Thursday, May 29, 2008

Will Rogers and Wiley Post Memorial

Grace and greeting.

It has been a couple of days since I last posted something in my blog. Since I have not been in a very joyful mood of the last several days, I thought I would pull in a back up story for Barrow.

The pictures did not quite come out like I hoped they would, but here they are.

This first picture is the front of the monument. Will Rogers and Wiley Post were on their way to Barrow on August 25, 1935, when their plane crashed about 16 miles southwest of the village. There is no definite cause of the crash, but they believe that the gas tank was empty.

Will Rogers of course was the humorist that captivated the country while he was alive. One of his famous sayings, "I have no political party, I am a Democrat", could probably still be true for either party. The parties seem to be coming more and more confused as to what they stand for. I think it is time for the United States to truly open up the process beyond the two party system. Anyway, this is not where I was going with the blog. The memorial is in town by the airport since there are no roads out to the actually crash site.

Wiley Post as you may or may not know was an experienced pilot at the time of their death. He was well known for his experimental planes, which was one of the suspected causes for the crash.

The back of the memorial is just a statement of all the "important people who helped to get the memorial set up" in 1982, starting with the Governor Jay Hammond down to the last political person that could get their name engraved. (no cynicism on my part of course).

Anyway, this is one of our historic stories of Barrow, Alaska.

Peace and blessings to all.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day (Observed)

Grace and Greetings.

I have been observing Memorial Day the way it usually ends up; watching baseball and relaxing. The memorial moment came during the Dodgers verses Cubs during the sixth inning. They had a moment of silence; as they scanned the crowd, there was one individual in fatigues, who near the end of the time, he could not maintain the salute, but was able to regain his composure. I am guessing that he was remembering fallen comrades, now a days, that is not hard for those in the military. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, I was never in the military. Even though I registered for the draft, President Ford called off the registration altogether, so I never did hear back from the government.

For our immediate family, my wife insists on observing on the traditional date of May 30th. Of course, the fact that she was born on that date has nothing to do with her insistence. As she was growing up, she thought that all the parades in honor of her. Then Richard Nixon took all that away from her. Well, life goes on.

For me, I took the day as it came to me, I watched the Cubs win. I am not the anti-Dodger fan I used to be, maybe the 35 plus years out of Southern California has finally healed things. But I started watching the Cubs when we had cable in seminary, then again in Ohio. I have always liked the fact that for me, the Cubs were the "Traditional" baseball team; played on grass, played during the day; and does not have the designated hitter rule. So you may ask why am I such a die hard Angels fan, at least they play on real grass. Anyway, I still felt like I was hit by a semi, so I went back to sleep and woke up in time for the Angels game which should be starting here in a couple of minutes; so I need to wrap this up...May your Memorial Day be safe, but remember why we have the day set aside, to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Peace and blessings to all.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Good Afternoon Ruined?

Grace and greetings.

As I get ready for my Sunday evening service, I was able to watch the Angels and White Sox game on ESPN. Even though I have the MLB Internet package, I still am not able to watch too many Angels' games, and it seems each time I watch them on TV, they lose. Tonight was no different. Although John Lackey only gave up four hits, (or was it five?), two of them were for home runs including the walk off home run to end the game. It was almost like when the White Sox stole the playoff game and then series back in 2005. I know, I know, get over it. Just to add salt to the wound, the Yankees beat Seattle this afternoon as well. BUMMER!!!

I am sure that I will get over my disappointment eventually, but I should let it go, I guess...

Now to completely change the topic, I have two pictures for you, which do you like better.

I know they look very similar, but there is a major difference between the two, I walked a whole 10-15 feet to my left to take the second picture. They both were taken Saturday morning at 2 AM. So the question could be, is this sunrise or sunset? But I thought they both came out well for my cell phone camera.

Anyway, I thought it was such a wonderful sight, I had to go back into the house to get the cell phone for the pictures. As you can see in the pictures, the snow is melting fast, and even more grass is coming through since I took the pictures. (I had to upload the second picture three different times, as I went to edit the blog, it kept deleting the picture).

