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I went to Kentucky for a library conference, last week. I had a great time, because this particular conference, the Library Information Technology Association (LITA) Forum, is a smallish (~200 people?) event full of techy librarians. Chatting in the hallways and at meals, I … honestly, I spent a lot of time answering questions about life in Alaska, but I also had the chance to talk with people going through the same things I do, in my work—people with the same goals and the same frustrations as I have. It was a good reminder that I do belong in this field, and that I am not alone in the fight to modernize the library profession.
I haven’t been to a small library technology conference since I was in library school, and the last one, Electronic Resources & Libraries, was where I decided to go into tech librarianship instead of engineering librarianship. So, in retrospect, I suppose it’s unsurprising how much I enjoyed and was reinvigorated by LITA Forum.
It was also a big deal to me because part of the reason I attended was to present my first national-level talk. I’ve been on a national-level panel before; I’ve given a piece of a short group presentation nationally; and I guess my solo presentation at our regional library association was technically international—Canadians are an easy audience, though. :) So I had a good foundation to start with. But this is the first national talk that, all by myself, I proposed, got accepted, put the slides together, and stood in front of a room to present. (OK, a committee accepted it. That part required help. :)) It was a talk primarily about organizational change, at a tech conference, so I was concerned about how it would fit in with the rest of the programs—but during the Q&As for a couple of related talks, earlier in the weekend, people asked questions relevant to my talk—so I think I covered some necessary ground. I’m not sure how much of what I said was new to the session’s attendees, honestly—quite a few people wanted copies of the Web Plan I wrote for work, and there was lots of discussion during the 20 minutes I had set aside for it, so I feel like I contributed useful knowledge to the field. But I also got the sense that a couple of audience members didn’t learn anything from it, and I feel bad about that.
After conference ended, I hung out with my mom. (Apparently, when your daughter lives in Alaska, 7 hours is NOT too much to drive to visit with her. :)) I called it “Momference,” which still doesn’t cease to amuse me. If I don’t think I’m funny, who will, right?
We had a nice time, though we’re terrible tourists: on Monday, for instance, we had a very long brunch at Panera (we don’t have those up here), then went to Hobby Lobby (we don’t have those up here), then went to a couple of clothing stores (we have those up here, generally speaking, but not these specific ones), then went to dinner, then sat in the hotel room, where I taught her to crochet with the help of YouTube. She’d crocheted before, though she didn’t remember it fully and didn’t know the names of stitches, so the lesson wasn’t too hard. I’d never taught anyone before, so thank goodness for YouTube. Her first granny square looked a lot better than my first. :)
She also brought me some apples from home (a few of which TSA repacked wrong, after searching my bag! grr! bruises, after I was so careful!) and three pints of apple butter. That’ll last me a long while, I expect, unless I end up using some of it in baking projects; I don’t eat a whole lot of toast. (Though I am kind of thinking of pulling out the toaster oven and some of my frozen gluten-free bread, so I can try it!)
It’s a little wearing on family relationships, I think, living so far away. Mom was really sad to see me go. I feel guilty for not figuring out a way to see my dad, too, though the logistics would have been really hard. Last time Dale talked to his parents on the phone, they asked when we would be back on the east coast—a valid question. I fly a lot for conferences, but they aren’t always in convenient places. Or, I spend so much on plane tickets (ahem, Philadelphia* and Las Vegas for ALA Midwinter and Annual, respectively) that I don’t feel like I can spend the extra time in the city, exploring, because the hotels also cost money. (I can get up to $1300 in reimbursement for conference attendance, hotel, and plane tickets. That doesn’t even always cover a full conference, unless my plane ticket comes out of air miles, so much of what I spend is out-of-pocket.) Dale doesn’t really like going along to library conferences, because I’m busy the whole time, and he gets his fill of librarian social events up here. And traveling to the east coast to visit family is expensive and exhausting—especially if we try to visit both families on the same trip. (VA to CT is a long drive.) So we have to balance time and energy budgets, and … it just doesn’t happen as often as we thought it would, when we first moved up here. So there’s guilt on top of everything, right?
I’m thinking of taking classes toward another degree (yes, I know, but this one is relevant to what I’m already doing), and I’m honestly kind of hoping Dale will do that degree with me — which means I’ll/we’ll be loathe to travel during the semester. (Another reason I cut the Philly trip shorter than I usually would.)
But we’ll figure out a time to visit, because that’s important.
