchen counters, buffet style.

That poor turkey never did get cooked all the way thru – but they carved off the cooked parts and kept putting it back in the oven. We also had a nice big ham that was quite scrumptious (or so I’m told) so people did not go hungry for meat. I can’t even begin to list all the food we had – there was so much of it! All of it was good, and all of it got eaten.

Lisa and I left the party around 6:00, but I’m told a lot of people hung out till well after midnight. Quite the party!

Third Time’s a Charm

Of course, they also say “three strikes and you’re out”. I’m hoping that first saying is the one that fate is going to choose for me this time.

What I’m talking about it job interviews. I had my third one the other day.

Technically, it wasn’t really a job interview. They called it “an informal meeting” just to see if both parties really want to have a job interview. And oddly enough, they didn’t really want me for the job I’d applied for – they had a different job in mind.

The company is the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, and the job I applied for was the Computer Aided Design Technician III position. The one they wanted me to apply for is the Lead Computer Aided Design Technician, which is actually a management type job.

Both of the positions sound like good ones, and I do qualify for both of them – so which ever one I decide to go for will be a good choice. Unfortunately neither of them are in the architectural field. I’m not too happy about that.

I met the man who would be my immediate supervisor at the front desk promptly at 1:00 (I did not show up an hour early this time, thank goodness) and he showed me around the place. It’s a typical engineering office, with as many cubicles crammed into the office space as possible: very utilitarian, grey, and sterile. I’ve been spoiled these past few years, working in an office that prides itself on the working environment.

We sat down in his office and went over the particulars after the tour. He showed me some samples of the work being done, an organization chart of the company, some of the work that he himself had done, and gave pointers to me on how to make my resume more suited for the management job.

I feel pretty optimistic about this one – even though it’s not architectural, it is on the computers still, and they are using a 3D program that is similar to Revit. The pay is almost indecent and the benefits are most excellent.

My task now is to update my resume, resubmit it for the Lead position, and gather up three references. I should have all that done by early next week so will most likely hear from them the following week.

Cross you fingers and toes for me, but I think by the New Year, I just might be employed again.

My Good Deed for the Day

I went to the grocery store the other day to pick up the food I’d need for Thanksgiving Day.

As usual, I parked in the far back corner of the parking lot to avoid most of the crowd. As I walked up towards the store, I came upon an elderly lady unloading a cart full of grocery bags into her car.

“I’m heading that way – why don’t I return that empty cart for you?” I said.

She turned and just looked at me for a moment. Finally, she said “That’s the nicest thing anybody has done for me in a long time.”

I just thought that was so sad.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Family Movie Night - Part 2

Our second Family Movie Night gathering was this Sunday, and it was another success.

The movie this time was to have been Mother’s choice – however, she didn’t want to choose one, fearing that nobody would like whatever she picked. My brother Reed suggested that they “go together” on the choice, since his is the next one. So, we ended up watching “They Call Me Trinity” this time, and will watch part two of the series next time.

The write-up on the boxed set calls these movies “Spaghetti Westerns” which I can only assume is similar to my favorite B-Grade Sci-Fi movies. I really do wonder how they came up with the term “Spaghetti Western” though. Does anybody have any input on that? Leave a comment below if you do.

Anyway, the movie was interesting – a lot of gun fights, cattle rustling, slap-stick comedy, and some pretty shabby horses. Unfortunately, the movies did not come with captions, so we could not turn on the “words”. There are way too many of us in the family who are hard of hearing, and couple that with my brother’s penchant for turning up the TV way too loud – it was very hard to understand most of what was being said.

It was till fun, though. We had quite a crowd, too: Mother, Stewart, Julie, Kelly, Tara, Noel, Hank, Reed, Heather, Tony & his wife (she’s from Thailand and I can’t remember her name), Gleo, and myself.

As always, the buffet was set with all kinds of food. We had tomato soup w/ black beans in one crock-pot; beans w/ meat and onions in another crock-pot; home-made bread with tuna spread; rice with almonds, pecans, cranberries, veggies, and lots of other good stuff; cookies; lemonade; and a big pecan pie for dessert.

It’s a good 100 miles round trip each time I go out to my brother’s house. In this time of high gas prices and no employment, I really have to think twice each time I want to head out that direction. It’s worth it for the family gatherings, though – and gas prices continue to come back down to a more reasonable level.

Another thing to consider is the road conditions. This time, they were horrible. It was so icy the entire drive; my car kept wanting to go sideways. I saw several cars in the ditch along the way, one of which was upside down!

Their driveway wasn’t any better: I almost got stuck on the way out. My big brother helped, though (my hero!), so I eventually made it back onto the highway and arrived home safe and sound an hour later.


Hello. My name is Ruth, and I am a vegetarian.

Sounds like I just joined some 12-step program, doesn’t it? Like it’s some sort of disease that needs to be healed, or a chemical dependency that needs to be overcome so that I can fit back in to the mainstream of society.

It’s not a religious belief, or a political statement. At least, for me it’s not. I simply don’t like the taste of meat. I was born this way. Mother told me once that even as a baby she had a hard time getting me to eat meat.

We were quite poor growing up, so didn’t have the luxury of fixing a different meal for each child at dinner time. This meant that we were expected to eat whatever Mother made for dinner, and no arguments allowed. She did let me take very small portions at least; I filled up on the veggies and had a bite or two of the meat, and that was good.

Now that I’m all grown up (what!?) I simply don’t have meat in my house.

It’s kind of funny, some of the reactions I get. Some people really just don’t get it, you know?

My favorite was one of my old shooting buddies (yes, I shoot trap = its clay pigeons, not real ones!). He had a hard time grasping the concept of not eating any meat. He kept asking, “What else is there?”

How about: Everything!

Another favorite is the people who “catch” me eating chocolate. They gasp, point at me, and loudly proclaim, “I thought you were a vegetarian!”

Duh! Chocolate comes from plants.

I’m not vegan, so milk is ok – although I really don’t care for milk chocolate: the darker the chocolate, the better for me.

I’m not even a super-strict vegetarian: I do like fish. It’s mostly the cows, chickens, pigs, sheep, etc. that I don’t care for. I swear: if I eat some, it actually makes me aggressive!

I suppose I could claim it as a cost savings strategy. It really is expensive to buy all that meat all the time. One year for Christmas I got my sister and her family a gift certificate to a local butcher’s shop. I thought that for the amount I gave them they would end up with several meals worth – turns out they had one (1) meal.

I have made the conscientious decision to buy local as often as possible, as well as organic. Unfortunately, the two do not often go hand-in-hand. But the Saturday Market is just down the street from me, and is open throughout the summer months. It’s not only healthy for me but for the planet as well.

