Friday, November 16, 2018

Decoded Answers to the Question, “What’s it Like to Work from Home?”

 I saw this online and the answers were so far off from my life that I thought I’d do my own…

“It’s nice not having a commute.” = Sometimes I go two weeks without ever leaving our property.

“It’s super flexible.” = I can choose the recliner, kitchen table, or sewing table as my desk.

“I don’t have a manager breathing down my neck.” = I can curse and be on Facebook all I want. I can eat and drink whatever I want while working.

“I get to work in my pajamas.” = Who am I kidding? I don’t wear pajamas! Seriously, I wear leggings and oversized shirts every day - hardly ever put on shoes except to go to the outhouse, and haven’t worn a bra in 17 months!

“It’s nice and quiet.” = I get to stream whatever I want on Netflix and Amazon Prime while I work!

“It saves money on food and transportation.” = I buy way more online than I should!

“I get to set my own schedule.” = I don’t have to call in sick to have some “me” time.

“It helps to have a good routine.” = Where did I put that scrap of paper with my to-do list on it?

“It’s great!” = It’s lonely sometimes, but I can’t imagine ever having to work by someone else’s schedule again.


Here is the original post found at
“It’s nice not having a commute.” = Sometimes I go 72 hours without stepping foot outside.

“My commute is only five steps!” = Sometimes even that seems like too many.

“It’s super flexible.” = One time I went to Wendy’s for lunch and then went back to Wendy’s 45 minutes later for a Frosty.

“I don’t have a manager breathing down my neck.” = I can sit on the toilet for half an hour and no one can stop me.

“I get to work in my pajamas.” = I’ve had a bad hair day for 285 consecutive days.

“It’s nice and quiet.” = I’m so alone I can hear the roof rats scurrying around my attic.

“It saves money on food and transportation.” = Even though there’s one 5 minutes away, I will drive 15 minutes to the third closest grocery store after work to buy a second jar of mayonnaise if it means getting out of the house.

“I’m able to get stuff done around the house.” = I can unload the dishwasher over the course of eight hours instead of all at once.

“It helps if you have a good routine.” = I don’t have a routine, but I’m sure it would help me if I did.

“It’s great! = It’s terribly lonely.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Setting Beaver Traps

After several cups of coffee and a hearty breakfast of buckwheat pancakes dotted with tundra berries, eggs over easy, and cottage ham, all cooked up in our favorite cast iron skillets, it was time to bundle up and head to the boat.

Beaver dam close to home.
Forty degrees on the cabin deck meant that it would be much colder down on the windy river, so parkas and beaver hats were the gear of the day, along with waders, waterproof pants, and gloves. Waddling down the stairs to our boat launch, I could feel the excitement growing in my belly. This was the start of a new season. Trapping season. Beavers make good trapping bait for bigger animals such as wolverines, lynx, and wolves. Their fur is also great for making hats and gloves, even though it has hardly any fair market value.

We motored down the Unalakleet River, toward North River, a smaller tributary with an abundance of sloughs filled with beaver dams. Nuka, our two-year-old chocolate lab, was along for the ride, and excitedly put her front paws on the top rail of the boat and leaned into the wind, nose high in the air searching for animal scents, ears flapping comedically. On our ride toward the North, we were surrounded by birds, Merganser ducks took flight, staying low and parallel to the boat, their startling red heads leading the way. A Bald eagle Soared overhead and an Osprey crossed our path and found a resting place in the top of a pine. It was a gray-blue day with the crispness that fall brings.

Beaver Slip & Slide
Shortly after taking a hard right up the North River, we came to a slough barely as wide as our 14-foot skiff was long, and we idled slowly up, making note of the apparent beaver signs - stacks of freshly bared sticks and trails to and from the river where the tall grass was laid flat and slippery, not unlike a Slip and Slide. Beaver traps don’t require any bait, just knowledge about where to place them - in the water where those trails lead or in front of an open hole in the bank at the waterline. Wherever there are strong signs that beavers are using a route, that’s the place to set a trap, no bait needed. After setting two traps in that first slough, turning the boat around in that narrow passage proved to be a challenge. By killing the motor and using an oar to push our front end around and point it back the way we came, we were able to restart the engine and slowly motor our way out.

