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, January 30, 2011

Church in the Bush

Amy and I only had a couple plans for yesterday, it’s just that every plan took longer than planned, and we finally crawled into bed at about 4 a.m.

Luckily, I have a very short commute to church. In fact, I have church over the phone. And as such, my commute is simply an 18 number code away. (19 if you count pushing the mute button. I count it, it’s important.)

There are some aspects of church, like taking roll, that takes much longer than it would in a brick and mortar building. There are some other things, like transitioning between classes, that takes MUCH less time than it ever did in the family ward back home. Of course, I think the singles ward I went to used to plan a longer break between classes, because their purpose was to marry us off.

Today, I taught Sunday School. And I find that I look at the clock a LOT more on days when I teach.  I thought I’d share church with all of you:

9:49 Hit snooze

9:56 Turn alarm off, find red glowing light that signifies the phone.

9:57 Call into church. Dial code. Find out I’m the 6th person to call in. Be surprised that I’m this early. Usually there are already 24 parties in conference, including me.

10:00 On the dot: start church. Opening song, opening prayer, and 6 minutes for roll call.

10:18 hititng mute for the passing of the sacrament for those families with priesthood holders.

10:23-11:00 two talks

11:01: Closing prayer for sacrament meeting

11:02 opening prayer for Sunday School

11:03 Start lesson
          Freak out a little because I don't think I have enough material to take up the time to 11:40.

11:08 Realize that I hadn't asked for any group participation. Ask for help.
          3 helpers! 
          Heave a sigh of relief that I didn't get cut off, and had been talking to an empty phone-line.

11:15 Unsolicited volunteers!!

11:18 Group Questions- wonderful answers

11:32 Realize that I have too much information left, and not enough time. Start to condense remaining lesson.

11:00 Realize that my time is up, and bare my testimony that I love my Savior, and the truth of the gospel. 

11:42 Done! I feel a little guilty for going over, but it was only two minutes. And it's not like I'm letting my class out after the other teachers are, and holding up everyone. After all, we only have the one line, and everyone is on it at once.

11:42 Closing prayer.

11:42 Turning meeting over to Priesthood/Relief Society

11:43 Opening prayer.

Because this is the 5th Sunday, the men and women's auxiliaries are meeting together. We are discussing raising children in the bush, and teaching them the gospel. 

I am not the only person online right now. Facebook tells me so. Of course, I can't feel guilty that they see me online, since they're online to see me.  I had a similar situation at a thrift store as a child. My mom was looking for second-hand furniture. After all, if bunk beds made it through one set of twins, it's more likely to make it through a second set. I ran into a friend from school, and she was very embarrassed to be seen at the thrift store. She didn't seem to notice that I was there too, but felt the need to make excuses for why she was there. 

But I digress.

12:11 A woman in the congregation who has small children is discussing her 8 year old son. I've met him while traveling. He is a pretty awesome kid. Actually, their whole family is amazing. And I love her especially because she comments during lessons, which helps others feel like they can share. Also, she loves Settlers of Catan, and that is also wonderful.

12:27 I feel the lesson wrapping up.

12:35 Closing prayer.
12:35 Hanging up the phone, and leaving my room to wash some dishes.

Thanks for joining me for church today.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Amy makes me open the cans she uses because her family has always had an electric can opener, and hers is on the fritz right now. I told her she needs to learn to use my manual one, but she says she has no reason. What if she gets hungry while I'm gone? "Don't even talk like that." I also told her that opening a can is a valuable skill during the zombie apocalypse, and she needed to know how to do it. And get this, she didn't even know we wouldn't have power during the zombie apocalypse. Silly girl. I asked her what she thought the people running the power company were going to be doing. They'll be at home with shotguns, using their manual can openers to open food. That's what they'll be doing. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Food, and how to get it.

