Thursday, September 27, 2012

An Appreciation of Politics

Today's post comes to you from my New Conversation co-pilot, Ann Schlueter.  It's election season, and while you may find it exhausting or thrilling or just an annoyance, it matters - especially on a local level.  Thanks, Annie, for this reminder and for encouraging all those who care enough to make a difference by serving our county, region and country!

My political career started early.  I made the front page of the St. Joe News Press in 1984 holding a sign for John Ashcroft’s governor’s  race which he later won (probably due to my efforts.) After making such a splash, I kept collecting political bumper stickers on my bookcase and dutifully posting campaign signs in our yard. I’m sure the mailman and bus driver were significantly influenced.

Sometime in the late 80s, I distinctly remember a punch card booth set up for children to practice voting. I don’t remember who I voted for, but my card was yellow and I voted in the Westboro Firehouse.  It was the one and only time I used a punch card (an experience I would remember come 2000.)

In 1992, our friend and neighbor, Sam Graves, tossed his hat in the ring for State Representative. Lucky for me, I got a t-shirt and a job walking door to door in Sam’s soon to be district. We canvassed places like Hopkins, Maryville, Fairfax and other towns that summer. I loved that job… and still have the t-shirt.

Over the next few years, I declared a major in Political Science and became a career intern, working for state lobbying organizations to elected officials. I had some wonderful experiences working with and for some of the most talented individuals I’ve ever met.

Today, I’m thankful for my small glimpse into the world that is American politics, but I’m even more grateful for the last few years when I’ve had the opportunity to work hand in hand with our locally elected officials and leaders.

While I esteem all of our elected officials and admire greatly many who take up our cause on the national scene, I have a special appreciation for those who take on the heroic challenges of school board, county commission, judge, prosecuting attorney, county offices, city council, sheriff or any position of leadership in the community where they live.

In this small pond, politics is intensely personal. Our officials take the criticism face to face instead of on network television. They hear the late night phone calls about gravel on roads, the neighbor’s dog or the 7th grade teacher. They balance budgets when there just doesn’t seem to be enough. They debate what is so important to all of us in hospital conference rooms, fair board rooms or church offices instead of stadiums with red and white balloons and script writers. When something goes wrong, they don’t blame the other party. They feel the disappointment keenly when it impacts their son or daughter, their home or their church.

I want to thank them this election season, for having the courage to fight each day for a stronger, better and safer community, with little pay, little thanks and sometimes little results. I thank you for what your sacrifice of today means for my children tomorrow.

I have confidence that change, while painstakingly slow, is possible. The fruits of your labor are visible. Relationships matter. In our community, good leaders can be tremendously effective. Good decisions can have great impact.

Stay encouraged. Your work matters here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

This week's guest blogger is Shelby (Fisher) Hurst, a proud native of Fairfax, wife, teacher, and momma-to-be.  If you don't know Shelby, you just have to read this and you'll be delighted she chose to come back home!

I never went through the phases of wanting to be different things when I grew up, like a princess, a doctor, or a fire fighter. There was only one thing I wanted to be and that was a teacher. I would play school and I never was just “a teacher”, I was a teacher at Fairfax R3. When asked what I wanted to do when I grew up I would proudly state “I want to come back and be a teacher here.”

When I met my husband, a Tarkio Indian, he thought my love of Fairfax was endearing. I was finishing my last year at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri. I had plans of moving home after I completed the year and student teaching in Atchison County, first pick being my hometown. I had been a substitute teacher in the district for two years and my love of the school and its bright staff only grew.

I was excited and nervous when I found out that I would be student teaching at grand old Fairfax, for first and third grade. I got to know the students, new faculty, and community in a way I never had before, through the eyes of an educator. Every morning I would report to the school, taking on as many responsibilities as I could to get the full effect.

In December of 2011 I graduated with a degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Early Childhood. I also got married on New Years Eve to Brett, the same man who was learning just how passionate I was about my little town. (I think he sometimes questioned which I loved more, him or Fairfax.)

I started working at Tarkio Elementary in January as a Teacher’s Aide. Soon my husband and I found out we were expecting! I thought of all the struggles a first year teacher wades through and worried about juggling it with being a first time mother. My husband and I prayed about it and decided if I was going to work God would have to put my dream job in my hands, otherwise I’d be taking a year off as a teacher and on as a full time mommy.

Time went by and it looked like I would be filling my days with diapers and feedings, instead of math lessons and grading. However, in June I was surprised to find out that Fairfax had a job opening for fifth grade. This was the opportunity my family had been praying for, a way to be at the school I cherished. The only question was whether this was God giving me a ‘green’ light. My husband and I decided I needed to take the jump. So I jumped and was hired as Fairfax R3 fifth grade teacher. A bulldog once more!

My summer quickly went from baby preparations to classroom preparations. I started tackling my classroom, lesson plans, and all the duties that started filling my days as a teacher. On August 13th I had my first day with all the other teachers. I became a sponge for their knowledge.

Before I knew it, the first day of school was here! As the students filed into our classroom I began my first day as a real Fairfax R3 teacher. What a day it was! The first three half days flew by in a blur of classroom expectations, getting to know you activities, and birthdays (there were three in the first week!). As I left that Friday night to head to the park for the Fairfax Fair I couldn’t believe how blessed I was to be starting on the journey I’d dreamed of since I was a little girl; a journey I would get to travel for thirty years. However, I guess this journey started the first time someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. A journey that will go hand in hand with raising a new little bulldog!

