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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Can it be Spring?

Can it be Spring if we never had Winter?  Or should we just call it Blah?  At least yesterday we had a light frost.  Today it is raining again.

Yesterday while walking around the house I noticed that the crocuses are blooming, the daffodils have put up their leaves, and the salmonberries are budding.   The birds are beginning to sing in the morning and the lawn is turning green.  UGHHHH  I feel cheated.

Come on Winter show us your power.  Put all these harbingers of Spring to rest.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sometimes Island With Stuey

Recently I haven't had enough one on one time with Stuey. I  can just tell when he becomes extra needy. Or doing not-so-wonderful things to get my attention. With Nora in girl scouts, I have lots of mommy-daughter  time  with her on our way to/from meetings but haven't had good connection time with Stuey away from Nora.

This morning, Stuey was way excited at the prospect of mommy-son outing AND going to Sometimes island-a place he's never been to before.  I knew the tides were low and I appreciated how excited he was to go check it out.

The rain and wind pelted us from the sides and our jackets were soaked just a few minutes into the walk.  But it didn't matter  as we walked across the mudflats towards Sometimes Island and the bunker on the island which Stuey was very excited to see.

On the return hike we took the beach route and the tide was starting to come in. Stuey took joy in seeing how deep the water was and testing out the heights of his boots.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Deluge After Deluge

These pictures were taken during and after the last deluge earlier this week.  During the storm the eagles hovered on the updrafts above the cliff in front of the house.  After the storm all the snow froze and turned rock hard on Pyramid.  I was actually sort of surprised that we did not lose all that much snow high on the mountain.

Now there is another one coming.  Gale force winds, temperatures in the 40s, and inches of RAIN.  UGHHHHHH.  All these storms from Hawaii are pushing our cold air down into the lower 48, and judging by the news stories they clearly don't appreciate it.

My fear is that with global climate change this could be the new normal.  Last year was the warmest year on record for Alaska and this year is shaping up as even warmer.  Perhaps a changed climate and warmer Gulf of Alaska waters has changed the flow of air across the Pacific.  Perhaps every year we will see the same jet of warm air from Hawaii to Alaska setting up the same series of wet, warm storms we have endured for the last 2 winters.  Could this storm pattern be the new normal?  I hope certainly hope not.

I'm too old to sell my skis and take up surfing, or as Nora put it, 'Maybe we should move to New England so we can enjoy the snow'.  Patrick

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

No Winter Here

Lately the national media has been all over the recent snow and cold on the East Coast. Street scenes with towering banks of snow and talking heads jabbering away about the hardships everyone is experiencing and all the snow accumulation records.  Supposedly it is 'unprecedented' - with 'records going back to the 1870s'.  And yet I think they have missed the real story.  The real story is the warmth and lack of snow in Alaska.

I don't think East Coast weather is big news because cold and snow is what's supposed to happen in winter.  Maybe it is a little more extreme than usual, but its still winter weather.  What's happening in Alaska and on the West coast really is unprecedented.  Here on Kodiak Island in Alaska we are still waiting for winter to arrive.  This is sort of like having no Summer on the East Coast.  Imagine if it snowed in July?

Funnily enough, it did snow a few times in New England one summer way back in 1816 after a series of volcanic eruptions had caused a dramatic global cool down.  It was a year 'without summer' and contemporary accounts relate that many lakes stayed frozen for the entire summer.  Imagine if that happened today?  Can you imagine the uproar on CNN if there was no summer in Boston?

The reverse is happening here on Kodiak Island - we live in Alaska, and yet, no winter yet.  On Kodiak none of the lakes have frozen over, my garden is still going strong, and we've barely gotten any snow.  It's barely even dipped below freezing.  It's been more like a normal winter for Richmond, Virginia than for Kodiak, Alaska.

Researching this blog post I noticed that the Anchorage Daily News picked up on Alaska's abnormally warm winter in today's paper (click here for link).  But they did not make all that big of a deal about it.  And Anchorage has had some winter - if not as cold and snowy as usual.

This morning I culled these weather maps on the internet.  Check out the temperatures across Alaska today as compared to the lower 48 (but also be aware that the color scales are offset about 20 degrees).  It's above freezing in Fairbanks, Alaska in mid February!  That's AMAZING - far more amazing than sub zero temperatures in Boston.

Also check out the forecast for Jackson,  Mississippi as compared to Anchorage, Alaska.  Pretty darn similar.  WOW!  And that kale in my garden is still kicking - and not just surviving but putting on growth.  Patrick

Stuey with a healthy kale plant still producing in the garden

Surf's Up

Surf's up at Mill bay Beach

On Sunday and Monday Kodiak experienced a pretty serious storm.  Pretty dismal Monday morning with high winds and pouring rain.  It was President's Day so no school for the kids or work for the parents, but no one wanted to go outside either.  It looked like a holiday spent cooped up inside.