Amy and I have been on weight watchers lately, so food has become a major topic of conversation, so I thought I'd share some of my Alaska food stories today:

-Since our village has no industry, and sewing and carving do not make enough for a family to survive on, most people here are on government assistance. Which means that on Food Stamp Day, the line at the store is huge. Well, huge for Shishmaref. So maybe six or seven people. I order most of my food, but if I go to the store, I avoid Food Stamp Day, and the day right after.  And yes, it should be in capitals, because as a student said, "It's like a holiday that happens every month, and is just about food." So when he sees me on the 1st of the month, he tells me, "Happy Food Stamp Day!" And I respond in kind.

-Speaking of ordering food. The seniors are going to do the annual Valentine cookie-gram this February. I have already run copies of the heart pattern, and cut out about 800 of them. "How?" I hear you asking. Well, I do it four at a time, while talking to my dad on Skype. It makes it go faster. We will be ordering 15 lbs of butter, 20 lbs of sugar, and 50 lbs of flour just for the cookies. Then there's all the stuff for the frosting, and the sandwich baggies to put them in. I've done it before with Saran Wrap. It's do-able, but not for the four of us that are going to be doing it. Sandwich baggies are just faster and easier. These cookies will be delivered on Valentines day to the kids' classrooms, and the teachers will pass them out during the Valentine parties. (Which we are still allowed to have up here, because we don't mind if it has religious connotations or not.)

-I will also be doing a food order. Now that I'm on Weight Watchers, I have to eat breakfast and lunch, and I find that my canned fruit supply is diminishing rapidly. Also, I'm out of flour, and I just can't bring myself to pay local store prices.

-Today we finished reading Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" in which a small town holds a lottery every year, and the "winner" is stoned to death to insure a good harvest of corn. It's a bit morbid, but most short stories worth reading are. When we discussed how in that time, in that place, those characters believed in what they were doing to ensure their survival, one student raised his hand.

(Aside: My largest class has 12 students. No one raises their hand, especially if they are sitting three feet from me. They just begin talking. I'm working on having them at least address me by name first, so I know that they're talking to me. On this particular student's first day, someone else raised their hand to be funny, and now this kid does it regardless, because he thinks it's funny, or he doesn't know better, or his last teacher made him. I don't know.)

Back to the point: In the story, Tessie is the scapegoat to save the village from starvation. My youngest student raises his hand. And he asks me: "Why don't they just go on food stamps?" And instead of just shutting him down, I asked where the food would come from, if farmers stopped growing it. True to the middle school mentality, he looked at me like I was a crazy person, and responded: "Wal-Mart."

Uh. . . I have no response to that.  Okay, I had a response. It's just amazing to see the thought process of a student who has never left the Alaskan Bush. Of course food comes from Wal-mart, silly teacher. Everyone knows that.

Since we're on the topic of food, I think I'll go find the rest of that Diet Mt. Dew I was drinking earlier. (0 points, just in case you cared.)


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Skills I didn't know I'd need

When I was in college, we took a Technology in Education class. It was a well-thought out class, with clear goals and reasonable assignments.

We learned to:

-Make spreadsheets, and turn them into graphs.

-Download programs.

-Edit videos.

-Create posters in Photoshop.

And now that I'm a teacher, I find that I have very little need for most of these skills. I'm not knocking them. They're good skills, and for a college with a ton of money and computers, they're great.

In the real world, I use my old Frankensteined overhead projector more than anything else. Not because I can't have a smart-board, or projector. I have a projector. But if I use it, I have to dedicate a laptop to it, and I don't want to give mine up for the job. I could have a smart-board, but I'd have to take everything I have physical copies of, and scan them all. And one cannot simply Xerox a handout into a presentation.

Also, I find that scissors are my number one friend. I find myself cutting things out far more than I ever thought would be necessary. Right now, it's 1,200 paper hearts, for the senior cookie-gram. I'm getting that divot in my thumb again.

And no Excel document will ever beat out my paper gradebook. Partially because the gradebook is more portable, and I can write notes on it, and I can physically stick a sticky-note on it to remind me of something, and I can tuck a student essay between the pages for looking at later.

I love my classroom, and the things I have. As far as schools go, this one is very high-tech, and very affluent. I just would have liked to have figured out how to write on an overhead projector before my first day of school. My teachers always made it look so easy. . .

