Humorous thoughts on adulthood – thank goodness for chocolate, drinks, friends, and duck tape!

Be Happy in the Day –

I always say finding the good isn’t hard if you want to find it.  This week found me thinking of the good and the thankful, as they were prevalent in my world on a personal scale.  I had actually thought about it the last few weeks as I watched people memorialize George W. Bush.  It was the first time I’d seen political divisions lessen, and it warmed my heart to see the things people appreciated about a man who clearly put people first in his life.

This week, it happened again closer to home.  John McCowen worked for the Carson-Macedonia, Oakland, and Riverside School Districts.  He spanned 3 school districts with 57 years of service.  57 years!  That’s truly incredible.  There are people who can’t stay in a job more than 2 weeks, and he made it 57 years and, let me assure you, the educational system is not for the weak at heart.  But he reminded me of another man I worked with in Bellevue who, when you asked him how his day was going, every day he answered with “Best day of my life!”  I believe Mr. McCowen lived with the same theory of “Be Happy in the Day!”  I remember his laughter and his excitement over sporting events.  He was the dad that never missed his kids’ games.  He was the guy who chose to coach cross country the first year for free just so there’d be a cross country team.  He was the guy who drove a bus because they needed someone to drive a bus.  John McCowen was a doer.

I noticed at his funeral visitation that there was a plaque that said something to the effect of “No child has their best day watching television.” He played cards.  He hunted.  He fished.  He played golf.  He was on the move, but he always had time to talk.  And isn’t that what we always hope for?  That someone will always have time for us?

Over 400 people showed up Wednesday night to show their respect for a man that made time to chat.  They showed up with thankful hearts and fun stories and good memories, not only for John, but for his family, as well.  For we lead by example.  I believe that Mr. McCowen taught the value of making time for others.  When I heard he was ill, my first thought was of the Riverside Hall of Fame induction this fall. Luckily, he was honored for has almost-6-decades of service.  The thing that stood out to me was his enjoyment of the moment, of the event, of the sheer appreciation of the people he was sitting with and what was happening.  I have this wonderful picture of him laughing with Carm Pigneri, clearly enjoying the moment.  He knew how to “Be Happy in the Day.”  Whether you’re a “This is the Day the Lord hath made, Let us rejoice and be Glad in it” or whether you are a “Be Happy in the Day” kind of person, it fit him.

I’m a worrier by nature, and I struggle to “Be Happy in the Day” often, but I respect those that can and aspire to be better at it.  John McCowen had it figured out.  And he knew the value of taking time to talk.  We live in a world where that value is quickly going by the wayside.  So today, I remind you to take the time to stop and chat.  And I remind you to be thankful for the good and kind servants put on this earth to help kids, especially those that give them 57 years.  That’s a life well-lived.

You can’t do much better than that…

So, friends, go forth and “Be Happy in the Day” in his honor.



Also, a special thank you to his family that shared him with all, and should you feel the urge, you may make donations to the Riverside Booster Club for a new marquee in the McCowen name.  Contact Niki Ford to do so.


New Year – New Proclamations – Still finding the Good

Day 3 of the new year… Every year, there are the people that make resolutions, those that don’t, and those that are just barely making it through the day, let alone thinking about tomorrow or beyond.  I’ve been all 3. Where are you today?  Failing miserably or well on your way to giving it up in June or winning?

Last year at this time, I was barely getting by, and the thought of a New Year’s resolution was more than I could even handle.  Sometimes, I wonder why we don’t make more resolutions like “eating more Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios” or “playing more putt-putt golf” but, instead, we usually self-hate and then torture ourselves.  As I look at the coming year, I have a few thoughts whether you’re the resolution type or not.  They are my own personal set of life rules, but I suggest you find yours, too, and then hold tight to them.

One –

I will not apologize for helping my nieces and nephews with pictures, scholarships, resumes, and weddings instead of finding time for curling my hair or putting on make-up.  Not one of you will remember my make-up instead of my help when I die.  I rest my case. (I ironically used “rest” lol)

Two –

I will not feel guilty about watching a Hallmark Christmas movie or even Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn instead of the news or educational programming.  A happy person is better than a well-informed one.  The end.

Three –

I will continue to remember birthdays and anniversaries, (possibly a day or two later than I used to), but I will not consider them irrelevant no matter how old you are… for I will not quit finding reasons to celebrate.

