It’s been a year🎵

On December 19, 2021, I was standing in our bedroom in Douglas, Alaska, when my dad called to tell us he’d had a seizure. Subsequent tests revealed cancer. He’d been unable to find words when he was speaking, and the friend to whom he had been speaking had called for an ambulance.

As we would already be in California after Christmas, we decided that would be a good time for me to fly to Wisconsin and check in over New Year’s Eve. We had a nice, late night talking with my dad and brother. The next morning my mom called early: my grandma, her mom, couldn’t breathe and was asking for me.

I’d flown to Wisconsin to check in on my dad, but my brother and I spent that cold, quiet holiday weekend in the hospital with our mom and grandma, telling stories, listening to chill music, and drinking coffee.

An hour after I’d arrived back at my in-laws’ house in California, she was gone, and I was devastated. I hadn’t realized I wasn’t ready to let her go until she had already slipped away. But… I’d been there.

Even before all of this happened, we had been having a little bit of a hard time in Juneau. Our house was getting too small. On our best days we would talk about adding on to it or getting a separate space for Jacob to work. It almost never stopped raining, which did have its own mystique. But I was sick of it.

I had been talking to Jacob about how I was ready to move on from the mountain town when we got the call from my dad. Even when I had been much further away, I had never felt so far away or helpless as I had after receiving that news.

We hadn’t necessarily decided to make a beeline for Oshkosh. Now, we had a reason: to be around people again. Especially after COVID. Especially having just lost a main family member. I billed the move of our lives this way to mine, and, even though at least half of us were skeptical… we went for it.

Our house on 5th Street in Douglas the last day we lived in it. We’d moved in in March 2018, making it four years.

We’d moved to Juneau, Alaska, from Bonn, Germany, when our daughter Imogen, now six, was two months old, making Alaska our kids’ only home until now.

And then, from the first end table to the last mattress, we dismantled it, shipping to my brother and sister-in-law what we’d keep, giving away all the rest of our things, and our fish, selling our cars and eventually our house. That part was actually easier than I thought it’d be.

On March 18, 2022, I left Alaska with my own family and made my way back to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the place of my birth.

We had to make one stop on the way: in Kona, Hawaii, with seven 50-lb. totes containing the stuff we’d needed until the last minute and all the leftover stuff. (The stuff! I don’t even have a lot!) We rolled into Wisconsin at the end of March, a few days before my birthday. It’s been (almost) a year.

It’s only been a year but it’s also been a whirlwind of a year, the ins and outs of which I am only now beginning to process. I still can’t think about the kids saying goodbye to our crew on 5th Street. But we were able to stay at some friends’ house and travel with them to their family place on the Big Island of Hawaii, which we’d had planned before the move. It was good that it fit in between places.

Literally walked up behind them sitting like this in Kona on our friend Lennon’s mom’s lanai 🌺
Imogen at Kona International Airport on the eve of our departure for the Midwest.
Making up for all the times in our life we had gotten by with carry-ons: family of four using full baggage allowance!

I finished my MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching program) from Alaska, Hawaii, and Wisconsin, time zones be damned. We all got COVID upon arrival in Wisconsin. My mom and I went to Georgia for more days than I’d ever been away from my kids. From my Aunt Dana’s front porch, I started applying for high school teaching jobs in Wisconsin; I got one, in Oshkosh.

During the eight-ish weeks we were staying next door to my dad’s in a gracious, traveling neighbor’s house, Imogen and Ansel each successfully finished the year at new schools, we went for walks by the pond, caught turtles, snakes, and frogs, played in the creek, and took supper over to my dad most nights.

Ansel at Lourdes Academy 4K in Oshkosh, Wis., which he attended from April (he was still three) – June 2022.
Run-of-the-mill Omro Road antics: we moved into this house when Ted and I were also six and four, in 1984.

We celebrated dad’s 75th birthday with family and friends on June 2nd, the last day of the school year, and we also had a beautiful service with my aunt and cousins for Nana (“Gigi”), which did offer some closure, but didn’t make it any easier to not have her here to listen and talk to and be around. As grateful as I am that my kids have their own grandparents, it’s weird to be in this town with none of my own anymore.

We were able to move into our house on Knapp Street the Monday after Gigi’s memorial. Our house immediately felt like home to me. The first night it was ours, I turned on the country radio and washed every inch of the original wood floors. Around Christmas time, Imogen told me she was starting to like it here. This past week, she told me she is starting to like it better than our old house. It’s been a year.

Summer in Wisconsin is for cabins and lakes, and we were able to take part in a lot of that fun in Wautoma, Waupaca, Lake Wandawega, Manitowish Waters, and at my dad’s own cabin in Crivitz (twice). Family and friends visited from Florida, Minnesota, Illinois, and Germany… Jacob and I even made it to Driftless Music Gardens to see Charlie Parr and Trampled by Turtles in concert.

So this has the breezy tone of someone who has things all dialed in… but I do not. Dad is doing well. But there are so many aspects to his care, to the care Imogen and Ansel need with their friends and activities, to the care my job requires, itself a high learning curve. There is not much at the end of the day. I know I need to put down my phone and pick up my running shoes, and make some homemade dinners.

I was forty when I had Ansel: something my students would refer to as a “me decision,” it might have something to do with why I cannot do the things I know I need, except, apparently, yoga and the occasional loaf of bread. As it is the last day before spring break and I am a high school teacher, let’s allow for a bit of grace around the edges as well: even the “just teacher”-teachers are at their breaking point.

But since I’m also the lady who jams earplugs as far as they go into my ears, and sleeps in the guest room if Jacob comes to bed one minute after 11:00 pm and dares to turn on his bedside lamp… I can’t imagine who I would be at this point had I not had the time to fully inhabit myself in Istanbul, in Africa, in Greece in my twenties, etc., and would not have had all of that balancing on the other side of this husk.

This has been a long-winded way to say we were there and now we are here. We may, at some point, go somewhere else. And we’ll be fine, again, because we’ll do it together. But for now we are here. Our house, as already stated, is beautiful. We want to fix up the basement a little. The kids have friends and are excited about summer and we have a black lab puppy and two kitties and a bunny named Stan.

And my dad is here. Fifteen months ago, I was given a reason to believe he may not be.

The best time to text a grandparent is definitely when they are sitting right beside you.

The “K” Word

We handed in Imogen’s Kindergarten registration packet today for August 19th (!) start at Sayeik: Gastineau Community School in Douglas. She misses the Sept. 1 cutoff by less than two weeks so we applied for early admittance. When a kid should start school is of course a divisive topic as there are clear cons and clear pros to both early- and late-starts; we took the decision seriously.

Preschool is a developmentally special time for kids and I didn’t feel there was any rush, especially now that Imogen is happy in her new class: she moved to the other classroom at her school two weeks ago and will have only been there a month when she says goodbye to her teacher, who has already messaged us she’ll be “sad.” (I believe her!)

As always, this rambly post of mine helps me to make sense of what has happened/is happening and someone else is in the same boat as me. So here is what led us to scan that registration packet in, and it’s okay if you disagree/feel differently/have questions/want to yell at me, because this is what we are doing and why we are doing it.

The counselor who interviewed her told us Imogen is about where Kindergarteners are halfway through the school year in terms off writing, letters, listening comprehension, story telling, imaginative play, etc. So we are not worried about her struggling in that regard… furthermore, there is the risk that she would be bored/not challenged/have to find other, not-as-productive outlets for her brain.

We have heard anecdotally that there are no advantages to being the youngest/least experienced kid in a class; it is also proven that people learn by participating in activities with “more competent others” who provide support for part of the task that they cannot yet do (Thank you Reading Apprenticeship Framework!), which also applies to social-emotional stuff and big kids having been around school, etc.

Imogen has had fun at preschool and has met some good friends there and had some wonderful teachers, but we didn’t believe another year there would be as challenging or as fun or as stimulating for her as going to “big school” would be. Not the least important, she really wants to go, she wants to ride the yellow bus, and, I might be imagining it, but she seems up to the challenge already.

She asks me when Robbie, her baby in the front carry, will grow up. “Oh, you’ll just know,” I start out all sing-song-y, and pretty soon my 4.5-year-old is consoling me, telling me exactly what her house looks like so I can come there when she gets one. (It’s on Blueberry Hills!)

Imogen and Robbie in the garden, July 17, 2021.

So now my first baby is on the brink of biggirldom and I am a blubbering mess living inside a cliche. For some reason I was reading reviews of Pottery Barn kids, over-the-top bedding, and this mom was so happy she was able to get hers in time to take it to the dorm, and had a picture of her daughter’s bed and I was just like that is a picture of the last time she made her daughter’s bed!

It may be a little overstated; you obviously don’t say goodbye to your kid when they get on the bus for kindergarten. But I do believe they get off the bus a little different than when they got on, and that that’s a good thing. I’ve also been reminded with the help of Jacob who had a little different school experience than I did, that schools are institutions, and the sooner she starts, the sooner she’ll be free.

Winter and Im and their treats.

I’m sure I could go on and on about this topic but I’ll leave it here for now: we had a wonderful weekend with new friends and old, and after bathing a particularly grubby kid that kid put shorts on to go play soccer with our 8-year-old neighbor, who is going into third grade at the same school, and was waiting outside the door.

