So St. Patrick’s Day is Saturday. I know what that means for the die-hards: even more green beer than usual! But at 44 with a toddler, it will more likely look like some March Madness on TV (if I’m lucky) and Dr. Seuss before 9 pm. However, if you’re a little less lame than I am, there are options! And I promise to get to those here in a minute, but first I’d like to do a little St. Patty’s Day reflecting. I promise it won’t hurt.
So growing up, I didn’t eat Reubens or anything involving cabbage nor did I drink beer, green or not. Needless to say, it didn’t really rank in my book as important, but if you were like me and grew up in Oakland, you know who it did matter to: the Finnegans! Specifically, our principal. Most of my St. Paddy’s Day memories involve Mr. Finnegan out of character in his green suit and a jovial mood. If you asked me to do word association with St. Patrick’s Day, I would say Finnegans probably before green! I’m not the only one, right?
Even in college, I wasn’t much of a partier. I thought it was hysterical that they held the Bud Flood on the Hill and people would get up earlier than they ever did for class to hit the bar for Kegs and Eggs. Class was usually especially fun that day with a little extra liquid courage in the classroom! But otherwise, my St. Patrick’s Days are usually about my dad heading to the Ozark Cattle Sale and hoping nothing goes wrong for my mom while he’s away!
But as any girl who loves holidays, I can’t not encourage you to celebrate the big day!
If you’re near UNI, I recommend a trip to the Hill.
If you’re in Omaha, Dubliner Pub or Brazen Head are always the places to be.
But if you’re rural Southwest Iowa folk like me, you can live the dream! You can start off the day with a Seuss-style Green Eggs and Ham in Avoca. From there, you can take your toddler to the Hancock City Park for an Easter Egg Hunt thanks to the Botna Valley Achievers 4-H Club! Woo-hoo! (No, that was not a sarcastic woo-hoo. I will be there!) And then you can find a really great babysitter and make your way to The Station in Hancock. They are having Ruebens and corned beef and cabbage all day along with the better option of $2 Domestic beers! Yes, there can be green beer in your future!
From there, you can finish off your day helping out a good cause! Head down to the Carson Community Center for Trivia Night. The Bar ‘N Grill is serving supper. Take on some tough competition, or laugh into your flask over your lack of ability, but either way, you’ll be chipping in to help out the Carson Community Park Board. Plus, if you get a good team of lads and lassies, you can dress up and win prizes, too! No team? No worries. If it were me, I’d post on Facebook I needed a team or you can simply show up and I bet they get you hooked up!
So there you have it – I have your whole day planned out for you! The luck of the Irish be with you!
And here’s to sunshine and rainbows and pots of gold for all!
So US News & World Report got it right! Something every Iowan already knew, but at least the rest of the world is going to hear about it – Iowa is the best state to live in! To which, the smart ass in me wants to reply “Well, tell me something I didn’t know!” but the polite Iowan in me says, “They noticed it! Wow!”
So here we are. Yes, my friends, Iowa is officially ranked as the best state. For all of you who still think we grow potatoes or live in teepees — well, bless your heart. You are welcome to your incorrect information, but we really do live well.
The report judges on 8 categories: health care, education, economy, opportunity, infrastructure, crime & corrections, fiscal stability, and quality of life. I like to think we have those things in aces because if we need something or want something, we make it happen. That’s an Iowan for you. Sure, you might hear the farmers complaining in Casey’s but that doesn’t mean they won’t go right out the door and find a solution to the problem. I always say I was taught to take care of myself and everyone else around me. Some farm. Some preach. Some teach. Some fix computer glitches, but we are all doing our part. Although we are most notably known for butter cows and caucuses, I’m gonna say we are a lot more than that!
Our state boasts of a 40 college-educated population. Yeah, let that sink in. That’s impressive, my friends. And that’s counting a whole lot of really well-educated people that didn’t go to college because it really wasn’t an option when they were growing up, plus, at the very least, 92% have a high school diploma. We aren’t all corn fields and hogs, even though I must say I enjoy both! Sign me up for sweet corn and bacon anytime! They say everything’s better with bacon and we’ve got that by the truckload!
Really, there’s no point to this post other than to say I am damn proud to be from Iowa, born and raised. I am proud to say I am an Iowan. I am proud to say “Go USA!” I am proud to be “Midwestern nice.” I am proud to be from a place where you can stand under a tree in the middle of a gravel road, you can attend 3 major universities (plus a lot of quality colleges), you can find a food pantry and a library in addition to a bar even in the smallest town, you can watch bikers from all over the country bike safely across our state any given July, you can get a jaunty wave from a neighbor, you can get the best steak off of a backyard grill, and you can still read the Wall Street Journal off the internet on your porch while watching the sun set.
