What Matters

In the recent weeks, I have had some close friends who have had major health issues. One friend had a stroke and is slowly recovering after weeks of therapy. Another one of my friends was found laying on the floor of her home and will probably not survive the week. I have also noticed the deaths of celebrities whom I grew up watching on television and in the movies. Today would have been when we celebrated my father’s birthday, but he died four years ago. All this has caused me to pause and consider what truly matters in life.

As I have paused to ponder this, I am acutely aware of something which my parents would often say and tried hard to show is not material aspects of life, nor the recognition which one might receive, that truly matters. What matters are the lives that intersect with your own which gives meaning and purpose to your life. While this is not something often communicated in media or through other voices, I think that is the only truth which stands the test of time.

All of us know that our possessions exist for a temporary time in our world. Some of them will outlast us but most of them will be long forgotten after a couple of years. My observation is that the one aspect of life that never fades and impacts generations after us is the way that we are changed by the lives of those we meet.

I am sure that most of you can come up with a list of individuals who were a part of the lives of your parents and led them to raise you in a certain way. Each of us could create another list of lives who have intersected with our own and influenced our thoughts, our attitudes, and the way we live. These individuals and their influence upon us and those who we raise and guide are what truly matter.

Small Town Life

All the formative years of life which I can remember were lived in a rural town in Iowa. My parents had returned to their hometown when I was barely over a year old. This would be my home until I graduated from high school. As much as I craved to leave this small town, I now realize how much of a benefit I received growing up there. The list of benefits is so long that I have decided to share over a period of posts what life was like growing up in a small town.

The first benefit which has become clear to me is the people who were in my life. You may have heard it said that when you are raised in a small town you have more parents than the adults who live in the same house as you. I can say that was true for me. Not one place in the town existed where some adult was unaware of what you were doing. The challenge of this reality is that the adults talked to one another. This meant that often my mother would know what I had been up to before I even made it back home. While this can be frustrating at times, it was a great joy when you needed help.

I recall a time when I was twelve years and was grateful that an adult was there to help me out. It happened to be the 25th wedding anniversary of my parents. I had accidentally left my camera at our lunch location and so rode my bicycle back to the place to retrieve my camera. Our house was located along the same street where the K-12 school building stood. The street was a wide street which was good since there often was one of the school buses parked along the street in front of the school. This was the case on this particular weekend. As I was riding my bicycle back home, I had my head down because I was thinking about the responsibilities which my sisters had given to me during the open house that afternoon. Generally, this would not be a problem since I knew the street so well and knew that drivers in my town would always drive around me if they happened to cross my path. After having thought through my responsibilities, I raised my head to realize that I was feet from the back end of a school bus. I could not stop in time and I hit the bus. The front tire of my 10-speed bicycle wedged between the bottom part of the school bus bumper and the street. Getting over the initial shock, I figured I would free my bicycle and complete my journey back home. I did not realize that when I hit the bus, my head must have hit the back door of the bus and I had two deep cuts on the top of my head. My body reacted to this trauma so that after freeing my bicycle from the bus bumper, I tipped over and could not move; I was in shock. Thinking that I was now paralyzed, I started screaming for help. A woman who lived across the street from the school heard my pleas for help and came running over. Since everyone knew each other in my small town, she knew who I was and how to contact my family. She helped me on to my feet and I then saw the pool of blood which had flowed from the two cuts. Slowly she walked me to her house and called my parents. Family members came down and at once took me to the hospital where I received many stitches before returning home and making a very brief stop at the open house to assure my mother that I was alright. The help of an adult to a child in need in our small town was greatly appreciated.

I could tell story after story about how people provided all forms of aid for me physically throughout my growing years. I could even tell stories about times when I wish people were not so willing to help my parents watch over me. But I want to share instead how living in this town with the others shaped who I am today. I am convinced that the people who surrounded me influenced some fundamental aspects of my personality. These aspects are both positive and negative. I learned how to watch out for other people. As I shared above, people were always willing to provide assistance to anyone who was in need. When a major fire harmed the downtown area of my town, including a business owned by my aunt, people came to help in any way they could; from the volunteer firefighters from our town and three other towns, to the people who came to help clean soot and ash from the items in the business.

