©2004 Susan L. Stevenson
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Friday, October 1 - Welcoming a new month
At times, it is hard to believe that Steve and I have been Alaskans for nearly 16 months. The time has passed so quickly. I don't know if that's a bad thing or a good thing. I suppose it's a bad thing in that it means our time here will be over sooner. (If we don't decide to stay after his military career is over) It's a good thing in that we have adjusted so well, and have kept busy enough, over the past 16 months for time to fly by.
I'm really looking forward to the upcoming months. I hope to enjoy the winter and the snow as much as possible. Steve and I are going to attempt snowshoeing. Friends of mine told me that I will feel muscles I never knew I had after an afternoon of that. I hope to do some more tubing at Birch Hill. That's always lots of fun. And I look forward to taking some winter photos with my Rebel. It will be my first winter with my digital SLR, and I can't wait to play with it.
This month, I added a link to another live webcam here in Fairbanks (just above this entry). This camera is facing the Chena River where it runs by our BLM office. When it is nighttime here, you'll see nothing but a black screen - since there are no streetlights in the area. Of course, there's always the chance you could catch the Northern Lights if they're out in all their glory! If you click on the link (during daylight hours), you'll see that - as of today - the river is still free-flowing. As the weeks go by, it will slowly freeze. Soon, the view from this camera will appear as a white expanse, and the river will be hidden under ice and snow. Also, don't forget to click on the link to the News-Miner Web Cam (top of page) from time to time. Since there are street lights in that area, there is always a view.
|Saturday, October 2 - Waning Moon|
I had insomnia again last night, so I decided to shoot the moon. I missed the full moon a few days back, but wanted to see what my camera was capable of. This photo was cropped tightly for detail, so it's not worthy of enlargement without losing its clarity. I thought it was neat that I could catch the roughness of the craters in the photo. I love my Digital Rebel!
|Sunday, October 4 - Lights in the morning|
Last night, Steve and I had two couples over for dinner. We originally had planned to have our neighbors/friends James and Rachael over. We wanted to repay them for allowing us to use their smoker for the salmon Steve caught last week. James even went out of his way to buy the smoking chips we needed. Besides, it had been a few weeks since I had seen Rachael. With her attending school and me working again, our schedules don't mesh very well.
Steve bought a few steaks and we planned a BBQ. (Yes, we cook out year round - as long as the propane doesn't freeze.) We had baked potatoes, corn, bread and salad. After cleaning up the house spic and span (my husband is the absolute BEST; he scrubbed all the floors, cleaned out the fridge, and cleaned all the bathrooms. I'm never letting him get away!)... anyway, after cleaning, Steve drove down to North Pole to pick up some army medals from our friend Brian. Brian went out of his way to purchase them for Steve in Texas while he was down there attending the 1SG Academy. Steve came home and told me that Brian seemed a bit lonely (Marcella was working), and so he invited the two of them to come for dinner too. This presented a slight problem as we only had four steaks. Brian didn't care; he brought his own. They were up for some company anyway.
Dinner was excellent and the men did everything! We women relaxed in the living room, having a few cocktails and chatting, while the guys got dinner prepared, set the table, EVERYTHING! After dinner, the men even cleared the table, put away the leftovers and loaded the dishwasher. I need to plan something like this every weekend. :-) In reality, it came as no surprise to me. If it weren't for Steve, we'd starve. He's the cook in our house and I am very happy about that. But I know that the other gals thought it was pretty darn nice to be able to relax and let someone else handle things.
After dinner, we talked some more and I showed them the photos I took in June during our trip around the state. I created a slide show on DVD and we watched it on the television. I enjoy reliving that adventure. In fact, yesterday I also started printing out a select few 8x10's and 5x7's of some of my favorites. I need to get more frames. I intend to create a photo wall in our living room. I'm also going to check on the cost to enlarge a bunch to 16x20 or bigger.
Everyone left by 11pm and Steve and I fell into bed exhausted. Steve had plans to go fishing this morning with James and he had a 6am wake up ahead of him.
