Big Words

I had a meeting with my son’s school today. They used big words like “severe disability” when it came to describing his speech patterns. Needless to say, he’ll be attending speech therapy for the next calendar year. When I told him about why I was at his school that day, he expressed surprise when I said to discuss his entrance into speech. He describes himself as an “average” stutterer. He’s quite a kid.

A lot of things in the works at this time. As the first snow fell this week, we find ourselves on the precipice of change.

I’m ready.

At Night

The problem with 4 am (or, really, anywhere in the 2:00-4:30 am corridor) is that nothing seems like a good idea.That purchase you made? Maybe you should take it back. After all, you might need that $39.25 later. That meeting that you were pretty sure went okay yesterday? Looking back, you can now see with the clarity of the wee-smas that, in fact, there was an undercurrent of impending doom (or at least mild dissatisfaction). What’s going to happen when my parents die? What’s going to happen when I die? Did I make the right decision? Are crackers a good idea? Can I unwrap them without waking up (and pissing off) Husband who is sleeping blissfully in the next room? Do I really need all those carbs? Why don’t I enjoy eating meat? A steak might be a better choice than the crackers…

In the spirit of Keep Calm and Carry On, though, I tell myself that all things look clearer in the morning light (or dark, depending on the season).

I’m nearly always right.

Cheechako No More

In honor of my one year anniversary of packing bags and taking off to this frozen wasteland winter wonderland, I present myself as a Real Alaskan ™

No doubt other MORE real Alaskans would take issue with my characterization, but to them I say… Well, nothing. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion.

In honor of this auspicious day, I give you:

Seriously, you should totally watch this just for the “Fannylow” intro. This is one dedicated fan.

Perspective on Power

…or maybe, more appropriately, responsibility.

On this Winter Solstice, I am moved by these instances of ordinary Americans standing up against hate.

I consider how as Fairbanksans, we are uniquely poised to celebrate the solstice, as the difference between seasons is literally Night and Day. I am eager to welcome the sun again, but revel in the mystery of temporary darkness, that time where lights twinkle and the snow looks like diamonds, sparkling in the night.

I am grateful to the universe for the blessedly long, strange trip I am on.



One Year, Five Things

Tomorrow, December 4th, marks my one-year mark of ever having set foot in Fairbanks, Alaska. In honor of this day, I give you five things to love about Fairbanks.

Note, these are not “THE TOP FIVE” – as I don’t claim to know what those are… these are just five things that I love, and I reserve the right to post five more someday. Although, looking at the date of my last post of substance, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

1. Ravens

Apparently ravens are found all throughout Washington, my former home state, but I only ever remember seeing crows. You might be tempted to describe ravens as a bit of a larger crow, and I suppose perhaps they are, but ravens make the most amazing noises. Not only does their “caw” sound more musical, but they range from clicks and whirrs to almost a musical scoop upward, like there’s a question being asked.

And, speaking of music…

2. Music

Fairbanks is full of artistic and musical opportunities and, in fact, churns out a great number of talented folks. Witness the Fairbanks Symphony, pictured above (photo swiped from KUAC). I play on that very stage once a week – no, not with that group, but thanks – with Lady Barbara, the cello.

3. The Aurora

Yes, it’s every bit as beautiful as you think it is going to be, except when you imagined witnessing it, you didn’t picture yourself so very, very cold. I’ve seen greens, they run like a river over the top of our house and they’re subtle at first, like you don’t know what you’re really seeing. They’re lovely through the birch trees up here on the ridge. The hubs and daughter saw reddish pink ones last February.

4. Morris Thompson Cultural Center

This place is amazing. There is a walk through exhibit which highlights living through the four seasons in Fairbanks, several films and lectures as well as musical demonstrations by Athabascan fiddlers and dancers. I take every visitor I host here, and I love watching the short film where the birds come back to Creamer’s Field and the snow melts and the birches green up again.

And you guys… it’s FREE. Yes, free to park, free to visit. In a place like Fairbanks, where things are automagically more expensive than most other places, that is no small feat.

5. The Extremes

Sunshine all night in the summer; darkness most of the day in the deep winter. We can get into the 90s in the summer, and I’ve seen one weekend that got to 50 below. Living through this year after year does something to people; there is a lot of turnover. Some folks I’ve met rave about Fairbanks, how it’s a great place to live and they love raising kids here. I ask them what they plan to do when they retire and they say, “Oh, man, we’ve had it with the winter. We’re moving down to Arizona.” A study in contrast.

It’s the extremes that also make for a somewhat rougher transition; at least if I had moved somewhere in Washington, I wouldn’t have to pay a guy to haul my water once a week, listen to a pump kick on every time I flush the toilet, or worry about a moose stomping me to death in my yard.

To be fair, though, I don’t really worry about a moose stomping me.

However, after a year, the homesickness is manageable. Sometimes I still wonder what I did to my somewhat dull but otherwise happy life… but then I remember that the year of crippling depression Helen told me to prepare for is almost over. I have built a fledgling support group. There were nine (9) people that came to see me and Lady Barbara play last week – and I was only related to three of them.

It might just have all been worth it.


Moving Right Along

In keeping with my goal of a continuous stream of Good News (not the Gospel kind): nine (9!) days after planting, my plants look lovely at the UAF Community Garden (click to see the image in its natural state, not having the perspective squeezed out of it by my WordPress Theme):


The wonderful Leslie and John supplied me with seeds and showed me how to plot out my garden and even got the kids involved. That is, when they weren’t running over the bridge to see the train.