Our boat motor is jet propelled, no prop. It makes it easier to navigate the shallow waters of the rivers where we live in western Alaska. However, a jet is extremely hard to maneuver at low speeds because the propulsion is a result of water being forced in a rearward direction, and, like Newton’s Third Law of Motion, “every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” so, as thrust out the rear decreases, so does the directional control, or steering maneuverability. All of this is to say that slowly motoring in and out of a shallow, log-laden slough can be quite the challenge.

Bear tracks
The next slough we stopped at was littered with fresh bear tracks along the muddy bank. I was a little uneasy, but felt much better knowing Nuka was tearing off through the brush making a racket likely to scare anything away before it sniffed me out.

My main job on our trapping expedition was to secure the boat, hand my husband the traps as he needed them, and keep Nuka out of the way. The rusty traps were stiff, but Gregg’s strong hands were used to them and made short work of setting them in the water and securing them with sticks found nearby.

Reflecting on the life of a beaver, I realize it's not far off from my own. They require both trees and water for survival, are monogomous, and thrive in the winter. Also, they continue to grow throughout their lives, with women being larger than men. Having an amazing ability to change their environent to suit their needs, these remarkable creatures actually have a positive impact on climate change. In addition, they are quite resilient, rebuilding a destroyed home, known as a lodge, overnight. Finally, the English term "to beaver" means to work hard.

After setting eight traps in four different sloughs, it was time to head home to a late lunch of leftover Caribou Jalapeno Cheese hot dogs. Beavers are very active this time of year and we expect we’ll have beavers in most, if not all, of the traps by tomorrow afternoon, when it’ll be time for another adventure.
Beaver Traps

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

News Writing Lesson using Fractured Fairy Tales

Click on this link for the original story on which the following notes and news article were created.
 Cinderella Fractured Fairy Tale

Most Important - they lived happily ever after
Who - Cinderella and the Prince
What - slipper
When - two days after the ball
Where - in the garden
Why - to find who the mystery lady was
How - all women to try on slipper
Attribution (source of information) - Oscar, the grey mouse
When in doubt, err on the side of attribution.

Prince Finds Perfect Fit

Kathy Kysar
Roving Reporter

FAIRY TALE LAND - Yesterday, the prince found the mystery lady from the Ball locked in the garden at the Stepmother’s house. After his horses were startled by a mouse and nearly trampled Cinderella, the homeowner’s stepdaughter, the Prince discovered that the owner of the glass slipper was Cinderella, also known as Cindy. They immediately began to live happily ever after.

According to Oscar, a grey mouse and personal friend of Cindy, the Prince was “totally captivated” by her at the Ball. After leaving the ball by private coach at midnight, she discovered that she had lost a shoe, a glass slipper.

The next day, sources close to the cheese-vine said that the Prince had fallen in love and was determined to search out the owner of the glass slipper he had found left behind by a woman he didn’t even know by name.

Yesterday, shortly after arriving at the Stepmother’s house, it was determined that the small shoe did not fit any of the three women in residence there. Upon the Prince’s departure, the horses, scared by a mouse, ran the carriage through the garden gate, revealing a fourth woman on the premises, who had been locked in the garden and prevented from greeting the Prince. Charges against the homeowner are pending.
The next part of this article, should it continue, would be about the Godmother’s help in preparing Cinderella for the ball. Then, background information of Cinderella’s mistreatment would follow. However, it is unusual, except in cases of a feature article, for that much detail to be included. Your article should be at least four paragraphs long, so include as much detail as you need to get that much on paper.

Friendship Overcomes Plasticity

This is a text analysis of the lyrics, "Red Solo Cup," by Toby Keith.

