Sunday, January 31, 2010

Of Value

I've been in the valley for two weeks. I came down early (to beat the series of massive snow storms) for an appointment that I thought was Wed, Jan 20th. Turned out it was actually for the following Wed. the 27th, according to the other party. It was a project required by probate court as part of settling Mom's estate. Without specific bequests in Mom's will regarding the majority of her tangible property, an equal division between my brothers and myself requires (per the court, not us) an "appraisal" of her belongings. All her belongings. We had to hire an estate appraiser to come and determine the value of all of Mom's things.

When I first learned of this court requirement, I perceived that it would be a difficult day to endure emotionally. But then I forgot all about this fact. As Mom's stuff is in a storage unit, rather than a home, it was going to be a more difficult and lengthy task. I came down to oversee the appraisal and assist in the storage unit with my brother. We did some jewelry the week before but the main storage unit day was last Wednesday. I was very thankful that my husband had come down in time for it. He came down for an appointment of his own on Saturday, but he, too, came down early trying to beat another storm that might make it even more difficult than it already was to get out of our property.

Like I said, many months ago I perceived it might be an emotional day but then completely forgot about it until the day before. Then in the rush of the morning I headed into Appraisal Day fairly naive and unprepared. It took about an hour and a half for it to settle in on me. The hard part was seeing other people handle Mom's things in such an indifferent way. Because for me Mom's life is represented in her things, it felt like they were handling "her life" with a casualness and indifference that amounted, for me, to disrespect.

It was hard.
It was sad.
It was heavy.

I think I actually felt offended. Offended that the things containing such meaning and importance, such symbolism and representation of an extremely valued life, were treated with such disregard by these people. I know that things are just things, and that Mom's life was so much more than her things. But still, these things... well, you know what I mean.

On top of that, their job is to assign a monetary value to all the items. Items they have never seen before and don't care about. Items belonging to a woman they never knew. Items that have no meaning, memories or sentiment for them. But are tremendously full of all these for me.

In general, I liked these people. They were nice enough, ordinary people. But, they did tend to be a little on the insensitive side. To them, I'm sure, this is just a job. They do it every day. They've done it for years. And let's face it, people do accumulate a lot of stuff. But to hear them quickly assign values to boxes of items, to furniture, lamps, and such...well it just hit me kind of coarsely. And of course, everyone has stuff that isn't of worth to anyone else. Because we had to pack up Mom's house rather quickly, almost everything was packed up. It was hard - like salt in a wound - to hear them look into a box and declare the contents of no sale value by simply stating, "Garbage." Ouch. It hurt every time they said it.

One of the worst was when they declared the monetary value of one of Mom's beautifully hand knitted afghans to be a mere $8. I choked on the thought. But then it was also the moment when I made my greatest leap in detaching myself from them. Though still affected by it all, I began to see the whole situation for what it was: two people coming at the same things from completely different realities. My reality is that these things ARE of tremendous value because Mom was of tremendous value to me. I saw them as "underprivileged" in having not known Mom or known the value of her life and the memories attached to her things. I seemed to see and understand this chasm of two realities, but it didn't take away the sadness and heaviness I was experiencing as the appraisal went on.

It was hard and it was an emotional day. I grew quiet and sullen as the day went on and as the matter-of-factness of their work and occasional insensitive comments continued. I'm so thankful my husband was here. He was tired and had worked so hard the day before to just to get out of our property. He was pretty exhausted by the time he drove the four hours to get here. Then the very next morning was the appraisal and he worked for several hours in the storage room helping get boxes down, move furniture out of the way and put it all back as the appraisal progressed. My brother was there, too, arriving just at the time when I was beginning my quiet meltdown and heading out to sit in the van to eat some lunch and have a break. They finished up and I mostly steered clear.

After the storage room, we had to go to my brother's house to appraise some things stored there. After that, I followed the appraisers to another site for them to finish Mom's jewelry. I didn't get done with them until 6:30 p.m. By the time I got back "home" to my brother's house I was exhausted and needed a good cry. I let the room grow dark on me as I laid in bed and cried out the feelings. Then, we all had a quiet evening around the TV.

