Thursday, November 29, 2007

De Leon Foods

My new favorite place is De Leon Foods, a little Mexican market on East Francis. They sell a variety of Mexican foods, including candies, meat, produce, and fresh tortillas. They also have a small deli or cafe. My sister and I had lunch there recently. For my part, I had the most delicious carne asada quesadilla I ever tried.

After eating, we practiced our photography in one of the aisles. I'm sure they must have wondered why we spent so much time standing there, but I didn't care. I just enjoyed spending that time with my sister talking about taking better pictures.


I had a meeting in a coffee shop earlier this week and saw this little chessboard sitting on a table. I just like the picture and have to pass it on. That's all.

Snow Returns

Snow finally returned to the Spokane area, though I was beginning to have my doubts. The kids are ecstatic, but I'm bracing myself for a long, cold winter. I have mixed feelings about the snow. I absolutely hate the cold, but snow really is beautiful and makes all the earth bright. And of course, the snow renews the world and provides water in the spring.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cattail Dolls

Liz and my children holding their new dolls.

Dakota was our hero doll maker.

My family made cattail dolls with Liz and Steve from Vision Mountain.

A few weeks ago, McKenna first saw cattail dolls at the Twin Eagles Wilderness School near Sandpoint, Idaho. She begged and begged to make them, but the activity had already passed. She must have cried for 20 minutes on the drive home. As it turns out, our friend Liz was the teacher for that event, so she invited us to her house for a special teaching session.

My kids really enjoyed making the dolls, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed it myself.

The dolls remind me of something I once heard my father talk about. The dolls are playthings for children, but he suggested they were also sacred item. I can't remember the whole story, but it seems I remember him talking about the medicine in these "little people." I'll have to pray real hard to remember the secret.

Friday, November 23, 2007


I drove to Wellpinit this afternoon, just as the sun was setting. The earth turned a deep blue tone, with a light dusting of snow on the treetops. The beauty of the earth is magical. I was especially thankful I got to share this evening with my brothers of the lodge and my uncles.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Ryan and Cassidi had Thanksgiving dinner at our house with their two daughters. Brindy had dinner with us too. Of course, their littlest daughter Dixie was a big hit with all my kids.

I remember being a kid and having holiday dinner with my grandmas or other older relatives. Now we're becoming the elders and having dinners in our home. It feels strange to take this new role in life. I'm not ready to be anyone's elder, but I suppose life doesn't give me a choice.

Tonight I said the prayer over the meal, and part way through my voice caught. Suddenly I felt the presence of all those who ever loved us and went on to the "other side." Holidays are bitter sweet events. I feel so thankful to share these moments with my family and especially my children. At the same time, I miss all my loved ones who are no longer here. No matter what happens, gratitude makes everything sweet.

Holiday Fire

Holidays give us about the only excuse to light a fire in our fireplace. Otherwise, it just sits collecting dust and ash. And by holidays, I only really mean Christmas and Thanksgiving, so we light a fire only twice a year. In this photograph, my daughter read a book by the fire light.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Frost on rose hips...

The fog clears from my brain as I take a morning run through the cold. The winter sun stands low in the sky and casts long shadows over the frozen earth. White frost covers everything hidden from the light, as the winter holds a beauty all its own; frozen and silent.


Whitney reading with grandma great.

My children love to spend time with grandma great during her visits to our home. I'm so thankful they will have these memories with her. I only wish I would have had more memories with my great grandparents when they were alive.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Most of the morning I spent walking through a fog from the effects of high powered pain medications. Of course, oral surgery leaves me feeling uncomfortable and sore. Not to mention, I'm just a little embarrassed by the pins sticking out of my face. Someone please remind me why I decided to do all this.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oral Surgery

I had oral surgery this morning, so I will not be posting pictures for a day or two. I slept all day, and I think I'm going back to bed in a few minutes. I'm thankful for everyone who sent me good wishes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Christmas Tree

With Thanksgiving still eight days away, merchants at Riverpark Square wasted no time decorating for Christmas by installing an artificial tree in the entryway. The tree is several stories high, and appears every holiday season.

