Cold Hands, Warm Heart

My photo
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, May 31, 2010


Anchorage is better than Shishmaref because:

-French fries are cheap and plentiful.
-Get to ride around in cars.
-Temple recommends.
-Get to go to the DMV tomorrow.
-Prom dress shopping.
-Free and plentiful hot water.
-No phone calls.

Shishmaref is better than Anchorage because:

-I know all the kids at the store.
-Everything is close together.
-Not as many temptations to spend money.
-Ice cream is rationed a little better.
-No one else crawls into my bed in the night. (The little girl whose bed I took over. Get you mind out of the gutter).
-No phone calls.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Letter Home

Issued solemnly, this the 27th day of May, 2010 to Mr. And Mrs. Deighton acknowledging your inclusion in the distinguished list of family, friends and loved ones of the beloved Alaskan Teacher Colleen Deighton. 

By virtue of the astounding, if not mind-boggling 42 wonderfully accumulated weeks composed in equal parts of sand, work, snow, darkness, tears and incredible joy in the service of the youth of Alaska, the Re-integration committee has decreed that the time has come for these calloused, blistered, tired and dirty feet to take a rest.

Soon this teacher will once again be in your midst, wearing out-of-style clothing, tanned from the neck up and wrists down, but full of love for her children, to once again enter into the high tech and overcrowded Continuous United States of America.

As chairman of the committee responsible for homeward bound teachers departing from bush Alaska, it is my duty and privilege to inform you of the return of Colleen Deighton to the United States of America, after she has completed her service to the Bering Straits School District, Shismaref Site.

In making proper preparations to welcome Ms. Deighton back into reorganized society, it is suggested to keep in mind the confined, foreign environment that has controlled her life for the past two years. You may want to stock your kitchen with such items as fresh cookies, fruit, vegetables with no soft spots, meat that hasn’t been frozen twice, any kind of homemade goodies, and of course your child’s favorite dish. Kindly dispose of any signs of moldy bread or frozen cheese, powdered milk, and boiled or Clorox added drinking water.

Try to understand when she has untimely and uncontrolled cravings for Eskimo Ice Cream, Nome Cake, Musk Ox, and fajitas made with Caribou. Don’t take it personally when she refuses to drink the water out of the tap, keeps a glass in the fridge, or refuses to clean her toothbrush right out of the sink. Don’t be alarmed when she washes her fruits and vegetables with Clorox water. Please take into consideration and do not be disturbed when she eats with her elbows on the table, reuses her paper plate, and throws leftovers out the window. Be sure to have a full tank of HOT WATER, so that she can enjoy her first bubble bath or private shower in a LONG time.

Do not be surprised when he watches the water swirl down the toilet with amazement, or continually checks under the sink to see if the drain bucket is full. Running water will be a relatively new concept for her. Also things like heat vents, air conditioning, washers and dryers in the home, carpet in the bedroom and vacuum cleaners will be totally foreign to her. Do not be surprised when she wears flip flops in the shower, tries to lock her shower supplies up in a cupboard in the bathroom, or gets dressed to go to the bathroom in the morning.

You will need to remind her not to use the broom on the carpet in the house to clean, because it is inefficient on all carpets except institutional. You can also tell her it is not necessary to put tin-foil on the windows at night. Yes, you will need to let her know…THE CAMPING TRIP IS OVER!!!

If she is made aware of an illness, virus or disease, she will have the tendency to prescribe drinking something with stink weed in it, that being the general cure for everything in the Bush. And if stink weed doesn’t work, a shot of penicillin from the local health aids will.

Please do not be disturbed when she tries to answer your questions with a raise of the eyebrows or a wrinkle of the nose. Do not be surprised if she repeats herself three times when speaking to a group. Please also ignore the use of definitions, what the word means, in every-day conversation.

This poor woman may have tendencies to get ready for church very late. With a commute of 45 seconds, anything longer seems like forever. Please kindly remind her that she doesn’t have to take roll at all meetings, reprimand small children she sees in public, or submit weekly plans in writing.

Your child is not used to driving a car. You can give Ms. Deighton her copy of the car keys, but before doing so you must teach her the rules of driving again. You see, she has been under the influence of “Bush Drivers” which means ANYTHING GOES- driving the wrong way down one-way streets, stop signs as suggestions that the bigger vehicle goes first and the little one should stop, not stopping for the police, the Largest vehicle has the right-of-way, etc.

