Blooming Where We’re Transplanted

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“Bloom where you’re planted.”

I have no idea who originally came up with this brilliant gem of advice, but I was the parent of a four-year-old the first time I heard it uttered by Teacher Tom at the Anchorage Cooperative Preschool.  It’s one of those phrases that has stuck with me ever since.

My family and I have just returned from the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks Alaska, and I can assure you the people in that community have fully embraced the philosophy.  They were “planted” in one of the most frigid areas of a state that is already ridiculously cold, and as an extra kick in the bunny boots they get to shiver without daylight for about 20 hours per day in the worst of the dark winter months.

Yet these people are blooming.  The universe dealt them snow and ice, and they decided to turn it into a party.  The crystal clear frozen water near Fairbanks draws ice carvers from all over the world, and people flock to the community to view their masterpieces.

     


 Ice carvings & slides

Alaska is an amazing place.  There aren’t many roads to travel, but they never look the same.  The vista is so incredible that I often view it with misty eyes, blinking to focus on the beauty and wiping my tingly nose so I can break out my camera and try to capture the impossible.  The adventure and unknown is part of why we moved here.

But all this suddenly and catastrophically changed once we had children.  The scenery outside could longer compare with the view inside our own living room.  What mountain range can compare to watching your children learn to crawl, and then toddle, and finally dance?  To seeing your husband as a father too?  To the mess of baking sugar cookies at Christmas?  We are blessed to live in the age of Skype and email, but it just isn’t the same when you want to share these experiences with family.

We spent a few years vacillating – move back home, move closer to home, or just stay where we are?  Admittedly, we were sick of the constant search for plane tickets, and all our vacations were spent visiting the family we missed so much.  We were ready to get back onto a realistic road system where we could take some affordable trips and see some new highways.

But then reality hit.  It was easy to pack up and move to Alaska when we were in our 20′s, when it was just Clark and I and one GMC Jimmy full of crap.  We didn’t worry about giving up good jobs, health insurance, or retirement benefits back then.  Now we do.  Now we have these two little children to think about.  College funds for their brilliant minds.  We are already halfway through our careers here, and the thought of starting over is overwhelming as well.

So, right or wrong, we have decided to bloom where we’re transplanted.

For us, that means enjoying the best of what Alaska has to offer.  We have a raft, which allows us to quietly float rivers in the summer to fish and camp as a family.  We have miles of trails to explore by foot.  We bought a home with a view, so even on the ordinary days we can look out the window and realize Alaska isn’t such a bad place to be a “stuck.”  Combine that with all the amazing relationships and friendships we have formed here, and it’s hard to imagine ever leaving.  (Except when I find myself pushing a fully loaded shopping card through the Costco parking lot in December… that is misery for a gal who is prone to forgetting where she parked!)

    The raft… Kenai River
The view… Cook Inlet

I’m fortunate to have summers off, so every year the kids and I head back to Nebraska for a full month to enjoy family, friends, and garden vegetables.  The annual “cousin week” is a highlight, as is the Fourth of July (fireworks are not nearly as exciting in Alaska, since it doesn’t even get dark in the summer).  It also gives our kids a glimpse of the childhood we remember:  lightning storms, scorched legs on leather car seats, swimming outdoors in muddy lakes, and snitching garden tomatoes fresh from the vine.

 
Husker Summers

Compromise?  I suppose.  The right decision?  Time will tell.  It’s strange to think that we are raising little Alaskans, but if we keep taking them back to Nebraska every summer we’re confident they will remain Husker football fans each fall.  And really, what could be more important than that?


Never Enough Time

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I’m a little bitter that our annual transition to daylight savings time coincides with spring break this year.  If I’m going to have an hour stolen from my life, why can’t it be during a staff meeting at work rather than a precious week when my parents are visiting?  Our time with them is so rare that I couldn’t help but feel resentful as I adjusted the household clocks this morning.  I want my hour back!!

It also got me thinking about time, and what a twisted and strange beast it can be.  Sometimes dragging and other times fleeting, but always out of our control.

I find myself wanting to slow it down more and more these days, especially when I look at the kids.  It doesn’t seem so long ago that Maggie was actually smaller than a fish, and last summer she started to catch them herself.  I have the photos to prove it:

            
Maggie at 1 year old (July 2005)               Maggie at 5 years old (September 2011)

The same with Sam:  the poor kid didn’t get a tooth until he was nearly 11 months old.  Just when we were ready to submit his mouth to the Guinness Book of World Records, two teeth sprouted through his bottom gum.  Phew!  I remember like it was yesterday, but those two baby teeth teeth are now long gone, at a profit of $2 each from the generous tooth fairy.  This past week he lost his third tooth:  one of his top front ones, and as a result he is now sporting a true Hillbilly Smile.  Maybe in this instance I should wish for time to speed up?

      
Baby Sam, 11 months, finally with teeth                          Hillbilly Sam at 7, sans a front tooth

I’m not a big fan of things that are out of my control, and time is one of them.  My children are growing up and away faster than I’d like to admit.  And it’s not just them… time is affecting me too.  I couldn’t possibly pluck all the gray hairs I’ve sprouted lately, and in some sick and twisted reverse aging effect I have more pimples at 40 than I ever did at 14.  What the heck!?

Despite the zits, I’m fully aware that this is a glory time of life for us.  Our parents are all healthy, our grandmothers still wise, and we can get through most days without Ibuprofen.  For the most part, our children are still more adorable than belligerent.  Honestly, life is getting easier.  The kids can put away their own laundry, pour their own milk, and flush their own waste.  I don’t especially miss diapers, night wakings, or pureeing separate meals for them.  And playing Connect Four is far more enjoyable than Candyland.  But when I look back at the pictures, I already feel so gosh darn nostalgic.  Can’t they just slow it down a freeze frame or two?

Today’s hour is lost, but I head to bed knowing I enjoyed every minute that I was given.  My parents helped us paint the living and dining rooms today.  Maggie perched on a tarp-covered chair and chatted to us the entire time, letting us know she was “available” to anyone who needed help.  Dad and Clark later installed a garage door opener, while Sam shot hoops in the garage and mentally planned out his March Madness bracket.  We all took breaks for great food, best of which was the homemade salsa Dad made from his garden tomatoes.  Tomorrow we head to Fairbanks for the World Ice Art Championships, knowing the bulk of the chores we hoped to accomplish together are already complete.

I already dread next weekend’s goodbyes… but we need to get through these farewells before we can arrive at the new journeys we have planned, such as “Cousin Week” this summer or a family Thanksgiving in Maui.  So I try to remember that time is going to tick on, whether I like it or not, and to just roll with it.

Today was a damn good 23 hours.  Tomorrow we have a full 24… just think of the potential!