After spending 54 years from birth to 2008 living in Iowa I was presented with an opportunity to live in Fairbanks, Alaska. My blog is a diary of the adventure to get to Alaska, day to day life in Alaska, as well as facts for loved ones left behind in the Lower 48. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fairbanks architecture 8-30-08

I love this cute, colorful house. The flowers in front of the fence are real!
A home out in the country (above)
Neighbor home to that pictured above. Home isn't on the angle...I took the photo quickly for fear I'd be chased out.

Apartment complex downtown (above)
Episcopal church (below)

This photo was taken from floor level in a pizza parlor...they made good use on a high ledge behind the cash register with this cute table setting.
Apartment complex

Out n About Fairbanks 8-30-08

Fairbanks Flowers 8-30-08

Mural on a downtown art studio w/flowers in foreground.
Hanging baskets on same art studio in photo above.

Flowers in downtown park (above and below). Anyone know what the dark ones are...I wanna know!

Flowers in front of a residence.

above - Brian and Camilla's church
Flowers at a residence (above)
Along the riverfront. Note the artwork on the fence.
Flowers at downtown hotel

Friday, August 29, 2008

Hiking and medical care in Alaska

Our President and CEO celebrated his 35th anniversary with our Agency. We held a surprise reception for him today.

Ducks on the pond in Creamer's Field.

Bus stop in Fairbanks

The word is official - we will be moving into Brian and Camilla's current residence before October 1. We have begun scrounging for some small furniture pieces and lamps (there aren't any ceiling lights there). I got on Craigslist last night and scored a small computer desk and lamp. Picked them up today and will be driving them around town until we move since there isn't room in our current apartment to put them!

I had my first appointment with my new primary care physician today. He is recently out of the Air Force (I'm guessing he retired from the military). I was at the clinic for my 8 a.m. appointment and left there around 11:30. Things/people in Alaska definitely move at a slower pace than back in the lower 48. I was pleased with his care and sense of humor. As he made his way through the computer system flipping through many screens and trying to remember where he'd found prior data he sat back in his chair and proclaimed, 'gee, now I'm tired'. He was pleased to see that I'd brought along the past 10 years of my medical records. chalk one up for my forethought :-)

I had a couple of dentist appointments too. First appointment he found 4 cavities needing fillings. As he was drilling away I couldn't help thinking how much trust we put in someone with tools inside our mouth that have the ability to grind away our teeth. My entire life I've had 4 dentists and must admit it was difficult putting the same level of trust in this new guy that I had in my previous dentists. Time will help me develop more confidence in him, I'm sure.

Looking forward to the next 3 days off what to do with all that time? big smile

This evening I stopped by the Jo Ann Fabric store and was surprised at the variety of craft and seasonal items they have in addition to every kind and color and pattern of fabric one could imagine. I picked up their Creative University (class) schedule and plan on signing up for a class or two...another step towards taking more Marcia time.

my dentist's office

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Movin about Alaska

Been making progress on getting caught up at work - woo hoo! We currently have about 40 employees and have another 20 starting September 2nd. I have all the paperwork for the current employees processed and am gearing up for the next group.

We had an exciting week (well for us at BGH of Alaska anyway) at work. We admitted one boy and four girls! The entry of each client was greeted with a sense of accomplishment by bringing the Alaska children back home so they can begin their home turf treatment process.

Nate is enjoying working the overnight shift (11:30 pm - 7:30 am). He sleeps when he gets home in the morning til about noon, then is awake for the afternoon and sleeps again from 5-10 or so. This has been working out okay since I've stayed at work to get caught up until 8 or 9 every night. Friday evening they shut down the computer system as they were doing some upgrading on the system (in Iowa) so I actually went home about 5:30. With our small apartment (bed 6' from the kitchen table/stove/sink I found it difficult to find enough quiet things to do so I wouldn't wake him up.

I was domestic this week, chopping up vegetables and making vegetable stew Thursday night and homemade potato n ham soup Friday night. I'm finding that I feel more relaxed in Alaska and not pressured to always be doing "something" for someone else. Before we moved here I vowed I was going to take more time and better care of Marcia and our marriage, and it feels good to be living that type of life.

This morning Camilla came over with the news that Brian has been accepted as a foster parent for children with behavior disorders who have been removed from their parents' home. (hmm was that kind of redundant/overdone - foster parent - removed from parents' home?) This means that they will be moving into a foster home that's provided for them, having no rent payment, no food costs, no utility costs, and a vehicle furnished. Oh yeah, and they will receive a salary for it too! Camilla can still keep her job as a nurse at BGH, but Brian can't have any other employment.

