"A mind once stretched by a new idea can never regain its original dimensions." ~Oliver Wendall Holmes

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Monday, March 31, 2008

All the way from New Zealand!


The Maori dancers came to Bethel all the way from New Zealand. They were, in my opinion, the most exciting dancers at the whole festival.
The Maori dancers were excellent performers. Their facial expression were fun to watch and they had so much fun in their dancing.

They explained that this stick song was a game that they played with their children to help teach hand/eye coordination. I have video of this that I will post as soon as I get the chance.The fact that they were here performing is a testament to the Cama-i festival as a celebration of native dance. The native Yup'ik people were just as enthralled with their performance as I was.
Overall, I thought their dances had a much more tropical vibe to them. The music was lighter and if you closed your eyes, you might have been able to picture yourself on a tropical island by the beach. Their outfits are also very tropical. Many of the local natives commented on their scant apparel. It's hard for them to imagine it being warm enough to wear such things. Even in summer, it doesnt get warm enough here to bare so much skin.
The women all had that tattoo looking pattern on their chins. It was not a permanent tattoo because I saw them without it the next day. I think it was maybe drawn on with Henna ink.

I couldnt resist taking a picture of these two boys with their mother and grandmother (I assume). They couldnt take their eyes off the Maori dancers. When you can keep young ones like that still and entertained, you know that you're doing something worthwhile.

Bethel Traditional Dancers

Here is a video of the first dance group that performed at the Cama-i festival. They are dancing traditional native Yup'ik dances.
video
I had a really busy weekend with the festival, our last culture class, two house guests, and all of the new teachers in town. I'm feeling really tired today, but I have so much to share with you, so I'll write more later.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

New Record

record event report
National Weather Service Bethel AK
150 am akdt sun Mar 30 2008


... Yesterday new record precipitation and snowfall...

A new record for precipitation and snowfall in a 24 hour period for
Bethel of 0.59 and 5.9 inches on March 29 2008. The old record for
precipitation and snowfall was 0.25 and 2.5 inches set in 1969.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cama-i

This weekend here in Bethel, the biggest event of the year is taking place at the high school. It is called Cama-i (pronounced cha-my or ja-my, depending on the dialect of the person that you are talking to). Cama-i is a dance festival.
Here is a description of the festival from the Cama-i website, www.bethelarts.com

Camai is a Yup'ik word meaning "a warm, genuine hello." At this 3 day gathering, 22 dance groups - over 450 dancers, drummers, and singers between the ages of 2 to 92, will celebrate the Yup'ik Eskimo tradition of dance with you. The festival offers cultural renewal and immersion into indigenous dance.

"I dance for it lifts my spirits. I reach out and touch the hands of my ancestors and know that I've come home." - John Active, Bethel



Camai promotes cultural diversity as Native Alaskan, Native American, and international dance groups share in the common language of dance.

"My ancestors danced in thanksgiving for these gifts from Ellam Yua (the creator of the universe) &endash; gifts from the tundra, sea, rivers, lakes, and the sky. They respected each other, loved each other, showed kindness to strangers and shared these gifts freely." -Peter Twitchell, Bethel


Dance preparations are extensive. Knowledge of, and respect for traditional ways is enhanced as the dance troupes prepare for the festival. Elders share old songs and dances, and dancers work together, making elaborate costumes that reflect indigenous traditions and customs.

". . .Yup'ik dancing has been passed down to us by our ancestors since time immemorial, unchanged in its original form and is as important to us now as it was to our ancestors. . ." -Paul John, Toksook Bay


Through dance, song and crafts, the traditions of Alaskan Native tribes are communicated to the audience.

You can go check out all the Cama-i happenings at the website. They even have a webcam going on. There are dance groups from all over Alaska and even international groups as well. I'll post MUCH more about it when I have more time.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!


We had a good Easter! The church service was nice, but not really anything special or different than usual. They did have a hand bell group do a couple of songs and that was nice. It reminded me of my church back home. We always have a hand bell group on Easter, too. I got to thinking about the Easter service back home and missing it. Every Easter they do the flowering of the cross, where every member of the congregation goes up and places a flower in a wire mesh cross. When it is finished, it is absolutely beautiful. Which, of course, is the point...how something as ugly as a crucifixion is turned into something so beautiful as the Lord giving his son for us. Easter always gets me thinking about my great grandmother, Gran. She loved Easter and lilies. She was such a wonderful person and I miss her sometimes. It's hard to imagine that I can miss someone who passed when I was only 11 years old, but I do. It's as though I can still feel her love after all these years.

