31 July 2010

Island Park. Where friends meet, ay?

Last night when I was going to the dam site for some inspiration for yesterday's post, I noticed there were some campers in the little so-called campground next to the river.  To tell you the truth, I was pretty surprised to find anyone down there at all, so I found the nerve to make my way over to a couple sitting outside their camper that looked as though it had seem some miles and could tell some stories itself.  They were lounging in their outdoor reclining chairs, reading, and battling the mosquitoes like any campers in this area have to do.  While approaching their campsite, I asked them if I could trouble them with a few quick questions.  I guess I was hoping they had the treasure map to the pot of gold I've been waiting for since I started this crazy journey.  And by "pot of gold" I mean finding the one thing that will really put Windom on the map.  I was more curious to find out how exactly they found Windom.  I could tell they were a little hesitant, but then I explained what I was doing and I think they were quite intrigued.  But, I was more intrigued to find out how someone from Saskatchewan, Canada ends up camping next to the Des Moines River in Windom, Minnesota.  You bet, I said Saskatchewan.  I'm not going to lie, I had to look up how to spell Saskatchewan and hesitated to even write it in my post worried I would butcher the word.  But anyway, the lady had family here in Windom and this was the first time she had returned in 25 years.  I had asked her what she thought of Windom and what makes them, as a traveling couple, interested in stopping at numerous places. The first thing she mentioned was the courthouse.  She always remembered how neat the courthouse was and that our downtown was built around it.  Her husband said they stopped to get a 5 cent cup of "shit" coffee in Wall, South Dakota due to all the hype of the road sign advertisements for the less-than-impressive city with its even less-than-impressive 5 cent coffee. But he admits defeat to the genius of the advertisement for this one great cup of 5 cent coffee.  Then he asked me, "What is Windom's draw?  What do you have here that is so great?"  After a big sigh, I could name a dozen things Windom essentially has, but doesn't really use to its advantage.  "Well, your sitting next to one thing right now, the river." The lady asked what had happened to our river, and I told her the ugly truth--it was broken.  We were both a little disappointed in the answer.  Needless to say, they were rather disappointed by the campground despite the beauty around them.  They said they would rather pay a little more to get a little more. To turn the conversation into something more positive, I explained we have a ton of lakes surrounding us, land for small game hunting, snowmobile trails and also how I would like to see more walking trails circling our city.  He thought that would be a great idea.  I told them to visit the exhibit and gallery at the Historical Society and to walk the square downtown.  I gave them directions to Cottonwood Lake, a place she remembered very well, playing with her cousins there when she was young.  I told them we were home to the Toro Company and the gentlemen was surprised to hear the Toro Company's home was right here in our fair city.  "Do they give tours?" He asked.  "Toro is a very well known name and that is very interesting."  At this point, they had helped me discover Windom more in that short 15 minute conversation, then in a week of research and lifetime of, up until now, meaningless thoughts.  But the really hard question they asked me was "What is going to make me come back?"  A bigger sigh came from my gut.  "Well, that's another thing I'm trying to figure out." I genuinely thanked them for their time and cooperation and told her I hope she doesn't wait another 25 years to visit us here in this quaint little town.  I was pleased with the information and conversation they provided me with.

So when I got home from what was supposed to be a quick trip to the dam to find a little inspiration, another card had been dealt too soon in this crazy game of finding Windom, and I'm not quite sure how to play it.  Of course we can get people to come to Windom, through family and through highway 60, but what is going to make them stop for more than just a tank fill up, a snack and a quick stretch?  What is going to be our "5 cent cup of coffee"? Most importantly, what is going to make people come back?  After giving it much thought, I think this is where the pride of Windom plays a role.  We need to find this contagious pride in order to let our visitors experience a sense of family and community.  Let's give them the good 'ol small town feel we all love and appreciate so much in this fast paced world around us.  A place they want to come back to to simply take a deep breath and relax.  We need to give them a place to call home.  A home away from home.  We need to give them something as clever as a 5 cent cup of coffee.  We need to give them a place where friends meet.

Finding Windom.

