Last week I was pregnant.

Posted by Misha on Friday Sep 19, 2014 Under mothering, pregnancy

I am having a miscarriage today. I wasn’t very far along but each cramp and other unpleasantness reminds me that for a couple of weeks, I was pregnant. I was kind of in that stage where you’re pretty sure you’re pregnant but not so sure yet. I was really sure last weekend, then on Tuesday, I knew I wasn’t anymore.

I’m kind of “old” to have a baby but I looked it up to see if anyone else at 42 ever had one – and there have been many. Savannah Guthrie (the host of the Today Show) just had a baby and she’s 42.

I was a little scared to have another baby, what with my new disease diagnosis and a recent flare up that was quite severe. But then I was excited. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m always excited to have another baby…even though the thought of being that huge again – and I do get HUGE – is very unappealing.

I can picture myself trying hard to desperately lift my huge belly and swing it over to the other side as I turn in bed. I also spent a lot of time imagining myself making 30 trips an hour to the bathroom.

But, I’ve done that before. It’s not so bad. And I have a lot of really cool people around to help me out so I was good with the idea. I even went so far as to warn the kids about a potential new person. They were happy.

I always feel a little less when I have a miscarriage. This is my fourth. So I’ve been pregnant 12 times total in my life. This one is, at least, only at the 6 week mark – so not as emotionally-wrecking as the one I had well into my fourth month.

I know that miscarriages are nature’s little safety net – a way to make sure that if your arm is really growing out of your ear, then maybe we should try again. The idea of being pregnant gave me a little light in what has been a very dark time in my life. It’s feeling a little darker today.

But anyway. last week, I was pregnant. I’m not now.

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You Know You’re A Rural Mother If:

Posted by Misha on Tuesday Sep 16, 2014 Under funny stuff, large family, off grid

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You might be a rural (no, not redneck) mom if:

You can’t get a moment’s peace, even in the outhouse.

Your backyard swimming pool is a very deep mud hole.

The people who work at the local feed store know you by name and animal feed type.

You have laundry hanging in your living room.

Your Carharrt pants are your good, going to town clothes.

You pay hundreds of dollars every week to buy food, fencing supplies and housing materials for the farm animals.

You tell your kids to wear their mud boots to town when their pants get too short.

Your four-wheeler isn’t a toy but an extra car.

You have ever driven your kids to swimming lessons on a four-wheeler.

Your kids grab on to the car seats and holler “YEE HAW!” as you drive up your dirt driveway.

A cacophony of animal sounds either A.) welcomes you home from the store or B.) alerts you to something (like a bear) lurking in your yard in the middle of the night.

You go to the library to stock up on movies and use the high speed Internet because you don’t have TV and the service at your house either A.) sucks or B.) is limited by some inane satellite service FAP plan or C.) is cellular based.

You have a blog and a Facebook account because no one lives near you and you need a social life.

Did I miss anything…? Add it to the comments!

Do you want one of my books? They’re pretty funny too!

 

 

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On Being “Sick”

Posted by Misha on Friday Sep 12, 2014 Under Uncategorized

Because Facebook is sometimes a rumor mill and not a great place to clarify information, I am posting this here on my blog so that those who are curious will have a place to verify it :-) Yes, I gave up my sled dog team because I have Lupus. This blog is much better at explaining it than I am.

Here’s what I know. I know that Lupus can sometimes be caused by the shingles virus (Herpes Zoster). I know that at about the same time Kiara got sick with Bell’s Palsy, I started to get worse – although it appears that I’ve had flare ups for longer – possibly since the older kids got chicken pox and John got shingles way back in 1998.

Every 10 -14 days I experience a series of symptoms that are impossible to stop. I have  a rash on my legs that comes back (it never disappears completely but it does go dormant during my “off” times.) Then I get ferocious neck and upper back pain that makes it impossible to move those muscles well. The day after, I will usually get feverish off and on coupled with a crushing fatigue that has me falling asleep in the middle of the day – randomly. Lately, I have had mini-seizures during the fever. I thought we were having earthquakes. I also have the craziest dreams the night before the sleepy days. Then I have a few days where I sleep until like 10 am and still need a nap during the day. John really loves me on those days. Along with all of this, I experience massive nausea and gastrointestinal pain and some times pain in my legs or shoulders. Then it subsides and I think I was crazy.

