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Politically Incorrect

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Politically Incorrect

The Joys of Underdoing

When I got the email from Becky suggesting I throw my  name in the hat to serve as Melanie Snider’s replacement on Lake Pend Oreille School District’s board of trustees, I no longer felt guilty at my plan to suggest that Becky be the one to take over cooking all the breakfast burritos for the booster club’s food booth at this year’s Fourth of July shindig. I’ve cooked those burritos for several years now, spending four or five hours on the third of July doing so, and with my final child at home now graduated, I’m ready for a break. So I’m sorry, Becky, but I won’t be asking for consideration as a board member, even though I think it’s one of the most important volunteer jobs that can be done in the community.

The concept of taking a break, which has occupied my mind more and more of late, is a novel one for me. I remember once joking with then-superintendent of schools Max Harrell that without we children of alcoholics, the world might just fall apart and while it was a joke, it holds a strong kernel of truth, as well. Take a look at any roster of volunteers around town, especially the names that appear over and over again, and if you ask, you’re likely to learn that one of their parents had a wee bit of fondness for the drink.

If we’re lucky, however, there comes a time in life when we ‘set aside childish things,’ and a tendency to overdo is one of those I might be better off without. I’m thinking it’s at least worth a try. With my children now all grown, a new life opens up before me and that makes it somehow easier to think of what can and should be changed in what I’m doing now.

Take the River Journal, for example. (Seriously, isn’t there some fabulously rich transplant out there who would want to take the River Journal?) No, I’m not quite ready to let it go, though if things don’t improve economically, I might not have a choice. It’s a little difficult to put in more-than-full-time work on a job that can’t give you a paycheck, while trying to figure out what else you can do in order to keep the electricity and the water turned on (and to pay enough on those medical bills to keep the bill collectors from making your life miserable). As long as I possibly can you will still find yourself holding a copy of this news magazine in your hands each month, but this new attitude of mine has allowed other possibilities to percolate through my brain—for example, making it more affordable by making it an online publication only. Of course, overdoing comes into play right about the time I think that, and I’ve spent more time than I like to admit learning to understand html, exploring new programs for online design, and expanding my vocabulary to include such terms as MySql, unique visitors, click-throughs and optimization. In the process, as I discover and implement (however imperfectly) what I want the River Journal’s website to do, it is growing more and more into a venue where people on a daily basis can find out what’s happening of interest in their communities—a place where there really is more to life than bad news, and the good news lets them know how to become informed and involved on projects and events that better their community.

Then there’s the Festival at Sandpoint. No, even though I’m closing in on close to a decade and a half of volunteer work there, I’m not ready to stop with that, either. I believe in what the Festival provides to this community, and it’s more than just the incredible opportunity of walking to your car in the Safeway parking lot and hearing the likes of BB King, David Grey, the Beach Boys or Johnny Cash himself performing sound checks that echo throughout town. It’s the commitment to providing access and exposure to new music, to providing a venue for local musicians to interact with those who have ‘been there and done that’ on the national stage, to the sounds of the Spokane Symphony as it harmonizes with the music of the stars overhead, to the experience of providing exposure to good music to area kids—everything from the rental assistance program to the Fifth Grade Outreach. Music has been an enormous part of my life, and I believe it’s an enormous part of most lives—this is something I work for that provides such a great, added benefit to my life that I don’t want to stop.

The Booster Club, however, will no longer hold a meeting time on my monthly calendar. In part this is because I’ll no longer have a dog in the race, so to speak—if my kids don’t mind being alluded to as dogs, that is. But it’s well and good that those with a vested interest in what Clark Fork High School provides for its students now step up for their turn in the barrel. And on the bright side, I get to leave on a high note. After 23 years of commitment to public education, from that first PTA meeting at Farmin/Stidwell to years on the PTO at Hope Elementary, and then another 13 years with the Booster Club at Clark Fork, I see public education in Bonner County doing a better job than ever at understanding just what constitutes a quality education. Not that there isn’t plenty of room to improve—I still think our students are sadly lacking in the English skills they desperately need in order to be successful in the world at large—but the improvement is real and continues to grow.

So what else will I let go of? I’m not really sure; this is going to be a learning process for me, with undoubted setbacks (i.e., making commitments to other projects I really shouldn’t commit to) along the way. But I’m growing (or aging) into an understanding that happiness doesn’t necessarily require an 18-hour workday, and already I’m seeing some benefits to that. Take this weekend, for example. Though it’s Sunday afternoon and yes, I’m sitting at the computer writing this column (i.e. working), I spent much of it lazing around in the sunshine, spending time with my partner David. Okay, we had a yard sale at his house, trying to clear out years of accumulated junk as my brother Joe sells his place in Dover and moves out to Clark Fork with me, but we didn’t have many shoppers so the workload, compared to my traditional weekend workload, was almost nil.

And it was fun. I gave Matt a much-needed driving lesson (sorry, Kriss, for not asking first) and discovered that I probably won’t give him another—like childbirth, I was immediately reminded of the three kids I’ve already taught how to drive and remembered that it’s not an experience I really want to repeat. I got to visit with some of the grandkids—Tyler and Jade and Tristan stopped by before they went fishing. I had time with my oldest daughter to just chat and laugh and visit and share music and stories. David fixed the mower and I mowed the lawn, but better yet, we spent quite a bit of time just sitting side by side in the sunshine, holding hands. I can do with more weekends like that, and am realizing that I can have them—if I choose to.

I hope this summer that all of you get some time to hold hands as well; to enjoy the soft heat soaking into our bones before the winter snows come all too soon again; to visit and talk with your family and loved ones; to teach a kid how to drive. All but one of you, that is. To that one person out there, I would suggest you consider throwing your name into the ring for consideration as a school board trustee. It’s a worthy job to do.

Seriously. If you’d like to be considered for Melanie Snider’s position on the school board, and live in the areas of Hope, Clark Fork, or east of Hwy. 95 north of Sandlpoint, give the district a call at 208-263-2184, or visit their website at www.lposd.org for the press release giving details. Deadline for letters of interest is July 24. The appointment would last untl the next election in May 2010. If elected at that time to fill out the remainder of Snider’s term, the term would last one additional year.

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Landon Otis

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education, Lake Pend Oreille School District, school board

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