Happy times,

30 July 2010

giving a dam*


Today I was reading windomnews.com trying to keep up with the worthy news around town (and no, I'm not being paid to talk about windomnews.com). I figure if I'm going to transform Windom I better know what's going on around this place and who has the mind for national news these days; I can only hear about Mel Gibson's character revealing rants and Lindsay Lohan's overdue jail time for so long. Can we move on from these celebrities already? Please? As I was making my way through the top stories and sports I noticed the box titled "Most Viewed" and "Recently Commented". I was pleasantly surprised to see my letter to the editor made the most viewed box (very excited), but what I really wanted to read was the recently commented tab, so I clicked on it hoping to find something of interest. The one thing that caught my eye and has been of interest to me in the past is the Windom dam. I'm not saying anything new when I say something needs to be done with the dam and, to point out the obvious, it doesn't have the same appeal it had when I was a child. I don't think the lack of appeal comes from the dam itself, but from the uninviting, orange plastic fencing right in front of the very bench I'd once wasted nights sitting on. It is now, for lack of better words, nothing spectacular. As I was reading the short article about Windom seeking bonding to help the dam, I was happy to see comments. I read the comments, taking into consideration both sides I was reading, but what was so exciting to me is that I felt people actually, well, giving a dam* (pun definitely intended here) about the town we live in. What was written wasn't the most pretty or optimistic. In fact, I think there were some fingers being pointed and maybe even the tallest finger on the hand being pointed toward the sky in some of those words written, but I was happy to see someone actually caring and sharing opinions. I'm not going to give any of my opinions about the dam or what we should do about it, but I am going to encourage people to give a dam*. Let's find the facts and help Windom finally come to a conclusion about what we need to do to get rid of that hideous orange fencing and "Dangerous: Keep Out" sign in front of our part of the Des Moines River, which is one of the important keys to making this city a destination hot spot.



I also encourage you to become a Follower of this blog (if you haven't already). It is real simple and would help me out greatly. It will take a minute, just ask you a few simple questions, and like that, you are supporting my efforts. Because I have to be a goal setter in this project, I would like to see at least 50 official followers by the time I have to meet with the CVB and Chamber in mid August. Can I do that? I'm thinking this to act as a petition of sorts. Remember, just a short minute of your time and I promise they don't ask for your social security number.

29 July 2010

mom always said it was nice to share.

A new found friend of mine borrowed me some books containing the history of Windom and Cottonwood County that he thought I could use in my efforts to restore this historic community.  I'd have to say I've never really been interested in history maybe because it seemed so overwhelming? And let's face it, when I was formally taught history at Windom Area Schools, my concept of time didn't really exist except for watching the clock hit 3:04pm (the minute the last bell of the day rang).  Sometimes I wish I could go back to school and really listen this time, instead of just doing enough to make the grade.  As I opened the borrowed book The First Methodist Church of Windom, Minnesota (A History) by Edward Ellsworth Gillam, I wasn't expecting to find what was written.  I was curious as to how the information in this book would help me based on the title.  Well someone very wise once said "never judge a book by it's cover," and I'm glad I didn't.  Last night I read the preface, personal tribute and first chapter of this book at least five times.  I had to keep reading it because every time I read it I would find something new and feel something new. Quite frankly, I could actually see in my mind the very things this author was describing.  His words were like music--notes filling the air with sweet sounds of sentiment, passion and appreciation.  Just read it for yourselves:

"Our small log cabin was built on the hillside of Cottonwood Lake.  On one hill overlooking the lake was an Indian mound where we found many relics of bygone days.  The Des Moines River, which flows through our fair city, was lined with beautiful trees...We saw Indians now and then.  Some were camped on an island in the lake near our cabin.
Father, my brother Henry, and I lived alone in our log cabin in the summer of 1870, and often in the evening we sat in front of the cabin with a smudge of fire to keep off the mosquitoes.  The scene late in the evening was beautiful.  I could look toward the west as the sun set behind the Blue Mounds, beyond the Des Moines River, and see the sky ablaze with its glorious color.  I could look toward the east over the lake and see the full moon rising and shining through the beautiful trees out upon the water.  I could see the most graceful of all birds, the white swan, floating peacefully over the silvery ripples, and stately white pelicans with their long red bills and the pouches under them.  I could hear the weird cry of the loon.  In the deepening twilight I could turn my eyes toward the island where the Indian teepees were.  The smoke of their campfires rose through the treetops.  A little farther on I could see the old eagle tree, one of the largest trees in Southern Minnesota.  Its top was the home of that noble bird, the American Eagle, with the young eaglets on the nest and the huge birds, father and mother eagles, watching over them.  In the quietness I could hear the pleasant music of the insects in the grass around us.  It was God's handiwork.  Man had not disturbed it.  It was God's work just as He left it for us to enjoy...These scenes left an impression upon the mind and heart of the writer, a boy of only six years, which will never be erased.  I only wish that all who have not experienced the thrill of virgin country could experience it as I did."

