Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Zucchinis and Zen

Count-down: 17 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure!

I can’t believe today is already the last day!  The Challenge went so fast this year! 

I have a hard time with “Z”.  I always want my last post to be really good, but “Z” words often don’t fit too well with my themes.  Last night my son, who’s nine, was trying to help me come up with a good “Z” word.  It was getting late because I’m a procrastinator and we started rattling off all the “Z” words we could think of.  Finally, he blurted out, “zucchini”.  I told him zucchinis didn’t have anything to do with Alaska.  He thought for a moment and told me we needed to take a zucchini with us on our trip, then we’ll have one in Alaska and I can write about it.  

Amid bursts of laughter we thought about drawing sharpie eyes on the zucchini and dressing him in a hat and sunglasses.  We would name him Zorba the Zucchini.  I told Ryan he might not make it through airport security.

My actual “Z” word, I decided is Zen.  I’ve only attempted meditation a few times, but I feel like our long drive will be a sort of meditative experience.  There will be long stretches of looking inside myself while my eyes focus on the constancy of the road.  I can let go of the everyday stressors and concentrate on breathing. On Being.  

Being not an individual, but a part of something bigger;  a family, a mountain valley, a speck in this grand universe.

Thanks for stopping by each day to read my posts! I had a great time this year and I learned so much from everybody. I want to thank Arlee for creating this wonderful A-Z Challenge! And thanks to all the co-hosts and helpers who help to make it run smoothly.  I know it takes a lot of time and effort. You guys/gals are awesome!  

Kathy :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Count-down:  18 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure!

My 15 year old daughter explained its meaning, “You Only Live Once”, because I’m not up on all the hip language of today.  She said driving to Alaska is definitely a YOLO moment.  Being the nerd I am, I looked up the term anyway.  It is similar to expressions such as Carpe Diem.  But, I was surprised to see it has negative connotations of taking dumb risks and explaining them away by saying “YOLO, man!”.  

That got me thinking.  What are we humans to do? Should we live as if we’ll die tomorrow, or live as if we’ll never die?  Maybe that is the same thing.  Either way we may take too many risks with our body or money.  Or should we do everything we can to protect ourselves?  That leads to becoming a hermit afraid of everything.

If I only live once, I don’t want either of those scenarios.  It’s not one amazing experience that is important to me.  It is a lifetime of combined experiences, wonderful adventures, painful trials, and quiet moments.  White water rafting together. Losing track of my two year old daughter at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia (we found her five minutes later).  Sitting with my son in my lap. Gazing out the window on a rainy day where the only sunshine is in the golden yellow wings of goldfinch.  Living each day no matter what life throws at me.  

Yes, driving to Alaska is surely a YOLO moment, but I prefer to think of my whole life as one long string of YOLO moments.      

My 9 year old son introduced me to this silly YOLO video from Lonely Island. I hope you enjoy it.

Kathy :)

Monday, April 28, 2014


Count-down:  19 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure!

I love going on vacation.  I love having time where our whole family is together, with no outside distractions. Nothing that takes our attention away from one another.  That is more important to me than the actual place we visit.  Though the kids have said that our more experiential trips have been their favorites.  Seeing new sights and exploring the unknown has been more memorable to them than our beach vacations. There is something special about being adventurous as a unit.

It’s all about the experience.  What we experience together is forever woven into the fabric of our family’s history and brings us closer.  

A buffalo, for us, instantly brings to mind the time in Yellowstone when a big bull walked right up to our car window and Alyssa blurted out, “Look at that bad boy!”.  Say “Sea Lion” and the McKendry family brain is transported to St.Thomas where we swam with Omar, the sea lion.  

Even when the kids are all grown up and have moved to various parts of the country, they will still have these links back to our little family of five.  Hopefully they will smile and their hearts will be warmed by the memories we made together.  

So despite all the difficulties we may face driving 82 hours to Alaska, I’m thrilled to be etching forever on our brains a whole new set of family experiences that we can draw from later in life.

Moab = driving ATVs through desert canyons 

Kathy :)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Why Not Whales?

Count-down:  21 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure!

At first I was thinking about doing a post on whales.  There are so many impressive species of cetaceans that travel to Alaskan waters in the summer months to feed.  They fill up their streamlined 100 ton bodies with krill or seals, in the case of killer whales.  Orcas play a large part in the legends of Alaskan Native Peoples.  There is a mystical connection between man and whale.  

