My mom likes traditional Advent candles: three purple ones and one pink one. These candles are usually not available in Dillingham. This means that for the past few years, I, loving daughter and resident of Anchorage, City of Stores and Buying Stuff, have had adventures in Advent hunting for these candles. A few tales follow…
Adventure #1: The last pink candle in the universe.
After going to five different stores, I finally found plenty of purple candles and ONE pink candle. One. Pink. Candle. Possibly the last pink candle in the city. Possibly the last pink candle in the WORLD! And on the way to the register, I dropped it. And it broke. Do the math, people: four candles, three of which had replacements available, and I drop the only irreplaceable one.
Adventure #2: I put them in a safe place.
Determined to avoid Advent candle adventures of the past, I started early. As in, August. Tra-la-la! Pier One had perfect taper candles with perfect Advent colors. Perfect. It was all going to be perfect. My mom was even in town to purchase the candles so any dropping would be her fault and not mine.
It was all going to be perfect.
And then I was placed in charge of the candles getting mailed to Dillingham so as to avoid putting them in airline luggage which is thrown about by snow apes upon departure and arrival in Alaska’s finest airports. So I put the candles in a safe place. This was not a good idea. Because I promptly forgot where that safe place was. Since I had now lost the Advent candles, the hunt was on. Again, multiple stores. Again, the elusive pink taper candle. After going to every store within reasonable driving distance, I found the candles! They were perfect! It really was going to be perfect!
Taking no further chances, I sped home and packed the candles in a box. The blankety-blank things were going in the blankety-blank mail before anything else could happen to them. And then it happened. Seconds, milliseconds, nanoseconds after carefully packing, painstakingly addressing, and thoroughly taping up the candle-containing box, I found the original candles in the safe place where I had put them.
And my head exploded. I yelled mean things.
Mailed the original candles along with the replacement set. Also found a set of candles I had purchased LAST SPRING to head off my annual Advent candle-related descent into madness. Mailed them too because at this point, I refuse to have those things in my house. So, my mom will be receiving three sets of Advent candles. Hopefully she puts the extra sets in a safe place.
Okay, just found out that traditional Advent candles are available through Amazon. Of course they are. Amazon has everything except for the little bits of my brain that just flew out.
Happy Advent! You’ll find me celebrating with nice, ordinary, easily accessible red and white taper candles because whilst I love Advent tradition, I think it is trying to kill me.
I love to read. My mom says that we aren’t supposed to love things that aren’t alive, so I should probably say something more appropriate like, “I enjoy reading very much,” or “Reading is one of my favorite pastimes. But those don’t sum up my lifelong relationship with books and print. So, “love to read” it is. Sorry Mom.
Upon listening to a local teacher encourage parents to get their kids reading, my mother asked, “How do I get Stephanie to do anything else?!?” I resent that. I do plenty of other stuff. I write reviews about books I read. I go to the library to get more books and to return books that I have read. I read about books on the Internet. I tell people about books I’m reading. I help the guy who can fix everything build more bookcases to house the new books I drag home. I totally do more than just read!
But I do love, love, love reading.
So I can totally relate to Dr. John Sotos, a cardiologist and amateur historian who likes to do things like speculate on the health of U.S. presidents gone by. An avid reader, as most of us who love dusty corners of knowledge are, Dr. Sotos walks the Stanford “Dish” trail for two hours every day, while reading a book. He says, “It’s paved. Except for the time I stepped on a snake, it’s completely safe.”
And some people think of readers as genteel and mousy library-bound people. HAHA! They’re so misguided. Readers have guts! Readers have dedication! Readers are VERY INTENSE PEOPLE who ignore danger!
Here are the things that I have done while reading:
1. Turned on the blender full of cranberries and juice. Without the lid.
2. Pulled a pot of simmering pasta off the burner and onto the floor.
3. Torched three teakettles that I allowed to boil dry. Note: I now have one with a VERY LOUD WHISTLE.
4. Stepped on Artemis the Cat. She’s not poisonous, but she is very pointy in places. Also very yowly.
5. Walked into a tree.
Loving reading takes grit. And fortitude. And Band-aids. And mops. And maybe visits to the emergency room (be sure to bring a book).
I’m not sure why there isn’t a superhero based on a truly dedicated reader.
I would totally read about that.