I can feel good about that.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Namaste Shangri La

I tried to go to a talk on Global Climate Change today at lunch – but apparently I had the location down wrong. I showed up, but no one else did.

I was rather bummed about that – I had been looking forward to meeting the speaker, Jackie Poston from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. I had heard she was very interesting, and had thought to volunteer some of my time to the cause – since I have so much time on my hands lately.

I hung around till noon, hoping to run into somebody that might know what was going on – but finally hunger drove me off.

I decided to treat myself to lunch at a relatively new place called Namaste Shangri La (www.namasteshangrila.blogspot.com) and boy, am I glad I did.

It’s a small place tucked into a strip mall off of Tudor near Lake Otis: not the easiest place to get to, but well worth the effort. Inside, it’s painted an interesting shade of celery (?) greed and decorated with photos from Tibet and/or Nepal.

It was rather chilly, so the waitress seated me towards the back of the room so I wouldn’t get cold up front by the door. Unfortunately, I was seated directly underneath a light that reflected off the glass tabletop right into my eye, exacerbating the migraine that was just starting to form. That was no fault of the waitress, though, and I really should have moved over to another chair at that same table.

While I read thru the menu, I sipped a cup of Chiya: imported Indian tea brewed with aromatic spices. Mmmmm… that was almost better than my choice of meal – but not quite.

What I chose was the Canoe Potato – an Alaskan potato stuffed with mixed vegetables and paneer (home made cottage cheese) served in a rich sauce with nuts for garnish.

I highly recommend you try this place! But – it’s small, so go early to ensure you get a good table. And if you’re prone to migraines, don’t be embarrassed to switch seats, dummy!

Predators and Prey in Denali National Park

I attended another interesting lecture last night. This one was part of the Fireside Chat Series hosted by the Campbell Creek Science Center titled “Predators and Prey in Denali National Park” as presented by Layne Adams, a wildlife biologist with the USGS-Alaska Science Center.

This one was particularly interesting to me since it so closely resembled the work I had done in Mongolia last year, on my Earthwatch expedition to study the Argali (the world’s largest mountain sheep). As I sat in those very uncomfortable chairs for well over an hour and a half, watching the presentation and listening to Layne speak, I got to relive my experiences all over again; only this time, I didn’t go home with a fractured kneecap and a dislocated jaw!

Layne has spent the past 20 some-odd years in the park, studying mainly the caribou/wolf relationship – but also moose, sheep, bear, wolverine, eagle… pretty much every possible connection. He looked at herd/pack size, birthing rates, calf/pup mortality rates, weather conditions, food sources, and competition rates – to name just a few aspects of his research.

Unlike the work we did in Mongolia, where everything had to be done either on foot or on horseback, Layne and his coworkers used helicopters and airplanes to facilitate the gathering of data. They typically would dart the animal from the air, then track it down on foot to attach the radio collar and gather the biological samples and measurements they needed.

They also looked at carcasses found occasionally; gathering data on mortality rates and causes, as well as diet and growth factors.

Weather conditions can be harsh in the Alaskan wilderness. Sometimes they had to work in snowstorms with 12 foot accumulations, as well as summer heat waves and massive mosquito swarms.

The biggest surprise he encountered in his work was the importance of salmon in the dynamics of the predator/prey relationships.

Typically, when you think about a wolf’s diet, you automatically think moose or caribou, not fish. And when you think about the Denali National Park, you just don’t think about salmon at the same time. And yet they are a huge presence.

Salmon follow the Yukon River up from the west, traveling as far as 700 miles to reach several spawning areas throughout the park. Biologists have done a considerable amount of research on the salmon, so they have a pretty good estimate of how many salmon spawn there: of the 4 runs that occur comprised of three different species, they estimate upwards of 260,000 pounds of salmon each year!

Layne did a biomass calculation, and believes that is the equivalent of 750 moose = as you can see, they are indeed an important factor in the park’s food chain.

The presentation ended with Layne stressing the point that predators and prey are both heavily dependant on each other, on the landscape, and on the seasons. Take away or modify just one of those factors, and you change the dynamics in ways that may be detrimental to the ecological balance.

Another Interview!

I got called in for another job interview the other day! The company is called RurAL-Cap, and they are a day-care school for infants and toddlers. The position I had applied to was for a Teacher’s Aid.

I suppose you’re wondering why I would step so far out of my experience circle and apply for such a job. I am kind of wondering that myself!

But – I’ve had some experience (a very little bit) in that area, what with my work at the zoo and the volunteering I used to do at the schools on my lunch hours – so I thought perhaps I could do this sort of thing.

It would definitely be a change of pace for me. I am used to sitting at my desk all day long, doing my work with minimal social contact. There were some days where I hardly spoke a word at all, even to my coworkers! That sort of situation suits me quite well.

Working at a daycare would no doubt involve social contact – and then some! As a teacher’s aid, I wouldn’t be directly responsible for the children, but I would lend a helping hand with all aspects of running the various classes, and would have to deal with all ages, from students to parents.

The interview went relatively well, I thought, despite my lack of qualifications. The two ladies conducting the interview each took turns asking question they had prepared ahead of time. They each wrote down their comments on my responses, and were quite friendly. Questions ranged from “what would you do in ‘this’ situation?” to “what do you think ‘quality care’ means?”

I gave honest answers, even when they asked me things like “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” (in an architectural office, sitting at a computer, turning out construction documents) and “what prompted you to apply for this position?” (facing unemployment for an undeterminable length of time)

Honestly, I highly doubt I’ll get the job. If they do offer it to me, then I would have to seriously wonder what kind of place they are to hire one so obviously under-qualified.

But, it would certainly be an interesting job – at least until I find myself a “real” job.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bringing Back the Aleutians

The people at Alaska Geographic (www.alaskageographic.org) host a lecture series called Wildlife Wednesdays, held at the library once a month and featuring various talks on such topics as Polar Marine Mammals, Climate Change, and Life on Thinning Ice.

The lecture this Wednesday was titled “Bringing Back the Aleutians” and was given by Stacey Buckelew of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Steve Ebbert of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Steve began the talk by telling us a little bit about the organization he works for.

The Alaska Maritime NWR is comprised of over 2,500 islands, roughly 4.9 million acres and 47,300 miles of shoreline, mostly located in the Aleutian chain, the remote Pribilofs, and icebound lands washed by the Chukchi Sea. These islands provide essential habitat for some 40 million seabirds, representing more than 30 species. The refuge’s activities focus on long-term ecosystem monitoring, marine resource research, and invasive species management.

The main topic for the lecture was invasive species. Most people are aware of the rat problems but might be surprised to learn that other mammals are listed as invasive species as well, such as foxes (both arctic and red) as well as ungulates (such as cattle, caribou, and bison).