"Red Solo Cup" by Toby Keith

Now red solo cup is the best receptacle
From barbecues, tailgates, fairs and festivals
And you sir do not have a pair of testicles
If you prefer drinkin' from glass

Hey red solo cup is cheap and disposable
In fourteen years they are decomposable
And unlike my home they are not foreclosable
Freddie Mac can kiss my ass, woo!

Red solo cup, I fill you up
Let's have a party, let's have a party
I love you red solo cup, I lift you up,
Proceed to party, proceed to party

Now I really love how you're easy to stack
But I really hate how you're easy to crack
Cause when beer runs down, in front of my back
Well, that, my friends, is quite yucky

But I have to admit that the ladies get smitten
Admirin' at how sharply my first name is written
On you with a Sharpie when I get to hittin'
On them, to help me get lucky

Red solo cup, I fill you up
Let's have a party, let's have a party
I love you red solo cup, I lift you up,
Proceed to party, proceed to party

Now I've seen you in blue and I've seen you in yellow
But only you red will do for this fellow
Cause you are the Abbott into my Costello
And you are the Fruit to my Loom

Red solo cup, you're more than just plastic
More than amazing, you're more than fantastic
And believe me that I'm not the least bit sarcastic
When I look at you and say:
"Red solo cup, you're not just a cup (No, no, God no)
You're my friend, yea (Lifelong)
Thank you for being my friend"

Red solo cup, I fill you up
Let's have a party, let's have a party
I love you red solo cup, I lift you up,
Proceed to party, proceed to party

Friendship Overcomes Plasticity

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote in his journal, “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” Toby Keith may have had that very line in mind when he wrote “Red Solo Cup.” After all, right or wrong, many people have found solace in this iconic plastic container. The theme of friendship can be traced throughout these lyrics both metaphorically and through historical references. 

The metaphor of friendship, as illustrated by a red solo cup, can be most clearly seen in the refrain of Toby Keith’s lyrics, “Red solo cup, I fill you up. / … / I love you red solo cup, I lift you up.” Friendships can often be ways of filling up a void in one’s life or one’s heart. To be a good friend, it is also necessary to metaphorically “lift up” those you hold close, to be there for them in hard times and support them in their endeavors. It is in this way that the red, solo cup literally becomes Keith’s friend. He continues this relationship reference through to the end of the lyrics, “Thank you for being my friend.”

The theme of friendship is clearly articulated by historically referencing both Abbott and Costello and Fruit of the Loom, “... you are the Abbott into my Costello / And you are the Fruit to my Loom.” Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were an American comedy team, popular in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Their most famous routine was “Who’s on First?” and they were known as inseparable friends. In a similar connection, according to Wikipedia, Fruit of the Loom, trade name for a popular underwear brand dating back to 1851, was coined to parallel the biblical phrase, “fruit of the womb.” Since womb refers to having children, this allusion seeks to create a close relationship between the product and the consumer, a sort of friendship.

Toby Keith may not have had Ralph Waldo Emerson’s journal entry in mind when he wrote the lyrics to “Red Solo Cup,” but he certainly did make some valid points about friendship, both metaphorically and through historical references. Deeper meanings can be found in the lyrics that float around us on a daily basis, if we only listen.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

She's a Writer

This is a post from a couple of years ago that I have heavily rewritten to serve as an example of a Literacy Narrative for my class this week.

“Hey, I really enjoyed what you shared today. It was really good,” thanked Dee Jay, visiting poet, heading out the door.

“Thanks.” I looked up from the papers I was quickly filing between classes.

“She’s a writer,” Teresa, Language Arts guru from the School District Office, explained as the door closed behind them, on their way to the airport.

She’s a writer. SHE’s a writer. She’s a WRITER! Those words echoed around me all afternoon.

