Cold Hands, Warm Heart

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Shishmaref, Alaska, United States
I am a high school teacher in a small Alaskan town, working on being part of the community and school, while still getting enough sleep.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess. This princess went on many adventures, and fought many dragons. She had many loyal and faithful friends who helped her on her adventures, and made them exciting and wonderful.

One day, she was invited on an adventure by a fellow princess, who turned out to be a dragon in disguise. The princess was very sad, and didn't feel safe. She spent a lot of that adventure counting down the days until she could return to the castle, and let other people keep her safe. While she was on that adventure, she found out that there was trouble at home. The king had fallen under a spell, and there was nothing the princess could do to fix it.

When the princess was able to, she ran home as quickly as she could, and helped care for the king and queen, who, in turn, loved her unconditionally. There were some small adventures while the princess was back at the castle, but they mostly ended with her back at the castle. While it was nice to be at the castle, and nice to have people around who loved her unconditionally, the princess knew that she couldn't continue to stay there forever. 

The princess bought a new steed, a beautiful blue steed with an extended cab and 4-wheel drive. The princess was very proud of her steed. She also studied under some very wise men, and was able to finish her education. 

The princess realized that the king didn't need her help anymore, so she headed off on another adventure, leaving her new steed behind, because he couldn't follow her through the mountains she had to traverse to get to her new destination. Instead, he was going to get on a barge and meet her the following spring.

I wrote that part yesterday, but I just can't get myself back into the mood to write the rest of the story that way. (No more Nyquil, probably) so I'll just give the current update:

My job is going really well. I adore the other three women in my office. I feel like I'm doing good in the world. Also, when I get lost, I just have to remind myself that I went to school for 4 years and did a semester of student teaching before I was able to teach students, so I shouldn't worry if there are things I don't understand after 3 months.

I am having a really good time in Nome. I've been to several events hosted by the Nome Arts Council, including an open mic night where I recited The Road Not Taken. I'm also taking piano lessons, and while I'm not a naturally gifted player, I'm doing okay. 

Also, I'm in the middle of buying a house. It's 3 bedroom, and has a rental cabin in the back. My offer has been officially accepted, and tomorrow the inspector and I go through it, to make sure it's okay. Then it's just down to the finance guys, and I get to move in on Valentines Day. So that's exciting.

Friday, November 1, 2013

New things to do, new things to learn

Okay the internet, here's the deal with the new job:

1) I've been there three weeks, and I don't even know if it's mine or not. Interviews are next week, and then recommendations are being made to the president, who will decide if I should keep my job, or if the other woman who applied for it should get it. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, but the corporation is a native-owned one, and as such, have native first hiring preferences built into their bylaws. My one hope is that she got bad references and forgets to show up for the interview.

2) The ladies in my office, Luella, Stacy, and Traci are amazing. They are funny, and kind. They are all super-good at their jobs, and are teaching me a lot. Stacy convinced me to fill out a foster-parenting application. I'm halfway through with it.

3) We are working on a project right now to remodel the interview room. Partially because it has poor microphones in it, and partially because it's boring and ugly. The paint is WAY too bright, there are no comfortable grown-up chairs, and the sound echos both into and out of the room. I've been working on improving the sound quality in the room (acoustic panels and thick rugs) and Luella is working on microphones and furniture. We're also working on a Rasmuson grant to help pay for it, as our office is entirely grant funded.

4) I don't get to talk about the kids I meet there. Not their ages, genders, or reasons for visiting. Nope. Nada.

5) I am currently working on a project where I make coloring books, and age appropriate books and toys in bags for the clients when they come. Today I bought $50 worth of beading supplies, and will spend a chunk of time next week making baggies of bracelet making kits.

In other news, I've started writing my novel for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, which started today. I'm 850 words in, so that's going. Also, I start piano lessons tomorrow morning, and I'm taking a pottery class through the college starting Monday. I wasn't planning on all these things starting at the same time, but I think I'll be okay. One of the ways this job most surprises me is that when I clock out at the end of the day, I'm done. Like, done-done. There's no work to take home, in fact, I shouldn't take work home. And since I'm being paid by the hour, the company doesn't really want me to stay until all hours working overtime.