I’m not sure I knew exactly how it was going to go until, watching from the window after straightening up her room, hearing them laugh and giggle and play: they’ll be on the same bus.

UPDATE: The neighbor (now nine) goes to a different school! But so far Imogen says her own is “great.”

Totally practical Kindergarten shoes, right?

How you doin?

I’ve had eight counseling sessions, and I would like to share what I’ve learned.

Angrily blowing up when when something little goes wrong is usually a secondary emotion to stress or sadness.

Months of isolation have made it more important than ever to check in with one another.

If anger or resentment is felt, it is possible that “big” response belongs elsewhere; may be a reflection of something deeper (a side benefit of this outlook is it can make it easier to deal with the situation at hand).

A traumatic event can freeze/fragment/fracture time in a way that does not allow access to logic and reason as we know it; “okay-ness,” like spring after winter, eventually does blossom.

One ought to notice stress being alleviated, as there is a lot of inertia in physical stress; in “anchoring” oneself, one is less likely to be pushed around by stressors.

h/t Paetra

When the nervous system goes into fight or flight mode if affects physiology.

Make space for frustration, anger, confusion, and powerlessness; it takes too much strength to hold those all back.

Don’t let yourself be pushed or pulled around by negative energy.

It’s okay to be mad, sad, proud… all are working together as a team to make you someone different and special.

If you get “keyed up,” notice it with less “efforting: “any extra thing is a threat, and you have enough safety.

Learn capacity and tolerance.

Give space and grace.

If you feel overstretched, give yourself or someone else a hug.

PSA: Bullying starts in preschool

Imogen, so excited and keyed up to go to preschool she fell headfirst down the stairs on her third birthday when we were headed there, has been BEGGING to stay home to the extent it got our attention. 

There were a couple incidents dealt with piecemeal, and at the risk of embarrassing her or anyone involved who may happen across this I will just say the truth came out that she was physically threatened to act out and she complied against her own judgment.

After it had been going on for two weeks, she was able to tell us what was going on, who was involved, what they had asked her to do, what they told her would happen if she didn’t.  We listened to her, and she is LIGHTER. 

We talked to her teacher, who was either unaware or unwilling to engage, or both, so we spoke with the school’s Executive Director, who told us they’ve known about the problem for weeks. I wish Imogen hadn’t had to go through it alone.

She was carrying the burden of would happen to her if she didn’t do what they asked her to do, and worried she’d getting in trouble if she did do it.  My advice to her (take it) was for every mean kid there is always a nice one she may not even see. 

“She will come through it even stronger than before,” her dad says and I hope he’s right. After such a long winter, one ought not have to work so hard to see the spring.  And, as though it needed to be said, four is a little young to have to be dealing with this.

Anna girl with her favorite crocus, bangs half grown out, precipice of spring 2021.

Sunday to Sunday: Tuesday

Tuesday I got to model for Mary’s portrait series at her gallery! We’d been planning it for a long time and it was an awesome experience. Not hard, just cool. Some of the paintings and drawings were amazing, including Mary’s, of course.

Sunday to Sunday: Monday

Cross-country cousin bath claims cast, phone

A plaster cast and Motorola smartphone were unlikely casualties of a cross-country cousin in-bath videoconference Wednesday. A surprise gift from her aunt on Wednesday afternoon prompted Imogen Charlotte, 4, of Douglas, Alaska, to call her cousin, Stevie Jean, 5, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The girls “hang out” on video chat often, so it was understandable that when Stevie headed for her bath, Imogen requested to take one too. Imogen broke her leg sledding on Feb. 27, so mom managed her waterproof cast cover while she grabbed her sunglasses and Barbie from Aunt Christina.

The phone was only here for the time it took to take a picture with mine!

Everything was going great until Ansel Emmett, 2 1/2, wearing a Batman suit he’d also just received in the mail after preschool, stated he needed gloves. Gloves were found and rice was put on the stove, during which time the girls could be heard giggling.

As it would happen, Imogen had been ‘washing the ceiling’ (the floor, and, by extension, the phone) with a cup of water. It was noticed the valve on the cast cover had come open and the cover had water sloshing in it only once we had hung up the phone.

“Stevie was sad our bath was over, so I licked the phone and that cheered her up,” said Imogen, who has an appointment to get her damp cast replaced after school today. The bath was over, but not before a LOT of fun and laughs were had between the cousins, who live 2,900 miles apart and see each other in person once a year, and not at all in 2020.

The fate of the smartphone, a 2016 Motorola which was a wedding gift from Jacob’s friends, is not yet clear, but, having recently been adorned with a “Daddy Shark” sticker, its fate in the hands of his family seemed appropriate.

Everyone agrees there should be more cross-country cousin baths in the future.

Jacob is on the lookout for a new phone.

COVIDiaries-19: 2020 Highlight Reel

The year 2020 was when I started writing poems again. In November 2019, during the only two nights I have ever been without my kids, I went to a two-night writers’ retreat at the Shrine of St. Therese and met a group of women who helped me figure out what I wanted to say, and with whom I formed a writers’ group which is still going strong, meeting monthly.

My first poem since I became a mom ran in April. It’s about Imogen’s birth by emergency Caesarean, which was not what I had planned. The process of writing it showed me that I gained whatever power I’d presumed to have lost when the birth went another way by healing myself, my daughter beside me. After four years of trying to get the poem published, when I changed the title to include her, it was accepted immediately.

Also in April, my not-so-secret favorite month of the year, a poem of mine, “Christmas Girl,” about navigating toddlerdom, was published on bus #6660 in Juneau. I haven’t seen it, but it drove past me again today! Alaska Women Speak picked up two of my COVIDiaries-19 blog posts, and the piece I wrote about our retaining wall is meant to run in Ruminate yet this month. They even pay!

Aside from my artistic renaissance, 2020 has mostly been about improving the walls I have tried to keep my kids from climbing. Even now when I look at the picture of us holding the SOLD sign in February 2018, I can see so many things we’ve done: shored up and painted the deck, had the retaining wall and stairs replaced, updated both bathrooms, and replaced doors, just to name a few.

As far as work life is concerned, I’m going back January 11th for my second year in House Records at the Alaska State Legislature. I still can’t believe I had the perfect pandemic job, working from home for DW for five years, and lost it two months before the pandemic, at which point I got kind of a cool job… which then became remote. This year will start 75% remote as well.

So the biggest change yet for our family is coming as the kids are going to be out in the world, at their new preschool which emphasizes putting things away, TOGETHER, while Jacob and I toil away and he answers my myriad of computer-related questions. But that’s 2021: I’m getting ahead of myself; tomorrow is Christmas Eve and we still have to go shopping.

In 2020 I got to spend seven months as JUST a mom. The last two days culminated in making a cardboard rocket, which… looks like it was made by us. So far the kids have been to the swimming planet, the chocolate planet, the moon, and other places they can and can’t go. I hope they’ve got their wits about them and remember their manners. Fly off, little birdies.

See you all in 2021, here or, infinitely better, in person.


Off they go!

COVIDiaries-19: Adulting

We cancelled our trip five days ago. Postponed being the preferable word. What is there to say? We’ve already been unsure, indecisive, mad, sad, disappointed, and, finally, resigned. When we broke the news, Imogen just said “But I want to see my grandparents!!”

And then we told her we could get our Christmas tree earlier, and that she’d have more time at preschool, and she came out okay, though she did try to erase with a dish towel the word “TRIP” she’d written in green magic marker on her calendar.

The third wave is upon us, and Winnebago County, where my side of the family all live, is currently experiencing a severe outbreak. All gatherings with folks outside one’s immediate household ought to be avoided.

On the California side, Sonoma County is faring better, but only a little. Everyone on both side had agreed to test the week before our arrival and hang out with just us. It wasn’t enough. In the end, we could have done our trip and been fine, it’s even likely.

But so was it possible that someone in our family would have contracted the virus and gotten sick during the time we were there or because of our visit. Taking that chance, and becoming part of the problem, in the end, was not something with which we felt comfortable.

It’s supposed to be sunny and mid-sixties our whole week in California, no rain: that’s beach weather for these Juneau kids who had already been granted permission to go barefoot with Gramps, who had even fixed up bikes for both kids.

On the Wisconsin side, we un-planned a trip to our cabin up north and to our timeshare in the Dells, sledding, swimming, water slides, as well as celebrations at my dad’s, my brother’s, and my mom’s. My brother and I had been prepared to blow our kids’ minds.

It is not too productive for Jacob and I to go too far down these paths of what would have been. We had a Thanksgiving to put together, and tomorrow starts Christmas, our own. For today, we found high bush cranberries, the sun was shining on the mountains, the sky blue.

Everything Jacob and I made turned out great. Imogen said Grandpa Dusty told her her bike would be waiting for her in California. Of course, it will, but this pandemic is actually affecting our kids’ lives, and we are not okay with that.

Thankful for health and family near and far.

COVIDiaries-19: Give me (all of us) a break

Preparing to do our big travel “triangle” (Alaska to California to Wisconsin and back) isn’t quite as simple as I’d made it seem in my last post, a Norman Rockwell-esque portrait of us all packing one duffel. This morning, Ansel woke me up at six. I switched on the radio in our still-waking-up kitchen. They’re talking about refrigerated trucks again. Morguemobiles.