To be honest, I always wondered how they did it. Well, today I got to see. These photographs show workers constructing a tall conical frame which they then cover with artificial evergreen branches. I have to say, I was duly impressed. The last photograph on this post may give you some idea of the height. By the way, a similar photograph coincidentally appeared this morning in the Spokesman-Review, "Region" section.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Family Questions

After my interesting encounter with the anti-war movement, I made a short journey across town and a somewhat longer journey to another political landscape. Actually, I had a very pleasant lunch with my wife's family and steered away from political topics altogether. Sometimes keeping the peace means keeping my opinions to myself. I love my wife's family and I never wish to disrespect their beliefs in any way.

In family settings, I wrestle with another set of essential questions:

How do I assert my beliefs without disrespecting the beliefs of others? What values do all people hold in common? What is the best way to show honor and respect to those who sharply disagree with my opinions?

These questions weigh heavily upon my heart and convict my conscience. I have not been a worthy follower of compassion. Many times I allow my own rigid opinions to restrict my willingness to listen and my acceptance of others. As a spiritual man, I feel compelled to wrestle with these essential questions and find a more acceptable way.

Besides, a family dinner is just a time to be together. Why wrestle with anything at all? Why not simply enjoy the good food and pleasant company? In this sense, maybe life needs fewer questions and more BEING. I love my wife. I love my family. Why should anything else matter?

Peace March

Life has a way of illustrating big questions with "coincidental" events.

My day began at the Community-Minded Enterprises building (the Saranac), planning for the Ecuador Youth Exchange, and discussing the importance of essential questions in school curriculum. In my role as the project coordinator, I decided to apply the UBD model (Understanding By Design) to define learning objectives for our youth program. In short, UBD uses what they call essential questions to frame unit designs and lesson plans. Essential questions speak to the heart of any subject matter and provide a driving conceptual framework for academic inquiry.

When I learned the UBD model as part of my master's program at Whitworth University (formerly Whitworth College), I wasn't sure when I would ever use my skills again. The college drilled us so thoroughly, I thought I would never voluntarily embrace UBD again. And yet there I was this morning teaching the UBD model to my fellow staff.

For almost two hours, we wrestled with the essential questions we feel drive the curriculum of the Ecuador Youth Exchange. Essential questions aren't always easy. They're open ended and often require deep reflection.

Now for the "coincidence..."

As I left the building, I was surprised to see a rather somber looking group of about 40 or 50 people carrying hand-painted war protest signs. A small brass band led the way playing something like a funeral dirge, while several others carried coffins draped in black cloth. The dreary skies and the freezing drizzle added a more serious tone to their procession.

I'm always thinking nothing exciting ever happens in Spokane, so I ran off behind the march to take pictures. Some of the marchers eyed me suspiciously, like the man behind the Spanish protest sign. Others seemed not to notice, while one man soberly handed me an anti-war pamphlet. At least one marchers recognized me and raced over to give me a hug. It was such an interesting mix of reactions.

As I watched the procession walk away through the pouring rain, my mind went back to my session earlier in the day. We had talked about essential questions, and I began to wonder what essential questions drive this current war.

I'm not feeling particularly anxious to throw myself into this highly divisive topic, but the educator in me wonders how I might address this war in a social studies classroom setting. What essential questions would I ask, and by extension, what essential questions should we ask as a nation?

In light of the sharply divided feelings on this issue, certain questions come to mind. Feel free to answer as you see fit, or add your own questions:

In a democratic society, how do we decide when war is justified?

How do societies find common ground on divisive "hot-button" issues?

What is the value of dissent in a democratic society?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Yurt Blessing

Candace at the right, greeting a friend.

Mike in a moment of reflection.

Looking up toward the yurt.

Mike and Candace recently built a yurt on Vision Mountain and asked a community of friends to participate in a special blessing ceremony, which was a beautiful experience on many levels. We had a talking circle, and then shared a wonderful meal. I also got the chance to sing a blessing song, which doesn't always happen for me in that kind of setting. The emotion and spirit of that moment surprised me. We are definitely building bridges between cultures.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Twin Eagles

Tim Corcoran addressing the group...

