Cold Hands, Warm Heart

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Nome, Alaska, United States
After getting burned out teaching high school in a tiny Alaskan town, I have moved on to being a child advocate in a small Alaskan town. The struggles are similar, but now I can buy milk at the store.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

March Preparation

 Well, my devoted fans, March is quickly approaching. Actually, if you're in Australia, it's already March.  We are currently hunkered down in our house, because it's cold outside.  Here are a couple reasons I'm looking forward to March:

-Equinox. That's right, 12 hours of light again! And after that, it can only get better.

-In the middle of the month, instead of a day to celebrate how alone I am, we get to celebrate my birthday, which is infinitely more awesome. And not just because it has cake.

-No more high school basketball games that require me to make cupcakes, jello or cotton candy, and then sell aforementioned goodies.

-I get to pack up the cheer gear for the year.  I will no longer have to say: "You had better not be eating  blue Mr. Freeze's in my brand new uniforms."

-The 7th graders are I are going to Nome for NACTEC (Northwest Arctic Career and Technical Education Center.) My poor, poor 7th graders who play ball. They're going to be at school on Monday, then in Kotzebue from Tuesday to Sunday, then home Monday, In Nome for NACTEC Tuesday to Friday, home in time for the Junior High Basketball Tournament, which is Friday and Saturday. Then school on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, then spring break Thursday to Sunday. 13-year-olds don't need sleep, right?

-I can spent money again.

-Iditarod. Idita-golfing, Idita-craft, Idata-shopping. Okay, there is no official Idita-shopping. There are a lot of things that start with the I-did-a in front of them.  I think this year, I'll fly in on Friday morning, do everything I want, and come home Saturday night. Since I don't care to watch the basketball tournament, or hang out at the bars for a week, this plan works well for me.

I'd say something about it being warmer in March than February. (Hey, did you notice the thermometer and sun gauge on the side of this blog?) However, it got pretty warm there for a couple days, and now that March is coming, it's getting colder again. My thermometer doesn't seem to think it's as cold as some others'. It's -26 here right now, but that may be because my sensor is next to my house, in the sunlight. I heard that with wind-chill, it was getting down to -40* F in the shade.

Friday, February 26, 2010

February, 2010

Here, on the last school day of the month, I've decided to give a rundown of the month:

-For the first time, as I was walking over to the school, the sky off to the east wasn't black, or even navy blue, but an actual blue color. The view from my classroom, however, is still dark.

-Just to let us know who's really in charge, the temperature has dropped down to NEGATIVE TWENTY THREE DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. Yup, 55 degrees below freezing.

-Speaking of freezing, Financial Freeze February is almost over. So far I've done it, with the following caveats: two trips to the post office, the five dollars my mom sent me for Valentines day, six dollars at birthday parties, and one order on Amazon for birthday presents. I believe that all these things were allowed according to the original rules. I did, however, let Amy buy me Snack Shack last week, so I'll buy next time. She also picked me up cocoa and jam while she was in Anchorage, so I have to pay her back for that. Of course, I still have all my emergency money, so that's not a problem.

-I'm half-way done with my second class for my Masters. I got a 98% on my most recent paper, so that's pretty exciting.

Wait, did I just try to recap a whole month, and only find four things? Turns out I did. Sorry peeps, looks like I'm really boring.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Methods of Knowing

When I was in college, a fellow student (I'm looking at you Denise Hurlbut) would tape a color-change plastic spoon to the outside of her living room window. The spoon started out purple, but would turn pink when used in ice cream, or left out-side in a Rexburg winter.  You may wonder why someone capable of getting into, and staying in, college would feel the need to tape a spoon to the outside of her window. Well, she needed an indoor/outdoor thermometer, and these spoons were free. She knew to wear a sweatshirt, unless the spoon had changed, then it was time to pull out the coat.

Why do I tell this story, devoted reader? Well, I'll tell you:

There used to be an incinerator toilet in my bathroom. If you'd like to see Steve clean one out, go here:
Part of this toilet is the ventilation pipe, which leave the toilet, and runs up through the ceiling, taking all the smells/smoke out of the house.  I do not currently have an incinerator toilet in my house, I have a frame with a bucket. I do, however, still have the ventilation hole in my bathroom. Even when it used to have a peanut butter jar duct-taped to it, it still let in enough of the cold. On days like today, I must first leave my warm bed for my tolerable bedroom. Then I must leave my tolerable hallway for the my bathroom. There's ice forming in the bathroom. And that is how I know how much snow gear to wear on a daily basis.

