Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March 31--Happy Birthday, Aidan!

Today's our sweet boy's 7th birthday. Aidan is my one and only grandson and the oldest of the grandkids. From the time he was a little baby, we told him what a happy boy he was and he's always had the biggest smile, the cutest laugh, and an ability to charm everyone with those huge blue eyes. He's the most loving little guy, too, and just melts your heart with the sweet things he says. We don't get to see him nearly as much as we would like to, one of the hazards of living so far away...he's playing baseball right now and I wish I could go to his games and cheer him on. He likes cars and trucks and motorcycles and pirates, Go Fish and Old Maid, working puzzles, coloring and drawing, annoying his sister (haha) and playing outside in the sunshine. I don't have any of his very early photos on the computer--even 7 years ago, we didn't have a digital camera! But look how much he's grown. Happy birthday, Aidan! We love you so much and miss you every day. xoxoxo

Happy Birthday, Bonnie!

I was looking back at old posts and remembered that this time last year, Rich and I were stranded in Anchorage due to Mt. Redoubt blowing its top over and over again. We wished Bonnie a happy birthday while we were waiting to see if we would actually make it to Portland for a conference for my then brand new job. A lot has happened in the year since, not all of it great, as you are very well aware. But to focus on the positive, we are confident that Emery's treatment is winding down and she and Bonnie will soon be back home in Amarillo with David, that life will get back to "normal," whatever that is, and these months in Houston will eventually be a faint memory.

When I became a parent, I imagined only the best for all of my girls...looking at those three sweet little babies, I could never anticipate the hardships that might come along with the joys. In an abstract way, I suppose I realized that life would not always be rosy. But I never looked at them and imagined everything that could go wrong. Yes, I was a bit of a worrier about car accidents and life changing mistakes but mostly I figured the future would turn out to be happy and their lives would be good. I certainly never imagined that one of them would have to go through cancer treatment with her own tiny baby. I still can't quite believe it. To say that Bonnie has handled everything with poise and grace is a huge understatement. I know that she has had moments of fear and worry but she has been an amazing mother to Emery first and foremost, and a pro at taking care of any requirement that has been laid across her shoulders throughout this ordeal. She's kept her head and her sense of humor despite all. Happy Birthday, Bonnie--you are a wonderful daughter, sister, wife, and mother. We love you and miss you, wish we could be there, and hope that you are soon home to celebrate many more birthdays with your sweet family.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekend Update

Rich took this photo during some of the big snowstorms we had a few weeks ago. The eagles are perched on some crab pots.

Today we got up early and went to hear local birding expert Suzi Golodoff speak about birds of the Aleutians at the science conference. A few years ago, I took part in the annual bird count but we've been off island the last couple of times it's taken place. I would love to know more about the many different birds we have out here--I can recognize some but definitely do not have as much knowledge as I would like.

It was a beautiful day so we went for a drive and took some photos.

While I was still in Texas, Rich caught this whale swimming in the bay in front of our house. It wouldn't come up out of the water for him to get a great shot but it was exciting just to see one so close.

Back to today--some pictures of the Holy Ascension Cathedral, our historic Russian Orthodox Church.

Here's the Grand Aleutian Hotel, where Rich works.

And a bunch of eagles in our little dead tree forest

We had lots of good intentions today but I ended up reading awhile and then taking a nap on the couch. Rich was also reading and later took his own nap. Meanwhile, the day passed on by. He made us a nice pot of soup and we then got him signed up for Facebook. Yes, I finally talked him into it. :)

My cute little grandson Aidan had his first baseball game in Texas today. I wish I could have been there to cheer him on. I tried to call and talk with him after reading on Susan's FB that he hit the ball and got to first base! Hurrah, Aidan! But no answer on the phone so I hope I can reach him tomorrow. He will be having his 7th birthday in a few days--hard to imagine!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Our busy life

First off, I will give you an Emery update in case that's the main reason you are checking the blog! She's been in the hospital since last Friday but has been doing fine and they are only keeping her to make sure her infection is cleared up. They are doing lab work and cultures every day and all the cultures have been negative. Bonnie said they are both bored, but all's well. They've had some visitors, which cheered them up, and gave them something more fun to do with their time. Emery has been turning over on her own and Bonnie captured her on video, which is really cute! She put the videos on Facebook so check her page if you can. Hopefully she can put them up on her blog soon, too. My internet is so slow that I cannot seem to get any videos loaded from here. They were told they get to leave today and David arrives tonight so they will all be back out in Katy with Lauren and Dan. I know they will be happy to have David back for the weekend! I am assuming the plan is for more clinic visits and lab work till the end of the month (as needed) and Emery will continue her OT appointments as well. She also had a follow-up hearing evaluation and her hearing was still perfectly normal, thankfully. And we are just waiting for the MRI and CT scan to be done at the end of the month so we will know whether surgery is indicated or not.

