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

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009


My heart feels this empty too.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I really hope it's not...

iThere are not many people in Bethel who have not had the swine flu. It has done it's rounds. And still is. Almost everyone I know has had it or has it currently. We had several days back a few weeks ago were our school absentee rate was over 20%. I only had 9 kids in my 2nd hour yesterday(usually have 22) because they are home with the flu. The only reason that I know that is because the sub took attendance. I was home sick too.

Yesterday morning I woke up with a raging headache. I felt nauseous. I was dizzy and lightheaded and my vision was blurry. I almost fell out of the shower. I took an ibuprofen and went to work thinking that my headache would subside and with it, my other symptoms. Well, my headache pretty much went away, but the rest didnt. Needless to say, I ended up getting things ready for the day, having a sub called in, and going home.

Today, I felt great all day. I had a mild headache, but that's not unusual...I have headaches all the time. Other than that, I felt good all day and had none of the problems that I had had the previous day. I was in a great mood all day and things were good. Until the last hour of the day that is. We had an assembly. There was loud, pounding, bass filled music. My headache came back in full force along with my nausea. I was sitting next to one of the other teachers whose child was in the first round of kids to get the flu. She told me, "I dont want to discourage you, but that's how his flu started too." After dinner tonight, I was exhausted and fell asleep on the couch for about 3 hours. I havent felt good since I woke up. I'm going to be so mad if I get the flu.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Birthday list progress

I've been making some pretty significant progress on the Birthday list lately. Here's the update...2...this months book was the worst book I've ever read in my entire life. If you need something to put you to sleep at night and insult your intelligence, read Winkie.

4...paying toward truck. I made an extra payment this month and am hoping to put the majority of our PFD money towards it too. I should be able to have it paid off by the time I'm ready to write next years list.

5...only 2 pounds to go! A friend of mine put it in terms of 30 pounds being 6 five pounds bags of potatoes and ever since then I have been imagining it that way. When you think of it like that....WOW! 30 pounds is huge!

8...thinking about driving down to Mexico while we're in Texas over Christmas break. I need to do a bit more research about how safe it is these days to go into Mexico, but I would love it if Avery could get a stamp in his passport.

10...ordered the herb garden today. I'm excited about growing my own herbs...only problem is...I have no south facing window so I dont know how they will get enough light this winter. We'll see how it goes.

12...getting better and better at SIOP. My lesson plans are getting better and better. I feel like I'm a better teacher all the time.

16...still doing meatless monday...this week summer squash pancakes, fried zucchini, zucchini cake...last week zucchini quiche, green bean casserole, pear crisp...week before eggplant parmesan, rye garlic bread, green salad.

20...possible amusement park in texas. Never been there. Christmas break plans are still pending, but I'm looking at buying our plane tickets sometime soon.

26...ordered the 1 year bible. It's in chronological order and broken into 365 parts so that you can read it in a year. I'm really looking forward to it!

28...possible road trip down to mexico during christmas. We'll see!

If i get all of this stuff done then I will only have 5 things left on the list that I havent done yet.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Got student loans?

With all the big government bailouts, sometimes it seems that the government over looks all of us 'little guys'. Turns out, they didnt. I received a statement in the mail a few months ago that listed my new variable interest rate for student loans. 2.48%! That's wonderful. That's the lowest it's been for years. I've been waiting for a good rate for years. So, I locked in my rate by consolidating. This was too good of a deal to not share with everybody here on the blog. If you have variable interest rate student loans, now might be the time to think about consolidating. I know I did.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Breaking News

The Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend check amount has been released...$1305! If you signed up for direct deposit (like I did), you'll receive your money on October 8th. That's right around the corner. Don't know what a PFD is? Check out the website here. Or check out this article in the Fairbanks Newsminer. Or read the post I wrote about the 2007 amount here. There was talk that this year's check was going to be really low because of how bad the economy did last year, but from what I can gather, the amount is set using a 5 year average. So it will probably be a couple years yet until the amount drops to factor in the bad 2008 year.

I'm excited...this is the first year that Avery and I will receive a PFD check. I already plan to put it straight toward paying off my truck loan.

