Friday, March 24, 2017

When borders matter no more

The flames are not particular. They don't care who your daddy is. They don't care what mascot you choose. When the grass is crackles under your feet and the humidity is so low everything you touch sends a spark, whether you're wearing sweats and sweaters or not, the fire will rage across these prairies, through fences, across roads, stopping only to consume a house, a cow, a dog. It is in these moments when the borders matter no more that we stop to think about what matters most. It's not our things, not our possessions. It's our family. It's the people in our community and the communities down the road. When brave volunteer firefighters give their time to save your things, knowing that really it is your life that matters most. And yet, they fight to protect the things that help the people. The cattle that are part of the livelihood and part of the food system. The homes that give shelter. 

My boss always encourages us to take ownership of our E-Communities and their successes. So we wake up every day with a handful of communities in the region that we "worry" about. People in the communities that we've formed bonds with in order to face adaptive challenges to improve and strengthen the entrepreneurial environment of that community. Out west, those people are more than just the people I work with, they're an extension of my community and my heart. So as I went to bed last night and woke up this morning, I was not worrying about the successes of the communities as it relates to my work. I was concerned with the individuals' well being. I thought of Janae, Roger, Joann, Darci, and Lea Ann. My heart went out to the farmers, ranchers, and business people of their communities. If these flames steal their homes and livelihoods, what next. What tools do we have in our tool box that help communities and businesses rebuild? Will they see any potential tragedy and loss as an opportunity to be entrepreneurial? Or is the easy, technical fix where they will lean?

The grass grows greenest where it's watered. It also grows greenest after it's burned. How can these flames provide opportunity for growth and strengthened relationship? These flames that ignore borders as much as roots ignore fences. It is my hope that from the ashes rise stronger communities. Communities that remember the flames destroyed the feelings of competition in the time of need. The communities that demonstrated that people are most important, that with any changing wind it could be our property and loved ones facing the flames. As the flames destroyed the land, let the new roots that grow carry with them the spirit of ignoring fences and borders, and remembering that we are better when we choose cooperation rather than competition.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Economic Developers as Public Servants

"Good economic development is the greatest public service you can do." - Dell Gines

After attending the Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit on May 4-5, this quote has been one continues to rattle around in my head. Perhaps rattle is not the correct verb, as after that Summit, my mind was full of great thoughts and inspiration. No, this quote has taken root in my mind, and in my heart, and is growing into scripture. 

The best economic development directors, those I truly admire and have tried to emulate, are at their core, public servants. Their work goes beyond those tasks that match their job descriptions and occur during office hours. Their service to the community - their job - is seen in the extra hours they take driving the countryside trying to find a vacant shop for a business to expand, using their vast network to find the new teacher or mechanic a home that best fits their needs in a timely manner, or their consistent, undying support of shopping local with nearly every penny they earn. They have a mission to see their community survive, as its mere survival is more than just the guarantee of a job, its the guarantee of a lifestyle. They practice what they preach. They appreciate the quirks and antics of the various organizations and characters they get to work with. They know that their drive and passion for building a community gets them that much closer to having a community they want to continue to live in forever.

Let me pause a second to say, that this may or may not apply to successful urban economic developers, but I know without a doubt that is fact about successful rural economic developers. 

These dedicated economic development directors wear many hats in both their professional and personal lives. But each of these hats is made from the fabric of sustainable community work. They work their tails off, fight the naysayers, legislators, and population projections. They often drag their spouse or significant others into the work they're doing, asking them to fix the door or serve the soup at various community events. Their dedication to community goes beyond the office hours, beyond the job they're paid to do, and creates community and inspires others to do the same.

Cheers to the inspiring economic development directors that I get to work with in western Kansas, especially. I hope you know I notice the extra work you're doing and the late hours, the projects that don't quite fit in your job description, but lead to a better quality of life. You inspire me with your commitment to public service. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

