Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Our Year in Review

If I had to choose a word for 2011, I think it would be "family," which makes me happy. We spent most of our time off island with various family members and that's just how I like it! January started out with a trip to New Jersey to help my mom after she had surgery. She had a couple of rough weeks but was soon back to her active and busy self and we found plenty to laugh about, despite the circumstances. We all have a warped sense of humor so were able to find the fun in an extended hospital stay, barf buckets, tubes down the nose and a tummy full of staples. It was also the first time I'd been with all of my siblings in quite awhile. My youngest brother Bill and I are shown above with Mom.

My brother Joe came in from Wyoming

My sister Kathi was there from San Antonio and we managed to go sledding with our nieces without breaking a hip. I think we are too old for this

but we gave it our best shot!

My sister in law Patty was a huge help and is always there for Mom. We appreciate her very much. Not to mention the fact that she has four of the sweetest kids around--Becca, Billy, Alex, and Abby. It was lots of fun hanging out with them.

February brought the annual Polar Bear Walk/Run, which I completed (as a walker, not a runner!) with my friends Tammy, Sonia and Melanie. We thought we needed it after a fondue party the night before.

Emperor geese
Part of March and April took us off island for vacation in California. We spent some time in San Francisco, one of our favorite cities, and explored Napa and Sonoma.

We stopped in on Rich's sister Vesta. She and Rich went through a bunch of stuff in the garage and we enjoyed looking at old photos and keepsakes.

Then to Mariposa to visit Rich's stepkids William, Hannah and Sara (and kids)

and met up with Vesta again while seeing Rich's cousins Mary Ethel and Roger.

We also saw my niece Ellie at Santa Clara U., our friend Keils in the Napa Valley, Poindexter-McHan cousins Susan and Kris in Los Altos, and Rich's stepdaughter Heather and her family in Nevada, plus stopovers in Lake Tahoe and Vegas. Whew! Oh, yeah, I was also super happy to chance upon a Graham Nash/David Crosby concert in San Francisco! They were fabulous!

In May, we found the wild horses and watched the hills start turning green. Rich won prizes for these two photos (and one more!) in his company's annual photo contest later in the year.

June brought a little bit of excitement with a city wide tsunami evacuation. Since we live on a hill in UniSea housing, most of UniSea evacuated to our yard and higher. Luckily, nothing happened and everyone soon went home.

In late June and July, we traveled to New Jersey for a week in Ocean City. My mom's 80th birthday was in January but we celebrated with a big bash "down the shore" with lots of family and friends.
The grandkids had a blast on the beach!

Ally and Elle

Here's Mom with all of her kids, all of our spouses except my sister's husband, all of my mom's grandkids and great-grandkids. Wow! With the additional aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, we filled 6 houses at the shore and had close to 100 people in and out during the week. It was a blast!

After a week at the shore, Rich and I rented a car and took a little road trip to Arlington National Cemetery and through Pennsylvania. We spent a couple of nights at a B&B and took a hike at Bushkill Falls.

After driving back to my mom's, I was thrilled to see one of my all time favorite bands, U2, in Philly before heading home. Another awesome vacation!

In August we enjoyed nice weather, couple of hikes, and making jams and preserves.

September brought me to Anchorage for a work conference, which gave me an excuse to go to Texas and pop in on the kids and grandkids for a couple of weeks.

I got to babysit Emery while her parents were at work and had fun with all of them in Amarillo,

then to Abilene to spend time with Ally and Aidan, their parents and some good friends, Karen, Sherri and Jim

and to Dallas to keep Elle and Beck while their parents went on a 10th anniversary trip to Mexico.

You know I love my Gigi time with all the sweeties!

In October, we organized our own little "Occupy" event to show solidarity with the rest of the world. I miss my activist days!

November was vacation time again--yes, we do travel a lot, don't we? First to Maui for a week of sunshine and relaxation--so nice!

Then to southern California for Jane's first RV adventure--I started out skeptical but ended up having a good time. :) One of the highlights was a stay in Joshua Tree National Park, where we enjoyed hiking, exploring and watching some rock climbers. This was the only trip this year when we did not see any family but we did reconnect with some of Rich's old friends, Dain and Crystal, and had great fun with them.