Dee Jay DeRego was a guest speaker in my classroom a couple of years ago. He is a spoken word master from Juneau who has traveled the world sharing this art form. He writes and recites poetry, but it’s so much more than that. He bares his soul, causes the listener to reflect, and teaches students to do the same.

I was in the third grade the first time I was recognized, and recognized myself, as a writer. My teacher had sent a note home to my mother, sealed in an envelope and safety-pinned to my coat. I was a hardworking, quiet student, so it never occurred to me that I might be in trouble as I handed the envelope over to my mother that evening. She set it aside and continued stirring the spaghetti sauce.

After dinner, I heard her talking on the phone in the kitchen, leaning up against the wall and twirling the phone cord with her perfectly manicured fingers.

“Is this Mrs. Johnson?”

I stopped dead in my tracks, hand on the screen door to the back yard. I had walked through the kitchen quickly when I saw her on the phone, so as not to disturb her. My mother did NOT like to be disturbed on the phone. Mrs. Johnson was my teacher. My mother never called my teacher. I started shaking, standing there in the alcove that led to the back porch, wanting to hear but not wanting to hear.

“Hello. This is Mrs. Kysar… Yes, she did… Well… no… I can’t imagine a thing like that!... Wait-... Was that a story she was to write over last weekend?... She wrote that herself. I saw her sitting at the kitchen table writing… No, I’m telling you. She wrote that…Yes, I’m sure!... She is a very intelligent girl… Yes, I know she’s quiet… Well, thank you… Yes, I’ll continue to encourage her… No. No problem at all. Thank you, Mrs. Johnson… You, too.”

I closed the screen door quietly behind me, instead of letting it bang shut like I usually did, and walked toward the swingset, almost on tiptoe.

As my mother tucked me into bed that night, she explained to me that Mrs. Johnson thought I had copied my creative writing story that I turned in the day before. It was THAT good! I fell asleep with a smile still reaching from ear to ear.

The highlight of Dee Jay’s visit to my class was when he recited his own “I am from…” poem. A reflection back on growing up homeless, it was filled with metaphors and descriptive language. He then gave the class five minutes to begin writing where they were from. After walking around the room for the first minute getting all of the students settled in to the task at hand, I sat with my own notebook and favorite blue ink pen. I began to write.

I am from broken hearts and broken homes,
Shattered dreams and drowning tears,
All washed away in this fast moving river called Life.

I am from second chances
Rising out of the darkness like a late sunrise on a winter’s day.

Writing was always an escape for me, more so than reading. When reading, it’s like watching a movie, but when writing, I become the movie. I become someone else. I literally wear someone else’s shoes. I can feel them on my feet. I can hear them as I rock back and forth. I can see the tracks they leave in the dirt.

I won the Arbor Day Writing Contest in Junior High, wrote for the school newspaper in High School, and entertained my friends by creating stories about them and their secret crushes in Tarzan and Jane stories that circulated the school faster than a trashy novel.

I finished my first novel at 28, but it was turned down by more publishers than I can name. Meanwhile, I’ve been an advertising sales rep, recruiter, radio announcer, teacher, restaurant owner, professional baker, pheasant hunting lodge caretaker and guide, and on and on. The one constant in my life has always been writing. In 2018, Mother Earth News, Alaska Trapper, Trapper’s World, and Last Frontier Magazine have all accepted and printed my articles, all nonfiction. I’m also working on novel number two. Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, received 30 rejections before finally being published. That gives me hope.

What sticks with me the most about the day when Dee Jay came to my classroom are those three words Teresa spoke as they walked out the door. I’ve always struggled with identifying myself as such, never taken it too seriously, always had a “day job.” However, that’s who I am. That’s who I’m becoming. It’s time to jump into the deep end of the pool and do this. I’m now looking forward to the first time I introduce myself, “Hello. I’m a writer.”

