Grateful for life

 

These letters by children in our community touched me. They are simple yet utterly profound.

 

For them, this is the beginning of a lifelong pursuit of gratitude.

 

For me, it’s a reminder to live life more gratefully every single day.

 

Last Friday, I stood right in the middle of so much gratitude at the 3rd Annual Fundraiser and Campout for the Homeless at St. Pius Church.

 

Community members brought in bundles of donated blankets, coats, and clothes, covering every available table with provisions. Men and women without a home found what they needed to keep them clothed and warm this winter. The Union Gospel Mission warmly accepted the rest of the donations, thanking every volunteer for his or her contribution.

 

There was laughter, music, mingling, and conversation. It was a night of beautiful moments, of people coming together to fulfill each other’s needs.

 

To the people in the hallways of St. Pius Church, just like these children and their thanksgivings, gratitude is an action.

-Shane Richard Bell

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Love for each other, love for the land

A sneak peek at the Carrousel Christmas Tree Farm 

By SHANE RICHARD BELL

Staff writer/Coeur d’Alene Press

Don and Peg White love what they do and where they do it.

Some call it a Christmas love affair that lasts all year.

They’re Christmas tree farmers at their home, property, and business, Carrousel   Tree Farm, three miles south of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in Cougar Gulch. Don is 82, and Peg 76.

“We’re open now,” says Don, who expects about 5,000 people to visit their farm this holiday season. He also predicts, based on recent years, to sell between 800 and 1,000 Christmas trees.

“It’s the greatest time of year,” said Peg. “It looks like a Norman Rockwell painting. People come out of their cars dressed in yellow, red, green and blue and they scatter every way of the sun. It’s snowing. There are snowball fights. It’s just exciting.”

The property reflects Peg’s comments.

Their two dogs, Casey and Rusty, run up and down the country roads that intersect the farm’s nine tree lots and the Whites’ home, red with off-white trim, and a big porch. Hand-painted signs read “Candy Cane Lane,” “Hoot Owl,” and “Rudolph’s Grove.” Beyond is the family barn, a hand-hewn behemoth, glowingly red, built in the early 1880s. On its walls, written in graphite, were prices of wheat, oats, and potatoes in the early 1880s.

In the barn is the heart of their business. “People take pictures of their trees and then send them back to us so we can display it for them,” said Don White, pointing to six poster boards layered with several generations of families who have made finding a Christmas tree at the farm an annual tradition. On the end dangles a picture with the doodle of a family sitting around a Christmas tree, a thank-you note from a little girl.

“I get more hugs than anybody in Kootenai County,” said Peg. “It’s a labor of love.”

“There’s a real art to it,” said Don, summarizing all of the cultivating, planting, pruning, and sheering that each tree requires.

Peg pauses speaking, and looks down deep in thought. “This is a real passion for us. It is our passion. It’s a treasure. It keeps us young; it keeps us active. It keeps us getting up every morning. And, oh my, we spin our wheels every day. We’re up by 5 a.m. We have a lot to do.”

People ask the Whites why they work so hard year-round to make this farm come alive during the holidays. They wonder why since 1984, 28 years ago, they continue to raise Christmas trees.

They also ask them if they’d ever sell the farm.

“There’s at least 10 people who’ve told me they would buy this place if it were up for sale,” said Peg. “But if we sold this place, where would we go and what would we do?”

Taking care of our own: Neonatologists pioneer Kootenai Health’s NICU

Photo courtesy of NICOLE DORAME
Twins, Gracie and Charlie McVey, featured on huge billboards around North Idaho wearing red and green Christmas hats, were the first set of premature twins cared for under 34 weeks at Kootenai.

By SHANE RICHARD BELL

Staff writer/Coeur d’Alene Press

When a baby is born at Kootenai Health, chimes ring throughout the building. The father of the child usually rings the chimes, announcing to the world the arrival of a new life.

“That’s the community celebrating the birth of a baby,” said Dr. Kathleen Webb, one of three neonatologists at Kootenai’s budding Neonatal Intensive Care program.

The chimes were the first addition doctors Kathleen Webb and Priscilla Hancock made after getting an affirmative from Jon Ness, CEO of Kootenai Health, to begin developing Kootenai’s NICU less than two years ago.

“I’ve had a lot of experience caring for patients,” said Webb. “But this is the first time I’ve been able to build a program. They didn’t teach us that in medical school, but it’s been so fun and satisfying.”

