The Life of a Conflicted Teacher

Working hard to make sense of it all

Junk sport? What Junk Sport?

I’ll qualify all this by saying there are no junk sports, period. Regardless of where our children focus their energies, that’s what’s important to them. If we are 100% behind them, we are part of the problem.

That being said, I’d never heard the term “junk sport” before my oldest daughter starting swimming. It was used by some swim friends to describe those sports who were not always in that favored status.

It’s hard for me to watch both of my daughters compete in sports that people outside of the sport really don’t value. One daughter was called lazy because she was a swimmer. Another daughter was told that cross country “is way easier than volleyball”. Our oldest always knew that swimming out of district was seen as odd to begin with, so very few of her classmates ever came to cheer for her at home meets. Cross country, every once and a while you see kids show up at meets, but mostly, it’s parents, grandparents, and other adult supporters who are there.

That being said, I miss going to swim meets something terrible. Our swimmers usually placed middle of the pack with a few great athletes leading the way, but the parental support at all meets away amazing. To listen to the crowd roar at the end of a close race, you’d think it was the Olympic freestyle instead of the first heat of 8! You’ve got your top swimmers at the end of lanes, cheering and going crazy for their teammates, and it shows in the culture of the sport.  And at cross country meets, you’ve got #1 varsity runners who are cheering and clapping, just going nuts for their slower JV counterparts, just trying to bring that runner home. You’ve got supporters who are cheering for ALL runners, not just the all stars. That’s what builds a community of students and parents together for one common goal.

The thing that bugs me the most about this label: these are two sports where I’ve seen the concept of team developed in a way that all other sports couldn’t possibly understand. Our oldest daughter’s swim experience was tremendous. She was never the fastest, but she worked her tail off, never complained about things, and that earned her the respect of her teammates all four years. Our youngest has struggled the last two years with legs issues, but is always welcomed and supported on the teams she’s run with. We talk about creating community and how important it is for our students, both of these sports do it in a way that I could only hope to replicate on my basketball teams.

I love coaching basketball and wouldn’t change that for the world. It’s brought me great joy, and we’ve done some good team building as a group. I love watching a good football game, seeing the coaches get their players jacked up for the game. However, my favorite “team” sports: swimming and cross country, both sports where outside of the small circle of participants and family, very little is known or cared about. I’d love to run a football team through a cross country practice, take a volleyball team through swim practice, and then see what they think of these “easy” sports.

I’d like to say thank you to those coaches who’ve helped my daughters through their junk sports. Without you, I’m not sure they’d be the girls they are right now. Your drive to push, to communicate, to build a team community is what has helped them in their own lives try to create that on their own levels. That kind of character is one that they’ve learned from you, so thank you.

Our friends told us about a cross country runner their daughter knew who wanted to try swimming in the summer instead of running, both for the impact on her body and to see if she could keep up. This was a varsity runner, one of the top runners in the state at the time. It took about a week, and the runner decided that swimming wasn’t for her because “this make cross country look easy”. Remember that when your son or daughter tells you, “I’d like to swim/run this year.”

They may be setting themselves up for a tremendous experience!

Finding Joy in the Little Things

My past month:

  • lost a week of preparations due to two separate trips to the state fair.
  • moved our oldest to college.
  • lost a friend to college
  • another person who’s been in the family circle for years has been given a terminal cancer diagnosis.
  • a favorite pet is fading fast.
  • an acquaintance has filed for divorce.

Oh, and school started too.

I wrote about this earlier, but there’s been a lot, A LOT, of change that happened. So it’s been all about finding the joy in the little things that have been around me.

  • fresh cucumbers. Haven’t had plants grow like this in a long time! I’m learning about how to save the seeds for this variety to see if I can get them to grow next year. Cucumbers cross pollinate, so I’m being a bit more careful with what I plant.
  • fresh tomatoes. My tomato plants have started this slow march across my garden, and at this point, there’s not much left that I can do!🙂 We’ve made one batch of salsa all ready, and will probably have tomatoes for another batch, plus marinara sauce too.
  • student laughter: as the school year starts, I love the sound of student laughter. It’s hard not to smile when it happens. It needs to happen more.
  • youngest daughter’s smile: she misses her sister like crazy, but she’s also been smiling more lately.
  • my wife’s smile: she’s not in class, she’s not stressed with busy work and papers, and it’s nice to see her smiling more too.

