Theme Verse

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
-Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

"Ya te lo he ordenado: ¡Sé fuerte y valiente! ¡No tengas miedo ni te desanimes! Porque el SEÑOR tu Dios te acompañará dondequiera que vayas."
-Josué 1:9 (NVI)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Saturday

I set my alarm for 8:00, with all the good intentions of getting up and working on my class. But my snooze alarm wins, and I don’t get up until 9. You know how hard it is to get up on a day you don’t have to work? It’s even harder when it’s still dark out. Like, still solid dark out. But at 9:00 I drag myself out of bed, wash my face, make some coffee, eat cereal and read my devotions, then drink the coffee and read a chapter in Lemony Snicket’s latest book, via the library app on my phone. I feed the dog, and then let him outside and back in, and he curls up on the couch and goes back to sleep. I start a load of laundry and then settle down to work on my homework.
9:52 AM
            At 11, I wake up Drew to see if he wants to go on a walk (he says to wait till the afternoon, and goes back to sleep). I want to get some Christmas presents mailed, so I go out to start the snow machine. The post office isn’t very far, but it’s nice to zip down there on a snow mobile instead of trudging through the snow, and in case we have any packages it’s easier than carrying them back. Since it’s only 1 degree out, I go out to warm it up before getting ready. As I pull on my coat and boots, some dogs are playing outside our house and a couple run up the steps to our door.  Churchill is wagging his tail by the door, so I let him out to play. They four of them wrestle near the bottom of our stairs. One tries to come to me but I tell him “Mosh” (like in a mash pit) which is Eskimo Dog speak for “Shoo!”
            Since we acquired a snow machine last February I have learned the delicate art of starting one in cold temperatures. First make sure the kill switch is up, then turn the choke to full. You have to turn the key several times before the engine finally catches (it also has a pull start, which I guess technically is better to use, but it’s nearly impossible for me to pull hard enough to do anything, so I rely on the electric start). Once it roars to life you put the choke to half and let it sit for a minute, or until the engine seems pretty stable, then turn the choke switch off. If you leave the choke on for too long you’ll flood the engine, and have to wait a while before starting it again. If you flip the choke too early, the engine will die. Like I said, it’s a delicate art. Then with the choke off, you have to listen for a minute to make sure the engine is going well (if it starts to die you put it to half choke again to rev it up), and then head back inside. By this time I’m fairly cold, especially my head and legs.
            While the snow machine warms up (you have to let it run a while before driving it, especially when it’s really cold) I get the rest of my gear on and my stuff together. I peek out the window to see the machine died. Drat. This time with hat and snow pants on as well, I head back outside, start it again (it goes much faster this time) and then go back inside. With a few more minutes to kill, I switch the laundry around and start a new load, then head out.
            The presents are small, so I just hold them on the seat in front of me between my knees as I drive down to the post office. On my way in I see one my students, and he hangs out with me for a few minutes while I check my box. He’s getting ready to go “other side” to check nets. The post-mistress isn’t at the desk so I ring the bell and wait. More people come in an out, and a kid and an older man sit down on the bench to wait to claim packages. The kid reaches a finger toward the doorbell, then pulls it away when he sees me looking. I raise my eyebrows at him (the nonverbal “yes”) and he rings it. After a while she walks in from outside and goes around the counter to help us. With my packages successfully mailed I head across the “street” to the store to pick up a few things. They don’t have the thing I actually want, but I grab some hot dog buns since they’re in, a small bag of chips, and a couple of ice teas. They don’t have any bags, so I put the teas in my jacket and hold the buns and chips on my lap as I drive home.
            Churchill is ready to go inside when I arrive home (his friends left) and he dashes inside as I open the door. My glasses fog over almost immediately, and I start peeling my layers off, now hot from walking around inside with so much clothing. I take the dry clothes out of the dryer, fix myself a little lunch, and go back to working on homework. I’m still in my pajamas.
            Around 2, I take a break from my reading. Drew wakes up. One of the neighbor girls knocks on our door, asking if she can go through our house to get to her side (their parents are out of town and they’re staying with someone else). Pastor Jason calls to give me the numbers of the hymns for tomorrow so I can run through them on the piano. I change the laundry, considering as I put the clothes in the dryer, the wisdom of whoever put the notice on the lint container: Change lint before every load.
