As things continue to change with the COVID-19 pandemic, we all are probably wondering what’s next? Where do we go from here?
I ask you to ponder where you specifically want to go from here. I ask as a person who is working in community development, as a person who is concerned with economic development, as a person who lives here in the greatest country in the world, as a customer, wife, mother, daughter, and human being.
I have questions. You probably do, too.
Will we have a renewed sense of family values? Will you want to spend more time with your family? Will someone stand up and say that as much as we all love sports they shouldn’t be played on a Sunday? Will we just be ready to see others and forget family bonding? Will game nights and family meals be expected again and wanted? Or will we be on to the next thing?
Will we realize what jobs are “essential” and encourage the trades? Will our kids see what pays the bills and how important education is?
Will we find a new appreciation for educators after attempting to home-school? Will they get the wage they deserve? Will we realize that farmers keep food on our plates even though the middle men are making all the money? Will the farmers make a union? Will we make more meals at home? Will more drive-thrus be built for the next time? Will there be a next time?
Will there be more gardens? Will there be more flowers for bees and butterflies?
Will our kids again know how to cook, clean, and hang out with us? Will they remember this fondly or as horrifying?
Will we have all our home projects done that had been put off for years and be ready to socialize? Will we jump at the chance to go to restaurants to eat in their environment? Will we go to town volunteer-driven events because we can? Will we appreciate those volunteers? Will we show up for our communities?
Will we change our spending habits after watching our bank accounts during this?
Will we slow down our instant gratification fix? Will we up it to reward ourselves for surviving?
Will we make our homes and our yards beyond fantastic so that we prefer to stay in? Will we work from home instead of going to the office? Will we isolate ourselves more out of fear or habit? Will we find ourselves even lonelier? Will the mental health crisis grow? Or will we find peace in helping our neighbors by sewing masks or picking up groceries?
Will we go see the people who can’t go where they want to because now we understand how it feels? Will we have a greater sense of empathy?
Will more people vote to make sure the right people are making decisions for us?
Will we order everything online? Will the malls and retail stores close? Will we flock to malls because we can? Or will we realize the value of boutiques and trying things on or a business owner that knows your personal tastes? Will we shop local because we realize the need for something close and attainable?
Will we continue to be a little nicer to those in the medical profession and to the grocers and discount store workers? Will businesses try something new?
Will we think ahead and make changes for the betterment of our new normal? Will we dream something bigger and better? Will we go back and enjoy the simpler times and ways of life?
Will we see a new interest in Iowa and the rest of the Midwest with its open spaces and beauty? Will Coasters visit or move here? Will the trails stay busy with walkers, bikers, and exercisers? Will more be built in case there’s a next time?
Will we not take spending time with others for granted? Will we hug more because we missed it or will we be too scared and miss out on human touch that they say provides healing and comfort? Will we push up against the next person at a live concert and just be glad we can be there? Will we realize that it’s safer to stay home?
Will we have a renewed sense of community? Will we love where we live more? Will we use our vacation days for family trips or mental health pick-me-ups instead of losing them because it keeps us healthy and much happier? Will we seek out cool things nearby? Will we stay home when we are sick without the guilt of missing work from supervisors and out of respect for the safety of others? Will we value our health more? Will self-care be even more important?
Will what “the Jones” are doing matter less? Will we learn to judge less and accept more because we all have our own set of battles? Will we realize the grass isn’t always greener? Will we try to do better?
Will we re-evaluate our priorities?
For every question I might have, the real answers come back to our priorities. As we struggle to deal with the new “normal” and adjust to all that has changed and remained the same, I ask that you ask yourself that one last question: What matters?
May the right things matter.
May you find your sense of community.
May you find the benefit in doing for others.
May you find appreciation.
And may you always remember we are all in this together…
Seek the light.
Be the light.
Amanda Rachel Prokupek
Riverside High School
Parents: Rob and Dianna Prokupek
If your kids attend Riverside Schools, you may very well have met Amanda because she works at the Riverside Child Care. Although she is currently working with littles, she hopes to be working in the criminal justice system in the future. Her extra time is spent sleeping, shopping, and hanging out with family.
