What I Have Learned So Far

 images of Lake Roosevelt, winter 2009 (click to see larger)

What I Have Learned So Far

Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world?  Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause?  I don't think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance.  The gospel of
light is the crossroads of -- indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.
~ Mary Oliver ~ 
from New and Selected Poems,Volume Two

It only seemed fitting to close the year with a poem by one of my favorite writers. Mary Oliver always gives me words to chew on and thoughts that I continue to digest long after I close the book of poetry.  Happy New Year. May 2010 be filled with peace, possibilities, and promise.

Stopping At The Cataldo Mission

 Every time I drive to my hometown of Kellogg, Idaho I pass the Old Mission State Park and look at the oldest standing building in all of Idaho perched on a hill of I-90. My first real tour of the mission was when I took a field trip to the location in 4th grade. It has since been renovated and the Parish house next door has been restored. Here is some information from the Idaho Parks site:

"The oldest standing building in all of Idaho is found here, in the Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park. The Mission of the Sacred Heart or Sacred Heart Mission was constructed between 1850 and 1853 by Catholic missionaries and members of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Sacred Heart Mission and the Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park provide an educational experience not found anywhere else, giving visitors an opportunity to examine the dynamics and complexities between Jesuit missionaries and the tribal people among whom they settled. The park features the Sacred Heart Mission building, a restored Parish House and an historic cemetery. The visitor center includes an interpretive exhibit about the Mission and the Coeur d'Alene Indians. A walking audio tour tape is available."

On a cold December morning I caught a series of photos with the gray clouds as a background. It is worth the stop if you are traveling along I-90 between the Washington and Montana borders.

Three Simple Pleasures: Church, Birthday Celebration, Facebook 101

1. Twice in the last few days I have worshiped in the church I grew up in. It was very comforting to sit in the same sanctuary, participate in similar readings, and sing familiar hymns that have been a part of my life for over forty-five years.

2. Today is my brother's birthday. He arrived yesterday and each of us made a dish he requested to create a birthday dinner. The Deke made a delicious meatloaf and we added baked potatoes, green beans, cole slaw, and pumpkin roll. It was a evening full of good food, good laughs, and good stories.

3. We have been working at getting our mother acquainted with Facebook. It was fun to give her a tour of my "friends" today so she could see her former students, my former students, family, and friends. I think she is on Facebook Overload!

Three Simple Pleasures: Flip, No Disasters, Good Night's Sleep

1. It was a day to count our blessings as the family exchanged gifts, prepared a wonderful feast, and laughed through our first family videos with the Flip.

2. I couldn't believe it!  The dishwasher didn't break, the frig didn't stop working, the meat didn't burn, nobody had a meltdown, we didn't lose the horseradish, and all the food made it to the table. Our family has been known to experience a few disasters as we gather for a holiday meal.

3. Everything quieted down pretty early and I actually got to bed at a decent time and enjoyed a blissful sleep in a warm bed with the dogs and JEJ close by. I could rest knowing all was well with the world.

Images of the Christmas Holiday

Here are some festive images of the Christmas season with my sister, my mom and her family. Merry Christmas!

Home for the Holidays

The presents are wrapped, the bags are packed, the goodies arranged, the Christmas music in the case, my to do list written, phone charged, camera ready, recipes chosen, and books thrown in the bag. I am going to my other homes for the holidays... Kellogg to the houses of  Silver Valley Girl and Mom.  The roads look clear and the traffic should be light. First stop... Starbucks!

Top Ten Signs It is Almost Christmas at Our House

Top Ten Signs It is Almost Christmas at Our House

10. The house is empty of tags, wax paper, Peppermint Mocha creamer, and Almond Roca.
9.  The missing holiday welcome mat was found just in time to put it away again.
8.   It is time to Photoshop the dark circles under my eyes on my blog profile picture.
7.   JEJ raised a grove of Christmas trees for my Orofino cousins on FarmVille on Facebook.
6.  The cats keep holding out for Friskies Shredded Prime Rib dinner at feeding time.
5.  Shelby has honed her herding skills by nipping at the heels of every snowman on display.
4.  Annie knows Christmas calories don’t count so she has enjoyed taste testing sugar cookies.
3.  I have finally learned to text “Ho Ho Ho” on my phone after a month of failed attempts
2.  JEJ has to be checked for glitter, stray bows, mailing labels or raffia before he leaves the house.
1.  It is time for me to count my blessings and remember the reason for the season.