You see, Mr. Gilliam's father, Samuel Sloane Gillam, came to Cottonwood County in 1869 a few years after serving in the Civil War.  It was the next year that Samuel Gilliam moved his family from Wisconsin to Cottonwood Lake to settle and in a few short years began to be a part of the creation of what I now call home: Windom. This author, Mr. Gillam, literally witnessed Windom become a city from the ground, from the dust and from mere ideas of men and women. What I wouldn't give to go back and spend just one day with Edward Ellsworth Gillam. He published this book in 1949, so he was I figured over 80 years old when he published this book.  The next chapters of this well written history describe the building of a city and of course, the Methodist Church, but I won't continue to write all the beautiful words of this book, you and I would be here for too long...let's just say it makes me quite interested in history (probably because I can still see this history he describes when I drive around Windom). 

I think the reason this book hit so close to home (no pun intended) was that while growing up here in Windom, I've played and splashed in Cottonwood Lake.  The really funny thing is that I have always enjoyed writing and used to sit under a generous shady tree in front of that somehow inspirational lake and, well, write.  But it never dawned on me until after reading these words in this book that this lake's waves and rocks, surrounding trees and sand had such history and served to be inspirational for someone else well over a hundred years ago.  All of a sudden, my ignorant, selfish idea of Cottonwood Lake changed.  I instantly felt pride and felt this need to share it in this post.  Why don't we share Cottonwood Lake's history with more people?

Well, I want to genuinely thank my new found friend for helping me by sharing this book, for helping me find an interest in history, and helping me in this quest to find Windom.

Happy times,

28 July 2010

A deep breath.

This morning my phone rang and it was my mom.  This was no surprise, it seems she is the only one left in these days of text that calls me and I'd much rather talk than text.  "It's in there," she says.  My heart dropped for a second because I knew she was talking about my letter to the editor.  Oh boy, there is no turning back now.  I feel like I just got done saying my 'I Dos' or something.  There is definitely no turning back now. A significant number of eyes have seen it, a significant number of minds have read it and this could be the beginning of a significant number of opinions forming. I'd have to say I got nervous after I hung up the phone.  I guess I was always a little bit nervous about this journey, but now I have this so called accountability.  I have accountability of success and, well, failure too. The word "failure" came into my mind for the first time since I started this whole thing and I didn't like it.  I guess I never thought about not accomplishing my goals until that moment I knew my words had been published under the Letters column.  The past few days I have been handing out fliers with my logo and blogspot address, while telling people about my excitement, but that didn't really mean they were actually going to read it.  And now my thoughts are in neatly printed in a column of black and white on page 5 of the Cottonwood County Citizen for anyone to see.  It is a scary thing to have people read my deepest emotions and somewhat whimsical dreams.

I have had a good number of people give their support and kind words of encouragement, and now I'm waiting for the ultimate support.  I can count using only one hand the amount of people who genuinely want to help see the face of Windom change--you know who you are and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!).  I'm checking my blog, my email, my facebook a little more than usual these days to see if for some odd reason this plethora of people come to the sidelines to cheer me on, and even better, actually join my team.  Oh my, the coolest thing is happening as I type these words.  The church bells of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior across the street from my house just rang 4 times.  How cool to be sitting in my dining room, hearing church bells just at the moment these thoughts are being put into print.  Maybe that was God himself giving me his encouragement just at the moment I needed it most.  I've always been a believer that everything happens for a reason.  It might never be a slap-in-the-face kind of reason, but a reason never the less, if you really want to find one.

