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I don’t even want to think about how horrid national politics will be in 2017 so I’m going to turn my attention to Decatur.  I’m not in the inner circle so I hear things about the same time everyone else does, unless I just happen to know somebody that knows somebody and I get a heads up warning.  But here’s some things that I think we’ll be discussing in the community in 2017.

Demo Days Ahead

The city is getting really aggressive about demolishing many vacant buildings in Decatur’s inner city.  About 1,000 homes and structures are going to be coming down.  That’s a lot!  It’s sad on one hand but probably the only real option to make areas of town marketable again for residential or commercial development.

New Businesses/New Locations

Sonic’s will be opening a second location on Decatur’s northend directly across from Dairy Queen.  Good news for Decatur.  Bad news for my waistline.  Some well-known chain restaurant is supposed to be locating in the old Ruby Tuesday location.  The name hasn’t been revealed yet.  Doctor’s offices are springing up too.  The old Maverick’s Steak House building will be new offices and on the corner of Pershing and MacArthur Ave, the VITA Center for Women will be moving in.  It’s currently located on the DMH campus.  A new Dollar Tree store will be on Pershing near the recently closed Kmart.

Unfortunately, Decatur will be losing TJ Maxx to Forsyth.  I’m just not a big fan of Forsyth shopping, so I doubt I’ll be visiting it very often.  It’s not that I don’t like Forsyth, it’s just that I like supporting Decatur more.

Northend Struggles

I have a good hunch that Decatur’s northend will continue being the target of proposed changes.  I think it’s a matter of time before the corner of Ash and 51 goes commercial.  Aldi’s wasn’t the right fit but if something comes along that is highly desirable, I think the neighborhood will have quite a fight on its hands.  I just hope the city spends a lot of time in proper planning to ensure the best for all.

Even my old stomping grounds are being threatened.  The street I grew up on, South Court Drive has commercial interest.  A particular property owner has contacted nearby property owners to see if they would be willing to sell.  Obviously, the rest of the neighborhood isn’t impressed.  My dad is ready to set up cannons and other artillery if necessary. Ha.  Even if I didn’t grow up on that street, I wouldn’t think the area would be right for commercial development.  It would destroy the whole character of the neighborhood.

Overall Predictions

I’m not going to really give predictions because I don’t have enough inside information but I think Decatur will do okay in 2017.  I think we’ll have some positive news and some not-so-positive news but overall I’m optimistic.  I’d sure love to see new stores go into the old Haines & Essicks building.  I missed it during the holidays but at least Del’s is back on Merchant Street.

I’m eager to see the addition of a new amphitheater and aquatic center in Nelson Park.  Both are very positive things for the city, even though I’m still pulling for a lazy river.  The expanded rail line at Scovill Zoo should be a fun addition and I’m looking forward to continuing volunteering there.  I miss the zoo in the winter but I’ll be there for volunteer classes soon.

One thing we shouldn’t see a lot more of in 2017 is more gambling locations.  The city put a cap on the number of those establishments.  We’re already at the limit!

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If there’s any recurring theme to 2016 it’s that hardly anyone will miss it.  This year has been absurd, ridiculous, disappointing, sad, and mentally disturbing.  I think what makes it so bad for me is that I cringe to think what 2017 will bring.  Every other new year always fills me with a sense of renewal and hope for better things but I don’t feel that right now.  Oh, I still believe in hope but it’s a hope delayed.  It’s a hope that ‘s going to have to be worked for.

Princess Leia's characteristic hairstyle.jpg
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

If you haven’t seen Rogue One yet, you might not want to read on because the best part of the movie is the very last scene and articulated in just one word by Princess Leia.  The audience in the theater erupted in joy and wonder just seeing her face and hearing that one word, “Hope”.  Well, it wasn’t really her face but still it was magical.  It was a scene unexpected but it explained the  struggle so completely.  It felt like the one little crumb that 2016 was going to toss to us before we wrote off the entire year as a sick joke.  Then a few days later we get the news that Carrie Fisher, the actress who played Princess Leia, suffered a heart attack and it’s unknown whether she’ll make a recovery or not at this time.