It feels good to have the appraisal out of the way. It still feels weird to have Mom's stuff in a storage unit. That in itself seems sort of disrespectful and devaluing, though I also fully comprehend the reality and truth to the contrary. It's just an ordinary fact. A necessity.

It also feels uncomfortable to think of someday having to sell some of her things. What we don't need, want, or can't fit into our lives will have to be sold or given away someday. It's just very strange and emotionally hard for me to detach all the memories from her things. It's hard to think of her beautiful family room couch in some second hand store and then eventually in someone else's home. I don't mind the thought of her beautiful things being in someone else's home nearly as much as I have difficulty with the thought of them being in some secondhand furniture store. Imagining them giving warm, beautiful usefulness to some young couple just starting out feels nice. But imagining her couch...the couch filled with so many memories from so many years...crammed into some concrete floored warehouse with 50 other couches...just feels dishonoring somehow.

Maybe I need your prayers to just "get over" these facts of life. But, honestly, I think it's all just part of the grieving process. Everyone's process is different. This is just part of mine.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Winter Wonderland Squared

Last week while my husband was snowed in at our home (and I was snowed out in the valley) he compared the present snowy scenery of our property to our Winter Wonderland experience of this past December. He said this one was like the last one, only greatly multiplied. He took some really nice photos of it all. Here are some of my favorites.

Compare the shot below, looking out our living room window, to the same shot I took in December. He's right; December was mild in comparison. Of course, the blue sky of December's "day after" photo looks much happier than this January "in the middle of it" photo.

I always like seeing the snow piled so high on top of small objects like these bird feeders. We've even got a customer in this shot. Looks like it's time to fill the feeders again. We love feeding the birds and we especially try to keep feed out for them after snow has covered up all their natural food.

And take a look at our extension ladder leaning against the porch. I think it's funny and amazing all at once.

Without knowing this section of our property, you can only guess at how deep the snow is. Maybe a foot or two?

Well, here's that same view after my husband set the camera timer and walked out into it.

What you don't see in either of these two photos is the 3 and 1/2 foot high piles of firewood up next to the trees on each side of this cleared area. They are completely buried leaving no sign that they are there at all!

Below is our "Driveway Road" heading out of our place. The trees are so weighed down with snow they're closing off the road. I like how the deep snow and long ago tire tracks make the road look dippy when it's actually not. Don't know how or why it did that. I also think it's funny how the accumulation of nearly four feet of snow did not level the previously made tire tracks. It must have, in those more exposed tracks, melted some as the snow kept coming down.

This is standing in the same spot as the photo above but turned 180 degrees around to show the road taking a right to become our Driveway. Love seeing the snow coming down in this shot and how everything behind the back trees is totally hazed out by the snowfall.

And then you make your way around the bend to our Driveway. The trees are so bent over it almost looks like a tunnel instead of a driveway. You can barely see our trailer peaking out at the back.

Here are our solar panels, battery house, and inverter shed. We have solar panels in three places, four actually. The two stands in the back, several panels on the short battery shed (in front of the tall inverter shed) and then a couple small panels hiding behind the battery house. To give you an idea of how deep the snow on the ground is, see the bottom of the panels on the short battery house? The bottom of the panels is nearly up to my waist.

I love, love, love this next shot. It's one of my new favorites. My husband took some like this for me because I liked the icy shot I took during the original Winter Wonderland so much. This is a huge Juniper tree we have on our property. Looking at it from this angle you can only see one of it's many trunks.

My new banner photo is the same scene taken from another angle. (Love how the branches come right at you in that one.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Reflections and Boot Shots

On our way back from Alaska last September, we stopped to take photos at some particularly gorgeous scenery. The thing that caught our eye was an old avalanche path down a mountainside. It spilled into a very still and reflecting lake.

We soon noticed the gorgeous lake and reflections on the other side of the highway.

After being really happy to get some good reflection shots, I wandered off a little ways down the road from these scenes to catch some more views.

