Our big move

by June Jewell | October 16, 2020
5 min read
Photograph copyright © 2020 by Steven Lopez-Mull Sr.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in an occasional series of personal reflections by Jewell on the challenges and rewards of making a new life for herself and her family in Sierra County.

Hi. I’m new here in Truth or Consequences. I am an artist, stay-at-home mama to two beautiful beings, wife to Nick, loving daughter to Kimberly Rae Jewell (of Kimberly’s Guesthouse Kitchen), hobby gardener, and so much more. My family and I moved to TorC from Purcellville, VA, in August, and we have been adoring our time here so far. Let me share with you a bit of the why, how and “what next?” of our move.

Since before I moved to northern Virginia 12 years ago, I knew that I would not be there long. My art was not accepted widely there. I was denied shows where mostly watercolor or oil-painted old barns or farm animals were all the rage. My art was “too fun” or “a little too colorful” for local galleries. I lived in Loudoun County, the most affluent county in the country, but not many wanted to buy more than a print. I was selling more online to strangers across the world than to locals and realized I could do that anywhere with a post office.

My mom came for her annual visit in February and was basically trapped with us due to the pandemic arriving in our area soon after. We watched as many lost their jobs, their livelihood and, some. their lives. Political tension was high, as we lived so close to D.C. While we had made a happy home and family in northern Virginia, my mom saw that there were not many opportunities for us to thrive as she knew we could. Besides, my husband’s job dangled by a thread.

While his company was considering whether to let Nick go, Mom made us an offer we would have had a hard time refusing. She would let us live with her and my stepdad Bill Schiller for as long as we needed. I was surprised how on-board my husband was, especially since he had never been to Truth or Consequences. We had discussed moving out of “NOVA” a few times, but never got around to it. With life as we knew it changing before our eyes, we welcomed a change.

T or C and I have known each other about 15 years, but, in all honesty, I always thought of it as a last resort. In my young eyes, it was solely a retirement town, a place for old people like my grandmother and great-aunt to rest their weary bones. During visits after Mom and Bill moved to town, I noticed how the town had changed for the better. My last visit here was in 2017, with my eldest kiddo, Calvin, now freshly 4, in tow. Feeling more at home, I brought up with Mom and Bill the prospect of us moving west but I was privately worried my husband would be completely overwhelmed by the culture and climate differences. Sure, I was a weirdo and he had loved and married me, but would he really know what he was getting into if he agreed to move?

Sometime this spring, Nick and I took the leap, we made the decision. We were moving. It felt a lot like our decision to get married. We didn’t even have to ask each other. Our talks became more and more about details of the move, which seemed to be destined.

Jewell family
Destined for T or C: The Russett family, Nick, June (who uses her maiden name professionally), Daisy and Calvin

Moving day. The pods were loaded, mostly. We cleaned the house, mostly. We said goodbye to friends and family, somewhat. Leaving them has been the hardest part of the move, and not being to see everyone one last time due to the need for self-isolation made things even harder. I’ve explained to Calvin repeatedly that we’ll try to see his friends and relatives via video chat soon. But knowing that in-person visits will not be possible for a long time has been rough on him—and me. Luckily, Calvin and 18-month-old Daisy have been able to fill the roles of BFF for each other. Their bond is nothing short of beautiful.

On our last day of driving, we stopped in El Paso for lunch and made it to Truth or Consequences by early evening. Mom had cleaned and painted the house before our arrival. I’ve never felt more welcome anywhere than in the home Mom and Bill have made for us. It’s truly magical.

Despite being “outsiders,” we’ve been made to feel extremely welcome where ever in town we go. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we already have a built-in network of friends and acquaintances. I feel as though everyone who knows my family here already loves me by association.

Now that we’ve settled in, I’ve been tending the garden, pruning, composting, reviving the vegetation. Bill has been awesome at nurturing trees and ice plants, but the weeds are even more awesome, so I’ve had to quickly learn how to adapt to high-desert growing conditions. I don’t have it all worked out yet, but things are coming to life; every sprout is a joy. I am extremely interested in permaculture and hope to incorporate regenerative practices into our own garden, as well as in other places locally.

I’ve also secured some funding to get a studio and plan to display my art here at the house. I’ve never had a designated workroom of my own. After moving in with Nick 11 years ago, I completely took over the dining area we have had, but that’s not going to cut it anymore. I’ve been a side-hustle artist for 16 years; the time has come for me to get serious and to give myself credit, time and space to build on my accomplishments. The town is so full of amazing artists; I’m excited to have found the perfect place to make my mark.

Right now, Nick and I don’t have jobs, just like so many other Americans. We are pinching pennies and rubbing them together gently in hopes they’ll repopulate the coffers. Yet, even in the midst of crisis, we are happy, hopeful and free.


June Jewell, artist, mother and occasional 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.

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