            Our neighbor girl (the older one this time) knocks on the door and asks for my help with a quilt she’s making. She’s in my sewing class at school. I go over and help her figure out how to pin on the binding.
            Drew and I get bundled up to go for a walk with Churchill. He’s so excited to go out he can’t sit still and keeps yipping and running into the entryway. Drew makes him sit and wait for the okay, and finally he succeeds and is allowed outside. We bundle up and head out for a walk. We go over the bridge and up through town towards the rocks on the southwest edge of town. It’s right around 0 degrees, but I’m plenty warm except for between my mouth and forehead. A little too warm, actually, since we’re walking uphill. Both Drew and I are sadly out of shape. Sigh. Churchill enjoys himself running around and sniffing everything in sight. We climb up to the rocks and take some pictures. It’s a beautiful day: clear and calm, and the colorful houses stand out like Christmas decorations against the white snow and blue sky. When we get home my nose is frozen, but the rest of me is almost sweating.
            I change the laundry again and work some more on my class assignments. Now it’s after 4, and probably time to do some school work. I’ve got a small stack of grading to do, and some lesson plans to finish. We’re coming up on the end of the quarter, and I need to make sure I’m going to have all the necessary grades in. We’re also out of bread, so I should probably get some going in the bread maker. (Also notice I haven’t been folding the laundry, so there is now a GIANT pile of clean clothes on our bed!)
            I decide to make some bread, and while I’m waiting for the yeast to warm up, post pictures from our walk on facebook. The internet is slow, so it takes a while. Now it’s 5:00, and already almost dark outside. I work on some lesson plans and watch some of the special features from “Back to the Future,” which we watched last night. Drew makes some fajitas for supper. We eat. I finish reading my Lemony Snicket book, which has a melancholy ending. The bread is done. I’m almost done with laundry, though not with folding it.
            I’ve reached that point in the weekend when Saturday, my one day of the week where I can do whatever I want or need to, is ending. Tomorrow is Sunday, which has church and youth group and the added pressure of planning and grading needing to be done. And I’m frustrated, and annoyed, and the cheerful, productive mood I had this mornings is gone. It’s not that I don’t like my job; I do. Or at least, most of the time. It’s just that I don’t like doing my job all the time. I don’t like all the hours of work that go into preparing for my job. I want to do other things, or do nothing. Instead I feel like I’m working all the time. And it makes me irritable and impatient and angry. I don’t like feeling irritable and impatient and angry. Maybe I’m doing something wrong, or maybe I’m a bad Christian.
            When I was in school, I spent most of my free time doing homework or reading. And I was fine with that. I guess I’ve gotten over being fine with it.
            So now it’s about nine. I have most of my lesson plans done, but still have to figure out some of the preps for the week, and haven’t even started on grading. I still have homework for my class I should do. My neck is sore, and I have a headache. I want to do something fun, but I don’t know what I want to do. It’s hard to enjoy something when I know I have all this work to do tomorrow, and know that I’ll be unhappy tomorrow because I’ll be busy and tired and dreading Monday. I guess I can control how I think and feel, and should be happy anyways, but somehow that just makes me feel worse. 
            I read another chapter of my book for my class while laying on the floor, doing some Pilates stretches to try to make my neck and back feel better. It works, though I’m sure if anyone was watching I would look pretty ridiculous.
            Drew helps me fold and put away all the laundry. I tell him how I’m feeling, and he reminds me that I’m human, and I don’t have to get everything done or have it all together. I feel a little better. I put our comforter (the last of the laundry, yay!) in the dryer for a second round and make a chai tea. It’s just after 10:00. Drew and I play Ticket to Ride (an awesome train board game), and around 10:50 a couple of my students stop by and want to visit. Drew sends them away, as it’s almost 11 o’clock at night, and we keep playing. I win! I take our comforter out of the dryer and officially finish the laundry for the day. I’m feeling much better.
            I get ready for bed and say good night to Drew (who’s washing some dishes) and Churchill (who’s sleeping sprawled out on the couch). It’s 11:32 now, and I plan to read for a bit one of the books I got at the book fair and then go to sleep.
            Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of this VEERRRY long post. I almost took out the bit about my little pity party, but in the end decided to leave it in there. It’s honest, if maybe a little irrational, and human. And maybe someone else feels the same way too. Or maybe not, and you can just see how crazy I am. :)
            Thanks for reading. I promise the next post will not be this long!