Four –

I won’t give up on finding the good.  Life is hard.  I may never attain the goals I had for myself but I will never quit looking for the good around me when we all need it most.  I vow to write about it, too, when my 4-year old deems it okay for me to be on the computer.  🙂

Five –

I will be who I am even if no one else appreciates it.  I truly enjoy making people happy and doing good and taking naps on the couch and eating too much cookie dough and voicing my opinion even if it may not be wanted, but I will not quit being that person.  I hate that there are people who don’t like me, but not enough to sway me.  If their point is valid, self improvement is not a foreign concept to me, but some haters just gotta hate.  I will be loyal to my cause.

Six –

I will always be a 4-Her.  The 4-H motto is “to make the best better.”  I feel that’s my message to all of you and to myself.  A lot of us are doing our best and some days, it still feels like we’re getting nowhere, but that’s because we want to make the best better, not because we’re not already doing it right.  Improvement is a wonderful goal as long as we realize we’ve already got a pretty amazing product the way it is.

And there are my proclamations/resolutions.  May you find your own things to not apologize for.  May you realize that you are more than what you look like.  May you be comfortable in your own skin.  May you put good into the world.  May you hope for better things.  May you never quit thinking or acting on those “What Ifs?” that make you better, stronger, and more successful, but may you never hate on yourself along the way…And it’s okay if you want to eat more Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios (they’re wonderful)!

Happy 2019, everyone!


Got a resolution you’d like to share?  Let’s hear it!  Got some life rules?  We’d love to hear those, too.

Also, thanks to Lumen 5 for the photo!

Nap, Drink, and Be Happy this Christmas!


So, I thought I was going to write a new holiday proclamation this year and be all PC, but I read my old version and realized I’m just not about PC.  I don’t regret a word.  So should you find yourself grumbling or irritated or even just simply tired, please read my annual reminder that being merry and bright, or merry and tipsy, are a gift you can give to everyone this Christmas, including yourself.

Jerry Maquire ain’t got nothing on me…

I am sick to death of listening to people complain about the holidays.  The greatest fun I have every year is not in opening a gift, it is in giving the gift.  And usually it’s the gift of laughter when somebody opens up a redneck laser pointer, or a bottle of homemade cootie spray, or a box of shower caps from all the hotels I’ve visited this year.
And as the Christmas holiday rolls around again, all I can ask is that you make Chevy Chase right: Let’s be the hap-hap-happiest effing bunch of A-holes this side of the nuthouse!
So here it is: My holiday proclamation I am most definitely expecting you to adhere to:
No offense to Thanksgiving, of course...

