Sometimes life has a way of guiding (or pushing) us in certain directions. I’ve felt that way many times as I’m sure most of you have. For me it really started in 2004 at age 30.
Connecting Communities in
True North Idaho
I took a much needed summer vacation “out west” to Snowbird in Utah with my younger sister. I’d just graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Union College while working full-time for Bechtel. I lived just east of Albany in a rural part of upstate New York. In Utah, we had fun rafting, horseback riding, hiking, and seeing the sites. We even drove into Idaho, taking pictures by the “Welcome to Idaho” sign. Sitting in my email when I returned to work was a temporary transfer opportunity to support the Naval Reactors Facility (NRF) in Southeast Idaho. I knew it was meant for me and I got the assignment! I finished hiking the Adirondack 46 High Peaks a few days before I started my drive to Idaho Falls. I did a small hike at each stop across the country and saw the sights.
One of my first friends at work was a fellow engineer with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. Mike Neff was an older single gentleman with a fun and slightly mischievous twinkle in his eyes. We hiked, biked, cross country skied, snowshoed, downhill skied, and snowmobiled together. Unbeknownst to him at the time, he charmed me with his stories of drilling water wells with his dad and working on the road crew through college in his home town of Custer, SD. He impressed me with his almost magical ability of knowing how machines worked—even when he’d never seen them before. He also told great stories from being a nuclear submarine officer on the USS Pintado during the Cold War. I asked him if he’d like to date and he said, “Yes!”
We traveled the world together knowing there is no time like the present when you don’t yet have kids. Our first trip was to Maine—Mike’s 50th state. For our second trip we purchased a 15 day Eurail pass and followed the sun while also hitting a few bucket list locations of Mike’s (like the Alps, and Lake Como, Italy as he’d seen the movie A Month on the Lake). We even found the Adam Naef (his distant ancestor) exhibit in the Zurich Museum. I think we mostly lived on paninis and gelato that trip!
We found that cruising was another good way to visit many places fairly inexpensively in a short space of time. Our trips included the Mediterranean where we rode camels, saw the pyramids and Sphinx, visited the first ever Olympic stadium, Athens, Rome, Pantheon, and Parthenon on the Costa Concordia a few years before it sunk. We cruised to Antarctica from Tierra del Fuego, up the coast of Norway, around the Baltic, Vancouver to Alaska, and did a Yangtze River cruise in China. We also visited his sister, nieces, and nephews for Thanksgiving each year in Seattle and visited my family back East when we had the chance.
Two years into our adventures Mike proposed and I said, “Yes!” A year later we got married and a year after that we welcomed a son to our family. I stopped working to care for him and we adopted Ace, a 10 month-old black lab mix from the local shelter. Two years later we had another precious boy. They always kept us busy and on our toes with never-ending energy. They loved climbing and jumping. Our youngest was always trying to keep up with his big brother.
Now the boys enjoy biking, building things, fishing, camping, climbing, skiing, wrestling, school, reading, annoying each other, and swimming. A couple months after we moved to Sandpoint when the boys had just turned 4 and 6, my oldest and I attempted the 1.76 mile Long Bridge Swim together. He made it half-way! I had to finish on my own. I swam with him each time, but two years ago he had to wait for me instead of the other way around! In 2021 both boys swam. Oldest went ahead and I swam with our youngest since it was his first time until he got to the pylons and then I told him to go ahead at his own pace so both boys finished ahead of me.
Three years ago we adopted Sandy, a 5 month old Husky and Black Mouth Cur mix. She adores Ace, keeping him young. He seems to like her too. In November we adopted Ranger, an 8-week-old Great Pyrenees and Red Fox Labrador mix. Since we got the runt, we didn’t think he’d grow too big but his feet are huge; he’s 60 pounds at 6 months! He’s very intelligent and loving but stubborn. He and Sandy are great pals. Ace keeps him in line and looks after him.
I enjoy the community and friendship offered at the Lake Pend Oreille Toastmasters Club as well as the opportunity to improve my public speaking and communication skills. As a mom and wife, I learned about nutrition through the Weston A. Price Foundation and started the Sandpoint chapter. Mike is always busy with a home or car project as well as helping the boys learn how to fix things and chop wood. We are both active in the boys’ education: chaperoning field trips, challenging their understanding, explaining concepts, and encouraging experimenting and reading.
When Mike was a year from his early retirement date (to spend more time with our growing boys) we went on vacation to Coeur d’Alene and loved the area. I went to work scoping out engineering jobs in North Idaho and got one in Sandpoint as a manufacturing engineer for Unicep Packaging starting June 1, 2015. We purchased a home nearby to be close to town and work. I found that I loved the problem solving of manufacturing engineering but the job wasn’t the best fit so I went to work for Thorne Research doing similar work; unfortunately, they moved to South Carolina. I ended up in Spokane at Jubilant HolisterStier. The people there were great but my family and I worried every day about the 3+ hours of commuting, especially with the snow and deer. We had grown to love Sandpoint and I knew I needed to find something closer so we could stay. I moved my timetable up a notch after my place of work found a new bullet hole in the building. Fortunately, that’s when I saw that Lake Pend Oreille Neighbors magazine was looking for a new publisher! I’d always enjoyed connecting people and was impressed with Best Version Media (BVM) and the training in Las Vegas so I resigned my engineering job effective February 18th and made my first advertising sale for the magazine the following day.
Our boys enjoy helping me and being a part of the magazine. I encourage them to write the kids activity articles. They prefer taking community snapshots and riding around town on their bikes taking pictures of signs on local business vans and trucks. Mike is my rock, running interference and helping with everything at home. He leaves the talking with people to me.
I love using my problem solving and people skills to help businesses connect with the Sandpoint, Sagle, and Hope areas and provide great content to the readers. One business owner wrote, “Your enthusiasm and obvious natural marketing talent is greatly appreciated! Opening our eyes to accommodating our locals was also very helpful.” I enjoy getting to know my neighbors and local business owners—telling their stories through the feature family articles and business profiles.
I had some business owners tell me that they didn’t want to advertise to the general public but they wanted to be able to connect with other business owners so I started Bonner & Boundary Business Connections monthly magazine in June 2021. It had a good run with some great businesses but I struggled to keep up with the changing address list for all the businesses in Bonner and Boundary counties and couldn’t find a good way to maintain it. So, after 7 issues, I decided to cancel the magazine and incorporate more business items into Lake Pend Oreille Neighbors.
The more I talked with business owners and neighbors, the more I realized I could help bring people together in other ways too. With all of the new people and new local businesses, we needed a health and wellness fair. So, I entered the event-hosting arena, promoting, organizing, and sponsoring the New Year, New You! Health & Wellness Fair on January 22, 2021. One of the highlights was the vendor networking dinner the evening before led by Mickey Quinn of Mickey Quinn Consulting and Level UP networking group.
The Panhandle Building Contractors Association (PBCA) sponsored the Home & Garden Show which hasn’t happened for the last two years. Unfortunately, they dissolved and the existing members were absorbed into the CDA chapter, North Idaho Building Contractors Association (NIBCA). I knew we needed this show so I called them last summer to see if they had plans to put it on in 2022 and they said no. I made up my mind then to do that too since no one else was.
If you are interested in being a part of one of the shows, have an idea for another one, or are looking to connect with the community contact me, Emily Neff, at 208-360-7937 or [email protected] The favorite parts of my job are helping and connecting people. I look forward to hearing from you!