Staring Down 12 Work Weeks

This starts week 12 (12 work weeks left) in our workweek countdown to moving. And emotional swings surprise me. For instance, last week we had a staff meeting for the third floor at the hospital. It started with a ceremony led by the chaplain. He was introducing the new Providence mission statement and leading a discussion around it. And I kept tearing up, feeling so thankful for the opportunity to work with people dedicated to this mission.

Then came the recognition of anniversaries, for an RN finishing 5 years here and a CNA finishing 10 years. And I got teary, because we are leaving at year 7, I won’t get reach 10 years. Such mixed feelings, excitement for more free time and hopefully not working full time. Sadness at leaving this unit with these people and these patients, a really special job with a really special team. Someone once said that here in Kodiak we are friends and family caring for friends and family. It’s true. Sometimes it drives me crazy, but I do love it.

So here’s to being one week closer to moving, closer to vacation, closer to precious family time. And here’s to one more week that we get to spend in Kodiak. Thank you Lord for both!

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So Much Planning…

These days my brain has multiple wheels spinning like crazy, always going in the background. Because we are turning our lives upside down and it is coming soon! As mentioned previously, we are moving in February. By that time we’ll have been in Kodiak for seven years and honestly the thought of leaving is slightly terrifying. We love Kodiak, love our coworkers, love the community, the beauty of this place. The family that we’ve found here. But we miss proximity to family, being available when things come up. It’s time to be close for awhile.

So February 2 is our last day of work. February 11 the movers pack up our stuff. We have ferry tickets to Homer for February 13, then we’re driving the AlCan again. Hotels are reserved for the drive down. We have started packing and mailing books for my dad’s, have been sorting and getting rid of a lot of stuff, are organizing our digital lives. Trying to reduce the craziness at the end by preparing well.

The plan is for the cats to drive down with us, in our Ford Escape, with whatever stuff we decide to take in the car. Then we’re hoping for a few days to a week with my family in Washington, before we fly (possibly with the cats) to San Diego to visit Fred’s family. It’s been way too long since we’ve seen most of our family and we are really excited!

From San Diego we leave on the first leg of our round-the-world trip. Yes, all the way around! We will fly to South Carolina to visit Fred’s friend, Caleb, and his family. Then drive to Philadelphia, maybe via D. C., to visit a Coastie friend who is currently stationed there. Then drive again to Rochester, NY to visit my uncle’s family. And maybe see Niagara Falls. Then fly to London, meeting my sister and brother there. They will be with us for the Europe portion of the trip. Two days in London, then to Vienna for a few days, with day trips to neighboring countries. Our friend Mandy will join us the last day in Vienna and stay through Salzburg and Prague. Then we will head south to Athens for a few day, before splitting up.

Fred and I will fly to Egypt for most of a week with Mandy there. His first visit to Africa! Then we both get to check Asia off our list, with a few days in Chiang Mai, Thailand visiting our friend Titus and his dad. Then a few days in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam (also called Saigon) with Titus. Then a week in Tokyo visiting Devin and Ai. Then back to San Diego for some more family time before we start jobs, somewhere.

We have most of our housing figured out, are working on city pass and train plans, still need to reserve rental cars for the east coast, apply for visas (but not until within 90 days of the trip), figure out many of the pieces of this trip (like credit cards vs a preloaded ATM, health insurance while we’re gone, where the cats will be, what needs to come in the car, how much of our furniture to move,…). We check things off the list, but it keeps growing!

I see all the things left to do and feel the stress rise, but I also look at the things we will get to do and feel the excitement bubbling up within me. We get a road trip, through gorgeous country! And time with family, lots of it, in the next year! And get to visit lots of our favorite people (on this trip or smaller trips after we move)! And see places I’ve dreamed about visiting for years! And I’ll be on the same sleep schedule as Fred the whole time, maybe even converting back to being a morning person!

And we will be visiting:

Two or three provinces,

Ten ish states and a district,

Thirteen ish countries,

And four continents!

We’ll keep you posted as we get closer!

Coming Adventures!

The last week has been a turning point for us. We’ve talked about moving for several years, wanting to be closer to family. But the timing wasn’t right. We had opportunities for training here, we couldn’t afford to move, then we were making good progress paying off our student loans. Now we’re debt free, have some experience, and feel that it’s time. We’ve been planning to move, looking at February, but still half expecting something to come up.

Then last week happened. Last week we bought our ferry tickets. And gave notice to our landlord. And both of our employers. And this week we bought our plane tickets for an extended vacation that starts when we leave the island.

So the countdown is happening – 16 work weeks left. 18 weeks until we leave Kodiak and start a three month adventure that will include much needed time with loved ones in the lower 48 and a trip around the world. And will hopefully end with us settles somewhere near family and Fred gainfully employed!

So if you know of IT job openings next summer near our family, let us know! Also if you have the perfect place for rent or sale. Also if you have a great spot for our cats while we’re globe trotting. Because the logistics of this trip/move make my head spin. Don’t worry though, we’re doing our research and preparing as much as we can and striving to continue, as we always have, to make our plans with an open hand.

