Thoughts, ramblings, experiences and joys of an Alaska girl. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is firmly rooted in the Great Land of Alaska.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Happy Medium

Birds, fish, flowers, plants, berries, animals, insects, trees, people. There is so much about Alaska that is unlike anywhere else, and I want to know about it all, and experience it all. I have to remind myself on a daily basis that I have as long as I want here, whether it be another 5 years, or a lifetime. I don't have to rush my experiences here. I'm not a tourist anymore. I had to remind myself that I could pace myself while I was in the bookstore today. Angie and I are going berry picking near Whittier on Sunday on the Horsetail Falls and Portage Pass trails so I wanted to get yet another book on wildberries. I purchased the Alaska Wild Berry Guide and Cookbook. But, true to my addiction of not being able to stop at just one book, I also purchased Wildflowers Along the Alaska Highway to add to the book I purchased a few weeks ago, Alaska’s Wild Berries and Berry Like Fruits. If money were no consideration, I would have purchased the dozen other books I wanted about mushrooms, fishing in Alaska, camping spots, trees and plants, hiking trails and Native Alaskan indian tribes. I've really got to get a library card!

I'm going to create a list of all that I want to see and do and break it down by season and year to focus my learning aspirations and activity goals. I want to smoke salmon (after learning about all the types of salmon, spawning seasons, fishing spots and habits of the fish, of course); I want to see more of the state (from Ketchikan to Barrow, which takes just a tad bit longer than a weekend); I want to learn to recognize animal tracks when I see them in the wilderness; I want to know all the names of all the plants, animals and trees around me so that if I had to, I could survive and not end up eaten or poisoning myself. I want to know about the people that inhabit this wonderful land, from the ancient inhabitants to the interesting folk on the Anchorage streets. I want it all NOW. I know that isn't realistic, however. There has to be a happy medium, a learning curve, a doing curve. I've also got to work, handle daily responsibilities of raising a child, pay bills, and enjoy the luxuries of being "civilized" and not having to live off of the land. I'm not ready to move into the bush quite yet, but I want to know everything I would need to know if I ever wanted to.

The happy medium this weekend, this month, this summer, is just to learn about the berries in Alaska (there are 50 types) and how to make jellies and jams from berries and flowers that most people I talk to, people who have been here for most of their lives, have no idea about (which totally surprises me). If I can do that, then I'll be one step closer to achieving my goal of knowing everything I want to know about Alaska. I will never know everything, but I'll do my darndest to learn as much as I can.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Welcome Weekend

It's Friday! It's the weekend! It's sunny and warm in Eagle River and Soldotna too!

I've been in less than a good mood today. Alex is out of town, the refrigerator is still broken and not expected to be fixed until next Tuesday, someone let my cat out of the house yesterday and we can't find him, and I'm on a diet. I could go on with things that have irritated me last night and today, but I'm not going to anymore. Instead, I'm going to take full advantage of the beautiful weather we've been given this weekend and enjoy My Alaska!

Last night, I was introduced to the wonderful world of wild currants. I've now added them to the list of wild edibles I'm going to attempt to jar this weekend. Our friends near the Eagle River Nature Center have wild currants growing in their yard and invited me to pick as many as I like. Since they are moving, I'm going to pick to my heart's content and not worry about leaving some for them! A few days ago, we drove up Hiland Drive and saw that the fireweed are in bloom, and blooming in abundance, so I'll drive up there tonight with a few empty bags for the flower blooms and gather them. Another friend just let me know that some kind of berry is growing across the street from his home off of Hiland and invited me to come and see what they are and pick any of them I like (if they aren't poisonous). He says the bears love them, so I'll have to be very aware of my surroundings and especially cautious while I harvest them.

To add to my reasons to be cheerful instead of gloomy this weekend, I'm going to head back down to Soldotna tomorrow to fish. In the Russian and Kenai Rivers, there are still some reds (Sockeye salmon) to be caught. I can use Alex's chest waders and the kids can use the hip waders. I'm going to have someone else filet whatever I catch though. The poor fish I tried to filet last week ended up looking like oatmeal with red food coloring. It was a bad scene. Our tent is still at our friend's property, so we have a place to sleep.

I have to remind myself that my reasons for moving to Alaska and the things I was looking forward to experiencing here can't be overshadowed by broken fridges, lost cats, or children who are (as of late) plucking my last nerve. I'll throw myself into the joys of living in a place so full of life, beauty and abundance and (for the weekend at least) forget about my day-to-day troubles.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Church of Harry Potter (I'm probably going to hell)

We have more copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in our house than we have of the Bible. When the book came out this weekend, we were camping in Soldotna. The only thing we could talk about the entire drive down was the new Harry Potter book and what we (Nicholas, Alex and I) thought would happen, who would die, and how we were going to share one book between the three of us. Alex and I even placed a bet (a bet I lost, so I now owe him a Cold Stone ice cream) as to what would happen in the book.

When Saturday morning rolled around, we decided we needed to go get food. What we REALLY wanted was the book. We picked up a copy off of the table in the store, took it back to the campsite, and began reading. Ok, I began reading. I don't like to share when it comes to my Harry Potter books. We ended up going BACK to the store and purchasing 2 additional copies so that we each had our own. That's dedication. That's addiction. Yes, that's pathetic. What's even more pathetic is that I'd also preorded a copy at the local bookstore that I have yet to pick up.

I told Alex on our drive home yesterday that I thought Harry Potter was the new Jesus (I'm waiting for the lighting to strike me as I type this). He fulfilled a prophecy, he triumphed over evil, he came back from the dead (well, sort of anyway), and he's managed to unite all peoples (through god knows how many language translations of the book) in a common purpose, the fight against the evil of Voldomort and his demon hord. Harry "saved" those of muggle and magic blood alike. Sure, he was a fictional character, but who doesn't know who he is? Some like him, some love him, some say they refuse to jump on the Potter bandwagon and downright hate him. But, like him, love him or hate him, everyone is talking about him and the book (young and old alike).

I converted to Catholism a few years ago. As a Catholic, I appreciate that there are saints that I can look to as examples in times of trouble and happiness, and believe me, there are plenty. There's a saint for travelers, a saint for mothers, teachers, children, just about every profession. I'll probably be excommunicated, but I think Harry Potter should be sainted. He performs miracles (sure, he's got a wand and wizard blood), he's encouraging, he's so "human" in his actions that he's easy to relate to, and he's inspiring. He's an example that goodness and love conquer all. Also, because he doesn't represent any one religion, he's someone that everyone can rally behind and support (unless you are Pat Robertson, of course).

