Tag Archives: The Happiness Project

How did I get here?


Amidst the bloom of spring on facebook via announcements of 80 degree days, green grass photos, and sunkissed faces … I have to tell you, 1. I’m really happy for you; and 2. I am so freaking jealous.

Number 2 spurred a catacalysmic plunge into the “How did I get here?” blues. I’ve narrowly missed hitting rock bottom by answering this existential quandary in the most literal manner possible.

How did we get here?

First, we flew from a summer with family in Colorado to Seattle. (Really, this photo is NOT representative! I flew with the wee passengers while Mitch drove 18 hours in 18 hours. While in flight I was too busy cleaning up the sprite Z spilled all over the guy next to her, trying to get Lucy to stop crying, and apologizing profusely to every one of our fellow passengers to snap a photo, darn it!) This leg of the journey, in itself, was a huge feat. It's also the reason I haven't flown "solo" since then.

From Seattle, we took a boat and sailed all the way to the end of the world.

For three days we sailed through Canadian and Alaskan channels past Orca Whales, Humpbacks, and under eagles. It was spectacular. Really.

Once she got over the Ferry not being a Fairy, our cabin mates were pleased with the idea of sleeping in bunks.

We disembarked in Haines, Alaska. Haines optimizes exactly what I thought Alaska would be. Colosal, jagged, snowcapped mountains reflecting in the glacier blue water; whales breaching; overflowing flower baskets; a colorful main street dotted with outdoor eateries and art boutiques; patagonia and birkenstock townies greeting each other on the sunny streets as bald eagles soared overhead. It was like Telluride but with nature on a much grander scale and development on a lesser scale. I think about 1500 people live there year round. I remember thinking, "Wow! I am going to like living in Alaska!"

We drove through the Al/Can highway right as the fall colors were at their peak. It was epic.

For three days we were in the car bumping down an endless ribbon of black asphalt through the Yukon territory. Vast, endless, untouched "nothing"in every direction imaginable; the biggest "something" I'd ever experienced.

When we finally saw the driveway of our new house for the first time, I couldn't breathe.

And we saw our house. And I thought, "Wow."

I sat on the stairs with my girls and marveled. How lucky we were to get to live in a magical little log cabin, on a hill, in the middle of the forrest. I couldn't believe this was my life.

And I remember thinking, "I am so lucky to be here, on the edge of the planet, with three of my favorite people in the world."

And, when I remind myself of this, of how I got here … I still feel the exact same way.   Lucky.

In an indefatigable attempt to trump this “the grass is literally greener” bout, I’m remembering how lucky I am to have this experience.  And, that our green grass day will come.

All of this reminds me of a quote I sort of remember, but have no idea who said it or where I saw it.  So I have to paraphrase, “If you’re wondering where you should be in life, look down at your feet.”

Mine are wearing break up boots.  Who knew?

Sending the power of presence and gratitude in the moment,

New Age Alaskarella


1.1.11 11:11 … ONE word “Resolution”

I went to Mexico and lost my mind. I liked it. I liked it a lot. 🙂

Happy, Happy New Year!

Are you one of the 44% of Americans making a resolution?  I am not.  🙂  And, I like it like that.

I am setting a one word intention.  It’s an idea I originally came across on Christine Kane’s blog, and I like it.  I like it a lot.

So, my word of the year?  (or maybe just my word of the month, because I kind of am hip to the practice of a new focus each month … ) Acceptance.

In Mexico, looking out over the ocean, I realized that ALL my struggles come from wishing things aren’t what they are.  Turns out: wishing for global warming to REALLY take effect in Fairbanks; for my sweet one and a half year old to finally sleep all night (and sometimes (ok lots of the time) I wish she’d sleep all day too); or for the ability to choose where I live (not that “where the sun don’t shine” wouldn’t be my first choice) … has done absolutely NOTHING besides infuriate me.

And so, I am choosing: Acceptance.

