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I wrote a big long post, but it got deleted, because WordPress’s stupid default “new post” feature is BAD and BROKEN, and I HATE IT. Not going to make that mistake again.

So just imagine that I’ve told you all about the snow (termination dust on Sept 6, snow on Oct 13, snow on the ground now and probably for months), the trouble with my car, the new doors we bought, Dale getting a PFD, our anniversary (we ate fancy dinner and saw “Looper”; also, he got a pretty ring made for me, with the diamond from his grandmother’s ring and two sapphires from a ring my dad gave my mom, back in the day—we kept his grandmother’s band, don’t worry), all the places in Alaska I want to visit, and how we’ll eventually post about the Sheldons & Brungards visiting, as soon as Dale gets finished with National Game Design Month and goes through the pictures.

Boy, I’m super cranky that that got deleted.

Anyway, sorry for not posting sooner—I wanted to post about the family visit, but the photos weren’t ready, so I kept putting it off. But maybe if I posted more often, it would be less bad if it got deleted.

Dale & CoralThis 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!

The Location

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!

Preparation

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.

Celebration

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.

Thank Yous

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.”

Dale & me on the dock

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?

It’s January. In Alaska.

Dale’s Alaskaversary passed by without incident–we’re both one-year-plus veterans of living in the state, now; I’m even in the process of applying for my first Permanent Fund Dividend check. Our “paper anniversary” (one year since we were legally married, negative ten months until we have our wedding :)) passed, again, without much fanfare. We got some well-wishes from family, which was super nice, but we didn’t really even do anything, ourselves, that day.

We did go see “Avenue Q” the following day. (Yes, Anchorage gets Broadway shows. :P We’re even getting the Blue Man Group in the spring!) That was enjoyable. Since we were Downtown already, we also walked around the ice rink (a little park beside the Performing Arts Center where they let the ice do its thing–and maybe help it along a little bit–so that people can skate on it) to look at the ice sculptures. It’s only been above freezing twice, so far, that I know of, so even though they’ve been up for a while they’re still in fine shape. We didn’t think to take pictures. :/

I did take a few pictures from my office window, to share how pretty and white the trees sometimes get. In two of the pictures they’re covered in hoarfrost, which seems to come (exclusively?) from ice fog. Or freezing fog. I can never keep straight which one we get, here. Anyway, a couple of the pictures are that. One is of today’s heavy, but short-lived snowfall. There’s also a picture of the ice fountain outside the public library–in the summer it’s a normal water fountain. And then there’s a picture of a neat snow formation against one of the windows of my library. Random stuff from my iPhone. Maybe Dale will post with pictures from Christmas. :)

There’s not a ton else going on. It’s been a little warmer in January than it had been in December–temperatures below about 15 F make me cranky. I can deal with temps in the 20s, though, and it’s even hopped up into the low 30s a couple of times, lately. That’s been good.

We signed up for the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award challenge–or, well, I signed up. Dale hates signing up for stuff, so he’s doing it, but he’s not logging it on the website. It keeps us moving, which makes winter a lot more bearable. Granted, most of the movement is indoors: I go to the gym, and Dale does Dance Dance Revolution, most of the time. But it’s enough to help beat the winter funk.

Actually, something relevant to that: we have both signed up to ride 25k in the Tour de Cure, in June, to raise money toward finding a cure for diabetes. If you were willing to donate toward the cause on his page (his goal is $150) or my page (my goal is $500), we would both be very grateful!

Also coming up over the next few months, I get to go to Juneau in February for the Alaska Library Association conference–I booked a few extra days, so I can look around town, go see the University of Alaska Southeast (their library has a banana tree in it!), maybe visit one of the glaciers, and just generally get an idea of what our state capital is like. Then we’re thinking of going to Seattle over Memorial Day. I’ve never been before, and Dale’s only been once. It’s a cheaper flight than most places. It’s a fun city. So I’m excited. :) If my poster proposal is accepted, I will definitely go to the American Library Association conference in New Orleans, in June–if it isn’t, I’ll wait and see if I won my election (which doesn’t *require* me to go this year, but it would probably be appreciated) and decide then.

So, despite the cold and the dark, there’s more brewing than you might think! More than I thought, when I sat down to write this post–which is sort of nice. :)

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.