After church, we went to go see about buying a snow machine. One of my coworkers offered to sell me his for a really great price. So, Avery and I went over to help him dig the machine out of the snow and see about taking it for a ride. We shoveled the snow out from all around it. Put a little heater under the hood for awhile to thaw it out. It took awhile, but he finally got it started and the track spinning and got it pulled out on the driveway. He hopped on it to take it for a quick test spin. As we stood watching, the snow machine rammed straight into his neighbors truck. SMACK! Oh, man....turns out the right hand steering arm was still frozen and he couldn't turn. Busted up the front of the snow machine and his neighbors truck. I felt soooooooooo bad. It's such a bummer. For him and for us...I was really looking forward to buying that snow machine. Everything happens for a reason, right? Maybe this is not the snow machine we are meant to own. I'm just thankful no one got hurt, but I feel so bad about it.

After that, we went to Easter dinner at another of my coworkers houses. It was a nice little gathering and pretty typical of any big holiday dinner. The food and company were great. I've always felt very welcome here. People are very caring and gracious about making sure that you feel welcome. We actually had several invitations to Easter dinners by people who wanted to make sure we were not left out of the festivities. I made a cherry pie that I was going to take to the Easter dinner and when I got home from church, Taboo had eaten it. Geez...he's really a pain these days. More of a pain than he's worth lately.

Easter came so early this year. It is as early as it can get really. Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. This is to ensure that the day is celebrated around the same time it would have been in 30AD. It will not fall on March 23rd again until 2160.

Now, I am going to work on grading some papers. Grades are due tomorrow and I only have one assignment left to grade. Parent Teacher conferences are this week and then we get Friday off. All the first year teachers are coming in for the Camai dance festival and our last culture class. I'll write more on that later.

Mom has finally got internet and is reading the blog, so here are some Avery pics for her....

Avery and his friend hangin in his room. We've rearranged it now, so it looked a bit different. His friend is the neighbor kid. He's a good kid. His family is from Thailand, they moved here a couple years ago.

Here's Avery sleeping on Taboo's bed. He loves to fall asleep with the dogs on the weekends.
The puppy is so big already. She's already bigger than Mikey. I bet she weighs 25 pounds already. She'll be pretty big by the time summer comes around.
Awww...aren't they cute!?!

62 days until we're home...You know what I'm really looking forward to? Gardening...working the soil, caring for plants, having fresh herbs, eating tomatoes off the vine, picking strawberries in the morning

In other news...
Avery starts freestyle wrestling tomorrow which is good cause he'll be able to burn off some of his energy during the week. It's not good for Bailey though cause she'll be stuck in the cage more. When she doesnt get her energy burned off, she's a little terror.

I start as the environmental science merit badge counselor for Avery's Boy Scout troop on Wednesday. The badge is very involved, requiring 11 different projects to be completed and it's a required badge to move up to an Eagle scout. I'm looking forward to helping out he Boy Scout's and just having something to do.

Sunlight...
We had 12hours34minutes of sunlight today. It's really hard to get to bed early when the sun is still up at 9:3opm, but I love it! We are still gaining 5minutes40seconds each day. To give you some perspective...VW, Ohio had 12hours20minutes of daylight and is gaining 2minutes43seconds tomorrow.

Weather...
It's been clear, sunny, and cold lately. Temps are hovering around zero each day.

Latest read...
The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd. I loved her book Secret Life of the Bees and this book was written equally as well, but was about something teetotally different. This book explores our self realization, life fulfillment, and the ways in which we search for meaning in our lives. It also delves into the thoughts of a woman, how we handle crisis, and the ways in which sexuality are linked to mentality. I enjoyed this book very much.

Well, that's all for now. Enjoy this day of new beginnings!

Friday, March 21, 2008

You know it's cold when...

This is the dumpster on the next street over from our house. This is what it looked like up until about a month ago.Here is the same dumpster a couple of weeks ago. You know it's cold when even the dumpsters hibernate for the winter.

I know I've wrote and posted pics before about the dumpsters, but I took some new pics so I thought I'd post them. It's just one of the numerous quirky things that are part of Bethel.This is a Bethel thing. Almost all the dumpsters in the city are painted. It's kinda fun!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Basketball championship

Both the boys' and girls' BRHS basketball teams are at the state competition in Anchorage right now. The State champion BRHS cheerleaders are also there cheering them on. The whole school is abuzz. The games are being broadcast through the local radio station KYUK. You can listen by clicking on the KYUK link to the right. The game is on the PA system here at school so that everyone can hear what's going on. Everybody is all hyped up. It's just an interesting atmosphere.

