Category Archives: New Mexico

2016 Has Ushered in… Fun and Creativity

Such fun I have been having!  And thus, I have not been good at staying in touch, sorry.

The weeks have simply zoomed by since a lovely Christmas seeing and holding my adorable great (grand?) nephew in sunny California.  Sweet, adorable, with tiny little hands and feet…Koen.

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And I was so excited to give the adventure book I had written for Koen to his parents, my nephew Calvin and his great wife, Abbey.

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Then a huge surprise, I was whisked away to NYC for a fabulous weekend with my sisters and mom – girls camp, as mom called it.  So much fun.

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It was seriously freezing and then the wind!  But we had a ball.  We checked out the Highline (converted, old, elevated rail track into a lovely walking promenade…if it hadn’t been so windy!).  We hit the Chelsea Market, a bit of Greenwich village, uptown, midtown, soho, Ground Zero…The Whitney Museum… We survived the Blue Man Group and ended our wonderful weekend with Kinky Boots – an absolute must see if you’re in NYC – hysterically funny and so clever – Loved! It!

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No idea what we were getting into – PRE – Blue Man Group

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Post Blue Man – see, we survived!

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Chillin’ on the Highline.

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Ground Zero Memorial

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Amazing Kinky Boots!

But don’t think the fun stopped when I left NYC – oh no!  🙂

Just last weekend I headed up into Utah to Canyonlands National Park for a fun, challenging trail run and great hikes.

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IMG_4838 Corona Arch which was really fun to get to; climbing over big rocks, using ladders to get up impassable areas and then arriving and feeling really, really small.  If you look at the photo below, people are standing under the arch.  Its huge.

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IMG_4848I loved the colors – rich oranges, reds, greens and yellows.  It was really beautiful.

IMG_4864In between all this gallivanting I have been practicing my illustration skills and continuing to write the second book in the Treasure Chest Mysteries series.  Writing this second book has proved much more challenging.  I think it is due to wanting to make it better, deeper, more robust.  I am currently working my way through the book “The Plot Whisperer Workbook” by Martha Alderson.  She is helping me understand how to build a character that has more emotion, more rise and fall and more empathy.  I hope you’ll notice the difference in the next book.

I am also exited to say that my friend Ivy Newport, through her wonderful blog, has introduced me to my next exciting online adventure: A Storyteller’s Art.   This class by Robin Laws looks like so much fun.  I can’t wait to get started on March 14th.Storyteller's Art

Oh, and then of course, I have been teaching – the day-to-day job.  It has continued to be fun, super frustrating, challenging, empowering, painful and eye-opening.  My sixth graders are still my wonderful little stars, so eager to learn, curiosity abounds, full of smiles and giggles.  My seventh graders are more moody, more tired, over-the-top fidgety and dead in their seats – Ahh the wonders of puberty!  The eighth graders are a whole other ball of anger, apathy, rolling eyes, shy smiles, loud and aggressive chatter, more touchy or afraid to be even looked at.  Every day these students walk into my classroom and I do not know what I am going to get.  On a good day, it just doesn’t get better than teaching;  Spirits are high, curiosity rules, high-level discussions, students wanting more, which translates into: I am challenged and excited to explore new avenues with them.  On a bad day, its bad.  Grumpy, won’t do anything, talking back, refuse to participate, angry at being forced to sit in a seat and learn…  I rarely get a day that is strictly one or the other.  My days are full of emotion, highs and lows, smiles and angry, teenage stares.  Teaching is amazingly exhausting, but for the most part rewarding.  I only have three months left here in Gallup, NM.  I have learned a lot about what I need in life being here.  It has been very interesting learning a small bit about the Navajo Nation and the life that many lead.  But I am a tree and green person.  I need to see diversity in color, texture and foliage.  I didn’t realize how much I needed that until I came here.  It is very monotone in color.  Beautiful in its own right, but my eye needs color and diversity.

Where to next?  Not sure yet.  I have some irons in the fire that I am pursuing.  I’ll let you know where life plans on taking me next as soon as I know.  Until next time, Happy Spring!!!

Gretchen

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Filed under Adventure, Education, New Mexico, Photography, Travel, Writing

Snow Day!

So the big storms that have been predicted for this winter here in Gallup, New Mexico have yet to materialize.  But yesterday we did get the storm that has been battering the northwest.  We didn’t get rain, what came down was a wet snow, and since the temperature outside quickly went down to the upper 20’s, everything froze.  While it was exciting at first, the reality of departing from a school that was on a steep hill, quickly became stressful.

