Running with the reindeer


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When we found out we were moving to Alaska, I started making a list of all the things I wanted to do in the last frontier. Some things on the list were easily conquered on the drive to Anchorage. Not long after getting off the boat in Haines, we saw bald eagles in numbers never seen in the Lower 48. We may have passed other glaciers without knowing they were there, but I was able to cross off “seeing my first glacier” as we drove past Matanuska. The list grew after our arrival as I learned about all Alaska has to offer. Just the drive from Palmer into Anchorage gave inspiration, with signs pointing out Mirror Lake and Thunderbird Falls.

We lived in base temporary lodging for the first nine weeks after arriving. With five people in three small rooms, crossing stuff off the list was easy. We were desperate to get out of the hotel. We spent two weekends downtown at the Fur Rondy. We took the tunnel into Whittier. We got up close to wildlife at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. We learned through science experiments at the Anchorage Museum. We hiked through the snow at the Eagle River Nature Center.

Then we finally moved into our house. Life got busy with unpacking, moving, and preparing for an upcoming deployment all at once. We were doing good to make it to Thunderbird Falls, drive down to Homer, and attend the State Fair. Before long, my husband deployed. Just two weeks before he left, our van was totaled by another driver. The three kids and I were back into the small sedan that my husband drove to work. Just getting around town became somewhat of a hassle. I did not want to leave the house. However, progress was made as we went to the Bear Paw festival, the Scottish Highland games, and the Arctic Thunder air show.

We are now beginning our third year in Alaska. With our DEROS (date of estimated return from overseas) 11 months away, the things left on my to-do list have to get done this year. With limited time — and limited money — I know not everything will get done. But I also know that when an opportunity to do something comes up, I need to jump on it.

Two years ago, I was introduced to the concept of running with the reindeer. I had to see it. I also felt the need to tease my husband, saying he should join in the festivities. We took the kids downtown to watch the ceremonial Iditarod start. We ran into friends from base, who just so happened to be waiting to run with the reindeer. Between teasing from his wife, and knowing he wouldn’t be all by himself, my husband decided to go for it. I watched the race, and thought to myself “this doesn’t look so bad.” Then, I opened my big mouth, and said “That looks like something I could do.” That was easy to say with the races over, knowing the next races would be a year away. I knew my husband would be deployed during the next Rondy. It was easy to talk big with two years before I would have to do it.

The running of the reindeer is this weekend. While it will be here next year, I most likely won’t be. So the opportunity is presenting itself. To cross this off the list, it has to be done now. So I need to suck it up, do it, and cross my fingers that the reindeer want what’s waiting at the finish line more than they want a piece of me.

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