Depression & Suicide in Rural America: Joey’s Story

Who’s Joey?

Joey’s a white, 54-year-old male living in a small town in rural North Dakota. He’s been married for 29 ½ years to fellow Napoleon native, Missy (Sperle).

He’s the proud father of three grown children (Amanda, Megan and Elijah) and has an adorable 9-month-old grandson.

Joey’s the middle child with two sisters and an in-law to Missy’s 12 siblings.

He’s provided for his family as a restaurant owner and manager, retail manager and maintenance worker at the Napoleon Care Center.

Joey loves spending time with his family, especially hunting with his son, mowing the lawn and watching TV.

He’s described as kind, soft-hearted, genuine and sweet.

Joey loves people, but is shy.

He works hard not to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Joey can also be a prankster and a joker.

He has a strong Catholic faith.

Joey has suffered with depression for 34 years.

On December 9, 2016, Joey ended his life by suicide.

Battling Depression

This wasn’t Joey’s first attempt at ending his struggle with life.

Three times he overdosed with medication chased by alcohol. The last time by a fatal gunshot in the master bedroom.

“In the 35 years we were together, it was like a roller coaster ride,” said his wife, Missy. Joey was hospitalized for the suicide attempts. He saw doctors for decades and took a variety of antidepressants. He even had shock treatments, which worked for a few years, but, according to Missy, also affected his short-term memory.

Joey’s depression peaked when he was under pressure or conflict was present in his life.

“Joey loved his family so very much but I believe the suffering just got to be too much. He was so tired of the struggle to keep going,” shared Missy.

Suicide’s Effect on Family

Joey’s children felt deep guilt in the months after his death. “These days were very hard. The kids felt guilty because they didn’t call or visit their dad more often.”

Somehow they believed if they’d have reached out and visited more frequently his suicide could’ve been prevented.

Not likely.

Hilzendeger Family

Joey and Missy often talked about suicide because of his 30-year depression battle. “I knew the day would come where he’d accomplish it. However, I always figured it’d be by means of overdose and not by shooting himself on a day when all the children were coming home.”

Missy assured and comforted her children and told them what she’d say to any family who’s suffered such a loss:

1. This is not your fault. Depression is an illness like cancer, diabetes or alcoholism. It is no one’s fault and certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

2. Use available resources for helping you cope: support groups, pastoral counseling, therapy, physician visits, retreats, spa services-whatever is available to you and makes you feel better.

3. Stay strong. It may feel like you will never get over this. It is not easy and you will never forget. Each day does get better and you will learn to live with it. You have to believe God loves you and will help you through this.

Though she coaches her children and others to be guilt-free, Missy sometimes blames herself for Joey’s suicide. “We were together for 35 years and I just couldn’t bring him back from the darkness this one last time.”

However, Missy has never been angry with Joey for what he did. “We were together so long and I knew how much he struggled on so many occasions. I can’t be angry with him.”

She admits, though, she’s been disappointed that he didn’t fight harder, especially after they had their first grandchild. “He was so unbelievably proud of that little boy.”

Missy is comforted knowing that she and the kids did not miss any warning signs of Joey’s impending suicide. “He battled depression for 30 plus years. Though it was difficult, it was part of our lives for so many years.

I wish I could have him back, but for Joey’s sake, knowing how much he suffered for so long, I truly hope and pray that he is now at peace.”

Moving Forward

Joey is terribly missed by all. Thinking of him brings both a smile to Missy’s face and tears to her eyes.

She talks to him regularly, asking him to watch over the family and to keep them safe, always, but especially from the current pandemic. “I pray every day that Joey is at peace and is right beside God.” That was always his greatest wish.

Missy’s relies heavily on her immediate and extended families to cope and is deeply grateful to each of them for their commitment to her. “They’ve helped so much with everyday life since Joey’s death. I wouldn’t have been able to get through this without them and my faith.”

Her toughest days were the grief-filled ones the first four weeks after Joey’s death. “I cried every day, many times a day. I remember thinking I’d just lost my husband yet everyone is moving on like nothing happened.”

She returned to work and kept busy, yet when summer arrived, she was hit with another wave of grief. She was alone to tend to yard work-one of Joey’s favorite chores that he enjoyed so much.

I had a wake-up call. Life was moving on with or without me. “The pain of his death has not gone away. I have just learned to live with it.”

“It’s been 3 ½ years. Every day is anyone’s guess how the day will be. Some days I feel like crying when I hear a certain song or relive a special memory. The next day, I’m just fine.”

Wishing Missy and her beautiful family days of peace and happiness ahead.

Thank you for sharing your story so that others may have hope.

If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, please seek immediate help from a physician or mental health professional. In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For more information, visit the NSPL web site (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org).

Pinochle Tournament

Keeping Legacy Alive

Joey loved playing pinochle https://bicyclecards.com/how-to-play/pinochle-2/, as do many in the Napoleon, http://napoleonnd.com/ North Dakota community.

To keep Joey’s memory alive, every March his family hosts a pinochle tournament in Napoleon with funds donated to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP) in memory of Joey Hilzendeger.

If you’d like to make a donation to the card tournament, send a check to Missy Hilzendeger 322 Avenue C East, Napoleon, ND 58561.

Or, you can donate directly to AFSP online in memory of Joey Hilzendeger. https://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=cms.page&id=1390&eventID=2043

The 5th Annual Pinochle Tournament is scheduled for March 2021. The day is not yet available.

What Can You Do?

  • Seek help if you are suicidal. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Leave notes of encouragement for Missy below.
  • Donate and participate in the Pinochle Tournament.
  • Send a donation in Joey’s name to AFSP.
  • Encourage loved ones to seek help.
  • Objectively listen and pay attention.
  • Keep the lines of communication open.
  • SHARE this post with others struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts.
  • SHARE with family members left behind.

North Dakota Facts

North Dakota saw the nation’s largest increase in suicide rates from 1999 to 2016- 58 percent.

That was more than twice the national increase of 25 percent, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That means that in North Dakota, which has the nation’s 10th-highest suicide rate, a person dies by suicide every 57 hours.

In 2019, 154 people committed suicide.

Guns are the leading means of suicide nationally as well as in North Dakota. They account for slightly more than half of all suicides in North Dakota.

Easy access to firearms, along with increased social isolation and lack of behavioral health services, are among the reasons cited for higher suicide rates in rural areas.