The phone rang at 5am; some minor crisis at the company. Once I'm up, I'm up. I couldn't fall back to sleep and so I did what I usually do. I threw on my bathrobe and slippers, and took a look out the window. It is habit for me to look out my bathroom window first thing in the morning. Mostly I'm checking to see if it has snowed during the night, or if it's raining, or even if by chance there's a moose in the yard. By that time it was close to 5:30am. Imagine my surprise to see the northern lights flickering across the sky at that hour! Seeing them close to dawn isn't really common, but it's not impossible. Steve has seen them on winter mornings when he's been running PT. But that's usually in the dead of winter. At this time last year, I was catching them between 11pm and 1am.
I ran down the stairs, grabbed my camera and my tripod, and hurried into the yard (in my bathrobe and slippers). By the time I got everything set up and took a few test shots, the lights were starting to wane. But I managed to get one shot that they showed up in pretty clearly. I also took a few shots of the neighborhood while I was out there.
|Thursday, October 7 - Happy 21st Birthday Brandon! I love you!|
Twenty-one years ago, you left my body and merged tightly with my heart. And even though our lives have taken us to opposite ends of the world, I have been holding you tightly ever since.
You were the baby of our family - and will always be my baby. I remember holding you to my breast, watching you suckle; with only the silver moonlight illuminating the room. You looked like an angel. I remember laying you in your crib and leaning my face close to yours. I would breathe in the sweet smell of your hair as I placed kisses all over your round cheeks and atop your tiny nose. If I could have bound your tiny body to mine, I would have.
You were an energetic little boy and managed to find your way into mischief on a regular basis. I remember when you painted all the bathroom fixtures with red nail polish. And the time you emptied the entire container of baby powder onto the dark green carpet in the bedroom. And then there was the time you cut all the cords off the mini-blinds in the house because of your newfound interest in scissors. And who can forget the time you scribbled on the screens in the front window, using your chocolate Easter bunny?
Your unconstrained enthusiasm and energy resulted in a multitude of cuts and scrapes and bruises.... I'll never forget the fear I had when you had your bike accident and the doctor was going to have you airlifted to Children's Hospital because of your concussion. I remember sitting next to you in the emergency room, holding your hand. And hearing your tiny voice saying, "Don't leave me, Mommy". Oh how I wished I could calm your fears! But all I could do was keep myself from crying along with you.
I remember after we moved away from Philadelphia - and you had to start school in a brand new place where you didn't know anyone. You stood in the foyer, not wanting to go to the bus stop. I held you close to me and said, "It's OK to be scared, Brandon. But once you get through today, everything will be fine." And you came home from school later that afternoon with two friends in tow and a huge smile on your face.
It is a mother's inbred desire to calm her children's fears - whether they are fears of being whisked off to a hospital alone, the fears of going to a new school... or the fear of incoming mortars as you lay beneath the stars in a desert far away.
Every mother with grown children says the same thing.... "Where did the time go?" "Why did the years have to go by so quickly?" I think those things to myself all the time - especially now that our respective lives keep us far from one another. I can't tell you how many times I've reminisced about days long ago.
Helping you into your feet pajamas on cold winter nights...
And I also remember:
The day you joined the Marines...
You have grown into a wonderful young man, Brandon and I am so proud of you. You are a loving, compassionate, sentimental, sensitive, and caring man. And you also have a fabulous sense of humor and light up a room when you enter it. Children love you... adults love you... most of all I love you.
Happy 21st, my sweet BooBoola! I miss you...
The past week has been fairly hectic. I've found myself preoccupied with many things and just haven't had time to update. The weather has been extraordinarily beautiful - especially for October in Alaska. The cold and icy mornings of last week are gone. The days have started off a bit on the chilly side, but the sun has been out nearly every afternoon and the temperatures have risen into high 40's and low 50's. It feels like summer to us!
On Monday, I had lunch with my friend Jean. Jean is a Celtic music teach who belongs to the Alaska Living Group. I met her at her music studio downtown and we spent almost two hours together eating and chatting. It was a beautiful day and so we took a walk after lunch and enjoyed ourselves chatting and soaking up the sun.
Tuesday morning, we were again expecting a warm and sunny day. I wasn't feeling 'up to par' and decided to call in sick. After noon, I was feeling much better and the sun was shining bright. I put Sedona in the car, grabbed my camera, and decided to head downtown and take some photos of Fairbanks for some of my online friends. I thought I'd share them with you here as well.