Dont even say it

Just in case you are complaining about it being cold where you are and spring not being very springy....I just wanted you to know that it is -24 WITHOUT WINDCHILL this morning.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring? Where?

Ok, so...spring. It is officially here, but apparently nobody told mother nature. It is -14 right now and just too dang cold. There is more fresh snow on the ground from the last few days...about 4 inches or so. It was pretty dang dark when I left the house this morning.

What's the weather like in your neck of the woods? Has spring sprung? Oh, and, does anyone know if the groundhog saw his shadow on groundhogs day or not? Just curious.

This is a video of Avery playing in his snow cave that he built on spring break with the other kids in the neighborhood. I tried to post this a long time ago, but I was having problems uploading video.
video

In other news...
Latest read...Atonement by Ian McEwan. It was a good, but complicated book about how a child's perception of things really messes up some peoples lives. It is also about love, war, and the development of an authors mind. The story line itself wasn't extremely compelling, mostly, I think because I had just read another book with a similar plot. There were two things about Atonement that I really liked...First, the author wrote the book in layers, such that you got to hear the perspective of several different people overlapping to get to the whole story. Second, I liked the way the author wrote the book in the same way that the character in the book who was a developing author would have. It is as though you are reading a book by Briony, not Ian. If that doesnt make sense, then you'll just have to read it.

Sunlight...
We are at 12hours and 12 minutes today. Tomorrow will be 5minutes39seconds longer. Yesterday the sun was out and it was wonderful. This morning, I can see out my classroom window that the sun is coming up, but it is an overcast day.

Coming home...
I am officially planning a party for Sunday night, May 25th. We will have food, drinks, fire, and lots of stories. Be there at about 8pm. If you're coming, plan on staying...no driving will be allowed!

Then on Monday, May 26th, Memorial day. We will be having a BBQ get together at about 2pm. Most of you should just plan on coming on Sunday night and staying for the BBQ on Monday, but if that is not possible, then plan on being there at about 2pm for the BBQ.

I love you and miss you all. I hope to see you there!

Monday, March 17, 2008

It's Here! It's Early!

SPRING....WOOYOO! YAY!

We officially reached the 12 hour mark dead on....today was exactly 12 hours long. The spring equinox is not due until the 19th this year, but for some reason (one that i used to know, but have now forgotten...something about our tilt here in AK) we get ours early.

Although this is great and I love having all the extra sunlight, it is far from spring weather here. Today was a very blustery day with temps at just over zero and wind straight from the north, putting the wind chill factor at somewhere below -25. It snowed and blowed all day!

But, hey...at least the sun was shining! Kinda...somewhere behind all the clouds:)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What's in a name?

When I first got my student roster way back in August, I noticed right away that the names were different. They were unusual...to me. The names that I'm used to seeing on a student roster were not there...names like Black, Carpenter, Jones, Smith, Brown, Wilson, Evans, Johnson, Clark, Edwards, Davis, Miller, Sanders, Bidlack, Matthews, Myers, Baker, Martin, Hill, Childs, Good, Crawford, Adams, Gordon, Ricker, Frederick, Young, and Taylor. Now, I will say that if you look those names up in the phone book, you will find one or two listings. So, there are people here that have those names, just not very many. Not the usual number.

So...what names are common here then? Pete, Russell, Thomas, Andrew, Jacobs, Lewis, Tony, Moses, Oscar, Peter, Lindsey, Charlie, Paul, John, Jimmy, Nick, Jimmie, and Charles. Sound like first names, right? NOT! These are common last names. And, to beat that, many people have two first names, such as...Paul Paul, John Paul, Paul John, Charlie Lindsey, Thomas Jimmie, and so on....I actually had John Paul in one class and Paul John in another class at the beginning of the year....as if it's not already hard enough to learn all the students names. I'm not sure why so many people have first names for last names, but I imagine that it must have something to do with being settled by the Western missionaries and being given english names.
Other common last names that are more native in origins are Egoak, Yupakik, Angaiak, Waska, Nagasiak, Alexie, Kawagley, and Wassilie. Yup'ik language is very heavy on vowels and gutteral sounds. Even though these names are more native, they are still english names. Many Yup'ik people have an english name and a Yup'ik name. They get their Yup'ik name from a person who has passed on. The family of the deceased and the family of the person who is given the name become one.

Poker night!

So, Avery is off with the Boy Scouts doing some winter camping. I worked all day and got a TON done! Chandra and I went to dinner and had a great meal(Korean food). Just as I walked in the door from being gone all day with all of that, I got a knock on my door. The knock was an invitation to play poker. So, I doned my gear(it was snowing pretty good out) and walked with my friends to their house on the next street over. We had beverages and played poker for hours. It was a great time!

