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So, our contractor has to be done with everything this week. We let him know that last week, and he has been faster-than-usual in replying to emails–go figure. We are planning to move forward with replacing the furnace and water heater, assuming he can provide some kind of satisfactory explanation of why it could possibly take four days to do. (Seriously, his email said his furnace guy would be here Tuesday, and we’d have no heat or hot water until Friday.) Maybe he is planning to install a second zone, in the basement? That would be great, I guess, but we see that as more of a “future enhancement” than anything we need done right now; more than half of the basement is technically unheated, which we’ll need to fix when/if we finish it. We could probably do the second zone then. In the meantime, a small electric heater in the craft room will more than suffice. So if it’s a multi-zone thing, we’ll just talk him out of that.

But let’s say he convinces us that it really does legitimately need to be four days of work. The average temperature this January has been just a tad above two degrees, with lows in the -10 range. I see from my weather widget that it might get up to 26 later this week, which is great, but weather widgets lie. Either way, it’s awfully cold to leave our house unheated. We don’t know if that will damage our TV, for instance, or other LCD-containing electronics. It’s a leaky enough house (did we tell you about the icicle we had, indoors? true story) that the outdoor temp and the indoor temp won’t be wildly different. He says he has two electric heaters he’s planning to lend us while the work is done. Also, he says that our hot water will be off, but we assume he means all the water will be off? Otherwise, what makes him think the pipes won’t all freeze? 

Anyway, we have a plan for the birds, the plants, and the chinchilla: we can heat the two bedrooms and split them all between those. Or if the heaters are big enough, we can heat one bedroom and the living room, which would keep our plants alive and TV safe–we like that plan. As for us, we’ll either share the bedrooms with the pets, and I’ll shower at work, and Dale will… we don’t know? Or else we’ll get a motel room. We’d take the pets with us, but that limits our hotel options and, more importantly, it’s just too cold to risk taking the birds outside, even if only to put them in the car. I’m nervous about leaving them here with electric heaters, too, though. So I don’t really know.

Since we have friends who’ve had their furnaces and water heaters replaced, in a matter of hours, I am really hopeful that this is all misunderstanding and pointless worry. We won’t know until the contractor gets in touch with us, though.

 

In related, but inconveniently timed news, we made it through the waiting list on the Energy Rebate program. We’re waiting for a rater to make an appointment to check out our house. Odds are NOT good that the rater will be available Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning, so I guess we’re going to make further improvements, rather than relying on the furnace/water heater replacement to count. It’s not really a problem: we have 18 months, and the rater will give us a list of likely projects to improve our energy rating. (There’s a minimum rating you have to get, to get reimbursed for any of it.) I suspect insulation in the walls and below the arctic entry and kitchen will be major parts of it. Possibly window replacements. Maybe there’s something clever we can do with the basement? Anyway, we’ll do, or pay someone to do, a lot of those projects in the summer, depending on our cash flow. It’ll be good.

 

In totally unrelated news, we had some moose come through our yard! They were here while I was at work on Saturday morning (I should never have agreed to switch shifts!), but, luckily, they were still in the neighborhood when I got home, too. And Dale got photos! While we were watching (from the car–you can see the ice on the inside of our windshield in one or two of the photos), one of them walked behind a neighbor’s car (convenient for scale), while the other moseyed down the sidewalk to munch on some trees. And Dale hadn’t noticed right away, but they apparently also found the pumpkin we left in our yard, by the compost bin; there are no traces of pumpkin, but there’s a large squashed area of snow and a moose nose print in one of the snowbanks! Also, we took a picture of the tracks they made through our yard, because we giggle every time we see them. 

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It probably seems like a very long time since we updated on the house. (I guess it was before Halloween.) But not so very much has happened, on the contractor front. How could it, when he has been MIA for more than a month of that time?

Contractor Fail and Fallout

He hasn’t been gone for a continuous month, yet; he went missing for a week, after our housewarming party, and then he showed up and hung the door to the green bedroom and did a little painting. He didn’t add the trim around the door, so you can peek into the bedroom around the door frame—weird, but at least there’s a door there, right? And now he’s been gone since the week before Thanksgiving. His email is full. Voice mail… might not be full yet? But he doesn’t call back. And no reply to text messages.

If he doesn’t show up by next Friday, that’s the end of the work on our house. We are contractually obligated not to let work stop for more than 30 days, and next Friday is Day 30.

If he doesn’t show up, this is going to be a big mess, because he hasn’t finished the full amount of work covered by the first draw on the loan. The vapor barrier in the crawl space does not extend all the way to the wall, the insulation hasn’t been added to the attic (and WOW do we get icicles), the flashing above the arctic entry hasn’t been repaired, the door isn’t framed, the trim in the green bedroom is unattached and still that awful pink color, and when he had the floor guy lay the vinyl in our entryway, he forgot to tell the guy not to make cut-outs for the old laundry pipes. Those were supposed to be capped off and hidden below floor level, but no… So we’ll be left with some things we’re unhappy with, and there will be some money he has to give back to the bank, or to us, or something. (Probably the bank.) That’s going to be, you know, a major pain.