It always makes me laugh when people complain that there is nothing to do here. I find myself constantly running from one activity to another and trying to decide what to skip because I can't fit it all in. That has been the case since returning home a week ago. Sunday was a little bit of a day off after getting right back to work on Friday and Saturday. I hadn't been to Sunday brunch at the hotel in a very long time (even before I left for Texas) so it was nice to see everyone and to enjoy the delicious food after missing out for months. We watched some of the health care debate, though we don't get C-SPAN which I would have preferred so we could just get it "unfiltered" without all the commentary from the talking heads. As a social worker and a dedicated community organizer and activist, I was thrilled to see health care reform pass, though I wish it were a stronger bill and I am sure that there will be parts of it that I am not crazy about. At the same time, I can't believe it took so long for us to do SOMETHING. Throughout my career, I have seen many children and families suffering for lack of needed medical care or insurance coverage. I do not agree that we are going to hell in a handbasket because we are at last trying to rectify the situation. Yes, I have heard all of the cries of "socialism" and the downright ugly and disrespectful remarks made about and toward our President. All I can say is that the same people who are demonizing him were the ones telling me I was unpatriotic and unAmerican for voicing ANY disagreement with George W. Bush. Funny how one's perspective changes, isn't it? Personally, I am proud of those who stood up to the fear mongering and did the right thing for the most vulnerable in society. If that makes me a socialist, so be it. After sitting at Texas Children's Cancer Center for 9 weeks, I can't imagine how anyone would not be in favor of health care for all.

Back to work on Monday and I'm just trying to catch up on many items that were unfinished or left waiting while I was gone. Rich and I went to the grocery store on Monday evening because that is our "Senior Discount" day. We ended up spending $300, which I believe is a world record for us. I can tell that he did not do a lot of shopping while I was gone! We returned to the house to find a voicemail from the Unalaska Court "reminding" me that I was to report for jury duty at 8:30 AM on Tuesday. Ooops. I knew that I was in the Jan-Feb-March batch of jurors but had been out of town most of that time and had totally forgotten that I was supposed to call in on certain dates to see if I was needed. Since I've been working part time, I am not an early riser any more so you can guess that I was not all that happy about the check in time!

Up early Monday and off to court. In a small town, even jury duty is a chance to mix and mingle with friends and neighbors. Fellow blogger Steve was there, along with a variety of other folks we know. It was chatting time for awhile and then we were all taken into court to begin the jury selection process. I've served on two juries in Texas but have never even had to report in Alaska till now. I am interested in the process and definitely think it's our civic duty to take part so I am not one of those who is trying to think of reasons to get out of it. In fact, I would like to be picked! This time my number was pretty high so I never even got questioned before they found 12 acceptable people. I was there all morning and then dismissed but have to call in every night to see if I am needed the next day. So far I have not had to go back but I'm calling in again tonight. We'll see!

Already this week, I've missed a movie about Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Grey Panthers, and the opening of a new exhibit at the Museum. In the meantime, my friend Tammy and I were trying to get our precinct organized to participate in the Democratic caucus by teleconference with the rest of our district in Dillingham. Between phone calls, emails and Facebook communication, we got everything set up for Wednesday night. There's a big interdisciplinary science conference going on at the hotel this week so many locals are involved with that. Oh, and I had a dental appointment for teeth cleaning and a checkup on Tuesday after work. Our dentist is an itinerant who is only out here periodically so we have to make sure we get in when he and his hygienist are in town.

Wednesday morning I got up early again and met my friends (and former coworkers) Judi, Darcel, Donna and Char for a birthday breakfast for Judi. It was great to see them all again and to catch up on everyone's news! From there, Donna, Char and I met with the newspaper reporter for the Dutch Harbor Fisherman who was in town (she's based in Anchorage...we have a weekly newspaper!) to talk about our involvement in the Health Native Communities Fellowship. Donna and Char attended the first retreat back in January but that's when I first arrived in Houston and I was not able to go. Our next retreat is in San Diego in early April and I am very excited to get to take part!