My friends had house guests. Friends of a friend from a village not far from Bethel who were in town for a doctor appt and needed a place to stay. Originally, it was supposed to be just the father and son, but the wife, daughter, and baby ended up coming too. Needless to say, they were making themselves right at home, helping themselves to whatever they wanted in the kitchen and not picking up after themselves. Messes were made in the bathroom because the kids didnt know that they were supposed to keep the shower curtain on the inside of the shower because they dont take showers, they just do steams. They were very musty smelling. The parents let the kids do whatever they wanted, including letting the 1 year old chew gum. When we suggested to the mother that letting the baby chew gum might not be such a good idea, she said it was better than the baby bugging her all the time. As long as the baby left her alone, it was fine. All the kids, including the baby, were still awake when I left at 1:30. When someone said to the baby..."Can you say pop? say pop!" and the baby started saying pop, the dad piped in and said to the baby..."Can you say drunk? Say drunk!".

I am just so floored this first experience with a completely native family from a village. Basically, they raise their kids with the premise that they have to make their own mistakes and figure things out on their own. I have heard many native people say that this is the way to raise kids. It's just so different. Even though it seems so wrong for parents (and house guests) to behave that way, I dont think they really see it that way. It is just the difference in the culture and their fundamental belief systems. Or maybe this family is just a bad example of native family values in action?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

It's all about the hair!

As a preteenager, it's only fitting that Avery has developed an obsession with his hair. He has grown it out long and he loves it. It looks good when he does it with mousse or gel or palmade, but when he doesn't it ends up looking like a big, poofy 'fro. So, here is Avery being his usual dorky self...

video

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The newest Scout!

Avery has been involved with Boy Scouts for a couple months now. On Wednesday night, he finally received his uniform and his first badges. We attended the badge ceremony in the old part of the Catholic church. This used to be the chapel, but now it is the social room. The really interesting thing about this building is that is does not face the street, but rather faces a little pond. The reason, I've been told, is because it was built before there were roads and the main form of transportation was boat or qayaq.
Most of the other Boy Scouts are my students. Here are a couple of the kids and their fathers, who are the Scout Masters.
The Scouts are going camping (weather permitting) this weekend on Saturday night. They are going up river a couple of miles to someone's fish camp. They will be staying in cabins so they wont be too cold.
It's back down to below zero, again. It hasn't been this cold for weeks. Brrrrr!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Back to it!

Spring break flew by and it's back to the daily grind again. It's really nice to have spring break. This is just the time of year when all the kids and teachers get antzy and start to wear on each other. After having a break, everyone comes back refreshed and ready to tackle the end of the year head on. I have so much to do between now and the end of the year. I have to get my curriculum planning done for my classes and do some ordering of supplies for next year. I have to pack up my entire classroom because my wing is being remodeled this summer. I have to finish all of my assignments for the Alaska culture class that I'm taking. (I only have two more to go though, I got two done over break). I have to find a summer job so that I can start working right away when I get home. I have to sign up for my Alaska studies class and do that over the summer. I have to figure out what I am going to do about my apt and truck while I am gone for the summer. Not to mention, just the regular daily tasks of teaching, raising a child, and taking care of a house. Only 73 days to do it all before we get on a plane and fly outta here for awhile.

I didn't really do much over spring break. I had thought about going to Anchorage, but Avery went to that wrestling tournament in Fairbanks, so I decided to stay home. I did watch a bunch of movies, got two assignments done for my college class, made some phone calls, surfed the internet, graded some papers, did my taxes (and a couple other people's too), hung with some friends, cooked, cleaned, and read a couple books.

I finally caught a glimpse of the aurora (northern lights). I was nothing spectacular, just a little white shadowy thing dancing through the night sky off to the northeast.

Latest reads...
The Joy Luck Club
by Amy Tan. This was a really great book that took an interesting look at relationships between mothers and daughters. It was a glimpse into the life of first generation Chinese Americans and what it is like to be an immigrant in America. The most interesting thing about this book was the portrayal of the way in which the decisions that we make in our lives can affects the lives of our family members for generations to come.

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks. I told myself that I wouldnt read another of his books, but this one found its way to me through a friend who asked if I could drop it off at the library next time I went. Well, I didnt go to the library for a couple days and eventually picked it up and read it. It was the same as all of the other Nicholas Sparks novels that I've read...extremely average. The story was average and the writing was average. I wont read another of his books.