Did you see there, where I made my rambling wrap back around to the first paragraph? Awesome, right?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

School in Alaska

Well, I've finished paper number 3 for this class. I am now halfway done with these things. With only three more papers, and 9 weeks left, I'm feeling better about the whole thing.

This is a very special time of the year in Alaska. The horned rumor is alive and well. The best place to catch one of these is in the staff room, but classrooms, e-mails, and long distance phone calls are also a wonderful hiding place for the rumor. If you'd like to meet the rumor's fact-based cousin, there is a website to check:

Yup, this is the time of year when everyone in the district starts caring about who is staying, and who is running away. We're having a big turnover in the district this year, with most jobs being filled in-district, so along with the rumors, there is the gossip.

A couple years ago, when our school warranted another English teacher, the job was posted, and everyone in the district that checked it (and cared) thought I was leaving. Well, I'm still here. That job has gone through three people in the last three years. It's sort of our own Defense Against the Dark Arts job.

Another wonderful thing I found on the ATP  (that's Alaska Teacher Placement) website was this fan-freaking-tastic map:

There is a little confusion in my area, simply because the Nome School District is it's own tiny district (by land mass) inside our own district.  While it's not the biggest, I'm thinking that would be North Slope, (home of Barrow, not vampires) I'm going to say that we're probably a close second.

Here are some interesting facts from the website:

"Alaska’s approximately 500 public schools are organized within 55 school districts. These include 34 city and borough school districts and 19 Regional Educational Attendance Areas. REAAs serve students living in towns and villages in politically unorganized areas of rural Alaska. Alaska definitions of “city” and “borough” are not necessarily indicative of an urban setting, but refer to form of political organization."

"There was a time when school districts in Alaska paid teachers significantly more that other parts of the country, and offered many recruitment incentives. Those days are gone. Salaries are somewhere in the middle of the pack when adjusted for cost of living, and only in the top third in raw dollars.
District hiring incentives, such as moving allowances, roundtrip airfare for teachers and their dependents from Anchorage, free or almost free housing, and signing bonuses - all of which were frequently part of the packages teachers signed 12 - 20 years ago - simply don’t exist in today’s changed economic climate."
Okay, that's about all I've got for today. Happy Blogging.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Quick Note

In an attempt to avoid my research paper, I have wandered over to my blog. My paper's coming fine. It's already 4 pages, and I've barely touched the outline I've made (which is still 3 pages long, even after I erased everything I've already written about.) I may have over-planned.

I have to get back to it, but in the meantime, here's a funny picture:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hazard of Living in The Bush

Yesterday, in an attempt to get some dishes done, I started on the prep-work. In the lower 48 (or Nome, Brevig, Whales, Barrow, Fairbanks . . . okay, anywhere that's not here, camping, or a third-world country) all one has to do to prepare for dishwashing is empty out the sinks, put the stopper in, and fill them with hot water, while adding soap.

You knew it wasn't going to be that easy, didn't you? To start with, I checked the water tank in the Kuni-tuk (arctic entry) and ascertained that yes, we had enough water to wash dishes. It's a 300-gallon tank, and there are few times we don't have enough. Actually, it hasn't happened in several years.

For my second step, I checked the five gallon buckets that sit under the sink. You know that area, where everyone else puts vases and Mop 'n Glow. Our buckets were too full to do dishes. I've lived through water shortages before. Last year, we had a glycol leak at the school, and I lived off melted snow for six months. It takes a lot of energy to make enough water from snow to live on.

Since I'm lazy, I usually wait until my buckets get full. This does two things: 1)requires that I take them out before I do anything else, and 2) ensures that I do it, because Amy can't lift a five gallon bucket full of water over the railing to dump it out. There's a lot of things she can do that I can't, but she just doesn't have the upper body strength, or leverage, to do that.

On my way to the outside door, I bumped the inside door, which we usually keep open. It swung back and hit me, and I swung to stop it. Now, devoted fan, I'd like you to imagine a full bucket of water, while being swung. I only lost an inch or two off the top, and with the amount of snow we track into that entry-way, I didn't think it would be a problem. Evaporation is a helpful force in this case.

What I failed to realize at the time, but which has become EXTREMELY clear to me recently is this: the top inch of water is where the grease/oil likes to hang out. When the top inch of water is sloshed onto the floor, that grease goes with it. What started out as a quick water-emptying venture is going to now involve the Swiffer.