Life in Nome is a bit of an adjustment, but I think I'm doing fine.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nome, Alaska

Recently, my mother posted on Facebook about how very few of her children were staying current with their blog posts. I reminded her that the URL for my blog is "Colleen in Alaska," and it was about my adventures teaching. Since I was both unemployed and not living in Alaska. I felt very justified in not updating this. Now I'm back in Alaska, and working with children again. So while the premise changes a little, the overall theme of the blog doesn't. Let's go back and recap the summer:

As my time in Akiachak came to a close, I looked for jobs on the road system, and also down in Washington. I didn't want to be more than one flight or a 4 hour drive from home. This limited me to areas with major airports, or Western Washington. 

I returned to Washington, moved back in with mom and dad, and started applying for jobs locally. I applied for jobs, and more jobs. I got an interview out at the ocean, and thought it went well, but... I also received rejection letters. Lots and lots of rejection letters. Some through e-mail, some were actually written on paper and mailed to me. They depressed me. A lot. I'm not sure how authors do it. I'd go through the mail, open a rejection, and go lay in my bed and cry for a while. It got bad. I got depressed. I kept filling out applications, but I figured nothing would happen. And I was right, nothing did.

Then a job opened up in my hometown, and I was stoked. This! This right here! This is the reason I hadn't gotten another job! I was destined to stay in Woolley, get a job, buy a house, get a dog, and live the rest of my life out as planned. Mom and I went to the open house that that particular school was hosting, only to find that they weren't actually hiring someone. They just had to post the job so they could hire the woman they already had picked out. And something in my broke. I couldn't even hold out until I was home to break down and sob. I felt like such a failure as a person. I couldn't get a job, I had few friends left in the area, and I didn't even have a dog.

I texted Matthew that night and asked if I could come to Utah for a week-long vacation. I'd been avoiding spending a lot of money, or taking too much time away from looking for work, after all, what if I went on a vacation and got a call for an interview!? 

So I gave up and went to Utah to visit family and friends. I had a fantastic time. I saw friends and family, I bought Kendall licorice, and we looked at horses. And, during that time, I was offered by four households to move in with them while I looked for work. And I know that my personal self esteem shouldn't be influenced by outside sources. I know that I shouldn't feel like a failure just because I was unemployed, and I shouldn't feel good about myself just because my friends loved me. Oh well, that's how it works.

One of the offers of residence was from one Miss Erin Margaret, in Nome. She owns and runs a coffee shop here, the Bering Tea. She needed a vacation, and wanted someone she trusted to oversee her employees and drink hot chocolate. I figured I was qualified for that. She also informed me that if I wanted, I could probably get a job or two while I was here. In fact, if you don't get a job in Nome, it's because you're not trying.

So I agreed to come up for a month. And once a couple people from a couple different HR departments found out I was coming, and with a strong recommendation from a different friend, I had people calling me. Then, this other friend, Traci, called me herself, and let me know that she had an opening for a child advocate at the Child Advocacy Center, which she ran. Since I already had an application in for Kawarek, the local non-profit, all I had to do was send my paperwork to her, and she offered me a job.

So now I'm in Nome, training to be a child advocate, and waiting for my boxes to show up. I'm renting a house with Erin, and looking into buying a 4-wheeler, which I can drive on the streets, all winter. This would be less expensive than shipping my truck up, and it gets better gas milage than a real car. I work half just about exactly half a mile from work, so while it's a nice walk home, the 8 am walk in is less than pleasant on some days. And soon we'll get snow.