I'm actually sad that the books have come to an end. Maybe I'll start a church based on the book and JK Rowling can be a traveling minister. Why not? Anyone interested in joining?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Being Fat Sucks

Everyone knows it... being fat SUCKS. Anyone who claims to be fat and happy, or pleasantly plump, is just fat and deluded. Anyone who tells you that you "have such a pretty face" is basically saying "Lord, when did you get so FAT?" If you are ever described as having "a nice personality," read that as "there's no chance I want to sleep with you."

I joined Weight Watchers again yesterday. I've joined, quit, and rejoined so many times that if I pasted all of my membership booklets on the wall, I could wallpaper my bathroom a few times over. Why have I joined and quit so many times? Well, being fat does suck, but the pain of withdrawing from eating, and the pain of working out, is more painful than being fat sometimes. Weight Watchers and their program is much better than the clinical study I did from November of 2005 to January of 2006 though. That was a total nightmare. Here's some advice: if ever given the opportunity to take a drug that hasn't been approved by the FDA, a drug that doesn't have a name (only a number), the opportunity to participate in a program that requires that every time you go in for an appointment you have blood drawn, have to pee in a cup, and have to get an EKG done, RUN (or waddle, or crawl, depending on your fitness level) as fast as you can! Why do we put ourselves through stuff like that in hope of losing a few pounds? In hope of finding a miracle cure that allows us to eat whatever we want, exercise little, and end up looking like Jessica Biel? It's not going to happen!

I don't like stepping on the scale any more than the next person. I don't care if it's 5 pounds, or 50 pounds, any woman who feels she isn't the "ideal" weight has a love/hate (or hate/hate) relationship with her scale. Like being in a bad relationship with a man and staying, we keep stepping onto the scale, hoping it will tell us what we want it to, justify our not having that piece of cake at dinner or that slice of pie at lunch, will it into making us feel good about ourselves. And what do we do when it doesn't read what we want it to? We feel bad, abuse ourselves because we were "bad" and that's why we didn't lose the weight, and then get right back on it the next morning.

I have to say one thing about the clinical study I did, I did lose weight. Going on a drug with no name, enjoying the wonderful side effects of no appetite, emotional upheaval (it made me LOOOOOOOOPY), sleeplessness and irrational amounts of nervous energy (I was like a toy poodle on LSD) helped get some of the weight off. But, when I realized I was heading to crazy land, I got off the ride! What happens when one gets into a program with no possiblity of making it a life-long change? Uh, POOF! the weight one lost suddenly finds its way back to where it left.

A friend of mine has this whole theory on the distribution of weight. He says that the earth can only hold so much weight without spinning out of its orbit into space and that the weight has to continuously be redistributed. So, when one person loses weight, another has to gain it. That's why, with the extinction of the dinosaurs and so many large mammals becoming extinct, the population of humans had to increase, to maintain the weight distribution. Don't know if I believe his theory, but I do know that the more weight my friends lose, the wider my hips get. Instead of taking personal responsiblity and admitting that I've gained weight because I have no self control, I guess I can blame it on the weight distribution concept?

Anyway, I didn't join Weight Watchers simply because they have a wonderful program. If I have to be honest, I also joined because I need to be responsible to someone else. It's too easy to lie to myself when dieting. It's too easy to roll back over in bed when the alarm goes off, instead of going to the gym. I tell myself I've already done a half marathon, I've already run a few 8K runs, I don't have anything to prove. I tell myself I'm in ok shape, so I'm ok. Lie, Lie, LIE to myself. I also joined WW because I like the fact that when I go to meetings, there are people there that inspire me, people who have been where I am now on their weightloss journey. And, there are a lot of people there that are bigger than me. Somehow, in my own sadistic way, it makes me feel good about myself that I'm not where they are. Plus, for every five pounds I lose, I'll get stickers. I always liked stickers. I like the instant gratification I feel when I get a gold star. If I got them at work, I'd probably work harder!

Use whatever catch prase you like to encourage you to lose weight... the whole "Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels" mantra doesn't do it for me. But, "Being fat sucks" definitely does. It's simple. It's catchy. It's true. BEING FAT SUCKS!

Camping with the past and Harry Potter

We went camping this past weekend in Soldotna with some friends. They have about an acre of land near the Kenai river. We packed the truck with camping gear (thanks to my highly superior packing skeeeeelllllllsssss, it all fit), placed Beaner (the dog gets carsick, so there's no way he's riding in the cab) in the kennel in the back, put Nicholas in the truck with Chloe (the dog that doesn't get carsick) and headed out for the three hour ride south.

We arrived in Soldotna in the evening and unpacked the tent. I didn't realize that we would be there with so many other people. Marilynn (Alex's friend from work that owns the land) had invited a few other friends for the weekend. Our tent looked downright rustic surrounded by the RVs and 5th wheels on the lot. Marilynn's RV is the size of a tour bus, and looks like an apartment inside, complete with plasma tv, dvd player and a washer and dryer! With the people that came and went all weekend, I'd have to say there must have been about 25 to 30 people there! It was loud, full of laughter, and a lot of fun.

We'd brought a cooler of food, but it didn't get eaten. We brought a small camp stove, but it didn't get used. Marilynn cooked something for every meal. The woman should be a professional caterer. She's Filipino, so we got the treat of dining on Pork Adobo, seafood soup, rice, fried fish chips, and some "American" food like the normal cheese burgers, sausage, etc. I do have to admit though that being surrounded by people speaking Tagalog took me back to my past. It also reminded me that someone from my past go married on Saturday.

We dated for almost 5 years. It was one of those relationships that neither of us really wanted to be in, but it was familiar, comfortable, and hard to leave. I'm definitely not jealous he married someone else. I didn't want to marry him for more reasons than I can count. I ended things to move to Alaska, and I made sure before I left that there was no going back to that situation ever again, intentionally. I guess I can't escape my past, or the people in it, entirely. Thankfully, life does go on. The only constant in life is change. Things change, people have the capacity to change. Good memories, not so good memories, happy memories, painful memories, they are a part of me. Sometimes I do want to know how the people in my past are doing and what they are doing in their lives. I think that's normal for everyone. Some people have left profound footprints as they walked through my life. I've known some truly wonderful people that have shown me that people are good, kind and decent. It's helped me maintain hope in mankind when I've allowed people into my life that were selfish, self centered and hurtful. This walk through life has taken me down so many twists and turns, and I've learned so much about myself and others along the journey. The walk down memory lane that I've been taking for the past few weeks topped itself off with this camping trip.

