Tuesday, December 24, 2013

We Need A Little Christmas - It's -35 Below!

Our First Christmas at The Moose Lodge

Christmas: magic, miracles, and possibility.  No matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs may be, the timing of Christmas and Hanukkah in the dark days of winter makes sense from a mental health perspective alone.  The holidays bring people together, drawing us out of the cozy comfort of home and in to the world.  In our case, out of our cabin at -30 to attend the school Christmas Play “December Lights, December Nights” and eat cookies with neighbors and friends).  

The holidays bring family and friends together and people to places of worship, celebration and relaxation.  Staying sane in the long dark days of winter, particularly in the northern latitudes, requires patience, persistence, planning and perspective.  The holidays from Halloween straight through Easter get you by, one celebration and thanksgiving to the next.  
This year is our first year spending winter this far north.  Southcentral has been my home for the past 30 years, now here in the wild vast wilderness of the interior the darkness lasts a little longer, and the daylight is more illusive.  On a clear day we get direct sunshine from around 10:30 AM until somewhere just after 1 PM, at which point the sky explodes with color, casting a surreal glow across the frozen winter landscape, golden rays of sunshine stretched out for miles --creating the illusion of warmth among all the snow and ice.
When Parke came downstairs this morning I asked him “What’s the temperature outside?” and he said “27.7”, to which I said “Above zero?”.  To which he replied “do you really have to ask?”.  The official temperature this morning is - 33.3 F.  At this temperature being outside is totally possible and if you are layered appropriately you can stay pretty warm given you are moving your body or working in some way.  

As of 8 PM on Christmas Eve the temperature was at:
I can't wait to see what "much cooler than today" means, it never got above -25 F today! 
Being bundled up in all that gear is a workout in its self. I feel like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story, “I can’t put my arms down!!!”, when I am layered in a down vest, double bibs, and a hefty outer coat, bomber hat, lightweight hat liner, liner gloves, big fat mittens, two pairs of socks, and a pair of heavy duty sorel glacier boots.  Roughly 24 pounds of gear on my frame packs a punch.  It gives me serious respect for firefighters and soldiers whose occupations require hauling around gear and equipment that weighs a ton, in extreme weather and life threatening conditions, or on the battle field.  That puts my whining about lugging myself around in all that gear in -30 temps on a blue bird day, shuffling around the woods, taking in my world at -30 F.  
Slipping back inside the house, repeating the strategic process of getting out of my gear and keeping all of the pieces and parts together, and away from the reach of Honey Bear’s enormous jowls that can’t help but pluck wayward objects up off tables, floors, chairs and more.  Chewing them into submission, breaking off pieces and parts - little tokens of her puppyhood are being left all around the house.  It’s been a great way to reinforce the idea of picking up toys to the kids. It’s not a question of if Honey will eat the kids toys, but when Honey will eat their toys.  She has a hankering for anything.  Anything.  She reminds me of a marriage between Marmaduke and a Billy Goat; in her awkward, loving, adorable clumsiness and eagerness to sample anything remotely edible. 

Patience comes in learning to have a perspective about the seasons and our relationship to the passage of time and the natural periods in the year that allow for quiet contemplation and times of togetherness. Ideas, observations, and reflections rise up to greet us at the end of each year, reminding us of the many twists and turns our lives have taken in the past year, and throughout the years that seem to pass too quickly.  

The holidays are at time when we come together and reflect on the year that has gone by, recall the magic of Christmases past, and remember those who are no longer with us.  Celebrating the here and now, as family coming together to rejoice and give thanks for the many blessings in our lives, and celebrate the possibility that exists for us in the coming year.  