You will also want to explain the purpose of the lines in the road-where they came from, why they are there, and where they go.
 She may also need to be reminded that the hard stuff is called pavement, and one can drive faster than 20 miles an hour on it. She will also have to be reminded that five people do not fit in the cab of a pickup, nor can all five go without seat-belts. She may try to get 15 people in the back of a truck to drive the garbage to the dump. Please stop her from doing this before she gets a ticket. Please explain what tickets are.

For the first few weeks she is home, accept with understanding her broken English. A simple request for a translation will be sufficient when he involuntarily breaks into a dialogue known as “pigeon.” She may, also, pause a long time to think of a preposition or suffix. Please be patient. 
Take into consideration her fragile “state of mind”. Do not be bothered if she taps the door and yells “Knock knock”  while walking into a room uninvited, instead of waiting to be invited.

Please do not judge her crazy when her only topics of conversation are middle school cheerleading, the new vice principal, or how much snow fall we got this year. Ignore the following acronyms:  BSSD, SHH, SIP, DART, QSM, IM, or HS/JH. Do not be embarrassed when she says hello to strangers at the store, or strikes up a conversation with the clerk at the gas station.
 Also, when asked to run to the store before 9 am or between 6 and 7, don’t be alarmed if she replies saying, “I can’t, they’re closed!” Just patiently remind her that she is in the States now and CAN go whenever she wants.

You are hereby warned and duly cautioned to treat the newly delivered bush teacher with great care, courtesy, affection, and love. Humor her in every way possible. Remain calm when she tries to interact with strange children. She is used to having children around 24 hours a day, so don’t be alarmed if she starts watching Dora, or has an uncontrollable need to cut out shapes.

Please remember that this bush teacher is accustomed to a strict and organized daily schedule and anything that may interfere with her daily meals and bathroom breaks may cause her to react in strange ways. All individuals react differently. She may type up schedules and post them, or ask her siblings why they didn’t go to the bathroom before the show started. We all pray that none of these possibilities will occur.

As of now, you are officially warned of the daily sights that your teacher saw.
 She will surely be suffering from “Bushitis” an extreme love for the Inupiaq people, so please try to understand when she gets that far away look in her eyes and tears brim and quietly excuses herself from the room. She will be thinking of that far away land and the people that she has grown to love and who have changed her life. But broken hearts are mended with lots of love, hugs and chocolate-chip cookies with milk and with a little bit of patience, tolerance, kindness, and time, she will once again resemble the pre-Alaskan specimen that you once knew.  You may be confused by her need to drum on things and sing from deep in her throat, or dance without moving her feet. She may feel a deep desire to wear beaded hair ties every-day, or change into sandals in the house. Remind her to put on a sweatshirt when she goes out in 40* weather. Even if she laughs and says it feels tropical.

So this is it. SHE IS COMING HOME!!! I thank you for giving close attention to these matters, and I hope that this information will be of assistance in giving your bush teacher a warm WELCOME HOME.


C.U. Soon
Director of Teacher Re-Inigration 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


If you look off to the left, you'll notice that sunrise in Shishmaref is 4:41 in the morning. And that sunset is at 1:20 in the morning. And that leaves only three hours and twenty minutes with the sun down.

Dawn and dusk are always longer up here. But at this point of the year, they've grown together. It won't get really dark again until August.  One of the things I always look forward to is the sun setting once I hit Anchorage. They're far enough south that it happens there.

So here I lie, in bed at midnight, and I can still see direct sunlight on the building across the way. Also, the classroom I'm sleeping in doesn't have curtains, so it's going to be light in here for a while.

Good thing there's tv on-line.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

This Old House

No, we're not talking about renovations. But we might be soon. I check out of the house in about 15 minutes. For the first time since I got it, I feel okay about taking pictures of everything at the same time.

A quick note beforehand: there are three things going to the new house that just haven't gone yet: the little freezer, the green couch, and the treadmill.

The kitchen:
See how tiny? See how little counter space? The new kitchen is huge, and has a real table with four chairs around it. Also, our food storage can go IN the kitchen instead of NEAR the kitchen. 

On that note, the storage room:

The treadmill does not belong in the storage room anymore. Also, there are two more shelves like that black one.