So instead of going up the hill towards home, which I observed others trying and spinning out, I went down to find a more slopping upward hill.  Eventually I circuitously found a path and since most of the roads still had a dusting of snow on them, with enough speed my little Volkswagen Jetta chugged up the hills (just like the Little Engine that Could one of my favorite books) without too much side sliding and I made it home safe to my two furry friends.

The snow fell more throughout the night and the frozen streets remained solid ice, so…no school today!  Beautiful sunshine out, but only 16 degrees.

So today I continue writing on Book 2 of The Treasure Chest Mysteries.  What a great day!

Gretchen

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Hanging Out in Gallup

Hi All.  So I promised to write more about Gallup and teaching here and I guess it is about time to do just that.  I am sitting here on a cold, grey day with the threat of snow gathering in the clouds, so here we go.

Gallup, New Mexico is a very unique place.  It is the home to about 20,000 people and is mostly surrounded by the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni reservations.  There are few trees.  Or at least what I consider to be trees.  Sage brush everywhere, big open spaces and rocky outcrops galore.  I have had the opportunity to explore a bit.  There is an area that is national forest about 15 minutes away that has lots of pines and some good hiking trails.  But most of the area is known for its canyons, arroyos and scrub.

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I was surprised that I haven’t seen very many horses or cows.  But maybe that is due to the fact that the open spaces are immense, and the scrub grass is not plentiful.  People here are passionate about hunting and the Navajo are very proud of their heritage and work hard to keep it alive.

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The town itself does not offer much.  It is full of trading shops (retail stores selling Native American arts and crafts) that are really beautiful, but also extremely expensive.  There is one coffee shop, but it isn’t open on Sundays.  Most of the restaurants are connected to gas stations.  There are a couple of bars, a library and two movie theaters.  This is a place for family get-togethers rather than outside entertainment.

At the beginning of school I coached the 8th grade volleyball team.  Challenging and often fun.  Attitudes towards working hard at a sport and respect for your coach are different here, not quite what I was expecting.  But overall a good experience.

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I am teaching 6th – 8th grade Gifted and Talented (GATE) Humanities.  My sixth graders are adorable; little sponges that still really care about learning.  The seventh graders, well, they have an excuse – puberty!  The 8th graders are a tough group, across the board – school-wide.  I think it is just one of those years/groups that aren’t so great: super rude, bad attitudes, superiority etc…  But, there are a few shining nuggets – thank goodness.

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8th graders

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6th graders making their Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe games

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I have also been going on some good hikes…

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Pyramid Peak

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Strawberry Canyon

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Milk Run Loop

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Milk Run Loop

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Purple Haze Trail

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Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

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El Morro

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El Morro

Other than that I am writing a couple new children’s stories and I’ve started teaching myself to illustrate.

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But above all, it has been great to have my two favorite guys with me again.  I so love them.

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Albert

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Oscar

Until next time,

Happy Fall!  Gretchen

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Lower Antelope Canyon

Its been a while, so thought I’d return with some great photos of a fun one day adventure into Arizona.  Yesterday I spent a lot of time driving, but ended up deep inside the earth winding my way through an ever-so-small passage that twisted and turned its way through a gorgeous canyon that you wouldn’t know existed if you looked from ground level.  Apparently it was originally discovered by a young Navajo girl that had lost her sheep and she had gone down searching.  What a discovery!

Can you see the canyon?  None of us could.

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Here is how we descended down into Lower Antelope Canyon, just outside of Page, Arizona:

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From here, our guide Kyndra, of the Navajo Nation and Ken’s Tours, expertly moved us gently along as we oohed and ahhed our way through.  She told us the best way to pick up the amazing colors our eyes were seeing, on digital film, was to shoot in a chrome setting.  My iPhone 6 picked up the colors better than my Canon Power Shot, so that is what most of these photos were taken with.  But I have to tell you, although the colors seem to be unreal – they are what my eyes, without filters, saw.  It was a stunning hour and a half.  As we descended, the colors changed from soft earth tones to more vibrant colors depending on the angle and where the sun hit the calcium in the sandstone.

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IMG_4193The sandstone was full of bits pebbles and sea shells.  The undulating waves of stone had been formed from thousands of years of being below sea level and then the subsequent eons of flash floods – one of which happened just two days before I arrived.

