Growing Up in the Midwest


Both of my parents were creative. Dad loved the woodshop and yard; Mom was inclined to cooking and painting. Both of my parents participated successfully in sports. Mom was the runner-up free throw champion for the state of Iowa.

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Marilee Watkins with Her Runner-up Trophy

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Dad at a Donkey Basketball Game–Always a Good Sport!

Dad remained very athletic into his 50’s. He periodically demonstrated that he could outrun me in my tennis shoes while he wore five buckle overshoes. I don’t remember ever beating my father in any sport until I entered college. We were not pampered when it came to competition. If you won, you had really won. There was no doubt about that. I never agreed with that strategy, but I had to wait to be a parent to experiment with fudging to allow children to win from time to time.

Dad worked hard. Mom worked hard. They received a strong work ethic from their fathers and passed it along to my sister and me. People raised in the 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s had two options, they could work hard and succeed or they would play the lazy card and ultimately fail in their job and as a parent. Farmers and small town residents seldom had the luxury to depend or fall back on the resources of their parents. The majority of parents focused on keeping food on the table and a roof over their head while putting back money whenever possible for a rainy day or retirement. Most teens understood that they had to pull their share of the load. I never considered laziness an option.

My sister and I agree that we had great parents when we were children and teenagers, but their spirituality took wings when they reached middle age and beyond. Even though I earned a doctorate in pastoral counseling from Vanderbilt University, one of the most prestigious universities of the South; I could confidently refer someone with a significant problem to my mother. She had that something in that arena I could never find. And, my Dad, well, he was the anchor for many.

I always felt that our family was stable. The danger of a divorce never entered my mind. Controversy was avoided in our family. Differences of opinion or disagreements were generally overlooked. So I never learned how to confront people with a different view from mine and bad feelings were buried inside my emotional bank waiting to explode at inappropriate moments. This area of my life crippled me to some degree for much of my life.

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