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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!

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We haven’t updated on the house for a while, huh? Last time I wrote on the topic, we still had the original flooring (sans psychedelic carpet), and our chinchilla was living in the old place. So, yeah…

Obviously, we’re out of the old place now. In a series of awkward events, the person who came to look at it while it was a total messy disaster ended up being a new coworker. And she ended up renting it. I kind of want to hide every time I see her. (That was her first impression of me, no joke.) … But that’s Alaska, for you; everybody’s connected, somehow, it seems.

Anyway, the house… the hardwood in the bedrooms has been sanded down and reconditioned. And it mostly looks very good, though there are of course some small gaps between the boards–turns out, the contractor can’t actually fill them in. Rugs and attention will keep the chinchilla from destroying the floor–or hurting herself on it. The rooms have also been painted, though some of it will have to be redone–the base trim was off, for the floor work, as were parts of the heaters, and there’s still a doorway to be installed. (I’ll explain.)

Speaking of repainting, we’ll have to redo a fair bit of the kitchen trim, because they ripped out the base trim to put down laminate–the whole upstairs, aside from the bedrooms and entryway, is done in oak laminate, now–and because they scratched up the doorway. Not a huge deal; we needed to finish using purple paint, near the ceiling, anyway.

We’re both living upstairs, now, which is nice! The birds and chinchilla are also living in what we believe will be their permanent homes. So everybody is much happier. I, however, am still a little wiggy, in part because I’m sleeping on an air mattress every night–we did buy furniture, but none of it is coming until Saturday–and, maybe more so, because I don’t have a door.

See, there was a door between the living room and the bedrooms. And one bedroom also had a door that separated it from the other. So it was sort of a bedroom within a bedroom. As part of our loan to make upgrades to the house, the contractor is supposed to make a doorway to the other bedroom, too; so there will be sort of a mini-hallway to the two rooms.

Anyway, apparently measuring isn’t a thing, so they took the main door to the two bedrooms, in order to make a frame for it, meaning that there’s nothing separating one of the rooms from the living room. And it drives me totally batty. But they’re supposed to come do the framing and get the door put in this week, so the battiness will fade. We hope.

We’re also unpacking, slowly but surely. We have a hard deadline of this Saturday for emptying out the living room–which is where all of the piles of stuff ended up, during the laminate installation–because a couch and loveseat are coming. We’re so excited about having grownup furniture! A matching couch and loveseat that we picked out ourselves–rather than inheriting from friends or choosing from Craigslist sellers willing to deliver–and also that we didn’t have to assemble. (Not that assembly is so bad; we’d have done Ikea if it existed up here, but it does not.) And a week after that, we’re having a housewarming party, so we really want all of our unpacking done by then!

We didn’t get the yard mowed (so we’ll learn about de-thatching in the spring), and I’m only about half done with raking, meaning I need to get out there, uh, tonight. It’s calling for snow tomorrow or Thursday! But we got our yard furniture put under a tarp for the winter, we emptied our fire pit and laid it on its side so that it would stop gathering water and ice (possibly just temporarily–we might do a fire at our party, if the temperature allows), we weather-stripped the front door, and, biggest pain of all, we got our canvas carport put together. We’re still debating whether or not it’s coming down in the summer–on one hand, it blocks part of the view of the mountains out the kitchen window, but on the other, it was a major hassle to put together. So… eh.

I’ve decided–Dale has yet to be completely convinced, but I am–that we should give up on the idea of fixing the shed. Everything inside it has to be thrown away, probably, or dunked in bleach, which we knew; we didn’t think that it would take more than ripping out the little bit of sheetrock and the shelves, to fix it, though. But you can smell the mold from outside, so… yeah. I think it’s dead. Sad, because it’s cute, but still probably true. Instead of trying to get the shed back to a usable state, I think we should save money to have it torn down and replace it with a garage. Dale’s still thinking about his opinion on that, though.

Anyway, it’s coming along. Over the next two weeks, we hope to see it transformed into a great place to live. (It’s a pretty OK place to live, already, but it’ll be much better with a living room and more of our stuff put where it goes.)

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. ;)

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.

We have Alaskan license plates on George, now. I feel all self-reliant for getting the self-tapping screws in the right place and managing to drive them in with a Gerber tool, since we didn’t have a front plate in PA. Woot! I’d still like to come up with a vanity plate word/phrase, so that I can get the prettier plates with the Big Dipper and caribou, but that’s for the future.

