Top Things We Miss About the Lower 48

Because we live in a Buzzfeed world, and as a Type A firstborn I find list making gratifying beyond belief, I thought I would do a two part series of things we miss and love about our little Alaskan life. This is Part 1, things we miss. I am someone who always picks bad news before good news when proffered the choice, so let’s start with what we miss. Disclaimer: these are minor annoyances. I do not want to take a tone of complaining or sounding ungrateful, because I don’t think that’s healthy and it is really not an attitude I want to cultivate. Any complaints are meant to be humorous in nature and really are not that bad.

  1. Target. This would be more me than Derek. (Duh). I had no idea I could miss that big, beautiful, Eden of relatively inexpensive home decor and clothing and everything else I need in life so badly. On the plus side, our budget has been thankful for this development. Now I am not walking out of Target with 3 candles and a banner from the dollar aisle that reads “blessed” that I just had to have. You know. One time I even found myself missing the smell. I am like a clingy ex-girlfriend who just cannot let go. Oh Target, shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
  2. Chili’s. I know, I know. The mediocre chain restaurant where Michael Scott once held the Dundies. I’m just as surprised as you are. This one is more Derek than me. I cannot even count how many times he has said, “I just wish we had Chili’s…” and gotten a mournful look on his face as he gazes into the distance,  kind of like the face you make when you have eaten the last Girl Scout cookie or finish a series on Netflix. There is something to be said for a reliable, mediocre, somewhat delicious chain restaurant. (In one low moment he told me he’d even settle for Applebee’s. We won’t discuss that lapse of judgment here).
  3. Amazon Prime actually taking 2 days. Moment of silence. Sometimes Amazon Prime shipping takes two weeks or more. (I kind of feel like a privileged brat saying this, but it was an expectation adjustment). One good thing was, I realized that it actually didn’t matter whether or not I got my cast iron skillet in a week or 10 days. I couldn’t control it, and it eventually got to me. These are lessons in patience, and also being grateful to even be able to buy things online. Some people don’t have that luxury, and it is a luxury.
  4. Chick-Fil-A. I don’t even know what else to say. The lemonade. The perfectly fried
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    Me with the Chick-Fil-A cow my senior year of college. You just can’t fake that kind of joy.

    chicken. The waffle fries. It is the food of the gods. I’m pretty sure I could make a top 10 list (or 100? too much?) of things I miss exclusively about Chick-Fil-A. #mypleasure

  5. The city of Chicago. Granted, I totally did NOT take advantage of having one of the world’s greatest cities at my fingertips and now regret that choice. (Sry Chicago). There was always the option of “going downtown” when all else failed. I cannot tell you how much I regret not going to Cubs games or concerts downtown in the name of “staying home”. Laaaame. Especially in winter in Fairbanks it can be challenging not having a vast array of urban activities at one’s fingertips.
  6. Short winters, and spring/fall. Lol. It is currently April 14 as I write this and brown crusty snow still stubbornly remains on the ground. Buh bye.
  7. Friends and family. Our parents could book a trip to Paris from Chicago and get there 1) more cheaply and 2) more quickly than they could get to us in Alaska. This is really hard. It’s hard missing out on life events of siblings, friend’s weddings, and the simple things like grilling out together and going to church. It is also hard watching your friends back home hang out and not being able to be part of that.
  8. Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza.
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    Enjoying the sweet, sweet taste of Lou Malnati’s at our wedding rehearsal dinner. Young and in love, with pizza and each other.

    Like Chick-Fil-A, this is deserving of its own list. Where to start? The perfect buttery crust? The perfect marriage of cheese and tomato sauce? There were countless nights in Wheaton when we were stumped about what to do for dinner and would look at each other, share knowing glances, and jump in the car and drive 20 minutes to Naperville where there was a Lou Malnati’s restaurant. Lou Malnati’s was served at our rehearsal dinner. We love Lou’s so much we even refer to Lou as if he is our friend, by his first name. Lou 4 ever.

All in all, like I stated above, these are minor things. We have what is important to us, which is each other, a church family, community, and a cozy little home. We both have completely fallen in love with Alaska and are so grateful for our life here. And like Walt Whitman once said, (since I can’t seem to write a post without quoting poetry, sorry), “we were together. I forget the rest.”

Cold

Now that winter is over (ish, sorry if it starts snowing today and I jinxed it), I decided I want to think about the cold. One of the most extreme things about living in Alaska is obviously the winters. Not only can temperatures dip below -50 Fahrenheit, but there is also the matter of darkness. On the darkest of days there is daylight for around 3.5 hours, but it’s hardly what we might call daylight. Rather, the sun hovers on the horizon in a nearly constant state of dusk.16700365_10154379073168634_8303843053106982672_o

Safe to say, I was very scared of this weather before we moved. I have never been someone who loves winter and I always feel more like myself in warm and sunny weather. In Chicago I would constantly whine about the cold and send pouty snapchats with the temperature filter on to garner sympathy. (Now I laugh at myself. I complained at single digit temperatures. Ridiculous.)