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Happy Atchison Countian

  • 7 a.m.:  Fall out of bed, not entirely happily. UNLESS it is like one of our recent gift days where I walk outside and say, AHHHHHH.
  • 7:30 a.m.:  Feed kitties, who come running from various fields nearby when they hear the food hit the tin.
  • 8:00 a.m.:  Depart for the office. Drive 35-40 mph all the way to town just because I can. Examine crops during leisurely drive. Wave to cows. Watch hopefully for a farm implement. Dodge a deer on Route B, something that’s possible when traveling at such Sunday Drive speeds. Relish the fact that I am the only person on the road. Check out lunch special on board outside of Food Country, checking specifically for inadvertently humorous phraseology or something baby in belly might be interested in that day.
  • 8:30 a.m.: Arrive at office. Good Morning to Cara. Check email. Read Jerry Baker’s Thought of the Day. Delete junk. Check task list. Get to work.
  • 10:30 a.m.: Meet with the ever-kind Representative Thomson (aka Mike) to gain outsider-perspective on our primary interstate exit (improving this is a current personal mission).  
  • 12:00 p.m.: Listen for bizarro siren-honk noise Dad’s cop truck makes when he announces his arrival at back door. Head to Subway, where vegetable gal gives me extra pickles (she has quickly assessed that I need them). Porta-picnic commences. Ride around the county for a while, check out progress on wholesale water project, learn lots of random County tidbits. 
  • 1:00 p.m.: Back to work. Try to decide which task (if any) can actually be checked off list. Research communities that do a great job of attracting their youth back home (another personal mission). Try not to become overwhelmed by number of personal missions.
  • 2:30 p.m.: Fun lady shows up who wants to start a nonprofit in the county. Provide every bit of information that might possibly be helpful. Feel hopeful and happy as I do every time folks are excited to get something started here.
  • 3:00 p.m.: Zip out to McD’s for the occasional small latte (don’t judge, I add extra milk and it’s the only caffeine Jack ever gets) and make the difficult decision NOT to order apple pie (which Jack and I both really, really want). Back to office.
  • 4:45 p.m.: Head home via Tarkio, gotta go to Flower Mill to make copies of some photos and see what apple candles I can find. Have lovely chats with Betsy and Mary Ann. Appreciate that we have such a store in the county…and, more importantly, that we have Mary Anns and Betsys in the county.
  • 5:15 p.m.: Stop by Mom’s on the way up Main Street to see if anything exciting is going on there. Talk baby stuff. Show her some short people pics on Facebook. No night meeting tonight (yay!!), head home to hubby.
  • 5:45 p.m.: Arrive home after traveling amongst corn and bean fields and feel almost overwhelmed (as I do most days) that I get to live in this big old beautiful farmhouse. Greeted by kitties and hubby.
  • 6:15 p.m.: Eat something totally uninspired. BUT enjoy some garden-fresh tomatoes on the side (delivered to our door by nice gardner-landlord).  Nothing better than a tomato grown around here.
  • 6:45 p.m.: Haven’t taken a belly shot for a while, so head outside to take care of this task.  Stand in the yard, looking around…thankful, thankful, thankful.
  • 7:15 p.m.: Hubby and I sit in our dueling recliners. He flips channels, I write out a couple of cards. Kicked back, Jack starts his mostly-nightly show of ricocheting all around my stomach.  We giggle and grin and bask in the awesomeness of this moment that never, ever gets old.
  • 9:30 p.m.: Head to bed, knowing that I’ll be up 3-400 times in the night so might as well crash early.  Listen to the sounds of the country…coyotes, the whoosh-whoosh of the turbine blades across the road, and the otherwise quiet of the night.  Reflect on the day, hoping I contributed something to this place I love so much, pray for an opportunity to make life a little better here tomorrow.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Your Summer Checklist

It’s natural to want to escape in the summer.  Kids are out of school.  Work is (sometimes!) a little slower.  Days are longer.  All these things conspire to create a need to GO, to get away for a while.  Many of us have our go-to vacation spots…Colorado mountains, Lake of the Ozarks, weekend getaways to St. Louis or KC.  Escapes are good.  They give us a little recharge and make us ready and willing and able to come back to this place we love and dig in again.

The flip side of vacationitis is that we can so easily overlook the little outings available right in our own backyard.  Admittedly, I should have started this little checklist discussion EARLIER in the summer when there was more time to take advantage of some of these opportunities…but for those of you with short people heading back to school next week, maybe this weekend can be one last hurrah of awesome.  How many of these can you get done before summer’s end?  Ready, Set, GO!!!

    • Ice Cream! Grab a treat from the Dairy Diner in Fairfax.
    • Too hot to play outside? Head to one of the three library branches for FREE DVDs/books/magazines and camp out in your living room!
    • Play a round at Rock Port Country Club or Tarkio Golf Club
    • Head out to Charity Lake for a walk or some fishing
    • Cool off with some inside fun at River Rock Lanes
    • Don’t turn on your oven - take your girl or guy or kiddos out for a burger at Black Iron Grill or Mule Barn Café
    • Check out the shiny new tennis courts in Tarkio
    • Hit the pool in Tarkio or Rock Port
    • Hide inside with some dessert from the Daybreak Café or Rock Port Café or KJ’s
    • Slide, swing or play at any of our lovely city parks; if you’re in Tarkio, pick up some fried chicken from Torrey Pines and make a picnic out of it

    What’s on your list?  What have I missed???


    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    It's Fair Time!

    This week's guest blogger is Afton Demott, an Atchison County native and current president of the AC Fair Board.  A 2005 graduate of Rock Port High and a 2008 graduate of NWMSU, Afton is the Executive Secretary/CSR at Atchison-Holt Electric and Secretary of University Extension Council...AND, she's getting married to a fellow AC native (Chad Schomburg) September 1!  Many thanks to this awesome lady for taking time during this crazy fair week to blog for us!  For information on the Fair, check out the schedule in this week's paper or call the UM Extension office at 744-6231! 

    It is here…Fair week!  It is a time for many Atchison County families to show off what they have been working on.  These families have dedicated countless hours of hard work into their prize projects.  The Atchison County fair is not just for the average farmer, it is a family affair for all ages to partake in.  

    I remember how waking up early every morning during fair week was so exciting!  The chores, washing of the animals, grooming…I couldn’t wait!  I had a routine down after the first few years.  Feed, wash, and get ready for show.  When the hog show day rolled around the nerves hit.  I would tell myself “It’s ok, I got this.”  Walking into the show ring I was now showing everyone what I had been working on since April.  I smiled at the judge and presented my hog for him to judge.  Keeping good eye contact I walked around the ring with pride.  The ring men help pen the hogs and split up the ones that like to fight.  Thank goodness we have such great volunteers to help.  No matter how good or bad I ended up in each class I held my head high because I was proud of my project. 

