Friday, March 31, 2006

More daylight, more aches and pains

I'm slowly working my way out of the winter mode. Pretty soon, when the clock strikes 8 p.m., I can't be wrapped up in my fleece blanket on the couch drifting off into my nightly hibernation. Instead, I'll be outside working. This past winter, I decided to quit fighting my body's desire to shut down every night around 7:30 p.m. Somewhere I'd read that we're mammals and, just like all other mammals, it's natural for us to hibernate during the winter months.

So, I just decided to go with the flow. And, I do believe I've clocked more hours of sleep this past year than I'd ever managed to enjoy in the past ten. Used to be when I was teaching, insomnia worked a number on me about four or five nights a week. I was lucky to get maybe five or six hours----if I went to bed and fell asleep by 8:30 and nobody disturbed me. That was when getting up at 2:30 or 3 a.m. seven days a week to do the daily lesson plans was the norm.

Since retiring, I've allowed myself to "sleep in" until 5, maybe 5:04 a.m. Rarely, in the past four years, I've stretched my beauty rest to 5:45. Unlike the teaching days, however, I'm usually drifting off in "Never Never Land" by about 8:30 or 9 p.m. Occasionally, I do wake up about 1:30 a.m., and when the mind gets reeling with too many thoughts, I'll crack open a book and read for a while. Right now, I'm enjoying Mike Wallace's book, and last night I read about his interviews with Louis Farrakhan. Retirement offers me that luxury.

Anyway, this daylight savings time means maintaining some major adjustments on the body clock. That includes sleep and physical activity. I got a taste of that, finally, the other day when the sun stayed out all day long, and so did I. By about 4 p.m., my legs and arms started to complain about having to do TOO MUCH WORK. They ached and moaned, but I just kept on raking out flower beds, figuring this one sunny day might be the last one for the next few weeks.

Yesterday, my muscles started whining every time I moved. They hurt because they got worked too hard the day before. I also noticed that the very minute I sat down last night, my brain wanted to shut down to get some much-needed sleep. It's a combination of age and this winter hibernation thing. With the prolonged, rotten, wet weather we've had, my body has enjoyed a hiatus from all work-related projects much too long.

I've noticed, over the past few years, since I'm not sitting in a classroom anymore, that this transition phase from standard time to daylight savings time seems to get more difficult than ever. We're all so excited to have that extra time to stay outside and do things. But, our bodies haven't gotten the message, and, with developing senioritis, they seem to react slower and slower about accepting the message.

So, my achin' body isn't very happy, but my mind says "Bring it on!" It's time to make hay while the sun shines. And, in North Idaho, sunshine has been a luxury of late. I'm gonna just ignore my aching body and get on with the outside fun of spring yardwork, biking, hiking, etc.

One month from now, maybe this ol' body will give up the complaining and just get on with it.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Book news

This morning, I have two announcements regarding books. I've known about both developments for a week, but all that other news has gotten in the way. In a nutshell, two books of interest to Sandpoint readers (I hope) will be hitting the stores in 2007.

I learned about one of these last Thursday in a note from award-winning novelist C.J. Box. Look him up. I think you'll find several titles to his credit. Here's what he had to say in a note written to a lady I don't know, to Roley and Janice Schoonover, owners of Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, and to me.

Dear Marianne, Roley, Janice, and Karen:

I know you probably think I fell off the face of the earth after
visiting with you a couple of years ago while researching the novel set
in North Idaho, but actually I've been working on it between projects.
I finished it the end of January.

I'm pleased to announce that today we received an offer from St.
Martins Press in NYC to publish the book which is called BLUE HEAVEN.
Several publishers were interested in the novel (including Putnam,
Random House, Simon & Schuster, and FSG) and there was an auction, with
St. Martins coming in the with biggest and best deal. Although it's
still too early to say for sure, it appears the novel will be published
in the fall of 2007.

I met C.J. a couple of years ago when he came to Sandpoint to do research for this book. Michelle at Vanderford's sent him my way, and after Bill and I dined with him at Jalapenos, we sent him on to Roley and Janice for more information. He left us a couple of his books, which feature a Wyoming law officer. There's always a touch of information about environmental concerns in his stories. He tries to strike a balance while telling a good story.

My second announcement concerns progress on my own book Lessons with Love. Look for it early next winter in January or February. A meeting with Chris Bessler, owner and publisher of Keokee Creative Group last Wednesday ended in a handshake and an agreement to work together on the collection of tales about my teaching career at Sandpoint High School. My sister-in-law, Mary, has returned the preliminary edit, and when I get some time, I'll be revising.

In this book, readers can expect balance also----maybe a bit uneven---about three quarters humorous and one quarter poignant/serious/straightforward. After all, teaching is not ALL funny, but I can guarantee several stories that follow along the same type of humor readers have seen in the first two books. There's also a story, penned by my son William E. Love III, dealing with the slow maturation process that often keeps young men from reaching their potential "on schedule" and their parents tearing their hair out.

I'm excited to be working with Chris and Mary. Chris, who was taking off for a month of rafting the Colorado River, appeared excited too. Of course, I don't know how many visions of whitewater were clouding his thinking. Guess we'll see when he gets back.

So, there's the news from the literary front. I'll keep folks posted on more specific information as it falls into place.

Have a great Thursday.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Happy Birthday, Kevin

Gotcha, Kevin. Happy 60th. Posted by Picasa

Kevin Patrick Brown at 60

At 60, my brother, Kevin Patrick Brown, has many reasons to be proud of his life's accomplishments on this special milestone. Here are just a few.

His wonderful wife Joyce
His son Scott, Scott's wife JJ, and their adorable daughter Aggie Sue
His beautifully-kept farm in Frenchtown
His long career in fire suppression as smokejumper, heli-tech specialist, dispatcher, teacher, etc.
His many, many friends
All the fish he's caught
His head room, which includes an assortment of the wild game he's tracked down.
His high school track records, which stood intact for a couple of decades
His travels---which include road trips to Alaska in all four seasons
His willingness to share his building talents with others
His photography and well-organized chronicles of life adventures
His cooking and barbecuing skills
His devotion to helping others
His love of Cabela's
His endless sense of humor and inherent impishness
His everyday zest for life and for not wasting one minute of it

As one of his sisters, who's spent nearly 59 years looking up to her big brother, literally and figuratively, I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing him a most wonderful day of celebrating 60 years of life well-lived.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

An Idol Connection

I received the note last Tuesday afternoon from my longtime friend Bobbie Huguenin. It was a forward, addressed to more than 100 recipients. Seems one of this year's American Idol finalists has Sandpoint connections. When Bobbie explained who the contestant was and that her grandmother was a long-time family friend of Bobbie's mother, I sat up and took notice. I was pleased to see that the famed six degrees of separation were alive and well.

Idol finalist Katharine McPhee is the one to watch, at least if you're from Sandpoint and if you know the Jim Brown family. And if you're from Sandpoint and you know Jean Brown's old friend Gloria Burch, you've got more reasons to pull for Katharine and dial her number when she competes again tonight.

When I saw in the note who Katharine's grandmother was, I immediately called my mother. Back in the late 1970s, Patty Brown (Bobbie's sister) called me and wondered if I knew anyone who had enough horses for some friends of her mom's to ride for a couple of weeks. Of course, I knew someone. There have always been plenty of horses around the Tibbs Arabians for as long as I can remember.

Three of Jean Brown's friends were heading off to the Grand Tetons for camping and horseback riding with their husbands. They hadn't been on horses for most of their adult lives, so they wanted to reacquaint those muscles with the feeling of sitting on a saddle and plodding on down the road. When Patty called, I assured her my mother would probably be happy to take them on some rides, which she did.

Tillie Paulson, Patsy Bacon and Gloria Burch, who spent their summers in Sandpoint, came out to the Boyer farm several times over the next few weeks. They hit it off with my mother immediately, and she was delighted to take them on jaunts around the neighborhood on those warm summer evenings. Lots of talk and a good friendship evolved out of those rides. Mother has continued to keep in touch with them off and on over the years, although it's been a while since she's seen any of them.

