Squeaky Snow!

Last night, I bundled the dachshunds up in their warm winter flannels and shooed all three dogs (Abby doesn’t need bundling since she comes with her own toasty winter coat) outside for one last potty break before bedtime. I bundled myself up too, since it was below 30F and snowing. There are times when I sure do envy Abby her luxurious outerwear.

Hey, Abby, you have snow on your nose!

For a quick potty break in cold weather, I often just don a jacket and wait on the porch in my slippers while the dogs do their thing. If it’s snowing or raining, they usually make quick work of it and scurry right back to the house. Two exceptions; if allowed, little Rhonda will follow her nose for as long as I will allow her to, cold or no cold. If she catches a good scent, snow simply provides an added challenge – the wonderful smells she can’t resist are now buried under inches (or more) of fluffy white stuff. What fun to dig them out!

The other exception is when Abby wanders out of range of my voice … something that is becoming unfortunately more common with our 13-year-old senior citizen. It doesn’t take much these days; if Abby gets 30’ or so away from the porch, she not only can’t hear me but doesn’t see clearly enough to see me waving my arms at her either. Sigh. When this happens, I’d better have a coat and boots on, since there is no option but to go out and gently direct her back to the house. Or stand on the porch freezing my toes off while I wait for her to eventually wander back to the house on her own. I never let her out of sight, so she is perfectly safe, but it’s sure frustrating not to be able to chivvy her along with a simple, “Hurry up Abby! Let’s go!” on a cold night.

OK, let’s get back to last night. I took the dogs out at about 10:30 pm, and the sight that met my eyes was magical. The porch lights glowed into the dark, gleaming off snow falling in large, lazy flakes as they floating through the black sky. Tree branches sparkled white in the artificial light. The weather had been rainy earlier in the day, but as the sun lowered the temps did as well, forming a light layer of ice on every wet surface as rain changed quickly to snow.  It wasn’t long before a light, fluffy covering adhered to each branch, bush and twig like flocking on a Christmas tree. Even the pasture fence had been flocked.

Lovely as the sight was, my mind switched gears the second I stepped off the porch steps and into the snow.

Crunch. Squeak. Crunch. Squeak. OH, I know that sound! Anyone who has lived in “snow country” will instantly recognize the sound of squeaky snow and know what it means. Snowball fights and snow men! It’s the perfect consistency for packing and throwing. Not that I’m probably going to partake in either activity (although it may have been a good thing that Jerry hadn’t come outside with me), but oh, the memories. 😊

I shepherded the dogs back into the house, full of thoughts of winters back in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the 80’s and 90’s, where squeaky snow was the next best thing to squeaky cheese (if you aren’t familiar with squeaky cheese, I pity you). My son, Dan, was a dead aim with a snowball, as were his friends, and I had plenty of snow on my face and down the back of my snow suit to prove it back then. To my credit, I was a pretty darn good shot with a snowball myself. We were ‘blessed’ with a lot more snow back in the UP, so probably ended up with ‘squeaky snow’ more often than we do here in Alaska. Those were good ole days.

I went to bed with a smile on my face, knowing I’d wake up today to a winter wonderland and I wasn’t wrong. My first view outdoors was from my upstairs window. This was as beautifully framed as a painting as I headed down the hall towards the stairs.

Once outside, whichever way I looked, it was just as pretty. To my left, the oriental cherry tree in the front yard stood out in fluffy white relief to the forefront of an equally frosted birch tree. To my right, the entire tree line was etched in thick snow.

The snow on the ground isn’t very deep yet, which the dogs fully appreciate, but the switch from rain yesterday to snow overnight really has it sticking tight to every surface. The lighting was not great for photos, with the sky a pale gray-white against the white landscape and the sun barely breaking through. Still, I love days like this. With no breeze to break the quiet or shiver the snow off the branches, it’s as if time itself is standing still. Soon enough, the air will begin to stir again and snow will release its tenuous grip on the branches and shrubs, falling to the ground and leaving the trees once again bare and naked against the sky. For now, though, it’s a winter wonderland and I’m going to take a walk.