We got back home in December, just in time for Rich to get super busy with all the holiday parties and banquets at the hotel. Meanwhile, I hanging out with friends for a holiday dinner where Andrea gave all of us "Occupy the Bering Sea" hoodies. Her stepmom had given her one for her bday in June and we were all envious. :)

We've been busy at work and had a quiet Christmas at home. It's a cliche but I do feel that the time just races by and I can hardly believe another year is done. It's amazing to me that I have been in Unalaska for 7 and a half years!

Love this little snow family created by someone in UniSea housing!

Thankfully, 2011 has been much more calm and peaceful than 2010. Emery has had clear scans all year and is doing great. Nothing could be better than that! Baby Beck turned one year old, Emery turned 2, Elle is almost 4, Ally is almost 5 and Aidan is almost 9. They are the sweetest kids in the world and I miss them every day. I think I would have liked living in the time when everyone stayed in the same town with their extended family instead of being scattered to the four winds. :) But we are fortunate to get to visit fairly often and that will have to do till we can retire!

All in all, we've had a very good year and are grateful for our circumstances when we know that many are struggling. I hope that 2012 will bring positive changes to our country and relief to those who are having difficulties. My wish, as always, is for more peace and love in the world.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Finishing out December

This month has flown by! Rich has been super busy at work with all of the holiday parties and banquets but he did have most of Christmas Eve off and we had a quiet day at home, made a turkey dinner for ourselves, relaxed and watched a couple of movies. I also made pumpkin pies and cut-out cookies, which I am still enjoying. :) I talked with my girls, grandkids, and my mom. It's always a little bit sad for me on Christmas since we have no family here with us and Rich is usually working but I kept myself occupied reading, listening to music, playing Scrabble on Facebook, doing chores, watering and pruning plants, and eating pie and cookies. :) After he got off on Christmas night, we went to the employee dinner and socialized with the rest of the staff for awhile. I was off work yesterday but he was on the job so I just hung out at the house doing more of the above. After he got home, we went to the store for our Monday Senior Discount grocery shopping and decided to take a ride around town to see the decorations and lights. Some people here in UniSea housing did a great job on these snow people, didn't they?! Really cute.

One of the more festive houses in town

The walking bridge across Iliuliuk Creek

Earlier this month, we had a girls' dinner while we were all in town--we've been rotating vacations and travel for months! Andrea's stepmother had given her an "Occupy the Bering Sea" hoodie for her birthday back in the summer and the rest of us were highly envious. Guess what we all got from Andrea for Christmas?! We love our hoodies! Above--Melanie, Tammy, Andrea and Sonia.

It's been snowing like crazy and the cats are not quite sure what to think! They want to go outside and then they don't want to go outside. Ajax, especially, will whine at the door to go out, and then immediately want to come back in. The housing and maintenance guys must have been off for the holidays because no one came to shovel for several days (yes, we are spoiled living in company housing) and we had some accumulation going on! Rich decided to shovel the walkway and the outside steps because it was getting so bad. It was a big job but he was up to the task. Of course, we are happy now that the guys are back and we can be lazy again. We appreciate them!

I hope everyone had a very happy Hanukkah or Christmas and that 2012 will bring us all more peace, love and understanding.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!

To our family and friends near and far, we send warmest greetings and many wishes for a merry Christmas and a happy Hanukkah. May you be surrounded by love, peace and joy during this season and may all your dreams come true in 2012.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

The holiday season is upon us! Rich hit the ground running as soon as we got back; it's time for all the local parties and banquets so he's been working very long hours. I'm back at work and trying to tie up a bunch of odds and ends before the end of the year. My friend Melanie and I were talking about how much we love Christmas music and comparing our very long list of tunes on our ipods. We then decided we should do a Christmas show on the radio. We kicked it off last Friday with an hour of classics, oldies, rock, country, Texas swing, new artists, and Bob Dylan singing "It Must Be Santa," which we considered to be part of the "funny" genre. Above you can see our very cool newly remodeled radio studio. We love it!

I'm not very festive but Melanie is wearing her sequined Santa hat.

We had a blast playing some of our favorites and taking a few requests. We'll be on the air every Wed. and Fri. at 1 PM till Christmas. You can live stream at if you want to join the fun. :)

The hotel held its annual "Moonlight Madness" arts and crafts fair on Saturday night. Rich had to work a banquet so I took care of his booth till he was able to come and join me. It's always fun to see lots of people and catch up, especially after being gone for a month! We had a good night, selling quite a few of Rich's photos and some of our homemade jams (local salmonberries with pomegranate, salmonberry/ginger/lime jam, or salmonberry/meyer lemon marmalade).