And then there’s the issue of the rest of the work. We won’t be able to access the money we have set aside for updating the water heater and furnace, because the loan stipulates that this particular contractor must do the work, by early February, without having ever stopped work for 30 days; we can’t (just for instance) still take out that half of the loan and have someone else do it. And, honestly, with as flaky as this guy has been—and as many gaps as we’ve found in his work products so far (some of them literal gaps)—we have been thinking hard about not doing this second draw on the loan, even if he comes back and starts work next week.

So, in the case that we don’t do the second draw, we’ll continue limping along with our current furnace and water heater, which—knock on wood—are still working great, but are both years older than their respective expected lifespans and are being used much harder, this winter, than they were last year or possibly the year before. If those blow, we will be very unhappy, because it will take every penny of our savings to replace them—and it won’t be with the high-efficiency ones that were spec’d out in the estimate. But we’ll hope for the best. Our plan, assuming we can’t do the second draw and we get through the winter OK, is to give up on our previously-planned trip to visit friends in England (which would be heartbreaking), to work very hard at saving money, and to hope there are still funds available for the AK Energy Rebate program, for which we are on the [rather long] waiting list. When we get cleared to participate in the Energy Rebate, an energy rater will come to our house and tell us what we can do to improve it; certainly, adding the insulation and updating the furnace and water heater will be on the list, and we will do so at that time (or, well, within a year of that time). Then the rater will come back, verify that we have improved the house by at least one star, and approve us to be reimbursed for that money, up to some maximum amount. (It’s a GREAT program!)

And, actually, if the timing on the Energy Rebate worked out really well—that is, if we could get the refund, or at least confirmation of the refund, in time—we might still be able to swing the trip to visit our friends; we do both get Permanent Fund Dividends, next year, after all. (The rush, on the friend-visit, is that they are coming back to the US soon.)

Cross your fingers that it works out, somehow, for us?

In Other News – Housewarming, Holidays

Our house has definitely been warmed. We had a fun combination Halloween and Housewarming party, which was well-attended by many delightful people! I hear we have photos, but I’m not sure if Dale’s posted them yet. The place was full, anyway, and we have found ourselves with more wine than fits in our wine holder—a good problem to have! It was strange, though, when I realized that there were five of us talking excitedly about the refrigerator. (It is a great refrigerator.)

We also had a quiet Thanksgiving, which was our first holiday in the new house (other than Halloween itself; we got one trick-or-treater, a baby duck!, and a reverse-trick-or-treat group (friends) brought us candy :)). I baked some chicken and macaroni-and-cheese, and we watched Netflix. I believe I took some time to knit in my comfy chair in front of the window, looking out at the pretty snowscape in our front yard. Nothing super out of the ordinary, but it was really pleasant and low-key.

Our Christmas plans include … um, we don’t really know. Most everyone we know in Anchorage has family stuff to do, so we’ll probably be on our own. Maybe we’ll take advantage of the 4-day weekend to visit the SeaLife Center in Seward (closed Christmas day, but open on the surrounding days), or perhaps we’ll reprise our Thanksgiving celebration. Maybe we’ll plan a fun project, like hanging up art and decorations (is that fun, Dale?), to have something to do. Or, you know, maybe we’ll do what a significant number of other Americans do for Christmas: Chinese food and a movie. :) It’s hard to tell.

Anyway, despite the contractor woes and a few maintenance issues, we’re enjoying the house. The birds and Ella Chinchilla seem happy with it, as well!

With the help of several friends, for which we are super grateful (and will repay with lasagna as soon as we find our dining room table! :)), we have moved pretty much everything out of the apartment and into the house! And we’ve even slept there–twice!

That said, the contractors didn’t get the bedroom floors done, nor the living room floor, so our dining room is full of boxes and bags, as is the main room of the basement. We’re actually sleeping downstairs, for the time being. We can’t unpack until the floors–or at least more of the floors–are complete. So there is major disarray. Finding clothes to wear to work is going to be an adventure, for a while. (I’m only not wearing sneakers with this skirt because I correctly identified the box the Danskos lived in–it was not the box labeled “shoes,” by the way.) Also, until the sanding and application of harsh chemicals (to condition the hardwood) are done, we’re leaving the birds and chinchilla at the old place, which nobody is happy with. They’re all really cranky and kind of sad. Though we did bring the cockatiels to spend a few hours at the house yesterday, which they seemed to enjoy! There’s lots of construction-dust around the edge of the living room, which is totally unsafe and unsuitable for birds, so they enjoyed trying to escape our attention and eat that. :/ And they liked looking out the window at the birds in the trees around the yard’s edge. :)

Also, the appliances we bought from Lowes haven’t come yet. We’re going to have a fridge, washer, dryer, and dishwasher, all of which we picked out, which is exciting! (The range is going to have to last a year or two, before we can replace it, obviously; it’s on the list, though, because it and the dishwasher will clash badly. And because we think we like gas better. Anyway…) Because they had to get one or two of those things from the Lower 48, we’re still waiting to hear when they’ll come. It should be this week. Which is good, since I unplugged the old, stinky, scary fridge a couple of weeks ago, meaning that we don’t have any way to keep food cold-but-not-frozen, right now. All of our food is either room temperature or in the freezer. For our moving party, we kept beer in the cooler, which worked fine, but it’s not a totally workable solution for multiple days at a time, or for more temperature-sensitive foods.

