Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On A Wing And A Prayer(s)

"If nothing is going well, call your grandmother."
~Italian Proverb

Here in the Dairy State
Sorry to have been so distant everyone (quite literally). I’m back in Wisconsin on a wing and a prayer. My Gram had a second stroke last Monday 12/8/2009 morning and I was flying home by Monday night though it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Monday after I got the call at school my wonderful principal Eric directed that I immediately went home, tried to collect my thoughts (that didn’t work) and book a flight out (that didn’t work either). We have had very strong winds in Quinhagak lately due to a monsoon in Hawaii and our Bering Sea winds, so the bush plane companies weren’t having much luck at getting into Quin. The Doc was not hopeful for Gram said she probably wouldn’t make it through the night and all I could do was talk to my fam, cry and wait. Thankfully Sherry and kids came over to guide me along and keep me company, I am surrounded by the most wonderful people, I wish I could get everyone together to meet each other. God is so incredible you guys, He’s so willing, able and wanting to be there for us. I was sobbing to my mom a few hours after I got the news and was still holed up in Quin waiting, when Mom suddenly gasped “SHE’S AWAKE AND...SHE’S SINGING!!!” I could hear family and friends in the hospital room laughing and crying. “Can I talk to her?” I cried. Mom held the phone to Gram’s ear I heard her singing “Gram I’m trying to get to you but the wind...The wind is really strong here Gram and the planes can’t fly in.” “Oh” she kind of mumbled the first stroke had paralyzed the right side of her body “Da, Wind da wind da wind, end da wind, end da wind, and da wind.” was her response, she knew what I was saying! We had to hang up but as I was sitting on my couch, with my dear friends Steph and Sherry (did I mention how beautiful my Quin family is, Steph and Jim took Ani right into their home while I've been away) I was staring out the window at a leaf or maybe it was a feather, stuck under the tin roof of my neighbor’s house and it was whipping back and forth in the wind. As I watched it I tried to will it to thoughts were”STOP!!! JUST QUIT MOVING! STOP!” Then I felt like I heard God say “Just ask me. Why don’t you just ask me?” Duh? I agreed and as I turned to ask Steph and Sherry if they would pray with me when my phone rang. It was my brother informing me that Gram, worn out yet miraculously awake from her 2nd stroke had, in her slurring speech just prayed that God would stop the wind so I could come home. I hung up stunned, shared it with Sherry and Steph and we prayed. Within and hour there was a plane on its way from Bethel as the winds died down just enough to get us loaded up and airborne. The take off was like a roller coaster but I didn’t get nervous for a second. I knew Gram’s prayer was getting me home. In Anchorage they were able to move my flight up via a layover in Salt Lake. That put me in Minneapolis about 2 hours before the first major winter storm of 09 hit Minnesota and Wisconsin full force. Just enough time for my cousin and I to drive that last leg, the homestretch making it into Hayward just as the snow was picking up. I was hugging my Gram by 6 pm Tuesday night thanks to all the help from my family in Quin and I am absolutely certain the prayer of my Gram. She has been up and down these last few days, seems like when one thing gets better something else happens but praise the Lord she’s a fighter and our family has been able to be together through it! Today we had to move her into the nursing home, that was not easy at all, we tried to decorate it. We are all praying and hoping that her stay can be temporary as she works through her rehab there. This is totally a miracle, she wasn’t supposed to make it through Monday night. Apparently Gram had a big old conversation with God and He informed her that her work her isn't done yet! God is Good you guys no matter what happens, in the end, when all is said and done, He is Good. That is exactly what she was singing when she finally came to from the 2nd stroke. She just kept repeating it, my brother called me and left it on my voice mail, “And God is Good, And God is Good, And God is Good...” I agree. I’m still shocked that I’m here but I know its in His hands and plan. THANK YOU to SO MANY who have been PRAYING. God is answering. May He bless you all immensely.

Back in Quin
I hear someone got a Beluga whale. Good work and congratulations. The village will use all of it and everyone will benefit. It was divided up and gone by the next day.Thank you all in Quin for praying and helping me out....Eric-Sherry and Family, Steph-Jim and Family, Fannie and Family, Pauline and Family, Tim Sherman and Family, Jerilyn and Family, Mac, all of you I know my not being there causes you to carry a heavier burden, I'm praying it doesn't feel that way. Thank you so much, I miss yas lots.

