Monday, May 27, 2013

Book Plates of Gratitude

The library I volunteer at is very appreciative of their volunteers, making this library a wonderful place to "work".   Whilst I was gone getting the youngest all married up, they had a nice luncheon for all the volunteers.  The luncheon is held before the majority of the snow birds fly off back home,  few of the volunteers live here full time.

One other way they show their appreciation is the book plate program.  A book plate is printed up with our name, recognizing us for our volunteerism.  Nice yeah? 

After some thought which LGBT themed book I wanted to adhere my book plate to, I decided on Richard Plant's "The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals".  The only trick is that they dont own the book, so I asked if they ever purchase books for the volunteers.  It turns out they do, if the book is available to purchase new and isn't X-rated.

Off to the coordinator for the volunteers to ask if they would look into purchasing this book for me.  Explaining that I am a huge history buff, and one of my studies of interest is how Nazi Germany wrestled control of the country away from the rank and file German, and the sad outcome.  And that I hate that history has been white washed of the pink of LGBT and that this is an important book.  I received an odd look from her, but let her draw her own conclusions I don't really care if she thinks I'm a lesbian.

Yippee!!  The book came in last week, and is now living on the shelf!  My only issue is that they housed it in the gay section, not the history section which is where I wished for it to live.  They dont house the Jewish holocaust books in the Jewish religion section, nor do they house any other memoirs of the Nazi persecution in a separate section.  So that is a bit of a let down.  But still they bought it, and I'm happy that one more bit of our history is on the shelf for all to read, especially the LGBT teens.

If you know of a great LGBT book put it in the comments.  If the library doesn't own it, I'll suggest the book(s).

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Heroic Gusty Michael School Students Fight To Save Their School

Being homesick for Alaska, I scour the Alaskan news sites, yesterday this article grabbed my heart strings.  We hear about how selfish kids are today, how they only think of themselves.  These 6 students prove that axiom ever so wrong.

Reprinted from the Alaska Dispatch

Written by Alex DeMarban

Desperate to keep their school, Stony River students raising thousands of dollars

Five schools closed this year in rural Alaska for lack of enrollment, but one on the verge of closure, in the village of Stony River, is surviving on receipts from student-run store, an effort the superintendent calls "heroic."
A student shortage led to the shutdown of four rural Alaska schools this year -- the most in a decade -- but a handful of gutsy kids in a fifth village refused to let their school die. They've agreed to contribute $18,000 to help keep it afloat, using money collected mostly from ice cream sales at the student store.
The six students, ranging from the fifth to 10th grade at the Gusty Michael School in Stony River, are "heroic," said Brad Allen, Kuspuk School District [3] superintendent.
"It's pretty phenomenal to see kids wanting to pay to keep their school open when you have so many places in the U.S. where the kids don't care about the school or are not willing to fight for it. It's definitely a welcome change," Allen said.
The store, operated out of an empty teacher-housing unit because the school building closed last year, is the only place to buy food in the community of 40 that lies west of Anchorage across the Alaska Range. Students, who also attend classes in the housing unit, sell everything from ice cream sandwiches, the most popular treat, to staples like bread and milk.

Enrollment slips under 10-student minimum

Store receipts -- plus donations -- had in recent years helped students travel thousands of miles to southern California and Washington, D.C., to visit places never seen by most of them, including zoos, museums, and urban universities.
The California excursion made minor celebrities out of the kids and their passionate teacher, Debi Rubera, as reporters witnessed them experience everything from kiwi fruit to ocean sunsets with wide-eyed amazement.
But last fall, the school was on the verge of closing [4] because enrollment had slipped below the 10-student minimum required to receive full state operational funding.
The Legislature in 1999 established that threshold [5] to reduce the high costs of education in the frigid Far North, where schools pay ginormous sums to heat and electrify buildings, ship in supplies and import teachers.
Since that law passed, 31 schools have closed as rural communities shrunk and families with kids have left town, often seeking better opportunities elsewhere.
Lacking enough students to stay open this past school year were Danger Bay School [6] in Kodiak, Clarks Point School in the Bristol Bay region, Nelson Lagoon School on the Alaska Peninsula and Pitkas Point School on the lower Yukon River, according to the Department of Education.

Accelerating closures?