Amanda has a witty personality and when asked what she won’t leave home without, well, she told me she can’t leave without her keys. You might also spy her carrying a bag of Hot Cheetos as they are her current obsession and she might be jamming to “Lose Control” by Missy Elliott although Pink is her idol because “she doesn't care about just herself, she cares so much about others.” She’s also a big fan of playing Cards Against Humanity.
However, I appreciated it most when she said that she hoped her classmates would remember the 50-year-old version of her as a crazy cat lady! Guess we will have to wait and see!
Best of luck to you, Amanda! Thanks for calling Pott. County home! And Happy Belated Birthday yesterday!
We have such a great story on the WIDA blog today! It’s our first Senior to Senior Spotlight! We are recognizing Pottawattamie County high school seniors and senior citizens! Today’s set just happens to be related!
Meet Taten Earl Williams and Earl Edward Williams.
Taten Earl Williams
Riverside High School Class of 2020
Parents: Todd and Shelly Williams
Yes, Taten was named after his grandpa! He proclaimed the best advice he’s ever gotten was from that very same grandpa who told him, “Good Way to live is to Work Hard and Play Hard.” And just like his grandpa, there’s agriculture in his future! Taten plans to major in Agriculture Studies and minor in Business as he plans to be a seed salesman. Someday, he hopes he gets to see the Pyramids in Egypt, too. What legacy does he want to leave behind someday? Well, he said he wants them to remember him as “just a good guy that was truly humble and worked hard to make others better themselves.”
Funny part is that Taten has very little to be humble about! His high school career includes a varsity letter for Football, Basketball, Soccer, and Golf all four years! His list of awards is second to none: All District 1st Team Defensive Linemen, All District 2nd Team Offensive Linemen, FFA Academic Achievement Award, Riverside FFA Member of the Year Award, Western Iowa Conference Academic Award, Riverside Boys Basketball Best Teammate Award, Riverside FFA Vice President, FFA Chapter Leadership Award, Western Iowa Conference Honorable Mention Award for Soccer, State FFA Bronze Medal for Experience the Action, Chapter FFA Degree, All District Honorable Mention, All District Academic Team Football, All District Academic Team Basketball, State FFA Degree, and District Golf Team. However, his highlights from high school were ending the TC-losing-streak in football at TC and his once-in-a-lifetime trip to China with 3 fellow FFA’ers and his Ag Instructor, Tyler Johannsen.
Other favorites he mentioned:
Favorite teacher: Mrs. Jennifer Elliott (Kindergarten)
Favorite Drive-thru food: Snickers Blizzard from DQ
Favorite Ear Bud Sounds: Garth Brooks or Mr. Johannsen’s Workout Playlist
Taten has plenty ahead of him, so he wanted to share a little advice: “If you're upset that you haven’t figured out what you want to do in life, it's fine, in fact, it's great. Go out and try anything that you want or think you will like. If it works out, then it works out, if not, keep moving forward. Don’t let others' decisions make you feel forced on what you need to do with your life. Be you….”
We agree, Taten – Be you. It seems to be working!
Earl Edward Williams
Oakland High School Class of 1948
Home: Hancock, Iowa
Earl has quite the personality, as well. He says if he could go back and do it all over again, he’d play football! He misses the days of left end on defense and right end on offense. He also fondly remembers walking to country school every day. He says the most impressive advancement he’s seen in his lifetime is that in farm machinery. Hard to believe you can run a combine via your phone nowadays. Of course, these days he enjoys spending his time telling his grandkids what to do and painting instead. You might also find him listening to “When the Saints Go Marching In” by Bruce Springsteen.
Earl’s a big believer in keeping busy and helping others out. That’s his advice to the younger generation – “Stay busy and work hard. Keep your mind occupied. Try to think about what you want to accomplish in life and go out and do it!” Earl, himself, has done plenty from farming, insurance, real estate, and his love – painting! What a role model for his grandson!
Earl and Taten – we are honored to have both of you be our first Senior to Senior interview! Thanks for making Pottawattamie proud!
Celebrate May Day COVID-19-style! If you know me, you know I love May Day! For those that don’t know about May Day, it’s an ancient holiday in which people ran around a May pole in celebration on May 1st. More recently, people would make May baskets and leave them on other people’s front steps and ding, dong, ditch – perfect for social distancing! Personally, I always thought of May Day as the entrance into summer. It is that sense of hope with spring flowers out, green grass, and school almost out for the year. It may look a little different this year, but we all need a sense of hope right now.