All of these animals wreck havoc on the native species that live on the islands, either by direct predation or by overgrazing, trampling of nests, or adversely affecting the plant diversity. And since Man introduced them, Man is attempting to eradicate them now. The refuge has several programs in place to address the issues and has seen some considerable success, mainly with the foxes.

Steve then turned the podium over to Stacey to talk about the rats, specifically on Rat Island.

Rat Island is located almost at the very tip of the Aleutian chain, about 1300 miles west of Anchorage, comprised of 6,861 acres of cliffs, mountains, and tundra. In 1780, rats escaped from a sinking Japanese fishing boat and made their way to this island. Nearly 3000 ships a year pass by on the shipping route between Asia and North America, so the rat population on Rat Island, as well as other islands, regularly gets replenished.

As a result, today there are virtually no remaining seabirds, very few land birds, and no native land mammals left.

The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge partnered up with The Nature Conservancy and Island Conservation (as well as many other concerned groups) with the goal of Eradicating the Rat Infestation of Rat Island.

This was the largest undertaking ever attempted, with many challenges to face: the logistics of getting supplies, gear, and personnel out to the island, all the permitting required to conduct the eradication program, battling the extreme weather out on the chain, protecting the native species while eliminating the invasives, to name just a few.

The method chosen for the eradication was a type of poison, and anticoagulant, mixed into a pellet of grain which was then spread over the entire island, either by helicopter or by hand. They spread it out twice, to be sure to get every rat – and there were definitely rats on the island! Stacey said they did not have an accurate headcount prior to the eradication attempt, but she estimated perhaps tens of thousands of them.

Spreading the poison took place this past summer, but there is a two-year waiting period to be done still, before the eradication project can be declared a success. Scientists and Biologists will closely monitor the island to make sure every rat was taken, and see how the ecology responds.

If you’re interested, more information on the rat infestation problem and the steps being taken to mitigate them can be found at www.stoprats.org

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Day at the Farm

When I woke up and saw that the snow that had started falling the previous afternoon had continued on through the night, the thick heavy flakes accumulating up to almost 5 inches, I almost considered not driving out to Palmer that day. The roads would be horrible and my semi-depressive state wanted nothing more than to spend yet another day on the couch with my kids watching reruns of 90210 and 7th Heaven.

I’m so glad I went anyway. Turns out the roads weren’t that bad after all – at least, the Glenn Highway wasn’t bad. As soon as I turned off onto the Parks my anxiety levels shot thru the roof. By the time I pulled into Mother’s driveway my head was pounding from the stress of trying to keep my car on the road. I made it safely, however, and dealt with the headache by taking a dose of my pain meds.

Mother was downstairs in the classroom with Lauren, so I hauled my pile of books down to join them. Mother was sitting on one of the twin beds working on her plans to turn the old Colony Barn into a loft apartment. Lauren was sitting at the table working on a travel brochure for Ft. Wainright, an assignment in her Alaskan Geography class. I settled in on a corner of Lauren’s table and worked on my Methods of Building Construction homework.

After about an hour or so of quietly chatting and working it was lunchtime, so we put everything away, picked up the dog that is too old to climb the stairs by herself, and relocated ourselves to the dining room. Mother made us some toasted cheese sandwiches on homemade bread to go with our potato and onion soup – all of which tasted so good! There’s nothing like a homemade meal with family…

With both lunch and school work taken care of, Lauren was finally able to get the board games out. She particularly likes to play Rumicubes, a game somewhat similar to Gin Rummy only with tiles you lay down on the table for everybody to play off of. She, of course, won every game. But it was fun, none the less.

The snow never did stop coming down, so I decided I should head on back to town early enough to ensure that I had daylight the whole way, even if it took longer than usual to get home.

I had a great time!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Family Movie Night - Part 1

Sunday was the first Family Movie Night for the season! We all met over at my brother’s house for dinner and a movie.

This season’s Family Movie Night series is slightly different from last year’s in that each person gets to pick a movie; as opposed to watching a series like we did last season (The Planet Earth and The Body Atlas). This time, I chose the movie: we watched “An Inconvenient Truth”. Next time, Mother will pick a movie, followed by Stewart’s choice, and then Kelly’s, Noel’s, Reed’s, ending with me again. I thought this would be a fun get-together for everybody!

We’re mostly meeting at Reed’s house, since they not only have a HUGE big screen TV to watch them on, but also have a nice big open space to fit everybody in comfortably. Heather says she likes having the family over as it gives her a “kick in the butt” to have her house clean and tidy! But, this season Noel has volunteered to host the event once; so when it’s her turn to choose the movie, we’ll be watching it at her house.

Food is always a big part of any family gathering – it’s a wonder we’re not all overweight! Somehow, my siblings have managed to stay slim & trim - I am not so lucky unfortunately.

This time, we had a big pot of beans & ham (sister Julie is a great cook: they were fabulous!), bread & tomatoes fresh from the greenhouse (thanks to Noel & Lisa, the minister’s wife), cinnamon rolls with lemon icing (Mother’s contribution), and lemonade or iced tea.

Watching the movie was Mother, Reed, Heather, Me, Stewart, Julie, Noel, Hank, Lisa, Kelly, and Tara.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

What an Ordeal

Tula almost got the best of me today.

It started out on the wrong foot, and then almost got on the right track only to fall back on that wrong foot again by the end of our time together.

Kristen and I had to separate the two camels by ourselves this time. The male, while being only 2 years old, is very aggressive and unpredictable – on top of which, neither Kristen nor I are familiar with him and his tricks.

Trying to separate the two is almost impossible at the best of times. Tula doesn’t move very fast, and Knobby is quite literally trying to mount her at every possible opportunity – which annoys her and frustrates him.

Kristen went in the pen to put Tula’s halter on while I attempted to distract him in the opposite corner with treats over the fencing. He would come get an apple slice from me, then run over to the barn to put himself in between Kristen and Tula, making Kristen back off hastily in fear of her very life (okay, maybe not her life – but certainly some of her limbs were in danger).

I’d capture his attention again by rattling his feed bucket against the railing, causing him to run over to grab another apple slice from my fingers before running right back to Tula and Kristen.

Eventually, Kristen managed to get Tula’s halter on, but had great difficulties getting Tula to walk over to where she could close a gate between the two animals. We ended up having to have both of us in the enclosure, with Kristen distracting Knobby while I hurriedly closed the gate. Both of us just barely made it out of the enclosure, with Knobby hard on our heels: teeth bared and a wild look in his eyes.


Then, of course, we had to battle with Tula and her walk. I tried my idea of going up to the greenhouse, and I must say = it worked beautifully! She walked all the way, without stopping, from her gate to the greenhouse. But, then she realized there was no party going on, and refused to budge a single step further. We even went and got some kids off the trails to come admire her for us, hoping to fool her into believing that we had that planned all along.

