Seven Suggestions for you Graduating Seniors

Oh, Iowa Park High School Class of 2018, I hardly knew you.

But I feel like I do now.

Of course,  I knew your names through stories in the Leader but it’s been longer than a decade since I’ve had a child in school and I know fewer and fewer of you guys every year.

Then last week happened, as it does every year. I looked at your senior pictures daily for almost a week, resizing them and placing them above the right (please God) names in our annual graduation issue. I feel like I know all of you – I even know your middle names.

I’ve worked with many of your parents over the past two weeks, taking carefully chosen baby and senior pictures and beautiful words for their grown babies for this issue. There’s a lot of love out there for you, Class of 2018. This I know.

I graduated IPHS in 1983, 35 years ago. In fact, from where you sit I may be knocking on wisdom’s door or at the very least, have her address.

I have made mistakes in my life – a lot of them. Lucky for me, those mistakes have been my greatest teacher. So, in no particular order I ask you to consider my humble advice as you end this particular chapter in your life and begin, as many call it, adulting.

• Think for yourself. At least if you’re wrong, you’ve learned something.

• Own your mistakes. It’s nice if everyone else does, too, but that’s not up to you. If you will own and admit your mistakes, you’ll be trusted.

• Forgive, both yourself and others. This is much easier to do when you are willing to own your own mistakes.

• I hope you never lose your ability to put yourself in others’ shoes, and that empathy is one of the first things you pull out of your toolbox.

• I hope you laugh, often and loud, with old and new friends.

• Speaking of friends, don’t isolate yourself. Friends are amazing and necessary

• If you move away from these parts (Texas), as many of you will, eat a lot of Tex-Mex and What-A-Burger before you go. If you move very far it’s impossible to get decent Tex-Mex or any What-A-Burgers, or so I hear. So, eat it. now. You will miss it.

Lastly,  friend of mine from high school posted a meme on Facebook this week that made me think of you. It was a picture of a bunch of joyous graduates, with the caption,  “Congratulations on getting through the easiest part of your life.”

Adulting – the newest verb – is hard. But it’s worth it. I have no doubt you will do it well.

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Best of luck, graduates.

I got out of the graduate advice business shortly after my youngest graduated Iowa Park High School 10 years ago because frankly, I got busy with college and wedding advice and lack the brain space to advise everyone.

I had a plethora of advice for my own children when they graduated high school, college and beyond. So much advice that it occasionally made their eyes roll back in their heads, at which time I would walk away saying, “My work here is done.”

Well, lucky ones of the Class of 2016, I feel the need to force feed you some advice. Whether you take it or not is up to you. But it will make me feel better, like I at least tried to warn you of what lies ahead

• Cut your parents and grandparents some slack and pose for  all of the pictures they want to take of you this weekend. It will get mildly ridiculous, but you will survive in the knowledge that this milestone for you is a major memory in your parents’ book of life. Kindly indulge them.

• Your life will not look like what you think it will look like in 20 years. Or 10 years or five years, for that matter. Know and accept this, it’s not a bad thing. Many things will happen to you. Some are blessings and some are lessons, and you will need every single one of them.

• Look for the solutions, not the problems. Anyone can find problems, and being around those people is exhausting. But the people who look for solutions? Being around them is affirming.

• Laugh, especially when everything tells you not to. Even at the darkest times, if you can laugh you can find a way through.

• No matter what you see older and supposedly wiser adults doing on social media and news programs, treat people with respect. Treat them with respect even when – especially when – there is a difference of opinion. Do it even if it is not returned, then respectfully walk away. Your reward will be self-respect, which is just as important.

• Come home for class reunions, even if you don’t think you will want to. Trust me on this.

• Whether you are an optimist or a pessimest (the world needs both of you, by the way), remember that the glass is always refillable. There is plenty in this world for everyone – plenty of love, hope, money and opportunities. Figure out how you play into that.

I have a lot more advice, but I hope I hit the high spots.

My work here is done. Yours, in another way,  has just begun. Best of luck to each of you – a big world rests on your shoulders.

Huge Congratulations, Iowa Park High School Class of 2016. Our community is proud of you.

