I had not been in Alaska long when someone came into my office, at work, wanting some documentation for his PFD. He went on about some discrepency and he needed some information to prove that he qualified for his payment.

"WHAT the heck is a PFD?" I turned and asked an associate as soon as this confusing guy walked out the door with the papers he had requested. "Oh, it's the Permanent Fund Dividend." Yeah, that cleared things up!

I had heard mention before I moved up that you get paid to live in Alaska, but had discarded this as a myth. The truth is, there is a check paid out every year to residents of Alaska as part of the oil profits for the state.

This started in 1976 when the North Slope began to flow oil to market. It's actually an ammendment for the people of the state to receive 25% of the proceeds. There's definitely more to it than all of that, but most don't care about all of the details, just cut the checks!

Don't think that you can just move up and receive a check when October rolls around. It's a little more ivolved than that. You have to have lived in the state for the full calender year, and you have to be able to prove that. Like me, I moved in the month of July, so of course 3 months later there is no check with my name on it. So, you're thinking the next October I will be in the line up, right? It's not that simple. My calendar year started that next January, so I couldn't sign up until I had been a resident for the full year of 2010. That means on January 1st 2011 I went online and registered as a resident and could receive my dividend check in the fall.

Every October in Alaska is like Christmas time! People begin spending money like crazy! The streets are crowded, the stores and their parking lots are jammed and congested. Every other television commercial is about a PFD SALE! The car dealerships will let you use your PFD for a down  payment long before you even receive it!

It sounds a little like tax refund time, except this is not YOUR money being returned, this is FREE money that you did not earn. It's like MAD money or something. People all of a sudden are tuling down the road with a couple of snow mobiles in the back of the truck. Or drving that brand new dream car. There are moving vans delivering new livingroom suits and every other person at Costco is walking out with a flat screen tv! It's wonderful, it's exciting, it's a little crazy but it's part of Alaska life.

You are probably wondering just how much money do we get each year? Well, since it is based on the profits from the oil investsments then it varies from year to year. In 2011 residents were paid $1,174.00 each. That means if you are married and have 3 kids, you would receive a check or direct deposit, as long as you have registered by the deadline, totaling $5,870! Now that's something to get excited about!

It's without a doubt a nice little perk, but not a reason to move to Alaska or to have additional children! I have actually heard both of those indications. Some people get themselves into a lot of trouble and spend the rest of the year getting out of it! Like the young guy who told me that he had stayed up until 4:00am on the 6th, the day the dividend hit your bank account, waiting for it to show up. Then, after he was assured it was there, he ran out in the wee hours of the night and spent over half of that money. He went on to tell me  that he took a break after a few hours and checked his bank account to see how much he had left, but it was not showing up that any of it was gone. He then admitted that last year he had made the mistake of spending more than he had received and it took him a long time to recover from all of the extra fees. WOW! Some people really should not have that much money in their reach without a plan! He also told me, as if I'm not standing here and just as much Alaskan as he, that everyone who gets a PFD does the all night mad shopping spree. Huh, this is the first I had heard of it.

My shopping had  not been quite as eventful, but definitely more organized. I had picked out much needed winter tires for my car and purchased a plane ticket. Click, click and $1,174.00 gone. Oh well, it was money well spent and the tires are wonderful! I haven't ever been very excited over new tires before, but with the upcoming and already forecasted SNOW I am thrilled! As far as the plane ticket, let's just say, it seems that I work to fly, so the Permanent Fund Dividend was more than a bonus for me. I'm  already looking forward to next October!

The coming season

It's in the air and on the mountain tops! "Goodbye summer,I miss you already!".
"Hello winter, I am never ready for your arrival!"

The white stuff on top of the mountains is called TERMINATION DUST. It's what the first snow dusting was named to reflect the termination of the season. It caught me by surprise and made me sad this year. I was so enjoying this mild and gorgeous fall! Winter is upon us and the cold air up on top of the mountains is reaching down to the very bottom of the Anchorage bowl.


Rain, rain, go away
Come again another...uh, just GO AWAY!

In Anchorage it really knows how to rain! When it sets in it gets comfortable and just stays. There's nothing you can do about it and there is not much hope in avoiding it, so here we just get wet!