Travel (and weather) stuff, getting home
Before I left for KY, we were in an extended autumn, here. It rained for a month, I think, but it was unseasonably warm. (We no longer live in Anchorage. We live in New Seattle.) It got pretty cold the two nights before I left, but now there’s a thick layer of snow all over everything and a layer of ice under that. Apparently we’re getting freezing rain tonight. So… winter came.
It’s good to get out during November, maybe? I think? I got some 50 degree sun in KY, which was great. There were roses still blooming and trees with pretty-colored leaves on them. I got by with a light jacket. But it confuses the system, to come back up here to snow.
I mean, my system’s already confused, so it’s no big thing. Getting to Kentucky from Alaska, counting layovers, took 16 hours. Getting back took 15. (Usually it’s only 12 hours, but I had to make an extra hop, this time; there were no direct flights to Louisville from Seattle or Portland.) I didn’t sleep on the flights back, which put my total awake time for the day right around 23 hours. It means I don’t really have jet lag, probably, just sleep debt; that’s pretty much how I always deal with time zone changes, in part because red-eye flights are the easiest way to get into or out of the state and in part because I’m stubborn enough to stay awake, and that works for me. I got home around 2am and to bed a bit before 3, so it’s probably unsurprising that I slept past noon. :) (I also don’t work the day after I get back. That’s just asking for trouble.)
I might be fighting conference or plane plague, or I might just be tired and mildly allergic to … life. And Dale’s got a cold. So there’s a possibility of a really tough weekend coming up, if we don’t take all of our vitamins. Actually, it’s highly probable, because I’m supposed to start a 12-day round of Prednisone (I refused to take it while traveling), which has immune suppressive side effects. I’ll wait until tomorrow to start, to hopefully give all the germs time to settle.
It was nice to go to sleep in my own comfy bed with flannel sheets covered in stupid penguin pictures and no gross institutional laundry smell, and then to wake up and drink my favorite coffee out of my favorite mug and hang out with Dale (even though he’s sick) and the birds, and to eat an apple from where I grew up, and to not have to go anywhere for the day or get on a plane for the next two months. It’s less good that it’s not quite 5pm, and it’s already getting rather dark, but that’s how it goes. I should probably stop writing and go unpack, since I have work tomorrow, and I’m tired enough, still, that I’m probably going to bed early tonight.
*Seriously, I apologize ahead of time for Philly. I’m flying in on Thursday, attending conference stuff until Tuesday noonish, and then flying out Tuesday afternoon. If I let them, the librarians will keep me busy the whole time. (This year, the last meeting got out at 12:30pm; next year should be about the same. And I ought to be at the airport by 4:30. So… that’s how much time I have on Tuesday.) I have some good friends who live in Media, so if they’re up for a trip into Philly proper (I won’t have a rental car), I hope to do dinner with them one evening. But I’m not even taking my customary day to explore the city, this trip.
We had our first firepit party of the summer, last Saturday. It wasn’t supposed to be an all-night thing, but we had so many fun people show up, and there was a lot of great conversation—several times, I found myself not sure which one to join, because several sounded interesting! So it went pretty late. I gave in to the cold air (and a meeting the next morning) around 12:30am, but Dale and a few other people were still in the yard. :)
And why, you might wonder, would we have a firepit party so early in the year, when it’s still a little cold, and one of us had a meeting the next morning? (There is snow in places. Nowhere in our yard, but you don’t have to go far to find it.)
Well, Dale mentioned, in the last post, that we had a party to raise funds for our Tour de Cure rides, and that it was successful. That was two weeks ago. But I’m not sure if we got across how awesome the folks who showed up really were. And, more relevant to the firepit party, how much beer they brought.
Seriously, for the fundraiser party, even though we were asking for a “cover” for entry, I think we ended the night with more beer in the house than we started with.
(Also, fewer people showed up than we thought would be there, but we raised more money than we had planned on, as well. People were incredibly generous! I was completely floored. ♥)
So we “had to” throw a second party, to get some of the beer out of our fridge. (As problems go, it’s a good one to have, right?!) We made a very strict “don’t bring beer” rule (one couple did, but it was to have something gluten-free to drink :)). So you know what people did? Brought millions of food!
