Click for Fairbanks, Alaska Forecast

2004 Susan L. Stevenson - All photos are copyright protected

January 1, 2004



Life I am the New Year

Life I am the new year.
I am an unspoiled page in your book of time.

I am your next chance at the art of living.

I am your opportunity to practice what you have learned about life
during the last twelve months.

All that you sought and didn't find is hidden in me,
waiting for you to search it out with more determination.

All the good that you tried for and didn't achieve
is mine to grant when you have fewer conflicting desires.

All that you dreamed but didn't dare to do, all that you hoped but did not will,
all the faith that you claimed but did not have --
these slumber lightly, waiting to be awakened by the touch of a strong purpose.

I am your opportunity to renew your allegiance to Him who said,
"behold, I make all things new." I am the new year.

~Author Unknown~

And so I bid adieu to 2003 and welcome 2004 with a smile upon my face and my arms open wide. I have found in my life that a positive attitude will sustain me even when I feel at my lowest. If more people would think about those in the world who are less fortunate than we, perhaps they would be able to appreciate the blessings that they have been graced with.

The aches in my back when I overdo it at the gym or when I go snow tubing on the hill means that I can move freely. The snugness of my pants when I have enjoyed a dinner out with my husband means that I have enough to eat. The look of love I see in my husband's eyes when he kisses me goodnight, the orange glow of a sunset, and the quirky expression of a moose in my yard, means that I have my eyesight. The low rumble of my cat's purr when she slumbers on my lap, and the happy bark of my dog when I ask her if she wants to go out, means that I can hear. The ringing of the phone and the sound of my family members' voices on the other end of the line means that I am loved.

The strength of my husband's hand in mine, the silken soft chenille of my sofa throw, and the cold of the crystal snow means I can feel. The aroma of a freshly-baked cake, the scent of a spring rain, and the fragrance of my favorite perfume means that I can smell. A clear and intelligent mind, an idea which comes to me in my sleep, and completing a book of logic problems means that I can think. I am indeed a very blessed woman!

I look forward to 2004 because it presents a clean slate - ready to be written upon with my thoughts, my feelings, and my experiences. I have goals I want to achieve. I have places I want to experience. I have dreams I want to share. And nothing can hinder me except for me. And so I move forward with my eyes wide open; I don't want to miss a thing. I want to take notice of every little thing around me. From the smallest spring bud of a wildflower, to the majestic peaks of a snow-tipped mountain, I shall SEE. And if I am fortunate, I shall capture this grandeur with my camera. And even if my photos are less than perfect, I shall still see the glory of this world in my mind and it will sustain me until the end of my time here on earth.

Happy New Year to all of my dear family and friends.
May the clouds in your life form only a background for a lovely sunset

January 3, 2004

We are now into a new year. I didn't do much to celebrate its arrival. We did have plans to attend the fireworks display at UAF, but Steve decided against going at the last minute. The fireworks are launched at 8pm on New Years Eve. They're a pretty big deal here since we don't have any in July to celebrate Independence Day (no darkness in the summer months). My friend Susan went with her husband and said they were very nice.

So we watched the ball drop at 8pm (midnight for all my family and friends on the east coast) and celebrated right along with all of you by making a toast to the new year and sharing a big sloppy smooch. I think we made it another two hours before we turned in for the night. So, yes... I missed my first New Year's celebration in Alaska. Better luck next year...

Yesterday (Friday), Steve and I took advantage of his day off to run lots of errands - which included returning and/or exchanging all the items we got each other for Christmas which were the wrong size, color, or style. I made it to the gym with my friends LuAnn and Shawna, which was good. I really didn't think I'd have the determination to go since Steve was home. Susan had to report to work (her first day on the job), so she is no longer part of our little workout group. She'll be missed...

I received an e-mail from my childhood friend, Michele. In it she told me that her sister's husband's sister was now living in Fairbanks and had seen my letter published in the paper on Wednesday (the letter I wrote thanking the individual who paid for my husband and his soldiers' breakfasts). She said she wanted to meet me. Well, I gave the OK to Michele to pass my phone number along to her (her name is Diane), and she called me today. We chatted for a fairly long time. It was great to talk to someone who still has that Yankee Philly accent. I suppose I still have mine to a certain extent, but hearing her talk was as almost as nice as being 'home'. *Chuckle* We've made plans to get together for lunch one day next week. (She works downtown at a legal firm.)

Diane and her husband, Ken, love to fish and hunt and explore. She said they try to get to Valdez as much as possible when the fish are running. She also said they go to Anchorage a few times a year. She has two children (ages 18 and 12), both still at home. They've been living here for about ten years now. They arrived when Ken was still in the military (they were stationed here), and when he got out in 1997, they decided to stay. She and I will meet first to see how we get along (which I don't think will be a problem since we enjoyed talking to each other on the phone), and then we'll see how our husbands interact. Steve would be thrilled to find himself a fishing buddy here who knows his way around.

I've spent the last two days working on my online Web Portfolio. I created four more sites in various venues. I designed a Bed & Breakfast site, a Gift Shop site, a Vacation Cabin site, and a Bookstore with Coffee Shop site. My plan is to mail out letters and brochures to various businesses here in town introducing myself and my services. There is an established web design company here in town (who I e-mailed inquiring for a position, but didn't hear back from), but they seem to cater to the larger businesses. Because of this, their fees reflect it. I want to market myself to the small business owners in town. If you want to take a look at my portfolio, you can CLICK HERE.

Tomorrow Steve and I are attending a get-together at the Brigade Commander's house. We are scheduled to attend between 2:00 - 2:45pm. Yes, that's right... SCHEDULED. You see... in order to allow time to visit with everyone, each battalion's senior staff is slotted to visit during a certain time span. (It's the weirdest thing I've ever heard, but I'm attending with Steve).

I'm also hoping to go to the movies with Susan tomorrow afternoon. She wants to see Mona Lisa Smile. We'll have to see how it will fit in with this party schedule. (I'd rather go to the movies, truth be told...)

January 4, 2004


The snow wasn't really predicted. But when the temperatures go up sufficiently, the snow inevitably comes. That's the one benefit to having weeks of subzero temperatures; the snow stays away. But this weekend it came. And it came... and it came...

