Not even a week?

This past Monday I gave up a lot of stuff I knew to move to Jackson Mississippi to give guidance to the Service Adventure unit after their leaders were in a car accident where she was killed. It’s been an eye opening week.

I have never lived in the south and South Jackson is different yet. I have never felt so white, so pale Alaskan. In this predominantly African American neighborhood I don’t make eye contact as I’m walking or running down the street. I hate that I feel uncomfortable, that I should have my house locked when I’m still in it. I  don’t consider myself as racist, but it definitely makes me think twice when a group of rowdy teenagers passes by in the bed of a pick up. For once I may be glad for my non-girlish figure.

The contrast between Jackson and Anchorage is stark. Jackson is a larger city, and there are many roads clover leafing around and I miss the Glenn Hwy or Seward Hwy that were the only two ways out of Anchorage. The poverty is real, evidenced in run down houses and stores .  The streets are a rollercoaster ride of potholes and dips. But I do think that my abs are getting a workout from being tense!

It’s been hard to start feeling invested in the area, especially because I don’t know how long I will be here yet. There will be a decision coming early next week about whether we will have people come and live in the house with Niklas and I to create community or if Niklas will live with a host family. Both of these options present challenges.

I also don’t have enough to do. I am a person who likes to stay busy and I have been getting sleeping so much that I am getting headaches, spending too much time taking Facebook quizzes and in general not doing much. If it is decided that I will stay then at least I will get a job. It makes it tricky because I need to be available to give Niklas a ride to work in the afternoon. Target here doesn’t have any shifts starting before 8am even for flow.

I was able to meet some people at a women’s retreat this weekend which was nice. I kept hearing: you’re so brave for doing this. Well, I’m not brave. I’m not strong. I feel like I have to be, but it’s hard work being the strong one. When do I get to break down? I miss my friends. I miss my job. I miss knowing how to get around the city. I have too much time to think. I am tired of living in limbo.

I can’t believe it hasn’t even been a week that I’ve been here. In my head I know it will all work out. But I’m tired.

*This morning I greeted several people during my run. I need to do more of this. When I reach out others are likely to do the same. It starts with me.


Home for the Holidays

I have been in Alaska now for a little over 3 years and this year I was lucky enough to be in South Dakota for Christmas. I boarded a plane the day after my Christmas concert and I enjoyed flying over the farmlands of SoDak in the winter for the first time. There is a beauty in the square miles and silos covered with snow.

I loved the rituals from childhood that I was able to take part in: the Christmas Eve program with the little kids, the Christmas day service of carols and scripture, egg nog and lots of the Hallmark channel. I had fun getting together with friends for hot drinks or for New Year’s Eve.

But this is not the only reason I went home. This was a working vacation.

Both Alison and I were able to take 3 weeks off – the longest we had both been home for a long time. The goal? Go through as much of the house as possible and get rid of things that the parents could do with out. We realize that eventually they would need to move into town and we wanted to start the process of purging now to make things easier later.

We started in the office where we encountered receipts from 6 + years ago and printed emails that I had sent mom while I was in college. With mom’s eyesight not what it used to be there is no way that she is going to re-read those. So into the trash they went. We only kept the important documents and now there is so much space! Also in the office we came across every scrap of fabric that mom had ever sewn a piece of clothing out of. It was quite the walk down memory lane from 70’s fabrics to the koolats that mom made for me in middle school. Some of this I have taken to make blanket blocks out of and the rest was donated. It’s kind of fun to repurpose materials into something useful.

dscn2530As we went through the house Alison was ruthless about getting rid of things. If it wasn’t in use at the moment it was on the chopping block. It was hard for mom to see all these things go, but it helped that we donated a lot to the local thrift store.

It is always easier to help others get rid of stuff. But, I was inspired to go through my things and get rid of that which I don’t need. We shall see how that goes. In general people have too much junk. Alison wants to live in a tiny house…maybe that’s a good idea.

I helped dad with figuring out how to the books. Since mom isn’t able to do them anymore, he as taken over. It’s quite the learning curve for him. I know that at some point I will probably need to do the books for him. We also went over all their accounts should something happen to them.

Being home for 3 weeks really made me realize how their lives are each day. They struggle with physical and mental limitations and we know they won’t be able to live on the farm forever. It is kind of sad to realize that neither Alison or I are likely to come back to live on the farm anytime soon. It was an eye opening but good trip. It also made me realize that I need to spend more time with them while I am home instead of going out to do things with friends all the time. The tables have turned and it is time for me to start to take care of them.



November 21

Kate picked us up around 9:20 to take us to the airport to begin one of our longest days ever. We had plenty of time even with the really long lines at the check in counters for our 12:20 flight. The 13+ hour flight went ok, but we were definitely awake for more of it this direction. We played games, watched Me Before You and The Secret Life of Pets and in general waited for the flight to be done. We were served 2 meals (chicken or pasta and eggs or pancakes) and a snack of a little pizza. It’s amazing how much trash gets generated on a 13 hour flight.