After the interview, the electricity went out. I headed for my office, only to find we had no electricity either, and, in fact, it was down all over town. It's funny how many things we take for granted and it's very hard for me to do my job without a telephone or the internet. I used my laptop to do non-internet tasks till the battery died, met with my coworkers about some planning and was about to go home when the electricity came back on about 4 1/2 hours later.

Then off to the caucus last night. We had a small showing with everything else going on in town (didn't I tell you there's way too much happening here?!) but we elected precinct and district officers, discussed resolutions to bring to the State convention in May, and people put their names into consideration to attend the State convention. I had already decided that I would not try to go this year since I have been gone so much and still have several other trips coming up. But now I am thinking about it....Sitka in May could be really nice...

Rich has been busy with the science conference, Wed. seafood buffet, developing new specials, and hiring new staff, among many other things. I've been to the Harbor View with friends twice to try out the fish tacos and they are fabulous. I am so glad he finally put them on the menu after I've LOVED having them at home for years.

I'm still sitting at home but need to get ready for our monthly interagency meeting at noon and then on to work! I'm sure there's something I am supposed to do tonight. The gym has been on the short list but we have not made it yet! I know, I know, you'd think that would be more of a priority. Did I say that my order of SIX boxes of Girl Scout cookies came in while I was gone?!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Alaska and Texas updates

I'm sitting at my usual perch in the living room where I can look out onto the bay and watch the sun come up over the mountains. The view from our front door is nothing short of amazing, no matter the day or the weather. Although I have lived in Unalaska for almost six years now, I am still surprised and delighted by the beauty of this place. It might be cold, windy and snowy on March 21 when some of the rest of you are enjoying 70 degree heat (and don't get me wrong, I do miss that!) but there is no mistaking the unique and lasting beauty of the Aleutians.

It's been a whirlwind since I arrived home, as I knew it would be. Work was hectic and crazy on Friday, since we had a lot of last minute tasks to accomplish before our annual Membership Meeting on Saturday. I was really happy to see my coworkers and to be back in my spot, though. My job is more fun than work and I still love going in every day. I think I passed my one year anniversary there while I was gone! I have no regrets about leaving the world of social services or taking a pretty big pay cut to work part time for public radio and TV. It's just a blast!

Rich always gets sucked into helping me with all of my activities and this one was no exception. My last few employers have been more sad about losing him (and his food) than losing me when I have resigned and moved on, I think. :) He was busy making us some big cookies to sell and running errands for me so I could get other things done. The Membership Meeting included dinner, a silent auction, Board elections and a slide presentation about the past year. Following the meeting, we showed the dvd "New Moon" in the high school auditorium. Most of you know that we do not have a movie theater here in Unalaska so everyone relies on rentals and Netflix. Once in awhile someone will sponsor a movie night on the "big screen" at the school and it's always a treat! Our community engagement group AKAOK had "blood" punch and supplies for kids to make "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob" nametags as they came in the door, and we ran a brisk business at the concession stand. Rich and I were excited for a movie date, even though we were not all that thrilled about vampires and werewolves and silly teenaged girls. :) I'm not sure what the big attraction is! But it was a fun night out, anyway.

Today I think I will finally get to unpack my suitcase and get settled back into my own home. The cats did not freak out and seemed to think I was just late getting home from work or something, not gone 9 weeks.

Bonnie, David and Emery headed back to Katy on Thursday and had appointments at Texas Children's on Friday. Bonnie said Emery did great at her OT appointment and the therapist was pleased with her progress, including turning over with just a tiny bit of help. Emery was also seen in the clinic for labs and needed a blood transfusion, which was not unexpected. What WAS unexpected was that she spiked a fever (which has never happened before) and had to go through the ER to be admitted to the hospital for an infection in her central line. I just hated to hear it since my biggest fear about leaving would be that Bonnie would have to take care of something major on her own. Luckily, David is still there but I think he is going back to Amarillo today. Bonnie says that the fever went down pretty quickly and Emery is receiving antibiotics, has been happy and seems to be feeling fine. I am hoping the infection clears quickly and they get to go back out to Lauren and Dan's soon. I know Bonnie can handle everything on her own but I just hate for her to HAVE to. And I know that our friends there will help in any way they can, so I am trying not to overreact. :)

I'm grateful for the time I had with all of the kids and grandkids over the past couple of months, despite the circumstances. It's hard living so far away and not getting to spend our every day lives together. I envy those who have their families all in one place so they can just pop in and out of each other's houses and call up for a last minute outing or meal together. Although I love our visits, I know that it is not the same as living in the same town. However, since the girls live in three different cities, it's hard to imagine how we can ever have that idyllic situation--so we will have to make the best of what we do have!