As a peripheral part of the group, who gathered up horses and helped with some saddling, I, too, enjoyed getting to know the ladies. A few years later, while I was watching the Donahue Show, a lady asking a question looked mighty familiar. It was Gloria. We had her telephone number, called her and learned that she and her two friends had attended the taped show a couple of weeks earlier. Gloria lived in Chicago at the time.

So, now her granddaughter has followed suit as a TV star with a little more media hype. I remember when Katharine made it through the auditions. She did seem to have something extra with her voice and her beauty, but until last week in my mind, she was just another one of those fortunate few who've emerged from all the throngs of hopefuls. And, now we'll watch her with a little different perspective.

I was hoping to provide some exclusive grandmotherly observations of Katharine today. If I do hear from Gloria, I'll tuck 'em in at the end of this post later in the day. In the meantime, it's always fun to know somebody who knows somebody-----especially when it's connected with something so addictive and so grand as the American Idol phenomenon.

I remember writing a post about American Idol a year ago and trying to figure out why it continues to be so successful and why it attracts views from teenyboppers to grannies. I still haven't come to any conclusions other than we can participate in the outcome and that we can follow our favorites through their journey, hopefully to the end. I did pick Carrie Underwood last year and was happy to see her win.

This year, I know who I won't pick. I'm not particularly fond of that goofy gray-haired guy who does all the stupid antics every time he performs. He seems a bit over the top in trying to be everybody's teddy bear nice guy. Other than that, I think there's a great and diverse field of competitors and would be happy to see any of them win.

So, I'll keep watching (Fox28 at 8 p.m. PST tonight). I'll definitely pull for Katharine cuz I know her Grannie Gloria and just how proud she must be.

By the way, if you know my friend Bootsie Reynolds, wish him a happy birthday. He's OLD today. Really old.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Let me tell you a story

Today's Spokesman was a quick read. No "Huckleberries" cuz Blogfather Oliveria moved his Monday morning column to Saturdays. And, now that we don't have a local basketball team in the NCAA tournament, the Sports section was kinda blah except for the big story about the George Mason team which has surprised all its opponents and the pundits all the way to the Final Four. I did like the front page because I saw Jody Maberry working hard at Riverside State Park.

Bill and I met Jody about four years ago while hiking on a trail near Slough Creek in Yellowstone Park. We were coming down the trail after some fishing and bear escaping. Jody and his friend, Kevin Jury, were headed up the trail. They had a video camera, so I was sure to tell them about the big brown bear that had scared the beejeebers out of me and how my husband had just kept on plodding up the trail, leaving me to ponder my death, even though a bear stood fewer than 50 feet away from us.

We talked enough during that chance meeting that both Jody and Kevin later signed my website guestbook, telling me how good the pancakes tasted at Katy Jack's Restaurant in Trout Creek. Since then, I've heard from Jody every Christmas, and we met him, his wife and his cute little boy, August, again during a geocaching outing at Farragut State Park. Jody had worked in banking, but he wanted to be a park ranger. So, that's what he did, and now he does the bicycle patrol along the Centennial Trail, among his other duties at Riverside State Park.

It was a nice surprise to see my friend in the front-page picture, but I didn't read too much of the story. His picture was just a prop for the article about getting rid of the $5 use fee for state parks in Washington because people quit coming. I wonder if that would ever happen in Idaho. We don't mind the one-time fee because we enjoy what the state parks have to offer.

Besides Jody's picture, the only other item that took my eye, besides Miss Manners' wisdom, was a story about story telling. I'm sure folks would not be surprised that I'd tune into such a piece. I got to thinking, after skimming the story, what life would be like for me if I couldn't tell stories. I liken that possibility to having to go without chocolate or cheese. Both are staples in my daily life, as are good stories.

I think back on my teaching career and how dull it could have been if I hadn't figured out early on that kids love stories. They usually got a full dose of them in my class. I always tried to find some connection to whatever we happened to be studying so I'd have an excuse to tell a story. One story would lead to another and then we'd soon be into a relay situation. One student would be trying to finish a story while six hands were waving through the air, their owners anxious to take their turn.

I really believe that we learn better through story-telling than virtually any other means. Of course, I do have sympathy for math teachers cuz it's kinda hard to connect a lot of anecdotes to logarithms or whatever the heck they are. I don't recall a lot of story-telling in my math classes, although there were the story problems. Maybe if I'd heard more stories in those classes, I might have been smarter in math.

My story-telling mentor was Imogene Davis, the beloved SHS shorthand teacher. Imogene had a way of finding her own connections for why a certain story fit in the overall scheme of why a young lady really ought to learn her shorthand. She was a master storyteller, and we didn't mind one bit when she'd quit that dictation, give our hands a rest and get our ears all perked up to listen to at least 20 minutes worth of her life experiences.

Though I stuck with Imogene for just one semester, because my clumsy fingers crawled rather than walked through shorthand, I took with me the notion that a little story here and there never hurt anyone. Kids listen, and kids learn if the stories to have a purpose to whatever the discipline happens to be. Plus, kids learn how to tell their own stories, and the cycle continues.

Of course, story-telling is part of my daily diet, along with the chocolate and cheese. I've made money off from my story telling----whether it's my own experiences or the great stories I've been able to pen about others----but my greatest enjoyment in the craft comes from the nostalgia, the lessons learned, and the reactions of listeners or readers.

I'm glad the Spokesman focused on the art of storytelling today because it also reminded me that you don't really need a connection to tell a story. Sharing the story itself often provides us some of the most cherished connections we have.

And, speaking of stories, I'd better get busy. I've got a fascinating story about birding to finish writing before the day's end. You can read it in Sandpoint Magazine, when the summer edition hits the streets in mid-May.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Call me DAH---ense

My mother always taught me that the furniture had more than one dimension when it came to dusting. She needed to keep working at that dimensional stuff because there's a gap in my brain which often keeps me zeroed in on one idea without consideration of other possibilities. That may be why I thought----until just a few years ago----that those singers were rejoicing because they were "bringing in the sheep."

I had another of those DAH---ense realizations yesterday when I went to the bluebird talk at the Community Hall. I learned that just because you put a bluebird box in your yard--- especially if you nail it to a tree---you're not necessarily gonna have bluebirds lining up to move in. And, so for the past two or three years, I've just assumed that those birds with dark blue tops and white bottoms that moved in every summer and spent half their days dive-bombing the cats and me were some form of bluebird.

I just figured we didn't get the pretty kind here in the bog area, and that this must be a variation of the Mountain Bluebird, which is Idaho's state bird. Boy, was I wrong, and, boy, was I stupid! Those are tree swallows, and you're never gonna get Mountain bluebirds until you put your bluebird boxes on fence posts.

Bill kept telling me not to nail 'em to the trees in the yard because the bluebirds weren't gonna come. But, I wanted to watch them out my kitchen window, so I put them on the trees in the yard, and for two years thought I was watching our own special bluebirds. My bird boxes are going to move as soon as I can get a hammer and nail 'em to the fence posts.

Of course, I learned also that the wrens might come in and decide they need the house. After all, housing is limited in this area, and even the birds are noticing it. Nonetheless, I'm going to do what's right to attract bluebirds.

My first clue that something was afoul came last Sunday at Farragut State Park. Bill, Kiwi and I were walking across an open field at the park and saw another couple with a Border Collie. So, we walked their way. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the lady was someone I hadn't seen for about 20 years.

Barb Mace Edwards graduated a couple of years after I did. While we caught up on old times, her husband and Bill struck up a hot and tasty conversation about their native Louisiana cuisine. In the meantime, while talking to Barb, I looked over and saw, probably for the first time in my life, the true Mountain Bluebird, which is about as pretty as anything I've ever seen.

Yesterday's bluebird talk confirmed the whole ugliness of my dense brain when the lady showed a slide of a tree swallow. After learning how stupid I'd been all these years, I was happy to learn that bluebirds are a lot like me in some ways. They like agricultural fields and they're nostalgic. They like the old, weathered boxes much better than the spiffy new ones. I also learned that they lay eggs two or three times a year, and once hatched, it takes only three weeks for them to mature enough to leave the nest. Of course, I've never laid an egg, so I guess that's where the similarities end.

