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, November 1, 2013

New things to do, new things to learn

Okay the internet, here's the deal with the new job:

1) I've been there three weeks, and I don't even know if it's mine or not. Interviews are next week, and then recommendations are being made to the president, who will decide if I should keep my job, or if the other woman who applied for it should get it. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, but the corporation is a native-owned one, and as such, have native first hiring preferences built into their bylaws. My one hope is that she got bad references and forgets to show up for the interview.

2) The ladies in my office, Luella, Stacy, and Traci are amazing. They are funny, and kind. They are all super-good at their jobs, and are teaching me a lot. Stacy convinced me to fill out a foster-parenting application. I'm halfway through with it.

3) We are working on a project right now to remodel the interview room. Partially because it has poor microphones in it, and partially because it's boring and ugly. The paint is WAY too bright, there are no comfortable grown-up chairs, and the sound echos both into and out of the room. I've been working on improving the sound quality in the room (acoustic panels and thick rugs) and Luella is working on microphones and furniture. We're also working on a Rasmuson grant to help pay for it, as our office is entirely grant funded.

4) I don't get to talk about the kids I meet there. Not their ages, genders, or reasons for visiting. Nope. Nada.

5) I am currently working on a project where I make coloring books, and age appropriate books and toys in bags for the clients when they come. Today I bought $50 worth of beading supplies, and will spend a chunk of time next week making baggies of bracelet making kits.

In other news, I've started writing my novel for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, which started today. I'm 850 words in, so that's going. Also, I start piano lessons tomorrow morning, and I'm taking a pottery class through the college starting Monday. I wasn't planning on all these things starting at the same time, but I think I'll be okay. One of the ways this job most surprises me is that when I clock out at the end of the day, I'm done. Like, done-done. There's no work to take home, in fact, I shouldn't take work home. And since I'm being paid by the hour, the company doesn't really want me to stay until all hours working overtime.

Life in Nome is a bit of an adjustment, but I think I'm doing fine.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nome, Alaska

Recently, my mother posted on Facebook about how very few of her children were staying current with their blog posts. I reminded her that the URL for my blog is "Colleen in Alaska," and it was about my adventures teaching. Since I was both unemployed and not living in Alaska. I felt very justified in not updating this. Now I'm back in Alaska, and working with children again. So while the premise changes a little, the overall theme of the blog doesn't. Let's go back and recap the summer:

As my time in Akiachak came to a close, I looked for jobs on the road system, and also down in Washington. I didn't want to be more than one flight or a 4 hour drive from home. This limited me to areas with major airports, or Western Washington. 

I returned to Washington, moved back in with mom and dad, and started applying for jobs locally. I applied for jobs, and more jobs. I got an interview out at the ocean, and thought it went well, but... I also received rejection letters. Lots and lots of rejection letters. Some through e-mail, some were actually written on paper and mailed to me. They depressed me. A lot. I'm not sure how authors do it. I'd go through the mail, open a rejection, and go lay in my bed and cry for a while. It got bad. I got depressed. I kept filling out applications, but I figured nothing would happen. And I was right, nothing did.

Then a job opened up in my hometown, and I was stoked. This! This right here! This is the reason I hadn't gotten another job! I was destined to stay in Woolley, get a job, buy a house, get a dog, and live the rest of my life out as planned. Mom and I went to the open house that that particular school was hosting, only to find that they weren't actually hiring someone. They just had to post the job so they could hire the woman they already had picked out. And something in my broke. I couldn't even hold out until I was home to break down and sob. I felt like such a failure as a person. I couldn't get a job, I had few friends left in the area, and I didn't even have a dog.

I texted Matthew that night and asked if I could come to Utah for a week-long vacation. I'd been avoiding spending a lot of money, or taking too much time away from looking for work, after all, what if I went on a vacation and got a call for an interview!? 

So I gave up and went to Utah to visit family and friends. I had a fantastic time. I saw friends and family, I bought Kendall licorice, and we looked at horses. And, during that time, I was offered by four households to move in with them while I looked for work. And I know that my personal self esteem shouldn't be influenced by outside sources. I know that I shouldn't feel like a failure just because I was unemployed, and I shouldn't feel good about myself just because my friends loved me. Oh well, that's how it works.

One of the offers of residence was from one Miss Erin Margaret, in Nome. She owns and runs a coffee shop here, the Bering Tea. She needed a vacation, and wanted someone she trusted to oversee her employees and drink hot chocolate. I figured I was qualified for that. She also informed me that if I wanted, I could probably get a job or two while I was here. In fact, if you don't get a job in Nome, it's because you're not trying.

So I agreed to come up for a month. And once a couple people from a couple different HR departments found out I was coming, and with a strong recommendation from a different friend, I had people calling me. Then, this other friend, Traci, called me herself, and let me know that she had an opening for a child advocate at the Child Advocacy Center, which she ran. Since I already had an application in for Kawarek, the local non-profit, all I had to do was send my paperwork to her, and she offered me a job.