Normally, I wouldn’t break out my May Day post till closer to the day, however, with all the regulations, I thought it best to give you a few days to get supplies ordered and dream up your big ideas for others!
In my day, a May Day basket was a red Solo cup with popcorn and Red Hots or M&M’s, but seeing as how we probably shouldn’t touch other people’s food, it might have to be a bag with microwave popcorn not popped and a bag of M’s that they can wipe down!
Who do you leave May Day baskets for? Family, friends, neighbors, someone you know is living alone right now – whoever you want! There are plenty of DIY ways to make baskets on Pinterest, too, for you overachievers! I use a brown paper bag with a “Happy May Day!” written on it or it gets written on a Ziploc with their goodies! Anything will be appreciated right now!
Of course, you know I wouldn’t leave you hanging without other ideas, too!
*Knife their lawn – yes, you heard me. Get plastic knives and attach little sayings to each plastic knife then shove them in the ground! The kids will love sneaking in to do it, and the person will love the warm fuzzies.
*Have your kids make May Day cards! Older people love a happy pic to put on their fridge or have them go draw with sidewalk chalk and leave them a message!
*What about Blizzards from DQ in Oakland? In past years, your friends might not be home, but this year – they probably will be! Lol.
*I think flower seeds or mini plants would be great, too! Most people have time on their hands to plant and flower seeds are a cheap gift! EZ Greenhouse in Minden can set you up with plants, as could Blossoms or Sue’s Country Garden in Oakland.
*Fresh cut flowers are awesome, too! The Avoca Flower Shop can help you out, as can Blossoms in Oakland.
*Popcorn, M&M’s, and a Coke – head to Rubacks in Oakland, Countryside Market in Minden, Avoca Food Land, or Dollar General in Avoca or Oakland. Or if you want a bag of candied popped popcorn – Treynor Java Supply stocks it and they have a drive-thru window!
*Adult (or not) Beverages – A six-pack on the doorstep will definitely make some of my friends smile. Want to help out our local businesses – grab them a margarita-to-go from El Sol in Oakland or Garcia’s in Underwood and Glenn’s in Walnut has beers ready for take-out as does the Bar’N and Grill in Carson, too! And you can always get a box of Capri Sun or Kool-aid Jammers for the littles!
*Candles are great, too! Not a huge expense and you can find Candle Queen Candles at the Country Store in Carson or find soy candles at Amy’s Attic, also in Carson.
*No one turns down a gift card! Right now is the perfect time to support local businesses and it doesn’t have to be a big amount – every $5 bucks helps! Cornstalk Café just reopened in Shelby and they have specials every day, support The Back Forty in Macedonia as they continue to do meals on wheels, or try Henry’s Diner in Crescent!
*Meat. Lol. Whether it’s jerky that you can grab at Minden Meat Market or Gress Locker in Hancock or some Jack Links from Underwood, that’s always enjoyed! Or go big and get some steaks! Not only will Minden Meat Market and Gress Locker set you up but Jon’s Naturals in McClelland will, too!
*Hershey bars. You can never go wrong with chocolate! And if you are dropping off for kids – they will be happy with candy, sidewalk chalk, silly putty, coloring books with fresh crayons, punch balloons, animal crackers, or a pack of new markers!
*Something homemade like crocheted hot pads or a wind chime (they have all kinds of easy ones on Pinterest) would be perfect, too!
*Balloons – one helium balloon tied to your door can make all the difference.
*Leave them a set of fortune cookies – you can make them using craft foam sheets and put happy messages in them and staple together! So cheap and easy! Just a little time spent. Or you can get the real thing, too. Lol.
You can’t go wrong with anything if it comes from the heart. Right now, when we are all house-bound, a little gesture letting someone know you are thinking of them in the midst of all of this is really all people want. So go forth and leave little pieces of happiness this May 1.
You know this game – give yourself a point if…
Let’s see how many Pottawattamie Points you can rack up! Post your number when you share the blog and feel free to comment here with your number and town, too, to let us know who the Pottawattamie Points Winner is! And we will allow bragging!
Did you know that the Quick Pik along with the Cornstalk Café and Godfather’s Pizza Express moved across the street in Shelby and they’re now open again? It sounds like a “Why did the chicken cross the road?” story, but this one has an answer. Why did Taylor Quick Pik and its food vendors move across the street? So they can be bigger and better, that’s why!
