Alaska

WANTED

I sat in a room painted white with no windows and one door we weren’t allowed to use but did anyway.  It was late October, 2011 and I was in Eastern Afghanistan separated from my husband by 15 miles of land churning with religious agony and human hatred.  He might as well have been in space or at the bottom of the ocean.  Actually, it would have been easier to get to him then.  It was so dark outside I could see the Milky Way and consider the wonders of the universe.  I usually just sat outside looking at the Big Dipper.  Not only was it a beacon I saw home in (the United States), but it was also the same constellation my husband was under and possibly looking at as well.

I wasn’t outside pondering these things, however, I was sitting at a computer musing on what life would be like in Fairbanks, Alaska.  We had just found out a week earlier, hours before leaving the paradise of Bali, that S would be transferred to Fort Wainwright only a few short months after arriving back in the States.  I had spent so much of the year planning our lives in Louisville, Kentucky that this “summons” knocked the breath right out of me initially.  We were waiting patiently for Callie to be born, we were considering buying a house, and I was getting out of the Army.  Having more than enough time– more time than I wanted– to deliberate about  what I would do after the Army, I had finally realized what I needed to do.  Publishing.

I could give you quite the interesting list of jobs I’ve gone through in my life wanting to do.  My dad remembers me wanting to be a ballerina and then deciding being part of a mountain rescue team would be my life goal.  For many years I considered being a Christian missionary.  Eventually it was English teacher.  I couldn’t read enough to save my life.  I used to read 5 books at a time (which annoyed my mom to no end).  I wrote constantly.  I adored language in any form.  And that was it.  I went to college and began my journey toward changing some 9th grader’s life through his English class.  Then I started student teaching.

At 20 years old I looked almost 16 years old.  As horrific an experience as high school was for me, I was in my second year of college and was prepared to re-enter the world an older, wiser, more intelligent person with no fear pressing down on my shoulders and no insecurity behind my eyes.  Then I got stopped by a teacher in the hallway of the local high school who asked, “Do you have a hall pass?”  My fears, anger, insecurities, and naivety had not been beaten off, they had just been hiding in the shadows, where they pounced from now with a vengeance and crushed my courageous, confident, passionate spirit.  I stuck it out, however, making it to the class I was student teaching, and realized within two weeks that teaching high school English would not quench my thirst to share the passion I had of language.

I considered dropping the ‘Education’ portion of my English Education degree I was working toward, but stuck it out one more semester in which I took a grammar class.  Yes, it was torture.  No, it was not all for naught.  I learned about Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) in that class and was instantly in love.  I never tread carefully around instant love, as most people advise.  I dove into researching it and imagined myself in some far off land, offering people a chance at achieving the 1950’s “American Dream.”

Back to the future– late October 2011.  I had completed my Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature (no Education), had dabbled with some jobs, and joined the Army.  The closest I came to my dreams of TESOL was sitting in a back office in Afghanistan and flipping through a Webster’s Dictionary from the 1970s with Gil, a 54 year old Afghanistan native who had been a United States citizen longer than I’ve been alive.  I sat at the computer researching the publishing industry and feeling my heart rate rising with excitement.  I had found it!  I had found a career that encompassed everything to do with my passion of language!  Through publishing, editing, copyrighting, or anything in the industry, I would not be teaching a small classroom of uninterested students, hoping to change someone’s life once every 10 years, but I would be providing the resources to learn ANYTHING to millions of people!  I could travel and learn about the industry from others.  I could participate in events for charities and helping those in need.  I felt at home in the web pages I read on publishing.

The next step was figuring out how to start this career in Fairbanks, Alaska.  Definitely easier said than done.  On the bright side, I knew I was going to need to start from the very bottom and work my way up.  What a better way to learn about the industry of books than at a book store?  I started looking for book stores in Fairbanks and found three.  THREE.  There is Barnes and Noble, Forget Me Not Books, and Gulliver’s Books.  I grew up in northern California frequenting Barnes and Noble, so I had some good memories at this chain store.  Forget Me Not Books is affiliated with The Literacy Council of Alaska and mostly volunteer work.  Gulliver’s Books is a locally owned book store that has been in business for 23 years.  I thought it would be neat to be able to have time to volunteer at Forget Me Not Books or the Literacy Council of Alaska as well as work at Barnes and Noble since I frequented there as a child, but Gulliver’s Books just seemed magical.  It obviously instantly reminds one of “Gulliver’s Travels” which, before Jack Black’s raping of the story, was a fantastic (in the definition sense) classic satire and parody that was more fun when summarized for children but just as fun for adults who understand the hidden significances hidden within the tale.  The pictures on the website and street view on Google Maps show a quaint building that has the airs of a fairy tale.  It seemed perfect.  Now, I just had to get a job there.

