Sunday, November 11, 2012


Due to rude people leaving illiterate, insulting messages on my blogs, I've closed the comment section to to only people who subscribe to the blog.  In fact, I would much rather you leave comments om Facebook since most of my readers are from there.  Sorry that a few jerks have ruined it for the rest of you.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Alright, Winter - Bring It On!

I'm ready.  Well, not 100% ready, but I've accepted that winter is coming, and I've begun planning for it.

I need a new pair of jeans, and I'm thinking of a semi-skinny so I can boots that tuck into them.  I know, me in skinnies!  I haven't worn anything but trouser fit for the last decade.  I want a good tall boot, and maybe a pair of Uggs.  I don't slog through the snow so much, so I think Uggs would work for me.  If they are waterproofed, they should stay dry.  I need a few more tops, maybe sweaters - those I had in my winter storage are too big!  I also need a well-fitting winter coat.  I really want a Lands End coat, but I think I might get a peacoat from Old Navy.  I want to be colorful, and they have a great yellow one :).  With my bogs from last winter, I should have a good selection of snow footwear.

One thing I am definitely looking forward to is seeing the evolution of the snow.  There was a foot+ on the ground when we got here last year, so I didn't get to see it develop.  I am looking forward to that first morning that we wake up to a good blanket of snow, and see it build rather than melt.  I'm NOT looking forward to driving in it for the first few weeks - I've been warned by EVERYBODY I meet that people seem to forget how to drive on the snow and ice at first and drive like crazy people.  We have a nice, new SUV with lovely traction control, so I'm not worried about myself as much as the other people.  Watching the progression of the snow building up will be interesting.  In Oregon, it almost always happened overnight (the only time temps dipped below freezing), so we wouldn't watch it build.  A lot of people are worried we will have another harsh winter given the cool, wet summer and early snowfall.  We'll see - I'm kind of excited now that I've accepted it!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Winter's a coming....

I've always loved winter....cold weather, early nights, the occasional promise of snow....the clean, fresh air.

And then I came to Alaska, during one of the harshest winters in history.  Seriously!  The snowfall broke the record.  I was scared of driving in it, scared of walking in it (for good reason, since I fell pretty hard on the ice), scared when it fell in practically blizzard-like conditions.  The summer though, the summer was unbelievable.  It almost made me forget the harshness of winter.

The temperature has dipped below freezing the last few nights, and of course we had that awful windstorm a few nights ago that STILL has some Anchorage residents without power.  Winter is coming like a freight train, and I've decided we're going to do something to prepare for it.

Richard showed me a company called Mat-Valley Meats (I think he heard about it first from our friend Bonnie).  A budget-size box includes:
  • 5 lbs. chuck roast (yum, stew!)
  • 5 lbs. ground beef
  • 5 lbs. round steak
  • 5 lbs. pork chops
  • 5 lbs. pork country style ribs
  • 2 lbs. pork sausage
  • 3 lbs. bacon
  • 5 lbs. chicken breast
  • 5 lbs. chicken thighs
  • 5 lbs. chicken drumsticks
That's 45 lbs. of meat for $149, packaged and frozen.  About $3.30/lb, which is a bargain for organic meat up here.  I'm not crazy about all the red meat, but it's too good a deal to pass up.

In addition to the meat, I'm considering Full Circle vegetable delivery.  If we were to try it, we would buy the mini box, since we are not sure how much we would use.  The cost is $28.95 per week, not including shipping.  On average, a weekly box contains:
  • 1 bunch carrots
  • 1 bunch red chard
  • Mixed sweet peppers
  • Apples
  • Black Plums
  • Berries
I'm not sure about this one, as it doesn't really give us enough that we won't have to supplement it with grocery store items.  It is organic though, so that's a consideration.

Honestly, I think the meat pack will be the most successful, and I can plan meals around what we have leaving trips to the store for veggies and such.  I plan to stock up on canned goods as much as possible.  The point is to keep from having to go to the store more than once a week if possible.  We are clearing out a spot for a pantry, so I can have more food storage.  And as the Alaskans say, if you run out of freezer space, you can always pack it in the snow! :D

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tattoos - Art You Wear

I know there are many varying opinions about tattoos.  I've actually lost a friend because she found out about the one on my back.  She was quite religious, and told me that the marking of my skin is a sin.