Of all the states, it had to be Wisconsin. My home state is at capacity, as though it’s a Hootie and the Blowfish concert and not peoples’ actual lives and deaths about which they’re speaking. “But how many people have actually died from COVID?” My dad asks. Two hundred and fifty-two thousand. In this country. So far.

The past few days’ cold, relentless wind making whitecaps on the channel, snapping loose boats from their moorings, seems to have been testing me. Even my only fall decorations, these little crocheted pumpkins, my nod to the spiced-latte side of fall, seem to be a chore to move out of the way for each cobbled-together dinner.

How many things in life are meant to cause happiness but actually stir up misery? In summer I shoved the pumpkins further back in the closet as fall was some distant idea. Of course they came out eventually with the ramping-up of Halloween. We bought in, minus the friends with whom we would have gone trick-or-treating, plus buckets and buckets of rain.

Experiencing a holiday buildup and subsequent letdown through a kid’s eyes can be rough stuff

We dragged the kids along in a downpour to the neighbors’ clothes- and zip-lined candy setups. Imogen, who had been trying to decide what to dress up as for a full calendar year, was a classic-beauty Elsa, completely saturated from head to toe, the double-lined fleece cape with ostrich-feather tie I’d made her, in the end, just weighing her down.

It was around this time we booked our tickets to California and Wisconsin, to go spend some time with our families we miss daily, even in summer, to have something to look forward to, to add another timestamp to our kids’ lives, to just get them off their own street and island and with their cousins and grandparents, even if just for two weeks. It would be enough.

So, after scheduling our COVID test, our family photo, dentist appointments for all four of us, and having to inform Immy’s preschool the day before Thanksgiving will be her last day, Alaska Airlines informs us we have to FLY HOME FROM A DIFFERENT STATE and I have to ask my brother to drive us to Chicago instead of to Milwaukee.

And underlying all of it is should we go? “It will all be alright in the end,” my sister-in-law assures me. “What’s the alternative?” asks Jacob, in a calm moment. “You tell that little girl she doesn’t get to go see her cousins?” he whisper yells at me while on the phone with Alaska Airlines, as I’m gesturing to him that they can’t do this to us or we’ll cancel.

Meanwhile, we had our first solid pine door installed. If you are thinking a door? try working in 1100 square feet with a two- and four-year-old who just wanna have fun! and hollow-core doors. I’m so keyed up about this trip and the goddamn virus and its implications every time the handyman Ron’s air compressor sounds I practically have a heart attack.

And yet. Ansel somehow manages to fall asleep while I’m holding him, the kids and me cuddled in Immy’s bed with the laptop. We’ll go through that new door, then make sure Ansel can open and close it. Some days will be more difficult than others. We’ll keep going through it, together, again and again, and again and again and again.

“A pumpkin in the rain” by Imogen at Juneau Coop Preschool, November 11, 2020.

COVIDiaries-19: Second-wave sanity check

Like many people, with the holidays fast approaching we were faced with the decision of whether to travel to visit our family members or “ride [the pandemic] out.” We weighed our options carefully. We can’t imagine not going. On what will have been a year to the day since we last left Juneau, we’re taking off again.

We found a good price on tickets with no overnight layovers in SEA-TAC budget hovels, and booked them with the caveat that we could always postpone or cancel, but as we’ve already told the kids and bought them his-and-hers headphones for the trip… cancelling at this point is unlikely.

Imogen at SFO the morning we flew from California to Wisconsin, December 2019.

As it’s possible we’ll both have jobs again by January ’21, it was the right time to go. So as has never not happened to me when I have some travel on the horizon, I’ve started to become more introspective, to take stock of everything, to see this trip as a milestone. I breeze past the diaper aisle; my kids now argue with me in complete sentences.

My crew leaving Juneau the day after Thanksgiving 2019.

How will we go to Wisconsin, fourth-worst state in terms of COVID stats, and not get COVID? Who knows. We’ve been careful. We will continue to be careful. We’ve also been stressed, and will continue to be stressed. At this point I’m more worried about my mental state when I have to say goodbye to my family again than I am about getting COVID.

Imogen asked if we were going to stay in Wisconsin for a long time. We told her one week. She said she wished we could stay for twenty weeks. Wouldn’t you miss your friends here? We ask. She names her friends here, then goes back to rattling off what she would like to have matching with her cousin Stevie.

It was the same last year when we left California; she was inconsolable. Even if it is hard, and in a lot of ways because it is hard when our visit is over and we fly back to our little homestead, it is invaluable that, at least one time per calendar year, these kids take a seat at (or grab a cookie from) their grandparents’ table.

Imogen and Ansel, Nana’s Christmas 2019

My neighbor walked by with her daughter, two years older than Imogen, when I was out shoveling. She said she liked my rabbit fur hat, which I bought at a flea market in Germany when I was newly pregnant with the four-year-old in the Disney princess dress light-sabering her brother as she launches herself off the couch. How fast it all goes.

This is how we will manage: one convertible car seat, one booster seat, and one army duffel at a time.

Great Nana “Gigi,” 91 (here with 19 mo Ansel), is already hard at work on Immy’s sweater!

BLM in my context

Anyone in Dr. Jane Carducci’s Shakespeare class would vouch for the fact that Carducci felt hostile toward me, but one had the courage to help. I got by by pretending I didn’t care, but it affected me greatly that she in her authoritative position would belittle me in front of my peers for seemingly no reason.

One day she actually scoffed while I was in front of the class doing a presentation. I could feel my face getting hot and I suddenly had to go to the bathroom, when Heidi Jo Jones, the teacher’s pet, asked Carducci, right in the middle of my presentation, why she had to try to put me down in front of the class.

The professor was dumbstruck as the class sat in silence, and then my student colleague turned back to me and told me to continue. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt a similar level of gratitude toward another human being before or since, and the incident taught me that it is not enough to silently disagree with mistreatment of others;

it is not enough to whisper under your breath you’re against an injustice while out of the earshot of the perpetrator, therefore not risking one’s standing: it’s the use of one’s standing, or privilege, handed down just as arbitrarily as another’s exclusion, that will actually affect change.

Breakfast openers

Sixteen-year-old Wisconsin Farms waitress me wouldn’t have believed that I’d never see Rita again, but when I left the barn, now a Kwik Trip, that was the case. I knew her slouchy leather purse like I knew my own mom’s. I knew her lunch: fish sandwich with Thousand, a cigarette, sometimes simultaneously; I was in awe of her. Eye to eye we’d conspire, her bad breath whispering how we’d handle the day. She got me drinking coffee: mixed with cocoa, the Poor Man’s mocha. We’d fill sugars side-by-side, roll our eyes behind the boss’s back when she swung through the door to the kitchen.

What would you like? From sunrise, to, on a double shift, sunset, catching a small glint through the windows of the barn-shaped truck stop restaurant at the intersection of Highways 41 and 44. Country music all day and who I was somewhere between there and the miles I’d drive home to my parents’ kitchen table and our pets. Eggs over medium. Biscuits and gravy. Cherry cheesecake. Rita one night, upon a fresh load of silverware being dropped in front of us after we’d carefully rolled what we thought was the last, stuffing all the forks in her apron to take home.

We’re done. Let’s go.

Snaps from yesteryear

Usually I know all the photos I have, but last night I went straight to an old hard drive after the kids’ bedtime and discovered a folder in which I found some that I’d thought were lost, and which made me smile for sure.

Who knows if it’s the virus or the changing of the season or the downward spiral of our democracy or the dismantling of the post office or the west coast burning or police brutality or what, but I haven’t felt well lately.

These photos served to remind me who I have been and how, in a roundabout way, I got to be who I am, a full-time mom in Juneau, Alaska, doing my best to support my husband and keep my kids happy and safe.

So these photos are from around the time Jacob and I first got together, when we’d just made our way to Istanbul after two months’ traveling in Africa (we first met in Marrakech, Morocco).

I rented a room near Cihangir, a district that would become one of the flash points for the now-famous Gezi Park protests of 2013. I had lived in Istanbul nine years prior, so I had a bit of knowledge of the city but was at this time still getting reacquainted.

There was a feeling of revolution in the air in Istanbul in those days; even though the trees being protected in the park eventually would be razed, there was a lot of love and camaraderie and feeling that the good guys could win.

Drinking wine with Ersin, from whom I’d rented my room, and Belen, who’d come to stay with me while reporting on the protests, on the steps of Cihangir during the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul, 2013. Photo by David Hendrix

What some protesters will do to a bus. Tsk tsk tsk. Photo by Belen Fernandez

The best, silliest dinner, in which I first met my future sister-in-law Anya and niece Stella. Budapest 2014, photos by Anya Lily Por.

With Ted and Jake on the way to Kas, southern Turkey, 2014. So grateful Ted and Ice were able to come to Turkey and I could share with them a small portion of what I’d discovered there. Photo by James Konig, aka Ice.