    The cattle show entitles much more work.  The nerves really hit on this day.  I wanted to do well and showmanship was what I wanted to win more than anything.  After feeding, I would wash my steer, blow him dry and start working with his hair.  All summer I had been rinsing him every morning, noon and evening to get good hair.  Hair on cattle can be what makes or breaks the animal.  I would spray all the necessary accessories on and brush them in and blow them in with the dryer.  Making some last minute touches with the clippers and scissors, I changed halters and headed for the ring with my show stick.  Eekkk!!!  I could not wait to show my steer off.  Entering the ring I made eye contact with the judge as I walked my steer into position.  Using the show stick to set his feet, I watched everyone else enter.  After circling the ring he placed the class and we exited accordingly.  After all the classes and champion driver are over, it is the showmanship classes.  Sometimes the judge will make you switch animals with another exhibitor.  I took pride in the showmanship classes, winning 3 years in a row.  Getting money and trophies are great, but we need to remember to thank these sponsors who willingly donate money to the fair.  Thank you notes are VERY important to write to the sponsors to let them know you appreciate them and what they have sponsored.

    State Fair is another time when the county exhibitors get together and put up a county display.  We all come together and split the costs of the materials to have a nice display and let everyone know we are from Atchison County.  State fair is so much fun because you get to know the other exhibitors better and spend quality time with them.  We all help each other wash and get to the barns and tie outs.  Getting to know others in the county is huge and it helps out in the long run.

    Living in such a great county we have numerous volunteers.  Without all of you who volunteer your time, the fair would be hurting.   Volunteering and sponsoring are two wonderful things this county is amazing at.  Sponsorships not only benefit the Atchison County Fair.  They also benefit the youth of the county and show them what this county can really do.  The people that volunteer their time as superintendants of the species for the show are truly appreciated, as are the ring men.  They keep the events running smoothly and if an animal gets away from an exhibitor they are Johnny on the spot!  The ladies that enter the horticulture and fine arts exhibits spend a lot of their time volunteering throughout the days of the fair.  And the list goes on.

    As far as the volunteers and sponsors, I believe Atchison County has by far the best!  The willingness our county has to want to help others is AWESOME!  You don’t find people everyday like the people of Atchison County.  We also have the best sportsmanship when it comes to the show ring, congratulating other exhibitors on their win. 

    The events that the Atchison County Fair offers are for a variety of ages: greased pig contest, Pedal Tractor Pull, Muttin Bustin, Pie Baking Contest, Parade and the livestock shows of course!  You can participate or come be a spectator, all are welcome!  Come out and give the people of Atchison County a hand!

    Friday, July 27, 2012

    Sweet Summertime

    I remember well the summer of 1988. I was 8. It was hot, dry and brown. I would ride my bike through the orchard over cracks in the parched earth that were several inches wide.  Severe drought conditions caused our well too much stress to do laundry at home. A once a week trip to the laundry mat meant a morning at the library for my sister and I. While aware of the conditions around me, what I remember most about that summer are the long, hot afternoons curled up in our bedroom lost in the pages of the latest Newbery Award Winner.

    It’s another hot, dry summer. Although we have all tried to stay positive, it is hard to be upbeat in these conditions. Even our blog has suffered. I just can’t get excited about anything when its 102 degrees, the crops are dying and my electricity bill is nearing a record high.

    Thankfully, I live with an 8 year old. And this boy knows how to do summer living: Baseball games (they didn’t win one, but you wouldn’t know that by talking to Aaron), 4 different Bible Schools,4-H camp, 2 weeks of swimming lessons, 5 4-H pigs and a debut as Louis at the Liberty Theater’s King and I.

    Even in these conditions, I do find something of which to be grateful. Being part of a farm community where so many livelihoods are dependent on the whims of the weather makes for a well rounded childhood. At 8 years old in 1988 I was keenly aware of the ever present worry and whispered prayers for rain just as Aaron is. I can remember dancing in the rain when it finally came late in August. Here, among the acres of corn and beans, it is impossible to protect our children from the reality that times do get tough, tightening your belt is prudent and wise and that we don’t always have control over the circumstances that impact our lives.

    But the beauty of summer living in Atchison County, is that when you are 8 and life give you lemons….well you learn the finer points hog farming, get bragging rights for numbers of ticks at 4-H camp and spend the evenings practicing Rogers and Hammerstein.

    Summer living is still good living here at my house even when its 102 degrees. 

    Thursday, June 28, 2012

    It's Our Anniversary!

    This month we celebrate a year of this blog, a year of recognizing everything good right outside our door.  If you’re a new reader, please take the time to look back through older posts – I promise it will bring a smile to your soul.

    Ann and I have been kicking around the idea of a ‘Best of’ Blog as we acknowledge our anniversary.  The trouble is, we know and love every one of these contributors, and we love their stories.  How do you choose the top 10 from such a fantastic list?  In the end, we couldn’t.  We did decide to highlight a few, just in case you missed them…

    There are many, many more excellent posts and stories on our blog, and we hope you’ll take the time to check them out, if you haven’t yet.  We know we’ve only scratched the surface so far and we can’t wait to hear what others have to say about why they love Atchison County so much.  It is truly a wonderful place to live, and if you aren’t lucky enough to call this your home, at least you get to live here vicariously through this little, joy-filled blog.

    Thursday, June 14, 2012

    A Year Later

    A year ago Memorial Day weekend I stood outside my parents’ house and listened to Dad tell us a flood was coming, and it was going to be huge, bigger than anything in our recent history.  I was here for the Flood of ’93, but other than knowing that my new-Sheriff-Dad was dealing with crazy hours and stress, my 15-year-old self wasn’t tremendously affected.  Last year, I heard Dad’s words but didn’t fully comprehend what it would mean to our county and our region.
    I-29, Shelton Fireworks - Looking West from Bluffs - June 27, 2011
    Looking West on Hwy 136 - June 27, 2011
    It was indeed huge.  We were flooded in some instances for 4 months.  To the North, the Interstate was closed. Traffic was re-routed through secondary highways, through towns that weren’t remotely prepared for that kind of volume.  To the West lies the Missouri river, and obviously, there was no way to cross.  Hosts of families living on this side of the river had someone in their household who worked on the other side.  Most stayed apart from their families through the week and came home on weekends.  Others made the multiple-hour commute every day so that they could see their kids.  Families who lived on the bottoms were displaced for months.