They put sticks in their nest. The momma does all the house work, of course, while Dad fetches the food. Later, Mom and Dad both spend all day feeding their kids. And, can those babies ever eat. We watched a video produced in North Carolina where a camera was attached to the top of a bluebird house. The production showed the whole cycle from laying eggs (which does look about as bad as labor) to the coaxing of the kids out of the nest. While in the nest, those mouths open so fast and so wide when Dad or Mom shows up with food.

I really enjoyed the talk about bluebirds yesterday, and I tried to enjoy the birding tour to Denton Slough. Seventeen people actually showed up, and about ten stayed longer than five minutes as the rain continued to pour. Earl Chapin set up his $1,000 spotting scope and pointed out several kinds of ducks. It was a good day for them. I can now add an American Wigeon and a common Merganser to my list, along with a lot of coots.

On my way home, I learned where the "common wusses" like to perch on cold, rainy days. They left the birding tour early and joined in on the free Hotdogs, cake and donuts at the Holiday Shores Resort anniversary celebration.

I guess they're a lot smarter than I am. Just because you go on a birding tour, you don't need to watch the birds. There are other possibilities.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Birdies in the Bushies

I'm on a strict schedule this morning. Gotta get out of here fairly early. Coffee cult will be abbreviated, cuz I'm going on a birding tour to Denton Slough. Sandpoint's Pied Piper of Birders, Earl Chapin, and his wife Bev will be leading the troops. Bring binoculars, a bird book and a sack lunch, we've been told.

It's all part of the local Native Plant Society's March meeting. Last month, Bill talked to them about the Humbird Lumber dynasty here in Bonner County. Today, a lady from the Coeur d'Alene Fish and Game is coming to Community Hall to talk to the group about bluebird houses. Then, we'll all drive out to Denton Slough near Clark Fork and follow Earl through the bushes and along the shoreline.

I'm not a member of the Native Plant Society, and I'm hardly a card-carrying birder, but I am writing an article for Sandpoint Magazine about the pastime, which, as babyboomers retire, is fast becoming the most popular of all leisure-time activities. I've learned a lot about birding since starting this story and have enjoyed every minute of it---especially the daily discussions with my mother about the bird behavior outside our respective windows.

Actually, I didn't realize, until doing this story, that I could join the ranks of the card carriers pretty easily. Just have to pick up a little more lingo and some better binoculars. I feed my ducks and geese cracked corn every spring. And, when I feed them, the blackbirds, seagulls, robins and crows all join in. Our lawn across the driveway is littered with goose poop, but I don't care.

There's nothing more exhilarating than to look out the kitchen window in the morning or late afternoon and see the menagerie (sometimes nearly 40 ducks and geese and hundreds of blackbirds) making their way, like an invading army, over the mounds near the pond and slowly coming closer to the house while pecking away at the day's supply of corn. Many of the geese spend most of the day lounging on the lawn after their tummies are full.

I especially love watching when some problem child among the ranks commits an infraction of the eating rules and someone else chases after the culprit, snapping that bill and chewing them out, just like an old school teacher. Once the moment of intense discipline ends, all goes back to normal and corn-pecking resumes.

Yesterday, Bill, Kiwi and I went to my most favorite bird-watching place on earth---the Kootenai Wildlife Refuge near Bonners Ferry. It was pouring rain here, and the common rule is that if it's pouring rain in Sandpoint, it may not be pouring rain in Bonners. Well, it was, but, almost miraculously, when we rounded the corner on the road leading across the massive Kootenai Valley to the refuge, a large patch of blue sky was making its way over the mountain.

We pulled into a parking lot at the edge of the refuge and took off down the road to the north. A bald eagle watched us from its cottonwood nest. A younger eagle kept swooping over us, and the invisible pheasant roosters on either side of us just wouldn't shut up. We saw not one rooster in that three-mile walk, but we heard a couple dozen. Of course, the geese, ducks and white swans were visible and audible virtually everywhere.

Two miles of our walk was dry. One mile was wet, very wet. My pants were soaked by the time we returned to the pickup, but I didn't care. Any trip to that place is a treat as far as I'm concerned. It is so vast, so open, and humans seem so minuscule in the grand scheme of the place. It's also one of the more peaceful escapes from the modern, crazy world that I've ever visited. Plus, ya see one heckuva lot of birds.

I'm looking forward to learning more about birding from Earl today. Hope it doesn't rain, but I'm not holding my breath. So, in addition to binoculars, birdbook, camera and lunch, I'll take along some extra clothes.

May the bird of paradise fly up your nose on this spring Saturday.

Friday, March 24, 2006

To the Zags: It was a good ride

I must admit there is no joy in Zagville this morning-----for just one reason. They lost. It was a heartbreaker. It was also a tearjerker. There's no need to analyze. The ride has ended. My watery eyes refused to behave this morning while scanning the
Spokesman's poignant photos and post-game commentary about the shocking game where UCLA led for all of 8 seconds.

Those were the most important 8 seconds. They move on to the Elite Eight. The Zags come back to Spokane. Eight seconds is usually a rodeo benchmark. We don't often think of it in basketball, but the Bruins held on for eight seconds at game's end and changed their destiny for at least the next two days.

Yes, there is no joy in Zagville. There is mud, cuz it's raining again. But, there IS also deep appreciation. Most of us Zagnuts may spend a little time thinking about those eight seconds and what might have been, but we'll probably focus more on the great ride Adam, J.P. Erroll, Sean, Derek, et. al. gave to the thousands of us, watching every second of captivating play from our TVs or from devoted cheering sections around the Northwest.

We'll think about the minutes, the hours and the days of exhilaration where Mark Few's team of unique, gifted, and electrifying players provided for so many adoring fans across this region during the long winter months.

All I have to say this morning to the Zags is "Thanks for the Memories." They were sweet. Sweet memories, derived from so many times spent on the edge of our seats watching great athletes taking us along for the ride as they achieve one unbelievable feat after another, keep us going through this life.

We loved the ride, and we're looking forward to next year's madness.

Go Zags!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Gotta love those Zag Nuts

The sun is shining. It's supposed to be 60 today. The mud is disappearing, and the Zags are playing tonight. It's a very good day.

I wrote my column for The River Journal about March Madness, which has a lot to do with basketball and a little to do with weather. When I wrote the column, I envisioned more snow, more gray, more rain and more mud by the time the paper hit the streets. In my mind, that was a given here in North Idaho. My main concern was whether or not the Zags would still be in the tournament when folks would be reading the column.

They are. They've made it to the Sweet Sixteen. They'll play UCLA tonight in Oakland. It's the weather that's made a liar out of me, but I don't mind either situation this morning. What could be better than a sunny March day in North Idaho topped off by a Zags game for dessert? We usually eat around 5:30 so that 6:57 tip-off is dessert time at our house.

At this point, the only thing that can surpass today's upbeat offerings is to see that pizza guy, who was on TV last night with his mobile unit serving up free pizza slices to the Gonzaga fans, doing the same in Indianapolis next weekend. Last night, the guy, who owns a pizza parlor near the Gonzaga campus, said that he's had a standing offer, for the past several years, that when the Zags go to the Final Four, his pizza truck will go along too. And, he'll hand out free pizza slices to all Zags fans.

Not a bad offer. If that happens, I'll promise to go to Second Avenue Pizza next week and hand out free pizza slices to all the Zags fans in this house---the husband, the dogs, the cats, and even the front-porch coon. It will be a good time at the Love House.

This Zag fever has turned a lot of folks I know into Zag Nuts, not to be confused with the tasty Butterfinger-type candy bar.

For example, my friend, Susan Drumheller, is a frustrated Zag Nut. She scheduled her open house for her brand-new Idaho Conservation League office for 7 p.m. tonight at the Pend Oreille Winery. She invited a lot of people, including the Love Zag Nuts, but when she scheduled her program, I don't think she had any idea she'd be competing with a television sports show.

Susan told me she loves the Zags, so that makes the conflict doubly hard to swallow. Maybe the winery folks could pull in a TV set, and the group can talk about conservation during the commercials. There ARE a lot of commercials during these games, so Susan's conservationists could get a lot of talking done.