This year I am finding more ways of going with the season instead of fighting it. I can appreciate how Mother Nature is stepping in to give us “Land of the Midnight Sun” people a break to recharge and reboot after a wild Alaskan summer spent outdoors -- exploring, or in our case packing, moving, unpacking, more moving, etc.  Earlier this summer when we were at the peak of our sell, sell, buy juggling act I told Parke “Come Christmas until whenever, I think I am just going to sleep a lot and relax and recover from the craziness that has been the last 15 months.....five years.  This Christmas marks our 8th Christmas, since we first met, and life has been in perpetual forward motion from the moment we went on our first date, to this Christmas Eve here at The Moose Lodge.
Now that school is over and I have graduated and met the goals I had set for myself when I started out a little over a decade ago, I am trying to relax, sit, and be.  I am finding that it is impossibly hard and this reminds me of being on bed rest when I was pregnant with George.  In theory bed rest could be a nice little pre-baby vacation.  In reality it’s harder than you might think and it can feel isolating and deeply reflective in way that feels like a major transformation is underway.  This post-graduation, pre-next chapter of my life phase is even more abstract to wrap my brain around, now that we are here in this wild, vast wilderness, so far away from where we were this time a year ago, or at any other point in our lives.  This is not where I thought I would be when I graduated.  This dream was too wild to possibly come true that I really didn’t spend much time working out the change in course, because in order to more forward I had to run on and not get hung up on the details.
The dramatic striking differences of our life in this unfinished log cabin, to our life in the perfectly manicured, posh Labrador House is something I still can’t give much mental energy to, because it is all too crazy to really comprehend.  The how and why of our arrival here and belief that this was the moment for us to reach for our dreams.  Being here I know that it was destined, our being here, because it has worked out so beautifully, miraculously well, that the only way I can figure is that it really was meant to be our home, this Moose Lodge of a road side shack on the edge of the wild vast wilderness.  
Now we’ve done it, and are standing on the other side, an in between of sorts as we figure out what comes next.  Christmas and the New Year, Graduation, and the reality of being here, all coinciding over a joyous holiday, filled with hope, miracles, belief, and possibility.  This Christmas I am thankful beyond belief for being here, in this moment, in this place -- even if I don’t know what that means for each of us individually, and for us as a family.  

For now I am content to sit and watch the sun rise and set again roughly three hours later while sipping hot cocoa, tea, coffee or egg nog, and munching on excessive quantities of gluten-free cookies while writing it all out and reflecting on what has come to pass, and meditating on the possibility that exists in the coming year for each and every one of us. Oh, and eating ham, turkey, and taking short runs and cozy naps under the warm glow of electric Christmas and the glittering and dancing of glitter, garland, and metallic snowflakes, ribbon, and bows. This year the inside decorations are a bit over the top.  Hanging out in our living room is like being on the inside of what I imagine a Gingerbread House to look like.  The other day I came across this cartoon, and it summed up my reasons perfectly.

Later that same day as Parke took the snow machine over to a neighbors house to hang up a surprise string of lights when they got in from town.  While he was gone I did some flash christmas light blitzing of my own, by the time he and Maya returned the exterior of The Moose Lodge was beginning to match the interior in terms of Christmasy glow and and ranking on the cheer-o-meter.   
Glancing around the living room paneling and the glow of the lights warming the room and creating a dazzling brilliance on our christmas decorations, ornaments, and table where the centerpiece Maya made us (at school) for Christmas sits on the table.  She brought it home on Friday after school, her last day until January 6.  Every night at dinner time and sometimes at breakfast as well, we light the candles in the centerpiece she made and enjoy the glittering glow of candlelight as we eat our dinner under the glow of the christmas blitz that is The Moose Lodge.  
Above the dining room, living room, and kitchen windows is a x-mas light sandwich!
This Christmas Eve I wish for everyone to experience some spark - a hope filled moment of belief with a dash of Christmas Magic that resonates on the deepest level of your soul, reminding you that anything is possible if you believe it, even the wildest dreams come true.  

Tonight my friends anything is possible - dream big!  

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night! 

- Honey Mama

P.S. Have you read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas at The Moose Lodge yet?  There is no time like the present!  Read on for a wildlife inspired tale of survival in the arctic landscape, that closes with a pack of wolves howling at the Christmas Eve moon.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

'Twas the Night Before Christmas at The Moose Lodge

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through The Moose Lodge,
not a creature was stirring, except for Robbie Cat with a hairball to dislodge.  
The stockings were hung on the retro faux wood paneling with care,
In hopes that Santa Claus soon would be there.