I am blessed to live in a place where back yards still exist, as do manners, friendships, work ethic, skies you can see, and a desire for quality education. Welcome to Iowa! Love it or get out! J
What else do you love about Iowa? Do you live somewhere else that’s fabulous you want to tell us about? Do you have a memory you want to share? Well, go right ahead.
So you know I like to bring you good, and I found some this week.
If you haven’t heard Luke Bryan’s new song, “Most People are Good,” you need to. The title is pretty much self-explanatory, but the lyrics are great, too. I do believe mothers deserve sainthood, especially mine and possibly me, if I survive my daughter. Lol. I believe this world “ain’t half as bad as it looks” and I most definitely believe most people are good. I have thought about that a lot lately.
I know a lot of people have been debating the school shooting issue. And any time there is fear, there are also opinions. As a teacher for 20 years, I have some opinions, too. And I could name the student I thought was most likely to show up with a gun, but my job isn’t to tell you what to think. Mine is to help you look past all of that and find the good.
So I hope you take a minute to hear Luke Bryan’s song and truly listen to the message. It will remind you that there is a lot of good. Instead of watching the news, look around your own little world and the people that wave at you, scoop driveways for the neighbors, ask how you’re doing, go to committee meetings for new things in your town, and help the little kids walking in the doors of your local school.
If that isn’t enough, go read about Billy Graham and what he did for thousands of people. No, he wasn’t perfect, but he believed in his cause and he dedicated his life to it.
They say when he was a kid, he and his brother saw a plane go overhead and it said, “GP.” He took it to mean “Go Preach” and his brother took it to mean “Go Plow” and kept the family farm. I love that. I believe in signs, too. My husband thinks I’m half-crazy (yes, only half) because when I am going through a rough patch or need to make a decision, I look for a sign. God and I have this understanding that I occasionally need reassurance or clarity.
I was having a rough day on Monday, and needless to say, I was doubting myself pretty heavily. As much as I hate to admit it, yes, there were tears. When you pick up your whole life, move, change jobs, and try to raise a 3-year old, it happens. However, when you’re a success-driven person with a creative mind and no clear path, it’s even worse. So teary-eyed, I headed to the shower, only to get out to the radio playing a series of songs that were, officially, my sign. Two of the songs, Homegrown and I Love this Life, never fail to play at my greatest moments of uncertainty, but he added one more in for me this week. When David Lee Murphy and Kenny Chesney’s song, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” came on, I knew it was my sign. I don’t know what is yet to come, but I know I’m in the right place. And I guess that’s what the family said about Billy. He was ready to go be with God and his wife, so they were rejoicing in his honor. Friends, that’s good right there. You can always find it. Sometimes, you just have to look harder than others.
So Go Protect, Go Please, Go Participate, Go Pray, Go Perform, Go Problem-solve, Go Provide – do whatever you have to do in this world, but Go Peacefully and remember that Good Prospers.
What signs have come your way? Do you have songs that lift your spirit? Is there something more to add? Let’s hear it.
Have you been watching the Olympics? My husband swears I’m obsessed (which may not be completely inaccurate)! I love the Olympics! I mean, how can you not?
First of all, I love new TV. No reruns on the Olympics. Secondly, I love patriotism. Yes, bring on the red, white, and blue! Cheer USA, USA, USA! Forget the crappy news. There’s nothing like the human interest stories they bring from the US athletes, which brings me to 3 – I love human interest stories! I mean did you catch that interview with Mikaela Shiffrin about kids hating her when she was excited for the coaches to pile on drills? Yeah, that’s when you’re meant to win. Fourth, I love watching people who devote their lives to being freaking fan-tab-u-lous at something and not giving up or backing down or quitting even though they’re broke. I have a whole lotta respect for that. And finally, who doesn’t love to watch someone win? If you don’t, you maybe need to work on that heart of yours.
But seriously, I love the Olympics! I was talking to my dad about it and I had to laugh. He was telling me he hadn’t watched much of the first part because the scoring was too subjective. We both likened it to showing cattle. It sucks that even the Olympics get political but political or not, I will watch Chloe Kim shred the half pipe. And don’t even get me started on Shaun White! I was so freaking excited for him. It takes a pretty impressive guy to make 4 Olympic teams, have 2 golds, and come back for a 4th time after missing the medals last time around, let alone the fact that he got a gold in a young man’s sport at age 31. Or what about that ice skater, Mira, who landed the first triple axel by an American in the Olympics? Holy crap! She was on fire. And that Maame Biney, the speed skater – could she get any damn cuter? I’m not an overly smiley person by nature, but she even makes me chipper. But perhaps the greatest comment for me was Adam Rippon who said 6 years ago he was stealing apples from his gym because he was too broke to buy food while living in his coach’s basement and now he’s at the Olympics. That, my friends, is what makes it special…
Life is not always clean and pretty, but it can be good. There are days where I wonder if I’m on the right path, if I’ve made the right choices for my family, but I keep moving forward and I hope, dream, and pray. Sometimes, I wonder if I’m too old to still be dreaming, but I can’t not. And I kinda think that’s what it is for every athlete that goes to the Olympics – they can’t not…
So here’s to never growing too old to have those moments where you can’t not…
And here’s to cheering for those small town kids from the USA…
And here’s to being proud to be an American…
Do you have a favorite moment from the games you want to mention? Or do you have a “can’t not” in your life you’d like to share? Bring on the comments!
