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Wednesday, March 2nd - Dental Woes and Bedridden

I know it's been awhile since I've updated last. I haven't been in the mood, nor the physical condition, to do anything but lay on the sofa or in my bed, since having a root canal last Friday.

The root canal area became infected, which then led to excruciating pain in my jaw, my eye socket, my cheek - my entire head. The antibiotics prescribed didn't agree with my stomach. Since I couldn't keep them down, I wasn't healing. I am now on a different antibiotic. The pain pills they prescribed (first Vicodin, then Tylenol #3, and now Percocet) also weren't agreeing with my stomach. Needless to say, I haven't eaten very much over the last 5 days either. And I'm still in pain. Steve took me back to the dentist yesterday, so I could willingly get a novocaine shot - which made me cry, but at least numbed my mouth, and kept me pain free for about 4 hours.

This morning I managed to keep down the antibiotic, and I'm in pain - but afraid to take the Percocet because of my stomach being so sensitive. The pain is horrible, and I now remember why I haven't been to the dentist as often as I should. As I recall, the last time I went I had the same experience. Dental Phobic doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about dentists - especially after this experience.


There are many activities taking place this month in Fairbanks. The Ice Art Championships open today. This weekend is the Nenana Ice Classic, when they set up the Tripod for the biggest betting event of the year. March 12-13 is Chatanika Days - complete with the Outhouse Races and snowmachine Tug O' War. The Native Arts Festival also is this weekend. I hope I'm feeling well enough to go out and about.

Saturday, March 5 - Little Mushers and the Native Arts Festival

After spending a week wiped out with this tooth pain, I managed to get myself dressed yesterday and spend a few hours outdoors. I'm still taking Percocet, but not as often as I was, and I'm still on my antibiotics. The pain comes and goes, but at least I can function normally. Eating is still a challenge though - chewing on one side isn't conducive to enjoying a meal.

My friend April came by to get me yesterday morning. We planned on attending the Jr. North American Championship Sled Dog Race. I have gone to many of these races, but this race had something the others didn't - very young mushers! In fact, the age group participating was 2-18. The majority of the racers were under age 10, which made for some real entertainment. How amazing to see such tiny 'people' handle a sled and dog(s).

The youngest racer was only 2 1/2. She was a real sweetie, with a steady look of determination on her face as she waited at the starting line. The 'under 7' group raced with only one dog, and her dog was just chomping at the bit to take off running. She managed to stay on the sled the entire way around the track, taking the curves like a pro. So cute!

After watching the youngsters race, we headed off to lunch. April had baby Connor with her and he was wide awake and being sociable as we enjoyed our sandwiches and conversation. Connor's only 3 months old and quite the handsome baby boy!

We visited with each other at my house for about an hour, and then my tooth started throbbing - necessitating another dose of Percocet. I think the cold air aggravated it. I napped off and on over the next few hours until Steve got home a little before 6pm.

Native Arts FestivalWe decided to head off to the Native Arts Festival at the university, even though we knew we'd probably miss the first group of dancers. Luck was with us, as the dancers were running behind. We arrived just in time to watch the first group perform. I took a few photos and then we browsed the craft tables. I saw the most gorgeous pair of beaver gloves and a beaver lined (and brimmed) hat. All together, the ensemble would have set us back about $450. Steve kept insisting on purchasing them for me, but I told him to hold off. I'd much rather have that $450 to spend during our vacation in July. Besides, my nerves would be shot if I had to worry about not losing a glove. (I'm so terrible about losing gloves!)

As luck would have it, my tooth began acting up again - which meant downing some more Percocet. Forget staying for any additional entertainment.... It's a good thing Steve was driving. When we got home, I went to bed almost immediately.

Here are some photos from yesterday's adventures:

Junior Mushers Junior Mushers Junior Mushers Junior Mushers
Junior Mushers Junior Mushers Junior Mushers  
April and Connor Native Arts Festival
April and Connor Connor Native Arts Festival Native Arts Festival
Monday, March 7 - Photos from the Ice Art Championships - Single Block

Yesterday, I met up with a friend and headed off to the Ice Park. The single block sculptures are up and have been judged. There are some very beautiful works of ice art, and I really enjoyed walking up and down the paths, admiring such creativity. I wanted to share some of my favorites with you:

Still Monday.... HAPPY BIRTHDAY Diane!

