Goodbye to the Last Frontier

It was the Saturday after I arrived back in Connecticut. I was somewhere in Westchester County and night had set in.

“In this moment, what do you miss most about Alaska?” he asked.

“The quiet,” I answered.

I said it fast, as the sounds of sirens, neighbors, cars, crickets, and a busy world raged on outside the window. Then I immediately changed my mind.

Alaska does have quiet. Even in a large city like Anchorage, the vastness of the landscape, the mountains, the rainbows, the fast moving tides, the wildlife, all of those things lend themselves to a sense of quiet and calm. I enjoyed it. I relished it. I experienced it and hope to again. I do not miss it.

We had an awesome summer. At the end of June, my brother flew from Connecticut to Anchorage with Aidan and Zach. While I was at work, they would explore. When I was off, we would explore together. It was a summer filled with glaciers, the Alaska Railroad, whales, sea otters, puffins, moose, bears, mountains, 22 hours of daylight, pizza, salmon, halibut, wine, beer, friends, singing in the car and some major life changing moments. Six weeks of once in a lifetime experiences. For that I am grateful.

I saw the Northern Lights. The twins and I saw them back in March but they weren’t very vivid. About two weeks before I moved back east, the lights came out for two spectacular nights. I could see them from the windows of my house. I ran outside in my pj’s and shared the moment with a friend. I woke the kids up and made them look as well. It was so quiet, I am pretty sure I could hear them dancing across the sky.

I am home now. Connecticut is home. It was never my intention to leave it, but I had to out of necessity. My pieces are still falling into place, slowly but surely. In the past few weeks I have seen rainbows, spectacular sunsets, coastal views, and changing leaves. I have seen some bad memories, made some great new ones, and find tremendous joy in sharing laughs with my family at night and on weekends. I am enjoying my girl times, focusing on friendships, and choosing to be close to those who matter the most. I think I found my funny again. (I had lost it ….. somewhere between JFK and Anchorage it left me….planning to share it with NYC again sometime soon……I do a mean Nancy Grace impression.)

So, Alaska, I say thank you for being so different. Thank you for allowing me to tell some great stories, create some of my own, share in the lives of your people, make some amazing friends, and experience you with my children.

“There are no crickets in Alaska,” I said.

Epilogue: There may be crickets in Alaska. It’s a debated topic on the www ….. I never heard them. Maybe it’s because I was too busy listening to the mountains, or the moose, or the distance. I never heard them in Anchorage, and several people confirm the same …… so I stick to “there are no crickets” in Alaska and will have zero tolerance for anyone who wants to rain on my parade.

The Death of Chivalry

Chivalry: the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak……and courtesy to women. (Compare courtly love.)

Yeah …… what happened to that?!?! Apparently, it has died.

I’ve been quiet lately, or perhaps it’s best to say I haven’t been writing publicly.  I have eight million thoughts in my head and yet I find myself struggling to express them. But, I started this blog with the intention of telling my stories, expressing my thoughts and sharing my experiences, because oftentimes other people are as amused by them as I am. So, let’s be honest and talk about dating…..when you’re 38…..and in Alaska ….. and what you’ve done in the past didn’t seem to work out quite right.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always dated older. 5 plus years to a maximum of 16 ….. and it should be noted the 16 was probably closer to 20 and I do believe he was lying…..but he had a fabulous …… wine cellar.

Dating older when you’re in your twenties means you are, or at least you should be, dating someone who is secure in their career. They’re ready to commit, thinking about building a life and sharing in all the excitement that has yet to find you both. Dating older when you’re in your late thirties means you’re dating someone who has been there, done that, it didn’t work out, and now they’re bitter and like their own space. Or, on the other hand, they’ve never been there or done that, say they never found the right one, and that means they’re set in their own ways and they like their own space. When I reentered the dating world, again, it was with the hope that I would get it right this time around. I want to find the person to share and build a life with, but now perhaps it’s a little more complicated because we bring parts of our pasts to the table. That does not mean I should not be allowed to find that, that I need to settle for what someone is willing to give.

