Iron Dog 2018

It’s that time of the year again! Iron Dog racers pulled into Unalakleet yesterday. Reuben’s friend, Casey Perkins, is running Trail Class and is staying at our house. He pulled into town just after 5 pm. Last night after 4 am, two Pro Class teams came to stay at our house as well. We were expecting Scott Faeo and his teammate, Chad Gueco, but we ended up housing another team as well. The other team is Jordan Starr and Joshua Plumb. I feel bad that they are sleeping on the couch, but it is better than sitting at the garage. They are all really nice guys! 

Casey Perkins
Casey Perkins checking in at the Unalakleet checkpoint

The Iron Dog officials put all of the racers on mandatory hold due to severe weather around the sound. All racers will be stuck in Unalakleet until tomorrow morning. I am not complaining because I like the company.

Weather hold
It’s always fun to listen to their stories about the trail. Casey was telling us about how one Pro Class team has flown up rigs to several checkpoints just to use for parts. Now that is determination! The racers’ gear was soaked from the overflow so our dryer was pretty busy. Casey asked us where our winter went. Haha! He said there was lots of snow up until Kaltag, then BAM it was nothing but wet trails. I can’t imagine the trail between Unalakleet and Nome. With all the high water and wind, it has to be pretty bad.

Iron Dog racers 2018
Racers passing time while on weather hold in Unalakleet

When I went to pick up Casey at UNC Garage yesterday, three other Trail Class racers pulled in. Their rigs were beautiful colors. I went to compliment one of them about his purple rig and he explained to me that it was for Pancreatic cancer awareness. His teammates drove light green and light blue rigs covered in “Be Alive”. The racer driving the green rig just recovered from Lymphoma. The racer driving the blue rig was running for his mother who had passed away from colon cancer. They call their team “Be Alive”. I respect that.

Iron Dog 87
Jerrod Vaughn racing for Team Be Alive

Since I have to work, I made breakfast early and left it for the racers. I didn’t want to wake them since they had been up past 4 last night. Every time the Iron Dog and Iditarod teams pass through, they are all I can think of. The whole town comes together to greet the teams as they pull in, even at odd hours of the night. I can’t wait to see who wins. Last time Scott Faeo stayed with us, he and his partner Eric Quam got 1st place.

MOM!! There’s a… white animal in the living room!!!!

Last week as we were getting ready for bed: Keane was brushing his teeth in the living room while watching cartoons and I was putting Cassidy down in our bedroom, when he comes running into my room to tell me something. “Mom! There’s a…. there’s a a a (really trying to think of the name) white animal in the living room!”

At first I brush it off, thinking that he is just pulling my leg. So I tell him, “No there isn’t. Stop lying. You are just tired. Now go to bed!” He’s like, “No really!!! It’s out there! It’s by the steps!”

Now I am really bugged, but can’t imagine sleeping if there really were a white animal in my house so I follow him out into the living room and we do a search. First we check by the stairs… Nothing. Then we look down the stairs… still nothing. Then we search the kitchen… nothing. We go into Keane’s bedroom. I tell Keane, “Look under your bed.” I told him to look because I sure as heck wasn’t going to! I could just imagine lifting the blanket and sticking my head to the floor and something jumping out at me. He looks at me like I’m crazy. “No! You look!”

Neither of us look because we are both too scared. Instead we start walking out of the room and Keane yells “Right there!” and points to the kitchen.

This prompted Reuben to come out of the bedroom to see what was going on. He goes into the living room as I stand in the hallway looking on. Cassidy comes out into the kitchen to see all the commotion. Reuben shakes the couch and sure enough, Keane was not lying!!! A little white animal runs from under the couch and down the stairs!

I start shrieking at the sight of the little whiteERMINE as I run into Keane’s bedroom and jump onto his top bunk. I didn’t even think to grab Cassidy. It was a “Save yourself” moment. Poor baby girl didn’t know what was going on. Anyways, right after seeing the ermine we packed up clothes and went and spent the night at my in-laws.

I still don’t know how the “little white animal” got in, but we haven’t seen it since. We have a trap set up in the crawl space. Maybe it ran away and was too scared to come back after hearing me shriek bloody murder! 😛

This is bush living. Some people have pet dogs. Apparently we have a pet ermine.

Leave a Mark

Go ahead and leave a mark… not on my window or mirror, but on the world.

You are young. Go out and pursue your passions. I am talking to you young men and women who are still living with your parents at the age of 25. I am talking to you young boys playing video games all hours of the day and night rather than seeking job opportunities that will greatly improve your life. I’m talking to you late-night partiers, who nobody is sure where you get the money to buy your high. I’m talking to you! Yes, you! You just graduated from high school. Now what? Mom and dad or grandparents will not be around forever to take care of you. Maybe one day you will have kids of your own and you will have to learn to take care of them and pay for their clothing, food and other expenses. How will you do that without a job?

