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So, it turns out, there aren’t Chinese restaurants open in Anchorage on Christmas. At least, none that we could find. We were totally saved by TGIF, though, so it wasn’t a loss!
It was a very different Christmas than any others before it, but it was a good one. We opened presents, ate leftover Indian food, and then Skyped with our baby niece… and, you know, her parents and grandma. :) Then we hung out around the house a bit, watched The Muppets at the movie theatre with some friends, and got dinner—which involved phone calls to all of the Chinese places in town, none of which picked up, then splitting up and driving around until we found an open restaurant. … Which, incidentally, was totally full! Turns out, there are a lot of birthdays on Christmas (down side of TGIF: that song gets annoying), and a lot of people want to go out to dinner. And when you’re the only restaurant in town, you see a steady stream of people! We even had to wait (just a bit) to get in.
Also? We saw our first moose since the snow fell. She was very pretty, just walking down the C Street sidewalk, like you do.
Also-also? We had over a foot of snow, leading up to Christmas. It’s stayed cold and not very windy, so the trees are still covered. It looks like a Christmas card. Yeah. :)
We took advantage of the 10% off sale at Lowes (ending today) and bought appliances (today). A fairly run-of-the-mill dishwasher (though it had the particular set of bells and whistles we really wanted), an upright and therefore relatively inexpensive (but still very-highly-rated by Energy Star) washer and dryer, and a totally sweet refrigerator that I love. The white dishwasher will look stupid beside the black-and-steel range/oven, but we’re replacing that within the next few years, anyway. And, overall, white’s going to look better in that kitchen.
We don’t know when the appliances are coming, just that they are. Within the next few weeks. (Hopefully by September 10, our Official Move-In Date.)
The electric company came and dug up our entire(!) driveway(!!) today, plus part of the alley, to bury the cables. So the house no longer looks like there’s a red hose coming out of the attic. But our whole driveway is a mud pit, probably, by now–it started raining just as we were leaving. I guess we’d better buy some gravel or look into paving. I have no idea what that costs. I put in a query to our local gravel & sand place, to see what they have to say. We may end up suffering through it (and making the alley super ugly) through the winter, if it’s too much.
Other things that have been done: the carpet’s up, but I think I said that before. The cabinet’s torn out, so the dishwasher can go in–though there’s still a little bit of plumbing work to go with that. It seems like the contractor broke our basement sink, so that’s not so good… There’s some boring stuff (that’s still important) with vents and vapor barriers. We changed which windows were getting dug out, which I think we’ll ultimately be a lot happier about; I wrote on the walls in Sharpie, to be sure they cut the right ones. But yeah, not a ton. There was some emergency work, somewhere else in the city, that pulled the contractors away for a few days, last week. (We can always tell they’ve been in based on whether/which lights are left on. So we know they were in today, but we’re really not sure what they did. Maybe roof work.)
The house HAS been pre-pre-warmed, though! A friend of ours just got a job–in Dale’s office, actually, which is even cooler–and we sat around and played dice games and drank beer in our empty living room, this weekend. We even fit four cars into the driveway (pre-mud-pit)–and could have fit five, if there were less debris in the way. … You know, assuming everyone parked within inches of one another. :)
A bigger pre-warming will happen on moving day. I’ll do my traditional “feed friends with lasagna and beer” thing, after we get the furniture and stuff moved in. It should be a good time!
The real Housewarming Party, with capital letters, will happen after we get well and truly moved in and mostly unpacked–it’ll probably end up being on Halloween weekend. Or some weekend thereabouts. I already have my costume planned! (What wedding? Just kidding. I know, we ought to finish planning that first. It’s not THAT complex a costume, though, if that makes you feel better.) We’ll figure that out as the time gets closer.
So, anyway, progress is being made. Woo!
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.
But, you know, 2010 looks promising, from here. I’m getting [legally] married to a wonderful person–and possibly also ceremonially married, though signs point to that not happening until 2011. We’ll spend our first year in Anchorage, Dale and my new friends will meet and become friends (I assume); and we’ll all keep making new friends, as well. He’ll hopefully find a job he loves, or else get a job he likes OK and go back to school, or–well, there are a lot of options right now. A few good friends are getting married, and we’ll get to visit them and also our families in the spring. We’ll do some traveling around Alaska–at least the drive down to Homer (hopefully with friends) and the train down to Seward, but I’d also like to see Mt. McKinley up close, visit Fairbanks, and finish the last of the Alaskan Highway. I’ll also get to meet a bunch of Alaskan librarians at the AkLA conference, which I’m pretty psyched about, and, that same weekend, Dale and I will get to experience our first Iditarod. (No, we’re not driving a sled. But we’ll watch them run through town, anyway!) I’m hoping that 2010 will also see us get back into geocaching, homebrewing, and (for me) guitar. I’m also hoping I really like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, both of which I hope to try before long. And I’m hoping that, once fall comes, people take us berry-picking, or we find a place for it, ourselves, and I learn to make jam. Oh! And I’m hoping we learn to fish and therefore get to eat lots of fresh salmon. And I hope to become a reasonably accomplished gardener, hopefully with Dale’s help–though that’s a multi-year project.