At LAX we struggled to stay awake as we waited for our connecting flights. Thankfully they  were just two gates away and 1/2 an hour apart. We said goodbye and went our separate ways. A vacation over, but we will see each other in about 3 weeks again.

I slept from the moment I got on the plane until it touched down in Seattle. That was needed. My seatmate said ‘good morning’ to me when we landed. I must have been the best seatmate he has had! 🙂 Then on my flight to Anchorage they were giving up to $800 vouchers to take a later flight. If I didn’t have to be at choir I would have done that in a heartbeat. Why is it that they over money when I am on a time crunch? Oh well, I was also ready to be done traveling.

I sat next to 2 little girls who started the plane ride singing Frozen songs. They flight seemed forever, even though we arrived early. Now I have to remember how to drive on the right side of the road! When I actually arrived at my car however it didn’t start. So, Monica took me to choir and then they lent me the unit van. I don’t want to deal with that.

November 20

Renee did a very hilly 12 miler at about 3000 feet while Alison made an awesome breakfast. We cleaned up and headed back to Sydney.

Kate took us to a bigger Target which satisfied Renee’s curiosity and then to a market where we sampled a lamb dish, corn fritters and some other foods. It was a cute little place. Alison and I bought cherries for the plane ride. You can’t get cherries in AK right now without paying a lot.

We dropped our stuff off at our stay and then headed to Hillsong United Church for worship. In the first songs there was a lot of lights and peppy music. It seemed like we were at a concert instead of a worship service. The message was pretty good, but not too in depth. It is definitely a seeker friendly church with not as much meat. I don’t think it would have been any of our first choices for a long term church, but it definitely seems to meet a need, there are 1000s of people that attend their services.

Then we went to Manly beach via the ferry and that was a nice little trip. The views of the harbor were really nice. It was dark by the time we got to the beach and we ate our fish and chips watching the waves. I realized that I am not really used to being on a beach and knowing what to do with being on a beach. 🙂 We also enjoyed some ice cream from Copenhagen’s and took the ferry back.

Kate dropped us off at our place after many turns. I had no idea where we were, glad I wasn’t driving. I’m not used to big cities.

November 19

We had a nice non-rushed morning. Alison and I made sausages and eggs, toast and fruit smoothies. It was a nice well rounded meal.

Scenic World at Katoomba was on the docket for the bulk of the day. We road the worlds steepest train where you about fall out of your seat with the “cliffhanger” setting. The views were beautiful. We walked a bit and then took the cableway back up and the skyway over toward the 3 sisters mountains. We walked down the Great Staircase – 1000+ steps down the mountainside. There were a lot of people at the top, but as we walked down and over to the railway we saw less people which was nice.

In Megalong we stopped for tea and scones, not scOnes, but scahns. They were so good with jam and cream. We sat and talked as the weather cooled and the birds got our crumbs. It was a nice relaxing afternoon.

We decided not to make the 1.5 hour car ride to the caves and instead hung out at the house and talked.

November 18

We struggled to get an uber ride to the airport, so we decided to get a taxi 10 minutes before we wanted to be picked up. We had only left an hour before our flight and the taxi driver was worried we would miss it. Also the lady that checked us in said we were there with only 5 minutes to spare for check in. Our plane was supposed to be boarding in 10 minutes. We got thru security quickly and then even had to wait a bit before boarding.

The flight was nearly 3 hours and Renee slept for about 1/2 of it. We arrived at 7:30am SYD time and finally got ahold of Kate – Alison’s friend from Mercy Ships. Kate took us to a café for breakfast and then we got some supplies for a picnic lunch. on the way out of town we stopped at Featherdale – a zoo of sorts just for Australian animals. Wallabies, kangaroos, wombats and lots of birds.

We headed to the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney and had lunch at the botanical gardens. It is much hotter in Australia, like 30’s Celsius (80s Fahrenheit). It is quite the switch but I think we are enjoying it.

At the Botanical gardens a groundskeeper struck up  a conversation with us about Pride and Prejudice the movies. It was interesting because it was a guy and I just don’t think a lot of guys would be that into the movie. I tall started because of a bumper sticker on Kate’s car that said “I love Darcy”. It was quite a humorous interaction, but good.

We walked around the gardens a bit and then headed further into the mountains. We stopped to take a walk at Govertts Leap and then headed to our airbnb. We explored the little house that was to be ours for the next 2 nights and then ended up kicking the soccer ball around for nearly 2 hours while we talked.

We went in search for a grocery store and came back with vegetables to roast and sausages and fruit for breakfast. Once we figured out how to turn the oven on and found an interesting assortment of pans to use we sat down to watch some Minions and Pink Panther. The supper was great and we finally went to bed around 10:30.


