Friday, December 19, 2014

Eagle River

13 miles north of Anchorage is the town of Eagle River.  Its technically still part of Anchorage, even though it there is several miles of forest (and the joint military bases) in between.  Its small, but growing. (its big enough for a Walmart).  The Eagle River flows through the town. Since today is the first day that the boys are out of school for Christmas Break, we took a little drive up there to check it out.
We drove east up the main road, toward the Chugach Mountains.  We ended up driving 10 miles to what is the actual start of the Iditarod Race at the Chugach State Park (There is a "ceremonial" start in  downtown Anchorage but this is the actual starting place!) 

There was a nice visitors center with all kinds of information about the animals that are native to the area.  They offer different activities there for all age groups all year round, including a Jr Ranger program for younger kids. Tomorrow night they have a Lantern Hike up the main trail.  Unfortunately, Zach only brought his hoodie, not a heavy coat, so he wasn't really up for much outdoor exploration. (Party Pooper) But I do imagine us going up there often. (especially since I bought a Membership pass for a year)  When we lived in Vernal, Utah, we found a spot outside of town, in Dinosaur National Monument that we claimed as our own special hangout place.  We miss it and are eager to find a  place outdoors to claim as ours as well, here.  I'm hoping we just did.

Zach freezing as I make him take a picture

I loved the mountain in the back ground.

The Eagle River

Monday, December 15, 2014

Brick by Brick

The Anchorage Museum, is a cool museum that caters to just about everything.  They have great art exhibits showing many different types of art, including some that is created by local artists. There is a section dedicated to the history of Alaska, which is awesome for us "Newbies" who really need to brush up (or even start) on our Alaskan History.  They have a kids section, which is more science based called the Imaginarium that my kids could spend hours in playing and interacting with all sorts of hands-on exhibits.  One of their traveling exhibits is called Brick by Brick and it is all about Legos. 

Have you met my kids??  THEY are all about Legos. I swear the Museum must have known we were coming before we did because it was pretty amazing.  They have a section set up to just play and build anything your heart desires as long as it uses Legos.  It also has several iPads set up with different Lego games. My favorite section was art that people have created with Legos. It was quite remarkable.



Luckily, we are not in the Arctic Circle, where we would have almost 24 hours of darkness, But we are close, so the days are definitely shorter. One of the things people have asked about the most is

"How dark is it there?"
"Do you have ANY sunlight?"
"How do you survive without the Sun?

Since we got here mid November, we have definitely been seeing significantly less each day.  Today, sunrise was at a little after 10 am, and sunset is at about 3:45.  Short.  Yes.  Over the next few days, until Dec 21, Winter Solstice, we will continue to lose more daylight. On the flipped- when there is clear skies, the sun is so low on the horizon that it is ALWAYS in your face when you are driving. So its hard to decide if you even LIKE the Sun at all.  The light then glistens off the ice on the road... really not a good combination.

I have always been very open about my battles with depression (post part or clinical)... so several people were concerned about the lack of sunlight and my mental health.  So I've been watching myself, my moods, my thoughts, my energy levels since we got here.

About 3 weeks after we got here, I had a rough UGLY weekend. We had errands to run, the boys really didn't want to be running errands, but were being good (besides obnoxious "boy noises" that are constantly being made.) I just realized that I had NO patience and I was a cranky for no reason.  I felt like I hadn't been taking my antidepressant in weeks.  So I took sometime to reflect and realized that I was turning into a bear... I completely understand the need to hibernate now.  It is so easy when the days are short and the weather is cold, to be exhausted ALL. THE. TIME.  With the kids gone to school during the week I had no reason to not fall asleep and take a 4 hour nap, and still go to bed and sleep all night. I love to sleep, but it was becoming excessive, quickly and I was horrible without it.So, I started taking Vitamin D supplements and started using my "happy light".