Overwhelmed? Just find those little things. As things start to calm down (I hope), they make all the difference in the world. They have for me.

In-Take Conferences #SOL

I can admit when I’m wrong.

And it takes a real man to be able to do so.🙂

(I’m hoping my wife reads this demonstration of admitting of my being wrong.)

Last year, when we were told that part of our beginning of the year time would be spent doing intake conferences.

*insert eye roll here*

Intake conferences are parent-led conferences where parents were given several questions about their child at registration. They have a conference time to bring back the answers (or their thoughts about their child), we talk through those questions, and have a conversation about their child from there. When there are 1,329 things to be done before the start of school (more this year because of my beautiful daughters and their travels around), it’s hard to get excited about something that will take time away. Now, people would say that this was put together fairly, to which I have no argument. I counted the hours spent doing the conferences and what our contract reads, and we were spot on for time. However, the start date of school looms large for a teacher, and having that before school time eaten into brings on panic attacks, night sweats, and other things that take away from sleep.


Anyway, the conferences have come and gone, and I was wrong. These have been quite useful to me in just being able to meet most of my homeroom students and their families. We had some great conversations about learning style, what to expect in 8th grade, and favorite football teams (Go Hawkeyes!). All in all, this was well worth the time involved to simply have a lower stress conversation about kids, one without grades or bullying or any of the school “stuff” that goes on after the first day.

So, if your administrator comes with the idea of some kind of intake conferences before school starts, give them the obligatory eye roll, then listen, and give it a chance.

I’m glad I kept an open mind on it because it will be something to benefit me as we go forward this year!

Too Many Highs and Lows

Good morning blog! Long time no see, again! I’ve just taken a bit of a break from writing just because I’m not feeling the urge to purge. Ha! A funny rhyme!🙂

That urge has returned, though after the last week of chaos that is our life. It’s interesting how life runs in waves and the best thing we can do is grab a board and ride them.  From last Monday to today, we’ve put on twelve hours of driving, close to 700 miles of driving, three nights in hotels, three days at the Iowa State Fair (more in one week than in the last three years), and much emotional stress.

The State Fair. The Iowa State Fair is a pretty awesome fair in terms of what there is to do, to see, and to eat!🙂  Two new food discoveries this year at the fair: garlic cheese curds and ice cream nachos.


I’m not into the fried food thing that goes on there, but these things were AWESOME! For those of you still planning on attending the Iowa State Fair, they are located across from the grandstand, next to the Industrial Building.  The ice cream nachos are cinnamon ice cream on cinnamon sugar chips, covered with hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream, and two cherries. Holy yummy stuff, Batman!! These are located on the food row that goes down past the cattle arena.  So, you have my food stuff!🙂

Anyway, the main reason we were at the State Fair was my youngest daughter. She left last Wednesday morning early to show her spring heifer, Skittles. She was in a line of Brown Swiss and a couple of Gurney, all organized by the family who pulled us into this showing thing to start with. They approached us in June asking if they could take our daughter and heifer down to show because the 4-H show fell on a Saturday. After much discussion, we figured this was as good a time as any, so we caved in, allowing her to show in both the open show that happened on Friday and the Saturday show!  She had a blast working with the other kids who she was stalling with, seeing the fair without her parents, and cleaning up animals at 2:30 in the morning!🙂  Her heifer finished 7th out of 13 in the first show, a respectable showing for sure. The 4-H show was a bit disappointing as she finished 8th out of 9, but she wasn’t bottom of the class which was the main thing. The best part of all this, she participated in the showmanship contest. If you aren’t familiar with this, this is a contest that is about how you present your animal to the judge. There are so many little things they have to do and remember (eyes on the judge, where are the feet placed in relationship to the judge, what happens when your animal misbehaves, etc) that I’d be out of the running right off the bat!

