Friday, December 9, 2011

Puppy Watch 2011

It has been difficult for me to focus on exams this year, more so than any other, at least.  One reason may be that I get to see my baby cousins in a couple of weeks.  One reason may be that this semester has just been more work than any other throughout law school.  But I think the true reason for my difficulty in focusing is what I have labeled "puppy watch 2011" (soon to be puppy watch 2012).  Particularly, I have been looking at Daily Puppy (link is to my favorite daily puppy of all time), and the Alaska Dog and Puppy Rescue site.

This is Chuck, a 1 year old Husky/Shepherd mix, who, clearly, wants to be my best friend.
I have also been procrastinating by looking through Alaska photos on the Alaska Daily News website and getting excited for the actual White Christmas I will have next year (my first!).  For your enjoyment, here is a recent picture my friend Chris sent of a road trip through Denali:

Denali, also know as Mt. McKinley, is the highest mountain in America standing at 20,320 feet!
The Denali road that runs through the park is only open to tour buses and visitors of the few homesteaders who still own land in the national park.  However, each year the state holds a lottery and a certain number of people get passes to actually drive through Denali in their own vehicles.  Pretty neat.

Well, since my latest procrastination activity seems to be blogging, I am going to head off and actually learn admin law.  Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pray, Talk to Your Loved Ones, Don't Drink and Drive!

The day before Thanksgiving, our former nextdoor neighbors' lives changed forever.  Their youngest son Jamie, only 20 years old, was injured in a terrible car accident.  Below is a message from his mom, Katrina, that I thought too important not to be shared.  Please pray for Jamie's recovery, talk to your loved ones, and don't drink and drive!

‎1st, i would like to thank everyone for their phone calls, texts msgs, FB concerns. (pray, talk to your loved ones, don't drink and drive)

2nd, there are a few people that i want to thank for all that you have done: Jan sherman for setting up BROADSHOULDERS FOR JAMIE. Kim loved your spaghetti with meat sauce and meatballs, Mel Nixon~your soup is awesome, 1st thing i have eaten w/o paper around it. to all the others that have set up a day to help feed this family, we are grateful beyond words. To THE BOOK NOOK family as they have pegged themselves: wendy king, sally swenk, lauren & melissa McLean, thank you so much for taking care of my "baby" while i take care of my true baby. You have taken a huge burden off my shoulders. If you are not mentioned here, i have not forgotten you, there are just so many that i would not know where to begin...(pray, talk to your loved ones, don't drink and drive)

JAMIE UPDATE: Jamie is the same, still asleep, no further injuries have turned up, he had his feeding tube removed yesterday and an abdominable one put in, today he will have a trach put in. There are many reasons for this: we believe the tubes were irritating him which was raising his blood pressure. this is a long term situation that we are in, and the less invasive things that we can do for him to make him comfortable the better. He has begun "brain storming", which it seems every brain injured person does. This is when the neurons begin "firing" in his brain. It is not harmful to him in that it does not create more injury, but i am told that it is painful to him and painful for us to see. by removing the tubes that irritate him, we can only hope that we can decrease the severity of the storming, we will not be able to stop them tho. He seems a bit more relaxed, as if he is just having a really good sleep. he can hear you, he has emotion..whenever some names are mentioned a tear will come to his eye..which brings me down to my knees. He loves Kayla, Jayden and Richard more than anyone, but tears come, so i do not talk about them anymore. I have been doing PT with him to decrease any tendons shortening. As a mom, i cannot do the medical things, but as a former Special Ed teacher i can stop him having additional problems such as "foot drop", etc. I am pulling from my past education (thanks mom and dad for that education, it is finally coming to use), and it makes me feel useful in a very sad environment. His eyes do react when light is shined in them, he still has a shunt in his head to reduce the swelling of his brain. He is to be moved to TIRR sometime soon (possibly next week) and then he will begin intensive PT for how long, no one has an answer to that question. Weeks, months, possibly years. But his birth certificate did not expire when he turned 18, we are in this for the long haul. And we know it. (pray, talk to your loved ones, don't drink and drive.)

there have been many questions of "what happened" with the unspoken question of "was alcohol involved". as i can assume that you have gathered from my not so sublimineal statements above, YES, alcohol was involved. My dear sweet Jamie made a decision that changed all our lives forever. Could Kim and I have done more? We were the parents with the breathalyzer on the counter when they came home. We were the parents who always said "no drinking and driving". I don't know if we could have done more, I can only pray that they listened most of the time. to see my dear sweet jamies car in the paper with the one lone sentence: man wraps mini cooper around tree. That is not a man, that is my son, someones brother, uncle, cousin. when we read this we think "oh not another one" we don't think about family, friends who will never be consoled. The only comforting thot i have now is that i do not have to go to another parent and tell them how sorry i am for my son taking their loved one. I'm strong but there is always a breaking point. to live with the grief we are going thru and put guilt on top of that..(pray, talk to your loved ones, don't drink and drive)
I have held many titles: daughter, granddaughter, cousin, niece, wife, parent and now mother of a drunk driver. like the ones above, i will never be able to get rid of that title, and i can only hope and pray that all those young people who are camping out in ICU will read this and stop and think and pull out that $10 for a cab. YOU DO NOT WANT this title. It breaks your heart beyond repair. Think before you speak, write, text something. it may be the last communication you have with someone, it may be the thing that pushes them over the edge that makes them lose all common sense and do something so incredibly stupid that will affect so many people for their entire lives. Don't worry if you fight with them, take away their car keys, they will get over it when they wake up the next morning in their own bed. They may not even remember, you will be mad at the nasty things they said to you, but so what..they are there to say I'm sorry. (pray, talk to your loved ones, don't drink and drive)