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pictures of Me

Okay, so I post pictures of myself on here all the time. Usually involving my different hair colors. I know, I'm obsessive. Leave me alone.

However, if one was to go to facebook, and look for pictures of me, they would see a startling trend started. And it's this: I'm not actually in any of the recent pictures my family has posted of me.

For example, I recently found out that my sister-in-law posted a picture of me. I found this a little odd, considering I hadn't seen her since the summer, and when we were together, I was the one with the camera. So I click on the link. And it's not even a picture of me. It's a picture of my brother holding his baby. Well, yeah, I wanted to see it, but when I rolled over my name, and that little box popped up, it was on her face. Curiouser and Curiouser. Then I scrolled down, and the caption was "Kendall on the phone with her aunt Colleen."


Oh my.

And sure enough, it's not her face that has been tagged, but my brother's phone, held up to her ear.  This is how I'm going to be known to my niece: Your aunt Colleen who lives in Alaska, mails you books, and is only a voice on the phone.

I understand that if I lived in Seattle, I would have only seen her a couple times by now anyway, but wow. And then,  when I looked at the next picture of "me" it was of my sister Randi on the phone with me. Depressed, I looked at the last picture, and found that it was simply a picture of the present Crystal gave my parents. It has six openings, so each kid put a picture of themselves wearing plaid in it. It's a cute concept, and it turned out well, but once again, the sisters got together and took pictures in a park, and I e-mailed mine in.

Contracts came out yesterday. I'll sign. I only have  one more year until I'm vested in the retirement program. Also, I have things to finish here, it's hard to find work as a teacher down state-side, and a hundred other reasons, like I genuinely like my kids. I'm just starting to wonder if what I'm getting up here is worth putting the rest of my life on hold for.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sick and tired of being. . .

Today, for the first time in three days, I've woken up without wanting to throw up. It's been a glorious feeling.

I've skipped around all day, been overly chatty, nice, kind, and sweet. I find myself getting up to get my own scissors, instead of asking a kid to pass them to me.

I know this happens to me every time I get sick. While I'm sick, I can't even imagine ever not being sick. My memories are tainted by my current feelings. I think about the time we went sledding, and I thought: How did I have the energy to do that? And of course, I wasn't sick when that happened. I'm sick now.

Also, now that I'm better, I quickly find myself wondering what the big deal was when I was sick. Why did I have to stop and rest on the couch just from the effort of getting up and getting dressed?

There was a kid in the gym today who threw himself on the floor in a dramatic gesture. I laughed at him, (which was his plan, I think) and I thought about the energy associated with youth. But it's not just youth. We live our lives, and have our battles, our loves, our hopes and our despairs. It's part of being human. It's a great part, to be sure. But without the emotions, even the overwhelming ones, this trip through life just wouldn't be worth it.

And in the words of Forest Gump: And that's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Yesterday, during 2nd hour, I looked out the window and saw the pink blush behind the city office that meant the sun was starting to come up. I was so excited that it was coming up so early, as 2nd period is pretty early in the day.

Then I remembered that we were having a late start, and it was already 11:30.


The bright blue square is the reflection of the laptop screen in the window. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011


As Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory would say: "People without a grasp of large numbers would call this a coincidence."

I was playing around on Facebook a couple days ago, and came across two friends who had each posted some pictures. I found the juxtaposition to be so funny that I took a picture.

Here are two of my friends: Bob Plumber from Skagit County in Washington State, and Harley Huntington, currently of Shaktoolik, Alaska.  Unknown to each other, they both posted at the same time two pictures. While these may not look related at all, this is what I took from it: On the left-dietary staple. On the right- how he got it.

Sure, for some it's about driving a car to the store and buying some graham crackers. For others, it's hooking a sled up to a snow-machine, heading out to the tundra, and shooting an animal.

I'm not saying one is better than the other, I just found the difference between how life is lived back home and how life is sometimes lived up here to be funny. Personally, I do most of my grocery shopping online, and then go to the post office to pick it up, so I don't have to drive or hunt for my food.

