Counting My Blessings #30: Sibling Assignments

This week marks the 83rd Sibling Assignment I have created . My sister Silver Valley Girl came up with the idea right after our brother had started his blog October of 2006. At that time we wrote them and sent them to each other. Now we all have blogs. Another reason it began was to get different points of view of stories of our childhood. A few years ago I started a collection of recipes with memoir pieces attached. It has been put on hold a bit as I have done more writing on my blog, but some stories were left unwritten because I was concerned I wouldn't get them right. Three points of view always add to the depth of a memoir piece.

It has been meaningful for me to reflect on my blessings this month as I wind down my "Counting My Blessings" series. I am thankful for the sibling assignments because it has opened my eyes to events I don't remember, it has given us many opportunities to share our stories with our mother, and it has kept me writing consistently.

For Sibling Assignment #83 Silver Valley Girl asked each of us to depict Thanksgiving Day through our own eyes. You can see a photo series of events on SVG's blog here and Raymond Pert will share his when he returns home.

It was harder for me to capture great photos because I was in the thick of the Thanksgiving preparations. Awhile back I learned that my brother-in-law and turkey didn't get along. At that point I planned a Pacific Northwest Native American Feast . JEJ helped out by bringing home a deer which was made into smoked venison. Indian Fry bread is a staple food at school and on the reservation, so it was fun to serve it for the first time. We added huckleberry honey on the side for added richness. I also gathered recipes for other traditional native foods such as salmon, cranberries, squash, root vegetables, nuts, fruit, and greens. I will post some recipes later.

I am a traditionalist at heart, but it was interesting to create a whole new menu for Thanksgiving. Learning about rituals of the native people was part of the fun. Between colleagues at work, some research, and browsing recipes I was able to identify and present many native foods.
Having a snowfall reminded all of us of many Thanksgivings in the past when we attempted to go "over the river and through the woods of north Idaho to a grandmother's house" or navigated the slick roads of Kellogg after a gathering with friends uptown. This year everyone arrived here and arrived home safely and for that I count my blessings.

Counting My Blessings # 29: Talk and Coffee With a Little Shopping In Between

The Princess enjoying a laugh with her grandmother at Talk and Coffee in Colville.

The women of my clan stayed home and did some online shopping on Black Friday. Mostly it was a relaxing day of peace and quiet. Today we ventured out for a road trip to Colville that involved a bit of shopping and a trip to Talk and Coffee for a treat from Mom.
My niece Z2 decided to stay home to rest. As the rest of the group was leaving my house led by Kiki Aru I said they looked like a Conga line.
The Princess walked in rhythm with Mom/ Grandma and her mother Silver Valley Girl.
After a little shopping at the wonderful Hallmark Store in Colville we went next door to Talk and Coffee. The owner earnestly tried to fill our orders, but a big night Friday with the tree lighting celebration depleted his choices. Eventually we all found something yummy to order.
It was a treat to sit in the sunshine visiting and laughing with my mom, sister, and two of my nieces. After this rest stop we moved on to some other stores to pick up a few items before heading home. It never fails. Whenever all of us get together funny things always happen. It may be something funny mom says or pausing to watch my two nieces stalking their grandmother in Wal Mart. I was waiting at one store for my order and could hear their laughter above the background noise of the store. It was music to my ears. What a lovely way to spend a day during the holiday.

Counting My Blessings # 28: Mom

Having family visiting over Thanksgiving makes the holiday even better. Today as the snow began to fall Mom and I did a tour of the gardens. She hadn't been to our house for a year. We couldn't believe it had been that long. She took in all the changes, noticing the trees that are gone and the gardens that were tidied up a bit. Next we toured the greenhouse. Sweet William sneaked into the greenhouse to say hello. Kit was waiting at the door to visit the greenhouse also . One of my favorite times of the year is when it is snowing lightly outside and the greenhouse is warm and full of blooming plants.I am thankful for the gardening wisdom my mom has passed down to me through the years as she continues to garden vegetables and flowers and I attempt to follow in her footsteps!

Counting My Blessings # 27: For The Beauty of the Earth

I am thankful today for the beauty of the earth.
Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Counting My Blessings # 26: Turkeys

A tradition I have with my students started many years ago while teaching third graders. The last day before Thanksgiving break I always play the turkey game. This game has simple rules. Each student gets two graham cracker squares. Using only their fingers and teeth they have to create a turkey. We then display all the turkeys and vote on a winner. Each year students try lots of different methods for creating the winning turkey. Teacher tip.... this game is so quiet...the students concentrate hard to make their turkeys. This turkey was made by breaking and softening the cracker.WS made it clear that the left side was the head on his turkey!
JN gave up and just decided to eat his!This one got a bit messed up when it got dropped!
Here was one of the winners. The feathers even stood up on this turkey. The class periods went quickly today and everyone left with a game to try at home. If you are looking for a new tradition try the turkey game!

