I Made It!

I achieved another challenge on NaBloPoMo.com in January. I did 31 posts in 31 days. Using the theme BEST made it much easier.The theme for February is TIES. Hummmm! That may be more a challenge each day. We'll see.

Best Ten Things About January

Sometimes January gets a bad rap. Often the weather is cloudy and gray. It is time to think about taxes. Travel is difficult on snowy roads most years. Today I am celebrating the things I love about this first month of the year as I wind down my Best posts for the month of January.

Best Ten Things About January

1. My birthday is in January. It always gives me something to look forward to after Christmas. This year I got a homemade yellow cake with chocolate frosting baked by my mom.
 2. League play begins for college basketball so the Zags play on television frequently.
3.  I don't have to spend time going shopping because the budget is a bit lean after December.
4.  It is a good time to hunker down in front of the fire and read.
5.  Coffee tastes better on a dark, cold morning before the sun rises.
6.  I always get the urge to declutter and this year I really did it!
7. The greenhouse is in full bloom.
8. Seed catalogs begin coming in the mail.
9. If I get cold there is enough cat hair on the furniture to keep me warm.
10. The Amazing Amaryllises of 2010 keep blooming and blooming!

Sibling Assignment #118: Best Way for Using Creative Energy

 Cats defining bliss.

 This is our final Best assignment for January. I posted this topic asking my siblings to respond to "Best Way for Using Creative Energy." You will find my siblings' posts  soon.

The best way I use creative energy is taking pictures. I always loved snapping pictures with my old Pentax 35 mm and spent way too much money on film and developing. I remember when people first began using digital cameras I thought they were too complicated. Students were trying to show me how to use one and I still felt it were too hard. I purchased my first digital camera in January 2007. My love affair with photography began. Being able to take pictures and store them, download them, put them on a disk, or delete them freed me to use my creative energy to explore the area I live, remember my gardens, revisit my  greenhouse, love my dogs, and form family memories with digital pictures.

I still haven't had a class on photography. I have read a few books and magazine articles to learn tricks of the trade. Most of what I do has been trial and error. I think there will come a point that I will have to stop saving every photo image I take. I just love to save them. Here are some of my favorites.
Annie,Shelby, and Isabelle in the gazebo a few years ago.
My brother creating his own iPod ad during our Oregon coast trip.
JEJ and Shelby on that same trip.

An image of the boat launch close to home on Lake Roosevelt last fall.

Sunset on the Columbia River in Astoria in August.
My mom at Christmas with Mr. Santa and my hat. I was laughing so hard I made the camera shake!
Amaryllis in January.

The Cataldo Mission in January.

The Best Amaryllis Ever Grown

Remember those beautiful amaryllis blooms I posted a few weeks ago? I was so amazed they had bloomed so early this year. Guess what? The first bloomer has done what I have never seen one do. It is blooming again. It is not just blooming, but it has five flowers opening up. I can now recommend to you Target Smith and Hawkin brand amaryllis. When Target bought the Smith and Hawken brand, I guess it was fortunate for me.
I saw the plants on the shelf in November. They had lovely wine colored pots that looked like ceramic. Little did I know they would be miracle plants. I think the red one has another flower emerging also. Perhaps it will be up and blooming again just in time for Valentine's Day!

Winter Weather: A Best Guess

"When all is said and done, the weather and love are the two elements about which one can never be sure. "  -Alice Hoffman

 Is winter as we have known it gone from the inland empire? Are we going to need all those wool socks, heavy boots, and warm sweaters? Some days recently have seemed more like early March. The parking lot at school today was full of mud and puddles vs. ice and snow banks. We haven't even had a snow bank in weeks. TIme will tell. February may bring more snow that any of the months so far this winter or crocus may be popping up in five weeks.  I put the collage together to  remind me there was a small snowy winter somewhere between the first of December and the end of January. I wish I would have captured more pictures!

Not the Best of Days

"To An Athlete Dying Young"

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.

