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.

Friday, April 30, 2010


Apparently, Melinda is planning on being out of our new house by tonight. Since most of her stuff will be in Wales by tonight, she's moving in with a friend, who still has things like silverware, and laundry soap.

How does this news affect me? I can start the move to the new house this weekend, instead of in three weeks, like previously planned. And I'm pretty excited about this. It means I can clean out the house while we move.

Those movies I never watch? They don't get to come.

Couscous someone else gave me when they moved out? Not coming.

Four sets of sheets that are going to be too small for my new king-sized bed? Garage Sale!

The flimsy garbage bags I don't like and will never use again? Garbage!

See, I've got plans already! More to come as events unfold.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


The sun came up at 6:25 this morning. It will remain up for 17 hours and 10 minutes. And tonight, it will set at 11:35.

My bedroom window faces due East. In the winter, this is not a problem. However, this time of year I've got full sun coming straight in my bedroom in the wee hours of the morning. I also have light coming in until after 12:30 at night. (I don't know when it gets dark, I can't stay up that late anymore.) For all intents and purposes, it's light all the time for me. This makes sleeping hard.

I finally put tin foil up over my bedroom window. I was thinking it looked a bit white-trash, until I realized that from the outside, one would have to look across a dead, rusted out pickup truck to even see it. And then I felt better.

Okay, a disclaimer: This is not my town. For starters, our sun actually goes down, for a couple hours in the summer, but it never gets dark. Also, we are still frozen solid up here.  But this picture gives a pretty good idea of what "sunset" looks like once you go about 20 miles North.

picture of Arctic Ocean Midnight Sun Image

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Peace on Earth

While in Unalakleet, I had the opportunity to eat at Peace on Earth, a pizza/sandwich/pasta place here in town. The last time I was there, I took some pictures, and now I'm going to share:

The order counter, Bonnie, and the ice cream cases, which currently hold no ice cream.

Jan from Teller, and the rest of the kitchen counter thing.

Here is the district librarian (on the left) Darla. Darla is AWESOME. That's a stage in the back, for the band. While we were there, the band was out on the porch practicing.

Okay, nothing big for today. This is the closest I had to an adventure in the last couple days.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Reasons I like being in Unalakleet:

-Showers with adjustable heat

-Piece on Earth (Pizza place)

-Driving around in cars

-Darla, and free books

-New ideas to use in my classroom

Reasons I'd rather be in Shishmaref:

-I miss my kids

-I'm worried about what my kids are doing during class time this close to graduation

-Full sized bed

-Amy is back in Shishmaref

-I can cook what I want at home

-Couches and Lay-z-boy.

So, overall, I'm pretty excited about being here. And I'm going out to dinner with the librarian. So that pretty much rocks. On Sunday, I'll be glad to be home.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Trip to Unalakleet

Today I was on what one might call "the milk run" on my way from Shishmaref to Unalakleet. I started out with Janelle and Corey, who were headed to Nome for an Elders/Youth conference.

Janelle, who you may recognize from such posts as "Trip to Copenhagen."

Corey, who I went to Nome with for NACTEC a couple weeks ago. The funniest part of this trip was that those two, who just happened to be on the same plane I was on, assumed I was in charge of them. They didn't go anywhere without checking with me, and also expected me to buy their snacks. Okay, we all know I'm a push-over, and would have bought them anyway.

On our way to Nome, we stopped off at Teller to pick up another C&I member for my trip, and four more kids for the conference. Teller sticks out into this lagoon, and on the other side is Brevig Mission. They're 8 miles apart. 

What we're looking at here is that big chunk of open water near Brevig Mission. We don't have any open water, and they already have this big chunk. Down here in Unalakleet, they also have big swatches of open water, and you can see the ice actually floating around on it.

This is just a shot of how close we were to the mountains. Since we were bouncing between small villages, we didn't get up very high.

White Mountain Airport. And yes, those are TREES!!!! We were pretty excited when we saw them.

I couldn't help it, I saw a whole forest of trees, and took pictures of those too.