Sunlight update...
We are currently at 11hours and 26 minutes of daylight. We are gaining between 5minutes 40seconds and 5 minutes39seconds each day. I think we have officially maxed out on the amount of time it is possible to gain each day. I can not express with enough enthusiasm how much having daylight means. It is wonderful...something that I will forever appreciate since living here. Now that we have switched to daylight savings time, it is light out past 9pm, which makes it very hard to get to bed at night. Today the sun rose at 9:13 and set at 8:39. It's great!

Lost time update...
BTW, I found out that the clocks were, in fact, losing time because of power surges. Or, more specifically, inconsistent power supply from the powerplant. Our powerplant uses diesel fuel to generate electricity. My clocks gain about a minute every other day or so. We had a power outage for several hours today and so all the clocks have now been reset, so we'll see if they still jump ahead.

Here are some pics of Avery's spring break fun! He and the kids from the neighborhood built snow caves for days. I've been trying to post a video of Avery and Bailey playing in the snowcave, but I cant get it to load.




Sunday, March 09, 2008

Up on stilts

House stilts...all the houses here in Bethel are built off the ground up on stilts. Pilings are driven deep into the ground to help support the structure even when the tundra shifts and changes due to the freezing and thawing of permafrost. the house in the pic below is the highest house that I have seen in Bethel. I would say it is at least a good 15, if not 20, feet off the ground.
Here is our place, it is about 4 or so feet up off the ground. The bottom is covered and there are little doors around the outside where you can access the space under the house.
Here are a couple other houses and apt buildings that you can see the pilings and tell that they are up off the ground. that big building has about 5 apts in it and even though it looks kinda run down on the outside, it is actually quite nice on the inside. We looked at an apt in this place and it was nice and spacious with the bedrooms and bath on the bottom floor and the kitchen and living room on the top floor. there are many building in bethel that could use a paint job and this is just one example. It is not uncommon to see houses with the bare wood showing and no or little paint.
The post office is no exception to the stilts. It is several feet off the ground and the space underneath is blocked off with a chain link fence in order to prevent people from going under the building. The high school is the same with the chain link fence to keep people from going under the building.
Even the fire pump house is up on stilts. My guess is that this is where the water is stored that would be used to extinguish a fire if one ever broke out at the school.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

It's Official

We are coming home for summer. The plane tickets are purchased. We fly into Chicago on May 24th at 2:35pm. I'm thinking about having a get together at my house in VW on Sunday night (May 25th) and maybe a BBQ on Memorial Day (May 26th). Let me know if you all can come.

Friday, March 07, 2008

New batteries

I finally got some batteries for my camera, so I have uploaded some random pics that I've taken recently. The thoughts that will accompany these pics are also pretty random as I have many things to say, but none of them really relate to each other.

Funny story...a few nights ago, Avery and I were sitting at the dinner table, we were just finishing up our dinner and Avery said to me..."Do you remember talking in your sleep yesterday when you were taking a nap?" (I had fallen asleep on the couch in the early evening and taken a nap) I said, "no, what did I say?" He told me that while I was sleeping, I had asked him what he was doing and he had replied that he was watching tv. Then, I asked, "Do you get paid for watching tv?" and he said no. And then, I said, "well, that's good because I didnt want to have to claim that on my taxes."

That's not even the funny part...as I was listening to him tell me this story, I was finishing up my glass of milk that I had with dinner. When he got to that last part, I laughed while I was swallowing my milk and it all came spewing out of my nose. Avery took my picture with milk hanging off of my nose. geez...i havent spewed milk out of my nose since I was a kid. Needless to say...you gotta know tax time is a big deal when you talk about it in your sleep. The good news? my taxes are done! Yoohoo!Avery got 9th place at the state wrestling tournament. I think this is really good considering that it's his first state tournament. I am expecting that he will just continue to become a better and better wrestler each year. He definitely has some natural talent. Notice how long his hair is. He's been letting it grow out for awhile and it is finally long enough that it is starting to look good again.
Taboo has finally accepted Bailey, which is good, because she just adores him. She is growing so fast. She's already over 20lbs and the vet says she's a really healthy pup. She had her last round of shots and is good to go for awhile. She is a really good dog. She's feisty and fun, but she's smart and learns fast.
I did feed that dogs both some yogurt, but Bailey's one ear is still droopy. The vet says that he thinks she will eventually let both ears droop and he's not sure why she's still holding the one ear up. Taboo is so old and gray these days, but he's still my baby.

Avery took this pic...Bailey asleep on the Packer pillow and it looks like she's wearing the helmet. Too cute! Look how long she is!
This pic just cracks me up and I had to share it. This is the handicap ramp at the HS. Obviously we dont have any wheelchair bound students or staff. Gotta put the snow somewhere, right?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The winds of change

are here.