I am a person who gets involved in my community and organizations in which I am a member. I believe that I learned this in our small town. Whether an event at the school or a special celebration for the town, volunteers were in plenty. It truly took everyone’s involvement to make something happen. The people whom I lived with showed me the importance of commitments, doing your part, and having pride in your efforts.

The people of my hometown showed me what it means to be connected. Today I always look for the ways in which I can, and am, connected with others. We all shared so much of our lives with one another that our commonalities were clear. Yes there were differences but these were a lot fewer than our similarities. When a person realizes this truth, then instead of having division you can celebrate the uniqueness of every person while at the same time celebrate what it means to be connected.

I am sure as I continue to share posts about growing up in my small town, you will see even more ways in which the people of my hometown shaped me. I want to thank those people who were a part of molding me into the person who I am today.

Keep watching for future posts about growing up in a small Iowa town and feel free to share your experiences.

On the Hunt

If you have been following my blog to this point, you know that a two months ago my husband and I relocated. The reason for our relocation was that my husband had accepted a new position at a different institution. (If you have not already read about that move, I encourage you to do so by reading the posts from last week.) Since I was not the one with the new job, this meant that I would be on the job hunt. A task which I dreaded more than the actual move. Anyone who has been in search for a job after reaching the age of 45 may relate to some of what I am going to share in this post.

When we were in conversation with individuals from my husband’s new place of employment, they indicated to me that the job market in this area was prime for employment seekers. Each one of them assured us that I would have no problems finding a job and I would probably even get to hand-pick the job. I was not as optimistic because I had been on the job hunt three years before and I knew what a difficult time I had during that search. Here are the main obstacles which I encountered:

  • My age – I am past the age of 50 and even though it is illegal to discriminate based on age, I am confident in stating that if an employer has to choose between a 25-year old and a 50-year old, the 25-year old has an advantage.
  • My employment background – I have had a variety of jobs since I graduated from college. I was in retail management for a national retailer. I worked for a national nonprofit organization as a division manager. I was a residence hall coordinator at a private liberal arts college. I am an ordained pastor. For the last 22 years, I have served in a ministry role. The last fact creates a limited scope of matches for most employers. My last position also included being communications coordinator but for a limited amount of time. As you can see, I have a wide range of experience and varied aspects of experience which is not immediately noticeable on a resume.

My husband and I agreed that I needed to find a position. My husband’s level of income would make it possible to meet all our financial obligations, but had plans for my income. We wanted to build up the amount of money which we would have available for the down payment on our new house. We also wanted to have some extra money to enjoy travel, cultural events and other experiences.

Before we made our move, I began searching for possible job openings. In this day of living in a digital world, almost all job searches begin online. You even apply online. The days of searching through newspapers and sending cover letters and resumes on fancy paper in the mail are gone. Employers use a variety of websites and most of them do a digital “weeding out” of individuals who do not fit certain criteria established by the employer.

I started applying before the move and then after the first week of settling into our new home, I increased my search. To date, I believe I am on five different job sites. I receive ten to twelve possible job emails a day per website, most of which are not even a close match to my skills. Like many aspects of the digital age, so much information is being sent my way that sorting through it all is overwhelming. In another post I will share my thoughts about how these sites work and frustrations which can go with them.

This brings us to where I am today.

The Trip

The morning after the movers left was planned to be the loading of our two cars. My husband is much better at packing vehicles than I am, so I delegated that responsibility to him. Besides all the items which the movers could not take and the items we needed until they arrived, there had to be room in the cars for a driver and one of our dogs. You can imagine what a challenge this was for my husband. We do not have small cars, we have four-door sedans, but there still was a lot to fit in each of them.

Our plan had been to begin our journey by 8:00 am or 9:00 am at the latest. Yet, it became clear that even though we had awakened early, our time frame was not going to be met. The packing of the cars was a challenge which required some unpacking and repacking. This all was taking place in rain and light snow which added to the challenge. There also was clear evidence that we had more left in the house than we were going to be able to fit in the vehicles.