Ten days later, it  starts again. Another quick link to what Lupus does.

When I was training dogs and training myself physically to get in shape for all those races I wanted to do, the symptoms became so severe that I was experience pain in my chest and fatigue so severe that I didn’t even want to get out of bed to run dogs.

Lupus is aggravated by stress and anyone who knows about running dogs knows there is a bit of stress involved. I was stressed from training both myself and the dogs, stressed from the financial issues of running races, stressed with the marital discord that the financial stress brought and stressed because I felt like I was depriving my children of my time and money.

I also learned that at my present pace, if I continued on, I would likely die sooner than I would like. Lupus doesn’t just make you feel like garbage – it’s eating away at your organs while it’s doing it.

So, I made the hardest decision of my life…again. Sometimes, you have to see the writing on the wall. While one of my greatest dreams might be to run the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest, it’s not going to happen. Because, you see, my other great dream was to have a large family and be with them as much as possible. They are my dream and I will not let them down at the expense of my personal desires.

I have now tried this mushing dream of mine a few times and each time I hit a wall. So, sometimes, you have to admit defeat and do something else. I am admitting defeat. I truly don’t know if I will ever find my way back to mushing and owning my own kennel again. I pray every day that God will fill the space in my heart where mushing lives. I doubt He can.

But that’s OK. Not everything has to go the way we plan. I know many mothers who have lost children and that hole will never be filled. Plenty of people don’t get to be or do the things they want. I’ve gotten to do almost everything I’ve ever hoped for. Not running the Iditarod will be a life long sorrow, but it will not keep me down. I will find other things to do.

My favorite line in a movie is this: “It will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.”

It’s not the end.

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Our humble outhouse.

According to the EPA, the average American family uses 400 gallons of water every day. So about 100 gallons per person. The bathroom is the largest consumer of the water.

For the last year, my family has lived in a small (400 square foot) cabin off-the-grid in rural Alaska. We have consumed, on average, two (yes, two) gallons of water per person, per day. There are seven of us in the cabin – my husband, me and five of our eight children. Three of our children are now grown and on their own.

We haul our water from a spring about two miles away. We fill up five gallon jugs, load them in our truck and drive them over our trail. Six months out of the year, we have to use either a four-wheeler, snowmachine or our legs to bring the water in the last half a mile.

I was watching a show the other night – a show I will never watch again, but the premise looked interesting – about a group of individuals who are trying to make a “Utopian” civilization. One of their biggest concerns was “when will we get a toilet?” They had to have a toilet. So important to have a toilet.

My question is, “when did we humans get so squeamish?”

For thousands of years, people have been digging holes and composting their own “manure.” Now, while I greatly appreciate modern sanitation practices, the fact that we now require, not recommend or even prefer, but demand and require that all households have an appliance or two or three that flushes gallons and gallons of drinkable, potable water into pipes – or the ground without ever passing the lips of a person or washing a dish, is absolutely sickening to me.

The UN says that average person needs 13 gallons of water each day to drink, eat, clean and the like. I’m telling you that even that is overkill, but we do a lot of sponge baths during the week and then pay for a shower at the Laundromat or go to the pool once or twice a week and use the showers in the locker room.

In Africa, average daily consumption is about five gallons per person per day. So really, my family has existed quite easily, I might add, on what a normal African family might have. The difference being that we have beautiful fresh water available to us all of the time – we just have to go and get it.

And yes, we use an outhouse. It’s not a horrible thing. It doesn’t smell – well, no more than our bathroom ever did after a number of us used it. Even going outside in the dark in the middle of the winter is not such a big deal. I have a good parka.

We empty the water that’s used to wash the dishes into a bucket and that water is used to either “dampen” down what’s in the outhouse hole or water plants. We generally use biodegradable soap – when we can find it. If we don’t have environmentally friendly soap – into the outhouse hole it goes. Or we use it as a “weed killer.” Although, truthfully, where we live, we don’t care a lot about weeds – in fact, we like most of them – particularly the fireweed, which is quite beautiful and surrounds our house.

In the winter, when it was particularly difficult to get out and get down into town (we live about 16 miles away from our town, down a very treacherous in the winter road), I melted snow so that I could clean our laundry by hand. That takes a lot of water – about 20 gallons to wash and rinse. We then hang our clothes up on the line inside the cabin. When we can, I take our clothes to the Laundromat, but we always bring them home to hang – it’s cheaper. So, if we do laundry at home, it does take quite a bit more water. Bumps our average up to about five gallons per person, per day – so we’re at the African average. Not quite hitting that UN goal. Hmmm, somehow, I’m not thirsty.

