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

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Monday, May 31, 2010

Seagulls, Sunburns, and Dog Sitting

This last week has been beautiful here in Bethel, Alaska. We've have sunny days and temps around 70 each day for a week now. Yesterday (Sunday) was particularly warm. It got up to 74 in the afternoon. My friend and I took a blanket down by a grassy area near the river to get some sun, enjoy the weather, and read a book. We sat out there for a few hours. It was so peaceful and there were seagulls flying around making their distinctive CAW sounds. You could almost convince yourself you were on a beach in California, if you closed your eyes. I threw the ball around for Suka, the little dog that I am dog sitting for this week and he enjoyed the sunny day as well. We finally forced ourselves to go inside and get away from the sun, when we started to notice a bit of pink in our skin. After a few hours later, my friend came back over to get me so that we could go check her smelt trap down in the river. When she walked in she said in astonishment, "OMG, I got a sun burn today and so did you!"

My first ever Alaskan sun burn! I'm so happy to have some color back in my complextion. I love it!

Friday, May 28, 2010


You never know where you will find the most amazing inspiration. I have been working and taking classes with the most amazing woman. She's a fellow HS science teacher who is passionate about teaching and about science. She is a hard and tireless worker who volunteers her time for the good of students. She has travelled all over the world and has lived all over Alaska. She is active in her career and personal life. She has children who love her and call her each day to see how she is doing. She gets people easily. She understand when to listen and when to speak. She understands when to be patient and when to be firm. She is highly intelligent and well rounded. She is humble, kind, and caring. She is energetic and outgoing. She is the kind of person who embraces life and all that it has to offer. She has the best stories and life experiences that I have ever heard.

She's 78 and a great grandmother!

When I grow up, I want to be half the woman she is.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

70 and sunny

It has been warm and sunny these last few days. I spent alot of time out walking yesterday and enjoyed the warmth and sunshine. I took these picture in my walk. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Seeing some more of Alaska

For a week this summer, my great friend Kassia is coming for a visit to Alaska. We are going to meet in Anchorage and then spend some time exploring some of the places that I have yet to see. First, we are going to take the train up to Denali National Park and stay a few nights at the lodge there. Hopefully we will get a glimpse of Mt. McKinley while we are there. We will definitely be going rafting on the Nenana River and seeing a dinner theatre while we're there.
After a couple nights in Denali, we take the train back down to Anchorage. The next day, we are driving down to Whittier, Alaska to stay at the lodge below and take a cruise of Prince Williams Sound. It should be beautiful. Hopefully we will see many sea animals and get to see a few glaciers up close.
On our drive back to Anchorage, we are going to stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Then we spend a couple of nights hanging out in Anchorage before we head home. All in all, it should be a great trip filled with adventure, beautiful scenery, wild animals, and wonderful friendship!

Been awhile

I know, I know...it's been FOREVER since I've written anything. I have been so extremely busy with the end of the school year and Avery's misbehavior. Last week was the week from hell, BUT it's over now.

School is out.
Avery is gone.

Things have calmed down here. I'm taking a class now. 8am-5pm everyday. I have been enjoying the warm sunny weather and walking everyday. I've lost a few pounds already. I told you I would get back on the wagon. And so I have.

I will post more later.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A walk by the river

We went for a walk down by the river Tuesday evening. The river wall was barely containing the water. It did not flood, but came very close. Some of the lower areas around the slough flooded slightly, but certainly nothing like last year.
The ice was backed up on the river when we wandered down that way. It was really interesting. The ice was just there, standing still, blocked.
The big chunks were there, all piled on each other. Below is the leading edge of the ice where it started to be backed up.
It was actually making making the tinkling sound of ice cubes floating in water. It was very cool. I enjoyed our little walk very much.
This morning we drove past the river and it was mostly clear with ice only piled up on the far side. People are already out on the river in there boats.

Only 2 days of school left!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Procrastination Post

I'm supposed to be writing my final exam for my Biology class right now. I'm procrastinating. I'm doing everything BUT writing the darn test. I'm doing laundry, I baked some cookies, I read with Avery, I checked out some hotels for summer travelling online, I looked at the breakup map, I'm writing this post. I'm just being a procrastinator right now.