When I started randomly tagging along with journalists on assignment. Neither Jacob nor I remember where this shot of the two of us taken under the viaduct with our friend Chemi was taken, and it was only six years ago! Photo by Ricardo Gines

…and yet somehow I do remember, despite the raki (pictured) talking this gentleman at the camel wrestling dinner in Selcuk, Turkey, out of his honorary scarf… which now adorns Jacob and my bedspread. Photo by Ricardo Gines

COVIDiaries-19: Iris

Ribbon leaves reaching like necks of egrets into the silky dusk, just last month with its dark purple flowers, the Siberian Iris my neighbor called “ancient” was lopped

by my favorite garden tool, which I use to great effect, especially these days, wherein I control what I can

and when the bugs have bitten through, have a beer.

Bachelor’s buttons, long grass, bramble, my neighbor’s alder branches, wild geraniums: not much escapes,

and I do think about police brutality, the financial system predicated on lies, the tumor inside my aunt’s brain

which allowed her just fourteen days, none of them with her young grandson.

From my sink I can see my ugly mistake: the Iris had been done flowering, but it needn’t have been hauled up to the brush pile in August

just because it had been within my control to do so.

Some things that grow are just beautiful. We’d waited so long.

COVIDiaries-19: Walls

“It’s starting.” We’d been waiting for the wall project to begin for eighteen months, and officially since July 20th. This morning, the excavation crew, the first of two teams of contractors, started speed walking around at 7:30 and the kids and I watched Jacob confirm from Immy’s window we would still be able to use our steps and that they were going to put in a full day. When we got home from our adventure, the neighbor’s concrete steps and our maple tree were gone. Around 3:30 p.m., the wall came down.

We’ve been talking about the wall a lot; if you know us, sorry about that. Home improvement projects (even scary, financially treacherous ones) are, like dreams, infinitely more interesting to those at the helm. But alas. In case anyone doesn’t know, our retaining wall is/had been failing, and it is going to cost about what we put down as a down payment on our house to replace it. Our house is on the mountain side and said mountain is being dug out and terraced back. We also live in a rain forest, and ever since they dug it out, it has been pouring.

We’re not going to get much sleep tonight. I just asked Jacob where he was at on a scale of one to ten as far as worry that we’ll slip and he said two; if he’d have said five or higher I’d either have us all sleep in our bed or I would sleep on the kids’ floor. Imogen told me today that she sometimes thinks there are ghosts in her room when she is in there by herself and I told her there was nothing to be scared about, so it would be better if I spent the night in my own bed rather than beside her on the floor.

I just wish it would stop raining. We’ve spent so much time, so many whole nights, talking about this project: the lack of communication, the financing, the delays… and now it is finally started and the weather is making it just as tenuous and nerve-wracking as everything else (i.e., the pandemic). But there are good things. Nana (mom) is coming to visit at the end of the month, she just told us today; it is good to know at any age that your mom will do what she can to come and see you (and her grandkids).

Juneau has received record rainfall this summer, and Imogen talks about flora here with such gusto and vigor even the most uninspired among us pay attention. She even asked me today if I remembered when we used to say, as winter made the long, arduous journey toward spring, it’s getting gre-en, which of course I do remember. And yet, I will thank her for the reminder. Winter turns to spring, even within our worries. There are ghosts, and terrible things that happen, but we needn’t live in fear.


COVIDiaries-19: Christmas in May

Jacob did our quarterly (seriously – some employees are mad about it, but we don’t have a membership and just use gift cards because we don’t go that much) Costco run last night and I have to say I was looking forward to breaking down those boxes before he even got home. After two months of quarantine I’ve grown both accustomed to and very grateful for being able to put something on “the list” (whiteboard on fridge) and having it appear. I’ve even been testing it lately (“huge organic lotion”): still everything and more (giant unsalted cashews, kim chi for days) is there.

Of course, having our shelves stocked and even our woodpile stacked doesn’t help the anxiety that is the most prevalent part of the “new normal.” An art therapist on a radio show recommended family members draw each others’ portraits without looking up from the page, opining never-before-seen traits would be revealed. The show’s host, without missing a beat, said “Even after two months quarantining together, wow!” I had smile at that. People are just pulling out whatever they can; I remember that exercise from fifth grade and it was a riot, I have to give the therapist that, but it’s not much going up against this level of stress. (Still, we’ll probably do it.)

Today, Jacob and I had dentist appointments back to back, rescheduled from March, and, after a bit of discussion realized the non-kid car would go to the first appointment, and the kid car and kids would be driven to the second appointment and driven home by the first patient. It was raining, which was wonderful and needed in the kind of way only rain can be. My 90 minutes away from the kids was actually lovely (the hygienist is a friend), and trading places in the car afterwards and seeing them in their car seats, smiling in their raincoats with hip hop playing, made my heart surge.

We dropped a little package we’d put together for a friend on our way home, two masked moms exchanging bags in the driveway of a house on which I had recently come to rely as a relaxation and decompression point. She mentioned doing an online happy hour. We probably will. But still. Imogen was given a little stuffed kitty (itself quarantined for three weeks) because my friend probably knew not being able to get out of the car would be a thing; she’s sleeping with that kitty as I type this. Imogen and the same friend, it’s worth mentioning, had a virtual pool party on Sunday.

When we got home Imogen wanted to make Christmas cookies: I envisioned my mom’s recipe and went through my ingredient list, confirming I did have everything; but I had taken the whole day off and had a job application all set up waiting to finish, so I reminded her we had just made chocolate chip cookies on Monday and set them up with paints (which was probably just as big of an ordeal as cookies). Then I waited just a little too long to put Ansel down for his nap so his drifting off coincided with Jacob’s arrival from Fred Meyer. The excitement of a few new clothing items, construction paper, and a new sketchbook meant Ansel was not going down for his nap, and the kids watched Peppa Pig while Jacob worked and I applied for a job as a paraeducator (teacher’s aide) with the Juneau School District.

When the rain stopped, Jacob put Ansel down easily and early, and Imogen and I watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which can be found on YouTube in its entirety.  As usual, she was tickled pink by Cindy Lou Who, as one ought to be. And Christmas is not really about things, and everything will still happen without stuff. But making a grocery run after bedtime, and editing someone’s story from the dog food aisle at Fred Meyer because your daughter needed some new dresses, is love: maybe not hand to hand (we’re not there yet), but definitely heart to heart.

Happy four year wedding anniversary (tomorrow) to my love Jaco!!

COVIDiaries-19: When the House of Cards Fell

During my time as a copy editor I read thousands of news articles.  In December 2019 I was laid off and had to get a real job.  The last articles I edited were about the novel Coronavirus.  I worked in the Capitol just under two months before begging to work from home again.  I couldn’t believe I had set everything up only for it to fall down.

My husband and I argued about the time we were allowed to work and the time we were allowed to sleep, and everything in between.  But then we’d have a couple of easy days, where the kids would play and we would work, and it occurred to me what we had in fact set up was a little stress factory of our own making: we had set up a house of cards.

Go get her, Beeb! Following in Imogen’s actual footsteps.

When “Mom started working at the Capitol,” she (I) had to be at work at 7:30, which meant I had to leave home at 7:10 at the latest (after scraping windows – this was January) and wasn’t able to help get the kids ready for whichever combination of care providers they were headed (three for Immy, three for Beeb, one for both together).

We had an hour together in the morning, during which time I would be worried about getting out the door. Later, I would be the last mom at pickup, no dinner plan would somersault into bedtime, and another day would be over. Three hours together per weekday, and that wasn’t even taking into consideration how much outsourcing cost.

We had a “joke” during that time that the weekends were harder than the weeks: our family quickly grew accustomed to being apart and, once reunited, we would either over-plan or spin our wheels or both. Frustration would abound and we would find ourselves looking forward to staring at our computers in relative silence again… separately.

Fast-forward to mid-April: we are both still working full time from home. We have no childcare because it doesn’t exist, but we have realized when we both work from home we can do without it. When the weekend rolls around we grab a few things and go to the beach for as long as we want. It’s the easy time again, the way it’s supposed to be.

Filling a Ford engine with sand

Obviously, we weren’t able to do this a month ago when we were obligated to go in to work. But I know I am not alone in saying I wasted a lot of time at the office. I am much more productive at home, where I can take a break and pitch in when I am needed and where it’s obvious when I am not.  My husband, as it turns out, never had to go in!

It is worth stating at this point that since we moved to Juneau in 2016 I have felt pretty isolated at baseline. It feels like a fail when, after a raucous holiday video conference with cousins and grandparents, our house is a different level of quiet. Video is a pretty meager substitute for spending time together with family, as everyone is now able to see.

We are making our own way, my husband tells me in these moments, as we bundle the kids up for yet another walk. You are making your own way, say our family members in California and Wisconsin. And of course, the nature: the ocean, the mountains, the view.  It is fulfilling to be surrounded by such dramatic beauty, even if one has had to learn it.

“If I didn’t have a brother I’d be sad.”

The virus, awful, bewildering, and consuming as it is, has made some of my guilt go away. Mandated distancing has allowed me to relax about my kids not seeing family; I’ve been able to mom without feeling as though our choice to be third-staters has left our kids craving, stunted without the precious grandparent time that informed every aspect of my own child- and young adulthood.

This pause is a deep breath for everyone. It took me a while to see that personally, because I was in a necessary-but-indulgent I-have-to-go-see-ya mode. And just when we realized we didn’t need the racing or the expenditure, the talk has returned to reopening: before the worst of it hits; before it has run its course.  I feel physically threatened by the impending media onslaught.