What’s even more interesting is not that it’s possible to live on this amount of water every day, but the fact that none of us feel deprived or “put out,” doing it. It took us about a week – maybe two – to get over the novelty of hauling water and to develop a system. Now, it’s absolutely a no-brainer. And we don’t smell more because we only shower once or twice a week.

In fact, we have all noticed our skin and hair is healthier, smoother and in less need of lotions because we shower less.

The only thing I truly feel bad about is the fact that my youngest daughter, Anais, who is now 19 months and has spent most of her life in the cabin, is absolutely terrified of running water when we go somewhere that has it. It’s truly a foreign concept to her. I wish it could always be that way.

 

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Decision Making

Posted by Misha on Tuesday Sep 9, 2014 Under productivity

 

We make hundreds, maybe thousands, of decisions everyday. From the minuscule to the huge. From “Do I wear green socks or blue?” to “Do I really need to buy that car?” Every time we have to choose, no matter how small the choice may seem, we are depleting our energy and creating stress.

Making decisions is hard work. The key is to make fewer decisions and reserve your energy for the big ones. President Obama, in a Vanity Fair article, said, “You need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day… You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

1. Your brain requires glucose to make good decisions.

Psychological scientists X.T. Wang and Robert D. Dvorak from the University of South Dakota studied how blood sugar levels affect the way we think. “Volunteers answered a series of questions asking if they would prefer to receive a certain amount of money tomorrow or a larger amount of money at a later date. They responded to seven of these questions before and after drinking either a regular soda (containing sugar) or a diet soda (containing the artificial sweetener aspartame). Blood glucose levels were measured at the start of the experiment and after the volunteers drank the soda.

“The results, reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reveal that people’s preferences for current versus later rewards may be influenced by blood glucose levels. The volunteers who drank the regular sodas (and therefore had higher blood glucose levels) were more likely to select receiving more money at a later date while the volunteers who drank the diet sodas (and who had lower blood glucose levels) were likelier to opt for receiving smaller sums of money immediately. These findings are suggestive of an adaptive mechanism linking decision making to metabolic cues, such as blood sugar levels.”

While drinking a soda before you make a choice is not the answer, keeping your blood sugar levels up by eating small amounts of healthy food throughout the day will likely improve your decision-making abilities.

2. Bad decisions come from mental fatigue.

Once you start getting tired, you start making bad decisions. Whether you’re not eating well, have had a long day or are simply tired, bad decisions will start to happen. If you’re “too tired to care,” then Oreos for dinner might sound like a great idea. Or instead of going to the gym or for a walk, sitting on the couch and watching TV becomes very enticing.

According to a research study published by the National Academy of Sciences, psychologists examined the factors that impact whether or not a judge approves a criminal for parole.

“The researchers examined 1,112 judicial rulings over a 10-month period. All of the rulings were made by a parole board judge, who was determining whether or not to allow the criminal to be released from prison on parole. (In some cases, the criminal was asking not for a release, but rather for a change in parole terms.)” While you might think the judges were affected by the type of crime committed, you’d be wrong. Instead, the judges choices were more influenced by whether or not they had just had a food break. Most — about 65 percent — of the potential parolees, received parole early in the morning or after a break, regardless of the crime.

Those who had their hearings early in the morning or after lunch were much more likely to get parole than those who sat before the judge at the end of the morning or the end of the day, when the judges were likely, let’s face it, crankier.

3. Develop routines to overcome decision fatigue.

I have a pretty solid morning routine, no matter what my day is like. I wake up, make coffee, check email and social media – just to “wake up.” Then I get right into writing my first couple of articles. Then I eat breakfast. I do this every single morning. I get a lot done this way too. I also have routines for when I feed my dogs (I have 23) and different but similar routines for my workouts and different days when I have to be in different places. Routines are essential to good decision making because they eliminate the minor decisions that often take up the day.

4. Eliminate decisions.

Plan out your decision making before you have to make it. Put out what you’re going to wear in the morning. Decide what or where you will eat. Deciding these beforehand, eliminates the need to spend time on the decisions the next day — and potentially fighting your willpower. Be resolved to wake up and work out and you will.