2010 has been a difficult year so far, and just when we think nothing else could happen, it does. While we have been focusing on Emery's treatment and recovery, one of our close family friends lost her husband at age 29 and Sarah and Miles just lost a dear friend at age 32. Both were so young and it's shocking to try to even wrap our heads around the idea that we can see someone one day and the next day he's gone. Rich and I can't think of anyone close to us who died when we were all that young--it just doesn't seem right. Our hearts go out to these families who will have a long healing in front of them.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


5:45 AM came mighty early. On the upside, I slept in my clothes (no suitcase, remember?) so all I had to do was wash my face, brush my teeth and hair, put on my shoes, and gather up all my electronics. It was a little amusing to think that I had no clothing and no toiletries, but I did have these items: 1) computer
2) computer power cord 3) Kindle 4) Kindle charger 5) camera 6) camera cord 7) camera battery charger 8) ipod 9) ipod charger 10) phone 11) phone charger. Priorities, huh?

My flights were fine; I arrived in Anchorage at 10:30 AM and left for Unalaska at 1. It was beautiful in Anchorage and when I talked with Rich, he said it was "flyable" at home. We stopped in Cold Bay to get fuel and passengers and the weather had become overcast and windy by then. We had no difficulties getting in, though, and it wasn't even bumpy. Rich said he was surprised to hear the plane engines overhead since the weather had worsened and he was already feeling sorry for me that I wasn't getting to come home. We were happy to see each other after 9 weeks apart! It was cold and snowing when I arrived--a big difference from Dallas the last few days.

Back to work tomorrow and I need to scramble to get a lot done for our annual membership meeting on Saturday!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's 2:35 AM in Texas....

but I am in Seattle where it's only 12:35, so here I sit, still on the internet. I am sure I will regret it when my 5:45 AM wake-up call startles me out of my slumber. Had a good flight, if long (4 hours), then a 20 minute wait for the shuttle from the Hilton (which I pricelined for $50--shall I remind you that we LOVE priceline?!) Of course, by the time you add in the fee for using the internet and the very pricey pitcher of iced tea I ordered from room service because I was parched when I arrived, well, let's just say that $50 was the base price and it's gone up a bit from there. Still, not a bad deal, huh? My suitcase was 50.5 pounds, which prompted the gate agent to say "good packing!" For some reason, they sent Big Blue all the way on to DUT so the hotel gave me a toothbrush and toothpaste and I guess I am sleeping in my clothes. No worries, I am happy not to be lugging that thing around.

So I thought I would do a little photo round-up of the last few days. I cannot get the videos to load so will have to add them later. Above, we have Emery in the hospital for her last night of chemo. Hurrah! So glad she is finished with that!

She says, "I've had enough and am tired of this!"

On to Dallas and my fabulous friends Karen and Kelly drove all the way from Abilene (3 hours each way) to spend maybe two hours with me. Now that's what I call friendship! Thanks, gals--you are the best!

Elle loves her new baby cousin and wanted to hold her....so sweet!

She is a girl of a thousand expressions! Cracks us up with her faces and her commentary on everything. We went to a toy store one day to buy Aidan some birthday presents and she talked the whole time we were there, describing the various toys and exclaiming, "I LOVE that song, Mommy!" while listening to the music playing in the background.

Drawing while balancing

David and Sarah in the kitchen--he cooked us a fabulous meal one night. Miles was at work and Bonnie had taken Emery to visit some friends. I have a great video of David, Sarah and Elle dancing...hope I can get it uploaded soon.

David and Miles--great sons in law! We have a lot of fun together and they tolerate the mother in law pretty well. :)

More kitchen action

Miles home from a busy day at work

Emery with Uncle Miles and Aunt Sarah

Sarah wanted lots of Emery holding time!

More cuteness from Elle
Daddy's girl

Sweet cousins

I had so much fun with Elle! Miss that girl already. xoxoxo
Can't believe my time with this little one has come to an end. I hope she will get to go home to Amarillo soon! Miss her already, too! xoxoxo


"Talking" to Mommy and Aunt Sarah

Sarah and Elle

Bonnie and Emery


Beautiful girls

Sweet family