I pray all have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day (observed)

Peace and blessings.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Another Successful Hunt

Grace and greetings.
To the left you can see a whaling boat (Umiak) and its supporting craft. In the background is another whaling boat. The Umiaks are no bigger than a canoe, and yet this is what the whalers go out into the Arctic Ocean to catch the Bowhead whales. Once a crew has caught a whale, they bring their Umiak in and hoist up their flag. Each crew has their own flag color and design, usually made by the crew captain.
So far, I believe there have been ten to twelve whales caught. I understand that a couple of whales got away after a harpoon was shot. There can only be 22 strikes or harpoon shots, so they are down to their last five or so shots.
According to what I hear, the whalers have been out in the water the last several days, as they have been beautiful and sunny days. But the only whales they are seeing are the very pregnant ones, and they let them go by. Every once in a while somebody will get a pregnant whale, but that is not their intention.
It is another wonderful Friday "evening", blue skies, and the sun is shining brightly. I took this picture about 6:30 PM (Alaska Daylight Time). You can see that the sun is still very bright, and will continue to be so until the clouds come back in.
Peace and blessings.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What a difference a couple of days make...

Grace and greetings.

Following Tuesday's day of frustrations, Wednesday brought its own with it. The funeral (number 42 since I came to the North Slope), was hard, not that any of the funerals are easy; but seeing what cancer can do to the body is less than eight months was hard to witness. Then following the service and burial, (yes, we bury regardless of the time of year), I went home to rest for a little bit. When my wife came to "wake" me up, she made a comment that started another shouting match between the two of us, that the hard feelings lasted for several hours.

As for the weather here, the last several days have been so wonderful and sunny; it makes me forget that though it is finally above freezing, 35-40 still requires at least a light coat. I want to run out there in shorts and t-shirt like most of the teenagers do. I guess I am just getting too old. But the snow is melting, and we can already see grass out by the corner of the house.

I need to get a "real" camera to get any definition out of the pictures, but the mud looking ground is actually the tundra grass coming through. As of a couple of days ago, there was still a foot of snow there.

Following the days of frustration, and wanting to run out into the wonderful day, I still need to count my blessings. Last nights argument gave me the energy to really clean our kitchen, so today it still looks pretty good. I had my weekly meeting with my counselor, and felt better after working through some of the stuff with him.

Then came a real surprise and wonderment, be careful of what you ask for....
This afternoon I followed through on a request from Session to ask if there might be anybody interested to come and help paint the church this summer. I sent out an email to a group in Anchorage and somebody responded within the hour. That person turned it over to another person who is in charge of Native ministries for the Methodist Church for the Alaska Conference. (I met him earlier this year when I did the funerals for his still born twin granddaughters). He wrote me back saying that he is going to a meeting at the end of the month, and may come away with a crew to come hopefully, everything will work out. Now I just need to find a definite dates, and places for the possibility of the crew to come up sometime in July. My head and spirit are still spinning.

Well, it is getting close to 10 PM; I guess I should spend sometime with my wife and son...hopefully without the arguing.

Peace and blessings.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Frustrated Tuesday

Grace and greetings.

It started out like the last couple of days, felt too tired to get out of bed, kept resetting my alarm. Finally drag myself out of bed and shower. That was the good part.

I realize that life is what you make of it, how you choose to react, today I guess I choose to see the frustration rather than the bright parts of the day.

I started the day by calling our insurance company for our medical prescriptions. It seemed like an easy enough call, they had sent back my script because I was no longer under their insurance. Thus is the wonderment of Clergy Couples and insurance companies. Since my wife is also a Presbyterian Minister, she is covered under her policy, I as her depended (spouse), am also covered. I am also serving a congregation so I have my own policy, and as my dependent, she is covered under my policy goes thought, logic and other hopes. I spent 45 minutes talking to a representative trying to explain that we are both covered, could they put a note in their system to that extent. It would seem that I was asking for her to move Mars out beyond Jupiter. By the time I was finished with the phone call, (but not the reason I had called for), I was so frustrated I just told her that I had to hang up before saying something that she was not responsible for in the first place.