Learn More

https://www.theitem.com/stories/the-pain-of-suicide,339546

http://www.ndaap.com/uploads/2/6/4/7/26479511/reaching_zero_suicide_in_nd.pdf

https://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/suicide-numbers-keep-rising-in-nd-but-there-s-help/article_41deb409-b5b9-5efa-b48c-6b0d6efe7753.html

https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/the-sin-of-suicide.html

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/men-and-depression/index.shtml

https://www.governing.com/gov-data/health/county-suicide-death-rates-map.html

https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/01/30/americas-suicide-rate-has-increased-for-13-years-in-a-row

https://www.nbcnews.com/health/mental-health/suicide-rates-are-rising-especially-rural-america-n1050806

https://www.kfyrtv.com/content/news/Resources-in-ND-available-when-mental-health-and-suicide-grief-becomes-too-much-567637891.html

https://afsp.org/state-fact-sheets

©April 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved.

This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Do you have a story idea or interesting person who’d be a great feature? SHARE details below.

5 New Things I’m Doing During Social Distancing

Long-Lasting New Habits

Social distancing due to COVID-19 doesn’t need to mean feeling alone.

Many are reaching out in record numbers to neighbors, long-lost friends and family.

Certainly, the Internet has helped with connectedness.

The way I’m going about my days during social distancing has changed.

Here are 5 new things I’m doing during this unique time of social distancing.

1. Attending On-Line Mass

Places of worship quickly learned how to broadcast services online, most using Facebook Live.

Our Omaha church did the same. It now offers daily online Mass.

https://www.svdpomaha.org/

During this Lenten season, it’s especially greatly appreciated.

Father Gama on the 4th Sunday of Lent

2. Going On Nature Walks

I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors.

Lately, I have a greater appreciation for the ability to be outdoors, even if in isolation, or 6-feet apart from others sharing the space.

The consistency of nature is comforting with the world’s volatility.

I marvel at the changing season and the beauty and solitude all around.

I watch the birds and squirrels from my office window.

And, I’m eagerly awaiting the blooming of the daffodils in our yard.

New life. New color.

While everything else seems to have changed. Nature’s seasonal predictability and the joy it brings hasn’t.

3. Playing Vintage Board Games

We pulled out this 1971 board game: Landslide.

Have you ever played it?

It’s based on the election process & electoral votes.

The game uses “votes” as if it were money, and the players bid for states –they can even attempt to steal already “bought” states from each other.

It’d be great to have a current version of this. #Hasbro #ParkerBrothers

Landslide is a Civics Lesson While Having Fun

4. Listening to Free Concerts

Entertainers of all types are hosting events online. The ones we’ve viewed have all been on Facebook Live.

Check out your favorite entertainers Facebook page, Instagram site or website to see when, and if, they’ll be online.

It’s a welcome break from all of the news stories.

https://www.garthbrooks.com/inside-studio-g

5. Cooking with Available Items

Sweet potato fries. Indian butter chicken. Fish tacos. Shrimp and grits. Chili. Homemade egg rolls.

Instead of running out to the grocery store on impulse, I’m forcing myself to use ingredients already in the pantry and freezer.

I feel fortunate to have food in ‘storage.’ And, I’ve used the Internet to guide me with recipes using what’s on-hand.

I have a host of recipes on this website (Click “Recipe” tab above.)

Or, click on one of these links. Each provides recipes after you input ingredients you have on-hand.

https://www.supercook.com/#/recipes

http://www.recipekey.com/

http://www.ingredientmatcher.com

Shrimp n’ Grits
Click “Recipes” Tab Above for This Recipe & Others

What new activities are you doing during social distancing?

Share.

Will they be life-lasting after this social distancing adjourns?

©March 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Do you have a story idea or interesting person who’d be a great feature? SHARE details below.

6 Lessons Learned by Living in 8 States

KAagard_MovingDay_MovingVan[1]

Gypsy Woman

I’m often called a gypsy-a person who wanders or roams from place to place.

I’m okay with that, even if the term is somewhat dated.

My genes seem marked by curiosity, wonderment and adventure.

Travel and exploration are my greatest desires.

Assimilating into and understanding new environments and cultures bring me a complete sense of fulfillment.

Omaha, Nebraska is “home” today.

Home has also been

  • South Dakota
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota, and
  • North Dakota

Where Is Home?

I stumped when asked, “Where is home for you?”

I’m not a smart aleck but rather than list an address, I sometimes respond, “Wherever I feel welcomed and accepted and where my husband and son and his family are. Today, it’s (insert current city/state.).”

Home has never been about a house/address for me.

It’s about a feeling.

I adapt and adjust to whatever space and place I’ve landed in.

Unusual, perhaps, but comfortable and familiar for me.

Lessons Learned

Today I can look back at the eight moves I’ve made to date for education and career and easily identify lessons learned.

1. Fear is a Barrier

FEAR is the # 1 reason I hear most from those who’ve never relocated to another community.

Starting over new in an unfamiliar place leaves many with a Fear of

• Change
• Failure
• Loneliness and/or being alone
• The physical part of moving and relocating
• Unknown
• Rejection

I’m still searching for the reason I don’t own these fears.

All I can say is that success of one move makes the next and the next and the next easier.

Like anything, giving oneself permission to fail and growing one’s confidence by doing lessen these fears.

Most decisions are not lifetime sentences.

Give yourself permission to change your life, even if that means moving.

2. Adults Have Dormant Friendship Skills

On my 7th move-to Sioux Falls, SD- a woman I did volunteer work with whom I call “friend” today pointed this lesson out to me.

She admitted I was her first new friend since college.

This confession, in our shared late 40’s, stuck with me.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Learning to Catch SD Snowflakes

She’s right. Most of us easily make friends in school and college, some at work.

But how many new friends have enriched your life since these bygone days?

What a loss, if none.

Jobs, children, caretaking, etc. seem to take over a certain part of lives, leaving little time and/or energy for new friendships.

How about this?
Find a “new” person and/or family who’s recently moved into your neighborhood, town or community. Reach out.

Including someone is often the best gift you can give, especially someone new to your area/church/workplace, etc.

Ask the “new person” to coffee, for a walk, to dinner, to connect on social media, to book club, etc.

You may find your life deeply enriched by dusting off your friendship skills and making a new friend, especially in your mid to late adult years.

And, if you’re the one who moved, keep in mind, adults aren’t like kids in the neighborhood.

