RIP: Ebb

We laid our sweet Ebb, Black Lab with a heart of gold, to rest along the Alaska Highway. Beautiful spot overlooking water, his favorite place to be besides at our feet or by our sides.

Thank you for all of the prayers and hugs you’ve been sending our way. I am sitting on my front porch working in the sun right now and keep instinctively looking for him. He will be missed.

The Patriot Act “Burned My Onions” in Tok

First, the thing about burning onions: This is what the Head Start teachers taught my 3 year old to say when she is irritated. She loves to say “You’re burning my onions, Mom” with a big exasperated sigh.

Second, I am a patriotic American, I’m sure I am. And I know why the Patriot Act is in place, of course. But when I’m put through a stupid, ongoing rigamaroll in the name of the Patriot Act, well, it burns my onions.

The situation that has been going on for over a week now:

I’m trying to get overdraft protection for my personal checking account with Key Bank. I already have a business checking account with them, a business credit card, a commercial loan, a personal savings and personal checking. I’m told I’m considered a “preferred customer” for having multiple accounts with them.

So the hitch is not a financial one. The hitch is that I live in Tok, Alaska and we do not have numbers on our houses.

My friend Betsy of Small Biz Survival saw my tweet on Twitter complaining about yet another call from Key Bank looking for further proof of residence and that I am who I say I am. I had already sent them scans of my drivers license (which has my PO Box as the address) and my social security card to prove I’m a U.S. citizen and a bill from Alaska Power & Telephone which shows my PO Box as my address – but with some puzzling letters or an abbreviation above the PO Box and under my name.

“The underwriters want to know what that means,” said the kind woman at Key Bank who was getting an earful from me for putting me through the ringer for a small overdraft account. “This is because of the Patriot Act,” she said as way of explanation for the hoops they’ve had me jumping through.

I called AP&T while still on the phone with Key Bank to learn that the abbreviation stood for the code they used to identify the house where the service for power and telephone was rendered because we do not have house numbers in Tok.

Turns out, it was AP&T’s own abbreviation that stood for Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Rental. Yes, I guess I forgot to mention that my husband works for US Fish and Wildlife which is part of the Department of Interior for the United States Government. My husband is a U.S. federal government employee. We are living in government housing. And THEY don’t even have numbers on their houses here.

Betsy had some advice:

Of course, I knew all about address tricks for when you don’t have a number on your house and blogged about it here.

I have no idea if I’ll get the overdraft protection or not. Because I live in Tok Alaska where they don’t have numbers on houses. This is not just Rural America – this is more like Frontier America. These places still exist and they are part of the U. S. of A. It is a shame that the Patriot Act causes such as hassle for real Americans in real communities in the actual United States. I’d hate to see what would happen if I had a more ethnic-sounding name or a strong accent on top of living in rural parts.

I shudder to think.

How has the Patriot Act worked for — or against — you? Just curious.

UPDATE  13 April 2010

Today Key Bank underwriters said that the power bill and social security card and driver’s license was NOT good enough. Still rejecting me as a U.S. citizen with a verifiable USA residence. I now need to locate and send one of the following.

Mind you: No matter how you slice or dice it, we still have no PHYSICAL ADDRESSES for our houses in Tok, Alaska. I’ve even given them miles from the Alaska Highway which some people use (.4 miles) and the fake address (using post office box number as a pretend house number – this was advice given to me by the USPS i.e. United States Postal Service i.e. US GOVT. Take THAT Patriot Act.)

1. Social Security award letter containing social security number

2. Utility Bill associated with physical property location (i.e., gas, water, electric, sewer, water, cable and phone line)-bill, invoice or statement may not have date older than 60 days old.

3. U.S. license (may or may not contact social security number

4. Social Security administration signed letter

5. IRS tax reporting W-2 or 1099

6. U.S. state ID card (may or may not contact social security number

7. Native American tribal ID card

8. Voter Registration Card (valid registration card must have correct physical address and name)

9. Real estate tax bill-not older than one year

10. Real estate rental or lease agreement

11. Insurance coverage or statement (commonly required in real property and commercial equipment/inventory lending)

12. Real property deed

13. Student ID, letter/invoice from school admissions or grades/transcripts from school records (these should not be older than 90 days)

14. Current letter from employer regarding 24/7 moving and/or remote work assignments (used to verify long haul truck drivers, commercial fishing boat, cruise boat and freighter hands, field scientists and researches)

15. Letters from long-term heath care providers such as nursing/retirement homes


16 April 2010

Finally sent them the 8 page lease agreement with USF&W, part of the United States government, of course. That document did not have an address other than the abbreviation for Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, the word “Rental” and a number with 7 zeros in front of it. That was it. The underwriters could have balked at the total lack of address, however, I think they saw the seal of the U.S. government and realized the error of their ways. Whew.

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A Walk on the Frozen Tanana River

We took a walk earlier this month on the Tanana River with our dog Ebb (before he got sick), and our 3-year-old daughter (who was mostly in her sled). Here are some images from that afternoon.