I had this brilliant idea, encouraged somewhat by a friend of mine who is a Tinder-holic, to date younger. Suddenly I am the one with the “good” job and a life plan, capable of supporting myself and standing on solid ground. (It appears that way, anyway, to the younger male ……) I won’t name names ….. he was an environmental scientist, smart, cute, slightly awkward and his pictures were of him in the Arctic with penguins ….penguins. He had me at penguins.

First date, divey bar because they served popcorn. I drank beer and the conversation was easy. He seemed nervous and I felt ….. old. Sexy, but old. The age difference was only three years, but I think it’s safe to say he was a young 35. As one person put it, a boy-man. I like a man-man …… but I was going to try, damn it. He loosened up and we moved on to another bar and eventually kissed goodnight. He paid for the 3 beers ….. the chemistry was good. He was shorter than I normally like, wore a plaid shirt, and looked like he should ride his skateboard home. In my mind I was 19 again and I had a crush ……

Second date ….. a bottle of wine, chips and salsa, strawberries, conversation. We were in the discovery phase and he said all the right things. He’d stop mid sentence and tell me I was beautiful.

Third date ….. he accompanied me to a comedy event I was judging. He met me there and we made our way to the bar. After ordering drinks, I told him I’d get it and he said, “Thanks.” Wait, what?!?!?! I didn’t really want to get it, I was testing him ….. and he failed.

I decided to talk to one of my younger, single, actively dating co-workers about the current state of courtship. He told me in his opinion, women, or perhaps we should say girls, are insulted when a man always pays. He said he lets them pay because he doesn’t want to make them feel insecure. Ummmmm ….. no. Ladies ….. you are killing chivalry!!!!!! (And men, you aren’t putting up a good fight!) When speaking with my older male friends, they agree with me 100% that the man should pay and can’t fathom not doing so.

My message to the ladies …..

Someday you will most likely birth a child. It will grow inside of your now tight abdomen and make its way out through your vagina. If you are on a date right now, there is a possibility the man sitting across from you will be responsible for helping to create that child. For that reason, he should pay. (You will also cook most of the meals, clean the toilets, dust, schedule all of the doctor’s appointments, and work a full-time job …. and make twenty-two cents less an hour than he does while doing it.)

Now, I’m not saying the woman should never pay. I’m just saying courtship is a lost art. Women want to be pursued. Gender roles are alive and thriving in so many ways, and I’m ok with most of them. (For example, the man should always take out the trash and kill the spiders … exchange, women will follow you around picking up your junk that ends up in the trash you will place by the curb.) If I swipe right, and he swipes right, I want him to say hello first. I’m not shy. I have no problem making the first move. I just don’t want to anymore.

In the 2+ years I dated George, he almost always paid for date nights. (And he ALWAYS opened the car door for me.) I almost always paid for groceries for “family” meals, and dinners at “home”. Vacations, activities with the kids, and weekend getaways were often shared expenses.

My message to the guys ….

If you can’t open her car door because you have to get in on your side and reach across to unlock it, it’s time to stop dating or get a new car. (This may not apply to boys under the age of 27.)

My message to me ……

You hate dating. You don’t want to do it anymore. But, you have to or you’ll end up alone with a bunch of cats.

You really, really, really like penguins. You also really, really, really like wine. You like wine more.

You hate cats.

Polka dots, plaid, and hygiene …..

I haven’t written in quite some time …. well, not anything I would publish anyway.  I have felt uninspired. I’ve sat down numerous times and attempted, but nothing happens. Until now.

The kids are all back east and I am not. Cameron and Cassandra were so excited to see their dad and we had a countdown going for about two weeks before they left. My countdown was probably a little different from theirs.

Thirteen days until we see daddy ….. thirteen days until you don’t brush your teeth for two months.

Twelve days til we see daddy …. twelve days til swimming in the pond counts as a bath …..

Eleven days til we see daddy ….. eleven days til you wear the same socks for three days straight.

Ten days til we see daddy …… ten days til you probably don’t travel in a booster seat …..

You get the picture. It’s not easy letting them go. I spent seven years with their dad and was very proud of the home I created. The kids had fun ….. the house was well decorated, their clothes matched, and I have many memories of fabulous holidays and parties, and quiet nights of game playing and movie watching. And then we got divorced.