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Welcome to Iowa Park, Texas

Many of you know that for the money, I work at a weekly newspaper in Iowa Park, Texas. During my hours toiling at the newspaper office, I write a weekly column, sell advertising and utilitize my skills as a graphics artist. I often share my column on this blog, as I am today. The topic of it this week is welcoming Iowa Park High School alumni home for the biggest weekend of the year, Homecoming and our famous Whoop-T-Do festival.

Being a lifelong Texan, I sometimes take it for grantedthat all smaller towns consider high school football a religion, with services held each Friday night.

This is not necessarily the case.

It occurred to me that many of my blog readers and subscribers are not from around these parts, and never have been. It also occurred to me that many of you don’t even know where Iowa Park, Texas, is. (Shout out to Brazil, where I have my highest number of international readers!)

This is my introduction and welcome to Iowa Park, my hometown.

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I moved to Iowa Park when I was four years old and my parents started the newspaper here.

My first Homecoming memory in Iowa Park was the homecoming parade that year. I remember being so blown away that they had real horses in the parade. And those horses pooped on the streets, which further blew my four-year-old mind. I mentioned it to several contemporaries at my pre-school the following Monday and that was the first time (of many) I got in trouble at school.

(Fun fact: my favorite curse word is horseshit, which may or may not be related to that incident.)

But I digress.

We moved to a community that continues to have fall festivals, is proud of it’s home-owned businesses, and will help people out in need whether they are sick with mounting bills, or hungry. Iowa Park is my hometown, and I have a great love for the community and her people, although I moved to Wichita Falls four years ago, and commute back every day.

2015 marks my 46th Iowa Park Homecoming and Whoop-T-Do, which is to say I have probably eaten the collective body weight of the Green Bay Packers in sausage on a stick, funnel cakes and deep fried corn since I’ve been here. With it, of course, comes parades, homecoming queens, football games and bonfires.

……and great memories.

A newspaper is a recorder of a community’s history, in real time.

In the perfect world, community newspapers mirror the ebb and flow of life in the town they serve – births and deaths;  laws made and laws broken; meetings and dissenting opinions; victories and losses; and ultimately, the good and the bad.

We always hope for more good than bad, for the record.

A big part of Iowa Park’s tradition and history is the annual Homecoming and Whoop-T-Do, so it is a big part of our year here at the Iowa Park Leader.

And it’s here …. so welcome home to all of you who don’t live here anymore. We are truly glad you came back.

I’ve never lived far enough away from Iowa Park to have to actually “come home” for homecoming. I live in Wichita Falls now, so I drive 30 miles round trip to my hometown almost every day.

Even if you come to Iowa Park fairly often, you probably don’t notice the subtle, and even not-so-subtle, changes over time.

This week I was thinking about what it would be like to look at Iowa Park with new eyes, so to speak.

So I tried to look at what life is like in Iowa Park on my way to work from Wichita Falls this week with those new eyes.

I’m here every day but somehow the changes don’t register because they are a part of the daily grind while they occur.

But when you come back after not being here a while, you notice those things.

A new housing addition. You can buy a beer or margarita in town for the first time since actual saloons were a thing and we had one in downtown Iowa Park. A growing mountain (lovingly referred to as Mount Trashmore, since it is our landfill) on the main highway. How beautiful Gordon Lake has become. Iowa Park has a McDonald’s? All of these things and more.

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Gordon Lake

Our school campuses and Hawk stadium have changed in some fairly remarkable ways.

So look around and enjoy remembering the way things use to be.

Also, embrace the changes. Even with the changes you don’t like so much, it shows that Iowa Park is not in a rut – we are moving.

Of course, some things have not changed. Iowa Park still lives up to it’s name as “The Town of Friendly Living.” The spirit of giving and helping is still a cornerstone in this community. Our school pride and Hawk tradition remain as strong as ever. We are one of the few towns that has a full-service gas station and a home-owned newspaper, and our school cafeterias still serve hamburgers every single Wednesday.

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Ray Copening, owner of City Cafe, and my Mom and owner of the Iowa Park Leader, Dolores Hamilton, sitting in front of City Cafe

After 46 years, the Iowa Park Leader still covers the history of Iowa Park as it happens, something we are proud of. With computers, social media and advanced technology, the method of covering the news has changed, but our dedication to reporting it has not.

