Tuesday, November 29, 2011


It’s been another wild ride, this getting a mortgage, insurance, inspections, etc. to buy a new house in the city. Honestly, I had no idea it would involve so much…......stress! This is not the first house I’ve bought….well, actually it is. Before, my husband said, “What about this one?” then gave me a date for our closing, drove us there and showed me where to sign. I guess he worked through all these details behind the scenes. I don’t think he minded. I think he knew what he was doing and just took it all in stride.

I’ve actually done pretty well, too. I shopped for a mortgage only to discover that I am NOT a good candidate at this time, being unemployed and all. But I found a broker who would take me. I have also done a lot of negotiating with insurers to be sure I was getting the best deal. It’s all come down to the wire. My walk-through is this afternoon and the closing is tomorrow, after which I have an appointment with the chiropractor. Both my bank account and my neck will get major adjustments on the same day. If I don’t sleep well, I won’t know who to blame.

Then it’s back to Dade City to start packing and planning the move. My tenant’s furniture is in storage so when I move out, she moves her stuff in. Doesn’t that sound like a pleasant day ahead??? Ugh! We’re planning it after the holidays so we won’t be rushed.

I’m remembering December four years ago. It was just this time, the end of November, when Greg went to Hospice. Then the family spent the holidays saying our goodbyes, awkwardly trying to comfort one another and slowly watching our husband, dad, son, friend slip away from us.

The goodbyes have come in slow rolling waves for me. You see them from afar and they rise higher and higher the closer they get until they finally burst over you and momentarily take your breath away.

I think the first was goodbye to our way of life when he was first diagnosed. You knew things would never be the same and then you felt the gradual pelting of the changes. For two years our routine involved doctor visits, medication changes, radiation appointments, the round-the-clock togetherness.

Then splash! I was alone.

The next goodbye is still going on, after all this time….the goodbye to the man himself. No need to elaborate, it still brings me to tears. But they’re good tears, healthy tears that are the salty spray from those waves of life changes that are washing me clean……clean from that dirty, sweaty business of unresolved grief.

Now I’ll be finally leaving my little country house, letting go of my dream of living close to nature, to waking to the squawk of sand hill cranes, to hikes in the woods in my own backyard, to the slow pace of a small town. I can still come and go, as Shelley and I have become close friends, but I’ll never again call this my home. The wave is breaking and I’m braced for the deluge. I can only hope it’s cool and refreshing.

My arms are outstretched, I feel the sun on my face, my eyes are squeezed tight.

HERE IT COMES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Gambler

So I toured the yellow bungalow and fell instantly in love. I tried to seem unimpressed in front of my realtor because as you probably know, buying real estate is like going to Vegas (although I’ve never been to Vegas, but everyone else has). As soon as the wavy glassed, original Craftsman solid front door opened, the game began.
It’s unfortunate that my realtor was also the listing agent. I felt he had a conflict of interest that couldn't be helped so I had to play my cards all by myself and try to be good at it. My children can tell you that I always lose on our family poker nights because I’m no good at bluffing. When I get aces I get a big grin across my face and go all in. They roll their eyes and fold immediately. I don’t get the chips I so richly deserve but the satisfaction of gloating is just good enough.
The price was set high but I did my homework. I poured over the comps again and again. Then made my offer. It was significantly lower than the asking price. She countered and yesterday morning I recountered. I’ve never seen not spoken with her. It was all done through our impartial (I can only pray) negotiator/realtor who was, to belabor this metaphor, the dealer.
Then I got the text. “Congratulations…..You are a new home owner.” You’d think I would have jumped for joy. But instead I got a sick feeling in my stomach. “Lord, are you sure this is where I should be?”
Of course He’s sure. It’s me with the doubts. It’s not even doubts. I’ve had this feeling before (so have you) whenever I’m about to do something brave, risky and ………expensive. The feeling has almost passed and I’m getting excited. The contract is signed, contingent on the inspection, the mortgage and all that.
I think I played my cards well and I’m leaving the table with a happy sigh. Glad that's over.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Feeling Comfortable

My realtor called. He had pointed out a really cute yellow bungalow when I was last in St. Pete and said there were rumors the owner was moving to Boston. It’s in the neighborhood where I want to live (I think). Yesterday he got permission to show it, though I don’t think it’s officially on the market yet.
So tomorrow I’m driving down to take a look. Makes me nervous to think of moving. I’ve gotten comfortable here in my Dade City country house, worked out a rhythm with my tenant, volunteering in my old school, going to Bible study at church, jamming on Thursday nights……yeah, I’m comfortable. But there’s something about this comfortable feeling that makes me uncomfortable. Do you know what I mean?
I don’t feel called to comfort, at least not right now. In Alaska there was a certain exhilaration in having to trust God from day to day. It did my soul good to NOT have my ducks in a row, to NOT see around every corner, to NOT sleep well without praying on the floor at bedtime. Either I’ve become a real sicko or I’m on to something here. I’m thinking about Hudson Taylor, the 19th Century missionary who evangelized China. He used to turn down offers of help because he loved seeing God work without any help (or something like that).
I’m so far from that kind of faith. And yet all this uncertainty, all this aloneness is catapulting me forward into the exciting unknown (Oh Lord, I just had a vision of me at the battle for Minas Tirith in Lord of the Rings, being catapulted with all the disembodied heads over the wall. Or was that the battle for Helms Deep?)
Anyway, the real question here is not where to live, but who am I becoming? Am I uptown espresso girl, inner city mission-martyr girl, country nature-communer girl, solitary blog-into-book writer girl, mother-daughter-sister family-committed girl, sophisticated socialite (okay that one was a joke), but the list goes on and on. The truth is…….I’m all of these, just as you are multi-faceted also and have to decide which facets to polish up and which ones can gather dust for a while.
It’s not about juggling, which can be both tiresome and overwhelming. It’s more like quietly fitting the squiggly pieces into the jigsaw puzzle which, when completed, will make me feel not only satisfied and whole, but also………..comfortable (I think).

Monday, October 3, 2011

Family Reunion

For 101 years the descendants of the family in the picture have been meeting on the last Sunday of September, in the city they helped found, for the Coleman reunion. The second man from the right is my granddaddy (was he standing in a hole?) We all called him Dad.

My earliest memories of the reunion were at the Greenway Community Center in Roswell, Georgia. We’d run home after church to change clothes then my mother would gather up the beans or corn that had been simmering all morning and off we’d go. I remember being shy during many of those years (Yes, me….shy.) and dreading going. There was all the typical pinching of cheeks and “my, you’ve grown” activity going on. I hated that. But I’d always hook up with a distant cousin and find fun and games while the adults stood around and smoked and laughed and caught up. The food was just unbelievable. Umpteen generations of Southern cooking. Paula Deen would not even rate a place at the children’s table.

Though I’ve missed more reunions than I’ve attended in the last 30 years, I’ve watched as the older generations disappeared and my old playmates took over as the organizers. My mother is one of a handful of 80-plus participants who are still alive and kickin’. But she didn’t feel like going this year and will soon relinquish her place as a reunion matriarch. On the other hand, her great-granddaughter was born five weeks ago and the baby’s grandmother, my sister-in-law, is already talking about showing little June off at next year’s gathering.

I spent the week in Georgia wondering what it would be like to move back to this place of my roots, where my ancestors (and my husband) are buried. Not likely. The sentimental appeal does not overpower the oppressive noise, traffic and congestion of the big city. What happened to the little town I grew up in? Scarlett O’Hara would say it’s gone with the wind. And it really doesn’t matter whether or not I give a damn. I no longer belong here.

So I’m looking for a quaint little 20’s-30’s bungalow somewhere close to downtown St. Pete, near a Starbucks; the decadent pleasures of the city without risking life or limb for a tall skinny latte. Yeah, that sounds good to me.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I suspected what would happen when I got home. Wasn’t sure how much grace time I’d have. But the first morning when I woke up, I could feel it before I even got out of bed. Looking in the mirror confirmed the worst……..frizzy hair. Even my hot straightening brush was defenseless against it. Goodbye, Alaska. Hello, Florida.