Our daughter was first in the ring with a smile on her face, which got her noticed right off the bat. Now, as we are watching the senior group, our daughter and those she was stalling with came in, but then more animals, and more animals, and more animals kept entering the ring! In all, there were 55 heifers (and a cow) that came into the ring. Our daughter got pulled into the top twenty, and eventually got placed 6th out of 55, which was a marvelous showing for the State Fair! She was on cloud nine from this, and is planning on bringing four Brown Swiss down next year (to which I say “HA!!” but that’s another blog). We hung around until Saturday and helped load some things up, then made a mad dash home.

Sunday, laundry, naps, and helping reload our minivan. Why? Because we were heading back to the State Fair Monday morning for my youngest daughter to present and sing. But this trip had two parts. Monday was about our youngest. Tuesday, we moved our oldest daughter into Iowa State as an incoming freshman. More about that in a bit.

We leave the house at 5:20AM Monday morning with much bickering and fighting because it was 20 minutes later than I wanted to leave. So, we start looking at alternative routes because at this point, she may miss her chance to present. We find a “new” route (one we don’t normally take) that knocks almost 20 minutes off our drive time to the fairgrounds, so my wife and daughter leave the van at 8:35, five minutes late to the meeting!


She does a presentation about the American Red Cross and it’s part in her life guarding at the pool. The first time she presented, she rambled a bit, and was nervous about doing this again. No fear, she knocked it out of the park, and with her grandparents there to watch her!  The second thing she did was sing the song “Devoted To You”, sang by Olivia Newton John in the movie Grease. The first time I watched her do this, she was a bit nervous because it was for a few people at our 4-H contest. The second time, it was a competition to perform at the State Fair at a different show  (where she learned that reading the rules of a competition is a good thing!). From first time to second time, huge improvement, but loud! My daughter has an amazing voice, and when she goes 100%, she’ll blow you away. When she sang on Monday, there was a nervousness as she had a ton of people watching, but there was an emotion and passion I’d not seen from the other two performances. I was so happy that my parents had a chance to see this in person AND that I could use Facebook’s new “live” feature so some friends could peek in on her too!  I was so proud of her just for showing some depth in her voice, which is what I’d hoped for.

In the midst of all this, I got an email and text about our long time secretary at the elementary. She’d been admitted into the hospital at the beginning of the month, and we’d not heard much about what was going on. Early Monday morning, I received an email that she was not doing well, and by the time our family had driven up to Ames, my principal called to tell me she’d passed away. Being respectful of the family, I won’t go into many details, but this was a woman of boundless positive energy. She cared so much about our school, our staff, and most of all, our students. The relationships that she built over her time in our school can never be measured by anything but the outpouring of goodwill that’s taken place since people have started finding out. The last time I saw her, I had a chance to talk about the fact that my scans had come back clean, that my daughter was so excited to be going to Iowa State, and how she was going to get to her granddaughter soon. The surreal feeling of these last few months will continue for some time as I walk past the elementary office and she’s not there to wave me in for a quick talk.

So, yesterday, with my heart heavy from this news, I get to drop my daughter off at Iowa State. I’d been dreading this for some time because she’ll never admit to it, but she’s always been a stabilizing force in our family. If she and her sister were fighting, she could come talk to my wife or I. If my wife was ticked off at me, she could talk to our oldest daughter and make fun of me. My youngest never treated her older sister real well, but openly admitted that she didn’t want her sister to leave.

We made it to the dorm at 8:30 yesterday morning and got stuff unloaded, got the loft put up (with only minimum swearing), and met the roommate. After helping the roommate move her stuff up the stairs in Friley, we did some shopping.


It seemed like the city of Ames closed in on us as traffic was awful and people all around us were grumpy and snapping at each other. The joke of the family was “hey, I want to go to that store! Dad, get us there, across traffic!”  By 2:30, it was time to go. We took pictures, hugged in the room, walked out together, took more pictures, hugged again, and made it a good old fashioned midwestern good bye. The ride home was quiet.  We came with four people in the minivan, and arrived home with three.

I’ve been totally out of sorts since arriving home yesterday afternoon, and today’s professional development at school didn’t help either. I was almost late getting there and just couldn’t seem to hold it together. My emotions are raw with all these things going on around me, way more raw than I give myself credit for. Someone today said the “first times” are the hardest, and I see that all ready. Tomorrow, we have “intake conferences” and they’ll be the first conferences without our secretary. I’ll walk by the elementary office soon, and that will be difficult.