Our tickets are purchased for the flights to and from Boston (sans Ella’s $100, which they charge on the day of), so Dale and Ella will get here on the 23rd of January. We might go home and nap and then go hang out with people, assuming either of us is conscious enough to drive. He can start meeting folks right away! And someone brought up the idea of having a welcome dinner for him, which I think might be fun.

In other news, we’ve almost paid off the credit cards from all of this moving stuff–by the time Dale gets his last paycheck, we’ll be at zero on that. His rent was almost the same as my student loan payment will be, so I think our finances will balance, even if it takes him a while to find work. We’ll have to stay in the 1-bedroom (or move to a 2-br within the same too-noisy-for-the-birds building) and go without some of the furniture and kitchen things we might like to have, but it’ll all be OK.

Oh, and I have a couple of friends who aren’t going anywhere for Christmas, so I think the three of us will hang out on the day itself, after I’ve done my Skyping with Connecticut family and calling Virginia family. Plus, there’ll be a friendsy shindig on the 26th, as well, with either wassail or East India Company Official Punch (I might have that name wrong) and all sorts of leftover Christmas treats. Fun times!

So, lots of good stuff coming up. And now I’ve got to put in some time making things, so I can send them out as presents. :)

Before we get to the point of the post: Dale’s and my phones are both 907- numbers, now. If you don’t have them, let us know. Our 412- numbers are off, or will be by tomorrow.

I bought the tickets for my flight to and Dale’s, Ella’s, and my flight back from Boston. I’m getting there in the afternoon on Thursday, January 14, and there will be conferency goodness on the 15th-18th. I know Saturday afternoon, evening, and night are full of librarian shenanigans, but much of the rest remains semi-unscheduled. (I don’t think Event Planner has opened up yet. When it does, I’ll know better what’s what.)

After the conference, Dale and I will head back to his parents’ place from Boston, hang out for 3 days, and fly back to Anchorage on Friday the 22nd, with Ella. Sadly, no airline seems to allow chinchillas in the passenger cabin, after all, so we’ll have to trust the cargo people. It’s going to be a little nerve-wracking, but I’m fairly hopeful that everything will go smoothly.

We get back late enough on Friday night–and the jet lag will be bad enough–that we’ll probably have to spend most of the weekend recuperating (though I kind of hope to show up to whatever shindig the gamer friends might be having, so they can meet Dale right off :)). I’ll take off Monday–or possibly Monday and Tuesday–to show Dale around town a bit. And then I’ll start back to work and, hopefully, he’ll start interviewing for work.

Dale’s Move:

First things first, I’ve gotten this question a lot, so I think maybe I didn’t mention it in the blog before: Dale’s moving in mid-January. He’s staying with his parents in Connecticut over Christmas and through the beginning of January. I’m flying out to Boston for the ALA Midwinter conference, which he’ll also be attending (he’s agreed to take charge of book signings, since I’m always too busy to wait in line; also, I’m hoping Exhibits Plus will get him into the NMRT Social :)). And I’ll take a few days of vacation, to hang out with his family, too, either before or after the conference. Then we’ll put Ella into a travel crate, sized to fit under a seat–which reminds me, I should probably poke Dale to get her that crate now and let her get used to it–and fly to Anchorage, hopefully on a non-stop flight.

After that, we’ll try not to spend any money until he’s employed.

Phones:

I got a new phone, since Verizon up here is terrible, and that contract’s ending soon. If you don’t know my new number, email me for it. Or call my old phone; it’s hooked up until the day after Thanksgiving. Dale’s, too. (We are on the same area code AND the same exchange, this time, which is cool.) Or, I might call you. If you see a 907 number, pick up. If you have tips about iPhones, share them. Dale has a texting-friendly phone, with a keyboard (or he will, once I mail it), because he didn’t want the Internet Everywhere. I did. And, yeah, we have 3G in Alaska, though it’s new within the last year or two.

My growing pains:

I’ve sort of hit that wall that people moving to new places eventually hit, where I know some people and have some friends to hang out with, but I’m not really full integrated into any one group. The best stories all predate me and will for a long time, I know. [I had only just gotten to the point, in the Pittsburgh crowd, where that seemed less true.] And, as wonderful as people have been, I still feel a little bit like an outsider. Although these people are part of my life, now, it’s not clear that I’m part of theirs, yet, if that makes any sense–and, by all rights, there’s no reason I should be: I haven’t even hit the two month mark, yet. (I feel like I should point out, they’re putting in a real effort. A couple of them invited me along and showed me all these cool things in Anchorage, last Sunday, and it was super fun. They didn’t have to do that, and I am super grateful. They’ve been great. This complaining, it’s not about them; it’s about not having what I already know and where I already fit surrounding me, like I’m used to.) There’s nothing for it; that’s just how moving to new places is. It’s not just socially, though that’s arguably the bulk of it: I know a lot about how to do my job, at work, though I’m still not quite “expert” at it. I know most of the people there, though I’m still learning how all the little pieces fit together, between all the departments and individuals and what sits where and… you know, all those things you learn on a new job. I’m still new, which lets me ask naive questions, but gives me a bit of that outsider feeling, too.