I love seeing something through the lens of a camera, cutting out a portion of a larger scene and highlighting it through careful composition. I love seeing detail, lines, and shapes within a larger view. But sometimes, as a photographer you can be so enraptured with the view you see through your camera that you fail to take it all in by itself, without the camera stuck to your face. There are such amazing things around you which you want to capture with the camera that sometimes it takes a deliberate effort to stop taking pictures and just be in the scene. To breathe it all in, become a part of it, let it surround me. To feel the vastness and epic grandeur. To smell the air and feel the silence.


taking a deep breath.....

and listening....

are things that help me thoroughly enter the scene.

Sometimes, I sit right down on the ground, stretch out my feet, and lean back on my elbows.


The thing I like most about boot shots is that they take me right back to the deep breaths I took as I soaked it all in.

Here's a boot shot I've posted before. It's on top of Bear Mountain overlooking Skilak Lake on the Kenai Peninsula.

This is the end of the trail up Bear Mountain. It's a short but steep hike up to the lookout. The path is narrow and growth is sometimes five feet tall. And remember, it's called BEAR MOUNTAIN? Tall grasses and a 2-3 foot wide trail up a mountain named for bears, well, it makes for a bit of a tense hike. You're always keeping eyes sweeping left and right, your ears tuned for any sound off the trail, and you're trying to make as much noise as possible to let any bears know you're coming. All of this is going on while your legs are burning, your lungs are huffing, and your heart is trying to beat itself out of your body through your ears. (At least mine was, anyway.)

When you get to the top where you emerge onto a huge rock and see the expansive view before you, it is a sweet relief on multiple levels. You get to stop climbing. You are in an open place that feels safer (though in reality there are still bears around). You can sit down, get a drink, catch your breath, and enjoy the amazing view.

It was shortly after taking this photo and heading back down the trail that we had our Bear Mountain bear encounter. In some places it's best to be quick about all that "breathing it in" and "letting it surround you" stuff. Though my two visits to the rock on Bear Mountain are emblazoned on my heart as some of the best nature memories I've had, I think I prefer the safer and more relaxing amazing moments.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Baby Ayane and Her Parents

Here's a couple more of Baby Ayane with her handsome Daddy and beautiful Mommy.

Tired Daddy and Sleeping Ayane - in the hospital

Happy Daddy and Tired Ayane at home

Beautiful Mommy and Beautiful Ayane

Now you know where Ayane gets her black eyes and bountiful dark hair.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Computer Scare

This morning I was on the internet researching regional art festivals for us when all of a sudden up pops this scary notice saying all these computer viruses and threats have been detected on my computer. Yikes! It gave me a sick feeling in my heart and my stomach.

I mean there were 4 viruses here, 23 threats there, 6 viruses over here. The detailed list said Trojan this and Trojan that.

Gasp! What do I do? It's telling me to click here to remove them. So I clicked. More scary windows popped up as the fear mounted inside me. I tried to proceed in the removal process when another window popped up. This was one of those Windows notices saying they couldn't verify the security license of the software trying to access my computer.

Hmmm. That doesn't sound good. What if all these virus detection warnings are actually a scam to get me to buy some protection product? I decided to cancel. I tried to "x" out of these layers of pop-up windows but kept getting more scary warnings. They were effective; I was scared. I went through the "fix now" scenarios again, but when it came to the Windows window about the security license (or whatever), I kept hesitating.

Since I'm using my husband's laptop (which he almost never uses), I wasn't real familiar with all the anti-virus stuff he had on it. I decided to install the one I have on mine, one that came recommended by our very computer savvy friend, Frederick. I went to AVG Anti-Virus and downloaded their free program.

After a mysterious failed first attempt at downloading the trusted software, I remained nervous. What if my computer is so infected that it won't even take this download???? I forged on, going to the website again and starting over. Success! Yeah! After an "optimizing scan" as part of getting the software ready to activate, I finally was able to run a real scan.

The result? One virus found. It was labeled as "Fake Alert".