People are sweet. :)
We did manage to cut down on the number of beers in the fridge, though I’m pretty sure we could throw a Cinco de Mayo firepit party and not run out entirely. (I think we’ll hold off until after it rains. The yard is a little too flammable, right now. Though, you know, we could be talked into spraying the yard down with a hose and hosting anyway, I suppose… I mean, hanging out with friends, burning wood, and drinking beer is a good Saturday night, in my opinion. :))
Anyway, both events were really delightful, and not in a pat-ourselves-on-the-backs-as-hosts kind of way: they were good because of the people who came. (Proof: the firepit party was way less effort to set up, but equally as fun, at least from my perspective, as the fundraiser party.) In both cases, I was happy to be surrounded by such excellent and admirable people, as Bilbo would say. :) I am floored by the kindness, warmth, humor, and generosity of the people we’ve come to know in our [not quite] three years up here. It makes the whole “drop everything and move across the continent for a job” plan seem a lot less crazy, in retrospect.
Today was my “birthday–observed.” I always pick the weekend before or after my birthday to hold a party, because, you know, the middle of the week is kind of ehh. (Also? I still usually take my actual birthday off work, and Dale usually takes me out to dinner. :))
Dale made me tasty pancakes for breakfast this morning, and then we drove to the Wildlife Conservation Center, because we’ve never been there in winter. We were actually just going to go to Potter Marsh, but it was super pretty out, and we had some time… Anyway, the musk oxen were up and moving around! In the summer, they just kind of lie there, so that was exciting. They are ridiculously short and hairy, which I think makes them cute. And the bison were eating—they just kept switching back and forth between their two hay piles, really, but, again, it was cool to see them up and moving. Speaking of hay, there was a tractor carrying a big bale, and the elk all kind of chased it… a little lackadaisically, yes, but they all went, which made for some great elk-viewing. And there were caribou (also active), a moose (just standing there, but he was right by the fence), a pair of sleeping lynx, two wide awake owls, and an eagle. There were three or four magpies who took turns trying to eat the eagle’s salmon, which we think was frozen, because they all attacked it like woodpeckers. The eagle didn’t seem to mind, really. (Dale took video. We’ll post it eventually.)
On our way back to Anchorage, I saw some dall sheep standing right beside the road (which I might have shouted excitedly about), and we drove up to the next turnaround to… well, to turn around. Some climbers were there, climbing up an ice waterfall (icefall?) a couple hundred feet from the road, and when we tried to drive around their parked car, into the turnaround, we found ourselves in surprisingly deep snow. We couldn’t actually get the car out ourselves—I mean, we would probably have eventually have made it, since we had a small shovel and a bucket of gravel, but it would have taken forever. One of the people with the climbing party came to help us with a rope tow, which I thought was really nice. People can be pretty great, up here.
Anyway, we got turned around and totally made it back to the sheep before they wandered off. The pull-off was across the road from them, but we still got close enough that we could hear their hooves on the rocks. (Still across the road, though.) It was awesome!
And then? We went to Snow Goose (local brewery with a small side room they’ll let groups reserve) and played Mafia with a bunch of friends for a few hours! That’s, like, my favorite game in the world (though, funnily, I’m not great at it :)), and people were hilarious and devious. I had so much fun! (I had extra fun, because I didn’t have to worry about setting it up—Dale did all that work—or hosting, which I enjoy, but which is also a little stressful, because I hate to host in a messy house, and then there’s cleanup, and… You know.) It seemed like everyone had a good time, which makes me happy. And the wait staff were pretty cool about it all, considering we were sitting around with our eyes closed, half the time, and talking about whom to kill, the other half. :D
Anyway, I’m pleased to have found a fun activity for my winter birthday. (Yeah, I’m SO planning to do birthday-Mafia again next year. :)) And I’m extra-pleased to have been able to spend the evening with such great people!
It was a great day. :)
This post has nothing, really, to do with life in Alaska, besides maybe some side-notes about the shock of going back “Outside,” as we say. (Did you know that there are restaurants that won’t let you in if you’re not dressed nicely enough? I had forgotten. And there are mosquitos in October! And [marginally] more sedans than SUVs! And old southern ladies who are passive-aggressively mean to you just for having bright purple hair! And, most importantly, cheap and plentiful fresh food, especially fruit! What a strange place.)
Instead, I want to write about what a lovely place Janes Island State Park is and how nice it is to have had the ceremony we always intended to have–even if it was a year and a half after what we call “our paper wedding” (a very nice ceremony, itself, made all the nicer by Dale’s immediate family; but not really the real one, in our minds, even if it was the legal one). And, if I’m feeling sentimental, I might wax melancholy about how many wonderful people live much too far away–not that there’s anywhere we could live and be near everyone we care about, or even necessarily most of the people we care about, but, wow, are there great people, living at great distances from one another!