George and Maya were nestled, all snug in their beds, 
While visions of monster trucks and shiny things danced through their heads; 
and I in my night dress and Parke in his Yale cap,
had just settled our monkey brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the river there arose such endless chatter, 
I sprang from the warmth of our cozy king sized bed to see what was the matter. 
Away to the window I flew like a flash, - tripped on the cat and fell, splat! 
I pulled back the visqueen and tossed back the cat. 

The moon on the surface of the frozen river below,
gave the appearance of glitter among all that snow.  
When what to my sleepy eyes should appear, 
but a pack of wolves on a downed carbiou, how queer! 

With a wild persistence, so primal and sick,
I knew in a moment it must be a kick.
More rapid than ravens, the wolves, they came, 
and the alpha, Tate, yipped, howled and called the pack by name! 

“Now Dolphus! Now, Dib! now, Phelan and Vilkas! 
On, Connal! On, Channon! On, Dante and Beowulf! 
To the heart of the beast. To the heart of it all,  
Now feed away! Feed away! Feed away all!” 

As dry snow that before the wild north winds fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, and take flight in the sky.
Howling up to the moon the pack did salute, 
With the sounds of owls punctuating the night - hoot, hoot! 

And then, in an instant, I heard through the glass
The howling and yelping of each wild wolf - what a gas!  
As I taped back the visqueen and was turning around, 
Up the stairs Honey and Petzl came with a bound. 

Their eyes - how they twinkled, their teeth, how scary!
Their hackles were like spikes, their tails cautionary!
Their snarling mouths were drawn up tight, 
They quivered when they growled, and were yearning to bite. 

The stump of a caribou leg, Tate held tight in his teeth,
And the young wolf, Channon encircled the pack like a thief.  
They had wild expressions on their expressionless faces, 
Of wisdom and memories of running in wild endless races.  

Beowulf spoke not a word, but when straight to his work,
And dismantled the torso, and ripped out the heart with a jerk! 
And laying his paw aside of the kill,   
and giving a howl, up to the frozen moonlit hill.

Beowulf grabbed a leg tight in his teeth, to his team gave a howl, 
And away they drug the caribou with the absence of growls.  
But I heard them exclaim, as they slipped out of sight, 
“Ah-Ah, Wooooooooooooooooo!!!” to which I say, with all my might: 
“Happy Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!” 
Photo by: Parke Ruesch

Peace this Christmas to All and to All a Good Night! 

- Honey Mama 
Photo by: H.M. Wild 

Looking for other ideas for an awesome holiday, check out: 

Share the love with your friends and family, be sure to “like” Honey Mama Runs Wild on Facebook, and tell me what YOU want to know about being active all winter long in the Alaskan Interior. 

Please Come Along on with us on Our Journey Home!

Photo by: H.M. Wild

Wolf Names were chosen using: http://ilovewerewolves.com/wolf-names-and-meanings/ 

Tate (Alpha Male): “Stalking Wolf” - Native American 
Dolphus: “Noble Wolf” - German
Dib: “Wolf” - Arabic 
Phelan: “Like a Wolf” - Irish 
Vilkas: “Wolf” - Lithuanian 
Conall: “Strong as a Wolf” - Irish
Channon: “Young Wolf” - English 
Dante: N/A 
Beowulf: “Intellegent Wolf” - Anglo-Saxon  

The idea to parody my favorite seasonal poem came from Writer’s Digest Christmas Poem Parody Prompt:

Parody of the Original Poem By: Clement C. Moore 

Share your parody (even if you just write a line or two) at Honey Mama Runs Wild!  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Over the past two and a half weeks I have spent half of my time in Anchorage conducting my senior project presentation for my bachelors degree in business administration and management with a non-profit business emphasis.  I presented my 108 page senior project “Native Youth Olympics: Outcomes for Alaska Native Athletes” to the business department at Alaska Pacific University and was awarded a “Senior Project of Distinction”.  
Past the halfway mark (home) - Snowy Pass Near Eureka 12/16/13 
This past Saturday I graduated with honors (cum laude).  It’s been a whirlwind semester with the move to The Moose Lodge and the final semester of my undergraduate degree, at last.  
Graduation - w/ my best friend, Sara - 12/14/13 
Standing here on the other side of graduation, I am finally able to fully comprehend the multitude of changes in our life, today - here now, as compared with our life this time last year, and what I thought our life would be like one year out.  Thus far it’s been far more incredible, rewarding, and wildly familar than I could have ever anticipated.  