Companies make these lights that emit a full spectrum of light rays that your body uses to help balance your moods for people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about if it would really work.  I plugged it in one morning, and sat with it in front of me.  You're not supposed to look directly at it (and who could... the thing is BRIGHT) but your eyes are collecting/processing the light, so  you need it within 2 feet of your face, but slightly off to the side, not directly in front of you. After about 10 minutes I had a headache. Not a normal head ache (for me), so i turned it off... and in about 15 minutes I felt like I had energy and that it was a bright, new day and I was ready for anything!  My family commented on how my presence was cheerier, and my conversations were lighter, the tone in my voice was more pleasant.  It was really remarkable to see and feel such a difference.  Every morning I turn on my "happy light" for about 15 minutes before I go and get the boys ready for school.  Its been a little over a week and I really haven't felt low like that since before I started using my "happy light".  I'm not getting the headaches with it anymore either. (The headaches were normal side effects). I highly recommend a light like this for anyone who suffers from the "winter blues".  Its really made a difference for me.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

So it begins

I guess I'll start with our story, for those of you who sort of fall upon our blog.  I'm Sarah, and I'm 38 yrs old.  I've been married to David for 14 1/2 years. We have 3 boys, Zach, 13, Cannon, 10, and Elliot 7.   We have lived in several places in our marriage, Salt Lake City, Utah, Mesa and Chandler, Arizona, Vernal, Utah, West Jordan Utah (for 6 months) and now, here we are in Anchorage, Alaska. 

Anchorage Alaska.  Yup... that's sort of a big one, right?  How the heck does someone find themselves in Anchorage, Alaska? Well... that is what this is about.  I'm always up for an adventure... and we just landed in one. 

So, David went to school to become a Respiratory Therapist, graduating almost 4 years ago. Finding a job has not come easily for him, and after moving a couple times we were pretty discouraged over it all.  There have been other jobs, and opportunities to work up the ladder, but those were long and lets face it... we aren't getting any younger.  We've kept our eyes on the job market the entire time and looked for jobs in states he was licensed, as well as in states that did not require licensing.  In mid October, 201,4 we were pretty surprised when he found out about a job, in Anchorage, as a respiratory technician (step down from his credentials). When he called he found out that really what the wanted was someone who was a Respiratory Therapist, who had home health experience (check) billing experience (check) was willing to live in Alaska (check - we'd go anywhere at this point).  He basically had an interview right then and they were excited that he had the things they wanted.  They offered him the job.

Yeah.. after one interview. OVER THE PHONE.  I was a bit concerned and skeptical, for about 24 hours.  How desperate were they? We'd already taken one job when we, and the employer, were desperate and that was a HUGE disaster.  I didn't want to go to Alaska and get stuck there.  But the more they talked about goals and such, the more we realized that they were very similar to David's goals as well.  So we talked more, and started getting excited. 

We talked to the kids and they were surprisingly excited about it.  They had just moved 6 months before, so that kind of shocked me.  But, to be honest, when we moved from Vernal, to West Jordan, Utah, we did it for logistical reasons, not because it was RIGHT. David had been working in SLC for almost a year, commuting to Vernal every 2 weeks. (180 miles).  Living apart was hard on the kids, and us, but we were making due.  But I never felt like living in  SLC was "home". I never felt any drive to expand my social situation, make new friends, hang out with old ones, get to know the neighbors.  It was just a place to live together. But I knew, deep down, it was not forever.

I quickly became really excited, dreaming of big, crazy Alaskan adventures with my kids::  Kayaking on crystal clear seas, with glaciers and Orcas around me, or watching the salmon run with super cute bears gobbling up the fish as they jump upstream, or sitting around a campfire with Mt. McKinley behind us.  Staying up to watch the colors of the sky change as we watch the Northern Lights. Picturesque dreams were suddenly becoming a real option. I had to make sure David said yes to this job.

He was dragging his feet.  He saw giant dollar signs stacking up as he started thinking about moving costs, cost of living changes (I mean people make it sound REALLY expensive here). He thought about us living separately.... again.  and how hard that was on our family, on our marriage, on the boys. And he thought about how commuting home every other weekend wouldn't be an option like it was in Utah. He was pretty nervous.

But then, things started just falling into place.  We found a way that all of us could come up together. We found out that getting out of our lease in our apartment wasn't going to be as hard as we thought (we were 5 months in to a 12 months lease).  We found out that getting rid of some of our stuff was going to be a lot easier than we thought and the price to get our stuff shipped to us wasn't going to be as expensive as we imagined. 

SO we jumped. David said yes to the job and we started scurrying to pack, sort, purge, donate and sell our stuff. When we moved to West jordan, we had a 26 ft van, full, plus 2 van loads of STUFF, plus a motorcycle and car. And we left Utah and flew to Anchorage on November 12.... about a month after finding the job with just over 120 boxes, and the luggage we took on the plane.