Until I get my current research paper done, that's the only story I've got. I'll try to bring funny back sometime after Sunday.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Masters Class

Some of you may be aware that I'm working on my Masters. After all, I have the time, money, and energy right now to get a good grasp on it. Think about all that time you spend; standing in line, waiting at restaurants and drive-throughs. Walking to your car, finding a parking spot, commuting to work, church, clubs, the grocery store, school, post office, sporting events, etc. Window shopping. Buying gas, getting my oil changed, running into town to pick up "one thing". I don't do any of that.

I partially picked Humanities as my major because of the reading list. I've always felt I should be more versed in the classics. Ladies and gentlemen, the classics are kicking my butt.

The Epic of Gilgamesh was tedious to slug through. The Bible, while inspiring, was dense. The Odyssey is long. Like LONG, even in it's tiny print in the anthology. I have 190 pages of it left to read, and a paper to write, so that's why this is going to be a short post.  Just to convince you that I'm working, I took this picture of me:

Man, that book is huge. When kids ask me what I'm reading, I tell them it's my "Read and Respond" book. They have to read for 20 minutes and have their parents sign that they read. They're pretty shocked at the length of my 1670 page anthology.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Halfway Done

Hello Devoted Fans, I have now reached the halfway mark of Financial Frugality Freezey Free February. Yeah, I don't remember what I was calling it either.

Here is the rundown so far:

-14 days down, 14 days to go
-Used all the butter in my house, and Bea gave me some more.
-Really REALLY wanted a Dew at the ball game, so I traded some of the jello I made for one
-I've run out of oil, walnuts, oranges, and cocoa.
-The lettuce I was eating is almost gone, but Full Circle Farms should be delivering some more on Wednesday
-Because I can't make cookies (no choco chips) I've been making pear bread. I'm down to 8 cans of pears, or, as I've come to see it, four loaves of bread.
- My last 50 lbs bag of flour was opened over the weekend. The seniors are planning on giving me another one, since they used one of mine to make the cookies.
- When high school boys come to my house to sell me things, I simply ask them what month it is, and they remember that I'm not buying anything this month.
-Amazon is holding an order to the tune of $115 waiting for the month to roll over, so I can hit "buy".
-My shelves and freezers still have plenty of meat, cheese, powdered milk, pasta, rice, and canned veggies to last me a couple months, which is good, because there's only a couple of months left until school is out, and I can order a new Span set for next year.

And, just to entertain you all:

It's a birthday cake that looks like Eyeore!! Thanks to Cake Wrecks. This is not a wreck. She posts cute things on Sundays.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Well, my devoted fans. I've made it halfway through this month, and have yet to spend a single dollar. Except for those nine at the post office, and we've already decided that those don't count.

Yesterday I traded three cups of cheerleader jello for a Mountain Dew, but hey, I didn't have to pay for it.

On Saturday, we had a teacher work day. There are a certain number of these we have to have over the course of the year. They're usually tacked onto holidays, giving the kids a longer break. However, we like long breaks too, so we stick them on random Saturdays.

My classroom was trashed, with 2 tables covered with cotton candy mess, one of preschool work, one of random stuff of mine, and the sixth missing, replaced by bags and piles of basketball gear. I decided to not work on my projects in my room. Instead, I invaded Bea Stough's room, and set up shop at one of her tables. We worked all day, chatting occasionally. When I mentioned that Financial Freeze February was halfway over, but that I'd have to break into my emergency money to buy butter, she lit up like a Christmas Tree. It turns out that she had accidentally ordered two cases of butter at the beginning of the year, and was just swimming in the stuff. She went home, and returned with a 12 pack of pop box, filled with boxes of butter. And not just any butter, but BUTTER.  I've always been a margarine girl, because it's cheeper, but now I have real butter to eat.

I can almost hear you thinking I'm nuts. Well, I am. Just wait until the tomatoes come in on Wednesday. I'll be doing a little dance.

Oh, right: bla bla bla Valentines Day, bla bla bla Love.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentines Day - Shishmaref Style

Sometimes, I will admit, I resent sharing the common areas of the school with the elementary side. They're throwing balls on one side of the gym while we're trying to eat on the other. There are also times I'm sure they resent us. They lose recess every time we want to set up a carnival/prom/pep assembly/basketball tournament.

Sometimes, though, it's the best thing in the world.

Every year, as a fundraiser, the seniors make and sell cookies with valentines attached. You can write your own little message for the recipient, and they are passed out on Valentines Day, or in our case, the Friday before Valentines Day. I wanted to buy one for Bob, but decided that as part of Financial Freedom February, I would just make him one instead. Well, why make one when you can make 90? I made a dozen big ones for friends on the staff, and over 70 for my kids.