There were some pleasant surprises though. My cat remembered me. When I came home at Christmas she hid under the covers of my bed and wouldn’t come out. This time she warmed up pretty fast. Guess she thought I called her bluff last time by leaving again…..for eight more months.

My mind is completely muddled right now. I’m staying in my house with my gracious tenant, Shelley. She even had a hot dinner waiting for me when I got “home”. It’s like she’s been my housesitter instead of my renter. I thought about renting a house in St. Pete while I make up my mind where to live more permanently. But now I’m thinking the road is getting too windy (that’s as in a winding road, not a windy day). I need to think about a job and a routine.

I’m feeling at peace in spite of all this uncertainty. When my mind goes to,”What are you going to do?” in that whiney tone that I recognize from the past………………I remember.

I remember how God put me on a plane to Alaska when I didn’t know but one person there (and had not seen that person in 40 years). I remember how God called me clearly to return there with a purpose but no indication of how to fulfill it. I remember how time after time my needs were supplied, paths were opened, friends appeared, a job appeared, and honestly……….God was true to His promise to do more than I asked or even imagined.

When I was at my untrusting best, God didn’t punish me or shame me. He patiently and gently TAUGHT me how to trust. And though I know we never fully learn that lesson, now I can say with the prophets of old,

“Remember when God…………”

I didn’t see the Red Sea part or manna fall from heaven, but it was a miracle to me just the same. If He could do THAT for me in Alaska, I know He can meet my needs THIS day also.

“Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” (somewhere in Luke) That’s just what I intend to do.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Heading Home

This is my last night in the village. I’ll be flying with my stuff to Anchorage tomorrow, spending a week with friends, debriefing myself with lattes, then flying on home September 6.

I am feeling very sad. I spent the day crying with people. There are a few here who are very sad to see me go. I’m glad I can grieve it. A year ago, no tears would come for anything. I’ve really grown (not aged, mind you) and changed in so many ways. Alaska has taught me to be independent and tough, while softening me to be molded in God’s hand.

I have no idea what I’ll do when I get home, or even where home will be. Still undecided. But then, I didn’t really know what I was going to do in Alaska, and God did amazing things for me. My dream of living and ministering in this village came true, against all odds. Remember, I was told repeatedly, “they don’t rent to white people in THAT village.” But here I am.

I went to the school today to say my goodbyes. There was much hugging and asking, “Why are you leaving, Miss Kim?” I blamed it on Leah.
“My little daughter misses me and needs me.”
“How old is she anyway?”
“Oh look, here comes Mrs. Johnson.”

Night before last I looked outside about midnight. There were more stars than I have EVER seen in my life. Too spectacular to describe. No moon, crystal air. With my binocs I saw the moons of Jupiter. Really. It was like a farewell present sent from above (literally). A final confirmation that God is great, God is good. And His revelation of Himself is not dependent on my “ministry”. All we have to do is look up and there He is, right over the village, right over everywhere.

I know there will be more grieving when I get home. But God will continue to be my comfort, my guide, my need-meeter in every way. I’m going to keep blogging, because……..

the real adventure is just beginning.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Matter of Trust

So I needed to go to town to buy some groceries and go to Michael’s for more mooelry supplies (mooelry is what I’m calling my jewelry made from moose parts. Don’t laugh, you’re getting a piece when I get home and you’d better wear it!).

I texted both Carol (in photo) and her husband, Brett, that anytime they wanted to drop by, I could use a ride. Carol texted back that one of them would be by for me that evening. It was Brett, with his son along, and we had a beautiful, smooth flight back to Anchorage.

Carol made a grand dinner (grilled salmon, imagine that) and the next morning I ran my errands.

The weather was starting to turn ugly: rainy, windy, foggy……the usual combination for canceled flights around here. I took my time getting back to their house because I was sure my journey home would be postponed (I’m used to this and I had brought extra everything and I was totally okay with it).

When I got to Carol’s about four, she was ready to fly me back. REALLY? (Was it something I said?) She had made some calls and was convinced the “moderate winds” were no problem. I think who she talked to meant “moderate winds considering we’re in a hurricane”, but Carol was undaunted. Let’s pack up and go. Who was I to question?

As I’ve mentioned before, Carol is an experienced pilot. So I started thinking about the issue of trust. Carol didn’t know what I was thinking, but she may have seen me starting to sweat. We fueled the plane, she made some more calls (these calls were starting to make me more nervous) and she smiled and said we’d be fine. So let’s go.

And I started thinking SERIOUSLY about trust! I was entrusting my life to a friend, when my instincts were telling me how sad my children would be when they heard about the crash. They’d say something like, “Didn’t Mom have enough sense not to go flying in a storm? It’s like bumming a ride with a drunk driver.”

But I trusted Carol. So I tightened my seat belt til I turned blue, whispered a prayer, tried not to look like a baby and off we went. Rain was pelting the windshield of the Little Biscuit and we were getting a little tossed. Carol kept reminding me that this was completely normal in these conditions. It wasn’t too reassuring. Flipping over and flying apart might also be “normal” in these conditions.

We hit a wind pocket or something and Carol actually bumped her head on the ceiling (but it’s probably not called a ceiling, but that doesn’t matter in this story). Something unanticipated was also happening. I was feeling sick. Dang it! I knew there were barf bags in the back, but if I reached for one I’d surely lose it. So I decided to focus on the horizon. But, of course, there was no horizon. Only fog and rain. So I just kept bobbing up and down and watching for moose. You can always spot a moose or two on this trip but I wondered if moose would be dumb enough to be out in this.

We arrived safe and sound. Al was there to welcome me home and drive me and my stuff to my house. Carol stayed a few minutes then took off again. I started to tell her to call me when she landed but it sounded too much like my mother and very uncool. I figured I’d hear if she went down. I’d be glad she dropped me off first.

Now I’ve been thinking: How is it that I could entrust my life to my friend Carol, even when I felt helpless and afraid. I just KNEW that she knew what she was doing. She’s been through it a million times and would NEVER put me (or herself) in harm’s way. I’ve only known her a few months, but I KNOW that about her.

So why is it so hard to trust the God of the universe, who has been faithful to me for 50-something years, with the simple day-to-day tasks of life? What’s with that???????

Saturday, July 16, 2011


It’s been fantastic being outdoors these last few days. The temps are in the 70’s and the sun has been shining most of the time (like 22 hours/day) . Al showed me how to carve bark right off the birch tree so I’m planning some new basket making strategies. Yesterday we sat by the lake and had our coffee watching beaver, otter and eagle compete in the latest episode of Nature's Got Talent. Entertainment at it’s finest!

It isn’t all paradise though. My head is full of huge lumps from mosquitoes. Alaska mosquitoes are often mistaken for bush planes and they go for the hair. A phrenologist would have a hay day with me.

I’ve also discovered there is something that grows in Alaska that parallels southern poison ivy. Maybe it’s southern poison ivy. I shouldn’t be surprised. If there are southern Baptists here, I should have suspected southern poison ivy (that is NOT a spiritual commentary).

The scars have only just faded from the unfortunate poison ivy experiment of 2007 (some of you will recall my shame). Now I have a new patch of ugly itchiness on my leg. I know it will be with me for a while, so I’m calling it my Northern Lights tattoo, if anyone asks.

When my two commercial itchy creams (and one is prescription) didn’t phase it, Al just shook his head, made a poultice by boiling some weed growing in my backyard (which has an Indian name that no one knows how to spell) and had me hold it on for a few minutes. The inflammation subsided almost immediately. Wow! I woke up in itchy restlessness at 4AM, reapplied the creams that didn’t work, waited a while, then dug through the garbage for the remnants of my plant poultice. I heated it and reapplied it, and it’s 5PM now and still no itching. Did I mention Wow??!!