This is the open water outside of Unalakleet. And the village is down there, somewhere. Considering I took all of these pictures with my laptop, using PhotoBooth, I'm pretty impressed with the results.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Inupiaq Days

Inupiaq Days is officially over. The basketball tourny will go on tonight, and all day tomorrow, but as far as my part: I'm finished. Well, sort of. I'm tabulating the exit surveys the kids filled out this afternoon. More on that will follow.
One of the classes we had this week was butchering, and that was followed by cooking. Tonight, as part of tradition, we had the Elders Feast. It's held in the home ec room during the ballgames, and elders wander in whenever and eat. Then community members, and kids, and teachers, and whoever else is wandering around. There are FOUR giant pots of soup left. We could probably just drag those into the gym and start ladling.

I had dinner too:
Top left: Noodle salad. It's good. It's also the same thing you had at the last church potluck. The pan it came in looks surprisingly like one of the school bowls. When asked, the bearer of the salad changed the subject.
Top right: She-fish. (her-fish?) I don't know what this is called anywhere else, but it's light and flaky. Yum!
Bottom left: The school cooks made rolls today for dinner. Thanks cooks!
Bottom middle: Cake. You know, cake.
Bottom right: That's not the best picture, but that's caribou steak. One of our seniors cut it up and fried it up in the school kitchen. Then he loaded his serving platter up and walked away. I got to use my muscles to open the heavy duty cleaner so the cooks could scrub the grill. Sorry cooks.
Caribou tastes like caribou. It drives me slightly nuts when people say stuff tastes "like chicken." If everything tasted like chicken, we'd just eat chicken. (I'm not knocking chicken. I love those tasty little guys.) I'm just saying that caribou doesn't taste like cow. A bit like moose, yes, but cow? Not really.

I am just so appreciative of everyone who helped at Inupiaq Days. It was an amazing success.

And now for some specifics:

Dolly - When asked to teach Crocheting, she readily agreed. She brought her own hooks and when no one told her the box in her room was for her (full of yarn) she pulled out her own supplies. She required no supervision, and asked for nothing. She is my hero.

Bob- Speaking of heroes. Bob said that while he had no Eskimo skills, he'd do what needed to be done. We decided to have him haul trash for elders, but then it warmed up, and the roads got slushy and we couldn't drive the truck, so he had his eight classes clean out the trophy cases. Dusting, organizing, hanging plaques, and measuring all random pictures and certificates so we can buy frames for them. Bob also required exactly ZERO directions, help, or assistance. And the trophy case looks AMAZING.

Bessie- Bessie wasn't even planning on being here this week. She was supposed to be running her dogs in the city races. However, because of the same mushiness, the sleds can't go out on the lagoon. Bessie picked up wherever we needed her, taking over classes for a person who couldn't make it. Today, she took over the preparations for the elders feast, organized the helpers, and got everything ready. She is an amazing woman, and I couldn't have done this without her.

Bea - Bea had the same job on the elementary side I did over here. Officially, scheduling. In reality, scheduling, organizing, preparation, planning, procuring supplies, organizing supplies, and putting out fires when people didn't show up to teach their classes like they promised.

Floyde- For patiently listening to me when I cried in his office about how my job was too hard, and everyone was picking on me. And then telling me that he appreciates everything I do, which just made me cry again.

My parents- (okay, this is starting to sound like an awards speech) Why mom and dad, you may ask? Because they taught me to do what needs to be done. To step up and take on a project for the good of the community. To be organized, hard working, persevering, and capable of finishing a job. To schedule 45 middle and high schoolers in such a way that no one has to sit for too long, isn't with people they hate, and doesn't have to sew unless they want to. Watching my mom organize girls camp was a great lesson for this sort of work.

Okay, this has gotten wordy, and text-dense. Here, this seal was in the boys locker room defrosting before being butchered:

And here it is, being kupshuqed (Yeah, spelling. Whatever.)