So, the park. First off, the main question we got was “How did you find this place?” Sometimes, it was delivered in a pleasant tone, as if to say “It’s lovely and very well suited to this kind of event, but you live awfully far away to have known that.” Other times, there was an edge of “It’s so freaking far from everything!” … Which I can understand, I guess, because I remember thinking of 180-390 miles (the range of distances our east coast friends and relatives traveled) as a long way, too. I mean, it sort of is a long way. But it wasn’t really that far off the beaten path; it’s right near Ocean City, after all. And his whole family is concentrated in one place, so they could ride together (and several did). Pittsburgh friends could ride together. Some of my family could ride together (and a couple did). (Also, we flew 12 hours to get there. Our Californian friends also had to fly, of course. So, while we understood the complaint and were at least abstractly sympathetic, we didn’t actually apologize for the length of anyone’s drive. ;))
We wanted to be fair, distance-wise, to the CT and VA contingents–we did look in both places, but nowhere really met our requirements (enough space for a large guest list [which ended up being less of a problem than anticipated], alcohol permits available, cover in case of rain, cooking facilities, real restrooms [look, Pittsburgh’s parks don’t have those, so it was a thing we searched for]). At some point, it became obvious that the Chesapeake Bay, while not truly equidistant (my family had a bit of an edge), was at least reasonably equitable, travel-wise. More importantly, I have spent some of my very happiest times by the Bay and have a surprisingly strong emotional attachment to it, given how far away from it I actually grew up. Dale was more or less neutral about the Bay, liking the general idea of a body of water, but not having direct experience with that particular one, himself. So we started focusing our search there, and we came up with Janes Island. My dad (who was, by the way, amazing, in all of the prep work he did, along with my stepdad, Mike, and my pretend half-brother, Ray [long story] — this whole thing would so not have happened, at least not nearly as well, without their part in planning) did a recon mission and took a bunch of photos. And we decided that was the place!
Seriously, I want to go back and do a vacation there again. Beautiful location. The Conference Center, as they call it, has room for 16 people to sleep (if you can find 8 who want to sleep on top bunks, anyway :)) and room for at least 65 indoor partiers. There’s no drinking outdoors, which is a minor bummer, but our guests didn’t seem to mind. The three cabins around the Conference Center each have room for up to 3 couples. There’s air conditioning. There are kitchens–the one in the Conference Center had a really sweet oven, too! It was well-stocked, in terms of cooking equipment, and had a full-size freezer and a full-size fridge. Upscale appliances aside, there’s sort of a rustic feel to the whole thing, which suited us fine. And there’s a dock for fishing–or, as we used it, for enjoying sunsets and watching wildlife. We saw herons, egrets, hawks, an eagle, several tiny crabs, a bunch of mussels and oysters, snails, many (many!) little fish, and some honest to goodness blue birds! The only complaint I could possibly make, besides maybe the outdoor-drinking, is that it was so windy on the day before and the day of the wedding. And it was so still the following two days–people wouldn’t have recognized the place!
As far as our guest list, we invited a whole lot of people. Honestly, we got a bit out of hand, when we were planning whom to invite. We’d have been delighted if they all could have made it, but we also would have been hard-pressed to fit them all in and around the Conference Center. We’d have needed to spring for a pavilion (which they have, but they close at dark and are something like half a mile away), on top of it. Or something. Anyway, a bit more than half of our guests RSVP’d. We knew the “no” responders weren’t coming, but the standard number for non-RSVPers showing up anyway is around 10-20% (and there were several we knew would be there, even if they didn’t say so), meaning we needed to build in an error margin of something like 5-10 people. Then, of the 60-70 who said “yes” or “probably,” about 30 of them either emailed us in the two weeks before the wedding to say they couldn’t be there, or they just totally didn’t show up, with no word. To our great surprise, nobody from the non-RSVPers showed. Out of the people who came, only 3 or 4 had been in touch to say they were bringing a potluck item and what, so we were convinced people had missed the “this is a potluck” memo. … Which I only mention in hopes that our parents see this and stop thinking I’m insane for how much food we bought and cooked. Seriously. It was way too much. We had so many fewer people than we were expecting (40ish, out of up to 80), and pretty much everyone brought something (though, if we hadn’t done at least some of that cooking beforehand, everyone would have mostly had cheese and cookies to eat–and there would have been major fights over the chicken. :)).
I way over-planned some aspects of the food (my plan being to have nearly enough for 60-70 people, if possible, in case of potluck failure), and I way under-planned others. We brought many kitchen supplies (“we,” here, includes our families, who all shared a Google Doc full of equipment we’d need–very little of it came from Alaska, though some did) that the park already had. We neglected other supplies, such as a pizza peel, which it turns out is really necessary for making recipes from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. (Boy was my bread ugly.) We over-purchased some foods, due to miscommunications, and we missed a couple of others we needed. But it sort of worked out.