Thankfully it was light flurries for the most part. At times it got a little heavier, but nothing like the heavy storms I remember from PA and the northeast. But the accumulation after 4 days of flurries isn't anything to ignore. We estimate we've gotten about four inches - although the weatherman might dispute that. If you ask my snow-shoveling husband, he'll tell you we got 2 feet. No sooner do you clear the driveway and porch, then you have to go back and start over. It's best you keep on top of it. If you're lazy, forget it. You'll be looking at an even bigger job when you finally get to it.

I didn't do a thing all morning. I watched television for the most part. Our obligation to be at the Commander's house at 2pm put a bit of a cramp in our day. We couldn't really go out and do anything lengthy (go for a drive, etc.) because the get-together was smack dab in the middle of our afternoon. So it was an extremely lazy day. The only good that came of it was that I balanced our checkbook and paid our monthly bills.

The 'visit' to the Commander's house was... *ahem*... interesting. I suppose there were about 25 of us there; the shift that was due to arrive from 2:00 - 2:45pm. The other 1SG's were there with their wives. Some of the officers and their wives. The SGM and his wife. The voice inside my head was chanting: 'Hurry, hurry, hurry.... get a drink. They have champagne, punch (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), wine, beer. Now go get something to eat... one lap around the table... try to figure out what the different foods are.... Don't dilly dally.... make room for the others... swallow your food... make small talk with some of the other wives.... oh no! It's 2:40! Get your coat... put down your half-filled glass of wine... no time to finish it.... gotta run... it's time for the NEXT shift...

Why in the world do they plan things like this? Next time, I'm going to claim I have a headache....

When we left, I asked Steve to take me to the neighborhood with the A-frames. We were in that area anyway. I took a few photos of the houses, the frozen stream that runs near them, and the one-lane bridge we crossed to get there.

I was also looking for a place to shoot a photo of his company hat. I know that sounds strange, but I belong to an online digital photography group that has biweekly challenges. The current challenge is called "hats". The photos of his hat didn't turn out as well as I expected, so I ended up entering the competition with a photo I took of my plastic bag holder in my kitchen (it's that old lady character with the sarcastic sense of humor).

Tomorrow life returns to normal. Steve goes back to work on a full schedule. I loved having him home.... but absence makes the heart grow fonder. *grin* I need to get this house back in order and take down all the Christmas decorations. I cannot do that while he is home. Now it is truly the beginning of a new year.

January 7, 2004

Full moon in the morning (11:00am)

Fancy doghouse and dog
This doghouse is in my neighborhood. The dog is a total outside dog. You have to get special permission from the post veterinarian to keep your dog outside because of the brutal winter.


The past couple of days have certainly gotten away from me! I don't even remember Monday after I got home from the gym. Must have been a REAL lazy day.

Yesterday, I met Diane in person. We had lunch at Gambardella's (my favorite Italian restaurant here in town). The lunch menu is almost exactly like the dinner menu and several dollars cheaper. I had the ravioli, an adequate portion for lunch. Diane had the chicken Caesar salad which was HUGE! She said she likes to order it because she always has enough to take home for later or for lunch the next day. Next time, I'm definitely getting that. It looked delicious.

Our conversation went well. She's very easy to talk to. I was trying to be more quiet than I normally am because we were in the restaurant (you all know how difficult THAT can be). I'm sure the next time we get together (with the husbands), it will be a lot more relaxed. I'm hoping our hubbies get along. It was funny to discuss our husbands getting along. She said that her husband (like most men) doesn't go out of his way to meet new people or talk to strangers. Like me, Diane talks to people in the grocery store, the post office, etc. She said that she just arranges her husband's 'play dates' and hopes that they go well. I had to chuckle at that!

Last night, we had Susan over for dinner. Stephen is at Fort Greely (poor guy has got to be freezing his behind off), and she's feeling lonesome. She brought the movie "Alex and Emma" over and after dinner, she and I watched the movie after banishing Steve to the upstairs. He wouldn't have liked it anyway.. it was a total 'chick flick'.

I'm off to have lunch with Susan now...

Back from lunch at Baked Alaska - a quaint home converted into a restaurant... While researching some of the history behind the city (in order to have factual information to post alongside the photos I shot yesterday), I found myself engrossed with the stories of yesteryear. Now I plan to go to the town library and borrow some books about Fairbanks' history. The people who came here and settled here without any creature comforts were a brave lot. What is even more amazing is that there are STILL people all over Alaska who live that way.

Tomorrow I'll be taking LuAnn all over town to the various businesses who have donated gift certificates and/or goods for our Battalion Ball on February 14th. The local business owners are quite generous with the military community. We'll be picking up certificates for services such as a one-hour massage, $50.00 gift certificate to the local tattoo parlor (only in a military community *smile*), a free tune-up from a local car dealership, dinner for two at a nice restaurant, etc. LuAnn doesn't drive, but she's agreed to take over our FRG while our current leader enjoys some much needed mommy time with her new baby boy. She made all the begging phone calls; it's the least I can do to provide the needed 'taxi service' to make this Ball a big success.

My Christmas decorations are still up... I look at them every morning and make plans to take them down THAT day. And then something comes up and.. well...

I HAVE to get them down by this weekend. I'm sick of looking at them. They've been up a month...

January 10, 2004


I got an email from my son Chris today alerting me to the fact that I haven't updated my journal in a few days. (Thanks for checking it out, Chris. I'm glad to know you're reading it). I haven't updated because frankly, nothing earth-shattering has happened. Unless you call finally taking down my Christmas decorations earth-shattering. (I am so happy to have my living room back to normal!)

I've been spending a lot of time working on web designs for my portfolio and the compilation of businesses to contact. I'm still sticking to my 3x/week workouts at the gym, despite the fact that no matter what time we go, there are much heavier crowds. Seems like a lot of people made resolutions to get fit this year. If broken resolutions occur with frequency up here, the gym should be back to normal by the end of the month.

I've enjoyed reading about Fairbanks on line. I thought I'd share a little Fairbanks history with you:

The history of Fairbanks began many thousands of years before the actual birth of the city. It was along the shores of the Yukon and Tanana rivers that the native peoples, the Athabascans, lived, fished and hunted. The rivers were also their source of trade with other Athabascans and Eskimos.

When the Territory of Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1867, little was known about Alaska and even less about the Interior. The first successful expedition into the Interior wasn't until 1885. Lt. Henry Allen's journey took him two years to complete, most of it on an empty stomach. He traveled more than 1,500 miles and mapped the Copper, Tanana, Yukon and Koyukuk rivers. He was the first white man many of the Native Alaskans he encountered had ever seen. It was 13 years before other white men explored Alaska's interior and an additional five years' before the birth of Fairbanks.

