Tag Archives: alaska life

Moving: The Definition of Why

We are back in the remote village of Hoonah, Alaska for 8 months. We did live in Juneau, across the water by 35 miles, for about 20 years before trying our luck in the “Outside.” Hands down, we are delighted to be back in a place where life moves slower and everyone knows you. (In fact, it moves so slow here the speed limit is 20mph and everyone waves when you pass them on the road.)

The Outside, as the lower 48 is known, was not all it was cracked up to be for either of us. Too hot, too loud, too many people, too much traffic. Just too much. When the call came with job offers to return to Alaska, we gave an enthusiastic, “on our way.”

Of course, when you’re going to live somewhere for 8 months out of the year, you have to figure out what to do with your stuff. Luckily, 6 years prior we had downsized when we moved out of Alaska, passing on quite a bit of our stuff. Now we had a smaller collection of stuff, but it’s still stuff to sort through. For two months our life consisted of various piles around the house:

Take.

Store.

Sell.

Donate.

Trash.

Take.

Store.

Sell.

Donate.

Trash.

Take.

Store.

Sell.

Donate.

Trash.

Occasionally I would throw something out….literally into the rubbish bin or put it into a donate pile only to discover it back in the cabinets/closet a few days later. I began announcing, “I’m throwing these socks out. They have holes. DO NOT remove them from the garbage.” It was time to put down the rule with my husband, “If you see something in the trash or donation pile, do not remove them. They’re there for a reason.”

For example, I tried to donate 3 little rectangular trays you’d use for breading items. You know the kind, one for wet, one for flour, one for crumbs. We never used it and I figured Goodwill could find it a new home. Three days later, it’s back in the cabinet. I had a little cooking pot I bought from IKEA that we never used. That also was in the donation pile yet somehow ended back up in the cabinet….

With moving, we had to think strategically and look towards the future.

Take.

Store.

Sell.

Donate.

Trash.

Since we were giving up our home on the east coast completely, we had to think, after 8 months where are we going to spend the remaining 4 months of the year before returning to Alaska? We decided on Arizona. Now we have to plan for two destinations.

So the packing began.

All photos with exception of a very small handful go into storage.

Pots and pans, they’re 20 years old. Donate.

Living room furniture. Sell or trash.

Christmas and halloween decorations. Storage. (Try not to buy more in the meanwhile.)

Books. Donate. Keep. Take.

Garden supplies. Donate.

Cat toys. Take.

Second car. Sell.

Spices. Take.

Soda Stream cartridges. Take.

Favorite hot sauce. Take.

Cat snacks. Take.

Brush lettering supplies. Take. Store.

King size bed. Leave as freebie at the community recycling center where everyone leaves their odd household items.

I know what you’re thinking….moving the king size mattress had to be a nightmare. Not really. We threw it off our balcony. (Yes, we checked there were no people or turkeys in the vicinity. Mostly worried about turkeys.) We were only on the 3rd floor, 4th if you count the basement, of our apartment building. The mattress itself didn’t fly, it dropped like a cinder block, but boy those two box springs got some distance. They floated down like leaves on an autumn breeze. It was like watching a flying carpet.

Luckily, we didn’t keep a bunch of furniture, however our storage unit is quite full. I have no idea what is actually in the storage unit. It’s just stuff. Keeping guard is my favorite halloween decoration, Stan the skeleton, sitting in the office chair. Don’t worry, Stan is backed up by his posse of badass homies….a metal goat and two cows…and a giant paper mache turkey vulture.

After awhile the boxes we mailed to Alaska began to show up and it was like Christmas. One box weighed in at a cool 69 pounds…..1 pound less than the USPS limit. When the boxes arrived, my husband was in Juneau, of course. Since our Post Office is small, I couldn’t leave them there. Trying to lift and carry boxes weighing between 50 – 69 pounds into a 15-passenger van, was like watching the Three Stooges, only I was two stooges short. I swear one of the boxes was as big as a washing machine. How am I going to get my arms around that?

First of all, there is no trunk space in a 15-passenger van. Luckily the van I had was missing the last row of seats. I was like a contortionist trying to heft those boxes from the post office loading dock into the back of the van. Not to mention the way things were positioned, it was impossible to slide them into the van, I had to lift them up into the vehicle. My arms were like silly putty.

Our house is up a hill. Although its March, we still have mountains of plowed snow on either side of the drive. Knowing there was no way I’d be able to carry these boxes the length of the van into the house, I set about doing a 42-point turn in the driveway. I’m sure the neighbors were delighted, the back up beeper kept going off for a good 20 minutes.