I get to my office where I need to send off email reminders to my Session members for this evening's meeting, as well as other job related emails. No Internet service, all day. Grrrrr.

Get home in the afternoon, more frustrations surface within the home. Oh joy.

Then comes the Session meeting. (The governing body for the local Presbyterian Church). Most ministers I know, have a love/hate relationship with Session meetings. Even though there is an agenda set up, there is always time for a Session member blindside the minister for no other reason that they like to see the minister sweat. Tonight we tried to get our purposed budget for this coming year, (fiscal year is April though March), of course there is always one in every group that likes to question everything, especially if I had anything to do with it, or so it seemed.
The meeting goes an hour and half longer than it needed to, that is including the budget discussion. I finally get out of the meeting without wanting to strangle the person.

Then I come home to get something to eat and post this post. After the computer finally came up, the security scans kept coming up wanting to work before I do anything. Another thing to wait for...then logging on to blog space kept rejecting my login and password. Obviously, it finally allowed me on.

I know there is nothing that really was horrific to make the day that bad, but it just is one of those low energy days where I allowed it to affect me. Hopefully tomorrow will be better, were I will be officiating my 42 funeral since I arrived here last year. Until later...

Peace and blessings.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Season of Mud and pot holes

Grace and greetings.

As we hit the middle of May, the snow begins to melt, and there by bringing the season of frustration and pot holes. I am sure everybody has their own understanding of pot holes, and express themselves when they hit the hole that they did not see. Here in Barrow, all roads are dirt, and during this season, they turn to mud and pot holes. I had to follow an ambulence to the air field this afternoon for another person to be air lifted to Anchorage for emergency medical services. I do not believe the ambulence was able to move much beyond 10 miles an hour, creeping over and through each pot hole between the hospital and the air field.

The nice thing about our roads being all dirt and gravel, they continue to grade them, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

This is another angle of the pot holes on the same bend of the road. You can see how these can cause flat tires and tight jaws. This is just a small side road, but the majority of the roads look like this when they are not able to grade them.

In the last picture, you see an opening to the Arctic Ocean, which is just across the street from the pot holes.

Peace and blessings.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Our Little Neighborhood.

Grace and greetings.

In continuation of our "neighborhood", you can see where the manse is in relationship to the church. The building behind the manse in the North Slope Borough office, which is in charge of the North Slope Borough, about the geographical size of Minnesota.

In the picture above, you can see a small shed like building, and you can see it better in the picture below.

The larger of the two building below is the "new manse", build around 1960. It is a duplex that we rent out.

It is the smaller building that I want to write about. Back in 1984, they built the small 400 square foot building to house two VIM's (Volunteer in Mission) for the coming year. One of those two VIM's would become my wife. We met at a Presbytery meeting neither of us were suppose to attend. While my wife was in her first year of seminary, she decided to apply for a year position, but her Candidates Committee told her not to take the position in Barrow, because she had moved around too much after graduating from High School. So she contacted the Barrow Church and said thank you, but no thank you. About four months later, she received the plane tickets in the mail, and contacted her Candidates Committee. They agreed that she was suppose to go, so off she went.

In the meantime, as I was heading into my senior year of seminary, I applied to two internships, one in Northern Wisconsin, which would be a two year position; and one in Sitka, Alaska. I was offered both positions, but since I wanted to come home to Alaska, I chose the Sitka position. But soon after I was ready to leave for Sitka, the position fell apart, and I ended up doing my internship at my home church in Anchorage. The church in Sitka is in the Presbytery of Alaska, and Barrow and Anchorage are both in the Presbytery of the Yukon. So come the fall presbytery meeting of 1984 in Fairbanks, my wife and I met. The rest, as they say, is history.