It's a great place to buy Christmas gifts from local artists and vendors. Sonia and Melanie stopped by while they were shopping. I got so busy chatting with people that I failed to take any more photos. :)

I ordered Christmas cards so I'm anxiously waiting for them to arrive. We've received a few cards from friends but I fear that sending holiday greetings by snail mail is becoming a lost art. I get the whole thing about not using resources like paper and fuel but there's still something about opening the mail and finding greetings from family and friends near and far that makes me happy. :) If you're debating whether to send us a card or not, please do! :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Our Train, Bus and Car Adventure (and the kindness of strangers), Back to Anchorage and Colonoscopy fun

So we got up very early, cleaned up the RV, repacked our stuff, and returned the vehicle. Our sale tickets on Alaska Air had us leaving LAX the day after Thanksgiving, so back in Unalaska, we'd checked on flights from San Diego to LAX and they were pretty expensive. We then looked into taking Amtrak and that was much more reasonable, plus we like riding trains. However, the train station in LA looked like it was a long way from LAX so we searched some more and saw that we could take the train to Van Nuys and then switch to an Amtrak bus to El Segundo, which was not far from the airport. Anyway, we had to catch the train in San Diego at noon.

The guy at the RV place called a cab for us, which took forever to get there but eventually arrived. The driver was chatty and tried to explain the ins and outs of cab leases to us as we made our way to the train station. We passed right by the hotel where we'd stayed at the beginning of our journey and surprisingly, our fare was $13 more for almost the exact opposite trip. Oh well, we figured the cabbie must have needed it more than we did and it was the day before Thanksgiving, after all. He dropped us at the train station, where we were happy that we'd made reservations because it was deemed "the busiest day of the year on Amtrak and you must have an advance reservation." We went to check our bags, not realizing that Amtrak has a 50 pound rule just like the airlines. So, yes, on the busiest day of the year, we were those people holding up the line while we tried to rearrange our suitcases to get them all under 50 pounds. Whew! Eventually we waited in a very long line to get on the train and embarked. We were told the train would be overflowing with people, but thankfully we got on at the first stop so we had seats and not only that, but seats together. We enjoyed a very pleasant train ride and here are some of the sights I saw out the window as we cruised along in the Surfliner.

Colorful buildings
A lighthouse
Hmmm, what's this? Looks suspicious!

Swampy stuff
Patriotic volleyball players

More beaches
Palm trees and piers
Beach walkers
Bright boats
Lots of birds
People catching the train
The Hummingbird House Cafe
Close up
"Character counts" in San Clemente (Didn't Richard Nixon have a house in San Clemente?)

Van Nuys, where we got off the train and switched to the bus. We began having a feeling of foreboding when the driver acted like he couldn't care less and made us all load up our own suitcases under the bus. Didn't they used to do that for you?

The bus ride was fine but the second clue of trouble came when we stopped near fraternity or sorority row at UCLA and let some people off. I mean, we literally stopped at the curb like a city bus would do. But we convinced ourselves that it was probably just a convenient stop for college students and we would soon be at "the Amtrak terminal" in El Segundo. Did I mention it was dark by now?

We wound our way through LA and eventually came to a huge deserted parking lot that said "Transit Center." No terminal, no building, no information, no people working, no one even loitering in the parking lot. A young guy and an older woman got off with us. Luckily (we thought), Rich had written down the numbers of two cab companies since our plan was to call a taxi to take us to our hotel near LAX. While Rich unloaded our luggage from the bowels of the bus, I called the first cab company. The dispatcher wanted to know where we were so I explained we were at the Amtrak "transit center" in El Segundo. He said he needed a street address so I looked up and gave him the names of the two intersecting streets. He said he needed a street number. I asked the other people if they knew the address and they did not. I gave the dispatcher all the info I could come up with and he said the only transit center he knew was in Longview. I said we were not in Longview. He said if we couldn't give him a street address, he couldn't come.

