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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Identity crisis

Arrived back in the USA to cold weather, truck loads of walnuts and leaves on the ground. One day we were on top of the situation, the next it looks like a magical carpet of yellow leaves - there are at least a dozen trees around the house, let your imagination wander!
 
Since mum passed away I have been thinking about lots of things. When I sat in the Art Center doing my share of being artist on site, I looked around and thought well, my paintings just kind of merge in with everyone elses. Hmmm. I'm so different to everyone here, why am I doing artwork that is similar to theirs? Doing similar stuff is not going to make me stand out. So there you go, sometimes it takes a momentos moment for changes to come about.
 
So my action plan involves lots of sketching and painting. Here are some of the results so far;
 
Greenstone
have a closer look at
desray.etsy.com


Wave rider
a set of three 4x4inch canvases
displayed on recycled wood
see more at desray.etsy.com



 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Given an opportunity

I am really good at taking care of myself and my family - or so I thought. When I would chat with mum about my overall health I would assure her I was indeed looking after myself - taking care of my weight, eathing healthy, exercising. All good intentions. In reality, I always strive to eat healthy however took care of the exercising and weight when I was able to squeeze it in around family life.

Fast forward to two months ago. Physically I wasn't coping. Lifting anything even a full milk bottle, now hurt. Walking hurt. Playing was out of the question.

Part of my nature is to be optomistic. So having booked in for a 2nd epidural to help ease the back pain. I felt excited in anticipation of being pain free. After the epidural I told mum that I was going to put my health first. Her reply "you always say that then life gets busy and you put yourself on the back burner." The second epidural didn't have the effect that I desired, my participation in the Corvallis Fall Festival had me in tears walking to and from the Corvallis Art Guild marquee. I relied heavily on my gorgeous children to set up and ferry my painting to and fro. Things were going to improve, just not right now.

My beautiful, clever, loving, caring mum passed away, far too young and far too soon. My last conversation with her echoes ..." you always say that..."

A week after mums funeral, I took ill. Excruciating stomach paints reminiscent of giving birth, slung down low, washed over me. Possibilities - kidney stones or appendix. A trip to the Emergency Room at the hospital resulted in the removal of my appendix and the beginning of my recovery.

Someone was looking after me. One blessing was that all of this took place in my home country of New Zealand. Because of the health care system there my 3 day stay cost me nothing financially. That removed all the stress out of being hospitalised and allowed me to concentrate on recovery. The second blessing was that my back improved out of sight. It still ached, however I was standing straighter than ever and so much more capable. The third, I lost a ton of weight and aim to maintain. it.

I like to call it "taking care of business", so with mums words still resonating I decided on a plan The first thing that came to me was if I'm going to follow through with taking care of business first thing in the morning before the day gets busy is the most opportune time.

Taking care of business looks like
1. Apart from using the bathroom, I try to stay in my bedroom each morning until after morning stretches and exercises. It helps that the children want and are dedicated to making their own school lunch each day.
2.Committing to cycling for approximately one hour three times a week. I do this straight after the children have gone to school. It also requries me to look ahead and chose days, regardless of the weather.
3. Ensure salads, cereal and fruit are a big part of my diet. I do not beat myself up about having a cookie, however I also don't always need a whole cookie let along two or three and am happy to break a chunk off to satisfy myself.
4. monitor my weight, I bought scales, just so I'm not guessing.

Taking care of business feels like;
1. a weight off my shoulders literally.
2. being gifted an opportunity
3.setting a better example for my children
4. giving my family the best of me, a more capable, healthy mum and wife.
5. exercising control and discipline

So here I am doing it, taking care of business, taking care of me and ultimately taking care of my family in doing so. So far so good.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Alaskan Native Heritage Centre, Anchorage

What a fantastic place the Native Alaskan Heritage Center turned out to be. Unfortunately we got there with about an hour and quarter to go until they closed, wish we had more time. It was absolutely riveting. We whisked our way around the lake, stopping to hear from different tribes about their stories, daily life, how things were done. Red spruce is a repellant to mosquitos and other insects. Must remember that one. Better than deet any day, smells good too. Woman learned to hunt as well, just in case their men never returned. Boys learned to sew, also just in case their female relations disappeared.