I was relating this story to Al’s brother, Thomas, and telling him I was going to gather lots of that plant, when he casually remarked that the medicinal plant and the poison plant look almost identical. Sheesh! That MIGHT be useful information!

Today we spent at the river fishing. Fishing the old fashion way: baiting a hook, casting it out there in just the right spot, reeling her in at just the right speed and Voile! I landed a 30 lb. salmon! It was harder to bring in than I thought. For every turn of my reel, the fish swam farther away. I yelled out, “Is this reel broken or what?” Al and Thomas just laughed and I huffing and puffingly finally pulled it in. It took forever but it sure was beautiful.

I know I’ll be sore tomorrow (but not itchy).

Monday, July 11, 2011

God Speaks

Last week a lady from the village (who knew I was hosting a ladies Bible study) asked if I was planning to have Sunday worship services. Without hesitation I said, “Yes, starting this week at my house.” I posted announcements in the post office and tribal center, but nobody came.

But as I was preparing for it, I happened onto Psalm 147. It’s a beautiful praise poem that begins,

“How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!”

As I read through it, I was particularly drawn to verses 10-11:

“His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man. The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”

For some reason I kept coming back to these verses. I read them night after night. I recited them over and over. I prayed them to God and had them memorized without really trying. I felt God was trying to speak something to me, but the deeper meaning was just beyond my grasp.

On Wednesday the phone rang. It was the tragic news that Steven, the son of my dear friend, Annabell, had fallen while hiking on Beluga Point. He fell 40-50 feet and landed on a rock. His neck and back were severely crushed, as well as several other bones. Barring a miracle, the doctors say he will never walk again. He’s 31.

I flew over to the hospital the next day, prayed with the family as Steven went into surgery, helped out as I could, then returned to the village Saturday with Annabell's brother and sister. It wasn’t until I was back with my Bible, back in my solitude, that I returned to my verses. Now I understood.

Today (Sunday) people did come to worship. I shared the Psalm with them. We prayed for Steven, for his family and for each other. God is speaking in this village. If only we will have ears to hear.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Like Children

Some friends from Anchorage came over yesterday and brought their two children, ages six and eight, to celebrate the Fourth of July. We built a fire on the beach from sticks and birch bark and roasted hotdogs. We played with our own fireworks then walked farther down the beach to enjoy the day with some others.

This morning I’m thinking how much life resembles children. No really, just think about it. Life has to be vigilantly watched, carefully managed, it tires you out. Just when you think you can sit down for a few minutes, something springs up in your face and, though you long to say, “Not now, please”, it won’t wait until you’re rested and ready.

It demands you! It wants you to carry its backpack and you know you have to, because the things in that pack are the very things that will give you peace later.

When you want to just relax and enjoy the beauty of the fireworks, life has to go to the bathroom. You know what I mean.

Life, like children, (if you want to do it right) cannot be turned over to someone else. You have to stay right there in it, moment by moment, accepting what it brings, trying to stay patient, always making decisions that are mostly small but sometimes very BIG. You have to learn to differentiate or you’ll go crazy.

Life tugs at your shirt when you’re trying to talk to your friends or do something with your hands. If you try to put it off, it will grow more persistent until you stop in your tracks and tend to it. If you’re gentle, it will smile at you. If you’re harsh, you can count on drama.

When you turn your back for one second, life goes through your things and starts asking questions you’d rather not answer. You wish you had hidden your valuables more carefully. Next time you’ll be ready for it (right!). It notices little things that others overlook and draws attention to itself with YOUR stuff. Don’t you hate that!

So what to do when life is dragging you along too quickly and you’d like to stop and regroup but you can’t. You remember that children, in all their annoying, exhausting glory, fill your heart so full that it overflows. Nurturing is tough, but oh, so worth the trouble. When they grab your hand and snuggle close, when they give you the beautiful pebble they found on the beach, when they plant a sloppy kiss on your cheek out of nowhere, when they take the wings you fastened on them and find the courage to jump and flap for all they’re worth (and NO, we really DID NOT do this to the children yesterday), when love blooms…….then you know that it all makes sense, it’s all part of the cycle God created for you.

My own children grew up, but they will always be growing still. Same with my sweet life.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Thoughts on Children's Ministry - Part 1

To those of you who felt obligated to make sarcastic remarks about sending your kids to me for VBS, I say “Let the torture begin!”

Seriously, when I reread my last post I thought maybe I would expound a little bit on the topic of children’s ministry (and try not to be cynical). It’s a deviation from my "God Help Me In The Alaskan Wilderness" theme, but it’s on my mind.

First, as an adult I can look back and see that the First Baptist VBS I attended (and disliked) as a child was not very child centered. I don’t know if it was representative of the day or not. I doubt if the spiritual formation of children was a hot topic in small town southern churches in the 60’s. Adults were front and center in the learning environment and didn’t pay much attention to how the children were responding. “Data driven” meant your dad drove you and JimBob to the movies (“Wuz yew and yore date a’driven to the show last night by yore paw?”) If children were orderly, then things were going well.

And, to be honest, I was a handful as a young child. My best old friend Louise says I was a bully (I think she was just a cry baby : ). I do remember being a good-time girl, a rule breaker and sneaker-arounder. I have probably suppressed memories of being chased and beaten by frustrated VBS workers who knew their own children would never behave like that.

But I do think it’s unfortunate that a great many adults who work in children’s ministries in churches today (mostly mommies) are untrained and naïve. Having been a classroom teacher for hundreds of years, I see how children interact and work at school in contrast to how they behave at church. It’s like night and day.

Church, in all it’s manifestations, is often condescending and patronizing to children. We want every child to feel happy, successful and to come back next week. So we focus on entertainment and foolproof activities (like the crafts I described in my earlier post). God forbid a child should leave church feeling introspective or uneasy.

But statistics show (I can’t believe I’m talking about statistics in my blog. What’s happened to me!!?)….Anyway, I’ve been told that the majority of children and teens who are involved in church end up leaving church (and the faith) as adults. This is not good!

The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about the dangers of “cheap faith”. Nowhere is that more evident than in children’s ministry. It’s as cheap as it gets! I really believe it insults the intelligence of many children. They know their school teachers require so much more effort, discipline and creativity. They lose respect for the church and all it stands for.

Maybe a rich and lasting faith has to come slowly and painfully, like…..reading, writing and math. Not always fun, but well worth the effort, don’t you think?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

With Nature

I grew up plotting ways to escape from Vacation Bible School. I did not like it, Sam-I-Am. I did not like it in a boat or with a goat or…….never mind. As a child, it always seemed goofy to me.

The big one was always held at First Baptist Church. You had to line up outside, march in with a flag, go through some rituals I never understood, sing songs that seemed babyish to me, the whole nine yards of let-me-out-of-here!

The worst was the craft time. I loved art, being able to imagine and create. But, you know what I’m talking about, VBS crafts were not vaguely related to art. “Here. Glue this pea onto this popsicle stick. Not there….., here! On this exact spot! Now repeat that a thousand times!” I wonder if they incorporate Chinese water torture into the curriculum these days. Drip…..Drip…..Drip…..”There, good job!”

To this day, I try to avoid VBS. When my kids were young (I made them go to build their character), I felt obligated to participate. So I volunteered to keep the nursery for the workers. I can get creative with the newborns. Just don’t let their mothers know.

Brownie camp was no different. I remember in great detail making a sit-upon. Yep, that’s what they called it. It was a pillowcase stuffed with newspaper. That’s about it. Do I need to say more?

So this past week in Alaska I have made a birch bark basket and an agate necklace. What am I thinking?

I’m thinking this: I am overcoming my aversion to "crafts" to accommodate a real need to get down and dirty with nature. It’s not enough here to just observe it. I can watch the eagles soar past my window and hear the surf whipping the shore, but I need to be a participant somehow. It just feels like a need.

This is nothing new. Think of Thoreau and, even earlier, William Wordsworth. They got it. They had to get out there and be a part of it; living in it, living off it. It nourished their souls and gave them life. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. The elders here know about it.