5. Sleep well.

Sleeping better helps you make better decisions. If you are feeling rested, you won’t be tempted by that mid-morning doughnut or the temptation to not go for a run. Try and get to sleep about the same time every night. Make it a routine. If there is a day every week that plays a show you like on TV, incorporate that into your routine or record it for viewing at an earlier hour. It’s important to get the right amount of sleep for you. If you can, incorporate a nap into your schedule. Even 20 minutes can give you a boost and help you conquer your decisions.

6. Make commitments, not decisions.

Don’t stand at the door trying to decide if you should go for a walk. Instead, plan it into your day. Think about the things that you want to do — I mean the things you really want to do and plan for them. If you want to lose 40 pounds, figure out the steps necessary to make that happen. Plan out your meals and schedule workout time. Making this a part of your daily routine means that you don’t have to decide anymore. You just have to follow your schedule.

I used to hate going for a walk or a run. I thought it was boring. But I knew I had to do it in order to lose the weight I had to lose and get back into shape. So I scheduled time in my afternoon. Coincidentally, this time (about 3pm) is about the time everyday when I used to want to lay on the couch, watch TV and take a nap. Now, even if I feel like laying down, I lace up my sneakers and start walking. Usually kind of slowly at first, until I get into the groove and start running or do some sprints. All of a sudden, I’m having a great workout. But I wouldn’t if left to my own devices. Plan. It helps.

7. Prepare for moments of weakness.

I know that everyday around 3 pm, I’m not going to feel like walking or running. I have to mentally prepare myself for this little argument I have with myself. Sometimes, it’s just about changing motions. I have to go and get a fresh pair of socks, put on my shoes. And then, well, I have my shoes on, I might as well just walk a little. I don’t have to go really far, I telly myself. Just get out the door and get some air. Then I grab one of my dogs and we walk along and pretty soon I’m running or jogging or climbing hills with them, having a good time. Now that I’ve done this routine everyday for about four years, I know I’ll feel better once I get going. But it wasn’t always like that. I had to prepare for that weak moment.

This is also true with food. I love carbs and sweets. Really. I would eat them all the time. Bread, cookies, you name it. I had to stop. I also had to learn to walk away when my cravings got bad. I learned that I would eat a treat around 9:30 or 10 pm in front of the TV. For a long time, I started going to bed at 9 pm with a book. I would read and then fall asleep, never getting the treat because it was down in the kitchen instead of staring me in the face. Learning to prepare and act before the weak moment comes is key to good decision making.

8. Take time for yourself.

If you are at work and you are constantly confronted with decisions, you might, just like the judges mentioned above, start to get a little cranky. Take a break when this starts to happen. Go outside and walk or sit under a tree and read a book you like. Getting a mental break from issues that aren’t your own is essential to your own mental clarity and will help you make better decisions later on in the day.

9. Shopping is exhausting. Avoid it if you can.

Why is online shopping so much easier than shopping in person? You are making fewer decisions. If you know you want a certain pair of sneakers, online, you can just go get those sneakers and buy them. At the store, though, you have a multitude of options and then, decisions to make.Researchers found that those making shopping decisions gave up more quickly on a math test.

10. Let your unconscious mind work for you.

Have you ever felt confounded by a problem? Have you ever gone to “sleep on it,” and awoken understanding the problem better? Sure, we all have. Sometimes, relaxing, focusing on something else or getting some sleep, can help you clear away the detritus around the problem and let your mind do the work. Believe it or not, your brain is still working whether you are thinking about something or not. Relax. Go play volleyball and let your brain do the heavy-lifting for a while.

This post originally appeared on Lifehack.org

 

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How To Be Fun and Happy Even If You’re Broke

Posted by Misha on Friday Sep 5, 2014 Under Motivation

Let’s face it, we all have different ideas of what being broke means. For most of us, having nothing left in the bank account until the next payday is usually pretty close. I’ve been broke most of my adult life but with a bunch of kids and a sled dog team, that doesn’t surprise me — or hurt my feelings anymore.

It’s hard to see celebrities on TV and think of the lives they have that we likely won’t – ever. But does it matter? Sure, there are some great rags to riches stories, but you can have as much fun and happiness being broke as not.

Being broke is more a state of mind than an actual issue and if you start to look at it that way, you can overcome any anxiety or stress you have about being broke and have fun and be happy anyway.