Last night we went with the Spivey's to see The Capitol Steps at the local auditorium. It was absolutely hysterical - just what we all needed! I would highly recommend this performance if it comes to an area near you. Check out the site; there are some political song parodies for your listening pleasure. :)
|Monday, October 11 - Lazy weekends and nothing but brown, brown, brown...|
The weekend got away from me again. Steve had a four day and we took advantage of having no responsibilities and decided to be totally lazy. And when I say lazy, I mean lazy. Friday we didn't leave the house at all. Saturday we didn't leave the house as Steve spent the whole day watching baseball and football, and I spent several hours on the phone with an Indian guy at Microsoft support. It seems that when Steve changed out some of the hardware on our computer (new video card, new keyboard, mouse, and printer), Windows XP had to be re-authorized. It should be a simple procedure, but it wasn't. Instead of a screen prompting me to re-authorize, I got a plain blue screen. After the customer support rep (who talked with such a heavy accent, I had no idea what he was saying), talked me through all kinds of odd steps - obviously scripted - I lost all access to the family PC. It is taking all of my strength to keep from writing how I feel right now. Let's just say I'm not a big supporter of outsourcing. If I call a company for product support and I speak English - I want to talk to someone else who also speaks English. Not some hybrid language known as Indienglish.
Luckily, despite the fact that I had nothing but black screen on the PC and it didn't respond to any keyboard commands, I was able to access the hard drive via our home network and my laptop. Guess who spent HOURS backing up files and images on DVD? That's how I spent my Saturday AND Sunday. Now our PC is at the local "Computer Hospital" undergoing diagnostics - which will set us back at least $35.00 (the diagnostic fee) and will take 3-5 business days.
Although it probably will not get me anywhere, I am going to submit a copy of my invoice, a copy of my phone bill (customer support is a long distance call), and a strong letter to SOMEONE at Microsoft. If I had Bill Gates' home address, I'd be calling him directly. While talking to a computer geek friend of mine via telephone, he commented that Windows 2000 was the last Microsoft Operating System with any kind of stability. He has not, and will not, upgrade to XP. Great...
OK... let's change the subject before my blood pressure goes any higher... Steve and I (and Sedona) took a long walk through the woods last night. I wasn't feeling very 'warm and fuzzy' about this walk, as he was taking us directly through the wooded area where the rogue cow moose and her baby seem to be hanging out. Not only did this moose charge and chase my friend Malinda and her family a few weeks ago - but she also charged Steve and Sedona on Friday afternoon. It was a bluff charge, but went on for a good 15 yards. Steve, of course, kept running - and fortunately Sedona followed suit. Why he wanted to go back in the woods is beyond me. I guess he wanted to prove he was some big strong warrior guy. *grin* Me, being not only an idiot - but also trusting that my husband would defend me from a moose attack - accompanied him. I did keep my eyes and ears open for any movement or sounds. Needless to say, it wasn't the most relaxing walk in the world.
As I wrote in earlier entries, the woods are brown and dead. The leaves that used to have some color to them are also brown, dried, and dead. It almost looks like a fire spread through the forest, now that the trees are totally bare. But it also allows me to take notice of just how many trees there really are in the woods. The aspen and birch tree trunks go off for as far as the eye can see - standing tall like rigid poles, without the softness of foliage to bring them shape and form.
|Wednesday, October 13 - The return of awesome sunsets|
During the long days of spring and summer, beautiful sunsets and sunrises aren't often witnessed. It's not that they don't occur; they do. But they occur during hours when most people are asleep - in the middle of the "night". Some of my favorite things about fall and winter, and the shortening of the days, are the incredible paintings of fiery colors upon the sky.
|Thursday, October 14 - Teased with snow again!|
This morning, just before I had to leave for work, the snowflakes came! Although I'm not too thrilled about driving on snowy roads, I am more than ready for snow to come and stay. By this time last year, the ground was covered in the white stuff. So far, we've been teased and taunted without seeing any sufficient accumulation. I really thought today would be different - especially this afternoon when the snowflakes seemed to be the size of Frisbees. (Well, not really... but they were huge)
But, by the time I left work, the roads were clear. At least the snow still clung to the foliage and gave the impression of a winter wonderland. But we've got a long way to go before I consider it to be winter. After work, I took Sedona for her afternoon walk and took a few photos.
|Saturday, October 16 - Happy Birthday to my brother, Marc!|
Today is my baby brother's birthday. Marc is the youngest of four of us. And today he is the BIG 4-0! It's so hard to believe that we are all in our 40's now. I can still remember our childhood so clearly...