Quyana and Merry Christmas My Friends and Family!
Hey Eric this one's for you! With Love, Ani

"While he was still talking, some people came from the leader's house and told him, "Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?" Jesus overheard what they were talking about and said to the leader, "Don't listen to them; He permitted no one to go in with him except Peter, James, and John. They entered the leader's house and pushed their way through the gossips looking for a story and neighbors bringing in casseroles. Jesus was abrupt: "Why all this busybody grief and gossip? This child isn't dead; she's sleeping." Provoked to sarcasm, they told him he didn't know what he was talking about.But when he had sent them all out, he took the child's father and mother, along with his companions, and entered the child's room. He clasped the girl's hand and said, "Talitha koum," which means, "Little girl, get up." At that, she was up and walking around! This girl was twelve years of age. They, of course, were all beside themselves with joy. He gave them strict orders that no one was to know what had taken place in that room. Then he said, "Give her something to eat." Mark 5:35-43

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh!" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you."

Quyanaqvaa, thank you so much for all your prayers everybody. God is answering. Gram is still in the hospital, the whole fam is with her, she is having good days and bad days. Docs aren't sure yet what the situation will be. Please continue to lift her to God. I'm up here hanging in there, the fam is keeping me updated several times a day. We appreciate all the kind words, encouragement, and prayers from everyone. Thank you all.

In Quinhagak we have warm summer breezes, yup, breezes gusting up to 80 miles an hour right now. Residual effects from a monsoon in Hawaii and the Aleutians. Strange thing is, this whipping wind is 40 degrees! It is arriving here from the south, warm and balmy. It’s melting all our snow and raining on us! Howling wind is an understatement, its more like a screaming hurricane. It nearly blew me off the road walking to work yesterday. I had to lean the weight of my whole body into the heavy gusts just to stay upright and maintain a straight line homeward, could have windsurfed with a sail. Had to laugh at the thought of the wind suddenly ceasing to blow, I would have immediately fallen over like a bike with the kickstand snapped away. But the battle against the tropical headwinds wasn't entirely a "blow out". The road had transformed into an ideal skating rink and my pak boots lacking snow cleats were not ideal skates, I did one of those futile cartoon river dance numbers just before both feet flew right out from under me, suddenly I was staring up an oddly star filled night sky. After flailing around on my backpack like a turtle whose been flipped on its shell I finally righted myself, but it was a struggle to keep my feet underneath me. So I slipped, slid and was blown back to my own front door. Not sure why but I tried to take Ani for a walk.....Now that was entertaining. Ani, clawing away at the sheet of ice under his paws, wasn't even a match for the elements. He was as much of duck out of water as I had been. We threw in the towel on the whole 'walk' idea and hunkered down at home. The whole house has been trembling for the last 24 hours and I question the Jenga blocks that are posing as a foundation underneath us, though so far so good. There really have been storms like this before which have actually blown houses off of their stilts.

"God, listen to me shout, bend an ear to my prayer. When I'm far from anywhere, down to my last gasp, I call out, "Guide me up High Rock Mountain!" Psalm 61:1-2

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Prayer Request

The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.
~Hubert H. Humphrey
Hi folks, I'm humbly asking please, for prayers of healing for my Gram. She had a stroke yesterday and is in the hospital back home now. The distance from here to there is taking hold. My family and I sincerely thank you.

"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven." James 5:13-15

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Beauty of Bethel

"Well, I think those boys will be fine..." Uncle Hubb to Uncle Garth
"But will you?" Uncle Garth to Uncle Hubb, "You've been busy: terrorizing doctors and nurses, beating up teenagers, chasing after lions..."
~Secondhand Lions

Finally We Had Liftoff
After 2 days of weather hold I was on my way into Bethel. From the plane we saw 4 herds of caribou running around on the tundra! The pilot flew low over them and tilted the wing so we could get a good view. Felt like I was on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom! Anyway lots of hunters filled their caribou tags this weekend. And a few others had to be searched and rescued. Ah, well everyone survived.

Gaspeq, Cuspiq, Kaspiq, Traditional Yup'ik Shirt for Women
Anya made me my very own gaspeq! Complete with the Seahawk logo sew on the front. Pretty incredible seeing as it was her very first try at making one. She's a seamstress though. No problem. So while she sewed away, I was busy knitting (picture my nose all scrunched, eyes squinting,focused and tongue curled over my top lip in concentration) this is how I knit lol. It was a wild weekend in Bethel.

