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

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!

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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!

9/11 – Remembrance and Hope

Today is the date of perhaps one of the most profound days of my life.  If I made a timeline of the most important days of my life, this would be one of them.  Yes, it really does rank with my wedding day and the birth of my daughter.  9/11 will never be forgotten in my heart.

I’ve told this before, but I was teaching in a military town the day 9/11 happened.  My students came to school and led me to a TV.  I watched it unfold.  I heard that parents of my students were in the Pentagon.  I freaked out as they announced the president was 3 miles away from where I stood.

Perspective is everything, my friends.  I went home from school that day during my plan time and I left messages on answering machines (yes, I’m that old) in case we were bombed, too. I felt like a sitting duck with the world knowing the President of the United States was a minute away, but I was one of the lucky ones.  It didn’t happen to me.

After 20 years in a military town, I have the privilege of understanding how lucky we are to have a military as incredible as ours.  I also have an understanding of how you can be targeted for it.  I even understand how one day can change someone’s lifetime.  I do not take that lightly.

Every year on this day, I remember.  Every year on this day, I am a little more thankful for what I’ve been blessed with. Every year on this day, I see the greatness we often miss because we are watching the bad guys on the news, social media, and on the street.

So I thought I’d share some images that give me hope, from the simplest to the patriotic to the celebration of life.  Maybe they will bring you a little hope, too, today, and everyday…

God bless America.

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Finding the Good and a Lesson learned, Senator McCain.

I’m not a political person, nor do I ever wish to be, but I do believe in finding the good.  I watched a piece of the McCain funeral this morning, and it left me crying.  Not because I knew him or because of his politics but because of a life well-lived.  I watched as people in political power showed their good sides, their humanity, and their speech-giving skills.  I watched as a family loved and grieved.  I watched as people truly showed they cared.  For every criticism John McCain received, there were thousands of compliments.  That, my friends, is damn impressive.  It all goes back to a quote I had on my wall for years when I was teaching, “Let us so live that, when we pass, even the undertaker will be sorry.”

I actually have a John McCain recollection myself.  As a teacher, I said the Pledge of Allegiance every day with my students.  I will admit that, some days, it was said out of habit, not out of appreciation for our country.  Then, one day, I read somewhere about how John McCain had said that once you’ve been in captivity, you realize the true allegiance of singing the national anthem or saying the pledge, that it has a whole new meaning once you’ve been denied the right to do so.  From that point on, when I hear myself going through the motions instead of appreciating the tradition of it, I stop and thank God for putting me here.

It seems crazy, but some man I never knew taught me a great lesson – that you must appreciate the moment you are in and the gift of being part of this nation.  One man did that.  It’s been years since I read that and it’s stuck with me.  One man made a difference, an impact.  And as for those who continue to be frustrated with our nation – go forth and be that one man or woman that does not seek political lines but buries them and makes America great in whatever manner you are called to.

We may not all have our moments in the sun, but we can all worship the same sun.

And as I always say:

Do right.

Do good.

Do yours.

Rest in peace, Senator McCain, you did yours…

1st Day of School Pics, Finding the Good, and Donia Day!

My mom her senior year!

I don’t know about you, but my Facebook newsfeed has been filled up like a fat guy at a buffet with first day of school pictures!  And I LOVE it!  For all of you looking for good in the world, it’s right in front of you with shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops, and some nervous folded arms.  For every crappy person you see on the news, there’s a mom or dad who stopped to take a pic of their kids on the first day of school.  For every bad guy, there’s a parent freaking out that it’s the first day or the last first day of their kid’s educational career with tears in their eyes.  I know it’s easy to notice the bad, but it sure isn’t hard to love on these pics.