More information to follow as I continue my training and become more integrated into life here in Nome. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Life update

Happy August, everyone. So, what's an Alaskan teacher to do in the summertime in Washington? I'm thinking of my post from last summer that has every other line item as "look for work." This will be very similar:

-Look for work
-Procrastinate working on Masters Thesis
-Look for work
-Go to Portland to visit Amy Cellar!
-Swim laps
-Look for work
-Grandpa's 80th Birthday Party!
-Swim laps
-Look for work
-Single adult conference (Hi Steve!)
-Swim laps
-Get rejection phone call from interview
-ignore looking for work
-ignore classes
-be a bit depressed
-continue to swim laps
-support parents after dad's heart bypass
-get out of funk
-work on thesis
-swim laps
-apply for jobs
-get letter of rejection for a job I didn't apply for
-sleep study. Worst night ever.
-frantically work on thesis
-Swim laps
-turn in thesis, find that there are no jobs open right now, pool is closed for a week.

-now what?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dad's Heart Attack

Everything is fine now.

On Sunday morning, Dad had a massive heart attack. The paramedics responded with amazing speed, and he was quickly rushed to Skagit Valley Hospital. He had two angioplasties, and a breathing tube, and was put into a medically induced coma until he was able to breathe on his own.

Last night, I was able to talk to him for the first time since he woke up. He's doing fine, and is in good spirits. He's messing with the nurses and making jokes.

My mom told me to stay in Alaska, and to not skip out on work to come home. I obeyed, and when I talked to my father, he said the same thing. I have 5 more weeks here in Akiachak, and then I get to go home and hang out with my dad.

Let the countdown begin.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Today is the first day of parent-teacher conferences for the 3rd quarter of the year.

Let's keep track of the project as time goes on today:

2:20: School lets the kids out.

2:30: Parent Teacher conferences official start.

2:40: MY DOOR OPENS! Oh, it's just a kid, bringing back a broom. No parents yet. I wonder what's on Youtube?

2:43: PARENTS! The parents of one of my favorite kids (Oh, wait, are we not allowed to have favorites? Whoops.) came in and we talked about their son, and waving at strangers, because you never know who they'll be. We talked about how the husband waves at planes, in case they're looking, and how the wife is afraid of moose on the path. We talked about my new ice cleats, and the mittens Diana made me back in '04. All in all, it was a fantastic conversation.

3:00: More parents! Not quite as fun, but really, what do you expect?

3:10-3:50: Proofread a persuasive essay for the parent of two of my kids. Seriously. For 40 minutes. It was a good paper, it just needed proofreading, which is what we're working on in class too. Her husband seemed a bit grumpy about it, but I showed her how to track changes, and how to insert page breaks. She was impressed.

3:55: The mother of one of my students talks to me about her son's missing assignments. I discuss his ongoing stomach problems. Both issues are assigned to the suicide of his brother from November. We are both fine with this.

4:00: Watching Youtube videos.

4:15: Parents!

4:19: Youtube.

4:45: I've talked to two other teachers, and I've watched Youtube videos since my last check-in.

5:15:  I think we're done here.

And we have them again tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Spring is coming. I think. No, no, it's coming. I'm pretty sure. And here is the proof:

I haven't seen those fuzzy nubs on the trees before, so that must mean it's spring, right? Either that, or it's warm enough to walk around with my hood off, so I can see them for the first time.

 While getting ready to take the previous picture, I stumbled across some rabbit tracks. There they are, hopping through the snow.
 The top crust is strong enough that I could lean on it to take the picture, but not to step on, or I'd fall through.

And these are my footsteps, forwards and backwards. There's a pretty thick crust, followed by a lot of fluff. 
 Standing on the school porch, this is a view of the cemetery. It's up there on the hill. You can just make out the white crosses on the ridge.
And for those of you (Matthew) who think that the amount of snow I'm working with her is the same as the amount of snow you have down there, this is the snowdrift that the maintenance men had to dig through to clear our path. In real life, the path is a wooden sidewalk, and the pile of snow is actually a hill sloping DOWNHILL towards those basketball hoops.

So yes, this is spring, kind of, sort of. The main noticeable difference is the amount of sunlight we are getting now. There are days when I walk to school in the semi-light, and walking home in the light. It is awesome!