Yes, I want to be able to donate to The Salvation Army and pick up my inter-library loan books and participate in life. I don’t want to have social anxiety about my mask or the post office or my daughter waiting outside. But I am also not much of a consumer and I don’t want things to go back to the way they were.

And this is not just me, obviously, doing my loop-de-loops around Juneau.  In Nairobi, from a skyscraper shaped like a glass bullet, the jagged peaks of Mt. Kenya are visible.  In India and Pakistan, the Himalayas can be seen. Los Angelenos are breathing better air than they have in decades.

We’re being given a chance. We might do what’s right, but my guess is we’ll squander it. Until whatever happens happens, we will be at the beach, at home by the fire, repeat.

Ansel did the trail to the beach and back to the house with no stroller involved. Huge dude!

Imogen, Baby Slothy, and a baby eagle feather.

Making a cake.

COVIDiaries-19: Alpenglow

The three-and-a-half year old tells the almost-two-year-old a story, and gets him an apple from the fridge, while we shower, which is also the time we talk.

Turkey is spiking, 50,000 cases and over 900 deaths in the past month.

My grandmother, who is 90, looks out the window of her Wisconsin nursing home room, surrounded by her most valuable possessions, her bed made without a ripple.

Refrigerated trucks idle outside New York hospitals.

Pink mountain! My daughter runs full speed from her room, almost falling, bringing the news: out her window, sunlight reflects off clouds.

Now there is community transmission in Juneau, a new term for everyone, plus at least one case in the prison, where the luxury of distancing is not afforded.

I go to the window. The mountain is indeed pink, and it makes me proud of my kid and of myself for noticing, caring, existing.

COVIDiaries-19: #hunkerdownjuneau

This week I was at a loss for words so I uploaded some of my favorite pictures from the week including this sweet one of Lucy and Imogen in our guest room. Immy makes time I would say 3-5 times a day to check in with Lucy. The love is mutual!

We got out on our beloved Treadwell [Historic Mine Trail] for the first time on my birthday morning! They insisted on riding in the stroller together even though they almost don’t fit. Also, Fruit by the Foot for the win.

Imogen satisfies her desire to have a garage while Ansel takes notes. (Picasso Tiles for the toy-win)

On my birthday eve we made them bundle up and bribed them with gumdrops to sit down by the lake at Fish Creek for 15 minutes. Parenting win.

Imogen (and another driftwood gun… can you tell she hangs out with a lot of boys?) with Jacob and Ansel in the background walking toward the channel on I think the last day we had to wear snow pants. Though we might not have known it then.

Stepping out our back door to do the family scream thing. Sorry neighbors, we gotta.

His birthday is next!

What it’s all about.

COVIDiaries-19: F*ck the Establishment

No longer as worried about myself or my family getting sick from COVID-19, I briefly considered the feeling my friend aptly described as an armadillo sitting on her chest may be grief; now I understand: it’s anger. Yeah, I’m mad.

I’d been in sitting up in a rented upper in 2003, trying to relax between a night of tending bar and a morning of assistant-teaching preschool when I heard the U.S. had started dropping bombs on Iraq. I’d come up as short of breath I feel now.

When I moved into my apartment in Uptown, Minneapolis, in 2008, I ate catering leftovers from the Republican National Convention (RNC): even though the convention was at about one-eighth capacity, they’d bought out the entire restaurant. So. Much. Waste.

In 2013 in Istanbul I’d had to dance around riot police blocking my street on my way to get copies. When I was done teaching, a tear gas canister went off right in front of me and there I was in black, running with the capulcular, not looking back.

By 2018 I was in my house with my husband and two kids in Douglas, Alaska, tele-editing the German news website and making mostly comfortable mortgage payments. Around Christmas, just before I would begin editing my last articles for the website, which were about something called the Corona virus, I got an email my position would be eliminated.

A friend in the Alaska State Capitol helped me make some contacts and I was able to start working as a House secretary the day after the website job ended. It took four different configurations of childcare but Jacob and I figured out how we could both work full time.

And then, the closures: first our daughter’s preschool, then our son’s daycare, and finally our daughter’s daycare; all of our lovely places.  It was the right decision, of course, but at a cost to our kids, who are very social and miss them, and yet… many places haven’t closed, managing to devalue those that have, in accordance with Governor Mike Dunleavy’s cowardly half-measures.

He’s gonna shut it down, I have been saying for over a week about the governor whose recall petition was graciously delivered to me in my car when my son was sleeping, when his decisions were in a way so much more theoretical and not so heavy-hearted. I really have no idea why I expected him to do the right thing.

Last night, The Alaska State Employees Association said office workers who need the jobs the most are the most vulnerable. Public health crisis notwithstanding, we can’t #stayhome if it has not been mandated, and we need the money, end of story.

The U.S. drops bombs; you leave the country and make lifelong friends. You take all the food you can carry from the RNC, give half to your brother. The police burn your tent when you are sleeping in a park to try to protect it. You run away with your friends, laughing.

But this is something completely different than any of these aforementioned scenarios in which I had F*ck the Establishment moments once every five years and then returned to regular life: COVID-19 is regular life, and it hits a bit harder when my daughter asks about her teacher, still not able to understand where she went.

Grocery shopping on my lunch break, red-rimmed, masked folks steer clear of me in shelf-stripped Foodland. I am dazed, seeing for the first time the emptiness, and feeling the widespread panic, when I gravitate toward laughter among the deli workers; I find my voice catches when I thank them for still making sushi.

Back to work.



COVIDiaries-19: Is this how it begins?

It’s probably been [in Juneau] for awhile, my colleague surmises for the second day in a row, adding that in the U.S. and in Alaska in particular we don’t have enough test kits to know for sure that it is not, and people aren’t being tested for colds.

Sorry, I just got back from China, a man said after he got off the elevator and sneezed. He meant to be funny, but it wasn’t. I now walk the nine flights up, because of the fresh air and because no one is sneezing on me.

I guess I should have ordered extra of everything a week ago, the grocery store manager says with what registers as desperation.  I’m on my lunch break and get a text from Jacob, who is allowed to work from home but can’t get Ansel to nap.

He co-produces the top story on ANN about the U.S./Canada border closure when I get home.  I want to #stayhome, too, of course, and do silly projects with, and protect, my babies, who have been taking turns screaming out in the night.

It’s not serious until the bars in Wisconsin close was my meme-tra last Saturday, joking over corned beef and cabbage… until it happened when WI hit 72 confirmed cases three days later, on Tuesday.

Gardening is not cancelled is my new one. In front of the Capitol, next to the only door in which workers are “allowed,” yellow crocuses stubbornly push their way into the world despite it all, the hardy little bastards.

My girl Sunday

Getting ready for the party starts when I bring her a clean shirt and she barrel rolls off the side of the bed, getting her leg stuck between the frame and the wall, then insists I change her into a dress because her friend might be wearing a dress (that friend, as it turned out, had come from snowboarding and was wearing a base layer).

When I ask her to put her boots on she runs into the closet, but we finally get down to the car and soon she’s kicking her brother’s seat, and then she kicks his fingers and he cries. By the time we’re on the main road they’re both crying.

She’s saying Mom Mom MOM and I’m just looking straight ahead not changing my expression. It’s snowing and slushy and I don’t feel like indulging her. She keeps it up until we get to the turn off to the party and I head the other way, back toward home. She knows it and tells me she’s going to calm down.

We get to the party at the gymnastics center and she snags some butterfly wings someone had left out, and her friend won’t say hi to her until she has some too so we find some more and they run around in circles like ribbons. I’m dizzy when she runs over and gives me a big hug.

We hear the happy birthday song and she almost loses it again because she doesn’t have her wings on even though she had just asked me to take them off. She sits down and has a cupcake and is incredulous that her friend is allowed to have two.

Leaving is almost as big a scene as arriving. She doesn’t want ANYONE to go. The birthday boy’s mom, who is also there with her 1.5 week old baby girl, finally calms Immy down, telling her everyone has to go, gets her some chips, helps me get coats.

When I get them buckled in and look in the mirror I am sweating and have frizzy hair and boogers. Having lost my center would have been a nice way to put it.

It’s done snowing and I take a sip of my coffee even though it’s five p.m. The sun is setting behind the clouds. It’s actually orange and I realize I don’t remember the last time I’d seen that.

When we get home Jacob has grocery shopped and made some halibut our neighbor gave us. He puts the kids to bed and I clean the kitchen. When we debrief, the main idea is that the past month has been just as hard for our kids as it has been for us.

I had been saying at the party that Imogen’s situation has changed the least of the four of us: now, as my husband tells me, I’m different, not in a bad way, but I have less time to do what I was doing at the time, cleaning and organizing the kid play kitchen; i.e., being around at every moment for my kids, and it hits me that my starting a full time job, to my kid, is another way (of many) that I will show her that I am not just hers.

How was it? Jacob had asked our daughter when we got home.

I wore butterfly wings and hugged mom, Imogen had said.

So, that was her takeaway.  This time, I’m going to make it mine too.

That hug, and the sunset.


Another beloved transition

I always feel the need to post when transitioning, so why should this time be any different? The job I’ve had since August of 2015 ends Wednesday, and on Thursday I start a new position as a committee secretary in the Alaska Legislature’s department of House Records. It’s never easy to change jobs, and the logistics can seem a bit tiresome to those not directly involved, but to Jacob and me and our kids it’s maybe the biggest change since we’ve moved here! This position is only guaranteed through May but of course I’m hoping to be asked to stay on. Just have to do a good job!