The state has seen one or two rural schools close yearly since 1999, but you'd have to go back to 2003, when six schools shut their doors, to find so many closures in a single year.
The Kuspuk School District based in the village of Aniak along the middle Kuskowkim River has seen it’s enrollment shrink dramatically -- dropping by more than a third, from 500 to 320 students, in 14 years, according to Allen.
Families might be leaving because of the high price of heating fuel and gas or too few jobs, Allen said. "People practice subsistence livelihoods, but you still need gas for boats and snowmachines."
Gas in the village runs $7.38 a gallon, more than double the national average of $3.56. And heating fuel can run thousands of dollars a year per household.
Those items are expected to become more expensive in the coming weeks, once the frozen Kuskowkim River melts and the river barge arrives with the year's supply of fuel.
"It's a downward spiral," Allen said. As more students leave, the district loses more state income, and more teachers and support positions must be cut, leading to more families leaving, said Allen. The district plans to eliminate five teaching positions next year, leaving just 30.
Because the Gusty Michael School was below the 10-student minimum last fall, the district lost $30,000 in state operational funds. It expects to lose about $60,000 this coming school year and $90,000 next year. To make up the difference, the district has trimmed expenses at other schools in five other communities, including by implementing a district-wide pay freeze, said Allen.
"We're trying to do what we can to keep things going," he said.
The Kuspuk district hasn't had a school shut down since Red Devil closed in 2010.

Anticipating preschoolers' arrival

The students in Stony River -- Beth Willis and Nels, Eric, Tyrel, Michael and Nacole Gusty -- hope to make sure they're not next, said their teacher, Debi Rubera.
At the school board meeting on Wednesday, the Stony River students pleaded for another year of support from the district. The hope is that if the school can stay alive two more years, a batch of preschoolers will eventually push enrollment to 10 or more. If the school closes, people fear it will be permanent because several families will leave at once.
"I want it to stay open because it's where we learn and where we live," said Michael Gusty, a seventh grader. "It's really important because if we didn't have it people would be leaving (the village)."
At the meeting, the students told the board they would immediately donate $8,000 from the store, money they'd hoped to use for their next excursion Outside, said Rubera. They also committed to providing $1,000 a month next school year.
"They said if we don't have a school, we won't travel anyway," said Rubera.
When rural communities lose their schools, students might attend correspondence schools or travel far from home to attend statewide boarding schools such as Mt. Edgecumbe in Southeast Alaska or the Galena Interior Learning Academy in the Interior. Often, too, families pack up and move, heading to bigger cities such as Bethel, Anchorage or Fairbanks.
Rubera's doing her part to keep the Gusty Michael School open. This year, the longtime teacher has served as everything from janitor to cook to teacher aide. The only thing Rubera doesn't do is maintenance because she doesn't know how. Local handymen volunteer for that, because the person who used to fix electrical and plumbing problems is gone as well.
"It has been a massive community effort to keep this school open," she said.
Motivated by the students’ commitment, the school board agreed to dig into the district's pockets another year. And Rubera, who has a home in Oregon and one year before retirement, has promised to stay in Stony River until the school is back up to 10 students.
"I've never been in a school where kids took the money they earned to travel and handed it over," she said. "It's inspiring to see kids that are working this hard and doing everything they can to keep their school open."
Postscript: It appears at least one more rural school will close in the coming year. APRN reported that the Copper Center School, about 140 miles northeast of Anchorage, will shut down because of low enrollment. 


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Adventures in Food Analoging

For the first bit after finding out I was allergic to sooo many foods, grocery shopping was an overwhelming excursion.  Every single stupid label had to be read before being placed in my trolley and even then quite often, just to double triple check, that I hadn't missed some ingredient, the label was re-read.  Quite often finding something I'd missed on the first round or two.  Some missteps were made as I would forget things I couldn't eat, like buckwheat.  Why I'm allergic to buckwheat is anyone's guess, tis a gluten free grain, but nope, I've tried and it makes me feel like crud.

One day while in the grocery store picking up some orange juice and rice milk, I had an epiphany of sorts, the vast majority of the items in the store I'm allergic to.  Even in the gluten free section, I'm not freed from my label reading tasks, as much of it contains dairy or egg, or tree nuts.  This made me a very sad camper for quite a while. 

After "The Mussel Incident" I realized this isnt temporary, this is a permanent.  This is the way I'll have to eat for the rest of my life.  In that moment, for some unknown reason, my sadness evaporated and I began to deal in a happier more productive way.