My husband didn’t think a whale post was a good idea.  He thought a bunch of facts on whales that could be found on Wikipedia, wouldn’t be all that interesting.  He gave me a suspicious smile and suggested Werewolves instead.  I had to admit, though I find whales fascinating, werewolves capture the imagination.  

Of course there are plenty of wolves in Alaska, around 11,000 according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.  Just no werewolves.  At least no reported sightings.  But I think of anyplace, Alaska would be a great place for werewolves to roam.  

I gazed lovingly at my husband, thankful for his insights.  He was rolling around the floor wrestling with our dog.  The silver light of a full moon shone through the window illuminating his green eyes making them glow an almost eerie yellow.  A chill traveled up my spine and I wondered for a moment why he wanted me to learn about werewolves.  He looked up at me as if sensing my thoughts and smiled a hungry smile.      

Kathy :)

*Unlike my other A-Z posts, this post may have elements of fiction.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Count-down:  22 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure!

Augustine, 2006 Wikipedia Commons

When I think about the dangers in Alaska, I think Jack London style.  Freezing to death, falling in icy water, or bears.  But Alaska is a mix of fire and ice.  It is littered with historically active volcanoes!  

According to the Alaska Volcano Observatory, there are over 130 volcanoes in Alaska.  In the past 40 years, Alaskan volcanoes have averaged 2 eruptions per year.  Mount Bona, near the Alaskan border with the Yukon Territory, is the highest volcano in the U.S. at over 16,000 feet.  

On our way through Alaska, we will be traveling near two volcanoes that have been recently active.  Mount Wrangell and Augustine. Mount Wrangell which is about 200 miles from Anchorage has been erupting on and off for 750,000 years.  Its last eruption was reported in 1930 where impressive columns of black smoke spewed into the sky.    

Augustine’s last eruption was in December of 2005 and lasted until March of 2006.  It went through four stages of eruption one of which propelled ash more than nine kilometers into the atmosphere and included pyroclastic flow, the same type that destroyed Pompeii.  Augustine seems to have incidents about every 20 years.  

The Volcano Observatory keeps a close watch over all Alaska's volcanoes for new activity and issues warnings when they deem there is danger. Every day they update their website with alert levels for each active volcano.

I'm not worried about seeing a volcano blow its top, I think it would actually be pretty amazing to see, from a distance.

Alaska Volcano Observatory

Kathy :)

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Count-down:  23 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure

I’ve noticed there are a number of words I overuse in writing.  Somehow “just, but, and that” sneak onto my page.  There is one word though which always seems to creep into my speech.  Especially when on vacation.  It is my old friend, “UNBELIEVABLE.”  

We’ll be out looking over some magnificent waterfall or unique geologic landform and I stand there mesmerized by it’s power and beauty.  It strikes me dumb and all I can manage is to mutter, “Unbelievable.”

Watching Old Faithful erupt surrounded by bison grazing nearby, “Unbelievable.”
Standing before the Delicate Arch in Moab, Utah, “Unbelievable.”
Taking in the crashing surf in Monterey, California, “Unbelievable.”

Unbelievable moment at Delicate Arch
I wish I could be more creative.  In Alaska, I’d like to say something else.  So I looked up “unbelievable” in the thesaurus for some possible substitutes.  None of them quite resonated with me. The best was, “astonishing” though I also like “inconceivable” because of The Princess Bride.
My biggest problem is, one word can’t describe the overpowering emotions I feel when I visit these places.  One page might not be enough.  So when I’m gazing upon the eerie blue of an ancient glacier, I’ll probably go back to my old friend and whisper, “Unbelievable.”

Kathy :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Count-down:  24 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure!

Wikipedia Commons

I never have enough of it. It slips through my fingers like water rushing from a faucet.  Lately, I’ve been striving for efficiency.  I listen to books on cd in the car and at home while I’m doing mindless chores. I have lists and I try to fill every minute with something.  I’m always moving and trying to accomplish some task.  Some days I do manage to get a lot done.  

I wonder though, should my life be about crossing items off my “to do” list?  What is it that I’m rushing around to do?  It’s like I’m hurrying through one task to get to the next one and my mind is off thinking of what I have to do later.  

There is always this pressure of time.  Even with writing this post.  I didn’t get it posted early.  So I’m rushing to get it done.  Why?  Shouldn’t I enjoy sitting here looking out at the greening grass, listening to music and putting my thoughts down on the page? I write, because I love it but when I’m thinking about getting it done, I’m not enjoying the art of writing.  I’ve already moved on to the next thing.  