Christmas Gift Suggestions

Christmas Gift Suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer,service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, humility before God.
-Oren Arnold

These words were printed in our church bulletin and shared today during the service. I wanted to pass these suggestions on to you.

Three Simple Pleasures: All About Red, Cat Companions, Dog Companions

1. Sometimes there is something I really want to have. Yesterday it was the colander set in red on sale at WalMart. JEJ found it while getting the car serviced. Spaghetti has never looked more festive!

2. Our two cats McDuff and Kit are great cat companions, even when they aren't playing sheriff and deputy.

3. Annie and Shelby were Saturday companions as they laid by the fire close to the two of us.

Three Simple Pleasures: Afternoon Nap, Reverence for the Everyday, Winter Break

another Christmas with family back in the day.

1. School for 2009 ended today at noon.  I tried to do a few tasks when I got home, then realized I needed a nap. Have you ever taken a nap in the afternoon that felt like it was one of the best sleeps you have had in a long time. That was my nap today.

2. JEJ brought home a Billy Collins book of poetry I had requested from the library. I have read The Trouble With Poetry before, but wanted to revisit the poems again. On the front jacket part of the description explains why he is one of my favorite poets.  His poems contain " quiet observation, intense wonder, and a reverence for the everyday. See below for  one of the poems I reread today.

3. I look forward to Winter Break.  I have a pile of books ready to read, recipes ready to try, family to visit, a greenhouse to enjoy, and many pictures to take.

The Trouble With Poetry

I wonder how you are going to feel
when you find out
that I wrote this instead of you.

that it was I who got up early
to sit in the kitchen
and mention with a pen

the rain-soaked windows,
the ivy wallpaper,
and the goldfish circling in its bowl

Go ahead and turn aside,
bite your lip and tear out the page,
but, listen -- it was just a matter of time

before one of us happened
to notice the unlit candles
and the clock humming on the wall.

Plus, nothing happened that morning--
a song on the radio,
a car whistling along the road outside--

and I was only thinking
about the shakers of salt and pepper
that were standing side by side on a place mat.

I wondered if they had become friends
after all these years
or if they were still strangers to one another

like you and I
who manage to be known and unknown
to each other at the same time --

me at this table with a bowl of pears,
you leaning in a doorway somewhere
near some blue hydrangeas, reading this.

 -Billy Collins

Three Simple Pleasures: Cookie Cutters, Frosted Sugar Cookies, Joy's Cookies

1. I started reminiscing tonight when I got out my cookie cutters. I have been collecting cookie cutters for over twenty-five years and each of them remind me of times I used them and people who gifted me with many in the collection. Some are traditional metal cutters, some copper which reminds me of my Mom and her copper collection, and others are newer, plastic ones. When I was young and collected Troll dolls I received a Troll cookie cutter once as a gift. It was the first in the collection.   I am thinking it must be at my mom's house still. I better check on that when I return home early next week!

2. These cutters work well when I make frosted sugar cookies. For many years I have worked to perfect a cookie and frosting recipe for Frosted Sugar Cookies. It is now a tradition that I gift co-workers and friends with the cookies each year. I really love baking, frosting, and decorating them. I have some ready to share with co-workers tomorrow.

3. I made another batch of Joy's Cookies tonight for a meeting tomorrow. On my last day at school while our students are having an activity morning our National Board group is spending the morning with our mentor from Gonzaga in my classroom continuing to move forward toward the completion of our portfolios. Who can have a meeting the day before winter break without goodies?  SueDean is bringing a hot cider drink, I have pumpkin muffins and Joy's cookies, and others are contributing also. I think it will be excellent brain food as we work through the morning and will also ease us all into winter break nicely!

Three Simple Pleasures: Holly, Careful Drivers, The Lightbulb Coming On

1.I am happy I grow holly. Usually I almost forget about it because it gets covered with snow. This year I was able to catch some images of the festive plant before the snow began to fall.