They don’t randomly come ring your doorbell and ask if you want to play.
You need to take some initiative and reach out. Get involved.

Entrench yourself into the community. Meet “new” friends.

3. Zip Codes Aren’t Walls

It’s said that most people never travel farther than two zip codes away from their house.

https://nypost.com/2018/01/11/a-shocking-number-of-americans-never-leave-home/

Why? Sometimes it’s lack of funds or physical limitations. Often, it’s just lack of interest/curiosity and ambition.

I’m forever stunned hearing that residents of (insert state) have not visited popular tourist destinations or geographic or natural sites unique to that location.

I have. I’ve a real need to know about the place(s) I live.

I want to see the landscape, meet the people and eat the cuisine.

Integrating into the community/state makes me feel “at home.”

4. Good People Exist & Stereotypes Aren’t Truths

Stereotypes beware. I don’t believe you!

Yes, crime rates tend to be higher in metropolitan areas and meth is readily accessible in rural areas.

Southerners have drawls and Midwesterners sound like southern Canadians or characters from Fargo.

Here’s what’s also true. Good people exist everywhere.

From the Southern neighbors who helped remove hurricane debris from my home to the gentleman who changed my flat tire on a Midwestern interstate, these kind folks exist.

One doesn’t even need to “look for them.” They simply exist.

I believe in the goodness of people, everywhere.

5. Mother Nature Reigns

Hurricanes in the south. Tornados and blizzards in the Midwest. Earthquakes in South Carolina, yes, earthquakes.

Every region has its weather challenges.

The lesson: We are not in charge. She is.

Complaining doesn’t help. Preparedness does.

6. Less is More

It’s not the possessions but the experiences that grow oneself and enrich one’s life.

For obvious reasons, I’m not a collector.

Nor does my identity come from the structure I live under.

I used to have the rule-what doesn’t fit in my trunk, isn’t needed.

Then I married and had a child.

My approach had to become more flexible and expansive. The last move, we rented a 22-foot truck.

I still don’t collect.

I’m still not rooted.

Even if I was, possessions are material items.

I value relationship over possessions.

Your Thoughts & Questions 

How about you?

Are you a Frequent Mover?

What do you value? Is it stability or curiosity or a combination of the two?

SHARE below.

Have an urge to Move? What location piques your interest?
Have some questions?
Ask here.

©March 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Do you have a story idea or interesting person who’d be a great feature? SHARE details on the form.

Growing up Gay in the Midwest: Collin’s Story

Feeling Like a Fraud Living Someone Else’s Life

Meet Collin

  • 25-years old
  • Native of McCook, Nebraska
  • Son of farmers/ranchers
  • Older brother to two sisters
  • College graduate- BS Marketing Management
  • A 6-year financial services career professional
  • Omaha resident, and a
  • Gay man

Defining Gay

As a teenager, Collin understood the term “gay” to mean someone who liked men, often times was feminine and usually was seen as less than an individual for liking the same sex. He and his peer group said “gay” to jokingly describe something they didn’t like. It was “gay!”

In his household and community being gay was seen as a negative thing. “You didn’t want to become someone like them, meaning-gay.” The term was always used in a derogatory way.

He, himself, used the term to describe others in negative way, which he apologizes for today.

“I think it was such a normalized term to show a thing or a person is not like the rest.”

Signs & Symbols

Even while he and his peers were calling something/someone “gay” Collin wondered if he might be. He

  • Had an attraction to other men his age
  • Didn’t feel a connection to girls other than friendship
  • Read and researched “what it means to be gay”
  • Was interested in things classified as “gay” while growing up-like décor, landscaping, keeping a tidy room, etc.

I’m Gay

Collin acknowledged to himself that he was gay just before his 2013 college freshman year, although he kept this understanding to himself.

 “It was a pretty lonely feeling having admitted this to myself but not sharing it with anyone else.”

He was scared and had tremendous uncertainty about what his future held.

“I was in stress overdrive not knowing what lay ahead as a recent high school graduate already. Adding “gay” to the mix only compounded it.”

He hinted to his family but didn’t openly discuss it until June of 2017 when his dad flat out asked him if he was gay. “Yeah, yeah, I am.” To Collin’s surprise, the chat with his dad went quite well. He’s so grateful for this.

“My dad was a little more okay with it in the beginning than my mom, which is something I didn’t expect.

My sisters were pretty chill and so were all of my friends who already knew.”

“If I had to do it all over again, I’d have come out sooner, and get to enjoying my life a lot quicker.”

Filtered Behavior

Looking back, Collin acknowledges that his spirit and overall well-being were hindered as a teenager.

“I filtered what I said, how I acted, talked and dressed, which was upsetting.”

He just wanted to be himself without things like, “He’s gay or look at that homo,” being said about him.

Collin lacked gay role models but looked to his grandmother and a close family friend, neither let others determine their self-worth.

City or Country

Collin moved from rural Nebraska to its largest city to attend college and work. He never felt like he’d have to move to Omaha to be accepted.

However, he acknowledges that it’s easier for a gay person to be accepted, and perhaps happier, when they have gay friends and/or someone who understands them in a way they need to be understood.

He hasn’t detected any barriers to employment but does admit he catches himself filtering certain parts of his life with co-workers.

He tries not to be known as “the gay one” and fights thoughts about worth because of his sexuality.

“Even though I do this, not once have I ever been rejected or felt out of place by sharing my life with co-workers.”

Filtering is a deep-seated habit.

Not Easy

Collin admits there’s room for improvement regarding acceptance in Nebraska.

“I would like to walk down the street and not think twice about grabbing my partner Cody’s hand.”

Though he hasn’t felt unsafe in Nebraska, he has gay friends who have.

He’s an advocate of prioritizing mental health as high as physical health and regularly sees a counselor.

His visits are not for living as a gay man but for maintaining good mental health.

“Every part of my life has benefited from attending regular counseling.”

Rural Youth

Collin has a passion for listening to and guiding gay individuals, especially in rural areas. Here’s his best counsel:

1. Be yourself, if you can and it’s safe to do so. People will talk or look or maybe even make a snide comment, but being comfortable in your own skin is worth so much more.

2. Take steps to educate your parents, teachers, peers or friends on what it actually means to be gay. It’s more than likely not Ru Paul’s Drag Race in real life. Ignorance is a voluntary misfortune, and sometimes it only takes knowing one gay person to change that person’s perception.