Dont miss the post I wrote this morning about this year's rainbow...I posted it and then found out about the PFD amount and wrote this post.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

This year's rainbow

Every year, at least once a year, we get a really amazing rainbow. It usually happens around mid-September when there's a storm in the east and the sun is shining from the west. Last year's rainbow was more spectacular than this one, but even still, I think we have the most amazing rainbows that I've ever seen.
This year's rainbow happened two Sunday's ago right after Green Bay won their first game against the Bears. It was a good game and they pulled it out right at the end. They I went outside to see this glorious rainbow over the top of my house. My apt is the one in the topmost picture. You can see my truck sitting outside.
The rainbow is so huge, it wont fit into one picture, but if you took all three of those photos and put them together, you'd have yourself one big, amazing rainbow.

Jack Frost visited last night

It was 27 degrees F when we drove to school this morning. The heater pumped out hot air all night to keep our little apt warm. There was a hard frost on everything. My truck had to be defrosted, the tundra was covered with white frost, and I almost fell on the slippery board walk on my way into the school.

Enough said.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nooooooo...it's too early!

Right now...

Scattered Clouds
Windchill: 24 °F
Humidity: 92%
Dew Point: 30 °F
Wind: 10 mph from the WSW
Pressure: 29.77 in (Steady)
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Scattered Clouds 900 ft
Scattered Clouds 2500 ft
Scattered Clouds 4700 ft
(Above Ground Level)

Today's forecast...
Mostly cloudy with scattered rain and snow showers. Highs in the lower to mid 40s. West wind 15 to 20 mph except northwest 15 to 30 mph along the coast.

Mostly cloudy with scattered rain and snow showers. Lows in the lower to mid 30s. Southwest wind 15 mph except west 10 to 25 mph along the coast.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Avery update

Avery got a haircut the other day. I'm really beginning to get pretty decent at cutting his hair. Usually I just use the clippers, but I actually used the scissors to trim up the top and it turned out really good.

He has straight A's in all of his classes right now and he passed his first math test. Last year when he started junior high we bumped him up a level in his math and he struggled with it all year because it was challenging. This year he is taking Algebra with mostly High School kids and he is doing well.

Avery decided to play the trumpet this year in band rather than sticking with the tenor sax. He's in his room playing now. I think it's going to be awhile before the noises coming from his room sound anything like music.

Avery got a contact in one eye the other day. He has one bad eye that we've been working on improving the vision in for many years now. This year it seems that having a corrective lens will help, so he got a contact in the bad eye. He is learning how to use it and wear it and take care of it. Another thing to do and take care of everyday. He goes for his checkup on Friday to make sure the contact he's wearing is the right fit for him.

Avery also got a bunch of new bike parts in for his bike the other day. He saved up the money and bought the parts himself. He spent all day today working on putting it all together with his friends. When he was done, he stepped back and looked at his bike and told his friends about how he had saved up the money for all those parts. He was proud of himself.

Wrestling starts soon. He got the forms for raising money through Push-up-athon. If you'd like to donate to Avery's Push-up-athon, you can send him a check made out to BRHS. You can either donate a flat amount or you can donate a certain per pushup amount. Last year he did 62 pushups. He's weighing in right now at about 128 pounds. Wow! I cant believe he's so big already. And with him still growing and me losing weight, I can fit into his jeans...weird!

He's also doing Robotics this year, which means he's on my robotics team. And I didnt even make him do it. He joined all on his own because he was interested. Even though it meant he'd be spending even more time with me, he decided to do it. I think he's really starting to mature a bit.

He has also expressed some interest in the possibility of taking a dance class with me. I think he would enjoy learning how to do swing dance and it would improve his coordination which would help him in other areas of his life, like sports. I think I have also convinced him that it will score him points with the girls. Every girl loves a guy that can dance!

Speaking of maturing...he has on several occasions expressed to me recently what a wonderful adventure we are living here in Alaska. Driving down the road a few weeks ago on the way home, he was gazing out of the window looking out at the tundra and he turned to me and said, "We live in Alaska!" I'm so glad that he is finally appreciating the experience that he is living and how unique it is.

He also got invited to go hunting next weekend with his friend and his dad and some of the other male teachers. I know he will be in good hands and that he will learn alot about hunting and gun safety from the guys who will be with him. I'm glad that he will get to experience a real Alaska hunt while we are here. Now if only I would be invited to go out hunting...I would love to do that.

