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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It really looks like it may pan out. It is, of course, dependent on the appraisal. But the sellers have been amazing, especially considering that they originally wanted to sell the house “As-Is”: they’ve rewired the entire house (in part because the electrician wouldn’t sign off on a partial re-wire–still, they could have broken contract with us at that point, and we wouldn’t have blamed them, but they didn’t); they fixed up all of the things our inspector noted as “health and safety,” such as egress from the upstairs bedroom windows; they fixed a couple of extra things, like some leaky and damaged pipes and running a gas line so we could have a dryer; and they are still paying some of our closing costs.

We’re also doing this interesting kind of loan, called a 203(k). It’s like a normal FHA loan, only you get a contractor to bid on some fixes/upgrades to the house, and then the assessor tells you (or, well, your bank) what the value of the house would be after those changes, instead of its current value. Assuming it’s comparable to the cost of the house + the cost of the changes, you borrow enough additional money to make the changes, as part of the same loan. (Although it’s a few more steps than a normal loan, I’m surprised it’s not more common.)

This will, if it all works out, allow us to have an efficient water heater and furnace, some more insulation in our attic, a fixed up roof, a couple of fixed-up walls indoors (from previous roof troubles), fixed up siding (also from previous roof troubles), a dishwasher (the appliance itself isn’t going on the loan, but there is some cabinet-cutting required), and an additional two legal bedrooms, in our basement. The main area of the basement will remain unfinished, but hey–we wanted something we could work on ourselves, too. And if you’re going to practice with flooring and sheetrock and so on, something low-pressure like a basement is a good place to start, right? :) Also, we don’t mind it being unfinished for now. We’ll be able to use it for homebrewing, making candles, and other potentially-messy crafts!

So our fingers are very thoroughly crossed that this all works out. The house is adorable. We’ll post pictures of it when it gets closer to being a sure thing. But here’s hoping!

Later edit: I was half-way through researching the transit plans of Anchorage. The other half was a lot more promising. Or less, in that there’s like no chance the project will ever be completed. :P

So, that house-buying thing isn’t going to work out, right now. The most promising area of town for us to buy in–walkable (or at least bus/bikable) to downtown, bus/bikable to work, easy driving commute (and long but doable bike ride) for Dale–is also under consideration to become a highway. At least two of the plans under consideration would put a highway pretty much right beside our yard. … Interestingly, one of the plans would also put a highway right near our current yard, but we only rent here and could move if we needed to.

So, while we’d be interested in buying downtown, or in something I think Zillow calls “South Addition” (the area directly south of downtown), we can’t afford that. At least, not right now, or not without giving up some of the things we need in a permanent living space.

We’re going to try to rearrange our current space to make it more friendly for things like movie nights, Rock Band, and DDR, without sacrificing our game-playing table. And I’ll go ahead and plant my garden and do the things that I like doing in this house. We’ll settle into it for at least another year (H2H will make their plans known sometime in late 2011 or [more likely] 2012), then start looking again, perhaps, with more savings and better credit to back us up. (I was pleasantly surprised by both of our credit scores. But, knowing we’re going to wait a year, there are a few things we can do to improve them.)

I’m disappointed that this isn’t going to work out the way we’d hoped. It’s sad not to get to live in that cute house. But hopefully it’ll all work out so that we’ll get something that will suit us even better. (And if we’re really good about timing and manage to buy before 2 years are up, we won’t have to sit through another full Saturday class about home-buying!)

This is a list of all of the things Alaska has that we didn’t have, in previous places I’ve lived. It’s a sister post to things I miss from places I’ve lived before. I’m leaving off obvious things like “my job,” for which I moved here, or “my friends,” who are awesome. And Dale’s list might differ from mine.

  • Beautiful mountains in 3 directions (though the mountains I grew up with were beautiful, and I love them, they didn’t demand attention in the same way)
  • Affordable housing within walking distance of work
  • Nearly 24 hours of light during the summer
  • Arguably the world’s best mead
  • A whole city of beer and coffee lovers–and enough microbreweries and coffee shops to suit them. The little coffee stands continue to make me happy.
  • No state taxes, no sales tax, and, starting in 2011, getting a PFD (flip side of that: things do cost more … for example, the value menu at fast food places is $1.50 instead of $1, and it’s a $6 footlong, not $5, at Subway–but state taxes were always more painful than federal, for some reason, especially with all the moving we did)
  • Moose (which are ridiculous!), magpies, ravens, and bald eagles
  • The Bird Treatment and Learning Center
  • Anchorage Market & Festival, Alaska Mill & Feed, Summit Spice & Tea
  • Tap Root Cafe (it’s a MySpace page with auto-playing music :/), Middle Way Cafe, Lucky Wishbone (not a website kinda place)
  • (it’s hardly fair, since VA had the same thing, with a similarly awful website, but we never once went there) Bear Tooth Theater Pub
  • (it’s not universal, but is a bit more common here) Space for gardening in my yard
  • Exciting enough fish that I actually want to learn to catch them!
  • A whole network of trails through the city (sort of a down side: you have to watch for wildlife, because they’re kind of dangerous)