She finally relented and got walking again. So I decided to push my luck and go down the trail towards the eagles: I should have been happy with my little success and gone on home – but no, I had to ask for more.

There were all kinds of people on the trails today, it being a Saturday and all that, so Tula used every excuse in the book to not move. We finally grabbed Liz, her old handler, hoping she could get the darned camel moving. Liz gave me all kinds of pointers and advice, which I am very grateful for, but still we had a heck of a time with that damn camel.

I was getting frustrated, and Tula knew it. She actually reared up her head and bared her teeth at me. You could just hear her saying “I don’t have to. You can’t make me.”

Between Liz, Kristen, and myself – we eventually got Tula to walk about 2 steps in the direction we wanted her to go, then agreed that we could call that a win and turn around back to the camel enclosure. Which, by the way, was exactly what Tula wanted. She was more than happy to walk back to her barn, however I made her walk to the other end of her enclosure before letting her off the leash and giving her the grain bucket.

We talked to Shannon later on about our difficulties separating the two animals, and it has been decided that I will suspend all further walks until they can figure out a safer way to do that.

So, for now, that is that.

My Day at the Zoo

I’ve been walking with the camel for several weeks now. Tula and I are getting acquainted with each other, and are learning each other’s quirks.

The biggest problem I’m having is that she is basically an extremely stubborn animal, and she believes that she does not have to obey me. Shannon, the Curator of Animals, must be obeyed on sight apparently – all she has to do is walk passed us and Tula is walking like a pro. It’s kind of funny when it happens. The minute Shannon is no longer in view, Tula reverts back to her stubborn ways. She knows exactly what she’s doing!

Just yesterday Kristen and I went into the enclosure – once the 2 year old was separated out – and got Tula’s gear on and headed out for the trails. We did alright until we hit the wide open spot of the trails, in front of the coffee house. This is as far as Tula goes, according to her schedule. My schedule says we go to the Eagle’s enclosure – but we’ve only been there once.

I think I’m going to try a new tactic today: instead of aiming for the Eagle’s enclosure, I’m going to head back to the greenhouse and see if she will do that for me. She likes going to the greenhouse because that’s where birthday parties are held. She likes birthday parties.

I wonder if I can go a different route entirely? I’d like to take her back by the caribou – but that has quite a hill, and then we’d have to walk passed the tigers which might cause a stir. Maybe I’ll save that for summer time, when the trails aren’t as icy and slick.

After having taken our walk, I decided to walk around the zoo a bit. I hadn’t really taken the time to visit all the other animals in a while, and it was such a nice day.

The tigers were both out and about, enjoying the sunshine. They were pacing back and forth along the fence line. What amazing animals they are! Even from 10 feet up on the boardwalk, you could see the feline power in each move they made. The difference between a 4 year old tiger and a 17 year old tiger is very apparent!

Having the tigers up and about got the wolves, right next door, all in an uproar – literally! All six of them were sitting there next to the boardwalk, voicing their opinions about everything. They have such a wonderful voice, and it really sends a chill down your spine when all six of them start in on the howling.

The local hunters in and around Anchorage have been very generous this season, donating their used carcasses for our animals. The wolves get some really great treats, like a whole moose’s rib cage or all four legs, each Wednesday (or Treat-Day, as their handler calls it). They had the remains of Treat Day scattered all about their enclosure the day I was visiting with them. That means, of course, they had lots of ravens around, too. Man, those are big birds! I wouldn’t be surprised to see one make off with a whole leg!

Heading back to the infirmary, I got there just in time to help Shannon and several of the keepers unload a truck-full of supplies. We had an assembly line going: Shannon unpacked bags of feed off the pallets and handed them to me; I passed them on to a keeper standing in the doorway of the storage shed, who handed it off to another keeper (or three, by the time we were finished) working inside the shed to organize everything.

The bags of feed weren’t really that heavy (probably 25 lbs each) but there were certainly a lot of them! Shannon makes an order each month for all the food the animals will need for that month, and considering the fact that we have as many as 100 (plus or minus a few) animals at the zoo at any given time = that’s a lot of feed! My back was complaining all night long.

You should see the walk-in freezer in the kitchen! All kinds of meat and produce in there, including whole animals – like road kill or donated carcasses. You never know what you’re going to see when you walk in there. Not exactly a pleasant place for a vegetarian to visit, if you know what I mean!

After unloading all the feed, Shannon let me go with her to visit a brand new resident, over in the orphanage enclosure: a little brown bear cub! He’s very small and badly starved – but seems to be doing well, and is perking up nicely. He should be the size of a very large dog by this time of year, but he looks like a tiny little teddy bear instead. We don’t know exactly what’s wrong with him, but hope that will good food and medications, he will survive and grow big & strong.

Shannon brought 6 bales of straw to his enclosure, to make a den for him. When she went into his space, he cowered in the corner and bawled at first – but then got brave and actually lunged at her, growling and snarling. That’s a very good sign! It means that just the two or three feedings he’s received so far are making a difference already!

So, hopefully the walk with Tula today will be a good one!

Cross your fingers for me…

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Did Not Get The Job

Remember that job interview I had last week? Well, I just got an email from them, basically saying “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Honestly, though, they were a lot nicer than that. They actually said “Your skills and reputation did not hold you back - if we had the necessary workload we would make you an offer of employment.”

I’m just disappointed in not getting the job.

It’s only been a month and a half – last time I was unemployed, it took 3 months to find a job. And I do have the funds to get thru almost 6 months of unemployment if I have to.

But I so hate not working!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I voted – did you?

I joined the throng of people who voted early this election season.

My intention was to avoid the crowds, but apparently most everybody else had that same intention – there was a line wrapped all the way out the door and around the waiting area in the building where the early voting was taking place! They had it moving quickly along, though – so it really wasn’t that bad of a wait.

I am optimistic enough to think that this election might bring out a record number of voters this year, judging by the numbers so far. There’s a lot at stake, and I think people are more inclined to get involved now because of it.

It will certainly be an interesting one, and hard to predict the outcome.

If you feel comfortable telling the world - who did you vote for? I voted for Obama...

Job Interview

I had my first actual job interview the other day!

One of the local architectural firms I had sent my resume to called me in to talk to me. We had actually spoken for about half an hour on the phone ahead of time, so I wasn’t sure exactly what was left to talk about, but I guess a little face-time was called for.

It was rather unexpected, really. I sent them my resume without their soliciting it, meaning it was a “cold contact” and not a reply to a job posting. I guess one of their employees recognized my name and told them to give me a call (and if I actually get a job there, I owe her big time!).

I have actually worked with the man in charge in the past on a few committees I’ve taken part in for the local AIA group (The American Institute of Architects, or www.aia.org) but he didn’t remember me until I pointed that out to him. I had also run into him several times at the conventions out in Girdwood, so I was relatively comfortable talking to him right off the bat.

