Remember the Cabbage Patch Craze?

Do you remember the Cabbage Patch phenomena from 1983? Whenever it is brought up, the first thing I remember is the scenes from this footage. The store clerk with the baseball bat, trying to keep the rabid shoppers from overrunning the store.

The second thing I remember is my grandmother. She was one of the millions of Christmas shoppers who were on the hunt for the doll that captivated that year. And she was searching for more than just one. She had four granddaughters who wanted one, and to give a doll to three of them just wouldn’t do!

In retrospect, I gotta say that my grandma Belva is one tough lady!

Stop Smoking Day

I had my last cigarette five years ago today. Even now, there are times when I have a craving . And when I do, I remind myself that I am no longer a smoker. That isn’t who I am anymore .

Sounds overly simple, doesn’t it? No looking at how much money I’ve saved. No factoring of health improvements. Not even the social changes that come when you are no longer part of the smoking circle. My entire strategy to continue as a non-smoker comes down to a matter of identity.

Identity is a great tool in making any change. Sure, you can try harder. You can reward yourself. You can use any number of behavior modification techniques, but what finally got me to quit smoking after twenty years was a change of identity. I decided that not only was I going to quit smoking, I was no longer going to identify as a smoker.

I chose to remove any version of smoking from the list of my identifiers. In Biblical terms, I repented of my smoking. And I continue to repent regularly of my smoking every time I deny myself by reminding myself that I am no longer that person who smoked.

Smoking is an unwise behavior. Is it sinful for a Christian? It can be a form of idolatry, just as gluttony or sexual behaviors or a host of other things can be an idol that traps a person in failed promises. And just like anything that brings dishonor upon God, the only response we are to have is repentance.

  I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20 ESV

What’s So Civil about War Anyway?

My good friend, and Civil War era historian, David Connon, will be giving a number of presentations around Iowa, then heading to Milwaukee and Chicago in the next two weeks. I have listened to his presentation of “Josiah Bushnell Grinnell and the Iowa Underground Railroad” before and I came away fascinated! I am not a fan of history, at least I wasn’t. In High School, history was all dates and places to memorize just long enough to pass a test. In David’s presentations history is about people, meaning and convictions.

Do yourself a favor and take a look at this schedule. If you can make one of his presentations, please do so! I will warn you, you very well may come away from his talk with a renewed appreciation for the history of our country and just a little bit of understanding why others made, and make decisions that just might differ from yours.


Wed., Nov. 2, 7:15 p.m., “The Propaganda campaign in Iowa,” at the Des Moines Civil War Round Table, meeting at the Machine Shed Restaurant, 11151 Hickman Rd, Urbandale, IA 50322 (near Living History Farms).

Thurs., Nov. 3, 7 p.m., “Josiah Bushnell Grinnell and the Iowa Underground Railroad,” at Kirkendall Public Library, 1210 NW Prairie Ridge Dr, Ankeny, IA 50021.

Sat., Nov. 5, sometime between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., “The Propaganda Campaign in Iowa,” at History Camp Iowa 2016, meeting at the State Historical Museum, 600 E. Locust St., Des Moines, IA 50309.  (An admission fee is required.  I will update my Facebook page when I have a specific starting time.)

Wed., Nov. 9, 7 p.m., “Josiah Bushnell Grinnell and the Iowa Underground Railroad,” at Musser Public Library, 304 Iowa Ave, Muscatine, IA 52761.

Thurs., Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m., “The Propaganda Campaign in Iowa” and “A Confederate from Iowa,” at the Civil War Round Table of Milwaukee, meeting at the Wisconsin Club, 900 West Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53233.

Fri., Nov. 11, 7:15 p.m., “The Propaganda Campaign in Iowa” and “A Confederate from Iowa,” at the Civil War Round Table of Chicago, meeting at Holiday Inn O’Hare, 5615 N. Cumberland, Chicago, IL 60631.

David Connon

Beggar’s Night, Iowa’s Halloween for Children

Why don’t people believe this big cat when he tells you something? He is LION!

Here is a repost from a year ago. Call it laziness, but I like to attribute this to the neighborhood I live in, that has filled out in the last year with new neighbors from out of state. And since they are unaccustomed to the Iowa ways, I wanted to share a local tradition.

First things first, most communities in Iowa do not have trick or treaters walking around on Halloween. Instead each town and city will choose an evening around that date for the kids to go door to door for their candy. This is called Beggar’s Night. And since each town can set up their own time for this, it is not uncommon for a child to go out 2-3 nights in different areas of the Des Moines metro.

Next things next, Iowa trick-or-treaters are loosely expected to share a joke before getting candy. The hint for this is for the homeowner to ask the kids if they have any tricks. Nobody withholds the candy for lack of a joke, but the child and their parents are known to be transplants and not native central Iowans. We take pride in our local culture here and appreciate it when transplants learn the customs and share in them with us. It’s neighborly. It’s a reciprocity of “Iowa nice.” And I am a little saddened to see the practice fading away. Fewer and fewer kids each year have any jokes to share.

Here’s a story shamefully lifted from the Des Moines Register. If you click through to it, you will come to a page with video and sound that plays automatically.

Detroit has Hell Night.

Carbondale, Ill., used to have Fright Night.

When it comes to bizarre local Halloween traditions, however, few communities can match the Des Moines metro area and its 60-plus-year-old ritual of – well, let’s just call it Bad Joke Night.

In most places, the Halloween tradition goes like this: The kid says, “Trick-or-treat.” The homeowner gives him candy.

In Des Moines and surrounding suburbs, it’s more like this: The kid says, “Trick or treat.” The homeowner says “What’s your trick?” Then the kid tells a joke of the sort usually found on Bazooka gum wrappers.

Why didn’t the skeleton cross the road?
He didn’t have any guts.

Whether or not the homeowner is amused, the kid gets candy.