When the appliances DO come, we hope the contractors are pretty quick about hooking them up. Right now, there’s a big hole in the kitchen cabinets, with power, where the dishwasher can go… but no plumbing hooked up. As for the washer and dryer, the hookups are in the wrong room, though we were assured it would be easy for them to move those. So it might be a few more weeks before we can actually use the appliances.

The kitchen is almost painted, though! Most of the walls are done, the ceiling is done, and the trim is done. We’ll have to go through with a tiny brush to fill in some spots, and we still have to do the area above the cabinets–we didn’t decide fast enough what color we wanted that to be–but it’s looking much more “us” (or at least “me”–though Dale likes it a lot, too :)), already! None of the other rooms are painted, though we did buy paint for most of them. Probably winter will come before we can get any real painting done, since we still have to repaint the old apartment to white by September 30th and, you know, unpack and stuff. And finish planning the wedding. And then HAVE the wedding.

… I’m a little overwhelmed, I admit. I’m very, very tired from running at full speed for so long, and now I’m extra worn-down from all of the allergies that came with the dust of moving. On the allergy front, I have to keep reminding myself, “I’ve spent hours and hours and hours inside this house–CLEANING this house, even–and I am not allergic to it. I am allergic to all of the dust we brought in with us.” That said, I think some kind of hydraulic oil or something got spilled in the basement room I’m sleeping in–it smells weird. I plan to empty it, clean the floor, and then put my stuff back in, tonight, I think. Just to be sure.

Poor Dale is tired, too, obviously, though I think he’s dealing better with the allergy side of it. His main approach, lately, is to curl up in a ball and try to sleep, whenever we stop moving for more than a few minutes at a time.

Did I mention that the basement windows got done? They did. They look pretty fantastic, from inside! And from outside they are… not bad. We should probably paint them, so they fit in better with the overall look of the house. (We have some of the paint they used on the siding of the house. I don’t think we have any of the trim paint, though.) I need to think of some short, [very-]low-light plants to plant in the window wells. I want to still be able to open the windows, but it would look nice to have something other than dirt there.

Also, we’ve gone walking around the neighborhood more times, since moving into the house on Saturday, than we had done at the old apartment in months! The only place worth walking from the old apartment was University Lake. (I could–and did–walk to work, but that’s not the same.) Near the new place there’s a grocery store–those of you familiar with Anchorage in general and Fairview specifically know the one I mean–and a Mongolian BBQ and what is, we’re told, one of the best steak houses in Anchorage. Technically, we can walk to the place with the best fried chicken in Alaska and also to a bar we like and a number of other spots in or near downtown, but those are much longer strolls… probably more like bike rides, really. (If you start counting things at those distances, the old place had a few more walkable spots than I’m giving it credit for.) But our first walk, post-moving-in, was to the grocery store, to find gear for hanging our pirate flag. We ended up using purple paper ribbon, for the short term, which makes a really satisfying noise in the wind. The grocery store didn’t have clothes line or any other more-suitable rope, and we (Dale and me, plus two of our friends) were very motivated, hence the kludge. We’ll buy thin rope at the hardware store… maybe tonight! Also possibly an American flag or something else more-suitable than the pirate flag alone. ;)

We closed on Friday and spent the weekend cleaning. That house hasn’t been given enough love in the past few years, so we’ve ended up needing to do a lot of cleaning; I dusted all of the paneling with Pledge, cleaned the kitchen cabinets inside and out, and started washing the kitchen walls (which will be repainted), while Dale went through the basement, sweeping and getting the [very thick] layer of dust off of everything. We discovered some treasures, which we will document and do clever things with. We’re donating the drapes (honest to goodness drapes) to Goodwill; they aren’t our style, but they still have some life left in them. We’re already developing a deep hatred of the windows, which are very strange, and planning just how long it will take us to afford to replace them all.

I’m going to post photos that I stole from Zillow and other real estate sites, for the time being, because people seem sad that we haven’t shared any photos yet. We promise, we took a whole bunch of them and will post them soon! … but the camera is in the new house, which doesn’t have a modem yet. (It DOES have internet–faster than our previous place, even!–just no way to get to it.) We’ll put the actual photos that we actually took into one of our Picasa accounts–and post the link here, too, of course.

As far as these go, the kitchen’s different now. The electrician took down the nice splash area that was the same color as the countertops and replaced it with yellow paint. (It actually prevents the rightmost cabinet from opening enough.) Bleh. We were super disappointed by that, because paint is so easy to totally destroy in a kitchen. (Bright side: it does brighten the place up a little.) And the furniture is all gone–none of that stayed. The awesome green carpet you can see in the one photo is still there, but there’s hard wood under it–one of the things our contractor is going to do is carpet removal and refinishing of the wood floors. Hopefully before September 10, when we plan to move in for real.