And as I walked by my daughter’s bedroom last night, that was tough one too.

I’m hoping a good night’s sleep will help, so I’ll sign off now. Thank you for keeping with me this far and understanding my rambling as I just do a little mind dump.

It’s been a week of highs and lows, one of emotional pain and celebration. I’m pretty well spent and somehow, I have to put on that face of everything is all right.

We’ll see.

I’m On a Boat – #EdcampSurfIA

If you know the song On a Boat, by Lonely Island, you’ll know why I cannot post the video for this (and if you look up the video, the language is NFWS). However, I cannot get that song out of my head!🙂

Yesterday was EdcampSurfIA, an edcamp held in Clear Lake, Iowa, at the historic Surf Ballroom. Last year’s event, written about here, was pretty dang awesome for the fact I’d never been to the Surf Ballroom, so, I figured this year would be awesome for other reasons.

And yes, I was right.

First, the people. I finally had the chance to meet the #edufamous Kimberly Hurd-Hurst (@khurdhorst ). We figured that it’s been four years since we’ve “met” via Twitter, and after talks of #edcampRootRiver and #edcampLanesboro (check them out, awesome bike trail and river valley), we finally met in Clear Lake. She’s one of the most positive people that I’ve ever come across, and has been an inspiration to me for sometime now. If you aren’t following her on Twitter, please click out, follow her, and come back for more! After a big hug, I got to hang out with her Minnesota crew. Sandy Otto (@sandyrotto), Jenny Wamsley (@JennyWamsley), and Krisanne Wessel (@kwessel10) were great to meet for the first time, face to face, and yes, Sandy, when we are in Maple Grove, we’ll let you know!🙂 I also had the chance to meet Cari Teske (@cariteske) along with her son (a soon to be first year teacher) Trent! And of course, the head honcho of the whole thing, Steve Kwikkel (@SKwikkel) and his “support crew” (those really running the show) Kay Schmalen (@schma3) and Emily Hill (@mle9903).  There were many different interactions that happened throughout the day, but these people made the difference for so many others. I’m glad to call them part of my PLN (and you should have them in yours too!).

And the learning! We talked literacy (elementary and secondary), Google Classroom, assessments, culture, homework, teacher leadership, and so many other things too. I love this kind of professional development, because if the session isn’t for me, that’s ok! I can get up and find something new to connect with! My highlight, the boat ride.

#What?? #Anedcampandaboatride??

Yup, that’s right! One of the sessions was titled “Wisdom and Water” co-lead by Steve and Kimberly, on Steve’s boat. We had a group of eight that jumped on (I felt like T-Pain on the video), and away we went onto Clear Lake. The “Las Vegas Rule” was put into place by the previous group: what’s said on the boat, stays on the boat”, simply to create an atmosphere to honesty about the topics discussed. This was probably my favorite session simply because, it wasn’t what we thought people should hear, it was speaking from the heart about educational topics. It’s too bad we can’t have more of the true, meaningful conversations instead of the dancing we like to do! But that’s for another post.

And before long, it time for the picture and the drive home. All in all, it was another great  experience, and next year, dang it all, I will be staying for the after party, held on Main Street! I just need a reminder months in advance!

So, someone get on that for me please??🙂

Tuesday Musings #SOL

I actually started this yesterday, but got distracted by something glittery, so here I am!🙂

First, I had a pretty good pity post for myself last week, and I just wanted to thank those who took the time to respond. I did not respond back, simply because I read and reread many of your comments, just taking in the positive vibe I got from all of you. I didn’t want to break that at all, but know your thoughts and comments were appreciated.

