Sibling Assignment 2018.15 Happiness Is.....Riding a Bicycle

For our final sibling assignment for 2018, brother Bill posed this assignment to the three of us:
Write about a discovery you made in 2018 that brought you temporary or lasting happiness and, if it has, how this discovery helped change your thinking or your feelings about something in your life.

You can find Bill's writing on his blog here, and Christy's writing on her blog here.

I want to ride my bicycle.

I want to ride my bike.

I made this discovery in early July when Paul and I decided it was time, after about 17 years, to get new bicycles for ourselves.  We had purchased mountain bikes back in the early 2000’s after we moved here, and our bikes were damaged in a fire as they were transported here from Meridian.

Because my bike was old, and not comfortable, I had stopped riding my bicycle.

But this summer, I rediscovered my love of riding a bike.

When I was growing up, my days were filled riding my bicycle.  I spent hours riding the streets of our Sunnyside neighborhood, riding to the Kellogg pool, and hanging out in (what was then) the Mormon Church parking lot with a group of kids my friend Kellee and I named “The Bike Gang”, because of how much they rode their bicycles.

This summer, I rediscovered the joy of riding my bike.  We purchased the bikes at the end of June.  They were a combination birthday present for both of us (my birthday was coming up in July, and Paul’s birthday is in November), and our anniversary, which we celebrate in July also.  After we got them home, we took a quick ride out to Smelterville and back to break them in.

Throughout the summer, we would often ride them down the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, (known locally as the bike trail), and attend the Farmer’s Market.  The first weekend in July we took our daughter Zoe and her boyfriend Jason up to the Idaho/Montana border to ride the Route of the Hiawatha.  I had not ridden on this bike trail for years.  It was absolutely breathtaking, and a wonderful ride.

My goal was to ride the whole length of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, which is a 72 mile trail beginning in Mullan, Idaho and finishing in Plummer, Idaho.  I had never ridden on the part from Mullan to Kellogg, so Paul and I rode this section of the trail on our anniversary.  What beautiful scenery from Mullan to Kellogg.

Over Labor Day Weekend, we rode to Cataldo and back. Again, the scenery is so beautiful.  I especially like it when the trail is parallel to the Coeur d’Alene River.

We had hoped to do some more riding together on the trail beyond Cataldo but life happened, and we couldn’t find a day that worked.

I did get one final, beautiful autumn day back in early November to enjoy the bike trail.  I rode from Kellogg to Elizabeth Park and back.  I loved being able to just jump on my bike and enjoy the beauty of my surroundings and the fresh mountain air, right outside my front door.

Bike ownership and bike riding, I believe, will bring to me a lasting happiness.  And getting a taste of the beauty that surrounds us here in the Silver Valley, and north Idaho, will motivate Paul and I to continue to explore and experience bike rides on the numerous bike trails in our area.  I can’t wait for the snow to melt this spring so we can start getting out and riding more around this beautiful area we call home.

Sibling Assignment 2018.14. Nudging Toward a Remake

I gave the second assignment for November, and this is what I asked myself and my siblings to write about:

Think back over the last year, and write about something you have either read, listened to or watched that has made a tremendous impact on your life.  Share about it, and why it impacted your life.  The link to Bill’s assignment is here, and the link to Christy’s assignment is here.

Nudging Toward a Remake

As I was driving to the airport to pick up my daughter Zoe this fall, I perused my audio books I had on my Kindle to listen to something I wanted to listen to while driving to Spokane.  I came across a book called Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Neiquist. 

On the Amazon website, here are a few words that describe this book:

In these pages, New York Times bestselling author Shauna Niequist invites you to consider the landscape of your own life, and what it might look like to leave behind the pressure to be perfect and begin the life-changing practice of simply being present, in the middle of the mess and the ordinariness of life.

Written in Shauna's warm and vulnerable style, this collection of essays focuses on the most important transformation in her life, and maybe yours too: leaving behind busyness and frantic living and rediscovering the person you were made to be. Present Over Perfect is a hand reaching out, pulling you free from the constant pressure to perform faster, push harder, and produce more, all while maintaining an exhausting image of perfection.

Shauna offers an honest account of what led her to begin this journey, and a compelling vision for an entirely new way to live: soaked in grace, rest, silence, simplicity, prayer, and connection with the people that matter most to us.