As gold miners headed into the Klondike, there were a hardy few who decided to make their way into Alaska. One of these miners was Felix Pedro, an Italian immigrant who searched for gold in the hills of the Tanana Valley.

One spring day in 1902, Pedro saw the smoke of a steam boat unloading on the banks of the Chena River. He headed in its direction hoping to buy supplies.

Meanwhile E.T. Barnette was arguing with the skipper of the riverboat Lavelle Young. Barnette had paid the captain to take him up the Tanana River to the present day site of Tanacross. Unfortunately, the Tanana could not be passed And the Chena also proved too shallow. According to their agreement, the captain put Barnette and his large stock of' trade goods ashore near the present site of First Avenue and Cushman Street.

ET Barnette was not pleased with the prospect of establishing his trading post so far from the existing gold fields. However, when Felix Pedro arrived in camp, Barnette changed his mind. If there were prospectors in the area, money could be made here.

It was a fortunate decision because three months later Pedro found his gold. From that moment on, ET Barnette focused on making the best of his accidental landing.

By sheer force of personality Barnette built his city. He convinced early residents to name Fairbanks in honor of Charles W. Fairbanks, a senator from Indiana. Fairbanks was later to become Vice President of the United States under Teddy Roosevelt.

Within five years Fairbanks was the largest and busiest city in Alaska.

The pioneering spirit that built this city near the Arctic Circle is still alive. You will find the people as positive and energetic today as their ancestors.

Susan came over last night. She called just as she was leaving work and didn't sound very happy. Her day was a hard one for her. She felt overwhelmed by the fast-paced responsibilities of being an ad designer for a newspaper. Friday's are a busy day for artists, since they have to complete ads due to run all weekend and Monday. She couldn't even go to lunch, but at least they brought pizza in for them.

I fully understand how she feels. When I worked in real estate managing properties, the first week of the month was hellacious. I had to reconcile 10 bank accounts, pay contractors, collect rents, and make deposits to owners' accounts. That one week of the month was enough to make me consider quitting my job. *shudder*

Susan and I talked a bit. I hope I helped to calm her down some. Afterward we watched "Meet the Parents" because she wanted to watch something that would make her laugh. That movie would make anyone laugh.

Tonight we have tentative plans to try out a restaurant on the outskirts of town. We're hoping that Marcella and Brian can join us. Once I hear from them, I'll call Diane and invite her and Ken to join us as well. Or perhaps we'll just get together with Diane and Ken if Marcella and Brian can't go. Either way, I want to get out tonight...

January 11, 2004

We tried out a new restaurant last night. It wasn't the one we originally planned on eating at...

Brian came over earlier in the day to watch football with Steve. Marcella had to work, so she met us here when she finished up around 3pm. We hung out a little while and decided to go to Ivory Jacks to check it out. I then spoke to Diane and she told us that she and Ken would meet us there at 6pm. She also said that Ivory Jacks was 'different' and full of 'characters'. That's exactly the kind of place I'm looking for. I want to go someplace off the beaten track where there's a better chance of finding locals.

When we got there (driving through a blinding snowstorm almost the entire way), the parking lot was jammed. That was a good sign! When we entered, the host at the front door asked us if we were there for the Yukon Quest Banquet (or something of that sort). We had no idea there was a private party going on. In the center of the bar/restaurant was a buffet setup with some delicious looking food and we were famished! The most they could promise us was a burger or something simple because almost all of the cooks and waitstaff were busy handling this private affair. We decided we'd have a beer while waiting for Diane and Ken to arrive.

Once they got there, they suggested we head back along the road to the Vallata Restaurant. That didn't work out real well, as the Vallata was apparently booked solid (even though it looked empty to us) and the hostess was a very rude young lady who turned me off to the restaurant immediately. (Don't the owners of these establishments realize that the person they have working the front desk has a lot of impact on potential customers?).

So we headed to The Castle. They were open and they weren't booked up. After ordering, Diane and Ken passed around a few photo albums with pictures of some of the fish and game they have taken while living here. Our meal arrived quickly. I was pleased with the Chicken Almondine I had ordered. Steve had a 14oz Prime Rib. He also enjoyed his meal. He had a double scotch on the rocks and I had a gin and tonic. Our tab? 58.00! I'm sorry... I still have palpitations over the prices up here when dining out. My chicken meal was $16.50. His steak was $21.50. The two drinks set us back more than $16.00 and a 15% gratuity was automatically added because we had 6 in our party. Now THAT I take issue with. When service is good, we are great tippers (Minimum 20%). But when service is bad, why should we be FORCED to pay a 15% gratuity? Service was good, so I'm not complaining, but I think restaurants that automatically add in a gratuity are trampling my rights as a consumer. And that's all I'll say about the tipping issue.

Today, I went with Susan to see Mona Lisa Smile. We both really enjoyed the movie and we're glad we went alone to see it (knowing our husbands wouldn't enjoy it as much as we did). The movie really made me appreciate the fact that I was born into an era when I could do pretty much whatever I wanted - without having to fulfill some archaic ideal of what a woman should be.

Women of that time were not expected to have dreams and goals outside of their predetermined roles and were often thought to be unwanted or undesirable if not chosen by some distinguished gentlemen to be their wives and mother of their children. Society played into those roles and set the standard of women to be house keepers and breeders. Those who were inspired by other goals and dreams were often considered to be outcasts and failures to their gender, families and community.

In this movie, the actresses portray some of the country's most intelligent young women who, even in the face of unbeatable success and opportunity, still accept the conformist outline that says women are and can be nothing more than housewives and mothers, regardless of their interests, passions and abilities.

The movie also made me appreciate my mother so much more - and her role as a wife and mother. When she married my father in the late 50's women were not expected to have any goals in life other than being a homemaker and mother. But does that mean that women of that era DIDN'T have goals or aspirations? Of course not! My mother has always expressed an interest in writing. And I remember her drawing when I was little. To think that because my mother was born in the late 30's, she never even considered continuing her education to fulfill her dreams, makes me admire her all the more. The fact that she had the strength and the grace to be a wife and mother and put her goals and dreams aside for her family says much for her - and for all the women of that era. But I wonder how different our world would be if the women of my mother's generation WERE allowed to cultivate their talents and live their dreams.