Pat Gooby, our neighbor, stopped along Great Northern Road the other day to talk Zags with Bill, who was riding home from work on his bike. Pat had been just sick for days because he read in the Spokesman that Sean Mallon, who's graduating this spring, wasn't coming back next year, especially when he still has eligibility.

Well, both Bill and I, at first, read the same sentence in the story just like Pat did, but realized its wording was a bit confusing. On second read, we saw that Mallon's comment really said, "There's no way I won't come back next year."

When Bill explained the confusing wording and assured him that Sean Mallon would be coming back next year, Pat practically jumped out of his rig. When they parted company, Pat was happily headed home to tell the rest of the Gooby Gonzaga Nuts the good news about Mallon.

Readers may recall that my mother is a Zag Nut. She even has her pretty crimson-and-blue sweatshirt ready to wear while watching each game on her Colburn TV set. In fact, she's such a Zag Nut, she was wearing her sweatshirt last Wednesday morning in preparation for the team's NCAA opener against Xavier. Just one problem. The game wasn't until Thursday. When I told her it wasn't Thursday yet, she took it off to keep it nice and neat for the next day.

During that first NCAA near-death experience for Zags and their Zag Nuts, she confided to me that she'd prayed to Pope John Paul. She also confessed that she had almost removed her sweatshirt during the agonizing game. But she kept it on, and during those last three minutes, John Paul, the Pope and John Paul, the player and his teammates, came through with the miracle. Maybe I should report that to the Vatican Sainthood Panel.

My Zag Nut husband has been making frequent trips to Yoke's Pac n' Save, where they've been handing out those "Go Zag" cardboard posters on a first-come, first-serve basis. I learned, via telephone from Bill, AFTER last Thursday's Xavier miracle that he had distributed posters to friends and had even taken his personal poster to Boise to display during game time in the Safari Hotel room where he was staying. He's gone back to Yoke's this week and continues to hand out the posters to all potential Zag Nuts in his daily travels.

Yup, it's a good-looking day outside, and thousands of crazy Zag Nuts are up and about, going through the motions of the day with visions of Bulldog victory in their heads. If those 'Dogs can just run circles around the large and growly Bears tonight and find the basket enough times, the joy and insanity among the loyal multitude in Zag Nut kingdom will continue.

Go Zags!!!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Eggs and Lessons

Life is filled with lessons, just like the chapters in my third book, which touches on the highlights of my teaching career. This ol' teacher learned a major life lesson over the past year.

Seems I'm kinda thick-headed cuz I should have learned this lesson long ago when the grade school teachers at Lincoln School were introducing us to Aesop's Fables. The one that always fascinated me image-wise was the one about sour grapes and the fox. The one I should have heeded more faithfully, however, was "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

Yeah, I've heard it many a time in my life, and, yeah, I've practiced it occasionally. Life is, indeed, all about options, but sometimes there's too much work involved in considering all the options. In my case, I could have submitted my manuscript to several publishers early last year but chose to stay with just one publisher's in-basket. She led me on by refusing to reject the manuscript and even suggesting she'd rather I not send it to any other publishers until she had made her decision.

Being of the old school, where respect, courtesy and trust reign supreme, I took her at her word and allowed two years' worth of my work to sit at her office for a year. Usually, publishers give you the word no later than eight weeks after submission. My pea brain deduced that if she wanted sole control of my manuscript, she probably wanted it to publish. Lesson learned: don't put all your eggs in one publisher's basket, no matter what you perceive.

Granted, it does cost a lot to send off a manuscript. I noticed each time I sent her a notebook of 300-plus pages---once with the original, once with the revised edition in September, it cost about $100 with copying and mailing. I went the Staples route where they copy it off and put it in the notebook for you---thus, saving a lot of work on my end. Regardless of cost, I still should have explored more options with my manuscript because the book might have been in stores by now if I had.

Well, it's not. And, I've since received my copy from the lady who coveted it for so long and finally issued a blunt NO. Since then, a copy has gone to my sister-in-law Mary (the world's most wonderful editor---hands down) and a copy has gone to Mr. Chris Bessler of Keokee Creative Group here in Sandpoint. Mary's read it. Chris has read it. Mary and I have talked. Today, Chris and I will talk.

So, the next chapter in the long saga of Lessons with Love has begun. I have learned a major lesson from the first chapter of this ongoing publishing adventure, and I'm sure many more thumps on the noggin will come with the second. If all goes well and I eventually learn all the lessons needed to get a third book published, readers will have the opportunity to thumb through the chapters and learn about some other lessons I learned during 33 years of teaching.

Stay tuned. Keep your fingers crossed. And, remember what to do with those eggs. Go to the store and purchase some more baskets! And, be sure to get plenty of grapes so you don't have any angry foxes.

Birthday note: Happy 59th to my Catholic friend Ann Gehring-----due to become a saint next year.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Global Developments

I have a cyber friend who lives in England. We got connected because she read my interview with Viggo Mortensen, which appears on my website ( Which reminds me. I've got a new guestbook, thanks to Carlo, the Internet wizard down there at Keokee. Inordinate amounts of spam were showing up right before my eyes, so he fixed me up with a different guestbook. It's got a few entries, but I'll be happy to have more if folks have time to go sign.

Now, back to my Polish friend Ela, who lives in England. She's been writing to me for some time and yesterday sent me a couple of interesting observations, which illustrate that this exploding population thing, and its accompanying fallout, is hardly limited to our North Idaho community. From Ela and others, I've learned this is a national and worldwide trend.

Here's what she had to say yesterday: I've been reading our local paper this morning and you and Sandpoint immediately appeared in my mind. We were talking about the "discovery" of your quiet town and the development that followed this discovery.

The same is happening to Crowborough, where I live. It's a sleepy town in South-East of England. It takes one hour by train to get to London. Some 20,000 people live in this hilly town. I've been here for twenty years now and during that time Crowborough was twice on the national TV.

First - some fifteen years ago, when a group of drunken youth was not allowed into a nightclub and went berserk, and this year - when somebody from Crowborough was arrested in connection with the Securitas depot robbery during which some fifty million pounds were stolen.

So, you can imagine how quiet, in general, life is here. Unfortunately, we've been discovered! The make-over tv is coming to town! The property developers have already started showing their interest in any building-free land or bigger garden. They are talking about bringing
progress and modernity to our town.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Our world is a global village - we may live thousands of miles apart but we face exactly the same problems. Mind you, we always have but with the instant communication we can share the knowledge of it so much quicker.

After I sent Ela a response acknowledging her comments, she sent another thought that totally mirrors another phenomenon we all have been lamenting here.

Her second note: I don't mind sharing this place with others. What unnerves me is the out-of-proportion rise in house prices that follows. It will not affect me but it excludes young people, who've lived their lives in here, from buying their first home in their town.

It's very sad. We complain that the young ones are leaving the town but they can't afford living in it!

So, another universal problem surfaces when the developers take over. Young folks cannot come back home, unless they live with Mom and Dad. I've heard this very statement in my household, and I, too, find it sad, especially because when I was young, the poor people owned most of the land while the wealthy owned the homes in town. Nowadays, young people can afford neither here in Sandpoint.

I guess there's one solution to this problem, but it's gonna take time and patience on the part of our kids and their contemporaries. Eventually, many folks living in those houses are going to die, leaving empty homes, waiting for someone to come and live in them.

But, then again, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. I forgot that we're living in the throwaway era, where when it's used up, get rid of it. It could very well be that those $400,000 homes we see popping up all over the place will become outdated before their inhabitants do. And, someone will tear them down on the spot, burn them and build bigger McMansions which cost even more money.

I guess we have some global issues to solve, and they're not just about world peace.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Thoughts on a place gone by

Dianna Moore lives in Bozeman, Montana. She's planning to move soon to Idaho Falls to be closer to her son. Nearly a lifetime has unfolded since the last day I saw Dianna, her sister Donna and her brother David.

The image of the last day of first grade when Harneys held a picnic at their dairy for the neighborhood kids still pops up in my mind as if it were yesterday. I had taken my bike to the picnic. We had each received renovated bikes from our dad for Christmas. Since I was 6 years old, I needed a while to learn how to get mine to go down the road without tipping to either side. I think when training wheels were mentioned, I got stubborn and learned how to ride the darn thing.