No offense to Thanksgiving, of course…

My Holiday Proclamation
1. The holidays come the same time every year. This is no surprise. You know this. I know this. Plan ahead! Don’t go all Hum-Bug and Maxine on everyone’s asses. Get some things done early so you’re not grumbling at everybody else.
2. Holidays and family are synonymous. You may not understand how they’re your family. You may not like all of them, and you may certainly be embarrassed by them, but they are your family. SUCK IT UP! Maybe if you go see them, you’ll find an appreciation for them, or at the very least, you’ll just leave being thankful for your own life. (And remember that kids should not be shorted because of their less-than-stellar parental unit. This fact goes for family and everyone else around you.) So play nice, and realize it’s not optional. I don’t know who told you it was, but they were wrong: FAMILY IS FAMILY and YOU MUST SEE THEM!
3. Try to make your parents happy if you are lucky enough to still have them. They gave you life. If it makes them happy and you can make it happen without physical harm, major expense, or psychological damage – DO IT!
4. Don’t tell me you’re too busy. Funny fact: so is everybody else! Don’t kid yourself. There’s nothing that you have to do that could possibly be more important than the PEOPLE who put up with you all year long!
5. Money isn’t everything. But if you have enough moola to buy a pack of cigarettes, a case of beer, or your daily Starbucks fix, then you can damn well buy a gift for a family member! And if you really can’t afford a gift, then make a mix cd or make a paper origami Christmas ornament, or write an effing note saying how much you respect, enjoy, or love someone. It’s the damn thought that counts anyway, dumbass! Seriously. Scrooge-like ways are not okay, especially when Pinterest is there to help you out! If 3 wise men on foot could haul their asses across a desert to see a newborn child they didn’t know, then you can make a green bean casserole and show up with a fake smile on your face for a couple of hours. And guess what? You better damn well share that case of beer you bought with the gift money, too!
6. Think of somebody else. Sure, go ahead…Tell me you’ve worked the last 15 days in a row, you’re tired, and gas is $3.50 a gallon. I get it. But here’s the thing: you’re not getting bombed (literally, possibly alcoholically) but you’re not in a barn giving birth, you’re not starving in Africa, or physically unable to pick up the damn phone! So make a donation. Make a long-avoided phone call. Send an anonymous gift. Invite a family-less neighbor to supper. Just do SOMETHING! Complacency kills me.
7. Schedule things! Hell, double book if you have to and drive like a banshee across town. But quit telling people you’ll “get back to them when you know something”. Here’s a thought: why don’t you actually RSVP?! Guess what? I know something… It starts with a C and ends in ommit. Commit to showing up and then show up! If you are healthy enough to walk out that door, then you should be showing up to see the people who actually cared enough to see you that they invited you somewhere.
8. Damn it, be happy! I know it sounds awfully simple, but for God’s sake, enjoy the holidays you look so forward to every year. Somebody did something right a long time ago that made you like the holidays. Remember that! Then promptly forget about your petty squabbles, the endless to-do list, and the cost of everything. It isn’t who dies with the most stuff or has the most consecutive days of work – it’s the person who people are sorry to see gone, and may even miss because they were actually THERE in the trenches with you at one point.
9. Red Green said it best: we’re all in this together. Everybody has issues, even the ones that look like they’re perfect. Quit dwelling on the reasons why nothing will work, who screwed you over, and who bought you a better gift. Just do something good for somebody else. And start at home with the people you usually take advantage of or dump on when everything else is crappy. And don’t think for one second that I don’t know that applies to me, too. It does.
10. Finally, put on your princess crown and surprise yourself. Do something you usually don’t do around the holidays that will bring you happiness. Go bowling. Watch a movie. Read a magazine. Say “happy holidays” to an enemy. Relax and not dust the corners. If you’re happy, everybody else has a helluva lot better chance of being happier, too.
So there it is – that’s what I want from you, one and all, this effing holiday season! Please, don’t disappoint me.
And just for the record, I’m planning on taking my own advice, too.
P.S. – I do actually hope you have a happy holiday season full of good drinks, great food, and a few stories you wouldn’t dare tell other people! Warmest greetings and holiday wishes!
erica bolton carley (proclaimer and holiday lover and originator of document seen above – and yes, for those of you who know me, this is a reprint of a message I shout from the rooftops each year. And feel free to spread my words to every grinch-like-scrooge-like person you know!)
Merry Christmas!

Check the calendar! Good stuff to add!

Wow!  Another jam-packed week! Can’t believe how much is going on and aren’t we all lucky for it? So what should be on your calendar?  Let me tell you.

1 – Still foundered from Halloween candy?  Don’t feel bad, so are the rest of us!  But if you would rather not gain another 10 lbs. and the Reese’s are just too tempting, you can solve all that by taking your leftover candy to Omni Dental or the school as they have teamed up to send all candy to our US troops overseas.  Man, that freaking rocks!  Here’s your chance to not only save yourself a few pounds but give back to our military.  It doesn’t get much better than that, and it can be one of your good deeds for The Blessed Turkey Project (which I will get to in a minute).

2 – It’s a big school week as Friday kicks off with a soup supper at the high school brought to you by The Knights of Pythias and Riverside ROMP in hopes of paying for some music-related student trips among other things.  Find the details here.

3 – It’s followed up by Riverside’s production of Beauty and the Beast, a classic musical for all ages.  And I bet you recognize some of those faces!  Support the kids – they are the future of Iowa. Details here.

4 – So not only can you get out of cooking on Friday night, but PEO of Oakland is sponsoring their annual spaghetti lunch on Sunday.  So not only can you skip making lunch, but your money goes to a good cause like scholarships for Riverside students!  Can’t beat that! Get all the details here.

5 – Okay, so this happens the following weekend, Nov. 10, but you’ll want to get your tickets now when they are cheaper!  Impact Hill (our local nonprofit) is having a mother-son event with laser tag and a scavenger hunt and and and!  They’ll be big before you know it!  Better get your tickets while they’re still willing! Check out all the cool stuff they have planned here.