That is her opinion, and I am fine with that.  I do not believe in her religion.  I have my own very strong beliefs in God and we will leave it at that.  What really amazed me, though, is that this woman sneered at the meaning behind my tattoo.

My mom died December 21, 1998.  It was a very difficult time in my life, but even more difficult when I realized her things had been picked over before I could choose a keepsake to have of hers.  There was a very specific box with an intricate, tribal design heart laser etched into it.  Of course, it was gone, and I was heartbroken as I knew the meaning behind it.  I realized later that she had left me a gift that would keep giving on a quarterly basis, and I can't thank her more for it.  It's gotten me of some tight spots before, but none more so than when I came here - a large part of that gift was also from my friend Sledge, but mom's gift paid for the rest and more.

So, back to 2000.  I had worked for many months from memory to redesign it for a tattoo*.  When I finally had the design where I thought it would work, I set out to find a parlor.  I cannot stress how important it is to do your research on these places!!!  In most states, you can look to see if they are registered and if there have been any complaints against them registered with the board.I was young and new to town, so I picked one I drove by a lot.  It looked somewhat clean, but when I learned the guy's name who did my tattoo was "Chief," I should have run.  I gave him the pic I had designed, he didn't seem too pleased by it but he transferred it to my back and started going.  It really didn't hurt that much, except when he crossed my spine, it burned.  He showed me at the shop when he was finished, but the lighting was bad and my skin was pretty swollen, so to me it looked ok.

The next morning, I cried.  He had messed up my design so badly that it looks like a kindergartner did it.  I've been wanting to get it fixed forever, but haven't known where to go.  It will be my next project after tomorrow's.  I also want to add the wings I had purposely left off the original design for when I finally felt her soul fly free.  Now that I am here in Alaska, I've felt her move on and so it's time to add her wings.

I did my research on this next tattoo pretty thoroughly.  The computer age has made information much easier to find, and I soon found myself at The Hole Look, as they were the highest recommended from Yelp, Yahoo, and word of mouth.  Unfortunately, they are SO good that they are booked out until the end of August for new appointments.  What I found really impressive is that the owner was more than willing to refer me to two other shops that were just as good and well-respected.  I chose Primal Instinct based on the awards they had won and some of the examples they had posted.  I usually prefer to keep these things a secret until after they are done and I can post a pic, but the tattoo will be of various-sized small-medium hearts that start at my big toe, wind up the side of my foot, and end at my ankle.  They start out pink, turn to aqua, and then purple.  They also won't have a black border, they will just have color.  What that means to me is that my heart is finally lifting.  I'm finding happiness and love in my life, so this is a way to show it.  There's no limit to how high I can go, but financially I'm choosing my ankle :).

After getting mom's tattoo fixed, I will be getting two more, but I won't give them away yet.  They have very strong significance and are both for the loves of my life.  I can't wait to share them with you alll!  Pics of tomorrow's will go up on Facebook tomorrow night as I'm having it done in the late afternoon.

By the way?  Every one of my tattoos (current and future) are hearts, and I design all of them.  I love having a theme and I love hearts!

*here's the kicker - mom hated tattoos :).  I know how much she loved irony, so I knew the tattoo would give her a big laugh in heaven :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Spring/Summer 2012 in Alaska; Part 1

I have to say I've never been quite so happy in my life.  There are some things that are troublesome - Faith has had a bit of a hard time adjusting; my agoraphobia has gotten worse over the last few weeks, and the damn sun never goes down =/.  I could totally handle the darkness.  Constant daylight (even with blackout shades)?  Hell.  My sleep patterns were bad before, but now I'm all kinds of confused!

As the snow melted slowly around May-ish, I began to question the people who said spring and summer in Alaska are amazing.  Everywhere there was mud and muck and bare trees, and the roads were like going 4x4ing in the woods.  Then, seemingly overnight, the grass greened, the leaves magically appeared on the trees, and everything was clean again.  It is so beautiful here that I don't have words to describe it, even in Anchorage.  The temperature doesn't get much about 60-70 (above 65 and people start complaining about the heat - love it!), and at night it rarely falls below 50.  I am in heaven with the temperatures and feel comfortable pretty much all the time.  Well, there was that weekend in Talkeetna, but that's coming up in a minute.

