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.

Monday, March 29, 2010

News, news, and more news

After having nothing to post for the last couple weeks, and doing cop-out posts, including pictures of rabbits, I finally have some news to share with the world:

-I recently received two e-mails. I like to read the older ones first, so I did. It was a call for all teachers to sign up for CASC. That's Curriculum and Standards Committee, for those that don't speak BSSD acronyms. (That's Bearing Strait School District, same reason.) I responded that I would love to be involved, and that I would like to work on my own project, and some of what it entailed. I sent the e-mail off. Then I checked the newer e-mail. It turns out they already knew about my plan, and I was already on the list. So now, between May 23rd to the 28th, I'll be staying in Unalakleet, working on improving the BSSD standards, and how teachers relate to them.

-Today, I received two e-mails. In classic fashion, I read the older one first. It was a call for teachers to help out at the BSSD Welcome Wagon. The Welcome Wagon is where the school gets some rooms at the dorms in Anchorage, rents a couple vans, and some of the returning teachers show up, drive the vans, pick up the new teachers, and drive them to exotic places, like Costco, and the 24 hour post-office. To ensure that we have a well-rounded group of staff, it's going to work like this: everyone that wants to puts their name in. Then the guy in charge asks the principals for recommendations.
Having learned my lesson from last time, I read the second e-mail too. Turns out I'm already on the list.  Nice, huh? It does mean that I can't go to Myrtle Beach with Amy and her family. It also means that instead of spending money, I'll be making money. As for my long-term goals, that's really best.

-We are getting new teachers. Two couples and a single. The single is a transfer from Gambell, and the couples are new to the district. One couple, at least, is new to the state. We've been in a little bit of a housing limbo because "maybe we need a bigger house for a family." However, with no families coming in, Amy and I have been given Melinda (formerly Mary)'s house for next year. It has a much better layout, and actual shelves for supplies in the kitchen. Unlike in our current house, where they're in a bedroom. Melinda is taking the seniors on the senior trip the day after graduation, and is then going straight to Wales, where she's teaching next year. We can, therefore, start moving in a week before school is out. This is good, because of the short time I'm going to have between school getting out and CASC starting.

-My classes are not split up by anything. I've got all the grades and all the levels all mushed in together. I've tried to get them mostly with their own levels, but sometimes it just doesn't work. I tried really hard to get Matt (new guy) to not have more than a two level spread, which has left me with a strange assortment. I've built a system, and it works, and we all get things accomplished, but it does lead to some awkwardness in a couple situations. One such awkwardness involves Corey. Poor, poor Corey. Because he's in level 7, he got put in with one super-senior, four seniors, and two juniors. He's in 7th grade. Being in a class of significantly older kids has mellowed him a bit, so that's nice.
The point: poor, picked on Corey went to White Mountain (they have trees, and hills), where he won two awards: Most improved, and Skimyster (ski-master, I'd guess).  He got first in bi-athalon, second in skiing, and received medals for that. Anyway, here he is, with the other winners:

Friday, March 26, 2010

My other best friend

Amy and I are having a Harry Potter marathon this weekend. We've reached the part where the kids are running from Fluffy, the three headed dog. In honor of this fifteen hour endeavor, I though I'd share some of my other favorite shows, which make life up here more fun:

-House, MD.  Oh, I love this show. Angie has bought me the signed cast photo. The girl knows me. Amy and I currently own all the seasons, and while I am more than willing to watch the new episodes on, Amy likes to wait for them to come out on DVD. I like this show because of the characters, and because the person gets saved at the end.

-Bones. No one gets saved at the end. The guest star is pretty much dead when the show starts. I'm just a big science nerd. Because of the vague attention I paid during my college Anat & Phys class, I know what they're saying before they explain it to the audience.

-Castle. More dead people, but I sure do love Mal. I mean Nathan Fillion. I care more about the characters than the crime of the week.

-Alias. It's over now, which is fine, since I own all five seasons. I watch them about once a year, since I've been getting new roommates, and that's just fine by me.

-Big Bang Theory. We just found this one (thanks Steve) recently. It's a half hour comedy, unlike all the others. Nerd humor. I don't get all of it, but I get enough.

-Dead Like Me. Only went 2 seasons, the whole thing is available on hulu. Did you love Daria on MTV back in the day? You'll like this girl then.

-Psych. I have no excuse for this. I just love it.

-In Plain Sight. Oh, I love Mary Shannon. She's just so angry. And she gets to carry a gun. Why don't I get to carry a gun?

-Better Off Ted. Ted is in charge of the research department of a major, soulless corporation. I feel for him.