So January is over! And although it’s a very rough month for a lot of people, I have to tell you that a lot of good things have been happening here in my neck of the woods (to quote Al Roker). It’s crazy that so much can happen in one little month.
First off, Oakland has a new doctor! I, unfortunately, know that because I was blessed with the flu and strep all in one week. The fortunate portion of it was that they could actually get me in that day! Yes, that’s right! That means double the appointments they can make in a day! That meant I also got to meet Dr. Guzman. For the record, he seems like a very nice guy. He listened and confirmed my self-diagnosis (lol) and got me on my way! If you have the unfortunate pleasure, like I did, be sure to thank him for being here. And a big shout-out to Dr. Pigneri, too, for looking out for Oakland and making sure we have a doctor’s office. Again, we have a lot to be thankful for.
Secondly, corporate decided to keep Blimpie’s in Oakland! Yay us! Will we miss Mike and Teresa? Um, definitely! Understatement of a lifetime. Do we wish them the best? Definitely! But due to their tenacity, we still have a sub shop. Let’s make sure we keep it that way!
Third, rumor has it we have a new dentist in town (or a couple). Yes, Dr. Lenaghan retired, but Omni Dental out of CB decided to pick up where he left off. So no trip to Council Bluffs, you can get the misery over right here! 🙂 Again, yay us!
Fourth, if you haven’t liked the Impact Hill Facebook page yet, you should. They are doing some incredibly fun stuff and it’s only just the beginning! People, they have family game night coming up on the 9th and the father-daughter dance on the 23rd. I think it’s super cute that not only are some dads taking their little girls, but even cuter that some adult girls are taking their dads! How sweet is that?
Fifth, yes, there really is more! If you were unaware, the library now has a website! There’s lots more new stuff coming our way, but stop by, check out a book or a DVD, and hear about it!
Sixth – I know. Crazy, huh? I hope you also head over to Facebook and like the Oakland, Iowa Chamber of Commerce page. That’s going to be the new hub for big announcements and hopefully some really nice shout-outs to the people who keep businesses open in Oakland for all of us to use!
Seventh – wow, right? Be sure to take a minute to thank Mr. and Mrs. McCowen for donating the new bulldog at Riverside. Not only did they make it their life’s work to teach all of us, they are donating a gift in memory of their fabulous daughter. You don’t just get that anywhere…
Finally, I went to 3 meetings last week. I met some amazing people doing some amazing stuff for our town and for the Riverside community. I don’t think I can fully express how impressive it is that so many people volunteer their time to make things better. I know it’s easy to think the people in charge are pushy (which they have to be to get things done). I know it’s easy to resist change (I’m the queen of it!). I know it’s easy to think someone else has more time than you (they don’t, they just prioritize differently). I know it’s sometimes easier to let someone else handle it (it is!). I know it’s easier to complain than to make things happen, but I want to make things happen. I am surrounded by good people and together, we can make more good happen. If you don’t have time right now, that’s okay. As I’m pretty sure it was my 4-H leader, Marge Piece, who used to say: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way!” So lead if you can. Follow if you’re willing or can fit it in. Or just stay out of our way if you have nothing nice to say!
I will add an addendum onto that and say, “Or join us to be a part of it when you’re ready!”
Got other big news? Let me know and I’ll be happy to share it. Or head over to the Chamber page and give a shout-out to some good people around here!
A few of you had a good 2017. More of you had a not-so-good, very bad, frustrating, craptastic year you’re ready to kick to the curb. Either way, 2018 is upon us.
Some people have spent the year deep in the political realm where others fought natural disasters or family traumas or simply their own personal demons or even all of the above. Life is never easy.
