A Dimly Bright Morning

What a wonderful morning! Not only was it above zero (not much, but hey, I’ll take it) after a week of frigid below zero temps, but dawn dimly colored the eastern mountains across the valley with pale yellowish pink hues this morning just before 9:00 AM.

A 9:00 AM dawn is a highlight this time of year – proof that we are indeed heading the right direction. Could spring be far behind? Well … yes <sigh>, it could and probably will be. But my mood has lifted.

More than likely, cabin fever will be the next emotion to hit. 😊

On This Still Alaska Morning

I found myself reluctant to get out of my toasty warm bed this morning, much less actually DO anything. One glance at the outside thermometer showed the temperature was -24F at my house. Sure, Fairbanks is lots colder, but really, I didn’t care about anyplace except right here. Ack.

Rhonda was curled tightly against my side under the covers. I knew Jerry had taken her outside for a morning potty break an hour earlier – her cold toes digging her way back under the covers upon her return were ample proof, but right then, we were both very comfy.

I finally sat up in bed, pulling the blankets with me since it’s always colder upstairs in our house. Downstairs is cozy, with wood heat supplementing the furnace nicely, even at -20F. But our upstairs heating system has never really been sufficient in super cold weather. Most of the winter is just fine, with plenty of heat coming up the wide staircase to the upstairs rooms. Even in the current cold temps, it’s OK for sleeping since Jer and I both prefer cooler air at night anyway, but for anything else, the upstairs is uncomfortably chilly in severe cold weather. I was wearing a sweatshirt, warm bed-socks and fingerless mitts to knit in bed last night. ☹ It felt apt that I was knitting yet another pair of fingerless mitts.

Jerry, bless him, had brought up my insulated Starbuck’s mug full of hot, aromatic coffee at about 8:00 am (a wonderful habit he got into many, many years ago and one I appreciate immensely, especially in winter), so I immediately reached for the warmth of hot coffee. Rhonda didn’t budge from her warm spot.

I glanced out the bedroom window as I sipped eye-opening coffee. Yep, everything was still white with hoar-frost. Every single branch and twig sparkled in the early morning light. It’s a gorgeous sight and one I generally appreciate for the unique contrast with the bright winter-blue sky. But 4-5 days in a row? OK, enough already. By now, it’s more irritating than unique.

Staying in bed for the day wasn’t an option, so I wandered downstairs a while later for more coffee and the comfort of the woodstove. I was just in time for the dogs to need to go outside again. Oh joy. Boy, on days like this I really miss not having a fenced yard I can simply turn them out into! But nope. We can allow Baxter and Abby to go out and do their business and just keep an eye on them from the door (window), but little miss Ronni needs to be kept on leash. Even in this weather there are mice, voles and other tiny critters and she wants to go FIND them. Chasing after her at -24F was not part of my plan this morning, so we both bundled up and ventured out to the “potty palace” on the front porch.

Yes, I said “potty palace”. Silly name, but it sure comes in handy. The red shade in the photo is only partly the plush red winter coat Ronni is wearing. The rest is due to a red heat lamp clipped firmly over the pen. It was simple to put together and makes a huge difference for our short haired dachshunds during extreme weather like this. Being comfortable pottying outside makes for no accidents inside. Win/win!

We set up an X-pen in the far corner of our front porch, added a tarp to contain birch sawdust and clipped a heat lamp to a 2×4 frame at one end. The dogs trot out the front door, take a sharp turn and pop into the pen. Baxter’s no wuss and will usually still accompany Abby out into the yard as long as the snow isn’t too deep (Jer usually keeps it pretty well plowed or shoveled), but today even he ran for the protected corner. The term “potty palace” is a hold-over from many years ago when we first came up with the idea to help our tiny 7 lb. Miniature Dachshund/Chihuahua mix, Pocket, cope with similar cold weather. Nearly 20 years ago, we dubbed it “Pocket’s Potty Palace” and the name stuck. 😊

I’ve been glad for my long down-filled coat and fur-trimmed hood this whole week and was glad the dogs were quick this morning. Once back in the house, I determined to keep myself busy INDOORS for as much of the day as possible. By early afternoon, although the trees outside showed no indication of changing from their stark, frozen white silhouettes, our temps were all the way up to -13F. Yay, I guess.

Well, it’s 8:00 pm now and it looks like -13F was our “high” for the day. It’s back down to about -19F again now, so I’m making cocoa and am heading back to bed. I have knitting to do. One warm wool fingerless mitt (hey, we need to be able to text, right?) is finished today, one to go.

Something Old, Something New

Ten years ago, I was living in the same exact house but a completely different life and had no clue it was all about to end.

If I’d been asked how I would describe myself, I wouldn’t have hesitated – I was a writer (purely a hobby, but a fulfilling one), an avid spinner and a dedicated Pygmy goat breeder.

I loved my four dogs and my house cats and I was married to a wonderful man who worked long hours at a job he loved. My days were happily divided between the barn, my spinning wheel and my computer. I was plenty busy, but it was a fun busy.

A few months earlier, I had taken my writing hobby to the next level and had signed on with BellaOnline (www.BellaOnline.com) as their Alaska Editor. Publishing weekly articles for my own site was both demanding and exhilarating – and I was loving every minute of it.

After Jerry’s TBI in September, 2009, I was abruptly none of those things. My goats lived at a friend’s farm for over six months. My spinning wheel sat idle. I stopped writing. Call it a writer’s block, anxiety or PTSD … his accident really threw me off stride. With Jerry in the hospital for two months and then in rehab for over a year, I couldn’t seem to put three sentences together and have them make sense.

