Monthly Archives: April 2013

Please Remember

Dear Jenny,

This is a note to remember to continue to notice how spectacular it is here.

ImageLong after you’re done saying, “I just moved here x weeks ago,” after the apartment searching, and the learning new roads, don’t forget to still look at the mountains with awe at how they magnify the sunsets and sweeten the landscape. 

Never stop dropping your jaw when an enormous moose strolls past you while jogging on the coastal trail, and please keep playing the game, “Clouds? Or Mountains?” Also, just try to remember when stuck in rush hour traffic that your backdrop is mountains and billboards, as opposed to just billboards.

Eventually, soon probably, these surroundings will become commonplace, but it is important not to take this much beauty for granted.


Previous Self


Happiness, As I Know it

*Sam and Debi Travel Update: Our dynamic mother-son driving duo is sleeping safe and sound in Watson Lake, Yukon tonight with just under 1,000 miles left to travel. Apparently today was a beautiful one with sun, mountain passes and lots of wildlife! Continued prayers for safety are requested as some rain and snow are forecasted for the next two mountainous driving days!


A teary-eyed me paused when it was my turn to share what I am thankful for at last years’ Thanksgiving meal. Looking around a table full of many of the most important people in my life, I felt completely overwhelmed with emotion and happiness. I somehow choked out that I would not be able to answer – that to explain all I am grateful for, I would have to slowly describe each day, for I have been fortunate enough to come to a point in my life where the little moments stick in my mind far more than the huge occasions or pre-planned activities.

Living in Anchorage the past three weeks has been… hectic, new, exciting and insightful. Since I left, Sam encouraged me time and again to slow down and try to use the time to my benefit and for some reflection. It’s not so often I have the chance to take this much time for myself. At first I shushed him and felt as though the best thing to do was to keep on moving so as not to let the past well up and make me sad. But over the past few days, I’ve kept mostly to myself, and embraced a wonderful set of emotions. Of homesickness and of impatiently waiting for Sam to arrive to start our new adventure, certainly. But I have mostly been overcome with gratitude and happiness, and I feel lucky to have had the time to reflect on it.

Though I have always been surrounded by a fantastic support network and generally happy conditions, tonight I spent some time thinking of where exactly this feeling of contentment that I have been graced with so freely lately flows. Here are the top five things I settled on:

(I’m sorry if this comes across as boastful or overly sappy. If it is, you don’t have to keep reading. I won’t be mad at you, promise.)

sam1. Love. My family and friends the the world’s greatest. (No really, you are.) And, Sam …Sam is my rock, my comedian, my friend. Somehow, even in my worst moments, he shows me how much he loves me. He and his love make me continuously happy, plain and simple.

adventure2. Adventure. Experiencing new things brings out the child in me. While admist the unknown, often surrounded by beautiful things (sunsets, aspen forests, winding single-track, you name it) I enjoy that rare feeling of being completely engaged and in the moment. The excitement of seeing something totally new, and not knowing what’s around the next corner is uniquely satisfying, and increasingly rare. But also the need to rely on whoever I’m with to keep one another safe in uncharted territory, this builds trust and friendships pretty fast.

460249_10101743375962459_551963076_o3. Home. Some of my most special moments happen while stirring a pot of simmering marinara or in kneading dough amidst a floury disaster in the kitchen. They happen when resting my head on Sam’s shoulder and laughing about something funny that happened that day. They’re while reclining on a cheap, plastic chair under the canopy of the full tree shading our deck. Or laying in my bed watching the morning sun pour in the windows. I like to get out and enjoy the world a lot, but I like to come home, too.

380506_10102026290080299_573585002_n - Edited4. Activity. Preferably outside. If I go a few days without some, I feel sluggish, negative, and ugly. (No wonder why college was so hard for me! I never exercised!) As someone fairly new to consistent exercise as an adult, it is a game-changer. You know all those things the articles say about endorphins and positivism and joy related to exercise – turns out, they are all totally true. And, beyond simply exercising, I think setting a goal, all on my own, and sticking to it is a pretty amazing thing, too.

reflection5. Reflection. I relish in life’s joys by speaking them, and obviously, by writing them down. I know this isn’t for everyone. But sometimes when I don’t actively reflect on what’s good, I overlook it. I feel as though my happiness  and my awareness of and gratitude for said happiness go completely hand in hand.