So when Al said, “The women used to make baskets from the birch bark,” I said, “Let’s do it!” Al is going to learn to keep his mouth shut. He was on his knees in the dirt digging up a five foot rope of spruce root that became my sewing cord. When I complained I had no tools, he reluctantly handed me his Swiss army knife-looking thing and told me not to lose it. There was a forlorn look in his eye, like he was handing over his first born to Rumpelstiltskin.

I was up past midnight (with the sun still shining in), sitting on the floor making a glorious mess of water, bark, dirt and root. The prototype is pretty primitive, but if it were thought to be a hundred years old, it would be in a museum. I’m going with that thought.

I’m trying to stay outside as much as possible, now that it’s summer, and drink it all in. I have mosquito bites in my hair that feel like goose eggs, a big infected blister on my finger, a knife cut on the other hand (Al should have warned me!) and lots of mud and blood stains on my clothes from pulling fish. The poets would be proud!

Two days ago Al started showing me his firearms and said something like, “This one should be just right for you.”

Oh Boy!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

More Musings

I spent last week in Anchorage traveling around with friends, seeing new sites and living out of a duffel bag. It’s good to be back in the village. I’ve settled into a summer routine that includes checking my email when I first wake up, making brunch (really too late for breakfast), fetching the school mail from the post office, walking on the beach, reading and staying up late playing music and writing songs.

During the in between times, something always seems to come up that leads to more learning and adventure. Yesterday I discovered Al in his backyard putting the final touches on smoked fish production. He gave me a crash course in the whole process. Of course, I already know how to catch them and clean them, so I was a quick study. When he reached a stopping point we hopped in the paddle boat on the lake behind his house and peddled around looking at water lilies. Then we hopped in his truck and drove to a couple more nearby lakes to see what was there. We ended up back on the beach by the river where I gathered seagull feathers and posed for a pic inside a magnificent hollow tree that was laying just above the tide line.

I continue to feel the surrealism of this entire year. I’m like Scrooge, wide eyed in my metaphorical pajamas, being led by God-picked Spirits into new and interesting encounters.

Some elicit feelings from my past, enjoying nature with Greg and my little children. The clarity of the Alaskan lakes takes me back to snorkeling days in the Florida springs. I breathe these memories in deeply and don’t want to exhale. I miss those days, that life. I still stagger as I step off the old path and find my footing on the new one.

The Spirit of the present is a most welcome guide. There was a trip to Seward last week on the Alaska Railroad. Then a few days later I was flying with Carol (of Valdez Fly-in fame) to a music festival in Seldovia, a tiny little fishing town at the tip of the Kenai peninsula. A couple of hiking trips. New acquaintances and their stories; new memories to savor tomorrow.

Here in the village, the closest thing to a church service is the “Women’s Bible Study” at my house on Monday nights. We sing praises to God, share our worries and pray, read a few verses together and talk about them. All very personal, like church should be. It’s my favorite time of the week. There are only two or three of us this summer, but we are hopeful that more will join us as we invite them.

The most poignant elements of my stay here are too personal to blog. But I post them to God and He smiles at my antics and forgives me for my blunders. He always leaves a comment.

Here in the present, I am learning that God does indeed provide, that he fills our empty spaces and, as I've quoted so often, "He satisfies our desires with good things". Discovering what he means by "good things" is an adventure in itself. There have been a few surprises!

Then there’s the Spirit of my life-yet-to-come. Like Ebenezer, this one scares me the most. In fact, it’s my very greatest fear (besides being covered in hot lava from Mt. Spurr). The next leg of my journey will be the rediscovery of what I left behind, assimilating into the mainstream and finding where I fit. I’m not even sure where I should live. I fear not belonging.

My mind keeps going to Frodo and Sam. I have always believed there is much to be gleaned from the lessons of the “heroic quest” (It started with Jason and the Argonauts, and the Thief of Baghdad when I was a very little girl). After the fulfillment of the ring quest, Sam returned to the Shire stronger, more confident, equipped to make his old dreams come true. Frodo, on the other hand, never managed to “pick up the threads of an old life”. He sadly sailed away to the distant shores (Deirdre says that means he died and she knows these things).

There is a strong tug on my heart to just remain here. I can think of a million reasons why I should and they all sound reasonable and even virtuous. But I’m afraid it’s the fear talking. Fear is what I’ve been shedding so I certainly don’t want to reclothe myself in a more dressy, but oppressive, form of it.

But I still have weeks with the Alaskan Spirits before I decide.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sci-Fi Night

My old friend Scott (not missionary Scott), who is a marine biologist in Kodiak, was flying through Anchorage last night en route to three weeks of fun in the sun in Dixie. He had an eight hour layover so we decided to have dinner. The restaurant we had chosen had a two hour wait, so we just started walking downtown. We found another good place a couple of blocks away and had a great meal. Then we drove to a quaint little coffee shop I know of, but they were closing. So we went to Barnes and Noble and had cheesecake and lattes.
Scott and I both love sci-fi and we got off on Star Trek trivia. We were laughing about how we both knew people who had Ferengi blood and how his 50-something neck looked like a Cardassian’s. We could not, for the life of us, remember the name of the aliens from Next Generation who were always saying, “We are smart” (but they were really stupid).
Around 11 o’clock we got this idea to go check out the new Spielberg flick. I knew there was a multiplex theater around somewhere, but not really where. We asked a cashier and she pointed southwest and said, “somewhere that way”. She should have said, “first star to the right and straight on til morning”, but I digress.
We hopped in the car and took off. I drove a few blocks then turned right and drove a couple more. I was sitting at a light waiting to turn left saying, “I’m sure the theater is right down that way” when I looked to the right to see if traffic was clear. There on the right corner was the theater complex. I screamed like a Tertellian on fire and Scott jumped. Must have been the late hour.
So where am I going with this so-far boring story? WE SNUCK IN! No, really, we did. Well, sort of. Someone was coming out the exit door (which doesn’t open from the outside). Without really thinking, I grabbed it and we walked in (After all, it shouldn’t matter which door you use). Then we noticed the box office was closed. We saw on the marquee that our movie had just started. No one seemed to be looking.
Scott said, “Act like you belong here, walk normally and don’t whisper”. So I did. But I was imagining having to spend all my missionary support money to get bailed out of jail. I kept looking over my shoulder and Scott kept saying to stop that. Maybe he’s used to being criminal. I think I could get used to it. It gave me a rush (just a little rush, ok?)
So today I’m having coffee with Diana and told her this silly story and she asked, “What was the movie?”
I said, “I don’t remember the name. It was the new Spielberg".
She said, “Earthquake”.
I said, “ No, it was a new movie.”
She looked disturbed and repeated a little louder, “Earthquake”.
And I insisted, “No, that’s an old one and not even Spielberg”. I thought she knew movies better than that. I was a little annoyed.
Then I noticed the artificial tree behind her was shaking. And she looked at me very emphatically (like a frustrated Bajoran) and said, “EARTHQUAKE”!
It was over before I could say, “Charleton Heston”. 5.2 on the Richter scale.
Never a dull moment in Alaska (and it came to me that it’s the “Pacleds” that think they’re smart but are really stupid). Maybe I have Pacled blood.