    Last summer and early fall, all I felt was gloom and doom and hopelessness.  I sat in shocked sadness, watching all that cropland sit underwater.  I saw businesses lay off employees and leave.  I would look through my office’s ‘all about Atchison County’ website, and I kept landing on the page where we brag about everything we have access to (barge, interstate, rail, nearby airports) that were essentially eliminated during the flood.  I was worried about what we would look like on the other side of this thing…whenever that happened.

    Then, little by little, week by week, things started to change.  The importance of our existing local businesses became even more important.  My office did a little “Shop Local, we’re all in this together!” campaign, something that we created because we were desperate to do something, anything, to help.  I don’t know if it made a huge difference in sales taxes or not, but it was a reminder sign in the newspapers and in stores all over the county we are responsible for our communities and for supporting each other. 
    I-29, Shelton Fireworks - Looking West from Bluffs - June 14, 2012
    Roads opened up and repairs began.  Construction on our levees and roads brought newcomers to our county who are still shopping, eating, and staying here.  Since early this year, a massive wholesale water construction project has been underway, bringing even more visitors and workers here.
    Looking West on Hwy 136 - June 14, 2012
    Businesses that had temporarily closed have reopened and others have been able to bring their regular numbers of employees back on board.  Most all of our businesses were able to persevere, and while last year will not go down in the books as an easy or profitable one, they made it.  A few, like the campground, have not reopened yet due to the severity of the damage, but they are now starting their long road of recovery.

    A year later, there’s good news to be found if you look around.  The vast majority of families who were displaced during the flood chose to relocate elsewhere in the county.  The mild winter we experienced allowed road and levee repairs to start much sooner than anticipated.  While some farmers continue to deal with significant sand issues on their land, many have planted and are back in their fields.  The tax base has held, far better than I anticipated.  And regardless of how people feel about the Corps, they have done a tremendous job restoring our levees.

    The bottom line in all this is, we ‘made it’ this far largely because of the kind of people we are here.  We pull together in catastrophe.  We help our neighbors.  We work together to get things done.  I’ve said it before and I’ll surely say it again, but in good times and in bad, I am so proud to be a part of this county and these people.  

    Friday, June 8, 2012

    Shall we Dance?

    This week's post comes from Debbie Johnson, Lynn Hunter and Donovan Jones....3 of Atchison County's very talented musicians/actors/directors. I have had the pleasure of being a part of two productions at the Liberty Theater in the pit orchestra and I've missed very few of the musical productions. Each time I set foot in the theater, it is a very rewarding experience. Thank you to the Liberty Theater Group for all you contribute to our community!

    Though some may think life in a small community means seclusion from the finer things in life, life in Atchison County is not so. With the establishment of the Atchison County Memorial Building/Liberty Theatre, there has been an awareness brought back to life for the fine arts. 

    Since 2004, with the opening production, "The Sound of Music", hundreds of thespians and lovers of the theatre have volunteered their time and talents in an effort to provide live entertainment for Northwest Missouri. Some of these wonderful shows include: "The Wizard of Oz", "The Odd Couple", "Little Shop of Horrors", "Forever Plaid", "Always, Patsy Cline", "Polterheist!", and "Thoroughly Modern Millie", just to name a few. Through the comedies, dramas, mystery dinner theatres, choral groups, and classic musicals, many a smile has left the theatre with a yearning to return at each upcoming event.

     This years Summer musical, "The King and I" by Rodgers and Hammerstein, will exemplify the talent within our portion of the state once again. With actors ranging in age from four to sixty-four, this show will be enjoyed by all ages. Some of the popular songs from this musical include: "Getting to Know You", "Whistle a Happy Tune", and the infamous "Shall We Dance?". While Anna and the King fall into a deep romance, the love between Lun Tha and Tuptim is intercepted by the powers that be. The play-within-the-play, "Uncle Tom's Cabin", brings new light to the Harriet Beecher Stow literary classic.

    The theatre will be undergoing renovation beginning in the Fall of 2012. We, the Liberty Theatre Committee, hope that you will all join us the last weekend of July and first weekend in August for our final production this season.   

    We hope you will decide to become an associate of the Liberty Theatre with one final sponsorship for this 2012 season. And for those who have already joined with a donation, A HUGE 'THANK YOU' TO EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU! You may contact any of us if you have questions.

    THE LIBERTY THEATRE COMMITTEE:Scott Deatz, Steve Hoffrogge, Lynn Hunter, Malisa Linthicum, Debra Wyatt, Deb Johnson, Jan Carpenter, Donovan Jones, Annie Schmerber, Debbie Martin

    Tuesday, May 29, 2012

    On Citizenship...

    I stole this from Lori Seymour's Facebook. Ain't it great!

    On Citizenship

    Sorry blog readers for being a sporadic poster. I told Monica that I have to wait for inspiration. Well, I finally found some here: 

    This article started me thinking about what these men, and the many others who call our community home, had in common. A great upbringing, a solid education, work ethic and a belief in something greater than themselves was what I surmised. Mostly, though I think they are great citizens. They keenly feel the burden to GIVE of their talents, time and energy back in the same measure that they have received. What they have achieved is impressive, what they will give is more important.

    Fitting to ponder on Memorial Day, I began to examine what it means to be a citizen in Atchison County. I became very thankful that opportunities for citizenship abound in my community.   No doubt your own schedules are full of volunteering at the library, teaching Bible School, driving your elderly neighbor to the doctor or attending the Kiwanis club meetings. I challenge you to continue these activities and not shy away from the next signup sheet. As this community and great country has afforded you the opportunity to have a healthy childhood, receive a great education, worship freely, raise your family as you wish and live well….give back, give back, give back. 

    When my children run wild during the next Tarkio Renewal meeting or get “bored” as we organize the next church or baseball activity, I will remember that my purpose is two-fold…I will BE a good citizen and RAISE good citizens too.

    Matthew 10:8 Freely you have received, freely give.

    Thursday, May 10, 2012

    What a Great Mother's Day Gift-Graduation!