Richard has shown us so much of the state already.  In May we went to Homer, where we rented an amazing cabin with a stunning view of the inlet and the mountains across the way.  Unfortunately, I was so in awe of everything that I managed one whole picture, and it's quite sad looking:

But you can see the mountains at least.  They are MUCH closer from the actual cabin, I hate how pictures make things so minuscule.  In any case, here is the cabin's website with better pics :) -  I was disappointed that the only land-bound animal I saw was a snowshoe hare.  I saw lots of seal and otter though on the spit.  We enjoyed our time there immensely :).

In June, we made a quick trip to Talkeetna and Denali Park.  We once again rented a cute cabin in the woods that I loved, but the mosquitoes were fighting for ownership of it, so we spent our time indoors.  Here are my pics:

Well, this is Richard's actually.  He braved the swarms of giant killer mosquitoes for this shot....

And this is the inside, Faith's bed/couch. Upstairs was our bed.

It had a very hippy, groovy vibe and I LOVED it. It was called the "Moonflower Cabin."

We ventured into Talkeetna and I was totally unprepared for the hoards and hoards of cruise line tourists that had invaded. It's a lovely little town, very historic as it was the original starting point for climbing Mt. McKinley. Most of the original buildings still stand, and are cute, kitschy little shops now. Another thing I wasn't expecting was the 77 degree temperature and 1000% humidity. I had dressed for typical Alaska summer days (jeans, tank top, and light top over it), and I was drenched in sweat immediately, It felt like 100 degrees did back in Grants Pass, but with ridiculous humidity. We had lunch at a neat old restaurant/inn and browsed a few shops, but the heat got to us and we went back to the cabin. I immediately took a shower to cool down. We hung out at the cabin, had sammiches for dinner, and just enjoyed the light breeze through the (screened) windows. Upon arriving in our bedroom, we realized only one window had a screen....meaning there would be no moving air. I swear, it was 90+ in that room all night. We slept with wet washcloths behind our necks and wet towels in front of the open window to try to cool the air, but we were miserable most of the night.

We left rather early the next day for Denali, which was a 3-ish hour drive from Talkeetna. We passed some beautiful tundra, and mountains so high that you couldn't see the tops through the clouds. Unfortunately, the little "town" (more of a hotel with shops built around it than an actual town) was also stuffed with cruiseline passengers, but we had a mission. We were going on a 3-hour 4x4 adventure, driving our own jeep! There were only two other groups coming with us, so we had a 3 jeep caravan following our guide. Ironically, the road we were on was the one Christopher McCandless (Into the Wild) took to reach the bus he lived and died in. No, we didn't go to the bus - it's about 18 miles from the main road, and crosses a medium and very large river. We did, however, go "muddin," as the road was rutted and we went through several streams. I felt like I was back in my redneck days, working at the mill and spending the weekends in the hills! We went into one scary area called "the bobblehead" where you drop into a hole literally the size and depth of your jeep and climb back out, only to be jounced through deep ruts for quite a few yards. We giggled and screamed and had a grand time :). We met a guide who was very knowledgeable about Chris McCandless (or Alexander Supertramp as he renamed himself) and had himself hiked out and camped in the bus. It was a nice stop, then we turned around and did it all again! By the time we got home that night, we were all feeling sore and stiff, but it was a blast and totally worth it. Here is the company we went with -

Some of the very few pics I got from Denali:

Richard at the wheel, keeping us in safe hands :) 

 The guide telling us about Chris McCandless

This was a fun one!

Since then, we've been enjoying the cool Alaska summer, going to movies and exploring excellent restaurants (my favorite is the Spenard Roadhouse!).  I'm not sure what trips we have ahead, but I know winter is creeping up soon.  I'm ready!  I love every season here :).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Writer

Actually, that should read "a day in my life as a writer."  Although, I imagine most writers have a process very similar :).

9:30-10:30 am - Wake up.  Put on yoga pants and a t-shirt, throw hair in a sloppy ponytail.  Spend the next 20 minutes making yourself at least presentable so you won't scare the boogers out of the UPS man (who brings all your purchases since you never get out to shop).

11 am - contemplate eating breakfast.  Figure yogurt and a bite of cheese must be healthy.  Eat in front of the TV watching either the Food Channel or Travel Channel.

1 pm - realize you've been comatose watching food shows and you're starving.  Wander in the kitchen, stare inside the fridge for 5 minutes, realize it's too much work to make lunch so you eat a handful of peanuts.