6 – Also that weekend, Macedonia is having their annual Veteran’s Day Chicken Dinner on the 11th.  The funds help keep the DeWitt building up and going, plus, we all need to take a moment to remember our veterans.  For all the bickering we seem to be doing, we couldn’t if our troops didn’t protect that freedom for us.

7 – Finally, on a personal note, November 1 begins my 7th annual Blessed Turkey Project.  For those of you who haven’t been involved in the past, it’s much like many other groups that take time to be thankful via social media each day leading up to Thanksgiving, but I also encourage others to do acts of kindness and pay it forward.  The thing is that I ask people to belong to this group not so I can spam you, but so we can make your days brighter.

I’m telling you this because I have always been a person that saw the negative first.  My way of combatting that is by trying to see the good.  As the holidays roll around and the elections that continue to cause tension, I ask that you consider joining my group, if not mine, than find another, but I can honestly tell you that you won’t be sorry reading people’s pieces of happiness.  Light begets light.

Would I love you to come on board with me?  Most definitely.  I take great pride in The Blessed Turkey Project.  I started it 7 years ago because I’m a blessed turkey.  On any given day, I will complain about stupid 1st world problems, but I know at the end of that same day, I have a home, food, family, a job, a town I love, friends, and so much more that I forget to appreciate because I’m too busy comparing myself to the Joneses.  So if you have those moments, too, come with me (I’ll approve ya).  You won’t be sorry.


Did I miss something?  Let me know.  Have a witness tale to tell about being part of The Blessed Turkey Project, please add it.

Top 10 Things to Participate in THIS week!


If you like to be busy, this is the week for you!  I have a Top 10 list of things to do this week!  Love when that happens!  So let’s get to them:

10 – It’s Halloween Week!  Woo-hoo!  I wasn’t much of a Halloween girl, but my little girl has made me re-think the holiday!  First off, Carson kicks off the Trunk or Treat Events on Friday night from 4-6pm on Broadway with the Carson Methodist Church following it up with a soup supper!  NO cooking for you on Friday!

9 – Also, on Friday, if you’d rather get your BOOze on for Halloween, Tail Gators is having their Halloween Party complete with a costume contest and karaoke.

8 – Oakland will be hosting the new amp-ed up version of Trunk or Treat on Sunday!  We’ve got the Chalk Walk kicking off at 2:30-5:30pm for viewers to walk though and check out.  At 3, the fun run kicks off (but registration starts at 2:30 with a $5 entry donation to Impact Hill).  From 4-5pm, let your kids get their candy-fix at the Trunk or Treat event on Main Street and they can score non-candy items in the Haunted Garden at the museum.  Also new, the Great Duck Hunt will take place, too.  Anyone finding a Halloween rubber duck on Main Street can turn it in at the museum to receive a prize donated by Casey’s!  Have questions, let me know.  I’ve got the scoop on all of it!  And it’s pretty close to my heart so please be sure to show up!

7 – Macedonia will also be hosting their Halloween event on Halloween from 4:30 to 6:30!  So 3 towns – 3 chances to score candy to last you till Easter!

6 – And Buck Snort is making your Halloween an easy one with Halloween specials all day!

5 – I’m also giving a shout-out to the Grist Mill.  Tickets are on sale this week for Steel Magnolias.  Go get your 80’s groove on and support local theatre.  Shows will be November 16, 17, and 18.

4 – But if you’re also the crafty type and in the mood to volunteer, Grist Mill is looking for people to make wreathes for their Wreath Raffle.  Wreath donations will be taken at Steel Magnolia shows and auctioned off in December at the Cantata.

3 – Speaking of Macedonia, they are also selling tickets, starting this week, for their Home Tour to be held December 2. Tickets are $10.

2 – The Station in Hancock has your Saturday covered.  They are hosting their Halloween BOOS Party with drink specials, dj karaoke, and FREE chili!

1 – And finally, I ask that you tune in next week – there are a whole lotta things going on as we roll into the holidays, and November 1, I start my 7th Annual Blessed Turkey Project which I invite all of you to participate in. I will explain more in depth next week for you newbies, but we tell what we’re thankful for and throw in some good deeds. I know time is of the essence the next couple of months, but I promise you the good vibes are worth the extra minutes.