Look at what you have.

Are you really broke? Like living in your car or at a homeless shelter broke? If so, it’s probably going to be harder to feel better about what you have. But if you’re not, then really look around. Is your electricity on? Do you have food in the fridge? Enough gas in the car to get to work? Clothes to wear? If so, then relax and remember that a lot of people in a lot of places in the world would consider this to be a sign of wealth. Smile because you and your family are well taken care of. And if you’re struggling to put a meal on the table, then seek out help at a local church or food bank.

Do fun, cheap stuff.

There are lots of things you can do without needing any money. You can camp out with the kids in your backyard. You can have awesome sex without needing a dime (assuming you have a partner already). You can read a book from the library — or three. You can borrow movies from the library. Cook something awesome out of stuff you have in your pantry. Play board games. Get on with your life. You don’t need money to pursue your dreams. Find the steps you can take to getting towards your goal that don’t require money. Exercise. Exercise always makes you feel better — and you don’t need money to do it.

Don’t stress about bills.

I used to have horrible anxiety. As a teenager, I would wake up in the middle of the night freaking out in a cold sweat over algebra class homework I hadn’t done. As I got older, my stresses became the phone bill or electric bill I couldn’t pay. What I’ve learned through the years is that even if the phone gets turned off (and it has a couple of times) or the electric gets turned off (and it did once), you can’t let it take over your life. If you and your family are safe and secure with enough to eat, sometimes that has to be good enough. Be upfront with those to whom you owe money and let them know when you can pay a bill. Try and negotiate smaller payments. If you have kids, try to be normal about abnormal things. If the electricity is off – cook outside. It’s hard to not freak out when stuff like this happens, but trying to be cheerful through hard times can make them more bearable.

Be rich in mindset.

It’s important to understand that a lot of rich people aren’t really rich. In fact, you might think that they have money simply by how they act when in fact they might be as broke as you. People who are actually wealthy (in cash) might act stressed and frazzled, proving that being rich with cash may not be the best thing for everyone. Practice being appreciative of what you have and acting rich despite your circumstances. Be grateful for small things and not miserly in spirit. People who grouse all the time about having money, not having money or how much things cost regardless of how much money they have are boring. Period.

Stop acting like a broke person and be rich in spirit. If you truly desire wealth, then work towards that but don’t miss the little opportunities to appreciate your family at the same time. Be happy with what you have no matter what your circumstances and learn to live within your means.

Laugh more, worry less. If the electricity is off  (well, then you’re probably not reading this article), then make the best of it — especially if you can’t fix it any time soon. Do what you can with what you have and be happy about it. Life is too short to grouse about money.

This article originally appeared at Lifehack.org

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Sometimes in life, we find ourselves at a dead end. Or a crossroads. Or on a path that seems to go nowhere. No matter what stage you are at in life, if you are unhappy with it, or unsure as to how to proceed, then you need to reevaluate.

When I was in high school, I remember thinking that I had to pick a career at which I would be happy for the next 50 or so years of my life. What a daunting task. How do you know what’s going to make you happy for the rest of your life, especially if you’re only 16 and you’re still getting a thrill out of watching “The Breakfast Club?”

You can’t know. You can’t know what’s going to make you happy even five years from now. But you can know what makes you happy now and if you’re current position — or school track — isn’t it, then you need to move on. When my oldest children were contemplating their college careers and job prospects, I often told them to just go and take classes or try things they thought might be interesting and if they didn’t like the class or workshop or whatever, then cross that off your list. Life is often about trying things and realizing what you don’t want to be when you “grow up.”

I spent a year substitute teaching in an effort to see if I wanted to become a public school teacher. I enjoyed that year immensely, but after talking with teachers and doing some of their job for a year, I realized that was a career that was not for me.

You can’t figure out the whole future.

Remember, you don’t know what’s coming next. Life is full of interesting twists and turns, but if we continually pursue things that we enjoy doing whether for a job or hobby, it will make the journey interesting and more fun. Maybe you enjoy making jewelry right now. Maybe you can sell it. In five years, you might be a successful jewelry designer or you might have moved on to another craft. It doesn’t matter. You have the experience of your jewelry design to fall back on and help you with other projects in the future.

Try to be comfortable with discomfort.