It’s been a trying year to put it mildly.  My life has been going okay, (knock on wood) in 2016.  The fears I have for the future aren’t self-centered.  It’s not just about me.  Yes, life this year has had its challenging moments and personal losses.  We all go through a lot of difficult times but at least during those times it was always reassuring that the world wasn’t falling apart around me or teetering on the edge of total societal collapse.  I might be overreacting.  I sure hope I am but I just don’t have any hope in our leadership whatsoever, probably because we don’t have any true leaders at the moment.

I think as Americans we all got a little too lazy.  I like how one lady worded it in a comment to an article I read about the country going backwards on racial and social justice issues.  “Well, coffee break is over America.  Get back to work.”  If there’s going to be any hope in 2017, we’re going to have to make it happen, individually and collectively.

I’ve thought a lot about what I can do because essentially my interests and my concerns aren’t going to have a voice on the national stage for the next couple of years.  I’m a science major and science is being attacked.  I’m a conservationist and conservation is being attacked.  I’m for civility and civility is being attacked.  I almost feel like a Rogue One character having to go underground to protect the planet and its species from being annihilated by greedy oil barons and dimwitted politicians floating overhead like a Death Star. It’s insane. How did America become so ridiculous?

All I can do is do good where I am with what I am.  That’s all.  That’s where I’m putting my hope.  Well, actually my real hope is in God but I still have to do the work I’m called to do.

My intention isn’t to depress anybody because there’s still a lot of good in this world.  And no, I don’t think you’re a horrible person if you voted for Donald Trump. I think you should have done your homework better but…  I know we’re constantly bombarded with all the bad stuff but there’s hope out there.  It might be cruising around on a disc drive in a space ship light years away but there’s still hope!







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I always feel like I’m experiencing PTSD after finishing another quarter at school.  The schoolwork is demanding, yes, but I’ve been through this enough to know I can handle it.  It’s just all the unexpected things that happen on a daily basis as a wife, mom, and soon-to-be grandmother that makes it so difficult.

Determining soil sand, clay, and silt content in a hydrometer.

Case in point, last week I was finishing up two major projects for a couple classes when my daughter was in the hospital with pre-term labor symptoms.   I thought I was going to have to camp out in a waiting room for a couple days with my laptop, writing a 25-page term paper about a watershed in Idaho.  Like my mind was on Idaho!  Luckily, they were able to stop the labor and I went home…to Idaho, at least in my mind.

Snake river canyon 20070602.JPG
By Gh5046 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by gh5046., Public Domain, Link

Above, Idaho is pretty amazing!

This week I’m sick with bronchitis, probably because I was in a building full of sick people the week before.  Luckily, I had enough energy early in the week to finish another paper.  In-between moments of heavily medicated mental fogs and exhaustion I was able to study enough for my soil science final exam to not bomb it.

I really think anyone earning a degree as an adult should receive a special distinction.  If I wasn’t truly passionate about my major (natural resources), I sure as heck would’ve quit a long, long time ago.  Whenever I feel like it’s not worth it, I look at the birds outside my window and realize, they’re more than worth it.  Plus, I’ve come this far.  I’d be stupid to quit now.

So, here’s to all the adult students out there.  You are amazing, just like Idaho!






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June and Ward Cleaver Leave it to Beaver 1958

It’s said often that many Americans would like to return to the “Leave it to Beaver” days because it reflects a time when America was a lot less complicated.  The truth is this country has never been uncomplicated.  Some of my favorite television shows were produced during times of social upheaval.  “The Andy Griffith Show” is a prime example.

I remember watching an interview of Andy Griffith and he said the show reflected 1930s America more than it did the decade of the 1960s in which it was produced.  It was done that way on purpose.  I hadn’t stopped to think about that before.  Watching the show today, one would think everyone was getting along so well in the country in the 1960s.  I know history paints a different picture.

The news this morning that Florence Henderson had died was a bit of a shock.  I grew up on Brady Bunch reruns as did millions of Americans.  No matter how many times I had seen the episodes, they offered an escape from whatever was going on in my life.  We all need to escape once in a while.

Maybe the scripts were idealized versions of reality but what’s so bad about that?  Shouldn’t we strive to be better kids, parents, spouses and citizens?  I don’t think these shows make us collectively stick our head in the sand and ignore real problems around us.  We’re aware of all the problems, probably too much.