So there’s your week at a glance!  Try to keep up. Lol.

And, as always, thanks for being a loyal reader.

Do right.

Do good.

Do yours.


Did I miss an event for the week?  Help me out!

A “Good” Week for a Donut and a Marg to go with it!

The gloom and doom of a rainy, snowy, cold week can really get to a person, but that’s why you have me here to find the good for you!  And I have it in spades this week!

First off, a little local info.  The Oakland Manor and the Buck Snort are teaming up again to have a drive-thru coffee and donut run this Thursday.  How awesome is that?  I’m a huge fan of a drive-through, especially when you have kids!  Getting my kid in and out of her car seat is not a task you want to start off with in the morning!  And even better, all the proceeds go to the Riverside principal’s cabinet.  What a great cause and what great businesses that are willing to help out like that!  And if you didn’t go the last time, let me tell you that the donuts are FAB-U-LOUS!  I had a sweet apple turnover.  It was the highlight of my day!

Secondly, listen to this:  the Riverside FFA boys are doing a harvest meal for all the local farmers!  You can order your meal on Saturday, October 20th to be delivered to the field!  (Assuming it isn’t a giant lake by then.)  What a great program and what a great nod to agriculture for Future Farmers of America!  I feel like that is definitely some good in the world.

Third, El Sol is celebrating their 1-year anniversary of being in Oakland on Tuesday!  I’m so happy for them!  What a great thing that we continue to have new businesses come to Oakland and succeed!  They are even having specials for all you Mexican-food lovers!

Fourth, if you haven’t been watching The Voice and you like to see good in the world, start tuning in.  I can’t say enough how good it feels to watch people’s dreams come true, to hear stories of perseverance, to see people succeed at their lifelong passions, and to see people overcome.  I truly believe their stories give everyone’s stories hope.

Fifth, as I, and many others, continue to prep the Trunk or Treat event in Oakland, I am again reminded of how great and willing people are to help and make something special.  I’ve reached out to a lot of businesses and people and so many of them are coming through.  Hopefully, it’s a win-win for all of us, but there’s nothing like small town pride.  Be sure to put the event on your calendar:  October 28!

So it’s mid-October, Christmas is coming.  The snow is already here.  There’s been a lot of rain.  Everything is behind schedule and the days are getting shorter, but here we are with 5 things to make our week a little better and a little brighter.  Never doubt that there’s good waiting for you. Sometimes, you just have to look a little harder than others.

And remember that if you can’t find it – make it.  Do right. Do good. Do yours.

Happy Week! Happy Life!


Got some more good to add?  Let’s hear it!

Weekend Plans – I’ve got good stuff for you!

So it’s one of those weekends where it feels like there are too many things going on to hit them all, and, yet, I want to!

Now, I’m sure most of you don’t have a cattle show and a 50th anniversary on your agenda like I do lol, but still.  If you aren’t swamped with sporting events or digging out your fall clothing so as not to freeze at work on Monday, here are a couple of things I hope you hit this weekend:


1 – The Oakland Country Club and Golf Course is having a fundraiser on Saturday night.  Listen, we are lucky to have not only a golf course, but another dining option in our town every summer.  Pretty thankful for that!  And, secretly or not so secretly, I’m hoping that by next summer that I can get those 16 oz. steaks on Thursday nights to go!  Help them make that happen for me, will ya? Lol.  Head to the course for the golf tournament or hit the fish fry in the evening or do both!

2 – As most of you know, 4-H is close to my heart.  You know my rule of thumb – I’ve never seen a true 4-Her that failed at life. So the 4-H clubs are having a Pancake Feed Supper Fundraiser Sunday night from 5-7.  How ‘bout you go load up on some pancakes and help out a good cause?  Nothing better than not having to cook and support good kids in the process!

3 – Good Neighbor Day is Friday.  I’m a huge advocate for that lasting into the weekend if you need it to!  And nobody’s going to complain about a cookie delivery being on a Saturday!  So be sure to thank your neighbors and businesses this weekend for being a huge part of your days.

4 – I always say support local.  Jackie Ackers has made the top 8 for singing the national anthem at the national rodeo finals.  She’s from Oakland, lives in Carson, and it could be huge for her.  Please go vote for her!