    Graduation falls on Mother’s day more often than not here in Atchison County! For all the mothers (and fathers) who have a high school graduate….it’s bittersweet.

    I am Marisa (Smith) Hedlund and this is my seventh year as the Fairfax K-12 counselor. I was born at the Community Hospital, grew up in Atchison County, graduated from Fairfax High School and from Missouri State, and then moved with my husband Chris to Charlotte, North Carolina. After 10 years in North Carolina, my husband and I decided that Fairfax was the place to be. Chris grew up in California, graduating with 300 compared to me graduating with 20! We wanted to get out of the city and raise our growing family in a rural area close to my parents and grandparents. Luckily, there was a position for a guidance counselor open at FHS, and a family farmhouse available. Sadly, I needed to go back to graduate school and the house needed a major renovation! Thank goodness for my family that could help us out!

    That was eight years ago and we are now more settled in compared to our first year here in Atchison County! We have three children that never cease to amaze us and never give us a break in all their activities! Ian (9), Natalie (7) and Collin (5) have all the opportunities to be involved in basketball, baseball, soccer, dance and gymnastics, but get to grow up in a place where everyone knows their name and looks out for them! Am I worried about them having these opportunities when they get in high school? Nope! I know that they will be able to participate in almost everything our friends in Kansas City or Charlotte are doing. And, our kids in Atchison County will be able to be in multiple organizations, activities and sports. This helps to create well-rounded individuals that will be more likely to be successful. I know, because I consider myself one of those people who benefited from being in EVERY sport and EVERY organization I could in school.
    Our students who are graduating this week have, just like me, been involved in everything. We have students who are in every sport, both FCCLA and FHA (wow, I didn’t even do that) and every other organization we offer. They also perform in band, swing choir and the school play, which they had to spend countless after school hours practicing!  Some even take several college dual credit classes online to get a head start on their college career. These kids are involved! Who says living in the country is boring?

    My fellow counselors, Shauna and Tracy, and I are sending the graduates off to NWMSU, MU, MWSU, Peru, SECC and countless other colleges to continue to be involved and make their place in the world! We also have former students graduating from those colleges who will be our future radiologists, physical therapists, electricians and teachers. I am so proud of them and I wish them luck wherever they land. I know some of them never want to get too far away from home and some of them need a chance to see the world, leaving their friends and family in Atchison county behind. Someday, I hope they will come back to our county, like me!

    Thursday, May 3, 2012

    Baby Cows, Prayer & Family

    I’ve been trying to narrow this post down to one thing that makes me happy about living in Atchison County this week, but a) my focus is not so…focused this week, and b) why should I have to limit myself to one thing, I ask you!?  So, in no particular order, today’s list of great things…

    •    Getting to live amongst the action of springtime in a farming area.  I’m sure I romanticize farming because I’ve never been the person who has to pull a calf in brutal weather or spray fields for endless hours at a time, but I love being around it. Frisky baby cows, monster machines sharing the road on my drive to work, perfect rows of gorgeous green all around…I love it all.
    •    National Day of Prayer.  This year I was able to participate in the service at the AC Memorial Building.  It is truly humbling to gather together for the dual purpose of acknowledging our immense blessings in this country and lifting up our nation, schools, churches, families, government and media.  It was overwhelming to consider that similar services were happening all over the country today.  At the same time, the service felt very personal and community-focused, particularly when Paul Tiemeyer shared how the power of prayer has worked in his life since he was severely burned in a combine fire last fall.  It was obvious from his story that this community and county supported him and his wife in an incredible way.  (Have I mentioned lately that this place is awesome?)
    •    Impromptu family time.  The other day, Grammy showed up at my back door to take me to lunch.  I regularly get to go on drive-around lunches with Dad.  When I have time to kill before a meeting, I can stop by and see Mom and an endless variety of short people.  I never take these little blessings for granted.
    •    I’m having a baby! Ok, so the significance of this isn’t wholly attributed to the fact that I live where I live, BUT let me just tell you how fantastic it is to be in a place where soooo many people are genuinely ecstatic over this news.  Fabulous Facebook feedback is overwhelming in its own right, but it’s the real life random bear hugs of joy thing that gets me: in the aisles and check-out line at Hy-Vee, at the Flower Mill, in the parking lot of Food Country, everywhere.  On the one hand, living here while trying to keep a pregnancy quiet means you have to do sneaky-feeling things like tell your Board and random community members that you have the flu 3 weeks in a row (yeah-they really bought that!).  But on the other hand, the bear hugs!  I am thankful every day to be able to live in this place that raised me while experiencing this particular wonder.
    Enough of my rambling – tell me, fellow Atchison Countians, why are YOU happy to live here today?


    Wednesday, April 25, 2012

    The Kind of Gal You Want to Thank....

    Photo by Tarkio Avalanche, Megan McAdams
    I remember the first day I dropped Aaron off at daycare. It was a rough morning when I walked away from those chubby cheeks and big brown eyes. My eyes filled with tears as I put the car in reverse and hit the gas. Suddenly my backward progress came to a screeching halt. My car had found a tree, newly planted, in Dennis and Phyllis' Martins front yard. My face, already streaked with tears was now red with embarrassment. I jumped out of the car, pushed the tree back into an upright position and hit the road. When composed, I called Phyllis to confess.

    I'll never know for sure, but I suspect Phyllis and Dennis might have been giggling inside. Of course, Dennis doesn't really giggle per say. He chuckles rather, the kind of laugh that puts you to laughing too.

    You see, Phyllis knows about new moms. She knows the tears will come.  She knows most of us had other plans. Plans to stay home, make our kids lunch, walk them to the park and tuck them into our afternoon nap. As Phyllis knows, and many of you do too, those plans don't always come to fruition. Life happens and you realize that providing for your children may not mean play dates and morning cartoons, but instead means a career, a steady paycheck, insurance benefits and a warm and comfortable home to tuck them in at night. That first day, not only do you leave your baby, but you leave those plans behind. For many mommies, its the worst day of their new life as mothers.
    I know well the first day back from a blissful maternity leave. I've pulled out of Phyllis' driveway now three times over the last 8 years. While it has never been easy, I've left each time in the confidence that my children are safe and loved in a home that I know well.