From the forward by Brene Brown as she said, “Present Over Perfect is an open-armed invitation to welcome the people we love, and even ourselves, back into our lives.  It’s not an easy call, but Shauna is at the door and she knows exactly how to make us feel at home,” to the beautiful poem by Mary Oliver titled Wild Geese, tears streamed down my face as I listened to the words of this book that struck a chord with me.  A chord that is telling me that my soul is sick and needs nourishment.  A chord that is telling me to focus on the important things, and to clearly identify what those important things are in my life.  A chord that wants my life to be honest and real. (When people are honest and real, that can make things a bit messy.  I need to realize that messiness is good.  Messiness I okay.  Because, whether we like to admit it or not, we are all, at times, a big, hot mess.) A chord that wants to be present in people’s lives, not perfect.

Here is the poem Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver, that does a wonderful job of setting the tone for the rest of the book.

Wild Geese

By Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

Are moving across the landscapes

over he prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

As Niequist starts telling her story, she shares about an email exchange with one of her mentors.  At one point, her mentor emails her back and says, “Stop.  Right now.  Remake your life from the inside out.”

This is where I am at in my life.  I need to remake my life from the inside out.  What does this mean?  I think that is part of the process.  This book was a catalyst to get me thinking about this change.  There have been other little things in the last few months.   A new women’s meeting at my church.  A student poetry reading at the high school.  A sermon on Sunday focusing on capturing the wonder the shepherds must have felt when the were told of the baby lying in a manger, and then finding the baby.  A personal Bible study on learning about Agape love.  A reading in the Advent devotional Paul and I have been reading that tells the story of the prodigal son, and explains more about the cultural ramifications the father went through when his son asked for his share of the land, and then he sold the land off before his father’s death, and then how great a love the father showed when the son returned home.

A little nudge here.  A little nudge there.  Now it is time to start seeing, to start listening, to start experiencing a change in life.  Find ways to nourish my soul.  Find ways to be real.  Find ways to accept the messy.  Find ways to connect. 

Niequest quotes Thomas Merton in one of her final chapters.  He says, “You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.”

I want to know who I am at the deepest level. Somewhere along the way I have lost who I truly am.  As I move into 2019, I want to journey toward the deepest level of who I am.  I want this to be a journey of love.  A journey of finding my way back home. 

The book began with Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese.

The book ended with another of Mary Oliver’s poems, The Journey.

I think sharing this poem is a very fitting way to end this post as well.

The Journey

By Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice—

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do—

determined to save

the only life you could save.

Sibling Assisgnment 2018.13: There Were No Bad Memories With Grandma Woolum

Christy, myself, Grandma Woolum and Bill outside her front door at her house in Spokane.

Our Grandma Woolum had a November birthday, so Christy gave us the following sibling assignment: Write about good memories with our grandmother”.

The link to Bill's writing about Grandma Woolum is here, and the link to Christy's writing about Grandma Woolum is here.

I don’t have any bad memories about our grandmother.  I am fortunate.  I only have good memories.

Grandma Woolum lived in Spokane, Washington, when I was growing up.  Spokane is about 80 miles from Kellogg.  We often took trips to Spokane to visit grandma.  I remember spending a lot of time in Spokane at Grandma Woolum’s house growing up.

Grandma didn’t have a huge house.  On her first floor there was only one bedroom and one bathroom.  She slept in her bedroom, and, if we stayed, Mom and Dad usually slept on the hide a bed in the living room.  Sometimes I was on the roll a way bed in the living room, and sometimes I would share a bed with Grandma Woolum. 

Grandma had an apartment in the upstairs of her house.  If she had renters, we wouldn’t use the upstairs of her house.  But if not, sometimes we would have access to the upstairs for staying up there, or using the bathroom and bathtub.  Grandma’s bathroom and bathtub on the main floor were very small.  But as a child, I didn’t mind.

A lot of my memories about Grandma centered around food.  Grandma often made fried chicken, green beans, and mashed potatoes and gravy.  For a long time a remember this really old refrigerator in her kitchen with a very small freezer section.  Eventually she got a more modern refrigerator in her kitchen.

Grandma liked to bake banana bread, and always seemed to have some on hand to eat.  She was also famous for Wrigley’s Doublemint gum.  That seemed to be her favorite flavor.