Ok, first, the end of another era took place yesterday when Tim Duncan, power forward for the San Antonio Spurs, announced his retirement via a press statement through the organization. For those who are going “who is that”, I won’t bore you with the things you could easily find yourself. I will say though, he’s been with the Spurs since 1997, 19 years with the same team is unheard of in professional sports. He is the reason I become a Spurs fan, after my Showtime Lakers team of the 1980’s was no more. His straightforward style of play, his lack of an outward ego (it’s hard to play for 19 years without one somewhere), and his constant “team first” mentality just fit for me. In an era of team hopping and zero loyalty to the fan base, this was one athlete who did not fit that mold. This article just talks about the intangible that made Duncan great for so long, while this one is an article about the different Duncan titles found on The Onion website. As a coach, I share a couple of different articles and video about Duncan and the Spurs because of their focus on character, family, and a team first atmosphere. It makes me feel old seeing him hanging the sneakers up, because he’s been a mainstay since my entering into the word force. I’ll always be a Spurs fan because of Duncan, but will care a little less about the NBA because he’s gone.

And finally, we had a unique experience on Saturday: a family reunion visited our home. Now, you’d be thinking, why is this strange, don’t family reunions usually come to a person’s home. True enough, but it’s not our family that showed up.


We were approached by a daughter of the woman whose house we purchased 9 years ago. They were holding a big family reunion and wondered if they and their kids/grandkids/etc could come and visit. There’s a closet in our daughter’s room where the grandkids had written their names on and just a ton of memories on the acreage, so we of course agreed.  Last week was a frantic “get crap picked up” time and suddenly it was Saturday. The lawn was mowed, the gardens weeded, and the house cleaned, we were ready. We thought a car load or two would show up.


By our best count, we had 50 people come through the house comments on the kitchen (totally ripped out and redone when we moved it) and how they LOVED the openness. They also loved the central air we installed a couple years back (and so do we!) as “Grandma’s house was always hot!” And as they left, someone said, “We are glad you are here. You get what this place means and have worked to keep that.”


A surreal experience, but a good one all the same as it’s nice to know that the family sees the value in what we’ve been doing here. It’s an old two story farmhouse that has its set of issues, but it’s something that we love and love that others feel we are a good fit for it too.

As I write this, my oldest daughter is in Switzerland, part of the Iowa Ambassadors of Music trip to Europe. This is a 16 day sprint across seven counties, with sightseeing and musical performances happening along the way. The pictures that have been posted on social media make me extremely jealous to say the least, but happy to see her spread her wings a little more.

And that, that is some serious musing for you! Thank you for stopping by and reading!

Enjoy your day! And smile, it makes your mouth happy!🙂

Friday Musings – Fear and Hope Together?

I fear the world my daughters are walking into.

Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Orlando, so many others that I don’t know or remember, and now Dallas……

My daughters are preparing to walk into a world of fear and hatred, a world where because of their skin color, their religion, they will be instantly judged, and wrongly so.

They are walking into a world that is teetering on the edge, economies showing signs of serious strain, people working longer hours, working harder, only to barely make ends meet.

They are walking into a world where senseless violence is the norm, where isolation is commonplace, and where the selfie is more important than the face to face conversation.

I shut off the news this morning, feeling this blanket of dread covering me as I learned about Dallas and the intentional way that those involved set themselves up on high ground and waited for their police targets to appear.

As I poked through my own social media, I came across a post from the page called “Breathing for Peace” from a man named Johann Hari.  This is the post below:

Best thing I’ve read in ages … “Get a rat and put it in a cage and give it two water bottles. One is just water, and one is water laced with either heroin or cocaine. If you do that, the rat will almost always prefer the drugged water and almost always kill itself very quickly, right, within a couple of weeks. So there you go. It’s our theory of addiction.

Bruce comes along in the ’70s and said, “Well, hang on a minute. We’re putting the rat in an empty cage. It’s got nothing to do. Let’s try this a little bit differently.” So Bruce built Rat Park, and Rat Park is like heaven for rats. Everything your rat about town could want, it’s got in Rat Park. It’s got lovely food. It’s got sex. It’s got loads of other rats to be friends with. It’s got loads of colored balls. Everything your rat could want. And they’ve got both the water bottles. They’ve got the drugged water and the normal water. But here’s the fascinating thing. In Rat Park, they don’t like the drugged water. They hardly use any of it. None of them ever overdose. None of them ever use in a way that looks like compulsion or addiction. There’s a really interesting human example I’ll tell you about in a minute, but what Bruce says shows that both the right-wing and left-wing theories of addiction are wrong. So the right-wing theory is it’s a moral failing, you’re a hedonist, you party too hard. The left-wing theory is it takes you over, your brain is hijacked. Bruce says it’s not your morality, it’s not your brain; it’s your cage. Addiction is largely an adaptation to your environment.