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Welcome to Iowa Park, IPHS alumni. We are glad you are a part of this week’s history.

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The oldest building in Iowa Park, and office of my sweet husband, Bobby, BMC Retirement Planning

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This is on the corner of that building, where I cut my name (with a heart over the i) when I was in junior high.

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Homecoming of a different sort

 

I had a homecoming of sorts last weekend that was almost 50 years in the making.

Tyler Duggins, a great friend of my son’s from Iowa Park High School and his roommate at Texas Tech went and got himself hitched last Saturday in Plainview, Texas, and I was lucky enough to be invited.

Along with my son and Tyler, I also got to see several of their friends from high school who have since scattered across the state and country. It was a beautiful wedding and a great time.

But that isn’t the homecoming I’m talking about.

Plainview also happens to be my birthplace. My family left Plainview when I was two years old, and until Saturday I had never been back.

My plan was that in addition to the wedding, I would find the house my parents built in the early-1960’s, which was also my first home.

I’ve heard many stories about this house in Plainview, and  I’m the only one in the family who has no memory of it, except what I’ve seen in pictures.

And from their stories, it was a magical time, presumably because I was born. They haven’t actually told me that, but that’s what I’m going with.

My original plan was to find the house, snap a couple of covert shots of the front and leave.

Dressed for the wedding, I pulled up in front of the house, stopped across the street and called my mother. I described the brick on the house and closest intersection, and she confirmed it was the house.

It was at that point that I became an expert level stalker.

I noticed the front yard was neatly manicured with an American flag. I fell in love with it.

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My first home.

Then I noticed a police car parked in front of the house next door, and it occurred to me if I took secret pictures it might look suspicious.

So I did something that later horrified my husband and daughter – I walked up to the house to introduce myself to the owner. I suck at a lot of things, but talking to strangers is not one of them. And, I thank God I was not wrong or I might be captive in a hidden basement in Plainview instead of typing this.

As I tip-toed in heels through a muddy path at the side gate, the owner, Mr. Garcia, looked up from his work bench and didn’t even look startled that a woman he had never seen before was walking uninvited into his back yard. In fact, he said, “watch your step.” like people in their Sunday best wander into his back yard all. the. time.

He and his wife, Mrs. Garcia, turned out to be two of the nicest and most gracious people I have ever met. They invited me into their home and gave me a tour  of the entire house. And although I had no recollection of it, I felt oddly at home.

There it was, the same big breakfast bar that held a red velvet cake with my dad and all five of us kids behind it that I remember from a picture of my brother Kevin’s birthday. Then there was the picture window in the front of the house that was the background for my favorite picture of all five of us.

And, there was the same concrete driveway where it is rumored I took a nap behind the back tire of the car and narrowly escaped death (somebody noticed me before Mom backed out.)

They invited me to take pictures wherever I wanted (I did), and they unscrewed mirrors and pegboards off the wall where they exposed my sister’s graffiti in her own six-year-old handwriting in the garage. Now we all know Kimwasn’t the angel she would have had us believe. Also, she was apparently a tic-tac-toe child prodigy.

Then they revealed – gently – that the house was haunted. This made me arch my eyebrow in a fairly noticeable way. When they saw I didn’t flee immediately, they gave me details about the ghost Mrs. Garcia has named Bill. Bill apparently has a thing for clocks and matchbox cars.

My kinda place. My kinda people.

It was comforting to think of my Mom and Dad, in their late twenties and early thirties, with five children and a brand new house. Their entire lives were in front of them, and ours’ even more so.

During those years Mom and Dad owned the Plains Farmer, a farming newspaper, as well as the Kress News. When the farming industry changed in the mid-to-late 60’s, having a specialty newspaper for farms became unsustainable.

Our family moved to Littlefield in 1967 where Dad took a job at the Lamb County Leader, and my Mom continued to publish the Kress News out of our home while taking care of five screaming, free-spirited and very young angelic children.

I still haven’t been back to Littlefield since we moved from there to Iowa Park in 1969 when my parents began the Iowa Park Leader. Maybe Littlefield, Texas will be my next homecoming.