What if I learned to stop rushing, to feel every second even if it’s while doing the dishes? Wouldn’t I perceive the existence of more time?

On our way to Alaska we will have about 82 hours of driving time.  Time that I can’t be rushing around.  At first my husband and I wanted to bring books on cd to fill that time.  But then we decided not to.  We don’t want to “fill the time”.  We want to “be in the time”.  We want to talk with the kids, blast their tunes, and sing with them (luckily our tastes in music are all pretty similar).  I don’t know what we’ll talk about.  I’m sure we can’t fill 82 hours with conversation and singing, but that’s okay too.  I think a few hours sitting in our own silent worlds watching the scenery, looking for bears, and thinking will be wonderful. 

Maybe I will finally learn to have more time.

But if you have any great conversation starters I’m all ears!

Kathy :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Count-down: 25 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure!

Seldovia Harbor, Wikipedia Commons

No roads lead in or out of Seldovia, Alaska.  The only way to get there is by plane or boat.  A tiny town on the Kenai Peninsula, across Kachemak Bay from Homer, Seldovia has been a town since 1787 when it was established as a Russian fur trading post.  Though various native peoples gathered there thousands of years earlier for trade.  Eventually it became a major fishing port when large schools of herring were discovered in the bay.  Canning herring, salmon and other seafoods became Seldovia’s top industry.  

At it’s height it had around 2000 inhabitants.  Then on Good Friday of 1964, an earthquake larger than any that had ever hit North America struck the area.  9.2 on the Richter Scale.  Seldovia would never be the same.  The land dropped 4 feet, putting buildings and the town’s boardwalk in the bay during high tide.   

Today Seldovia has a population of around 255.  The townsfolk seem to welcome visitors to their seaside paradise. They offer fishing, flight seeing, bear viewing, chainsaw carvings, parks and hiking trails as well as sunsets on the beach.  Their website boasts that Seldovia is Alaska’s Most Charming Seaside Community.  

I hope it is.  I’m really looking forward to seeing if they’re right.

Seldovia's grocery store, CrabPot. Wikipedia Commons

For more info:

Kathy :)

Monday, April 21, 2014


Count-down:  26 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure!

In 26 days we pick up our rented RV from the Winnebago factory in Forest City, Iowa!  I’m so excited.  I don’t know exactly what it will look like inside, but I’ve seen pictures of RVs that are similar to the one we’ll have and they look pretty nice.  It’s amazing what they can fit into 28 feet of vehicle.  It has a kitchen with stove, refrigerator and cupboards; a little dining table, bathroom with shower and beds for the five of us.  It even has a coffee maker and teapot in it!  

The first night of our trip, we actually sleep in the RV at the factory.  The next morning, we get up early for an RV orientation class.  Hopefully this will teach us everything we need to know.  I hope it includes a driving lesson too! It might take me a while to get the hang of driving that thing!  

And then we’re off on our adventure.  

Because my husband and I kind of resemble the bumbling knight errant, Don Quixote and his trusty companion Sancho Panza searching far off lands for adventure, we’ve decided to name our RV after Don Quixote’s noble steed, Rocinante.  We’ll just have to watch out for windmills.

Kathy :)

Rocinante will be similar to this one, from Wikipedia Commons
If you'd like to take a peek inside of RVs today, check out this link: Minnie Winnie RVs

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Count-down:  28 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure

Most of my childhood was spent in imagination.  My head was filled with faraway places, King Arthur stories, Disney Princesses, and Star Wars.  How could I keep my thoughts to Earth in the present?  I wanted to be a heroine going on a quest, finding magical worlds, hidden truths, and talking animals.  To be saved by my Prince or me saving him.

As an adult, I’ve had to spend a little more time in Earth-present doing those everyday things that have to get done, though I always jump at a chance to leave it all behind and go explore new lands.  Our trips are always wonderful and exciting but they are mere vacations.  

This trip to Alaska is a Quest.  We will discover frozen, magical lands with powerful beasts.  At times it will be difficult and may be dangerous.  Luckily, my Prince is traveling with me. Whatever we encounter we will journey to the end and be changed because of it.  I’m not sure what we will find along the way, though I have a feeling we will uncover hidden truths within ourselves.  

As for the talking animals... anything is possible on a Quest.

Kathy :)


Count-down:  29 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure

On our drive to Alaska we need to be flexible and prepared.  Prepared for whatever might cross our path, whether it’s a pristine glacial waterfall, snowy roads, or a bear.  That doesn’t mean packing for every possibility.  It means we have to be mentally prepared to encounter surprising and sometimes uncomfortable situations.  It means not worrying too much about our exact itinerary and being able to improvise.  It means not being in total control.