Living Room:
And a picture that Victoria colored. I found it on the back of the door this morning. Funny, funny.

And, where I liked to spend a third of my life:

Oh, you can't see the green linoleum on this picture. Just believe me that it's there.

And to tie the whole thing together:
Kitchen on the right, standing in the living room, and looking down the hallway to the bedrooms. Ah, there's the green flooring. 

Okay, what I would like to do now is show you the new house, but it's a mess. Boxes everywhere, and the table is already covered with stuff I don't know what to do with. So those pictures are going to have to wait. 

This wasn't a bad little house, but it also doesn't have enough room in the kitchen for both of us, nor does it have a king sized bed. 

Steve should be coming over to check me out in the next couple minutes. 
Good-bye house.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Okay, quick post today.

We had the end of the year assembly today. One of the silly little games we played was Tug-of-war. The k-3 boys fought the k-3 boys. Then the 4-6. Then 7-12. And just to be funny, they put the teachers against the high school boys. There were more of them. But we prevailed. It was our very very heavy brains that helped us out.

Or maybe we're just stronger. I thought I'd get a nice grip, so I wrapped the rope around my arm, and pulled with all my might.

I would like to take a moment to say that this is not a new and pretty rope. It's old, it's scratchy. And it gives one heck of a rope burn.

Steve Alston has one too. When we went to check them out against each other, he told me:

"Does yours hurt to poke? Mine hurts to poke." Turns out I hadn't tried mine yet, but yes, it hurts to poke. 

And this is the news for the day.

UPDATE: My mark is starting to bruise up very nicely. Steve still has his initial mark, but no bruising around it. We both still feel pain when we poke our arms.  But, to beat the high school boys, it was worth it.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Okay, prom is over, the move is underway, and graduation is tonight. But I have funny things to share.

First off, it snowed last night. And not a sprinkling, either. A good inch and a half. In May. MAY! So hopefully for the last time, I shoveled the front porch this morning.  Okay, it was the new front porch, which isn't nearly as big, but that's where the shovel is.

Then I walked over:
And yes, the lake isn't nearly as big as it was last year, but it's still wide enough that one can't walk from there to here without getting stuck.

I tried to walk over to the school from the new house, but hit the edge of the pond, and went to step up onto the hill next to my house.  And my foot slid down the hill. So I readjusted, and my foot slipped again. So I scrambled quickly, and both feet slipped. Then I stood there looking at the ice slick I'd made with my shoes, and figured: eh, screw it.  So I took them off, scrambled up the hill, and walked to my old house. It turns out that walking through snow is easier if it's on top of regular sand, and not a sheet of ice.

I'm at the school now, safe and sound. Amy followed me over, and hasn't mentioned my bare-foot prints. Maybe she didn't notice?  

It's time to get my room put back together for the week. Four more days with the kids.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


This year, we had very little snow. Don't get me wrong here, we had snow. Lots of snow. Just not as much as last year.

Because of that, meltdown hasn't been nearly as horrible. I have only slid into a pond once, and I've only lost my shoe when my foot fell deep into the snow once. I did have to be dug out by a little kid with a shovel, but that was only because I didn't want to put my foot down in the snow.

Here's my house yesterday morning, and the puddle. 

I had big plans that involved documenting this lake that is created every year between my house and Ken's. So, of course, there is no lake this year. This makes me sad. In years past, it has gone from my porch post to Kens.

This sucks. Whatever. K. Bye.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Upcoming Events

Here's what's coming up in my life:

Wednesday: Assembly from our Elders about healthy summer-time activities. Should run from 3:00 -3:45.

Thursday: Public Health Nurses come back and check my TB test.

So far, so good. It's starting to bruise, which is not normal for me. However, it is completely flat, which is nice.  I also got a shiny holographic band-aid, and a Disney Princess sticker for not crying.

Okay, so the stickers were for the kids. That's not the point. I didn't cry, I get a sticker. That's all there is to it. Angie didn't get a sticker, because she didn't ask, so she went and bugged Steve the principal, and he gave her a couple small ones. She promptly stuck them on her face. For those of you not in the know, Angie is a real, live grown-up. Not a four-year old. I don't think any of the 4-year-olds stuck their stickers on their faces.