The new Quick Pik location offers more fuel dispensers, a Tesla charging station, a better layout and parking for vehicles, more grab-and-go food in food warmers, and a beer cave! Yes, a beer cave! They will now carry liquor at 28 degrees! With all these reasons, it’s clear why the convenience store crossed the road! Plus, they totally remodeled the place! You have to check out their new fresh, modern look!
The best part is that they are now back open and ready to help out the community with carry-out food. The Cornstalk Café will have daily specials and regular menu items and Godfather’s will have their regular offerings. It’s so nice to have options in the crisis we are in! And the Taylor family wants to do right by Shelby, and all of their communities, as they are a small family-owned business.
Brooke told me that her grandpa bought the original store in 1979 at 11 East Street and three generations later, here they are with a fabulous new place to offer their customers and continue their grandfather’s legacy.
There’s something special about doing an interview with a person that says her joy is carrying on her grandpa’s legacy. That, my friends, is the Pottawattamie County way.
Check out the new place, friends, and they’ll be ready for diners the minute the dining room can open! Find them on Facebook, too!
Did you know that Treynor has a new city manager? Mike Holton is a man of many talents and a very interesting background! Mike grew up in Tilden, Nebraska before heading off to get his undergrad in Counseling and Psychology and Master’s Degree in Public Administration at USD in Vermillion.
Holton has done the trifecta. He’s worked in the profit, nonprofit, and government sectors. That is quite a résumé! He was a director of racing doing horse and dog racing management in Dubuque and actually helped Bluffs Run kick off their greyhound race track back in the day, but kids changed all that!
Happily married for 31 years, Mike says that he switched over to being the Director of Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska when the kids came along. A self-proclaimed family man, he and his wife have 4 grown children with 8 grandchildren and 1 on the way. He said he knew he needed to be passionate about a job that didn’t require quite as many hours. So Director of Rural Affairs it was. He did leadership training, spoke in front of groups, and worked with farmers. He said he’s always been a small town guy.
From there, he moved on to being a city manager for Plainview, Nebraska and had been quite content doing so as Plainview was a self-sustaining town located further away from any major cities, but a friend contacted him and suggested that Treynor might be a good fit. He did some research and decided Treynor it was. He took the call from the City Council and was intrigued by the youth on the council, the friendliness of the town, and the newer businesses like Silos and Treynor Java Supply. It sure didn’t hurt that there’s a beautiful golf course in town, too!
Mike is actually working on his PhD in Public Administration and saw so much potential in Treynor! He saw the community building, Prairie Crossing Winery, TS Bank, and Vision Treynor as a few more assets he knew would fit with his economic, marketing, and community development background.
We talked about what he saw in Pottawattamie County beyond just Treynor, and he shared his new favorite line, “that’s how we do it in Southwest Iowa” which he’s heard repeatedly and has come to realize means everyone is willing to do more than expected. Amen to that!
Although COVID-19 is putting a damper on his meeting and greeting everyone, he’s already taking steps to put his plans into action. He’s tying up loose-end infrastructure projects like sewer, water, and community building improvements that can be done in small numbers but looks forward to meeting everyone. He even mentioned that he loves working with youth and looks forward to being a well-rounded community guy!
Mike, welcome to Treynor and Pottawattamie County! It sounds like you’re just the man for the job, and we’re glad you’re here!
Although the funeral business is a trying one in the best of situations, the Riekens are dealing with a whole new level of commitment to their field as they manage the COVID-19 complications. Marty and Kristy Rieken own and operate 3 funeral homes in Southwest Iowa in Griswold, Shenandoah, and Oakland. Marty has been very active on the state level in his profession so when COVID-19 hit, he and his colleagues were already pondering how to address regulations and emotions tied to their trade.
With 4 memorial services already postponed to a later date and visitations without family present, he was already knee-deep in managing the COVID difficulties. Then the call came that a local 2 ½ year old had passed away. As a family of 7 themselves, the Riekens were struck by the need to make sure this would be handled delicately.