There was a wood stove in Grandma’s kitchen.  She didn’t burn wood in the wood stove.  She burned Presto Logs.  I remember going out to her garage occasionally and help break the Presto Logs into smaller pieces, so they would fit in her wood stove.  We would also bring the presto logs onto the back porch so they would be more easily accessible for Grandma to get to during the winter months.

Grandma always made me feel very special.  She always wanted “sugar”….which meant lots of hugs and kisses.  I was happy to give her some sugar. 

Grandma was very small in stature.  When she was a young girl, she had an accident and fell down some stairs.  Her back was never treated properly, so she developed a hunchback.  But I never thought of my grandma as having a deformity.  That was just the way she was.

Grandma had a lot of hardship in her life, but I never felt like she reflected a woman who had a life of hardship.  She and her husband Lance left the Kentucky/Tennessee area when she was young and made their way to North Idaho.  They had four children.  At some point in the marriage, Grandpa Woolum left Grandma. It was now her task to raise four children on her own.

Her oldest son, William, enlisted in the Navy during World War II.  He was killed in a battle in the Pacific Ocean.  I know this was always a very big loss for Grandma.

Being a single mother was uncommon in the 30’s and 40’s.  But my grandma was tough.  She survived raising three boys and one girl.  Eventually, the air in Kellogg caused by the Smelter Smoke from Bunker Hill was too much for my grandma’s lungs.  So she decided to move to Spokane where the air was a bit cleaner. 

I always knew her as my grandma who lived in Spokane, who always seemed thrilled by our visits, and who always showered me with nothing but love.

Gathering Graces 12/30/2018

*When I arrived at church this morning, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the snow was melting.  It was a gloriously beautiful morning.  When I got home from church, the blue sky was gone, the clouds covered the sky, and the snow was beginning to fall.  It seemed like a wonderful afternoon to take a nap!!
*Paul came in around 4 p.m. or so, wondering if I wanted to get up at any certain time.  I told him to not let me sleep past 4:30.  So around 4:3o I got up.  Paul continues to work on our basement, and today he did some work in my classroom area.  He is so good to me!!  He knows things that need to be done sometimes, even without me realizing they need to be done.
*After we had a wonderful tossed green salad for dinner, I was in the mood for another movie.  It has been nice to have the time to watch some movies over the last few weeks.  Last year I had discovered the Christmas movie The Holiday, starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black. I had never really heard much of this movie, so it was great to be surprised at how much I liked it last year.  I had been wanting Paul to see it, so we chose that as our movie to watch tonight.  One of my favorite parts of the movie is the relationship developed by Kate Winslet’s character and Eli Wallach’s character.  I seem to be on a bit of a British movie kick these last few days as well.  Hopefully we can watch some more good movies this next week, as Paul does not return to work at KHS until January 7th.  Yay!!
*Ever since I have known him, one of Paul’s favorite liqueurs has been Amaretto, an almond flavored liqueur.  I had purchased some before Christmas, but we had not opened the bottle.  I did a little search for cocktails to make with the Amaretto, and found a delicious mixture of Amaretto, Kahlua and cream.  It is called a Toasted Almond.  It was very good, so I made us a couple while we watched the movie.  What a wonderful treat. 
*Because of the movie, I got to bed way later than I am used to.  Thank goodness I can take a nap tomorrow!  I am sure I will need one.