But in the afternoon it cleared off and while returning from my daily ski I noticed that the surf was still pretty big at Mill Bay beach by our house and there were a few people surfing.  So I grabbed the kids and we went to the beach, cameras in hand, to catch the action.

Mill Bay is not known for its surf but it sure is convenient.  I'm sure that surfers with more time on their hands went elsewhere for the perfect wave, but the waves seemed big to me at Mill Bay Beach.  Pretty cool that people surf within 150 yards of our house!  Patrick

Stuey capturing the surfers in action

Nora camera in hand

Nora took this picture of a boogie boarder in action - I have not looked at Stuey's pictures yet

Monday, February 16, 2015

Relentless Surf

Ft. Abercrombie on a serene day this winter. 

When my soul feels unsettled, I enjoy watching the ocean  surf crash against the rocks of shore. Somehow it reminds me how seemingness small I am in the world, and what powerful forces of nature are at work all around.

 I've started a routine where on my Ft. Abercrombie walks, I stop and sit and watch the surf at the same lookout. The waves roll in and crash against the large rocks which comprise the shore.

Why or how have I walked through the park for so many years and not taken the time to sit and watch the ocean is my only question. Makes me realize how getting exercise, or fresh air, or conversation with a friend, or the dogs exercise are the reasons why I go though the park. Its  just as important is to sit and be. And enjoy the ocean.

It has been windy for the past day and the waves today were remnants from yesterdays storms. Even after the winds have died down locally, the large waves still roll in…off of the gulf of Alaska.

These rollers along with a high tide cause a large white froth on the rocks as they crash. And then it all churns under. Debris gets thrown around. And then it happens again. And again.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fountain Day

Patrick found this picture deep in his shelf when looking for a book. I chuckled at the memory!

Ithaca College Fountain Day-Its after our last physical therapy final exam. My physical therapy class had just completed our pharmacology final and had wet suits ready to get into to jump into the school fountain. It was a cold, overcast May day and we were glad to have the wet suits! Several of our physical therapy professors watched on as splashed around like crazy people in the fountain. The beverages were on the strong side, as I ended up in the college infirmary for a few hours after.

I googled "Ithaca College Fountain Day" to see if it is still a senior tradition-and it is.  There are videos of seniors splashing around and cheering. Its a rite of passage…a time to celebrate the completion of an era of our lives.

The girl second from the left is my friend Amilia…she was my BFF in college. She was raised in Ashland,   Oregon and she and I were good friends-two of the 3 people from the West Coast. The others in the 90 person program were primarily from the East Coast.  Amilia and I were similar in our West Coast thoughts and likes. Amilia now lives in New Mexico and I hope to visit her someday there.

These moments seem like another life time ago. Even though I don't see my college friends as much as Patrick, I know that when we connect again it will be like no time has passed. I can imagine the laughter and stories now….I think I'm yearning for a college reunion!


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Survival Skills & Sometimes Island

The tidal flats of Sometimes Island

Today I piled 4 girl scouts in my car and we drove out to Bells Flats for an afternoon gathering. As the girls talked about their pets in the back seat,  I obliquely listened to their conversation about how many pets they have, how long they've had them, etc and my mind wandered back and forth from their conversation to my life.

The rain came down on the windshield. It was heavy. Thoughts ran through my head.  
My  week at work.  Clients I wonder about. Friends who are on my mind.  Today being Valentines day. The rain.  I hope the rain stops in time for the hike. Hiking in the rain would stink. But I would do it.

"Mom, we're not going to hike if its raining, are we?" Nora asked. I think she must have been reading my mind. 

I smiled. "Uhhh….yes. I don't believe we'll melt in the rain" I responded. She didn't respond back. She must know her efforts in persuading me otherwise would be futile. All the girls came well prepared for hiking in any type of weather, yet I know it will be much more fun if the rain stops. "Please stop in time for our hike" I said silently to myself. 

We arrived to the house where one of the scouts family lives. A scout dad (Ryan) was leading the patch skills for Arctic Survival Skills. Last session with him we learned about stages and symptoms of  hypothermia and space (emergency) blankets. All the various uses…blanket, tarp, reflective device…

 Today we learned about signals; how to make signals in case of emergency. It was so much more than SOS. Anything in 3's can be a signal. 3 large logs on a beach. 3 Piles of branches in snow. 3 blares of a horn. The possibilities are endless. Ryan in his prior rescue swimmer day talked about when they would fly in helicopters, they would look for things in 3's.  So much I learn at the scout meetings.