I cant believe he'll be 14 next month. He'll be able to get his drivers permit when he turns 14, he really wants it, but I'm just not sure I'M ready for him to have it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Number 13 on the birthday list is complete. I've been taking a Argentine Tango class every Saturday night for the past 5 weeks. I have one week left to go and I've learned a ton. I originally signed up with a friend, but have met a bunch of new people from taking the class. The only problem is that there are too many of us women and not even men to go around, so we have to share/rotate partners so that all the girls get a chance to practice. I've been working on recruiting some more men, but so far all i've gotten is alot of maybes. Aside from that it's been a total workout once a week for an hour and a half. Last night I worked up a total sweat while dancing. It's awesome!
This is the studio where the dance classes are held. The dance instructor, Chester, also does Swing class on Friday night that Avery and I might sign up for next month. Chester also teaches Salsa, Waltz, and a bunch of others. Next month he is going to do both a basic Tango class and an advanced Tango class. He said I'm ready for advanced, but I'm going to do both. I'm excited about learned to dance and about getting some excercise. And about checking another thing off my birthday list.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A difficult decision

I've decided to have Taboo put down. I've been thinking about it for awhile. He's old and sick more often and has fat tumors all over him. But the main reason is that he keeps biting other peoples dogs. Yesterday, he bit our neighbors dog. I was standing there talking to the neighbor and the dog were sniffing each other and out of nowhere, Taboo just bit her right on the snout. I checked the dogs face for any cuts and didnt see anything, but about a half hour later, my neighbor called saying that she found a cut right under the dogs eye. Last year, when we tried that roommate thing for awhile, Taboo bit her dog, and the year before that when we tried to get Avery a puppy, Taboo bit him too.

He just keeps doing it and his behavior just keeps getting more aggressive toward people too. He keeps barking ferociously at the other neighbors when they walk past. I am very afraid that the day will come when he will bite a person, so I'm just going to have him put down. I dont know what else to do. I dont want to have a dog that I cant even trust to put out on his chain. I just cant risk it. It makes me so extremely sad to think about not having him anymore. He's been with me for so long and is such a solid part of my life. I've had him since my senior year of high school...almost 12 years now. Through all of the ups and downs in my life, he has always been there. He's always been my rock. Without him, I will truly be all alone.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Moose Roost

Last year, I always saved my kitchen scraps and took them to one of my colleagues for their chickens. This year, they repaid me with a couple of cuts from this season's moose. I'm grateful to have some moose meat in the freezer. I am also grateful that this colleague is a math teacher, not an english teacher! :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

5 jars of sand

Number 22 on the birthday list is done! My goal was to collect 5 new jars of sand this year. The first sample is from the Kuskokwim river here in Bethel. The second jar is from the desert of Las Vegas. The second is from the Hocking River. The third is from up river on the Kuskokwim. And the fifth is from the little Quinhagak beach. My sand collection is growing. I have had several students show an interest in the sand collection and that makes me glad that I do it. Each sand sample is unique and all the jars also have their own memories for me.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Back to Bethel

I flew back to Bethel from Quinhagak on a different bush plane. It was a little bit bigger with a capacity of 8 people. There were only two of us on the flight. I got a really nice view of the village of Quinhagak and its river as we were leaving.
It was still a rainy and overcast day, as most are around this time of year, but the view was still gorgeous. Below is the forward view in the plane.
And the rear view...
We did get a few glimpes of the sun, but generally we stayed below the clouds. The small bush planes fly under the clouds rather than over them. This plane also had a much different feel to it. It felt like the rear end was sliding around (as if on ice) while we were up in the air. It was a weird sensation that took a short while to get used to. This plane on the way home also had bigger engines and flew faster. We got home in only about 25 minutes, rather than the 45 it took to get there.
By the time we spotted the Bethel runway, I was really super tired and looking forward to sleeping in my bed.
We had a nice view of Bethel on the way into the airport. You can click on the picture to make it bigger. This is all of downtown Bethel and a good portion of the entire town.
Watching the runway through the front window of the plane was an interesting sight. I didnt know what to expect for the landing so I braced myself, but it turned out pretty smooth.
The sign at the other end of the counter welcoming me back to Bethel and reminding me to make sure and settle up the bill.I'm glad I got the opportunity to go out to the village. It was an interesting experience if only just for having done it. I was also able to complete numbers 19, 22, and 29.

In other news...
We are deep into rainy season now, AKA mudboot season. The mud is thick and slippery. You can sink inches into it when you walk. It's treacherous.

I'm down 25 pounds now. I've lost 13 just since being back here in Bethel these last five weeks.