It is now August 21, 2012 and I finally walked inside this Gulliver’s Books with nerves high, and trying to hide my shaking hands as I hand my application and resume to the owner and retiring manager of the local bookstore.  In short, I interviewed with the new owners immediately and was hired on the spot!  It wasn’t in the bookstore yet, I now work in the Second Story Cafe of Gulliver’s Books, however it is just the beginning.  I can’t stop thinking– “What if this is the first step to achieving all the success I desire?”  Maybe someday I’ll be writing this as the COO of Penguin Press.  Think on THAT for a minute!

Until next time folks…I’ll be enjoying my time as an unemployed, dependent, civilian Army wife.

Categories: Alaska, As an Adult, General Meanderings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

One long ‘Goodbye’

Apartment Number 11- Our First Home

My life has been a long ‘Goodbye.’  I’ve moved 15 times in the last 27 years.  I’ve met people who still change my life today and I’ve met people who say I changed their lives.  “Goodbye” is not a sad word to me, especially with the technology available to everyone now.  However, your first home will never get on the internet to let you know how it’s doing.  On May 21, 2012, I had an incredibly difficult goodbye.

I spent the previous week saying goodbye to a number of important people in my life and rejoicing in their lives continuing on exciting journeys while I did the same.  My brother graduated high school.  My best friend, who I thought was a man-hater, informed me she was getting married.  My mom started a promising new job.   S, Callie, and I were moving to Alaska.  Everyone was beginning their adventures.  But as S and I were looking forward to starting such a monumental chapter in our marriage, we still needed to close out the previous chapter, and that meant saying goodbye to our first home together– and the first place I had ever rented on my own.

S and I were coworkers when we first met at Fort Knox, KY.  His life-long friends hit the nail on the head when they described me as “the female version” of him.  Though we are similar, we also somehow manage to have the strengths for the other’s weaknesses and complete the puzzle for each another.  He was a dear friend way back in May 2010 when I was promoted to E-5 SGT (Sergeant) in the US Army.  I had never lived on my own.  I finally had the opportunity to move out of barracks and into my own place and I wasn’t about to wait a second more.  S went along for the ride to look for apartments with me and ended up helping me understand what to look for to decide on the best place.  When we walked into Apartment #11 in Muldraugh, KY, I said, “I think this is the one.”  He said, “Yeah, not bad for your first place.”  Five months later we had realized our love for one another, we traded dog tags (instead of rings), and he was moving in.  It was our first home together.

Oh, how I will miss you!

The apartment was pre-furnished (with furniture and other things I don’t want to think about, I’m sure), had the smallest kitchen imaginable, and a window AC unit that cooled down the bedroom too much and not the rest of the apartment at all.  It was right next to an outdoor car wash, next to a main highway, behind an elementary school with a basketball court, and– most importantly– a block away from Dodge’s Chicken and Gas Station.  It was perfect.  Dodge’s being down the road made it heaven.  Dodge’s is a normal locally-owned gas station but they also make their own fried…everything.  Fried chicken, fried potatoes, even fried corn.  When you’re up late at night rambling about the mysteries of the universe with your best friend and significant other, there is nothing better than to look up and see the Dodge’s Chicken sign lighting up your window and know you are safe from starvation forever.  When you wake up late and know you’re going to be starting your day out doing 100 push ups if you don’t get to work in 10 minutes flat but your gas tank is empty, there is nothing better than to look up and see the Dodge’s Chicken sign like a shining beacon of hope toward no muscle failure.  Saying “Goodbye” to all our memories in our first home and to Dodge’s Chicken was a rough day.  Having S close the door and walk down the stairs with me while I held Callie and we all left together on our new adventure made it much less rough, however.