Near the halfway point (home) 12/16/13
The 240 mile drive to “Town” never gets any shorter, but the last couple trips were improved greatly by Wicked on CD by Gregory Maguire. Changing how I viewed that down driving time helped transform the drive from an exhausting time suck into an opportunity to sit and sip my tea, listen to someone read aloud, and enjoy the incredible scenery that stretches from the moment we depart The Moose Lodge, until we pull into my parents driveway some five hours later.  
Near the halfway point (town) 12/2/13 
In the coming days I’ll be featuring a guest blog post by Chelle Gonzales, Master Crafter, Fashion Designer, and Upcycling Queen.  Later in the month Tracy Johnson, Yoga Instructor and Personal Trainer will share a yoga sequence to shrug off the winter blahs and leave you feeling refreshed.  
12/2/13 Mt. Sanford (L) and Mt. Drum (R) 
As we approach the New Year I will be featuring a blog post on goal setting tips, tricks, ideas, and different approaches to setting yourself up for success in the coming year!  It's great to be back home again!  

For the full album of my driving journey go to: 


Christmas at The Moose Lodge 

- Honey Mama

Near the halfway point (home) 12/16/13

Share the love with your friends and family, be sure to “like” Honey Mama Runs Wild on Facebook, and tell me what YOU want to know about being active all winter long in the Alaskan Interior. 
About 1/4 of the way to town 12/12/13
Please Come Along on with us on Our Journey Home!

Looking for other ideas for an awesome holiday, check out: 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

114th Christmas Bird Count - Guest Blog Post

December 22. It is -14°F with 20 mph winds. Alaska? – No, Wisconsin. But why is a car driving slowly down the road with windows wide open, passenger with head tilted at the edge of the opening as though hoping to hear something? As the car passes by, a sign can be seen in the rear window: “Caution, frequent stops. Christmas Bird Count in progress”. 
Sometime between December 14 and January 5, bird enthusiasts from across the United States will take a day to count every bird they see within a designated circle. About forty counts take place in Alaska – from Prudhoe Bay to Ketchikan, from Shemya Island to Eagle Community, and in many places in between. They will be joined by counters in Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America. 
Photo By: Cathy Mauer 

Christmas Bird Count circles are fifteen miles in diameter. In order to cover the whole circle, most circles are divided, with each area within the circle being covered by a separate group. Not all counters drive. Some ski, snowshoe, ride bicycles, canoe, or walk – or a combination of the above. Feeder counters stay home and monitor the birds that come to their bird feeders. Counters not only watch for birds, they also listen. 
Photo By: H.M. Wild 
Some counters do one count; some do many. While some participants have been doing the same count areas for many years, newcomers are quite welcome to join the counts. Participants may be expert birders or beginners, who learn to identify new birds while helping spot, count, and record the birds seen.
Photo By: H.M. Wild 
Many people end the day with a get-together meal where they compile results and share stories from the day – unusual birds, who got their car stuck, how cold (or hot) it was, wildlife sightings, … The compiled data is sent to a National Audubon Society database. Researchers and other individuals use the information to assess changes in bird populations and distribution, variability in migration patterns, and other factors. Research results have been used to help set management strategies and monitor effects of climate change. With over 100 years of counts, the data are especially valuable for the study of long-term trends.

This is the 114th year of the Christmas Bird Count, which was started to replace a late 19th century Christmas holiday tradition of the “side hunt”, in which hunters chose sides and went out to shoot the largest number of birds and animals possible. The first Christmas Bird Count on Christmas Day in 1900 had twenty-seven birders who held twenty-five counts at locations ranging from Toronto, Ontario, to Pacific Grove, California. They had about ninety species on all the counts combined. The 113th year had over 2,300 count circles and over 70,000 participants. Over 60 million birds were counted.
Photo By: Parke Ruesch 
Whether the count total is 232 species, as in Matagorda County, Texas, or 1 species (Common Raven), as in Prudhoe Bay, a Christmas Bird Count is a way everyone can contribute to our knowledge of birds and their conservation, an opportunity to enjoy time with friends and meet new people, and a great reason to get outside, even if it is 14° below.