To surrendering.  And accepting.  And letting go of the fight.


P.S. Just now, I clicked “post” and the wheel started turning and I went into: “Oh, my GOD!  WHY?! WHY do we have next to the slowest (because we used to have the slowest) g.d. internet on the entire planet” … and then I remembered, “Accept it.”  And while I waited I pictured the sun on my face in Mexico and meditated on, “Accept it.” Strangely, this seemingly passive intention of acceptance is really very ambitious for me :).  And, I like it like that.  Plus, I like feeling the sun on my face.

The Finish Line.

Shhh, Lucy, I'll feed you next week. Just like 12,000 more words honey. Watch out for the live wires, kay?

The Finish Line! I did it! 50 thousand words (all very loosely tied to a story idea)

I DID IT!  I wrote a “novel”!  Hot-Diggity-DOG! (That’s what it’s called by the way, “Hotdog.”)

It is just plain terrible.  If it got out I’d be institutionalized.  At best, it would cause the reader to vomit.   The end product is alarming.

BUT, the exercise of creating it  – exhilarating!  I can’t decide if I’ll take the revision / rewrite / tweak, tweak / power hose route on this baby to see if “Hotdog” really could be a real book  … or if I’ll wait until next November to start the insanity all over again with a completely new idea.

Either way, who cares!  I had so much fun.

Fist Pumps,

A “writer” you know.

PS – No, you can not read it.  I would not wish that on even the person who told me that I would like Alaska better than Hawaii (ah, hem. I do not.).

What did you win? Dorkiest dweeb on the planet? Congratulations.

I Heart New York / I Heart Fairbanks

I Heart New York.

Recently a Facebook friend posted a link,  50 Things to Love about New York. It made me:

1) Smile. I had just posted 30 things to love about Fairbanks, and the coincidence of another blogger doing the same thing (different place) was kind of a “we’re all riding the same waves” kitchy moment for me.

2)  Perplexed.  How in the world did my life take me from, at one point living on the Upper West Side, to, at this point, living on the UPPER, upper, WAY West side?  (Seriously?  How?)

3.) Nostalgic.   In a distant past life I was marketing movies from midtown Manhattan and one of three 2o-something  girls living in a darling little brownstone on the Upper West Side of New York City.  I moved to the city to play the part of Carrie Bradshaw (I’m not kidding. I really did think that’s how it would be).  Instead, I played the part of Rachel Greene.  (Or, maybe I was Pheobe).

Our urban tribe consisted of my roommate Rachel (Paige); the beautiful, easy going, sorority sister who got me a job and introduced me to the city, and Monica (Lauren) the clean-freak med-student from Princeton who kept our little brownstone mouse and crumb free and always knew what was going on and where.  The three boys across the hall (across town in reality) were as dorky as they were fun.

We lived it up.  Going home after work is just not a New York City thing to do.  We did rooftop BBQs, the after work Broadway Shows, Irish pubs, the clubs, the metro, movie premiere parties, PR junkets, Crunch Gym and Broadway aerobics led by “Truly” a cross-dressing-drag-queen who wore high heeled trainers and passed out wigs to everyone in the kick-line (to be clear, I was the only member of my urban tribe partaking in the can-can on 59th and 2nd).

At one point we had 20 tear stained 22 year olds packed into our tiny apartment eating pizza and watching Ryan Sutter propose to Trista on The Bachelorette.  At another point, I thought I was going to be a dancer in a Broadway show (another blog post for another time).

In retrospect, living in “The City” was fantastic.  SO much more fun than I realized at the time.

And yet, when I first arrived, I missed seeing the sun.  I had never, ever been so freezing cold in my life (when that wind whips down those high rise avenues – yowza). I had a screensaver of Telluride on my computer at work to remind me that I would not be skiing in Colorado that winter.  I missed Target and the general comfort of knowing exactly where to go to purchase whatever it is I might need.  I missed the ease of hopping in my car to go wherever I was headed and knowing how to get there.  I lived in fear of the wild life (if you’ve been to New York, you know I’m talking about the cat-sized-rats). I was paralyzed by the costs of relocation and life in the city.  Before I really established my urban tribe, and sometimes even once I had, I felt alone and really missed my Colorado tribe.  I counted the days until I could go “home.”