This past weekend I was back home. (By home I mean CT ….. I really don’t have a home …. I’m always in limbo.) I stayed at George’s …. a home that is not mine but houses some of my furniture and boxes of clothes. I drove my mother’s car and made my way back to Killingworth to see the boys my first afternoon there. If you’ve read my posts before you’ll recall my ex husbands live eight houses away from each other ….. I moved 4000 miles away. After some alone time with the big boys we stopped by the “big” house to see the twins…… partially because I missed them, partially because I wanted to see if Cassie’s hair had been done in the two weeks since I put them on the plane with Andy to leave Alaska.

As I pulled onto the street my heart rate soared and the anxiety crept in. I used to love turning onto this street … it meant I was home. Now, I start hyperventilating and want to close my eyes. The yard is always a mess, there is mildew on the siding, and my once beautiful house is unkempt. In the driveway there are four old cars …. not sure who they belong to …. and I’m pretty sure I saw a spare tire, some garbage, and possibly a small boat in the backyard. I won’t even begin to describe the garage. (It also houses some of my furniture.)

Her hair had not been done. The same two poofs I had carefully crafted the day before she left were still there. He had hastily thrown in a couple of clips to keep down some of the loose pieces, but I knew it was just for show. My prized dresser is now a sofa table with scratches, the former office/quiet room is now a bar/storage room, and the brown and orange shag rug that should be under the kitchen table is under the table in my once beautiful purple dining room. (I think the purple rug that belongs there is in the basement somewhere …..) I didn’t dare venture upstairs because Aidan told me I shouldn’t ……

The kids were happy. Isn’t that what matters? They had new shoes and chatted about going out on their dad’s girlfriend’s boat. They hugged me and went back to watching tv while Andy talked about putting the house up for sale. (If you’re looking for a six bedroom house on a quiet cul-de-sac in the woods, let me know.) I asked him if he had conditioner and a comb.

This is not how I pictured my life. I think divorced parents everywhere go through this. It’s so hard to hand your children off to the other parent and have to trust them to do the right things and make the right choices. I have several proven circumstances where the twins’ dad has not, but I know his intentions are good. I try to be firm, yet not stir the pot, but it’s getting harder to hold back. When I brought the kids back to him on Monday I reminded him to please get her hair braided. Today, he sent photos and her hair is how I left it. On the phone he said he planned on getting it done next …. what day is today ….. Monday, no Tuesday, maybe Wednesday. Ugh.

But, she had glasses on in the picture. I didn’t ask him to take her to the eye doctor. He said this week she had headaches and was squinting at the tv, so he took the twins and she needed glasses and Cameron does not. Next week he’s taking them to the dentist. I’ll try not to think about the fact that they’ll be wearing plaid shorts, polka-dotted shirts, and striped socks when they are out in public and just be happy they’re being cared for by a man they love very much.

Message from a bottle …..

Once upon a honeymoon I went to Napa. I was never much of a wine drinker, but at 29, I started to step out of the box, and try the good stuff. (Or at least the better stuff.) Andy and I considered it our thing, since neither of us had really learned to appreciate it in our previous marriages.

We started with a Coppola Merlot, and at the time I thought it was wonderful. (Now, it’s an instant headache and I can barely look at the bottle without having a flashback to a bad hangover, or two.) Then we began to explore others and became regulars at Mt. Carmel Wine and Spirits. There was an Italian wine we loved, I cannot remember the name now but I’m sure he will, and we bought a case of it. When the vintage was sold out, I was devastated.

For our honeymoon we went to Napa. We stayed at a B and B called The Pink Mansion. I can close my eyes and instantly recall everything about it. It was the best trip ever. Champagne at breakfast, wine tasting by 10, nap at 3, and then fabulous dinners to follow. Only in Napa is it okay to have a slight buzz by 11 a.m……

We went to a small winery, Vincent Arroyo, and there we purchased a case to be shipped back home. After that our rule was buy one everyday wine at the vineyards we liked, and one special vintage bottle. By the time we were going home we had 48 bottles to ship back and it became apparent I would need a fabulous wine rack to hold them all in.