Webb’s journey as a neonatologist has been a process of many steps, big and small.

“It takes up a lot of time and energy to do this well,” Webb said.

Kootenai Health Neonatologist Dr. Kathleen Webb

She completed her fellowship in 1993 in Syracuse, New York, has worked with babies for 26 years and seen 10,000 newborns. “I love this program. And I love babies,” Webb said. “Taking care of infants has been my foremost professional passion in life.”

Twins, Gracie and Charlie McVey, featured on huge billboards around North Idaho wearing red and green Christmas hats, were the first set of premature twins cared for under 34 weeks at Kootenai.

Those twins embody the 2012 Festival of Tree’s cause.

“We’re thrilled,” said Webb, about the upcoming Festival of Trees and its pledge to donate the proceeds to the NICU. “Special care nurseries are isolated. Often people don’t even know that they’re here until they need them.”

“We need to get the word out that we can keep our babies right here. Born in Idaho,” says Webb, enunciating every word with a full-faced smile and bright eyes.

“If the community knows about it, they can support it,” Webb said. Imagine how stressful is for a woman to have a baby prematurely and then travel to another state for her care.”

Before doctors Webb and Hancock, and their newest addition, Dr. Kimberly Judd, the birthing center at Kootenai was a level one nursery.

The center is expanding with improved medical equipment, enhanced technology and additional staff. With three neonatologists on staff, there is a neonatologist available for every high-risk birth.

“We’re a level two nursery now,” says Webb, “and we’re raising the quality of care for all babies who are born here.”

“My hope is that by 2016, we’re able to provide an even higher level of care in the setting of a full-intensive care unit. We want a women’s and children’s center. The gateway to a successful hospital is often through the mothers of our babies.  So if a mom has a good experience, she’ll bring her family back.”

Webb believes that with the support of the community, her staff can make the neonatal program at Kootenai Health part of a nationally recognized regional medical center serving the needs of North Idaho’s people.

“We’ve got the people, and we’re building the expertise,” says Webb, “but what we need help with is purchasing equipment. We lack facilities and equipment and that’s how the Festival of Trees can help.”

“We must take care of parents and their babies. We take care of our own,” Webb said. “And that’s how we keep our community together. When you’re caring for a baby, you’re caring for a whole family.”

Festival of Tree’s Gala: ‘Biggest social event of the year’

By SHANE RICHARD BELLL

Staff writer/Coeur d’Alene Press

Something very magical happens at the Kootenai Health Foundation’s annual Festival of Trees gala.

“It’s a beautiful event and it makes you feel good,” said event co-chair and co-emcee Jeanne Norton of Silverwood Theme Park. “It’s the colors. The trees are absolutely stunning and there’s beautiful music.”

It’s an event that draws the support of an active community for a worthwhile cause. “Instead of having Christmas dinner with just your family, it’s a Christmas dinner with the whole community,” said Norton.  

The 2012 Festival of Trees Gala on Saturday, Nov. 24, at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, is the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Guests will enjoy an elegant dinner, auction of the lavishly decorated Christmas trees, a no-host bar and music by the Hitmen and Valerie Stichweh. “It really puts you into the holiday spirit a month early,” Norton said.

The Christmas trees, around 30 this year, are decorated and donated by local businesses and community members. Each one is thoughtfully considered and exceptionally adorned. Silverwood Theme Park is designing a tree that is “for men by men.” “You’ll have to leave that one to your own imagination,” Norton said.

Proceeds raised by the Festival of Trees will benefit neonatal services at Kootenai Health. “What’s so nice about that is when babies here need critical care, the baby and the family don’t have to go to Spokane to get it,” Norton said. “It keeps everything local- the baby, the family, the doctors, everything.”

“I care about this community and support raised at the Festival of Trees goes directly back to our community,” Norton said. “You know that you are making a difference in somebody else’s life.” 

Dining Divas go all out with pirate tree

By SHANE RICHARD BELL

Staff writer/Cd’A Press 

 

Typically you’ll hear them before you see them.

 

“We’re a very close group of friends who really enjoy getting together,” said Ellen Jaeger, member of Coeur d’Alene’s Dining Divas social and philanthropic group. “We laugh, have dinner, drink wine, plan events, and above all else, we have fun.”

 

The Dining Divas are advocates of the Coeur d’Alene Library Foundation and the Festival of Trees. “We’re very involved with both of these organizations,” said Jaeger.