2.I travel up and down Lake Roosevelt every day and the road can be a challenge to drive. Sometimes it is icy, sometimes slushy, or  not plowed after a new snow. Most of the drivers I encounter are seasoned winter drivers that are careful and safe. If you want to drive slow they don't tailgate you or try to pass you, blinding you with a pile of snow. Tonight about five deer ambled across the icy road in front of a truck a few cars ahead of me. One very young deer was sliding all the way. Everyone was going a reasonable speed and could slow down and not have injured animals or fender benders in the process. What a blessing.

3. I love it when you can almost literally see the lightbulb coming on above a student's head when they figure something out. AR was thinking aloud today ( in a whisper voice) during his test on "A Christmas Carol." All of a sudden he discovered the symbolism of the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Three Simple Pleasures: Snow Falling in Evening, Snow Dogs, Science with Young Learners

1. This evening the snow really began to fall after I returned home safely from school. The view from the front door illuminated by the porch light was beautiful.

2. Our dogs love the snow. They run out and roll in the snow, cover themselves with snowflakes, then want back in to lay in front of the fire to warm up again. They are funny critters!

3. Today I spent an hour helping the first grade teacher do a science lesson. I often forget how young students learn simple scientific concepts. Today with bags of solid objects first graders explored properties and learned about objects that are flexible, rigid, transparent, and opaque. They were very excited learners! Next they move on to liquids!

Three Simple Pleasures: It's Looking Like Christmas, the Sounds of the Season, the Talents of JEJ

1. I always try to take the time to sit and appreciate the Christmas decor in my house. Many decorations remind me of special memories and special people.

2. I really love Christmas music. It is really hard for me to pick songs and CDs that are my favorites. Today I loved listening to " Charlie Brown's Christmas" while doing baking. I also really like the Carpenters " Christmas Portrait." It is playing now.

3. I found these Christmas cards that you can place your own photos in an insert on the front. I found some of my favorite nature shots and had them printed. The trick was getting them inside the cards. JEJ patiently sat this afternoon and figured them out for me.

For Tracy: William and Kit Waiting to be Filmed

My friend Tracy got our two cats Kit and William to do amazing things when she followed them around with the camera when she was here to visit. I think they want her to come back and were practicing with the following sequence. They were both in the garden room and Kit was hiding from William! First, as you can see above, Kit was resting under the Christmas tree.

 William joined us, looking for a sign of Kit around the chair.

Kit was hiding between the chairs, ready to tease William.

William couldn't quite figure out where Kit was.

Kit was playing a hide and seek game then.

Finally William wised up, but lost interest because he thought it was feeding time. Also, he wanted to save his best shots for when Tracy returns.

Three Simple Pleasures: Classroom Video, Popcorn Bars, Background Noise and a Keeper from the Recipe Box

1. Part of the requirement for earning my National Board Certification is to have two videotapes of my teaching  submitted in my portfolio. Thursday my friend SueDean did an excellent job taping a whole group discussion on The Outsiders with my eighth grade students. The students responded well in the discussion and no big catastrophes happened.

2. Last Sunday Rella brought Popcorn Bars to church for coffee hour. Everyone went nuts over them. I was so pleased when she sent out the recipe this week. It is actually Popcorn Cake that I guess has been around for a long time, but she made them into bars.  With the combination I used today they look very yummy and were the easiest thing to make. See recipe below.

3. It was a busy day as I did holiday baking, but it was made more enjoyable with nonstop Christmas music most of the day on the television, then having the Zags basketball game come on at the end of my baking day. They won also!

Popcorn Bars

Make 4 quarts of popcorn. I made two bags of microwave popcorn.

Heat until melted. Cool 1 minute.
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 lb. bag of marshmallows

Combine the popcorn and the melted marshmallow mixture.
Add two cups trail mix. ( I sent JEJ to the store and he brought back a great trail mix of almonds, dried fruit, chocolate stars. and other nuts)
You can add what you want. I had a small amount of dried cherries and threw them in. I put peanuts on the top.

Mix all together and press into greased 9x13 pan. Let stand one hour and remove carefully. This can also be pressed into a bundt or angel food cake pan.  Enjoy!

Three Simple Pleasures: Early December Sunset, Beauty at Barnaby Island, Peaceful Setting at French Rock

1. Today I was pleased I had the camera when I drove along between Inchelium and home close to a very early sunset. The sky close to Inchelium was lovely.

2. Stopping at Barnaby Campground gave me an opportunity to catch Barnaby Island in a different season and at a different time. It was beautiful.

