Sibling Assignment # 29: Working Hard in the Silver Valley

My dad as a young working man walking in Kellogg after finishing a shift.

Silver Valley Girl assigned Raymond Pert and me the following topic: Share some information you learned about the history of the Silver Valley as an adult that you had no clue about growing up as a student in Kellogg, and then how this information changed your thinking about the Silver Valley.

Raymond Pert’s is here. Silver Valley Girl’s is here.
I also decided to link this to the Sunday Scribblings word this week which is phenomenon. The unusual or significant occurrence of being overworked is a phenomenon for many today.

When I grew up in the Silver Valley we spent time in fourth grade studying Idaho history. I knew some information about the Cataldo Mission. I learned all the counties so when we played license plate game I knew them by the letter and number. I knew we had natural resources and we were called the Gem State. As I grew older there were things about the Silver Valley I just carried with me. I heard stories of gold in Murray, the big fire in Wallace, and often read the brown Historical Site signs to learn more as an adult. Then I became a fourth grade teacher in the Silver Valley and I taught those same important facts about Idaho.

What I didn’t learn about the Silver Valley as a child or as a first-year teacher was the importance of work ethic. Through conversations with my sister as she has researched the Silver Valley for her novel I have learned that the people in the Silver Valley have always worked hard. My dad worked his five shifts at the Zinc Plant every week, oftentimes was on call in the evening, and moonlighted on week-end nights at the Sunshine Inn to save money for his children to go to college. My mom was a wife, teacher, mother, Sunday School teacher, member of PTA and the local teacher association, and did college courses and workshops. She worked hard.
I was surrounded by adults during my growing up years that also worked hard. It was the acceptable norm for the people in The Valley I knew. Homemakers working at home often did volunteer work, helped out with babysitting, or ran the consession stand at a Little League game. It was rare during those years that I remember a family going on a big trip for a vacation. Many families had a lot up the river or a place at a nearby lake. That was their place to relax.

As a child I did chores, babysat, and had summer jobs once I was old enough. I also worked part-time when I was at college. I just worked because it was what everybody did. When I finished college and began teaching it was a continuation of school and the work involved. I always felt like I needed to work harder to be better. I remember Mom bringing schoolwork home so I knew I would do that. I continued my education in the summers and went back later and earned a Master’s degree. I had high expectations of myself and I worked and worked and worked. I didn’t see it as a job though. I saw it was an extension of my learning.

How did I change my thinking? There was a point in my adult life that I was overworked, overstressed, and exhausted. I went to talk to a counselor. After I shared my concerns she told me something profound. “Everybody doesn’t try to fill a week with as much work as you.” I was alarmed. I think I always felt if I worked harder my other difficulties of life would be fixed. She then asked me about the work ethic of my family. As I began to tell her about my hard-working grandmothers, parents, and people that surrounded me she helped me see that strong work ethic is good, but there needs to be a balance.

My thinking changed that day about my family and the people I knew in the Silver Valley. Everyone in the state, country, and world didn’t work that hard. I had a higher regard for the working people in my life, but also remembered that many of these people played hard. As a child I thought they earned a cold beer, a night out bowling, or a pack of cigarettes. It had been a hard week at work.

It has created a challenge in my life. I am constantly struggling with that balance of work and rest. I am still surrounded by people that have a strong work ethic. There are times I get this feeling in my gut and know there is something else I should be doing. I am focusing on improving that balancing act. I know I can leave work at school that isn’t done. I can stay in the house when it is 100 degrees and not pull weeds and deadhead. It is okay to forgive myself for not reading my whole basket of books for summer learning. Maybe it is because I am older, but I like to think it is because I am wiser.
This post was inspired by Otis' guest post " Remembering Where I Come From" on Mommy Dearest's blog here. I don't wear Red Wings, but "comfortable teacher shoes".
To read other Scribblings about phenomenon you can go here.


  1. This is a great post. And a great lesson to learn. We all need some balance in our lives. I had to learn that one the hard way, too.