Have you posted some pics of your winter adventures? Post a link to them here!

Tok Alaska Winters are So Dry…

…How dry are they?

Winters are so dry here that

  • you can’t consume enough water in the day to make up for the moisture you lose. Even the requisite 8 glasses a day barely makes a dent.
  • the only place drier is outer space. (Just saw a doctor in Fairbanks who pretty much addressed all that has been ailing me since I moved to Tok and said that doctors in Fairbanks treat their patients with an eye toward what astronauts do to address the dry climate. Only Minnesota comes close).
  • you tend to get chronic sinus infections each winter. Long timers are seemingly immune so at some point your body must get used to these abnormal conditions although chronic nosebleeds are common.
  • you wake up every morning with dry mouth, dry tongue, dry throat, dry cough.
  • your hands and feet feel like sandpaper and no amount of moisturizer seems to bring relief.
  • the doctors in Fairbanks recommend slathering your body with Vaseline or Eucerin after every shower. I’ve been avoiding petroleum products for many years but am tempted to try this because I can’t bear the parchment dry skin.
  • you get a shock every single time you touch a light switch.
  • your computer can freeze up to a dozen times a day because of static electricity surges.
  • anti-static dryer sheets can only do so much because the static electricity is so powerful.
  • humidifiers can burn out struggling to keep up and have only a minimal effect on the atmosphere moisture here.
  • all the snow on the ground has little to no impact on the moisture levels in the air.
  • you leave Interior Alaska for a few days and suddenly 90% of the symptoms you were experiencing chronically for weeks or months disappear.

This is what I’ve been going through but until this past week, nobody in Tok mentioned these issues because I think everyone – including the health practitioners – just take it as a given.

Now that I know what the problems seem to be, I can work toward being creative with solutions.

One thing the doctor in Fairbanks gave me was Ponaris sinus emollient that had been used by NASA. In 24 hours, my sinuses went from inflamed and parched to normal.

What are remedies you’ve heard about for very, very, very dry climates?

Our Dog is Dying

I am posting this to my Tok blog just in case someone else in Tok has seen these symptoms in their dog.

Our Black Lab Ebb is dying. Suddenly. Rapidly.

In the 10 days that I was traveling, he went from normal weight to skeletal. Now he is practically dragging his hind quarters and seems to be starting to experience incontinence.

My husband took him to the vet in Fairbanks. They discovered two things:

1. Astronomically high liver enzyme counts;

2. A white area (necrotic area) in his liver visible via sonogram. The vet said this could be a tumor or something else non-cancerous.

3. Sludge in his gallbladder.

Clearly, his liver is messed up which could mean:

Poison – he could have eaten something that was laced with poison;

Liver disease – although the rapid onset and deterioration is puzzling;

Liver cancer – not sure if this comes on so quickly but it is a possibility.

Ebb in better days

He has been eating and drinking fairly regularly although no longer touches his dog food. My husband has been cooking for him – macaroni, rice, caribou meat.

He was eating on his own until last night when my husband had to feed him out of his hand.

He has been eating a lot of snow.

The loss of control of his hind quarters is progressing – when the vet saw him, it wasn’t very pronounced so they didn’t look into it. Now his backside is wobbly and collapsing although he still stoically walks down the snowy driveway to look out on the neighborhood, his usual habit. He can’t walk up or down steps now.

Based on what I’ve seen, I’m afraid he will be dead before the week is out. I’m planning to take him back to the vet in Fairbanks this week to see if there is anything else we can do.

Do any of these symptoms sound familiar? Anyone in Tok have a dog experiencing this? Any ideas how to reverse this deterioration or at least make him more comfortable?

Artists in Tok: Get Money

Are you an artist in Alaska? Want up to $5000 to jumpstart your art career? Or are you more established? Well, then there’s $12,000 for you.

How? Although it is no guarantee the money is actually yours, all you need to do is to apply for an Individual Artist Award. All you have to do is apply.

One of my company’s clients is Rasmuson Foundation, and every year they support individual artists (Note: this means you do NOT have to be a nonprofit organization) through their Individual Artist Awards program. You can read the grant guidelines to find out more, however, here are the categories for grants:

1. Project Awards are open to all artists and offers up to $5,000 support for short-term projects that have a clear benefit to the artist and the development of their work. Examples include travel and fees associated with workshops and other advanced study opportunities, professional documentation of an artist’s work for submission to juried shows or galleries, and costs associated with the creation or installation of work that is scheduled for public viewing.

2. Fellowships are open to mid-career and mature artists and are unrestricted $12,000 awards. In 2010, only artists working media, multidiscipline and new genre, music composition or visual arts are eligible to apply for a fellowship. Fellowships support activities that contribute to an artist’s creative work such as workshops, residencies, training, projects, collaborations, experimentation in other arts fields, costs of equipment or studio space, travel expenses and retreats.