They used spotted seal skins for regular clothing shirts and trousers. They were difficult to wash and dry, yet on the other hand very hard wearing. The warmest skins were caribou's winter pelt. Clothes made from these were given to pregnant women, the elderly and hunters since they kept them warmest. When the Russians arrived, the indians took a liking to their smock which was soft and easy to wash, modifying it with pockets for holding extra collections like berries and hoods to help with mosquitos.

Indian lodges would hold 50 to 100 people with small doors, only large enough for 1 person at a time to get through. Then raiders could only enter one at a time, easier to defend. They used a 3 to 5 inch plug as a door at night to stop raiders. Raiders were after the other tribes tools and foods that they didn't have. This happened even when they traded. I personally think it must have also provided a form of excitement and daring for young people. The door also resticted brown bears/grizzly's entering. Bears were very common then and children knew to check outside before stepping outside. They used volcanic rock vessels filled with seal oil or whale oil as lighting and also for heat and cooking. The wick was moss.

Men and woman used a walrus tipped staff with a walrus tusk set at a 45 degree angle from the main shaft. It was used to check the ice was strong enough to hold you for walking on. The walrus hook was especially useful for ice hopping, if a piece was too far away you could hook it and pull it closer, it was also useful if you fell in the water, you could reach up to solid ice and haul yourself out.
There were lots of native artisans with their wares out. Oh to have more time, why did I go to JC Pennys! Both my darlings after saying that they just wanted to go home instead of stop here, declared it was really worth while. For me it was the highlight of Anchorage.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fun in Anchorage

So today we did Anchorage – Earthquake Park, Lake Hood where all the float planes are kept, the Alaskan Aviation Museum, Ulu factory which was fascinating – they are making a knife that has been used since the times of the early indians, JC Penny – we went there since we've never been to one before and I won't be going to another either, then last but by no means least the Native Alaskan Heritage Center.

Now we don't usually buy ready made food, however since we were on a flying trip, backpackers and all plus I didn't have the cooker with me, this time we did. We stopped in at Carr's also known as Safeway (a big supermarket) and they had all sorts of stuff in their deli section. We all chose either a salad and then something hot since the weather was cool. There was mexican, chinese, american …. you name it, it was there. Reagan chose sesame chicken. Oh she said, it's good. We should go back and get a big container to share.
Outside the Alaskan Aviation Museum, right on Lake Hood

The Aviation Museum had a flight simulation machine which is always popular with my family. There was a sign that junior pilots required adult supervision. I am happy for them to have a good go. So waited patiently while the both took a turn. Then said it's time to move on, which we did. When I turned around our girl had disappeared, so I went back and here she was on the simulator again. Insert a big voice here - I'm alright, I'm an adult! When we were outside checking out the Alaskan Airlines plane they had open for inspection, she touched and opened everything. Now on a good day she would have touched and opened, however this day you would swear her hands were shaking she just had to, and I mean had to touch everything at such a great speed, even stuff that was sign posted “do not use”. I couldn't believe the transformation. Honestly she needed a straight jacket, she was like an energizer battery that wouldn't stop. Looking back, I'm thinking the sesame chicken might have had some colour or additive that set her off. Needless to say we didn't go back for more.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Anchorage here we come!

Next stop Anchorage.

Why do we have to go? That was how our trip to Anchorage started. Surprisingly it went quite quickly. First stop the tourism information center. Now, accommodation is very pricey in Alaska, and also in short supply when one hasn't booked in advance. So it was the Alaska backpackers for us. The first backpackers the children had stayed in. It was all that we needed with 4 bunk beds in a room all to ourselves.