We conferred with our fellow passengers and the guy said there was a Starbucks a few blocks away (not within our sight) so maybe we could walk over there. Rich first called the second cab company and was told "we don't come out there." The dispatcher asked Rich if he wanted the number of a company who did come our way, Rich took the number, but when he called it, it seemed like a sex line. LOL

So we are getting more and more concerned about what we are going to do. We are still searching for some sort of address and there are no other buildings or businesses within eyesight for us to use to call in. Should we start walking? How safe is this area? We had no clue. By now, the young man has been picked up and I start chatting with the woman, who tells me her daughter's boyfriend is picking her up. She volunteers, "Maybe he will give you a ride." I tell her I was not asking her arrangements to try to bum a ride but she says, "He's the nicest guy in the world and he will probably take you to your hotel." We tell her we would greatly appreciate a ride but perhaps he can just drop us at the Starbucks or another business with an address. She calls him up and tells him about us and I can just imagine what he is telling her or asking her as she tries to explain that we really are very nice and we're from Alaska and stranded. I am sure he thought we were con artists or worse.

Shortly, he and his girlfriend drive up, jump out, introduce themselves as Tom and Kathy and say they will take us to our hotel. They load up their mom's luggage and two of our suitcases in the back of their small SUV and ask if Rich can hold the other suitcase on his lap. Lou Ann, the mom, gets in the back seat, with me in the middle and Rich on the other side with a huge 50 pound suitcase on his lap. We were laughing and talking the whole way to the hotel, with them making fun of Rich because his voice was muffled behind the giant suitcase.
Our rescuers, Tom and Kathy

Lou Ann, the big hearted woman who took pity on us and got her family to give us a ride. They were SO nice. It reminds me that most people do want to help each other and treat each other kindly. Thank you, Tom, Kathy and Lou Ann. You gave us even more to be thankful for at Thanksgiving time.

So we had pricelined the LAX Hilton and it was great. We didn't want to rent a car for just a day and a half so basically hung out at the hotel and relaxed. They had a Thanksgiving buffet which was okay, though the Grand Aleutian Hotel in Unalaska puts on a better spread. :)

Our flight left at 6 AM on the day after Thanksgiving so we were up at 3:30 and off to the airport at 4. Ugh. Not my favorite thing to do. We flew from LAX to Seattle and Seattle on to Anchorage, arriving early afternoon. The rest of our vacation was spent in Anchorage as we had scheduled "his and hers" colonoscopies on November 28. We went to a couple of movies, did some shopping and eating and more laundry.

The doctor's staff said they'd call in our "prep" to a local pharmacy so we could pick it up when we got to ANC. Of course, it was not there. It was now the holiday weekend and the doctor's office was closed. I talked with a woman at the answering service who called the on-call doctor, who said he could not call us in a prescription since we were not his patients. The good news was that our doctor would be on call the next day so we should call back then. We were beginning to think this procedure would once again fall through (we have had scheduling difficulties a couple of times already). But I talked with our doc the next day and he called in our stuff. Hurray (I guess!)

Sunday was prep day and lots of fun with two of us sharing a hotel room, as you can imagine. Actually it was not bad and we did fine. The stuff is really nasty and I wasn't sure if I could handle it but managed to choke it down. We had to drink one liter that night and then get up and drink another liter the next morning before the colonoscopies. Ugh. That meant we were up at 5 AM drinking horrible stuff.

Usually you have to have an escort or a driver after the procedure but, in numerous phone calls over months, I'd explained we'd be on our own, out of towners staying in a hotel with a rental car. I was told that they would "hold" us for two hours and then we could go on our own. So we get to the clinic and fill out our paperwork and they tell us, "No, you cannot drive yourselves! You'd be under the influence! If you got stopped, you'd get charged! We have had people drive off before and we've had to call the police!" I was kind of annoyed but Rich jumped in and said it was okay, we'd take a cab.

Other than that, the folks were really nice and I was happy to be covered in warm blankets and told I could keep my socks on. I had halfway decided I might want to watch the procedure but once they gave me the anesthetic, I said, "Oh, I can feel that!" The nurse said, "You can?" and that's the last thing I remember. LOL

So all went well with our little procedure, we were put into a cab and taken back to the hotel, where we promptly crawled back into bed and went right back to sleep. Good thing we didn't try to drive because we were both pretty woozy. Took a cab back the next day and picked up our car, did lots of shopping and finished out our stay in Anchorage.

We were supposed to come home on November 30, went to the airport, heard from our local friends that the weather was great, and our flight was cancelled for mechanical reasons. :) It's always something! But we made it home on December 1 and are both back to work and busy as ever. It's one of Rich's busiest times of the year with all of the holiday parties and banquets for various organizations in town. He went to work at 6 this morning and just walked in the door at almost 8 tonight. Bless his heart. When his vacation ends, it really ends.