1:30 pm - open laptop, spend next 45 minutes catching up on Facebook.  Read favorite blogs, search random sites for things like "cats wearing hats" and "how to cook as little as possible and survive."

2:30 pm - inspiration to write surfaces, spend next 20 minutes fiddling with wording in last chapter.  Realize it needs re-writing, so mark it in red in frustration and move on.  Realize the last chapter is bugging you too much to continue, so re-write it with angry keystrokes.

4:00 pm - wonder if boyfriend and daughter will protest having take-out, delivery, or drive through dinner once again.  Grilled cheese and tomato soup for a third night?

6:00 pm - find yourself playing puzzle games on phone or the latest Hidden Object Puzzle game from Big Fish.  See your novel writing software's icon at the bottom of  your screen and feel guilty.

8:00 pm - inspiration reappears, but now you're torn between night-time tv with the family or writing.  Guess what wins?

10:00 pm - final bid for writing....manage a chapter or two and give up.  Realize tomorrow will be better.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Catching Up

Wow, I can't believe I haven't blogged in this long.  I'll catch you up.

At the beginning of May, I contracted a pretty bad chest cold.  Lots of congestion, coughing....etc.  It got worse and worse until it sounded like popcorn in my chest and each cough felt like my ribs were cracking.  My first doctor appt. was no help - bad cold, rest and take Mucinex and it will work itself out.  By the weekend, it was so bad that I ended up in the Saturday clinic, begging for relief.  This time, I got an antibiotic (Z-pack) and an inhaler.  Within a few days, I was hospitalized for severe pneumonia and so sick that I have very little recollection of much of the days before, during, and after.  What I do know is info from the dr and my family.

I was in the hospital for 3 days, doped to the gills (strong pain meds and IV ativan) for the chest pain and on strong antibiotics.  The renal specialist was extremely concerned that my liver and/or kidneys were being damaged by the pneumonia, as I was spilling large amounts of protein into my urine.  I recovered enough for them to send me home, but I've been incredibly busy with follow-up appts.  There's my primary, internal med, psychiatrist, therapist, and radiologist.  I spend 2-3 days a week at the native hospital.  I'm so ready to feel "good" again.

Since leaving the hospital, my agoraphobia has gotten so bad that most days I just don't leave the house. I'm working with my psychiatrist and therapist to beat it, but that means weekly therapy sessions and herculean doses of klonopin.  I hope it works soon - I want my life back!

Monday, April 23, 2012

From Puffy Feet to Heart Beats - or How My Doctor Scared Me This Morning

For those who don't know, I went through a major health scare a few weeks ago.  I went from just a bit of stomach upset to full-blown fever with hallucinations and a nearly 20 POUND water weight gain (yes, POUNDS.  It was embarrassing and painful) overnight.  Obviously knowing something was very wrong, I saw my dr. the next day, who went into a panic thinking I was possibly in some sort of cardiac distress due to a viral infection.  In fact, she said she was utterly shocked at how bad I looked when she came into the exam room, and the state of my feet and legs (I had such bad swelling that I could barely bend my ankles and toes).  A few doses of Lasix later, and I did a 180....most of the water weight fell off, and I felt a lot better just in 3 days.

Not wanting to miss anything important, she sent me for an echocardiogram, or a heart ultrasound.  The tech couldn't see anything significant during the initial exam, but the cardiologist had to read the results and send a report to my doc.

When I didn't hear anything urgent from her office, I thought everything was fine and figured we would catch up today, when I had my regular monthly appt.  They did notify me that all my blood work came back fine, so I wasn't too worried.

The good news is, I lost all the water weight AND 3 more pounds (huzzah!).  Most of the echo was heart is pumping as it should, and my blood pressure has always been 120/80 except during especially anxious times.  What is of MINOR concern (I wish she had phrased it that way from the beginning) is the ventricular diastole, or the process of the heart relaxing after it pumps.  The echo showed it was somewhat delayed in relaxing fully, which can impact my blood pressure.  She consulted the cardiologist while I was there, and he was not greatly concerned considering my blood pressure history.  I was filled with dread when she first started discussing it, but that calmed me down.  I will have to monitor my blood pressure and go for another echo in 6 months.  I'm so glad the swelling was not anything to do with my heart (they believe it was just my body's defense against the fever - it must have been higher than I realized), but hearing that there's already concerns is disappointing.  I'm not sure of the history of heart problems on either side of my family - while my mom died of cardiovascular disease, hers was most likely linked to her smoking habit.  My dad's side of the family has high cholesterol, which I have tested every 6 months and it's always in a normal range.

