“Home is whenever I’m with you.”

Home for the holidays

I went to the refrigerator, unscrewed the top to a cool grape Powerade, came back to the living room, crashed into the couch, blinked, and suddenly I had five children and five grandchildren. Kids, don’t try this at home.

But in that wink of my eye, I have come to realize that life is a gift, and home’s really a place where the heart is.

I was born in Milwaukee where I was raised on polkas, Pabst and the Packers and was taught that it was not necessarily in that order. I have lived in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Chicago and most recently the Chattanooga area… well, that doesn’t count my two-week vacation to Maricopa, Arizona and yet ANOTHER LEARNING EXPERIENCE for me.

I was in full-time ministry for the better part of 30 years and raised my kids on polkas, Powerade and the Packers. Many things change, but some things stay the same. A little over five years ago, I resigned my position as a managing editor of two county newspapers in Minnesota. 2013 Tyler graduated from college, 2015 Troy graduated from high school and then in 2017 Seth walked across that stage to get his diploma. My wife and I were realizing that another change was coming and we were about to blink once more this time as empty nesters.

I had several job offers. Some of them in a warmer climate to the delight of my now ex-wife who is a Cali girl, knowing that she wanted to go south of the frozen tundra and now lives happily-ever-after in Florida. I am a published author, a respected educator with a degree from the University of Wisconsin in journalism education and coaching, a successful basketball coach and a veteran writer. I’ve learned that all my accomplishments and $10 will get me a chai latte at Starbucks.

I left a place where people begged me to stay. So, as I sit here tonight, a cool wind (Wyoming gale) hinting at a change of seasons, I too am in a transition.

Wyoming. Why oh Why oh Wyoming? Oh I know that as a sophomore in college I traveled to Yellowstone for a family vacation and made a mental note to myself to keep my eyes open to the possibility of moving out west one day.

It took me many years and the blink of an eye in the midst of a pandemic to come back to where I’d left my heart decades earlier. But why did God place me here on the outpost of eastern Wyoming and away from Midwestern civilization? And why did I say yes?

To those of you who live and work here, you already know.

This is a place for those who had never found their “Brigadoon” or perhaps had never tasted a slice of “Mayberry” until they found this place.

Not in the sense that Platte County is a mythical, mystical land that is out of step with society and occasionally disappears from time to time, nor is it a backwoods town of ignorant hicks that live here because they don’t know any better or have no place to go.

On the contrary. It is full of the whisperings of a rich past and echoes of the voices yet to come. Full of life and promise, and in the little time that I have been here with you, it’s all I had imagined and so much more. It brings me back to my childhood where the world’s cynicism hadn’t yet tainted my innocence.

It is life at a much easier pace, surrounded by honest, hardworking people who know that value of their life is in the lessons from their heritage and their vision for tomorrow. It’s the elderly couple who smile and greet you on the street or the teenager delayed from his mission for no other reason than to hold a door open for you as you are scrambling to escape the chaotic past of a metropolis that had simply, grown too big. It’s the people calling you by name from across a crowded street or waking up one morning and realizing that you have students dressing like you for homecoming. It’s the hometown people who know I take pictures in the middle of crowded streets and not only DON’T run me over, but stop traffic behind them to say “hi.”

It's the toddlers dancing in the middle of the street while harvesting their candy at the Christmas parade and reminding me that it’s once again, time to dance. Time to rejoice. A time not to simply hear the music, but to listen for its voice.

I don’t know if you realize it, but most of the world has become microwavable. We want things hot and we want things now. In that place, you don’t have time to notice the blink. We are missing life as we turn the treadmill faster and faster to the rhythm of a world that resembles a merciless personal trainer come to steal, kill and destroy.

We’re spending money we don’t have to obtain things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like and we turn our heads and the children are grown and our life has passed us by.

The opportunity I have here in Platte County opened a door to a moment that had been prepared and reserved for me all my life. It was that inner child longing to come back home.

This place made me remember those sunsets as a kid growing up on my grandpa’s farm. Do you realize that I can’t remember one sunset while living in Los Angeles? And there was a LOT of sun out there.

Now I find myself playing piano in my music room. Sharing the works of my pen and my heart with those who may need to hear an encouraging word. Suddenly I am listening to the harmony of my life.

I am so grateful watching Wyoming awaken each morning. To see it bloom. To hear the pounding of leather balls before sunrise in a Bulldog gym. To listen to the stories of a place I only had read about in books. For me, it’s a kick to see an elk 20 yards from me in the mountains instead of watching others who have recorded it on a television screen. To actually see a mule deer for the first time in my life or to hear for the first time in my life a meadowlark’s song.

As I live here with all the life around me, I am realizing more and more the urgency of Albert Einstein’s quote, “There comes a point in your life when you need to stop reading other people's books and write your own.” 

I have been writing again for almost three years now. After a brief hiatus. I am leaving a digital footprint that others will read long after I’m gone. And hopefully my stories will leave a fingerprint on souls I will never meet. And I owe it all to finding my way back to where I left my heart so long ago here in Wyoming.

It's almost as if she was calling me back to a home prepared just for me.

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