Our favorite day was when we ventured over to Healdsburg and the Alexander Valley. Napa is basically two main roads, I think, and some smaller roads in between. There are big names and fancy wineries that put on their shows. (Most of their stuff is tolerable, the special bottles worth trying.) Healdsburg was much more quaint. We would see a sign for a no name winery and drive along a curvy road to be greeted by friendly vineyard owners and fabulous wines. Then we stumbled upon Dry Creek,

I remember the sampling bar, the smell of the first pour. It was love at first taste. We tried several varietals and loved them all with the exception of the Chardonnay. (Not a chard fan at all.) We purchased a bunch and joined their wine club. Two new bottles would arrive every two months or so and we loved them all. We saved many of them for special occasions, Thanksgiving or Christmas. Eventually we cancelled the membership, diapers for twins were expensive, and Dry Creek became a fond memory. In Connecticut very few stores carried any of their wines, and if they did, they were the lower end bottles.

Well, now it’s just me, many miles away from Connecticut but closer to Napa. Recently I started to notice that many of the liquor stores carry a wide variety of Dry Creek wines. The other night I splurged and bought one I would no longer consider an everyday wine, and immediately it invoked the memories of that trip, the tastes, smells and the scenery came flooding back. I snapped a picture and sent it to Andy to make him jealous, and he was. Next time I go back home I will bring him a bottle or two.

I like wine. It is better when shared with someone else. I’m a slow sipper, one glass a night, perhaps two ….. more if my mother is egging me on. If you’ve never been to Napa, I say skip it and stay in Sonoma or Healdsburg …. and just do Napa for a day. Don’t order a case from Vincent Arroyo ….. none of the bottles that were shipped were drinkable, but they looked fabulous on the sixty bottle wine rack I ordered from California to house my new passion.

Little Planes and Big Hearts

I would be lying if I didn’t say I’m homesick. I am. I miss my boys. I miss visits with family, and wine with Mom. I miss cooking. (Words I never thought I’d say …..) I miss snow! (Words I should not be saying living in Alaska …..) I miss seeing friends. I miss my photos, furniture, knick-knacks, and my comfy bed.

Missing aside, it’s time to write about what I’m enjoying about being where I am.

Merrill Field was the first official airport in Alaska. It opened in 1930. I’ve tried to research the number of flights to take off and land per day, and I see numbers ranging from 340-530. My station is located right near the airport, and all day long I can see and hear the planes coming in and taking off. They are smaller planes, the kind I am terrified of, but I am loving them. I find them intimate, adventurous, and wild. They provoke a vintage feel, and when I hear one coming, I can’t help but look up. and wish I was in it.

Last week I did my first out-of-town story. My photographer, Emily, and I arrived at the larger airport in Anchorage, Ted Stevens International, at 5:30 a.m. and did not have to go through security. We checked in, made our way to the terminal, and waited. As our plane taxied to the gate, it was loud. It sounded old. It was old. Small, two seats by two seats and nine rows. Enough to make me say, “Xanax would be nice….”

Nerves pushed aside, the flight was amazing. We flew over the Chugach mountains, on the sides of mountains, and along Prince WIlliam Sound. We could see white mountain peaks and glaciers, winding rivers, and frozen lakes. It was truly breathtaking and for 45 minutes we snapped pictures and were in awe of the beauty.

We landed in Valdez, a small little airport with one runway wedged in between mountains. As we approached, it seemed like you could reach out and touch the mountains next to us, or if a strong gust of wind were to strike we could be plastered against them ……..

Valdez is a small city of 4100 people. It’s a fishing village with a movie set feel. After we finished the shoot for our story, we set up shop in the restaurant at the Best Western. We had a view of the marina, and the water was eerily calm, all of the boats still in the water despite it being winter. Emily is a bit younger than me, and when I commented that I felt like we were on the Jaws ride at Universal, I think she hadn’t a clue what I was talking about …..

Everyone was friendly and happy to have us there, although perhaps a little weary of our intentions. Once I had eased their minds that it really was a feel good story, they unwound a bit and opened up. We were told where to go for dinner and lunch and the best spots for viewing the city to  get a feel for its isolation. We snapped a lot of photos. The plane for the ride home was half the size of the one there, and 3 x’s as terrifying. I survived and would do it again in a heartbeat.

I have yet to see the Northern Lights as I live in the city and will probably have to load two sleepy kids into the car well after they initially fell asleep, and drive at least 30 minutes outside of the city limits to get the best views. Last night, however, after seeing posts that they could be spotted, I went outside and looked up. What I did see was a moon dog.  Wikipedia says: a relatively rare bright circular spot on a lunar halo caused by the refraction of moonlight by hexagonal-plate-shaped ice crystals in cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. I say: amazing.