It's 11:30pm and the sun is just dipping below the horizon. It's hard to get any sleep at night now-a-days. I'm a night owl anyway, so the long days just help to keep me up even longer. The sun is actually up for 17 hours 38 minutes and the amount of visible light is 20 hours 2 mintues. Here are the rise and set times..
Actual Time 5:54 AM AKDT 11:32 PM AKDT
Civil Twilight 4:42 AM AKDT 12:45 AM AKDT

The river broke...Monday morning at around 8:41am. The winner took home about $3100. Dang...i was so sure it was going to be me. Oh well...i'll win it next year! I havent been down to see the river yet, but I heard the ice is just barely flowing. I guess the break up party should be tomorrow night.

I've added some additional plans to my summer that I'm supper excited about. My friend Kas is going to meet me in Anchorage and we are going to spend a week traveling around the state and having fun! I'll post more later.

I'm done with the classes that I was taking. I passed them both (of course). Now I just still have the summer science camp to finish planning and I'm done with just about everything that I took on these last few months.

There's only 4 more days of school left. This week is finals week, so the kids are just testing. I still need to grade a bunch of papers, but other than that, I'm pretty well done. I do have a mountain of papers to grade though.

Avery leaves on Friday night to spend the summer in Ohio. I am nervous about how things will go this summer because I know that Avery is right at the age where he will have to make alot of big decisions and may or may not be highly influenced by his peers. I hope that he will make good choices...that's about all I can do...just have faith that things will turn out the way that they are supposed to.

we have been having gorgeous weather these last few days, but I've been so busy that I havent been able to enjoy it. I work every night until around 7pm, then I grade papers in the evenings at home. I cant wait until summer so I can start enjoying my time a bit more. Also, so I can get back on the weight loss wagon. I fell off this winter, but I'm going to get back on soon, I promise. I already have some ideas for eating and working out for this summer that should help me get back on track with my goals.

well, that's enough procrastinating...gotta get some work done!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Graduation 2010

This year's graduation was special to me because it was the first group of kids that I have taught that I have seen graduate. When I taught in Ohio, our school drew kids from 18 or so feeder schools and they went back to their home school for graduation. These are the students that were my first group of Biology kids when I first moved here.
There was a tie for valedictorian. They all had 4.04GPA. The did a great job sharing the valedictorian speech. This year all of the speeches were very personal. Maybe it was because the graduating class was a small one, but each speech that was given included anecdotes about members of the class and tales from their childhoods together. Only 4 years and it will be Avery graduating class!
Some of the seniors did a native dance to celebrate their culture and heritage. Part of the valedictorian speech was in Yup'ik as well.
Overall, the ceremony was really nice. I had a huge smile on my face the entire time. About a third of this group, I have taught personally. Another third I have developed relationships with through other things like the music program and homeroom advising. I am so proud of these kids!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Striking Beauty

Walking through the parking lot at a shopping center can be a majestic experience when there are amazing mountains towering over you. Anchorage is particularly beautiful because everywhere you go, the mountains and in full view all around you.
On the last trip into Anchorage, they were striking. I very distinctly remember leaving several buildings and being struck by the beauty of the mountains as soon as I stepped out of the door. I wish you could see them! The picture makes it look like they are about twice as far away as they really are. In real life, they look as though they are standing guard just behind the buildings.

I wish Bethel had mountains like this. This is the Alaska people envision when they think of the state. Bethel looks nothing like this! But, Bethel is beautiful in its own way.

7 done, 23 to go

Number 24 on the birthday list, Find a New Favorite Drink, is done. A friend of mine made this drink for me many, many months ago. At that time, she and I were both trying to lose some weight. She was basically mixing vodka and lime juice in a low calorie version of the mojito. Later, I went on to find out that this drink is actually called a Vodka Gimlet. The Gimlet may or may not be named after the British Royal Navy surgeon Thomas Gimlet who introduced the drink to get his shipmates to consume lime to prevent scurvy onboard the ship. It is just vodka and fresh squeezed lime juice. I like this drink because it tastes great, is super easy to make, goes down smooth, and is very low calorie as far as drinks go. I havent had one for a long time...Maybe I'll fix myself one this weekend!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What a difference a day makes...