    No interview was needed when we decided Phyllis would be our daycare provided. I guess you could say the interview had been conducted. The Martins door was always open when we were teenagers. It was prime territory on Friday and Saturday night, before basketball games and for Christmas movies during winter break. During those visits, the house was full of children many of whom are adults today. Phyllis managed it all....babies to teenagers...she showed each child love and patience and still managed to joke around with what I suspect were sometimes obnoxious crowd of Tarkio teens. When I called her for the first time to ask if Aaron could be "Phyllis kid" she said "Oh, I hoped that you would call." And I know she meant it.

    This last Monday, many of our Phyllis kids got the chance to say thank you by presenting Phyllis with the Tarkio Community Betterment Employee of the Year Award. For 25 years, she has run a business.... that's commendable in itself. But more than that, she's been there for many, many children when their parents could not. She has been an integral part in raising confident, well-behaved, respectful (and potty trained) children in Tarkio and her contribution to this community deserves recognition.

    I'm proud of my community for gathering each year and saying thank you to those that work so hard on its behalf. I'm grateful that I get to work each day to make this community a better place. I'm blessed that when I go to work each day, my children continue to receive the kind of love and care I wish I could be there to give them.

    So thanks Tarkio for being the kind of town that says thank you. And thanks Phyllis for being the kind of gal that we all want to thank.

    Saturday, April 14, 2012

    Heaven Can the meantime, there's Tarkio!

    Up this week is Casey Martin - high school teacher, drama enthusiast, Tiger and Indian alum, and patient resident in a house full of gorgeous girls. For those of you who are fans (and if you aren't, you should be!), the next THS play is coming up next weekend. (Thanks to Megan McAdams for letting me steal a pic from West Side Story, one of Casey's recent productions, for this post! :) ~MMB

    Hello, My name is Casey Martin and I am proud to say that I am a life-long resident of Tarkio. Now I didn’t always plan to be, but sometimes things turn out for the best. Yes, there are lots of things that I could be doing and a lot of places I could be living, but I have never regretted the life that my amazing wife Jackie and I have chosen. Tarkio is my home. It has been a great place to raise our little sorority house consisting of my three beautiful daughters, Grace(11), Sophia (8), and Claire (6).

    I went to the University of Missouri in 1990 after high school graduation and enjoyed my time at Mizzou greatly. When I graduated from Mizzou I was offered a chance to work at Tarkio Academy on the old campus of Tarkio College. I needed a job and was soon to marry Jackie. Jackie is an RN and can easily find work anywhere in the country, but she agreed to come home with me and work at Fairfax Community Hospital and this is where we plan to stay. After two years at the Academy the opportunity to work at my alma mater—THS fell into my lap and the rest is history.

    Our families live here and we feel connected to the community on a deep level. When you work in a small town high school or the community hospital you get to know everyone, or at least they know you. In my time at THS I have coached HS girls basketball (State Champs 32-0 in ’99), Head Boys basketball for 7 years, 6 years of junior high football, sponsored two classes, put together 5 yearbooks, announce football and basketball games, clerk for the track meets, read for Brain Bowl meets, coach 5 grade girls basketball, am currently National Honor Society sponsor, teach 7 preps a day, help keep a house with a wife,3 daughters and dog that keep me more than busy with all their activities, attend St. John’s Lutheran Church…and that is off the top of my head.

    The project that I am most passionate about is the school plays & musicals. I am currently directing my 18th play at THS next weekend---Heaven Can Wait (April 21 at 7 & April 22 at 1---check it out) I do a musical in the fall with Brad Mathers and Melody Barnett and a drama in the spring on my own. This is something I have always loved to do and the kids I have worked with the last 10 years have gained a better perspective in all that they can become. Jackie and I are truly blessed to live in a community where we can be so involved and feel so loved and appreciated, and we try to give that same energy right back to the community. Thank you Tarkio, I don’t know what we would be without you.

    Saturday, April 7, 2012

    Find a Seat Tomorrow

     Aaron and Lizzie just finished stuffing 120 eggs. They stuffed half of what we’ll need for the annual egg hunt at Tarkio First Baptist Church. Tomorrow all the brightly colored eggs will dot the front lawn of our church and kids of all shapes and sizes in their Easter best will make a run for it.

    We’ll rise early tomorrow and hide the Easter goodies in the super-sized eggs purchased at Hobby Lobby. In Lizzie’s stash, a boy Barbie, by request, and lots of chocolate. Josh will land a toy truck and in Aaron’s, his first Bible, his name embossed on the front cover.

    At church, we’ll worship with our friends, many whom I’ve been attending church with for over 30 years. I’ll sit next to my family and many friends and neighbors I’ve known for over 30 years. I’ll remember my first Easters in those pews with my white knee socks in the dresses sewed by my Grandma singing with the M&M choir Easter songs that I still remember all the words. I’ll think of the Easter my pastor and his family came to town. I was 14 and they shared Easter dinner with us.

    If we are lucky, our local sheriff will sing his rendition of He’s Alive, the local attorney and hospital board member will play the piano and my kids will sing with the children’s choir. We’ll breakfast together and return to our homes with the words of Up from the Grave He Arose on our lips and the joy of a risen Savior in our hearts.

    You don’t have to travel far out of Atchison County to find many critics of churches and of Christians. Religion is viewed as something appropriate for the uneducated, the small minded and those of us from the backwoods sheltered from the diverse peoples and problems of the world.   Christians, at times have earned this reputation. I’ve seen it in my own church and community when the doctrine of loving your neighbor is forgotten.

    In the vast majority of my experience with small town religion, I’ve seen the good that comes from a group of people bound by common beliefs, supporting each other in both the joyful and difficult times. I’ve seen churches help the needy by supplying clothes, appliances, court fees and travel expenses. I’ve seen the tears of sorrow when a fellow parishioner is suffering from cancer and the outpouring of consolation and casseroles when a loved one is lost. I see the stacks of Christmas gifts for needy children, the turkeys at Thanksgiving and the full schedule of volunteers when meals need delivered to the homebound.

    I still have the handwritten card delivered to our door when my husband lost his mother.  I smile at the memory of my pastor carrying my sick child on his shoulders when the IV in his foot prevented him from walking. And in those first years of marriage when our hot water heater broke and a church member supplied us one for free…it still chugs out hot showers after a long day at work.