WHEW! I was very glad to have done the right thing!!! Even though it took all morning.

All of the pop-up notices of this fake alert looked very real. They used logos that looked just like Windows messages. They displayed a screen that looked just like the "My Computer" page. I wish I would have somehow ascertained the name of the product they were trying to trick me into receiving so I could tell you not to go near it. I certainly don't appreciate their deceitful and unscrupulous means of trying to manipulate me into their business!

Friday, January 22, 2010


Arizona has just experienced the worst storm week in... well, maybe ever. A series of three storms has been hitting us all week. We have about 2000 feet of unmaintained gravel road leading up to our door. Even when they can get out to plow "the big road" that won't help us much because of "our road". We could call someone to plow our road but it was already such a mucky, sludgy, muddy mess underneath that it still might not be passable.

With the first of the storms scheduled for this past Monday, and my need to be in the valley Tuesday and Wednesday, I headed down the mountain on Sunday afternoon to beat the onslaught.

My husband said the snow level last night was about 10 inches shy of our 4 foot high porch. And it snowed all night. And all day today.

That means.... he's snowed in ........and I'm snowed out.

So I don't have any photos for you. Heck, I don't have any photos for me! I wish I could see it and share it. But with all the clouds all week long, and all the snow...our solar panels aren't collecting much power. That means time spent on big ticket items like the computer or TV must be greatly conserved. My husband probably won't be able to get on the computer to email me any photos for some time.

When we get lots of snow, we have to trek out to the panels and take a broom to them so they can receive the sun. Going out into 4 foot high snow is not going to be much fun for him when the time comes.

So, unfortunately, I'm going to have to wait until after the fact - AGAIN - to post any photos for you. Wish I had better opportunities to post things at the actual time I first write about them. But such is my life: either on the road or without enough electricity.

He said there is that amazing silence over the land as snow continues to fall. We experienced 16" inches or so about 6 weeks ago and it created a total Winter Wonderland on our property. He says this current wonderland is way multiplied and that some of our trees are so bent over with snow he imagines they will surely break. Wish I was there.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I Am A Great Aunt!

Last week I became a Great Aunt. Little Hannah Ayane-Kailani was born January 13th, 2010 in Georgia to my nephew Jonathan and his beautiful wife, Angelita.

............................ Minutes old. ...........................

(Sorry the picture is so small. It was taken with a cell phone and sent to my brother, aka "Grandpa", right away.)

They're calling her Ayane (Eye-an-ee, I think). She weighed 6 pounds 11 ounces and was 19 inches long.

Get ready to see the cutest little baby girl ever.

I mean C-U-T-E.

I mean adorable.

I mean beautiful.

So, ready yourselves.
Are you getting ready?
'Cause, I'm warning you...she's cute.
I mean it!
OK, ready or not....

Here she is, at one week old

TOLD you! I gave you fair warning. Is she not gorgeous?

And here's another one...


What a face! Just look at those huge black eyes! Her mama and daddy both have big black eyes and lots of thick dark hair so it was no surprise that little Ayane would too. But, honestly, could she be any more beautiful?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Latest Adventures in Knitting

I've been doing a lot of knitting and got sort of backlogged with posting photos. Here's some of the latest fun I've been having.

This yarn is super soft and fuzzy. The variegated greys made interesting stripes throughout the scarf.

Here's another grey one. I doubled up on a thinner yarn for the body of the scarf and added the variegated grey eyelash yarn in a center stripe.

For the next one below I used the same kind of super soft and fuzzy yarn as the above light grey one. I'd found this brightly colored stringy accent yarn in the little yarn shop in Seward, Alaska where I dropped $40 before going to the internet cafe next door to do my Alaska blog update last June. It was funny. My husband dropped me off at The Sea Bean Internet Cafe. I got out of the truck, laptop in hand, and took a couple steps toward the cafe. I looked up, saw A Flyin' Skein next door, and veered immediately left to check it out. I was pleased to hear KLOVE Radio playing inside.

So here's how I used some of the yarn I got there.