5 – I want to talk about the upcoming Oakland Halloween event.  I know, I know, it’s not even October!   But it is next week and I want it on your calendar.  So the chamber of commerce has decided to expand Trunk or Treat to amp it up!  Bigger, better, and even a portion for adults. Yes, we will be having the usual trunk or treat for all the little ghosts and goblins and inflatable unicorns, but we will also be adding a haunted garden for the littles which will be held in the museum’s garden and will involve non-candy treats and some costumed adults along the path (still looking for a few Halloween-loving adults to dress up for us, we’ll provide the goodies to pass out)!  But that’s not all – I sound like the Price is Right announcer.  We will be hosting the first ever chalk walk on Main Street, too.

And we need you!  We need all of you to come chalk a block on our street!  Businesses, individuals, families, artists, nonprofits – whoever you are – come color a block in honor of Halloween!  We are super excited to see the creativity of Riverside folks!  And don’t tell me you aren’t doing it because you can’t draw.  Trust me when I say neither can I!  But I can make an 8X8 block look respectable based on my ability to write words, draw sunshines, and stars. Lol. So please make your way to the Google Sheet and put that little name of yours down.  They say the happiest people are those that do for others and I’ve just given you two opportunities to volunteer.

That being said, I hope your weekend brings you talks with your neighbors, a little relaxation, a sense of community, and an umbrella-ed beverage or two.

Happy weekend!

Avoid the calls to the cops and keep the cups of sugar coming: Good Neighbor Day!

photo cred to Lumen 5, see the full video at Riverside Links Facebook or website

One of the blessings of moving home is knowing our neighbors.  If you’ve never lived in a city, trust me when I tell you that you can live next to someone for 5 years and never know their names.  It really happens.  So when the Riverside Links group asked that we encourage National Good Neighbor Day, I was on board.

The benefits of knowing your neighbors are many.  First and foremost, they say that people who feel included and wanted in their communities are not only less likely to do something bad to someone, but more likely to volunteer and help.  Um, yeah, I don’t think I have to explain myself any further on that.  It’s also just nice to be able to get a friendly wave or a sidewalk scooped if the snowblower isn’t working.  Just sayin’.

But as a person who came back for the exact reason of wanting to be part of a community, I can’t not advocate for a day like this!  I know I am thankful for neighbors!  Ones that let my kid jump on their trampolines and ones that sold me square bales when we were desperate.  You just can’t put a number on the worth of those things!

However, it is also important to remember our neighbors that run businesses for us.  When I look around town, I feel so lucky that we have so many options here.  Keith and Rick always bail me out when I have a low tire or a car issue.  The Pharmacy carries sugar free cough medicine when we are in dire need. And, for the love of God, I am so thankful for Dairy Queen’s drive-through for a mom who doesn’t want to take her three-year-old out of the car every two seconds and who, well, let’s face it, loves ice cream!  There’s nothing these folks love more than knowing they are important to us, as well.

And maybe you have someone who lives near your parents or your grandma and you know they do a little extra because you don’t live there, this might be a perfect time to wish them a special day, too.

So let’s take Friday, September 28th, or every day if you want, to say thank you to our good neighbors.  Let’s let them know we are glad they’re here and that they make a difference in our lives.  And no worries, it doesn’t have to be anything huge – we’re talking a quick thank you note or a shout-out on Facebook or an ice cream treat from Dairy Queen. Sure, they would love your homemade cookies and wreathes, but if you don’t have time for that, don’t skip it altogether.  A 6-pack of adult beverages or a daisy mix can go a long way in saying someone is valued. 🙂

Listen, I know the world is a busy place and one more thing to do is one more thing to do, but I can’t tell you how great you will feel for taking a couple of minutes out of your day to brighten someone else’s.  I know I sound like Mr. Rogers the way I preach this, but, honestly, I’m pretty okay with that!

So go forth and spread cheer! 🙂

I have even included a little printable for you to attach to your well wishes so they fully understand why they are getting a special treat from you!  My little contribution to your generosity.

Do right.

Do good.

Do yours.

And, as always, thanks for playin’.


Printable below:

Print to put with your Good Neighbor treats!

Riverside Hall of Fame Reflections

For those of you that couldn’t be there, I’d like to take time to talk about the 25th Anniversary Hall of Fame Induction at Riverside.  As a writer, things like that leave an impression, and I guess I just needed to ramble a little bit about it.