As I read through things to love about NYC, I was reminded of my first bites of the big apple.  And, I thought about the things I grew to love about the city: the eerie silence and stillness a fresh snow casts over the entire city; the friends I made; the touristy things I got to do with members of the Colorado tribe who came to visit; the opportunity to completely reinvent myself in a brand new environment; the people watching (!); the opportunity to be a local in a place most people only get to visit; the dose of quirky and comfort the corner bodega came to offer …

Do you see where this is going?!

My Upper West Side experience, in a weird-alternate-reality-sort-of-way, parallels my UPPER, upper, WAY West side experience.

Only this time, I vow to make a conscious effort to enjoy it while it’s happening.

Fairbanks.  Like New York City.  Only Different.

“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”  – French Novelist Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

To enjoying this wonderful life we’re all having while we’re in the midst it,


I Heart Fairbanks.

I quit.

I can't do it all by myself!

Just so you know, two days in, I quit that whole NaNoWriMo nonsense.

Turns out, one-year-olds require constant supervision; three-year-olds don’t know how to make their own dinner (or lunch, or breakfast, or snacks, or get themselves ready for school, or get themselves ready for anything at all really); and husbands prefer it when their wives look away from the computer screen once in a while and say more than, “Yep. Yep. and, Uh-huh,” in at least one conversation a day.

Oh Well. ‘Twas fun while it lasted.


Alaskarella (former-child-neglector wondering if a family of laptops would be more understanding of her hopes and dreams).

But laptop kids wouldn't be so cute.

You know what my friend Al E. would say about this? “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”

And then he’d probably say, “And please, call me Albert Einstein, not Al E.”

30 Things I LOVE about Fairbanks.


Can you believe it’s November? (I thought it was at least January by now.)

In honor of it being Thanksgiving month, and in an earnest Joan of the Arctic effort to pull myself up by the sorrel straps and focus on the positive aspects of being estranged from civilization, I’ve decided to focus on gratitude this month.

Thirty* (30!? 30 days has November…) things I LOVE about living/ hanging on the edge of the earth:

*This list is brought to you by 30 hot toddies and an Alaskafella who agreed to put the babies to bed tonight.  Thank you, Papa Bear.  See, this thankful thing is going to be easy(ish).

1. Our little log cabin. I really, really, love our humble abode.  I don’t care what anyone says about looks not mattering.   They do.  Or that material things can’t provide happiness?  (Have they heard of Maslow?).  Shelter, baby. Shelter.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cursed the intermittent internet; or wondered what other people are DVR-ing; or craved a long, languid, meander down the wide, abundantly stocked, well-lit aisles of Target; and then looked around and thought, “Well, at least it’s pretty here.”

My (local) Happy Place

2. Here comes the sun, little darlin! These days we get to watch the sunrise without getting up early (at all!)!

3. We solved the dilemma of the master bedroom being on a separate level from the main floor bedrooms. Our girls sleep right next to us, in our closet!

4. Our girls’ being in the closet, led to an entire main floor bedroom being transformed into a closet for all of us!   Our one-room-closet makes getting everyone dressed and putting the laundry away easy (well, easier). And having a whole room as a closet makes me feel like glamazon Jenna Lyons!  Well, kinda like Jenna Lyons – minus the antlers on the wall, amazing wardrobe, living in NYC, and being the creative director of JCrew thing.

My Closet. Oh wait. This one is Jenna Lyon's.

This is our all-for-one and one-four-all closet! (Conveniently located across from the laundry room!)

5. You know that feeling of deep de-thaw you get from a hot shower after a day of skiing?  Well, I get that feeling every time I take a shower!  (So, like once a week.)