Since I turned 50 this year, it occured to me that sometimes you have to appreciate where you’ve been and what it took (and by whom) to see where it is you’re going. Maybe only then can you plan the future with a greater sense of what you need, rather than what you want.

Congratulations Tyler and Gracie Duggins. And thank you, Mom and Dad.

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Letter to my kids (not written in shorthand)

A letter to my children,

It occurred to me today that the two of you may have never heard of shorthand, or even know what that alien language looks like, and it took me by surprise. I don’t know why I think about these things, but you two are accustomed to it and generally respond kindly. I am grateful for that.

Shorthand was still offered as a class at Iowa Park High Schoolback in the day, which would be approximately 1983-ish.

Simply put, shorthand is a method of rapid writing by means of abbreviations and symbols used especially for taking dictation. Today, we call that an iPad.

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Why, indeed?

I have a friend, Darla,  who took the class in high school, and if I remember right she was good at it. Or at least she appeared to be good at it; I had no idea what was going on, but she was convincing and she did go to state competition.

She is now the registrar of Midwestern State University, and I am proud to say that the registrar of the university I attended is fluent in shorthand. I think. Like I said, all signs point to it.

I never took that class at IPHS because I had already made the only F in my entire high school career in typing, and I didn’t think my transcript could withstand another. I could type just fine, but I spent the entire class typing personal notes to my friends. I wrote some of the best lines of my life in those letters.

In fact, Darla went to state competition in typing as well, where she placed second. This is ironic because she was one of the main recipients of my typing classwork that garnered me a failing grade.

As far as shorthand is concerned, my brain could not analyze and make sense of what I saw on the page. I had the same problem with musical notes. They are both languages I couldn’t learn. I deeply regret one of those, and it’s not shorthand.

That last part is just a cautionary tale.

Darla has continued to use shorthand throughout her entire  distinguished career at Midwestern State, not because it’s required (nobody even knows what it is anymore), but because it helps her in her work whether anybody knows it or not.

The point is there are going to be things in your life that you learn that will be outdated before you know it and the next thing might look shinier and newer, and maybe even better.

But maybe it’s not. Maybe that stuff everyone else has forgotten about is something that works for you.

Someday, perhaps, you’ll think these thoughts about your own children and write them down. It will probably have something to do with an iPod or Saxon Math or that time I taught you how to clean a face with a tissue and spit.

Above all, don’t forget the good stuff, and don’t forget to pass it on.

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50 Years, 10 Things

This week is homecoming week in my hometown of Iowa Park, Texas. Working at the local newspaper, where I write a column, I decided I had written no less than 15 columns about homecoming tradition and mums. This year will be different, I said. This year I will write about something that has nothing to do with homecoming, I said. I succeeded. Mostly.

A great friend of mine was talking this week about the greatest inventions of his lifetime that he couldn’t live without.

This got me to thinking …. I like stuff. And, I like a lot of stuff that came into this world in the last 50 years.

Much like the freak flags I wrote about last week, the items you can’t live without say a lot about you like how vain, intellectual and lazy you are.

In that spirit, I created a list of the top 10 things that came into being during my lifetime that I would rather not be without. Don’t judge me.

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10. Pinterest – No where else on earth will you find a better representation of stuff  in one place you will never cook, can’t afford to buy, places you will never go, and advice you won’t follow. Pinterest is a multi-level lesson in procrastination. But a girl can pin herself into denial, right?

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9. DVR (Digital Video Recorder) – Because I can’t always be home when The Voice is on.

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8. Camera Phone – Two words: Anthony Weiner. Actually, it’s one of my favorite things because it started a trend of taking pictures of things that no one would have considered capturing for all time when we had to wait a week to have film developed – namely, your dinner, bottle of beer and feet. It’s endlessly entertaining.

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7. GPS for Cars – Aside from the fact that I am directionally challenged, nothing pleases me more than the soothing British accent of the GPS lady who is admonishing me while I’m lost in a strange city during rush-hour traffic.

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6. YouTube – Because, funny cat videos.

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5.  iTunes – The best thing to happen to recorded music – no records or CDs to scratch, and 8-tracks and cassettes to melt. It’s the best way to seamlessly transition from Frank Sinatra to Led Zeppelin. Speaking of which,

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4. Led Zeppelin.