Also, there are rooms that aren’t represented by these photos. Obviously. :) We’ll post our photo tour soon!

The whole place smells like lemon Pledge right now. Something tells me we’ll get tired of the smell of lemons soon. I have some “Simply Orange” I can start using, for a change. ;)

We’re thinking of bringing the birds by tonight, so they can start to get used to the new place. (At least the skittish, change-averse cockatiels. Francis the parakeet won’t care.) We’ll have to keep a good eye on them, since we know there’s lead paint and haven’t done any modifications to the walls, to keep pets from trying to eat them.

And by “this blog should be pretty quiet for a couple of weeks,” I clearly meant “neither Dale nor Coral will be posting for a whole freaking month. And when Coral does manage to pull together a post, it will be through the haze of cold medicine and late-stage-plague dizziness.” Luckily, it seems from my Facebook and Twitter streams as though you’ve all managed to carry on with your lives, even without constant updates on our Alaskan adventures. :) It also seems like moving to Alaska was a good way to avoid multiple feet of snow. Wow.

Anyway, as you can see, the trip to Boston and Connecticut and back was successful! Ella the chinchilla was a little fuzzy trooper about the plane trip. She seemed annoyed, more than anything, and since we were, too, we can hardly blame her. Alaska Airlines has little pieces of paper that they give you, to let you know your animal is on board, which is nice; that said, everyone we came into contact with, from gate agents to flight attendants to security people, thought the policy allowing rabbits, cats, dogs, and birds into the cabin (and explicitly excluding similar, quieter, less allergenic animals like chinchillas) was idiotic. We were encouraged, multiple times, to complain. And I think we will. At any rate, Ella’s cage came in checked luggage, which ended up being cheaper than any of the other options we’d considered–more obvious, perhaps, too–so we set it up before collapsing into bed, the night we got into town. She was totally calm until she realized that was her cage we were setting up, and then she started struggling to get out of the travel cage and into her home. Within a day or two she was 100% back to normal. Now, she plays every night in the hallway and bathroom, and she’s happy.

As for humans, Dale and I are legally married, though we haven’t filed any name-change paperwork. (I think maybe we’ll go by the DMV and Social Security Administration tomorrow. I’m hoping they don’t give him trouble about hyphenating. Alaska Health and Social Services makes no gender distinction in their name-change-after-marriage information, and I plan to hold DMV and Social Security to that.) We’ve posted pictures of the mini-ceremony, with our fantastic Justice of the Peace, here. There’s a video posted on Facebook. (I can’t email it, because it’s too big a file. 85MB, compressed. And iMovie won’t edit .MPG files. And I feel weird having the whole video out on the unsecured Internet, for some reason. So, um, if you don’t have Facebook and want to see the video… we’ll figure something out, OK? Probably snail mail.) Anyway, as you can see from the photos, we had a few witnesses from his family–though not everyone who would have wanted to be there, in part because the living room was already full, in part because we disallowed anyone traveling, and mostly because this wasn’t ever supposed to be a big thing (the ceremony was less than 5 minutes!). Although Dale’s mom got him a corsage and me a bouquet of daisies (which was incredibly sweet and kind of makes me tear up to think about), it really was a short, informal thing. We only have as many lovely photos as we do because we have a talented sister[-in-law] and brother-in-law who were willing to take them. We’re going to do a more formal/ceremonial/celebratory thing in October or November of 2011. (Not much more formal. Much bigger and more celebratory, though.) We’re working on choosing a date and location (east coast), so we can send out very early Save the Date messages. (We may do a second, smaller party for our Alaskan friends, unless they’d like to come to the east coast and meet our east coast friends and family, which would be awesome. But expensive.)

Back to the nominal point of the blog–the move to Alaska–we spent our first few days [back] in Anchorage exploring. I drove Dale down to Girdwood and to the Alyeska resort–the drive down the inlet was my first view of the area just outside Anchorage and seemed like a good place to start him off, too. Sadly, the clouds started coming in, so we decided to drive back into town, rather than heading down to Portage. I will see that glacier, though! Anyway, he’s going to post soon with all of the pictures he took during that trip. And I think a couple of pictures of the birds misbehaving. (Aww, so much screen time for Ella, and I didn’t mention the birds! They did fine. We had a fabulous bird-sitter, who took good care of them. They seemed to have a little bit of cabin fever–she wisely did not let them out of their cage–but they got over that soon enough and quickly adjusted to having a full flock in the apartment. They’ve been ever so poorly behaved since Dale’s been around. :))

We also got Dale a heavier coat, which seems to be doing its job admirably. And he met–and seems to get along well with–most of the friends I’ve made up here. (That sentence made it sound like he doesn’t get along with them all, but I think he does; he just hasn’t yet met them all. :)) So, that’s nice. We’ve been to Taproot twice, Middle Way not at all, Glacier not yet, Moose’s Tooth once, Bear Tooth not yet, and friends’ houses now and then. He doesn’t love Summit Spice & Tea or the Quilt Tree like I do, but I can’t fault him for that. His impression of Bosco’s seems to be similar to my own.