Anyway, as far as the party aspect of it goes, I think everyone had a great time. I know we did! I feel bad that we probably didn’t split our time equitably between everyone who came, opting instead to just do what seemed fun at the time and hoping we’d run into everyone at least a couple of times. There was a fire (at least for a couple of hours), and there were pictures on the deck, and there was crazy dancing (no, really, we danced like idiots :)), and there was chatting on the dock and in the kitchen and all over. It was very fun. A number of people got into some boardgames, or card games, or something–which makes me happy, because we have some introverted friends, who probably appreciated that more than the dancing, at least. The smokers all hung out on the deck in the evening (I felt bad about closing the door on them over and over, but it all kept trying to blow indoors). The dancers had lots of space. The drinkers were … everywhere, I think. And I know of one group who decided a walk was just the thing and seemed to enjoy that, as well. Something for everyone, it turns out.
And as far as the ceremony goes, it was pretty much exactly what we had hoped for. Due to the wind, we held it indoors, in the beautifully decorated meeting room that later served as our dance hall. (We’d been hoping to have it on the dock, but it was not to be.) Our friend Warren officiated and did an amazing job. The first reading was an excerpt from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court 2003 decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, legalizing gay marriage, which I’ll include below; it was read by Dale’s sister, Meghan. The second was The Day the Saucers Came, by Neil Gaiman, read by our friend Marc. And the third was an excerpt from Robert Fulghum’s book True Love, the last couple lines of which keep being misattributed to Dr. Seuss, on the internet, read by our friend Jen. My bouquet was daisies and statis, held in a mug. (Well, the florist cut the stems pretty short.)
We wrote our own vows–or, well, at least remixed them. I was so totally blown away by Dale’s reading of our vows (if I ever manage to post the video, you’ll see what I mean) that I completely stumbled through my own. And we both botched a word, which is funny. But it was nice to have chosen for ourselves what promises to make to one another.
And it was all very sweet and just a little strange, which suits us.
We owe some serious props: of course, to my dad and Mike and Ray, as I said before, for so many things, including decorations and a sound system and alcohol; to our moms for their help in pulling together cooking materials and in preparing the [way too much] food and also for all of the kitchen cleanup they did after the fact; to Dale’s dad for making both fire and ice; to our wonderful officiant, Warren, and his amazing wife Diana, for officiating and taking video, respectively (and for being generally awesome); to our fabulous readers, Meghan, Marc, and Jen, for being willing to read the weird and political things we gave them–and for doing it so well; to our super sweet friend Jason, for his help with, um, everything on the day of (my mom just keeps raving about his helpfulness, no joke); to DJ and Ian for all of the carrying we had them do, which, it turns out, was a whole lot; to my cousin Lauren and (again) DJ for the beautiful photos they took; and to everyone who showed up, brought potluck items, gave us drinks throughout the evening, and made the day so thoroughly enjoyable with their presence. We had a great time, and we hope that everyone else did, too.
And now, we’re nesting in the new house. Our next post will probably be about that. :)
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court excerpt:
“Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.
It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a ‘civil right.’ Without the right to choose to marry, one is excluded from the full range of human experience.”
The excerpt from Robert Fulghum’s book True Love:
“I think what we mean by “weird” is that we wouldn’t do something like that or that’s not love to us. Or else it’s weird because we’ve added our imagination to the story–details and motives and reactions–that are not really in the story as written but in our minds as readers. The story isn’t weird, we are.
“A psychiatrist once told me that if we knew exactly what went on in the minds of the apparently normal people around us all the time we would run for our lives. Or if our friends and families knew what happened in our own secret minds, they would have us arrested. But when we’re in control of our weirdness and it works in our favor, that makes us at least appear normal.
“Recently I went to a Friday evening Big Band Dance in Seattle. Hundreds of couples waltzing and two-stepping and fox-trotting around. Tall blond stick of a woman dancing up close and tight with a a huge fat guy with tattooed bald head and a bushy beard. Weird. Across the floor, an ancient couple–Asian–dressed almost exactly alike in khaki pants, plaid shirts, and tennis shoes–wrapped in each other’s arms like vines–not dancing, just swaying to the music. Weird. Beyond them, a flashy young woman dancing like she was in a chorus line, while her dull little man stood in one place like a ship anchored in a storm. She kissed him between pirouettes. He just grinned and held on. Weird. Everywhere–weird love.