The light, fluffy quality of the snow meant it wasn’t a “wet snow”, allowing the dogs to have a good romp in it without the horror (well, in Baxter’s mind anyway) of being wet. You’ll note that Baxter is wearing a light sweater against the chill and damp. It’s a very reasonable 30F, but geez, a bit of snow could fall off a branch onto his shiny black self. Oh my. Wink, wink. I refrained from starting a snowball fight (it was tempting, but hey … they are handicapped in not being able to return fire), but gave the pups extra time outside to investigate the new ‘look’ of the yard and driveway. It’s amazing the difference a day can make.

After tromping up and down the driveway and around Jerry’s shop building, with me enjoying the view, Rhonda checking out every possible hiding place and snow drift for mouse or rabbit holes and Abby contentedly ambling along in our wake, I felt we’d had enough of the great outdoors for now. Besides, I was getting chilled and Baxter had bailed on us long ago. I could see his red-coated self, sitting on the nice, dry front porch, waiting impatiently for us to return and let him in the house. Baxter is NOT a snow dog.

It’s the first day of December and we have squeaky snow! What better way to start out the month? Enjoy!

Mom … such a short word to fit so many feelings into

It seems writing can’t be completely avoided today. I tried all morning and all I accomplished was to drink too much coffee. This afternoon I got plenty of knitting done, but my laptop continued to mock me. I finally gave in and opened her up after dinner.

Tomorrow, November 30th, is my Mom’s birthday. I almost typed “would have been her birthday”, but I realized that even though she has been gone for nearly two years, her birthday will always be her birthday. And I will always be sad as the day nears – and inevitably passes. The day passes – but thankfully, the memories remain.

My Mom, teaching a little fish-to-be how to swim, 60 some-odd years ago.

I love these photos taken at my Mom’s last birthday party. It was quite the blow-out, with a buffet dinner, great music, an unforgettable cake – and enough flowers to have it smelling like a florist shop.

My Mom passed away just weeks after her 90th birthday. Oh, my … how she had looked forward to that party. It’s a good thing we hadn’t tried to go for a surprise party because Mom had her fingers in every single bit of the arrangements, even though she was pretty fragile towards the end. I think the giddy anticipation was nearly as much fun for her as the actual party. I’m glad she was able to stay for the big event. We did at least manage to surprise her with some of the décor. 😉

Do you see the lovely young woman in the photo on the top of the cake? Yep! My Mom! Gotta love the way they can transfer a photo right onto the cake – and it’s eatable! 😊

I’m going to keep this short. I am really not in the mood for a long ramble. I just want to put this out there tonight … my Mom was here in this world for ninety years. Her life had meaning and purpose. She lived a long, full life and she was loved by so many people. My Mom, Margie Thomas, meant a lot to me and to nearly everyone she knew. She was a huge influence in my life and always a good one. She was a wonderful daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-GREAT grandmother.

Mom, you are missed, but more important, you are remembered with love. You will ALWAYS be loved.

I miss you, Mom. Happy birthday in Heaven.

Thanksgiving – more than just a day

I tend to forget about my blessings during the holiday season. This year, I am going to put extra effort into being thankful.

TODAY, I am thankful that our wonderful friend and neighbor, Jan, has invited Jerry and I over for a Thanksgiving Eve dinner. Yep, today (Wednesday). YUM! I’m also grateful that our drive to Thanksgiving dinner will be about three minutes! It’s snowing and windy today and I’m glad we won’t have a long way to drive.

Thanksgiving should be more than just a day on the calendar … so why limit it to a single Thursday?

So, today, I am thankful for friends. Tomorrow, I’ll find something else to be thankful for. Mood-elevating Dachshund antics, maybe! 😉 Or my sweet, Autumn-hued Abby. She just exudes Thanksgiving joy, doesn’t she? I am thankful for Abby.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope your holidays are filled with friends, family (including dogs!) and good food. If not – feel free to comment below – we’ll talk. 😉

Walking on A Cold November Day

One glance at the outside thermometer this morning had me shivering – and I was still indoors. A peek out the window confirmed the digital warning. It was +7F and glistening frost adhered to every surface. It did NOT look like the idea walking conditions in the cover photo!