For me, it was the ying and yang of years. It’s what I call a “transition” year. We moved home which was what I wanted, but there was that whole part in there where I decided to do the Steve Harvey “jump.” As Steve says, when you jump, there’s a time where you are waiting for the parachute to come out and it may be a little bumpy. (Bumpy is his word. Mine is more Metrodome-imploding-esque) Yeah, I’m there. Change and I are not big friends. I left the consistency of a career I’d had for 20 years to venture into the unknown. And the unknown is a new world of jobs, trying to find new friends to add, and navigating the world with a 2/3-year-old who knows no boundaries. It’s been a harder struggle than I expected. Surely not my usual, but here we are…
I had been craving a fresh start and 2018 when Christmas hit. My usual preparations were not complete, and I was feeling a sense of failure that I should know not to put on myself, yet I do. We ended up having an unexpectedly great Christmas. I, especially, was given a little piece of happiness I didn’t know was missing. My husband and I were opening presents while the wild one played with hers. Yes, he knows how to give gifts! But it wasn’t the expensive one that made me cry, it was the $5 one that did. After all my doubts and worries and second-guessing if I made the right decisions for our family, my husband gave me a box with a journal in it that simply said “follow your dreams.”
At 43, I sometimes think it is frivolous to still want something bigger and to be such a dream-seeker, but at 43, I also can’t quit dreaming. I believe everyone has a reason they were put on this earth. Although I don’t fully think I’ve figured out my reason, I know it’s coming and that little gift was a reminder that I have someone who truly believes in me even when he questions my route (and Hell, even I question my route!).
I guess my message is that as 2018 approaches, take a little time to think the impossible and don’t be afraid to go after it, especially if your current has been a little more ugly duckling than Bret Michaels-rockstar. It’s a new year – a new chance to get it right or at least less wrong or to find peace in what you have done or what you are about to do. There’s a lot of good in this world, we just have to find it. And here’s my wish for you:
May 2018 be the year you live your life,that you love yourself, that you make the world better for those around you, and that you find that little piece of happiness you’ve been missing…
Happy New Year, my friends!
For those of you not from my hometown, two people were killed in a bus fire this morning. I pondered whether to post or not about this topic, but deduced that perhaps it is in these times that people need someone else’s perspective and words to put a voice to their own. So here are my thoughts…
First, there are always people who cast blame in these situations. I get that, because part of the grieving process includes anger, and we live in a world where sometimes it’s easier to blame than look inward. But this is not a situation where blame will do anyone any good… It won’t. Unfortunately, it is too late for that. We must now figure out how to avoid this happening ever again and we must take action, and by action, I don’t mean complaining to your neighbors or your family. I mean fixing problems, standing up for injustices, putting good into the world – whatever it is that makes our homes, our community, and our world a better place.
Second, love, sympathy, and if you believe in prayers, prayers for all of those affected and all those who weren’t. Yes, I said “weren’t.” Everyone needs it.
I saw tons of prayers for Riverside posts on my Facebook feed, even from surrounding communities. That’s why we live here. But don’t lose sight of taking part in person. We live lonely lives because we are afraid to reach out. We are more comfortable on a computer.
I went to the elementary today. You can’t know a teacher’s job till you’ve been one. You can’t know the heartfelt thoughts of a child till you’ve heard your own say something that makes you cry. You can’t know how it feels if you have not walked in the shoes of losing someone, but you can love instead of hate. You can provide extra support for those that need it, or food to the families, or donations, or even your services to a school that is going to need direction. Go to the sources. Put your talents to task on helping in the way you can. Don’t complain to your friends. Go to those that can make a difference and make one.
Third, grieve. Allow yourself to have those thoughts and process them. I will be honest. I knew that the kids on my street would have been riding that bus later in the route. It caused me angst just having that thought. I thought about my sister who fielded all those calls this morning and who loves every kid that walks in the doors. I cried just watching people around me deal with what they have to deal with, but it reminded me that I have a burning desire to make things better. I joined the Oakland Betterment Committee because I am going to do my part. I know a lot of other people that do, too. You can’t make a difference if you’re not in the game…
Fourth, life is all about choices and good decision-making. When things like this happen, a lot of people are left feeling lost and asking “why?” The “whys” don’t usually have answers. But I have learned that when I am lost, the first place I start is by doing for others. No, that’s not a goody-good statement. It is a matter of self-preservation. I feel best when I can do for others. If you need to sit in a bathtub and soak, or sleep for an extra 6 hours, or hug your kids and take them to supper, do what you need to do. But don’t judge others who choose differently. And don’t take your anger out on others or push away a hand that reaches out.
Finally, life is hard. That’s not going to change. But what are they going to say at your funeral? Whether it be painting rocks for the parks, buying pieces for shoeboxes for shelters, leading a 4-H club of future overachievers, being a coach or teacher or a bus driver, do what you can and don’t knock those that are doing what they can. There’s an old quote that I think was Oscar Wilde who said, “Live your life so that when you go, even the undertaker will be sorry.”
In times of tragedy, we must not cast stones, but well wishes. As I always say:
Peace and love.