“There were no glamorous couples–no perfect matches–but so what?
“You want my opinion? We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness – and call it love – true love.”
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. ;)
I (this is Coral writing) sometimes look on Zillow for fun, now that Google Real Estate is defunct. It’s a hobby I share with my father-in-law, I believe. I fall in and out of love with houses all the time. But it was never all that serious, because I knew we didn’t have the savings for it, in a market like Anchorage’s. I mean, I very much want to be a homeowner–you know how girls supposedly dream of their wedding days? Not me (although I’m excited about our wedding, too); I have dreamed of owning a house, since at least as far back as my early twenties.
Still, this Zillow thing was just for fun.
Until a few weeks ago, when we saw one of those cute little Alaskan houses that we like so much–and that tend to be well over $300,000, for 2-3 bedrooms and a bath. (This one is not!) We’ve been “practicing” visiting houses–OK, this was the second one ever–and weren’t too serious about it, but figured it was a life skill, for when we do get serious. This house had a lot going for it, aside from a reasonable price: it was within biking distance of my work, a pretty quick drive to both Dale’s current work location and his future one (poor Dale, cursed never to have an office he can settle into), and walking distance (we’re talking about a mile, but still–doable!) to our two favorite bars and one of our favorite restaurants. It was also on the bus line (two, actually) to my work and a bus line that goes directly downtown. Dale didn’t think he’d be impressed–the first place we had visited had definitely let us down–but even I was surprised by how much we liked it when we got inside. Aside from decor dating somewhere between the 1950s and the 1970s (lime green shag carpeting, for one thing–I actually kind of want to keep that, because it’s cool :)), it’s pretty much exactly what we want: it has a nice setup for inviting friends over AND a basement (craft room! DDR space! homebrew space!). And aqua counter tops in the kitchen, which I LOVE! And a mud room big enough to store our bikes! And a cute garden shed!
The house has some down sides–hence, I guess, its being in our price range (OK, *mostly* in our price range–not going to lie, our wedding savings will have to serve as the “reserve” the bank requires us to have [in our own accounts] at closing, and we’ll have to go a few months without a washer/dryer; things will be very tight, this summer). For one, there’s no garage. For two, the seller is trying to sell it “as is,” which may cost us the deal, depending whether the bank’s assessor/inspector approves it; if there’s anything seriously wrong, that the seller is unwilling to fix, that’s going to be that. And heartbreaking. To make the two downstairs bedrooms suitable for use as guest rooms, we’d have to pay to get the windows replaced–and that is definitely in our plans, at some point. We’ll probably have to take out a cabinet to get a dishwasher put in; neither of us recalls seeing one, nor is one evident in the photos. The downstairs bathroom is yellow. There’s a main street fairly close to it (though it’s surprisingly non-noisy, even when there’s traffic). Nothing world-ending. We’ll put up one of those tent/pavilion things to park under next winter, we’ll save for appliances and the minor upgrades the house requires, and we’ll be very happy.
We even got semi-approved for the loan! (It’ll take a few more phone calls, but it looks good.)
So now we’re going to start that crazy dance that is trying to buy a house. Keep your fingers crossed for us?
This part is actually relevant to the title of the post
I know I titled this post “Settling in?” And then I wrote like it had some other title. But I guess my point with that was, yeah, it looks like we’re planning to stay for a while. There’s a master’s degree in CS that should be free for Dale (except for taxes) and will take him 3ish years to complete. By which point, I will probably have applied for tenure. I’m on track to succeeding, when tenure time comes, and, honestly, I’m having a lot of trouble imagining a better academic library job than the one I have; it’s not perfect, but no job is. Overall, it’s pretty great: I get to play with code, I can be productive and successful, I get along well with my boss and the rest of my department (and MOST of the other folks here :)), I’m getting integrated into the organizational culture, and [look, I’m a little bit shallow] I have a kickass office. Dale likes his job, though he could stand to be challenged a bit more by it–hence the degree. Summer pretty much makes up for winter–except for the length of it (March & April are hard) and the fact that nobody cleans ice off of parking lots or sidewalks, it’s actually less miserable than winter on the east coast, in a lot of ways. (It’s prettier. People don’t look at you like you’re crazy if you ski to work, or buy studded tires for your bike. It’s cold, but it’s a dry cold.) It never reaches 90 degrees. We have some excellent friends here. I’m healthier, living here, than I have been anywhere else–except for the two weeks the birch pollen is out, when I can barely function. This state has SO MUCH that’s awesome in it, and I feel like we have years’ worth of exploring to do. Dale has made a little bit of traction in selling people on approval voting and stands a chance of getting the law changed, if he’s persistent enough. He runs Drinking Liberally. I run the local library chapter. We’re pretty integrated into the community, though we could become a lot more so, when we’re really invested in it.