 I looked at the girls faces- they were curious and thinking too. All the possibilities of 3's. 

All this survival outdoors talk made me  want to hike. Far. Get away by myself. Never before have I craved an adventure on my own. I just saw the movie "Wild" in Oregon and I was inspired.  I  think I could do an adventure on my own. I don't know where I'd go, or if I'd go with someone,  but I just want to go. Plans swirl in my mind and I"m not as afraid of the unknowns. Being outside and with the elements of nature are some of my favorite times.

And it helps mitigate the emotional pains which come along with living and being. And loving.

The sky cleared, rain stopped and we headed to Sometimes Island for a hike. This is an island which is hikable only low tides. On high tides the small isthmus leading to it is covered by ocean.

Today, the tide was in our favor.  The girls ran ahead on the tidal flat. This group of scouts loves exploring beaches.

The sun made an oblique appearance through the cloud filters. We reached the trees and enjoyed hot cocoa and valentine rice krispie treats.

We walked along sharing the day together.
Not just surviving but enjoying. 


Friday, February 13, 2015

Facebook Break

A few days ago I decided to forgo Facebook for a while.  It was taking up what  I like to call "Emotional Bandwidth" which I could be otherwise using for writing, reading, doing nothing, watching a new miniseries, etc. Even though I don't spend a lot of time on Facebook, 10 minutes here and there adds up fast.

There have been a lot of blog posts "in my head" that I've wanted to write for a while and now I can do that. My last post about physical therapy clients who don't get better was one of them.  I also am back into letter writing mode big time and returning to part of an old self of pen/paper which has always been a strong part of who I am. From having a penpal as a child, to writing my grandparents and aunts/uncles…I'm all over hand written words on paper.


A little bit of sunshine

2 pictures that show the same thing - a spot of sunshine on a far hillside and a little hole of blue.  Another name for this phenomena is a 'sucker hole', as in, 'you are a fool if you actually think the weather is clearing up'.

Indeed the weather has taken a dismal turn.  We are back to warm temperatures and grey skies.  In the morning the kids and I watch the news and we see that the East Coast is getting all the snow.  What kills me it that the newscasters complain about it - no appreciation about how lucky the east coast is to have a winter.  I wish they could send it our way.

But at least we now have snow on the mountains - in the last 2 weeks Kodiak has received a LOT of snow up high.

One problem with the lack of sunshine is that Stuey and I have not been able to complete his Science Fair project for school - a sundial.  We got the sundial built, but have not been able to calibrate it in the sunshine. No sunshine, no shadows, no clock.


Thursday, February 12, 2015


"I"m not doing any better," my client says to me, seated across from me on the treatment table. Shoulders and head rolled forward, back slumped-he is bummed.  Inside my heart sinks, wishing it weren't so. I take a gradual deep breath, try to ground with the earth. But on the outside, I must remain un-phased. Confident.

"Ok. So...tell me about your nighttime pain. How has that been the past few days?" I ask. (And deep down hoping that there has been at least  some tiny change in symptoms.)

"Its the same." he replies.

These are the moments which are so hard-to not know why. To wonder- am I missing something? I want nothing more than for all my clients to progress.

In these moments of doubt,  I try to  remind myself that I am along with them on their journey. Its not my journey. Or my pain. And I'm not responsible for my client's journey or their pain.

These are the unglorious moments of my job as a PT. When theres not progress.
It doesn't happen often but when it does, its hard. By nature I am a healer and I want to see progress.

I explain to my client how perhaps a switch to another therapist, or doctor, or refer back to the same doctor for more imaging/tests may help.  I want to help him see all the possibilities.

As my client leaves, he looks me in the eye and says "Thanks for all you have tried, Zoya." He reaches out for a confident appreciative handshake. "Your welcome. I wish I could do more" I reply.

"No, I appreciate all you've done. I wish I knew what was going on. Why this isn't getting better" He responds.

After my client  leaves the clinic, I sit at my computer and give a cleansing sigh. I remind myself that you win some, you lose some and some people need a different approach than what I offer.


This narrative is not about one specific client, but rather an example about a  dialogue and scene which occasionally happens in physical therapy. 

Monday, February 09, 2015

Our Luge Run

Yesterday Stuey's best birthday present was snow in the yard.  We built a luge run down our small hill.  Stuey also made a snow tunnel to sled thru.  The luge has given new life to our small hill.  I had to make a big pile of snow at the bottom to act as a backstop.

