Falling into winter….

It is that time of year, again. Here in Alaska, the leaves start going yellow. We usually have that one night where we go to sleep and awaken to all the leaves yellowed and falling off. We are almost there. We have termination dust – that’s the first bit of snow on the peaks, letting us know summer has been terminated. And I am sad, and yet I am ready, too.

Matanuska Glacier

We took some friends around Alaska the past couple of weeks (they stayed 11 days and it was such a blessing) and it is amazing how quickly the summer was ending. We wore sweatshirts almost daily, and we usually were dealing with some off and on rain. Seeing as how they were from Oregon, rainfall was not an issue for them. The skies are so clear after a rainfall and it makes these vistas so breath-taking. I try to remind myself how blessed I am to live in this incredible place so many millions have on their “bucket list.” For some, Alaska is a place to visit, but they could not imagine living here. And I am very okay with that. For me, it is a dream-come-true. I recall joining some “Save the Whale” groups back in college, complete with coffee mugs and bumper stickers. So much of the literature was about Alaska and I dreamt of leaving Southern California for the “Last Frontier.” Only took me another 40 or so years, but I made it. And I cannot imagine living anywhere else.

Eagles dining on the Kenai River

I still sit in wonder and awe some days. We were blessed to be offered a chance to stay in a cabin on the Kenai River with our son and his family for an extended weekend. What a trip. The trip, in and of itself, should have an entire book written about it. That is for another time. The photo above occurred on our first night. We sat at our table on the shore of the river, dining on grilled steaks and some amazing garlic potatoes, while we were privileged to watch two adults and 1 juvenile Bald Eagle eat their dinner. It was like having National Geographic up close and personal. The site brought us all to silence as they flew in and out, enjoying fresh-caught salmon. And I felt so blessed.

Fishing the Kenai River

Watching our grandchildren fish for the first time was such a joy. They were having a ball, just casting away. They aren’t big on particulars; they just loved the process. And their interaction with their grandpa made my heart just soar. They all had so much fun and he was one of the biggest kids out there. These small snippets of time we grab with family make for a lifetime of memories, if we can hold on to them. This weekend was insane insofar as disasters and mishaps, but like our son said, “We did it!” We made it to our destination and we crammed in as much sightseeing and being family as we could. And it was very, very worth all the hassles.

Sunset with Dad and his dogs

We discovered our dogs are amazing travelers and adapted to our car and a cabin, instead of our truck and trailer just fine. They also discovered life on the Kenai River and were loving splashing around in it, seeing all the fish near the shoreline. They loved watching all that nature was throwing at them and we loved having them alongside us. We are so pleased that we have two dogs to accompany us on our many adventures in the future. Kolbe (Black Standard Poodle aged 2) and Maggie (his sister, a cafe au lait Standard Poodle, aged 5 months). Between us and our son and his family, we had 6 dogs along with us on our trip and it was just so fun. It wasn’t too much of a hassle and they all did so well. More of these trips are waiting for us next camping season. And I am so excited for next summer. Hopefully both families will have acquired better trucks to get us where we want to go by the time the snow melts and there is once again Spring in the air!

New Wood Stove and Surround of Fossil Rock and Granite

Our summer house project was pulling out our gas surround and installing a wood stove. It was the project of “I know a guy.” It was hilarious as well as costly. But you know what? I am beyond thrilled with the results. I started this post 2 weeks ago, and since then we have had our first snow. We had to race to get the veggies out of the garden. Harvesting our peas was an adventure in frozen fingers and ravenous dogs – who knew dogs would love peas and their pods so much? My husband has been working tirelessly to save what we could from the frost and snow. And I’ve been busily processing that bounty. So when we got our stove finally installed, I almost wept with joy. It is a gorgeous brown enamel (Chestnut) and it burns cleanly and efficiently up to 30 hours! It warms our entire home. And the installation came right as we got our first snow. How great is that????