So now I'm in Nome, training to be a child advocate, and waiting for my boxes to show up. I'm renting a house with Erin, and looking into buying a 4-wheeler, which I can drive on the streets, all winter. This would be less expensive than shipping my truck up, and it gets better gas milage than a real car. I work half just about exactly half a mile from work, so while it's a nice walk home, the 8 am walk in is less than pleasant on some days. And soon we'll get snow.

More information to follow as I continue my training and become more integrated into life here in Nome. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Life update

Happy August, everyone. So, what's an Alaskan teacher to do in the summertime in Washington? I'm thinking of my post from last summer that has every other line item as "look for work." This will be very similar:

-Look for work
-Procrastinate working on Masters Thesis
-Look for work
-Go to Portland to visit Amy Cellar!
-Swim laps
-Look for work
-Grandpa's 80th Birthday Party!
-Swim laps
-Look for work
-Single adult conference (Hi Steve!)
-Swim laps
-Get rejection phone call from interview
-ignore looking for work
-ignore classes
-be a bit depressed
-continue to swim laps
-support parents after dad's heart bypass
-get out of funk
-work on thesis
-swim laps
-apply for jobs
-get letter of rejection for a job I didn't apply for
-sleep study. Worst night ever.
-frantically work on thesis
-Swim laps
-turn in thesis, find that there are no jobs open right now, pool is closed for a week.

-now what?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dad's Heart Attack

Everything is fine now.

On Sunday morning, Dad had a massive heart attack. The paramedics responded with amazing speed, and he was quickly rushed to Skagit Valley Hospital. He had two angioplasties, and a breathing tube, and was put into a medically induced coma until he was able to breathe on his own.

Last night, I was able to talk to him for the first time since he woke up. He's doing fine, and is in good spirits. He's messing with the nurses and making jokes.

My mom told me to stay in Alaska, and to not skip out on work to come home. I obeyed, and when I talked to my father, he said the same thing. I have 5 more weeks here in Akiachak, and then I get to go home and hang out with my dad.

Let the countdown begin.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Today is the first day of parent-teacher conferences for the 3rd quarter of the year.

Let's keep track of the project as time goes on today:

2:20: School lets the kids out.

2:30: Parent Teacher conferences official start.

2:40: MY DOOR OPENS! Oh, it's just a kid, bringing back a broom. No parents yet. I wonder what's on Youtube?

2:43: PARENTS! The parents of one of my favorite kids (Oh, wait, are we not allowed to have favorites? Whoops.) came in and we talked about their son, and waving at strangers, because you never know who they'll be. We talked about how the husband waves at planes, in case they're looking, and how the wife is afraid of moose on the path. We talked about my new ice cleats, and the mittens Diana made me back in '04. All in all, it was a fantastic conversation.

3:00: More parents! Not quite as fun, but really, what do you expect?

3:10-3:50: Proofread a persuasive essay for the parent of two of my kids. Seriously. For 40 minutes. It was a good paper, it just needed proofreading, which is what we're working on in class too. Her husband seemed a bit grumpy about it, but I showed her how to track changes, and how to insert page breaks. She was impressed.

3:55: The mother of one of my students talks to me about her son's missing assignments. I discuss his ongoing stomach problems. Both issues are assigned to the suicide of his brother from November. We are both fine with this.

4:00: Watching Youtube videos.

4:15: Parents!

4:19: Youtube.

4:45: I've talked to two other teachers, and I've watched Youtube videos since my last check-in.

5:15:  I think we're done here.

And we have them again tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Spring is coming. I think. No, no, it's coming. I'm pretty sure. And here is the proof:

I haven't seen those fuzzy nubs on the trees before, so that must mean it's spring, right? Either that, or it's warm enough to walk around with my hood off, so I can see them for the first time.

 While getting ready to take the previous picture, I stumbled across some rabbit tracks. There they are, hopping through the snow.
 The top crust is strong enough that I could lean on it to take the picture, but not to step on, or I'd fall through.

And these are my footsteps, forwards and backwards. There's a pretty thick crust, followed by a lot of fluff. 
 Standing on the school porch, this is a view of the cemetery. It's up there on the hill. You can just make out the white crosses on the ridge.
And for those of you (Matthew) who think that the amount of snow I'm working with her is the same as the amount of snow you have down there, this is the snowdrift that the maintenance men had to dig through to clear our path. In real life, the path is a wooden sidewalk, and the pile of snow is actually a hill sloping DOWNHILL towards those basketball hoops.

So yes, this is spring, kind of, sort of. The main noticeable difference is the amount of sunlight we are getting now. There are days when I walk to school in the semi-light, and walking home in the light. It is awesome!

Monday, February 11, 2013


Last night I made sure to take my camera to bed with me, just to share my mornings with you guys:

7:00 Alarm rings, go back to sleep. 
7:20 wake up, realize that all my clothes are in the dryer or in a pile on the floor. Whoops.

At least here, we have a washer and dryer in our house, so I can throw stuff in the dryer before I go to bed, and pick it up dry the next morning. That's pretty awesome.

Then it's off to the bathroom. Wait, is that a floor that slopes so far to the left I'm afraid that I'm going to fall over when I stumble in there in the morning? Yes, yes it is. (Cute rug and shower curtain are Mandii's.)