Here is Kyndra showing how high the ground would have been (where we would have been walking) before the flash flood two days before. Glad we weren’t down there:

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This is the “Chief.”

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“Woman in the Wind”

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It was really hard choosing photos to show you.  I took over 200!  I found myself just spinning around as every angle offered another stunning photo opportunity.  I would have loved to go again and just absorb.  I tried to often, to just stand there, but then you just don’t want to miss catching the beauty.

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Walking beneath the “Chief” – you can really see the how the colors change depending on your angle.  Bright orange and red from afar, but below deep purples.

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This is our path – see the sand at the bottom? This path twisted to the left. So fun.

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I took a couple in black and white and they are beautiful too – but the color, I just couldn’t resist.

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Here is how we climbed out (random tourist from Central Europe in photo):

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From there I headed over to Horseshoe Bend – this is the very low Colorado River:

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I would guess I was about 5000 feet up from the river. If you look at the small white spot center left – it is a tour boat docked by the side of the river that would have fit about 20 people.

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After a wonderful 3 hours of exploring this area I headed to Flagstaff and then back to Gallup.  Flagstaff was beautiful – full of trees and looked like a great town.  Leaving Flagstaff for my 3 hour trip home this was my view for most of it:

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Not exactly eye candy for this tree loving person!

A great day over all.  I’ll write soon with an update on Gallup, hiking, coaching volleyball etc.   For now, have a great week!

 

 

 

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Filed under Adventure, New Mexico, Photography, Travel

Cibola National Forest

Another great week in Gallup.  The students (kids – so young!) have been great.  We are starting to get our groove and its fun.  Volleyball tryouts finished on Wednesday and I now have 13 great gals to work with – starting tomorrow!  Today I went for another hike, this time an easy stroll through the Cibola National Forest.  Lovely and relaxing and met a fun gal mountain biking by that stopped and chatted.  It was perfect for my sore throat and stuffed head (thanks students!) and my out-of-shape lungs.  At the top met Andy, the fire-watcher, super nice and full of great info.  People just continue to seem so nice and helpful here.

Have a great week!

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This Time…NEW Mexico

Hello from down south.  After a crazy summer of finishing my masters of science in geography I’ve moved down to Gallup, New Mexico, to teach gifted and talented middle schoolers, Humanities.

Although the summer was busy, mostly with writing, writing, and re-writing my final paper for the program, my cohort and I had a bit of fun too:

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Mark and Carlos taking water samples in Newport, Oregon

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Mark and I at Heceta Head beach on a very coldy day.

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Amanda and I at Heceta Head beach before taking our water samples for our field studies class.

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Carlos and Adalia trying to figure out why it is cold at the beach in the summer!

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Bryan our fabulous field studies instructor, always able to point the way.

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Being super silly with our polarized glasses at the fish hatchery.

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Doing stream bed grids.

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Within the cave. Cool cave, can’t remember the name, but it went into the depths for a mile!

But now I am done with my masters program and down where canyons are king.  I drove down from Oregon on August 1st and 2nd – with two unhappy cats in my car with me – and arrived in the smallest town I have lived in for a long time; Gallup only has 20,000 residents.  The first week I was mostly involved with the before school paper work, but did take time to go to the Inter-tribal Ceremony parade.  My landlord and next door neighbor is the Deputy Chief of Police so he got me a seat in the Mayor’s bleachers. Photos aren’t great as I only brought my phone – but it was really fun to see all the native attire.

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Today, I spent the morning exploring Pyramid Peak, just ten minutes from Gallup.  So gorgeous.  Took about an hour to get to the top.  It is a great workout for someone who has sat on her rear all summer at sea level and is now at 6500 feet and out of shape.  The climb took me up to 7500 feet.  But despite the lack of oxygen it was a stunning hike, of which my pictures do not do it justice.

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Just getting started.

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I’m headed to the very tip top of that peak.

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Finally at the top taking in the views.

Tonight I went for a short walk to explore my neighborhood.  As I was walking home at dusk an amazing sunset appeared.  Great end to a lovely day.

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I’ve taught one week of school so far.  The administrators are fantastic and the kids are really fun.  I think I am going to enjoy it here.  I will write more once I’ve had more time teaching and exploring.  For now, have a great week.

Gretchen

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