I'm just grateful that we live in a country of riches, where many different ways of life are accepted, and we have the natural resources to both drive to the store and hunt.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year

Well, we're six days into the new year. Since I made no resolutions, I have none to break. Way to go me.

Here is the upcoming list of things I have to do:

-Work on my masters.
     Taking HUMN 520: Medieval literature. This class started on Monday, and will go for 4 months.
     Taking HUMN 541: The Enlightenment. This class will start Feb 7th, and run for 4 months.

-Teaching Classes.
     Two reading classes, three writing classes, one Life Skills/Career Skills class.

-After school program.
     The woman who ran the after school program is no longer doing it, along with two of the tutors. Kiley and Kevin stepped up to take over the tutoring spots, and I've decided to take over the coordinator job. This mostly involves me passing out snacks, doing paperwork, and ordering supplies for future use. I officially got the job yesterday, so I still have a lot to learn, but I think I'll be okay. It's 10 hours a week.

-Senior Class
    Ball games, valentine day cookies, and planning the senior trip. Some weeks are much more labor intensive than others.

This should be an interesting semester. Who needs sleep?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Some rules, some thoughts.

My sister once came home with rules given to her by her bishop (I think, that part's not important) in the yearly chastity talk given to Young Single Adult wards of The Church. She was told that there were rules about being with boys, and they went like this:

Three things to look for:
-After midnight
-No plan

While on a date with a boy, only one of these things should be happening at a time. It's when a boy and girl are alone after midnight that problems occur. Or alone with no plan. Or. . . you get the idea.

I found this to be an interesting piece of information, and and decided on a rule for my own life: No e-mails after midnight. Things that seem like a REALLY BIG DEAL at one in the morning are not nearly such a big deal by the light of day. This is why I sometimes write an e-mail, and hold off on sending it until after sleep. 

This may be why college was such a drama-fest. We did most of our plotting, planning, and gossiping after midnight. I deconstruction of a date at eight in the morning isn't nearly as satisfying as looking for signs of true love at 2 am.

With this small rule at the forefront of my mind, I'm going to write this post right now anyway.

Officially, it's daytime. Actually, it's quarter after 7. But to truly understand the level of crazy I'm coming from, here's my sleep schedule for the last couple days:

Friday: Worked at the school until 2 a.m. Went to sleep at 5 a.m. Slept until 4 p.m. Got up and went back to the school.
Saturday: In a failed attempt to stay up all day to restart my regular sleep schedule, I didn't go to bed until noon, and only slept until 5. Got up with the plan to go to bed again at midnight.  At 6:30, I got a call from the popo, as he needed a babysitter at the jail.
Sunday: Haven't slept yet. And with the exception of one bathroom break, I haven't left this room.

While it is "morning," I'm still working on the five hours of sleep I got yesterday. My job is to write, and your job is to excuse anything dumb I say as the rantings of a very, very tired girl. (Case in point: why didn't I think to pack the string-cheese from the house when I agreed to come over here?!)

The year 2010:
-Favorite places:
     Sedro-Woolley, Wa
     Blue Fox Drive In
     Provo, Utah
     The Guy House, Anchorage
     Anchorage Temple
     My pickup truck

-Least Favorite Places:
     The Canadian border
     The school kitchen at 2 in the morning
     Most airplanes

-Favorite things:
     Mountain Dew (but really, when is that not a favorite thing?)
     Seeing friends and family
     Tribal Journeys
     Watching some of my favorite kids graduate, get married, have kids, go off to school, and succeed in life. I sure love my babies.

The year 2011:
-I think we're going to have a lot of people freak out about the Mayan calendar. To those people I would like to mention a couple things: Y2K, Swine Flu, Avatar. It's always a lot more hype than anything else.
-Things I'm looking forward to:
     Getting paid for this little stint as a member of Shishmaref's Finest.
     Going on the senior trip with "ma boyze"
     Seeing Kendall for the first time!!
-I would like to eat more fruit in the upcoming year.