They will get every other weekend off from their foster parenting duties so are considering renting a dry cabin to have a place to go to relax on those weekends. A dry cabin is a cabin that doesn't have indoor bathroom facilities. Some cabins have huge containers buried underground that people can fill with water to use for their kitchens, etc.

When I told Nate about Brian's new job he commented that perhaps we can move into the place where Camilla and Brian are currently living. I hadn't thought of that, and Camilla and Brian agreed to inform their landlord about it AND plan on leaving some of their furniture there. How cool is that? If they get a cabin, it probably won't be any larger than our current apartment, so they won't be able to fit all their things into it.

We took another walk through their place today and I must admit I'm getting excited about it. The perks about that place vs. our current place is: free laundry in the basement, bathroom about 5x larger than ours, bathroom has a tub, 5 large windows on three sides of the house vs. 2 windows on one side of the house, screens on the windows (ours don't have any but we haven't really noticed any bugs or mosquitoes), a yard with grass and private area behind the house where we could put a grill or a couple of lawn chairs, and children riding bikes, walking, playing in the neighborhood. Our neighborhood seems as if everyone holes up in their residences and we don't have any green space on our property. To continue on with their place vs. ours - their kitchen has much more than 2' of counter space, a microwave shelf over the stove, full-size stove and refrigerator vs. apartment size in ours, a dining and living area, and separate bedroom. It is large enough that I could be doing something in the kitchen/dining area and Nate sleeping in the bedroom and not have to be fearful I'd be making too much noise and wake him.

Will have to keep our fingers crossed and say a few extra prayers that their landlord agrees to us moving in. Their rent is only $150 more than ours, but well worth it, in my opinion. I'm finding that I'm inspired to do some decorating at "their" place too, having lots of ideas of ways to make it feel more like home.

Our pastor in Sioux City phoned me today and we had a nice chat. She updated me on a few happenings at the church. It was so good to hear her voice and be connected back to the wonderful congregation we still hold fondly in our thoughts and hearts.

After Camilla and I chatted we went to return the toaster I'd purchased here which developed a severe sparking problem the third time we used it. We then did some shopping and I bought a Christmas gift, then we went to the bank and by that time it was noon. Nate and Brian worked the overnight shift last night and both were awake so we went out to lunch. We went to an Italian restaurant, Gambardelli's, and sat on their upstairs open air deck, across the street from the river and about a block from the downtown hub of tourist activity. Tour bus after tour bus came by. It felt so good to have a day with NO clouds, 65 degree weather, slight breeze, and to know that we have as long as we desire to stay in Alaska, no bus to board for us!

After lunch we hit the thrift stores. I got a nice sized bulletin board and two desk accessories that hold scotch tape, stickies, pens, pencils, etc. The bulletin board will come in handy at home, and the desk accessories will be helpful at work. It seems as soon as i get what I think is enough office supplies in the supply room they disappear. Everyone is busy setting up their offices or the units so it takes a lot of supplies.

This evening Nate and I went to the community theater and saw a one person play Moose Nuggets. The gentleman that performed is probably mid 50's and a transplant 20 years ago from Washington, D.C. He gave a lot of Alaska pertinent information and history as well as some poetry, stories, guitar, harmonica and banjo music. There were only about 20 people there, so it was an intimate crowd. They had a sign-up card for volunteers and I filled one out. This will give me an opportunity to try something different and is about 8 or so blocks from Camilla and Brian's house (hopefully our house). There is a nice, wide paved walking path that goes from within a block of their place quite a ways along the Chena River.

There are beautiful flowers planted everywhere in Fairbanks. While some people's homes may be run down they have some flowers growing in their yards or from hanging baskets. That's another thing if we get C & B's house - there is plenty of room in the yard for planting tomatoes and flowers. There aren't many trees nearby, either, so it will get lots of sun. I'll try to take some pictures of flowers and post them before they freeze. Alaskans appreciate summer weather and all the possibilities that are impossible during the winter months.