November 17

We laid in bed for a long time this morning, unwilling to start the day. The forcast wa for rain all day which did not exite either of us. We had a huge breakfast. It as so good and it kept us satisfied until 3pm.

We decided to check out Alison’s YWAM location in Oxford, a 30 minute ish drive. She enjoyed showing Renee where she had lived and then we went to downtown Christchurch. The wind and rain made walking from store to store not very fun, but the container shops were cool. We saw a cathedral that had been very damaged in the 2011 earthquake. In five years they still have a good long way to go with rebuilding.

We stopped back at the house for a snack and then decided to take the rental car back and then run back to the host stay, about three miles. The insane part of this plan is that it was still off and on raining and windy. We got pretty wet.

We showered and went out for pad Thai that was the next block over for take-a-way. Then we focused on cleanup. We have an early morning. We listened to the rain pounding the windows and we were glad we weren’t in a tent.

November 16

The drive to Queenstown was fairly short and we walked around some shops in the SUNSHINE! It seems that every town has the backdrop of a lake and/or mountains. Not an ugly town in these parts. The varied shades of green were so awesome to watch speed by as we drove. In Queenstown we started buying souvenirs. There were things with kiwi birds on them, things made of wool and many other trinkets to choose  from. We also needed to remember that we have to it everything in our packs for the trip home.

From Queenstown we headed north east to Christchurch. We weren’t sure how the earthquake old affet the roads but it wasn’t an issue south I Christchurch.

We drove by Mt. Cook, the tallest peak in NZ, but was covered with clouds. However what did catch Renees eye was the very turquoise lake thatwas near it and she had a hard time believing it as real.

We stopped for a snack at a bakery in Lake Tikapo an it was nice and sunny there. We enjoyed some cheesecake and a caramel cookie bar. It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

As we neared Christchurch it started to rain, then pour, then hail, then one of the brightest rainbows we have seen came out. We saw both ends and it was a double for awhile. Such a great ending to a good day.

We found our airbnb stay, walked to a grocery store for some frozen pizza and green beans. We then attempted to use our hosts kitchen – broken oven and dishwasher and no soap. We did succeed however. The food was great, maybe because I the late hour, and then we tossed everything out of our bags. The room looks like we’ve lived here a long time. Sometimes there has to be a mess before things can get better.

November 15th

Sounds of rain, slamming car doors, and traffic penetrated the night and Alison. Woke up around 4 am. By 5am the rain had stopped. We had decided the night before that we weren’t going to hike on the Kepler track because of the weather. However, we woke up to a beautiful day. We still didn’t hike because we weren’t excited about hiking up 750 meters and then back down the next day. Renee went running then we used Internet and vegged. Oh and we did our laundry and showered which was pretty exciting. We had planned on staying  to stay at a hut on the trail but it had no refund policy so we had to figure out where to stay the next couple nights.  A 2 hour drive took us to our next stay at the Kingston holiday park. We had to wait half an hour til our tiny cabin was ready (room for 2 twin beds and that is it). We hung our wet tent, went to the local cafe to buy groceries, and settled in to watch a movie in the shared lounge. We spent the evening catching up with the news and being glad we weren’t hiking.

November 14th

We slept so long and were still one of the first ones up and packed. We spoke to an Israli couple who weren’t very excited about the rain in the forcast. We got going at 7:22am and within 3 1/2 hours we were back at the parking lot. Truth be told, the hike was not as easy as it should have been. We are definitely hiked out. It managed  not to rain on us, but it was still hard. We passed a lot of people that were coming up for the day to see the falls.

Once back at Divide, we drove further to Milford Sound. It was very pretty and misty. It was raining though so we didn’t do a whole lot of walking around. We also checked out the chasm where the force of the water had carved out the rock over millions of years.

We drove back to Te Anau and it was a long drive full of curves and slow camper vans and buses. We chose to stay at a holiday park instead of out at a freedom campsite due to the rain. We decided not to set up the tent right away to lesson the time it would be in the rain. So we used some internet, made supper and talked with a family from California that remembered seeing us on the trail. It was really nice to talk to them. The holiday park was interesting: they had a common kitchen complete with dishes, stovetop, fridge and ovens. It really is a great place for backpackers and camper vans.NZ is very backpacker friendly, hostels, free wifi, showers and laundry.

When checking Facebook we were inundated with inquiries about our welfare. Evidentially there was an earthquake near Christchurch! We didn’t feel a thing! There was a lot of damage where we had just been a few days prior in Wellington, Kikiora, and Christchurch. We spent awhile letting everyone know we were ok.

We set up our tent right before we went to a movie at the Fiorland theater. The Light Between the Oceans was good and we braved the rain in our tent.