Traveling to Alaska

Traveling to Alaska

I’m thinking about going to Alaska.

Next week.

Who goes to Alaska in February? This is the time of year even Alaskans try to escape.

Well, my mom, for starters. And my brother. They’re both moving back to Alaska and decided to caravan together.

Last time I went to Alaska, it was in the middle of summer.

Turnagain Pass

I took these photos on our last trip to Alaska. Mom was moving back up there that time as well, and Gem and I tagged along with her.

road trip

She was so little then.

rock sheep
beaver lodge
the engine in palmer

This time, they are taking the ferry rather than driving the entire way through Canada, and they invited us along for the ride. The ferry leaves next weekend and it all hinges on whether Gem’s passport arrives in time.

Will we make it?

My favorite photos of 2011

I’m still learning to use my new camera, but I sure got a lot of practice with all our adventure this year. Here are some of my favorite photos.


We learned that bears like to eat dandelions



My daughter discovered the most fascinating animal at the zoo



I spent a little time in our back yard capturing ducks and lily pads



my daughter showed off her fashion sense



I trespassed in a beaver family’s back yard



I listed my 10 favorite places to be 



I got up close with some Poppies – I had no idea they were so hairy



I tried out the macro lens chasing down raindrops



My daughter and I explored Turnagain Pass in Alaska



I went tourist at Pike Place Market



I got all deep and philosophical about a Foggy Day



and I can’t finish this post without including another picture of the sweetest little girl in the world


A look back at 2011

At the beginning of 2011, I was bald,  scarred, nursing a nasty radiation burn, and not ready to spend any energy on an end of year analysis of my introduction to life with cancer.

My life has changed a bit since then.

For starters, I have hair.

Judy Schwartz Haley

Photo by Darrah Parker Photography


There was some awesome

My little girl grew up so much:





While Aaron was finishing his master’s degree, Gem and I went on a 3000+ mile road trip with Grandma, through Canada to Alaska.


I completed cancer treatment with the help of some amazing people.

We took a couple trips to the coast


I was on CNN telling the world about my hero, Debbie Cantwell and the Pink Daisy Project.


I can’t say goodbye to the cancer experience just yet, I’m still dealing with some residual complications, but I am in the process of moving on. I did so much more than deal with cancer in 2011, but it featured prominently in my life.

Before we get to the rest of my life, I did write up a post detailing what a day of radiation treatment is like, which has been quite a popular post over the past year. I hope it helps people who are facing this treatment, and a little nervous about what they are in for. (I also wrote a similar post about chemotherapy.)


What else did I do this year?  

I learned you can experience beauty without feeling guilty for not taking a picture

I am still learning to look past the angry in others

I’m embracing the idea that improvement comes from habit  

Made a fun discovery in my journal

Random act of kindness: I received an amazing gift that still brings a smile to my face and checks my attitude every time I use it


Looking Forward

I am so ready to get on with 2012.

I’m not doing resolutions this year, instead I’m picking a couple of words on which to focus as a kind of guiding principle for the year.

I picked “habit” and “kaizen”

The two are related. By habit, I mean I’m going to be intentional about creating healthy habits, slowly and gradually, the same way my bad habits get their start. For instance, I’m gradually improving my diet instead of going on a crash diet cutting out everything at once. Kaizen was a new term to me, meaning small improvements made every day will lead to massive improvements overall. This year is going to be all about incremental, sustainable change.


Do you have any plans, resolutions, or words of the year for 2012?


Turnagain Pass

Turnagain Pass is the highest point on the road between Anchorage and Soldotna, Alaska


As of yet unscathed by corporate interests


I love getting pictures of my little girl out in the wilderness


she looks so fragile, buffeted by the wind


of course, there’s the obligatory “Little House on the Prairie” shot


complete with falling down scene


but seriously, isn’t this gorgeous?



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Grandma’s House

This is the house in which I grew up. It was my grandparents house, but it was my Grandmother who made it a home.

The Farm

In 1948, my Grandmother packed up her children, and left her beautiful home in Michigan, to join her husband in Alaska where he had moved his dental practice.



She moved from this:


To a 32′ by 32′ log cabin
McKinley log home

Her youngest child was 7 months old.

This wasn’t just a house in Alaska. This was a house in an area that was, at the time, the middle of nowhere, Alaska. My grandfather commuted to work in Anchorage by airplane.

Of course, they needed to embiggen the house a bit to accommodate all those kids

adding on to the farm

And Grandma made sure their newly enlarged home was lovely. Just because they were in the middle of nowhere, Alaska, didn’t mean they were going to live like country bumpkins. Grandma had standards.

This was dinner.

family dinner

And after dinner

livingroom with fireplace

Notice Grandpa’s commuter plane out the left window…

Sure they had chores, a fully operational farm, in fact. But those boys mucked out the pig pen in jeans that were ironed.

Years later I came to live with Grandma and Grandpa, on my own at first so I could attend the local kindergarten, my parents and brothers joined us later. This is the house that comes to mind when I think of my childhood. I think of the wind that blew right through those walls bringing with them the glacial silt from not one, but two nearby glaciers. We dusted every single day. And every week we baked bread, with wheat we ground ourselves in a heavy, loud, wood and metal flour making contraption. Then when the loaves came out of the oven, she’d cut me a thick slice, still steaming, slather it with homemade butter from our cow, and then sprinkle a little brown sugar on top. Heaven.

I think of myself as being busy now, but truly, Grandma got some work done.

Grandma lived to be 99 years old, and she was beautifully pulled together every time I saw her.

Oh, my, I’m glad Grandma can’t see my home right now. I’ve fallen a bit short of her standards.

I’ve written a few more posts about my Grandma, and at her request, published a few of her own memories as well.


Mama’s Losin’ It