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Smoke on the Water

Good Book!
This morning, I climbed out of bed and as I pulled yesterday’s shirt over my head, I inhaled deeply the smell of smoked salmon. It was a good day. The smell of wood smoke has always been my favorite scent, whether it lingered in my hair after an evening campfire in the fall, or entered my classroom on the coat of a student, just returning from a spring sugarbush outing.

This morning’s musky aroma surrounded me as I drank my coffee and settled in to finish a book I’d been reading, True North, set in the Alaskan bush. The heavy scent hung in the air like a warm coat, easing the chill in the cabin caused by the fall breeze wafting through an all-night open window over the kitchen sink while I carefully labeled and stacked the dozen pints of freshly canned, smoked salmon from the night before.

My fishermen!
Putting up food for winter is a hefty endeavor out here in the last frontier. Thanks to the kitchen staff at the Unalakleet River Lodge, young men from the Lower 48 who love to fish in their chest waders standing in the River during their few precious hours off, I’ve got nine Silver Salmon, cleaned, filleted, and frozen, waiting for me to process and put away for winter. My Big Chief smoker will only hold three fish at a time - however, three of these huge fish make 12 pints when dried, smoked, and canned. That’s plenty for the two of us, with some leftover to share. Of course, I think I probably ate half of a fish yesterday, during and after they smoked! To me, the taste is better than chocolate!

It started with an overnight Teriyaki brine. After cutting the sweet, red meat into half-inch strips and three-inch fillets, removing the pinbones with needle-nosed plyers, into the washtub they go. This was my first time to smoke and can salmon by myself. After trying Gregg’s old fillet knife and my new “cheapo” ulu, I settled on the trusty chef’s knife from the block on the counter as the most efficient way to cut up the fish. The skin on a ten-pound salmon is thick and tough. Anything less than the sharpest knife in the house just won’t cut it cleanly, and I certainly didn’t want to make a mess of this fleshy, red gold on my counter. Some of the meat wasn’t completely thawed even after sitting out overnight, and I discovered that these partially frozen pieces were much easier to cut, and I made a mental note for next time.

Teriyaki Brine Recipe (for 20 lbs of fish)
2 cups Bragg’s or soy sauce (I use Bragg’s.)
8 cups water (I used rain water.)
½ cup sea salt (Don’t use the salt with iodine added.)
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 cup brown sugar

Big Chief, full up!
The next morning, after a 15-hour soak, I patted dry each piece of salmon with paper towels, and laid them out on my four mismatched, smoker racks. One of my racks is made from two smaller, grill racks that I “tied” together with paperclips and those needle-nosed pliers. It works like a charm! Drying and racking the salmon took me over an hour! Then, out to the smoker, after covering the drip pan with a fresh piece of aluminum foil. I had some Hickory chips left over from last year that I had put in a bowl to soak in water the night before went into the chip tray. My metal smoker is concealed inside a plywood box with a hinged door, to help keep more smoke inside. The only thing I don’t like about my smoker, other than it being too small, is that it’s electric, so I have to plug it into the generator and deal with that noise for 10 hours. But, it is what it is. Meanwhile I head down 40-some steps to where the three, full, gas cans sit on the grass near the boat launch. Time to haul those up for use in the generator.

Within 10 minutes, smoke is pouring out of the upper seam of the plywood box. Success! For the rest of the day, every hour and a half, I have to go out and dump the ashes out of the chip tray and refill it with new wet wood chips. At the six-hour mark, I took the door off of the inner smoker to take a look. The thin strips were getting nice and brown and the fillets had that beautiful, oily moisture bubbling to the surface. At eight-hours, I removed all of the fillets. The flavor was perfect and I wanted them to stay nice and soft, while I left the strips in for a couple of more hours to continue to dry and smoke until almost the color and texture of jerky. When all was finished, around 8pm, I brought the fish inside to can.