3. Support other gay individuals you know who have yet to come out. Don’t belittle them, or go along with what your friends say around them. “This is the one thing I regret deeply from high school and early college years.”

4. It is okay to be different. Homosexuality is a part of me. It doesn’t solely define me. I have many straight friends and me being gay would be one of the last things they would use to describe me.

“Having said that, the one thing I’m most disappointed in about being gay is seeing others still treat gay people differently after knowing me, and accepting me for who I am.

Ahead

Today, Collin enjoys life with Cody, a paramedic in a pre-med and emergency management program.

He likes to travel, hang out with family and friends and tackle DIY house projects.

Someday he’d like to have a family, including children.

His greatest wish is that all struggling with their sexuality are somehow taken care of.

Adding, “I hope I never have to hear the word “faggot” or “gay” used in a demeaning nature to describe someone again.”

The most joyous part of his identity journey has been the individuals he’s had the pleasure of meeting, and those unexpected allies.

A wish, for all.

Cody & Collin. Traveling-his favorite pastime.

What Can You Do?

  • SHARE this story. You know there’s someone who needs to hear Collin’s story today.
  • Drop a positive message for Collin below.
  • Stop judging others. Start helping.
  • Have an accepting heart.
  • Even if you don’t agree with a gay lifestyle, love the person.

Resources

https://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth-resources.htm CDC

http://assets2.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/resource_guide_april_2014.pdf HRC.ORG

https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/LGBT-Resources.aspx American Academy of Pediatrics

https://lgbtqa.unl.edu/welcome University of NE-Lincoln

http://www.pflag-omaha.org/ PFLAG-Omaha

©March 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Do you have a story idea or interesting person who’d be a great feature? SHARE details on the form.

Kansas City Must-See Attractions in One Day

Union Station https://www.unionstation.org/

Kansas City

https://www.visitkc.com/

What do you think of when you hear this city’s name?

Is it?

Is it time to re-visit Kansas City?

Here’s a one-day itinerary.

Start your visit in the Historic Entertainment District of 18th & Vine https://www.18vinekc.com/

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Walk the streets. Admire the murals and sculpture. Visit the shops, restaurants and museums.

American Jazz Museum

The Jazz & Baseball Museums are adjoined. Tickets for one or both are purchased inside. Plan at least an hour in each museum. Each has a gift shop. A coat room and clean restrooms are available.

The American Jazz Museum https://americanjazzmuseum.org/ showcases the sights and sounds of jazz through interactive exhibits and films, the Changing Gallery exhibit space, Horace M. Peterson III Visitors Center, Blue Room jazz club and Gem Theater.

Check the event calendar. You may want to return in the evening to listen to top rated jazz musicians. https://americanjazzmuseum.org/event/

1616 East 18th Street Kansas City, MO 64108
Hands-On Exhibits

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

https://nlbm.com/ 1616 East 18th Street, Kansas City, MO 64108

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) https://nlbm.co is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of African-American baseball and its profound impact on the social advancement of America. In 2006, the United States Congress designated the NLBM as “America’s National Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.”

Because the Kansas City Monarchs were the most successful team in the Negro League, it’s fitting that this museum, honoring Hall of Fame legends like Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson, would be located here.

Lunch

Ask the museum staff for lunch recommendations. We enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal at Smaxx-a very short walk from the museums. https://www.facebook.com/1827SMAXX/

1827 Vine Street Kansas City, MO 64108

Historic River Market

The River Market is https://kcrivermarket.com/ an officially designated “Historical District”. Major attractions to the River Market include the City Market and the Arabia Steamboat Museum.

The City Market’s Farmers’ Market https://thecitymarketkc.org/ is the largest farmers’ market in the region bringing “Farm to Table” right to the heart of the city with fresh produce and goods on Saturday and Sunday. 

The Arabia Steamboat Museum https://www.1856.com/ displays thousands of artifacts from a steamboat and its cargo that sunk nearby in 1856 and was recovered in 1987-88. The market and museum are among Kansas City’s most popular tourist attractions. [Take some coins. Make a wish.]

Dessert (beignets) at the Market https://www.beignetkc.com/

Jazz in the Afternoon

Green Lady Lounge https://greenladylounge.com/ features Kansas City Jazz musicians in the rich Kansas City tradition. Free of televisions so one can focus on music, atmosphere and conversation.  

Open every day of the year 4pm to 3am Sunday thru Friday and 2pm to 3am every Saturday. No cover charge. Open seating.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside. Go inside. It’s very dark and vintage. Sit near the back if you’re with a group and want to visit.

1809 Grand Blvd (between E 18th & 19th St), Kansas City, MO

Kansas City jazz is a style of jazz that developed in Kansas City, Missouri during the 1920s and 1930s, which marked the transition from the structured big band style to the musical improvisation style of Bebop.

The hard-swinging, bluesy transition style is bracketed by Count Basie who in 1929 signed with the Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra and Kansas City native Charlie Parker https://www.biography.com/musician/charlie-parker who ushered in the Bebop style in America. “While New Orleans was the birthplace of jazz, America’s music grew up in Kansas City”.

Kansas City is known as one of the most popular “cradles of jazz”.

World War I Museum & Overlook

Opened to the public as the Liberty Memorial museum in 1926, it was designated in 2004 by the United States Congress as America’s official museum dedicated to World War I.

The Museum https://www.theworldwar.org/ tells the story of the Great War and related global events from their origins before 1914 through the 1918 armistice and 1919 Paris Peace Conference.

National WWI Museum and Memorial is America’s only museum dedicated to sharing the stories of the Great War through the eyes of those who lived it.

2 Memorial Drive Kansas City, MO 64108

Even if you don’t go inside the National World War I Museum, it’s still worth a visit to the grounds. From the base of the Liberty Memorial, you’ll be treated to one of the best views of Kansas City. [The photo at the top of this story was taken from there, looking down at Union Station.]

Q39 Dinner

There are lots of barbeque choices in Kansas City. We often choose Q39 https://q39kc.com/. We’ve never been disappointed.

There you have it. A full day of memorable activities in Kansas City.

Share this with those you want to visit KSC with this weekend.

Of course, there’s more to see & do in KSC. What’s your favorite? Let me know so it can be added to our next visit. Thank you.

©February 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Are You an Alcoholic? Twila Shares Her Story

What Does It Take to Stop Abusing Alcohol?

When Do You Finally Hit Rock Bottom?