Sights and sounds of Alaska……I have seen and heard a few. I love it all so far and look forward to experiencing more.

The last thing I love about Alaska so far is the way it has brought me closer to certain people back home. Maybe it is a classic case of distance makes the heart grow fonder, but I am extremely grateful for the closeness I have developed with friends via emails, phone calls, and texts. While I am alone, in many ways, all the way up here ridiculously close to the Arctic Circle, I feel close in heart and mind. I knew this would be an adventure, but I didn’t realize how many people would come along with me.

Thank you.

Feeling Real

December 15, 2012 …… I walked into my kitchen at around 1:00 am. December 14 had been a long day, not nearly what it was to many people who suffered unbelievable loss and pain, but I had been there, Sandy Hook ,,,,,,,

This post isn’t about the shootings. It isn’t about those perfect little children who woke up that morning, and never went home. It’s about marriage …… and what I miss most.

Andy was awake and waiting for me. I had driven home from the station in silence, no radio, nothing. I didn’t realize that until I pulled into the driveway. At this point we were once again living under the same roof but we both knew it was just until we were in a better place to separate. Let’s say we were going through the motions .

He asked if I was okay and I said yes. I really thought I was. At that point, I was probably numb, in work mode, and shock. We sat on the couch for a while, in silence, and I rested my head on his chest and we just let ourselves be. At the end of the worst day ever, for so many people, I needed to feel something other than death. I did not cry.

He told me to sleep in in the morning, that he would wake up with the twins. When I woke at 9:30, I walked downstairs and he was sitting on the purple couch, a child on each side. I joined them and sat next to Cassandra who was to his right. She was 4 ….. she had no idea ….. but she must have felt something because she turned to me and said, “Mommy, are you ok? I love you.”

Well, that was it. The flood gates opened and I lost it. I remember Andy picking her up and moving her to the other side, and wrapping his arm around me and telling me it was okay to cry. We sat, I cried quietly so as not to scare the twins, and we just let ourselves be. I miss that.

The past few weeks have been full of stories of violence. Shootings, stabbings, rapes, young mothers killed, lives lost. At the end of the day I come home, to a home that really isn’t home, and tuck my children into bed and then it is quiet. There is no one to tell me it’s okay. There is no one to wipe a tear away. There is no one to just be with. Lately I have been dreaming about violence, and when I wake up, there is no one I can turn to to feel real and safe with.

I don’t want to think I failed at marriage, twice. I want to think I didn’t get it right. Right is out there, I just haven’t found it yet. I see that others have it and I em envious. I see all of your happy pictures, kids, mom and dad, houses, vacations, the posts about the hubby giving much needed downtime or the boys weekend away …… I applaud you all for making it work. It is work, and keep working at it. (Unless you hit a point where staying isn’t an option ….. then go….. not ready to write about that one.)

This isn’t a woe is me post ….. it’s a realization post. I do not cry myself to sleep at night because I am alone. I miss feeling real. Yes, I know my children need me, love me, and in many ways are there for me, but it is not the same as adult companionship. The simplicity of just being is what I miss most.

I have no desire to ever be comfortable with being alone. I don’t want to be that person. I read all sorts of blogs about needing to be comfortable alone before you’re comfortable with someone else….. blah, blah, blah. If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around to see it, it still fell. But, when someone comes upon it they will just step over it. They will not wonder when or how or why ….. it’s just a fallen tree.

This past week, after covering a disturbing case, I needed to feel real again. I needed to feel like everything in the world was not evil or scary or destructive. I needed normal, constant, secure. Here was the exchange that followed:

Me: Nice light news day.

Him: So that kind of makes you like my bond girl.

Me: I’m more like Lois Lane ….. but I don’t need superman to save me…. I just need him to help me unwind from all of this graphic detail and disturbing info I have to report on.

When you report on all that’s wrong in the world, you need to feel something is right.

Him: I hope that ends up in your blog tonight …. well said.

Me: Looking like maybe I get to fly away to Valdez tomorrow.

Him: Cool beans.

Me: Sigh.