So this is my course of action as of right now:
**I will be down on the square this Monday (August 2nd) night at the annual "Nite to Unite" to enjoy, spread the word, and gather an interest in forming a city beautification group.
**I've talked to the Chamber of Commerce about my blog and excitement for restoring Windom.  I'll be talking with the Visitors Bureau at their monthly meeting in August and talking with the Chamber at their monthly meeting in August as well.  The Chamber director is also letting me write a thing or two about my blog and idea to include in the Chamber newsletter. 
**The Cottonwood County Fair is coming soon as well, so I'm gathering thoughts and ideas about how to spread the word there as well. 
**I also became a member of the Cottonwood County Historical Society and encourage many to do the same.  It is a great facility and needs our support!

Finding Windom.

Happy times,

27 July 2010

have we met?

The temp and humidity today was something else. The pefect recipe for a storm. I can see the clouds out my picture window forming to the Southwest as my fingers glide over the keys. We could use a little rain, but like my husband says, "depends on who you talk to--the farmers don't need rain, but the city folk do." A flash of lightning now, clouds moving faster, just like all the thoughts running through my mind.

This morning at the crazy time of 7am, Henrik and I went to meet some locals at McDonald's for their morning ritual. A ritual I must say I could get used to with such company, but why they get up so early when none of them have to is a question I should have ask them. I never thought I would be somehow taking the place of my grandparents by "hanging out" with their old friends. I can safely say, I came as a stranger and left as a friend.

It amazing how most introductions between the younger and older in Windom start: "I'm Mari Harries, I was a Nielsen, my grandparents were Don and Dot..." All of a sudden faces light up with the sound of familiar names. "Oh they were good friends of ours," the table replies. We talked about all the webs a small town has, not realizing a part of this giant web was sitting just across the table with her 5 month old son. Of course one of the ladies asked to hold him--how can you not want to hold that package of handsome? Henrik was delighted by the attention.

After the introduction of mostly my family members, I explained the reason I was joining them this early in the morning. I told them about my blog, most of them didn't know what a blog was or even own a computer, which is just fine. I'm hoping to be out in the community enough for them to not neccessarily follow just a bunch of words on some random blog site, but actually see a course of action.  I explained that I would like to restore Windom and wanted some facts straight from those who lived them.  It was almost as if fireworks had shot into the sky, it was like seeing the ocean for the first time and dipping your toes into the salty water, it was like being at the top of the amazing Eiffel Tower looking over the city of love.  Okay, I may be exaggerating a little, but there were faces of complete and utter delight.  I couldn't write fast enough.  They were eager to share just as I was eager to listen.  "You know the face of Windom has changed." one woman said.  "I remember going into town on Saturday and you couldn't find a parking spot."  Saturdays were the days to shop, meet friends and get a bite to eat. This table of women had so many memories...good memories of a good time.  "As kids, we would run around and around and around that square until mom and dad were done shopping," another woman replied with a laugh.  They talked of all the shops downtown: the bakeries (you bet, I put an 's' at the end of bakery), a chocolate shop, a bowling alley, dress shops, the movie theatre (which still holds the same marquee if you can still see it hiding under the chipped paint and burned out light bulbs), butcher shops, the creamery and Worthmore..the place with stools and 5 cent ice cream cones.  "There was a pool hall in River City," another woman chimes in.  I wish I could write the priceless expression she had when she said "River City," you can't write that enthusiam and pride. Yup, Saturdays were the days where friends meet and the air smelled of fresh popped popcorn, until this day moved to Fridays for some reason.  I'd be happy with any hopping day downtown these days, but the farmers weren't too happy when the night to meet became Fridays.  This meant they had to shower twice a week--Friday and Sunday before church.  Before they only had to shower on Saturdays because that would be good enough for church on Sunday too. 

As our conversation about these good old days dwindled into my next question, the atmosphere of the table changed. I asked them what changed, why don't we see any signs of these exciting days anymore?  One blamed the transportation, "it is easier now to get in a car and drive to Worthington or Mankato."  One blamed it on the chaos of life, "it's hard enough to get together with family, let alone friends."  One woman's eyes started to form slight tears, "Those times were about fellowship, tradition, simplicity and family."