When I first arrived in Alaska, wow, it's been over two years now, I was unaccustomed to children playing in the rain. It was somewhat of a rainy summer and you know you just can't stay in the house all summer long! It was not unusual to see even very young children in their raincoats or not, riding their bikes, running in the yard, walking the dog and whatever in the middle of the rain.

I found myself telling my kids when they asked to go here or go do this, "no, it's raining". My long time Alaskan husband gently corrected me by letting me know that it was okay to have activities in the rain here. "Oh, really?" I had no idea!

In the south, rain usually means downpours, thunder and lightning, possibly flash flooding and drenched clothes and shoes and then of course walking into cold air conditioned houses. Not a good scenario on a regular basis. If you found you must go out while it is raining then you make it quick. Running from one door to the next, right?

In Alaska, thunder and lightning are very rare. You don't have the extreme heat with quick cooling due to the cold rain. No, mostly you just have cool rain. It doesn't rain heavy very often either, usually just a constant drizzle.

Recently, I had a mortgage inspection at work. They flew the agent up from the Indiana to spend a few days in Anchorage and go to all of their buildings and make her reports. We spent about 30 minutes in the office going over the paper work and another 15 answering all of her questions about Alaska! It was a new experience for her and she hoped to have some time to enjoy her visit as well. At this point we were ready to take a tour of several of the buildings. We walked around the first, the one where my office is located, but then had to go to the next block to tour the second. There was a light drizzle, but I suggested walking because that was what I usually did. The inspector looked at me as if I must be joking, "but it's started raining, don't you think we should drive?" I laughed a little, "well this is just all it's going to do, but we can drive if you'd like" She snapped her rain jacket and threw up the hood and followed me around back, after all, she was hoping for a little adventure.

I had not realized that I had become that much of an Alaskan until that moment! Yeah, we walk around in the drizzle here. Unlike southerners who are forced to take cover at the very moment those drops start falling. They may start off sparingly, but more often than not, the small wet drops will turn into a huge harsh, hair soaking full blown storm within minutes!

My last trip to Alabama was not long after all of those severe tornadoes that hit the southeast as well as my hometown of Birmingham. Still fresh in every one's mind the normal summer thunderstorm seemed to be a little more dramatic this year. I had been out shopping with my grandson and could see the sheets of rain in the distance. I had forgotten how much I liked to see the rain, or was it just something I was comfortable with? Sometimes it was heading your way, but not necessarily.

Sheets of rain in the distance

We were just leaving one store, but I wanted to run in one more before we headed home. If I'd only known that we would spend over an hour waiting for the storm to pass, I think I would have chosen to run home at that very moment. As we browsed the isles for a few toys for the grand kids, the store clerk mentioned the weather condition. I looked out the windows toward the front and saw the trees bending halfway over. Abandoning my buggy, we walked to the front just in time to see golf ball size hail hurling toward the large store windows. My grandson, still traumatized from the previous tornado activity, grabbed my hand and tried to pull me away from the front. "Noni, we need to take cover," he cried out in horror. Running through the store, I took him (or maybe he took me) safely into the bathroom by the back door. Unfortunately, the back of the store was a low flat roof and the sound of the hail was being echoed on the metal. We could hear the torrential rains through that big old door. I turned on the bathroom exhaust fan and it seemed to drown out all of the terrifying noises.

Birmingham, Alabama June 2011

The electricity was out in the store, but thank goodness for the back-up system that fueled that       exhaust fan!  We spent a lot of time in there, we would venture back to the front to check on the         storm, as soon as the thunder boomed and the lightning flashed, I would chase my little one down the isle again.

It was quite an experience for me, I had almost forgotten how harsh a simple afternoon thunderstorm could be.  As soon as the rain let up and the winds died down a little we jumped into the car and headed back home.

That is quite a foreign story for Alaskans. The only kind of storm that they are familiar with are snow storms. The thought of tornados, hurricanes, 100 degree days and hail are frightening to many. Oh, yeah, and I guess I could add snakes to that list! It's not unusual to hear comments of disbelief of why anyone would want to live with any of those circumstances. Ha! But they easily weather the 20 below temperatures? I guess it's all in what you are used to.
Here are a few pictures of some rainy days in Anchorage. The clouds just lower them selves upon us and leak their wet substance everywhere they go.  (Even the gloomy, grey days have a significant beauty. I love the way the clouds hover over the mountains!)
If you plan a trip to Alaska in the summer, be sure to bring you rain gear!