Making the most of the time

Moving sounds like a waste of precious time, especially since we are hopefully moving back to the lower 48 early next year. But it has already proved to be worth it. We moved out of the trailer we rented when Janessa moved in with us and into an apartment in a 4-plex. It is bright, the neighbors are nice (our last neighbors were too), we have a dishwasher, and my allergies are already better. Worth it!

We are in a precious time, looking at friends leaving (again), looking at leaving ourselves. Looking at last experiences before we move. Last Crab Fest. Last Kodiak summer. Last chance to do things on the mainland before we move. Time feels short and we are trying to make the most of it.

It is bittersweet. We are excited, restless, anxious to be close to family and friends in our other homes again. Eager for game nights with siblings, walks with parents, visits with dear elders, zoos with nieces. And we are sad to be leaving great coworkers, special workplaces, a wonderful community and favorite, beautiful mountains and beaches. We’ll miss the wildlife, the abundant eagles, the intimate community, our small groups, long summer days, Alaska fashion.

This is home, as much as anywhere on earth can be, and this is precious. So we try to number our days and we keep living, holding the tensions of conflicting longings and thanking God for the blessing of this time. For over six years here in Kodiak.

(If you wanted to visit us before we leave, get your plane tickets soon!)

Sometimes overwhelmed…

We are looking at a lot of coming transitions. In our friend circles, as mentioned in an earlier post, at work, in housing and in hopefully soon in states. As we look ahead to leaving Kodiak early next year, Lord willing, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Thinking about packing again, moving again, starting new jobs with new coworkers, settling into a new neighborhood, relearning how to function in a city (or anywhere larger than our little community), it makes my head swim sometimes.

I like our small town. I like barely driving. It is great to have a rush hour that consists of a 6 car delay at stop signs. One stoplight suits me fine and the scenery here is hard to beat. Being so close to so many good trails is wonderful. I like recognizing people everywhere I go and having so many of our circles overlap with each other. I like the cooperation between churches here. The relationships between staff at the hospital (where I work) and the clinic (where Fred works). We have it pretty cush in a lot of ways and I enjoy that.

So we are savoring the moments while we are here and storing up memories. Is this our last Crab Fest? Our last Alaska summer? Maybe. Maybe God has a surprise coming, after all we’ve thought we were moving from Kodiak several times before and we’re still here.

Regardless, we will soak up the sun when it breaks through on these long summer days. We’ll cherish the times of laughter, games and discussion with friends. We’ll relish the camaraderie with our coworkers. We anticipate the island turning green again, salmonberries and fiddlehead ferns and beach walks and mountain hikes. The future can be scary, but we are in good hands and this place God has put us is good.

Surprise! An Update!

Pic of kids All of my siblings together!

For those of you who were afraid we had dropped off the planet, never fear! We are still here! And much has changed since our last update. I am not sure where to start, or where this will end. It may end up being a series of updates. We will see.

I will start with February. In a three week period, we had a series of answers to prayer. Fred got a raise at work, which was very helpful, and he continues to learn and grow a lot in his job. I got a job on the medical-surgical floor at the hospital (didn’t start until April though). We found and moved to a cheaper apartment with wonderful landlords (we were blessed by our first landlord also). We found out that we were pregnant.

At the same time as these blessings were poured out, the hard things of life continued. My mom had a series of seizures in February, caused by high blood pressure from a cancer medication, that sent her to the neurological ICU for several days. She had been declared cancer free for the second time on Christmas Eve, 2012, but was on a cancer inhibitor to try and prevent further relapses. This backfired when the seizures occurred in the spring and it took a couple of months to get her blood pressure consistently into safe range.

May came, bringing relief from the nausea of pregnancy, an increase in energy, sunshine and longer days. I was loving my new job and learning more every day. Then I started spotting at 12 weeks gestation. Five days later we lost the baby, I bled too much and had a D&C on the first morning of week 13. Two days later we celebrated Mother’s Day. I continue to struggle with the hole left by this child that I never really met, but God has held us through this and continues to demonstrate His goodness to His children.

May was also the month when Mom started to have abdominal symptoms again. After six weeks of not being able to keep food down, after losing around 20 pounds, June brought a diagnosis of yet another return of cancer. Our hearts plummeted. She has a bowel obstruction that will most likely never resolve. She is on chemo again, a new-for-her chemo that she receives once a month. TPN (total parenteral nutrition) was restarted and Mom gained some weight back. Then, after two rounds of chemo, the pain began to get worse again. Mom was sent to the emergency room and we received a call that she was dying. Soon. This was two weeks ago. Fred and I flew down and family gathered. Thank God, her crash appears to have been caused by a urinary tract infection that is responding well to antibiotics. However, her oncologist has said that she probably has only weeks to months left to live. Fred is back at work in Kodiak. One of my brothers and his wife are leaving tomorrow for work on the east coast. I am planning to leave later this week, depending on how Mom does in the next few days. Our family is still trying to process our new reality. Dad is the primary caregiver and is running on empty. My youngest brother and sister and about to start their sophomore and senior year of high school. Since they are home schooled, I will help Dad get their curriculum in order before I leave. Today we are talking to hospice. Though this is an exceedingly difficult time, we continue to be blessed by the love and prayers of many people here and elsewhere.