Gathering Graces 12/29/2018

*This past month, two teachers Paul and I had at Kellogg High School passed away.  They were married to one another.  Mary Rae Faraca passed away first, on December 8.  Her husband Ray passed away a few weeks later on December 23rd.  They did a combined funeral for them both today at St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Kellogg.  I have known the Faraca family my whole life.  Their home was just around the corner from my childhood home.  They had six sons.  Mr. Faraca was my Biology teacher my sophomore year.  Mary Rae was my Speech teacher and and I also took some English classes from her.  But most importantly, Mary Rae was my Drama and Speech coach in high school.  I traveled to many speech and drama competitions with Mary Rae, and was in numerous drama productions at KHS while in high school.  Ray helped coach Paul in football and track while in high school as well. 
*Two of the sons eulogized their parents.  Tony, who was about four years younger than me, talked about his mom, and how she didn’t like crass language, taught her boys about good manners, and her love of the theater, to name a few things.  Guy, who is a few years younger than Tony, talked about his dad.  While sharing about his dad, he told a story about Paul being the Idaho State Champion in the one mile run during his senior year.  Guy had been at this track meet, and he remembers how proud his dad had been of Paul being the first track state champion from Kellogg High School.  (Neither Paul or I were aware he had been the first!!)  Later, Guy was able to make his father just as proud when he was a state wrestling champion at KHS!!
*As I watched the people walk up front to take communion, it was as if my childhood was passing before my eyes.  There were many people from our old Sunnyside neighborhood in attendance, and, as I watched them walk by, it reminded me of what a great neighborhood we had growing up. 
*George White, an old family friend, also got up and shared a poem about being a coach as a tribute to Ray.  As I was leaving the church, George was sitting in the row behind me, and George is one of the only people in my life that still call me “Pooh”.  Pooh was a nickname my dad called me when I was little.  Dad has been gone now for 22 years.  Wayne  Benson, another old family friend and former band teacher, also called me “Pooh”.  Mr. Benson passed away two years ago.  I love the fact that, even though I am 55 years old, George still calls me by my childhood nickname “Pooh” whenever he sees me.  I have always had a soft spot in my heart for George White.
*There was a potluck in the Parish Hall after the service, an I was able to visit with some people I had not seen in a while.  One in particular was Carolyn Higbee.  Higbees lived back on Riverside, and Carolyn was two years younger than me.  I am so glad she came up and greeted me, and it was nice to have a brief visit with her.  I haven’t seen or talked to her in many years.
*After Paul and I dropped off Bill and Christy as their homes, we went home to get Zoe and drive her to the airport.  She flew back to her home in Nampa this evening.  It was so good to see her and have her around this week.  I hope we get to see her again soon.
*When we returned home from the airport, Paul and I just wanted to relax and watch a movie.  I started to browse through the movie titles on Netflix, and came across a movie that look promising called The Quartet.  It had a cost of British actors that made me wonder what movie I had seen them before.  Tom Courtenay was in the movie we watched yesterday, about the Guernsey Literary Society.  One of my favorite roles of Billy Connolly was in the movie Mrs. Brown.  It took me a while to realize the character Cedric was portrayed by Michael Gambon, who portrayed Dumbledore in the most recent Harry Potter movies.  And another Harry Potter alum is Maggie Smith.  And I remember Pauline Collins from a movie a watched a long time ago called Shirley Valentine.  The premise of this movie, (directed by Dustin Hoffman),  is described like this.....At a home for retired musicians, the annual concert to celebrate Verdi's birthday is disrupted by the arrival of Jean, an eternal diva and the former wife of one of the residents. If you like British movies, and want to watch something light and fun, I highly recommend The Quartet.


Gathering Graces 12/28/2018

*This morning something happens that rarely happens in my life.  I did my early morning classes, then crawled back into bed around 6:30 a.m.  I didn’t have anything planned today, so I just decided to sleep until I woke up.  I got out of bed around 10:45 a.m.!!  How nice was that!!  I guess I was needing a little extra sleep.  It felt really good!
*Zoe had told me about a movie called Dumplin’ that she had watched on Netflix.  She said it was really good, and that I should watch it.  We watched it today, and I agree, it was really good.
*Christy came over and brought Zoe and I coffee, and visited for a while after she ran some errands.  We had a really nice visit. 
*Later in the day, Paul, Zoe and I watched Ocean’s 8, which we really enjoyed, and Zoe and I watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie on Netflix, which was also really good.  The evening ended watching a British gardening show called Love Your Garden, where they go in and transform deserving people’s backyards.


Gathering Graces 12/27/2018

*Since we woke up to new snow on the ground and possible snowy and slick roads, our plans for a family outing to dinner and a movie were derailed.  Cosette didn’t want to risk the slick roads, and Molly was going to get a ride back to Moscow with Cosette after the movie and dinner, so they were unable to join us.  (We hope to have our own time in Moscow with them sometime next week.  This was our Christmas present from Bill and Debbie.)
*But Paul and I enjoyed Mary Poppins Returns with Zoe and then had dinner at Anthony’s at Riverstone in Coeur d’Alene.  If you need a great pick me up movie, with lots of magic and imagination, go see this movie.  It was absolutely delightful, and I think the world needs more movies like this right now. 
*Today was brother Bill’s birthday, and we gathered at Bill and Debbie’s house for a birthday celebration during the early evening.  Bill had requested son Patrick to bake some of his delicious chocolate chip cookies.  We enjoyed the cookies, had some gift opening, finished the rest of the Tom and Jerry batter, and enjoyed some visiting before I started fading and needed to go home and go to bed.