parents, kids, young adults who are facing the new challenges of building their own independant lives, talk, talk, talk. Dont stop talking when you move out, don't stop talking when you marry, when you have kids, talk, talk, can never turn back these hands of time. My heart is broken beyond repair as is kims, nicolas, colin's and katies. Will Kayla, Jayden and Richard ever get to have the opportunity to have their Uncle Jamie back. I pray they will. (pray, talk to your loved ones, don't drink and drive)
lastly, in this entire mess, there is one person who most likely saved my dear sweet jamie's life. His good friend John was following Jamie and he saw the accident. He immediatly called 911, flagged down cars to find out exactly where they were, and jamie was life flighted within 15 minutes. the first 30 minutes are crucial in this type of injury. John did not think about himself, any trouble he would get into, he just saved his friends life. For that we will be eternally grateful. John will now be a part of our family for the rest of our lives, he is now my 3rd son. Pray for this young man who is going thru his own trauma. Pray that he understands that there is nothing he could have done to stop my dear sweet jamie from picking up those car keys, pray for his mental health and acceptance of what happened. We love you John, you are now and always will be an honory Chapman. (pray, talk to your loved ones, don't drink and drive)

lastly, Wendy King texted me & said that Jamie's accident has made her realize how precious family is. She has decided to only have ornaments on her tree that her sons have made thru out the years. I have those same ornaments & every year they go on the tree. This year i am adopting Wendy's idea. My tree will not be all glitzy, but very simple with my dear childrens ornaments that i have saved, glued back together and just could not get rid of. Kayla, Jayden and Richard will join the tree with their wonderful creations.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Most of my previous five Thanksgivings have been spent with my guys at Walter Reed, or at work.  However, this year my mom, my sister, and I went on a cruise to the Caribbean.  What is that?  Don't I have exams in a week?  Yep!  But I have a new theory (as of last week) that nothing prepares you for that last push like a nice relaxing week of fun in the sun.

The first few days were rough - literally!  The waters were so choppy and the winds so high that the ship could not dock in Grand Turk.  But for us that meant an extra day at the pool to just kick back, relax, go to a wine-tasting or two, and engage in the most important customary cruise activity - eat.

Puerto Rico was great.  Mom and I went on a hike through the rainforest, where it was raining (at least it lived up to its name).  Mom jogged up the trail backward (that is for you dad)

The rainforest was lush and beautiful and we got to swim in a large waterfall, got a drink and some food in San Juan, and then it was back onto the ship to sail on to St. Thomas. 

El Yunque Rainforest

St. Thomas was by far the most beautiful of the three locations we visited.  The sea immediately gives way to mountains, the water was crystal clear, and the people were so friendly.  I went on a snorkeling tour to a shipwreck on a catamaran that had by far one of the best rum punches I have ever tasted.

St Thomas (mom's photo)
We spent Thanksgiving on the ship, which was definitely a different experience.  In truth, while I enjoyed it, I did miss the way my family cooks things, and I missed my guys at Walter Reed.  However, I had so many things on the ship to be thankful for!  I met some really great new people, including the Ford family from Chicago.  By the third night on the ship, they were already calling me the "sixth sister," so I picked up an entire new family!  I also made friends with a few people closer to my age from all different backgrounds (and countries of origin). 

My new sisters!  Sheila, Susan, Donna, Peggy, & Eileen (not pictured is my new brother - Steve)

Aaron, Heather, Alex, Sig, Carl, Mandy and I

Our final stop was in Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.  The water was truly turquoise and Mandy, mom, and I went for a horseback ride on the beach and through the water.  Definitely the best excursion of the trip. 

Yours truly leading the pack!  (Also mom's photo)

Mom reminiscing on her horseback riding days
 Mandy and I spent some time snorkeling, off the coast and we were dressed to impress:

Overall, it was a great trip and now that I am back in the 'Burg, exams and Christmas movies are calling my name! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Two Women

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving - we have so much to be grateful for. 

As I mentioned in the previous post, I just went on vacation!  My mom, my sister, and I just returned from a cruise through the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (we were supposed to stop in the Turks & Caicos, but the winds were too high for the ship to safely dock).  The fun in the sun was great, although the Florida humidity definitely reminded me of one reason I am moving to Alaska.