I tried so hard to be on time for my interview. Those of you who know me well know that I am chronically early for everything. This time, I vowed to be ON TIME. And I would have been except that I had the wrong time down on my schedule! I thought the interview was to be at 1:00 but it was supposed to be at 2:00 instead, so I showed up an hour early.


They were kind enough to say that it was not a big deal, and went ahead with the interview anyway.

It’s a good company – they have a nice office, with a first-class feel to it. I think I would like working there. It’s a small company with only about 20 people, as opposed to the 38 people in the last office I worked in. But that’s ok – I like a smaller firm anyway.

They’ve done some impressive work, too. Looking at their walls while waiting for the interview, I saw that they had a part in the Seward Sealife Center even!

I’m fairly optimistic and hopeful…

Pumpkin Carving Party

I had the family over this year for a Pumpkin Carving Party!

As you know from my previous posting to this blog – Halloween is not my favorite holiday in the world. But it was a good excuse to have a family get-together, as well as a way to get a bunch of pumpkin seeds to roast! I love pumpkin seeds.

I told every body to bring their own pumpkin to carve as well as a snack to share, and I would provide the hot spiced cider, carving tools, and patterns.

The carving tools & patterns were actually left over from the last two or three pumpkin carving parties I’d had in the past, but I bought a few extra just in case. Patterns ranged anywhere from the standard “scary smiley face” to Frankenstein, the Mummy, or the Wolfman. Some people even elected to carve out their own ideas, eschewing the patterns altogether.

The hot cider was scrumptious, if I do say so myself. I used the mulling spices from Dean & Deluca (www.deandeluca.com DEAN & DELUCA's Mulling Spice Blend includes cloves, allspice, soft quill Ceylon cinnamon and dried orange peel) and had a big pot simmering on the stove for an hour ahead of time, so the whole house smelled yummie by the time people started to arrive.

I had a fairly good turnout, too: Mother came with two big pots of chili and some cupcakes & cookies. My friend Corissa came with some peanut butter rice crispy treats. My friend Anne came with some crackers and artichoke dip. My friend Barbara came with a mix of spiced nuts. Noel & Lauren came with… well, shoot – I can’t for the life of me remember what they brought! Kelly & Tara came with a huge bag of Kettle Chips. And last – but certainly not least, nor chronologically in order – Heather came with a cheese ball and some tortilla chips.

We had fun. People carved their pumpkins, ate lots of food, chatted with everybody, and had a relaxing afternoon – just what I intended.

And I got a nice big bag of roasted pumpkin seeds – again, just as I intended!


I know that Halloween is The Best Day Ever for some people, but for me – it’s really not that big of a deal. I never really dressed up as a kid, or went trick-or-treating or anything like that. We lived out of town “in the boonies” with the closest neighbor being miles away, so a typical Halloween for us would be a family affair consisting of a home-made piñata down in the basement followed by a taffee-pull up in the kitchen.

Now that I’m older, I’m even less inclined to dress up or go to parties. I was invited to my next-door neighbor’s this year, however. Rather a monumental occasion, actually: people who know me know that I never go to parties, so they never invite me. Well, he did invite me, so I went.

I hated it.

There was a bunch of people I don’t know, standing around in his garage (which he had decorated with cob-webs, ghosts, rats, and spiders) drinking beer and wearing costumes. I hung out for about an hour, and then made my escape back to my safety & solitude.

That was the week before the actual day of Halloween. I usually spend the day itself working at the zoo. They have Zoo Boo each year, where the kids can come trick-or-treating at the zoo, wearing their costumes and having a fun, safe, evening with the animals.

This year, unfortunately, I got sick and could not participate. It was probably one of the worst cases of food poisoning I’ve ever had. I believe it was some bad Thai food that did it. I was throwing up every two hours all night long Thursday night, spent the entire day Friday with a bad case of diarrhea, and by Saturday my entire body ached and I had a horrible migraine to top it all off with.

Needless to say, this was not the best Halloween I’ve ever had.

Friday, October 24, 2008

One Hump or Two?

Here’s a neat trick for remembering which type of camel has how many humps.

There are two types of camels; the Bactrian camel and the Dromedary camel. One type has two humps and the other type has only one.

Take the first letters of the two types: Bactrian and Dromedary, or B and D.

Turn those letters on their sides, or 90 degrees to the left.

Now you can clearly see that Bactrian camels have two humps (as indicated by the two humps of the letter B) and that the Dromedary camels have only one hump (as indicated by the one hump of the letter D).

Pretty neat, eh?

And, by the way, a camel’s hump is NOT filled with water, as is erroneously believed by some people. Rather, it is filled with fat reserves that the animal draws on when food & water is scarce.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Walkin' with my Camel

Today, I took my camel for a walk.

Not many people can say that! And, honestly, she’s not really “my” camel. She’s the Alaska Zoo’s camel, and her name is Tula.

Tula is a Bactrian camel who is about 15-16 years old. That’s quite old for a camel; average life span for her breed is typically around 16 years out in the wild. She is doing well for her age, although she does have a fairly advanced case of arthritis.

That’s why we take her on her daily walk – to get those joints warmed up and lubricated. Her weight is also a concern (show me a lady whose weight is not a concern and I’ll show you an actress or model who’s been on a diet their whole life) – we want her to be as healthy and active as possible.

This was my first time with her and I have to admit I was pretty nervous. She is an enormous animal, weighing in at around 1,600 pounds and standing well over 7 feet tall. But Tula is a sweet old lady who only spits occasionally – and never unprovoked. Thankfully, I had her handler with me to show me the ropes, and introduce me to her slowly.

I learned how to put her halter on and off, how to encourage her to walk (which she does not really want to do, since she is so stiff and creaky), as well as how to deal with her quick temper while on the trails at the zoo. I even got to give her the shot that she has to have twice a month!

This – by the way – makes four types of animals I have given shots to now: humans (myself), cats, turtles, and camels!

Since I have all this time on my hands now, being unemployed as I am, I will hopefully get on a fairly regular schedule with her. If and when I find myself a new job, I will most likely be able to continue walking with her, just after zoo hours instead of during the day. By then, I will be more confident about the whole thing, so hopefully the darkness & cold will not be a hindrance.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Those who know me know that I never answer my phone. That’s why God made answering machines, so I don’t have to answer the darned thing. I typically just wait to see who it is: if I recognize the voice, I’ll pick up. Otherwise, I just ignore it and call them back when I feel more like talking.

I definitely picked up the phone the other night: it was my niece down in Seattle! She is going to school down there, and had called just to chat while on her way to class.