6. My blog!  It’s made me hope for things like a bear jumping on my car.  And, for one blog post a day, I get to sit in front of my computer screen and make weird faces as I escape to a world of words.  It’s delightful for me.  And, I hope that, on my very best day, it’s maybe a 3 second escape to the arctic and a smile for you?

7. My blog readers! I’ve really found you all to be so dang supportive.  It makes me feel a whole lot less alone to have you all here with me.

8. The Pretty School.  Yes, there is a lynx on the loose.  Yes, they go outside in negative 20 degrees.  BUT, last week when I went to retrieve my pretty schooler, the music was boomin’ and all the kids (and the teachers) were doing this:

I wig for pretty school! Clown wigs, princess wigs, mohawks, dreads all bobbing up and down on these 3 foot tall humans in a totally E.T. way. As I watched, I thought, "I love this place!"

9. The coffee huts.

10. The street names.

11. That my mom and dad came to visit. And, despite ALL circumstances, they did not complain. They are good sports, or good liars, or both.

12. Our Fairbanks-or-Bust trip up here was really epic.  We ferried all along the Alaskan coast and saw Orcas and Humpbacks.  Then, we were the lone car on the AL-CAN Highway in the  remote Yukon territory right at the peak of Autumn colors. It was spectacular.

13. The Northern Lights really are awe-inspiring.

14. If I can get my internet to load pages, I am told that Restoration Hardware and Anthropologie DO ship.  So does Amazon.  It just takes time.

15. Miles and miles of undeveloped land in every direction you can possibly go. (Splendid. And challenging.  All at once.)

16. Falling snowflakes and the refreshed and sparkly world they create (the view from our bedroom window)

17. The arctic blast is certainly a rush.

18. Warm clothing – jeans, boots, turtle necks, sweaters, scarves – it’s kinda fun after four years of tank tops!

19. FLEECE PJ PANTS.  I love you. I love you so much.  I love every soft, warm, cozy, cuddly thing about you.  Except one: I can’t take you off.

20. Beef Bourguignon! You are the one thing I know how to cook (easy enough for a three year old). And you make my house smell so good!

21. October was all about getting organized.  We started the month in a new house and didn’t know where our forks, pre-school, or toilet paper were located.  Luckily, THANKFULLY :), that’s all been sorted out now.

22. All wheel drive.

23. That Mitch works in the kind of hospital that offers indoor trick-or-treating.

24. I love this bar:

25. The fire. (In the name of transparency: I also hate it.  Constant ashes are a mess. Buying wood is expensive. Chopping wood takes time, not mine, but my right (and left) hand man’s.  Keeping the fire alive takes some attention.)  And despite all that, it makes our house toasty. It smells good. It is so pretty.  It crackles.  It is Alaskafella’s favorite thing about our log cabin.  Mine too I think (well, I think mine is the big windows.  Or, maybe the cathedral ceilings).  Our fire is a little bit of magic right in the corner of our living room.

26. Fairbankians. This teddy-bear cowboy is kareoke-ing "Shoulda Been A Cowboy" quite well at another great local hangout, The Pump House.

27. One of my girls, and my fella, love the snow.

28. Huh. I am hitting a wall … But, I will NOT give up because that is so NOT Alaskan.  I’m thankful for ingenuity, persistence, and fuel transport with an environmental consciousness.

All things possible.

29. So many adventures – adventures unique-to-this-neck-of-the-planet – still to come.

30. My cabin mates.  Someone once told me, it doesn’t matter where you are, only who you’re with.   I just went up to check on my little bunkers because I heard something; it was Lucy giggling in her sleep.   As I stood in the doorway and gazed upon my little family, each one sleeping soundly snuggled into his/her bed,  I think I realized one-eighth of how lucky I really truly am.   I feel so full.

To blooming where you’re planted (even if that “soil” happens to be in frozen solid),


P.S. Happy National Letter Writing Week, and happy month of giving thanks. This girl has both of those things down!