Today is a very special day. It is my sister-in-law, Diane's, birthday. It's a very important birthday, but I won't tell you which one it is, because when you get to be our age, you don't count years. Instead, you count memories. And you count the number of people who love you. And you count the number of people whose lives you have had an impact on. For isn't that what moving through life is all about?

I have known Diane (also known to me as Dee, De, Di, Sis, ... well - you get the picture!) for more than 20 years. When she married into our family, she and I became even better friends. I have so many memories of time spent with Diane over the years; time that we spent together - just us...

When I worked the graveyard shift at the Post Office, I'd stop at Diane's house after work in the morning, just as she was getting her kids off to school. We'd drink a few cups of tea and chat with each other for hours.

When I bought my house a few miles from her, she'd stop over before the kids would get off of school and we'd have lunch together. We always laughed together. I don't think we ever exchanged an unkind word with one another. I realized long ago that Diane was not only my sister-in-law, but a sister to me. With Diane, I always knew that I could express myself - even if expressing myself meant tears or anger. Diane is always quick to offer a hug or a comforting word, and for that I love her.

When my father got sick with his cancer, Diane did everything she could to help the family. She isn't related by blood, but her heart is joined to ours. She went above and beyond, and for that I will be eternally grateful. I couldn't be there, but she willingly stepped up and took the place of a daughter - caring for her family.

During the times my mother has been sick or dealing with various illnesses, Diane has unselfishly taken on the responsibility of driving miles and hours back and forth to hospitals and doctor's appointments with her. Putting her family on a temporary back burner, Diane would rush to where she was needed - rearranging her own schedule to accommodate someone else's.

Diane works outside the home as an "Errand Angel". She helps the elderly and the sick with their needs, whether it be preparing meals, going to the grocery store, or just sitting and chatting for an hour or two. Her heart is huge and her giving nature is a blessing to all who know her. And I am so thankful to have her in my life. She IS truly an angel!

Happy Birthday, De! I love you, Sis! Enjoy your special day!

Wednesday, March 9 - Light Shows and Magic

The night before last, the Northern Lights made an absolutely stunning appearance over the neighborhood. As I've become accustomed to doing, I jumped in my car - wearing only my pajamas and a coat - and drove down to the local playground to get some photos. I also took a few photos from my yard.

Last night, Steve and I went to see David Copperfield with the Spivey's and the Trujillo's. Before the show, we tried out a new restaurant (Players Grill). The food wasn't too bad, but we waited nearly an hour for it! Thank goodness we got there early, or we would have been late for the show!

The Trujillo's had seats down on the floor. I think that Rachael was hoping to be a participant - and I wish she would have been! We and the Spivey's had seats up on the first level - a good vantage point for the show.

And what a show it was! It was my first time seeing David Copperfield perform (except for on TV), and it was absolutely amazing. In addition to his illusions, he had funny one liners, and also some heartwarming stories. One of his illusions involved taking a girl from our audience, who hadn't seen her father in three years, and sending her to the Philippines! She got into a contraption with him, and ended up in the 'live' footage being broadcast on a screen above the stage - which was taking place on a beach. It made me cry. It reminded me of the scene in the movie "Contact" when Jodie Foster's character meets her deceased father on the beach when she travels through the universe.

If you ever have the opportunity to see David Copperfield perform live - do it! Now I want to know how he did it all!

Monday, March 14 - A scenic drive down the Richardson Hwy & Chatanika Days

What an adventure filled weekend we had! The weather was absolutely perfect for a long drive down the Richardson Hwy (it connects Fairbanks to Valdez - with a few little towns along the way). The best thing about this highway is that it takes you close to the Alaska Range and always provides a scenic backdrop.

Steve and I left Fairbanks at about 9:30am and began our trip. We decided we'd go as far as Black Rapids, and then turn around and come back to town - total distance, about 130 miles (one way). It was overcast in Fairbanks when we left, but soon the skies were a brilliant blue and the sun was shining brightly. The temperature had risen to 41F as well - making it a perfect winter day.

As is customary, Steve and I made a friendly bet on how many moose we'd see on our adventure. He guessed we'd see two (both singles). I guessed that we'd see three (a mama and a baby, and a loner). We were both wrong, as we saw four - a mama and baby, and two loners. I love moose and never grow tired of seeing them in the wild!