We arrived at mid day, so decided the best plan of attack would be to drive half way to Seward and about 10 miles south of Girdwood to the Alaska conservation center. The road is mountains one side and sea the other. Bradley caught sight of a beluga whale, which apparently roam in groups of 20 to 30 in this area during the summer. Unfortunately I had to keep my eyes on the road, much to my disgust and had to wait for some distance to pull off the road.

At the Conservation Centre, I got some fantastic photos of grizzly bears, the rare musk ox, caribou which are also called reindeer – by golly they are tiny things with great racks where the antlers are about the same height as the reindeer. Two abandoned moose babies were huge despite their young age – about the size of a horse and two herds of bush bison of which one herd will be released in 2013, that was exciting to read about.


An official had just thrown some apples to the bears while we were there and they had a little cabin the bears went into to try and find it, got some great shots of that. We also saw a bald eagle which had been shot at and had to have its wing amputated, plus two owls whose home had been invaded by a silly magpie, how it got in who knows. The magpie sent the owls into a spin when someone tried to shoo it out without much luck. They were also preparing an enclosure for two female lynx cubs who were in a forest fire with paws that were badly burned. The glaciers in the background looked eerie with blue ice shining through.
Brown Bear painting, by Desray

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The tough side of Alaska

Read the saddest story in the local frontiersman newspaper. The title is “Some students just want a bed of their own” Here is a little of what the article said; The district identified more than 900 students who were either homeless or don't have a stable place to call home. Some students are younger (primary school aged) children and either living at local church shelters or with friends, teens couch surfing etc. More than 300 of them were at the one high school. All having to figure out where your next meal is coming from or where you're going to sleep that night, if they will get to shower, some haven't seen mum or dad for 3 or 4 months.

Get this, “..recalls the desperate look on the face of one girl who had her backpack stolen. Everything she had in the world, including clothing, was in it........ The look of a young man who was talking about “how it's so undignified to not have a place to put your stuff, …....It's not like I'm looking for luxuries like running water or electricity.” Can you imagine what it might be like here in winter when temperatures plummet to minus 72 F? Well I for one felt like crying reading that. I had visions of opening up a school boarding house. My god, these things tie you in knots. One positive action is the school authorities are having a stuff the bus project to supply students with school supplies. That is a little something that we can contribute to. I am so appreciative of what I have and what my darlings have, oh how we take these things for granted.

Humpy Derby

After lying in bed this morning and sleeping so well that we missed our alarm, my darlings hummed and harred. Reagan said, don't sign me up I'd rather stay home and relax. Bradley just didn't know. I said, well Anchorage will be there tomorrow or the next day, the fishing derby won't. You've never been in a fishing competition before, let's give it one go and then you will know for the next time. Only Bradley was convinced. So we arrived around 9.30am, signed up paid our $15 and toodled out.

By 11am Bradley had his first fish. Despite or due to the wonderful instructions that Reagan and I were issuing, I'm not sure which. We had no measuring stick, so kind of guessed it was in the 20inch range so were ecstatic to find it in the front at 23 inches. Trying not to build his hope up too much, I assured Bradley that he had not yet won, that there were still four hours to go and anyone at any stage might whip in with a bigger fish. By 2pm he had entered his second fish, the first was still in the lead. The guys at the station were telling me that there were some big prizes and I had to stop them. You know how it is when someone brings your hopes up, then at the last minute you don't win. So we disappeared for the rest of the hour resting up since we were all pretty buggared with all the walking we had had to do.

When we turned up to the prize giving, Bradley said, I heard someone has come in with a 23.25 inch humpy. He was quite ok with it. Then just as prize giving started the judge came over and said, well you still have the overall winning fish. Bradley was stoked. For first in the 13 to 16 age group he won a BMX bike with pegs on the front and back. For biggest overall fish, he won a Devils Canyon jet boat ride for two plus a $25 Gorilla Fireworks voucher. Still it goes on, in the raffle ticket draw, he won a little tackle box full of all sorts of goodies. That is the biggest payback on a $15 entry we have ever had. Of course from now on Bradley will be dead keen to enter every other fishing competition known to man.