-A.E. Housman

The Inchelium school family and members of the community are grieving today. Community members have extended their arms of love and respect to the friends and family of Dillon Simpson.
I'll always remember him running and throwing open the classroom door and greeting us with that beautiful smile. You will never be forgotten Dillon.


Best End of a Book

" If our parents read to us as children, we remember the closeness of the moments together, the sound and power of voice and expression, the sense of wonder that a poem inspires". -Caroline Kennedy

I recently found A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children  by Caroline Kennedy at the library. Caroline created this anthology for families, choosing poems that were special in her own family. It is a lovely collection with colorful watercolor paintings by Jon Muth.  Many of her choices were ones I would also put in a family collection. All children should hear "The Little Turtle" by Vachel Lindsay( I remember Mrs. Morical reading it to the class in first grade). "Ode to a Pair of Socks" by Pablo Neruda, "maggie and milly and molly and may" by e.e. cummings, and "The Swing" by Robert Lewis Stevenson were all delightful to read again.

I discovered a new poem I really enjoyed while reading this anthology. Caroline chose it to end the book.

The House Was Quiet and The World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

-Wallace Stevens

Sibling Assignment #117: Favorite Movie with Understated Actors

I once again gave the sibling assignment sticking with the BEST theme.  Write about a "Best Movie Because of a Memorable Role an Actor/Actress Played." Why do I give these assignments that are so difficult? Like anyone could pick one best movie. Like I could pick on memorable role. Since it is movie award season right now I was thinking about the different roles that have earned actors and actresses recognition for their work. Sometimes an actor transforms himself/herself physically and you forget the person behind the role. Other times just the part itself stays with you. Actors playing famous people, creating themselves into that role is a feat in itself. I am also amazed how actors can sing, dance, and act effortlessly in a movie role. All these different roles require skill.

As I was sitting drinking coffee this morning I let my movie history rewind through my head. I wanted to see what would pop up. I like understated roles. While watching a movie I imagine the actor as somebody familiar, a person in town. Actors that work well as a team stood out in my mind also. I went with a team. The best movie is On Golden Pond and the actors are Henry Fonda and Kathrine  Hepburn.

You understood their relationship. I felt like they could have been a couple down the road at the lake. These two actors had never worked together before. Actually they had never met, yet created a chemistry that was believable and understated. Hepburn even did her own stunts when it came to swimming and diving in after Norman when the boat hit the rocks. The movie is about families, relationships, and growing old. It is also about tradition. The Thayers returned to Golden Pond each summer. They had a familiarity with the place. That familiarity plays out as Norman struggles with growing old.

It is a beautiful film to watch. It has one of my favorite soundtracks. The scenery and cinematography is lovely. The rest of the cast including Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman, and Doug McKeon create an ensemble that fits together well. It is a movie you can watch with your mom and not be bothered by violence and language.

Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn both won Academy Awards for their roles in this movie. If you have never seen this movie, or haven't seen it for awhile, take time to savor it. It is a treat.

Best Community Theater I've Seen: Bravo to Agnes and Michael

For the last three week-ends my sister Silver Valley Girl and her husband have performed a two person show at the Sixth St. Theater in Wallace, Idaho entitled I Do! I Do!. It is a musical comedy (with some added drama) that begins with the wedding of Agnes and MIchael as we follow them through their marriage with the whole play centering in their bedroom. Both JEJ and I agreed it is the best performance we have seen at the theater. Bravo to Agnes and Michael for your fine singing and acting. Your timing was perfect, your dancing impeccable, and watching you age before our eyes was an amazing feat you both carried off with ease. I really wish I could have seen it again.

Watching them perform at different stages of their marriage brought back memories for me of some of those passages we have experienced together such as the wedding above. She is wearing the veil I wore in my first wedding and a dress we found one day shopping at a thrift shop!

Another example was seeing SVG on stage as a mother-to-be. I was sure she wore that same exact dress when she was pregnant in real life!

As the frustrations of motherhood built up Agnes did some comedy relief with the tricycle.