One of the most amazing things is the the rock comes from Alaska and it is almost exclusively “fossil rock.” As I sit and look at it I can see fossilized leaves, stems, sticks, and shells. And it makes the archeologist in me just glow. To be surrounded by local history that is 1000s of years old is just amazing. Our son put in lights above the stove and the way the rocks are highlighted makes me feel like I am in a museum! Watching our stone mason (another “guy”) work was watching a master craftsman. It was incredible how he made all the pieces fit perfectly. A game of Tetris in real life. Another “guy” in the project was the granite man. He measured that so perfectly, when they installed it there was no gap anywhere. I was stunned. He was hilarious, too. In a Russian accent he schooled me on the differences between average and works of art. After our discussion and his measuring, he told me he knew what I wanted. We went to his stone yard and he picked this piece out for us. It was a perfect choice. I loved working with all the “guys” on this project, as haphazard as all the recommendations were. So funny. “I know a guy” – hilarious.

Some of our harvested veggies…

And so I have learned more than I ever thought possible about preserving vegetables. I have had catastrophic failures and some major successes. I have learned to can salmon and how to vacuum seal. I have made my own cole slaw from everything in my garden. I have 50 pounds of tomatoes waiting on processing, but I also froze sliced leeks, and shredded, halved and whole cabbages. I learned to blanch and freeze peas. I am putting potatoes and carrots down in the crawlspace with gunny sacks and sand. Who knew? I fermented some sweet peas with garlic and onion (from my garden). A friend made us cabbage rolls and we have relished each meal we have had of them. I am getting ready to take an online canning class this afternoon. Why not? I have so much to learn of all these lost arts. I was pushed to the academic side of life by my parents and never was taught all the womanly arts of keeping a home and feeding a family. We never grew anything – we had gardeners most of my life. The only time we had something to eat from our yard is when we bought a house with a fig tree. My brother and I hated that thing. We used to throw figs at each other and I never recall my mom doing a thing with them, other than to tell us to rake them up and put them in the garbage can out back. I was never modeled all the things I have talked about in this post. And so for me, this summer was packed full of new things. My brain feels like it is going to explode and still, there is more.

The world is spiraling out of control. Keeping my feet in the dirt has helped me in so many ways. I loved gardening. And I never knew I would. It gave me peace when all around me is quarantined and locked down. When the doors of the Church were locked to me, I could garden. When my Church was afraid, I was gardening. It has been a revelation to watch things grow; to get my hands so dirty I would just have to cut my nails to get them clean. And it gave me time in the sunshine to commune with God and with my dogs, and alongside my husband. It filled me when the world around me was sucking me dry. I got to learn what it is like to load all my stuff in our little trailer and camp away from it all, with our son and daughter-in-law, grandkids, and all our 6 dogs. We spent time as a family and it was – and is – precious to me.

While everything is out of control and our world is literally falling apart around us, if we keep an eye on God, He will be in everything. And I trust God more than I trust man. Will things get worse? More than likely. We are trying to plan for the worst, but hope for the best, as the saying goes. But all the while, we keep focused on God. Because in the end, not only is God the victor, that is truly all that matters. Keep your head up – focus on God -pray – and live your life to its upmost. Do not live in, nor accept, a life lived in fear. Find your joy amidst this chaos. And be sure your preparations are twofold – practical and spiritual. Because I am feeling something is coming. Not sure what, but something ominous is coming. Pray for your friends and family, pray for our country, and pray for God’s merciful blessings. And prepare.

Amazing photo with our dogs on the road to Homer, Alaska


“…but a kind word cheers it up.”

Boy, did this speak to me today. It was raining this morning. Dismal. Gray. Yucky sort of dark morning. A coffee morning, for sure. And I know that Spring has supposedly arrived. We laugh up here because there are MOUNDS of snow all over town, which probably won’t melt down until June or July. There is a mound on the side of an old firehouse, just down the street from me. Spring. Ha! It is still too cold to plant your starters or flowers. Some people have braved hanging baskets already. Not me. We are moving in a few weeks, so I am waiting to see what gorgeous perennials pop up in my yard. I am told there is a rose hedge and daffodils, and a few tulips. Cannot wait to see that. But today is gloomy. They say you need to get through the rain, to have the sunshine. “May showers bring June flowers”?? Ha-Ha.