“Just back the hell up lady!”

Yeah, well I was working on it.

Obviously, I am not a professional weight lifter. If I was, I could have thrown these boxes on my shoulder and walked them into the house. No chance. Go to Plan B.

Back the van up as close as possible to the house.

Open the van’s back door.

Gently drop boxes to the ground.

Roll said boxes to the house like square tires.

What. The. Hell. Did. We. Send?

Cat beds, blender, food processor, cat toys, clothes, shoes, kitchen utensils, hand soap, shampoo, craft supplies, rice, coffee, hot sauce, coffee mugs, books, pillows, quinoa, chia seeds, yoga mat, blankets, cat snacks, Costco boxes for the cats. The list went on and on.

Now granted, where we live, there isn’t the ability to run to Target and pick up your hair gel, face cream, socks or favorite pasta sauce. We have one grocery, with 4 aisles and a hardware store. The motto goes, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” Which explains why I sent 3 bottles of body wash, 4 bottles of hair gel ,12 packs of cat treats and 3 Costco size boxes of snack bars among many other things.

If we don’t need it in Alaska, like the high speed blender, food processor or pasta maker, then we might need to take it to Arizona….which explains the warmer weather clothing, lighter shoes and more cat toys.

The funny thing about our spot in Alaska, is it’s only temporary for the season. We move all of our stuff into the little house only to pack it up and move it out again at the end of 8 months. As I was unpacking things, I started a new box for donations at the end of our stay….multiple water bottles and a tiny purse for starters. I’m not sure why I thought I needed to bring a crossbody purse. I currently travel with a daily bag that is big enough to not only carry my purse, but my reading material, notebook and all the other little odd ball items I don’t want to be without.

It’s not like I’m going to spend the day shopping or need a small purse to go to a concert or spend the night on the town. There’s none of that here.

Speaking of books, I sent two boxes. Downsizing from a big bookcase to a one-ish shelf is a feat. I’d have better luck putting my leg behind my ear like the cat does – than limit my books. Fiction, non-fiction, art and cookbooks. Have you ever experienced the anxiety and panic that sets in when you don’t have something lined up to read? My point exactly. For me, the feeling is about equal to when a cop car shows up behind you on the highway.

There’s only so many times you can read the back of packages. Some of the books will come with me to Arizona. About 12 boxes went into storage. One box, with my cookbooks is currently on tour with the USPS and I’m hopeful it will turn up. That box also has a smaller version of Rex, the dinosaur from Toy Story. Everyone can identify with a Toy Story character and he is mine. “Rooooooaaar. Were you scared? Tell me honestly.”

(Update since writing the blog. My box on tour did finally show up today. Not in it’s original box, with half of the items missing….including my talking Rex. The rest of the items are dirty and damaged. The good news is the Disney Store had a Rex….and he is currently on his way to me.)

However, no matter how much I planned and sorted….I still found things I regret not packing which we used on a regular basis. Our favorite salad dressing. Taco sauce. Cinnamon. Mixed nuts. While those were definite forehead slapping revelations, I also didn’t pack the hanging octopus drying rack! What was I thinking? Where was I planning on drying my delicates… over a tree branch? Amazon had a lovely blue octopus. I love it.

That’s the thing about moving. It’s all about the stuff. You sort through your life’s collection of stuff and wonder, is it worth keeping? Do I need this? Do I even like this? If I take it, will I use it? What was I thinking when I bought this? Didn’t even know I had this. I’ve been looking for this! Would someone want this? What in the world is this?

After you settle into your new location, regardless if you’re moving a household, office or dorm room, there’s three activities everyone gets to experience:

  1. Murphy’s Law shows up and reminds you, yes, you should have sent the octopus.
  2. Hide and Seek is a new game where you regularly ask yourself, “Where the hell did I put that?”
  3. Tetris skills are required to figure out where/how to store all of your stuff.

Moving is just like coming home from grocery shopping…the goal is to carry it all in at once.

Don’t Let the Cobwebs Gather in Your Elbows

Juneau, Alaska. Check.

Miami, Florida. Check.

Boston, Massachusetts. Check.

Restart…

“We want you both to come work for us.” That’s how the story began.

Girls, pack your cat nip. We’re going back to Alaska. Someone hit the reset button.