Well I thought humpies had already spawned. Not always so. That's what we found when we opened up Bradley's fish that day. Tonight is baked humpy seasoned italian seasoning with bacon laying over the top accompanied by fried rice, just because it's easy. They are an oilier fish though, so will try and think of something that will compliment that for the second one he caught.

Yep the winning fish is so big the photo has to go on it's side,
no really, it's the blogger who is unable to rotate the photo!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

All in a day

"Just to let you know" (that is one of my daughters favourite sayings), we have been buying New Zealand apples over here. Gala apples at $1.99lb ($4 a kg) from Fred Myer's in Wasilla, and Braeburn apples at $1.69lb (approx $3.70kg), from Cubbys at Talkeetna. We are at the very end of the road here and I didn't think it was too bad considering. NZ apples are comforting for some reason.

Stopped in at the kids fishing derby on the way home. Would have signed my darlings up except we didn't have the right amount of cash on us and they had no zip zap machine. It's a humpy derby, so have grown a great hump on their back after spawning and are going to die. Will see what happens tomorrow when we have to get up early. I presently have one that is willing and one golden haired child who would just like to hang out and go to the library. Actually being Sunday I think it will be closed, so that decision is made. Reagan and I will make our own fun. Probably try directing her brother at some stage, unsuccessfully of course since he's a boy with a mind of his own.

Watched a delightful programme on the box tonight, Black Grace dance company. Originating in Porirua, Auckland. Pretty cool contemporary mix of NZ cultures, mostly Samoan. They put on a good show. Wonderful to see the work and effort that goes into a show, and wonderful to see them rise to the top of their genre.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Talkeetna here we come!

What a great trip. The road to Talkeetna has little interesting places spotted along the way. Great fishing spots, a birchwood syrup factory, a kids fishing derby. So much to see. When you get to Talkeetna you understand why, it's a little tourist trap. People everywhere!

First stop, the little old visitors center, way out in the middle of nowhere just at the turnoff. What a good choice that was. Then on to Birch Syrup. Well I have heard of maple syrup. Birch syrup? It is delightful, a bit like golden syrup or treacle without a sickly sweet taste, still sweet though. There is only one other group who harvest significant quantities of birch syrup that they know of. It takes 110 gallons of birch sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. They tap trees 8” or more and use a reverse osmosis machine to seperate the water out and then boil down the remainder. Apparently in Russia, they drink the sap straight, it is like ever so lightly sweetened water with calcium, potassium and manganese. Who would have guessed. Makes one look at birch trees in a different light.

Next stop Talkeetna itself. My first thoughts were; old fashioned setting, full of hippies, dirt/gravel roads, and despite the loads of tourists by the bus-full everywhere, I loved it. This is a really quite a small town center that is reminiscent of the olden days and brings in huge numbers of people. We visited the town market where Reagan chose a lovely little necklace with coloured glass, then a couple of bits of Alaskan gold with clear glass fused on top. Next stop, a wonderful museum.

The Talkeetna airstrip in the middle of town!
Then on to the ranger station where all Denali/Mt McKinley climbers have to sign in, pay $200 to register and go through a ranger training session before their ascent. Only 50% of those who attempt to climb Denali are successful. Tax payers money rescues those who are unable to come down themselves. We watched a wicked video showing people climbing up and down Denali. Sitting out incredibly severe weather even though it is summer, being rescued, being treated for injuries such as swelling of the brain when one hasn't given ones body enough time to acclimatise. They are all issued personal tins for toileting in, everything that goes up has to come down, and so it does. No oxygen is used on Denali, so they can really only climb 1000ft a day. Not my thing – the climbing part, much too old and far too unambitious in that department. Although, as we sat in the Talkeetna Roadhouse having a reindeer pasty, there were plenty of young guys who looked loaded up and rearing to give it a go.
Talkeetna Road House with live music,
a warm and inviting atmosphere.

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