This morning we got another 2 inches of snow, but the satellite photo shows a pineapple express descending on Kodiak.  Hopefully it wont wash everything away.  Patrick

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Stuey's Eight

Stuey's 8!

Today for Stuey's  birthday breakfast, he requested home made chocolate waffles…so together we made them. 

And it snowed so much last night. After eating their waffles, Nora and Stuey played outside in the dark for nearly 30 minutes. This is the first heavy snowfall we've had all winter and boy were they excited. 

Later, Stuey had his  birthday party at the bowling alley.

Last night at Safeway I asked Stuey if he wanted Safeway cake or home made one.  He spotted the cake with  a deer and hunter on it on the cooler at Safeway. That was the one. 

Bowling! I loved how excited Stuey was to wear his birthday hat. 

Stuey started to pull the hunting figurines off the cake before the candles were lit. 

Several of the kids bowled multiple rounds and really got into it! Stuey's cheeks were red from the activity at the end of 2 hours. 

Thank you Sara L for the picture!

Thank you Sara L for the picture!


Rare Day

This morning Kodiak woke up to 8 inches of new powder snow and sunshine.  This has not happened much lately, and, unfortunately, it is supposed to start raining Monday night. Powder snow on Kodiak is one of those things that needs to be prioritized.  Get it while you can because it never sticks around.

So at dawn this morning I drove out the road to go cross country skiing.  The road to the golf course had not been plowed so I went skiing in Swampy Acres.  I think it might be the first time in 2 years there has been enough snow to do this.  It's a great loop, and I did not see another soul out there.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Personal Training in Portland

In Portland I stepped outside my comfort bubble and did something I've never done before-hired a personal trainer when on vacation.

That photo is definitely a stock image. But you get the drift…
Just replace that smiling girl with one who is cringing at the thought of one more repetition, wearing a few more clothes on top and you get the idea. My personal trainer and I in Portland.

I've never done personal training in a different city before. Since last summer I've been doing personal training in Kodiak at A Balanced Approach  with Marian and have LOVED it. She challenges me, encourages me and helps me discover what I am able to do.

On my trip to Portland, i thought it could be a good thing to try out a personal training with a new trainer. And to keep my on my training program for Tour of Anchorage. Especially with all the yummy Portland food.

I googled "Portland Personal Trainer" and up came "The Art of Personal Training" studio. It looked friendly, well maintained. And fairly close to my hotel.

Do I do it, I asked myself? Do I send the e-mail to make an appointment? I knew that I would then be committed. Committed would be good. So I sent the e-mail, letting the owner know I was looking for 2 personal training sessions during my Portland stay.

And it was done. And then just a month to feel a little nervous when I thought about what I had committed to.

The 2 sessions were fabulous. On the first day my trainer, Peter, showed me an amazing assortment of exercises which would focus on cross country skiing muscles. Since this is the year of "Nearly-No Snow-in-Kodiak" its been all about cross training. I've signed up for the Tour of Anchorage ski race and am most definitely doing it in one month.

At one point, during a 3 minute run on the treadmill, on a steep incline, I thought I was going to get sick. Or die. Or both in that order. But with only 20 seconds left and Peter cheering me on, saying, "Imagine this is your final hill of the race Zoya!"…how could I stop? Really. Disappoint Peter with only 20 seconds to go? Not going to happen.

So I powered through and nearly collapsed on the floor after.

Then he did this cool personal training stretching thing which was new to me where he stretched my hips, hammies, quads, calfs….perfect end to the session. I felt like silly putty-not able to really move after the treadmill episode.

The next day, I was still able to walk and not in too much pain, thank heavens. I had a different trainer, RJ who worked more on upper body strengthening and cardio.

And I silently thanked my workout gods to not have any treadmill runs with incline in on that second  day. :)

I'm so doing that again when I travel!


Hard Snow

Here on Kodiak the day before I went off to Idaho we got a few feet of new snow on the mountains.  Before I left, I managed to get in one heavenly, deep-powder run on Pyramid Mountain.  And then while I was away it rained and rained with some freezing rain thrown in.  I came back to a solid sheet of very hard and dense snow.

It's not all bad - at least all the rocks are covered and I can ski.  I went skate skiing in the mountains and yesterday I bounced around on Pyramid in downhill gear.  We still do not have quite enough snow to cover up all the brush and it is very bumpy.  Needless to say, but the skate skiing was very exciting!

If this was Anchorage I think our conditions would classify as 'no snow for skiing,' or maybe, 'very icy with lots of debris and rocks'.  But I'm not that picky.  And hey, there has been some sun, and at least its been cold. Some snow is better than no snow.  Patrick