Friday: Starting at 1, we will set up the gym for prom. Prom will be held from 9-12, with crowning happening at midnight, and dinner to follow. Spaghetti, french bread, salad, cake w/ice cream. Good times. And because I never wrote about prom last time, and feel guilt, here are some pictures from last year.

Jordan, taking a break from blowing up balloons. See how we wrapped the gym in brick to make it be a castle? Yup, I'm awesome like that.

These are my seniors, dressed up pretty: Jordan (from the photo above) Jesse B, Patrick,  Katherine, Dolly, and Theresa. Also, James Kakoona in the red t-shirt is in there. I don't know why.

When I advised, we did "Night of Romance" and made a castle, the next year was "City of Love" and they made the gym look like Paris.  If I do say so myself, mine was more AWESOME, but that's just my opinion.

King Wesley Pootoogooluk, and Queen Victoria "Sweety" Sinnok. Very nice. 

Saturday: Little kid prom. We're splitting it up this way because the little kids like to spill their drinks, pop the balloons, and tear down the streamers. Drives me nuts. So now the big kids will have prom first, when everything looks pretty, then the little kids can run amok on Saturday, and no one will care.

Monday: Graduation.  Okay, these are not this years' graduates. These are my babies from last year. Katherine, James (oh, maybe that's why he's in my prom picture) Theresa, Roy Amos, and Dolly.

Jackie and Holly came into my room two days ago, wearing their robes, and I will admit that I got a little teary-eyed. I'm going to miss those buggers. It's unfair, really. I spend how many years teaching them to be competent adults, they finally get to the point where you can have an adult conversation with them, and then they leave. 

Wednesday: End of year assembly. I've heard that the perfect attendance kids are getting bikes this year. How awesome is that? I think this is because the group from last year (four kids, maybe five) got iPods, but since there is a large overlap, that doesn't make sense to do again.

Thursday: Last day of school. Locker clean-out, textbooks come home, tables are cleaned and stacked for the summer. It drives my kids nuts, but my morning classes continue to work. They can still turn stuff in, there's no reason to stack everything in the morning and sit on the floor all day. Also, early out.

Friday: Teacher Work Day.  Also, the annual cheerleader slumber party. And they get to help me move. Because, hey, cheap labor.  Let's put a picture of them in, just because they're so dang cute:

Then, less detailed,

1 Week: Unalakleet
2 Weeks: Anchorage with the Guy family.
4 Days: Ferry to B'ham

Hang at home.

Drive to Utah via Idaho. See babies. See pregnant girls. Be depressed about being single.

Drive Home. Sleep a lot.

Drive to Canada, load up camping gear for some kids, and drive to a big NA Pow Wow in Blaine. 

Aug 3: fly to Alaska, help with new teacher orientation (aka Welcome Wagon).
Aug 6: Fly to SHH, finish unpacking.

Holy crap! Where did my summer go?!? 


This afternoon, I looked at my arm, and was shocked to see my TB test. So I drew a circle around it. And just now (8:00pm) I took a picture of it, just to see how it had grown since the circle. And since I know you are all hanging on my every post, I'm sharing it with you:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Stupid, Stupid Jokes

I walked into Ken's room today, and one of the girls was wearing a sticky-note, which forced Ken to ask, "Why are you wearing a note that says 'Kick me' ?" So she looked. Even though she knew the note was blank. So then we asked her if her note said gullible. She did figure that one out. And then the jokes started:

A man walked into a bar. Ouch.

A proton walked into a bar and asked for a beer. The bartender asked if he was sure. The proton replied: Positive.

A man asked an electron: why so negative?

There were others, I don't remember what they were. Sticky note girl just looked at me when I asked her to remember the other ones. Oh well. If I think of them, I'll add them later.

I think it's time for school to get out.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Moving Update

As of right now, all of Melinda's stuff is out of her house. She's gonna take a day or two to clean it out, and then we can start moving in. I've got some boys who are excited about helping me. If nothing else, they can carry boxes of books over.

And for a little perspective:

I'm standing on my porch, looking down the length of my house, and that truck is parked in front of Melinda's house.  Moving shouldn't be that hard.

Actually, Lake Deighton is starting. Right now it's just a dark area, with the promise of water. But I can see it coming. I'd like to get the move done before this happens again.

Here's the start:

I know it's not much to look at right now, but give it a week or two. I'll keep you posted.