Yesterday, the farthest south that the river was open was Kalskag and even then it was just "some open". Now Kalskag is "mostly open" and the "some open" part has creeped down almost to Bethel. Remember, Bethel is the second dot up from the coast on the Kuskokwim river, which is the river in the SW part of the state.
I really think my date of May 15th at 6am could be a good one. That is about 30 hours from now. It could happen. We got a bit of rain showers today...I wonder how that affects breakup. Tonight it's supposed to snow...do you think that would delay or speed up breakup? I havent been down by the river for a few days so I have no idea what it looks like out there.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It only took about 24 hours

Avery came home on Monday night and told me that he had asked a girl to their 8th grade promotion dance. Of course, he wouldnt tell me who and was acting all shy and bashful about it. He said he didnt want me to tease him. On Monday, he was bound and determined NOT to tell me who it was. He even went as far as to erase all of his text messages so that I couldnt find out that way. Over the next few hours, I slipped in some questions here and there about what class she was in, who her friends were, and things like that.

Last night, I expressed my enthusiasm for him asking someone and attending the dance. We talked about what he would wear (I took his nice dress pants to the dry cleaner while I was in Anchorage). He mentioned that she is going to wear a blue dress and wanted to know if he could buy a new tie to match. Before he went to bed last night, he was spilling the info about who his "date" is. I knew he really wanted to tell me. It didnt take long. He was in a really great mood yesterday. I think he was pleased with himself for asking her and the fact that she said yes even though she had two other boys asking as well.

How can it be possible that he is growing up so fast? The dance is next week. I'll take pictures! :) Even though he'll act like he detests the idea of me taking pictures, deep down, he'll enjoy every minute of it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Getting closer...

Breakup is getting closer. There is at least one flood warning up river quite a ways, but here in Bethel we are looking pretty safe. We've got about 7 feet between the river level now and flood zone. We are still looking solid here. Still hoping for May 15th...6am!
The river is still solid except for this one big huge open spot across from town. There were these people who had managed to get their boat out into that open water. I'm not sure how they managed that, but there they were. You can even see that the guy is standing on the ice next to the boat...strange!Apparently this snowmachine will be a donation to the river gods. I wonder how many snowmachines there are down there. Every year, I hear about people losing their snowmachines into open water. Sometimes people even lose their lives by driving their snowmachines or 4 wheelers into open water.Here's the Ice Classic tripod still standing strong on the river. Tomorrow is the average breakup day for bethel. We'll see how it goes...
Just hold out until May 15th...Come on...you can do it!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Waiting for Breakup

There are many open or mostly open sections of the river now, but breakup has still not happened in Bethel. Right now the closest place on the map that was any open water is Aniak, which is about 150 miles up river. That means breakup is still at least a few days out yet. I only have 1 last shot for my Ice Classic Tickets...May 15th at 6:00am. It could happen.

I am home from the Anchorage trip tonight and feel awful. Somehow I managed to pickup a head cold while I was in town. Tomorrow is the fieldtrip for my high school students that I take every year. For the last two years, the river has always been open for this trip, because we always spend a bit of time down by the river hangin' out in between our regularly scheduled fieldtrip activities. As of right now, I would like to stay home from school tomorrow because that's how awful I feel, but missing my fieldtrip is really not an option. So, I guess I'll be there. I hope I feel better in the morning. I've taken two doses of Nyquil and have been sleeping most of the evening.

Two weeks of school left. Crazy.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Bonding...music festival style

It's the last night of a long Anchorage trip with the 4 girls who made it to the state Music competition. The trip has been good, mostly. We've done alot of shopping and listened to even more music. We went to the command performance concert tonight where the kids got to see the "best of the best" perform. It was a long, but amazing experience for the kids. It gave them a much better perspective on the level of performance and musicianship that goes into being the best. There were some incredibly talented young people on that stage tonight!

Last night we were going to have a mani/pedi party in our room, but the girls got distracted by taking distorted pictures of themselves on my laptop PhotoBooth. Eventually they got to laughing so hard that I couldnt resist jumping in and taking a few pictures with them. This morning when I got on my laptop, my desktop picture was changed to a distorted picture of them. I enjoy these trips mostly for the opportunity to bond with the kids on a level other than teacher as classroom taskmaster. I've built a few really strong relationships with these kids by helping out with the music program. Can you find me in the picture above?

Teacher Appreciation Day/Week

Last week was Teacher Appreciation week with Teacher appreciation day being on the one of those days. Our principal baked us the most amazing triple chocolate cakes and sent us out an email to let us know how awesome we are doing and thanking us for all of our continual hard work. I am fortunate to work for a principal who is appreciative and supportive of all that we are doing. In her email was this quote, which puts teaching into a small bit of perspective...

If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn't want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher's job. ~Donald D. Quinn

Friday, May 07, 2010


I'm in Anchorage with our 4 girls who made it to state for their vocal solos. things are good. We're having a good time. They sing today.

More later

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Cinco de Mayo Breakup?

I dont think so.

Yesterday, Avery and I took a walk down by the river to go vote. Bethel had a special ballot measure to re-vote on the alcohol issue here in Bethel. It looks as though the city as reiterated its decision many months ago to get rid of 'local option' and go WET, but that's a whole other issue for a whole other blog post.

As we walked past the river, we could see that it was still pretty solid. People are still driving snowmachines on it even though there is no snow on the river or when you get off the river and into town. Once they're in town, they are driving on the dirt and mud which is terrible for the snowmachine. Most sensible people have put their machines away for the summer. In fact, Avery and our friend Mike, summer-ized our machine and put it up onto pallets this weekend.From the map above you can see that there are some parts of the Kuskokwim river that are open in the east. The Kuskokwim is the long river that runs from the middle of the state and out toward the southwest. Bethel is the third dot up the river from the coast. You can go to the NOAA website to find out more.

It looks as though the river has at least a week until break up, so 3 out of my 5 breakup dates for the Ice Classic are out. Here's hoping for May 10th or May 15th. Even if your bday didnt bring me any luck....Happy Birthday, Kas! Enjoy the last year of your twenties! Love ya and miss ya!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Hat Pride

Avery is taking Yupik class for his elective this quarter. He chose to make a fur hat for his project. He's been telling me off and on for weeks about the progress of his hat. He has had productive days in sewing his hat and he has had difficult days where he messed up and had to undo everything he did and redo it. After all of that hard work and effort, you should have seen the smile on his face when he wore it downstairs to show me tonight. He was pretty pleased and proud of himself. I'm pretty proud of him too. His hard work paid off...his hat turned out great.Now we both have one, because this year at the Cama-i festival, I finally splurged and bought one. I've been meaning to post about it for a long time, but somehow always forgot. His is made of leather around outside, beaver in the front and fox on the sides. Mine is made from spotted seal around the outside, and coyote on the front and sides. These hats are called pilot hats or bomber hats or a russian muliki. I've been wanting to get one since we moved here, but never did because they can be quite pricey. Mine cost $250, but only because I had talked the lady down $30. The spotted seal used on mine makes it a bit more expensive because only Alaskan Native people can hunt, kill, and create materials from spotted seal legally. A hat without seal runs more around $175 and can be purchased easily from a native or non-native (gussuk) person.We will be loving our hats next winter. For now, I've put mine away for the year. I'm so glad Avery got the opportunity to learn how to make one in Yup'ik class and that we have people in our community who are willing to donate the furs needed for this type of experience. Once again, I feel fortunate to live in such a caring and culturally diverse community.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Back to winter again

We woke up to 3 inches of snow on the ground this morning. Really? Yes.
It's MAY 2nd! Seriously? Snow? Yes...3 inches.

This weekend was fun. Friday night I went to bed early and slept for many, many hours....which was good. Avery hung at the skate park, then spent the night at a friends. Saturday I worked all day...which is difficult in the morning, but by the end of the day is sooooo worth it because the committee of people that I'm working on the new science curriculum are so awesome and we are making so much progress. It's awesome! Saturday night I got together with some girlfriends for a girls night. We at desserts, drank wine, watched chic flicks, talked, and laughed the night away. It was a really good time. Avery hung out at a friends house, then came home to hang out with me. Today, we went to church, then had a few friends over for lunch. Afterwards, I spent HOURS talking on the phone with someone very special to me. I did some laundry and other chores and played video games for hours. Avery went hunting (birds) with a friend. It was a relaxing Sunday, but now its time for bed.