A view of Scammon Bay from up near the rocks.

Sunday, November 29, 2015



Last year at this time, Drew and I were both laid flat by food poisoning (probably from some raw cookie dough—alas, betrayed!), and were barely well enough by Thursday to eat a small portion of Thanksgiving Dinner. Still, it was a good weekend, and we were thankful for friends who helped us while we were sick and invited us to join them for dinner.

This year we avoided the food poisoning (yay!) and had a weekend full of activities. On Wednesday the whole village was invited up to school to eat a Thanksgiving meal, and our fabulous cooks prepared the works: turkey, potatoes, corn, cranberries, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and aqutak (Eskimo ice cream). Then that evening the school hosted Turkey Bingo (huge, HUGE Bingo game with prizes!). We went up for a little bit, played a few games, and then ducked out. It was fun!

Thursday I got up to watch the parade and finished making the desserts I was bringing to Thanksgiving dinner: pumpkin cheesecake, pecan pie, and blackberry aqutak. 
I got to skype with my family and some extended family in Nebraska. It was really good to talk with them, but a little sad too. Not gonna lie, it's hard being far away from people on holidays. 
Drew roasted a whole swan, which actually turned out pretty yummy. He brined it the night before, then stuffed it and roasted it for a few hours. We took our goodies up to our friends Allie & Mary's house and ate with them, Allie's family, and a couple other teachers. (There was turkey, too, as well as the usual side dishes.)

Friday and Saturday we helped out at the friends & family volleyball tournament as a fundraiser for Bible Camp. The school let us use the gym and we had 10 teams sign up. It was a long couple days, but people had a lot of fun. Saturday night there was a Singspiration at church with some people from other villages.

All in all, it's a been a good, if busy, weekend. Only 3 weeks until Christmas break!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Iqvaq (Berry Picking)

Over the past few months I’ve been able to go berry picking several times, each time for different berries. In late July one of my co-workers, Joann, who is from here, took me out to the Issurituli (stream) just outside of town past the school, and we picked some salmonberries. It was a beautiful sunny day, and it felt great to be outside in the fresh air. The tundra reminds me a little of Kansas, with the wide open spaces and big sky. Of course, we’re also on the edge of a mountain, and the ground is soft and squishy, but still, the resemblance is there.

The Issurituli
Salmonberries (aka Cloudberries)

Salmonberries and blueberries--pretty and delicious!

I went back with Joann again in August, and we picked blackberries (Alaska blackberries, aka crowberries, not to be confused with Downstates blackberries, which are totally different). One Friday evening I filled my whole bucket in just a couple hours! I am not a very fast picker, but I think I am getting better. Some people here can fill their buckets super fast.
Lowbush blueberries

Berry picking can be hard work. All the berries are “low bush,” which means they’re along the ground, so you have to walk, stoop, pick, walk, stoop, pick, and so on. The tundra is soft and uneven, so it can be tough to walk on. My legs definitely get a work out. It’s also really fun, though, and kind of satisfying. If you find a patch with lots of berries you can sit down for a minute to pick all around you. And it’s fun to go out with other people and talk while you pick.

Blackberries (aka crow
Maybe it’s because I come from farm country, but I am constantly amazed at the bounty of berries on the tundra. No one plants them, or tends them, but every year they pop up, with plenty to feed anyone who can get them. God’s earth is wonderful.

I’ve gone a few times up the hill behind my house to pick blackberries, which are everywhere. Sometimes I go with Michelle or Allie, or some kids who are hanging around, and sometimes I just go up by myself to get outside. You start walking up, and when you see berries you start to pick, slowly working your way up the hill. When you finally decide to go down, it’s always surprising how far up you got. And of course, you seem to find all the big berries as you’re walking down…

So what do people do with the berries? Mostly I think they’re used in aqutak (Eskimo Ice Cream), which is made with crisco, sugar, and sometimes mashed potatoes or white fish. A lot of people also make jam or jelly with the juice, or bake them into breads. People will pick gallons and gallons of berries (like 10-15 gallons!) to store in their freezers so they can use them all year long. Another snack that has become my favorite this year is eating fresh blackberries with milk and a little sugar (they’re not very sweet on their own). Yum!
Mashed potato aqutak

Blackberries with milk and sugar

Friday I went out with Joann again and a couple other teachers back to the Issurituli to pick tundra tea and lowbush cranberries. Again, these are different from downstates cranberries. Some people here also call them redberries, and I found out that they are actually the same as Swedish lingonberries! They're not very sweet, and the texture actually reminds me of apples. I picked about a quart, and I’m hoping that will be enough to make at least a little sauce to eat at Christmas.

Joann, Alexis, Me, Mary
All my cranberries
We’ve had a few flurries of snow and colder temperatures, and soon berry picking season will be over. It’s a little sad, because I really like going. I think people are manuking (fishing with a stick and hook) now though, so maybe I’ll get to try that. There’s always something to do out here!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Bible Camp

It is finally summer, and Drew and I just got back from a few weeks at Covenant Bible Camp in Unalakleet, AK. It was a great time being out in the woods, connecting with God, and meeting lots of awesome people.

Drew went out for leadership week on June 1st, and I went out a week later for the high school and middle school weeks. The camp is located about a half hour drive (a slow drive) outside of Unalakleet, which is on the Norton Sound. At the camp there's no cell service, no Internet, and electricity only certain times of the day, when the generator is on. No flush toilets, and showers are limited to staff on the weekends. Fortunately, this time of year it never gets dark, so electricity isn't really needed, and it was nice to disconnect from the outside world for a while. The camp is in the woods and on the edge of a river, surrounded by wooded mountains. It's a truly beautiful place. (Unfortunately, the mosquitoes love it as much as we do--I've never seen so many in my life!)

My first week there I worked in the kitchen, which was a good way to acclimate myself to the camp and get to know how things worked before jumping in as a counselor. It was a lot of work, cooking food for about 125 people every day, but we had good people and I had a lot of fun. Drew was the activities/recreation director, a.k.a., The King of Fun.

Me and some of the kitchen staff.
Drew getting ready for the Musk Ox Run (creative walker category).
My second week I was a counselor for a cabin of 9 middle school girls from all over Western Alaska. I had an awesome junior counselor who just graduated from high school and has been coming to camp for years, and I was so blessed to have someone who knew the camp and was great with the campers. The week was scattered with challenges, from late luggage to homesickness, but I enjoyed getting to know my campers and having fun with them. God provides, as he always does. Every time I felt like I just didn't have any more energy or couldn't give anything else, He filled me back up in one way or another. He is faithful.

Drew and me at Lookout Point near camp.
I am glad to be home again, and grateful for a nice long shower after a week without, but it was a good two weeks, and I'm looking forward to going next year.

Please be in prayer for the camp over the next week or so as they have their last two groups of campers. Pray for the staff to be energized and filled with God's love and wisdom, and pray for homesick campers (of whom there are a lot during these weeks), and that God will continue to work in the lives of all those involved, bringing healing and restoration.

For more pictures, click on this link.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


All right, so my goal of writing 10 blogs in 10 days didn't quite work out, but that's okay. I missed the last two days because our school has been hosting a basketball tournament called Kickoff Klassic.

We had boys and girls from 6 different schools arrive on Wednesday and games have been playing since noon that day. There were two games this afternoon, and the championship games are this evening.

Basketball is HUGE around here (and that's an understatement). Every day after lunch the students have free gym time where you can find nearly every student involved in some sort of pick-up game. The gym fills up quickly when Scammon Bay is playing, and things can get intense.

So how does hosting a tournament go in a small village? Well first of all, the other teams have to come from different towns (this is true not just of tournaments, but in regular season games as well), and since there aren't any hotels in Scammon Bay, all the teams and their coaches and chaperones sleep in the school. So right after school I have to clear out so the team that's staying in my room has a place to go.

The whole staff gets involved: some are helping with hospitality, others with keeping stats or making name tags or welcome signs, and almost everyone has to work at least twice during the games, taking entry fees or working crowd control (a.k.a., making sure little kids aren't running around). The city adult basketball teams got involved too, helping with stats and crowd control in the gym. Student council runs the student store, selling food and drinks and Scammon gear. And of course, we all love cheering on our students.

During the school day it's hard to get the kids to focus on work when they know there is basketball to watch, so we did some basketball-themed readings and activities, and used going to the game later as an incentive. Of course, we definitely went down to cheer when our own teams were playing. The games lasted until school ended, and then there was a two-hour-or-so break until the evening games started. The past couple days I was home for maybe an hour or two and then was back up at school until 10 or later. (You can see why blogging didn't take top priority.)

Both our girls and boys varsity teams are in the championship games tonight, so we'll head up there pretty soon to cheer them on. Hopefully they will be good games--most of the games these teams have played have been won by between ten and thirty points. Good for us, but not terribly exciting to watch. I think there's a dance tonight too, and then the teams will head home tomorrow (weather permitting).

And then life should settle down, a little. Or at least until the next basketball game.
 The varsity boys tip off against Bethel Thursday night.

Scammon Bay girls varsity playing Hooper Bay on Friday.
 The crowd in the commons during half time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Another question I get asked a lot is about the amount of sun (and lack thereof). Right now the days are pretty short. And this summer, especially those first few weeks of August, the days were super long. Needless to say, my internal clock is pretty much useless.

When I first arrived in August, it was really hard to go to bed at night, because it was still so bright out. In fact, I didn't actually see the town in darkness for close to a week, when I got up in the middle of the night and found that it actually did get dark!
 10:15 pm on Aug. 7

Then for a while the days were pretty "normal" length, or normal for winter down-states. But for a couple months now I've walked to school in the dark and walked home in dusk.

The weather app on my phone shows sunrise and sunset. On the solstice, they just barely fit on the same screen! (11:24 and 4:36)

When school is going, I have to get up early anyway, so it's not too strange to wake up in the dark. But over the break, when I didn't have to get up for anything, it was really hard not to just sleep all morning. Even if my clock said 10, or even 11 or 12, it was dark enough that my brain thought, "Nah, it's still early. Go back to sleep!"

11:30 am on Jan. 1
The picture above is about what it looks like most days here (it maybe gets a little brighter). We don't live far enough north for complete darkness, but because of how the town is situated on the side of the mountain, we haven't had direct sunlight in well over a month. There's daylight, but we can't actually see the sun, even if it's a clear day.

Still there is such beauty here, sunlight or no. I love looking out across the tundra: it's like a watercolor of rosy pink, blue, and white, stretching out forever. I have a great view from my classroom, actually, and some days it's hard not join my students in just staring out the window!

The good thing is, we add several minutes of daylight each day now, so by the end of the month we may actually see the sun. Woohoo!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Our Goose is Cooked!

....but first, it's shot, plucked, and gutted.

One of the benefits of living in rural Alaska is the food all around. And fall means bird hunting season. Drew got to go out a few times with some local men who took him goose hunting, and he came back with several! Some were a gift, some he shot. His first one he shot we took to an elder, as is the custom.

As excited as I was to try goose, imagine my surprise and disgust when I was sitting at home one evening, doing some school work or watching tv or something, and Drew comes home and says, "Here, take these."
He then hands me several dead geese, which he expects me to carry to the kitchen by their dead, muddy necks.
(Some shivering and face making ensued, but I did carry them.)

Then came the adventure in cleaning them. We talked to several people to get some advice, and after trying a few different methods our favorite was skinning. Most people don't like it because it takes all the fat (and thus, some of the flavor) off too, but it's by far easier than plucking (in my very inexperienced opinion, of course).  Then the fun part begins: when you have to make their entrails...their extrails. I'll skip the gory details, but after the first time it wasn't so bad. I even did a couple birds all by myself when Drew was out of town, thank you very much! Just turn on some tv, spread out the cardboard, and I'm good to go.

As it turns out, goose is quite delicious!

As an added bonus, I consider this excellent revenge on those annoying Canadian Geese that spent time at North Park.