One summer highlight was a visit from Fred’s parents. Unfortunately it was cut short by Mom’s crisis and our abrupt departure. Even with the shortening, we had a good visit and enjoyed showing them around the island, introducing them to our friends, and just resting together. The stereotypes about in-law problems do not apply at all to our families! It is a joy to have two sets of parents who love us both dearly and are wholly supportive of us.

Currently we are functioning on a day-to-day basis. The future feels even more unknown that normal, as we are reminded just how little control we have of life. Even in the uncertainty, there are smiles and laughter. God has blessed us with an inordinate amount of sunshine this summer in Kodiak and Port Angeles. Time with family always means time of music, games and laughter. Fear lurks on the edges and tears are always just below the surface, but “I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand.” There is comfort in the knowledge that our days are in His hands. God holds me, but He also holds my mom and dad, my siblings and grandparents. Even as the hard times roll over us like storms on the ocean, we are still in good hands. May you be filled with the same assurance as you go through this week!

Our Journey to Kodiak – Epilogue

Kodiak
Our First Weeks

Sunday

The next morning I went out to the car to see if I could find our extra tube of toothpaste, as we had run out last night. I went out sometime a little after 9am, and it was dark. There was no inkling that the sun had decided to rise yet. Aside from that I couldn’t find the toothpaste, so I asked the front desk and went about getting ready for the day. The night before Jonelle and I had decided to check out Kodiak Bible Chapel this morning and maybe other churches later. We looked up when it started and directions to get there. Service starts at 10:45am and it would take about 10 minutes to get there, so we figured we would leave sometime around 20 after, just in case we got lost.

We found the church alright, after sliding past one of our turns once and turning around. We were also a little early, so we just wandered around, lost, and found a place to sit in the empty sanctuary. After a couple minutes the Assistant Pastor’s wife, Suzanne, came over and greeted us. I think we had a flashing sign that read: “We’re new and lost and have no clue as to the usual operations of this congregation” over our heads. She was very nice and gave us lots of information on Kodiak, places to look for work, people to get in touch with, and activities going on. After telling her that we just moved and were waiting for the rest of our things to arrive she told us to come by her house later as she had extra things, left behind from coast guards leaving, that we could have.

The service was good and afterward there was a potluck. So we stayed around for that as well. We got to meet more people and found out that there are quiet a few people associated with the hospital at this church, one of which is Suzanne’s dad. Suzanne’s parents were also very kind and helpful in getting us acquainted with Kodiak, and also offered us furniture to borrow as we waited for our own.

After church we went and found our apartment. We pulled everything out of the car, which was wonderful. We didn’t have to worry about repacking or what to leave and what to take. We could finally move in. After just sitting and relaxing a little we went out to pick up things we were offered at church. Before we went to bed that night we had an inflatable bed, a card table and chairs, and some rugs, cleaning supplies, shower curtain and towels. God is good!

Week 1

Monday morning Jonelle got a call from the hospital saying she could start orientation. Before this we thought she would have to wait until her license went through. Also, one of the guys that had put in the carpeting of our apartment came by to finish the job, as they had to stop early because it got too late. By the end of Monday Jonelle had her first day of orientation and our carpeting was finished. I worked on organizing all the stuff we had more or less just dumped in the apartment when we moved in.

The rest of the week Jonelle continued with orientation while I drove around town, figuring out where everything was and getting various things done and checked off our list. In short I: got us a P.O. Box, set up our account at the electric company, KEA (Kodiak Electric Association), did our laundry for the past couple weeks, mailed off our request for a marriage certificate (so we could work on Jonelle’s name change), hooked us up with an Internet connection, and printed off resumes.

Week 2

The following Monday I got an Alaska driver license and a library card. Both of which were an adventure. First I needed three forms of ID for my license, one being my social security card, which was in San Diego (which my mom mailed up for me). I couldn’t get a new one or anything of that nature, as a guy comes to do social security appointments once a month (which we are now currently waiting for, for Jonelle).

Then, for my library card I needed an Alaska ID with my local residence on the ID (so a driver license would work, once I had it. I also needed something like a bill mailed to me, with my address on it. When I had those and I was being set up with a card I answered the following questions: “What’s your phone number? Do you have a local phone number? (No) Do you have a work phone number? What’s your email address? Is this your mailing address? (To differentiate between our 2 addresses) Who is a contact we can get a hold of if you aren’t available? (My wife) What’s her phone number? Does she have a local number? (No, but she works at the Hospital –Oh that’s good) What’s her email address? Goodness, I felt like I was applying for another driver license. When I got a library card in Washington it consisted of me showing the lady an envelope with my current address (because I wasn’t at my San Diego address anymore) and she gave me a card.

We are continuing to get settled and hopefully keep this site more up to date, than trying to type up some adventure from weeks past, like this, again. Hopefully pictures will also follow and be more prevalent as well.