When Irish Eyes are Smiling

In the midst of wedding planning and the joy that's been surrounding us, the reality of life has set in. My dear friend and adopted grandmother, my Margaret passed away Tuesday morning after a battle with emphysema and possibly lung cancer. I never really knew how to define her. She's always just been my Margaret, my caregiver, my role model. She was first and foremost my babysitter from the time I was 15 months old. An Irish, Catholic woman who shot guns and did puzzles, gardened and recycled, fed the birds, loved the outdoors, and made the best damn bread on the planet. She was full of fire, spunk and love. There was never anything that Margaret couldn't do. Her stubbornness taught me not only how to live, but how to die. Margaret found out she had a mass in her lung in 2010, right before I went on my adventure to Washington D.C. She didn't want to tell me because she didn't want me to not go to D.C. She had once told me she thought I could be President. Her husband used to think I could be a famous singer like Celine Dion. It was assumed it was lung cancer. She didn't ever get a confirmation biopsy because she didn't want to have a timeline or seek treatment. She believed strongly in leaving this earth when it's our time to go. As time moved on, it was hard to see this hardy but wiry woman, grow weaker and skinnier. She'd always been thin, though I remember as a child riding next to her in the pickup driving to town in Sweet Pea, her old gardening pickup, while chewing Spearmint Trident gum, playing with her "flappy". We'd playfully wiggle the skin hanging under her arm and giggle. She never minded...or at least she never let on. 

I always loved going to Margaret's and thankfully we were there Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 5 PM with the exception of going to school. I remember a few brief schedule interruptions with other babysitters, but none were ever as good as Margaret. Her toaster made magic toast, seriously there was something about that thing. We'd dance upstairs listening to old records, to songs like Shaving Cream and The Streak. We'd read. We had limits on television but if we watched Price of Right and Jeopardy with her we'd have a little more time.It didn't matter though because playing outside at Margaret's was magical. I'd climb trees as high as I could, becoming her little red-headed woodpecker in the tree. We'd hike through her "forest" and along the creek. We'd build bird nests from pine needles while dodging the panty hose balls dosed in perfume, hung to ward off deer. She encouraged our sense of adventure and exploration. She let us be kids while loving us and disciplining us if necessary. 

None of this really lets on how much she meant to me. I could on about the little things that makes her so wonderful. She just loved us, my brother and I. She always joked about how she had always wanted 8 kids but only had 6, so Marcus and I were her 7th and 8th kids. She loved us that way. We had a whole second family with her. Her grandkids were our same ages and we grew up together. I remember one of the many times we were all together, she demonstrated butchering a chicken for her grandkids. She didn't even wince as she went to whack the head off of that chicken. I can still hear her laughter as we all squealed as the chicken ran around headless. Oh I'll miss her laugh. A few weeks ago when I last stopped to see her with Levi, I felt guilty for making her laugh because it made it more difficult to breathe. But I had to tell her the story of Levi and I killing rats at the feedyard. I, of course, did more squealing and jumping than killing. But she got a kick out of it none-the-less. 

Even at 73 years old she made a point to get with the times to stay in touch with her family that was spread across the country. She was a frequent emailer, sending forwards both funny and serious to multiple people. She had an ongoing Scrabble game going with her youngest son and her sister and another friend. I would say they'd been playing back-to-back-to back online Scrabble games for years. She even learned to use Facebook.

I most admired her for her strength. I think in everything she did, her strength and resiliency shone through. She worked like a man, cooked like a woman, and killed the birds and snakes when the need arose. It takes strength I realize to look to the heavens when your time comes and know the best is yet to come. She never wavered in her choice to not seek treatment or had pity parties questioning God, why she was sick as she was. She made her choices boldly and proudly. She loved her family and her adopted kiddos. And we loved her through and through. I'm glad that I was able to call her the day we got engaged and let her know. I'm glad she knew the date and the colors. Peacock colors are the ones we chose, which frankly is quite symbolic. Margaret had peacocks when I was a child. There's a chance this post is going to change over the next few months as I add memories or change wording. When John, her husband died, I wrote a story for English class about him. I've wanted to write something for Margaret for a while now, but I never could find the words. I wanted her to know what she meant to me, but never successfully told her while she was alive. But now, maybe the internet world will know. I know she's in a better place, but dang I miss her terribly.

Rest in Peace Margaret, I love you. 1940-2014

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

We're getting married! Wee!