And as I sat and drank my coffee in the dripping-rain-sounding, very gray and dismal morning, I turned on the TV. Big. Mistake. I have been consciously keeping it off. And today I dove back in. Stupid me. I changed what I watch, considerably. I watch mostly the Hallmark channel, or specific shows I record. And I recently began a series on DVD my son got me hooked on, but that we watch together (Ok, we binge-watch it!). But for the most part, the TV is off during the day. I like it that way. Over the past year, I also changed where I get my news. I switched it to an all-news channel that has no pundits who try to tell me what I just heard, or opine and/or yell at viewers. I am tired of the vitriol. The channel I watch reports from all over the world and in under 1 hour, I am up-to-date. And in that 1-hour today, the darkness crept in. A lot of it.

“The woman named Folly is brash. She is ignorant and doesn’t know it….she calls out to men going by, “Come in with me,” she says….But little do they know that the dead are there. Her guests are in the depths of the grave.” Proverbs 9:13-18

And I realized that by watching and listening to all this horrific news, because that is the majority of it, I was allowing the darkness to have a hold over me. I was depressed and sad. So I left the room and dove back into the Proverbs. And the above quote is what struck me. Hard. And then I remembered what St. Porphyrios said at the top of this post: “Do not fight to expel the darkness from the chamber of your soul. Open a tiny aperture for light to enter, and the darkness will disappear.”

As Rick Mallory, the photographer and blogger captured in the above photograph, Spring is a mixture of snow, rain, and burgeoning flowers. They are trying to erupt from their winter slumber, reaching towards the elusive sunshine. And that is an apt description for us all. We need to be constantly reaching for the light, to dispel the darkness. And I am desperately clinging, some days more than others, to the promises of my faith; the light in my life. And this light I hold within often struggles with the images and sounds of this world, which tries to drag us down. As a social experiment, I dismissed most newsfeed from my life. I took news apps and social media apps off of my iPhone. (I did keep the Angry Birds and Bejeweled games. My grandkids love playing Angry Birds with me on my phone). I changed up my wallpapers and now have spring flowers all over my laptop and iPhone, both, on all screens. I dismissed notifications from my life. I get text messages and notices of emails, but other than that, my phone is a phone. (What a concept, huh???). The freedom has helped my electronics operate a lot more efficiently (Facebook kills battery life, as do lots of platforms. Now they are gone, my phone can easily last 24 hours..unless I am at those Birds or Jewels!!). And the result? My happiness level got increasingly better. I was suffering from fewer sleepless nights. I was stressing far less. Do I advocate the ostrich method of burying your head in the sand? I don’t. Part of learning from scripture is to take what we have learned and directly apply it to our lives. Proverbs exhorts us to be present in the marketplace and to be involved. So I intend to keep staying current, but I think saturating yourself in it, day in and day out, takes a toll on your psyche and soul. I opted out and when I dipped my toe back into the media water, I immediately felt a difference.

So I think I will stay out of that mess. For now. Maybe forever. I much prefer the walk pictured above, which is 10 miles from my front door. I much prefer hearing the water waft past me, the eagles who fly above, and the salmon spawning, to media and newsfeed chaos. Life is so short. We never walk this way again. I continue to pray for the country, to listen when necessary, but focus on my walk with God, and my husband, and my family. If you can unplug, I highly recommend it. I recall that when I was a teenager, my dad would hand me a dime when I went out with my friends, to ensure I could call home if I needed to. On a pay phone. No cell phones. I didn’t talk to people 24/7, with tweeting my every move or logging into a social platform all day long. I could go weeks without seeing friends and we were still friends! (Imagine that!). Friends I still have 40-or more years later. We invested quality time developing relationships, in person, not online. We got news when we got news…maybe nightly at the dinner hour? Radio in the car? But not like it is now. Summer is coming and I cannot wait to be outdoors. I will have my essential oil recipe for mosquitos (which works so well!!), my Kindle will be charged, and I will be ready to accompany my husband as he chases those salmon, at whichever river he chooses to conquer. And as I got up from this screen to let the dog outside, I saw that the sun had raised her head high above the sky, dispelling the darkness. What a joy seeing that was! I wish for you some of the same.