Looking into my past memories is like looking into a pensieve (sorry for the Harry Potter connection, but I can't help it!). I can pop in and out of my past and view my memories as if they are someone else's memories and not my own. I can view them with an emotional detachment that I didn't have when I was living the actual event. I can't go back and change anything, but I can definitely learn from the events and see now the pain I may have caused others, not just the pain I felt in some situations. I know I don't have the right to intrude on the lives of others in order to say that I regret doing and saying some things I did and said (oh, and there are some things I did and said that I don't regret IN THE LEAST, but that's another issue), or see how they are now, but maybe feeling the remorse and taking responsibility for my actions is enough?

I didn't catch any fish on Sunday. I should have cast differently and gone when I knew the run was on. Instead, I waited till no fish were running and the catching was sparce. I bought hip waders instead of chest waders and ended up with a wet hiney and cold legs, unable to go very far into the water. I should have bought chest waders and gone into the water as far as I could, without fear of getting wet, no holding back. I'll add the memories of this weekend, good and not so good, to my memories of "shoulda, woulda, coulda, didn'ts" and go on with my life. The good thing about life, camping trips and memories is that until this life ends, there's the possibility to do things differently next time. There's the opportunity to look at all the decisions I've made, good and bad, and see how those decisions have led me to where I am. There's also the opportunity that when I'm faced with making decisions in the future, hopefully, I will have learned from the past. I think I have. I don't have a magic wand to wave to make my life any different than it is now, and if I did, I wouldn't use it. Are there things I would do differently if I could? Maybe. If I would have said the things I should have when I had the opportunity, gotten out of relationships I shouldn't have stayed in as long as I did (or gotten into relationships and friendships I never should have), reached out to people I should have kept in my life instead of letting go of them, my life would be much different than it is today. And, so would theirs. And, maybe that's not a good thing. Who knows. It's like the movie Sliding Doors, starring Gwenyth Paltrow. In the movie, two decisions she could have made actually occur, and throughout the movie we follow each decision and its consequences through to the end. Some of the decisions she made along the way were good, some weren't so great. In the end though, the path she DID take and the decisions she DID make were right. I have to believe, so were mine.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Unmade Plans of Mice and (wo)Men

Summer's passing quickly. It's the middle of July, the fireweed are blooming, the salmon are heading upstream to spawn, the last of the snow is finally melting off of the mountain tops, and it's time to start planning berry picking trips. August is almost here. Alex and I talked during the winter about all the hiking trips we would love to take after work. To date, we haven't taken any!

We were talking yesterday about the fact that I am the planner, he's the executor. I come up with the plans, he follows through on them. I haven't come up with any plans, hence, no plans to execute. I'll have to remedy that.

This week is already filled with activity. Tonight is camping gear purchasing night (we are going with friends to stay on their property near the Kenai River to do some fishing and camping this weekend), tomorrow is karate practice, the weekend is booked. I'm going to sit down tonight and go through my "Hiking the Chugach: 50 Hikes" book and find some hikes for us to start doing after work. I know he'd be really excited if I put some bicycling excursions on that list, but he'd better not hold his breath. There won't be any "Bird to Gird" trips in my near future. Maybe I'll plan a few bikes around the neighborhood, or a few to the bridge on the highway over Eagle River, but I'm not planning a mini Tour d'France for us around Anchorage any time soon.

I've decided to stop doing karate for a while. It's a sin (it is, really, I read it in the bible somewhere) to not be outside in Alaska during the summer when it's sunny. It read something like "Though shalt not waste beautiful Alaskan summer days!" Maybe I paraphrased what I read, but I'm sure it's something like that. Since I won't have karate tomorrow, I'll take the dog(s) and head up Hiland and check out part of the Symphony Lakes path.

The thing I'm learning about activity is that I'm a leader when it comes to planning. If I plan it, they will come. If I don't plan it, and no one else does, then I'm the one at fault for my wasted summer. The only one better at planning than I am is Angie! She's already got the camping trip for the girl's to Kennicott booked, complete with a mine tour, for the weekend of August 11th. And, if nothing else comes up (meaning if nothing else is planned by me), she's wanting to make another girl trip the weekend of August 17th up the Denali Highway to camp and enjoy the views. The colors at that time should be amazing! They will be fall colors, which means possibly the last trip of the "summer." Again, full circle, back to pondering where the summer went!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dream a Little Dream

Since returning to Alaska, the land of my birth, the fact of my mortality has really been pressing upon me. I'm only 36, but sometimes I feel very old indeed. I realize on a deep level that this life I'm living is the only one I get to live, that this isn't a practice for a later try, that this isn't a dress rehearsal for the real show. This IS the show. Instead of considering all that I have accomplished during my life, I think at great length about the things I haven't accomplished, the things I want to accomplish, the things I dreamed of accomplishing and becoming when I would dream when I was younger. I can't help wonder if it's too late to still do most of the things I wanted to do when I was a child and adulthood was still far away and a part of my future.

When I was young, my mother collected magazines. Specifically, she collected old National Geographic magazines. I would spend hours rummaging through the garage in search of magazines with pictures and stories from places whose names I still can't pronounce, places that sounded magical, full of people who didn't look like my neighbors, and teeming with plants and animals I didn't even see at the local zoo. I would remove the maps from the magazines and tack them up on my bedroom walls. I'd clip the pictures and make collages on different themes, peoples, animals, ancient ruins I wanted to explore. I'd go to bed with the images on my walls the last images I saw, and have the most amazing dreams as I slept, dreams of finding hidden caves in hillsides that held treasures that even Indiana Jones couldn't imagine. I'd dream of meeting head hunters, I'd dream of swimming with hippos, I'd dream of finding the Fountain of Youth and living forever on Mount Olympus with the gods. My mother supported me putting the pictures on my wall, supported my dreaming, and didn't mind me slaughtering her magazines, but she stopped short of encouraging my digging up the backyard in search of buried treasure and didn't appreciate it much when I would wash my dirt-covered finds off in the kitchen sink. Somewhere during the years though, my dreaming was replaced by a focus on school, growing up, boys, career, marriage, parenthood, 401Ks, benefits, taxes and grocery shopping. When did that happen? I don't know where the years went. I remember days passing, but years? How did I end up with a paralegal degree? How did I end up with a business degree? How did I end up with a 15 year old? How did I end up with these hips? None of these things were part of my youthful dreaming! Where did the buried treasure go? What about seeing Petra in Jordan, and excavating ruins in Peru? What about watching snake charmers in India and walking on volcanoes? What about writing that next great poem, article, story, or novel? What about playing the cello?

