Monday, October 15, 2007

Alaskan Woman's Day at the Spa

Coming from the land of nail salons on every corner, day spas, and standing appointments with your “stylist”, it is quite an adjustment for me to move to bush Alaska. In my former life I had my hair cut, highlighted and styled every six weeks to the day. I left my appointment with Wayne feeling like a million bucks. Every month I went with my mom to have a pedicure and my brows waxed. For really special occasions I had my nails done and was even known to purchase all of my hair products at the salon versus the drug store.

Moving to Alaska has been quite the “detox” for this diva (and to think I was known as a tom-boy in my former neck-of-the-woods). However, I have risen to the challenge and adjusted well…I think. I now find pleasure in what I like to call the “low-tide exfoliating salt water soak”. You can experience this treatment by putting on your grungiest clothes, grabbing a few five gallon buckets, your clam shovel and driving your four wheel drive down the beach. This spa treatment to the “stars” occurs by quickly forcing your hands into freezing cold sand, scooping out handfuls until your bare arm is immersed up to the arm pit, then grasping the sharp shell of a razor clam, and gently coaxing this clam up through the sand. While kneeling over the clam hole you are exfoliating your knees (which are digging down into the sand), and allowing the salt air to blow through your hair resulting in a nice curl. Not only do you end this ritual with dinner in hand, but your skin is smooth and rosy, pores tight, and if you do this enough times it will even file your nails down.

I have also found a way to put up produce for the winter while giving myself a “steaming mud facial” at the same time. First, you get a five gallon bucket and proceed to your vegetable garden. As you are pulling the garden produce of your choice, you will inevitably rub dirt from the back of your gloves onto your face. Then as you are blanching your vegetables this mud will form into a nice mask that will both open and detoxify the pores. Next, hold your face over the sink as you pour out the boiling water. To complete the process, plunge your face into the ice bath for pore closure. Then place your veggies in the bath with your face. By placing your vegetables in the ice bath this both ceases the cooking process and releases complex “bio-phyto-minerals” into the water and thus your skin. Depending on your vegetable, you might have a slight discoloration to your skin. For that sun kissed look, I recommend putting up carrots. Make sure you don’t put up broccoli before a date as the slight tinge of green is not very becoming.

Yesterday, I enjoyed a new spa treatment while processing moose. We were blessed to enjoy the processing with Danny and Gail Presley. Gail shared her famous moose sausage recipe and in the process I discovered the “deep moisturizing tallow therapy” for the forearms and hands. You begin by taking the trimmings of the butchering process along with other tough pieces of meat. Run these pieces through the meat grinder while combining 5 pounds of either pork or beef tallow (otherwise known as fat) to every 20 pounds of moose meat. Once the meat has been ground you put it into five gallon buckets. This is where the fun and moisturizing begins! You then pour 16 oz. worth of various spices onto this meat while mixing and kneading the spice into the meat…by hand. You must use your entire arm to ensure proper mixing. Once this procedure is complete you end up with a bucket o’ good meat and moisturized arms and hands.

Like any girl I want to look pretty and feel pampered, (and no, I have not turned into a wooly mammoth with dreds) but I have learned that beauty comes not from the dollars you drop at the salon, tanning bed or gym. The Alaskan women I have befriended have never heard of spending several hundred dollars on a purse or buying a pair of shoes to go with just one outfit, but they are some of the happiest and prettiest gals I know. They also know an inordinate amount of uses for a five gallon bucket!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Home from Hunting

The great hunter has returned.

On Monday of last week Jeff got a call from Danny Presley, a local hunter and good friend. Danny invited Jeff on a late season hunt last year, but the moose were run off due to a rapid change in weather and wolves. This year Jeff got another opportunity to go with Danny when his hunting partner had a heart attack the night before their hunt. They left with the horses and four wheeler to hunt a 70" moose that Danny had spotted via his air plane in Willard Canyon.