 

Their latest project is a pirate-themed tree, which they will donate to the Festival of Tree’s live auction. The guest with the highest bid will win the tree and a two-hour private cruise with up to 110 guests on one of the Resort’s cruise boats, the Kootenai, around Lake Coeur d’Alene.

 

Dining Divas’ member, Brenda Garcia, came up with the idea when a Pirates of the Coeur d’Alene cruise boat passed by her lake home this summer. When Garcia approached her Dining Diva friends, they were thrilled and immediately started brainstorming ideas for the pirate tree.

 

“Lots of glitz and glitter,” said Jaeger. “We’ll have a model pirate ship on the very top,” added Deanna Goodlander, another longtime Dining Diva. From top to bottom, the pirate-themed tree will promise passersby a pirate’s booty.  

 

“It’ll have costume jewelry, coins, a pirate hat with lights, and a treasure chest with beer and wine,” said Jaeger. “And it’s going to rock back and forth like the ocean!”

 

The ladies are excited and expectant for their tree, the Festival, and the cause. “It pulls on your heart strings,” says Jaeger, referring to the Festival’s cause: Kootenai Health’s neonatal services which will help infants receive specialized care at Kootenai.

 

“We are so fortunate to have Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene. It’s top notch,” said Jaeger. “It’s a magnet hospital and an award winning hospital,” added Goodlander. “They make such a difference in our community.”

 

Three years ago, Deanna Goodlander’s heart stopped five times. Each time they were able to restart her heart. “I’m very fortunate to live here,” said Goodlander. “If it weren’t for Kootenai Health, I would not be here.”

 

Goodlander and the Dining Divas enjoy giving back.

 

“We’re so excited,” says Goodlander.

 

 “Yes, we are,” says Jaeger. “We work hard, give service and have fun, and that’s the vision of who and what we are.” 

Real stars at Festival’s fashion shows

By SHANE RICHARD BELL

Staff writer/Cd’A Press

 

They said she didn’t have a model’s body. They claimed she was too young, scrawny, and inexperienced.

She did not strut the catwalk that year. “But the next year she came back and blossomed at the show,” said Festival of Trees fashion show co-producer, Chrissy Wortman.

Now Danielle Lindquist, that once unsure 13-year-old girl who grew up in Coeur d’Alene, is a beautiful woman working as a full-time model in Los Angeles.

“She’s going to be in the show this year, too,” said Wortman. “This show prepared Danielle for her career. She was determined to be a model and made all of the right choices. She’s done a great job. That’s the fun part about the show.”

Around 90 other models, both professional and amateur, will join Lindquist on Monday, November 26 at the Coeur d’Alene Resort for two fashion shows following the Festival of Trees. The first show, sponsored by Frontier Communications, will begin at 11 a.m., and the second sponsored by Thorco, Inc., at 5 p.m. The production of both shows is sponsored by Silverwood Theme Park.

The shows exhibit local talent and fashion at the peak of the holiday season. At least 25 Northern Idaho boutiques and clothing stores will show off their corner of the fashion world. “We’re crazy about fashion and trends,” said Wortman.

Geared toward the Northwest, the annual fashion shows attract around 500 spectators. “The holiday season is coming up, so it’s a really fun time to do a fashion show. We make it very stylish and warm,” says Wortman.

On the eve of the fashion shows, Wortman and her crew set up the dressing rooms and organize the models’ 217 outfits. That morning, the models start showing up to try on their outfits for one last fitting. Then they’re off to hair and makeup. “By 10:30 a.m., all of the models are lining up to get ready for the big show,” said Wortman.

“The audience loves it. They never know what to expect because we always throw in something new,” said Wortman. One year, they had a country-themed number. Another number was all Austin Powers. This year, they’re planning on line dancing with a little surprise in the middle of the performance.

“There’s a real buzz at the show,” said Wortman. “The audience sees girls from all of the local stores in one swoop. They get a meal and a show. And good fun is had by all.”

Time to change

It’s time to change.

Autumn leaves crumble and fall, their colors disappearing for another year. The sun rises later and sets earlier, its rays weaker and temperatures lower.

The Earth is simultaneously ending one season and beginning another one.

To curb the status quo of winter, we’ve created a completely original 2012 Tour Guide with “25 ways to love North Idaho’s winter, even if you dislike it.”