There are the “I-can’t-believe-my-mother-wants-a-picture-I’m-so-embarrassed” looks.  There are the “I-get-to-ride-the-bus-and-see-my-friends” giggles.  There are the “I’m-gonna-throw-up-I’m-so-nervous-so-take-the-picture-fast” smiles, and the innocent “I-get-to-go-to-school-finally” half-smirks, but the ones nobody talks about are the “I-have-to-leave-my-mommy-and-I-can’t-stop-clinging-to-her-leg” cries.  And even though they seem sad, they aren’t.  Why?  Because their mommies or daddies are so sweet to them, they can’t even imagine not being right at their sides, and that, my friends, is good in the world.

Darius Rucker had a huge hit earlier this year with his song about “When Was the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time?”  For all these kids, it happens constantly, and for a mom of a 3.5 year old, it happens almost as regularly! Lol.  Just in the last week, I’ve sat through a children’s show at the Iowa State Fair (never done that before). I’ve received my first paycheck from the Atlantic newspaper.  I figured out how to decoupage deck blinds and get purple ink off my couch.  Plenty of firsts around here. Lol.  But if your life isn’t full of them, you can change it.  And you can start with putting good into the world.  Open doors for others.  Try a new recipe, or if you happen to be local – head to Donia Day if you haven’t before.

Saturday (the 25th) will be a big day in the little town of Macedonia, Iowa.  Flea market, craft fair, garden contest, parade, the museums will be open, and the part I think sounds like a riot – bed races – right down the main street in ‘Donia!  What a blast!  And if you are a local and you’ve been, I hear the new Donia Saloon will be open for business so there’s your new place and 1st time visit!  Plus, if you’re a regular, you’re probably happy to hear that the Back 40 will be open for the occasion, too!  Lots to get excited about!

So here’s to finding good, having first days, creating firsts, and commemorating it!

Send me those selfies!

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Got something to add?  Have a recent first?  Let’s hear about it!  Or see the pic!

Tips for Iowa State Fair Novices (on non-lifers, at least)

Balloon Sculpture is Amazing!

Don’t want to be left out?  Then head over to the Iowa State Fair!  It runs the 9th-19th and when they say “Nothing Compares,” they aren’t kidding!  That being said, navigating it is quite the undertaking, too!  As a loyal fair-goer, I have insider tips to the bestest show on the ground (fairgrounds, that is)!

Getting to the fair –

Yes, there are options before you even hit the fairgrounds!  You can take the Dart, you can park at the VFW to help them out and either walk or grab a shuttle, or you can drive in close and park in somebody’s yard.  Yes, true story.  If you get back off the main streets, you can find $5 parking.  There are gates on 3 sides of the fairgrounds, too. It’s much cheaper to park and it’s easier to get out at the end of the day!

Early risers –

I highly recommend getting there early in the day.  Less traffic to fight and less people to maneuver!  Yes, it will be packed. Yes, you will be annoyed, but it will be worth it!  The people watching doesn’t get any better than #ISF!  I have proof!

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Yes, she’s wearing a tail.

I also think the entertainment level is second to none.  I have never once been bored at the Iowa State Fair…and I’m old…and I’ve been there A LOT! 🙂  And no worries, they have breakfast if you’re early!  Grab a Breakfast Sausage in a Waffle on a Stick from the Waffle Chix outside the DNR building right inside the main gates.

Icons –

What do you HAVE to see?  Well, the iconic pieces are the butter cow,  the big slide, and the Ye Old Mill (You get to ride a canoe!!).  You’ll find the butter cow and the 100th Anniversary John Deere tractor in the Agricultural building along with flowers, vegetables, the FFA booth, and the Egg Council always gives away free eggs on a stick in there, too!  (Yes, there is free food to be had.)  Outside the Ag building, you will find enormous pumpkins and the coolest flower garden that includes a tunnel for the littles to go through.  And the Ye Olde Mill is right close to the Ag building, too.