I know, this is my second cop-out posting this month. If something fun was going on, I'd post about that instead.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Looking at the archive

I've found that since I started reading other peoples' daily blogs, I feel the need to blog more. This may help explain why I've posted 12 times in the last 23 days, but only 45 times last year.

Umm, and because this post is pretty lame, here's a picture of a bunny:

And a giant rabbit:

I don't know why either.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I was cleaning out some files on my computer, and found some e-mails I'd sent my mom a long time ago, some stories I'd started, and some papers I'd written as examples for my kids. I also ran across something I wrote in an attempt to calm myself. Some of it is interesting, so I thought I'd post it for everyone here. 

   Here I stand, in a shower 1975 miles away from my parents, and 300 miles away from my house, getting ready to wash my hair. I’m standing in a high school locker room, and it has a shower that’s nicer than most of the ones in my village back home.
   I reach for the shampoo, and suddenly remember who used it last. His name was Kevin Hunt, and he was a volleyball player visiting my school. He’d finished playing, and was getting ready to shower himself when he realized that he’d forgotten his own shampoo. I went to my locker and looked at my choices. I had half an inch left of my very girly, expensive shampoo, left by an old roommate, or a brand new bottle of the cheep, unscented, generic stuff. I took the generic stuff, and, on an impulse, grabbed the conditioner.
   He took them, but refused to use the conditioner. When he came back into the gym where I was talking to his coach, he had the goofiest grin on his face. “Feel my hair,” He said. I shot him a questioning look that he responded to verbally, “I used the conditioner.”
    We had a good laugh. I told him he could keep them. I always seemed to buy a set whenever I needed to make the last three dollars for free shipping on an online drugstore site. He laughed and said he had his own back at home. Then he helped me carry some boxes back to my classroom. A really classy kid.
    He went home the next day and killed himself. No one told me the details, and I didn’t push them. I’d known this kid for a day and a half; they’d probably known him their whole lives. I had no business to pry. It’s not uncommon up here, where the sun barely rises for weeks at a time, and fresh fruit is something seen on TV, along with tall trees and clean running water.
   I pick up the shampoo again, and continue on with my cold shower. I am only one of 350 teachers here for the conference, and all the hot water has been gone since we got here. I use the shampoo. It’s all I’ve brought with me to use. I watch the bubbles run down the drain and think about the kids up here in bush Alaska. What life must be like for them, cut off from everything they see on TV and think is how it’s supposed to be?
   I can’t ban them from watching television, and I can’t convince them that not everyone is like the characters on the OC, but maybe I can convince them that life is a wonderful thing.
    I rinse off and get out of the shower.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Blogs I follow

For those of you who don't know, the blogs I like to follow are on the left-hand side of this page. Due to my own inability to remember things, I've got their blog name, post name, and update time all showing. This way, I know which ones I've read. It's also set up to move new ones to the top.

I'd suggest checking some of them out. A couple are daily, and dare I say "professional." The rest are just like you and me. Here is the rundown based on their current position, which will change soon:

Sorority Girl in a Frozen Tundra: This is my roommate Amy. It's her first year up here, so she's a bit better about the new and weird things that happen up here. She is the new preschool teacher, a Delta Zeta, and adorable.

Cake Wrecks: Remember those e-mails we got with the REALLY ugly wedding cakes a couple years ago? Or the "Good Luck, Under Neat That, We Will Miss You" cake?  Jen does. She's created an entire website around professional cakes that have gone horribly wrong. And on Sunday, she does adorable ones.  She loves nerd-things too, which is always a bonus for me.

Lovely Listings: While trying to buy a house near Seattle a couple years ago, Sara came across some truly horrible listings. She decided to share them with the world, and has moved onto a daily blog posting. The listings are now international, and she has a bit of a hang up on plastic lawn chairs. It's good for a laugh. Especially when someone tried to sell a remodeled missile silo for TWO MILLION DOLLARS.

Life as a single professional trying to find joy in the simple things: This is my sister Crystal. She's 27. She's funny. And her blog has a REALLY long name. What's with that Crystal? Also, where is the link to you decorating a cake on Youtube? And did you use a Julia Childs voice?

Darth Logan: Friends little sister, or little sisters' friend. (Small town.) Logan takes turns being funny, truthful, and outright bizarre.  Love you Logan!

Lookin' for Somethin' I Couldn't Find Nowhere Else. . . My BEF (that's Best Enemy Forever) Amanda Pasonen. She's a high school teacher in Golovin. Amanda write about the stress of teaching up here, dealing with narcolepsy, and her puppy-sitting duties.