I forgot to take a picture of the big ones, but they really weren't that pretty. I'd been given two copies of the same huge cookie cutter, so I gave one to Daphne Weyiouanna, who loves to bake. She shortened and widened it a little, and it actually looks like a very nice heart now. It was rather tall and skinny before she fixed it, so everyone's cookies were also tall and skinny. Sorry everyone.

And yes, I was lazy and just took this picture from where I was sitting, which is why she's SO FAR AWAY!!!

For the students, because no one has enough flour to make big ones for everyone, I made smaller versions.  I didn't take a picture of my cake pan full of cookies, but I did manage to get one of Patrick, who was kind enough to pose for the picture, in exchange for the cookie. (His 4th of the day.)
Once again, I took the picture from where I was sitting, but I did make him come closer. It's amazing the things kids will do for some sugar.

Now, in case you're wondering why I started today's post with thoughts of the elementary side, here is the reason: When the little kids sit down the night before their Valentines Day parties, they often remember me when making their lists. And this year was no different. So, with no further ado, my Valentines:

The matching hearts came with my cookies, the big paper with the heart-flower came from Lisa and the rest of the Stenek's. The rest are from little girls from the land of tiny chairs. They come to the door, and sort of lurk until I notice them, then I lure them in and they give me my little card. I think they're afraid of the big boys.  Now is the time to go home, and drink half a gallon of water to try and equalize some of this sugar pumping through my system.

May everyone else's Valentines be as wonderful as mine.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Aca Deca

Tonight is the Academic Decathlon district competition. Angie Alston is coaching this year, and has offered me my choice of "speech judge" "interview judge" "essay judge" or "attitude." I told her to put me down for whatever was open when those that cared had picked. I did Speech's last year, and that was sort of fun. It's hard to objectively judge a kid, especially when you helped them write half of the speech. I think I might have judged my own kids too hard, since I expect more out of them.

This year, however, I was put on the interview circuit. I had two of my own kids, Heather and Miizuk, two kids from Stebbins, and two from Savoonga. It was . . . interesting. Some of the kids, especially those who have done this last year, dressed pretty, had sparkling personalities, and had well thought out responses. Some, umm, didn't. But, it's a learning experience.

At the end of the interview (4-6 minutes, or 11. Depending) the student is given a minute to "Share any other thoughts you'd like us to know. Some kids pulled something out, some just smiled and shook their heads. Austin was prepared. While I didn't have the opportunity to interview him, as there were two sets, I did see him go in. It turns out that he told his coach that he was going to spend that minute discussing ice cream. Angie offered him $5 if he could talk for the entire minute. He pulled it off.

Tomorrow is the awards ceremony, so I may get some pictures and post them here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wind Chill

Yesterday, as I walked into my house at 10pm, I glanced at my indoor/outdoor thermometer. (Thanks Dad!!) It said the inside was a wonderful 70*, which is halfway between where I like to keep the heater (65) and where Amy likes to keep the heater (gates of Hades). I also noticed that the outside temp was -25*F. (I've been told that saying 'degrees Fahrenheit' is redundant. I'm just not sure how.)

That means our poor heater is trying to keep our house a whopping 95 degrees warmer than the surrounding air. Way to go heater!

Luckily for me, there was no wind last night. That's the part that makes it feel so cold your eyeballs want to solidify. I'm not joking here, it's felt like that before.

So today, thanks to NOAA's National Weather Service, here is the official wind-chill chart:

So yesterday, regardless of wind chill, I could get frostbite, if not properly covered up, in less than 30 minutes. I know nothing in this village is more than 30 minutes from my house, or even 15, but that doesn't mean I want to be out in temperatures like this.

Here is something I'd never thought of, but which struck me as interesting: Note: Windchill Temperature is only defined for temperatures at or below 50 degrees F and wind speeds above 3 mph. Bright sunshine may increase the wind chill temperature by 10 to 18 degrees F.

Monday, February 8, 2010

7 days down, 21 to go

Week one of Frugal February is now over. And I've survived. Then I put on my coat to come to school today, and it had a dollar in the pocket, and I decided that I needed to get Bob a valentine cookie. After all, he bought me that HUGE BOX OF CHOCOLATES!! So I told Melinda I wanted on, and she said okay. I haven't actually given her the money yet. I wonder if I can barter it somehow? Maybe I'll frost a couple dozen cookies, and she'll throw it into the deal. That won't hurt. right?
In related news: My credit card bill from January came. Right, now I remember why I started this little experiment in the first place.