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The FOOD –

I’m not gonna lie, I really love the fair!  Sometimes the hardest part is deciding which food you can’t live without while you’re there!  I can’t resist a state fair corn dog.  They. Are. The. Best.  Advice time:  don’t get the footlong because then you’ll be too full for all the other great stuff!  I also have to have a lemonade shake-up.  If you want the best of the best, go find Hoppy’s in front of the 4-H livestock building.  It’s legendary.  As for the new foods premiering, well, I’m headed for the Pork Producers Tent.  They have a Brown Sugar Pork Belly on a Stick that I plan to founder on!  Diamond Jack’s also has burnt ends I’d like to try, but if you really want to live large, you can try the pickle beer!  That ought to liven up your day!  But if you just need free, Culligan provides water in the Varied Industries building!

 

Gotta have a corn dog!

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FREE –

If free is your gig, go to the Varied Industries building and the Iowa Tourism building, pencils, fans, pen, magnets, chip clips, and more can be all yours for the price of admission!  I used to load up on pens and pencils for my students.  Plus, you can score cool Iowa State, Iowa, and UNI posters in the Varied Industries building, too.  Also, the free demonstrations and concerts are awesome.  I’ve watched the chicken-calling contest.  I’ve watched the chainsaw artist exhibit.   I especially love the balloon and sand sculptures!  Wow! And, baby, “I’ve got what you need…” because Biz Markie will be live on stage for free!  So will DMC of Run DMC, Blessed Union of Souls, and if you go old-skool country, then check out Country Gold –LeRoy Van Dyke, Mandy Barnett, and TG Sheppard.  But High Valley is my must-check-out-before-they-get-expensive country concert!  I love to get in on the future stars when they’re free!

Rides

When we hit the fair, we go to see the livestock (especially shorthorns!), eat the food, play in the kid areas, see the parades, etc, but if you are planning to ride the rides – GET THE WRISTBAND!  It will be well worth your money.

Weary Feet

Advisory Warning:  It may be hot.  You may get tired.  Lol.  I recommend taking the sky-jack.  You get a great view of the fair and get to cut “cross-country” to the other side of the fairgrounds.  They also have trams that run constantly for free!  Find a stop and take a ride!  Or hunt down friends in the livestock barns.  They’ll be happy to see you and you’ll be happy to see their stockpile of lounge chairs!

Bathrooms

Okay, it’s a topic no one wants to talk about but they need.  Lucky for all of us, the Iowa State Fair is not short on restrooms.  They clearly got the memo about their importance.  Now, some are nicer than others.  There are always plenty available, but I highly recommend the horse barn ones and the Blue Ribbon Foundation Admin Building ones.  Definitely a little nicer than some!

Kids

We all have them and then whine if they aren’t happy.  Your kids will love the fair.  Be sure to stop by the Big Pig and the Largest Bull along with the avenue of breeds for cattle.  See horse shows.  And hit the hill behind the Ag building for the kids’ area complete with playground equipment, a misting station, magic shows, art attack, and sand piles.

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Travel Light

FYI – do not bring a double or triple-wide stroller.  You will never move.  Bring the umbrella stroller(s) and extra help.  I promise you that you will be thankful you did it that way!

Also, bring a backpack or one of those drawstring bags to carry crap.  You want your hands empty and free to navigate or shovel food in. 🙂

But if you get desperate, they give away recyclable bags at the side entrance of the Varied Industries building.

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Highlights –

I love the statue themes every year – this year: pigs!  I can’t stop taking pics of them!

Themes. Ferris wheels were last year!

I also love to take pics of us in front of the cool boards they have each year!  This year is Iowa State Fair Moments!  The most impressive show to me is the Governor’s Steer Show.  What they do is so phenomenal – famous Iowans, wicked good calves, and innovative ways of marketing all rolled into one.  LOVE it!  You can’t go wrong with the food, but I also have to give a shout-out to the dairy barn ice cream, made there!  It’s a regular stop!  Oh, and if you want the cheap t-shirts, hit the museum.  That’s where they stash them now.

See ya at the fair!

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Other hints and loves?  Let’s hear them!  Questions you need answered?  Ask away.