The only way I could blog about it is to point out that I don’t have it. The feeling is there …. the need, the desire….. but that is all.

Maybe I need a new career with flowers, rainbows, bunnies, and ice cream……and all that is right with the world. That might be easier to find.

Angels and Elves

Kids in cars ….. always a great time to listen in on their conversations and encourage interaction. I love the rare opportunity when I only have one child in the backseat, me alone in the front, and it’s an intimate one on one time in which they usually let go of any inhibitions and fire off all of their burning questions. Cameron, who usually lets Cassie take the lead, is especially talkative during those special drives. He is one minute younger than her and she will forever be the leader …..

Those moments aside, the two of them together can be just as fascinating. Listening to two little people, each with their own opinions and thoughts, try to figure out the ways of the world is amazing. Often I won’t correct them if they say something wrong because I know it’s part of their journey and they will come to figure it out on their own. Sometimes it’s best to let kids be kids …… (Except when they add an extra “ed” onto words …. I always correct that …. it drives me nuts …. and I think they do it more than most little ones ….. it’s a bad habit that needs to be changeded …….)

Recently we were in the car and Hozier’s song Take Me To Church came on. I’m sure you’ve heard it ….. I have many, many times ……

Cassie, singing along to the words, abruptly stops and says, “Mom, what’s church?

Ummmmmm …….. well, it’s ……

I could not say it’s something I don’t believe in. I do believe in it …. for those who feel the need to follow and believe. I was raised fairly Catholic ….. baptism, first communion, confirmation ….. all that stuff that involves cake and money in cards. As I got older, I chose to take a slightly more Lutheran path because I felt being lectured in the do’s and dont’s of marriage and family seemed more acceptable if done by someone who had the right to experience that him or herself. All of my children were baptised but after the twins’ baptism I stepped away and haven’t gone back.

I consider myself spiritual. I pray, and no, not always for myself or my own needs. I do it on my own time, my own terms. In the past year, attempting to do some soul searching and to maybe find guidance through tough times, I walked back into a church or two, and cried between the front doors and the last pew ….. I couldn’t go any further.

So, that afternoon in the car, when Cassie asked what church was, I asked what she had heard so far. (Like the sex talk ….. by the time your 10 year old son comes to you with the big questions, he has already formed his own thoughts, terminology, and opinions, guided by the help of an older sibling or friend.) She said she didn’t know anything. Hmmmmm ……

I asked her why we celebrate Christmas. Her response, as taught by me, was to be close to and spend time with family. My older boys know about the Lutheran/Catholic beliefs of God, and Jesus, and Christmas and Easter ….. but just the basics and enough to let them form their own opinions when they get older. I guess I hadn’t laid the little foundation for the twins yet.

So, I asked if she knew what heaven was. She did not. (Guess we never watched All Dogs Go to Heaven ….. is it on Netflix?) What’s an angel? They have wings ….. phew. Progress …..

I explained to her that many people believe God created our world, and he had a son, Jesus, and Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. I said people saw Jesus because he was here on earth but God was not. God is in heaven, which is where we go when we die, but nobody really knows where heaven is. God is waiting for us, watching over us, helping to keep us safe. Church is the place where people go to talk to God and hear stories about him.

“Oh, ” she said.

“Do you think you understand?” I asked.

“Yeah ….. God is like Santa, ” she said. “And angels are like elves.”

Cassie lost her first tooth this week and has told me for a while now she doesn’t believe in the tooth fairy. Cameron has tried to put her in her place, declaring the tooth fairy is real and he can prove it since he’s already two teeth down. When I asked her who takes the teeth and leaves the money she matter of factly said she thinks mommies and daddies do ….. mostly mommies ….. and when she loses a tooth she wants money and a whistle under her pillow. The tooth fairy left a standard first tooth $5 but did not have a whistle on hand …..

Today, while driving, Miss Cass asked if she could share her dream. I said yes and she proceeded to tell me she dreamt the tooth fairy was in her room and taking her tooth. I asked her what she looked like and she replied, “Like a mommy.”

Oh, crap. I have a feeling she’s not going to just accept the babies grow in a belly explanation of where do babies come from for much longer. Maybe I’ll just tell her God puts them there …. like Santa puts presents under the tree at Christmas.