There are many changes coming our way for LKSD employees. We got a new superintendent yesterday. His name is Gary Baldwin and he has worked for the district for some crazy number of year. I want to say 17, but it may be more than that even. He is the one that interviewed me when I went to the job fair in Minneapolis last spring. He is a nice, friendly guy and, in my limited experience, seems to be good at his job and has the best interests of LKSD in mind. There were three candidates in the final running and the other two did not have a good track record at all. I'm very happy that we didnt get stuck with either of the other two, but even more happy that Gary got the job. I think he will do a great job running the school district. LKSD has not had a new superintendent for a LONG time(11 or 12 years, i think), so I know that there will be change on the horizon and I do believe it will be good change.

This year is a negotiations year for certified staff. Our union, LKNEA, is working hard to make sure that our new contract fits our needs and so we dont get screwed by the district. There are several items in the proposals that could make or break LKSD's ability to hire and retain good teachers. I hope it all works out. I dont want to post any of the bargaining specifics here, but if any other LKSD teachers are reading this and want to know what's going on with negotiations, just comment or email, and I'll get back to you. We must stay involved in the negotiations in order to ensure that our next contract can see us through these next three years. Support the union and encourage the union reps...they are working hard for you right now. If you are not a union member, consider joining.

And, for those of you who are curious, I DID sign my contract for next year and will be staying another year in Bethel.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The "S" words

There are two words that seem to be escaping from people's lips with greater and greater frequency these days...Spring and Summer. It feels more and more like spring everyday and I've already started making plans for summer. It is in the air, everyone is saying those two little S words. It has been above freezing for three days in a row and the snow is melting. Slush season is upon us. March, technically, is the end of winter, with the first day of spring being March 21st, but March usually stills brings winter weather. April has even been known to bring hard hits of winter weather. We will be turning the clocks ahead on Saturday night (the 8th, dont forget to "spring forward").

SPRING...doesnt that sound nice?

So, there is still one thing that concerns me...Bethel's average snow fall is around 56inches per year and we've only gotten about 30inches. So, where's the other 26inches?

SSSSUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMEEEEEEEERRRRRRRR! There, I said it!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

It's so hard to say goodbye...

Well, folks, the sad end to an amazing reign has come. Brett Favre announced his plan to retire. What a great season to end with. He played spectacularly, broke a ton of records, and reinvigorated the Packers spirit.

We'll miss you!
You will always be remembered as the greatest Packers QB, possibly even the
GREATEST QB EVER! 17 years in the NFL. 16 years with the packers.
That means I've been a cheesehead for 16 years, since I was 12.
What an amazing QB!
And next years starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers?
Aaron Rogers?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

11th anniversary of school shooting

I meant to write about this on Feb. 19th, but forgot. The school and community seemed to forget too. The was no memorial, no moment of silence, nothing as far as I know of. We must not forget these tragedies, so that we can try to prevent them from happening in the future. You can never get too comfortable, too relaxed, too sure of yourself. We must remember...for the sake of the lives that were lost and for the lives of the children that walk those halls still today.

Feb. 19, 1997:
A 16-year-old student opens fire with a shotgun in a common area at the Bethel, Alaska, high school, killing the principal and a student. Two other students are wounded. Authorities later accuse two other students of knowing the shootings would take place. Evan Ramsey was sentenced to two 99-year terms.

This is an article from last year's 10th anniversary...

Bethel remembers, reflects on school shooting anniversary

by Rhonda McBride
Monday, Feb. 19, 2007

Bethel, Alaska - It was a time when school shootings were almost unheard of. Before Paducah, Jonesboro and Columbine, there was Bethel Regional High School.

It was 10 years ago today in Bethel, a remote community in Western Alaska, when a 16-year-old boy walked into the school's lobby with a gun and killed two people.

Evan Ramsey was one of the first, and many fear, not the last.

Ramsey now spends his life in an Arizona prison. It's a boring life, he says, and it's the price he must pay for one day of drama 10 years ago.

"Down here, the days blend into each other. Each day is sunny. My day-to-day life is fairly boring," said Ramsey.

Ramsey also says he does not want to talk about the day of the shooting.

By the time police got the gun away from him on that fateful day, it was too late.

Ron Edwards, the Bethel Regional High School principal, would soon die. Josh Palacios, who was two weeks shy of turning 16, was medevaced to Anchorage. But he too would not survive.

Evan Ramsey wounded two others on that day. They recovered.

But for many others that morning, there were other wounds, some that have yet to heal.

"He was walking down the halls and he was shooting this other guy. He was reloading and I ran out of the side door," said Erick Hodgins on Feb. 19, 2007.