But when in life do we ever have total control? 

No matter how hard I try I can’t control the world around me.  I can only control my reactions to it.  If I’m mentally prepared for different situations no matter how difficult, I’ll be able to think more clearly and handle them better.  

“P” is also for Procrastinate, which I definitely did with this post! :)

Kathy :)  

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Count-down:  30 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure

When my husband came home one day and asked if I wanted to drive to Alaska in an RV with the kids, my first thought was, “Of course!”  Then the more I thought about it, I wondered how we could make it happen.  Questions and doubts swirled around my head.  Could we really do it, having never even ridden in an RV before?  What about the kids schooling? They attend an online school from home, but they still have deadlines they have to meet and there won’t be much connectivity on the road to Alaska.  Maybe it wasn’t the right time. Maybe we should wait until next year.

Then it hit me.  We had a chance, an opportunity, to go to Alaska at this moment.  Not next year, or five years from now.  If we didn’t do it now maybe we would never go. The opportunity may never be there again.  

That’s when I decided, “Okay let’s go.”  We’ll figure out all the other stuff along the way.  We will make it work.  And it will be the trip of a lifetime for all of us.

Kathy :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Native Peoples

Count-down:  31 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure!

Tlingit totem from Wikipedia Commons

I found out recently that my grandpa’s grandmother was a Native American.  I always thought Gramps was kidding when he said he was Native American.  He was the kind of guy who said everything with a straight face and you never knew if he was telling a tall tale or the truth.  About fifty percent of the time it was the truth.  My Native American heritage happened to be a truth.  I wish I had talked to him about it before it was too late.  Now he’s gone, and I don’t have any information about her other than the fact that she really was Native American and probably from the New York area.  I hope to have the time eventually to research and discover more about my Native heritage.  In the meantime, it has sparked the desire to learn more about all Native Peoples, their histories and cultures.  

In Alaska, the Native Peoples are divided into eleven different cultures speaking eleven different languages.  I’m hoping that when we are in Anchorage, one of our stops can be the Alaska Native Heritage Center Museum where I can begin my journey to the world of Raven and Whale spirits and learn the meanings behind their totems.  

Here's a list of Native Alaskan Peoples according to the Native Heritage Center Museum:
Raven pole, One Legged Fisherman Pole,
and Killer Whale Pole
From Wikipedia Commons

Alutiiq (Sugpiaq)
St. Lawrence Island Yupik

I'm excited to learn more about each of them and come home with a better appreciation of their cultures and languages.

To learn more about Alaskan Natives check out:

Kathy :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Count-down:  32 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure

Alaskan Bull moose, Wikipedia Commons

When I think of Alaska, I think of a land of mystery.  A frozen world with hidden dangers, savage predators, and savage weather.  Of close encounters with bears and icy precipices.  I don’t often think about moose.  

I actually love moose, I’ve always wanted to see one, they’re just not on my “Think of First” list.  A couple of years ago we were out in Yellowstone and I kept searching for moose but we never saw one and I was a little disappointed.  I guess in Wyoming the moose is elusive.

In Alaska, moose are a common sight.  In fact according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, more people in Alaska are injured by moose each year than bears.  (Yay! I’d much rather meet a moose than a bear.)  In order to stay safe they advise that you recognize when a moose is agitated.  

Here are some things which make a moose agitated:

Being hungry
Dogs barking
Tired of walking through deep snow
Children or adults throwing snowballs at them
Hmm, all those things make me agitated too.  

An angry Alaskan moose Wikipedia Commons

Their advice on what to do if a moose charges at you?  Unlike with bears, you should run, as fast as you can.  But since moose can run at speeds up to 35 miles an hour and the fastest human on the planet, Usain Bolt, Olympic gold medalist, can currently only run at about 28 mph for 100 meters, they suggest you find something to hide behind; like a tree.  A tree sounded good until I remembered that some moose have antlers up to 6ft wide and can weigh 1600 lbs.  I guess look for a giant tree.  

Other Moose facts:

Largest of the elk family
Great swimmers, even underwater for short periods
Mostly solitary
Eat land and aquatic plants

If you want to read more about moose check these out:

National Geographic- human running speed

Kathy :)

I can’t believe today is the halfway point for the A-Z!  I’ve had so much fun reading everyone’s posts. I just wish I could get to everybody!