I haven’t been to the Seward, Fairbanks, Homer, or any of the other drivable parts of the state (unless you count Tok … but what’s in Tok?), so more things will end up on this list. The Sealife Center seems like an obvious one. Possibly the AK Railroad. As soon as I see it, I’m sure the Aurora Borealis will be on the list. Along with puffins and otters! The zoo, reindeer farm, musk ox farm, and other touristy places I haven’t yet visited are also real possibilities. Maybe I’ll revisit this list after summer. :)

I guess my point, in making these dual lists, is to point out that I definitely do miss some things, but there are a lot of things I’d miss if I left here, too. And I want to give readers from the Lower 48 some idea of some of the stuff here (and vice versa, if I have any readers from AK). Different places are, you know, different.

This is a list of things I miss about places I’ve lived in the past, now that I’m in Alaska. (Seems appropriate to post it on this snowy day in April.) It’s a sister post to things AK has that those places didn’t. I’m leaving out obvious things like friends and family that I knew I’d miss. Also, Dale’s list might differ from mine.

  • Cherry blossoms; crocuses; general spring flowers, or even grass, in April (it flurries, sometimes, during graduation here, for real)
  • Being able to use free night-time calling on my mobile (everyone lives east of me, now)
  • Being able to drive to the next state over (in less than a day!)
  • Being able to order online without worrying that 1) they won’t ship to me (I’m looking at you, Amazon’s Home & Garden section) or 2) it’ll cost $50 for them to ship it to me.
  • Lizards, possibly robins (I’m still hoping we get robins, but somehow I don’t think we do)
  • (Pittsburgh) The National Aviary
  • Gas under $3
  • Red Lobster (specifically, their cheddar biscuits and crab alfredo – my dad once sent me a recipe book that had the cheese biscuit recipe in it, and it’s not a bad approximation; no luck on the crab alfredo, though I might look for clones online)
  • (Pittsburgh) Alexander’s gorgonzola basil sauce (again, I have a recipe to work with, though it’s basil-free), The Square Cafe, Quiet Storm Coffee, Rita’s water ice, Mad Mex … Even Kiva Han, despite their poor climate control.
  • Chipotle (we have Qdoba, and I’ve more or less forgotten that I like Chipotle better, but still)
  • (Pittsburgh) Phantom of the Attic (comic and game shop–felt friendlier than Bosco’s)
  • (VA) Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s (Pittsburgh had 2/3, but we never really went to them–always too busy or too broke) … oh, and (DC) Eastern Market!
  • (VA) The Skyline Drive – weird thing to miss, given how little time I spent on it in my adulthood, but it was nice that it was there, you know? … not that we lack for beautiful drives, here, but the speed limits are higher, on crappier road surface (not necessarily AK’s fault–frost heaves are hard to fix)
  • (DC) The National Zoo, the Smithsonian, and the Baltimore Aquarium

This list is going to seem longer than the other, and, to be fair, it is. There’s a lot to miss. I spent [well] over 20 years on the east coast, and despite its climate [miserable winters AND summers] and air quality, I especially loved Pittsburgh. And, yeah, I missed some of the VA things while I lived in PA and vice versa. It’s different, being a full day’s flight away from it rather than a 4.5-hour drive, though, hence my listing it all together.

And that day of flying really is more frustrating than I had anticipated. Just the flights to and from the east coast eat up two full vacation days, each trip. Even a flight to or from California is a large portion of a day. And I just didn’t have any concept of that, really, before I got up here. I mean, my interview flights took for freaking ever, but it didn’t occur to me that we’re still pretty far from much of the west coast, too. It’s hard to get across just how remote it is, despite being a city and shipping hub. (It seems like every Mac purchased in America comes through here.) One rock slide could make ground transportation from the Lower 48 impossible, at least temporarily, and that’s sort of freaky.

On the bright side, nearly every dollar Dale and I spend counts toward air miles, so, although it’s still expensive to get anywhere out of state, we do get some breaks.

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.

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.

Be happy.

<3.

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. :)

I’m thinking of doing a whole series, translating things-Alaskans-tell-you-when-you-move-here to, well, non-Alaskan. :) Because, as I’ve learned, there’s a gap between the phrasing of some of the advice you’ll hear and what the phrasing probably should be. (Totally unintentional, by the way.)

The big one, so far, is winter driving. “Anchorage takes care of its roads” and “Winter driving isn’t so bad” mean, respectively, “They throw down gravel on top of the snow pack, sometimes–oh, by the way, that one 4-lane road becomes 3 lanes, but it’s cool: there are wheel ruts to follow, in lieu of road markings,” and “I’m used to driving in Anchorage in winter.” Subtext: “What is this ‘plowing’ you speak of?” and “The first snow is terrible, but, on the bright side, most of the idiots are stuck in ditches while the rest of us adjust.” (They plow when the snow gets really deep.)