When did I start taking the easy route and give up dreaming? I haven't put any real effort into doing anything in my life for quite a while, other than moving to Alaska. I've been floating along down the river of life, letting it take me wherever it wanted, the path of least resistance. I've drifted into jobs, drifted into unchallenging schools, drifted into relationships. They say God only gives you what he knows you can handle. He gave me a child who is easy to parent, close to trouble free. What does that say about me? I don't give myself credit for leaving home at 16 and moving to Montana to help start a church as a junior in high school. I don't give myself credit for growing up without doing drugs or getting into trouble or getting pregnant in my youth, living in a discipline free home. I don't give myself credit for joining the military and serving for 6 years during Desert Storm/Desert Shield, completing two years of electronics school, and being honorably discharged after completing my enlistment. I don't give myself credit for living through an abusive marriage and having the strength to leave him, and all my worldly possessions, behind and start over with a 4 year old. I don't give myself credit for hanging in there and finishing college with two degrees at 35. Most recently, I don't give myself credit for ending a 5 year, go-nowhere, relationship and following one dream and moving to Alaska. I'm also not giving myself credit for finally finding and maintaining a relationship with a wonderful man for the past year.

I'm painfully aware, as an adult, of the limitations of being human and not omnipresent. I'm more than aware that youth is wasted on the young, and unfortunately my youth was wasted by me also. I made choices during my youth that may not have led to the fulfillment of my youthful dreams, but I like my life. I love living in Alaska. I love being a mother to both of the children in my life. I love Alex. I love my friends. I would have done a few minor things differently, but if doing things differently means I would have a different life, than I'd choose to do it all the same. Knowing that, I also realize that I can still accomplish some of my dreams. I'll never be a concert cellist. I won't discover any ruins in Peru. I won't swim with hippos in the River Nile. I won't probably see Petra in person. I will just have to determine the things I can accomplish, and let go of the things I can't. I'll have to focus my dreams and focus on the things I can attain, and let go of the things I can't. I can't ever get those years back, I can't live all my dreams, but I can still dream. I am 36, but I'd rather start changing what I can now than look back in another 20 years and wonder where those years went and pine for the things I didn't accomplish.

I may never be the modern world's Indiana Jones, but I'll be damned if I'll keep these hips!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Girl Power!

Kay and I made it back from our camping trip safe and sound. Our weekend at Montana Creek was a total success.

Angie picked us up on Friday night, just a little after 7. After packing our belongings into the car like tightly fitting puzzle pieces, we were off to the campground. The weather in Eagle River was overcast and raining. The closer we neared to the campground, the bluer the skies got. It was promising to be a beautiful weekend.

Angie had the perfect camping set up. The tent was easy to put up, she had everything organized in type-specific storage containers, and the cooler was packed with the perfect camping food. I felt totally spoiled! Rachael got there just after we'd gotten the tent up, and after we helped her get her tent up she and her dog (Wally) joined us for a night of chatting around the fire and s'more making. After we finished the s'mores, we headed to bed. Angie had brought a sleeping pad, but Kay and I slept without one (something I'll never do again on the rocky ground of Alaska). According to others, the only thing louder than my snoring was the fighting that erupted a few campsites from ours at about 3 a.m. Ah, the joys of camping near inconsiderate jerks.

Saturday morning found us heading to the local VFW for a breakfast of biscuits and gravy, and pancakes before we headed to the bustling town of Talkeetna for the festival celebrations. The best part of the morning was the home made rhubarb and strawberry jelly. I was scraping the bottom of the dish to get the last drop.

There's really nothing like a small hometown parade. The floats are all unique and there's none of the flash and glamour one sees on parades that are televised. While I was watching the parade, I thought to myself, "The Macy's Day Parade has nothing on this parade." Without the two-story hot-air balloons, without the glitzy floats carrying Miss America, without the celebrity announcers telling us with float was up next, this parade managed to hold the fascination of locals and tourists alike as we watched it proceed down the center of Talkeetna. Containing such local elements as a cage of geese (complete with a for sale sign for interested parties), the local red-hat brigade, "floats" carrying the decorated 'moose on parade' moose, and the town's rescue squad (what would any hometown parade be without the local fire truck), the celebration wove that hometown feel that wrapped itself around every element of the day's festivities.

We walked around Village Park, perusing the vendors. They made certain to keep me away from the bookseller (don't want to feed my addiction), but I did buy two t-shirts. We caught the Joe Page Band and Melissa Mitchell & Homegrown in concert. Melissa Mitchell & Homegrown is a group that I first heard the weekend before at the Girdwood Forest Festival. I really like her music, the style reminds me of Ani Defranco a bit, but with more bluegrass elements. We skipped the Scottish Pipe Band, as there was one member we were avoiding, for Angie's sake (nuff said). We ate lunch at Mountain High Pizza, which is always a treat. I always end up eating too much at fairs, and this time was no exception. The pizza, soda, ice cream and cotton candy did me in, and by the time we got back to the campground I felt bloated and tired.

The last event we attended was our purpose for going to the Moose Dropping Festival: the moose droppings dropping. Earlier in the day, I'd purchased four $5 tickets, each cooresponding with a same-numbered dropping. For each ticket, I also got a "poo pin" with my number on it. Kaylee wouldn't wear her dropping pin, so I proudly wore all four. After we heard Melissa Mitchell & Homegrown perform, we made our way back to the VFW and joined the throng of people surrounding a very large circle that had been roped off where they would be doing the drop of the droppings. The tension and excitement were thick in the air. The VFW members brought out the droppings, contained in a black back, and hoisted them up into the air. As the countdown began, the anticipation mounted. At the count of one, a rope attached to the bottom of the bag was pulled, and the moose droppings rained from the sky into the circle below. A roar erupted from the crowd! Ok, so I'm embellishing a bit, but it was a lot of fun, and with dollar prizes from $100 - $1000, it was pretty exciting. Two very precise veterans measured the distance of the droppings from the center, with the closest 8 receiving prizes, and the furthest away getting a $250 prize. At the end, the kids in the crowd rushed in to pick up the remaining droppings from the ring. It was like a bad Easter Egg hunt, watching those kids rush in to grab droppings like they were gold filled eggs.