I couldn't help but imagine what life would be like if we were all forced to relax and slow down.  It's ironic I tried to imagine this among the grinding of the new smoothie machine and beeping of frying machines in the very icon of fast--McDonalds.  Is this what happened?  We have forced ourselves to take our kids to and from activities almost constantly and buy them things like cell phones, iPods and the newest gadgets.  I still don't understand why a 10 year old needs these things when there is territory in this town to cover, lakes to jump in, rivers to fish, and dirt to conquer.  We stress ourselves out by volunteering for this and that which we are forced to do in order to keep things running and alive.  Our new Sunday ritual has gone from the pews of the church to the stands of the little league ball fields.  We need vacations after a vacation.  It seems our ideas of the American Dream have changed from working hard to providing the neccessities of life to something so unattainable and selfish, needing bigger and better things than our neighbor.  We seem to worship what we see in the media and wait for the next big thing to rule our lives.  There is no time for fellowship, tradition, simplicity and family, and I'm to blame just as much as the other 4,000 people in this city and millions in this country.

Wow, I think I'm learning more about myself on this journey than I expected. I left McDonald's this morning with more than an empty coffee cup.  I usually leave with a bag full of empty calories, but today I left with a lively step.  This morning I left McDonalds with fellowship, simplicity, tradition and family. Thank you!

Finding Windom.

Happy times,

Video Post: Finding Windom. Vol. I

video

26 July 2010

I'll take History for $15, Alex.

The picture that stood out to me.
Out for another stroll.  I love these summer days of being so carefree.  I'm blessed to work for the school, allowing me a few weeks to gather thoughts and sanity before starting another school year that will indeed pass so quickly it is scary.  While on our stroll, Henrik and I stopped at the Cottonwood County Historical Society.  My, do we have quite the facility, another blessing for this city.  You know you live in a great, small town when they let you in to do a little research on honesty.  Unfortunately I didn't have any cash or check with me (wasn't really planning to use any money today) and was dissapointed to find out there was a small $2 fee to do research in their library, yet completely understandable that they need to make money (I was just more disappointed I didn't have any money with me).  But the nice lady let me in anyway.  I thanked her very much and assured her I would be back again tomorrow--there was just too much cool stuff in there for such a short visit.  Anyway, I saw a pamphlet on membership laying next to the sign in sheet.  I asked her how much it would be for a membership.  I decided for $15 it was well worth becoming a member for a year.  So needless to say, I'll be going back tomorrow to pay for my membership and do some more research.

Of course Henrik was with me, so it was kind of hard to get any real research done.  As he sat on my lap bouncing and trying to grab for these pages of history, another nice lady (one I kind of know because her husband was a teacher in the high school while I was there) offered to hold Henrik while I do a little research-another sign of a great, small town.  Of course I was delighted by her offer and so was Henrik. 

These books were filled with great stuff.  One picture stood out to me the most.   It was a picture taken in the late 1800s after a large accident just off the Des Moines river train bridge (which still graces us with its presence today). You could see the overwhelming mess it created and an overwhelming crowd of people helping to relieve the disaster.  It was rather amazing to see all those people working together.  I wondered if all those people would be around today to help.  In my heart of hearts, I believe so.  I believe in the good of mankind (which has often been a downfall more than optimism in my life).  I believe that we are a community begging for a change.  I believe this city is ready for an uplifting experience of support, community and sense of pride.

Okay, enough of the sappy stuff, lets move on to the history already.  Like I said I didn't get much of a chance to do research, so I started at the beginning--it seemed like the logical thing to do.  Windom became a dot on the map in 1871.  Its name comes from a "prominent statesman" and US Senator, William Windom. The key to Windom's growth was the railroad. The railroad was making 8 daily stops through Windom, bringing loads of lumber for building and hauling goods from farms to Minneapolis.  By August of 1871 a number of stores were ready and open for business.  It became the county seat in 1872.  Our downtown square was forming around the Cottonwood County Courthouse, which was built in 1904. By 1907 it flourished to approximately 2,000 inhabitants. 

After reading some early history, it makes me have a whole new appreciation for that railroad and when I hear the trains' whistles tonight, I'll be thinking about what that railroad did for this town. History is still alive in those tracks.  Although we don't use the railway as often as we used to (which I think we should think about changing as well), we still have this great highway that serves the same purpose as the railway once did.  It has kept Windom on the map.  It is one of the keys to making Windom a destination city and rural hotspot.

This is just a small bite of the history sandwich for Windom, so I'll be going back to the Historical Society tomorrow to pay for my membership and do some more research to find more inspiration.  I'm sure Henrik is really excited for another trip--he's hoping there will be another nice lady to play with.