    In my community, churches provide for spiritual and physical needs in manner far more efficient than any government agency. There’s no paperwork, or forms to fill out or long lines…there’s just a need and a group of people, filled with a desire to meet those needs in a spirit of love and hope.

    I hope tomorrow that you find yourself in a pew somewhere in Atchison County. You won’t need fancy clothes or an invitation. You won’t be sitting by people that are perfect or who don’t routinely make mistakes. But I know that if you can find a seat, Love will find you.

    Friday, March 30, 2012

    98,707 Pages: Community Proud!

    This week's guest blogger is Lydia Hurst, dedicated community volunteer and a champion of county-wide connections and events such as Batttle of the Books, a fantastic annual event where kids from across the county gather in the same room for an afternoon of friendly (and serious!) competition. We are thankful for Lydia, librarians, teachers and parents who work so hard to make these kinds of things happen. ~MMB

    There have been many moments when I find myself loving our amazing little corner of this wonderful world and when I think of it, I am positively ‘Community Proud.’ Last Friday, I had the privilege of helping a fantastic group of volunteers as we prepared and facilitated the county wide competition of 4th – 6th graders in the 6th Annual Battle of the Books at the Tarkio Resource Center. This is one of my favorite annual events in Atchison County and for those of you who do not know about it, I will give you a quick synopsis. For the rest of you that do know, you may skip a little in your reading.

    The Battle of the Books began 6 years ago, inspired by a similar competition in Omaha. This was a time in our nation when schools were finding themselves even more accountable to ensure that each child enrolled was getting the education he or she needed. State testing was a “buzz word,” whether you liked it or not. During this time, a core group of old school educators, parents, and grandparents agreed with research data that showed the need for children to simply read more books. Opportunities at home and outside the classroom fought for the attention of our schoolchildren, such as video games, competitive sports practice, TV, computers. While children have always had distractions (or found them), many were home alone or were spending an enormous amount of time in the car being driven to and from activities. Somehow the focus had to get back to reading. Picking up a book and challenging yourself to finish that book and the sense of accomplishment from completing it on your own seemed to be lost for many young people. How do you get that back? The answer is not to sit and complain; the answer is to get involved. By being involved the rewards are endless but ‘Community Proud’ is one that I usually feel.

    During the meetings to develop this idea, it became evident that we would need sponsors. We wanted to be able to reward and entice the children to go above and beyond the classroom to participate in this event. The future is so bright for them if they strive to do their best and are dedicated with determination to set aside time to read to ultimately better their reading levels. Northwest Missouri State University coach, Mel Tjeerdsma, believed so firmly in the goals of this group, he donated signed footballs each year and the coaches after him followed this path. Atchison County Development Corporation strongly endorsed this project to encourage our children to learn, prosper, and achieve success now and in their future. This act verified to the children that not only do teachers and parents want them to set and achieve academic goals but coaches, businesses, and random volunteers care deeply also. The Battle of the Books would not be possible without our sponsors and we greatly appreciate those who year in and year out believe this is worthy of their support. We are so fortunate to live in a county that deeply believes and cares about the lives of future generations.

    A group of people gathered together and decided to incorporate the Omaha model into Atchison County as an opportunity to promote reading for our youth. At this time, it was decided to use the Mark Twain Award Nominees that are picked annually in our state by the Missouri Association of School Librarians. Soon after, we solicited the support of our three school librarians, teachers, and administration. ‘Community Proud,’ once again. We are so fortunate to have great schools in our county that are filled with professionals who DO all they can to help in any way and with a smile on their face. Needless to say, the schools have been over the top in helping and have been our cheerleaders to keep the children motivated each and every year. To live in an area where you do not have to ask but instead have an abundance of volunteers is indeed a blessing.

    We have teams of no more than four participants who then pick a name which varies greatly, from “The Twains” to “Fluffy Readers” to “Reading Masters” and the unity of the team begins. We have seen different strategies utilized through the years to try to pull out a Champion Team. For instance, some teams ‘split the books evenly,’ some ‘read them all twice,’ some ‘read and take notes,’ some ‘just keep reading!’ All seem to have their advantages and have worked one year or another! Some get very nervous, some thoughtfully consider each response, and occasionally you have such excitement build that one may blurt out an answer and then realize they did not even consult with their fellow teammates!

    No matter what- it is a joy to watch and once again, I always find myself…..yes, ‘Community Proud!’ Why, you may ask? This question seems simple but I must say there are MULTIPLE reasons. For one, I am so proud of the students who have taken LOTS of time to prepare for this spring afternoon. It quickly becomes evident when we ask each participant to please mark the books (out of 13 this year) they read and, if they read each book more than once, how many times. Can you believe that we had 35 children read over 1,000 pages just for this competition? Hold on, it gets better…each year the total amount of pages read has grown and this year 52 participants read a total of 98,707 PAGES!!! Now, you know why I am ‘community proud!’

    The entire reason the competition is held is to help children fall in love with reading, increase their vocabulary, educate them on a variety of topics, familiarize themselves with authors, have fun, and push themsevles to reach higher learning levels in all subjects. We all know that most learning begins with reading and comprehending. It is a wonderful moment to see a building full of county children who are proud of learning and are ready to compete in the Battle of the Books. Kurt Sloop, Tarkio Art teacher, was kind enough many years ago to illustrate our logo with our very own Mark Twain look alike. Twain is refereeing two books boxing it out. We have so enjoyed the artwork through the years. Many students come dressed with t-shirts in various colors with the now county famous logo. Community Proud.

    The competition this year was clearly competitive and definitely did not disappoint those in attendance looking forward to the annual Battle. Three teams did not miss ANY questions over the 13 books and four teams only missed one question. Before we could go to the championship round, we needed a fourth team. So we had a tie breaker round between the 4 teams that had missed only one question. The championship was 10 rounds of questions- ‘Big Book Theory’ came in first not missing any, ‘The Bookettes’ were second with one miss, ‘Reading Masters’ were third with 2 misses, and ‘Readables’ had 3 misses. The afternoon was wonderful, the crowd cheered, the children pushed hard to the end, and our community was united with volunteers everywhere and prideful smiles that will last a lifetime. Thank you, Atchison County. I am Community Proud.