Sometimes, it takes you six years to figure out what you prefer in life. Sometimes you take wrong exits off the highway before you figure out your GPS has given you faulty directions and you have to get back on the highway. And sometimes, you have to go out there and see other places so you can extend your family and have more experiences in life.

We’re Off…Like Cats Looking for the Open Can of Tuna!

Once we fired off the confetti cannon and made our decision to go, we quickly packed up our three furry kids, dropped off the two lizards to the nieces and selected some creature comforts to get us through a couple of months of Alaska living. We will be back to Boston in November to remote work and pack up our house, then go back to Alaska in March for the next summer season.

Packing for a second household is interesting. Which garlic crusher do you take? What about cutting boards, one or three? Are we going to need the blender? Better take the mini food processor. Do you think we should take the Learn Spanish DVDs so we have something to do? How many pairs of jeans are you taking? Don’t forget the favorite cat toys. And whatever happens, don’t forget the cat treats. Better pack a Keurig and a bubbler (Sodastream, as I love my bubbly water.)

One would think, if you forgot something, just go to the store when you get there. Right? That’s the thought of 99% of everyone who is traveling to new locations. Except where we’re going, that’s not as easy as it sounds.

We’ll be spending most of our year in Hoonah, Alaska. Population 750 give or take. About 3 miles of paved road and 150 miles of dirt logging roads. Ever see that show, “Alaska Bush People” back when they were in Alaska? Yeah, well, they lived in Hoonah. And no, they were not really living in the wilderness. Talk about fake news.

Hoonah is the largest Tlingit community in Alaska and is located on Chichagof Island in southeast Alaska. It’s about 40 miles west of Juneau or a 20 minute flight. It also has the largest concentration of coastal brown bears in the world, although I have yet to see one. Lots of bear poop on the road, lots of poop.

(What is a coastal brown bear? Apparently, those in the know, decided to make a different class from the typical grizzly bear and classify the coastal brown bear. As I understand it, the coastal brown bear found mainly on Chichagof and Admiralty Islands eat mainly salmon and are therefore bigger in nature, therefore you get a different type of bear. )

Back to the story…

Anyhow, there’s no mall, no Walmart, no Target, no Walgreens, no Kohl’s. There’s a hardware store and small grocery store, whose motto is, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” The other day I was desperate for a pair of plain old regular scissors for home. You know the kind with the orange handle? Went to the hardware store. Found them. $16.

I’ve ordered some things from Amazon, you know I’m a Prime member and all. An electric throw blanket. I thought I’d pick one up at Costco in Juneau, WHEN I FLEW OVER TO GO GROCERY SHOPPING, but they didn’t have them. Normally, Prime is next day delivery or two days, right? Here….it’s two weeks. My blanket should be here by September 27th.

Please Keep Your Claws Inside the Carrier at All Times.

Traveling with the cats is always an experience.

Liggy, our 20-22 year old is a pro. She’s been from Alaska to Miami to Boston. And now she’s gone back to Alaska.

Monkey and Taku, well…they’re a little unimpressed at the whole process. They joined us in Miami, so they’ve only done one journey with us. A flight to Boston. Needless to say, as soon as the carriers come out, all hell breaks loose.

Monkey sings the song of her people, which sounds more like someone who has just eaten a meal that hasn’t agreed with their system and their bowels are about to explode.

Taku silently glares at us. Placing what are undoubtedly triple strength, unorthodox feline hexes on our souls, cursing us into damnation. No snuggles for you.

We break up the flight, overnighting in Seattle as a cross country, to Alaska flight is too long to be stuck in a kennel. Going from Boston to Hoonah is a three flight journey, even with non-stop flights. The upside was once we got to the Seattle hotel and blocked access to behind the beds, the girls decided there was safety in numbers! STICK TOGETHER! Normally, they don’t hang out together….

Cats snuggled in at Seattle hotel, safety in numbers.

When we travel, the two youngest go underneath in the traveling pet cargo area. Which I told them was a disco for pets. I’m not sure they believed me entirely. I did tell them to go easy on ordering the Alaskan beer and mimosas on the flight as altitude can sometimes do crazy things with your alcohol consumption. Liggy travels as my carry on and goes under the seat, she’s a first class pet. Of course at her age, she should be.

However, when we got to Juneau and loaded up into our final plane, Liggy’s eyes were as big as golfballs as she was loaded into the back of our little plane. At least we were all together on this one, everyone was seated in the same compartment. I could turn around, look past the cargo net and see the three girls. Hang on everyone, here we go. One more flight. At least Monkey wasn’t serenading us. If only because Taku had her muttering out the unorthodox feline hex as well. Bonding at it’s finest.

