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Keep those cards and letters coming!

February 22, 2011
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

While trying to analyze which of my columns are most popular with my readers, I read through all the email and letters I get. When they like a certain one, I get a spike in both.

Human interest seems to be a good motivator for some to correspond with their weekly columnist. But, when I’m able to somehow articulate just how challenging rural life can be, especially when it’s one of those times I do something really stupid, I seem to get your attention.

After reading my recent column detailing how I caught my face on fire, an old high school friend of mine asked, “Why did you decide to move back to Iowa again?”

It didn’t take me long to come up with an answer to that one, “To be closer to the calamitous events which steel the body and embolden the mind!”

To be honest, life in Florida is boring and not nearly as challenging as living in Iowa. Florida only has two seasons – hot and hotter! Iowa on the other hand has all four – winter, still winter, summer, and almost winter.

Astute readers will know I usually write my column on Friday morning. Yesterday, the temperature reached 65. Just one week before the temperature was -2. A 67 degree improvement isn’t too shabby!

One thing I’ve learned is if you don’t like the weather in Iowa, wait a day.

Your morning ritual in Florida becomes routine. You don’t have to look at the thermometer; you just know it’s hot. You put on as few articles of clothing as you can get by wearing while maintaining your decency. You just know you will sweat, stick to the seat of your car, and have to drink gallons of water to keep from dehydrating.

My morning Iowa ritual is way more challenging and character building.

First, I jump out of bed. I realize not everybody arises with the zeal I do, but I’m a morning person so I do jump out of bed. Your mileage may vary.

The first stop is the outdoor thermometer. How cold did it get last night? The second stop is the front door. I peer through the glass and try to determine first if it snowed, second if it’s windy and third if there are drifts.

If misery loves company, then there should be a lot of commiserating going on right now. The epic blizzard which hit the Midwest this month caused misery all across the nation.

In typical Iowa fashion however, the worst I heard was, “It ‘coulda’ been worse!”

Iowans have this way of making do and just getting on with things; an “it is what it is” sort of mentality.

Even my personal challenges in the aftermath of the storm were minor in comparison to those of the last several years.

It doesn’t make sense to dwell on the adversities of life when you continually face new challenges. Such is life in Iowa.

For my friends reading this column who aren’t so hardy as to have the privilege of living in Iowa, there are a couple things of which you should be aware. Winter is the defining reality and summer the escape. We know exactly what to expect: snow, cold, more snow and the unexpected.

It seems I never attain everything to which I aspire, and I am rapidly not becoming the person I truly want to be. But, in order to grow, you have to set your sights high.

Nobody ever entered a race wanting to finish last. You enter a race trying to win, and accept with humility your place. Such is life. You aspire for things just outside your reach, and take pleasure in the heights you do attain, or not. To aspire to greatness, even though you may not attain greatness, helps make the average person happy and feel balanced. It is my observation that those who are complacent or take stock in mediocrity are never happy.

One of my pet peeves is a certain behavior some people demonstrate. You’ve all dealt with this before. There are people who will acknowledge and greet you one-on-one, but pretend not to see you in a crowd. They somehow think of themselves as superior to you, and don’t want to be caught being too familiar with you in public, and will feign civility if you greet them on turf where nobody of importance might be watching. This is a common behavior with the high school “in crowd,” but some people never grow out of this behavior.

Too Young for Woodstock; too Old for Sesame Street. I think that defines my age group quite well. One thing your weekly columnist is prone to do is wax nostalgic. I wouldn’t trade the path I’ve trod for anybody else’s.

I think I thought I was invincible or “not at risk,” well into my twenties. I did some foolish things. I took some chances. I’ve often said I wouldn’t go back to 18, even if I could. My logic is I wouldn’t live through it a second time. I thank God and my guardian angel for getting me through some really rough times, which should have been scary, but to an invincible youth, weren’t. I’m not going to elaborate, for fear I might give kids reading this column some bad ideas. I think most of you adults know where I’m coming from; just think back.

While not the contemporary adaptation, I had several moms when I was growing up. Any one of them was capable of kicking my butt if I got out of line, and DID when I did. It might sound a little trite to say it takes a village to raise a child, but only the definitions have changed. Love is still the underlying force for making a difference -- in a family, the neighborhood, or the world.

Until next time--

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on the “Local Columns” button at the bottom of the page.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2011 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.

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