How appalling that a woman was not permitted to apply for a credit card IN HER OWN NAME until 1974 - even though women began entering the workforce in huge numbers in the 1960's. I can't even imagine having to get my husband's signature to secure a loan or get a credit card - especially if earning my own income! But that's the way it was.

If you want to read about Women's History in more detail, THIS is a wonderful link. (Read it and give thanks for being a modern day woman!)

After the movie, Susan and I ate at Food Factory. I got my typical standby of chicken fingers, fries and a side salad. (I always have leftovers when I order that meal, so I'll have something to eat for lunch tomorrow after the gym). The football game was on and the EAGLES won in overtime! HOORAY PHILLY!

January 13, 2004

I spent the entire day working on my print portfolio. I bought myself a graphic artist's portfolio binder and printed out any and all graphic design work I have created over the past couple of years. It's a project I knew I had to tackle at some point. No better time than the present...

I have a printed sheet for each website I've created as well as a printed sheet of some of the logos I've designed for various companies over the years. Now it's just a matter of going through the huge box of printed material I created when I worked in the Day Spa (GA '93-'96) and in real estate (NC). I have BOXES of brochures, newsletters, newspaper ad layouts, signs, business cards, and letterheads I created from scratch over the years. It won't be hard to weed through them. What I may have thought was incredible 10 years ago, looks amateurish today. That's a good thing; it means I have improved.

I found the logo I created for a friend's barbershop 20 years ago in my files too. He still uses it in all his ads. It was a simple design, but effective.

I talked to Brandon today. He has been on leave all week long. He and Becky just celebrated their First Wedding Anniversary (January 10th). They spent the weekend in Myrtle Beach courtesy of Becky's parents. The Zimmers reserved a condo for them. Brandon said they had a wonderful time. I'm glad they had a chance to go off together and have some romantic time at the beach. I'm sure this celebration of their marriage was a lot more enjoyable than their wedding night, when they were facing Brandon's deployment to Iraq the next day.

The weather here in Fairbanks has been fluctuating between a high of MINUS 5 and a low of MINUS 30. We've also had snow on and off for the past week and more is predicted for tomorrow. Pretty typical for this time of year. Tomorrow, sunrise is at 10:30am and sunset is at 3:30pm. We're up to 5 hours of daylight. We're gaining about 5 minutes of sunlight a day.

When I leave for the gym in the morning at 9:15am, it's pitch black out. On the horizon, you can just start to see a sliver of light down low. By the time I finish my workout at 10:30-11:00am, there is usually a beautiful orange sunrise visible out the huge plate glass windows on the second level of the gym. As we cool down with a walk around the track, I always turn to LuAnn and say, "I wish I had my camera". From that height, the Alaska Range is visible on the horizon - backlit with brilliant oranges and pinks and yellows. And as the sun rises a bit higher, the sunlight illuminates the snowy peaks and turns them fluorescent orange. It is a sight to behold!

Yes, I do love it here....

January 16, 2004

Happy Birthday (yesterday) to my dear friend, Denise Sutton!

It is -36 outside. I am getting ready to head to the gym. Steve is off from work today and Monday for both a training holiday and Martin Luther King day. I like these 4-day weekends. They will be few and far between starting next month when training gets underway on the new Stryker vehicles.

I had a job interview yesterday. It was for a position at UAF (University of Alaska Fairbanks) working part-time in the Office of the Provost. The job includes maintaining the UAF website, some database administration, and the typical filing/organizing/correspondence duties in office admin. The two women who interviewed me informed me that most of work revolves around updating and maintaining the website, and integrating the database into the website - which is what I went to school for - but there aren't enough regular changes to make it a full-time position. So, in addition to these duties, the position would also include filling in when a staff-worker is out or away from the office. (Which is where the filing and organizing stuff comes in.) Also there are several huge projects during the course of the school year and much time and energy goes into getting the materials together and organized. It sounds like it could be a little hectic at times, and they stressed the point that the position was for someone who is a self-starter and needs little supervision. Well, I certainly have that part nailed!

I was interviewed by two women - both Assistants to the Provost. They tag-teamed me with questions and took copious notes as I answered. I wish I could read upside-down handwriting from six feet away! It was nerve-wracking. I do so much better when I have to answer something in writing, rather than coming up with an intelligent and well-organized verbal response. Many times I felt like my mind had gone blank and I stumbled over my words once or twice.

There are several other candidates for the position. I believe I was the first one interviewed. I should hear something early next week. The positives about this position are that the pay is good, the hours are fantastic (20 hours/week - flexible), and it's seasonal - which means summers off. (You don't hear me complaining about that!). It would fit my lifestyle perfectly. So... we'll see. Everything happens for a reason. If I don't get the job, I won't be disappointed. I'll just move forward with plans to market myself. (Which I fully intend to do even if I DO get the position). I'll keep you posted.

I attended a Wives Coffee last night and got to socialize with Nancy and Maria and Mariecruz (among others). It was nice seeing them, and Maxine (the hostess) really put on quite the spread. When we left, it was nearly -25 and my poor car squealed and squeaked all the way home. Thankfully Maxine lives in my neighborhood, so I didn't have to go far.

We don't have any plans for this evening so far. Tomorrow I'm attending a Gold Canyon Candle party at LuAnn's house (it's her big 3-0 birthday), and then later on in the evening, a bunch of us are meeting at the Dog Sled Saloon in the Captain Bartlett Inn to have a few drinks and to celebrate her birthday some more. Sunday, I'm taking a stained glass class with Marcella at the Arts & Crafts Shop here on post. Steve and Brian will surely be immersed in football. I'm hoping Marcella and Brian will stay for dinner Sunday night. They are still in guest quarters (more than 6 weeks in a hotel room!) and living with only a microwave. Depending on the weather Monday, we're planning to take a drive down toward Fort Greeley so I can photograph the Alaska Range.

Still Friday... I GOT THE JOB! I received the congratulatory phone call this afternoon. I suppose the other candidates didn't do as well as I did (and I thought I really messed up!) I start Tuesday.... I'll update you about what it's like in the working world next week. In the meantime, I intend to enjoy my last weekend as a "lady of leisure".