So there’s a lot going for it. As far as down sides, well, holidays are hard, because it’s not realistic to try to get to the east coast during peak flying times, and all of our friends seem to have family up here, or other plans–so Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter are lonely. (Christmas is also expensive. I keep saying “I’m going to cut back on sending presents to family,” but I keep doing it anyway.) We miss our friends in DC and Pittsburgh, though we’re not willing or able to move back to either place. (DC sucked out our souls. Pittsburgh is too full of librarians, already.) Most people up here have cats and dogs, so we can’t go over to friends’ houses as much as we would like to be able to. But we had that problem elsewhere, too.
To be honest, though, I don’t even think we’re weighing pros and cons in any kind of organized way, when we talk about staying in Alaska long-term. I can list them, sure, but when you really come down to it, I just don’t think I have it in me to pull up roots again. I’m not sure Dale has it in him. For that matter, I don’t think we have it in us to continue keeping our roots as shallow as we have been, for all this time. I want to settle in, to build a life, to have a home that we don’t ever have to move out of if we don’t want to, or share a ceiling or floor with someone, or ask permission to raise chickens in the yard (when that ordinance passes). I don’t want to hold $5000 in reserve just in case we decide to move out of Alaska. (It costs easily that much.) (And I’d rather have that money for home improvements.) I don’t want to think of my friends in terms of how much I’ll miss them if I move away. I don’t want to think of every single purchase or gift as something we will have to get rid of prematurely, or pack up and fit into a U-Haul. I want to plant rhubarb and fruit trees, to put together a little rock garden, to build a small green house. I want to learn to make jelly; to can fruits and vegetables; and to catch, clean, and freeze (or can) salmon–all of which require a certain amount of stability, unless you’re willing to give it all away later.
In short, I want a home.
I’m hoping this one works out! If not, though, we’re probably going to keep looking. We really like our apartment and aren’t in a huge rush to get out of it, but we’re interested in having our own space. Keep your fingers crossed for us?
We had a nice Thanksgiving this year. I had a nice one last year, when my coworker and his wife invited me along to dinner with her family (who were really fun!), but I admit, it was still kind of sad to get home to my apartment… and no Dale. So, you know, that was a definite improvement this year. For his part, Dale seems to have enjoyed his first Thanksgiving in Alaska.
It snowed, for one. Big, puffy snow that stuck to the trees and made everything pretty! The only down side was the three days of freezing rain before the snow–the roads were a little unpredictable.
We were going to just do our own thing–have our first holiday entirely by ourselves, ever–but we found out the Unitarian church was having a potluck (with turkey! and ham!). We’ve been to a couple of UU events–one or two services, too–and we like the people there really well. So we braved the roads and ended up having a really nice time. And amazing food. (We brought fruit salad. People seemed to like it fairly well, though we have some leftovers.)
Little bonus: a moose walked through the yard this morning. She’d have stayed longer, but the dog upstairs caught sight of her and started barking. So she ran off. But it was nice to have that quick Thanksgiving visit!
Tomorrow we’re having an anti-Black Friday game day, with make-at-home pizzas. More people have RSVPed than will technically fit in our apartment all at once, I think, but I’m betting there will be people in and out throughout the day. As far as feeding them goes, I have enough dough for six pizzas; hopefully, that’ll cover it. :) Dale’s looking forward to playing the Battlestar Galactica boardgame. I’m much more excited about Why Did the Chicken?
I’m hoping people’s uninhibited capitalism will have died down a bit by Saturday: I’d like to stop by the spice shop and natural foods store and then go see Harry Potter.
Anyway, we had a nice holiday and anticipate having a nice Christmas–maybe the UUs do something then too? But, like last year, it felt a little weird to call both families (or, well, parts of both families–neither of us caught up with everyone) from far away. Maybe that’s going to keep feeling weird, or maybe we’ll get into our own groove here. Although our vacation lines up nicely for flying home over the holidays, the prices of the flights and the number of other travelers will tend to make us visit at other times of year, instead. (Even when we lived on the east coast, traveling over the holidays wasn’t so fun–though it was usually just weather and other drivers we had to contend with. Flying is worse in a lot of ways. Bleh.) Next year we’ll see everyone in October–that’s pretty good! Confidentially, though: I’m not sure if this “living across a continent AND way north from everyone we grew up with” thing is going to get OK or if it’s going to result in us deciding to move a little closer, in a few years. If we left Alaska, I think it would be to get closer to family and friends in the Lower 48, not, most likely, because we couldn’t hack the dark, cold winters and long, bright summers. And, of course, we’d be leaving behind friends up here, too, so there’s no perfect answer.