I don’t really think this is the “right” happiness list and it almost certainly varies from your list. But I wanted to share it with you because many of you reading this are the reason behind my happiness and the very foundation from which I stand. Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing me such happiness. I hope I can do the same for you.


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Three Exciting Things

This week was mostly overtaken by work. However, three great things happened:

1. Sam and Debi left Wisconsin to make their way up here. They are currently in Manitoba – so it’s safe to say they still have a little ways to go….

Hopefully I’ll get them to post some updates from their roadtrip 🙂

They're sleeping in A, headed to B tomorrow, and here I am in C.

They’re sleeping in A, headed to B tomorrow, and here I am in C.

2. I saw a moose! Finally! It was really awesome. I was running, so I didn’t have my phone at the time, meaning I don’t have a picture to share. Either way, they are HUGE and look like a combination of a horse and a camel. Kind of scary, but mostly just awesome. This also happened on a particularly fantastic run with a great sunset over the inlet and fantastic view of the city on the way back.

photo (2)

3. Today, some friends took me on a hike to Flattop trail. Here’s a little summary:

Flattop is Alaska’s most frequently climbed mountain.  Located 13 miles from downtown Anchorage, the Glen Alps Parking lot in Chugach State Park is the jumping off point for many outstanding hikes but Flattop is by far the most popular.  This 3-mile round-trip hike begins at 2,200 feet.  The 1,350′ elevation gain to the 3,550 foot summit is easy at the begining, moderate with railroad tie steps in the middle, and steep with firm footing on the headwall just below the top.”

Anyway, the trail was REALLY slippery. No one else seemed to have as much of a problem with it as I did, but it was an incredibly narrow trail on the side of a really steep mountain. It was worth it for the views in every direction. I will definitely do it again, but maybe in the summer next time!

As you can imagine, it’s always harder on the way down. After slowly struggling, everyone decided it was best to simply jump off the edge of the trail and slide down on our butts. I took a little convincing, but after a while I went for it.

That was actually pretty fun.

Alright. I’ll update more soon.



Welcome to Alaska

Sam still won’t be here for two more weeks 😦 so I am in full-on, “Operation Distraction” mode. Luckily, Ryan and Shaina’s friend Jake invited them to crash a cabin trip he was planning to go on, and they invited me. And it was just what I needed.

The weather couldn’t have been better. The views – literally every direction you looked, as far as the eye could see – were breathtaking.


We took a scenic drive (above) from Anchorage, through Girdwood to a trailhead near Hope, AK. (Pictured below.)


We began our trip at the trailhead of the Resurrection Pass Trail. Aptly named, because it brings you back to life.


We had a 7 mile ski into the cutest little cabin.


I keep telling everyone I meet that it was easy for me to make the decision to move up here because of Sam’s excitement after he visited – I have never seen him so animated about anything. Now I understand why. This much beauty and ‘adventure potential’ is usually reserved for our annual, summertime 10-day vacation. We usually take a week off of work, pack up the car, drive far away, and cram as much adventure into those precious days as possible.

However, this kind of adventure came on a weekend trip where I slept at home on Friday night, packed on Saturday after brunch, and was back home at a decent hour on Sunday. I guess it’s the Alaska way. AND IT’S AWESOME.

IMG_0755Anyway, irregardless of the beauty all around me, the perfect skiing conditions, and the cutest little wooden cabin ever, the thing that really stood out to me about this trip was the people.

They were so welcoming, encouraging, funny, friendly… just good, good people.

As someone new here, that is so much appreciated and so comforting!

So, thank you to Ryan, Shaina, Jake, Aurora, Joel, Steven and Chelsie for giving me a proper introduction to Alaska. And well done!


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Week in Pictures

What a great first week. Honestly, moving up here has gone much smoother than I ever expected. However I’m partially convinced that I haven’t had much homesickness simply because I haven’t yet had any time for it.

Between learning the ropes at work, getting my “life checklist” in order, keeping up with Ryan and Shaina, and spending as much active time as possible, I have had very little time to myself. I think that’s probably a good thing.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been up to:

Skiing with Shaina in Bicentennial Park

Learning to skate ski. Progress is a little slow…

Completed my first week of work downtown at REAP. I think I’ll really like it there.


Shaina and I did some bouldering (v2 baby) and got belay certified to do some indoor (and hopefully outdoor) climbing. Climb on!

The sun came out for a few hours so I finally got a glimpse of the mountains. Otherwise it’s been snow, snow, snow!