My New Favorite Movie

If you ever rent another movie, do yourself a favor and see "SECONDHAND LIONS". Best movie I've seen in forever. While we were biding time in Bethel on yet another 'weather hold'. Yes, status quo, normal Alaskan weather and airport protocol: eagerly arriving at the airport 1/2 hour before our flight (plenty of time in this neck of the woods or tundra, rather) while hopefully trying to will away the snow that was very obviously blowing across the runway to snatch our flight plans. After 2 hours of praying for a break in the clouds with enough time for our little 207 to make a hop for it, we were disappointingly sent away and told to return in the morning, better luck next time. They were however, kind enough to let me leave my bags at the airport. This is a relief because a trip to Bethel always means a return trip hauling 3 times the amount of luggage with which you arrived: get the goods while the goods are able to be gotten, in Bethel. After declining the proposition from our cab driver to what would have no doubt been a lively game of soccer at the armory with some local Albanian/Macedonian futbol enthusiasts we bumbled back into Anya's house, shaking and stomping off the excess snow and decided to veg out watching Secondhand Lions. You'll like it, go rent it. Promise. You'll be a better person for it.

Dark and Early This Morning

Anya and I were up again and headed back to the Bethel International (he, he kidding)... Regional Airport to have another go at catching a flight out to Quinhagak. While we were standing at the ticket counter and as the airport staff was arriving to work, we overheard a delightful conversation between the guy who might have been a psuedo air traffic controller/picker of air planes and maybe a ticket rep or airplane mechanic guy (they were oblivious to our 'within earshot locale').

Mechanic to Plane Picker guy, " To Quinhagak?"
Plane Picker guy to Mechanic, "Ah, let's just send up the junk plane."
Mechanic to Plane Picker, "Why not? Sounds good."

"Yeah, Why not?" I asked myself too. Only for my brain to be bombarded with a flurry of reasons myself had in immediate response...

Taking mental note, a deep breath and calming myself so as to not startle the two professionals engrossed in this very serious conversation being held in my presence. I politely interrupted, clearing my throat and stepping a little closer to the counter near the sign that read "All flights must be paid for before boarding, NO EXCEPTIONS". Our airport is more like a bus terminal. "Excuse me", I said to the Picker and Mechanic, "...I couldn't help but overhear your conversation, um, I'm sorry did you just say, 'send up the junk plane'?" For a moment time stood still as my inquiry registered on their radar so to speak, then together, backs to us and realizing what had just occurred, they slowly, simultaneously turned to face us, plastered with sheepish smiles and offering a host of apologies and reassurances. Evidently the 'junk plane' is referred to as such because it's payload capacity is 300 less pounds than any of the other...ah hem, "non-junk planes". Anya claimed that if we really thought about it, technically, it was a compliment, they were saying we are so light and little. I on the other hand, wasn't so optimistic and needed multiple reminders as to why I was supposed to feel completely comfortable and safe that we were about to be escorted out to and airborne in the 'junk plane'. I cranked up the the calming self talk and awaited the usual beckoning of the pilot, much like a teacher taking roll call. Finally, there he was, clipboard in hand, striding out of the back office like Jethro Beaudin, our carharted 20-something pilot sauntered in sporting a cargo tape patched down jacket that had seen better days, took off his ratty baseball cap, scratched his head, looked around at us (the only 2 people in the airport- yet another indicator that we would be the junk planees) and called out our names for Quinhagak or maybe the green mile. As we fell in line and followed him out the door we couldn't help but notice two other pilots dressed in 3 piece suits, following after us. Anya inquired,"So why aren't they our pilots?" "Oh," they smiled almost apologetically "We're flying to Anchorage." I snickered "Yeah, we got the junk plane pilot." "Hey" Jethro scolded me, he almost sounded insulted but changed his mind and chuckled, "Junk plane, eh?" Thankfully and as usual, my fears proved to be unfounded as it was probably the most pleasant flight I've had. Jethro turned out to be the cutest pilot, we had the calmest winds, fullest moon setting over the frozen tundra lakes behind the passenger wing and slightest sunrise beginning its ascent over the mountains in front of the pilot side wing. I leaned against the window and fell asleep to the hum of the engine while trying not to think about what seemed to me, an excessive amount of weight in boxes of dried potatoes crammed in every possible space behind me, surely more than 300 pounds worth. I slept most of the way. Go figure. Junk plane, huh...