This was a real wakeup call for me.  It made me realize that I needed to be more informed and more proactive about my heart's function, as should anyone at my age (38).  No matter if you're a health freak or completely inactive - just a quick check with your primary provider or a cardiologist (for more in-depth testing) could prevent a heart attack.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


"Everyone has an angel. A guardian who watches over us. We can't know what form they'll take. One day, old man - next day, little girl. But don't let appearances fool you, They can be as fierce as any dragon. Yet they're not here to fight our battles, but to whisper from our hearts. Reminding that it's's everyone of us who holds power over the world we create.

You can deny angels exist....convince yourselves they can't be real. But they show up anyway, at strange places and at strange times. They can speak through any character we can imagine. They'll shout through demons if they have to. Daring us, challenging us to fight.

Who honors those we love with the very life we live? Who sends monsters to kill us, and at the same time sings that we'll never die? Who teaches us what's real, and how to laugh at lies? Who decides why we live, and what we'll die to defend? Who chains us, and who holds the key to set us free?

It's you.

You have all the weapons you need.

Now fight!"

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Reclusive Agoraphobic

Perhaps that is what I should rename this blog.  Or the Reclusive Agoraphobic Duchess.  Maybe throw something in about bi-polar disorder, just to make it clear where I stand.


I am very much in need of restarting therapy.  I'm waiting, waiting, waiting....trying to be patient as I know Native Behavioral Health is overwhelmed with patients; in the meantime I'm zonked out on Klonopin all day that takes most of the anxiety away, but does nothing for the dread and frustration.  It's like having a limb that is broken to the point that going outside your home is incredibly difficult.  I feel like I walk around on emotional crutches when I'm outside my step at a time, breathe....the mantras all circle in my head as the sweat grows on my brow from the internal effort to stay "normal" on the outside.  I look pleasant and friendly and like I'm having a great time, but most often I'm terrified inside.

I wish people really understood more about this illness.  Once upon a time, I was ignorant to its limitations and made jokes about it - I had watched a TV program back in the 90s, and the woman they were featuring could literally not leave her home.  I thought all along that is what the illness was - someone just not being about to go outside their home.  How very wrong could I be?  I go outside my home often.  Likely more often if I had a job, but that's another story.  I go to the grocery store, shop for clothes, go to restaurants and movies.  It's the feeling, inside, that defines the illness - the logistics.  There may well be many extreme agoraphobes that can do little more than leave a ROOM in their homes, but that is extreme.  The most common manifestation of agoraphobia is the fear itself of new situations and places.  I have not been back to Fred Meyers since a man grabbed me from behind and tried to hug/kiss me.  He was drunk and trying to compliment me, but of course, it made my agoraphobia worse.  Same with Target - a sweet native lady thought I was a relative and hugged me before I had a chance to tell her I was not that person.  Even though that was not a negative experience (she was so sweet), it was still an event that my agoraphobic mind identifies as a threat.

I hope there is a time that I can beat this thing.  Leaving therapy so abruptly in Oregon without any guidance or expectations of waiting so long may have been a really bad idea.  I feel I have regressed quite a bit and I'm having to fight so hard to hang on to "normal."

In the meantime, I hope those I meet and have met understand why I'm so reclusive.  It has nothing to do with how I feel about them, it's an internal struggle to be "me" every day.  I envy those who can just go through the day without feeling fear and doubt so constantly.

Back to being the fighting Duchess.  I have a date tonight and I have to push my mind into the right place, because I'll be damned if I let my illness ruin a night of fun with my Richard and my friends.  I feel like a lion tamer, whip and chair in hand - back, agoraphobia, back!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Super-quick - More observations of Alaska

Shhhh....I'm supposed to be writing, but I just remembered the weird things I had been collecting to share with non-Alaskans.

First - completely enclosed carwashes.  They look like oil change places, with slide-down doors front and back.  Obviously, in weather below freezing, an exposed automated car wash would become an ice-laden nightmare.  But the totally enclosed concept cracks me up for some reason.  They always have huge columns of steam rising from them, and I can't help but wonder how much a wash costs....