I had sent her a little package; just little stuff like Halloween magnets, note cards, gloves, a cute little froggy coin purse, and some chocolate. Her phone call was initially to tell me she’d gotten it and that she loved the gloves – but of course we got to chatting on other subjects, so that the call lasted a good 45 minutes.

It was great talking to her, and it's even better having her nearby – as opposed to last year when she went to school all the way over in Scotland! I actually have enough mileage on Delta to get a ticket, so am seriously thinking about a trip to Seattle for a long weekend visiting her.

Lunch with Mother

One of the advantages of being unemployed is that I have all this time on my hands. Thankfully, I’m in a good enough financial state that I don’t have to panic: if I’m really careful with my spending habits, I’ll be ok for a little while. Hopefully long enough to find a new (better) job.

On Monday, I got to have lunch with Mother! She met me in Eagle River at Jitter’s Coffee Shop, where we grabbed a cup of hot coffee/tea and then took off walking.

It wasn’t the most strenuous walk we’ve ever done; just ambling through some of the old neighborhoods, looking at houses and reminiscing about the old times (Mother used to work in Eagle River back in her Meter Reading days).

The weather was chilly; not quite freezing, but with a definite nip in the air. It warmed up a bit once we got moving, of course, but my cheeks & nose were a rosey-red color by the time we made it back to our cars.

As always, there was an exchange of stuff from one car to the other. I had two bookshelves to hand over to Mother so she can paint them for me, and she had a bag full of clothing for me. Once we got everything situated, we took off to Jalapeño’s, a cute little Mexican place, for a bite of lunch.

If you’re ever in Eagle River, I recommend this place highly! I had their chili rellano lunch special while Mother tried a chicken dish: both were totally scrumptious! The décor in the place is quite something: bright colors and plants everywhere, so that you feel like you’re out on somebody’s patio in Old Mexico. They even have mariachi band music playing in the background.

After eating till we could stuff no more food down, we headed out for another walk through the neighborhoods around that part of town. By then, it had warmed up so much that neither of us wore our coats. Mind you, it’s still in the low 30’s – but we’re both “tough Alaskan women,” don’t you know!

My Best Friend

I’ve known Kathryn since the second grade. We weren’t friends back then: in fact, she thought I was weird (I still am). It wasn’t until junior high that we became best friends.

I remember sitting at the end of the hall every lunch hour, eating ice cream sundaes and playing Speed – a very fast-paced card game. We’d both get so wound up that we’d just basically end up with tears streaming down our faces because we were laughing so hard. I’m sure the sundaes helped emensely.

I never quite understood why she liked me; we were so different in character. I was the shy one – never going out to parties or skipping classes. Kathryn was more adventurous, and I have to say she was always getting into trouble. Her mother had hopes that my influence would tame her down a bit, but I can’t say that ever happened.

We stayed close all the way through grade school and on into adulthood. I went to a trade school down in Arizona and she joined the Air Guard. We both got married, and then divorced. She remarried and had two wonderful children, while I remained single. Our busy lives have caused us to drift apart a little bit, but I still consider her my best friend.

She and her family recently moved out of state – to New York, actually. It’s a good move for her, but I have to admit I miss my friend.

She recently came up for a visit, however. Her whole family is still here, and she came up as a surprise for her sister’s 50th birthday party. Her kids came with her, so they spent about two weeks visiting family and friends both here in town and out in the Valley where she grew up.

I got to see her twice while she was here! The first time was when she dropped her kids off at the mall for an afternoon spent with their friends. She came over to my house and sat at my table with a cup of tea to visit for a good two hours. The second time she again dropped her kids off at the mall, but this time she and I went shopping ourselves. Apparently her new home in New York is small enough that there really isn’t any good shopping there.

Who knows; maybe someday I’ll head down there to visit her!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lunch with My Friend Rikki

I haven’t seen my friend Rikki since I got laid off almost a month ago. In fact, it had been several weeks prior to that event that I last saw her. So, we finally managed to get together for lunch!

She works a state job, so since I have the whole day open to me - we were pretty much on her schedule as far as the amount of time we could spend. As an unexpected bonus, it turned out that the day we chose to get together just happened to be a state holiday – so we got to spend several hours together!

We had a lot to catch up on. She is recently married, and the job she has is a new one, too. And of course, there’s all that’s going on in my life to talk about.

We met at The Yak & Yeti, that wonderful Tibetan place that recently opened it’s doors. I have been there before, so knew what to expect – but this was Rikki’s first time. As she read the menu, trying to choose one entrée for lunch, she kept saying, “Oh, I gotta come back for dinner! This one sounds perfectly scrumptious!”

After lingering over our meals & tea for about an hour and a half, we headed over to New Sagaya to do some shopping. I needed some mulling spices for hot apple cider, and hoped to find some there in a pre-packaged pouch so that I wouldn’t have to buy all the individual spices.

The only stuff we found was a rather large tin by Dean & Deluca costing over $8.00. But it really was all that I could find, and I’ve looked at other stores – so, I bought it. Hopefully, the hot cider will be worth the cost.

After that, we headed over to the bank and then to the post office. We were in my car by that time, and I had a few things to do at both places – so she was pretty much stuck with me. But, I eventually took her back to her car so she could go home and enjoy what was left of her day off.

All in all, at least from my point of view, it was a good day.

City Church

My friend Corissa invited me to go to church with her a few weeks back, so today we finally coordinated our schedules and went.

We decided to try a new church, since neither one of us really "belongs" to one individual church. The place we chose is called City Church, and is a non-denominational one. It's located really close by, so getting there is no hassle at all; in fact, Corissa could walk to it - weather allowing.

The building it occupies is an unusual one; it's most prominent feature is the circular entryway. I'm sure there's a special word for that in ecclesiastical speech, but for now I'll just go with entryway. Anyway, the roundness of it coupled with the high sloped ceiling really gives it a unique feeling. I like it.

I also like that the people attending services were very relaxed, comfortable, and welcoming. I am not one to dress up (in fact, I don’t own a dress, skirt, or anything much better than jeans) so was a little bit worried that I might not fit in. Thankfully, I fit right in.

The service began with music, which is the one thing I love most about worshiping with a group! The band was composed of young teenage boys – with the token female voice, for good measure – all playing electric guitars, drums, and base. Their repertoire of music came straight from KLOV radio, the Christian rock station I listen to all the time, so I knew most of the words. For those who did not know the words, they had two projection screens going – just follow the bouncing ball!

The only down side to my experience at City Church was the speaker for that particular day. She was a beautiful black woman from Jamaica who came to talk about her work with troubled youth. On the face of it, it should have been a very interesting sermon. Unfortunately, she pretty much shouted the entire half hour – it ended up that I couldn’t hear anything she said because she was yelling so much. I do not like yelling.