Back to the Movie

The title of that gem of cinema sparked my memory (this doesn't happen all that often so I have to seize the archived dusty file as it drifts by) I blame my parents...neither of them remember anything, sadly I didn't used to sympathize quite so much, but I'm afraid as the years keep ticking by I'm beginning to understand all too well. Don't get me wrong, this genetic trait is both a blessing and a cursing...though there are many things I wish I could retrieve from the files, there are also things I'm all too happy to forget, especially when I remember I forgot them. I had a point here somewhere, lets see if I can find it...Oh yeah, I remember...this an an article that my pastor back in Wisconsin published in our local paper last year or the year before, at any rate I kept it so I wouldn't forget what it reminds me to think about...and well, let's just say the movie we watched, rang a bell....enjoy:)

Lion Chaser Manifesto
My blogger buddy, Mark Batterson, recently created a Manifesto for "Lion Chasers". I found it inspiring and motivating and thus, am passing it on to you:
Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Consider the lilies. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshiping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze a new trail. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away. Chase the lion!

"The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions."

Proverbs 28:1

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Post Thanksgiving

"The very fact that a man is thankful implies someone to be thankful to." John Baillie

Sorry, No Flights out on Thanksgiving or the Next Day
Well, I was all packed up and ready to leap into my chariot for that 40 minute flight into Bethel to give thanks with my compadres there. Alas, fyi to all, no flights on Turkey day. So the feast would be had in Quin:) Talked to my own family back in the Dairy State just as they were about to eat. They put me on speaker phone and gave me the honor of saying grace transcontinentally! What a hoot! From there everyone dug is and the phone was passed around, envisioning what was taking place around the yellow Formica table 3500 miles away in my kitchen I started to really miss my fam. With that Ani and I decided to be thankful for having a warm loving family that we could miss, not only that but we decided to be thankful for having a warm loving family we have right here in Quin. Enjoyed a wonderful thanksgiving at Principal Eric's and Sherry's. It was a spread fit to give any thanksgiving dinner a run for its turkey. It started at 2 pm and people didn't stop cycling through until after 6. It was a joy to visit with everyone. I'm thankful there were no flights out:) Today still no flights out. Too foggy and on 'weather hold' with any luck the air traffic will be up and running tomorrow. Oh, well that's how it goes in rural AK;)

Ginger Bread Cookies

So Wednesday night the girls stopped over and we made ginger bread cookies! Thanks to Mike sending up all necessary tools and the gingerbread mix. Nope it wasn't happening from scratch we had our hands full with just the minimum as you can see. But they turned out and everyone got to take home a tasty treat for their families.

Ski Joring to the School to get Cool Whip
Had to go get Cool Whip from the school refrigerator on T Day.
So I said to my self," Self, you need to bundle up and get walking your parkaed self down to the school for cool whip." I replied to myself, "Self you will get there and back faster if you take the dog." I agreed with myself. It was as I stepped into the skis that it hit me,"Self, you just referred to your dog in the same manner of which one would refer to their car." Interesting shift of what is considered legitimate transportation in my world.

Passing of the Bowls-A Yup'ik Tradition
After the Thanksgiving feast was over 'exchanging of the bowls' began. In the local tradition women fill a normal sized kitchen bowl full of different treats and often times homemade agutaq (eskimo ice cream) then they knock on the doors of neighbors and offer the bowl which is received by exchanging a bowl full of goodies in return. What a fun tradition! Let's start it back home.

The Squatter
We've named him/her "Sandy" from the Little Orphan Annie movie, because that's what he looks like. For the past week each morning when I head to work and Ani gets tied outside in his dog house, out pops the head of 'Sandy', who appears to have rested well, spending a cozy night in Ani's temporarily vacant house. Then one morning much to our surprise not only Sandy, but the 'big black dog' that has been running around lately evading the shooters of loose dogs, climbed out. Ani briefly tried to act territorial growling and barking. Evidently that didn't last long because the next morning Sandy didn't even bother so get out, Ani just happily wiggled his way in relieved to not have to use his own body heat to warm the place up. Apparently Ani now has a part time roommate.

P.S. This is Ani when I vacuum.

Hope Everyone Had a Happy Thanksgiving.

    "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." Psalm 107:1

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Just Another Day in Paradise

"The more it snows (Tiddely pom),
The more it goes (Tiddely pom),
The more it goes (Tiddely pom),
On snowing. And nobody knows (Tiddely pom),
How cold my toes (Tiddely pom),
How cold my toes (Tiddely pom),
Are growing."
~Winnie the Pooh

Morning in Quinhagak, Alaska

Barthelman's to the Rescue
I'm happy to report that thanks to the selfless help from our dynamic duo aka Jim and Steph (featured to the right and left). They arrived from volleyball tournament to my neediness...remember the frozen pipes? So they jumped into action, Jim crawled under the house despite the -20 temp and went to work pulling apart the pipes, and hammering away at the tube of ice. Meanwhile back in the house Steph had pots water boiling and was attacking the problem from above. Within 1/2 hour of their undertaking water was draining and I was back in business. They also shared the secrets of helping it not to happen again;)

Banana Bread and Turkey Day Incoming
This weekend I had some help from one of the kiddos. Together we made our first loaf of banana bread! Thanks Gram for the super recipe. I'll be in Bethel for Thanksgiving with my friend Anya as long as the there's good weather for flying. So HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!!!!

Small Miracles
(besides the banana bread;)

Coffee Anyone
I forgot to tell you about how fun God is. The week before I received the Bunn Coffee pot from my friend Amanda in the mail, a couple other friends had sent 2 packages of gourmet coffee neither one having any idea about the fancy new cafe machina on it's way! God is in the small stuff. It made me laugh and smile.

Warm Toes Warm Nose
The other day Sherry and I went out for a jore with 2 dogs each!!! It was like water skiing but on snow. We were practically airborn. About 1/4 of the way through our journey my toes started to ache with cold, I promise I'm not a wuss, I grew up in the ice box of the nation but I also know when my toes aren't gonna make it ...yeah, it was like -20 (my eye lashes were freezing shut). It was soooo fun I didn't want to turn around, plus Sherry is the amazing mother of a toddler and an infant so I didn't want to cut short her opportunity to do something she enjoys. I whispered out a hopeful prayer knowing full well the circulation in my little piggies has always been less than optimal, as we zoomed across an icy frozen lake, "Please God I need you to warm up my toes! We can't go back yet." It was supernatural for my toes because once they become ice cubes they can't get each other warm again and I'm done for. But that day they miraculously warmed up, toasty as if I was sitting by a fire. Yes, I too wondered if they had just thrown in the towel and succumbed to frost bite. Nope, they were truly warm. God is in the small stuff as much as He is the BIG stuff.

What My Skis Want to Say
Hi, it's us, the skis. You know, it hasn't been all waxing and hot irons for us. Our days of chasing down the finish line were over a few years ago when she decided to start calling us her "rock skis" and splurged for some hoite toite new newfangled Salomons. But well, we've been around, had our day in the snow. She bought us during her first ski team season in 9th grade in the elementary school cafeteria before she could drive, yeah, that long ago, might even have been before the whole stealing of the family car incident...pre driver's license that was...(Rachel Aside: "Okay Skis some things are better left unsaid.") fine, okay, okay, anyway what we mean is we've seen her through a lot: high school races, ice box days races, we even skied her to the cabin one winter, first koretloppet, first birkie, and many after that. Yes, back in the day she spent hours waxing us up in all the right temps. But for last few years that's been left to the newbies, we've been lucky to get a quick courtesy coat pre season. But hey, we're still going, we refuse to be stuck in a corner. Why, just last year her mom learned to skate on us. Then when she decided to move to this tundra, who do you suppose was chosen to come along. Not those lightweight rookies, nope who could trust all that fancy schmancy carbon fiber pilot blinding bells and whistles. She went with what she knew she could count on, what could handle the birkie snow, rocks and dirt in spring or the last few unusually warm winters. Skis that could get the job done no matter the terrain. She opted to bring us. Old faithfuls, the 'rock skis', 16 years of clamping the bindings down and whooshing off through trails. Now you can find us zinging over mounds of tundra chasing sled dogs. It's invigorating, we are being reinvented! You never know when your adventure will take a sharp right and enter totally uncharted territory, be ready to embrace it the journey. At least that's what we'd say if skis could talk...

Angelo's Throw Party
My dear friend Jerilynn had a "throw party" today in celebration of her son shooting his first ptarmigan! Congrats Angelo! Here are some great pics of the festivity in spite of the chilly weather lots of people showed up to join in. That's Jerilynn and her mom throwing all the goodies to an eager crowd of women and children from the village! They have 'specials' at the throw parties, that's where a certain gift is for a specific person so that person's name is called out before the gift is 'thrown'. Like today there were specific glass bowls for elders which were handed out, then to our surprise Jerilynn's mom called out Steph and my names and threw us towels instructing "This is for the Maqii-Steam Bath:)"

Remember Max, the Grinch's Dog????

He's thinking "Seriously, must we do this?"

"Fine, look at me I'm a Caribou........." (Right)

"When blizzards roar out of the north
and freezing rain crusts the land.
It's God's breath that forms the ice,
it's God's breath that turns lakes and rivers solid."
Job 37:9-10

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Stop, Drop and....

"One person can have a profound effect on another. And two people...well, two people can work miracles. They can change a whole town. They can change the world." ~Northern Exposure

Hello from Quin:) At right you are being greeted by Alyssa and I (no, I am not referring to us in the introduction quote, I'm referring to Sherry and Eric keep reading:) modeling the standard attire one must robe oneself in before leaving your house lately. It will be this way until May;) Go figure on one of our coldest days yet, I have to trek back and forth to toilet and feed nearly all dogs in teacher housing at noon. Many teachers are traveling this weekend as both the wrestling and volleyball teams have tournaments abroad. So, the few, the proud of us are left behind to fend for our canine pack. Between all the teachers here we have a whopping 16 dogs! Joyously, I am guardian of 5 this weekend. Brrrrrrrr.

At -30 degrees Fahrenheit their pipes freeze solid clear up through the drains and Alaskans finally think about unpacking their long underwear. Yes, you are looking at ice in the drain in my bathtub. That is currently being remedied by wedging a space heater in the 6 inches of wall where the piping is accessible. Principal Eric rigged this "wrong in so many ways even for Alaskans" set up. Next to the 'fire waiting to happen' in my wall, he strategically placed my fire extinguisher (which had been under my kitchen sink) and left saying "Well, call the fire department if you can't put it out." "Okay." I agree since it is the 'fire department' who just created the fire hazard in my wall. On the upswing it is working, the ice is melting as I type. I have downed a Red Bull and am up on fire watch the duration of the thaw. Welcome to the Real Alaska folks;) It was either the space heater or my hair dryer. Disclaimer: Mother, it is not as bad as I just made it sound, I spiced it up for effect.

Recess at 20 below looks more fun than 20 above in Quinhagak. These sleds were purchased when Jim got the skis for the school last year too.

Ani on display in the latest fashion at our house. I'm getting addicted to the whole knitting thing. He would like you all to know he is that little kid who was forced to wear the sweater that his grandmother knit him even though it is clear to everyone including himself that "they are all gonna laugh at him". Of course, I don't speak from experience. I love everything my Grams make! Especially my Jr. Prom dress! Thanks Gram. (Pause I need to go make sure I'm not burning my bathroom down.) -Nope, ice is still melting.

Justine to the Rescue! Two days in a row now she has trudged across the tundra that separates her house from mine, pulling her purple plastic sled behind her, just in the nick of time. She has met me on the snowgo side walk. Both days I've been loaded down with boxes from the post office. She cheerily trots up along side,"Need some help?" she asks through her toothless grin with the confidence of knowing she's a sight for my sore arms. "Yes I do!" I exclaim as I happily lighten my load in her sled. Together we tug the load to the house. She has also played an integral part during the overabundance of nightly bathrooming and feeding of teacher dogs. She ambitiously volunteered to be quite literally drug around by Ani as I ran back and forth swapping out dogs and food. Every once in a while as I sprinted in and out of houses I would see her go sliding by on her stomach arms outstretched clinging to the leash yelling "Stop Ani! Help! Wait! No, No I'm Okay! Ahhh!" Ani unhindered, proceeded mushing about with his little hostage in tow. They both enjoyed it so much they had a repeat show tonight. By then she had mustered up the courage to have a go at ski joring for the first time! She is one tough little chica and did really well! Ani was surprisingly patient with his new joree! So proud of both of them!