Over two weeks ago that handsome man I spend the majority of my free time with, got down on one knee in front of a crowd and asked me to marry him! It was the day of the 2nd Annual Wind and Wheels Festival and I had been up on the stage announcing the Car Show awards. The car show organizer then took the mic and made a few announcements ending with, "If anyone else has something to say, come on up here." Being the airhead that I am, I took the mic back and made one more announcement about beer tokens and the car cruise that should follow the event, of course, having my words get twisted in the process (it's genetic). As I turned around, there struts Levi toward the stage.I just kept walking towards him, until he gently pushed me back on the stage and took a knee. The crowd went wild. Whoops and hollers abound. I saw his lips move as he pulled a box from his pocket. I stepped back in disbelief, my hand flying to my mouth. The day was finally here, he had officially asked me to be his forever! I said yes, my hands were shaking. 

On day 1,009, the love of my life asked me to be his wife, to move forward through life together always and forever! I'm a little slow getting the word on here because I've been busy planning a wedding. November 15 of 2014 is the date! So far we've got our bridal party picked, the locations, the photographer and the DJ. Ideas for everything else abound. No one should ever let a Libra plan a wedding alone...or with very little input from her groom. I know for the past few weeks I've drove him crazy. How does one make everyone happy and be fair to people without too much expense or hurt feelings, all the while making sure you don't go broke in the process. Part of me wants to skip all the planning and just run away so we can finally BE married. But the reception and party are all part of the fun! This blog is about to begin to get more sappy and wedding focused...but only for a few short months. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Links and Things

Some of my favorite posts these days are those with fun links and reads that make you think. I kept thinking I would make this a weekly post and then I forgot to put links here for a while. So I have a free day, finally. So I'm sharing a few links and things I've read over the past few months that I really enjoyed. At this point, I'm sure many of these links have been well-traveled. 

Don't Date a Girl Who Travels - This is sometimes the kind of person I wish I was. I have that desire to travel and dream deep inside me. But my wish to be financially stable and have a stable relationship hold me back. Deep inside I wonder, what if I could just pack it all up, walk away from everything steady and travel, but the logical side of me knows it won't ever happen. 

If I can't accept you at my my worst - I definitely have mixed feelings about this article. It's true you shouldn't be horrible, especially to one you love and you should work hard to be a better person and not think people should love you just because. But sometimes our horrible parts are irreparable. 

Rob Jones - Rob Jones, ex-Marine and double amputee, road his bike through Leoti in late January. (If that doesn't indicate how long I've been thinking about doing this, I don't know what does.) If you feel so inclined follow the link to learn about his journey across the United States. I actually think he will get to his final destination in California today. Also, feel free to donate to his cause. He's pedaled across America to raise money for veterans. Pretty bad ass if you ask me. 

The Words I'd Like To Hear - I don't wear a lot of make-up, so I really appreciated this article. Make-up, diet pills, whatever don't make you beautiful. I think we all need to be a little more accepting of our own flaws as well as of others. 

Selfie Disorder - This is just intriguing. I often think of young adults as well as high school age kids I know that are constantly taking selfies. It really has me concerned about the generation that we are producing with this trend. I don't know, maybe I'm old fashioned, but it is bothersome. 

There are so many others out there, but these are the ones that made it into my first cut. We'll see if I continue with this post or not. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013 in Review

Wow! It's been a while since I've written. Maybe 2014 will be the year I get my crap together and actually write here more regularly...maybe once a month. Looking back at 2013, my first reaction is that it sucked. It was a rough year, I had some of the lowest lows I've ever had in my life. But then the other day flipping through iphone photos (I have so many it was time to delete what I could before my phone runs out of memory,) I realized as rough as the bad parts were I had some really awesome things happen and really cool experiences. So I thought I would share my favorites here:

I went to Chicago in January to see my best friend John! Even though it was bitterly cold, it was a blast to see John and experience a new place! 
First flight in over 2 years, which is crazy since I used to fly twice a year somewhere.
John and I at the Bean

Having happy hour appetizers at The Telegraph! First time eating oysters!

Sole in a to-die-for sauce at Joe's Stone Crab

Chicago style pizza! 

 In March I went to Lindsborg, Kansas...a community with very strong Swedish heritage! Apparently 2013 was the year of eating delicious food (and my clothes are showing it at the beginning of this year) because I enjoyed Swedish meatballs and lignon berries! 