Is It When You

  • Run away from home?
  • Destroy a 22-year marriage?
  • Compromise relationships with your children?
  • Are required to undergo random monitoring to keep your professional RN license?
  • Complete multiple treatments for alcohol dependency?
  • Are placed in a sober living house?
  • Receive numerous DUI arrests?
  • Spend nights in the county jail?
  • Nearly lose your RN career, or
  • Are placed on a 24/7 monitoring program for an entire year?

No.

It is only when you are desperate enough to surrender and seek help that a changed life starts.


Meet Twila

Twila is an alcoholic.

She went through each of these experiences and losses trying to control her drinking.

Early Onset Drinking

Twila grew up in a rural North Dakota farming family the middle child with two brothers. In high school she participated in basketball, cheerleading, gymnastics, volleyball and track, along with FFA-Future Farmers of America.

She was social outside of school. She started drinking at age 13.

Like many students in her area, she partied on the weekends, easily getting alcohol supplied by the older siblings of her friends. “We met on the section lines and gravel pits in the country. Sometimes I drank to the extreme.”

Her dream of going to college, getting married and having a family came true. And then it all fell apart as alcohol played a growing role in her life.

Alcohol was often a part of their married social life. “We entertained other couples with children so no one had to get a babysitter. We hung out with sports parents who wanted to have a few beers after the events. There were times I wasn’t done drinking when the event ended for the night.” But being a parent and having a job often curbed her drinking, when it needed to.

Fitting In

The effects of alcohol helped Twila feel like she was “fitting in and being a part of.” It helped her feel comfortable in her own skin. “I was never told growing up I wasn’t good enough or that I didn’t fit in. I told myself these things. I was always trying to be somewhere else, as someone else, doing something else.” Alcohol was her solution. It worked right up until it didn’t work.

Failed Self-Control

She spent many years trying to control her drinking so it would not go to the extremes. She felt guilt and shame by her behaviors around her drinking. “I knew I might have a problem when I drank to black outs or when my husband had to take care of me after I drank too much. We often had arguments about my drinking.”

She’d trick herself into thinking everything was okay because she still had things like a house, a car, a job, etc.

But she wasn’t.

Abusing alcohol cost her a lot, including her

  • Sanity
  • Peace
  • Purpose
  • And most importantly, her relationships with her children and her 22-year marriage
Twila’s greatest joy comes from seeing her children & grandchildren happy.

Rock Bottom

Twila’s desire to keep her RN job defined “rock bottom” for her. “I couldn’t compromise my professional career. It was the last thing I was holding on to. I’d already failed as a mother, wife and family member.” She often felt embarrassed for not showing up to work after spending nights in the county jail for DUIs. Losing her job was too much to bear.

Rehab to Sobriety

1st Time

Twila’s been to treatment for alcohol dependency twice-both at Heartview Foundation https://heartview.org/ in Bismarck, North Dakota. The first in January 2014. By this time, she’d run away from home, her marriage and her children. It was intensive outpatient treatment that lasted until March. She then attended an Aftercare program once a week. This was to last for five months.

She couldn’t stay sober.

Twila attended 12-Step Recovery meetings. She could string up a few months here and there. “I honestly didn’t want to stop drinking.” She wanted to be a ‘normal drinker,’ to control her drinking and to drink socially.

She was angry. “I was angry at the hurts I’d caused and at the life I’d destroyed for myself and others.”

2nd Time

Twila entered outpatient treatment again in June 2015 because her drinking had compromised her job. She took time off from work-the first time in 20 plus years. She still couldn’t stay sober.

Sober Living House

A third DUI in October 2015 resulted in Twila spending a couple months in a Bismarck women’s sober living house. “I couldn’t trust myself. Alone time was drinking time.” Consequences of that DUI required 24/7 monitoring for a year and random monitoring for her professional license. “The combination of these two monitoring programs slowed me down enough to do the honest inside work that 12-Step recovery asked me to do; as honestly as I was able to at that time.”

AA-Alcoholics Anonymous

https://www.recovery.org/alcoholics-anonymous/

AA is Twila’s solution. “AA has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin. In addition, I’ve learned to be grateful and humble, and to be of service every day, especially to the next suffering alcoholic.”

There are three innate traits all addicts need to recover, according to Twila.

  • Willful surrender to the disease and to a program of recovery
  • Attitude of gratitude
  • Humility without humiliation

Twila believes the #1 thing all those in recovery need is LOVE. “In AA, it is said that we will love you until you can love yourself.” Those still actively using need “a chance to suffer enough to seek a life in recovery” and those incarcerated need “a message of hope that life can look different. That they can press the reset button anytime.”

North Dakota Resources

Twila participates in her state’s efforts to reduce recidivism https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/recidivism and decrease incarceration for crimes involving addiction and mental health issues. Several of these organizations include:

F5

The F5 function key on a computer keyboard is the REFRESH button.

F5 https://www.f5project.org/ is a non-profit organization headquartered in Fargo, ND. It’s founder, Adam Martin, is a five-time felon turned entrepreneur.

The organization’s mission is to reduce recidivism and to erase the stigma of being a felon and a person with an addiction.

It preaches that one’s past does not have to define one’s future and that you are your own greatest asset. You can refresh!

Twila is actively involved in this growing organization that today has men’s houses in four cities. In addition, F5 has care coordinators and peer support specialists in eight anchor cities. And, holds jail/institution meetings at facilities in seven anchor cities. “Most of the people working with the F5 project have lived the experience either as a felon, as someone in recovery or as someone with a mental illness.”

Free Through Recovery

https://www.behavioralhealth.nd.gov/addiction/free-through-recovery

Free Through Recovery is a North Dakota community based behavioral health program designed to increase recovery support services to individuals involved with the criminal justice system who have behavioral health concerns.

Recovery Reinvented

In addition, it’s worth noting that North Dakota’s First Lady, Kathryn Helgaas Burgum, https://www.governor.nd.gov/first-lady-kathryn-burgum a person in long-term recovery, has made tremendous impact on recovery efforts in North Dakota through her addiction platform.

Recovery Reinvented https://recoveryreinvented.com/ is an ongoing series of innovative practices and initiatives to eliminate the shame and stigma of addiction in North Dakota. They seek to find solutions to help people affected by the disease of addiction with proven prevention, treatment and recovery approaches.

One Day at A Time

Every night before she goes to sleep, Twila says prayers for those needing healing and forgiveness. She awakens with a prayer of gratitude and asks God how she should show up for the day.