Actually, I assume Dale will talk about what he thinks about Anchorage in his post. “Holy crap, mountains!” gets said a lot. :) I don’t know if he’ll talk about the job search or not, other than to acknowledge there is one.

Oh, hey, there’s an apartment search, too. It’s been disappointing, so far–our current place won’t do, between the stompy upstairs neighbor and the smallness of a 1-bedroom, but 2-bedrooms are slow to open up in our building, especially third floor ones. Outside of our building, we saw one awesome and one mediocre apartment–actually, the mediocre one was awesome inside, but it was in a really inconvenient part of town. And the awesome one got snapped up by someone else. There’s one really perfect one opening up soon–they are apparently having an open house on Saturday–and we’re hopeful about that, despite the apparently huge amount of interest people are showing in it. But we may just have to keep toughing it out until something better opens up in our building or the semester ends (ah, college towns). Part of me hopes we can finish out our current lease in a better apartment within our building–uncovered parking, creaky building, loud heaters, and awful coin-op washers and dryers aside–because it’s hella expensive to buy your way out of a Weidner lease. Keep that in mind if you’re ever moving into Anchorage, for sure. Also, our landlady is pretty nice, and the maintenance guy, despite being overworked, is also really nice and very effective. So, you know, that whole thing is up in the air.

Aside from the living situation and this plague, though, I have to say things are pretty excellent. Keep your fingers crossed–and ears open, if you live in Anchorage–about job stuff for Dale, but I’m pretty hopeful, there.

Is it weird to feel like a loser for flying back to the east coast, so soon? … Probably is weird, seeing as how I’m not staying there, or anything. But, I dunno, I got so lonely for people and things I knew, a while back, that I still feel a little, you know, sheepish.

I’m not dressing up as much for this ALA as I have for previous ones. I intend to be recognized by my awesome monkey hat (which is my icon on Twitter and Facebook), so it seems silly to be dressed to the nines. I’ll wear denim skirts, most of the weekend. I figure nobody trusts an over-dressed systems librarian from Alaska, anyway. It’ll technically be my second ALA after employment, but since all I had was the verbal offer, last ALA, it’s very different. So, I’m looking forward to that. And since most of the networking activities are in the evenings, I can segment my days really nicely, leaving Dale to his own devices for most of the daylight hours and dragging him along to socials and the like at night. (I do sort of wish there were a little more open time on my birthday proper. I may declare it a week or two late, this year, to celebrate on my own terms. :))

My most excellent bird sitter is more or less trained. She is (reasonably, I think) afraid to let them out of the cage, so they’ll be cooped up for a week and a half. Since their wing feathers are growing back, and even I have trouble with them when they’re re-learning to fly, this is really for the best. To stave off boredom and anger, I got them some toys to destroy, so they should stay reasonably entertained. Even Francis has a new toy, despite being quite happy inside his cage all the time. He’s delightedly tearing it apart now. (Didn’t want to wait until I left to introduce them, in case they freak out at them. Every other toy terrifies the cockatiels, when I first put it in.) Anyway, she’s stopping by again tomorrow, to get them more used to her, which I think shows really awesome dedication. I’m super glad and grateful that she was willing to watch them!

Still not sure what I’m doing with the car. Since the plow sometimes comes through our parking lot, and also my bird sitter needs a place to park, using my own spot is no good. A coworker says she has a large driveway, and I can store it there. I’m definitely tempted to take her up on that! And a friend said he could give me a ride to the airport, though I have to check and see if that’s still true. (He also said he could give us a ride back from, but given how much stuff we’ll have with us, including a chinchilla, I think we’ll cab that part.)

But, yeah. I’m a little behind on packing, but not miserably so. I’m dreading the flight (Alaska’s one big down side is that you almost have to fly to get out), but looking forward to the trip as a whole. It’s weird that I’ll be, you know, legally married when I get back up here. But not nearly as weird as Dale, getting married and then moving to Alaska in a matter of 2 days…

Anyway, this blog should be pretty quiet for a couple of weeks. But I’ll (or maybe he’ll) post when we get back.

That’s how long until the move is “over,” for all intents and purposes. In reality, it’ll probably drag on a bit past that, as more boxes come in and Dale gets a job and we find new digs. But it’s as good a line as any, right? … Not that I really plan for the blog to stop then. I think there’s probably value in posting about the first year here, for people who might be thinking of moving up here and for friends and family who wonder what it’s like, since Alaskan summer is just as weird as Alaskan winter. (Then again, it’s become a little more about life and a little less about life in Anchorage, in a lot of ways, so maybe it’s only of value to friends and family, anymore. Maybe we’ll refocus, once ALA is done and Dale is here. I’m all full of thoughts and stuff, with everything that’s coming up in the next two weeks! … And, hey, maybe Dale will post what he thinks. Moving in the middle of winter is a very different thing than moving in early autumn, right?)