These tips are guaranteed, if acted upon, to elevate your winter experience. One tip suggests attending a book signing, a lecture, or a poetry reading. Buy tickets for a comedy show. Try cross-country skiing or ice-skating.

For skiing and snowboarding, we’ve got you covered with event schedules for North Idaho’s best resorts: Lookout, Silver, and Schweitzer.

Defy your expectations this winter, reach out of the status quo of winters past, and make this one your best.

–Shane Richard Bell

25 ways to love North Idaho’s winter, even if you dislike it

By Shane Richard Bell

Staff writer/Coeur d’Alene Press

1. WRITE A LETTER. Take a moment and write an old friend or relative a hand-written letter. Tap into history and impress. Maybe even purchase some unique stationery. Be really fancy and try your hand at quill and ink. Intentionally reconnecting through letters is bound to improve intelligence, open your mind, and touch someone in a sincere way.

2. BUILD A SNOWMAN. Think outside of coal and carrots, if you will. Maybe your “snowman” is your pet, favorite actor, or ex father-in-law (just don’t let him see it). It’s your choice, your masterpiece. Snow is an abundant art supply, so take advantage of it. Involve the family. Document it. Make a memory, and or a Christmas card.

3. SLEDDING. If you’re a kid, go sledding. If you’re an adult, go sledding. It’s that simple. Sledding equals unadulterated and affordable winter fun.

4.  VOLUNTEER WITH YOUR DOWN TIME. Serving at a soup kitchen when you were 12 does not count. Non-profits and churches are ubiquitous in Cd’A. We undoubtedly live in a giving community, so find an outlet you want to champion and take the plunge. Volunteers make missions successful. Even serving once or a twice a month will get you out of yourself and curb winter blues.

5. ENROLL IN QUILITING. If you love to sew, quilting is an outstanding and gratifying challenge. It’s practical and crafty. Make a handmade quilt for yourself or for someone you love as a Christmas gift; it’s a present someone will never forget. Fear not, no one has ever rightfully re-gifted a quilt.

6. TAKE A COOKING CLASS. Bring a friend, significant other, or spouse. Add some flare and fare to your winter. Surely you can expand your palate and learn some new techniques, dishes and styles. Bake your own bread, or prepare a savory stew or soup. Make a meal and invite family and friends over. They’ll appreciate the gesture.

7. GO ICE FISHING. You don’t have to live in Nome, Alaska to go ice fishing. You can ice fish right here for some of Idaho’s finest fish. Ice fishermen flock to Fernan Lake, only minutes from downtown Cd’A, for a variety of fish and thick ice depending on the month and the weather conditions. Please check for details. Benewah Lake and Koocanusa Lake are other great ice-fishing hotspots within a day’s drive from Coeur d’Alene.

8. TRY ICE SKATING, again. Traumatic childhood experience? Clumsy? Intimidated by world-class Russian skaters? Cast off your fear and try one of winter’s most exhilarating activities. Once you’ve gained your bearings, blood rushing to your head and rosy cheeks, you’ll be making laps in no time. Ice-skating is fun for all ages, and is terrific exercise.  Note to self: ice-skating rinks are notoriously romantic. Think “Happy Gilmore” or “Serendipity.”

9. MAKE ART. Build a birdhouse. Cut out and design your own bookmarks. Make jewelry. Dig out your paints and canvases and finish that painting at the back of your closet. Hang your creation up in your house, marvel at your artistic talent. Save money on expensive decorations. Make a Christmas gift. Foster another person’s artistic talent. Let go, and use your own creative license!

10. CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING or SNOWSHOEING. Dismantle the snowshoeing and cross-country skiing decorations and put them to use. Every one is tired of looking at them on the wall instead of on your feet. Trek through rugged North Idaho scenery. Experience the outdoors in winter. Find a mountain stream and let the snowflakes fall upon your tongue. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are phenomenal ways to see nature, exercise, and spend quality time with those whom you love most.

11. LITERARY LINES. Poetry reading? Book signing? Lecture? Learn something you’re unfamiliar with and support local talent.

12. SING. Organize a group of friends from your church, job, or social circle to devote one night to caroling in your neighborhood or nearby assisted living home. Exercise your singing skills and good will by blessing someone who might find the holidays lonely and sad with the warmth and reminiscence of music.

13. BELLY LAUGH. Make a splurge and buy tickets to a comedy show.

14. SWIM. Warm up at a local indoor water park. Zip around a slide. Be a kid, or take your kids. Organize a human train. Lighten up. Forget the chatter in your worrisome mind.

