Better than Mayberry

Small towns get a bad rap.

Remember Bruce Almighty? When Bruce visits the one town with the biggest chocolate chip cookie ever? That small town crowd had a tough time keeping their fingers out of their noses and getting out an intelligible word.

Happens all the time. Hollywood depicts small towners as country bumpkins—wearing overalls to the homecoming dance and carrying pitchforks on their daily errands.

Well, I’m here to tell you something.

Small towns rock.

I just spent a week in Danville, Ohio. Population 1000.  The high school graduation class has less than 50 kids in it. Everyone knows everyone, and the whole town comes out for a good football or basketball game.

I was in Danville because my father-in-law passed away last week. All of Brian’s family still lives in Ohio, so we came together to honor his dad’s life. Brian is one of seven siblings. Count spouses, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews and half the town is family of one kind or another.

And they came out in droves.

They brought food.

They sent flowers.

They came through the receiving line and tearfully hugged each of the siblings. “I remember when your dad used to work real estate. We had a great time together.”

“He always took care of our family when we needed him,” said another who had carried insurance with him.

“I remember when you all were just little, “another said. “What a family!”

There’s history in a small town. History of families living, laughing, loving together.

There’s accountability in a small town. It’s not just one set of parents taking care of one set of kids. Everyone looks out for one another’s children and there are grown-up eyes wherever a child turns – whether they like it or not.

There’s honor in a small town. People are proud. They take care of each other. They serve when it’s needed.

There’s character in a small town. Quirky neighbors are indulged, star athletes and hard workers are celebrated. Everyone is a part.

My parents came over from Holland and settled in New Jersey, so all of my extended family lived across an ocean. I missed knowing grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I missed doing life together.

But this last week I watched aunts and uncles scooping up nieces and nephews. I saw babies with outstretched arms and grandmas with waiting hugs and kisses. I saw siblings who have raised kids together, nephews who shared a long history of personal jokes and friendships that started in kindergarten and continue to middle age.

So no matter how things might be depicted on TV, I think small towns are the bomb. And today I celebrate one in particular: Danville, Ohio and its 1000 residents. Kind, intelligent, generous people who look out for each other, work hard, love God and give of themselves.

Kudos to you, Danville.

I loved spending time with you.

Brian and his siblings: Deb, Brenda, Brian, Joe, Dave, Kirk, Andrea

With spouses and mom 🙂

Holding on, letting go

God gave her to me, so when she was itty bitty I held on tight. I swaddled her up and bundled her in. I fought off every bad thing that entered her world. I was supermom in a pair of faded jeans and bunny slippers.

My infant became a gurgly babe.

I held her close. I gave the evil eye to doctors with needles and fought off colds with Lysol wipes and that blue little sucky thing I lovingly referred to as the snotinator. I sang her songs and fed her pureed beets. I pinched her cheeks.

My baby became a little girl.

I had stern talks with bully wannabes and leapt laundry piles in a single bound. I initiated water fights at girl-time sleepovers and made up stories about purple lollipop-stealing monkeys just to hear my daughter’s beautiful belly laugh. I held on.

My little girl became a preteen.

As a single mom, God was our superhero. He swept in and made sure she had food on the table and even a cool bike to ride. He was the perfect father, revealing things in his love for Sam. “I can’t get away with anything,” she’d pout. “God tells you everything.” My grip was steady. Still holding on.

My preteen became a teen.

I fervently prayed and subtly held on to the strap in the truck as she learned how to drive. I tried to counsel her through boys and school. Sometimes I let go when I should have held on. Sometimes I held tight when I should have let go. Brian entered our world and he became a stable force of love. Holding on. Letting go. We walked her through together.

My teen became a grown-up.

Yesterday we stood on the second level of the airport walkway and watched Sam go through security. She looked capable. Competent. But I wanted to run down and push through all the people, “Wait, that’s my little girl! I have to hold on!” But I didn’t. I stood my ground with Brian and we waved and smiled as she went through security to board a plane to Sydney, Australia.

Sometimes holding on means letting go.

And trusting her to the One who gave her to me in the first place.

God, take good care of her please.


I’m a big kid now!

I still have lots of little girl in me.

I think I was 10 when I got my green banana seat bike with tassels on the handlebars and the flag hanging off the back.  I remember the wind on my face and the sheer exhilaration of flying down the hills near my house, tassels whistling as I rode.

I was the envy of the neighborhood.

I didn’t feel much different yesterday. For Christmas, my amazing hubby bought me a sports bike for my triathlon. Other Christmas gifts from family included the helmet, the fashionable sunglasses and the padded butt shorts.

This week we went to the bike shop to get the bike fitted. It was a warm day so when we came home, I decided to go for a ride. I’ve never clipped on to pedals before so I was way nervous about falling over.

Sam decided that she should pull out the camera to catch any mishaps on film.

I didn’t dare ride down to the park without practicing, so we put the bike in the back of the truck and drove there. I climbed out, walking like a penguin, toes stuck in the air so as not to ruin my cleats. Brian carried the bike to the sidewalk. Sam pulled out her humongo camera.

People were walking by and staring, some laughing under their breath.

I tried to walk on my heels and look cool.

I am a biker, I repeated to myself.

Brian set the bike on the path and I climbed on board. Sam clicked away. People were walking by.

I'm ready, I'm ready!

I felt ten years old again.

I clicked one foot in and pushed off, I clicked the other foot in. I started to ride and saw obstacles up ahead. A mom with a little boy on his own new bike. I rode by praying he wouldn’t swerve into my path. Mom pointed me out, “Look son, she has a big girl bike!”

I smiled. Oh yeah.

I dodged a dog and a person and a stroller. I started feeling more confident and pedaled harder. The wind was against my face, the sun on my back, the people smiling back at me.

I rounded the loop to come up on Sam and Brian. Sam started clicking some action shots as I came closer.


I braked.

I unclicked my shoes.

I didn’t fall.

Brian smiled big. “Take another loop, babe.”

I pushed off and rounded the curve again. I was grinning like a school girl and I decided then and there that I’d like some tassels. Tassels on my sports bike. And maybe a flag. And a horn.

I’ll be the coolest chick doing that triathlon in August: tassels, horn and flag a wavin.

Sometimes 10 years old is just right.