More important than the number 17 is the number 8. That’s how many days it is until I see Dale. … Not going to get gushy, here; I try not to be that type of gal. But, seriously, moving–nay, driving across a continent–to a new place without my SO of [roughly] 5 years, and then waiting 4 and a half months for him to join me up here? Not one of my most brilliant plans. I was correct in my early assessment of what the pros and cons would be–briefly, pros: less social inertia and more flexibility in finances, cons: loneliness and lack of a spare set of hands/shoulder to cry on/roommate/etc.–though I misjudged which of the difficult parts would be most difficult. I knew I’d miss him, in a general sense, and that I might even get downright miserable, now and then–I don’t think I’ve spent much time “downright miserable,” honestly, but instead had this kind of constant, pretty low grade thing going on–but I didn’t know how hard it would be to hang up the phone/Skype each time I talked to him. (I think he hesitates to answer the phone, now, a little, actually; I’ve gotten noticeably worse over the last week or two.) I knew the holidays would be a little tough, but I blew them out of proportion, compared to, for instance, wanting to have someone around during bird crises.* These are weird things to admit; I’ve always fancied myself a loner, albeit a chatty one. I guess that changed, somewhere along the way.

That’s sort of weird.

And I think I misjudged what to worry about with him, too. I flatter myself that he might have missed me a bit, yes. But I was all worried that he’d be housebound, except for work and D&D games, and that definitely didn’t happen. He socialized a whole lot. (Enough that I suspect Pittsburgh thinks I’m the anti-social one, of the two of us. But, I’m telling you, inertia! It’s easy to stay home when you have someone to talk to, there. And it’s easy to let yourself be dragged out, if you don’t. Though I really want to be easier to drag out, as a couple, moving forward. Fingers crossed.) He socialized so much that it was a real push to finish packing and shipping and the like. So, you know, that was kind of a relief. … Except for the whole “not having a vacuum cleaner yet” thing, which is less good, but, on the scale of things, a small price to pay.

But, yeah, anyway, I’m impatient to get to see him. And I feel kind of bad that I have filled my ALA schedule up to the brim with activities–beyond what’s realistic, honestly, though I did do myself the favor of not agreeing to attend anything before 10am [which is my 6am, something maybe east coast conference organizers might think about, ahem]–and am kind of leaving him hanging for 4-6 hours, minimum, on Saturday and Sunday, even though it’s my birthday. (I’m taking him to the NMRT Social and other activities like that, despite his having an “Exhibits Plus” badge, rather than a full registration. And I’m crossing my fingers that that’s OK. … In the meantime, he’ll kill time on the Exhibit Hall floor and around Boston. And, hey, who knows, he could meet a vendor he likes who wants an employee with computer programming skills and doesn’t care where he lives.) But we get Thursday evening–jet-lagged joy that I’ll be–and Friday morning for random Boston shenanigans; I think we’ll maybe go to the Science Museum or Aquarium or something, if I’m conscious. :)

On a whole other topic… “Why,” you might ask, “are you up at 1am on a weeknight when you’ve been sick?” Just couldn’t sleep. Thought maybe I could empty my head of some of the thoughts buzzing around, and the others would lose momentum. … Also, I’m waiting for cold medicine to kick in. (Cold’s gone. Fighting bronchitis.)

*Bird thing, btw: going well. I may have found a system that works. I’m surprisingly unworried about the week and a half I’ll be gone, since they’ll have more than their usual amount of light, the whole time. I’m more worried about loneliness/boredom/feather picking, due to the small amount of human contact they’ll have, than I am about night frights.

I admit, I thought the holidays would be really tough; I’ve spent Thanksgivings away from family, but never Christmases. However, to my surprise (and happiness), they really haven’t been that difficult. I got to spend Thanksgiving with a really nice family, and I’ve spent at least part of every day of the Christmas 4-day weekend with friends. I also Skyped with Connecticut family for almost 3 hours on Christmas morning, which made me really feel like a part of their holiday celebrations. (Then I took a nap. Then I went to my friends’ place for, though I don’t think anyone called it that, an “orphans’ Christmas dinner.” That is, those of us not going anywhere for Christmas got together.)

Actually, the problem I’m running into is that I need to spend more time at home, to clean and organize for Dale’s arrival. (I’ll see him in 19 days! And we’ll fly back here in 28. But there’s no apartment-cleaning time in between those dates, obviously, so I should get on that cleaning thing.) I was a good bird-mom and cleaned the bottoms of both the cockatiel and parakeet cages, today (then turned the air filter on high and took a long shower). A more thorough cleaning will be in order, eventually, but they seem happy to have at least that done. Or maybe they don’t care, but I feel better about it. I’m hoping to get a good deal more of the housework before me done, next weekend.