15. LOOSEN UP.  Chances are you’re ignoring your body. Between scraping ice sheets off your windshield, rushing off to work late, and spilling coffee on your starched collared shirt, you’ve most likely managed to neglect your body. Rest. Indulge in a massage. Loosen up with a pedicure. Relax with a manicure.

16. SIGN UP. North Idaho has a plethora of gyms for every person’s needs. Committing to a gym membership and carving out time in your schedule for physical exercise will enhance mental and physical health, boost your self-esteem, improve your immune system from winter sickness, and give you a leg up on that swimsuit body displayed on the magazine rack at the grocery store that continually haunts you.

17. BIRDING. Be an eyewitness to North Idaho’s most majestic raptors. Spot an osprey nest or an eagle diving into frigid waters for a slithery fish. Take a shot at wildlife photography. Sport your film camera. Be a tourist for a day and participate in a local bird watching group at one of the nation’s most prized lakes, Lake Coeur d’Alene.

18. SNOWMOBILING. Bundle up for a blast. Mobilize the family. Snowmobiling is like a never-ending ride through a natural theme park. Fly off a jump, scale a peak, dart through a powdery chute lined with jutting rock faces and snow-caked trees. Packed with adrenaline and fueled with excitement, snowmobiling in North Idaho is one of winter’s most thrilling activities.

19. SKIING. Ski and snowboard North Idaho’s best resorts: Lookout, Silver, and Schweitzer.

20. FESTIVITIES.  Festival of Trees; Coeur d’Alene Holiday Light Show and cruises; plan your own holiday party. Collectively partake in our community’s holiday events.

21. HUNT ZOMBIES- Did you know that you can hunt real-life zombie actors with a simulated weapon downtown Cd’A? I didn’t. But it’s true, at the Shoot House at 403 North 2nd Street, about three blocks from downtown Cd’A, you can be right in the middle of your own zombie apocalypse. Find out more, the zombies are waiting for you. The Shoot House also offers one-on-one firearms training courses and a specialty firearms store next door, Downtown Guns and Ammo.

22. POLAR BEAR PLUNGE AND HANGOVER HANDICAP- Yes, it’s what you think it is. Join a moment of temporary insanity, of free will in full force, and dive into Lake Coeur d’Alene with 500 other locals on New Year’s Day at noon on Sanders Beach. And, don’t forget the same day, the infamous Hangover Handicap 5-mile fun run. Sweat out holiday impurities and run around Fernan Lake at 9am. The roads are quiet, and the spirits high. You can do both wacky activities the same day.

23. GET OUT OF DODGE- Take a respite from gray skies and dwindling daylight. Take a trip to a different hemisphere; explore a world you’ve never known. Make your life the story you’ve always dreamed of. Warm up your bones and brighten your spirit at a Mexican resort, a cruise through the Caribbean, or a vacation to Hawaii.

24. WINE and DINE- New Year’s is coming, and you’re in dire need of trying something new. Enjoy an exquisite bottle of wine at the Coeur d’Alene Cellars. Relish in one of the Satay Bistro’s American fusion dishes. Feel the rhythm of live jazz at The Cellar downtown.

25. SPIRIT OF LIFE- Act out the true meaning of Christmas and pause from the cacophony of consumerism. Embody authenticity. Blow away someone with genuine generosity. Give without payment. You know best what those around you need. Pay for everyone’s lunch. Bring an acquaintance his or her favorite coffee and breakfast. Go deeper. Deliver groceries to your neighbor who recently got laid off. Compliment someone. Smile. Say phrases with the words “love,” “appreciate,” and “genuine.” Hug someone; kiss them on both cheeks like the Italians, OK maybe be careful with that one. The point is, give with the spirit of life by giving freely and liberally.
By Shane Richard Bell

1. WRITE A LETTER. Take a moment and write an old friend or relative a hand-written letter. Tap into history and impress. Maybe even purchase some unique stationery. Be really fancy and try your hand at quill and ink. Intentionally reconnecting through letters is bound to improve intelligence, open your mind, and touch someone in a sincere way.

2. BUILD A SNOWMAN. Think outside of coal and carrots, if you will. Maybe your “snowman” is your pet, favorite actor, or ex father-in-law (just don’t let him see it). It’s your choice, your masterpiece. Snow is an abundant art supply, so take advantage of it. Involve the family. Document it. Make a memory, and or a Christmas card.