Counting My Blessings # 25: Home

"Home is the one place in all this world where hearts are sure of each other. It is the place of confidence. It is the place where we tear off that mask of guarded and suspicious coldness which the world forces us to wear in self-defense, and where we pour out the unreserved communications of full and confiding hearts. It is the spot where expressions of tenderness gush out without any sensation of awkwardness and without any dread of ridicule." ~Frederick W. Robertson

I am thankful for my home. It is a modest home that holds two adults, two dogs, and five cats. Home is the place I can come at the end of the day to sit and appreciate quiet. The warmth of a fire can soothe my nerves after a stressful day. As conversations begin with JEJ that mask I often wear slips off and I can just be. When the days are longer and the early evenings are still warm, I love to sit in the garden and watch the dogs and cats move through the routines they cling to each day. I also love to catch a view of the morning sky as it reflects over Lake Roosevelt. I live in a home that is surrounded by quiet. I am also surrounded by warmth, unconditional love, and comfort. When I count my blessings I feel fortunate to live where I do. There are days I yearn for a call that says school is cancelled!

I always look forward to the moment when we arrive home after a trip away.
In my home hearts are sure of each other. I am blessed!

Counting My Blessings # 24: Sisterhood and Brotherhood

I am thankful for my two siblings. All of us will be together here at my house Wednesday and I can't wait to gather around the table and discuss the serious things of life: What holiday did the frig quit working? How many people in Dad's family came in that Winnebago? How many calories are there in a tiny square of Grandma Woolum's fudge?
We will have the opportunity to catch "untechie" Mom up on our blogs and sibling assignments, discuss the Wild Cards of Huckleberries Online, and navigate through the "all roads lead to Kellogg" game that will start with a blog comment from a guy that knew the guy that Dad worked with at the Sunshine Inn to showing Mom comments from our blogs from her former students at Silver King School.

My brother and I are only a year apart in age. Our sister is eight years younger than me. The relationship the three of us have had throughout the years of growing up has taken on many changes. We had the challenges of competing siblings, a younger sister that was not quite old enough yet to participate in some activities, a moody father, and a mother that taught school, kept us fed and clothed, and still had time to go back to college, be union president, and active in PTA. We all survived those years of growing up and moved into adulthood with hopes and high expectations. We have survived depression, divorce, the deaths of our father and grandmothers, a miscarriage, the passing of pets, periods of absence from each other, times of being alone, and lots of trips together. We have blogged together, given feedback on manuscripts of chapters and articles, kept up Dad's tradition of making Tom and Jerry's together, and laughed a lot.

In the last few years we have found ourselves reconnecting and realized we had much more in common than I realized. Silver Valley Girl moved to Kellogg so we have been able to see each other more. Raymond Pert has helped us understand many of his life struggles and triumphs through the words and images of his fine blog. I cherish the time I spend with these two whether it is lunch at Jack and Dan's in Spokane remembering how much Dad loved that place, or hiking through an ancient cedar grove with cameras in hand.

It has been a long time since we have sat at a Thanksgiving table together. Thursday I will count my blessings and two of them will be Raymond Pert and Silver Valley Girl. Check out my sidebar for links to their blogs.

"I don't believe an accident of birth makes
people sisters or brothers.
It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage.
Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition
people have to work at. " ~Maya Angelou

Counting My Blessings #23: The Bible

I am grateful for The Bible. I can read chapters and verses in any book of the Bible numerous times and learn new life lessons. I can turn to Proverbs and gather wisdom each day. Psalms always provides reasons to celebrate our blessings. Here is an example that reminded me of being thankful today:

"I will thank you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High."
Psalm 9:1-2 NLT

I continue to count my blessings each and every day.

Sibling Assignment #82: Mr. Coffee Disaster

I gave the sibling assignment this week.
Finish this sentence." I will never forget the time _______happened at 516 W. Cameron. Remember? It was a huge disaster."
516 W. Cameron is where our growing up took place. Many disasters have happened that involved overflowing toilets, basement floods, and a drawer falling out of the frig numerous times. Most disasters always seem to take place over holidays or when family members all came home for some event. You will find RP's own version of "The Cable Guy" here and Silver Valley Girl (after attaching most disasters growing up to me) reminded me of the almost second eruption of Mt. St. Helen's here.

I am an educated woman. I know how a coffee maker works. I do have a brain, even in the morning. Somehow when a task that involve an appliance, making a food item, and my mother's kitchen comes together a cosmic experience involving planets and stars aligning with the universe doom me and shout "disaster".

This particular day I was making coffee. I don't know how I managed to do it, but the filter didn't get positioned right or the swingy thing that holds the filter didn't get secured right, or who knows what else could have happened, but the coffee did not go from the filter basket into the pot. I got up to check to see if the coffee was done and was surprised to see that the pot was almost empty. My eye caught a brown liquid with coffee flecks traveling down the front of the cupboard. I was relieved to see that the coffee had only gone down and dripped into one drawer. I could handle cleaning that up. It doesn't take much to dry off baggies, clips for bags, coffee filters, and twenty-five wooden spoons. I could maybe even do it before Mom realized what had happened. Then my eye caught the area of the counter where the cups hang on a little mug tree. I saw more of the brown liquid there. I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. I heard my Mom's voice from the living room.
" Is the coffee done?"
" Uhhh... there seems to be a bit of a problem...."
I didn't have to finish the sentence before my mom shot off the couch with the speed of lightening.
" The coffee didn't seem to go into the pot", I apologized.
My mom's intuition told her within seconds that coffee must be seeping into every crevice and appliance on the west side of the kitchen. She moved into action.