Twin Eagles Wilderness School, based near Sand Point, Idaho, draws from nature and indigenous methods of instruction to help children gain a deeper sense of connection to the land. It was founded by a husband and wife team, Tim Corcoran and Jeannine Tidwell. I met Tim and Jeannine a few weeks ago at the Bioneers Conference and received an invitation to their harvest festival.

Rhonda, the kids, and I drove to Sand Point this afternoon and enjoyed learning about their cultural and educational programs. We saw examples of traditional fire making, pit cooking, games, and indigenous crafts. It inspired me to re-think old ideas about teaching traditional arts to Native American kids. More to come...

Pit Cooking

During the gathering, Tim had some of the kids hopping around the ground on all fours like rabbits. At first, I thought it was just a funny game to engage the children, but with their hands on the ground, they were able to feel warmth rising from the soil. With a little encouragement from the adults, the kids started digging and soon uncovered an underground pit oven. The adults had made the oven earlier in the day, but it was like a totally new discovery for the kids. In the end, they recovered several elk roasts and potatoes, all wonderfully cooked. It was delicious.

I was so happy to see people using this ancient method of pit cooking. Truthfully, I have always wanted to try pit cooking some of the old foods like lack moss or brown camas. Perhaps we will do it in time.

The Tepees

The tepees at the wilderness school provided the only warmth during today's event. Here McKenna is standing near the tepee while trying to tie little dolls made out of grass.

Thatch Hut

Dakota inside the thatch hut...

Whitney in front of the thatch hut...

Several people at the wilderness school constructed a thatch hut out of local grasses that will become a wood shelter during the winter. Dakota and Whitney loved that little hut and spent a lot of time playing there.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The River

Looking west over the Little Spokane River (Rutter Parkway)...

Looking east...

The spirit catches me in the oddest moments, like when I drive my car, walk to an appointment, or pass a field on the way to something else. Just this evening, I was driving to Wellpinit when I crossed a bridge overlooking the Little Spokane River. I glanced toward the west and saw the sun setting behind a thin layer of fog. The beauty in that moment literally compelled me to stop the car and go back for a second look.

Sometimes I think God paints the most amazing scenery just hoping someone will stop long enough to notice. Beauty is a wonderful treatment for anxiety, depression, or any other life stress.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Sometimes the smallest things bring me back to mindfulness.

This morning started with some difficulty. I totally spaced an important meeting, and then went to another meeting that made me feel somewhat stressed. I have so much to do, and I'm beginning to feel overwhelmed.

I left my meeting and took a walk downtown still feeling stressed. Then as I was walking, I looked over and saw a small tree with red leaves in a courtyard. Those little red leaves brought me immediately out of my emotional slump and gave me a feeling of total peace and well-being. They made me feel so thankful for the beauty of the earth and all of life. They remind me that every experience is perfect.

Friday, November 02, 2007

With McKenna

The other thing about working late, we have to be very intentional about the time we spend together. For example, several times a week I'll realize we have a free minute during the day and I'll take Rhonda to the movie, or to get a bite to eat. Other times, I will make a special day with one of my kids immediately after school. That's what I did today. McKenna and I went to the mall and had lunch. Then she got a stuffed animal at one of those places that let you build your own doll. She was delighted.

She is often very reserved and rarely expresses her feelings to me, but as I left this evening (after our date), she ran out to my car just to tell me she loves me. I think that means we had a successful daddy-daughter day.


I'm falling behind on my blog...

Anyway, I wanted to talk about pumpkins. You know, they are very important. If you don't believe me, just ask my kids. Now that I work late, we have to find creative ways to spend time together. The night before Halloween, we let them stay up late, just so we could carve pumpkins together. Then on Halloween night, we realized this was the first year I would not get to trick-or-treat with my kids, so to make things right, Rhonda brought them to my work all dressed up in their costumes. Man, that was a lot of fun. I sure love those guys.


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