On the weather report on the local news the other night the weatherman stated 'now that fall has arrived' What? Well, considering we are to expect snowfall in October, I guess fall probably has arrived here. The locals are really feeling cheated out of their few 80-90 degree days they normally experience each year, Nate and I are loving the weather. It's interesting how in Iowa when we had a day that started at 45 degrees and a high of 60 or 65 Nate would be wearing long pants, long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt AND a jacket. Here the air is dry, and so the cool air doesn't feel cold. He's been going around wearing shorts and lighter weight shirts here. I'm hoping the same will hold for the winter.

Check back for updates to see if we get to move into Brian and Camilla's place.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

P.S. to Discoveries (posted below)

I had a request for more pictures of the peak we took from the plane to determine if this is Denali...I'll let you know once the verdict is in as to whether or not this is Mt. McKinley or not.

Another discovery I made and forgot to share....did you know that when logged into the blog if you double click on a photos it enlarges it? Of COURSE you did - I should have known that because you are a smart person. The reason I know that is because you have been reading my blog.

Enough with the silliness - off to work!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I've made a few discoveries that I'd like to share with you.

1. I don't know about you, but to me most mountain peaks look similar. Perhaps I need to practice up on recognizing the differences between mountain peaks. My curiousity got the best of me tonight when I was thinking about the mountain peak that Camilla and I saw from the mountain and wondering if it might have been Mt McKinley. I did a google search for photos of Mt Mckinley and found the following link. I'm thinking what we saw was Mt McKinley, what do you think??? (Seriously, please let me know your thoughts - I'm okay if you tell me that you think I'm way off in my opinion.)

2. Friends and family who read my blog and e-mail me to let me know its impact on you are greatly appreciated. I've received a few personal e-mails indicating how others feel like they are on this adventure with me, and that they even feel "closer" to us than when we lived in Iowa. Thanks to those of you who've know who you are and I know where you live :-)

3. A trip to Office Max can be hazardous to your health. I'm all about saving money, and this week the local Office Max has several office supplies we use on sale. Each client has a 3" binder which contains their documentation and this week they are on sale at a whopping $5.99 OFF from the regular price. I loaded my yellow Office Max cart to the max, packing in over 30 binders and strode to the check-out trying not to show my pride in being so cost-conscious. It was difficult standing those binders on the check-out counter as evidenced by one binder toppling off of the counter and landing - hold your breath everyone, binder spine downward, directly across my big toe on my right foot. Personal note here...Alright mom, I know what you're thinking "if you would have had shoes on that wouldn't have happened". Partly true...I didn't have shoes on, but I did have sandals on. Had that binder fallen 1/2" closer towards my body my sandal would have protected me from the falling binder. Anyway, saving $179.70 on binders was worth a black and blue toe and the limp I'm sporting.

4. Office Max clerks aren't very observant. After the binder fell on my toe I fought back tears and bent over in immense pain (due to some medical conditions I have the pain I experience is highly multipled), contorting not only my face, but my entire body. She continued to do her job entering the CPU's in the cash register as if nothing had happened on the other side of the counter. Hello?!!! Actually I'm glad she didn't notice and make as big of a deal out of a falling binder as I did. On the other hand, hopefully any security video of that episode at the cash register won't be used in a future customer service video, as it would probably just bring laughs to viewers. 'how dumb was that woman to set that many binders on the counter? it was just a binder that fell probably didn't even hit her foot anyway. what a poor actress that customer is'.

5. Receiving the first client is comparable to preparing for a new baby. We received our first client, a young lady who flew in from her past placement in Anchorage, on Tuesday. I covered the switchboard for the receptionist's lunch, who was reluctant to leave the building for lunch knowing our first client would be arriving around 12:30 p.m. It gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling to be the first to greet the client. When the receptionist returned, the first words out of her mouth were 'is she here yet?' Today we received our second client, another female, and the regular receptionist was running the switchboard, so she had the privilege of meeting our 2nd client first, which I'm sure excited her, as we weren't sure what time today's arrival would be coming.

One difference though, between the arrival of a client vs. the arrival of a baby. When a baby arrives the labor precedes the arrival. When a client arrives the labor follows.

At the present time we have an amazing staff-client ratio: 44 staff to 2 clients. How amazing is that? We are definitely ready for the children. Bring 'em on!

6. Improvise when needed. We are still waiting for some of our supplies to arrive. One of those supplies is our scale with the measuring "stick" where the clients are weighed and measured. The nurses have utilized the next best thing that's available...a tape measure from our maintenance department! I joked with Camilla and her supervisor today that since they are both nearly the exact same height (5'4"), it wouldn't really work for them to compare the client with the two of them and approximate where she falls in comparison to the nursing staff.