Jennsylvania: Jen wrote "Bright Lights, Big Ass" "Such a Pretty Fat" and "Pretty in Plaid." She's snarky, irreverent, and I think we'd be friends if we were in the same town. She writes about her adventures, husband, desire for livable housing, and hawking her books.

Moore or Less: Kelly Moore, a buddy from college, writes this blog. She talks about kids, maintaing a household, and the soon-to-be new member of the family. Kelly is funny, and we are friends, even though we're in different cities.

Cowboy Boots and Basketball Shoes: Haley (boots) explores life with her new husband (shoes), her personal trainer (okay, it's a DVD) and her job. Haley sees the funny side of everything, and is a great story-teller.

Alaskan Hughes': I know the Hughes family through church. I haven't actually "met" them, but who ever said that was important. The Hughes family has several children, and enjoys outdoor activities. It's just plain fun to follow their lives.

The View From the North: Ah, the one that started it all. Angie Alston, the social studies teacher here in Shishmaref, and a friend from college, started her blog back in early 2008. She takes wonderful pictures, and tells stories about life up here in this tiny town. She also cooks, and has what can only be described as "madcap adventures." My favorite post involves a bacon tart.

NorthBound River Rat: Anna used to teacher here, then in Elim, and is currently trying to function away from Alaska. I know, right, why? I love Anna's blog when I want to see trees.

Malus domestica: Annajean grew up in the same area I did, went to the same college I did, and then came home and got married (not like me). Annajean is trying to be a "domestic goddess," and reading about her efforts is amusing.

Don't mind me. . .: Sarah and I grew up together, and she's still bumming around the old homestead. I just found her blog a couple days ago, and haven't read through the archive yet.

The Escapades of No Magic Marshall: Remember Haley and Logan? This is one of their brothers. (What, Captain? Too good for a blog?) Marshall only has a half dozen posts so far, (or 3, if we're counting). They've been funny so far, so I'm looking forward to more posts.

Okay devoted followers. If any of those looks like fun, then go follow them too. Also, I thought about making links out of all of their names for you, until I realized that I'm writing about them because they are RIGHT THERE. Wander left and click yourself. You're a big kid, you can do it.

Spring Break - Official Tally

What's that? You want to know what I accomplished this spring break?
Well, let's look at the plan:

-Get my classroom put together
-Wash all the dishes
-Muck out under my bed
-Do all my laundry
-Go to Nome for a couple days

What I actually accomplished:
-Wash all the dishes
-Be sick
-Mourn the loss of my body wash (and it was NEW! And my mom gave it to me for my birthday!)
-Watch 2 seasons of "Dead like me" Good show. A little morbid. It reminds me of Daria.

Maybe I'll accomplish the rest of my list next weekend.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Break

Umm, here's the update on my life, in a two word poem:


Yup, that's all I've got.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Still Sick

It was suggested that I go to the clinic, because I'm still sick. I know what will happen. They will tell me that I am sick, and to drink plenty of fluids, and get enough sleep. I can handle this on my own without going over there. While I'm in this mindset, this is as good a time as any to explain how the clinic here works:

First, you must make an appointment. Usually not for today. Usually for two to three days away. Sometimes for tomorrow.

When it is your appointment time, wander over to the clinic. If no one is behind the glass window, don't worry, I don't think anyone's assigned to work there.

After hanging out in the waiting room for a while, watching daytime television, you'll be called back to one of the exam rooms. If you're lucky, you'll get a parent-teacher meeting done while waiting. After all, in a town this small, the chances of knowing the other people at the clinic is pretty high.

After making it to the back, the health aide will give you a basic physical. Temperature, blood pressure, etc. Then they sit down with THE BOOK. Now, the book looks an awful lot like the self diagnosis pages of the Mayo Clinic's Family Heath and Medical Guide.  But it's not. It's much more specific. It's, umm, laminated. Yeah, let's go with that. Laminated.

Typical conversation:

Me: I think I have strep. Six kids at school have strep, and I'm susceptible.

Health Aide: Well, you have a fever, so, Any aches, headache, cough or runny nose?

Me: No, just the throat.

HA: Any nausea, vomiting or diarrhea?

Me: No.

Okay, I'll let you figure out the rest.  Eventually, they do the swab, and it turns out that sure enough, I have strep.

Then I get some pills, and get to spend a day at home.  Good times.

Well, devoted readers, that's enough from me for today. Happy spring break, everyone.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Don't you hate it when you go to bed with a runny nose, and sometime in the night you wake up to find your face crusted to the sheet by your own mucus?

No? Yeah, me either.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Snow, what else?

Today, it was so cold outside that my shoes actually squeaked while I was walking between the NACTEC house and the Nome school. As far as I remember, this is a first for me.