Welcome to Hoonah-lulu

Ah, what a relief.

Not that we finally arrived after traveling for two days, with three cats and five pieces of luggage. One of which was the cat’s suitcase, I kid you not.

But we arrived back where we’re supposed to be.

A good friend greeted us with open arms at the airport, we dropped our stuff at the house, got the girls situated so they could find hiding spots inside the house, then we drove 2 miles of paved road to the grocery store.

It felt like a giant scratchy coat had been shed and cast aside.

I could finally breathe.

I was lighter.

I wasn’t stressed about having to drive down the Boston highway with 14,839 crazy drivers, making left hand turns from right hand lanes. Or taking 90 minutes to go 16 miles. Or swerving lanes as they text on their cell phones.

All of the frustrations of my previous job slid off like waves on a fine sand beach. No longer my issue. Not my problem.

The next day we went into work, doing what we know best…cruise tourism. People are excited about the future. Excited about the possibilities. Excited about the potential. There’s talking, laughing and sharing ideas. There’s big ideas, big plans and things are happening.

There’s no time to sit back. It’s time to jump in and see how we can help. What can we do? Where do we start? It may be the countdown to the end of the 2019 season, but the 2020 season is already in planning and new projects are unwrapping faster than birthday gifts.

It’s thrilling to be back.

Wait, did I mention the view from work?

Consignment Shop “Shock and Awe” Moment

Since I live in Alaska, in a town without a mall, I turn over my closet about once every two years or so.  This was a turn over year.  I followed directions and washed, reviewed and prepped my gently used items and dropped them off at the consignment shop a couple of days ago.

Today I returned to pick up those items they decided not to take.  The employee asked if I had a couple of minutes to review “why we didn’t take some of your items.”  Sure, I thought how bad could this be….well I was certainly surprised.

I understand the concept of a consignment store.  They buy gently used items from people who are finished with the item and hope to make a couple of bucks off the sale.  Consignments stores are a few steps above a thrift store, however they are still buying and selling used items.  I also understand the need to bring in items that are clean, free from wrinkles and stains and retaining a lot of life.

This is what I had.

However, if they went over every single item that came in there with as fine of a toothed comb as they did mine, there wouldn’t be stained, button missing, wrinkled, faded items on the racks.  You can imagine my Shock and Awe, as I stood there in my Macy’s outfit, looking extremely chic, compared to the sales assistant dressed in a men’s flannel shirt and baggy jeans…..as she went over each denied piece.

A yellow shirt, from Macy’s, apparently had armpit stains.  Strange,  she couldn’t really locate any said pit stains.  For a whole minute she compared the armpit material to the rest of the shirt, asking me…”do you see a difference?”  Ahhh, no and neither could she.  Well, they couldn’t take it anyway because “she won’t let us if we suspect a stain.”

A super cute Talbots cable knit sweater was denied because, “it’s been too loved.”  When I asked what that meant, she said it was faded.  Hate to tell you but that IS the color – Robin’s Egg Blue.

Dress pants, which were a size too big for me and barely worn were denied due to a light amount of “pilling, where your legs rub together.  But don’t worry, mine rub together too.”  Wow – don’t hold back.  Why don’t you tell me what you really think.

The list went on and on.  When I asked about the shoes, she pulled out a bag and the first pair pulled out were 2.5 inch Alfani heels.  The employee admitted she didn’t know why they weren’t accepted.  She turned them over, looked at the wear and said, “see this little bit of rubber that has been worn away on the heel?  She won’t let us accept these because everyone has a different walking pattern.”  You are kidding me right?  Another pair was “too worn on the bottom” even though the rubber was intact.

Denied due to worn rubber.

At the conclusion of our review she put my items in a trash bag and with a cheery smile said, “thank you for your consignment, you have the best clothes – we love it when you come in.”

Guess what sister, that’s the last time I consign anything with you.

Tomorrow, I plan to go in and take a look at what’s on the racks.  Worn, faded and wrinkled clothes?  Worn out shoes?  Old styles?  Pilled sweaters and dress slacks?  Let’s see what we find.  After all, so many people in this town dress in the current styles and are trend followers, I mean the shear volume of nearly new items in this shop should be overwhelming due to their strict acceptance policy.  Right?

Perhaps monkeys will be flying out of my butt tomorrow, but I highly doubt it.  Watch out, the Minxy is on a mission.