Some friction developed as Michael pointed out a few things he wanted Agnes to change about herself. She presented her list also!

Later she showed off her flair for fancy hats.

It was touching to see them at the wedding of their own child knowing that someday the two of them will be experiencing the same thing in their own lives. She may shed a few tears like she did on stage.
The play ended with the two of them getting ready to move from their home. Again, the play was a joy to watch from beginning to end. SVG said earlier today that she would miss Agnes and Michael. So will I!

After the curtain went down I had to get my sister and mother together. When SVG made herself up for an older Agnes from the end of the play it is hard to tell who the mother is here! RIght Mom?

Best Dogs: Best Images

Today I just sat by Annie and Shelby and let the camera capture what it could.Dogs are often tough to photograph. These two don't often sit still or by each other enough to get a single picture. Today they cooperated. Enjoy the images.

Best Film of the Day: A Disney Reunion

Before winter break our seventh grade class studied a play version of A Christmas Carol. I remembered how much I liked the Mickey Mouse version,but it had been a long time since I had watched it.  I couldn't find it at the local store and the library didn't have it. A student of mine let me know after break that she had found a copy at their house.

Today we were celebrating her birthday and it was the last day of the semester. It was perfect timing for watching  Mickey's Christmas Carol. I was hoping I could squeeze in some test reading while the film was going on. No such luck. I watched every minute of it.

It was such a release on a Friday morning at the end of finals to laugh out loud as I remembered Goofy playing the part of Jacob Marley's ghost. Of course, when he made his appearance in Scrooge's bedroom he tripped and fell.  Donald Duck were perfectly cast as Scrooge's nephew Fred. When I was younger could I ever really understand Donald Duck?

Of course Mickey was Bob Cratchet and Scrooge McDuck (with a perfect British accent) was Scrooge himself. My students just couldn't remember who played the ghosts and I laughed out loud when I heard the voice of Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost of Christmas Past.  When was the last time I heard or saw Jiminy Cricket?

I had to really pay attention, but other Disney characters were mixed in the cast. Daisy Duck, Minnie Mouse, Ratty, and Mole were front and center, butThe Three Little Pigs were part of the carolers at the beginning.  I had remembered Huey, Dewey, and Louie, but had no recollection of The Big Bad Wolf or Chip 'n Dale until today. It was a enjoyable hour before the students went home early today.

I was not the only person that realized how clever this film was. Mickey's Christmas Carol was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Animated Short Subject of 1983. The hour ended in the best possible way when the student presented me with the VHS tape and told me I could have it!
" God bless us everyone!"

Sibling Assignment #116: Best Song from Another Time: Cheering for the Underdog

I gave this sibling assignment keeping up with my best theme for the month. Name a "Best Song for Stirring Up Memories of Another Time." Raymond Pert and Silver Valley Girl will be posting soon. I could spend hours replaying songs and remembering where I was, what was happening, what he was wearing, who was in the car, who was getting married, who had died,what trip I was on, or what movie theater I was sitting in.

Movie soundtracks stay with me. I learned many songs from The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins with Mrs. Williams in music at Sunnyside Elementary.   While listening to albums upstairs in the hall growing up I did fine rendentions of the songs from South Pacific and The King and I.  I never grow weary of listening to the whole soundtrack of Out of Africa, A River Runs Through It, or On Golden Pond. There are also those unforgettable movie songs that remind me of another time long ago. We sang "Mairzey Doats" driving down the Clearwater River on our way to Orofino for summer visits. I think everyone in my generation sang "On the Good Ship Lollipop" at least a few times wishing they were Shirley Temple. Who can remember time when you didn't know "Over the Rainbow"?