Above all: you wanna here the most exciting news in Quin? Sherry wrote a grant and won! A grant given out by Jenny's Jones! Yep, that TV talk show host, she has a grant program where people can write in about needs they have for projects that will help their communities. She picks a person she feels will use the money to better their community. They are called Jenny's Heroes, and our Sherry is no exception. She and Principal Eric bring so much positive energy to whatever they are directing their attention. They have been and are such a blessing to me and I absolutely know that goes for the school and community of Quinhagak! Because of her hard work and effort, Quinhagak will be building and maintaining a GREEN HOUSE!!! Jenny Jones is funding it! Sherry was surprised on Thursday by a phone call from the talk show host herself, informing her that she had won! Everyone at school knew. Eric got her to bundle up their 8 month old and 3 year old to make the trek down to the school on some bogus excuse. Upon arrival, which you can see is in true Alaskan style, (not to worry she isn't being attacked by a wolverine that is her 8 month old in the 'original' Baby Bjorn. I wanna be like Sherry when I grow up!) teachers and students alike were eagerly smashed into a classroom anticipating the big surprise! Surprise it was! They handed a 'reluctant to even enter the suspicious crowd' Sherry the telephone to which Jenny Jone's on the other end announced the news! You can check it out for yourself on Jenny Jones' website (maybe even write your own grant).
Jenny's Hero Sherry Marousek/Pederson Quyana Sherry! We appreciate you!
" A good woman is hard to find,
and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve,
and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
all her life long.
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
and brings back exotic surprises.
She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she's put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She's skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking.
She's quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn't worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
She makes her own clothing,
and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
Her husband is greatly respected
when he deliberates with the city fathers.
She designs gowns and sells them,
brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
Her clothes are well-made and elegant,
and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
"Many women have done wonderful things,
but you've outclassed them all!"
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
Give her everything she deserves!
Festoon her life with praises!"
Proverbs 31:10-30

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One For The Blog

"Some days you're the spray, some days you're the bear."
~Ancient Alaskan Proverb

Have you ever lurched 3 feet off your bed as you are falling asleep, you know that feeling of falling or leaping, maybe somewhere in between. Well, I did just that this morning and at a most inopportune time it seems. Don't get me wrong, I'm safe here in Quin but for my own peace of mind and paranoia I keep my bear spray within arms reach while I'm sleeping. Along with my dog... anyway a few nights ago I took the safety feature off my bear spray can, don't ask me why. And thus, this particular episode begins.

So a little before 5 am this morning I do one of those leap/lurch/jump moves in my sleep, vaguely I remember whacking something hard with my arm, sending whatever the object was across the room with a slam but the noise proved not to be enough to disrupt my peacefully slumbers... at that point. Ani's sneezing, however, no wait it was more like gagging, his threats of throwing up were enough to slightly rouse me. I drowsily peered down at him shining the cell phone in his direction to see if I'd be on clean up duty. I didn't see anything but he was heaving, wait no he's hacking, it's more of a...cough, cough, cough, cough, gag and now I join him. I try to suck in air but its choked off and followed immediately by more coughing, snorting and gagging. Now my eyes are watering I'm waking up quicker than I want, to find that I can't inhale without coughing out the attempt. Ani and I are a sight to behold. Now fully awake, confused and choking, I leap out of my warm bed and grab at the door! We both make a break for it, barreling into the hallway gasping for breathable oxygen. And we find it, only until the peppered air dissipates throughout the rest of the house. So for the next 1/2 hour I'm forced to use a fleece blanket to filter the spicy air. Yes, I have successfully maced myself and my dog out of bed with bear spray this fine Alaskan pre-dawn morning. Didn't we prophesy this back in June when the can was first holstered to my hip, up and down those river banks of the Kenai.

To be certain my hypothesis was accurate, I went back to the scene of the spray to investigate. The can, just as I had suspected, was laying upside down on the other side of the room. Yup, the oil was on the nozzle, proof was in the pudding so to speak, when I backhanded the can in my jumping/lurching- fit of sleep it had, in fact, fired. Releasing a poof of capsaicin, the active ingredient, into our otherwise fresh Alaskan air. This Counter Assault Bear Deterrent is 'tough enough to stop grizzlies from attacking humans' and to stop humans from sleeping in. A little ego check from God just in case I was getting a bit too sure of myself. Go ahead, have good laugh at my expense, we did.

"I realize how kind God has been to me, and so I tell each of you not to think you are better than you really are. Use good sense and measure yourself by the amount of faith that God has given you." Romans 12:3

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Breakfast Club

"One can't complain. I have my friends. Someone spoke to me only yesterday." ~Eyeore

The Regulars: At 9 am this morning when Ani and I were just barely bumbling out of bed and fumbling around with our Bunn Coffee Pot mi amiga Amanda sent, there was a rap, rap, rap, on our door. Hair looking less than unkempt and in my royal robe I opened it to 5 smiling faces. "Can we ski?" they chanted almost as if they had rehearsed it. The skis, you remember were in my house because we had all skied home from school Friday afternoon. So we got everyone suited up and off they whooshed across the street and onto the tundra. A few stragglers flailed around in the road having slipped on the icy crossing but they pressed on. Within about 45 minutes my house became the warming shack, in they marched having skied their little hearts out. "Can we visit?" they asked looking up with rosy cheeks and runny noses. Come on in. Out came the dress up clothes, markers all over the floor, the kitchen was converted into a restaurant store, the continuous game of hide and seek resumed and the house came alive. I'm so thankful for these kiddos, they are so full of joy and it is contagious. They keep me in line. Remembering what is important and what is not. I even got some help doing the dishes as you can see!