Except a teleporter. That would rock.
Despite the last post, it’s not really winter yet. Yes, it was 28 degrees when we left the house this morning–and then I came back home, because it’s my flex Monday–but there are still leaves on the trees, and the snow didn’t stick. There’s that nice, crisp autumn feel to things.
Things have been busy, though! I spent most of last week’s evenings getting ready to teach some Unitarians to geocache. They have a camping trip, up in Wasilla, each fall, and they thought it would be cool to have a geocaching workshop. Dale and I were the only people loosely affiliated with the Fellowship (“loosely” is a key word–I’m on the mailing list, but we’ve never been to services) who knew how, so we volunteered. On the bright side, a fair bit of my preparation time can be reused when I teach my coworkers to geocache and put a cache in my library (assuming our local approval volunteer is OK with it being so close to another cache). And it seems like the class went really well: people seemed to have fun and more or less pick up the basics. I neglected to mention that you have to re-hide the cache as well as it was hidden before you found it, clearly, but otherwise, it was a success.
The remainder of the day was fun. We liked the people there and will probably start attending the Fellowship, at least sporadically. 11am on a Sunday shouldn’t be hard, but for some reason it is–it’s not that we’re [always] asleep then; it’s that we’re not usually showered and dressed and ready to go. But when I get back into my morning exercise routine, starting tomorrow, mornings on weekends will get easier again, at least for me. ;)
The day did end rather abruptly when the canoe I was trying to get into tipped, and I fell in the lake. (Dale let go just 30 seconds too soon. He was very apologetic.) Late September in Alaska is not a good time to get in the lake, at least not without a change of clothes handy, so we drove home. I was pretty bummed about missing the campfire, so he made it up to me by building a big, wonderful fire in our fire pit, last night (Sunday). We made s’mores with fancy chocolate. So we’re even. :)
Anyway, back to the homestead: during my end-of-summer/beginning-of-winter preparations, I tore down my garden and harvested what I could. All told, I got a stalk of broccoli (smallish, but delicious), a stalk of cauliflower (smallish, sitting on the counter), 3 nice-size beets (to be cooked this week), 3 servings of potatoes (a huge disappointment after how big my plants got, but at least they were tasty!), 4 strawberries (and counting–they’re indoors, now, with several berries yet to ripen), and some lettuce. We didn’t love the lettuce–this variety was kind of bitter–and because we’re so slow to use it, we probably won’t bother in future years. Other lessons: broccoli gets huge and blocks the light from other plants. Beets can, too. Cucumbers… I don’t know how to make those or zucchinis grow, but I really want to figure that out this time, since those are my favorites.
I definitely put more money into the garden than I harvested in vegetables, but the lessons learned were worth something, and I know better what to do to prepare, next year. Also, with any luck, we’ll have a little bit of sun next summer. This one was all rain. (Though fall has been lovely!)
My other project, starting on Friday, is the 365 Days of Cooking Challenge, which you can follow on the linked blog–I’m not the only blogger/participant, by far, so if the writing style looks different than you’re used to from me, check the author. ;) The goal is to cook at home and therefore not eat restaurant or pre-packaged foods for a year. Nobody, so far, is really aiming for 365 days. The most popular goal seems to be 6 days a week, which is what Dale and I are aiming for. (I’m actually aiming for 13 days out of 14, but we’ll see.) I’m also trying not to buy things with ingredients I can’t use in my own kitchen–so, citric acid is OK, but soy lecithin might not be–or with unethically farmed meat or eggs. No CAFO meat, anyway. It doesn’t have to be organic (though that’s nice), but it does have to be grass-fed or cage-free, whichever the appropriate modifier is. I’ll buy local when I can, as well. … Which means we’ll be eating vegetarian & pescatarian a fair bit of the time, too.
Anyway, that’s all the news that fits in print. Dale’s supposed to post pictures from when Dad was up here, plus whatever else we haven’t put up yet, and I’m sure he will, but like I said, things have been busy. And Halo Reach just came out. I’ll bug him. ;)