One of our family members and our neighbor came to help us out again. They began going through the cleaning supplies and food we had planned on taking with us. Some of it was thrown in the garbage, some was to be taken home with our neighbor, and some would go home with my husband’s brother. We would have to replace what we needed once we got to our new home. While my husband packed the cars and the other two sorted through items we could not take, I began cleaning what we had to leave until the last minute.

Around 11:00 am, we were ready to pull out on our journey to our new home. We said our final good-byes and loaded the dogs into the cars. Each dog would get one foot well in the back seat of the car. We had put their beds in each car respectfully but our largest dog, a black Labrador mix, had no room if the bed was in there, so we moved that one to the trunk of the car. We would be on the road for close to twelve hours.

As we started our trip, the snow had started coming down. For the next four hours it would snow off and on as we made our way. We made it out of Iowa and had entered Missouri when we decided to make our first stop. This stop was mainly to let the dogs get out for a stretch, but we also used it as an opportunity for a restroom break and to get something to drink. The snow had stopped but a cold wind from the north made standing outside with the dogs unpleasant. After taking care of the needs of all four of us, we were back on the road.

Our trip consisted of driving on interstate almost the whole distance. We made stops for the dogs, to get gas and/or to grab some food. We made it through Kansas City without much hassle. Our journey down Kansas’ tollway was uneventful. There was just one time we had an issue convincing our oldest dog to get back into the vehicle. He seemed done with traveling and having bad back hips did not want to climb back in the car. Eleven hours later, we were coming into the metroplex which would be our new home.

After traveling almost 900 miles and going through five states, we arrived safely but weary at our new home. We pulled the cars into the garage, only to realize it was a tight fit. We let the dogs out and into the house so they could explore a little. Next the dogs went outside into the fenced-in back yard to take care of needs and get the layout of their new yard. While they were outside, we started to unpack the necessary items from the cars.

Once the dogs and the needed items were in the house, we put air in the mattress, added the bedding and laid down for our first night of sleep in our new sparsely furnished home.

Moving Day

The day was Thursday, December 27 which meant that moving day had arrived. That phrase carries with it both joy and fear. The joy comes from the reality that we were embarking upon a new adventure. We would have a new home, in a new city, and new opportunities. The fear results from the realization that we were clearly not ready for the movers to arrive. There were rooms which still had a lot of unpacked items. Some drawers and cupboards had been overlooked. How would we ever manage to make this happen?

Much to our great fortune, some of our family came over to help us. They had been there the day before and helped with a lot of the items. Now they returned and made some of those decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of that neither of us wanted to make. The movers arrived and were even a bit early. The house became busy with activity while we tried to corral our two dogs in one room and out of the way of the movers. Everyone continued packing as furniture, boxes, and totes were being labeled and taken out to the truck. On top of this, it had decided to rain a little.

The next seven hours were filled with activity. Every time we thought we were making head way, one of the movers would come and ask us what to do about something they had found. Numerous trips to get more boxes, take some unneeded boxes back, and pick up more packing tape also filled our time. Getting out of the house to run an errand was actually a blessing. There were times that I ended up questioning if I wanted to return to the house or not.

Now, the movers had the truck loaded. My husband spent fifteen minutes signing the paperwork indicating what all had been loaded in the truck. There is something strange about realizing that all your worldly possessions are in the hands of a man and a truck. You will not see them again until whenever the truck arrives in your new location. A little fear enters your mind about if the man and the truck will actually arrive or not.

Even though the movers had left, we were far from being finished for the day. There was still more than enough to finish packing. Certain items a moving company cannot take in the truck. Included among those items are houseplants, alcohol, chemicals, valuables, and perishables. We also knew that it would be at least three days before the truck would arrive and a new crew would unload us. This meant that we had to take enough clothing, bedding, and other necessities for us to live in an empty house until the truck arrived. We also had to begin the cleaning process. For the next five hours, we packed and cleaned.

Around 11:00 pm, we decided that we had to get some sleep. My husband filled the air mattress with air, and we put the sheets we had held out on the mattress. We finally laid down, sore and tired since we only had four hours of sleep the previous night. This would be our final night in this house.