P.S. My kind neighbor a few houses down invited me to morning coffee at McDonalds tomorrow with some of the natives.  I can't wait to hear what they have to say about Windom, but unfortunately they are early risers...

Finding Windom.
**Information taken from The Centennial History of Cottonwood County 1870-1970

Happy times,

25 July 2010

"Square" One

Another day has passed and I'm sitting in my dining room in almost complete darkness, listening to the baby monitor and staring out the picture window that faces south.  Ironically, I can see the grain elevator, which I like to call part of Windom's skyline, bearing the very word that brings me to this blog: Windom.  The street lights give the tallness of the elevator a tiny glow among the coldness of the black sky.  It makes me excited to think of the future, of goals being met, and of a community working together to start a revelation in this city.  My enthusiasm hasn't dwindled.  It hasn't become one of those things we say we are going to do and quickly put in the back of our minds for another time.  This is a long time coming for me and like I've said in past blogs, I'm ready for this with all my heart and soul. 

Tonight, Henrik and I took a little walk downtown while my husband was working in "his" garage.  My brother was nice enough to borrow me his video camera, so while on our walk I captured some video of downtown in the raw.  The camera doesn't lie my friends, but you will find out soon enough when the video is posted.  This Sunday evening stroll was perfect for video taping because there wasn't much traffic downtown--just a few couples on bike rides, which made optimal camera time. 

While on our walk, the sun was starting to make it's decend which made the mature surrounding trees a brillant green.  The courthouse standing so proud among its gallery despite the chipped paint, cobwebs and For Sale signs.  That courthouse really is a sight.  Oh my, that courthouse. Sounds weird, but you can almost feel the pride of its history in its presence... and then you walk among its square.  It is almost as if you've entered a different world--one of disappointment, failure and carelessness.  Don't get me wrong--there are signs of life, pride and hope, but it doesn't do the enormity of the presence of that courthouse justice (no pun intended).  What a little paint, pull and broom would do to that square--I think it would make the courthouse pretty happy and there is nothing I want more than to see that courthouse smile just like it did way back when.

If you are out there (and a few of you are already--thank you) and willing to help form a city beautification circle, please, please let me know. Let me hear your comments because I know we all have them!  Until then, I'll be out there on that square looking for hope, looking for support, and looking for those willing to offer a little elbow grease.  We will be meeting soon!

Find Windom.

Happy times,

you drove through Windom on your way here...

So last night I was in downtown Minneapolis on Nicollet Avenue with a great friend (you know who you are) and I was on a mission...okay 2 missions.  I was on a mission to have a good time and I was on a mission to spread the word about mari2cents.blogspot.com.  Luckily, the first mission came pretty easy with the company, and the second mission wasn't as easy.  To start the night off we ate a late dinner at this joint called Brit's Pub--not too shabby.  It was here where I decided it would be a good idea to write the address to my blog on napkins and write it across my arm.  You bet, I brought a good 'ol blue, clickable fine point Sharpie permanent marker with me and it came in handy just like I knew it would.  I didn't think I would be using it to write on napkins, but I thought it worked rather well.  I decided I wanted to give these napkins to anyone who I thought would be willing to checkout my blog.  I left one for the waitress, I left one in the bartenders tip jar, I left one in a bathroom stall, and I gave one to two random dudes who looked like they were in a deep conversation about a really great blog.  We decided to take a walk up the busy street and stumbled upon place number 2 called "3 Monkeys".  The great music of the 90s was playing on the jukebox, there weren't too many people in there and really it felt much more like, well, home--small, great atmosphere and the people were willing to chat.  Unfortunately, there was a guy who for lack of a better definition was a complete douche bag, but don't worry, I was honest with him and told him exactly what I just told you.  Anyway, as I searched for my next so-called victim I noticed a great shirt this guy was wearing.  It graced the words in big brown letters across the chest "THE HIPPIES WERE RIGHT".  I told him how great his shirt was and he told me he bought it for $4 at some 2nd hand store. "$4!" he exclaimed.  "I would have paid $8!" he said.  So I offered to buy it from him for $5, unfortunately he declined and I don't blame him.  It was a cool shirt.  Which kind of brings me to my next point--I think one of Windom's great draws should be the power of consignment, 2nd hand and antiques.  I'm telling you, there is a market for this stuff and Windom has it--we should run with it.  As this other down to earth guy passes our table he asks if we want to hear anything on the juke box.  i was completely happy with all these songs of the 90s that he was playing, so I gave him a napkin too.  Well, the power of music is amazing (for many, many reasons) because then this other guy who was sitting at the bar with 2 big plates of food chimes in to our music conversation.  We ask him where he is from and he replies "Sioux Falls".  Sioux freakin' Falls!  At this point I was pretty excited. Like a complete gentleman he returned the question and of course my reply was "Windom. You probably drove through it on your way here, right?" Just as I suspected, he took Highway 60. Well, the night is history from here.  I continued to spread the word about my blog and Windom to some passer-byers and other 3 Monkeyers.  The missions were definitely complete--all while that douche bag I mentioned earlier sat alone the whole night.