Sending Twila prayers for strength in her continued recovery and patience and understanding in her search for purpose and self-worth. Deep gratitude for all she does for those seeking to refresh their lives.

Keep it simple. Remain grateful.

Additional Resources

https://aa.org/ Alcoholics Anonymous

https://al-anon.org/ Loved Ones of Alcoholics

https://drugabuse.com/alcohol/ Alcohol Abuse

http://www.aahistory.com/prayer.html Serenity Prayer

https://www.alcohol.org/faq/am-i-an-alcoholic/ Am I an Alcoholic?

What Can You Do?

  • Leave questions & notes of encouragement for Twila below.
  • Donate to the organizations listed above.
  • Encourage loved ones to seek help.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • SHARE this post with others who will be inspired & encouraged by Twila’s story.

©February 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Retreat to Camp Verde, AZ in the Winter

Relaxed & Quiet Small Town

Winter Retreat

I retreated to Camp Verde, Arizona http://www.campverde.az.gov February 2019-one of the snowiest months in Nebraska history. Of course, I had no way of knowing Omaha would top their February record with 27 inches of snow. But I did know that if I was going to find a writer’s retreat in 2019 a warm climate in February sounded like a great plan.

Phoenix and the surrounding area, like Mesa, is popular with Midwestern snowbirds. I’ve visited many times for business and leisure. I enjoy the area but not necessarily the winter congestion.

I was fleeing Nebraska alone and sought an area that was easy to navigate and gave a ‘safe’ vibe.

Lengthy Housing Search

I began searching online in August 2018 for a one-month rental in the greater Phoenix area. That was the equivalent of hunting for gold in an Iowa corn field during July. It didn’t exist. Nearly all accommodations required a 3-month commitment. I had only 30 days.

I widened my geographic search and thus my month long stay in a ranch house rented through http://www.VRBO.com. The property was in the city limits despite being surrounded by what Midwesterners call farms and ranches.

The place seemed ideally suited to a solo female traveler seeking a quiet writer’s retreat for the month. It’s also perfect for a couple exploring Arizona together.

Camp Verde has a number of lodging options: vacation rentals, campgrounds, and hotels.

Camp Verde, Arizona

Explore Downtown Camp Verde. Walk. Shop. Dine.

Camp Verde was an unknown community to me. I wasn’t quite sure what I’d be driving into about an hour south of Flagstaff. Upon arrival, I found the community was a perfect blend of urban and rural with endless outdoor natural areas, along with multiple historical sites. There was a grocery store, enough dining options, a post office, a drug store, unique attractions and more. It intrigued me. I’d made a great choice.

Its location is a very comfortable drive to many towns like Cottonwood https://visitcottonwoodaz.org/, Prescott http://www.visit-prescott.com/, Jerome http://azjerome.com/jerome/, Sedona https://visitsedona.com/ and Payson https://www.paysonrimcountry.com/.

Click on this link for a great map of Camp Verde and other information. https://heartofcampverde.com

Get to Know Camp Verde

  • Population 11,239 (2017)
  • Median age: 45
  • Located in the Verde River Valley. Referred to as “the valley” by residents.
  • The incorporated town is 46.2 square miles.
  • Downtown is one mile off I-17.
  • Surrounded by Prescott National Forest.
  • Four-season climate (It snows here. Melts quickly.)
  • Dark sky community https://www.darksky.org/our-work/conservation/idsp/communities/
  • Businesses of every type exist to make your stay complete. Visit https://visitcampverde.com/

I immersed myself quickly into the community and enjoyed every day, even the colder, snowy ones. (Winter 2019 in Arizona was also record setting for snow and rain.)

I committed to writing up to six hours a day, volunteered and extensively explored the area while shopping local.

I met many local residents and thoroughly enjoyed the community.

Phoenix to Camp Verde

Several guests visited. Each arrived at the Phoenix airport and shuttled north. The van conveniently stops at the Camp Verde exit off I-17. https://groometransportation.com/arizona

Friendly, Outgoing Neighbors

Most Popular Neighbor in Camp Verde, Arizona

Plan Your Winter Getaway to Camp Verde.

Share this with others considering an Arizona trip.

Have a question or need more tips? Contact me below.

©November 2019. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Where to Eat, Stay & Play in West Central Iowa

Travel West Central Iowa

West Central Iowa Fall 2019

Seeking a Midwest day trip or overnight stay?

Check out West Central Iowa locations.

This Iowa Tourism website is fantastic for trip planning. https://www.traveliowa.com/regions/west-central/9/

Click on the West Central Region and scroll near the bottom. Find all of the towns in the region with links.

Our October 12-13, 2019 Itinerary

Plan your own getaway or follow the itinerary we created and used.

Shelby, Iowa https://www.shelbyia.com

On a recent weekend, we left Omaha on a Saturday morning and drove to Shelby, Iowa.

It’s known for having the World’s Largest Corn Stalk (as seen from I-80) but on October 12, 2019 it also had a craft and vendor show.

We shopped local and enjoyed meeting and admiring the work of the talented crafters including, B&3 Boutique https://b-3-boutique-by-beth.myshopify.com/ as well as https://www.facebook.com/countrycreations3592/.

Laura S. Fell of Chalk Couture is an independent designer and chalk teacher. Find her work on Facebook at The Chalking Teacher 402.660.3468.

Stephanie McDonald’s work was simply beautiful. Her business is Papaya’s Rustic Designs. Reach her at 712.307.0256 or stepharkfeld@gmail.com.

Work of Stephanie McDonald of Papaya’s Rustic Designs

What is a fall festival without locally baked goods? The cinnamon and caramel rolls looked tempting. They didn’t disappoint.

Avoca, Iowa  http://www.cityofavoca.com

Our first stop was at the ever-popular Volkswagen Beetle Spider at 649 South Chestnut Street.

Spider Car in Avoca, Iowa

You have to get out and take a photograph there, of course.

Library

We ventured downtown on the cold, blustery morning. We admired the Eagle of Honor Tribute and visited the Avoca Public Library. There’s a wonderful interactive music station outdoors.

Apples were being given away in the library foyer by generous local homeowners. We bought nearly-new hard covered books at the book sale. We believe in supporting local libraries.

We also picked up a copy of the “Western Iowa Visitors Guide for 2019-20” at the library.

Octagon

It led us to the Octagon Building in Graceland Cemetery. This building (1875) is on the National Register for Historic Places and was a gathering place for mourners during inclement weather. The deceased could also be kept there if the ground was too frozen to permit burial.