Andy Griffith Don Knotts 1970

The constant negative news articles and being connected 24/7 to everyone I know through social media is too much sometimes.  Once in a while I have to walk away and remember life before we were all so “together”.  I recently saw a cartoon on Facebook that stated, “My need to be well informed is at odds with my need to remain sane.”  Isn’t that the truth!

I need a reprieve and I think our entertainment should offer a reprieve from all of the junk we’re bombarded with daily.  It should also inspire us to be a little better, a little kinder, and a whole lot more hopeful.  Considering that much of the news out there isn’t even true anyway, I’d rather put my kids (and grandkids) in front of the television, tablet, smartphone, or whatever they’re watching and find some enjoyment and peace.

There’s a lot to learn from Charles and Caroline Ingalls, Ward and June Cleaver, Mike and Carol Brady, Andy, Barney and Aunt Bee, Gilligan and the Skipper, and even Herman and Lilly Munster.  We all need to learn to laugh again, especially at ourselves.  If there’s anything missing from this narcissistic, over-informed time we live in, it’s that.  We need to laugh again.  We take ourselves entirely too seriously while standing on our social media soapboxes lecturing the rest of the world how it ought to be.  I’m as guilty as anybody.   In reality, I just want to laugh again.  I want to find some peace and I’m forever grateful to the shows and entertainers that were able to deliver on both.


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Thanksgiving is just a couple days away and I can’t think of any more appropriate holiday to address the mood and seemingly deep (let’s face it, an abyss) divide between red and blue Americans.  For my family, Thanksgiving was always an awkward day – at least through the eyes of a child.  It was the one day of the year in which family members from near and far gathered under one roof and caught up on the past year’s events.

This was way before Facebook and other forms of social media.  Most of us had absolutely no contact with each other except for Thanksgiving.  The event was always held at my Great-Grandmother’s house in Taylorville, Illinois.  She had a small, old house located across from an old train station that had sat empty for years.  Peeling paint, gray weathered wood, large and sagging overhangs over the wooden platform where so many had waited for arrivals and departures sat as a reminder of days gone past.  I always felt like I missed something by never seeing the station as it had been.  It represented a time before me that begged to not be forgotten.

And now Thanksgiving is so different.  Many of the people that filled that little house are gone but I remember them well.  How could I forget my great-uncle’s new wife that we were all, well, basically terrified of.  As soon as she entered the house everyone took to their battle stations.  Those that were in the kitchen hoped that by looking busy that the dark cloud about to descend would pass them by.  Us kids ran into the bedrooms and hid.  My dad suddenly felt the need to go wash the car, in November, when it was 20 degrees.  My mom chopped celery with precision, trying to hide behind the bowl of stuffing.

Then with a swift dreaded arrival she entered the kitchen and swung her tin cans of cookies onto the counter with a clang.  A chill went down my spine.  I think I heard someone scream faintly.  Everyone tried to remember how to breathe.  Suddenly she clapped her hands and said without abandon, “Happy Thanksgiving!”

She had a habit of clapping her hands whenever she entered a room or had something important to say.  Even though she was new to the family, she certainly wasn’t sheepish about trying to fit in.  She barreled her way in and we were scared.  But she was family and families learn to put up with each other, no matter what.

Donald Trump (5440995138)

This Thanksgiving feels a lot like that in America.  We have a president-elect who is a lot like that new odd family member we’re not quite sure of.  Can we trust him?  Is he as awful as some are saying?  I don’t know yet but yes, we are all one big family now nonetheless.  It’s never been easy to get along but if my family made it through Thanksgiving with the clapping aunt, America can make it through with Donald Trump.

Oh and in time, I grew less scared of her.  She was still loud and never one to fade into the wallpaper but we learned to hold our defenses.  I certainly wouldn’t remember those Thanksgivings nearly as well without her.

Btw, the featured image for this post is from my dad’s side of the family.  Sadly, there’s no photos of any Thanksgiving from my mom’s side.  Imagine that.  Back then, nobody even thought to take photos at family events.  All I have are the pictures in my mind.

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