No more jogs down city blocks for me! This is in the park right near Shaina and Ryan’s house.

Took in a spectacular view of the city from the coastal trail. I would say I get overly excited about things like this.

Not pictured: We also attended Arctic Entries, a storytelling event where seven people each tell a seven minute story on a theme, which changes each month. This month was “Commitments: Makin’ em, Breakin’ em and Fakin em.” Since Sam and I are huge fans of the Moth podcast, I knew I would really enjoyed this as soon as I heard about it – and I did!

I can’t remember everything else because it’s been a blur. More to come soon!

First Impressions and Anchorage Fashion

Today was my first day living in Alaska. (I had to put that in italics for added emphasis because I kept telling people, “I live in Madison” or just saying things in such a way that makes them think I’m just visiting.)

Anyway, yesterday I [re]packed up all my stuff in Minnesota (except the big yellow boots pictured below because they would not fit into any of my suitcases no matter how hard I tried), loaded myself and my stuff on a plane, watched a couple of movies, and then landed in Anchorage. Little did I know, my boots look was simply preempting my good Anchorage style – the Minnesotans just couldn’t appreciate it as they should. More on this later.


Ryan gave me instructions to try to sit in a window seat on the starboard side of the plane and I am so glad I did. The view coming into the city was spectacular and I hope you all are making a mental note to do this for when you come to visit me :).


Shaina tells me Ryan also handled the decor for my temporary room while I stay with them. (Pictured left.) Pretty fancy, huh?

Anyway, thanks to Shaina’s kindness and ability to befriend really great people, I had a fantastic first day. We took a beautiful morning ski on the coastal trail. Then we grabbed some groceries (which were notably more expensive, as I was advised) and headed to Ryan and Shaina’s friends’ house for a cookout. After that, we made a pit stop at the REI clearance sale (you know, to update my wardrobe and fit in) before heading to the Bear Tooth for margaritas and to meet a couple other friends. Everyone I met was incredibly friendly and welcoming.

One interesting thing that came up was Shaina explaining to me that apparently Anchorage was voted America’s worst dressed city. I don’t think I’ve been here long enough to evaluate this on my own just yet, but there was a funny moment today when I asked Shaina if she planned to wear her ski clothes to the cookout, and she replied that she would probably just put a skirt on over them. So, I grabbed a Mountain Hardwear dress, and when the time came, I just threw it on over my ski pants and baselayer.

When in Rome…right?

Sure enough, at the cookout, one of Shaina’s friends was wearing a down skirt over some black leggings with an athletic top, and surprisingly, I think she looked really nice.

After this, I started noticing people’s clothes. And by that, I mean I saw seas of down jackets, Gore-Tex, and Patagonia as far as the eye could see. So, I’ve temporarily concluded that Anchorage is not the worst dressed city, it’s just the most comfortably dressed city.

I think I will like this. So far, so good!

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Just. Get. On. The. Bike.

I have had a major case of the winter blahs. A few weeks back, Sam had to pretty much hoist me off the couch and onto my bike trainer in the basement and start pushing my feet in circles to get me going.

I’m exaggerating, but only a tiny bit. I had a pretty bad attitude about the state of my fitness after I read this article about how your fitness level drops dramatically within twelve days of inactivity. My thought process was pretty much, “Sooo… what you’re saying is I’m not still in shape from that half marathon I ran last November?” Bummer.

But I already knew I was far from in shape. Many things cause the winter blahs for me, including but not limited to: dirty snow banks; mucky puddles slowly draining into your basement; zero leaves on the trees or growing green things; relatively short days, lingering cold temps, etc. But for me, nothing causes them worse than months of inactivity. I’m pale, I’ve put on at least five pounds, my muscle should now be referred to as “former muscle,” and I’m getting bored.

SO. Back to the trainer. I really don’t like that thing – but this time, Sam had the sense to put the documentary Ride the Divide on Netflix while we watched – the story about a bunch of people who decide to race from Canada to Mexico along the continental divide.

IT IS SO MOTIVATING. Wow. There is an awesome woman competitor, Mary Metcalf-Collier, for whom I was rooting out loud, in my basement. I cheered, I cried, I laughed. It was just great. She had this awesome line about heading out with one of the other male competitors for the day, as he was worried he may slow her down. She goes,

“Well, let’s get started. And then we’ll see on the hills….”