Avoca, IA: Graceland Cemetery Octagon Building

The Cemetery itself is a picturesque location with unforgettable vistas and headstones.

Walnut, Iowa   https://walnutiowa.org/

Walnut is known as Iowa’s Antique City.

The brick streets are lined with historic buildings filled with antique and specialty shops.

Two of our favorites were Forget Me Nots Gifts Treasures and Décor www.facebook.com/ForgetMeNotsIA and Plum Krazy. https://www.facebook.com/Plum-Krazy-Vintage-More-380801965592190/

Sadly, there are no restaurants in Walnut.

Lunch

Based on multiple referrals, we drove back to Avoca and lunched at the Embers Restaurant. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Embers/117491594943683

 The food was plentiful, delicious and quite reasonably priced.

Check the Avoca business directory (Restaurants) for a list of dining choices. http://www.cityofavoca.com/business-directory.php

Carson, Iowa https://www.carsongov.com

The drive from Avoca to Carson, Iowa in the fall is beautiful.

Carson is only 21 miles east of Council Bluffs, Iowa but yet seems so far away: rural, pastural setting.

Drive through the town. Get out and walk.

Be sure to see the West Nishnabotna River area.

Lodging

We stayed at the Country Vineyard Retreat with Paula as our Superhost (Airbnb).

The rural property was 5 miles east of Carson off Highway 92.

Carson, Iowa lodging view

The space is large, well-appointed and ideal for anyone wanting or needing a break from city life or a long day on the road.

Part of lodging interior.

Guests are encouraged to walk the property and to enjoy the vineyard views.

Macedonia, Iowa  https://www.macedoniaiowa.com/

We drove to Macedonia after watching the Iowa State Cyclones football team defeat West Virginia.

What an awesome community.

The town’s Main Street is lined with iron railings. Each tells the story of an event, family or organization with special ties to Macedonia.

Macedonia, IA Main Street iron railings

The Grist Mill McCready Theatre is where the Fine Arts Council hosts performances. Check their Facebook page and website for performances. http://www.gristmillfinearts.com/

The Stemple Bird Museum (tours available by appointment) is at 311 Main Street and houses over 300 mounted displays.

Painted Camel Gallery on Main Street http://potterybythecreek.com/index.php is open Saturdays from 10 AM – 4 PM or by appointment. Call 712.486.2324. It’s houses hand-crafted pottery, paintings, jewelry, wooden furniture, woven rugs and so much more.

Dinner

The Back Forty Restaurant and Bar http://www.backfortybarandgrill.com/ also on Main Street was referred by nearly everyone from whom we sought a dinner recommendation.

Saturday is steak special night. The prime rib, according to my husband, was great.

The place was full of diners of all ages enjoying one another’s company and watching football and volleyball games on one of many TVs throughout the space.

The service is quick and grateful.

Well-Rested Conclusion

On the commute back to Omaha via Highway 92, I asked my husband, Ken, if he felt rested. His response, “I feel like I’ve been gone for more than a day.”

That’s what a getaway to West Central Iowa can do for you.

Husband, Ken, at lodging location

Plan your trip today.

Share this with your fellow travelers. Thank you!

©October 2019. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Would you like Linda to visit and write a feature story on your community? Nominate it in the comment section below.

My 2019 Best of Omaha Winners

Legitimate List of Winners

Every summer I’m bombarded with pleas to vote this business or that as the Best of Omaha in their category. This lobbying is not unique to Omaha. It was the same deal when we lived in Sioux Falls, Charleston and Atlanta.

I’m not naive. I know this is a way to raise advertising dollars for publications. Businesses run ads begging for reader’s votes and then run another ad congratulating themselves as winners.

It’s all a bit narcissistic and self-serving.

I give little credibility to businesses topping the categories.

At best, they have a more sophisticated marketing/lobbying staff and perhaps more advertising dollars too.

Rarely do they convince me to vote for them simply because of their marketing prowess.

What Makes a Winner?

What defines best of any business category for me has remained constant for decades:

  • Exceeding customer expectations
  • Prompt and satisfactory response to customer inquiry
  • Community involvement.

Maybe I’m an odd duck—one not influenced by marketing noise, but

I Always Vote & Buy From Businesses That

  • Buy an ad on the back of a church bulletin
  • Manage a customer complaint with tact and peaceful resolution. [This doesn’t mean the customer is always right. It means they listened and offered agreeable solutions.]
  • Are led by those who hire, reward and retain outstanding staff
  • Have entrepreneurial spirit
  • Are involved in the community-sponsoring youth teams, supporting Rotary and other civic organizations and showing other ways of ownership in their hometown
  • Treat me both like a lady and a valued customer with a brain

My 2019 Best of Omaha Winners

Appliance Sales: Scott Saalfeld at Lowe’s 3333 N 147th Street Omaha NE 68116

I visited every appliance retail outlet in Omaha.

By miles, Scott knows and understands his products and his customers better than any other sales person I encountered. I felt heard and guided to the best appliances for my needs.

He is well trained on products and customer service. Scott listens. He follows through. He appears well respected by his team members and managers.

Appliance Installer: Precision Appliances (Nick) 402.680.2828

Nick does installation and repair of microwave ovens, dishwashers, ranges, dryers and washing machines.

He arrives on time. He is respectful of one’s home. He’s competent and quick. He’s self-employed and understands customer service & satisfaction.

Auto Body Repair: Dave’s Auto Body 9630 Redick Avenue Omaha, NE 68122 https://davesautobodyco.com/

I had zero auto body repair experience when entering this business. I left feeling confident in the consultation, price and process. Since our relocation to the Midwest, I have never felt more appreciated as a customer than at this Omaha business.

It’s the simple things: the owner shaking my hand and thanking me for my business while a staff member started my car and cooled it down for my exit.

Best New Product: Damp Rid Moisture Absorber-Genius of an idea; Works wonders in our basement https://damprid.com/

Carpet Cleaners: Top Gun Carpet Care Specialists 402.332.3778 http://www.topguncarpetcare.com/

This family owned business has been serving the Omaha area since 1982. They know the business and they know how to keep their customers happy, including us.

Drywaller: Alberto Salcebo 402.598.5945 20+ years in the industry (2019) Responsive, Competitive pricing, Polite.