Friday, June 3, 2011


I had to email my new Irish fiddle teacher last week that I’d be traveling with a salmon and would need refrigeration during my lesson. This would go one of two ways: either she’d chuckle and get a glimpse of the goofy person she’d be instructing, or she’d grimace and dread meeting me. Fortunately, it was the former. What a likable young woman, with a big heart and an adequate fridge!
A very talented teacher also. That could also have gone one of two ways: “Here is my agenda for my students, like it or not”…. or, “What would you like to learn and how can I facilitate that?” I was a little nervous to begin with. I told her I knew my vibrato needed some polish. Not to worry, she said. We don’t use vibrato in Irish fiddling. Really? Wonderful. Then I played a tune for her. When I finished I mentioned that my bow seemed to always be going in the wrong direction, like old people driving in Florida. Not to worry, she said. We don’t care about bow direction in Irish fiddling. Really? This lesson was getting better and better. I left with dozens of tunes to work on this summer, downloaded to my itunes and ready to go.
It is another big milestone for me to regain my passion for playing music. My friend, Debby, asked in her blog this week, “Where do you look for God?” I have always found Him in playing my songs. Since I was nine years old and ordered my first guitar from the Sears catalog, I have found both sanctuary and great joy in playing music. A few years ago I expanded to fiddle playing (my family was incredibly patient, even as I heard repeatedly, “Mom, stop that noise in there!).
Music has been my escape pod when I felt my starship was off course or about to explode. It hurled me safely through my sometimes chaotic universe. And I've played songs for Jesus when I couldn't think of anything else to offer (are you hearing pa-rum-pa-pumpum in your head?). It has always drawn me close and given me peace. And it’s been just plain fun!
Three years ago, the music left me. I still practiced, and even performed. I led worship in church and became the fiddler for The Twang Gang, which was actually a dream come true, to play fiddle in a band. But the joy of it kept eluding me. It felt confined, like I was playing in a closet.
That’s finally changing. God is stilling me, forcing me to quiet myself, listen to His music and savor the rhythms He plays for me. I’ve discovered He has a pretty good ear. And the quieter I've gotten, the busier I've become. Doing things like…….practicing fiddle for hours at a time.
Gotta run now. I’m expected at 1:30 at the Goozmer’s for fresh beaver. I am NOT kidding you!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Moose Turds and Wild Celery

I’m sitting on the beach wearing an insulated shirt with a pullover sweater and my coat and a windbreaker over that. My native friend and mentor, Al, in shirt sleeves, mumbles, “If it weren’t for the breeze, it would be unbearable out here.” No honestly, that’s what he said! All the Alaskans are hot because MOST of the snow is melted. I don’t get it.
It was another day of exploring and learning new things……about Alaska, nature, God and myself. It started at 8 this morning when Al and his brother, Thomas, picked me up to let me go with them to “set the net”. I think that’s how they put it. We drove in the pickup past several fish camps and they stopped to let me breathe it in and take pictures along the way (although my camera battery died after just a few shots). I know they were rolling their eyes at the white woman behind her back. Especially when I started filling my pockets with moose turds. Hey, they’re free and I’ve decided that is going to be the souvenir of choice to bestow on all of you when I come home. They’re lighter than beach agates and will ship cheaper. Have you ever seen a moose turd? They are perfectly formed and pure vegetable matter. A marvel of nature I think, and they don’t stink. I finally asked Al for a baggie to collect them in. Much eye rolling going on.
We finally reached our destination which was Al’s salmon net line, already anchored several yards off shore and ready for us to attach the net and pull into the water. The tide was coming in. We settled ourselves on the beach and had some snacks. Al brought hot coffee. It was amazingly peaceful. We watched as an eagle swooped very near us to pick up a salmon backbone he spied on the rocks. He soared over us and all around us and we found his nest through binoculars.
I’d been asking questions about how the native ancestors got enough to eat (no doubt, more eye rolling). Al took a few steps into the woods behind us and came out with a green sprout he called wild celery. I peeled the ….whatever that is that you peel on celery……and tasted the stalk. It was delicious….unique. I got the message. There was food all around us.
After the tide started to ebb, we saw a salmon caught in our net. Yay! We had hoped for more, but one good one was considered success. We started to pull the net in but……..our salmon had messed up the line and it was stuck. We pulled and pulled, I got REAL muddy, but no luck. We would have to wait for the tide to go all the way out so we could get to the net (If this had been Florida, we would of course have waded out, swum over to the net and untangled it). I had the feeling Al wanted to cuss.
Thomas had been gone for a while and appeared out of nowhere with hotdogs. He built a fire and we had a picnic on the beach. I sarcastically asked how Indians build fires and he shot back, “with bic lighters”. True enough.
After much waiting, rock collecting, eating, napping and almost cussing, the fish was retrieved. Then the fun really began back at Al’s house when he showed me how to clean and fillet it. I was trying very hard to NOT look like a prissy toenail painter. But this job was hard. I commented that I felt like I was on a reality TV show and was about to get voted off. Al scowled and said I was going too slow. OH! So it’s really a game show…..A Minute To Winit? I was thrilled beyond words to be learning to do this stuff.
When I left home in Florida, my guiding verse was in Isaiah. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Every new thing is a confirmation that the world is bigger than I could ever imagine, that life holds mysteries I have only begun to unravel, that God is actively creating and renewing, and I am a player in His epic tale. Eventually I will leave Rivendell and the Misty Mountains behind and return gratefully to the Shire. But I will have the assurance that God will still be doing “a new thing” in me. It isn’t about the new sights, or the new friends, or the new skills. It’s about what He’s doing in me. Creating and renewing.
btw, I got to keep the salmon.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Valdez Fly-In

My friend Carol asked me in a text last week if I was game for playin’ and singin’ at the Valdez Fly-In this weekend. What do I know? I said, “yes” with no hesitation. What’s a Fly-In, where’s Valdez, what songs do we know, how do we get there (and back)? I just didn’t ask. For me, Alaska is about adventure and everything pretty much goes right (or however it goes, I proclaim it “right”). My expectations for God to work are high, but I’m learning to stop anticipating what He’ll do and how. He likes to surprise me.
That is becoming more and more my Alaska “MO”: Don’t over-think things, don’t imagine all that can go wrong, don’t worry about the cost and the trouble and, esp., how cold it’s going to be. Just say “yes” and accept what may come. Like a gift.
Having said that, I can name a bunch of things that went “wrong”. Carol’s plane got a flat tire before she left to pick me up in the village Friday night. When we finally got back to Anchorage (our “layover”, haha), the radio stopped working on the plane. Carol had to find her walkie-talkie. Then she couldn’t get the back to snap on it, then the “new” batteries she just put in didn’t appear to work. Lest you think I have taken up with some crazy bush lady, Carol is a working commercial pilot with over 4000 hours of flight time. It just wasn’t her day.
When we finally took off for Valdez the next morning, Carol fell off a something (not sure what) while she was fueling the plane. She was okay but bruised. She landed on the hand that had just had surgery (and plays guitar). Did I mention I had laryngitis? This was a musical train wreck skidding down the tracks.
Anyway, the flight to Valdez was spectacular. I’m so used to flying back and forth to my village that I had forgotten that if you go the other way from Anchorage you go over and through the Chugach mountains. It’s a completely different experience. I posted my pix on fb but they don’t begin to relate the majestic feel and spiritual awareness of being there. It was awesome the way David understood awesome.
Then we landed and it was back to aggravation. When I stepped out of the plane I felt something wet. It was me! The coffee I had held between my knees had slowly leaked out and had soaked the back of my jeans. And these were the butt-fitting tight jeans that I was sure would make me look hot in this testosterone-rich environment. Now I just smelled hot, like espresso. I brrrrrrrrrrrr-ed my way to the terminal and quickly changed into the mommy jeans that I had fortunately brought as a backup. Whatever!
Then I reached for my camera to catch photos of setting up the tent and…..no camera. Okay, I just had it. It can’t be far. But I looked everywhere and ended up having the people in charge make an announcement that whoever stole my camera was going to be in big trouble. Then I found it…….. it was in my duffel bag and I don’t want to hear a word about this…ever!
We were dead tired because we had about three hours sleep the night before, so when everything was settled, we decided to lie down for naps. The air mattress in the tent had gone flat……and stayed flat all weekend. Well who needs an air mattress on cement???????
Want to know what this event was all about? So did I. It’s the bush pilot Olympics. They come from all over to compete in events like, who can take off in the shortest space? And who can land in the shortest space? I think it’s nuts, but what do I know? Was there a reason I saw fire trucks everywhere? Maybe they were having a fire fighter Olympics there, too.
We played our music (and we were pretty darn good), slept remarkably well and packed up Sunday morning. It took two trips for Carol to bring home the whole crew, her family included. One and a half hours each way. Rather than fly on further to my village Sunday night (she was “bushed”), I stayed at her house and she planned to fly me back Monday morning. When we got ready to leave, Carol couldn’t find her airplane keys. Really? That sounds just like me. It made me love her even more. She dropped me off at Spernak and the guys there were happy to see me. I missed a day of work and told my stories to the teachers at our taco dinner.
Another long weekend to proclaim “right”!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