What’s the toughest “Goodbye” you’ve ever had?

Categories: As an Adult, General Meanderings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Dream NOT Deferred

We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults.  Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment.  ~George Eliot

Some of the strangest moments stay with me forever while significant ones blow away into another time. When I was six years old, I was riding with my Dad in the car and saw something that should have only existed in the fictional books I constantly read.

“What is that?!”  I pointed vigorously and questioned my Dad in a high-pitched voice.

He slowed and smiled, knowingly.  “It’s a Great Dane.”

“What is that?”

“It’s a dog.”

My life was changed.  I couldn’t believe a dog could be that large.  It was beautiful, proportional, and muscular.  I thought of all the amazing adventures I could go on with a dog that size.  I instantly wanted one.  At 6, however, I had no concept of finances and couldn’t imagine dogs costing more than a few dollars.  Instead of my Dad explaining all this to me, he merely said, “When you grow up, you can have one all to yourself.”

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So I grew up…

My husband, S, and I were separated in Afghanistan for 2011.  We left 3 months after our wedding and just around the time both of us were turning 26.  One day, shortly into the deployment, I asked S, “What kind of dog would you want to get?”  He hmmm’d and hawww’d and said he’d thought about getting a German Shepherd.  “Oh, ok,” I said.  “Why, what would you want?”

“A Great Dane.”

I think my husband fell more in love with me with those three words than he already had.  He never thought he would meet a woman that would want such a large dog.  Then again, he also never thought he’d meet a woman he wanted to marry.

It was a long, emotional journey to find a breeder.  I had grown up with my Mom bringing home shelter dogs that were about to be euthanized and finding homes for them herself.  Getting a dog from a breeder was a really tough decision for me, but S and I both wanted to know the temperament of the dog and be able to make it ours– mistakes and triumphs– from the start.  Fortunately, I worked at night in Afghanistan so the 12 1/2 -hour time difference was perfect to call people in the USA.  We finally found someone we were comfortable with and seemed to really care about what she was doing.  Her name is Maria Wilkinson (www.eviadanes.com) and she turned out to be a dream come true.

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Moonbeam

S and I kept up with the pictures Maria posted on her website for the litter Moonbeam was having at the time and just dreamt of the day one of the puppies we would be looking at would be ours.  We arrived back home in January 2012 and had plenty on our plates, but constantly watched the website to see if the puppies had been born.  A week past the time of what should have been their birth passed and I called Maria, terrified something was wrong.  She assured me everything was fine and a huge litter of beautiful blue Great Dane puppies had come into the world on March 23, 2012.  Unfortunately, the mother, Moonbeam, had gone into shock an hour after and had died.  S and I had grown to love Moonbeam through the pictures we looked at and were excited to some day meet her.  We were distraught to hear the news and so heartbroken for Maria and Evan who truly loved Moonbeam as a part of their family.

Weeks went by and S and I looked at Evia Danes website every day hoping for a peek at the puppies.  Whenever we saw there were updates, we both went into a tizzy.  I had never been sure if I could adopt a child and still love it as my own.  Now, I understand it is completely possible.  I have never been so nervous and excited as the 8 weeks we waited to be able to bring Calliope Marie Lince home.  We drove to Knoxville, Tennessee to see the 5-week old puppies, Scorch, the surrogate mother, and Torch, the dad.

The next three weeks seemed like an eternity, even though S and I had plenty to keep us busy.  We were getting back into the swing of work, visiting family almost every weekend, and still trying to find time for ourselves all while planning a move to Alaska.  On May 20, 2012, everything was set for our move and we drove to Knoxville, Tennessee to finally pick up Callie to keep.  It felt like I had metal butterflies in my stomach, I was so nervous and excited.  I couldn’t believe it was finally here.  S and I had been thinking about this day for over a year!

S had gotten to hold Callie at 5 weeks and she had fallen asleep in his arms, so it was really no contest which puppy would be ours.  It was hard to leave all the other ones, but we knew they would be well taken care of.  Callie immediately found the truck to be her new home, and we began our long journey to Alaska with the sweetest, most time-consuming, and life changing thing that had ever come into my life.

The start of our journey

Categories: As an Adult, From Tennessee to Alaska | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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