“It doesn’t get much colder here than there” really means “We’re used to sub-zero temperatures between November and April(?), and since we only ever go Outside [that is, past the Alaskan border] for summer holidays or Christmas, we figure everyone else must be, too.” Subtext: “Unless you lived in the northern parts of the Midwest, it’s going to seem cold, OK? Cold.” Further subtext: “We don’t feel right complaining, given Fairbanks’ weather, let alone Nome or Barrow.”

“You don’t need studded tires to get around town,” means “Yes, you need studded tires, you silly cheechako.” Subtext: “Studded tires might make you overconfident, which is even worse than not having them.”

“People drive too slow,” probably means “I’m one of the crazies who drive like it’s not winter,” though the jury’s still out on that one. There sure are some crazies, though, wow. A 10-6 workday (give or take) is nice, because I avoid the worst of both rush hours.

I probably sound snarky or grumpy. I’m not, actually–“amused” is a better characterization, looking back over what I assumed about people’s frames of reference and what turned out to be the truth (I repeat, completely understandable!)–though I won’t lie about the first snowfall being a little harrowing. I’ve realized that this is a totally different environment than anywhere else I’ve ever been and that Alaskans sort of forget the differences, possibly very, very quickly. More to the point, Alaskans, well, like Alaska, so they tend to think positively about it. And, definitely, they want you to like it, too. So far, I do. (Yes, really.) Yeah, I still think it’s cold–I hear it got as low as -9 last night, it was -1 when I started the car this morning, and it was 5 (all Fahrenheit) when I went out for a walk this afternoon–but it’s also so pretty. Seriously, Alaska is where Christmas cards come from.

Still, the adjustment period has been a little tough. The distance really hit me, last week, when I felt like Dale needed me but I couldn’t be there. I also got swamped at work and had minor bird drama (seemed less minor at the time), and, yeah, it’s starting to really get darker out now. The sky wasn’t fully light when I left my house at 9:15 this morning. It’s been fully dark for a while, now (say, maybe an hour), and it’s not even 6:30. (I realized this morning that I won’t find out whether or not the light sensor on my Christmas lights is any good until some weekend when I stay at home. Or February. Whichever comes first.) But some friends went out of their way to make me feel better, and I got to go a couple of fun places, and the trees got absurdly pretty, and Dale had his (our) family around him, and the birds seem OK, and I got a little cleaning done on my apartment, and I got a SAD light, and I’m taking vitamins… Things aren’t perfect, because that’s life. But they’re not nearly as dismal as they might have seemed, last week, either.

A couple of milestones today: I slipped on the ice–first time this winter–but other than a minor knee twinge, was fine. Didn’t even land on my laptop. I also went for a walk, even though it was pretty freaking cold out. At 5 degrees F my coat, scarf, Dr. Martens, wool socks, and glittens do fine (though I’d still prefer gloves for driving); I need another layer under my jeans (when I came in, I realized my legs were numb, though I hadn’t felt all that cold, outside :)) and a thicker hat. Pre-walk, I acquired a set of spikies, which the university provides to students, staff, and faculty for free. I loves them so much. So, so much.

I’ll try to get some pictures of the roads, as the winter progresses, so future newbies know what to expect. Right now, they’ve worn down almost to pavement–I even saw some yellow lines in a turn lane–so I expect snow soon. :) (Tip for future newbies: memorize where the turn lanes you’ll be using really are. People expect you to know that stuff, even though you can’t see markings.) I did get a few pictures of the path by the lake (which isn’t really by the lake at all; it’s near and sort of around the lake, but doesn’t go right down to shore, as far as I can tell–though I started thinking I was on the wrong path and turned back before I made it around) and of hoarfrost on some trees and of a path for skis only (how weird, huh?) and of my apartment window, with ice forming on the inside. That was weird for me; I’ve never had that happen before, and all of my windows and porch door are doing it. Soon, I won’t be able to open them without a hair dryer, which I do not have. Another phenomenon I’d never before experienced, which, sadly, I couldn’t photograph: when I get in the car, as my breath starts to fog the window, it freezes in these neat patterns of lines. It’s really cool-looking. Maybe Dale will be able to get a photo, when he gets here, but it eluded me.

I hear Goose Lake gets … I forget the term, now, but some kind of treatment to make it nice and flat for ice skating. That’s one bonus of a place that stays as reliably cold as Anchorage: the lakes are safe to skate on. I’ll have to relearn how to skate and (hopefully very quickly) learn how to stop. And if you are OK with non-flattened ice skating, there’s apparently a lagoon that freezes over, and then you can skate through the marsh! That sounds all kinds of awesome to me, though it may be a next winter thing. (At my best, I was still a little shaky on skates.)