So I started working for Deutsche Welle’s English service as a freelance copy editor in 2015, just days after moving to Bonn from Istanbul. The “German BBC” office was a ginormous, sparkling labyrinth. There were very strict rules in the cafeteria. I got a thrill out of riding my bike to and from there for work and German language classes, and eventually it occurred to me that I could do my job from home, so when I was about eight months pregnant with Imogen I began that phase. The only time I went back, 2mo Baby Imogen was in the wrap and I asked if I could continue to do the job from Alaska. They said yes! So we packed everyone up and telecommuting 4900 miles commenced.

A little over three years and one more baby later, the “gravy train” has finally come to a screeching halt, as myself and the other four copy editors were simply informed in a few-sentence email that there was no longer budget for us. Ansel had just turned 20mo, the same age Imogen was when she started DaveCare, her “tribe” down the street, two days a week. As luck would have it our neighbor, a SAHM and face painter-for-hire, agreed to take care of Ansel during the time before he can join his sister, and at our house, no less, with her daughter who is almost his same age. Off we go!

And, as often happens when everything is thrown into sudden upheaval (i.e. no mortgage payment would happen on one income; no second job would happen on no “Beebcare”) and then it manages somehow to sort of-kind of-maybe work out… everyone, especially Jacob, got very sick. Fever and chills. Vomiting. Fatigue. All the blissful January perks. And I see how.much.he.helps… and how small our place is. So Beeb is also very congested and not up for a rain scramble, even in the right clothes, and Imogen is on the mend but growing and tired… so when my mom friends are traipsing up to Eaglecrest, we’re at Mickey D’s. Just catching up, hanging in there, whatever verb phrase works.

All the love this transition and always, to all of us. I hope we all make it.




you gotta be you gotta be, you gotta be you gotta be, you gotta be you gotta be, you gotta be you gotta be ready – Dolly Parton, I Believe in You

After Imogen and dad’s yard camping night, which required base layer, bear robe, crocs, waterproof mattress, and books, we made the plan: beach, which required pistachios, macadamias, the kite, swimsuits for three of the four of us (remember her face when you got into swimsuit; don’t think about how cold the water is…), swim diaper for Beeb, all the buckets,

commence her running into and out of channel, jumping on a crab pot string, squealing with delight, pulling crab pot around, trying to touch fish head inside said crab pot, giggling, laughing, more running in and out of the water. Rolling around in the sand. Flying the kite, again and again and again until the plastic tail feathers are too wet and sandy. Allowing me to dry her off, put dry clothes on her, wrap her in a sarong and snuggle her while she eats pistachios and watches her brother and dad watch yet another cruise ship come into port.

Dad carries home most of the way. Hot dog lunch. Youtube “Jolene,” many versions. Another plan, another beach: a long-sleeve because enough sun is enough. A “mom” hair tie. Tears over which shoes. Tears over wanting to go, but also wanting to stay home and pluck raspberries off the neighbor’s raspberry bush. Mom holds; decides everyone should stay home. Neighbor gives handfuls of raspberries and two crabs caught in the pots with which she’d been playing.

Happy again: cracking, scooping crab, eating meat with fingers. Tricycle riding, all the way to the elementary school down the street: owl helmet, warm back. Absolutely not letting mom help steer. Ready for bed. Shampoo and Conditioner. Look at the ceiling. We didn’t get soap in eyes. Yes we did. Clean sheets. Books. Dolly, who leads me back to ready.

unnamed (3)
Imogen ending her second year strong at Sandy Beach, one of the last days of summer, 2019.

School daze

It’s late September in southeast Alaska and the tops of the mountains are already covered in snow. I hope it’s only been a day or two that they have been, although it’s very possible they’ve been that way for a week and I’ve only just managed to look up at them.

It took about a month for our co-op nursery group to iron out all of its own kinks, as it does and has been doing since long before I’ve been in charge of it. One “kink” was my realizing Ansel wasn’t quite ready as he still naps at this time, which is how I’m able to sit down for an hour before we pick up Imogen.

Any new thing is hard, especially at three, especially something as structured and multifaceted as preschool. As is usually the case, I wasn’t able to prepare my daughter in advance for all of the changes this would bring, not only for her but for all of us, but I suppose that is how learning takes place: on the fly.

A parent is allowed to come with the new preschooler the first time they spend a whole day there, so I did, and I watched her pretty much sail through meeting the Guinea Pig Stumps, dress-up/play time, group story time, snack time, and outside play time. She was ready. And she had so much fun!

Her first day by herself was her third birthday. We opened presents first thing in the morning, and by the time we headed out the door, first me and the baby, then the birthday girl in her rainbow unicorn headband holding her new kitty from Nana, and finally Nana behind her holding 20 ‘worms and dirt’ birthday treat, Imogen was so keyed up she fell headfirst down our stairs.

Thankfully, I was just the right distance in front of her that she didn’t tumble, and, amazingly, she didn’t get hurt at all save her pride, which is what seems to take the most bumps on the road from toddlerdom to preschool kid, the first of many times in life when you’re not little anymore but not really big yet.

A friend was driving by at that time and sang her a little song, and pretty soon she was telling Miss Mary that they were real worms in her treat, and it was all okay. I’d heard that there could be some ‘backsliding,’ but thought we were good… except suddenly she didn’t want to go.

Our nursery room is right down the hall, and after we left her she followed us there, squeezing real tears out of her eyes. I reminded her our group was for the littles… and now she was a big who got to go in all the other rooms, and reminded her that Mary said she could ask her anything, and somehow it worked.

With Nana the morning of her third birthday.

She started walking away from me, back toward the preschool. She sniffled and looked back. There was no one around, so I told her to run. She did.

Echo Ranch Family Camp 2019

Weather was perfect this weekend for our trip to the end of the road…

…and then a little bit further! Here are Ati and Talia giving (brave!) Immy a lift the last bit of the way to Echo Ranch at high tide.

Ansel’s general demeanor as we signed in. Family camp has been going for thirty years or so and was started when a group of families rented the camp, which is still a Bible camp and Girl Scout camp. 

Breakfast buds. All meals are provided during camp and Echo Ranch staff were very organized and helpful!
All meals are provided and Echo Ranch staff are very organized and helpful.

Imogen’s highlight was the horseback riding. Here she is on Buddy.

Ansel was not so into the riding, but he liked taking in the scene from the arms of his dad.

Our home for two nights, Eagle cabin: seven bunk beds and a wood stove.

Pre-last night bonfire log jumping

Walking out. It was hard at times, but we’re glad we did it… and can’t wait for next year.


Wild wild yard: fall clearing with special guests cute kids

First hosta and iris chopped… commence project!

Before (kinda have a crush on my supervisor Ansel!!)


Rhodies you can see without weeds

Ansel again (this guy is a real slave driver)



…Imogen at the new bistro set (thanks the Dad!!)

“Aunt Nina’s” hydrangeas

Happiness is the OTHER side of the toddler gate! Can’t wait for spring.


Ansel Emmett at five months

Beeb left Alaska for the first time in his fourth month – to go to Wisconsin for Uncle Ted and Aunt Christina’s wedding! Here he is waiting at the gate at Sea-Tac like a champ…

…and much happier at the final destination (in this case, in his cousin Stevie’s old turtle truck).

Listening to podcasts with Dad on the porch swing while the girls get ready on wedding day…

…and ready themselves for the ceremony (and looking pretty good, Mom must say)!

Relaxin in Grandpa Jim’s chair the morning after (not feeling too hung over ;))…

…and a quick stop at America’s Best Value Inn in Seattle on the way home. Great first trip!

Now back to supervising Mom in the garden…

(…there was a lot to do there!)

Gigi’s bunny sweater is the perfect thing for Juneau fall days…

…oh yeah, and I’m five months old!!

Wild wild yard part II

One of the best things about our first summer in our new home is that literally every time I take the time to take a proper look around something new and amazing is blooming.

It makes me really look forward to future summers when I am able to take more time with this. All I can say about this summer is bravo. And you are a little bit overwhelming/outta control as the best ones always are/have been…

What is this? It is clearly thriving!

Cute annuals mom planted in hanging baskets


Delphinium (thanks, Ma)! This sucker is taller than Imogen!

Hosta bloom? Again so healthy!!

Some tiny roses booming on our steps

Side yard with more delphinium

Japanese maple going off in backyard


Channel looking towards Juneau

Kitchen window and other side taken (with new heat pump!) from greenhouse

Ansel Emmett at two months

Being two months old in July means going to the beach…

With Mom at Sandy Beach, one mo. old

Hangin out with Dad the second he gets home from work on his bike…

Getting to wear cool outfits like this…

(Thanks Grandma Jaen and Aunt Jess)

A carrier ride on the bright-green Treadwell trail with a visiting Aunt Myrrhia…

And just hangin out in your seahorse jammies.


Our wild wild yard at summer solstice!

Friday night, June, Juneau: Listening to Leo Kottke and taking in the wonder of our yard while babies slumber!