April Hike

My native friend Al asked if I’d like to go for a hike down the beach Saturday morning. Actually, ‘up’ the beach since we’d be heading north as far as the river. It was the first time I’d been on the beach right behind and below my house. It was very low tide and, standing right along the edge of the shore, I could just barely see the tip of my new HD TV antenna flying high, inhaling my 13 beloved stations.
We walked a long time, at least three hours. It was beautiful. The beach is made of moraine, which is the debris formed when glaciers slowly scrape down mountains. It appears as small pebbles….agate, quartz, granite, jade, amber, shale and many more. I’ve mentioned them before. When I walk, I’m constantly looking down, gathering these treasures into my coat pockets. They will become my best souvenirs of Alaska. I’ll share some with you if you ask me.
Walking north, the sea is to our right and the cliff on our left. The snow is almost melted from the bluff and now the clays are drying out and on the move. We saw mini landslides as we walked and Al pointed out the places that were once lake edges, recognizable by the formation and color of the clay. I got good geology lessons. A pair of eagles perched in a treetop didn’t seem to notice my enthusiasm. I was full of questions like, “What would we do if a bear appeared above us on the bluff and started climbing down?”
When we finally reached the river we found it was still mostly frozen. A lone swan shared our disappointment and was chased away by Ewok, Al’s shaggy dog (I took off my gloves to take a picture then discovered a glove was missing…EWOK!). We stepped over deep crevasses in the ice to get closer to the river’s edge. I imagined an episode of “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” featuring me saying something like, “It seemed like such a tiny crevasse…” . When we sat down to rest, Al took off his backpack and surprised me with hot tea and cookies. Perfect.
We didn’t say much on the hike back. I noticed my coat was caked with mud. I didn’t care. I got all cleaned up at home then flipped on the TV. Nothing seemed very interesting so I turned it off.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Name

I’m settling into a routine here in the native village in the house on the bluff that overlooks the sea and the mountains. I was visiting with an elder friend yesterday and discovered that he had given an Indian name to my friend Scott. He calls him Firefly, because he lights here in his plane from time to time and then disappears, then reappears, then disappears and on and on. I asked him if I could have an Indian name. He shook his head disapprovingly and muttered something about how impatient I am. I’m afraid my Indian name will end up being something like……..Siamese Cat. Ugh!
But I would like to be known as She-Who-Inhabits-The-House-On-The-Bluff-That-Overlooks-The-Sea-And-The-Mountains. Too long???????
Now that I’m settled, I’ve decided to petition the tribal counsel for permission to start a Sunday School for the children. I think the counsel meets again in a couple of weeks. I can have the class right here in my home. The children will say to one another, “Are you going to the house on the bluff that overlooks the sea and the mountains to hear She-Who-Inhabits-The-House-On-The-Bluff-That-Overlooks-The-Sea-And-The-Mountains teach Bible stories?
All is well, but in my mind I continue to feel the tension between loneliness and solitude. I am extremely lonely. I admit it. It’s the bane of my existence right now, the thorn in my flesh, the fly in my ointment, the……..what other cliché can I use????? …..or how ’bout this……the wet log in my easy-burning wood stove.
I was given yet another Henri Nouwen book to read this week (thanks, Scott). I know that I am on the difficult road to conversion, as Nouwen puts it, the conversion from loneliness to solitude. “Instead of running away from our loneliness” (and grief, in my case), “and trying to forget or deny it, we have to protect it and turn it into a fruitful solitude. To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude.”
Before Greg died, this would have made very little sense to me or at best, it would have seemed irrelevant. I’m not sure everyone experiences profound loneliness in their lifetime (and I’m sure mine is mild compared to some). But something deep inside me says that this is a very good thing, that the me who emerges from all the experiences of this remaking will be a me who feels a little more formed into God’s image, more intimately acquainted with His Spirit and His ways, and more trusting.
Perhaps my new Indian name will be…..She-Who-Got-Molded…….(not to be confused with She-Who-Got-Moldy, who I think is one of my neighbors).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lessons Learned

You’ll get no philosophical ponderings from today’s post. BUT…………you’ll find out some what-to-do and what-not-to-do’s regarding your next move…maybe.

First…........What not to do:
*Don’t unplug things as you’re cleaning without paying attention to what cord goes where. You could end up with a really yucky smell in your refrigerator after a day or two.

Next….......What TO do:
*Be fearless in your determination to get your way (Southern women already know about this). Here’s the story:
My Verizon phone doesn’t work here in the village so I have a new tracfone that you add minutes to as you go. So today I called Verizon to cancel my service. The phone lady gladly agreed to cancel it immediately then informed me I would have a $270.00 early cancellation fee. Are You Kidding Me????? I’ve had Verizon for about 12 years. She told me I added a phone in June that automatically put me on a new two year contract. All I could think of was….THOMAS!!!!!!! He was still on my family plan when he bought a new fancy phone last summer.
So I tried to negotiate. There must be a way to get around this, right? She insisted that many things were negotiable at Verizon, but NOT early cancellation fees. She offered me a couple of options (like passing my contract to someone else or downgrading to a less expensive service), both reasonable ways to serve out my two year sentence. It felt more like death row, and I began pleading for my life. She wouldn’t budge. She would have made a dandy executioner in another life (or another country).
But I’ve seen ‘Escape From Alcatraz’ more than once, and bondage is not my thing (well at least not from Verizon). So I took some deep breaths and prayed and asked who else I could speak to. She said, “You mean like my supervisor?” “Yeah, your supervisor.” (He was bound to have a cake with a file). She insisted he would not be of help. I insisted back. And to make this getting-too-long story short again, she left, then came back and......... issued my pardon!!!!
“Ms. Vermeer, your early cancellation fee has been waived.”


I’m sprung!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


This morning I've decided not to begin painting but rather to celebrate the Sabbath just hanging out, praying, reading, writing and, above all, worshipping. There's no church here so, for the time being, it's just me and God together. Think He'll show up?????? ( :
I've been pondering the concept of miracles. Several things have happened in the process of my moving and getting settled in the village that are so far-fetched (especially when considered together) that I wonder if they qualify for miracle status. They certainly have my eyes wide and my mouth stuck open.
The latest is this internet thing. I prayed hard and stressed about how to get internet here. I was told by our school tech specialist that DSL was the best solution, but it was expensive with a phone line and all. So I ended up ordering the air card from AT&T. Before it was out of the box, I ran into the tech guy and sheepishly told him what I'd done. He sympathetically pulled out his AT&T phone and showed me how long it took to pull up hotmail......ssssllllooowwww. He smiled and wished me well. I then called the Anchorage office of AT&T and was told that 3G doesn't work in this village and I could expect no more than dial-up speed. I kicked myself for not having called them in the first place and started to return the air card still in the box. But that little "voice" said to install it. I did and.............it's as fast as anything I've ever used. I must be getting a 3G signal. Go figure.
I am certainly thanking God as He continues to "satisfy my desires with good things".
Is it a miracle? Probably not, but certainly an indication that with God all things are possible. I was reading Parker Palmer last night and he was speculating on the story of the loaves and fishes. He was thinking that maybe the "miracle" there wasn't so much a magical multiplication of the goods, but rather, having the people sit down together in small groups, they began sharing and the miracle was a miracle of hearts generously opening to one another. Some of you will shudder at this and call it heresy. I don't. It's just another way of looking at Christ's work. I'm sure Parker wants to get at the truth as much as you do.
And so do I. That's why this miracle thing has been on my mind.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