Today, Hodgins admits that Ramsey's first shot went off about five feet behind his head.

As Palacios lay on the floor bleeding, Hodgins hid behind a planter. He escaped the bullets, but not the fallout.

"I remember sitting there behind that planter. And I wanted to go over there and make sure he was OK. I couldn't, because Evan kept walking around with that gun. I was just close to it, you know. You feel like afterwards, you could have done something," said Hodgins.

Hodgins feels a survivor's guilt, as well as a survivor's anger.

"I get kind of annoyed that it's ‘all Columbine.' We're not going for fame or anything like that. It's just that school shootings aren't just ‘all Columbine.' It's every community," he said.

The shootings at Columbine High School, just south of Denver, came two years later and was the tenth school shooting in the nation since Bethel's.

And while the Bethel tragedy is generally not mentioned in school shooting stories, there were lessons there that remain overlooked.

Hodgins posed a question that many other parents and school shooting survivors have asked: "Why are kids so angry?"

"Our culture is one of ignorance," he said. "Everyone wants to remain blissfully ignorant to the hard things."

Steve Poor, who was one of the first security guards hired by Bethel Regional High School after the shooting, won't ever be accused of being blissfully ignorant to what occurred there. He thinks about the shootings ever day, and his vigilance has paid off.

"Since the shooting, we've taken a gun away from a kid in the school," he said.

Today, the school is much better equipped to handle threats. Poor carries a radio and a cell phone on him at all times while working so that anyone can reach him at any time.

Teachers have cell phones, too.

Ten years ago, though, there were no phones in the classroom, and the word lockdown was unheard of.

"One of the first things I was told when I showed up in Bethel on the job site was about the shooting. ‘Oh, did you know?' said Shelli Frankowiak, a new teacher at Bethel Regional High.

Students too have heard the stories, and understand why the school has several drills a year. Just in case.

"We don't want to have another one of those tragedies," said Maj. Carl Bailey, the JROTC director for the high school. "That's my biggest fear is that we'll be the first repeat school. I get goose bumps just thinking about that."

Of all the students attending Bethel Regional High that year, Evan Ramsey was not a kid teachers would have imagined capable of such violence.

"I remember the little Ramsey boy. He was almost like a ghost, always by himself, and seemed soft spoken and mild," said Maj. Bailey.

Evan Ramsey was a haunted child.

His father, Don Ramsey, went to prison in October 1986, after storming the Anchorage Times newspaper with smoke bombs and gunfire.

His mother couldn't cope, and the Ramsey children went from foster home to foster home until they were finally adopted by Sue Hare, the Lower Kuskokwim School District superintendent.

Despite a more stable life, students zeroed in on Ramsey's vulnerabilities.

"I think he got teased because he was weird. He didn't fit in," said Hodgins.

Hodgins admitted he was one of many kids who teased Evan Ramsey, calling him "Screech" and claiming he resembled a goofy high school student on the former TV series "Saved By The Bell."

Like the misfit in this popular TV sitcom, Evan Ramsey was also thin and awkward. But beyond the nickname, there were other constant insults. And they hurt.

"For the same reasons that being called a homosexual when you're not, it would bother you being portrayed in a certain light that is false," said Ramsey.

Ramsey says no one teases him any more, and if they did, he would not care.

"What somebody else thinks about me doesn't matter. If I had been able to realize that early on, I probably wouldn't have committed my crime," he said.

During Ramsey's trial, the court heard how he had planned to commit suicide. In a letter to be read after his death he wrote: "Life sucks in its own way. So I killed a little. And killed myself."

Ramsey had planned the shootings with other boys. Together, they came up with a hit list, and told friends to come and watch.

By the time Reyne Athanas got to the lobby, Josh Palacios had already been shot. She saw Ramsey with the gun and tried to take it away.

"When he wanted to make a point, he would swing it straight-barrel at me," said Athanas.

This whole scene had an audience upstairs. Athanas explained that a balcony had overlooked the scene when Ramsey shot Palacios, and that many kids had looked down into the lobby area and observed it all. The balcony, though, has since been removed.

Some of the students said they didn't believe Ramsey would actually fire, while others said they didn't know what to expect.

On the day after the shooting, Melissa Campbell admitted to knowing about it before it happened.

"I came to school and one of my friends said, ‘Look. We've got to go up to the library.' And I asked her why. And she said, ‘Because something bad is going to happen,'" she said.

Today, teachers here hope there's enough awareness about school shootings that kids would warn them in time to avert tragedy.

