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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Rough Trails for Bikes

This past weekend I was thinking of activities to do outside with the kids.  Drive to Pasagshak? Too far.  Kayaking on the ocean? too windy.  So I asked Nora what she wanted to do.  She replied, 'let's go biking on a trail'.  And so we took the bikes to the old military roads in Swampy Acres and went mountain biking. 

Initially Nora was worried about the 'swampy' part of the Swampy Acres' moniker - until I assured her the roads are solid.  They also wanted to know about hills.  I got the feeling they were worried I was going to take them up Pyramid.

It was the perfect adventure.  Mostly flat with a slight up hill, and then a long downhill in an alder tunnel.  The kids outpaced me on the downhill and I was very happy they had on helmets.  Every once in a while there were little challenging areas of the trail to test their mountain biking skills. And best of all we saw no one.

I think we've found a new weekend activity! 


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Happy 11th Nora!

Last weekend Nora turned 11! With 4 of her girlfriends present for the day, we piled into the Nissan for an out-the-road birthday.

First stop was base pizza parlor for pizza and beverages. Nora initiated a "Cheers" with their Peace Teas. They all smiled and toasted together.

Then base park for some quick jungle gym time.

Then onto Leta House~a slice of heaven on Kodiak.

Leta house is an art studio owned by Natalie Tiereny. She does art projects with kids and adults and for Noras birthday she had the materials prepped for little felt hand-sewn purses.

The girls picked out their fabrics, thread color and got right into making their bags! They spent close to an hour sewing and Natalie so patiently helped them re-thread their needles as needed.

After the bags were done, we sang happy birthday to Nora with candles atop a still warm blueberry pie. Yes,  indeed-it was a mad scramble to make the pie before leaving for bells flats in the morning!

The birthday was one of my favorites-most relaxing party ever. Natlie played ballet music on the record player while the girls sewed. The weather was 64 and sunny. It couldn't have been a more fun, relaxing day.

Happy 11 to my spunky, fun, adventurous daughter.


Say cheers!

modeling the completed bags

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Teepee Time and Pickup

With all the hunting activity of the first 2 days we were all a little worried we'd get no 'teepee time' - naps and books by the hot woodstove.  We need not have worried.  Where the first 2 days of our trip had been go, go, go; the last day was all relaxation in camp.

The rain made it's distinctive pitter patter on the tent walls, and when a particularly big gust hit the tent there was that brrrrrtttttt of sil nylon vibrating at high speed.  Gregg said the sound brought him flashbacks to a float trip ten years earlier where we got hit by a particularly nasty storm.

We got the woodstove cranking and cooked up quesadillas on top of it for lunch.  We loaded them with baby bell cheese and a sprinkling of Sriracha powder.  Mmmmmmm.  Later we learned that the woodstove is also good for roasting the garlic cloves that I'd brought from my garden in town.

For dinner we made pasta with morel mushroom's a friend had collected on the Kenei Peninsula, home grown garlic, and Gregg's cabbage filled in as a salad.

But mostly it was all about the nap.  There is nothing quite like a nap in a teepee by a warm woodstove while the rain and wind shake the walls.  Especially when you are all tired out from chasing after and carrying deer.

By evening the storm had died down, and then in the morning we broke down camp in a leisurely fashion.  We piled all our gear down by the lake and after a short wait the plane arrived.  It was time to go back to town.   Patrick

Friday, August 26, 2016

Lisa's Deer

On day 2 we had expected to wake up to hard rain and high winds (as forecast), and were pleasantly surprised on arising to discover good hunting weather - a  high overcast with a brisk breeze.  Not that we expected it to stay that way and after a quick breakfast we hurried out of camp before the weather could change her mind.  It was time to get Lisa her deer.

The wind and weather had all the deer in the bushes or migrating to the lee of the mountains.  We watched a bachelor group of 5 bucks walk across the face of a mountain heading for the cliffs in the lee where they would be out of the wind.  They certainly knew about the coming storm.

So that's where we headed - into the cliffy and brushy side of the mountain.  We found where 2 of the bucks had bedded down on top of a cliff, and had to make sure it was not too sheer below the cliff before Lisa shot.  We wanted to make sure we could retrieve the deer.