More Settled

I must be settled because this morning I needed a pen and I knew exactly where to look for it, in the drawer to the left of the sink. Yay! My entryway needs to be cleaned (both floor and clothes dryer) then I’ll be ready to paint. Do you remember that my dryer back in Florida was always my catch-all because it was just inside the door? Ditto here.
I’ve spent two nights here. Everything is working, especially me. Every muscle in my body is sore but I’ve accomplished so much. It’s lookin’ good. My first order of business each day has been to grab my camera and capture the amazing sunrise over the mountains. It won’t be long until both sunrise and sunset occur in the middle of the night. I’ve got to figure out how to shield the light so I can sleep.
In the process of getting this place livable, I have also found a CPA back home to do my taxes, gotten my tax stuff in order, copied and ready to send, and decided on an internet solution.
After much online research and talking to people, I decided to get an aircard from AT@T. Then just when it arrived someone told me that we can’t get 3G here (the sales rep from the company told me we could). So if I keep it, I’ll be dialup speed. Hmmmm………but I could take it with me to Anchorage where there is 3G and I’d have it wherever this nomadic life takes me in the next two years. Hmmmmm………can’t decide. I can walk to the school anytime and get fast internet if I need it for uploading pix and stuff. But not this summer because the school will be closed. But I’ll be in Anchorage a lot this summer. Hmmmm………don’t bother me now, I’m thinking.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Getting Settled

“Here I am! I’m here! Look, I’m waving my hands! You there, on the oil tanker, can you see me?” My view is so spectacular that I have trouble getting settled in my new house. I keep stopping every time I pass the big picture window.
It took two pilots to fly me over with all my stuff. Remember, the apartment in Anchorage was furnished. This house isn’t. So I made two big Walmart runs last weekend and now I have the goods to set up housekeeping. I think you’d be surprised how little you actually need to be comfortable. I’ve become such a minimalist, when I finally get home I plan to live in a ditch.
I have no furniture. An inflatable mattress is my bed. Marilyn, the principal here in the village, is going to loan me a loveseat that she isn’t using. And she says I can take a couple of swivel chairs from the school.
But first things first.
When I arrived yesterday, there was no water. The water guy, Sam, came out and worked on it all day. Wouldn’t you think to turn on water you just open a valve or something? Not here. He started with a metal detector, then drilled and dug and made a big muddy mess in the yard. He was out there a long time. At bedtime, still no water. But I actually got a lot of cleaning done, melting snow in a tea kettle on the stove (I’m writing a book called Little House in the Village).
And this morning……Houston we have water! But that was too easy. Turns out there were no fewer than five leaky pipes, ranging from drips to spewing. And wouldn’t you know it? Sam had to cut through wallboard and make terrible messes where I had just cleaned. But I’m good. This is all good, right?
Sam finally went home, leaks fixed, and I realized my precious water was one dimensional, i.e. cold only. Yikes! This is Alaska after all. Cold water is really cold. Won’t bore you with details. But after three workmen and a landlady, the hot water heater should be working. I’ll know in the morning. Sam is also coming back because there’s dripping under the kitchen sink.
I’m sleeping at Marilyn’s again.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Another Moving Day

The waiting is over. My prayers are answered. I have permission to move into the house on the bluff overlooking the sea and the mountains. I am soooo glad I prayed for God’s will and not my own desires. I need to know that this is exactly where God wants me to be. The view is beautiful, but I’m already feeling more lonely and I haven’t even moved yet. Packing up here in Anchorage is reminiscent of packing up in Florida. What will this next leg of my adventure hold in store? Once again I find myself falling before the Lord and begging for His embrace and reassurance. I seem to keep moving further and further away from the familiar and closer and closer to realizing that pure submission to God that I long for.
I know I’m anxious because little annoyances are making me cuss. You’d think that in this apartment I’ve been living in for five months there would be one pen. I finally found a Sharpie then it ran out of ink. I’ve been on the phone and internet trying to get the best deal on an internet connection in the village. Not too many choices and all are ripoffs. I’m gnashing my teeth like a hell-bound reprobate. Can anyone say “air card”? I’m looking.
Shouldn’t this be a happy day? Some people say we get attacked by Satan when we are building God’s kingdom. I don’t know. That sounds too simple an explanation for what goes on inside me. I think my nature rebels all by itself. Didn’t we talk about this once before? The more I follow God, the more I feel like I’m crucifying myself, trying to let go of my former dreams. It’s hard. You’ve been there.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m terribly excited. It’s just that feeling of pushing further into the unknown that is so disconcerting. And people keep asking how long I’ll stay there. I have no idea!

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I’m still waiting for word from the village, to know if I can rent the house on the bluff that overlooks the sea and the mountains. What does one do to pass the time and soften the frustration? If one is me, one goes ice skating.
If I believed in reincarnation, I would swear I was a champion skater in another life. My earliest memories are of roller skating in my driveway with my neighbor friend, Brenda, and making her promise to pretend that we were ice skating. I was absolutely enchanted by it. Year after year as my birthdays rolled around, I always got to pick an activity and a friend. The friends changed as I grew older, but the activity stayed the same, “Take me ice skating”.
It was a long drive to downtown Atlanta in the days before interstates. I knew my parents hated that drive. My mother would try to talk me into putt-putt golf or some other closer birthday fun place, but I never wavered. Once a year, I was an Olympic star.
I remember the smell of The Igloo, as it was called. It started to work its magic on me as soon as I walked in the door. While spectators would see me slipping and sliding and struggling just to stay upright, in my mind I was Peggy Fleming, “taking the ice” and wowing the crowds. My mother always thought I would break something and she was right. I was breaking Olympic records with my quadruple axels and my blurry spins. I was gliding as graceful as a gazelle (aren’t they supposed to be graceful?) and blinding onlookers with my exquisite form and my flashing sequins, totally in another world.
The years passed and reality took me through college and career and marriage and children and then……at age 32 I found myself a full time mother with one child in four year old preschool and another, going to the two year old class for three hours on Tuesday mornings. Funny how I can remember these details. As soon as I dropped Thomas off, I escaped into my ice skating otherworld. I’d check the mommy self at the door and step out on the ice as the champion I knew I was meant to be. Then for two straight years, Greg would keep the kids every Monday night and I’d take lessons. We’re talking some serious mental illness now. I learned to jump and spin for real and, more impressively, I could just dance my way across the ice, allowing the fantasy to completely overtake me. It was escapism on par with Houdini.
Then full time teaching and mothering and wifing and everything else seemed to overwhelm the need, and I stopped skating. I went back once a few years ago to try it out and it wasn’t so fun. I could hardly balance myself and, like Puff the Magic Dragon, I felt the spell was broken and I just wanted to sadly slip into a cave.
Then, years later again, I find myself planning a trip to Alaska in winter. “Now I wonder what I did with my old ice skates. They must be here somewhere.” I dug them out and packed them up. And then I found a frozen pond, cleared of snow, with no one on it, underneath snowcapped mountains and a gigantic sky. I’ve been there three times now, or rather Peggy Fleming has emerged from her past, dressed in sparkles and as smooth as ever. She jumps and spins and dances her way into the hearts of all who watch. She’s a joy to behold!
“….He satisfies your desires with good things, so your youth is renewed like the eagles…”