From Danny's explanation and the viewing of maps, Willard Canyon is a day's ride into the Caribou Hills. This is also a day's ride past all other hunting camps further into the bush. The first evening they called in a 58" male that was traveling with two honeys and was in full rut. They passed on this guy in hopes of seeing the 70" bull Danny had spotted two days prior.The second day in, Jeff spotted a group of moose on his way to the horses early in the morning. They scoped out a 67" male bull that was large bodied. Even though the spread was smaller than the bull they were gunning for, Danny said he was a good looking male with wide palms. To explain to all the non-moose hunters: a legal moose is 50", a good moose is 58-62", with most Boone and Crockett moose beginning around the upper 60s" (depending on many rules, drop tines, points, etc.). Danny is a big time trophy hunter with a half dozen B & C moose in his garage alone. They hiked about a mile and 1/2 down to the moose. Jeff rattled with some moose scapula, Danny cow called and up he came rearing and ready to fight. Danny took the moose on the morning of the 13th. Jeff said he was a fat boy that was still sweet smelling. It took the rest of the day for them to skin out the bull (in the pouring rain), and hack out a trail for the horses. At dark they had to tarp the moose and pray that nothing got him during the night. Jeff took some of the backstrap and fried it up for dinner. He said it was delicious even before it was aged. Back at camp they listened as a pack of wolves sounded like they were having a hey day in the valley below. Resolved that they wouldn't find much the next morning, they took the horses down to the bull. Amazingly, the moose was there all in one piece! They spent the next two days packing him out. The neck alone weighed 75 pounds and one of the back hindquarters weighed almost 200 lbs. Needless to say, Jeff is a little sore.

After 6 days Jeff and Danny returned from the Caribou Hills yesterday. We now have half of 600+ lbs. of meat hanging in a cooler at McNeill Canyon. It is a privilege and honor for Jeff to go on a hunt with such a seasoned hunter. Thank you, Danny! Thank you God for bringing us to such a wonderful place!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Dear Leif

To my dearest Leif,

As I write this letter the rain falls softly outside. There is a nip in the air as fall is approaching. The leaves of the deciduous trees have all turned yellow and the fireweed is a deep umber. I expect the snow in a month’s time.

Your daddy is out on a moose hunt with Danny Presley. They left on horse back two days ago. I hope to see him in another 2-3 days. I sure do miss him. I guess I don’t realize how he is the center of my universe until he is away. He is a wonderful husband and father. I hope you learn well from him how to love and cherish your wife.

You have grown by leaps and bounds since my last letter. This spring we went to Hawaii with daddy for his military training. It was such fun to get away from the cold weather for a while. You experienced sand, sun and the water. You enjoyed it all after getting used to it. The sand in particular offered you a challenge, but before long you were eating it like it was brown sugar. We went to the island of Oahu and stayed at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base. We particularly loved the North Shore. We love to travel and have adventures and with you in tow it is an added plus. We saw great big monk seals, sea turtles, and lots of fish. We took you to the Dole Pineapple Plantation and went through the world’s largest maze. The day we went it was raining, so we got a coffee and waited for the rain to let up. It never did! So, we put you in your car seat pulled the canopy up to meet the canopy on the stroller and took off in the rain. It was a timed course with stops along the way. We slogged through the puddles and the rain and had a great time. You stayed nice and dry and slept the whole way! We also hiked up Diamond Head with you on daddy's back. It was a beautiful place and you are such a great traveler. You have already been on 6 plane rides and you’re not even two, yet. Daddy had to fly to and from Hawaii on the C-130 and we flew commercially. What an adventure getting through the airport just the two of us. If you can help it son, NEVER let your wife travel alone with the kids. I was very thankful for the helpful individuals that helped us out. You made friends with a man on the plane that had grandkids in the lower 48. He played with you almost the entire 5 hour flight.

On May 19th you celebrated your first birthday with an applesauce cake and a present of a Tonka dump truck. We had your cake at Sarah and Jesse Cress’s house. Their daughter, Auden (5 months your senior) and you ate your cake with great relish. You were quite neat, barely getting any icing on your face or hands. Auden dove right in, face and all. I also celebrated my 30th birthday on the 21st. What a special present for me that every year on my birthday I can remember the day we came home from the hospital with you. By your first birthday you had all but 6 of your teeth in, you were running, and just learning to use a fork.

We had many visitors this summer and did many exciting things. In June, Gary Musgrave came for his yearly visit and brought his brother- in- law and nephew. I went halibut fishing with these three men and ended up puking over the side of the boat. I wasn't alone as Dan (the brother-in-law and elder in the church) was right beside me. I am sure you too will someday experience sea sickness. The important thing is that we still all caught our limits.

