Sunday, December 4, 2016

November Followup

No Shave November results
Some of you have already seen the initial results photos on facebook for my "No shave November".  As a blog post follow-up I give to you those pictures along with the process back to my normal look. In the previous blog post I provided links to several suggestions for organizations you might consider for donations, hoping that my bit of fun in November might inspire you to some giving this holiday season.
And from the side
Truth is, I'm not great at giving to organizations myself, and have only recently been put in a position where one of these organizations is meaningful to me on a very personal level.  Most days between working a sometimes physically demanding job and trying my best to enhance the lives of my wife and daughter, I just barely have the energy to whine about my health issues, and certainly don't feel I can be the champion of some righteous cause.  What I'm trying to say is if you feel like you want to do something charitable, good for you, and let me know if I can help in any way.
My attempt at zebra stripes
Back to my facial hair fun.
 The first couple photos are the end result of one month without shaving.  With some of the hair darker, some blond, and some of it gray, it tends to make it look a bit patchy.  Add to that some dog bite scars and a couple other scars where there is no hair growth and I think I am out of the running for any beard beauty pageants.
Zebra stripes?
I then went looking for suggestions on how to continue the fun on my way back to my normal "five o'clock shadow" look.  My idea was to continue with the zebra theme.  You've probably heard the saying "when you hear hoof beats, think of horses and not zebras".  Because carcinoid cancer is so rare, and the symptoms are like so many other ailments, the idea is to get doctors looking for zebras.  Anyway, I made an attempt to shave my face into zebra stripes.  It probably doesn't sound very easy, and it turns out its even harder than it sounds.  I gave it a shot, was disappointed with the results, and moved on.  You can form your own opinion.
Lastly, my friend Sue decided to play along, made a donation, and suggested I try a Fu Manchu mustache.  This is a nod towards her husband Jim, who has sported some distinctive facial hair for a very long time.  This turned out to be a learning experience, for when I looked to google for some inspirational pictures, I found that a real Fu Manchu would take years to even begin, so I went for the easy substitution, which I guess is called a horseshoe mustache.  Fun, but I think the females in this house agree it is not a good permanent option.  All in all this was a lot of fun.  I got to try growing a beard, I knew there was an end date in sight, and I had a good excuse for doing it (not that anyone really asked).

Sunday, November 20, 2016

November

Many of you have probably heard of "Movember".  If not, it's an event meant to raise awareness of men's health issues.  You can find info here: https://us.movember.com/
There is also an event called "No shave November, similar idea but focused more on cancer awareness.  Info for this here: https://no-shave.org/#fundedprograms
I haven't signed up to participate in either of these events.  There was some talk about me looking a bit too much like a 70's porn star with just a mustache, and honestly I wasn't sure I could take the itching for a month to go without shaving at all.  That doesn't mean I'm not trying.  I put away my razor at the end of October and will see how things turn out in the next couple weeks.  Stay tuned for pictures.  Because I didn't sign up for any of the organized events I can kind of blaze my own path here.  I would love for people to take a few minutes and do something for the folks in your lives that are struggling with health issues, or have lost a loved one unexpectedly.  If you feel like you have a couple extra bucks, donate it to a good cause.  If you can't afford it, call a friend or family member that shares a connection to the person you are thinking of and just say hi.  Sometimes a quick call is more important than you might imagine.  If you need an idea, or want to help support my newly adopted cause, try this: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/1440060
I know that growing a beard is really no big deal, I live in Alaska so its really more of a surprise that it has taken me this long to try it.  The big deal is that many of us need some sort of excuse to donate to a good cause, or show support of our friends and family that are struggling, its just a reality of our way too busy lives.  Make this your excuse, do something good, and have a good laugh at the end of the month when pictures will reveal that I still can't grow a decent beard even at this stage in my life.