Smoked Salmon for dinner, of course!
While the salmon had been smoking, I boiled my pint jars and lids in rain water to sterilize them, questioning whether or not the orange film of pollen on top of the water was going to cause any problems. Oh well, I figured that the pollen was also sterilized by now, and chuckled to myself. I have a beautiful, 25-quart, pressure cooker/canner that Gregg gave to me over a year ago, but all I’ve used it for so far was for processing jars in a hot water bath. This was to be the first time I used the pressure canner part of it. After packing the salmon into the hot jars and making sure the lids were on tight, I set them in the canner, ready and waiting with 16 cups of water already inside. My canner has an additional rack so that I can stack jars in it, so, with eight pint jars on the first rack and four more on the top rack, it was ready to go. With our propane burner on high, it took a good 15 minutes for the canner to get up to 10 pounds of pressure, which was where it needed to stay for 110 minutes for safely canned salmon. After that, it took another 15 minutes or so to cool down to the point where I could remove the pressure canner lid. The smell of smoked salmon immediately filled the cabin. Being that it was almost 11pm, Gregg was already in bed upstairs, but even he called down about the intoxicating smell.

As I removed the jars, one by one, I could see the salmon oil still boiling inside each one. Left on a towel on the counter to cool overnight, the sight of them this morning reminds me of all the work it took to get those 12 jars, and as I step out on the porch, the fog hovering on the river is reminiscent of yesterday’s smoke. A deep breath brings the slightest tang of that deliciousness that now sits safely in the back of my pantry, and I smile as I begin my day.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Mermaid Tears

Since glass has been around for 4,000 years, sea glass has been around for at least 3,980. Generally, it takes 20 to 40 years for glass to become the frosty, chemically, and physically weathered gems that are found on the beach.

Ocean currents from around the world make their way to the 6,640 miles of shoreline that make up Alaska, meaning that the sea glass found here could be from anywhere in the world.

However, my favorite story includes Wyatt Earp, who came to Alaska in 1898, the year before gold was first discovered in Nome. Wyatt soon opened the biggest saloon in Nome, which was a more profitable business than gold prospecting. Back in the day, most trash was simply dumped out at sea, meaning tons of glass bottles and jars ended up in the bottom of the ocean. That glass broke down, and continues to break down, before ending up on beaches along the west coast of Alaska, including Unalakleet.

Within a year of Wyatt’s Dexter Saloon opening, up to four ships left Seattle everyday, headed up the coast to Nome. These ships were often loaded with as many as 700 people, tons of general merchandise and mining machinery, dismantled theatres, hotels, and restaurants, all bound for the west coast of Alaska to set up an “instant city” in the small fishing village of Nome. Again, glass bottles were thrown overboard to lighten the load along the way.

Being that the waters around Nome were, and still are, too shallow for ships and docks, the steamers carrying the passengers were met by smaller boats that transported them and the cargo to 30 feet from shore, where the women and cargo were carried by the men, who waded through the surf. It was quite a production!

Meanwhile, another story passed by word of mouth is that Wyatt also had a floating saloon of sorts that traveled across the Norton Sound, between Nome and St. Michael. Every empty beer and whiskey bottle was thrown overboard and it is that boat from which most of the Norton Sound sea glass comes. However, I have been unable to find any written documentation of any such occurrence.

Finally, there is a legend as old as time that when a sailor drowns at sea, the Mermaids cry, and their tears wash up on shore as colored glass

One thing is for sure; the possibilities are endless as to the history surrounding these pieces of glass, tossed around in the Bering Sea for generations. The mysteries of the surf will remain just that. 

 A friend of mine spends many hours walking her dog on the shores of the Norton Sound. She creates these beautiful earrings out of the glass treasures she finds on these adventurous outings. Combined with Swarovski Crystals and semi-precious gemstones such as turquoise, quartz, and colored agates, these Bering Sea glass earrings are a truly unique and valuable piece of jewelry, custom made in Unalakleet, Alaska.

Decoded Answers to the Question, “What’s it Like to Work from Home?”

 I saw this online and the answers were so far off from my life that I thought I’d do my own… “It’s nice not having a commute.” = Someti...