Who knows what is rattling around inside of our heads, but lately I've been dying for a taste of my grandmother's "Scotch Eggs".  No, not these

but her version, ran through the lens of Indiana, where food quite often takes an odd shift.  Her Scotch Eggs was an dinner to clean up some of the leftovers.  So, bits of ham, hard boiled eggs.  She would dice the ham, use the whites from the hard boiled eggs ( the yolks were used for a different dish) make a white sauce using up some of the left over spring onions, and this would be poured over toast, or yeast rolls or warmed up leftover mashed potatoes.  Thrifty cook, yeah? 

After trial and error I found a way to make tofu taste like egg whites.  Maybe not for someone that has recently had an egg, but its been 2 years since my last egg.  The trick is to cut it around 1/2 inch thick, wrap in paper towels, and press most of the liquid out.  Then salt, pepper and onion salt both sides and let sit while the Earth Balance vegan butter has a chance to melt and the onion and ham has a chance to "frizzle up" a bit.  Then i carefully added the tofu "egg" and gently cooked it until barely golden brown on most sides.  Stirred in the gluten free flour, added the rice milk, along with more salt, pepper and onion powder, when the sauce became thick and creamy looking, I poured it over some rice and carefully, hopefully took a bite.....TA-DAH!  It was all that I had been hoping for!

A few days later, I made some gluten free biscuits (from a mix) did my egg trick, and whipped up a batch of italian sausage.  Making my own from ground pork doesnt take all that long and I think it does taste better, less sodium and no scary chemical additives.  Built my breakfast sandwich, poured a cup of coffee, and quite fearfully took my first bite.  OH MY SWEET STARS!  My tongue thought it had died and gone to breakfast restaurant heaven.  The biscuits while a bit crumbly, have a good flavor, and the tofu "egg" came thru like a champ again! 

I've been reading all of the vegan cookbooks the library houses. Vegan's have already figured out how to do a work around eggs and dairy, so while should I re-invent the wheel?  I'm excited to try using tofu as a substitute for paneer in Indian cooking.

A friend came over the other day for a quick bite before we headed out, and I had made a pan of gluten free brownies (from a mix) she loved them so much she wanted two servings!  They are good, moist and very tasty, which if you ask me is some sort of miracle seeing how they have no gluten nor egg.  Nestled in my freezer are slices of brownie, and when I want a sweet, it's off to the fridge for a tall cold glass of rice milk and a piece of frozen brownie.  After trying many different plant based milks, my all time favorite is the rice.  Unfortunately, rice milk is falling out of favor and almond and to a lesser extent soy are becoming the top plant based milks.  While I can drink soy, its a total no go zone for the almond, due to my tree nut allergy.   I can make my own rice milk, but have no way to fortify it, and really would much rather buy it ready to drink.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Bob from  I Should Be Laughing  commented on my last post, saying
I still remember the days of thinking before I answered a question because I needed to make sure I didn't give anything away.
The other day at work, a co-worker told me that had I not told her I was gay she wouldn't have known, and I said, "I never said I was gay."
"You're not gay?"
No, I am gay, but I never 'said' it."
What I said, when we first met, was something about my partner Carlos; I say things like 'Carlos and I are going to vacation next week' or 'Carlos and i bought a new car.'
I reminded her that she doesn't have to introduce herself as straight and I don't introduce myself as gay. Just talking about our personal lives tells someone what our orientation is.
So, I know how you feel about not being careful what you say and how you say it.
It's a great thing.

Thats just exactly how I feel when questions about my personal life come up.  The biggest query is the lack of the usual female items, makeup, carrying a purse, manicures, the refusal to wear a dress or wear heels.  I hedge around the subject, finally ending up with a limp reply that hopefully foists their attention onto something else.

Having to hedge, prevaricate about, bothers me to no end.  One is because I dont enjoy fibbing, and truthfully am quite bad at doing so.  And two because each time I evade answering their question honestly, it hurts quite sharply.

I do feel that it is easier to work a same sex relationship into the conversation, than working trans-ness into the conversation.  The only things I can come up with is when asked why I dont act like the usual female are:  Well, typically guys dont wear/use ______.  and Except for drag queens, wearing/using _______ isnt something guys do.

The library world is filled primarily with women.  The few I have told when they work out what I'm telling them, jump right to this thought process. 
1. Gill is a guy
2. Guys like girls
3. Does that mean Gill likes me "that" way?

So, then I get to come out to them again as gay. 

And yes, Gill is my actual and true nickname.  I'm keeping my pen last name, as it fits me well.  Child of books. 

I seem to be busting out all over, yeah?