January 18, 2004



It is currently MINUS 45 outside. I read in one of my online groups that if you toss boiling water into the air, it will turn to snow before it hits the ground. For whatever reason, this doesn't work if the water is cold. So... guess what Steve and I did a few minutes ago? It works!

Yesterday I went to a candle party. These candles are much better than Yankee Candles and aren't as expensive. Everytime I go to one of these parties, I come home with a few 26oz jars. Yesterday I bought Banana Nut Bread (another candle to fake Steve out and make him think I've baked some goodies) and Raspberry. I had a fantastic time socializing with the gals in my online group and got to meet a few new people in person. It's nice to be able to put a face to a name after chatting with them online for so many months.

Later on last night, we went to the Dog Sled Saloon to continue LuAnn's birthday celebration. Brian and Marcella went with us and we got to meet April and Chris. They just arrived a few weeks ago (drove up from Alabama) and were happy to meet up with us at the saloon. We had a lot of laughs and a fantastic time.

Brian and Marcella are on their way over. It's not even 10:00am. We're cooking breakfast this morning for all of us and then watching football at 11:00am. Then it's off to the stained glass class and back home again for more football and dinner.

Tomorrow, Steve and I are planning to go over to Diane and Ken's house and have some chili with them and visit for awhile. I'd also like to take a drive out to UAF to find out where I'll have to park and where to catch the shuttle to the building I'll be working in.

Today sunrise is at 10:20am and sunset is at 3:43pm. Six more minutes of daylight...

Still Sunday...

The stained glass class that Marcella and I attended at the Arts & Crafts Shop was incredible! We were the only two who showed up. I suppose the frigid temperatures kept a lot of people home and warm.

I am so proud of my first little project. The class lasted 4 hours and I needed every bit of it. First we picked out our color glass. Marcella chose a deep green. I really liked this red marbled color. It looks fantastic when the light shines through it. Then we had to cut it into the four equal squares. After centering and tracing the clear beveled oval in the middle, we had to cut the glass to make room for it. The cutting of the glass was a bit painstaking. We got to practice on scraps before we tackled our gorgeous pieces. It's not hard to score a crooked line or 'bite' too hard with the tools. We busted up quite a few scrap pieces before we got the hang of it.

Then after we had them sanded and smoothed, we applied the copper foil around each piece. This is what holds the solder to the glass. Soldering was the hardest part of all. But thankfully, you can go back over your lines and melt the solder and move it around. It took me more than an hour to get my solder lines right. The instructor assured us that with practice, we'd become a lot more comfortable with the soldering gun. We applied a channel frame to the outer edge, and soldered hooks to the back so we can hang them in a window. It's going to look so beautiful! I'm thinking I might hang mine in my bathroom window, since the most light comes in that window.

Now I have found another hobby that I would love to delve further into. At the Arts & Crafts Shop you can use all the equipment and tools for only $1.00/hour shop fee. The materials (glass) costs extra, but there are small pieces of scrap glass that are free to use if you need a splash of color.

I have an idea about a stained glass 'painting' which reflects one of my northern lights photos. I can imagine several shades of brilliant green in ribbon-shaped cuts pieced together.

I'm also thinking of going back for the pottery class. It looked like a lot of fun too. And they have one heck of a selection of stamps and ink to make custom notecards. If you bring your own card stock, it's only a dollar/hour to use the facility and all the stamps and ink. That would be a great activity to do with a bunch of friends one afternoon...

The next class I want to take is framing. I think they have one offered in mid-February. I have always wanted to learn how to miter correctly and build custom frames for my photos. I don't know how anyone could possibly be bored here!

January 19, 2004

"Antisthenes says that in a certain faraway land
the cold is so intense that words freeze as soon as they are uttered, and after some time then thaw and become audible, so that words spoken in winter go unheard
until the next summer."
~ Plutarch, Moralia



This morning the newspaper said that Fort Wainwright reached a low of MINUS 52 at one point during the night. I still sometimes can't believe that it actually gets that cold here. OK... so your nose hairs freeze as soon as you go outside. Do you know what that feels like? It feels like all of a sudden you have two nostrils full of boogers! Sorry for the gross visual, but there's no other way to explain it.

Regardless... I jumped in the car and backed her out of our 32 degree, thermostatically-controlled garage. As soon as I got clear of the garage door, my windows frosted over. I put on the defrosters - which normally warm up during the drive to LuAnn's house. Not this morning! In fact, the car was still freezing cold inside when we got to the gym. I plugged in for sure.

We had a new friend join us for our workout. Kriss lives in North Pole and we've been conversing online for months. She came to the candle party on Saturday - our first time meeting her in person. She had gastric bypass surgery about 6 months ago and has lost 206 pounds. She is having a tummy tuck in 8 weeks to tighten the loose skin and muscles of her abdomen. She wants to start working out, so her muscles will be stronger and heal faster after her surgery. You should have heard her grunting and groaning on the machines! It's easy for me to remember those first few workouts. I hope she can get out of bed tomorrow.

Steve then took me up to UAF so we could find out about parking decals and the shuttle system which takes you from the parking lots to the different buildings on campus. It was closed today for Martin Luther King Day, but the University Police Station was open and the clerk working was very helpful.

After our little reconnaissance mission, we headed to Sourdough Sam's to eat. We have driven past this little diner several times and thought about stopping, but the parking lot is always packed. Although it was lunch time, Steve opted for breakfast (served all day). He got a huge omelet with reindeer sausage, olives, onions, cheese, and mushrooms. It came with hash browns AND a serving of biscuits and gravy. All for a very reasonable $8.25. I was in the mood for something more gut filling. I opted for the country-fried steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, and bread ($10.25). It was definitely one of our 'cheaper' meals out and the food was quite good. Sourdough Sam's isn't any fancy-schmancy restaurant, but it sure draws a huge crowd. It's location near the University always guarantees a few groups of college kids will be chatting it up and sipping coffee in booths. We liked it. We'll definitely go back.

Ice fog hangs over the frozen Chena River

We took the scenic way home (4-wheeling through the woods), because I wanted to get a few photos of the frozen river. All of the waterways are now covered in thick ice. Snowmachine tracks crisscross the snow from bank to bank. Moose tracks, fox tracks, and people tracks are also common. Steve dared me to walk out into the middle of the frozen river, but I was too chicken to do it. I know it's safe, but I couldn't help but think about falling through the ice in a soft spot and being subjected to frigid waters. BRRR! No thanks... I'll just take photos!