The guy who can fix everything came with a dog. Levi, ultimate example of canine perfection: massive half Husky, half German Shepherd, smart as a whip, and all gorgeousness. Marriage means sharing and compromising, of course, except for when it comes to Levi. I have stolen Levi. I’m not sorry because I love that dog. Levi is not sorry either. He adores me and uses most of his intellect and energy to figure out how he can be of ever greater assistance. He helps me balance my checkbook and program my phone. He advises me on philosophy and astrophysics. Walking Levi is sort of like being with a celebrity; everyone oohs and ahs and wants to talk to him and take pictures of his giant, fluffy, shampoo-commercial tail and long eyelashes. And then he’s all charming and helps the older ladies across the street. And people swoon and gasp and compose ballads. Until they see him morph into Security mode. This happens when Levi senses a threat to my person or well-being, like a leaf blowing in my direction or an unleashed dog that doesn’t meet his standard of courtly manners. Then he’s all icy attitude and muscles. Fortunately, he’s also all obedience, so we’re still welcome in the neighborhood. And also well-respected.
And then there’s Lyra. We’re not sure how she happened. She’s sort of an accident. But a happy, wriggly one. Lyra is not smart. She spends most of her time licking trees and rocks and trying to remember what “sit” means. While Levi is signing autographs and posing for pictures, no one notices Lyra. Except me. I love that little dog. She collects the loose hairs from Levi and stores them carefully with her most treasured red squeaky toy. It’s sort of gross, but so cute that she considers Levi-scraps such treasures. Humans aren’t left out either. She wraps her whole self around my foot and coos. She is the world champion of loving.
I’ve always been around animals. We constantly kept them when I was growing up, and our neighbors had a dog team for a while. By the way, dog teams create a stench all their own. If your neighbors choose to engage in the adventure of dog-mushing, you will probably need to find some things that are approximately the same dimensions as your nostrils so that you can plug off the aroma. Or you could walk around in scuba gear. I’m not sure which option would be more attractive. Ask Levi. He probably knows. Anyway, animals have been a constant in my existence and I love that. This comes from my father.
My dad is like a Disney movie. You know, the kind where birds and squirrels sing duets with the hero and help him escape the dungeon or prison or underwater lair? Yep. My dad’s got that. Animals universally regard him a being of wonder and splendor. And he likes them too, talks with them like they’re people and lets them sit on the chair with him (much to the grossed-outedness of my poor mom). It’s one of the best things my dad has given me, the doggie grins and kitty-cat purrs that form the constant scene and sound of my domestic life.
Please notice that I did not say IN nursing school. I have switched careers! I now work in the School of Nursing at our hometown university, serving as a support person for Alaska Native students in the nursing program. Here are the benefits of my new job:
- I don’t have to grade papers anymore. I’ve become acquainted with these new things called, “weekends.”
- I don’t have to explain to the iChildren that frantically copying a classmate’s assignment while I take attendance isn’t “working together on our homework.”
- I do not have to tell anyone to spit out his or her gum, prompting him or her to swallow it and then open wide his or her gaping maw with lolling-out tongue to show me that he or she “wasn’t chewing gum.”
- No one’s parents have called to complain about anything.
- No one’s parents have said, “But you didn’t tell him he couldn’t stab people in the arm with a pencil!”
- I can use the ladies’ room whenever I want.
- I don’t have to explain to the iChildren that doing 45 Google image searches for “fart” isn’t a good use of library time.
- No one has come back from being “sick” with a fresh manicure and new blonde highlights.
- No one has informed me that he or she is going to Florida for a two-week hockey tournament and that he or she needs all his or her makeup work BY THE END OF CLASS TODAY.
- No one has returned from a two-week hockey tournament in Florida without any of the work I scrambled together on the day he or she left because they, “JUST DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO DO IT.”
- I don’t have to grade papers anymore. I’ve become acquainted with these new thing called, “after work.”
- I don’t have to grade papers anymore. I love that part so much, I will marry it.
But I’m going to miss a lot of things too, including these actual statements (but not the actual misspellings) from real iChildren which will make me laugh for years to come:
- “You were gone yesterday! I thought you died!”
- “You were gone yesterday! I made you an origami shark.”
- “Do you want my sandwich? The news said teachers don’t make very much money.”
- “My hamster died yesterday. Can we bury him outside and read poems? I can bring him tomorrow!”
- “My personal narrative is about the best burp I ever had.”
- “You can have this dime because class was fun today.”
- “Can you make the kid next to me stop farting?”
- “Oh! I know who that is! It’s Tu-PACK! I’m so street!”
- “You’re my nicest teacher and your class doesn’t suck.”
- “I used to hate writing, but since you let me write about roadkill, now I kind of like it. Not, like, a lot though.”
- “I’m really into this new band called AD/DC!”
- “Can I borrow those purple shoes you have?”
It’s been real. Now I’m going to go and not grade any papers.