Lastly, if this does inspire you to do something, let me know.  The interface on this blog sucks so unless you already know how to post here don't bother frustrating yourself, just let me know on the cross post on Facebook or send me a message or email.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Summer

Sitka in summer
My last real blog post was from Easter.  I guess I'm not doing well at keeping up with life events, although the last two posts explain a bit about what is keeping me busy.
Anyway, I'll start out after Easter and see if I can make it through summer hitting our highlights so far.
A little more than a week after Easter I got to celebrate another birthday.  Next year will be a big one for me so this year it was a pretty low-key event, so low key I wasn't even home for the day.  One of our boats needed to be put in dry dock so I spent several weeks in Ketchikan helping out on the project.  A week later was our wedding anniversary, and again next year will be a big one for us so we kept this mellow as well.  I did at least make a quick surprise trip back to Sitka for the day so I could spend the time with Nicole.  March, April, and May saw me working between 60 and 80 hours per week so I really didn't have much time for anything other than sleep and work.
Our little Earth Day squid
Towards the end of April Nicole and Madeline got to participate in the local Earth Day parade.  This year it was themed for sea creatures, with a workshop earlier in the week to help with costumes.  With Madeline as a squid and Nicole as a sea urchin they fit right in with the others for a parade down main street.
Owl talk at the park
During the winter and spring, Nicole and Madeline were taking advantage of the many activities for families in our little community.  Our library had weekly story time for the kids, with bigger weekend events once a month.  The science center had a kids program, as did the national park.  There was playtime at the gym several days a week, some supervised by the parents and some by gym volunteers to give Nicole a chance to work out.
Storytime at the library
We also enrolled Madeline in a class that combined gymnastics and cirque, which has now evolved into two separate classes.  Needless to say they kept busy while I was working.  Nicole and Madeline also spent a bunch of time as pickers.  They started out picking spruce tips, which are used by several of the local businesses.  Ours went to the brewery to help make their spruce tip ale.  About the time the spruce tips were done the salmonberries were ripe.  They ended up selling some locally, selling some to someone in Juneau, and keeping some for us.  Huckleberries were next, and we kept most of those for ourselves to use in scones and muffins.
June saw the beginning of my on-going medical fun, but it also meant Madeline and Nicole got to reconnect with our friends in Seattle while we were all there.  During my surgery recovery and during subsequent visits, our friends Dave and Judith have been incredible in their generosity.  With a comfortable place to stay and a vehicle to use when we need it, not to mention good friends to share our down time, it has made a bad situation considerably better.  Add to that having more good friends right next door, including Madelines friend Amy, it provided some enjoyable times during our visits.  I lucked out and was released from the hospital in time for Nicoles birthday, probably not an overly memorable birthday but at least the celebration didn't take place in a hospital room.
Fishing derby bait
We arrived back in Sitka just in time for the kids fishing derby.  Alaska Fish and Game organizes a kids fishing derby in just about every community in Southeast, providing poles and bait as well as prizes so all the kids can participate.  Last year we participated in the fishing derby in Juneau, and Madeline caught her first fish.  This year we were not so lucky, no fish but still a lot of fun.  Conveniently enough the derby was held right across the street from our house at Swan Lake so it should make it easy for us to practice up for next year.  We still had fun playing with the fish eggs we were using for bait, making fish print art, and watching some of the other kids catch fish.
Family visit
The beginning of July my family came to Sitka for a visit.  After an unexpected overnight stay in Seattle after being bumped off their flight, my mom, brother and Aunt Linda got to spend most of a beautiful week in our town enjoying the fourth of July festivities.  We tried out all the new restaurants, went to see the bears, visited the parks and museums, and went on a whale watch tour on one of the company boats.  Mostly we just spent a bunch of time together relaxing.  The weather decided to cooperate and give them some warmth and sun, and we even lucked out with a nice clear day for the fourth of July parade.
Tor, Jess, Lars and Odin
Very soon after my family left, our friends Tor and Jess arrived with their boys Lars and Odin.  A visit from great friends is special in itself, but the fact that they arrived on their sailboat, after a 25 day sail from Hawaii, made it even more incredible.  We did another round of the restaurants in Sitka, as well as more visits to the parks and museums.  Most importantly we got to spend some relaxed, quality time with good people.  Too soon it was time for them to head south so the boys would be back in time for the start of school.
Uncle Lowells birthday
At the end of July the three of us flew down to Washington, did a little visiting in Seattle again with some brief medical stuff as well, and then made the drive over to Eastern Washington to celebrate my Uncle Lowells 90th birthday.  This turned out to be a huge event with lots of family and friends from all over the country, including my mom and brother flying back out from Minnesota.  We stopped at a couple of our favorite wineries on the way out to replenish our supply, then spent several days visiting and re-introducing Madeline to many family members.  She had already met many of the attendees when we did our road trip in 2013-2014, but was too young to remember them so it was a fun refresher.
Cirque fun
August gave us some family time back home in Alaska.  My work had slowed down so I got to spend more time at home, and the weather was good so we got to spend some time outside.  Uncharacteristic warm days meant several trips to the beach, along with a lot of walks around town.  Madeline's combo class ended, and a new session started so we got her into two classes, one for gymnastics and one for silks and cirque.  She seems to really enjoy both of them and it certainly keeps her busy.  We also had someone open a childrens museum in Sitka last year, and Madeline really enjoyed the time she spent there.  Nicole will be helping out one day a week when they reopen this fall so that will be one more activity for the two of them to look forward to during the week.
The beginning of September marked Madelines fourth birthday.  Gifts had been arriving in the mail all week from family, and combined with what Nicole and I already had for her she made quite the haul.  Books, puzzles, clothes and toys made up the majority of the presents.  She also got her very own fishing pole, her first two wheel bike, and a new electronic keyboard.  It seemed like a lot of stuff, but she is at that age where she likes to do a lot of different things and is easily distracted, so a variety of choices for activities will hopefully keep her busy and happy while at home.
Later in the afternoon we had a party with some of her friends, with pizza and birthday cake.  We had the party at the local brewery (much to the horror of my mom I'm sure), but it turned out to be a great idea.  If you are going to ask adults to go to the birthday party of a four year old, with a bunch of other screaming four year olds, you might as well pick a place that has beer readily available.  I think the majority of attendees both young and old had a good time so I'm going to call it a success.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Update to the Update