Back at the campground, we turned in early after a very long but fun-filled day. Kay and Angie got to sleep ahead of me, as I had a few chapters of the sixth Harry Potter novel to finish before turning in. Sunday morning, Angie introduced us to "boiled omelets." For those who have no clue, like I didn't, boiled omelets are made by placing eggs and omelet fixings into a ziplock bag, mixing them well, and then placing the bag in boiling water for 8 - 10 minutes. The omelet comes out of the bag looking and tasting like any omelet you'd make at home. They were delicious, and a great start to the morning before packing up and heading home. We opted not to attend Sunday's Mountain Mother contest at the festival, and decided to try and catch it the next time it's held at the Talkeetna Bachelor Auction in December.

I really enjoyed camping with the girls. We are planning another trip to Kennicott Mine the second weekend in August. We had such a blast this trip. Even with the totally full outhouse across from the campground, the too-wet-to-make-a-fire wood I purchased at the campground store, no showers at the campground, and jerkoff males who insisted on displaying their manhood loudly at 3 a.m., the trip was relaxing and made me appreciate just hanging with the girls even more!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Moose Dropping, Look Out Below!

We are camping near Talkeetna this weekend and attending the Moose Dropping Festival. We will be enjoying a weekend filled with music, food, fun and moose dropping filled skies. Part of the festivities include a moose droppings dropping. Shellacked moose doo will be dropped out of the sky onto a target. Which ever piece lands closest to the center is the winner. People purchase raffle tickets with the associated numbers on the poo. Only in Alaska, folks! Only in Alaska!

I had a friend tell me that a few years ago an animal rights group in the Lower 48 had gotten all up in arms and was calling local radio stations here complaining about the festival and how cruel it was to animals. They believed that live moose were being dropped out of planes over Talkeetna and wanted to know how high the moose were before they were dropped! We may occassionally hit them with our cars, but we don't drop them out of planes, come ON! The callers are probably the same folks that have the warped belief that we all live in igloos, that bear roam the city streets on a daily basis (including Polar bears) in Anchorage, that it's dark for 6 months of the year everywhere in Alaska, and that it's cold year round and always snows (even in the summer). I'm still amazed at the questions I get asked by tourists and by my friends in the lower 48. The misunderstanding about the Moose Dropping Festival in Talkeetna tops the cake.

I'm looking forward to going to the festival. One of my newly found favorite performers, Melissa Mitchell, is performing on Saturday. I get to spend some quality time with girl friends and Kaylee. When the droppings are dropped though, I plan to be as far away from the target as I can get.

To Fish, or Not To Fish

I'm camping this weekend at Montana Creek Campground near Talkeetna. It's my first camping trip in Alaska! Angie, Kaylee, a friend Rachael (her dog Wally) and I are going tent camping. There won't be air mattresses. There's no shower facility at the campground. The toilet is an outhouse. In Virginia Beach, this experience would be considered "roughing it." In Alaska, this is normal.

Another normal thing I'm finding here are the fishing regulations on catch and release fishing. We've got 5 different types of salmon here that all spawn at different times. Some spawning seasons overlap, but fishing regulations vary for each type as to when they can be caught and kept. I was informed that I wouldn't be allowed to keep any king salmon that I caught if I fished Montana Creek at the campground. When I read the regulations, I found that I couldn't keep ANY fish I caught there what-so-ever.

I don't believe in catch and release fishing just to do it. If fishing to eat the fish, and a fish is caught that isn't within length or weight reguation, that's one thing to throw it back into the water. However, fishing just to catch one, knowing that no matter what is caught it is to be released, just seems cruel to me. It's against my fishing "ethics." So, I won't be fishing.

Next weekend we are going camping on a friend's land down near Soldotna. They live just off of the Kenai River. I will not only be catching fish there, but I plan on eating every one I catch. Ok, I plan to eat every one I catch that I'm able to keep within regulation, of course.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Postings catch ups

I've written about a few things in my posts that I didn't complete the stories on. I want to remember what happened, so I'm going to complete the "rest of the stories" in this post. It's going to be a long one!

Backpacking, Not For the Poor of Pocketbook or Faint of Heart

We didn't end up going on the Crow Pass trip from Girdwood to the Eagle River Nature Center. Nicholas was in karate camp, and we couldn't find anyone to get him to the all day camp on Saturday and Sunday. We are, however, more determined than ever to make the hike next year. Our fitness levels will definitely have to improve, however. Our friends that went did enjoy themselves, but they ran into very high water levels, a snow field, steep climbs and got lost more than once. Since we can do parts of the hike by doing individual day hikes of the trail, we've decided to do a few day trips on the trail from each end and judge our fitness levels beginning next May. That means, a winter full of working out at the gym, XC skiing, snowshoeing and many, MANY more other hiking adventures before we try Crow Pass. Hiking the past couple of times we've gone, I've realized I'm definitely in no physical position to do any two day hiking trips. Crow Pass would have kicked my hiney!

Touring with the Tourists

Julie and the kids arrived at the Anchorage airport in the early morning hours of the 27th. After 3 separate plane rides, a four hour time difference, several hours of delayed flights, and enduring a crying baby for most of the last leg of their trip, they arrived ahead of their luggage (which had been sent on another plane behind their plane). Welcome to Alaska!