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25

Stop having a love affair with the couch….ouch!!!

Palmer June 2016

One of the best things about living in a large state that is sparsely populated is that you get to meet some of the most interesting people, and see some amazing sights. This is a photo of a small town in Alaska by the name of Palmer. This was taken facing east, from the Pavilion in their downtown area. Downtown area. Full of traffic. Yeah, right! This is still something I am getting used to – a different definition of “downtown.” The wind was blowing (typical for that area) and we were attending their Master Gardener’s Annual Spring Plant Sale. My hubby and I had a date for the afternoon. We had so much fun talking to the gardeners and learning about what plants grow in what zones (how different it is from our last home in WA state, or before that in sunny SoCal).  One character was named Rex and he commented that his wife is the brains, he just lifts heavy stuff! I liked him immediately and after talking to him, we got two red raspberries for our yard, and one for our son’s yard. I love fresh berries!  We also purchased an Alaskan Tundra Honeyberry plant. If you love blueberries, you will love honeyberries!

Alaskan Tundra Honey Berry Plant

It is so interesting to learn new ways of doing old things, like planting, and harvesting. It is also great to stretch your taste buds now and then. I have come to adore Halibut. I can honestly say that cold water fish are a delicacy I had never really known, until I sampled fresh, Alaskan fish. I have developed a love of Halibut, even though I find the fish themselves to be gross. And it does not help they are bottom-feeders and have both eyes on one side of their heads. Ugh. But man oh man, when my daughter-in-law batters and fries that with some broccoli and cauliflower (also battered and fried) with her home-made honey-mustard sauce (I don’t like honey mustard anything, but I adore her sauce) and we sit down to feast with a locally brewed craft beer, it doesn’t get much better than that! Alaskan summers at their best! Thank goodness for fishing charters because at $30/lb in the stores, you don’t want to waste a morsel!

Fried Halibut

Another of my favorite things about summers in Alaska is the wildlife and the fishing (my hubby could fish daily, if he could figure out how to make it work!!! Ha-Ha). We have had black bears stroll down our block; we’ve already seen a mamma moose have a calf at the local Lowe’s parking lot; and the long days of sunshine. The wildlife, yes, is amazing, but so are the many gorgeous views of green everywhere! There is simply no better place, in my mind, than Alaska in the summertime. It is stunning. Flowers and wild berries, trees of so many shades of green. And if you have a hankering for water, well, we have over 1 million lakes! There is water everywhere! We live across the street from a creek and less than a mile from a river, and less than 5 miles from two lakes. The area below is less than 10 minutes from my house.

Eagle River Nature Center

I can get in my car and drive 10 minutes, and just 10 miles, up the road and gaze at this. I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams to call this place home. And I readily share it. This year, we are expecting quite a few guests, some of whom will be back-to-back. The furniture stores seriously have these sales around Memorial Day where they promote “guest sleeping options” with sales on blow-up mattresses, futons, fold-out couches, Murphy beds, bunk beds…you name it. So many people have Alaska on their bucket list and I am more than happy to show them around our beautiful state. Below is a photo of the local Reindeer Farm. You can go there and pet them, feed them, and look at all the babies. It is such fun! I firmly believe everyone should visit here at least once in their lifetimes. You will not regret it. Promise!

Reindeer Farm.2016

There are upsides to a small community; there are downsides. This state is the largest in the union (sorry Texas) and has one of the smallest populations. We are rated 47th in population, while being #1 in size. And that is good, but also hard. We have hamlets (villages) of people across the state, but many are accessible only by plane or boat. My son recently worked on an island for two weeks, accessible by boat or plane. They flew in, but their food/supplies had to be barged in. The island is inhabited by seagulls, sea lions, and puffins. No people. That is not uncommon in a state like Alaska. The fact of the matter is that it is a hard place to live in. It is nothing like the home we had in WA – on the 14th green of a golf course. In CA, we lived in a variety of places, even on farms. But there was no wild. But it was hard to find true wilderness in such a heavily populated state. There was no real weather danger, either. There were stores 10 minutes away. We have stores within 10 minutes here as well, but oftentimes the weather is too severe to get to them. This life is not for everyone. I get that. I still love it.