The induction included all the Jr. High and High School kids in an assembly-type situation in the gym.  The inductees lined up on the court in chairs on display for all.  I happen to know more than one of them was slightly uncomfortable sitting there in front of us.  I know, well, because, they were part of my childhood, too.

As the students filed in, the inductees sat and chatted amongst themselves.  If you see my pictures, you will note the real comradery between them.  That, my friends, is my first takeaway.  We all call this home.  You can be anywhere in the world, but when you walk into the high school gym, you know you are officially home.

Dr. Mitchell read off their bios.  All were beyond impressive in their own right.  Clearly, they were solid candidates for the first class of the Riverside Hall of Fame.

As I listened to their commentary, a few things became quite clear.  All of them had people they wanted to thank, all of them had support, and all believed that they got to where they are because they worked for it, not because they were smarter or greater than the next guy.

I couldn’t have been more proud to sit and listen to them talk about success that came from the backing they got from people I, too, knew.  I couldn’t have been more proud to sit and listen to them talk about their home town as the starting point for their successes.  I couldn’t have been more proud to say I knew most of them.  I can’t truly explain the warmth that came over me listening to them thank people in the community with names I knew and loved equally, of the deceased they still remember, and of the teachers that gave them hope.  It was like the feeling you get when you truly listen to Lee Greenwood sing “I’m Proud to Be an American” on Independence Day.

Marion Coons was first.  He was a HyVee legend.  I had never heard of him I’m embarrassed to say.  I have now.  His bio was something impressive and his Coons Foundation support even more so.  Unfortunately, nobody from the family was able to be here and Marion is deceased.

Next up, Clark Christensen.  I remember him as the very tan, very cute lifeguard at the pool.  I don’t think he’d be upset to hear that. Lol.  I know him now as the nicest guy on Facebook.  He is the first to offer congratulatory remarks and financial contributions.  Oh, and then there’s that whole Senior Finance Leader of The Coca-Cola Company’s Global Procurement Organization thing. Wow! His words of advice to the kids sitting there were truly heartfelt and well thought-out.

Clark was followed by the dedication to Wm. “Rich” Livengood.  I’ll be honest, I never knew Rich was from here.  My knowledge of him was from Treynor.  To listen to his life on paper was incredible.  18 911 calls a day as an Omaha Firefighter and a war veteran to name two.  To hear that his death was ruled “in the line of duty” due to PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) is surely evident and that he was the inspiration for so many new protocols for active first responders is gratifying.  Knowing he did not die in vain.  But Deanna Fender, who spoke on his behalf, was also phenomenal.  Her words about “being present” resonated with this mom of a 3 ¾ year old.   And watching Matt Bowen deep in memories was special in its own right.

But perhaps the greater takeaway was watching Dr. Trevor Richardson as he listened and followed Deanna on stage.  Trevor, now the Director of Counseling and Sport Psychology at Oklahoma State University was clearly touched.  That’s what happens when you have hometown loyalty and have a psychology major.  Trevor was from the first class to graduate from Riverside and said simply, “You can’t do it alone.”  He followed it with “look out for each other.”  Good words.

Next up was Dr. Cory Vorthmann who admitted Trevor had been his neighbor and babysitter as a child.  Gotta love small town connections!  Cory is the Chief Academic Officer for the Council Bluffs Community School District.  Let me just say, the man knows how to give a speech!  And it didn’t hurt that he started off commenting that he gets some of his best thoughts on a tractor seat.  This farm girl appreciated that! He repeatedly mentioned that his success was built on the shoulders of giants – giants in our community – teachers, farmers, parents, and classmates.  As a kid, those are taken for granted.  As an adult, we realize what we had.

From there, they moved onto the teams being honored.  The 1996 Riverside Wrestling Team was the Traditional State Tournament Champions with 27.5 points and State Runner-up in Dual Team Tournament.  They were coached by Mitch Anderson and the team is listed here.  As an alumni, I was very familiar with Mitch and his coaching of champions.  A man of few words, he talked about the kids who went on to college sports and the number of kids on his team that were also on the honor roll.  Both make you successful.