We’ve created a society where significant numbers of our fellow citizens cannot bear to be present in their lives without being drugged, right? We’ve created a hyperconsumerist, hyperindividualist, isolated world that is, for a lot of people, much more like that first cage than it is like the bonded, connected cages that we need.

The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. And our whole society, the engine of our society, is geared towards making us connect with things not people. If you are not a good consumer capitalist citizen, if you’re spending your time bonding with the people around you and not buying stuff—in fact, we are trained from a very young age to focus our hopes and our dreams and our ambitions on things we can buy and consume. And drug addiction is really a subset of that.”


So, I looked into Johann Hari further. First, I had a look at an article written by Johann here, which led me to a TED talk that Johann did in 2015:

As I read and listened to all about this idea of addiction, this quote struck me right in the face about all that’s going on around us in the world.

So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.

The human connection. We are so incredibly disconnected from each other, understanding each other, understanding those who are different, either by skin, religion, socioeconomic status, sex, or whatever other title we want to throw down. We simply cannot relate to others and hide through the distractions around us. It’s why we see the political foolishness we have, it’s why we see the senseless killing around us, and it’s why we see the addictions of drugs, alcohol, and even technology reaching all around us.

So, how do we change? Ha! If I knew this, I’d be sharing it with the world. All I know, there are so many more things that connect us together as human beings than should be tearing us apart as you are seeing right now.

I’ll leave you with this:

If you are not familiar with Eric Whitacre, he is a composer who’s created a “virtual choir”, having people download parts or his music, practice them, then submitting themselves singing back to his website. They are put together, and suddenly, you have a virtual choir.

Now, you are asking me, “But Darin, you are talking about being disconnected. Isn’t this exactly what you are talking about??” Yup, it certainly is. However, as I reconnected with this piece of music today, the lyrics, the music itself has connected 5905 singers together in one incredibly uplifting and beautiful piece. My hope, that music inspired these people to find their connection with the music in their local community. I see music connect my daughters with so many things, both instrumental music and vocal. Both daughters are very talented in these arenas and I’ve seen the impact that it has on their lives. For myself, the song just makes my heart happy. I do allow myself that disconnect, and forget that bliss of what being human is all about, the bliss of flight.

I fear for the world that my daughters are preparing to enter. Yet, there is beauty to be found is so many things around us, so many ways that we can find that human connection. We’ve forgotten that it’s the connections that make live, not the things.

We need to find our wings, our paradise, and learn to fly again.

Grooving, or Lack Thereof #SOL


That’s all I’ve got right now is ugh.

I had somewhat high hopes for this summer, but yet realistic ones. I have one daughter who wants to work all the hours humanly possible to buy a *insert some kind of teenage crap thing here*, another daughter who has graduated and is ready to move on, and a wife who’s working full time with a 60 mile round trip drive daily. I get that there were going to be challenges.

I didn’t plan on the curve ball (pun intended) that was thrown at me in late May, which kind of screwed us out of much of June.

But I just cannot find a groove to save my soul right now, and it’s frustrating. I need to start exercising, but find myself just kind of blah about it. I know this is the time that my grandfather started having heart issues, and that my own father went on blood pressure medications. There are plans to be made for school, but I’m in the same mind set of blah about that too.  Just teaching 8th grade, I want to make sure that my plan is more set up, a more detailed, and that I’ve got more pre-planning into what I want done.

But for whatever reason, that drive is just lacking, and I’m not sure where it’s gone. Family issues (lot of changes), school issues (even more changes), money issues (who needs it), it’s all playing a part, I know this for certain, but how to make positive changes, that’s the question I’m lying awake at night thinking about. How could I create a positive outcome? Am I the problem with all this?


And this is posted on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. Just another “nice one, big guy” to add to the list.


Small Town Interactions

I grew up going to school in a small town.  My graduating class was 29 students and while that was small, it was pretty typical of the area. Everyone knew what each other was doing, regardless if they needed to or not. Small town life at its finest.