Sometimes life is uncomfortable. Sometimes we don’t have enough money to do all of the things we want to do. If you have something you really want to pursue, then you must be able to live with some amount of discomfort in order to do that. For example, I want to mush sled dogs and run the Iditarod. In order to do that, I had to give up my neat, tidy suburban home and move my family to a cabin in Alaska. We don’t have running water or regular electricity and our cabin is much smaller than our old house, but we don’t mind the discomfort of those things because we live in a beautiful place and I get to pursue my dream.

Life is uncertain. Go with it.

Stuff happens. I thought I had it all. I had a great job and a great house in the woods. Then I got fired, lost my house and turned 40 all in the same week. Then I found out I was pregnant. Quite the week. I laid on the couch for a couple of days, depressed, but then we got it together, made a plan and moved to Alaska. Take uncertainty and turn it on its head. Every bad thing is an opportunity to make something good happen.

Overcome distractions. Stop procrastinating.

You’re not getting younger. Sorry, but it’s true. If you don’t start taking the time to pursue your dreams, you might find yourself at the end of your life with nothing to show for it but a lot of Facebook posts and a bunch of TV shows you just had to watch. If you are serious about pursuing a dream — whether it’s designing jewelry, professional skateboarding or being a rich and famous computer guru, you better get on it. Take those first steps. Turn off your Facebook notifications and get working. You won’t get anywhere merely thinking about how great you could be.

Ask yourself questions.

Take some time for yourself. Ask yourself big questions. And small ones. Learn about yourself. Meditate. Write down the things that interest you and things you could see yourself doing if time and money were no object. Dream big. Quiet your mind and really imagine yourself doing those things.

Volunteer or shadow someone.

If there is a job or hobby you are interested in — from grooming dogs to being a zookeeper — volunteer or job shadow and see if it’s an occupation you really want to do. All the dreaming in the world isn’t going to help you if you don’t go and get your hands dirty. Sometimes, we think we want to do something and then once we try it, we realize it might not be the kind of work we like after all. Or it might be more involved than we realized. It’s important to get hands-on experience and do a lot of reading by those with first-hand experience before we give up our current life to pursue a dream.

Save up.

If you need to move or go to school to pursue your new dream, it might be pertinent to get a job doing something — anything — and save up the money to allow you to do it. I worked for many years to build my writing and editing portfolio and I now I can write and edit articles from my wee little cabin, get paid, and use the money to pay for the equipment and food I need to run my dogsled team. Would I love to be able to make money just from running dogs? Sure. But it’s not possible right now while I’m building and training my team. I don’t have a reputation in dog mushing yet, but I do have a reputation in writing. So I do one job I love to pay for the other.

Answer the door.

Opportunity may be knocking but if you don’t answer the door, how can you take advantage of it? You must take opportunities when they are presented to you. Sometimes it’s not the right time, but it doesn’t matter. Opportunities happen when they happen. Answer the door or that opportunity might walk on by and knock on someone else’s door.

 

The most important thing to remember when trying to figure out what do with your life is that no action is an action in and of itself. You must make decisions and try things — even if you end up hating them or wanting to do something else. At the end of your life, you won’t regret trying things and failing, but you will regret not ever trying at all.

Close that laptop and go get your life.

This post was originally published at Lifehack.org

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Off the Grid and Off the Road

Posted by Misha on Friday Aug 29, 2014 Under Alaska, off grid
Kiara playing with our "off grid" Lincoln Logs - tomorrow morning's kindling.

Kiara playing with our “off grid” Lincoln Logs – tomorrow morning’s kindling.

For many people, living “off-grid” is not the same as “off road.” Here at the homestead, we are both off grid and off road. As John likes to say, “you really have to WANT to come and see us.” We like it that way. I love, for example, that I can let my kids out of the house and not ever worry if a car is going to come by.

I love that we have a hidden little spot that no one else really knows about except for about seven or so people who have been here.

On the other hand, it makes even going to get water an hour-long expedition sometimes. And while that’s appealing in many ways, sometimes it gets a little old. But what doesn’t in our lives? There are always mundane little chores we have to do and even if we have modern conveniences, like dishwashers and well, indoor plumbing, we still have to do them. Hauling water has just become another one of those things – and not having come out of a faucet has become second nature. I almost can’t imagine what the big deal of having it is.