The football team of 2001 also had a crazy-good record and a lot of talent.  To see all the names, check out the list on Facebook.  The spokesperson for the group was Mr. Marv Thompson.  I had the pleasure of having Marv as my PE teacher.  He’s the reason I didn’t hate PE.  Marv gave credit to his coaches, the athletes, and especially Jake Havick, the captain.  Marv went on to say it was not his football accomplishments (of which I know there were many) that hang on his wall, but instead it was his certificate saying he was on the dean’s list in college that does.  Good life lessons.

But what few might have seen was that Marv had told his former players to stand up and they did and they did not sit as they listened to him speak until he told them to which brought me to another one of my takeaways:  Respect means something in terms of success.

Loyalty to your coach and teacher.

Unfortunately, most of the students had to leave before they announced Mr. John McCowen.  I have to say I was truly in awe.  Not only did he do the trifecta working at Carson-Macedonia, then moving onto Oakland and finally working for Riverside, but the man served for 57 years.  57 years!!!!!!!!!!!!  22 of them driving a bus after he retired.  I can’t tell you what a feat that is.  And he had the biggest smile of them all.

The presentations finished up with Carmella Pigneri.  Carm kept her words few but said she and Doc had simply known when they came here that this was the town for them.  Thank God for that.  Carm’s patience has been astounding for all the time we’ve taken from her family.  She raised a family in our town, and she has been on more committees and boards and done enough volunteer work to seal her place in heaven!  Carm was honored as a Friend of Riverside.

I guess what I can say beyond that is that they make me proud to be from here.  Here’s to small towns everywhere, but I’m bias, I sure love ours.  And here’s to sitting next to people you share a connection with, even if the years may be vast between them.  And here’s to showing our youth that there’s a bright future waiting for them if they want it bad enough.  And here’s to representing, because when you walk out those doors whether they were C-M, Oakland, or Riverside, you are the future and the epitome of being raised in a small town and at the end of the day, all I can say is, never forget where you come from… We won’t forget you…

And God bless our hometowns.

Home Coming – not one word but two

A lot of places are celebrating homecoming this week, or in the coming weeks.  As most of you know, I’m a huge fan of any reason to celebrate.  Homecoming is no different.  Yes, let’s do cheers, make floats, scream loud, do the fight song, and laugh at our kids or ourselves.

But as we start thinking about dresses, football games, corsages, spirit days, and pep rallies, I can’t help but wonder if we ever think about the word itself:  homecoming.  The whole reason for the dances, parades, and pomp and circumstance is about bringing everyone home to celebrate.  It’s often when we see older siblings show up or out-of-towners that come to cheer on the home team.  And the great part about it is that they are home.

Everybody is in one place celebrating their home, a topic that unites.  No matter where you go in this world or what you do, this was, and always will be, where you called home.  Home leaves its imprint.  It is where your values are learned, your successes and failures begin, and where you hung your hat (or tube top or Chuck Taylors or scarf).  There really is no place like home.

This week, Riverside will be welcoming home a group of wonderfully successful people and inducting them into the first Hall of Fame class in honor of the 25th anniversary.  It is a mixture of fabulous people – some that graduated from Macedonia, Carson, or Oakland and some that graduated from Riverside, but all of these people have made an impact in the world.  Good on them.

Let’s celebrate these people who have made our towns the beginning of something even bigger.  Let’s celebrate that they make us look good.  Let’s celebrate that they are making the world a better place.  Let’s celebrate them because they are home and they are part of us.  It is their homecoming.

Yes, some still live in our midst and, for that, I know I am extremely thankful, but I am also thankful that when the others leave here they say they are from a little town in Southwest Iowa called …  There is specialness in that statement.

We’ve all had our place in the gossip mill.  We’ve all had our picture in the paper.  We’ve all had our walk on the gym floor or the football field in a cap and gown.  We’ve all called this place home.  It is our unifying factor and one that should not be taken for granted.

Whether you are jealous, in awe, proud, or waiting for your moment in the sun, welcome these inductees with open arms, for they have come home to the very place that made all of us and will make your children what they are.  Lift up these examples as what the future holds and the goodness in the world.  For this homecoming is our opportunity to remember why we chose, and continue to choose, this as our home.

Let this be your Bon Jovi-Mellancamp-Rodney Adkins-Phillip Phillips weekend because “this is where we come from, we’re givin’ this life everything we got and then some, it ain’t always pretty, but it’s real, it’s the way we were made, wouldn’t have it any other way.”  Be those people.

Go Bulldogs!