Ginormous ferns and hostas on west side of house

Peeking around the back, (r-l) two of four pink Rhodies, one of two Japanese maples, more ferns and craziness incl. two groups of blue Himalayan poppies

View of backyard from bench outside kitchen door

From halfway up steps to greenhouse. Pond recently filled in and path around east side of house (that’s kitchen window above sink), Gastineau channel

Living room with morning sun

Executive breakfast

First month for Ansel Emmett

Happy month one to Beeb.

A waking moment the first week home from the hospital with new Dad-times-two Jaco

All tuckered out after Auggie’s birthday party, ten days old


Apres-bath at three weeks old

Resting with Mare Mare and Gramps after Ed S.’s retirement party, three weeks old

Lunching with Dad at one month old

Three lbs. gained in one month (8 to 11 lbs.); go Beeb go!

Ansel’s birth story

The alarm was set for 5:00 but I was up at 4:00 cuddling with a restless Immy, then showering with a special surgical soap, the remainder of which I left in our shower stall for a week after I’d been home, a reminder of reality which had been once again, all rearranged.

Jaco and I left our house at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, May 9th, 2018. It was the type of morning – alive, earth-smelling and green – that made it easy to understand why so many people speak highly of May as the time to give birth.

In September when I found out I was pregnant I’d hoped to have a VBAC birth, but after a lot of consideration took the advice of my obstetrician and scheduled another C-section as close to 40 weeks as we could, and I made it as far as I possibly could have (39w 5d).

When we got to Bartlett we were very happy to see my room all ready, my name and the nurses’ names on the little white board. I hung up my coat, put on a hospital gown, and climbed into the bed I’d stay in for two days, minus the time of the actual surgery, and signed the consent forms.

Everyone was smiling and professional, asking me if I had any questions. I asked the anesthesiologist how long it would take for the spinal block to take effect: “seconds.” Finally in came Dr. Newbury, all bright-eyed and bushy tailed. We were ahead of schedule and would have our baby within the hour.

We’d found out, to our great delight, at my last prenatal appointment, that Dr. Newbury had convinced the powers-that-be to allow music in his OR. He actually asked us if we had a request for his Pandora, and we decided to go with Bob Seger. And with that, this birth took on its own vibration…

I was allowed to walk into to OR myself instead of being wheeled in as I’d been last time. A nurse stood eye-level with me and talked to me while I was given the spinal block. She was also the one who convinced everyone to let Jacob, peering in the window in his shower cap and paper slippers, in already.

As the block began to take effect they laid me back on the table, and as Dr. Newbury and his assistant came into the room with their hands scrubbed up to the elbows i.e. McDreamy and -Steamy, I am not even joking, “Night Moves'” “I was a little too tall, coulda used a few pounds…” came on

and like actors in a one-act play, the nurse, anesthesiologist, and Jake were all right there by my head, I lost all feeling in my toes within minutes but was still able to joke around with Jacob about the songs: “Gonna take a freight train:” Marshall Tucker played at the Hotel, I know; Skynyrd, “Simple Man;”

“Don’t tell me they are going to take the baby out to ‘Witchy Woman;'” “Rocket Man’s” ‘I think it’s gonna be a long, long time…’ but it wasn’t – about five minutes after the surgery was scheduled to begin I was told there would be a lot of pressure, and then we would meet our baby.

We’d elected not to find out the gender ahead of time this go-round, and it was not an easy thing to do! Of course, we wanted to know so badly, every day. But making ourselves wait was the right thing to do as it really and truly was all about that one MOMENT our baby entered the world: “It’s a BOY!”

Ansel Emmett Resneck came into the world screaming his lungs out (“We like that- clears them out,” said the nurse) at 8:09 a.m.

He weighed eight pounds even and was 21 inches long. He was welcomed by his sister Imogen, who’d been at our house with my mom, just an hour or so later.

Welcome baby Beeb!

RIP our daughter’s first best friend

We lost Alex this week after only having had him eight months, same age Imogen was when we adopted him.

From the beginning he proved himself to be a capable babysitter…

…except he never learned you’re supposed to pretend you were awake the whole time.

Most of the photos in this post are all from the first month or two. I keep thinking about how happy he made all of us, especially her.

“Gotcha” dayIMG_0747

First day

Second morning

Jacob liked to say that he acted like a reincarnated old miner, the way he held down our corner of 12th and Irwin. True to form, he managed to carve out a huge space for himself in a very short time. He leaves a huge hole behind.

This is random, but notice the cat-shredded bar stool in the picture below:

…because evidently our grief manifests itself in decorative duct tape and clearance paint.

Keeping the candles lit for the time being helps a little.
DSCN4699 RIP in kitty heaven.

Women of Foodland IGA, are you Jesus?

On our last trip to the local supermarket, we hit every aisle. Imogen made me laugh growling at the cats and dogs on the bags of pet food and the Charmin bear. Maybe I should get her out more!

In the checkout line, the guy behind me held two large energy drinks in the same hand. While heaving our purchases onto the belt I for some reason felt the need to explain to him that it was a big shopping trip (“Ya know, ya put it off and ya put it off and then one day ya just gotta do it”); he’s like sure lady, whatever.

Our cashier Paul – who a year ago worked the front desk of the Alaskan Hotel where we’d spent our first two nights in town – rung up our purchases almost patiently. Meanwhile, Imogen had kicked off both boots and wouldn’t take her pacifier, which Mr. Energy Drinks pointed out was lying on the floor.

Outside in the parking lot, I propped the cart against our Subaru jalopy when a voice from a couple of spaces complimented my red coat. I smiled and thanked her but carried on with keeping Imogen from erupting like a volcano. I offered her my keys as a distraction and she chucked them between the painted white lines of the parking lot.

Later, when the house and the baby were quiet, I took a moment to remember the first time I had been in Foodland IGA with her. It was almost exactly a year ago, when we’d been brand-new to Juneau – a time for which I have found myself waxing nostalgic of late just for the simple fact that at that time our lives in Juneau hadn’t really begun: the community was an unknown, giving it a sense of unlimited potential.

We were renting a 600-square-foot cabin about a mile outside of town which was as challenging in as many ways as it might have looked attractive in pictures. I’d carried her to her dad’s new workplace KTOO for this red carpet concert (you can see us in the background at 7:42!), and then could not get her back into the carrier for our walk back to the cabin.

It was getting dark when she started crying inconsolably. I’d forgotten fresh diapers so found myself in the baby aisle of Foodland IGA laying her on my coat on the tiled floor only to discover that she was dry. But I’d shed our winter gear which was heaped in a pile. We moved to a bench by the exit, where we wouldn’t be as much of a navigational hazard for other shoppers, to recombobulate. Imogen fell fast asleep in the process.

I sat almost motionless on the bench with her asleep for about a half an hour. It’s not an exaggeration: every person who walked by us at least smiled, some stopped to have a full conversation.

One lady who’d been observing the situation from her checkout line had even come over and talked to me about how every person had stopped. By the time I was done chatting with her I was ready to try putting Imogen in the carrier again, which was easy this time, and we’d left feeling fully warmed – and welcomed.

A year later it’s the same supermarket. We have a car now; not just a baby carrier. I get into the driver’s seat and, Imogen buckled in and quiet, I look over at the lady two parking spaces over. We make eye contact. Only then does she pull away. Was she waiting for me to regain composure?

Maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe it’s a special place. “My” Foodland.

Then and now.

New mom, new town, #prawnlife

A fisherman was selling spot prawns at the docks and I told Jacob that Imogen and I would go and get some for our dinner that night. He and I had taken her down to Harris Harbor to get shrimp in the spring, so I sort of knew the deal.

On a mission: Squigs’ first trip to the harbor to get shrimp, Spring 2017

She’d dropped her sunglasses into the water that May day, and Jake had hit the dock and scooped them out just before they disappeared from view, eliciting a round of applause (from me, because I’m his biggest cheerleader even though he says I don’t like anyone).

As it would happen on this cold and rainy fall day, Squigs and my walking buddies Erin and Auggie wanted to go for a stroll too, so I suggested we all go down there together to get prawns. Afterward, we all climbed aboard Erin and her partner Chris’ boat to warm up.

As these things sometimes go, NOW I’m pretty sure I know what it was – her not-completely-dry cloth diaper against her skin, compounded by the fact that we were out in the cold and the rain was hitting her face – that made Imogen completely lose it as we were walking back to the Flats from the harbor.

At the time, though, for as much of a frame of reference as I had, I felt like I might as well have never done anything, traveled anywhere, met, loved, or birthed anyone: it took fifteen minutes once back inside, for her to warm up and settle down.

Walking back, I’d pried open her icy, red fingers and closed them again around a piece of bread hastily torn off the loaf I’d bought to go with the shrimp: why do I keep her on this island in the rain? Who the hell do I think I am hoisting her on and off of boats in her stroller? Am I even qualified to do this at all?

But it was another mom lesson, or a bunch of them in one, hard because they are meant to be: use disposables for even short-ish outings outside in winter (check), get a stroller with a rain cover when you live in Juneau and walk everywhere everyday (check)… keep moving on at the pace of life.

Mom on the loose, Vol. II: Richard Thompson show

His beautiful voice, and suddenly it’s 1999: I’m emptying my apron after work at the Trempealeau Hotel and find a “Keep this coupon” on the back of which my friend had written “Eva Cassidy” — I do keep it, for eighteen years.