There is a poem by a modern day spoken word poet named Sarah Kay titled “If I Ever Have a Daughter” that went viral a few years ago from a Ted Talk. The poem is average, a little cheesy for me, but there’s a line in it that says, “sometimes getting the breath knocked out of you is the only way to reminds your lungs how much they like the taste of air”. That line is the best way I can describe what it feels like to be outside when it’s -30 (or more). Your eyes suddenly feel dry, the air is sharp and cold, and it’s a physical shock to the system. And you remember how much you like not feeling like that.

But it also completely grabs your attention, and that’s something I like about the cold. It is like the irritating person who you can’t help but pay attention to because they demand your ear saying, “listen to me right now, I have something to tell you.” And so I started to listen to the cold, and a funny thing began to happen. I learned from something I didn’t really want to learn from.

One beautiful thing about winter in Alaska is that there is hardly any wind. Unlike Chicago where the wind and lake effect in certain areas can feel like a million small icy knives stabbing you at all times, the cold here is more still. It honestly does not feel that bad. The cold and stillness combined create a really peaceful effect. At times in winter when it was light out and I was outside, I felt like I was disturbing something. The nature was so still and quiet, I felt that surely my presence was ruining something beautiful. Every branch on every tree was completely still and completely covered perfectly in snow and it was lovely. I don’t even like winter and it took my breath away. Beauty lies even in things that we may have despised our whole lives. (This is also a miracle because I am not an outdoorsy person. Until now my favorite part of being outside is either 1) the beach or 2) dinner al fresco. I would never describe myself as adventurous in any way.)

Cold is neither good nor bad – it’s cold. Sometimes it feels awful and horrible and I want it to leave. It’s draining and exhausting and I don’t want to go through the immense effort necessary to sustain life in this cold. (For example: plug in my car, worry that it won’t start, try to push a grocery cart across a parking lot completely covered in inches of ice that won’t budge, wear snow boots exclusively for 3+ months straight). But I was shocked to see that there were things I liked about the winter here, and I am grateful for that.

After people ask about the cold and I tell them about it, oftentimes people respond to me with, “I could never do that,” and a shake of their heads. But here today, I would like to tell you that you could. You absolutely could. I am honestly the last person on earth I thought could remotely like cold. And I don’t love it. But there are good things about it. God in his goodness does not ever place us anywhere that he is not and he teaches us through it all. So cold, I learn from you. (And I am happy that you are gone for a while.)

From Alaska, with love.

“What’s it like living in Alaska?”

Well hello there, blog world.

I feel like starting a blog in many ways is like starting a term paper. It’s a little bit nerve wracking and daunting and unknown. You don’t know where or how to start, but once you get an idea and run with it the words just kind of all fall out there. I have been thinking of writing about our adventures and journey here for a while and I decided it was time to bite the bullet. Here we are.

“What’s it like living in Alaska?” is a question that both my husband and I get a lot, but it’s a really hard one to answer. How do you put into words one of the most life-changing, beautiful, stretching, growing, extreme experiences you’ve ever had? And I’m only 9ish months into our adventure here.

I guess this blog is my attempt to answer that question. Since it’s hard to answer in a sentence or two, I would like to show you. I am an English teacher by trade, and I want to devote my life to the study of the written word. Words and stories are two of my favorite things, and a vital part of the fabrics of our lives. I want to do my best to preserve and capture this season that God has given us here and also share it with those we love dearly.

Today my answer to that question, “what’s it like living in Alaska?” is this: it’s something I’m thankful for. Somehow God saw fit to take a girl who typically despised the cold and hates change and plop her right down in North Pole. Here I am trying to grow and learn. And both of those things I have done.

I want to use this space to share our life here. There is so much beauty and wonderfulness in this Alaskan life, and there is so much Alaska has taught me. In many ways I think of Alaska almost as a person, a person who has silently taught me so many things about life and myself that I had no idea I needed to learn.

I am not quite sure what this blog will look like just yet, but I know that I love stories. I think stories are critically important and I really want to remember what we thought and felt in this season of life. I think this blog will be a revelation of love stories: me and God, me and Derek, and also me with Alaska. The last listed is the most surprising love story I could’ve imagined, but it is one nonetheless and one I enjoy wholeheartedly.

Will you join us? I can promise stories and Alaska and whatever comes beyond and those three combined are quite a trio. Thanks for coming along.