The same thing goes for how we choose to worship. My daughter-in-law described it to a neighbor by saying that we preferred a more “European” sort of Church. I guess that is true. But it is a little more than that. We love our Melkite faith. It is a different expression of Christianity. It is a much smaller community than say Roman Catholic or Pentecostal Christians. We are fewer in number and the form of worship is so very old and has not changed, nor adapted to more modern ideas of worship, making it as not well spread or known as others. (It is also historically an Arabic Church, from the Middle East). But the essence of it, and the root of it, is rich and full of our beloved Scriptures. In the early years of the Church, only the Holy Men of the Church could even read. To read was not something the common man could do. And that is one of the reasons the Icons in the Church became integral to people’s faith. They told stories of scenes from the Bible, and shared the lives of the Saints who went before us. And I love to share it with others. We have icons all over our home, and at times, it makes people uncomfortable because it is so different. It is like some of the road blocks I experience when sharing Essential Oils with people. They smell good, yes they do. However, their origins are ancient and the use of them is older than recorded history. But it makes some people uncomfortable, because it is different and people think it is a fad, or the latest thing. And it requires you to think differently about common practices in our homes and in our lives.


When you have a treasure, you want to hoard it. Protect it. Savor it. Like Rumplestiltskin and his golden thread. But there comes a time when you have to open the doors and share. There are so many instances when the small communities we all belong to become warped and sick, and doors need to be opened, the air refreshed and new blood needs to be allowed in. And then there are times when you need to move on, to experience a new treasure; opening your minds, hearts, and souls to something that is “other” to your norm. Like making a bucket list of places to see. And for me, I am wanting to share. My home, my faith, my oils, my life. Is it scary to share? It is!

dog on sofa closeup_26205

I’ve been challenged lately to stop having a love affair with my couch. Now, realistically, I’m not in love with my couch. It’s okay, but not my dream couch. But I love being at home. I do. I have been a stay-at-home mom for most of my 31+ years of marriage. I have also homeschooled all our kids (our oldest son is 30). I am at home a lot. And I like it there. I got comfortable being at home. I am, by nature, gregarious. But as I have aged and been at home, I have discovered I like being alone a lot, too. More and more I enjoy the quiet of living in a more rural environment with the sounds of the winds in the trees all I can hear. Or being inside on a blustery, and very snowy day, with just the crackling of our wood stove to listen to. And to share what I want to share with others, well, that means I have to leave my house. I have to operate outside of my comfort zone. I also have to step outside of the small community I have developed for myself and stretch my social skills muscles. And it makes me uncomfortable…

get uncomfortable

There are groups that I need to get away from and out of, and that is also taxing. I am developing new contacts and learning to turn on those social muscles more. But I have to tell you, living where I do, it is sooooooooo easy to become isolated. So easy to see no one except my family on a daily basis. However, there is so much I want to share with others. I want to share this state with friends who have never ventured this far. I want to share my faith with those who have questions, or perhaps do not understand my Byzantine mindset. We are growing our vegetables from seeds in a raised bed garden! I would love to share that journey with people. And I very much want to share my healthier lifestyle since I have discovered Essential Oils and the many products I use, based on Essential Oils and the science behind them. I live pretty much a chemical-free life in what I use to clean my home, my dishes, my clothing, my teeth, my face, my body, my hair…all because of Essential Oils. Why would I not want to share all of this? Because it makes both me, and the person I am sharing it with, uncomfortable. Look, I don’t want to make money off anyone. I truly do not. So for the oils part, I just want to share how it has impacted my life for the better and how I have incorporated them into every aspect of my life. As for my faith, that, too, makes many people uncomfortable. I do not want to take your faith from you, nor do I expect you to “come over” to my way of thinking. It is just fun to share information and history and styles of worship. It’s fun to share new ways of doing old things…even eating freshly grown vegetables out of your own garden. The lotion you use – I make my own, using Essential Oils! Would you like to learn how? It’s time…I need to start…

comfort zone

Would you care to join me?