Having three younger brothers afforded me great adventures in my life. We're all close in age, born in a five year span. Growing up meant always having someone to hang out with or play with. Rainy days didn't get us down; we had each other to pass the time.
As the youngest, Marc got a lot of attention. We all accused my mother of playing favorites with Marc. He was her Boodger. He got away with murder. For the three of us kids, Marc was the scapegoat. We'd blame him for broken furniture or glassware. We'd make him do things for us - figuring the punishment wouldn't be as severe for him. And he got picked on too. But that's the price you pay for being the baby. *Grin*
Marc was also enthusiastically recruited into being the 'test dummy' for experiments or not so safe activities that we would dream up. One time, after my parents bought a new washing machine, we took the washer box, set it up at the top of the basement stairs, put Marc in it, surrounded him by throw pillows, and convinced him that he was about to have a wild ride. Then we pushed him down the stairs. The box flew open as soon as it tipped and out came Marc and the loose pillows. He ended up with a pretty big goose egg on his head. I don't know whether it was loyalty to us, or threats - but he told my mom that he fell down the steps and absolved us of all wrongdoing.
I moved out of the house when I was 18. Marc was 13 then. I didn't get to spend as much time with him after that, as I was preoccupied with marriage and my own children. But over the years, I have grown to love Marc for his incredible sense of humor. My brother Marc is one of the few people I know, who is so hysterically funny, you can't help but cry with laughter. Being around him is good for the soul. I wish I could see him more often.... Happy Birthday, Marc!
The snow that came on Thursday is gone. Darn! I want the snow to come and stay! I want winter to commence! (I will have to read this entry in January and comment on it then; chances are that I won't feel the same way.) This time last year, Birch Hill (our ski hill) was open. Skiers and snowboarders across interior Alaska are complaining in unison. In the higher elevations (atop Birch Hill), there is snow on the roadway and it's slick in many places from melting and re-freezing. When Steve got home from work last night, he took me to the top of Birch Hill to watch the sun set. It was beautiful...
|Monday, October 18 - Beautiful sunrises and the beginning of a frozen river|
This morning, I met Susan Spivey at the PFC (Physical Fitness Center) for a workout. I have been so lax about going to the gym the last week or so. The change of season - with the shortened hours of daylight has pushed me into a funk of sorts. I consciously noticed that I have been feeling really lazy, but at the same time - I didn't really have a plan to do something about it. But then I'd feel guilty for my lack of activity and I'd say to myself, "Next week, I'm going back to the gym". And then the same thing would happen. I realized that at this time of year, I really do need the buddy system to stay on task. It is just too easy to let everything go to heck.
Susan told me that she's been going to the gym and using an exercise tape and working out alone in this huge exercise room where they keep those big inflatable exercise balls (one day I'll learn how to use them property). The tape includes aerobics, toning and stretching. Because of my asthma and Susan's medical problems involving physical activity, we fast-forwarded to the toning and stretching part. All I can say is that I began sweating immediately. I am interested to see how I feel tomorrow when I get up for work.
After my workout, I was on my way home and noticed the sky was a radiant orange color. The sun wasn't yet up, but the clouds were already changing color. It was 9am or maybe even a little later and the sun hadn't yet climbed above the horizon. I drove past my neighborhood and continued onto the gravel road which winds to Birch Hill and then through the woods to the one lane bridge. (Of course I had my camera - you should know by now that I rarely leave the house without it. *Grin*).
I stopped to take a photo of the Chena River with the orange and pink sky reflected in it. Then I continued to the bridge and got out of my car to watch the sun appear on the horizon. It was beautiful as always. I noticed that the river has ice floating in it. This is definitely a sign that winter is here. I just wish we'd get snow!
|Tuesday, October 19 - Winter is here!|
I woke to snow! And it continued just about all day long. We had 4-5 inches of accumulation, maybe even more. Driving wasn't the most fun thing to do, but I managed to get to and from work in one piece. I might be a maniac on dry roads, but I turn into a grandmother on snowy and icy streets. If I had to slow down to 20mph at time, it was for a good reason. There were really bad patches of ice everywhere and idiots on the roads who think they're invincible. These are the people who cause the accidents and get away without damage. I steered clear.