    When I would talk to my councelor about "I should, I have to, I need to", he would ask me, "Who said?" and you know, it was no one but ME. I had to learn to 'self talk' in a different way - and be more lenient with ME.

  2. Beautiful. I struggle with finding that balance all of the time. It's hard to come into the house and see a mess and decide "It's OK for our house to look lived in" and go spend time with the kids or crack open a beer and take a few minutes of Me Time instead of coming home from work and getting started working again :)

  3. Laurie28.7.07

    I loved your post. I know that I truly do have a lot to do during the school year, but I also know I impose deadlines and schedules on myself that no one else would impose (even my 12th grade students). Sometimes I also feel like I should work extra hard because I don't have a spouse and kids--like I have to justify my single existence. I've never said that outloud before, or even thought it, I don't think. Isn't it interesting what we learn about ourselves when we start to write?

  4. Jackie: I have had the same experience with my therapist. When I say," I should have.... etc." she says," Why are you always shoulding." ): Always a process.
    MDearest: Have a cold beer and spend time with your kids. You can clean when they move out!! :)
    Laurie: Great to hear from you. My therapist always reminds me of this. " No matter what- you will never be done." It helped me put things in perspective. I am glad you articulated that thought about doing more because of no kids... I have had the same one, especially when I was single again. I think your thoughts would work well in your own blog... hint hint!!:)

  5. blogging adds another dimension to that work ethic, too.

  6. honey,, theres just the sweetest little ol' green picnic table over there,, on the edge of the garden,, grab some coffee and come on and set a spell.....i'll be waitin' on ya....

  7. Thoughtful reflection. I enjoyed reading it.

  8. I feel like when I "rebelled" against pursuing education as my field of study, I also rebelled against some of the work ethic as well. I don't feel the same way you do. I remember when I got my first job at DCC, I was determined not to bring work home, so I could have a life outside of work. I still feel that way. Yes, I am very busy with other things, but I try not to let work overwhelm me. But I often wonder if I'm just lazy. Yet my other pursuits contradict this. I have always felt I would be most content being a "professional volunteer". That is when I am most content. Darn need for work anyway. Well, I hope someday I can just have my laptop and write each day, and then do those volunteer things I love to do. That is my dream life. Maybe some day.

  9. I enjoyed reading your history. I grew up with a single Mom who was overworked so I can relate to much of what you say.

  10. Excellent post! In some senses, work is over-rated, I mean that people see some real value in work for the sake of work, whereas really its the quality of the work that's truly important and that quality is raised if the person working has a good balance of work and leisure!

  11. Enjoyed your post and I have always believed in balance. :)

  12. I wonder if what the background of the work ethic was. Did they bring it here as immigrants? My mother is of German stock and has a very strong work ethic. The Irish in my family less so, and are more fun loving.

  13. Pamela: blogging is another time commitment, but for me pure joy!
    paisley: Welcome, and thanks for noticing the picture. Do you know how many takes it took to get one right?
    Thanks Paul. I am glad I worked on putting my thoughts into words.
    SVG: I didn't even realize I could rebel because I just thought that was the way it was to work and be effective at what I did. To me also it is not about work, but about passion. Whether it is volunteer work, acting, writing, or teaching I think we put our energy where our passion is. The key then to me is that healthy balance. That is still where I struggle. How do you let go of activities you are passionate about?
    Welcome sentient marrow: Yes, our mothers set examples that stay with us.
    Crafty Green Poet: In one comment you said words of wisdom I am going to copy and hang up to read each day. Thank you.
    Tammy: When I read your blog I sense that balance. Good for you.

  14. Colleen: I agree with you. Many European immigrants came to where I grew up to work in the mines and we saw the diverse cultural mix and definately different roles for men and women depending on the ethnic group.

  15. You've written so well about this subject. I can really relate to what you've said. My hubby in particular has had that "all work and no play" habit ingrained in him by his family, and has only recently come to see that relaxing and doing what you love is just as important as working hard.
    We do get wiser...hopefully :)

  16. It is funny Kerri, I just had this conversation with my husband about work. He hardly sits idle either. He admitted he is trying to get better and not jump up to do something else after resting ten mintues!


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