Thought I'd get a little creative for this one below. I love my husband's guitar as a background for this muted earthy scarf. I used a special accent yarn down the center of this one. I was disappointed how little it showed. I ended up liking it anyway and deciding that subtle is good, too. I bought the unusual specialty yarn at The Birch Tree Gallery (and yarn shop) in Soldotna, Alaska. I had to; it was on sale.

I made this next one one for my sister-in-law, Jill. She has blond hair and blue eyes and is a kindergarten teacher. I had bought the multi-colored pastel eyelash yarn awhile ago and thought the many colors would go over well with her little students. I studied it and thought on it for a long time before deciding that this deep yellow would probably go best with it. But then I began to second guess if the color combo might be too splashy, too cutesy, or too Easter-y. But as I knitted it, I was surprised at how much I loved it. It took me by surprise how beautifully it turned out. Jill liked it, too.

This last one (below) is made with some cute and funky yarn. Casting on the first row was weird and difficult. You knit your stitches between the tufts. I just finished it this morning and am disappointed with it in a couple ways. It took me almost to the end to get relaxed with it. You can knit a few stitches easily between the tufts but every third or so stitch you have the choice of either knitting before the tuft or after it. I had been squeezing the stitch in before the tuft. I realized too late that I should have relaxed my tension and knitted after the tuft. The scarf turned out rather squished looking, and tight, and short. I think my yarn might have gone farther if I hadn't made it so tight. But I am NOT taking it out and starting over. This stuff is brutal to undo. Cute though, isn't it?

Maybe I'll get another skein and try again.

Friday, January 15, 2010

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

But, in a dark movie theater when you're trying to create your own tasty beverage with the bottles of water you snuck in inside your "movie purse", well...

........Oh, yes!

First I fixed one for me. Then my husband said he was ready for his. So I grabbed another packet and dumped it into his water. Hmmm...Why is it all sitting on top of the water instead of disappearing into the water like the other one?

And then.....

"Pssst. Why is my drink all cloudy and not shaking up?"

Yep. I mixed a packet of creamer into a bottle of water and gave it to my husband to drink. He didn't actually drink any, though.

I gave him mine. It was only right, don't you think?

But what was I to do? I was thirsty, too. I figured if I just added in the intended Grape Propel packet, it might taste like a 50-50 Creamsicle, only grape. And so I did.

It was fine! I couldn't tell at all. Except for the lovely milky white color. And it sure provided some entertainment for us, especially me as I could not stop laughing over it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Branch Decor

You've GOT to take a look at my friend, Nancy's, over-the-couch decor. Check out her blog at Down the Road and Back Again.

I'm in love! For as long as I can remember I've been bringing the outdoors indoors. Dried flowers, leaves, and...branches! I remember when I moved into my first apartment. I'd seen a basket I liked so I bought it and put it in the living room. I didn't have any plans for it, I just liked the basket. As time wore on, it began getting filled with branches I'd find along my way. If I see an interesting branch, you can be sure I'll pick it up and bring it home.

I even rescue "beautiful" logs out of the wood shed! Some of them are just too pretty to burn. I'll find something to do with them...someday.

But I never once thought of using a branch in the way Nancy has. What a brilliant idea to put a beautiful branch as such a central decoration! And I LOVE how she uses it to hang Christmas ornaments. The closest I came to this was one year I hung a few ornaments on some deer antlers we have. Kind of puny in comparison, but hey, I was on the right track!

Nancy, I love your branch! And your taste!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2009 Reading

Since my reading list has been on my side bar all year, this post is more for my own documentation. I keep a reading journal but I'm not so sure it's up to date. Hated to delete and update the list to 2010 without saving 2009's.