Lisa shot the deer perfectly and it started to rain while we cut up the deer.  We just beat the storm back to camp.  Within a 1/2 hour after our arrival back at camp it was raging outside the teepee.  We lit the woodstove and hunkered down.  Patrick

Lisa shot from the knoll above her head to the top of the steep slope break on the left horizon

Deer in the afternoon

A moment to ponder - thank you Mister Deer

After taking care of Gregg's deer and eating lunch back in camp, it was time for an afternoon hunt.  By this time there were no deer out and about.  The sun was high in the sky and the landscape was brightly lit.  All the deer were bedded down in the bushes enjoying their afternoon siestas. We also considered foregoing the hunt and just enjoying an afternoon nap beside a lake in the mountains.  It would have been heavenly.  But the weather was supposed to turn sour and so we decided to hunt while the weather was good.

And so up the mountain we went.

We found a bachelor herd up and about butting heads on the lip of a truly frightful cliff.  I put on the stalk while Lisa and Gregg watched from afar.  Right away I ran into 2 fairly large deer, and they just stared at me from their beds less than 100 yards away.  I was tempted to go for the bird in the bush and forego the long stalk.  Gregg later told me that he was watching me through the scope and could see both me and the 2 deer, and saw the moment I decided to continue with the long stalk.

I ended up harvesting a deer in a spectacular location.  On top of a cliff with a very grand view over the bay far, far below.  Patrick

The most gorgeous view from a hunting spot ever - for me

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Coming Home

Sometimes home is a feeling, a sense. A space.

The St. Mary's parking lot is bustling with first-day-of-school excitement.  Excited kids and parents gathering bags of supplies and make their way eagerly into  school.

As I walk into St. Mary's  foyer holding a bag exploding of notepaper and paper towels,   I look down and see the sweet little ABC benches in the entry way. These are ones which students originally painted  years ago. The same benches which  the kids and I laid on their sides and cleaned together during this summers cleaning day. Together the kids scrubbed the legs with soapy water so excitedly and what a sense of satisfaction we all felt after.  On these ABC benches I have sat on many times while waiting for Nora and Stuey to come out of class. Sometimes with excitement, sadness, concern, love. The benches  bring me to the kid level.  

Ms. Schmitt, Ms. Huerta and Mr. Brian are in the lobby saying Hi, guiding kids on where to go. Tears well up inside me. What is is wrong with me, I momentarily wonder. My kids are in the 4th and 5th grade. This is my 6th year with kids at St. Mary's.

One would think my crying phase would be long over.  I follow behind Nora and Stuey up the stairs to Miss. Schmitt's room where they excitedly look for their desks and I am  filled with awe.

This beautiful room before me; each table with lovely cursive name tag, new posters of the world on the wall. I stand and soak it in. Trying to not look like I'm about to cry.

There are new math learning activities along the window and a new reading corner. Fun new classroom changes which I know my kids will appreciate. This room where my kids have learned for so many years under the guidance of  Miss. Schmitt. She knows their strengths, their needs, their quirks. She explains to the the kiddos where to put their things guiding them to their desks and I am filled with overwhelming gratitude.

The tears start flowing.

Nora and Stuey are at home, I am at home. This is home. 
This is the building, the energy, the people, the love which has surrounded my kids from day 1. This is the routine, ritual, structure which has supported them in growing as learners and even more importantly as people. .

Here, on this Sixth year of   going through this ritual, I am more attune than ever to the dedication this staff makes.
Because of them, we are here.

We are at home.


First Day of School

Stuey doing the fake "gag" at me having my arm around him.

Say "first day!"

My friend Kristine texted this photo at lunch time~I like the place cards for first day lunch!
 This morning started off with excitment-and with some anxiety as Stuey scrambled to find the right uniform pieces for a his first day at school. There has been a shift in the uniform rules from last year so we dug through his pile to see if we had the right pieces. Nonetheless, it transpired in some mild panic, as I tried to scrub out light dirt stains on a potential white shirt for him to wear. In the end it all worked out and Stuey was ok with the uniform he had on and I made note of what I need to order.

A few minutes later the kids were outside and counting down the minutes until we left for school. Nora informed Patrick and I that photo time was from 7:30-7:40 and no later. In years past we have done it too close to departure time and it brings stress to Nora.