And for those of you, my patient, devoted fans, who are getting a little sick and fed up of money talk: I'm sorry. I seriously have nothing else to talk about, unless you'd like to know about how dreams are prophetic in The Epic of Gilgamesh, or the use of pastoral language in The Odyssey. (Which I still can't spell without spell check). Besides that, I am going to fundraise with the cheerleaders this weekend. I'll take pictures.

Friday, February 5, 2010


I was hanging out in Bob's room after school today, working on this binder that I'm making for the senior advisor. I just think they should get a heads up before all the weird stuff gets dumped on them.

It's lonely in my room, that's why.

Bob got a new shelf for his student journals. Nice, eh?

And now he's playing the new shelf shuffle. His goal is to end up with a windowsill that's not covered in stacks of books. I applaud his efforts.

During his shuffling, he asks me if I want a present. I promptly responded with: "Candy! Or Tums." (School lunch) Turns out he actually had Tums. So I got some of those. It's my first experience with pepermint, but they're okay.

Then he gave me my actual "present," which was just as awesome:
Don't laugh. I need these, and I didn't order enough this year. Since I'm one of the few teachers in the school using my old projector, these are always welcome. I like them most because I can edit in front of the kids, and they can follow along. I know Smart-boards will do that too. But you can't back a smart board up to make it big enough to trace a Christmas pattern on it, can you? No. No you can't. 

Then I found out that Bob actually bought me a Valentines Day present, which is shocking, because I hadn't actually thought about it. But here it is:

YEAH!! Tums and CANDY!! Bob is great. 

quirk of blogger

Apparently, it doesn't matter if I go back and add a new section for every day to the same post, it still thinks it's only the first post. Which is why my dates are off. If you want to read how my Financial Freeze February is going, check the post from Feb 1. It will catch you up.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Frugal February

DAY 1:
Okay, devoted fans. I have now made it through the first 24 hours of Frugal February. I made sure to eat breakfast to avoid running to the student store during lunch, and I also stayed out of that hallway while it was open.

I will be giving some of my emergency money to Amy, because she's going to Anchorage on Wednesday, for a preschool conference. She's going to bring back jam and backing cocoa. I know, it's not fun or exciting, but that's what I need.

One of my seniors has decided that I will not be able to survive for the 28 days of Financial Freeze February. I invited her to play along, but she declined. Instead, she is going to write down every dollar that she spends for the 28 days, so she can see where her money is going. This should be interesting.

DAY 2:
Went to the dentist. It didn't cost anything, but my insurance may be sending a bill later. This will be paid for out of regular checking account funds, and not my "emergency" money. It would probably wipe my emergency money out anyway.

Spent $9 at the post office today. I mailed a book for Paperback Swap, my dad's birthday present, and a letter to the Department of Revenue, State of Alaska. I had to explain why I was out of the state for 91 days. (See previous posts about senior trip, and Copenhagen.) This cuts into my emergency cash a little, but otherwise, I'm fine.

DAY 3:
I really want cookies. I sort of want Mountain Dew. I am refraining from both. Henry asked if he could eat his sweet-tarts during class if he shared with me. This could be a nice loop-hole to not buying anything. After all, a positive aspect of not spending money is that I can't just buy junk food. This may require more thought.

I went home for lunch, and had a sandwich and an orange. And some of Amy's candy, because she's gone, and she'll never know. Except for the thing where she reads this blog. He He, sorry Amy.

DAY 4:
I accidentally kept my finger on "Shift" while I wrote 4. The "$" came up. Awww. Yesterday I graded papers, made a homemade pizza, and talked to my dad on the phone for 2 hours. No money was spent. I didn't even have the desire. It was nice.

DAY 5:
Basketball games tonight. I always get sucked into buying things. I'm just not going to take any money with me. Besides, there's a different person babysitting the seniors today, and he doesn't know I have a tab, so he probably wouldn't just give me stuff anyway. SCORE.
Recap of basketball games: I went (without paying, which is why I didn't stay). Saw the senior store. Saw the juniors making popcorn, saw the new shirts the activities is putting out, ignored all of it. YEAH FOR ME.  The hardest part about this month-long endeavor happens when I see someone else drinking a Diet Mountain Dew. But, I heave a little sigh and go on with my life. I don't feel like I'm missing out on much. I'm not sure I'd want to do this for much longer than a month, since there are things I like buying, like stained glass supplies, ivory, and snacks, but it's going pretty well so far.

DAY 6:
Today was Saturday, so Frugality was a little easier. I read until 5, slept until noon, and hung around the house playing online today. Then I visited Ken and Lisa, watched a little "Ghost Hunters International" and played with the kids. All in all, a good day. And no money was spent.