And now, we are eating. My dad often says that even the queen of England can’t get fish as fresh as ours. She’s totally missing out.
Thing 1 and Thing 2, my twin 2-year-old nieces brought their parents to visit last week. And they left a few things behind when they went home to Bethel, Alaska. Now, if I were The Guy Who Can Fix Everything or totally bonkers and if it were winter, I could drive there on a snow-go (snow mobile for you laypersons) in three days or so. But since I am rational me enjoying a balmy 50 degree day, I’m going to use the mail.
Have you ever lived in a place that didn’t have a road connecting it to anywhere else? It has its ups for sure. Communities tend to be close-knit since not just anyone can traipse in and out at their leisure. Tanks of gas tend to go further since driving distance is physically limited–the longest drive you can take in Dillingham, Alaska is under a half hour. But it isn’t so awesome when you’re out of YOUR shampoo which they do not sell in town. Or when you can’t send flowers to your mom in return for her lifelong restraint against whapping you over the head with a bazooka. Or when a pet needs a veterinarian. And don’t even try to find a Starbucks or try to pay less than 8 dollars for a gallon of commoner, non-organic, just plain regular milk. You probably can’t even get the fancy stuff. Then there are those times that planes can’t fly due to weather or volcanic eruption or whatever. Hope you don’t need fresh fruit and vegetables because in about a week there won’t be any in the local stores.
The lack of connecting roads makes the mail and cargo in Alaska interesting. I’ve sent decorative gourds, pears, bags of rice, a freezer, salmon scale samples, a single granola bar, rain gear, shop towels, hollowed-out eggshells for Easter, canned salmon, disposable gloves, boat parts of every variety, cell phone parts of the wrong variety and then the right one, Cheerios, and rubber boots along with, you know, bills and regular letters. During her last visit to Anchorage, my sister and The Tall Guy arranged to send themselves a car on the river barge next month. My mom is here now and is mailing herself a box of artificial flowers to put on the graves of our dearly departed next Memorial Day.
Later today, I’m going to be mailing homemade odor-eaters comprised of epsom salts and wintergreen essential oil in cheap cotton socks that I will simply rubber-band shut since, unlike Dawn, I don’t do that sewing thing. My brother is working up on the North Slope (where the polar bears are) and has paralyzingly stanked-out work boots that he is newly aware of since he’s got a girlfriend now. His co-workers will probably give the mail carriers a hero’s welcome.
Alaska’s motto is, “North to the Future,” but it should probably be “If it fits, it ships,” written in black Sharpie marker and covered in clear packing tape.
Here is my husband flying around. The question for you is, what is he flying?
See, I can tell where you are from based on your identification of the machine in the photo. If you refer to it as a “snow mobile,” it means that you are from what we in Alaska call “The Lower 48” or “Outside.” If you would say that is a “sled,” you are probably from the Pacific Northwest or maybe Alaska, but probably from one of the communities on the fancy road system, like Anchorage. If it’s a “snow machine,” you’re from Alaska in general. If you call the thing a “snow-go,” well, now I know that we probably know some of the same people because you are from rural Alaska. From the village. Keeping it vill!
Despite my rural upbringing, I am not a fan of ripping around on a snow-go. It’s cold and noisy and smelly and you have to wear this huge helmet that makes you look like a gigantic gear shift. And there are hidden bumps in the snow that send you crashing around and my idea of fun isn’t dragging a 1000 pound machine out from wherever I got stuck most recently. And a lot of times, someone shoots a caribou and then you have to drag that thing home which means keeping track of the sled you’re pulling along with trying to watch for spots where you may fall into an unfrozen swamp. My husband, on the other hand, is a snow-go fanatic. Except that he would say “sled” because his family is from Wasilla, a community on the road system.
When we were dating, I agreed to go riding with that guy because it’s important to support each other’s activities and all that. Oh. My. Gosh. I have never been so scared in my life. Did you know that it’s possible to do a jump like the one above with TWO people on the machine even if one is using all her molecules to try and remain on blessed Earth? Add a gigantic gear shift-head behind the guy in the photo. If you really want to add authenticity, pour a smoothie down your back and stick your gear shift-head in a fan. You have to imagine the screeching since the helmet holds it all in. But it was there, make no mistake. Banshees have nothing on me.
Now, it’s not that I’ll never go riding again. However, we have reached the mutual understanding that should David feel the need to jump over the moon, he needs to be prepared to either let me sit it out or to be extremely nice for the next few days while I am undergoing therapy and compulsively eating cheesecake. It’s important to support each other’s activities and all that.