You know, there have got to be hundreds of potential guests and vacationers passing through Windom everyday on that crazy highway--if we could only get them to stop...

Happy times,

23 July 2010

a mouthful of ambition

So in the wee hours of last night, while listening to the oddly calming sounds of our old window unit air conditioner, it dawned on me--what are people going to think I know about changing a city?  I'm not going to lie, after I thought about it I got a pit in my stomach, especially after I submitted a letter to the editor of the local paper about my blogspot.  It's on now--no turning back.  Eyes will be reading and opinions will be forming. So not only am I going to have to convince a town that it can be a destination city and rural hot spot, but I'm going to have to convince them that I know what I'm talking about.  I don't know what is going to be harder, but in my defense, I can guarantee that I have a lot of darn good ideas and a lot of darn ambition!  Bear with me here, I'm going to try to sell myself...1. I've done a lot of traveling in both the US and Europe.  I've seen some pretty cool things and if you ever have a chance to see some really cool things--by all means do whatever it takes to see those really cool things. 2.  Thanks to my mom I grew up with the ability to create things and see potential in things like a big box of old beads, rocks, a blank piece of paper, and my favorite...ready...Windom. 3. I believe in nothing more than common freakin' sense, yet I know and understand "common" does always mean everybody has it or will be pleased with it (which I think will be the challenge in this project sometimes) oh boy, do I know the power of the phrase "can't make everybody happy."  4. There are always ways around spending lots of money.  A can of paint and a broom, my friends, doesn't cost a lot of money.  5. I'm willing to do a lot of work myself and am determined to find others willing as well. I would hope others would like to feel the power of community. 6. I've lived here most of my life, as well as my family.  These are my roots.  7. One word--RESEARCH.

I don't know if I have convinced you that I know what I'm talking about when I say I can transform Windom into a destination city, but I can tell you that sound of the window unit air conditioner became oddly calming again after pin pointing my abilities in my head.  Thus, I had to write them down the minute I got a chance.

For those of you wondering what I'm planning to do to find a revelation for this small town here is a list of my short term goals (I must keep goals small in order to do bigger things in the future):
*Research, research, research--doing polls on my blog, talking to other cities the size of Windom, talking to the residents and potential tourists about what they would like to see in Windom, talking to those who have been around this area for years (I'd love to hear about the good 'ol days), talking to the people in the seats of power in the city to see what they are working on.
*Spread the word about my blog and get followers and supporters!!!!!!  I'm not talking to the person behind you (of course I wouldn't turn them away), but I'm talking to you!!!! 
*Watch for my upcoming homemade virtual tour of our beloved "square".
*Get some business on board.  I would like to work with them, help them get customers in the door and people shopping in Windom.
*Get the people who own properties around the square/city that are lifeless and empty to keep them up.  There are always things to do with empty buildings!

Well, I'd say I have a lot to chew at this point.  I understand it will take time to do these things, but that pit in my stomach is more excitement than fear.

I'm ready for this challenge with all my heart and soul!