Love it! Anyway, the point of this post is not to get you to watch Ride the Divide while you exercise in  your basement (though I do recommend that). The point is to remind myself and all of you that getting going is so hard, but that the pain is temporary. Making a routine is harder than keeping a routine. This is something we all know, but it’s easy to forget. I struggle with it every March.

After this, I still needed a few more pep talks and kicks in the pants, but I’m starting to gear up for a busy season. I know that in order to be able to do all the stuff I want in Alaska, I’m going to have to be in good shape.

But, until I feel like I can call myself in good shape, I will continue to just. get. on. the. [expletive]. bike.

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Madison’s Top Tens

This has been a big week and it’s only Tuesday. Last weekend, I packed up as much of my house as possible, loaded it up in as few suitcases as possible, packed it into my sister’s car and headed to Minneapolis. I’m spending the week here before flying up to Anchorage on Friday. Then Sam will wrap up work and come with the car in about a month 😦

I am truly excited about moving up there, but I have been pretty sad about leaving Madison, all our wonderful friends, and our new house. My sister recently asked me to tell her things I’ll miss about Madison, so I thought I would take the time to make a nice little top 10 list. This is way more than she bargained for. But it’s handy… for posterity. And for whenever I come back. And for you.

(Of course, as I wrote this, I decided I needed a whole separate category for food.)



Sunset at the terraace

1. Biking on a warm summer evening to the terrace to drink beer and eat popcorn

2. Having friends over to eat dinner on our deck


Climbing one of the 10,000,000 hills of the Hilly

3. The Horribly Hilly and the Dairyland Dare: one day “challenge rides.” You’ll hate your life until you reach the finish line and can hardly wait to sign up for next year

4. “Working” meetings at the Echo Tap

5. “Kayaking” (also what some would call floating aimlessly) on Lake Monona with Abby

6. Mountain biking, skiing, road biking, or hiking at Blue Mounds State Park and stopping to eat at the Grumpy Troll on the way home

IMG_06237. Devil’s Lake State Park: huffing it up the bluff and then sitting on a rock and taking in the view

8. Paoli bike rides and stopping at the top of observatory hill to enjoy the view and catch your breath

9. Thrift shopping at ReThreads on State Street (tons of cuteness under $10)

10. Walking over to Kate’s house in my jammies on Saturday mornings for coffee


1. Cheese curds and old fashionds at the Old Fashioned


Willaby’s Cafe, Willy Street, Madison

2. The Fair Oaks Skillet at Willaby’s Cafe

3. Vanilla swirls at Batches Bakehouse

4. Anything and everything at Greenbush Bakery. Pick one and then ask the doughnut dealer for his or her favorite.

5. Playing flip cup with cheap pitchers of beer at State Street Brats

6. Panang curry, chicken eggrolls, and mango and sticky rice at Ha Long Bay

7. Walnut burger at The Harmony

8. Crusier-bike riding to Mickey’s Dairy Bar for scramblers and cinnamon rolls

9. Commuter bike riding to Mickey’s bar to get drinks on their back patio on warm summer nights

10. Buying an entire loaf of warm, spicy cheesy bread at the Farmer’s Market and eating most of it while walking around the square

Rest of Wisconsin/UP


ABR Ski Cabin

1. Renting ski-in cabins at ABR Ski Trails (Ironwood, MI)

2. 4th of July fireworks on Boom Lake (Rhinelander)

3. Biking up to Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains and then trying to hit 40 MPH on the way back down. I’ve never done it. Yet! (Ontonagon, MI)

4. Canoeing the Kickapoo. Just as good: driving through the driftless to explore its various parks and fishing the streams on the way there (Ontario)

5. Pewitt’s Nest -bring your swimsuit! (Baraboo)


Levi’s Trow

6. This is for Sam: Wisconsin/UP’s own IMBA “epic” mountain bike trails: Levi’s Trow (Near Black River Falls) and Copper Harbor, MI

7. The Trails at Nine Mile and Rib Mountain  can hold an honorary spot too (Wausau)

8. A summer day on any lake in Northern Wisconsin, on a boat, with beer, and country music. Heavenly.

Pictured Rocks

Pictured Rocks

9. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore  – easily the best vacation of my life (Grand Marais, MI)

10. …I’m leaving this open to represent the large amounts of awesomeness yet to be explored in Wisconsin

What else would you add to the list??

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