WEDNESDAY: We headed to the house, the kids amazed that it was still light outside at 2:30 am. The sun began to rise just 45 minutes later. We got a late start to Talkeetna to see Denali, but what a beautiful day we awoke to! I told Julie that I sold my soul to the devil for good weather for her trip. She said she'd prayed for good weather anyway, so selling my soul wasn't necessary. Wish she would have let me know that sooner! The skies were totally clear, the weather was warm and inviting, there was a slight breeze. We may have started late, but we still managed to get a hike in at Thunderbird Falls outside of Eklutna. We hiked to the falls, then hiked down to the valley floor to the creek. The mosquitoes were relentless and HUGE! The most memorable part of that hike (outside of seeing the falls, that is) was Julie's daughter screeching "There's a CAN in there," when she realized the "bathroom" at the trail head was just a fancy outhouse. She'd never been camping, or used an outhouse. She was mortified that there was no running water, and no flushing of the toilet, and that the CAN she saw was what she was going to have to sit on to use the restroom. It was the funniest thing I heard that day. After experiencing the wrath of the mosquitoes at Thunderbird Falls, there was no way they were going to get out of the car at the Eklutna cemetery, so I toured the grounds and took pictures for them while they sat in the truck. I enjoyed walking through the cemetery. The Spirit Houses each have stories of their own, and seem to me to be like a pop-up picture book. The houses are colorful, happy in a place of grief, and intricately detailed. After I finished touring the churches on the cemetery grounds and snapping pictures of the Spirit Houses, we headed to Talkeetna. The drive took about 2 hours, with everyone but me and Julie's son falling asleep on the drive. When we got to the viewing point on the road to Talkeetna, I woke everyone up. I had to explain to her son that the mountain wasn't the dark hills only, but the area above the hills that looked like clouds. The mountain is so tall, it's still covered in snow, and it looks like clouds. We headed into Talkeetna, ate at Mountain High Pizza, walked around the town for a while, and headed down to the river. The water was beautiful. The kids built rock sculptures, Julie lounged on a log, and I watched the rafters. After about an hour and a half, we headed back to Eagle River, stopping along the way to take a few pictures of float planes and the scenery.

THURSDAY: Another late start. We headed south to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Julie was truly taken aback by the views along the Turnagain Arm. I can understand her amazement at the beauty, as I feel the same way every time I make the drive. We hiked at McHugh Creek for a bit. The kids had a blast removing their shoes and walking in the water. The water was freezing, but they didn't seem to care. Kids will be kids! When we pulled into the parking lot at McHugh, they got to see their first Alaskan wild animal. There was a moose near the restrooms, munching on a tree. The kids were amazed that it just stood there and didn't take off running. After hanging out at McHugh for a while, we went to the AWCC. I walked the AWCC myself while the rest of the group enjoyed a leisurely day and lunch. I took lots of pictures, including some of musk ox, brown bears, Sitka white tailed deer, elk, black bear, caribou, moose, buffalo and fox. Because of the late start, we didn't get to do the hikes we had wanted to do at Winner Creek or Virgin Creek Falls, but I did take them up to Alyeska and show them the mountain Kaylee snowboards down. We headed home, after another long day.

FRIDAY: The day dawned early for us and we headed south to Seward at about 8 a.m. to catch the Fjord tour by 11:30. We left early enough to stop for a little while at a beautiful pull out just beyond the Homer turnoff. Parking in Seward was hard to find! I've never seen so many people in Seward. Tourism season is definitely in full swing. There were two cruise ships moored. I'm so used to just seeing the small fishing boats that seeing two cruise ships there was a total shock to my senses. I was in the Navy, I've seen aircraft carriers, I've been on large ships, but seeing those ginormous cruise ships next to the small fishing boats slightly unnerved me. They seemed so out of place. They seemed like a violation of the landscape and the scenery surrounding them. I can't imagine what it was like there during the July 4th celebrations. We found the tour boat and got on just before it pulled out and headed for Fox Island. On the island, we enjoyed a meal of salmon, chicken, salad, rolls, drinks, rice and desert. The rest of the group ate inside (the bugs, again, were very irritating), but I couldn't resist eating outside. The kids skipped rocks from the shore for a while, and then it was time to re board the boat and head into the open waters. What a great, inexpensive tour! We saw sea lions, gray whales, glaciers, and birds galore. The tour was 5 hours long, which was just long enough to see what we wanted to see, and short enough to not have the kids going nuts and losing interest. After the tour, Julie's boy managed to ask just about everyone in the tour office if they liked Puffins. On the way back to Eagle River, we stopped at Exit Glacier. We hiked up as close to the face of the glacier as we could get. I was amazed how much it's receded. All along the trail are signs with dates on them, indicating where the glacier had been at those different dates. I'm going to go back some time this summer and do the longer hike to the Harding ice fields above Exit Glacier. It was another gorgeous day!

SATURDAY: Yet another late start (it seemed to be a theme for most of their trip). We headed to Mirror Lake for the MEETin bbq and a bit of relaxation after the go, go, go pace we'd been keeping for the first three days of their trip. Julie walked around and took pics for most of the day. Mirror Lake is a beautiful spot. The kids swam in the water, played on the lawn, and made new friends. Julie even ate a Reindeer dog, much to her chagrin when she realized what it was. She actually turned green. After the bbq, the kids and Julie kayaked on the lake. We went out with friends that night to Humpy's and Platinum Jaxx. We (Alex and I) aren't the partying types, but BOY, can Julie dance. We didn't see her for most of the night, she was a dancin' fool!

SUNDAY: We didn't hike the Matanuska glacier, partially because of the weather, and partially because it was ANOTHER late start day. With a 3 hour drive to the glacier, we weren't about to drive all that way in the rain. Slippery glacier covered with water... not a wise hiking choice. Instead, we took Julie and the kids to Anchorage to eat at the Snow City Cafe. I love the Snow City Cafe. I guess I'm truly in the Alaskan frame of mind now. I've become accustomed to, and actually enjoy, the slower pace in restaurants. I don't care that my food isn't brought to me 5 minutes after I order it. I enjoy the people watching at the Cafe. Still in the east coast frame of mind and speed, Julie and the kids weren't impressed by the service or the speed in which their meals were delivered to the table. I did get Julie to try Reindeer sausage though, and she didn't even get ill! After lunch, I drove Julie and the kids up Arctic Valley, one of my favorite spots in Anchorage. We hiked a little, then took the kids home and Julie and I headed up Hiland Drive on our own. Sunday didn't dawn clear and warm as the rest of the days on her trip had. It was cloudy and misty, but I actually think Julie enjoyed it more. She loved walking in the clouds on our hike up the trail at the end of Hiland. The path we hiked was indicated by a very small, inconspicuous sign written on poster board, between two private property plots. I'd never seen the path before, in all my drives up Hiland. The area is covered with berry plants, so I know where I'll be berry picking in the fall! On our way down the trail towards the truck, we saw a very large black bear on the hillside beside ours. We hustled down the mountain to the truck, making lots of noise.