Fast forward 25+ years, and we have the next installments of small town living.

Wednesday, I was to have driven my oldest daughter and a friend to Grinell, Iowa for three days of “music boot camp”. They are part of the Iowa Ambassadors of Music, a group of Iowa vocalists and band students who will be taking a 16 day, 7 country tour of Europe. They fly out on Sunday, and this camp was to get music practiced, learned, and get them all prepped for the trip. Well, we got stuff packed, in the car, and picked up the friend, but within three miles of doing this, we got a flat tire. *insert copious amounts of profanity here*

I call our friend, Laura, who is all ready taking kids down and beg spots for these two, which worked out well because they weren’t too far away.  They show up and we get the kids loaded and off without too much issue.  Now, I can change a flat time, I’ve done it before, so, after getting the kids off, it should be no big deal. Get the spare out, the jack, and the tire iron. Wait, where’s the tire iron??


No tire iron, but in the mean time, the friend has called her mom, and they just pulled up, so I’ll use their tire iron, right?


Tire iron doesn’t fit the jack! Ok, no big deal, I’ll just use your jack, your iron, and I’ll pop the lug nuts off and we’ll get this thing changed out.  Ummmm, the lug nuts are not standard size, thus, the tire iron from the Chrysler minivan cannot work with the Nisson car.


So, I call a friend in town, Annette, who’s not home, but calls another friend of ours, Teresa, who comes over, and we find out her iron won’t work on my tire either. Luckily, the grandfather of a former student, who’s friends with Teresa, drives by, and happens to have an iron like this and sure enough, it works! I get the tire swapped out, spare on and head home.

The next day, I have to pay a bill, so I run down to the office where the mom of a daughter’s friend works. She’s watching me drive up in my truck and teases me about not wanting that little car anymore. So I ask if she knew about our great adventure, and she replies back, “Sure, I talked with Teresa last night at the softball game, and Laura was in here this morning all ready!”


My second small town story happened after I stopped at the above mentioned office. I next stopped at the grocery store and ran into one of our church members.  Now, we are not exactly churchy people, but there are some awesome people whom we worship with, so it’s certainly a balance of getting up and having a leisurely coffee vs. going to church. Either way, this woman is one of those who you cannot help but smiling when you see her coming. I’ve had three of her grandkids in class, and have taken my class to her office a number of times.  She asks how the cancer is (not much to tell there), but makes the comment about how we can take these challenges and use them to our advantage. There was a bible study she was doing and a pretty good story that she relayed to me, but at the end of the conversation, she gives me this tremendous hug and says “we are all praying for you,” right in the front entrance of the grocery store.  One, wow, from crappy day yesterday to this?? I don’t care about your religious beliefs, to have someone pass those thoughts to you just makes you feel good, knowing that someone cares enough to tell you that.  Two, it just reminded me how in a small town, these kinds of interactions are normal, everyday kinds of things, and that’s ok. I got friends who live in Chicago and the Twin Cities, and they’d be floored with something like that happened to them, or even having the chance to witness it.

There are times where I do think to myself, when my kids graduate from college, what next? Do I want to continue living where I’m at right now (three acres of heaven), do I want to move a little closer to a little bigger town (7,000 people) or do I want to move closer to a bigger city? When we lived in Missouri, we had the best of both worlds. We lived within 20 minutes of Columbia, a beautiful college campus, and two hours of both Kansas City and St. Louis. Here, we live within 30 minutes of a couple of small colleges, but the nearest “big city” is a solid 70 – 90 miles away.  Somedays, I’d like to drive 5 minutes and see a movie, not 35 minutes, but that’s just me!🙂

Where ever we end up, this was the place to raise our children. It has given them a security that many places don’t have. However, we’ve also tired to get them outside of this area too, because for some kids, that security is impossible to give up. We’ve told both daughters: got to college, travel, live life to its fullest, but you may feel that pull to move back closer to a small town.

Because in the end, this small town area, for all its quirks and idiosyncrasies, is a pretty neat place to raise a family. And honestly, you cannot beat the beauty of Northeast Iowa!🙂

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