Angie is going to be in Unalakleet this weekend to take the Praxis II. Therefore, our birthday party has been moved to Sunday. Reports of the festivities will not be reported until after that time.

Also, my middle schoolers are better than Gambell's middle schoolers. I'm so proud of my kids.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I'm in Nome now, at NACTEC house. With 9 of the 7th graders. The other two are: 1) Moved to Buckland with the family, over the weekend. and 2) Burned out on traveling after being in Kotzebue for six days playing middle school basketball.

So far, we've only had one break down and cry because of homesickness. The battery in the van is dead, so only half the kids got to go to the rec center, and the rest got to hang out around here. Between now and Friday morning, we have 8 field trips lined up to teach us about different careers.

I will accept all luck, prayers, and well wishes.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I know that many of you have to be at work before 8:30 in the morning. And for you, I would like to extend my sincerest condolences.

This morning, at 8:28, as I was leaving my house for the commute, I happened to notice that it was light enough outside to see without the outside lights.

That, my friends, is pretty awesome.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Paper Crafts

Inupiaq days are coming up. In April. On the middle/high school side, this means inviting elders, setting up times with the military and dentist, thinking up service projects, and talking to elders about them sharing stories or helping us butcher an animal.

On the elementary side, it means finding the tagboard. The little kids need to do more hands-on crafts, which means preparing more hands-on crafts. The actual elementary teachers are full to capacity this week. Since we're pretty empty over here on the high school side, I agreed to help trace and cut out a few projects.

Project One:

Traditional Eskimo Sunglasses. They used to be made out of wood, and were used like all sunglasses: to block the sun. Currently, we use tagboard, and string. And of course, what good is a piece of paper without some markers, glitter, rhinestones, or paint.

However, these paper pieces don't just come that way. First, a pattern must be procured. We asked the bilingual teachers to sketch one for us, and it turned out very nicely.

After it was traced 106 times, the individual units were cut apart from each other, then trimmed to the right size. Then the eyes were cut out, and finally, two holes for the thread were punched on the edges. Of course, for an authentic look, we'd make the kids bore holes in it, but that could be tedious, especially with the kindergardeners.

Here are the ones we have done as of right now, in the four stages of done-ness.

Project Two:

Little Eskimo people. These little guys work pretty much the same way as the glasses, except that they're bigger. We can only make 9 little guys per piece of tagboard. Understandably, we don't yet have 100 of them done. Not even close. Maybe 40, and those aren't even all cut apart yet.

It's hard to see the pencil marks with this picture, but that second to the right pile is actually little paper dolls I've cut out, except for the tricky part under their arm, in their necks, and between the legs. One of the kids is willing to do it.

These little guys are going to get felt or fabric kuspuks, followed by fir trim. I'm going to guess this is more for the little kids than the bigger ones. (Bigger being 5th or 6th grade).

I was cutting today while my kids worked on their research papers. I'm only needed for clarification while they gather resources, so it worked out well for everyone. One of my girls asked if she could help, instead of working on her writing assignments. I told her that if she studied hard, stayed focused during college, and came back with a bachelors degree, then she too could cut.

Yeah, I'm not laughing either.

And for those of you who think that my life is all fairies and roses, here is my cutting injury:

And that's not a "I just pulled the scissors off" sort of mark. It's still on me, and I've taken pictures, done a job search, and written this whole post since I took the scissors off, and it's still on me. No wonder people like my mom get arthritis in their hands first.  I'm not even thirty yet, and I have caught myself rubbing the joints on my hand like I used to see my grandmother do when she was SEVENTY.

And on that note, I just realized that my other gramma's birthday is today. Which means that my parents' anniversary is also today. And I spaced until just now, at quarter after nine at night, Alaska time. There is a special room in hell for people who forget their parents' anniversary. It's right next to the one for people who leave their cell phones on during class.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ghost Town

I know that my school is small, and I know that we don't have the largest classes in the world. But I normally like to have more than I've had today. We've lost a dozen kids to junior high baskteball, another 8 to high school boys basketball, and five to girls baskteball. Here is the rundown of my classes so far:

First period (writing) 8 kids.  (Bob in math only had 3)
Second hour (Reading) 4 kids (Bob had 4 also)
Third hour (writing) 3 kids. (Bob had like 6)
Fourth hour (reading) 5 kids (I don't know how many Bob has, I haven't been over there yet)

On Friday, we lose several more middle schoolers to skiing.

I don't know what's going on over on the elementary side, but it's pretty lonely over here. Luckily, it gives me the time to work one on one with more kids.