As I walked the kids into St. Mary's holding a bag of school supplies, I looked down and saw the sweet little benches in the entry way and the teachers were in the lobby welcoming families. Tears welled up inside and by the time we got to Miss Schmitts classroom (where both Nora and Stuey are), the tears flowed.

Ms. Schmitts' classroom is home. Its so familiar, warm, inviting. This is Nora's 4th year with her and Stuey's 3rd year. I had a sense of bringing my kids home to her for another year of learning.

Filled with a sense of love, excitement,  gratitude, I gave Miss. Schmitt a hug and went downstairs to join two friends for tea and banana bread.

They are at home, I am at home.
A new fall rhythm and schedule begins.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fall Time

"I don't want to be bald" Stuey says as we sit in Hairmasters and his haircut begins.

The hairstylist and I laugh together as she re-assures him he won't be bald. Its the beginning of the school year haircut-one of the many final details to take care of before the first day tomorrow.
It feels good to laugh, as many of these beginning of the school year details feel especially exhausting this year. Get school supplies from Walmart. Back to school open house. Nora haircut. Stuey haircut.
Order school uniforms.

In the grand scheme of things, I suppose this list isn't that much, but it just felt extra tiring to get it all done  this year.

Last weekend Patrick returned from a glorious hunt and had what looks like lovely pictures.

"Hon, I'll admit-I just need a couple of hours by myself in the wilderness before I can get excited to look at those pictures." For whatever reason, this year I'm envious of time sleeping by the moon light and waking up to amazing sunrises. I can't help but long for the chance to have a few chunks of free hours to do that.

Tomorrow the kiddos will walk through the threshold of the doors to school and I look forward to time.

Tonight Nora called up her fellow girl scout, F., who is transferring to St. Mary's tomorrow. I smiled as I listened to the excitment in Nora's voice on the phone.

"Do you want to play on the playground with me tomorrow?" Nora asked F.
I smiled and knew that her friend on the other end of the phone was probably so relieved to hear this offer. The first day playground dilemmas. 

So glad Fall is finally here. 


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Gregg's Hunt

Every day on our hunt we got up in the dark.  Lit the stove, and ate breakfast by the light of the 'Luci' lantern.  On the first day we left camp to go hunting before the sun cleared the horizon.

And there were deer everywhere we looked -  Does and fawns grazing on the green hillsides, bucks sparring, and herds on the move to where they wanted to bed down for the day.  We made a plan to intercept one such herd and headed on up the mountain.  While we climbed the sun came up and bathed everything in bright color.

Once the sun came up all the deer started to bed down for the day, and suddenly there were not deer everywhere you looked.  It's a good thing we did get up early, or we would have missed the show. Still we did find the group of bucks we had seen earlier crossing over the shoulder of a mountain, and we made our stalk. 

We picked out the biggest buck in the group and Gregg shot him perfectly behind the shoulder.  An equally big buck hung around after the shot, and we were tempted to harvest him too.  But our plan had been to keep it simple and pack loads to a minimum by harvesting one deer at a time.  And we stuck to the plan.

After cutting up the deer we headed back to camp.  That's when I truly appreciated our plan.  Three people carrying one deer is a pleasant experience, and we made it back to camp by 11AM full of energy to go on another hunt.  Patrick

Memento Mori - Gregg contemplates death

Packing the meat back to camp

Sunsets and Moonrises

This past weekend Lisa, Gregg and I went for an alpine camping and deer hunting trip.  On Friday evening we took a floatplane ride to an elevated lake and set up camp.  Since we did not have to carry our camp on our backs up the mountain we could afford to bring along a fairly luxurious camp. 

It was a glorious evening and after we set up camp we had dinner and glassed the hillsides for deer.  The sunset was spectacular!  And at one point we even saw a huge buck silhouetted on the cliffs against the sunset.  It got all our blood pumping.

And then after the sun set a full moon rose in an equally spectacular fashion.  The moon was so bright that I could take pictures outside with no artificial light.  Even inside the teepee there was no need for flashlights.  At one point in the night I went outside and the moon was a ball perched on the very top of the mountain - it reminded me of the symbol on a dollar bill.

The bright moonlight is not so good for hunting.  When there is a full moon the deer tend to stay up all night feeding and then go to bed early in the morning.  So we set our alarms early!

Moonlit shadows on the inside of the teepee

Friday, August 19, 2016

Summer doings...