When we got to Donnelly Dome, we stopped and got out of the truck for some photos. The wind was whipping at almost 30mph - making it feel a lot colder than 41F. My hair was beating me to death and whipping in front of my camera lens, making for some huge knots. But I did get a few lovely shots of the surroundings. As I was taking the photos, I knew I wanted to convert many of them to black and white. The terrain and its textures, shadows, and light were in great contrast to one another - perfect for B&W rendering. I'm posting them here in thumbnail size. Clicking on them will open them in another window.

Some photographers take reality...and impose the domination of their own thought and spirit. Others come before reality more tenderly and a photograph to them is an instrument of love and revelation. - Ansel Adams -

I also took lots of photographs in color. The landscape was ever changing as we criss-crossed rivers and moved toward the range. It was truly a sight for the eyes and rejuvenated our spirits. I can't wait for spring and summer to arrive so that we can enjoy the wonders of Alaska on a regular basis. More photos:


This moose pair was grazing just outside the fence at Eielson AFB, twenty three miles from Ft. Wainwright. We drove fairly close to them, but they had their hind ends turned to us as they grazed. I rolled down the window and started yelling, "Here, moosey, moosey, moosey!" The baby turned to look right at me, which is when I snapped this photo.

This is probably the first time I've caught a photo of a moose calf head on. It's easy to see he/she is just a baby. How cute! Makes me almost want to cuddle him.

Then yesterday, Steve and I attended Chatanika Days in the tiny town of Chatanika - about 30 miles north of Fairbanks. In addition to the Outhouse Races (a favorite among the attendees), there was Human Bowling, Snowmachine Tug of War, and Lumberjack Competitions. We went with Brian and Marcella, and two other acquaintances: Leila and Jillian.

There were only four contestants in the outhouse races, but lots of people participated in the human bowling competition. Brian and Marcella also participated in the lumberjack competition and tried to beat the best time for sawing a log. They came in third - which was great, considering it was a lot harder to do than it looked.

We took a walk up to the old gold dredge hidden behind the tailings (rocks piled from when there was dredging going on). This dredge is now abandoned but was used up until the 1960s. There were snowmachiners racing on the frozen river and climbing the huge hills.

We made a day of it and came home exhausted. But it was great to get out in the fresh air and enjoy a wonderful Alaskan day.

Human Bowling (Brian pushing on left)
Almost a dead on shot!
This grizzled guy didn't do well at sawing.
Marcella giving it her all!
An Army Outhouse Team - the Strykers
Girls L to R: Marcella, Jillian, Leila, Me
Guys: L - Brian, R-Steve

Friday, March 18 - Ice Sculptures at Night and a Visit with Sled Dogs

Hello all. This week has been hectic for me. I had 4 hours holiday time coming to me (spring break) and so I worked two 8 hour days on Tuesday and Wednesday. When I work an 8-hour day, I just want to relax when I get home.

On Monday night, I went with my friend Dianne to the Ice Park to view the sculptures with the lights on them. They looked just amazing. I was saddened to see that my favorite multi-block sculpture was already broken - a tragedy attributed to the unseasonably warm temperatures and sunny afternoons.

This sculpture is called "Panda's Secret Garden" and won 2nd place in the Realistic Division.

The artists are from China. You can see the sculpture without the colored lights HERE.

This sculpture is called "On Time" and won 4th place in the Realistic Division and the Governor's Award.

The artists are also from China.

You can see it only lit with white lights HERE.

Yesterday, I took my friend Rachael, her sister Brenda, and her niece and nephew out to meet my friend Jan DeNapoli - a musher. Two Rivers has a lot more snow than Fairbanks does, and the drifts were very deep in places - which the kids enjoyed.

We got to meet the dogs, pet them, and play with them. The puppies are now 5 months old - too young to pull a sled, but not too young to run over us! What an exciting ball of fur they made when they ran together in their small pack!



The kids really had a great time playing with the puppies. These bundles of fur could easily knock you over with their excitement. They look so much alike - it's amazing that Jan can tell them apart!
Wednesday, March 23 - Accidents and Willow Catkins...

I know I've been absent for awhile. So much going on.