3. A stop at French Rock Boat Launch reminded me how peaceful the lake can be this time of year.

Peaceful Winter Beauty

Three Simple Pleasures: Water, Candy Canes, Time With Bonnie

1. Today when we lost water again in our building at school I was relieved we were only without restrooms for about three hours. It wasn't as disruptive this time.

2. We enjoyed Bob's Mini Candy Canes while watching the first part of "A Christmas Carol" in class today. I loved it when AR put the cane in his mouth and exclaimed, " I love candy canes. They taste just like Christmas!"

3. It was my December time with my hair stylist Bonnie this afternoon. The time flies when I get my color and cut as we share stories about our former lives in the Tri-Cities and have conversations about the state of affairs in the world.  Many world issues can be resolved sipping a Peppermint Mocha while waiting for your hair to process!

Three Simple Pleasures: Bah! Humbug! Stay Gold, Earthquakes

1. Every year during December I teach an adapted play of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol to my seventh grade class. It is such a good vehicle for teaching character analysis and helps students understand how actions dictate what becomes of a person as they grow older.  When we start the unit many students say "Bah! Humbug!", but as we get closer to the end I hear more "And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!" I love that.

2. I am doing a study of the novel The Outsiders with my 8th grade class. Students love the book for the action, characters they can relate to, and that the author is someone close to their age.  There is a moment when deep understanding occurs as we discuss the ending of the book. I know students get it when you hear voices around the room repeating the quote, "Stay Gold Ponyboy, Stay Gold!"

3. I work with a group of high school students in a Learning Lab at the end of the day.  Recently I have been teaming with the science teacher in supporting the learning of a unit on earthquakes. I have loved digging into the  content which I haven't studied in a long time. As I learned vocabulary alongside my students today I realized I might be able to pass the chapter test next week!

Three Simple Pleasures: Grocery Store Sales, Pizza and Beer, Comforter

1. Today we did the monthly shopping trip to the grocery stores. In December that also includes "the baking list" and I loved finding ingredients like butter, cream cheese, and coconut on sale. I was also pleased the stores were a bit quieter when I was shopping.

2. JEJ dropped me off at my second store and headed to Papa Murphy's to pick up a fresh pizza. After driving to town, shopping, making the trip home again, unloading the car and putting everything away a meal consisting of Hawaiian Pizza hot from the oven and a Rolling Rock Beer cold out of the back of the car was a perfect combo for a late supper.

3. A box arrived from UPS today containing a new comforter just in time for another very cold night in northeastern Washington. JEJ stoked up the fires and we are keeping them burning long into the night.

Three Simple Pleasures: Ornament from Friend, Ornament from Family, Ornament for Inspiration

1.  I use a red and white theme on my Christmas tree in the garden room.  One exception is this beautiful green beaded ornament made by my friend Cheryl. The kids in Native Studies were making them one year. I loved the ornaments and was thrilled when she surprised me with one she had made herself.

 2. Another exception to the red and white theme is this pink stocking with glitter made by my niece the Princess when she was three years old.

3. About five years ago I received a handmade red and white ornament from a family friend Sally that inspired me to begin the red and white theme with the Christmas tree.It has been fun to collect ornaments in red and white. The colors are cheerful and just say "Merry Christmas".

Three Simple Pleasures: Poinsettia, Chutney, Healing

1. The poinsettia that almost died over the summer in the greenhouse has not only revived itself, but the leaves are again turning white.

2. We had another of those wonderful frozen in a bag, put in the crockpot and cook turkey breasts today. I enjoyed it even more with the last of my sister's home canned apple chutney. I love that chutney.

3. JEJ's finger is healing nicely after his mishap with the wood splitter last Monday.  I got my first look at the injury today and am amazed he has never had any pain. When that group of men circled and prayed for him as he left for the hospital, that was all it took! God is good.

Afternoon Walk Along Sherman Creek

Today we took a brisk walk along Sherman Creek along Highway 20. We explored the newer trail from the Log Flume which led us along the creek.

The snow still remains from a few weeks ago.

The dogs loved the cold air.

I loved the way the afternoon light reflected on the snow.

I also found simple beauty on the remains on a branch.

You know it is cold when Sherman Creek is already frozen at the bridge on the Inchelium Highway.