Looking further down the line, this being a decade-ending New Years and all, by the time the ’10s are over, both Dale’s and my student loans will all be paid back–hopefully long since!–and we’ll most likely still be driving our 10 year old Subaru around Anchorage (or Seattle or, well, I’d imagine somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, anyway, but that’s hard to predict, just with the knowledge I have now) and, I hope, parking it at our very own house at the end of the workday. I also hope we have a goat, two chickens, and a hypo-allergenic cat, but that’s maybe moving outside the realm of the likely.
And, bringing in the timeframe, a bit, tomorrow night, unless this cold totally owns me, it looks like I’m having a laid back evening of beer brewing with friends. Should be a nice time.
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.
Today we get something like 10 seconds more light than we did yesterday (so says a coworker on Facebook, anyway :)). Civil twilight, start to end, both yesterday and today, was/is 9:12-4:44. Tomorrow it’s 9:13-4:45 (not much extra time, but, oddly, it’s later). Christmas Eve and Christmas, 9:13-4:46. New Year’s Day, 9:13-4:54. Dale’s first day in Anchorage, 8:48-5:36. So, yeah, we’re getting there. Though I’m told the “real cold” kicks in between now and February? At least, my complaints that I can’t see if the Aurora Borealis is occurring, due to cloud cover, are met with laughter and “wait until it’s too cold for clouds.”
Here’s the view from my office–blurry, sorry–at 4:10pm, yesterday.
And I’d promised some snow pictures, which I now realize have been on my camera, not posted. Sorry about that. These are all tree pictures, except for one that takes in the whole parking lot. Before it snowed, the trees were covered in hoarfrost and … more hoarfrost? I don’t know if there’s a term for the frost layer left behind by freezing fog (which, I’ve been informed, is different than ice fog), but there was a lot of that on all of the trees, already, before the snow started. I think it helped the snow stick better.
I also took a couple of pictures of the trees today, for reference, so you can see how pretty they stay even after the bulk of the snow blows off. (And I will try to remember to get pictures of the mountains, now that a lot of the snow has blown off of them, as well. They were all white, but no longer!)
I’ve been drinking some excellent mead, decorating my cute mini-tree, and listening to Christmas carols–and my parakeet, very adorably, singing with them. And while I was tooling around on the Internet, I read some blog post that got me thinking about year-in-review posts. I haven’t done one since I was a LiveJournaler–so maybe last year, but more likely, it’s been since the year before. Anyway, I thought I’d give it a try, since my year’s been pretty straightforward, in terms of things happening and personal growth.
I’m still hoping Dale will post something about his move and his thoughts and such, though I suspect it might not take this form. Maybe he’ll do it when he gets to CT and the holidays are behind him. :)
So, let’s look at January 1, 2009. I was about to start my second, of three, semesters of library school. I was worried about job prospects, I was tired, I was sick a lot (with no insurance), but I was hopeful that it would all work out, as far as librarianship went. On New Years Eve Dale and I hosted an “alternate” party, with Rock Band, board games, and only moderate drinking (well, for most attendees–a few were hilariously inebriated, but nobody was dysfunctional), but we still went to brunch on New Years Day with a huge group of people, including a few I cared (still care) dearly about and a few whose relationships with me would best be described as “mutual detestation.” (WordPress/Firefox seems to think that’s a word, so I’ll go with it.) The bulk of the people there were somewhere in between–vaguely positive, vaguely negative, and neutral. It was a poor choice for a January 1 activity, when my superstitious upbringing tells me “the way you spend the first day of the year is the way you spend the year as a whole.” I guess it sort of held true, in this case, but who doesn’t spend some time with people they love and some time with people they strongly dislike, in any given year?
I don’t think I burnt a good luck candle or ate cabbage or kept back a dime, that day. Things came out remarkably well, given that. Although the financial stability of the lucky dime would be welcome. :D
Anyway, the bulk of the year was eaten up by library school and the work I did to supplement library school. I was stressed out and sick a lot. Dale put up with a lot from me–the man’s a saint. I eventually found myself with a number of phone interviews for jobs–not nearly as many interviews as applications sent–and two in-person interviews, one of which, as you know, ended in a great job in a new place, hence this blog’s existence. So I guess the middle of the year can be described as “eaten up by finishing library school and preparing to move.” That brings us up to September.