In July, your Marme came to visit for a month. While she was here we took walks, went dip netting for red salmon, worked in the garden, put up and canned produce from the garden, fished, and went clamming. You enjoy all experiences if they involve being outside. You are so compliant and easy to take along. We put you in a special backpack on our back and you can ride along for hours. You even sit in your backpack while your daddy fly fishes. At the beginning of the summer you were unsure of the green grass. For much of your life the grass has been covered in snow, so the green “stuff” was new to you. You would quickly walk across the parking lot, get right up to the grass and cry for one of us to come and get you. But by the end of the summer you were quite acclimated. In fact yesterday, we were out with the dog. Link was scratching his back and rolling in the grass. You decided that looked fun and lay down to try it out. It was so cute watching you mimic Link.

In August, the Watson family came to visit. You loved playing with Hudson and Hannah Presley. At the first of September, Glenn and Elaine Fischer came to see us a few days before they went on a cruise. With each new guest you adjusted well to your schedule disruptions. You are a real flirt and once you get used to some one you wrinkle your nose, tilt your head and smile…especially to the ladies!

We recently went to the Bracht’s for the annual raspberry picking. You had a great time. This year you were mobile, so you went along following me or your dad, while stealing berries from our buckets. After a while we decided you had enough and told you to stop eating from our buckets. You then discovered you could pick the berries yourself and would escape from our sight and pick and pick. I am surprised you weren’t sick that evening. Your face and hands were stained red for the next two days. I put up 6 batches of jam with Sarah Cress, and then continued making jam and pancake syrup throughout the next week. With each batch of jam came a layer of foam. You loved eating the foam on bread.

This evening we went down to see the Firths. Since it was raining I decided we should take the jeep. I put you over in the passenger seat, but didn’t buckle you up since it is such a short drive. However, as we were pulling out of the drive the jeep lurched forward as I was turning and shifting gears. Automatically, I shot my arm out and put my hand on your chest (just like my mother use to do to me). You looked down at my hand and gently pulled my fingers up one at a time and shook your head ‘no’, as if to say, ‘I am a big boy and don’t need your protecting, thank you.’ Son, you are already independent and confident. Already the end is in sight. You will leave our home one day and start your own life. In the meantime, I cherish every smile, laugh, utterance (so far you say, “Dada, Momma, ‘this’, ‘yes’, and ‘essss’ for “please”), hug and kiss (they come in the open-mouthed slobbery variety). I thank God for blessing us with you. You are special and uniquely made.

I love and adore you son,


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Soul Security

Today, while opening the mail I received a jolt to my stomach and a wound to my pride. This jolt came in the way of my yearly Social Security statement. As I peered down the column of earnings I noticed that I began working the first year I was able, at the ripe age of 15 in 1993. Impressed that the Social Security Office took such care to “know” my earnings and thus withholdings that long ago gave me a sense of belonging. I next noticed that the earnings (and thus withholdings) took a significant leap with each passing year. I went from earning 4 digits at summer time life guarding to earning 5 as a manager at a Christian university. I was also proud of the fact that not a year passed since ’93 that didn’t have a corresponding evidence of monetary accomplishment. I was feeling pretty self-important when my eyes fell to this last year: 2006. Next to 2006 there was the lowest number of all. Due to my having to quit my job and our move cross country for my husband’s job in ministry, I knew the earnings wouldn’t be much. But nothing would have prepared me for the reality of such a low number. Not even a cool $100, but a lowly $84 I earned while substitute teaching for one day. The one day I was able to work before being put on bed rest for premature labor. I don’t know what hit me. I closed the document in disgust.

I left my husband and baby sitting at the lunch table and retreated to my bedroom. As tears of shame filled my eyes, I knew that I was being silly. However, I still felt lacking. I felt that instead of helping us with our debt, I was contributing to it. I guiltily thought of the list of grocery and personal needs that I had on the kitchen counter. At first I was angry for having to be concerned about the cost of facial lotion and shampoo. Angry that we have to make the sacrifices that we do for my husband to work in ministry, then I was overcome with a wave of sorrow as I remembered the children I have seen in Ghana with their black skin turned white with dust and dryness. They have never heard of exfoliating creams and heavy moisturizers, much less a meal with all five food groups represented. Who am I to think I am mistreated for not being able to buy the latest beauty products? Still the shame of not contributing to our bottom line filled my mind.