Perhaps next time they will have a “better” speaker, and I will enjoy it as much as the music. We shall see.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What the World is Reading Now

I’m going to try an experiment here: I want everybody to post a comment on my blog and tell me what you’re reading.

If it’s a book: tell me the title, the author, and a little bit about it. Maybe even tell me why you chose to read it.

If it’s a magazine: tell me the title of it, the title of the article you’re reading, and why you chose to read it.

If it’s a text book: tell me what class it’s for, what you’re learning from it, and why you’re taking the class.

If it’s an instruction manual: tell me what it’s for, why you’re reading it, and what you hope to get out of it.

Lets see how many responses I can get!

Thursday, October 09, 2008


I don’t know about the rest of you guys out there, but I am getting really tired of all this spam.

What can we do to stop it, though? I’m told that if you even just open the email to see what it says, they somehow know that, and will then send you thousands more just like it. I was also told that you should never, under any circumstance, click on the “unsubscribe” hyperlink. But they just keep coming…

I did a count this morning. When I opened my email, I saw that I had 346 emails in my junk folder.

41 of them were in a completely different language.

What’s up with that? Why am I getting so many emails in a language I can’t even read? What’s the point in that?

211 of them assured me I could have a larger penis.

First of all, I’m female: I don’t have a penis, large or small. And if I did have one, is it really that important that it be an enormous one? Are guys really that insecure about it? Please note, too – I didn’t get a single one assuring me that I could have larger breasts. Not one!

93 of them were miscellaneous ones.

These ranged from getting an on-line degree without having to actually crack open a single book – to eliminating my credit card debt absolutely free – to that dear old man from Nigeria who desperately wants to give me $80,000,000.00 if only I’d send him my bank account number.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Hibernation Day

Saturday was Hibernation Day at The Alaska zoo - a day to celebrate our bear's hibernation, to learn all about them, and to play games.

We had tables set up throughout the zoo, with different games at each one. Table #1, set up near the black bear exhibit, had paper & crayons where you could learn to draw a bear. Table #2, set up near the empty bee exhibit, had a game where you match different characteristics to the bear they belong to. Table #3 had mazes for the kids to work on.

I was assigned to Table #2 for the second half of the day. I arrived early (as is my usual practice) so wandered around the zoo for a while first. When it was my turn to go to work I relieved the person manning the table for the first half of the day, and settled in to play some games.

I had a lot of fun: kids stopped by pretty much non-stop for two hours. I would read the cards to the younger ones but let the older ones do it on their own. Most of the cards were easy ones, like "This bear is a good climber." or "This bear has the longest claws." but some of them were harder or had multiple answers depending on your point of view, like "This bear is the most dangerous." or "This bear has the longest neck."

Once the kids played the games at each of the tables, and got the appropriate stamp on their game cards from each one, they got to have a special behind-the-scenes tour of the polar bear! I know, I know - polar bears don't hibernate. But, they are bears - and pretty spectacular ones, to boot! I don't think anybody complained.

The bee exhibit was empty this year. Not only is there a world-wide crisis going on with bees but our volunteer bee-keeper was not feeling well this year and needed to take some time off to rest up a bit. So - we're hoping next year to have an active hive again. They are definitely fascinating creatures, and the kids love to peek in the window and watch them work in their hive.

The camel exhibit is right next door to the bee exhibit, so I got to spend some time with Tula and Knobby. Having read Dr. Reading's book on camel research out in Mongolia has given me new insights into this wonderful breed of animal.They are such beautiful animals (beauty is a relative term, indeed.)

Tula, our elderly camel, has a bad case of arthritis so has to be exercised each day. She gets her halter on and her handler takes her for a walk-about around the zoo. It takes two people to walk her – one in front on the leash, and one on the back with a pooper-scooper (just in case). I’m thinking that since I have all this free time on my hands anyway – I should volunteer to be the back end person!

Now, there’s a skill I could put on my resume! I’m sure it would garner me an interesting job, to say the least.

Termination Dust

So, I get up this morning – and what do I see out my front window?


This is going to be a long winter…

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Interview #1

I had my first job interview yesterday.

It wasn’t really a job interview, though. It was more of an introductory interview with an employment agency.

I found their add in one of the job listings on-line saying they needed drafters, so sent them my contact information. They promptly called me and we set up our meeting for 9:30 on Wednesday morning.

I went over there with my resume and a letter of reference in hand, expecting to be there for an hour or so, but it turned out to be barely 15 minutes. The lady greeted me at the door and took me back to her office. We sat and talked for a little while about me and what I do. She admitted that the positions she had didn’t really fit me, but was going to talk to the employers about me anyway, just to see what they thought. We shook hands and that was that.

All in all, it was rather disappointing – but at the same time, pretty much what I expected. There are way more people out of work than there are jobs for them to apply to, and to think that I would find a job after only a week of unemployment is unrealistic.

I just have to keep on trying…

Falling Head Over Heals

OMG - I met the cutest guy yesterday!

My niece brought him over to Mother’s place for lunch, and he sat right across the table from me. He spent almost the entire time staring at me. Every time I would look at him, he’d flash this big huge smile at me, too. His name is Corbin Sullivan and he’s just my type: short, fat, and bald.

He’s also 5 months old, and is my niece’s son.

Corbin is just the cutest little guy. He recently learned how to sit up all by himself, and is working on figuring out how to crawl. He knows all about rolling, which is how he gets around currently: set him down on the floor on his belly and he just takes off sideways. He’s very attentive, looking right at you and following your every move. He’s big and strong for his age, and is just starting to get some hair on his head.

A guy after my own heart = he loves books! His mother says he’ll sit and listen for hours as she reads to him. Unfortunately for the book’s sake, he promptly chews on the book once you’re done reading it to him – but that’s just a phase he’s going thru at the moment. I’m sure he’ll grow out of that eventually. They’re going to get him a library card as soon as they’ll let him, so he can read all the books he wants to.

He’s so cute!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Problem with Aliens

I love my little Alien, I really do. But sometimes it just gets so frustrating! I am so tired of him peeing on the carpets and yowling all night long.

There are perfectly reasonable excuses for each of these behaviors, so I can’t really blame him. And since his vet has said that he is as healthy as a guy his age (he’s 16) can be, I can’t use them as an excuse to have him put down = that would just be murder for selfish reasons.

He was a rescue kitty, so I don’t know what his living conditions were like before I got him – but I am suspicious that he must have been kept in a box (a kitty-carrier) because he just doesn’t behave like a “normal” cat does – and never has, even when he was younger. He doesn’t associate sounds with anything, or even smells. The only way he ever knew I was home was if I would go get him, even though he must have heard me come in the door after work (both my other cats heard and knew, so why not him?)