Manicurist: Ly at Paris Nails 3665 N 129th Street Omaha, NE 68164 [formerly Pretty Nails] 402.452.7172 (mobile #)

Simply the best. Call or text her directly 402.452.7172 to schedule your appointment.

Plumber: AP Plumbing (Tony) 402.669.7249

Clogged water lines are like calculus equations to me. Foreign. Tony sent Curt to replace pipes in our home. In very lay terms, I described what I saw as the problem and his experience led him to a simple, affordable solution. Curt respected our property and cleaned up perfectly after himself. AP Plumbing is always welcome in our home.

Real Estate Agent: Megan Owens, Owens Real Estate Group at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services 402.689.4984  http://owensregroup.com/

Megan has now worked with 3 generations of my family. She connects with and guides each buyer to homes ideal for their needs.

She’s simply outstanding with customer service and deserves your business.

Strangers Paying for Our Meal at AJs Café 5146 North 90th Street Omaha, NE 68134

We’d heard about this Café from many Omaha residents. Imagine our surprise when our server told us another patron had paid for our meal after hearing it was our first time there.

People are good everywhere. This is just another example of human kindness.

Pay it forward, always.  

Tree Service: Eden Tree Pros http://edentreepros.com/

Contact them for a free consultation and estimate. We’re sure glad we did. Their response time and automated systems are built for busy family lives. And, our birch tree stood up to the Japanese beetles, again.

What does a business have to do to earn your loyalty?

SHARE your answer below.

The most important thing you can do for any business is REFER them.

And, if you’re a business that received the referral, be sure to say, “thank you” to the referring source.

Is there a business I should add to my list? Let me know.

LIKE & SHARE this post. It’s a great way to REFER a business doing good work for both customers and their community.

©August 2019. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Who Wouldn’t Want to Do This in Southeast Nebraska?

Southeast Nebraska is a land of plenty with something for everyone. This area-one hour south of Omaha-is filled with history, unique festivals and events, and picturesque landscapes.

Here’s an overview of 4 communities we recently visited.

Website links are provided to help you plan your own adventure.

Brownville

Brownville (pop. 132)-a quaint village on the Missouri River-is on the National Register of Historic Places. Put on your walking shoes and check out the museums, the riverfront, the theatre and the concert series. Take a dinner cruise. Shop Memorial Day weekend and each fall at the Annual Brownville Flea Market. Stay overnight-perhaps at the River Inn Resort.

There’s plenty to see and explore.

60th Annual Flea Market

Helpful Hint: Call ahead if there’s a particular business or museum you’d like to visit. Most weren’t open during website-posted store hours on our Easter weekend visit. Brownville is an event-based community. Plan ahead if you are visiting during an event. Lodging sells out.

Sweetwater Brooms & Engraving- Broom Maker

Brooms made by hand-last a lifetime.

Whiskey Run Creek Vineyard & Winery

Every once in a while one encounters someone who leaves a forever positive impression. Matthew Heskett did just that. Matt is a sixth-generation farmer and son of proprietors, Ron and Sherry. He’s a 20-something entrepreneur with some of the savviest customer service skills we’ve encountered in Nebraska. He knew his community and his industry like a seasoned pro. Matt is an outstanding ambassador for both his business and Southeast Nebraska. Go meet him at the winery.

We toured the historic 1866 cave (year-round 55 degree temperature) and the 100-year old barn. Inside we sampled wines, checked out the gift shop and viewed the event location upstairs. Matt even showed us the production facility and explained the construction where a distillery is being added. We will return for more award-winning wine and old-fashioned hospitality.

Helpful Hint: Friday nights May through August they host live musical performances. Weddings can be held on location by the gazebo and waterfall.

Auburn

We drove a short distance on Highway 36 west to Auburn for lunch since none of Brownville’s restaurants were open. Two restaurants were consistently recommended: Hickory Road BBQ and El-Portal Mexican Restaurant.

We chose the former. The food quality and service were both outstanding.

Peru

This town of just over 800 is home to Nebraska’s first college (1867). Back then it was known as the teacher’s training school. Today Peru State College has around 2400 students.

Walk the historic, picturesque campus. Be sure to see the Little Red Schoolhouse

Drive to the Mt. Vernon Cemetery and see the historical grave markers. This hilltop location is also a Tri-State Observation Area (Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri).

Pack the bicycles and ride the Steamboat Trace Trail (found at north end of 5th street) between Brownville and Nebraska City. You can also hike it and enjoy birding along the way.

Stop in for a meal, a cool drink and a game of pool while in Peru.

Peru boasts a number of attractive city parks, including Sid Brown Memorial Park. Young children enjoy the splash pad during warm summer months.

A boat ramp to the Missouri River is accessible at 5th and Olive Street. The Peru Bottoms Wildlife Management Area (The Bottoms) is along the route, and beyond, and is available for hunting, fishing and birding.

Lied Lodge at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City

Nebraska is the proud home of Arbor Day. Founded in 1972 by J. Sterling Morton (whose son founded Morton Salt Company), Arbor Day encourages citizens worldwide to plant trees.

The 140-room, award-winning Lodge at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City is a sought-after gathering place for those who care deeply about the natural world and its future. It features the Timber Dining Room, a spa, sauna, exercise room, Olympic-sized pool, bar and conference center.

Like most lodging facilities, it is only as good as the guests staying there. During our rainy, holiday weekend stay, families crammed the pool with over-sized floats, leaving little room to enjoy the facilities in the naturally peaceful setting. Floors outside the pool area were wet and slippery. Under-aged, unsupervised guests occupied the sauna. (Safety concerns were reported to front desk staff.)

Helpful Hint: Stay mid-week or on a non-holiday weekend if you are seeking a peaceful retreat.

Visit the Arbor Day Farm website for things to do and trails to walk.

Get a ticket to the Tree Adventure. Educational and fun for all ages.

 

Walk the trails; listen to the forest

Include Indian Cave State Park on your list of things to do in Southeast Nebraska. The park has 3000+ acres and is southeast of Nemaha, along the Missouri River. Check out the large sandstone cave in the park.

Get out and explore Southeast Nebraska. visitsoutheastnebraska.org

Create your own family memories and enjoy all that Nebraska offers.

 

Linda Leier Thomason is the founder and former CEO of  a Charleston, SC based event production and publication corporation. Today, she resides in Omaha, NE  where she writes about her undercover visits to towns and communities, among other things. To learn more about Linda, click on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Contact me to have your town or community featured.

©Copyright. April 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.