Gathering Graces 12/26/2018

*Today was perfect.  I would categorize it as a “do nothing” day.  I got up.  I taught some classes.  I had devotion time with Paul.  I wrote my blog. I paid bills.
*During part of the morning, Zoe and I played Super Mario Odyssey.  That was a fun video game.
*It was nap time after lunch.
*Then I got up and did a crossword puzzle. 
*Zoe, Jason, Paul and I gathered around the table to play a couple hours of Tripoly.  When Molly and Travis arrived back from taking Travis’ brother to Coeur d’Alene, we played “Code Names”.  Then I went to bed.  What a wonderful, lazy, do nothing day.


Gathering Graces 12/25/2018

*Merry Christmas!  Not only are we gathering together with friends and family, but we are celebrating the birth of the most amazing person ever born....Jesus Christ....King of Kings...Lord of Lords....Prince of Peace. 
*It was a wonderfully relaxing day today.  I got up and did four early morning classes, did the Advent devotional with Paul, then crawled back into bed around 6:30 or so.  I told Paul to wake me up at 9:30 a.m., so I could get ready for people arriving at 10 a.m.  I was sound asleep still when Paul woke me up at 9:30.  So nice to have such a wonderful early morning nap.
*It was a fun time unwrapping gifts and enjoying giving and receiving a variety of socks, books, clothes and other fun items.  So grateful. 
*After we enjoyed our morning brunch Christy prepared of  mimosas, blueberry breakfast casserole, a potato dish and ham and sausage, and unwrapping gifts, Bill, Debbie and Christy departed, Molly and Travis drove to Post Falls to be with Travis’ family.

*I searched for some of our Christmas movies on DVD, and sat and enjoyed watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and A Muppet Christmas Carol. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer was not in the DVD case.  I will need to hunt for it and perhaps watch it tomorrow.  I also want to watch Holiday Inn
*Around 5 p.m. we brought all of the leftovers out from the meal the night before and enjoyed more Chinese food.    It was all delicious the second time around.  I also tried making Tom and Jerry batter again, and this time is was MUCH better.  Frothy and sweet, just as it should be.  Christy, Bill and Debbie joined us for the leftovers and Tom and Jerry drinks.
*We enjoyed playing some games today, including Boxers and  Briefs, Code Names, TableTopics, and Saturday Night Live Trivial Pursuit (which is really, really hard!!!)


Gathering Graces 12/24/2018

*Merry Christmas Eve!! Because of travel schedules for Cosette, Taylor and Saphire, we did opened stockings this morning and had some Christmas present opening to start off the day.  The kids all went in together and bought us this cool Idaho Vandal Firepit.  I can’t wait to try it out!!

I-D-A-H-O!!  Idaho, Idaho, Go! Go! Go!
*After unwrapping some presents, it was time to get into full swing for our Chtristmas Eve dinner.  We spend some time setting the table and making it look just right for our guests.  We ended up having 17 people around the table this evening.  Zoe’s boyfriend Jason was able to make a trip up to join us at the last minute, and we are so glad he could make it.  It was a wonderful gathering of friends and family around the table to enjoy our Chinese feast.

*After all our guest departed we played a fun game called Boxers and Briefs.  It is a little bit like Apples to Apples.  It was a fun game!!


Gathering Graces 12/23/2018

*The Christmas program at church this morning was perfect.  Sweet and simple and full of the Christmas story of how baby Jesus came to earth to save us all.  I loved it!!  And it was a joy to sing with Zoe and Cosette at church.
*The kitchen was busy in the afternoon roasting chickens, making Fried Cookies, and Spicy Pickles for our Christmas Eve dinner.
*We had a wonderful treat later in the day when our friend Wyatt Sepa-Newell arrived for a visit.  He lives in New York City, and is home to spend Christmas with his family.  It was so good to get a hug from him, and get caught up on his life. 
*It was a wonderful, wonderful day.