Sunrise time with Stuey in recliner chair. A morning ritual...he wakes up and comes running to the chair to sit with me and slowly wake up. He shares with me any dreams he had the night before.
The house "To-Do" list I wrote for the kids at the beginning of summer. The kids had to do these things before electronics time in the evening~I'd say it worked about 75% of the time. :)

Its almost a wrap~summer 2016!
Only a few more days before Nora and Stuey walk through the doors of St. Mary's and we fall into a new rhythm of our days and evenings. I can't wait!

Don't get me wrong, its been a beautiful, warm summer. Lots of good memories, but admittedly heart wrenching times as well. I still need more alone time; a function of grief for me. My twin sister has had a lot of alone time this summer and I haven't been shy about telling her how jealous I am.

This summer...

-you'd find Stuey asking "are there spiders on me?" as he squeals with spider fear. This can occur inside, outside, in the car...

-you'd find Nora saying "I want to go back to school. I miss school" She misses the routine and familiarity of school.

-you'd find lots of changes in our house as I have done so much cleaning and re-arranging of artwork

-you'd find me starting up the fire pit to grill outside. How I've loved watching those flames and then cook foil packet marinated mushrooms on the coals. Soul food all the way.

-you'd find Stuey reading tons of Archie comic books. Like over and over again. His reading is taking off!

-you'd find Patrick not batting an eye as I re-arranage furniture, artwork, get my haircut...bless his heart for being with me on this journey of grief.


Thursday, August 18, 2016


The morning sunrise view from my recliner chair.
The past 3 weeks I have been getting up at 5:45 to write.
Journal and  letter writing,  writing down my dreams from the night before.  I'll admit to being sometimes groggy eyed and not totally with it, but for the most part, I relish in this quiet time in the house. The family rises sometime around 6:30 or 6:45 so it gives me a full hour in the recliner chair by the picture window with my pen, journal, computer and thoughts. Oh, and coffee-most importantly.

I'm on  week 3 of a  6 week class called The Ground of Waiting and this morning writing time is part of this journey. The class is taught by a Canadian woman who helps the ladies in the online group with life transitions~death of a loved one, new job, moving, and other losses. The focus of the class is on the middle, or liminal stage of a transition. This is the waiting and being stage of loss which can be uncomfortable for some, and not necessarily a time or place which society understands or supports. Its the time of  not doing. But rather listening and reflecting.

The topic the  first week was on standing at the threshold. The teacher, Kristen Roderick,  shared the following Joseph Campbell quote with us:
"Joseph Campbell refers to the liminal stage of the journey as initiation, setting in motion a course of events that will change our lives. Campbell says that initiation occurs when someone under takes The perilous journey into the darkness by descending, either intentionally or unintentionally, into the crooked lanes of his own spiritual labyrinth....this is a process of dissolving, transcending or transmuting the infantile images of our personal past. 

So, in summary, this stage is rough. And a crazy ride. A crazy, s**** ride at times.

Which is definitely how this loss of my mom has felt at times. It indeed feels like a labyrinth. Being with my mom in her illness to her passing brought me to the center of the labyrinth. And now, in the dark, I am slowly making my way back out.

I can write about all of this now, finally, because I'm making a little forward progress and starting to move forward inch by inch.

 For several weeks I was at a loss to who I am.

In a matter of a week I cut my hair short (I like it! No regrets there!),
got new furniture for the living room (very badly needed-old furniture was busting at seams) rearranged all the artwork in the house (Nora helped and we had a lovely time. She had some wonderful insight on where to put things),
 got rid of 3 bags of clothes (ones which didn't feel good on my skin. Maybe a little too small or just not totally in love with it?).

Things which brought me great identity in the past did nothing for me now.

That discomfort has passed and in those days I created a space, a living area which I now really love. A space in which to write, light a candle, look at art. Look out the window at the rising sun over Mill Bay.

Last night when I was dusting the  my altar area where I have photos, candle and a poem, I saw the picture of my mom. I can't believe shes gone. She can't be gone. My breath shortens. How can this be real, I wonder? Then I see her smile. I take a deep breath to help ease the sudden ache of disbelief in my heart.

Love you mom, love you I whisper. She is right with me, I know.


The new couch and recliner we are all enjoying so much!