Preparing for the Move

In my last post, I shared with you what led up to my recent move to Texas. In this post, I will share with you what it took to prepare for that move of 844 miles.

We found out that we were making the move in the middle of November. My husband negotiated and accepted the position. His start date would be January 2. This meant that we would have to make our move between Christmas and New Year’s Day. If you are quick at doing the math, you have determined that we had approximately six weeks to pack a four bedroom home with a garage, a garden shed, and an offsite storage unit. We also had to find a moving company that was in our price range. In the midst of that, we had to list the house and celebrate the holidays. Both of us needed to continue to work in our current jobs as well. Can you say STRESS?

The race is on. We started to get boxes, mainly from my earlier move. My husband began sorting through pictures and memorabilia which he had received from his parents after their death. I started going through boxes of papers which needed to be shredded, thrown away, or saved. Our goal was to reduce the amount items we would be taking with us to Texas.

We identified a realtor to list our house and the week after Thanksgiving our house officially went on the market. Next, we secured a moving company and set the official moving date as December 27. Our focus then turned to packing boxes. I became well acquainted with the local UHaul store as I made frequent trips to buy a variety of boxes. Astonishing how many possessions you can accumulate over the years. The moving process does have one bright side with regard to packing, you discover items that you forgot you even had.

The week of the move arrived and chaos ensued. Christmas in the midst of that week. Family came to visit. We realized that time was short, and we had a lot of packing left to do. We rented a truck the weekend before the move, so we could bring all the items from the storage unit to the house. Sorting continued along with the packing. We took one break which was the day of Christmas when for a couple of hours we enjoyed an excellent meal and the exchanging of gifts.

With Christmas over, the final crunch time was upon us. The day after Christmas, all the decorations came down and were packed away. This was also the last day of work for my husband. We had less than 24 hours before the moving company would arrive and at least three days of packing ahead of us. Sleep would have to be the one thing which would need to be in short supply. This would also mean that our patience would be limited at best.

Stay tuned, my next post will share details of “moving day.”

A New Step

Life is an amazing journey. One of the aspects of life that always keeps it interesting is that you are never 100% sure where the journey is going to lead you. This has been true for me as I am sure it has been for you. In the last months, I have taken a brand-new step on my journey but to understand this step better I should probably give you some background.

I entered this world in the state Texas. But when I was about a year old, my parents decided to pack my two older sisters and myself up in their car and return to their home state of Iowa. I spent all my formative years in the same small town in northwest Iowa. After graduating from high school, I moved to the “big city” of Sioux City to attend college. During that year, I had a situation which cause me to get a little freaked out and that triggered a transfer of colleges at the end of the year. I was closer to home in Storm Lake. Following the closing of my college career, I accepted a management position with Target and was headed to Mason City, IA. For the first twenty-four years of my life, I mainly lived in Iowa.

Target transferred me to Lincoln, NE, so I have my first experience of living outside of Iowa which I can remember. l lived in Lincoln for the next three years during which I got married, had my first son, and changed jobs. While living in Lincoln, I decided to go back to school so that I could change careers. My family and I moved which meant we left Nebraska and returned to Iowa, this time to Dubuque. I received my Master’s degree after three years and time for another move. As fate would have it, this move landed me back in Nebraska but this time in the central part of the state. Nebraska was home for another three years before another move would take me to central Iowa but this time to the south. There I would stay for over fourteen years. I then decided to make some significant changes in life which included leaving my current career and location. But, I did not leave Iowa. This time I moved to eastern Iowa where I would stay until recently.

This brings you up to what this blog post is entitled, “A New Step.” The new step actually has led me to return to the place where I was born – Texas. With my new husband, I moved to Fort Worth so that he could accept a new position at one of the educational institutions. This new step has been filled with some trepidation, some worry, but also a feeling of a new adventure. I am learning a whole new part of the country. I have a new city to explore. I also have an opportunity to redefine myself and my life goals.

Over the next couple of days and weeks, I will be posting about this new step and the new