Sunday, December 5, 2010

I am one lucky "ALASKAN" girl

I can hear the mumbling and grumbling now..."Hmmm...really, Whitney? Because we all knew you grew up in Evergreen, Colorado." That's right. I did--on the Conifer/Evergreen border to be more precise (yes...I lived at the TOP of the mountain and one side was Evergreen and the other side was Conifer--8,800 ft above sea level people--don't mess with me...Z-snap). Actually if you want to get "technical" I was born in California so if you want to peg me as a Cali girl you could do that as well I suppose. I just got done watching an episode of "Sarah Palin's Alaska". I TiVo'd it actually--I don't want to miss it. Don't get me wrong--I don't roll the elephant way politically, and quite frankly I'm moving to France in 2012 if she takes over but there is one thing I love about Sarah Palin--she is a true ALASKAN girl and I respect that more than any political mumbo jumbo garbally guck she might spew over Fox News. I was watching the show tonight and it actually brought tears to my eyes (even though she shot fuzzy critters on the show tonight and beat the holy living poo out of halibut and salmon the weeks prior). When I lived up in Alaska and couldn't wait to get back to warmer weather everyone up there kept telling me, "Most people feel that way and then they always end up coming back here to stay." I swore up and down when I left Alaska that I didn't have what it took to be a "true" Alaskan girl. They are all hearty, Carhartt-wearing, no-teethed, bearded women who wouldn't know moisturizer if it hit them in the face, right? **WRONG** There are some who are sourdoughs, don't get me wrong, but if you live in Alaska there is no way you'll ever hold that against those hearty women. When you are living in places that are remote and -90F I would expect that even the $10,000 moisturizer isn't going to do you justice. And, oh, BTW...if Paris Hilton ever went up there she'd never make her way out of a snow berm with a high-end shovel. I realized tonight as I was watching Sarah's show and recollecting, that because of Alaska, I have experienced things that most people will never have the opportunity to do. Here comes the Macaulay Culkin "grab both sides of your face with your hands and start screaming" portion of this blog. SAY IT ISN'T SO, WHITNEY!!! YOU ARE DECKED TO THE NINES TO GROCERY SHOP--YOU COULDN'T HAVE LIVED/DONE EVERYTHING YOU'RE ABOUT TO SAY YOU'VE DONE!!!" But I have. And I have because I was fortunate enough to live in Alaska. I was fortunate enough when I was much younger to be dating someone whose family had a gold mining operation up outside of a remote area of Alaska known as Northway. For an entire summer I lived with Paige and Beau out at a gold mining camp with little running water. The water we did have came from a creek where we had to drive a D-6 earth mover down with the water tank attached and pump water out of the creek to use. It wasn't that bad--actually it was pretty nice--until later that summer our water got funky and we couldn't figure out why. The tank finally got cut open and as it turns out there were bones, feathers, and fur from dead animals that had made their way into the tank. That was the water we were bathing with, folks. That was our water to brush our teeth. I, Whitney Madison, have brushed my teeth (in a flannel shirt no less) with dead animal water. The mining camp that we were out at was so remote that you had to fly in a small plane and land on a dirt airstrip to get there. We all flew in a 185 €essna. I am so thankful for that time. During that summer we battled a forest fire by hand and with mining equipment (there are no firefighters out in the bush), my daughter, Paige, got to fly a plane (Chip, the pilot let her take the wheel and she would steer us from side-to-side but she's a pretty good pilot I think ;), we got to go berry picking by taking 4-wheelers out in to the bush, and we got to go over to the "Canadian" side of the border on the "winter road" to celebrate the longest day of the year--the summer solstice--where the sun stays up nearly all day in Alaska. While up in college (I wish blogspot would let you write paragraphs and separate--I realize this is a hot mess), I experienced things most other college students don't get to. First of all...we were a hockey school. There is no college football team at the University of Alaska Fairbanks--hockey is what they do up there. Though the hockey games were fun to attend, some of my best memories lie in driving out behind the airport to the Nenana river, taking snow shovels and wooden pallets, clearing off the ice, lighting a bonfire, and ice skating through the night while the northern lights blazed overhead. Trips up Ester Dome with my good friends--again, up on a snowy mountainside with pallets of wood and we would light bonfires and have a blast under the northern lights on cold Alaskan nights. I loved that you could literally "PLAY" up there. Getting out of a car on an abandoned road and grabbing onto the bumper in a pair of slippery Doc Marten's and going for a wild ride (I don't recommend this in the inner city), or just enjoying hanging out and being an Alaskan. What's "being an Alaskan" you ask? Simple--low stress--high appreciation for the good things in life. After I got married in 2000 I actually lived for a year in a 400 sq. ft. cabin with my (then) husband in Fairbanks, Alaska that had no running water. We had electricity but had to haul water because the cabin didn't have it and it also had an outhouse. outhouse. That was my first bathroom as a married woman. Nothing screams romance like a Styrofoam outhouse seat (it was winter--had to keep the backside warm and styrofoam did the trick). We rigged up a camping solar shower in a bag in the house and would boil water to take showers. We kicked it old school, baby. I don't care what your opinion of me as a fashion-loving Barbie-wannabe is now--I can do what most women can't because somewhere inside of me I have that "ALASKAN" girl and I'm super proud of that. I won't ever give up the memories of the times I had up there. The laughter, the snow, the wool miniskirts in -60F weather and platform shoes trying to seize the opportunity to make Fairbanks, Alaska the next fashion Mecca. ;) I won't give up my ALASKAN best friends who collectively with me make up the "ARCTIC BARBIE GIRLS". I love having drop-dead gorgeous girlfriends who can salmon fish like madwomen, build homes from the ground up, snow machine with the ability that rivals any man, and play hockey most likely better than any man, shoot, and hunt. ;) You girls know who you are--you make my heart smile. Who says you can't wear makeup and heels after a hard day's work? You gals showed me that it is possible to be chic and a freakin' WOMANIMAL at the same time...or "shabby chic" as I like to think of it. ;) I won't forget the opportunity I had to soar through the air in 2-person air craft over the vast tundra of Alaska and land on a frozen lake in a plane that had skis on it; the hike up to Denali where we ran into a metric boatload of Dall Sheep on the mountainside where I was with my two good friends (one of which is now my Cute Alaskan Man); fishing for northern pike in the middle of nowhere; snowshoeing and hiking up on Hatcher's Pass, skiing at Alyeska and Arctic Valley at the top of the world; floating Chena River on the 4th of July in small blow-up rubber rafts from the local grocery store; or any of the other amazing memories that Alaska has afforded me. I'm so proud that I had the opportunity to live in that state and I'm so thankful that I met Tristan up there and that his roots are tied down to Alaska. I know that for a long time to come and hopefully forever I will consider Alaska a part of who I am.