About this time my husband came in announcing that he had to go back to work and that I should look at my statement again. He was so proud of himself, he couldn’t help but smile. He said, “See this isn’t a Social Security Statement, but a Soul Security Statement!” He had taken a pen and written over, added and marked out the words until it read something like this:

What Soul Security Means To You:

This Soul Security Statement will help you understand what Soul Security means to you and your family. Soul Security is for people of all ages…It can help you whether you’re young or old, male, Jew, Greek or female. It’s there for you when you more than retire and go to heaven. Soul Security also can provide benefits and help your family when you die. Remember, that Soul Security was never intended to be your only source of salvation. Soul Security can’t do it all, but God can.

Then in the “Soul” Earnings column for this last year he had added hundreds of thousands of dollars to my $84, with a note:

“Please see W2s on:

-Leif Wilder Jaworski and projected effects on the world.

-Subcontract work done through your husband, Jeff Jaworski, who despite being a rock head is working to bring the gospel to the world with your help.

Meanwhile our son, Leif had found his way into the bathroom and was doing his best impression of a porta-potty by playing in the commode.

As I peeled his soggy clothing off and put him into the bathtub, my tears turned to smiles and then laughter. I realized each day is filled with great earnings, as I care for my husband and son. These earnings may not be quantifiable in dollars, but they are treasures laid up in heaven…and that is where my heart is!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tejano Cheechako

I used to live in the land of trouser socks, planners, meetings and planners full of meetings. (For those gentlemen that do not know what a trouser sock is, it is somewhere between hosiery and socks ((For those that don’t know what hosiery is, it’s those stretchy, see-through “pants” that your wife burns 40 calories just putting on)). In this land suits were expected. A day at the office meant coming early and leaving very late. To get away from the office, you went on “working” retreats. This land possessed many happy people that loved their lattes, late nights and long meetings, but I was one citizen that had a secret. Secretly, I yearned to be free of my pointy-toed shoes and tailored suits. I wanted to relax! More importantly, I wanted my significance to be based on something other than the affirmations and desires of others. Instead of facing every day with anxiety and apprehension I wanted peace and joy in the simple things. So, when my husband came home one day and said, “How would you like to move to Alaska?” I was initially sceptical, but ultimately thankful.

Now, after living here for the last eighteen months, I feel inspired to share some observations, opines, and orations. The following is a synopsis from this Tejano Cheechako.

On our journey “North to Alaska” we found out unexpectedly that we were “with child” in Whitehorse, Yukon. That at least explained why I was feeling like the guy on the “Road to Tok” Sadowski, Froehlich, and Brown post card. If you haven’t traveled the Alcan with morning sickness, I highly recommend it. It is like several days at a theme park, all for the cost of fuel and the meals you lose along the way.

Once here, our first winter was filled with sights and sounds that were both new and exciting…especially that white stuff that kept falling from the sky. In Texas we only have it in little huts on the road side, and they sell it in things called, snow cones. There certainly is never enough that it must be plowed, shoveled, or blown. We also quickly learned that when you go out in the snow, you wear a hat on your head, not a toboggan. A toboggan is a sled, not a hat. This is a colloquial mystery to me. I have asked many people (all from Texas) what they call the warm, woolen hats worn on one’s head in winter, and the answer is always a sure, “toboggan”. Here, however this verbal slip has afforded others many laughs on my account.

I also learned that “muskeg” is not some large wooly, wild ox of the north, but a marsh-like plain. While difficult to traverse in the warm months, they are fields of enjoyment in the winter. I cross country skied across one for the first time. It was as if I was skiing through a majestic Norman Lowell painting (yet another great discovery). I fell only a few hundred times; this I like to think was due to my center of gravity being off because of my discovery in Whitehorse. I also rode on a jet ski for the snow, known as a snow machine. In Texas we use these vehicles on another form of water, known as a lake. Snow machining offered fun while providing a facial. Heading out across the muskeg with my toboggan tightly tied around my chin, I gave it all she had and ended up with snow cone up my nose, but at least my cheeks were sufficiently exfoliated and rosy!

Another great surprise came when we were asked to help process some road kill. Many of my relatives from Texas or Arkansas shuddered at the thought of their kin eating road kill. The very words, ‘road kill’ conjure images of the Clampetts and Ma fixin’ possum stew for supper. So, when I called to tell them we were feasting on fruit from the freeway, they flipped. Come to find out people in the great state of Alaska actually sign up to be one of the lucky few who are called to field dress and haul off moose that have been hit by the unfortunate driver.

We are now on our second winter and one of the proud members on the road kill list. However, we regrettably have yet to receive a call. When we do, I have my trouser socks ready. I think they will make good clean up rags.