January 20, 2004
~ ~ ~ FIRST DAY ON THE JOB ~ ~ ~

I am officially a member of the employed majority. I was happy to start my day with temperatures above zero. I was due to report at 10:00am, and wanted to make sure I got there on time, so I left the house 45 minutes early. It's a good thing I did!

The traffic wasn't too bad, but I'm really careful about driving on slippery roads. It has been snowing lightly on and off all day. I took my time; listening to(and singing along with) the radio. I almost laughed out loud when the station played "California Girls" by the Beach Boys. There I was singing along.... "the west coast has the sunshine and the girls all get so tan..." while the snow sprinkled on my windshield. Being in a "French bikini" was the last thing on my mind.

I drove to the parking lot that Steve and I had scouted out yesterday. It was full of cars and I took my chances parking in the decal parking lot (where there are outlets to plug into) even though I didn't have a parking decal. Then I made my way to the bus shelter to stand with approximately 30 other students, faculty, and visitors where I waited for the shuttle to take me to the building I was working in. The shuttle runs every 10 minutes or so, and was packed with people.

I got to the office with ten minutes to spare. Hild (my supervisor), was waiting for me. She took me to the financial office to fill out all the necessary paperwork for taxes, etc. I'm so glad they offer direct deposit! Our bank is still in FL and we have no plans of changing it over anytime soon. We use our debit card for almost everything, so there's no need to cash a check. I was given a slip of paper which enabled me to pick up a key to my office. Little did I know that the office I had to go to was a real estate office at the lower end of campus and a pretty arduous walk down and then back up a steep set of snow-covered stairs. Hild told me I could drive to the office if I wanted to (which meant catching the shuttle back to my car, driving to the real estate office, driving back to the parking lot, and then catching the shuttle) or I could just walk. Since it was about 5 degrees out (positively balmy!), I chose to walk. And yes, I still froze my face off.

I attended a training class in SSH and FTP (computer mumbo-jumbo) in Hild's place, since I'll be the one maintaining and re-designing parts of the website. I got to meet one of the programmers, and was thrilled to find out he has an open-door policy for anyone who needs his help.

When the class was over, Hild and I talked more about the position and my obligations. She then asked me what hours I wanted to work. I took a deep breath and said...

"Ideally, I'd like to have long weekends. I'd prefer to work Tuesdays and Thursdays for 8 hours and Wednesdays for 4 hours." (That fulfills my 20/hours week part-time status) I added that I would of course be available to cover the office if she or Doris (the Secretary to the Provost) had to be out of the office. And she said.... "Sounds good to me. You're going to be the one working on the projects. You can work whatever hours you want." HOORAY! And then we decided on my seasonal schedule. I will be through with this season on May 28th and report back to work on August 23rd. This gives me three great long daylight months to spend with Steve, and my boys when they come, and any other visitors. I'm so excited!

We talked a little bit about the perks of the job. I'll find out all the details at my orientation next week. But here's one perk that I'm thrilled about: FREE TUITION for me or members of my immediate family! Looks like I might be looking into some classes...

January 21, 2004

My second day on the job was productive. I cleaned up my office - purging some of the paperwork left behind by Grete (my predecessor). I have an entire office to myself with lots of wall space to hang my own personal effects.

Then I explored the computer hard drive looking for the files I'll need to update the website. They are EVERYWHERE and aren't sorted in any organized way. I found out from Hild that the last couple of girls who worked on the website were just doing the best they could to keep it maintained and didn't really have a design background. Well... OK.... I can definitely see evidence of that. Yes, I have my work cut out for me. Not only that, but it turns out the database has been sorely ignored and needs to be updated. This means a lot of menial data entry to get things where they need to be. I'll do what I have to; I can't function if things are disorganized.

I made sure to carry my backpack today. In it, I carried my 'work shoes'. I wore my arctic boots today. After yesterday's fiasco with having to walk to the Properties Office for my office key in heeled dress boots, I decided I'd rather be safe than sorry.

As I was putting on my boots and coat, I glanced out the window and saw that it was going to be a beautiful sunset. (I carry my camera in my backpack too). As soon as I got to my car, I took the photo above. The two dark shadows in the sky, on the right hand side of the photo, were cast by two huge mountains on the horizon as the sun dipped down below them. It was so beautiful, it almost brought tears to my eyes. The photo doesn't do it any justice...

January 23, 2004

Happy Birthday (yesterday) to my brother, Mike!

Morning Aurora
The northern lights were out this morning (7:30am) as I was getting ready to leave for work. I couldn't resist a shot...

I have completed my first week on the job and, despite the late starts, I was still able to get my scheduled 20 hours in. I went in today (even though it's a non-work day for me) to attend a staff meeting and be introduced to some of the other directors and administrators who report directly to the Provost. I certainly won't remember their names right off the bat, but at least I'll recognize their faces when they wander in from time to time.

Yesterday was a day of training and a tour of part of the University; the part of the campus within walking distance of the building I work in. Hild had to go set up a teleconference for the General Education directors (in another building) and asked me to walk with her. She pointed out the various buildings and explained what they were used for. One of our first stops was the WOOD CENTER. This is the Student Center and you can bowl, play pool, eat, and lounge - among other things. We then visited the Fine Arts Complex. This is where performances are presented. Also there are displays of student artwork which change every month.

And then we hit my absolute favorite part of the campus - The Rasmuson Library! Yes, I am a library GEEK! I can spend hours and hours in a library and this one is spectacular! It has six floors and two of them are underground. The Alaska and Polar Regions Department is located on Level 2. The Alaska and Polar Regions Department (APR) is the world's largest Alaska collection. The APR department acquires, preserves and provides access to materials that document the past and present of Alaska and the Polar Regions. This material includes books, periodicals and special collections such as manuscripts, photographs, rare books and maps, oral histories and films.

In the APR Research Room (the inner Sanctum) are historical photographs. There are over 700,000 images dating from the 1870s to the present, documenting Alaska, the Yukon Territory, and Eastern Siberia. You have to sign in (using only pencil), and wear cloth gloves while viewing these collections. Also, the research assistants actually bring the items to you at a table in a special room. I definitely see myself spending hours in the library...

Later yesterday afternoon, I did some redesign work on the Provost portion of the site. I still don't have a user ID to log on with, so I can't publish anything yet. I have my work cut out for me, that's for sure. The site is a disaster right now with broken links and links that take you in circles.