More on the vacation later this week, as the trip down to Florida was rather interesting.  I usually keep to myself in airports, especially in situations like last week where I had 20 papers to grade in only 2 days.  However, on my way to Ft. Lauderdale, I met two very different and very inspirational women that reminded me of so many things I will be thankful for this Thanksgiving. 

The first woman I met sat down next to me as I was grading the LL.M.'s second drafts of their memos.  Her face was bruised, her nose was clearly broken, and she had lacerations everywhere.  It was clear by her demeanor that she was quite nervous.  As it turned out, the woman is a heroin addict who had overdosed not 24 hours prior to the flight and was on her way to a rehabilitation facility in West Palm Beach.  She has three children, and an ex-husband who has been sober for 3 years.  This overdose was her wake up call.  She doesn't want her children growing up without a mother, and she knows that she was on the fast track to disaster.  So, she decided it was time to get clean, and checked herself into an inpatient facility for a 90-day treatment.  As many of you know, I have an uncle who died earlier this month because of his addictions.  It takes a strong and determined person to take hold of a disease like addiction and dare to imagine their life without it.  It takes an even stronger person to work to kick the addiction.  Seeing someone make that decision was really inspirational.

The second woman I met could not be more different from the first.  She is an interpreter and a Spanish and French teacher.  Born in Cuba, she was airlifted to the United States during Operation Peter Pan in the 1960s.  She grow up with a foster family in Indiana and later studied languages in France.  She was on her way to a reunion of children who left Cuba in the 1960s through Operation Peter Pan.  While she normally doesn't go to these types of events, a friend who she hadn't seen since they were children in Cuba recently reached out to her via Facebook (the power of the social network!), and 50 years later, they will reunite.

I couldn't help but think of how brave these two women are - one facing her demons, the other embracing her very unique past.  It also made me think of how great our country is.  We are able to provide help for those who are ready to fight the demons inside them.  We have engaged in countless programs to take in people under political asylum and have given them the American Dream, which is unfortunately becoming less and less of a reality in current economic times. 

This Thanksgiving, these two very different but remarkable women reminded my of what this country can be about.  I promise, Thursday's post will have plenty of stories and pictures from the Caribbean, but for today I am off to study admin law and work on my Van Alstyne paper.  I wish you a happy Thanksgiving, and in the spirit of what is now the holiday season, I leave you with this (one of my new favorite Christmas songs):

Monday, November 14, 2011

I have already received received a huge outpouring of support from friends and family since starting this blog less than a week ago, as well as some great advice.  The best advice so far is to purchase an engine block heater for my car here in the lower 48 as they apparently get back ordered rather quickly in Anchorage, and cost much less here.  For those of you southerners like me who, up until two days ago, had no idea what an engine block heater was, it is a magic tool that allows you to plug in your car overnight and keep the fluids in your engine from freezing in the cold weather.  I've also received some delicious looking salmon recipes, so keep those pouring in!

I am now in the process of completing my last executive edit for the semester and getting Volume 36, Issue 1 of the William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review out the door.  I am going on vacation next week (yes, right before exams - more on that in the next post) so I am trying to get as much done as possible before I leave, including my edit.  As such, I stayed up a bit later than I normally would on a Sunday night.  I like to have the TV on in the background as I fall asleep, and am also one who rather enjoys the weather channel.  Lo and behold, Coast Guard Alaska was on!  It is just one of the rash of shows that have come out recently about life in the last frontier - Alaska State Troopers (my dad's favorite), Gold Rush Alaska, Ice Road Truckers, Deadliest Catch, and of course my favorite, Sarah Palin's Alaska).

(I couldn't help myself, look at those puppies!)

These programs show that Alaska has somehow captured the nation's attention.  Alaska initially captured my attention because of its beauty, its danger, and the fact that so much of Alaska is still wild and undiscovered.

What is it about Alaska that fascinates you?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Here We Go!

I am new to the world of blogging, so helloooooo interweb!  Last month, I made a big decision - to pack up my East Coast life and move to ALASKA!  I accepted a job in Anchorage, and I have 8 months before I graduate law school and start a completely new life in a completely new place. 

My decision was fueled by a number of factors.  I went to Alaska on a whim this past summer after spending a month in Tanzania and realizing that living the big city life that I have lived in the past (growing up in Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area, New York City for college, and Washington, DC, in between college and law school) isn't what I am looking for anymore.  I absolutely fell in love with the beautiful scenery, fun activities, and really down-to-earth fun people in Anchorage.  It has the perfect mix of city conveniences with easy access to complete wilderness.  This recent op-ed from the Anchorage Daily News that expresses, better than I ever could, what is so wonderful about Alaska.

I have lived a really wonderful life full of great friends and family. But still, I can't help but feel like I am in a rut.  I want something more, although I can't quite articulate what it is.  I hope you will join me through my final year in law school, preparing for the bar, moving to my new home, starting my new job, maybe making a new addition to my family (the current front-runners can be found here and here), and daring to imagine that my life could be something different.