Second - the fact these car washes exist.  Because nearly EVERY car here is dirty as heck.  Why?  The road is always dirty, but in most climates, it's regularly washed clean by rain or dew.  Here, the snow collects the dirt and holds it, until the glorious days when it melts a bit, creating a dirty, dirty slush that of course coats every car in a fine layer of dirt.  As the winter goes on and this plays over and over, cars become a bit unrecognizable.  The thing is, if you want a shiny car, you would have to wash it pretty much once a week (or more) to keep it that way.  And I can't imagine how annoying it would be to drive out of the (enclosed) car wash only to splash dirty slush all over it.  So, I would say 95% of the cars on the road are in some form of dirtiness.

Third - fat-tired bicycles.  Maybe this is how Fat Tire beer was named?  The tires are made for riding in the snow, obviously.  Before I talk about the tires, kudos to the badasses who ride bikes around here.  Not only is it effing cold, the roads are icy and there aren't a lot of clear paths along the roads for bikers to ride.  Anyway, the tires can be equipped with studs just like car tires, and chains.  The first time I saw one, I nearly laughed myself silly at how odd the fat tires looked.  Once you think about it though, it makes a lot of sense.  I can't imagine that it would be easy to ride with tires that size though (as far as muscle exertion goes, not balance and such).

Hats off to you, badass Alaskan bikers.  Stay out of my way, okay?  You scare the poop out of me when you get too close.  I don't need vehicular manslaughter on my driving record!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

More observations on life in Alaska

As you all know, I finally started driving on my own.  Nothing has changed in that respect, I'm still terrified 90% of the time and have to contain a scream every time I feel the car slip.  Yes, it's an SUV with traction control, so the car takes over when it feels the driver can't handle is too inexperienced to control the slide.  Otherwise I probably would have wrecked at least one car by now.

When we've had enough snow that it needs removal from the road, these odd machines called "graders" come out.  To me, they look like giant preying mantises (manti?).  See above pic of the yellow thing.  Their job is to scrape the snow off the road, widening it and pushing the snow over to the right.  Following the giant preying mantis is a snowblower, who then blows the newly scraped snow onto the side of the road.  God forbid you are trying to walk there (although the berms on the side of the road are 3+ feet, so I doubt you would be).  This is not your average snowblower though, it's an industrial one, just like our lovely scraper.  See the picture to the left - it's a big truck with what reminds of a harrow on farm equipment.

The cutest thing of all, though, are the sidewalk plows/blowers.  They're like mini versions of the orange one above.  I find them so cute that I giggle every time I see one.  The only problem is they have blinking blue and red lights behind them, so I always worry it's a police car at an accident or something.  And yes, accidents are prevalent here.  Ice+idiots=accidents.  Most people drive fairly decently here - either speed limit or below depending on the conditions and several car lengths between each other to eliminate sliding into each other during stops.  Notice I said "most."  I've encountered my share of assholes cutting me off or tailgating when I'm driving, just like in Oregon.  Thankfully, they are rare.

I was terrified of driving on my own for so long that it took 2 months to get me past my fear.  Considering I'm at the medical center at least once a week, it was really inconvenient for Richard to try to drive me.  Now I'm happily independent :).  Well, as happy as I can be driving on snow and ice!

Monday, March 5, 2012

What I've Learned After Two Months in Alaska

Hey guess what?  It's cold here!  You may be one of those people (such as myself) who THINK they can handle the cold and are "always warm" but you have no idea what you are in for.  Single digit temperatures are just a test.  Below zero?  Is mother nature's way of laughing at you.  It's effing cold.

No matter where you move from, even if it's a snow state, you will not have appropriate shoes or clothes. Street shoes are like wearing skates on the ice (I have a lovely bruise on my butt/thigh area to prove it).  Regular coats are useless.  You should buy your clothes from places that have temperature resistant information on them.  Seriously.  Land's End, REI, etc. all print what temperature their clothing can protect you from.  Alaska weather is not kidding around!

Let's go back to shoes.  These are a huge consideration.  I thought, "hey - I'll just find some cute and fuzzy boots and wear them all winter, tee hee!"  And then mother nature scoffed.  The first few steps in the snow and moisture flooded into the cute suede since it was not water-resistant.  Then I did the lovely "oh crap, please don't let me fall" dance in the parking lot because the soles weren't made for ice.  They currently reside in my room as decor.  Oddly, I didn't learn my lesson though.  I continued to wear my "Oregon shoes" (aka shoes with no sole and a lot of exposed foot flesh since I refuse to wear socks), hence the fall.  The funny part of that is I had already bought my new Alaska shoes, but they had given me a blister (I know, wah) and I wore my comfy shoes so the blister could heal.  Stupid blister.

Now girls - there are plenty of cute shoe/boot options that are still Alaska appropriate.  I chose Bogs shoes, because I prefer a shoe to a boot since I wear trouser-fit jeans and the boot outline underneath looks weird.  They are water-tight, comfy (once the damn blister healed), and the soles are grippy on the ice.  They are quite popular here, actually.  There's the every present Uggs, although they aren't waterproof and I would hate to ruin them. Sorels are pretty hardcore, but they do make cute styles.  I've seen a lot of Danskos, but I've heard mixed reviews about their ability to handle the ice.  Zappos delivers here (huzzah), so you can order easily.  Just make sure you ask a local to see what they recommend!

Jackets.  I still don't have a decent one.  I ordered a parka when I first got here and immediately hated it.  It was far too large, the hood could cover 3 heads, and it was just bulky.  I alternate between my wool dress coat and hoodies.  Next winter I'll buy a North Face or Land's End jacket so I can be warm without feeling odd.

Anchorage is a really laid back city.  I love that!  Although there seems to be some debate as to whether it's ACTUALLY a city.  Uh, I came from a small town.  THIS IS A CITY TO ME, ok?  So stop debating.

Driving on the snow and ice is scary as hell.  Everyone here drives like they are on dry pavement in perfect conditions.  I have to practically pry my hands off the steering wheel when I get to my destination.  I screamed like a little girl the first time I slid on the ice (in my defense, we were about a foot from rear-ending someone).  Sliding around corners is considered perfectly natural.  I may need to start dying my hair every two weeks instead of every six with the stress of driving on Alaska roads.

Other than that, I've come to love my new home.  Richard and I are excitedly immersing ourselves into plans to remodel the condo and I'm fervently applying for jobs.  Aside from missing my friends and my lady river, I really love it here.  Every time I see the mountains, I'm breathless.  That's the best part of living here :).

Saturday, February 4, 2012

How NOT to Approach an Agoraphobic

I know I've been pretty lazy about updating the blog.  Lots has gone on here, lots of it good and some of it bad.  The good is pretty fantastic - I'm in love, happy with my new home, Faith is settling in well.  The bad - well, depression has taken hold a bit and my agoraphobia is twice as bad as it was in Oregon.

On to what the title pertains to....I was walking into Fred Meyer with Richard the other day, and since I had stopped to grab a cart, he went inside as it was cold and wet in the cart area.  Out of nowhere, a man grabs me by the shoulders, reeking of alcohol and uncleanliness.  I couldn't quite decipher what he was saying (something about pretty), and then he pulled me into a hug and kissed my ear (over my hair, thankfully).  Richard was facing forward, and by the time he looked back he only saw the man let me go.  We both wisely realized that confronting the man would cause a scene, so we let him go on his way.  I was so upset that I could hardly walk through the store - I was shaking and near tears.  When we got home, I had a pretty bad breakdown.... touching me against my will is NOT okay and it brought back some horrific memories.  I've had nightmares off and on since then, and am hardly sleeping (again).  I will see my counseling support person and my doctor Monday, but between now and then I'm really sketchy about leaving the house.

Why is this event such a setback?  Well, agoraphobia means more than just not being about to leave the "safe zone."  As per Wikipedia, "Agoraphobia is characterized by anxiety in situations where it is perceived to be difficult or embarrassing to escape."  It manifests in me as places with a lot of unfamiliar people.  I have been working really hard to put myself out there, going to dinner and movies with Richard (and Faith on occasion) when I don't feel comfortable in a strange place in a strange town.  All that great progress....I want to think it's not gone, but for right now I'm back to not wanting to go among people.

Richard took me on a drive this morning, which helped.  I saw some of the posh neighborhoods I had been stalking in the real estate postings before I moved here, and we grabbed some Starbucks.  I missed my drives back in Oregon, so it was a great pleasure.