Now that he’s both blind and deaf, it just exacerbates the problem. He probably feels completely isolated, which is why I think he yowls (and loudly, because he can barely hear himself) all the time. That’s his way of saying, “Hey! Is anybody out there?”

The peeing behavior is a little more difficult to comprehend. I can’t exactly blame it on old age, since he’s done that since I first got him at age 12. But again, I think he was kept in a box so didn’t really get the “training” required to understand what a litter box was for.

I have done what I can to mitigate the damage to the corner he has chosen. I put plastic down, then carpet and newspaper on top, and then a layer of Feline Pine pellets to soak up most of the urine. This works, up to a point.

While I would NEVER wish for his passing (unless he were in pain, which he is not) I do admit that I dream of a day when my carpets are clean and my house doesn’t smell any more.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Clean Up Crew

It’s been years in the making, but I do think The Alaska Zoo is actually going to have their Grand Opening for the new Gateway Building! It is scheduled to be held on Saturday, October 18 from 12:00 to 4:00.

Come join us and see what the fuss is all about!

I spent a few hours today helping to clean it up. If any of you out there have ever been on a construction site, you’ll know just how messy they can be. Not only is trash thrown about everywhere, from empty coffee cups to plastic bags that used to hold earplugs, but there's nails and bits of metal strewn everywhere; plus all the garbage that comes from the new appliances and whatnot.

So, us volunteers spent the day cleaning. We took a huge load of cardboard over to the recycling center. We washed all the windows that we could reach. We vacuumed the carpets upstairs. We rearranged furniture downstairs so the work crew could install the wall base. We even tidied up the admissions booth.

Things are looking good!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Another Day, and yet Not Another Dollar

More progress has been made today – it’s actually going rather well, so far.

I finished updating my resume and got it posted on the State’s unemployment site (as required to receive benefits). I applied for a position at a local telecommunications company whose add came up because my resume was posted. I sent out several emails of inquiry to a few more companies that I’ve been told about. And I’m getting ready to create a cover letter – I have to think about it for a while, is all.

I even met Lisa, my sister-by-choice, for lunch at my favorite coffee shop in the mall. She works at the same telecommunications company I applied at – although at the time I didn’t know I was going to apply.

It was great to see her again – she lives just down the road from me, and yet we never seem to find the time to get together any more. She has her family and I have (had) my career. You know how it goes.

So, we spent the whole hour getting caught up on each other’s lives. It was great – it was also the first time I’d been out of the house in several days.

While I was out and about I dropped a few things off at the post office, turned in a bunch of rolls of coins at the bank (pocket change gathered over the years), and even stopped in at the blood bank for a donation.

And boy wasn’t that fun (not). My body really did not want to give that pint up. It put up quite the fuss – I had two technicians at my side, one with ice packs and the other with a plastic bag in case I should happen to loose the lunch I’d just eaten. At least they got the entire pint out of me this time. Last time I tried to give didn’t work. The technician punctured the vein and I really didn’t want her to go fishing for it.

Still and all, it was a good day.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Life Goes On

Well, I've had more progress these past few days. Got my resume updated and sent out to a few friends for proof-reading. Am getting their comments back now, and will collate everything and see what I think of them. When it's all said and done, I will have a pretty good resume, I think.

I’ve got a list going of all the different places I’ll be sending that resume to – all suggested by either family members, friends, or co-workers. I also have a list of people I’d like to ask for letters of reference, but I’ll wait on that until I have a specific job I’m going after so they can write with that in mind.

I’m feeling fairly confident, although I’m still stressing over the money issues. I’m starting out in a much better place than last time, at least. I have enough savings to tide me over on house payments for several months, and hopefully unemployment will cover living expenses. I just need to be careful and not spend willy-nilly.

Mother invited me out to the farm yesterday – that was an indulgence that I won’t be able to give in to very often. The farm is 50 miles away, and gas costs over $4.00 a gallon. Still, it was so nice to spend the day out there.

She had Lauren over for her home-schooling day. They are working on Alaskan History, and have rearranged their school room downstairs: adding a few more desks and putting up new maps on the wall.

Heather is going to be going over there on Wednesdays as well, to tutor Lauren on Math for an hour or two each time. Lauren is really good on history and geography – but not so good on math (neither am I) so this works out well for everybody involved.

Including Mother: she loves having the kids over for lunch, and plans out the menu in detail each week. She makes a special dish each time, using curious little individual dishes to make it fun.

While Heather and Lauren were downstairs doing their math thing, Mother and I took a little ride out to Wasilla to a new bookstore that recently opened up. Mother wanted to check it out and see if it might be a place she’d feel like hanging out at. They have a nice café to one side, a cute little children’s area on the other side, and rows of very interesting books set up in between. Mother and I both got lost in the history section for a while, but neither of us bought anything. We both have stacks of books just waiting to be read, and both of us are also on a tight budget.

All in all, it was a great day.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

And So It Begins

First of all – let me go on record as having stated that I hate this. I mean, I really, really – full on – no holds bared – hate this. I absolutely hate the fact that I have to find a new job.

I apparently live in a dream world where people can retire at a job after 20+ years of service. That’s what I wanted – a place I could stay at for the rest of my working life. But, that is not reality and here I am looking for work.

I actually made a bit of a dent yesterday. I called my Dentist and canceled my appointment: the money I wanted to use before I lost it is effectively lost anyway, and the procedure he wanted to do costs way too much on my budget now. Assuming any new job I find has dental insurance, I’ll reschedule.

Next in line on the phone list was my stock broker. I wanted to tell her, since this does affect the choices we make. She suggested that we sell a certain stock in my regular account: it was up from when I bought it, but she expected it to go down soon what with the current state of affairs – and this frees up another chunk of change that can be accessed if needed. I also wanted to let her know that I’ll be rolling over my 401k money soon.

Earthwatch was next – and this one really hurt. I had to cancel my plans for Africa. I still will go someday, just not this coming year as I’d planned. Even if I get a new job tomorrow, I’ll still not be able to go since most places don’t give 3-weeks vacation during your first year on the job.


By this time it was 1:00 so I headed over to the mall, where I deposited my checks, bought stamps, mailed off my letters, and sat in my favorite coffee shop for lunch and did a chapter of my Human Anatomy book.

It felt good to get out of the house, except for that little voice in the back of my head that keeps tallying up the cost of lunch and gas, and subtracting the sum from my dwindling bank account. I need to weigh the pros and cons on this: is it better to get out even though it costs, or should I stay in and conserve on spending so that my money will last?

Friends and co-workers have been so helpful; I already have a list of potential job opportunities, and it hasn’t even been but a few days. All I have to do is get my resume dusted off and updated. That’s the plan for today, but I must admit that depression is already starting to set in, and the couch is so comfortable.

I will just have to make myself get up occasionally and get moving so it doesn’t settle in permanently.