Peace and blessings.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Our Historic House

Grace and greetings.
This is a picture of our house, which has an historic flavor to it. It was brought up by barge in pieces in the 1920, purchased through the Sears Roebuck and Company. The house is now one of the historic buildings in Barrow, so by definition, the outside cannot be changed; though they have worked on the inside, completely redoing parts of the house. Though there is some insulation in the walls, (I hope), I know the insulation in the attic is a layer of gravel. This summer I hope to put some other insulation up there.
As you look at the house, the upstairs window on the left hand side is the master bedroom; but according to stories, it is called the Lindbergh room, or Charlie's room. I guess that Charles Lindbergh was a friend of the pastor's at one time in his flying career, and when ever he flew to Barrow and spent the night, he stayed in that room.
The car you can see in back of the house is the church Ford Expedition, which is for me to use during my time up here. As you can see by the mileage post, the manse is very close to the church, and when it is -50 with wind chill, it is nice to run quickly between buildings, rather than having to travel far.
Well, I have to get back to work. Until next time.
Peace and blessings.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Caught my son

Grace and greetings.
I have asked my son not to play with the cell phone and camera, but he has other ideas. I told him that since he took the picture, I would put it on my web site. He did not believe me, for here it is.
Speaking of my son, today he is home, for the school district is already in the final week, and he does not have any finals in the classes scheduled for today. Then tomorrow, he will go back for half a day, and that will be it for the school year.
He is hoping to get into a summer school class out at the college, if all goes well, it should give him enough credits to get back on track to graduate next year. But there are many things that can happen in a year.
Hope all is well and warm where you are, it is snowing again here, but we have past the point for 24 sun light until mid-August.
Peace and blessings.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Church sign

Grace and greetings.

My second photo is of the church sign. It is right next to the mileage sign I posted yesterday. The sign is made up of two Bowhead whale rib bones, and a shoulder blade. You can see the church in the background, my office window is on the far right.

This picture was taken last night around 10 PM. The sun is about the time where it does not set again until August. At this particular moment, it is over cast and drifting snow.

As you can see on the photo, I still have to figure out whether it is my finger or the cell phone cover making the shadow in the lower left hand corner. As I am still experimenting with everything, I cannot see the photo itself until I get back inside the house or church. More experimentation coming.

Peace and blessings.

Monday, May 12, 2008

My first picture

Grace and Greetings.
It has taken me a while to upload my first picture for my blog space, that was taken this morning. This is the sign post that is in our front yard. As you can see, it has the different miles to the places of the world: Hawaii, Moscow, Fairbanks, Paris, Los Angeles, New Bedford and New York. I can see it very visably from by office window.
As I continue to play and learn about the camara in my cell phone, I will try to up load different pictures of Barrow, Alaska. We will see how it goes.
Peace and blessings to all.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Day of Red

Grace and greetings.

This mornings church service went very well. Being the Day of Pentecost, I had asked people to remember to wear Red, for it is the color of fire and the spirit. It is also, the only day in the church calendar year that is liturgically red. We had the first confirmation class to enter to church membership in years; and we handed out red roses to the mothers, (thorns and all), and anybody else who needed a rose. Since we had ordered two hundred roses, we had enough for every body to have.

Then we were asked out to lunch by one of the members, and while waiting for our son to get ready, I quickly checked my email; there was a couple of emails from one particular member whose comments were enough to upset the rest of my day. I do not know what it is with me, I receive twenty to thirty wonder comments, but I remember to one that was critical. I do not know why I continue to hold on to the negative comments instead of hearing the thirty other positive comments. It almost seems like never being able to please a parent figure, regardless of how well or how much energy was put forth into a particular project. It just seems like you can not please the particular person, no matter how hard you try. Abraham Lincoln put it best, (paraphrased) "you can please some of the people some of the time, a few of the people all of the time, but never all of the people all of the time".