On that spring day at the Harney Dairy, I had never ridden my bike up hill until we went up the driveway to the house. That meant I'd never ridden downhill either. Well, as the party got going, I think some of us decided to do some downhill racing. When a 6-year-old has never gone down a hill with a railroad crossing obstacle, that 6-year-old who's determined to win the race, doesn't know that it's a good idea to put the brakes on while going over the crossing.

As I hit the obstacle, my handlebars jumped up and crashed into my jaw. When that happened, my teeth followed suit and bit a hole in my tongue. The profuse bleeding wouldn't stop. I still wonder what the horror must've been for my mother a few minutes later when I arrived home and she first laid eyes on me with all that red stuff caked to my chin and more red rivers flowing out the corners of my mouth.

She apparently didn't take time to comment because my next memory was the doctor's office where Dr. Hayden looked me over and gave me something to gargle for a few days. The tongue healed but the front teeth were always a bit chipped and much more sensitive to anything cold after the incident.

Anyway, the Harney picnic probably marked the last time I saw or ever heard from Dianna Harney until yesterday afternoon when she sent me an email. I've stayed in touch recently with the Harney family through Dianna's little sister Mary, who must have been just a baby at the time they moved from the dairy to Great Falls, Montana, where their dad Lou was a weatherman.

David Harney was my first boyfriend. Laura Delamarter and I fought over him, but neither of us won cuz he moved away too soon. Donna Harney was Kevin's good friend, and Dianna Harney was in Mike's class. We all went to Lincoln School and all rode the same bus---back in the days when the bus seats faced each other and extended down each side with a wide aisle in the middle.

About 12 years after the Harneys moved away, Basil Gooby told my dad it would be a good idea to buy the Harney Dairy, so he and my mother thought it over. In 1966, they bought the 55-acre farm with a lower field across the road. They sold one segment of that lower field to the Nordeens about 20 years ago. For a time, when we were first married, Bill and I lived in the little house on the farm, which we then called the Upper Tibbs Place.

About seven years ago, my folks sold that 22-acre segment to a man who said he just wanted to farm it. Well, he farmed it for about three years and then sold it to a developer. I watched and documented the methodical demolition of the old Harney Dairy last summer. Now, big equipment, big piles of dirt and a bunch of septic tanks sit up on that hillside waiting for the weather to allow the contractor to start on his 26-house subdivision.

The remainder of the field below has been purchased by Litehouse Salad Dressings, Inc. for its corporate headquarters. So, all vestiges of Harney and Tibbs influence on the old dairy with its majestic weathered barn and wooden silo and its tiny red milk house have become but memories or paintings, which have been done over the years. The memory is a wonderful thing because it allows us to select what we wish to perpetuate about a place. This morning, I'd like to share what Dianna wrote to me yesterday because she says it so well.

Mary Tronnes, my youngest sister, forwarded your email about the end of the place at Sandpoint and sadness kind of waved over me for an instant and then I thought what great gardens those residents will have with years of fertilizer beneath their feet. What a huge upgrade in living conditions from the farm years there and the view will still be so inspiring. It has been over 50 years (that is hard to believe) since I have lived on that place and yet all that time it still holds this dear memory of a kid experiencing the best of God's world.

The last time I was there, my husband, Clark and I walked across the bridge and listened to the train cross further down. We drove out to the farm and scared a bull that was there in the lot. The barn still stood and the milkhouse looked so tiny. The grass was up to our waists and the mud 10 inches deep with the wet spring and just as we left, we heard the voice of a coyote.

Now my husband is gone and I am preparing to move from Bozeman (another beautiful, but expensive place) to Idaho Falls where my youngest son lives. My sons and their families saw Sandpoint a few years ago when we had a reunion at Laclede with my husband's family. Montana has been my home for most of the 50 years since Sandpoint and now I am headed back to Idaho albeit not to the beauty that is in north Idaho.

Thanks for writing about the place and giving such a great opportunity to remember.

More than half a century has separated the Harneys and the Tibbs families, but a piece of God's beautiful earth has maintained a common bond. Though its tangibility has passed, happily, the Harney Dairy/Upper Tibbs Place lives on, as will the bond.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Many Moons in the Room

Nothing like a party to bring out "old" Sandpoint. If my math is right, we celebrated 960 moons for Bud Moon yesterday. Well, actually, today is his birthday, so he arrived on the scene the same day those swallows showed up in Capistrano in 1926. Yesterday, almost 80 years later, Bud was celebrating with a roomful of his friends and relatives at the Elks Club.

There were many Moons in attendance. In fact, once when I offered to take Corie Moon's digital camera and do the snapping so she could be in a photo, nearly a dozen other Moons from 11 to 56 suddenly showed up to gather round her. Among the group were Moons who teach college (that would be my longtime friend Chris), there were Moons attending college and some Moons who will, no doubt, have college on their list of "things to do."

Bud and his wife Susan hung out near the cake table, which also included a couple of impressive model boats he's fashioned since retiring to East Hope where he's the mayor. While they greeted the continual line of guests, Maggie Becker, Bill, Sam Wormington and a few other temporary table drop-ins like Helen Newton, Faye Stevens LaMoreaux, and Judy and Ted Farmin, maintained a good people- watching venue near the back of the room. I guarded Candy Crabb Moon's beaded purse (she told me she got it at a yard sale) while she worked the room, visiting with other guests.

During our running commentary, Maggie and I both observed that Sandpoint's older set is definitely getting older and, in many cases, a bit more tottery. Many of these folks were the people who were involved in the start-ups of well-established businesses or they were "in charge" somewhere when I was growing up here.

Ward Tifft, who sold real estate in Sandpont long before at least 863 others who've replaced him were born, told me all about how Bud had convinced him to invest in a new bank for Sandpoint back in 1981. Bud tried to convince him to invest $10,000 in the Panhandle State Bank, but he opted for $5,000. Ward wishes he'd put in the suggested $10,000, but he's still not complaining because the smaller investment has grown to more than $250,000.

Jack Parker just decided to hang it up after decades of chairing the local hospital board. He's gonna stay on the board, but he figures it's time for someone else to sit at the helm. Dick and Claire Sodorff---my principal and counselor in high school and my boss and colleague for several years afterward, remained at their table through most of the party and visited with Lola Nieman whose family has owned the local flower/music store for longer than I've been alive. I hadn't seen Lola for at least 20 years; hasn't changed a bit and as beautiful as ever.

And, of course, our tablemate Sam, who's 85, spent a little time being "in charge" up there at Schweitzer Basin in its early days during the 1960s and 1970s when Bud Moon, Jim Brown and a bunch of other locals decided they needed to build a family-style ski resort. The hill now goes by Schweitzer Mountain Resort, and Sam stays away. Nowadays, he devotes most of his time to training his search and rescue dog or helping with his daughter and grandchildren's farm animals.

I saw Chuck Wigton from the ol' KSPT feature "Moments of Meditation." He and Minute drove up from Post Falls where Chuck now works for his son Lance at a Christian Church. "He's Chuck's boss," Minute told me. She also tells me she sees our dear friends Thane and Connie down there too, so "HELLO, CONNIE. We miss you."

I was especially thrilled to finally lay eyes on The Basingers. I'd heard about the Baysingers for years while Chris Moon and I drove "vehicles" on remote roads for the U.S. Forest Service. We did do some work with traffic counters, but we had plenty of time to talk, and her cousins on her mother's side, The Baysingers, often veered in and out of conversation whenever the large family would come to Sandpoint to swim in the river where the Moons lived at Dover.

And, speaking of the Dover river rats, two of the next-door-to the Moons Sneddens were there: Dr. John and his lovely sister Lynn. At first, I wondered if John had gone out and found a new wife, but then I realized the wife looked a lot like him, only prettier. Later, his wife, Mary Snedden, arrived on the scene in time to snap a photo of Chris, a Baysinger and me.

It was definitely Bud Moon's birthday party, but for most of the folks attending, it was also a party to cherish for a different reason. Such gatherings with such numbers of legendary hometown faces are becoming rare. We were happy to see Bud, Susan and so many Moons, but we were thrilled to see so many other faces who've played a part of our personal tapestries for most of our lives.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Erin Go Doctorate

Erin Rand sat right in front of my desk during sixth period honors English, when she was a sophomore at Sandpoint High School. For some odd reason, Erin had not earned the seat because of questionable behavior as so many others did during my teaching career.