Bethel Regional High School now has an anti-bullying policy, and tries to move quickly on complaints. But 10 years ago, Evan Ramsey said no one took him seriously.

"I would have to say the worst part of the whole experience was not so much being actually called names, teased and picked on, but was doing what my foster mom had told me: going to the principal, the dean of students and reporting it and nothing really being done," Ramsey said.

So Ramsey took action and lives with the consequences, which were inflicted upon an entire community.

"I wonder how the victims are doing and how they're getting along with life," said Ramsey. "And whether or not they've gotten over the things that I've done."

To the people of Bethel, Evan Ramsey says he's sorry both for his actions and the suffering he caused.

Ramsey was on of the first teens tried under the adult system in Alaska courts.

The two boys that helped Ramsey plan the shooting eventually saw their cases move through the juvenile court system. They have since been released.

Ramsey was sentenced to more than 200 years' prison time for the Bethel Regional High shootings, and he won't be eligible for parole until he is about 75 years old.

Bethel has marked the 10-year anniversary of the school shootings with a remembrance and candle-lighting ceremony in the high school lobby. For many here, it's an opportunity to rededicate themselves to promises made after the shooting, which included working toward making the community a better place for children.

There were five school shootings in the month of February, 2008. It makes me wonder what kind of children we are raising in America today. And I wonder if I'm doing all that I can to connect with kids, to give them guidance, to show them that I care. I wonder what kind of person Avery will be and if I'm doing things right. I think so. I hope so.

I should explain...

After a couple comments and emails about my "Alone and Lonely" post on Friday night, I feel the need to explain....

I had a couple friends over on Friday night. We sat around having pizza, drinking wine, playing board games, talking, and laughing. We had a great time! I am thankful that I have great friends after such a short time in Bethel. It was after they left that the immense feeling of loneliness hit me.

I am not alone and lonely in the way that many people think of those words. Here are the definitions according to the American Heritage College Dictionary:

Alone:
adj. 1. Being apart from others; solitary. 2. Being without anyone or anything else; only. 3. Considered separately from all others of the same class. 4. Being unequaled.
adv. 1. Without others. 2. Without help. 3. Exclusively; only.
Synonyms: alone, lonely, lonesome, solitary. These adjectives describe lack of companionship. Alone emphasizes being apart from others but does not necessarily imply unhappiness. Lonely connotes painful awareness of being alone. Lonesome emphasizes a plaintive desire for companionship. Solitary often stresses physical isolation that is self-imposed.

Lonely:
adf. 1. without companions; lone. 2. Characterized by aloneness; solitary. 3. Unfrequented by people; desolate. 4. Dejected by the awareness of being alone.

I am not lacking of things to do. In fact, I have more things to do than are possible in any given day. I am not solitary. I have friends here and in other places. In fact, I have great friends. Friends who call, who write, who stop by, who email, who comment on this blog (though not as often as they should), and I even have friends who write whole blog posts on their blog to try and cure my loneliness(Thanks, Kale). I have friends who I can laugh with and friends I can cry with. Friends who cant wait to see me next. I live with a 12 year old who keeps me endlessly busy, if not amused. I have two dogs by my side as I write this. I have students and coworkers that fill my days with joy (and some headaches, too). I have a church family to alight my way. My body and mind are constantly stimulated (maybe not as much as is possible, but definitely enough to deter loneliness in the common sense). I have a career that keeps me busy, satisfied, and involved. I live in a place that is unique and interesting.

The loneliness that I am feeling is not the same as being bored or solitary. It is not the same as being unhappy or depressed. It is not about where I am or who I'm with. What I am feeling does not fall into the definitions of alone or lonely as defined above. It is not a result of not having enough to do or people to be with. It is not a result of despair or solitude.

In fact, my loneliness is exactly the opposite of all of the above. My loneliness is a result of the fact that my life is so rewarding, so fulfilling, so wonderful. My friends, as great as they are, go home at the end of the evening (like Friday night), the say goodbye and hang up at the end of a telephone conversation. They email and write from the comfort of their own lives, which are separate from mine. My students and coworkers have lives of their own. My brother is just a child and the dogs are, well, just dogs. Neither of which are equals or can fill the space that makes me lonely. And all of that is just as it should be.

What I am missing...What makes me lonely...is that I have no one to share all the joys and wonders of life. No one to share the ups and downs of life with. No partner, no companion, no mate. No one to love unconditionally. No one to be their at the beginning and the end of each day, each week, each month, each year. No one to share my deepest dreams and my darkest fears. No one to share my heart and soul with. What I am missing is that someone who doesn't go home at the end of the night. The person who never says goodbye.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Alone

and lonely.


I miss you!