In trying to do my job better, I went to a reception for engineers, with the hope of meeting some of the students and faculty, and the feeling of otherness was overwhelming. The students and alumni relations people all had name tags, but there was nothing to separate the professors from the industry people. And, while I have the guts–after a fashion–to walk up to somebody and say “I see you’re a professor of [whatever]. I’m one of your liaison librarians,” it was beyond my comfort level to walk up to somebody and not know whether they were a professor, someone from the Chancellor’s office, or someone from totally outside the school. So I ended up standing around, a lot, and talking to five or six students and someone from, I’m guessing, the Green Party, before I high-tailed it back to my office. It’s hard to describe how disconcerting that was, being the non-engineer–but not really!–in a room of engineers. (“Are you an alumni?” someone asked, not quite grammatically, and I responded “Not of this school.” Which is less than helpful.) It was just super awkward and has kind of thrown me into a funk, I think.

And I’ve had my nose rubbed in to the fact that my politics don’t fit in up here, which I knew, sure, but… In one week, I received three replies from three different representatives (well, one Representative and two Senators), all disheartening. Murkowski used the term “rationed health care” in her reply, at which point I fed her letter to the birds, because I hate being lied to. (They’re enjoying it.) Begich showed he hadn’t read my letter–he assured me most assiduously that nobody will ever be forced to have an abortion, which is definitely not what I wrote to him about. And, when I called Donald Young’s office, his punkass staffer told me he will be voting no on the health reform bill, opting to support the Republican bill, instead. (When I asked “You mean the one the Budget Office smacked down this morning?” he said “Well, I don’t know about that.”) Argh.

On the bright side, although there was more of the whole “I’m an outsider” feeling, I did have a nice time at Bird Club on Tuesday. And they suggested that I could prevent night frights by leaving the birds uncovered at night. I want to get them some sort of ceramic heat-maker, or something, because I worry they’ll catch a draft. But it’s been most of a week, with no night time freakouts. So that’s good.

I didn’t have the social energy to go meet with the campus feminists or attend the amateur radio club, yesterday. But I went to dinner with my friend from the first apartment building, and that was nice.

I’m going to drop off a thing at the gamer friends’ get together, today, because I’m not feeling up to socializing. I’m tired and in a funk (as if you can’t tell) and possibly not entirely well, on top of that. And then I’m going to come home and spend the day regrouping. And tomorrow, too, if I need it (though I need to go by CostCo for a SAD light and some other stuff).

Once I’ve regrouped, I’m planning to go to Drinking Liberally, as well as meeting up with another gaming group for some D&D fun. (If we all hit it off, I’ll have to come up with a way of distinguishing “gamer friends,” on the blog. :)) While meeting more people won’t help me get over the “otherness” thing, so much, it will help me have more to do. I’ve been at work a lot more than 40 hours a week, and I need to have more reasons to leave.

Winter:

I picked a good time of year to get into the Song of Ice and Fire series, I guess. (It’s winter for years on end, in that world. And winter has been coming for the last book and a half; maybe it’ll get there, in-book, when it gets here, in reality.) We’ve had a longer, nicer autumn than we could have asked for. And all of the snow that’s been predicted for the past couple of weeks has failed to arrive. But it’s time. The radio is hinting at lots of snow. So I need to suck it up and get studded tires, I think. Will it ruin my normal tires to be stored on my porch, under a tarp? Because I have nowhere indoors for them; it’s there or inside the car itself.

Anyway, sorry to be a downer. I’ll come back with a happy post later this week. Things really are fine; it is, as I pointed out, just growing pains I’m going through. And it’s getting darker and colder, and I miss Dale and Ella and old friends and family. It’s not a knock on new friends, even, to be feeling that way. They’ve been nicer and more accommodating than I have any right to expect. I’m just, you know, still trying to adjust. This isn’t the first wall I’ve hit, and it won’t be the last, and I’ll get over them all. I’m adaptable.

ellaIt’s come to my attention that I have pretty much exactly one week to finish packing (or at least sorting–Dale assures me he can pack things as well as I can, provided I’ve pulled out the “want to keep!” things from the “sell” things). If you know anybody who needs a couch, an awesome indigo microsuede-covered beanbag, a very inexpensive table and chairs, or a coffee table, send them my way. If Subaru gets in gear with this car thing, we may even be able to deliver.