Happy times,

22 July 2010

poking inspiration with a stick

I suppose it's the time of year that does it to me. The sweet sun's rays hitting my face and filling my body with a little vitamin D that makes inspiration flow through my veins. I get antsy with these compelling ideas of change, community, and just plain good times. Well, this morning was an interesting morning. I felt supercharged with ideas (this usually happens after hitting the bottom of my coffee cup). I took one of my favorite CDs I compiled for a friend after having "one of those summers"--you know, the one full of youth, music, and, well, carefree, happy times. It is amazing that one CD can dig up such memories and passion again. Anyway, so I grabbed my $.60 morning coffee from the quaint, small town gas station (it's the only one that gives me a discount on my cup of joe for using my own cup--thank you Centerstop and other coffee joints take notice) and decided to take my 5 month old son, Henrik, for a little drive while listening to the music on my favorite mix that could potentially change the world if someone would let it. It was a beautiful morning, the fog was kissing the green earth just after an early morning rain as we drove just outside the city limits (not far by any means). Each song provoking more and more inspiration. Of course not too far into the drive Henrik fell asleep to the somber notes of Ben Harper's guitar, but I'm sure he was just as inspired as I was. As I drove the open, winding surrounding county roads, I got this idea. One of those ideas of all ideas...okay mostly just this rush of ambition to actually do what I've talked about doing for years--everyone has that one thing on their so called "bucket list." So on the way back into town, as I could see the valley of Windom in the horizon and its water tower standing tall among the green trees, all I could think about was spreading love and inspiration all over this small, rural town I call home (and have called home for most of my life). You see, I live in this small city thats reaks of potential. Don't get me wrong there are many things I love about Windom, Minnesota. I love it's surrounding lakes, the people, the fact that I can get a cup of coffee for $.60, the idea that my son Henrik will have thousands of eyes watching him grow and helping him become a man who will make a difference in this world with love and passion. But unfortuneately, when I walk downtown (a mere 3 blocks from our old house) I see buildings that need TLC (the very important acronym my mother taught me at a very young age), I see a town that needs a little TLC and I don't see pride or feel community, but it is there, oh, I promise you, it is there and this is where my $.02 comes in. So, for a long time I have felt the need to create and inspire, whether it be in my own house or at work, but now it is not enough for it to be confined into my own space. I don't want to look back at my life and say "what if..." or "if I had only...". I'm ready to complete those sentences with verbs for God's sake. I'm tired of dreaming and I'm ready to do! I'm going to get involved already! Instead of complaining about things--I'm going to do something about it. I want what any parent would want for her child-I want Henrik to grow up knowing he can make a change and live his dreams and that good 'ol saying Monkey See, Monkey Do sure sounds like it belongs right here in this sentence. So now you are probably wondering where this is all going? Why a blog? Well, I can't do it alone. Through this blog and the help of others, I wish to change this town from a sad soon-to-be-gone-with-the-wind town into a tourist destination and rural hot spot in the Midwest. I've always believed that if you write it down, the better chances you have of actually doing it. So, with a big, long breath--do it with me...innnnnnn and ouuuuuuut...I'm going to actually make a difference--a tangible difference in the small world I live in. These are my baby steps of change: *Get people on the same page. I'm going to write a letter to the editor of our local paper about this blog and what I plan to do to for Windom. I'm going to spread the word!!! I want to make it easier for people to see potential where many might not see it, for example where there are weeds, I really see that it could be a beautiful garden. Most importantly, make people understand a great amount of money doesn't have to be involved--although it makes things easier, which leads to the next baby step. *Find some funding. There has to be funding somewhere. Whether it is from the state of Minnesota, from the county, from the city, from programs or from willing donors. Does anyone know of ways to get funding to help a city? I will have to do some research here. *I want to be in contact with the city. The chamber of commerce, the Windom Area Development Committee, the city council and mayor. *Doing my research. Finding cities that are doing what I wish to see Windom do. We have such great wildlife and lakes surrounding us, we have a river that whispers history, we have WIND POWER, and we have a historic county courthouse smack dab in the middle of it all. Now the question is: how do we use these things so people take notice, so people want to come, so people want to stay? What have others cities done to make them a "hot spot?" I'm crying out at this point for help. If anyone can point me in a direction of a mentor and more inspiration it would be greatly appreciated. I'm looking for help in order to get my community to find itself again and for a whole world to find Windom, Minnesota. This is my $.02: Finding Windom on a Map of a Million Cities. With a little hope, prayer and support watch me blog my dreams come true. Happy times,
**Thanks to the city's website (http://www.windom-mn.com/) for the picture of our beloved Cottonwood County Courthouse.