In winter news, I’m still sleepy all the time, and I’ve noticed I’m unusually quick to get grumpy. It’s not depression, but it’s not normal, either. I’ll up the vitamin D and use a full-spectrum light (instead of a blue light), to see if I can improve that at all. I’m actually sitting in front of one, now, while I write this, in hopes of staying awake through the movie I’m going to see tonight. Also, some coworkers talked me into renting cross-country skis, so hopefully I’ll try that out this week. I know my body wants exercise, because I feel much better just from an outdoor walk across [part of] campus. It’ll be nice to have Dale up here to go geocaching on a whim and walk some of the trails with me; it’s not going to help that much with the wildlife, honestly, but it still feels safer to have another person with me when I go out.

It’s still really pretty up here–why, yes, we did have a white Christmas, why do you ask? :)–despite some above 32 degree temperatures. Some of the roads are pretty much clear, while others have thick enough snow/slush to cause trouble. The plows have been through, at least on most streets and parking lots, making some impressive mountains of snow; I’ll try to get pictures that show the scale of it.

Anyway, I’d been stressing about the holidays, and, like so much of what I stress about, there was no need. I missed people, definitely–still do–but I wasn’t left to feel lonely. It was all OK. Good, even.

I knew the weather here would be different than the weather anywhere I’ve lived before, but I had no idea I’d actually find out about entirely new [to me] weather phenomena. Last night, we had ice fog, which I didn’t even know was a thing. I guess I suspected it, when they were calling for fog earlier in the day, and I said to somebody (wish I remembered who), “Isn’t it too cold for fog?” But, yeah, as the Wikipedia article I linked suggests, you get little sparkles in the air, like very fine snow that floats instead of falling. It’s pretty! And I think it’s making the trees really pretty, too–though that might just be plain old hoarfrost (“plain old” as in “I’ve seen it once or twice before”). But pretty though it was, it was also nasty to drive in. It looks like it’s sticking around, so the evening commute might be similar to last night’s.

Winter up here makes me wonder whether there really are cultures with multiple words for “snow.” The one word is just not sufficiently descriptive… Which isn’t to say it’s been insanely snowy–right now, it’s not even particularly deep, though we have some buildup in berms along the roads–but it just seems like this huge part of life, much more so than for anywhere I’ve lived. I was talking to Dale’s mom, and she was all hopeful that they might get snow, which surprised me for a second; it’s easy to forget that not everywhere is like where you are at any given time, I guess.

While there’s not really deep snow, and most of the roads are worn down mostly to pavement, the parking lots, at least at work and at home, are all ice. As dorky as I feel, I put on spikies to get from home to work and back–I take them off when I’m parking at commercial establishments, because many of those parking lots are better. Also, I’d rather that not everybody in town find out I’m clumsy enough to need spikies… This would be a terrible place to live for somebody with mobility problems (beyond simple clumsiness), I think.

Anyway, I put my camera in the “take this home!” pile. So hopefully I’ll get you some pictures of the pretty trees. I do have one of the fog, from my office, which I’ll share later in the post. And I may go driving around, trying to find the municipal snow dump sites–apparently these things get HUGE. So much so that, in late summer, there will still be snow at some of them.

The other thing that happened is that I left my defroster on “3” (out of 4) as I was driving in to work. I don’t usually do that–once the ice is gone, I flip it to blow on hands and feet, but I forgot today, to my detriment. The windshield crack is now going epic. Check it out:

In other news:

We’re getting close to solstice. More light will be nice, in a month and a half. :D I’ve been dreadfully sleepy, the past couple of weeks, and I’ve been using the light box for almost an hour, total, over the course of the day–once in the morning, once in the afternoon. I’ve also left it on for the birds while I’ve been getting ready to go, the last couple of mornings, which they seem to like.

I’m decorating for Christmas (with the help of Dale’s mom, dad, and sister, who are awesome and sent me a bunch of decorations)! I don’t have all of the presents picked out or purchased, yet, so that’s part of my plan for this weekend. I need to be up early enough on Saturday to get to Natural Pantry and some other places before heading out to game with friends.

And I’m now getting really antsy about Dale getting up here. If nothing else I’m ready to have someone to talk to in the evenings, without having to go places, which I’m too tired to do, by the time I get home–not that the birds don’t look forward to me getting home, but they aren’t the best conversationalists. I’m really looking forward to showing him around town and to having somebody (who won’t mind how slow and clumsy I am on icy paths) to explore the Campbell Creek Trail with me on weekends and to having a second bird-parent around. And I want to introduce him to my friends, who I think will then be our friends–I see no reason he won’t fit right in. And I know he wants to start his distance D&D game, which I still think of as “an experiment,” though he seems pretty certain it’ll work out well. And, yeah, it would be nice to know how the whole job thing’s going to go for him–I haven’t looked at Monster or Dice or anywhere else in a while, though I imagine he’ll start … well, hopefully immediately, but certainly as soon as Christmas is over.

As for the cockatiels, they went about a month with no problems, but had another night fright this weekend. I blame the noisy building. Both of them had feather-related injuries, which the vet took care of, and it seems like Phoebe bruised her tailbone (if birds even have those), or something–whenever anything touched her tail, whether it was Grace stepping on it or Phoebe herself brushing it against the side of the cage, she would cry. Both birds now seem to be on the mend. Francis just keeps on keeping on–no problems there, other than the seeds he’s thrown into my laptop keyboard.