That’s all the news worth reporting. Fairbanks is lovely as ever, with lots of sun, a smattering of rain, magnificent thunderstorms, and a bunch of interesting people. In fact, I drove into work today following someone who had these hanging from his trailer hitch:


I’m told by a local that they usually come in a package with a rebel flag and a gun rack.

Ew. Put ‘em back in your pants, pal. No one wants to see that.


Here at Radical Cupcake I get tons of comments… but only some of them are from actual people. I don’t let that get me down. I’ve gotten some rather humorous comment spam lately. Since my comments are moderated, I wanted to share the love:

From “generic viagra”:

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Wow! Glad I could help! Your… er… gratitude is appreciated.

From …the only word I can discern is “decarmine”:

Yeah bookmaking this wasn’t a bad decision great post!

Hmm. Is bookmarking ever really a bad decision? I mean, what have got to lose except a few bits? Oops – I guess you said bookMAKING. Well, thanks all the same, friend!

From some other viagra… wonder if they’re related…:

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I cried a little when I read your comment too. What a coincidence! I’ll keep it in mind if I “encounter” you.

From iPhone 4s Unlocked:

Greetings! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this website? I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

Um… WordPress?

From yet another of viagra’s extended family:

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I know! I myself am completely shocked that I am not more popular as well.

This, however, is probably my favorite of all time:

From xrumer phpnuke mod:

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So eloquent and concise! Tears in my eyes, people.

A Closer Look at My People

I enjoyed this article thoroughly, as I thought it described (to a T!) a culture I am still acclimating to.


In other news, we are traveling next week! Exploring 270 miles from home! Visiting sisters- and brother-in-law as well as cousins!

We couldn’t be more excited.

Often I’ve thought about when my mourning or adjustment period would be over, or IF it ever would. I’ve decided it is. Hopefully, from here on out, my notes here will be decidedly more:

  • cheerful
  • regular
  • interesting
  • informative

Well, friends, that’s all the news that’s worth reporting. That, and the world’s longest kuspuk:

My Life as a Cheechako

cheechako (noun)

-  A new-comer to Alaska, ignorant of the terrain, the weather, the animals, the culture, the necessary driving skills in the winter, etc. Opposite of a sourdough.

Courtesy of the Urban Dictionary

It’s been nearly five months since I moved to Fairbanks. Four months since my family joined me. And people, I have to tell you, today’s Fairbanks is nothing like the Fairbanks of January 8th, 2012.

For nearly a month now, I’ve enjoyed the experience I just knew we’d have if we were just brave enough to try. The pain of separation from those beloved Three Fs — Friends, Family, and Familiarity — has abated somewhat, partly from time, partly from adjusting to the new “normal.” Instead of showing up at Mom’s on Sunday night for dinner, we take a half hour before dinner for some Gmail chat, where we catch up on the doings of the cousins, see Bumpy, who will ask me if I’ve seen the talking dog commercial yet. Another thing that is a balm is having dates in the semi-near future that folks are coming to the ‘Banks to visit. So far we have had my sister-in-law with her delicious new baby, my enthusiastic kindergartener nephew, and her man. A couple of weeks ago we visited with friend-but-family Sara and her family, up from Talkeetna. This weekend we are visiting with our other Anchorage relative, my mother-in-law, who packed up half of the Anchorage Costco and delivered it to us.

International Ice Festival, Sister-in-law’s visit

It used to be that many things throughout the day would provoke a knee-jerk mental comparison. However, I have either trained myself not to respond that way, or time really does heal all wounds. I have tried looking at Fairbanks not as I imagined it would be when I still lived in Washington, not as I saw it when I first got here, scared, alone, and shell-shocked, but as my community. My home.

Most of the time I can actually pull it off, like on the day of the recent eclipse, when we visited Creamer’s Field (above) with our friends, a couple of other newcomers.

There are still times when I feel deflated and unhappy, when I think of how much it hurt to leave and how much it still hurts to be separated from two of the Three F’s, but Fairbanks is starting to become more familiar to all of us. We are starting to make some Friends, and true to Sara’s sage advice, we have developed something of an extended Family up here.

Last night I went to an orientation for an upcoming event that I volunteered for. The room was packed with active duty military, Vietnam veterans and family members of veterans, and community members who all cared enough to take time, some of them the most wee hours in the morning type of time, to read names of the fallen. As we listened to the organizer talk about how the Moving Wall has affected people in our borough in the past, I looked at the faces of the people gathered in the little white church that I had seen so many times from the News-Miner arctic cam in the months before we moved here. I watched their faces crumple in sympathy as the organizer had to stop in mid-sentence as his emotions overcame him. This is my community, I thought, as I took in the faces of countless colors and ages. How different from my first night here, when I felt surrounded by strangers. These are my people, I felt, and I loved every one of them.

Home is Wherever I’m With You

I’ve been pondering lately (sometimes to my detriment) ideas of home.

There has been a great deal of pain (and a lot of joy, make no mistake) surrounding life, lately. I can compare it mostly to being in a lake. When it’s good, I’m bobbing along on the surface, taking in the wonder of it all. But there are times that I sink down below that surface and look around and wonder why I thought it would be okay to plan my lonesome Easter dinner without my mom’s pretty table setting. I wonder what I was thinking in accepting a life where my best friend didn’t live a short walk down the street, my mom couldn’t stop by to pick me up for a day’s adventure, my husband’s friends couldn’t come over for a beer and some cribbage, my dad and cousin and aunts and sister-in-law just an afternoon’s drive away, and I couldn’t run into all of these people and more at the local Fred Meyer.

However, there are a lot of things I couldn’t do at home, and I suppose I should focus on those things.

I started writing this before my new friend came and got me for a bite to eat. I am reluctant to go back under water again, even for introspection’s sake. I leave you, instead, with this: