Friday, February 28, 2014


Well, I failed to get a post up yesterday and found myself in bed at 10:30, exhausted but tied up in knots about it. Self, said I, why all this worry about clicks on a computer? Self had no good answer so I tried to forget it but there's just too much to worry about around here to enjoy any sort of restorative sleep.

Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of AK runs a racket. Sorry, Conservatives, but Denali Kid Care (i.e. state-funded children's medicaid) is a smoothly-run machine whose staff are more helpful and less patronizing than this private company. I have no idea what will happen.

Young adults with CF cause more worry than little kids with CF. They may be more mature in some respects but in others (maybe more important ones, I'm not sure, I'll let you know in 3 years or so), No, no, no.

Vans in mechanic shops. I realize this is a sentence fragment but I can't think of any adjectives or verbs that aren't swear words.

It's now 7:38am and I'm going to meet a friend for coffee at 8am. Better get out of this bathrobe. My list tells me that this post was supposed to be on homeschooling. I'll try for the proper 5th post by midnight...

See ya,

Post #4 (on the fifth day).

This picture of "Father Joe" makes me happy.

*Updated 15 minutes later. I can't get the old truck to start so had to cancel coffee. What a great day. I'm going to get out fixings for ice cream sundaes for breakfast because I want to hear the kids sing my praises.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Human Flowering

From Oak Meadow's The Heart of Learning:

"A flower does not appear very early in the growth of a plant. Nature spends many months developing a strong root system to nourish the plant, building a strong stem to support the blossom, and leaves to collect the necessary sunlight. Only after many long, preparatory stages stages does the flower appear, and it would not appear if those stages had not proceeded in order and fulfilled their needs. If nature, in growing a flower, saves the best until the very end, why should we expect a human being to unfold and flower at the very beginning?"

I needed to read these words this morning, both as a challenge and a consolation. Enough said.

Her morning coffee was stirred with dulche de leche and heavy cream.  My tropical rose.

Not from my weekend list of post ideas, but I have a feeling this is what I needed to share for Post #3.

May we care for our flowers today.
Love, Allison

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Republican Problems

(I'm thinking of tightening and polishing this up to send to the Party headquarters and newspapers. Or maybe I'll send it as is and let the editors do their work...)

Local republicans have demonstrated a deplorable lack of knowledge, interest, and compassion for my young adult son's recent near-dire healthcare crisis and his mother's (this writer) subsequent questioning about the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare), medicaid, and our state's budget:

Mike Dunleavy's office ignored two letters.

Wes Keller's office ignored one letter, and when I called (Oh yes, here's your letter; sorry I didn't respond, I'm just swamped.), contradicted me about the state of my own son's health while intoning off telephone numbers for insurance and disability offices (He's not at all disabled.). And reminding me that it's all Obama's fault. And the democrats.

Mead Treadwell's office had a strange response to my letter. The answer did not fit my message, as if someone cut and pasted "Answer B" without actually reading. When I wrote again to clarify, no further response.

Sean Parnell's office only returned my letter with a telephone call because, as his staff admitted to me, several of my friends called and wrote to complain about their silence toward me. His office told me to try a non-profit foundation.

I voted for all four of these politicians and said so in my correspondence. Not one person told me that it's illegal for a designated children's medicaid program (Denali Kid Care) to allow anyone over eighteen years of age on their roles (my initial question when the Marketplace plan wasn't working.). I learned this because I kept calling, writing, and asking. A manager with the division of public assistance in Juneau told me. Did they not know? That's a problem. Did they not really hear or read my words? That's a problem.

When I then asked about redirecting some of our own state money towards a modest medicaid expansion (not federal dollars), I got "Mm hm. OK, Interesting" and other non-answers. Not one person told me that the governor has a task force for medicaid reform that is right now researching these issues for presentation to him in November. Did they not know? That's a problem. Did they not really hear or read my words? That's a problem.

I get the distinct impression that these people, these tax-paid employees, want to see Rees and others with chronic conditions who are just a little poor suffer and decline because it feeds their "Obama and the democrats and the ACA are bad. Vote for us." agenda.

But I kept calling and talking. I talked to Mrs. Devries of the Valley Republican Women's Club (not even a paid state employee). She's the one who informed me of the governor's task force, of state representative Neuman and his staff member Tilton who is spearheading the research, and her telephone number. So I called and we spoke for almost an hour. I laid the whole story and my ideas and questions in her lap. Now we wait. And call out "my" republicans for their wretched indifference. Or ignorance.

Simultaneously, a dear friend, as close to feeling my anger, fear, and helplessness as one could be without being me, called state senator Wielechowski (a democrat, yikes). He called me personally. Here's what I'm doing to help people like you and your son. The he decided to call US senator Begich (a democrat, yikes). His aide called me personally. The senator can use his big stick. He wants Rees' plan to work. He can and will help.

At this point, I don't care if the senator should even have a big stick or if it's immoral to use state and federal money for Rees' medications (Our Christian friends in Australia don't have these arguments.). My kid needs these expensive, preventative drugs to live well and the ACA delivers that now. And we're calling the democrats if we need help.

Maybe the ACA should be repealed.
Maybe Congress should keep the ACA but defund stupid programs to keep up Americans' good health.
Maybe for-profit insurance companies with people's lives in their pockets should be reined in, selling some medicines and therapies that aren't even health care like contraception, massages, and sex change surgeries while denying a $100 bottle of vitamin K ("We don't cover vitamins." Never mind that the high dose would poison folks without CF.) and handing executives hundreds of thousands of dollars for salaries. Kind of like plumb state positions that make 2-300K annual salaries from state money but not moving any money around for better health coverage.

I wonder how many other former, solid voters republicans have lost because of their own stories like ours? I love our platform but I'm currently a political mess. So c'mon "my" republicans; talk me through this. Convince me to continue voting for you. Yours is a business of people ~ public servants ~ and I'm technically still "yours." For now.

(Post #2)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Our Alaskan Backyard

Easy post for the first of 7 Posts in 7 Days ~ enjoying our piece of Alaska's woods.

We have a little house on 9 acres of wilderness. Nine acres for the children to play in (and over and under, because they can also be found high up in trees and in underground formations. I don't really know the geological term for 'places where huge trees tipped over and left holes big enough for a bunch of kids to crawl in'). There's an open field, plenty of woods, and --glory of glories-- a swamp. During breakup when all the snow melts, the swamp overflows onto game trails and they can canoe all around. During summertime, there are frogs galore, and during winter, it is ice (duh) for slipping and sliding. This excites the boys because they get great bruises ("Mine looks like a hot dog; mine's as big as Dad's fist, etc.").

Only in the woods like this can a child come in and tell me, "I climbed a tree all the way at the end of the property and didn't hear anything but birds so I practiced bird calls and sketched stuff from up high. Oh, and I saw fox tracks and hare tracks and a moose calf but no mother so I sang loudly all the way home so she knew I was around and wouldn't get scared."

I get neighbors (we do have some; just can't see them) stopping by to let me know that they had a grizzly bear in their "back 5" or that "There's a large male porcupine poking around and he's very aggressive; tell the kids to keep a watch out." (my all-time favorite) So, um, "Kids, watch out for an aggressive male porcupine, OK?" "Can we shoot it with a BB gun?" "No, just grab a stick, have a look, and draw me a picture when you come back in." Hey, we're homeschoolers.

Ken camps out with kids in their snow forts for fun as they work on fire-making skills and keeping-warm skills and eating-whatever skills (he keeps some snickers bars in his pocket to bring out when they're really hungry!). In the warmer weather, they make their own shelters for warmth and sleeping and shoot stuff to eat. That's just right here; he also takes kids at about 8 year old and older on bigger, longer adventures around our state: winter camping, survival camping (nothing but a knife), mountain climbing. For family camping, I insist on a tent and sleeping bag. Maybe another of these posts can be about all around AK adventures? Anyway.

Living and playing in the wilderness has playground disadvantages, though. My kids stink at playgrounds. The can't pump a swing or ride bikes and they climb on the outside of the play structures, which messes up any pick-up games of tag or capture the flag with the regulars. A good reminder to take them to more playgrounds ...

(Well, the kids need to eat lunch and one of the points of these 7 days is not to sit on a post for a week, polishing and perfecting and adding photos. Just "git er done"directly from last night's post ideas list. If you really want to see pictures, the label "Alaska" has some : )

Happy Monday,

Friday, February 21, 2014

Birthday Girl ~ Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real

 Valentine's Day is easy now ~ Birthday party!

Here's her birth story.

Here's her CF diagnosis story.

Here she was at 6 months old.

Here she is at her 1st birthday.

And now she's 2 years old. She loves to kiss, drag around her baby doll,  have books read to her and play outside. She does not like sleeping alone, being pulled by her feet (No, No, Joseph!), or eating yogurt (We've managed to avert a G-tube, though, by having her sit with food for 20 minutes in her high chair, then getting down and not eating again for 3 hours.).

Happy Birthday, dear Addie; how did we ever smile without you?!


So pretty and sweet, flanked by brothers.
Pure, cheesy happiness.

An absolutely perfect response to the new dolly.

She did NOT like the fire going away on the pupcake.

For more prettiness, happiness, funniness, and realness see Like Mother, Like Daughter.

We made these pupcakes, but used mini M&Ms for the eyes, gluing them on with a dab of frosting. Clare wasn't sure if the smaller kids would be emotionally damaged by jamming candles in one and lighting them on fire for Addie but they didn't care!

Love, Allison

Monday, February 10, 2014

Wagon Wheel Clapping

Clapping has always been cool here.

But now we have Addie, who Will Not be clapped pleasantly. No cocooning, no sleeping, no sweet stories or TV shows. She wiggles and whines, kicks and cries. She shoves my hands away and hollers No! constantly.

Then last week I picked her up and clapped her while dancing around the kitchen to music. And she loved it so much she laughed, Do 'gain! and I did it again until my arms ached and I had a workout-worthy heart rate. We've done it this way probably ten times and ten times she's been happy, except for the few times she fell asleep on my shoulder (still happy). So this is how Addie gets clapped. Maybe in ten years I'll write a post similar to the one I just linked to about Rees, not about family coziness but about how her clapping caused me to lose weight and launched her dancing career.

When this song begins, she comes running and calling out, "Do PT; do PT!" It's pretty cute, you guys. I'll take it!

And this one is a hit, too:

Whatever it takes.
Love, Allison

Thursday, February 6, 2014

How We Super-Downsized

My Christmas present the year before: framing square.
The flimsy camper door squeaked open and his head appeared. “Hey Honey, the truck’s gone; come look.” I turned from washing dishes in the tiny sink, dried my hands, and took his as we stepped outside together to look at the mountain of lumber, plastic, and unnamed (to me) stuff. “Here’s our house,” he beamed, “All I have to do now is build it.”

Two years earlier, we’d had a crazy idea in our cute house with our not-so-cute mortgage. Downsizing. Not just selling and purchasing a smaller place with a smaller mortgage; but selling, buying property outright, and building ourselves out of pocket so that there would be no mortgage at all. Super Downsizing.

As our family grew larger, we wanted our money to go toward more time together, not a bigger house, so we set the wheels in motion that brought us to that day in June that had my husband beaming at the pile of materials and had me slightly nauseated. We had Saturday road trips looking for property and a tough year of beans and rice before the house sold, paying for both. We had friends who stepped up at just the right time with ideas and aid. We crammed a camper in the middle of the woods, waiting for the ground to thaw and for that truck to drop off our pile of house parts. Then it was our job to get those parts into a home. Actually, his job. My job was to keep him well-fed and to keep the children close enough to love and learn, and far away enough not to get too hurt.

As with many seasons in life, the charm is in the remembering, not in the living: like the laundromat shower disaster, the wasp nest disaster, the nail gun shooting disaster, and the incorrectly measured and ripped out wall disaster. Now, we laugh; then, not at all. But we had a plan we were excited about that drew us closer in its execution. Plus, we enjoyed our deviation from culturally accepted norms!

And he built us a real house. We moved in when it was only enclosed, wired, and plumbed; and every Friday saw him dragging in the weekend’s project: a toilet, some drywall, a refrigerator. While I waited on kitchen fixtures, I worked on folding tables using a slow-cooker, toaster oven, and microwave. The children hated the weekend the real floor went down, because it meant no more drawing on the plywood subfloor! I stuck the computer in the hole where a closet was supposed to be, but when the time came to make the closet, we liked the desk right in the kitchen so there it is still. Some ideas went by the wayside (like buying cast-off broken tiles and making my own bathroom mosaic) and some ideas made it to completion (like huge living room windows). There is a story for every square foot.

Our home is ours in a way that no other home could be. We are connected to the very walls and windows, for every pounded nail, every hung pipe, every ordered shingle, was put in place by my husband’s hands for his family. It is our home and it is sweet.

This was the beginning of the garage-building this past summer but it's a decent shot of the side of the adorable house. Our house-building pictures are in an old-fashioned album.

PS ~ Ken does not work in the construction field. He read books on wiring, plumbing, and framing. He offered his help to anyone building anything for those years. Anyone can do this!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

An Ice Age Story by Clare

This Was Written By Me.
It's called Curse of the Saber.

The Mammoth Hunt
It was the tribe’s summer camp. In it were all the usual sounds. Children laughing, women scolding, men shouting and talking as they mended spears or fixed their tents.
The chief was called Rancov, and he, his son, and a few select men had gone to hunt a herd of mammoths. They had heard the matriarch of the group grunting and calling to the others.
They grabbed some torches and weapons and set out across the tundra. Hunting would be good, as the herd was veering near to a cliff. Instantly Rancov’s sharp eyes picked out the stragglers, three old females, closest to the cliff edge. The men flattened out and crawled between the huge feet until they were between the old ones and the rest. Suddenly they jumped up, yelling and shouting, waving their spears and torches at the stragglers. The giant beasts reared up, bellowing with rage while the rest of the herd thundered away. It was all shouting, roaring, noise, dirt and dust. But wait! Two dark shapes have broken out and are running away. They have lost two of the mammoths! But no matter. Now they had to turn all their attention to the last one. A well aimed torch from Rancov makes the mammoth jumped back, falling down the cliff.
Whooping and shouting the men scrambled down to claim their prey. “Stan’ back!” Rancov warns. But he was too late. One of the younger hunters, exited by the action, had run straight to the mammoth’s body. However, it’s not dead yet. Full of a blinding rage, the creature rose up its great body to give one last swing at one of its tormentors.  The young man couldn’t get out of the way quickly enough, and a giant tusk ripped him open. Then man and beast fell over, both dead.
Though the group was saddened at the loss of their friend, they still had to butcher the mammoth and harvest its great stores of meat before some other beast did. Suddenly a noise was heard in the distance. “What was that?” Rancov’s son asked. The chief shook his head. “I’m not sure, but whatever it is, I think it wants our food.” Then he and the men worked with all due haste. Suddenly, out of the fading twilight, came three vicious looking monsters. The saber toothed cats were long and lean, like lionesses with bobbed tails. But those teeth, oh, those teeth! The canines were a foot long and razor sharp, used for giving their victims a violent stabbing.
They licked their lips and stared hungrily, amber eyes blazing. The apparent leader was a young male, his fur so light it seemed to glow as it reflected off the setting sun. The men abandoned their work and grabbed the weapons. When the lead saber saw this, he crouched down and snarled. The others followed suit. Rancov and the other rushed at them with spears. The cats roared and fought back.
The leader seemed to single out Rancov. Dodging and rolling underneath feet, he came to the Clan’s chief. With a roar he leapt on him. Falling over, Rancov grabbed the first thing he saw-a burning torch from the small campfire they had lit. With one hand holding the Saber’s face to keep the fearsome looking canines as far away from his face as possible, he plunged the fire into the Saber’s face and up its mouth. Hissing and spitting, the huge beast struggled to get itself away from the searing pain that at suddenly shot down its throat. But Rancov was not done yet. He let go of the Saber Tooth’s face and grabbed a dagger out of his belt. The giant cat was rolling on the ground, screaming unearthly screeches of pain. Jumping forward, Rancov plunged the knife into the Saber’s body. Once, twice and again the knife, now gleaming red, went into the creature’s body. After a moment it shuddered, then went limp.
Rancov wiped the dagger on the grass. He looked around. The other men had chased off the rest of the Sabers. “Saber meat isn’ good.” He told his men. “Go dump the body of this loathsome creature in the river, and let the fishes do the grizzly work.” As three of them went off to do as he had asked, Rancov and the rest finished butchering the mammoth.
When they arrived home, carrying the delicious food, there was great rejoicing. Except for the poor wife of the dead man. Now that he had died she had no way of getting food, because only the families of the hunting men got meat. It would be only from the kindness of her neighbors that she might get a meal.
Then Rancov got up to say something. “This hunt has been good. We kilt a mammoth to feed us and our families, killed another one of the terrible Sabers that roam our land. And,” he said, nodding at the widow, “Wi’ the exception of one, we have all gotten out safely. And so, let us go to the sacred cave. Shaman, bring all yeh’re fancy stuff and let’s go!” Then the entire tribe, the young and the old, headed out to the sacred cave about twenty minutes away, led by Rancov and the Shaman. The Shaman was an important member of the clan, for he can talk to the spirits of animals and land.
When they got there, everybody whispered. The congregation tiptoed to the far back, where all the cave paintings were. The Shaman began to dance, playing strange and eerie tunes on his flute, while Rancov and some others painted on the walls with their hair and bone brushes and thick paints. The rest just sat, listening to the Shaman’s music. Then Rancov leaned over and muttered something to the Shaman and his tune changed to sadness, and the flute’s noise, reverberating off the walls, seemed to moan mournfully. “Today’s hunt, while although good,” Rancov started speaking to the Shaman’s music. “Had sadness. We lost a man to the ripping tusks of a mammoth. And therefore, we shall bury him with respect, and spare his cold body the shredding claws of the Saber, the tearing teeth of the Dire Wolves, and the stomping feet of the Woolly Rhino.  Then his spirit shall rest in peace.”
When they at last left the cave the people buried the young man’s body, while the Shaman stood by, burning sweet smelling herbs and flowers, filling the air with a pungent odor, though Rancov noticed something troubled in his gaunt face.  Then they went home, roasted mammoth meat over the fire, and went to bed contented.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Traveling with Ken