7. Our mission of opening a facility in Alaska is serving its purpose. While I was running the switchboard this noon a woman came in asking how she could get her teenage son transferred back home to Alaska from his current placement in the Midwest. She indicated she moved to the Midwest and her son was put in placement there, then she moved back to Alaska, leaving her son behind. She went on to tearily tell me that the boy's stepfather had recently passed away and how much she would like to have her son placed in Alaska, closer to her, so that she could see and visit him rather than just have occasional phone calls. Please keep and other Alaska parents in your prayers that they may be reunited with their children.

8. Alaska homes are outrageously priced. There's a house about two blocks from us that recently came on the market. Out of curiosity I checked into the price. This house is about 1000 square feet, single car garage, and minimal lot area. It's priced at a $199,000. Makes our $600 a month for our apartment look better all the time. I can still enjoy the house -from the outside-as it's on the drive to work. I'll look at it and pat my wallet as I drive by :-)

9. I finally know why the tour buses that travel by work and our home are empty...and I'm about to tell you why too. (I can feel the excitement building - NOT) Our office is two doors from the Princess Tour Lines garage and our apartment is two blocks from the Holland America bus garage.

10. The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) are coming into view. Heard on tonight's TV news that they will be visible around 1-2 a.m. From what I'm told they are best viewed away from the city lights and the "season" for their viewing begins now and lasts throughout the winter. I'm not sure if my digital camera will capture their beauty so can't guarantee any pictures. I'll tell you how beautiful they are and make you want to come to Alaska all the more.

Aren't you glad you learned what I know? Glad to have helped you increase your knowledge and perhaps even put a smile or two on your face.

Take care n God Bless.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Denali Excursion

Nate and I decided to trek to Denali National Park today. It rained on the way there and home, but the remainder of the day was mostly sunny.

This guy was on a tour bus that stopped next to our car....he has a distinct resemblance to my father!

Mountains (obviously)
We saw one mama moose and her baby. Here the mother is eating whatever grows on the bottoms of ponds. I'm told moose do that.

What a face!

Momma with her baby in the background.

We were told a large caribou herd came through just before we arrived in this area. We saw only this tired one.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sunshine - finally!

Enjoying the dog days of summer - literally!

For the most part, our weather has turned favorable - we had sun Thursday, Friday, AND Saturday! There were rainstorms with thunder Thursday and Friday evening about 7 p.m., but the days were sunny. I find myself wanting to go outdoors and just stand out there, soaking up the sun. Evening temps continue to slip down to the mid 40's and daytime highs have been 65-72...just perfect in my opinion.

Friday evening I worked late and noticed a vehicle in the parking lot across from the office...I did a double take and there was a plane on a trailer. Don't know about you, but it was a first for me. I assumed it might be a first for you, too, so I grabbed the camera and snapped a photo for you to see. (I've decided to carry the digital camera with me all the time, because one never knows what we'll see that is photoworthy.)

After work Nate and I went exploring, looking for the local car raceway. Just as we approached it a downpour and thunder came rolling down on us. In the roadway ahead of us I spied a mother moose and her baby. I took a photo of the baby who had crossed the road into the trees with its mama, but stepped back out to take another look at what was coming down the road at them. Hence, the picture of the moose that isn't very clear.

This morning I woke early and went to work until about noon. I absolutely have to get caught up with the computer entries of our initial 40 employees as a co-worker from Sioux City was in Alaska this week and hired probably another 20 more employees. Those employees will need to also be entered into the computer system, files opened, etc. From what I'm hearing once we are fully staffed we'll have 120 employees.

I'm very happy to report that all employees who began their employment with us are still working and training. This group of staff is so blessed to have had four weeks to bond, learn our programs and each other and begin to work as a well-oiled team prior to our receiving clients. We expect our first client some time this coming week. We have referrals, however since most are currently in other placements in the lower 48 we don't really know yet how quickly they will be able to be transported back home to Alaska to begin their stay with us. Staff have been putting together furniture, making beds, practicing doing intakes with each other, learning which forms to use when, reading through policy & procedure manuals, learning how to clock in on the new timeclock system, and are antsy to put their training into practice. In a way it's like waiting for a baby to arrive.