My helpers. The cleaning fairies.

Hair Styling for Ticas (Costa Rican costume) Hide and Seek

One day earlier this fall, maybe closer to my first week or so in Quin, while we were traipsing though town and chattering about everything, Jim and Steph pointed out one of the first missionary houses built in the village. Then Jim said, " You know what happened to the first missionary to Quin don't you..."

The Story of St. Juvenaly

Told by Father Oleska

In summary, this is what we know about the Priest-monk Juvenaly of Valaam. Born Jacob Korchinsky, the future martyr was a military officer who resigned his commission and entered monastic life less than three years before being recruited for the Alaskan mission. Young and energetic, he announced that he intended to visit the villages along the Pacific coast of Alaska and then cross the mountains and travel along the Bering Sea coast northward toward Chukotka, to establish a link with the Russian settlements that were rumored to have been established on the "nose" of Alaska that points directly toward Siberia. We know where he was heading when he left Kodiak in 1797, never to be seen again.

The oral tradition of the Yup'ik Eskimo and the Tanaina Indians, as well as the diaries and reports of St. Jacob Netsvetov, and three other Orthodox missionaries who visited the site in the 19th century, concur that Father Juvenaly was killed by an Eskimo hunting party near the village of Quinhagak.

Approaching the beach in a little boat, Juvenaly attempted to preach to the men who were ordered by their leader, a shaman, to dissuade him. They made hostile gestures and eventually aimed their spears and arrows at him, trying to scare him off. But the boat continued it approach, until the shaman gave the order to kill him. The guide and assistant tried then to escape, jumping overboard and swimming to the opposite riverbank, but the hunters got into their kayaks and killed him as well. According to the Yup'ik version, the shaman then removed the priest's brass Pectoral cross and tried to work some magic, but failed. Each time he attempted the rite, he felt himself levitated and became afraid. Removing the cross he tossed it aside, saying that there was some sort of mysterious power in this object that he did not understand and with which he chose not to deal.

Trying to confirm this version of events, I've asked people from Quinhagak if they've ever heard about a priest being killed near their village a long time ago. They have. One of them repeated this story to me with an interesting detail. Just before the priest, standing in the bow of the boat, was killed, it looked to the men on shore like he was chasing away flies. Indeed! The hieromonk was either blessing his murderers or praying, making the sign of the cross, a gesture the Yup'ik hunters had never before seen.

Why were the armed Eskimo hunters so fearful of an unarmed stranger and his guide? We cannot know with certainty, but there is a reasonable solution, linked to the hieromonk's pectoral cross. Apparently for thousands of years, Alaskan shamans had been carving ivory chains, in imitation of Siberian shamans who traditionally wore metal ones. St. Juvenaly was mistaken for an intruding, alien shaman. The only ways to protect ones self from such a dangerous foreigner were either to chase them off or kill them. St. Juvenaly was the victim of the first tragic inter-cultural misunderstanding in Alaskan history.

What principle can we learn from the tragic death of St. Juvenaly of Quinhagak? The work of
evangelization is necessarily risky, dangerous and may require self-sacrifice, if not to the extent of martyrdom as the shedding of blood, then a less violent but no less Total self-offering. To `commend ourselves, each other and all our life to Christ our God,' as the services of the Church constantly encourage us to do, can, of course, be done in one final, glorious moment, as in the death of St. Juvenaly, but it is today highly improbable. We must offer ourselves less dramatically, day-by-day, one hour at a time, one minute at a time. We are witnesses, martyrs, either way. There can be no mission, no evangelization, without self-offering, self-sacrifice, and we should not expect glory, fame or any earthly reward for the effort. We will misunderstand and be misunderstood, but we must persevere in love, and if necessary, self-sacrifice.

And today we (many women from Quin and teachers) are able to be part of an amazing women's bible study going on at Steph's Monday nights. We are studying the book of Esther with bible teacher Beth Moore through a DVD series. Thanks to Jim and Steph's mom gifting it to our group. In the village of Quinhagak we also have the blessing of being part of a very active loving Moravian church family. Reading the story of St. Juvenaly reminds me to be thankful for those with the Lord who came long before us and made a way. It is good to remember what God has done, is doing and will do.

"At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children."
Matthew 11:25