Monday, February 14, 2011

More waiting

Because of a series of circumstances that would be boring to relate, I still don’t know if I’ll be moving to the village. We all know the lessons associated with waiting, and I’m learning them all (I think).
Anyway, in the meantime I’m being seduced by the pleasures of city life. I found a scenic frozen lake to skate on. Odd to consider that a part of city life but it is. I could skate every day (when the temps are not in the singles anyway) It makes me feel so…..worked out.
The last two days have been pretty chilly so I holed up in the bookstore. It has dawned on me that I should never buy another book. While snuggled by the fireplace in an overstuffed chair with my steaming latte I have read almost two complete books in the last two days. Just read ‘em then stick ‘em back on the shelf. And be very careful with the latte.
Do I feel the least bit guilty wiling away my time like that? Not at all. One of the books I read was about the value of knowing yourself and just being yourself. That's easier said than done but it's so liberating! If I don’t move to the village, I just might have my mail forwarded to Barnes and Noble.
Speaking of village, I’m sitting here now, all packed up, WAITING! Here’s the conversation I had with the “airline” this morning:
Me: Hello this is Kim Vermeer. I’d like to fly out on the four o’clock flight today.
Them: Okay, I’ll put you down. Who is this again? Okay, gotcha down. But we won’t be flying.
Me: What? Not flying?
Them: Not at four.
Me: Then when ARE you flying?
Them: Not sure, depends on the winds.
Me: Maybe at noon?
Them: Maybe.
And on it goes. They’re supposed to call me if the winds die down. I think it’s doubtful (both that the winds will die down or that they’ll call me). I’m supposed to sub tomorrow and the next day. We’ll see.
Now just what time does that bookstore open?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I was in the village for 10 days. I loved every minute. I worked in the school with the kids, I took walks at sunrise (remember, that isn’t exactly getting up early in Alaska), I ate moose and goose with my native friends, I talked shop with the teachers, and I developed a real desire to stop commuting and just live there. Did you see that coming?
As usual, circumstances started to fall into place to make this a possibility. But you can’t just decide to live in this native village and that’s that. You have to acquire permission from God AND the tribe. It is, after all, private property. So I wrote a letter to the tribal counsel requesting approval, and I got on my knees before the Lord begging, “Pretty please?” In the mean time, I found a house for rent. It’s just a little house but it sits right above the beach, overlooking Cook Inlet and the mountains beyond. The view is breath-taking. It’s spectacular and thus………..I’m anxious.
Just when I feel the peace of being totally surrendered to God’s will for me and willing to submit to whatever He has planned, something comes up that I really want, and I start trying to talk God into doing things my way. I REALLY want to live in the village and in that house. It has become “my p..r..e..c.i..o..u..s” and we all know that can’t turn out well. All too often God gives us good things only to see us start to worship the gifts instead of the Giver. I know you know what I mean.
I want to live in the village so badly that I know I will be so disappointed if the counsel (or God) says no. They are meeting tomorrow (the counsel, not the God-head). I guess it comes down to expectations. Some say if we have no expectations we can never be disappointed. I suppose that’s true but…….I don’t think I’m willing to go there. I do have expectations, I do get excited about stuff and set myself up for disappointment and heartache, I do move on things even when I’m not sure of the outcome, I do walk through doors even when I’m not absolutely certain it’s God leading.
I think He can handle it. I think He’s big enough to cover my mistakes, to pick me up when I fall, reorient me when I get displaced. Actually, He’s done a lot of that in the last three years. He’s used to me….impulsive, impatient, easily excited. I think it might scare Him if I changed at this point. I like to think when the God-head meets to discuss me, they describe me as “passionate”. It has a positive ring.
So I try to stay calm and “be anxious for nothing, but in everything….I let my request be known to God.” If the move to the village doesn’t happen, if I can’t live in the house overlooking the sea and the mountains…..I will still follow…..and He will still lead…..and I will still enjoy being me (in the midst of a few disappointment tears).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Peachy Friends

As my life lessons continue, I realize that many of them are difficult to learn. Face it, at this age I’ve mastered the easy stuff. Now, in the second half of life, it’s the lessons I never anticipated and the ones I hoped might just go away, that are finally demanding my attention. It’s what this blog has been about: how to love life again after tremendous loss, how to enjoy independence, how to deal with adventure in a fashion that would do a hobbit proud, and how to recapture joy when you’ve had it snatched from under your feet. I suppose some people have to face down these issues when they’re younger. I get to negotiate them with menopausal hormones. Yippee! No self-pity here!
I think I’ve learned to do without a whole lot of stuff I thought (in my former life) was imperative for my happiness. But one thing the Lord has not deprived me of, one thing He knew would push me over the edge, the one thing that is promised and never messed with: You think I’m going to say Starbucks, don’t you? NOT!!! I’m talking about friendship!
I have never for one moment in the last three years felt like I was alone in this. I’ve heard widows complain that all their friends divorced them when calamity struck. Well not me! I believe I have chosen friends wisely… best friends, that is. I choose, not on the basis of what we have in common, but on the true-blueness of the heart. Consequently, many of my friends don’t know each other. There is no particular “circle” as such. I pick you from this circle and you from that circle. Each hand-selected with the utmost care, like peaches……sweet and juicy and perfectly timed. And fortunately, my peachy friends don’t rot.
I am not in constant contact with all my best friends. If you’re a best, that isn’t required. We can always pick up where we left off. Weeks, even years sometimes, hardly diminish the quality of the sharing, the confiding, the loving. I know who will be there in a heartbeat when I call for help. And I pray very sincerely that my best friends can count on me as well.
I had coffee today with a new peach. The fruit cup is expanding (and honestly, most of my friends are a little fruity)! God knows I could not get through this life without love, and that pours from God’s heart into mine in the form of family and friends. I got the family piece through the holidays, and now I’m basking in the pleasure of the non-related….I like you just because….“you shouldn’t wear that color“…“it’s your turn to pay”…..”I need to be alone”…“I need to talk to you”….”let’s pray“…,joys and tribulations of friendship.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Holidays 2010

I’m back in the air, on my way back to Alaska after almost three weeks of phenomenally good times with friends and family. I’m writing in Word because US Air is NOT offering free wifi like Delta did.
Remember how I wrote just before I left Anchorage that I was feeling more and more contemplative and “monkish” lately? I have felt the urge to withdraw, to rediscover a relationship with God that is purely personal, not influenced by what you think of Him, not dependent on happy circumstances or (maybe more importantly) sad circumstances. Just to meet Him naked, so to speak (although I might delete that before I publish this). Being alone with Him with no distractions has been such a luxury in Alaska.
You aren’t going to believe this, but my friend gave me a book for Christmas (and she shamefully admitted that she had not been reading my blog) that opened with, “This book… is the result of my long journey toward the knowledge that I am not a monk.” She said she hadn’t read the book and didn’t know the author, but felt compelled in a mysterious way to buy that for me. You will remember that I’ve been recently reading books by Henri Nouwen, the Dutch priest. Well guess who showed up in the acknowledgments of the new book?
I just love when this happens. When things converge toward a message. When the puzzle pieces seem to fit and a picture starts to emerge that looks somehow familiar and is easy to describe.
The title of the new book is The Active Life and the author is a guy named Palmer Parker (or is it Parker Palmer?) He must know me although, for the life of me, I can’t place where we met. He has definitely been reading my blog (and my mind). He talks about breaking the illusions the busy life creates, not by withdrawing, but by discovering more authentic ways to define the active life. The book is subtitled, A Spirituality of Work, Creativity and Caring.
I was extremely “active” through the holidays. I have missed my alone times to read, write and pray. But I was overwhelmed with the company of those I love. Leah, Ted, Thomas and I put over two thousand miles on my car playing Trivial Pursuit, listening to music, talking about you and just having fun together (we weren’t really talking about you, not most of you anyway). Greg’s family gathered in Chapel Hill. I think there were 17 of us, ranging in age from 80 something to two and a half. Barry even surprised us from Australia. Brent and Heidi got engaged. On my side of the family in Atlanta, Ellen and Seannon got married the week before Christmas. Jason and Nora joined us all for a belated Christmas dinner. You don’t know all these people but the point is, there was much celebration and festivity all around. We celebrated each other and shared joy.
So now the holidays are over and we’ve gone our separate ways once again. But we’ve promised to Skype and email more and plan the next reunions.
And I’m left feeling more like a people person again, continuing to pursue that sweet balance between solitude and busyness. I'm thinking, like Parker (or Palmer), that the key may be finding solitude within the busyness rather than retreating to The Island of The Blue Dolphins (see earlier post). Back to "the last frontier" now to continue with my life lessons.