What we discovered was the brownish sort of coffee went behind the stove, seeped under the refrigerator and rested against the far wall of the kitchen. In examining the damage it seemed like I had made twenty cups of coffee. How could eight cups of coffee water make such a mess?

By the time we moved out the appliances, cleaned the floor, moved everything back, wiped the sweat off our faces, cleaned the counter, and washed the grounds out of the coffee maker and made another pot I was exhausted. Needless to say, when I return home now Mom makes the coffee ahead of time and keeps her eagle eye on me if I get near the coffee maker when the pot is almost empty. It is also a blessing Mom doesn't own a coffee grinder.

Counting My Blessings #22: Our Dogs

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion"
If you have visited this blog much you know our dogs are an important part of our lives. Annie is an English Springer Spaniel and Shelby is an Australian Cattle Dog ( or red heeler). They entertain us, are very devoted, and ease my stress each day just by being present. They go just about everywhere with us and that suits them just fine. They have camped, gone swimming in lakes,rivers, and creeks, gone on ten mile road trips, waited in parking lots while we shopped, and visited many parks around the Inland Empire. They let us know when they need a treat, when we have a visitor, or when the cats are getting too rough while playing with each other. The most important part is that they love us unconditionally. I think we came out better on this deal for sure! For that I count my blessings.

Photo Hunt: Reflection

Our ponds are a great source for reflection pictures, especially in the fall. Photo images from Sullivan Lake on a beautiful sunny, fall day provide another source for perfect reflections.
For other photo hunters using Reflection go here.

Counting My Blessings # 21: Through the Lens of Another Camera

November sunrise

Because of the time change I am just not home very often when it is light. I catch some sunrise beauty in the morning, but unfortunately I am scrambling around getting ready for school. It is usually dark when I return home. I am thankful JEJ has been experimenting around with his camera so I can catch a glimse of images around our place through his eyes.

Counting My Blessings #20: The Writing Life

I write each and every day. Being a writing teacher gives me practice on a day to day basis . I also do blog posts and also work on some other form of writing when it works into the day. I am thankful that I can carve out time each day to write. Writing helps me sort things out that are troubling me. It gives me a place to capture favorite words and lines. It also gives me an avenue for exploring my creativity and taking some risks in a safe environment. I just purchased the poster above to hang up in my classroom. I am thinking I should have gotten a copy to hang by my writing table at home also. The slogan we emphasize in the Northwest Inland Writing Project is one I try to emulate. " Writing may be the most important thing you do. Do it well."

Counting My Blessings # 19: Signs That Make Me Laugh

I love to take pictures of signs that make me laugh
and spot some online also!

Counting My Blessings #18: Four Seasons in the Inland Empire

I love living in a place that has four seasons. My hometown is now called A City for All Seasons. Sometimes winter moved into this gray time in Kellogg, then summer. Our springs were not quite as memorable as the other three seasons. These new banners hang on street light poles around town to welcome tourists.

Where I live now we get a much earlier spring, a hotter summer, a mild, beautiful autumn and then winter. You never know about winter in the inland empire. It might be cold and icy or wet and snowy. Some years it can't make up her mind what to do. The surprises are another part I love about four seasons. Each season and each year brings unique beauty.

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting,
and autumn a mosaic of them all.
- Stanley Horowitz

Godspell: "Two Thumbs Up! Way Up!"

My sister Silver Valley Girl in a scene from Godspell

My sister and her husband were part of the ensemble cast that presented Godspell last week-end at the Sixth Street Theater in Wallace, Idaho. Awhile back I wrote a Sibling Assignment about Godspell which was a bit vague because all I could remember about the musical were a few of the memorable songs like "Day by Day" and "Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord." Scott Hall playing Jesus

Godspell is no longer vague in my mind. This production was full of energy, passion, humor and spirituality. The cast had voices that blended well together and whether a cast member sang a solo, duet, or everyone joined in, the vocal range and harmony was exceptional. a happy scene with Silver Valley Girl and Jesus

The dance numbers were an added plus as the cast showed us their versatility as they moved energetically to rock dances, slowed it down for the soft shoe, then kicked in unison in a chorus line. It was hard for this photographer to get clear pictures with all the movement!
my brother-in-law Paul

The structure of the musical is that of a series of parables, taken primarily from the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus, played by Scott Hall, drew in the audience throughout with the lessons of life from the gospel. In one story he reminded us to "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." A pleasant surprise during the performance of " All Good Gifts" was a beautiful recorder solo by my sister.
Jesus preparing for The Last Supper

From the opening number "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" through the final scene after the Last Supper the songs were woven into the parables Jesus retaught many of us.
There is one last week-end of shows left and not many seats. If you want information on tickets go here. Congratulations to the cast and crew of this outstanding production. JEJ, my mother,my nieces and I enjoyed front row seats and all agreed "Two Thumbs Up! Way Up!"