Our big move: Part 2

by June Jewell | November 26, 2020
6 min read
Calvin and Daisy on a hike to T or C's temporary dam. Exploring nature is a highlight of the family's new life here. Photograph by June Jewell

We’ve been here three months now, my family and I, having moved from northern Virginia. During that time, we have settled in some. We do love it here, and it already feels like home. Virginia life seems like years ago. It feels as though we’re still in moving limbo, though, having arrived, but not being able to unleash ourselves from our residence due to the pandemic.

In all honesty, our explorations have been limited. Our bank statement consists mostly of Bullocks & online shop transactions. We’re home a lot, as is the rest of the world. The home and garden projects are piling up. For every one we check off, it seems five more go on, but there is space in knowing they do not hold any daunting deadlines.

Things move slower here, which allows me time for deep breaths. Without prioritizing tasks, the days slip happily through my fingers. What day is it today? Does it matter? Remember what does matter: spending time with loved ones, doing something for yourself, and continuing to hustle that money . . . you know, so we can eat. 

Nick has found a job. It’s work, and it allows us to feel more financially secure, but ultimately is not his (or likely anyone’s) dream job. He seems happy in it, but he is a hopeless optimist and can make the best of any situation.

I’ve always sensed the pressure on men/husbands to work, to “bring home the bacon,” but the demands of society were brought to my attention the most when Nick was “out of work” in our first weeks here. It felt as though friends and family did not respect my work or give me credit for the contributions to our household. We were okay and, of course, strived for more than surviving, but there was a lot of unnecessary patriarchal reinforcement surrounding his conscious decision to take time to be home with and love his family full time. The comment that Nick must be “ready” to get back to work and out of the house was a reoccurring one. The idea that I might be ready to get out of the house didn’t cross anyone’s mind. 

My fine and graphic art practice remains online. My new studio has its fair share of half-finished projects, and calls to me daily. Painting both the interior and exterior is only partially completed, the flooring situation is a hot mess (I painted it with water-based paint over what was apparently an oil-based finish), the windows still need to be put in, and I’ve been putting off putting electrical in until more funds come in. Meanwhile, an extension cord for my desk lamp will do. Ideally, the studio would’ve been completed by now, and I’d be out there painting every day. It would be nice to have had it ready for holiday shopping, but then I remember there will many more opportunities to welcome others to see my work. Meanwhile, we’ll keep our distance, and hope this illness fades, so that we can power on in rattling the normal we used to know.

Though I do not personally celebrate Thanksgiving due to its less-than-pleasant history (read: genocide), I am thankful to be here in New Mexico with my mom and stepdad, and for the roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and food in our bellies. We will not be eating turkey this year, but talking to our children about the history of the holiday (in an age-appropriate way), as well as talking about what we are thankful for. We feel thankful in knowing that we are healthy, bills are more easily paid here, that we are able to spend more time with our children, and that we are able to do things that we enjoy more often. It is sometimes hard to think about what’s good in this world with all the bad, but there is much to be grateful and hopeful for. 

My goal with this writing project for the Sun was to give a bit of a review on our move, the town, the climate, the businesses and family-friendly accommodations. I am learning little bits about the town, and the crowd it tends to draw, but mostly we’re homebodies, unable to interact with the outside world much. I wish I could go on about some fun-filled children’s activity, but the pandemic has put a hold on most events. That’s fine with us. We get to do our time in nature, but I do worry about the effect this is all having on the kids. My youngest doubtfully remembers much of life pre-isolation. We parents and grandparents are their entire world. It is an honor, and a concern. 

We did, however regrettably, visit the drive-through haunted house at Halloween. The “child friendly” time was anything but for our scared-out-of-his gourd four year old. It was, as it was intended to be, frightfully spooky, but maybe not as child friendly as we had hoped. We were told that if we did not want the house’s inhabitants to reach inside the car, to shut the windows. At one point one of the teenaged spooks accidentally opened our automatic sliding van door, which was a little more than we bargained for, resulting in more screams of terror inside our van than out. In an effort to bring a bit of normalcy to our lives, we may have traumatized our oldest. The teens did a good job, but I was reminded that there is not nearly as much catering to young children here since that population is significantly less than from where we came.

From what I’ve experienced, the town lacks some of my familiar creature comforts, but makes up for it by providing plenty of quality conversation with interesting people from all walks of life. There is still so much for us to explore, so many people to meet. I’ve noticed, though, that my guard is up. The streets are not as accommodating to pedestrians as we’d like. Pickup trucks rev their engines and speed through our neighborhood, likely harmless transients say weird things to my children, and there are virtually no stroller-accessible sidewalks.

My four year old recently pointed out a syringe near Rotary Park, which reminded me of the area’s/the world’s reliance on self-harm. There are many reasons why someone might turn to something as physically detrimental as harsh drugs. I’m not going to pretend to understand why someone might do that to themselves. I may be jumping to conclusions. For all I know it was an insulin needle. I threw it away. The trash can was not 20 feet away, but likely not on the mind of someone who is feeling “less than” and unloved. 

The numbing of that which has hurt you, does not heal you. Please remember, you are loved.

Until next time.


June Jewell, artist, mother and occasional Sierra County Sun blogger, recently moved across country to Truth or Consequences with her sweet fam, a van full of stuff and a heart full of hope. June enjoys digging her hands and feet into her Land of Enchantment garden and painting in any windows of time she can squeeze open.

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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.


Our big move
by June Jewell | October 16, 2020

Why would a thirty-something couple with two pre-school kids leave affluent, green northern Virginia to start over in high-desert Truth or Consequences?

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