I am so dreadfully sleepy.

I had a fairly eventful weekend. Friday night was spent baking up a storm (and washing my cheese grater after several incidents–this, by the way, is why I claim to need a Cuisinart), Saturday was spent celebrating a friend’s birthday (the carrot cake and macaroni & cheese were both well liked [and Coral-free]), and Sunday was spent alternately cleaning the kitchen and nursing a headache. (I wasn’t irresponsible on Saturday night, beyond staying out way too late. But I’m too old to stay out way too late and not pay for it the following day[s].)

In a very Alaskan turn of events, I pulled up in front of my friends’ house on Saturday and was about to get out of the car when I saw a moose! I called them, and they said to pull down into the driveway and come in the back door, which I did. I was not really that far from her, in the driveway, but she didn’t seem particularly upset at me. She kept an eye out, sure, but neither of us felt like we were in any great danger, I guess.

Anyway, Ms. Moose proceeded to stand right in front of the picture window, eating leftover Halloween pumpkins, for the next 20 minutes or so. Pictures were taken; I’ll post them when I have them. :) It was pretty excellent. And my friends felt validated, since they’d told me moose eat leftover pumpkins, and here I was witnessing it.

She wandered down the street, later, nibbling on the neighbors’ trees.

Alaskan wildlife facts: Moose mating season is in the fall–that’s a bad time to run into a male moose. The calves are born in the spring–anywhere from 1 to 4, though more than 2 is apparently (understandably) uncommon–so the spring is a bad time to run into female moose. One of the local hospitals has problems with moose calves wandering in through their automatic doors, and staff have to kind of herd them back out. Moose bulls drop their horns every year. Besides pumpkins (:)), moose also eat bark in the winter. You can tell how tough a winter it’s been by which kinds of trees are missing bark; some don’t really have any nutrients for a moose, but they’re filling. Moose have long legs so they can stand in muck–marshy areas, high snow, whatever.

In less immediately exciting (to you) news, the PA registration for the Subaru finally came. It’s on its way to me, now, and then I will be able to get Alaskan plates. Maybe I’m imagining that people are giving me space when following in winter: the PA plates have a really similar color scheme to one of the popular AK plates. I keep doing double takes at other cars, thinking “why is anyone else from PA up here?” :)

I like my iPhone OK–email everywhere is a wondrous thing–though I still hate the lack of keyboard. I’ve been assured that I’ll get over it. Dale’s phone is in Pittsburgh, albeit not with him yet. If you have numbers for either of us that start in 412, they’re only good until the end of the week. And since I haven’t turned my Verizon phone on in almost a week, I guess mine’s really not all that good now. If you call it, my new number is in the message.

Lessons learned: I found out that campus police are wonderful, and Subarus are hard to break into. I started the car and got out to scrape the windows–ironically, it was this weird, unscrapable ice that would have been better removed with the windshield sprayer–and shut the driver’s side door behind me. You see where this is going, but, you might recall, I’d tried to lock myself out (with the spare key in hand), in order to keep the car on and temperate for the birds, during the trip. I’d learned that you can’t lock the door, except with another key. Hitting the door button doesn’t lock it, nor does hitting the “lock” button on the remote. So imagine my surprise when I couldn’t get back into the car, that night. In my panic, I blamed myself, figuring I must have managed to lock myself out, despite knowing that’s impossible. I called campus police (figuring they’d be faster than Subaru roadside assistance), but the officer had a lot of trouble getting the door open. He finally had to use the unlocking tool to force the passenger side window down, so I could unlock and open the passenger side door. Even then, when I’d confirmed the driver’s side door was unlocked, he couldn’t open it from outside. I had to open it with the inside handle. Sadly, there are some scratches on the paint around the frame of the door, and I swear the door edge doesn’t sit quite as flush as it used to. (In the meantime, while all that was happening, I was wearing thin, unsuitable-for-winter shoes, so I had to come home and take a bath, to warm my feet. Dale’s sending me the brown boots I forgot, in this shipment. They’ll look stupid with skirts, but I don’t actually care.)

That car door thing was weird. And unsettling. So I unlock all the doors before I get out to clean the windows, now. Not that I’ve had to, the last couple of days! It’s been a balmy 30+ degrees out! It got above freezing today! Though I keep hearing rumors of rain/snow mix tonight; we’ll see.

I’ve got some pictures on the camera; I’ll do another post soon with those–and hopefully Ms. Moose’s picture, as well! I’ve got some Thanksgiving plans, which is nice. And it’s a short work week, which is also nice. (I like my job, yes, but I also like not going to it, from time to time. Nothing wrong with that. :))

I’m halfway through my bottle of beer (Alaskan Oatmeal Stout–not a bad brew), so I’d best stop writing now, while I’m ahead. And start drinking faster–it’s almost 11!

“As I am an honest Puck… goodnight unto you all.”