Single digits. What an invigorating day for a walk! With some important things to think about and needing a little “me time”, a walk would provide both. And seriously, there’s no way to avoid winter when you live in Alaska.

Bolstered by a large mug of hot coffee, I considered my options. Even securely wrapped in fleecy winter coats, the Dachshunds were willing to venture just far enough out into the yard to do their “business”. 13-year-old Abby, with her thick, built-in winter coat, meandered a bit further, sniffing along the tree line for a few minutes before returning to the warm house. By the time Abby and I came back inside, Baxter and Ronni had claimed a bed in front of the wood stove. Yep, I said A bed. There ARE two beds side by side there, but both dogs much prefer this one. 😉 Here’s the look I got when I asked if they wanted to go back outside. Right.

After a second mug of coffee and no movement from the wood stove, I decided I was on my own and, abandoning the dogs to their hedonistic delights in front of the toasty fire, I dressed for the day and gathered my walking paraphernalia.

Layering seemed like the best option, so I started with lightly insulated leggings under comfortable jeans. A matching long-sleeved insulated base layer shirt fit under a comfy sweatshirt. Warm wool socks, hiking boots with good traction (it’s icy even just walking to the car, much less anyplace else!), gloves, scarf and a woolly knit hat completed the look. I gave the looong dogs one more chance – hey guys! Wanna go OUTSIDE?!? I got the whale-eye from both of them before they ran and hid under blankets. Mom wants us to do WHAT? It’s COLD out there! Nothin’ doing.

OK, fine. Back to planning my solo walk. Let’s see, what else did I need? Oh! Can’t walk for long without music … I strapped my canvas dog training pouch (empty of doggy treats this time) around my waist, added my Kindle (fits in the training pouch like it was made for it) and grabbed my headphones. Checking the exterior temps again, I was encouraged to see it had jumped to +16F. Oh boy. Picking up my purse, my bag of miscellaneous necessities and donning my down jacket, I headed out the door. Oh wait! Dang … I knew I’d forget something. Note to self. Remember to bring fingerless gloves so your hands can stay relatively warm while changing the music settings on the Kindle.

I paused for a moment to appreciate the view from the deck. Wow, there is something special about being outdoors in Alaska in the wintertime, isn’t there? The scenery is spectacular; the sky today is a gorgeous blue peeking through billowing clouds. The trees remain shrouded in frost. It is absolutely gorgeous.

Taking a deep breath, I exhale and watch my breath float off in a cold, misty cloud. Carefully stepping along the snow-covered path to avoid a possibly painful slip on the ice, I snug my woolly hat over already frost-reddened ears … and walk to my car. Beautiful it may be, but my driveway is WAY too icy for taking a walk. Moving on. Hey, without the dogs, my options are wide open.

A short five-minute drive later and I arrived at my favorite wintertime walking track. It only takes a minute to sign in, get my punch card punched and head upstairs. Yep, I said upstairs. 😊

Welcome to the Menard Sports Center in Wasilla, Alaska! In case you are wondering – YES, that is an ice rink in the middle of the cavernous building. The walking/jogging track follows the perimeter of the ice rink (volleyball courts in summer) and we often get to watch folks ice skating around the rink or local high school teams practicing hockey as we complete our laps high above them. The gloves, leggings and sweatshirt really ARE necessary – although it’s not as cold on the track as it is outside today, the temp is definitely nippy.

It is nice living near this great, multi-purpose complex – it is literally just a few miles down the road. There’s a clean, airy locker room just off the track where you can stash your coat, boots and other gear (locks are not included, but you are welcome to bring your own). Handy benches are perfectly situated for changing into mandatory (clean) track shoes. Inside the door to the track area, there are also open cubbies and coat hooks above benches for those who’d rather keep water bottles and belongings in sight while they walk.