Usually, after the first day of school---the one day when kids could sit wherever they wished---I'd watch the dynamics and zero in on those who might just need a little extra "special" attention from me and my eagle eye.

Of course, that strategic placement didn't always work, as in the case of another student the preceding hour that same year who earned her front-row seat midway through second semester. She found ways to push my buttons, regardless of where she sat. I've chronicled her most unique methods---which involved a heavy literature book---in a story about my teaching career. In her case, it eventually all turned out for the good.

I guess everyone in sixth period English during the 1989-90 school year was well-behaved. I can't remember any notables earning that very special seating designation among that group of students. Erin was attentive and gifted with both intellect and a wry sense of humor. She knew her grammar, she read good books, and she knew how to write. In fact, she interviewed my mother and wrote a fine story about her for the countywide history book that year.

Erin lived near Athol. That would not be very significant to mention, except that she informed me one time of an event occurring at the Athol Library. I can't remember exactly what it was, but I was impressed that she was such a fine spokesperson for that tiny library in the town south of Sandpoint which everybody loves to mock because of its name. And, besides, at that time Athol was pretty small; I was amazed to learn it had its own library.

The other day, I heard from Erin for the first time in several years. She sent me a commencement invitation. As mentioned, Erin was really smart, so I was a bit stunned to think she was just now graduating from college. Surely, I thought, there must be an explanation. I opened the envelope and discovered that the invitation was from the University of Iowa.

I was happy to learn that Erin had graduated from college. From where, I'm not sure, but this card was inviting me to attend the ceremonies in May when she will receive her DOCTORATE in communications. Yup, she was smart, all right, and, yup, I was pretty proud to be on her list of invitees. Erin tells me she's set to move back west in the fall where she'll be on the teaching staff at Fresno State University. So, once more a Sandpoint student is distinguishing herself in a fine way.

And, speaking of really nice distinctions along with university stuff, there's another Sandpoint product who'll be in the national spotlight today. ESPN will be featuring the NCAA Wrestling Championships this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. PST. Sandpoint's Jake Rosholt will once again represent Oklahoma State University in a bid to take his third consecutive national wrestling title at 197 pounds.

Jake and his family moved to Oklahoma after he was first accepted at the university. His brother is also a very competitive wrestler, and his sister is a phenomenal college soccer player. Their Sandpoint roots include the Rosholts, Petersons and Thurlows----all hard-working, salt-of-the-earth folks.

So, once more comes that broken record that we all love to sing: They're from Sandpoint, and we couldn't be any prouder!

Erin Go Doctorate!
Take that title, Jake! Jake took his third NCAA championship!
And, of course, Go Zags! Gonzaga is going to the Sweet Sixteen against UCLA!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Good News Knaggs

If the guest column in today's
Bee, penned by my old friend Jack Knaggs, sets a tone for this year's Little League season, kids and parents should be in for a good run. From my experiences with Jack Knaggs, I think the Little League folks have a good man at their helm. He's got a sense of humor, a longtime community involvement, a nice family and some wisdom to go along with his leadership.

I got to know Jack when he was a student at Sandpoint High School back in the early '70s. Our history involves Drill Team Variety Shows, coffee time at Connie's, story telling and snorters (those are the thigh-slapping giggles that manifest themselves through the nasal passages). We also share a common bond with the McCormick family of Dale, Mae, Julie and Todd. And, of course, I can't forget Sassy, my sister's first horse, a cute little Appaloosa which spent her early years with the Knaggs.

In this morning's column, Jack eloquently and diplomatically outlines how it's going to be with the Little League program this year, and he promises priceless memories. He grants that there'll be nothing in Little League to bring on the developers, fill up the community coffers or generate national news coverage, but I'd say there's a REAL STORY in what he envisions for Sandpoint-area boys and girls of summer from T-Ball to Bulldog baseball. He's looking for more volunteers to help the program and more real involvement from the youth, and he says it so well.

"Jack's Book of Facts describes baseball as a 'fun game played by children of all ages in which learned skills and strategies are used to outscore an opponent,'" he writes. "Fun is the key. When the adults show their oversized egos (in the name of competition) to deviate from this, children lose interest fast.

"This year there will be an emphasis on practices divided into fundamental training groups and serious rotation of players during games at the minor/rookie/T-ball level," he adds. "This will be done to provide skilled, knowledgeable players to the Major where more mature competitive skills can be developed."

Jack also talks about trained umpires who will follow a code of conduct and a set of bylaws to help them control situations distracting from the game. Kids will go on teams, based on geographic area and performance scores earned during tryouts. An opening day ceremony on April 15 will offer free food, drawings and a Major League game. "Best ever," Jack says.

If Jack can pull off the goals he's set for this year, I think everyone involved in the program will benefit. I can remember the days of T-Ball and Little League, and I can vividly remember some really scary moments---not with the kids but with the parents. I was especially distressed to learn back in those days that some tiny kids swinging a bat for the first time endured such Big League pressure from their parents.

I'll also never forget the night when a parent went after our son's Little League coach and wouldn't leave the area when asked, directed and ordered. Finally, he relented and hid behind one of the stands, uttering stuff neither kids nor parents needed to hear.

So, Jack, I hand it to you for your leadership and courage in elevating the goals of the game, and I wish you all the luck in the world. If anyone can pull off some priceless and precious memories for our community's young base runners, Jack Knaggs can do it.

Play ball!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Millie, where are you when I need you?

This morning, I feel like I'm back in Mary Parker's class. She's just issued an assignment to write a 300-word theme on a subject of our choice. Remember those days? It seems like everything we ever wrote in high school during the '60s had to be 300 words long. That's when I learned how to use lots of adjectives and adverbs. I probably spent more time counting words than I did thinking.

I do remember spending some time thinking. Back in those days when you sat in an uncomfortable classroom desk with your folders and books under your seat and a body scrunched up close to you on either side, the writing process was not very easy, especially when thought processes refused to kick into action.

Once the assignment was issued, 30 sets of hands would reach underneath those desks to pull out a couple of sheets of notebook paper and to pull out a No. 2 pencil or ballpoint pen. In many cases, the stacks of books and notebooks came sliding onto the floor, causing lots of noise and lots of students to spend half the hour picking up the mess before getting started on the theme.

The next few minutes were usually pretty quiet as we stared at the ceiling, out the window, or even at Mrs. Parker who was working at her desk, correcting papers. Those intense stares helped in the writing process as we tried desperately to conjure up something---anything---to write about.

Then, came a series of notable assaults on the silence. Rip, crumple, plop. Lots of those noise sequences ensued for the next several minutes as anyone who could get their brain doors open wrote a few words at the top of the notebook paper, only to hate what they saw. And, since most of us had graduated to writing with a Bic ballpoint pen by then, we couldn't erase what we hated.

So we just wildly and disgustedly ripped the ink-stained paper from the notebook, wadded it up and threw it on the floor. By the time we were saved by the bell, the room had turned into a virtual sea of paper wads to be picked up and thrust in the wastebasket as we walked from the room, wondering what the heck we'd write about for the assignment deadline the next day.

I eventually solved this problem of vacuum brain halfway through my senior year. I had a 1,500 pound cow named Millie. Millie had caused me enough frustration as my 4-H cow to fill a book. The first time I wrote a theme for Mary Parker about how to wash a cow, she seemed to really enjoy learning all about the process of Hereford cow beautification. She even shared segments from my theme with the class.

So, for the rest of the year, Mrs. Parker got to know all dimensions of Millie---the first time she dragged me around the old fairgrounds arena causing me to get a white ribbon in fitting and showing, the second time she dragged me around the fairgrounds arena causing me to get a white ribbon in fitting and showing, etc.

Yup, three years in a row Millie did that to me and the unkind results were often memorable and notable. I had plenty to write about, so I didn't leave too many paper wads at my seat in Mrs. Parker's class. This morning's upstairs vacancy has made me wish Millie was around so I could write something really astounding, refreshing and funny.

I've thought about the birds. Already wrote about them, even though I could announce that this morning I actually heard AND saw the cheeseburger bird singing its song. Whoever wrote a blog comment a couple of weeks ago suggesting that the cheeseburger bird is a chickadee which doesn't order hamburgers until spring was dead on. I still have a question on that subject: is there just one chickadee appointed to order up the burgers? I never hear more than one ordering at a time.

I also thought of writing some more about the Ides. So far, nothing exciting there, but I do have my duct tape.

I thought about revealing the latest news about the NURD (Northern Urban Development, which affects us out here on Great Northern Road). Apparently, the burden's all on Perry Palmer, who built a shop for his trucks and equipment last fall. That means he has to pay the bills cuz he's the only one who's improved any property out here, and that's where all the NURD money comes from. If I'm wrong on that one, someone can tell me. Looks like the Great Northern Road pothole patrol has job security for a while.

I could talk about the weather, cuz it snowed some more this morning, but I'm sick to death of talking about snow and wet stuff. We've got so much wet stuff out here that our goose and duck population this spring has risen by about 500 percent. I've seen up to 30 ducks and geese and at least 100 blackbirds eating cracked corn in my yard several times this week.

Yeah, I wish it was senior year again and that my cow Millie was still around for a story starter. She would surely get my brain going this morning. Well, actually, she has. I've smiled a couple of times just thinking about her. In fact, I remember how exciting it was back in 1965 when the Monticola yearbook featured a full-page photo of Leland Rosenboom and Cynthia Welch (Farmer and Farmerette at Sandpoint High School) sitting on one of our fences with beautiful Millie in the foreground.

Who says there's nothing to write about today? I guess I've done my assignment, and thanks to my computer, Mrs. Parker and Millie, I haven't had to throw one paper wad to the floor. The only question I have right now: do I have the required 300 words?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Preparing for the Ides

Only one shopping day left to get ready for the Ides. I guess I'll go to Yoke's or Wal-Mart today to stock up, cuz I know tomorrow's gonna be a really bad day. After all, since at least the late 1500s, most of us literary types have known it was a good idea to Beware the Ides of March, and the warning may even extend further back than that.

It just all depends on whether Shakespeare concocted the notion that the old soothsayer should walk up to Julius, proclaiming, "Beware the Ides of March," or if the soothsayer really did say it to Caesar that day in February when the Romans were all dancing around in their fertility ceremony. What we do know for sure is that Julius should have paid closer attention because all his friends got up close and personal with their daggars and did him in on March 15, 44 B.C.

It was, indeed, a bloody mess when the up-and-coming King of Rome died at the hands of Cassius, Casca, his best buddy Brutus, et. al. and uttered the other most famous line from Shakespeare's tragic play: Et tu, Brute? (And you, Brutus?) If Julius had only listened to the old man's warning and stayed home that day, history may have been significantly different.

Ever since then, lots of us have learned from Shakespeare that we'd better look out on March 15. So far, it's been okay for me. I can't remember a lot of significant horrid events happening on that day so far in my life, but who knows? So, I'll probably stay away from the Capitol (it's down in Boise anyway), and I'll pay attention to all the nightmares I have tonight.

To adjust to modern-day worries, I'll go buy a couple of rolls of duct tape and have them handy. I'll also make sure that I open the mail really carefully tomorrow to avoid breathing any white powder that could come floating out of the daily batch of solicitation letters from those organizations who send fake nickels or $3.36 checks as come-ons.

If a raccoon with no tail comes sauntering boldly across my snow-covered lawn in the morning's daylight rather than sneaking in after dinner in the darkness, I'll take that as a sure omen that something weird is gonna happen. I'll grab the cat dish off the porch and set it inside the house. And, if the grackles start pecking at the window cuz I took theirs and the raccoon's goodies away, I'll know I've been had.

Getting ready for the Ides is always daunting. What a lot of people don't know is that you really need to be ready more than once each year cuz the Ides also come on the 15th May, July and October, and on the 13th of all the other months. But, those March Ides are notoriously bad because of Julius' demise. So, if you haven't had time to prepare, take this warning from your modern-day prophet in North Idaho.

Beware the Ides of March! Stock up. Stay home. Look out for raccoons, and don't invite your friends (especially the best ones) over to drink wine and cut the cheese. It could be dangerous for your health. If somebody does come, though, make sure that duct tape's ready to go.

Coulda made a lot of difference in Caesar's situation.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Kristy Osmunson and Buffy Lawson: Bomshel. See post below. Posted by Picasa

Finger lickin' Monday

I promise all readers this will be the last reminder. Today is the big day for our Sandpoint singer. So, tune in to your favorite country station and spread the word to all your country music lovin' friends to do the same. If it takes calling up the local station and asking them to play that "Grits 'n Chicken Love Song," do it. Bomshel will love you forever, and our Sandpoint girl will make it big.

From all reports that I've read and heard, today is the day for "Absolutely Finger-lickin, Grits 'n Chicken Country Music Love Song" to be released. I made my niece Laura and her friend Ann listen to it yesterday while they chomped on chocolate chip cookies at my house. Now, you know how it is when someone makes you stop everything you're doing and sit down to listen or watch what they think is the most wonderful thing in the world.

I've had that happen a time or two, and it takes all the patience I can muster to stand through the entire show/song, etc. and pretend I care. Sometimes, I'm pleasantly surprised. Other times, I put on a good show, issue a compliment and hope for the subject to change to something else. Well, I knew I was putting Laura and Ann through that very torture, but I also felt confident that listening to the song would be worth their time.

Unless Laura is the Academy Award-winning actress of all "Come and Listen to This" segments, she seemed genuinely impressed with the song. Her friend Ann asked just who these people were, and I proudly announced their name, emphasizing that the fiddle player and harmonizer was a 1999 Sandpoint High graduate.

Later, at dinner with my mother and sisters, I gently introduced the Bomshel theme into the conversation and was pleasantly surprised to hear that Laurie, my country-music aficionado sister, had heard THE SONG on the local radio station. Her assessment----they're good.

In fairness, my somewhat deaf 84-year-old mother said the song sounded just like cacophony the day I played it for her over the phone. But then, my mother's hearing aid, coupled with her telephone, my computer speakers and my cell phone didn't exactly produce a pure musical sound to penetrate her ear canal. I suggested to her that she'd have to hear it firsthand some day and re-evaluate.

The other day, I talked to Chuck Howard, Kristy Osmunson and Buffy Lawson's manager/producer, and he's so excited about their potential, he thinks they'll become a household name like Martha Stewart---without the ankle bracelet, of course. They wear lots of gaudy stuff but no ankle bracelets.

Anyway, as a self-proclaimed surrogate promoter off here in remote North Idaho, I encourage all readers to join me in spreading the Bomshel word. Send emails to your country music friends. Tell 'em to do the same. Tune in those radios, and let's listen as these talented young women do their thing. I think we'll all be proud of what we see, and we can say "We knew them when." To hear the song on RealPlayer, go to this link: (

Have a happy Bomshel day!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A Deer Story for Rory

March 12 is definitely one of those bittersweet days. First, it reminds us that every year for 49 years, we sent cards or made calls to wish Mother and Harold a happy anniversary. They were married March 12, 1954, in Thompson Falls, Montana. While they were on their honeymoon, Mike and Kevin stayed at the Bests down the road, while I stayed with Helen Crockett in town.

For the boys, it meant watching Clarence head off to the barn, morning and night, to milk his Holsteins. It also meant watching wild wrestling matches on the Best's TV set while Clarence and his wife cheered on their favorites like Gorgeous George. For me, it meant a trip to Bonners Ferry where Helen's daughter Sally was cheering at a basketball game. I also remember the hamburger with too much catsup at the restaurant after the game. And, of course, I can't forget the paper dolls Helen bought for me so I could teach my left hand to cut in a straight line.

When Mother and Harold came home, we heard about the hundreds of deer they'd seen along the Montana highways and the binoculars they'd left in some motel room. They must've liked seeing those deer because it created a life's pastime for all of us who still want to be the first one to holler, "There's a deer," even 50-plus years later.