Brandon was in a car accident early on Sunday morning (early am). He rolled his car and landed in a ditch. He thinks he fell asleep at the wheel. There are a lot of other circumstances surrounding this accident and the behavior of the Onslo (?) County Sheriff's Dept - which make a good case for a lawsuit. I don't want to go into it in this forum. We are all thankful that he is alive. He had an MRI and CATscan and, besides some cuts and bruises - and a minor concussion - he's fine. Becky said his car is totaled. She's surprised he crawled out of it in one piece. Thank you, God!


The weather lately has been very unpredictable. A week ago, the ice sculptures were melting and breaking due to unseasonably warm temperatures. Over the weekend, we had a cold front roll in with high winds. Temperatures plummeted to -15F. It was COLD! The wind was brutal - gusting at up to 50mph in some areas.

Today was the first day in a while that the sun was shining and it felt warm again (low 30's). I took Sedona out for a long walk in the woods - keeping my eyes open for the moose who enjoy hanging in my neighborhood. As I was walking down a path, I was looking up at - and admiring - the blue sky. It was a gorgeous shade of cobalt, and the paleness of the birch and aspen branches against it made a lovely contrast. I began taking photos. Then I noticed that there are actually willow catkins blooming in the upper branches! This means winter is finally coming to an end! I am so ready for spring!

I've almost finished my online gallery site. You can view it at: http://www.susanstevenson.com/Gallery. If you want to check out my web design site, go to: http://www.susanstevenson.com.

Tuesday, March 29 - The joy of Friendship

Sunday, we had a marvelous Easter dinner with Stephen and Susan Spivey, Rachael Trujillo (James is away training), and Stephen's father, Butch. Susan and Stephen hosted dinner at their place. A delicious roast was prepared, along with homemade bread, rice, corn, and mashed potatoes with cheese. Everything was yummy!

After dinner, we all settled into the living room and watched "The Incredibles". I'm not big on animated films, but this one was extremely well done and very entertaining. We enjoyed it a lot. The Spivey's added a new member to their family - a bunny who has been christened "Stuie" (Stewart E. Bunny to be precise).

Yesterday I went to lunch with Shawna and baby Courtney. As always, lunch at The Cookie Jar was delicious. It was wonderful to catch up with Shawna; I hadn't seen her since before Christmas. Courtney is now a year old... amazing how quickly time passes. She is even more beautiful now and I had to get some photos.

Wednesday, March 31 - The end of another month

I spoke (via Instant Messenger) to Chris and Brandon this morning. Chris is now in NC with Brandon and helping him load up the moving truck. Becky and Pandora (their boxer) left for Salt Lake City yesterday. Becky and the dog will be staying with her parents for a while until Brandon gets back on his feet and can send for her. It's a shame they have to be separated from each other, but at least they're thinking logically. If there's one thing I can say about living a military lifestyle - it surely prepares us for separations. They've been apart many times before; they'll survive. Please keep Chris and Brandon in your prayers for a safe trip. They'll be driving the UHaul from Jacksonville, NC to Madison, WI. I won't relax until I hear they've arrived safely at their destination.

Despite the formal arrival of spring a week ago, Mother Nature decided to dump a few inches of snow on us a few days ago. While this made the world look pretty and clean again, it's really getting old. I'm not really complaining, as I find it beautiful up here no matter what the season. However, a little color would be nice. Six months of winter feels so much longer sometimes.

When I left work yesterday, I stopped at the river to take a few photos. There were ducks splashing in the water, but they got spooked when I showed up and flew off. I heard on the news that some geese have been spotted in Delta Junction. This is good news, as hopefully they'll be on their way to Fairbanks soon. Once the geese and then the sandhill cranes arrive, spring has officially sprung.

Steve and I have made plans for block leave - which is scheduled for June 25 - July 10. We'll be taking the camper around the state again, this time in a counterclockwise route. But we're thrilled to have reservations to go on another bear-viewing trip on July 4th! I am so excited about that!

While in Seward, Steve will be taking an all-day halibut fishing trip, while I go on a wildlife/glacier cruise. I not particularly happy about doing the cruise without him, but all-day fishing just isn't for me. Besides, I talk to anyone, so I'm sure I'll meet some very interesting people. I look forward to the photo ops too.