I tried to keep the Alaska site going, but it was all just too much. Finally admitting defeat, I resigned as a BellaOnline Editor and concentrated on Jerry’s slow recovery and keeping my own life on as even a keel as possible. That was in 2010.

Eventually, just to have an outlet from being at home, I went to work part time in the office of a local dog training facility and found I enjoyed it. I became involved in training my own dogs in a variety of sports (it turned out to be great therapy for me as a caregiver) and, as Jer became more independent, I put in more and more hours away from home.

In early 2015, I veered off in another new direction and trained to become a Certified Nose Work (dog sport) Instructor. Between running the office, teaching Nose Work classes and training my own dogs, my life was once again full. Completely different, but full.

The TBI changed Jerry. It changed me, too. I’ve mostly come to terms with that – mostly. I’ve even started spinning again. But life will never be what it once was and the future needed to be re-imagined.

Keeping myself too busy to think only worked for a while. A little over two years ago, I felt myself beginning to spin off into an abyss, mentally and emotionally. I was being pulled in too many directions and none of them were headed towards any sort of peace and quiet. I felt a strong need to somehow center myself.

I bought an RV. More precisely, a 27’ Winnebago Minnie Winnie motorhome. Strangely, at first; just having it was enough – it was like my own little escape hatch for when life got too hectic. I’d go out to the RV and just sit in the quiet, knowing I could turn the key and leave.

Soon though, just sitting in the yard wasn’t enough, so I taught myself how to run everything; electric, propane, leveling, circuit breakers, etc. I learned to pack so things didn’t break, to pull into a gas station safely, to set up and hook-up at a campsite, then the reverse. I learned how to back a 27’ RV into a campsite by myself – I was pretty proud of that one.

At that point, it was obvious to me that I needed to GO. The first summer, I was happy enough to take short trips, sort of feeling things out and trying my wings. By my 2nd summer, I was straining at the bit and just dying to get on the road. Once out there, I fought returning home.

The peace and quiet was addictive. Yes, even with two dachshunds. It’s a different sort of quiet – a quiet of the mind. It was a good quiet and it started something inside me healing.

I am sorry that having that time to sit with myself, talk to myself, LISTEN to myself – resulted in my decision to retire from a job I had loved doing for eight years. But it was time, and at least I realized it in time to take the necessary steps to thoroughly train my replacement before going. Without knowing I was leaving the office in reliable hands, I’m afraid the stress would have taken a lot of the joy out of my next step.

What IS my next step? I’m not sure about the future; it will have to take care of itself. But I’m beginning by taking a big step backwards. Ten years backwards, to be exact. I am going to pick up where I so jarringly left off after Jerry’s accident.

I have been accepted back as a BellaOnline magazine editor. Oh wow … deep breath. I am once again the Editor of the BellaOnline Alaska site. You can find my site here: http://www.bellaonline.com

Once on the magazine webpage, go to “Travel & Culture” and click on “Alaska”, or even easier, find the search box on the initial homepage and type “Alaska” in the box. It’ll take you right to me.

I’m already adding new articles, and even better – all my old articles are still there. 😃 I’d love it if you’ll click on signing up for my weekly newsletter at BellaOnline – it does the same thing as this blog – just sends you a quick note that a new article (of mine) is up and a link to it.

I’ll continue to blog as well – as you’ll see, it’s two very different styles of writing. I just wanted to let everyone know what I was up to – and that it’s GOOD.

Happy New Year 2020! May it be a good year for everyone.

Cheers, De

Christmas Morning Chaos

Part Two – the story continues

It seemed like forever and the Mom person had yet to open her eyes. Liquid brown dachshund eyes pleaded, ears lifted (slightly) only to be ignored as the Mom rustled the covers, rolling over. With a sigh, the puppy curled back up atop the blanket to wait. How could she sleep? It’s Christmas morning! It’s almost light outside!

Finally, she could wait no longer. A cold, velvety black nose attached to the very end of a long, pointed muzzle snuck forward, striking with precision against bare skin. POKE, POKE.

The startled Mom person’s eyes flew open. Success! Now maybe Christmas could start.

Scampering ahead of her favorite person and trying hard to stay out from underfoot as they descended the stairs, the puppy yipped in delighted anticipation. She had already sniffed out GOOD STUFF in the big socks hanging just out of reach in the living room. Why, oh why, had Mom set up an X-pen in front of them?

Nose a-twitch, the pup raced unerringly to the place the wonderful smell emitted from. It had been laying right there since last night. She’d known it, had smelled it, but had been ignored when she’d tried to push through the fence the previous evening. When she had attempted to use her handy long snout to pry the fencing from its position against the wall, her people had rather unceremoniously scooped her up and carted her off to bed. At that point, she’d understood it would have to wait until Christmas morning.

Christmas was here. Certain that NOW was the time, she stared once again through the wire, nose sniffing and tail wagging.

In the spirit of Christmas, the Mom person opened the gate, allowing both dachshunds access to their Christmas stockings. Oh joy! There were the smells of several wonderful toys and chews hidden inside the socks, but the eager girl pup was laser-focused on just one thing – the new Wobble-Kong hidden behind her stocking!

Try though she might, she wasn’t quite able to reach the wondrous Kong toy, so Mom lowered it to the floor, with a lot of help from the wiggling, exciting pup – who immediately and unequivocally claimed it for her own.

An hour later, sated by a scrumptious breakfast, followed by more play and chew toys, the sleek little dachshund and her family were all ready for a Christmas Day nap, surrounded by the detritus of a fun Christmas morning.

Give your big sister’s hedge-hog back!

Why it is “children” have as much fun playing with the wrappings and boxes as they do with the actual toys?

Merry Christmas, one and all!

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