Tag Archives: moving for work

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?

So. How You Liking Miami?

Over the last few days several people have asked me the same thing.  It’s always with hesitation they ask.

“So.”

l o n g        p a u s e      h e r e

“How you liking Miami?”

Then I swear they hold their breath and squint their eyes.  Waiting for me to sucker punch them or something.  It’s quite odd.

My response?

It’s fine.  Honestly, I have nothing to really compare it to logically.  It’s completely different from anything I’ve experienced in the last 18 years.  Below, I thought I’d take a moment or ten, to tell you what I think…..

First off.  It is the polar opposite of living in Juneau, Alaska.

  1. People here use umbrellas.  In Juneau, we use the hoods on our coats and tough it out.    A little rain never hurt anyone.
  2. However, the rain in Miami is a torrential downpour that floods streets and the car wipers don’t go fast enough.  Thunder, lightening and rivers…..30 minutes later and we’re done with the rain.  Out of Mother Nature’s system and moving on to better things.
  3. Lots of things I don’t need to see.  Such as that lady’s nipple, as she waited for the crosswalk signal.  Her bikini top was just a little off kilter.  Or that lady in front of me on my golf course walk, with the wrinkled and saggy skin…..with her short shorts tucked up on the sides under her thong (not kidding) so anyone behind her could see the loose bags of skin that used to be her butt cheeks…..but more like an overcooked potato skin….flopping around under her shorts.  She would have made a better impression keeping the shorts down and covering the cheeks.
  4. I’ve never seen so many BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lamborghini, Maserati, Porsche, Lexus and Cadillacs in one area.  So much so that I have forgotten what a Subaru looks like, let alone a pick up truck.
  5. If you are trying to grow an alien out of your stomach, hip or butt…..please, encase that in spandex, we all need to see that.  And it’s better if you can encase it in spandex that has horizontal stripes.  See below:
  6. One day I went to work in a new work outfit.  Gone are the jeans and hiking boots.  I now wear dresses, skirts and platform heels.  I texted my cousin and said, “I think I picked the wrong skirt it seems tight and short.”  Her reply, “you are in Miami it’s all about butts and boobs.”  Noted.
  7. The land of 18 languages.  Russian, French, Czech, Yiddish and oh yeah… Spanish.
  8. Hey!  It’s not all Asian food here!  What a break!
  9. It starts to drizzle and the traffic slows down from 80 mph to 40mph.  I’m the only one weaving in and out of traffic at that point.
  10. Whole cases of freshly cut fruit at the grocery stores.  Not to mention the celebrity sightings there too.
  11. Beaches without rocks.  A novelty.
  12. Sunshine.  Lots of sunshine.
  13. I can get a manicure for $15.00 and a full service pedicure for $20.  Seriously.  With a massaging recliner chair to boot.
  14. Costco…..easily twice the size of ours.  I can get my prescription, fresh flowers, produce, gas, eyeglasses AND funeral casket all in one place.

It has been interesting.  Yes, living in the suburbs of Miami definitely has it’s challenges.  The traffic is something fierce but you learn to work around it.  The people aren’t always the nicest but you deal with it.  For example if I start talking to people in the grocery or Costco people automatically know I’m not from here and it either gets them interested in where I’m from or causes them to choose another check out lane.

My job is great.  I love my job.  It’s tough.  Every day is a challenge and you don’t know what’s coming next.  I’ve never slept so good – all because I’m mentally drained by the time I get home at night.

Working for a giant company is definitely odd.  The closest thing I have to compare it to is working for the State of Alaska.  Huge machine and we’re only responsible for the left big toe portion.  I’ve met two of the presidents, which is very exciting.  One of which thought I brought a great conversation to the table!  Okay!  Believe it or not he is British and I actually got about every third word he said —- rather than my usual every sixth word.

I laugh a lot every day and yet there are still lots of things I need to learn.  When the VP says, “DO IT.”  I at first think, “really?  He can’t be serious.”  No, really, he is serious.  This is soooo backwards from what I’m used to that it takes me a bit to roll it around before I swallow and say, “okay, well if he’s serious, then hell yeah!  Let’s do this.”

Many times people have asked me, “what do you do on the weekends?”  I am here by myself and it makes people worry about my sanity and social life.  The first thing I tell people is this is the SECOND time I’ve packed up and moved somewhere I didn’t know anyone or anything.  How do you think I ended up in Alaska for 18 years?  I’m a Philly girl!  Come on!

Second thing I have to tell people:  I’m an only child.

I was taught to fend for myself since third grade.  True.  While others in this world need outside people to complete them….I am comfortable doing my own thing, on my own time at my own speed.  Often times people are dumbfounded when I tell them I do all kinds of things by myself.

I take myself out to dinner and not just fast food.  Sit down, order a glass of wine, salad, dinner etc.  When I walk up to the hostess stand I always tell them, “I am a giant party of one.”  The facial expression is priceless!  What a relief!

I have gone to movies and art museums by myself.

I have even gone to theatre productions by myself in major cities.

It’s no big deal to me.  I can do it.  Contrary to what is difficult to lots of people in this world…..I am very, very comfortable being with myself.  By myself.  I don’t need a giant circle of people to validate me or my actions.  Here I am….love me or not….it’s not my problem.

Yes, I have a small circle of friends, around this globe and they are what matters.  I don’t need a huge friend base of 200 people to make me feel valued or accomplished.  I’ve been doing this since I was 8 years old and I’m proud to say I’m quite independent.

So when people are astonished I can do this life in Miami, by myself, I am perplexed because to me, this is a huge adventure.  I may take myself on a 3 mile walk and enjoy my thoughts or music as I go.  Maybe I will drive to Barnes & Noble and get lost for a few hours in the shelves of books.  There’s a great movie out….maybe I will treat myself to snacks and a glass of wine then hit the movie.  I have signed up for Conversational Spanish at the college and have a GroupOn for pole dancing lessons – all on my own.  No big deal.

I go to the gym at work during the week – first thing in the morning.  Do my work, on the third floor of the 1080 building until 6:30 or 7:00 at night and head home.  At home I cook a nice healthy meal, watch some tv or read….play Words with Friends and then off off to bed.  Rewind and repeat the next day.

The complex I’m in has a pool, if I should choose to jump in, but that’s not for me yet.

Yes, there are massages and nail appointments.  My new hair stylist Greta is great!  I have been to the beach once in all my time here….go figure.  But have enjoyed my balcony and potted plants just as much.  I have my usual weekly chores and food shopping to get through.  Snore.

It all comes from how you were raised.  My mom made me a strong and very independent person – which I am proud to be in this world.  Yet there are times when I think, “what the hell?”  Those moments come from not having experienced this life style before and just having to get used to the flow of things.

When I moved to Alaska I had no clue what Xtra Tuffs were – and I have my second pair with me now.  My co-workers are often teaching me about local customs and flavors, which is fantastic.  “OH, you have to try this Cuban dessert.”

I truly enjoy my coworkers sharing their local knowledge – especially the Cuban side of things.  As it turns out, my great-great- great grandparents were from Cuba.  They owned a tobacco plantation.

So see, I’m not so foreign in this land after all!