Part of the reason I'm behind in getting my duties done is because others have multiple needs from me throughout the day. I feel like a dartboard for questions! smile~ They have questions as to how to log into the computer, how to do what they did yesterday so they can return to that place today, how to operate the copy machine, where this is, if I can go purchase this or that office supply, how to use the phone system, etc. The time at work absolutely flies by! Camilla commented Friday how I started the day with my desk clean and had multiple large piles of paperwork covering my desktop by 5 p.m. Gee, thanks for noticing!

Camilla called me today while Nate and I were having lunch at Quiznos, then she and Brian joined us. While we were eating my son, Sam, called, and we had a nice visit. He said he enjoyed his trip to Oklahoma last weekend with my parents. He commented that he's gearing up for his adult hockey leage which will start in October and how he's missing his two "key" players....that would be Camilla and me who kept score for the league every Sunday evening the past couple of years. At moments like that I wonder if I made the right decision to move to Alaska.

My dad e-mailed me a few (like 23) pictures of their new great granddaughter. Do ya think he's proud? She is certainly a beautiful baby. Once again, seeing all the pictures of the family who are so far away make me pause to think how very far away we are from them.

I spoke to Brittany on the phone the other night and she SO misses us. When she would get frustrated with her parents (or vice versa) we were always there for everyone to take a breather, and now she doesn't have that available. I sent her a small package with a few Alaska items, a letter, and a Hannah Montana billfold. Hopefully that will give her some comfort that we still love and think of her, and not make her miss us all that much more.

For those of you who are wondering, we still have the same e-mail address. Several of you have e-mailed your appreciation for the time I put into the pictures and keeping you informed of what's happening in Alaska. One never really knows what will be of interest to others, so I try to do a little bit of everything.

Nate and I have become more accustomed to our small apartment. It will be nice to know where we've stuffed things. The other night I wanted to bake a cake mix that had been leaked on by some mysterious sticky substance during the move. For the life of me I couldn't find my measuring cups to measure the water and oil. I improvised, using an 8 oz. glass and guesstimated. The finished product was absolutely awesome...I got lucky there! Yesterday I was looking through a tower of plastic drawers we have in the bedroom (because it fit there) and guess what - I found the measuring cups in with the drawer of kitchen spices. I haven't lost it, folks, just making do with what we have to work with!

We have talked about moving to a larger place, but figure we're money ahead to stay here. We're paying $600 a month for rent, including all utilities. It's nice to not have to worry about using too much water, staying warm in the winter without going broke, etc. In discussing rent with co-workers, one co-worker says that they pay a certain amount and also pay for electricity. The downside is that everything in their apartment is electric - heat, water heater, etc. Another co-worker informs me that sometimes heatinging an apartment in the winter can run as much as $1000 a month. Ouch! If we were to move into the apartment we were looking into leasing prior to moving up here we would be paying $1400 a month. Doing the math, by staying where we're at we are "saving" $800 a month which just so happens to be about the cost of one round-trip airplane ticket back to Iowa. Sounds motivating to me!

We planned on going to a community theater production tonight, however once we got there they informed us that they were having problems with their lighting, so the show was canceled. We discussed plan "b" which was to go to the car races, however the clouds looked very threatening, so we came home and watched the Olympics. It did rain a bit, but nothing like the past couple of nights.

Another accomplishment this week was to get an appointment with a physician. Many doctor's offices practices in Fairbanks are not accepting new patients. I was informed by one of the larger clinics that they were accepting new patients only if they were referred by a physician or were a relative of a current patient. I ended up calling Sioux City and my doctor's office called Fairbanks with a referral. About six weeks ago my physician put me on a medication and informed me that I need a blood test done before September 1st to see if the medication is doing as it is supposed to. Also about six weeks ago I developed a scratchy throat and cough which occurs at the most inopportune time and especially acts up at the point that I will sleep for 30-60 minutes, then wake up hacking and gaggin....all night long! This has been going on for six weeks! Camilla checked out the side effects of this new medication and guess what - scratchy throat and cough are side effects. I SO would love to stop taking the med so I can get some sleep, but have come this far that I really should keep taking it until I get in on August 29th and get the bloodwork done. I find that I fall asleep much faster in Alaska than I did in Iowa - now if I could just stay asleep!

The photos of the birds were taken today at Creamer's Field. Nate and I stopped by this location 3-4 evenings ago and there were about a dozen birds total there. Notice to those of you in the lower 48 - the birds have begun to migrate and are heading your way!