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3. Straightening Iron – Without it, people would get me and Ted Nugent confused. And nobody wants that.

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2. Birth Control Pill – I wanted two children. I had two children.

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1. Spanx – A slimming undergarment for women (and now for men!) it’s primary goal to make you look skinnier, and a secondary goal of squeezing your internal organs until you whimper, “uncle.” I love these so much more than my intestines do.

Lots of things didn’t make the Top 10 list, like the smoke detector (saves lives and dinner); the movie Animal House, and the first five seasons of Saturday Night Live.

Hawk Football and Iowa Park Homecoming is not on that list because it has been going on for much longer than 50 years, and you don’t want to read yet again about the triple mum I got my junior year in high school that came with free visits to the chiropractor and required a winch truck to hoist it onto my bosom.

But, welcome home to all of you in Iowa Park this Homecoming weekend. I hope to run into many people I rarely get to see anymore. In case you don’t recognize me, I’ll be the skinny woman who doesn’t look a thing like Ted Nugent.

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Has anyone seen Hercules?

skunkThis is what Hercules looks like.

 I spent the past weekend at The Cliffs at Possum Kingdom Lake with nine members of the IPHS Class of 1977, some of their spouses and a skunk I have named Hercules.

All of us and the skunk lived to tell about it. At least we did. Nobody has seen the skunk since it was believed to have expired – with help – in a lawn-sized Hefty trashbag.

But I’m ahead of myself.

The Cliffs is a resort on the lake that offers villas, a top-notch golf course, swimming pool and wildlife. It was a recipe for a miniature class get-together that turned out brutally successful.

The members of the class of ‘77 that turned up were The Bobby, Jim Stevens, Shane Kimbrew, Mike Hunter, Holly Burrell Witt, Beth Lewis Cosgrove, Tracy Combs Cathey, Becky Horton Wirmel and Mike Jordan. Myself, Kelly Kimbrew, Judy Stevens and Cindy Jordan were the four spouses.

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It was just like being in high school – with sunburns, football injuries and things that would get you in trouble with your mother. One evening, we all took advantage of the cooler weather after dark and sat behind the villas, eating, drinking and revisiting the glory days. Everyone dispersed to their rooms around 10:30, followed shortly by an unflinching skunk advancing on the villas. Seriously, the skunk got about six feet away, and looked me in the eye like he was saying, “Make your move, fat woman.”

We made our move inside and went to bed.

The next morning, Bobby walked out onto the back patio to find our large Hefty trash bag in the middle of a pasture between the villa and the 10th hole. After he hinted at the fact that he may have graduated with rednecks, he strolled out and got the trash bag and put it back by the villas.

Kelly and Shane joined us outside shortly after and were obviously perplexed at how the Hefty bag made it the 30 yards back to the villas. “Mr. Clean did it,” I told Shane. “And, he called you a redneck.” Shane looked disturbed. “Was the skunk still inside?”

I didn’t know I could laugh before I’ve had my first cup of coffee, but I can. Know that.

Then Shane explained how the trash bag was catapulted into the pasture. After Bobby and I had fled the skunk, Shane and Kelly decided to sit outside for a while. With no skunk in sight, they were enjoying the stars when they started hearing the Hefty bag rustle, they thought because of a gentle breeze. Before long it had become apparent that the trashbag not only contained our trash – bottles from the evening included – but also a skunk.

Shane, obviously wanting to impress his woman, grabbed the bag with the skunk still inside and flailed it around onto various hard objects until he believed the beast had died or was at least stunned. I would have given a week’s pay to watch that happen.

shaneShane “The Skunkenator” Kimbrew

Then he desposited his work in the middle of the field and waited. He and Kelly waited an hour for the skunk to come to his senses and leave, but he never did. They decided the little guy had expired in the bag and went to bed. It seems that sometime between midnight and 7 a.m., the skunk crawled out of the bag to seek some medical attention because after several ninja moves to check the inside of the bag, he was no longer sleeping with the bottles.

Hercules was alive, but probably not well.

We soldiered on, though, to finish out a mostly non-violent weekend. Although after that, nobody offered to take out the trash.

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