The Riekens’ general philosophy towards any death is to work with the family in a way that’s meaningful for their loved one, work within their means, and best accommodate requests in order to honor the deceased. The duo had already made many changes to their usual procedures by keeping arrangements to 10 or less people, having open visitations with no family, doing more of the preliminary pieces via phone and email, and doing live streaming of the graveside services to name a few. Kristy mentioned it had been quite a learning curve to all of it. Yet, this one was different.
Marty and Kristy listened carefully to the family and after further discussion, Marty suggested they do a drive-thru visitation. It was agreed upon. A tent was set up for the family and Kristy put out a call for red hearts as they had always used a hashtag involving hearts as the child was born with a heart defect. Paper heart chains flooded in as did red ribbons on poles.
The funeral was done in the family’s own horse arena. Friends and family were asked to stay in their cars and the service was live-streamed from the middle of the arena with the family on hay bales and the child at rest on a horse-drawn wagon, her own horse at attention nearby. Microphones were used so people could roll windows down and hear or simply watch the live stream on their phones from the car. It was a very windy day and sound was an issue as was the sun for showing the video footage, but having closure and providing a meaningful send off for the toddler was the goal for so many people who had followed and been a part of her journey.
As the Riekens will tell you, COVID-19 has brought additional challenges to an already tough profession. Simple things like wiping down in between each person visiting or having smaller group gatherings is hard. Waiting to do a memorial service leaves family and friends in limbo stretching the grieving process. Perhaps though, the largest factor is human contact. Grieving involves holding hands, wiping tears, and hugging loved ones, none of which is allowed in a pandemic.
So as the complications mount, the Riekens say they never forget that families entrust them in their darkest hour. They vow to continue thinking outside the box and providing closure in a time where uncertainty is vast and human compassion is necessary.
Thank you, Marty and Kristy, for being servants to our community and to the greater good of Pottawattamie County.
Pott. County is full of ghost signs/murals/art and you can do the driving tour! I know we’re all needing an excuse to get out of the house, and just like cruising, you can do this from the safety of your own car! Or you can do another family selfie tour under each one! Fresh air is good air!
I love vintage advertising and current graffiti-type paintings and everything in between! I love color! And Pott. Co. has lots of it!
I feel like Walnut’s mural tour is one of those hidden gems in Pottawattamie! Did you know there are more than 10 ghost signs (advertising painted on sides of buildings) and murals in Walnut? It’s true! And with a little extra time on your hands, why not check them out?
My husband loves the word sarsaparilla so it’s no surprise that I love the sign on Walnut's Main Street! I’m a big fan of the Coke sign on Roberts’ Bakery, too, but I’m not gonna lie, I love going into the bakery more! YUM!
Shelby is also home to a vintage Coke ghost sign. Big and proud, it’s right there next to Larry’s Auto Craft and Repair on East Street in Shelby!
If you want picturesque, you have to check out the ghost sign in McClelland. It’s huge and fabulous! Kent Feeds might not be there anymore, but the sign is! It is the backdrop to every photo of the park. I can’t help but take pics of it on a sunny day!
And Underwood? Well, Underwood has a whole new level of art! They have hay bale art right at the intersection of Jaguar Loop Road and Railroad Highway! They change it out occasionally and I appreciate their willingness to bring smiles!
A little “birdie” told me you can find art all over though, not just ghost signs! For instance, you can find cardinals all over Treynor but this little baby is right on the main drag through Treynor on Highway 92! Bonus points for the flag next to the post office!
Carson has a painting on the side of The Finish Line Car Wash. Painted in honor of RAGBRAI in 2011 by Randi Henderson, Becky White, and Tami Skank, the emblem still embodies the spirit of Carson. And if you want a bonus in Carson, check out the old D & S Lumber ghost sign next to the Bar’N and Grill!
For something a little different, Macedonia is home to some fun placemaking art! I love the little building at the end of Main Street that has been painted to look like a vintage gas station accurate down to the price of gas in possibly the 1970’s!
Speaking of smiles, I know I’m bias but the mural on the side of the Nishna Heritage Museum in Oakland is quite a sight up close! Although it’s probably the newest painting in the group (other than the hay bales), it is definitely historic in nature and you certainly can’t miss it!
I could go on all day about all the cool art in Pott. Co., but these are my highlights and ones you can see from your car sans mask! I never thought I’d have to say that, but here’s to all of us finding little pieces of color and happiness in these dark times.
Keep the faith, Pott. County!