If your excuse is that there are NO job opportunities in your village, then GET OUT! Yes, there is a way! There are scholarships. There are internships. There are even loans to get your way paid to a place where you can apply for jobs. One day you will return and MAKE job opportunities for future generations.

Make use of your youthful mind and body. Don’t let them weaken without mileage. Use your mistakes as learning experiences rather than as a standard of living. If you go to jail for something, make sure it doesn’t happen again. Tell yourself you are better than that. Encourage others not to make the same mistakes.

You are middle-aged. Work hard and raise your children right. Set good examples for the youth in your community. Be the best version of yourself so your children will have big shoes to fill. Reflect on your younger years with smiles and no regrets. If you have not gotten things together yet, it is not too late. 

Love yourself. You may begin to fret over those white hairs or eye wrinkles that welcome themselves more and more each day, but remember they happen to the best of us. 

You may start to feel worn out after a long, hard day at work, but your body has not fully given up on you. Don’t give up on it. Fuel it up with good foods and exercise regularly.

You are old. Leave your knowledge with the younger generations. Times are changing. We will forget our heritage, if not for you. Teach us to cut fish, to take care of oogruk, to read the river’s channel, to dance, and to subsist. Speak to your children and grandchildren with the native tongue that your parents spoke to you with. Teach us how life was back before electricity and the internet. Show us REAL survival. If you do this, we will pass on hard work and love for others, as well as ourselves. Teach us what really MATTERS.

Take that cruise that you could never afford or make time for in your younger years. Visit your bucket list and cross things off left and right. Don’t make excuses.  

No matter what your age, leave a mark! Life is too short to play video games all day. Life is too short to dwell on what could have been. Why waste time thinking about that when “what is to be” is happening right now? Life goes on, with or without you. Be remembered as someone who left a mark on everyone: someone who inspired, someone who stood up for higher education, someone who stood up for domestic violence, someone who took care of sick people, a foster parent, a shoulder to cry on, a revitalizer of traditional values, etc, etc, etc.

You may never realize your value to your community if you don’t go out and seek opportunity. Go out and leave your mark. Leave it high! Leave it low! Smear it for all to see! Perhaps, your mark may save a life or a whole community, for that matter. 

Getting Irigak Published

I never would believe it if I didn’t have a copy of the book in my hand! I have always dreamed of publishing a children’s book. In fact, it was part of my bucket list. I started writing my book as a short story for a creative writing class I was taking at UAA a few years back. Once my story started to come together, I started thinking “Man this would be a good book idea!”

Once I got it into my head that Irigak would be a published piece, I began editing and changing the story and adding bits and pieces here and there. I emailed local publishing companies. Only one got back to me with suggestions about my story. I waited another year and got restless. I wanted my book published NOW! I also wanted illustrations so I started asking around, but potential artists had other projects they were working on or were too busy. So, my book is without illustrations, but still a great read!

Getting published has proved to be quite the task. I got busy with life and raising kids. I gave birth to Cassidy two years ago, so taking care of a new baby became my top priority. It took a lot of my time and energy to work full-time, take classes, and take care of a baby. With everything going on in my life and no word from publishing companies, I gave up hope in my dream. Because I didn’t hear back from publishers, I forgot about my story.

Then one day, my computer started acting up, so I started cleaning up old files and came across Irigak. I decided it was time to do something with it. I began searching for self-publishing websites and tweaked my story again until I was satisfied with it. Irigak was definitely not something I came up with overnight. It was work, but there is a sense of accomplishment that will always stay with me. I, Amber Cunningham, a small-town girl from Unalakleet, Alaska published an Alaskan children’s book. Now, that is something to be proud of.

My advice to you readers is to never give up on your dreams. Life is too short to live without fully giving your all in everything you do. If you want to publish a book, make it happen. If you want to travel the world, do it! Don’t worry about the expense. You will not regret your decisions.

she believed

My Inspiration

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

Growing up in rural Alaska has inspired me to write this book about Irigaks. We were always told stories about the little people who lived in the wilderness and how they would take people away. We never saw them or heard real stories about people from our village being abducted by them so our connection to them did not exist.

Not knowing much about Irigaks inspired me to dig deep into my imagination to create a story, which could teach children a lesson. The moral of the story is using safety precautions while out in the country. Children should always stay close to adults and other people when berry picking or hunting: mostly to prevent being attacked by wild animals or maybe abducted by Irigaks.

Maybe my story is make-believe, but it opens the minds of readers, young and old. It also passes along the oral tradition of little people. Hope you enjoy the book!