Just wanted to let everyone know I'm doing fine.  I felt a bit weird about my last post, I'm not the type that shares that much information on the interweb, but it was the easiest way to get the word out to a lot of people at once.  Since the last post, I've been through a bunch of medical tests and am now on a treatment schedule.  Seems everything is still a bit ambiguous and only time will tell, but we are trying to stay hopeful and get back to some semblance of normal.  If you want more details or just want to chat, please give a call or shoot us a message.  Like I said, laying my life out there for everyone to see, especially somewhere like Facebook, doesn't feel right.
I'll try to put together another post in the next few days with our recent happenings in Sitka, we have been quite busy the past few weeks.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Update

Seems I need to write an update on recent goings-on.  Back in December I spent a couple nights in the ER with severe stomach problems.  An ultrasound in March revealed a gallbladder that needed to come out, and a question about one of my kidneys.  A CT scan several weeks ago showed no issue with my kidney, but an unknown mass mixed in with my guts.  My doctor made the right decision and referred me out of town.  Last Wednesday Nicole, Madeline and I flew down to Seattle, and Thursday we met with a surgeon at the U of W.  Friday I was back for another ultrasound-guided biopsy of the mass.  Saturday I was fast-tracked into surgery, where they removed the mass, my gallbladder, and various other parts, then did a quick repair on a surprise hernia they found before sewing me back up.  Today I was released from the hospital, and am spending some time in Seattle recovering before heading back to Sitka.  Turns out the mass and some of the other stuff they removed was cancerous, so now I get to live with that.  The doctors are pretty positive about the whole situation.  Just by pure chance this was caught during a different test, so that was a very good thing.  Long term I will most likely go through chemo, and probably have a lot more medical attention than I am used to.  Short term I seem to be missing a bunch of my innards and that hurts like hell.
I'm not going to include pictures with this post, if you really like seeing staple closed incisions come visit me in the next couple weeks, I've got a bunch to show off.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter

I have to admit I had a pretty idilic childhood, and part of that was making the most of holidays.  Nicole and I are trying our best to do the same for Madeline, blending family traditions from when we were young and some new ones well suited to our current lifestyle.
Because my work schedule is crazy now and I may not get another day off in the next few months, I wanted to take this weekend to spend time at home and make the most of the holiday.  Saturday morning saw Nicole at the democratic caucus while I spent time with Madeline.  When Nicole was done, I made a quick run to work to line out my workaholic crew for the next couple days, while Nicole and Madeline headed to the elementary school down the block for an Easter egg hunt.  Typical rainy Sitka weather didn't seem to keep anyone inside, and the kids made quick work of the 8,000 eggs they had set out.  We took advantage of the food stands they had at the school for some hot dogs, and supplemented those with some of the delicious and beautiful treats Nicole had made the past few days.
Across the bridge the Coast Guard families were holding their annual "Rainy Day Bazaar".  We spent time looking at the various booths, quite a bit of time convincing Madeline there would be more than enough treats at home so we didn't need to buy any there, and a couple of run-ins with a six foot bunny that was deemed too scary to meet.
Back across the bridge and down to the harbor, we decided go slightly non-traditional (at least for folks outside Alaska) for Easter dinner, and bought a seven pound king crab.  Once home, we realized  with the sale of our boat and much of our boating gear, we didn't have cooking facilities anywhere near adequate for king crab.  Luckily just about everyone else in Sitka has the gear we needed, and with a couple quick phone calls we were set up with a pot and cooker.
Back home, we started in on decorating eggs and various other craft projects.  Lots of fun, interspersed with candy consumption from the earlier egg hunt, rounded out the afternoon.  When it was time for dinner, I made quick work of cooking up the crab, and we sat down to a pretty decadent dinner.  It was obvious that a seven pound crab would provide several meals for the two of us, with Madeline remaining steadfast in her refusal of fresh seafood, and two nights of king crab didn't seem like too harsh a sacrifice for us.
Dinner done and Madeline in bed, we watched a crummy movie, and then spent time hiding four dozen eggs and several baskets around our not-very-big apartment.  We had hard boiled and colored a dozen eggs, and had three dozen more plastic eggs that we filled with candy and hid.
Madeline gave me one of the best Easter gifts I could hope for, and slept in until almost 8am on Sunday so I could catch up on sleep.  I think I underestimated Madeline's abilities and made the egg hunt easier than it needed to be, so she made quick work of finding eggs, baskets, and a new bunny pillow.  I think it took more time to open all the plastic eggs and dump the candy than it took to find the eggs.  A nice pancake breakfast at home and some Easter cartoons rounded out the morning.
With another community egg hunt in the early afternoon, we were pleasantly surprised when the rain stopped just long enough for us to fill another bucket with eggs and candy.  This egg hunt was in one of the community parks, so the eggs were scattered in the woods and a little more challenging to find.  For the rest of the day, we should have just enough time to Skype and Facetime with family before we dive into the remaining pile of crab for dinner.  Oh, there is also all that candy we will have to do something about.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

This Place We Live

Part of our long road trip in 2013-2014 was to visit friends and family, part of it was looking for the next place to live.  As such, we visited lots of people, and saw lots of good and bad places to live.  There were some stops where one night seemed way too long, and there were others that were very hard to leave.  Some of the fondness comes from the company, just ask our friends Dave and Judith, who several times after months as hosts have probably wondered if we were ever leaving.  Some of it comes from the great places our friends live.
The bottom line is no place is perfect, but even with it's issues and quirks, Sitka Alaska is a pretty special place.  When we came back to Sitka in October we we're offered a really sweet deal house-sitting until the end of the year.  The first couple pictures in this post show the view out the front windows, of the ocean and our own little volcano, Mount Edgecumbe.  You can't actually see Russia from here, but who the hell cares with views like this.
The other picture is looking across the lake at our new digs.  We moved in during the holidays and are finally settling in.  Lake out front, mountains out the back windows, still not too shabby.  Because Sitka is built at the oceans edge on the side of the mountains, there are not too many places you can live without a stunning view.  Be sure to click on the pictures to see the full screen version.
The other great thing about Sitka is it's sense of community.  There are lots of small groups with similar interests, lots of activities for families.  The holidays and festivals are big deals for many of the residents.  Even in the winter there is always something going on.
As an example I included a few pictures from Halloween, as most people know it is one of my favorite holidays.  You can see from the pictures that my enthusiasm has only grown now that I get to share the holiday with Madeline.  In Sitka they shut down the main street, and all the businesses give out candy as the kids trick-or-treat their way around downtown.
This makes sense in a community with regular sightings in town of 1000 lb. brown bears.  A small child with a bag of chocolate walking door to door in the dark seems an unnecessary temptation.
Speaking of bears, these folks have also found a fun and entertaining way to dispose of the jack-o-lanterns post holiday.  You may remember during our first stay in Sitka that Nicole worked for a facility that housed rescued brown bears, called Fortress of the Bears.  Turns out they have a little pre-hibernation party for the bears and the community just after Halloween.  Bring out your pumpkin, fill it with fruit, veggies and other treats, and then they fence off the bears while everyone goes in the enclosure and sets out their pumpkins.  The resulting mayhem watching the bears tear apart the pumpkins and eat the treats inside, watched from the safety of the catwalk above, is pretty entertaining.