Today, after the staff meeting, Hild and I talked a little more personally. Hild's husband, Guy, is a Native Alaskan. They run a ministry for the native people. Several times during the year, they hold a potlatch (a ceremonial feast, as in celebration of a marriage or accession, at which the host distributes gifts according to each guest's rank or status.) I asked Hild if it would be possible for me to attend a few of these ceremonies and take photographs. I wasn't sure if Native Alaskans frowned upon having photos taken or not. She told me I was welcome to come and that photographs would be permitted! I am very excited about the possibility.

Want to see where we live?

(Image may take a while to load for dial-up users)

I created this map from images I got on a terrific site for TERRAFLY. If you go to the site and put in an address, you can do a virtual flyover. You can put in addresses from anywhere in the country. The detail is so incredible, that you can find your house! (A little scary too...) I wanted to give you an idea of where we live. The distance from our house to UAF is about 8 miles (by road), so that will give you a general idea of the size of Fairbanks. Steve's office is approximately 5 minutes from the house, which allows him to come home after PT and for lunch. Although there are tall trees around our house, Birch Hill ski area is visible from the entrance to our neighborhood (which is called Birchwood). Our neighborhood is across the Chena River from the rest of Post and is surrounded by wooded areas - which is why I get to see so many moose in my yard.

You can see a portion of the Fairbanks airport on the left bottom. Fort Wainwright also has an airfield. The approach strip to the Fort WW airfield runs next to our neighborhood too, but we're so used to the noise we don't even notice it anymore.

All of the open spaces on the map are either sloughs, wooded areas, fields, or bluffs. There are lots of dirt or gravel roads which run through these areas, so if you've got a good truck, ATV, or snowmachine (in the winter) - you can find hidden places to fish, explore, view wildlife, or take photos.

January 25, 2004

Cable modem was out. Television cable was also out. Luckily, Birchwood is on its own system or we would have lost our electricity too. All of post was affected.

This morning, Brian and Marcella picked us up and we went to breakfast at Sourdough Sams. I got scrambled eggs and crisp bacon and home fries and biscuits and gravy. Boy, they serve some huge portions! And cheap too!

After breakfast, we drove to the lookout at UAF to see if the range was visible. It sure was... I took some shots. I like this one, despite the smoggy look.

I pointed out some of the buildings on campus (especially now that I know a little bit about what they are), and then we continued past the Botanical Gardens and the reindeer pens toward Ester Dome Rd. I wanted to show Marcella and Brian the view from the 'top'. It was SO COLD up there and the wind was blowing hard. I wasn't dressed for being outside for long periods of time. In fact, I didn't even have my snowboots on. (Or my long underwear) I got cold fast, but still managed to shoot a couple of photos.

Brian brought us home and he and Marcella went off to meet their Realtor to look at a few houses here in the area. They are considering buying a house while they're here. They've been in billeting since November 26th or 27th.... I'd be going stir crazy! There is talk that the new senior enlisted houses will be ready to fill after February 1st. I hope they get offered one. I know they can't wait to get their household goods.

I talked to Chris this afternoon. He still hasn't found a job. (Target let him go) He's interviewed at a few places, but so far - nothing. I told him that after I go to orientation on Tuesday, I'll know a little better about the 'free tuition' perk my job offers. I was told it includes tuition for immediate family. I asked Chris if he'd be willing to relocate to Alaska if he could go to college for free. He said he'd consider it.

Steve and I discussed the prospect of Chris coming up here and going to school. If he did decide to do it (and tuition was covered), it would be best if he lived in his own place. (He agrees wholeheartedly). Then... when, and if, Steve goes to the Middle East in 2005, Chris could come live with me if he wanted. I'd certainly enjoy the company. It's pretty funny actually because Chris is roughly the same age as a lot of my friends here. Of course they're all married and have families...

Tomorrow, I'm going to the gym with LuAnn and Shawna. I haven't been to the gym since last Monday. I am looking forward to it! Tuesday I begin working my scheduled hours. Eight hours on Tuesday, 4 hours on Wednesday, 8 hours on Thursday. Friday, I'll be able to go to the gym again. Marcella said she'll go to the gym with me on Wednesday afternoon when I get home from work so I don't lose my momentum. I might take her up on her offer.

January 27, 2004

I had a fantastic workout yesterday. I raised my levels again on the stationery bike. I do the hill-climb circuit at level 6 now. I had my heart rate up to 170 during the steep climbs. I feel so much better after exerting so much energy. When LuAnn and I left the gym, the most incredible sunrise was occurring. The ice fog here is thick most mornings, but lately it has been like pea soup. It's caused mainly by the presence of auto exhaust, the steam spewing out of our power plant here on post, and the warmth of the sun in the cold air (minus 30 yesterday). Driving in it can be dangerous - especially when the sun is higher in the sky. But in the morning, as the sun comes over the horizon, it makes everything look very ethereal. Because I carry my camera everywhere, I was able to capture the photos at left. It was taken a little after 10am.

I went to lunch with Susan today. We decided on The Diner because it's close to the News-Miner building where she works. Lunch was good and it was nice to catch up with her about her job and life in general.

Last night was a woman's self help clinic at Home Depot that I was 'forced' (*laugh*) to attend by Marcella. I invited the ladies in my online group and picked up Marjorie and Melissa on the way. We learned how to assemble a closet organizer (well, not really... we weren't paying too much attention. Bad, bad students!). There was a pretty big turnout, which was good. I liked watching the elderly women learn how to use a screwdriver and assemble drawers.

When the class was over, the three of us decided we'd like to go for a cup of coffee. We drove all over downtown but every single coffee shop I know of in that area was closed. It wasn't even 8pm. I have no idea why they close so early! So we ended up by the university. Finally, we had found a coffee shop that was open until midnight. (Probably because it caters to college students) I had a caramel latte and a cream cheese brownie. The others got something sweet to eat too. We had a fantastic time chatting for almost an hour, before heading home.

Today is my first 'full' day of work (8 hours). It's almost 7am and I'll be leaving in 30 minutes. I'm giving myself an hour to get to work, catch the shuttle, etc. I don't know what traffic is like this time of the morning, but I'll know better how to gauge it after today's drive. Tomorrow is supposed to only be a 4-hour day and Thursday is another 8 hour day. But - based on how today goes - I might alter my hours on Wednesday and Thursday to make them both 6-hour days. Can you tell it's been a LONG time since I've been in the working world. I have certainly become spoiled!