The Packers won there first regular season game tonight. GO PACK GO! I cooked a bunch of food and had some friends over to watch the game. It was fun. And the last couple minutes of the game were really fun to watch. I wore my Packers jersey today to represent my team, but I'm almost embarrassed to wear it because it's #4. I think I'm going to go online and buy Avery and I both new jerseys for this season.

After GB won and I was seeing my friends out of the door, I notices that it was raining pretty hard, but that the sun was shining bright from the west. Every year around this time, we get at least one really amazing rainbow (click here to see last year's rainbow). So, I went outside to see if I could spot one and, sure enough, there was a rainbow stretching across the sky. It wasnt quite as amazing as last year, but it was still really wonderful to see. I'll try to post some pics of it soon.

Robotics starts this week. I cant believe we're this far into the year already. I was already having conversations with some friends last night about Halloween costumes for this year. Crazy!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Welcome to...Quinhagak!

I'm not exactly sure, but I think that sign says 'Welcome to Quinhagak Elementary'. I was able to complete Number 19 on the Birthday list on Monday when I spent the night in Quinhagak. I was traveling on school business to help conduct SIOP training in the village, therefore, I slept at the school. I have slept in schools on other school trips before, but always as a chaperone for a student activity. This is the first time I slept in a school that was completely empty. I thought it was going to be a little creepy, but it wasnt.
After landing on the dirt and gravel runway in Quinhagak, the airline agent met me there to give me a ride into town and drop me off at the school. The airport is about 2 miles or so out of town. The picture above is the view from the front steps of the school.
After getting there, I unloaded my stuff and took a walk to scope out the village. I saw the dog team above getting a workout by pulling this 4 wheeler to get ready for mushing season which is right around the corner. Below is the power plant for the village. It is diesel operated, just like ours here in Bethel.
I walked out to see how close to the Bering Sea the little village was. It sits on a little inlet right off of the ocean. It was very pretty. I was hoping for a beach that I could take a walk on, but being part of a river delta means that the land is mostly marshy.
There were alot of grassy and muddy areas, but no beach. I did see quite alot of birds. The National Wildlife Refuge that we live in is the largest in the U.S. and has the largest numbers of migratory birds than anywhere else.
These are just some plain old seagulls. Most of the interesting birds have already flown or started to fly south for the winter.
The Kanektok River flows next to the town and out to the sea. It was all very peaceful.
I walked along this muddy little path next to the water hoping to find something resembling a beach so that I could collect some sand. I had even picked up a plastic grocery bag off the ground along my walk so that I would be ready to collect some sand if I came across it.
And finally, I found this little tiny beach. It was only about 10 feet wide and was off of the river rather than the ocean, but I collected some sand and have it currently in a bowl on my kitchen window sill drying so that it can be put into a jar.
There was a small little piece of land where a couple of boats were docked nearby.
Another boat ashore a very grassy area and the village in the background.
This shows there main little boat dock, which was really just a small slough off of the main river that veered in toward town. Most of the boats were parked here.
A drying rack with some sort of fish drying, but I'm not sure what. It looked like something out of a horror movie.
Another beautiful view of the river leading out to the Bering Sea. I was surprised by the current of the river. It was flowing very fast.
The village dock allows the loading and unloading of small boats and barges.
I think this is a perfect example of the influence of the modern day white people. Here are these people who live in a house that is not much more than a shack and yet, they have this satellite dish. Just looking at it seems like a huge culture clash. It just makes me shake my head and wonder.
The local church. I'm not sure of the denomination. There were no signs or any indications, at least none that gave me any clues...Russian Orthodox, Moravian, Catholic...etc. I dont know.
I was quite surprised that the entire village had piped water and sewer. See all of the silver tubes? That is the insulative wrapping around the pipes. They have to be above ground because they cant be placed in the permafrost.
Someone told me that the population of the town was between 800-900. It is a fairly large village, but I knew that already when I was told that the school had 18 teachers. That's alot. I think they said that the school had about 240 students. There were alot of kids outside playing around town.
One of the things that I noticed right away as I walked through the village was that almost all of the vehicles on the road seemed to be 4 wheelers and that it was mostly young men driving and hanging around the village. I did not see any adult men around the village at all and I can only assume that it must have been because all of the responsible older men were out for the long holiday weekend hunting and fishing and doing the things they need to in order to take care of their families, while the young men just hung around town riding the 4 wheelers.
I good majority of the houses looked like the one in the picture above. Very standard, very basic, up off the ground with piped water and sewer.

Overall my trip was good. Pretty uneventful, but good.