At this hour on this day the song that stirs up memories is "Gonna Fly Now" from the series of Rocky movies. My most vivid memory was hearing it in the original movie Rocky and wanting to get up and cheer as Rocky sprinted up the stairs triumphantly in Philly.  I knew I would get that jolt of adrenaline whether it was Rocky III or the most recent Rocky Balboa when I  heard the beginning chords of that theme. I loved being in the Rena Theater in Kellogg a few years ago at Christmastime watching the most recent installment with my siblings, wanting to run down the aisle cheering. I think we did our own rendition of the theme after we left. "Gonna Fly Now" is the quintessential underdog song. I love cheering for the underdog, I love watching underdogs progress into something great, I love the pure joy that shines in the face of an underdog.  When I watch an underdog achieve greatness, I want to shake my fists in the air and play "Gonna Fly Now".  Enjoy this powerful theme and go sprint up a flight of stairs!

Best of Friends: The Sheriff and Deputy

Kit giving McDuff a hero's welcome when he returned from the vet.

McDuff is the senior member of our cat family. We have recently observed changes in McDuff that causes concern about his health. It was time for his yearly check-up so he was loaded into the car carrier then off to the vet on Monday. He is ten years old, but after an exam and blood work the vet found nothing wrong with McDuff. We know his teeth need cleaning so his dental health may have led to some lack of appetite and energy. He will soon go back to get those cleaned. When McDuff returned home Monday he got a rock star's welcome. Kit, the Deputy was so happy for Sheriff  McDuff to return home.  That seemed to cheer McDuff up. He is beginning to seem more like his same old self.
McDuff has always been a mentor for Kit since Kit showed up on our property in a tree a few years ago. The two cats guard the place from strays and keep the riff raff away. They certainly are the best of friends.

Best Way to Grow a Fire

How many fires do we put out in a day? Sometimes it depends on what "hat" we are wearing or what events are playing out around us. Today a neighbor wearing his homeowner hat shared the woes of dropping foundations and leaks as we discussed the weather.  Wearing my teacher hat today  it was missing papers, lost books, and hurt students that sparked the fires.  Being finals week one student was burning the candle at both ends finishing up projects, studying for tests, and trying to stay awake. Another one was trying to balance completing the semester after missing a week of school from illness.

Each of us needs a fire that fuels our causes, our responsibilities, our passions. How do we build a fire that doesn't burn the property down?  How do we balance what it takes to build a fire while paying attention to space? This poem reminded me tonight of that careful balancing act we all play as we put out and grow fires in our lives. Enjoy.

What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.

So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
A fire
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

-Judy Brown

Best Dam Built In Martin Creek

I may have mentioned already that we had problems when an unbelievable amount of rain fell last week on an ice rink we usually call our driveway. The water couldn't seep into the ground and had nowhere to go. When I was finally home in the light and could survey the situation I was surprised at how much water had built up on the walkways leaving the driveway. Above is a picture of our skating rink driveway.

Here you can see the brick walkway underneath the frozen ice. Wouldn't you know that the weeds are still alive and well under that ice? The water had nowhere to go and began heading under the door.

Using wood,dirt, and sand JEJ was able to build a dam to hold back the water that washed over the ice.

Annie is up on the rock wall here checking out the damage with me. Fortunately it was only water. The  rugs hanging on the fence are even dry now. I will be curious to see what the weather brings this week.

Best Feeling This Month: Decluttering

Yesterday I needed to take a break from studying and began doing a small decluttering project. One cupboard led to a few shelves, led to my holiday tubs, and then the dish cupboards. By the end of the day I ran out of boxes. It feels good knowing I can donate some of my treasures to the thrift shop where someone else can enjoy them. I am relieved that some things are just going to the dump. I am ecstatic that some drawers, shelves, and cupboards are organized and looking all fresh and simplified. Ahhh.... what a good feeling. Now I think I will reward myself with a homemade brownie. Thank goodness I saved at least one good baking pan when I decluttered.

"People must be able to cut a knot, for everything cannot be untied; they must know how to disengage what is essential from the detail in which it is enwrapped,for everything cannot be equally considered; in a word, they must be able to simplify their duties, their business, and their lives."    -Henri Frederic Amiel

JEJ's biggest fear on days like today!