Seriously. We recently spent the night in a nice hotel while taking the kids to the zoo in Anchorage. We all had showers and water came out of the faucet. And we kinda didn’t care. It wasn’t that big of a deal at all. In fact, the wastefulness of using a toilet is annoying to us now. I am considering very much advocating for the clean water movement in other countries because the amount of water we waste in this country is unbelievable.

But – off my soapbox. Our adjustment to life off the grid has been fairly seamless. Our adjustment to off road living has been harder – if only because I am a minimalist at heart. I also don’t enjoy vehicles as entertainment. I don’t. I don’t like to “go four-wheeling” even through I have four-wheeler. I don’t enjoy going snowmachining, even though I own two. I do enjoy driving my Suburban up and down Oilwell Road. I can’t explain that. I do like it quite a bit though.

What I don’t like is that having a lot of machines is almost mandatory for living here. I don’t like that I have to maintain two gas-guzzling vehicles in order to get out to my other gas guzzling vehicle just so I can get to town. My environmentalist roots show through when I cringe at putting more gas and more gas in yet another vehicle. And yet, to be without them, is almost impossible. While I can do the 1/2 mile trudge through snow out to the road – I’m not sure the littles could. And I don’t want to have to carry them. When you’re pulling groceries, kids, and a month’s worth of t.p. – a half a mile in a foot of snow is really a long way.

So we’re a little isolated. And I like that. But sometimes I don’t. Isn’t that always the case?

There is something very comforting in living in one of the last few places that can’t be found. And there are somethings that are very strange and discomforting about it. No matter what, it’s been a grand experiment and one I will never forget!

 

 

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Fall Training!

Posted by Misha on Saturday Aug 2, 2014 Under Uncategorized

firstrun

 

There is no snow on the ground but we are training for the season! Once the weather cools down to below 50 degrees in the early – very early – morning hours, we hitch small teams up to the ATV and go for a run.

Right now, we are running 3-5 miles depending on the weather and what our plans are for the day. We run SLOW, to help the dogs build their muscles and to train them in “trail” behavior.

What is trail behavior? Well, we don’t obedience train the dogs like most people do. Most of my dogs won’t sit or stay on command – although some will. I also encourage my dogs to jump on me because I like it. I like to encourage the dogs to be dogs and act as the sled dogs they are. However, because we will be racing with other teams on the trail, we do have to learn some manners.

So, I start with small teams and we learn our manners by putting ourselves in the situations that require it. We stop often and learn how to keep the line tight – we don’t wander all over the trail. We learn how to eat our snacks and not fight with our neighbors over their snacks. We learn how to pass teams and cars an snowmobiles and birds and stray dogs and trails that look more inviting. We learn how to leap off into areas that don’t look like trails – areas with tall grass right now, but deep snow later.

We also go through water, mud, tough trails, and go up hills and down them, so we know how to act and how to pull when we encounter them on a sled in a few months.

runwater

What we don’t do is run really fast. OK – once in a while, on the last half mile home, I shift the ATV in to second gear and let them run with it a bit – kind of a reward for a job well done – but that’s it for now. No speed training until later on.

A 1,000 mile race is a long way and we need to build the strength and endurance required to get us all there in one piece, happy and healthy. So, we are building patience right now, for the long haul later.

 

 

 

 

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Daylight, day bright, no stars I see tonight…

Posted by Misha on Tuesday Jun 10, 2014 Under Alaska, off grid

midnight

It’s really light outside. I mean ALL of the time. The above picture is the view over the dogyard at midnight. The sun was setting. Yeah.

When you read about moving to Alaska – something I did a lot of before we moved here, you read a lot about the midnight sun. There’s a funny episode in the show Northern Exposure where the main character experiences all day sunlight and doesn’t go to sleep for like three days.

But until you actually experience it, you have no idea. You cannot adequately prepare yourself in the lower 48 for what will happen when the days start to get longer and longer and so long one day just runs into the next. And we haven’t even hit the summer solstice yet!

I like to sleep. I do. If sleeping were a sport, I would excel at it. I am good at not sleeping too. I’ve often considered the newborn period after each of my eight children as my Iditarod sleep deprivation training. But mostly, I have no trouble getting to sleep or enjoying it. Except now. I sleep hard, but briefly. I stay up until midnight regularly – this was unheard of in my lower 48 life where 9:30 was the norm. And I wake up at 4 or 5 am. Without a bit of trouble. And then, I get a lot done during the day. And I’m not that tired. It’s very strange.

Read the rest here.

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