3. SLEDDING. If you’re a kid, go sledding. If you’re an adult, go sledding. It’s that simple. Sledding equals unadulterated and affordable winter fun.

4.  VOLUNTEER WITH YOUR DOWN TIME. Serving at a soup kitchen when you were 12 does not count. Non-profits and churches are ubiquitous in Cd’A. We undoubtedly live in a giving community, so find an outlet you want to champion and take the plunge. Volunteers make missions successful. Even serving once or a twice a month will get you out of yourself and curb winter blues.

5. ENROLL IN QUILITING. If you love to sew, quilting is an outstanding and gratifying challenge. It’s practical and crafty. Make a handmade quilt for yourself or for someone you love as a Christmas gift; it’s a present someone will never forget. Fear not, no one has ever rightfully re-gifted a quilt.

6. TAKE A COOKING CLASS. Bring a friend, significant other, or spouse. Add some flare and fare to your winter. Surely you can expand your palate and learn some new techniques, dishes and styles. Bake your own bread, or prepare a savory stew or soup. Make a meal and invite family and friends over. They’ll appreciate the gesture.

7. GO ICE FISHING. You don’t have to live in Nome, Alaska to go ice fishing. You can ice fish right here for some of Idaho’s finest fish. Ice fishermen flock to Fernan Lake, only minutes from downtown Cd’A, for a variety of fish and thick ice depending on the month and the weather conditions. Please check for details. Benewah Lake and Koocanusa Lake are other great ice-fishing hotspots within a day’s drive from Coeur d’Alene.

8. TRY ICE SKATING, again. Traumatic childhood experience? Clumsy? Intimidated by world-class Russian skaters? Cast off your fear and try one of winter’s most exhilarating activities. Once you’ve gained your bearings, blood rushing to your head and rosy cheeks, you’ll be making laps in no time. Ice-skating is fun for all ages, and is terrific exercise.  Note to self: ice-skating rinks are notoriously romantic. Think “Happy Gilmore” or “Serendipity.”

9. MAKE ART. Build a birdhouse. Cut out and design your own bookmarks. Make jewelry. Dig out your paints and canvases and finish that painting at the back of your closet. Hang your creation up in your house, marvel at your artistic talent. Save money on expensive decorations. Make a Christmas gift. Foster another person’s artistic talent. Let go, and use your own creative license!

10. CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING or SNOWSHOEING. Dismantle the snowshoeing and cross-country skiing decorations and put them to use. Every one is tired of looking at them on the wall instead of on your feet. Trek through rugged North Idaho scenery. Experience the outdoors in winter. Find a mountain stream and let the snowflakes fall upon your tongue. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are phenomenal ways to see nature, exercise, and spend quality time with those whom you love most.

11. LITERARY LINES. Poetry reading? Book signing? Lecture? Learn something you’re unfamiliar with and support local talent.

12. SING. Organize a group of friends from your church, job, or social circle to devote one night to caroling in your neighborhood or nearby assisted living home. Exercise your singing skills and good will by blessing someone who might find the holidays lonely and sad with the warmth and reminiscence of music.

13. BELLY LAUGH. Make a splurge and buy tickets to a comedy show.

14. SWIM. Warm up at a local indoor water park. Zip around a slide. Be a kid, or take your kids. Organize a human train. Lighten up. Forget the chatter in your worrisome mind.

15. LOOSEN UP.  Chances are you’re ignoring your body. Between scraping ice sheets off your windshield, rushing off to work late, and spilling coffee on your starched collared shirt, you’ve most likely managed to neglect your body. Rest. Indulge in a massage. Loosen up with a pedicure. Relax with a manicure.

16. SIGN UP. North Idaho has a plethora of gyms for every person’s needs. Committing to a gym membership and carving out time in your schedule for physical exercise will enhance mental and physical health, boost your self-esteem, improve your immune system from winter sickness, and give you a leg up on that swimsuit body displayed on the magazine rack at the grocery store that continually haunts you.

17. BIRDING. Be an eyewitness to North Idaho’s most majestic raptors. Spot an osprey nest or an eagle diving into frigid waters for a slithery fish. Take a shot at wildlife photography. Sport your film camera. Be a tourist for a day and participate in a local bird watching group at one of the nation’s most prized lakes, Lake Coeur d’Alene.