In April 2017 I go to my dad’s house with the intention of having a look at the gifts from my baby shower that I wasn’t able to take with me the last time I was home.

I am so excited to do this but once there I lie down next to my daughter and text by lamplight the friend still in town who has since moved, and felt so peaceful, but never did go through the stuff.

Imogen asleep at Dad’s house on Omro Rd., Oshkosh, April 2017.

In 2013 one of my favorite poets visited me at my home in Istanbul, and he shouldn’t have been sick even part of one of his days in Turkey, but he was able to come out and walk around the island and eat fish with us.

Man, that is far away now, but I really had pulled the cot in my room on top of the island right up to the radiator and watched the snow fall while worrying about then-boyfriend Jacob in Donetsk, Ukraine;

and Jacob is the husband who not only got me the ticket to this show, but told me to sneak in a beer which I’d scoffed at but which was the right move: no one is going to take a beer from a mom on her first wedding anniversary.

Who knows where the time goes: by Eva Cassidy as I once knew it, by Richard Thompson… every one-syllable word is weighted: sometimes with just a time, sometimes with just a place, sometimes with both,

like my grandparents arriving at our house on Christmas Eve in the eighties, and twenty years later driving my grandma home through town to look at the lights for the last time.

And now I wear her wedding ring on the hand that’s holding an Alaskan beer in a coozie as I write in my journal at a show, but that’s how we become, by little leaps, and by big bounds.

Thirty-six hours in Gustavus, Alaska

Imogen Charlotte turns one year old a week from today! At first I was a little peeved at Jake for setting up a Labor Day trip (albeit a mini one) in between Ted’s visit and Mom’s visit, but I decided (not to just roll with but) to try to get excited about it.

Then I started to pack, and, even though we’d only be gone one night (I have said this many times before) we needed everything – clothes for every type of weather, every electronic and its corresponding cord, e.g.) we would need for a week or more.

Somehow, by 7:15 a.m. we’d started the 4 1/2 hour journey to Gustavus, gateway to Glacier Bay National Park. On the ferry, Imogen enjoyed alternating back and forth between saying “hi” to everyone and speed-crawling toward the bolts on the bottom of the benches, which she liked to lick.

Imogen and Jacob on the ferry from Juneau to Gustavus.


In Gustavus we checked into Jan and Ela’s Wild Alaska Inn which I would totally recommend as they and their place are very warm, especially on the rainiest of days (that take a bit of gumption to get out in, I might add).

We did one short trail and tucked in for the night. (Woodstove and cedar-plank salmon.) As it would happen, the next day (today, Tuesday) was gorgeous and after we both finished our work went for more of a proper walk to check out “town.”
And I had been thinking (the whole past year, but especially this month) about Imogen’s birth and the anger and hurt I unfortunately still feel toward my midwife who completely phoned it in, but also about the fact that people can be such hypocrites and phonies,

when a car went by with the sticker that looked like one of those stick-figure families, but it was either a snake or a pile of poop, that said “let that shit go” and I had to smile; it was just about the right amount of toughness and truth.

Feeding Imogen her supper of sweet potatoes before boarding our seven-seater prop plane for Juneau.

(On which she got her own seat!)

Brave beauty

A round of applause for clearing the mountains… or whatever we have to get over.

Ted/Nina/Stevie epic Juneau stop as seen by Aunt Jame!

Hittin the Flume on the first day! Bad mamma jammas for sure! #timershot

Onto the carrier already the second day…

…and she liked it! #proudaunt

Our new favorite trailmates.

Ted and Nina checking out the basin from just beyond Perseverance trail head.

A rest on Perseverance. #timershot

Cooling off Mama.

Perseverance pulled off without a hitch. Not bad with two under two!

First salmon catch!

King crab @ Pier 49

Throwing a line in at Sheep Creek

Oh no, not another trail! (Actually she slept in the carrier for almost an hour. Total trooper!)

Here we go again: foresty, gnarly, beachy Dupont

Wild blueberry girl

End of the line…

…or just the beginning?! After we left, my brother asked this sweet, awesome girl to marry him! Welcome to the family Christina, thank you for making Ted so happy and for being who you are in general!! Please come back soon!!

Trail baby_Imogen Charlotte at eleven months

On the Treadwell Loop on her 10 month birthday. We’ve definitely learned to make the most of the rainy days in Juneau!

On Perseverance Trail with Dad during Uncle Julian’s visit. Great day!

Checking out the botanical gardens out the road with Mom also during Julian’s visit. Beautiful out there.

Pool party at James’s on an 80 degree summer day! She enjoyed checking out the corn cobs and saying hi to everyone.

Quick stop at Sheep Creek on the way back from the party. Gorgeous evening… summer has come to Juneau!

Beachin’ it end of Dupont Trail, first ride in the new Kelty carrier with Dad! Spectacular!

Back to Perseverance Trail during Grandpa Dusty and Mary’s visit.

…Where there were plenty more salmonberries to be had!

Kinda in awe of Grandpa Dusty’s dip (and little slip) in Gold Creek…

…making sure he was okay…

(He was, and it was another beautiful visit and hike! To many more!!)


Two more holidays and two-digit months old: Imogen Charlotte at 10 mos.!!

Taking a rest halfway up Mt. Roberts on Father’s Day

Dad holding Imogen the magic dragon tightly at the top!

Quite the view — we were all impressed!

In the front carry with mom on the tramway down… because sometimes you gotta

A celebratory roll in the grass with hot sauce (sweet potatoes on face, not hot sauce)

And Father’s Day sorta went right into the 4th of July

(we didn’t get nearly as nice a day for that but still caught the parade)…

Watching the Shriners in the little cars

(after-party in Doug got us like)

“Guerilla-style” d-change over the rushing water on the Perseverance Trail

And just trying to take it all in, this beautiful place that we live and get to explore and discover together.

After seeing the salmon

Big girl watching The Last Waltz with us on a rainy day

Ten months!

Three nurseries in nine months (babies are on the move!)

Move-in day: another clean slate *sigh*!

Getting there: mobile from Ted and Christina hung, Matryoska doll curtains made by Mom (Jamie), rocking chair acquired by Dad (Jake)…

Her crib with its homemade (by LeAnn and Nana Debbie) afghans and mattress cover (peeking out)

And… finished! Lamp and changing table acquired, pictures hung, rocking chair repainted…

…and today’s project and the finishing touch except for one knob I need to find for the closet door…

Rain gutter bookshelves!!  Special thanks to Dad Jake for the help in executing this vision!

Let’s not move for a little while… unless something really great comes up. 😉

Our Squigs (Imogen Charlotte) at nine months

Our first visit to the Mendenhall Glacier, on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day brunch at the Sand Bar, a friendly dive with lovely fish and chips

Have a lot of car seat pictures but can’t resist the face

Big girl in the cart going to get stuff for our kitty Alex!

At Auke Rec with Dad

Just another lunch with mom in our cardigans.

Eight months of Imogen Charlotte

Lovely family staying with us occasioned an outing for Jaco and me last evening, which, as it happens when moving from one far away place to another, and being new parents to boot, was just the eighth we’ve both been away from Squigs, who turned eight months old on Friday.


She has one tooth and has been waking up in the night in some pain, but we frankly don’t have the chance to go out ever so we took Rick and Heather up on their offer to babysit and drove downtown in the rain.

We chose the correct bar (Alaskan of course), and had no sooner sat down with huge black beers and begun to exchange stories of chasing the legacy of Walter Cronkite (as you do when hanging out with journalists) with Rashah when we get the text that she’s ready for us to come home.

We are really trying hard to be good parents, we don’t hover over her unnecessarily, but Rick and Heather weren’t us and she wanted us, and we sped back home, arguing about which way of two ways to go, and were home in less than ten minutes.

And the next thing everybody knew we were listening to that piano version of “The Wheels on the Bus” in her nursery as she drifted back to cozy town, my coat laying on the ground outside her door.

And I know we’ll have to make decisions about her education, and bigger things than that, but last night was about racing home in the rain to a little girl, polar bear jammies and piano tunes, and having never been as happy about anything else in my life.

PROJECTS Living room curtains i.e. mountain framers

South facing window

One of the best things about our new place, a south-facing bay window with a view of the mountains, was almost totally obscured by whatever you call these heavy sliding blind things that, even when open, took up more than half of the window.

This is what the living room looked like when we moved in (picture from Zillow) – notice the different size windows

But a blank slate is a blank slate and can always be looked at as an opportunity. I took it upon myself to frame those mountains à la full DIY… and it ended up being fun and worth the effort to make curtains.

Foyer and living room… now with curtains! *Heart eyes*

The 8 feet of PVC ($2.29 each) at the same height on each side mostly give the illusion that the windows are the same size (especially when closed). And those are up there with garment hooks we got at the hardware store, and on little rings with clips (to give the “gathered” effect).

My daughter and my dad with a backdrop of that fabric Jaco picked out and I had to go back and buy more of but it was worth it.

Imogen likes the nice golden glow they give in the morning. Mustard yellow is the way to go for curtains, who knew?

They are lined with queen sheets – I found a new-in-package “used” set of 6 and cut the hems off those, so the curtains are nice and heavy.  Now we just need some furniture!