The Christmas Jars ..........................................(Jan)

A Dog Year (Jan)

The Dogs of Bedlam Farm (Feb)

A Good Dog (Mar)

re-read portions of 90 Minutes in Heaven (Apr)

Dog Days - Dispatches from Bedlam Farm (Apr)

Talkeetna Good Time (May-Jun)

Far North Tales - An Alaskan Anthology (Jun)

Moose Dropping & Other Crimes Against Nature - Funny Stories from Alaska (Jul)

Backstage Iditarod (Jul)

One Second to Glory (Jul)

A Rose From The Ashes - The Rose Price Story (Aug)

The Time Traveler's Wife (Sep/Oct)

Losing A Parent (Jul-Oct)

Seeing What is Sacred (Jul-Oct)

The Christmas Sweater ( Dec)

Christmas Letters (Jan)

Misc. Fluff Books (Christian Romance) not worth mentioning the titles of (2)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Home At Last

I looked at a calendar today and figured out that of the last 46 days, we have been away from home for 31 of them. It was all very good and fun, but we are glad to be home.

We spent just over two weeks in the valley over Christmas. We were busy nearly every day and every night. We got to bed at midnight or later most every night and battled the "I think I'm getting a cold" syndromes the whole time. But we sure enjoyed our stay.


--went to movies with family and friends. We saw Blind Side, Sherlock Holmes, Avatar (in Imax 3D), and one of us saw Zombieland at "the dollar theater" (which is now the $3 theater).

--had dinner with friends

--had lunch with friends

--had coffee with friends

--went to pre-Christmas parties

--went to Costco and Sam's Club ...a number of times (one of which resulted in the purchase of a new futon for our loft. It's been on our list for a long time.)

--went to the Orpheus Men's Chorale Christmas Concert

--hooked up with friends we haven't seen in years:
* Jeff and Alicia (whom I had never met) are friends my husband met in Alaska. He introduced them to each other at Gwin's Lodge a couple of summers ago. They just got engaged on Christmas Eve. It was great meeting and getting to know them. They have honored my husband with asking him to perform their wedding ceremony. (...Now to research getting him licensed so he can actually do so.)

*Nathan and Kate are friends from a band my husband was in about 15 years ago. They moved all over the country but kept in touch every now and then. Now we both know where each other are and we hope to see them more often.

*Old high school friends of my husband's. Facebook is a marvel. It connects people who have been out of touch for years upon years. My brother-in-law got in touch with "the old gang" and we ended up at a New Year's Eve party where they reminisced and told one funny story after another. We had a lot of fun.

*I had lunch with one of my dearest and longest friends, Pam. I met Pam in 2nd Grade. Through grade school we seemed to be in the same class every other year. We drifted apart for a couple years but found each other again in high school. We were in each other's weddings. After years out of contact, several years ago we got together and it was as if we'd never been apart. Except for all the catching up we had to do. We are making a point of not letting so much time go by between getting together.

We also:

--enjoyed spending Christmas Eve with both families

--visited with my Dad and Becky (I did, anyway. My husband finally succumbed to the Battle of the Cold and went to bed right around the time I left for the visit.)

--did our first Christmas Day mountain hike

--visited with my husband's Uncle Duane and Linda in their winter home in Mesa

--hung out a little with my brother's family once they got home from their Christmas back east.

--had more dinners with friends

--I managed only a couple of blog posts during our few and far between down times. Actually, only I experienced much down time at all, during which my other half was out with friends. He was busy upon busy.

--went to three different churches over the three Sundays we were there. I had to laugh at myself when we came away from the last one just a couple days ago. You know about our search for a new church home in our mountain town. Well, driving away from the church we visited with our friends, Nathan and Kate, I said to myself, "I think we've found a church! Oh,'s in the wrong town. We don't live here!" Then I said to myself, "Dang!"

We came home yesterday afternoon to lots of mail, phone messages, two happy cats, and a 37 degree house. A toasty fire was the very first order of business, after loving up on our cats, of course.

I sit now with a darkened sky outside the windows. The house grew dark on me in the last hour, the only light shining from my laptop and the burning embers of my late afternoon fire. Another winter night has settled in. Snow covers the ground outside and it's about 35 degrees out. But inside, we're cozy warm. There's nothing like the feeling of being safe and warm inside your house while it's cold and snowy outside. I'm glad to be home.