Time to get dressed. What's that, wool socks and a pair of pants under a skirt? Yup, that's how I roll in the winter in Alaska.

 To the untrained eye, this shelving may seem overloaded with cereal and tomato sauce. It's not true. I've simply bought enough to get me through the rest of the year.

 Oh, look! All of my meals for the day. Breakfast in my snowman bowl, (Thanks Gramma!) crackers and cheese for lunch, and porkchops in the crockpot for dinner. And yes, that milk comes in a box, and has a shelf life of almost a year, before it's opened.

The view out of my front door  at 8am. Yup, snow and darkness, sounds about right.

Here is me trying to lock my front door. Of course, it only works if I can close the door all the way, otherwise the key won't turn, and then our house is left unlocked during the day.

And here I am, with my facemask on, and my parka (pronounced par-kee). The wolverine keeps me from getting snow in my eyes, and it's awesome.

Front stairs. When the new broom gets here, we'll be able to clear these off a little better. I like the grating, because it keeps the snow from building up too much.

Snow drift along the side of the house. Someone walked over it earlier, but I chose to go around instead.

On the way to school. I like to follow the snow-machine tracks, as it gives me an idea of how deep the snow is. Those lights way in the distance are the school. This picture is about halfway between my house and the school, which is so much closer than my first house.

School was not a normal day today, since we had an educational conference for parents instead of normal school. Tomorrow we fly to Akiak for inservices, and we're back to regular schedule on Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I was talking to my brother a couple of days ago, and he said my blog would be a lot more fun it I put more pictures on it. So I walked around with my brain turned on for three days, thinking of things that I could take pictures of for you, my dedicated reader.

And I've got nothing. Seriously, nothing.

Here's my day:

7:00 Alarm goes off. Hit snooze, don't remember.
7:09 Alarm goes off. Hit snooze, realize I did it.
7:18 Alarm goes off. Hit snooze, rationalize that I don't need "that much time" to get ready.
7:27 Alarm goes off. Freak out about how late it got. Vow to get up earlier tomorrow.

7:27-7:50  Dress, pour bowl of cereal and milk, cut two pieces of summer sausage off the block and quarter, slice cheese, count 8 crackers, read book while eating cereal, put lunch in coat pocket, put on boots.

7:50 Leave the house, locking the padlock, as apparently some kids have a copy of the key to the knob.

7:50-7:58 Walk to school in the dark. Thanks for the flashlight, Dad!

7:58 Arrive at school. Check Facebook and Pinterest. Maybe talk to the teacher across the hall. Sit at my desk with a glazed look on my face.

8:30 Kids show up.
8:31 Pledge of allegiance.

8:33-11:59 Teach morning classes. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd period are on the same reading program. It's a reading program, they're all the same; you don't want to hear about it. 4th hour is awesome. Good kids, good literature, just all around awesome. They even got to skype with Dad one day about his job, and what training he needed for it.

12:00-12:35 Lunch. Eat my crackers and cheese by myself. Have an orange. Watch Scrubs on Netflix. (Or Doctor Who, or Hulu shows.)

12:35-2:18 More classes. Same material as 4th hour, completely different kids. Maybe look out the tiny window once. Sigh because of the cold, dark, and snowy conditions.

2:21-3:11 Prep. Watch more Hulu/Netflix. Work on the Romeo and Juliet vocab and review questions for the next unit.

3:15-4:00 HSGQE (like the WASL) prep class. We're working on grammar, and mechanics. Ahh, good times.

4:00 Kids leave. Either get ready for study hall, or get back to work on Romeo and Juliet. Watch TV, play on Pinterest/Facebook.

7:30 Realize what time it is, and promise to go home earlier tomorrow.

7:45 Walk home in the dark. Thanks for the flashlight, Dad!

8:00 Eat dinner. Wash dishes. Watch a little TV.

10:00 Crawl in bed, read for a while, go to sleep.

Do it all again the next day (including the parts where I swear I'll do it sooner the next day, then don't).

There just really isn't a lot worth taking pictures of there. I have no children of my own, I have no dog. Half the time, when I get home, Mandii is already in bed, and most of the time, when I wake up, she's already gone.

I'm sorry my blog is boring, but right now, so is my life. The best thing that's happened to me this week is a mysterious Amazon package with Carcassonne in it. Maybe I'll try to set up a game night, and then I'll have something worth taking pictures of. In the meantime, he's a photo of Akiachak from 1999:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Because the kids asked how it works...

Today, a student asked about some of the pictures on my bulletin board. I have one of my siblings from 1998 up, and one of my living grandparents. The picture I had of my parents at my college graduation got lost during the move. I found the broken frame, but no picture.

To rectify this situation, I tried to go online and show them some pictures, but since Facebook is blocked during school hours, we ended up looking at some blogs, especially Matt and Heather's, as they have adorable children to look at.

Then my new class came in, and asked how I did blog posts. So now we're sitting here, and I'm typing this while they watch me on the Smart Board. Whooo.