So, where do I go from here?  I won't be trying anything major until I see my counseling support person on Monday.  I am angry and sad that I am back in this position, as I feel I'm letting everyone down with my disability.  It is very frustrating to be so out of control of your own well-being.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Confessions of an Agoraphobic

I've posted before that I am a diagnosed Agoraphobic.  Actually, the official diagnosis is "Agoraphobia with Panic Disorder."  Subsequently, I am also diagnosed with Cyclothymic Disorder, which is a low-cycling, less severe form of Bi-Polar Disorder.  I take several medications to keep the symptoms of both disorders in check....since I also have a seizure disorder, the seizure medication I take also treats the Cyclothymic disorder. Otherwise, I would be taking 8-9 different medications instead of 6.  Six is enough, believe me.

My agoraphobic manifested in about 2006, when my grandmother's dementia became so severe that she need daily care.  It was also concurrent with the beginning of the "mystery" ailment that wasn't actually diagnosed until 2009 (I don't like to discuss that in depth, but it is what my seizure disorder stems from).  Grandma's care only became more intense, and the treatment I received once my illness was diagnosed made me so sick that I hardly left the house at all.  Now....there are a lot of misconceptions that agoraphobia means people cannot leave their homes.  That may be true for some sufferers, but really the problem is entering situations/places that cause panic - in my case, new/foreign places, and being around people I don't know.  My home became my "safe zone," so I came to a point where I avoided the situations that triggered panic, and soothed myself in my safe zone.  This continued until I was afraid to even enter grocery stores.  I felt horrible about myself and my lack of control over the panic.

Through a series of positive opportunities, I entered therapy in June of 2011.  Through my therapist's guidance and adjustment of the medications, I found myself less and less panicked by new situations and new people.  I got out more, and even ventured into new places.  I was encouraged by the progress, and found myself looking forward to my therapy sessions every week.

Thanksgiving 2011 was a turning point.  Grandma cut me out of her life, so I decided to move on with mine and made the plans to move to Alaska to be with Richard.  While the change was scary, I handled it fairly well - I even let go of all my possessions fairly easily.  With the teenager, 4 suitcases, 2 duffel bags, 2 laptop bags, and 3 boxes, I boarded a plane and left everything and everyone behind.

I did okay the first few days in Alaska.  I met my love's family, ventured into stores and businesses, and adapted to my new life fairly easily.  The difference, though, is that Richard was always with me.

Yesterday, Richard dropped me off at Faith's school to register her as a new student.  The first trigger hit - he wasn't sure where to go, so he spotted a door and let us out there so he could get to work.  Alone (although with Faith, I still felt alone), unsure of my surroundings, and with streams of teenagers moving around me, I had a major anxiety attack.  Once we finally found the office I stabilized, but the damage was done.  I was scared and unable to reason with myself that I was okay.  Faith wasn't able to start school without an extra immunization (not required in the state of Oregon, apparently), so we left.  Not driving meant I had to call a cab, and thankfully the driver knew our address and was able to take us back without me having to help.

At lunch, Richard picked us up and we headed to the native medical center for my doctor's appointment.  This time, I directed him to a familiar door, and I was able to find the office okay.  When the doctor came in, though, I was having such a bad anxiety attack that she called a counselor in to talk to me (and gave me a strong valium).  After the appointment, I had to register Faith as a patient so she could get her shot, and that was another mess....they had a rush of new patients after the new year, so they couldn't get her entered right away.  We ate lunch so I could calm down a bit more and let the valium do its job, and then called another cab to go home.  This driver, unfortunately, did not know how to get to our address, so we had to try to help him.  I was nearly in tears by the time we finally found the condo, and it was all I could do to get inside and close the door.  I made it through dinner (albeit Chinese delivery, rather than home-cooked), but ended up shutting down and napping for 2 hours.  Between being sick and being so panicked all day, I had to shut down and regroup.

I'm working on getting back into therapy here, but it can take a while.  In the meantime, I'm going to have to find a way to manage the panic so it doesn't affect me so profoundly.  I'm trying to convince myself that yesterday was just a minor setback, but it doesn't feel so minor.  My mantra is "tomorrow is another day." So, with that in mind, I will approach tomorrow with a new attitude.  Today is for healing.  And writing a very long-winded blog about being agoraphobic.