Determined to make some friends, and possibly something of myself, I decided to join the NaNoWriMo movement this year.


The what?

I didn’t know you were a dog person.

I know, it sounds like a high-strung dog thing.  NaNoWriMo, (National Novel Writing Month), is a challenge set in November (so ready, set .. GO!), for all those aspiring to write a novel (everyone I’ve ever met, I think?) to produce it. This month.

You sign up.  You produce 2,000 words (three pages) each day.  And by the end of the month? Viola!  You have 50,000 words.  No one cares if they are coherent.  And you can call yourself a novelist!

A novelist. A writer. An author. An artist.   Who me?   Just everything I’ve ever wanted to be.

Throughout the month NaNoWriMo sends you strategies, tips, encouragement, and virtual Kleenex from actual published authors and seasoned NaNoWriMo veterans.   Plus, with the whole goal being quantity, not quality, they continually tell you, “Just write.  Who cares if it’s crap? So is mine!”  To someone who’s been tweaking and re-tweaking crap on-and-off for the past 15 years, this Kamikaze call sounds like a liberation cry.

NaNoWriMo also organizes local chapter groups everywhere from New York City to … you guessed it, Fairbanks, Alaska!  Most chapters, I noticed as I excitedly googled my fingerprints off, have regular meet ups featuring write-ins and word-warm-up exercises at charming local bookstores with wifi internet and cafes.

I pictured meeting people wearing Tina Fey smart glasses and scarves.  While drinking Carmel Macchiatos, eating Lucy’s Glutton Free cookies, and giggling about our upcoming best sellers we would be tap, tap, tapping across the dance floors of our Mac Keyboards.

Maybe I’d meet someone just like Chelsea Handler? David Sedaris, is that you?!

A novelist? An author? An artist?  A writer.  An author with a new friend who lives within this arctic jurisdiction.  Could it be possible?

With visions of book tours taking me far, far, from here (and a friend to pick me up at the airport upon my return); I signed up!

Hold the lithium.  My delusions of grandeur were sufficiently smashed by the Fairbanks NaMoWriMo Kick-Off party.  It happened last night.  At Hot Licks.

Hot Licks? Not a charming local bookstore.   The palest, starkest, ice cream place ever.  Set in a strip mall.

Tina Fey smart glasses?  One skinny worm attending was wearing a cheap tuxedo.  Another donned a tie-dye tee shirt that hugged her fat rolls way to intimately and said, “Ride It.”  across the undulating waves of her bosom.

Scarves?  No.

Wi-Fi internet?  I must have forgotten everything I’ve been struggling with since September 9, 2010.

Mac Notebooks?  One writer brought a trapper keeper.

Laughing about our upcoming best sellers?  As we went round the circle introducing ourselves each writer offered a brief plot synopsis: zombies taking over the city; a war between the planets; brain draining dream eaters (?), a baby that is actually a bird monster and pecks out the eyes of it’s care takers (that one is part two of a trilogy).  One writer noted, “Looks like we’re all writing Sci –Fi, except that girl.” To which another added, “Well, we are in Fairbanks.”  Everyone in attendance, save “that girl,” giggled and smirked at that last insight.   WTF is wrong with these people?

Try saying, “Hi. I’m Katie.  I was thinking Chick Lit.”  To a circle of open- mouth breathers as two of them literally tongue each other.

“Me and Her?”  Said one of the tonguers, “We love to write.”

“Boris is SO talented,” slobber, slobber, kiss, kiss.

When I got home I had to take a shower.

And then, I consulted my “real” friends, you know, the ones on the internet.

And, guess what?  The subject of my best friend’s daily blog post? NaNoWriMo!!  And why I should do it!  I balked.  And then I started daydreaming about the solo tap dance I’m going to start composing on November 1st.  I guess it really is a high-strung dog kinda thing.

Delusions of grandeur > reality,