We helped Mother and Harold celebrate their anniversary until 2003, but not for a 50th time. Instead, a bunch of us got together and took Mother to dinner at the Elks Club. Harold died before they could enjoy their Golden celebration. This year, it would be 52 years.

Today, however, there's room for celebration, and, in this case, it's 4 years. Yup, that's how old Mr. Rory is. Rory lives in Tacoma; he's one of Mother's great-grandchildren and one of Mike and Mary's grandchildren. He's also a cousin, nephew and grandnephew to many of us. Rory's a cool, lanky dude with white blond hair, big brown eyes and a wonderful smile.

I don't know if Rory's been taught to look for the deer yet, but since he shares his birthday with his great-grandparents' anniversary, maybe that would be a neat thing for him to learn. It would certainly perpetuate a this tradition that's been such an integral part of this family's fabric for so long.

And, then maybe every time, for the rest of his long life, whenever he's in a car and spots a deer before anyone else, he could yell, "There's a deer, and that one's for you, Grandpa Harold!"

Happy Birthday, Rory.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Saturday stuff

It's been a busy week with the freelancing. I've finished four of the five stories for Sandpoint Magazine. Just have to tweek/tweak (haven't yet decided how to spell that word) them and finish researching my birding story. Some folks have sent me some great stuff about their personal experiences with our many winged friends, and I've got more coming, so this features should be a fun story.

While on the subject of birds, I will complain this morning that a large herd of grackles showed up early to steal catfood from the front porch, so the dish has come back inside the house. The grackles have flown away.

From one story assignment, I've learned that the country duet, Bomshel, won't be coming to The Festival after all, as they had announced on K102.5 a couple of weeks ago. Turns out they were invited to the Wisconsin State Fair where audiences span to 40,000. Their manager/producer Chuck Howard told me the other day he figures they'll come to Sandpoint next year. Listen on your favorite country station Monday for that "Finger-lickin'" song cuz it's supposed to be released to radio stations nationwide that day.

Today we were planning to go to the Curless home near Dover where Kiwi would join a bunch of other pups in their sheep-herding kindergarten classes. You know---you've heard of those classes----"Little Lambs." I think we even have a "little lambs" school here in Sandpoint, but I think the kids are herded there, and they're the kind with two feet instead of four. Kiwi's gonna have to wait for her next kindergarten because we got too much snow yesterday, and Mayor Randy figures it would be better for the dogs and the sheep to play tag on bare ground.

Speaking of little lambs and big lambs and no snow, we saw about two dozen yesterday over west of Libby. Bill had to take some annual leave, so he came home after two hours of work. He also had a hot geocache to find in a spot along the Kootenai River. So, we loaded up several bags of chips, the dog and a variety of footgear to suit whatever walking conditions we'd find. We were pleased to find very little snow and mostly bare, dry ground as we started down a wonderful walking/biking trail.

It's at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Management area at the end of the Kootenai River Road, which takes off to the left just after the bridge north of Libby. I loved the outing because of the gentle terrain, with the turquoise river on one side and several open meadows with dramatic rocky mountain backdrops. We also spotted occasional herds of Rocky Mountain Sheep high up on the ledges and down low in the openings. We even came across one group, which we figured was a family, hanging out next to the trail in a field near an old cabin.

As Bill and Kiwi continued to walk the trail along the river, I moved slowly toward them, snapping pictures with my Canon. They didn't seem the least bit concerned, just kept a safe distance away and posed for me. I'm hoping for at least a couple of good shots. The geocache was 1.7 miles down the trail at China Rapids, so we enjoyed a good walk. On our way back, we also saw some deer and an eagle looking over us from its perch in a Ponderosa snag.

It was a good day for the sheep because the Rocky Mountain variety look a LOT different from Kiwi's Folger's cans. In fact, she seemed totally oblivious of their presence. On hikes, our dog spends most of her time, making sure Mom and Dad are still finding their way down the trail by checking on each of us at least every ten seconds. So, it's apparent that Montana sheep of the Rocky Mountain variety had nothing to worry about with this dog.

I found it hard to believe when we returned last night that the weather could be so different in such a short span of miles. And, this morning as that piercing wind out of the north ensures that our five inches of snow will be hanging around for at least another day or two, Libby, Montana, and that bare trail along the magnificent Kootenai River seems like the place to be. Plus, the gas is about 8 cents cheaper per gallon.

Happy Saturday.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Colin of Moody

He probably thinks I've forgotten, but I haven't. Usually, I send Colin Moody a note before his birthday---just in case my senior memory causes me to forget every March 10. I've been thinking about him all week and wondering where he's hiding out these days. I've heard he's doing some substitute teaching and some additional schooling.

Anyway, today is Colin Moody's 33 birthday, and I'd like to showcase him publicly because of all the sunshine he spreads to so many lives, including mine. This morning, we do have about five inches of new snow outside, which would usually make me frown this time of the year, but just thinking about Colin brings a smile to my face.

I have lots of reasons to light up whenever Colin's name is mentioned. First, he's one of 4,500 students I've had the honor to teach. Secondly, he's responsible for my deciding to advise the Sandpoint High School Cedar Post newspaper after my own mentor Bob Hamilton retired. I was asked a couple of times if I wanted the job but declined. Then, I learned that folks like Colin, Danny Raiha, Vern Nelson, Jim Patton and Holly Walker would be leading the staff that year.

I couldn't resist because I'd had them all as sophomores and loved them to death---well, maybe not quite that much. But, they were great kids and having the chance to work with them again in a discipline I also loved, weakened my resolve never to deal with deadlines and teenagers again. I'd done that for 14 years with the yearbook and thought I'd learned my lesson.

Colin would be at the helm as Cedar Post editor. That put me at ease about walking somewhat blindly into a high-stress, creative teaching situation with frequent deadlines. My confidence had been heightened, however, by watching Colin as a sophomore in my fifth-period honors English class. He sat in the front row next to the window, and on any given day, his upbeat, can-do attitude gave me a mid-afternoon lift.

His energy, maturity, intelligence and creativity helped too. Somewhere in my house, tucked away in one of those many boxes that we all keep forever, there's a major project he submitted after reading James Michener's Alaska. It's got all the important information about the novel, and it's packaged into a little laminated booklet, shaped like the state of Alaska.

Colin's ability to pick up information--especially with computers--- and put it into action quickly saved my neck that first year when I advised the Cedar Post. In addition, his willingness to stretch far beyond the norm took us to some exciting heights that year, including the first-ever 32-page alumni paper almost completely produced (layout and ads) on two little Apple computers, a scanner and one printer. Of course, we all virtually lived at the school for two months to get it done, but it sure turned out nice.

We went to Albuquerque to the National Journalism Education Association Convention that spring. Never have four days flown by so fast, and never---before or since----can I remember laughing that hard. With Dwayne Sheffler helping out as the other chaperone, we stayed at a cool hotel which offered free ice cream sundaes in the courtyard every afternoon. We drove our vans all over Albuquerque singing to the Oldies blaring at extreme decibel levels.

We also wore ourselves out playing with a fake plastic turd that someone had purchased at a novelty store. The highlight for that prop occurred during a 3 1/2 hour layover in Denver Airport, which is documented in my upcoming third book. Someone still has the video to prove that many deplaning passengers really did think they had stepped in something gross while walking to their next gate.

And, speaking of the book, one of the many wonderful gestures Colin has extended my way during high school and in the years since is to write the "Foreward" for this book about my teaching career. He also showed up in my classroom on my last day ever to celebrate the end of my career and to read to me a parody he'd written of Shakespeare's famous "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" speech from Julius Caesar.

It would be an understatement to say that Colin and I have shared a mutual-admiration society ever since we first met. It would also be an understatement to say that I am not alone in his giant circle of friends. I am positive that wherever this young man goes, there's mutual admiration, great respect and total awe at how he can light up a room and bring out the very best in others. That's a rare quality, and on this day when Colin has turned one-third century old, I must acknowledge what a special gift he has been to this world.

I could write several chapters about my experiences and my admiration for him---as could so many others. So, Colin, old friend, whatever you've been up to, I know it's good. I wish for you a giant barrel of your own personal sunshine today.

I'm lookin' at that March snow out there and not even complaining because just writing about you puts me in a good MOOD (y).

Happy Birthday!