On the way home from the Mother's Day Brunch, we drove out towards Point Barrow, the furthest north one can be in the United States and still be on land. Driving out there, (about a seven mile drive), the frozen Arctic Ocean on one side of the road, and frozen lakes on the other. The land is flat, except where the ocean ice has push itself up on to itself and the berms where the plows have piled up the snow and ice from the road. All is white, except in the distance were the dark clouds mark the open water, where the whalers are out hunting. On the way back we were listening to the radio, as there is only one station on the North Slope, and that is KBRW. They actually have three stations, sometimes they all play the same thing. The two "main" stations switch back and forth playing NPR programing. So it was "Mountain Stage" or "Reggae Hour". My wife has always liked reggae, so we listened to that on the way home. As I drove, I still held the negative comments with me as well as other issues that held on to my mind. As we were pulling up to the house, a song that was recorded at a live concert was playing, and as I was ready to turn off the car, the singer was saying, "Everything will be all right. Everything will be all right. Everything will be all right". When I did turn the car off, my wife cried out, "but that was Bob." Bob Marley being one of her favorite singers, so I turned the song back on and we listened in silence until the end. The word phrase never was repeated again as I was expecting. So maybe God was speaking to me this afternoon through the dead singer, saying: "Everything will be all right. Everything will be all right." Maybe, everything will be all right. Now I am going to spend some time on my Nordic Trac and get ready for this evening's service.

Peace and blessings.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Back from the Black Hole

Grace and greetings

It has been a while, I know, but we are still around, alive and breathing.

Quick update. The doctor changed my antidepressant, and it seems to be working, as I have more energy to do things, rather than just what needed to be done. Last Saturday marked our first full year here, we survived it for the most part. On Saturday, I officiated my 40 funeral since arriving here, and Wednesday I did my 41st. That does take a lot out of me. The sun is almost to the point where it will not set again until August, so sleeping will be a challenge for most people here.

I have found that writing every day is a gift and challenge. There are days that I am ready to write in the blog, but by the time I get ready to write, I have lost the inspiration that came to me earlier.

My son almost made it through the year without ending up in the hospital. At the end of March, he ended up in Alaska Psychiatric Hospital (API) for almost three weeks. The reality for mental health is very different here; They do not have any place for suicidal watches up here, so basically the police take over and escort them down to Anchorage and to API. For the safety of all people involved, the person is usually handcuffed. Unfortunately for my son, the girls basketball team was on the same flight out (we only have two flights a day to Anchorage, morning and evening), for the state championships, (they took second), so a lot of students saw Sam in cuffs as they flew to Anchorage. We were not able to fly to Anchorage until the third week, when a church member gave us their air miles so we could go down. Though he is 1/10th of a credit from being a Junior, if he is able to get into a summer school class at the college here, (there are only 15 spaces available in the class he is signed up for, and still being in High School, he will probably be one of the last to be allowed in), he will have enough credits to become a senior and graduate next year on time. That of course if he passes all his classes this semester and things fall into place this summer and next school year. Due to Whaling Season here, (a lot of the high school students help with the whaling here), school gets out next week, in fact graduation for the seniors was last night.

Speaking of Whaling season, as you may or may not know, the success of the hunt will depend on if people on the North Slope have food for the coming year. Right now the whalers have "22 strikes", that means they have 22 opportunities to strike the whale. If somebody shoots the harpoon and misses, that is counted as a strike. The whales that are landed, are cut up and given throughout the village and shared with the other villages of the North Slope, (about the geographical size of the state of Minnesota). So far this season they have landed three whales as of yesterday.

Since I have been here for a year now, I get my vacation, but with air fare prices as they are right now, I am not sure where we can go, (as well as the price of a barrel of oil). Tickets to Anchorage are $600, if we can find a good special, down to about $450 a ticket. For the three of us to fly to Seattle, it is about a $1,000 a piece, Madison, WI is about $1,400 a piece. Next year, the church will pay for the air fare to Seattle, so hopefully we will be able to afford to go somewhere then.

Though the air temp. is above zero, the wind chill is still between -10 and -20. Spring is on its way, and then our several weeks of summer. According to some of the scientist studying the North Pole ice, they are predicting a complete melt down this year or next. We will see how that impacts us in Barrow. Last year the Arctic Ocean did not freeze over until December, (usually September/October).

I will try and write again in the next few days. Tomorrow is Sunday, which is of course very busy. But I got a new cell phone, with a camera. If I can figure out how to down load a picture on to this web site, I can start filling my blog space with pictures as well.

Peace and blessings to all.