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    Moving In

    This week's guest blogger is Brandy Myers, recent transplant to Atchison County and employee at Midwest Data. If you are a native, I hope this makes you proud of how we can be to newcomers to our fantastic county! Either way - I know you'll enjoy Brandy's story and outlook on life. ~MMB

    Just about a year ago Justin and I were living and working in Mexico. No, not the country! Mexico is a town of about 12,000 in Audrain County, about half an hour from Columbia, Missouri. We’d never heard of Rock Port, nor had any idea where Atchison County was.

    Justin was working with a contracting company as an apprentice lineman, but really wanted to find a steady, reliable job at an electric cooperative. So, the hunt began! We looked online at jobs close to home, within the state of Missouri, and surrounding states. Both of us are very close to our families and we knew we wanted to be able to take trips home when we could, so finding something reasonably close to home was a top requirement. One day, Justin tells me that he was asked to interview in Rock Port at Atchison-Holt
    Electric Cooperative. I asked, “Where is Rock Port?” Thinking of Rocheport, Missouri just 20 minutes outside of Columbia, I was like, “That’s not far at all!” Justin tells me no, Brandy…Rock Port, Missouri…in the very North West corner of the state. Hmmmm….well, let’s see how this turns out! If this is where the opportunity lies, maybe this is where our life will take us.

    Fast forward a few weeks and Justin has been offered a position at Atchison-Holt. Now, for everything else… I owned a house in Mexico, had a job that I had been at for several years and loved…not to mention breaking the news to family and countless friends…all while planning our wedding! I found a renter for my house, shared the news with work, who didn’t want to see me go, but wished us well on the adventure! Our family understood that we wanted to start our married life off and running in a new town, the chance to strike out on our own and blaze a path together. But, I needed to find a job! By trade I am a graphic designer, but have retail management experience, and customer service skills coming out of my ears. How do I find a job in a town of 1,200 people with my skills? A friend in Mexico, Paula, tells me that there is a phone company in Rock Port, and maybe they would have something. She makes a few phone calls, and that very weekend Justin & I happened to be coming to Rock Port to look at a house. In steps: Raymond and Connie Henagan. Raymond and his wife met Justin & I, showed us the phone company, took us on a little tour of Rock Port telling us all about the town and all the good things Rock Port had to offer, and introduced us to the Black Iron Grill and the yummy food they had! Three words come to mind, “Hook, line and sinker!”

    Never have either of us been welcomed into a town like we have experienced when we were just considering moving here. Our realtor, Hardin Cox, and Lloyd & Sharley Branson who we ended up purchasing our home from, treated us like old family friends. They didn’t know us, and yet, it didn’t matter. They took us under their wing, and truly made Justin and I feel welcome. Arrangements were made for Justin to move to Rock Port so that he could begin his job. So our dads, Grandpas and other family members helped us load up the U-Haul, trucks, cars and a van…and here we came with all our things. I stayed in Mexico to finish out a few weeks on my job, and would then move to Rock Port, not knowing what my future held.

    Little did I know that my meeting with Raymond would turn into interviews and a job offer. Officially, I work for Midwest Data Center, the IT and data company that serves Rock Port and companies across the country! Who would have thought that Rock Port, Missouri would have such a company right in its little town of 1,200? Boy was I shocked to find how just how much this company does for its customers and people in the Rock Port and surrounding communities! This job has been such an opportunity to expand my professional knowledge. I am now developing websites, something that I’ve had an “itch” to get into for several years. I also coordinate our outside plant technician’s schedules, so if you’ve had services installed in the last year, I’ve probably talked to you! Since I’ve started working at Midwest Data I’ve been involved with the marketing and ad development for several projects that Rock Port Telephone, Rock Port Cablevision and Midwest Data have taken on. We’ve expanded our cable television services into the towns of Hamburg, Sidney, Tabor and Malvern. We’re now the local choice for internet and cable services in Mound City. Not forgetting to mention, our current transition to HD Cable TV in the Rock Port, Watson, Tarkio and Fairfax areas. We’ve now set the date for TiVo installations to begin. All of this in ONE year’s time, even with the flood of 2011 knocking on our door. I am proud to work for a company that stays up to date with an ever-changing technology world that offers “city” quality services in our small town. I also have to say, the people both Justin and I work with, are some of the best people we’ve ever encountered.

    For a small town, we sure have kept busy! Justin’s discovered that he’s quite the handy man, and has done project after project on our home. He says I am a “social butterfly”, and in order to meet more people, I also waitress at Black Iron Grill. This gives me an opportunity to visit with people stopping in Rock Port for a bite to eat, and to work with a lot of young adults that are in high schools in Rock Port and Fairfax and well as college students from local schools (not to mention keeping me on my toes). If the people I work with at BIG are any example of our future generation, I’d have to say the parents are doing a fantastic job! There is such a strong, ingrained sense of family and work ethic in this town that it is without a doubt being passed on to the next generation. I also am a Pampered Chef consultant, and have met lots of wonderful women in Rock Port and surrounding towns, that share my passion for cooking and being in the kitchen. After all, Pampered Chef was started by a mom to cook better meals faster, so that she had more time to spend with her family. With that being said, family is definitely a major part of the way things are done in Rock Port. This community pulls together for families in times of need unlike anything I’ve experienced. The way families get together for school functions and fundraisers; this town is a shining example of teamwork and a “will do” attitude, for other towns to follow.

    Moving to a new town and leaving behind all family and friends is no easy task. If it wasn’t for the people in Rock Port, I don’t know where we would be today. Our neighbors, peers at work, and our new friends…have all been so wonderful to us! It is obvious to see that all the pieces of the puzzle fell together for Justin and I, and for some reason, it is our shared belief that we are supposed to be here. This town has found a place in our hearts, and we are so thankful that we’ve been given the opportunity to live in such a wonderful community. No, it may not have a Taco Bell or a Wal-Mart in its city limits but what it does have is its people. The people in this community, with their strong sense of family, commitment to hard work, and acceptance of new faces, makes Rock Port one of the best places to live in our book!