3. One Distinguished Artist is selected annually with a $25,000 unrestricted award in recognition of creative excellence and superior accomplishments in the arts. The award recognizes the artist’s creative output and contributions to the state of Alaska. Only mature artists are eligible for the Distinguished Artist award, and artists in every discipline can apply or be nominated.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s show Alaska that Tok has some incredibly talented artists here! Help me encourage Shauna Lee, Frank Entsminger, Helga Wagenleiter, Ken Lisbourne and others that they should apply! Don’t forget artists in Tanacross, Tetlin and Northway.

DEADLINE IS MARCH 1. If you have questions about the awards, the application, process or eligibility, you are welcomed to call Rasmuson Foundation directly – they are more than happy to help you every step of the way:

TEL (907) 297-2700
(877) 366-2700

Do you know an artist in Alaska? Please send them a link to this Web page or send them to Rasmuson Foundation’s Facebook Fan Page for more information.

P.S. We’re are starting to talk about the Tok Arts Fair that will run this summer, hopefully in conjunction with a mini farmer’s market. If you are interested, let Francine from the General Store or Shauna Lee or me know. This will be an opportunity for Tok and area artists to show and sell their wares with NO COST to the artist.

A Trip to Fast Eddy’s

Once a week, we try to eat at Fast Eddy’s. Sometimes, it is an evening when we don’t feel like cooking – or doing dishes – and a hearty meal and getting out the house sounds like a good idea. Sometimes it is a weekend morning when we want something different for breakfast.

In the winters, the place is often quiet when we get there but we are still bound to run into someone we know. And the wait staff all knows us and are really nice. Overall, it is a treat, and we don’t just go there because we only have two restaurant choices in the winter.

Here are some pics from a drive to Fast Eddy’s earlier this month.

The first photo shows the ice crust building up on the car windshield because of the temperature difference between the outside and inside of the car. Any colder and the ice crust would start to form on the inside of the windshield. Luckily, I have a handy little scraper just for that.

What is your favorite eatery in YOUR town?

Low Sun Low

The sun is low in the sky in winter, but it makes for a good photo!

The mornings are still dark, the afternoons dusky. Such is winter in Alaska.

Have any great sunrise or sunset pics to share? Link to them here!

Not So Cold in Tok

The weather in Tok has been incredibly mild, especially considering what we experienced last year when we first arrived here.

Trust me, minus 30 degrees is WARM compared to the minus 50s and 60s of last winter. But this temp was actually a few months ago and about the coldest we felt although when we were out of town, I heard it finally hit closer to 60 below.

Most recently, we’ve been seeing an average of zero degrees. Zero degrees is HOT. It is the kind of weather where you don’t have to wear a hat or gloves. I don’t even zip up my down coat.

I was in Anchorage recently. The temperatures there are incredibly mild. At 20 degrees ABOVE zero, I felt like whipping out the bikini.

When I was in San Francisco a few months back with a girlfriend from Anchorage, we walked a few miles every day to and from our hotel and the convention center where we were attending a conference. And we were thrilled to be in weather so far above zero that we could barely wear our jackets. We had to laugh at all the people around us wearing knit hats, gloves and heavy coats. And it couldn’t have been colder than 50 degrees. Freezing to Californians. Balmy to us.

I guess it’s all relative.

What is the weather like in YOUR neck of the woods?

Sant-o-Lantern in Tok!

I posted this photo on Twitter and someone called it a Sant-o-Lantern which I thought was pretty funny.

This is why Halloween pumpkins last a good long time in Tok, Alaska…

Got a good cold-weather photo from your neck of the woods? Share a link with us!

Tok Tidbits

Did you hear…

  • A new hair salon is opening up soon in Tok? Anyone want to open up a coffee shop/bookstore, too? With wifi? 😉
  • The Parent Committee for Head Start is having a raffle? Fly-in fishing trip’s the main prize.
  • If you’re looking for Pampered Chef or Mary Kay products, see Shauna Lee. Order before end of the month and The Tok School Science dept will get a portion of sales for their fundraiser.
  • Today was Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge’s annual Christmas Bird Count. Did you participate?
  • Wed. Dec 16 @ 7pm is the book club held in the Refuge kitchen. They’ll be discussing the book, “Oil Spill” by Sharon Bushell. Even if you haven’t read it yet, they invite you to join the discussion.

Got a tidbit to share? Happy to post it on this blog (no charge)!

The Produce Tok Delivers to Tok

IMG_0804Listen to an interview with Leah Harmon of CV Farms.

There is only one more month to go on the CV Farms produce truck run so watch this blog for announcements of their arrival in August. The July produce was phenomenal. The peaches were out-of-this-world delicious and the cherries were great.

We also got plums which are almost ready to eat, a super sweet cantalope, amazing tomatoes, a healthy green bell pepper and good looking zucchini and yellow squash as well as a squat buttercup squash. I practically cried tears of joy seeing this exquisite produce.

The husband/wife team drive their semi from Montana to California to pick up the produce and then heads up to Alaska, making a number of stops. They used to mostly pass through Tok before, but have made it a definite stop this year, and I’m so grateful.

And now for some produce beauty shots…






After August, how are we going to get a nice fresh variety of produce in Tok? Open to all ideas!