One more semi-random thought for the day: There are several words in Inupiaq that have worked their way into our current speech patterns. To remove the blubber from the pelt is kupshuq.  To piggy-back a baby inside your coat is amuq.  This is not the weird part. The weird part is that most people I hear use current, English language suffixes on them. I have kupshuqed. I am kupshuqing. I will kupshuq tomorrow. No one really notices. It's pretty funny, if you think about it. Or maybe that's just my nerd humor.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Way too excited

First off, I'd like to remind everyone that there was an "actual" post after that joke about why I was posting. You just have to scroll down.

Ladies and Gentlemen. I have an announcement. No, not that.  No, not that either. Please, just let me finish.  I went to the post office and got my mail today. (No, Amy, that's not the news. I do know how to go to the post office. Just because I don't doesn't mean I forgot.)  My Amazon box came in, and here are the three things I am most excited about:

Part of me feels shame at my joy about these purchases. (Great job fundraising to everyone involved!) I know it's just cheerleading. I know that they are in 4th - 8th grade, and that they fall pretty low on the totem poll of district sports. But you know what? I love those girls. Even when I catch them eating ice cream sandwiches while doing their sit ups. 

Also, I'm excited about having new resources with new cheers, and better exercises. I am fully aware that I was never a big cheerleader supporter during high school. Okay, so I used to take a book to pep assemblies. But I'm starting to appreciate this sport. 

After we move into the new house, the cheer girls and I are going to have a slumber party in the empty house. They're pretty excited. And it turns out: I'm pretty excited too. Sometimes they're nuts. After all, they're struggling with adolescence, and their own identities. But in the long run, they're a pretty decent set of girls. And I'm looking forward to next season.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dad said. . .

There is a potato processing plant (transfer station?) near my home. It has a reader-board out front. This board doesn't display hours of operation, or upcoming events. Nope, it just had punny things on it. And one time, it said: "Delia said I had to change the sign."  It was the first time I'd seen that, and I just found it funny.

With that in mind, Dad said I needed to post more.

Okay, in real life, I am currently working on fabric prep for inupiaq days. First we cut fleece into squares, then cut notches out:

Now I'm cutting strips out of the sides. Next week, the kids will tie the two sides together, and fill them with stuffing. And then they'll have a pillow.

Yup, these are the things I do when I'm not living my glamorous life. Yup, glamorous life of . . . umm. . . swimsuit modeling and jetting off to Paris for a real French-tip manicure. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Testing Week

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, we've reached that all too familiar portion of the year. Well, familiar if you work in education. Yes, that's right. It's time for State Mandated Testing. Bum-bum-bum *fake thunder*

Yesterday was Reading, today is Writing, and tomorrow is Math. Friday is Science. So far, I haven't proctored. Which means that instead of sitting in a room with kids I'm not allowed to talk to, I'm in a room with all the kids who have already finished, who just want to get their work done, so they can graduate. Once the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam has been passed, one no longer has to take it. Of course, we also have super-seniors who will be taking the test today for the 7th time. (The initial test is in the spring, but there is a re-test in October, too.)

Tomorrow, I will proctor the math test. I'm not allowed to proctor reading or writing because that's what I teach, and it's frowned upon. I'm considered a safe proctor for math, since I don't have access to the kids in that subject.

After signing for the tests and getting the kids set up, proctoring involves watching them to make sure they don't cheat, and calling down to the office so an individual can be escorted to the bathroom. It doesn't require a lot of skill.  Proctoring is like this, (stolen from

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The beginning of the end

Well, ladies and gentlemen. The robots are starting to take over.

In their attempt to gain sentience, and take over the world, they have taken their first baby step. And this is it: My alarm clock has automatically reset itself for daylight savings. What someone has forgotten to inform my alarm clock about is the change in the day we switch the clocks.

This morning, I walked into my bedroom, and was SHOCKED at how late I was up. Until I realized it had already reset itself. Thanks alarm clock. Thanks.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Big News

The math teacher and I have decided to stop denying our feelings, and have set a wedding date for a year from today. Yup, April 1st.