Yesterday was a holiday only for us ~ our proposal anniversary. As the story goes:

We were canoeing on a Rhode Island River, one of our favorite dates, enjoyed as much in the New England heat as that day's winter chill. Ken was in the back, of course, doing all the real work. I was in the front, pretending to be strong and hoping I looked cute in my coat and hat when I felt the full weight of my pathetic paddling.

"Hey!" I hollered, "Why'd you stop paddling?" Please don't let this be a survival lesson.

"Allison," I heard behind me.

"Yeah?" Peggy Post would not have approved.

"Allison." What was his problem? I turned around. He was holding out a black velvet box with a sweet diamond catching every thin ray of the sun. "Will you marry me?" He grinned.

"Yes!" I think I screeched. Very unladylike I know.

Now the issue was how to hug and kiss six feet separated in the canoe. We got to shore quickly to take care of that. Five months later, we were Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Howell (and yes, I'm perfectly happy to be Mrs. His Name).

We've traveled many ways in many places over the years, certainly by canoe (the very One is still in our backyard and still used) and also by:

Rappelling ropes in New Hampshire,

Motorcycle to Providence,

Ninja tiptoes in city parks,

Raft on the Nantahala River,

Horse in Mississippi,
Ninjas goof off, too.

Tiny car in Ireland,

Ferry across the Irish Sea,

Pickup truck to Alaska,

Foot over trails around the northern US,

Four-wheeler in our woods.
(I'm really bad at maneuvering a four-wheeler. Must practice more.).

I can cook anywhere.
How we towed to Alaska.

There have been so many Best Days of My Life that I couldn't possibly pick one. What I can say is that saying yes was the best decision I've ever made and I look forward to much more traveling with Ken. Wonder what's next?

See him? SD Badlands.