March also brought a trip to Canyon, Texas for the Ogallala Commons' Southern Plains Conference on recreation and leisure. Definitely something that I don't get a lot of. My friend Lindsey from DC came out to Leoti and went down with me! I went plein aire painting in Palo Duro Canyon! While it was a beautiful view my painting skills did not reflect that.

 In April, we hosted the first ever Wind and Wheels Festival! It was so stressful, but it was an awesome feeling to have it come together successfully! The same weekend that happened, I had a visit from Abbey! It was so much fun having her come see me even though it was so busy! She's the best friend a girl could ask for! 

Run Abbey Run! She's a beast when it comes to running! 

In May, we ventured to Manhattan for my little brother's graduation from K-State! It was an interesting weekend overall, but I'm so proud of my brother for all that he's accomplished! He's now at OU being all smart in geophysics. 
We like to be awkward. 

June brought another trip to Texas for Ogallala Commons' intern orientation. It's surreal to see the growth that has occurred since 2007 in this program that I essentially helped start. June also brought two weddings: one of a friend and one of a cousin!
Community Interns!

Laura, Melissa and I were really close in high school!

Laura and Drew's cute guest book

Levi and I at my cousin's wedding!
In July, Levi and I celebrated our two year dating anniversary! I just love the fact that I came to this little town and found my perfect match. He still gives me butterflies and makes me laugh everyday.

In mid-July, two of my oldest friends came down to see me and go to a fundraiser concert! It was so nice catching up! 

In August my mom journeyed with me to the other end of the state to attend Joe Tinker Day in Muscotah, KS. It was definitely a unique experience, but it was a lot of fun! I also went to Colorado with Levi's family for his dad's birthday! I went hiking with the nieces and nephews and enjoyed nature! It was a much needed break! 

September was extremely busy with a trip to Oklahoma to see my brother, a Mexican Independence Day celebration (yes I know we're in America) and a day spent learning about the Northern Cheyenne Indians over in Scott City. My great-great-great uncle was killed and my great-great-great grandmother was raped by the Northern Cheyenne during their raid in the 1878. While it seems weird we were celebrating their history and making friends with them, it was really a way of healing wounds of the past. 

These tacos were so good! The Mexican community here celebrated their Independence Day in September and it was a blast! And again, the food was top notch!

In October I turned 25, but it really didn't seem to be that big of a deal. I mean I freaked out a little bit because my life's not where I thought it would be by 25. The best part of my birthday was this tiramisu made by my friend Tiffany! Oh my goodness it was awesome! 

I went to Lincoln with my brother and our friend for a mutual high school friend's wedding! It was the cutest little wedding I'd ever been too! So much joy and love! 

The beautiful bride and groom! 
The wedding dance was in the loft of a barn!
In November I went to Albuerquerque for an Ogallala Commons' Board Meeting and the Quivira Coalition Conference. The board meeting was good, the conference was not really my thing. The best part was eating at Papa Felipe's and stopping in Santa Fe to shop.

From the beginning of December to New Year's was the craziest I think my life has ever been. I packed my suitcase to leave for a meeting on December 4 and it didn't get unpacked again until just yesterday - January 4. Some of it was work, some of it was play, but it was a lot of go, go, go.

I went to Texas for the third time in 2013 for yet again, Ogallala Commons' training. I serve on their board of directors but will also be doing some contract work to get more internships going in Kansas and Nebraska. I ate Whataburger for the first time and stayed in a really cute bed and breakfast called the Yellow Rose Inn in Nazareth! It was awesome! If you're ever in the Texas panhandle stay here, it's worth it!

The next week my parents and I went to Dodge City for a Mannheim Steamroller concert! So much fun! 

And then after Christmas, Levi and I went to one of my best friend's weddings in KC. It was black-tie optional so Levi and I were dressed to the nines! The best part of this year was seeing three of my four best friends (that's allowed right?). The cool part is I met all four of them freshman year of college! That was almost 7 years ago!
We're the three best friends that anyone could have!

Gorgeous Megan!

We clean up well! Levi is exceptionally handsome in a tux! 

John and I excited for the wedding to begin!!

Whew, I feel better posting all these fun moments of 2013! Sorry it was a really long post, but I think it will help me get to blogging again, or at least have a better reflection of 2013. The highlights were definitely seeing Abbey, John, and Megan and celebrating 2 years with Levi! I can't wait to see what 2014 brings!