MONDAY, LAST DAY: Monday, the last day of Julie's trip. We had breakfast at North Slope Restaurant in Eagle River after getting her pictures put on disk at Fred Meyer's. Then, we headed into Anchorage. Because of the late start and the amount of time it took at Fred Meyer's, and the leisurely breakfast (or, should I say Alaskan speed service at breakfast) they didn't have much time to tour Anchorage. Most of their time was spent at a tourist shop on 4th Avenue. We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare for them to check in and we chatted until the went upstairs to wait to board the plane at 9 pm. I wish we'd made more time on Monday for them to see Anchorage, but I'll show them around next time.

We didn't get to do a lot that we'd wanted to while she was here, but we packed the days she was here with activity. There is so much to see and do in Alaska, but starting early is a must. Just about everything to see and do is quite a drive away from Anchorage, not a lot of visitors realize that viewing requires extensive driving. A week really wasn't enough time to see and do everything, but I think she got a small taste of Alaska, and realizes why I love this place so much and how I could uproot my life to start over in what they were all convinced was a frozen wasteland. We enjoyed having them here, and she mentioned coming up again later with her boyfriend to catch the northern lights. Having her here made me miss my friends in Virginia, but I love my life here and can't imagine going back to the hustle and bustle of east coast living.


I kind of knew that this was not going to be as enjoyable for me as I'd hoped when the first turn of my foot on the wheels of my bike to head up the trail, my chain fell off of my bike. Not a good sign! Things got a little better, but not much better, to the half way point of the trip. I couldn't figure out how to use the gears, and rode uphill for the first section of the ride in entirely too difficult a gear. I got left way behind, with Angie (kind hearted soul) keeping me company as I suffered along. I did get off and walk a few times up the hill at the first section of the trail, I'll admit it. The scenery was beautiful, but I was too busy trying not to pass out to enjoy it! Ok, maybe not pass out, but it was tough. I realized how much more physically active I need to be to. I was using muscles I didn't know I had. Thank goodness for padded biking shorts though. If I were ever to meet whomever created those wonderful things, I'd kiss them full on the mouth! Half way to Girdwood, we stopped at a pull out at a picnic area and enjoyed a picnic of wine, port, delicious smoked salmon, sweet peppers, olives, crackers and jam, cheese, chocolate and wonderful conversation. The little picnic we had snapped me out my pain, and I was finally able to enjoy the scenery. The cottonwoods showered the area with cotton. It was so thick there, and the sun was shining just right. It looked like snow in the light. It was beautiful. The rest of the bike ride was very enjoyable (it was all downhill, for the most part). Girdwood was having the first night of the Forest Fair, so we biked to the fair, walked around for a while, enjoyed some music and watched some hula-hooping (a city sport in Girdwood, it seemed). Angie and I headed over to Chair 5 for some late night sodas, and Alex came to pick us up later in the truck (no way in Hades was I going to bike back to the truck uphill for the 8 mile ride back). I'm going to bike a few times a week to build up my endurance, and bike on the stationary bikes at the gym, and then try that trail again with Alex, but from Indian to Girdwood next time. We've got grandiose aspirations to take the train to Seward and take two days to bike back to Eagle River some time next year, so I've GOT to be prepared. If 8 miles wiped me out, there's no way I'd be able to bike from Seward to Eagle River and live!

All caught up on the posts now. Time to take a breather. My fingers are tired! Writing all this was almost as exhausting as the bike ride. And yet, I'm still loving every minute in Alaska! I'm so lucky to live here!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Naturally Alaskan

I'm going to try my hand at making jelly this year. I've never made it. I remember my mom and Aunt Joyce used to can vegetables that were grown in our backyard garden in Utah when I was young. I tried to hide the canned green tomatoes in the back far reaches of the hall closet where they kept the canned goods, to no avail. They'd also can peaches and other fruits from the trees in my grandmother's yard. I don't remember them ever trying their hand at jellies or jams.

I don't have a garden here in Alaska. I don't have fruit trees here in Alaska. What I do have are roadsides full of wild fireweed. In a little over a month, I'll have hillsides full of wild berries (crow berries, salmon berries and blue berries). Last year, we picked almost 3 gallons of blueberries. They are in my freezer still, waiting to be turned into ice cream, smoothies, muffins and jam. How time flies! It's almost time to start picking again. I got here too late to pick fireweed in full bloom last year. I'm going to take full advantage of the bounty this year though! I found a recipe online for fireweed jelly, and I'm going to start picking blooms on Wednesday of next week up Hiland Road. We drove up there last night. The fireweed wasn't blooming yet, but there were plenty of buds on the plants.

Fireweed grows plentiful in Alaska. The stalks can grow anywhere between 1 1/2 feet to 8 feet tall. The flowers are a magenta color. Native Alaskans of old mixed the leaves with other greens in the spring and ate them as salads (the plants are high in vitamin C); later in the season they used the plant medicinally. The plants grow best on roadsides or where the ground has been disturbed, and they don't deal well with humidity (that's why I'd never seen them before when I lived in the southeastern United States). I haven't tried fireweed jelly before, but I have become a huge fan of fireweed and honey ice cream.

If my canning experience goes well, what all my Virginia friends will be getting for Christmas? I'll be sending a little bit of Alaska to them in a jar.

Wild Salmon in Anchorage

A friend and I explored downtown Anchorage today, and fished for Salmon. We didn't fish with poles (although, I did pick up two complete fishing pole packages for next weekend's camping trip to Montana Creek Campgrounds). No, we fished for the Wild Salmon on Parade with our cameras.

One thing I regret I never did in Virginia when I lived there was searching for the elusive Mermaids on Parade in Norfolk. Every year since 2000, Norfolk has hosted a Mermaids on Parade event. Local artists create mermaids that are placed all over the city, and later auctioned off for charities.

I read, before I moved here, in the Anchorage Daily News in 2005 about a man taking a baseball bat to a salmon in downtown Anchorage. Reading further, I realized that it was not a live salmon (although, we have those in downtown Anchorage also), but a fiberglass salmon, much like the mermaids in Norfolk, Virginia. When I began to see them swimming their way through the Anchorage streets in June, I knew I had to get the salmon in Anchorage on film before they swam to other "waters" and out of my camera's view. Today was that picture taking day! I acted like a total tourist, map of the salmon locations in hand, and hunted down all that we could locate in downtown. Some had been taken down for repair, some were locked inside buildings (like the ones in the Federal Building and City Hall), and some were too far out to walk to (so, I'll get them tomorrow when I have my vehicle downtown).