18. SNOWMOBILING. Bundle up for a blast. Mobilize the family. Snowmobiling is like a never-ending ride through a natural theme park. Fly off a jump, scale a peak, dart through a powdery chute lined with jutting rock faces and snow-caked trees. Packed with adrenaline and fueled with excitement, snowmobiling in North Idaho is one of winter’s most thrilling activities.

19. SKIING. Ski and snowboard North Idaho’s best resorts: Lookout, Silver, and Schweitzer.

20. FESTIVITIES.  Festival of Trees; Coeur d’Alene Holiday Light Show and cruises; plan your own holiday party. Collectively partake in our community’s holiday events.

21. HUNT ZOMBIES- Did you know that you can hunt real-life zombie actors with a simulated weapon downtown Cd’A? I didn’t. But it’s true, at the Shoot House at 403 North 2nd Street, about three blocks from downtown Cd’A, you can be right in the middle of your own zombie apocalypse. Find out more, the zombies are waiting for you. The Shoot House also offers one-on-one firearms training courses and a specialty firearms store next door, Downtown Guns and Ammo.

22. POLAR BEAR PLUNGE AND HANGOVER HANDICAP- Yes, it’s what you think it is. Join a moment of temporary insanity, of free will in full force, and dive into Lake Coeur d’Alene with 500 other locals on New Year’s Day at noon on Sanders Beach. And, don’t forget the same day, the infamous Hangover Handicap 5-mile fun run. Sweat out holiday impurities and run around Fernan Lake at 9am. The roads are quiet, and the spirits high. You can do both wacky activities the same day.

23. GET OUT OF DODGE- Take a respite from gray skies and dwindling daylight. Take a trip to a different hemisphere; explore a world you’ve never known. Make your life the story you’ve always dreamed of. Warm up your bones and brighten your spirit at a Mexican resort, a cruise through the Caribbean, or a vacation to Hawaii.

24. WINE and DINE- New Year’s is coming, and you’re in dire need of trying something new. Enjoy an exquisite bottle of wine at the Coeur d’Alene Cellars. Relish in one of the Satay Bistro’s American fusion dishes. Feel the rhythm of live jazz at The Cellar downtown.

25. SPIRIT OF LIFE- Act out the true meaning of Christmas and pause from the cacophony of consumerism. Embody authenticity. Blow away someone with genuine generosity. Give without payment. You know best what those around you need. Pay for everyone’s lunch. Bring an acquaintance his or her favorite coffee and breakfast. Go deeper. Deliver groceries to your neighbor who recently got laid off. Compliment someone. Smile. Say phrases with the words “love,” “appreciate,” and “genuine.” Hug someone; kiss them on both cheeks like the Italians, OK maybe be careful with that one. The point is, give with the spirit of life by giving freely and liberally.

Abiding by the Queen Bee

By SHANE RICHARD BELL

We’re moving faster than you could ever fathom.

Our planet, swirling in a thick palette of blue, green, and gray, is traveling more than 1.6 million miles per day, according to scientific research. Our very center is our queen bee, bright, hot, and middle-aged. She’s a brilliant entity, the character of many stories, myths, and religions. She’s absolutely wonderful at a distance but absolutely deadly in close proximity.

She beholds the most sacred ingredient of every life: light.

Her name is sun, and we move around her, abiding in her governance over the planetary precincts. As we travel through her sprawling kingdom, our planet’s Northern Hemisphere receives less light because of the Earth’s axis of 23.5 degrees and its rotating position on the ecliptic plane. Less light means later sunrises, earlier sunsets, weaker sunrays, and colder temperatures. It’s winter, our queen bee’s way of keeping us obedient.

It’s a commandment that has defined our human history, both modern and ancient, and continuously dictates our time and space. Sometimes our passage through the seasons is bewildering, leaving us feeling leery and abandoned from the warmth and comfort of the sun.

To curb the status quo of winter, we’ve created a completely original 2012 Tour Guide with “25 ways to love North Idaho’s winter, even if you dislike it.”

These tips are guaranteed, if acted upon, to elevate your winter experience. One tip suggests attending a book signing, a lecture, or a poetry reading. Buy tickets for a comedy show. Try cross-country skiing or ice-skating. For skiing and snowboarding, we’ve got you covered with a guide to North Idaho’s best resorts: Lookout, Silver, and Schweitzer.

Defy your own expectations this winter, reach out of the status quo of winters past, and make this one your best.

–Shane Richard Bell