After work, I leashed Sedona and put on my camera backpack and went for a long walk. The most amazing part of our walk was when the clouds parted and blue skies shone through. It was a gorgeous pastel palette. We should have snow showers all week long.
|Thursday, October 21 - Snow and MORE Snow!|
The snow is so beautiful! It has almost totally covered up the brown. The roads aren't the safest, but as long as you drive defensively, you can get to your destination with a minimum of stress. I don't mind the slippery roads. I am just so thrilled to see snow again!
After work today, I played outside with Sedona. I watched a few little girls in the neighborhood sledding down the hill behind our house. The snow was still falling - small flakes; very fine and delicate. Even though it was in the high 20's, it felt warmer. I suppose mood has a lot to do with it.
Tomorrow, I'm going to the MOUT Site and taking some photos of Steve and the guys training. It will be a bit different than when I photographed them in May. Having a white snowy backdrop will add a new slant to things. I hope the snow doesn't mess with my exposure settings. We'll see...
Now for some photos:
|Saturday, October 23 - Mout Site Training and Snow Shoots|
Yesterday morning, I picked up my friend LuAnn and we headed over to the MOUT site to photograph the soldiers training in urbanized warfare. The mission wasn't as exciting as it was in May when I went with Susan, but I still managed to get some good shots for the Diablos (Charlie Company) website.
I wasn't as emotionally affected this time, although I did jump several times when gunfire erupted. At one point we were taking cover in a closet as the soldiers stormed a room where a sniper was hiding. Shots were fired (blanks), and in the confines of a small room, the sound was deafening and the smell of gunpowder was strong.
As the training mission was ending, the sun was coming over the horizon, turning the sky a beautiful orange and pink. It's always a great experience to witness our guys in action.
After our morning on the MOUT site, LuAnn and I took a drive around Fairbanks to shoot some snow scenes. We first went to the overlook at UAF to photograph the range. From there we drove to a park on the Chena River that I like to visit all year around. There's a house on a cliff overlooking the river and the range. I can only imagine the view! Here are several photos I took on our excursion.
|Announcement: I spent the last week copying my June trip journal (which was hosted by Live Journal) to this journal. For anyone who is new to this journal, Steve and I took a month-long trip around the state this past June. Our travels took us more than 1500 miles and afforded us wonderful experiences. We saw wildlife - to include bald eagles, we took a bear viewing trip to Katmai National Park and Preserve, we enjoyed hiking and camping and exploring areas we hadn't been to previously. All in all, it was a marvelous experience for us and convinced us further that Alaska is truly a great state to call 'home'. If you'd like to read about our adventure, and view the hundreds of photos I shot during our trip, go to my June Journal.|
|Friday, October 29 -The Lunar Eclipse and the Beginning of Hoar Frost|
Sorry for neglecting my journal over the last week. The week has passed quickly and it was easy to lose track of time. For those of you who check in regularly, I apologize. The past week has seen a continuation of regular snow accumulation, which is wonderful! Driving in it hasn't been too taxing, although I do take my time and try to avoid the maniacs in the huge trucks who think they are invincible. The days are so much shorter already and sunrise doesn't occur until 9 - 9:30am. After we fall back for Daylight Savings Time this Saturday, sunrise will be a little earlier, but sunset will be on us earlier too.
We were fortunate to have clear skies on Wednesday night, so the Lunar Eclipse was visible from Fairbanks. Lucky for us, as my friends in Anchorage had cloud cover, as did many of my friends on the east coast. I picked up Susan Spivey and we drove out to Birch Hill to get away from the ambient light. I took many photos to document the event. I used several shots to create an animation. The frames aren't all the same exposure so the 'movie' gets bright and dim in some places, but it's a pretty good high speed replica of the shadow passing across the moon. Click here to view it (If you're on dial-up, it may take a while to load. It's looped, so the animation will continue to repeat itself.) To the left, is a shot I took at the beginning of the eclipse - showing the reddish glow of the moon.
|Still Friday... More snow scenes|
After running a few errands, I decided to take the long way home - past the golf course, over the one lane bridge, and along the gravel road which leads to Birch Hill. The landscape is so incredibly beautiful with the frost and snow coating everything. Every direction I look in makes me catch my breath in awe. Winter in Alaska is stunning. I'm so happy to be here.