Before I left, I proposed to Dale. We’d been talking about marriage for a while, mostly weighing its pros and cons, from a practical standpoint, as well as the moral/ethical side of going through a legal marriage when so many of our friends and family couldn’t. (Frankly, our finances and life decisions have been tied together for years. It’s not like marriage is going to be a big change in our relationship. He’s moving to freaking Alaska for me–what more commitment could one ask for?) But, by the end of September, we were pretty much agreed that a legal marriage could be ethical and would be wise, with us so far from family. So, actually, quick future note: we’re planning to get legally married in Connecticut in January. The ceremonial part will follow–most likely in October 2011, given the two weddings and a conference we’re already trying to attend in 2010. I guess it’ll be funny for folks up here, as, right now, I refer to Dale as “my boyfriend” or “my fiance” or “my significant other,” or, much more often, “Dale,” with no explanation, which is not very helpful–but by the time he gets here, I guess the word is “husband” (though I’ll still keep just calling him “Dale” most of the time and being unhelpful). Funny.
Anyway, I wander. So, we’ve been living separate lives for about a third of this year, though, at the same time, we’ve agreed to join lives more legally. I won’t lie: living apart has been tough. I’ve stopped wanting to go to movies or out to places where people are dancing, because those things make me miss him more. But I guess it’s built character. I know it’s helped me fully realize that living the rest of my life without him is an awful, awful prospect. It’s definitely given me the freedom to make friends, without having Dale to rely on and be antisocial with. :) (I joke. But it’s always easier to talk to the person you know than to reach out to new people.) That last point will make his transition to life up here both easier and harder–I’m part of a social circle, and I have a few other friends scattered around, and that gives him some default people to hang out with. But it’s not like he knows them or shares my comfort level with them–or them with him–so I guess that may be harder for him (and them), in some ways. I continue to hope that it’ll all work out, though. He’s way more likable than I am, so if these people put up with me, they should have no problem with him.
I guess the last third of the year has been mostly social readjustment. I mean, there’s the whole learning-to-be-a-librarian thing, which I probably shouldn’t downplay, but that’s been going fairly well, if more slowly than I had expected/hoped. I’ve got a grasp on how to do the bulk of my job, and I’m getting more adjusted to the workplace “politics” (a strong word for what they really are). Nothing surprising there, really.
But I’ve made some really excellent friends, here, and I think that’s worth calling out. I mean, my gamer friends and coworker friends have, for lack of better terminology, adopted me. I’m just this kind of hapless geek from the east coast, and they took me in and invited me to their social gatherings and treated me like I’ve been here forever (at least until I try to talk local politics, in the case of the gamers :D). I’ve had promises to teach me to fish, to make jelly, to get to various places in Alaska–it’s been great. And I feel really grateful to have found such great people, who are so welcoming. If I’d moved from here to the east coast, I’d still be struggling, at least on average. (I’m thinking, especially, when I say “on average,” of my buddy Dean, who taught Dale and me to homebrew, when he barely knew us. He sort of took us in right away, despite living in Northern Virginia, a place that isn’t known for friendly people. He’d love the hell out of some of my gamer friends, for serious, and they him. And, to be fair, there are lots of people on the east coast who were really good to Dale and me. I’m not trying to diminish them at all; I think of them a lot, and I love them dearly. I always just figured we’d found the best, maybe 10 or so, people in the DC area, when I was there. And I lucked into a lot of good friends [and a few terrible ones] in Pittsburgh, when I got there the first time, thanks mostly to my officemate, Ben. So maybe it has nothing to do with where I am, but I’m just lucky about finding the right people. I didn’t expect to fit into life here so easily, honestly. I go through life just waiting for the other shoe to drop, because I’m what pessimists call “a realist.” I worried that this might be the place, finally, where I wouldn’t fit in, wouldn’t find good friends, and wouldn’t be happy. But it isn’t. I’m happy. I won’t say “I fit in,” in a general sense, because it’s too early to know, but I feel like I’ve found a good niche or two, and things are good.)
So, yeah, not an unlucky year, as they go! I got myself a job, made the drive safely, got settled in, and met great people. There was trouble with living spaces and with other logistics, which all seemed so important at the time. But it wasn’t. It’s been a good last third of a year, by all measures. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve gained perspective. And in early 2010, I’ll [more formally] gain some wonderful family, and Dale and I can start to make Alaska our home.
Good stuff, all around.
Now, I want you to have a happy solstice, happy Hanukkah, happy Christmas, happy Kwanzaa, happy Yule, happy day off work, and/or, of course, happy new year! I hope you all have as great a holiday season as I am, whatever you celebrate! If you’re traveling, do it safely. Give people hugs–you don’t know when they’ll move across a continent from you, or whether they moved across a continent to get to where you are. And everybody needs hugs. And get presents for your pets, or your friends’ pets. Pets need holidays too.