January 28, 2004

I worked my first full 8-hour day yesterday. What a LONG day! I am such a spoiled girl after all these years of non-employment. After making it through yesterday's eight hours, I changed my schedule. I only want to handle ONE 8-hour day in a week. The fact that I have the flexibility to alter my schedule is wonderful. And I intend to take advantage of it. So now, my revised schedule is Tuesday - 8 hours, and Wednesday and Thursday - 6 hours. It sounds pathetic, doesn't it? *laugh*

I had insomnia last night, which is probably another reason why I was in one of those, "I can't handle a full day of work" moods. This time I woke up at 2am and stayed up until about 4:30. When Steve got up at 5:30, I got up again and stayed up. I'm tired... It's going to take a week or two to get used to this schedule and get back into sleeping well.

I found out that Chris can't get free tuition at the university. A child has to be UNDER the age of 24. DARN! I was really hoping it would work out and he'd be able to get a free college education. I'm really bummed out about it. (Sorry, Chris - but if you want to think about coming up here, the jobs are becoming plentiful in the tourism industry).

The entire computer system went down today at work. There's been a horrible virus going around and someone told me that they read that big business would probably be hit the hardest. It was down for nearly two hours. So I worked a little more on the UAF Provost Office redesign. Hild likes my ideas so far. I'll let you know when the final product is uploaded.

While I was waiting for the shuttle bus this afternoon, I felt an earthquake! Up until about 20 minutes ago, I thought I had imagined the tremor that went through the ground and made me feel almost lightheaded. It's such a weird feeling. It was like standing on a trampoline or on a mattress. That feeling when the ground isn't totally stable beneath you. I thought I had imagined it until I went to the EARTHQUAKE SITE and checked one more time to see if there were any updates. And there it was - at 2:07pm! The one I felt was only a small tremor since the epicenter was south of us. It was very surreal. I don't even want to think about what it would be like if it were a big one.

Alaska has several fault lines and Fairbanks has the potential to feel tremors from any quake activity. Last October or November there was a big one that caused the groceries to fall off the shelves at the commissary. It had to be so frightening!

January 30, 2004

I am finally a full-fledged employee. I now have my own login and password on the university network. Yippee! Yesterday, work was good. I accomplished a lot more on the website, but still haven't published anything yet. I'm waiting until after my meeting with the Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Instructional Affairs (whose name also happens to be Susan) on Tuesday. We'll be discussing the changes she wants made to the Provost site and how I can lay the pages out in a way that makes sense. Right now, the site is a bit 'messy' in that there are broken links, links which go in circles, etc.

This morning I attended a promotion ceremony for our friend, Brian. He was promoted from E-7 (Sergeant First Class) to E-8 (Master Sergeant). Steve came home after PT and I followed him back to the chapel where they were holding the ceremony. Marcella and Brian were already there along with many other people. We were able to find a seat in the front so I could take a few photos. It was very nice.

Afterward, Steve hurried off to work, and I hurried home to change into my workout clothes. Believe me - I was thinking of a million reasons why I shouldn't go to the gym. It was too cold (-35), it was too late (10:15am) and the lunch crowd would be coming in soon, I was too tired... But I put those thoughts out of my head and picked up LuAnn and Shawna and off we went. I'm so glad I didn't wimp out. I feel so much better for exercising - especially since I'm only managing to go on Monday and Friday now. (I really need to find a way to work it into my Wednesday schedule, but going after work doesn't appeal to me)

The Junior Yukon Quest is next weekend. I'm very excited about seeing this. The Junior Yukon Quest is a distance race for youth mushers age 14-17. The race covers approximately 120 miles over two days. The 2004 race will begin in downtown Fairbanks at 10:00 a.m. Mushers travel through the boreal forest on the Chena River and woodland trails to the halfway checkpoint at Twin Bears Camp on Chena Hot Springs Road in the Chena River State Recreation Area, returning by the same route on the following day. I'm particularly interested in watching for Jan's team of dogs (remember my visit with her and her dogs back in September?). Jan has a young musher running her team in the Junior Yukon Quest.

The trail is on the Chena River (which of course is frozen). This means that the teams will come through Fort Wainwright on their way to the turnaround point. In fact, they will pass right under the Baily bridge here on post. The Baily bridge is the one I refer to as the 'one lane bridge'. I take photos from that part of the river constantly, because the view is beautiful and the bridge doesn't get much traffic. Now that I know the junior mushers will be coming right by one of my favorite parts of post, I'm very excited about the photo opportunity. I just hope that it's not crowded down there. If it does become a popular vantage point, there are several other locations along the river where I think I can get some good shots. I will certainly have to remember to dress warmly. The race will only be canceled if the temperature is lower than -30 that morning.

The following weekend (February 14th) is the start of the Yukon Quest. It also begins at the same location under the Cushman Street Bridge and will pass through Fort Wainwright. This race is a one-way race though.

Race History

Four men, all mushers, sat at a table in the Bull's Eye Saloon, in Fairbanks. It was 1983, and the conversation was about a new sled dog race. They spoke of "what-ifs." What if the race followed a historical trail? What if it were an international race? What if the race went a little longer? What if it even went up the Yukon River?

As early as 1976, a Fairbanks to Whitehorse race had been talked of. But it wasn't until this conversation of Roger Williams, Leroy Shank, Ron Rosser and Willie Libb that it became more than an idea. They decided to name the race the "Yukon Quest" to commemorate the Yukon River, the old highway of the north. The trail would trace the path that the prospectors followed to reach the Alaskan interior from the Klondike during the 1898 gold rush.

The first race tested both race logistics and the talents of all involved. Twenty-six teams left Fairbanks that February day in 1984. Over the next 16 days, 20 teams made it to Whitehorse, with six teams forced to drop out along the way. Sonny Lindner became the first Quest champion, completing the race in 12 days.

The skeptics were silenced; the "dreamers" had done it!

©Copyright Yukon Quest International

If you're interested in following the Yukon Quest, click HERE to go to their site. If you want to read a fascinating 'rookie guide' to racing (told from a musher's point of view) click HERE. There's some first hand information about the things encountered during this trek into Canada. Here's a MAP OF THE ROUTE.

Read February 2004