My to-do list for the next week (besides finishing packing):

  • Print and fax apartment application. Or demand check back and prepare to wing it. Whichever.
  • Print up a bunch of other stuff.
  • Get Canadian insurance card from Geico (and print it).
  • Upgrade AAA coverage.
  • Take the birds to the vet.
  • Pick up a case of cup ‘o noodles and an electric kettle.
  • Finish finding motel rooms along the route, while finalizing mileages. Make backup plans.
  • Get a bird cage small enough I can carry–two, if they’re ideal for travel. (This should be done before the vet trip.)
  • Finish up two time-sensitive knitting projects before I go.
  • Two friend dinners, a coffee date, another meeting, and, of course, the trip down to VA.
  • Drop off my SCALA notebook.
  • Don’t forget my passport.
  • Have a date with Dale. We let our 4-and-a-halfth anniversary go by in the rush, and I won’t see him until almost our 5th.

Speaking of… After I made sure I could get the time off in order to properly chair my committee during ALA Midwinter (in Boston, which isn’t so very far from Dale’s parents’ place), we got to talking, and Dale’s just going to fly back with me from there. It makes more sense than his trying to fly at the end of the Christmas rush, and, that way, Ella has two parents to keep an eye on her during the trip. And I don’t have to freak out about getting them from the airport while I try to move between apartments, at New Year’s. Plus, my birthday’s that weekend, so an exciting librarian conference and a joyous reunion with Dale and a visit with Dale’s family seems like a perfect present!

I’m still fiercely debating shipping the birds versus taking them with me. Is a day of sheer terror on their behalf (and, yes, some financial investment) better than 15 days of “driving gently,” only being able to go to motels that allow pets (rather than hostels and friends’ places), not being able to make stops longer than 10 minutes (and risking some well-meaning know-it-all calling the ASPCA on me, even so), dealing with Canadian and US border guards, and constantly worrying that someone will side-swipe me and the birds will be killed? (To be fair, I’m going to constantly worry that someone will side-swipe me whether the birds are there or not; that’s just how I approach driving. It’s a notch up the fear scale, certainly, but it’s not like I am normally unafraid on the road, anyway.) Also, as the climes get colder, it may get to the point where every time I open the car door, I’m at best ticking them off and at worst risking them getting sick.

Will I save enough in hostels and friends’ offers of crash space to make up much of the cost of shipping? (Because, let’s be honest: friends offering crash space might feel like they’re willing to put up with birds, but I’m not likely to take them up on it, knowing what loud and messy little terrors these guys can be.) Is the freedom to get out of the car, stretch, see a few extra sights, and maybe eat a leisurely salad instead of a burger (or salad-in-the-car) for lunch worth the money and the risks inherent in shipping? Is shipping even actually more risky? I don’t know. It probably only feels riskier because I’m not there to keep an eye on the process.

I’m asking here, because I’m interested in people’s opinions, but I’m also going to call my birds’ vet, obviously. Just knowing what I know, I am leaning toward shipping, a bit. American Airlines is out, since they go through Dallas–and what are the chances of Dallas being below 85 degrees Fahrenheit AND Anchorage being above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, at 1:30pm and 7:30pm, respectively, in September (or any time, really)? I’ll have to call Delta, but I’ll wait until calling the vet.

Dale’s flying with Ella the chinchilla when he comes up. I can’t find any information implying that chinchillas are not allowed on planes, but I can’t find much implying that they are, either. There are, you know, competitive chinchilla breeders; they must get around somehow. I can always call the airlines, if it comes down to it. And talk to the vet about that, as well.

These details, they are beginning to stress me out. Not making this decision, but making the waterfall of decisions that come after this one’s made, you know?

Hi, I’m Coral, and, in a week or so–when I have finished library school–I will begin preparing to move to Alaska with my boyfriend, three birds, and a chinchilla. This includes selling most of my belongings, maybe buying a 4WD car (or maybe not), and driving across the country. Undecided: am I taking the birds with me or finding a way to ship them? (Probably the former.) Am I driving the short way, or going all the way to Seattle and trying to take a ferry? Is Dale coming in December or waiting until spring?

These questions remain unanswered. But if you’d like to follow along with Dale and me while we make these decisions and watch my progress as I drive across the country, feel free to follow this blog!