Want to know more about Christmas Bird Counts

Photo By: H.M. Wild 
Share the love with your friends and family, be sure to “like” Honey Mama Runs Wild on Facebook, and tell me what YOU want to know about being active all winter long in the Alaskan Interior. 

Please Come Along on with us on Our Journey Home!

Looking for other ideas for an awesome holiday, check out: 

"Honey Mama's Top 25 Ideas to Combat Cabin Fever on a Budget!" Winter Series 

"Use what talents you possess  the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best" - Henry Van Dyke

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Honey Mama's Top 25 Ideas for Combating Cabin Fever on a Budget

In the coming months I’ll be posting on individual activities drawn from this list and share information about: how to find great winter gear on the cheap for the whole family, testing out and reviewing kids and adults winter gear and hearing your ideas for Combating Cabin Fever on a Budget.

I’ll also be answering your questions about life at The Moose Lodge and how our transition is going, from life in The Big City of Los Anchorage to our Little Log Cabin on the Edge of Wrangell-St.Elias.     

Starting today, December 1, through the end of March I will be featuring activities from this list with instructions, ideas, and ways to get in touch with the wild, right out your backdoor, whether you live in a cul-de-sac or out in the wild blue yonder! 

I’ll be featuring a variety of ideas for different interests, ages, and weather conditions. 
I will also be featuring “Guest Blog Posts” including: 

Restorative Yoga sequence with Tracy Johnson, Personal Trainer and Yoga Instructor;

Musical Appreciation with Musician John Rose

and a Writing Workshop with published Alaskan author Buffy McKay, her recently published novella, Weathered Edge was a first of its kind - a collection of three novellas by three up and coming Alaskan authors. 

Interested in contributing to this series?  E-mail me at: honeymamarunswild@gmail.com 

Honey Mama's Top 25 Ideas for Combating Cabin Fever on a Budget
1. Re-read The Classics
2. Build a Winter Wilderness Fort or Indoor Pillow Palace 
3. Go on a Wilderness Scavenger Hunt 
4. Relive Your Childhood One Family Movie Night at a Time and learn to make the “Perfect” Bowl of Popcorn and Other Tasty Movie Treats.  
5.  Host a Virtual 5K Race, Jingle Bell Jangle 5K, anyone?
 6. Learn to Cross-Country Ski 
7.  Deck Your Halls!
8. Restorative Yoga with Personal Trainer & Yoga Instructor, Tracy Johnson, Guest Blog Post

9.  Learn to Play The Guitar (I’ll be starting in mid-December)

 10. Host an elegant Tea and Costume Party 

11.  Develop a Green Thumb: A Guide to Houseplants

12.  Essential Oils for Wintertime Rejuvenation 

13.  Birdwatching : Christmas Bird Count - Guest blog post by: Cathy Mauer 
14.  Create a Winter Solstice Family Tradition or Host a Winter Celebration 
15.  Create Modern Interpretations of Classic Comfort Foods 
16.  Get Crafty! 
17.  Musical Appreciation with Musician John Rose - Guest Blog Post 

18.  Take one too many selfies! 

19.  Get Buff! 
 20. Refurbish a 30-Year Old Combination Wood/Oil Furnace - Guest Blog Post By: Parke - Guest Blog Post! 

 21. Make Firewood 
22.  “Do Time” in front of the Full-Spectrum 10,000 LUX S.A.D. Light 
23.  Play Games, All Sorts.  

24.  Writers Workshop with published author Buffy McKay 

 25. Homemade Christmas Gifts from the Heart: 10 gifts you can make for the holidays, on the cheap with your kids! 

Share the love with your friends and family, be sure to “like” Honey Mama Runs Wild on Facebook, and tell me what YOU want to know about being active all winter long in the Alaskan Interior. 

Please Come Along on with us on Our Journey Home!

Looking for other ideas for an awesome holiday, check out my Thanksgiving post: