Friday, October 29, 2010

Trick or Treat time

Rich got into pumpkin carving last year. You might remember his very cool witch and fraidy cat jack-o'-lanterns from previous posts. This year we decided we would each carve one so we bought two pumpkins earlier in the week. Tonight while I was lying on the floor in front of the heater (yes, it's been a cold, sleety, rainy day), he got started on his project.

After seeing how long it took and how precisely one has to follow the pattern, I am already whining about doing mine. I told him he could do both. I just like the IDEA of doing things but don't necessarily like to put out so much effort. Sad, isn't it?

Finishing touches
Voila! Pretty cool, huh?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rich is in the Dog House

So you might remember that we had what we called the Cat Club House at our old place. The former tenants left a doghouse behind and our cats took it over. We didn't bring it with us when we moved but we kept talking about the fact that the cats might want it, especially in the winter. Last week, Rich and another guy went to get it and hauled it up to our new house.

It was in pretty bad shape so we decided to paint it and fix it up. We went to Alaska Ship Supply and bought primer, paint (little cans on sale for a dollar each...woohoo!) and brushes. It was a beautiful sunny day on Saturday so we got busy with the primer.

After that dried, we brushed on the brown sale paint. Not bad. As you can see, the roof was really torn up so we thought we would put new plywood on top. The clerk asked us the dimensions and told us to drive around back to pick up the wood. Silly us, we thought they were gonna cut it to size but no, the dude came out with one big sheet of wood. Another guy happened to be there with a pickup truck and took it over to the hotel for us, where Rich employed his chainsaw to cut it into two pieces.

Working, working....

We also had an old area rug that we were not using any more so Rich cut it to fit. Are these cats gonna be spoiled or what? Look, it's nice enough for a man. :) Okay, the roof edge is a little jagged from the chainsaw but what the heck.

I declined to join Rich in the doghouse, ummm, I mean the Cat Club House. He was pretty impressed with the whole thing. I think we're ready for winter!

Meanwhile, I had a super busy week at work, getting ready for our one day radio pledge drive on Friday. We had a total blast--super chaotic day but loads of fun. That's our new buoy design sweatshirt I'm wearing. This year, we set a huge goal of $25,000 and almost made it....we are less than $1000 away and pledges are still trickling in. I'm really proud of the fact that we could bring in that much money in our small town in just one day. Even if you don't live here, you can still support small town community radio in remote Alaska...just go to our website at and make a secure pledge. We love donations of all sizes but if you pledge at least $125, you get one of those snazzy sweatshirts. There are lots more photos on the KUCB blog at and on our Facebook page (KUCB). Check 'em out!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

DC Trip

On our last day in DC, we had an appointment to meet with Senator Mark Begich's staff to discuss some of the issues we're working on. After several days of sunshine and warm temps, Thursday was rainy and chilly.

Proud to have a Democrat from Alaska in the Senate!

Jackie and Jeanna from Cordova, Alaska, waiting for a meeting.

We were excited to see this book about the Aleutians on Senator Begich's coffee table!

Staff members Prue and Kate, who were great! They are both from Alaska and were very friendly, interested in what we had to say, and knowledgeable about issues. We had a good discussion about several topics and somehow it came up that Senator Begich has a social worker on his staff. Way to go!

A few photos of the beautiful building

Then we walked two long blocks in the pouring rain to have lunch at Union Station.

Take your pick...which calendar would you prefer?

We had our graduation dinner and ceremony the last night as we finished up our yearlong fellowship with the Healthy Native Communities Partnership. It was supposed to be semi-formal so here I am in my heels. Note that I also had to wear some trouser socks because my feet were freezing. Ever the fashionista.

With my teammates Donna and Char and our graduation plaques. It's been an interesting year, with lots of new experiences, ups and downs. I am grateful for the learning but glad we are finished.

Poor Donna had to get up at 4:15 in the morning to catch a shuttle to the airport and take a trip to visit her family. I got to sleep in a little bit later but not much. Flew from DC to Minneapolis and Minneapolis to Anchorage--another all day travel session. I was hoping to get on standby and come on home that night but by the time I got my suitcase and walked to Pen Air, the last flight to Unalaska was closed. So I had a relaxing night in Anchorage and went back to the airport in the morning, where I heard that the last flight from the night before had turned around and come back due to it was a good thing I didn't get on it!

The flight home was routine for the most part; we stopped in King Salmon for fuel and were told it would be bumpy on the approach to land in Unalaska. It really was not bad and I was thinking I had certainly been on more turbulent flights. Just as we were about to touch down on the runway, we got slammed by a huge gust of wind and the plane started pitching from side to side. I honestly thought the right wing was going to hit the runway! I closed my eyes and grabbed the armrest and thought, "We are done!" Next thing I knew, we were screeching to a halt and everything was fine. I really have to hand it to our pilots out here--they are the best! The woman across the aisle and I were comparing our shaking hands and shaking our heads in amazement that we had made it. Neither of us had ever had such a close call. Whew! So glad to be home!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bonus Visit!

The very best thing about going to DC was that I got to see my niece Kristinn, her hubby Tim and their adorable kids Gabe and Sofia. There was really only one night we could meet--they'd been out of town and I was pretty tied up with my training--and that was a work/school night. Although they could have easily bowed out and I would have understood, they went out of their way to make a visit possible. It was literally out of Kristinn's way, since she had to ride the Metro in the opposite direction from her usual route home in order to pick me up at my hotel! I was so glad to see her! Back we went onto the Metro, taking a short ride to another stop to hop in the car with Tim and the kids.

We had fun chatting in the car and hearing about everyone's day, their recent vacation, laughing and telling stories. For dinner, they took me to the coolest place called Busboys and Poets not far from their home in Arlington. It's a restaurant, a bookstore and a fair trade store, all in one. Meetings and events are also held there, for example a weekly Peace Cafe with different topics of discussion, poetry readings, music nights, book signings and so on. I loved it! I want to have one!

After a great dinner, we walked over to a yogurt shop for dessert, which is where these photos were taken. Aren't they the cutest family?! We made a quick stop at their house, and then they insisted on driving me all the way back to my hotel even though I could have easily jumped back on the Metro.

It was a short visit but I'm so glad I got to hang out with these little sweeties (and their fabulous parents!) for awhile. Thanks, y'all--it was great fun. xoxoxo

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Upside Down Organization

A few weeks ago, Frank Kros, one of the founders of the Upside Down Organization, came to Unalaska to do some training with folks in our community. They've done a lot with brain research and how kids learn best, using this information and the philosophy of transformation education in the schools that they run. Since we were coming to DC, we decided to ask if we could visit one of their campuses. Our contact person, Tonya, was nice as can be and even came to pick us up at the hotel to drive us to one of their schools near DC. We had a tour with the principal, Tyrone, an amazing guy who obviously loves his work and the students in his care, all of whom have severe emotional or behavioral problems and are referred by other schools in the district. The art hallway is pictured above--very cool--and we observed the art teacher instructing her students about impressionism. :)

Ceiling near the admin area

"Flying," quite symbolic for the students

One of two outdoor classrooms


Artwork from recycled pieces displayed in the other outdoor classroom

More outdoor classroom

Tonya, one of the directors of the UDO, and Tyrone, the principal

The kids maintain a veggie garden


It's a shame that all kids don't get to experience this kind of an educational environment. Though the building is old (formerly a Catholic school that closed), it is apparent that everything possible is being done to create a warm and welcoming haven for these students who have so many difficulties in their lives. There's a counselor for every 12 kids and all of the staff are trained in the transformation education model (see more at No one seemed to freak out when the principal showed up in the classroom because he's stopping by every day, knows the kids and treats them with kindness and respect. They also did not seem to mind having visitors, saying hello and then continuing with their work. Students seemed to feel comfortable and secure and we observed calm, appropriate interactions from staff even when the kids were "acting out." I'm sure there are issues as there are everywhere but we were very impressed with the whole atmosphere. There's very little teacher turnover (only one had to be replaced for this school year) and a waiting list of teachers wanting to join the faculty. This at a school with kids who have not been able to make it anywhere else and often attend several less restrictive environments before being referred here. Everyone we met was utterly positive and upbeat. What a place!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Washington, DC

I flew out of Unalaska on Saturday afternoon, great flight, no problems, spent the night in Anchorage and had to get up at 5 AM to go to the airport and catch a flight to Minneapolis. I got stuck in the window seat, which I don't really like, though it is better than the middle seat. I would SO much rather be on the aisle. Anyway, very long but smooth flight to Minneapolis, got in a little late and got to the next flight when it was boarding. No time to hang out. Off we went to DC, another good flight and finally arrived at 8:40 PM. This is our last retreat for the Healthy Native Communities Fellowship; my teammates Donna and Char arrived later the same night. It's a four hour time difference so we had the worst time getting to sleep and had to get up early the next day for training sessions. I think I am still on AK time and when we get up at 7, it's really 3 AM to me!

We convinced our trainers to let us have a few hours off yesterday in return for going back and working into the night last night. We got out and walked around in the sunshine--who would have guessed it would be in the 80's in DC? Not this one, who brought nothing but long sleeved shirts and sweaters! Oh well, I was just happy to be out in the sun and would much rather be hot than cold.

So here's my little gallery of photos from walking around. I loved that funky piece of art above.

Part of the Smithsonian. Of course, we had nowhere near the time to look at everything.

Cop on a Segway

Rockets at the Air and Space Museum

Monument and trees

Inside the Art Museum

Cool hand sculptures

Flowers are still blooming


The Capitol

Monks at the Air and Space Museum

Shout out to my Air Force upbringing

On the street

Today we had a great speaker in the morning, Regis Pecos from the New Mexico Leadership Institute, who discussed the effects of 100 years of government policy on Native American culture. This afternoon, we visited one of the Upside Down Organization's schools nearby. I will post more about that tomorrow! In the morning, we are going as a group to tour the White House. We can't take anything with us but our IDs, so no photos. I am also hoping to see my niece Kristinn and family tomorrow night.