All of them were very creative, but my favorite was definitely the Salmonopoly salmon. The game board surrounding the salmon was completely based on all things Alaska. On the back side of the salmon was a game board similar to the game Scrabble (named Snaggle, since it's about salmon) with the words being uniquely Alaskan and based on fishing.

We discovered some other things downtown that will have to be explored further. We wandered into the old Federal Building and found a wonderful free museum and watched a great movie about the McNeil River Grizzly Bears. The Holland America/Gray Line office had some great brochures for travelers, and a fun and cheerful lady behind the desk. I'm going to check out my Alaska travel guide for some more Anchorage and surrounding area freebies and tour those locations too in the coming weeks.

We ended the day in true tourist style with reindeer sausage dogs and ice cream (fireweed and honey, and black walnut and birch syrup). Acting like a tourist in my own back yard has been a lot of fun these past few weeks! I could do this for a few more years (or decades)!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Bird to Gird... have wine and cheese, will bike

Alex and I are biking tonight. We are biking from Bird Ridge to Girdwood. The trip is about 8 miles, one way. The path is vehicle free, and parallels the Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm, one of my favorite areas in Alaska. Part of the trail is actually on the old Seward Highway. The views along the way are breathtaking.

Alex has packed our camelbak with wine and water, cheese and crackers, has put the bikes on the rack and is picking me up after work. We are biking with new friends we met through MEETup, and an old friend we recently got reacquainted with. It's promised to be a leisurely ride, with a group wine and cheese break along the way. With the promise of a slow pace, wine, cheese and a long KID FREE evening that may include a post-ride dip in the hot tub, how can I NOT go?

I'm no biker. Never have been, don't know that I ever will be. Alex, on the other hand, is a biking fella. He loves to bike. When he said he was going to do this trip, I didn't think I would be included in the plans. For Alex, biking isn't a leisurely sport, it's a quest for the finish as quickly as possible. Hopefully, this bike ride won't be like a training session for the Fireweed 400! I am looking forward to the views, if not the actual ride. The weather is beautiful outside. The skies cleared this afternoon and the temperature is wonderful.

I'm praying I figure out how to use the gears on my bike. The last time I tried to go up a hill, I ended up having to jump off the bike before I rolled backwards down the hill I'd just ascended. It was a mess. I did, however, get padded bike pants not too long ago (those things are expensive), so at least my hiney won't be as achy as it was the last ride we took. I'm totally out of shape, so this will be very humbling. Maybe it will inspire me to get serious about getting in shape. Maybe it will inspire me to sell my bike. One way or the other, it will be inspiring.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

I admit I am powerless

I'll admit it... isn't that the first step towards recovery? I am addicted. When I think about doing it, I start to quiver with anticipation. When I find out it's available, I go out of my way to get it. I know where I can find the dealers, I know the prices, for the large items and small. I'm such a frequent customer, I get a discount from the peddlers. I'll drive for 30 minutes from Eagle River to get the latest shipment. I even pre-order! And, yes, I've used previous versions as stepping-stone "drugs" to newer and better, more expensive, releases. I hide my purchases from my family. I do it in private, in public, in the bathroom, and in bed. I'm a junkie. And, my friends encourage my addiction, constantly encouraging me to "try this, you'll like it." And, I always do! I've started two groups around my addiction, so I can meet with other "junkies" and talk about our addiction. Now that a Title Wave Bookstore has opened where the old Cook Inlet Book Company once was, my addiction can be fed on a daily basis (as the bookstore is only a few blocks from my worksite). Yes, I'm addicted to books and reading. I can't get enough! I may just need help! I wonder if there's a 12-step program for people with my addiction.

I'd be fine if it weren't for the continued encouragement from friends who INSIST I read a book they just finished that "they just couldn't put down." It's all their fault. Isn't that the sign of a true addict? Blaming my addiction on others? And, if my friends would quit writing in their blogs about books they plan to read, or have read, or are in the process of reading (mainly books about Alaska on one blog) I wouldn't feel the urge to go and purchase the books they have listed.
I keep telling everyone that I can live without it, that I can quit at any time. I keep insisting that I won't purchase another book, that I'll read the ones I have, that I'll even get books at the library. But, I never do. If I had 15$ and a choice between going to lunch or getting a book, I'd choose purchasing the book.

Title Wave on 5th Avenue in downtown Anchorage has an awesome selection of Alaskan books. On almost every shelf (except for the ones in the back right hand corner, and some new releases at the front of the store) there are books by Alaskan authors, books about traveling in Alaska, books about Alaskan wildlife, wild flowers, wilderness escapades. As a junkie, my "drug" of choice is anything Alaskan. After all, I still feel like a tourist here, every day. Today, intending ONLY to purchase The Crucible by Arthur Miller for my daughter for school, I went into Title Wave with a mission. That mission quickly blew up (as did the dollar amount charged to my debit card) as I looked for her book. I ended up walking out with two bags of books. TWO BAGS and $140 less in my bank account than what I walked in with. I got a Fodors Alaska 2007 guide, Looking For Alaska by Peter Jenkins, 50 Hikes in Alaska's Chugach State Park and Alaska Wild Berries and berry-like fruit. I also got 5 other NON Alaskan books, but if I'd spent any more time in the store, those 5 would have been put back and I would have replaced them with 5 Alaskan books. While looking for Kay's book (which I completely forgot about and ended up having to purchase separately as a second transaction), I found the section on Alaskan bush pilots, wild animals, Alaskan history, the earthquake of 1964 and others.

I've decided to start leaving my plastic purchase power at home from now on. Since the downtown Title Wave doesn't take checks, I should be safe. I know I've got enough to read, and that I'd be fine if I didn't purchase another book for a year, but the addiction is strong! It's hard to give it up once I started, and I've been a junkie since I was young. My fondest memories of my youth were leaving in the early morning hours of summer, walking to the library, and not leaving until it closed. Some of my best friends lived inside the pages of the books I read. I lived their adventures with them and they will always be a part of me. I need to stop talking about it. Talking about it feeds the addiction. I've got to get a hold of myself!