Here are some views as I work my way around the track. There are inspirational sayings printed on the wall in several spots here, as well as downstairs in the multi-use areas. Wide windows along the upper level add natural light and a lovely view.

I usually start out with one lap at a warm-up pace, loosening up and relaxing. With a lap behind me, I drop into my habit of striding along the lower level stretch with arms swinging, power-walking up the incline, striding again along the upper level and jogging the downhill. I use the incline to work on my posture, tummy in, bending my elbows and keeping my shoulders back. Leaning slightly forward, I push for a fast walk. Keeping in mind, I’m almost 70 and trying to maintain some sort of decent condition – not training for a marathon. A fast walk for me is really not very fast. The same goes for “jogging”. I’ve honestly had a few men pass me at a walk while I’m jogging. But it gets my heart pumping and feels good, so it’s a win.

6.4 laps of the Menard track equal one mile, and as you can hopefully see in the photos, there are two longer level stretches, broken up by a mild incline on one end and a slight downhill stretch on the opposite. It makes for a nice, balanced walk of whatever length you want. My goal is to try for a two-mile walk, but there are days when one mile is more than enough. It’s more about getting out and being active.

A fun Menard Sports Center quirk; everyone walks clockwise on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and counter-clockwise on the alternate days. 😊 So today was a clockwise walk. They have the comfortable, rubberized track set up so there are two “lanes” to walk in, with passing areas and rest areas with benches at two of the rounded corners. Walkers are really good about moving over to allow faster-moving people to pass – it’s a friendly, low-key place.

Today was a fairly quiet day at the track, as I was hoping. A couple of young Moms were working a speed-walk behind a pair of baby strollers, several single walkers kept their own pace and one older man ambled slowly along, smiling and humming to a tune in his headset. He may not have been going very fast (I passed him twice), but he was there when I starting walking and was still moving along when I left the track.

Some days Jerry accompanies me to the center. If he gets tired of walking, there is usually someone to talk to or other activities to watch. We seldom walk together, but it’s nice to see him out there, even if we just wave or touch hands when one of us passes the other. I know there are days when Jerry goes by himself, too. Some days one of my girlfriends come along – that is always fun. It’s nice at times to simply walk and talk, without any other agenda. A walk is a walk.

This particular November day I’d come alone though, and I was content with keeping my own thoughts. It’s almost Thanksgiving and the holidays are looming closer. I struggle not to close down emotionally during the holidays, being so far from most of my family. My Mom passed away just days before Christmas two years ago, and that weighs on my heart this time of year, too. Walking helps me to stay on an even keel on days when I’m otherwise tempted to sit home and brood.

This year, I had very much wanted and planned to head to Oregon around Christmas time and am really disappointed not to be able to go. I first thought to make the trip down in late fall, driving my RV with the idea of leaving it at my son’s home for the winter, but just couldn’t get my ducks in a row for that. So, I thought, I will fly down for Christmas. It all seemed pretty doable … in September.

I knew I would have a couple of weeks off work (no Nose Work classes or practices scheduled over the Christmas break) and it seemed like the perfect time for a trip to see kids and grandkids (and great-grandkids). I figured Christmas was my best chance at seeing most if not all of them in one trip too. Sadly, with my rose-colored glasses firmly in place; I had been thinking and planning “Christmas” without really thinking “Winter”. Sigh. It’s a long way from Portland, OR to Madras, OR – over a mountain pass – in winter. I needed to be able to fly into the smaller Redmond, OR, airport on the east side of the mountains … and that commuter hop nearly doubled the cost over flying in and out from Portland. Adding that to the already higher airfare over the holidays and it put it firmly out of my reach. I’ll get to OR (and to WI, too!), but it won’t be this Christmas. ☹

In the meantime, I’ll keep walking. I sure wish they allowed dogs at the Menard Center.

“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” ― Steven Wright.
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